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Aaron's Rod by D. H. Lawrence

Again Tanny looked for her husband's answer


Lilly

sat motionless as a statue, his face like paper. One of the blows had caught him rather low, so that he was almost winded and could not breathe. He sat rigid, paralysed as a winded man is. But he wouldn't let it be seen. With all his will he prevented himself from gasping. Only through his parted lips he drew tiny gasps, controlled, nothing revealed to the other two. He hated them both far too much.

For some minutes there was dead silence, whilst Lilly silently and viciously fought for his breath. Tanny opened her eyes wide in a sort of pleased bewilderment, and Jim turned his face aside, and hung his clasped hands between his knees.

"There's a great silence, suddenly!" said Tanny.

"What is there to say?" ejaculated Lilly rapidly, with a spoonful of breath which he managed to compress and control into speech. Then he sat motionless again, concerned with the business of getting back his wind, and not letting the other two see.

Jim jerked in his chair, and looked round.

"It isn't that I don't like the man," he said, in a rather small voice. "But I knew if he went on I should have to do it."

To Lilly, rigid and physically preoccupied, there sounded a sort of self-consciousness in Jim's voice, as if the whole thing had been semi-deliberate. He detected the sort of maudlin deliberateness

which goes with hysterics, and he was colder, more icy than ever.

Tanny looked at Lilly, puzzled, bewildered, but still rather pleased, as if she demanded an answer. None being forthcoming, she said:

"Of course, you mustn't expect to say all those things without rousing a man."

Still Lilly did not answer. Jim glanced at him, then looked at Tanny.

"It isn't that I don't like him," he said, slowly. "I like him better than any man I've ever known, I believe." He clasped his hands and turned aside his face.

"Judas!" flashed through Lilly's mind.

Again Tanny looked for her husband's answer.

"Yes, Rawdon," she said. "You can't say the things you do without their having an effect. You really ask for it, you know."

"It's no matter." Lilly squeezed the words out coldly. "He wanted to do it, and he did it."

A dead silence ensued now. Tanny looked from man to man.

"I could feel it coming on me," said Jim.

"Of course!" said Tanny. "Rawdon doesn't know the things he says." She was pleased that he had had to pay for them, for once.

It takes a man a long time to get his breath back, after a sharp blow in the wind. Lilly was managing by degrees. The others no doubt attributed his silence to deep or fierce thoughts. It was nothing of the kind, merely a cold struggle to get his wind back, without letting them know he was struggling: and a sheer, stock-stiff hatred of the pair of them.

"I like the man," said Jim. "Never liked a man more than I like him." He spoke as if with difficulty.


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