MoboReader > Literature > This Freedom

   Chapter 20 No.20

This Freedom By A. S. M. Hutchinson Characters: 13930

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


That's all done. The thing traverses the waters of the years, as across seas a ship, and makes presently a new shore, a new clime, wherein are met occasions new and strange, not anticipated by Rosalie.

Here is one.

Habitant in the new continent across these years, she is wife and, though she had laughed, is mother, and on a day is with her Harry, and Harry is saying, not at all with any hardness in his voice, but very gravely:

"I have a right to a home."

She replies, as grave as he, as one debating a matter that is weighty but that is before the arbitrament, not of feeling, but of reason, "Harry, you have a home."

A gesture of his head, much comprehensive, is made by him: "Is this a home?"

"It's where we live."

"Ah, where we live, Rosalie!"

She did not reply to this. Himself, and not she, spoke next; but his note was as though she had answered and he were speaking in his turn. "I have a right to a home. The children have a right to a home."

She said, "Then, Harry, give yourself a home. Give the children a home."

He said, "Rosalie, I am a man."

She answered, "Harry, I am a woman."

Harry was smoking and he indrew an inhalation from his pipe with a long sibilant sound: her answer was very well understood by him.

No, she never had anticipated this.

Yet might not she have seen? Astounding how in life one's suddenly engulfed in depths and never has perceived the shoals from which they led; suddenly entombed in night and never has perceived the gradual declination of the day! Why, when she looked back, so far away as in those days of choosing their house had been in seed this thing that now was come to fruit. And she had watched it grow from seed to seedling, and on to bud and blossom, and never had suspected.

But had she not? Then it was curious, she knew, that, alone of all her thoughts, all her beliefs, all her theories, her observations and her deductions from her observations, curious that of them all only a certain observation, made when choosing their house, she never had told to Harry.

Choosing their house! She had gone back to her rooms from the third day of their house-hunting gently amused at an addition to her compendium of lore on the male habit. It was in a way like the cat idea; at least it was, like that, reversal of a common opinion on distinguishing traits as between men and women. It went in her mind like this and, because it arose out of Harry, she laughed softly to herself as like this she shaped it:

"They say a woman marries for a home. Wrong, wrong! It's man that marries for a home-a home that, having got it, superficially he cares little enough about, and superficially uses as a good place to get away from; but that's just how he uses his business, how he uses everything. Oh, he wants it, he wants it, and he marries for it far more than a woman wants it or marries for it. How plain it is! A man marries to settle down, a woman for just precisely the opposite: to break up; to get away from the constraints of daughterhood and of Miss-hood, as a schoolgirl, holiday-bound, from the constraints of school; to enlarge her life, not to restrict it; to aerate her life, not to compose it. Why, it's inherent in a man, the desire for a home; it's in his bones. Look at little boys playing-it's caves and tents and wigwams they delight to play at; a place they can in part discover and in part construct, and then arrange their things in, and then go off exploring and then, all the time, be coming back to the delicious cave and creep in and block up the door! Girls don't play at that; they play at shops and being grown up, at nursing dolls and not themselves being nursed. But that's your man-a hunter with a cave, and the return to the cave the best part of the hunting. That's what he marries for-a home; a pitch of his own; a place to bring his things to and wherein to keep his things; an establishment; a solid, anchored base; a place where he can have his wife and his children and his dogs and his books and his servants and his treasures and his slippers and his ease, and can feel, comfortably, that she and they and it are his,-his mysterious cave with the door blocked up, his base, his moorings, his settled and abiding centre. Dear Harry!"

"Dear Harry" because all this had come to her while with secret, fond amusement she had watched Harry delightedly and entrancedly fussing about the houses they explored. The boy with a cave! The man with a home! She liked the idea of a new home, and a home with Harry, but, given outstanding features obviously essential, almost any home would have satisfied her. She was animated and interested in the choosing, but not with Harry's interest and animation. Hers were the feelings with which she had established herself in the two-room suite at the boarding house. There any two rooms would have done; here any pleasant house would do. It was not the rooms; it was the significance of her entry into their possession. It was not the house; it was the significance of all connoted by the house. The rooms had been a stepping-off place to independence larger and to triumphs new; the house was a stepping-off place to independence, to triumphs, to battle of life and to joy of life, lifted upon a plane high above her old world as the stars, as bright and keen as they.

But for Harry it was a stepping-in place.

It was Harry that fussed and examined and measured and opened and shut and tested and tried and must have this and must have that. It was Harry who saw everything with the eye that was going to see it and live with it permanently and for all time. It was Harry who invested every square yard of every interior with the attributes that should be there when they therein were domiciled. Harry who said, "This front door! Rosalie, we're going to have a front door that will hit you in the eye and make you say 'Mice and Mumps, there's a distinguished couple that live behind a door like that!' None of your wretched browns and greens and blacks and reds for our door, Rosalie! We'll have a yellow front door, gamboge. I've seen it on a house in Westminster. I'll take you there. You wait till you see it. Imagine it, Rosalie, beneath that lovely old fanlight overhead. And then yellow window boxes tinted to match in every window and crammed with flowers. It'll be a house you'll run to get into directly you catch sight of it. Then inside here, in the hall, there'll be the thickest rugs money can buy and the brightest light and the warmest stove. You'll step in and shut the yellow door and, 'Mice and Mumps,' you'll say, 'this is home!' Now, look here; here'll be my study; I'll have bookshelves built in all round there and there and there. Pictures there. This nook-I'll fix a little cupboard there and keep my tools in. I'll spend half my time our first weeks pottering about with a hammer and a pair of pliers. This place just here on the landing. Looks like a dungeon. We

'll knock out a window there and fit it up with hot and cold water as a cloak room. Now here's your room, your-"

"My study," she had interpolated, a little apprehensive lest for her private room he should use another word.

"Yes, your study, rather. Each of us with our own study! A lark, eh? And Rosalie, in mine there'll be a special chair for you and in yours a special chair for me. We'll stroll in on each other's work-"

She loved him for that. "Like two men in chambers," she said.

His reply was, "We'll rip out this fireplace and put you in one in oak; the walls something between gold and brown, eh? Now come into the drawing-room. This'll be the room. Let's start with the hearth and imagine it's winter. This is where we'll have tea the days when I get back in time-"

"And when I get back in time."

"Of course, I'd forgotten that. Why, then whichever of us is back first will be all ready with the tea and waiting to welcome the other. Can't you see the room? Warm, shadowed, glowing here and there, here and there gleaming, and the tea table shining? Won't it be a place to rush back to? I say, Rosalie, it's going to be rather wonderful, isn't it?"

Dear Harry! Yes, men that married for a home.

So she had known that from the start; and, the significant thing (as later perceived) she never had mentioned it to Harry. There was not a line of her life, as lived before she knew him, that she had not revealed to him; there was not a passage of her life, when joined to his, that was not handed to him to write upon; but this, that she knew he'd married for a home, was never revealed, never inscribed upon the tablets submitted daily for his annotation.

Yes, significant!

But how could its significance have been perceived? Look here, there had been a night-a thousand years ago!-when a girl had turned her face to her pillow and cried, most frightfully. Significant! Why, that girl's world had lain in atoms at the significance of that girl's grief. And she that now looked back had been born out of those tears, as the first woman drawn from the side of the first man, and fondly had chid that child that no significance was there at all. There was none. There was nothing to fear. A natural joy of life that had been stifled had been embraced, a shattered world had been remoulded on foundings firmer and, ah, nearer to the heart's desire. Significant! It had been so disproved that not more possibly could fears arise from those, her lovely dissipations of those fears, than from its watchful mother's reassuring candle and her soothing words new terrors to a frightened child at night.

Then how, she used to ask herself, could significance have been perceived in not admitting Harry to her smiling thought on men and home? Significance-then? Nay, memory bear witness, much, much the contrary! Bear witness, memory, it was that very thought of Harry as boy with cave, as man with home, had suddenly suffused her with...

"Dear Harry!" she had thought, and with the thought...

Anna! That cry of Anna's upon that frightening night, striking her hands against her bosom, "I have a longing-here!" Never till then its meaning nor even thought upon its meaning.

Then! Upon that thought-"Dear Harry!"-had come, with a catch at the breath as at an obscure twinge of pain, a tremor of the sense that was its meaning: thereafter flooding all her being as floods a flood a pasture. A longing to be mother, Anna's longing was! A longing to be mother, to hold a tiny scrap against her breast; to have her heart, bursting for such release, torn out by baby fingers; to have her design of God, insufferably overpacked within her by the remorseless pressure of instinct through a million ages, relieved, discharged, fulfilled by motherhood. Poor Anna! Ah, piteous! "Oh, God, thou knowest how hard it is to be a woman." Poor, piteous Anna, and poor, piteous every woman that, made vessel of this yearning, must have it unfulfilled.

Not she!

The coronet of love, denied poor Anna, was hers. He'd said "These rooms-the nurseries"; the crown of love; and she had laughed!

Oh, stubborn still! Oh, still not cognisant of nature's dower to her sex. To wear the coronet and to refuse the crown! To be wife and not to be mother! To think of baby fingers and to think to put away the offer of their baby clutch!

That girl that turned her face to her pillow and began to cry, most frightfully, cried next again when she again lay abed and had a tiny scrap, an ugly, exquisite, grotesque, miraculous scrap, a baby boy, a baby man, along her arm and watched it there. Those had been passionate and rending tears; these did not even flow. Those burned her eyes; these stood within her eyes a lovely welling up of pride and adoration, drawn from her by this newly risen wonder as by the sun at his arising moisture in lovely mists is drawn from earth.

Motherhood! When later he was christened, she and Harry named him Hugh; but it was a caressing diminutive she made out of his name by which he was always known. Her tiny son! His tiny arms hugged you as never tiny arms possibly could have hugged before and so she called him "Huggo."

"Harry, if you could feel how he's hugging me! It's absurd he can have such strength! It's ridiculous he can love me so! And how can he possibly know that hugging's a sign of love? Harry, how can he? Take him and hold him up like that and see if he hugs you the same. He is! He is! Isn't he?"

"Mice and Mumps," said Harry, "he is; he's throttling me, the tiger."

"Ah, give him back, I'm jealous. There's never, never been a hugger like him since the world began. He's Huggo. That's his name. Creature straight out of heaven, you're Huggo."

Her love for infant Huggo so maternal; her unity with Harry so exquisitely one; how could she have known were to be met across the waters of the years occasions new and strange, as that already shown, or, onward yet a further voyage, as this?

The matter between them touched the same as when, "I have a right to a home; the children have a right to a home," Harry had said. But their tones not the same; in Harry's voice a quality of dulness as of one reciting a lesson too often conned yet never understood; in hers a certain weariness as with instruction too often given.

They had been talking a very long time. Harry hadn't any arguments. He just kept coming back and coming back to the one thing. He said again, the twentieth time, in that dull voice, "We are responsible for the children. We have a duty towards them."

The twentieth time! She made a gesture, not impatient, just tired, that was of repletion with this thing. "Ah, you say 'we' have a duty. You say 'we'; but, Harry, you mean me. Why I a duty more than you? Why am I the accused?"

Harry's dull note: "Because you are a woman." Ineffable weariness was in the murmur that was her reply. "Ah, my God, that reason!" No, she had never anticipated this.

* * *

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares