SHE remembered the conversation. Her [FE] [MS] father sitting, straight and slender, in his chair, talking in that quiet voice of his that never went sharp or deep or quavering, that paused now and then on an amused inflection, his long lips straightening be- tween the perpendicular grooves of his smile. She loved his straight, slender face, clean-shaven, the straight, slightly jutting jaw, the dark-blue flattish eyes under the black eyebrows, the silver-grizzled hair that fitted close like a cap, curling in a silver brim above his ears. He was talking about his business as if more than anything it amused him. 'There's nothing gross and material [FE] about stockbroking. It's like pure mathe- matics. You're dealing in abstractions, ideal values, all the time. You calculate in curves.' His hand, holding the unlit cigar, drew a curve, a long graceful one, in mid-air. 'You know what's going to happen all the time.... The excitement begins when you don't quite know and you risk it; when it's getting dangerous.... The higher mathematics of the game. If you can afford them; if you haven't a wife and family I can see [MS] the fascination....' He sat holding his cigar in one hand, looking at it without seeing it, seeing the fascination and smiling at it, amused and secure. And her mother, bending over her bead-work, smiled too, out of their happi- [FE] ness, their security. He would lean back, smoking his cigar and looking at them out of contented, half-shut eyes, as they stitched, one at each end of the long canvas fender stool. He was waiting, he said, for the moment when their heads would come bumping together in the middle. Sometimes they would sit like that, not exchanging ideas, exchanging only the sense of each other's presence, a secure, profound satisfaction that belonged as much to their bodies as their minds; it rippled on their faces with their quiet smiling, it breathed with their breath. Sometimes she or her mother read aloud, Mrs Browning or Charles Dickens; or the biography of some Great Man, sitting there in the velvet curtained room or out [FE] on the lawn under the cedar tree. A motionless communion broken by walks in the sweet smelling fields and deep, elm-screened lanes. And there were short journeys into London to a lecture or a concert, and now and then the surprise and excitement of the play. One day her mother smoothed out her long, hanging curls and tucked them away under a net. Harriett had a little shock of dismay and resentment, hating change. And the long, long Sundays spaced the weeks and the months, hushed and sweet [MS] and rather enervating, yet with a sort of thrill in them as if somewhere the music of the church organ went on vibrating. Her mother had some secret: some happy sense of God that she gave to you and you took from her as you took food and [FE] clothing, but not quite knowing what it was, feeling that there was something more in it, some hidden gladness, some perfection that you missed. Her father had his secret too. She felt that it was harder, somehow, darker and dangerous. He read dangerous books: Darwin, and Huxley, and Herbert Spencer. Sometimes he talked about them. 'There's a sort of fascination in seeing how far you can go.... The fascination of truth might be just thatthe risk that after all it mayn't be true, that you may have to go farther and farther, perhaps never come back.' Her mother looked up with her bright, still eyes. 'I trust the truth. I know that, however far you go, you'll come back [FE] some day.' 'I believe you see all of them-- Darwin, and Huxley, and Herbert Spencer-- com- ing back,' he said. 'Yes, I do.' His eyes smiled, loving her. But you could see it amused him too, to think of them, all those reckless, courageous thinkers, coming back, to share her secret. His thinking was just a dangerous game he played. She looked at her father with a kind of awe as he sat there, reading his book, [MS] in danger and yet safe. She wanted to know what that fascina- tion was. She took down Herbert Spencer and tried to read him. She made a point of finishing every book she had begun, for her pride couldn't bear being beaten. [FE] Her head grew hot and heavy: she read the same sentences over and over again; they had no meaning; she couldn't under- stand a single word of Herbert Spencer. He had beaten her. As she put the book back in its place she said to herself: 'I mustn't. If I go on, if I get to the interesting part I may lose my faith.' And soon she made herself believe that this was really the reason why she had given it up. Besides Connie Hancock there were Lizzie Pierce and Sarah Barmby. Exquisite pleasure to walk with Lizzie Pierce. Lizzie's walk was a sliding, swoop- ing dance of little pointed feet, always as if she were going out to meet somebody, her sharp, black-eyed face darting and [FE] turning. 'My dear, he kept on doing this' (Lizzie did it) 'as if he was trying to sit on himself to keep him from flying off into space like a cork. Fancy proposing [MS] on three tumblers of soda water! I might have been Mrs Pennefather but for that.' Lizzie went about laughing, laughing at everybody, looking for something to laugh at everywhere. Now and then she would stop suddenly to contemplate the vision she had created. 'If Connie didn't wear a bustleor, oh, my dear, if Mr Hancock did' 'Mr Hancock!' Clear, firm laughter, chiming and tinkling. 'Goodness! To think how many ridiculous people there are in the [FE] world!' 'I believe you see something ridiculous in me.' 'Only when--only when-- She swung her parasol in time to her sing-song. She wouldn't say when. 'Lizzie--not--not when I'm in my black lace fichu and the little round hat?' 'Oh, dear me--no. Not then.' The little round hat, Lizzie wore one like it herself, tilted forward, perched on her chignon. 'Well, then'--she pleaded. Lizzie's face darted its teasing, mysteri- ous smile. She loved Lizzie best of her friends [MS] after Priscilla. She loved her mockery and her teasing wit. And there was Lizzie's friend, Sarah [FE] Barmby, who lived in one of those little shabby villas on the London road and looked after her father. She moved about the villa in an unseeing, shambling way, hitting herself against the furniture. Her face was heavy with a gentle, brooding goodness, and she had little eyes that blinked and twinkled in the heaviness, as if something amused her. At first you kept on wondering what the joke was, till you saw it was only a habit Sarah had. She came when she could spare time from her father. Next to Lizzie Harriett loved Sarah. She loved her goodness. And Connie Hancock, bouncing about hospitably in the large, rich house. Tea- parties and dances at the Hancocks. She wasn't sure that she liked dancing. [FE] There was something obscurely dangerous about it. She was afraid of being lifted off her feet and swung on and on, away from her safe, happy life. She was stiff and abrupt with her partners, convinced that none of those men who liked Connie Hancock could like her, and anxious to show them that she didn't expect them to. She was afraid of what they were thinking. [MS] And she would slip away early, running down the garden to the gate at the bottom of the lane where her father waited for her. She loved the still coldness of the night under the elms, and the strong, tight feel of her father's arm when she hung on it leaning towards him, and his 'There we are!' as he drew her closer. Her Mother would look up from the sofa and ask always the same question, 'Well, [FE] did anything nice happen?' Till at last she answered, 'No. Did you think it would, Mamma?' 'You never know,' said her mother. 'I know everything.' 'Everything?' 'Everything that could happen at the Hancocks' dances.' Her mother shook her head at her. She knew that in secret Mamma was glad; but she answered the reproof. 'It's mean of me to say that when I've eaten four of their ices. They were strawberry, and chocolate and vanilla, all in one.' 'Well, they won't last much longer.' 'Not at that rate,' her father said. 'I meant the dances,' said her mother. [MS] And sure enough, soon after Connie's [FE] engagement to young Mr Pennefather, they ceased. And the three friends, Connie and Sarah and Lizzie, came and went. She loved them; and yet when they were there they broke something, something secret and precious between her and her father and mother, and when they were gone she felt the stir, the happy move- ment of coming together again, drawing in close, close, after the break. 'We only want each other.' Nobody else really mattered, not even Priscilla Heaven. Year after year the same. Her mother parted her hair into two sleek wings; she wore a rosette and lappets of black velvet and lace on a glistening beetle-backed [FE] chignon. And Harriett felt again her shock of resentment. She hated to think of her mother subject to change and time. And Priscilla came year after year, still loving, still protesting that she would never marry. Yet they were glad when even Priscilla had gone and left them to each other. Only each other, year after year the same.