“Look here, my friend, it’s too late for you to be talking to me about the face of things. If that’s how you feel, put your things on and follow Herbertson. Yes—go out of my room. I don’t put up with the face of things here.”
Aaron looked at him in cold amazement.
“It’ll do tomorrow morning, won’t it?” he asked rather mocking.
“Yes,” said Lilly coldly. “But please go tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, I’ll go all right,” said Aaron. “Everybody’s got to agree with you—that’s your price.”
But Lilly did not answer. Aaron turned into bed, his satirical smile under his nose. Somewhat surprised, however, at this sudden turn of affairs.
As he was just going to sleep, dismissing the matter, Lilly came once more to his bedside, and said, in a hard voice:
“I’m NOT going to pretend to have friends on the face of things. No, and I don’t have friends who don’t fundamentally agree with me. A friend means one who is at one with me in matters of life and death. And if you’re at one with all the rest, then you’re THEIR friend, not mine. So be their friend. And please leave me in the morning. You owe me nothing, you have nothing more to do with me. I have had enough of these friendships where I pay the piper and the mob calls the tune.
“Let me tell you, moreover, your heroic Herbertsons lost us more than ever they won. A brave ant is a damned cowardly individual. Your heroic officers are a sad sight AFTERWARDS, when they come home. Bah, your Herbertson! The only justification for war is what we learn from it. And what have they learnt?—Why did so many of them have presentiments, as he called it? Because they could feel inside them, there was nothing to come after. There was no life-courage: only death-courage. Nothing beyond this hell—only death or love— languishing—”
“What could they have seen, anyhow?” said Aaron.
“It’s not what you see, actually. It’s the kind of spirit you keep inside you: the life spirit. When Wallace had presentiments, Herbertson, being officer, should have said: ’None of that, Wallace. You and I, we’ve got to live and make life smoke.’—Instead of which he let Wallace be killed and his own heart be broken. Always the death-choice— And we won’t, we simply will not face the world as we’ve made it, and our own souls as we find them, and take the responsibility. We’ll never get anywhere till we stand up man to man and face EVERYTHING out, and break the old forms, but never let our own pride and courage of life be broken.”
Lilly broke off, and went silently to bed. Aaron turned over to sleep, rather resenting the sound of so many words. What difference did it make, anyhow? In the morning, however, when he saw the other man’s pale, closed, rather haughty face, he realised that something had happened. Lilly was courteous and even affable: but with a curious cold space between him and Aaron. Breakfast passed, and Aaron knew that he must leave. There was something in Lilly’s bearing which just showed him the door. In some surprise and confusion, and in some anger, not unmingled with humorous irony, he put his things in his bag. He put on his hat and coat. Lilly was seated rather stiffly writing.