Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/166

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of life, I think—d'you see what I mean? What really goes on, what people feel, although they generally try to hide it? There's nothing to be frightened at. It's so much more beautiful than the pretences—always more interesting—always better, I should say, than that kind of thing."

She nodded her head at a table near them, where two girls and two young men were chaffing each other very loudly, and carrying on an arch insinuating dialogue, sprinkled with endearments, about, it seemed, a pair of stockings or a pair of legs. One of the girls was flirting a fan and pretending to be shocked, and the sight was very unpleasant, partly because it was obvious that the girls were secretly hostile to each other.

"In my old age, however," Helen sighed, "I'm coming to think that it doesn't much matter in the long run what one does: people always go their own way—nothing will ever influence them." She nodded her head at the supper party.

But St. John did not agree. He said that he thought one could really make a great deal of difference by one's point of view, books and so on, and added that few things at the present time mattered more than the enlightenment of women. He sometimes thought that almost everything was due to education.

In the ballroom, meanwhile, the dancers were being formed into squares for the lancers. Arthur and Rachel, Susan and Hewet, Miss Allan and Hughling Elliot found themselves together.

Miss Allan looked at her watch.

"Half-past one," she stated. "And I have to despatch Alexander Pope to-morrow."

"Pope!" snorted Mr. Elliot. "Who reads Pope, I should like to know? And as for reading about him—— No, no. Miss Allan; be persuaded you will benefit the world much more by dancing than by writing." It was one of Mr. Elliot's affectations that nothing in the world could compare with the delights of dancing—nothing in the world was so tedious as literature. Thus he sought pathetically enough to ingratiate himself with the young, and to prove to them beyond a doubt that though married to a ninny of a wife, and rather pale and bent