16 January 2015

Wanting to Give Something One Had Lost Oneself

“… At first I used to stay away with Rex in his friends’ houses. He doesn’t make me anymore. He was ashamed of me when he found I didn’t cut the kind of figure he wanted, ashamed of himself for having been taken in. I wasn’t at all the article he’d bargained for. He can’t see the point of me, but whenever he’s made up his mind there isn’t a point and he’s begun to feel comfortable, he gets a surprise—some man, or even woman, he respects, takes a fancy to me and he suddenly sees that there is a whole world of things we understand and he doesn’t… he was upset when I went away. He’ll be delighted to have me back. I was faithful to him until this last thing came along. There’s nothing like a good upbringing. Do you know last year, when I thought I was going to have a child, I’d decided to have it brought up a Catholic? I hadn’t thought about religion before; I haven’t since; but just at that time, when I was waiting for the birth, I thought, ‘That’s one thing I can give her. It doesn’t seem to have done me much good, but my child shall have it.’ It was odd, wanting to give something one had lost oneself. Then, in the end, I couldn’t even give that: I couldn’t even give her life. I never saw her; I was too ill to know what was going on, and afterwards, for a long time, until now, I didn’t want to speak about her—she was a daughter, so Rex didn’t so much mind her being dead.

“I’ve been punished a little for marrying Rex. You see, I can’t get all that sort of thing out of my mind, quite—Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell, Nanny Hawkins, and the catechism. It becomes part of oneself, if they give it one early enough. And yet I wanted my child to have it… now I suppose I shall be punished for what I’ve just done. Perhaps that is why you and I are here together like this… part of a plan.”

That was almost the last thing she said to me—“part of a plan”—before we went below and I left her at the cabin door.

Evelyn Waugh, “Brideshead Revisited.”

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