Part 13 out of 15
END OF BOOK V.
THE IMPRESSIONS OF DR. GALBRAITH
Nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice.
--_Othello_, Act V. Sc. II.
NOTE.--The fact that Dr. Galbraith had not the advantage of knowing
Evadne's early history when they first became acquainted adds a certain
piquancy to the flavour of his impressions, and the reader, better
informed than himself with regard to the antecedents of his "subject,"
will find it interesting to note both the accuracy of his insight and the
curious mistakes which it is possible even for a trained observer like
himself to make by the half light of such imperfect knowledge as he was
able to collect under the circumstances. His record, which is minute in
all important particulars, is specially valuable for the way in which it
makes apparent the changes of habit and opinion and the modifications of
character that had been brought about in a very short time by the
restriction Colonel Colquhoun had imposed upon her. In some respects it is
hard to believe that she is the same person. But more interesting still,
perhaps, are the glimpses we get of Dr. Galbraith himself in the
narrative, throughout which it is easy to decipher the simple earnestness
of the man, the cautious professionalism and integrity, the touches of
tender sentiment held in check, the dash of egotism, the healthy-minded
human nature, the capacity for enjoyment and sorrow, the love of life,
and, above all, the perfect unconsciousness with which he shows himself to
have been a man of fastidious refinement and exemplary moral strength and
delicacy; of the highest possible character; and most lovable in spite of
a somewhat irascible temper and manner which were apt to be abrupt at
Evadne puzzled me. As a rule, men of my profession, and more particularly
specialists like myself, can class a woman's character and gauge her
propensities for good or evil while he is diagnosing her disease if she
consult him, or more easily still during half an hour's ordinary
conversation if he happens to be alone with her. But even after I had seen
Evadne many times, and felt broadly that I knew her salient points as well
as such tricks of manner or habitual turns of expression as distinguished
her from other ladies, I was puzzled.
We are not sufficiently interested in all the people we meet to care to
understand their characters exactly, but a medical man who has not insight
enough to do so at will has small chance of success in his profession, and
when I found myself puzzled about Evadne it became a point of importance
with me to understand her. She was certainly an interesting study, and all
the more so because of that initial difficulty--a difficulty, by the way,
which I found from the gossip of the place that everybody else was
experiencing more or less. For it was evident from the first that whatever
her real character might be, she was anything but a nonentity. Before she
had been in the neighbourhood a fortnight she had made a distinct
impression and was freely discussed, a fact which speaks for itself in two
ways: first, her individuality was strongly marked enough to attract
immediate attention, and secondly, there was that about her which provoked
criticism. Not that the criticism of a community like ours is worth much,
consisting as it does of carping mainly, and the kind of carping which
reflects much more upon the low level of intelligence that obtains in such
neighbourhoods than upon the character of the person criticised, for what
the vulgar do not understand they are apt to condemn. Somebody has said
that to praise moderately is a sign of mediocrity; and somebody might have
added that to denounce decidedly shows deficiency in a multitude of
estimable qualities, among which discernment must be specially
mentioned--not, however, that there was any question of denouncing here,
for Evadne was always more discussed for what she was not than for what
she was. One lady of my acquaintance put part of my own feeling into words
when she declared that Evadne _could_ be nicer if _she would_,
that part of it which first made me suspect that there was something
artificial in her attitude towards the world at large, and more especially
towards the world of thought and opinion, and that, had she been natural,
she would have differed from herself as we knew her in many material
respects. Naturalness, however, is a quality upon which too much stress is
generally laid. If you are naturally nice it is all very well, but suppose
you are naturally nasty? We should be very thankful indeed to think that
some of our friends are not natural.
In looking back now, I am inclined to ask why we, Evadne's intimate
friends, should always have expected more of her than we did of other
people. That certainly was the case, and she disappointed us. We felt that
she should have been a representative woman such as the world wants at
this period of its progress, making a name for herself and an impression
on the age; and it was probably her objection, expressed with quite
passionate earnestness, to play a part in which we gathered from many
chance indications that she was eminently qualified to have excelled, that
constituted the puzzle. Her natural bent was certainly in that direction,
but something had changed it; and here in particular the external
tormenting difficulty with regard to her occurred with full force. At a
very early period of our acquaintance, however, I discovered that her
attitude in this respect was not inherent, but deliberately chosen.
"I avoid questions of the day as much as possible," she said on one
occasion in answer to some remark of mine on a current topic of
conversation. "I do not, as a rule, read anything on such subjects, and if
people begin to discuss them in my presence I fly if I can."
"I should have thought that all such questions would have interested you
deeply," I observed.
"They seem to possess a quite fatal fascination for people who allow
themselves to be interested," she answered evasively, and in a tone which
forbade further discussion of the subject.
But it was the evasion which enlightened me. She would not have been
afraid of the "fatal fascination" if she had never felt it herself, and it
was therefore evident that her objection was not the outcome of ignorant
prejudice, but of knowledge and set purpose. It was the attitude of a
The impression she made upon the neighbourhood was curious in one way--it
was so very mixed, In the adverse part of the mixture, however, a good
deal of personal pique was apparent, and one thing was always obvious:
people liked her as much as she would let them. She even might have been
popular had she chosen, but popularity comes of condescending to the level
of the average, and Evadne was exclusive. She was _une vraie petite
grande dame_ at heart as well as in appearance, and would associate
with none but her equals; and out of those again she was fastidious in the
selection of her friends. To servants, people who knew their proper place,
and retainers generally, with legitimate claims to her consideration, she
was all kindly courtesy, and they were devoted to her; but she met the
aspiring parvenu, seeking her acquaintance on false pretences of equality,
with that disdainful civility which is more exasperating than positive
rudeness because a lady is only rude to her equals.
And hence most of the animadversion.
But her manner was perfectly consistent. Her coldness or cordiality to
mere acquaintances only varied of necessity according to her position and
responsibilities. In her own house, where the onus of entertaining fell
upon her, she was charming to everybody to-day, neglecting none, and
giving an equally flattering share of her attention to each; but if she
met the same people at somebody else's place to-morrow, when she was off
duty, as it were, she certainly showed no more interest than she felt in
them. I do not believe, however, that she ever committed a breach of good
manners in her life. When she spoke to you she did so with the most
perfect manner, giving you her whole attention for the moment, and never
letting her eyes wander, as underbred people so often do, especially in
the act of shaking hands. Fairly considered, her attitude in society was
distinguished by an equable politeness, in which, however, there was no
heart, and that was what the world missed. She did not care for society,
and society demands your heart, having none of its own. She certainly did
her duty in that state of life, but without any affectation of delight in
it. She went to all the local entertainments as custom required, and
suffered from suspended animation under the influence of the deadly
dulness which prevailed at most of them, but in that she was not peculiar,
and she could conceal her boredom more successfully than almost anybody
else I knew, and did so heroically.
In her religion too she was quite conventional. Like most people in these
days, she was a good Churchwoman without being in any sense a Christian.
She did not love her neighbour as herself, or profess to; but she went to
church regularly and made all the responses, pleasing the clergy, and
deriving some solace herself from the occupation--at least she always said
the services were soothing. She was genuinely shocked by a sign of
irreverence, and would sing the most jingling nonsense as a hymn with
perfect gravity and without perceiving that there was any flaw in it. In
these matters she showed no originality at all. She would repeat "my duty
towards my neighbour is to love him as myself, and to do to all men as I
would that they should do unto me" fervently, and come out and cut Mrs.
Chrimes to the quick just afterward because she had the misfortune to be a
tanner's wife and nobody's daughter in particular. It was what she had
been taught. Any one of her set would have said "my duty to my neighbour"
without a doubt of their own sincerity, and given Mrs. Chrimes the cold
shoulder too; the inconsistency is customary, and in this particular
Evadne was as much a creature of custom as the rest.
It was my fate to take Evadne in to dinner on the first occasion of our
meeting. I did not hear her name when I was presented, and had no idea who
she was, but I was struck by her appearance. Her figure was fragile to a
fault, and she was evidently delicate at that time, not having fully
recovered, as I was afterwards told, from a severe attack of Maltese fever;
but her complexion was not unhealthy. Her features were refined and
exquisitely feminine. She looked about twenty, and her face in repose
would have been expressionless but for the slight changes about the mouth
which showed that the mind was working within. Her long eyes seemed narrow
from a trick she had of holding them half shut. They were slow-glancing
and steadfast, and all her movements struck one at first as being languid,
but that impression wore off after a time, and then it became apparent
that they were merely rather more deliberate than is usual with a girl.
She answered my first remarks somewhat shortly; but certainly such
observations as one finds to make to a strange lady while taking her from
the drawing room to the dining room and arranging her chair at table are
not usually calculated to inspire brilliant responses. She had the habit
of society to perfection and was essentially self-possessed, but I fancied
she was shy. Coldness is often a cover for extreme shyness in women of her
station, and I did my best to thaw her; but the soup and fish had been
removed and we had arrived at the last _entree_ before I made a
remark that roused her in the least. I forget what I said exactly, but it
was some stupid commonplace about the difficulties of the political
situation at the moment.
"I hate politics," she then observed. "Business is a disagreeable thing,
whether it be the business of the nation or of the shop. I hear women say
that they are obliged to interfere just now in all that concerns
themselves because men have cheated and imposed upon them to a quite
unbearable extent. But they will do no good by it. Their position is
perfectly hopeless. And the mere trade of governing is a coarse pursuit,
and therefore most objectionable for us." She drew in her breath and
tightened her lips. "But for myself," she added, "what I object to mainly
is the thought. Why are they trying to make us think? The great difficulty
is not to think. There are plenty of men to think for us, and while they
are thinking we can be feeling. I, for one, have no joy in eventful
living. Feeling is life, not thought. You need not be afraid to give us
the suffrage," she broke off, with the first glimpse of a smile I had seen
on her lips. "After the excitement of conquering your opposition to it was
over we should all be content, and not one woman in a hundred would
trouble herself to vote."
"I believe women are more public spirited than that," I answered. "They
are toiling everywhere now for the furtherance of all good works, and they
come forward courageously whenever necessity compels them to take such an
extreme and uncongenial course. In times of war--"
She had been leaning back in her chair in a somewhat languid attitude, but
now suddenly she straightened herself, her face flushed crimson, and I
stopped short. Something in the word "War" either hurt or excited her. Her
long eyes opened on me wide and bright for the first time, and flashed a
look into mine more stirring than the wine that bubbled in the glass
between my fingers.
"She is beautiful!" I said to myself; but up to that moment I had not
"War!" she exclaimed, speaking under her breath, but incisively. "Do not
let us talk about it! War is the dirty work of a nation; it is one of the
indecencies of life, and should never be mentioned!"
She looked straight into my face for a moment with eyes wide open and lips
compressed when she had finished speaking, and then took her _menu_
in her left hand, and began to study it with great apparent attention.
Having discovered that she thought politics a coarse, contaminating
business, and war the dirty work of a nation, I felt curious to know her
views on literature and art.
"I have just been reading a book that might interest you," I began; "it
strikes me as being so true to life."
"I think I should be inclined to avoid it, then," she answered, "for I
always find that 'true to life' in a book means something revolting."
"Unfortunately, yes, it often does," I agreed. "But still we ought to
know. If we refused to study the bad side of life, no evil would ever be
"Do you think any good is ever done?" she asked.
"I am afraid you are a pessimist," I rejoined.
"But do you really like books that are true to life yourself?" she
proceeded. "Don't you think we see enough of life without reading about
it? For my own part I am grateful to anyone who has the power to take me
out of this world and make me feel something--realise something--beyond.
The dash of the supernatural, for instance, in 'John Inglesant,' 'Mr.
Isaacs,' 'The Wizard's Son,' and 'The Little Pilgrim' has the effect of
rest upon my mind, and gives me greater pleasure than the most perfect
picture of real life ever presented. In fact, my ideal of perfect bliss in
these days is to know nothing and believe in ghosts."
This also was a comprehensive opinion, and I felt no further inclination
to name the book to which I had alluded. But now that she had begun to
respond I should have been well content to continue the conversation.
There was something so unusual in most of her opinions that I wanted to
hear more, although I confess that what she said interested me less than
she herself did. Before I could touch on another topic, however, the
ladies left the table.
A big blond man, middle-aged, bald, bland, and with a heavy moustache, had
been sitting opposite to us during dinner, and had attracted my attention
by the way he looked at my partner from time to time. It was a difficult
look to describe, because there was neither admiration nor interest in it,
approval nor disapproval; he might have looked at a block of wood in
exactly the same way, and it could hardly have been less responsive. Once,
however, their eyes did meet, and then the glance became one of friendly
recognition on both sides; but even after that he still continued to look
in the same queer way, and it was this fact that struck me as peculiar.
When the ladies had gone I happened to find myself beside this gentleman,
and asked him if he could tell me who it was I had taken in to dinner.
"Well, she is supposed to be my wife," he answered deliberately; "and I am
He spoke with a decidedly Irish accent of the educated sort, and seemed to
think that I should know all about him when he mentioned his name, but I
had never heard of the fellow before. I rightly conjectured, however, that
he was the new man who had come to command the Depot at Morningquest while
I had been abroad for my holiday.
First impressions are very precious for many reasons. They have a charm of
their own to begin with, and it is interesting to recall them; and
salutary, also, if not sedative. Collect a few, and you will soon see
clearly the particular kind of ass you are by the mistakes you have made
in consequence of having confided in them. When I first met Evadne I was
still young enough, in the opprobrious sense of the word, to suppose that
I should find her mentally, when I met her again, just where she was when
she left me after our little chat at the dinner-table; and I went to pay
my duty call upon her under that most erroneous impression. I intended to
resume our interrupted conversation, and never doubted but that I should
find her willing to gratify my interest in her peculiar views. It was a
mistake, however, which anybody, whose delight in his own pursuits is
continuous, might make, and one into which the cleverest man is prone to
fall when the object is a woman.
I called on Evadne the day after the dinner. She was alone, and rising
from a seat beside a small work-table as I entered, advanced a step, and
held out a nerveless hand to me. She was not looking well. Her skin was
white and opaque, her eyes dull, her lips pale, and her apparent age ten
years more than I had given her on the previous evening. She was a
lamplight beauty, I supposed. But her dress satisfied. It was a long
indoor gown which indicated without indelicacy the natural lines of her
slender figure, and she was innocent of the shocking vulgarity of the
small waist, a common enough deformity at that time, although now, it is
said, affected by third rate actresses and women of indifferent character
only. The waist is an infallible index to the moral worth of a woman; very
little of the latter survives the pressure of a tightened corset.
"Will you sit there?" Evadne said, indicating an easy chair and subsiding
into her own again as she spoke. "Colonel Colquhoun is not at home," she
added, "but I hope he will return in time to see you. He will be sorry if
he does not."
It was quite the proper thing to say, and her manner was all that it ought
to have been, yet somehow the effect was not encouraging. Had I been
inclined to presume I should have felt myself put in my place, but, being
void of reproach, my mind was free to take notes, and I decided off-hand
that Evadne was a society woman of unexceptionable form, but ordinary, and
my nascent interest was nowhere. My visit lasted about a quarter of an
hour, during which time she gave me back commonplace for commonplace
punctually, doing damage to her gown with a pin she held in her left hand
the while, and only raising her eyes to mine for an instant at a time.
Nothing could have been easier, colder, thinner, more uninspiring than the
fluent periods with which she favoured me, and nothing more stultifying to
my own brain. If it had not been for that pin my wits must have wandered.
As it was, however, she inadvertently forced me to concentrate my
attention upon the pin, with fears for her femoral artery, by apparently
sticking it into herself in a reckless way whenever there was a pause, and
each emphatic little dig startled my imagination into lively activity and
kept me awake.
But, altogether, the visit was disappointing, and I left her under the
impression that the glimpse of mind I had had the night before was
delusive, a mere transient flash of intelligence caused by some swift
current of emotion due to external influences of which I was unaware.
Love, or an effervescent wine, will kindle some such spark in the dullest.
But there was nothing in Evadne's manner indicative of the former
influence; and as to the latter, the only use she ever made of a wineglass
was to put her gloves in it.
As I gathered up the reins to drive my dogcart home that afternoon I was
conscious of an impression on my mind as of a yawn. But I was relieved to
have the visit over--and done with, as I at first believed it to be; but
it was not done with, for during the drive a thought occurred to me with
chastening rather than cheering effect, a thought which proves that my
opinion of Evadne's capacity had begun to be mixed even at that early
period of our acquaintance. I acknowledged to myself that one of us had
been flat that day, and had infected the other; but which was the original
flat one? Some minds are like caves of stalactite and stalagmite, rich in
treasures of beauty, the existence of which you may never suspect because
you bring no light yourself to dispel the darkness that conceals them.
The next time I saw Evadne it was at her own house also, and it was only a
few days after my first visit. I was driving past, but encountered Colonel
Colquhoun at the gate, and pulled up for politeness' sake, as I had not
seen him when I called. He was returning from barracks in a jovial mood,
and made such a point of my going in that I felt obliged to. We found
Evadne alone in the drawing room, and I noticed to my surprise that she
was extremely nervous. Her manner was self-possessed, but her hands
betrayed her. She fidgeted with her rings or her buttons or her fingers
incessantly, and certainly was relieved when I rose to go.
The little she said, however, impressed me, and I would gladly have stayed
to hear more had she wished it. I fancied, however, that she did not wish
it, and I accordingly took my leave as soon as I decently could.
As I drove home I found myself revising my revised opinion of her. I felt
sure now that she was something more than an ordinary society woman.
Still, like everybody else at that time, I could not have said whether I
liked or disliked her. But I wanted to see her again. Before I had an
opportunity of doing so, however, I received a request with regard to her
which developed my latent curiosity into honest interest, and added a
certain sense of duty to my half formed wish to know more of her.
The request arrived in the shape of a letter from Lady Adeline
Hamilton-Wells, an intimate friend of mine, and one who has always had my
most sincere respect and affection. She is a woman who lives altogether
for others, devoting the greater part of her ample means, and all the
influence of an excellent position, to their service; and she is a woman
who stands alone on the strength of her own individuality, for Mr.
Hamilton-Wells does not count. Her great charm is her perfect sincerity.
She is essentially true.
When I saw her note on the breakfast table next day, I knew that somehow
it would prove to be of more importance than the whole of my other letters
put together, and I therefore hastened to open it first.
"VILLA MIGNONNE, 15th March, 1880.
"Colonel Colquhoun, late of the Colqohoun Highlanders, has been appointed
to command the depot at Morningquest, I hear. Kindly make his wife's
acquaintance at your earliest convenience to oblige me. She is one of the
Fraylings of Fraylingay. Her mother is a sister of Mrs. Orton Beg's, and a
very old friend of mine. I used to see a good deal of Mrs. Colquhoun up to
the time that she met her husband, and she was then a charming girl,
quiet, but clever. I lost sight of her after her marriage, however, for
about two years, and only met her again last January in Paris, when I
found her changed beyond all knowing of her, and I can't think why. She is
not on good terms with her own people for some mysterious reason, but,
apart from that, she seems to have everything in the world she can want,
and makes quite a boast of her husband's kindness and consideration. I
noticed that she did not get on well with men as a rule, and she may repel
you at first, but persevere, for she _can_ be fascinating, and to
both sexes too, which is rare; but I am told that people who begin by
disliking often end by adoring her--people with anything in them, I mean,
for, as I have learnt to observe under your able tuition, the 'blockhead
majority' _does_ do despitefully by what it cannot comprehend. And
that is why I am writing to you. I am afraid Evadne will come into
collision with some of the prejudices of our enlightened neighbourhood.
She is not perfect, and nothing but perfection is good enough for certain
angelic women of our acquaintance. They will call her very character in
question at the trial tribunals of their tea-tables if she be, as I think,
of the kind who cause comment; and they will throw stones at her and make
her suffer even if they do her no permanent injury. For I fear that she is
nervously sensitive both to praise and blame, a woman to be hurt
inevitably in this battle of life, and a complex character which I own I
do not perfectly comprehend myself yet, perhaps because parts of it are
still nebulous. But doubtless your keener insight will detect what is
obscure to me, and I rely upon you to befriend her until my return to
England, when I hope to be able to relieve you of all responsibility.
"Tell me, too, how you get on with Colonel Colquhoun. I should like to
know what you think of them both.
My answer to this letter has lately come into my possession, and I give it
as being of more value probably than any subsequent record of these early
"FOUNTAIN TOWERS, 19th March, 1880.
"MY DEAR LADY ADELINE:
"I had made Mrs. Colquhoun's acquaintance before I received your letter,
and have seen her three times altogether. And three times has not been
enough to enable me to form a decided opinion of her character, which
seems to be out of the common. Had you asked me what I thought of her
after our first meeting, I should have said she is peculiar; after the
second I am afraid I should have presumed to say not 'much'; but now,
after the third, I am prepared to maintain that she is decidedly
interesting. Her manner is just a trifle stiff to begin with, but that is
so evidently the outcome of shyness that I cannot understand anybody being
repelled by it. Her voice is charming, every tone is exquisitely
modulated, and she expresses herself with ease, and with a certain grace
of diction peculiarly her own. It is a treat to hear English spoken as she
speaks it. She uses little or no slang and few abbreviations, but she is
perfectly fearless in her choice of words, and invariably employs the one
which expresses her meaning best, however strong it may be, yet somehow
the effect is never coarse. Yesterday she wanted to know the name of an
officer now at the barracks, and made her husband understand which she
meant in this way: 'He is a little man,' she said, 'who puts his hands
deep down in his pockets, hunches up his shoulders, and says _damn_
emphatically.' How she can use such words without offence is a mystery;
but she certainly does.
"All this, however, you must have observed for yourself, and I know that
it is merely skimming about your question, not answering it. But I humbly
confess, though it cost me your confidence in my 'keen insight' forever,
that I cannot answer it. So far, Mrs. Colquhoun has appealed to me merely
as a text upon which to hang conclusions. I do not in the least know what
she is, but I can see already what she will become--if her friends are not
careful; and that is a phrase-maker.
"Colonel Colquhoun is likely to be a greater favourite here than his wife.
Ladies say he is 'very nice!' 'so genial,' and 'a _thorough_
Irishman!' whatever they mean by that. He does affect both brogue and
blarney when he thinks proper. Perhaps, however, I ought to tell you at
once that I do not like him, and am not at all inclined to cultivate his
acquaintance. He strikes me as being a very commonplace kind of military
man, tittle-tattling, idle, and unintellectual; and in the habit of
filling up every interval of life with brandy and soda water. The creature
is rapidly becoming extinct, but specimens still linger in certain
districts. And I should judge him upon the whole to be the sort of man who
pleases by his good manners those whom he does not repel by his pet vices--
most people, that is to say. The world is constant and kind to its own.
"They are at As-You-Like-It, the gloomiest house in the neighbourhood. I
fancy Colonel Colquhoun took it to suit his own convenience without
consulting his wife's tastes or requirements, and he will be out too much
to suffer himself, but I fear she will feel it. She is a fragile little
creature, for whose health and well-being generally I should say that
bright rooms and fresh air are essential. The air at As-You-Like-It is not
bad, but the rooms are damp. That west window in the drawing room is the
one bright spot in the house, and the sun only shines on it in the
afternoon. I am sorry that I cannot answer your letter more
satisfactorily, but you may rest assured that I shall be glad to do Mrs.
Colquhoun any service in my power.
"Diavolo wrote and told me the other day that his colonel thinks him too
good for the Guards, and has strongly advised him, if he wishes to
continue in the service, to exchange into some other regiment! I have
asked him to come and stay with me, and hope to discover what he has been
up to. With your permission, I should urge him to apply for the Depot at
Morningquest. It would do the duke good to have him about again, and
Angelica would be delighted; and, besides, Colonel Colquhoun would keep
his eye on him and put up with more pranks probably than those who know
"Angelica is very well and happy. Her devotion to her husband continues to
be exemplary, and he has been good-natured enough to oblige her by
delivering some of her speeches in parliament lately, with excellent
effect. She read the one now in preparation aloud to us the last time I
was at Ilverthorpe. It struck me as being extremely able, and eminent for
refinement as well as for force. Mr. Kilroy himself was delighted with it,
as indeed he is with all that she does now. He only interrupted her once.
'I should say the country is going to the dogs, there,' he suggested.
'Then, I am afraid your originality would provoke criticism,' Angelica
"When do you return? I avoid Hamilton House in your absence, it looks so
dreary all shut up.
"Yours always, dear Lady Adeline,
"GEORGE BETON GALBRAITH."
Having despatched my letter, I began to consider how I might best follow
up my acquaintance with Evadne with a view to such intimacy as should
enable me at any time to have the right to be of service to her should
occasion offer, and during the day I arranged a dinner party for her
special benefit, not a very original idea, but by accident it answered the
The Colquhouns accepted my invitation, but when the evening arrived Evadne
came alone, and quite half an hour before the time I had dressed, luckily,
and was strolling about the grounds when I saw the carriage drive up the
avenue, and hastened round the house to meet her at the door.
"The days are getting quite long," she said, as I helped her to alight.
Then, glancing up at a clock in the hall, she happened to notice the time.
"Is that clock right?" she asked.
"It is," I answered.
"Then my coachman must have mistaken the distance," she said. "He assured
me that it would take an hour to drive here. But I shall not have occasion
to regret the mistake if you will let me see the house," she added
gracefully. "It seems to be a charming old place."
It would have been a little awkward for both of us but for this happy
suggestion; there were, however, points of interest enough about the house
to fill up a longer interval even.
"But I am forgetting!" she exclaimed, as I led her to the library. "I
received this note from Colonel Colquhoun at the last moment. He is
detained in barracks to-day, most unfortunately, and will not be able to
get away until late. He begs me to make you his apologies."
"I hope we shall see him during the evening," I said.
"Oh, yes," she answered, "he is sure to come for me."
There was a portrait of Lady Adeline in the library, and she noticed it at
"Do you know the Hamilton-Wellses?" she asked, brightening out of her
former manner instantly.
"We are very old friends," I answered. "Their place is next to mine, you
"I did not know," she said. "I have never been there. Lady Adeline knows
my people, and used to come to our house a good deal at one time; that is
where I met her, I like her very much--and trust her."
"That everybody does."
"Do you know her widowed sister, Lady Claudia Beaumont?"
"And their brother, Lord Dawne?"
"Yes--well. He and I were 'chums' at Harrow and Oxford, and a common
devotion to the same social subjects has kept us together since."
"He is a man of most charming manners," she said thoughtfully.
"He is," I answered cordially. "I know no one else so fastidiously
refined, without being a prig."
She was sitting on the arm of a chair with Adeline's photograph in her
hand, and was silent a moment, looking at it meditatively.
"You must know that eccentric 'Ideala,' as they call her, also?" she said
at last, glancing up at me gravely.
"We do not consider her eccentric," I said.
"Well, you must confess that she moves in an orbit of her own," she
"Not alone, then," I answered, "so many luminaries circle round her."
"Lady Adeline criticises her severely," she ventured, with a touch of
"_Les absents out toujours torts_," I answered. "But, at the same
time, when Lady Adeline criticises Ideala severely, I am sure she deserves
it. Her faults are patent enough, and most provoking, because she could
correct them if she would. You don't know her well?"
"Ah! Then I understand why you do not like her. She is not a person who
shows to advantage on a slight acquaintance, and in that she is just the
reverse of most people; her faults are all on the surface and appear at
once, her good qualities only come out by degrees."
"I feel reproved," Evadne answered, smiling. "But it is really hard to
believe that the main fabric of a character is beautiful when one only
sees the spoilt bits of it. You must be quite one of that clique," she
added, in a tone which expressed "What a pity!" quite clearly.
"You are not interested in social questions?" I ventured.
"On the contrary," she answered decidedly, "I hate them all."
She put the photograph down, and looked round the room.
"Where does that door lead to?" she asked, indicating one opposite.
"Into my study."
"Then you do not study in the library?"
"No. I read here for relaxation. When I want to work I go in there."
"Let me see where you work?"
I hesitated, for I kept my tools there, and I did not know what might be
"It is professional work I do there," I said.
She was quick to see my meaning: "Oh, in that case," she began
apologetically. "I am indiscreet, forgive me. I have not realized your
position yet, you see. It is so anomalous being both a doctor and a
country gentleman. But what a dear old place this is! I cannot think how
you can mix up medical pursuits with the names of your ancestors. Were I
you I should belong to the Psychical Society only. The material for that
kind of research lingers long in these deep recesses. It is built up in
thick walls, and concealed behind oak panels. Oh, how _can_ you be a
"I am not a doctor, here," I assured her, "at least only in the morning
when I make this my consulting room."
"I am glad," she said. "This is a place in which to be human."
"Is a doctor not human, then?" I asked, a trifle piqued.
"No," she answered, laughing. "A doctor is not a man to his lady patients;
but an abstraction--a kindly abstraction for whom one sends when a man's
presence would be altogether inconvenient. If I am ever ill I will send
for you in the abstract confidently."
"Well, I hope I may more than answer your expectations in that character,"
I replied, "should anything so unfortunate as sickness or sorrow induce
you to do me the favour of accepting my services."
She gave me one quick grave glance. "I know you mean it," she said; "and I
know you mean more. You will befriend me if I ever want a friend."
"I will," I answered.
"Thank you," she said.
It was exactly what I had intended with regard to her since I had received
Lady Adeline's letter, but a compact entered into on the occasion of our
fourth meeting struck me as sudden. I had no time to think of it, however,
at the moment, for Evadne followed up her thanks with a question.
"How do you come to have an abode of this kind and be a doctor also?" she
"The house came to me from an uncle, who died suddenly, just after I had
become a fully qualified practitioner," I told her; "but there is not
income enough attached to it to keep it up properly, and I wanted to live
here; and I wanted besides to continue my professional career, so I
thought I would try and make the one wish help the other."
"And the experiment has succeeded?"
"Are you very fond of your profession?"
"It is the finest profession in the world."
"All medical men say that," she remarked, smiling.
"Well, I can claim the merit--if it be a merit--of having arrived at that
conclusion before I became--"
"Eminent?" she suggested.
"Before I had taken my degree," I corrected.
"So you came and established yourself as a doctor in this old place?"
She glanced round meditatively.
"That seems to surprise you?"
"It is the dual character that surprises me," she answered, "Your practice
makes you a professional man, and you are a county magnate also by right
of your name and connections."
She evidently knew all about me already, and I was flattered by the
interest she showed, which I thought special until I found that she was in
the habit of knowing, and knowing accurately too, all about everyone with
whom she was brought into close contact.
"I cannot imagine how you find time for it all," she continued; "you are
not a general practitioner, I believe."
"Not exactly," I answered. "Of course I never refuse to attend in any case
of emergency, but my regular practice is all consultation, and my
speciality has somehow come to be nervous disorders. Sometimes I have my
house full of patients--interesting cases which require close attention."
"I know," she said, "and poor people who cannot pay as often as the rich
who will give you anything to attend them."
"I should very much like you to believe the most exaggerated accounts of
my generosity if any such are about," I hastened to assure her; "but
honesty compels me to explain that I benefit by every case which I treat
"Goto! you do not deceive me," she answered, laughing up in my face.
Her manner had quite changed now. She recognized me as one of her own
caste, and knew that however friendly and familiar she might be I should
When it was time to think of my other guests, she begged to be allowed to
remain in the library until they had all arrived.
"It would be such an exertion to have to explain to each one separately
how it is that I am here alone--and I do so dislike strange people," she
added plaintively. "It makes me quite _ill_ to have to meet them.
And, besides," she broke out laughing, "as it is a new place, perhaps I
ought to try and make myself interesting and of importance to the
inhabitants by coming in late! When you keep people waiting for dinner you
do become of consequence to them--to their comfort--and then they think of
"But not very charitably under such circumstances," I suggested.
"That depends," she answered. "If you arrive in time to save their
appetites, they will associate a pleasant sense of relief with your coming
which will make them think well of you for evermore. They mistake the
sensation for an opinion, and as they like it, they call it a good one!"
She looked pretty when she unbent like that and talked nonsense--or what
was apt to strike you as nonsensical until you came to consider it. For
there was often a depth of worldly wisdom and acuteness underlying her
most apparently careless sallies that surprised you.
She lingered long in the library--so long that at first I felt impatiently
that she might have remembered that I had an appetite as well as the
strangers within my gates with whom it apparently pleased her to trifle,
and I felt obliged, during an awkward pause, to account for the delay by
explaining for whom we were waiting. If she were in earnest about wishing
to make a sensation or attract special attention to herself, she had
gained her end, for the moment I mentioned the name of Colquhoun, people
began to speak of her, carefully, because nobody knew as yet who her
friends might be, but with interest. I never supposed for a moment,
however, that she was in earnest. There was something proudly
self-respecting about her which forbade all idea of anything so paltry as
manoeuvring. I did at first think that she might have fallen asleep; but,
afterward, on recollecting that she was a nervous subject, it occurred to
me that her courage might have failed her, and that she would never
present herself to a whole room full of strangers alone. Excusing myself to
my guests, therefore, as best I could, I went at last to the library, and
found that this latter surmise was correct. She was standing in the middle
of the room with her hands clasped, evidently in an agony of nervous
trepidation. I went up to her, however, as if I had not noticed it, and
offered her my arm.
"If you will come now, Mrs. Colquhoun," I said, "we will go to dinner."
She took my arm without a word, but I felt as soon as she touched me that
her confidence was rapidly returning, and by the time we had reached the
drawing room, and I had explained that Colonel Colquhoun had been detained
by duty most unfortunately, but Mrs. Colquhoun had been kind enough to
come nevertheless, she had quite recovered herself, and only a slight
exaggeration of the habitual _noli me tangere_ of her ordinary manner
remained in evidence of her shyness.
When we were seated at table, and she was undoubtedly at her ease again, I
expected to see her vivacity revive; but the nervous crisis had evidently
gone deeper than her manner, and affected her mood. I had left her all
life and animation, a mere girl bent upon pleasure, but with every
evidence of considerable capacity for the pursuit; but now, at dinner, she
sat beside me, cold, constrained, and listless, neither eating nor
interested; pretending, however, courageously, and probably deceiving
those about her with the even flow of polished periods which she kept up
to conceal her indifference. I thought perhaps her husband's absence had
something to do with it, and expected to see her brighten up when he
arrived. He did not come at all, however, and only once at table did she
show any sign of the genuine intellectual activity which I was now pretty
sure was either concealed or slumbering in these moods. The sign she made
was deceptive, and probably only a man of my profession, accustomed to
observe, and often obliged to judge more by indications of emotion than by
words, would have recognized its true significance. In the midst of her
chatter she became suddenly silent, and one might have been excused for
supposing that her mind was weary; but that, in truth, was the moment when
she really roused herself, and began to follow the conversation with close
attention. There was an old bore of a doctor at table that evening who
would insist on talking professionally, a thing which does not often
happen in my house, for I think, of all "shop," ours is the most
unsuitable for general conversation because of the morbid fascination it
has for most people. Ladies especially will listen with avidity to medical
matters, perceiving nothing gruesome in the details at the moment; but
afterward developing nerves on the subject, and probably giving the young
practitioner good reason to regret unwary confidences. I tried to stave
off the topic, but the will-power of the majority was against me, and
finally I found myself submitting, and following my friend's unwholesome
"You must have some curious experiences, in your branch of the profession
especially," the lady on my left remarked.
"We do," I said, answering her expectations against my better judgment,
and partly, I think, because this was the moment when Evadne woke up. "I
have had some myself. The extraordinary systems of fraud and deceit which
are carried on by certain patients, for no apparent purpose, would
astonish you. Their delight is essentially in the doing, and the one and
only end of it all is invariably the same: a morbid desire to excite
sympathy by making themselves interesting. I had one girl under my charge
for six months, during which time she suffered daily from long fainting
fits and other distressing symptoms which reduced her to the last degree
of emaciation, and puzzled me extremely because there was nothing to
account for them. Her heart was perfectly sound, yet she would lie in a
state of insensibility, livid and all but pulseless, by the hour together.
There was no disease of any organ, but certain symptoms, which could not
have been simulated, pointed to extensive disorder of one at least. It was
a case of hysteria clearly, but no treatment had the slightest effect upon
her, and, fearing for her life, I took her at last to Sir Shadwell Rock,
the best specialist for nervous disorders now alive. He confirmed my
diagnosis, and ordered the girl to be sent away from her friends with a
perfect stranger, a hard, cold, unsympathetic person who would irritate
her, if possible; and she was not to be allowed luxuries of any kind. I
had considered the advisability of such a course myself, but the girl
seemed too far gone for it, and I own I never expected to see her alive
again. After she went abroad I heard that when she fainted she was left
just where she fell to recover as best she could, and when any particular
food disagreed with her, it was served to her incessantly until she
professed to have got over her dislike for it; but in spite of such heroic
treatment she was not at that time any better. Then I lost sight of her,
and had forgotten the case, when one day, without any warning whatever,
she came into my consulting room, looking the picture of health and
happiness, and with a very fine child in her arms. 'I suppose you are
surprised to see me alive,' she said. 'I am married now, and this is my
boy--isn't he a beauty? And I am very happy--or rather I should be but for
one thing--that illness of mine--when I gave you so much trouble--' 'Oh,
don't mention that,' I interrupted, thinking she had come to overwhelm me
with undeserved thanks: 'My only trouble was that I could do nothing for
you. I hope you recovered soon after you went abroad?' 'As soon as I
thought fit,' she answered significantly, 'and that is what I have come
about. I want to confess. I want to relieve my mind of a burden of deceit.
Doctor--I was never insensible in one of those fainting fits; I never had
a symptom that I could not have controlled. I was shamming from beginning
to end.' 'Well, you nearly shammed yourself out of the world,' I said.
'Tell me how you did it?' 'I can't tell you exactly,' she answered. 'When
I wanted to appear to faint I just set my mind somehow--I can't do it now
that I am happy, and have plenty of interests in life. At that time I had
nothing to take me out of myself, and those daily doings were an endless
source of occupation and entertainment to me. But lately I have had qualms
of conscience on the subject.'"
"And was she cured?" Evadne asked.
"Oh, yes," I answered. "There was no fear for her after she confessed.
When the moral consciousness returns in such cases, and there is nothing
but relief of mind to be gained by confession, the cure is generally
"But what could have been the motive of such a fraud?" somebody asked.
"It is difficult to imagine," I answered. "Had it been more extensive the
explanation would have been easier; but as myself and the young lady's
parents were her only audience, I have never been able to account for it
I noticed, while I was speaking, that Evadne was thinking the problem out
"She would not have given herself so much trouble without a very strong
motive," she now suggested, "and human passions are the strongest motives
for human actions, are they not?"
"Of course," I said, "but the question is, what passion prompted her. It
could not have been either anger, ambition, revenge, or jealousy."
"No," she answered, in the matter-of-fact tone of one who merely arrives
at a logical conclusion, "and it must therefore have been love. She was in
love with you, and tried in that way to excite your sympathy and attract
"It is quite evident that view of the case never occurred to you,
Galbraith," Dr. Lauder observed, laughing.
And I own that I _was_ taken aback by it, considerably--not of course
as it affected myself, but because it gave me a glimpse of an order of
mind totally different from that with which I should have credited Evadne
earlier in the evening.
"But how do you treat these cases?" she proceeded. "Is there any cure for
"Oh, yes," I answered confidently. "They are being cured every day. So
long as there is no organic disease, I am quite sure that wholesome
surroundings, patience and kind care, and steady moral influence will do
all that is necessary. The great thing is to awaken the conscience.
Patients who once feel sincerely that such courses are depraved may cure
themselves--if they are not robbed of their self-respect. The most
hopeless causes I have, come from that class of people who give each other
bits of their mind--very objectionable bits, consisting of vulgar abuse
for the most part, and the calling of names that rankle. The operators
seem to derive a solemn kind of self-satisfaction from the treatment
themselves, but it does for the patient almost invariably."
This led to a discussion on bad manners, during which Evadne relapsed. I
saw the light go out of her eyes, and she showed no genuine interest in
anything for the rest of the evening; and when I had wrapped her up, and
seen her drive away, I somehow felt that the entertainment had been a
failure so far as she was concerned, and I wondered why she should so soon
be bored. At her age she should have had vitality enough in herself to
carry her through an evening.
"Colonel Colquhoun will regret that he has not been able to come," she
said as she wished me good-bye.
And I noticed afterward that she was always most punctilious about such
little formalities. She never omitted any trifle of etiquette, and I doubt
if she could have dined without "dressing" for dinner.
Colonel Colquohoun called next day himself to explain his absence on the
previous evening. I forget what excuse he made, but it sufficed.
I saw Evadne, too, that same afternoon. She had been to make a call in the
neighbourhood, and was waiting at a little country station to return by
train. Something peculiar in her attitude attracted my attention before I
recognized her. She was standing alone at the extreme end of the platform,
her slender figure silhouetted with dark distinctness against the sloping
evening sky. She might have been waiting anxiously for someone to come
that way, or she might have been waiting for a train with tragic purpose.
She wore a long dark green dress, the train of which she was holding up in
her left hand. She showed no surprise when I spoke to her, although she
had not heard me approach.
"What do the people here think of me?" she asked abruptly. "What do they
"They have yet to discover your faults," I answered.
She compressed her lips, and looked down the line again.
"That is my train, I think," she said presently.
When I had put her into a carriage, she shook hands with me, thanking me
gravely, then threw herself back in her seat, and was borne away.
That was literally all that passed between us, yet she left me standing
there, staring after her stupidly, and curiously impressed. There was
always a suggestion of something unusual about her which piqued my
interest and kept it alive.
During the summer and autumn I met her at various places, and saw her also
in her own house, and she seemed, so far as an outsider could judge, as
happily situated as most women of her station, and not at all likely to
require any special service at the hands of a friend. Her husband was a
good deal older than herself, but the disparity made no apparent
difference to their comfort. When he was absent she never talked about
him, but when he was present she treated him with unvarying consideration,
and they appeared together everywhere. Mindful of my promise to Lady
Adeline, I showed them both every attention in my power. I called
regularly, and Colonel Colquhoun as regularly returned my calls, sometimes
bringing Evadne with him.
The winter that year came upon us suddenly and sharply, and until it set
in I had only seen her under the most ordinary circumstances; but at the
beginning of the cold weather, she had an illness which was the means of
my learning to know more of her true character and surroundings in a few
days than I should probably have done in years of mere social intercourse.
I stopped for a moment one morning as I drove past As-You-Like-It to leave
her some flowers, and her own maid, who opened the door, showed me
upstairs to a small sitting room, the ante-chamber to another room beyond,
at the door of which she knocked.
I heard no answer, but the girl entered and announced me. I followed her
in, and found myself face to face with Evadne. She was in bed. The maid
withdrew, closing the door after her.
"What nonsense is this--I am exceedingly sorry, doctor!" Evadne exclaimed
feebly. "That stupid girl must have thought that you were coming to see me
professionally. But, oh! _do_ let me look at the flowers!" and she
stretched out her left hand for them, offering me her right at the same
time to shake, and burying her face and her embarrassment together. Her
hand was hot and dry.
"I don't require you in the least, doctor," she assured me, looking up
brightly from the flowers, "but I am very glad to see you."
"Why are you in bed?" I asked, responding cheerfully to this cheerful
"Oh, I have a little cold," she answered.
I drew a chair to the bedside, laid my hand on her wrist, and watched her
closely as I questioned her--cough incessant; respiration rapid;
temperature high, I judged; pulse 120.
"How long have you had this cold?" I asked.
"About a week," she said. "It makes me ache all over, you know, and that
is why I am in bed to-day."
I saw at once that she was seriously ill, and I also saw that she was
bearing up bravely, and making as little of it as possible.
"Why isn't your fire lit?" I asked.
"Oh, I never thought of having one," she answered.
"And what is that you are drinking?"
"Well, you mustn't drink any more cold water, or anything else cold until
I give you leave," I ordered. "And don't try to talk. I will come and see
you again by and by."
I went downstairs to look for Colonel Colquhoun, and found him just about
to start for barracks.
"I am sorry to say your wife is very ill," I said. "She has an attack of
acute bronchitis, and it may mean pneumonia as well; I have not examined
her chest. She must have fires in her room, and a bronchitis kettle at
once. Don't let the temperature get below 70 deg. till I see her again. Her
maid can manage for a few hours, I suppose? But you had better telegraph
for a nurse. One should be here before night."
"What a damned nuisance these women are," Colquhoun answered cheerfully.
"There's always something the matter with them!"
I returned between five and six in the evening, walked in, and not seeing
anybody about, went up to Evadne's sitting room. The door leading into the
bedroom was open, and I entered. She was alone, and had propped herself up
in bed with pillows. The difficulty of breathing had become greater, and
she found relief in that attitude. She looked at me with eyes unnaturally
large and solemn as I entered, and it was a full moment before she
recognised me. The fires had not been lighted in either of the rooms, and
she was evidently much worse.
"Why haven't these fires been lighted?" I demanded.
"This is only October," she answered, jesting, "and we don't begin fires
I rang the bell emphatically.
"Do not trouble yourself, doctor," she remonstrated gently. "What does it
I went out into the sitting room to meet the maid as she entered.
"Why haven't these fires been lighted?" I asked again.
"I don't know, sir," she answered. "I received no orders about them."
"Where is Colonel Colquhoun?"
"He went out after breakfast, sir, and has not come back yet."
"Has the nurse arrived?"
"Well, light these fires at once."
"I don't light fires, sir," she said, drawing herself up. "It isn't my
"Whose work is it?" I demanded.
"Either of the housemaids', sir, but they're both out," she answered,
ogling me pertly.
I own that I was exasperated, and I showed it in such a way that she fled
precipitately. I followed her downstairs to find the butler. I happened to
know the man. His wife had been in my service, and I had attended her
through a severe illness since her marriage.
"Do you know if there's such a thing as a sensible woman in this
establishment, Williamson?" I demanded.
"Well, sir, the cook's sensible when she's sober," he answered, pinching
his chin dubiously.
"Does she happen to be sober now?"
He glanced at the clock. "I'll just see, sir," he said.
When he returned he announced, with perfect gravity, that she was
'passable sober, but busy with the dinner."
"Then look here," I exclaimed, out of all patience, "we must do it
"Yes, sir," he said. "Anything I _can_ do."
When I explained the difficulty, he suggested sending for his wife, who
could manage, he thought, until the trained nurse arrived, and help her
afterward. It was a good idea, and my man was despatched to bring her
"They're a bad lot o' servants, the women in this 'ouse at present,"
Williamson informed me. "The missus didn't choose 'em 'erself"--and he
shook his head significantly, "But she knows what's what, and they're
going. That's why they're takin' advantage."
I returned to Evadne. Her eyes were closed and her forehead contracted.
Every breath of cold air was cutting her lungs like a knife, but she
looked up at me when I took her hand, and smiled. I never knew anybody so
patient and uncomplaining. She was lying on a little iron bedstead, hard
and narrow as a camp bed. The room was bare-looking, the floor being
polished and with only two small rugs, one at the fireplace and one beside
the bed, upon it. It looked like a nun's cell, and there was a certain
suggestion of purity in the sweetness and order of it quite consistent
with the idea; but it was a north room and very cold, Evadne had
unconsciously clasped my hand, and dozed off for a few minutes, holding it
tight, but the cough re-aroused her. When she looked at me again her mind
was wandering. She knew me, but she did not know what she was saying.
"I am so thankful!" she exclaimed. "The peace of mind--the peace of
mind--I cannot tell you what a relief it is!"
Williamson came in on tiptoe and lit the fire, and Evadne's maid followed
him in and stood looking on, half sheepishly and half in defiance. I
noticed now that she was a hard-faced, bold-looking girl, not at all the
sort of person to have about my delicate little lady, and when Mrs.
Williamson arrived, I ordered her out of the room, and never allowed her
to enter it again. During the week she left altogether, and I was
fortunately able to procure a suitable woman to wait upon Mrs. Colquhoun.
She has been with her ever since, by the way.
I felt pretty sure by this time that no nurse had been sent for, and I
therefore despatched one of Colonel Colquhoun's men in a dogcart to
Morningquest to telegraph for one. But she could not arrive before
daylight even by special train, and it had now become a matter of life and
death, and as Mrs. Williamson had no knowledge of nursing to help her good
will, I determined to spend the night beside my patient.
When Colonel Colquhoun came in and found me making myself at home in his
house he expressed himself greatly pleased.
"When I returned this afternoon to see how Mrs. Colquhoun was progressing,
I found that none of my orders had been carried out, and now she is
dangerously ill," I said severely.
"Faith," he replied, changing countenance, "I'm very sorry to hear it, and
I'm afraid I'm to blame, for I was in the deuce of a hurry when I saw you
this morning, and never thought of a word you said from that moment to
this. Now I'm genuinely sorry," he repeated. "Is there nothing I can do?
Mrs. Orton Beg--"
"She's gone abroad for the winter."
"Ah, to be sure!"
"And everybody else is away who would be of any use," I added, "and I
therefore propose, if you have no objection, to stay here to-night
"You'd oblige me greatly by doing so," he answered earnestly. "I don't
know what there is for dinner, but I shall enjoy it all the more myself
for the pleasure of your company."
He made no special inquiries about his wife's condition, and never went
near her; but as he was in a tolerably advanced state of intoxication
before he retired for the night, it was quite as well, perhaps.
Mrs. Williamson had probably done her day's work before I sent for her,
and, with all the will in the world to wake and watch, she fell fast
asleep before midnight, and I let her sleep. There were only the fires to
be attended to--at least that was all that I could have trusted her to do.
Watching the case, generally, and seizing opportune moments to administer
remedies would not have been in her line at all.
Evadne knew me always, but she lost all count of time.
"You seem to come every day now, doctor," she said once during the night,
"and I _am_ glad to see you!"
For two hours toward dawn, when the temperature is sensibly lower, I gave
my little lady up; but she was better by the time the trained nurse
arrived, and eventually she pulled through--greatly owing, I am sure, to
her own perfect patience. She was always the same all through her illness,
gentle, uncomplaining, grateful for every trifle that was done for her,
and tranquillity herself. My impression was that she enjoyed being ill. I
never saw a symptom of depression the whole time; but when she had quite
recovered, and although, as often happens after a severe illness, when
so-called "trifles" are discovered and checked which would otherwise have
been allowed to run on until they grew serious--although for this reason
she was certainly stronger than she had ever been since I became
acquainted with her, no sooner did she resume her accustomed habits than
that old unsatisfactory something in her, which it was so easy to perceive
but so difficult to define, returned in full force.
I had ceased to be critical, however. Colonel Colquhoun's careless neglect
of her had continued throughout her illness, and I thought I understood.
I had necessarily seen much of Evadne during her illness, and the intimacy
never again lapsed.
Jealousy was not one of Colonel Colquhoun's vices. He always encouraged
any man to come to the house for whom she showed the slightest preference,
and I have heard him complain of her indifference to admiration.
"She'll dress herself up carefully in the evening to sit at home alone
with me, and go out to a big dinner party in the dowdiest gown she's got,"
he told me once. "She doesn't care a hang whether she's admired or
not--rather objects, if anything, perhaps."
Colonel Colquhoun rubbed his hands here with a certain enjoyment of such
perversity. But I could see that Evadne did not relish the subject. It was
one afternoon at As-You-Like-It. I was tired after a long day and had
dropped in to ask for some tea. Colonel Colquhoun came up to entertain me,
and Evadne went on with her work while we chatted familiarly.
"You were never so civil to any of your admirers, Evadne, as you were to
that great boy in the regiment," Colonel Colquhoun continued, quite blind
to her obvious and natural though silent objection to being made the
subject of conversation--"a young subaltern of ours," he explained to me,
"a big broad-shouldered lad, six feet high, who just worshipped Evadne!"
"Poor boy!" said Evadne, sighing. "He was cruelly butchered in a horribly
fruitless skirmish with his fellow creatures during that last small war. I
was glad I was able to be kind to him. He was always very nice to me."
"Well, there's a reason for everything!" Colonel Colquhoun observed
"Don't you like boys?" Evadne asked, looking up at me. "The ones we have
here at the depot, when they first come, fresh from the public schools,
are delightful, with their high spirits, and their love affairs; their
pranks, and the something beyond which will make men of them eventually. I
can never see enough of _our_ boys. But Colonel Colquhoun very kindly
lets me have as many of them here as I like."
"Faith, I can't keep them out, for they're all in love with you," said
"And I am in love with them all!" she answered brightly, leaning back in
her chair, and holding up her work to look at it. As she did so, the lower
half of her face was concealed from me, and her eyes were cast down. I
only glanced at her, but, in the act of doing so, I suddenly became aware,
by one of those curious flashes of imperfect recollection which come to us
all at times to torment us, that I had seen her somewhere, before I knew
who she was, in that attitude exactly; but where, or under what
circumstance, I failed to recollect. The impression, however, was
indelible, and haunted me ever afterward.
"Now, there's Diavolo," Colonel Colquhoun continued--the exchange I had
suggested had been effected by this time, and Diavolo was quartered at the
depot--not exactly to Colonel Colquhoun's delight, perhaps, but he was
very good about it. "Now, there's Diavolo. He tells me to my face that he
was the first to propose to Mrs. Colquhoun, and always meant to marry her,
and means it still. He said to me coaxingly, only last Friday, when I was
coming out of barracks: 'Take me home with you to-day, sir.' And I
answered, pretending to be severe, but pulling his sleeve, you know:
'Indeed I won't. You'll be making love to Mrs. Colquhoun.' And he got very
red, and said quite huffily; 'Well, I think you might let a fellow look at
her.' And of course I had to bring him back with me, and he sat down on
the floor at her feet there, and got on with the most ridiculous nonsense.
You couldn't help laughing! 'I should like to kill you, and carry her
off,' he said, for all the world as if he meant it. And no more harm in
the boy, either, than there is in Evadne herself," Colonel Colquhoun added
This is a specimen of the man at his best. Latterly I had seldom seen him
in such a genial mood at home--abroad he brightened up. But in his own
house _now_--for a process of deterioration had been going on ever
since his arrival in Morningquest--his mind was apt to resemble a dark
cave which is transformed diurnally by a single shaft of sunshine which
streams in for a brief space at a certain hour. The happy moment with him
occurred about the time of the tenth brandy-and-soda, as nearly as I could
calculate, and it lasted till the eleventh, when he usually relapsed into
gloom again, and became overcast until the next recurrence of the
phenomena. But whatever his mood was, Evadne humoured it. She responded
always--or tried to--when he was genial; and when he was morose, she was
dumb. I thought her a model wife.
After her illness Evadne spent much of her time in the west window of the
drawing room at As-You-Like-It with her little work-table beside her,
embroidering. I never saw her reading, and there were no books about the
room; but the work she did was beautiful. She used to have a stand before
her with flowers arranged upon it, and copy them on to some material in
coloured silks direct from nature. She could not draw either with pen or
pencil, or paint with a brush, but she could copy with her needle quite
accurately, and would do a spray of lilies to the life, or in the most
approved conventional manner, if it pleased her. Her not being able to
draw struck me as a curious limitation, and I asked her once if she could
account for it in any way.
"I believe I am an example of how much we owe to early influences," she
answered, laughing; "and probably I have the talent both for drawing and
painting in me, but it remains latent for want of cultivation. My mother
drew and painted beautifully as a girl, but she had given both up before I
was old enough to imitate her, and only copied flowers as I do with her
needle, and I used to watch her at her work until I felt impelled to do
the same. If she had gone on with her drawing I am sure I should have
drawn too; but as it was, I never thought of trying."
"Moral for mothers," I observed: "Keep up your own accomplishments if you
would have your daughters shine."
Evadne was not enough in the fresh air at this time, and she was too much
alone. I ventured once, in my professional capacity, to say that she
should have friends to stay with her occasionally, but she passed the
suggestion off without either accepting or declining it, and then I spoke
to Colonel Colquhoun. He, however, pooh-poohed the idea altogether.
"She's all right," he said. "You don't know her. She always lives like
that; it's her way."
I also counselled regular exercise, and to that she replied: "I _do_
go out. Why, you passed me yourself on the road only the other day."
I certainly had seen her more than once, alone, miles away from home,
walking at the top of her speed, as if impelled by some strong emotion or
inexorable necessity, and I did not like the sign. "One or two hours' walk
regularly every day is what you should take," I told her. "The virtue of
it is in the regularity. If you make a habit of taking a short walk daily
you will have got more sunshine and fresh air, which is what you specially
require, in one year than you will in two if you continue to go out in a
jerky, irregular way. And you must give up covering impossible distances
in feverish haste, as you do now. Walk gently, and make yourself feel that
you have full leisure to walk as long as you like. You will find the
effect tranquillizing. It is a common mistake to make a business of taking
exercise. I am constantly lecturing my patients about it. If you want
exercise to raise your spirits, brace your nerves, and do you good
generally, it must be all pure pleasure without conscious exertion.
Pleasurable moments prolong life."
"Thank you," Evadne answered gently. "I know, of course, that you are
right, and I will do my best to profit by your advice, if it be only to
show you how much I appreciate your kindness. But I must have a scamper
occasionally, a regular _burst_, you know. Please don't stop that!
The indulgence, when I am in the mood, is my pet vice at present."
The great drawing room at As-You-Like-It, which I had mentioned in my
letter to Lady Adeline as containing the one bright spot in that gloomy
abode, was an addition tacked on to the end of the house, and evidently an
afterthought. It was entered by a flight of shallow steps from the hall,
and was above the level of the public road, which ran close past that end
of the house, the grounds and approach being on the other side. It was
lighted by three high narrow windows looking toward the north, and three
more close together looking west, and forming a bay so deep as to be quite
a small room in itself. It almost overhung the high-road, only a tall
holly-hedge being between them, but so near that the topmost twigs of the
holly grew up to the window-sill. It was a quiet road, however, too far
from the town for much traffic, and Evadne could sit there with the
windows open undisturbed, and enjoy the long level prospect of fertile
land, field and fallow, wood and water, that lay before her. She sat in
the centre window, and I think it was from thence that she learnt to
appreciate the charms of a level landscape as you look down upon it, about
which I heard her discourse so eloquently in after days. It was her chosen
corner, and there she sat silent many and many an hour, with busy fingers
and thoughts we could not follow, communing at times with nature, I doubt
not, or with her own heart, and thankful to be still.
The road beneath her was one I had to traverse regularly, and it became a
habit to look up as I drove past. If she were in her accustomed seat she
usually raised her eyes from her work for a moment to smile me a greeting.
Once she was standing up, leaning languidly against the window frame,
twirling a rose in her fingers, but she straightened herself into
momentary energy when she recognized me, and threw the rose at me with
accurate aim. It was the youngest and most familiar thing I had known her
do--an impulse of pure mischief, I thought, for the rose was _La
France_, and the sentiment, as I translated it, was: "You will value it
more than I do!" For she hated the French.
There often occurs and recurs to the mind incessantly a verse or an apt
quotation in connection with some act or event, a haunting definition of
the impression it makes upon us, and Evadne in the wide west window,
bending busily over her work, set my mind on one occasion to a borrowed
measure of words which never failed me from that time forward when I saw
her so engaged:
There she weaves by night and day
A magic web of colour gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The lady of Shalott.
But where was Camelot? Fountain Towers, just appearing above the tree-tops
to the north, was the only human habitation in sight. I had a powerful
telescope on the highest tower, and one day, in an idle mood, I happened
to be looking through it with no definite purpose, just sweeping it slowly
from point to point of the landscape, when all at once Evadne came into
the field of vision with such startling distinctness that I stepped back
from the glass. She was sitting in her accustomed place, with her work on
her lap, her hands clasped before her, leaning forward looking up in my
direction with an expression in her whole attitude that appealed to me
like a cry for help. The impression was so strong that I ordered my
dogcart out and drove over to As-You-Like-It at once. But I found her
perfectly tranquil when I arrived, with no trace of recent emotion either
in her manner or appearance.
When I went home I had the telescope removed. I had forgotten that we
overlooked that corner of As-You-Like-It.
The idea that Evadne was naturally unsociable was pretty general, and
Colonel Colquhoun believed it as much as anybody. I remember being at
As-You-Like-It one afternoon when he rallied her on the subject. He had
stopped me as I was driving past to ask me to look at a horse he was
thinking of buying. The animal was being trotted up and down the approach
by a groom for our inspection when Evadne returned from somewhere, driving
She pulled up beside us and got out.
"I never see you driving any of your friends about," Colonel Colquhoun
remarked. "You're very unsociable, Evadne."
"Oh, well, you see," she answered slowly, "I like to be alone and think
when I am driving. It worries me to have to talk to people--as a rule."
"Well," he said, glancing at the reeking pony, "if your thoughts went as
fast as Blue Mick seems to have done to-day, you must have got through a
good deal of thinking in the time."
Evadne looked at the pony. "Take him round," she said to the groom; and
then she remarked that it must be tea-time, and asked us both to go in,
and have some.
The air had brought a delicate tinge of colour to her usually pale cheeks,
and she looked bright and bonny as she sat beside the tea-table, taking
off her gloves and chatting, with her hat pushed slightly up from her
forehead. It was an expansive moment with her, one of the rare ones when
she unconsciously revealed something of herself in her conversation.
There were some flowers on the tea-table which I admired.
"Ah!" she said, with a sigh of satisfaction in their beauty; "I derive all
my pleasure in life from things inanimate. An arrangement of deep-toned
marigolds with brown centres in a glass like these, all aglow beneath the
maiden-hair, gives me more pleasure than anything else I can think of at
"Not more pleasure than your friends do," I ventured.
"I don't know," she replied. "In the matter of love _surgit amari
aliquid_. Friends disappoint us. But in the contemplation of flowers
all our finer feelings are stimulated and blended, and yet there is no
excess of feeling to end in regrets, or a painful reaction. When the
flowers fade, we cheerfully gather fresh ones. But I hope I do not
undervalue my friends," she broke off. "I only mean to say--when you think
of all the uncertainties of life, of sickness and death, and other things
more dreadful, which overtake our dearest, do what we will to protect them;
and then that worst thing whether it be in ourselves or others: I mean
change--when you think of it all, surely it is well to turn to some
delicate source of delight, like this, for relief--and to forget," and she
curved her slender hand round the flowers caressingly, looking up at me at
the same time as if she were pleading to be allowed to have her own way.
I did not remonstrate with her. I hardly knew the danger then myself of
refusing to suffer.
It was some weeks before I saw her again after that. I had been busy. But
one day, as I was driving into Morningquest, I overtook her on the road,
walking in the same direction. I was in a close carriage, but I pulled the
checkstring as soon as I recognized her, and got out. She turned when she
heard the carriage stop, and seeing me alight came forward and shook
hands. She looked wan and weary.
"Those are fine horses of yours," was her smileless greeting. "How are
"Have you been having a 'burst'?" I said--she was quite five miles from
home. She looked up and down the road for answer, and affected to laugh,
but I could see that she was not at all in a laughing mood, and also that
she was already over-fatigued. I thought of begging to be allowed to drive
her back, but then it occurred to me that, even if she consented, which
was not likely, as she had a perfect horror of giving trouble, and would
never have been persuaded that I was not going out of my way at the
greatest personal inconvenience merely to pay her a polite attention; but
even if she had consented, she would probably have had to spend the rest
of the day alone in that great west window, with nothing to take her out
of herself, and nothing more enlivening to look at than dreary winter
fields under a sombre sky, and that would not do at all. A better idea,
however, occurred to me.
"I am going to see Mrs. Orton Beg," I said. "She is not very well."
Evadne had been staring blandly at the level landscape, but she turned to
me when I spoke, and some interest came into her eyes.
"Have you seen her lately," I continued.
"N-no," she answered, as if she were considering; "not for some time."
"Come now," I boldly suggested. "It will do her good. I won't talk if you
want to think," I added.
Her face melted into a smile at this, and on seeing her stiffness relax, I
wasted no more time in persuasion, but returned to the carriage and held
the door open for her. She followed me slowly, although she looked as if
she had not quite made up her mind, and got in; but still as if she were
hesitating. Once she was seated, however, I could see that she was not
sorry she had yielded; and presently she acknowledged as much herself.
"I believe I was tired," she said,
"Rest now, then," I answered, taking a paper out of my pocket. She settled
herself more luxuriously in her corner, put her arm in the strap, and
looked out through the open window. The day was mild though murky, the sky
was leaden gray. We rolled through the wintry landscape rapidly--brown
hedgerows, leafless trees, ploughed fields, a crow, two crows, a whole
flock home-returning from their feeding ground; scattered cottages, a
woman at a door looking out with a child in her arms, three boys swinging
on a gate, a man trudging along with a bundle, a labourer trimming a bank;
mist rising in the low-lying meadows; grazing cattle, nibbling sheep;--but
she did not see these things at first, any of them; she was thinking. Then
she began to see, and forgot to think. Then her fatigue wore off, and a
sense of relief, of ease, and of well-being generally, took gradual
possession of her. I could see the change come into her countenance, and
before we had arrived in Morningquest, she had begun to talk to me
cheerfully of her own accord. We had to skirt the old gray walls which
surrounded the palace gardens, and as we did so, she looked up at
them--indifferently at first, but immediately afterward with a sudden
flash of recognition. She said nothing, but I could see she drew herself
together as if she had been hurt.
"Do you go there often?" I asked her.
"No--Edith died there; and then that child," she answered, looking at me
as if she were surprised that I should have thought it likely.
"She shrinks from sorrowful associations and painful sights," I thought.
But I did not know, when I asked the question, that our poor Edith had
been a particular friend of hers.
We stopped the next moment at Mrs. Orton Beg's, and she leant forward to
look at the windows, smiling and brightening again.
I helped her out and followed her to the door, which she opened as if she
were at home there. She waited for me for a moment in the hall till I put
my hat down, and then we went to the drawing room together, and walked in
in the same familiar way.
Mrs. Orton Beg was there with another lady, a stout but very comely
person, handsomely dressed, who seemed to have just risen to take her
The moment Evadne saw this lady she sprang forward. "_Oh, Mother!_"
she cried, throwing her arms round her neck.
"Evadne--my dear, dear child!" the lady exclaimed, clasping her close and
kissing her, and then, holding her off to look at her. "Why, my child, how
thin you are, and pale, and weak--"
"Oh, mother--I _am_ so glad! I _am_ so glad!" Evadne cried
again, nestling close up to her, and kissing her neck; and then she laid
her head on her bosom and burst into hysterical sobs.
I instantly left the room, and Mrs. Orton Beg followed me.
"They have not met since--just after Evadne's marriage," she explained to
me. "Evadne offended her father, and there still seems to be no hope of a
"But surely it is cruel to separate mother and child," I exclaimed
indignantly. "He has no right to do that."
"No, and he would not be able to do it with one of us," she answered
bitterly; "but my sister is of a yielding disposition. She is like Mrs.
Beale, one of the old-fashioned 'womanly women,' who thought it their duty
to submit to everything, and make the best of everything, including
injustice, and any other vice it pleased their lords to practise. But for
this weakness of good women the world would be a brighter and better place
by this time. We see the disastrous folly of submitting our reason to the
rule of self-indulgence and self-interest now, however; and, please God,
we shall change all that before I die. He will be a bold man soon who will
dare to have the impertinence to dictate to us as to what we should or
should not do, or think, or say. No one can pretend that the old system of
husband and master has answered well, and it has had a fair trial. Let us
hope that the new method of partnership will be more successful."
"Yes, indeed!" I answered earnestly.
Mrs. Orton Beg looked up in my face, and her own countenance cleared.
"You and Evadne seem to be very good friends," she said. "I am so glad."
Then she looked up at me again, with a curious little smile which I could
not interpret. "Does she remind you of anybody--of anything, ever?" she
"Why--surely she is like you," I said, seeing a likeness for the first
"Yes," she answered, in a more indifferent tone. "There is a likeness, I
I tried afterward to think that this explained the haunting half
recollection I seemed to have of something about Evadne; but it did not.
On the contrary, it re-awakened and confirmed the feeling that I had seen
Evadne before I knew who she was, under circumstances which I now failed
Thinking she would like to be alone after that interview with her mother,
I left the carriage for her, and walked back to Fountain Towers; and the
state I was in after doing the ten miles warned me that I had been
luxuriating too much in carriages lately, and must begin to practise what
I preached again in the way of exercise, if I did not wish to lay up a fat
and flabby old age for myself.
I made a point of not seeing Evadne for some little time after that event,
so that she might not feel bound to refer to it in case she should shrink
from doing so. But the next time we met, as it happened, I had another
glimpse of her feeling for her friends, which showed me how very much
mistaken I had been in my estimate of the depth of her affections. It was
at As-You-Like-It. I had walked over from Fountain Towers, and dropped in
casually to ask for some tea, and, Colonel Colquhoun arriving at the same
moment from barracks, we went up to the drawing room together, and found
Evadne in her accustomed place, busy with her embroidery as usual. She
shook hands, but said nothing to show that she was aware of the interval
there had been since she saw me last. When she sat down again, however,
she went on with her work, and there was a certain satisfied look in her
face, as if some little wish had been gratified and she was content. I
knew when she took up her work that she liked me to be there, and wanted
me to stay, for she always put it down when visitors she did not care for
called, and made a business of entertaining them. But we had scarcely
settled ourselves to talk when the butler opened the door, and announced
"Mr. Bertram Frayling," and a tall, slender, remarkably handsome young
fellow, with a strong family likeness to Evadne herself, entered with
boyish diffidence, smiling nervously, but looking important, too. Evadne
jumped up impetuously.
"_Bertram_!" she exclaimed, holding out her arms to him. "Why, what a
big fellow you have grown!" she cried, finding she could hardly reach to
his neck to hug him. "And how handsome you are!"
"They say I am just like you," he answered, looking down at her lovingly,
with his arm around her waist. Neither of them took any notice of us.
"This is your birthday, dear," Evadne said. "I have been thinking of you
the whole day long. I always keep all the birthdays. Did you remember
"I--don't think I did," he answered honestly. "But this is my twenty-first
birthday, Evadne, and that's how it is I am here. I am my own master from
"And the first thing you do with your liberty is to come and see your
sister," said Colonel Colquhoun. "You're made of the right stuff, my boy,"
and he shook hands with him heartily.
Evadne clung with one hand to his shoulder, and pressed her handkerchief
first to this eye and then to that alternately with the other, looking so
glad, however, at the same time, that it was impossible to say whether she
was going to laugh or cry for joy.
"But aren't there rejoicings?" she asked.
"Oh, yes!" he answered. "But I told my father if you were not asked I
should not stay for them. I was determined to see you to-day." He flushed
boyishly as he spoke, and smiled round upon us all again.
"But wasn't he very angry?" Evadne said.
"Yes," her brother answered, twinkling. "The girls got round him, and
tried to persuade him, but they only made him worse, especially when they
all declared that when they came of age they meant to do _something_,
too! He said that he was afflicted with the most obstinate,
ill-conditioned family in the county, and began to row mother as if it
were her fault. But I wouldn't stand that!"
"You were right, Bertram," Evadne exclaimed, clenching her hands. "Now
that you are a man, never let mother be made miserable. Did she know you
"Yes, and was very glad," he answered, "and sent you messages."
But here Colonel Colquhoun and I managed to slip from the room. Evadne
sent her brother back that day to grace the close of the festivities in
his honour, but he returned the following week, and stayed at
As-You-Like-It, and also with me, when he confirmed my first exceedingly
good impression of him. Evadne quite wakened up under his influence, but,
unfortunately for her, he went abroad in a few weeks for a two years' trip
round the world, and, I think, losing him again so soon made it almost
worse for her than if they had never been reunited, especially as another
and irreparable loss came upon her immediately after his departure. This
was the sudden death of her mother, the news of which arrived one day in a
curt note written by her father to Colonel Colquhoun, no previous
intimation of illness having been sent to break the shock of the
announcement. I can never be thankful enough for the happy chance which
brought about that last accidental meeting of Evadne with her mother. But
for that, they would not have seen each other again; and I had the
pleasure of learning eventually that the perfect understanding which they
arrived at during the few hours they spent together on that occasion,
afterward became one of the most comforting recollections of Evadne's
life--"A hallowed memory," as she herself expressed it, "such as it is
very good for us to cherish. Thank Heaven for the opportunity which
renewed and intensified my appreciation of my mother's love and goodness,
so as to make my last impression of her one which must stand out
distinctly forever from the rest, and be always a joyful sorrow to recall.
Do you know what a _joyful_ sorrow is? Ah! something that makes one
feel warm and forgiving in the midst of one's regrets, a delicious feeling;
when it takes possession of you, you cease to be hard and cold and
fierce, and want to do good."
Mrs. Frayling died of a disease for which we have a remedy nowadays--or,
to speak plainly, she died for want of proper treatment. Her husband
gloried in what he called "a rooted objection to new-fangled notions," and
would not send for a modern practitioner even when the case became
serious, preferring to confide it entirely to a very worthy old gentleman
of his own way of thinking, with one qualification, who had attended his
household successfully for twenty-four years, during which time only one
other member of his family had ever been seriously ill, and he also had
died. But I hope and believe that my poor little lady never knew the truth
about her mother's last illness. She was overwhelmed with grief as it was,
and it cut one to the quick to see her, day after day, in her black dress,
sitting alone, pale and still and uncomplaining, her invariable attitude
when she was deeply distressed, and not to be able to say a word or do a
thing to relieve her. As usual at that time of the year, everybody whom
she cared to see at all was away except myself, so that during the
dreariest of the winter months she was shut up with her grief in the most
unwholesome isolation. As the spring returned, however, she began to
revive, and then, suddenly, it appeared to me that she entered upon a new
During the first days of our acquaintance Evadne's attitude, whatever
happened, surprised me. I could anticipate her action up to a certain
point, but just the precise thing she would do was the last thing I had
expected; I knew her feeling, in fact, but I was ignorant of the material
it had to work upon, and by means of which it found expression. I had
begun by believing her to be cold and self-sufficing, but even before her
illness I had perceived in her a strange desire for sympathy, and foreseen
that on occasion she would exact it in large measure from anyone she cared
about. It was making much of a cut finger one day that she had led me to
expect she would be exacting in illness, languishing as ladies do, to
excite sympathy; and when the illness came I found I had been right in so
far as I had believed that she would appreciate sympathy, but entirely
wrong about the means she would employ to obtain it. Instead of
languishing, when she found herself really suffering, she pulled herself
together, and bore the trial with heroic calm. As I have said, she never
uttered a complaint; and she had the strength of mind to ignore annoyances
which few people in perfect health could have borne with fortitude.
Certainly her attitude then had excited sympathy, and respect as well. It
was as admirable as it was unexpected.
I had also perceived that she could not bear anything disagreeable. She
seldom showed the least irritability herself, nor would she tolerate it
for a moment in anyone else. Servants who were not always cheerful had to
go, and the kind of people who snap at each other in the bosom of their
families she carefully avoided, turning from them instinctively as she
would have done from any perception revolting to the physical senses; and
that she would fly disgusted from sickening sights or sounds or odours I
never doubted. But here again I was wrong--or rather the evidence was
utterly misleading. I found her one day sitting on the bridge of a little
river that crossed a quiet lane near their house, and got down from my
horse to talk to her, and as we stood looking over the parapet looking
into the stream, the bloated carcase of a dead dog came floating by. She
could only have caught a glimpse of it, for she drew back instantly, but
she looked so pale and nauseated that I had to take her to the house, and
insist upon her having some wine. And I once took her, at her own earnest
request, to visit a children's hospital; but before we had seen a dozen of
the little patients she cried so piteously I was obliged to take her away;
and she could never bear to speak of the place afterward. And lastly, I
had seen how she shrank from going to the palace because of the
association with Edith's terrible death, and the chance of seeing her
poor, repulsive looking little boy there.
Yet when it came to be a question of facing absolute horrors in the
interests of the sufferers, she was the first to volunteer, and she did so
with a quiet determination there was no resisting, and every trace of
inward emotion so carefully obliterated that one might have been forgiven
for supposing her to be altogether callous.
This happened after her mother's death, In the spring, when she had
already begun to revive, and was the first startling symptom she showed of
the new phase of interest and energy upon which I suspected she was
entering. I hoped at the time that the great grief had carried off the
minor ailments of the mind as the great illness did of the body, and that
the change would prove to be for the better eventually, although the first
outcome of it was not the kind of thing I liked at all--for her.
I had not seen her for a week or so when she was ushered one morning into
my consulting room. She had not asked for an appointment, and had been
waiting to take her turn with the other patients.
"Well, what can I do for _you?_" I said. I was somewhat surprised to
see her. "You don't look very ill."
"No, thank goodness," she answered cheerfully; "and I don't mean to be
ill. I have come to be vaccinated."
"Ah. that is wise," I said.
"You have heard, I suppose, that small-pox has broken out in the
barracks?" she said when she was going. "There are fifteen cases, four of
them women, and one a child, and they are going to put them under canvas
on the common, and I shall be obliged to go and see that they are properly
nursed. That is why I am in such a hurry. Military nursing is of the most
primitive kind in times of peace. Our doctor is all that he should be, but
what can he do but prescribe? It takes all his time just to go round and
get through his ordinary duties."
"Did I understand you to say that you are going to look after the
small-pox patients?" I asked politely.
"Yes," she answered defiantly. "I am going to be isolated with them out on
the common. My tent is already pitched. I shall not take small-pox, I
"I don't see how you can be so sure," I said.
She gave me one of her most puzzling answers, one of those in which I felt
there was an indication of the something about her which I did not
"Oh, because it is such a relief!" she said.
"How a relief?" I questioned.
"Oh--I shall not take the disease," she repeated, "and I shall enjoy the
But this, I knew, was an evasion. However, I had no time to argue the
point with her just then, so I waited until my consultations were over,
and then went to see Colonel Colquhoun. I thought if he would not forbid
he might at all events persuade her to abandon her rash design. I found
him at his own place, walking about the garden with his hands in his
pockets, and a cigar in his mouth. He was in a facetious mood, the one of
his I most disliked.
"Now, you look quite concerned," he said, with an extra affectation of
brogue, when I had told him my errand. "Sure, she humbugs you, Evadne
does! If you knew her as well as I do, you'd not be troubling yourself
about her so much. I tell you, she'll come to no harm in the world. Now
what do you think were her reasons for going to live in the small-pox
"Then she _has_ gone!" I exclaimed.
"Oh, yes, she's gone," he answered. "The grass never has time to grow
under that young woman's feet if she's an idea to carry out, I will say
that for her. But what do you think she said when I asked her why she'd be
going among the small-pox patients? 'Oh,' she said, 'I want to see what
they look like!' And she'd another reason, too. She'll make herself look
like an interesting nurse, you know, and quite enjoy dressing up for the
I felt sure that all this was a horrid perversion of the truth, but I let
"You'll not interfere, then?" I persisted.
"Not I, indeed!" he answered. "She never comes commandering it over me,
and I'm not going to meddle with her private affairs, so long as she
doesn't come here bringing infection, that's all."
"But she may catch the disease herself and die of it, or be disfigured for
life," I remonstrated.
"And she might catch her death of cold here in the garden, or be burnt
beyond all recognition by a spark setting fire to her ball-dress the next
time she wears one," he answered philosophically. "When you look at the
chances, now, they're about equal."
He smiled at me complacently when he had said this, and something he saw
in my face inclined him to chuckle, but he suppressed the inclination,
twirling his fair moustache instead, first on one side and then on the
other, rapidly. In his youth he must have been one of those small boys who
delighted to spear a bee with a pin and watch it buzz round. The boy is
pretty sure the bee can't hurt him, but yet half the pleasure of the
performance lies in the fact of its having a sting. It would not have been
convenient for Colonel Colquhoun to quarrel with me, because there had
been certain money transactions between us which left him greatly my
debtor; but he thought me secured by my interest in Evadne, and indulged
himself on every possible occasion in the pleasure of opposing me. Not
that he bore me any ill-will, either. I knew that he would borrow more
money from me at any time in the friendliest way, if he happened to want
it. I was his honey bee, and he was fond of honey; but it delighted him
also to see me buzz.
I was obliged to consider my own patients and keep away from the small-pox
camp during the epidemic, for fear of carrying infection, and consequently
I saw nothing of Evadne, and only heard of her through the military
doctor, for she would not write. His report of her, however, was always
the same at first. She was the life of the camp, bright, cheerful, and
active, never tired apparently, and never disheartened. This went on for
some time, and then, one evening, there came another report. She was just
as cheerful as ever, but looking most awfully done.
At daybreak next morning I drove out to the common, and, leaving my
dogcart outside the camp, went in to look for her. I knew that she was
generally up all night, and was therefore prepared to find her about, and
I met her making her way toward her own tent. She was dressed like a
French _bonne_, in a short dark blue gown made of some washing
material, with a white apron and white cap, and a chatelaine with useful
implements upon it hanging from her girdle, a very suitable costume for
the work; but she wore no wrap of any kind, and the morning air was keen.
I noticed as she walked toward me that her gait was a little uncertain.
Once she put out her hand as if seeking something to grasp, and once she
staggered and stopped. I hastened to her assistance, and saw as I
approached her that she was colourless even to her lips; her eyes were
bright and sunken, with large black circles round them, and the lids were
heavy. I drew her hand through my arm without more formal greeting, and
she grasped it gratefully for a moment, then dropped it and stepped back.
"I forgot," she said, "it seems so natural to see you anywhere. But don't
touch me. I shall infect you."
"I shall have to go home and change in any case," I answered briskly.
"I've been up all night with a poor woman," she said, "and I'm just tired
out. Don't look concerned, though. I shall not take small-pox. My own