Virginia Woolf: The Voyage Out

15. Chapter XV (continued)

"Ah, Ridley, I begin to doubt," she sighed; and bowed her head under his eyes so that he might judge, but the inspection produced only a kiss where the line of parting ran, and husband and wife then proceeded to move about the room, casually murmuring.

"What was that you were saying?" Helen remarked, after an interval of conversation which no third person could have understood.

"Rachel--you ought to keep an eye upon Rachel," he observed significantly, and Helen, though she went on brushing her hair, looked at him. His observations were apt to be true.

"Young gentlemen don't interest themselves in young women's education without a motive," he remarked.

"Oh, Hirst," said Helen.

"Hirst and Hewet, they're all the same to me--all covered with spots," he replied. "He advises her to read Gibbon. Did you know that?"

Helen did not know that, but she would not allow herself inferior to her husband in powers of observation. She merely said:

"Nothing would surprise me. Even that dreadful flying man we met at the dance--even Mr. Dalloway--even--"

"I advise you to be circumspect," said Ridley. "There's Willoughby, remember--Willoughby"; he pointed at a letter.

Helen looked with a sigh at an envelope which lay upon her dressing-table. Yes, there lay Willoughby, curt, inexpressive, perpetually jocular, robbing a whole continent of mystery, enquiring after his daughter's manners and morals--hoping she wasn't a bore, and bidding them pack her off to him on board the very next ship if she were-- and then grateful and affectionate with suppressed emotion, and then half a page about his own triumphs over wretched little natives who went on strike and refused to load his ships, until he roared English oaths at them, "popping my head out of the window just as I was, in my shirt sleeves. The beggars had the sense to scatter."

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