Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/333

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331
THE VOYAGE OUT

clothes. It struck Rachel that a woman who sat playing cards in a cavern all night long would have very cold hands, and she shrunk from the touch of them.

"Why, there's a toe all the way down there!" the woman said, proceeding to tuck in the bedclothes. Rachel did not realise that the toe was hers.

"You must try and lie still," she proceeded, "because if you lie still you will be less hot, and if you toss about you will make yourself more hot, and we don't want you to be any hotter than you are." She stood looking down upon Rachel for an enormous length of time.

"And the quieter you lie the sooner you will be well," she repeated.

Rachel kept her eyes fixed upon the peaked shadow on the ceiling, and all her energy was concentrated upon the desire that this shadow should move. But the shadow and the woman seemed to be eternally fixed above her. She shut her eyes. When she opened them again several more hours had passed, but the night still lasted interminably. The woman was still playing cards, only she sat now in a tunnel under a river, and the light stood in a little archway in the wall above her. She cried "Terence!" and the peaked shadow again moved across the ceiling, as the woman with an enormous slow movement rose, and they both stood still above her.

"It's just as difficult to keep you in bed as it was to keep Mr. Forrest in bed," the woman said, "and he was such a tall gentleman."

In order to get rid of this terrible stationary sight Rachel again shut her eyes, and found herself walking through a tunnel under the Thames, where there were little deformed women sitting in archways playing cards, while the bricks of which the wall was made oozed with damp, which collected into drops and slid down the wall. But the little old women became Helen and Nurse McInnis after a time, standing in the window together whispering, whispering incessantly.

Meanwhile outside her room the sounds, the movements, and the lives of the other people in the house went on in the ordinary light of the sun, throughout the usual succession of hours. When, on the first day of her illness, it became clear