His face was dark and hollow, he seemed frail, sitting there in the London afternoon darning the black woollen socks. His full brow was knitted slightly, there was a tension. At the same time, there was an indomitable stillness about him, as it were in the atmosphere about him. His hands, though small, were not very thin. He bit off the wool as he finished his darn.
As he was making the tea he saw Aaron rouse up in bed.
“I’ve been to sleep. I feel better,” said the patient, turning round to look what the other man was doing. And the sight of the water steaming in a jet from the teapot seemed attractive.
“Yes,” said Lilly. “You’ve slept for a good two hours.”
“I believe I have,” said Aaron.
“Would you like a little tea?”
“Ay—and a bit of toast.”
“You’re not supposed to have solid food. Let me take your temperature.”
The temperature was down to a hundred, and Lilly, in spite of the doctor, gave Aaron a piece of toast with his tea, enjoining him not to mention it to the nurse.
In the evening the two men talked.
“You do everything for yourself, then?” said Aaron.
“Yes, I prefer it.”
“You like living all alone?”
“I don’t know about that. I never have lived alone. Tanny and I have been very much alone in various countries: but that’s two, not one.”
“You miss her then?”
“Yes, of course. I missed her horribly in the cottage, when she’d first gone. I felt my heart was broken. But here, where we’ve never been together, I don’t notice it so much.”
“She’ll come back,” said Aaron.
“Yes, she’ll come back. But I’d rather meet her abroad than here—and get on a different footing.”
“Oh, I don’t know. There’s something with marriage altogether, I think. Egoisme a deux—”
“What’s that mean?”
“Egoisme a deux? Two people, one egoism. Marriage is a self-conscious egoistic state, it seems to me.”
“You’ve got no children?” said Aaron.
“No. Tanny wants children badly. I don’t. I’m thankful we have none.”
“I can’t quite say. I think of them as a burden. Besides, there ARE such millions and billions of children in the world. And we know well enough what sort of millions and billions of people they’ll grow up into. I don’t want to add my quota to the mass—it’s against my instinct—”
“Ay!” laughed Aaron, with a curt acquiescence.
“Tanny’s furious. But then, when a woman has got children, she thinks the world wags only for them and her. Nothing else. The whole world wags for the sake of the children—and their sacred mother.”
“Ay, that’s DAMNED true,” said Aaron.
“And myself, I’m sick of the children stunt. Children are all right, so long as you just take them for what they are: young immature things like kittens and half-grown dogs, nuisances, sometimes very charming. But I’ll be hanged if I can see anything high and holy about children. I should be sorry, too, it would be so bad for the children. Young brats, tiresome and amusing in turns.”