Some Short Stories
Part 2 out of 3
"She believes so in YOU. So don't be TOO nice to her."
He was still looking, in the chimney-glass, at the state of his
beard--brushing from it, with his handkerchief, the traces of wind
and wet. "If she also then prefers me when I'm nasty it seems to
me I ought to satisfy her. Shall I now at any rate see her?"
"She's so like a pea on a pan over the possibility of it that she's
pulling herself together in her room."
"Oh then we must try and keep her together. But why, graceful
tender, pretty too--quite or almost as she is --doesn't she re-
Mrs. Dyott appeared--and as if the first time--to look for the
reason. "Because she likes too many men."
It kept up his spirits. "And how many MAY a lady like--?"
"In order not to like any of them too much? Ah that, you know, I
never found out--and it's too late now. When," she presently
pursued, "did you last see her?"
He really had to think. "Would it have been since last November or
so?--somewhere or other where we spent three days."
"Oh at Surredge? I know all about that. I thought you also met
He had again to recall. "So we did! Wouldn't it have been
somewhere at Christmas? But it wasn't by arrangement!" he laughed,
giving with his forefinger a little pleasant nick to his hostess's
chin. Then as if something in the way she received this attention
put him back to his question of a moment before: "Have you kept my
She held him with her pretty eyes. "Do you want it back?"
"Ah don't speak as if I did take things--!"
She dropped her gaze to the fire. "No, you don't; not even the
hard things a really generous nature often would." She quitted,
however, as if to forget that, the chimney-place. "I put it
"You've burnt it? Good!" It made him easier, but he noticed the
next moment on a table the lemon-coloured volume left there by Mrs.
Blessingbourne, and, taking it up for a look, immediately put it
down. "You might while you were about it have burnt that too."
"You've read it?"
"Dear yes. And you?"
"No," said Mrs. Dyott; "it wasn't for me Maud brought it."
It pulled her visitor up. "Mrs. Blessingbourne brought it?"
"For such a day as this." But she wondered. "How you look! Is it
"Oh like his others." Something had occurred to him; his thought
was already far. "Does she know?"
But the door opened too soon for Mrs. Dyott, who could only murmur
It was in fact Mrs. Blessingbourne, who had under her arm the book
she had gone up for--a pair of covers showing this time a pretty, a
candid blue. She was followed next minute by the servant, who
brought in tea, the consumption of which, with the passage of
greetings, inquiries and other light civilities between the two
visitors, occupied a quarter of an hour. Mrs. Dyott meanwhile, as
a contribution to so much amenity, mentioned to Maud that her
fellow guest wished to scold her for the books she read--a
statement met by this friend with the remark that he must first be
sure about them. But as soon as he had picked up the new, the blue
volume he broke out into a frank "Dear, dear!"
"Have you read that too?" Mrs. Dyott inquired. "How much you'll
have to talk over together! The other one," she explained to him,
"Maud speaks of as terribly tame."
"Ah I must have that out with her! You don't feel the
extraordinary force of the fellow?" Voyt went on to Mrs.
And so, round the hearth, they talked--talked soon, while they
warmed their toes, with zest enough to make it seem as happy a
chance as any of the quieter opportunities their imprisonment might
have involved. Mrs. Blessingbourne did feel, it then appeared, the
force of the fellow, but she had her reserves and reactions, in
which Voyt was much interested. Mrs. Dyott rather detached
herself, mainly gazing, as she leaned back, at the fire; she
intervened, however, enough to relieve Maud of the sense of being
listened to. That sense, with Maud, was too apt to convey that one
was listened to for a fool. "Yes, when I read a novel I mostly
read a French one," she had said to Voyt in answer to a question
about her usual practice; "for I seem with it to get hold more of
the real thing--to get more life for my money. Only I'm not so
infatuated with them but that sometimes for months and months on
end I don't read any fiction at all."
The two books were now together beside them. "Then when you begin
again you read a mass?"
"Dear no. I only keep up with three or four authors."
He laughed at this over the cigarette he had been allowed to light.
"I like your 'keeping up,' and keeping up in particular with
"One must keep up with somebody," Mrs. Dyott threw off.
"I daresay I'm ridiculous," Mrs. Blessingbourne conceded without
heeding it; "but that's the way we express ourselves in my part of
"I only alluded," said Voyt, "to the tremendous conscience of your
sex. It's more than mine can keep up with. You take everything
too hard. But if you can't read the novel of British and American
manufacture, heaven knows I'm at one with you. It seems really to
show our sense of life as the sense of puppies and kittens."
"Well," Maud more patiently returned, "I'm told all sorts of
people are now doing wonderful things; but somehow I remain
"Ah it's THEY, it's our poor twangers and twaddlers who remain
outside. They pick up a living in the street. And who indeed
would want them in?"
Mrs. Blessingbourne seemed unable to say, and yet at the same time
to have her idea. The subject, in truth, she evidently found, was
not so easy to handle. "People lend me things, and I try; but at
the end of fifty pages--"
"There you are! Yes--heaven help us!"
"But what I mean," she went on, "isn't that I don't get woefully
weary of the eternal French thing. What's THEIR sense of life?"
"Ah voila!" Mrs. Dyott softly sounded.
"Oh but it IS one; you can make it out," Voyt promptly declared.
"They do what they feel, and they feel more things than we. They
strike so many more notes, and with so different a hand. When it
comes to any account of a relation say between a man and a woman--I
mean an intimate or a curious or a suggestive one--where are we
compared to them? They don't exhaust the subject, no doubt," he
admitted; "but we don't touch it, don't even skim it. It's as if
we denied its existence, its possibility. You'll doubtless tell
me, however," he went on, "that as all such relations ARE for us at
the most much simpler we can only have all round less to say about
She met this imputation with the quickest amusement. "I beg your
pardon. I don't think I shall tell you anything of the sort. I
don't know that I even agree with your premiss."
"About such relations?" He looked agreeably surprised. "You think
we make them larger?--or subtler?"
Mrs. Blessingbourne leaned back, not looking, like Mrs. Dyott, at
the fire, but at the ceiling. "I don't know what I think."
"It's not that she doesn't know," Mrs. Dyott remarked. "It's only
that she doesn't say."
But Voyt had this time no eye for their hostess. For a moment he
watched Maud. "It sticks out of you, you know, that you've
yourself written something. Haven't you--and published? I've a
notion I could read YOU."
"When I do publish," she said without moving, "you'll be the last
one I shall tell. I HAVE," she went on, "a lovely subject, but it
would take an amount of treatment--!"
"Tell us then at least what it is."
At this she again met his eyes. "Oh to tell it would be to express
it, and that's just what I can't do. What I meant to say just
now," she added, "was that the French, to my sense, give us only
again and again, for ever and ever, the same couple. There they
are once more, as one has had them to satiety, in that yellow
thing, and there I shall certainly again find them in the blue."
"Then why do you keep reading about them?" Mrs. Dyott demanded.
Maud cast about. "I don't!" she sighed. "At all events, I shan't
any more. I give it up."
"You've been looking for something, I judge," said Colonel Voyt,
"that you're not likely to find. It doesn't exist."
"What is it?" Mrs. Dyott desired to know.
"I never look," Maud remarked, "for anything but an interest."
"Naturally. But your interest," Voyt replied, "is in something
different from life."
"Ah not a bit! I LOVE life in art, though I hate it anywhere else.
It's the poverty of the life those people show, and the awful
bounders, of both sexes, that they represent."
"Oh now we have you!" her interlocutor laughed. "To me, when all's
said and done, they seem to be--as near as art can come--in the
truth of the truth. It can only take what life gives it, though it
certainly may be a pity that that isn't better. Your complaint of
their monotony is a complaint of their conditions. When you say we
get always the same couple what do you mean but that we get always
the same passion? Of course we do!" Voyt pursued. "If what you're
looking for is another, that's what you won't anywhere find."
Maud for a while said nothing, and Mrs. Dyott seemed to wait.
"Well, I suppose I'm looking, more than anything else, for a decent
"Oh then you mustn't look for her in pictures of passion. That's
not her element nor her whereabouts."
Mrs. Blessingbourne weighed the objection. "Does it not depend on
what you mean by passion?"
"I think I can mean only one thing: the enemy to behaviour."
"Oh I can imagine passions that are on the contrary friends to it."
Her fellow-guest thought. "Doesn't it depend perhaps on what you
mean by behaviour?"
"Dear no. Behaviour's just behaviour--the most definite thing in
"Then what do you mean by the 'interest' you just now spoke of?
The picture of that definite thing?"
"Yes--call it that. Women aren't ALWAYS vicious, even when
"When they're what?" Voyt pressed.
"When they're unhappy. They can be unhappy and good."
"That one doesn't for a moment deny. But can they be 'good' and
"That must be Maud's subject!" Mrs. Dyott interposed. "To show a
woman who IS. I'm afraid, my dear," she continued, "you could only
"You'd show then the most beautiful specimen conceivable"--and Voyt
addressed himself to Maud. "But doesn't it prove that life is,
against your contention, more interesting than art? Life you
embellish and elevate; but art would find itself able to do nothing
with you, and, on such impossible terms, would ruin you."
The colour in her faint consciousness gave beauty to her stare.
"He means," Mrs. Dyott again indicated, "that you'd ruin 'art.'"
"Without on the other hand"--Voyt seemed to assent--"its giving at
all a coherent impression of you."
"She wants her romance cheap!" said Mrs. Dyott.
"Oh no--I should be willing to pay for it. I don't see why the
romance--since you give it that name--should be all, as the French
inveterately make it, for the women who are bad."
"Oh they pay for it!" said Mrs. Dyott.
"So at least"--Mrs. Dyott a little corrected herself--"one has
gathered (for I don't read your books, you know!) that they're
usually shown as doing."
Maud wondered, but looking at Voyt, "They're shown often, no doubt,
as paying for their badness. But are they shown as paying for
"My dear lady," said Voyt, "their romance is their badness. There
isn't any other. It's a hard law, if you will, and a strange, but
goodness has to go without that luxury. Isn't to BE good just
exactly, all round, to go without?" He put it before her kindly
and clearly--regretfully too, as if he were sorry the truth should
be so sad. He and she, his pleasant eyes seemed to say, would, had
they had the making of it, have made it better. "One has heard it
before--at least I have; one has heard your question put. But
always, when put to a mind not merely muddled, for an inevitable
answer. 'Why don't you, cher monsieur, give us the drama of
virtue?' 'Because, chere madame, the high privilege of virtue is
precisely to avoid drama.' The adventures of the honest lady? The
honest lady hasn't, can't possibly have, adventures."
Mrs. Blessingbourne only met his eyes at first, smiling with some
intensity. "Doesn't it depend a little on what you call
"My poor Maud," said Mrs. Dyott as if in compassion for sophistry
so simple, "adventures are just adventures. That's all you can
make of them!"
But her friend talked for their companion and as if without
hearing. "Doesn't it depend a good deal on what you call drama?"
Maud spoke as one who had already thought it out. "Doesn't it
depend on what you call romance?"
Her listener gave these arguments his very best attention. "Of
course you may call things anything you like--speak of them as one
thing and mean quite another. But why should it depend on
anything? Behind these words we use--the adventure, the novel, the
drama, the romance, the situation, in short, as we most
comprehensively say--behind them all stands the same sharp fact
which they all in their different ways represent."
"Precisely!" Mrs. Dyott was full of approval.
Maud however was full of vagueness. "What great fact?"
"The fact of a relation. The adventure's a relation; the
relation's an adventure. The romance, the novel, the drama are the
picture of one. The subject the novelist treats is the rise, the
formation, the development, the climax and for the most part the
decline of one. And what is the honest lady doing on that side of
Mrs. Dyott was more pointed. "She doesn't so much as FORM a
But Maud bore up. "Doesn't it depend again on what you call a
"Oh," said Mrs. Dyott, "if a gentleman picks up her pocket-
"Ah even that's one," their friend laughed, "if she has thrown it
to him. We can only deal with one that is one."
"Surely," Maud replied. "But if it's an innocent one--"
"Doesn't it depend a good deal," Mrs. Dyott asked, "on what you
"You mean that the adventures of innocence have so often been the
material of fiction? Yes," Voyt replied; "that's exactly what the
bored reader complains of. He has asked for bread and been given a
stone. What is it but, with absolute directness, a question of
interest or, as people say, of the story? What's a situation
undeveloped but a subject lost? If a relation stops, where's the
story? If it doesn't stop, where's the innocence? It seems to me
you must choose. It would be very pretty if it were otherwise, but
that's how we flounder. Art is our flounderings shown."
Mrs. Blessingbourne--and with an air of deference scarce supported
perhaps by its sketchiness--kept her deep eyes on this definition.
"But sometimes we flounder out."
It immediately touched in Colonel Voyt the spring of a genial
derision. "That's just where I expected YOU would! One always
sees it come."
"He has, you notice," Mrs. Dyott parenthesised to Maud, "seen it
come so often I; and he has always waited for it and met it."
"Met it, dear lady, simply enough! It's the old story, Mrs.
Blessingbourne. The relation's innocent that the heroine gets out
of. The book's innocent that's the story of her getting out. But
what the devil--in the name of innocence--was she doing IN?"
Mrs. Dyott promptly echoed the question. "You have to be in, you
know, to GET out. So there you are already with your relation.
It's the end of your goodness."
"And the beginning," said Voyt, "of your play!"
"Aren't they all, for that matter, even the worst," Mrs. Dyott
pursued, "supposed SOME time or other to get out? But if meanwhile
they've been in, however briefly, long enough to adorn a tale?"
"They've been in long enough to point a moral. That is to point
ours!" With which, and as if a sudden flush of warmer light had
moved him, Colonel Voyt got up. The veil of the storm had parted
over a great red sunset.
Mrs. Dyott also was on her feet, and they stood before his charming
antagonist, who, with eyes lowered and a somewhat fixed smile, had
"We've spoiled her subject!" the elder lady sighed.
"Well," said Voyt, "it's better to spoil an artist's subject than
to spoil his reputation. I mean," he explained to Maud with his
indulgent manner, "his appearance of knowing what he has got hold
of, for that, in the last resort, is his happiness."
She slowly rose at this, facing him with an aspect as handsomely
mild as his own. "You can't spoil my happiness."
He held her hand an instant as he took leave. "I wish I could add
When he had quitted them and Mrs. Dyott had candidly asked if her
friend had found him rude or crude, Maud replied--though not
immediately--that she had feared showing only too much how charming
she found him. But if Mrs. Dyott took this it was to weigh the
sense. "How could you show it too much?"
"Because I always feel that that's my only way of showing anything.
It's absurd, if you like," Mrs. Blessingbourne pursued, "but I
never know, in such intense discussions, what strange impression I
Her companion looked amused. "Was it intense?"
"_I_ was," Maud frankly confessed.
"Then it's a pity you were so wrong. Colonel Voyt, you know, is
right." Mrs. Blessingbourne at this gave one of the slow soft
silent headshakes to which she often resorted and which, mostly
accompanied by the light of cheer, had somehow, in spite of the
small obstinacy that smiled in them, a special grace. With this
grace, for a moment, her friend, looking her up and down, appeared
impressed, yet not too much so to take the next minute a decision.
"Oh my dear, I'm sorry to differ from any one so lovely--for you're
awfully beautiful to-night, and your frock's the very nicest I've
ever seen you wear. But he's as right as he can be."
Maud repeated her motion. "Not so right, at all events as he
thinks he is. Or perhaps I can say," she went on, after an
instant, "that I'm not so wrong. I do know a little what I'm
Mrs. Dyott continued to study her. "You ARE vexed. You naturally
don't like it--such destruction."
"Of your illusion."
"I HAVE no illusion. If I had moreover it wouldn't be destroyed.
I have on the whole, I think, my little decency."
Mrs. Dyott stared. "Let us grant it for argument. What, then?"
"Well, I've also my little drama."
"An attachment ?"
"That you shouldn't have?"
"That I shouldn't have."
"Ah thank goodness, no!"
Mrs. Dyott continued to gaze. "The object's unaware--?"
Mrs. Dyott turned it over. "Are you sure?"
"That's what you call your decency? But isn't it," Mrs. Dyott
asked, "rather his?"
"Dear no. It's only his good fortune."
Mrs. Dyott laughed. "But yours, darling--your good fortune: where
does THAT come in?"
"Why, in my sense of the romance of it."
"The romance of what? Of his not knowing?"
"Of my not wanting him to. If I did"--Maud had touchingly worked
it out--"where would be my honesty?"
The inquiry, for an instant, held her friend, yet only, it seemed,
for a stupefaction that was almost amusement. "Can you want or not
want as you like? Where in the world, if you don't want, is your
Mrs. Blessingbourne still wore her smile, and she now, with a light
gesture that matched it, just touched the region of her heart.
Her companion admiringly marvelled. "A lovely place for it, no
doubt!--but not quite a place, that I can see, to make the
sentiment a relation."
"Why not? What more is required for a relation for me?"
"Oh all sorts of things, I should say! And many more, added to
those, to make it one for the person you mention."
"Ah that I don't pretend it either should be or CAN be. I only
speak for myself."
This was said in a manner that made Mrs. Dyott, with a visible
mixture of impressions, suddenly turn away. She indulged in a
vague movement or two, as if to look for something; then again
found herself near her friend, on whom with the same abruptness, in
fact with a strange sharpness, she conferred a kiss that might have
represented either her tribute to exalted consistency or her idea
of a graceful close of the discussion. "You deserve that one
should speak FOR you!"
Her companion looked cheerful and secure. "How CAN you without
"Oh by guessing! It's not--?"
But that was as far as Mrs. Dyott could get. "It's not," said
Maud, "any one you've ever seen."
"Ah then I give you up!"
And Mrs. Dyott conformed for the rest of Maud's stay to the spirit
of this speech. It was made on a Saturday night, and Mrs.
Blessingbourne remained till the Wednesday following, an interval
during which, as the return of fine weather was confirmed by the
Sunday, the two ladies found a wider range of action. There were
drives to be taken, calls made, objects of interest seen at a
distance; with the effect of much easy talk and still more easy
silence. There had been a question of Colonel Voyt's probable
return on the Sunday, but the whole time passed without a sign from
him, and it was merely mentioned by Mrs. Dyott, in explanation,
that he must have been suddenly called, as he was so liable to be,
to town. That this in fact was what had happened he made clear to
her on Thursday afternoon, when, walking over again late, he found
her alone. The consequence of his Sunday letters had been his
taking, that day, the 4.15. Mrs. Voyt had gone back on Thursday,
and he now, to settle on the spot the question of a piece of work
begun at his place, had rushed down for a few hours in anticipation
of the usual collective move for the week's end. He was to go up
again by the late train, and had to count a little--a fact accepted
by his hostess with the hard pliancy of practice--his present happy
moments. Too few as these were, however, he found time to make of
her an inquiry or two not directly bearing on their situation. The
first was a recall of the question for which Mrs. Blessingbourne's
entrance on the previous Saturday had arrested her answer. Had
that lady the idea of anything between them?
"No. I'm sure. There's one idea she has got," Mrs. Dyott went on;
"but it's quite different and not so very wonderful."
"What then is it?"
"Well, that she's herself in love."
Voyt showed his interest. "You mean she told you?"
"I got it out of her."
He showed his amusement. "Poor thing! And with whom?"
His surprise, if the distinction might be made, was less than his
wonder. "You got that out of her too?"
"No--it remains in. Which is much the best way for it. For you to
know it would be to end it."
He looked rather cheerfully at sea. "Is that then why you tell
"I mean for her to know you know it. Therefore it's in your
interest not to let her."
"I see," Voyt after a moment returned. "Your real calculation is
that my interest will be sacrificed to my vanity--so that, if your
other idea is just, the flame will in fact, and thanks to her
morbid conscience, expire by her taking fright at seeing me so
pleased. But I promise you," he declared, "that she shan't see it.
So there you are!" She kept her eyes on him and had evidently to
admit after a little that there she was. Distinct as he had made
the case, however, he wasn't yet quite satisfied. "Why are you so
sure I'm the man?"
"From the way she denies you."
"You put it to her?"
"Straight. If you hadn't been she'd of course have confessed to
you--to keep me in the dark about the real one."
Poor Voyt laughed out again. "Oh you dear souls!"
"Besides," his companion pursued, "I wasn't in want of that
"Then what other had you?"
"Her state before you came--which was what made me ask you how much
you had seen her. And her state after it," Mrs. Dyott added. "And
her state," she wound up, "while you were here."
"But her state while I was here was charming."
"Charming. That's just what I say."
She said it in a tone that placed the matter in its right light--a
light in which they appeared kindly, quite tenderly, to watch Maud
wander away into space with her lovely head bent under a theory
rather too big for it. Voyt's last word, however, was that there
was just enough in it--in the theory--for them to allow that she
had not shown herself, on the occasion of their talk, wholly bereft
of sense. Her consciousness, if they let it alone--as they of
course after this mercifully must--WAS, in the last analysis, a
kind of shy romance. Not a romance like their own, a thing to make
the fortune of any author up to the mark--one who should have the
invention or who COULD have the courage; but a small scared starved
subjective satisfaction that would do her no harm and nobody else
any good. Who but a duffer--he stuck to his contention--would see
the shadow of a "story" in it?
Frank Granger had arrived from Paris to paint a portrait--an order
given him, as a young compatriot with a future, whose early work
would some day have a price, by a lady from New York, a friend of
his own people and also, as it happened, of Addie's, the young
woman to whom it was publicly both affirmed and denied that he was
engaged. Other young women in Paris--fellow-members there of the
little tight transpontine world of art-study--professed to know
that the pair had "several times" over renewed their fond
understanding. This, however, was their own affair; the last phase
of the relation, the last time of the times, had passed into
vagueness; there was perhaps even an impression that if they were
inscrutable to their friends they were not wholly crystalline to
each other and themselves. What had occurred for Granger at all
events in connexion with the portrait was that Mrs. Bracken, his
intending model, whose return to America was at hand, had suddenly
been called to London by her husband, occupied there with pressing
business, but had yet desired that her displacement should not
interrupt her sittings. The young man, at her request, had
followed her to England and profited by all she could give him,
making shift with a small studio lent him by a London painter whom
he had known and liked a few years before in the French atelier
that then cradled, and that continued to cradle, so many of their
The British capital was a strange grey world to him, where people
walked, in more ways than one, by a dim light; but he was happily
of such a turn that the impression, just as it came, could nowhere
ever fail him, and even the worst of these things was almost as
much an occupation--putting it only at that--as the best. Mrs.
Bracken moreover passed him on, and while the darkness ebbed a
little in the April days he found himself consolingly committed to
a couple of fresh subjects. This cut him out work for more than
another month, but meanwhile, as he said, he saw a lot--a lot that,
with frequency and with much expression, he wrote about to Addie.
She also wrote to her absent friend, but in briefer snatches, a
meagreness to her reasons for which he had long since assented.
She had other play for her pen as well as, fortunately, other
remuneration; a regular correspondence for a "prominent Boston
paper," fitful connexions with public sheets perhaps also in cases
fitful, and a mind above all engrossed at times, to the exclusion
of everything else, with the study of the short story. This last
was what she had mainly come out to go into, two or three years
after he had found himself engulfed in the mystery of Carolus. She
was indeed, on her own deep sea, more engulfed than he had ever
been, and he had grown to accept the sense that, for progress too,
she sailed under more canvas. It hadn't been particularly present
to him till now that he had in the least got on, but the way in
which Addie had--and evidently still more would--was the theme, as
it were, of every tongue. She had thirty short stories out and
nine descriptive articles. His three or four portraits of fat
American ladies--they were all fat, all ladies and all American--
were a poor show compared with these triumphs; especially as Addie
had begun to throw out that it was about time they should go home.
It kept perpetually coming up in Paris, in the transpontine world,
that, as the phrase was, America had grown more interesting since
they left. Addie was attentive to the rumour, and, as full of
conscience as she was of taste, of patriotism as of curiosity, had
often put it to him frankly, with what he, who was of New York,
recognised as her New England emphasis: "I'm not sure, you know,
that we do REAL justice to our country." Granger felt he would do
it on the day--if the day ever came--he should irrevocably marry
her. No other country could possibly have produced her.
But meanwhile it befell that, in London, he was stricken with
influenza and with subsequent sorrow. The attack was short but
sharp--had it lasted Addie would certainly have come to his aid;
most of a blight really in its secondary stage. The good ladies
his sitters--the ladies with the frizzled hair, with the diamond
earrings, with the chins tending to the massive--left for him, at
the door of his lodgings, flowers, soup and love, so that with
their assistance he pulled through; but his convalescence was slow
and his weakness out of proportion to the muffled shock. He came
out, but he went about lame; it tired him to paint--he felt as if
he had been ill three months. He strolled in Kensington Gardens
when he should have been at work; he sat long on penny chairs and
helplessly mused and mooned. Addie desired him to return to Paris,
but there were chances under his hand that he felt he had just wit
enough left not to relinquish. He would have gone for a week to
the sea--he would have gone to Brighton; but Mrs. Bracken had to be
finished--Mrs. Bracken was so soon to sail. He just managed to
finish her in time--the day before the date fixed for his breaking
ground on a greater business still, the circumvallation of Mrs.
Dunn. Mrs. Dunn duly waited on him, and he sat down before her,
feeling, however, ere he rose, that he must take a long breath
before the attack. While asking himself that night, therefore,
where he should best replenish his lungs he received from Addie,
who had had from Mrs. Bracken a poor report of him, a communication
which, besides being of sudden and startling interest, applied
directly to his case.
His friend wrote to him under the lively emotion of having from one
day to another become aware of a new relative, an ancient cousin, a
sequestered gentlewoman, the sole survival of "the English branch
of the family," still resident, at Flickerbridge, in the "old
family home," and with whom, that he might immediately betake
himself to so auspicious a quarter for change of air, she had
already done what was proper to place him, as she said, in touch.
What came of it all, to be brief, was that Granger found himself so
placed almost as he read: he was in touch with Miss Wenham of
Flickerbridge, to the extent of being in correspondence with her,
before twenty-four hours had sped. And on the second day he was in
the train, settled for a five-hours' run to the door of this
amiable woman who had so abruptly and kindly taken him on trust and
of whom but yesterday he had never so much as heard. This was an
oddity--the whole incident was--of which, in the corner of his
compartment, as he proceeded, he had time to take the size. But
the surprise, the incongruity, as he felt, could but deepen as he
went. It was a sufficiently queer note, in the light, or the
absence of it, of his late experience, that so complex a product as
Addie should have ANY simple insular tie; but it was a queerer note
still that she should have had one so long only to remain
unprofitably unconscious of it. Not to have done something with
it, used it, worked it, talked about it at least, and perhaps even
written--these things, at the rate she moved, represented a loss of
opportunity under which as he saw her, she was peculiarly formed to
wince. She was at any rate, it was clear, doing something with it
now; using it, working it, certainly, already talking--and, yes,
quite possibly writing--about it. She was in short smartly making
up what she had missed, and he could take such comfort from his own
action as he had been helped to by the rest of the facts,
succinctly reported from Paris on the very morning of his start.
It was the singular story of a sharp split--in a good English
house--that dated now from years back. A worthy Briton, of the
best middling stock, had, during the fourth decade of the century,
as a very young man, in Dresden, whither he had been despatched to
qualify in German for a stool in an uncle's counting-house, met,
admired, wooed and won an American girl, of due attractions,
domiciled at that period with her parents and a sister, who was
also attractive, in the Saxon capital. He had married her, taken
her to England, and there, after some years of harmony and
happiness, lost her. The sister in question had, after her death,
come to him and to his young child on a visit, the effect of which,
between the pair, eventually defined itself as a sentiment that was
not to be resisted. The bereaved husband, yielding to a new
attachment and a new response, and finding a new union thus
prescribed, had yet been forced to reckon with the unaccommodating
law of the land. Encompassed with frowns in his own country,
however, marriages of this particular type were wreathed in smiles
in his sister's-in-law, so that his remedy was not forbidden.
Choosing between two allegiances he had let the one go that seemed
the least close, and had in brief transplanted his possibilities to
an easier air. The knot was tied for the couple in New York,
where, to protect the legitimacy of such other children as might
come to them, they settled and prospered. Children came, and one
of the daughters, growing up and marrying in her turn, was, if
Frank rightly followed, the mother of his own Addie, who had been
deprived of the knowledge of her indeed, in childhood, by death,
and been brought up, though without undue tension, by a stepmother-
-a character breaking out thus anew.
The breach produced in England by the invidious action, as it was
there held, of the girl's grandfather, had not failed to widen--all
the more that nothing had been done on the American side to close
it. Frigidity had settled, and hostility had been arrested only by
indifference. Darkness therefore had fortunately supervened, and a
cousinship completely divided. On either side of the impassable
gulf, of the impenetrable curtain, each branch had put forth its
leaves--a foliage failing, in the American quarter, it was distinct
enough to Granger, of no sign or symptom of climate and
environment. The graft in New York had taken, and Addie was a
vivid, an unmistakable flower. At Flickerbridge, or wherever, on
the other hand, strange to say, the parent stem had had a fortune
comparatively meagre. Fortune, it was true, in the vulgarest
sense, had attended neither party. Addie's immediate belongings
were as poor as they were numerous, and he gathered that Miss
Wenham's pretensions to wealth were not so marked as to expose the
claim of kinship to the imputation of motive. To this lady's
single identity the original stock had at all events dwindled, and
our young man was properly warned that he would find her shy and
solitary. What was singular was that in these conditions she
should desire, she should endure, to receive him. But that was all
another story, lucid enough when mastered. He kept Addie's
letters, exceptionally copious, in his lap; he conned them at
intervals; he held the threads.
He looked out between whiles at the pleasant English land, an April
aquarelle washed in with wondrous breadth. He knew the French
thing, he knew the American, but he had known nothing of this. He
saw it already as the remarkable Miss Wenham's setting. The
doctor's daughter at Flickerbridge, with nippers on her nose, a
palette on her thumb and innocence in her heart, had been the
miraculous link. She had become aware even there, in our world of
wonders, that the current fashion for young women so equipped was
to enter the Parisian lists. Addie had accordingly chanced upon
her, on the slopes of Montparnasse, as one of the English girls in
one of the thorough-going sets. They had met in some easy
collocation and had fallen upon common ground; after which the
young woman, restored to Flickerbridge for an interlude and
retailing there her adventures and impressions, had mentioned to
Miss Wenham who had known and protected her from babyhood, that
that lady's own name of Adelaide was, as well as the surname
conjoined with it, borne, to her knowledge, in Paris, by an
extraordinary American specimen. She had then recrossed the
Channel with a wonderful message, a courteous challenge, to her
friend's duplicate, who had in turn granted through her every
satisfaction. The duplicate had in other words bravely let Miss
Wenham know exactly who she was. Miss Wenham, in whose personal
tradition the flame of resentment appeared to have been reduced by
time to the palest ashes--for whom indeed the story of the great
schism was now but a legend only needing a little less dimness to
make it romantic--Miss Wenham had promptly responded by a letter
fragrant with the hope that old threads might be taken up. It was
a relationship that they must puzzle out together, and she had
earnestly sounded the other party to it on the subject of a
possible visit. Addie had met her with a definite promise; she
would come soon, she would come when free, she would come in July;
but meanwhile she sent her deputy. Frank asked himself by what
name she had described, by what character introduced him to
Flickerbridge. He mainly felt on the whole as if he were going
there to find out if he were engaged to her. He was at sea really
now as to which of the various views Addie herself took of it. To
Miss Wenham she must definitely have taken one, and perhaps Miss
Wenham would reveal it. This expectation was in fact his excuse
for a possible indiscretion.
He was indeed to learn on arrival to what he had been committed;
but that was for a while so much a part of his first general
impression that the particular truth took time to detach itself,
the first general impression demanding verily all his faculties of
response. He almost felt for a day or two the victim of a
practical joke, a gross abuse of confidence. He had presented
himself with the moderate amount of flutter involved in a sense of
due preparation; but he had then found that, however primed with
prefaces and prompted with hints, he hadn't been prepared at all.
How COULD he be, he asked himself, for anything so foreign to his
experience, so alien to his proper world, so little to be
preconceived in the sharp north light of the newest impressionism,
and yet so recognised after all in the event, so noted and tasted
and assimilated? It was a case he would scarce have known how to
describe--could doubtless have described best with a full clean
brush, supplemented by a play of gesture; for it was always his
habit to see an occasion, of whatever kind, primarily as a picture,
so that he might get it, as he was wont to say, so that he might
keep it, well together. He had been treated of a sudden, in this
adventure, to one of the sweetest fairest coolest impressions of
his life--one moreover visibly complete and homogeneous from the
start. Oh it was THERE, if that was all one wanted of a thing! It
was so "there" that, as had befallen him in Italy, in Spain,
confronted at last, in dusky side-chapel or rich museum, with great
things dreamed of or with greater ones unexpectedly presented, he
had held his breath for fear of breaking the spell; had almost,
from the quick impulse to respect, to prolong, lowered his voice
and moved on tiptoe. Supreme beauty suddenly revealed is apt to
strike us as a possible illusion playing with our desire--instant
freedom with it to strike us as a possible rashness.
This fortunately, however--and the more so as his freedom for the
time quite left him--didn't prevent his hostess, the evening of his
advent and while the vision was new, from being exactly as queer
and rare and IMPAYABLE, as improbable, as impossible, as delightful
at the eight o'clock dinner--she appeared to keep these immense
hours--as she had overwhelmingly been at the five o'clock tea. She
was in the most natural way in the world one of the oddest
apparitions, but that the particular means to such an end COULD be
natural was an inference difficult to make. He failed in fact to
make it for a couple of days; but then--though then only--he made
it with confidence. By this time indeed he was sure of everything,
luckily including himself. If we compare his impression, with
slight extravagance, to some of the greatest he had ever received,
this is simply because the image before him was so rounded and
stamped. It expressed with pure perfection, it exhausted its
character. It was so absolutely and so unconsciously what it was.
He had been floated by the strangest of chances out of the rushing
stream into a clear still backwater--a deep and quiet pool in which
objects were sharply mirrored. He had hitherto in life known
nothing that was old except a few statues and pictures; but here
everything was old, was immemorial, and nothing so much so as the
very freshness itself. Vaguely to have supposed there were such
nooks in the world had done little enough, he now saw, to temper
the glare of their opposites. It was the fine touches that
counted, and these had to be seen to be believed.
Miss Wenham, fifty-five years of age and unappeasably timid,
unaccountably strange, had, on her reduced scale, an almost Gothic
grotesqueness; but the final effect of one's sense of it was an
amenity that accompanied one's steps like wafted gratitude. More
flurried, more spasmodic, more apologetic, more completely at a
loss at one moment and more precipitately abounding at another, he
had never before in all his days seen any maiden lady; yet for no
maiden lady he had ever seen had he so promptly conceived a private
enthusiasm. Her eyes protruded, her chin receded and her nose
carried on in conversation a queer little independent motion. She
wore on the top of her head an upright circular cap that made her
resemble a caryatid disburdened, and on other parts of her person
strange combinations of colours, stuffs, shapes, of metal, mineral
and plant. The tones of her voice rose and fell, her facial
convulsions, whether tending--one could scarce make out--to
expression or REpression, succeeded each other by a law of their
own; she was embarrassed at nothing and at everything, frightened
at everything and at nothing, and she approached objects, subjects,
the simplest questions and answers and the whole material of
intercourse, either with the indirectness of terror or with the
violence of despair. These things, none the less, her refinements
of oddity and intensities of custom, her betrayal at once of
conventions and simplicities, of ease and of agony, her roundabout
retarded suggestions and perceptions, still permitted her to strike
her guest as irresistibly charming. He didn't know what to call
it; she was a fruit of time. She had a queer distinction. She had
been expensively produced and there would be a good deal more of
her to come.
The result of the whole quality of her welcome, at any rate, was
that the first evening, in his room, before going to bed, he
relieved his mind in a letter to Addie, which, if space allowed us
to embody it in our text, would usefully perform the office of a
"plate." It would enable us to present ourselves as profusely
illustrated. But the process of reproduction, as we say, costs.
He wished his friend to know how grandly their affair turned out.
She had put him in the way of something absolutely special--an old
house untouched, untouchable, indescribable, an old corner such as
one didn't believe existed, and the holy calm of which made the
chatter of studios, the smell of paint, the slang of critics, the
whole sense and sound of Paris, come back as so many signs of a
huge monkey-cage. He moved about, restless, while he wrote; he
lighted cigarettes and, nervous and suddenly scrupulous, put them
out again; the night was mild and one of the windows of his large
high room, which stood over the garden, was up. He lost himself in
the things about him, in the type of the room, the last century
with not a chair moved, not a point stretched. He hung over the
objects and ornaments, blissfully few and adorably good, perfect
pieces all, and never one, for a change, French. The scene was as
rare as some fine old print with the best bits down in the corners.
Old books and old pictures, allusions remembered and aspects
conjectured, reappeared to him; he knew not what anxious islanders
had been trying for in their backward hunt for the homely. But the
homely at Flickerbridge was all style, even as style at the same
time was mere honesty. The larger, the smaller past--he scarce
knew which to call it--was at all events so hushed to sleep round
him as he wrote that he had almost a bad conscience about having
come. How one might love it, but how one might spoil it! To look
at it too hard was positively to make it conscious, and to make it
conscious was positively to wake it up. Its only safety, of a
truth, was to be left still to sleep--to sleep in its large fair
chambers and under its high clean canopies.
He added thus restlessly a line to his letter, maundered round the
room again, noted and fingered something else, and then, dropping
on the old flowered sofa, sustained by the tight cubes of its
cushions, yielded afresh to the cigarette, hesitated, stared, wrote
a few words more. He wanted Addie to know, that was what he most
felt, unless he perhaps felt, more how much she herself would want
to. Yes, what he supremely saw was all that Addie would make of
it. Up to his neck in it there he fairly turned cold at the sense
of suppressed opportunity, of the outrage of privation that his
correspondent would retrospectively and, as he even divined with a
vague shudder, almost vindictively nurse. Well, what had happened
was that the acquaintance had been kept for her, like a packet
enveloped and sealed for delivery, till her attention was free. He
saw her there, heard her and felt her--felt how she would feel and
how she would, as she usually said, "rave." Some of her young
compatriots called it "yell," and in the reference itself, alas!
illustrated their meaning. She would understand the place at any
rate, down to the ground; there wasn't the slightest doubt of that.
Her sense of it would be exactly like his own, and he could see, in
anticipation, just the terms of recognition and rapture in which
she would abound. He knew just what she would call quaint, just
what she would call bland, just what she would call weird, just
what she would call wild. She would take it all in with an
intelligence much more fitted than his own, in fact, to deal with
what he supposed he must regard as its literary relations. She
would have read the long-winded obsolete memoirs and novels that
both the figures and the setting ought clearly to remind one of;
she would know about the past generations--the lumbering country
magnates and their turbaned wives and round-eyed daughters, who, in
other days, had treated the ruddy sturdy tradeless town,--the solid
square houses and wide walled gardens, the streets to-day all grass
and gossip, as the scene of a local "season." She would have
warrant for the assemblies, dinners, deep potations; for the smoked
sconces in the dusky parlours; for the long muddy century of family
coaches, "holsters," highwaymen. She would put a finger in short,
just as he had done, on the vital spot--the rich humility of the
whole thing, the fact that neither Flickerbridge in general nor
Miss Wenham in particular, nor anything nor any one concerned, had
a suspicion of their characters and their merit. Addie and he
would have to come to let in light.
He let it in then, little by little, before going to bed, through
the eight or ten pages he addressed to her; assured her that it was
the happiest case in the world, a little picture--yet full of
"style" too--absolutely composed and transmitted, with tradition,
and tradition only, in every stroke, tradition still noiselessly
breathing and visibly flushing, marking strange hours in the tall
mahogany clocks that were never wound up and that yet audibly
ticked on. All the elements, he was sure he should see, would hang
together with a charm, presenting his hostess--a strange iridescent
fish for the glazed exposure of an aquarium--as afloat in her
native medium. He left his letter open on the table, but, looking
it over next morning, felt of a sudden indisposed to send it. He
would keep it to add more, for there would be more to know; yet
when three days had elapsed he still had not sent it. He sent
instead, after delay, a much briefer report, which he was moved to
make different and, for some reason, less vivid. Meanwhile he
learned from Miss Wenham how Addie had introduced him. It took
time to arrive with her at that point, but after the Rubicon was
crossed they went far afield.
"Oh yes, she said you were engaged to her. That was why--since I
HAD broken out--she thought I might like to see you; as I assure
you I've been so delighted to. But AREN'T you?" the good lady
asked as if she saw in his face some ground for doubt.
"Assuredly--if she says so. It may seem very odd to you, but I
haven't known, and yet I've felt that, being nothing whatever to
you directly, I need some warrant for consenting thus to be thrust
on you. We WERE," the young man explained, "engaged a year ago;
but since then (if you don't mind my telling you such things; I
feel now as if I could tell you anything!) I haven't quite known
how I stand. It hasn't seemed we were in a position to marry.
Things are better now, but I haven't quite known how she'd see
them. They were so bad six months ago that I understood her, I
thought, as breaking off. I haven't broken; I've only accepted,
for the time--because men must be easy with women--being treated as
'the best of friends.' Well, I try to be. I wouldn't have come
here if I hadn't been. I thought it would be charming for her to
know you--when I heard from her the extraordinary way you had
dawned upon her; and charming therefore if I could help her to it.
And if I'm helping you to know HER," he went on, "isn't that
"Oh I so want to!" Miss Wenham murmured in her unpractical
impersonal way. "You're so different!" she wistfully declared.
"It's YOU, if I may respectfully, ecstatically say so, who are
different. That's the point of it all. I'm not sure that anything
so terrible really ought to happen to you as to know us."
"Well," said Miss Wenham, "I do know you a little by this time,
don't I? And I don't find it terrible. It's a delightful change
"Oh I'm not sure you ought to have a delightful change!"
"Why not--if you do?"
"Ah I can bear it. I'm not sure you can. I'm too bad to spoil--I
AM spoiled. I'm nobody, in short; I'm nothing. I've no type.
You're ALL type. It has taken delicious long years of security and
monotony to produce you. You fit your frame with a perfection only
equalled by the perfection with which your frame fits you. So this
admirable old house, all time-softened white within and time-faded
red without, so everything that surrounds you here and that has, by
some extraordinary mercy, escaped the inevitable fate of
exploitation: so it all, I say, is the sort of thing that, were it
the least bit to fall to pieces, could never, ah never more be put
together again. I have, dear Miss Wenham," Granger went on, happy
himself in his extravagance, which was yet all sincere, and happier
still in her deep but altogether pleased mystification--"I've
found, do you know, just the thing one has ever heard of that you
most resemble. You're the Sleeping Beauty in the Wood."
He still had no compunction when he heard her bewilderedly sigh:
"Oh you're too delightfully droll!"
"No, I only put thing's just as they are, and as I've also learned
a little, thank heaven, to see them--which isn't, I quite agree
with you, at all what any one does. You're in the deep doze of the
spell that has held you for long years, and it would be a shame, a
crime, to wake you up. Indeed I already feel with a thousand
scruples that I'm giving you the fatal shake. I say it even though
it makes me sound a little as if I thought myself the fairy
She gazed at him with her queerest kindest look, which he was
getting used to in spite of a faint fear, at the back of his head,
of the strange things that sometimes occurred when lonely ladies,
however mature, began to look at interesting young men from over
the seas as if the young men desired to flirt. "It's so
wonderful," she said, "that you should be so very odd and yet so
very good-natured." Well, it all came to the same thing--it was so
wonderful that SHE should be so simple and yet so little of a bore.
He accepted with gratitude the theory of his languor--which
moreover was real enough and partly perhaps why he was so
sensitive; he let himself go as a convalescent, let her insist on
the weakness always left by fever. It helped him to gain time, to
preserve the spell even while he talked of breaking it; saw him
through slow strolls and soft sessions, long gossips, fitful
hopeless questions--there was so much more to tell than, by any
contortion, she COULD--and explanations addressed gallantly and
patiently to her understanding, but not, by good fortune, really
reaching it. They were perfectly at cross-purposes, and it was the
better, and they wandered together in the silver haze with all
When they sat in the sun in her formal garden he quite knew how
little even the tenderest consideration failed to disguise his
treating her as the most exquisite of curiosities. The term of
comparison most present to him was that of some obsolete musical
instrument. The old-time order of her mind and her air had the
stillness of a painted spinnet that was duly dusted, gently rubbed,
but never tuned nor played on. Her opinions were like dried rose-
leaves; her attitudes like British sculpture; her voice what he
imagined of the possible tone of the old gilded silver-stringed
harp in one of the corners of the drawing-room. The lonely little
decencies and modest dignities of her life, the fine grain of its
conservatism, the innocence of its ignorance, all its monotony of
stupidity and salubrity, its cold dulness and dim brightness, were
there before him. Meanwhile within him strange things took place.
It was literally true that his impression began again, after a
lull, to make him nervous and anxious, and for reasons peculiarly
confused, almost grotesquely mingled, or at least comically sharp.
He was distinctly an agitation and a new taste--that he could see;
and he saw quite as much therefore the excitement she already drew
from the vision of Addie, an image intensified by the sense of
closer kinship and presented to her, clearly, with various erratic
enhancements, by her friend the doctor's daughter. At the end of a
few days he said to her: "Do you know she wants to come without
waiting any longer? She wants to come while I'm here. I received
this morning her letter proposing it, but I've been thinking it
over and have waited to speak to you. The thing is, you see, that
if she writes to YOU proposing it--"
"Oh I shall be so particularly glad!"
They were as usual in the garden, and it hadn't yet been so present
to him that if he were only a happy cad there would be a good way
to protect her. As she wouldn't hear of his being yet beyond
precautions she had gone into the house for a particular shawl that
was just the thing for his knees, and, blinking in the watery
sunshine, had come back with it across the fine little lawn. He
was neither fatuous nor asinine, but he had almost to put it to
himself as a small task to resist the sense of his absurd advantage
with her. It filled him with horror and awkwardness, made him
think of he didn't know what, recalled something of Maupassant's--
the smitten "Miss Harriet" and her tragic fate. There was a
preposterous possibility--yes, he held the strings quite in his
hands--of keeping the treasure for himself. That was the art of
life--what the real artist would consistently do. He would close
the door on his impression, treat it as a private museum. He would
see that he could lounge and linger there, live with wonderful
things there, lie up there to rest and refit. For himself he was
sure that after a little he should be able to paint there--do
things in a key he had never thought of before. When she brought
him the rug he took it from her and made her sit down on the bench
and resume her knitting; then, passing behind her with a laugh, he
placed it over her own shoulders; after which he moved to and fro
before her, his hands in his pockets and his cigarette in his
teeth. He was ashamed of the cigarette--a villainous false note;
but she allowed, liked, begged him to smoke, and what he said to
her on it, in one of the pleasantries she benevolently missed, was
that he did so for fear of doing worse. That only showed how the
end was really in sight. "I dare say it will strike you as quite
awful, what I'm going to say to you, but I can't help it. I speak
out of the depths of my respect for you. It will seem to you
horrid disloyalty to poor Addie. Yes--there we are; there _I_ am
at least in my naked monstrosity." He stopped and looked at her
till she might have been almost frightened. "Don't let her come.
Tell her not to. I've tried to prevent it, but she suspects."
The poor woman wondered. "Suspects?"
"Well, I drew it, in writing to her, on reflexion, as mild as I
could--having been visited in the watches of the night by the
instinct of what might happen. Something told me to keep back my
first letter--in which, under the first impression, I myself rashly
'raved'; and I concocted instead of it an insincere and guarded
report. But guarded as I was I clearly didn't keep you 'down,' as
we say, enough. The wonder of your colour--daub you over with grey
as I might--must have come through and told the tale. She scents
battle from afar--by which I mean she scents 'quaintness.' But
keep her off. It's hideous, what I'm saying--but I owe it to you.
I owe it to the world. She'll kill you."
"You mean I shan't get on with her?"
"Oh fatally! See how _I_ have. And see how you have with ME.
She's intelligent, moreover, remarkably pretty, remarkably good.
And she'll adore you."
"Why that will be just how she'll do for you."
"Oh I can hold my own!" said Miss Wenham with the headshake of a
horse making his sleigh-bells rattle in frosty air.
"Ah but you can't hold hers! She'll rave about you. She'll write
about you. You're Niagara before the first white traveller--and
you know, or rather you can't know, what Niagara became AFTER that
gentleman. Addie will have discovered Niagara. She'll understand
you in perfection; she'll feel you down to the ground; not a
delicate shade of you will she lose or let any one else lose.
You'll be too weird for words, but the words will nevertheless
come. You'll be too exactly the real thing and be left too utterly
just as you are, and all Addie's friends and all Addie's editors
and contributors and readers will cross the Atlantic and flock to
Flickerbridge just in order so--unanimously, universally,
vociferously--to leave you. You'll be in the magazines with
illustrations; you'll be in the papers with headings; you'll be
everywhere with everything. You don't understand--you think you
do, but you don't. Heaven forbid you SHOULD understand! That's
just your beauty--your 'sleeping' beauty. But you needn't. You
can take me on trust. Don't have her. Give as a pretext, as a
reason, anything in the world you like. Lie to her--scare her
away. I'll go away and give you up--I'll sacrifice everything
myself." Granger pursued his exhortation, convincing himself more
and more. "If I saw my way out, my way completely through, I'D
pile up some fabric of fiction for her--I should only want to be
sure of its not tumbling down. One would have, you see, to keep
the thing up. But I'd throw dust in her eyes. I'd tell her you
don't do at all--that you're not in fact a desirable acquaintance.
I'd tell her you're vulgar, improper, scandalous; I'd tell her
you're mercenary, designing, dangerous; I'd tell her the only safe
course is immediately to let you drop. I'd thus surround you with
an impenetrable legend of conscientious misrepresentation, a circle
of pious fraud, and all the while privately keep you for myself."
She had listened to him as if he were a band of music and she
herself a small shy garden-party. "I shouldn't like you to go
away. I shouldn't in the least like you not to come again."
"Ah there it is!" he replied. "How can I come again if Addie ruins
"But how will she ruin me--even if she does what you say? I know
I'm too old to change and really much too queer to please in any of
the extraordinary ways you speak of. If it's a question of
quizzing me I don't think my cousin, or any one else, will have
quite the hand for it that YOU seem to have. So that if YOU
haven't ruined me--!"
"But I HAVE--that's just the point!" Granger insisted. "I've
undermined you at least. I've left after all terribly little for
Addie to do."
She laughed in clear tones. "Well then, we'll admit that you've
done everything but frighten me."
He looked at her with surpassing gloom. "No--that again is one of
the most dreadful features. You'll positively like it--what's to
come. You'll be caught up in a chariot of fire like the prophet--
wasn't there, was there one?--of old. That's exactly why--if one
could but have done it--you'd have been to be kept ignorant and
helpless. There's something or other in Latin that says it's the
finest things that change the most easily for the worse. You
already enjoy your dishonour and revel in your shame. It's too
All this was as pleasant a manner of passing the time as any other,
for it didn't prevent his old-world corner from closing round him
more entirely, nor stand in the way of his making out from day to
day some new source as well as some new effect of its virtue. He
was really scared at moments at some of the liberties he took in
talk--at finding himself so familiar; for the great note of the
place was just that a certain modern ease had never crossed its
threshold, that quick intimacies and quick oblivions were a
stranger to its air. It had known in all its days no rude, no loud
invasion. Serenely unconscious of most contemporary things, it had
been so of nothing so much as of the diffused social practice of
running in and out. Granger held his breath on occasions to think
how Addie would run. There were moments when, more than at others,
for some reason, he heard her step on the staircase and her cry in
the hall. If he nevertheless played freely with the idea with
which we have shown him as occupied it wasn't that in all palpable
ways he didn't sacrifice so far as mortally possible to stillness.
He only hovered, ever so lightly, to take up again his thread. She
wouldn't hear of his leaving her, of his being in the least fit
again, as she said, to travel. She spoke of the journey to London-
-which was in fact a matter of many hours--as an experiment fraught
with lurking complications. He added then day to day, yet only
hereby, as he reminded her, giving other complications a larger
chance to multiply. He kept it before her, when there was nothing
else to do, that she must consider; after which he had his times of
fear that she perhaps really would make for him this sacrifice.
He knew she had written again to Paris, and knew he must himself
again write--a situation abounding for each in the elements of a
plight. If he stayed so long why then he wasn't better, and if he
wasn't better Addie might take it into her head--! They must make
it clear that he WAS better, so that, suspicious, alarmed at what
was kept from her, she shouldn't suddenly present herself to nurse
him. If he was better, however, why did he stay so long? If he
stayed only for the attraction the sense of the attraction might be
contagious. This was what finally grew clearest for him, so that
he had for his mild disciple hours of still sharper prophecy. It
consorted with his fancy to represent to her that their young
friend had been by this time unsparingly warned; but nothing could
be plainer than that this was ineffectual so long as he himself
resisted the ordeal. To plead that he remained because he was too
weak to move was only to throw themselves back on the other horn of
their dilemma. If he was too weak to move Addie would bring him
her strength--of which, when she got there, she would give them
specimens enough. One morning he broke out at breakfast with an
intimate conviction. They'd see that she was actually starting--
they'd receive a wire by noon. They didn't receive it, but by his
theory the portent was only the stronger. It had moreover its
grave as well as its gay side, since Granger's paradox and
pleasantry were only the method most open to him of conveying what
he felt. He literally heard the knell sound, and in expressing
this to Miss Wenham with the conversational freedom that seemed
best to pay his way he the more vividly faced the contingency. He
could never return, and though he announced it with a despair that
did what might be to make it pass as a joke, he saw how, whether or
no she at last understood, she quite at last believed him. On
this, to his knowledge, she wrote again to Addie, and the contents
of her letter excited his curiosity. But that sentiment, though
not assuaged, quite dropped when, the day after, in the evening,
she let him know she had had a telegram an hour before.
"She comes Thursday."
He showed not the least surprise. It was the deep calm of the
fatalist. It HAD to be. "I must leave you then to-morrow."
She looked, on this, as he had never seen her; it would have been
hard to say whether what showed in her face was the last failure to
follow or the first effort to meet. "And really not to come back?"
"Never, never, dear lady. Why should I come back? You can never
be again what you HAVE been. I shall have seen the last of you."
"Oh!" she touchingly urged.
"Yes, for I should next find you simply brought to self-
consciousness. You'll be exactly what you are, I charitably admit-
-nothing more or less, nothing different. But you'll be it all in
a different way. We live in an age of prodigious machinery, all
organised to a single end. That end is publicity--a publicity as
ferocious as the appetite of a cannibal. The thing therefore is
not to have any illusions--fondly to flatter yourself in a muddled
moment that the cannibal will spare you. He spares nobody. He
spares nothing. It will be all right. You'll have a lovely time.
You'll be only just a public character--blown about the world 'for
all you're worth,' and proclaimed 'for all you're worth' on the
house-tops. It will be for THAT, mind, I quite recognise--because
Addie is superior--as well as for all you aren't. So good-bye."
He remained however till the next day, and noted at intervals the
different stages of their friend's journey; the hour, this time,
she would really have started, the hour she'd reach Dover, the hour
she'd get to town, where she'd alight at Mrs. Dunn's. Perhaps
she'd bring Mrs. Dunn, for Mrs. Dunn would swell the chorus. At
the last, on the morrow, as if in anticipation of this stillness
settled between them: he became as silent as his hostess. But
before he went she brought out shyly and anxiously, as an appeal,
the question that for hours had clearly been giving her thought.
"Do you meet her then to-night in London?"
"Dear no. In what position am I, alas! to do that? When can I
EVER meet her again?" He had turned it all over. "If I could meet
Addie after this, you know, I could meet YOU. And if I do meet
Addie," he lucidly pursued, "what will happen by the same stroke is
that I SHALL meet you. And that's just what I've explained to you
"You mean she and I will be inseparable?"
He hesitated. "I mean she'll tell me all about you. I can hear
her and her ravings now."
She gave again--and it was infinitely sad--her little whinnying
laugh. "Oh but if what you say is true you'll know."
"Ah but Addie won't! Won't, I mean, know that _I_ know--or at
least won't believe it. Won't believe that any one knows. Such,"
he added with a strange smothered sigh, "is Addie. Do you know,"
he wound up, "that what, after all, has most definitely happened is
that you've made me see her as I've never done before?"
She blinked and gasped, she wondered and despaired. "Oh no, it
will be YOU. I've had nothing to do with it. Everything's all
But for all it mattered now! "You'll see," he said, "that she's
charming. I shall go for to-night to Oxford. I shall almost cross
her on the way."
"Then if she's charming what am I to tell her from you in
explanation of such strange behaviour as your flying away just as
"Ah you needn't mind about that--you needn't tell her anything."
She fixed him as if as never again. "It's none of my business, of
course I feel; but isn't it a little cruel if you're engaged?"
Granger gave a laugh almost as odd as one of her own. "Oh you've
cost me that!"--and he put out his hand to her.
She wondered while she took it. "Cost you--?"
"We're not engaged. Good-bye."
"Well, we ARE a pair!" the poor lady's visitor broke out to her at
the end of her explanation in a manner disconcerting enough. The
poor lady was Miss Cutter, who lived in South Audley Street, where
she had an "upper half" so concise that it had to pass boldly for
convenient; and her visitor was her half-brother, whom she hadn't
seen for three years. She was remarkable for a maturity of which
every symptom might have been observed to be admirably controlled,
had not a tendency to stoutness just affirmed its independence.
Her present, no doubt, insisted too much on her past, but with the
excuse, sufficiently valid, that she must certainly once have been
prettier. She was clearly not contented with once--she wished to
be prettier again. She neglected nothing that could produce that
illusion, and, being both fair and fat, dressed almost wholly in
black. When she added a little colour it was not, at any rate, to
her drapery. Her small rooms had the peculiarity that everything
they contained appeared to testify with vividness to her position
in society, quite as if they had been furnished by the bounty of
admiring friends. They were adorned indeed almost exclusively with
objects that nobody buys, as had more than once been remarked by
spectators of her own sex, for herself, and would have been
luxurious if luxury consisted mainly in photographic portraits
slashed across with signatures, in baskets of flowers beribboned
with the cards of passing compatriots, and in a neat collection of
red volumes, blue volumes, alphabetical volumes, aids to London
lucidity, of every sort, devoted to addresses and engagements. To
be in Miss Cutter's tiny drawing-room, in short, even with Miss
Cutter alone--should you by any chance have found her so--was
somehow to be in the world and in a crowd. It was like an agency--
it bristled with particulars.
This was what the tall lean loose gentleman lounging there before
her might have appeared to read in the suggestive scene over which,
while she talked to him, his eyes moved without haste and without
rest. "Oh come, Mamie!" he occasionally threw off; and the words
were evidently connected with the impression thus absorbed. His
comparative youth spoke of waste even as her positive--her too
positive--spoke of economy. There was only one thing, that is, to
make up in him for everything he had lost, though it was distinct
enough indeed that this thing might sometimes serve. It consisted
in the perfection of an indifference, an indifference at the
present moment directed to the plea--a plea of inability, of pure
destitution--with which his sister had met him. Yet it had even
now a wider embrace, took in quite sufficiently all consequences of
queerness, confessed in advance to the false note that, in such a
setting, he almost excruciatingly constituted. He cared as little
that he looked at moments all his impudence as that he looked all
his shabbiness, all his cleverness, all his history. These
different things were written in him--in his premature baldness,
his seamed strained face, the lapse from bravery of his long tawny
moustache; above all in his easy friendly universally acquainted
eye, so much too sociable for mere conversation. What possible
relation with him could be natural enough to meet it? He wore a
scant rough Inverness cape and a pair of black trousers, wanting in
substance and marked with the sheen of time, that had presumably
once served for evening use. He spoke with the slowness helplessly
permitted to Americans--as something too slow to be stopped--and he
repeated that he found himself associated with Miss Cutter in a
harmony calling for wonder. She had been telling him not only that
she couldn't possibly give him ten pounds, but that his unexpected
arrival, should he insist on being much in view, might seriously
interfere with arrangements necessary to her own maintenance; on
which he had begun by replying that he of course knew she had long
ago spent her money, but that he looked to her now exactly because
she had, without the aid of that convenience, mastered the art of
"I'd really go away with a fiver, my dear, if you'd only tell me
how you do it. It's no use saying only, as you've always said,
that 'people are very kind to you.' What the devil are they kind
to you FOR?"
"Well, one reason is precisely that no particular inconvenience has
hitherto been supposed to attach to me. I'm just what I am," said
Mamie Cutter; "nothing less and nothing more. It's awkward to have
to explain to you, which moreover I really needn't in the least.
I'm clever and amusing and charming." She was uneasy and even
frightened, but she kept her temper and met him with a grace of her
own. "I don't think you ought to ask me more questions than I ask
"Ah my dear," said the odd young man, "I'VE no mysteries. Why in
the world, since it was what you came out for and have devoted so
much of your time to, haven't you pulled it off? Why haven't you
"Why haven't YOU?" she retorted. "Do you think that if I had it
would have been better for you?--that my husband would for a moment
have put up with you? Do you mind my asking you if you'll kindly
go NOW?" she went on after a glance at the clock. "I'm expecting a
friend, whom I must see alone, on a matter of great importance--"
"And my being seen with you may compromise your respectability or
undermine your nerve?" He sprawled imperturbably in his place,
crossing again, in another sense, his long black legs and showing,
above his low shoes, an absurd reach of parti-coloured sock. "I
take your point well enough, but mayn't you be after all quite
wrong? If you can't do anything for me couldn't you at least do
something with me? If it comes to that, I'm clever and amusing and
charming too! I've been such an ass that you don't appreciate me.
But people like me--I assure you they do. They usually don't know
what an ass I've been; they only see the surface, which"--and he
stretched himself afresh as she looked him up and down--"you CAN
imagine them, can't you, rather taken with? I'M 'what I am' too;
nothing less and nothing more. That's true of us as a family, you
see. We ARE a crew!" He delivered himself serenely. His voice
was soft and flat, his pleasant eyes, his simple tones tending to
the solemn, achieved at moments that effect of quaintness which is,
in certain connexions, socially so known and enjoyed. "English
people have quite a weakness for me--more than any others. I get
on with them beautifully. I've always been with them abroad. They
think me," the young man explained, "diabolically American."
"You!" Such stupidity drew from her a sigh of compassion.
Her companion apparently quite understood it. "Are you homesick,
Mamie?" he asked, with wondering irrelevance.
The manner of the question made her, for some reason, in spite of
her preoccupations, break into a laugh. A shade of indulgence, a
sense of other things, came back to her. "You are funny, Scott!"
"Well," remarked Scott, "that's just what I claim. But ARE you so
homesick?" he spaciously inquired, not as to a practical end, but
from an easy play of intelligence.
"I'm just dying of it!" said Mamie Cutter.
"Why so am I!" Her visitor had a sweetness of concurrence.
"We're the only decent people," Miss Cutter declared. "And I know.
You don't--you can't; and I can't explain. Come in," she continued
with a return of her impatience and an increase of her decision,
"at seven sharp."
She had quitted her seat some time before, and now, to get him into
motion, hovered before him while, still motionless, he looked up at
her. Something intimate, in the silence, appeared to pass between
them--a community of fatigue and failure and, after all, of
intelligence. There was a final cynical humour in it. It
determined him, in any case, at last, and he slowly rose, taking in
again as he stood there the testimony of the room. He might have
been counting the photographs, but he looked at the flowers with
detachment. "Who's coming?"
"Then what are you doing for her?"
"I work for every one," she promptly returned.
"For every one who pays? So I suppose. Yet isn't it only we who
There was a drollery, not lost on her, in the way his queer
presence lent itself to his emphasised plural.
"Do you consider that YOU do?"
"At this, with his deliberation, he came back to his charming idea.
"Only try me, and see if I can't be MADE to. Work me in." On her
sharply presenting her back he stared a little at the clock. "If I
come at seven may I stay to dinner?"
It brought her round again. "Impossible. I'm dining out."
She had to think. "With Lord Considine."
"Oh my eye!" Scott exclaimed.
She looked at him gloomily. "Is THAT sort of tone what makes you
pay? I think you might understand," she went on, "that if you're
to sponge on me successfully you mustn't ruin me. I must have SOME
remote resemblance to a lady."
"Yes? But why must _I_?" Her exasperated silence was full of
answers, of which however his inimitable manner took no account.
"You don't understand my real strength; I doubt if you even
understand your own. You're clever, Mamie, but you're not so
clever as I supposed. However," he pursued, "it's out of Mrs.
Medwin that you'll get it."
"Why the cheque that will enable you to assist me."
On this, for a moment, she met his eyes. "If you'll come back at
seven sharp--not a minute before, and not a minute after, I'll give
you two five-pound notes."
He thought it over. "Whom are you expecting a minute after?"
It sent her to the window with a groan almost of anguish, and she
answered nothing till she had looked at the street. "If you injure
me, you know, Scott, you'll be sorry."
"I wouldn't injure you for the world. What I want to do in fact is
really to help you, and I promise you that I won't leave you--by
which I mean won't leave London--till I've effected something
really pleasant for you. I like you, Mamie, because I like pluck;
I like you much more than you like me. I like you very, VERY
much." He had at last with this reached the door and opened it,
but he remained with his hand on the latch. "What does Mrs. Medwin
want of you?" he thus brought out.
She had come round to see him disappear, and in the relief of this
prospect she again just indulged him.
He waited another minute. "And you're going to do it?"
"I'm going to do it," said Mamie Cutter.
"Well then that ought to be a haul. Call it THREE fivers!" he
laughed. "At seven sharp." And at last he left her alone.
Miss Cutter waited till she heard the house-door close; after
which, in a sightless mechanical way, she moved about the room
readjusting various objects he had not touched. It was as if his
mere voice and accent had spoiled her form. But she was not left
too long to reckon with these things, for Mrs. Medwin was promptly
announced. This lady was not, more than her hostess, in the first
flush of her youth; her appearance--the scattered remains of beauty
manipulated by taste--resembled one of the light repasts in which
the fragments of yesterday's dinner figure with a conscious ease
that makes up for the want of presence. She was perhaps of an
effect still too immediate to be called interesting, but she was
candid, gentle and surprised--not fatiguingly surprised, only just
in the right degree; and her white face--it was too white--with the
fixed eyes, the somewhat touzled hair and the Louis Seize hat,
might at the end of the very long neck have suggested the head of a
princess carried on a pike in a revolution. She immediately took
up the business that had brought her, with the air however of
drawing from the omens then discernible less confidence than she
had hoped. The complication lay in the fact that if it was Mamie's
part to present the omens, that lady yet had so to colour them as
to make her own service large. She perhaps over-coloured; for her
friend gave way to momentary despair.
"What you mean is then that it's simply impossible?"
"Oh no," said Mamie with a qualified emphasis. "It's POSSIBLE."
"But disgustingly difficult?"
"As difficult as you like."
"Then what can I do that I haven't done?"
"You can only wait a little longer."
"But that's just what I HAVE done. I've done nothing else. I'm
always waiting a little longer!"
Miss Cutter retained, in spite of this pathos, her grasp of the
subject. "THE thing, as I've told you, is for you first to be
"But if people won't look at me?"
"They WILL?" Mrs. Medwin was eager.
"They shall," her hostess went on. "It's their only having heard--
without having seen."'
"But if they stare straight the other way?" Mrs. Medwin continued
to object. "You can't simply go up to them and twist their heads
"It's just what I can," said Mamie Cutter.
But her charming visitor, heedless for the moment of this
attenuation, had found the way to put it. "It's the old story.
You can't go into the water till you swim, and you can't swim till
you go into the water. I can't be spoken to till I'm seen, but I
can't be seen till I'm spoken to."
She met this lucidity, Miss Cutter, with but an instant's lapse.
"You say I can't twist their heads about. But I HAVE twisted
It had been quietly produced, but it gave her companion a jerk.
"They say 'Yes'?"
She summed it up. "All but one. SHE says 'No.'"
Mrs. Medwin thought; then jumped. "Lady Wantridge?"
Miss Cutter, as more delicate, only bowed admission. "I shall see
her either this afternoon or late to-morrow. But she has written."
Her visitor wondered again. "May I see her letter?"
"No." She spoke with decision. "But I shall square her."
"Well"--and Miss Cutter, as if looking upward for inspiration,
fixed her eyes a while on the ceiling--"well, it will come to me."
Mrs. Medwin watched her--it was impressive. "And will they come to
you--the others?" This question drew out the fact that they would-
-so far at least as they consisted of Lady Edward, Lady Bellhouse
and Mrs. Pouncer, who had engaged to muster, at the signal of tea,
on the 14th--prepared, as it were, for the worst. There was of
course always the chance that Lady Wantridge might take the field,
in such force as to paralyse them, though that danger, at the same
time, seemed inconsistent with her being squared. It didn't
perhaps all quite ideally hang together; but what it sufficiently
came to was that if she was the one who could do most FOR a person
in Mrs. Medwin's position she was also the one who could do most
against. It would therefore be distinctly what our friend
familiarly spoke of as "collar-work." The effect of these mixed
considerations was at any rate that Mamie eventually acquiesced in
the idea, handsomely thrown out by her client, that she should have
an "advance" to go on with. Miss Cutter confessed that it seemed
at times as if one scarce COULD go on; but the advance was, in
spite of this delicacy, still more delicately made--made in the
form of a banknote, several sovereigns, some loose silver, and two
coppers, the whole contents of her purse, neatly disposed by Mrs.
Medwin on one of the tiny tables. It seemed to clear the air for
deeper intimacies, the fruit of which was that Mamie, lonely after
all in her crowd and always more helpful than helped, eventually
brought out that the way Scott had been going on was what seemed
momentarily to overshadow her own power to do so.
"I've had a descent from him." But she had to explain. "My half-
brother--Scott Homer. A wretch."
"What kind of a wretch?"
"Every kind. I lose sight of him at times--he disappears abroad.
But he always turns up again, worse than ever."
"No. Rather pleasant. Awfully clever--awfully travelled and
"Then what's the matter with him?"
Mamie mused, hesitated--seemed to see a wide past. "I don't know."
"Something in the background?" Then as her friend was silent,
"Something queer about cards?" Mrs. Medwin threw off.
"I don't know--and I don't want to!"
"Ah well, I'm sure _I_ don't," Mrs. Medwin returned with spirit.
The note of sharpness was perhaps also a little in the observation
she made as she gathered herself to go. "Do you mind my saying
Mamie took her eyes quickly from the money on the little stand.
"You may say what you like."
"I only mean that anything awkward you may have to keep out of the
way does seem to make more wonderful, doesn't it, that you should
have got just where you are? I allude, you know, to your
"I see." Miss Cutter somewhat coldly smiled. "To my power."
"So awfully remarkable in an American."
"Ah you like us so."
Mrs. Medwin candidly considered. "But we don't, dearest."
Her companion's smile brightened. "Then why do you come to me?"
"Oh I like YOU!" Mrs. Medwin made out.
"Then that's it. There are no 'Americans.' It's always 'you.'"
"Me?" Mrs. Medwin looked lovely, but a little muddled.
"ME!" Mamie Cutter laughed. "But if you like me, you dear thing,
you can judge if I like YOU." She gave her a kiss to dismiss her.
"I'll see you again when I've seen her."
"Lady Wantridge? I hope so, indeed. I'll turn up late to-morrow,
if you don't catch me first. Has it come to you yet?" the visitor,
now at the door, went on.
"No; but it will. There's time."
"Oh a little less every day!"
Miss Cutter had approached the table and glanced again at the gold
and silver and the note, not indeed absolutely overlooking the two
coppers. "The balance," she put it, "the day after?"
"That very night if you like."
"Then count on me."
"Oh if I didn't--!" But the door closed on the dark idea.
Yearningly then, and only when it had done so, Miss Cutter took up
She went out with it ten minutes later, and, the calls on her time
being many, remained out so long that at half-past six she hadn't
come back. At that hour, on the other hand, Scott Homer knocked at
her door, where her maid, who opened it with a weak pretence of
holding it firm, ventured to announce to him, as a lesson well
learnt, that he hadn't been expected till seven. No lesson, none
the less, could prevail against his native art. He pleaded
fatigue, her, the maid's, dreadful depressing London, and the need
to curl up somewhere. If she'd just leave him quiet half an hour
that old sofa upstairs would do for it; of which he took quickly
such effectual possession that when five minutes later she peeped,
nervous for her broken vow, into the drawing-room, the faithless
young woman found him extended at his length and peacefully asleep.
The situation before Miss Cutter's return developed in other
directions still, and when that event took place, at a few minutes
past seven, these circumstances were, by the foot of the stair,
between mistress and maid, the subject of some interrogative gasps
and scared admissions. Lady Wantridge had arrived shortly after
the interloper, and wishing, as she said, to wait, had gone
straight up in spite of being told he was lying down.
"She distinctly understood he was there?"
"Oh yes ma'am; I thought it right to mention."
"And what did you call him?"
"Well, ma'am, I thought it unfair to YOU to call him anything but a
Mamie took it all in, though there might well be more of it than
one could quickly embrace. "But if she has had time," she flashed,
"to find out he isn't one?"
"Oh ma'am, she had a quarter of an hour."
"Then she isn't with him still?"
"No ma'am; she came down again at last. She rang, and I saw her
here, and she said she wouldn't wait longer."
Miss Cutter darkly mused. "Yet had already waited--?"
"Quite a quarter."
"Mercy on us!" She began to mount. Before reaching the top
however she had reflected that quite a quarter was long if Lady
Wantridge had only been shocked. On the other hand it was short if
she had only been pleased. But how COULD she have been pleased?
The very essence of their actual crisis was just that there was no
pleasing her. Mamie had but to open the drawing-room door indeed
to perceive that this was not true at least of Scott Homer, who was
Miss Cutter expressed to her brother without reserve her sense of
the constitutional, the brutal selfishness that had determined his
mistimed return. It had taken place, in violation of their
agreement, exactly at the moment when it was most cruel to her that
he should be there, and if she must now completely wash her hands
of him he had only himself to thank. She had come in flushed with
resentment and for a moment had been voluble, but it would have
been striking that, though the way he received her might have
seemed but to aggravate, it presently justified him by causing
their relation really to take a stride. He had the art of
confounding those who would quarrel with him by reducing them to
the humiliation of a stirred curiosity.
"What COULD she have made of you?" Mamie demanded.
"My dear girl, she's not a woman who's eager to make too much of
anything--anything, I mean, that will prevent her from doing as she
likes, what she takes into her head. Of course," he continued to
explain, "if it's something she doesn't want to do, she'll make as
much as Moses."
Mamie wondered if that was the way he talked to her visitor, but
felt obliged to own to his acuteness. It was an exact description
of Lady Wantridge, and she was conscious of tucking it away for
future use in a corner of her miscellaneous little mind. She
withheld however all present acknowledgment, only addressing him
another question. "Did you really get on with her?"
"Have you still to learn, darling--I can't help again putting it to
you--that I get on with everybody? That's just what I don't seem
able to drive into you. Only see how I get on with YOU."
She almost stood corrected. "What I mean is of course whether--"
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