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Dinah’s Mammoth
by [?]

On a day early in the summer of the present year Miss Dinah Groom was found lying dead off a field-path of the little obscure Wiltshire village which she had named her “rest and be thankful.” At the date of her decease she was not an old woman, though any one marking her white hair and much-furrowed features might have supposed her one. The hair, however, was ample in quantity, the wrinkles rather so many under-scores of energy than evidences of senility; and until the blinds were down over her soul, she had looked into and across the world with a pair of eyes that seemed to reflect the very blue and white of a June sky. No doubt she had thought to breast the hills and sail the seas again in some renaissance of vigour. No doubt her “retreat,” like a Roman Catholic’s, was designed to be merely temporary. She aped the hermit for the sake of a sojourn in the hermitage. She came to her island of Avalon to be restored of her weary limbs and her blistered feet, so to speak; and there her heart, too weak for her spirit, failed her, and she fell amongst the young budding poppies, and died.

I use the word “heart” literally, and in no sentimental sense. To talk of associations of sentiment in connection with this lady would be misleading. She herself would not have repudiated any responsibility for the term as applied to her; she would have simply failed to understand the term itself. There was no least affectation in this. Throughout her life of sixty years, as I gather, she acted never once upon principle. Impulse and inclination dominated her, and she would indulge many primitive instincts without a thought of conventions. Yet she was not selfish; or, at least, only in the self-contained and self-protective meaning of the word. She was a perfect animal, conscious of her supreme brute caste, shrewd, resourceful, and the plain embodiment of truth.

Miss Groom had, I think, a boundless feeling of fellowship with beauty of whatever description; but no least touch of that sorrow of affection which, in its very humanity, is divine. Her unswerving creed was that woman was the inheritrix of the earth, the reversion of which she had wilfully mortgaged to an alien race, and that she had bartered her material immortality for a sensation. For man she had no vulgar and jealous contempt; but she feared and shrank from him as something moved by scruples with which she had no sympathy. She understood the world of Nature, and could respond to its bloodless caresses and passions. She could not understand the moodiness that dwells upon a grievance, or that would sell its birthright of joy for a pitiful memory.

Yet (and here I must speak with discretion, for I have no sufficient data to go upon) there was that of contradictoriness in her character that, I have reason to believe, she had borne children, and had even been right and particular as to their temporal welfare until such time as, in the nature of things, they were of an age to make shift for themselves. This, virtually, I know to be the case; and that, once quit of the primitive maternal responsibility, she gave no more thought to them than a thrush gives to its fledglings when she has educated them to their first flights, and to the useful knack of cracking a snail on a stone.

My own feeling about Dinah Groom was that she had “thrown back” a long way over the heads of heredity, and that, in her fearlessness, in her undegenerate physique, in the animal regularity of her face and form, she presented to modern days a startling aboriginal type.

Beautiful–save in the sense of symmetry–she can never have been to the ordinary man; inasmuch as she would subscribe to no arbitrary standard of his dictating. She had a high, rich colour; but her complexion must always have been rough, and a pronounced little moustache crossed her upper lip, like an accent to the speech that was too distinct and uncompromising to be melodious. Her every limb and feature, however, was instinct with capability, and, in her presence, one must always be moved to marvel over that indescribable worship of disproportion that has grown to be the religion of a shapely race.