‘Do you mind if I lie down on your sofa, darling?’ Sally asked, as soon as we were alone.
‘No, of course not.’
Sally pulled off her cap, swung her little velvet shoes up on to the sofa, opened her bag and began powdering: ‘I’m most terribly tired. I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I’ve got a marvellous new lover.’
I began to put out the tea. Sally gave me a sidelong glance:
‘Do I shock you when I talk like that, Christopher darling?’
‘Not in the least.’
‘But you don’t like it?’
‘It’s no business of mine.’ I handed her a tea-glass.
‘Oh, for God’s sake,’ cried Sally, ‘Don’t start being English! Of course it’s your business what you think!’
‘Well then, if you want to know, it rather bores me.’
This annoyed her even more than I had intended. Her tone changed: she said coldly: ‘I thought you’d understand.’ She sighed: ‘But I forgot – you’re a man.’
‘I’m sorry, Sally. I can’t help being a man of course… But please don’t be angry with me. I only mean that when you talk like that it’s really just nervousness. You’re naturally rather shy with strangers, I think: so you’ve got into this trick of trying to bounce them into approving or disapproving of you, violently. I know, because I try it myself, sometimes.. Only I wish you wouldn’t try it on me, because it just doesn’t work and it only makes me feel embarrassed. If you go to bed with every single man in Berlin and come and tell me about it each time, you still won’t convince me that you’re La Dame aux Camelias – because, really and truly, you know, you aren’t.”