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Night and Day

CHAPTER XVII
When the sun shone, as it did with unusual brightness that Christmas week, it
revealed much that was faded and not altogether well-kept-up in Stogdon House
and its grounds. In truth, Sir Francis had retired from service under the
Government of India with a pension that was not adequate, in his opinion, to his
services, as it certainly was not adequate to his ambitions. His career had not
come up to his expectations, and although he was a very fine, white-whiskered,
mahogany-colored old man to look at, and had laid down a very choice cellar of
good reading and good stories, you could not long remain ignorant of the fact
that some thunder-storm had soured them; he had a grievance. This grievance
dated back to the middle years of the last century, when, owing to some official
intrigue, his merits had been passed over in a disgraceful manner in favor of
another, his junior.
The rights and wrongs of the story, presuming that they had some existence in
fact, were no longer clearly known to his wife and children; but this
disappointment had played a very large part in their lives, and had poisoned the
life of Sir Francis much as a disappointment in love is said to poison the whole
life of a woman. Long brooding on his failure, continual arrangement and
rearrangement of his deserts and rebuffs, had made Sir Francis much of an
egoist, and in his retirement his temper became increasingly difficult and
exacting.
His wife now offered so little resistance to his moods that she was practically
useless to him. He made his daughter Eleanor into his chief confidante, and the
prime of her life was being rapidly consumed by her father. To her he dictated the
memoirs which were to avenge his memory, and she had to assure him
constantly that his treatment had been a disgrace. Already, at the age of thirty-
five, her cheeks were whitening as her mother's had whitened, but for her there
would be no memories of Indian suns and Indian rivers, and clamor of children in
a nursery; she would have very little of substance to think about when she sat, as
Lady Otway now sat, knitting white wool, with her eyes fixed almost perpetually
upon the same embroidered bird upon the same fire-screen. But then Lady
Otway was one of the people for whom the great make-believe game of English
social life has been invented; she spent most of her time in pretending to herself
and her neighbors that she was a dignified, important, much-occupied person, of
considerable social standing and sufficient wealth. In view of the actual state of
things this game needed a great deal of skill; and, perhaps, at the age she had
reached--she was over sixty--she played far more to deceive herself than to
deceive any one else. Moreover, the armor was wearing thin; she forgot to keep
up appearances more and more.
The worn patches in the carpets, and the pallor of the drawing-room, where no
chair or cover had been renewed for some years, were due not only to the
miserable pension, but to the wear and tear of twelve children, eight of whom
were sons. As often happens in these large families, a distinct dividing-line could
be traced, about half-way in the succession, where the money for educational
 
 
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