The Odd Women

By George Gissing ; Patricia Ingham | Go to book overview

21 TOWARDS THE DECISIVE

MARY BARFOOT had never suffered from lack of interest in life. Many a vivid moment dwelt in her memory; joys and sorrows, personal or of larger scope, affected her the more deeply because of that ruling intelligence which enabled her to transmute them into principles. No longer anticipating or desiring any great change in her own environment, in the modes and motives of her activity, she found it a sufficient happiness to watch, and when possible to direct, the tendency of younger lives. So kindly had nature tempered her disposition, that already she had been able to outlive those fervours of instinct which often make the middle life of an unwedded woman one long repining; but her womanly sympathies remained. And at present there was going forward under her own roof, within her daily observation, a comedy, a drama, which had power to excite all her disinterested emotions. It had been in progress for twelve months, and now, unless she was strangely mistaken, the dinoûment* drew very near.

For all her self-study, her unflinching recognition of physical and psychical facts which the average woman blinks over, Mary deceived herself as to the date of that final triumph which permitted her to observe Rhoda Nunn with perfect equanimity. Her outbreak of angry feeling on the occasion of Bella Royston's death meant something more than she would acknowledge before the inquisition of her own mind. It was just then that she had become aware of Rhoda's changing attitude towards Everard Barfoot; trifles such as only a woman would detect had convinced her that Everard's interest in Rhoda was awakening a serious response; and this discovery, though it could not surprise her, caused an obscure pang which she attributed to impersonal regret, to mere natural misgiving. For some days she thought of Rhoda in an ironic, half-mocking spirit. Then came Bella's suicide, and the conversation in which Rhoda exhibited a seeming heartlessness, the result, undoubtedly, of grave emotional disturbance. To her own astonishment, Mary was overcome with an impulse of wrathful hostility, and spoke words which she regretted as soon as they had passed her lips.

Poor Bella had very little to do with this moment of discord

-235-

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The Odd Women
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • THE ODD WOMEN i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vi
  • Introduction vii
  • NOTE ON THE TEXT xxvi
  • SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY xxviii
  • A CHRONOLOGY OF GEORGE GISSING xxx
  • Contents 4
  • 1 - The Fold and the Shepherd 5
  • 2 - Adrift 11
  • 3 - An Independent Woman 25
  • 4 - Monica's Majority 31
  • 5 - The Casual Acquaintance 46
  • 6 - A Camp of the Reserve 59
  • 7 - A Social Advance 72
  • 8 - Cousin Everard 87
  • 9 - The Simple Faith 100
  • 10 - First Principles 110
  • 11 - At Nature's Bidding 120
  • 12 - Weddings 130
  • 13 - Discord of Leaders 142
  • 14 - Motives Meeting 155
  • 15 - The Joys of Home 167
  • 16 - Health from the Sea 181
  • 17 - The Triumph 194
  • 18 - A Reinforcement 209
  • 19 - The Clank of the Chains 219
  • 20 - The First Lie 227
  • 21 - Towards the Decisive 235
  • 22 - Honour in Difficulties 247
  • 23 - In Ambush 262
  • 24 - Tracked 271
  • 25 - The Fate of the Ideal 281
  • 26 - The Unideal Tested 297
  • 27 - The Reascent 310
  • 28 - The Burden of Futile Souls 325
  • 29 - Confession and Counsel 338
  • 30 - Retreat with Honour 352
  • 31 - A New Beginning 362
  • EXPLANATORY NOTES 372
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