"It's not that she's stupid, by no means. But whatever native vigour her understanding may have, it is continually constrained in its expansion by the abominable residue of her so-called 'education.' She appears to have been subjected the very worst influences available to a young lady of genteel extraction in this fortunate Isle of ours, having been instructed by a succession of French 'governesses' (more than one of whom left the service of her father with an alacrity difficult to reconcile with a purely innocent motivation), alternating with disappointed spinsters of good family in sadly reduced circumstances, who have left her unfortunate mind burdened with an abominable freight of so-called 'poetry,' questionable French novels, and general sentimental claptrap of the worst imaginable ilk. Indeed, one must regard it as an achievement of the first order that her conversation for the most part is agreeable and entertaining, unsullied by the distressing slips into banality and frank silliness that do sometimes tend to mar the otherwise charming company of her sex. But when she slips, how far does she fall, and how deep does she sink! And the drivel that then emanates from her admittedly enchanting lips is all the more distressing for the contrast with that which has preceded it."
Thus spake the distinguished Professor Henry Reynolds one Sunday afternoon in the summer of the eighth year of the reign of Her Majesty the Queen in the panelled and buff leather surroundings of a lesser-known but quite satisfactorily exclusive Gentlemen's club in the West of London. His interlocutor, a personable if indolent Member of Parliament better known to the Hunt of his Constituency than to the Lobby of the Chamber, nursed a suspicion, founded not only in the words of the good professor's disquisition but also (and above all) in the manner of their delivery, that Sir Henry's interest in the object of his ruminations was consequential upon rather more than a disinterested concern for the general pedagogical quality of the upbringing afforded to the daughters of the Empire, the grievous deficiencies of which had been the subject of the conversation that had occasioned him to mention Miss Evans, the young lady in question.
The mind of the said young Lady was at that very moment engaged in meditations of the nature of which her suspected admirer could not fail to disapprove:
"Oh listen, Matilda! The blackbird is singing again! How I should love to understand the songs of the birds! Their hymns of praise to the sun at daybreak! The sublime anthem of the lark as she rises! Even the cheeky chitter-chatter of the sparrows in the barnyard! And – oh! – the sweet, sweet song of the nightingale in the moonlight!"
It must be admitted that even as she uttered this (if we are to follow Sir Henry's terminology) drivel, the more superficial causes of his interest in her person were not difficult to ascertain. Her raven-dark hair, which, in the privacy of her own demesne, the family garden, she wore loose, followed the animated motions of her head with a small delay. The startling contrast of her sparkling blue-grey eyes set off to perfection the slight rosy glow of her cheeks, which in its turn embellished a complexion of such milky purity that its like was not to be found in all of ***shire or the four neighbouring counties. In the middle of the face a delicate but determined straight nose held sway over a pair of lips of such perfect rose-red symmetry that the longing for their touch had already at her tender eighteen years of age been the subject of four long poems written in ardour (and burned in desperation) by three sleepless young Gentlemen of the environs. The fortunate head upon which the Wellspring of all beauty had set this uncommonly harmonious physiognomy was once again fortunate to be set upon a person of such fine proportion, elegance and grace that the only safe recourse of any but the most ingenious of writers in attempting to convey the impression it left upon the spirit of the beholder would be to take refuge in a comparison with the divine pulchritude of the chaste huntress of the Hellene Pantheon, which simile this poor scribbler humbly enjoins the kind reader to consider to have been drawn.
Her sister, Miss Matilda Evans, to whom she had addressed herself in her transport, was an accomplished, pretty, good-natured young girl, richly bestowed with all those necessary and decorative virtues that make for the perfection of feminine Youth and assure it of a prosperous future in the care of a devoted Protector, if less strikingly so bestowed than she by whom she had just been addressed. She was cognisant of the fact that such a future was only likely to open up to her as such time as it had been vouchsafed to her elder sister, in order that the eyes that previously had been occupied by the elder might fall without distraction upon the younger, but was not unduly concerned by this possible delay, since she thought it unlikely to be a long one: she adored Miss Evans as the epitome of beauteous and accomplished young womanhood, and held it for inconceivable that the many advantages and ornaments of her sister's character and person should fail to attract a suitable and acceptable suitor with the greatest of celerity once a sufficient number of gentlemen were aware of their existence. And it was indeed remarkable how the frequency of casual visits paid by distant acquaintances had been gradually increasing in the eighteen months that had elapsed since her sister had been out. In short, she expected an early marriage for her sister, and her own soon afterwards, and was content in both expectations.
Miss Matilda's admiration for her elder sibling did not blind her to Miss Evans' faults nor extend to the entirety of that young lady's judgements, and her reply indicated that Mr. Reynolds might have been well-advised to have paid more attention to the steady gaze of a fine pair of calm dark eyes, looking out upon the world from beneath a crown of honeyed chestnut, than to the captivating contrast of blue and black and the ever-changing glances of the orbs of the former that expressed the unsteady nature of her sister's more unquiet spirit:
"Oh the nightingale! If only it were quiet, at least until I could get to sleep! I can assure you, Lizzy, since it has taken up residence in the coppice there have been nights I have had to sleep with the windows tightly closed, or I am sure I should not have slept at all!"
It goes without saying, of course, that Miss Evans kept her windows open, and regarded the interruption of her slumber by the phenomena of nature as a blessing rather than as a curse, irrespective of its effects upon the precision of her needlepoint on the following day.
This brief conversation might well have followed so many of its fellows down the soft-flowing waters of the stream of Lethe had it not been for the visit of a certain knight of academic inclination to the Evans residence later that week. Sir Henry's country seat was in a neighbouring parish, giving him a certain advantage of proximity over any rivals he may have had who hailed from further afield, although he was acutely aware that this advantage was in his case inescapably accompanied by the countervailing drawback of familiarity. Indeed, he had known Miss Evans since her earliest childhood, being a well-established acquaintance and oft-welcomed guest of her family. He had therefore lately come to the conclusion that there was nothing to be gained by waiting, since Miss Evans' opinion of him was likely well-established, and everything to be lost by hesitation, since the familiar regard within which he sincerely and not without reason hoped she held him could so easily be forgotten should she form a more tempestuous inclination towards some new (and probably younger) acquaintance. It was therefore with a heart bereft neither of hope nor of some considerable degree of trepidation that he directed the sure steps of his horse into the familiar driveway that Thursday afternoon.
All the more dejected then were (so to speak) those very same steps as he left. And that by no means as a result of the rejection of his suit. Miss Evans remained as unaware of his designs on his departing as she had been on his arrival. The unfortunate fact was that the conversation had turned to the matter of language. The Professor had noted the need in his discipline to read the publications of the leading German savants, Mrs. Evans had praised her daughters for their knowledge of French, and Miss Matilda had innocently mentioned how this did not suffice for her dear Lizzie, and how much her sister would love to comprehend the language of the birds. Upon this last point Miss Evans, who prior to this moment had entirely forgotten her outburst of the Sunday, had extended with enthusiasm, expending many a finely-turned phrase on the beauty of the melody and the undoubted poetry of the meaning of the songs of the passarenes. After which the unfortunate Professor had felt weary beyond his years and ill-inclined to seek those private meetings, first with Miss Evans, and later with her father (for he was a man of modern inclinations) upon which his heart had previously been set.
For some time after this sadly forfeited battle in the undeclared war for the hand of the fair Elizabeth, Sir Henry's friends were deprived of the not inconsiderable pleasure of his company, as he neither paid nor received the frequent visits that formed a few of the more colourful strands in the warp and the weft of the fabric of their lives. For some days he was missed neither in the country nor in the town, since his friends in the latter were cognisant of his recent intention to spend some time in the former, while his friends in the former assumed that he had been called back early to the latter by some matter of import. In an earlier age this condition might have persisted a number of weeks, but in this our hectic modern age of the mighty iron horse, whose weighty wheels consume the miles in the measure that its fiery gullet swallows the sooty booty of Vulcan's storerooms, a man's comings and goings, or the lack of same, may not be hidden so long from his society as in those past days when his friends and their news travelled only at the humble speed of the faithful graminivore, with all the inconveniences and indignities of the pot-holed road and the over-crowded stage-coach. In short, he was missed after a week, the subject of concern after two, and after less than three the reluctant recipient of a visit from his brother, the Reverend John Reynolds, who, appealing to the privileges due him by the sacred Cloth that he bore and by the equally sacred familial bonds that united them, refusing to be refused in the town after establishing by similar means his brother's absence from the country, found the unfortunate heir to his family's title submerged in the uncharacteristically joyless study of a weighty tome from the gloomy pen of an obscure German scholar.
Your humble narrator has perhaps been remiss in not painting at an earlier stage in this account a portrait of its protagonist, that the gentle reader might better comprehend both the affection of his friends and the deep impression made by his melancholy upon the spirit of the intruding cleric. However, this omission may now be turned to advantageous effect for the economy of the narration, since the depiction of Sir Henry's momentary state as discovered by his brother may be easily deduced from the delineation of his general character by the simple negation of its most egregiously positive aspects. As to his character: Sir Henry was of a pleasant, optimistic disposition, always disposed to ascertain the most advantageous aspects of any circumstance, and to discover even the most carefully hidden virtues of his fellow human beings. In accordance with this disposition he was an affectionate and loyal friend to his many friends, and of uncommon tolerance with respect to his few enemies, whose failure to count among the ranks of his friends he regarded rather as an unfortunate consequence of the general imperfections of this post-lapsarian world than as an indication of their particular moral turpitude. Being of exceptionally quick and thorough understanding he had from the earliest age found delight in his studies, this delight having led in the course of time to the unusual position in which he found himself: that of being at one and the same time the heir to one of the more prominent estates of ***shire and an eminent scholar, Professor at a relatively tender age, and Fellow of All Souls' College. In private he would freely admit that he suspected but could not demonstrate that this last appointment was not exclusively due to his academic qualities, and he had made discreet arrangements to ensure that his association with the august institution should not in the final reckoning be burdensome to it. In the course of his scholarly endeavours he always strove to find good sense and intelligence even in the statements and works of those with whom he was not in agreement, whilst devoting more than the usual care to the critical scrutiny of those with whom he agreed, out of concern that this agreement might be based on some as yet undiscovered flaw in his own reasonings. His conversation was of a wit commensurate with his intelligence, always entertaining, frequently amusing, but his considerable powers of perception and expression were never turned when humorously exercised, as is so unfortunately often the case, to the ends of mockery of his fellows and ridicule of their foibles. As to his person: contrary to the over-exercised bon mot so often cited with reference to the Fellows of his College, he was as sound in body as he was in mind, of good stature and a robust but not corpulent build, hearty of appetite, light of foot, a fine horseman, and a stranger to his doctor.
The Reverend John, then, encountered in place of his well-loved brother a melancholy pessimist, apt to expand on the futilities of life and the inadequacies of his fellow man, heavy in his movements, pale of skin, harsh in his criticisms of the book over which he had been poring, although strangely convinced of the correctness of its uncompromisingly gloomy vision of the world, and with a worrying cough that periodically robbed him of breath.
The doughty man of God was not long in finding, among the many consolations available in Scripture and Doctrine, that which was best suited to improving the condition of the wretched soul before him:
"Come, Henry, have them saddle up Bellerophon, you and I are going riding."
And he would brook no opposition to this design.
A few short hours of walk and trot, of canter and gallop, and Sir Henry bore outwardly at least a greater resemblance to his accustomed aspect. To the salutary effects of motion and the exercise of the body were added the joys of one of the more enchanting portions of the countryside of this favoured Isle, and if he did not smile, the unhappy Professor at least came to banish the darkness from his eyes and the despair from his lips. His light-hearted nature was not such as to bear easily the weight of such great melancholy, and the impetus imparted to his discouraged spirit by the sustained influence of the positive impressions that flooded his sensorium merely served to hurry its natural movement towards its more usual state. One manifestation of this progressive return was the re-awakening of his appetite, and he was therefore most grateful to his Reverend brother when this latter suggested that they turn into an inn whose sign had just sent them a friendly greeting from the wayside, to partake of God's good gifts of meat and of drink.
The mildness of the weather was in full agreement with the opinions of the calendar concerning the estival season, and so mine host laid them a table outside, in the refreshing shade of a great centennial chestnut tree. There they could enjoy the whispering voice of the friendly Zephyr well protected from the pitiless rays of the Chariot of Apollo. They could also hear the twittering of the birds in the branches above them and in the coppices and hedgerows around them. A cuckoo piped up from the nearby woods.
"You hear that, Henry?", the Reverend asked, "'Sound unpleasing to a married ear', as the Bard has it. I wonder how long it will be before the two of us can form a judgement on the matter."
John Reynolds' intent was as clear to his brother as it will be to the reader. He made no attempt at dissimulation:
"Well, dear John, I imagine it took no great mental exertion on your part to hazard a conjecture concerning the cause of my dejection. And I shan't deny that you have guessed aright. And let me therefore simply say no more than this: as far I am concerned that cuckoo may flute away for a good many years before there is any chance that he may come to disturb my peace, but I would be beholden to you if you could keep the songs of the birds out of your conversation, at least whilst in my presence, for at least that same span of years."
If the young professor had intended with these words to end the conversation, his choice of words was sorely unsuited to his purpose, since they served only to arouse the interest of his interlocutor, the which, until that point concerned only for his brother's welfare and such influences as may have affected it for the worse, now found his understanding confronted with a riddle, and his curiosity moved to desire the satisfaction of its resolution.
"Can it be that birdsong has torn you from your heart's desire? Not fickleness of heart nor a prior attachment, neither indifference nor inconstancy, but birdsong? If you would rather keep your counsel, then let us talk of other matters. But I now that you have posed the puzzle, I confess to a desire to discover its solution."
And with that encouragement Sir Henry unburdened his soul, not with tears and the futile bemoaning of the weakness of the Feminine character, as a lesser man might have done it, nor with imprecations of the indifference of heaven or the fickleness of fate, but rather in the terms with which he had spoken in the club not one month before, although this time without the mention of a name but yet with an unspoken admission of the nature of his interest in the object of his adumbrations. And, of course, with the addition of the recounting of the disastrous turn of the conversation that had put him away from his chosen course, finishing thus:
"The 'poetry of the meaning'! Dear John, imagine! There can be no more poetry in the song of a bird than in the bleating of cattle or in the grunting of a pig! They are all but the various utterances of beasts, and different in the appeal of their sound only because of the difference in size of the organs that produce them!"
His brother regarded him for a moment in silence.
"But, my dear Henry, how unlike you is this intolerance! If some misguided scholar should chance to speak of the melody of birdsong and the poetry of its meaning you should have sought to find some kernel of sense in that as you have in far more ridiculous utterances. And indeed, had any other Lady dared to subject you to such misguided ramblings, I am sure that you should have simply taken a sip from your glass and patiently waited for the conversation to take a less nonsensical turn. And yet when the miscreant Romantic is the object of your greatest inclination, the nexus of your most sacred desires, and the bearer of your deepest hopes, you cast your accustomed latitude aside! Should not the object of your deepest affection be also the beneficiary of your most generous indulgence, in the estimation of her judgement as in all other matters?"
"Indeed, John, you are right: those to whom we are closest should benefit more than any from patient charity in our judgements and mild forbearance in our actions. And I am conscious of my departure in this matter from my usual habits and practice, which indeed is among the proximate causes of my distress: for I am reluctant to think ill of any of my fellow human beings, all, like me, imperfect children of God, and worthy of the same charity in my dealings with them as I should wish them to exercise in their intercourse with me. And, as you so rightly have said, how much more is such charity due to those who are closest to us and whose happiness is a portion of our own. But yet, in this case, where the lady in question is not yet joined to my family and to my happiness in that manner, I find that I am differently disposed, and look upon her with such a critical eye as I have as yet not dared to turn upon any other living being. It is, if you will, a paradoxon, and yet I do believe that its key is to be found in the nature of my hopes: I should wish that her happiness be a part of mine, and that she be joined to me as closely as any other living creature may be, and therefore I tend to imagine her as already so joined, and to judge her most trifling faults as severely as I should judge the worst of my own, were I not blinded to the greater part of them by that self-satisfaction that I truly believe to be the greatest obstacle to our betterment. Whereby – paradoxon upon paradoxon – I well know that whosoever may one day be my bride shall be as imperfect as all mankind, and as needful and deserving of that charity you have mentioned as any other friend or stranger. It is as if I wish her to whom I shall in our future life owe and desire the very greatest of tolerance first to prove herself worthy of such charity by demonstrating no present need for it. I am sure you will think that a foolish wish, and yet I cannot be rid of it."
His brother looked at him with some emotion and chose his words with care:
"Explained in the way that you have just chosen, your desires might indeed appear foolish. And yet, I feel with a more sympathetic exposition they should reveal themselves to be the prudent wishes of a truly wise man."
He paused to quieten Sir Henry's protests, then continued:
"That wisest of all the Hebrew Kings exhorted the husband who was tempted to stray to recall his wife as she was when she was his bride, young and lovely like a shy doe. And indeed it is certain that one of the stays of matrimony over the long years of familiarity, in course of which there can scarcely be a flaw in the character or person of the one spouse that does not become known to the other, is the recollection of the initial attachment of the freshly betrothed, and how that person the esteem for whom, through excess of familiarity, may perchance falter, is yet still that person to whom the other plighted their troth all those long years past: and thus as it were a mooring-line may be found that leads from the bride of then to the wife of now. But how shall that line give halt in the storms of circumstance and keep safe the ship of attachment, if that rock to which it is tied is like to crumble? If the recollection of the bride of then serves only to confirm the irritation of the faults of now? If when you recall your wife in her youth you are led not to recall the original springs of that affection that led you to choose her from amongst all others, but rather to recall the reasons that might have led you to choose otherwise? No, Henry, you are right to look with a critical eye upon the faults of your intended, even if those faults are not of a moral nature, and would perhaps not even attract the notice of another man. For it is less the true faults of character that affect the harmony of conjugal life than just those lesser tares that are invisible to some while disturbing to others and with time become intolerable."
"Then I must give up the fair Elizabeth, and seek another who never speaks other than to deliver a nugget of the greatest of wisdom. Perhaps I should seek my bride among the mute..."
The divine passed over in silence the revelation of the name of the beloved, which he had in any case already divined.
"Or perhaps it might be possible to seek a remedy for that which disturbs you. You say that she is sound of understanding. Perhaps she could be taught to moderate those flights of foolish fancy that so disqualify her in your eyes."
"I am sure that she could, but who shall teach her? And who shall keep her heart unencumbered in the time that it takes? For if I were a gambling man I should wager a pretty sum that she shall be married within a year, and shall make a good match at that."
"Perhaps one salutary lesson would be sufficient. What if she really could be brought to understand the songs of the birds?"
"Brother mine, I had always thought you a man of good sense. Pray do not disillusion me."
"I should be deeply distressed to think that I might fall in your estimation. And yet, I should gladly meet any danger, even that one, if I thought that it might assist you in your current troubles. Therefore let me tell you of a man whose acquaintance I have recently made, who is a man of the Cloth, of my diocese, but who has few pastoral duties, his vicarage being a generous living, in a formerly prosperous but now much reduced parish, which is in the gift of friends of his, and may devote the greater part of his time to investigations in Natural Philosophy. He has recently been engaging in experiments with Mesmerism and the animal magnetism, and has, he tells me, attained some rather remarkable results..."
Ten days later Miss Evans found herself in one of the dependencies of Smythson Hall, in the immediate proximity of several caged birds, divers mirrors of unusual shape and colouring, several artfully woven bundles and nets of copper wires, and the Reverend James Crookson, the acquaintance of whom Mr John Smythson had spoken. The reader may well imagine by what means of innocent invitation and contrived coincidence this juxtaposition had been achieved, and to what end. Also present were Mrs. Anne Smythson, Miss Matilda Evans, Mr. Smythson, Captain Robert Smythson, the Rev. John Smythson, and one rather agitated maid, by the name of Harriet, each one present for different reasons: Mr. Smythson's mother, being suspicious of the Godless tendencies of 'science,' wished to assure herself of the absence of any impropriety in the proceedings, Miss Evans' sister was moved by her native curiosity, Mr. Smythson by his pressing interest in the outcome of the experiment, Captain Smythson by the hope that, if successful, it might have some military application, and perhaps indeed some influence upon the promptness of his ascension in rank, the Rev. Smythson by his responsibility as the ultimate instigator of the proceedings, and Harriet because Mr. Crookson had said that he had need of her services.
The philosophical vicar adjusted the position of a mirror, tightened a wire, loosened another, and addressed the company, in particular Miss Evans, in the following terms:
"The apparatus before you – in your case, Miss Evans, around you – can be divided into two parts. The purpose of the mirrors is to direct the light of the sun into the eyes of Miss Evans and of the birds. If you direct your gaze outside the window at which Harriet is standing, you will see a larger mirror, the inclination of which I can adjust by means of these two wires, in such a way that the light will shine upon the disk you see mounted in the window. This disk presents two apertures, through which the light may pass as it rotates, the result being that the eyes both of Miss Evans and of the birds shall be illuminated by a regularly pulsating light, whereby the rhythm of that pulsation shall be the same for both of them. This will serve to harmonise the pulsations of the animal magnetism in the brains of the birds and of Miss Harriet, thus facilitating the transfer of the same from the birds to the young lady. This transfer will be guided by the structure of galvanically conducting filaments that forms the second part of the apparatus, which will also ensure that the transfer occurs solely in the one sense desired, and in addition amplify the flow from the small avian brains to the extent necessary for it to impinge sensibly upon the larger human organ that is its destination. However, given the incomparably greater potency of the flux of the animal spirit in the human brain, I shall, in order further to reduce the natural resistance to the desired transfer that would ensue therefrom, first subject Miss Evans to the procedure devised by Mr. Mesmer to increase the susceptibility of her spirit to this as to other outward influences.
And with no further ado, he drew from his pocket a medallion suspended on a fine chain, held it before Miss Evans' face, and proceeded to subject her to the usual rigmarole of the disciples of the late German physician, exhorting her to regard the medallion as it swung, her eyes becoming heavy, &c. And that with very rapid success. Whereupon, she having entered into that state referred to by Mesmerists as 'the trance,' he drew on the wires to adjust the outside mirror, and instructed young Harriet to turn a small handle at an even pace, which, by a contrivance of pulleys and a loop of twine, caused the disk thus illuminated to revolve, allowing the light to pulse upon the eyes of the birds and Mrs Jones in the manner previously described.
This portion of the operation lasted a full half hour, and by the time the Reverend Crookson indicated to Harriet that she could cease her work (for which she was most grateful, her arm having been aching for some minutes already), the company had dwindled, only Sir Henry and his youngest brother remaining, all others having departed to take the air in the gardens. Mr Crookson addressed Miss Evans:
"When I clap my hands, you shall awaken completely, and this evening and tomorrow you shall understand the meaning of the songs of the birds."
Miss Evans was astonished to find how long she had been 'entranced', Sir Henry was disappointed at the lack of an immediate result, his Reverend brother was fearful in equal parts that the experiment might have been effective and that nothing might have been achieved, the Reverend Crookson was most gratified by the interest that had been devoted to his performance, and the remainder of the company was pleased that nothing now stood between them and their dinner.
After dinner, John Smythson could not refrain in a private moment from communicating the reason for his uncertainty regarding his hopes to his brother:
"I do hope that I have not made a great mistake in encouraging this development. It came to my mind while we were awaiting the conclusion of the procedure that it is predominantly the male of the species that sings, and then either to claim his territory and keep other males distant or to woo his mate. Our intention was to teach Miss Evans a lesson concerning the capacity for 'poetry' of the beasts, and while it is true that I cannot imagine that the terms in which a wild beast should pursue either aim should be poetic to any degree, I am now somewhat concerned as to whether, if they may indeed be made comprehensible to the human ear, they should even be suitable listening for the ear of a lady."
However, there was nothing that either of them could do at that late stage, and they therefore retired with two hearts divided in their different ways between hope and trepidation.
That evening as she laid herself to rest, Miss Evans threw the windows wide open. The nightingale sang, as if commanded by Providence, until his song was overwhelmed by the chorus of the more common avians as they welcomed the rosy fingers of dawn. The Reverend's mastery of the fruits of his investigations was amply demonstrated: she understood everything.
Three months after the events just recounted, Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Evans were pleased to announce the betrothal of their daughter, Miss Matilda Evans, to Sir Henry, Professor Smythson, of Smythson Hall. Three weeks later, their friends were in equal measures astonished and amused to receive the announcement of the engagement of their eldest child, Elizabeth, to Sir Henry's brother, the Reverend John Smythson. The two marriages were solemnised at a single ceremony, which was the centrepiece of some of the more memorable nuptial celebrations held for many years in ***shire: Mr. Evans spared no expense, the circumstances enabling him, as he delightedly confessed to his wife, to show great generosity while in truth being frugal, being able, as he put it, "to marry two daughters for the price of one-and-a-half."
The Reverend Crookson was not invited, Miss Evans having made it a condition of her assent that she need never set eyes upon him again.