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She also has recognised her ideal in him ; she has not troubled herself as to whether he is a younger son. They have for one brief instant read the bliss of a future together in each other's eyes, and they know that Mother Nature has marked them for her use - to play the game of life together, through good and evil days, in sickness and in health. ' You will marry me ? " he has whispered passionately. " I am a poor man, but I will work for you as long as God gives me life. I will shield and cherish you . . ." The woman smiles. She does not fear the desert, the pitiless quarter-days, the horrors of doctors' bills, or the cynical warnings of her friends. " I would rather have a crust with you than riches with anyone else in the world." And her face is to him a radiant vision. She has chosen the loaf of bread, the flask of wine, and her beloved, and who shall say that two such souls are not of the very finest possible material for the progressive evolution of the future race.
Of course, the worldly-wise look askance on such a union, and repeat with grim humour that hackneyed phrase, " When poverty comes in through the window, love flies out through the door." Well, if it does, the love was not of much worth ; it was just Dead Sea fruit - a mirage of the real thing. It is the privations of life that bring out the most brilliant qualities in man or woman, and they must both be prepared to make sacrifices, and these little sacrifices become the sweetest flowers in the garden of life as age advances.
Having successfully ignored what kind friends call " reason," the lovers search for a place in which they can create a home. The word create is used advisedly. A home cannot be bought, rented, or procured on the hire system. It is the man and woman who make the home. Their own personalities create that mystic atmosphere of calm and sanctity which we designate as " homelike." The palace of a millionaire is barren without this subtle and rare quality, whilst the humble abode of a peasant may be rich and full of its elusive beauty. A home cannot exist without harmony of thought, love and fellowship, no matter how costly the shell.
To return to the lovers. She may be of a somewhat romantic turn of mind. " I should like a little cottage covered with honeysuckle," she exclaims thoughtfully, as she conjures up a delightful picture in her mind's eye of the ideal dwelling. She is momentarily surprised at his silence. ' Ah, you don't care for that idea ? " she asks.
I was thinking of the railway fares to town," he answers ; and for the first time she is conscious of the stones in the desert-cupid trembles until he sees the brave light in her eyes. " We must look out for a small flat, then," she retorts gaily, with a surreptitious squeeze of his hand.
Away they start to find something very pretty, very cheap, and very convenient, because at first, until the pros and cons of the first year have been faced, she is to be the woman who places the flask of wine and loaf of bread before her lord !
" I shall love doing all the work. I have bought a beautiful cookery book." He looks down at the eager face and at the small, delicate hands - hands too pretty to touch pots and pans, broom and duster, he reflects. For a moment he feels a curious stab of pain. Is it wise, is it fair, to ask her to share the desert ? Their eyes meet, and he is answered, and the long silence that follows cannot be described. Speech becomes but an imperfect expression of that which lies within the soul at such moments. Love, compelling in its passion and yet possessing mental perfection, sweeps over them and envelops them in its glorious mantle.
" The happy day " has come and gone. The last wedding present has been discreetly placed into position, the last nail knocked into the wall for the reception of the last picture. Two people are sitting in their very own chairs, in their very own home, surrounded by their very own possessions. No king or queen entering, their kingdom for the first time could be more thrilled or enchanted with their environment than those two beings - who love truly, and realise the value of their treasure. What matter it to them if that home is but a single room ! There is a curious, subtle magnetism which reacts the one upon the other. They are united by cords which nothing can break - the true and mystic union between man and woman is their priceless heritage. Does not this unbuyable bliss compensate them for the desert, and the stones and rough places of life ? The wilderness truly becomes paradise when there is perfect unity between two people.
The flat is very high up, on the fourth floor, nearer to the blue skies and the stars, she reflects happily. And it is so much cheaper, and the stairs make for sound lungs and health, they both declare.
They take the sage advice, " Income, one pound ; expenditure, nineteen and elevenpence - bliss. Income, one pound ; expenditure, one pound one penny - misery." And they adjust their expenditure to their means, and wisely keep the right side of the hedge. No bills, no striving to appear better off than they are, yet anybody is welcome to share what they have. It is such horrible snobbery and discomfort to put on " company manners " and launch forth into extravagances to gratify the curiosity of one's acquaintances. One's true friends are only too happy to share the loaf of bread and flask of wine. " I shall be so glad if you will come home with me this evening. My wife will be delighted. Pot luck, you know." The invitation is accepted gladly in the spirit in which it is given.
Rather breathless, but catching the infectious happiness of his host, the guest reaches the little flat on the fourth floor. The door is thrown open. It is a cold, foggy evening out of doors. There is a soft glow from a shaded lamp within ; a cheerful fire blazes up the chimney ; the white cloth and simple but brilliant silver look charming on a table which is adorned with a few inexpensive but effectively displayed flowers; and at her husband's voice the proud housewife comes from a region beyond.
" I have brought an old friend," the man exclaims.
" How nice ! " she answers. " Jack has often told me of you. I have tried a new experiment to-night." She ends with a shy glance at her husband. "An omelette. You are just in time."
Away she goes again into the spotless kitchen.
" We will both come and help," laughs the man.
The bachelor looks at him enviously as the busy little hostess shakes her head and tells them that " Too many cooks spoil the broth."
What a merry little supper-party it is ! And afterwards, when the two men sit each side of the fire, through rings of smoke they watch the dainty figure of the woman as she nestles happily in her chair, listening to the reminiscences of old friends, the queen of the home, and of the man who has found true happiness and love in a flat.