Looking at his hand he thought that if he had been alone dinner wouldhave been almost over now; he would have been free to work. Yes, hethought, it is a terrible waste of time. The children were dropping in still.
"I wish one of you would run up to Roger's room," Mrs Ramsay was saying.
How trifling it all is, how boring it all is, he thought, compared withthe other thing— work. Here he sat drumming his fingers on the tableclothwhen he might have been—he took a flashing bird's-eye view of hiswork. What a waste of time it all was to be sure! Yet, he thought, she isone of my oldest friends. I am by way of being devoted to her. Yet now,at this moment her presence meant absolutely nothing to him: her beautymeant nothing to him; her sitting with her little boy at the window—nothing, nothing. He wished only to be alone and to take up that book.
He felt uncomfortable; he felt treacherous, that he could sit by her sideand feel nothing for her. The truth was that he did not enjoy family life.
It was in this sort of state that one asked oneself, What does one live for?
Why, one asked oneself, does one take all these pains for the human raceto go on? Is it so very desirable? Are we attractive as a species? Not sovery, he thought, looking at those rather untidy boys. His favourite,Cam, was in bed, he supposed. Foolish questions, vain questions, questionsone never asked if one was occupied. Is human life this? Is humanlife that? One never had time to think about it. But here he was askinghimself that sort of question, because Mrs Ramsay was giving orders toservants, and also because it had struck him, thinking how surprisedMrs Ramsay was that Carrie Manning should still exist, that friendships,even the best of them, are frail things. One drifts apart. He reproachedhimself again. He was sitting beside Mrs Ramsay and he had nothing inthe world to say to her.
"I'm so sorry," said Mrs Ramsy, turning to him at last. He felt rigid andbarren, like a pair of boots that have been soaked and gone dry so thatyou can hardly force your feet into them. Yet he must force his feet intothem. He must make himself talk. Unless he were very careful, shewould find out this treachery of his; that he did not care a straw for her,and that would not be at all pleasant, he thought. So he bent his headcourteously in her direction.
"How you must detest dining in this bear garden," she said, makinguse, as she did when she was distracted, of her social manner. So, whenthere is a strife of tongues, at some meeting, the chairman, to obtainunity, suggests that every one shall speak in French. Perhaps it is badFrench; French may not contain the words that express the speaker'sthoughts; nevertheless speaking French imposes some order, some uniformity.