The Diversions of a Princess/Reginald's People
" HE is such a man for home," said Anne.
"Still, it would be as well to make perfectly sure of your feelings," said Wisdom.
"Well, of course, I'm in love," said Anne, slightly impatiently; "that's understood."
"You have been equally certain before," said Wisdom.
"I shall never be certain of anything if I let you keep on analysing," said Anne. "Leave me alone to my feelings. I—love—Reginald! Let it stay right there!"
"By all means if it will, but will it?" persisted Wisdom, who had no scruples about intruding where it was not wanted.
"This love is a sensible domestic love," said Anne, firmly; "quite different from the others."
"Prove that," said Wisdom. "See if it will stand the test of my inquiries."
"Oh, you are an old nuisance!" said Anne, really a little exasperated. "Whenever I'm dashing along, and just got into my stride, so to speak, you always pull me up. I can never do a thing I want."
"But you don't want to marry just yet," said Wisdom; "surely not!"
"I suppose I shall have to, some day," said Anne. "I don't say that there's anything particularly attractive about settling down at this particular moment. The point is, I consider Reginald a peculiarly good thing in the way of husbands, and I think I ought to take advantage of the opportunity, which may not occur again. Men like Reginald are few and far between."
"In the circles in which you move," said Wisdom; "in the provinces, or suburbs, home-birds are plentiful enough."
"It is the most valuable, beautiful, and attractive sort of bird, the home-bird," said Anne, in a saintly voice. "Only through marriage can we learn the meaning of the word 'home.' We are simply lonely birds of passage till we have made a nest."
"It's close quarters in a nest," said Wisdom, "not that I would say anything against having a nest—to yourself Rest is pleasant after continual migrations; but constant companionship with any one person is apt to be a little nerve-destroying, isn't it?"
"With most people, yes," said Anne, triumphantly. "But Reginald is so different. He is rest incarnate. He will never want to rush about, shooting, and hunting, and playing cards, and giving dinners, and yachting, and——"
"No, he'll always be there," said Wisdom, thoughtfully, dropping on to the black side of the picture with fiendish ingenuity as usual.
"But I needn't be," said Anne. "And I'm sure I shall like to think of Reginald sitting quiet and happy at home while I am frolicing around. It gives one such a nice safe feeling to know one has a husband in a little nest, just there and ready for you when you're tired of frivolling and flirting."
"You think Reginald will stay quiet while you flirt about?" said Wisdom, with alarmingly wide-opened eyes. "My dear Anne, no man feels more strongly than Reginald that a wife's place is at her husband's side. That Reginald does not consider your place at his feet is a most striking tribute to your charms and talent."
"He is the most appreciative person I ever knew!" said Anne, waving the principal point that Wisdom raised with delicate tact. "Whatever I do, he will think perfectly wonderful, and be so proud! When things go wrong outside, and the world is critical and harsh, what a refuge Reginald's appreciative love would be!"
"You will find Reginald's love is of the proprietary order," said Wisdom. "When you are once his legally, the door of his home will be firmly shut on the outside world. You may look at it through Reginald's windows—you may even venture out a few steps, closely guarded by Reginald; but you will be in Reginald's keeping all the time, and he will let you be conscious of the fact."
"Well, that will be a very nice, secure feeling, to be guarded," said Anne, who seemed to have quite set her heart on marrying Reginald. "If Reginald worships his Penates Lares, I think the position of household goddess will be a very enjoyable one, for Reginald's devotion is not of an ephemeral nature; once given, it is given for ever. It is built up on the foundations of his character; it is a part of his whole being."
"How do you know that?" said Wisdom.
"I have seen Reginald in his home," said Anne. "I have stayed with his people. That is the only adequate test of a contemplated husband—you must see him at home. Well, Reginald is absolutely devoted to his people. He thinks them perfect."
"Because they are his people!" said Wisdom.
"Possibly," said Anne. "Still, that shows all the better feeling on Reginald's part. If he can admire and love such commonplace beings because they belong to him, what will his sensations be to me! You see, I shall be 'his people' also, if I marry him," concluded Anne, very triumphant indeed.
"And will have to join in the mutual pæans, of course!" said Wisdom. "Think his people perfect too."
"I am not marrying Reginald's people!" said Anne, with a slightly jibbing movement.
"You can't separate Reginald from them," said Wisdom. "His devotion is not of an ephemeral nature. Once given, it is given for ever. It is built up on the very foundations of his character, and is part of his whole being."
"I cannot throw away my critical faculties just to please Reginald!" said Anne, rather heatedly. "No one but a pig-headed idiot would expect me to!"
"Reginald will," said Wisdom. "You know he will."
"Well, then, he'll have to be disappointed," said Anne. "His people are all very well as acquaintances, but I couldn't accept those sisters of his as intimate friends."
"You'll have to accept them as sisters," said Wisdom.
"Good gracious! we haven't an idea in common! They bore me to death!" said Anne. "I think interesting thoughts, and they think roly-poly-pudding thoughts. I study men and have experiences, and they embroider shirts for Reginald."
"They'll expect you to embroider his shirts, by the bye!" said Wisdom.
"I am not going to fuss over Reginald in the absurd way that his sisters do," said Anne. "I've something better to do with my time."
"What would his sisters think if they heard that?" said Wisdom.
"I really don't care," said Anne. "Reginald's sisters could no more understand me than they could understand—G. K. Chesterton! We do not penetrate brains like theirs. We skim round them so dazzlingly, that they can only open their mouths and blink their eyes, and feel vaguely that we're shocking!"
"Which is a pity," said Wisdom. "As from the day you marry Reginald, his sisters will constitute themselves counsel for the prosecution of Reginald's happiness. So if you cannot make your defence penetrate their understanding——"
"Defence!" said Anne. "Does anyone think I would allow Reginald's sisters to criticise my actions!"
"They will," said Wisdom, audibly. "Though Reginald may place you on a little private pedestal, you don't imagine his family will forsake the family altar for a little idol like you! On the contrary, they will consider that you have been elevated to the post of chief priestess to their idol, and will be furiously jealous in consequence, and not in the least prepared to overlook any neglect of duty! Their eyes will be ever on you, Anne; and they will compare your ministrations with their patient and unselfish service of the past."
"They can do whatever they like," said Anne. "I don't care a continental."
"But Reginald will," said Wisdom. "He attaches the greatest value to the opinions of his people, and if they are continually proving to him how remiss you are——"
"I should hope I can hold my own against Reginald's people!" said Anne, quailing somewhat, all the same.
"Against?" said Wisdom. "You acknowledge the certainty of conflict then! How charming a life of endless family quarrels will be! What is it you are marrying Reginald for? Rest, isn't it?"
"Really," said Anne "you leave no way out of anything. If I find a man who is a brute at home, the inference is plain, he will illtreat his wife; and if I find someone who is good to his people, you point out, he will continue being good to them, so that again the wife must suffer. I think the only possible way of finding anything that will meet your requirements, will be to advertise for someone of foundling extraction, who has never had a home nor people!"
"You would only exchange knowledge for uncertainty," said Wisdom. "It would simply mean that you had no data to go on; and that would be the maddest act of all."
"Oh, well," said Anne. "The point is, whether I shall be rash enough to take on Reginald's people, now."
"Suppose you accepted Mrs. Majoribank's invitation to the Riviera," said Wisdom. "Absence makes the mind grow wiser. Go away for six weeks or so, and see how you feel!"
"And I could write to Reginald's sisters, from Monte Carlo, and tell them all that I'm doing, and how much I'm dropping at the tables," said Anne, with distinctly dancing eyes. "That would be a capital test!"
"Try it," said Wisdom.
"I will," said Anne.
Anne did not marry Reginald.