Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/110

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seven, which is nearly thirty, you seem to have drawn no conclusions. A party of old women excites you still as though you were three."

Hewet contemplated the angular young man who was neatly brushing the rims of his toe-nails into the fireplace in silence for a moment.

"I respect you, Hirst," he remarked.

"I envy you—some things," said Hirst. "One: your capacity for not thinking; two: people like you better than they like me. Women like you, I suppose."

"I wonder whether that isn't really what matters most?" said Hewet. Lying now flat on the bed he waved his hand in vague circles above him.

"Of course it is," said Hirst. "But that's not the difficulty. The difficulty is, isn't it, to find an appropriate object?"

"There are no female hens in your circle?" asked Hewet.

"Not the ghost of one," said Hirst.

Although they had known each other for three years Hirst had never yet heard the true story of Hewet's loves. In general conversation it was taken for granted that they were many, but in private the subject was allowed to lapse. The fact that he had money enough to do no work, and that he had left Cambridge after two terms owing to a difference with the authorities, and had then travelled and drifted, made his life strange at many points where his friends' lives were much of a piece.

"I don't see your circles—I don't see them," Hewet continued. "I see a thing like a teetotum spinning in and out—knocking into things—dashing from side to side—collecting numbers—more and more and more, till the whole place is thick with them. Round and round they go—out there, over the rim—out of sight."

His fingers showed that the waltzing teetotums had spun over the edge of the counterpane and fallen off the bed into infinity.

"Could you contemplate three weeks alone in this hotel?" asked Hirst, after a moment's pause.

Hewet proceeded to think.

"The truth of it is that one never is alone, and one never is in company," he concluded.

"Meaning?" said Hirst.