In so far as compliance was possible I was compelled to admit the wisdom of Eveena’s plea that no open distinction should be made in her favour. Except in the simple fact of our affection, there was no assignable reason for making her my companion more frequently than Eunane or Eive. Except that I could trust her completely, there was no distinction of age, social rank, or domestic relation to afford a pretext for exempting her from restraints which, if at first I thought them senseless and severe, were soon justified by experience of the kind of domestic control which just emancipated school-girls expected and required. Nor would she accept the immunity tacitly allowed her. It was not that any established custom or right bounded the arbitrary power of domestic autocracy. The right of all but unbounded wrong, the liberty of limitless caprice, is unquestionably vested in the head of the household. But the very completeness of the despotism rendered its exercise impossible. Force cannot act where there is no resistance. The sword of the Plantagenet could cleave the helmet but not the quilt of down. I could do as I pleased without infringing any understanding or giving any right to complain.
“But,” said Eveena, “you have a sense of justice which has nothing to do with law or usage. Even your language is not ours. You think of right and wrong, where we should speak only of what is or is not punishable. You can make a favourite if you will pay the price. Could you endure to be hated in your own home, or I to know that you deserved it? Or, if you could, could you bear to see me hated and my life made miserable?”
“They dare not!” I returned angrily fearing that they had dared, and that she had already felt the spite she was so careful not to provoke.
“Do you think that feminine malice cannot contrive to envenom a dozen stings that I could not explain if I would, and you could not deal with if I did?”
“But,” I replied, “it seems admitted that there is no such thing as right or custom. As Enva said, I have bought and paid for them, and may do what I please within the contract; and you agree that is just what any other man in this world would do.”