“Girls!” cried Ann Veronica.
“Boys!” said Capes.
“Both!” said Ann Veronica. “Lots of ’em!”
Capes chuckled. “You delicate female!”
“Who cares,” said Ann Veronica, “seeing it’s you? Warm, soft little wonders! Of course I want them.”
“All sorts of things we’re going to do,” said Capes; “all sorts of times we’re going to have. Sooner or later we’ll certainly do something to clean those prisons you told me about—limewash the underside of life. You and I. We can love on a snow cornice, we can love over a pail of whitewash. Love anywhere. Anywhere! Moonlight and music—pleasing, you know, but quite unnecessary. We met dissecting dogfish.... Do you remember your first day with me?... Do you indeed remember? The smell of decay and cheap methylated spirit!... My dear! we’ve had so many moments! I used to go over the times we’d had together, the things we’d said—like a rosary of beads. But now it’s beads by the cask—like the hold of a West African trader. It feels like too much gold-dust clutched in one’s hand. One doesn’t want to lose a grain. And one must—some of it must slip through one’s fingers.”
“I don’t care if it does,” said Ann Veronica. “I don’t care a rap for remembering. I care for you. This moment couldn’t be better until the next moment comes. That’s how it takes me. Why should we hoard? We aren’t going out presently, like Japanese lanterns in a gale. It’s the poor dears who do, who know they will, know they can’t keep it up, who need to clutch at way-side flowers. And put ’em in little books for remembrance. Flattened flowers aren’t for the likes of us. Moments, indeed! We like each other fresh and fresh. It isn’t illusions—for us. We two just love each other—the real, identical other—all the time.”
“The real, identical other,” said Capes, and took and bit the tip of her little finger.
“There’s no delusions, so far as I know,” said Ann Veronica.
“I don’t believe there is one. If there is, it’s a mere wrapping—there’s better underneath. It’s only as if I’d begun to know you the day before yesterday or there-abouts. You keep on coming truer, after you have seemed to come altogether true. You... brick!”
“To think,” he cried, “you are ten years younger than I!... There are times when you make me feel a little thing at your feet—a young, silly, protected thing. Do you know, Ann Veronica, it is all a lie about your birth certificate; a forgery—and fooling at that. You are one of the Immortals. Immortal! You were in the beginning, and all the men in the world who have known what love is have worshipped at your feet. You have converted me to—Lester Ward! You are my dear friend, you are a slip of a girl, but there are moments when my head has been on your breast, when your heart has been beating close to my ears, when I have known you for the goddess, when I have wished myself your slave, when I have wished that you could kill me for the joy of being killed by you. You are the High Priestess of Life....”