Page:The Intrusion of Jimmy.djvu/137

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ridge of the Hill of Supreme Moments in turn had been mistaken by him for the summit; but this last, he felt instinctively, was genuine. For good or bad, Molly was woven into the texture of his life. In the stormy period of the early twenties, he had thought the same of other girls, who were now mere memories as dim as those of figures in a half-forgotten play. In their case, his convalescence had been temporarily painful, but brief. Force of will and an active life had worked the cure. He had merely braced himself, and firmly ejected them from his mind. A week or two of aching emptiness, and his heart had been once more in readiness, all nicely swept and garnished, for the next lodger.

But, in the case of Molly, it was different. He had passed the age of instantaneous susceptibility. Like a landlord who has been cheated by previous tenants, he had become wary. He mistrusted his powers of recuperation in case of disaster. The will in these matters, just like the mundane "bouncer," gets past its work. For some years now, Jimmy had had a feeling that the next arrival would come to stay; and he had adopted in consequence a gently defensive attitude toward the other sex. Molly had broken through this, and he saw that his estimate of his will-power had been just. Methods that had proved excellent in the past were useless now. There was no trace here of the dimly consoling feeling of earlier years, that there were other girls in the world. He did not try to deceive himself. He knew that he