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Chapter I.5
My sister Clara is four years younger than I am. In form of face, in complexion,
and--except the eyes--in features, she bears a striking resemblance to my father.
Her expressions however, must be very like what my mother's was. Whenever I
have looked at her in her silent and thoughtful moments, she has always
appeared to freshen, and even to increase, my vague, childish recollections of
our lost mother. Her eyes have that slight tinge of melancholy in their tenderness,
and that peculiar softness in their repose, which is only seen in blue eyes. Her
complexion, pale as my father's when she is neither speaking nor moving, has in
a far greater degree than his the tendency to flush, not merely in moments of
agitation, but even when she is walking, or talking on any subject that interests
her. Without this peculiarity her paleness would be a defect. With it, the absence
of any colour in her complexion but the fugitive uncertain colour which I have
described, would to some eyes debar her from any claims to beauty. And a
beauty perhaps she is not--at least, in the ordinary acceptation of the term.
The lower part of her face is rather too small for the upper, her figure is too slight,
the sensitiveness of her nervous organization is too constantly visible in her
actions and her looks. She would not fix attention and admiration in a box at the
opera; very few men passing her in the street would turn round to look after her;
very few women would regard her with that slightingly attentive stare, that steady
depreciating scrutiny, which a dashing decided beauty so often receives (and so
often triumphs in receiving) from her personal inferiors among her own sex. The
greatest charms that my sister has on the surface, come from beneath it.
When you really knew her, when she spoke to you freely, as to a friend--then, the
attraction of her voice, her smile her manner, impressed you indescribably. Her
slightest words and her commonest actions interested and delighted you, you
knew not why. There was a beauty about her unassuming simplicity, her natural--
exquisitely natural--kindness of heart, and word, and manner, which preserved its
own unobtrusive influence over you, in spite of all other rival influences, be they
what they might. You missed and thought of her, when you were fresh from the
society of the most beautiful and the most brilliant women. You remembered a
few kind, pleasant words of hers when you forgot the wit of the wittiest ladies, the
learning of the most learned. The influence thus possessed, and unconsciously
possessed, by my sister over every one with whom she came in contact--over
men especially--may, I think be very simply accounted for, in very few sentences.
We live in an age when too many women appear to be ambitious of morally
unsexing themselves before society, by aping the language and the manners of
men--especially in reference to that miserable modern dandyism of demeanour,
which aims at repressing all betrayal of warmth of feeling; which abstains from
displaying any enthusiasm on any subject whatever; which, in short, labours to
make the fashionable imperturbability of the face the faithful reflection of the
fashionable imperturbability of the mind. Women of this exclusively modern
order, like to use slang expressions in their conversation; assume a bastard-