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   Chapter 18 No.18

This Freedom By A. S. M. Hutchinson Characters: 9304

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

She loved him so! On that first day together in the park she told him everything about herself, about all her ideas and theories and principles, particularly where these touched his sex, even about that terrible fit of crying of hers in bed an hour after she had left him. And Harry understood everything and agreed with her in everything. O rapturous affinity!

They met early when business London was rushing to business. They stayed late, with no thought of food or of their occupations, till business London was returning, and night, in lamps below and stars above, was setting out its sentinels.

She told him everything; and even if she had wished not to open all her heart, there would have been the immense selection of everything-every single thing about herself-from which to choose to tell him. For there never had been such a betrothal as theirs; done at a blow with no single intimate thing ever before passed between them! Her very first words to him as they met, her greeting of him as they came together, showed how preposterous and never-before-imagined was their affiancement. "You know, it's incredible," she greeted him. "It's incredible, it's grotesque, it's flatly impossible-I've never before seen you except in your dress clothes or at afternoon tea!"

Harry took both her hands in his. "But I think I've wanted you," said Harry, "ever since I was in long clothes. I know I've wanted you ever since first I saw you."

One knows another, in her place, would have bantered this off in that modern attitude towards love which is a horror, boisterously expressed, of admitting love as an emotion. Rosalie, that had scorned the very name of love, and that, because betrayed by love, had turned her face to her pillow and cried most frightfully, received it with a sound that was between a sigh and a catching of her breath. She loved him so!

And then they talked; and the thing between them, that had come so wonderfully, was so wonderful that they were as it were transfigured by it, as awe and spirituality and mysticism would fill the dwellers in a house visited by a miracle of God. So wonderful, that conversation, they would have felt, was not possibly a word for all that occupied them in those rapturous hours: not conversation, no,-a sublime engagement of their spirits wherein (possessing the keys of all the wonders), seas, continents and worlds of thoughts were traversed by them, in every clime most exquisite affinity discovered.

As at a blow they had become affianced, so, with no stage between, but in immediate sequence perfectly natural to them both, the natural repercussion of the blow, they talked immediately of betrothal's consummation, of marriage, of their marriage.

About marriage Rosalie had immensely much to tell Harry. It was what she had principally to say, and this is how and why and what she told him.

When from her first terrible dismay-that frightful crying, her face turned to the pillow-she had recovered; when to the lovely ardour of her love-stealing about her, soothing her, in the night; bursting upon her, ravishing her, in the morning-she had passed on; she remembered her second line of her defences and she fell back upon it. "If ever I fell in love," she had often said, alike to Keggo and to Miss Salmon, "if such an impossible thing ever were to happen to me, I'd marry as marriage should be. I'd enter a partnership. I would live my life; he would live his life; together, when we wanted to, when we were off duty, so to speak, we would live our life. A partnership, a mutually free and independent partnership."

The second line of her defences! Oh, strong and reassuring thought! Of course, of course the first line, breached and swept away, had never really mattered. Foolish to have wept for it! It was built against love and she knew now, by her darling and her terrible experience, that against love--! Nay, in that whelming admission's very tide, sweeping upon her from envisagement of Harry and bearing her deliciously upon its flood, there had come a thought as strong with wine as that was sweet with honey. Built against love! Why, in seeking to build against love, to shut away love from her life, was she not perpetrating against herself the very act-denial of anything a free life might have-that it was her life's first principle to oppose? A man's place, a man's part, everything that a man by conventional dowry is given, hers should be as freely as a man's it is! That was her aim; that at once the basis of her standpoint and the target of her shaft; and lo, at the very outset of her independence, she had sought to deny herself that which (

as now she knew) was life's most lovely gift. She was steadfast, and she was caparisoned, to obtain and to possess the things that, of her sex, commonly a woman might not have, and she was shutting herself from that which, if it offers, not all the man-owned world can deny the woman lowliest in office, heaviest in chains, deepest in servitude!

O senselessness! She could see, as looking upon an individuality not her own, that foolish girl that for such had turned her face to her pillow and cried out her heart; and at that very moment, and no other, of smiling pity for that mistaken grief, there came to Rosalie a sudden sense of womanhood attained; of much increase of years and wisdom; of growth of stature; of transportation, as from one world to another, from the character and the presence that had been hers to a personality and a body that looked down upon that other as, tenderly, a mother upon the innocence of her small child.

That poor, brave, foolish Rosalie that was! Did she protest, that foolish girl, that she was right in what had been her attitude to love? Did she with would-be bitterness recall those views laid down upon the women in the boarding house-that they were derelicts precisely through this love business, abandoned of men, relict of men, footsore and fallen in pursuit of men?

Ah, small, misguided creature! The principles were right but all askew the application. Love! Consider other attributes of life. Consider learning; consider food. Learning and food-were they not bounties of life's treasure, to be absorbed and used for sustenance in order, by their nourishment, to give to live this life more fully? Why, so with love! Derelicts, those women, because receiving love (that loveliest gift of all!) not as a means but as an end-the end of all: that attained, everything attained; that won, all finished. That was it! That the misapplication! Learning, or food, or love-the same with all! How dead the life that only lived in scholarship; how gross the life that only lived to eat; how derelict that she that only lived to love, to marry-then ceased to live!

And equally, O small, misguided girl, how starved the life that has no books; how weak the frame that has no food; ah, dear (thus smiled she to herself), how dead the life that knows not love!

The second line of her defences! Nay, as now through this mature and happy cogitation she saw it, the first and last and only line! In her aloneness, in that girl's single life, there had been nothing against which to defend. She had fought phantoms, that girl; resisted shadows. Now was the necessity, now the test; and now, because with Harry, because she loved him so, because he was every way and in all things perfect, now should be the triumphant exposition.

And she told Harry: marriage that should be a partnership-not an absorption by the greater of the less; not one part active and the other passive; one giving, the other receiving; one maintaining, the other maintained; none of these, but instead a perfect partnering, a perfect equality that should be equality of place, equality of privilege, equality of duty, equality of freedom. "Harry, each with work and with a career. Harry, each living an own life as every man, away from home, shutting his front door upon that home and off to work, leads an own and separate life. Harry-"

Oh, wonderful beneath this imperturbable sky, amongst these common, passive things-these paths, those trees, that grass, this bench-within this seclusion of that murmurous investment of this city, the ceaseless roar of London, standing like patient walls, eternal and indifferent, about her quietudes. Oh, wonderful in these accustomed and insensible surroundings thus to be calling "Harry," as he were brother, him that a day and night away virtually was unmet; to be exposing, as to a gracious patron, all her mind's treasury of thought; to be revealing, as in confessional, her inmost places of her heart; to be receiving, as by transfusion, the glow of affirmation on her way and in her trust. Oh, wonderful!

Wonderful, because remember for her that she was still beneath the shock of her dismay at her betrayal of herself; still breathless at that rout from her prepared positions; not yet assured her banners were unsullied in their withdrawal to her second line; not yet convinced it was no rout but a withdrawal, wise and strategical, ranks unbroken, to the true point of her defence.

Do try to imagine her, tremulous in this her vital enterprise, tremulous in this wonder that her armies found. It is very desirable to remember what can be remembered for that girl.

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