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时间:2020-07-15 11:03:40 作者:鞠婧祎 浏览量:65989



state of tension. I believe that a modest but complete statement of the Socialist criticism of the family and the proposed Socialist substitute for the conventional relationships might awaken extraordinary responses at the present time. The great terror of the eighties and early nineties that crushed all reasonable discussion of sexual relationship is, I believe, altogether over.


Drearily, drearily sets the wind down from the Northern Seas,



Lady Caroline Mansergh had married, or rather, her mother had married her to, a gentleman of considerable importance, wealth, and more than mature years, when she was just seventeen. Very fair and very sweet seventeen, whom it had been somewhat difficult to convince of the delights and advantages of being "an old man's darling." But Lady Hetherington had not accustomed her children to gentle or affectionate treatment, or to having their inclinations consulted in any way. She no more recognised Lady Caroline's right to choose her own husband than she would have consulted her taste in her babyhood about her own sashes; and the girl's feeble attempt at remonstrance in opposition to the solid advantages of the proposals made by Mr. Mansergh did not produce the least effect at the time. Her ladyship carried her point triumphantly, and the girl found her fate more endurable, on the whole, than she had expected. But she never forgave her mother, and that was rather odd, though not, when looked into, very unreasonable; Mr. Mansergh never forgave her either. The countess had accomplished his wishes for him, the countess had bestowed upon him the wife he coveted, but she had deceived him, and when he won his wife's confidence he found her mother out. He had not been se foolish as to think the girl loved him, but he had believed she was willing to become his wife--he had never had a suspicion of the domestic scenes which had preceded that pretty tableau vivant at St. George's, Hanover Square, in which every emotion proper to the occasion had been represented to perfection. Fortunately for Lady Caroline, her elderly husband was a perfect gentleman, and treated her with indulgence, consideration, and respect, which appealed successfully to her feelings, and were rewarded by a degree of confidence on her part, which insured her safety and his peace in the hazardous experiment of their unequal marriage. She told him frankly all about herself, her tastes, her feelings--the estrangement, almost amounting to dislike, which existed between herself and her mother--the attempt she had made to avoid her marriage; in short, the whole story of her brief life, in which there had been much to deplore. Mr. Mansergh possessed much firmness of character and good sense, which, though it had not preserved him from the folly of marrying a girl young enough to be his daughter, came to his aid in making the best (and that much better than could have been expected) of the perilous position. Lady Caroline did not, indeed, learn to love her husband in the sense in which alone any woman can be justified in becoming the wife of any man, but she liked him better than she liked any one in the world, and she regarded him with real and active respect, a sentiment which she had never entertained previously for any one. Thus it fell out--contrary to the expectations of "society," which would have acted in the aggregate precisely as Lady Hetherington had done, but which would also have congratulated itself on its discernment, and exulted hugely had the matrimonial speculation turned out a failure--that Lady Caroline Mansergh was happy and respectable. She never gave cause for the smallest scandal; she was constantly with her husband, and was so naturally unaffectedly cheerful and content in his company, that not the most censorious observer could discover that he was used as a shield or a pretence. There was a perfectly good understanding between Mr. Mansergh and his young wife on all points; but if there was more complete accord on one in particular than on others, it was in keeping the countess at a distance. The manoeuvring mother profited little by the success of her scheme. To be sure she got rid of her daughter at the comparatively trifling expense of a splendid trousseau,and the unconsidered risk of the welfare and the reputation of the daughter in question, and she had the advantage over the majority of her friends of having married her advantageously in her first season. But the profit of the transaction terminated there. In her daughter's house Lady Hetherington remained on the same ceremonious footing as any other visiting acquaintance, and every attempt she made either to interfere or advise was met by a polite and resolute coldness, against the silent obstinacy of which she would have striven unsuccessfully had she not been much too wise to strive at all. If the barrier had been reared by Lady Caroline's hands alone, though they were no longer feeble, the countess would have flung it down by the force of her imperious will; but when she found that her daughter had her husband's opinion and authority to back her, Lady Hetherington executed the strategic movement of retreat with celerity and discretion, and would never have been suspected of discomfiture had she not spoken of her daughter henceforth with suspicious effusion. Then "society" smiled, and knew all about it, and felt that Mr. Mansergh had been foolish indeed, but not immoderately, not unpardonably so. Lady Caroline was very popular and very much admired, and had her only friend's life been prolonged for a few years, until she had passed the dangerous period of youth, she might have been as worthy of esteem and affection as she was calculated to inspire admiration. But Mr. Mansergh died before his wife was twenty-three years old, and left her with a large fortune, brilliant beauty, and just sufficient knowledge of the world to enable her to detect and despise its most salient snares, but with a mind still but half educated, desultory habits, and a wholly unoccupied heart. Her grief for her husband's loss, if not poignant and torturing, was at least sincere, deep, and well founded. When he died, she had said to herself that she should never again have so true, so wise, and so constant a friend, and she was right. Life had many pleasant and some good things in store for Lady Caroline Mansergh, but such a love as that with which her husband had loved her was not among them. She acknowledged this always; the impression did not fade away with the first vehemence of grief--it lasted, and was destined to deepen. She strayed into a bad "set" before long, and to her youth and impulsiveness, with her tendency to ennui,and her sad freedom from all ties of attachment, the step from feeling that no one was so good as her husband had been, to believing that no one else was good at all, was very easy. And so Lady Caroline acquired a dangerous and demoralising trick of contempt for her fellows, which she hid under a mask of light and careless good-nature indeed, and which was seriously offensive to no one, but which condemned her, nevertheless, to much interior solitude and dreariness. That she was not of the world she lived in, was due less to any elevation of sentiment than to a capricious and disdainful humour, which caused her to grow bored very readily, and to dismiss her associates from her thoughts after a brief scrutiny, in which their follies and foibles came into strong light, and the qualities which would have required time and patience to find out remained undiscovered.


"Well?" Her husband's voice cut sharply through her thoughts.

chapter 4

"Who is she?"

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"Don't noise that last 'why' around the Barracks, Mister," Nef growled. "Officially, she died in tear-blinded grief, an accident." He smiled. "Whatever our reason for burning out Stinkerville, Lee, we got it done. The fact that those half-humans down the hill bred and sweat and poisoned the soil within half an hour's walk has been a stench in my nostrils ever since we got here. Now they're gone. I'm as sorry as you that the Piacentellis are dead. But the manner of their dying was such as to assure Axenic mankind a new home."


And, sitting down, he began immediately to dictate the article. He got along swimmingly, and about a third of the article must have been down on paper when I heard a squeaky voice outside the door. It was the call-boy. Sir Herbert rose, stroked his beard, adjusted his gown, and walked outside; as he did these things he continued dictating, his voice stopping in the middle of a rather involved sentence when he was out in the passage.


Jorgenson and Ganti waited.