“And why? Because they are capable of great passions, great desires. They are willing to take the art of womanhood seriously, make sacrifices for it, as one must for any art, in order to triumph in it.”
Rose thought this over rather dubiously. It was a new notion to her—or almost new. Portia had told her once she never would have any trouble making her husband “want” her as much as she liked. This idea of making a serious art of your power to attract and influence men, seemed to range itself in the same category.
“But suppose,” she objected, “one doesn’t want to triumph at it? Suppose one wants to be a—person, rather than just a woman?”
“There are other careers indeed,” Madame Greville admitted, “and one can follow them in the same spirit, make the sacrifices—pay the price they demand. Mon dieu! How I have preached. Now you shall talk to me. It was for that I took you captive and ran away with you.”
For the next half-hour, until the car stopped in front of her house, Rose acted on this request; told about her life before and since her marriage to Rodney, about her friends, her amusements—anything that came into her mind. But she lingered before getting out of the car, to say:
“I hope I haven’t forgotten a single word of your—preaching. You said so many things I want to think about.”
“Don’t trouble your soul with that, child,” said the actress. “All the sermon you need can be boiled down into a sentence, and until you have found it out for yourself, you won’t believe it.”
“Try me,” said Rose.
“Then attend.—How shall I say it?—Nothing worth having comes as a gift, nor even can be bought—cheap. Everything of value in your life will cost you dear; and some time or other you’ll have to pay the price of it.”
It was with a very thoughtful, perplexed face that Rose watched the car drive away, and then walked slowly into her house—the ideal house that had cost Florence McCrea and Bertie Willis so many hours and so many hair-line decisions—and allowed herself to be relieved of her wraps by the perfect maid, who had all but been put in the lease.
The actress had said many strange and puzzling things during their ride; things to be accepted only cautiously, after a careful thinking out. But strangest of all was this last observation of hers; that there was nothing of worth in your life that you hadn’t to pay a heavy price for.
Certainly it contradicted violently everything in Rose’s experience, for everything she valued had come to her precisely as a gift. Her mother’s and Portia’s love of her, the life that had surrounded her in school and at the university, the friends; and then, with her marriage, the sudden change in her estate, the thrills, the excitement, the comparative luxuries of the new life. Why,—even Rodney himself, about whom everything else swung in an orbit! What price had she paid for him, or for any of the rest of it? It was all as free as the air she breathed. It had come to her without having cost even a wish. Was Rodney’s love for her, therefore, valueless? No, the French woman was certainly wrong about that.