Rhoda was listening with an amused smile.
‘Then,’ pursued her friend, ’came another display of firmness or obstinacy, whichever you like to call it. He soon found out that he had made a complete mistake. The studies didn’t suit him at all, as others had foreseen. But he would have worked himself to death rather than confess his error; none of us knew how he was feeling till long after. Engineering he had chosen, and an engineer he would be, cost him what effort it might. His father shouldn’t triumph over him. And from the age of eighteen till nearly thirty he stuck to a profession which I am sure he loathed. By force of resolve he even got on to it, and reached a good position with the firm he worked for. Of course his father wouldn’t assist him with money after he came of age; he had to make his way just like any young man who has no influence.’
‘All this puts him in quite another light,’ remarked Rhoda.
’Yes, it would be all very well, if there were no vices to add to the picture. I never experienced such a revulsion of feeling as the day when I learnt shameful things about Everard. You know, I always regarded him as a boy, and very much as if he had been my younger brother; then came the shock—a shock that had a great part in shaping my life thenceforward. Since, I have thought of him as I have spoken of him to you—as an illustration of evils we have to combat. A man of the world would tell you that I grossly magnified trifles; it is very likely that Everard was on a higher moral level than most men. But I shall never forgive him for destroying my faith in his honour and nobility of feeling.’
Rhoda had a puzzled look.
‘Perhaps even now you are unintentionally misleading me,’ she said. ‘I have supposed him an outrageous profligate.’
‘He was vicious and cowardly—I can’t say any more.’
’And that was the immediate cause of his father’s leaving him poorly provided for?’
‘It had much to do with it, I have no doubt.’
‘I see. I imagined that he was cast out of all decent society.’