Part 15 out of 15
"But surely his character is known at the Horse Guards?" I said.
"Ah, you see he's a smart officer," Captain Bartlet rejoined; "and what
are officers for? To knock about and to be knocked about. Just look at him
now! See how he's bucketing those men about! He was a militiaman, and
that's a militiaman all over! A man who's been through Sandhurst has
carried a rifle for a year himself, and he knows what it is, and gives his
men their stand easy; but a militiaman has no more feeling for them than a
"Well, I can't see why you seniors don't remonstrate," I rejoined. "The
War Office is bound to support you if you show good cause."
"Yes, and cashier you too for very little, if you make yourself obnoxious
by giving them trouble," Bartlet replied. "Roylance was the only fellow
that ever really stood up to Colquhoun. He was a young subaltern that had
just joined, but an awful devil when he was roused, and he swore in the
anteroom that if the colonel ever blackguarded him before the men, or
anywhere else, or presumed upon his position to address him in terms which
one gentleman is not permitted to use to another, he'd give him as much as
he got. Well, the very next day, on parade, Roylance got the men into a
muddle. Colquhoun's a good soldier, you know, and nothing riles him like
inefficiency; and, by Jove! he was down on the lad like shot! He poured
his whole vocabulary on him, and then, for want of a worse word, he called
him 'a damned dissipated subaltern.' Well, Roylance just stepped back so
as to make himself heard, and shouted coolly: 'Dissipated! that comes well
from you, sir, considering the reason for the singular arrangement of your
own _menage!_' with which he handed his sword to the adjutant, and
walked off to his quarters! You should have seen Colquhoun's face! He went
on leave immediately afterward, and of course the matter was hushed up.
Roylance exchanged. He'd lots of money. It's the men without means that
have to stand that kind of thing."
My voice was husky and I could scarcely control it, but I managed to ask:
"What was the insinuation?"
"What, about Roylance? Just a lie! The lad's life was as clean as a
"I meant about the marriage?"
"Oh, don't you know? Colquhoun himself told us all about it in his cups
one night. Just as they were starting on their wedding trip she got a
letter containing certain allegations against him, and she gave him the
slip at the station, and went off by herself to make inquiries, and in
consequence of what she learnt, she declined to live with him at all at
first. But he has a great horror of being made the subject of gossip, you
know, and her people were also anxious to save scandal, and so, between
them, they managed to persuade her just to consent to live in the house,
he having given his word of honour as a gentleman not to molest her; and
that has been the arrangement ever since. Funny, isn't it? 'Truth stranger
than fiction,' you know, and that kind of thing, Yet it seems to answer.
They're excellent friends."
The parade had been dismissed by this time, but I had changed my mind, and
did not wait to see Colonel Colquhoun. I had to hurry back to make
arrangements with regard to my patients in the hospital, and then I
returned to town, and midnight saw me closeted once more with Sir Shadwell
The revolting story I had heard in the barracks haunted me. I had thought
incessantly of my poor little lady taken out of the school room to face a
position which would be horrifying, even in idea, to a right minded woman
of the world. What the girl's mental sufferings must have been only a girl
can tell. And ever since--the incubus of that elderly man of unclean
antecedents! All that had been incomprehensible about Evadne was obvious
now, and also the mistake she had made.
During the most important part of the time when a woman is ripe for her
best experiences, when she should be laying in a store of happy memories
to fall back upon, when memory becomes her principal pleasure in life,
Evadne had lived alone, shut up in herself, her large intelligence idle or
misapplied, and her hungry heart seeking such satisfaction as it could
find in pleasant imaginings. As she went about, punctually performing her
ineffectual duties, or sat silently sewing, she had been to all outward
seeming an example to be revered of graceful wifehood and womanliness; but
when one came to know what her inner life had become in consequence of the
fatal repression of the best powers of her mind, it was evident that she
was in reality a miserable type of a woman wasted. The natural bent of the
average woman is devotion to home and husband and children; but there are
many women to whom domestic duties are distasteful, and these are now
making life tolerable for themselves by finding more congenial spheres of
action. There are many women, however, above the average, who are quite
capable of acquitting themselves creditably both in domestic and public
life, and Evadne was one of these. Had she been happily married she would
undoubtedly have been one of the first to distinguish herself, one of the
foremost in the battle which women are waging against iniquity of every
kind. Her keen insight would have kept her sympathies actively alive, and
her disinterestedness would have made her careless of criticism. That was
her nature. But nature thwarted ceases to be beneficent. She places us
here fully equipped for the part she has designed us to play in the world,
and if we, men or women, neglect to exercise the powers she has bestowed
upon us, the consequences are serious. I did not understand at the time
what Evadne meant when she said that she had made it impossible for
herself to act. I thought she had deliberately shirked her duty under the
mistaken idea that she would make life pleasanter for herself by doing so;
but I learnt eventually how the impulse to act had been curbed before it
quickened, by her promise to Colonel Colquhoun, which had, in effect,
forced her into the disastrous attitude which we had all such good reason
to deplore. It seemed cruel that all the most beautiful instincts of her
being, her affection, her unselfishness, even her modest reserve and
womanly self-restraint, should have been used to injure her; but that is
exactly what had happened. And now the difficulty was: how to help her?
How to rouse her from the unwholesome form of self-repression which had
brought about her present morbid state of mind.
I was sitting up late the night after my second visit to Sir Shadwell
Rock, considering the matter. Sir Shadwell's advice was still the same:
"Send her to me." But the initial difficulty, how to get her to go,
remained. How to draw her from the dreary seclusion of her _Home in the
Woman's Sphere_, and persuade her that hours of ease are only to be
earned in action. I thought again of Lady Adeline, and sat down to write
The household had retired, and the night was oppressively silent. I felt
overcome with fatigue, but was painfully wide awake, as happens very often
when I am anxious about a bad case. But this was the third night since I
had been in bed, and I thought now I would go when I had finished my
letter to Lady Adeline, and do my best to sleep. As I crossed the hall,
which was in darkness save for the candle I carried in my hand, I fancied
I heard an unaccountable sound, a dull thud, thud, coming from I could not
tell whence for the moment. The senses are singularly acute in certain
stages of fatigue, and mine were all alive that night to any impression,
my hearing especially so; and there was no mistake. I had stopped short to
listen, and, impossible as I knew it would have been at any other time, I
was sure that I could distinctly hear a horse galloping on the turf of the
common more than a mile away, a mounted horse with a rider who was urging
him to his utmost speed; and in some inexplicable manner I also became
conscious of the fact that the horseman was a messenger sent in all haste
Mechanically I put my candle down and opened the hall door. It was a
bright night. The fresh invigorating frosty air seemed to clear my mental
vision still more strongly as it blew in upon me. Diavolo in mess dress,
his cap gone, his fair hair blown back by the wind; breathless with
excitement and speed; with thought suspended, but dry lips uttering
incessantly a cry for help--"Galbraith! Galbraith! Galbraith!" My pulses
kept time to the thud of the horse's hoofs on the common. I waited. I had
not the shadow of a doubt that I was wanted. But I did not ask myself by
The sound only ceased for a perceptible second or so at the lodge gates.
Were they open? Had he cleared them? What a jump! Thud! He must be
well-mounted! On the drive now! The gravel is flying! Across the
lawn--Diavolo. Good speed indeed!
Scarcely five minutes since I heard him first till he stopped at the steps
in the starlight, hoarsely panting "Galbraith! Galbraith!"
"I am here, my boy! What is it?"
"Come! Come to her at once! Colonel Colquhoun is dead."
The mind, quickened by the shock of a startling piece of intelligence,
suddenly sums up our suspicions for us sometimes in one crisp homely
phrase. This is what mine did. "The murder is out!" I thought, the moment
Diavolo spoke. Evadne--was this the end of it! Such a state of mind as
hers had been lately, might continue for the rest of her life, to her
torment, without influencing her actions; but, on the other hand, an
active phase might supervene at any moment.
Diavolo had dismounted and sat down on one of the steps, utterly
exhausted. "Here, take the reins," he said, "and mount, I'm done. I'll
look after myself. Don't waste a moment."
I needed no urging.
"I have actually meditated murder lately. Murder--murder for my own
The horrible phrases, in regular succession, kept time to the rhythmical
ring of the iron shoes on the frozen ground as the horse returned with me,
still at a steady gallop, to As-You-Like-It.
I had recognized the animal. It was the same fine charger which Colonel
Colquhoun himself had been riding so admirably on parade the last time I
saw him. Only yesterday morning! "Murder actually, murder for my own
benefit." No! no!--stumble. Hold up! only a stone. Shall we ever be there?
Suspense--"Murder actually"--no, it shall not be that! Hope is the word I
want. Beat it out of the hardened earth! Hope, hope, hope, hope, nothing,
nothing but hope!
We had arrived at last. No one about. Doors open, lights flaring, and a
Leaving the horse to do as he liked, I walked straight upstairs, and on
the first landing I met Evadne's maid.
"I hoped it was you, sir. Come this way," she whispered, and pushed open a
door which stood already ajar, gently, as if afraid of disturbing some
It was Colonel Colquhoun's bedroom, large and luxurious, like the man
himself. He was stretched upon the bed, in evening dress, his gray face
upward. One glance at _that_ sufficed. But almost before I had
crossed the threshold I was conscious of an indescribable sense of relief.
There were four persons in the room, that poor old "begad" major, who
could not ride, and Captain Bartlet, both hastily summoned from the depot
evidently, and still in mess dress; Dr. James in ordinary morning costume,
with a covert coat on; and Evadne herself in a black evening dress, open
at the throat. It was her attitude that relieved my mind the moment I saw
her. She was seated beside the bed, crying heartily and healthily. The
three gentlemen stood just behind her, gravely concerned; silent,
sympathetic, helpless, waiting for me. No one spoke.
For the dead, reverence. I stood by the bed looking down on the splendid
frame, prone now and inert, and again I thought of the last time I had
seen him, a fine figure of a man, finely mounted, and exercising his
authority arrogantly. I looked into the blank countenance. No other man on
earth had ever called forth curses from my inmost soul such as I had
uttered, to my shame, in one great burst of rage that had surprised me and
shaken my fortitude the night before as I journeyed back alone, without
the slightest prospect, that I could see, of saving her. The blank face,
decently composed. His right hand, palm upward, was stretched out toward
me as if he were offering it to me; and thankful I was to feel that I
could clasp it honestly. I had not a word or look on my conscience for
which I deserved a reproach from the dead man lying there. I took his hand:
a doctor doing a perfunctory duty? No, a last natural rite, an act of
reconciliation. In that solemn moment, still holding his hand and gazing
down into his face, I rejoiced to feel that the trouble had passed from my
soul, that the rage and bitterness were no more, and that only the
touching thought of his kindly hospitality and perfect confidence in my
own integrity--a confidence impossible in a man who has not himself the
saying grace of a better nature--would remain with me from that time forth
I laid my hand on Evadne's shoulder, and she looked up.
"Ah! have you come?" she cried, her voice broken with sobs that shook her.
"Is it really true? Can nothing be done? Oh, poor, poor man! What a life!
What a death! A miserable, miserable, misspent life, and such an end--in a
moment--without a word of warning--and all these years when I have been
beside him, silent and helpless. If only I could have done something to
help him--said something. Surely, surely there was _something_ I
might have, done?" She held her clasped hands out toward me, the familiar
gesture, appealing to me to blame her.
"Thank Heaven!" I inwardly ejaculated. "This is as it should be."
In the presence of eternal death, her own transient sufferings were
forgotten, and healthy human pity destroyed any sense of personal injury
she might have cherished.
We four men stood awkwardly, patiently by for several minutes, listening
to her innocent self-upbraidings, knowing her story, and touched beyond
expression by the utter absence of all selfish sentiment in any word she
When she was quite exhausted, I drew her hand through my arm, and took her
to her own room.
Cardiac syncope was the cause of death. Colonel Colquhoun had been out
that evening, and had, through some mistake of the coachman's, missed his
carriage, and walked home in a towering rage. The exertion and excitement,
acting together on a heart already affected, had brought on the attack. He
was storming violently in the hall, with his face flushed crimson--so the
servants told us--when all at once he stopped, and called "Evadne!" twice,
as if in alarm; and Mrs. Colquhoun ran down from the drawing room; but
before she could reach him he fell on the floor, and never spoke again.
Much of my time during the next few months was devoted I to the
consideration of Evadne's affairs. Her father made no sign, and she had no
other relation in a position to come forward and share the responsibility;
but, happily, she had very good friends. I had noticed that Diavolo was
singularly agitated when he brought the terrible news that night to
Fountain Towers, but thought little of it, as I knew the boy to be
emotional. The shock to his own feelings did not, however, prevent him
thinking of others, and the next thing I heard of him was that he had been
to Morningquest and waited till the telegraph office opened, in order to
send the news to his own people, and beg them to return at once, if they
could, on Evadne's account; and this they did, in the kindest manner, with
as little delay as possible.
"I have only come to fetch Evadne," Lady Adeline said when she arrived. "I
am going to take her away at once from this dreadful house and this dreary
English winter to a land of sunshine and flowers and soft airs, and I hope
to bring her back in the spring herself again--as _you_ have never
Mr. Hamilton-Wells stayed behind, at considerable personal inconvenience,
to consult with me about business. Colonel Colquhoun had died intestate
and also in debt. What he had done with his money we could not make out,
except that a large sum had been sunk in an annuity, which of course died
with him. But one thing was quite evident, which was that Evadne would
have little or nothing besides her pension from the service, and that
would be the merest pittance for one always accustomed to the command of
money as she had been. Mr. Hamilton-Wells wished to impose a handsome sum
on her yearly by fraud and deceit, out of his own ample income.
"Really, ladies are so peculiar about money matters," he said. "I feel
quite sure she would not accept sixpence from me if I were to offer it to
her. But she need not know where the money comes from. It can be paid into
her account at the bank, you see, regularly, and she will take it for
granted that she is entitled to it."
"I am not so sure of that," I answered with some heat, "but at any rate
the plan is not possible."
"Now, my dear Galbraith," Mr, Hamilton-Wells remonstrated, "do not put
your foot down in that way. I am the older man, and I may also say,
without offence, the older friend, and I am married; and Lady Adeline will
strongly approve of what I propose."
"I do not doubt it," I maintained; "but it cannot be done."
"She is not the kind of person to marry for money," Mr. Hamilton-Wells
observed, looking up at the ceiling.
"Who? Mrs. Colquhoun?" I asked. "I don't understand you."
"Oh," he answered, "it occurred to me that you might be thinking such a
consideration would weigh with her in the choice of a second husband."
I stared at the man. He was sitting at a writing table in my library, with
the papers we had been going through spread out before him, and I was
standing opposite; and, as he spoke, he leant back in his chair, with his
elbows on the arms of it, brought the tips of his long white fingers
together, and smiled up at me, bland as a child, innocent of all offence.
I am inclined to think he did secretly enjoy the effect of unexpected
remarks without in the least appreciating the permanent impression he
might be making. But I don't know. Some of these apparently haphazard
observations of his were pregnant with reflection, and I believe, if his
voice had been strong and determined instead of precise and insinuating;
if he had brushed his hair up, instead of parting it in the middle and
plastering it down smoothly on either side of his head; if his hands had
been hardened by exposure and use instead of whitened by excessive care;
if he had worn tweed instead of velvet, Mr. Hamilton-Wells would have been
called acute, and dreaded for his cynicism. But looking as he did,
inoffensive as a lady's luggage, he was allowed to pass unsuspected; and
if his mind were an infernal machine, concealed by a quilted cover, the
world would have to have seen it to credit the fact.
I put my hands in my pockets after that last remark, and walked to the
window glumly; but as I stood with my back to him, I could not help
wondering if he was making faces at me, or up to any other undignified
antics by way of relaxation. Did he ever wriggle with merriment when he
was alone? I turned suddenly at the thought. He was calmly perusing a
paper through his pince-nez, with an expression of countenance at once so
benign, silly, and self-satisfied, that I felt I should like to have
apologised for the suspicion.
"There is nothing for it, Galbraith," he said, "that I can see. She must
either be poverty-stricken or have an income provided for her."
"She has enough to go on with for the present," I answered.
"You can provide the money yourself if you would rather," he suggested, in
the tone of one who gives in good-naturedly to oblige you. "I don't care,
you know, where the money comes from, so long as the source is
disinterested and respectable."
I had returned to the table, but now again I walked to the window.
"But, I think," he continued, while I stood with my back to him, "as you
say, for the present nothing need be done. Give her time for a rope--eh?
What I do deprecate is leaving her to be driven by poverty to marry for
money. My dear Galbraith," he broke off, protesting, "you have been on the
prance for the last half-hour. For a medical man, you have less repose of
manner than is essential, I should say. In fact, you quite give me the
notion that you are impatient. But perhaps I am detaining you?"
"Oh, not at all," I assured him.
"Well, as I was saying," he pursued, "give her time to marry again. That
would be the most satisfactory settlement of her difficulties. She is, I
quite agree with you, a very attractive person. Now, there is the Duke of
Panama already, Lady Adeline says--but she seems to have an objection to
princes, especially if they are at all obese. I do not like obese people
myself. Now, do _you_ ever feel nervous on that score?"
"The score of obesity. You are just nicely proportioned at present for a
man of your age and height. _I_, of course, am far too slender. But
if you were to get any stouter by and by, it would be such a dreadful
thing! I hope flesh is not in your family on both sides. On one I know it
is. Now, my people are all slender. There is a great deal in that, I
He was doing up the documents now with much neatness and dexterity.
"These had better go to my lawyer," he remarked.
"Why not to mine?" I suggested.
"Oh, allow me," he said, with great suavity--"as the older man. Of course,
as a question of right, we neither of us have any claim to the privilege
of being allowed to help this lady. Eventually, however, one of us may
secure the right; but there is many a slip, you know, and perhaps it would
be less awkward afterward if a person whose disinterestedness is quite
above suspicion had had the direction of affairs from the first."
There could be no doubt of what he meant by this time, and the argument
"Do you feel inclined to return with me to Mentone?" he asked.
"I am afraid I cannot get away just now."
"Ah! I suppose it _is_ too soon. Well, she is quite safe with us, and
we will bring her back to Hamilton House in the spring.". Mr.
Hamilton-Wells smiled complacently as he took his seat in his carriage. I
almost expected him to thank me for the sport I had been giving him, he
looked so like a man who had been enjoying himself thoroughly. I thought
about that last remark of his after he had gone, and pitied Lady Adeline.
It must be trying to be liable at any moment to have words, which one
deliberately chooses to hide one's thoughts, set aside as of no
consequence, and the thoughts themselves answered naively. However, there
was no real reason for hiding my thoughts any longer on that subject. I
had done my best manfully, I hope, while the necessity lasted, to mask my
feeling for her, even from myself; but there was now no further need for
self-restraint. I might live for her and love her honestly, and openly at
last; and, accordingly, when Sir Shadwell Rock came to me for a few days
at Christmas, I did not attempt to conceal my intention from him.
"It is a great risk," he said gravely, "a very great risk. Of course, now
that the first cause of all the trouble is removed, the mental health may
be thoroughly restored. So long as there is no organic brain lesion there
is hope in all such cases. But I tell you frankly that the first call upon
her physical strength may set up a recurrence of the moral malady, and you
cannot foresee the consequences. However, you know as much about that as I
do, and I can see it's no use warning you. You have made up your mind."
"Yes," I answered. "I shall be able to take good care of her if only I am
fortunate enough to win her."
"Well, well, she seems to be a loyal little body," the old gentleman
replied; "and I wish you success with all my heart. She will have much in
her favour as your wife, and since you are determined to run the risk, let
us hope for the best."
And that was just what I did while I waited for the spring, and to such
good purpose that I became light-hearted as a schoolboy. I watched the
birds building; I noticed the first faint green shadow on the hedges, and
the yellowing of the gorse; I listened in the freshness of the dawn to the
thrush that sang "Evadne." And when at last Mr. Hamilton-Wells walked in
one day unexpectedly, and explained, somewhat superfluously, that he had
come, I could have thrown up my hat and cheered!
"But without the ladies," he added.
"Have you left them behind you?" I demanded, trying not to look blank.
"Yes," he answered very slowly, then added: "At Hamilton House." I suppose
nobody ever thought of kicking anything so "slender" as Mr,
Hamilton-Wells, or associated such a vulgar idea as would have been
involved in the suspicion of a deliberate intention to "sell" you with a
person of such courteous and distinguished manners. But one did
occasionally wonder what he was like at school, and if blessings and abuse
were often showered on him then at one and the same time, as had come to
be the case in later life.
He had come to ask me to dinner that evening, and when I arrived he was
standing on the hearthrug, gracefully, with a palm-leaf fan in his hand,
Evadne greeted me quietly, Lady Adeline with affectionate cordiality, and
Diavolo, who was the only other member of the party, with a grave yet
bright demeanour which made him more like his Uncle Dawne in miniature
"'In the spring,'" Mr. Hamilton-Wells observed precisely, waving his fan
to emphasise each word, and addressing a remote angle of the cornice, "'In
the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.'"
Diavolo flushed crimson, Lady Adeline looked annoyed, but Evadne sat pale
and still, as if she had not heard.
I was right about her not being likely to leave her affairs in anybody's
hands. Very soon after her arrival she insisted upon having an accurate
statement of accounts, and begged me to go over to Hamilton House one
morning to render it, as she found Mr. Hamilton-Wells quite unapproachable
on the subject.
She received me in the morning room alone, and began at once in the most
business-like way, "Mr. Hamilton-Wells' reticence convinces me that I am a
beggar," she said cheerfully. "Tell me the exact sum I have to depend
I named it.
"Oh, then," she proceeded, "the question is, What shall I do? I cannot
possibly live in the world, you know, on such a sum as that."
"What do you propose to do?" I asked, her tone having suggested some
definite plan already formed.
"Go into a sisterhood, I think,' she answered.
"Nonsense!" I exclaimed.
She raised her eyebrows.
"I beg your pardon," I said. "But you are not fit for such a life. Why, in
a month you would be seeing visions and dreaming dreams."
"But I am afraid I shall do that now in any case, wherever I am," she
sighed; and then she added, smiling at her own cynicism; "and I think I
had better go where such things can be turned to good account. I have had
no horrid thoughts, by the way, since I left As-You-Like-It, but of course
I shall relapse."
"No, you will not," I blurted out, "if you marry happily."
Her face flushed all over at the word.
"Will you, Evadne," I proceeded--"or rather could you--be happy with me?"
She rose, and made me a deep courtesy. "Thank you," she answered
scornfully, "for your kind consideration, Sir George Galbraith! I always
thought you the most disinterested person I ever knew, but I had no idea
that even you could go so far as that!"
And then she left me alone with my consternation.
How in the name of all that is perplexing had I offended her?
Lady Adeline came in at that moment, and I put the question to her,
telling her exactly what I had said. She burst out laughing.
"My dear George!" she exclaimed, "forgive me! I can't help it! But don't
you think yourself you were a little bit abrupt? You do not seem to have
mentioned the fact that you feel any special affection for Evadne. It did
not occur to you to protest that you loved her, for instance?"
"No, it did not," I answered; "I should think that the fact is patent
enough without protestations."
"She may have overlooked it, all the same," Lady Adeline suggested, still
laughing at me. "I would advise you to find out the next time you have a
"Where is she?" I demanded, going toward the door.
"Oh, you won't see her again to-day, you may be sure," she rejoined; "and
it is just as well, you bear, if you mean to make love to her with that
kind of countenance!"
But I would not be advised.
I strode straight up to her room, which I happened to know, and knocked at
She answered "Come in!" evidently not expecting me, and when she saw who
it was she was furious.
"I cannot understand what you mean by such conduct!" she exclaimed.
"Well, then, I'll make you understand!" I retorted.
Mr. Hamilton-Wells insinuated afterward that Evadne only accepted me to
save her life. But I protested against the libel. I have never, to my
certain knowledge, uttered a rough word either to or before my little lady
in the whole course of our acquaintance. But why, when she loved me, she
should have gone off in that ridiculous tantrum simply because I did not
begin by expressing my love for her, I shall never be able to understand.
She might have been sure that I should have enough to say on that subject
as soon as I was accepted.
The day after the engagement was announced Diavolo called upon me.
Needless to say he found me in the seventh heaven. I had been walking
about the house, unable to settle to anything, and when I heard he had
come I thought it was to congratulate me, and I hurried down; but the
first glimpse of his face caused my heart to contract ominously.
"Well, you have played me a nice trick," he said, with concentrated
bitterness, "both of you. You knew what _my_ intentions were and you
gave me no hint of your own. You preferred to steal a march on me. I could
not have imagined such a thing possible from you. I should have supposed
that you would have thought such underhand conduct low."
"Diavolo!" I gasped, "are you in earnest?"
"Am I in earnest!" he ejaculated. "Look at me! I suppose you think I am
incapable of deep feeling."
"If only I had known!" I exclaimed. "Yet--how could I guess? The
difference of age--and, Diavolo, my dear boy, believe me, I do sympathise
with you most sincerely. This is a bitter drop in the cup for me.
But--but--even if I had known--will it make it worse for you if I say it?--
it is me she loves. She would not have accepted anyone but me. Even if I
_had_ withdrawn in your favour--"
He waved his hand to stop me. "Don't distress yourself," he said. "It is
fate. We are to be punished with extinction as a family for the sins of
our forefathers. My case will be the same as Uncle Dawne's--only," he
added suddenly, and clenched his fists, "only, if you treat her badly,
I'll blow your brains out."
"I hope you will," I answered.
He looked hard at me with a pained expression in his eyes. "Ah, I'm a
fool," he said; "forgive me! I don't know what I'm saying. I'm mad with
disappointment, and grief, and rage. Of course, if she loves you, I never
had a chance. Yet the possibility of giving me one, had you known,
occurred to you. Well, I will show you that I can be as generous as you
are." He held out his hand. "I--I congratulate you," he faltered; "Only,
make her happy. But I know you will."
He felt about for his hat, and, having found it, walked with an uncertain
step toward the door, blinded with tears.
I stood long as he had left me.
Ah, brother! have you not full oft
Found, even as the Roman did,
That in life's most delicious draught
_Surgit amari aliquid?_
Lady Adeline met me sadly the next time I went to Hamilton House.
"Do you blame me?" I faltered.
"No, oh, no!" she generously responded. "None of us--not one of us--not
even Angelica, suspected for a moment that he was in earnest. It had been
his wolf-cry, you know, all his life. Evadne herself has no inkling of the
"I hope she never will," I said.
"If it rests with Diavolo, she will not," his mother answered, proud of
him, and with good cause.
It is a salient feature of the Morningquest family history that not one of
them ever had a great grief which they did not make in the long run a
source of joy to other people. Diavolo's first impulse was to go and see
service abroad; but he soon abandoned that idea, although it would have
afforded him the distraction he so sorely needed, and resigned his
commission instead; and then took up his abode at Morne, in order to
devote himself to his grandfather entirely, and it was in Diavolo's
companionship that the latter found the one great pleasure and solace of
his declining years. The old duke had been wont to say of Diavolo at his
worst: "That lad is a gentleman at heart, and, mark my words, he will
prove himself so yet!"
And so he has.
His was the first and loveliest present Evadne received. He did not come
to her second wedding, but, then, nobody else did except his father and
mother, for it pleased us all to keep the ceremony as quiet and private as
possible; so that his absence was not significant; and, afterward, he
rather made a point, if anything, of not avoiding us in any way. In fact,
the only change I noticed in him was that he never again made any of those
laughing protestations of love and devotion to Evadne with which he used
to amuse us all in the dark days of her captivity.
We were married in London, and when the final arrangements were being
discussed, I asked her where she would like to go after the ceremony.
"Oh, let us go home, Don," she said--she insisted on calling me "Don." I
told her the name conveyed no idea to me, but she answered that I was
obtuse, and she was sure I should grow to love it in time, even if I did
not understand it, if it were only because it was _fetish_, and
nobody could use it but herself; to which extent, by the way, I was very
soon able to endorse her opinion. "Don't let us go to nasty foreign
hotels. I hate travelling, and I hate sight-seeing--the kind of
sight-seeing one does for the sake of seeing. We will go home and be
happy. No place could be half so beautiful to me as yours is now."
That she should call it "home" at once, and long to be settled there, was
a good omen, I thought. But she was happy, beyond all possibility of a
doubt, in the anticipation of her life with me.
Soon after our return I took her into Morningquest, and left her to lunch
with her aunt, Mrs. Orton Beg. I had business on the other side of the
city which detained me for some hours, and when at last I could get away,
I hurried back, being naturally impatient to rejoin her. Mrs, Orton Beg
was alone in the drawing room, and I suppose something in the expression
of my face amused her, for she laughed, and answered a question I had not
"Out there," she said, meaning in the garden.
I turned and looked through the open French window, and instantly that
haunting ghost of an indefinite recollection was laid. Evadne was sleeping
in a high-backed chair, with the creeper-curtained old brick wall for a
background, and half her face concealed by a large summer hat which she
held in her hand.
"I thought you would remember when you saw her so," said Mrs. Orton Beg.
"It was just after that unhappy marriage fiasco. She had run away, and
sought an asylum here, and when you were so struck by her appearance, I
could not help thinking it was a thousand pities that you had not met
before it was too late."
"And then you asked me to use the Scottish gift of second sight--I was
thinking at the moment that she was the kind of girlie I should choose for
a wife, and so I said she should marry a man called George--"
"Which made it doubly a Delphic oracle for vagueness to me," said Mrs.
Orton Beg, "because Colonel Colquhoun's name was also George."
"Now, this is a singular coincidence!" I exclaimed.
"Ah!" she ejaculated. "But I do not talk of 'coincidences'--there is a
special providence, you know."
"Which deserts Edith and protects Evadne?"
"You are incorrigible!"
"You are a demon worshipper! The Infinite Good gives us the knowledge and
power if we will use it. _Evadne_ was a Seventh Wave!"
"'The Seventh Waves of humanity must suffer,' you said." We looked at each
other. "The oracle was ominous. But surely she has suffered enough? Heaven
grant her happiness at last!"
"Amen," I answered fervently.
As soon as we were settled, I tried to order her life so as to take her
mind completely out of the old groove. I kept her constantly out of doors,
and never let her sit and sew alone, for one thing, or lounge in easy
chairs, or do anything else that is enervating.
I made her ride, too, and rise regularly in the morning; not too early,
for that is as injurious in one way as too late is in another; the latter
enervates, but the former exhausts. Regularity is the best discipline. I
taught her also to shoot at a mark, and took her into the coverts in the
autumn; but she could not bear the sight of suffering creatures, and
unfortunately she wounded a bird the first time we were out, and I was
never able to persuade her to shoot at another. However, there was active
exercise enough for her without that, so long as she was able to take it,
and when it became necessary to curtail the amount, she drove both morning
and afternoon, and took short walks and pottered about the grounds in
I had bought As-You-Like-It while she was abroad with the
Hamilton-Wellses, and had had the whole place pulled down, and the site
converted into a plantation, so that no trace was left of that episode to
vex her. In fact, I had done all that I could think of as likely in any
way to help to re-establish her health, and certainly she was very happy.
Everything I wished her to do seemed to be a pleasure to her; and mind and
body grew rapidly so vigorous that I lost all fear for her. She said she
was a new creature, and she looked it.
When we had been married about a year, Sir Shadwell Rock came to pay us a
visit. Evadne was quite at her best then, and I introduced her to him
He asked about her progress with kindly interest when we were alone
together, and declared heartily that she was certainly to all appearance
thoroughly restored, that he was quite in love with her himself, and hoped
to see her in the van of the new movement yet.
She took to the dear old man, and told him his great reputation did not
frighten her one bit; and she would lean on his arm familiarly out in the
grounds, pelt him with gorse blossom, fill his pockets with rose leaves
surreptitiously, till they bulged out like bags behind, and keep him
smiling perpetually at her pretty ways. He had been going abroad for a
holiday, but we persuaded him to stay with us instead, and when we parted
with him at last reluctantly, he declared that Evadne had made him young
again, and the wrinkles were all smoothed out.
His last words to me were: "So far so good, Galbraith," and I knew he
meant to warn as well as to congratulate. "Don't keep her in cotton wool
too much. Make her face sickness and suffering while she is well herself.
Take warning by the small-pox epidemic. She has no morbid horror of that
subject, because she knows practically how much can be done for the
sufferers. If she devote herself to good works, she will be sanguine
because so much is being accomplished, instead of dwelling despondently on
the hopeless amount there is still to do."
Soon after this, however, I began to hope that a new interest in life was
coming to cure her of all morbid moods for ever. I was anxious at first,
but she was so quietly happy in the prospect herself, and she continued so
well in spite of the drain upon her strength, that I soon took heart
"You have got to be very young, Don, since I was so good as to marry you,"
she said to me one day.
She had come in with some flowers for me, and had caught me whistling
instead of working.
Sir Shadwell had consented, in his usual kind and generous way, to share
the responsibility of this time with me. He came down to us for an
occasional "week-end," just to see how she progressed, and his
observations, like my own, continued to be satisfactory. It was a crucial
test, we knew. If we could carry her safely through this trying time, she
would be able to take her proper place with the best of her sex in the
battle of life, to fight with them and for them, which was what we both
ardently desired to see her do.
There had been never a word of the mental malady since Colquhoun's death.
I had judged it well to let her forget she had ever suffered so if she
could, and I had no reason to suspect that she ever thought of it. She had
had hours, and even days, of depression since our marriage, but had always
been able to account for them satisfactorily; and now, although of course
she got down at times, she was less often so than is usually the case
under the circumstances, and was always easily consoled.
She paid me a visit in my study one day. She had a habit of coming
occasionally when I was at work, a habit that happily emphasized the
difference between my solitary bachelor days and these. She was shy of her
caresses as a rule, but would occasionally make my knee her seat, if it
happened to suit her convenience, while she filled the flower vases on my
table; or she would stand behind me with her hands clasped round my neck,
and lean her cheek against my hair. She did so now.
"You love your work, Don, don't you?" she said.
"Yes, sweetheart," I answered; "next to you, it is the great delight of my
"But, Don, you find it all-absorbing; don't you?"
"No, not _all_-absorbing, _now_."
"But sufficiently so to be a comfort to you if you ever had any great
grief? After the first shock, you would return to your old pursuits, would
you not? And, by and by, you would find solace in them?"
I unclasped her hands from my neck, and drew her round to me. There was a
new note in her voice that sounded ominous.
"What is the trouble, little woman!" I whispered, when I had her safe in
"I don't think I could die and leave you, Don, if I thought you would be
"Well, then, don't allow yourself to entertain any doubt on the subject,"
I answered; "for I should be more than 'miserable.' I should never care
for anything in the world again."
"But if I should have to die--"
"There is no need to distress either yourself or me by such an idle
supposition, Evadne," I answered. "There is not the slightest occasion for
"I am not _alarmed_," she said, and then she was silent.
A few days later, I found her sitting on the floor in the library, reading
a book she had taken from one of the lower shelves. It was a book of Sir
Shadwell Rock's on the heredity of vice. I took it from her gently,
remarking as I did so: "I would rather you did not read these things just
"I suppose you agree with Sir Shadwell Rock," she said.
"Let me help you up," I answered.
"Do you?" she persisted.
"Of course. He is our chief authority," I answered. "But promise me,
Evadne, not to look at any of those books again without consulting me. I
shall be having you like the medical students who imagine they have
symptoms of every disease they study."
"It would mark a strange change in my mind," she answered; "for I used to
be able to study any subject of the kind without being affected in that
That her mind had changed, alas! or rather, that it had been injured by
friction and pressure of the restrictions imposed upon it, was the
suspicion which necessitated my present precaution, but I could not say
She held out her hands for me to help her to rise. "Why are women kept in
the dark about these things?" she said, pointing to the books on heredity.
"Why are we never taught as you are? We are the people to be informed."
"You are quite right," I said. "It is criminal to vithhold knowledge from
any woman who has the capacity to acquire it. But there is a time for
everything, you know, my sweetheart."
"Now, that poor Colonel Colquhoun," she went on as if I had not spoken.
"He for one should never have been born. With his ancestry, he must have
come into the world foredoomed to a life of dissipation and disease. It is
awful to think we may any of us become the parents of people who can't be
moral without upsetting the whole natural order of the universe. O Don! it
is dreadful to know it, but it is sinful to be ignorant of the fact."
"But there is no fear for our children, Evadne," I said. "Ah! that is what
I want to know!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands round my arm.
"Come out into the grounds then, sweetheart," I answered, affecting a
cheerfulness I was far from feeling; "and I will tell you the whole family
I had to go out that evening to see a serious case in consultation with a
brother practitioner. I had ordered the dogcart for ten o'clock, and
Evadne came out into the hall with me from the drawing room, where I had
been reading to her since dinner, when it was brought round.
"_Must_ you go?" she said listlessly.
"I am afraid I must," I answered; "it is a matter of life and death. But
why shouldn't you come too! It will be much better than staying here
alone. I ought to have thought of it sooner. Do come! I will send the
dogcart back, and have the brougham."
"It would delay you," she said, hesitating.
"Oh, no! Two horses in the brougham will get over the ground faster than
one in the dogcart. Come! Let me get you some wraps."
"But when we arrive, my presence will be an inconvenience," she objected.
"In no way," I answered. "It will not be a long business, and you can wait
very well in the carriage with a book and a lamp."
She came out and looked at the night, still undecided. The weather was
damp and uninviting.
"I don't think I'll go, Don," she said, shivering. "Good-bye and safe home
As I drove along, I cast about in my own mind for a suitable companion for
Evadne, someone who would vary the monotony for her when I had to be out.
She had no ladyloves, as so many women have. Mrs. Orton Beg was at
Fraylingay again, and Lady Adeline was the only other friend I knew of who
would be congenial just then; but she had multifarious duties of her own
to attend to, and it would not have been fair to ask her, especially as
she was sure to come if she knew she was wanted, however great the
inconvenience to herself. I knew nothing at that time of two other friends
of Evadne's, Mrs. Sillinger and Mrs. Malcomson, to whom I afterward learnt
that she was much attached. Owing, I think, to the unnatural habit of
reticence which had been forced upon her, she had not mentioned them to
me, although she continued to correspond with them. It took her some time
to realize that every interest of hers was matter of moment to me. A
certain colonel and Mrs. Guthrie Brimston had recently settled in the
neighbourhood, in order, as they gave out, to be near the Morningquest
family, with whom they claimed relationship, on the ground, I believe,
that they also were Guthries. Colonel Guthrie Brimston led people to
suppose that he had left the service entirely on the duke's account, his
disinterested intention being to vary the monotony for the poor old
gentleman during his declining years. They had claimed Evadne's
acquaintance with effusion, but she had not responded very cordially.
"Let them have a carriage and horses whenever they like, Don," she said,
"and give them plenty to eat; but don't otherwise encourage them to come
Recollecting which, I now inferred that Mrs. Guthrie Brimston would not
answer my present purpose at all.
This was the first time Evadne had shown any objection to being left
alone. She used to insist upon my going away sometimes, because, she said,
I should be so very glad to come back to her! But she was never exacting
in any way, and never out of temper. And she had such pretty ways as a
wife! little endearing womanly ways which one felt to be the spontaneous
outcome of tenderness untold, and inexpressible. It was strange how her
presence pervaded the house; strange to me that one little body could make
such a difference.
Foolishly fond if you like. But if every man could care as much for a
woman, hallowed would be her name, and the strife-begetting uncertainties
of heaven and hell would be allowed to lapse in order to make room for
healthy human happiness. Our hearts have been starved upon fables long
enough; we demand some certainty; and as knowledge increases, waging its
inexorable war of extermination against evil, our beautiful old earth will
be allowed to be lovable, and life a blessing, and death itself only a
last sweet sleep, neither to be sought nor shunned--"The soothing sinking
down on hard-earned holy rest," from which, if we arise again, it shall
not be to suffer. No life could be fuller of promise than mine at this
moment. Nothing was wanting but the patter of little feet about the house,
and they were coming. Doubts and fears were latent for once. My hopes were
limitless, my content was extreme.
"May you have quiet rest to-night, my darling; may your heart grow strong,
and your faith in man revive at last."
About halfway to my destination, I met the gentleman who had asked me out
in consultation, returning. He was on his way to my house to tell me that
the patient was dead. My presence could therefore be of no avail, and I
turned back also. I had not been absent more than an hour, but I found, on
entering the house, that Evadne had already retired. It was a good sign, I
thought, as she had been rather fidgety the whole day. I had some letters
to write, and went at once to my study for the purpose, taking a candle
with me from the hall. The servants, not expecting me back until late, had
turned out most of the lights downstairs. The lamp in my study, however,
was still burning. It stood on the writing table, and the first thing I
saw, on entering the room, was a letter lying conspicuously on the
blotting pad. It was from Evadne to me.
She had evidently intended me to get it in the morning, for a tray was
always left for me in the dining room in case I should be hungry when I
came in late, and my chances were all against my going to the study again
that night. I put my candle down, and tore the note open with trembling
hands. The first few lines were enough. "I am haunted by a terrible fear,"
she wrote. "I have tried again and again to tell you, but I never could.
You would not see that it is prophetic, as I do--in case of our
death--nothing to save my daughter from Edith's fate--better both die at
once." So I gathered the contents. No time to read. I crumpled the note
into my pocket. My labouring breath impeded my progress a moment, but,
thank Heaven! I was not paralyzed. Involuntarily I glanced at my
laboratory. It was an inner room, kept locked as a rule, but the door was
open now--as I knew I had expected it to be. I seized the candle and went
to the shelf where I kept the bottles with the ominous red labels. One was
"Evadne!" I shouted, running back through the study and library into the
hall, and calling her again and again as I went. If it were not already
too late, and she had heard my voice, I knew she would hesitate. I tore up
the stairs, and I must have flown, although it seemed a century before I
reached her room. I flung open the door.
She _had_ heard me.
She was standing beside a dressing table in a listening attitude, with a
glass half raised to her lips, and her eyes met mine as I entered.
My first cry of distress had reached her, and the shock of it had been
sufficient. Had that note fallen into my hands but one moment later--but I
cannot bear to think of it. Even at this distance of time the recollection
utterly unmans me. The moment I saw her, however, I could command myself.
I took the glass from her hand, and threw it into the fireplace with as
little show of haste as possible.
"To bed now, my sweetheart," I said; "and no more nonsense of this kind,
She looked at the fragments of the broken glass, and then at me, in a half
wondering, half regretful, half inquiring way that was pitiful to see.
Shaken as I was, I could not bear it. While the danger lasted, it was no
effort to be calm; but now I broke down, and, throwing myself into a
chair, covered my face with my hands, thoroughly overcome.
In a moment she was kneeling beside me.
"O Don!" she exclaimed, "what is it? Why are you so terribly upset?"
Poor little innocent sinner! The one idea had possessed her to the
exclusion of every other consideration. I said nothing to her, of course,
in the way of blame. It would have been useless. She was bitterly sorry to
see me grieved; but her moral consciousness was suspended, and she felt no
remorse whatever for her intention, except in so far as it had given me
pain. The impulse had passed for the moment, however, and I was so sure of
it that I did not even take the fatal phial away with me when I went to my
dressing room; but for forty-six days and nights I never left her an hour
alone. The one great hope, however, that the cruel obliquity would be
cured by the mother's love when it awoke amply sustained me.
She was well and cheerful for the rest of the time, greatly owing, I am
sure, to the influence of Sir Shadwell Rock, who came at once, like the
kind and generous friend he was, without waiting to be asked, when he
heard what had happened; and announced himself prepared to stay until the
danger was over. I heard Evadne laugh very soon after his arrival, and
could see that "the worry in her head," as she described it, had gone
again, and was forgotten. The impulse, which would have robbed me of all
my happiness and hopes had she succeeded in carrying it out, never cost
her a thought. The saving suffering of an agony of remorse was what we
should like to have seen, for in that there would have been good assurance
of healthy moral consciousness restored.
It seemed to be only the power to endure mental misery which had been
injured by those weary days of enforced seclusion and unnatural
inactivity, for I never knew anyone braver about physical pain. It was the
strength to contemplate the sufferings of others, which grows in action
and is best developed by turning the knowledge to account for their
benefit, that had been sapped by ineffectual brooding, until at last,
before the moral shock of indignation which the view of preventable human
evils gave her, her right mind simply went out, and a disordered faculty
filled the void with projects which only a perverted imagination could
contemplate as being of any avail.
Whatever doubts we may have had about her feeling for the child when it
came were instantly set at rest. Nothing could have been healthier or more
natural than her pride and delight in him. When she saw him for the first
time, after he was dressed, I brought him to her myself with his little
cheek against my face.
"O Don!" she exclaimed, her eyes opening wide with joy. "I love to see you
like that! But what is she like, Don? Give her to me!"
"_She_, indeed!" I answered. "Don't insult my son. He would reproach
you himself, but he is speechless with indignation."
"O Don, don't be ridiculous!" she cried, stretching up her arms for him.
"Is it really a boy? Do give him to me! I want to see him so!" When I had
put him in her arms, she gathered him up jealously, and covered him with
kisses, then held him off a little way to look at him, and then kissed him
again and again.
"Did you ever see a baby before?" I asked her.
"No, never! never!" she answered emphatically; "never such a darling as
this, at all events! His little cheek is just like velvet; and, see! he
can curl up his hands! Isn't it wonderful, Don? He's like you, too. I'm
sure he is. He's quite dark."
"He's just the colour of that last sunset you were raving about. I told
you to be careful."
"O Don, how can you!" she exclaimed. It was beautiful to see her raptures.
She was like a child herself, so unaffectedly glad in her precious little
treasure, and so surprised! The fact that he would move independently and
have ideas of his own seemed never to have occurred to her.
So far so good, as Sir Shadwell said; and we soon had her about again; but
the first time she sat up, after her cushions had been arranged for her,
and her baby laid on her lap, when I stooped to give them both a kiss of
hearty congratulation, she burst into tears.
"It is nothing, Don, don't be concerned," she said, trying bravely to
smile again. "I was thinking of my mother. This would have been such a
happy day for her."
This made me think of the breach with her father. I had forgotten that she
had a father, but it occurred to me now that a reconciliation might add to
her happiness, and I wrote to him accordingly to that effect, making the
little grandson my excuse. Mr. Frayling replied that he had heard
indirectly of his daughter's second marriage, but was not surprised to
receive no communication from herself on the subject, because her whole
conduct for many years past had really been most extraordinary. If,
however, she had become a dutiful wife at last, as I had intimated, he was
willing to forgive her, and let bygones be bygones: whereupon I asked him
to Fountain Towers, and he came.
He was extremely cordial. I had a long talk with him before he saw Evadne,
during which I discovered from whence she took her trick of phrase-making.
He expressed himself as satisfied with me, and my position, my reputation,
and my place. He also shook his watch chain at my son, which denoted great
approval, I inferred; and made many improving remarks, interspersed with
much good advice on the subject of babies and the management of estates.
Evadne had been very nervous about meeting him again, but the baby broke
the ice, and she was unfeignedly glad to make friends. Upon the whole,
however, the reconciliation was not the success that I had anticipated.
Father and daughter had lost touch, and, after the first few hours, there
was neither pleasure nor pain in their intercourse; nothing, in fact, but
politeness. The flow of affection had been too long interrupted. It was
diverted to other channels now, and was too deeply imbedded in them to be
coaxed back in the old direction. Love is a sacred stream which withdraws
itself from the sacrilegious who have offered it outrage.
It was an unmitigated happiness, however, to Evadne to have her brothers
and sisters with her again, and from that time forward we bad generally
some of them at Fountain Towers.
Mrs. Kilroy of Ilverthorpe, otherwise known to her friends as Angelica,
was one of the first people privileged to see the baby.
"Oh, you queer little thing!" she exclaimed, pointing her finger at it by
way of caress. "I've been thinking all this time that babies were always
Speckled Toads. And you are all rosy, and dimpled, and plump, you pretty
thing! I wish I had just a dozen like you!"
Poor erratic Angelica, with all her waywardness, "but yet a woman!" There
was only the one man that I have ever known who could have developed the
best that was in Angelica, and him she had just missed, as so often
happens in this world of contraries. I am thinking of our poor Julian,
known to her as the Tenor, whom she had met when it was too late, and in
an evil hour for us and for herself apparently, the consequences having
been his death and her own desolation. Yet I don't know. Those were the
first consequences certainly, but others followed and are following. The
memory of one good man is a light which sheds the brightest rays that fall
on the lives of thousands--as Mr. Kilroy has reason to know; with whom,
after the Tenor, Angelica is happier than she could have been with any
other man. And then, again, she has Diavolo. The close friendship between
them, which had been interrupted for some years, was renewed again in some
inexplicable way by the effect of my marriage on Diavolo, and since then
they have been as inseparable as their respective duties to husband and
grandfather allow. And so the web of life is woven, the puzzling strands
resolving themselves out of what has seemed to be a hopeless tangle into
the most beautiful designs.
Some of Evadne's ideas of life were considerably enlarged in view of the
"I am so glad you are a rich man," she said to me one day, "and have a
title and all that. It doesn't matter for you, you know, Don, because you
_are_ you. But it will give the baby such a start in life."
She summoned me at a very early period of his existence to choose a name
for him, and having decided upon George Shadwell Beton, she had him
christened with all orthodox ceremony by the Bishop of Morningquest as
soon as possible. That duty once accomplished must have relieved her mind
satisfactorily with regard to a _Christian_ name for him, for she has
insisted on calling him by the heathen appellation of Donino ever since,
for the flattering reason that his temper when thwarted is exactly like
"I am sure when you were his age you used to kick and scream just as he
does when his wishes are not carried out on the instant," she said. "You
don't kick and scream now when you are vexed; you look like thunder, and
walk out of the room."
"Baby seems to afford you infinite satisfaction when he kicks and screams.
You laugh and hug him more, if anything, in his tantrums than when he is
good," I remarked.
"I take his tantrums for a sign of strength," she answered. "He is merely
standing on his dignity, and demanding his rights as a rule. It was the
same thing with his father when he frowned and walked out of the room. He
wouldn't be sat upon either, and I used to see in that a sign of
self-respect also. It is a long time now since I saw you frown and walk
out of the room, Don."
"It is a long time since you attempted to sit upon me," I said.
"I am afraid I neglect you," she answered apologetically; "you see, Donino
requires so much of my time."
She continued to be cheerful for months after the birth of the boy, and we
waited patiently for some sign which should be an assurance of her
complete restoration to mental health; or, so far as I was concerned, for
an opportunity of testing her present feeling about the subject that
distressed her. I had given up expecting a miraculous cure in a moment,
and now only hoped for a gradual change for the better.
The opportunity I was waiting for came one winter's afternoon when she was
playing with the baby. It was a moment of leisure with me, the afternoon
tea-time, which I always arranged to spend with her if possible, and
especially if she would otherwise have been alone, as was the case on this
I had been responding for half an hour, as well as I could, to incessant
appeals for sympathy and admiration--not that I found it difficult to
admire the boy, who was certainly a splendid specimen of the human race,
although perhaps I ought not to say so; but my command of language never
answered his mother's expectations, somehow, when it came to expressing my
"Do you think you care as much for him as I do, Don?" she burst out at
"More," I answered seriously.
"Why? How?" she demanded, surprised by my tone.
"Because I never could have hurt him."
"Hurt him!" she exclaimed, gathering him up in her arms. "Do you mean that
I could hurt him! hurt my baby! Oh!" She got up and stood looking at me
indignantly for a few seconds with the child's face hidden against her
neck; and then she rang the bell sharply, and sent him away.
"What do you mean, Don?" she said, when we were alone together again.
"Tell me? You would not say a cruel thing like that for nothing."
"I am referring to that night before he was born," I said, taking the
little bottle from my pocket. This seems to me to have been the cruellest
operation that I have ever had to perform.
"O Don!" she cried, greatly distressed. "I understand I should have killed
him. But why, why do you remind me of that now?"
"I want to be quite sure that you have learnt what a mistaken notion that
was, and that you regret the impulse."
She sat down on a low chair before the fire, with her elbows on her knees
and her face buried in her hands, and remained so for some time. She
wanted to think it out, and tell me exactly.
"I do not feel any regret," she said at last. "I would not do the same
thing now, but it is only because I am not now occupied with the same
thoughts. They have fallen into the background of my consciousness, and I
no longer perceive the utility of self-sacrifice."
"But do you not perceive the sin of suicide?"
"Not of that kind of suicide," she answered. "You see, we have the divine
example. Christ committed suicide to all intents and purposes by
deliberately putting himself into the hands of his executioners; but his
motive makes _them_ responsible for the crime; and my motive would
place society in a similar position."
"Your view of the great sacrifice would startle theologians, I imagine,"
was my answer. "But, even allowing that Christ was morally responsible for
his own death, and thereby set the example you would have followed to save
others from suffering; tell me, do you really see any comparison between
an act which had the redemption of the world for its object and the only
result that could follow from, the sacrifice of one little mother and
"What result, Don?"
"Breaking your husband's heart, spoiling his life, and leaving him lonely
She started up and threw herself on her knees beside me, clasping her
hands about my neck.
"O Don, don't say that again!" she cried, "Don't say anything like that
"You know I should never think of it again if I could be sure--"
She hid her head upon my shoulder, but did not answer immediately.
"I am seeking for some assurance in myself to give you," she said at last;
"but I feel none. The same train of thought would provoke me again--no,
not to the same act, but to something desperate; I can't tell what. But I
suffer so, Don, when such thoughts come, from grief, and rage, and horror,
I would do almost anything for relief."
"But just think--" I began,
"No, don't ask me to think!" she interrupted. "All my endeavour is not to
think. Let me live on the surface of life, as most women do. I will do
nothing but attend to my household duties and the social duties of my
position. I will read nothing that is not first weeded by you of every
painful thought that might remind me. I will play with my baby by day, and
curl up comfortably beside you at night, infinitely grateful and content
to be so happily circumstanced myself--Don, help me to that kind of life,
will you? And burn the books. Let me deserve my name and be 'well pleasing
one' to you first of all the world, and then to any with whom I may come
in contact. Let me live while you live, and die when you die. But do not
ask me to think. I can be the most docile, the most obedient, the most
loving of women as long as I forget my knowledge of life; but the moment I
remember I become a raging fury; I have no patience with slow processes;
'Revolution' would be my cry, and I could preside with an awful joy at the
execution of those who are making the misery now for succeeding
"But, my dear child, it would surely be happier for you to try to
"No, no," she again interrupted. "I know all you can say on that score;
but I cannot bear to be brought into contact with certain forms of
suffering. I cannot bear the contradictions of life; they make me rage."
"What I want to say is that you should act, and not think," I ventured.
"How can I act without thinking?" she asked.
"You see, if you don't act you must think," I pursued; "and if you do
think without acting, you become morbid. The conditions of an educated
woman's life now force her to know the world. She is too intelligent not
to reason about what she knows. She sees what is wrong; and if she is
high-minded she feels forced to use her influence to combat it. If she
resists the impulse her conscience cannot acquit her, and she suffers
herself for her cowardice."
"I know," she answered. "But don't let us discuss the subject any more."
We were silent for some time after that, and then I made a move as if to
speak, but checked myself.
"What is it?" she asked.
"I was going to ask you to do something to oblige me; but now I do not
"Oh!" she exclaimed, much hurt; "do you really think there is anything I
would not do for you, if I could?"
"Well, this is mere trifle," I answered. "I want you to take that sturdy
much be-ribboned darling of yours to see my poor sick souls in the
hospital. A sight of his small face would cheer them. Will you?"
"Why, _surely_," she said. "How _could_ you doubt it? I shall be
"And there was another thing--"
"Oh, don't hesitate like that," she exclaimed. "You can't think how you
"I very much wish you would take charge of the flowers in the hospital for
me, that was what I was going to say, I should be so pleased if you should
make them your special care. If you would cut them yourself, and take them
and arrange them whenever fresh ones are wanted, you would be giving me as
much pleasure as the patients. And you might say something kind to them as
you pass through the wards. Even a word makes all the difference in their
"Why didn't you ask me to do this before?" she said, reproachfully.
"I was a little afraid of asking you now," I answered.
"I shall begin to-morrow," she said. "Tell me the best time for me to go?"
There is a great deal in the way a thing is put, was my trite reflection
afterward. If I had given Evadne my reason for particularly wishing her to
visit the hospital, she would have turned it inside out to show me that it
was lined with objections; but, now, because I had asked her to oblige me
simply, she was ready to go; and would have gone if had cost her half her
comfort in life. This was a great step in advance. As in the small-pox
epidemic, so now at the hospital, she had no horror of anything she
_saw_. It was always what she imagined that made her morbid.
Following these days there came a time of perfect peace for both of us,
Evadne's health was satisfactory; she led the life she had planned for
herself; and so long as she shut out all thought of the wicked world and
nothing occurred to remind her of the "awful needless suffering" with
which she had become acquainted in the past, she was tranquilly happy.
Donino rapidly grew out of arms. He was an independent young rascal from
the first, and would never be carried if he could walk, or driven from the
moment he could sit a pony--grip is the word, I know, but his legs were
not long enough to grip when he began, and his rides were therefore
conducted all over the pony's back at first. His object was to keep on,
and in order to do so without the assistance he scorned, he rode like a
Evadne was proud of the boy, but she missed the baby, and complained that
her arms were empty. It was not long, however, happily,--and _a
propos_ of the number of my responsibilities, I was taken to task
severely one day, and discovered that I had in my son a staunch supporter
and a counsellor whose astuteness was not to be despised.
I was finishing my letters one afternoon in the library when Evadne came
in with her daughter in her arms, and Donino clinging to her skirt. I
expected the usual "Don, I am sure you have done enough. Come and have
some tea," and turned to meet it with the accustomed protest; "Just five
minutes more, my sweetheart." But Evadne began in quite another tone.
"I have just heard such a _disgraceful_ thing about you," she said.
"A disgraceful thing about me!" I exclaimed.
"Yes. I hear you were asked the other day how many children you had, and
you answered '_Two or three!_' Now, will you kindly count your
children, and when you are quite sure you know the number off by heart,
repeat it aloud to me, so that I may have some hope that you will not
commit yourself in that way again."
"Oh," I answered, "I know how many _babies_ there are; my difficulty
is about you. I am never quite sure whether to count you as a child or
"Now, I call that a mean little score," she said, carrying her baby off
with an affectation of indignation which deceived Donino.
He had been standing with his back to the writing table and his feet
firmly planted before him, gravely watching us, and now when his mother
left the room he came to my knee and looked up at me confidentially.
"Ou bin naughty, dad?" he asked.
"It looks like it," I answered.
"Ou say ou sorry," he advised.
"What will happen then?" I wanted to know.
"Den de missus 'ill kiss ou," he explained. "Den _dat_ all right."
"Truly 'a wise son maketh a glad father,'" I observed.
Donino knitted his brows, and grumbled a puzzled but polite assent. I saw
signs of reflection afterward, however, which warned me not to be too sure
that I knew exactly where the limits of the little understanding were. But
one thing was evident. The boy was being educated on the principle of
repent and have done with it. Old accounts are not cast up in this
Donino watched me putting my writing things away; he was waiting to see me
through my trouble. When I was ready, he took as much of my hand as he
could hold in his, protectingly, and led me to the drawing room with a
dignified air of importance. Sir Shadwell Rock was staying with us at the
time, and my daughter was creeping from her mother to him as we entered
the room, and receiving a large share of his attention. Donino glanced at
him, fearing, perhaps, that his presence as audience would make matters
more unpleasant for me.
"Mumme," he said, "dad's turn."
Evadne looked up inquiringly.
"I've come to say I am sorry," I exclaimed.
"Oh," said Evadne, a little puzzled, "that's right."
Donino looked from one to the other expectantly; but as his mother made no
move, he edged up to her side, and repeated with emphasis: "Dad's sorry."
"That's right," his mother answered, putting her arm round him, and
caressing him fondly.
He drew away from her dissatisfied, and walked to the window, where he
stood, with his thumbs in his belt, and his chin on his chest.
"O Don," Evadne whispered, "do look at yourself in miniature! But what is
the matter? What have I done to disturb him? or left undone?"
"I said I was sorry, and you haven't kissed me," I replied.
Evadne grasped the situation at last, and got up.
"I suppose I must kiss you," she said. "I hope you won't be naughty
The boy made no sign at the moment, but presently he sauntered back to the
tea-table as if he were satisfied.
When the children were gone Sir Shadwell asked for an explanation.
"It is beautiful to watch the mind of a young child unfold," he observed;
"to notice its wonderful grasp, on the one hand, of ideas one would have
thought quite beyond its comprehension, and, on the other, its curious
limitations. Now, that boy of yours reasons already from what he
"Clearly," I answered. "He observes that my position in this house is
quite secondary, and therefore, although he sees his mother 'naughty'
every day, he never thinks for a moment of suggesting that she should 'own
up' to me."
"Don, you are horrid!" Evadne exclaimed.
The next day she went out early in the afternoon to pay calls.
Sir Shadwell and I accompanied her to the door to see her into her
carriage, and she drove off smiling, and kissing her hand to us.
"Now," I said, as we lingered on the doorstep, watching the carriage glint
between the trees: "what do you think about the wisdom of my marriage?"
"Oh," he answered, his eyes twinkling. "You didn't explain, you know, so I
naturally concluded that you were merely marrying for your own
gratification, in which case you would have been, disappointed when you
found what I foresaw, that, under the circumstances, the pleasure would
not be unmixed. You should have explained that your sole purpose was to
make a very charming young lady healthy-minded again and happy, if you
wanted to know what I thought of your chances of success."
"You're a confounded old cynic," I said, turning into the house.
Sir Shadwell went out into the grounds, and there I found him later,
patiently instructing Donino in the difficult art of stringing a bow, his
white head bowed beside the boy's dark one, and his benign face wrought
into wrinkles of intentness.
I was busy during the afternoon, but I fancied I heard the carriage
return. Evadne did not come to report herself to me, however, as was her
wont after an expedition, and I therefore thought that I must have been
mistaken, and more especially so when she did not appear at tea-time.
After tea, Sir Shadwell settled himself with a book, and I left him. In
the hall I met the footman who had gone out with Evadne.
"When did you return?" I asked.
"I can't say rightly, Sir George," the man replied. "We only paid one call
this afternoon, and then came straight back. Her ladyship seemed to be
I ran upstairs to my wife's sitting room. She was lying on a couch asleep,
her face gray, her eyelids swollen and purple with weeping, her hair
disordered. As I stood looking down at her, she opened her eyes and held
up her arms to me. She looked ten years older, a mere wreck of the
healthy, happy, smiling woman who had driven off kissing her hand to us
only a few hours before.
"Tell me the trouble, my sweetheart," I said, kneeling down beside her.
"Where did you go to-day?"
"Only to Mrs. Guthrie Brimston," she answered. "But Mrs. Beale was there
with Edith's boy, and we talked--O Don!" she broke off. "I wish my
children had never been born! The suffering! the awful needless suffering!
How do I know that they will escape?"
Alas! alas! that terrible cry again, and just after we had allowed
ourselves to be sure that it had been silenced at last forever.
I did not reason with her this time. I could only pet her, and talk for
the purpose of distracting her attention, as one does with a child. So
far, I had never for a moment lost heart and hope. I could not believe
that the balance of her fine intelligence had been too rudely shaken ever
to be perfectly restored; but now at last it seemed as if her confidence
in her fellow-creatures, the source of all mental health, had been
destroyed forever, and with that confidence her sense of the value of life
and of her own obligations had been also injured or distorted to a degree
which could not fail to be dangerous on occasion. There are injuries which
set up carcinoma of the mind, we know, cancer spots confined to a small
area at first, but gradually extending with infinite pain until all the
surrounding healthy tissue is more or less involved, and the whole
beautiful fabric is absorbed in the morbid growth, for which there is no
certain palliative in time, and no possible prospect of cure except in
eternity. Was this to be Evadne's case? Alas! alas! But, still, doctors
sometimes mistake the symptoms, and find happily that they have erred when
they arrived at an unfavourable diagnosis. So I said to myself, but the
assurance in no way affected the despair which had settled upon my heart,
and was crushing it.
Late that night I was sitting alone in my study. I had been reading
Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple, and the book still lay
open before me. It was a habit of mine to read the Bible when I was much
perturbed. The solemn majestic march of the measured words seldom failed
to restore my tranquillity in a wonderful way, and it had done so now. I
felt resigned. "Hearken therefore unto the supplication of Thy servant"--I
was repeating to myself, in fragments, as the lines occurred to me--"that
Thine eyes may be upon this house day and night ... hear Thou from Thy
dwelling place, even from heaven; and when Thou hearest forgive."
I must have dozed a moment, I think, when I had pronounced the words, for
I had heard no rustle of trailing garments in the library beyond, yet the
next thing I was conscious of was Evadne kneeling beside me. She put her
arms round my neck, and drew my face down to her.
"Don," she said, with a great dry sob, "I am sorry. I have annoyed you
"Not annoyed me, my wife."
"Hurt you then, which is worse. I have taken all the heart out of
you--somehow--I can see that. But I cannot--cannot tell what it is I have
done." She looked into my face piteously, and then hid her own on my
shoulder, and burst into a paroxysm of sobs and tears.
If only I could have made her comprehend what the trouble was! But there!
I _had_ tried, and I had failed.
One little white foot peeped out from beneath her dressing gown, the pink
sole showing. She had got out of bed and slipped on her _pantoufles_
only, and the night was cold. I might have thought that she would lie
awake fretting if she were left alone on a night when her mind was so
disturbed, and here had I been seeking solace myself and forgetting that
great as my own trouble was hers must surpass it even as the infinite does
But that error I could repair, I hoped, and it should never be repeated.
"Come, my sweetheart," I said, gathering her up close in my arms. "So long
as you will let me be a comfort to you, you will not be able to hurt me
again; but if at any time you will not listen to my words, if nothing I
can do or say strengthens or helps you, if I cannot keep you from the evil
that it may not grieve you, then I shall know that I have lost all that
makes life worth having, and I shall not care how soon this lamp of mine
She looked up at me in a strange startled way, and then she clung closer;
and I thought she meant that, if she could help it, I should not lose the
little all I ask for now--the power to make her life endurable.