Rose paled a little and sat ivory still in her chair. There were no miracles any more. The great dam was swept away.
THE ONLY REMEDY
The sudden flaw of passion that had troubled the waters of Rodney’s soul, subsided, spent itself in mutterings, explanations, tending to become at last rather apologetic. He said he didn’t know why her request had got him like that. It had seemed to him for a moment as if she didn’t realize what the children’s lives meant to them—almost as if she didn’t love them. He knew that was absurd, of course.
Her own rather monstrous comments on these observations had luckily remained unspoken. What if she did lose a child as a result of her effort to care for it herself? She could bear more children. And what chance had she to love them? Where was the soil for love to take root in, unless she took care of them herself? These weren’t really thoughts of hers—just a sort of crooked reflection of what he was saying off the surface of a mind terribly preoccupied with something else.
She was in the grip of an appalling realization. This moment—this actually present moment that was going to last only until she should speak for the next time, or move her eyes around to his face—was the critical moment of her life. She had, for just this moment, a choice of two things to say when next she should speak—a choice of two ways of looking into his face. A mountaineer, standing on the edge of a crevasse, deciding whether to try to leap across and win a precarious way to the summit, or to turn back and confess the climb has been in vain, is confronted by a choice like that. If ever the leap was to be made, it must be made now. The rainbow bridge across the crevasse, the miracle of motherhood, had faded like the mist it was composed of.
She was a mother now. Yet her relation to her husband’s life was the same as that of the girl who had gone to his office the night of the Randolphs’ dinner. And no external event—nothing that could happen to her (remember that even motherhood had “happened” in her case) could ever transmute that relation into the thing she wanted. If the alchemy were to be wrought at all, it would be by the act of her own will—at the cost of a deliberately assumed struggle. There was nothing, any more, to hope from waiting. The thing that whispered, “Wait! To-morrow—some to-morrow or other, it may be easier! Wait until, for yourself, you’ve thought out the consequences,”—that was the voice of cowardice. If she turned back, down the easier path, to-night, it must be under no delusion that she’d ever try to climb again, or find a pair of magic wings that would carry her, effortless, to what she wanted.
Well, then, she had her choice. One of two things she might do now. It was in her power to look up at him and smile, and say: “All right, Roddy, old man, I’ll stop being disagreeable. I won’t have any more whims.” And she could go to him and clasp her hands behind his head and feel the rough pressure of his cheeks against the velvety surfaces of her forearms, and kiss his eyes and mouth; surrender to the embrace she knew so well would follow.