First she wanted to know whether I thought her baby would have naturally curling hair, as she had, and then she wanted, without pausing, to enumerate the many faults of the woman who did the laundry, among which was the latter’s excessive and intimidating size, which I had naively taken for a point of recommendation in a laundress, and then she moved rapidly, in a series of more or less inelegant segues, and meanwhile inspecting and dismissing one item after another in my small study, picking them up and making little faces or pretending to dust them with her fingertips and stretching her eyebrows skeptically, through a list of things I ought to have already done that day, but seeing that I could not hope to accomplish them in the time that remained, I would have to satisfy myself with being a disappointment and a vexation to her; and of things I needed to come to realize about her needs and prerogatives; and of things no woman should ever be obliged to explain to a man, however self-obsessed and impenetrable he might be.
They said I was a simpleton; they said I was not master in my home. Some grinned at me without knowing why they grinned, and their fellows grinned also and shook their heads. My wife had set the horns on me, my father had disowned me, and my patients to a man had died. They clucked and groaned to think of me. When I passed, their eyebrows delivered bilious sermons. Over bowls of wine the talkative outdid themselves, inventing failures and humiliations for me to inhabit; and when they spoke to me directly they laughed behind their civil faces. And I, of course, said nothing; I did not complain. I felt that they were right so to peek at me; I shrugged and went on shrugging. I knew what ridicule I deserved, better than they. Why should I feel put-upon? But then I also did feel put-upon, I felt my miserable condition acutely and with drooping spirits. I allowed my gaze often to slide off to one side and run in a filthy abject stream away across the flags. I felt the injustice of all men and still worse of all their women; my days were a meticulously choreographed dance of dolour, and I wept at all times for myself.
What a repulsive character, you will say, I won’t abide it! I won’t be made to sit through the song of a cat like that! Indeed.