An Unwritten Novel
Such an expression of unhappiness was enough by itself to make one’s eyes slide above the paper’s edge to the poor woman’s face-insignificant without that look, almost a symbol of human destiny with it. Life’s what you see in people’s eyes; life’s what they learn, and, having learnt it, never, though they seek to hide it, cease to be aware of-what? That life’s like that, it seems. Strange, though, how people want to conceal it! Marks of reticence are on all those faces: lips shut, eyes shaded, each one of the five doing something to hide or stultify his knowledge. She looks at life. Ah, but my poor, unfortunate woman, do play the game-do, for all our sakes, conceal it!
As if she heard me, she looked up, shifted slightly in her seat and sighed. She seemed to apologise and at the same time to say to me, “If only you knew!” Then she looked at life again. “But I do know,” I answered silently, glancing at the Times for manners’ sake. “I know the whole business. ‘Peace between Germany and the Allied Powers was yesterday officially ushered in at Paris-Signor Nitti, the Italian Prime Minister-a passenger train at Doncaster was in collision with a goods train. ‘ We all know-the Times knows-but we pretend we don’t.” My eyes had once more crept over the paper’s rim She shuddered, twitched her arm queerly to the middle of her back and shook her head. Again I dipped into my great reservoir of life. “Take what you like,” I continued, “births, deaths, marriages, Court Circular, the habits of birds, Leonardo da Vinci, the Sandhills murder, high wages and the cost of living-oh, take what you like,” I repeated, “it’s all in the Times!” Again with infinite weariness she moved her head from side to side until, like a top exhausted with spinning, it settled on her neck.
The Times was no protection against such sorrow as hers. But other human beings forbade intercourse. The best thing to do against https://tennesseepaydayloans.org/cities/tazewell/ life was to fold the paper so that it made a perfect square, crisp, thick, impervious even to life. This done, I glanced up quickly, armed with a shield of my own. She pierced through my shield; she gazed into my eyes as if searching any sediment of courage at the depths of them and damping it to clay. Her twitch alone denied all hope, discounted all illusion.
One smokes; another reads; a third checks entries in a pocket book; a fourth stares at the map of the line framed opposite; and the fifth-the terrible thing about the fifth is that she does nothing at all
So we rattled through Surrey and across the border into Sussex. But with my eyes upon life I did not see that the other travellers had left, one by one, till, save for the man who read, we were alone together. Here was Three Bridges station. We drew slowly down the platform and stopped. Was he going to leave us? I prayed both ways-I prayed last that he might stay. At that instant he roused himself, crumpled his paper contemptuously, like a thing done with, burst open the door, and left us alone.
The unhappy woman, leaning a little forward, palely and colourlessly addressed me-talked of stations and holidays, of brothers at Eastbourne, and the time of year, which was, I forget now, early or late. But at last looking from the window and seeing, I knew, only life, she breathed, “Staying away-that’s the drawback of it-” Ah, now we approached the catastrophe, “My sister-in-law”-the bitterness of her tone was like lemon on cold steel, and speaking, not to me, but to herself, she muttered, “nonsense, she would say-that’s what they all say,” and while she spoke she fidgeted as though the skin on her back were as a plucked fowl’s in a poulterer’s shop-window.