IN THE MORNING Gerald woke late. He had slept heavily. Pussum was still asleep, sleeping childishly and pathetically. There was something small and curled up and defenceless about her, that roused an unsatisfied flame of passion in the young man's blood, a devouring avid pity. He looked at her again. But it would be too cruel to wake her. He subdued himself, and went away.

Hearing voices coming from the sitting-room, Halliday talking to Libidnikov, he went to the door and glanced in. He had on a silk wrap of a beautiful bluish colour, with an amethyst hem.

To his surprise he saw the two young men by the fire, stark naked. Halliday looked up, rather pleased.

`Good-morning,' he said. `Oh -- did you want towels?' And stark naked he went out into the hall, striding a strange, white figure between the unliving furniture. He came back with the towels, and took his former position, crouching seated before the fire on the fender.

`Don't you love to feel the fire on your skin?' he said.

`It is rather pleasant,' said Gerald.

`How perfectly splendid it must be to be in a climate where one could do without clothing altogether,' said Halliday.

`Yes,' said Gerald, `if there weren't so many things that sting and bite.'

`That's a disadvantage,' murmured Maxim.

Gerald looked at him, and with a slight revulsion saw the human animal, golden skinned and bare, somehow humiliating. Halliday was different. He had a rather heavy, slack, broken beauty, white and firm. He was like a Christ in a Pieta. The animal was not there at all, only the heavy, broken beauty. And Gerald realised how Halliday's eyes were beautiful too, so blue and warm and confused, broken also in their expression. The fireglow fell on his heavy, rather bowed shoulders, he sat slackly crouched on the fender, his face was uplifted, weak, perhaps slightly disintegrate, and yet with a moving beauty of its own.

`Of course,' said Maxim, `you've been in hot countries where the people go about naked.'

`Oh really!' exclaimed Halliday. `Where?'

`South America -- Amazon,' said Gerald.

`Oh but how perfectly splendid! It's one of the things I want most to do -- to live from day to day without ever putting on any sort of clothing whatever. If I could do that, I should feel I had lived.'

`But why?' said Gerald. `I can't see that it makes so much difference.'

`Oh, I think it would be perfectly splendid. I'm sure life would be entirely another thing -- entirely different, and perfectly wonderful.'

`But why?' asked Gerald. `Why should it?'

`Oh -- one would feel things instead of merely looking at them. I should feel the air move against me, and feel the things I touched, instead of having only to look at them. I'm sure life is all wrong because it has become much too visual -- we can neither hear nor feel nor understand, we can only see. I'm sure that is entirely wrong.'

`Yes, that is true, that is true,' said the Russian.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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