Chapter 23 CHARACTERISTICS

Time passed on, marked by no very important incident, while I made acquaintance with manners and with men around me, neither one nor the other worth further description. Nothing occurred to confirm the alarms Davilo constantly repeated.

I called the ladies one day into the outer grounds to see a new carriage, capable, according to its arrangement, of containing from two to eight persons, and a balloon of great size and new construction which Davilo had urgently counselled me to procure, as capable of sudden use in some of those daily thickening perils, of which I could see no other sign than occasional evidence that my steps were watched and dogged. Both vehicles enlisted the interest and curiosity of Eunané and her companions. Eveena, after examining with as much attention as was due to the trouble I took to explain it, the construction of the carriage, concentrated her interest and observation upon the balloon, the sight of which evidently impressed her. When we had returned to the peristyle, and the rest had dispersed, I said—

I see you apprehend some part of my reasons for purchasing the balloon. The carriage will take us to-morrow to Altasfe (a town some ten miles distant). ‘Shopping’ is an amusement so gratifying to all women on Earth, from the veiled favourites of an Eastern seraglio to the very unveiled dames of Western ballrooms, that I suppose the instinct must be native to the sex wherever women and trade co-exist. If you have a single feminine folly, you will enjoy this more than you will own. If you are, as they complain, absolutely faultless, you will enjoy with me the pleasure of the girls in plaguing one after another all the traders of Altasfe:” and with these words I placed in her hands a packet of the thin metallic plates constituting their currency. Her extreme and unaffected surprise was amusing to witness.

What am I to do with this?” she inquired, counting carefully the uncounted pile, in a manner which at once dispelled my impression that her surprise was due to childish ignorance of its value.

Whatever you please, Madonna; whatever can please you and the others.”

But,” she remonstrated, “this is more than all our dowries for another year to come; and—forgive me for repeating what you seem purposely to forget—I cannot cast the shadow between my equals and the master. Would you so mortify me as to make me take from Eunané’s hand, for example, what should come from yours?”

You are right, Madonna, now as always,” I owned; wincing at the name she used, invariably employed by the others, but one I never endured from her. Her looks entreated pardon for the form of the implied reproof, as I resumed the larger part of the money she held out to me, forcing back the smaller into her reluctant hands. “But what has the amount of your dowries to do with the matter? The contracts are meant, I suppose, to secure the least to which a wife has a right, not to fix her natural share in her husband’s wealth. You need not fear, Eveena; the Prince has made us rich enough to spend more than we shall care for.”

I don’t understand you,” she replied with her usual gentle frankness and simple logical consistency. “It pleases you to say ‘we’ and ‘ours’ whenever you can so seem to make me part of yourself; and I love to hear you, for it assures me each time that you still hold me tightly as I cling to you. But you know those are only words of kindness. Since you returned my father’s gift, the dowry you then doubled is my only share of what is yours, and it is more than enough.”

Do you mean that women expect and receive no more: that they do not naturally share in a man’s surplus wealth?”

While I spoke Enva had joined us, and, resting on the cushions at my feet, looked curiously at the metallic notes in Eveena’s hand.

You do not,” returned the latter, “pay more foe what you have purchased because you have grown richer. You do not share your wealth even with those on whose care it chiefly depends.”

Yes, I do, Eveena. But I know what you mean. Their share is settled and is not increased. But you will not tell me that this affords any standard for household dealings; that a wife’s share in her husband’s fortune is really bounded by the terms of the marriage contract?”

Will you let Enva answer you?” asked Eveena. “She looks more ready than I feel to reply.”

This little incident was characteristic in more ways than one. Eveena’s feelings, growing out of the realities of our relation, were at issue with and perplexed her convictions founded on the theory and practice of her world. Not yet doubting the justice of the latter, she instinctively shrank from their application to ourselves. She was glad, therefore, to let Enva state plainly and directly a doctrine which, from her own lips, would have pained as well as startled me. On her side, Enva, though encouraged to bear her part in conversation, was too thoroughly imbued with the same ideas to interpose unbidden. As she would have said, a wife deserved the sandal for speaking without leave; nor—experience notwithstanding—would she think it safe to interrupt in my presence a favourite so pointedly honoured as Eveena. ‘She waited, therefore, till my eyes gave the permission which hers had asked.

Why should you buy anything twice over, Clasfempta, whether it be a wife or an ambâ? A girl sells her society for the best price her attractions will command. These attractions seldom increase. You cannot give her less because you care less for them; but how can she expect more?”

I know, Enva, that the marriage contract here is an open bargain and sale, as among my race it is generally a veiled one. But, the bargain made, does it really govern the after relation? Do men really spend their wealth wholly on themselves, and take no pleasure in the pleasure of women?”

Generally, I believe,” Enva replied, “they fancy they have paid too much for their toy before they have possessed it long, and had rather buy a new one than make much of those they have. Wives seldom look on the increase of a man’s wealth as a gain to themselves. Of course you like to see us prettily dressed, while you think us worth looking at in ourselves. But as a rule our own income provides for that; and we at any rate are better off than almost any women outside the Palace. The Prince did not care, and knew it would not matter to you, what he gave to make his gift worthy of him and agreeable to you. Perhaps,” she added, “he wished to make it secure by offering terms too good to be thrown away by any foolish rebellion against a heavier hand or a worse temper than usual. You hardly understand yet half the advantages you possess.”

The latent sarcasm of the last remark did not need the look of pretended fear that pointed it. If Enva professed to resent my inadequate appreciation of the splendid beauty bestowed on me by the royal favour more than any possible ill-usage for which she supposed herself compensated in advance, it was not for me to put her sincerity to proof.

Once bought, then, wives are not worth pleasing? It is not worth while to purchase happy faces, bright smiles, and willing kisses now and then at a cost the giver can scarcely feel?”

Enva’s look now was half malicious, half kindly, and wholly comical; but she answered gravely, with a slight imitation of my own tone—

Can you not imagine, or make Eveena tell you, Clasfempta, why women once purchased think it best to give smiles and kisses freely to one who can command their tears? Or do you fancy that their smiles are more loyal and sincere when won by kindness than… .”

By fear? Sweeter, Enva, at any rate. Well, if I do not offend your feelings, I need not hesitate to disregard another of your customs.”

She received her share willingly and gratefully enough, but her smile and kiss were so evidently given to order, that they only testified to the thorough literality of her statement. Leenoo, Eiralé, and Elfé followed her example with characteristic exactness. Equally characteristic was the conduct of the others. Eunané kept aloof till called, and then approached with an air of sullen reluctance, as if summoned to receive a reprimand rather than a favour. Not a little amused, I affected displeasure in my turn, till the window of her chamber closed behind us, and her ill-humour was forgotten in wondering alarm. Offered in private, the kiss and smile given and not demanded, the present was accepted with frank affectionate gratitude. Eivé took her share in pettish shyness, waiting the moment when she might mingle unobserved with her childlike caresses the childish reproach—

If you can buy kisses, Clasfempta, you don’t want mine. And if you fancy I sell them, you shall have no more.”

I saw Davilo in the morning before we started. After some conversation on business, he said—

And pardon a suggestion which I make, not as in charge of your affairs, but as responsible to our supreme authority for your safety. No correspondence should pass from your household unscrutinised; and if there be such correspondence, I must ask you to place in my hand, for the purpose of our quest, not any message, but some of the slips on which messages have been written. This may probably furnish precisely that tangible means of relation with some one acquainted with the conspiracy for which we have sought in vain.”

My unwillingness to meddle with feminine correspondence was the less intelligible to him that, as the master alone commands the household telegraph, he knew that it must have passed through my hands. I yielded at last to his repeated urgency that a life more precious than mine was involved in any danger to myself, so far as to promise the slips required, to furnish a possible means of rapport between the clairvoyante and the enemy.

I returned to the house in grave thought. Eunané. corresponded by the telegraph with some schoolmates; Eivé, I fancied, with three or four of those ladies with whom, accompanying me on my visits, she had made acquaintance. But I hated the very thought of domestic suspicion, and, adhering to my original resolve, refused to entertain a distrust that seemed ill-founded and far-fetched. If there had been treachery, it would be impossible to obtain any letters that might have been preserved without resorting to a compulsion which, since both Eunané and Eivé had written in the knowledge that their letters passed unread, would seem like a breach of faith. I asked, however, simply, and giving no reason, for the production of any papers received and preserved by either. Eivé, with her usual air of simplicity, brought me the two or three which, she said, were all she had kept. Eunané replied with a petulance almost amounting to refusal, which to some might have suggested suspicion; but which to me seemed the very last course that a culprit would have pursued. To give needless offence while conscious of guilt would have been the very wantonness of reckless temper.

Bite your tongue, and keep your letters,” I said sharply.

Turning to Eivé and looking at the addresses of hers, none of which bore the name of any one who could be suspected of the remotest connection with a political plot—

Give me which of these you please,” I said, taking from her hand that which she selected and marking it. “Now erase the writing yourself and give me the paper.”

This incident gave Eunané leisure to recover her temper. She stood for a few moments ashamed perhaps, but, as usual, resolute to abide by the consequences of a fault. When she found that my last word was spoken, her mood changed at once.

I did not quite like to give you Velna’s letters. They are foolish, like mine; and besides——But I never supposed you would let me refuse. What you won’t make me do, I must do of my own accord.”

Womanly reasoning, most unlike “woman’s reasons!” She brought, with unaffected alacrity, a collection of tafroo-slips whose addresses bore out her account of their character. Taking the last from the bundle, I bade her erase its contents.

No,” she said, “that is the one I least liked to show. If you will not read it, please follow my hand as I read, and see for yourself how far I have misused your trust.”

I never doubted your good faith, Eunané”—But she had begun to read, pointing with her finger as she went on. At one sentence hand and voice wavered a little without apparent reason. “I shall,” wrote her school-friend, some half year her junior, “make my appearance at the next inspection. I wish the Camptâ, had left you here till now; we might perhaps have contrived to pass into the same household.”

A very innocent wish, and very natural,” I said, in answer to the look, half inquiring, half shy, with which Eunané watched the effect of her words. I could not now use the precaution in her case, which it had somehow seemed natural to adopt with Eivé, of marking the paper returned for erasure. On her part, Eunané thrust into my hand the whole bundle as they were, and I was forced myself to erase, by an electro-chemical process which leaves no trace of writing, the words of that selected. The absence of any mark on the second paper served sufficiently to distinguish the two when, of course without stating from whom I received them, I placed, them in Davilo’s hands.

When we were ready to leave the peristyle for the carriage, I observed that Eunané alone was still unveiled, while the others wore their cloaks of down and the thick veils, without which no lady may present herself to the public eye.

‘Thieving time is woman’s crime,’” I said, quoting a domestic proverb. “In another household you would; be left behind.”

Of course,” she replied, such summary discipline seeming to her as appropriate as to an European child. “I don’t like always to deserve the vine and receive the nuts.”

You must take which I like,” I retorted, laughing. Satisfied or silenced, she hastened to dress, and enjoyed with unalloyed delight the unusual pleasure of inspecting dresses and jewellery, and making more purchases in a day than she had expected to be able to do in two years. But she and her companions acted with more consideration than ladies permitted to visit the shops of Europe show for their masculine escort. Eivé alone, on this as on other occasions, availed herself thoroughly of those privileges of childhood which I had always extended to her.

So quick are the proceedings and so excellent the arrangements of Martial commerce, even where ladies are concerned, that a couple of hours saw us on our way homeward, after having passed through the apartments of half the merchants in Altasfe. Purposely for my own pleasure, as well as for that of my companions, I took a circuitous route homeward, and in so doing came within sight of a principal feminine Nursery or girls’ school. Recognising it, Eunané spoke with some eagerness—

Ah! I spent nine years there, and not always unhappily.”

Eveena, who sat beside me, pressed my hand, with an intention easily understood.

And you would like to see it again?” I inquired in compliance with her silent hint.

Not to go back,” said Eunané. “But I should like to pay it a visit, if it were possible.”

Can we?” I asked Eveena.

I think so,” she answered. “I observe half a dozen people have gone in since we came in sight, and I fancy it is inspection day there.”

Inspection?” I asked.

Yes,” she replied in a tone of some little annoyance and discomfort. “The girls who have completed their tenth year, and who are thought to have as good a chance now as they would have later, are dressed for the first time in the white robe and veil of maidenhood, and presented in the public chamber to attract the choice of those who are looking for brides.”

Not a pleasant spectacle,” I said, “to you or to myself; but it will hardly annoy the others, and Eunané shall have her wish.”

We descended from our carriage at the gate, and entered the grounds of the Nursery. Studiously as the health, the diet, and the exercise of the inmates are cared for, nothing is done to render the appearance of the home where they pass so large and critical a portion of their lives cheerful or attractive in appearance. Utility alone is studied; how much beauty conduces to utility where the happiness and health of children are concerned, Martial science has yet to learn. The grounds contained no flowers and but few trees; the latter ruined in point of form and natural grace to render them convenient supports for gymnastic apparatus. A number of the younger girls, unveiled, but dressed in a dark plain garment reaching from the throat to the knees, with trousers giving free play to the limbs, were exercising on the different swings and bars, flinging the light weights and balls, or handling the substitutes for dumb-bells, the use of which forms an important branch of their education. Others, relieved from this essential part of their tasks, were engaged in various sports. One of these I noticed especially. Perhaps a hundred young ladies on either side formed a sort of battalion, contending for the ground they occupied with light shields of closely woven wire and masks of the same material, and with spears consisting of a reed or grass about five feet in length, and exceedingly light. When perfectly ripened, these spears are exceeding formidable, their points being sharp enough to pierce the skin of any but a pachydermatous animal. Those employed in these games, however, are gathered while yet covered by a sheath, which, as they ripen, bursts and leaves the keen, hard point exposed. Considerable care is taken in their selection, since, if nearly ripe, or if they should ripen prematurely under the heat of the sun when severed from the stem, the sheath bursting in the middle of a game, very grave accidents might occur. The movements of the girls were so ordered that the game appeared almost as much a dance as a conflict; but though there was nothing of unseemly violence, the victory was evidently contested with real earnestness, and with a skill superior to that displayed in the movements of the actual soldiers who have long since exchanged the tasks of warfare for the duties of policemen, escorts, and sentries. I held Eveena’s hand, the others followed us closely, venturing neither to break from our party without leave nor to ask permission, till, at Eveena’s suggestion, it was spontaneously given. They then quitted us, hastening, Eunané to seek out her favourite companions of a former season, the others to mingle with the younger girls and share in their play. We walked on slowly, stopping from time to time to watch the exercises and sports of the younger portion of a community numbering some fifteen hundred girls. When we entered the hall we were rejoined by Eunané, with one of her friends who still wore the ordinary school costume. Conversation with or notice of a young lady so dressed was not only not expected but disallowed, and the pair seated themselves behind us and studiously out of hearing of any conversation conducted in a low tone.

The spectacle, as I had anticipated, was to me anything but pleasant. It reminded me of a slave-market of the East, however, rather than of the more revolting features of a slave auction in the United States. The maidens, most of them very graceful and more than pretty, their robes arranged and ornamented with an evident care to set off their persons to the best advantage, and with a skill much greater than they themselves could yet have acquired, were seated alone or by twos and threes in different parts of the hall, grouped so as to produce the most attractive general as well as individual effect. The picture, therefore, was a pretty one; and since the intending purchasers addressed the objects of their curiosity or admiration with courtesy and fairly decorous reserve, it was the known character rather than any visible incident of the scene that rendered it repugnant or revolting in my eyes. I need not say that, except Eveena, there was no one of either sex in the hall who shared my feeling. After all, the purpose was but frankly avowed, and certainly carried out more safely and decorously than in the ball-rooms and drawing-rooms of London or Paris. Of the maidens, some seemed shy and backward, and most were silent save when addressed. But the majority received their suitors with a thoroughly business-like air, and listened to the terms offered them, or endeavoured to exact a higher price or a briefer period of assured slavery, with a self-possession more reasonable than agreeable to witness. One maiden seated in our immediate vicinity was, I perceived, the object of Eveena’s especial interest, and, at first on this account alone, attracted my observation. Dressed with somewhat less ostentatious care and elegance than her companions, her veil and the skirt of her robe were so arranged as to show less of her personal attractions than they generally displayed. A first glance hardly did justice to a countenance which, if not signally pretty, and certainly marked by a beauty less striking than that of most of the others, was modest and pleasing; a figure slight and graceful, with hands and feet yet smaller than usual, even among a race the shape of whose limbs is, with few exceptions, admirable. Very few had addressed her, or even looked at her; and a certain resigned mortification was visible in her countenance.

You are sorry for that child?” I said to Eveena.

Yes,” she answered. “It must be distressing to feel herself the least attractive, the least noticed among her companions, and on such an occasion. I cannot conceive how I could bear to form part of such a spectacle; but if I were in her place, I suppose I should be hurt and humbled at finding that nobody cared to look at me in the presence of others prettier and better dressed than myself.”

Well,” I said, “of all the faces I see I like that the best. I suppose I must not speak to her?”

Why not?” said Eveena in surprise. “You are not bound to purchase her, any more than we bought all we looked at to-day.”

It did not occur to me,” I replied, “that I could be regarded as a possible suitor, nor do I think I could find courage to present myself to that young lady in a manner which must cause her to look upon me in that light. Ask Eunané if she knows her.”

Here Eivé and the others joined us and took their places on my right. Eveena, leaving her seat for a moment, spoke apart with Eunané.

Will you speak to her?” she said, returning. “She is Eunané’s friend and correspondent, Velna; and I think they are really fond of each other. It is a pity that if she is to undergo the mortification of remaining unchosen and going back to her tasks, at least till the next inspection, she will also be separated finally from the only person for whom she seems to have had anything like home affection.”

Well, if I am to talk to her,” I replied, “you must be good enough to accompany me. I do not feel that I could venture on such an enterprise by myself.”

Eveena’s eyes, even through her veil, expressed at once amusement and surprise; but as she rose to accompany me this expression faded and a look of graver interest replaced it. Many turned to observe us as we crossed the short space that separated us from the isolated and neglected maiden. I had seen, if I had not noticed, that in no case were the men, as they made the tour of the room or went up to any lady who might have attracted their special notice, accompanied by the women of their households. A few of these, however, sat watching the scene, their mortification, curiosity, jealousy, or whatever feeling it might excite, being of course concealed by the veils that hid every feature but the eyes, which now and then followed very closely the footsteps of their lords. The object of our attention showed marked surprise as we approached her, and yet more when, seeing that I was at a loss for words, Eveena herself spoke a kindly and gracious sentence. The girl’s voice was soft and low, and her tone and words, as we gradually fell into a hesitating and broken conversation, confirmed the impression made by her appearance. When, after a few minutes, I moved to depart, there was in Eveena’s reluctant steps and expressive upturned eyes a meaning I could not understand. As soon as we were out of hearing, moving so as partly to hide my countenance and entirely to conceal her own gesture from the object of her compassion, she checked my steps by a gentle pressure on my arm and looked up earnestly into my face.

What is it?” I asked. “You seem to have some wish that I cannot conjecture; and you can trust by this time my anxiety to gratify every desire of yours, reasonable or not—if indeed you ever were unreasonable.”

She is so sad, so lonely,” Eveena answered, “and she is so fond of Eunané.”

You don’t mean that you want me to make her an offer!” I exclaimed in extreme amazement.

Do not be angry,” pleaded Eveena. “She would be glad to accept any offer you would be likely to make; and the money you gave me yesterday would have paid all she would cost you for many years. Besides, it would please Eunané, and it would make Velna so happy.”

You must know far better than I can what is likely to make her happy,” I replied. “Strange to the ideas and customs of your world, I cannot conceive that a woman can wish to take the last place in a household like ours rather than the first or only one with the poorest of her people.”

She will hardly have the choice,” Eveena answered. “Those whom you can call poor mostly wait till they can have their choice before they marry; and if taken by some one who could not afford a more expensive choice, she would only be neglected, or dismissed ill provided for, as soon as he could purchase one more to his taste.”

If,” I rejoined at last, “you think it a kindness to her, and are sure she will so think it; if you wish it, and will avouch her contentment with a place in the household of one who does not desire her, I will comply with this as with any wish of yours. But it is not to my: mind to take a wife out of mere compassion, as I might readily adopt a child.”

Once more, with all our mutual affection and appreciation of each other’s character, Eveena and I were fat as the Poles apart in thought if not in feeling. It was as impossible for her to emancipate herself utterly from the ideas and habits of her own world, as for me to reconcile myself to them. I led her back at last to her seat, and beckoned Eunané to my side.

Eveena,” I said, “has been urging me to offer your friend yonder a place in our household.”

Though I could not see her face, the instant change in her attitude, the eager movement of her hands, and the elastic spring that suddenly braced her form, expressed her feeling plainly enough.

It must be done, I suppose,” I murmured rather to myself than to them, as Eunané timidly put out her hand and gratefully clasped Eveena’s. “Well, it is to be done for you, and you must do it.”

How can I?” exclaimed Eunané in astonishment; and Eveena added, “It is for you; you only can name your terms, and it would be a strange slight to her to do so through us.”

I cannot help that. I will not ‘act the lie’ by affecting any personal desire to win her, and I could not tell her the truth. Offer her the same terms that contented the rest; nay, if she enters my household, she shall not feel herself in a secondary or inferior position.”

This condition surprised even Eveena as much as my resolve to make her the bearer of the proposal that was in truth her own. But, however reluctant, she would as soon have refused obedience to my request as have withheld a kindness because it cost her an unexpected trial. Taking Eunané with her, she approached and addressed the girl. Whatever my own doubt as to her probable reception, however absurd in my own estimation the thing I was induced to do, there was no corresponding consciousness, no feeling but one of surprise and gratification, in the face on which I turned my eyes. There was a short and earnest debate; but, as I afterwards learned, it arose simply from the girl’s astonishment at terms which, extravagant even for the beauties of the day, were thrice as liberal as she had ventured to dream of. Eveena and Eunané were as well aware of this as herself; the right of beauty to a special price seemed to them as obvious as in Western Europe seems the right of rank to exorbitant settlements; but they felt it as impossible to argue the point as a solicitor would find it unsafe to expound to a gentleman the different cost of honouring Mademoiselle with his hand and being honoured with that of Milady. Velna’s remonstrances were suppressed; she rose, and, accompanied by Eveena and Eunané, approached a desk in one corner of the room, occupied by a lady past middle life. The latter, like all those of her sex who have adopted masculine independence and a professional career, wore no veil over her face, and in lieu of the feminine head-dress a band of metal around the head, depending from which a short fall of silken texture drawn back behind the ears covered the neck and upper edge of the dark robe. This lady took from a heap by her side a slip containing the usual form of marriage contract, and filled in the blanks. At a sign from Eveena, I had by this time approached close enough to hear the language of half-envious, half-supercilious wonder in which the schoolmistress congratulated her pupil on her signal conquest, and the terms she had obtained, as well as the maiden’s unaffected acknowledgment of her own surprise and conscious unworthiness. I could feel, despite the concealment of her form and face, Eveena’s silent expression of pained disgust with the one, and earnest womanly sympathy with the other. The document was executed in the usual triplicate.

The girl retired for a few minutes, and reappeared in a cloak and veil like those of her new companions, but of comparatively cheap materials. As we passed the threshold, Eveena gently and tacitly but decisively assigned to her protégée her own place beside me, and put her right hand in my left. The agitation with which it manifestly trembled, though neither strange nor unpleasing, added to the extreme embarrassment I felt; and I had placed her next to Eunané in the carriage and taken my seat beside Eveena, whom I never permitted to resign her own, before a single spoken word had passed in this extraordinary courtship, or sanctioned the brief and practical ceremony of marriage.

I was alone in my own room that evening when a gentle scratching on the window-crystal entreated admission. I answered without looking up, assuming that Eveena alone would seek me there. But hers were not the lips that were earnestly pressed on my hand, nor hers the voice that spoke, trembling and hesitating with stronger feeling than it could utter in words—

I do thank you from my heart. I little thought you would wish to make me so happy. I shrank from showing you the letter lest you should think I dared to hope… . It is not only Velna; it is such strange joy and comfort to be held fast by one who cares—to feel safe in hands as kind as they are strong. You said you could love none save Eveena; but, Clasfempta, your way of not loving is something better, gentler, more considerate than any love I ever hoped or heard of.”

I could read only profound sincerity and passionate gratitude in the clear bright eyes, softened by half-suppressed tears, that looked up from where she knelt beside me. But the exaggeration was painfully suggestive, confirming the ugly view Enva had given yesterday of the life that seemed natural and reasonable to her race, and made ordinary human kindness appear something strange and romantic by contrast.

Surely, Eunané, every man wishes those around him happy, if it do not cost too much to make them so?”

No, indeed! Oftener the master finds pleasure in punishing and humiliating, the favourite in witnessing her companions’ tears and terror. They like to see the household grateful for an hour’s amusement, crouching to caprice, incredulously thankful for barest justice. One book much read in our schools says that ‘cruelty is a stronger, earlier, and more tenacious human instinct than sympathy;’ and another that ‘half the pleasure of power lies in giving pain, and half the remainder in being praised for sparing it.’ … But that was not all: Eveena was as eager to be kind as you were.”

Much more so, Eunané.”

Perhaps. What seemed natural to her was strange to you. But it was your thought to put Velna on equal terms with us; taking her out of mere kindness, to give her the dowry of a Prince’s favourite. That surprised Eveena, and it puzzled me. But I think I half understand you now, and if I do… . When Eveena told us how you saved her and defied the Regent, and Eivé asked you about it, you said so quietly, ‘There are some things a man cannot do.’ Is buying a girl cheap, because she is not a beauty, one of those things?”

To take any advantage of her misfortune—to make her feel it in my conduct—to give her a place in my household on other terms than her equals—to show her less consideration or courtesy than one would give to a girl as beautiful as yourself—yes, Eunané! To my eyes, your friend is pleasant and pretty; but if not, would you have liked to feel that she was of less account here than yourself, because she has not such splendid beauty as yours?”

Eunané was too frank to conceal her gratification in this first acknowledgment of her charms, as she had shown her mortification while it was withheld—not, certainly, because undeserved. Her eyes brightened and her colour deepened in manifest pleasure. But she was equally frank in her answer to the implied compliment to her generosity, of whose justice she was not so well assured.

I am afraid I should half have liked it, a year ago. Now, after I have lived so long with you and Eveena, I should be shamed by it! But, Clasfempta, the things ‘a man cannot do’ are the things men do every day;—and women every hour!”