HITHERTO, Widdowson had entertained no grave mistrust of his wife. The principles she had avowed, directly traceable, as it seemed, to her friendship with the militant women in Chelsea, he disliked and feared; but her conduct he fully believed to be above reproach. His jealousy of Barfoot did not glance at Monica's attitude towards the man; merely at the man himself, whom he credited with native scoundreldom. Barfoot represented to his mind a type of licentious bachelor; why, he could not have made perfectly clear to his own understanding. Possibly the ease of Everard's bearing, the something aristocratic in his countenance and his speech, the polish of his manner, especially in formal converse with women, from the first gave offence to Widdowson's essentially middle-class sensibilities.* If Monica were in danger at all, it was, he felt convinced, from that quarter. The subject of his wife's intimate dialogue with Barfoot at the Academy still remained a mystery to him. He put faith in her rebellious declaration that every word might have been safely repeated in his hearing, but, be the matter what it might, the manner of Barfoot's talk meant evil. Of that conviction he could not get rid.
He had read somewhere that a persistently jealous husband may, not improbably, end by irritating an innocent wife into affording real ground for jealousy. A man with small knowledge of the world is much impressed by dicta such as these; they get in the crannies of his mind, and thence direct the course of his thinking. Widdowson, before his marriage, had never suspected the difficulty of understanding a woman; had he spoken his serious belief on that subject, it would have been found to represent the most primitive male conception of the feminine being. Women were very like children; it was rather a task to amuse them and to keep them out of mischief. Therefore the blessedness of household toil, in especial the blessedness of child-bearing and all that followed. Intimacy with Monica had greatly affected his views, yet chiefly by disturbing them; no firmer ground offered itself to his treading when he perforce admitted that his former standpoint was every day assailed by some incontestable piece of evidence. Women had individual characters; that discovery, though not a very profound one, impressed him with the force of