A little by a little he was beginning to lose interest in that pudgy pasty man of forty-odd who was called Felix Kennaston, and to handle his affairs more slackly. Once or twice Kennaston caught his wife regrading him furtively, with a sort of anxious d istrust....

Let there be no mistake here: Felix Kennaston had married a woman admirably suited to him, and he had never regretted that act. Nor with the advent of Ettarre did he regret it: and never at any time would he have concidered separating his diurnal exist ence from that of his thin beady-eyed capable wife, with graver seriousness than he would have accorded, say, to a rambling notion of one day being gripped in a trap and having no way to escape save by cutting off one of his feet. His affection for Kathl een was well-founded, proved, and understood; but, as it happens, this narrative does not chance to deal with that affection. And becides, what there was to tell concerning Kennaston's fondness for his wife was duly set forth years ago.

Meanwhile, it began vaguely to be rumored among Kennaston's associates that he drank more than was good for him; and toward "drugs" also sped the irresponsible arrows of surmise. He himself noticed, without much interest, that daily he, who had once been garrulous, ws growing more chary of speech; and that his attention was apt to wander when the man's or woman's face before him spoke at any length. These shifting faces talked of wars and tariffs and investents and the weather and committee-meetings, an d of having seen So-and-so and of So-and-so's having said this-or-that, and it all seemed of importance to the wearers of these faces; so that he made pretense to listen, patiently. What did it matter?

It did not matter a farthing, he considered, for he had cheated life of its main oppression, which is loneliness. Now at last Felix Kennaston could unconcernedly acknowledge that human beings develop graveward in continuous solitude.

His life until this had been in the main normal, with its due share of normal intimacies with parents, kinsmen, friends, a poet's ordinary allotment of sweethearts, and, chief of all, with his wife. No one of these people, as he reflected in a comminglem ent of yearning and complacency, had ever comprehended the real Felix Kennaston as he existed, in all his hampered strugglings and meannesses, his inadequacies and his divine unexercised potentialities.

And he, upon the other hand, knew nothing of these people with any certainty. Pettifoggeries were too easily practiced in speech or gesture, emotions were too often feigned or overcolored in expression, and unpopular thoughts were too instinctively disse mbled, as he forlornly knew by his own conduct of daily life, for him to put very zealous faith in any information gained through his slender fallible five senses; and it was the cream of the jest that through these five senses lay his only means of getti ng any information whatever.

All that happened to@himl he considered, happened inside his skull. Nothing which happened in the big universe affected him in the least except as it roused certain forces lodged in his skull. His life consisted of one chemical change after another, hap hazardly provoked in some three pounds of fibrous matter tucked inside his skull. And so, people's heads took on a new interest; how was one to guess what was going on in those queer round boxes, inset with eyes, as people so glibly called certain restiv e and glinting things that moved in partial independence of their setting, and seemed to have an individual vitality--in those queer round boxes out of which an uncanny vegetation, that people, here again, so glibly and unwonderingly called hair, was spro uting as if from the soil of a planet?

Perhaps--he mused--perhaps in reality all heads were like isolated planets, with impassable space between each and its nearest neighbor. You read in the newspapers every once in a while that, because of one-or-another inexplicable phenomenon, Mars was su pposed to be attempting to communicate with the earth; and perhaps it was in just such blurred and unsatisfactory fashion that what happened in one human head was signaled to another, on those rare occasions when the signal was despatched in entire good f aith. Yes a perpetual isolation, for all the fretful and vain strivings of humanity against such lonelines, was probably a perdurable law in all other men's lives, precisely as it had been in his own life until the coming of Ettarre.

Chapter Twenty-One