The Voyage Out HTML version
Uncomfortable as the night, with its rocking movement, and salt smells, may have been,
and in one case undoubtedly was, for Mr. Pepper had insufficient clothes upon his bed,
the breakfast next morning wore a kind of beauty. The voyage had begun, and had begun
happily with a soft blue sky, and a calm sea. The sense of untapped resources, things to
say as yet unsaid, made the hour significant, so that in future years the entire journey
perhaps would be represented by this one scene, with the sound of sirens hooting in the
river the night before, somehow mixing in.
The table was cheerful with apples and bread and eggs. Helen handed Willoughby the
butter, and as she did so cast her eye on him and reflected, "And she married you, and she
was happy, I suppose."
She went off on a familiar train of thought, leading on to all kinds of well-known
reflections, from the old wonder, why Theresa had married Willoughby?
"Of course, one sees all that," she thought, meaning that one sees that he is big and burly,
and has a great booming voice, and a fist and a will of his own; "but--" here she slipped
into a fine analysis of him which is best represented by one word, "sentimental," by
which she meant that he was never simple and honest about his feelings. For example, he
seldom spoke of the dead, but kept anniversaries with singular pomp. She suspected him
of nameless atrocities with regard to his daughter, as indeed she had always suspected
him of bullying his wife. Naturally she fell to comparing her own fortunes with the
fortunes of her friend, for Willoughby's wife had been perhaps the one woman Helen
called friend, and this comparison often made the staple of their talk. Ridley was a
scholar, and Willoughby was a man of business. Ridley was bringing out the third
volume of Pindar when Willoughby was launching his first ship. They built a new factory
the very year the commentary on Aristotle--was it?--appeared at the University Press.
"And Rachel," she looked at her, meaning, no doubt, to decide the argument, which was
otherwise too evenly balanced, by declaring that Rachel was not comparable to her own
children. "She really might be six years old," was all she said, however, this judgment
referring to the smooth unmarked outline of the girl's face, and not condemning her
otherwise, for if Rachel were ever to think, feel, laugh, or express herself, instead of
dropping milk from a height as though to see what kind of drops it made, she might be
interesting though never exactly pretty. She was like her mother, as the image in a pool
on a still summer's day is like the vivid flushed face that hangs over it.
Meanwhile Helen herself was under examination, though not from either of her victims.
Mr. Pepper considered her; and his meditations, carried on while he cut his toast into bars
and neatly buttered them, took him through a considerable stretch of autobiography. One
of his penetrating glances assured him that he was right last night in judging that Helen
was beautiful. Blandly he passed her the jam. She was talking nonsense, but not worse
nonsense than people usually do talk at breakfast, the cerebral circulation, as he knew to
his cost, being apt to give trouble at that hour. He went on saying "No" to her, on