Both appeared to exercise their minds on the problem for a few minutes. Then Jasper slapped his knee.
'How would this do: "The Weird Sisters"? Devilish good, eh? Suggests all sorts of things, both to the vulgar and the educated. Nothing brutally clap-trap about it, you know.'
'But--what does it suggest to you?'
'Oh, witch-like, mysterious girls or women. Think it over.'
There was another long silence. Reardon's face was that of a man in blank misery.
'I have been trying,' he said at length, after an attempt to speak which was checked by a huskiness in his throat, 'to explain to myself how this state of things has come about. I almost think I can do so.'
'That half-year abroad, and the extraordinary shock of happiness which followed at once upon it, have disturbed the balance of my nature. It was adjusted to circumstances of hardship, privation, struggle. A temperament like mine can't pass through such a violent change of conditions without being greatly affected; I have never since been the man I was before I left England. The stage I had then reached was the result of a slow and elaborate building up; I could look back and see the processes by which I had grown from the boy who was a mere bookworm to the man who had all but succeeded as a novelist. It was a perfectly natural, sober development. But in the last two years and a half I can distinguish no order. In living through it, I have imagined from time to time that my powers were coming to their ripest; but that was mere delusion. Intellectually, I have fallen back. The probability is that this wouldn't matter, if only I could live on in peace of mind; I should recover my equilibrium, and perhaps once more understand myself. But the due course of things is troubled by my poverty.'
He spoke in a slow, meditative way, in a monotonous voice, and without raising his eyes from the ground.