Between him and Richard there was little love lost. The elder boy disapproved of his hoydenish sister, and sought at all times to shame her tempestuous nature by insistence on decorum in their relations. Richard, who invariably brought home adverse reports from school, could find no fault in his colourful sister, and blindly espoused her cause at all times.
On one occasion, when Malcolm had been more than usually censorious, Dick challenged him to a fight. They adjourned to the seclusion of a small plot of grass by a great oak, where the Etonian knocked Dick down five times in succession, afterwards escorting him to the cook, who placed raw beefsteak on his eyes.
It was characteristic of the worthy Richard that he bore his brother no malice whatever for the punishment. He had proposed the fight, conscious of the fact that he would be soundly beaten, but he was a bit of a Quixote—and a lady’s name was involved.
And no nurse ever tended a wounded hero more tenderly than the little copper-haired creature of impulse who bathed the battered face of poor Dick. Wilful and rebellious as she was, there was in Elise a deep well of love for her brother that no other being could fathom. And it was not his loyalty alone that had inspired it. Her solitary life had quickened her perceptive powers, and intuitively she knew that, in the years before him, her weak-willed, buoyant-natured brother would be unable to meet the cross-currents of his destiny and maintain a steady course.
But he thought it was because of his swollen eyes that she cried.
ABOUT A TOWN HOUSE.
It was perhaps not inconsistent with the character of Lady Durwent that, although she had striven to secure the guiding of Malcolm’s development, she should find herself totally devoid of any plan for the training of a daughter.
Vaguely—and in this she mirrored thousands of other mothers—there was a hope in her heart that Elise would grow up pretty, virtuous, amiable, and would eventually marry well. It did not concern her that the girl was permeated with individuality, that the temperament of an artist lay behind the changing eyes in that restless, graceful figure. She could not see that her daughter had a delicate, wilful personality, which would rebel increasingly against the monotony of a social regime that planned the careers of its sons before they were born, and offered its daughters a mere incoherency of good intentions.
Full of the swift imaginativeness which makes the feminine contribution to life so much a thing of charm and colour, Elise pursued the paths which Youth has for its own—those wonderful streets of fantasy that end with adolescence in Society’s ugly fields of sign-posts.
Lacking the companionship of others of a similar age, she wove her own conception of life, and dreamed of a world actuated by quick and generous emotions. With every pulsing beat of the warm blood coursing through her veins she demanded in her girl’s mind that the world in which her many-sided self had been placed should yield the wines to satisfy the subtle shades of thirst produced by her insistent individuality.