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A Room of One’s Own

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It was the middle of the night, and Harriet couldn't sleep. Despite stuffing pillows into odd corners, there was no way she could get comfortable. She sighed to herself, and decided to make the most of her insomnia by working while she still could. It was chilly in her writing-room. Instead of sitting at her desk and getting on with the new chapter, she curled up under a rug on the sofa with the typescript of the last one, and started going through it with a pencil.

For some reason, she was always in a bad temper these days. Maybe it had something to do with feeling like a beached whale, and being kicked in the ribs at odd hours of day and night. At any rate, everything and everybody irritated her. Peter was clearly very anxious about the impending arrival. But though objectively she could feel sympathy for his feeling of powerlessness, it didn't stop her from being quite short with him when he tried to stop her from from lifting a teapot to pour herself a cup of tea. And while Peter's mother had been like a mother to Harriet since her engagement, there was something about expecting her own child that made Harriet wistful at the thought that she could not talk to her own mother. As for everyone else, between women who wanted only to bond over the horrors of childbirth, and men who seemed to expect her brain to shrink proportionately as her abdomen grew, Harriet was quite out of sorts with the world.

So it was nice to have a little peace and quiet for a change, even if she felt a pang of guilt at the thought of a sleepy Peter tossing around in the bed looking for her. Harriet had never before been a night-owl. When she had lived with Philip, he had teased her with being a journeyman writer rather than a true artist, because she rose early and put in a solid eight hours of work, good days and bad, instead of writing only when inspiration struck. But somehow, despite all of Peter's best efforts, the servants insisted on interrupting her during the day with questions about minor domestic crises, while all kinds of people who had never shown an interest in Harriet Vane seemed to want to call on Lady Peter Wimsey. For all her ten-odd years worth of deeply ingrained habits of work, Harriet found herself behind on her latest contract, and she panicked that the book would not be ready before she was faced with an even bigger distraction.

She reflected that the magnitude of the change in her life over the past year and a half had been somewhat overwhelming. It was strange the way the things that had put her off marrying Peter for so long had turned out in the end not to matter. And the things that had never occurred to her as objections suddenly loomed rather large. Principal among these was the fact of Peter's position. Harriet had never thought much about his title in the years before they were married - the circumstances of their meeting were responsible for that. But now that she was cooped up in a houseful of servants with little or no privacy, and with Sir This and Lady That liable to drop in at a moment's notice, she did find herself wondering whether an irregular relationship might not have been more convenient. Not that one could have brought a child into that - and Harriet had not been sorry not to have to worry each month as she had in the year she had lived with Philip - but as she remembered now, there were distinct advantages, not least that being a social outcast left one a good deal more time to devote either to uninterrupted work, or to one's beloved, if he deserved it.

As the clock struck five, Harriet yawned. She was just thinking about venturing out of her cosy spot back to bed when the door clicked, and her husband shuffled in. His hair stood up on end at the back, and his dressing-gown was inside-out - he looked more asleep than awake. He sat down beside her, leaned his head on her shoulder and closed his eyes.

"Mmmm. It's cold in bed without you."

"I'm sorry, darling. I couldn't sleep. I didn't want to disturb you, so I thought I'd work a bit." she said, rubbing his head affectionately.

He felt around under the rug.

"I'm glad inspiration struck. But your feet are icy."

"I was just coming," she replied, taking his hand.

"Then come, now," he said, pulling her up to stand, "my wife, the writer."