"Freddy," Fredericka said after hours of silence and a perfect work flow in which they could have passed the plates even had they been blind, "I've been thinking."
"Should one live, or should one die? That's the question."
"In some senses, I suppose, it is."
"Is it better in your opinion to suffer outrageously, or to stand up to all one's troubles and just end it? I mean, what if dying were like sleep, and just by going to sleep you could end all the thousands of pains and heartaches you otherwise would feel? It seems attractive. Maybe dying is like sleep, and maybe you dream."
She thought on, and her face lit up. "Ah, but there's the catch, because who knows what dreams you may have when finally you've checked out? You have to wonder. Maybe that's why people are so willing to grow old and get fat and ugly, and suffer awful people, and snobs, and disappointment in love, and a rotten inefficient judicial system..."
Freddy looked at her in wonder.
"...and stupid bureaucrats, and all that and such, when all you have to do is stab yourself with a fish knife. Why would anyone go through all these things and work and sweat day after day except that they were frightened that in death, from which no one has ever returned, it might actually be worse! Better a bird in hand than hell knows what in the bush. We're just afraid, I guess, and whenever you think that it's time to end it, your fear turns your resolution to mush. Oh, be quiet now. Here comes Louella, and she's in a bad temper because they made her work on Martin Luther King Day."
Freddy was stupefied because she didn't stop there. In the weeks and months that followed, she sleep-walked through many a choice passage, all as if by magic, not only from Hamlet but from everything from Timon of Athens, Lear and The Tempest to Richard III, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Troilus and Cressida and Titus Adronicus....Whence did it come? Was it the conscience of their race, that had hitherto been sleeping in her well known breast and only now by stress and strain of seas colliding, erupted from her with the power and surprise of a volcano and the innocence of a schoolgirl. He never told her what she was doing, because he didn't want to shock it to a stop. And for the rest of their lives together she would speak this way now and then, especially when she was moved or tired, and he never ceased to be amazed for he knew that she had not studied Shakespeare for even a minute in the finishing school to which she had been committed, for in that place Shakespeare had been deemed far beyond the reach of all the girls who, nonetheless, had come up like flowers in the spring rain from the very loam in which the man himself had risen and was buried.