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The Night of Temptation, by Victoria Cross (1914) note: 1914 edit gives copyright as 1912.
 photo cross_zps21a03d65.jpg


18 years old Regina lives at the Rectory in a conventional country village with her parents, and her two older sisters. She spends most of her time in her 'enchanted garden', teaching herself, reading books in foreign languages, and painting. When the handsome, dashing Everest, a college friend of her Father's, comes to convalesce at their home after contracting yellow fever, their lives change forever. In the month he stays, they fall in love, and end up consummating their love in the 'enchanted garden'. Horrified that he has ruined her, he asks her to marry her. However, she refuses on the grounds that he is only asking her because he feels it is his duty. She tells him she will marry him later on, if he still feels the same way after returning to his life in London...

It reminds me a lot of Elynor Glyn’s novels – the same melodramatic plots, the hero and heroine who are abnormally good and beautiful, the purple prose, and the paragraphs and paragraphs of theories on men and women and love. I believe that Victoria Cross had many similarities to Glyn, being a British author of scandalous romances who had been writing since the mid-1900s. Whether or not she was a copycat of sorts, I don’t know.
I can see how this would have been a very scandalous book though, even in 1914.

- Regina is as intelligent and beautiful as she is because she was ‘born of love’, born from her mother’s affair with the man she loved. (Her children with her husband, by contrast, were ‘born of hate’.
- Regina and Everest sleep together within in the first month of meeting.
- She refuses to marry him when he asks, because he is only doing it out of a sense of honor.
- She spends the rest of the book living with him ‘in sin’ – indeed, when his sister tells her that she should leave Everest so he can marry his cousin Sybil, who will be a proper wife for him, Regina refuses to believe that a marriage without love is better than being in love without marriage.
- However, she decides not to marry him until she knows she can conceive his child.
- Everest falls in lust with Sybil, but tells Regina that it doesn’t mean anything or take away from his love for her at all.

All in all the book is also a social commentary of the superficial nature of English family life, and the hypocrisy of mixing worldly positions and religion, of love and marriage and how the two can be mutually exclusive, and the nature of men and women (and how both have a little of each in them.) He loves her for her intelligence, not only her beauty.

“Oh children, what is this that men call love? And the roses seemed to quiver and bend lower over her to hear the answer: Love is not love alone but indeed is known by many names: “it is unbridled violence, it is unslaked thirst, it is intolerable anguish, it is unbounded joy. it is endless lamentation”, and as a breath stirred in the garden the trees seemed to throw high their blossoms on the scented breeze in a wild and gay response. “ Whatever it is good or ill, we wait for it, worship it, live for it, die for it.”

She did not know that her own splendid health and energy, her capacity for hard work and concentration, her quick and eager mind, all came from that golden source: the passionate love that had formed her being.

The sky, of the palest, most delicate blue, showed tiny dapplings of pearly white against its sapphire clearness all the air seemed dancing with a golden sheen and in it seemed to hang like ,a canopy the scent of flowers, of the pink and white snow of the May, not yet over of the laburnum already in blossom.

She was a thing of life and light and fire; full to the brim like himself of ardent energy and power. There was no doll like sawdust body here with brains of wool, as many of the women had had whom he had known lovely though their outsides had been.

How strange it is that amongst a hundred men who might touch a woman and leave her wood and stone to them, there is perhaps just one whose slightest contact may give her that extreme ecstasy!

She seemed to be entirely without mincing, mawkish way of so many girls and women, that silly hesitating questioning about everything: Shall I? Ought I? Is it proper? Will it seem this or that?

For woman being the superior animal in every way, in beauty, in vitality, in intellect and charm, almost any woman is good enough for a man, whereas there is only one man here and there that is good enough for a woman.

She was there waiting for him under the blossom laden trees in her prettiest of pale green dresses, and without any speech at all, they rushed into each other's arms and kissed, driven by a wild instinctive, a self preservative longing to make an exchange of that electricity that had been stored up in each of them for many days, increasing every hour, and since it was denied any outlet, burning into their own heart and brain and consuming their vitality.

He makes institutions and laws which would only be good and serviceable if our emotions, our passions, ourselves, were lasting and changeless, instead of being the victims of constant metamorphoses, and consequently man's life is a perpetual and fruitless struggle to adapt these solid permanent and unelastic inventions to the restless varying of his life and his being. Thus do we bid him build the solid rock house of marriage where upon the shifting sands of his passions and emotions. Can we expect it to be a success?

This bright young life, so full of wonderful talent, this beautiful fresh flower only just opened to the sunlight of life, he had sacrificed to himself, to his passion and the pleasure of an hour. It seemed incredible to him as he thought of it, that he could have been so selfish, so weak, so vile.

Of their act she had made a thing akin with beauty, with radiance, with light and he could only feel glorified as he saw she did. Innocently, grandly, full of a fervent delight in him, as she had in beauty, she had given herself to him as Venus might have given herself to Anchises; he could think of no other simile.

As is the case with so many men love and marriage stood widely separated in his mind Love was a wonderful passionate pleasure which had been his companion all his life Marriage was a stupid business arrangement that he might have to make some time because certain practical advantages went with it.

In all Eastern languages the word for marriage is identical with the word for pleasure. Does it not seem a wiser method?

But I have given you my love and myself as free gifts, not at a price that you must pay. I have no price. No one can buy me either by marriage or anything else.

“Whatever obligation there was if there were any,” she said in a low tone, “is paid in full now by your offer and my refusal. Yesterday was a gift to you, a gift, a gift, a gift.” she repeated with hot kisses on his hand at each word, “just as I would give my life itself to you if you wanted it.”


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