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- This Freedom - 50/61 -

particularly of the work of her department of the business. There was approaching all the time the thing that sooner or later they must say. She was trembling all the time to know how she would receive it. In whichever of its two ways it came would she be glad or would she be sorry? She simply did not know. She suddenly herself projected the point. She could not endure any longer its delay. "And Miss Farmer," she said. "How's Miss Farmer doing?" Miss Farmer, formerly one of her assistants, had on her resignation taken her place.

Miss Farmer, replied Mr. Sturgiss, was estimable but--he opened his hands and made with them a deprecatory gesture. "She's not you. How could she be you, or any one be you? We could replace Miss Farmer. What's the good? It's you we've got to replace. We can't replace you."

Her heart had bounded.


That happened in the Christmas holidays, in January. In February was Doda's eleventh birthday. The child had friends rather older than herself, neighbours, who for a year had been boarders at a school in Surrey. She was desperately eager to join them there and it was a promise from Rosalie that she should go when she was twelve, earlier if she were good. On this eleventh birthday, which brought birthday letters from the neighbours at the school and thus again brought up the subject, "Oh, haven't I been good?" cried Doda at the birthday breakfast. "Oh, do let me go next term, mother. Father, do say I may." Her eagerness for school had been much fostered by Huggo's holiday stories of school life; and Huggo, as Doda now adduced, was leaving his preparatory and starting at Tidborough next term; couldn't she, oh, couldn't she make also her start then?

Harry said, "O grown-up woman of enormous years, think of your sorrowing parents. How will you like to leave your weeping mother, Doda? How will you like to leave your heart-broken old father?"

"Oh, I'd love to!" cried Doda.

The ingenuousness of it made her parents laugh.

"She'll have her way, won't she?" said Harry, when Doda, conscious, by that laugh, of tolerance, had danced out of the room.

"I think she'd better," said Rosalie.

The school was very well known to Rosalie. It was exclusive and expensive; was limited to seventy girls, of whom twenty, under the age of thirteen, were received in the adapted Dower House of the ancient estate which was its home; and the last word in modernity was, in every point of administration, its first word. It had been established only eight years. The motto of its founders and of its lady principal was "Not traditions--precedents!"

The subject came up again between Rosalie and Harry that evening and it was decided that Doda should be placed there after the next holidays, at the opening of the summer term. Harry declared himself, "in my bones" as he expressed it, against boarding schools for girls, "But that's my old fogeyism," said he. "It's the modern idea that girls should have the same training and the same chances in life as their brothers, and there's no getting away from the right of it."

Rosalie said in a low voice, "To what end?"

He did not hear her. She had got out from the accumulation of papers of her business life prospectuses and booklets of the school and he was amusedly browsing over the refinements and advantages therein, not by traditions but by precedents, set forth. "Mice and Mumps, Rosalie," said he, "they not only do riding as a regular thing but 'parents are permitted, if they wish, to stable a pupil's own pony (see page 26).' Oh, thanks, thanks! 'Mr. Harry Occleve, barrister-at-law, availing himself of your gracious permission on page twenty-six, is sending down for his daughter a coach and four with 'ostlers, grooms, coachmen, and outriders complete.' Ha!"

She was just watching him.

He said after an interval: "Yes, there's a lot of sound stuff here, Rosalie. It's convincing. Not that any one needs convincing on the point less than you and I." He quoted again. "'And advance them towards an independent and a womanly womanhood.' And it talks further back about how 'Idle women' will soon be recognised as great a term of reproach as 'an idle man.' It's sound. I like this booklet here that each girl's given, 'To the Girl of the Future.' It tells them all about an independent career, makes no fancy picture of it, tells 'em everything. Did you read that?"

"A long time ago. It probably doesn't tell them one thing."


"That they can always--chuck it."

He looked up quickly. "Hull-o!"

She gave him no response to his expressed surprise and he laughed and said, "D'you know, Rosalie, I don't believe I've ever before heard you use slang."

"You taught me that bit, Harry."

"Oh, I sling it about. When did I?"

"One day last holidays when it was just on a year since I'd left Field's. Just a year, you said, since I'd--chucked it. O Harry--"

There was a quality in her voice that might, from what she saw upon his face, have been a tocsin's roll. His face was as a place of assembly into which, as it might be a people alarmed, there came crowding in emotions.

He said, "What's up?"

She said, "O Harry, you look out for yourself!"

There was much movement in his face. "Look out for myself?"

She said, "That came out of me. I didn't know I was going to say it. It's a warning. It shows the fear I have."

"Rosalie, of what, of what?"

"Harry, for you."

"You're going to say something you think will hurt me?"

"No, something you'll have to fight--if you want to fight it. Harry, perhaps I can't go on like this. I want to go back to my work."

He expired a breath he had been holding. "I was guessing it."

"Before just now?"

"No, while you've been speaking. Only now. I asked you weeks ago if you ever felt you regretted--"

She leant forward from the couch whereon she sat, and with an extended hand interrupted him. She said intensely, "Look here, Harry, if it was just regret I'd not mind and I would tell you No a hundred times, just not to disturb you, dear. But when you asked me that you spoke, a minute afterwards, of my having--chucked it, as if it was giving up sugar or stopping bridge. Well, that's why I'm warning you to look out for yourself. Because, Harry, I don't regret it. I'm craving to go back to it, craving, craving, craving!" She stopped. She said, "Do you want me not to go back, Harry?"

He looked steadily at her. "Rosalie, it would be a blow to me."

She said, "Well, then!" and she leaned back in the couch as though all now was explained.

He very gravely asked her, "Are you going back, Rosalie?"

"Would it be a crime, Harry, to go back?"

He said to her, "I believe in my soul it would be a disaster."

She got up. "Come over here to me, Harry."

He went to her and took the hands that she extended to him. "If you think that, a disaster, and if to you it would be what you said, a blow; then that's what I mean by saying, Harry, you look out for yourself. I don't know if I'm going back. I want to go terribly, oh, terribly. There was a woman I once knew told me that if a woman once gives herself to a thing, abandons all else and gives herself to it, she never never can come back from it. 'They don't issue return tickets to women,' she said to me. 'If you give yourself,' she said, 'you're its. You may think you can get away but you never will get away. You're its.' She was right, Harry. I believe I've got to go back. If you don't want me to, well, you look out for yourself." She drew herself towards him by her hands. "Harry, when I went down to Field's with the children that day last holidays I took them to be a bodyguard to me, to prevent me from being captured. When they left me there alone for a few minutes, I turned away and wrung my hands because I knew I was going to be terribly tempted. I am terribly tempted. I'm being dragged." She went into his arms. "Harry, hold me terribly tight and say you don't want me to go back."

He most tenderly embraced her. "Don't go back, Rosalie."

She disengaged herself, and made a sound, "Ah!" as if, while he had held her body, herself had held the fort of her solicitude for his desires against the horde of her own cravings that swarmed about its walls.

How long?

There was a mirage in her face. While Easter came and Doda, in huge

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