Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/164

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"Not in the least," said Helen. "I like it very much."

"You can't think," he exclaimed, speaking almost with emotion, "what a difference it makes finding some one to talk to! Directly I saw you I felt you might possibly understand me. I'm very fond of Hewet, but he hasn't the remotest idea what I'm like. You're the only woman I've ever met who seems to have the faintest conception of what I mean when I say a thing."

The next dance was beginning; it was the Barcarolle out of Hoffman, which made Helen beat her toe in time to it; but she felt that after such a compliment it was impossible to get up and go, and, besides being amused, she was really flattered, and the honesty of his conceit attracted her. She suspected that he was not happy, and was sufficiently feminine to wish to receive confidences.

"I'm very old," she sighed.

"The odd thing is that I don't find you old at all," he replied. "I feel as though we were exactly the same age. Moreover—" here he hesitated, but took courage from a glance at her face, "I feel as if I could talk quite plainly to you as one does to a man—about the relations between the sexes, about … and …"

In spite of his certainty a slight redness came into his face as he spoke the last two words.

She reassured him at once by the laugh with which she exclaimed, "I should hope so!"

He looked at her with real cordiality, and the lines which were drawn about his nose and lips slackened for the first time.

"Thank God!" he exclaimed. "Now we can behave like civilised human beings."

Certainly a barrier which usually stands fast had fallen, and it was possible to speak of matters which are generally only alluded to between men and women when doctors are present, or the shadow of death. In five minutes he was telling her the history of his life. It was long, for it was full of extremely elaborate incidents, which led on to a discussion of the principles on which morality is founded, and thus to several very interesting matters, which even in this ballroom had to be discussed in a whisper, lest one of the pouter pigeon ladies or