The Descent of Man and Other Stories HTML version
the inscrutable had always been peculiarly inviting; but hitherto the
Professor's mental infidelities had been restricted by an unbroken
and relentless domesticity. Now, for the first time since his
marriage, chance had given him six weeks to himself, and he was
coming home with his lungs full of liberty.
It must not be inferred that the Professor's domestic relations were
defective: they were in fact so complete that it was almost
impossible to get away from them. It is the happy husbands who
are really in bondage; the little rift within the lute is often a
passage to freedom. Marriage had given the Professor exactly what
he had sought in it; a comfortable lining to life. The impossibility
of rising to sentimental crises had made him scrupulously careful
not to shirk the practical obligations of the bond. He took as it were
a sociological view of his case, and modestly regarded himself as a
brick in that foundation on which the state is suppos ed to rest.
Perhaps if Mrs. Linyard had cared about entomology, or had taken
sides in the war over the transmission of acquired characteristics,
he might have had a less impersonal notion of marriage; but he was
unconscious of any deficiency in their relation, and if consulted
would probably have declared that he didn't want any woman
bothering with his beetles. His real life had always lain in the
universe of thought, in that enchanted region which, to those who
have lingered there, comes to have so much more colour and
substance than the painted curtain hanging before it. The
Professor's particular veil of Maia was a narrow strip of homespun
woven in a monotonous pattern; but he had only to lift it to step
into an empire.
This unseen universe was thronged with the most seductive shapes:
the Professor moved Sultan-like through a seraglio of ideas. But of
all the lovely apparitions that wove their spells about him, none
had ever worn quite so persuasive an aspect as this latest favourite.
For the others were mostly rather grave companions, serious-
minded and elevating enough to have passed muster in a Ladies'