Part 1 out of 15
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THE HEAVENLY TWINS
BY MADAME SARAH GRAND
AUTHOR OF "IDEALA," ETC. ETC.
"They call us the Heavenly Twins."
"What, signs of the Zodiac?" said the Tenor.
"No; signs of the times," said the Boy.
The time is racked with birth-pangs; every hour
Brings forth some gasping truth, and truth new-born
Looks a misshapen and untimely growth,
The terror of the household and its shame,
A monster coiling in its nurse's lap
That some would strangle, some would starve;
But still it breathes, and passed from hand to hand,
And suckled at a hundred half-clad breasts
Comes slowly to its stature and its form,
Calms the rough ridges of its dragon scales,
Changes to shining locks its snaky hair,
And moves transfigured into Angel guise,
Welcomed by all that cursed its hour of birth,
And folded in the same encircling arms
That cast it like a serpent from their hold!
--_Oliver Wendell Holmes_.
[Illustration: (musical notation); lyrics: He, watch-ing o-ver Is--ra--el,
slumbers not, nor sleeps.]
From the high Cathedral tower the solemn assurance floated forth to be a
warning, or a promise, according to the mental state of those whose ears
it filled; and the mind, familiar with the phrase, continued it
involuntarily, carrying the running accompaniment, as well as the words
and the melody, on to the end. After the last reverberation of the last
stroke of every hour had died away, and just when expectation had been
succeeded by the sense of silence, they rang it out by day and night--the
bells--and the four winds of heaven by day and night spread it abroad over
the great wicked city, and over the fair flat country, by many a tiny
township and peaceful farmstead and scattered hamlet, on, on, it was said,
to the sea--to the sea, which was twenty miles away!
But there were many who doubted this; though good men and true, who knew
the music well, declared they had heard it, every note distinct, on summer
evenings when they sat alone on the beach and the waves were still; and it
sounded then, they said, like the voice of a tenor who sings to himself
softly in murmurous monotones. And some thought this must be true, because
those who said it knew the music well, but others maintained that it could
not be true just for that very reason; while others again, although they
confessed that they knew nothing of the distance sound may travel under
special circumstances, ventured, nevertheless, to assert that the chime
the people heard on those occasions was ringing in their own hearts; and,
indeed, it would have been strange if those in whose mother's ears it had
rung before they were born, who knew it for one of their first sensations,
and felt it to be, like a blood relation, a part of themselves, though
having a separate existence, had not carried the memory of it with them
wherever they went, ready to respond at any moment, like sensitive chords
vibrating to a touch.
But everything in the world that is worth a thought becomes food for
controversy sooner or later, and the chime was no exception to the rule.
Differences of opinion regarding it had always been numerous and extreme,
and it was amusing to listen to the wordy warfare which was continually
being waged upon the subject.
There were people living immediately beneath it who wished it far enough,
they said, but they used to boast about it nevertheless when they went to
other places--just as they did about their troublesome children, whom they
declared, in like manner, that they expected to be the death of them when
they and their worrying ways were within range of criticism. It was a
flagrant instance of the narrowness of small humanity which judges people
and things, not on their own merits, but with regard to their effect upon
itself; a circumstance being praised to-day because importance is to be
derived from _its_ importance, and blamed to-morrow because a bilious
attack makes thought on any subject irritating.
Other people liked the idea of the chime, but were not content with its
arrangement; if it had been set in another way, you know, it would have be
so different, they asserted, with as much emphasis as if there were wisdom
in the words. And some said it would have been more effective if it had
not rung so regularly, and some maintained that it owed its power to that
same regularity which suggested something permanent in this weary world of
change. Among the minor details of the discussion there was one point in
particular which exercised the more active minds, but did not seem likely
ever to be settled. It was as to whether the expression given to the
announcement by the bells did not vary at different hours of the day and
night, or at different seasons of the year at all events; and opinion
differed as widely upon this point as we are told they did on one occasion
in some other place with regard to the question whether a fish weighed
heavier when it was dead than when it was alive--a question that would
certainly never have been settled either, had it not happened, after a
long time and much discussion, that someone accidentally weighed a fish,
when it was found there was no difference. The question of expression,
however, could not be decided in that way, expression being imponderable;
and it was pretty generally acknowledged that the truth could not be
ascertained and must therefore remain a matter of opinion. But that did
not stop the talk. Once, indeed, someone declared positively that the
state of a man's feelings at the moment would influence his perceptions,
and make the chimes sound glad when he was glad, and mournful when he was
melancholy; but nobody liked the solution.
Let them wrangle as they might, however, the citizens were proud of their
chime, and for a really good reason. It meant something! It was not a mere
jingle of bells, as most chimes are, but a phrase with a distinct idea in
it which they understood as we understand a foreign language when we can
read it without translating it. It might have puzzled them to put the
phrase into other words, but they had it off pat enough as it stood, and
they held it sacred, which is why they quarrelled about it, it being usual
for men to quarrel about what they hold sacred, as if the thing could only
be maintained by hot insistence--the things they hold sacred, that
is--although they cannot be sure of them, like the forms of a religion
which admit of controversy, as distinguished from the God they desire to
worship about whom they have no doubt, and therefore never dispute.
In this latter respect, however, the case of the people of Morningquest
was just the reverse of that which obtains in most other places, for in
consequence of the hourly insistence of the chime, their most impressive
monitor, they talked much more of Him whom they should worship than of
various ways to worship him; and the most persistent of all the questions
which occupied their attention arose out of the involuntary but continuous
effort of one generation after another to define with scientific accuracy
and to everybody's satisfaction his exact nature and attributes; in
consequence of which efforts there had come to be several most distinct
but quite contradictory ideas upon the subject. There were some
simple-minded folk to whom the chime typified a God essentially masculine,
and like a man, hugely exaggerated, but somewhat amorphous, because they
could not see exactly in what the exaggeration consisted except in the
size of him. They pictured him sitting alone on a throne of ivory and gold
inlaid with precious stones; and recited the catalogue of those mentioned
in the Book of the Revelation by preference as imparting a fine scriptural
flavor to the dea. And he sat upon the throne day and night, looking down
upon the earth, and never did anything else nor felt it monotonous. Buddha
himself, in Nirvana, could not have attained to a greater perfection of
contemplation than that with which they credited this curious divinity,
who served solely for a finish to their mental range as the sky was to
their visual; a useful point at which to aim their rudimentary faculty of
But others, again, of a different order of intelligence, had passed beyond
this stage and saw in him more
of a creature
Moving about in worlds not realized;
very like Jove, but unmarried. He was both beneficent and jealous, and had
to be propitiated by regular attendance at church; but further than that
he was not exacting; and therefore they ventured to take his name in vain
when they were angry, and also to call upon him for help, with many
apologies, when there was nobody else to whom they could apply; although,
so long as the current of their lives ran smoothly on, they seldom
troubled their heads about him at all.
There were deeper natures than those, however, who were not content with
this small advance, and these last had by degrees, as suited their
convenience but without perceiving it, gradually discovered in him every
attribute, good, bad, or indifferent, which they found in themselves, thus
ascribing to him a nature of a highly complex and most extraordinarily
inconsistent kind, less that of a God than of a demon. To them he was
still a great shape like a man, but a shape to be loved as well as feared;
a God of peace who patronized war; a gentle lamb who looked on at carnage
complacently; a just God who condemned the innocent to suffer; an
omnipotent God who was powerless to make his law supreme; and they
reserved to themselves the right of constantly adding to or slightly
altering this picture; but having completed it so far, they were
thoroughly well satisfied with it, and, incongruous as it was, they
managed to make it the most popular of all the presentments, partly
because, being so flexible, it could be adjusted to every state of mind;
but also because there was money in it. Numbers of people lived by it, and
made name and fame besides; and these kept it going by damaging anybody
who ventured to question its beauty. For there is no faith that a man
upholds so forcibly as the one by which he earns his livelihood, whether
it be faith in the fetish he has helped to make, or in a particular kind
of leather that sells quickest because it wears out so fast.
In these latter days, however, it began to appear as if the supremacy of
the great masculine idea was at last being seriously threatened, for even
in Morningquest a new voice of extraordinary sweetness had already been
heard, not _his_, the voice of man; but _theirs_, the collective
voice of humanity, which declared that "He, watching," was the
all-pervading good, the great moral law, the spirit of pure love, Elohim,
mistranslated in the book of Genesis as "He" only, but signifying the
union to which all nature testifies, the male and female principles which
together created the universe, the infinite father and mother, without
whom, in perfect accord and exact equality, the best government of nations
has always been crippled and abortive.
Those who heard this final voice were they who loved the chime most truly,
and reverenced it; but they did not speak about it much: only, when the
message sounded, they listened with that full-hearted pleasure which is
the best praise and thanks. Mendelssohn must have felt it when the melody
first occurred to him, and the words had wedded themselves to the music in
[Illustration: (musical notation); lyrics: He, watch-ing o-ver Is--ra--el,
slumbers not, nor sleeps.]
And the chime certainly had power to move the hearts of many; but it would
be hard to say when it had most power, or upon whom. Doubtless, the
majority of those who had ears to hear in the big old fashioned city heard
not, use having dulled their faculties; or if, perchance, the music
reached them it conveyed no idea to their minds, and passed unheeded. It
was but an accustomed measure, one more added to the myriad other sounds
that make up the buzz of life, and help, like each separate note of a
chord, to complete the varied murmur which is the voice of "a whole city
But of course there were times when it was specially apt to strike
home--in the early morning, for instance, when the mind was fresh and hope
was strong enough to interpret the assurance into a promise of joy; and
again at noon, when fatigue was growing and the mind perceived a
sympathetic melancholy in the tones which was altogether restful; but it
was at midnight it had most power. It seemed to rise then to the last
pitch of enthusiasm, sounding triumphant, like the special effort that
finishes a strain, as if to speed the departing interval of time; but when
it rang again, after the first hour of the new day, its voice had dropped,
as it were, to that tone of indifference which expresses the accustomed
doing of some monotonous duty which has become too much of a habit to
excite either pleasure or pain. To the tired watcher then, for whom the
notes were mere tones conveying no idea, the soft melancholy cadence,
dulled by distance, was like the half-stifled echo of her own last stifled
It is likely, however, that the chime failed less of its effect outside
the city than it did within; but there again it depended upon the hearer.
When the mellow tones floated above the heath where the gipsies camped,
only one, perchance, might listen, lifting her bright eyes with pleasure
and longing in them, dumbly, as a child might, yet showing for a moment
some glimmering promise of a soul. But to many in the village close at
hand the chime brought comfort. It seemed to assure the sick, counting the
slow hours, that they were not forsaken, and helped them to bear their
pain with patience; it seemed to utter to the wayworn a word which told
them their trouble was not in vain; it seemed to invite all those who
waited and were anxious to trust their care to Him and seek repose. It was
all this, and much more, to many people: and yet, when it spread in
another direction over the fields, it meant nothing to the yawning
ploughman, either musical or poetical, had no significance whatever for
him if it were not of the time of day, gathered, however, with the help of
sundry other sensations of which hunger and fatigue were chief. It
probably conveyed as much, and neither more nor less, to the team he
But perhaps of all the affairs of life with which the chime had mingled,
the most remarkable, could they be collected and recorded, would be the
occasions on which the hearing of the message had marked a turning point
in the career of some one person, as happened, once on a summer afternoon,
when it was heard by a Lancashire collier--a young lad with an unkempt mop
of golden hair, delicate features, and limbs which were too refined for
his calling, who was coming up the River Morne on a barge.
The river winds for a time through a fertile undulating bit of country,
and nothing of the city can be seen until you are almost in it, except the
castle of the Duke of Morningquest, high perched on a hill on the farther
side, and the spire of the cathedral, which might not attract your
attention, however, if it were not pointed out to you above the trees.
When the chime floated over this sparsely peopled tract, filling the air
with music, but coming from no one could tell whence, there was something
mysterious in the sound of it to an imaginative listener in so apparently
remote a place; and once, twice, as the long hours passed, the young
collier heard it ring, and wondered. He had nothing to do but listen, and
watch the man on the bank who led the horse that was towing the barge; or
address a rare remark to his solitary companion--an old sailor, dressed in
a sou'-wester, blue jersey, and the invariable drab trowsers,
tar-besprent, and long boots, of his calling, who steered automatically,
facing the meadows in beautiful abstraction. He would have faced an
Atlantic gale, however, with that same look.
When the chime rang out for the third time, the young collier spoke:
"It's the varse of a song, maybe?" he suggested.
"Aye, lad," was the laconic rejoinder.
The barge moved on--passed a little farmhouse close to the water's edge;
passed some lazy cattle standing in a field flicking off flies with their
tails; passed a patient fisherman, who had not caught a thing that day,
and scarcely expected to, but still fished on. The sun sparkled down on
the water; the weary man and horse plodded along the bank; far away, a
sweet bird sang; and the collier spoke again.
"Dost tha' know the varse?" he said.
The old man had been brought up in those parts; he knew it well; and
slowly repeated it to the lad, who listened without a sign, sitting with
his dreamy eyes fixed on the water:
"He, watching over Israel, slumbers not, nor sleeps."
There was another long silence, and then the lad spoke once more, with
apathetic gravity, asking: "Who's _He?_"
The old man kept his eyes fixed on a distant reach of the river, and moved
no muscle of his face.
"I guess it's Christ," he said at last.
"Ah niver 'eerd tell on 'im," the collier answered slowly.
"Hast 'niver 'eerd tell on Christ?" the old man asked in measured
machine-like tones. "I thowt ivery one know'd on 'im. Why, what religion
"Well, me feyther's a Liberal--leastways 'im as brought me up," was the
passionless rejoinder, slowly spoken; "but ah doan't know no one o' the
name o' Christ, an', what's more, ah's sure 'e doan't work down our way,"--
with which he sauntered forward with his hands in his trowser pockets, and
sat in the bow; and the old man steered on as before.
How like a mind is to a river! both may be pure and transparent and
lovable, and strong to support and admirable; each may mirror the beauties
of earth and sky, and still have a wonderful beauty of its own to delight
us; both are always moving onward, bound irresistibly to be absorbed in a
great ocean mystery, to be swept away irreclaimably, without hope of
return, but leaving memories of themselves in good or evil wrought by them;
and both are pure at the outset, but can be contaminated, when they in
turn contaminate; and, being perverted in their use, become accursed, and
curse again with all the more effect because the province of each was to
The collier lad in the bow of the barge felt something of the fascination
of the river that day. He saw it sparkle in the sunshine, he heard it
ripple along its banks, he felt the slow and dreamy motion of the boat it
bore; and his mind was filled with unaccustomed thought, and a strange
yearning which he did not understand. There was something singularly
attractive about the lad, although his clothes were tattered, his golden
hair and delicate skin were begrimed, his great bright eyes had no
intelligent expression in them, and there was that discontented
undisciplined look about his mouth which is common to uneducated men. He
had no human knowledge, but he had capacity, and he had music, the divine
gift, in his soul, and the voice of an angel to utter it.
What passed through his dim consciousness in the interval which followed
his last remark, no one will ever know; but the chime had once more
sounded; and, suddenly, as he sat there, he took up the strain, and sang
it--and the labourers in the fields, and the loiterers by the river, and
the ladies in their gardens, even the very cattle in the meadows, looked
up and listened, wondering, while he varied the simple melody, as singers
can, finding new meaning in the message, and filling the summer silence
with perfect raptures of ecstatic sound.
It was a voice to gladden the hearts of men, and one who heard it knew
this, and followed the barge, and took the lad and had him taught, so that
in after days the world was ready to fall at his feet and worship the
And so time passed. Change followed change, but the chime was immutable.
And always, whatever came, it rang out calmly over the beautiful old city
of Morningquest, and entered into it, and was part of the life of it,
mixing itself impartially with the good and evil; with all the sin and
suffering, the pitiful pettiness, the indifference, the cruelty, and every
form of misery-begetting vice, as much as with the purity above reproach,
the charity, the self-sacrifice, the unswerving truth, the patient
endurance, and courage not to be daunted, which are in every city--mixing
itself with these as the light and air of heaven do, and with effects
doubtless as unexpected and as fine; and ready also to be a help to the
helpless, a guide to the rash and straying, a comfort to the comfortless,
a reproach to the reckless, and a warning to the wicked. Perhaps an
ambitious stranger, passing through the city, would hear the chime, and
pause to listen, and in the pause a flash of recollection would show him
the weary way he had gone, the disappointments which were the inevitable
accompaniments of even his most brilliant successes in the years of toil
that had been his since he made the world his idol and swerved from the
Higher Life; and then he would ask himself the good of it all, and finding
that there was no good, he would go his way, cherishing the new
impression, and asking of all things,
"Is it too late now?"
And perhaps at the same moment a lady rolling past in her carriage would
say, "How sweet!" or the beauty of the bells might win some other
thoughtless tribute from her, if she heard the chime at all; but probably
she never heard it, because the accustomed tones were as familiar as the
striking of the hour--the striking of an hour that bore no special
significance for her, and therefore set no chord vibrating in her soul.
The thoughts of her mind deafened her heart to it as completely as the
thunder of a waggon had at the same time deafened the waggoner's ears
while the bells uttered their message above him. And so it was with the
doctor, overworked and anxious, hurrying on his rounds; the grasping
lawyer, absorbed in calculation, and all the other money-grubbers; the
indolent woman, the pleasure-seeker, and the hard-pressed toiler for daily
bread: if they heard they heeded not because their hour had not yet come.
At least this is what some thought, who believed that for every one a
special hour would come, when they would be called, and then left to
decide, as it were, between life and death-in-life; if they accepted life,
the next message would be fraught with strength and help and blessing; but
if they rejected it, the bells would utter their condemnation, and leave
them to their fate.
I. CHILDHOODS AND GIRLHOODS
II. A MALTESE MISCELLANY
III. DEVELOPMENT AND ARREST OF DEVELOPMENT
IV. THE TENOR AND THE BOY--AN INTERLUDE
V. MRS. KILROY OF ILVERTHORPE
VI. THE IMPRESSIONS OF DR. GALBRAITH
CHILDHOODS AND GIRLHOODS.
The spring is the pleasantest of the seasons; and the young of most
animals, though far from being completely fashioned, afford a more
agreeable sensation than the full grown; because the imagination is
entertained with the promise of something more, and does not acquiesce in
the present object of the sense.--_Burke on the Sublime_.
I am inclined to agree with Francis Galton in believing that education and
environment produce only a small effect on the mind of anyone, and that
most of our qualities are innate.--_Darwin_.
THE HEAVENLY TWINS.
At nineteen Evadne looked out of narrow eyes at an untried world
inquiringly. She wanted to know. She found herself forced to put prejudice
aside in order to see beneath it, deep down into the sacred heart of
things, where the truth is, and the bewildering clash of human precept
with human practice ceases to vex. And this not of design, but of
necessity. It was a need of her nature to know. When she came across
something she did not understand, a word, a phrase, or an allusion to a
phase of life, the thing became a haunting demon only to be exorcised by
positive knowledge on the subject. Ages of education, ages of hereditary
preparation had probably gone to the making of such a mind, and rendered
its action inevitable. For generations knowledge is acquired, or, rather,
instilled by force in families, but, once in a way, there comes a child
who demands instruction as a right; and in her own family Evadne appears
to have been that child. Not that she often asked for information. Her
faculty was sufficient to enable her to acquire it without troubling
herself or anybody else, a word being enough on some subjects to make
whole regions of thought intelligible to her. It was as if she only
required to be reminded of things she had learnt before. Her mother said
she was her most satisfactory child. She had been easy of education in the
schoolroom. She had listened to instruction with interest and
intelligence, and had apparently accepted every article of faith in God
and man which had been offered for her guidance through life with
unquestioning confidence; at least she had never been heard to object to
any time-honoured axiom. And she did, in fact, accept them all, but only
provisionally. She wanted to know. Silent, sociable, sober, and sincere,
she had walked over the course of her early education and gone on far
beyond it with such ease that those in authority over her never suspected
the extent to which she had outstripped them.
It was her father who struck the keynote to which the tune of her early
intellectual life was set. She was about twelve years old at the time, and
they were sitting out on the lawn at Fraylingay one day after dinner, as
was their wont in the summer--he, on this occasion, under the influence of
a good cigar, mellow in mind and moral in sentiment, but inclining to be
didactic for the moment because the coffee was late; she in a receptive
mood, ready to gather silently, and store with care, in her capacious
memory any precept that might fall from his lips, to be taken out and
tried as opportunity offered.
"Where is your mother?" he asked.
"I don't know, father," Evadne answered. "I think she is in the drawing
"Never say you _think_, my dear, about matters of fact," he said.
"When it is possible to _know_ it is your business to find out, and
if you cannot find out you must say you don't know. It is moral cowardice,
injurious to yourself, not to own your ignorance; and you may also be
misleading, or unintentionally deceiving, someone else."
"How might the moral cowardice of not owning my ignorance be injurious to
myself, father?" she asked.
"Why, don't you see," he answered, "you would suffer in two ways? If the
habit of inaccuracy became confirmed, your own character would deteriorate;
and by leading people to suppose that you are as wise as themselves, you
lose opportunities of obtaining useful information. They won't tell you
things they think you know already."
Evadne bent her brows upon this lesson and reflected; and doubtless it was
the origin of the verbal accuracy for which she afterward became notable.
Patient investigation had always been a pleasure, but from that time
forward it became a principle also. She understood from what her father
had said that to know the facts of life exactly is a positive duty; which,
in a limited sense, was what he had intended to teach her; but the extent
to which she carried the precept would have surprised him.
Her mind was prone to experiment with every item of information it
gathered, in order to test its practical value; if she could turn it to
account she treasured it; if not, she rejected it, from whatever source it
came. But she was not herself aware of any reservation in her manner of
accepting instruction. The trick was innate, and in no way interfered with
her faith in her friends, which was profound. She might have justified it,
however, upon her father's authority, for she once heard him say to one of
her brothers: "Find out for yourself, and form your own opinions," a
lesson which she had laid to heart also. Not that her father would have
approved of her putting it into practice. He was one of those men who
believe emphatically that a woman should hold no opinion which is not of
masculine origin, and the maxims he had for his boys differed materially
in many respects from those which he gave to his girls. But these precepts
of his were, after all, only matches to Evadne which fired whole trains of
reflection, and lighted her to conclusions quite other than those at which
he had arrived himself. In this way, however, he became her principal
instructor. She had attached herself to him from the time that she could
toddle, and had acquired from his conversation a proper appreciation of
masculine precision of thought. If his own statements were not always
accurate it was from no want of respect for the value of facts; for he was
great on the subject, and often insisted that a lesson or principle of
action is contained in the commonest fact; but he snubbed Evadne promptly
all the same on one occasion when she mentioned a fact of life, and drew a
principle of action therefrom for herself. "Only confusion comes of women
thinking for themselves on social subjects," he said, "You must let me
decide all such matters for you, or you must refer them to your husband
when you come under his control."
Evadne did not pay much attention to this, however, because she remembered
another remark of his with which she could not make it agree. The remark
was that women never had thought for themselves, and that therefore it was
evident that they could not think, and that they should not try. Now, as
it is obvious that confusion cannot come of a thing that has never been
done, the inaccuracy in one or other of these statements was glaring
enough to put both out of the argument. But what Evadne did note was the
use of the word control.
As she grew up she became her father's constant companion in his walks,
and, flattered by her close attention, he fell into the way of talking a
good deal to her. He enjoyed the fine flavour of his own phrase-making,
and so did she, but in such a silent way that nothing ever led him to
suspect it was having any but the most desirable effect upon her mind. She
never attempted to argue, and only spoke in order to ask a question on
some point which was not clear to her, or to make some small comment when
he seemed to expect her to do so. He often contradicted himself, and the
fact never escaped her attention, but she loved him with a beautiful
confidence, and her respect remained unshaken.
When she had to set herself right between his discrepancies she did not
dwell on the latter as faults in him, but only thought of how wise he was
when he warned her to be accurate, and felt grateful. And in this way she
formed her mind upon his sayings; and as a direct result of the long,
informal, generally peripatetic lectures to which she listened without
prejudice, and upon which she brought unsuspected powers of discrimination
to bear, he had unconsciously made her a more logical, reasoning,
reasonable being than he believed it possible for a woman to be. Poor
papa! All that he really knew of his most interesting daughter was that
she was growing up a good child, physically strong and active, morally
well educated, with a fortunately equable temper; and that she owed a
great deal to him. What, precisely, was never defined. But when the
thought of his kindness recurred to him it always suffused him with
He was a portly man, with a place in the country, and a house in town; not
rich for his position, but well off; a magistrate, and much respected;
well educated in the ideas of the ancients, with whom his own ideas on
many subjects stopped short, and hardly to be called intellectual; a
moderate Churchman, a bigoted Conservative, narrow and strongly prejudiced
rather than highly principled. He was quite ignorant of the moral progress
of the world at the present time, and ready to resent even the upward
tendency of evolution when it presented itself to him in the form of any
change, including, of course, changes for the better, and more especially
so if such change threatened to bring about an improvement in the position
of women, or increase the weight of their influence for good in the world.
The mere mention of the subject made him rabid, and he grew apoplectic
whenever he reflected upon the monstrous pretensions of the sex at the
present time. But the thing that roused his scorn and indignation most was
when a woman ventured to enter any protest against the established order
of iniquity. He allowed that a certain number of women must of necessity
be abandoned, and raised no objection to that; but what he did consider
intolerable was that any one woman should make a stand against the
degradation of her own sex. He thought that immoral.
He was well enough to live with, however, this obstinate English country
gentleman, although without sympathetic insight, and liable to become a
petty domestic tyrant at any moment. "Sound" was what he would have called
himself. And he was a man to be envied upon the whole, for his family
loved him, and his friends knew no ill of him.
Evadne, like the Vicar of Wakefield, was by nature a lover of happy human
faces, and she could be playful herself on occasion; but she had little if
any of the saving sense of humor.
Her habit was to take everything _au grand serieux_, and to consider
it. When other people were laughing she would be gravely observant, as if
she were solving a problem; and she would sooner have thought of trying to
discover what combination of molecules resulted in a joke, with a view to
benefiting her species by teaching them how to produce jokes at will, than
of trying to be witty herself. She had, too, a quite irritating trick of
remaining, to all outward seeming, stolidly unmoved by events which were
causing an otherwise general commotion; but in cases of danger or
emergency she was essentially swift to act--as on one occasion, for
instance, when the Hamilton House twins were at Fraylingay.
The twins had arrived somewhat late in the married lives of their parents,
and had been welcomed as angel visitants, under which fond delusion they
were christened respectively Angelica and Theodore. Before they were well
out of their nurse's arms, however, society, with discernment, had changed
Theodore's name to Diavolo, but "Angelica" was sanctioned, the irony being
The twins were alike in appearance, but not nearly so much so as twins
usually are. It would have been quite easy to distinguish them apart, even
if one had not been dark and the other fair, and for this mercy everybody
connected with them had reason to be thankful, for as soon as they reached
the age of active indiscretion they would certainly have got themselves
mixed if they could. Angelica was the dark one, and she was also the
elder, taller, stronger, and wickeder of the two, the organizer and
commander of every expedition. Before they were five years old everybody
about the place was upon the alert, both in self-defence and also to see
that the twins did not kill themselves. Bars of iron had to be put on the
upstairs windows to prevent them making ladders of the traveller's joy and
wisteria, modes of egress which they very much preferred to commonplace
doors; and Mr. Hamilton-Wells had been reluctantly obliged to have the
moat, which was deep and full of fish, and had been the glory of Hamilton
House for generations, drained for fear of accidents. Argument was
unavailing with the twins as a means of repression, but they were always
prepared to argue out any question of privilege with their father and
mother cheerfully. Punishment, too, had an effect quite other than that
intended. They were interested at the moment, but they would slap each
other's hands and put each other in the corner for fun five minutes after
they had received similar chastisement in solemn earnest.
They would have lived out of doors altogether by choice, and they managed
to make their escape in all weathers. If the vigilant watch that was kept
upon them were relaxed for a moment, they disappeared as if by magic, and
would probably only be recovered at the farthest limit of their father's
property, or in the kitchen of some neighbouring country gentleman, where
they were sure to be popular. They were always busy about something, and
when every usual occupation failed, they fought each other. After a battle
they counted scars and scratches for the honour of having most, and if
there were not bruises enough to satisfy one of them, the other was always
obligingly ready to fight again until there were.
Mr. Hamilton-Wells had great faith in the discipline of the Church service
for them, and was anxious that they should be early accustomed to go
there. They behaved pretty well while the solemnity was strange enough to
awe them, and one Sunday when Lady Adeline--their mother--could not
accompany him, Mr. Hamilton-Wells ventured to go alone with them. He took
the precaution to place them on either side of him so as to separate them
and interpose a solid body between them and any signals they might make to
each other; but in the quietest part of the service, when everybody was
kneeling, some movement of Diavolo's attracted his attention for a moment
from Angelica, and when he looked again the latter had disappeared. She
had discovered that it was possible to creep from pew to pew beneath the
seats, and had started to explore the church. On her way, however, she
observed a pair of stout legs belonging to a respectable elderly woman who
was too deep in her devotion to be aware of the intruder, and, being
somewhat astonished by their size, she proceeded to test their quality
with a pin, the consequence being an appalling shriek from the woman,
which started a shrill treble cry from herself. The service was suspended,
and Mr. Hamilton-Wells, the most precise of men, hastened down the aisle,
and fished his daughter out, an awful spectacle of dust, from under the
When Mr. and Lady Adeline Hamilton-Wells went from home for any length of
time they were obliged to take their children with them, as servants who
knew the latter would rather leave than be left in charge of them, and
this was how it happened that Evadne made their acquaintance at an early
It was during their first visit to Fraylingay, while they were still quite
tiny, and she was hardly in her teens, that the event referred to in
illustration of one of Evadne's characteristics occurred.
The twins had arrived late in the afternoon, and were taken into the
dining room, where the table was already decorated for dinner. It
evidently attracted a good deal of their attention, but they said nothing.
At dessert, however, to which Evadne had come down with the elder
children, the dining room door was seen to open with portentous slowness,
and there appeared in the aperture two little figures in long nightgowns,
their forefingers in their mouths, their inquisitive noses tilted in the
air, and their bright eyes round with astonishment. It was like the middle
of the night to them, and they had expected to find the room empty.
"Oh, you naughty children!" Lady Adeline exclaimed.
"The _darlings!_" cried Mrs. Frayling, Evadne's mother. "_Do_
let them come in," and she picked up Angelica, and held her on her knee,
one of the other ladies at the opposite end of the long table taking
Diavolo up at the same time. But the moment the children found themselves
on a level with the table they made a dart for the centre piece
simultaneously on their hands and knees, regardless of the smash of
dessert plates, decanters, wineglasses, and fruit dishes, which they upset
by the way.
"It _is!_" shrieked Angelica, thumping the flat mirror which was part
of the table decorations triumphantly.
"It is _what?_" cried Lady Adeline, endeavoring to reach the child.
"It's looking-glass, mamma. Diavolo said it was water."
There was much amusement at the words, and at the quaint spectacle of the
two little creatures sitting amid the wreckage in the middle of the table
not a bit abashed by the novelty of their conspicuous position. Only
Evadne, who was standing behind her mother's chair, remained grave. She
seemed to be considering the situation severely, and, acting on her own
responsibility, she picked Diavolo up in the midst of the general
hilarity, and carried him out of the room with her hand pressed tight on
his thigh. The child had come down armed with an open penknife, with which
to defend Angelica should they encounter any ogres or giants on the
stairs, and in scrambling up the table he had managed to strike himself in
the thigh with it, and had severed the femoral artery; but, with the
curious shame which makes some children dislike to own that they are hurt,
he had contrived to conceal the accident for a moment with his nightgown
under cover of the flowers, and it was only Evadne's observant eye and
presence of mind that had saved his life. No one in the house could make a
tourniquet, and she sat with the child on her knee while a doctor was
being fetched, keeping him quiet as by a miracle, and, stopping the
hemorrhage with the pressure of her thumb, not even his parents daring to
relieve her, since Diavolo had never been known to be still so long in his
life with anybody else. She held him till the operation of tying the
artery was safely accomplished, by which time Mr. Diavolo was sufficiently
exhausted to be good and go to sleep; and then she quietly fainted. But
she was about again in time to catch him when he woke, and keep him quiet,
and so by unwearied watching she prevented accidents until all danger was
Diavolo afterward heard his parents praise her in unmeasured terms to
_her_ parents one day in her absence. She happened to return while
they were still in the room, and, being doubtless wide awake to the
advantages of such a connection, he took the opportunity of promising
solemnly, in the presence of such respectable witnesses, to marry her as
soon as he was able.
She had added the word "tourniquet" to her vocabulary during this time,
and having looked it up in the dictionary, she requested the doctor to be
so good as to teach her to make one. While doing so the doctor became
interested in his silent, intelligent pupil, and it ended in his teaching
her all that a young lady could learn of bandaging, of antidotes to
poisons, of what to do in case of many possible accidents, and also of
But this was not a solitary instance of the quiet power of the girl which
already compelled even elderly gentlemen much overworked and
self-absorbed, to sacrifice themselves in her service.
It is a notable thing that in almost every instance it was her father's
influence which forced Evadne to draw conclusions in regard to life quite
unlike any of his own, and very distasteful to him. He was the most
conservative of men, and yet he was continually setting her mind off at a
tangent in search of premises upon which to found ultra-liberal
His primitive theories about women and "all that they are good for," for
one thing, which differed so materially from the facts as she observed
them every day, formed a constant mental stimulus to which her busy brain
was greatly indebted. "Women should confine their attention to
housekeeping," he remarked once when the talk about the higher education
of women first began to irritate elderly gentlemen. "It is all they are
"Is it?" said Evadne.
"Yes. And they don't know arithmetic enough to do that properly."
"Don't they? why?" she asked.
"Because they have no brains," he answered.
"But some women have been clever," she ventured seriously.
"Yes, of course; exceptional women. But you can't argue from exceptional
"Then ordinary women have no brains, and cannot learn arithmetic?" she
"Precisely," he answered irritably. Such signs of intelligence always did
irritate him, somehow.
Evadne found food for reflection in these remarks. She had done a certain
amount of arithmetic herself in the schoolroom, and had never found it
difficult, but then she had not gone far enough, perhaps. And she went at
once to get a Colenso or a Barnard Smith to see. She found them more
fascinating when she attacked them of her own free will and with all her
intelligence than she had done when necessity, in the shape of her
governess, forced her to pay them some attention, and she went through
them both in a few weeks at odd times, and then asked her father's advice
about a book on advanced mathematics.
"Advanced mathematics!" he exclaimed. "Can you keep accounts?"
"I don't know," she answered doubtfully.
"Then what is this nonsense about advanced mathematics?"
"Oh, I have finished Barnard Smith, and I thought I should like to go on,"
"Now, isn't that like your sex?" he observed, smiling at his own
superiority. "You pick things up with a parrot-like sharpness, but haven't
intelligence enough to make any practical application of them. A woman
closely resembles a parrot in her mental processes, and in the use she
makes of fine phrases which she does not understand to produce an effect
of cleverness--such as 'advanced mathematics!'"
Evadne bent her brow, and let him ruminate a little in infinite
self-content, then asked abruptly: "Can men keep accounts who have never
seen accounts kept?"
"No, of course not," he answered, seeing in this a new instance of
feminine imbecility, and laughing.
"Ah," she observed, then added thoughtfully as she moved away: "I should
like to see how accounts are kept."
She never had any more conversation with her father upon this subject, but
from that time forward mathematics, which had before been only an incident
in the way of lessons, became an interest in life, and a solid part of her
education. But, although she found she could do arithmetic without any
great difficulty, it never occurred to her either that her father could be
wrong or that there might be in herself the making of an exceptional
woman. The habit of love and respect kept her attention from any point
which would have led to a judgment upon her father, and she was too
unconscious of herself as a separate unit to make personal application of
anything as yet. Her mind at this time, like the hold of a ship with a
general cargo, was merely being stored with the raw materials which were
to be distributed over her whole life, and turned by degrees to many
purposes, useful, beautiful--not impossibly detestable.
But that remark of her father's about "all that women are fit for," which
he kept well watered from time to time with other conventional expressions
of a contemptuous kind, was undoubtedly the seed of much more than a
knowledge of the higher mathematics. It was that which set her mind off on
a long and patient inquiry into the condition and capacity of women, and
made her, in the end of the nineteenth century, essentially herself. But
she did not begin her inquiry of set purpose; she was not even conscious
of the particular attention she paid to the subject. She had no foregone
conclusion to arrive at, no wish to find evidence in favour of the woman
which would prove the man wrong. Only, coming across so many sneers at the
incapacity of women, she fell insensibly into the habit of asking why. The
question to begin with was always: "Why are women such inferior beings?"
But, by degrees, as her reading extended, it changed its form, and then
she asked herself doubtfully: "Are women such inferior beings?" a position
which carried her in front of her father at once by a hundred years, and
led her rapidly on to the final conclusion that women had originally no
congenital defect of inferiority, and that, although they have still much
way to make up, it now rests with themselves to be inferior or not, as
She had an industrious habit of writing what she thought about the works
she studied, and there is an interesting record still in existence of her
course of reading between the ages of twelve and nineteen. It consists of
one thick volume, on the title page of which she had written roundly, but
without a flourish, "Commonplace Book," and the date. The first entries
are made in a careful, unformed, childish hand, and with diffidence
evidently; but they became rapidly decided both in caligraphy and tone as
she advanced. The handwriting is small and cramped, but the latter
probably with a view to economy of space, and it is always clear and neat.
There are few erasures or mistakes of grammar or spelling, even from the
first, and little tautology; but she makes no attempt at literary style or
elegance of expression. Still, all that she says is impressive, and
probably on that account. She chooses the words best calculated to express
her meaning clearly and concisely, and undoubtedly her meaning is always
either a settled conviction or an honest endeavour to arrive at one. It is
the honesty, in fact, that is so impressive. She never thinks of trying to
shine in the composition of words; there was no idea of budding authorship
in her mind; she had no more consciousness of purpose in her writing than
she had in her pinging, when she sang about the place. The one was as
involuntary as the other, and the outcome of similar sensations. It
pleased her to write, and it pleased her to sing, and she did both when
the impulse came upon her. She must, however, have had considerable
natural facility of expression. Writing seems always to have been her best
mode of communication. She was shy from the first in conversation, but
bold to a fault with her pen. Some of the criticisms she wrote in her
"Commonplace Book" are quite exhaustive; most of them are temperate,
although she does give way occasionally to bursts of fiery indignation at
things which outrage her sense of justice; but the general characteristic
is a marked originality, not only in her point of view, but also in the
use she makes of quite unpromising materials. In fact, the most notable
part of the record is the proof it contains that all the arguments upon
which she formed her opinions were found in the enemy's works alone. She
had drawn her own conclusions; but after having done so, as it happened,
she had the satisfaction of finding confirmation strong in John Stuart
Mill on "The Subjection of Women," which she came across by accident--an
accident, by the way, for which Lady Adeline Hamilton-Wells was
responsible. She brought the book to Fraylingay, and forgot it when she
went home, and Evadne, happening to find it throwing about, took charge of
it, read it with avidity, and found for herself a world of thought in
which she could breathe freely.
"The Vicar of Wakefield" was one of her early favourites. She read it
several times, and makes mention of it twice in her "Commonplace Book."
Her first notice of it is a childish little synopsis, very quaint in its
unconscious irony; but interesting, principally from the fact that she was
struck even then by the point upon which she afterward became so strong.
"The vicar," she says, "was a good man, and very fond of his wife and
family, and they were very fond of him, but his wife was queer, and could
only read a little. _And he never taught her to improve herself,
although_ he had books and was learned. [Footnote: This is the point
alluded to.] He had two daughters, who were spiteful and did not like
other girls to be pretty. They had bad taste, too, and wanted to go to
church overdressed, and thought it finer to ride a plough-horse than walk.
It does not say that they ever read anything, either. If they had they
would have known better. There is a very nasty man in the book called
Squire Thornhill, and a nice one called Sir William Thornhill, who was his
uncle. Sir William marries Sophia, and Squire Thornhill marries Olivia,
although he does not intend to. Olivia was a horrid deceitful girl, and it
served her right to get such a husband. They have a brother called Moses,
who used to talk philosophy with his father at dinner, and once sold a cow
for a gross of green spectacles. A gross is twelve dozen. Of course they
were all annoyed, but the vicar himself was cheated by the same man when
he went to sell the horse. He seemed to think a great deal of knowing
Latin and Greek, but it was not much use to him then. It was funny that he
should be conceited about what he knew himself, and not want his wife to
know anything. He said to her once: 'I never dispute your abilities to
make a goose pie, and I beg you'll leave argument to me'; which she might
have thought rude, but perhaps she was not a lady, as ladies do not make
goose pies. I forgot, though, they had lost all their money. They had
great troubles, and the vicar was put in prison. He was very ill, but
preached to the prisoners, and everybody loved him. I like 'The Vicar of
Wakefield' very much, and if I cannot find another book as nice I shall
read it again. 'Turn, Gentle Hermit' is silly. I suppose _Punch_ took
Edwin and Angelina out of it to laugh at them."
Quite three years must have elapsed before she again mentions "The Vicar
of Wakefield," and in the meantime she had been reading a fair variety of
books, but for the most part under schoolroom supervision, carefully
selected for her. Some, however, she had chosen for herself--during the
holidays when discipline was relaxed; but it was a fault which she had to
confess, and she does so always, honestly. Lewes' "Life of Goethe" was one
of these. She wrote a glowing description of it, at the end of which she
"I found the book on a sofa in the drawing room, and began it without
thinking, and read and read until I had nearly finished it, quite
forgetting to ask leave. But of course I went at once to tell father as
soon as I thought of it. Mother was there too, and inclined to scold, but
father frowned, and said: 'Let her alone. It will do her no harm; she
won't understand it.' I asked if I might finish it, and he said, 'Oh,
yes,' impatiently. I think he wanted to get rid of me, and I am sorry I
interrupted him at an inconvenient time. Mother often does not agree with
father, but she always gives in. Very often she is right, however, and he
is wrong. Last week she did not want us to go out one day because she was
sure it would rain, but he did not think so, and said we had better go It
did rain--poured--and we got wet through and have had colds ever since,
but when we came in mother scolded me for saying, 'You see, you were
right,' She said I should be saying 'I told yon so!' next, in a nasty
jeering way as the boys do, which really means rejoicing because somebody
else is wrong, and is not generous. I hope I shall never come to that; but
I know if I am ever sure of a thing being right which somebody else thinks
is wrong, it won't matter what it is or who it is, I shall not give in. I
don't see how I could."
Her pen seldom ran away with her into personal matters like these, in the
early part of the book; but from the first she was apt to be beguiled
occasionally by the pleasure of perceiving a powerful stimulant under the
influence of which everything is lost sight of but the point perceived.
She had never to fight a daily and exhausting battle for her private
opinions as talkative people have, simply because she rarely if ever
expressed an opinion; but her father stood ready always, a post of
resistance to innovation, upon which she could sharpen the claws of her
conclusion silently whenever they required it.
When next she mentions "The Vicar of Wakefield," she says expressly:
"I do not remember what I wrote about it the first time I read it, and I
will not look to see until I have written what I think now, because I
should like to know if I still agree with myself as I was then."
And it is interesting to note how very much she does agree with herself as
she "was then"; the feeling, in fact, is the same, but it has passed from
her heart to her head, and been resolved by the process into positive
opinion, held with conscious knowledge, and delivered with greatly
improved power of expression.
"'The Vicar of Wakefield' makes me think a good deal," she continues, "but
there is no order in my thoughts. There is, however, one thing in the book
that strikes me first and foremost and above all others, which is that the
men were educated and the women were ignorant. It is not to be supposed
that the women preferred to be ignorant, and therefore I presume they were
not allowed the educational advantages upon which the men prided
themselves. The men must accordingly have withheld these advantages by
main force, yet they do not scorn to sneer at the consequences of their
injustice. There is a sneer implied in the vicar's remark about his own
wife: 'She could read any English book without much spelling.' That her
ignorance was not the consequence of incapacity is proved by the evidence
which follows of her intelligence in other matters. Had Mrs. Primrose been
educated she might have continued less lovable than the vicar, but she
would probably have been wiser. The vicar must always have been conscious
of her defects, but had never apparently thought of a remedy, nor does he
dream of preventing a repetition of the same defects in his daughters by
providing them with a better education. He takes their unteachableness for
granted, remarking complacently that an hour of recreation 'was taken up
in innocent mirth between my wife and daughters, and in philosophical
arguments between my son and me,' as if 'innocent mirth' were as much as
he could reasonably expect from such inferior beings as a wife and
daughters must necessarily be. The average school girl of to-day is a
child of light on the subject of her own sex compared with the gentle
vicar, and incapable, even before her education is half over, of the envy
and meanness which the latter thinks it kindest to take a humourous view
of, and of the disingenuousness at which he also smiles as the inevitable
outcome of feminine inferiority--at least _I_ never met a girl in my
position who would not have admired Miss Wilmot's beauty, nor do I know
one who would not answer her father frankly, however embarrassing the
question might be, if he asked her opinion of a possible lover."
The next entry in the book is on the subject of "Mrs. Caudle's Curtain
Lectures," and, like most of the others, it merits attention from the
unexpected view she takes of the position. It does not strike her as being
humourous, but pathetic. She feels the misery of it, and she had already
begun to hold that human misery is either a thing to be remedied or a
sacred subject to be dwelt on in silence; and she considers Mrs. Caudle
entirely with a view to finding a cure for her case.
"The Caudles were petty tradespeople," she says, "respectable in their own
position, but hardly lovable according to our ideas. Mr. Caudle, with meek
persistency, goes out to amuse himself alone when his day's work is done.
Mrs. Caudle's day's work never is done. She has the wearing charge of a
large family, and the anxiety of making both ends meet on a paltry income,
which entails much self denial and sordid parsimony, but is
conscientiously done, if not cheerfully, nevertheless. It is Mr. Caudle,
however, who grumbles, making no allowance for extra pressure of work on
washing days, when she is too busy to hash the cold mutton. The rule of
her life is weariness and worry from morning till night, and for
relaxation in the evening she must sit down and mend the children's
clothes; and even when that is done she goes to bed with the certainty of
being roused from her hard-earned rest by a husband who brings a sickening
odour of bad tobacco and spirits home with him, and naturally her temper
suffers. She knows nothing of love and sympathy; she has no pleasurable
interest in life. Fatigue and worry are succeeded by profound
disheartenment. One can imagine that while she was young, the worn
garments she was wont to mend during those long lonely evenings were often
wet with tears. The dulness must have been deadly, and dulness added to
fatigue time after time ended at last not in tears, but in peevish
irritation, ebullitions of spleen, and ineffectual resistance. The woman
was thoroughly embittered, and the man had to pay the penalty. Whatever
pleasure there might have been in their joint lives he had secured for
himself, leaving her to stagnate for want of a little variety to keep her
feelings flowing wholesomely; and she did stagnate dutifully, but she was
to blame for it. Had she gone out and amused herself with other wives
similarly situated, and had tobacco and beer, if she liked them, every
evening, it would have been better for herself and her husband."
There must have been some system in Evadne's reading, for "The Naggletons"
came immediately after "Mrs. Caudle," and are dismissed curtly enough:
"Vulgar, ill-bred, lower class people," she calls them. "Objectionable to
contemplate from every point of view. But a book which should enlighten
the class whom it describes on the subject of their own bad manners.
_We_ don't nag."
She owed her acquaintance with the next two books she mentions to the
indirect instigation of her father, and she must have read them when she
was about eighteen, and emancipated from schoolroom supervision, but not
yet fairly entered upon the next chapter of her existence; for they are
among the last she notices before she came out.
The date is fixed by an entry which appears on a subsequent page with the
note: "I was presented at court to-day by my mother." After this entry
life becomes more interesting than literature, evidently, for the book
ceases to be a record of reading and thought with an occasional note on
people and circumstances, and becomes just the opposite, viz., a diary of
events interspersed with sketches of character and only a rare allusion to
literature. But, judging by the number and variety and the careful record
kept of the works she read, the six months or so immediately preceding her
presentation must have been a time of the greatest intellectual activity,
her father's influence being, as usual, often apparent as primary
instigator. Once, when they were having coffee out on the lawn after
dinner, he began a discussion in her hearing about books with another
gentleman who was staying in the house, and in the course of it he
happened to praise "Roderick Random" and "Tom Jones" eloquently. He said
they were superior in their own line to anything which the present day has
produced. "They are true to life in every particular," he maintained, "and
not only to the life of those times, but of all time. In fact, you feel as
you read that it is not fiction, but human nature itself that you are
studying; and there is an education in moral philosophy on every page."
Evadne was much impressed, and being anxious to know what an education in
moral philosophy might be, she got "Roderick Random" and "Tom Jones" out
of the library, when she went in that evening, and took them to her own
room to study. They were the two books already referred to as being among
the last she read just before she came out. They did not please her, but
she waded through them from beginning to end conscientiously,
nevertheless, and then she made her remarks.
Of "Roderick Random" she wrote:
"The hero is a kind of king-can-do-no-wrong young man; if a thing were not
right in itself he acted as if the pleasure of doing it sanctified it to
his use sufficiently. After a career of vice, in which he revels without
any sense of personal degradation, he marries an amiable girl named
Narcissa, and everyone seems to expect that such a union of vice and
virtue would be productive of the happiest consequences. In point of fact
he should have married Miss Williams, for whom he was in every respect a
suitable mate. If anything, Miss Williams was the better of the two, for
Roderick sinned in weak wantonness, while she only did so of necessity.
They repent together, but she is married to an unsavoury manservant named
Strap as a reward; while Roderick considers himself entitled to the
peerless Narcissa. Miss Williams, moreover, becomes Narcissa's
confidential friend, and the whole disgraceful arrangement is made
possible by Narcissa herself, who calmly accepts these two precious
associates at their own valuation, and admits them to the closest intimacy
without any knowledge of their true characters and early lives. The fine
flavour of real life in the book seems to me to be of the putrid kind
which some palates relish, perhaps; but it cannot be wholesome, and it may
be poisonous. The moral is: Be as vicious as you please, but prate of
"Tom Jones" she dismissed with greater contempt, if possible:
"Another young man," she wrote, "steeped in vice, although acquainted with
virtue. He also marries a spotless heroine. Such men marrying are a danger
to the community at large. The two books taken together show well the
self-interest and injustice of men, the fatal ignorance and slavish apathy
of women; and it may be good to know these things, but it is not
The ventilation of free discussion would doubtless have been an advantage
to Evadne at this impressionable period, when she was still, as it were,
more an intellectual than a human being, travelling upon her head rather
than upon her heart--so to speak--and one cannot help speculating about
the probable modification it would have wrought in some of her opinions.
Unfortunately, however, her family was one of those in which the
_cloture_ is rigorously applied when any attempt is made to introduce
ideas which are not already old and accustomed. It was as if her people
were satisfied that by enforcing silence they could prevent thought.
It is interesting to trace the steps by which Evadne advanced: one item of
knowledge accidentally acquired compelling her to seek another, as in the
case of some disease mentioned in a story-book, the nature of which she
could not comprehend without studying the construction of the organ it
affected. But haphazard seems to have determined her pursuits much more
than design as a rule. Some people in after life, who liked her views,
said they saw the guiding hand of Providence directing her course from the
first; but those who opposed her said it was the devil; and others again,
in idleness or charity, or the calm neutrality of indifference, set it all
down to the Inevitable, a fashionable first cause at this time, which is
both comprehensive, convenient, and inoffensive, since it may mean
anything, and so suits itself to everybody's prejudices.
But she certainly made her first acquaintance with anatomy and physiology
without design of her own. Her mother sent her up to a lumber room one day
to hunt through an old box of books for a story she wanted her to read to
the children, and the box happened to contain some medical works, which
Evadne peeped into during her search. A plate first attracted her
attention, and then she read a little to see what the plate meant, and
then she read a little more because the subject fascinated her, and the
lucid language of a great scientific man, certain of his facts, satisfied
her, and carried her on insensibly. She continued standing until one leg
tired, then she rested on the other; then she sat on the hard edge of the
box, and finally she subsided on to the floor, in the dust, where she was
found hours later, still reading.
"My dear child, where _have_ you been?" her mother exclaimed
irritably, when at last she appeared. "I sent you to get a book to read to
"There it is, mother--'The Gold Thread'" Evadne answered. "But I cannot
read to the children until after their tea. They were at their lessons
this morning, and we are all going out this afternoon." She had neither
forgotten the children nor the time they wanted their book, which was
eminently characteristic. She never did forget other people's interests,
however much she might be absorbed by the pleasure of her own pursuits.
"And I found three other books, mother, that I should like to have; may
I?" she continued. "They are all about our bones and brains, and the
circulation of the blood, and digestion. It says in one of them that
muriatic acid, the chemical agent by which the stomach dissolves the food,
is probably obtained from muriate of soda, which is common salt contained
in the blood. Isn't that interesting? And it says that pleasure--not
excitement, you know--is the result of the action of living organs, and it
goes on to explain it. Shall I read it to you?"
"My dear child, what nonsense have you got hold of now?" Mrs. Frayling
"It is all here, mother," Evadne remonstrated, tapping her books. "Do look
Mrs. Frayling turned over a few pages with dainty fingers: "Tracing from
without inward, the various coverings of the brain are," she read in one.
"The superior extremity consists of the shoulder, the arm, the forearm,
and the hand," she saw in another. "Dr. Harley also confirms the opinion
of M. Chaveau that the sugar is not destroyed in any appreciable quantity,
during its passage through the tissues," she learned from the third. "Oh,
how nasty!" she ejaculated, alluding to the dust on the cover. "And what a
state you are in yourself! You seem to have a perfect mania for grubbing
up old books. What do you want with them? You cannot possibly understand
them. Why, _I_ can't! It is all vanity, you know. Here, take them
"But, mother, I want to keep them. They can't do me any harm if I don't
"You really _are_ tiresome, Evadne," her mother rejoined. "It is
quite bad taste to be so persistent."
"I am sorry, mother; I apologize. But I can read them, I suppose, as you
don't see anything objectionable in them."
"Don't _you_ see, dear child, that I am trying to write a letter? How
do you suppose I can do so while you stand chattering there at my elbow!
You won't understand the books, but you are too obstinate for anything,
and you had better take them and try. I don't expect to hear anything more
about them," she added complacently, as she resumed her letter. Nor did
she, but she felt the effect of them strongly in after years.
When Evadne went out for a ride with three of her sisters that afternoon
her mind was full to overflowing of her morning studies, and she would
liked to have shared such interesting information with them, but they
"Isn't it curious," she began, "our skulls are not all in one piece when
"I call it simply _nasty_" said Julia. She was the one who screamed
at a mouse.
"You'll be a bore if you don't mind," cried Evelyn, who monopolized the
conversation, as a rule.
Barbara politely requested her to "Shurrup!" a word of the boys which she
permitted herself to borrow in the exuberance of her spirits and the
sanctity of private life whenever Evadne threatened, as on the present
occasion, to be "_too_ kind."
Evadne turned back then and left them, not because they vexed her, but
because she wanted to have her head to the wind and her thick brown hair
blown back out of her eyes, and full leisure to reflect upon her last
acquisition as she cantered home happily.
Evadne was never a great reader in the sense of being omnivorous in her
choice of books, but she became a very good one. She always had a solid
book in hand, and some standard work of fiction also; but she read both
with the utmost deliberation, and with intellect clear and senses
unaffected by anything. After studying anatomy and physiology, she took up
pathology as a matter of course, and naturally went on from thence to
prophylactics and therapeutics, but was quite unharmed, because she made
no personal application of her knowledge as the coarser mind masculine of
the ordinary medical student is apt to do. She read of all the diseases to
which the heart is subject, and thought of them familiarly as "cardiac
affections," without fancying she had one of them; and she obtained an
extraordinary knowledge of the digestive processes and their ailments
without realizing, that her own might ever be affected. She possessed, in
fact, a mind of exceptional purity as well as of exceptional strength, one
to be enlightened by knowledge, not corrupted; but had it been otherwise
she must certainly have suffered in consequence of the effect of the
curiously foolish limitations imposed upon her by those who had charge of
her conventional education. Subjects were surrounded by mystery which
should have been explained. An impossible ignorance was the object aimed
at, and so long as no word was spoken on either side it was supposed to be
attained. The risk of making mysteries for an active intellect to feed
upon was never even considered, nor did anyone perceive the folly of
withholding positive knowledge, which, when properly conveyed, is the true
source of healthy-mindedness, from a child whose intelligent perception
was already sufficiently keen to require it. Principles were dealt out to
her, for one thing, with a generous want of definition which must have
made them fatal to all progress had she been able to take them intact. Her
mother's favourite and most inclusive dictum alone, that "everything is
for the best, and all things work together for good," should have forced
her to a matter of fact acceptance of wickedness as a thing inevitable
which it would be waste of time to oppose, since it was bound to resolve
itself into something satisfactory in the end, like the objectionable
refuse which can be converted by ingenious processes into an excellent
substitute for butter. But she was saved from the stultification of such a
position by finding it impossible to reconcile it practically with the
constant opposition which she found herself at the same time enjoined to
oppose to so many things. If everything is for the best, it appeared to
her, clearly we cannot logically oppose ourselves to anything, and there
must accordingly be two trinities in ethics, good, better, best, and bad,
worse, worst, which it is impossible to condense into one comprehensive
But most noticeably prominent, to her credit, through all this period are
the same desirable characteristics, viz., that provisional acceptance
already noticed of what she was taught by those whom she delighted to
honor and obey, and the large-minded absence of prejudice which enabled
her to differ from them, when she saw good cause, without antagonism.
"Drop the subject when you do not agree: there is no need to be bitter
because you know you are right," was the maxim she used in ordinary social
intercourse; but she was at the same time forming principles to be acted
upon in opposition to everybody when occasion called for action. Another
noticeable point, too, was the way in which her mind returned from every
excursion into no matter what abstruse region of research, to the position
of women, her original point of departure. "Withholding education from
women was the original sin of man," she concludes.
Mind as creator appealed to her less than mind as recorder, reasoner, and
ruler; and for one gem of poetry or other beauty of purely literary value
which she quotes, there are fifty records of principles of action. The
acquisition of knowledge was her favourite pastime, her principal pleasure
in life, and there were no doubts of her own ability to disturb her so
long as there was no self-consciousness. Unfortunately, however, for her
tranquillity, the self-consciousness had to come. She approached the verge
of womanhood. She was made to do up her hair. She was encouraged to think
of being presented, coming out, and having a home of her own eventually.
Her liberty of action was sensibly curtailed, but all supervision in the
matter of her mental pursuits was withdrawn. She had received the
accustomed education for a girl in her position, which her parents held,
without knowing it themselves, perhaps, to consist for the most part in
being taught to know better than to read anything which they would have
considered objectionable. But the end of the supervision, which should
have been a joy to her, brought the first sudden sense of immensity, and
was chilling. She perceived that the world is large and strong, and that
she was small and weak; that knowledge is infinite, capacity indifferent,
life short--and then came the inevitable moment. She does not say what
caused the first overwhelming sense of self in her own case; but the
change it wrought is evident, and the disheartening doubts with which it
was accompanied are expressed. She picks her
Flower in the crannied wall,
and realizes her own limitations:
...but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
And from this time forward there is less literature and more life in the
Mr. and Lady Adeline Hamilton-Wells, with the inevitable twins, came
constantly to Fraylingay while Evadne was in the schoolroom, and generally
during the holidays, that she might be at liberty to look after the twins,
whose moral obliquities she was supposed to be able to control better than
anybody else. They once told their mother that they liked Evadne, "because
she was so good"; and Lady Adeline had a delicious moment of hope. If the
twins had begun to appreciate goodness they would be better themselves
directly, she was thinking, when Diavolo exclaimed: "We can shock her
easier than anybody," and hope died prematurely. They had been a source of
interest, and also of some concern to Evadne from the first. She took a
grave view of their vagaries, and entertained doubts on the subject of
their salvation should an "all-wise Providence" catch them peering into a
sewer, resolve itself into a poisonous gas, and cut them off suddenly--a
fate which had actually overtaken a small brother of her own who was not a
good little boy either--a fact which was the cause of much painful
reflection to Evadne. She understood all about the drain and the poisonous
gas, but she could not fit in the "all-wise Providence acting only for the
best," which was introduced as primary agent in the sad affair by "their
dear Mr. Campbell," as her mother called him, in "a most touching and
strengthening" discourse he delivered from the pulpit on the subject. If
Binny were naughty--and Binny _was_ naughty beyond all hope of
redemption, according to the books; there could be no doubt about that,
for he not only committed one, but each and every sin sufficient in itself
for condemnation, all in one day, too, when he could, and twice over if
there were time. He disobeyed orders. He fought cads. He stole apples. He
told lies--in fact, he preferred to tell lies; truth had no charm for him.
And all these things he was in the habit of doing regularly to the best of
his ability when he was "cut off"; and how such an end could be all for
the best, if the wicked must perish, and it is not good to perish, was the
puzzle. There was something she could not grasp of a contradictory nature
in it all that tormented her. The doctrine of Purgatory might have been a
help, but she had not heard of it.
She told the twins the story of Binny's sad end once in the orthodox way,
as a warning, but the warning was the only part of it which failed to
impress them. "And do you know," she said solemnly, "there were some green
apples found in his pockets after he was dead, actually!"
"What a pity!" Diavolo exclaimed. If they had been found in his stomach it
would have been so much more satisfactory. "How did he get the apples? Off
the tree or out of the storeroom?"
"I don't know," said Evadne.
"They wouldn't have green apples in the storeroom," Angelica thought.
"Oh, yes, they might," Diavolo considered. "Those big cooking fellows, you
know--they're green enough."
"But they're not nice," said Angelica.
"No, but you don't think of that till you've got them," was the outcome of
Diavolo's experience. "Is your storeroom on the ground floor?" he asked
"No," she answered.
"Is there a creeper outside the window?" he pursued.
"No, creepers won't grow because a big lime tree hangs it."
The children exchanged glances.
"I shouldn't have made that room a storeroom," said Angelica. "Lime trees
bring flies. There's something flies like on the leaves."
"But any tree will bring flies if you smear the leaves with sweet stuff,"
said Diavolo. "You remember that copper-beech outside papa's dressing room
"Yes," she said thoughtfully. "He had to turn out of his dressing room
this summer; he couldn't stand them."
"But was Binny often caught, Evadne?" Diavolo asked.
"Often," she said.
"But I suppose he had generally eaten the apples?" Angelica suggested
"It's better to eat them at once," sighed Diavolo. "Did you say he did
everything he was told not to do?"
"I expect when he was told not to do a thing he could not think of
anything else until he _had_ done it," said Angelica.
"And now he's in heaven," Diavolo speculated, looking up through the
window with big bright eyes pathetically.
The twins thought a good deal about heaven in their own way. Lady Adeline
did not like them to be talked to on the subject. They were indefatigable
explorers, and it was popularly supposed that only the difficulty of being
present at an inquest on their own bodies, which they would have
thoroughly enjoyed, had kept them so far from trying to obtain a glimpse
of the next world. They discovered the storeroom at Fraylingay half an
hour after they had discussed the improving details of Binny's exciting
career, and had found it quite easy of access by means of the available
lime tree. They both suffered a good deal that night, and they thought of
Binny. "But there's nothing in _our_ pockets, that's one comfort,"
Diavolo exclaimed suddenly, to the astonishment of his mother, who was
sitting up with him. Angelica heaved a sigh of satisfaction.
Evadne's patience with the twins was wonderful. She always took charge of
them cheerfully on wet days and in other times of trouble, and managed
them with infinite tact.
"How do you do it, my dear?" Lady Adeline asked. "Do you talk to them and
tell them stories?"
"No," said Evadne, "I don't talk much; I--just don't lose sight of
them--or interfere--if I can possibly help it."
The twins had no reverence for anything or anybody. One day they were in
Evadne's little sitting room which overlooked the courtyard. It was an
antechamber to her bedroom, and peculiarly her own by right of
primogeniture. Nobody ever thought of going there without her special
permission--except, of course, the twins; but even they assumed
hypocritical airs of innocent apology for accidental intrusion when they
wanted to make things pleasant for themselves.
On this particular occasion Evadne was sitting beside her little
work-table busy with her needle, and the twins were standing together
looking out of the window.
"There's papa," said Diavolo.
"He's going for a ride," said Angelica.
"Doesn't he mount queerly?" Diavolo observed. "He'd be safer in a bath
"Not if we were wheeling him," Angelica suggested, with a chuckle.
"What shall we do?" yawned Diavolo. "Shall we fight?"
"Yes; let's," said Angelica.
"You must do no such thing," Evadne interfered.
"Not fight! Why?" Angelica demanded.
"We _must_ fight, you know," Diavolo asserted.
"I don't see that," said Evadne. "Why should you fight?"
"It's good for the circulation of the blood," said Angelica. "Warms a
body, you know."
"And there's the property, too!" said Diavolo. "We've got to fight for
Evadne did not understand, so Angelica kindly explained: "You see, I'm the
eldest, but Diavolo's a boy, so he gets the property because of the
entail, and we neither of us think it fair; so we fight for it, and
whichever wins is to have it. I won the last battle, so it's mine just now;
but Diavolo may win it back if we fight again before papa dies. That's
why he wants to fight now, I expect."
"Yes," Diavolo candidly confessed. "But we generally fight when we see
papa go out for a ride."
"Because you are afraid he will catch you and punish you as you deserve,
if he's at home, I suppose, you bad children."
"Not at all," said Angelica. "It's because he looks so unsafe on a horse;
you never know what'll happen."
"It's a kind of a last chance," said Diavolo, "and that makes it
"But wouldn't you be very sorry if your father died?" Evadne asked.
The twins looked at each other doubtfully.
"Should we?" Diavolo said to Angelica.
"I wonder?" said Angelica.
One wet day they chose to paint in Evadne's room because they could not go
out. She found pictures, and got everything ready for them good-naturedly,
and then they sat themselves down at a little table opposite each other;
but the weather affected their spirits, and made them both fractious. They
wanted the same picture to begin with, and only settled the question by
demolishing it in their attempts to snatch it from each other. Then there
was only one left between them, but happily they remembered that artists
sometimes work at the same picture, and it further occurred to them that
it would be an original method--or "funny," as they phrased it--for one of
them to work at it wrong side up. So Angelica daubed the sky blue on her
side of the table, and Diavolo flung green on the fields from his. They
had large genial mouths at that time, indefinite noses, threatening to
turn up a little, and bright dark eyes, quick glancing, but with no
particular expression in them--no symptom either of love or hate, nothing
but living interest. It was pretty to see Diavolo's fair head touching
Angelica's dark one across the little table; but when it came too close
Angelica would dunt it sharply out of the way with her own, which was
apparently the harder of the two, and Diavolo would put up his hand and
rub the spot absently. He was too thoroughly accustomed to such sisterly
attentions to be altogether conscious of them.
The weather darkened down.
"I wish I could see," he grumbled.
"Get out of your own light," said Angelica.
"How can I get out of my own light when there isn't any light to get out
Angelica put her paint brush in her mouth, and looked up at the window
"Let's make it into a song," she said.
"Let's," said Diavolo, intent upon making blue and yellow into green.
"No light have we, and that we do resent,
And, learning, this the weather will relent,
Repent! Relent! Ah-men,"
Angelica sang. Diavolo paused with his brush halfway to his mouth, and
"Now!" said Angelica, and they repeated the parody together, Angelica
making a perfect second to Diavolo's exquisite treble.
Evadne looked up from her work surprised. Her own voice was contralto, but
it would have taken her a week to learn to sing a second from the notes,
and she had never dreamt of making one.
"I didn't know you could sing," she said.
"Oh, yes, we can sing," Angelica answered cheerfully. "We've a decided
talent for music."
"Angelica can make a song in a moment," said Diavolo. "Let me paint your
nose green, Evadne."
"You can paint mine if you like," said Angelica.
"No, I shan't. I shall paint my own."
"No, you paint mine, and I'll paint yours," Angelica suggested.
"Well, both together, then," Diavolo answered.
"Honest Injin," Angelica agreed, and they set to work.
Evadne sat with her embroidery in her lap and watched them. Their faces
would have to be washed in any case, and they might as well be washed for
an acre as for an inch of paint. She never nagged with, "Don't do this,"
and "Don't do that" about everything, if their offences could be summed
up, and wiped out in some such way all at once.
"We'll sing you an anthem some day," Angelica presently promised.
"Why not now?" said Evadne.
"The spirit does not move us," Diavolo answered.
"But you may forget," said Evadne.
"We never forget our promises," Angelica protested as proudly as was
possible with a green nose.
Nor did they, curiously enough. They made a point of keeping their word,
but in their own way, and this one was kept in due course. The time they
chose was when a certain Grand Duke was staying in the house. They had
quite captivated him, and he expressed a wish to hear them sing.
"Shall we?" said Diavolo,
"We will," said Angelica, "Not because he's a prince, but because we
promised Evadne an anthem, and we might as well do it now," she added with
true British independence.
The prince chuckled.
"What shall it be?" said Diavolo, settling himself at the piano. He always
played the accompaniments.
"_Papa_, I think," said Angelica.
"What is '_Papa_'?" Lady Adeline asked anxiously.
"Very nice, or you wouldn't have married him," answered Angelica. "Go on,
Diavolo. If you sing flat, I'll slap you."
"If you're impertinent, miss, I'll put you out," Diavolo retorted.
"Go on," said Evadne sharply, fearing a fight.
But to everybody's intense relief the prince laughed, and then the twins'
distinguished manners appeared in a new and agreeable light.
"_Papa--Papa--Papa_,"--they sang--"_Papa says--that we--that
we--that we are little devils! and so we are--we are--we are and ever
shall be--world without end_."
"_I am a chip_," Diavolo trilled exquisitely; "_I am a chip_."
"_Thou art a chip--Thou art a chip_," Angelica responded.
"_We are both chips_," they concluded harmoniously--"_chips of the
old--old block! And as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen!_"
"You sang that last phrase flat you--_pulp!_" cried Angelica.
"I can't both sing and play," Diavolo protested.
"You'll say you can't eat and breathe next," she retorted, giving his hair
"What did you do that for?" he demanded.
"Just to waken you up," she answered.
"Are they always like this?" the prince asked, much edified.
"This is nothing," groaned Mr. Hamilton-Wells.
"Nothing if it is not genius," the prince suggested gracefully.
"The ineffectual genius of the nineteenth century I fancy, which betrays
itself by strange incongruities and contrasts of a violent kind, but is
otherwise unproductive," Mrs. Orton Beg whispered to Mr. Frayling
Lady Adeline looked up: "I could not help hearing," she said.
"Oh, Adeline, I am sorry!" Mrs. Orton Beg exclaimed.
"_I_ thank you," said Lady Adeline, sighing. "Courtly phrases are
pleasant plums, even to latter-day palates which are losing all taste for
such dainties; but they are not nourishing. I would rather know my
children to be merely naughty, and spend my time in trying to make them
good, than falsely flatter myself that there is anything great in them,
and indulge them on that plea, until I had thoroughly confirmed them in
faults which I ought to have been rigorously repressing."
"You're right there," said Mr. Frayling; "but all the same, you'll be able
to make a good deal of that boy, or I'm much mistaken. And as for
Angelica, why, when she is at the head of an establishment of her own she
will require all her smartness. But teach her housekeeping, Lady Adeline;
that is the thing for _her_."
Evadne was sitting near her father, not taking part in the conversation,
but attending to it; and Lady Adeline, happening to look at her at this
moment, saw something which gave her "pause to ponder." Evadne's face
recalled somewhat the type of old Egypt, Egypt with an intellect added.
Her eyes were long and apparently narrow, but not so in reality--a trick
she had of holding them half shut habitually gave a false impression of
their size, and veiled the penetration of their glance also, which was
exceptionally keen. In moments of emotion, however, she would open them to
the full unexpectedly, and then the effect was startling and peculiar; and
it was one of these transient flashes which surprised Lady Adeline when
Mr. Frayling made that last remark. It was a mere gleam, but it revealed
Evadne to Lady Adeline as a flash of lightning might have revealed a
familiar landscape on a dark night. She saw what she expected to see, but
all transformed, and she saw something beyond, which she did not expect,
and could neither comprehend nor forget. So far she had only thought of
Evadne as a nice, quiet little thing with nothing particular in her; from
that evening, however, she suspended her opinion, suspecting something,
but waiting to know more. Evadne was then in her eighteenth year, but not
Mrs. Orton Beg was a sister of Mrs. Frayling's and an oracle to Evadne.
Mrs. Frayling was fair, plump, sweet, yielding, commonplace, prolific;
Mrs. Orton Beg was a barren widow, slender, sincere, silent, firm, and
tender. Mrs. Frayling, for lack of insight, was unsympathetic, Mrs. Orton
Beg was just the opposite; and she and Evadne understood each other, and
were silent together in the most companionable way in the world.
When Evadne went to her own room on the evening made memorable by the
twins' famous anthem, she was haunted by that word "ineffectual," which
Mrs. Orton Beg had used. "Ineffectual genius"--there was something
familiar as well as high sounding in the epithet; it recalled an idea with
which she was already acquainted; what was it? She opened her "Commonplace
Book," and sat with her pen in her hand, cogitating comfortably. She had
no need to weary her fresh young brain with an irritating pursuit of what
she wanted; she had only to wait, and it would recur to her. And presently
it came. Her countenance brightened. She bent over the book and wrote a
few lines, read them when she had blotted them, and was satisfied.
"I have it," she wrote. "Shelley = genius of the nineteenth
century--'Beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his
luminous wings in vain.'--_Matthew Arnold_."
When she had done this she took up a book, went to the fire, settled
herself in an easy-chair, and began to read. The book was "Ruth," by Mrs.
Gaskell, and she was just finishing it. When she had done so she went back
to the table, and copied out the following paragraph:
"The daily life into which people are born, and into which they are
absorbed before they are aware, forms chains which only one in a hundred
has moral strength enough to despise, and to break when the right time
comes--when an inward necessity for independent action arises, which is
superior to all outward conventionalities."
She stopped here, and pushed the volume away from her. It was the only
passage in it which she cared to remember.
She had lost the confidence of the child by this time, and become humbly
doubtful of her own opinion; and instead of summing up "Ruth" boldly, as
she would have done the year before, she paused now a moment to reflect
before she wrote with diffidence:
"The principal impression this book has made upon me is that Mrs. Gaskell
must have been a very lovable woman."
[Footnote: George Eliot thought so too, years before Evadne was born, and
expressed the thought in a letter in which she also prophesied that "Ruth"
would not live through a generation. The impression the book made upon
Evadne is another proof of prescience in the great writer.]
"The story seems to me long drawn out, and of small significance. It is
full of food for the heart, but the head goes empty away, and both should
be satisfied by a work of fiction, I think. But perhaps it is my own mood
that is at fault. At another time I might have found gems in it which now
in my dulness I have failed to perceive."
Somebody knocked at the door as she blotted the words.
"Come in, auntie," she said, as if in answer to an accustomed signal; and
Mrs. Orton Beg entered in a long, loose, voluminously draped white
Evadne drew an easy-chair to the fire for her.
"Sit down, auntie," she said, "and be cosey. You are late to-night. I was
afraid you were not coming."
Mrs. Orton Beg was in the habit of coming to Evadne's room every evening
when she was at Fraylingay, to chat, or sit silently sociable over the
fire with her before saying goodnight.
"Do I ever fail you?" she asked, smiling.
"No. But I have been afraid of the fatal fascination of that great fat
foreign prince. He singled you out for special attention, and I have been
"Well, you need not have been, for he singled me out in order to talk
about you. He thinks you are a nice child. You interest him."
"Defend me!" said Evadne. "But you mistake me, dear aunt. It was not of
him I was jealous, but of you. The fat prince is nothing to me, and you
are a very great deal."
Mrs. Orton Beg's face brightened at the words, but she continued to look
into the fire silently for some seconds after Evadne had spoken, and made
no other visible sign of having heard them.
"I don't think I ought to encourage you to sit up so late," she said
presently. "Lady Adeline has just been asking me who it is that burns the
midnight oil up here so regularly."
"Lady Adeline must be up very late herself to see it," said Evadne. "I
suppose those precious twins disturb her. I wish she would let me take
entire charge of them when she is here. It would be a relief, I should
"It would be an imposition," said Mrs. Orton Beg. "But you are a brave
girl, Evadne. _I_ would not venture."
"Oh, they delight me," Evadne answered. "And I know them well enough now
to forestall them."
"When I told Lady Adeline that these were your rooms," her aunt pursued,
"she said something about a lily maid high in her chamber up a tower to
the east guarding the sacred shield of Lancelot."
"Singularly inappropriate," said Evadne. "For my tower is south and west,
"And there isn't a symptom of Lancelot," her aunt concluded.
"Young ladies don't guard sacred shields nowadays," said Evadne.
"No," answered her aunt, glancing over her shoulder at the open book on
the table. "They have substituted the sacred 'Commonplace Book'--full of
thought, I fancy."
"You speak regretfully, auntie; but isn't it better to think and be happy,
than to die of atrophy for a sentiment?"
"I don't think it better to extinguish all sentiment. Life without
sentiment would be so bald."
"But life with that kind of sentiment doesn't last, it seems, and nobody
is benefited by it. It is extreme misery to the girl herself, and she dies
young, leaving a legacy of lifelong regret and bitterness to her friends.
I should think it small comfort to become the subject for a poem or a
picture at such a price. And surely, auntie, sentiments which are silly or
dangerous would be better extinguished?"
Mrs. Orton Beg smiled at the fire enigmatically.
"But the poem or the picture may become a lasting benefit to mankind," she
"Humph!" said Evadne.
"You doubt it?"
"Well, you see, auntie, there are two ways of looking at it. When you
first come across the poem or the picture which perpetuates the sentiment
that slew the girl, and beautifies it, you feel a glow all over, and fancy
you would like to imitate her, and think that you would deserve great
credit for it if you did. But when you come to consider, there is nothing
very noble, after all, in a hopeless passion for an elderly man of the
world who is past being benefited by it, even if he could reciprocate it.
Elaine should have married a man of her own age, and made him happy. She
would have done some good in her time so, and been saved from setting us a
bad example. I think it a sin to make unwholesome sentiments attractive."
"Then Lancelot does not charm you?"
"No," said Evadne thoughtfully. "I should have preferred the king."
"Ah, yes. Because he was the nobler, the more ideal man?"
"No, not exactly," Evadne answered. "But because he was the more
"My dear child, are you speaking literally?"
"Good Heavens!" Mrs. Orton Beg ejaculated softly. "The times _have_
"Yes, we know more now," Evadne answered tranquilly.
"You are fulfilling the promise of your youth, Evadne," her aunt remarked
after a thoughtful pause. "I remember reading a fairy tale of Jean
Ingelow's aloud to you children in the nursery long ago. I forget the name
of it, but it was the one into which 'One morning, oh, so early,' comes;
and you started a controversy as to whether, speaking of the dove, when
the lark said 'Give us glory,' she should have made answer, 'Give us
peace' or 'peas.' The latter, you maintained, as being the more natural,
and the most sensible."
"I must have been a horrid little prig in those days," said Evadne,
smiling. "But, auntie, there can be no peace without plenty. And I think I
would rather be a sensible realist than a foolish idealist. You mean that
you think me too much of a utilitarian, do you not?"
"You are in danger, I think."
"Utilitarianism is Bentham's _greatest happiness principle_, is it
not?" Evadne asked.
"Yes--greatest human happiness," her aunt replied.
"Well, I don't know how that can be dangerous in principle. But, of
course, I know nothing of such questions practically. Only I do seem to
perceive that you must rest on a solid basis of real advantages before you
can reach up to ideal perfection with any chance of success."
"You seem to be very wide awake to-night, Evadne," Mrs. Orton Beg
rejoined. "This is the first I have heard of your peculiar views."
"Oh, I am a kind of owl, I think, auntie," Evadne answered apologetically.
"You see, I never had anything to do in the schoolroom that I could not
manage when I was half asleep, and so I formed a habit of dozing over my
lessons by day, and waking up when I came to bed at night. Having a room
of my own always has been a great advantage. I have been secure all along
of a quiet time at night for reading and thought--and that is real life,
auntie, isn't it? I don't care to talk much, as a rule, do you? I like to
listen and watch people. But I always wake up at this time of the night,
and I feel as if I could be quite garrulous now when everybody else is
going to sleep. But, auntie, don't use such an ominous expression as
'peculiar views' about anything I say, _please_; 'views' are always
in ill odour, and peculiarities, even peculiar perfections, would isolate
one, and that I _do_ dread. It would be awful to be out of sympathy
with one's fellow-creatures, and have them look suspiciously at one; and
it would be no comfort to me to know that want of sympathy is the proof of
a narrow nature, and that suspicion is the inevitable outcome of ignorance
and stupidity. I don't want to despise my fellow-creatures. I would rather
share their ignorance and conceit and be sociable than find myself
isolated even by a very real superiority. The one would be pleasant
enough, I should think; the other pain beyond all bearing of it."
Mrs. Orton Beg's heart contracted with a momentary fear for her niece, but
she dismissed it promptly.
"The room to yourself has been a doubtful advantage, I fancy," she said.
"It has made you theoretical. But you will lose all that by and by. And in
the meantime, you must remember that in such matters we have small choice.
We are born with superior or inferior faculties, and must make use of
them, such as they are, to become inferior cooks or countesses or superior
ditto, as the case may be. But there are always plenty of one's own kind,
whichever it is, to consort with. Birds of a feather, you know. You need
not be afraid of being isolated."
"You are thinking of ordinary faculties, auntie. I was thinking of
extraordinary. But even with ordinary ones we are hampered. Birds of a
feather would flock together if they could, of course, but then they can't
always; and suppose, being superior, you find yourself forced to associate
with inferior cooks of your kind, what then?"
"Be their queen."
"Which, unless you were a queen of hearts, would really amount to being an
object of envy and dislike, and that brings us back to the point from
which we started."
"Evadne, you talk like a book; go to bed!" Mrs. Orton Beg exclaimed,
"It is you who have made me talk, then," Evadne rejoined promptly, "and I
feel inclined to ask now, with all proper respect, what has come to you?
It must be the prince!"
"Yes, it must be the prince!" Mrs. Orton Beg responded, raising her
slender white hand to smother a yawn. "And it must be good-night, too--or