“I don’t understand you,” she replied with her usual gentle frankness and simple logical consistency. “It pleases you to say ‘we’ and ‘ours’ whenever you can so seem to make me part of yourself; and I love to hear you, for it assures me each time that you still hold me tightly as I cling to you. But you know those are only words of kindness. Since you returned my father’s gift, the dowry you then doubled is my only share of what is yours, and it is more than enough.”
“Do you mean that women expect and receive no more: that they do not naturally share in a man’s surplus wealth?”
While I spoke Enva had joined us, and, resting on the cushions at my feet, looked curiously at the metallic notes in Eveena’s hand.
“You do not,” returned the latter, “pay more foe what you have purchased because you have grown richer. You do not share your wealth even with those on whose care it chiefly depends.”
“Yes, I do, Eveena. But I know what you mean. Their share is settled and is not increased. But you will not tell me that this affords any standard for household dealings; that a wife’s share in her husband’s fortune is really bounded by the terms of the marriage contract?”
“Will you let Enva answer you?” asked Eveena. “She looks more ready than I feel to reply.”
This little incident was characteristic in more ways than one. Eveena’s feelings, growing out of the realities of our relation, were at issue with and perplexed her convictions founded on the theory and practice of her world. Not yet doubting the justice of the latter, she instinctively shrank from their application to ourselves. She was glad, therefore, to let Enva state plainly and directly a doctrine which, from her own lips, would have pained as well as startled me. On her side, Enva, though encouraged to bear her part in conversation, was too thoroughly imbued with the same ideas to interpose unbidden. As she would have said, a wife deserved the sandal for speaking without leave; nor—experience notwithstanding—would she think it safe to interrupt in my presence a favourite so pointedly honoured as Eveena. ’She waited, therefore, till my eyes gave the permission which hers had asked.
“Why should you buy anything twice over, Clasfempta, whether it be a wife or an amba? A girl sells her society for the best price her attractions will command. These attractions seldom increase. You cannot give her less because you care less for them; but how can she expect more?”
“I know, Enva, that the marriage contract here is an open bargain and sale, as among my race it is generally a veiled one. But, the bargain made, does it really govern the after relation? Do men really spend their wealth wholly on themselves, and take no pleasure in the pleasure of women?”