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A Knight of the Nineteenth Century

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Egbert Haldane had an enemy who loved him very dearly, and he sincerely returned her affection, as he was in duty bound, since she was his mother. If, inspired by hate and malice, Mrs. Haldane had brooded over but one question at the cradle of her child, How can I most surely destroy this boy? she could scarcely have set about the task more skilfully and successfully.

But so far from having any such malign and unnatural intention, Mrs. Haldane idolized her son. To make the paradox more striking, she was actually seeking to give him a Christian training and character. As he leaned against her knee Bible tales were told him, not merely for the sake of the marvellous interest which they ever have for children, but in the hope, also, that the moral they carry with them might remain as germinating seed. At an early age the mother had commenced taking him to church, and often gave him an admonitory nudge as his restless eyes wandered from the venerable face in the pulpit. In brief, the apparent influences of his early life were similar to those existing in multitudes of Christian homes. On general principles, it might be hoped that the boy's future would be all that his friends could desire; nor did he himself in early youth promise so badly to superficial observers; and the son of the wealthy Mrs. Haldane was, on the part of the world, more the object of envy than of censure. But a close observer, who judged of characteristic tendencies and their results by the light of experience, might justly fear that the mother had unwittingly done her child irreparable wrong.

She had made him a tyrant and a relentless task-master even in his infancy. As his baby-will developed he found it supreme. His nurse was obliged to be a slave who must patiently humor every whim. He was petted and coaxed out of his frequent fits of passion, and beguiled from his obstinate and sulky moods by bribes. He was the eldest child and only son, and his little sisters were taught to yield to him, right or wrong, he lording it over them with the capricious lawlessness of an Eastern despot. Chivalric deference to woman, and a disposition to protect and honor her, is a necessary element of a manly character in our Western civilization; but young Haldane was as truly an Oriental as if he had been permitted to bluster around a Turkish harem; and those whom he should have learned to wait upon with delicacy and tact became subservient to his varying moods, developing that essential brutality which mars the nature of every man who looks upon woman as an inferior and a servant. He loved his mother, but he did not reverence and honor her. The thought ever uppermost in his mind was, "What ought she to do for me?" not, "What ought I to do for her?" and any effort to curb or guide on her part was met and thwarted by passionate or obstinate opposition from him. He loved his sisters after a fashion, because they were his sisters; but so far from learning to think of them as those whom it would be his natural task to cherish and protect, they were, in his estimation, "nothing but girls," and of no account whatever where his interests were concerned....