The time: early morning in mid-December. The sky and harbour, the leaves on the trees, the pavements and streets, have been scoured by last night’s thunderstorm, which turned the harbour lead-grey under a purple sky, drove the motorboats to safety, and the sailboats racing under their jibs before the east wind. Marj is waked by the brightness in her room, she sees strips of sunshine dancing on the wall, and hears the sound of Kate’s steady breathing across the hall. She and Kate separated coolly last night without even embracing. Their overheated discussion was interrupted by a crash of thunder and a gust of cold air that blew pages of newspaper off the coffee table. They ran around, closed doors and windows, and resumed the debate—what is the ideal form of government?—Kate still angry because Marj had thrown it off course. Marj had broken Kate’s rules for logical discourse; instead of starting out on the highway of the general, she proposed Sweden as an example of good government. Kate said that they were not talking about particular governments. Marj said, "Why not? That’s the way I think, from the particular to the general." Kate told Marj that she must think from the general to the particular. She looked at Marj with alarming severity; she had begun to shout. Unease now travelled the length of Marj’s body. She said, "I can’t talk about politics; I’m no good at thinking about politics." Her mind was full of lifeless dust; love congealed in her veins. This is our first quarrel, she thought; there will be others. They will begin during dinner when Kate’s thoughts crackle and her voice roars like a bush fire, out of the open kitchen window and across the courtyard. After the thunderstorm Kate’s mind was still blazing, as she set out to arrive by logical means at the ideal government. She had hardly begun her strategic moves and Marj already showed signs of impatience. "I think I’d like to go to bed," said Marj. Kate looked at her in disbelief. Hadn’t they been engaged in a rational discussion? Why had Marj cut it off? Because it made her uncomfortable. She said, "I don’t see why you have to shout at me." Kate said, "I’m not shouting. I am trying to conduct a logical discussion." Marj said, "Damn logic. I hate it!"
The next morning Marj walks silently past Kate’s open door to the kitchen and fixes herself a bowl of cereal, prunes and half a banana, sits down at the dining room table to eat it and is startled by the sudden appearance of Kate, the frostiness in her eyes, her quick glance at the breakfast table. "I was hungry," says Marj. "Hungry, were you, darling? That’s cool." Marj has broken love’s inflexible laws more than once in her life. Now she has done it again, for Kate sets store by the right observance of ritual. Yesterday, at Kate’s request, Marj had donned (over her bare skin) the inviting blue velvet dressing gown Kate had left in her room. It was the first time in her life that she had not got dressed for breakfast. Today she has forgotten not to get dressed; she is not wearing the dressing gown. Kate does not point out this lapse, nor does she demand Marj’s reason for walking out on their discussion last night. Marj is grateful; she thinks that Kate has realized she mustn’t pin Marj in a corner that way. Later Kate will accuse Marj of refusing to accept her as she is, of denying Kate’s passion for the truth. She will explain to Marj that other women in her life have been unequal to the sensitive acceptance that love requires of the whole person. They became friends, not close friends, she will emphasize. This time, the centre of their love holds, Kate’s voice becomes suddenly gentle, and love rushes back into Marj’s heart. The stubborn fog that made each invisible to the other has burnt off and they look at each other with glad recognition. But Marj knows she has wounded Kate’s ego, and that the two people who look at each other so lovingly now can no longer guess each other’s thoughts. Their words, their gestures, will be perceived by each in new ways; they will punish themselves with misinterpretations. In time, Kate will make clear to Marj that she has not measured up to the task of understanding her. Marj thinks: I am no longer safe, I must be careful not to make Kate angry.
"You will defuse any possibility of anger," Marj wrote to Kate before they met. She remembers the time when their voices caressed each other on the telephone and the smallest changes of tone were momentous. She remembers when Kate suggested England as a place where they might want to live, a midway point between Australia and Canada. Marj answered, "I don’t want to live in England." Kate was silent for a moment; then she seemed to jump to attention with a single word, "Sweetheart?" It held the question, "What has happened to make you sound so distant?" The questioning alarm in that one word flooded Marj with relief; they had tested the bond that held them together, and the threat, like a heavy hand that twisted them apart, withdrew. The threat could never be more serious than this, Mari thought, for each instantly understood the whys of every possible difference between them and how to exorcise them. Now Marj wonders: were the two emphatic syllables of that "sweetheart" more like a pennant hoisted, a warning in the calm before the storm? "How delicately, how intuitively we discovered each other. How truly," Marj will write, post-Australia. She will speak of the "transparency of trust" between them before they met, when, in imagination, they embraced in a garden of Eden. They felt comfortable in their resemblances, too comfortable to note that the resemblances contained differences like tripwires cunningly laid and hidden.