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Chapter 4

CHAPTER IV.

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
down."

"Why?"

"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
charming--charming!

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
extraordinary."

"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.

Aldous Huxley

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