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This night was the turning-point in Mr. Twist's life. In it he broke loose from his mother. He spent a terrible three hours with her in the drawing-room, and the rest of the night he strode up and down his bedroom. The autumn morning, creeping round the house in long white wisps, found him staring out of his window very pale, his mouth pulled together as tight as it would go.
His mother had failed him. She had not understood. And not only simply not understood, but she had said things when at last she did speak, after he had explained and pleaded for at least an hour, of an incredible bitterness and injustice. She had seemed to hate him. If she hadn't been his mother Mr. Twist would have been certain she hated him, but he still believed that mothers couldn't hate their children. It was stark against nature; and Mr. Twist still believed in the fundamental rightness of that which is called nature. She had accused him of gross things--she, his mother, who from her conversation since he could remember was unaware, he had judged, of the very existence of such things. Those helpless children ... Mr. Twist stamped as he strode. Well, he had made her take that back; and indeed she had afterwards admitted that she said it in her passion of grief and disappointment, and that it was evident these girls were not like that.
But before they reached that stage, for the first time in his life he had been saying straight out what he wanted to say to his mother just as if she had been an ordinary human being. He told her all he knew of the twins, asked her to take them in for the present and be good to them, and explained the awkwardness of their position, apart from its tragedy, as Germans by birth stranded in New England, where opinion at that moment was so hostile to Germans. Then, continuing in candour, he had told his mother that here was her chance of doing a fine and beautiful thing, and it was at this point that Mrs. Twist suddenly began, on her side, to talk.
She had listened practically in silence to the rest; had only started when he explained the girls' nationality; but when he came to offering her these girls as the great opportunity of her life to do something really good at last, she, who felt she had been doing nothing else but noble and beautiful things, and doing them with the most single-minded devotion to duty and the most consistent disregard of inclination, could keep silence no longer. Had she not borne her great loss without a murmur? Had she not devoted all her years to bringing up her son to be a good man? Had she ever considered herself? Had she ever flagged in her efforts to set an example of patience in grief, of dignity in misfortune? She began to speak. And just as amazed as she had been at the things this strange, unknown son had been saying to her and at the manner of their delivery, so was he amazed at the things this strange, unknown mother was saying to him, and at the manner of their delivery.
Yet his amazement was not so great after all as hers. Because for years, away down hidden somewhere inside him, he had doubted his mother; for years he had, shocked at himself, covered up and trampled on these unworthy doubts indignantly. He had doubted her unselfishness; he had doubted her sympathy and kindliness; he had even doubted her honesty, her ordinary honesty with money and accounts; and lately, before he went to Europe, he had caught himself thinking she was cruel. Nevertheless this unexpected naked justification of his doubts was shattering to him.
But Mrs. Twist had never doubted Edward. She thought she knew him inside out. She had watched him develop. Watched him during the long years of his unconsciousness. She had been quite secure; and rather disposed, also somewhere down inside her, to a contempt for him, so easy had he been to manage, so ready to do everything she wished. Now it appeared that she no more knew Edward than if he had been a stranger in the street.
The bursting of the dykes of convention between them was a horrible thing to them both. Mr. Twist had none of the cruelty of the younger generation to support him: he couldn't shrug his shoulder and take comfort in the thought that this break between them was entirely his mother's fault, for however much he believed it to be her fault the belief merely made him wretched; he had none of the pitiless black pleasure to be got from telling himself it served her right. So naturally kind was he--weak, soft, stupid, his mother shook out at him--that through all his own shame at this naked vision of what had been carefully dressed up for years in dignified clothes of wisdom and affection, he was actually glad, when he had time in his room to think it over, glad she should be so passionately positive that he, and only he, was in the wrong. It would save her from humiliation; and of the painful things of late Mr. Twist could least bear to see a human being humiliated.
That was, however, towards morning. For hours raged, striding about his room, sorting out the fragments into which his life as a son had fallen, trying to fit them into some sort of a pattern, to see clear about the future. Clearer. Not clear. He couldn't hope for that yet. The future seemed one confused lump. All he could see really clear of it was that he was going, next day, and taking the twins. He would take them to the other people they had a letter to, the people in California, and then turn his face back to Europe, to the real thing, to the greatness of life where death is. Not an hour longer than he could help would he or they stay in that house. He had told his mother he would go away, and she had said, "I hope never to see you again." Who would have thought she had so much of passion in her? Who would have thought he had so much of it in him?
Fury against her injustice shook and shattered Mr. Twist. Not so could fair and affectionate living together be conducted, on that basis of suspicion, distrust, jealousy. Through his instinct, though not through his brain, shot the conviction that his mother was jealous of the twins,--jealous of the youth of the twins, and of their prettiness, and goodness, and of the power, unknown to them, that these things gave them. His brain was impervious to such a conviction, because it was an innocent brain, and the idea would never have entered it that a woman of his mother's age, well over sixty, could be jealous in that way; but his instinct knew it.
The last thing his mother said as he left the drawing-room was, "You have killed me. You have killed your own mother. And just because of those girls."
And Mr. Twist, shocked at this parting shot of unfairness, could find, search as he might, nothing to be said for his mother's point of view. It simply wasn't true. It simply was delusion.
Nor could she find anything to be said for his, but then she didn't try to, it was so manifestly unforgivable. All she could do, faced by this bitter sorrow, was to leave Edward to God. Sternly, as he flung out of the room at last, unsoftened, untouchable, deaf to her even when she used the tone he had always obeyed the tone of authority, she said to herself she must leave her son to God. God knew. God would judge. And Clark too would know; and Clark too would judge.
Left alone in the drawing-room on this terrible night of her second great bereavement, Mrs. Twist was yet able, she was thankful to feel, to resolve she would try to protect her son as long as she could from Clark. From God she could not, if she would, protect him; but she would try to protect him even now, as she had always protected him, from earthly harm and hurt. Clark would, however, surely know in time, protect as she might, and judge between her and Edward. God knew already, and was already judging. God and Clark.... Poor Edward.
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