The Oriental Wife

The Oriental Wife by Evelyn Toynton Read Free Book Online

Book: The Oriental Wife by Evelyn Toynton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Evelyn Toynton
had decided to love her; there was much in her character he seemed to object to. When she was feeling high-spirited, talkative, when she made fun of anything, or imitated someone she’d met, he sat there tapping his foot, a frown of disapproval on his face. Flippancy didn’t suit her, he declared. “You mustn’t try to be sophisticated in that awful way; it’s nothing but a pose.” She was one of nature’s innocents, he told her. “My little waif,” he called her sometimes, or “my poor wee lamb,” in a mock-Scottish accent.
    If she rebelled then, if she told him she wasn’t his poor wee lamb, would he please stop saying that, he only laughed. He seemed to enjoy her little bursts of defiance, knowing they would not flare into anything serious. And it was true that she could not bring herself to walk away. She felt heavy and torpid in his presence, yet oddly comforted. The stillness in his dusty house, with its shabby Turkish rugs and piles of books on the narrow stairs leading to the bedrooms, blotted out the pervasive sense of dread that she had carried for so long. The hungry way he looked at her when he’d had too much to drink, the way his voice went husky then, restored toher something she thought Julian had taken away for good, though it made her uneasy too. If she did not desire him exactly, she was excited, nevertheless, by his desire.
    When they became lovers she could never stay with him overnight, she had to get back to her employers’ house. So he would take her home in a taxi, holding her hand in the back seat, explaining things to her, as he liked to do (the class struggle, the proper way to tie a fly, the use of the broken-backed line in Renaissance poetry). She felt perfectly peaceful during those journeys through the darkened streets, lighter and freer than in bed with him, and content just to listen, or half-listen, without speaking, as she looked out the window.
    One June evening when she arrived at his house—she always timed her arrivals to avoid seeing Nellie, his daily woman, who had taken a dislike to her, based, according to Phillip, on nothing more than her red hair: Nellie’s wicked husband had had red hair—he was standing on the steps, a tumbler full of Scotch in his hand, looking out for her. “We’re going to America,” he announced, as she climbed toward him. And when she only stared, bewildered, he laughed with delight. “Yes, we’re going to join the vast migration, the huddled masses … though only temporarily, of course. I’ll tell you all about it.”
    It seemed that the
New Examiner
wanted an article about a Collective Security Congress due to take place in Chicago, which the antiwar socialists threatened to boycott. But the journalist they’d commissioned had left for Spain abruptly, to cover the war that was brewing there. Phillip and his editor had been talking about whom else they could get when Phillip suddenly decided—had the inspiration, he said—togo himself. “It’s not my kind of story, of course, but perhaps it’s time I made it my kind of story.” They would stay in New York for a few days, he said, before heading for Chicago. “And we may as well keep forging on and visit my brother.” (His younger brother lived in California with his wife and small daughter, and taught geology at a university there.) “Though of course there’s his cow of a wife. But I really ought to meet the infant.”
    She couldn’t go, she said; she could never ask her employers for leave to go traveling in America with a man.
    “It’s time you gave your notice anyway. We might even stay a bit longer. I’ll say you’re my secretary and get you a proper work permit. And then I had a rather good idea: why don’t we get married over there? The Yanks are much less strict about that, you know. There’s no nonsense about special licenses for foreigners.”
    It was the first time in months—the first time since the night in the cab—that he had mentioned marriage.

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