Night and Day
She took her letters up to her room with her, having persuaded her mother to go
to bed directly Mr. Hilbery left them, for so long as she sat in the same room as
her mother, Mrs. Hilbery might, at any moment, ask for a sight of the post. A very
hasty glance through many sheets had shown Katharine that, by some
coincidence, her attention had to be directed to many different anxieties
simultaneously. In the first place, Rodney had written a very full account of his
state of mind, which was illustrated by a sonnet, and he demanded a
reconsideration of their position, which agitated Katharine more than she liked.
Then there were two letters which had to be laid side by side and compared
before she could make out the truth of their story, and even when she knew the
facts she could not decide what to make of them; and finally she had to reflect
upon a great many pages from a cousin who found himself in financial difficulties,
which forced him to the uncongenial occupation of teaching the young ladies of
Bungay to play upon the violin.
But the two letters which each told the same story differently were the chief
source of her perplexity. She was really rather shocked to find it definitely
established that her own second cousin, Cyril Alardyce, had lived for the last four
years with a woman who was not his wife, who had borne him two children, and
was now about to bear him another. This state of things had been discovered by
Mrs. Milvain, her aunt Celia, a zealous inquirer into such matters, whose letter
was also under consideration. Cyril, she said, must be made to marry the woman
at once; and Cyril, rightly or wrongly, was indignant with such interference with
his affairs, and would not own that he had any cause to be ashamed of himself.
Had he any cause to be ashamed of himself, Katharine wondered; and she
turned to her aunt again.
"Remember," she wrote, in her profuse, emphatic statement, "that he bears your
grandfather's name, and so will the child that is to be born. The poor boy is not so
much to blame as the woman who deluded him, thinking him a gentleman, which
he IS, and having money, which he has NOT."
"What would Ralph Denham say to this?" thought Katharine, beginning to pace
up and down her bedroom. She twitched aside the curtains, so that, on turning,
she was faced by darkness, and looking out, could just distinguish the branches
of a plane-tree and the yellow lights of some one else's windows.
"What would Mary Datchet and Ralph Denham say?" she reflected, pausing by
the window, which, as the night was warm, she raised, in order to feel the air
upon her face, and to lose herself in the nothingness of night. But with the air the
distant humming sound of far-off crowded thoroughfares was admitted to the
room. The incessant and tumultuous hum of the distant traffic seemed, as she
stood there, to represent the thick texture of her life, for her life was so hemmed
in with the progress of other lives that the sound of its own advance was
inaudible. People like Ralph and Mary, she thought, had it all their own way, and
an empty space before them, and, as she envied them, she cast her mind out to
imagine an empty land where all this petty intercourse of men and women, this