Meanwhile, Dolores was growing up
to woman’s estate. And she was growing
into a tall, a graceful, an exquisitely beautiful woman.
Yet in some ways Herminia had reason
to be dissatisfied with her daughter’s development.
Day by day she watched for signs of the expected
apostolate. Was Dolores pressing forward to the
mark for the prize of her high calling? Her
mother half doubted it. Slowly and regretfully,
as the growing girl approached the years when she
might be expected to think for herself, Herminia began
to perceive that the child of so many hopes, of so
many aspirations, the child pre-destined to regenerate
humanity, was thinking for herself in a
retrograde direction. Incredible as it seemed
to Herminia, in the daughter of such a father and
such a mother, Dolores’ ideas nay,
worse her ideals were essentially commonplace.
Not that she had much opportunity of imbibing commonplace
opinions from any outside source; she redeveloped
them from within by a pure effort of atavism.
She had reverted to lower types. She had thrown
back to the Philistine.
Heredity of mental and moral qualities
is a precarious matter. These things lie, as
it were, on the topmost plane of character; they smack
of the individual, and are therefore far less likely
to persist in offspring than the deeper-seated and
better-established peculiarities of the family, the
clan, the race, or the species. They are idiosyncratic.
Indeed, when we remember how greatly the mental and
moral faculties differ from brother to brother, the
product of the same two parental factors, can we wonder
that they differ much more from father to son, the
product of one like factor alone, diluted by the addition
of a relatively unknown quality, the maternal influence?
However this may be, at any rate, Dolores early began
to strike out for herself all the most ordinary and
stereotyped opinions of British respectability.
It seemed as if they sprang up in her by unmitigated
reversion. She had never heard in the society
of her mother’s lodgings any but the freest
and most rational ideas; yet she herself seemed to
hark back, of internal congruity, to the lower and
vulgarer moral plane of her remoter ancestry.
She showed her individuality only by evolving for
herself all the threadbare platitudes of ordinary convention.
Moreover, it is not parents who have
most to do with moulding the sentiments and opinions
of their children. From the beginning, Dolly
thought better of the landlady’s views and ideas
than of her mother’s. When she went to
school, she considered the moral standpoint of the
other girls a great deal more sensible than the moral
standpoint of Herminia’s attic. She accepted
the beliefs and opinions of her schoolfellows because
they were natural and congenial to her character.
In short, she had what the world calls common-sense:
she revolted from the unpractical Utopianism of her
From a very early age, indeed, this
false note in Dolly had begun to make itself heard.
While she was yet quite a child, Herminia noticed
with a certain tender but shrinking regret that Dolly
seemed to attach undue importance to the mere upholsteries
and équipages of life, to rank, wealth,
title, servants, carriages, jewelry. At first,
to be sure, Herminia hoped this might prove but the
passing foolishness of childhood: as Dolly grew
up, however, it became clearer each day that the defect
was in the grain that Dolly’s whole
mind was incurably and congenitally aristocratic or
snobbish. She had that mean admiration for birth,
position, adventitious advantages, which is the mark
of the beast in the essentially aristocratic or snobbish
nature. She admired people because they were
rich, because they were high-placed, because they
were courted, because they were respected; not because
they were good, because they were wise, because they
were noble-natured, because they were respect-worthy.
But even that was not all. In
time, Herminia began to perceive with still profounder
sorrow that Dolly had no spontaneous care or regard
for righteousness. Right and wrong meant to her
only what was usual and the opposite. She seemed
incapable of considering the intrinsic nature of any
act in itself apart from the praise or blame meted
out to it by society. In short, she was sunk
in the same ineffable slough of moral darkness as
the ordinary inhabitant of the morass of London.
To Herminia this slow discovery, as
it dawned bit by bit upon her, put the final thorn
in her crown of martyrdom. The child on whose
education she had spent so much pains, the child whose
success in the deep things of life was to atone for
her own failure, the child who was born to be the
apostle of freedom to her sisters in darkness, had
turned out in the most earnest essentials of character
a complete disappointment, and had ruined the last
hope that bound her to existence.
Bitterer trials remained. Herminia
had acted through life to a great extent with the
idea ever consciously present to her mind that she
must answer to Dolly for every act and every feeling.
She had done all she did with a deep sense of responsibility.
Now it loomed by degrees upon her aching heart that
Dolly’s verdict would in almost every case be
a hostile one. The daughter was growing old
enough to question and criticise her mother’s
proceedings; she was beginning to understand that
some mysterious difference marked off her own uncertain
position in life from the solid position of the children
who surrounded her the children born under
those special circumstances which alone the man-made
law chooses to stamp with the seal of its recognition.
Dolly’s curiosity was shyly aroused as to her
dead father’s family. Herminia had done
her best to prepare betimes for this inevitable result
by setting before her child, as soon as she could
understand it, the true moral doctrine as to the duties
of parenthood. But Dolly’s own development
rendered all such steps futile. There is no more
silly and persistent error than the belief of parents
that they can influence to any appreciable extent
the moral ideas and impulses of their children.
These things have their springs in the bases of character:
they are the flower of individuality; and they cannot
be altered or affected after birth by the foolishness
of preaching. Train up a child in the way he
should go, and when he is old, you will find soon
enough he will choose his own course for himself and
depart from it.
Already when Dolly was a toddling
little mite and met her mother’s father in the
church in Marylebone, it had struck her as odd that
while they themselves were so poor and ill-clad, her
grandpapa should be such a grand old gentleman of
such a dignified aspect. As she grew older and
older, and began to understand a little more the world
she lived in, she wondered yet more profoundly how
it could happen, if her grandpapa was indeed the Very
Reverend, the Dean of Dunwich, that her mamma should
be an outcast from her father’s church, and
scarcely well seen in the best carriage company.
She had learnt that deans are rather grand people almost
as much so as admirals; that they wear shovel-hats
to distinguish them from the common ruck of rectors;
that they lived in fine houses in a cathedral close;
and that they drive in a victoria with a coachman
in livery. So much essential knowledge of the
church of Christ she had gained for herself by personal
observation; for facts like these were what interested
Dolly. She couldn’t understand, then,
why she and her mother should live precariously in
a very small attic; should never be visited by her
mother’s brothers, one of whom she knew to be
a Prebendary of Old Sarum, while the other she saw
gazetted as a Colonel of Artillery; and should be
totally ignored by her mother’s sister, Ermyntrude,
who lolled in a landau down the sunny side of Bond
At first, indeed, it only occurred
to Dolly that her mother’s extreme and advanced
opinions had induced a social breach between herself
and the orthodox members of her family. Even
that Dolly resented; why should mamma hold ideas of
her own which shut her daughter out from the worldly
advantages enjoyed to the full by the rest of her
kindred? Dolly had no particular religious ideas;
the subject didn’t interest her; and besides,
she thought the New Testament talked about rich and
poor in much the same unpractical nebulous way that
mamma herself did in fact, she regarded
it with some veiled contempt as a rather sentimental
radical publication. But, she considered, for
all that, that it was probably true enough as far
as the facts and the theology went; and she couldn’t
understand why a person like mamma should cut herself
off contumaciously from the rest of the world by presuming
to disbelieve a body of doctrine which so many rich
and well-gaitered bishops held worthy of credence.
All stylish society accepted the tenets of the Church
of England. But in time it began to occur to
her that there might be some deeper and, as she herself
would have said, more disgraceful reason for her mother’s
alienation from so respectable a family. For
to Dolly, that was disgraceful which the world held
to be so. Things in themselves, apart from the
world’s word, had for her no existence.
Step by step, as she grew up to blushing womanhood,
it began to strike her with surprise that her grandfather’s
name had been, like her own, Barton. “Did
you marry your cousin, mamma?” she asked Herminia
one day quite suddenly.
And Herminia, flushing scarlet at
the unexpected question, the first with which Dolly
had yet ventured to approach that dangerous quicksand,
replied with a deadly thrill, “No, my darling.
Why do you ask me?”
“Because,” Dolly answered
abashed, “I just wanted to know why your name
should be Barton, the same as poor grandpapa’s.”
Herminia didn’t dare to say
too much just then. “Your dear father,”
she answered low, “was not related to me in any
Dolly accepted the tone as closing
the discussion for the present; but the episode only
strengthened her underlying sense of a mystery somewhere
in the matter to unravel.
In time, Herminia sent her child to
a day-school. Though she had always taught Dolly
herself as well as she was able, she felt it a matter
of duty, as her daughter grew up, to give her something
more than the stray ends of time in a busy journalist’s
moments of leisure. At the school, where Dolly
was received without question, on Miss Smith-Water’s
recommendation, she found herself thrown much into
the society of other girls, drawn for the most part
from the narrowly Mammon-worshipping ranks of London
professional society. Here, her native tendencies
towards the real religion of England, the united worship
of Success and Respectability, were encouraged to
the utmost. But she noticed at times with a shy
shrinking that some few of the girls had heard vague
rumors about her mother as a most equivocal person,
who didn’t accept all the current superstitions,
and were curious to ask her questions as to her family
and antecedents. Crimson with shame, Dolly parried
such enquiries as best she could; but she longed all
the more herself to pierce this dim mystery.
Was it a runaway match? with the groom,
perhaps, or the footman? Only the natural shamefacedness
of a budding girl in prying into her mother’s
most domestic secrets prevented Dolores from asking
Herminia some day point-blank all about it.
But she was gradually becoming aware
that some strange atmosphere of doubt surrounded her
birth and her mother’s history. It filled
her with sensitive fears and self-conscious hesitations.
And if the truth must be told, Dolly
never really returned her mother’s profound
affection. It is often so. The love which
parents lavish upon their children, the children repay,
not to parents themselves, but to the next generation.
Only when we become fathers or mothers in our turn
do we learn what our fathers and mothers have done
for us. Thus it was with Dolly. When once
the first period of childish dependence was over, she
regarded Herminia with a smouldering distrust and
a secret dislike that concealed itself beneath a mask
of unfelt caresses. In her heart of hearts,
she owed her mother a grudge for not having put her
in a position in life where she could drive in a carriage
with a snarling pug and a clipped French poodle, like
Aunt Ermyntrude’s children. She grew up,
smarting under a sullen sense of injustice, all the
deeper because she was compelled to stifle it in the
profoundest recesses of her own heart.