'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.
'I can understand,' put in Jasper, 'that there may be philosophical truth in all this. All the same, it's a great pity that you should occupy your mind with such thoughts.'
'A pity--no! I must remain a reasoning creature. Disaster may end by driving me out of my wits, but till then I won't abandon my heritage of thought.'
'Let us have it out, then. You think it was a mistake to spend those months abroad?'
'A mistake from the practical point of view. That vast broadening of my horizon lost me the command of my literary resources. I lived in Italy and Greece as a student, concerned especially with the old civilisations; I read little but Greek and Latin. That brought me out of the track I had laboriously made for myself I often thought with disgust of the kind of work I had been doing; my novels seemed vapid stuff so wretchedly and shallowly modern. If I had had the means, I should have devoted myself to the life of a scholar. That, I quite believe, is my natural life; it's only the influence of recent circumstances that has made me a writer of novels. A man who can't journalise, yet must earn his bread by literature, nowadays inevitably turns to fiction, as the Elizabethan men turned to the drama. Well, but I should have got back, I think, into the old line of work. It was my marriage that completed what the time abroad had begun.'
He looked up suddenly, and added:
'I am speaking as if to myself. You, of course, don't misunderstand me, and think I am accusing my wife.'