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   Chapter 25 No.25

This Freedom By A. S. M. Hutchinson Characters: 30455

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


There is a state wherein the mind, normally the court of pleas where reason receives and administers the supplications of the senses, is not in session. Reason is sick, suspends his office, abrogates his authority, withdraws to some deep fastness of the brain, and suffers the hall of judgment to be the house of license or of dreams: of dreams, as sleep, as vanity of reverie; of license when there is tumult in the body politic, as fever, as excesses of the passions, as great shock. Reason is sick, withdraws, and there is strange business in that place.

If that is just the way one writes, not susceptible of easy comprehension, and not enough explanatory of Rosalie's condition, it goes like this in Rosalie's own words. Drooped back there in her chair before that littered disarray of lunch, and that key lying there, and Harry stooping over her and holding both her hands, she said, "Oh, Harry! Oh, Harry! I feel deathly sick."

She said it had been a most frightful shock to her, what Huggo had declared. She said, "Oh, Harry, I feel all undone."

Undone! We'll try to feel her mind with that; to let that explain her when she said this else, and when she wrote some things that shall be given.

She said she had suffered, in that moment of crying out to Huggo and of stretching out her arm to him, the most extraordinary-what was the word?-the most extraordinary hallucination. "Harry, when Huggo said that frightful thing! Oh, Harry, like an extraordinary dream, I was a child again. It wasn't here; it was happening; it was the rectory; and not you and the children but all us children that used to be around the table there. No, not quite that. More extraordinary than that. Robert was there; Robert, I think, in Huggo's place; and all the rest were me-me as I used to be when I was ten; small, grave, wondering, staring. And yet myself me too as I was then-oh, horrified as I'd have then been horrified to hear the Bible stories called untrue; jumped up and crying out, 'It isn't! It isn't!' as I would then have jumped up and cried out; and all the other Rosalies staring in wonder as I'd have stared. Oh, extraordinary, extraordinary! Within this minute, I have been a child again. The strangest thing, the strangest thing!

"I was a child again, Harry, in a blue frock I used to wear and in a pinafore that had a hole in it; and all those other Rosalies the same. Those other Rosalies! To see them! Harry, I've not seen that Rosalie I used to be-not years and years. That tiny innocent! It is upon me still. I feel that small child still. Oh, I feel it! I remember-dear, did I ever tell you?-when my father once... had been talking about Cambridge... and suddenly cried out, it was at breakfast, 'Cambridge! My youth! My God, my God, my youth!' There was coffee from a cup that he'd knocked over came oozing, and I just sat there huge-eyed, staring, a small, grave wondering child....

"Oh, Harry, my youth, my childhood-and now the children's! The difference! The difference!"

Harry talked to her. He ended, "The teaching, all the ideas, dear girl, you mustn't worry, it's all different nowadays."

"Harry, to hear it from a child like that!"

"It's startled you. It needn't. We'll talk it out. We'll fix it. It's just what he's been taught, old girl."

She said, "Oh, it is what he's not been taught!"

Then there were things that, while was still upon her this shock, this sense of being again the small, grave child in the blue frock and in the pinafore with the hole in it, she wrote down. She dismissed Miss Prescott. She thought, when the interview of dismissal opened, that she would end by upbraiding Miss Prescott, but she was abated all the time in any anger that she might have felt by Huggo's other frightful words, "Well, mother, you never taught me any different." She did not want to hear Miss Prescott tell her that. She told Miss Prescott simply that she was giving up her business and coming now to devote herself to the children. She thought, she said, their education had in some respects been faulty, and told Miss Prescott how. Miss Prescott, speaking like a book, told her it had not been faulty and told her why. "Truth, knowledge, reason," said Miss Prescott. "Could it conceivably be contested that these should not be the sole food and the guiding principle of the child mind?"

It was after that interview that Rosalie, sitting long into the night, wrote down some things. She is to be imagined as wrenched back, as by a violent hand, across the years, and in the blue frock and the pinafore with a hole in it again, and awfully frightened, terribly unhappy, at the thing she'd heard from Huggo. That was the form her shock took. Beneath it she had at a blow abandoned all her ambitions as when a child she would instantly have dropped her most immersing game and run to a frightening cry from her mother; as once, in fact (and the incident and the parallel came back to her), she had been building a house of cards, holding her breath not to shake it, and her mother had scalded her hand and had cried out to her, frighteningly. "Oh, mummie, mummie!" she had cried, running to her; and flap! the house of cards had gone. Her inward cry was now, "The children! The children!" and what amiss the leaving of her work? Her work! Oh, house of cards!

Her state of mind, the imaginings in which that shock came to her, is better seen by what she wrote down privately, to relieve herself, than by the talk about it all that she had with her Harry. She wrote immediately after Miss Prescott had stood up for "truth, knowledge, reason," and by combating truth, knowledge, and reason more clearly expressed herself than in her talk with Harry. It was in her diary she wrote-well, it wasn't exactly a diary, it was a desultory journal in which sometimes she wrote things. As she wrote, her brow, in the intensity of her thought, was all puckered up. She still felt "deathly sick; all undone." She wrote:

"Of course it's as she says (Miss Prescott). That is the kind of thing to-day. Knowledge, stark truth-children must have in stark truth all the knowledge there is on all the things that come about them. It's strange; yes, it is strange. No parent would be such a fool as to trust a child with all the money she has nor with anything superlatively precious that she possesses; but knowledge, which is above all wealth and above all treasure, the child is to have to play with as it likes. Oh, it is strange. Where is it going to stop? If you bring up a child on the fact that all the Old Testament stories are untrue, a bundle, where they are miraculous, of obviously impossible fairy tales, what's going to happen to the New Testament? The Immaculate Conception, the Resurrection, the Ascension-what's your child-mind that knows the old stories for inventions going to say to those? Are they easier to believe? The Creation or the Conception? The Flood or the Resurrection? God speaking out of a burning bush or the Ascension to Heaven? The pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire or the Three in One of the Trinity? Oh, I wonder if Modern Thought has any thought to spare for that side of the business-or for its results in a generation or two?"

Then she wrote:

"I've never taught them any different."

Then she wrote:

"Mother, I am a child again to-night. Darling, in that blue frock I used to wear. Darling, all that I to-night am thinking is what you taught me. Oh, look down, beloved! I've been so wrong. I thought everything was infinitely better for them than you made it, beloved mother, for me. I didn't realise."

Then she wrote:

"It just means losing everything in God that's human. It must mean that. All our intelligence, if materialism may be called intelligence; all modern teaching, if this new stuff that they pontificate may be called teaching, offers us God the Spirit but, as it seems to me to-night, denies us God the Father and God the Son. It may be-reasonable. But things spiritual demand for their recognition emotions spiritual, and there's a pass that thousands reach when the spirit is a dead thing. If they are to believe in God only as a Spirit, a Force, a Power; an Essence to be felt but not seen; an Element to be absorbed into but not to be visualised-if this, if these, there needs in them some spirit, some force, some power of themselves to lift themselves to meet it. They must be of themselves responsive as hath the sea within itself that which respondeth to the sublimation of the sun. Well, there are thousands (am I not one?) that have it not. It once was theirs. Now it is not theirs. If there is for them only God the Spirit then is there for them only that to which they have no more power to reach than has one bedridden power to rise and find a mile away what may restore him. They have only that, their breaking heart, which would cast itself, ah, with what bliss of utter abandonment, before God the Father, a human and a personal Father, quick to succor, and before God the Son, a human and a personal Son, ardent to intercede. And that is denied them. That God that existed and that was taught to exist for my mother and for her day to this day may not exist. It may be-reasonable. Oh, it is offering a stone where bread was sought."

She also wrote:

"Oh, mother, if you could have been here, how you would have loved my darlings, and how you would have given them all that you gave to me! I will now, mother. Mother, I've come back home to them, in the blue frock, and in the pinafore with a hole in it."

That was the spirit in which she came back home to the children, that and all that went with it and that arose out of it. It was nothing at all to her when she did it, the frightful break with Field's. Harry was distressed for her, but there was no need at all for him to be distressed, she told him. There wasn't a sigh in her voice, nor in her inmost thoughts a sigh, when, telling him of the interview with Mr. Field and with Mr. Sturgiss at her resignation of her post, she said with a smile, "Carry on? Of course the department can perfectly well carry on. Dear, it's just the words I said to you a fortnight back on the matter so very different. 'The thing's organised. It runs itself. That is why it is the success it is, because it's organised. That's why I can come away and leave it, because I'm an organiser. Aren't I an organiser?"

He held her immensely long in his arms. "You are my Rosalie," he said.

Immensely long he held her, immensely close; oh, men that marry for a home! Until, come home, she saw Harry's tremendous happiness in the home that now she gave him, she never had realised the longing that must have been his for the home for which he had married, and never till now had had. It was poignant to her, the sight of his tremendous happiness. "Always to find you here!" he would cry, in the first weeks of the new life, coming home to tea and coming in to her in the drawing-room where she would be, all ready for him, with Doda and with Benji. "Always to leave you here!" he would say, taking leave of her in the morning, and she and Doda and Benji coming with him to the hall door to see him off. "Mice and Mumps," he used to add in codicil, "Mice and Mumps, I'm a happy chap!" and was for ever bringing home trifles for her and for the children, or plans and passes for how and where the Saturday and the weekend should be spent, all four together. "Mice and Mumps, I'm gorged with happiness! And you, Rosalie?"

"Oh, happy!" she used to say.

And was. It was poignant to her, his tremendous happiness, and it brimmed up the cup of her own happiness. She was doing virtuously and she had of her virtue that happiness which, as the pious old maxims tell us, comes of being good.

That should have been well; but virtue is a placid condition and the happiness arising out of it placid. It brims no cups, flushes no cheeks, sparkles no eyes. It is of the quality of happiness that one, loving a garden, has from his garden, the happiness of tranquillity, not of stir; of peace, not of thrills; of the country, not of the town. There was more heady stuff than this that Rosalie had out of her new condition, and that was dangerous. She was doing virtuously and she had out of her virtue an intoxication of joy that, in so far as it is at all concerned with virtue, arises, not from virtue's self, but from the consciousness of virtue. That was dangerous. The danger point in stimulants is when they are resorted to, not as concomitant of the pleasures of the table, but be-cause they stimulate. Rosalie, come to her children and her Harry and her home, to the thought of her renunciation and of her happiness constantly was turning for the enormous exhilaration of happiness that there she found. "How glad I am I gave it up! How glad! How glad! How right I'm doing now! How right! How right! How happy I am in this happiness! How happy! How happy!"

Is it not perceived that thus it was not well assured, this great joy that she had, this cup of hers that brimmed? She started from that danger point at which the drug is drunk for stimulant. On the very first day of her new life she was saying, "How glad I am! How glad I am!" and going on radiant from her gladness. But she, in her resort to this her stimulant, suffered this grave disparity with the drinker's case: he must increase his doses-and he can. She, living upon her stimulant, equally was compelled-but could not. The renunciation that brimmed her happiness on the first day was available to her in no bigger dose on the succeeding days, the hundredth day and the three hundredth and the five hundredth. It never could increase. It had no capacity of increase. Is it not perceivable that it had, on the contrary, a staling quality?

It would have been all right if it had been all right. It would have been all right if it had not been all wrong. If these absurd premises can be understood, her case can be understood. She used them herself in after years. "It would have been all right," she used to say to herself, twisting her hands together, "if it had been all right." "It would have been all right," she used to say to herself, "if it had not been all wrong." What she meant, and what here is meant, requires it to be recalled that it was in that spirit of that glimpse of herself back a child again in the blue frock and in the pinafore with a hole in it that she came back to the children, came back home to them. Shocked by the thing that had come to pass, penitential by influence of the old childhood influences that had stirred within her, most strangely and most strongly transported back into that childhood vision of herself, it was in the guise of that child and with that child's guise as her ideal for them that passionately she desired to take up her children's lives. Her Huggo, her man child, her first one! Her Doda, her self's own self, her woman-bud, her daughter! Her Benji, her littlest one, her darling! She longed, as it were, to throw open the door, and in that blue frock and in the spirit of that blue frock most ardently to run in to them and hug them, blue frocked, to her breast, and be one with them and tell them the things and the thi

ngs and the things that were the blue frock's mysteries and joys, and hear from them the things and the things and the things that were the blue frock's all-enchanted world again.

That was what most terribly she wanted and with most brimming gladness set about to do-and there was borne, in upon her, hinted in weeks, published in months, in seasons sealed and delivered to her, that there was among her children no place for that spirit. They did not welcome the blue frock; they did not understand the blue frock; they were not children as she had been a child. It was what Harry had said of them, they somehow were not quite like other children; it was what she herself had noticed in Huggo; they did not respond. They'd gone, those children, too long as they'd been left to go. She came to them ardently. They greeted her-not very responsively. They didn't understand.

What happened was that, coming to them great with intention, she was, by what she did not find in them, much dispirited in her intention. What followed from that was that she turned the more frequently to the stimulation of the thought of her renunciation, to the sensation of happiness that arose in her by consciousness that she was doing what she ought to be doing. She would be puzzled, she would be a little pained, she would be a little tired at the effort, fruitless, to call up in the children those lovely childish things that as a child had been hers. She then would feel dispirited. She then would think, "But how glad I am that I gave it all up; but how right I am to be at home with them; but how happy I am that I am now doing that which is right." That stimulated her. That made her tell herself (as before she had told Harry) that it was just fancy, this apparent difference, this indifference, in the children.

But the more she found necessary that stimulus, the less that stimulus availed; and she began to feel, then, the first faint gnawings after that which had been stimulus indeed, her work, her career.

Of course this is making a case for her, this is special pleading for her, but who so abandoned that in the ultimate judgment a case will not for him be prepared? Try to consider how it went with her. First intoxication of happiness; and must not intoxication in time wear off? Then immense intention and then dispirited in her intention. Then frequent resource to the stimulus of her realisation of virtue and then the natural diminution of that cup's effect. Is she not presented prey for her life's habit's longings? Is she not shown dejected and caused by that dejection (as caused by depression the reclaimed victim of a drug) to desire again that which had been to her the breath of life?

That was how it went with her.

Doda was nine when she began; Huggo, when he was home for his holidays, eleven, rising twelve; Benji only seven. They seemed to her, all of them, wonderfully old for their years and, no getting over that, different. She tried to read them the stories she used to love. They didn't like them. Doda didn't like "The Wide Wide World" and didn't like "Little Women." Huggo thought "The Swiss Family Robinson" awful rot, and argued learnedly with her how grotesque it was to imagine all that variety of animals and all that variety of plants in one same climate. "But, Huggo, you needn't worry whether it was possible. It was just written as a means of telling a family of children natural history things. They didn't have to believe it. They only enjoyed it. I and your uncle Robert never worried about whether it was possible; we simply loved the adventure of it."

"Well, I can't, mother," said Huggo. "It's not possible, and if it isn't possible, I think it's stupid."

And Doda thought Ellen in the "Wide Wide World" silly, and Beth and Jo and the others in "Little Women" dull.

She read them Dickens, but it was always, "Oh, leave out that part, mother. It's dull." And so was Scott Lamb's "Tales from Shakespeare" never had a chance at all. They had heard from Miss Prescott, or Huggo had heard at school, that Shakespeare was a lesson. "Oh, not a thing out of lessons, mother." What they liked were what seemed to Rosalie the crudely written stories, and the grotesque and usually rather vulgar comic drawings, in the host of cheap periodicals for children that seemed to have sprung up since her day. They called these exciting or funny and they revelled in them. They were different. Benji was no more than a baby, but he was extraordinarily devoted to Doda, liked only the things that Doda liked, and did not like the things that Doda didn't like, or, in the language sometimes a little unpleasantly emphatic that always was Doda's and Huggo's, that Doda "simply loathed." Rosalie had some old bound numbers of treasured juvenile periodicals of the rectory days. Even Benji didn't like them. They were markedly different from the books the children did like. Their illustrations were mainly of children in domestic scenes. "Don't they look stupid?" was Doda's comment; and Benji, copying, thought they were stupid too.

All this was a very small thing and of itself negligible; even, as Rosalie told herself, natural-naturally children of succeeding generations changed in their tastes. It only is introduced as conveniently showing in an obscure aspect what was noticeable to Rosalie, and felt by her, in many aspects, whose effect was cumulative. "A kind of reserve," Harry had said of them: "a kind of-self-contained." It was what she found. She wanted to be a child with the children; they didn't seem to understand. She wanted to open her heart to them and have their hearts opened to her; they didn't seem to understand. She was always seeing that vision of Rosalie in the blue frock among them, rather like Alice, the real Alice, Tenniel's Alice. She was always feeling that Rosalie, thus guised, was held off from their circle, not welcomed, not understood, as certainly they did not care for the demure, quaint Alice of Tenniel.

She began to have sometimes when she was with the children an extraordinary feeling (just what Harry had said) that she was younger than the children, that it was she who was the child, they that were the grown-ups.

When the step of her renunciation was first taken, ardent to devote herself to them in every moment of the day, she began to give their lessons to Doda and to Benji. It was not a success. The methods of teaching, as the text-books, had changed since she was a child. The Prescott methods were here and to her own methods the children did not respond. There it was again-did not respond. There was obtained a Miss Dormer who came in daily and who confined herself, Rosalie saw to that, solely to lessons; the walks and all the other hours of the day were Rosalie's.

That's all for that. The picture has been overdrawn if has been given the suggestion that Rosalie was unhappy with the children or the children openly indifferent to her. All of that nature that in fact arose was that, whereas Rosalie had expected an immense and absorbing occupation with the children, she found instead an occupation very loving and very happy but not relieving her of all the interest and all the affection she had desired to pour into it. It was rather like to a hungry person a strange dish that had looked substantial but that, when finished, was found not to have been substantial; still hungry. She had thought the children would have been entirely dependent on her. She found them in many ways independent and wishing to be independent. It would have been all right if it had been all right. That was it. It would have been all right if it had not been all wrong. That was it.

She began to think of Field's.

When first she began to think of Field's, which was when she had been nine months away from Field's, she would let her mind run upon it freely, as it would. One day, thus thinking upon it, she brought up her thoughts as it were with a round turn. She must not think so much about Field's-not like that. She sighed, and with the same abruptness of mental action checked her sigh; she must not regret Field's-not like that.

It was a fateful prohibition. It was the discovery to herself, as to Eve of the tree by the serpent, of a temptation seductive and forbidden. Thereafter "like that" her mind, missing no day nor no night, was often found by her to be there. The quality that made "like that" not seemly to her, increased, at each return, its potency.

It became very difficult to drag her mind away. It became impossible to drag her mind away.

Her governance of her mind became infected and it became not necessary to think it necessary to drag her mind away.

She had not visited Field's since she had left. Mr. Sturgiss and Mr. Field had written to her reproaching her for carrying to such lengths of neglect her desertion of them, and she had responded banteringly but without a call. One day (she had lain much awake on the previous night) she at breakfast told Harry she had the idea of going that afternoon to see how Field's was getting on.

She was surprised at his supplement to his reply. The children had left the room. He first agreed with her that the idea was good. "Yes, rather; why not?" was the expression he used. He then said, surprising her, "Rosalie, you've never, have you, regretted?"

Her surprise framed for her her reply. "Why ever should you ask that?"

"I've thought you've not been looking very well lately."

"But what's the connection, Harry?"

"Fretting?"

She smiled. "I'm not the fretting sort."

He was perfectly satisfied. "I knew you'd tell me if you were. Everything going well?"

"Fine."

He shot out his arms with a luxurious stretching gesture. "Mice and Mumps, it's been fine for me, I can tell you. Fine, fine!"

How happy he looked! How handsome he looked! Her thought was "Dear Harry!"

He got up and began to set about his departure. She went with him into the hall and she called up the stairs, "Children, father's going." They came bounding down. He joked and played with them. He loved this custom, now long established. She brushed his hat, also a rite she knew he loved. He kissed her with particular affection. "Yes, you go up to Field's and give old Sturgiss and old Field my love. You'll almost have forgotten the way there. I say, it's funny, isn't it, how time changes things and how it goes? We couldn't have imaged this once, and here it is the most established thing in the world. Do you know, it's almost exactly a year since you chucked it?"

"Chucked it!" The light expression smote her. O manlike man that thus could phrase divorce that from her heart's engrossment had cut her life asunder!

In the afternoon she set out upon her intention. It meant nothing, her visit, she assured herself. It had no purpose beyond the exchange of courtesies. But when she was leaving the house she paused. Should she go? She went down the steps and through the gate, then paused again. She returned to the house. She had an idea. She would take the children with her. She called them, and while they gleefully dressed for the outing she repeated to herself the word in which the idea of taking them with her had come to her.

"A bodyguard!" she said.

The note of laughter she gave at the word had a tremulous sound.

Tremulous would well have described her manner when they were at Field's. She was asking herself as they went towards the City what it was that she wanted to hear-that Field's was doing very well without her? That her department was not doing very well without her? Which?

She would not let her mind affirm which it was that she desired.

It appeared, when they arrived, that it was neither, nor anything at all to do with the Bank. Her first words to the partners were of smiling apology at bringing to precincts sacred to business, "a herd of children." That was a natural introduction of herself; it was an unusual thing to do. But not natural the way in which she maintained the subject of the children. It seemed that she had come to talk of nothing else. Tremulous she was; talking, of the children, with the incessant eagerness, and with the nervous eagerness, of one either clamant to establish a case or frightened of a break in the conversation lest a break should cause appearance of a subject most desperately to be avoided.

Her bodyguard!

Mr. Field and Mr. Sturgiss were delighted to see her and expressed themselves delighted to see the children. There was plenty in the bank, coffers and strong-rooms and all sorts of exciting things, said Mr. Field, that would amuse the small people, and when tea was done they should be taken around to see them. In an inner holy of holies, behind the partners' parlour, a very exciting tea was made. A clerk was sent out for a parcel of pastries and returned with an enormous bag, and there was no tablecloth, nor no proper tea-table, and the children, much excited, were immensely entertained.

Easy, while they were there, to make them the conversation's centre. But the meal ended and then became most evident her anxiety to keep the chatter on the children. They became impatient to be off on the promised exploration. She delayed it. Twice the clerk who was to conduct the tour was about to be summoned. By a new gathering of general attention, she stopped his coming. When at last he came she said she would be of the party. The partners did not want that. The children did not want it. "Mother, it will be much more exciting by ourselves." She insisted. She was aware for the first and only time in her life of a feeling of nerves, of not being quite in control of herself, of making of her insistence rather more than should be made.

"Well, stay," said Mr. Sturgiss, "at least for a minute's chat before you join them."

That was not possible, unless she was going to become hysterical, to resist. The children trooped away. Her bodyguard!

She turned aside and it is to be remembered for her that, her face concealed from the partners, she gave the tiniest despairing gesture with her hands.

When, with the children, she was returning home, she was trying to determine whether, while it was in suspense, she had or had not desired to hear of the partners that which she had heard from them. They had talked with her generally of the business. They had talked particularly of the work of her department of the business. There was approaching all the time the thing that sooner or later they must say. She was trembling all the time to know how she would receive it. In whichever of its two ways it came would she be glad or would she be sorry? She simply did not know. She suddenly herself projected the point. She could not endure any longer its delay. "And Miss Farmer," she said. "How's Miss Farmer doing?" Miss Farmer, formerly one of her assistants, had on her resignation taken her place.

Miss Farmer, replied Mr. Sturgiss, was estimable but-he opened his hands and made with them a deprecatory gesture. "She's not you. How could she be you, or any one be you? We could replace Miss Farmer. What's the good? It's you we've got to replace. We can't replace you."

Her heart had bounded.

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