Part 14 out of 15
illness, you remember, was a blessing in disguise, and I am sure the
absorbing distraction of helping to relieve others--" she stopped short,
looked about her confusedly, and then exclaimed: "It is quite time I went
to bed. I declare I don't know the Hospital Tent from the sandy common,
nor a rabbit running about from a convalescent child, and the whin bushes
are waltzing round me derisively." She swayed a little, recovered herself,
tried to laugh, then threw up her hands, and fell forward into my arms.
I carried her to her tent, guided by one of the men. On the way Dr. James
joined us. We laid her on her bed and looked anxiously for symptoms of the
dreadful disease, but there were none.
"No, you see," Dr. James declared, "it's just what I expected--sheer
exhaustion, and nothing else. But she'd better be got out of this
atmosphere at once."
She was in a semi-unconscious, semi-somnolent state, half syncope, half
sleep, and there was nothing to be gained by rousing her just then, so we
wrapped her up warmly in shawls, sent for my dogcart, and lifted her on
the back seat, where I supported her as best I could, while my man drove
us to As-You-Like-It.
Colonel Golquhoun was not up when we arrived, but I waited to see her
swallow some champagne after she had been put to bed, and in the meantime
the bustle had aroused him. When he learnt the occasion of it, his wrath
knew no bounds. He could not have abused me in choicer language if I had
been one of his own subalterns. But I managed to keep my temper until I
could get a word in, and then I mildly suggested that the best thing he
could do, as he was so afraid of infection, was to give himself leave, and
be off. "Nobody will expect _you_ to stay and look after your wife,"
I said. "You'd better go to town."
It was what he would have done if I had not advised it, but the habit of
opposing me was becoming so inveterate that he changed his mind, and,
rather than act upon a suggestion of mine, ran the risk of living in
barracks until all fear of infection was over.
Happily Evadne suffered from nothing worse than exhaustion, and soon
recovered her strength; but I never could agree with Dr. James about the
merit of her conduct during the epidemic.
It was about this time, that is to say, immediately after the outbreak of
small-pox was over, and in the height of the summer, that Mr. and Lady
Adeline Hamilton-Wells returned from a prolonged absence abroad, and
settled themselves for a few months at Hamilton House. I happened to be in
London when they arrived, and saw them there as they passed through. Lady
Adeline made particular inquiries about Evadne. "I don't think you, any of
you, understand that girl," she said. "She is shy, and should be set
going. She requires to be _induced_ to come forward to do her share
of the work of the world, but, instead of helping her, everybody lets her
alone to mope in luxurious idleness at As-You-Like-It."
"She is never idle," I protested.
"I know what you mean," Lady Adeline answered, "She sits and sews; but
that is idle trifling for a woman of her capacity. She was out of health
and good-for-nothing when I saw her last with Mrs. Orton Beg in Paris, and
therefore I held my peace; but now I mean to take her out of herself, and
show her her mistake,"
"I hope you will be able to do so," I said, and I was not speaking
ironically; but all the same I scarcely expected that she would succeed.
The day after my return home, however, which was only a week later, I
called at Hamilton House, and it seemed to me then that she had already
made a very good beginning. It was a brilliant afternoon, and I had walked
through the fields from Fountain Towers, and found Lady Adeline alone for
the moment, sitting out on the terrace under an awning, somewhat overcome
by the heat.
"You have arrived at an acceptable time, as you always do," she said in
her decided kindly way. "I am enjoying a brief period of repose before the
racket begins again, and I invite you to share it."
"The racket?" I inquired.
"No, the repose," she replied. "Angelica is staying here, and Evadne--"
"Mrs. Colquhoun and racket!" I ejaculated.
"Well, it is difficult to associate the two ideas, I confess," she
answered; "but you will see for yourself. Angelica makes the racket, of
course, but Evadne enjoys it. I went to As-You-Like-It as soon as I could,
without waiting for her to call upon me, and I found her just as you had
led me to expect, all staid propriety and precision, hiding deep dejection
beneath an affectation of calm content--at least, that was my
interpretation of her attitude--and inclined to be stiff with me; but I
approached her as her mother's oldest and dearest friend, and she softened
"And you brought her here?"
"That is quite the proper word for it," she rejoined. "I just brought her.
I insisted upon her coming. I gave her no choice. And I also asked Colonel
Colquhoun, but he declined. He said he thought Evadne would be all the
better for getting away from home, and I agreed with him. He comes over,
however, occasionally, and they seem to be very good friends. I don't
dislike him at all."
This was said tentatively, but I did not care to discuss Colonel
Colquhoun, and therefore, to change the subject, I asked Lady Adeline how
she found Angelica.
"Very much improved in every way," she answered. "The happiest
understanding has come to exist between herself and her husband since that
dreadful occurrence. They are simply inseparable. She said to me the other
day that her only chance of ever showing to any advantage at all would be
against the quiet background of her husband's unobtrusive goodness. And I
think myself that a great many people would never have believed in her if
he had not. All her faults are so apparent, alas! while the very real and
earnest purpose of her life is so seldom seen."
"She has been working very hard lately, I believe."
"Yes," Lady Adeline answered; "but I am thankful to say she has set up a
private secretary, and who do you think it is? Our dear good Mr. Ellis!"
"I am heartily glad to hear of it," I said, "both for his sake and hers."
"Yes," she agreed. "It did not seem right that he should ever go away from
amongst us, and you know how we all felt the severance after Diavolo went
into the service, and there seemed no help for it, as his occupation was
over. I am afraid, poor fellow, his experiences since he left us have been
anything but happy. All that is over now, however, and it does seem so
natural to have him about again!"
"He must make an admirable secretary," I said.
"Admirable!" she agreed--"in every way, for I don't think Angelica would
ever have got on quite so well with anybody else. He was always able to
make her respect him, and now the habit is confirmed, so that he has more
influence with her for good than almost anybody else--a restraining
influence, you know. Her great fault still is impatience. She thinks
everything should be put right the moment she perceives it to be wrong,
and would raise revolutions if she were not restrained. It is always
difficult to make her believe that evolution if slower is surer. But here
As Lady Adeline spoke, Angelica, accompanied by Mr. Kilroy and Mr. Ellis,
came out of the plantation to the left of the terrace upon which we were
sitting, and walked across the lawn toward us, while at the same moment
Diavolo and Evadne came round the corner of the house from the opposite
direction and went to meet them. Evadne carried a parasol, but wore
neither hat nor gloves. She looked very happy, listening to Diavolo's
Angelica carried a fishing rod, and I thought, as she approached, that I
had never seen a more splendid specimen of hardy, healthy, vigorous young
Evadne looked sickly beside her, and drooping, like a pale and fragile
flower in want of water. The contrast must have struck Lady Adeline also,
for presently she observed: "Evadne was as strong as Angelica once. Do you
suppose her health has been permanently injured by that horrid Maltese
"No," I said positively. "If she would give up sewing, and take a fishing
rod, and go out with Angelica in a sensible dress like that, she would be
as strong as ever in six months. But I fancy she would be shocked by the
Angelica hugged Diavolo heartily when they met, and then, being the taller
of the two, she put her arm round his neck, and all three strolled slowly
on toward us, Mr. Ellis and Mr. Kilroy having already come up on to the
terrace and sat down. While greeting the two latter I lost sight of the
Heavenly Twins, and when I looked at them again something had evidently
gone wrong. Angelica stood leaning on her rod berating Diavolo, who was
answering with animation, while Evadne looked from one to the other in
amazement, as the strange good child looks at the strange naughty ones.
Whatever the difference was it was soon over, and then they came on again,
talking and walking briskly, followed by four dogs.
"I _am_ vulgar, decidedly, at times," Angelica acknowledged as she
came up the steps. "I shouldn't be half so amusing if I were not." She
held out her hand to me, and then threw herself into the only unoccupied
chair on the terrace, but instantly jumped up again. "I beg your pardon,
Evadne," she said. "These are my society manners. When I am on the
platform or otherwise engaged in _Unwomanly_ pursuits outside the
Sphere, I have to be more considerate."
Some more chairs were brought out, one of which Diavolo placed beside me.
"This is for you," he said to Evadne; "I know you like to be near the
Don." Evadne flushed crimson.
"Did you ever hear that story?" Angelica asked me.
Evadne's embarrassment visibly increased. "Angelica, don't tell it," she
remonstrated; "It isn't fair."
Angelica laughed. "When Evadne first came here," she proceeded, "she sat
next you at dinner one night, and didn't know who you were; but it seems
you made such a profound and favourable impression upon her that afterward
she had the curiosity to ask, when she learnt that you were a doctor. 'A
doctor!' she exclaimed in surprise. 'He is more like a Don than a doctor!'
and you have been 'Don' to her intimates ever since."
"Well, I feel flattered," I said.
"I feel as if I ought to apologise," Evadne began--"only I meant no
"My dear," Angelica interposed, "he is delighted to be distinguished by
you in any way. But, by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked"--and
Colonel Colquhoun came out on to the terrace through the drawing room
behind us. He shook hands with us all, his wife included, and then sat
"I say, Evadne--" Diavolo began.
"My dear boy," said Lady Adeline, "you mustn't call Mrs. Colquhoun by her
"Christian!" jeered Diavolo. "Now, that _is_ a good one! There's
nothing Christian about Evadne. We looked her up in the dictionary ages
ago, didn't we, Angelica? The name means Well-pleasing-one, as nearly as
possible, and it suits her sometimes. Evadne--classical Evadne--was noted
for her devotion to her husband, and distinguished herself finally on his
funeral pyre--she ex-pyred there."
We all groaned aloud. "It was a somewhat theatrical exit, I confess,"
Diavolo pursued. "But, I say, Angelica, wouldn't it be fun to burn the
colonel, and see Evadne do suttee on his body--only I doubt if she would!"
He turned to Evadne.
"Mrs. Colquhoun," he began ceremoniously; "may I have the honour of
calling you by your heathen name--as in the days beyond recalling?"
"When you are good," she answered.
"Ugh!" he exclaimed. "I should have had more respect for your honesty if
you said 'no' at once. And it is very absurd of you, too, Evadne, because
you know you are going to marry me when Colonel Colquhoun is promoted to
regions of the blest. She would have married me first, only you stole a
march on me, sir," he added, addressing Colonel Colquhoun. "However, I
feel as if something were going to happen _now_, at last! There was a
banshee wailing about my quarters in a minor key, very flat, last night.
She had come all the way from Ireland to warn Colonel Colquhoun, and
mistaken the house, I suppose."
We all looked round. It was Mr. Hamilton-Wells addressing Lady Adeline in
his most precise manner. He was standing in the open French window just
behind us, tapping one hand with the _pince-nez_ he held in the
"My dear, the cat has five kittens."
"My _dear!_" Lady Adeline exclaimed.
"They have only just arrived and--"
"Never mind them _now_," she cried hurriedly.
"But, my dear, you were anxious to know."
"I don't want to know in the least," she protested.
"But only this morning you said--"
"Oh, that was upstairs," she interrupted.
"What difference does that make?" he wanted to know. "You don't mean to
say you are anxious about the cat when you are upstairs, and not anxious
when you come down?"
Lady Adeline sank back in her chair, and resigned herself to a long
altercation. Before it ended everybody else had disappeared, and I saw no
more of Evadne on that occasion. But during the next few weeks I had many
opportunities of observing the wonderful way she was waking up under the
influence of the Heavenly Twins.
They gave her no time for reflection; it was the life of action against
the life of thought, and it suited her.
The ladies frequently made my house the object of an afternoon walk, and
stayed for tea. Lady Adeline declared that the "girls" dragged her over
because they wanted a new victim to torment with their superabundant
animal spirits. The superabundance was all Angelica's, I knew, but still
Evadne was an accomplice, and they neither of them spared me in those
days. They would rob my hot-houses of the best fruits and flowers,
disarrange my books, turn pictures they did not like with their faces to
the wall, drape my statues fantastically, criticise what they called my
absurd bachelor habits, and give me good advice on the subject of marriage;
Lady Adeline sitting by meanwhile, aiding and abetting them with smiles,
although protesting that she would not allow them to make me the butt of
their idle raillery.
Evadne had a passion for the scent of gorse. She crammed pockets, sleeves,
shoes, and the bosom of her dress with the yellow blossoms, and I often
found these fragrant tokens of her presence scattered about my house after
she had been there. Once, when we were all out walking together, she
stopped to pick some from a bush, and as she was putting them into her
bodice she made a remark which gave me pause to ponder.
"You will want to know why I do that, I suppose," she said. "You will be
looking for a motive, for some secret spring of action. The simple fact
that I love the gorse won't satisfy you. You would like to know why I love
it, when I first began to love it, and anything else about it that might
enable you to measure my feeling for it."
This was so exactly what I was in the habit of doing with regard to many
matters that I could not say a word. But what struck me as significant
about the observation was the obvious fact, gathered by inference, that,
while I had been studying her, she also had been studying me, and I had
never suspected it.
She walked on with Angelica after she had spoken, and I dropped behind
with Lady Adeline.
"_Your_ Evadne and Colonel Colquhoun's wife are two very different
people," I said. "The one is a lively girl, the other a sad and bitter
"Sad, not bitter," Lady Adeline corrected.
"I have heard her say bitter things!" I maintained.
"You may, perhaps, have heard her condemn wrong ones rather too
emphatically," Lady Adeline suggested. "But all this is only a phase. She
is in rather a deep groove at present, but we shall be able to get her out
"I don't know," I answered dubiously. "I don't think it is that exactly. I
believe there is some kind of warp in her mind, I perceive it, but can
neither define nor account for It yet. It is something morbid that makes
her hold herself aloof. She has never allowed anybody in the neighbourhood
to be intimate with her. Even I, who have seen her oftener than anybody,
never feel that I know her really well--that I could reckon upon what she
would do in an emergency. And I believe that there is something artificial
in her attitude; but why? What is the explanation of all that is unusual
Lady Adeline shook her head, and was silent for some seconds, then she
said: "I once had a friend--but her moral nature quite halted. It was
because she had lost her faith in men. A woman who thinks that only women
can be worthy is like a bird with a broken wing. But I don't say that that
is Evadne's case at all. Since she came to us she has seemed to be much
more like one of those marvellous casks of sherry out of which a dozen
different wines are taken. The flavour depends on the doctoring. Here,
under Angelica's influence--why, she has filled your pocket with gorse
It was true. In taking out my handkerchief, I had just scattered the
flowers, and so discovered that they were there. "Then you give her credit
for less individuality--you think her more at the mercy of her
surroundings than I do," I said.
But before she could answer me, Evadne herself had joined us. I suppose I
was looking grave, for she asked in a playful tone:
"Did he ever frolic, Lady Adeline, this solemn seeming--_Don_? Was he
always in earnest, even on his mother's lap, and occupied with weighty
problems of life and death when other babes were wondering with wide open
eyes at the irresponsible action of their own pink toes?"
Which made me reflect. For if I were in the habit of being a dull bore
myself it was no wonder that I seldom saw her looking lively.
The following week Evadne went home, and as soon as she was settled at
As-You-Like-It, she seemed to relapse once more into her former state of
apathy. I saw her day after day as I passed, sitting sewing in the wide
west window above the holly hedge; and so long as she was left alone she
seemed to be content; but I began to notice at this time that any
interruption at her favourite occupation did not please her. The summer
heat, the scent of flowers streaming through open windows, the song of
birds, the level landscape, here vividly green with the upspringing
aftermath, there crimson and gold where the poppies gleamed amongst the
ripening corn--all such sweet sensuous influences she looked out upon
lovingly, and enjoyed them--so long as she was left alone. On hot
afternoons, Diavolo would go and lie at her feet sometimes, with a cushion
under his head; and him she tolerated; but only, I am sure, because he
always fell asleep.
I had to go to As-You-Like-It one day to transact some business with
Colonel Colquhoun, and when we had done he asked me to go up into the
drawing room with him. "Come, and I'll show you a pretty picture," he
It _was_ a pretty picture. They had both fallen asleep on that
occasion. It was a torrid day outside, but the deep bay where they were
was cool and shady. The windows were wide open, the outside blinds were
drawn down low enough to keep out the glare, but not so far as to hide the
view. Behind Evadne was a stand of flowers and foliage plants. Diavolo was
lying on the floor in his favourite attitude with a black satin cushion
under his head, and was, with his slender figure, refined features, thick,
curly, fair hair, and fine transparent skin, slightly flushed by the heat,
a perfect specimen of adolescent grace and beauty. He looked like a young
lover lying at the feet of his lady. Evadne was sitting in a low easy
chair, with a high back, against which her head was resting. Half her face
was concealed by a fan of white ostrich feathers which she held in her
left hand, and the moment I looked at her the haunting certainty of having
seen her in exactly that position once before recurred to me. She was
looking well that afternoon. Her glossy dark brown hair showed bright as
bronze against the satin background of the chair. She was dressed in a
gown of silver gray cashmere lined with turquoise blue silk, which showed
between the folds; cool colours of the best shade to set off the ivory
whiteness of her skin.
Colonel Colquhoun considered the group meditatively. "She keeps her
looks," he observed in an undertone; "and Diavolo's catching her up."
I looked at him inquiringly.
"She's six or eight years older than he is, you know," he explained; "but
you wouldn't think it now."
I wondered what he had in his mind.
"Times are changing," he proceeded. "Now, when I was a lad, if a lady had
liked me as well as Evadne likes that boy, I'd have taken advantage of her
"Not if the lady had been of her stamp," I said drily.
"Well, true for you," he acknowledged. "But it isn't the lady only in this
case. It's that young sybarite himself. He's as particular as she is. He
said the other day at mess--it was a guest night, and there was a big
dinner on, and somebody proposed 'Wine and Women' for a toast, but he
wouldn't drink it: 'Oh, spare me,' he said, in that slow way he has,
something like his father's; 'Wine and women, as you take them, are things
as coarse in the way of pleasure as pork and porter are for food.' We
asked him then to give us his own ideas of pleasure; but he said he didn't
think anybody there was educated up to them, even sufficiently to
understand them!--and he wasn't joking altogether, either," Colonel
At that same moment Evadne opened her eyes wide, and looked at us a second
before she spoke, but showed no other sign of surprise.
"I am afraid I have been asleep," she said, rising deliberately, and
shaking hands with me across the prostrate Diavolo. "Do sit down."
She sank back into her own chair as she spoke, and fanned a fly from
Diavolo's face. "I never knew anyone sleep so soundly," she said, looking
down at him lovingly. "He rides out here nearly every day when he is not
on duty, simply for his siesta. Angelica is jealous, I believe, because he
will not go to her. He says there is no repose about Angelica, and that it
is only here with me that he finds the dreamful ease he loves."
There was a sound of talking outside just then, and a few minutes later
Angelica herself came in with her father.
"Oh, you _darling!_ you _are_ a pretty boy!" she exclaimed, when
she saw Diavolo, and then she went down on her knees beside him, put her
arms round his neck, pulled him up, and hugged him roughly, an attention
which he immediately resented. "Ah, I thought it was you!" he said,
opening his eyes. "Good-bye, sweet sleep, good-bye!" Then he sat up, and,
turning his back to Evadne, coolly rested himself against her knee. "I
suppose we can have tea now," he said. "There's always something to look
forward to. Papa, dear, touch the bell, to save the Colonel the trouble."
Colonel Colquhoun laughed, and rang it himself good-naturedly.
"Diavolo!" Evadne exclaimed, pushing him away, "I am not going to nurse a
great boy like you."
"Well, Angelica must, then," he said, changing his position so as to lean
against his sister. Angelica laid her hand on his head, and her face
softened. "Evadne _used_ to like to nurse me," he complained. "She's
not nearly so nice since she married. I say, Angelica, do you remember the
wedding breakfast, when we agreed to drink as much champagne as the
bridegroom? I swore I would never get drunk again, and I never have."
"Faith," said Colonel Colquhoun, "there are some who'd like to be able to
say the same thing."
Some dogs had followed Angelica in, and had now to be turned out, because
Evadne would not have dogs indoors. She said she liked a good dog's
character, but could not bear the smell of him.
"And how are the children?" Mr. Hamilton-Wells asked affably, when this
diversion was over.
"There are no children!" Evadne exclaimed in surprise.
"Are there not, indeed. Now, that is singular," he observed. Then he
looked at me as if he were about to say something interesting, but I
hastily interposed. I was afraid he was going to speculate about the
natural history of the phenomenon which had just struck him as being
singular. He knew perfectly well that Evadne had no children, but he was
subject, or affected to be subject, to moments of obliviousness, in which
he was wont to ask embarrassing questions.
"The weather is quite tropical," was the original observation I made. Mr.
Hamilton-Wells felt if the parting of his smooth, straight hair was
exactly in the middle, patted it on either side, then shook back imaginary
ruffles from his long white hands, and interlaced his jewelled fingers on
"You were never in the tropics, I think you told me?" he said to Evadne,
with exaggerated preciseness. "Ah! now, I have been, off and on, several
times. The heat is very trying. I knew a lady, the wife of a Colonial
Governor, who used to be so overcome by it that she was obliged to undo
all her things, let them slip to the ground, and step out of them, leaving
them looking like a great cheese. She told me so herself, I assure you,
and she was an exceedingly stout person."
The Heavenly Twins went into convulsions suddenly.
"Is that tea at last?" Evadne asked.
Colonel Colquhoun and I both gladly moved to make room for the servants
who were bringing it in, and the conversation was not resumed until they
had withdrawn. Then Angelica began: "I came to make a last appeal to you,
Evadne. I want to tell you about a poor girl--"
"Oh, don't break this lovely summer silence with tales of woe!" Evadne
exclaimed, interrupting her. "I cannot do anything. Don't ask me. You
harrow my feelings to no purpose. I will not listen. It is not right that
I should be forced to know."
"Well, I think you are making a mistake, Evadne," Angelica replied. "Don't
you think so?" looking at me. "She is sacrificing herself to save herself.
She imagines she can secure her own peace of mind by refusing to know that
there is a weary world of suffering close at hand which she should be
helping to relieve. Suffering for others strengthens our own powers of
endurance; we lose them if we don't exercise them--and that is the way you
are sacrificing yourself to save yourself, Evadne. When some big trouble
of your own, one of those which cannot be denied, comes upon you, it will
crush you. You will have lost the moral muscle you should be exercising
now to keep it in good working order and develop it well for your own use
when you require it. It would not be worse for you to take a stimulant or
a sedative to wind yourself up to an artificially pleasurable state when
at any time you are not naturally cheerful--and that is what a too great
love of peace occasionally ends in."
Evadne waved her ostrich feather fan backward and forward slowly, and
looked out of the window. She would not even listen to this friendly
counsel, and I felt sure she was making a mistake.
I only saw her once again that summer under Lady Adeline's salutary
influence. It was a few days later, and Evadne was in an expansive mood.
She had been spending the day with Lady Adeline, and the two had been for
a drive together, and had overtaken me on the road and picked me up on
their way back to Hamilton House. I had been for a solitary ramble, and
was then returning to work, but Evadne said I must go back to tea with
them: "For your own sake, because it is a shame to waste a summer day in
work--a glorious summer day so evidently sent for our enjoyment."
"The greatest pleasure in life is to be in perfect condition for the work
one loves," I answered; but I was settling myself comfortably in the
carriage as I spoke, such is the consistency of man. But indeed it was not
very difficult to persuade me to idle that afternoon. I had been inclining
that way for weeks, under the influence of the intoxicating heat doubtless;
and presently, when I found myself comfortably seated on the wide stone
terrace outside the great drawing room at Hamilton House, under a shady
awning, looking down upon lawns vividly green and lovely gardens all aglow
with colour and alive with perfume, which is the soul of the flowers, I
yielded sensuous service to the hour, and gave myself up to the enjoyment
of it unreservedly.
Mr. Hamilton-Wells was there, making tea in the precisest manner, and
looking more puritanical than ever. How to reconcile his coldly formal
exterior with the interior from which emanated his choice of subjects in
conversation is a matter which I have not yet had time to study, although
I am convinced that the solution of the problem would prove to be of great
scientific value and importance. I was not in the habit of thinking of him
as either a man or a woman myself, however, but as a specimen of humanity
broadly, and domestically as a husband whom I always suspected of being a
sharp sword of the law, although I had never obtained the slightest
evidence of the fact.
Lady Adeline was lolling in a low cane chair, fatigued by her drive, and
longing aloud for tea; and Evadne was flitting about with her hat in her
hand, laughing and talking more than any of us. She was wearing an art
gown, very becoming to her, and suitable also for such sultry weather, as
Mr. Hamilton-Wells remarked.
"I suppose you are a strong supporter of the aesthetic dress movement," he
said, doubtless alluding to the graceful freedom of her delicate primrose
"Not at all," she answered, seating herself on the arm of a chair near
Lady Adeline, and opening her fan gently as she spoke.
I was inspired to ask for more tea just then. Mr. Hamilton-Wells poured it
out and handed it to me. "You take milk," he informed me, "but no sugar."
Then he folded his hands and recommenced. "To return to the original point
of departure," he began, "which was modern dress, if I remember
rightly"--he smiled round upon us all, knowing quite well that he
remembered rightly--"that brings us by an obvious route to another
question of the day; I mean the position of women. How do you regard their
position at this latter end of the nineteenth century, Evadne?"
"I do not regard it at all, if I can help it," she answered incisively.
Mr. Hamilton-Wells dropped his outspread hands upon his knees.
"If I remember rightly," he said, "you take no interest in politics
either. That is quite a phenomenon at this latter end of the nineteenth
"I have my duties--the duties of my social position, you know," she
answered, "and my own little pursuits as well, neither of which I can
neglect for the affairs of the world."
"But are they enough for you?" Lady Adeline ventured.
Evadne glanced up to see what she meant, and then smiled. "The wisdom of
ages is brought to the training of each little girl," she said; "and to
fit her for our position, she is taught that a woman's one object in life
is to be agreeable."
"You mean that a woman of decided opinions is not an agreeable person?"
Lady Adeline asked.
"Decided opinions must always be offensive to those who don't hold them,"
"A woman must know that the future welfare of her own sex, and the
progress of the world at large, depends upon the action of women now, and
the success attending it," Angelica observed comprehensively.
"Yes, but she knows also that her own comfort and convenience depend
entirely on her neutrality," Evadne answered. "It is not high-minded to be
neutral, I know, when it is put in that way; but a woman who is so becomes
exactly what the average man, taken at his word, would have her be, and he
is, we are assured, the proper person to legislate."
She looked at us all defiantly as she spoke, and furled her fan; and just
at that moment Colonel Colquhoun joined us. He had come to fetch her, and
his entrance gave a new turn to the conversation.
"It has been oppressively hot all day," he observed.
"Yes," Lady Adeline answered, "and I do so long for the mountains in
weather like this."
"Oh, do you?" said Evadne. "Are you subject to the magnet of the
mountains? I am not. I do not want to feel the nothingness of man; I like
to believe in his greatness, in his infinite possibilities. I like to
think of life as a level plain over which we can gallop to some goal--I
don't know what, but something desirable; and the actual landscape pleases
me best so. The great tumbled mountains make me melancholy, they are
always foreboding something untoward, even at the best of times; but the
open spaces, windswept and evident--I love them. I am at home on them. I
can breathe there--I am free."
This was the natural woman at last, in her aspirations unconsciously
showing herself superior to the artificial creature she was trying to be.
"I hate the melancholy mountains," the ever-ready Angelica burst forth. "I
loathe the inconstant sea. The breezy plain for a gallop! It is there that
one feels free!"
Colonel Colquhoun looked at Evadne meditatively, and slowly twisted each
end of his heavy blond moustache. "I haven't seen you riding for some time
now," he said, "and it's a pity, for you've a fine seat on a horse."
I was obliged to make up that night for the time lost in the afternoon,
and the dawn had broken when at last I put my work away. I opened the
study windows wider to salute it. A lark was singing somewhere out of
Die Lerche, die im augen nicht,
Doch immer in den ohren ist--
and the ripples of undecipherable sound struck some equally inarticulate
chord of sense, and fell full-fraught with association. The breeze,
murmurous amongst the branches, set the leaves rustling like silk attire.
Did I imagine it, or was there really a faint sweet perfume of yellow
gorse in the air? A thrush on a bough below began to flute softly, trying
its tones before it burst forth, giving full voice to its enthusiasm in
one clear call, eloquent of life and love and longing, and all expressed
in just three notes--crotchet, quaver, crotchet and rest--which shortly
shaped themselves to a word in my heart, a word of just three syllables,
the accent being on the penultimate--"E-vad-ne! E-vad-ne!"
I roused myself. Not a proper state of mind certainly for a man of my
years and pursuits. Why, how old was I? Thirty-five--not so old in one
way, yet ten years older at least than--stop--sickly sentimentality. "Life
is real, life is earnest," and there must be no dreams of scented gorse,
of posing in daffodil draperies, for me. Must take a holiday and
rest--take my "agreeable ugliness" off (I was amused when the Heavenly
Twins told me their mother talked of my "agreeable ugliness"; but, now,
did I like it? No. I was cynical when I said it) take my "agreeable
ugliness" off to the mountains--"Turn thine eyes unto the mountains"--the
magnet of the mountains. Yes, I felt it. I delighted to do so. I was not
morbid. To the mountains! to the cold which stays corruption, the snows
which are pure, and the eternal silence! By ten o'clock that night I was
well on my way.
I went abroad that year for my holiday, but spent the last week of it in
London on my way home. All the vapours of sentimentality had disappeared
by that time. My nerves had been braced in the Alps, my mind had been
calmed and refreshed by the warm blue Mediterranean, my sense of
comparison emphasized in Egypt, where I perceived anew the law of
mutability, the inevitable law, by the decree of which the human race is
eternal, while we, its constituent atoms, have but a moment of intensity
to blaze and burn out. Perishable life and permanent matter are we, with a
limit that may be prolonged in idea by such circumstances as we can dwell
on with delight, one love-lit day being longer in the record than whole
monotonous years. It is good to live and love, but if we possess the
burden of life unrelieved by the blessing of love, or the hope of it,
well--why despair? Man is matter animated by a series of emotions, the
majority of which are pleasurable. Disappointment ends like success, and
the futile dust of nations offers itself in evidence of the vanity of all
attributes except wisdom, the wisdom that teaches us to accept the
inevitable silently, and endure our moment with equally undemonstrative
acquiescence, whether it comes full fraught with the luxury of living, or
only brings us that which causes us to contemplate of necessity, and
without shrinking, the crowning dignity of death.
I had come back ready for work, and could have cheerfully dispensed with
that week's delay in London; but I had promised it to an old friend, in
failing health, whom I would not disappoint.
The people at Morne, the Kilroys, the Hamilton-Wellses, the Colquhouns,
all my circle of intimate friends, had fallen into the background of my
recollection during my tour abroad; but, now again, when I found myself so
near them, the old habitual interests began to be dominant. I had sent
notes to apologize for not wishing them good-bye before my sudden
departure, but I had not written to any of them or heard from them during
my absence, and did not know where they might all be at the moment; and I
was just wondering one night as I walked toward Piccadilly from the
direction of the Strand--I was just wondering if they were all as I had
left them, if the civil war, as Angelica called it, was being waged as
actively as ever between herself and Evadne upon the all-important
point--and that made me think of Evadne herself. I had banished her name
from my mind for weeks, but now some inexplicable trick of the brain
suddenly set her before me as I oftenest saw her, sitting at work in the
wide west window overlooking the road, and glancing up brightly at the
sound of my horse's hoofs or carriage wheels as I rode or drove past, to
salute me. A lady might wait and watch so at accustomed hours for her
lover; but he would stop, and she would open the window, and lean out with
a flower in her hand for him, and perhaps she would kiss it before she
tossed it to him, and he would catch it and go on his way rejoicing--a
pretty poetical dream and easy of fulfilment, if only one could find the
lady, suitably circumstanced.
I had arrived at Piccadilly Circus by this time, at the turn into Regent
Street where the omnibuses stop, and was delayed for a moment or two by
the casual crowd of loiterers and people struggling for places, and by
those who were alighting from the various vehicles. Not being in any hurry
myself, it amused me to observe the turmoil, the play of human emotion
which appeared distinctly on the faces of those who approached me and were
lost to sight again as soon as seen in the eddy and whirl of the crowd.
There was temper here, and tenderness there; this person was steadily bent
on business, that on pleasure, and one fussy little man escorting his
family somewhere was making the former of the latter. There were two young
lovers alone with their love so far as any outward consciousness of the
crowd was concerned; and there was a young wife silent and sad beside a
neglectful elderly husband. It was the 'buses from the west end I was
watching. One had just moved off toward the Strand, and another pulled up
in its place, and the people began to alight--a fat man first in a frenzy
of haste, a sallow priest whose soul seemed to sicken at the sight of the
seething mass of humanity amongst which he found himself, for he hesitated
perceptibly on the step, like a child in a bathing machine who shrinks
from the water, before he descended and was engulfed in the crowd. A
musician with his instrument in a case, two fat women talking to each
other, a little Cockney work-girl, and her young man, and then--a lady.
There could be no mistake about her social status. The conductor, standing
by the step, recognized it at once, and held out his arm to assist her.
The gaslight flared full upon her face, the expression of which was
somewhat set. She wore no veil, and if she did not court observation, she
certainly did not shun it. She was quietly but richly dressed, and had one
seen her there on foot in the morning, one would have surmised that she
was out shopping, and looked for the carriage which would probably have
been following her; but a lady, striking in appearance and of
distinguished bearing, alighting composedly from an omnibus at Piccadilly
Circus between nine and ten at night, and calmly taking her way alone up
Regent Street was a sight which would have struck one as being anomalous
even if she had been a stranger. But this lady was no stranger to me. I
should have recognized her figure and carriage had her countenance been
concealed. I had turned hot and cold at the first foreshadowing of her
presence, and would fain have found myself mistaken, but there was no
possibility of a doubt. She passed me without haste, and so close that I
could have laid my hand upon her shoulder. But I let her go in sheer
astonishment. What, in the name of all that is inexplicable, was Evadne
doing there alone at that time of night? Such a proceeding was hardly
decent, whatever her excuse, and it was certainly not safe. This last
reflection aroused me, and I started instantly to follow her, intending to
overtake her, and impose my escort upon her. She was out of sight, because
she had turned the corner, but she could not have gone far, and I hurried
headlong after her, nearly upsetting a man who met me face to face as I
doubled into Regent Street. It was Colonel Colquhoun himself, in a joyful
mood evidently, and for once I could have blessed his blinding potations.
He recognized me, but had apparently passed Evadne.
"Ah, me boy, you here!" he exclaimed, with an assumption of facetious
_bonhomie_ particularly distasteful to me. "All the world lives in
London, I think! It's where you'll always come across anyone you want. Sly
dog! Following a lady, I'll be bound! By Jove! I wouldn't have thought it
of you, Galbraith! But you'll not find anything choice in Regent Street.
Come with me, and I'll introduce you--"
"Excuse me," I interrupted, and hurried away from the brute. How had he
missed Evadne? Perhaps he was looking the other way. But what a position
for her to be in. Supposing he had recognized her, my being so close would
have made it none the better for her. And could I be sure that he had not
seen her? I did not think he was the kind, of man, with all his faults, to
lay a trap even for an enemy whom he suspected; but, still, one never
Evadne was far ahead by this time, but the places of amusement were still
open, and therefore there were few people in Regent Street. It is not
particularly well lighted, but I was soon near enough to make her out by
her graceful dignified carriage, which contrasted markedly with that of
every other woman and girl I saw. In any other place her bearing would
have struck me as that of a person accustomed to consideration, even if I
had not known her; but here, judging by the confident way she held her
head up, I should have been inclined to set her down either as a most
abandoned person, or as one who was quite unconscious of anything peculiar
in her present proceedings. In another respect, too, she was very unlike
the women and girls who were loitering about the Street, peering up
anxiously into the face of every man they met. Evadne seemed to see no
one, and passed on her way, superbly indifferent to any attention she
might be attracting. The distance between us had lessened considerably,
and I could now have overtaken her easily, but I hesitated. I could not
decide whether it would be better to join her, or merely to keep her in
sight for her own safety. I was inclined to blame her severely for her
recklessness. She had already passed her husband, and might meet half the
depot, or be recognized by Heaven knows who, before she got to the top of
the street; and, as it was, she was attracting considerable attention.
Scarcely a man met her who did not turn when he had passed, and look after
her; and anyone of these might be an acquaintance. My impulse had been to
insist upon her getting into a hansom, and allowing me to see her safe
home; but it had occurred to me, upon reflection, that I might compromise
her more fatally by being seen with her under such circumstances than
could happen if she went alone.
While I hesitated, a tall thin man with a gray beard, whom I thought I
recognized from photographs seen in shop windows, met her, stared hard as
he passed, stood a minute looking after her and then turned and followed
her. If he were the man I took him to be, he would probably know her, and
my first impression was that he did so, and had recognised her, and been,
like myself, too astonished to speak. If so, he quickly recovered himself,
and, as he evidently intended to address her now, I was half inclined to
resign my responsibility to him. Then I thought that if I joined her also
nothing could be said. Two men of known repute may escort a lady anywhere
and at any time. I quickened my steps, but purposely let him speak first.
Coming up with her from behind, he began in a tone which was more
caressing than respectful. "It is a fine night," he said.
Evadne started visibly, looked at him, and shrank two steps away; but she
answered, in a voice which I could hardly recognise as hers, it was so
high and strident; "I should call it a chilly night," she said.
"Well, yes, perhaps," he answered, "for the time of the year. Are you
going for a walk?"
"I--I don't know," she replied, looking doubtfully on ahead.
She was walking at a pretty rapid rate as it was, and her elderly
interlocutor had some difficulty in keeping up with her.
"Perhaps if we turned down one of these side streets to the left, it would
be quieter, and we could talk," he suggested.
"I don't think I want either to be quiet or to talk," she said, suddenly
recovering her natural voice and tone.
"Well, what do you want, then?" he asked.
She looked up at him, and slackened her speed. "Perhaps, since you are so
good as to trouble yourself about me at all," she said, "I may venture to
ask if you will kindly tell me where in London I am?"
His manner instantly changed. "You are in Regent Street," he answered.
"And that lighted place behind us, where the crowd is--what is that?"
"You must mean Piccadilly Circus."
"And if I walk on what shall I come to?"
"Oxford Street. You don't seem to know London. Don't you live here?"
"I do not live in London."
"You have lost your way, perhaps; can I direct you anywhere?"
"No, thank you," she answered. "I can get into a hansom, you know, when I
am tired of this."
"If I might venture to advise, I should say do so at once," he rejoined,
slightly raising his hat as he spoke, and then he slipped behind her, and
furtively hurried across the street, a considerably perplexed man, I
fancied, and, judging by the way he peered to right and left as he went,
one who was suffering from some sudden dislike to being recognised.
Evadne paid as little heed to his departure as she had done to his
approach. A few steps farther brought her to a stand of hansom cabs. She
hesitated a moment, and then got into one. I took the next, and directed
the driver to follow her, being determined either to see her back to her
friends, or to interfere if I found that she meant to continue her ramble.
Her driver struck into Piccadilly at the next turn, and then drove
steadily west for about half an hour. By that time we had come to a row of
handsome houses, at one of which he stopped, and my man stopped also at an
intelligent distance behind, but Evadne never looked back. She got out and
ascended the steps with the leisurely air peculiar to her. The door was
opened as soon as she rang, and she entered. A moment later a footman came
out on to the pavement and paid the driver, with whom he exchanged a
remark or two. As he returned, the light from the hall streamed out upon
him, and I saw, with a sense of relief which made me realise what the
previous tension had been, that he wore the Hamilton-Wells livery, and
then I recognised the Hamilton-Wells' town house. The driver of the now
empty hansom turned his horse, and walked him slowly back in the direction
from which he had come. The incident was over; but what did it all mean?
The whole thing seemed so purposeless. What had taken her out at all? Was
it some jealous freak? Women have confessed to me that they watch their
husbands habitually. One said she did it for love of excitement: there was
always a risk of being caught, and nothing else ever amused her half so
much. Another declared she did it because she could not afford to employ a
private detective, and she wanted to have evidence always ready in case it
should suit her to part from her husband at any time. Another said she
loved her husband, and it hurt her less to know than to suspect. But I
could not really believe that Evadne would do such a thing for any reason
whatever. She was fearlessly upright and honest about her actions; and her
self-respect would have restrained her if ever an isolated impulse had
impelled her to such a proceeding. But still--
"Will you wait until the lady returns, sir?" the driver asked at last,
peeping down upon me through the trap in the roof. If he had not spoken I
might have sat there half the night, puzzling out the problem. Now,
however, that he had roused me, I determined to leave it for the present,
I remembered my duty to the friend with whom I was staying, and hurried
back, resolving to go to Evadne herself next day, and ask her point blank
to explain. I believed she would do so, for in all that concerned her own
pursuits--the doings of the day--I had always found her almost curiously
frank. After this wise determination, I ought to have been philosopher
enough to sleep upon the matter, but her ladyship's escapade cost me my
night's rest, and took me to her early next morning, in an angry and
I sent up my card, and Evadne received me at once in Lady Adeline's
"This is an unexpected pleasure," she said. "How did you know I was in
"I saw you in Regent Street last night," I answered bluntly. "What were
you doing there?"
"What were you doing there yourself?" she said.
The question took me aback completely, and the more so as it was asked
with an unmistakable flash of merriment.
"Answer me my question first," I said. "You could have no business out
alone in London at that time of night, laying yourself open to insult."
"I don't recognise your right to question me at all," she answered,
"I have the right of any gentleman who does his duty when he sees a lady
"A fool of herself? Thanks," she said, laughing. "The privilege of
protecting a woman, of saving her even in spite of herself from the
effects of her own indiscretion, is one of which a man seldom avails
himself, and I did not understand you at first. Excuse me. But how do you
know I could have no business out at that time of night? Do you imagine
that you know all my duties in life?"
I was bewildered by her confidence--by her levity, I may say, but I
"I cannot believe that you had any business or duty which necessitated
your being in a disreputable part of London alone late at night," I said.
"But I hope you will allow me the right of an intimate friend to warn you
if you run risks--in your ignorance."
"Or to reprove me if I do so with my eyes open?" she suggested.
"To ask for an explanation, at all events, if I do not understand what
your motive could be."
"You are very kind," she said. "You want me to excuse myself if I can,
otherwise you will be forced to suspect something unjustifiable."
"That is the literal truth," I answered.
She laughed. "But you have not answered _my_ question," she said.
"What were you doing there yourself?"
"I had been dining at the Charing Cross Hotel with a friend who had just
returned from India," I told her, "and I was walking back to the house of
the friend with whom I am staying. He lives in a street off Piccadilly."
"But what were you doing in Regent Street?"
She laughed again. "Did you see that old man speak to me?" she asked.
"Horrid old creature, is he not? He gave me such a start! Did you
"I did not at first, but when I did, I thought I would make him useful."
She meditated for a little, then she said; "It did me good."
"What?" I asked.
"That start," she replied. "It quite roused me. But, now, tell me. I
should never have supposed that you had no business anywhere at any time;
why are you not equally charitable?"
I was silent.
"Tell me what you think took me there?"
"An unholy curiosity," I blurted out.
"That is an unholy inspiration which has only just occurred to you, and
you cannot entertain the suspicion for a moment," she said.
This was true.
"But, after all," she pursued, "what business have you to take me to task
like this? It is not a professional matter."
"I don't know that," I answered. This was another inspiration, and it
disconcerted her, for she changed countenance.
"You have a nice opinion of me!" she exclaimed.
"I have the highest opinion of you," I answered, "and nobody knows that
better than yourself. But what am I to think when I find you acting
without any discretion whatever?"
"Think that I am at the mercy of every wayward impulse."
"But I know that you are not," I replied; "and I am unhappy about you.
Will you trust me? Will you explain? Will you let me help you if I can? I
believe there is some trouble at the bottom of this business. Do tell me
all about it?"
"Well, I _will_ explain," she said, still laughing. "I was driving
past, and seeing you there, I thought I would horrify you, so I stopped
"You got out of an omnibus!" I exclaimed.
"Well, that was my carriage for the time being," she answered, in no way
disconcerted. "You do not expect me to own that I was in an omnibus, do
"I wish you would be serious for a moment," I remonstrated. "I wish you
would tell me the truth."
"As I always do tell the truth if I tell anything, I think we had better
let the subject drop," she said, with a sigh, as if she were tired of it.
"You mean you cannot tell me?"
"That is what I mean."
I reflected for a moment. "Does Lady Adeline know that you were out last
night?" I asked.
"No," she replied. "She was out herself and I returned before she did.
"Then you have not told her either?"
She shook her head.
"I would really rather you confided in her than in me, if you can."
"Thank you," she answered drily.
"Can you?" I persisted.
"No, I cannot," was the positive rejoinder.
I rose to go. "Forgive my officiousness," I said. "I ventured to hope you
would make use of me, but I am afraid I have been forcing my services upon
you too persistently."
She rose impulsively, and held out both hands to me. "I wish I could thank
you," she said, looking up at me frankly and affectionately. "I wish I
could tell you how much I appreciate your goodness to me, and all your
disinterestedness. I wish I deserved it!" She clasped my hands warmly as
she spoke, then dropped them; and instantly I became conscious of an
indescribable sense of relief; and prepared to depart at once; but she
stopped me again with a word as I opened the door.
"Dr. Galbraith," she began, with another flash of merriment, "tell me, you
_were_ horrified, now, were you not?"
I jammed my hat on my head and left her. I did not mean to slam the door,
but her levity had annoyed me. I fancied her laughing as I descended the
stairs, and wondered at her mood, and yet I was re-assured by it. She
would not have been so merry if there had been anything really wrong, and
it was just possible that the half explanation she had given me and
withdrawn was the true one. She might have been in an omnibus for once for
some quite legitimate reason, and while it waited at Piccadilly Circus she
might have seen me as she had described, and got out in a moment of
mischief to astonish me. If that were her object, she had certainly
succeeded, and it seemed to me more likely than that she should just have
gone and returned for the sake of doing an unusual thing, which was the
only other explanation that occurred to me.
I saw Lady Adeline before I left the house, and found that Colonel
Colquhoun was not staying with them, nor did she seem to know that he had
been in town.
A cruel misfortune robbed me of a near relation at this time, and added
the rank of baronet, with a considerable increase of fortune, to my other
responsibilities. The increase of fortune was welcome in one way, as it
enabled me to enlarge a small private hospital which I had established on
my Fountain Towers estate, for the benefit of poor patients. Attending to
these, and to the buildings which were at once put in progress, was the
one absorbing interest of my life at that time.
During the next three months I only called once on Evadne, and that was a
mere formal visit which I felt in duty bound to pay her. I did not drive
past the house, either, oftener than I could help, but when I was obliged
to go that way I saw her, sitting sewing in her accustomed place, and she
would smile and bow to me--brightly at first, but after a time with a
wistful, weary expression, or I fancied so. It was of necessity a hurried
glimpse that I had, although my horse would slacken his speed of his own
accord as we approached the holly hedge that bounded her bower; but I
began to be uneasily aware of a change in her appearance. I might be
mistaken, but I certainly thought her eyes looked unnaturally large, as if
her cheeks had fallen away, and the little patient face was paler. In the
early summer, when she was well, she had been wont to flush upon the least
occasion, but now her colour did not vary, and I suspected that she was
again shutting herself up too much. Mrs. Orton Beg was at Fraylingay,
Diavolo was keeping his grandfather company at Morne, the Kilroys were in
town, the Hamilton-Wellses had gone to Egypt, and Colonel Colquhoun had
taken two months' leave and gone abroad also, so that she had no one near
her for whom she had any special regard. Colonel Colquhoun had called on
me before he left, and told me he was sure Evadne would hope to see a good
deal of me during his absence, and he wished I would look after
her--professionally, I inferred, and of course I was always prepared to do
so. But, so far, she had not required my services, happily, and for the
rest--well, my time was fully occupied, and I found it did not suit me to
go to As-You-Like-It. When I noticed the change in her appearance,
however, I began to think I would look in some day, just to see how she
really was, but before I could carry out the half formed intention she
came to me. It was during my consulting hours, and I was sitting at my
writing table, seeing my patients in rotation, when her name was
announced. She sauntered in in her usual leisurely way, shook hands with
me, and then subsided into the easy-chair on my right, which was placed
facing the window for my patients to occupy.
"I have a cold," she said, "and a pain under my right clavicle, and the
posterior lobe of my brain--oh, dear, I have forgotten it all!" she broke
off, laughing. "How _shall_ I make you understand?"
"You are in excellent spirits," I observed, "if you are not in very good
"No, believe me," she answered. "The pleasure of seeing you again
enlivened me for a moment; but I am really rather down."
I had been considering her attentively from a professional point of view
while she was speaking, and saw that this was true. The brightness which
animated her when she entered faded immediately, and then I saw that her
face was thin and pale and anxious in expression. Her eyes wandered
somewhat restlessly; her attitude betokened weakness. She had a little
worrying cough, and her pulse was unequal.
"What have you been doing with yourself lately?" I asked, turning to my
writing table and taking up a pen, when I had ascertained this last fact.
"Dreaming," she said.
The answer struck me. "Dreaming," I repeated to myself, and then aloud to
her, while I affected to write. "Dreaming?" I said. "What about, for
"Oh! the Arabian Nights, the whole thousand and one of them, would not be
long enough to tell you," she replied. "I think my dreams have lasted
"Are you speaking of day-dreams?" I asked.
"You imagine things as you sit at work, perhaps!"
"Yes." She spoke languidly, and evidently attached no special significance
either to my questions or her own answers, which was what I wished. "Yes,
that is my best time. While I work, I live in a world of my own creating;
in a beautiful happy dream--at least it was so once," she added, with a
"I have heard you say you did not care to read fiction. You prefer to make
your own stories, is that the reason?"
"I suppose so," she said; "but I never thought of it before."
"And you never write these imaginings?"
"Oh, no! That would be impossible. It is in the tones of voices as I hear
them; in the expression of faces as I see them; in the subtle,
indescribable perception of the significance of events, and their intimate
relation to each other and influence on the lives of my dream friends that
the whole charm lies. Such impressions are too delicate for reproduction,
even if I had the mind to try. Describing them would be as coarse a
proceeding as eating a flower after inhaling its perfume."
"Did I understand you to say that this is the habit of years? Has your
inner life been composed of dreams ever since you were a child?"
"No," she replied, "I don't think as a child I was at all imaginative. I
liked to learn, and when I was not learning I lived an active, outdoor
"Ah! Then you have acquired the habit since you grew up?"
"Yes. It came on by degrees. I used to think of how things might be
different; that was the way it began. I tried to work out schemes of life
in my head, as I would do a game of chess; not schemes of life for myself,
you know, but such as should save other people from being very miserable.
I wanted to do some good in the world,"--she paused here to choose her
words--"and that kind of thought naturally resolves itself into action,
but before the impulse to act came upon me I had made it impossible for
myself to do anything, so that when it came I was obliged to resist it,
and then, instead of reading and reflecting, I took to sewing for a
sedative, and turned the trick of thinking how things might be different
into another channel."
She was unconsciously telling me the history of her married life, showing
me a lonely woman gradually losing her mental health for want of active
occupation and a wholesome share of the work of the world to take her out
of herself. To a certain extent, then, I had been right in my judgment of
her character. Her disposition was practical, not contemplative; but she
had been forced into the latter attitude, and the consequence was,
perhaps--well, it might be a diseased state of the mind; but that I had
yet to ascertain.
"And are you happy in your dreams?" I inquired.
"I was," she said; "but my dreams are not what they used to be."
"How?" I asked.
"At first they were pleasant," she answered. "When I sat alone at work, it
was my happiest time. I was master of my dreams then, and let none but
pleasant shapes present themselves. But by degrees--I don't know how--I
began to be intoxicated. My imagination ran away with me. Instead of
indulging in a daydream now and then, when I liked, all my life became
absorbed in delicious imaginings, whether I would or not. Working,
walking, driving; in church; anywhere and at any time, when I could be
alone a moment, I lived in my world apart. If people spoke to me, I awoke
and answered them; but real life was a dull thing to offer, and the
daylight very dim, compared with the movement and brightness of the land I
lived in--while I was master of my dreams."
"Then you did not remain master of them always?"
"No. By degrees they mastered me; and now I am their puppet, and they are
demons that torment me. When I awake in the morning, I wonder what the
haunting thought for the day will be; and before I have finished dressing
it is upon me as a rule. At first it was not incessant, but now the
trouble in my head is awful."
I thought so! But she had said enough for the present. The confession was
ingenuously made, and evidently without intention. I merely asked a few
more questions about her general health, and then sent her home to nurse
her cold, promising to call and see how it was the next day.
When I opened my case book to make a note of her visit and a brief summary
of the symptoms she had described and betrayed, I hesitated a moment about
the diagnosis, and finally decided to write provisionally for my guidance,
or rather by way of prognosis, the one word, "Hysteria!"
Next day I found that Evadne's cold was decidedly worse, and as the
weather was severe I ordered her to stay in her own rooms.
"Am I going to be ill?" she asked.
"No," I answered, pooh-poohing the notion.
"Doctor, you dash my hopes!" she said. "I am always happy when I am ill.
It _is_ such a relief."
I had heard her use the phrase twice before, but it was only now that I
saw her meaning. Physical suffering was evidently a relief from the mental
misery, and this proved that the trouble was of longer standing than I had
at first suspected. She had used the same expression, I remembered, when I
first attended her, during that severe attack of pneumonia.
Colonel Colquhoun had returned, she told me, but I did not see him that
day, as he was out. Next morning, however, I came earlier on purpose, and
encountered him in the hall. He was not in uniform, I was thankful to see,
for he was very apt to assume his orderly room manners therewith, and they
were decidedly objectionable to the average civilian, whatever military
men might think of them.
"Ah, how do you do?" he said. "So you've been having honours thrust upon
you? Well, I congratulate you, I'm sure, sincerely, in so far as they are
a pleasure to you; but I condole with you from the bottom of my heart for
your loss. I'm afraid Mrs. Colquhoun is giving you more trouble. Now,
don't say the trouble's a pleasure, for I'll not believe a word of it,
with all you have to occupy you."
"It is no pleasure to see her ill," I answered. "How is she to-day?"
"On my word I can't tell you, because I haven't seen her. I haven't the
_entree_ to her private apartments. But come and see my new horse,"
he broke off--he was in an exceedingly good humour--"I got him in Ireland,
and I'm inclined to think him a beauty, but I'd like to have your opinion.
It's worth having."
The horse was like Colonel Colquhoun himself, showy; one of those high
steppers that put their feet down where they lift them up almost, and get
over no ground at all to speak of. Having occupied, without compunction,
in inspecting this animal, half an hour of the time he considered too
precious to be wasted on his wife, Colonel Colquhoun summoned Evadne's
maid to show me upstairs, and cheerfully went his way.
But that remark of his about the _entree_ to his wife's apartments
had made an impression. I was in duty bound to follow up any clue to the
cause of her present state of mind, and here was perhaps a morbid symptom.
"Why have you quarrelled with your husband?" I asked in my most
matter-of-course tone, as soon as I was seated, and had heard about her
"I have not quarrelled with my husband," she answered, evidently
"Then what does he mean by saying that he hasn't the _entree_ to your
"I am sure he made no complaint about that," she answered tranquilly.
This was true. He had merely mentioned the fact casually, and not as a
thing that affected his comfort or happiness in any way.
"Colonel Colquhoun and I are better friends now, if anything, than we have
ever been," she added of her own accord, with inquiry in her eyes, as if
she wanted to know what could have made me think otherwise.
I should have said myself that they were excellent friends, but what
precisely did "friends" mean? I scented something anomalous here. However,
it was not a point that I considered it advisable to pursue. I had
ascertained that there was no morbid feeling in the matter, and that was
all that I required to know. I only paid her a short visit that morning,
and did not return for two days; but I had been thinking seriously about
her case in the interval, and carefully prepared to inquire into it
particularly; and an evident increase of languor and depression gave me a
"Tell me how you are to-day," I began. "Any trouble?"
"The worry in my head is awful!" she exclaimed. "Let me go downstairs. I
am better there."
She was essentially a child of light and air and movement, requiring
sunshine indoors as well as out to keep her in health. An Italian proverb
says where the sun does not come, the doctor does, and this had been only
too true in her case. It was pure animal instinct which had made the west
window of the drawing room her favourite place. Nature, animal and
vegetable, is under an imperative law to seek the sun, and she had
unconsciously obeyed it for her own good. But she required more than that
transient gleam in the western window; a sun bath daily, when it could be
had, is what I should have prescribed for her; and from her next remark I
judged that she had discovered for herself the harm which the deprivation
of light was doing her.
"I can see the sun all day long beyond the shadow of the house," she
continued, "but I want to feel it, too. I would like it to shine on me in
the early morning, and wake me up and warm me. There is no heat so
grateful; and I only feel half alive in these dark, damp rooms. I never
had bronchitis or was delicate at all in any way until we came here. Let
me go down, won't you?"
"Well, as your cold is so much better, you may go downstairs if you like.
But you mustn't go out," I answered. "How are you going to amuse
"Oh!"--she looked around the room as if in search of something--"I don't
know exactly. Work, I suppose."
"You don't read much?"
"No, not now," she answered, leaning forward with her hands clasped on her
lap, and looking dreamily into the fire.
"Does that mean that you used to read once?" I pursued, "You have plenty
of books here."
She looked toward the well-filled cases, "Yes," she said, "old friends, I
seldom open any of them now."
"Do you never feel that they reproach you for losing interest in them?"
She smiled. "I think perhaps they are relieved because I have ceased from
troubling them--from requiring more of them than they could give me," she
answered, smothering a sigh.
"May I look at them?" I asked, anticipating her permission by rising and
going toward them.
"Yes; certainly," she answered, rising herself, and following me
languidly. The books were arranged in groups--science, history, biography,
travels, poetry, fiction; with bound volumes of such periodicals as the
_Contemporary Review_, _The Nineteenth Century_, and the
_Westminster_. I read the titles of the volumes in the science
divisions with surprise, for she had never betrayed, nor had I ever
suspected, that she had added the incident of learning to the accident of
brains. But if she knew the contents of but half of these books well she
must be a highly educated woman. I took out several to see how they had
been read, and found them all carefully annotated, with marginal notes
very clearly written, and containing apposite quotations from and
references to the best authorities on the various subjects. This was
especially the case with books on the natural sciences; the physical ones
having apparently interested her less.
"These are not very elegant books for a lady's boudoir," she said,
referring to the plain dark bindings. "I dislike gorgeously bound books,
and could never make a pet of one. They are like over-dressed people; all
one's care is concentrated upon their appearance, and their real worth of
character, if they have any, escapes one."
"Were you ever an omnivorous reader?" I asked.
"No, I am thankful to say," she answered, her natural aptitude for
intellectual pursuits overcoming her artificial objection to them, as she
looked at her books and became interested in them in spite of herself;
"for I notice that the average reader who reads much remembers little, and
is absurdly inaccurate. It is as bad to read everything as to eat
everything; the mind, when it is gorged with a surfeit of subjects,
retains none of them."
She had a fairly representative collection of French, Italian, German
books, all equally well-read and annotated, each in its own language, the
French and Italian being excellent, but the German imperfect, although, as
she told me, she liked both the language and the literature very much the
best of the three. "German suggested ideas to me," she said, "and that is
why I paid less attention to the construction of the language, I think.
But I am afraid you will find no elegancies in any tongue I use, for
language has always been to me a vehicle of thought, and not a part of art
to be employed with striking effect. Now, here is Carlyle, the arch
phrasemaker. I always admired him more than I loved him; but his books are
excellent for intellectual exercise. He forced those phrases from his
brain with infinite pains, and, when you take them collectively, you find
yourself obliged to force them into yours in like manner."
She had become all interest and animation by this time, and I had never
known her so delightful as she was that morning while showing me her
books. She had no objection to lending me any that I chose, although I
told her that I only wanted them to read her notes. I took a variety, but
found no morbid tendency in any remark she had made upon them.
I paid my visit late in the afternoon next day, and found Evadne in the
drawing room. She was standing in the window when I entered, but came down
the room to greet me.
"I have been watching for you," she said. "I hoped you would come early.
And I have also been watching that party of jubilant ducks waddling down
the road. Come and see them. I believe they belong to us. They must have
escaped from the yard. But aren't they enjoying the ramble! That old drake
is quite puffed up with excitement and importance! He goes along nodding
his head, and saying again and again to the ducks: 'Now, didn't I tell you
so! and aren't you glad you took my advice and came?' And all the ducks
are smiling and complimenting him upon his wisdom and courage. They ought
to be driven back, but I haven't the heart to spoil their pleasure just
yet by informing against them."
I was standing beside her in the window now, and she looked up at me,
smiling as she spoke. She was brighter under the immediate influence even
of the watery winter sun, now a red ball, glowing behind the brown
branches of the leafless trees, than she had been in her gloomy north room;
and I took this lively interest in the adventurous ducks to be a glimpse
of the joyous, healthy mind, seeing character in all things animate, and
gifted with sympathy as well as insight, which must naturally have been
"When am I to go out?" she asked, "I begin to long for a sight of my
fellow-creatures. I don't want to speak to them. I only want to see them.
But I am sociable to that extent--when I am in my right mind."
"Tell me about this mental malady," I begged.
"Ah," she began, laughing up at me, but with a touch of bitterness. "I
interest you now! I am a case! You do not flatter me. But I mean to give
you every help in my power. If only you could cure me!" She clasped her
hands and held them out to me, the gesture of an instant, but full of
"Come from the window," I said. "It is chilly here."
"Yes, come to the fire," she rejoined, leading the way; "and sit down, and
let us have tea, and talk, and be cosey. You want me to talk about myself,
and I will if I can. I was happy just now, but you see I am depressed in a
moment. It is misery to me to be so variable. And I constantly feel as if
I wanted something--to be somewhere, or to have something; I don't know
where or what; it is a sort of general dissatisfaction, but it is all the
worse for not being positive. If I knew what I wanted, I should be cured
by the effort to obtain it."
She rang the bell, and began to make up the fire; and I sat down and
watched her because she liked to do those things in her own house.
"Strangers wait upon me," she said, "but my friends allow me to wait upon
When the servant had brought tea and retired, she began again.
"Now question me," she said, "and make me tell you the truth."
"I am sure you will tell me the truth," I asserted.
"I am sure I shall try," she replied; "but I am not so sure that I shall
succeed. If you provoke me, I shall fence with you; if you confuse me, I
shall unwittingly say 'yes' when I mean 'no.' In fact, I am surprised to
find myself confiding this trouble to you at all! It has come about by
accident, but I am very glad; it is such a relief to speak. But how
_has_ it come about?" she broke off. "Did you suspect?"
"That I am insane."
"You are not insane," I answered harshly.
She looked at me as if my words or manner amused her. "I remember now,"
she said. "I complained of the worry in my head, and then you questioned
"It is not an uncommon complaint," I rejoined.
"Is it not?" she answered. "Well, I don't know whether to be sorry for the
other sufferers, or relieved to think that I am not the only one, which is
what you intend, I believe. But, doctor, the misery is terrible,
especially now that it has become almost incessant. It drives me--fills my
mind with such dreadful ideas. I have actually meditated murder lately."
"Murder in the abstract, I supposed?"
"No, murder actually, murder for my own benefit, or what I fancy in that
mood would be for my benefit; the murder of one poor miserable creature
whom I pity with all my heart and really care for--when I am in my right
My heart sank. It was not necessary for me to know, and I had no
inclination to ask, who the "one poor miserable creature" was.
"And when the impulse is on you, what do you do?" I said.
"It is not an impulse exactly," she answered; "at least, it is nothing
which I have ever had the slightest inclination to act upon. I am just
possessed by the idea--whatever it may be--and then I cannot sit still. I
have to rush out."
"Into Regent Street, for example?" I suggested, her last remark having
thrown a sudden side-light upon that occurrence.
"Yes," she said. "But I didn't know I was going to Regent Street. I had
read of Dickens prowling about the streets of London late at night when he
was suffering from the effects of overwork, and recovering his
tranquillity and power in that way, and I thought I would try the
experiment; so I went out and just walked on until I was tired, and then I
got into an omnibus, so as to be with the people, and when it stopped and
they all got out, I got out too, and walked on again, and then that horrid
old man spoke to me. It was a great shock, but it had the happiest effect.
I woke up, as it were, the moment I got rid of him, and felt quite myself
again; and then I hurried back, as you know. You still disapprove? Well,
in one way, perhaps you are right; but still it did me good." She stopped,
and looked into the fire thoughtfully; and then she smiled. "Forgive me,
do!" she said. "I know I behaved badly next day; I could not help it. The
sudden relief to my mind had sent my spirits up inordinately for one thing;
and then your face! Your consternation was really comical! If I had
injured you irreparably in your estimation of the value of your own
opinion of people, you could not have cared more. But I am sorry, very,
very sorry," she added, with feeling, "that you should have lost your
respect for me."
"What could make you think that I had lost my respect for you?" I asked in
"Because, you know, you have never come to see me since, as you used to
do." She looked at me a moment wistfully, and I knew she half expected me
to explain or make some excuse; but I could not, unfortunately, do either
without making bad worse. I could assure her, however, honestly, that I
had not lost my respect for her.
"And I came to see you when you required me," I added.
But she was not satisfied, "I know your philanthropy," she said. "But I
would rather have you come as of old because you believed in me, and like
and respect me. I value your friendship, and it pains me to find that you
can only treat me now like any other suffering sinner. Is it going to be
("Will the child kill me with her innocent talk?")
She had not alluded to the discontinuance of my visits before. I thought
she had not missed me, and, being in a double mood, had been somewhat hurt
by the seeming indifference, although I would not have had her want me
when I could not come. Now, however, I was greatly distressed to find the
construction she had put upon my absence, and all the more so because I
could not explain.
"Do not say that!" I exclaimed. "You have always had, you always will
have, my most sincere respect. It is part of an unhealthy state of mind
which makes you doubt the attachment of your friends."
She was glad to accept this assertion. "Ah, yes!" she said. "I know the
symptoms, but I had forgotten for the moment. Thank you. I _am_ so
glad to see you again!" She sighed, leaned back in her chair, folded her
hands on her lap, and looked at me--"if only as a doctor," she added
slowly. "You have some mysterious power over my mind. All great doctors
have the power I mean; I wonder what it is. Your very presence restores me
in an extraordinary way. You dispel the worry in my head without a word,
by just being here, however bad it is. I used to long for you so on those
days when you never came, and I used to watch for you and be disappointed
when you drove past; but then I always said, 'He will come to-morrow,' and
that was something to look forward to. I used to think at first you would
get over my escapade, or learn to take another view of it; but then, when
you never came, I gradually lost heart and hope, and that is how it was I
broke down, I think."
This guileless confidence affected me painfully.
"But I want to discover the secret of a great doctor's success," she
pursued. "What is your charm? There is something mesmeric about you, I
think, something inimical to disease at all events. There is healing in
your touch, and your very manners make an impression which cures."
"Knowledge, I suppose, has nothing to do with it?" I suggested, smiling.
"No, nothing," she answered emphatically. "I have carried out directions
of yours successfully which had been previously given to me by another
doctor and tried by me without effect. You alter the attitude of one's
mind somehow--that is how you do it, I believe."
"Well, I hope to alter the present attitude of your mind completely," I
answered. "And to resume. I want you to tell me how you feel when one of
those tormenting thoughts has passed. Do you suffer remorse for having
"Only an occasional pang," she said. "I do not allow myself to sorrow or
suffer for thoughts which I cannot control. I am suffering from a morbid
state of mind, and it is my duty to fight against the impulses which it
engenders. But my responsibility begins and ends with the struggle. And I
am quite sure that it is wiser to try and forget that such ideas ever were
than to encourage them to haunt me by recollecting them even for purposes
of penitential remorse."
"And when it is not a criminal impulse, that affects you---"
"_Criminal!_" she ejaculated, aghast at the word.
I had used it on purpose to see its effect upon her, and was satisfied.
The moral consciousness was still intact.
"Yes," I persisted. "But when it is not an impulse of that kind, what is
it that disturbs your mind?"
"Thoughts of the suffering, the awful, needless suffering that there is in
the world. The perception of it is a spur which goads me at times so that
I feel as if I could do almost anything to lessen the sum of it. But then,
you see, my hands are tied, so that all I can do is think, think, think."
"We must change that to work, work, work," I said.
"It is too late," she answered despondently. "Body and mind have suffered--
mind and body. All that is not wrong in me is weak. I would have it
otherwise, yes. But give me some anodyne to relieve the pain; that is all
you can do for me now."
"I will give you no anodyne, either actual or figurative," I answered,
rising to go. "If you had no recuperative force left in you there would be
less energy in your despair. It rests with yourself now entirely to be as
healthy-minded as ever again if you like."
I never could remember whether I said good-bye to her that day, or just
walked out of the room, like the forgetful boor I sometimes am, with the
words on my lips.
A medical man who does not keep his moral responsibility before him in the
consideration of a case must be a very indifferent practitioner, and, with
regard to Evadne, I felt mine to such an extent that, before the interview
was over, I had decided that I was not the proper person to treat her. I
doubted my judgment for one thing, which showed that for once my nerve was
at fault; and I had other reasons which it is not necessary to give. I
therefore determined to run up to town to consult Sir Shadwell Rock about
her. He was a distinguished colleague and personal friend of mine, a man
of vast experience, and many years my senior; and I knew that if he would
treat her, she could not be in better hands.
When I left As-You-Like-It I found that I had just time to drive to
Morningquest and catch the last train to town. It was a four hours'
journey, but fortunately there was a train in the early morning which
would bring me back in time for my own work.
I knew Sir Shadwell was in town, and telegraphed to him to beg him to see
me that night at half-past eleven if he possibly, could, and, on arriving,
I found him at home--very much at home, indeed, in a smoking jacket and
slippers over a big fire in his own private sanctum, enjoying his bachelor
ease with a cigarette and the last shilling shocker.
I apologised for my untimely visit, but he put me at my ease at once by
cordially assuring me that I had done him a favour. "I was going to a
boring big dinner this evening when your telegram arrived, and your coming
in this way suggested something sufficiently important to detain me, so I
sent an excuse, and have had a wholesome chop, and--eh--_a real good
time_," he added confidentially, tapping the novelette. "Extraordinary
production this, really. Most entertaining. I can't guess who did it, you
know, I can't indeed--but, my dear boy, to what do I owe the pleasure?
What can I do for you?
"First of all give me a wholesome chop if you have another in the house,
for I'm famishing."
"Oh, a thousand pardons for my remissness!" he exclaimed, ringing the bell
vehemently. "Of course you haven't dined. I ought to have thought of that.
Something very important, I suppose?"
"A most interesting case."
"Yes. A lady."
"Well, not another word until you've had something to eat. Suitable
surroundings play an important part in the discussion of such cases, and
suitable times and seasons also. Just before dinner one isn't sanguine,
and just after one is too much so. When you have eaten, take time to
reflect--and a cigarette if you are a smoker." He had been holding his
book in his hand all the time, but now he pottered to a side-table with an
old man's stiffness, peeped at the paragraph he had been reading, marked
his place with a paper cutter, and muttered--"Very strange, for if she
didn't steal the jewels, who did? Mustn't dip though; spoils it." He put
the book down, and returned to me, taking off his spectacles as he came,
and smoothing his thick white hair. "Now don't say a word if you've read
it," he cautioned me. "I always owe everybody a grudge who tells me the
plot of a story I'm interested in. But, let me see, what was I saying? Oh!
Take time, that was it! There is nothing like letting yourself settle if
you are at all perplexed. When the memory is crowded with details the mind
becomes muddy, and you must let it clear itself. That is the secret of my
own success. In any difficulty I have always waited. Don't try to think,
Much better dismiss the matter from your mind altogether, make yourself
comfortable in the easiest chair in the room, get a rousing book--the
subject is of no importance, so long as it interests you--and in half an
hour, if the physical well-being is satisfactory, you will find the mental
tension gradually relax. Your ideas begin to flow, your judgment becomes
clear, and you suddenly see for yourself in a way that astonishes you."
"Then pray oblige me by resuming your seat and cigarette," I answered,
"and let me transfer my difficulty to you while the moment
"When you have dined," he said good-humouredly. "I won't hear a word while
you are famishing. Tell me how you are yourself, and what you are doing.
My dear boy, it is really a pleasure to see you! Why aren't you married?"
"Now, really, do you expect me to answer such an important question as
that with my mind in its present muddy condition!" I retorted upon him.
"My many reasons are all rioting in my recollection, and I can't see one
The old gentleman smiled, and sat patting the arms of his chair for a
little. "You're looking fagged," he remarked presently. "Work won't hurt
you, but beware of worry!"
My dinner was brought to me on a tray at this instant, and the dear old
man got up to see that it was properly served. He tried the champagne
himself, to be sure it was right, and gave careful directions about the
coffee. His interest in everything was as fresh as a boy's, and nothing he
could do in the way of kindness was ever a trouble to him.
"You have been coming out strong in defence of morality lately," I
remarked, when I had dined. "You have somewhat startled the proprieties."
"Startled the pruderies, you mean," he answered, bridling. "The
proprieties face any necessity for discussion with modest discretion,
however painful it may be,"
"Well, you've done some good, at all events," I answered. I did not tell
him, but only that very day I had heard it said that his was a name which
all women should reverence for what he had done for some of them.
"Well," he said, "the clergy have had a long innings. They have been hard
at it for the last eighteen hundred years, and society is still rotten at
the core. It is our turn now. But come, draw up your chair to the fire and
be comfortable. Well, yes," he went on, rubbing his hands, "I suppose
eventually morality will be taught by medical men, and when it is much
misery will be saved to the suffering sex. My own idea is that a woman is
a human being; but the clerical theory is that she is a dangerous beast,
to be kept in subjection, and used for domestic purposes only. Married
life is made up to a great extent of the most heartless abuse of a woman's
love and unselfishness. Submission, you know--!"
When I had given him the details of Evadne's case, so far as I had gone
into it, he asked me what my own theory was.
"I feel sure it is the old story of these cases in women," I answered.
"The natural bent has been thwarted to begin with."
"Yes," he commented, "that is a fruitful source of mischief even in these
days, when women so often listen to the voice of the Lord himself speaking
in their own hearts, and do what he directs in spite of the Church. The
restrictions imposed upon women of ability warp their minds, and the
rising generation suffers. But how has the natural bent been thwarted in
"I have not ascertained," I said. "She is a woman of remarkable general
intelligence, but she makes no use of it, and she does not seem to have
any one decided talent that she cares to cultivate, and consequently she
has no absorbing interest to occupy her mind, no purpose for which to live
and make the most of her abilities. She attends punctually to her social
duties, but they do not suffice, and she has of necessity many spare hours
of every day on her hands, during which she sits and sews alone. I suppose
a woman's embroidery answers much the same purpose as a man's cigarette.
It quiets her nerves, and helps her to think. If she is satisfied and
happy in her surroundings her reflections will probably be tranquil and
healthy, but if her outward circumstances are not congenial, she will
banish all thoughts of them in her hours of ease, and her mind will
gradually become a prey to vain imaginings--pleasant enough to begin with,
doubtless, but likely to take a morbid tone at any time if her health
suffers. This has been the case with Evadne--"
"With _whom_?" Sir Shadwell interrupted.
"With my patient," I stammered. "I have been accustomed to hear her spoken
of by her Christian name."
"Humph!" the old gentleman grunted, enigmatically.
"She has one of those minds which should be occupied by a succession of
lively events, all helping on some desirable object," I proceeded--"the
mind of a naturally active woman."
"Well," he answered, "it seems to be another instance of the iniquitous
folly of allowing the one sex to impose galling limitations upon the
other. It is not an uncommon case so far as the mental symptoms go. How
does she get on with her husband? does she contradict him?"
"No, never," I answered. "She is always courteous and considerate."
"Ah, now, I thought so," he chuckled. "A happily married woman contradicts
her husband flatly whenever she thinks proper. She knows she is safe from
wrangling and bitterness. I think you will find that the domestic position
is the difficulty here. You don't seem to have inquired into that very
I made no answer, and he looked at me sharply for a moment, then asked me
how old my patient was.
"Twenty-five," I told him.
"Twenty-five," he repeated; "and you are intimate with both her and her
husband. Now, have you ever had any reason to doubt her honesty--her
verbal honesty of course I mean?"
"Quite the contrary," I answered. "I have always found her almost
"A woman may be accurate, you know, in all she says of other people," he
observed; "but that is no proof that she will be so concerning herself."
"I know," was my reply; "but I feel quite sure of this lady's word."
"And during the time that you have known her she now confesses that she
has suffered more or less?"
"Yes. She mentioned one interval during which she said a new interest in
life took her completely out of herself."
"What was the interest?"
"I did not ask her."
"She fell in love, I suppose, and you happened to know the fact."
"I neither know, nor suspected such a thing,"
"That was it, you may be sure," Sir Shadwell decided. "When a young and
attractive woman, who speaks to her husband with marked courtesy and
consideration, instead of treating him familiarly, talks of having an
interest in life which takes her completely out of herself, you may take
it for granted almost always that the new interest is love."
"It is more likely to have been the small-pox epidemic," I rejoined, and
then I gave him an account of that episode.
"Ah, well, perhaps," he said. "We are evidently dealing with a nature full
of surprises." He pursed up his mouth and eyed me attentively. "My dear
boy," he said at last, "I think I see your difficulty. You had better turn
this case over to me altogether."
"Thank you," I answered. "That is what I should like to have suggested."
"Then send the lady up to town, and I will do my best for her."
Sir Shadwell Rock was exactly the kind of man Evadne had had in her mind,
I felt sure, when she spoke of the peculiar influence which distinguished
men of my profession exercise upon their patients. He was a man of taking
manners to begin with, sympathetic, cultivated, humane; and, I need hardly
add, scrupulously conscientious and exact. I could confide her to his care
with the most perfect reliance upon his kindness, as well as upon his
discretion and skill--if she would consent to consult him at all; but that
was a little difficulty which had still to be got over. I anticipated some
opposition, because I felt sure she had not realized that there was
anything threatening to be serious in her case, and would therefore see no
necessity for further advice. This made the arrangement difficult. It
would not do to arouse any apprehension about her own state of mind; but
how to induce her to go to London to consult an eminent specialist without
doing so was the question. Had Lady Adeline been at home the suggestion
would have come best from her, but in her absence there was nobody to make
it except that impossible Colonel Colquhoun. If he chose to order Evadne
to consult Sir Shadwell Rock, I knew she would do so at once, for she
never opposed him, and he was so apt to be unreasonable and capricious
that she would probably not think that the order signified much. But the
further question was, would he give it? After I had finished my morning's
work, I drove to the depot to see. The men were on parade when I entered
the barrack square. They were drawn up in line, and the first thing I saw
was Colonel Colquhoun himself prancing about on his charger, and not in
the most amiable mood possible, I imagined, from the way he was
blackguarding the men. He sat his horse well, and was a fine soldierlike
man in uniform, and a handsome man too, of the martial order, when his
bald head was hidden by his cocked hat, and his blond moustache had a
chance; the sort of man to take a woman's fancy if not the kind of
character to keep her regard.
An unhappy old mounted major had got into trouble just as I came up. His
palfrey was an easy ambler, but he was the sort of old gentleman who would
not have been safe in a rocking chair with his sword drawn and his chief
"You ride like a damned tailor, sir," Colonel Colquhoun was thundering at
him just as I drove up.
An officer in undress uniform, Captain Bartlet, and Brigade Surgeon James,
who was in mufti, were standing at an open window in the ante-room, and I
joined them there, and looked out at the parade.
"I don't know how you fellows stand that kind of thing, and before the
men, too," I remarked, _a propos_ of a fresh volley of abuse from
"Oh! by Jove! we've got to stand it, many of us, for weighty
considerations quite apart from our personal dignity," Captain Bartlet
rejoined. "A man with a wife and five children depending upon him will
swallow a lot for their sake. It would be easy enough to answer him, but
self-interest keeps us quiet--a deuced sight oftener than discipline, by
the way. However," he added cheerfully, "all C.O.'s are not so bad as that
brute out there, nor the half of them for the matter of that."
"But, still, it's a wonder what you stand, you combatants," Dr. James
"Shut up, doctor," Captain Bartlet rejoined good-naturedly, "Don't presume
upon your superior position. _Your_ promotion doesn't depend upon the
colonel's confidential report, nor your peace in life upon his fancy for
you. You can disagree with him in your own line, but we can't in ours."
"Is Colonel Colquhoun often so?" I asked. He had just been assuring that
unfortunate major that a billet in the Commissariat department, with a
pound of beef on one spur and a loaf of bread on the other to prevent
accidents, was the thing for him.
"More or less," was the answer. "He's notorious all through the service.
He brought his own regiment up to a high state of efficiency, I must say
that for him, and led it into action like a man; but, between ourselves, I
expect there's never been a time since he got his company when there
wasn't a bullet ready for him. You remember, James, in India? of course it
was an accident!"
The doctor nodded. "The men call him Bully Colquhoun," he supplemented.