The Yellow Notebook
She liked him so much now that for her it was as if the episode in the field had not happened. He took her home and came into the hall after her, still talking. They went up the stairs, and Ella was thinking: I suppose we’ll have some coffee and then he’ll go. She was quite genuine in this. And yet, when he again made love to her, she again thought: Yes, it’s right, because we’ve been so close together all evening. Afterwards, when he complained: ‘Of course you knew I’d make love to you again,’ she would reply: ‘Of course I didn’t. And if you hadn’t it wouldn’t have mattered.’ At which he would either reply: ‘Oh, what a hypocrite!’ Or: ‘Then you’ve no right to be so unconscious of your motives.’
Being with Paul Tanner, that night, was the deepest experience Ella had had with a man; so different from anything she had known before that everything in the past became irrelevant. This feeling was so final, that when, towards early morning, Paul asked: ‘What does Julia think about this sort of thing?’ Ella replied vaguely: ‘What sort of thing?’
‘Last week, for instance. You said you brought a man home from a party.’
‘You’re mad,’ she said, laughing comfortably. They lay in the dark. She turned her head to see his face; a dark line of cheek showed against the light from the window; there was something remote and lonely about it, and she thought: He’s got into the same mood he was in earlier. But this time it did not disturb her, for the simplicity of the warm touch of his thigh against hers made the remoteness of his face irrelevant.
‘But what does Julia say?’
‘What will she say in the morning?’
‘Why should she say anything at all?’
‘I see,’ he said briefly; and got up and added: ‘I’ll have to go home and shave and get a clean shirt.’
That week he came to her every night, late, when Michael was asleep. And he left early every morning, to ‘pick up a clean shirt’.
Ella was completely happy. She drifted along on a soft tide of not-thinking. When Paul made a remark from ‘his negative personality’, she was so sure of her emotions that she replied: ‘Oh, you’re so stupid, I told you, you don’t understand anything.’ (The word negative was Julia’s, used after a glimpse of Paul on the stairs: ‘There’s something bitter and negative about that face.’) She was thinking that soon he would marry her. Or perhaps not soon. It would be at the right time, and he would know when that was. His marriage must be no marriage at all, if he could stay with her, night after night, going home at dawn, ‘for a clean shirt’.