Marriage by H. G. Wells, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here . Settling Down Settling Down § 1 It was in a boat among reeds upon the lake of Orta-217- that Trafford first became familiarized with the idea that Marjorie was capable of debt. "Oh, I ought to have told you," she began, apropos of nothing. Her explanation was airy; she had let the thing slip out of her mind for a time. But there were various debts to Oxbridge tradespeople. How much? Well, rather a lot. Of course, the tradespeople were rather enticing when first one went up——How much, anyhow? "Oh, about fifty pounds," said Marjorie, after her manner. "Not more. I've not kept all the bills; and some haven't come in. You know how slow they are." "These things will happen," said Trafford, though, as a matter of fact, nothing of the sort had happened in his case. "However, you'll be able to pay as soon as you get home, and get them all off your mind." "I think fifty pounds will clear me," said Marjorie, clinging to her long-established total, "if you'll let me have that." "Oh, we don't do things like that," said Trafford. "I'm arranging that my current account will be a sort of joint account, and your signature will be as good as mine—for the purpose of drawing, at least. You'll have your own cheque-book——" "I don't understand, quite," said Marjorie. "You'll have your own cheque-book and write cheques as you want them. That seems the simplest way to me." -218- "Of course," said Marjorie. "But isn't this—rather unusual? Father always used to allowance mother." "It's the only decent way according to my ideas," said Trafford. "A man shouldn't marry when he can't trust." "Of course not," said Marjorie. Something between fear and compunction wrung her. "Do you think you'd better?" she asked, very earnestly. "Better?" "Do this." "Why not?" "It's—it's so generous." He didn't answer. He took up an oar and began to push out from among the reeds with something of the shy awkwardness of a boy who becomes apprehensive of thanks. He stole a glance at her presently and caught her expression—there was something very solemn and intent in her eyes—and he thought what a grave, fine thing his Marjorie could be. But, indeed, her state of mind was quite exceptionally confused. She was disconcerted—and horribly afraid of herself. "Do you mean that I can spend what I like?" asked Marjorie. "Just as I may," he said. "I wonder," said Marjorie again, "if I'd better." She was tingling with delight at this freedom, and she knew she was not fit for its responsibility. She just came short of a passionate refusal of his proposal. He was still so new to her, and things were so wonderful, or I think she would have made that refusal. "You've got to," said Trafford, and ended the matter. -219- So Marjorie was silent—making good resolutions. § 2 Perhaps some day it may be possible to tell in English again, in the language of Shakspeare and Herrick, of the passion, the tenderness, the beauty, and the delightful familiarizations of a happy honeymoon; suffice it now, in this delicate period, to record only how our two young lovers found one day that neither had a name for the other. He said she could be nothing better than Marjorie to him; and she, after a number of unsuccessful experiments, settled down to the old school-boy nickname made out of his initials, R. A. G. "Dick," she said, "is too bird-like and boy-like. Andrew I can't abide. Goodwin gives one no chances for current use. Rag you must be. Mag and Rag—poor innocents! Old rag!" "Mag," he said, "has its drawbacks! The street-boy in London says, 'Shut your mag.' No, I think I shall stick to Marjorie...." All honeymoons must end at last, so back they came to London, still very bright and happy. And then, Marjorie, whose eyes had changed from flashing stones to darkly shining pools of blue, but whose soul had still perhaps to finds its depths, set herself to the business of decorating and furnishing the little house Mrs. Trafford had found for them within ten minutes of her own. Meanwhile they lived in lodgings. There can be no denying that Marjorie began her furnishing with severely virtuous intentions. She was very particular to ask Trafford several times what he thought she might spend upon the enterprise. He had already a bedroom and a study equipped, and he threw out three hundred pounds as his conception of an acceptable figure. "Very well," said Marjorie, with a note of great precision, "now I shall know," and straightway that sum took a place in her imagination that was at once definitive and protective, just as her estimate of fifty pounds for her Oxbridge debts had always been. She assured herself she was going to do things, and she assured herself she was doing things, on three hundred pounds. At times the astonishment of two or three school friends, who joined her in her shopping, stirred her to a momentary surprise at the way she was managing to keep things within that limit, and following a financial method that had, after all, in spite of some momentary and already nearly forgotten distresses, worked very well at Oxbridge, she refrained from any additions until all the accounts had come to hand. -220- It was an immense excitement shopping to make a home. There was in her composition a strain of constructive artistry with such concrete things, a strain that had hitherto famished. She was making a beautiful, secure little home for Trafford, for herself, for possibilities—remote perhaps, but already touching her imagination with the anticipation of warm, new, wonderful delights. There should be simplicity indeed in this home, but no bareness, no harshness, never an ugliness nor a discord. She had always loved colour in the skies, in the landscapes, in the texture of stuffs and garments; now out of the chaotic skein of countless shops she could choose and pick and mingle her threads in a glow of feminine self-expression. On three hundred pounds, that is to say—as a maximum. The house she had to deal with was, like Mrs. Trafford's, old and rather small; it was partly to its lack of bedroom accommodation, but much more to the invasion of the street by the back premises of Messrs. Siddons & Thrale, the great Chelsea outfitters, that the lowness of the rent was due, a lowness which brought it within the means of Trafford. Marjorie knew very clearly that her father would say her husband had taken her to live in a noisy slum, and that made her all the keener to ensure that every good point in the interior told to its utmost, and that whatever was to be accessible to her family should glow with a refined but warm prosperity. The room downstairs was shapely, and by ripping off the papered canvas of the previous occupier, some very dilapidated but admirably proportioned panelling was brought to light. The dining-room and study door on the ground floor, by a happy accident, were of mahogany, with really very beautiful brass furnishings; and the dining-room window upon the minute but by no means offensive paved garden behind, was curved and had a little shallow balcony of ironwork, half covered by a devitalized but leafy grapevine. Moreover, the previous occupier had equipped the place with electric light and a bathroom of almost American splendour on the landing, glass-shelved, white-tiled, and white painted, so that it was a delight to go into. -221- Marjorie's mind leapt very rapidly to the possibilities of this little establishment. The panelling must be done and done well, anyhow; that would be no more than a wise economy, seeing it might at any time help them to re-let; it would be painted white, of course, and thus set the key for a clean brightness of colour throughout. The furniture would stand out against the softly shining white, and its line and proportions must be therefore the primary qualities to consider as she bought it. The study was much narrower than the dining-room, and so the passage, which the agent called the hall, was much broader and more commodious behind the happily wide staircase than in front, and she was able to banish out of the sight of the chance visitor all that litter of hat-stand and umbrella-stand, letters, boxes arriving and parcels to post, which had always offended her eye at home. At home there had been often the most unsightly things visible, one of Theo's awful caps, or his school books, and not infrequently her father's well-worn and all too fatally comfortable house slippers. A good effect at first is half the victory of a well done house, and Marjorie accomplished another of her real economies here by carpeting hall and staircase with a fine-toned, rich-feeling and rather high-priced blue carpet, held down by very thick brass stair-rods. She hung up four well-chosen steel engravings, put a single Chippendale chair in the hall, and a dark old Dutch clock that had turned out to be only five pounds when she had expected the shopman to say eleven or twelve, on the half-landing. That was all. Round the corner by the study door was a mahogany slab, and the litter all went upon a capacious but very simple dark-stained hat-stand and table that were out of the picture entirely until you reached the stairs. -222- Her dining-room was difficult for some time. She had equipped that with a dark oak Welsh dresser made very bright with a dessert service that was, in view of its extremely decorative quality, remarkably cheap, and with some very pretty silver-topped glass bottles and flasks. This dresser and a number of simple but shapely facsimiles of old chairs, stood out against a nearly primrose paper, very faintly patterned, and a dark blue carpet with a margin of dead black-stained wood. Over the mantel was a German colour-print of waves full of sunlight breaking under cliffs, and between this and the window were dark bookshelves and a few bright-coloured books. On the wall, black-framed, were four very good Japanese prints, rich in greenish-blues and blueish-greys that answered the floor, and the window curtains took up some of the colours of the German print. But something was needed towards the window, she felt, to balance the warmly shining plates upon the dresser. The deep rose-red of the cherries that adorned them was too isolated, usurped too dominating a value. And while this was weighing upon her mind she saw in a window in Regent Street a number of Bokhara hangings very nobly displayed. They were splendid pieces of needlework, particularly glorious in their crimsons and reds, and suddenly it came to her that it was just one of these, one that had great ruby flowers upon it with dead-blue interlacings, that was needed to weld her gay-coloured scheme together. She hesitated, went half-way to Piccadilly Circus, turned back and asked the prices. The prices were towering prices, ten, fifteen, eighteen guineas, and when at last the shopman produced one with all the charm of colour she sought at eight, it seemed like ten guineas snatched back as they dropped from her hands. And still hesitating, she had three that pleased her most sent home, "on approval," before she decided finally to purchase one of them. But the trial was conclusive. And then, struck with a sudden idea, she carried off a long narrow one she had had no idea of buying before into the little study behind. Suppose, she thought, instead of hanging two curtains as anybody else would do in that window, she ran this glory of rich colour across from one side on a great rod of brass. -223- She was giving the study the very best of her attention. After she had lapsed in some other part of the house from the standards of rigid economy she had set up, she would as it were restore the balance by adding something to the gracefully dignified arrangement of this den he was to use. And the brass rod of the Bokhara hanging that was to do instead of curtains released her mind somehow to the purchase of certain old candlesticks she had hitherto resisted. They were to stand, bored to carry candle electric lights, on either corner of the low bookcase that faced the window. They were very heavy, very shapely candlesticks, and they cost thirty-five shillings. They looked remarkably well when they were put up, except that a sort of hollowness appeared between them and clamoured for a delightful old brass-footed workbox she had seen in a shop in Baker Street. Enquiry confirmed her quick impression that this was a genuine piece (of quite exceptional genuineness) and that the price—they asked five pounds ten and came down to five guineas—was in accordance with this. It was a little difficult (in spite of the silent hunger between the candlesticks) to reconcile this particular article with her dominating idea of an austerely restrained expenditure, until she hit upon the device of calling it a hors d'œuvre, and regarding it not as furniture but as a present from herself to Trafford that happened to fall in very agreeably with the process of house furnishing. She decided she would some day economise its cost out of her dress allowance. The bookcase on which it stood was a happy discovery in Kensington, just five feet high, and with beautiful oval glass fronts, and its capacity was supplemented and any excess in its price at least morally compensated by a very tall, narrow, distinguished-looking set of open shelves that had been made for some special corner in another house, and which anyhow were really and truly dirt cheap. The desk combined grace and good proportions to an admirable extent, the fender of pierced brass looked as if it had always lived in immediate contact with the shapely old white marble fireplace, and the two arm-chairs were marvels of dignified comfort. By the fireplace were a banner-shaped needlework firescreen, a white sheepskin hearthrug, a little patch and powder table adapted to carry books, and a green-shaded lamp, grouped in a common inaudible demand for a reader in slippers. Trafford, when at last the apartment was ready for his inspection, surveyed these arrangements with a kind of dazzled admiration. -224- -225- "By Jove!" he said. "How little people know of the homes of the Poor!" Marjorie was so delighted with his approval that she determined to show Mrs. Trafford next day how prettily at least her son was going to live. The good lady came and admired everything, and particularly the Bokhara hangings. She did not seem to appraise, but something set Marjorie talking rather nervously of a bargain-hunter's good fortune. Mrs. Trafford glanced at the candlesticks and the low bookcase, and returned to the glowing piece of needlework that formed the symmetrical window curtain in the study. She took it in her hand, and whispered, "beautiful!" "But aren't these rather good?" asked Mrs. Trafford. Marjorie answered, after a little pause. "They're not too good for him," she said. § 3 And now these young people had to resume life in London in earnest. The orchestral accompaniment of the world at large began to mingle with their hitherto unsustained duet. It had been inaudible in Italy. In Chelsea it had sounded, faintly perhaps but distinctly, from their very first inspection of the little house. A drawing-room speaks of callers, a dining-room of lunch-parties and dinners. It had swayed Marjorie from the front door inward. -226- During their honeymoon they had been gloriously unconscious of comment. Now Marjorie began to show herself keenly sensitive to the advent of a score of personalities, and very anxious to show just how completely successful in every sense her romantic disobedience had been. She knew she had been approved of, admired, condemned, sneered at, thoroughly discussed. She felt it her first duty to Trafford, to all who had approved of her flight, to every one, herself included, to make this marriage obviously, indisputably, a success, a success not only by her own standards but by the standards of anyonesoever who chose to sit in judgment on her. There was Trafford. She felt she had to extort the admission from every one that he was the handsomest, finest, ablest, most promising and most delightful man a prominent humorist was ever jilted for. She wanted them to understand clearly just all that Trafford was—and that involved, she speedily found in practice, making them believe a very great deal that as yet Trafford wasn't. She found it practically impossible not to anticipate his election to the Royal Society and the probability of a more important professorship. She felt that anyhow he was an F.R.S. in the sight of God.... It was almost equally difficult not to indicate a larger income than facts justified. It was entirely in Marjorie's vein in those early days that she would want to win on every score and by every standard of reckoning. If Marjorie had been a general she would have counted no victory complete if the struggle was not sustained and desperate, and if it left the enemy with a single gun or flag, or herself with so much as a man killed or wounded. The people she wanted to impress varied very widely. She wanted to impress the Carmel girls, and the Carmel girls, she knew, with their racial trick of acute appraisement, were only to be won by the very highest quality all round. They had, she knew, two standards of quality, cost and distinction. As far as possible, she would give them distinction. But whenever she hesitated over something on the verge of cheapness the thought of those impending judgments tipped the balance. The Carmel girls were just two influential representatives of a host. She wanted to impress quite a number of other school and college friends. There were various shy, plastic-spirited, emotional creatures, of course, for the most part with no confidence in their own appearance, who would be impressed quite adequately enough by Trafford's good looks and witty manner and easy temper. They might perhaps fall in love with him and become slavish to her after the way of their kind, and anyhow they would be provided for, but there were plenty of others of a harder texture whose tests would be more difficult to satisfy. There were girls who were the daughters of prominent men, who must be made to understand that Trafford was prominent, girls who were well connected, who must be made to realize the subtle excellence of Trafford's blood. As she thought of Constance Graham, for example, or Ottiline Winchelsea, she felt the strongest disposition to thicken the by no means well authenticated strands that linked Trafford with the Traffords of Trafford-over-Lea. She went about the house dreaming a little apprehensively of these coming calls, and the pitiless light of criticism they would bring to bear, not indeed upon her happiness—that was assured—but upon her success. -227- -228- The social side of the position would have to be strained to the utmost, Marjorie felt, with Aunt Plessington. The thought of Aunt Plessington made her peculiarly apprehensive. Aunt Plessington had to the fullest extent that contempt for merely artistic or scientific people which sits so gracefully upon the administrative English. You see people of that sort do not get on in the sense that a young lawyer or barrister gets on. They do not make steps; they boast and quarrel and are jealous perhaps, but that steady patient shove upward seems beyond their intelligence. The energies God manifestly gave them for shoving, they dissipate in the creation of weak beautiful things and unremunerative theories, or in the establishment of views sometimes diametrically opposed to the ideas of influential people. And they are "queer"—socially. They just moon about doing this so-called "work" of theirs, and even when the judgment of eccentric people forces a kind of reputation upon them—Heaven knows why?—they make no public or social use of it. It seemed to Aunt Plessington that the artist and the scientific man were dealt with very neatly and justly in the Parable of the Buried Talent. Moreover their private lives were often scandalous, they married for love instead of interest, often quite disadvantageously, and their relationships had all the instability that is natural upon such a foundation. And, after all, what good were they? She had never met an artist or a prominent imaginative writer or scientific man that she had not been able to subdue in a minute or so by flat contradiction, and if necessary slightly raising her voice. They had little or no influence even upon their own public appointments.... -229- The thought of the invasion of her agreeable little back street establishment by this Britannic system of judgments filled Marjorie's heart with secret terrors. She felt she had to grapple with and overcome Aunt Plessington, or be for ever fallen—at least, so far as that amiable lady's report went, and she knew it went pretty far. She wandered about the house trying to imagine herself Aunt Plessington. Immediately she felt the gravest doubts whether the whole thing wasn't too graceful and pretty. A rich and rather massive ugliness, of course, would have been the thing to fetch Aunt Plessington. Happily, it was Aunt Plessington's habit to veil her eyes with her voice. She might not see very much. The subjugation of Aunt Plessington was difficult, but not altogether hopeless, Marjorie felt, provided her rejection of Magnet had not been taken as an act of personal ingratitude. There was a case on her side. She was discovering, for example, that Trafford had a really very considerable range of acquaintance among quite distinguished people; big figures like Evesham and MacHaldo, for example, were intelligently interested in the trend of his work. She felt this gave her a basis for Plessingtonian justifications. She could produce those people—as one shows one's loot. She could imply, "Oh, Love and all that nonsense! Certainly not! This is what I did it for." With skill and care and good luck, and a word here and there in edgeways, she believed she might be able to represent the whole adventure as the well-calculated opening of a campaign on soundly Plessingtonian lines. Her marriage to Trafford, she tried to persuade herself, might be presented as something almost as brilliant and startling as her aunt's swoop upon her undistinguished uncle. -230- She might pretend that all along she had seen her way to things, to coveted dinner-tables and the familiarity of coveted guests, to bringing people together and contriving arrangements, to influence and prominence, to culminations and intrigues impossible in the comparatively specialized world of a successful humorist and playwright, and so at last to those high freedoms of authoritative and if necessary offensive utterance in a strangulated contralto, and from a position of secure eminence, which is the goal of all virtuously ambitious Englishwomen of the governing classes—that is to say, of all virtuously ambitious Englishwomen.... § 4 And while such turbid solicitudes as these were flowing in again from the London world to which she had returned, and fouling the bright, romantic clearness of Marjorie's life, Trafford, in his ampler, less detailed way was also troubled about their coming re-entry into society. He, too, had his old associations. For example, he was by no means confident of the favourable judgments of his mother upon Marjorie's circle of school and college friends, whom he gathered from Marjorie's talk were destined to play a large part in this new phase of his life. She had given him very ample particulars of some of them; and he found them interesting rather than richly attractive personalities. It is to be noted that while he thought always of Marjorie as a beautiful, grown-up woman, and his mate and equal, he was still disposed to regard her intimate friends as schoolgirls of an advanced and aggressive type.... Then that large circle of distinguished acquaintances which Marjorie saw so easily and amply utilized for the subjugation of Aunt Plessington didn't present itself quite in that service to Trafford's private thoughts. He hadn't that certitude of command over them, nor that confidence in their unhesitating approval of all he said and did. Just as Marjorie wished him to shine in the heavens over all her people, so, in regard to his associates, he was extraordinarily anxious that they should realize, and realize from the outset without qualification or hesitation, how beautiful, brave and delightful she was. And you know he had already begun to be aware of an evasive feeling in his mind that at times she did not altogether do herself justice—he scarcely knew as yet how or why.... -231- She was very young.... One or two individuals stood out in his imagination, representatives and symbols of the rest. Particularly there was that old giant, Sir Roderick Dover, who had been, until recently, the Professor of Physics in the great Oxford laboratories. Dover and Trafford had one of those warm friendships which spring up at times between a rich-minded man whose greatness is assured and a young man of brilliant promise. It was all the more affectionate because Dover had been a friend of Trafford's father. These two and a group of other careless-minded, able, distinguished, and uninfluential men at the Winton Club affected the end of the smoking-room near the conservatory in the hours after lunch, and shared the joys of good talk and fine jesting about the big fireplace there. Under Dover's broad influence they talked more ideas and less gossip than is usual with English club men. Twaddle about appointments, about reputations, topics from the morning's papers, London architecture, and the commerce in "good stories" took refuge at the other end in the window bays or by the further fireplace. Trafford only began to realize on his return to London how large a share this intermittent perennial conversation had contributed to the atmosphere of his existence. Amidst the romantic circumstances of his flight with Marjorie he had forgotten the part these men played in his life and thoughts. Now he was enormously exercised in the search for a reconciliation between these, he felt, incommensurable factors. -232- He was afraid of what might be Sir Roderick's unspoken judgment on Marjorie and the house she had made—though what was there to be afraid of? He was still more afraid—and this was even more remarkable—of the clear little judgments—hard as loose, small diamonds in a bed—that he thought Marjorie might pronounce on Sir Roderick. He had never disguised from himself that Sir Roderick was fat—nobody who came within a hundred yards of him could be under any illusion about that—and that he drank a good deal, ate with a cosmic spaciousness, loved a cigar, and talked and laughed with a freedom that sometimes drove delicate-minded new members into the corners remotest from the historical fireplace. Trafford knew himself quite definitely that there was a joy in Dover's laugh and voice, a beauty in his face (that was somehow mixed up with his healthy corpulence), and a breadth, a charity, a leonine courage in his mind (that was somehow mixed up with his careless freedom of speech) that made him an altogether satisfactory person. But supposing Marjorie didn't see any of that! Still, he was on the verge of bringing Sir Roderick home when a talk at the club one day postponed that introduction of the two extremes of Trafford's existence for quite a considerable time. Those were the days of the first enthusiasms of the militant suffrage movement, and the occasional smashing of a Downing Street window or an assault upon a minister kept the question of woman's distinctive intelligence and character persistently before the public. Godley Buzard, the feminist novelist, had been the guest of some member to lunch, and the occasion was too provocative for any one about Dover's fireplace to avoid the topic. Buzard's presence, perhaps, drove Dover into an extreme position on the other side; he forgot Trafford's new-wedded condition, and handled this great argument, an argument which has scarcely progressed since its beginning in the days of Plato and Aristophanes, with the freedoms of an ancient Greek and the explicitness of a modern scientific man. -233- He opened almost apropos of nothing. "Women," he said, "are inferior—and you can't get away from it." "You can deny it," said Buzard. "In the face of the facts," said Sir Roderick. "To begin with, they're several inches shorter, several pounds lighter; they've less physical strength in footpounds." "More endurance," said Buzard. "Less sensitiveness merely. All those are demonstrable things—amenable to figures and apparatus. Then they stand nervous tensions worse, the breaking-point comes sooner. They have weaker inhibitions, and inhibition is the test of a creature's position in the mental scale." He maintained that in the face of Buzard's animated protest. Buzard glanced at their moral qualities. "More moral!" cried Dover, "more self-restraint! Not a bit of it! Their desires and passions are weaker even than their controls; that's all. Weaken restraints and they show their quality. A drunken woman is far worse than a drunken man. And as for their biological significance——" -234- "They are the species," said Buzard, "and we are the accidents." "They are the stolon and we are the individualized branches. They are the stem and we are the fruits. Surely it's better to exist than just transmit existence. And that's a woman's business, though we've fooled and petted most of 'em into forgetting it...." He proceeded to an attack on the intellectual quality of women. He scoffed at the woman artist, at feminine research, at what he called the joke of feminine philosophy. Buzard broke in with some sentences of reply. He alleged the lack of feminine opportunity, inferior education. "You don't or won't understand me," said Dover. "It isn't a matter of education or opportunity, or simply that they're of inferior capacity; it lies deeper than that. They don't want to do these things. They're different." "Precisely," ejaculated Buzard, as if he claimed a score. "They don't care for these things. They don't care for art or philosophy, or literature or anything except the things that touch them directly. That's their peculiar difference. Hunger they understand, and comfort, and personal vanity and desire, furs and chocolate and husbands, and the extreme importance conferred upon them by having babies at infrequent intervals. But philosophy or beauty for its own sake, or dreams! Lord! no! The Mahometans know they haven't souls, and they say it. We know, and keep it up that they have. Haven't all we scientific men had 'em in our laboratories working; don't we know the papers they turn out? Every sane man of five and forty knows something of the disillusionment of the feminine dream, but we who've had the beautiful creatures under us, weighing rather badly, handling rather weakly, invariably missing every fine detail and all the implications of our researches, never flashing, never leaping, never being even thoroughly bad,—we're specialists in the subject. At the present time there are far more educated young women than educated young men available for research work—and who wants them? Oh, the young professors who've still got ideals perhaps. And in they come, and if they're dull, they just voluminously do nothing, and if they're bright, they either marry your demonstrator or get him into a mess. And the work——? It's nothing to them. No woman ever painted for the love of painting, or sang for the sounds she made, or philosophized for the sake of wisdom as men do——" -235- Buzard intervened with instances. Dover would have none of them. He displayed astonishing and distinctive knowledge. "Madame Curie," clamoured Buzard, "Madame Curie." "There was Curie," said Dover. "No woman alone has done such things. I don't say women aren't clever," he insisted. "They're too clever. Give them a man's track or a man's intention marked and defined, they'll ape him to the life——" Buzard renewed his protests, talking at the same time as Dover, and was understood to say that women had to care for something greater than art or philosophy. They were custodians of life, the future of the race—— "And that's my crowning disappointment," cried Dover. "If there was one thing in which you might think women would show a sense of some divine purpose in life, it is in the matter of children—and they show about as much care in that matter, oh!—as rabbits. Yes, rabbits! I stick to it. Look at the things a nice girl will marry; look at the men's children she'll consent to bring into the world. Cheerfully! Proudly! For the sake of the home and the clothes. Nasty little beasts they'll breed without turning a hair. All about us we see girls and women marrying ugly men, dull and stupid men, ill-tempered dyspeptic wrecks, sickly young fools, human rats—rats!" -236- "No, no!" cried Trafford to Dover. Buzard's voice clamoured that all would be different when women had the vote. "If ever we get a decent care for Eugenics, it will come from men," said a white-faced little man on the sofa beside Trafford, in the confidential tone of one who tells a secret. "Doing it cheerfully!" insisted Dover. Trafford in mid-protest was suddenly stricken into silence by a memory. It was as if the past had thrown a stone at the back of his head and hit it smartly. He nipped his sentence in the bud. He left the case for women to Buzard.... He revived that memory again on his way home. It had been in his mind overlaid by a multitude of newer, fresher things, but now he took it out and looked at it. It was queer, it was really very queer, to think that once upon a time, not so very long ago, Marjorie had been prepared to marry Magnet. Of course she had hated it, but still——.... There is much to be discovered about life, even by a brilliant and rising young Professor of Physics.... Presently Dover, fingering the little glass of yellow chartreuse he had hitherto forgotten in the heat of controversy, took a more personal turn. "Don't we know," he said, and made the limpid amber vanish in his pause. "Don't we know we've got to manage and control 'em—just as we've got to keep 'em and stand the racket of their misbehaviour? Don't our instincts tell us? Doesn't something tell us all that if we let a woman loose with our honour and trust, some other man will get hold of her? We've tried it long enough now, this theory that a woman's a partner and an equal; we've tried it long enough to see some of the results, and does it work? Does it? A woman's a prize, a possession, a responsibility, something to take care of and be careful about.... You chaps, if you'll forgive me, you advanced chaps, seem to want to have the women take care of you. You seem always to want to force decisions on them, make them answerable for things that you ought to decide and answer for.... If one could, if one could! If!... But they're not helps—that's a dream—they're distractions, gratifications, anxieties, dangers, undertakings...." -237- Buzard got in his one effective blow at this point. "That's why you've never married, Sir Roderick?" he threw out. The big man was checked for a moment. Trafford wondered what memory lit that instant's pause. "I've had my science," said Dover. § 5 Mrs. Pope was of course among the first to visit the new home so soon as it was open to inspection. She arrived, looking very bright and neat in a new bonnet and some new black furs that suited her, bearing up bravely but obviously in a state of dispersed and miscellaneous emotion.... In many ways Marjorie's marriage had been a great relief to her mother. Particularly it had been a financial relief. Marjorie had been the most expensive child of her family, and her cessation had led to increments both of Mrs. Pope's and Daphne's all too restricted allowances. Mrs. Pope had been able therefore to relapse from the orthodox Anglicanism into which poverty had driven her, and indulge for an hour weekly in the consolations of Higher Thought. These exercises in emancipated religiosity occurred at the house of Mr. Silas Root, and were greatly valued by a large circle of clients. Essentially they were orgies of vacuity, and they cost six guineas for seven hours. They did her no end of good. All through the precious weekly hour she sat with him in a silent twilight, very, very still and feeling—oh! "higher" than anything, and when she came out she wore an inane smile on her face and was prepared not to worry, to lie with facility, and to take the easiest way in every eventuality in an entirely satisfactory and exalted manner. Moreover he was "treating" her investments. Acting upon his advice, and doing the whole thing quietly with the idea of preparing a pleasant surprise for her husband, she had sold out of certain Home Railway debentures and invested in a company for working the auriferous waste which is so abundant in the drainage of Philadelphia, a company whose shareholders were chiefly higher thought disciples and whose profits therefore would inevitably be greatly enhanced by their concerted mental action. It was to the prospective profits in this that she owed the new black furs she was wearing. -238- The furs and the bonnet and the previous day's treatment she had had, all helped to brace her up on Marjorie's doorstep for a complex and difficult situation, and to carry her through the first tensions of her call. She was so much to pieces as it was that she could not help feeling how much more to pieces she might have been—but for the grace of Silas Root. She knew she ought to have very strong feelings about Trafford, though it was not really clear to her what feelings she ought to have. On the whole she was inclined to believe she was experiencing moral disapproval mixed up with a pathetic and rather hopeless appeal for the welfare of the tender life that had entrusted itself so recklessly to these brutal and discreditable hands, though indeed if she had really dared to look inside her mind her chief discovery would have been a keenly jealous appreciation of Trafford's good looks and generous temper, and a feeling of injustice as between her own lot and Marjorie's. However, going on her assumed basis she managed to be very pale, concise and tight-lipped at any mention of her son-in-law, and to put a fervour of helpless devotion into her embraces of her daughter. She surveyed the house with a pained constrained expression, as though she tried in vain to conceal from herself that it was all slightly improper, and even such objects as the Bokhara hangings failed to extort more than an insincere, "Oh, very nice, dear—very nice." -239- In the bedroom, she spoke about Mr. Pope. "He was dreadfully upset," she said. "His first thought was to come after you both with a pistol. If—if he hadn't married you——" "But dear Mummy, of course we meant to marry! We married right away." "Yes, dear, of course. But if he hadn't——" She paused, and Marjorie, with a momentary flush of indignation in her cheeks, did not urge her to conclude her explanation. "He's wounded," said Mrs. Pope. "Some day perhaps he'll come round—you were always his favourite daughter." -240- "I know," said Marjorie concisely, with a faint flavour of cynicism in her voice. "I'm afraid dear, at present—he will do nothing for you." "I don't think Rag would like him to," said Marjorie with an unreal serenity; "ever." "For a time I'm afraid he'll refuse to see you. He just wants to forget——. Everything." "Poor old Dad! I wish he wouldn't put himself out like this. Still, I won't bother him, Mummy, if you mean that." Then suddenly into Mrs. Pope's unsystematic, unstable mind, started perhaps by the ring in her daughter's voice, there came a wave of affectionate feeling. That she had somehow to be hostile and unsympathetic to Marjorie, that she had to pretend that Trafford was wicked and disgusting, and not be happy in the jolly hope and happiness of this bright little house, cut her with a keen swift pain. She didn't know clearly why she was taking this coldly hostile attitude, or why she went on doing so, but the sense of that necessity hurt her none the less. She put out her hands upon her daughter's shoulders and whimpered: "Oh my dear! I do wish things weren't so difficult—so very difficult." The whimper changed by some inner force of its own to honest sobs and tears. Marjorie passed through a flash of amazement to a sudden understanding of her mother's case. "Poor dear Mummy," she said. "Oh! poor dear Mummy. It's a shame of us!" She put her arms about her mother and held her for awhile. "It is a shame," said her mother in a muffled voice, trying to keep hold of this elusive thing that had somehow both wounded her and won her daughter back. But her poor grasp slipped again. "I knew you'd come to see it," she said, dabbing with her handkerchief at her eyes. "I knew you would." And then with the habitual loyalty of years resuming its sway: "He's always been so good to you."... -241- But Mrs. Pope had something more definite to say to Marjorie, and came to it at last with a tactful offhandedness. Marjorie communicated it to Trafford about an hour later on his return from the laboratory. "I say," she said, "old Daffy's engaged to Magnet!" She paused, and added with just the faintest trace of resentment in her voice: "She can have him, as far as I'm concerned." "He didn't wait long," said Trafford tactlessly. "No," said Marjorie; "he didn't wait long.... Of course she got him on the rebound."... § 6 Mrs. Pope was only a day or so ahead of a cloud of callers. The Carmel girls followed close upon her, tall figures of black fur, with costly-looking muffs and a rich glitter at neck and wrist. Marjorie displayed her house, talking fluently about other things, and watching for effects. The Carmel girls ran their swift dark eyes over her appointments, glanced quickly from side to side of her rooms, saw only too certainly that the house was narrow and small——. But did they see that it was clever? They saw at any rate that she meant it to be clever, and with true Oriental politeness said as much urgently and extravagantly. Then there were the Rambord girls and their mother, an unobservant lot who chattered about the ice at Prince's; then Constance Graham came with a thoroughbred but very dirty aunt, and then Ottiline Winchelsea with an American minor poet, who wanted a view of mountains from the windows at the back, and said the bathroom ought to be done in pink. Then Lady Solomonson came; an extremely expensive-looking fair lady with an affectation of cynicism, a keen intelligence, acutely apt conversation, and a queer effect of thinking of something else all the time she was talking. She missed nothing.... -242- Hardly anybody failed to appreciate the charm and decision of Marjorie's use of those Bokhara embroideries. They would have been cheap at double the price. § 7 And then our two young people went out to their first dinner-parties together. They began with Trafford's rich friend Solomonson, who had played so large and so passive a part in their first meeting. He had behaved with a sort of magnanimous triumph over the marriage. He made it almost his personal affair, as though he had brought it about. "I knew there was a girl in it," he insisted, "and you told me there wasn't. O-a-ah! And you kept me in that smell of disinfectant and things—what a chap that doctor was for spilling stuff!—for six blessed days!..." Marjorie achieved a dress at once simple and good with great facility by not asking the price until it was all over. (There is no half-success with dinner-dresses, either the thing is a success and inestimable, or not worth having at any price at all.) It was blue with a thread of gold, and she had a necklace of blueish moonstones, gold-set, and her hair ceased to be copper and became golden, and her eyes unfathomable blue. She was radiant with health and happiness, no one else there had her clear freshness, and her manner was as restrained and dignified and ready as a proud young wife's can be. Everyone seemed to like her and respect her and be interested in her, and Trafford kissed her flushed cheek in the hansom as they came home again and crowned her happiness. It had been quite a large party, and really much more splendid and brilliant than anything she had ever seen before. There had been one old gentleman with a coloured button and another with a ribbon; there had been a countess with historical pearls, and half-a-dozen other people one might fairly call distinguished. The house was tremendous in its way, spacious, rich, glowing with lights, abounding in vistas and fine remote backgrounds. In the midst of it all she had a sudden thrill at the memory that less than a year ago she had been ignominiously dismissed from the dinner-table by her father for a hiccup.... -243- A few days after Aunt Plessington suddenly asked the Traffords to one of her less important but still interesting gatherings; not one of those that swayed the world perhaps, but one which Marjorie was given to understand achieved important subordinate wagging. Aunt Plessington had not called, she explained in her note, because of the urgent demands the Movement made upon her time; it was her wonderful hard-breathing way never to call on anyone, and it added tremendously to her reputation; none the less it appeared—though here the scrawl became illegible—she meant to shove and steer her dear niece upward at a tremendous pace. They were even asked to come a little early so that she might make Trafford's acquaintance. -244- The dress was duly admired, and then Aunt Plessington—assuming the hearthrug and forgetting the little matter of their career—explained quite Napoleonic and wonderful things she was going to do with her Movement, fresh principles, fresh applications, a big committee of all the "names"—they were easy to get if you didn't bother them to do things—a new and more attractive title, "Payment in Kind" was to give way to "Reality of Reward," and she herself was going to have her hair bleached bright white (which would set off her eyes and colour and the general geniality of appearance due to her projecting teeth), and so greatly increase her "platform efficiency." Hubert, she said, was toiling away hard at the detail of these new endeavours. He would be down in a few minutes' time. Marjorie, she said, ought to speak at their meetings. It would help both the Traffords to get on if Marjorie cut a dash at the outset, and there was no such dash to be cut as speaking at Aunt Plessington's meetings. It was catching on; all next season it was sure to be the thing. So many promising girls allowed themselves to be submerged altogether in marriage for a time, and when they emerged everyone had forgotten the promise of their début. She had an air of rescuing Marjorie from an impending fate by disabusing Trafford from injurious prepossessions.... Presently the guests began to drop in, a vegetarian health specialist, a rising young woman factory inspector, a phrenologist who was being induced to put great talents to better uses under Aunt Plessington's influence, his dumb, obscure, but inevitable wife, a colonial bishop, a baroness with a taste rather than a capacity for intellectual society, a wealthy jam and pickle manufacturer and his wife, who had subscribed largely to the funds of the Movement and wanted to meet the lady of title, and the editor of the Movement's organ, Upward and On, a young gentleman of abundant hair and cadaverous silences, whom Aunt Plessington patted on the shoulder and spoke of as "one of our discoveries." And then Uncle Hubert came down, looking ruffled and overworked, with his ready-made dress-tie—he was one of those men who can never master the art of tying a bow—very much askew. The conversation turned chiefly on the Movement; if it strayed Aunt Plessington reached out her voice after it and brought it back in a masterful manner. -245- Through soup and fish Marjorie occupied herself with the inflexible rigour of the young editor, who had brought her down. When she could give her attention to the general conversation she discovered her husband a little flushed and tackling her aunt with an expression of quiet determination. The phrenologist and the vegetarian health specialist were regarding him with amazement, the jam and pickle manufacturer's wife was evidently deeply shocked. He was refusing to believe in the value of the Movement, and Aunt Plessington was manifestly losing her temper. "I don't see, Mrs. Plessington," he was saying, "that all this amounts to more than a kind of Glorious District Visiting. That is how I see it. You want to attack people in their homes—before they cry out to you. You want to compel them by this Payment in Kind of yours to do what you want them to do instead of trying to make them want to do it. Now, I think your business is to make them want to do it. You may perhaps increase the amount of milk in babies, and the amount of whitewash in cottages and slums by your methods—I don't dispute the promise of your statistics—but you're going to do it at a cost of human self-respect that's out of all proportion——" -246- Uncle Hubert's voice, with that thick utterance that always suggested a mouthful of plums, came booming down the table. "All these arguments," he said, "have been answered long ago." "No doubt," said Trafford with a faint asperity. "But tell me the answers." "It's ridiculous," said Aunt Plessington, "to talk of the self-respect of the kind of people—oh! the very dregs!" "It's just because the plant is delicate that you've got to handle it carefully," said Trafford. "Here's Miss Gant," said Aunt Plessington, "she knows the strata we are discussing. She'll tell you they have positively no self-respect—none at all." "My people," said Miss Gant, as if in conclusive testimony, "actually conspire with their employers to defeat me." "I don't see the absence of self-respect in that," said Trafford. "But all their interests——" "I'm thinking of their pride."... The discussion lasted to the end of dinner and made no headway. As soon as the ladies were in the drawing-room, Aunt Plessington, a little flushed from the conflict, turned on Marjorie and said, "I like your husband. He's wrong-headed, but he's young, and he's certainly spirited. He ought to get on if he wants to. Does he do nothing but his researches?" "He lectures in the spring term," said Marjorie. "Ah!" said Aunt Plessington with a triumphant note, "you must alter all that. You must interest him in wider things. You must bring him out of his shell, and let him see what it is to deal with Affairs. Then he wouldn't talk such nonsense about our Work." -247- Marjory was at a momentary loss for a reply, and in the instant's respite Aunt Plessington turned to the jam and pickle lady and asked in a bright, encouraging note: "Well! And how's the Village Club getting on?"... She had another lunge at Trafford as he took his leave. "You must come again soon," she said. "I love a good wrangle, and Hubert and I never want to talk about our Movement to any one but unbelievers. You don't know the beginnings of it yet. Only I warn you they have a way of getting converted. I warn you."... On this occasion there was no kissing in the cab. Trafford was exasperated. "Of all the intolerable women!" he said, and was silent for a time. "The astounding part of it is," he burst out, "that this sort of thing, this Movement and all the rest of it, does really give the quality of English public affairs. It's like a sample—dredged. The—the cheapness of it! Raised voices, rash assertions, sham investigations, meetings and committees and meetings, that's the stuff of it, and politicians really have to attend to it, and silly, ineffective, irritating bills really get drafted and messed about with and passed on the strength of it. Public affairs are still in the Dark Ages. Nobody now would think of getting together a scratch committee of rich old women and miscellaneous conspicuous people to design an electric tram, and jabbering and jabbering and jabbering, and if any one objects"—a note of personal bitterness came into his voice—"jabbering faster; but nobody thinks it ridiculous to attempt the organization of poor people's affairs in that sort of way. This project of the supersession of Wages by Payment in Kind—oh! it's childish. If it wasn't it would be outrageous and indecent. Your uncle and aunt haven't thought for a moment of any single one of the necessary consequences of these things they say their confounded Movement aims at, effects upon the race, upon public spirit, upon people's habits and motives. They've just a queer craving to feel powerful and influential, which they think they can best satisfy by upsetting the lives of no end of harmless poor people—the only people they dare upset—and that's about as far as they go.... Your aunt's detestable, Marjorie." -248- Marjorie had never seen him so deeply affected by anything but herself. It seemed to her he was needlessly disturbed by a trivial matter. He sulked for a space, and then broke out again. "That confounded woman talks of my physical science," he said, "as if research were an amiable weakness, like collecting postage stamps. And it's changed human conditions more in the last ten years than all the parliamentary wire-pullers and legislators and administrative experts have done in two centuries. And for all that, there's more clerks in Whitehall than professors of physics in the whole of England."... "I suppose it's the way that sort of thing gets done," said Marjorie, after an interval. "That sort of thing doesn't get done," snapped Trafford. "All these people burble about with their movements and jobs, and lectures and stuff—and things happen. Like some one getting squashed to death in a crowd. Nobody did it, but anybody in the muddle can claim to have done it—if only they've got the cheek of your Aunt Plessington." -249- He seemed to have finished. "Done!" he suddenly broke out again. "Why! people like your Aunt Plessington don't even know where the handle is. If they ventured to look for it, they'd give the whole show away! Done, indeed!" "Here we are!" said Marjorie, a little relieved to find the hansom turning out of King's Road into their own side street.... And then Marjorie wore the blue dress with great success at the Carmels'. The girls came and looked at it and admired it—it was no mere politeness. They admitted there was style about it, a quality—there was no explaining. "You're wonderful, Madge!" cried the younger Carmel girl. The Carmel boy, seizing the opportunity of a momentary seclusion in a corner, ended a short but rather portentous silence with "I say, you do look ripping," in a voice that implied the keenest regret for the slacknesses of a summer that was now infinitely remote to Marjorie. It was ridiculous that the Carmel boy should have such emotions—he was six years younger than Trafford and only a year older than Marjorie, and yet she was pleased by his manifest wound.... There was only one little thing at the back of her mind that alloyed her sense of happy and complete living that night, and that was the ghost of an addition sum. At home, in her pretty bureau, a little gathering pile of bills, as yet unpaid, and an empty cheque-book with appealing counterfoils, awaited her attention. Marjorie had still to master the fact that all the fine braveries and interests and delights of life that offer themselves so amply to the favoured children of civilization, trail and, since the fall of man at any rate, have trailed after them something—something, the justification of morality, the despair of all easy, happy souls, the unavoidable drop of bitterness in the cup of pleasure—the Reckoning. -250- About HackerNoon Book Series: We bring you the most important technical, scientific, and insightful public domain books. This book is part of the public domain. H. G. Wells (2011). Marriage. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. 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