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    Chapter 9

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    Chapter 9
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    Frank Crosse was a methodical young man--his enemies might sometimes have called him pedantic,--and he loved to reduce his life to rule and order. It was one of his peculiarities. But how about this new life into which he was entering? It took two to draw up the rules for that. The little two-oared craft who put out upon that voyage have to lay their own course, each for itself; and all round them, as they go, they see the floating timbers and broken keels of other little boats, which had once started out full of hope and confidence. There are currents and eddies, low sand-banks and sunken reefs, and happy the crews who see them ahead, and trim their course to avoid them. Frank brooded over it all. He had seen something of life, for his years. He was observant and reflective. He had watched his friends who were happy, and he had watched his friends who were not. And now, as a result of all this wise cogitation, he sat down at a table one evening, with a solemn face, and a sheet of foolscap.

    'Now, Maude,' said he, 'I want to have a serious talk.'

    Maude looked up in surprise from the linen which she was marking.

    'Oh dear!' she cried.

    'Why "oh dear"?'

    'There's something wrong?'

    'Nothing in the world.'

    'You looked so solemn, Frank. I thought you had been looking at the tradesman's books. What is it, dear?'

    'Well, Maude, I have been thinking of married life in general. Don't you think it would be a good thing if we were to make some resolutions as to how it should be conducted--some fundamental principles, as it were?'

    'Oh do, dear, do! What fun it will be!'

    'But it's serious, Maude.'

    'Yes, dear, I am quite serious.'

    'It seemed to me, that if we could reduce it to certain rules, then, whatever came upon us in the future, we should always know exactly how to act.'

    'What are the rules, dear?'

    'Well, we can only arrive at them by talking it over between ourselves. I could not draw up a set of rules, and ask you to submit to them. That is not my idea of a partnership. But if we found that we were agreed upon certain points, then we could both adopt them by mutual consent.'

    'How charming, Frank! Do please tell me some of the points.'

    'I have a few in my mind, and I should like to hear any which you may have--any ideas, you know, how to get the very highest and best out of our life. Now, first of all, there is the subject of quarrelling.'

    'O Frank, how horrid!'

    'Dear girl, we must look into the future. We are going to live all our lives together. We must foresee and prepare for all the chances of life.'

    'But that is absurd.'

    'You can't live all your life and never be in a bad temper!'

    'But not with YOU, Frank.'

    'Oh, I can be very aggravating sometimes. Now, my idea is this. Ill-humour passes and hurts nobody. But if two people are ill- humoured, then each excites the other, and they say ever so much more than they mean. Let us make a compact never both to be ill-humoured at the same time. If YOU are cross, then it is your turn, and I stand clear. If _I_ am cross, you let me work it off. When either hoists the danger-signal, the other is on guard. What do you think of that?'

    'I think you are the funniest old boy--'

    'Do you agree?'

    'Yes, dear, of course I agree.'

    'Article number one,' said Frank, and scribbled upon his paper.

    'Your turn, now.'

    'No, dear, I have not thought of anything.'

    'Well, then, here is another point. Never take each other for granted.'

    'What do you mean by that?'

    'Never relax those attentions which one lover shows to another. Some husbands seem to forget that their wives are ladies. Some wives speak to their husbands with less courtesy and consideration than to any casual male visitor. They mean no harm, but they get into a slack way. We must not do that.'

    'I don't think we are likely to.'

    'People get into it unconsciously. Pull me up sharply at the first sign.'

    'Yes, sir, I will.'

    'The next point that I have noted is an extension of the last. Let each strive to be worthy of the love of the other. People get slovenly and slipshoddy, as if it didn't matter now that they were married. If each were very keen to please the other, that would not be so. How many women neglect their music after marriage.'

    'My goodness, I haven't practised for a week!' cried Maude.

    'And their dress and their hair'--Maude's hand flew up to her curls. 'My darling, yours is just perfect. But you know how often a woman grows careless. "He will love me anyhow," she says to herself, and perhaps she is right, but still it is not as it should be.'

    'Why, Frank, I had no idea you knew so much.'

    'I have heard my friends' experiences.--And the man too: he should consider his wife's feelings as much as he did his sweetheart's. If she dislikes smoke, he should not smoke. He should not yawn in her presence. He should keep himself well-groomed and attractive. Look at that dirty cuff! I have no business to have it.'

    'As if it could make any difference to me.'

    'There now! That is what is so demoralising. You should stand out for the highest. When I came to you at St Albans, I had not dirty cuffs.'

    'You forgive me the music, Frank, and I'll forgive you the cuff. But I agree to all you say. I think it is so wise and good. Now I've got something to add.'

    'Good. What is it?'

    'Each should take an interest in the other's department.'

    'Why, of course they should.'

    'But it is not done.'

    'Why naturally, dear, you take an interest in my City work.'

    'Yes, sir, but do you take as keen an interest in my housekeeping?'

    'Perhaps I have been a little thoughtless.'

    'No, no, dear, you haven't. You are always full of consideration. But I have noticed it with mother, and with others also. The husband pulls out his cheque-book at the end of the week or month, and he says, "Well, this is rather more than we can afford," or "This is less than I expected," but he never really takes any interest in his wife's efforts to keep things nice on a little. He does not see it with her eyes and try to realise her difficulties. Oh, I wish I could express myself better, but I know that the interest is one- sided.'

    'I think what you say is quite right. I'll try to remember that. How shall we enter it upon our list?'

    'That Interests should be mutual.'

    'Quite right. I have it down. Well, any more points?'

    'It is your turn.'

    'Well, there is this, and I feel that it is just the holiest thing in matrimony, and its greatest justification--that love should never degenerate into softness, that each should consciously stimulate the better part of the other and discourage the worse, that there should be a discipline in our life, and that we should brace each other up to a higher ideal. The love that says, "I know it is wrong, but I love him or her so much that I can't refuse," is a poor sort of love for the permanent use of married life. The self-respect which refuses to let the most lofty ideal of love down by an inch is a far nobler thing, and it wears better too.'

    'How will you express all that?'

    'Mutual respect is necessary for mutual love.'

    'Yes, I am sure that that is right.'

    'It sounds obvious, but the very intensity of love makes love soft and blind. Now I have another, which I am convinced that you will not agree with.'

    'Let me hear it.'

    'I have put it in this way, "The tight cord is the easiest to snap."'

    'What do you mean?'

    'Well, I mean that married couples should give each other a certain latitude and freedom. If they don't, one or other will sooner or later chafe at the restriction. It is only human nature, which is an older and more venerable thing than marriage.'

    'I don't like that at all, Frank.'

    'I feared you wouldn't, dear, but I believe you'll see it with me when I explain what I mean. If you don't, then I must try to see it with you. When one talks of freedom in married life, it means, as a rule, freedom only for the man. He does what he likes, but still claims to be a strict critic of his wife. That, I am sure, is wrong. To take an obvious example of what I mean, has a husband a right to read his wife's letters? Certainly not, any more than she has a right to read his without his permission. To read them as a matter of course would be stretching the chain too tight.'

    'Chain is a horrid word, Frank.'

    'Well, it is only a metaphor. Or take the subject of friendships. Is a married man to be debarred from all friendship and intimacy with another woman?'

    Maude looked doubtful.

    'I should like to see the woman first,' she said.

    'Or is a married woman to form no friendship with another man who might interest or improve her? There is such a want of mutual confidence in such a view. People who are sure of each other should give each other every freedom in that. If they don't, they are again stretching it tight.'

    'If they do, it may become so slack that it might as well not be there at all.'

    'I felt sure that we should have an argument over this. But I have seen examples. Look at the Wardrops. THERE were a couple who were never apart. It was their boast that everything was in common with them. If he was not in, she opened his letters, and he hers. And then there came a most almighty smash. The tight cord had snapped. Now, I believe that for some people, it is a most excellent thing that they should take their holidays at different times.'

    'O Frank!'

    'Yes, I do. No, not for us, by Jove! I am generalising now. But for some couples, I am sure that it is right. They reconsider each other from a distance, and they like each other the better.'

    'Yes, but these rules are for our guidance, not for that of other people.'

    'Quite right, dear. I was off the rails. "As you were," as your brother Jack would say. But I am afraid that I am not going to convince you over this point.'

    Maude looked charmingly mutinous.

    'No, Frank, you are not. I don't think marriage can be too close. I believe that every hope, and thought, and aspiration should be in common. I could never get as near to your heart and soul as I should wish to do. I want every year to draw me closer and closer, until we really are as nearly the same person as it is possible to be upon earth.'

    When you have to surrender, it is well to do so gracefully. Frank stooped down and kissed his wife's hand, and apologised. 'The wisdom of the heart is greater than the wisdom of the brain,' said he. But the love of man comes from the brain, far more than the love of woman, and so it is that there will always be some points upon which they will never quite see alike.

    'Then we scratch out that item.'

    'No, dear. 'Put "The cord which is held tight is the easiest to snap." That will be all right. The cord of which I speak is never held at all. The moment it is necessary to hold it, it is of no value. It must be voluntary, natural, unavoidable.'

    So Frank amended his aphorism.

    'Anything more, dear?'

    'Yes, I have thought of one other,' said she. 'It is that if ever you had to find fault with me about anything, it should be when we are alone.'

    'And the same in your case with me. That is excellent. What can be more vulgar and degrading than a public difference of opinion? People do it half in fun sometimes, but it is wrong all the same. Duly entered upon the minutes. Anything else?'

    'Only material things.'

    'Yes, but they count also. Now, in the matter of money, I feel that every husband should allow his wife a yearly sum of her own, to be paid over to her, and kept by her, so that she may make her own arrangements for herself. It is degrading to a woman to have to apply to her husband every time she wants a sovereign. On the other hand, if the wife has any money, she should have the spending of it. If she chooses to spend part of it in helping the establishment, that is all right, but I am sure that she should have her own separate account, and her own control of it.'

    'If a woman really loves a man, Frank, how can she grudge him everything she has? If my little income would take one worry from your mind, what a joy it would be to me to feel that you were using it!'

    'Yes, but the man has his self-respect to think of. In a great crisis one might fall back upon one's wife--since our interests are the same, but only that could justify it. So much for the wife's money. Now for the question of housekeeping.'

    'That terrible question!'

    'It is only hard because people try to do so much upon a little. Why should they try to do so much? The best pleasures of life are absolutely inexpensive. Books, music, pleasant intimate evenings, the walk among the heather, the delightful routine of domestic life, my cricket and my golf--these things cost very little.'

    'But you must eat and drink, Frank. And as to Jemima and the cook, it is really extraordinary the amount which they consume.'

    'But the tendency is for meals to become much too elaborate. Why that second vegetable?'

    'There now! I knew that you were going to say something against that poor vegetable. It costs so little.'

    'On an average, I have no doubt that it costs threepence a day. Come now, confess that it does. Do you know what threepence a day comes to in a year? There is no use in having an accountant for a husband, if you can't get at figures easily. It is four pounds eleven shillings and threepence.'

    'It does not seem very much.'

    'But for that money, and less, one could become a member of the London Library, with the right to take out fifteen books at a time, and all the world's literature to draw from. Now just picture it: on one side, all the books in the world, all the words of the wise, and great, and witty; on the other side, a lot of cauliflowers and vegetable-marrows and French beans. Which is the better bargain?'

    'Good gracious, we shall never have a second vegetable again!'

    'And pudding?'

    'My dear, you always eat the pudding.'

    'I know I do. It seems an obvious thing to do when the pudding is there in front of me. But if it were not there, I should neither eat it nor miss it, and I know that you care nothing about it. There would be another five or six pounds a year.'

    'We'll have a compromise, dear. Second vegetable one day, pudding the next.'

    'Very good.'

    'I notice that it is always after you have had a substantial meal that you discuss economy in food. I wonder if you will feel the same when you come back starving from the City to-morrow? Now, sir, any other economy?'

    'I don't think money causes happiness. But debt causes unhappiness. And so we must cut down every expense until we have a reserve fund to meet any unexpected call. If you see any way in which I could save, or any money I spend which you think is unjustifiable, I do wish that you would tell me. I got into careless ways in my bachelor days.'

    'That red golfing-coat.'

    'I know. It was idiotic of me.'

    'Never mind, dear. You look very nice in it. After all, it was only thirty shillings. Can you show me any extravagance of mine?'

    'Well, dear, I looked at that dressmaker's bill yesterday.'

    'O Frank, it is such a pretty dress, and you said you liked it, and you have to pay for a good cut, and you said yourself that a wife must not become dowdy after marriage, and it would have cost double as much in Regent Street.'

    'I didn't think the dress dear.'

    'What was it, then?'

    'The silk lining of the skirt.'

    'You funny boy!'

    'It cost thirty shillings extra. Now, what can it matter if it is lined with silk or not?'

    'Oh, doesn't it? Just you try one and see.'

    'But no one can know that it is lined with silk.'

    'When I rustle into a room, dear, every woman in it knows that my skirt is lined with silk.'

    Frank felt that he had ventured out of his depth, so he struck out for land again.

    'There's only one economy which I don't think is justifiable,' said he, 'and that is, to cut down your subscriptions to charities. It is such a very cheap way of doing things. Not that I do much in that line--too little, perhaps. But to say that because WE want to economise, therefore some poor people are to suffer, is a very poor argument. We must save at our own expense.'

    So now Frank, in his methodical fashion, had all his results tabulated upon his sheet of foolscap. It was not a very brilliant production, but it might serve as a chart for the little two-oared boats until a better one is forthcoming. It ran in this way -

    Maxims for the Married

    1. Since you ARE married, you may as well make the best of it.

    2. So make some maxims and try to live up to them.

    3. And don't be discouraged if you fail. You WILL fail, but perhaps you won't always fail.

    4. Never both be cross at the same time. Wait your turn.

    5. Never cease to be lovers. If you cease, some one else may begin.

    6. You were gentleman and lady before you were husband and wife. Don't forget it.

    7. Keep yourself at your best. It is a compliment to your partner.

    8. Keep your ideal high. You may miss it, but it is better to miss a high one than to hit a low one.

    9. A blind love is a foolish love. Encourage the best in each other's nature.

    10. Permanent mutual respect is necessary for a permanent mutual love. A woman can love without respect, but a man cannot.

    11. The tight cord is the easiest to snap.

    12. Let there be one law for both.

    13. There is only one thing worse than quarrels in public. That is caresses.

    14. Money is not essential to happiness, but happy people usually have enough.

    15. So save some.

    16. The easiest way of saving is to do without things.

    17. If you can't, then you had better do without a wife.

    18. The man who respects his wife does not turn her into a mendicant. Give her a purse of her own.

    19. If you save, save at your own expense.

    20. In all matters of money, prepare always for the worst and hope for the best.

    Such was their course as far as this ambitious young couple could lay it. They may correct it by experience, and improve it by use, but it is good enough to guide them safely out to sea.
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