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The Fulness of Life, Page 2

Edith Wharton

  "Yes; but will it be so with my husband's soul also?"

  "No," answered the Spirit of Life, "for your husband imagined that he had found his soul's mate on earth in you; and for such delusions eternity itself contains no cure."

  She gave a little cry. Was it of disappointment or triumph?

  "Then--then what will happen to him when he comes here?"

  "That I cannot tell you. Some field of activity and happiness he will doubtless find, in due measure to his capacity for being active and happy."

  She interrupted, almost angrily: "He will never be happy without me."

  "Do not be too sure of that," said the Spirit.

  She took no notice of this, and the Spirit continued: "He will not understand you here any better than he did on earth."

  "No matter," she said; "I shall be the only sufferer, for he always thought that he understood me."

  "His boots will creak just as much as ever--"

  "No matter."

  "And he will slam the door--"

  "Very likely."

  "And continue to read railway novels--"

  She interposed, impatiently: "Many men do worse than that."

  "But you said just now," said the Spirit, "that you did not love him."

  "True," she answered, simply; "but don't you understand that I shouldn't feel at home without him? It is all very well for a week or two--but for eternity! After all, I never minded the creaking of his boots, except when my head ached, and I don't suppose it will ache here; and he was always so sorry when he had slammed the door, only he never could remember not to. Besides, no one else would know how to look after him, he is so helpless. His inkstand would never be filled, and he would always be out of stamps and visiting-cards. He would never remember to have his umbrella re-covered, or to ask the price of anything before he bought it. Why, he wouldn't even know what novels to read. I always had to choose the kind he liked, with a murder or a forgery and a successful detective."

  She turned abruptly to her kindred soul, who stood listening with a mien of wonder and dismay.

  "Don't you see," she said, "that I can't possibly go with you?"

  "But what do you intend to do?" asked the Spirit of Life.

  "What do I intend to do?" she returned, indignantly. "Why, I mean to wait for my husband, of course. If he had come here first he would have waited for me for years and years; and it would break his heart not to find me here when he comes." She pointed with a contemptuous gesture to the magic vision of hill and vale sloping away to the translucent mountains. "He wouldn't give a fig for all that," she said, "if he didn't find me here."

  "But consider," warned the Spirit, "that you are now choosing for eternity. It is a solemn moment."

  "Choosing!" she said, with a half-sad smile. "Do you still keep up here that old fiction about choosing? I should have thought that you knew better than that. How can I help myself? He will expect to find me here when he comes, and he would never believe you if you told him that I had gone away with someone else--never, never."

  "So be it," said the Spirit. "Here, as on earth, each one must decide for himself."

  She turned to her kindred soul and looked at him gently, almost wistfully. "I am sorry," she said. "I should have liked to talk with you again; but you will understand, I know, and I dare say you will find someone else a great deal cleverer--"

  And without pausing to hear his answer she waved him a swift farewell and turned back toward the threshold.

  "Will my husband come soon?" she asked the Spirit of Life.

  "That you are not destined to know," the Spirit replied.

  "No matter," she said, cheerfully; "I have all eternity to wait in."

  And still seated alone on the threshold, she listens for the creaking of his boots.