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   Chapter 19 No.19

This Freedom By A. S. M. Hutchinson Characters: 10680

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Harry assured her! Harry convinced her! Harry was here upon the battlements, come with her in her retirement, joined with her as her ally. All her ideas were his ideas. He, too, had these new views of marriage. He said they always had been his. He hated, as she hated, that old dependence notion: all the privileges the man's, the woman's all the duties. That was detestable to him, said Harry. Marriage in his view-

"I'll tell you this," was one thing Harry said. "I'll show it to you this way, Rosalie. I don't exactly know what a reciprocating machine is, but I know what it sounds like, and what it sounds like is what a marriage ought to be,-a perfect fitting together, a perfect harmonising, a perfect joining of two perfect halves that everywhere reciprocate."

The word delighted her. A reciprocating machine! Yes, yes! Each an own part; each with own and separate interests; and their parts, and the production arising out of their interests-their individual selves-approached together, by free will, to join towards a mutual benefit, a shared endeavour, a common advancement, a single end.

She was desperately in earnest and so was he. There was a mill near his people's home in Sussex, a water mill, and his illustration by it of the design they had showed her how earnestly her own ideas were his. There were two wheels to this mill, Harry told her, one on either side. Each ran in its own stream, each was entirely independent of the other; they worked alone, but each helped the other's work; the mill joined them and they joined to make the mill.

That was it!

And she was not talking any generalities, and Harry was not, either. They weren't, either of them, playing with this idea of mutual independence. There would "of course" be a business basis to it, Rosalie said. She was earning her own income and she would pay her half of the upkeep of their home together. It was a stipulation that she advanced with a definite fear that here, at last, she might be taking Harry from his depth; that by natural instinct of generosity, or by instinct of immemorial custom to endow the wife with all the husband's worldly goods, he would here reveal a flaw in his till now flawless duplication of the views that were her own.

But Harry (the never failing rapture of it!) was every way without spot or blemish. He was looking straight and close into her eyes while she put forward this, and there moved not the least dissentient shade across his own while he received it. She need have had no fear. He said, "I agree absolutely with that, Rosalie. There's only one point-" and his expansion of this point wholly entranced her because it established conditions even more matter-of-fact and businesslike than her own broad principle.

"There's only one point," Harry said. "It can't be half and half in terms of actual bisection. Look, Rosalie, in this matter of running the home we're making a contract between two parties and-don't forget I'm a lawyer-it has to be an equable and just contract, and to be that it has to be based for each party's liability-Do you like me to use the law jargon?"

She nodded. "I do, I do!" This was frightfully, entrancingly serious for her. This was a survey of the fortifications of her second line of her defences. "I do, I do!"

"Well, has to be based for each party's liability on each party's interest, on the extent to which each party is involved. I'm making more-an uncommon good bit more-than you are, Rosalie. My interest, therefore my liability, that is, my share, has to be allowed to be proportionately the more. Put it in another way. We're going to run an establishment as an establishment might be run by two or more people of different incomes who wish to join forces for mutual pleasure, two or three relatives, two or three friends. Well, there's a regular principle governing that kind of arrangement. You don't all pay the same. If you did, you'd reduce the scale of living to the level of what the poorest can afford, and half the idea of the combination is to enjoy a very much better scale. No, you run the show on the level the wealthiest is willing to go to, and to the total charge each one contributes in the proportion of his income. If one party has a thousand a year and the other five hundred, and the thousand-pounder wants to live at the rate of nine hundred a year, he pays six hundred and the other three hundred. Each is paying his just share-that's the point. That's how we'd arrange it, Rosalie."

She loved him so! If that were said a thousand times (as already perhaps too often for the robust) it still would not approach the volume of its swelling in the heart of Rosalie, for that was ceaseless. His attitude in this matter now between them, as in every matter, might have been the perfect agreement with her own view that it was and yet might so have been presented as to be much antipathetic to her. His attitude might have made her feel she ought to say, "Thank you, Harry, for agreeing to that"; it might have had the note, "I know exactly how you feel about marriage; I want to make every-thing just as you wish." Quicksands! Principles to be received as grants, bases of her defences to be accepted as concessions! Quicksands! At either attitude, as at a foreign flavour in a cup, she would have drawn back, suspicious; at eit

her sense within herself, of winning a favour, of accepting a hazard, she would have taken alarm, dismayed. But it was why she loved him so that here, as everywhere, his standpoint was her standpoint's own reflection. She was, as she would have said, deadly in earnest; deadly in earnest to a depth that she could let go to absurdity and never know it for absurdity; and so was he.

Approving this plan of computation of the share that each would pay, "It would have to be done strictly," she said, "as though it were strictly business. And-you don't know, perhaps-I'm making, or soon shall be, just on five hundred a year."

He smiled the nice smile of his she loved, more with his eyes than with his lips. "I'm afraid mine's a good bit more than that. Money's rather pushed at you at the Bar once it starts. You'd have to put up with that."

Her fondness in her eyes reflected him. "I know how famous you are getting. I'd not be stupid about that, Harry. It would be the just share, each according to our means; that's understood. Only, for me, it would have to be the just share, that's what I'm saying; not a matter of form, a strict proportion."

"If you liked," said Harry, "we'd give the figures to the costs clerk at my chambers and let him work the contributions out."

"Absurd!" she might have laughed; and as an absurdity he might, with a laugh, have presented it. But quite gravely he made the suggestion, and quite gravely, after a moment's grave thought, "I don't think that would be necessary," she returned.

His earnestness in this thing so vital to her matched her own, and therefore she loved him; and he yet could bring to it lightly a touch which, though light, yet was profoundly based; and therefore, newly, she loved him. She knew she talked with immense profligacy of words in her endeavour to make clear the principles this second line of her defences must maintain. "Each with work and with a career, each with an own and separate life." She kept repeating that. "Equal in work and in responsibility, Harry, and therefore equal in place, in privilege, in freedom."

And Harry, with a light touch but a grave air, a happy setting for a profound meaning, put it in a sentence. "Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to one another," said Harry.

She loved him so!

But there ought here to be explained for her what, loving him so and he so loving her, she could not have known for herself. This plan of maintaining their establishment by contribution of share and share was maintained by Rosalie from the beginning-to the end. She never had cause to doubt that in all the earnestness of that close conversation Harry was utterly sincere. She often recalled that steady gaze with no dissentient shade across it with which his eyes received her statement of her case and knew that only truth was in that gaze. He did believe what she believed. It only was afterwards she discovered that also he believed that, both for her and him, the thing would mellow down as mellows down the year, her heady Aprils burnt in June, her burning Junes assuaging to September; that it would pass; that time-

Yes, it must be explained. It was not active in his mind, this reservation. It was passive, underlying, subconscious, as beneath vigour's incredulity of death lies passively admission of death's final certitude. He believed what she believed; but he believed it as are believed infinity and eternity: wherein mankind, believing, reposes upon that limitation of the human mind which cannot conceive infinity but sees ultimately an end, and can pretend eternity through myriad years but feels ultimately a termination. Harry believed what she believed but only by stabilisation of a man's inherent articles of faith. He was of the male kind; and observe, by an incident, what inherent processes of thought the male kind has:

When they were looking over the house which ultimately they took-an all ways most desirable house in Montpelier Crescent, Knightsbridge-Rosalie had only a single objection: it was far too big.

"Miles too big," cried Rosalie, coming up to the second floor where Harry had preceded her. "What are you doing there, Harry? Miles too big, I was saying. It really is. Of course I realise you must have a house suitable to your fame but-What are you doing, Harry?"

"Fame, yes," breathed Harry, desperately occupied. "I've turned on this tap and I can't turn it off again. Eternal fame. After me the deluge!"

She was looking around. "But, Harry, really! Look at this floor. Two more huge rooms. What can we-"

"Mice and Mumps!" groaned Harry, straining at the tap. "Mice and Mumps!"

He came to her wiping his hands on his handkerchief. "Too big! Look here, supposing this house isn't washed away by that tap. Suppose it's still standing here tomorrow. Take a broad, courageous view of the thing. Suppose this isn't the beginning of the Great Flood of London, and that we're going to live in a house and not an ark. Well, what you've got to remember is that we're not coming in here for a week. We've got to look ahead. Take these two rooms. Why, you can see what they're for, what they've been. Opening into one another, and those little bars on the windows, and that protected fireplace. Nurseries. Day nursery and night nursery."

Rosalie laughed.

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