Yet neither the one nor the other had counted in the scale when the crucial moment came.
Perhaps it was by way of an ironical set-off against his environment that Fate had dowered Hugh with his crop of ruddy hair—and with the ardent temperament which usually accompanies the type. Be that as it may, he was swept completely off his feet by the dancer’s magic beauty. The habits and training of a lifetime went by the board, and nothing was allowed to impede the swift (not to say violent) course of his love-making. Within a month from the day of their first meeting, he and Diane were man and wife.
The consequences were almost inevitable, and Hugh found that his married life speedily resolved itself into an endless struggle between the dictates of inclination and conscience. Everything that was man in him responded passionately to the appeal and charm of Diane’s personality, whilst everything that was narrow and censorious disapproved her total inability to conform to the ingrained prejudices of the Vallincourts.
Not that Diane was in any sense of the word a bad woman. She was merely beautiful and irresponsible—a typical cigale of the stage—lovable and kind-hearted and pagan, and possessing but the haziest notions of self-control and self-discipline. Even so, left to themselves, husband and wife might ultimately have found the road to happiness across the bridge of their great love for one another.
But such freedom was denied them. Always at Hugh’s elbow stood his sister, Catherine, a rigidly austere woman, in herself an epitome of all that Vallincourts had ever stood for.
Since the death of their parents, twenty years previously, Catherine had shared her brother’s home, managing his house—and, on the strength of her four years’ seniority in age, himself as well—with an iron hand. Nor had she seen fit to relinquish the reins of government when he married.
Privately, Hugh had hoped she might consider the propriety of withdrawing to the dower house attached to the Coverdale estates, but if the idea had occurred to her, she had never given it utterance, and Hugh himself had lacked the courage to propose such an innovation.
So it followed that Catherine was ever at hand to criticise and condemn. She disapproved of her brother’s marriage wholly and consistently. In her eyes, he had committed an unpardonable sin in allying himself with Diane Wielitzska. It was his duty to have married a woman of the type conventionally termed “good,” whose blood—and religious outlook—were alike unimpeachable; and since he had lamentably failed in this respect, she never ceased to reproach him. Diane she regarded with chronic disapprobation, exaggerating all her faults and opposing her joy-loving, butterfly nature with an aloofly puritanical disdain.