Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/215

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218
THE VOYAGE OUT

ground…. Do you really think that the vote will do you any good?"

"The vote?" Rachel repeated. She had to visualise it as a little bit of paper which she dropped into a box before she understood his question, and looking at each other they smiled at something absurd in the question.

"Not to me," she said. "But I play the piano…. Are men really like that?" she asked, returning to the question that interested her. "I'm not afraid of you." She looked at him easily.

"Oh, I'm different," Hewet replied. "I’ve got between six and seven hundred a year of my own. And then no one takes a novelist seriously, thank heavens. There's no doubt it helps to make up for the drudgery of a profession if a man's taken very, very seriously by every one—if he gets appointments, and has offices and a title, and lots of letters after his name, and bits of ribbon and degrees. I don't grudge it 'em, though sometimes it comes over me—what an amazing concoction! What a miracle the masculine conception of life is—judges, civil servants, army, navy. Houses of Parliament, lord mayors—what a world we've made of it! Look at Hirst now. I assure you," he said, "not a day's passed since we came here without a discussion as to whether he's to stay on at Cambridge or to go to the Bar. It's his career—his sacred career. And if I've heard it twenty times, I'm sure his mother and sister have heard it five hundred times. Can't you imagine the family conclaves, and the sister told to run out and feed the rabbits because St. John must have the school-room to himself—'St. John's working,' 'St. John wants his tea brought to him.' Don't you know the kind of thing? No wonder that St. John thinks it a matter of considerable importance. It is too. He has to earn his living. But St. John's sister—" Hewet puffed in silence. "No one takes her seriously, poor dear. She feeds the rabbits."

"Yes," said Rachel. "I've fed rabbits for twenty-four years; it seems odd now." She looked meditative, and Hewet, who had been talking much at random and instinctively adopting the feminine point of view, saw that she would now talk about