“Many wonderful cures,” Neville had said. And had mentioned depression as one of the diseases cured. What, after all, if there was something in this stuff which she had never tried to understand, had always dismissed, according to her habit, with a single label? “Labels don’t help. Labels get you nowhere.” How often the children had told her that, finding her terse terminology that of a shallow mind, endowed with inadequate machinery for acquiring and retaining knowledge, as indeed it was.
Gerda, going up to Mrs. Hilary’s room to tell her about tea, found her asleep on the sofa, with “The Breath of Life” fallen open from her hand. A smile flickered on Gerda’s delicate mouth, for she had heard her grandmother on the subject of psycho-analysis, and here she was, having taken to herself the book which Gerda was reading for her Freud circle. Gerda read a paragraph on the open page.
“It will often be found that what we believe to be unhappiness is really, in the secret and unconscious self, a joy, which the familiar process of inversion sends up into our consciousness in the form of grief. If, for instance, a mother bewails the illness of her child, it is because her unconscious self is experiencing the pleasure of importance, of being condoled and sympathised with, as also that of having her child (if it is a male) entirely for the time dependent on her ministrations. If, on the other hand, the sick child is her daughter, her grief is in reality a hope that this, her young rival, may die, and leave her supreme in the affections of her husband. If, in either of these cases, she can be brought to face and understand this truth, her grief will invert itself again and become a conscious joy....”
“I wonder if Grandmother believes all that,” speculated Gerda, who did.
Then she said aloud, “Grandmother” (that was what Gerda and Kay called her, distinguishing her thus from Great-Grandmama), “tea’s ready.”
Mrs. Hilary woke with a start. “The Breath of Life” fell on the floor with a bang. Mrs. Hilary looked up and saw Gerda and blushed.
“I’ve been asleep.... I took up this ridiculous book of yours to look at. The most absurd stuff.... How can you children muddle your minds with it? Besides, it isn’t at all a nice book for you, my child. I came on several very queer things....”
But the candid innocence of Gerda’s wide blue eyes on hers transcended “nice” and “not nice."... You might as well talk like that to a wood anemone, or a wild rabbit.... If her grandmother had only known, Gerda at twenty had discussed things which Mrs. Hilary, in all her sixty-three years, had never heard mentioned. Gerda knew of things of which Mrs. Hilary would have indignantly and sincerely denied the existence. Gerda’s young mind was a cess-pool, a clear little dew-pond, according to how you looked at it. Gerda and Gerda’s friends knew no inhibitions of speech or thought. They believed that the truth would make them free, and the truth about life is, from some points of view, a squalid and gross thing. But better look it in the face, thought Gerda and her contemporaries, than pretend it isn’t there, as elderly people do.