“And yet, from its place of banishment, the abject does not cease challenging its master.”*

*Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror. Trans. Leon Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1982.

From: Vera (1921), by Elizabeth Von Arnim:

“Sometimes he said, ‘Would you like -?’ and if she didn’t like, and answered truthfully, as she answered at first before she learned not to, there was trouble. Silent trouble. A retiring of Wemyss into a hurt aloofness, for his question was only decorative, and his little Love should instinctively, he considered, like what he liked; and there outside this aloofness, after efforts to get at him with fond and anxious questions, she sat like a beggar in patient distress, waiting for him to emerge and be kind to her.

Of course as far as the minor wishes and preferences of every day went it was all quite easy, once she had grasped the right answer to the question, ‘Would you like?’ She instantly did like. ‘Oh yes – very much!’ she hastened to assure him; and then his face continued content and happy instead of clouding with aggrievement. But about the big things it wasn’t easy, because of the difficulty of getting the right flavour of enthusiasm into her voice, and if she didn’t get it in he would put his finger under her chin and turn her to the light and repeat the question in a solemn voice – precursor, she had learned, of the beginning of the cloud on his face.

How difficult it was sometimes. When he said to her, ‘You’ll like the view from your sitting room at The Willows,’ she naturally wanted to cry out that she wouldn’t, and ask him how he could suppose she would like what was to her a view forever associated with death? Why shouldn’t she be able to cry out naturally if she wanted to, to talk to him frankly, to get his help to cure herself of what was so ridiculous by laughing at it with him? She couldn’t laugh all alone, though she was always trying to; with him she could have, and so have become quite sensible. For he was so much bigger than she was, so wonderful in the way he had triumphed over diseased thinking, and his wholesomeness would spread over her too, a purging, disinfecting influence, if only he would let her talk, if only he would help her to laugh. Instead, she found herself hurriedly saying in a small, anxious voice, ‘Oh yes – very much!’

‘Is it possible,’ she thought, ‘that I am abject?’

Yes, she was extremely abject, she reflected, lying awake at night considering her behaviour during the day. Love had made her so. Love did make one abject, for it was full of fear of hurting the beloved…

…What must it be like, she thought while she kissed him and her heart yearned over him, to be so fearfully sensitive. It made things difficult for her, but how much, much more difficult for him. And how wonderful the way his sensitiveness had developed since marriage. There had been no sign of it before.

Implicit in her kiss was an appeal not to let anything she said or did spoil his birthday, to forgive her, to understand. And at the back of her mind, quite uncontrollable, quite unauthorised, ran beneath these other thoughts this thought: ‘I am certainly abject.’”

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