“Haven’t you got relations?” he said.
“No one, now mother is dead. Nothing nearer than aunts and cousins in America. I suppose I shall see them all again one day. But they hardly count over here.”
“Why don’t you get married?” he said. “How old are you?”
“I’m twenty-five. How old are you?”
“You might almost be any age.—I don’t know why I don’t get married. In a way, I hate earning my own living—yet I go on—and I like my work—”
“What are you doing now?”
“I’m painting scenery for a new play—rather fun—I enjoy it. But I often wonder what will become of me.”
“In what way?”
She was almost affronted.
“What becomes of me? Oh, I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter, not to anybody but myself.”
“What becomes of anybody, anyhow? We live till we die. What do you want?”
“Why, I keep saying I want to get married and feel sure of something. But I don’t know—I feel dreadful sometimes—as if every minute would be the last. I keep going on and on—I don’t know what for—and IT keeps going on and on—goodness knows what it’s all for.”
“You shouldn’t bother yourself,” he said. “You should just let it go on and on—”
“But I MUST bother,” she said. “I must think and feel—”
“You’ve no occasion,” he said.
“How—?” she said, with a sudden grunting, unhappy laugh. Then she lit a cigarette.
“No,” she said. “What I should really like more than anything would be an end of the world. I wish the world would come to an end.”
He laughed, and poured his drops of brandy down his throat.
“It won’t, for wishing,” he said.
“No, that’s the awful part of it. It’ll just go on and on— Doesn’t it make you feel you’d go mad?”
He looked at her and shook his head.
“You see it doesn’t concern me,” he said. “So long as I can float by myself.”
“But ARE you SATISFIED!” she cried.
“I like being by myself—I hate feeling and caring, and being forced into it. I want to be left alone—”
“You aren’t very polite to your hostess of the evening,” she said, laughing a bit miserably.
“Oh, we’re all right,” he said. “You know what I mean—”
“You like your own company? Do you?—Sometimes I think I’m nothing when I’m alone. Sometimes I think I surely must be nothing— nothingness.”
He shook his head.
“No,” he said. “No. I only want to be left alone.”
“Not to have anything to do with anybody?” she queried ironically.
“Not to any extent.”
She watched him—and then she bubbled with a laugh.
“I think you’re funny,” she said. “You don’t mind?”
“No—why—It’s just as you see it.—Jim Bricknell’s a rare comic, to my eye.”
“Oh, him!—no, not actually. He’s self-conscious and selfish and hysterical. It isn’t a bit funny after a while.”