Page 98 of 114
“I didn't know all there was in love,” she said, staring at the coals, “when we went love-making.”
I put my arm behind her and took a handful of her dear soft hair in my hand and kissed it.
“You've done a great thing this time,” she said. “Handitch will make you.”
“It opens big chances,” I said. “But why are you weeping, dear one?”
“Envy,” she said, “and love.”
“You're not lonely?”
“I've plenty to do—and lots of people.”
“I want you.”
“You've got me.”
She put her arm about me and kissed me. “I want you,” she said, “just as if I had nothing of you. You don't understand—how a woman wants a man. I thought once if I just gave myself to you it would be enough. It was nothing—it was just a step across the threshold. My dear, every moment you are away I ache for you—ache! I want to be about when it isn't love-making or talk. I want to be doing things for you, and watching you when you're not thinking of me. All those safe, careless, intimate things. And something else—” She stopped. “Dear, I don't want to bother you. I just want you to know I love you....”
She caught my head in her hands and kissed it, then stood up abruptly.
I looked up at her, a little perplexed.
“Dear heart,” said I, “isn't this enough? You're my councillor, my colleague, my right hand, the secret soul of my life—”
“And I want to darn your socks,” she said, smiling back at me.
She smiled “No,” she said. “I'm not insatiable, Master. But I'm a woman in love. And I'm finding out what I want, and what is necessary to me—and what I can't have. That's all.”
“We get a lot.”
“We want a lot. You and I are greedy people for the things we like, Master. It's very evident we've got nearly all we can ever have of one another—and I'm not satisfied.”
“What more is there?
“For you—very little. I wonder. For me—every thing. Yes—everything. You didn't mean it, Master; you didn't know any more than I did when I began, but love between a man and a woman is sometimes very one-sided. Fearfully one-sided! That's all....”
“Don't YOU ever want children?” she said abruptly.
“I suppose I do.”
“I haven't thought of them.”
“A man doesn't, perhaps. But I have.... I want them—like hunger. YOUR children, and home with you. Really, continually you! That's the trouble.... I can't have 'em, Master, and I can't have you.”
She was crying, and through her tears she laughed.
“I'm going to make a scene,” she said, “and get this over. I'm so discontented and miserable; I've got to tell you. It would come between us if I didn't. I'm in love with you, with everything—with all my brains. I'll pull through all right. I'll be good, Master, never you fear. But to-day I'm crying out with all my being. This election—You're going up; you're going on. In these papers—you're a great big fact. It's suddenly come home to me. At the back of my mind I've always had the idea I was going to have you somehow presently for myself—I mean to have you to go long tramps with, to keep house for, to get meals for, to watch for of an evening. It's a sort of habitual background to my thought of you. And it's nonsense—utter nonsense!” She stopped. She was crying and choking. “And the child, you know—the child!”
I was troubled beyond measure, but Handitch and its intimations were clear and strong.
“We can't have that,” I said.
“No,” she said, “we can't have that.”
“We've got our own things to do.”
“YOUR things,” she said.
“Aren't they yours too?”
“Because of you,” she said.
“Aren't they your very own things?”
“Women don't have that sort of very own thing. Indeed, it's true! And think! You've been down there preaching the goodness of children, telling them the only good thing in a state is happy, hopeful children, working to free mothers and children—”
“And we give our own children to do it?” I said.
“Yes,” she said. “And sometimes I think it's too much to give—too much altogether.... Children get into a woman's brain—when she mustn't have them, especially when she must never hope for them. Think of the child we might have now!—the little creature with soft, tender skin, and little hands and little feet! At times it haunts me. It comes and says, Why wasn't I given life? I can hear it in the night.... The world is full of such little ghosts, dear lover—little things that asked for life and were refused. They clamour to me. It's like a little fist beating at my heart. Love children, beautiful children. Little cold hands that tear at my heart! Oh, my heart and my lord!” She was holding my arm with both her hands and weeping against it, and now she drew herself to my shoulder and wept and sobbed in my embrace. “I shall never sit with your child on my knee and you beside me-never, and I am a woman and your lover!...”
But the profound impossibility of our relation was now becoming more and more apparent to us. We found ourselves seeking justification, clinging passionately to a situation that was coldly, pitilessly, impossible and fated. We wanted quite intensely to live together and have a child, but also we wanted very many other things that were incompatible with these desires. It was extraordinarily difficult to weigh our political and intellectual ambitions against those intimate wishes. The weights kept altering according as one found oneself grasping this valued thing or that. It wasn't as if we could throw everything aside for our love, and have that as we wanted it. Love such as we bore one another isn't altogether, or even chiefly, a thing in itself—it is for the most part a value set upon things. Our love was interwoven with all our other interests; to go out of the world and live in isolation seemed to us like killing the best parts of each other; we loved the sight of each other engaged finely and characteristically, we knew each other best as activities. We had no delusions about material facts; we didn't want each other alive or dead, we wanted each other fully alive. We wanted to do big things together, and for us to take each other openly and desperately would leave us nothing in the world to do. We wanted children indeed passionately, but children with every helpful chance in the world, and children born in scandal would be handicapped at every turn. We wanted to share a home, and not a solitude.