The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Smoothing the Way
IT has been often enough remarked that women have a curious power of divining the
characters of men, which would seem to be innate and instinctive; seeing that it is arrived
at through no patient process of reasoning, that it can give no satisfactory or sufficient
account of itself, and that it pronounces in the most confident manner even against
accumulated observation on the part of the other sex. But it has not been quite so often
remarked that this power (fallible, like every other human attribute) is for the most part
absolutely incapable of self-revision; and that when it has delivered an adverse opinion
which by all human lights is subsequently proved to have failed, it is undistinguishable
from prejudice, in respect of its determination not to be corrected. Nay, the very
possibility of contradiction or disproof, however remote, communicates to this feminine
judgment from the first, in nine cases out of ten, the weakness attendant on the testimony
of an interested witness; so personally and strongly does the fair diviner connect herself
with her divination.
'Now, don't you think, Ma dear,' said the Minor Canon to his mother one day as she sat at
her knitting in his little book-room, 'that you are rather hard on Mr. Neville?'
'No, I do NOT, Sept,' returned the old lady.
'Let us discuss it, Ma.'
'I have no objection to discuss it, Sept. I trust, my dear, I am always open to discussion.'
There was a vibration in the old lady's cap, as though she internally added: 'and I should
like to see the discussion that would change MY mind!'
'Very good, Ma,' said her conciliatory son. 'There is nothing like being open to
'I hope not, my dear,' returned the old lady, evidently shut to it.
'Well! Mr. Neville, on that unfortunate occasion, commits himself under provocation.'
'And under mulled wine,' added the old lady.
'I must admit the wine. Though I believe the two young men were much alike in that
'I don't,' said the old lady.
'Why not, Ma?'
'Because I DON'T,' said the old lady. 'Still, I am quite open to discussion.'