`You see, Hilda,' said Connie after lunch, when they were nearing London, `you have never known either real tenderness or real sensuality: and if you do know them, with the same person, it makes a great difference.'
`For mercy's sake don't brag about your experiences!' said Hilda. `I've never met the man yet who was capable of intimacy with a woman, giving himself up to her. That was what I wanted. I'm not keen on their self-satisfied tenderness, and their sensuality. I'm not content to be any man's little petsy-wetsy, nor his chair à plaisir either. I wanted a complete intimacy, and I didn't get it. That's enough for me.
Connie pondered this. Complete intimacy! She supposed that meant revealing everything concerning yourself to the other person, and his revealing everything concerning himself. But that was a bore. And all that weary self-consciousness between a man and a woman! a disease!
`I think you're too conscious of yourself all the time, with everybody,' she said to her sister.
`I hope at least I haven't a slave nature,' said Hilda.
`But perhaps you have! Perhaps you are a slave to your own idea of yourself.'
Hilda drove in silence for some time after this piece of unheard of insolence from that chit Connie.
`At least I'm not a slave to somebody else's idea of me: and the somebody else a servant of my husband's,' she retorted at last, in crude anger.
`You see, it's not so,' said Connie calmly.
She had always let herself be dominated by her elder sister. Now, though somewhere inside herself she was weeping, she was free of the dominion of other women. Ah! that in itself was a relief, like being given another life: to be free of the strange dominion and obsession of other women. How awful they were, women!
She was glad to be with her father, whose favourite she had always been. She and Hilda stayed in a little hotel off Pall Mall, and Sir Malcolm was in his club. But he took his daughters out in the evening, and they liked going with him.
He was still handsome and robust, though just a little afraid of the new world that had sprung up around him. He had got a second wife in Scotland, younger than himself and richer. But he had as many holidays away from her as possible: just as with his first wife.
Connie sat next to him at the opera. He was moderately stout, and had stout thighs, but they were still strong and well-knit, the thighs of a healthy man who had taken his pleasure in life. His good-humoured selfishness, his dogged sort of independence, his unrepenting sensuality, it seemed to Connie she could see them all in his well-knit straight thighs. Just a man! And now becoming an old man, which is sad. Because in his strong, thick male legs there was none of the alert sensitiveness and power of tenderness which is the very essence of youth, that which never dies, once it is there.
Connie woke up to the existence of legs. They became more important to her than faces, which are no longer very real. How few people had live, alert legs! She looked at the men in the stalls. Great puddingy thighs in black pudding-cloth, or lean wooden sticks in black funeral stuff, or well-shaped young legs without any meaning whatever, either sensuality or tenderness or sensitiveness, just mere leggy ordinariness that pranced around. Not even any sensuality like her father's. They were all daunted, daunted out of existence.
But the women were not daunted. The awful mill-posts of most females! really shocking, really enough to justify murder! Or the poor thin pegs! or the trim neat things in silk stockings, without the slightest look of life! Awful, the millions of meaningless legs prancing meaninglessly around!
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