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Chapter 3

  • Bridge at Bellomont usually lasted till the small hours; and when Lily went t_ed that night she had played too long for her own good.
  • Feeling no desire for the self-communion which awaited her in her room, sh_ingered on the broad stairway, looking down into the hall below, where th_ast card-players were grouped about the tray of tall glasses and silver- collared decanters which the butler had just placed on a low table near th_ire.
  • The hall was arcaded, with a gallery supported on columns of pale yello_arble. Tall clumps of flowering plants were grouped against a background o_ark foliage in the angles of the walls. On the crimson carpet a deer-houn_nd two or three spaniels dozed luxuriously before the fire, and the ligh_rom the great central lantern overhead shed a brightness on the women's hai_nd struck sparks from their jewels as they moved.
  • There were moments when such scenes delighted Lily, when they gratified he_ense of beauty and her craving for the external finish of life; there wer_thers when they gave a sharper edge to the meagreness of her ow_pportunities. This was one of the moments when the sense of contrast wa_ppermost, and she turned away impatiently as Mrs. George Dorset, glitterin_n serpentine spangles, drew Percy Gryce in her wake to a confidential noo_eneath the gallery.
  • It was not that Miss Bart was afraid of losing her newly-acquired hold ove_r. Gryce. Mrs. Dorset might startle or dazzle him, but she had neither th_kill nor the patience to effect his capture. She was too self-engrossed t_enetrate the recesses of his shyness, and besides, why should she care t_ive herself the trouble? At most it might amuse her to make sport of hi_implicity for an evening—after that he would be merely a burden to her, an_nowing this, she was far too experienced to encourage him. But the mer_hought of that other woman, who could take a man up and toss him aside as sh_illed, without having to regard him as a possible factor in her plans, fille_ily Bart with envy. She had been bored all the afternoon by Percy Gryce—th_ere thought seemed to waken an echo of his droning voice—but she could no_gnore him on the morrow, she must follow up her success, must submit to mor_oredom, must be ready with fresh compliances and adaptabilities, and all o_he bare chance that he might ultimately decide to do her the honour of borin_er for life.
  • It was a hateful fate—but how escape from it? What choice had she? To b_erself, or a Gerty Farish. As she entered her bedroom, with its softly-shade_ights, her lace dressing-gown lying across the silken bedspread, her littl_mbroidered slippers before the fire, a vase of carnations filling the ai_ith perfume, and the last novels and magazines lying uncut on a table besid_he reading-lamp, she had a vision of Miss Farish's cramped flat, with it_heap conveniences and hideous wall-papers. No; she was not made for mean an_habby surroundings, for the squalid compromises of poverty. Her whole bein_ilated in an atmosphere of luxury; it was the background she required, th_nly climate she could breathe in. But the luxury of others was not what sh_anted. A few years ago it had sufficed her: she had taken her daily meed o_leasure without caring who provided it. Now she was beginning to chafe at th_bligations it imposed, to feel herself a mere pensioner on the splendou_hich had once seemed to belong to her. There were even moments when she wa_onscious of having to pay her way.
  • For a long time she had refused to play bridge. She knew she could not affor_t, and she was afraid of acquiring so expensive a taste. She had seen th_anger exemplified in more than one of her associates—in young Ned Silverton, for instance, the charming fair boy now seated in abject rapture at the elbo_f Mrs. Fisher, a striking divorcee with eyes and gowns as emphatic as th_ead-lines of her "case." Lily could remember when young Silverton ha_tumbled into their circle, with the air of a strayed Arcadian who ha_ublished chamung sonnets in his college journal. Since then he had develope_ taste for Mrs. Fisher and bridge, and the latter at least had involved hi_n expenses from which he had been more than once rescued by harassed maide_isters, who treasured the sonnets, and went without sugar in their tea t_eep their darling afloat. Ned's case was familiar to Lily: she had seen hi_harming eyes—which had a good deal more poetry in them than th_onnets—change from surprise to amusement, and from amusement to anxiety, a_e passed under the spell of the terrible god of chance; and she was afraid o_iscovering the same symptoms in her own case.
  • For in the last year she had found that her hostesses expected her to take _lace at the card-table. It was one of the taxes she had to pay for thei_rolonged hospitality, and for the dresses and trinkets which occasionall_eplenished her insufficient wardrobe. And since she had played regularly th_assion had grown on her. Once or twice of late she had won a large sum, an_nstead of keeping it against future losses, had spent it in dress or jewelry; and the desire to atone for this imprudence, combined with the increasin_xhilaration of the game, drove her to risk higher stakes at each fres_enture. She tried to excuse herself on the plea that, in the Trenor set, i_ne played at all one must either play high or be set down as priggish o_tingy; but she knew that the gambling passion was upon her, and that in he_resent surroundings there was small hope of resisting it.
  • Tonight the luck had been persistently bad, and the little gold purse whic_ung among her trinkets was almost empty when she returned to her room. Sh_nlocked the wardrobe, and taking out her jewel-case, looked under the tra_or the roll of bills from which she had replenished the purse before goin_own to dinner. Only twenty dollars were left: the discovery was so startlin_hat for a moment she fancied she must have been robbed. Then she took pape_nd pencil, and seating herself at the writing-table, tried to reckon up wha_he had spent during the day. Her head was throbbing with fatigue, and she ha_o go over the figures again and again; but at last it became clear to he_hat she had lost three hundred dollars at cards. She took out her cheque-boo_o see if her balance was larger than she remembered, but found she had erre_n the other direction. Then she returned to her calculations; but figure a_he would, she could not conjure back the vanished three hundred dollars. I_as the sum she had set aside to pacify her dress-maker—unless she shoul_ecide to use it as a sop to the jeweller. At any rate, she had so many use_or it that its very insufficiency had caused her to play high in the hope o_oubling it. But of course she had lost—she who needed every penny, whil_ertha Dorset, whose husband showered money on her, must have pocketed a_east five hundred, and Judy Trenor, who could have afforded to lose _housand a night, had left the table clutching such a heap of bills that sh_ad been unable to shake hands with her guests when they bade her good night.
  • A world in which such things could be seemed a miserable place to Lily Bart; but then she had never been able to understand the laws of a universe whic_as so ready to leave her out of its calculations.
  • She began to undress without ringing for her maid, whom she had sent to bed.
  • She had been long enough in bondage to other people's pleasure to b_onsiderate of those who depended on hers, and in her bitter moods i_ometimes struck her that she and her maid were in the same position, excep_hat the latter received her wages more regularly.
  • As she sat before the mirror brushing her hair, her face looked hollow an_ale, and she was frightened by two little lines near her mouth, faint flaw_n the smooth curve of the cheek.
  • "Oh, I must stop worrying!" she exclaimed. "Unless it's the electric light—"
  • she reflected, springing up from her seat and lighting the candles on th_ressing-table.
  • She turned out the wall-lights, and peered at herself between the candle- flames. The white oval of her face swam out waveringly from a background o_hadows, the uncertain light blurring it like a haze; but the two lines abou_he mouth remained.
  • Lily rose and undressed in haste.
  • "It is only because I am tired and have such odious things to think about,"
  • she kept repeating; and it seemed an added injustice that petty cares shoul_eave a trace on the beauty which was her only defence against them.
  • But the odious things were there, and remained with her. She returned wearil_o the thought of Percy Gryce, as a wayfarer picks up a heavy load and toil_n after a brief rest. She was almost sure she had "landed" him: a few days'
  • work and she would win her reward. But the reward itself seemed upalatabl_ust then: she could get no zest from the thought of victory. It would be _est from worry, no more—and how little that would have seemed to her a fe_ears earlier! Her ambitions had shrunk gradually in the desiccating air o_ailure. But why had she failed? Was it her own fault or that of destiny?
  • She remembered how her mother, after they had lost their money, used to say t_er with a kind of fierce vindictiveness: "But you'll get it all back—you'l_et it all back, with your face." … The remembrance roused a whole train o_ssociation, and she lay in the darkness reconstructing the past out of whic_er present had grown.
  • A house in which no one ever dined at home unless there was "company"; a door- bell perpetually ringing; a hall-table showered with square envelopes whic_ere opened in haste, and oblong envelopes which were allowed to gather dus_n the depths of a bronze jar; a series of French and English maids givin_arning amid a chaos of hurriedly-ransacked wardrobes and dress-closets; a_qually changing dynasty of nurses and footmen; quarrels in the pantry, th_itchen and the drawing-room; precipitate trips to Europe, and returns wit_orged trunks and days of interminable unpacking; semi-annual discussions a_o where the summer should be spent, grey interludes of economy and brillian_eactions of expense—such was the setting of Lily Bart's first memories.
  • Ruling the turbulent element called home was the vigorous and determine_igure of a mother still young enough to dance her ball-dresses to rags, whil_he hazy outline of a neutral-tinted father filled an intermediate spac_etween the butler and the man who came to wind the clocks. Even to the eye_f infancy, Mrs. Hudson Bart had appeared young; but Lily could not recall th_ime when her father had not been bald and slightly stooping, with streaks o_rey in his hair, and a tired walk. It was a shock to her to learn afterwar_hat he was but two years older than her mother.
  • Lily seldom saw her father by daylight. All day he was "down town"; and i_inter it was long after nightfall when she heard his fagged step on th_tairs and his hand on the school-room door. He would kiss her in silence, an_sk one or two questions of the nurse or the governess; then Mrs. Bart's mai_ould come to remind him that he was dining out, and he would hurry away wit_ nod to Lily. In summer, when he joined them for a Sunday at Newport o_outhampton, he was even more effaced and silent than in winter. It seemed t_ire him to rest, and he would sit for hours staring at the sea-line from _uiet corner of the verandah, while the clatter of his wife's existence wen_n unheeded a few feet off. Generally, however, Mrs. Bart and Lily went t_urope for the summer, and before the steamer was half way over Mr. Bart ha_ipped below the horizon. Sometimes his daughter heard him denounced fo_aving neglected to forward Mrs. Bart's remittances; but for the most part h_as never mentioned or thought of till his patient stooping figure presente_tself on the New York dock as a buffer between the magnitude of his wife'_uggage and the restrictions of the American custom-house.
  • In this desultory yet agitated fashion life went on through Lily's teens: _ig-zag broken course down which the family craft glided on a rapid current o_musement, tugged at by the underflow of a perpetual need—the need of mor_oney. Lily could not recall the time when there had been money enough, and i_ome vague way her father seemed always to blame for the deficiency. It coul_ertainly not be the fault of Mrs. Bart, who was spoken of by her friends as a
  • "wonderful manager." Mrs. Bart was famous for the unlimited effect sh_roduced on limited means; and to the lady and her acquaintances there wa_omething heroic in living as though one were much richer than one's bank-boo_enoted.
  • Lily was naturally proud of her mother's aptitude in this line: she had bee_rought up in the faith that, whatever it cost, one must have a good cook, an_e what Mrs. Bart called "decently dressed." Mrs. Bart's worst reproach to he_usband was to ask him if he expected her to "live like a pig"; and hi_eplying in the negative was always regarded as a justification for cabling t_aris for an extra dress or two, and telephoning to the jeweller that h_ight, after all, send home the turquoise bracelet which Mrs. Bart had looke_t that morning.
  • Lily knew people who "lived like pigs," and their appearance and surrounding_ustified her mother's repugnance to that form of existence. They were mostl_ousins, who inhabited dingy houses with engravings from Cole's Voyage of Lif_n the drawing-room walls, and slatternly parlour-maids who said "I'll go an_ee" to visitors calling at an hour when all right-minded persons ar_onventionally if not actually out. The disgusting part of it was that many o_hese cousins were rich, so that Lily imbibed the idea that if people live_ike pigs it was from choice, and through the lack of any proper standard o_onduct. This gave her a sense of reflected superiority, and she did not nee_rs. Bart's comments on the family frumps and misers to foster her naturall_ively taste for splendour.
  • Lily was nineteen when circumstances caused her to revise her view of th_niverse.
  • The previous year she had made a dazzling debut fringed by a heavy thunder- cloud of bills. The light of the debut still lingered on the horizon, but th_loud had thickened; and suddenly it broke. The suddenness added to th_orror; and there were still times when Lily relived with painful vividnes_very detail of the day on which the blow fell. She and her mother had bee_eated at the luncheon-table, over the CHAUFROIX and cold salmon of th_revious night's dinner: it was one of Mrs. Bart's few economies to consume i_rivate the expensive remnants of her hospitality. Lily was feeling th_leasant languor which is youth's penalty for dancing till dawn; but he_other, in spite of a few lines about the mouth, and under the yellow waves o_er temples, was as alert, determined and high in colour as if she had rise_rom an untroubled sleep.
  • In the centre of the table, between the melting MARRONS GLACES and candie_herries, a pyramid of American Beauties lifted their vigorous stems; the_eld their heads as high as Mrs. Bart, but their rose-colour had turned to _issipated purple, and Lily's sense of fitness was disturbed by thei_eappearance on the luncheon-table.
  • "I really think, mother," she said reproachfully, "we might afford a few fres_lowers for luncheon. Just some jonquils or lilies-of-the-valley—"
  • Mrs. Bart stared. Her own fastidiousness had its eye fixed on the world, an_he did not care how the luncheon-table looked when there was no one presen_t it but the family. But she smiled at her daughter's innocence.
  • "Lilies-of-the-valley," she said calmly, "cost two dollars a dozen at thi_eason."
  • Lily was not impressed. She knew very little of the value of money.
  • "It would not take more than six dozen to fill that bowl," she argued.
  • "Six dozen what?" asked her father's voice in the doorway.
  • The two women looked up in surprise; though it was a Saturday, the sight o_r. Bart at luncheon was an unwonted one. But neither his wife nor hi_aughter was sufficiently interested to ask an explanation.
  • Mr. Bart dropped into a chair, and sat gazing absently at the fragment o_ellied salmon which the butler had placed before him.
  • "I was only saying," Lily began, "that I hate to see faded flowers a_uncheon; and mother says a bunch of lilies-of-the- valley would not cost mor_han twelve dollars. Mayn't I tell the florist to send a few every day?"
  • She leaned confidently toward her father: he seldom refused her anything, an_rs. Bart had taught her to plead with him when her own entreaties failed.
  • Mr. Bart sat motionless, his gaze still fixed on the salmon, and his lower ja_ropped; he looked even paler than usual, and his thin hair lay in untid_treaks on his forehead. Suddenly he looked at his daughter and laughed. Th_augh was so strange that Lily coloured under it: she disliked bein_idiculed, and her father seemed to see something ridiculous in the request.
  • Perhaps he thought it foolish that she should trouble him about such a trifle.
  • "Twelve dollars—twelve dollars a day for flowers? Oh, certainly, my dear—giv_im an order for twelve hundred." He continued to laugh.
  • Mrs. Bart gave him a quick glance.
  • "You needn't wait, Poleworth—I will ring for you," she said to the butler.
  • The butler withdrew with an air of silent disapproval, leaving the remains o_he CHAUFROIX on the sideboard.
  • "What is the matter, Hudson? Are you ill?" said Mrs. Bart severely.
  • She had no tolerance for scenes which were not of her own making, and it wa_dious to her that her husband should make a show of himself before th_ervants.
  • "Are you ill?" she repeated.
  • "Ill?—No, I'm ruined," he said.
  • Lily made a frightened sound, and Mrs. Bart rose to her feet.
  • "Ruined—?" she cried; but controlling herself instantly, she turned a cal_ace to Lily.
  • "Shut the pantry door," she said.
  • Lily obeyed, and when she turned back into the room her father was sittin_ith both elbows on the table, the plate of salmon between them, and his hea_owed on his hands.
  • Mrs. Bart stood over him with a white face which made her hair unnaturall_ellow. She looked at Lily as the latter approached: her look was terrible, but her voice was modulated to a ghastly cheerfulness.
  • "Your father is not well—he doesn't know what he is saying. It is nothing—bu_ou had better go upstairs; and don't talk to the servants," she added.
  • Lily obeyed; she always obeyed when her mother spoke in that voice. She ha_ot been deceived by Mrs. Bart's words: she knew at once that they wer_uined. In the dark hours which followed, that awful fact overshadowed eve_er father's slow and difficult dying. To his wife he no longer counted: h_ad become extinct when he ceased to fulfil his purpose, and she sat at hi_ide with the provisional air of a traveller who waits for a belated train t_tart. Lily's feelings were softer: she pitied him in a frightened ineffectua_ay. But the fact that he was for the most part unconscious, and that hi_ttention, when she stole into the room, drifted away from her after a moment, made him even more of a stranger than in the nursery days when he had neve_ome home till after dark. She seemed always to have seen him through _lur—first of sleepiness, then of distance and indifference— and now the fo_ad thickened till he was almost indistinguishable. If she could hav_erformed any little services for him, or have exchanged with him a few o_hose affecting words which an extensive perusal of fiction had led her t_onnect with such occasions, the filial instinct might have stirred in her; but her pity, finding no active expression, remained in a state o_pectatorship, overshadowed by her mother's grim unflagging resentment. Ever_ook and act of Mrs. Bart's seemed to say: "You are sorry for him now—but yo_ill feel differently when you see what he has done to us."
  • It was a relief to Lily when her father died.
  • Then a long winter set in. There was a little money left, but to Mrs. Bart i_eemed worse than nothing—the mere mockery of what she was entitled to. Wha_as the use of living if one had to live like a pig? She sank into a kind o_urious apathy, a state of inert anger against fate. Her faculty for
  • "managing" deserted her, or she no longer took sufficient pride in it to exer_t. It was well enough to "manage" when by so doing one could keep one's ow_arriage; but when one's best contrivance did not conceal the fact that on_ad to go on foot, the effort was no longer worth making.
  • Lily and her mother wandered from place to place, now paying long visits t_elations whose house-keeping Mrs. Bart criticized, and who deplored the fac_hat she let Lily breakfast in bed when the girl had no prospects before her, and now vegetating in cheap continental refuges, where Mrs. Bart held hersel_iercely aloof from the frugal tea-tables of her companions in misfortune. Sh_as especially careful to avoid her old friends and the scenes of her forme_uccesses. To be poor seemed to her such a confession of failure that i_mounted to disgrace; and she detected a note of condescension in th_riendliest advances.
  • Only one thought consoled her, and that was the contemplation of Lily'_eauty. She studied it with a kind of passion, as though it were some weapo_he had slowly fashioned for her vengeance. It was the last asset in thei_ortunes, the nucleus around which their life was to be rebuilt. She watche_t jealously, as though it were her own property and Lily its mere custodian; and she tried to instil into the latter a sense of the responsibility tha_uch a charge involved. She followed in imagination the career of othe_eauties, pointing out to her daughter what might be achieved through such _ift, and dwelling on the awful warning of those who, in spite of it, ha_ailed to get what they wanted: to Mrs. Bart, only stupidity could explain th_amentable denouement of some of her examples. She was not above th_nconsistency of charging fate, rather than herself, with her own misfortunes; but she inveighed so acrimoniously against love-matches that Lily would hav_ancied her own marriage had been of that nature, had not Mrs. Bart frequentl_ssured her that she had been "talked into it"—by whom, she never made clear.
  • Lily was duly impressed by the magnitude of her opportunities. The dingines_f her present life threw into enchanting relief the existence to which sh_elt herself entitled. To a less illuminated intelligence Mrs. Bart's counsel_ight have been dangerous; but Lily understood that beauty is only the ra_aterial of conquest, and that to convert it into success other arts ar_equired. She knew that to betray any sense of superiority was a subtler for_f the stupidity her mother denounced, and it did not take her long to lear_hat a beauty needs more tact than the possessor of an average set o_eatures.
  • Her ambitions were not as crude as Mrs. Bart's. It had been among that lady'_rievances that her husband—in the early days, before he was too tired—ha_asted his evenings in what she vaguely described as "reading poetry"; an_mong the effects packed off to auction after his death were a score or two o_ingy volumes which had struggled for existence among the boots and medicin_ottles of his dressing-room shelves. There was in Lily a vein of sentiment, perhaps transmitted from this source, which gave an idealizing touch to he_ost prosaic purposes. She liked to think of her beauty as a power for good, as giving her the opportunity to attain a position where she should make he_nfluence felt in the vague diffusion of refinement and good taste. She wa_ond of pictures and flowers, and of sentimental fiction, and she could no_elp thinking that the possession of such tastes ennobled her desire fo_orldly advantages. She would not indeed have cared to marry a man who wa_erely rich: she was secretly ashamed of her mother's crude passion for money.
  • Lily's preference would have been for an English nobleman with politica_mbitions and vast estates; or, for second choice, an Italian prince with _astle in the Apennines and an hereditary office in the Vatican. Lost cause_ad a romantic charm for her, and she liked to picture herself as standin_loof from the vulgar press of the Quirinal, and sacrificing her pleasure t_he claims of an immemorial tradition… .
  • How long ago and how far off it all seemed! Those ambitions were hardly mor_utile and childish than the earlier ones which had centred about th_ossession of a French jointed doll with real hair. Was it only ten year_ince she had wavered in imagination between the English earl and the Italia_rince? Relentlessly her mind travelled on over the dreary interval… .
  • After two years of hungry roaming Mrs. Bart had died—died of a deep disgust.
  • She had hated dinginess, and it was her fate to be dingy. Her visions of _rilliant marriage for Lily had faded after the first year.
  • "People can't marry you if they don't see you—and how can they see you i_hese holes where we're stuck?" That was the burden of her lament; and he_ast adjuration to her daughter was to escape from dinginess if she could.
  • "Don't let it creep up on you and drag you down. Fight your way out of i_omehow—you're young and can do it," she insisted.
  • She had died during one of their brief visits to New York, and there Lily a_nce became the centre of a family council composed of the wealthy relative_hom she had been taught to despise for living like pigs. It may be that the_ad an inkling of the sentiments in which she had been brought up, for none o_hem manifested a very lively desire for her company; indeed, the questio_hreatened to remain unsolved till Mrs. Peniston with a sigh announced: "I'l_ry her for a year."
  • Every one was surprised, but one and all concealed their surprise, lest Mrs.
  • Peniston should be alarmed by it into reconsidering her decision.
  • Mrs. Peniston was Mr. Bart's widowed sister, and if she was by no means th_ichest of the family group, its other members nevertheless abounded i_easons why she was clearly destined by Providence to assume the charge o_ily. In the first place she was alone, and it would be charming for her t_ave a young companion. Then she sometimes travelled, and Lily's familiarit_ith foreign customs—deplored as a misfortune by her more conservativ_elatives—would at least enable her to act as a kind of courier. But as _atter of fact Mrs. Peniston had not been affected by these considerations.
  • She had taken the girl simply because no one else would have her, and becaus_he had the kind of moral MAUVAISE HONTE which makes the public display o_elfishness difficult, though it does not interfere with its privat_ndulgence. It would have been impossible for Mrs. Peniston to be heroic on _esert island, but with the eyes of her little world upon her she took _ertain pleasure in her act.
  • She reaped the reward to which disinterestedness is entitled, and found a_greeable companion in her niece. She had expected to find Lily headstrong, critical and "foreign"—for even Mrs. Peniston, though she occasionally wen_broad, had the family dread of foreignness—but the girl showed a pliancy, which, to a more penetrating mind than her aunt's, might have been les_eassuring than the open selfishness of youth. Misfortune had made Lily suppl_nstead of hardening her, and a pliable substance is less easy to break than _tiff one.
  • Mrs. Peniston, however, did not suffer from her niece's adaptability. Lily ha_o intention of taking advantage of her aunt's good nature. She was in trut_rateful for the refuge offered her: Mrs. Peniston's opulent interior was a_east not externally dingy. But dinginess is a quality which assumes al_anner of disguises; and Lily soon found that it was as latent in th_xpensive routine of her aunt's life as in the makeshift existence of _ontinental pension.
  • Mrs. Peniston was one of the episodical persons who form the padding of life.
  • It was impossible to believe that she had herself ever been a focus o_ctivities. The most vivid thing about her was the fact that her grandmothe_ad been a Van Alstyne. This connection with the well-fed and industriou_tock of early New York revealed itself in the glacial neatness of Mrs.
  • Peniston's drawing-room and in the excellence of her cuisine. She belonged t_he class of old New Yorkers who have always lived well, dressed expensively, and done little else; and to these inherited obligations Mrs. Penisto_aitfully conformed. She had always been a looker-on at life, and her min_esembled one of those little mirrors which her Dutch ancestors wer_ccustomed to affix to their upper windows, so that from the depths of a_mpenetrable domesticity they might see what was happening in the street.
  • Mrs. Peniston was the owner of a country-place in New Jersey, but she ha_ever lived there since her husband's death—a remote event, which appeared t_well in her memory chiefly as a dividing point in the personal reminiscence_hat formed the staple of her conversation. She was a woman who remembere_ates with intensity, and could tell at a moment's notice whether the drawing- room curtains had been renewed before or after Mr. Peniston's last illness.
  • Mrs. Peniston thought the country lonely and trees damp, and cherished a vagu_ear of meeting a bull. To guard against such contingencies she frequented th_ore populous watering-places, where she installed herself impersonally in _ired house and looked on at life through the matting screen of her verandah.
  • In the care of such a guardian, it soon became clear to Lily that she was t_njoy only the material advantages of good food and expensive clothing; and, though far from underrating these, she would gladly have exchanged them fo_hat Mrs. Bart had taught her to regard as opportunities. She sighed to thin_hat her mother's fierce energies would have accomplished, had they bee_oupled with Mrs. Peniston's resources. Lily had abundant energy of her own, but it was restricted by the necessity of adapting herself to her aunt'_abits. She saw that at all costs she must keep Mrs. Peniston's favour till, as Mrs. Bart would have phrased it, she could stand on her own legs. Lily ha_o mind for the vagabond life of the poor relation, and to adapt herself t_rs. Peniston she had, to some degree, to assume that lady's passive attitude.
  • She had fancied at first that it would be easy to draw her aunt into the whir_f her own activities, but there was a static force in Mrs. Peniston agains_hich her niece's efforts spent themselves in vain. To attempt to bring he_nto active relation with life was like tugging at a piece of furniture whic_as been screwed to the floor. She did not, indeed, expect Lily to remai_qually immovable: she had all the American guardian's indulgence for th_olatility of youth.
  • She had indulgence also for certain other habits of her niece's. It seemed t_er natural that Lily should spend all her money on dress, and sh_upplemented the girl's scanty income by occasional "handsome presents" mean_o be applied to the same purpose. Lily, who was intensely practical, woul_ave preferred a fixed allowance; but Mrs. Peniston liked the periodica_ecurrence of gratitude evoked by unexpected cheques, and was perhaps shrew_nough to perceive that such a method of giving kept alive in her niece _alutary sense of dependence.
  • Beyond this, Mrs. Peniston had not felt called upon to do anything for he_harge: she had simply stood aside and let her take the field. Lily had take_t, at first with the confidence of assured possessorship, then with graduall_arrowing demands, till now she found herself actually struggling for _oothold on the broad space which had once seemed her own for the asking. Ho_t happened she did not yet know. Sometimes she thought it was because Mrs.
  • Peniston had been too passive, and again she feared it was because she hersel_ad not been passive enough. Had she shown an undue eagerness for victory? Ha_he lacked patience, pliancy and dissimulation? Whether she charged hersel_ith these faults or absolved herself from them, made no difference in th_um-total of her failure. Younger and plainer girls had been married off b_ozens, and she was nine-and-twenty, and still Miss Bart.
  • She was beginning to have fits of angry rebellion against fate, when sh_onged to drop out of the race and make an independent life for herself. Bu_hat manner of life would it be? She had barely enough money to pay her dress- makers' bills and her gambling debts; and none of the desultory interest_hich she dignified with the name of tastes was pronounced enough to enabl_er to live contentedly in obscurity. Ah, no—she was too intelligent not to b_onest with herself. She knew that she hated dinginess as much as her mothe_ad hated it, and to her last breath she meant to fight against it, draggin_erself up again and again above its flood till she gained the brigh_innacles of success which presented such a slippery surface to her clutch.