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    Chapter 4

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    Chapter 4
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    Denis woke up next morning to find the sun shining, the sky
    serene. He decided to wear white flannel trousers--white flannel
    trousers and a black jacket, with a silk shirt and his new peach-
    coloured tie. And what shoes? White was the obvious choice, but
    there was something rather pleasing about the notion of black
    patent leather. He lay in bed for several minutes considering
    the problem.

    Before he went down--patent leather was his final choice--he
    looked at himself critically in the glass. His hair might have
    been more golden, he reflected. As it was, its yellowness had
    the hint of a greenish tinge in it. But his forehead was good.
    His forehead made up in height what his chin lacked in
    prominence. His nose might have been longer, but it would pass.
    His eyes might have been blue and not green. But his coat was
    very well cut and, discreetly padded, made him seem robuster than
    he actually was. His legs, in their white casing, were long and
    elegant. Satisfied, he descended the stairs. Most of the party
    had already finished their breakfast. He found himself alone
    with Jenny.

    "I hope you slept well," he said.

    "Yes, isn't it lovely?" Jenny replied, giving two rapid little
    nods. "But we had such awful thunderstorms last week."

    Parallel straight lines, Denis reflected, meet only at infinity.
    He might talk for ever of care-charmer sleep and she of
    meteorology till the end of time. Did one ever establish contact
    with anyone? We are all parallel straight lines. Jenny was only
    a little more parallel than most.

    "They are very alarming, these thunderstorms," he said, helping
    himself to porridge. "Don't you think so? Or are you above
    being frightened?"

    "No. I always go to bed in a storm. One is so much safer lying


    "Because," said Jenny, making a descriptive gesture, "because
    lightning goes downwards and not flat ways. When you're lying
    down you're out of the current."

    "That's very ingenious."

    "It's true."

    There was a silence. Denis finished his porridge and helped
    himself to bacon. For lack of anything better to say, and
    because Mr. Scogan's absurd phrase was for some reason running in
    his head, he turned to Jenny and asked:

    "Do you consider yourself a femme superieure?" He had to repeat
    the question several times before Jenny got the hang of it.

    "No," she said, rather indignantly, when at last she heard what
    Denis was saying. "Certainly not. Has anyone been suggesting
    that I am?"

    "No," said Denis. "Mr. Scogan told Mary she was one."

    "Did he?" Jenny lowered her voice. "Shall I tell you what I
    think of that man? I think he's slightly sinister."

    Having made this pronouncement, she entered the ivory tower of
    her deafness and closed the door. Denis could not induce her to
    say anything more, could not induce her even to listen. She just
    smiled at him, smiled and occasionally nodded.

    Denis went out on to the terrace to smoke his after-breakfast
    pipe and to read his morning paper. An hour later, when Anne
    came down, she found him still reading. By this time he had got
    to the Court Circular and the Forthcoming Weddings. He got up to
    meet her as she approached, a Hamadryad in white muslin, across
    the grass.

    "Why, Denis," she exclaimed, "you look perfectly sweet in your
    white trousers."

    Denis was dreadfully taken aback. There was no possible retort.
    "You speak as though I were a child in a new frock," he said,
    with a show of irritation.

    "But that's how I feel about you, Denis dear."

    "Then you oughtn't to."

    "But I can't help it. I'm so much older than you."

    "I like that," he said. "Four years older."

    "And if you do look perfectly sweet in your white trousers, why
    shouldn't I say so? And why did you put them on, if you didn't
    think you were going to look sweet in them?"

    "Let's go into the garden," said Denis. He was put out; the
    conversation had taken such a preposterous and unexpected turn.
    He had planned a very different opening, in which he was to lead
    off with, "You look adorable this morning," or something of the
    kind, and she was to answer, "Do I?" and then there was to be a
    pregnant silence. And now she had got in first with the
    trousers. It was provoking; his pride was hurt.

    That part of the garden that sloped down from the foot of the
    terrace to the pool had a beauty which did not depend on colour
    so much as on forms. It was as beautiful by moonlight as in the
    sun. The silver of water, the dark shapes of yew and ilex trees
    remained, at all hours and seasons, the dominant features of the
    scene. It was a landscape in black and white. For colour there
    was the flower-garden; it lay to one side of the pool, separated
    from it by a huge Babylonian wall of yews. You passed through a
    tunnel in the hedge, you opened a wicket in a wall, and you found
    yourself, startlingly and suddenly, in the world of colour. The
    July borders blazed and flared under the sun. Within its high
    brick walls the garden was like a great tank of warmth and
    perfume and colour.

    Denis held open the little iron gate for his companion. "It's
    like passing from a cloister into an Oriental palace," he said,
    and took a deep breath of the warm, flower-scented air. "'In
    fragrant volleys they let fly...' How does it go?

    "'Well shot, ye firemen! Oh how sweet
    And round your equal fires do meet;
    Whose shrill report no ear can tell,
    But echoes to the eye and smell...'"

    "You have a bad habit of quoting," said Anne. "As I never know
    the context or author, I find it humiliating."

    Denis apologized. "It's the fault of one's education. Things
    somehow seem more real and vivid when one can apply somebody
    else's ready-made phrase about them. And then there are lots of
    lovely names and words--Monophysite, Iamblichus, Pomponazzi; you
    bring them out triumphantly, and feel you've clinched the
    argument with the mere magical sound of them. That's what comes
    of the higher education."

    "You may regret your education," said Anne; "I'm ashamed of my
    lack of it. Look at those sunflowers! Aren't they magnificent?"

    "Dark faces and golden crowns--they're kings of Ethiopia. And I
    like the way the tits cling to the flowers and pick out the
    seeds, while the other loutish birds, grubbing dirtily for their
    food, look up in envy from the ground. Do they look up in envy?
    That's the literary touch, I'm afraid. Education again. It
    always comes back to that." He was silent.

    Anne had sat down on a bench that stood in the shade of an old
    apple tree. "I'm listening," she said.

    He did not sit down, but walked backwards and forwards in front
    of the bench, gesticulating a little as he talked. "Books," he
    said--"books. One reads so many, and one sees so few people and
    so little of the world. Great thick books about the universe and
    the mind and ethics. You've no idea how many there are. I must
    have read twenty or thirty tons of them in the last five years.
    Twenty tons of ratiocination. Weighted with that, one's pushed
    out into the world."

    He went on walking up and down. His voice rose, fell, was silent
    a moment, and then talked on. He moved his hands, sometimes he
    waved his arms. Anne looked and listened quietly, as though she
    were at a lecture. He was a nice boy, and to-day he looked

    One entered the world, Denis pursued, having ready-made ideas
    about everything. One had a philosophy and tried to make life
    fit into it. One should have lived first and then made one's
    philosophy to fit life...Life, facts, things were horribly
    complicated; ideas, even the most difficult of them, deceptively
    simple. In the world of ideas everything was clear; in life all
    was obscure, embroiled. Was it surprising that one was
    miserable, horribly unhappy? Denis came to a halt in front of
    the bench, and as he asked this last question he stretched out
    his arms and stood for an instant in an attitude of crucifixion,
    then let them fall again to his sides.

    "My poor Denis!" Anne was touched. He was really too pathetic
    as he stood there in front of her in his white flannel trousers.
    "But does one suffer about these things? It seems very

    "You're like Scogan," cried Denis bitterly. "You regard me as a
    specimen for an anthropologist. Well, I suppose I am."

    "No, no," she protested, and drew in her skirt with a gesture
    that indicated that he was to sit down beside her. He sat down.
    "Why can't you just take things for granted and as they come?"
    she asked. "It's so much simpler."

    "Of course it is," said Denis. "But it's a lesson to be learnt
    gradually. There are the twenty tons of ratiocination to be got
    rid of first."

    "I've always taken things as they come," said Anne. "It seems so
    obvious. One enjoys the pleasant things, avoids the nasty ones.
    There's nothing more to be said."

    "Nothing--for you. But, then, you were born a pagan; I am trying
    laboriously to make myself one. I can take nothing for granted,
    I can enjoy nothing as it comes along. Beauty, pleasure, art,
    women--I have to invent an excuse, a justification for everything
    that's delightful. Otherwise I can't enjoy it with an easy
    conscience. I make up a little story about beauty and pretend
    that it has something to do with truth and goodness. I have to
    say that art is the process by which one reconstructs the divine
    reality out of chaos. Pleasure is one of the mystical roads to
    union with the infinite--the ecstasies of drinking, dancing,
    love-making. As for women, I am perpetually assuring myself that
    they're the broad highway to divinity. And to think that I'm
    only just beginning to see through the silliness of the whole
    thing! It's incredible to me that anyone should have escaped
    these horrors."

    "It's still more incredible to me," said Anne, "that anyone
    should have been a victim to them. I should like to see myself
    believing that men are the highway to divinity." The amused
    malice of her smile planted two little folds on either side of
    her mouth, and through their half-closed lids her eyes shone with
    laughter. "What you need, Denis, is a nice plump young wife, a
    fixed income, and a little congenial but regular work."

    "What I need is you." That was what he ought to have retorted,
    that was what he wanted passionately to say. He could not say
    it. His desire fought against his shyness. "What I need is
    you." Mentally he shouted the words, but not a sound issued from
    his lips. He looked at her despairingly. Couldn't she see what
    was going on inside him? Couldn't she understand? "What I need
    is you." He would say it, he would--he would.

    "I think I shall go and bathe," said Anne. "It's so hot." The
    opportunity had passed.
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