|ACROSS THE ZODIAC by Percy Greg|
Chapter X—Woman and Wedlock.
We arrived at home in the course of some few minutes, and here my host requested us to wait in the hall, where in about half-an-hour he rejoined us, accompanied by all the members of his family, the ladies all closely veiled. Looking among them instinctively for Eveena, I observed that she had exchanged her usual light veil for one fuller and denser, and wore, contrary to the wont of maidens indoors, sleeves and gloves. She held her father’s hand, and evinced no little agitation or alarm. The visitor stood by a table on which had been placed the usual pencils or styles, and a sort of open portfolio, on one side of which was laid a small strip of the golden tafroo, inscribed with crimson characters of unusual size, leaving several blanks here and there. Most of these he filled up, and then, leading forward his daughter, Esmo signed to me also to approach the table. The others stood just behind us, and the official then placed the document in Eveena’s hand. She looked through it and replaced it on the table with the gesture of assent usual among her people, inclining her head and raising her left hand to her lips. The document was then handed to me, but I, of course, was unable to read it. I said so, and the official read it aloud: —
“Between Eveena, daughter of Esmo dent Ecasfen, and ——  reclamomortâ (the alleged arch-traveller), covenant: Eveena will live with —— in wedlock for two years, foregoing during that period the liberty to quit his house, or to receive any one therein save by his permission. In consideration whereof he will maintain her, clothing her to her satisfaction, at a cost not exceeding five stâltau by the year. He will provide for any child or children she may bear while living with him, or within twice twelve dozen days thereafter. And if at any time he shall dismiss her or permit her to leave him, or if she shall desire to leave him after the expiration of eight years, he will ensure to her for her life an annual payment of fifteen stâltau. Neither shall appeal to a court of law or public authority against the other on account of anything done during the time they shall live together, except for attempt to kill or for grave bodily injury.”
Such is the form of marriage covenant employed in Mars. The occasion was unfit for discussion, and I simply intimated my acceptance of the covenants, to which Eveena and myself forthwith were instructed to write our names where they appear in the above translation. The official then inquired whether I recognised the lady standing beside me as Eveena, daughter of Esmo. It then struck me that, though I felt pretty certain of her identity, marriage under such conditions might occasionally lead to awkward mistakes. There was no such difference between my bride and her companions as, but for her dress and her agitation, would have enabled me positively to distinguish them, veiled and silent as all were. I expressed no doubt, however, and the official then proceeded to affix his own stamp to the document; and then lifting up that on which our names had actually been written, showed that, by some process I hardly understand, the signature had been executed and the agreement filled up in triplicate, the officer preserving one copy, the others being given to the bride and bridegroom respectively. The ladies then retired, Esmo, his son, and the official remaining, when two ambau brought in a tray of refreshments. The official tasted each article offered to him, evidently more as a matter of form than of pleasure. I took this opportunity to ask some questions regarding the Martial cuisine, and learnt that all but the very simplest cookery is performed by professional confectioners, who supply twice a day the households in their vicinity; unmarried men taking their meals at the shop. The preparation of fruit, roasted grain, beverages consisting of juices mixed with a prepared nectar, and the vegetables from the garden, which enter into the composition of every meal, are the only culinary cares of the ladies of the family. Everything can be warmed or freshened on the stove which forms a part of that electric machinery by which in every household the baths and lights are supplied and the house warmed at night. The ladies have therefore very little household work, and the greater part of this is performed under their superintendence by the animals, which are almost as useful as any human slaves on earth, with the one unquestionable advantage that they cannot speak, and therefore cannot be impertinent, inquisitive, or treacherous. No fermented liquors form part of the Martial diet; but some narcotics resembling haschisch and opium are much relished. When the official had retired, I said to my host—
“I thought it best to raise no question or objection in signing the contract put before me with your sanction; but you must be aware, in the first place, that I have no means here of performing the pecuniary part of the covenant, no means of providing either maintenance or pin-money.”
The explanation of the latter phrase, which was immediately demanded, produced not a little amusement, after which Esmo replied gravely—
“It will be very easy for you, if necessary, to realise a competence in the course of half a year. A book relating your adventures, and describing the world you have left, would bring you in a very comfortable fortune; and you might more than double this by giving addresses in each of our towns, which, if only from the curiosity our people would entertain to see you with their own eyes, would attract crowded audiences. You could get a considerable sum for the exclusive right to take your likeness; and, if you chose to explain it, you might fix your own price on the novel motive power you have introduced. But there is another point in regard to the contract which you have overlooked, but which I was bound to bear in mind. What you have promised is, I believe, what Eveena would have obtained from any suitor she was likely to accept. But since you left the matter entirely to my discretion, I am bound to make it impossible that you should be a loser; and this document (and he handed me a small slip very much like that which contained the marriage covenant) imposes on my estate the payment of an income for Eveena’s life equal to that you have promised her.”
With much reluctance I found myself obliged to accept a dowry which, however natural and proper on Earth, was, I felt, unusual in Mars. I may say that such charges do not interfere with the free sale of land. They are registered in the proper office, and the State trustee collects them from the owner for the time being as quit-rents are collected in Great Britain or land revenue in India. Turning to another but kindred question, I said—
“Your marriage contract, like our own laws, appears to favour the weaker sex more than strict theoretical equality would permit. This is quite right and practically inevitable; but it hardly agrees with the theory which supposes bride and bridegroom, husband and wife, to enter on and maintain a coequal voluntary partnership.”
“How so?” he inquired.
“The right of divorce,” I said, “at the end of two years belongs to the wife alone. The husband cannot divorce her except under a heavy penalty.”
“Observe,” he answered, “that there is a grave practical inequality which even theory can hardly ignore. The wife parts with something by the very fact of marriage. At the end of two years, when she has borne two, three, or four children, her value in marriage is greatly lessened. Her capacity of maintaining herself, in the days when women did work, was found practically to be even smaller than before marriage. You may say that this really amounts to a recognition by custom of the natural inequality denied by law; but at any rate, it is an inequality which it was scarcely possible to overlook. Examine the practical working of the covenants, and you will find that in affecting to treat unequals as equals they merely make the weaker the slave of the stronger.”
“Surely,” I said, “husband and wife are so far equal, where neither is tied to the children, that each can make the other heartily glad to assent to a divorce.”
“Perhaps, where law interferes to enforce monogamy, and thereby to create an artificial equality of mutual dependence. But our law cannot dictate to equals, whose sex it ignores, the terms or numbers of partnership. So, the terms of the contract being voluntary, men of course insist on excluding legal interference in household quarrels; and before the prohibitive clause was generally adopted, legal interposition did more harm than good. As you will find, equality before the law gives absolute effect to the real inequality, and chiefly through its coarsest element, superior physical force. The liberty that is a necessary logical consequence of equality takes from the woman her one natural safeguard—the man’s need of her goodwill, if not of her affection.”
“In our world,” I replied, “I always held that even slaves, so they be household slaves, are secure against gross cruelty. The owner cannot make life a burden to them without imperilling his own. To reduce the question to its lowest terms—malice will always be a match for muscle, and poison an efficient antidote to the ferula.”
“So,” rejoined Esmo, “our men have perceived, and consequently they have excepted attempts to murder, as the women have excepted serious bodily injury, from the general rule prohibiting appeals to a court of law.”
“And,” said I, “are there many such appeals?”
“Not one in two years,” he replied; “and for a simple reason. Our law, as matter of course and of common sense, puts murder, attempted or accomplished, on the same footing, and visits both with its supreme penalty. Consequently, a wife detected in such an attempt is at her husband’s mercy; and if he consent to spare her life, she must submit to any infliction, however it may transgress the covenanted limit. In fact, if he find her out in such an attempt, he may do anything but put her to death on his own authority.”
“Still,” I answered, “as long as she remains in the house, she must have frequent opportunity of repeating her attempt at revenge; and to live in constant fear of assassination would break down the strongest nerves.”
“Our physicians,” he said, “are more skilful in antidotes than our women in poisons, even when the latter have learned chemistry. No poisonous plants are grown near our houses; and as wives never go out alone, they have little chance of getting hold of any fatal drug. I believe that very few attempts to poison are successful, and that many women have suffered very severely on mere suspicion.”
“And what,” I asked, “is the legal definition of ‘grave bodily injury’?”
“Injury,” he said, “of which serious traces remain at the end of twenty-four days; the destruction of a limb, or the deprivation, partial or total, of a sense. I have often thought bitterly,” he continued, “of that boasted logic and liberality of our laws under which my daughters might have to endure almost any maltreatment from their husbands, so long as these have but the sense not to employ weapons that leave almost ineffaceable marks. This is one main reason why we so anxiously avoid giving them save to those who are bound by the ties of our faith to treat them as kindly as children—for whom, at the worst, they remain sisters of the Order. If women generally had parents, our marriage law could never have carried out the fiction of equality to its logical perfection and practical monstrosity.”
“Equality, then, has given your women a harder life and a worse position than that of those women in our world who are, not only by law but by fact and custom, the slaves of their husbands?”
“Yes, indeed,” he said; “and our proverbs, though made by men, express this truth with a sharpness in which there is little exaggeration. Our school textbooks tell us that action and reaction are equal and opposite; and this familiar phrase gives meaning to the saw, Pelmavè dakâl dakè, ‘She is equal, the thing struck to the hammer,’ meaning that woman’s equality to man is no more effective than the reaction of the leather on the mallet. ‘Bitterer smiles of twelve than tears of ten’ (referring to the age of marriage). Thleen delkint treen lalfe zevleen, ‘‘Twixt fogs and clouds she dreams of stars.’”
“What does that mean?”
“Would you not render it in the terminology of the hymn you translated for us, ‘Between Purgatory and Hell, one dream of Heaven?’ Still puzzled? ‘Between the harshness of school and the misery of marriage, the illusions of the bride.’ Again, Zefoo zevleel, zave marneel, clafte cratheneel, ‘A child [cries] for the stars, a maiden for the matron’s dress, a woman for her shroud.’”
“Do you mean to say that that is not exaggerated?”
“I suppose it is, as women are even less given to suicide than men. That is perhaps the ugliest proverb of its kind. I will only quote one more, and that is two-edged—
“‘Fool he who heeds a woman’s tears, to woman’s tongue replies;
Fool she who braves man’s hand—but when was man or woman wise?’”
Here Zulve came to the door and made a sign to her husband. Waiting courteously to ascertain that I had finished speaking, and until his son had somewhat ceremoniously taken leave of me, he led me to the door of a chamber next to that I had hitherto occupied. Pausing here himself, he motioned me to go on, and the door parting, I found myself in a room I had not before entered, about the same size as my own and similarly furnished, but differently coloured, now communicating with it by a door which I knew had not previously existed. Here were Eveena’s mother and sister, dressed as usual.
Eveena herself had exchanged her maiden white for the light pink of a young matron, but was closely veiled in a similar material. Her mother and sister kissed her with much emotion, though without the tears and lamentations, real or affected, with which—alike among the nomads of Asia and the most cultivated races of Europe—even those relatives who have striven hardest to marry a daughter or sister think it necessary to celebrate the fulfilment of their hopes, and the termination of their often prolonged and wearisome labours. I was then left alone with my bride, who remained half-seated, half-crouching on the cushions in a corner of the room. I could not help feeling keenly how much a marriage so unceremonious and with so little previous acquaintance, or rather so great a reserve and distance in our former intercourse, intensified the awkwardness many a man on Earth feels when first left alone with the partner of his future life. But a single glance at the small drooping figure half-hidden in the cushions brought the reflection that a situation, embarrassing to the bridegroom, must be in the last degree alarming and distressing to the bride. But for her visit to the Astronaut we should have been almost strangers; I could hardly have recognised even her voice. I must, however, speak; and naturally my first sentence was a half-articulate request that she would remove her veil.
“No,” she whispered, rising, “you must do that.”
Taking off the glove of her left hand, she came up to me shyly and slowly, and placed it in my right—a not unmeaning ceremony. Having obeyed her instruction, my lips touched for the first time the brow of my young wife. That she was more than shy and startled, was even painfully agitated and frightened, became instantly apparent now that her countenance was visible. What must be the state of Martial brides in general, when the signature of the contract immediately places them at the disposal of an utter stranger, it was beyond the power of my imagination to conceive, if their feelings were at all to be measured by Eveena’s under conditions sufficiently trying, but certainly far better than theirs. Nothing was so likely to quiet her as perfect calmness on my side; and, though with a heart beating almost as fast as her own, if with very different emotions, I led her gently back to her place, and resting on a cushion just out of reach, began to talk to her. Choosing as the easiest subject our adventure of yesterday, I asked what could have induced her to place herself in a situation so dangerous.
“Do not be angry with me now,” she pleaded. “I am exceedingly fond of flowers; they have been my only amusement except the training of my pets. You can see how little women have to do, how little occupation or interest is permitted us. The rearing of rare flowers, or the creation of new ones, is almost the only employment in which we can find exercise for such intelligence as we possess. I had never seen before the flower that grew on that shelf. I believe, indeed, that it only grows on a few of our higher mountains below the snow-line, and I was anxious to bring it home and see what could be made of it in the garden. I thought it might be developed into something almost as beautiful as that bright leenoo you admired so greatly in my flower-bed.”
“But,” said I, “the two flowers are not of the same shape or colour; and, though I am not learned in botany, I should say hardly belong to the same family.”
“No,” she said. “But with care, and with proper management of our electric apparatus, I accomplished this year a change almost as great. I can show you in my flower-bed one little white flower, of no great beauty and conical in shape, from which I have produced in two years another, saucer-shaped, pink, and of thrice the size, almost exactly realising an imaginary flower, drawn by my sister-in-law to represent one of which she had dreamed. We can often produce the very shape, size, and colour we wish from something that at first seems to have no likeness to it whatever; and I have been told that a skilful farmer will often obtain a fruit, or, what is more difficult, an animal, to answer exactly the ideal he has formed.”
“Some of our breeders,” I said, “profess to develop a sort of ideal of any given species; but it takes many generations, by picking and choosing those that vary in the right direction, to accomplish anything of the kind; and, after all, the difference between the original and the improved form is mere development, not essential change.”
She hardly seemed to understand this, but answered—
“The seedling or rootlet would be just like the original plant, if we did not from the first control its growth by means of our electric frames. But if you will allow me, I will show you to-morrow what I have done in my own flower-bed, and you will have opportunities of seeing afterwards how very much more is done by agriculturists with much more time and much more potent electricities.”
“At any rate,” I said, “if I had known your object, you certainly should have had the flowers for which you risked so much: and if I remain here three days longer, I promise you plenty of specimens for your experiment.”
“You do not mean to go back to the Astronaut?” she asked, with an air of absolute consternation.
“I had not intended to do so,” I replied, “for it seems to be perfectly safe under your father’s seal and your stringent laws of property. But now, if time permit, I must get these flowers to which you tell me I am so deeply indebted.”
“You are very kind,” returned Eveena earnestly, “but I entreat you not to venture there again. I should be utterly miserable while you were running such a risk again, and for such a trifle.”
“It is no such terrible risk to me, and to please you is not quite a trifle. Besides, I ought to deserve my prize better than I have yet done. But you seem to have some especial spite against the unlucky vessel that brought me here; and that,” I added, smiling, “seems hardly gracious in a bride of an hour.”
“No, no!” she murmured, evidently much distressed; “but the vessel that brought you here may take you away.”
“I will not pain you yet by saying that I hope it may. At all events, it shall not do so till you are content that it should.”
She made no answer, and seemed for some time to hesitate, as if afraid or unwilling to say something which rose irrepressibly to her lips. A few persuasive words, however, encouraged her, and she found her voice, though with a faltering accent, which greatly surprised me when I learned at last the purport of her request.
“I do not understand,” she said, “your ideas or customs, but I know they are different from ours. I have found at least that they make you much more indulgent and tender to women than our own; and I hope, therefore, you will forgive me if I ask more than I have any right to do.”
“I could scarcely refuse my bride’s first request, whatever it might be. But your hesitation and your apologies might make me fear that you are about to ask something which one or both of us may wish hereafter had neither been asked nor granted.”
She still hesitated and faltered, till I began to fancy that her wish must have a much graver import than I at first supposed. Perhaps to treat the matter lightly and sportively would be the course most likely to encourage her to explain it.
“What is it, child,” I asked, “which you think the stranger of another world more likely to grant than one of your own race, and which is so extravagant, nevertheless, that you tremble to ask it even from me? Is it too much to be bound not to appeal against me to the law, which cannot yet determine whether I am a reality or a fiction? Or have I proved my arm a little too substantial? Must the giant promise not to exercise the masculine prerogative of physical force safely conceded to the dwarf? Fie, Eveena! I am almost afraid to touch you, lest I should hurt you unawares; lest tenderness itself should transgress the limit of legal cruelty, and do grave bodily harm to a creature so much more like a fairy than a woman!”
“No, no!” she expostulated, not at all reciprocating the jesting tone in which I spoke. “If you would consent to give such a promise, it is just one of those we should wish unmade. How could I ask you to promise that I may behave as ill as I please? I dare say I shall be frightened to tears when you are angry; but I shall never wish you to retain your anger rather than vent it and forgive. The proverb says, ‘Who punishes pardons; who hates awaits.’ No, pray do not play with me; I am so much in earnest. I know that I don’t understand where and why your thoughts and ways are so unlike ours. But—but—I thought—I fancied—you seemed to hold the tie between man and wife something more—faster—more lasting—than—our contract has made it.”
“Certainly! With us it lasts for life at least; and even here, where it may be broken at pleasure, I should not have thought that, on the very bridal eve, the coldest heart could willingly look forward to its dissolution.”
She was too innocent of such a thought—perhaps too much absorbed by her own purpose—to catch the hint of unjust reproach.
“Well, then,” she said, with a desperate effort, in a voice that trembled between the fear of offending by presumption or exaction, and the desire to give utterance to her wish—”I want … will you say that—if by that time you do not think that I have been too faulty, too undeserving—that I shall go with you when you quit this world?” And, her eagerness at last overpowering her shyness, she looked up anxiously into my face.
We wholly misconceived each other. She drooped in bitter disappointment, mistaking my blank surprise for displeasure; her words brought over my mind a rush of that horror with which I ever recall the scenes I witnessed but too often at Indian funerals.
“That, of course, will rest with yourself. But even should I hereafter deserve and win such love as would prompt the wish, I trust you will never dream of cutting short your life because—in the ordinary course of nature—mine should end long before the term of yours.”
Her face again brightened, and she looked up more shyly but not less earnestly.
“I did not make my meaning clear,” she replied. “I spoke not, as my father sometimes speaks, of leaving this world, when he means to remind us that death is only a departure to another; though that was, not so long ago, the only meaning the words could bear. I was thinking of your journey, and I want you to take me with you when you go.”
“You have quite settled in your own mind that I shall go! And in truth you have now removed, as you yesterday created, the only obstacle. If you would not go with me, I might, rather than give you up, have given up the whole purpose of my enterprise, and have left my friends, and the world from which I came, ignorant whether it had ever been accomplished. But if you accompany me, I shall certainly try to regain my own planet.”
“Then,” she said hopefully, but half confidently, “when you go, if I have not given you cause of lasting displeasure, you will take me with you? Most men do not think much of promises, especially of promises made to women; but I have heard you speak as if to break a plighted word were a thing impossible.”
“I promise,” I returned earnestly, very much moved by a proof of real affection such as I had no right to expect, and certainly had not anticipated. “I give you the word of one who has never lied, that if, when the time comes, you wish to go with me, you shall. But by that time, you will probably have a better idea what are the dangers you are asking to share.”
“What can that matter?” she answered. “I suppose in almost any case we should escape or die together? To leave me here is to inflict certainly, and at once, the worst that can possibly befall me; to take me gives me the hope of living or dying with you; and even if I were killed, I should be with you, and feel that you were kind to me, to the last.”
“I little thought,” said I, hesitating long for some expression of tenderness, which the language of Mars refuses to furnish,—”I little thought to find in a world of which selfishness seems to be the paramount principle, and the absence of real love even between man and woman the most prevalent characteristic, a wife so true to the best and deepest meaning of wedlock. Still less could I have hoped to find such a wife in one who had scarcely spoken to me twenty-four hours before our marriage. If my unexampled adventure had had no other reward—if I had cared nothing for the triumph of discovering a new world with all its wonders—Eveena, this discovery alone is reward in full for all my studies, toils, and perils. For all I have done and risked already, for all the risks of the future, I am tenfold repaid in winning you.”
She looked up at these words with an expression in which there was more of bewilderment and incredulity than of satisfaction, evidently touched by the earnestness of my tone, but scarcely understanding my words better than if I had spoken in my own tongue. It would not be worthwhile to record the next hour’s conversation; I would only note the strong and painful impression it left upon my mind. There was in Eveena’s language and demeanour a timidity—a sort of tentative fearful venturing as on dangerous ground, feeling her way, as it were, in almost every sentence—which could not be wholly attributed to the shyness of a very young and very suddenly wedded bride. There was enough and to spare of this shyness; but more of the sheer physical or nervous fear of a child suddenly left in hands whose reputed severity has thoroughly frightened her; not daring to give offence by silence, but afraid at each word to give yet more fatal offence in speaking. Longer experience of a world in which even the first passion of love is devoid of tenderness—in which asserted equality has long since deprived women of that claim to indulgence which can only rest on acknowledged weakness—taught me but too well the meaning of this fearful, trembling anxiety to please, or rather not to offend. I suppose that even a brutal master hardly likes to see a child cower in his presence as if constantly expecting a blow; and this cowering was so evident in my bride’s demeanour, that, after trying for a couple of hours to coax her into confidence and unreserved feminine fluency, I began to feel almost impatient. It was fortunate that, just as my tone involuntarily betrayed to her quick and watchful ear some shade of annoyance, just as I caught a furtive upward glance that seemed to ask what error she had committed and how it might be repaired, a scratching on the door startled her. She did not, however, venture to disengage herself from the hand which now held her own, but only moved half-imperceptibly aside with a slight questioning look and gesture, as if tacitly asking to be released. As I still held her fast, she was silent, till the unnoticed scratching had been two or three times repeated, and then half-whispered, “Shall I tell them to come in?” When I released her, there appeared to my surprise at her call, no human intruder, but one of the ambau, bearing on a tray a goblet, which, as he placed it on a table beside us, I perceived to contain a liquid rather different from any yet offered me. The presence of these mute servants is generally no more heeded than that of our cats and dogs; but I now learnt that Martial ideas of delicacy forbid them, even as human servants would be forbidden, to intrude unannounced on conjugal privacy. When the little creature had departed, I tasted the liquid, but its flavour was so unpleasant that I set down the vessel immediately. Eveena, however, took it up, and drinking a part of it, with an effort to control the grimace of dislike it provoked, held it up to me again, so evidently expecting and inviting me to share it that courtesy permitted no further demur. A second sign or look, when I set it down unemptied, induced me to finish the draught. Regarding the matter as some trivial but indispensable ceremonial, I took no further notice of it; but, thankful for the diversion it had given to my thoughts, continued my endeavours to soothe and encourage my fair companion. After a few minutes it seemed as if she were somewhat suddenly gaining courage and confidence. At the same time I myself became aware of a mental effect which I promptly ascribed to the draught. Nor was I wrong. It contained one of those drugs which I have mentioned; so rarely used in this house that I had never before seen or tasted any of them, but given, as matter of course, on any occasion that is supposed to involve unusual agitation or make an exceptional call on nerves or spirits. But for the influence of this cup I should still have withheld the remark which, nevertheless, I had resolved to make as soon as I could hope to do so without annoying or alarming Eveena.
“Are you afraid of me?” I asked somewhat abruptly. The question may have startled her, but I was more startled by the answer.
“Of course,” she said in a tone which would have been absolutely matter of fact, except that the doubt evidently surprised her. “Ought I not to be so? But what made you ask? And what had I done to displease you, just before they sent us the ‘courage cup’?”
“I did not mean to show anything like displeasure,” I replied. “But I was thinking then, and I may tell you now, that you remind me not of the women of my own Earth, but of petted children suddenly transferred to a harsh school. You speak and look like such a child, as if you expected each moment at least to be severely scolded, if not beaten, without knowing your fault.”
“Not yet,” she murmured, with a smile which seemed to me more painful than tears would have been. “But please don’t speak as if I should fear anything so much as being scolded by you. We have a saying that ‘the hand may bruise the skin, the tongue can break the heart.’”
“True enough,” I said; “only on Earth it is mostly woman’s tongue that breaks the heart, and men must not in return bruise the skin.”
“Why not?” she asked. “You said to my mother the other day that Argâ (the fretful child of Esmo’s adoption) deserved to be beaten.”
“Women are supposed,” I answered, “to be amenable to milder influences; and a man must be drunk or utterly brutal before he could deal harshly with a creature so gentle and so fragile as yourself.”
“Don’t spoil me,” she said, with a pretty half-mournful, half-playful glance. “‘A petted bride makes an unhappy wife.’ Surely it is no true kindness to tempt us to count on an indulgence that cannot last.”
“There is among us,” I rejoined, “a saying about ‘breaking a butterfly on the wheel’—as if one spoke of driving away the tiny birds that nestle and feed in your flowers with a hammer. To apply your proverbs to yourself would be to realise this proverb of ours. Can you not let me pet and spoil my little flower-bird at least till I have tamed her, and trust me to chastise her as soon as she shall give reason—if I can find a tendril or flower-stem light enough for the purpose?”
“Will you promise to use a hammer when you wish to be rid of her?” said she, glancing up for one moment through her drooping lashes with a look exactly attuned to the mingled archness and pathos of her tone.
CONTINUES NEXT WEEK