‘Edmund,’ she said to him one evening, as they talked by the fireside, ‘don’t you think you take life rather too gravely?’
‘Gravely? Don’t I seem to enjoy myself?’
’Oh yes; just now. But—still in a rather serious way. One would think you always had cares on your mind, and were struggling to get rid of them.’
‘I haven’t a care in the world. I am the most blessed of mortals.’
’So you ought to think yourself. But when we get back again, how will it be? You won’t be angry with me? I really don’t think I can live again as we were doing.’
‘Not live as—’
His brow darkened; he looked at her in astonishment.
‘We ought to have more enjoyment,’ she pursued courageously. ’Think of the numbers of people who live a dull, monotonous life just because they can’t help it. How they would envy us, with so much money to spend, free to do just what we like! Doesn’t it seem a pity to sit there day after day alone—’
‘Don’t, my darling!’ he implored. ’Don’t! That makes me think you don’t really love me.
’Nonsense! I want you to see what I mean. I am not one of the silly people who care for nothing but amusement, but I do think we might enjoy our lives more when we are in London. We shan’t live for ever, you know. Is it right to spend day after day sitting there in the house—’
’But come, come; we have our occupations. Surely it ought to be a pleasure to you to see that the house is kept in order. There are duties—’
‘Yes, I know. But these duties I could perform in an hour or two.’
‘Quite thoroughly enough.’
’In my Opinion, Monica, a woman ought never to be so happy as when she is looking after her home.’
It was the old pedantic tone. His figure, in sympathy with it, abandoned an easy attitude and became awkward. But Monica would not allow herself to be alarmed. During the past week she had conducted herself so as to smooth the way for this very discussion. Unsuspecting husband!
‘I wish to do my duty,’ she said in a firm tone, ’but I don’t think it’s right to make dull work for oneself, when one might be living. I don’t think it is living to go on week after week like that. If we were poor, and I had a lot of children to look after as well as all the housework to do, I believe I shouldn’t grumble—at least, I hope I shouldn’t. I should know that I ought to do what there was no one else to do, and make the best of it. But
‘Make the best of it!’ he interrupted indignantly. ’What an expression to use! It would not only be your duty, dear, but your privilege!’
’Wait a moment, Edmund. If you were a shopman earning fifteen shillings a week, and working from early morning to late at night, should you think it not Only your duty but your privilege?’
He made a wrathful gesture.