`I don't want Watteau picnics here,' he said.

`Only your Virginie,' she laughed.

`Virginie enough,' he smiled wryly. `No, I don't want her either.'

Ursula looked at him closely. She had not seen him since Breadalby. He was very thin and hollow, with a ghastly look in his face.

`You have been ill; haven't you?' she asked, rather repulsed.

`Yes,' he replied coldly.

They had sat down under the willow tree, and were looking at the pond, from their retreat on the island.

`Has it made you frightened?' she asked.

`What of?' he asked, turning his eyes to look at her. Something in him, inhuman and unmitigated, disturbed her, and shook her out of her ordinary self.

`It is frightening to be very ill, isn't it?' she said.

`It isn't pleasant,' he said. `Whether one is really afraid of death, or not, I have never decided. In one mood, not a bit, in another, very much.'

`But doesn't it make you feel ashamed? I think it makes one so ashamed, to be ill -- illness is so terribly humiliating, don't you think?'

He considered for some minutes.

`May-be,' he said. `Though one knows all the time one's life isn't really right, at the source. That's the humiliation. I don't see that the illness counts so much, after that. One is ill because one doesn't live properly -- can't. It's the failure to live that makes one ill, and humiliates one.'

`But do you fail to live?' she asked, almost jeering.

`Why yes -- I don't make much of a success of my days. One seems always to be bumping one's nose against the blank wall ahead.'

Ursula laughed. She was frightened, and when she was frightened she always laughed and pretended to be jaunty.

`Your poor nose!' she said, looking at that feature of his face.

`No wonder it's ugly,' he replied.

She was silent for some minutes, struggling with her own self-deception. It was an instinct in her, to deceive herself.

`But I'm happy -- I think life is awfully jolly,' she said.

`Good,' he answered, with a certain cold indifference.

She reached for a bit of paper which had wrapped a small piece of chocolate she had found in her pocket, and began making a boat. He watched her without heeding her. There was something strangely pathetic and tender in her moving, unconscious finger-tips, that were agitated and hurt, really.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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