The Odd Women

By George Gissing ; Patricia Ingham | Go to book overview

23 IN AMBUSH

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

-262-

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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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