Part 5 out of 15
When they met again, Evadne had read her mother's letter, and she at once
took him into her confidence about it.
"What would you do if you were me?" she asked.
"I should write to the papers," he answered gravely, as if he meant it.
He did not at all understand the strong, simple, earnest nature, incapable
of flippancy, with which he had to deal, nor appreciate the danger of
playing with it; and he never dreamt that she would seriously consider the
"I cannot understand why my father should continue to feel vexed about
this arrangement of ours," she said seriously. "We do not interfere with
his domestic affairs, why should he meddle with ours? It is not at all his
business; do you think it is?" This taking it for granted that the
arrangement was as satisfactory to him as it was to her, and appealing to
him in good faith against himself and his own interests as it were,
touched Colonel Colquhoun's sense of the ludicrous pleasurably. It was
always the unexpected apparently that was likely to happen with Evadne,
and he appreciated the charm of the unexpected, and began to believe he
should find more entertainment at home than he had thought possible even
at the outset of his matrimonial venture, when all appeared most
promising. He got on very well with her father, but, nevertheless, when it
had at last dawned upon him that she was taking his suggestion about
writing to the papers seriously, it jumped with his peculiar sense of
humour--which had never developed beyond the stage into which it had
blossomed in his subaltern days--to egg her on "to draw" the testy old
gentleman by threats of publicity. It was his masculine mind, therefore,
that was really responsible for her "unnatural" action in that matter. In
bygone days when there was any mischief afoot the principle used to be,
_chercher la femme_, and when she was found the investigation stopped
there; but modern methods of inquiry are unsatisfied with this imperfect
search, and insist upon looking behind the woman, when lo, invariably,
there appears a skulking creature of the opposite sex who is not ashamed
to be concealed by the petticoats generously spread out to screen him.
While the world approves man struts and crows, taking all the credit; but,
when there is blame about, he whines, street-arab fashion: "It wasn't me.
_Cherchez la femme_."
Mrs. Beale and Edith arrived in Malta almost immediately after Evadne
herself, and it so happened that the latter, when she went with Colonel
Colquhoun to call upon them, met for the first time in their drawing room
most of the people to whom she was to become really attached during her
sojourn in Malta. There were Mrs. Sillenger, wife of the colonel of one of
the other regiments stationed on the island; Mrs. Malcomson, also the wife
of a military man; the Rev. Basil St. John, a man of good family,
pronounced refinement, and ultra-ritualistic practices; and Mr. Austin B.
Price, a distinguished American diplomatist and man of letters, to whom
she became specially attached. Mrs. Beale and Edith also were from that
time forward two of her dearest and most valued friends. She looked very
charming on the occasion of that first visit.
Mrs. Beale received her with quite effusive kindliness. She had promised
Mrs. Orton Beg to be a mother to her, and had been building a little
aerial castle wherein she saw herself installed as principal adviser,
comforter, confidential friend, and invaluable help generally under
certain circumstances of peculiar trial and happy interest to which young
wives are subject.
Evadne and Edith looked at each other with a kind of pleased surprise.
"How tall you have grown!" said Evadne.
"And how young you are to be married!" Edith rejoined. "I was so glad when
Mrs. Orton Beg told us you were here. That was one of the reasons which
decided us to come, I think."
"I hope we shall see a good deal of each other," said Evadne.
"That would be delightful," Edith answered. Then suddenly she blushed. She
had recognized someone who had just entered the room, and Evadne,
narrowing her eyes to see who it was, recognized him as Sir Mosley
Menteith, a captain in the Colquhoun Highlanders, whose acquaintance she
had made the day before, when he called upon her for the first time. He
shook hands with Mrs. Beale and stood talking to her, looking down at her
intently, until someone else claimed her attention. Then he turned away,
rested the back of his left hand, in which he was holding his hat, on his
haunch, fixed an eyeglass in his eye, and looked round with an expression
of great gravity, twirling first one end and then the other of his little
light moustache slowly as he did so. He was extremely spic-and-span in
appearance, and wore light-coloured kid gloves. The room was pretty full
by that time, and he seemed to have some little difficulty in finding the
person whom he sought, but at last he made out Edith and Evadne sitting
together, and going over to them, greeted them both, and then took a
vacant chair beside them. He began by inspecting first one and then the
other carefully in turn, as if he were comparing them point by point,
uttering little remarks the while of so thin and weak a nature that Evadne
had to make quite an effort to grasp them. She had thawed under the
influence of Edith's warm frank cordiality, but now she froze again
suddenly, and began to have disagreeable thoughts. She noticed something
repellent about the expression of Sir Mosley's mouth. She acknowleged that
his nose was good, but his eyes were small, peery, and too close together,
and his head shelved backward like an ape's. She could not have kept up a
conversation with him had she wished to, but she preferred to withdraw
herself and let him monopolize Edith.
"I like you best in blue," Sir Mosley was saying. "Will you wear blue at
"Oh, no!" Edith rejoined archly, smiling up at him with lips and eyes. "I
have worn nothing but blue lately. I shall soon be known as the blue girl!
I must have a change, Gray and pink are evidently _your_ colours,
Evadne looked down at her draperies as a polite intimation that she had
heard. But just then her attention was diverted by the conversation of two
ladies and a gentleman, who were, sitting together in a window on her
right. The gentleman was Mr. St. John, the ritualistic divine, whose
clean-shaven face, with its firm, well-disciplined mouth, finely formed
nose with sensitive nostrils, and deep-set kindly dark eyes, attracted her
at once. He was very fragile in appearance, and had a troublesome cough.
"Ah, Mrs. Malcomson!" he was saying, "I should be very sorry to see the
old exquisite ideal of womanhood disturbed by these new notions. What can
be more admirable, more elevating to contemplate, more powerful as an
example, than her beautiful submission to the hardships of her lot?"
"Or less effectual--seeing that no good, but rather the contrary has come
of it all!" Mrs. Malcomson answered. "That is the poetry of the pulpit;
and the logic too, I may add," she said, leaning back in her chair
luxuriously. "For what could be less effectual for good than the influence
has been of those women, poor wingless creatures of the 'Sphere', whose
ideal of duty rises no higher than silent abject submission to all the
worst vices we know to be inseparable from the unchecked habitual
possession of despotic authority? What do you say, Mrs. Sillenger?"
The other lady smiled agreement. She was older than Mrs. Malcomson, and
otherwise presented a contrast to the latter, being taller, slighter, with
a prettier, sweeter, and altogether more womanly face, as some people
said. A stranger might have thought that she had less character too, but
that was not the case. She suffered neither from weakness nor want of
decision; but her manner was more diffident, and she said less.
Mrs. Malcomson belonged to a somewhat different order of being. She had a
strong and handsome face with regular features; a proud mouth, slightly
sarcastic in expression; and dark gray eyes given to glow with fiery
enthusiasm. Her hair was dark brown, but showed those shades of red in
certain lights which betoken an energetic temperament, and good staying
power. It was crisp, and broke into little natural curls on her forehead
and neck, or wherever it could escape from bondage; but she had not much
of it, and it was usually rather picturesque than tidy. Mrs. Sillenger's,
on the contrary, was straight and luxuriant, and always neat. It had been
light golden-brown in her youth, but was somewhat faded. Mrs. Malcomson
spoke as well as she looked, the resonant tones of her rich contralto
voice pleasing the ear more than her opinions startled the understanding.
She owed half her success in life to the careful management of her voice.
By simple modulations of it she could always differ from an opponent
without giving personal offence, and she seldom provoked bitter opposition
because nothing she said ever sounded aggressive. If she had not been a
good woman she would have been a dangerous one, since she could please eye
and ear at will, a knack which obtains more concessions from the average
man than the best chosen arguments,
"It seems to me that your 'poetry of the pulpit' is very mischievous," she
pursued. "You have pleased our senses with it for ages. You have flattered
us into in action by it, and used it as a means to stimulate our vanity
and indolence by extolling a helpless condition under the pompous title of
'beautiful patient submission.' You have administered soothing sedatives
of 'spiritual consolation,' as you call it, under the baleful influence of
which we have existed with all our highest faculties dulled and drugged.
You have curtailed our grand power to resist evil by narrowing us down to
what you call the 'Woman's Sphere,' wherein you insist that we shall be
unconditional slaves of man, doing always and only such things as shall
suit his pleasure and convenience.
"Ah, but when you remember that the law which man delivers to woman he
receives direct from God, you must confess that that alters the whole
aspect of the argument," Mr. St. John deprecated.
"I confess that it would alter it if it were true," Mrs. Malcomson
replied. "But it is not true. Man does not deliver the law of God to us,
but the law of his own inclinations. And by assuming to himself the right,
among other things, of undisputed authority over us, he has held the best
half of the conscience of the race in abeyance until now, and so checked
the general progress; he has confirmed himself in his own worst vices,
arrogance, egotism, injustice, and greed, and has developed the worst in
us also, among which I class that tendency to sycophantic adulation, which
is an effort of nature to secure the necessaries of life for ourselves."
"But women generally do not think that any change for the better is
necessary in their position. They are satisfied," Mr. St. John observed,
"Women generally are fools," Mrs. Malcomson ruefully confessed. "And the
'women generally' to whom you allude as being satisfied are the women well
off in this world's goods themselves, who don't think for others. The
first symptom of deep thought in a woman is dissatisfaction."
"I wonder men like yourself, Mr. St. John," Mrs. Sillenger began in her
quiet diffident way, "continue so prejudiced on this subject. How you
could help on the moral progress of the world, if only you would forget
the sweet soporific 'poetry of the pulpit," as Mrs. Malcomson calls it,
and learn to think of us women, not as angels or beasts of burden--the two
extremes between which you wander--but as human beings--"
"Oh!" he protested, interrupting her, "I hope I have not made you imagine
that I do not recognize certain grave injustices to which women are at
present subject. Those I as earnestly hope to see remedied as you do. But
what I do think objectionable is the way in which women are putting
"You are right, there," said Mrs. Sillenger. "I think myself that men
might be allowed to continue to monopolize the right of impudent
"But do not lend yourself to the silencing system any longer, Mr. St.
John," Mrs. Malcomson implored. "The silent acquiescence of women in an
iniquitous state of things is merely an indication of the sensual apathy
to which your ruinous 'poetry of the pulpit' has reduced the greater
number of us."
"I quite agree with you!" Evadne exclaimed; then stopped, colouring
crimson. She had forgotten in her interest that she was a stranger to
these people; and only remembered it when they all looked at her--rather
blankly, as she imagined. "I beg your pardon," she said, addressing Mrs.
Malcomson. "I could not help overhearing the discussion, and I am deeply
interested. I am--Mrs. Colquhoun," she broke off, covered with confusion.
"Oh, I am very glad to make your acquaintance," Mrs. Malcomson said
warmly. "I called on you to-day on my way here, but you were out."
"And so did I," said Mrs. Sillenger.
"And I hope to have the pleasure very soon," Mr. St. John added, bowing.
Mrs. Beale joined, the group just then.
"You have been talking so merrily in this corner," she said, sitting down
on a high chair as she spoke, "I have been wondering what it was all
"_Woman's Rights!_" Mrs. Malcomson uttered in deeply tragic tones.
"Woman's Rights! Oh, dear me, how dreadful!" Mrs. Beale exclaimed
comfortably. "I won't hear a word on the subject."
"Not on the subject of cooking?" said Mrs. Malcomson.
"What has cooking to do with it?" Mrs. Beale asked.
"Why, everything!" Mrs. Malcomson answered, smiling. "If only Mr. St. John
and a few other very good men would stand up in their pulpits boldly and
assure those who dread innovation that their food will be the better
cooked, and the 'Sphere' itself will roll along all the more smoothly for
the changes we find necessary; there would be an end of their opposition.
I would not promise women cooks, for I really think myself that the men
are superior, they put so much more feeling into it. And I can never
understand why they do not quarrel with us for the possession of that
department. I am sure we are quite ready to resign it! and really, when
one comes to think of it, it is obvious that the kitchen is much more the
man's sphere than the woman's, for it is there that his heart is!"
"You beguile me, my dear," Mrs. Beale said, smiling; "but I will not
listen to your wicked railleries." She looked at Mrs. Sillenger. "I came
to ask you if you would be so kind as to play us something," she said.
Mrs. Sillinger was a perfect musician; and as Evadne listened, her heart
expanded. When the music ceased, she looked up and about her blankly like
one who is bewildered by the sudden discovery of an unexpected loss; and
with that expression still upon her face she met the bright, penetrating,
kindly eye of a small thin elderly gentleman with refined features, a
wrinkled forehead, and thick gray hair, who was looking at her so fixedly
from the other side of the room that at first her own glance fell; but the
next moment she felt an irresistible impulse to look at him again. The
attraction was mutual. He got up at once from the low ottoman on which he
was sitting, and came across to her; and she welcomed his approach with a
"Excuse the liberty of an old man who has not been introduced," he said.
"You are Mrs. Colquhoun, I know, and my name is Price. I am an American,
and I came to Europe on official business for my country first of all; but
I am now travelling for my own pleasure."
"I am very glad to make your acquaintance," Evadne answered.
Before they could say another word to each other, however, there was a
general move of guests departing, and Colonel Colquhoun came to carry her
off. She held out her hand to Mr. Price. "We shall meet again?" she said.
"With your permission, I will call," he answered.
Mr. St. John and Mr. Price were staying at the same hotel, and they walked
back to it together. They had only just made each other's acquaintance,
and were feeling the attraction which there is in a common object pursued
by the most dissimilar means. They were both humanitarians, Mr. Price by
choice and of set purpose, Mr. St. John of necessity--seeing that he was a
good man, but unconsciously, the consequence being much confusion of mind
on the subject, and a wide difference between his words and his deeds. He
preached, for instance, the degrading doctrine that we ought to be
miserable in this world, that all our wonderful powers of enjoyment were
only given to us to be suppressed; and further blasphemed our sacred
humanity by maintaining that we are born in sin, and sinners we must
remain, fight as we will to release ourselves from that bondage; but yet
his whole life was spent in trying to make his fellow-creatures better,
and the world itself a pleasanter place to live in. The means which he
employed, however, was the old anodyne: "Believe the best"--that is to
say, "Cultivate agreeable feelings." Mr. Price's motto, on the other hand,
was: "Know the worst." The foe must be known, must be recognized, must be
met and fought in the open if he is to be subdued at all.
This was the difference which drew the two together; each, felt the
deepest interest in the point where the other diverged, and yearned to
convert him to his own way of thought. Mr. Price would have had the
clergyman know the world; Mr. St. John would have taught Mr. Price to
ignore it, "to look up!" as he called it, or, in other words, to sit and
sigh for heaven while the heathen raged, and the wicked went their way
here undisturbed--although he had not realized up to the present that that
was practically what his system amounted to. He belonged by birth to the
caste which is vowed to the policy of ignoring, and was as sensitive as a
woman about delicate matters. Nationally, Mr. Price was the Englishman's
son, and had advanced a generation. Men are what women choose to make
them. Mr. St. John's mother was the best kind of woman of the old order,
Mr. Price was the product of the new; and the two were typical
representatives of the chivalry of the past, high-minded, ill-informed,
unforeseeing--and the chivalry of the present, which reaches on always
into futurity with the long arm of knowledge, not deceiving itself with
romantic misrepresentations of things by the way, but fully recognizing
what is wrong from the outset, and making direct for the root of the evil
instead of contenting itself by lopping a branch here and there.
"I think you said you were going to winter here?" Mr. Price remarked, as
they stepped into the street.
"Yes--if the place suits me," Mr. St. John answered; "and so far,--that is
to say for the last month,--it has done so very well. Are you a resident?"
"Well, no, not exactly," the old gentleman answered; "but I have been in
the habit of coming here for years."
"It is an interesting place," said Mr. St. John, "teeming with historical
"Yes, it is an interesting place," Mr. Price agreed, making a little pause
before he added--"full of food for reflection. Life at large is
represented at Malta during the winter season, and in a little place like
this humanity is under the microscope as it were, which makes it a happy
hunting ground for those who have to know the world."
"Ah!" Mr. St. John ejaculated deliberately. "I should think there are some
very nice people here."
"Yes--and some very nasty ones," Mr. Price rejoined. "But, of course, one
must know both."
"Oh, I differ from you there!" Mr. St. John answered, smiling. "Walk not
in sinners' way, you know!"
"On the contrary, I should say," Mr. Price rejoined, smiling responsively,
and twitching his nose as if a gnat had tickled it; "but I allow you have
got to have a good excuse when you do."
Mr. St. John smiled again slightly, but said nothing.
"There were elephants once in Malta, I am told," he began after a little
pause, changing the subject adroitly, "but they dwindled down from the
size which makes them so useful by way of comparison, till they were no
bigger than Shetland ponies, before they finally became extinct."
"And there is a set in society on the island now," Mr. Price pursued,
"formed of representatives of old English houses that once brought men of
notable size and virile into the world, but are now only equal to the
production of curious survivals, tending surely to extinction like the
elephant, and by an analogous process."
"Here we are," said Mr. St. John, as they arrived at their place of abode.
"Will you come to my room and smoke a cigarette with me?"
"Thank you, I don't smoke, but I'll go to your room, and see you smoke
one, with pleasure," Mr. Price responded.
When they got to Mr. St. John's room, the latter took off his clerical
coat and waistcoat, and put on a coloured smoking jacket, which had the
curious effect of transforming him from an ascetic looking High Churchman
into what, from his refined, intellectual, clean-shaven face, and rather
long straight hair, most people would have mistaken for an actor suffering
Having provided Mr. Price with a comfortable seat in the window, which was
open, he lighted a cigarette, drew up another easy-chair, and stretched
himself out in it luxuriously. He was easily fatigued at that time, and
the rest and quiet were grateful after the talk and crowd at Mrs. Beale's.
There was a little wooden balcony outside his window, full of flowers and
foliage plants; and from where he sat he saw the people passing on the
opposite side of the street below, and could also obtain a glimpse of the
Mediterranean, appearing between the yellow houses at the end of the
street, intensely blue, and sparkling in the rays of the afternoon sun. It
was altogether a soothing scene; and had he been alone he would have sunk
into that state of intellectual apathy which is so often miscalled
contemplative. The homely duties of hospitality, however, compelled him to
exert himself for the entertainment of his guest. Several of the people
they had just met at Mrs. Beale's went past together, laughing and
talking, and _a propos_ of this he remarked, "It's a bright little
"Yes, on the smoothly smiling surface of society, I allow it's bright,"
Mr. Price rejoined. "The surface, however, is but a small part of it."
Mr. St. John took a whiff of his cigarette.
"Do you see that man?" Mr. Price pursued, indicating a man below the
middle height, with broad shoulders, a black beard and moustache streaked
with brown, a ruddy complexion, and obtrusively blue eyes, who was passing
at the moment.
"Captain Belliot, of H.M.S. _Abomination_," Mr. St. John answered,
using the ship's nickname, and holding out his cigarette between his
finger and thumb as he spoke, his fluent patrician English losing in
significance what it gained in melody compared with the slow dry
_staccato_ intonation of the American.
"Yes, sir," Mr. Price rejoined. "Now, he is one of the survivals I just
now mentioned--a typical specimen."
"I rather like the man," Mr. St. John answered. "He isn't a friend of
mine, but he's pleasant enough to meet."
"Just so," Mr. Price rejoined. "The manners of the kind are agreeable--on
the surface. One must give the devil his due. But on closer acquaintance
you won't find that their general characteristics are exactly pleasant.
Their minds are hopelessly tainted with exhalations from the literary
sewer which streams from France throughout the world, and their habits are
not nicer than their books.
"Ah, well," said Mr. St. John, whose sensitive lip had curled in dislike
of the subject, "it is never too late to mend. I believe, too, that the
evil is exaggerated. But at all events they repent and marry, and become
respectable men eventually."
"Well, yes, sir, they marry as a rule," Mr. Price rejoined; "and that's
the worst of it."
Mr. St. John held his cigarette poised in the air on the way to his mouth,
and looked at him interrogatively.
"Will what you call repentance restore a rotten constitution?" Mr. Price
responded. "Will it prevent a drunkard's children from being weakly
vicious? or the daughters of a licentious man from being foredoomed to
destruction by an inherited appetite for the vices which you seem to
flatter yourself end in effect when they are repented of? You do not take
into consideration the fact that the once vicious man becomes the father
of vicious children and the grandfather of criminals. You persuade women
to marry these men. The arrangement is perfect. Man's safety, and man's
pleasure; if there is any sin in it, _damn the woman_. She's weak;
she can't retaliate."
Mr. St. John's cigarette went out. He had begun to think.
"These are horrors!" he ejaculated. "But I know, thank Heaven, that the
right feeling of the community is against the perpetration of them."
"That's so," said the American. "Unfortunately, it is not with the right
feeling of the community, but with the wrong feeling of individuals, that
women have to deal."
"Heaven forbid that women should ever know anything about it!"
"I say so too," said Mr. Price. "At present, however, Heaven permits them
by the thousand to make painful personal acquaintance with the subject.
And I assure you, sir, that the indignation which has long been simmering
in whispers over tea tables in the seclusion of scented boudoirs, amongst
those same delicate dames whom you have it in your mind to keep in
ignorance of the source of most of their sufferings, mental and physical,
is fast approaching the boiling point of rebellion."
"Do you know this for a fact?"
"I do. And the time is at hand, I think, for a thorough ventilation of the
subject. It is the question of all others which must either be ignored
until society is disintegrated by the licence that attitude allows, or
considered openly and seriously. That is why I mentioned it. I see in you
every inclination to help and defend the suffering sex, and every quality
except the habit of handling facts. The subject's repulsive enough, I
allow. Right-minded people shrink in disgust even from what is their
obvious duty in the matter, and shirk it upon various pretexts, visiting
their own pain--like _Betsey Trotwood_, when she boxed the ears of
the doctor's boy--upon the most boxable person they can reach, and that is
generally the one who has forced their attention to it."
There was a pause after this, then the clergyman observed: "One knows that
there are sores which must be exposed to view if they are to be prescribed
for at all or treated with any chance of success."
"Yes, yes, that is just it," Mr. Price exclaimed. "You will perceive, if
you reflect for a moment, that there must have been a good deal that was
disagreeable in the cleansing of the Augean stables to which people in the
neighbourhood would certainly and very naturally object at the time; but
it has since been pretty generally conceded that the undertaking was a
very good sanitary measure nevertheless; and had Hercules lived in our
day, and survived the shower of stones with which he was sure to have been
encouraged during his conduct of the business, we should doubtless have
given him a dinner, or in the other case, an epitaph at least. But there
is work for the strong man still. The Augean stable of our modern
civilization must be cleansed, and it is a more difficult task than the
other was, and one to put him on his mettle and win him great renown
because it is held to be impossible."
He rose as he spoke, and looked at Mr. St. John with concern, as the
latter struggled with a bad fit of coughing.
"I am afraid I have talked too much for your strength," he added.
"Oh, no," Mr. St. John answered as soon as he could speak. "On the
contrary, I assure you. You have taken me out of myself, and that is
always good. Must you go?"
"I must, thank you. Don't rise."
But Mr. St. John had risen, and was surprised to find himself towering
over the little gentleman as they shook hands--a feeling which recurred to
him always afterward when they met, there being about Mr. Price the
something that makes the impression of size and strength and courage which
is usually only associated with physical force.
Next day there was an afternoon dance on board Captain Belliot's ship,
H.M.S. _Abomination_--facetiously so-called for no particular reason;
and Evadne was there with Colonel Colquhoun. She was dressed in white,
heavily trimmed with gold, and, being a bride, was an object of special
attention and interest. It was the first entertainment of the kind she had
appeared at since her arrival, and, not having a scrap of morbid sentiment
about her, she was prepared to enjoy it thoroughly, but in her own way, of
course, which, as she was new to the place and the people, would naturally
be a very quiet observant way.
Captain Belliot received her when she came on board, and they shook hands.
She was taller than he was, and looking down at him while in the act,
noticed the streaks of brown in his black beard, his brick-red skin, tight
as a gooseberry's, and his obtrusively blue eyes.
"Queen's weather!" he remarked.
"Yes," she answered, looking out at the sparkling water.
"It's a pretty place," he continued.
"Yes," she agreed, glancing toward the shore, but seeing only with the
mind's eye. Her pupils dilated, however, as she recalled the way she had
come, the narrow picturesque steep streets, almost all stone-steps, well
worn; with high irregular houses on either side, yellow, with green wooden
verandas jutting out; the wharf on which they had waited a moment for the
man-of-war's boat to take them off, and the Maltese ruffians with their
brown faces and brightly coloured clothing, lying idly about in the sun,
or chattering together at the top of their voices in little groups. They
had seemed to look at her, too, with friendly eyes. And she saw the
sapphire sea which parted in dazzling white foam from the prow of the boat
as they came along, saw the steady sweep of the oars rising and falling
rhythmically, the flash of the blades in the sunshine, the
well-disciplined faces of the men who looked at her shyly, but with the
same look which she took to be friendly; and their smart uniforms. She
would liked to have shaken hands with them all. And there was more still
in her mind when Captain Belliot asked her if she thought the place
"pretty," yet all she found for answer was the one word, "Yes"; and he,
being no physiognomist, rashly concluded that was all she had in her.
"Do you dance?" he proceeded, making one more effort to induce her to
"Not in the afternoon," she said.
Sir Mosley Menteith tried next.
"You come from Morningquest, do you not?" he asked, looking into her eyes.
"My people live near Morningquest," she answered.
"Ah, then I suppose you know everybody there," he observed, looking hard
at her brooch.
She reflected a moment, then answered deliberately: "Not by any means, I
should think. It is a large neighbourhood."
He twisted each side of his little light moustache, and changed the
subject, inspecting her figure as he did so.
"Do you ride?" he asked.
"Yes," she said.
There was a pause, during which she noticed a suspicion of powder on his
face, and he felt dissatisfied because she didn't seem to be going to
The band struck up a waltz.
"Do you dance?" he said, looking down from her face to her feet.
"Not in the afternoon," she answered.
The dance had begun, and a pair came whirling down toward them.
Evadne moved back to be out of the way, and Menteith, looking round for a
partner, saw Mrs. Guthrie Brimston opposite smiling at him.
He went over to her.
"Well, what do you make of the bride?" she asked.
"Her conversation is not exactly animated," he answered, looking into Mrs.
Guthrie Brimston's face intently.
She was a round, flat-faced, high-hipped, high-shouldered woman, short in
the body, and tight-laced; and she had a trick of wagging her skirts and
perking at a man when talking to him.
She did so now, nodding and smiling in a way that made her speech piquant
with the suggestion that she thought or knew a great deal more than she
meant to say.
"You have made her acquaintance, I suppose?" Menteith added.
"Oh, yes," she answered. "Her husband is an old friend of ours, you know,
so Bobbie thought we ought to call at once."
The tone in which she spoke suggested that she and "Bobbie" merely meant
to tolerate Mrs. Colquhoun for her husband's sake. "Bobbie" was Major
Guthrie Brimston, a very useful little man to his wife by way of
reference. When she wanted to say a smart thing which might or might not
be considered objectionable, according to the taste of the person she
addressed--and she very often did--she always presented it as a quotation
from him. "Bobbie thinks," she added now, "that if there were an Order of
the Silent Sewing Machine, Mrs. Colquhoun would be sure to be a
distinguished member of it."
A Royal personage whom Evadne had met at home recognized her at this
moment, and shook hands with her with somewhat effusive cordiality, making
a remark to which she responded quietly.
"She seems to be a pretty self-possessed young woman, too," Menteith
observed. "Her composure is perfect."
"Ah!" Mrs. Guthrie Brimston ejaculated; "those stupid people have no
nerves! Now, _I_ should shake all over in such a position!"
The band played the next few bars hard and fast, the dancers whirled like
teetotums, then stopped with the final crash of the instruments, and
separated, scattering the groups of onlookers, who re-arranged themselves
into new combinations immediately. Mrs. Guthrie Brimston leaned against
the bulwarks. Colonel Beston, of the Artillery, and Colonel Colquhoun
joined her, also her Bobbie, and Menteith remained. The conversation was
animated. Evadne, having moved, could now hear every word of it, and
thought it extremely stupid. It was all what "he said" and "she said";
what they ought to have said, and what they really meant. Mrs. Guthrie
Brimston made some cutting remarks. She talked to all the men at once, and
they appeared to appreciate her sallies; but their own replies were vapid.
She seemed to be the only one of the party with any wit. Mrs. Beston
joined her. She was a little dark woman with a patient anxious face, and
eyes that wandered incessantly till she discovered her husband with Mrs.
Guthrie Brimston. Evadne surprised the glance--entreating, reproachful,
loving, helpless--what was it? The look of a woman who finds it a relief
to know the worst. Evadne's heart began to contract; the girlish gladness
went out of her eyes.
Mrs. Beale and Edith arrived and joined her, and Menteith came and
attached himself to them at once.
"You _have_ put on the blue frock," he said softly to Edith, looking
down at her with animal eyes and a flush partly of gratified vanity on his
Edith smiled and blushed. She could not reason about him. Her wits had
"That's a case, I think," said Mrs. Guthrie Brimston. Several more men had
joined her by this time, and they all looked across at Edith and Menteith.
Half the men on the island took their opinions, especially of the women,
from Mrs. Guthrie Brimston. She was forever lowering her own sex in their
estimation, and they, with sheep-like docility, bowed to her dictates, and
never dreamt of judging for themselves.
Mr. Price persuaded Mr. St. John to come and look on at the dance. They
were leaning now against the bulwarks beside Mrs. Guthrie Brimston, who
tried to absorb them into her circle, but found them heavy. Mr. Price
despised her, and Mr. St. John was occupied with his own thoughts. He had
passed the night in painful reflection, and when he arose in the morning
he was more than half convinced that Mr. Price had not exaggerated; but
now, with the smiling surface of society under observation, and his senses
both soothed and exhilarated by the animated scene and the lively music,
he could not believe it. He had thought for the moment that the old
American minister was a strong and disinterested philanthropist, but now
he saw in him only the victim of a diseased imagination. The habit of
seeing society through a haze of feeling as it should be was older than
the American's entreaties that he should learn to know it as it is, and he
deliberately chose to be unconvinced.
"The person is casting covetous eyes at the bishop's pretty ewe lamb,"
Colonel Beston observed to Mrs. Guthrie Brimston _sotto voce_.
A kind of bower had been made of the stern sheets by screening them off
from the main deck with an awning, and from out of this a lady, a young
widow, stepped just at this moment, followed by a young man. They had been
out of sight together, innocently occupied leaning over, watching the fish
darting about down in the depths of the transparent water. The moment they
appeared, however, the men about Mrs. Guthrie Brimston exchanged glances
of unmistakable significance, and the young widow, perceiving this,
flushed crimson with indignation.
"Guilty conscience!" Major Guthrie Brimston remarked upon this, with a
Mr. St. John had witnessed the incident and overheard the remark, and the
import of both forced itself upon his attention, Mr. Price's words
recurred to him: "You are right," he remarked. "They are gross of nature,
these people. The animal in them predominates--at present. But the
spiritual, the immortal part, is there too. It must be. It has not been
cultivated, and therefore it is undeveloped. We should direct our whole
energies to the cultivation of it. It is a serious subject for thought and
Mr. Price twitched his nose, and studied the physiognomies about him: "I
doubt myself if the spiritual nature has been as generally diffused as you
seem to imagine," he remarked in his crisp, dry way. "But if the germ of
it is anywhere it is in the women. Help them out of their difficulties,
and you will help the world at large. Now, there is one"--indicating
Evadne, who was sitting in the same place still, quietly observant.
"I was looking at her," Mr. St. John broke in. "She seems to me to be one
of those sensitive creatures, affected by sun and wind and rain, and all
atmospheric influences, to their joy or sorrow, who will suffer a
martyrdom in secret with beautiful womanly endurance."
"And be very much to blame for it!" Mr. Price interrupted. "That is your
idea of her character? Now mine is different. I should say that she is a
being so nicely balanced, so human, that either senses or intellect might
be tipped up by the fraction of an ounce. Which is right, surely; since
the senses are, instrumental in sustaining nature, while the intellect
helps it to perfection. And as to her beautiful womanly endurance"--he
shrugged his shoulders, and turned the palms of his hands upward--"I don't
know, of course; but I am no judge of character if she does not prove to
be one of the new women, who are just appearing among us, with a higher
ideal of duty than any which men have constructed for women. I expect she
will be ready to resent as an insult every attempt to impose unnecessary
suffering either upon herself or her sex at large."
"Well, I hope she will not become a contentious woman," Mr. St. John said.
"The way in which women are putting themselves forward just now on any
subject which happens to attract their attention is quite deplorable, I
think; and pushing themselves into the professions, too, and entering into
rivalry with men generally; you must confess that all that is unwomanly."
"It seems to me to depend entirely upon how it is done," Mr. Price
answered judicially. "And I deny the rivalry. All that women ask is to be
allowed to earn their bread honestly; but there is no doubt that the
majority of men would rather see them on the streets." The old gentleman
stopped, and compressed his lips into a sort of smile. "I can see," he
said, "that you are dissenting from every word I say; but I am not
disheartened. I feel sure that the scales will fall from your eyes some
day, and then you will look back, and see clearly for yourself the way in
which all moral progress has been checked for ages by the criminal
repression of women."
"Repression of women!" exclaimed Captain Belliot, who caught the words
just as the band stopped--"Good Lord! I beg your pardon, St. John--but
it's a subject I feel very strongly upon. It's impossible to tell what the
devil women will be at next. Why, I went into a hotel in Devonport for a
brandy and soda just before I sailed, and I happened to remark to a fellow
that was with me that something was 'a damned nuisance'; and the barmaid
leant over the counter: 'A shilling, sir,' she said, with the coolest
cheek in the world. 'What for?' I demanded. 'A fine, sir, for swearing,'
she answered, with the most perfect assurance. 'Now, look here, young
woman,' I said, 'you just shut up, for I'm not going to stand any of your
damned nonsense.' 'Two shillings, sir,' she said, in just the same tone. I
wanted to argue the question, but she wouldn't say a word more. She just
sent for the proprietor, and he said it was his wife's orders. She
wouldn't have any female in her service insulted by bad language, and that
fellow, the proprietor, actually supported his wife. What do you think of
that for petticoat government? He made me pay up too, by Jove! I was
obliged to do it to save a row. Now, what do you think of that for a sign
of the times?"
Mr. Price twitched his nose, and looked at Mr. St. John.
"Some signs of the times are hopeful, certainly," the latter said
"What! talking seriously in these our hours of ease?" Mrs. Guthrie
Brimston broke in. "What is it all about?"
"I was just about to remark that I like a woman to _be_ a woman,"
Captain Belliot rejoined, ogling the lady, and with the general air of
being sure that she at least could have no higher ambition than to attain
to his ideal. "These bold creatures who put themselves forward, as so many
of them do nowadays, are highly antipathetic to me; and if you saw them!
the most awful old harridans--with voices!--'Shrieking sisterhood' doesn't
half come up to it!"
Mrs. Malcomson passed at that moment.
"Should you call _her_ an old harridan?" Mr. St. John asked, smiling
"No," the naval man was obliged to confess; "she's deuced handsome; but
she presumes on her good looks, and doesn't trouble herself to be
agreeable. I took her in to dinner the other night, and could hardly get a
word out of her--not that she can't talk, mind you; she just wouldn't--to
pique my interest, you know. You may take your oath that was it. There's
no being up to women. But she'll find herself stranded, if she doesn't
take care. _I_ shan't bother myself to pay her any more attention;
and I'm a bad prophet if the other men in the place go out of their way to
be civil to her much longer either. Besides," he said to Mr. Price,
lowering his voice, but not enough to prevent Mr. St. John hearing--"her
husband's jealous!" He turned up his eyes--"Game's not worth--you know!"
Again Mr. Price looked at Mr. St. John. The band struck up; another waltz
began; scarcely anything else had been danced.
"Oh, this eternal one, two, three!" Mr. Price ejaculated; "how it wearies
the mind! Society has sacrificed its most varied, wholesome, and graceful
recreation--dancing--to this monotonous one, two, three!"
He passed on, leaving Mr. St. John to his reflections.
Captain Belliot bent before Mrs. Guthrie Brimston; "Our dance, I think,"
he said, offering her his arm.
She took it, perking and preening herself, and began to say something
about Mrs. Malcomson in agreement with his last remark: "You are quite
right about her," Mr. St. John overheard. "She is always jeering at men.
She abuses you wholesale. I've heard her often."
Captain Belliot's face darkened; but he put his arm round his partner, and
they glided off together slowly.
When next they passed Mr. St. John, their faces wore a similar expression
of drowsy sensuous delight, which gave them for the moment a curious
likeness to each other. They looked incapable of speech or thought, or
anything but the slow measure of their interwoven paces, and inarticulate
The scene made a painful impression on Mr. St. John, and he began to feel
as much out place as he looked.
"We churchmen are a failure," he thought. "We have done no good, and are
barely tolerated. Poetry of the pulpit--spiritual anodyne--what is it?
Something I cannot grasp; but something wrong somewhere. Is Mrs. Malcomson
right? Is Mr. Price? Where are they?"
He looked about, but the dancers with parted lips and drowsy dreamy eyes,
intoxicated with music and motion, floated past him in endless, regular
succession, hemming him in, so that he could not move till the music
Mrs. Malcomson had made her way over to where Evadne and Mrs. Beale were
sitting. Both welcomed her cordially, and Evadne, in particular,
brightened visibly when she saw her approach. She was wearied by these
vapid men, who had all said the same thing, and looked at her with the
same expression one after the other the whole afternoon. Mrs. Sillenger
and Mr. Price were also of the party, and Mrs. Malcomson, in a merry mood,
was holding forth brightly when Mr. St. John joined them.
"Oh, yes, we have our reward, we Englishwomen," she was saying. "We
religiously obey our men. We do nothing of which they disapprove. We are
the meekest sheep in the world. We scorn your independent, out-spoken
American women, Mr. Price; we think them bold and unwomanly, and do all we
can to be as unlike them as possible. And what happens? Do our men adore
us? Well, they continue to say so. But it is the Americans they marry."
Mr. Price twitched his nose and smiled.
"But, tell me, Mr. Price," Mrs. Malcomson rattled on: "The fate of nations
has hung upon your opinion, and your decisions are matter of history: so
kindly condescend, of your goodness and of your wisdom, to tell us if you
think that '_true_ womanliness' is endangered by our occupations, or
the cut of our clothes--I have it!" she broke off, clasping her hands,
"Make us a speech! _Do_!!"
"Oh, yes, _do_!" the rest exclaimed simultaneously.
Mr. Price's mobile countenance twitched all over. He looked from one to
the other, then, entering good-humouredly into the jest, he struck an
attitude: "If true womanliness has been endangered by occupation or the
fashion of a frock in the past, it will not be so much longer, or the
signs of the times are most misleading," he began, with the ease of an
orator. "The old ideals are changing, and we regret them--not for their
value, for they were often mischievous enough; but as a sign of change, to
which, in itself, mankind has an ineradicable objection--yet these changes
must take place if we are ever to progress. For myself," he continued--"I
should be very sorry to say that anything which honourable women of the
day consider a reform, and propose to adopt, is 'unwomanly' or 'unsexing,'
until it has been thoroughly tried, and proved to be so. It sounds mere
idiotcy, the thing is so obvious, when one reduces it to words, but yet
neither men nor women themselves--for the most part--seem to recognize the
fact that womanliness is a matter of sex, not of circumstances,
occupation, or clothing; and each sex has instincts and proclivities which
are peculiar to it, and do not differ to any remarkable extent even in the
most diverse characters; from which we may be sure that those instincts
are safe whatever happens. And as to the value of cherished 'ideals of
womankind'--well, we have only to look back at many of the old ones, which
had to be abandoned, and have been held up to the laughter and contempt of
succeeding ages--although doubtless they were dear enough to the heart of
man in their own day--to appreciate the, worth of such. That little
incident of Jane Austin, hiding away the precious manuscript she was
engaged upon, under her plain sewing, when visitors arrived, ashamed to be
caught at the 'unwomanly' occupation of writing romances, and shrinking
with positive pain from the remarks which such poor foolish people as
those she feared would have made about her--that little incident alone,
which I remarked very early in life, has saved me from braying with the
rest of the world upon this subject. If those brave women, sure of
themselves and of their message, who have written in the face of all
opposition, had not dared to do so, how much the poorer and meaner and
worse we should all, men and women alike, have been to-day for want of the
nourishment of strength and goodness with which they have kept us
provided. And you will find it so in these questions of our day. Women are
bringing a storm about their ears, but they are prepared for that, and it
will not deter them; for they have an infallible prescience in these
matters which men have not, and they know what they are doing and why, and
could make their motives plain to us if it were not for our own stupid
prejudices and density. Ah! these are critical times, but I believe what a
fellow-countryman of mine has already written--I believe that the women
will save us. I do not fear the fate of the older peoples. I am sure that
we shall not fall into nothingness from the present height of our
civilization, by reason of our sensuality and vice, as all the great
nations have done, heretofore. The women will rebel. The women will not
allow it. But"--he added with his benign smile, dropping into a lighter
tone, as if he felt that he had been more serious than the occasion
warranted, and addressing Mrs. Malcomson specially--"but you must not
despise your personal appearance. Beauty is a great power, and it may be
used for good as well as for evil. Beauty is beneficent as well as malign.
Angels are always allowed to be beautiful, and our highest ideal of
manhood is associated with physical as well as moral perfection. Yes! Be
sure that beauty is a legitimate means of grace; and I will venture to
suggest that you who have it should use it as such." Here he was
interrupted by applause. "True beauty, I mean, of course," he added,
descending from the rostrum, as it were, and speaking colloquially--"not
the fashionable travesty of it."
"Well, that is a piece of servility I have never been so degraded as to
practise," Mrs. Malcomson exclaimed.
"Ah, my dear, it does not do to be singular," Mrs. Beale mildly
A dance concluded just at this moment, and Edith joined the group,
followed by Sir Mosley Menteith.
The ladies looked at her as she approached with affectionate interest and
"I am always conscious of their presence," she was saying.
"Whose presence, dear?" her mother asked.
"The presence of those who love us, mother, in the other life," she said,
looking out into space with great serious eyes, as if she saw something
grand and beautiful, and also love-inspiring. The words and her presence
changed the whole mental attitude of the group. The intellectual element
subsided, the spiritual, which trenches on sensation and is warm, began to
glow in their breasts. Edith was the actor now, and Mrs. Malcomson became
a mere spectator. Mr. St. John was the first to appreciate the change.
Edith's presence, more than her words, was enough in itself to relax the
tension of pained reflection which had possessed him the whole afternoon.
It was as if a draught of the sacred anodyne to which he had been so long
accustomed were being held out to him, and he had drained it eagerly, to
excite feeling, and to drown thought.
"Mosley does not think they are so near us as I know them to be," Edith
pursued; "but I tell him, if only he would allow himself, he would
perceive their presence just as I do. He says this scene is so worldly it
would frighten them; but I answer that they cannot be frightened; they are
incorruptible, so that there is nothing for them to fear for
themselves--but they may fear for us, and when they do, we know that it is
then that they are nearest to us. They come to guard us."
Menteith's glance wandered over her person as she spoke, and returned
again to meet her eyes. He quite enjoyed a thrill of superstitious awe; it
was an excellent _sauce piquante_ to what he called his "sentiments"--
by which he meant the state of his senses at the moment. He recognized in
Edith no higher quality than that of innocence, which is so appetizing.
But a gentle thrill, as of an electric shock, had passed through them all,
silencing them. Mrs. Beale, with a sigh, released herself from the uneasy
impression Mrs. Malcomson's words had made upon her, and felt the peace of
mind, which she managed to preserve by refusing to know of anything that
might disturb it and rouse her soul from its apathetic calm to the
harassing point of action, restored. Mrs. Sillenger gave herself up for
the moment also. Her fine nature, although highly tempered and exceedingly
sensitive, was too broad to, allow her to delude herself by imagining that
it is right to countenance evil by ignoring it. She shrank from knowledge,
but still she had the courage to possess herself of it; and, fortunately,
her very sensitiveness enabled her to turn with ease from the
consideration of terrible facts to the enjoyment of a fine idea.
Mrs. Malcomson and Mr. Austin Price looked at each other involuntarily.
The new element was not congenial to either of them. But Mr. St. John was
satisfied. His heart had expanded to the full: "Mr. Price is wrong, Mrs.
Malcomson is wrong," was the new measure to which he set his thoughts.
"They exaggerated the evil; they have never perceived in what the good
consists. And what do they do with all their wondrous clever talk? They
withdraw our attention from the contemplation of holy things only to pain
and excite us; for sin must continue, and suffering must continue, and we
can do no more than we have done. Example--a good example! We have only
each to set one, and say nothing. Talk, talk, talk; I will listen no more
to such tattle! It is mere pride of intellect, which is put to shame by
the first gentle innocent girl who comes, strong in purity and faith, and
simply bids us all look up! Did not our heart burn within us? Was not the
worst among us and the most worldly moved to repent?" He looked across at
Menteith, but suddenly the exaltation ceased, and his soul shot with a
pang to another extreme. "He is not worthy of her--he is not worthy of
her--no! no! Heaven help me to save her from such a fate!" His mind had
been nourished upon inconsistencies, and he was as unconscious of any now
as he was when he preached--as he had been taught--that God orders all
things for the best, and at the same time prayed him to avert some special
Menteith was bending over Edith.
"I want to lunch with you to-morrow," he said. "Do let me. I love to hear
you talk. Just to be near you makes a better man of me. But you can make
anything you like of me; you know you can. May I come?"
Edith glanced tip at him and smiled, and the young man, taking this for
acquiescence, bowed and withdrew in triumph, making way for Colonel
Evadne looked up at the latter and smiled too. "Shall we go?" she said.
"I came to see if you were ready," he answered, and then she rose, took
leave of the friends about her, crossed the deck to where Captain Belliot,
her host, was standing, shook hands with him, and left the ship. Many eyes
had followed her with curiosity and interest; and many tongues made
remarks about her when she was gone, expressing positive opinions with the
confident conceit of mediocrity, although she had not at that time made
any sign of what manner of person she really was. She had only been a week
amongst them, and her mind had been in a state of passive receptivity the
whole time, subject to the impressions which might be made upon it, but
not itself producing any. It was her appearance that they presumed to
judge her by. But her intellect had been both nourished and stimulated
that afternoon, and when she went to her room at night she hunted up a
manuscript book suitable for the purpose, and resumed her old habit of
noting everything of interest which she had seen and heard. There were
blank pages still in the old "Commonplace Book," and she had it with her,
but she never dreamt of making another note in it. She had written her
last there once for all the night before her wedding, expecting to enter
upon a new phase of existence; and she had indeed entered upon a new
phase, although not at all in the way she had expected; and now she felt
that only a new volume would be appropriate to contain the record of it.
She ended her notes that night with a maxim which probably contained all
the wisdom she had been able to extract from her late experiences:--"Just
do a thing, and don't talk about it," she wrote, expressing herself
colloquially. "This is the great secret of success in all enterprises.
Talk means discussion, discussion means irritation, irritation means
opposition; and opposition means hindrance always, whether you are right
Evadne settled down into her new position at once. She took charge of the
household and managed it well. Colonel Colquhoun was scrupulous in matters
of etiquette, and Evadne's love of order and exactitude made her
punctilious too, so that there was one subject which they agreed upon
perfectly, and it very soon came to be said of them that they always did
the right thing. They appeared together everywhere, at the Palace
receptions, the opera, entertainments on naval vessels, dinners and
dances, polo and picnics, and at church. If there was one thing that
Colquhoun was more particular about than another it was, in the language
of his own profession, church parade. Watching Evadne to detect the first
symptom of new tactics on her part, became one of the interests of his
life. It wouldn't have been good form to take another man into his
confidence for betting purposes, seeing that the lady was "Mrs. Colquhoun";
but a wager laid upon the chances of change in her "views" was the only
zest lacking to the pleasure he took in the study of this new specimen of
her sex. He used to dance a good deal himself, and danced well too, but
after Evadne joined him he gave it up to a great extent, and might often
have been seen leaning against a pillar in a ball room gravely observing
her. It was a kind of curiosity he suffered from, a sort of rage to make
her out. He was very attentive to her at that period, treating her always
with the deference due to a young lady, and for that reason she accepted
his attentions gratefully, because they were delicately paid and he was
really kind, but also as a matter of course. They had begun well together
from the very first day, and she was soon satisfied that her position at
Malta was the happiest possible. The beautiful place, the bright clear
atmosphere, the lively society, all suited her. She had none of the trials
peculiar to married life to injure her health and break her spirit, none
of the restrictions imposed upon a girl to limit her pleasures, and she
enjoyed her independence thoroughly. But of course there were drawbacks,
and the thing of all others she disliked most was being toadied. There was
one pair of inveterate toadies in the garrison, Major and Mrs. Guthrie
Brimston. They belonged to a species well-known in the service, and
tolerated on the principle of _Damne-toi, pourvu que tu nous amuse_.
Major Guthrie Brimston claimed to be one of the Morningquest family, and
he had a portrait of the duke, as the head of the house, in his dressing
room. It was balanced on the right by _Ecce Homo_, and on the left by
the _Sistine Madonna_, but it was popularly supposed that he
worshipped the duke. The pair acted the role of devoted husband and wife
successfully, being in fact sincere in their habit of playing into each
other's hands for their own selfish purposes; and people who wished for an
excuse to tolerate them because they were amusing, might say of them quite
truly: "Well, whatever their faults, they are certainly devoted to each
other." But it was a partnership of self-interest, enhanced by a little
sentimentality, and they understood it themselves, for Mrs. Guthrie
Brimston confessed in a moment of expansion that she knew "Bobbie" would
marry again directly if she died, and certainly she would do the same if
she lost him; why shouldn't she?
Mrs. Guthrie Brimston was a nasty-minded woman, of extremely coarse
conversation, and, without compromising herself, she was a fecund source
of corruption in others. No younger woman of undecided character could
come under her influence without being tainted in mind if not in manners.
She delighted in objectionable stories, and her husband fed her fancy from
the clubs liberally. Her stock-in-trade consisted for the most part of
these stories, which she would retail to her lady friends at afternoon
teas. She told them remarkably well too, and knew exactly how to suit them
to palates which were only just beginning to acquire a taste for such
fare, and were still fastidious. Wherever she came there was laughter
among the ladies, of the high hysteric bacchante kind, not true mirth, but
a loud laxity, into which they were beguiled for the moment, and which was
the cause of self-distrust, disgust, and regret, upon reflection, to the
better kind. If the question of motive is to be taken into account in
considering the words and deeds of people, it may be confidently asserted
that the Guthrie Brimstons never said a good-natured thing nor did a kind
one. "I say, Minnie, if I give that sergeant of mine a goose at Christmas,
I think I'll get more work out of the fellow next year," Major Brimston
said to his wife at breakfast one morning.
"Yes, do," his wife answered sympathetically. "And I say, Bobbie, I'm
going to work Captain Askew a bedspread. He's an awfully useful little
One form of pleasantry the Guthrie Brimstons greatly affected was
nicknaming. They nicknamed everybody, always opprobriously, often happily
in the way of hitting off a salient peculiarity; but they were not in the
least aware that they were themselves the best nicknamed people in the
service. And they would not have liked it had they known it, for they were
both exceedingly touchy. They held no feelings of another sacred, but
their own supreme. Mrs. Guthrie Brimston was known as "The Brimston
Her conversation bristled with vain repetitions. She was always "a worm"
when asked after her health, and everything that pleased her was "pucka."
She knew no language but her own, and that she spoke indifferently, her
command of it being limited for the most part to slang expressions, which
are the scum of language; and a few stock phrases of polite quality for
special occasions. But she used the latter awkwardly, as workmen wear
their Sunday clothes.
Of the Guthrie Brimston morals it is safe to say that they would neither
of them have broken either the sixth, seventh, or eighth commandments; but
they bore false witness freely--not in open assertion, however, for that
could be easily refuted, and fair fight was not at all in their line. But
when false witness could be meanly conveyed by implication and innuendo,
it formed the staple of their conversation.
"Those Guthrie Brimstons should be public prosecutors," Evadne said to
Colonel Colquhoun at breakfast one morning, commenting upon some story of
theirs which he had just retailed to her. "I notice when anyone's
character is brought forward to be judged by society they are always
Counsel for the Prosecution."
These were the people whom Colonel Colquhoun first introduced to Evadne.
They amused him, and therefore he encouraged them to come to the house.
Mrs. Guthrie Brimston suited him exactly. To use their own choice
language, he would have given her away at any time, and she him; but that
did not prevent them enjoying each other's society thoroughly.
True to her determination to make things pleasant for Colonel Colquhoun if
possible, and seeing that he found these people congenial, Evadne did her
best to cultivate their acquaintance for his sake. Never successfully,
however. A mere tolerance was as far as she got; but even that was
intermittent; and the undercurrent of criticism which streamed through her
mind in their presence could never be checked.
But she was slow to read character. Her impulse was always to believe in
people, and to like them; and she had to acquire a knowledge of their
faults painfully, bit by bit. But Colonel Colquhoun helped her here. He
was an inveterate gossip, very much in the manner of Mrs. Guthrie Brimston
herself, only that he was more refined when he talked to Evadne; and at
breakfast, their one _tete-a-tete_ meal in the day, it was his habit
to tell her such club stories as were sufficiently decent, and what "he
said" and what "she said" of each other, upon which he would strike an
average to arrive at the probable truth.
"Do you happen to know what is at the bottom of the feud between Mrs.
Guthrie Brimston and Mrs. Malcomson?" he asked her one morning at
"Mrs. Guthrie Brimston's defects of character obviously," said Evadne
"Then you prefer Mrs. Malcomson?" he suggested. "Now, _I_ can't get
on with her a bit. She always appears to me so cold and censorious."
"Does she?" said Evadne thoughtfully. "But she is not really so at all.
She is judicial though, and sincere, which gives one a sense of security
in her presence."
"But she is deadly dull," said Colonel Colquhoun.
"Oh, no!" Evadne exclaimed, smiling. "You mistake her entirely. She made
me laugh immoderately only yesterday."
"I should like to see you laugh immoderately," said Colonel Colquhoun.
Major Guthrie Brimston surprised Evadne more, perhaps, than his wife did.
She began by overlooking the little man somehow without the least
intending it, and as he seemed to himself to fill the horizon when in
society and block out all view of anybody else, he could only believe that
she did it on purpose.
He was by way of being an amateur actor, a low comedy man; but he was not
sincere enough to personate any character, or be anything either on the
stage or off it but his own small inartistic self; and no amount of
bawling could make him an actor, though he bawled himself hoarse as a
rule, mistaking sound for the science of expression. Still, it was the
fashion to consider him funny. People called him "Grigsby" and
"Kickleberry Brown," and laughed when he twiddled his thumbs. He was
forever buffooning, and if he sat on a high stool with his toes just
touching the floor, his head on one side, a sad expression of countenance,
and the tips of his fingers touching, he was supposed to be doing
something amusing, and the effort would be rewarded with laughter, in
which, however, Evadne could not join. These performances outraged her
sense of the dignity of poor human nature, which it is easy enough to
discount, but very difficult to maintain; and made her sorry for him.
His hands were another offence to her. They were fat and podgy, with short
pointed fingers, indicative of animalism and ill-nature, the opposite of
all that is refined and beautiful--truly of necessity an offence to her.
It was at first that she had overlooked him, but after a time, when she
began to know him better, the little, fat, funny man magnetized her
attention. She could not help gravely considering him wherever she met
him, and wondering about him--wondering about them both in fact. She
wondered, for one thing, why they were so fond of eating and drinking, her
own taste in those matters being of the simplest description.
"I never deny myself anything," said Mrs. Guthrie Brimston. And she looked
Evadne wondered also at their meanness, when she saw them saving money by
borrowing the carriages of people whom she had heard them class as
"Nothing but shopkeepers, you know. We shouldn't speak to them anywhere
else." And whom they ridiculed habitually for the mispronunciation of
words, and for accents unmistakably provincial.
What could Evadne have in common with these flippant people--scum
themselves, forever on the surface, incapable even of seeing beneath,
their every idea and motive a falsification of something divine in life or
thought? They did not even speak the same language. To their insidious
slang she opposed a smooth current of perfect English, which seemed to
reflect upon the inferior quality of their own expressions and led to
mutual embarrassment. Evadne meant every word she uttered, and was careful
to choose the one which should best express her meaning. Mrs. Guthrie
Brimston's meanings, on the other hand, told best when half concealed.
Another difficulty was, too, that Evadne's clear, decided speech had the
effect of exposing innuendo and insincerity, and making both "bad form,"
which, socially speaking, is a much more terrible stigma to bear than an
accusation of dishonesty, however well authenticated. And even their very
manner of expressing legitimate mirth was not the same, for Mrs. Guthrie
Brimston laughed aloud, while Evadne's laugh was soundless.
Evadne suffered when she found herself being toadied by these people. She
said nothing, however. They were Colonel Colquhoun's friends, and she felt
herself forced to be civil to them so long as he chose to bring them to
the house. And they were besides an evil out of which good came to her
quickly. For as soon as she understood their manners and their modes of
thought, she felt her heart fill with earnest self-congratulation: "If
these are the kind of people whom Colonel Colquhoun prefers," was her
mental ejaculation, "what an escape I have had! Thank Heaven, he is
nothing to me."
Society in Malta during the sunny winter is very much like the society of
a London season, only that it is more representative because there are
fewer specimens of each class, and those who do go out are like delegates
charged with a concentrated extract of the peculiarities and prejudices of
their own set. When Evadne arrived, at the beginning of the winter, the
rest of the party had already assembled. There were naval people,
military, commercial, landed gentry, clerical, royalty, and beer. The
principal representative of this latter interest was a lady whom Mrs.
Guthrie Brimston called the Queen of Beersheba because of her splendid
habiliments, and this is a fair specimen of Mrs. Guthrie Brimston's wit.
Evadne was received in silence, as it were, for abroad the question is not
generally "Who are you?" as at home, but "What are you like?" or "How much
can you do for us?" and people were waiting till she showed her colours.
She never did show any decided colours of the usual kind, however. She was
not "a beauty beyond doubt"--some people did not admire her in the least.
She was not "the same" or "nice" to everybody, for she had strong
objections to certain people, and showed that she had; and she was not "by
way of entertaining" at all, although she did "as much of that kind of
thing" as other ladies of her station. But yet, with all these negatives,
she made a distinct impression on the place as soon as she appeared. It
sounds paradoxical, but she was celebrated at once for her silence and for
what she had said. The weight of her occasional utterances told. And if it
were fair to call Mrs. Guthrie Brimston counsel for the prosecution,
Evadne might have been set up as counsel for the defence; for it so
happened that when she did speak in those early days it was usually in
defence of something or somebody--people, principles, absent friends,
_or_ enemies; anything unfairly attacked. Generally, when she said
anything cutting, it was so clearly incisive you hardly knew for a moment
where you were injured. She did it like the executioner of that Eastern
potentate who decapitated a criminal with such skill and with so sharp an
instrument that the latter did not know when he was executed and went on
talking, his head remaining _in situ_ until he sneezed. There was one
old gentleman, Lord Groome, whom she had disposed of several times in that
way without, however, being able to get rid of him quite, because his
stupidity was a hardy perennial which came up again all the fresher and
stronger for having been lopped. He was a degenerated, ridiculous-looking
old object, a man with the most touching confidence in his tailor, which
the latter invariably betrayed by never making him a garment that fitted
him. He had begun by admiring Evadne, and had endeavoured to pay his
senile court to her with fulsome flatteries in the manner approved of his
kind--but he ended by being afraid of her.
His first collision with Evadne was on the subject of "those low
Radicals," against whom he had been launching out in unmeasured terms.
"Why low, because Radical?" she asked. "I should have thought, among so
many, that some must be honest men, and nothing honest can be low."
"I tell you, my dear lady," he replied, his temper tried by her words, but
controlled by her appearance, "I tell you the Radicals are a low lot, the
whole of them."
"Ah! Then I suppose you know them all," she said, looking at him
The want of intelligence in the community at large was made painfully
apparent by the stories of her peculiar opinions which were freely
circulated and seldom suspected. The Queen of Beersheba declared that
Evadne approved of the frightful cruelties which the people inflicted on
the nobles during the Reign of Terror, that she had heard her say so
What Evadne did say was: "The revolutionary excesses were inevitable. They
came at the swing of the pendulum which the nobles themselves had set in
motion; and if you consider the sufferings that had been inflicted on the
people, and their long endurance of them, you will be more surprised to
think that, they kept their reason so long than that they should have lost
it at last. 'Pour la populace ce n'est jamais par envie d'attaquer qu'elle
se souleve, mais par impatience de souffrir.'"
But the French Revolution is an abstract subject of impersonal interest
compared with the Irish question at the present time; and the commotion
which was caused by the misrepresentation of Evadne's remarks about the
Reign of Terror was insignificant compared with what followed when her
feeling for Ireland had been misinterpreted. She gave out the text which
called forth the second series of imbecilities daring a dinner party at
her own house one night, her old friend, Lord Groome, supplying her with a
peg upon which to hang her conclusions, by making an intemperate attack
upon the Irish.
Captain Belliot was not one of the guests at that dinner party of
Evadne's, but he happened to call on Mrs. Guthrie Brimston next day, and
finding her alone, had tea with her _tete-a-tete_; and of course she
entertained him with her own version of what had occurred the night
"The dinner itself was very good," she said. "All their dinners are, you
know. But Mrs. Colquhoun was "--she raised her hands, and nodded her head--
"well, just _too_ awful!" she concluded.
"Indeed!" he observed, leaning back in his chair, crossing his legs, and
settling himself for a treat generally. "You surprise me, because she has
never struck me as being the kind of person who would set the Thames on
fire in any way."
Mrs. Guthrie Brimston smiled enigmatically: "Do you admire her very much?"
she asked with the utmost suavity.
"Well," he answered warily, "she is rather peculiar in appearance, don't
Mrs. Guthrie Brimston drew her own conclusions, not from the words, but
from the wariness, and proceeded: "It is not in appearance only that that
she is peculiar, then. She astonished us all last night, I can assure
"How?" he asked, to fill up an artistic pause.
"By the things she said!" Mrs. Guthrie Brimston answered, with an
affectation of reserve.
"Now you do surprise me!" Captain Belliot declared. "Because I cannot
imagine her saying anything but 'How do you do?' and 'Good-bye,' 'Yes' and
'No,' 'Indeed!' 'Please,' 'Thank you,' and 'Do you think so?' On my
honour, those words are all I have ever heard her utter, and I have met
her as often as anybody on the island. Now, _I_ like a woman with
something in her," he concluded, ogling Mrs. Guthrie Brimston.
"Well, then, she must have been hibernating, or something, when she first
came out, for she has begun to talk now with a vengeance," Mrs. Guthrie
Brimston answered smartly.
"But what has she been saying?" he asked, with great curiosity.
"I simply cannot tell you!" she answered pointedly.
"So bad as that?" he said, raising his eyebrows.
"Yes. Things that _no_ woman should have said," she subjoined with
There was, of course, only one conclusion to be drawn from this, and it
would have been drawn at the club later in the day inevitably, even if
other ladies had not also declared that Mrs. Colquhoun had said such
dreadful things that they really could not repeat them. It is true that
some of the men of the party mentioned the matter in a different way, and
one, when asked what it was exactly that Mrs. Colquhoun had said, even
answered casually: "Oh, some rot about the Irish question!" But the
explanation made no impression, and was immediately forgotten. Captain
Belliot himself was so excited by the news that he hurried away from Mrs.
Guthrie Brimston as soon as he could possibly excuse himself without
giving offence, and went at once to call upon Evadne in order to inspect
her from this unexpected point of view.
He found her talking tranquilly to Mr. St. John, Edith, and Mrs. Beale;
and although he sat for half an hour, she never said a word of the
slightest significance. That, however, proved nothing either one way or
the other, and he left her with his confidence in Mrs. Guthrie Brimston's
insinuations quite unshaken, his theory being that the women whose minds
are in reality the most corrupt are as a rule very carefully guarded in
their conversation, although, of course, they always betray themselves
sooner or later by some such slip as that with which he credited
Evadne--an idea which he proceeded to expand at the club with great
Evadne's reputation was in danger after that, and she risked it still
further by acting in defiance of the public opinion of the island
generally, in order to do what she conceived to be an act of justice.
Mrs. Guthrie Brimston went to her one morning, brimming over with news.
"My husband has just received a letter from a friend of his in India,
Major Lopside, telling him to warn us all not to call on Mrs. Clarence,
who has just joined your regiment," she burst out. "I thought I ought to
let you know at once. She met her husband in India, Major Lopside says,
and it was a runaway match. But that is not all. For he says he knows for
a fact that they travelled together for three hundred miles down country,
sleeping at all the dak bungalows by the way, before they _were_
"Waiting until they came to some place where they could be married, I
suppose?" Evadne suggested.
Mrs. Guthrie Brimston laughed. "Taking a sort of trial trip, I should
say!" she ventured. "But it was very good of Major Lopside to let us know.
I should certainly have called if he hadn't."
"You make me feel sick--" Evadne began.
"I knew I should!" Mrs, Guthrie Brimston interposed triumphantly.
"Sick at heart," Evadne pursued, "to think of an Englishman being capable
of writing a letter for the express purpose of ruining a woman's
Mrs. Brimston changed countenance. "We think it was awfully kind of Major
Lopside to let us know," she repeated, perking.
"Well, _I_ think," said Evadne, her slow utterance giving double
weight to each word--"_I_ think he must be an exceedingly low person
himself, and one probably whom Mrs. Clarence has had to snub. He could
only have been actuated by animus when he wrote that letter. One may be
quite sure that a man is never disinterested when he does a low thing."
"It was a private letter written for our private information," Mrs.
Guthrie Brimston asserted. She was ruffled considerably by this time.
"No, not written for your private information," Evadne rejoined, "or if it
were, you are making a strange use of it. I have no doubt, however, that
it was designed for the very purpose to which you are putting it--the
purpose of spoiling the Clarences' chance of happiness in a new place. And
it is precisely to the 'private' character of the document that I take
exception. If this Major Lopside has any accusation to bring against
Captain Clarence, he should have done it publicly, and not in this
underhand manner. He should have written to Colonel Colquhoun."
"Nonsense," said Mrs. Guthrie Brimston, her native rudeness getting the
better of her habitual caution at this provocation. "Major Lopside would
not be fool enough to report a man to his own chief. Why, he might get the
worst of it himself if there were an inquiry."
"Exactly," Evadne answered. "He thinks it safer to stab in the dark. Will
you kindly excuse me? I am very busy this morning, writing my letters for
the mail. But many thanks for letting me know about this malicious story."
There was nothing for it but to retire after this, which Mrs. Guthrie
Brimston did, discomfited, and with an uneasy feeling, which had been
growing upon her lately, that Evadne was not quite the nonentity for which
she had mistaken her.
Colonel Colquhoun had lunched at mess that day, and Evadne did not see him
until quite late, when she met him on the Barraca with the Guthrie
It was the hour when the Barraca is thronged, and Evadne had gone with a
purpose, expecting to find him there.
He left the Guthrie Brimstons and joined her as soon as she appeared.
"I have been home to look for you," he said, "but I found that you had
gone out without an escort, no one knew where."
"I have been making calls," Evadne answered--"and making Mrs. Clarence's
acquaintance also. Oh, there she is, leaning against that arch with her
husband. Have you met her yet? Let me introduce you. She is charmingly
pretty, but very timid."
Colonel Colquhoun's brow contracted.
"I thought Mrs. Guthrie Brimston had warned you--"
"_Warned_ me?" Evadne quietly interposed. "Mrs. Guthrie Brimston
brought me a scandalous story which had the effect of making me call on
Mrs. Clarence at once. I suppose you have seen this precious Major
"Yes," he answered. "And I am sorry you called without consulting me. You
really ought to have consulted me. It will make it doubly awkward for you,
having called. But we'll rush the fellow. I'll make him send in his papers
"Why is it awkward for me--what is awkward for me?" Evadne asked.
"Why, having a lady in the regiment you can't know, to begin with, and
having to cut her after calling upon her," he answered. "If you would only
condescend to consult me occasionally I could save you from this kind of
"But why may I not countenance Mrs. Clarence?"
"You cannot countenance a woman there is a story about," he responded
"But where is the proof of the story?" she asked,
Colonel Colquhoun reflected: "A man wouldn't write a letter of that kind
without some grounds for it," he said.
"We must find out what the exact grounds were," said Evadne.
"Well, you see none of the other ladies are speaking to her," Colonel
Colquhoun observed, with the air of one whose argument is unanswerable.
"They are sheep," said Evadne, "but they can be led aright as well as
astray, I suppose. We'll see, at all events. But don't let me keep you
from your friends. I want to speak to Mrs. Malcomson."
There was a quiet sense of power about Evadne when she chose to act which
checked opposition at the outset, and put an end to argument. Colonel
Colquhoun looked disheartened, but like a gentleman he acted at once on
the hint to go. He did not rejoin the Guthrie Brimstons, however, but sat
alone under one of the arches of the Barraca, turning his back on the
entrancing view of the Grand Harbour, a jewel of beauty, set in silence.
Colonel Colquhoun was watching. He saw Mrs. Clarence turn from the strange
Christian women who eyed her coldly, and lean over the parapet; he saw the
influence of the scene upon her mind in the sweet and tranquil expression
which gradually replaced the half-pained, half-puzzled look her face had
been wearing. He saw her husband standing beside her, but with his back to
the parapet, looking at the people gloomily and with resentment, but also
half-puzzled, perceiving that his wife was being slighted, and wondering
Colonel Colquhoun saw Mrs. Guthrie Brimston also, going from one group to
another with the peculiar ducking-forward gait of a high-hipped,
high-shouldered woman, followed by her little fat "Bobbie," smiling
herself, and met with smiles which were followed by noisy laughter; and he
noticed, too, that invariably the eyes of those she addressed turned upon
Mrs. Clarence, and their faces grew hard and unfriendly; and not one
person to whom she spoke looked the happier or the better for the
attention when she left them. Colonel Colquhoun, with a set countenance,
slowly curled his blond moustache. Only his eyes, moved, following Mrs.
Guthrie Brimston for a while, and then returning to Evadne. She was
speaking to Mrs. Malcomson, and the latter looked, as she listened, at
Mrs. Guthrie Brimston. Then Evadne took her arm, and the two sauntered
over to Mrs. Beale--an important person, who always adopted the last
charitable opinion she heard expressed positively, and acted upon it.
It was Mrs. Malcomson who spoke to her, and the effect of what she said
was instantaneous, for the old lady bridled visibly, and then set out,
accompanied by Edith, with the obvious intention of heading the relief
party herself that very minute. She stationed herself beside Mrs.
Clarence, and stood, patting the poor girl's hand with motherly tenderness;
smiling at her, and saying conventional nothings in a most cordial
Colonel Colquhoun had watched these proceedings, understanding them
perfectly, but remaining impassive as at first. And Mrs. Guthrie Brimston
had also seen signs of the re-action the moment it set in, and shown her
astonishment. She was not accustomed to be checked in full career when it
pleased her to be down upon another woman, and she didn't quite know what
to do. She looked first at Colonel Colquhoun, inviting him to rejoin her,
but he ignored the glance; and she therefore found herself obliged either
to give him up or to go to him. She decided to go to him, and set out,
attended by her own "Bobbie." By the time she had reached him, however,
the last act of the little play had begun. Evadne was standing apart with
Captain Clarence, looking up at him and speaking--with her usual
unimpassioned calm, to judge by the expression of her face, but Mrs.
Guthrie Brimston had begun to realize that when Evadne did speak it was to
some purpose, and she watched now and awaited the event in evident
"She's not telling him! She never would dare to!" slipped from her
"They are coming this way," Colonel Colquhoun observed significantly.
"I shall go!" cried Mrs, Guthrie Brimston. "Come, Bobbie!"
It was too late, however; they were surrounded,
"Be good enough to remain a moment," Captain Clarence exclaimed
authoritatively. Then turning to Colonel Colquhoun, he said; "I understand
that these people have in their possession a letter containing a foul
slander against my wife and myself, and that they have been using it to
injure us in the estimation of everybody here. If it be possible, sir, I
should like to have an official inquiry instituted into the circumstances
of my marriage at once."
"Very well, Captain Clarence," Colonel Colquhoun answered ceremoniously.
"I'll apologise," Major Guthrie Brimston gasped.
But Captain Clarence turned on his heel, and walked back to his wife as if
he had not heard.
How the inquiry was conducted was not made public. But when it was
_said_ that the Clarences had been cleared, and _seen_ that the
Guthrie Brimstons had not suffered, society declared it to have been a
case of six of one and half-a-dozen of the other, which left matters
exactly where they were before. Those who chose to believe in the calumny
continued to do so, and _vice versa_, the only difference being that
Evadne's generous action in the matter brought blame upon herself from one
set, and also--what was worse--brought her into a kind of vogue with
another which would have caused her to rage had she understood it. For the
story that she had "said things which no woman could repeat," added to the
fact that she was seen everywhere with a lady whose reputation had been
attacked, made men of a certain class feel a sudden interest in her.
"Birds of a feather," they maintained; then spoke of her slightingly in
public places, and sent her bouquets innumerable.
Her next decided action, however, put an effectual stop to this nuisance.
Colonel Colquhoun came to Evadne one day, and asked her if she would not
She put down her work, rose at once, smiling, and declared that she should
There had been a big regimental guest night the day before, and Colonel
Colquhoun had dined at mess, and was consequently irritable. Acquiescence
is as provoking as opposition to a man in that mood, and he chose to take
offence at Evadne's evident anxiety to please him.
"She makes quite a business of being agreeable to me," he' reflected while
he was waiting for her to put her hat on. "She requires me to be on my
good behaviour as if I were a school-boy out for a half-holiday, and
thinks it her duty to entertain me by way of reward, I suppose."
And thereupon he set himself determinedly against being entertained, and
accordingly, when Evadne rejoined him and made some cheerful remark, he
responded to it with a sullen grunt which did small credit to his manners
either as a man or a gentleman, and naturally checked the endeavour for
the moment so far as she was concerned.
As he did not seem inclined to converse, she showed her respect for his
mood by being silent herself. But this was too much for him. He stood it
as long as he could, and then he burst out; "Do you never talk?"
"I don't know!" she said, surprised. "Do you like talkative women?"
"I like a woman to have something to say for herself."
While Evadne was trying in her slow way to see precisely what he meant by
this little outbreak, they met one of the officers of the regiment
escorting a very showy young woman, and as everybody in Malta knows
everybody else in society, and this was a stranger, Evadne asked--more,
however, to oblige Colonel Colquhoun by making a remark than because she
felt the slightest curiosity on the subject; "Who is that with Mr.
Finchley? A new arrival, I suppose?"
"Oh, only a girl he brought out from England with him," Colonel Colquhoun
answered coarsely, staring hard at the girl as he spoke, and forgetting
himself for once in his extreme irritability. "He ought not to bring her
here, though," he added carelessly.
Mr. Finchley had passed them, hanging his head, and pretending not to see
them. Evadne flushed crimson.
"Do you mean that he brought out a girl he is not married to, and is
living with her here?" she asked.
"That is the position exactly," Colonel Colquhoun rejoined, "and I'll see
him in the orderly room to-morrow and interview him on the subject. He has
no business to parade her publicly where the other fellows' wives may meet
her; and I'll not have it."
Evadne said no more. But there was a ball that evening, and during an
interval between the dances, when she was standing beside Colonel
Colquhoun and several ladies in a prominent position and much observed,
for it was just at the time when she was at the height of her unenviable
vogue--Mr. Finchley came op and asked her to dance.
She had drawn herself up proudly as he approached, and having looked at
him deliberately, she turned her back upon him.
There was no mistaking her intention, Colonel Colquhoun's hand paused on
its way to twirl his blond moustache, and there was a perceptible
sensation in the room.
Captain Belliot shook his head with the air of a man who has been deceived
in an honest endeavour to make the best of a bad lot, and is disheartened.
"She took me in completely," he said. "I should never have guessed she was
that kind of woman. What is society coming to?"
"She must be deuced nasty-minded herself, you know, or she wouldn't have
known Finchley had a woman out with him," said Major Livingston, whom Mrs.
Guthrie Brimston called "Lady Betty" because of his nice precise little
ways with ladies.
"Oh, trust a prude!" said Captain Brown. "They spy out all the beastliness
Colonel Colquhoun did not take this last proof of Evadne's peculiar views
at all well. He was becoming even more sensitive as he grew older to what
fellows say or think, and he was therefore considerably annoyed by her
conduct, so much so, indeed, that he actually spoke to her upon the
"People will say that I have married Mrs. Grundy," he grumbled.
"I suppose so," she answered tranquilly, "You see I do not feel at all
about these things as you do. I wish you _could_ feel as I do, but
seeing that you cannot, it is fortunate, is it not, that we are not really
"It sounds as if you were congratulating yourself upon the fact of our
position," he said.
"But don't _you_ congratulate yourself?" she answered in surprise.
"Surely you have had as narrow an escape as I had? you would have been
He made no answer. It is perhaps easier to resign an inferior husband than
a superior wife.
But he let the subject drop then for the moment; only for the moment,
however, for later in the day he had a conversation with Mrs. Guthrie
That little business about the Clarences had not interrupted the intimacy
between Colonel Colquhoun and the Guthrie Brimstons. How could it? Mrs.
Guthrie Brimston was as amusing as ever, and Colonel Colquhoun remained in
command of a crack regiment, and was a handsome man, well set-up and
soldier like into the bargain. It was Evadne who had caused all the
annoyance, and consequently there was really no excuse for a
rupture--especially as Evadne met the Guthrie Brimstons herself with as
much complacency as ever. Colonel Colquhoun had gone to Mrs. Guthrie
Brimston's that afternoon for the purpose of discussing the advisability
of getting some experienced woman of the world to speak to Evadne with a
view to putting a stop to her nonsense, and the consultation ended with an
offer from Mrs. Guthrie Brimston to undertake the task herself. Her
interference, however, produced not the slightest effect on Evadne.
Those who can contemplate certain phases of life and still believe that
there is a Divine Providence ordering all things for the best, will see
its action in the combination of circumstances which placed Evadne in the
midst of a community where she must meet the spirit of evil face to face
continually, and, since acquiescence was impossible, forced her to develop
her own strength by steady and determined resistance. But her position was
more than difficult; it was desperate. There was scarcely one, even
amongst the most indulgent of her friends, who did not misunderstand her
and blame her at times. She kept the pendulum of public opinion swaying
vehemently during the whole of her first season in Malta. Major Livingston
shook his head about her from the first.
"I can't get on with her," he said, as if the fact were not at all to her
credit. He was a survival himself, one of the old-fashioned kind of
military men who were all formed on the same plan; they got their uniform,
their politics, their vices, and their code of honour cut and dried, upon
entering the service, and occasionally left the latter with their agents
to be taken care of for them while they served.
Evadne gave offence to representatives of the next generation also. Seeing
that she was young and attractive, it was clearly her duty to think only
of meriting their attention, and when she was discovered time after time
during a ball hanging quite affectionately on the arm of Mr. Austin B.
Price, "a dried up old American," and pacing the balcony to and fro with
him in the moonlight by the hour together when there were plenty of young
fellows who wanted to dance with her; and when, worse still, it was
observed that she was serenely happy on these occasions, listening to Mr.
Austin B. Price with a smile on her lips, or even and actually talking
herself, why, they declared she wasn't womanly--she couldn't be!
Mr. St. John was one of the friends who very much deprecated Evadne's
attitude at this time. He did not speak to her himself, being diffident
and delicate, but he went to Mr. Price, who was, he knew, quite in her
"You have influence with her, _do_ restrain her;" he said. "No good
is done by making herself the subject of common gossip."
"My dear fellow," Mr. Price replied, "she is quite irresponsible. Certain
powers of perception have developed in her to a point beyond that which
has been reached by the people about her, and she is forced to act up to
what she perceives to be right. They blame her because they cannot see so
far in advance of themselves, and she has small patience with them for not
at once recognizing the use and propriety of what comes so easily and
naturally to her. So far, it is easy enough to understand her, surely? But
further than that it is impossible to go, because she is as yet an
incomplete creature in a state of progression. With fair play, she should
continue on, but, on the other hand, her development may be entirely
arrested. It is curious that priesthoods, while preaching perfection,
invariably do their best to stop progress. You will never believe that any
change is for the better until it is accomplished, and there is no denying
it, and so you hinder forever when you should be the first to help and
encourage; and you are bringing yourselves into disrepute by it. Just try
and realize the difference between the position and powers of judgment of
women now and that which obtained among them at the beginning of the
century! And think, too, of the hard battles they have had to fight for
every inch of the way they have made, and of the desperate resolution with
which they have stood their ground, always advancing, never receding, and
with supernumeraries ready, whenever one falls out exhausted, to step in
and take her place, however dangerous it may be. Oh, I tell you, man,
women are grand!--grand!"
"But I don't see how we have imposed upon women," Mr. St. John objected.
"I can show you in a minute," Mr. Price rejoined, twitching his face. "It
was the submission business, you know, to begin with. Not so many years
ago we men had only to insist that a thing was either right or necessary,
and women believed it, and meekly acquiesced in it. We told them they were
fools to us, and they believed it; and we told them they were angels of
light and purity and goodness whose mission it was to marry and reform us,
and above all pity and sympathize with us when we defiled ourselves,
because we couldn't help it, and they believed it. We told them they
didn't really care for moral probity in man, and they believed it. We told
them they had no brains, that they were illogical, unreasoning, and
incapable of thought in the true sense of the word, and, by Jove! they
took all that for granted, such was their beautiful confidence in us, and
never even _tried_ to think--until one day, when, quite by accident,
I feel sure, one of them found herself arriving at logical conclusions
involuntarily. Her brain was a rich soil, although untilled, which began
to teem of its own accord; and that, my dear fellow, was the beginning of
the end of the old state of things. But I believe myself that all this
unrest and rebellion against the old established abuses amongst women is
simply an effort of nature to improve the race. The men of the present day
will have a bad time if they resist the onward impulse; but, in any case,
the men of the future will have good reason to arise and call their
mothers blessed. Good-day to you. Don't interfere with Evadne, and don't
think. Just watch--and--and pray if you like!" The old gentleman smiled
and twitched his face when he had spoken, and they shook hands and parted
in complete disagreement, as was usually the case.
When any difference of opinion arose between Evadne and Colonel Colquhoun
they discussed it tranquilly as a rule, and with much forbearance upon
either side, and having done so, the subject was allowed to drop. They
each generally remained of the same opinion still, but neither would
interfere with the other afterward. Had he had anything in him; could he
have made her feel him to be superior in any way, she must have grown to
love him with passion once more; but as it was, he remained only an erring
fellow-creature in her estimation, for whom she grew gradually to feel
both pity and affection, it is true; but toward whom her attitude
generally speaking was that of most polite indifference.
She had her moments of rage, however. There were whole days when her
patient tolerance of the position gave way, and one wild longing to be
free pursued her; but she made no sign on such occasions, only sat
With lips severely placid, felt the knot
Climb in her throat, and with her foot unseen,
Crushed the wild passion out against the floor,
Beneath the banquet, where the meats become
and uttered not a word. Yet there was nothing in Colonel Colquhoun's
manner, nothing in his treatment of her, in the least objectionable; what
she suffered from was simply contact with an inferior moral body, and the
intellectual starvation inevitable in constant association with a mind too
shallow to contain any sort of mental sustenance for the sharing.
The pleasing fact that he and Evadne were getting on very well together
dawned on him quite suddenly one day; but it was she who perceived that
the absence of friction was entirely due to the restriction which polite
society imposes upon the manners of a gentleman and lady in ordinary
everyday intercourse when their bond is not the bond of man and wife.
"I should say we are very good friends, Evadne, shouldn't you?" he
remarked, in a cheerful tone.
"Yes," she responded cordially.
They were both in evening dress when this occurred--she sitting beside a
table with one bare arm resting upon it, toying with the tassel of her fan;
he standing with his back to the fireplace, looking down upon her. It was
after dinner, and they were lingering over their coffee until it should be
time to stroll in for an hour or so to the opera.
"By-the-way," he said after a pause, "have you read any of those books I
got for you--any of the French ones?"
Her face set somewhat, but she looked up at him, and answered without
hesitation: "Yes. I have read the 'Nana,' 'La Terre,' 'Madame Bovary,' and
She stopped there, and he then waited in vain for her to express an
"Well," he said at last, "what has struck you most in them?"
"The suffering, George," she exclaimed--"_the awful, needless
It was a veritable cry of anguish, and as she spoke, she threw her arms
forward upon the table beside which she was sitting, laid her face down on
them, and burst into passionate sobs.
Colonel Colquhoun bit his lip. He had not meant to hurt the girl--in that
way, at all events. He took a step toward her, hesitated, not knowing
quite what to do; and finally left the room.
When next Evadne went to her bookshelves she discovered a great gap. The
whole of those dangerous works of fiction had disappeared.
Colonel Colquhoun had gradually fallen into the habit of riding out or
walking alone with Mrs. Guthrie Brimston continually, and of course people
began to make much of the intimacy, and to talk of the way he neglected
his poor young wife; but the only part of the arrangement which was not
agreeable to the latter was having to entertain Major Guthrie Brimston
sometimes during his lady's absence, and the lady herself when she stayed
to tea. For there was really no harm in the flirtation, as Evadne was
acute enough to perceive. Mrs. Guthrie Brimston was one of those women who
pride themselves upon having a train of admirers, and are not above
robbing other women of the companionship of their husbands in order to
swell their own following; while many men rather affect the society of
these ladies because "They are not a bit stiff, you know," and allow a
certain laxity of language which is particularly piquant to the masculine
mind when the complacent lady is no relation and is really "all right
herself, you know."
Mrs. Guthrie Brimston was "really quite right, you know." She and her
husband understood each other perfectly, while Evadne, on her part, was
content to know that Colonel Colquhoun was so innocently occupied. For she
was beginning to think of him as a kind of big child, of weak moral