Barry took both her hands and kissed each in turn, to show that he was not triumphing but adoring.
“You mean it? You feel you can really do it without violating your conscience? Sure, darling?”
“Yes, I think I’m sure. Lots of quite sensible, good people have done it lately.”
“Oh any number, of course—if that’s any reason.”
“Not, not those people. My sort of people, I mean. People who believe what I do, and wouldn’t tie themselves up and lose their liberty for anything.”
“I agree with Lenin. He says liberty is a bourgeois dream.”
“Barry, I may keep my name, mayn’t I? I may still be called Gerda Bendish, by people in general?”
“Of course, if you like. Rather silly, isn’t it? Because it won’t be your name. But that’s your concern.”
“It’s the name I’ve always written and drawn under, you see.”
“Yes. I see your point. Of course you shall be Gerda Bendish anywhere you like, only not on cheques, if you don’t mind.”
“And I don’t much want to wear a wedding ring, Barry.”
“That’s as you like, too, of course. You might keep it in your purse when travelling, to produce if censorious hotel keepers look askance at us. Even the most abandoned ladies do that sometimes, I believe. Or your marriage lines will do as well.... Gerda, you blessed darling, it’s most frightfully decent and sporting of you to have changed your mind and owned up. Next time we differ I’ll try and be the one to do it, I honestly will.... I say, let’s come out by ourselves and dine and do a theatre, to celebrate the occasion.”
So they celebrated the triumph of institutionalism.
Their life together, thought Barry, would be a keen, jolly, adventuring business, an ardent thing, full of gallant dreams and endeavours. It should never grow tame or stale or placid, never lose its fine edge. There would be mountain peak beyond mountain peak to scale together. They would be co-workers, playmates, friends and lovers all at once, and they would walk in liberty as in a bourgeois dream.
So planned Barry Briscoe, the romantic, about whose head the vision splendid always hovered, a realisable, capturable thing.
Gerda thought, “I’m happy. Poetry and drawing and Barry. I’ve everything I want, except a St. Bernard pup, and Kay’s giving me that for Christmas. I’m happy.”
It was a tingling, intense, sensuous feeling, like stretching warm before a good fire, or lying in fragrant thymy woods in June, in the old Junes when suns were hot. Life was a song and a dream and a summer morning.
“You’re happy, Gerda,” Neville said to her once, gladly but half wistfully, and she nodded, with her small gleaming smile.
“Go on being happy,” Neville told her, and Gerda did not know that she had nearly added “for it’s cost rather a lot, your happiness.” Gerda seldom cared how much things had cost; she did not waste thought on such matters. She was happy.