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32. CHAPTER XXXII (continued)
I, as she very well knew, had always been devoted to her, and she might have had a score of other admirers if she had liked, but she had discouraged them all, and railed at matrimony as women seldom do unless they have a comfortable income of their own. She by no means, however, railed at man as she railed at matrimony, and though living after a fashion in which even the most censorious could find nothing to complain of, as far as she properly could she defended those of her own sex whom the world condemned most severely.
In religion she was, I should think, as nearly a free-thinker as anyone could be whose mind seldom turned upon the subject. She went to church, but disliked equally those who aired either religion or irreligion. I remember once hearing her press a late well-known philosopher to write a novel instead of pursuing his attacks upon religion. The philosopher did not much like this, and dilated upon the importance of showing people the folly of much that they pretended to believe. She smiled and said demurely, "Have they not Moses and the prophets? Let them hear them." But she would say a wicked thing quietly on her own account sometimes, and called my attention once to a note in her prayer-book which gave account of the walk to Emmaus with the two disciples, and how Christ had said to them "O fools and slow of heart to believe ALL that the prophets have spoken"--the "all" being printed in small capitals.
Though scarcely on terms with her brother John, she had kept up closer relations with Theobald and his family, and had paid a few days' visit to Battersby once in every two years or so. Alethea had always tried to like Theobald and join forces with him as much as she could (for they two were the hares of the family, the rest being all hounds), but it was no use. I believe her chief reason for maintaining relations with her brother was that she might keep an eye on his children and give them a lift if they proved nice.
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