Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Finer Grain
Author: James, Henry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Finer Grain" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE FINER GRAIN

By Henry James


1910


[Transcriber’s Note: After posting it was discovered that there were several
missing pages from the section titled “Mora Montravers”.  This section has been
removed and will be replaced as soon as possible.]



CONTENTS

     The Velvet Glove

     [Mora Montravers]

     A Round of Visits

     Crapy Cornelia

     The Bench of Desolation



“THE VELVET GLOVE”



I

HE thought he had already, poor John Berridge, tasted in their fulness
the sweets of success; but nothing yet had been more charming to him
than when the young Lord, as he irresistibly and, for greater certitude,
quite correctly figured him, fairly sought out, in Paris, the new
literary star that had begun to hang, with a fresh red light, over
the vast, even though rather confused, Anglo-Saxon horizon; positively
approaching that celebrity with a shy and artless appeal. The young Lord
invoked on this occasion the celebrity’s prized judgment of a special
literary case; and Berridge could take the whole manner of it for one of
the “quaintest” little acts displayed to his amused eyes, up to now, on
the stage of European society--albeit these eyes were quite aware, in
general, of missing everywhere no more of the human scene than possible,
and of having of late been particularly awake to the large extensions of
it spread before him (since so he could but fondly read his fate) under
the omen of his prodigious “hit.” It was because of his hit that he
was having rare opportunities--of which he was so honestly and humbly
proposing, as he would have said, to make the most: it was because every
one in the world (so far had the thing gone) was reading “The Heart of
Gold” as just a slightly too fat volume, or sitting out the same as just
a fifth-act too long play, that he found himself floated on a tide he
would scarce have dared to show his favourite hero sustained by, found
a hundred agreeable and interesting things happen to him which were all,
one way or another, affluents of the golden stream.

The great renewed resonance--renewed by the incredible luck of the
play--was always in his ears without so much as a conscious turn of his
head to listen; so that the queer world of his fame was not the mere
usual field of the Anglo-Saxon boom, but positively the bottom of the
whole theatric sea, unplumbed source of the wave that had borne him
in the course of a year or two over German, French, Italian, Russian,
Scandinavian foot-lights. Paris itself really appeared for the hour the
centre of his cyclone, with reports and “returns,” to say nothing of
agents and emissaries, converging from the minor capitals; though his
impatience was scarce the less keen to get back to London, where his
work had had no such critical excoriation to survive, no such lesson of
anguish to learn, as it had received at the hand of supreme authority,
of that French authority which was in such a matter the only one to be
artistically reckoned with. If his spirit indeed had had to reckon with
it his fourth act practically hadn’t: it continued to make him blush
every night for the public more even than the inimitable _feuilleton_
had made him blush for himself.

This had figured, however, after all, the one bad drop in his cup;
so that, for the rest, his high-water mark might well have been, that
evening at Gloriani’s studio, the approach of his odd and charming
applicant, vaguely introduced at the latter’s very own request by their
hostess, who, with an honest, helpless, genial gesture, washed her fat
begemmed hands of the name and identity of either, but left the fresh,
fair, ever so habitually assured, yet ever so easily awkward Englishman
with his plea to put forth. There was that in this pleasant personage
which could still make Berridge wonder what conception of profit from
him might have, all incalculably, taken form in such a head--these being
truly the last intrenchments of our hero’s modesty. He wondered,
the splendid young man, he wondered awfully, he wondered (it was
unmistakable) quite nervously, he wondered, to John’s ardent and acute
imagination, quite beautifully, if the author of “The Heart of Gold”
 would mind just looking at a book by a friend of his, a great friend,
which he himself believed rather clever, and had in fact found very
charming, but as to which--if it really wouldn’t bore Mr. Berridge--he
should so like the verdict of some one who knew. His friend was awfully
ambitious, and he thought there was something in it--with all of which
might he send the book to any address?

Berridge thought of many things while the young Lord thus charged upon
him, and it was odd that no one of them was any question of the possible
worth of the offered achievement--which, for that matter, was certain to
be of the quality of _all_ the books, to say nothing of the plays, and
the projects for plays, with which, for some time past, he had seen his
daily post-bag distended. He had made out, on looking at these things,
no difference at all from one to the other. Here, however, was something
more--something that made his fellow-guest’s overture _independently_
interesting and, as he might imagine, important. He smiled, he was
friendly and vague; said “A work of fiction, I suppose?” and that he
didn’t pretend ever to pronounce, that he in fact quite hated, always,
to have to, not “knowing,” as he felt, any better than any one else; but
would gladly look at anything, under that demur, if it would give any
pleasure. Perhaps the very brightest and most diamond-like twinkle he
had yet seen the star of his renown emit was just the light brought into
his young Lord’s eyes by this so easy consent to oblige. It was easy
because the presence before him was from moment to moment, referring
itself back to some recent observation or memory; something caught
somewhere, within a few weeks or months, as he had moved about, and that
seemed to flutter forth at this stir of the folded leaves of his recent
experience very much as a gathered, faded flower, placed there for
“pressing,” might drop from between the pages of a volume opened at
hazard.

He had seen him before, this splendid and sympathetic person--whose
flattering appeal was by no means _all_ that made him sympathetic;
he had met him, had noted, had wondered about him, had in fact
imaginatively, intellectually, so to speak, quite yearned over him, in
some conjunction lately, though ever so fleet-ingly, apprehended: which
circumstance constituted precisely an association as tormenting, for
the few minutes, as it was vague, and set him to sounding, intensely
and vainly, the face that itself figured everything agreeable except
recognition. He couldn’t remember, and the young man didn’t; distinctly,
yes, they had been in presence, during the previous winter, by some
chance of travel, through Sicily, through Italy, through the south of
France, but his _Seigneurie_--so Berridge liked exotically to phrase
it--had then (in ignorance of the present reasons) not noticed _him_. It
was positive for the man of established identity, all the while too,
and through the perfect lucidity of his sense of achievement in an air
“conducting” nothing but the loudest bang, that this was fundamentally
much less remarkable than the fact of his being made up to in such a
quarter now. That was the disservice, in a manner, of one’s having so
much imagination: the mysterious values of other types kept looming
larger before you than the doubtless often higher but comparatively
familiar ones of your own, and if you had anything of the artist’s
real feeling for life the attraction and amusement of possibilities so
projected were worth more to you, in nineteen moods out of twenty, than
the sufficiency, the serenity, the felicity, whatever it might be,
of your stale personal certitudes. You were intellectually, you were
“artistically” rather abject, in fine, if your curiosity (in the grand
sense of the term) wasn’t worth more to you than your dignity. What was
your dignity, “anyway,” but just the consistency of your curiosity, and
what moments were ever so ignoble for you as, under the blighting breath
of the false gods, stupid conventions, traditions, examples, your lapses
from that consistency? His _Seigneurie_, at all events, delightfully,
hadn’t the least real idea of what any John Berridge was talking about,
and the latter felt that if he had been less beautifully witless, and
thereby less true to his right figure, it might scarce have been
forgiven him.

His right figure was that of life in irreflective joy and at the highest
thinkable level of prepared security and unconscious insolence. What was
the pale page of fiction compared with the intimately personal adventure
that, in almost any direction, he would have been all so stupidly,
all so gallantly, all so instinctively and, by every presumption,
so prevailingly ready for? Berridge would have given six months’
“royalties” for even an hour of his looser dormant consciousness--since
one was oneself, after all, no worm, but an heir of all the ages
too--and yet without being able to supply chapter and verse for the
felt, the huge difference. His _Seigneurie_ was tall and straight, but
so, thank goodness, was the author of “The Heart of Gold,” who had no
such vulgar “mug” either; and there was no intrinsic inferiority in
being a bit inordinately, and so it might have seemed a bit strikingly,
black-browed instead of being fair as the morning. Again while his new
friend delivered himself our own tried in vain to place him; he
indulged in plenty of pleasant, if rather restlessly headlong sound, the
confessed incoherence of a happy mortal who had always many things “on,”
 and who, while waiting at any moment for connections and consummations,
had fallen into the way of talking, as they said, all artlessly, and
a trifle more betrayingly, against time. He would always be having
appointments, and somehow of a high “romantic” order, to keep, and the
imperfect punctualities of others to wait for--though who would be of
a quality to make such a pampered personage wait very much our young
analyst could only enjoy asking himself. There were women who might be
of a quality--half a dozen of those perhaps, of those alone, about the
world; our friend was as sure of this, by the end of four minutes, as if
he knew all about it.

After saying he would send him the book the young Lord indeed dropped
that subject; he had asked where he might send it, and had had an “Oh,
I shall remember!” on John’s mention of an hotel; but he had made no
further dash into literature, and it was ten to one that this would be
the last the distinguished author might hear of the volume. Such again
was a note of these high existences--that made one content to ask
of them no whit of other consistency than that of carrying off the
particular occasion, whatever it might be, in a dazzle of amiability
and felicity and leaving _that_ as a sufficient trace of their passage.
Sought and achieved consistency was but an angular, a secondary motion;
compared with the air of complete freedom it might have an effect
of deformity. There was no placing this figure of radiant ease, for
Berridge, in any relation that didn’t appear not good enough--that is
among the relations that hadn’t been too good for Berridge himself. He
was all right where he was; the great Gloriani somehow made that law;
his house, with his supreme artistic position, was good enough for any
one, and to-night in especial there were charming people, more charming
than our friend could recall from any other scene, as the natural
train or circle, as he might say, of such a presence. For an instant he
thought he had got the face as a specimen of imperturbability watched,
with wonder, across the hushed rattle of roulette at Monte-Carlo; but
this quickly became as improbable as any question of a vulgar
_table d’hote_, or a steam-boat deck, or a herd of fellow-pilgrims
cicerone-led, or even an opera-box serving, during a performance, for
frame of a type observed from the stalls. One placed young gods and
goddesses only when one placed them on Olympus, and it met the case,
always, that they were of Olympian race, and that they glimmered
for one, at the best, through their silver cloud, like the visiting
apparitions in an epic.

This was brief and beautiful indeed till something happened that gave
it, for Berridge, on the spot, a prodigious extension--an extension
really as prodigious, after a little, as if he had suddenly seen the
silver clouds multiply and then the whole of Olympus presently open.
Music, breaking upon the large air, enjoined immediate attention, and in
a moment he was listening, with the rest of the company, to an eminent
tenor, who stood by the piano; and was aware, with it, that his
Englishman had turned away and that in the vast, rich, tapestried room
where, in spite of figures and objects so numerous, clear spaces, wide
vistas, and, as they might be called, becoming situations abounded,
there had been from elsewhere, at the signal of unmistakable song, a
rapid accession of guests. At first he but took this in, and the way
that several young women, for whom seats had been found, looked charming
in the rapt attitude; while even the men, mostly standing and grouped,
“composed,” in their stillness, scarce less impressively, under the sway
of the divine voice. It ruled the scene, to the last intensity, and yet
our young man’s fine sense found still a resource in the range of the
eyes, without sound or motion, while all the rest of consciousness was
held down as by a hand mailed in silver. It was better, in this way,
than the opera--John alertly thought of that: the composition sung might
be Wagnerian, but no Tristram, no Iseult, no Parsifal and, no Kundry of
them all could ever show, could ever “act” to the music, as our friend
had thus the power of seeing his dear contemporaries of either sex
(armoured _they_ so otherwise than in cheap Teutonic tinsel!) just
continuously and inscrutably sit to it.

It made, the whole thing together, an enchantment amid which he had in
truth, at a given moment, ceased to distinguish parts--so that he was
himself certainly at last soaring as high as the singer’s voice and
forgetting, in a lost gaze at the splendid ceiling, everything of the
occasion but what his intelligence poured into it. This, as happened,
was a flight so sublime that by the time he had dropped his eyes again
a cluster of persons near the main door had just parted to give way to a
belated lady who slipped in, through the gap made for her, and stood for
some minutes full in his view. It was a proof of the perfect hush that
no one stirred to offer her a seat, and her entrance, in her high
grace, had yet been so noiseless that she could remain at once immensely
exposed and completely unabashed. For Berridge, once more, if the scenic
show before him so melted into the music, here precisely might have
been the heroine herself advancing to the foot-lights at her cue. The
interest deepened to a thrill, and everything, at the touch of his
recognition of this personage, absolutely the most beautiful woman now
present, fell exquisitely together and gave him what he had been wanting
from the moment of his taking in his young Englishman.

It was there, the missing connection: her arrival had on the instant
lighted it by a flash. Olympian herself, supremely, divinely Olympian,
she had arrived, could _only_ have arrived, for the one person present
of really equal race, our young man’s late converser, whose flattering
demonstration might now stand for one of the odd extravagant forms taken
by nervous impatience. This charming, this dazzling woman had been one
member of the couple disturbed, to his intimate conviction, the autumn
previous, on his being pushed by the officials, at the last moment,
into a compartment of the train that was to take him from Cremona to
Mantua--where, failing a stop, he had had to keep his place. The other
member, by whose felt but unseized identity he had been haunted, was
the unconsciously insolent form of guaranteed happiness he had just been
engaged with. The sense of the admirable intimacy that, having taken
its precautions, had not reckoned with his irruption--this image had
remained with him; to say nothing of the interest of aspect of the
associated figures, so stamped somehow with rarity, so beautifully
distinct from the common occupants of padded corners, and yet on the
subject of whom, for the romantic structure he was immediately to raise,
he had not had a scrap of evidence.

If he had imputed to them conditions it was all his own doing: it came
from his inveterate habit of abysmal imputation, the snatching of the
ell wherever the inch peeped out, without which where would have been
the tolerability of life? It didn’t matter now what he had imputed--and
he always held that his expenses of imputation were, at the worst, a
compliment to those inspiring them. It only mattered that each of the
pair had been then what he really saw each now--full, that is, of the
pride of their youth and beauty and fortune and freedom, though at
the same time particularly preoccupied: preoccupied, that is, with the
affairs, and above all with the passions, of Olympus. Who had they been,
and what? Whence had they come, whither were they bound, what tie united
them, what adventure engaged, what felicity, tempered by what peril,
magnificently, dramatically attended? These had been his questions, all
so inevitable and so impertinent, at the time, and to the exclusion of
any scruples over his not postulating an inane honeymoon, his not taking
the “tie,” as he should doubtless properly have done, for the mere blest
matrimonial; and he now retracted not one of them, flushing as they did
before him again with their old momentary life. To feel his two friends
renewedly in presence--friends of the fleeting hour though they had but
been, and with whom he had exchanged no sign save the vaguest of salutes
on finally relieving them of his company--was only to be conscious that
he hadn’t, on the spot, done them, so to speak, half justice, and that,
for his superior entertainment, there would be ever so much more of them
to come.



II

It might already have been coming indeed, with an immense stride, when,
scarce more than ten minutes later, he was aware that the distinguished
stranger had brought the Princess straight across the room to speak
to him. He had failed in the interval of any glimpse of their closer
meeting; for the great tenor had sung another song and then stopped,
immediately on which Madame Gloriani had made his pulse quicken to a
different, if not to a finer, throb by hovering before him once more
with the man in the world he most admired, as it were, looking at him
over her shoulder. The man in the world he most admired, the greatest
then of contemporary Dramatists--and bearing, independently, the name
inscribed if not in deepest incision at least in thickest gilding on the
rich recreative roll--this prodigious personage was actually to suffer
“presentation” to him at the good lady’s generous but ineffectual hands,
and had in fact the next instant, left alone with him, bowed, in formal
salutation, the massive, curly, witty head, so “romantic” yet so modern,
so “artistic” and ironic yet somehow so civic, so Gallic yet somehow so
cosmic, his personal vision of which had not hitherto transcended that
of the possessor of a signed and framed photograph in a consecrated
quarter of a writing-table.

It was positive, however, that poor John was afterward to remember
of this conjunction nothing whatever but the fact of the great man’s
looking at him very hard, straight in the eyes, and of his not having
himself scrupled to do as much, and with a confessed intensity of
appetite. It was improbable, he was to recognise, that they had, for the
few minutes, only stared and grimaced, like pitted boxers or wrestlers;
but what had abode with him later on, none the less, was just the
cherished memory of his not having so lost presence of mind as to fail
of feeding on his impression. It was precious and precarious, that was
perhaps all there would be of it; and his subsequent consciousness was
quite to cherish this queer view of the silence, neither awkward nor
empty nor harsh, but on the contrary quite charged and brimming, that
represented for him his use, his unforgettable enjoyment in fact, of his
opportunity. Had nothing passed in words? Well, no misery of murmured
“homage,” thank goodness; though something must have been said,
certainly, to lead up, as they put it at the theatre, to John’s having
asked the head of the profession, before they separated, if he by chance
knew who the so radiantly handsome young woman might be, the one who
had so lately come in and who wore the pale yellow dress, of the strange
tone, and the magnificent pearls. They must have separated soon, it was
further to have been noted; since it was before the advance of the pair,
their wonderful dazzling charge upon him, that he had distinctly seen
the great man, at a distance again, block out from his sight the harmony
of the faded gold and the pearls--to speak only of that--and plant
himself there (the mere high Atlas-back of renown to Berridge now) as
for communion with them. He had blocked everything out, to this tune,
effectually; with nothing of the matter left for our friend meanwhile
but that, as he had said, the beautiful lady was the Princess. What
Princess, or the Princess of what?--our young man had afterward
wondered; his companion’s reply having lost itself in the prelude of an
outburst by another vocalist who had approached the piano.

It was after these things that she so incredibly came to him, attended
by her adorer--since he took it for absolute that the young Lord was her
adorer, as who indeed mightn’t be?--and scarce waiting, in her bright
simplicity, for any form of introduction. It may thus be said in a word
that this was the manner in which she made our hero’s acquaintance, a
satisfaction that she on the spot described to him as really wanting of
late to her felicity. “I’ve read everything, you know, and ‘The Heart of
Gold’ three times”: she put it all immediately on that ground, while the
young Lord now smiled, beside her, as if it were quite the sort of thing
he had done too; and while, further, the author of the work yielded to
the consciousness that whereas in general he had come at last scarce to
be able to bear the iteration of those words, which affected him as
a mere vain vocal convulsion, so not a breath of this association now
attended them, so such a person as the Princess could make of them what
she would.

Unless it was to be really what _he_ would!--this occurred to him in the
very thick of the prodigy, no single shade of possibility of which
was less prodigious than any other. It was a declaration, simply, the
admirable young woman was treating him to, a profession of “artistic
sympathy”--for she was in a moment to use this very term that made for
them a large, clear, common ether, an element all uplifted and rare, of
which they could equally partake.

If she was Olympian--as in her rich and regular young beauty, that of
some divine Greek mask over-painted say by Titian, she more and more
appeared to him--this offered air was that of the gods themselves:
she might have been, with her long rustle across the room, Artemis
decorated, hung with pearls, for her worshippers, yet disconcerting them
by having, under an impulse just faintly fierce, snatched the cup of
gold from Hebe. It was to him, John Berridge, she thus publicly offered
it; and it was his over-topping _confrere_ of shortly before who was the
worshipper most disconcerted. John had happened to catch, even at its
distance, after these friends had joined him, the momentary deep,
grave estimate, in the great Dramatist’s salient watching eyes, of the
Princess’s so singular performance: the touch perhaps this, in the whole
business, that made Berridge’s sense of it most sharp. The sense of it
as _prodigy_ didn’t in the least entail his feeling abject--any more,
that is, than in the due dazzled degree; for surely there would have
been supreme wonder in the eagerness of her exchange of mature glory for
thin notoriety, hadn’t it still exceeded everything that an Olympian of
such race should have found herself bothered, as they said, to “read” at
all--and most of all to read three times!

With the turn the matter took as an effect of this meeting, Berridge was
more than once to find himself almost ashamed for her--since it seemed
never to occur to her to be so for herself: he was jealous of the
type where she might have been taken as insolently careless of it;
his advantage (unless indeed it had been his ruin) being that he could
inordinately reflect upon it, could wander off thereby into kinds of
licence of which she was incapable. He hadn’t, for himself, waited till
now to be sure of what he would do were _he_ an Olympian: he would leave
his own stuff snugly unread, to begin with; that would be a beautiful
start for an Olympian career. He should have been as unable to write
those works in short as to make anything else of them; and he
should have had no more arithmetic for computing fingers than any
perfect-headed marble Apollo mutilated at the wrists. He should have
consented to know but the grand personal adventure on the grand
personal basis: nothing short of this, no poor cognisance of confusable,
pettifogging things, the sphere of earth-grubbing questions and
two-penny issues, would begin to be, on any side, Olympian enough.

Even the great Dramatist, with his tempered and tested steel and his
immense “assured” position, even he was not Olympian: the look, full of
the torment of earth, with which he had seen the Princess turn her back,
and for such a purpose, on the prized privilege of his notice, testified
sufficiently to that. Still, comparatively, it was to be said, the
question of a personal relation with an authority so eminent on the
subject of the passions--to say nothing of the rest of his charm--might
have had for an ardent young woman (and the Princess was unmistakably
ardent) the absolute attraction of romance: unless, again, prodigy of
prodigies, she were looking for her romance very particularly elsewhere.
Yet where could she have been looking for it, Berridge was to ask
himself with private intensity, in a manner to leave her so at her ease
for appearing to offer _him_ everything?--so free to be quite divinely
gentle with him, to hover there before him in all her mild, bright,
smooth sublimity and to say: “I should be so very grateful if you’d come
to see me.”

There succeeded this a space of time of which he was afterward to lose
all account, was never to recover the history; his only coherent view
of it being that an interruption, some incident that kept them a while
separate, had then taken place, yet that during their separation, of
half an hour or whatever, they had still somehow not lost sight of each
other, but had found their eyes meeting, in deep communion, all across
the great peopled room; meeting and wanting to meet, wanting--it was the
most extraordinary thing in the world for the suppression of stages, for
confessed precipitate intensity--to use together every instant of the
hour that might be left them. Yet to use it for what?--unless, like
beautiful fabulous figures in some old-world legend, for the frankest
and almost the crudest avowal of the impression they had made on each
other. He couldn’t have named, later on, any other person she had during
this space been engaged with, any more than he was to remember in the
least what he had himself ostensibly done, who had spoken to him, whom
he had spoken to, or whether he hadn’t just stood and publicly gaped or
languished.

Ah, Olympians were unconventional indeed--that was a part of their
high bravery and privilege; but what it also appeared to attest in this
wondrous manner was that they could communicate to their chosen in three
minutes, by the mere light of their eyes, the same shining cynicism. He
was to wonder of course, tinglingly enough, whether he had really made
an ass of himself, and there was this amount of evidence for it that
there certainly _had_ been a series of moments each one of which glowed
with the lucid sense that, as she couldn’t like him as much as _that_
either for his acted clap-trap or for his printed verbiage, what it must
come to was that she liked him, and to such a tune, just for himself
and quite after no other fashion than that in which every goddess in
the calendar had, when you came to look, sooner or later liked some
prepossessing young shepherd. The question would thus have been, for
him, with a still sharper eventual ache, of whether he positively _had_,
as an effect of the miracle, been petrified, before fifty pair of eyes,
to the posture of a prepossessing shepherd--and would perhaps have left
him under the shadow of some such imputable fatuity if his consciousness
hadn’t, at a given moment, cleared up to still stranger things.

The agent of the change was, as quite congruously happened, none other
than the shining youth whom he now seemed to himself to have been
thinking of for ever so long, for a much longer time than he had ever in
his life spent at an evening party, as the young Lord: which personage
suddenly stood before him again, holding him up an odd object and
smiling, as if in reference to it, with a gladness that at once struck
our friend as almost too absurd for belief. The object was incongruous
by reason of its being, to a second and less preoccupied glance, a book;
and what had befallen Berridge within twenty minutes was that they--the
Princess and he, that is--had got such millions of miles, or at least
such thousands of years, away from _those_ platitudes. The book, he
found himself assuming, could only be _his_ book (it seemed also to have
a tawdry red cover); and there came to him memories, dreadfully false
notes sounded so straight again by his new acquaintance, of certain
altogether different persons who at certain altogether different parties
had flourished volumes before him very much with that insinuating
gesture, that arch expression, and that fell intention. The meaning of
these things--of all possible breaks of the charm at such an hour!--was
that he should “signature” the ugly thing, and with a characteristic
quotation or sentiment: that was the way people simpered and squirmed,
the way they mouthed and beckoned, when animated by such purposes; and
it already, on the spot, almost broke his heart to see such a type as
that of the young Lord brought, by the vulgarest of fashions, so low.
This state of quick displeasure in Berridge, however, was founded on a
deeper question--the question of how in the world he was to remain for
himself a prepossessing shepherd if he should consent to come back to
these base actualities. It was true that even while this wonderment held
him, his aggressor’s perfect good conscience had placed the matter in a
slightly different light.

“By an extraordinary chance I’ve found a copy of my friend’s novel on
one of the tables here--I see by the inscription that she has presented
it to Gloriani. So if you’d like to glance at it--!” And the young Lord,
in the pride of his association with the eminent thing, held it out to
Berridge as artlessly as if it had been a striking natural specimen
of some sort, a rosy round apple grown in his own orchard, or an
exceptional precious stone, to be admired for its weight and lustre.
Berridge accepted the offer mechanically--relieved at the prompt fading
of his worst fear, yet feeling in himself a tell-tale facial blankness
for the still absolutely anomalous character of his friend’s appeal. He
was even tempted for a moment to lay the volume down without looking at
it--only with some extemporised promise to borrow it of their host and
take it home, to give himself to it at an easier moment. Then the very
expression of his fellow-guests own countenance determined in him a
different and a still more dreadful view; in fact an immediate collapse
of the dream in which he had for the splendid previous space of time
been living. The young Lord himself, in his radiant costly barbarism,
figured far better than John Berridge could do the prepossessing
shepherd, the beautiful mythological mortal “distinguished” by a
goddess; for our hero now saw that his whole manner of dealing with
his ridiculous tribute was marked exactly by the grand simplicity, the
prehistoric good faith, as one might call it, of far-off romantic and
“plastic” creatures, figures of exquisite Arcadian stamp, glorified
rustics like those of the train of peasants in “A Winter’s Tale,” who
thought nothing of such treasure-trove, on a Claude Lorrain sea-strand,
as a royal infant wrapped in purple: something in that fabulous style of
exhibition appearing exactly what his present demonstration might have
been prompted by. “The Top of the Tree, by Amy Evans”--scarce credible
words floating before Berridge after he had with an anguish of effort
dropped his eyes on the importunate title-page--represented an object
as alien to the careless grace of goddess-haunted Arcady as a washed-up
“kodak” from a wrecked ship might have been to the appreciation of some
islander of wholly unvisited seas. Nothing could have been more in the
tone of an islander deplorably diverted from his native interests and
dignities than the glibness with which John’s own child of nature went
on. “It’s her pen-name, Amy Evans”--he couldn’t have said it otherwise
had he been a blue-chinned penny-a-liner; yet marking it with a
disconnectedness of intelligence that kept up all the poetry of his own
situation and only crashed into that of other persons. The reference put
the author of “The Heart of Gold” quite into _his_ place, but left the
speaker absolutely free of Arcady. “Thanks awfully”--Berridge somehow
clutched at that, to keep everything from swimming. “Yes, I should like
to look at it,” he managed, horribly grimacing now, he believed, to say;
and there was in fact a strange short interlude after this in which he
scarce knew what had become of any one or of anything; in which he only
seemed to himself to stand alone in a desolate place where even its
desolation didn’t save him from having to stare at the greyest of
printed pages. Nothing here helped anything else, since the stamped
greyness didn’t even in itself make it impossible his eyes should follow
such sentences as: “The loveliness of the face, which was that of the
glorious period in which Pheidias reigned supreme, and which owed its
most exquisite note to that shell-like curl of the upper lip which
always somehow recalls for us the smile with which windblown Astarte
must have risen from the salt sea to which she owed her birth and her
terrible moods; or it was too much for all the passionate woman in her,
and she let herself go, over the flowering land that had been, but was
no longer their love, with an effect of blighting desolation that might
have proceeded from one of the more physical, though not more awful,
convulsions of nature.”

He seemed to know later on that other and much more natural things
had occurred; as that, for instance, with now at last a definite
intermission of the rare music that for a long time past, save at the
briefest intervals, had kept all participants ostensibly attentive
and motionless, and that in spite of its high quality and the supposed
privilege of listening to it he had allowed himself not to catch a note
of, there was a great rustling and shifting and vociferous drop to a
lower plane, more marked still with the quick clearance of a way to
supper and a lively dispersal of most of the guests. Hadn’t he made out,
through the queer glare of appearances, though they yet somehow all came
to him as confused and unreal, that the Princess was no longer
there, wasn’t even only crowded out of his range by the immediate
multiplication of her court, the obsequious court that the change
of pitch had at once permitted to close round her; that Gloriani had
offered her his arm, in a gallant official way, as to the greatest lady
present, and that he was left with half a dozen persons more knowing
than the others, who had promptly taken, singly or in couples, to a
closer inspection of the fine small scattered treasures of the studio?

He himself stood there, rueful and stricken, nursing a silly red-bound
book under his arm very much as if he might have been holding on tight
to an upright stake, or to the nearest piece of furniture, during some
impression of a sharp earthquake-shock or of an attack of dyspeptic
dizziness; albeit indeed that he wasn’t conscious of this absurd, this
instinctive nervous clutch till the thing that was to be more wonderful
than any yet suddenly flared up for him--the sight of the Princess again
on the threshold of the room, poised there an instant, in her
exquisite grace, for recovery of some one or of something, and then, at
recognition of him, coming straight to him across the empty place as if
he alone, and nobody and nothing else, were what she incredibly wanted.
She was there, she was radiantly _at_ him, as if she had known and loved
him for ten years--ten years during which, however, she had never quite
been able, in spite of undiscouraged attempts, to cure him, as goddesses
_had_ to cure shepherds, of his mere mortal shyness.

“Ah no, not _that_ one!” she said at once, with her divine familiarity;
for she had in the flash of an eye “spotted” the particular literary
production he seemed so very fondly to have possessed himself of and
against which all the Amy Evans in her, as she would doubtless have put
it, clearly wished on the spot to discriminate. She pulled it away from
him; he let it go; he scarce knew what was happening--only made out that
she distinguished the right one, the one that should have been shown
him, as blue or green or purple, and intimated that her other friend,
her fellow-Olympian, as Berridge had thought of him from the
first, really did too clumsily bungle matters, poor dear, with his
officiousness over the red one! She went on really as if she had come
for that, some such rectification, some such eagerness of reunion with
dear Mr. Berridge, some talk, after all the tiresome music, of questions
really urgent; while, thanks to the supreme strangeness of it, the high
tide of golden fable floated him afresh, and her pretext and her plea,
the queerness of her offered motive, melted away after the fashion of
the enveloping clouds that do their office in epics and idylls. “You
didn’t perhaps know I’m Amy Evans,” she smiled, “or even perhaps that
I write in English--which I love, I assure you, as much as you can
yourself do, and which gives one (doesn’t it? for who should know if
not you?) the biggest of publics. I ‘just love’--don’t they say?--your
American millions; and all the more that they really _take_ me for Amy
Evans, as I’ve just wanted to be taken, to be loved too for myself,
don’t you know?--that they haven’t seemed to try at all to ‘go behind’
(don’t you say?) my poor dear little _nom de guerre_. But it’s the new
one, my last, ‘The Velvet Glove,’ that I should like you to judge me
by--if such a _corvee_ isn’t too horrible for you to think of; though
I admit it’s a move straight in the romantic direction--since after
all (for I might as well make a clean breast of it) it’s dear old
discredited romance that I’m most in sympathy with. I’ll send you ‘The
Velvet Glove’ to-morrow, if you _can_ find half an hour for it; and
then--and _then_--!” She paused as for the positive bright glory of her
meaning.

It could only be so extraordinary, her meaning, whatever it was,
that the need in him that would--whatever it was again!--meet it most
absolutely formed the syllables on his lips as: “Will you be very,
_very_ kind to me?”

“Ah ‘kind,’ dear Mr. Berridge? ‘Kind,’” she splendidly laughed, “is
nothing to what--!” But she pulled herself up again an instant. “Well,
to what I want to be! Just _see_,” she said, “how I want to be!” It
was exactly, he felt, what he couldn’t _but_ see--in spite of books and
publics and pen-names, in spite of the really “decadent” perversity,
recalling that of the most irresponsibly insolent of the old Romans
and Byzantines, that could lead a creature so formed for living and
breathing her Romance, and so committed, up to the eyes, to the constant
fact of her personal immersion in it and genius for it, the dreadful
amateurish dance of ungrammatically scribbling it, with editions and
advertisements and reviews and royalties and every other futile item:
since what was more of the deep essence of throbbing intercourse itself
than this very act of her having broken away from people, in the other
room, to whom he was as nought, of her having, with her _crânerie_ of
audacity and indifference, just turned her back on them all as soon as
she had begun to miss him? What was more of it than her having forbidden
them, by a sufficient curt ring of her own supremely silver tone, to
attempt to check or criticise her freedom, than her having looked him
up, at his distance, under all the noses he had put out of joint, so as
to let them think whatever they might--not of herself (much she troubled
to care!) but of the new champion to be reckoned with, the invincible
young lion of the day? What was more of it in short than her having
perhaps even positively snubbed for him the great mystified Sculptor and
the great bewildered Dramatist, treated to this queer experience for the
first time of their lives?

It all came back again to the really great ease of really great ladies,
and to the perfect facility of everything when once they were great
enough. _That_ might become the delicious thing to him, he more and more
felt, as soon as it should be supremely attested; it was ground he had
ventured on, scenically, representation-ally, in the artistic sphere,
but without ever dreaming he should “realise” it thus in the social.
Handsomely, gallantly just now, moreover, he didn’t so much as let it
occur to him that the social experience would perhaps on some future
occasion richly profit further scenic efforts; he only lost himself in
the consciousness of all she invited him to believe. It took licence,
this consciousness, the next moment, for a tremendous further throb,
from what she had gone on to say to him in so many words--though indeed
the words were nothing and it was all a matter but of the implication
that glimmered through them: “Do you _want_ very much your supper here?”
 And then while he felt himself glare, for charmed response, almost to
the point of his tears rising with it: “Because if you don’t----!”

“Because if I don’t--?” She had paused, not from the faintest shade of
timidity, but clearly for the pleasure of making him press.

“Why shouldn’t we go together, letting me drive you home?”

“You’ll come home with me?” gasped John Berridge while the perspiration
on his brow might have been the morning dew on a high lawn of Mount Ida.

“No--you had better come with _me_. That’s what I mean; but I certainly
will come to you with pleasure some time if you’ll let me.”

She made no more than that of the most fatuous of freedoms, as he felt
directly he had spoken that it might have seemed to her; and before
he had even time to welcome the relief of not having then himself, for
beastly contrition, to make more of it, she had simply mentioned, with
her affectionate ease, that she wanted to get away, that of the bores
there she might easily, after a little, have too much, and that if he’d
but say the word they’d nip straight out together by an independent door
and be sure to find her motor in the court. What word he had found to
say, he was afterward to reflect, must have little enough mattered;
for he was to have kept, of what then occurred, but a single other
impression, that of her great fragrant rustle beside him over the rest
of the ample room and toward their nearest and friendliest resource, the
door by which he had come in and which gave directly upon a staircase.
This independent image was just that of the only other of his
fellow-guests with whom he had been closely concerned; he had thought
of him rather indeed, up to that moment, as the Princess’s
fellow-Olympian--but a new momentary vision of him seemed now to qualify
it.

The young Lord had reappeared within a minute on the threshold, that
of the passage from the supper-room, lately crossed by the Princess
herself, and Berridge felt him there, saw him there, wondered about him
there, all, for the first minute, without so much as a straight look
at him. He would have come to learn the reason of his friend’s
extraordinary public demonstration--having more right to his curiosity,
or his anxiety or whatever, than any one else; he would be taking in
the remarkable appearances that thus completed it, and would perhaps be
showing quite a different face for them, at the point they had reached,
than any that would have hitherto consorted with the beautiful security
of his own position. So much, on our own young man’s part, for this
first flush of a presumption that he might have stirred the germs of ire
in a celestial breast; so much for the moment during which nothing
would have induced him to betray, to a possibly rueful member of an
old aristocracy, a vulgar elation or a tickled, unaccustomed glee. His
inevitable second thought was, however, it has to be confessed, another
matter, which took a different turn--for, frankly, all the conscious
conqueror in him, as Amy Evans would again have said, couldn’t forego a
probably supreme consecration. He treated himself to no prolonged reach
of vision, but there was something he nevertheless fully measured for
five seconds--the sharp truth of the fact, namely, of how the interested
observer in the doorway must really have felt about him. Rather
disconcertingly, hereupon, the sharp truth proved to be that the most
amused, quite the most encouraging and the least invidious of smiles
graced the young Lord’s handsome countenance--forming, in short, his
final contribution to a display of high social candour unprecedented in
our hero’s experience. No, he wasn’t jealous, didn’t do John Berridge
the honour to be, to the extent of the least glimmer of a spark of it,
but was so happy to see his immortal mistress do what she liked that he
could positively beam at the odd circumstance of her almost lavishing
public caresses on a gentleman not, after all, of negligible importance.



III

Well, it was all confounding enough, but this indication in particular
would have jostled our friend’s grasp of the presented cup had he
had, during the next ten minutes, more independence of thought. That,
however, was out of the question when one positively felt, as with a
pang somewhere deep within, or even with a smothered cry for alarm,
one’s whole sense of proportion shattered at a blow and ceasing to
serve. “Not _straight_, and not too fast, shall we?” was the ineffable
young woman’s appeal to him, a few minutes later, beneath the wide glass
porch-cover that sheltered their brief wait for their chariot of fire.
It was there even as she spoke; the capped charioteer, with a great
clean curve, drew up at the steps of the porch, and the Princess’s
footman, before rejoining him in front, held open the door of the car.
She got in, and Berridge was the next instant beside her; he could only
say: “As you like, Princess--where you will; certainly let us prolong
it; let us prolong everything; don’t let us have it over--strange and
beautiful as it can only be!--a moment sooner than we must.” So
he spoke, in the security of their intimate English, while the
perpendicular imperturbable _valet-de-pied_, white-faced in the electric
light, closed them in and then took his place on the box where the rigid
liveried backs of the two men, presented through the glass, were like a
protecting wall; such a guarantee of privacy as might come--it occurred
to Berridge’s inexpugnable fancy--from a vision of tall guards erect
round Eastern seraglios.

His companion had said something, by the time they started, about their
taking a turn, their looking out for a few of the night-views of Paris
that were so wonderful; and after that, in spite of his constantly
prized sense of knowing his enchanted city and his way about, he ceased
to follow or measure their course, content as he was with the particular
exquisite assurance it gave him. _That_ was knowing Paris, of a wondrous
bland April night; that was hanging over it from vague consecrated
lamp-studded heights and taking in, spread below and afar, the great
scroll of all its irresistible story, pricked out, across river and
bridge and radiant _place_, and along quays and boulevards and avenues,
and around monumental circles and squares, in syllables of fire, and
sketched and summarised, further and further, in the dim fire-dust of
endless avenues; that was all of the essence of fond and thrilled and
throbbing recognition, with a thousand things understood and a flood of
response conveyed, a whole familiar possessive feeling appealed to and
attested.

“From you, you know, it _would_ be such a pleasure, and I think--in fact
I’m sure--it would do so much for the thing in America.” Had she gone
on as they went, or had there been pauses of easy and of charmed and
of natural silence, breaks and drops from talk, but only into greater
confidence and sweetness?--such as her very gesture now seemed a part
of; her laying her gloved hand, for emphasis, on the back of his own,
which rested on his knee and which took in from the act he scarce knew
what melting assurance. The emphasis, it was true--this came to him even
while for a minute he held his breath--seemed rather that of Amy Evans;
and if her talk, while they rolled, had been in the sense of these words
(he had really but felt that they were shut intimately in together, all
his consciousness, all his discrimination of meanings and indications
being so deeply and so exquisitely merged in that) the case wasn’t as
surely and sublimely, as extravagantly, as fabulously romantic for him
as his excited pulses had been seeming to certify. Her hand was there on
his own, in precious living proof, and splendid Paris hung over them,
as a consecrating canopy, her purple night embroidered with gold; yet he
waited, something stranger still having glimmered for him, waited though
she left her hand, which expressed emphasis and homage and tenderness,
and anything else she liked indeed--since it was all then a matter of
what he next heard and what he slowly grew cold as he took from her.

“You know they do it here so charmingly--it’s a compliment a clever man
is always so glad to pay a literary friend, and sometimes, in the case
of a great name like yours, it renders such a service to a poor little
book like mine!” She spoke ever so humbly and yet ever so gaily--and
still more than before with this confidence of the sincere admirer and
the comrade. That, yes, through his sudden sharpening chill, was
what first became distinct for him; she was mentioning somehow her
explanation and her conditions--her motive, in fine, disconcerting,
deplorable, dreadful, in respect to the experience, otherwise so
boundless, that he had taken her as having opened to him; and she
was doing it, above all, with the clearest coolness of her general
privilege. What in particular she was talking about he as yet, still
holding his breath, wondered; it was something she wanted him to do for
her--which was exactly what he had hoped, but something of what trivial
and, heaven forgive them both, of what dismal order? Most of all,
meanwhile, he felt the dire penetration of two or three of the words
she had used; so that after a painful minute the quaver with which he
repeated them resembled his-drawing, slowly, carefully, timidly, some
barbed dart out of his flesh.

“A ‘literary friend’?” he echoed as he turned his face more to her; so
that, as they sat, the whites of her eyes, near to his own, gleamed in
the dusk like some silver setting of deep sapphires.

It made her smile--which in their relation now was like the breaking
of a cool air-wave over the conscious sore flush that maintained itself
through his general chill. “Ah, of course you don’t allow that I
_am_ literary--and of course if you’re awfully cruel and critical and
incorruptible you won’t let it say for me what I so want it should!”

“Where are we, where, in the name of all that’s damnably, of all that’s
grotesquely delusive, are we?” he said, without a sign, to himself;
which was the form of his really being quite at sea as to what she was
talking about. That uncertainty indeed he could but frankly betray by
taking her up, as he cast about him, on the particular ambiguity that
his voice perhaps already showed him to find most irritating. “Let it
show? ‘It,’ dear Princess----?”

“Why, my dear man, let your Preface show, the lovely, friendly,
irresistible log-rolling Preface that I’ve been asking you if you
wouldn’t be an angel and write for me.”

He took it in with a deep long gulp--he had never, it seemed to him,
had to swallow anything so bitter. “You’ve been asking me if I wouldn’t
write you a Preface?”

“To ‘The Velvet Glove’--after I’ve sent it to you and you’ve judged
if you really can. Of course I don’t want you to perjure yourself;
but”--and she fairly brushed him again, at their close quarters, with
her fresh fragrant smile--“I do want you so to like me, and to say it
all out beautifully and publicly.” “You want me to like you, Princess?”
 “But, heaven help us, haven’t you understood?” Nothing stranger could
conceivably have been, it struck him--if he was right now--than this
exquisite intimacy of her manner of setting him down on the other side
of an abyss. It was as if she had lifted him first in her beautiful
arms, had raised him up high, high, high, to do it, pressing him to
her immortal young breast while he let himself go, and then, by some
extraordinary effect of her native force and her alien quality, setting
him down exactly where she wanted him to be--which was a thousand miles
away from her. Once more, so preposterously face to face with her for
these base issues, he took it all in; after which he felt his eyes
close, for amazement, despair and shame, and his head, which he had some
time before, baring his brow to the mild night, eased of its crush-hat,
sink to confounded rest on the upholstered back of the seat. The act,
the ceasing to see, and if possible to hear, was for the moment a
retreat, an escape from a state that he felt himself fairly flatter
by thinking of it as “awkward”; the state of really wishing that his
humiliation might end, and of wondering in fact if the most decent
course open to him mightn’t be to ask her to stop the motor and let him
down.

He spoke no word for a long minute, or for considerably more than that;
during which time the motor went and went, now even somewhat faster,
and he knew, through his closed eyes, that the outer lights had begun to
multiply and that they were getting back somewhere into the spacious and
decorative quarters. He knew this, and also that his retreat, for all
his attitude as of accommodating thought, his air--_that_ presently
and quickly came to him--of having perhaps gathered himself in, for
an instant, at her behest, to turn over, in his high ingenuity, some
humbugging “rotten” phrase or formula that he might place at her service
and make the note of such an effort; he became aware, I say, that
his lapse was but a half-retreat, with her strenuous presence and
her earnest pressure and the close cool respiration of her good faith
absolutely timing the moments of his stillness and the progress of the
car. Yes, it was wondrous well, he had all but made the biggest of
all fools of himself, almost as big a one as _she_ was still, to every
appearance, in her perfect serenity, trying to make of him; and the one
straight answer to it _would_ be that he should reach forward and touch
the footman’s shoulder and demand that the vehicle itself should make an
end.

That would be an answer, however, he continued intensely to see, only to
inanely importunate, to utterly superfluous Amy Evans--not a bit to his
at last exquisitely patient companion, who was clearly now quite taking
it from him that what kept him in his attitude was the spring of the
quick desire to oblige her, the charming loyal impulse to consider a
little what he could do for her, say “handsomely yet conscientiously”
 (oh the loveliness!) before he should commit himself. She was
enchanted--_that_ seemed to breathe upon him; she waited, she hung
there, she quite bent over him, as Diana over the sleeping Endymion,
while all the conscientious man of letters in him, as she might so
supremely have phrased it, struggled with the more peccable, the more
muddled and “squared,” though, for her own ideal, the so much more
_banal_ comrade. Yes, he could keep it up now--that is he could hold out
for his real reply, could meet the rather marked tension of the rest of
their passage as well as she; he should be able somehow or other to
make his wordless detachment, the tribute of his ostensibly deep
consideration of her request, a retreat in good order. She _was_, for
herself, to the last point of her guileless fatuity, Amy Evans and an
asker for “lifts,” a conceiver of twaddle both in herself and in him;
or at least, so far as she fell short of all this platitude, it was
no fault of the really affecting folly of her attempt to become a
mere magazine mortal after the only fashion she had made out, to the
intensification of her self-complacency, that she might.

Nothing might thus have touched him more--if to be touched, beyond a
certain point, hadn’t been to be squared--than the way she failed to
divine the bearing of his thoughts; so that she had probably at no one
small crisis of her life felt so much a promise in the flutter of her
own as on the occasion of the beautiful act she indulged in at the very
moment, he was afterward to recognise, of their sweeping into her
great smooth, empty, costly street--a desert, at that hour, of lavish
lamplight and sculptured stone. She raised to her lips the hand she
had never yet released and kept it there a moment pressed close against
them; he himself closing his eyes to the deepest detachment he was
capable of while he took in with a smothered sound of pain that this
was the conferred bounty by which Amy Evans sought most expressively to
encourage, to sustain and to reward. The motor had slackened and in a
moment would stop; and meanwhile even after lowering his hand again
she hadn’t let it go. This enabled it, while he after a further moment
roused himself to a more confessed consciousness, to form with his
friend’s a more active relation, to possess him of hers, in turn, and
with an intention the straighter that her glove had by this time somehow
come off. Bending over it without hinderance, he returned as firmly
and fully as the application of all his recovered wholeness of feeling,
under his moustache, might express, the consecration the bareness of
his own knuckles had received; only after which it was that, still thus
drawing out his grasp of her, and having let down their front glass by
his free hand, he signified to the footman his view of their stopping
short.

They had arrived; the high, closed _porte-cochere_, in its crested
stretch of wall, awaited their approach; but his gesture took effect,
the car pulled up at the edge of the pavement, the man, in an instant,
was at the door and had opened it; quickly moving across the walk, the
next moment, to press the bell at the gate. Berridge, as his hand now
broke away, felt he had cut his cable; with which, after he had stepped
out, he raised again the glass he had lowered and closed, its own being
already down, the door that had released him. During these motions he
had the sense of his companion, still radiant and splendid, but somehow
momentarily suppressed, suspended, silvered over and celestially
blurred, even as a summer moon by the loose veil of a cloud. So it was
he saw her while he leaned for farewell on the open window-ledge; he
took her in as her visible intensity of bright vagueness filled the
circle that the interior of the car made for her. It was such a state as
she would have been reduced to--he felt this, was certain of it--for the
first time in her life; and it was he, poor John Berridge, after all,
who would have created the condition.

“Good-night, Princess. I sha’n’t see you again.”

Vague was indeed no word for it--shine though she might, in her screened
narrow niche, as with the liquefaction of her pearls, the glimmer of her
tears, the freshness of her surprise. “You won’t come in--when you’ve
had no supper?”

He smiled at her with a purpose of kindness that could never in his life
have been greater; and at first but smiled without a word. He presently
shook his head, however--doubtless also with as great a sadness. “I seem
to have supped to my fill, Princess. Thank you, I won’t come in.”

It drew from her, while she looked at him, a long low anxious wail. “And
you won’t do my Preface?”

“No, Princess, I won’t do your Preface. Nothing would induce me to say
a word in print about you. I’m in fact not sure I shall ever mention you
in any manner at all as long as ever I live.”

He had felt for an instant as if he were speaking to some miraculously
humanised idol, all sacred, all jewelled, all votively hung about, but
made mysterious, in the recess of its shrine, by the very thickness
of the accumulated lustre. And “Then you don’t like me--?” was the
marvellous sound from the image.

“Princess,” was in response the sound of the worshipper, “Princess, I
adore you. But I’m ashamed for you.”

“Ashamed----?”

“You _are_ Romance--as everything, and by what I make out every one,
about you is; so what more do you want? Your Preface--the only one worth
speaking of--was written long ages ago by the most beautiful imagination
of man.”

Humanised at least for these moments, she could understand enough to
declare that she didn’t. “I don’t, I don’t!”

“You don’t need to understand. Don’t attempt such base things. Leave
those to us. Only live. Only be. _We’ll_ do the rest.”

She moved over--she had come close to the window. “Ah, but Mr.
Berridge----!”

He raised both hands; he shook them at her gently, in deep and soft
deprecation. “Don’t sound my dreadful name. Fortunately, however, you
can’t help yourself.”

“Ah, _voyons!_ I so want-----!”

He repeated his gesture, and when he brought down his hands they closed
together on both of hers, which now quite convulsively grasped the
window-ledge. “Don’t speak, because when you speak you really say
things--!” “You _are_ Romance,” he pronounced afresh and with the last
intensity of conviction and persuasion. “That’s all you have to do with
it,” he continued while his hands, for emphasis, pressed hard on her
own.

Their faces, in this way, were nearer together than ever, but with the
effect of only adding to the vividness of that dire non-intelligence
from which, all perversely and incalculably, her very beauty now
appeared to gain relief. This made for him a pang and almost an anguish;
the fear of her saying something yet again that would wretchedly prove
how little he moved her perception. So his eyes, of remonstrant, of
suppliant intention, met hers close, at the same time that these, so far
from shrinking, but with their quite other swimming plea all bedimmed
now, seemed almost to wash him with the tears of her failure. He
soothed, he stroked, he reassured her hands, for tender conveyance of
his meaning, quite as she had just before dealt with his own for brave
demonstration of hers. It was during these instants as if the question
had been which of them _could_ most candidly and fraternally plead.
Full but of that she kept it up. “Ah, if you’d only think, if you’d only
try----!”

He couldn’t stand it--she was capable of believing he had edged away,
excusing himself and trumping up a factitious theory, because he hadn’t
the wit, hadn’t the hand, to knock off the few pleasant pages she asked
him for and that any proper Frenchman, master of the _metier_, would
so easily and gallantly have promised. Should she so begin to commit
herself he’d, by the immortal gods, anticipate it in the manner most
admirably effective--in fact he’d even thus make her further derogation
impossible. Their faces were so close that he could practise any rich
freedom--even though for an instant, while the back of the chauffeur
guarded them on that side and his own presented breadth, amplified
by his loose mantle, filled the whole window-space, leaving him no
observation from any quarter to heed, he uttered, in a deep-drawn final
groan, an irrepressible echo of his pang for what might have been,
the muffled cry of his insistence. “You _are_ Romance!”--he drove it
intimately, inordinately home, his lips, for a long moment, sealing
it, with the fullest force of authority, on her own; after which, as
he broke away and the car, starting again, turned powerfully across
the pavement, he had no further sound from her than if, all divinely
indulgent but all humanly defeated, she had given the question up,
falling back to infinite wonder. He too fell back, but could still wave
his hat for her as she passed to disappearance in the great floridly
framed aperture whose wings at once came together behind her.



A ROUND OF VISITS



I

HE had been out but once since his arrival, Mark Monteith; that was
the next day after--he had disembarked by night on the previous; then
everything had come at once, as he would have said, everything had
changed. He had got in on Tuesday; he had spent Wednesday for the most
part down town, looking into the dismal subject of his anxiety--the
anxiety that, under a sudden decision, had brought him across the
unfriendly sea at mid-winter, and it was through information reaching
him on Wednesday evening that he had measured his loss, measured above
all his pain. These were two distinct things, he felt, and, though both
bad, one much worse than the other. It wasn’t till the next three
days had pretty well ebbed, in fact, that he knew himself for so badly
wounded. He had waked up on Thursday morning, so far as he had slept at
all, with the sense, together, of a blinding New York blizzard and of a
deep sore inward ache. The great white savage storm would have kept him
at the best within doors, but his stricken state was by itself quite
reason enough.

He so felt the blow indeed, so gasped, before what had happened to him,
at the ugliness, the bitterness, and, beyond these things, the sinister
strangeness, that, the matter of his dismay little by little detaching
and projecting itself, settling there face to face with him as something
he must now live with always, he might have been in charge of some
horrid alien thing, some violent, scared, unhappy creature whom there
was small joy, of a truth, in remaining with, but whose behaviour
wouldn’t perhaps bring him under notice, nor otherwise compromise him,
so long as he should stay to watch it. A young jibbering ape of one of
the more formidable sorts, or an ominous infant panther, smuggled into
the great gaudy hotel and whom it might yet be important he shouldn’t
advertise, couldn’t have affected him as needing more domestic
attention. The great gaudy hotel--The Pocahontas, but carried out
largely on “Du Barry” lines--made all about him, beside, behind, below,
above, in blocks and tiers and superpositions, a sufficient defensive
hugeness; so that, between the massive labyrinth and the New York
weather, life in a lighthouse during a gale would scarce have kept
him more apart. Even when in the course of that worse Thursday it
had occurred to him for vague relief that the odious certified facts
couldn’t be all his misery, and that, with his throat and a probable
temperature, a brush of the epidemic, which was for ever brushing him,
accounted for something, even then he couldn’t resign himself to bed and
broth and dimness, but only circled and prowled the more within his
high cage, only watched the more from his tenth story the rage of the
elements.

In the afternoon he had a doctor--the caravanserai, which supplied
everything in quantities, had one for each group of so many rooms--just
in order to be assured that he was _grippé_ enough for anything. What
his visitor, making light of his attack, perversely told him was that
he was, much rather, “blue” enough, and from causes doubtless known
to himself--which didn’t come to the same thing; but he “gave him
something,” prescribed him warmth and quiet and broth and courage,
and came back the next day as to readminister this last dose. He then
pronounced him better, and on Saturday pronounced him well--all the more
that the storm had abated and the snow had been dealt with as New York,
at a push, knew how to deal with things. Oh, how New York knew how to
deal--to deal, that is, with other accumulations lying passive to its
hand--was exactly what Mark now ached with his impression of; so that,
still threshing about in this consciousness, he had on the Saturday
come near to breaking out as to what was the matter with him. The
Doctor brought in somehow the air of the hotel--which, cheerfully
and conscientiously, by his simple philosophy, the good man wished to
diffuse; breathing forth all the echoes of other woes and worries and
pointing the honest moral that, especially with such a thermometer,
there were enough of these to go round.

Our sufferer, by that time, would have liked to tell some one;
extracting, to the last acid strain of it, the full strength of his
sorrow, taking it all in as he could only do by himself and with the
conditions favourable at least to this, had been his natural first need.
But now, he supposed, he _must_ be better; there was something of his
heart’s heaviness he wanted so to give out. He had rummaged forth on the
Thursday night half a dozen old photographs stuck into a leather frame,
a small show-case that formed part of his usual equipage of travel--he
mostly set it up on a table when he stayed anywhere long enough; and in
one of the neat gilt-edged squares of this convenient portable array,
as familiar as his shaving-glass or the hair-brushes, of backs and
monograms now so beautifully toned and wasted, long ago given him by his
mother, Phil Blood-good handsomely faced him. Not contemporaneous, and
a little faded, but so saying what it said only the more dreadfully,
the image seemed to sit there, at an immemorial window, like some long
effective and only at last exposed “decoy” of fate. It was _because_ he
was so beautifully good-looking, because he was so charming and clever
and frank--besides being one’s third cousin, or whatever it was, one’s
early schoolfellow and one’s later college classmate--that one had
abjectly trusted him. To live thus with his unremoved, undestroyed,
engaging, treacherous face, had been, as our traveller desired, to live
with all of the felt pang; had been to consume it in such a single hot,
sore mouthful as would so far as possible dispose of it and leave but
cold dregs. Thus, if the Doctor, casting about for pleasantness, had
happened to notice him there, salient since he was, and possibly by the
same stroke even to know him, as New York--and more or less to its cost
now, mightn’t one say?--so abundantly and agreeable had, the cup would
have overflowed and Monteith, for all he could be sure of the contrary,
would have relieved himself positively in tears.

“Oh _he’s_ what’s the matter with me--that, looking after some of my
poor dividends, as he for the ten years of my absence had served me by
doing, he has simply jockeyed me out of the whole little collection,
such as it was, and taken the opportunity of my return, inevitably at
last bewildered and uneasy, to ‘sail,’ ten days ago, for parts unknown
and as yet unguessable. It isn’t the beastly values themselves, however;
that’s only awkward and I can still live, though I don’t quite know how
I shall turn round; it’s the horror of _his_ having done it, and done it
to _me_--without a mitigation or, so to speak, a warning or an excuse.”
 That, at a hint or a jog, is what he would have brought out--only to
feel afterward, no doubt, that he had wasted his impulse and profaned
even a little his sincerity. The Doctor didn’t in the event so much
as glance at his cluster of portraits--which fact quite put before our
friend the essentially more vivid range of imagery that a pair of eyes
transferred from room to room and from one queer case to another, in
such a place as that, would mainly be adjusted to. It wasn’t for _him_
to relieve himself touchingly, strikingly or whatever, to such a
man: such a man might much more pertinently--save for professional
discretion--have emptied out there his own bag of wonders; prodigies
of observation, flowers of oddity, flowers of misery, flowers of the
monstrous, gathered in current hotel practice. Countless possibilities,
making doctors perfunctory, Mark felt, swarmed and seethed at their
doors; it showed for an incalculable world, and at last, on Sunday, he
decided to leave his room.



II

Everything, as he passed through the place, went on--all the offices of
life, the whole bustle of the market, and withal, surprisingly, scarce
less that of the nursery and the playground; the whole sprawl in
especial of the great gregarious fireside: it was a complete social
scene in itself, on which types might figure and passions rage and plots
thicken and dramas develop, without reference to any other sphere, or
perhaps even to anything at all outside. The signs of this met him at
every turn as he threaded the labyrinth, passing from one extraordinary
masquerade of expensive objects, one portentous “period” of decoration,
one violent phase of publicity, to another: the heavy heat, the
luxuriance, the extravagance, the quantity, the colour, gave the
impression of some wondrous tropical forest, where vociferous,
bright-eyed, and feathered creatures, of every variety of size and hue,
were half smothered between undergrowths of velvet and tapestry and
ramifications of marble and bronze. The fauna and the flora startled him
alike, and among them his bruised spirit drew in and folded its wings.
But he roamed and rested, exploring and in a manner enjoying the vast
rankness--in the depth of which he suddenly encountered Mrs. Folliott,
whom he had last seen, six months before, in London, and who had spoken
to him then, precisely, of Phil Bloodgood, for several years previous
her confidential American agent and factotum too, as she might say, but
at that time so little in her good books, for the extraordinary things
he seemed to be doing, that she was just hurrying home, she had made no
scruple of mentioning, to take everything out of his hands.

Mark remembered how uneasy she had made him--how that very talk with
her had wound him up to fear, as so acute and intent a little person she
affected him; though he had affirmed with all emphasis and flourish his
own confidence and defended, to iteration, his old friend. This passage
had remained with him for a certain pleasant heat of intimacy, his
partner, of the charming appearance, being what she was; he liked to
think how they had fraternised over their difference and called each
other idiots, or almost, without offence. It was always a link to have
scuffled, failing a real scratch, with such a character; and he had at
present the flutter of feeling that something of this would abide. _He_
hadn’t been hurrying home, at the London time, in any case; he was doing
nothing then, and had continued to do it; he would want, before showing
suspicion--that had been his attitude--to have more, after all, to go
upon. Mrs. Folliott also, and with a great actual profession of it,
remembered and rejoiced; and, also staying in the house as she was, sat
with him, under a spreading palm, in a wondrous rococo salon, surrounded
by the pinkest, that is the fleshiest, imitation Boucher panels, and
wanted to know if he _now_ stood up for his swindler. She would herself
have tumbled on a cloud, very passably, in a fleshy Boucher manner,
hadn’t she been over-dressed for such an exercise; but she was quite
realistically aware of what had so naturally happened--she was prompt
about Bloodgood’s “flight.”

She had acted with energy, on getting back--she had saved what she
could; which hadn’t, however, prevented her losing all disgustedly some
ten thousand dollars. She was lovely, lively, friendly, interested, she
connected Monteith perfectly with their discussion that day during the
water-party on the Thames; but, sitting here with him half an hour, she
talked only of her peculiar, her cruel sacrifice--since she should
never get a penny back. He had felt himself, on their meeting, quite
yearningly reach out to her--so decidedly, by the morning’s end,
and that of his scattered sombre stations, had he been sated with
meaningless contacts, with the sense of people all about him intensely,
though harmlessly, animated, yet at the same time raspingly indifferent.
_They_ would have, he and she at least, their common pang--through which
fact, somehow, he should feel less stranded. It wasn’t that he wanted to
be pitied--he fairly didn’t pity himself; he winced, rather, and even
to vicarious anguish, as it rose again, for poor shamed Bloodgood’s
doom-ridden figure. But he wanted, as with a desperate charity, to give
some easier turn to the mere ugliness of the main facts; to work off his
obsession from them by mixing with it some other blame, some other pity,
it scarce mattered what--if it might be some other experience; as an
effect of which larger ventilation it would have, after a fashion and
for a man of free sensibility, a diluted and less poisonous taste.

By the end of five minutes of Mrs. Folliott, however, he felt his dry
lips seal themselves to a makeshift simper. She could _take_ nothing--no
better, no broader perception of anything than fitted her own small
faculty; so that though she must have recalled or imagined that he had
still, up to lately, had interests at stake, the rapid result of her
egotistical little chatter was to make him wish he might rather have
conversed with the French waiter dangling in the long vista that showed
the oriental café as a climax, or with the policeman, outside, the top
of whose helmet peeped above the ledge of a window. She bewailed her
wretched money to excess--she who, he was sure, had quantities more; she
pawed and tossed her bare bone, with her little extraordinarily gemmed
and manicured hands, till it acted on his nerves; she rang all the
changes on the story, the dire fatality, of her having wavered and
muddled, thought of this and but done that, of her stupid failure to
have pounced, when she had first meant to, in season. She abused the
author of their wrongs--recognising thus too Monteith’s right to loathe
him--for the desperado he assuredly had proved, but with a vulgarity
of analysis and an incapacity for the higher criticism, as her listener
felt it to be, which made him determine resentfully, almost grimly,
that she shouldn’t have the benefit of a grain of _his_ vision or _his_
version of what had befallen them, and of how, in particular, it had
come; and should never dream thereby (though much would she suffer from
that!) of how interesting he might have been. She had, in a finer sense,
no manners, and to be concerned with her in any retrospect was--since
their discourse was of losses--to feel the dignity of history incur
the very gravest. It was true that such fantasies, or that any shade
of inward irony, would be Greek to Mrs. Folliott. It was also true,
however, and not much more strange, when she had presently the
comparatively happy thought of “Lunch with _us_, you poor dear!” and
mentioned three or four of her “crowd”--a new crowd, rather, for her,
all great Sunday lunchers there and immense fun, who would in a moment
be turning up--that this seemed to him as easy as anything else; so that
after a little, deeper in the jungle and while, under the temperature
as of high noon, with the crowd complete and “ordering,” he wiped the
perspiration from his brow, he felt he was letting himself go. He did
that certainly to the extent of leaving far behind any question of Mrs.
Folliott’s manners. They didn’t matter there--nobody’s did; and if she
ceased to lament her ten thousand it was only because, among higher
voices, she couldn’t make herself heard. Poor Blood-good didn’t have
a show, as they might have said, didn’t get through at any point; the
crowd was so new that--there either having been no hue and cry for
him, or having been too many others, for other absconders, in the
intervals--they had never so much as heard of him and would have no more
of Mrs. Folliott’s true inwardness, on that subject at least, than she
had lately cared to have of Monteith’s.

There was nothing like a crowd, this unfortunate knew, for making one
feel lonely, and he felt so increasingly during the meal; but he got
thus at least in a measure away from the terrible little lady; after
which, and before the end of the hour, he wanted still more to get away
from every one else. He was in fact about to perform this manoeuvre when
he was checked by the jolly young woman he had been having on his left
and who had more to say about the Hotels, up and down the town, than he
had ever known a young woman to have to say on any subject at all;
she expressed herself in hotel terms exclusively, the names of those
establishments playing through her speech as the _leit-motif_ might have
recurrently flashed and romped through a piece of profane modern music.
She wanted to present him to the pretty girl she had brought with her,
and who had apparently signified to her that she must do so.

“I think you know my brother-in-law, Mr. Newton Winch,” the pretty girl
had immediately said; she moved her head and shoulders together, as by
a common spring, the effect of a stiff neck or of something loosened in
her back hair; but becoming, queerly enough, all the prettier for
doing so. He had seen in the papers, her brother-in-law, Mr. Monteith’s
arrival--Mr. Mark P. Monteith, wasn’t it?--and where he was, and she
had been with him, three days before, at the time; whereupon he had
said “Hullo, what can have brought old Mark back?” He seemed to have
believed--Newton had seemed--that that shirker, as he called him, never
_would_ come; and she guessed that if she had known she was going to
meet such a former friend (“Which he claims you are, sir,” said the
pretty girl) he would have asked her to find out what the trouble could
be. But the real satisfaction would just be, she went on, if his former
friend would himself go and see him and tell him; he had appeared of
late so down.

“Oh, I remember him”--Mark didn’t repudiate the friendship, placing him
easily; only then he wasn’t married and the pretty girl’s sister must
have come in later: which showed, his not knowing such things, how they
had lost touch. The pretty girl was sorry to have to say in return to
this that her sister wasn’t living--had died two years after marrying;
so that Newton was up there in Fiftieth Street alone; where (in
explanation of his being “down”) he had been shut up for days with bad
_grippe_; though now on the mend, or she wouldn’t have gone to him, not
she, who had had it nineteen times and didn’t want to have it again. But
the horrid poison just seemed to have entered into poor Newton’s soul.

“That’s the way it _can_ take you, don’t you know?” And then as, with
her single twist, she just charmingly hunched her eyes at our friend,
“Don’t you want to go to see him?”

Mark bethought himself: “Well, I’m going to see a lady-----”

She took the words from his mouth. “Of course you’re going to see a
lady--every man in New York is. But Newton isn’t a lady, unfortunately
for him, to-day; and Sunday afternoon in this place, in this weather,
alone-----!”

“Yes, isn’t it awful?”--he was quite drawn to her.

“Oh, _you’ve_ got your lady!”

“Yes, I’ve got my lady, thank goodness!” The fervour of which was his
sincere tribute to the note he had had on Friday morning from Mrs. Ash,
the only thing that had a little tempered his gloom.

“Well then, feel for others. Fit him in. Tell him why!”

“Why I’ve come back? I’m glad I _have_--since it was to see _you_!”
 Monteith made brave enough answer, promising to do what he could.
He liked the pretty girl, with her straight attack and her free
awkwardness--also with her difference from the others through something
of a sense and a distinction given her by so clearly having Newton on
her mind. Yet it was odd to him, and it showed the lapse of the years,
that Winch--as he had known him of old--could _be_ to that degree on any
one’s mind.



III

Outside in the intensity of the cold--it was a jump from the Tropics to
the Pole--he felt afresh the force of what he had just been saying;
that if it weren’t for the fact of Mrs. Ash’s good letter of welcome,
despatched, characteristically, as soon as she had, like the faithful
sufferer in Fiftieth Street, observed his name, in a newspaper, on one
of the hotel-lists, he should verily, for want of a connection and an
abutment, have scarce dared to face the void and the chill together, but
have sneaked back into the jungle and there tried to lose himself. He
made, as it was, the opposite effort, resolute to walk, though hovering
now and then at vague crossways, radiations of roads to nothing, or
taking cold counsel of the long but still sketchy vista, as it struck
him, of the northward Avenue, bright and bleak, fresh and harsh,
rich and evident somehow, a perspective like a page of florid
modern platitudes. He didn’t quite know what he had expected for his
return--not certainly serenades and deputations; but without Mrs.
Ash his mail would have quite lacked geniality, and it was as if Phil
Blood-good had gone off not only with so large a slice of his small
_peculium_, but with all the broken bits of the past, the loose ends of
old relationships, that he had supposed he might pick up again. Well,
perhaps he should still pick up a few--by the sweat of his brow; no
motion of their own at least, he by this time judged, would send them
fluttering into his hand.

Which reflections but quickened his forecast of this charm of the old
Paris inveteracy renewed--the so-prized custom of nine years before,
when he still believed in results from his fond frequentation of the
Beaux Arts; that of walking over the river to the Rue de Marignan,
precisely, every Sunday without exception, and sitting at her fireside,
and often all offensively, no doubt, outstaying every one. How he
had used to want those hours then, and how again, after a little, at
present, the Rue de Marignan might have been before him! He had gone to
her there at that time with his troubles, such as they were, and they
had always worked for her amusement--which had been her happy, her
clever way of taking them: she couldn’t have done anything better for
them in that phase, poor innocent things compared with what they might
have been, than be amused by them. Perhaps that was what she would still
be--with those of his present hour; now too they might inspire her with
the touch she best applied and was most instinctive mistress of: this
didn’t at all events strike him as what he should most resent. It wasn’t
as if Mrs. Folliott, to make up for boring him with her own plaint, for
example, had had so much as a gleam of conscious diversion over his.

“I’m _so_ delighted to see you, I’ve such immensities to tell you!”--it
began with the highest animation twenty minutes later, the very moment
he stood there, the sense of the Rue de Marignan in the charming room
and in the things about all reconstituted, regrouped, wonderfully
preserved, down to the very sitting-places in the same relations, and
down to the faint sweet mustiness of generations of cigarettes; but
everything else different, and even vaguely alien, and by a measure
still other than that of their own stretched interval and of the dear
delightful woman’s just a little pathetic alteration of face. He had
allowed for the nine years, and so, it was to be hoped, had she; but
the last thing, otherwise, that would have been touched, he immediately
felt, was the quality, the intensity, of her care to see him. She cared,
oh so visibly and touchingly and almost radiantly--save for her being,
yes, distinctly, a little _more_ battered than from even a good nine
years’ worth; nothing could in fact have perched with so crowning an
impatience on the heap of what she had to “tell” as that special shade
of revived consciousness of having him in particular to tell it to. It
wasn’t perhaps much to matter how soon she brought out and caused to
ring, as it were, on the little recognised marqueterie table between
them (such an anciently envied treasure), the heaviest gold-piece of
current history she was to pay him with for having just so felicitously
come back: he knew already, without the telling, that intimate domestic
tension must lately, within those walls, have reached a climax and that
he could serve supremely--oh how he was going to serve!--as the most
sympathetic of all pairs of ears.

The whole thing was upon him, in any case, with the minimum of delay:
Bob had had it from her, definitely, the first of the week, and it
was absolutely final now, that they must set up avowedly separate
lives--without horrible “proceedings” of any sort, but with her own
situation, her independence, secured to her once for all. She had been
coming to it, taking her time, and she had gone through--well, so old a
friend would guess enough what; but she was at the point, oh blessedly
now, where she meant to stay, he’d see if she didn’t; with which, in
this wonderful way, he himself had arrived for the cream of it and
she was just selfishly glad. Bob had gone to Washington--ostensibly
on business, but really to recover breath; she had, speaking vulgarly,
knocked the wind out of him and was allowing him time to turn round.
Mrs. Folliott moreover, she was sure, would have gone--was certainly
believed to have been seen there five days ago; and of course his first
necessity, for public use, would be to patch up something with Mrs.
Folliott. Mark knew about Mrs. Folliott?--who was only, for that matter,
one of a regular “bevy.” Not that it signified, however, if he didn’t:
she would tell him about _her_ later.

He took occasion from the first fraction of a break not quite to know
what he knew about Mrs. Folliott--though perhaps he could imagine a
little; and it was probably at this minute that, having definitely
settled to a position, and precisely in his very own tapestry _bergère_,
the one with the delicious little spectral “subjects” on the back and
seat, he partly exhaled, and yet managed partly to keep to himself, the
deep resigned sigh of a general comprehension. He knew what he was “in”
 for, he heard her go on--she said it again and again, seemed constantly
to be saying it while she smiled at him with her peculiar fine charm,
her positive gaiety of sensibility, scarce dimmed: “I’m just selfishly
glad, just selfishly glad!” Well, she was going to have reason to be;
she was going to put the whole case to him, all her troubles and plans,
and each act of the tragi-comedy of her recent existence, as to the
dearest and safest sympathiser in all the world. There would be no
chance for _his_ case, though it was so much for his case he had
come; yet there took place within him but a mild, dumb convulsion,
the momentary strain of his substituting, by the turn of a hand, one
prospect of interest for another.

Squaring himself in his old _bergère_, and with his lips, during the
effort, compressed to the same passive grimace that had an hour or two
before operated for the encouragement of Mrs. Folliott--just as it
was to clear the stage completely for the present more prolonged
performance--he shut straight down, as he even in the act called it to
himself, on any personal claim for social consideration and rendered
a perfect little agony of justice to the grounds of his friend’s
vividness. For it was all the justice that could be expected of him
that, though, secretly, he wasn’t going to be interested in her being
interesting, she was yet going to be so, all the same, by the very force
of her lovely material (Bob Ash _was_ such a pure pearl of a donkey!)
and he was going to keep on knowing she was--yes, to the very end. When
after the lapse of an hour he rose to go, the rich fact that she
_had_ been was there between them, and with an effect of the frankly,
fearlessly, harmlessly intimate fireside passage for it that went beyond
even the best memories of the pleasant past. He hadn’t “amused” her, no,
in quite the same way as in the Rue de Marignan time--it had then been
he who for the most part took frequent turns, emphatic, explosive,
elocutionary, over that wonderful waxed parquet while she laughed as for
the young perversity of him from the depths of the second, the matching
_bergère_. To-day she herself held and swept the floor, putting him
merely to the trouble of his perpetual “Brava!” But that was all through
the change of basis--the amusement, another name only for the thrilled
absorption, having been inevitably for _him_; as how could it have
failed to be with such a regular “treat” to his curiosity? With the
tea-hour now other callers were turning up, and he got away on the plea
of his wanting so to think it all over. He hoped again he hadn’t too
queer a grin with his assurance to her, as if she would quite know what
he meant, that he had been thrilled to the core. But she returned, quite
radiantly, that he had carried _her_ completely away; and her sincerity
was proved by the final frankness of their temporary parting. “My
pleasure of you is selfish, horribly, I admit; so that if _that_ doesn’t
suit you--!” Her faded beauty flushed again as she said it.



IV

In the street again, as he resumed his walk, he saw how perfectly it
would _have_ to suit him and how he probably for a long time wouldn’t
be suited otherwise. Between them and that time, however, what mightn’t,
for him, poor devil, on his new basis, have happened? She wasn’t at any
rate within any calculable period going to care so much for anything
as for the so quaintly droll terms in which her rearrangement with her
husband--thanks to that gentleman’s inimitable fatuity--would have to
be made. This was what it was to own, exactly, her special grace--the
brightest gaiety in the finest sensibility; _such_ a display of which
combination, Mark felt as he went (if he could but have done it still
more justice) she must have regaled him with! That exquisite last flush
of her fadedness could only remain with him; yet while he presently
stopped at a street-corner in a district redeemed from desolation but by
the passage just then of a choked trolley-car that howled, as he paused
for it, beneath the weight of its human accretions, he seemed to know
the inward “sinking” that had been determined in a hungry man by some
extravagant sight of the preparation of somebody else’s dinner. Florence
Ash was dining, so to speak, off the feast of appreciation, appreciation
of what she had to “tell” him, that he had left her seated at; and
she was welcome, assuredly--welcome, welcome, welcome, he musingly, he
wistfully, and yet at the same time a trifle mechanically, repeated,
stayed as he was a moment longer by the suffering shriek of another
public vehicle and a sudden odd automatic return of his mind to the
pretty girl, the flower of Mrs. Folliott’s crowd, who had spoken to
him of Newton Winch. It was extraordinarily as if, on the instant, she
reminded him, from across the town, that she had offered him dinner: it
was really quite strangely, while he stood there, as if she had told
him where he could go and get it. With which, none the less, it was
apparently where he wouldn’t find her--and what was there, after all, of
nutritive in the image of Newton Winch? He made up his mind in a moment
that it owed that property, which the pretty girl had somehow made
imputable, to the fact of its simply being just then the one image of
anything known to him that the terrible place had to offer. Nothing,
he a minute later reflected, could have been so “rum” as that, sick and
sore, of a bleak New York eventide, he should have had nowhere to turn
if not to the said Fiftieth Street.

That was the direction he accordingly took, for when he found the number
given him by the same remarkable agent of fate also present to his
memory he recognised the direct intervention of Providence and how it
absolutely required a miracle to explain his so precipitately embracing
this loosest of connections. The miracle indeed soon grew clearer:
Providence had, on some obscure system, chosen this very ridiculous hour
to save him from cultivation of the sin of selfishness, the obsession
of egotism, and was breaking him to its will by constantly directing his
attention to the claims of others. Who could say what at that critical
moment mightn’t have become of Mrs. Folliott (otherwise too then so
sadly embroiled!) if she hadn’t been enabled to air to him her grievance
and her rage?--just as who could deny that it must have done Florence
Ash a world of good to have put her thoughts about Bob in order by the
aid of a person to whom the vision of Bob in the light of those thoughts
(or in other words to whom _her_ vision of Bob and nothing else) would
mean so delightfully much? It was on the same general lines that poor
Newton Winch, bereft, alone, ill, perhaps dying, and with the drawback
of a not very sympathetic personality--as Mark remembered it at
least--to contend against in almost any conceivable appeal to human
furtherance, it was on these lines, very much, that the luckless case in
Fiftieth Street was offered him as a source of salutary discipline. The
moment for such a lesson might strike him as strange, in view of the
quite special and independent opportunity for exercise that his spirit
had during the last three days enjoyed there in his hotel bedroom; but
evidently his languor of charity needed some admonition finer than
any it might trust to chance for, and by the time he at last, Winch’s
residence recognised, was duly elevated to his level and had pressed
the electric button at his door, he felt himself acting indeed as under
stimulus of a sharp poke in the side.



V

Within the apartment to which he had been admitted, moreover, the fine
intelligence we have imputed to him was in the course of three minutes
confirmed; since it took him no longer than that to say to himself,
facing his old acquaintance, that he had never seen any one so improved.
The place, which had the semblance of a high studio light as well as a
general air of other profusions and amplitudes, might have put him off
a little by its several rather glaringly false accents, those of
contemporary domestic “art” striking a little wild. The scene was
smaller, but the rich confused complexion of the Pocahontas, showing
through Du Barry paint and patches, might have set the example--which
had been followed with the costliest candour--so that, clearly, Winch
was in these days rich, as most people in New York seemed rich; as, in
spite of Bob’s depredations, Florence Ash was, as even Mrs. Folliott was
in spite of Phil Bloodgood’s, as even Phil Bloodgood himself must have
been for reasons too obvious; as in fine every one had a secret for
being, or for feeling, or for looking, every one at least but Mark
Monteith.

These facts were as nothing, however, in presence of his quick and
strong impression that his pale, nervous, smiling, clean-shaven host
had undergone since their last meeting some extraordinary process of
refinement. He had been ill, unmistakably, and the effects of a plunge
into plain clean living, where any fineness had remained, were often
startling, sometimes almost charming. But independently of this, and for
a much longer time, some principle of intelligence, some art of life,
would discernibly have worked in him. Remembered from college years and
from those two or three luckless and faithless ones of the Law School
as constitutionally common, as consistently and thereby doubtless even
rather powerfully coarse, clever only for uncouth and questionable
things, he yet presented himself now as if he had suddenly and
mysteriously been educated. There was a charm in his wide, “drawn,”
 convalescent smile, in the way his fine fingers--had he anything like
fine fingers of old?--played, and just fidgeted, over the prompt and
perhaps a trifle incoherent offer of cigars, cordials, ashtrays,
over the question of his visitor’s hat, stick, fur coat, general best
accommodation and ease; and how the deuce, accordingly, had charm, for
coming out so on top, Mark wondered, “squared” the other old elements?
For the short interval so to have dealt with him what force had it
turned on, what patented process, of the portentous New York order
in which there were so many, had it skilfully applied? Were these the
things New York did when you just gave her all her head, and that he
himself then had perhaps too complacently missed? Strange almost to the
point of putting him positively off at first--quite as an exhibition of
the uncanny--this sense of Newton’s having all the while neither missed
nor muffed anything, and having, as with an eye to the _coup de théâtre_
to come, lowered one’s expectations, at the start, to that abject pitch.
It might have been taken verily for an act of bad faith--really for
such a rare stroke of subtlety as could scarce have been achieved by a
straight or natural aim.

So much as this at least came and went in Monteith’s agitated mind; the
oddest intensity of apprehension, admiration, mystification, which the
high north-light of the March afternoon and the quite splendidly
vulgar appeal of fifty overdone decorative effects somehow fostered and
sharpened. Everything had already gone, however, the next moment,
for wasn’t the man he had come so much too intelligently himself to
patronise absolutely bowling him over with the extraordinary speech:
“See here, you know--you must be ill, or have had a bad shock, or some
beastly upset: are you very sure you ought to have come out?” Yes, he
after an instant believed his ears; coarse common Newton Winch, whom
he had called on because he could, as a gentleman, after all afford to,
coarse common Newton Winch, who had had troubles and been epidemically
poisoned, lamentably sick, who bore in his face and in the very tension,
quite exactly the “charm,” of his manner, the traces of his late ordeal,
and, for that matter, of scarce completed gallant emergence--this
astonishing ex-comrade was simply writing himself at a stroke (into our
friend’s excited imagination at all events) the most distinguished of
men. Oh, _he_ was going to be interesting, if Florence Ash had been
going to be; but Mark felt how, under the law of a lively present
difference, that would be as an effect of one’s having one’s self
thoroughly rallied. He knew within the minute that the tears stood in
his eyes; he stared through them at his friend with a sharp “Why, how do
you know? How _can_ you?” To which he added before Winch could speak: “I
met your charming sister-in-law a couple of hours since--at luncheon, at
the Pocahontas; and heard from her that you were badly laid up and had
spoken of me. So I came to minister to you.”

The object of this design hovered there again, considerably restless,
shifting from foot to foot, changing his place, beginning and giving up
motions, striking matches for a fresh cigarette, offering them again,
redundantly, to his guest and then not lighting himself--but all the
while with the smile of another creature than the creature known to
Mark; all the while with the history of something that had happened to
him ever so handsomely shining out. Mark was conscious within himself
from this time on of two quite distinct processes of notation--that
of his practically instant surrender to the consequences of the act of
perception in his host of which the two women trained suppos-ably in the
art of pleasing had been altogether incapable; and that of some other
condition on Newton’s part that left his own poor power of divination
nothing less than shamed. This last was signally the case on the
former’s saying, ever so responsively, almost radiantly, in answer to
his account of how he happened to come: “Oh then it’s very interesting!”
 _That_ was the astonishing note, after what he had been through: neither
Mrs. Folliott nor Florence Ash had so much as hinted or breathed to him
that _he_ might have incurred that praise. No wonder therefore he was
now taken--with this fresh party’s instant suspicion and imputation of
it; though it was indeed for some minutes next as if each tried to see
which could accuse the other of the greater miracle of penetration. Mark
was so struck, in a word, with the extraordinarily straight guess Winch
had had there in reserve for him that, other quick impressions helping,
there was nothing for him but to bring out, himself: “There must be,
my dear man, something rather wonderful the matter with you!” The quite
more intensely and more irresistibly drawn grin, the quite unmistakably
deeper consciousness in the dark, wide eye, that accompanied the not
quite immediate answer to which remark he was afterward to remember.
“How do you know that--or why do you think it?” “Because there _must_
be--for you to see! I shouldn’t have expected it.”

“Then you take me for a damned fool?” laughed wonderful Newton Winch.



VI

He could say nothing that, whether as to the sense of it or as to the
way of it, didn’t so enrich Mark’s vision of him that our friend, after
a little, as this effect proceeded, caught himself in the act of
almost too curiously gaping. Everything, from moment to moment, fed his
curiosity; such a question, for instance, as whether the quite ordinary
peepers of the Newton Winch of their earlier youth could have looked,
under any provocation, either dark or wide; such a question, above all,
as how _this_ incalculable apparition came by the whole startling power
of play of its extravagantly sensitive labial connections--exposed, so
to its advantage (he now jumped at one explanation) by the removal of
what had probably been one of the vulgar-est of moustaches. With this,
at the same time, the oddity of that particular consequence was vivid to
him; the glare of his curiosity fairly lasting while he remembered how
he had once noted the very opposite turn of the experiment for Phil
Bloodgood. He would have said in advance that poor Winch couldn’t have
afforded to risk showing his “real” mouth; just as he would have said
that in spite of the fine ornament that so considerably muffled it Phil
could only have gained by showing his. But to have seen Phil shorn--as
he once had done--was earnestly to pray that he might promptly again
bristle; beneath Phil’s moustache lurked nothing to “make up” for it in
case of removal. While he thought of which things the line of grimace,
as he could only have called it, the mobile, interesting, ironic line
the great double curve of which connected, in the face before him, the
strong nostril with the lower cheek, became the very key to his first
idea of Newton’s capture of refinement. He had shaved and was happily
transfigured. Phil Bloodgood had shaved and been wellnigh lost; though
why should he just now too precipitately drag the reminiscence in?

That question too, at the queer touch of association, played up for Mark
even under so much proof that the state of his own soul was being with
the lapse of every instant registered. Phil Bloodgood had brought about
the state of his soul--there was accordingly that amount of connection;
only it became further remarkable that from the moment his companion had
sounded him, and sounded him, he knew, down to the last truth of things,
his disposition, his necessity to talk, the desire that had in the
morning broken the spell of his confinement, the impulse that had thrown
him so defeatedly into Mrs. Folliott’s arms and into Florence Ash’s,
these forces seemed to feel their impatience ebb and their discretion
suddenly grow. His companion was talking again, but just then,
incongruously, made his need to communicate lose itself. It was as if
his personal case had already been touched by some tender hand--and
that, after all, was the modest limit of its greed. “I know now why
you came back--did Lottie mention how I had wondered? But sit down, sit
down--only let me, nervous beast as I am, take it standing!--and believe
me when I tell you that I’ve now ceased to wonder. My dear chap, I
_have_ it! It can’t but have been for poor Phil Blood-good. He sticks
out of you, the brute--as how, with what he has done to you, shouldn’t
he? There was a man to see me yesterday--Tim Slater, whom I don’t think
you know, but who’s ‘on’ everything within about two minutes of its
happening (I never saw such a fellow!) and who confirmed my supposition,
all my own, however, mind you, at first, that you’re one of the
sufferers. So how the devil can you _not_ feel knocked? Why _should_
you look as if you were having the time of your life? What a hog to
have played it on _you_, on _you_, of all his friends!” So Newton Winch
continued, and so the air between the two men might have been, for a
momentary watcher--which is indeed what I can but invite the reader to
become--that of a nervously displayed, but all considerate, as well as
most acute, curiosity on the one side, and that on the other, after a
little, of an eventually fascinated acceptance of so much free and
in especial of so much right attention. “Do you _mind_ my asking
you? Because if you do I won’t press; but as a man whose own
responsibilities, some of ‘em at least, don’t differ much, I gather,
from some of his, one would like to know how he was ever allowed to get
to the point--! But I _do_ plough you up?”

Mark sat back in his chair, moved but holding himself, his elbows
squared on each arm, his hands a bit convulsively interlocked across
him--very much in fact as he had appeared an hour ago in the old
tapestry _bergère_; but as his rigour was all then that of the grinding
effort to profess and to give, so it was considerably now for the fear
of too hysterically gushing. Somehow too--since his wound was to that
extent open--he winced at hearing the author of it branded. He hadn’t so
much minded the epithets Mrs. Folliott had applied, for they were to
the appropriator of _her_ securities. As the appropriator of his own he
didn’t so much want to brand him as--just more “amusingly” even, if one
would.--to make out, perhaps, with intelligent help, how such a man, in
such a relation, _could_ come to tread such a path: which was exactly
the interesting light that Winch’s curiosity and sympathy were there
to assist him to. He pleaded at any rate immediately his advertising
no grievance. “I feel sore, I admit, and it’s a horrid sort of thing
to have had happen; but when you call him a brute and a hog I rather
squirm, for brutes and hogs never live, I guess, in the sort of hell in
which he now must be.”

Newton Winch, before the fireplace, his hands deep in his pockets, where
his guest could see his long fingers beat a tattoo on his thighs, Newton
Winch dangled and swung himself, and threw back his head and laughed.
“Well, I must say you take it amazingly!--all the more that to see you
again this way is to feel that if, all along, there was a man whose
delicacy and confidence and general attitude might have marked him for
a particular consideration, you’d have been the man.” And they were
more directly face to face again; with Newton smiling and smiling _so_
appreciatively; making our friend in fact almost ask himself when before
a man had ever grinned from ear to ear to the effect of its so becoming
him. What he replied, however, was that Newton described in those
flattering terms a client temptingly fatuous; after which, and the
exchange of another protest or two in the interest of justice and
decency, and another plea or two in that of the still finer contention
that even the basest misdeeds had always somewhere or other, could one
get at it, their propitiatory side, our hero found himself on his
feet again, under the influence of a sudden failure of everything but
horror--a horror determined by some turn of their talk and indeed by the
very fact of the freedom of it. It was as if a far-borne sound of the
hue and cry, a vision of his old friend hunted and at bay, had suddenly
broken in--this other friend’s, this irresistibly intelligent other
companion’s, practically vivid projection of that making the worst
ugliness real. “Oh, it’s just making my wry face to somebody, and your
letting me and caring and wanting to know: that,” Mark said, “is what
does me good; not any other hideous question. I mean I don’t take any
interest in _my_ case--what one wonders about, you see, is what can be
done for him. I mean, that is”--for he floundered a little, not knowing
at last quite what he did mean, a great rush of mere memories, a great
humming sound as of thick, thick echoes, rising now to an assault that
he met with his face indeed contorted. If he didn’t take care he should
howl; so he more or less successfully took care--yet with his host
vividly watching him while he shook the danger temporarily off. “I don’t
mind--though it’s rather _that_; my having felt this morning, after
three dismal dumb bad days, that one’s friends perhaps would be thinking
of one. All I’m conscious of now--I give you my word--is that I’d like
to see him.”

“You’d like to see him?”

“Oh, I don’t say,” Mark ruefully smiled, “that I should like him to see
_me_--!”

Newton Winch, from where he stood--and they were together now, on the
great hearth-rug that was a triumph of modern orientalism--put out one
of the noted fine hands and, with an expressive headshake, laid it on
his shoulder. “Don’t wish him that, Monteith--don’t wish him that!”

“Well, but,”--and Mark raised his eyebrows still higher--“he’d see I
bear up; pretty well!”

“God forbid he should see, my dear fellow!” Newton cried as for the pang
of it.

Mark had for his idea, at any rate, the oddest sense of an exaltation
that grew by this use of frankness. “I’d go to him. Hanged if I
wouldn’t--anywhere!”

His companion’s hand still rested on him. “You’d go to him?”

Mark stood up to it--though trying to sink solemnity as pretentious.
“I’d go like a shot.” And then he added: “And it’s probably what--when
we’ve turned round--I _shall_ do.”

“When ‘we’ have turned round?”

“Well”--he was a trifle disconcerted at the tone--“I say that because
you’ll have helped me.”

“Oh, I do nothing but want to help you!” Winch replied--which made it
right again; especially as our friend still felt himself reassuringly
and sustainingly grasped. But Winch went on: “You _would_ go to him--in
kindness?”

“Well--to understand.”

“To understand how he could swindle you?”

“Well,” Mark kept on, “to try and make out with him how, after such
things--!” But he stopped; he couldn’t name them.

It was as if his companion knew. “Such things as you’ve done for him of
course--such services as you’ve rendered him.”

“Ah, from far back. If I could tell you,” our friend vainly wailed--“if
I could tell you!”

Newton Winch patted his shoulder. “Tell me--tell me!”

“The sort of relation, I mean; ever so many things of a kind--!” Again,
however, he pulled up; he felt the tremor of his voice.

“Tell me, tell me,” Winch repeated with the same movement.

The tone in it now made their eyes meet again, and with this
presentation of the altered face Mark measured as not before, for
some reason, the extent of the recent ravage. “You must have been ill
indeed.”

“Pretty bad. But I’m better. And you do me good”--with which the light
of convalescence came back.

“I don’t awfully bore you?”

Winch shook his head. “You keep me up--and you see how no one else comes
near me.”

Mark’s eyes made out that he was better--though it wasn’t yet that
nothing was the matter with him. If there was ever a man with whom there
was still something the matter--! Yet one couldn’t insist on that, and
meanwhile he clearly did want company. “Then there we are. I myself had
no one to go to.”

“You save my life,” Newton renewedly grinned.



VII

“Well, it’s your own fault,” Mark replied to that, “if you make me
take advantage of you.” Winch had withdrawn his hand, which was back,
violently shaking keys or money, in his trousers pocket; and in this
position he had abruptly a pause, a sensible, absence, that might have
represented either some odd drop of attention, some turn-off to another
thought, or just simply the sudden act of listening. His guest had
indeed himself--under suggestion--the impression of a sound. “Mayn’t you
perhaps--if you hear something--have a call?”

Mark had said it so lightly, however, that he was the more struck with
his host’s appearing to turn just paler; and, with it, the latter now
_was_ listening. “You hear something?”

“I thought _you_ did.” Winch himself, on Mark’s own pressure of the
outside bell, had opened the door of the apartment--an indication then,
it sufficiently appeared, that Sunday afternoons were servants’, or
attendants’, or even trained nurses’ holidays. It had also marked the
stage of his convalescence, and to that extent--after his first flush
of surprise--had but smoothed Monteith’s way. At present he barely gave
further attention; detaching himself as under some odd cross-impulse,
he had quitted the spot and then taken, in the wide room, a restless
turn--only, however, to revert in a moment to his friend’s just-uttered
deprecation of the danger of boring him. “If I make you take advantage
of me--that is blessedly talk to me--it’s exactly what I want to do.
Talk to me--talk to me!” He positively waved it on; pulling up again,
however, in his own talk, to say with a certain urgency: “Hadn’t you
better sit down?”

Mark, who stayed before the fire, couldn’t but excuse himself.
“Thanks--I’m very well so. I think of things and I fidget.”

Winch stood a moment with his eyes on the ground. “Are you very sure?”

“Quite--I’m all right if you don’t mind.”

“Then as you like!” With which, shaking to extravagance again his long
legs, Newton had swung off--only with a movement that, now his back was
turned, affected his visitor as the most whimsical of all the forms of
his rather unnatural manner. He was curiously different with his back
turned, as Mark now for the first time saw it--dangling and somewhat
wavering, as from an excess of uncertainty of gait; and this impression
was so strange, it created in our friend, uneasily and on the spot, such
a need of explanation, that his speech was stayed long enough to give
Winch time to turn round again. The latter had indeed by this moment
reached one of the limits of the place, the wide studio bay, where he
paused, his back to the light and his face afresh presented, to let his
just passingly depressed and quickened eyes take in as much as possible
of the large floor, range over it with such brief freedom of search
as the disposition of the furniture permitted. He was looking for
something, though the betrayed reach of vision was but of an instant.
Mark caught it, however, and with his own sensibility all in vibration,
found himself feeling at once that it meant something and that what it
meant was connected with his entertainer’s slightly marked appeal to
him, the appeal of a moment before, not to remain standing. Winch knew
by this time quite easily enough that he was hanging fire; which meant
that they were suddenly facing each other across the wide space with a
new consciousness.

Everything had changed--changed extraordinarily with the mere turning
of that gentleman’s back, the treacherous aspect of which its owner
couldn’t surely have suspected. If the question was of the pitch of
their sensibility, at all events, it wouldn’t be Mark’s that should
vibrate to least purpose. Visibly it had come to his host that something
had within the few instants remarkably happened, but there glimmered on
him an induction that still made him keep his own manner. Newton himself
might now resort to any manner he liked. His eyes had raked the floor to
recover the position of something dropped or misplaced, and something,
above all, awkward or compromising; and he had wanted his companion not
to command this scene from the hearth-rug, the hearthrug where he had
been just before holding him, hypnotising him to blindness, _because_
the object in question would there be most exposed to sight Mark
embraced this with a further drop--while the apprehension penetrated--of
his power to go on, and with an immense desire at the same time that his
eyes should seem only to look at his friend; who broke out now, for that
matter, with a fresh appeal. “Aren’t you going to take advantage of me,
man--aren’t you going to _take_ it?”

Everything had changed, we have noted, and nothing could more have
proved it than the fact that, by the same turn, sincerity of desire
had dropped out of Winch’s chords, while irritation, sharp and almost
imperious, had come in. “That’s because he sees I see something!” Mark
said to himself; but he had no need to add that it shouldn’t prevent his
seeing more--for the simple reason that, in a miraculous fashion, this
was exactly what he did do in glaring out the harder. It was beyond
explanation, but the very act of blinking thus in an attempt at showy
steadiness became one and the same thing with an optical excursion
lasting the millionth of a minute and making him aware that the edge of
a rug, at the point where an arm-chair, pushed a little out of position,
over-straddled it, happened just not wholly to have covered in something
small and queer, neat and bright, crooked and compact, in spite of the
strong toe-tip surreptitiously applied to giving it the right lift Our
gentleman, from where he hovered, and while looking straight at the
master of the scene, yet saw, as by the tiny flash of a reflection from
fine metal, _under_ the chair. What he recognised, or at least guessed
at, as sinister, made him for a moment turn cold, and that chill was on
him while Winch again addressed him--as differently as possible from any
manner yet used. “I beg of you in God’s name to talk to me--to _talk_ to
me!”

It had the ring of pure alarm and anguish, but was by this turn at least
more human than the dazzling glitter of intelligence to which the poor
man had up to now been treating him. “It’s you, my good friend, who are
in deep trouble,” Mark was accordingly quick to reply, “and I ask your
pardon for being so taken up with my own sorry business.”

“Of course I’m in deep trouble”--with which Winch came nearer again;
“but turning you on was exactly what I wanted.”

Mark Monteith, at this, couldn’t, for all his rising dismay, but
laugh out; his sense of the ridiculous so swallowed up, for that brief
convulsion, his sense of the sinister. Of such conivence in pain,
it seemed, was the fact of another’s pain, and of so much worth again
disinterested sympathy! “Your interest was then----?”

“My interest was in your being interesting. For you _are!_ And my
nerves--!” said Newton Winch with a face from which the mystifying
smile had vanished, yet in which distinction, as Mark so persistently
appreciated it, still sat in the midst of ravage.

Mark wondered and wondered--he made strange things out. “Your nerves
have needed company.” He could lay his hand on him now, even as shortly
before he had felt Winch’s own pressure of possession and detention. “As
good for you yourself, that--or still better,” he went on--“than I and
my grievance were to have found you. Talk to we, talk to we, Newton
Winch!” he added with an immense inspiration of charity.

“That’s a different matter--that others but too much can do! But I’ll
say this. If you want to go to Phil Bloodgood----!”

“Well?” said Mark as he stopped. He stopped, and Mark had now a hand on
each of his shoulders and held him at arm’s-length, held him with a fine
idea that was not disconnected from the sight of the small neat weapon
he had been fingering in the low luxurious morocco chair--it was of the
finest orange colour--and then had laid beside him on the carpet; where,
after he had admitted his visitor, his presence of mind coming back to
it and suggesting that he couldn’t pick it up without making it more
conspicuous, he had thought, by some swing of the foot or other casual
manoeuvre, to dissimulate its visibility.

They were at close quarters now as not before and Winch perfectly
passive, with eyes that somehow had no shadow of a secret left and with
the betrayal to the sentient hands that grasped him of an intense, an
extraordinary general tremor. To Mark’s challenge he opposed afresh a
brief silence, but the very quality of it, with his face speaking, was
that of a gaping wound. “Well, you needn’t take _that_ trouble. You see
I’m such another.”

“Such another as Phil-----?”

He didn’t blink. “I don’t know for sure, but I guess I’m worse.”

“Do you mean you’re guilty-----?”

“I mean I shall be wanted. Only I’ve stayed to take it.”

Mark threw back his head, but only tightened his hands. He inexpressibly
understood, and nothing in life had ever been so strange and dreadful to
him as his thus helping himself by a longer and straighter stretch,
as it were, to the monstrous sense of his friend’s “education.” It had
been, in its immeasurable action, the education of business, of which
the fruits were all around them. Yet prodigious was the interest, for
prodigious truly--it seemed to loom before Mark--must have been the
system. “To ‘take’ it?” he echoed; and then, though faltering a little,
“To take what?”

He had scarce spoken when a long sharp sound shrilled in from the outer
door, seeming of so high and peremptory a pitch that with the start it
gave him his grasp of his host’s shoulders relaxed an instant, though to
the effect of no movement in _them_ but what came from just a sensibly
intenser vibration of the whole man. “For _that_!” said Newton Winch.

“Then you’ve known-----?”

“I’ve expected. You’ve helped me to wait.” And then as Mark gave an
ironic wail: “You’ve tided me over. My condition has _wanted_ somebody
or something. Therefore, to complete this service, will you be so good
as to open the door?”

Deep in the eyes Mark looked him, and still to the detection of no
glimmer of the earlier man in the depths. The earlier man had been what
he invidiously remembered--yet would _he_ had been the whole simpler
story! Then he moved his own eyes straight to the chair under which
the revolver lay and which was but a couple of yards away. He felt his
companion take this consciousness in, and it determined in them another
long, mute exchange. “What do you mean to do?”

“Nothing.”

“On your honour?”

“_My_ ‘honour’?” his host returned with an accent that he felt even as
it sounded he should never forget.

It brought to his own face a crimson flush--he dropped his guarding
hands. Then as for a last look at him: “You’re wonderful!”

“We _are_ wonderful,” said Newton Winch, while, simultaneously with the
words, the pressed electric bell again and for a longer time pierced the
warm cigaretted air.

Mark turned, threw up his arms, and it was only when he had passed
through the vestibule and laid his hand on the door-knob that the
horrible noise dropped. The next moment he was face to face with two
visitors, a nondescript personage in a high hat and an astrakhan collar
and cuffs, and a great belted constable, a splendid massive New York
“officer” of the type he had had occasion to wonder at much again in the
course of his walk, the type so by itself--his wide observation quite
suggested--among those of the peacemakers of the earth. The pair stepped
straight in--no word was said; but as he closed the door behind them
Mark heard the infallible crack of a discharged pistol and, so nearly
with it as to make all one violence, the sound of a great fall; things
the effect of which was to lift him, as it were, with his company,
across the threshold of the room in a shorter time than that taken
by this record of the fact. But their rush availed little; Newton was
stretched on his back before the fire; he had held the weapon horribly
to his temple, and his upturned face was disfigured. The emissaries
of the law, looking down at him, exhaled simultaneously a gruff
imprecation, and then while the worthy in the high hat bent over the
subject of their visit the one in the helmet raised a severe pair of
eyes to Mark. “Don’t you think, sir, you might have prevented it?”

Mark took a hundred things in, it seemed to him--things of the scene,
of the moment, and of all the strange moments before; but one appearance
more vividly even than the others stared out at him. “I really think I
must practically have caused it.”



CRAPY CORNELIA



I

THREE times within a quarter of an hour--shifting the while his posture
on his chair of contemplation--had he looked at his watch as for its
final sharp hint that he should decide, that he should get up. His
seat was one of a group fairly sequestered, unoccupied save for his own
presence, and from where he lingered he looked off at a stretch of lawn
freshened by recent April showers and on which sundry small children
were at play. The trees, the shrubs, the plants, every stem and twig
just ruffled as by the first touch of the light finger of the relenting
year, struck him as standing still in the blest hope of more of the same
caress; the quarter about him held its breath after the fashion of the
child who waits with the rigour of an open mouth and shut eyes for the
promised sensible effect of his having been good. So, in the windless,
sun-warmed air of the beautiful afternoon, the Park of the winter’s
end had struck White-Mason as waiting; even New York, under such an
impression, was “good,” good enough--for _him_; its very sounds were
faint, were almost sweet, as they reached him from so seemingly far
beyond the wooded horizon that formed the remoter limit of his large
shallow glade. The tones of the frolic infants ceased to be nondescript
and harsh--were in fact almost as fresh and decent as the frilled and
puckered and ribboned garb of the little girls, which had always a
way, in those parts, of so portentously flaunting the daughters of the
strange native--that is of the overwhelmingly alien--populace at him.

Not that these things in particular were his matter of meditation
now; he had wanted, at the end of his walk, to sit apart a little and
think--and had been doing that for twenty minutes, even though as yet
to no break in the charm of procrastination. But he had looked without
seeing and listened without hearing: all that had been positive for
him was that he hadn’t failed vaguely to feel. He had felt in the first
place, and he continued to feel--yes, at forty-eight quite as much as at
any point of the supposed reign of younger intensities--the great spirit
of the air, the fine sense of the season, the supreme appeal of
Nature, he might have said, to his time of life; quite as if she, easy,
indulgent, indifferent, cynical Power, were offering him the last chance
it would rest with his wit or his blood to embrace. Then with that he
had been entertaining, to the point and with the prolonged consequence
of accepted immobilization, the certitude that if he did call on Mrs.
Worthingham and find her at home he couldn’t in justice to himself not
put to her the question that had lapsed the other time, the last time,
through the irritating and persistent, even if accidental, presence of
others. What friends she had--the people who so stupidly, so wantonly
stuck! If they _should_, he and she, come to an understanding, that
would presumably have to include certain members of her singularly
ill-composed circle, in whom it was incredible to him that he should
ever take an interest. This defeat, to do himself justice--he had bent
rather predominantly on _that_, you see; ideal justice to _her_, with
her possible conception of what it should consist of, being another and
quite a different matter--he had had the fact of the Sunday afternoon to
thank for; she didn’t “keep” that day for him, since they hadn’t, up to
now, quite begun to cultivate the appointment or assignation founded
on explicit sacrifices. He might at any rate look to find this pleasant
practical Wednesday--should he indeed, at his actual rate, stay it
before it ebbed--more liberally and intendingly given him.

The sound he at last most wittingly distinguished in his nook was the
single deep note of half-past five borne to him from some high-perched
public clock. He finally got up with the sense that the time from then
on _ought_ at least to be felt as sacred to him. At this juncture it
was--while he stood there shaking his garments, settling his hat, his
necktie, his shirt-cuffs, fixing the high polish of his fine shoes as
if for some reflection in it of his straight and spare and grizzled, his
refined and trimmed and dressed, his altogether distinguished person,
that of a gentleman abundantly settled, but of a bachelor markedly
nervous--at this crisis it was, doubtless, that he at once most measured
and least resented his predicament. If he should go he would almost to
a certainty find her, and if he should find her he would almost to a
certainty come to the point. He wouldn’t put it off again--there was
that high consideration for him of justice at least to himself. He
had never yet denied himself anything so apparently fraught with
possibilities as the idea of proposing to Mrs. Worthingham--never yet,
in other words, denied himself anything he had so distinctly wanted to
do; and the results of that wisdom had remained for him precisely the
precious parts of experience. Counting only the offers of his honourable
hand, these had been on three remembered occasions at least the
consequence of an impulse as sharp and a self-respect as reasoned;
a self-respect that hadn’t in the least suffered, moreover, from the
failure of each appeal. He had been met in the three cases--the only
ones he at all compared with his present case--by the frank confession
that he didn’t somehow, charming as he was, cause himself to be
superstitiously believed in; and the lapse of life, afterward, had
cleared up many doubts.

It _wouldn’t_ have done, he eventually, he lucidly saw, each time he had
been refused; and the candour of his nature was such that he could
live to think of these very passages as a proof of how right he had
been--right, that is, to have put himself forward always, by the
happiest instinct, only in impossible conditions. He had the happy
consciousness of having exposed the important question to the crucial
test, and of having escaped, by that persistent logic, a grave mistake.
What better proof of his escape than the fact that he was now free to
renew the all-interesting inquiry, and should be exactly, about to do
so in different and better conditions? The conditions were better by as
much more--as much more of his career and character, of his situation,
his reputation he could even have called it, of his knowledge of life,
of his somewhat extended means, of his possibly augmented charm, of
his certainly improved mind and temper--as was involved in the actual
impending settlement. Once he had got into motion, once he had crossed
the Park and passed out of it, entering, with very little space to
traverse, one of the short new streets that abutted on its east side,
his step became that of a man young enough to find confidence, quite to
find felicity, in the sense, in almost any sense, of action. He could
still enjoy almost anything, absolutely an unpleasant thing, in default
of a better, that might still remind him he wasn’t so old. The standing
newness of everything about him would, it was true, have weakened this
cheer by too much presuming on it; Mrs. Worthingham’s house, before
which he stopped, had that gloss of new money, that glare of a piece
fresh from the mint and ringing for the first time on any counter,
which seems to claim for it, in any transaction, something more than the
“face” value.

This could but be yet more the case for the impression of the observer
introduced and committed. On our friend’s part I mean, after his
admission and while still in the hall, the sense of the general shining
immediacy, of the still unhushed clamour of the shock, was perhaps
stronger than he had ever known it. That broke out from every corner as
the high pitch of interest, and with a candour that--no, certainly--he
had never seen equalled; every particular expensive object shrieking at
him in its artless pride that it had just “come home.” He met the whole
vision with something of the grimace produced on persons without goggles
by the passage from a shelter to a blinding light; and if he had--by a
perfectly possible chance--been “snap-shotted” on the spot, would
have struck you as showing for his first tribute to the temple of Mrs.
Worthingham’s charming presence a scowl almost of anguish. He wasn’t
constitutionally, it may at once be explained for him, a goggled
person; and he was condemned, in New York, to this frequent violence of
transition--having to reckon with it whenever he went out, as who should
say, from himself. The high pitch of interest, to his taste, was the
pitch of history, the pitch of acquired and earned suggestion, the
pitch of association, in a word; so that he lived by preference,
incontestably, if not in a rich gloom, which would have been beyond his
means and spirits, at least amid objects and images that confessed to
the tone of time.

He had ever felt that an indispensable presence--with a need of it
moreover that interfered at no point with his gentle habit, not to say
his subtle art, of drawing out what was left him of his youth, of
thinly and thriftily spreading the rest of that choicest jam-pot of the
cupboard of consciousness over the remainder of a slice of life still
possibly thick enough to bear it; or in other words of moving the
melancholy limits, the significant signs, constantly a little further
on, very much as property-marks or staked boundaries are sometimes
stealthily shifted at night. He positively cherished in fact, as against
the too inveterate gesture of distressfully guarding his eyeballs--so
many New York aspects seemed to keep him at it--an ideal of adjusted
appreciation, of courageous curiosity, of fairly letting the world
about him, a world of constant breathless renewals and merciless
substitutions, make its flaring assault on its own inordinate terms.
Newness was value in the piece--for the acquisitor, or at least
sometimes might be, even though the act of “blowing” hard, the act
marking a heated freshness of arrival, or other form of irruption, could
never minister to the peace of those already and long on the field; and
this if only because maturer tone was after all most appreciable
and most consoling when one staggered back to it, wounded, bleeding,
blinded, from the riot of the raw--or, to put the whole experience more
prettily, no doubt, from excesses of light.



II

If he went in, however, with something of his more or less inevitable
scowl, there were really, at the moment, two rather valid reasons for
screened observation; the first of these being that the whole place
seemed to reflect as never before the lustre of Mrs. Worthingham’s own
polished and prosperous little person--to smile, it struck him, with her
smile, to twinkle not only with the gleam of her lovely teeth, but with
that of all her rings and brooches and bangles and other gewgaws,
to curl and spasmodically cluster as in emulation of her charming
complicated yellow tresses, to surround the most animated of
pink-and-white, of ruffled and ribboned, of frilled and festooned
Dresden china shepherdesses with exactly the right system of rococo
curves and convolutions and other flourishes, a perfect bower of painted
and gilded and moulded conceits. The second ground of this immediate
impression of scenic extravagance, almost as if the curtain rose for him
to the first act of some small and expensively mounted comic opera,
was that she hadn’t, after all, awaited him in fond singleness, but
had again just a trifle inconsiderately exposed him to the drawback of
having to reckon, for whatever design he might amiably entertain, with
the presence of a third and quite superfluous person, a small black
insignificant but none the less oppressive stranger. It was odd how,
on the instant, the little lady engaged with her did affect him as
comparatively black--very much as if that had absolutely, in such a
medium, to be the graceless appearance of any item not positively of
some fresh shade of a light colour or of some pretty pretension to a
charming twist. Any witness of their meeting, his hostess should surely
have felt, would have been a false note in the whole rosy glow; but
what note so false as that of the dingy little presence that she might
actually, by a refinement of her perhaps always too visible study of
effect, have provided as a positive contrast or foil? whose name and
intervention, moreover, she appeared to be no more moved to mention and
account for than she might have been to “present”--whether as stretched
at her feet or erect upon disciplined haunches--some shaggy old
domesticated terrier or poodle.

Extraordinarily, after he had been in the room five minutes--a space of
time during which his fellow-visitor had neither budged nor uttered a
sound--he had made Mrs. Worthingham out as all at once perfectly pleased
to see him, completely aware of what he had most in mind, and singularly
serene in face of his sense of their impediment. It was as if for all
the world she didn’t take it for one, the immobility, to say nothing of
the seeming equanimity, of their tactless companion; at whom meanwhile
indeed our friend himself, after his first ruffled perception, no more
adventured a look than if advised by his constitutional kindness that
to notice her in any degree would perforce be ungraciously to glower.
He talked after a fashion with the woman as to whose power to please and
amuse and serve him, as to whose really quite organised and indicated
fitness for lighting up his autumn afternoon of life his conviction had
lately strained itself so clear; but he was all the while carrying on
an intenser exchange with his own spirit and trying to read into
the charming creature’s behaviour, as he could only call it, some
confirmation of his theory that she also had her inward flutter and
anxiously counted on him. He found support, happily for the conviction
just named, in the idea, at no moment as yet really repugnant to him,
the idea bound up in fact with the finer essence of her appeal, that she
had her own vision too of her quality and her price, and that the
last appearance she would have liked to bristle with was that of being
forewarned and eager.

He had, if he came to think of it, scarce definitely warned her, and he
probably wouldn’t have taken to her so consciously in the first instance
without an appreciative sense that, as she was a little person of twenty
superficial graces, so she was also a little person with her secret
pride. She might just have planted her mangy lion--not to say her
muzzled house-dog--there in his path as a symbol that she wasn’t cheap
and easy; which would be a thing he couldn’t possibly wish his future
wife to have shown herself in advance, even if to him alone. That she
could make him put himself such questions was precisely part of the
attaching play of her iridescent surface, the shimmering interfusion
of her various aspects; that of her youth with her independence--her
pecuniary perhaps in particular, that of her vivacity with her beauty,
that of her facility above all with her odd novelty; the high modernity,
as people appeared to have come to call it, that made her so much
more “knowing” in some directions than even he, man of the world as he
certainly was, could pretend to be, though all on a basis of the most
unconscious and instinctive and luxurious assumption. She was “up” to
everything, aware of everything--if one counted from a short enough time
back (from week before last, say, and as if quantities of history had
burst upon the world within the fortnight); she was likewise surprised
at nothing, and in that direction one might reckon as far ahead as the
rest of her lifetime, or at any rate as the rest of his, which was all
that would concern him: it was as if the suitability of the future
to her personal and rather pampered tastes was what she most took for
granted, so that he could see her, for all her Dresden-china shoes and
her flutter of wondrous befrilled contemporary skirts, skip by the side
of the coming age as over the floor of a ball-room, keeping step with
its monstrous stride and prepared for every figure of the dance. Her
outlook took form to him suddenly as a great square sunny window that
hung in assured fashion over the immensity of life. There rose toward it
as from a vast swarming _plaza_ a high tide of emotion and sound; yet it
was at the same time as if even while he looked her light gemmed hand,
flashing on him in addition to those other things the perfect polish of
the prettiest pink finger-nails in the world, had touched a spring, the
most ingenious of ecent devices for instant ease, which dropped half
across the scene a soft-coloured mechanical blind, a fluttered, fringed
awning of charmingly toned silk, such as would make a bath of cool shade
for the favoured friend leaning with her there--that is for the happy
couple itself--on the balcony. The great view would be the prospect and
privilege of the very state he coveted--since didn’t he covet it?--the
state of being so securely at her side; while the wash of privacy, as
one might count it, the broad fine brush dipped into clear umber and
passed, full and wet, straight across the strong scheme of colour, would
represent the security itself, all the uplifted inner elegance, the
condition, so ideal, of being shut out from nothing and yet of having,
so gaily and breezily aloft, none of the burden or worry of anything.
Thus, as I say, for our friend, the place itself, while his vivid
impression lasted, portentously opened and spread, and what was before
him took, to his vision, though indeed at so other a crisis, the form
of the “glimmering square” of the poet; yet, for a still more remarkable
fact, with an incongruous object usurping at a given instant the
privilege of the frame and seeming, even as he looked, to block the
view.

The incongruous object was a woman’s head, crowned with a little
sparsely feathered black hat, an ornament quite unlike those the women
mostly noticed by White-Mason were now “wearing,” and that grew and
grew, that came nearer and nearer, while it met his eyes, after the
manner of images in the kinematograph. It had presently loomed so large
that he saw nothing else--not only among the things at a considerable
distance, the things Mrs. Worthingham would eventually, yet
unmistakably, introduce him to, but among those of this lady’s various
attributes and appurtenances as to which he had been in the very act of
cultivating his consciousness. It was in the course of another minute
the most extraordinary thing in the world: everything had altered,
dropped, darkened, disappeared; his imagination had spread its wings
only to feel them flop all grotesquely at its sides as he recognised in
his hostess’s quiet companion, the oppressive alien who hadn’t indeed
interfered with his fanciful flight, though she had prevented his
immediate declaration and brought about the thud, not to say the felt
violent shock, of his fall to earth, the perfectly plain identity of
Cornelia Rasch. It was she who had remained there at attention; it was
she their companion hadn’t introduced; it was she he had forborne to
face with his fear of incivility. He stared at her--everything else
went.

“Why it has been _you_ all this time?”

Miss Rasch fairly turned pale. “I was waiting to see if you’d know me.”

“Ah, my dear Cornelia”--he came straight out with it--“rather!”

“Well, it isn’t,” she returned with a quick change to red now, “from
having taken much time to look at me!”

She smiled, she even laughed, but he could see how she had felt his
unconsciousness, poor thing; the acquaintance, quite the friend of his
youth, as she had been, the associate of his childhood, of his early
manhood, of his middle age in fact, up to a few years back, not more
than ten at the most; the associate too of so many of his associates and
of almost all of his relations, those of the other time, those who had
mainly gone for ever; the person in short whose noted disappearance,
though it might have seemed final, had been only of recent seasons. She
was present again now, all unexpectedly--he had heard of her having
at last, left alone after successive deaths and with scant resources,
sought economic salvation in Europe, the promised land of American
thrift--she was present as this almost ancient and this oddly
unassertive little rotund figure whom one seemed no more obliged to
address than if she had been a black satin ottoman “treated” with
buttons and gimp; a class of object as to which the policy of blindness
was imperative. He felt the need of some explanatory plea, and before he
could think had uttered one at Mrs. Worthingham’s expense. “Why, you see
we weren’t introduced----!”

“No--but I didn’t suppose I should have to be named to you.”

“Well, my dear woman, you haven’t--do me that justice!” He could at
least make this point. “I felt all the while--!” However, it would have
taken him long to say what he had been feeling; and he was aware now of
the pretty projected light of Mrs. Worthingham’s wonder. She looked as
if, out for a walk with her, he had put her to the inconvenience of his
stopping to speak to a strange woman in the street.

“I never supposed you knew her!”--it was to him his hostess excused
herself.

This made Miss Rasch spring up, distinctly flushed, distinctly strange
to behold, but not vulgarly nettled--Cornelia was incapable of that;
only rather funnily bridling and laughing, only showing that this was
all she had waited for, only saying just the right thing, the thing
she could make so clearly a jest. “Of course if you _had_ you’d have
presented him.”

Mrs. Worthingham looked while answering at White-Mason. “I didn’t want
you to go--which you see you do as soon as he speaks to you. But I never
dreamed----!”

“That there was anything between us? Ah, there are no end of things!”
 He, on his side, though addressing the younger and prettier woman,
looked at his fellow-guest; to whom he even continued: “When did you get
back? May I come and see you the very first thing?”

Cornelia gasped and wriggled--she practically giggled; she had
lost every atom of her little old, her little young, though always
unaccountable prettiness, which used to peep so, on the bare chance of
a shot, from behind indefensible features, that it almost made watching
her a form of sport. He had heard vaguely of her, it came back to
him (for there had been no letters; their later acquaintance, thank
goodness, hadn’t involved that) as experimenting, for economy, and then
as settling, to the same rather dismal end, somewhere in England, “at
one of those intensely English places, St. Leonards, Cheltenham, Bognor,
Dawlish--which, awfully, _was_ it?”--and she now affected him for all
the world as some small squirming, exclaiming, genteelly conversing old
maid of a type vaguely associated with the three-volume novels he used
to feed on (besides his so often encountering it in “real life,”) during
a far-away stay of his own at Brighton. Odder than any element of his
ex-gossip’s identity itself, however, was the fact that she somehow,
with it all, rejoiced his sight. Indeed the supreme oddity was that
the manner of her reply to his request for leave to call should have
absolutely charmed his attention. She didn’t look at him; she only, from
under her frumpy, crapy, curiously exotic hat, and with her good little
near-sighted insinuating glare, expressed to Mrs. Worthingham, while she
answered him, wonderful arch things, the overdone things of a shy woman.
“Yes, you may call--but only when this dear lovely lady has done with
you!” The moment after which she had gone.



III

Forty minutes later he was taking his way back from the queer
miscarriage of his adventure; taking it, with no conscious positive
felicity, through the very spaces that had witnessed shortly before the
considerable serenity of his assurance. He had said to himself then, or
had as good as said it, that, since he might do perfectly as he liked,
it couldn’t fail for him that he must soon retrace those steps, humming,
to all intents, the first bars of a wedding-march; so beautifully had it
cleared up that he was “going to like” letting Mrs. Worthingham accept
him. He was to have hummed no wedding-march, as it seemed to be turning
out--he had none, up to now, to hum; and yet, extraordinarily, it wasn’t
in the least because she had refused him. Why then hadn’t he liked as
much as he had intended to like it putting the pleasant act, the act of
not refusing him, in her power? Could it all have come from the awkward
minute of his failure to decide sharply, on Cornelia’s departure,
whether or no he would attend her to the door? He hadn’t decided at
all--what the deuce had been in him?--but had danced to and fro in the
room, thinking better of each impulse and then thinking worse. He had
hesitated like an ass erect on absurd hind legs between two bundles
of hay; the upshot of which must have been his giving the falsest
impression. In what way that was to be for an instant considered had
their common past committed him to crapy Cornelia? He repudiated with a
whack on the gravel any ghost of an obligation.

What he could get rid of with scanter success, unfortunately, was the
peculiar sharpness of his sense that, though mystified by his visible
flurry--and yet not mystified enough for a sympathetic question
either--his hostess had been, on the whole, even more frankly diverted:
which was precisely an example of that newest, freshest, finest freedom
in her, the air and the candour of assuming, not “heartlessly,” not
viciously, not even very consciously, but with a bright pampered
confidence which would probably end by affecting one’s nerves as the
most impertinent stroke in the world, that every blest thing coming up
for her in any connection was somehow matter for her general recreation.
There she was again with the innocent egotism, the gilded and
overflowing anarchism, really, of her doubtless quite unwitting but none
the less rabid modern note. Her grace of ease was perfect, but it was
all grace of ease, not a single shred of it grace of uncertainty or
of difficulty--which meant, when you came to see, that, for its happy
working, not a grain of provision was left by it to mere manners. This
was clearly going to be the music of the future--that if people were but
rich enough and furnished enough and fed enough, exercised and sanitated
and manicured and generally advised and advertised and made “knowing”
 enough, _avertis_ enough, as the term appeared to be nowadays in Paris,
all they had to do for civility was to take the amused ironic view of
those who might be less initiated. In _his_ time, when he was young or
even when he was only but a little less middle-aged, the best manners
had been the best kindness, and the best kindness had mostly been some
art of not insisting on one’s luxurious differences, of concealing
rather, for common humanity, if not for common decency, a part at least
of the intensity or the ferocity with which one might be “in the know.”

Oh, the “know”--Mrs. Worthingham was in it, all instinctively,
inevitably, and as a matter of course, up to her eyes; which didn’t,
however, the least little bit prevent her being as ignorant as a fish of
everything that really and intimately and fundamentally concerned _him_,
poor dear old White-Mason. She didn’t, in the first place, so much as
know who he was--by which he meant know who and what it was to _be_
a White-Mason, even a poor and a dear and old one, “anyway.” That
indeed--he did her perfect justice--was of the very essence of the
newness and freshness and beautiful, brave, social irresponsibility by
which she had originally dazzled him: just exactly that circumstance of
her having no instinct for any old quality or quantity or identity, a
single historic or social value, as he might say, of the New York of his
already almost legendary past; and that additional one of his, on his
side, having, so far as this went, cultivated blankness, cultivated
positive prudence, as to her own personal background--the vagueness,
at the best, with which all honest gentlefolk, the New Yorkers of his
approved stock and conservative generation, were content, as for the
most part they were indubitably wise, to surround the origins and
antecedents and queer unimaginable early influences of persons swimming
into their ken from those parts of the country that quite necessarily
and naturally figured to their view as “Godforsaken” and generally
impossible.

The few scattered surviving representatives of a society once
“good”--_rari nantes in gurgite vasto_--were liable, at the pass things
had come to, to meet, and even amid old shades once sacred, or what was
left of such, every form of social impossibility, and, more irresistibly
still, to find these apparitions often carry themselves (often at
least in the case of the women) with a wondrous wild gallantry, equally
imperturbable and inimitable, the sort of thing that reached its maximum
in Mrs. Worthingham. Beyond that who ever wanted to look up their
annals, to reconstruct their steps and stages, to dot their i’s in fine,
or to “go behind” anything that was theirs? One wouldn’t do that for
the world--a rudimentary discretion forbade it; and yet this check from
elementary undiscussable taste quite consorted with a due respect for
them, or at any rate with a due respect for oneself in connection with
them; as was just exemplified in what would be his own, what would be
poor dear old White-Mason’s, insurmountable aversion to having, on any
pretext, the doubtless very queer spectre of the late Mr. Worthingham
presented to him. No question had he asked, or would he ever ask, should
his life--that is should the success of his courtship--even intimately
depend on it, either about that obscure agent of his mistress’s actual
affluence or about the happy head-spring itself, and the apparently
copious tributaries, of the golden stream.

From all which marked anomalies, at any rate, what was the moral to
draw? He dropped into a Park chair again with that question, he lost
himself in the wonder of why he had come away with his homage so very
much unpaid. Yet it didn’t seem at all, actually, as if he could say
or conclude, as if he could do anything but keep on worrying--just in
conformity with his being a person who, whether or no familiar with the
need to make his conduct square with his conscience and his taste, was
never wholly exempt from that of making his taste and his conscience
square with his conduct. To this latter occupation he further abandoned
himself, and it didn’t release him from his second brooding session
till the sweet spring sunset had begun to gather and he had more or less
cleared up, in the deepening dusk, the effective relation between the
various parts of his ridiculously agitating experience. There were vital
facts he seemed thus to catch, to seize, with a nervous hand, and the
twilight helping, by their vaguely whisked tails; unquiet truths that
swarmed out after the fashion of creatures bold only at eventide,
creatures that hovered and circled, that verily brushed his nose, in
spite of their shyness. Yes, he had practically just sat on with his
“mistress”--heaven save the mark!--as if not to come to the point; as
if it had absolutely come up that there would be something rather vulgar
and awful in doing so. The whole stretch of his stay after Cornelia’s
withdrawal had been consumed by his almost ostentatiously treating
himself to the opportunity of which he was to make nothing. It was as
if he had sat and watched himself--that came back to him: Shall I now or
sha’n’t I? Will I now or won’t I? “Say within the next three minutes,
say by a quarter past six, or by twenty minutes past, at the
furthest--always if nothing more comes up to prevent.”

What had already come up to prevent was, in the strangest and drollest,
or at least in the most preposterous, way in the world, that not
Cornelia’s presence, but her very absence, with its distraction of his
thoughts, the thoughts that lumbered after her, had made the difference;
and without his being the least able to tell why and how. He put it
to himself after a fashion by the image that, this distraction once
created, his working round to his hostess again, his reverting to the
matter of his errand, began suddenly to represent a return from so far.
That was simply all--or rather a little less than all; for something
else had contributed. “I never dreamed you knew her,” and “I never
dreamed _you_ did,” were inevitably what had been exchanged between
them--supplemented by Mrs. Worthingham’s mere scrap of an explanation:
“Oh yes--to the small extent you see. Two years ago in Switzerland
when I was at a high place for an ‘aftercure,’ during twenty days of
incessant rain, she was the only person in an hotel full of roaring,
gorging, smoking Germans with whom I could have a word of talk. She
and I were the only speakers of English, and were thrown together like
castaways on a desert island and in a raging storm. She was ill besides,
and she had no maid, and mine looked after her, and she was very
grateful--writing to me later on and saying she should certainly come to
see me if she ever returned to New York. She has returned, you see--and
there she was, poor little creature!” Such was Mrs. Worthingham’s
tribute--to which even his asking her if Miss Rasch had ever happened
to speak of him caused her practically to add nothing. Visibly she had
never thought again of any one Miss Rasch had spoken of or anything Miss
Rasch had said; right as she was, naturally, about her being a
little clever queer creature. This was perfectly true, and yet it
was probably--by being _all_ she could dream of about her--what had
paralysed his proper gallantry. Its effect had been not in what it
simply stated, but in what, under his secretly disintegrating criticism,
it almost luridly symbolised.

He had quitted his seat in the Louis Quinze drawing-room without having,
as he would have described it, done anything but give the lady of the
scene a superior chance not to betray a defeated hope--not, that is,
to fail of the famous “pride” mostly supposed to prop even the most
infatuated women at such junctures; by which chance, to do her justice,
she had thoroughly seemed to profit. But he finally rose from his later
station with a feeling of better success. He had by a happy turn of his
hand got hold of the most precious, the least obscure of the flitting,
circling things that brushed his ears. What he wanted--as justifying for
him a little further consideration--was there before him from the moment
he could put it that Mrs. Worthingham had no data. He almost hugged that
word,--it suddenly came to mean so much to him. No data, he felt, for a
conception of the sort of thing the New York of “his time” had been in
his personal life--the New York so unexpectedly, so vividly and, as he
might say, so perversely called back to all his senses by its identity
with that of poor Cornelia’s time: since even she had had a time, small
show as it was likely to make now, and his time and hers had been the
same. Cornelia figured to him while he walked away as, by contrast and
opposition, a massive little bundle of data; his impatience to go to see
her sharpened as he thought of this: so certainly should he find out
that wherever he might touch her, with a gentle though firm pressure, he
would, as the fond visitor of old houses taps and fingers a disfeatured,
overpapered wall with the conviction of a wainscot-edge beneath,
recognise some small extrusion of history.



IV

There would have been a wonder for us meanwhile in his continued use, as
it were, of his happy formula--brought out to Cornelia Rasch within ten
minutes, or perhaps only within twenty, of his having settled into the
quite comfortable chair that, two days later, she indicated to him by
her fireside. He had arrived at her address through the fortunate chance
of his having noticed her card, as he went out, deposited, in the good
old New York fashion, on one of the rococo tables of Mrs. Worthingham’s
hall. His eye had been caught by the pencilled indication that was to
affect him, the next instant, as fairly placed there for his sake. This
had really been his luck, for he shouldn’t have liked to write to Mrs.
Worthingham for guidance--_that_ he felt, though too impatient just
now to analyze the reluctance. There was nobody else he could have
approached for a clue, and with this reflection he was already aware
of how it testified to their rare little position, his and
Cornelia’s--position as conscious, ironic, pathetic survivors together
of a dead and buried society--that there would have been, in all the
town, under such stress, not a member of their old circle left to turn
to. Mrs. Worthingham had practically, even if accidentally, helped him
to knowledge; the last nail in the coffin of the poor dear extinct
past had been planted for him by his having thus to reach his antique
contemporary through perforation of the newest newness. The note of this
particular recognition was in fact the more prescribed to him that
the ground of Cornelia’s return to a scene swept so bare of the
associational charm was certainly inconspicuous. What had she then come
back for?--he had asked himself that; with the effect of deciding that
it probably would have been, a little, to “look after” her remnant of
property. Perhaps she had come to save what little might still remain of
that shrivelled interest; perhaps she had been, by those who took care
of it for her, further swindled and despoiled, so that she wished to
get at the facts. Perhaps on the other hand--it was a more cheerful
chance--her investments, decently administered, were making larger
returns, so that the rigorous thrift of Bognor could be finally relaxed.

He had little to learn about the attraction of Europe, and rather
expected that in the event of his union with Mrs Worthingham he should
find himself pleading for it with the competence of one more in the
“know” about Paris and Rome, about Venice and Florence, than even she
could be. He could have lived on in _his_ New York, that is in the
sentimental, the spiritual, the more or less romantic visitation of it;
but had it been positive for him that he could live on in hers?--unless
indeed the possibility of this had been just (like the famous _vertige
de l’abîme_, like the solicitation of danger, or otherwise of the
dreadful) the very hinge of his whole dream. However that might be,
his curiosity was occupied rather with the conceivable hinge of poor
Cornelia’s: it was perhaps thinkable that even Mrs. Worthingham’s New
York, once it should have become possible again at all, might have
put forth to this lone exile a plea that wouldn’t be in the chords of
Bognor. For himself, after all, too, the attraction had been much
more of the Europe over which one might move at one’s ease, and which
therefore could but cost, and cost much, right and left, than of the
Europe adapted to scrimping. He saw himself on the whole scrimping with
more zest even in Mrs. Worthingham’s New York than under the inspiration
of Bognor. Apart from which it was yet again odd, not to say perceptibly
pleasing to him, to note where the emphasis of his interest fell in this
fumble of fancy over such felt oppositions as the new, the latest, the
luridest power of money and the ancient reserves and moderations and
mediocrities. These last struck him as showing by contrast the old brown
surface and tone as of velvet rubbed and worn, shabby, and even a bit
dingy, but all soft and subtle and still velvety--which meant still
dignified; whereas the angular facts of current finance were as harsh
and metallic and bewildering as some stacked “exhibit” of ugly patented
inventions, things his mediaeval mind forbade his taking in. He had
for instance the sense of knowing the pleasant little old Rasch
fortune--pleasant as far as it went; blurred memories and impressions
of what it had been and what it hadn’t, of how it had grown and how
languished and how melted; they came back to him and put on such
vividness that he could almost have figured himself testify for them
before a bland and encouraging Board. The idea of taking the field in
any manner on the subject of Mrs. Worthingham’s resources would have
affected him on the other hand as an odious ordeal, some glare of
embarrassment and exposure in a circle of hard unhelpful attention, of
converging, derisive, unsuggestive eyes.

In Cornelia’s small and quite cynically modern flat--the house had
a grotesque name, “The Gainsborough,” but at least wasn’t an awful
boarding-house, as he had feared, and she could receive him quite
honourably, which was so much to the good--he would have been ready to
use at once to her the greatest freedom of friendly allusion: “Have
you still your old ‘family interest’ in those two houses in Seventh
Avenue?--one of which was next to a corner grocery, don’t you know? and
was occupied as to its lower part by a candy-shop where the proportion
of the stock of suspectedly stale popcorn to that of rarer and stickier
joys betrayed perhaps a modest capital on the part of your father’s,
your grandfather’s, or whoever’s tenant, but out of which I nevertheless
remember once to have come as out of a bath of sweets, with my very
garments, and even the separate hairs of my head, glued together.
The other of the pair, a tobacconist’s, further down, had before it a
wonderful huge Indian who thrust out wooden cigars at an indifferent
world--you could buy candy cigars too, at the pop-corn shop, and I
greatly preferred them to the wooden; I remember well how I used to gape
in fascination at the Indian and wonder if the last of the Mohicans was
like him; besides admiring so the resources of a family whose ‘property’
was in such forms. I haven’t been round there lately--we must go round
together; but don’t tell me the forms have utterly perished!” It was
after _that_ fashion he might easily have been moved, and with almost
no transition, to break out to Cornelia--quite as if taking up some old
talk, some old community of gossip, just where they had left it; even
with the consciousness perhaps of overdoing a little, of putting at its
maximum, for the present harmony, recovery, recapture (what should he
call it?) the pitch and quantity of what the past had held for them.

He didn’t in fact, no doubt, dart straight off to Seventh Avenue, there
being too many other old things and much nearer and long subsequent;
the point was only that for everything they spoke of after he had fairly
begun to lean back and stretch his legs, and after she had let him,
above all, light the first of a succession of cigarettes--for everything
they spoke of he positively cultivated extravagance and excess, piling
up the crackling twigs as on the very altar of memory; and that by the
end of half an hour she had lent herself, all gallantly, to their game.
It was the game of feeding the beautiful iridescent flame, ruddy and
green and gold, blue and pink and amber and silver, with anything they
could pick up, anything that would burn and flicker. Thick-strown with
such gleanings the occasion seemed indeed, in spite of the truth that
they perhaps wouldn’t have proved, under cross-examination, to have
rubbed shoulders in the other life so very hard. Casual contacts,
qualified communities enough, there had doubtless been, but not
particular “passages,” nothing that counted, as he might think of it,
for their “very own” together, for nobody’s else at all. These shades of
historic exactitude didn’t signify; the more and the less that there
had been made perfect terms--and just by his being there and by her
rejoicing in it--with their present need to have _had_ all their past
could be made to appear to have given them. It was to this tune they
proceeded, the least little bit as if they knowingly pretended--he
giving her the example and setting her the pace of it, and she, poor
dear, after a first inevitable shyness, an uncertainty of wonder, a
breathlessness of courage, falling into step and going whatever length
he would.

She showed herself ready for it, grasping gladly at the perception of
what he must mean; and if she didn’t immediately and completely fall
in--not in the first half-hour, not even in the three or four others
that his visit, even whenever he consulted his watch, still made nothing
of--she yet understood enough as soon as she understood that, if their
finer economy hadn’t so beautifully served, he might have been conveying
this, that, and the other incoherent and easy thing by the comparatively
clumsy method of sound and statement. “No, I never made love to you; it
would in fact have been absurd, and I don’t care--though I almost know,
in the sense of almost remembering!--who did and who didn’t; but you
were always about, and so was I, and, little as you may yourself care
who I did it to, I dare say you remember (in the sense of having known
of it!) any old appearances that told. But we can’t afford at this time
of day not to help each other to have had--well, everything there was,
since there’s no more of it now, nor any way of coming by it except so;
and therefore let us make together, let us make over and recreate, our
lost world; for which we have after all and at the worst such a lot
of material. You were in particular my poor dear sisters’ friend--they
thought you the funniest little brown thing possible; so isn’t that
again to the good? You were mine only to the extent that you were so
much in and out of the house--as how much, if we come to that, wasn’t
one in and out, south of Thirtieth Street and north of Washington
Square, in those days, those spacious, sociable, Arcadian days, that we
flattered ourselves we filled with the modern fever, but that were so
different from any of these arrangements of pretended hourly Time
that dash themselves forever to pieces as from the fiftieth floors of
sky-scrapers.”

This was the kind of thing that was in the air, whether he said it or
not, and that could hang there even with such quite other things as
more crudely came out; came in spite of its being perhaps calculated to
strike us that these last would have been rather and most the unspoken
and the indirect. They were Cornelia’s contribution, and as soon as she
had begun to talk of Mrs. Worthingham--_he_ didn’t begin it!--they had
taken their place bravely in the centre of the circle. There they made,
the while, their considerable little figure, but all within the ring
formed by fifty other allusions, fitful but really intenser irruptions
that hovered and wavered and came and went, joining hands at moments
and whirling round as in chorus, only then again to dash at the slightly
huddled centre with a free twitch or peck or push or other taken
liberty, after the fashion of irregular frolic motions in a country
dance or a Christmas game.

“You’re so in love with her and want to marry her!”--she said it all
sympathetically and yearningly, poor crapy Cornelia; as if it were to be
quite taken for granted that she knew all about it. And then when he had
asked how she knew--why she took so informed a tone about it; all on
the wonder of her seeming so much more “in” it just at that hour than
he himself quite felt he could figure for: “Ah, how but from the dear
lovely thing herself? Don’t you suppose _she_ knows it?”

“Oh, she absolutely ‘knows’ it, does she?”--he fairly heard himself ask
that; and with the oddest sense at once of sharply wanting the certitude
and yet of seeing the question, of hearing himself say the words,
through several thicknesses of some wrong medium. He came back to it
from a distance; as he would have had to come back (this was again vivid
to him) should he have got round again to his ripe intention three days
before--after his now present but then absent friend, that is, had left
him planted before his now absent but then present one for the purpose.
“Do you mean she--at all confidently!--expects?” he went on, not much
minding if it couldn’t but sound foolish; the time being given it for
him meanwhile by the sigh, the wondering gasp, all charged with the
unutterable, that the tone of his appeal set in motion. He saw his
companion look at him, but it might have been with the eyes of thirty
years ago; when--very likely.--he had put her some such question about
some girl long since dead. Dimly at first, then more distinctly, didn’t
it surge back on him for the very strangeness that there had been some
such passage as this between them--yes, about Mary Cardew!--in the
autumn of ‘68?

“Why, don’t you realise your situation?” Miss Rasch struck him as quite
beautifully wailing--above all to such an effect of deep interest, that
is, on her own part and in him.

“My situation?”--he echoed, he considered; but reminded afresh, by
the note of the detached, the far-projected in it, of what he had
last remembered of his sentient state on his once taking ether at the
dentist’s.

“Yours and hers--the situation of her adoring you. I suppose you at
least know it,” Cornelia smiled.

Yes, it was like the other time and yet it wasn’t. She was like--poor
Cornelia was--everything that used to be; that somehow was most definite
to him. Still he could quite reply “Do you call it--her adoring me--_my_
situation?”

“Well, it’s a part of yours, surely--if you’re in love with her.”

“Am I, ridiculous old person! in love with her?” White-Mason asked.

“I may be a ridiculous old person,” Cornelia returned--“and, for that
matter, of course I am! But she’s young and lovely and rich and clever:
so what could be more natural?”

“Oh, I was applying that opprobrious epithet--!” He didn’t finish,
though he meant he had applied it to himself. He had got up from his
seat; he turned about and, taking in, as his eyes also roamed, several
objects in the room, serene and sturdy, not a bit cheap-looking, little
old New York objects of ‘68, he made, with an inner art, as if to
recognise them--made so, that is, for himself; had quite the sense for
the moment of asking them, of imploring them, to recognise _him_, to be
for him things of his own past. Which they truly were, he could have
the next instant cried out; for it meant that if three or four of
them, small sallow carte-de-visite photographs, faithfully framed but
spectrally faded, hadn’t in every particular, frames and balloon skirts
and false “property” balustrades of unimaginable terraces and all,
the tone of time, the secret for warding and easing off the perpetual
imminent ache of one’s protective scowl, one would verily but have to
let the scowl stiffen, or to take up seriously the question of blue
goggles, during what might remain of life.



V

What he actually took up from a little old Twelfth-Street table that
piously preserved the plain mahogany circle, with never a curl nor a
crook nor a hint of a brazen flourish, what he paused there a moment for
commerce with, his back presented to crapy Cornelia, who sat taking that
view of him, during this opportunity, very protrusively and frankly and
fondly, was one of the wasted mementos just mentioned, over which he
both uttered and suppressed a small comprehensive cry. He stood there
another minute to look at it, and when he turned about still kept it in
his hand, only holding it now a litde behind him. “You _must_ have come
back to stay--with all your beautiful things. What else does it mean?”

“‘Beautiful’?” his old friend commented with her brow all wrinkled and
her lips thrust out in expressive dispraise. They might at that rate
have been scarce more beautiful than she herself. “Oh, don’t talk
so--after Mrs. Worthingham’s! _They’re_ wonderful, if you will: such
things, such things! But one’s own poor relics and odds and ends are
one’s own at least; and one _has_--yes--come back to them. They’re all
I have in the world to come back to. They were stored, and what I was
paying--!” Miss Rasch wofully added.

He had possession of the small old picture; he hovered there; he put his
eyes again to it intently; then again held it a little behind him as if
it might have been snatched away or the very feel of it, pressed against
him, was good to his palm. “Mrs. Worthingham’s things? You think them
beautiful?”

Cornelia did now, if ever, show an odd face. “Why certainly prodigious,
or whatever. Isn’t that conceded?”

“No doubt every horror, at the pass we’ve come to, is conceded. That’s
just what I complain of.”

“Do you _complain?_”--she drew it out as for surprise: she couldn’t have
imagined such a thing.

“To me her things are awful. They’re the newest of the new.”

“Ah, but the old forms!”

“Those are the most blatant. I mean the swaggering reproductions.”

“Oh but,” she pleaded, “we can’t all be _really_ old.”

“No, we can’t, Cornelia. But _you_ can--!” said White-Mason with the
frankest appreciation.

She looked up at him from where she sat as he could imagine her
looking up at the curate at Bognor. “Thank you, sir! If that’s all you
want----!”

“It _is_” he said, “all I want--or almost.”

“Then no wonder such a creature as that,” she lightly moralised, “won’t
suit you!”

He bent upon her, for all the weight of his question, his smoothest
stare. “You hold she certainly won’t suit me?”

“Why, what can I tell about it? Haven’t you by this time found out?”

“No, but I think I’m finding.” With which he began again to explore.

Miss Rasch immensely wondered. “You mean you don’t expect to come to an
understanding with her?” And then as even to this straight challenge he
made at first no answer: “Do you mean you give it up?”

He waited some instants more, but not meeting her eyes--only looking
again about the room. “What do you think of my chance?”

“Oh,” his companion cried, “what has what I think to do with it? How can
I think anything but that she must like you?”

“Yes--of course. But how much?”

“Then don’t you really know?” Cornelia asked.

He kept up his walk, oddly preoccupied and still not looking at her. “Do
you, my dear?”

She waited a little. “If you haven’t really put it to her I don’t
suppose she knows.”

This at last arrested him again. “My dear Cornelia, she doesn’t
know----!”

He had paused as for the desperate tone, or at least the large emphasis
of it, so that she took him up. “The more reason then to help her to
find it out.”

“I mean,” he explained, “that she doesn’t know anything.”

“Anything?”

“Anything else, I mean--even if she does know _that_.”

Cornelia considered of it. “But what else need she--in particular--know?
Isn’t that the principal thing?”

“Well”--and he resumed his circuit--“she doesn’t know anything that we
know. But nothing,” he re-emphasised--“nothing whatever!”

“Well, can’t she do without that?”

“Evidently she can--and evidently she does, beautifully. But the
question is whether _I_ can!”

He had paused once more with his point--but she glared, poor Cornelia,
with her wonder. “Surely if you know for yourself----!”

“Ah, it doesn’t seem enough for me to know for myself! One wants a
woman,” he argued--but still, in his prolonged tour, quite without his
scowl--“to know _for_ one, to know _with_ one. That’s what you do now,”
 he candidly put to her.

It made her again gape. “Do you mean you want to marry _me?_”

He was so full of what he did mean, however, that he failed even to
notice it. “She doesn’t in the least know, for instance, how old I am.”

“That’s because you’re so young!”

“Ah, there you are!”--and he turned off afresh and as if almost in
disgust. It left her visibly perplexed--though even the perplexed
Cornelia was still the exceedingly pointed; but he had come to her aid
after another turn. “Remember, please, that I’m pretty well as old as
you.”

She had all her point at least, while she bridled and blinked, for this.
“You’re exactly a year and ten months older.”

It checked him there for delight. “You remember my birthday?”

She twinkled indeed like some far-off light of home. “I remember every
one’s. It’s a little way I’ve always had--and that I’ve never lost.”

He looked at her accomplishment, across the room, as at some striking,
some charming phenomenon. “Well, _that’s_ the sort of thing I want!” All
the ripe candour of his eyes confirmed it.

What could she do therefore, she seemed to ask him, but repeat her
question of a moment before?--which indeed presently she made up her
mind to. “Do you want to marry _me?_”

It had this time better success--if the term may be felt in any degree
to apply. All his candour, or more of it at least, was in his slow,
mild, kind, considering head-shake. “No, Cornelia--not to _marry_ you.”

His discrimination was a wonder; but since she was clearly treating him
now as if everything about him was, so she could as exquisitely meet it.
“Not at least,” she convulsively smiled, “until you’ve honourably tried
Mrs. Worthingham. Don’t you really _mean_ to?” she gallantly insisted.

He waited again a little; then he brought out: “I’ll tell you
presently.” He came back, and as by still another mere glance over
the room, to what seemed to him so much nearer. “That table was old
Twelfth-Street?”

“Everything here was.”

“Oh, the pure blessings! With you, ah, with you, I haven’t to wear a
green shade.” And he had retained meanwhile his small photograph, which
he again showed himself. “Didn’t we talk of Mary Cardew?”

“Why, do you remember it?” She marvelled to extravagance.

“You make me. You connect me with it. You connect it with we.” He liked
to display to her this excellent use she thus had, the service she
rendered. “There are so many connections--there will be so many. I
feel how, with you, they must all come up again for me: in fact you’re
bringing them out already, just while I look at you, as fast as ever you
can. The fact that you knew every one--!” he went on; yet as if there
were more in that too than he could quite trust himself about.

“Yes, I knew every one,” said Cornelia Rasch; but this time with perfect
simplicity. “I knew, I imagine, more than you do--or more than you did.”

It kept him there, it made him wonder with his eyes on her. “Things
about _them_--our people?”

“Our people. Ours only now.”

Ah, such an interest as he felt in this--taking from her while, so far
from scowling, he almost gaped, all it might mean! “Ours indeed--and it’s
awfully good they are; or that we’re still here for them! Nobody else
is--nobody but you: not a cat!”

“Well, I _am_ a cat!” Cornelia grinned.

“Do you mean you can tell me things--?” It was too beautiful to believe.

“About what really _was?_” she artfully considered, holding him
immensely now. “Well, unless they’ve come to you with time; unless
you’ve learned--or found out.”

“Oh,” he reassuringly cried--reassuringly, it most seemed, for
himself--“nothing has come to me with time, everything has gone from me.
How can I find out now! What creature has an idea----?”

She threw up her hands with the shrug of old days--the sharp little
shrug his sisters used to imitate and that she hadn’t had to go to
Europe for. The only thing was that he blessed her for bringing it back.

“Ah, the ideas of people now----!”

“Yes, their ideas are certainly not about us” But he ruefully faced it.
“We’ve none the less, however, to live with them.”

“With their ideas--?” Cornelia questioned.

“With _them_--these modern wonders; such as they are!” Then he went on:
“It must have been to help me you’ve come back.”

She said nothing for an instant about that, only nodding instead at his
photograph. “What has become of yours? I mean of _her_.”

This time it made him turn pale. “You remember I _have_ one?”

She kept her eyes on him. “In a ‘pork-pie’ hat, with her hair in a long
net. That was so ‘smart’ then; especially with one’s skirt looped up,
over one’s hooped magenta petticoat, in little festoons, and a row of
very big onyx beads over one’s braided velveteen sack--braided quite
plain and very broad, don’t you know?”

He smiled for her extraordinary possession of these things--she was as
prompt as if she had had them before her. “Oh, rather--‘don’t I know?’
You wore brown velveteen, and, on those remarkably small hands, funny
gauntlets--like mine.”

“Oh, do _you_ remember? But like yours?” she wondered.

“I mean like hers in my photograph.” But he came back to the present
picture. “This is better, however, for really showing her lovely head.”

“Mary’s head was a perfection!” Cornelia testified.

“Yes--it was better than her heart.”

“Ah, don’t say that!” she pleaded. “You weren’t fair.”

“Don’t you think I was fair?” It interested him immensely--and the more
that he indeed mightn’t have been; which he seemed somehow almost to
hope.

“She didn’t think so--to the very end.”

“She didn’t?”--ah the right things Cornelia said to him! But before she
could answer he was studying again closely the small faded face. “No,
she doesn’t, she doesn’t. Oh, her charming sad eyes and the way they say
that, across the years, straight into mine! But I don’t know, I don’t
know!” White-Mason quite comfortably sighed.

His companion appeared to appreciate this effect. “That’s just the way
you used to flirt with her, poor thing. Wouldn’t you like to have it?”
 she asked.

“This--for my very own?” He looked up delighted. “I really may?”

“Well, if you’ll give me yours. We’ll exchange.”

“That’s a charming idea. We’ll exchange. But you must come and get it at
my rooms--where you’ll see my things.”

For a little she made no answer--as if for some feeling. Then she said:
“You asked me just now why I’ve come back.”

He stared as for the connection; after which with a smile: “Not to do
_that_----?”

She waited briefly again, but with a queer little look. “I can do those
things now; and--yes!--that’s in a manner why. I came,” she then said,
“because I knew of a sudden one day--knew as never before--that I was
old.”

“I see. I see.” He quite understood--she had notes that so struck him.
“And how did you like it?”

She hesitated--she decided. “Well, if I liked it, it was on the
principle perhaps on which some people like high game!”

“High game--that’s good!” he laughed. “Ah, my dear, we’re ‘high’!”

She shook her head. “No, not you--yet. I at any rate didn’t want any
more adventures,” Cornelia said.

He showed their small relic again with assurance. “You wanted _us_. Then
here we are. Oh how we can talk!--with all those things you know! You
are an invention. And you’ll see there are things J know. I shall turn
up here--well, daily.”

She took it in, but only after a moment answered. “There was something
you said just now you’d tell me. Don’t you mean to try----?”

“Mrs. Worthingham?” He drew from within his coat his pocket-book and
carefully found a place in it for Mary Cardew’s carte-de-visite, folding
it together with deliberation over which he put it back. Finally he
spoke. “No--I’ve decided. I can’t--I don’t want to.”

Cornelia marvelled--or looked as if she did. “Not for all she has?”

“Yes--I know all she has. But I also know all she hasn’t. And, as I told
you, she herself doesn’t--hasn’t a glimmer of a suspicion of it; and
never will have.”

Cornelia magnanimously thought “No--but she knows other things.”

He shook his head as at the portentous heap of them. “Too many--too
many. And other indeed--_so_ other! Do you know,” he went on, “that it’s
as if _you_--by turning up for me--had brought that home to me?”

“‘For you,’” she candidly considered. “But what--since you can’t marry
me!--can you do with me?”

Well, he seemed to have it all. “Everything. I can live with you--just
this way.” To illustrate which he dropped into the other chair by her
fire; where, leaning back, he gazed at the flame. “I can’t give you
up. It’s very curious. It has come over me as it did over you when you
renounced Bognor. That’s it--I know it at last, and I see one can like
it. I’m ‘high.’ You needn’t deny it. That’s my taste. I’m old.” And in
spite of the considerable glow there of her little household altar he
said it without the scowl.



THE BENCH OF DESOLATION



I

SHE had practically, he believed, conveyed the intimation, the
horrid, brutal, vulgar menace, in the course of their last
dreadful conversation, when, for whatever was left him of pluck or
confidence--confidence in what he would fain have called a little more
aggressively the strength of his position--he had judged best not to
take it up. But this time there was no question of not understanding, or
of pretending he didn’t; the ugly, the awful words, ruthlessly formed
by her lips, were like the fingers of a hand that she might have thrust
into her pocket for extraction of the monstrous object that would serve
best for--what should he call it?--a gage of battle.

“If I haven’t a very different answer from you within the next three
days I shall put the matter into the hands of my solicitor, whom it
may interest you to know I’ve already seen. I shall bring an action for
‘breach’ against you, Herbert Dodd, as sure as my name’s Kate Cookham.”

There it was, straight and strong--yet he felt he could say for himself,
when once it had come, or even, already, just as it was coming, that it
turned on, as if she had moved an electric switch, the very brightest
light of his own very reasons. There _she_ was, in all the grossness
of her native indelicacy, in all her essential excess of will and
destitution of scruple; and it was the woman capable of that ignoble
threat who, his sharper sense of her quality having become so quite
deterrent, was now making for him a crime of it that he shouldn’t wish
to tie himself to her for life. The vivid, lurid thing was the reality,
all unmistakable, of her purpose; she had thought her case well out;
had measured its odious, specious presentability; had taken, he might
be sure, the very best advice obtainable at Properley, where there
was always a first-rate promptitude of everything fourth-rate; it was
disgustingly certain, in short, that she’d proceed. She was sharp
and adroit, moreover--distinctly in certain ways a master-hand; how
otherwise, with her so limited mere attractiveness, should she have
entangled him? He couldn’t shut his eyes to the very probable truth that
if she should try it she’d pull it off. She _knew_ she would--precisely;
and her assurance was thus the very proof of her cruelty. That she
had pretended she loved him was comparatively nothing; other women had
pretended it, and other women too had really done it; but that she had
pretended he could possibly have been right and safe and blest in
loving _her_, a creature of the kind who could sniff that squalor of the
law-court, of claimed damages and brazen lies and published kisses,
of love-letters read amid obscene guffaws, as a positive tonic to
resentment, as a high incentive to her course--this was what put him
so beautifully in the right It was what might signify in a woman all
through, he said to himself, the mere imagination of such machinery.
Truly what a devilish conception and what an appalling nature!

But there was no doubt, luckily, either, that he _could_ plant his feet
the firmer for his now intensified sense of these things. He was to
live, it appeared, abominably worried, he was to live consciously
rueful, he was to live perhaps even what a scoffing world would call
abjectly exposed; but at least he was to live saved. In spite of his
clutch of which steadying truth, however, and in spite of his declaring
to her, with many other angry protests and pleas, that the line of
conduct she announced was worthy of a vindictive barmaid, a lurking fear
in him, too deep to counsel mere defiance, made him appear to keep open
a little, till he could somehow turn round again, the door of possible
composition. He had scoffed at her claim, at her threat, at her thinking
she could hustle and bully him--“Such a way, my eye, to call back
to life a dead love!”--yet his instinct was ever, prudentially but
helplessly, for gaining time, even if time only more wofully to quake,
and he gained it now by not absolutely giving for his ultimatum that he
wouldn’t think of coming round. He didn’t in the smallest degree mean to
come round, but it was characteristic of him that he could for three
or four days breathe a little easier by having left her under the
impression that he perhaps might. At the same time he couldn’t not have
said--what had conduced to bring out, in retort, her own last word, the
word on which they had parted--“Do you mean to say you yourself would
now be _willing_ to marry and live with a man of whom you could feel,
the thing done, that he’d be all the while thinking of you in the light
of a hideous coercion?” “Never you mind about _my_ willingness,” Kate
had answered; “you’ve known what that has been for the last six months.
Leave that to me, my willingness--I’ll take care of it all right; and
just see what conclusion you can come to about your own.”

He was to remember afterward how he had wondered whether, turned upon
her in silence while her odious lucidity reigned unchecked, his face had
shown her anything like the quantity of hate he felt. Probably not at
all; no man’s face _could_ express that immense amount; especially the
fair, refined, intellectual, gentlemanlike face which had had--and by
her own more than once repeated avowal--so much to do with the enormous
fancy she had originally taken to him. “Which--frankly now--would you
personally _rather_ I should do,” he had at any rate asked her with an
intention of supreme irony: “just sordidly marry you on top of this, or
leave you the pleasure of your lovely appearance in court and of your so
assured (since that’s how you feel it) big haul of damages? Sha’n’t
you be awfully disappointed, in fact, if I don’t let you get something
better out of me than a poor plain ten-shilling gold ring and the rest
of the blasphemous rubbish, as we should make it between us, pronounced
at the altar? I take it of course,” he had swaggered on, “that your
pretension wouldn’t be for a moment that I should--after the act of
profanity--take up my life with you.”

“It’s just as much my dream as it ever was, Herbert Dodd, to take up
mine with _you!_ Remember for me that I can do with it, my dear, that my
idea is for even as much as that of you!” she had cried; “remember that
for me, Herbert Dodd; remember, remember!”

It was on this she had left him--left him frankly under a mortal chill.
There might have been the last ring of an appeal or a show of persistent
and perverse tenderness in it, however preposterous any such matter; but
in point of fact her large, clean, plain, brown face--so much too big
for her head, he now more than ever felt it to be, just as her head was
so much too big for her body, and just as her hats had an irritating way
of appearing to decline choice and conformity in respect to _any_ of her
dimensions--presented itself with about as much expression as his own
shop-window when the broad, blank, sallow blind was down. He was fond of
his shop-window with some good show on; he had a fancy for a good show
and was master of twenty different schemes of taking arrangement for the
old books and prints, “high-class rarities” his modest catalogue called
them, in which he dealt and which his maternal uncle, David Geddes, had,
as he liked to say, “handed down” to him. His widowed mother had screwed
the whole thing, the stock and the connection and the rather bad little
house in the rather bad little street, out of the ancient worthy,
shortly before his death, in the name of the youngest and most
interesting, the “delicate” one and the literary, of her five scattered
and struggling children. He could enjoy his happiest collocations and
contrasts and effects, his harmonies and varieties of toned and faded
leather and cloth, his sought color-notes and the high clearnesses,
here and there, of his white and beautifully figured price-labels, which
pleased him enough in themselves almost to console him for not
oftener having to break, on a customer’s insistence, into the balanced
composition. But the dropped expanse of time-soiled canvas, the thing
of Sundays and holidays, with just his name, “Herbert Dodd, Successor,”
 painted on below his uncle’s antique style, the feeble penlike
flourishes already quite archaic--this ugly vacant mask, which might
so easily be taken for the mask of failure, somehow always gave him a
chill.

That had been just the sort of chill--the analogy was complete--of Kate
Cookham’s last look. He supposed people doing an awfully good and sure
and steady business, in whatever line, could see a whole front turned
to vacancy that way and merely think of the hours off represented by it.
Only for this--nervously to bear it, in other words, and Herbert Dodd,
quite with the literary temperament himself, was capable of that amount
of play of fancy, or even of morbid analysis--you had to be on some
footing, you had to feel some confidence, pretty different from his own
up to now. He had never _not_ enjoyed passing his show on the other side
of the street and taking it in thence with a casual obliquity; but he
had never held optical commerce with the drawn blind for a moment longer
than he could help. It _always_ looked horribly final and as if it never
would come up again. Big and bare, with his name staring at him from the
middle, it thus offered in its grimness a turn of comparison for Miss
Cookham’s ominous visage. She never wore pretty, dotty, transparent
veils, as Nan Drury did, and the words “Herbert Dodd”--save that she had
sounded them at him there two or three times more like a Meg Merrilies
or the bold bad woman in one of the melodramas of high life given during
the fine season in the pavilion at the end of Properley Pier--were
dreadfully, were permanently, seated on her lips. _She_ was grim, no
mistake.

That evening, alone in the back room above the shop, he saw so little
what he could do that, consciously demoralised for the hour, he gave way
to tears about it. Her taking a stand so incredibly “low,” that was
what he couldn’t get over. The particular bitterness of his cup was
his having let himself in for a struggle on such terms--the use, on
her side, of the vulgarest process known to the law: the vulgarest, the
vulgarest, he kept repeating that, clinging to the help rendered him by
this imputation to his terrorist of the vice he sincerely believed he
had ever, among difficulties (for oh he recognised the difficulties!)
sought to keep most alien to him. He knew what he was, in a dismal,
down-trodden sphere enough--the lean young proprietor of an old business
that had itself rather shrivelled with age than ever grown fat, the
purchase and sale of second-hand books and prints, with the back street
of a long-fronted south-coast watering-place (Old Town by good luck) for
the dusky field of his life. But he had gone in for all the education he
could get--his educated customers would often hang about for more talk
by the half-hour at a time, he actually feeling himself, and almost with
a scruple, hold them there; which meant that he had had (he couldn’t be
blind to that) natural taste and had lovingly cultivated and formed it.
Thus, from as far back as he could remember, there had been things all
round him that he suffered from when other people didn’t; and he had
kept most of his suffering to himself--which had taught him, in a
manner, _how_ to suffer, and how almost to like to.

So, at any rate, he had never let go his sense of certain differences,
he had done everything he could to keep it up--whereby everything that
was vulgar was on the wrong side of his line. He had believed, for a
series of strange, oppressed months, that Kate Cookham’s manners
and tone were on the right side; she had been governess--for young
children--in two very good private families, and now had classes in
literature and history for bigger girls who were sometimes brought by
their mammas; in fact, coming in one day to look over his collection of
students’ manuals, and drawing it out, as so many did, for the evident
sake of his conversation, she had appealed to him that very first time
by her apparently pronounced intellectual side--goodness knew she didn’t
even then by the physical!--which she had artfully kept in view till she
had entangled him past undoing. And it had all been but the cheapest of
traps--when he came to take the pieces apart a bit--laid over a brazen
avidity. What he now collapsed for, none the less--what he sank down on
a chair at a table and nursed his weak, scared sobs in his resting arms
for--was the fact that, whatever the trap, it held him as with the grip
of sharp murderous steel. There he was, there he was; alone in the brown
summer dusk--brown through _his_ windows--he cried and he cried. He
shouldn’t get out without losing a limb. The only question was which of
his limbs it should be.

Before he went out, later on--for he at last felt the need to--he could,
however, but seek to remove from his face and his betraying eyes, over
his washing-stand, the traces of his want of fortitude. He brushed
himself up; with which, catching his stricken image a bit spectrally
in an old dim toilet-glass, he knew again, in a flash, the glow of
righteous resentment. Who should be assured against coarse usage if
a man of his really elegant, perhaps in fact a trifle over-refined or
“effete” appearance, his absolutely gentlemanlike type, couldn’t be?
He never went so far as to rate himself, with exaggeration, a gentleman;
but he would have maintained against all comers, with perfect candour
and as claiming a high advantage, that he was, in spite of that
liability to blubber, “like” one; which he _was_ no doubt, for that
matter, at several points. Like what lady then, who could ever possibly
have been taken for one, was Kate Cookham, and therefore how could one
have anything--anything of the intimate and private order--out with her
fairly and on the plane, the only possible one, of common equality? He
might find himself crippled for life; he believed verily, the more he
thought, that that was what was before him. But be ended by seeing this
doom in the almost redeeming light of the fact that it would all have
been because he was, comparatively, too aristocratic. Yes, a man in his
station couldn’t afford to carry that so far--it must sooner or later,
in one way or another, spell ruin. Never mind--it was the only thing
he could be. Of course he should exquisitely suffer--but when hadn’t
he exquisitely suffered? How was he going to get through life by _any_
arrangement without that? No wonder such a woman as Kate Cookham had
been keen to annex so rare a value. The right thing would have been that
the highest price should be paid for it--by such a different sort of
logic from this nightmare of _his_ having to pay.



II

Which was the way, of course, he talked to Nan Drury--as he had felt the
immediate wild need to do; for he should perhaps be able to bear it
all somehow or other with _her_--while they sat together, when time and
freedom served, on one of the very last, the far westward, benches
of the interminable sea-front. It wasn’t every one who walked so far,
especially at that flat season--the only ghost of a bustle now, save for
the gregarious, the obstreperous haunters of the fluttering, far-shining
Pier, being reserved for the sunny Parade of midwinter. It wasn’t every
one who cared for the sunsets (which you got awfully well from there
and which were a particular strong point of the lower, the more
“sympathetic,” as Herbert Dodd liked to call it, Properley horizon) as
he had always intensely cared, and as he had found Nan Drury care; to
say nothing of his having also observed how little they directly spoke
to Miss Cookham. He had taught this oppressive companion to notice
them a bit, as he had taught her plenty of other things, but that was
a different matter; for the reason that the “land’s end” (stretching a
point it carried off that name) had been, and had had to be, by their
lack of more sequestered resorts and conveniences, the scene of so much
of what she styled their wooing-time--or, to put it more properly, of
the time during which she had made the straightest and most unabashed
love to _him_: just as it could henceforth but render possible, under
an equal rigour, that he should enjoy there periods of consolation from
beautiful, gentle, tender-souled Nan, to whom he was now at last, after
the wonderful way they had helped each other to behave, going to make
love, absolutely unreserved and abandoned, absolutely reckless and
romantic love, a refuge from poisonous reality, as hard as ever he
might.

The league-long, paved, lighted, garden-plotted, seated and refuged
Marina renounced its more or less celebrated attractions to break off
short here; and an inward curve of the kindly westward shore almost made
a wide-armed bay, with all the ugliness between town and country, and
the further casual fringe of the coast, turning, as the day waned, to
rich afternoon blooms of grey and brown and distant--it might fairly
have been beautiful Hampshire--blue. Here it was that, all that blighted
summer, with Nan--from the dreadful May-day on--he gave himself up to
the reaction of intimacy with the _kind_ of woman, at least, that he
liked; even if of everything else that might make life possible he was
to be, by what he could make out, forever starved. Here it was that--as
well as on whatever other scraps of occasions they could manage--Nan
began to take off and fold up and put away in her pocket her pretty,
dotty, becoming veil; as under the logic of his having so tremendously
ceased, in the shake of his dark storm-gust, to be engaged to another
woman. Her removal of that obstacle to a trusted friend’s assuring
himself whether the peachlike bloom’ of her finer facial curves bore
the test of such further inquiry into their cool sweetness as might
reinforce a mere baffled gaze--her momentous, complete surrender of so
much of her charm, let us say, both marked the change in the situation
of the pair and established the record of their perfect observance of
every propriety for so long before. They afterward in fact could have
dated it, their full clutch of their freedom and the bliss of their
having so little henceforth to consider save their impotence, their
poverty, their ruin; dated it from the hour of his recital to her
of the--at the first blush--quite appalling upshot of his second and
conclusive “scene of violence” with the mistress of his fortune,
when the dire terms of his release had had to be formally, and oh!
so abjectly, acceded to. She “compromised,” the cruel brute, for Four
Hundred Pounds down--for not a farthing less would she stay her strength
from “proceedings.” No jury in the land but would give her six, on the
nail (“Oh she knew quite where she was, thank you!”) and he might feel
lucky to get off with so whole a skin. This was the sum, then, for which
he had grovellingly compounded--under an agreement sealed by a supreme
exchange of remarks.

“‘Where in the name of lifelong ruin are you to _find_ Four Hundred?’”
 Miss Cookham had mockingly repeated after him while he gasped as from
the twist of her grip on his collar. “That’s _your_ look-out, and I
should have thought you’d have made sure you knew before you decided on
your base perfidy.” And then she had mouthed and minced, with ever
so false a gentility, her consistent, her sickening conclusion. “Of
course--I may mention again--if you too distinctly object to the trouble
of looking, you know where to find _me_.”

“I had rather starve to death than ever go within a mile of you!”
 Herbert described himself as having sweetly answered; and that was
accordingly where _they_ devotedly but desperately were--he and she,
penniless Nan Drury. Her father, of Drury & Dean, was, like so far
too many other of the anxious characters who peered through the dull
window-glass of dusty offices at Properley, an Estate and House Agent,
Surveyor, Valuer and Auctioneer; she was the prettiest of six, with two
brothers, neither of the least use, but, thanks to the manner in which
their main natural protector appeared to languish under the accumulation
of his attributes, they couldn’t be said very particularly or positively
to live. Their continued collective existence was a good deal of a
miracle even to themselves, though they had fallen into the way of not
unnecessarily, or too nervously, exchanging remarks upon it, and had
even in a sort, from year to year, got used to it. Nan’s brooding
pinkness when he talked to her, her so very parted lips, considering her
pretty teeth, her so very parted eyelids, considering her pretty eyes,
all of which might have been those of some waxen image of uncritical
faith, cooled the heat of his helplessness very much as if he were
laying his head on a tense silk pillow. She had, it was true, forms
of speech, familiar watchwords, that affected him as small scratchy
perforations of the smooth surface from within; but his pleasure in
her and need of her were independent of such things and really almost
altogether determined by the fact of the happy, even if all so lonely,
forms and instincts in her which claimed kinship with his own. With
her natural elegance stamped on her as by a die, with her dim and
disinherited individual refinement of grace, which would have made any
one wonder who she was anywhere--hat and veil and feather-boa and smart
umbrella-knob and all--with her regular God-given distinction of type,
in fine, she couldn’t abide vulgarity much more than he could.

Therefore it didn’t seem to him, under his stress, to matter
particularly, for instance, if she _would_ keep on referring so many
things to the time, as she called it, when she came into his life--his
own great insistence and contention being that she hadn’t in the least
entered there till his mind was wholly made up to eliminate his other
friend. What that methodical fury was so fierce to bring home to him was
the falsity to herself involved in the later acquaintance; whereas just
his precious right to hold up his head to everything--before himself at
least--sprang from the fact that she couldn’t make dates fit anyhow.
He hadn’t so much as heard of his true beauty’s existence (she had come
back but a few weeks before from her two years with her terribly trying
deceased aunt at Swindon, previous to which absence she had been an
unnoticeable chit) till days and days, ever so many, upon his honour,
after he had struck for freedom by his great first backing-out
letter--the precious document, the treat for a British jury, in which,
by itself, Miss Cookham’s firm instructed her to recognise the prospect
of a fortune. The way the ruffians had been “her” ruffians--it appeared
as if she had posted them behind her from the first of her beginning
her game!--and the way “instructions” bounced out, with it, at a touch,
larger than life, as if she had arrived with her pocket full of them!
The date of the letter, taken with its other connections, and the date
of _her_ first give-away for himself, his seeing her get out of the
Brighton train with Bill Frankle that day he had gone to make the row
at the Station parcels’ office about the miscarriage of the box from
Wales--those were the facts it sufficed him to point to, as he had
pointed to them for Nan Drury’s benefit, goodness knew, often and often
enough. If he didn’t seek occasion to do so for any one else’s--in open
court as they said--that was his own affair, or at least his and Nan’s.

It little mattered, meanwhile, if on their bench of desolation, all that
summer--and it may be added for summers and summers, to say nothing of
winters, there and elsewhere, to come--she did give way to her artless
habit of not contradicting him enough, which led to her often trailing
up and down before him, too complacently, the untimely shreds and
patches of his own glooms and desperations. “Well, I’m glad I _am_ in
your life, terrible as it is, however or whenever I did come in!” and
“_Of course_ you’d rather have starved--and it seems pretty well as if
we shall, doesn’t it?--than have bought her off by a false, abhorrent
love, wouldn’t you?” and “It isn’t as if she hadn’t made up to you the
way she did before you had so much as looked at her, is it? or as if you
hadn’t shown her what you felt her really to be before you had so much
as looked at _me_, is it either?” and “Yes, how on earth, pawning the
shoes on your feet, you’re going to raise another shilling--_that’s_
what you want to know, poor darling, don’t you?”



III

His creditor, at the hour it suited her, transferred her base of
operations to town, to which impenetrable scene she had also herself
retired; and his raising of the first Two Hundred, during five
exasperated and miserable months, and then of another Seventy piecemeal,
bleedingly, after long delays and under the epistolary whiplash cracked
by the London solicitor in his wretched ear even to an effect of the
very report of Miss Cookham’s tongue--these melancholy efforts formed
a scramble up an arduous steep where steps were planted and missed, and
bared knees were excoriated, and clutches at wayside tufts succeeded and
failed, on a system to which poor Nan could have intelligently entered
only if she had been somehow less ladylike. She kept putting into his
mouth the sick quaver of where he should find the rest, the always
inextinguishable rest, long after he had in silent rage fallen away from
any further payment at all--at first, he had but too blackly felt, for
himself, to the still quite possible non-exclusion of some penetrating
ray of “exposure.” He didn’t care a tuppenny damn now, and in point
of fact, after he had by hook and by crook succeeded in being able to
unload to the tune of Two-Hundred-and-Seventy, and then simply returned
the newest reminder of his outstanding obligation unopened, this latter
belated but real sign of fight, the first he had risked, remarkably
caused nothing at all to happen; nothing at least but his being moved
to quite tragically rueful wonder as to whether exactly some such
demonstration mightn’t have served his turn at an earlier stage.

He could by this time at any rate measure his ruin--with three fantastic
mortgages on his house, his shop, his stock, and a burden of interest
to carry under which his business simply stretched itself inanimate,
without strength for a protesting kick, without breath for an appealing
groan. Customers lingering for further enjoyment of the tasteful remarks
he had cultivated the unobstrusive art of throwing in, would at this
crisis have found plenty to repay them, might his wit have strayed a
little more widely still, toward a circuitous egotistical outbreak, from
the immediate question of the merits of this and that author or of the
condition of this and that volume. He had come to be conscious through
it all of strangely glaring at people when they tried to haggle--and
not, as formerly, with the glare of derisive comment on their overdone
humour, but with that of fairly idiotised surrender--as if they were
much mistaken in supposing, for the sake of conversation, that he might
take himself for saveable by the difference between sevenpence and
ninepence. He watched everything impossible and deplorable happen as in
an endless prolongation of his nightmare; watched himself proceed, that
is, with the finest, richest incoherence, to the due preparation of his
catastrophe. Everything came to seem _equally_ part of this--in complete
defiance of proportion; even his final command of detachment, on
the bench of desolation (where each successive fact of his dire case
regularly cut itself out black, yet of senseless silhouette, against the
red west) in respect to poor Nan’s flat infelicities, which for the most
part kept no pace with the years or with change, but only shook like
hard peas in a child’s rattle, the same peas a ways, of course, so long
as the rattle didn’t split open with usage or from somebody’s act of
irritation. They represented, or they had long done so, her contribution
to the more superficial of the two branches of intimacy--the
intellectual alternative, the one that didn’t merely consist of her
preparing herself for his putting his arm round her waist.

There were to have been moments, nevertheless, all the first couple of
years, when she did touch in him, though to his actively dissimulating
it, a more or less sensitive nerve--moments as they were too, to do
her justice, when she treated him not to his own wisdom, or even folly,
served up cold, but to a certain small bitter fruit of her personal,
her unnatural, plucking. “I wonder that since _she_ took legal advice
so freely, to come down on you, you didn’t take it yourself, a little,
before being so sure you stood no chance. Perhaps _your_ people would
have been sure of something quite different--_perhaps_, I only say, you
know.” She “only” said it, but she said it, none the less, in the early
time, about once a fortnight. In the later, and especially after their
marriage, it had a way of coming up again to the exclusion, as it seemed
to him, of almost everything else; in fact during the most dismal years,
the three of the loss of their two children, the long stretch of sordid
embarrassment ending in her death, he was afterward to think of her
as having generally said it several times a day. He was then also to
remember that his answer, before she had learnt to discount it, had been
inveterately at hand: “What would any solicitor have done or wanted to
do but drag me just into the hideous public arena”--he had always so put
it--“that it has been at any rate my pride and my honour, the one rag
of self-respect covering my nakedness, to have loathed and avoided from
every point of view?”

That had disposed of it so long as he cared, and by the time he had
ceased to care for anything it had also lost itself in the rest of the
vain babble of home. After his wife’s death, during his year of mortal
solitude, it awoke again as an echo of far-off things--far-off, very
far-off, because he felt then not ten but twenty years older. That was
by reason simply of the dead weight with which his load of debt had
settled--the persistence of his misery dragging itself out. With all
that had come and gone the bench of desolation was still there, just as
the immortal flush of the westward sky kept hanging its indestructible
curtain. He had never got away--everything had left him, but he himself
had been able to turn his back on nothing--and now, his day’s labour
before a dirty desk at the Gas Works ended, he more often than not,
almost any season at temperate Properley serving his turn, took his slow
straight way to the Land’s End and, collapsing there to rest, sat often
for an hour at a time staring before him. He might in these sessions,
with his eyes on the grey-green sea, have been counting again and
still recounting the beads, almost all worn smooth, of his rosary of
pain--which had for the fingers of memory and the recurrences of wonder
the same felt break of the smaller ones by the larger that would have
aided a pious mumble in some dusky altar-chapel.

If it has been said of him that when once full submersion, as from far
back, had visibly begun to await him, he watched himself, in a cold
lucidity, _do_ punctually and necessarily each of the deplorable things
that were inconsistent with his keeping afloat, so at present again he
might have been held agaze just by the presented grotesqueness of that
vigil. Such ghosts of dead seasons were all he _had_ now to watch--such
a recaptured sense for instance as that of the dismal unavailing
awareness that had attended his act of marriage. He had let submersion
final and absolute become the signal for it--a mere minor determinant
having been the more or less contemporaneously unfavourable effect on
the business of Drury & Dean of the sudden disappearance of Mr. Dean
with the single small tin box into which the certificates of the
firm’s credit had been found to be compressible. That had been his
only form--or had at any rate seemed his only one. He couldn’t not have
married, no doubt, just as he couldn’t not have suffered the last degree
of humiliation and almost of want, or just as his wife and children
couldn’t not have died of the little he was able, under dire reiterated
pinches, to do for them; but it was “rum,” for final solitary brooding,
that he hadn’t appeared to see his way definitely to undertake the
support of a family till the last scrap of his little low-browed,
high-toned business, and the last figment of “property” in the old tiled
and timbered shell that housed it, had been sacrificed to creditors
mustering six rows deep.

Of course what had counted too in the odd order was that even at the
end of the two or three years he had “allowed” her, Kate Cookham, gorged
with his unholy tribute, had become the subject of no successful siege
on the part either of Bill Frankle or, by what he could make out, of any
one else. She had judged decent--he could do her that justice--to take
herself personally out of his world, as he called it, for good and all,
as soon as he had begun regularly to bleed; and, to whatever lucrative
practice she might be devoting her great talents in London or elsewhere,
he felt his conscious curiosity about her as cold, with time, as the
passion of vain protest that she had originally left him to. He could
recall but two direct echoes of her in all the bitter years--both
communicated by Bill Frankle, disappointed and exposed and at last
quite remarkably ingenuous sneak, who had also, from far back, taken to
roaming the world, but who, during a period, used fitfully and
ruefully to reappear. Herbert Dodd had quickly seen, at their first
meeting--every one met every one sooner or later at Properley, if
meeting it could always be called, either in the glare or the gloom of
the explodedly attractive Embankment--that no silver stream of which he
himself had been the remoter source could have played over the career of
this all but repudiated acquaintance. That hadn’t fitted with his first,
his quite primitive raw vision of the probabilities, and he had further
been puzzled when, much later on, it had come to him in a roundabout way
that Miss Cookham was supposed to be, or to have been, among them for
a few days “on the quiet,” and that Frankle, who had seen her and who
claimed to know more about it than he said, was cited as authority for
the fact. But he hadn’t himself at this juncture seen Frankle; he had
only wondered, and a degree of mystification had even remained.

That memory referred itself to the dark days of old Drury’s smash,
the few weeks between his partner’s dastardly flight and Herbert’s own
comment on it in the form of his standing up with Nan for the nuptial
benediction of the Vicar of St. Bernard’s on a very cold, bleak December
morning and amid a circle of seven or eight long-faced, red-nosed and
altogether dowdy persons. Poor Nan herself had come to affect him as
scarce other than red-nosed and dowdy by that time, but this only added,
in his then, and indeed in his lasting view, to his general and his
particular morbid bravery. He had cultivated ignorance, there were small
inward immaterial luxuries he could scrap-pily cherish even among other,
and the harshest, destitutions; and one of them was represented by
this easy refusal of his mind to render to certain passages of his
experience, to various ugly images, names, associations, the homage of
continued attention. That served him, that helped him; but what happened
when, a dozen dismal years having worn themselves away, he sat single
and scraped bare again, as if his long wave of misfortune had washed him
far beyond everything and then conspicuously retreated, was that, thus
stranded by tidal action, deposited in the lonely hollow of his fate, he
felt even sustaining pride turn to nought and heard no challenge from
it when old mystifications, stealing forth in the dusk of the day’s work
done, scratched at the door of speculation and hung about, through the
idle hours, for irritated notice.

The evenings of his squalid clerkship were all leisure now, but there
was nothing at all near home on the other hand, for his imagination,
numb and stiff from its long chill, to begin to play with. Voices from
far off would quaver to him therefore in the stillness; where he knew
for the most recurrent, little by little, the faint wail of his wife.
He had become deaf to it in life, but at present, after so great an
interval, he listened again, listened and listened, and seemed to hear
it sound as by the pressure of some weak broken spring. It phrased for
his ear her perpetual question, the one she had come to at the last as
under the obsession of a discovered and resented wrong, a wrong withal
that had its source much more in his own action than anywhere else.
“That you didn’t make _sure_ she could have done anything, that you
didn’t make sure and that you were too afraid!”--this commemoration
had ended by playing such a part of Nan’s finally quite contracted
consciousness as to exclude everything else.

At the time, somehow, he had made his terms with it; he had then more
urgent questions to meet than that of the poor creature’s taste in
worrying pain; but actually it struck him--not the question, but the
fact itself of the taste--as the one thing left over from all that had
come and gone. So it was; nothing remained to him in the world, on the
bench of desolation, but the option of taking up that echo--together
with an abundance of free time for doing so. That he hadn’t made sure of
what might and what mightn’t have been done to him, that he had been
too afraid--had the proposition a possible bearing on his present
apprehension of things? To reply indeed he would have had to be able to
say what his present apprehension of things, left to itself, amounted
to; an uninspiring effort indeed he judged it, sunk to so poor a pitch
was his material of thought--though it might at last have been the feat
he sought to perform as he stared at the grey-green sea.



IV

It was seldom he was disturbed in any form of sequestered speculation,
or that at his times of predilection, especially that of the long autumn
blankness between the season of trippers and the season of Bath-chairs,
there were westward stragglers enough to jar upon his settled sense of
priority. For himself his seat, the term of his walk, was consecrated;
it had figured to him for years as the last (though there were others,
not immediately near it, and differently disposed, that might have
aspired to the title); so that he could invidiously distinguish as he
approached, make out from a distance any accident of occupation, and
never draw nearer while that unpleasantness lasted. What he disliked
was to compromise on his tradition, whether for a man, a woman or a
connoodling couple; it was to idiots of this last composition he most
objected, he having sat there, in the past, alone, having sat there
interminably with Nan, having sat there with--well, with other women
when women, at hours of ease, could still care or count for him, but
having never shared the place with any shuffling or snuffling stranger.
It was a world of fidgets and starts, however, the world of his present
dreariness--he alone possessed in it, he seemed to make out, of the
secret, of the dignity of sitting still with one’s fate; so that if
he took a turn about or rested briefly elsewhere even foolish
philanderers--though this would never have been his and Nan’s way--ended
soon by some adjournment as visibly pointless as their sprawl.
Then, their backs turned, he would drop down on it, the bench of
desolation--which was what he, and he only, made it by sad adoption;
where, for that matter, moreover, once he had settled at his end, it
was marked that nobody else ever came to sit. He saw people, along the
Marina, take this liberty with other resting presences; but his own
struck them perhaps in general as either of too grim or just of too
dingy a vicinage. He might have affected the fellow-lounger as a man
evil, unsociable, possibly engaged in working out the idea of a
crime; or otherwise, more probably--for on the whole he surely looked
harmless--devoted to the worship of some absolutely unpractical remorse.

On a certain October Saturday he had got off, as usual, early; but the
afternoon light, his pilgrimage drawing to its aim, could still show
him, at long range, the rare case of an established usurper. His impulse
was then, as by custom, to deviate a little and wait, all the more
that the occupant of the bench was a lady, and that ladies, when alone,
were--at that austere end of the varied frontal stretch--markedly
discontinuous; but he kept on at sight of this person’s rising, while he
was still fifty yards off, and proceeding, her back turned, to the edge
of the broad terrace, the outer line of which followed the interspaced
succession of seats and was guarded by an iron rail from the abruptly
lower level of the beach. Here she stood before the sea, while our
friend on his side, recognising no reason to the contrary, sank into the
place she had quitted. There were other benches, eastward and off by the
course of the drive, for vague ladies. The lady indeed thus thrust upon
Herbert’s vision might have struck an observer either as not quite vague
or as vague with a perverse intensity suggesting design.

Not that our own observer at once thought of these things; he only took
in, and with no great interest, that the obtruded presence was a “real”
 lady; that she was dressed--he noticed such matters--with a certain
elegance of propriety or intention of harmony; and that she remained
perfectly still for a good many minutes; so many in fact that he
presently ceased to heed her, and that as she wasn’t straight before
him, but as far to the left as was consistent with his missing her
profile, he had turned himself to one of his sunsets again (though
it wasn’t quite one of his best) and let it hold him for a time that
enabled her to alter her attitude and present a fuller view. Without
other movement, but her back now to the sea and her face to the odd
person who had appropriated her corner, she had taken a sustained
look at him before he was aware she had stirred. On that apprehension,
however, he became also promptly aware of her direct, her applied
observation. As his sense of this quickly increased he wondered who she
was and what she wanted--what, as it were, was the matter with her; it
suggested to him, the next thing, that she had, under some strange idea,
actually been waiting for him. Any idea about him to-day on the part of
any one could only be strange.

Yes, she stood there with the ample width of the Marina between them,
but turned to him, for all the world, as to show frankly that she was
concerned with him. And she _was_--oh yes--a real lady: a middle-aged
person, of good appearance and of the best condition, in quiet but
“handsome” black, save for very fresh white kid gloves, and with a
pretty, dotty, becoming veil, predominantly white, adjusted to her
countenance; which through it somehow, even to his imperfect sight,
showed strong fine black brows and what he would have called on the spot
character. But she was pale; her black brows were the blacker behind
the flattering tissue; she still kept a hand, for support, on the
terrace-rail, while the other, at the end of an extended arm that had
an effect of rigidity, clearly pressed hard on the knob of a small and
shining umbrella, the lower extremity of whose stick was equally, was
sustainingly, firm on the walk. So this mature, qualified, important
person stood and looked at the limp, undistinguished--oh his values of
aspect now!--shabby man on the bench.

It was extraordinary, but the fact of her interest, by immensely
surprising, by immediately agitating him, blinded him at first to her
identity and, for the space of his long stare, diverted him from it;
with which even then, when recognition did break, the sense of the
shock, striking inward, simply consumed itself in gaping stillness. He
sat there motionless and weak, fairly faint with surprise, and there
was no instant, in all the succession of so many, at which Kate Cookham
could have caught the special sign of his intelligence. Yet that she
did catch something he saw--for he saw her steady herself, by her
two supported hands, to meet it; while, after she had done so, a very
wonderful thing happened, of which he could scarce, later on, have made
a clear statement, though he was to think it over again and again. She
moved toward him, she reached him, she stood there, she sat down near
him, he merely passive and wonderstruck, unresentfully “impressed,”
 gaping and taking it in--and all as with an open allowance on the part
of each, so that they positively and quite intimately met in it, o the
impertinence for their case, this case that brought them again,
after horrible years, face to face, of the vanity, the profanity, the
impossibility, of anything between them but silence.

Nearer to him, beside him at a considerable interval (oh she was
immensely considerate!) she presented him, in the sharp terms of
her transformed state--but thus the more amply, formally,
ceremoniously--with the reasons that would serve him best for not having
precipitately known her. She was simply another and a totally different
person, and the exhibition of it to which she had proceeded with this
solemn anxiety was all, obviously, for his benefit--once he had, as
he appeared to be doing, provisionally accepted her approach. He had
remembered her as inclined to the massive and disowned by the graceful;
but this was a spare, fine, worn, almost wasted lady--who had repaired
waste, it was true, however, with something he could only appreciate as
a rich accumulation of manner. She was strangely older, so far as that
went--marked by experience and as if many things had happened to
her; her face had suffered, to its improvement, contraction and
concentration; and if he had granted, of old and from the first, that
her eyes were remarkable, had they yet ever had for him this sombre
glow? Withal, something said, she had flourished--he felt it, wincing at
it, as that; she had had a life, a career, a history--something that
her present waiting air and nervous consciousness couldn’t prevent his
noting there as a deeply latent assurance. She had flourished, she had
flourished--though to learn it after this fashion was somehow at the
same time not to feel she flaunted it. It wasn’t thus execration that
she revived in him; she made in fact, exhibitively, as he could only
have put it, the matter of long ago irrelevant, and these extraordinary
minutes of their reconstituted relation--how many? how few?--addressed
themselves altogether to new possibilities.

Still it after a little awoke in him as with the throb of a touched
nerve that his own very attitude was supplying a connection; he knew
presently that he wouldn’t have had her go, _couldn’t_ have made a
sign to her for it--which was what she had been uncertain of--without
speaking to him; and that therefore he was, as at the other, the hideous
time, passive to whatever she might do. She was even yet, she was
always, in possession of him; she had known how and where to find him
and had appointed that he should see her, and, though he had never
dreamed it was again to happen to him, he was meeting it already as if
it might have been the only thing that the least humanly _could_.
Yes, he had come back there to flop, by long custom, upon the bench of
desolation _as_ the man in the whole place, precisely, to whom nothing
worth more than tuppence could happen; whereupon, in the grey desert of
his consciousness, the very earth had suddenly opened and flamed. With
this, further, it came over him that he hadn’t been prepared and
that his wretched appearance must show it. He wasn’t fit to receive
a visit--any visit; a flush for his felt misery, in the light of her
opulence, broke out in his lean cheeks. But if he coloured he sat as he
was--she should at least, as a visitor, be satisfied. His eyes only, at
last, turned from her and resumed a little their gaze at the sea. That,
however, didn’t relieve him, and he perpetrated in the course of another
moment the odd desperate gesture of raising both his hands to his face
and letting them, while he pressed it to them, cover and guard it. It
was as he held them there that she at last spoke.

“I’ll go away if you wish me to.” And then she waited a moment. “I
mean now--now that you’ve seen I’m here. I wanted you to know it, and I
thought of writing--I was afraid of our meeting accidentally. Then I was
afraid that if I wrote you might refuse. So I thought of this way--as
I knew you must come out here.” She went on with pauses, giving him a
chance to make a sign. “I’ve waited several days. But I’ll do what you
wish. Only I should like in that case to come back.” Again she stopped;
but strange was it to him that he wouldn’t have made her break off. She
held him in boundless wonder. “I came down--I mean I came from town--on
purpose. I’m staying on still, and I’ve a great patience and will give
you time. Only may I say it’s important? Now that I do see you,” she
brought out in the same way, “I see how inevitable it was--I mean that I
should have wanted to come. But you must feel about it as you can,” she
wound up--“till you get used to the idea.”

She spoke so for accommodation, for discretion, for some ulterior view
already expressed in her manner, that, after taking well in, from behind
his hands, that this was her very voice--oh ladylike!--heard, and heard
in deprecation of displeasure, after long years again, he uncovered his
face and freshly met her eyes. More than ever he couldn’t have known
her. Less and less remained of the figure all the facts of which had
long ago so hardened for him. She was a handsome, grave, authoritative,
but refined and, as it were, physically rearranged person--she, the
outrageous vulgarity of whose prime assault had kept him shuddering so
long as a shudder was in him. That atrocity in her was what everything
had been built on, but somehow, all strangely, it was slipping from him;
so that, after the oddest fashion conceivable, when he felt he mustn’t
let her go, it was as if he were putting out his hand to save the past,
the hideous real unalterable past, exactly as she had been the cause of
its being and the cause of his undergoing it. He should have been too
awfully “sold” if he wasn’t going to have been right about her.

“I don’t mind,” he heard himself at last say. Not to mind had seemed for
the instant the length he was prepared to go; but he was afterward aware
of how soon he must have added: “You’ve come on purpose to see me?” He
was on the point of putting to her further: “What then do you want of
me?” But he would keep--yes, in time--from appearing to show he cared.
If he showed he cared, where then would be his revenge? So he was
already, within five minutes, thinking his revenge uncomfortably over
instead of just comfortably knowing it. What came to him, at any
rate, as they actually fell to talk, was that, with such precautions,
considerations, reduplications of consciousness, almost avowed feelings
of her way on her own part, and light fingerings of his chords of
sensibility, she was understanding, she _had_ understood, more things
than all the years, up to this strange eventide, had given him an
inkling of. They talked, they went on--he hadn’t let her retreat, to
whatever it committed him and however abjectly it did so; yet keeping
off and off, dealing with such surface facts as involved ancient
acquaintance but held abominations at bay. The recognition, the
attestation that she _had_ come down for him, that there would be
reasons, that she had even hovered and watched, assured herself a little
of his habits (which she managed to speak of as if, on their present
ampler development, they were much to be deferred to), detained them
enough to make vivid how, listen as stiffly or as serenely as he might,
she sat there in fear, just as she had so stood there at first, and that
her fear had really to do with her calculation of some sort of chance
with him. What chance could it possibly be? Whatever it might have
done, on this prodigious showing, with Kate Cookham, it made the present
witness to the state of his fortunes simply exquisite: he ground his
teeth secretly together as he saw he should have to take _that_. For
what did it mean but that she would have liked to pity him if she could
have done it with safety? Ah, however, he must give her no measure of
safety!

By the time he had remarked, with that idea, that she probably saw few
changes about them there that weren’t for the worse--the place was going
down, down and down, so fast that goodness knew where it would stop--and
had also mentioned that in spite of this he himself remained faithful,
with all its faults loving it still; by the time he had, after that
fashion, superficially indulged her, adding a few further light and
just sufficiently dry reflections on local matters, the disappearance of
landmarks and important persons, the frequency of gales, the low policy
of the town-council in playing down to cheap excursionists: by the time
he had so acquitted himself, and she had observed, of her own motion,
that she was staying at the Royal, which he knew for the time-honoured,
the conservative and exclusive hotel, he had made out for himself
one thing at least, the amazing fact that he had been landed by his
troubles, at the end of time, in a “social relation,” of all things
in the world, and how of that luxury he was now having unprecedented
experience. He had but once in his life had his nose in the Royal, on
the occasion of his himself delivering a parcel during some hiatus in
his succession of impossible small boys and meeting in the hall the
lady who had bought of him, in the morning, a set of Crabbe, largely, he
flattered himself, under the artful persuasion of his acute remarks
on that author, gracefully associated by him, in this colloquy, he
remembered, with a glance at Charles Lamb as well, and who went off in
a day or two without settling, though he received her cheque from London
three or four months later.

_That_ hadn’t been a social relation; and truly, deep within his appeal
to himself to be remarkable, to be imperturbable and impenetrable, to
be in fact quite incomparable now, throbbed the intense vision of his
drawing out and draining dry the sensation he had begun to taste. He
would do it, moreover--that would be the refinement of his art--not only
without the betraying anxiety of a single question, but just even by
seeing her flounder (since she must, in a vagueness deeply disconcerting
to her) as to her real effect on him. She was distinctly floundering
by the time he had brought her--it had taken ten minutes--down to a
consciousness of absurd and twaddling topics, to the reported precarious
state, for instance, of the syndicate running the Bijou Theatre at the
Pierhead--all as an admonition that she might want him to want to know
why she was thus waiting on him, might want it for all she was
worth, before he had ceased to be so remarkable as not to ask her. He
didn’t--and this assuredly was wondrous enough--want to do anything
worse to her than let her flounder; but he was willing to do that so
long as it mightn’t prevent his seeing at least where _he_ was. He
seemed still to see where he was even at the minute that followed her
final break-off, clearly intended to be resolute, from make-believe
talk.

“I wonder if I might prevail on you to come to tea with me to-morrow at
five.”

He didn’t so much as answer it--though he could scarcely believe his
ears. To-morrow was Sunday, and the proposal referred, clearly, to the
custom of “five-o’clock” tea, known to him only by the contemporary
novel of manners and the catchy advertisement of table-linen. He had
never in his life been present at any such luxurious rite, but he was
offering practical indifference to it as a false mark of his sense that
his social relation had already risen to his chin. “I gave up my very
modest, but rather interesting little old book business, perhaps you
know, ever so long ago.”

She floundered so that she could say nothing--meet _that_ with no
possible word; all the less too that his tone, casual and colourless,
wholly defied any apprehension of it as a reverse. Silence only came;
but after a moment she returned to her effort. “If you _can_ come I
shall be at home. To see you otherwise than thus was in fact what, as
I tell you, I came down for. But I leave it,” she returned, “to your
feeling.”

He had at this, it struck him, an inspiration; which he required however
a minute or two to decide to carry out; a minute or two during which
the shake of his foot over his knee became an intensity of fidget. “Of
course I know I still owe you a large sum of money. If it’s about _that_
you wish to see me,” he went on, “I may as well tell you just here that
I shall be able to meet my full obligation in the future as little as
I’ve met it in the past. I can never,” said Herbert Dodd, “pay up that
balance.”

He had looked at her while he spoke, but on finishing looked off at the
sea again and continued to agitate his foot. He knew now what he had
done and why; and the sense of her fixed dark eyes on him during his
speech and after didn’t alter his small contentment. Yet even when she
still said nothing he didn’t turn round; he simply kept his corner as
if _that_ were his point made, should it even be the last word between
them. It might have been, for that matter, from the way in which she
presently rose, gathering herself, her fine umbrella and her very small
smart reticule, in the construction of which shining gilt much figured,
well together, and, after standing another instant, moved across to the
rail of the terrace as she had done before and remained, as before, with
her back to him, though this time, it well might be, under a different
fear. A quarter of an hour ago she hadn’t tried him, and had had that
anxiety; now that she had tried him it wasn’t easier--but she was
thinking what she still could do. He left her to think--nothing in fact
more interesting than the way she might decide had ever happened to him;
but it was a part of this also that as she turned round and came nearer
again he didn’t rise, he gave her no help. If she got any, at least,
from his looking up at her only, meeting her fixed eyes once more in
silence, that was her own affair. “You must think,” she said--“you
must take all your time, but I shall be at home.” She left it to him
thus--she insisted, with her idea, on leaving him something too. And
on her side as well she showed an art--which resulted, after another
instant, in his having to rise to his feet. He flushed afresh as he did
it--it exposed him so shabbily the more; and now if she took him in,
with each of his seedy items, from head to foot, he didn’t and couldn’t
and wouldn’t know it, attaching his eyes hard and straight to something
quite away from them.

It stuck in his throat to say he’d come, but she had so curious a way
with her that he still less could say he wouldn’t, and in a moment had
taken refuge in something that was neither. “Are you married?”--he put
it to her with that plainness, though it had seemed before he said it to
do more for him than while she waited before replying.

“No, I’m not married,” she said; and then had another wait that might
have amounted to a question of what this had to do with it.

He surely couldn’t have told her; so that he had recourse, a little
poorly as he felt, but to an “Oh!” that still left them opposed. He
turned away for it--that is for the poorness, which, lingering in the
air, had almost a vulgar platitude; and when he presently again wheeled
about she had fallen off as for quitting him, only with a pause, once
more, for a last look. It was all a bit awkward, but he had another
happy thought, which consisted in his silently raising his hat as for a
sign of dignified dismissal. He had cultivated of old, for the occasions
of life, the right, the discriminated bow, and now, out of the grey
limbo of the time when he could care for such things, this flicker of
propriety leaped and worked She might, for that matter, herself have
liked it; since, receding further, only with her white face toward him,
she paid it the homage of submission. He remained dignified, and she
almost humbly went.



V

Nothing in the world, on the Sunday afternoon, could have prevented
him from going; he was not after all destitute of three or four such
articles of clothing as, if they wouldn’t particularly grace the
occasion, wouldn’t positively dishonour it. That deficiency might have
kept him away, but no voice of the spirit, no consideration of pride. It
sweetened his impatience in fact--for he fairly felt it a long time
to wait--that his pride would really most find its account in his
acceptance of these conciliatory steps. From the moment he could put
it in that way--that he couldn’t refuse to hear what she might have, so
very elaborately, to say for herself--he ought certainly to be at his
ease; in illustration of which he whistled odd snatches to himself as
he hung about on that cloud-dappled autumn Sunday, a mild private
minstrelsy that his lips hadn’t known since when? The interval of the
twenty-four hours, made longer by a night of many more revivals than
oblivions, had in fact dragged not a little; in spite of which, however,
our extremely brushed-up and trimmed and polished friend knew an
unprecedented flutter as he was ushered, at the Royal Hotel, into Miss
Cookham’s sitting-room. Yes, it was an adventure, and he had never had
an adventure in his life; the term, for him, was essentially a term
of high appreciation--such as disqualified for that figure, under due
criticism, every single passage of his past career.

What struck him at the moment as qualifying in the highest degree this
actual passage was the fact that at no great distance from his hostess
in the luxurious room, as he apprehended it, in which the close of day
had begun to hang a few shadows, sat a gentleman who rose as she rose,
and whose name she at once mentioned to him. He had for Herbert Dodd all
the air of a swell, the gentleman--rather red-faced and bald-headed, but
moustachioed, waistcoated, necktied to the highest pitch, with an effect
of chains and rings, of shining teeth in a glassily monocular smile; a
wondrous apparition to have been asked to “meet” him, as in contemporary
fiction, or for him to have been asked to meet. “Captain Roper, Mr.
Herbert Dodd”--their entertainer introduced them, yes; but with a sequel
immediately afterward more disconcerting apparently to Captain Roper
himself even than to her second and more breathless visitor; a “Well
then, good-bye till the next time,” with a hand thrust straight out,
which allowed the personage so addressed no alternative but to lay aside
his teacup, even though Herbert saw there was a good deal left in it,
and glare about him for his hat. Miss Cookham had had her tea-tray on a
small table before her, she had served Captain Roper while waiting
for Mr. Dodd; but she simply dismissed him now, with a high sweet
unmistakable decision, a knowledge of what she was about, as our hero
would have called it, which enlarged at a stroke the latter’s view of
the number of different things and sorts of things, in the sphere of the
manners and ways of those living at their ease, that a social relation
would put before one. Captain Roper would have liked to remain, would
have liked more tea, but Kate signified in this direct fashion that
she had had enough of him. Herbert had seen things, in his walk of
life--rough things, plenty; but never things smoothed with that especial
smoothness, carried out as it were by the fine form of Captain Roper’s
own retreat, which included even a bright convulsed leave-taking
cognisance of the plain, vague individual, of no lustre at all and with
the very low-class guard of an old silver watch buttoned away under an
ill-made coat, to whom he was sacrificed.

It came to Herbert as he left the place a shade less remarkable--though
there was still wonder enough and to spare--that he had been even
publicly and designedly sacrificed; exactly so that, as the door closed
behind him, Kate Cookham, standing there to wait for it, could seem to
say, across the room, to the friend of her youth, only by the expression
of her fine eyes: “There--see what I do for you!” “For” him--that was
the extraordinary thing, and not less so that he was already, within
three minutes, after this fashion, taking it in as by the intensity of a
new light; a light that was one somehow with this rich inner air of
the plush-draped and much-mirrored hotel, where the fire-glow and
the approach of evening confirmed together the privacy, and the loose
curtains at the wide window were parted for a command of his old
lifelong Parade--the field of life so familiar to him from below and in
the wind and the wet, but which he had never in all the long years hung
over at this vantage.

“He’s an acquaintance, but a bore,” his hostess explained in respect to
Captain Roper. “He turned up yesterday, but I didn’t invite him, and I
had said to him before you came in that I was expecting a gentleman with
whom I should wish to be alone. I go quite straight at my idea that way,
as a rule; but you know,” she now strikingly went on, “how straight I
go. And he had had,” she added, “his tea.”

Dodd had been looking all round--had taken in, with the rest, the
brightness, the distinguished elegance, as he supposed it, of the
tea-service with which she was dealing and the variously tinted appeal
of certain savoury edibles on plates. “Oh but he _hadn’t_ had his tea!”
 he heard himself the next moment earnestly reply; which speech had at
once betrayed, he was then quickly aware, the candour of his interest,
the unsophisticated state that had survived so many troubles. If he was
so interested how could he be proud, and if he was proud how could he be
so interested?

He had made her at any rate laugh outright, and was further conscious,
for this, both that it was the first time of that since their new
meeting, and that it didn’t affect him as harsh. It affected him,
however, as free, for she replied at once, still smiling and as a part
of it: “Oh, I think we shall get on!”

This told him he had made some difference for her, shown her the way,
or something like it, that she hadn’t been sure of yesterday; which
moreover wasn’t what he had intended--he had come armed for showing her
nothing; so that after she had gone on with the same gain of gaiety,
“You must at any rate comfortably have yours,” there was but one answer
for him to make.

His eyes played again over the tea-things--they seemed strangely to help
him; but he didn’t sit down.

“I’ve come, as you see--but I’ve come, please, to understand; and if you
require to be alone with me, and if I break bread with you, it seems to
me I should first know exactly where I am and to what you suppose I so
commit myself.” He had thought it out and over and over, particularly
the turn about breaking bread; though perhaps he didn’t give it, in
her presence--this was impossible, her presence altered so many
things--quite the full sound or the weight he had planned.

But it had none the less come to his aid--it had made her perfectly
grave. “You commit yourself to nothing. You’re perfectly free. It’s only
I who commit myself.”

On which, while she stood there as if all handsomely and deferentially
waiting for him to consider and decide, he would have been naturally
moved to ask her what she committed herself then _to_--so moved, that
is, if he hadn’t, before saying it, thought more sharply still of
something better. “Oh, that’s another thing.”

“Yes, that’s another thing,” Kate Cookham returned. To which she added,
“So _now_ won’t you sit down?” He sank with deliberation into the seat
from which Captain Roper had risen; she went back to her own and while
she did so spoke again. “I’m _not_ free. At least,” she said over her
tea-tray, “I’m free only for this.”

Everything was there before them and around them, everything massive and
shining, so that he had instinctively fallen back in his chair as for
the wondering, the resigned acceptance of it; where her last words
stirred in him a sense of odd deprecation. Only for “that”? “That” was
everything, at this moment, to his long inanition, and the effect, as if
she had suddenly and perversely mocked him, was to press the spring of a
protest. “Isn’t ‘this’ then riches?”

“Riches?” she smiled over, handing him his cup--for she had triumphed in
having struck from him a question.

“I mean haven’t you a lot of money?” He didn’t care now that it was out;
his cup was in his hand, and what was that but proved interest? He had
succumbed to the social relation.

“Yes, I’ve money. Of course you wonder--but I’ve wanted you to wonder.
It was to make you take that in that I came. So now you know,” she said,
leaning back where she faced him, but in a straighter chair and with her
arms closely folded, after a fashion characteristic of her, as for some
control of her nerves.

“You came to show you’ve money?”

“That’s one of the things. Not a lot--not even very much. But enough,”
 said Kate Cookham.

“Enough? I should think so!” he again couldn’t help a bit crudely
exhaling.

“Enough for what I wanted. I don’t always live like this--not at all.
But I came to the best hotel on purpose. I wanted to show you I could.
Now,” she asked, “do you understand?”

“Understand?” He only gaped.

She threw up her loosed arms, which dropped again beside her. “I did it
_for_ you--I did it _for_ you!”

“‘For’ me----?”

“What I did--what I did here of old.”

He stared, trying to see it. “When you made me pay you?”

“The Two Hundred and Seventy--all I could get from you, as you reminded
me yesterday, so that I had to give up the rest It was my idea,” she
went on--“it was my idea.”

“To bleed me quite to death?” Oh, his ice was broken now!

“To make you raise money--since you could, you _could_. You did, you
did--so what better proof?”

His hands fell from what he had touched; he could only stare--her own
manner for it was different now too. “I did. I did indeed--!” And the
woful weak simplicity of it, which seemed somehow all that was left him,
fell even on his own ear.

“Well then, here it is--it isn’t lost!” she returned with a graver face.

“‘Here’ it is,” he gasped, “my poor agonised old money--my blood?”

“Oh, it’s _my_ blood too, you must know now!” She held up her head as
not before--as for her right to speak of the thing to-day most precious
to her. “I took it, but this--my being here this way--is what I’ve made
of it! That was the idea I had!”

Her “ideas,” as things to boast of, staggered him. “To have everything
in the world, like this, at my wretched expense?”

She had folded her arms back again--grasping each elbow she sat firm;
she knew he could see, and had known well from the first, what she had
wanted to say, difficult, monstrous though it might be. “No more than
at my own--but to do something with your money that you’d never do
yourself.”

“Myself, myself?” he wonderingly wailed. “Do you know--or don’t
you?--what my life has been?”

She waited, and for an instant, though the light in the room had failed
a little more and would soon be mainly that of the flaring lamps on the
windy Parade, he caught from her dark eye a silver gleam of impatience.
“You’ve suffered and you’ve worked--which, God knows, is what I’ve done!
_Of course_ you’ve suffered,” she said--“you inevitably had to! We have
to,” she went on, “to do or to be or to get anything.”

“And pray what have I done or been or got?” Herbert Dodd found it almost
desolately natural to demand.

It made her cover him again as with all she was thinking of. “Can you
imagine nothing, or can’t you conceive--?” And then as her challenge
struck deeper in, deeper down than it had yet reached, and with the
effect of a rush of the blood to his face, “It was _for_ you, it was
_for_ you!” she again broke out--“and for what or whom else could it
have been?”

He saw things to a tune now that made him answer straight: “I thought at
one time it might be for Bill Frankle.”

“Yes--that was the way you treated me,” Miss Cookham as plainly replied.

But he let this pass; his thought had already got away from it. “What
good then--its having been for me--has that ever done me?”

“Doesn’t it do you any good _now?_” his friend returned. To which she
added, with another dim play of her tormented brightness, before he
could speak: “But if you won’t even have your tea----!”

He had in fact touched nothing and, if he could have explained, would
have pleaded very veraciously that his appetite, keen when he came in,
had somehow suddenly failed. It was beyond eating or drinking, what she
seemed to want him to take from her. So if he looked, before him, over
the array, it was to say, very grave and graceless: “Am I to understand
that you offer to repay me?”

“I offer to repay you with interest, Herbert Dodd”--and her emphasis of
the great word was wonderful.

It held him in his place a minute, and held his eyes upon her; after
which, agitated too sharply to sit still, he pushed back his chair and
stood up. It was as if mere distress or dismay at first worked in him,
and was in fact a wave of deep and irresistible emotion which made him,
on his feet, sway as in a great trouble and then, to correct it,
throw himself stiffly toward the window, where he stood and looked out
unseeing. The road, the wide terrace beyond, the seats, the eternal sea
beyond that, the lighted lamps now flaring in the October night-wind,
with the few dispersed people abroad at the tea-hour; these things,
meeting and melting into the firelit hospitality at his elbow--or was it
that portentous amenity that melted into _them?_--seemed to form round
him and to put before him, all together, the strangest of circles
and the newest of experiences, in which the unforgettable and the
unimaginable were confoundingly mixed. “Oh, oh, oh!”--he could only
almost howl for it.

And then, while a thick blur for some moments mantled everything,
he knew she had got up, that she stood watching him, allowing for
everything, again all “cleverly” patient with him, and he heard her
speak again as with studied quietness and clearness. “I wanted to take
care of you--it was what I first wanted--and what you first consented
to. I’d have done it, oh I’d have done it, I’d have loved you and helped
you and guarded you, and you’d have had no trouble, no bad blighting
ruin, in all your easy, yes, just your quite jolly and comfortable life.
I showed you and proved to you this--I brought it home to you, as I
fondly fancied, and it made me briefly happy. You swore you cared for
me, you wrote it and made me believe it--you pledged me your honour
and your faith. Then you turned and changed suddenly from one day to
another; everything altered, you broke your vows, you as good as told me
you only wanted it off. You faced me with dislike, and in fact tried not
to face me at all; you behaved as if you hated me--you had seen a girl,
of great beauty, I admit, who made me a fright and a bore.”

This brought him straight round. “No, Kate Cookham.”

“Yes, Herbert Dodd.” She but shook her head, calmly and nobly, in the
now gathered dusk, and her memories and her cause and her character--or
was it only her arch-subtlety, her line and her “idea”?--gave her an
extraordinary large assurance.

She had touched, however, the treasure of his own case--his terrible
own case that began to live again at once by the force of her talking of
hers, and which could always all cluster about his great asseveration.
“No, no, never, never; I had never seen her then and didn’t dream of
her; so that when you yourself began to be harsh and sharp with me,
and to seem to want to quarrel, I could have but one idea--which was
an appearance you didn’t in the least, as I saw it then, account for or
disprove.”

“An appearance--?” Kate desired, as with high astonishment, to know
which one.

“How _shouldn’t_ I have supposed you really to care for Bill
Frankle?--as thoroughly believing the motive of your claim for my money
to be its help to your marrying him, since you couldn’t marry me. I was
only surprised when, time passing, I made out that that hadn’t happened;
and perhaps,” he added the next instant with something of a conscious
lapse from the finer style, “hadn’t been in question.”

She had listened to this only staring, and she was silent after he
had said it, so silent for some instants that while he considered her
something seemed to fail him, much as if he had thrown out his foot for
a step and not found the place to rest it. He jerked round to the window
again, and then she answered, but without passion unless it was that of
her weariness for something stupid and forgiven in him, “Oh, the blind,
the pitiful folly!”--to which, as it might perfectly have applied to her
own behaviour, he returned nothing. She had moreover at once gone on.
“Have it then that there wasn’t much to do--between your finding that
you loathed me for another woman or discovering only, when it came to
the point, that you loathed me quite enough for myself.”

Which, as she put it in that immensely effective fashion, he recognised
that he must just unprotestingly and not so very awkwardly--not so
_very!_--take from her; since, whatever he had thus come to her for, it
wasn’t to perjure himself with any pretence that, “another woman” or no
other woman, he hadn’t, for years and years, abhorred her. Now he was
taking tea with her--or rather, literally, seemed not to be; but this
made no difference, and he let her express it as she would while he
distinguished a man he knew, Charley Coote, outside on the Parade, under
favour of the empty hour and one of the flaring lamps, making up to a
young woman with whom (it stuck out grotesquely in his manner) he had
never before conversed. Dodd’s own position was that of acquiescing in
this recall of what had so bitterly been--but he hadn’t come back to
her, of himself, to stir up, to recall or to recriminate, and for _her_
it could but be the very lesson of her whole present act that if she
touched anything she touched everything. Soon enough she _was_ indeed,
and all overwhelmingly, touching everything--with a hand of which the
boldness grew.

“But I didn’t let _that_, even, make a difference in what I
wanted--which was all,” she said, “and had only and passionately been,
to take care of you. I had _no_ money whatever--nothing then of my own,
not a penny to come by anyhow; so it wasn’t with mine I could do it. But
I could do it with yours,” she amazingly wound up--“if I could once get
yours out of you.”

He faced straight about again--his eyebrows higher than they had ever
been in his life. “Mine? What penny of it was mine? What scrap beyond a
bare, mean little living had I ever pretended to have?”

She held herself still a minute, visibly with force; only her eyes
consciously attached to the seat of a chair the back of which her
hands, making it tilt toward her a little, grasped as for support.
“You pretended to have enough to marry me--and that was all I afterward
claimed of you when you wouldn’t.”

He was on the point of retorting that he had absolutely pretended to
nothing--least of all to the primary desire that such a way of stating
it fastened on him; he was on the point for ten seconds of giving
her full in the face: “I never _had_ any such dream till you
yourself--infatuated with me as, frankly, you on the whole appeared to
be--got round me and muddled me up and made me behave as if in a way
that went against the evidence of my senses.” But he was to feel as
quickly that, whatever the ugly, the spent, the irrecoverable truth, he
might better have bitten his tongue off: there beat on him there this
strange and other, this so prodigiously different beautiful and dreadful
truth that no far remembrance and no abiding ache of his own could
wholly falsify, and that was indeed all out with her next words.
“That--_using_ it for you and using you yourself for your own
future--was my motive. I’ve led my life, which has been an affair,
I assure you; and, as I’ve told you without your quite seeming to
understand, I’ve brought everything fivefold back to you.”

The perspiration broke out on his forehead. “Everything’s mine?” he
quavered as for the deep piercing pain of it.

“Everything!” said Kate Cookham.

So it told him how she had loved him--but with the tremendous effect
at once of its only glaring out at him from the whole thing that it was
verily she, a thousand times over, who, in the exposure of his youth and
his vanity, had, on the bench of desolation, the scene of yesterday’s
own renewal, left for him no forward steps to take. It hung there for
him tragically vivid again, the hour she had first found him sequestered
and accessible after making his acquaintance at his shop. And from this,
by a succession of links that fairly clicked to his ear as with their
perfect fitting, the fate and the pain and the payment of others stood
together in a great grim order. Everything there then was _his_--to
make him ask what had been Nan’s, poor Nan’s of the constant question
of whether he need have collapsed. She was before him, she was between
them, his little dead dissatisfied wife; across all whose final woe and
whose lowly grave he was to reach out, it appeared, to take gifts. He
saw them too, the gifts; saw them--she bristled with them--in his actual
companion’s brave and sincere and authoritative figure, her strangest of
demonstrations. But the other appearance was intenser, as if their ghost
had waved wild arms; so that half a minute hadn’t passed before the one
poor thing that remained of Nan, and that yet thus became a quite
mighty and momentous poor thing, was sitting on his lips as for its sole
opportunity.

“Can you give me your word of honour that I mightn’t, under decent
advice, have defied you?”

It made her turn very white; but now that she had said what she _had_
said she could still hold up her head. “Certainly you might have defied
me, Herbert Dodd.”

“They would have told me you had no legal case?”

Well, if she was pale she was bold. “You talk of decent advice--!” She
broke off, there was too much to say, and all needless. What she said
instead was: “They would have told you I had nothing.”

“I didn’t so much as ask,” her sad visitor remarked.

“Of course you didn’t so much as ask.”

“I couldn’t be so outrageously vulgar,” he went on.

“_I_ could, by God’s help!” said Kate Cookham.

“Thank you.” He had found at his command a tone that made him feel more
gentlemanlike than he had ever felt in his life or should doubtless ever
feel again. It might have been enough--but somehow as they stood there
with this immense clearance between them it wasn’t. The clearance was
like a sudden gap or great bleak opening through which there blew upon
them a deadly chill. Too many things had fallen away, too many new
rolled up and over him, and they made something within shake him to his
base. It upset the full vessel, and though she kept her eyes on him
he let that consequence come, bursting into tears, weakly crying there
before her even as he had cried to himself in the hour of his youth when
she had made him groundlessly fear. She turned away then--_that_ she
couldn’t watch, and had presently flung herself on the sofa and, all
responsively wailing, buried her own face on the cushioned arm. So for
a minute their smothered sobs only filled the room. But he made out,
through this disorder, where he had put down his hat; his stick and his
new tan-coloured gloves--they had cost two-and-thruppence and would
have represented sacrifices--were on the chair beside it He picked these
articles up and all silently and softly--gasping, that is, but quite on
tiptoe--reached the door and let himself out.



VI

Off there on the bench of desolation a week later she made him a more
particular statement, which it had taken the remarkably tense interval
to render possible. After leaving her at the hotel that last Sunday he
had gone forth in his reaggravated trouble and walked straight before
him, in the teeth of the west wind, close to the iron rails of the
stretched Marina and with his telltale face turned from persons
occasionally met, and toward the surging sea. At the Land’s End, even in
the confirmed darkness and the perhaps imminent big blow, his immemorial
nook, small shelter as it yielded, had again received him; and it was
in the course of this heedless session, no doubt, where the agitated air
had nothing to add to the commotion within him, that he began to look
his extraordinary fortune a bit straighter in the face and see it
confess itself at once a fairy-tale and a nightmare That, visibly,
confoundingly, she was still attached to him (attached in fact was a
mild word!) and that the unquestionable proof of it was in this offered
pecuniary salve, of the thickest composition, for his wounds and sores
and shames--these things were the fantastic fable, the tale of money
in handfuls, that he seemed to have only to stand there and swallow
and digest and feel himself full-fed by; but the whole of the rest
was nightmare, and most of all nightmare his having thus to thank one
through whom Nan and his little girls had known torture.

He didn’t care for himself now, and this unextinguished and apparently
inextinguishable charm by which he had held her was a fact incredibly
romantic; but he gazed with a longer face than he had ever had for
anything in the world at his potential acceptance of a great bouncing
benefit from the person he intimately, if even in a manner indirectly,
associated with the conditions to which his lovely wife and his children
(who would have been so lovely too) had pitifully succumbed. He had
accepted the social relation--which meant he had taken even that on
trial--without knowing what it so dazzlingly masked; for a social
relation it had become with a vengeance when it drove him about the
place as now at his hours of freedom (and he actually and recklessly
took, all demoralised and unstrung and unfit either for work or for
anything else, other liberties that would get him into trouble) under
this queer torment of irreconcilable things, a bewildered consciousness
of tenderness and patience and cruelty, of great evident mystifying
facts that were as little to be questioned as to be conceived or
explained, and that were yet least, withal, to be lost sight of.

On that Sunday night he had wandered wild, incoherently ranging and
throbbing, but this became the law of his next days as well, since he
lacked more than ever all other resort or refuge and had nowhere to
carry, to deposit, or contractedly let loose and lock up, as it were,
his swollen consciousness, which fairly split in twain the raw shell of
his sordid little boarding-place. The arch of the sky and the spread of
sea and shore alone gave him space; he could roam with himself anywhere,
in short, far or near--he could only never take himself back. That
certitude--that this was impossible to him even should she wait there
among her plushes and bronzes ten years--was the thing he kept
closest clutch of; it did wonders for what he would have called his
self-respect. Exactly as he had left her so he would stand off--even
though at moments when he pulled up sharp somewhere to put himself an
intensest question his heart almost stood still. The days of the week
went by, and as he had left her she stayed; to the extent, that is, of
his having neither sight nor sound of her, and of the failure of
every sign. It took nerve, he said, not to return to her, even for
curiosity--since how, after all, in the name of wonder, had she invested
the fruits of her extortion to such advantage, there being no chapter
of all the obscurity of the years to beat that for queer-ness? But
he dropped, tired to death, on benches, half a dozen times an
evening--exactly on purpose to recognise that the nerve required was
just the nerve he had.

As the days without a token from her multiplied he came in as well for
hours--and these indeed mainly on the bench of desolation--of sitting
stiff and stark in presence of the probability that he had lost
everything for ever. When he passed the Royal he never turned an
eyelash, and when he met Captain Roper on the Front, three days after
having been introduced to him, he “cut him dead”--another privileged
consequence of a social relation--rather than seem to himself to make
the remotest approach to the question of whether Miss Cookham had left
Properley. He had cut people in the days of his life before, just as
he had come to being himself cut--since there had been no time for
him wholly without one or other face of that necessity--but had never
effected such a severance as of this rare connection, which helped to
give him thus the measure of his really precious sincerity. If he had
lost what had hovered before him he had lost it, his only tribute to
which proposition was to grind his teeth with one of those “scrunches,”
 as he would have said, of which the violence fairly reached his ear. It
wouldn’t make him lift a finger, and in fact if Kate had simply
taken herself off on the Tuesday or the Wednesday she would have been
reabsorbed again into the darkness from which she had emerged--and
no lifting of fingers, the unspeakable chapter closed, would evermore
avail. That at any rate was the kind of man he still was--even after all
that had come and gone, and even if for a few dazed hours certain things
had seemed pleasant. The dazed hours had passed, the surge of the old
bitterness had dished him (shouldn’t he have been shamed if it hadn’t?),
and he might sit there as before, as always, with nothing at all on
earth to look to. He had therefore wrongfully believed himself to be
degraded; and the last word about him would be that he _couldn’t_ then,
it appeared, sink to vulgarity as he had tried to let his miseries make
him.

And yet on the next Sunday morning, face to face with him again at the
Land’s End, what she very soon came to was: “As if I believed you didn’t
_know_ by what cord you hold me!” Absolutely too, and just that morning
in fact, above all, he wouldn’t, he quite couldn’t have taken his solemn
oath that he hadn’t a sneaking remnant, as he might have put it to
himself--a remnant of faith in tremendous things still to come of their
interview. The day was sunny and breezy, the sea of a cold purple; he
wouldn’t go to church as he mostly went of Sunday mornings, that being
in its way too a social relation--and not least when two-and-thruppenny
tan-coloured gloves were new; which indeed he had the art of keeping
them for ages. Yet he would dress himself as he scarce mustered
resources for even to figure on the fringe of Society, local and
transient, at St. Bernard’s, and in this trim he took his way westward;
occupied largely, as he went, it might have seemed to any person
pursuing the same course and happening to observe him, in a fascinated
study of the motions of his shadow, the more or less grotesque shape
projected, in front of him and mostly a bit to the right, over the
blanched asphalt of the Parade and dandling and dancing at such a rate,
shooting out and then contracting, that, viewed in themselves, its
eccentricities might have formed the basis of an interesting challenge:
“Find the state of mind, guess the nature of the agitation, possessing
the person so remarkably represented!” Herbert Dodd, for that matter,
might have been himself attempting to make by the sun’s sharp aid some
approach to his immediate horoscope.

It had at any rate been thus put before him that the dandling and
dancing of his image occasionally gave way to perfect immobility, when
he stopped and kept his eyes on it. “Suppose she should come, suppose
she _should!_” it is revealed at least to ourselves that he had at
these moments audibly breathed--breathed with the intensity of an arrest
between hope and fear. It had glimmered upon him from early, with the
look of the day, that, given all else that could happen, this would be
rather, as he put it, in her line; and the possibility lived for him, as
he proceeded, to the tune of a suspense almost sickening. It was, from
one small stage of his pilgrimage to another, the “For ever, never!”
 of the sentimental case the playmates of his youth used to pretend
to settle by plucking the petals of a daisy. But it came to his truly
turning faint--so “queer” he felt--when, at the gained point of the
long stretch from which he could always tell, he arrived within positive
sight of his immemorial goal. His seat was taken and she was keeping it
for him--it could only be _she_ there in possession; whereby it shone
out for Herbert Dodd that if he hadn’t been quite sure of her recurrence
she had at least been quite sure of his. _That_ pulled him up to some
purpose, where recognition began for them--or to the effect, in other
words, of his pausing to judge if he could bear, for the sharpest note
of their intercourse, this inveterate demonstration of her making him do
what she liked. What settled the question for him then--and just
while they avowedly watched each other, over the long interval, before
closing, as if, on either side, for the major advantage--what settled it
was this very fact that what she liked she liked so terribly. If it were
simply to “use” him, as she had said the last time, and no matter to
the profit of which of them she called it, one might let it go for that;
since it could make her wait over, day after day, in that fashion, and
with such a spending of money, on the hazard of their meeting again. How
could she be the least sure he would ever again consent to it after the
proved action on him, a week ago, of her last monstrous honesty? It was
indeed positively as if he were now himself putting this influence--and
for their common edification--to the supreme, to the finest test. He had
a sublime, an ideal flight, which lasted about a minute. “Suppose, now
that I see her there and what she has taken so characteristically for
granted, suppose I just show her that she _hasn’t_ only confidently to
wait or whistle for me, and that the length of my leash is greater
than she measures, and that everything’s impossible always?--show it by
turning my back on her now and walking straight away. She won’t be able
not to understand _that!_”

Nothing had passed, across their distance, but the mute apprehension
of each on the part of each; the whole expanse, at the church hour, was
void of other life (he had scarce met a creature on his way from end
to end), and the sun-seasoned gusts kept brushing the air and all the
larger prospect clean. It was through this beautiful lucidity that
he watched her watch him, as it were--watch him for what he would do.
Neither moved at this high tension; Kate Cookham, her face fixed on
him, only waited with a stiff appearance of leaving him, not for dignity
but--to an effect of even deeper perversity--for kindness, free to
choose. It yet somehow affected him at present, this attitude, as a gage
of her _knowing too_--knowing, that is, that he wasn’t really free, that
this was the thinnest of vain parades, the poorest of hollow heroics,
that his need, his solitude, his suffered wrong, his exhausted rancour,
his foredoomed submission to any shown interest, all hung together too
heavy on him to let the weak wings of his pride do more than vaguely
tremble. They couldn’t, they didn’t carry him a single beat further
away; according to which he stood rooted, neither retreating nor
advancing, but presently correcting his own share of the bleak exchange
by looking off at the sea. Deeply conscious of the awkwardness this
posture gave him, he yet clung to it as the last shred of his honour,
to the clear argument that it was one thing for him to have felt beneath
all others, the previous days, that she was to be counted on, but quite
a different for her to have felt that _he_ was. His checked approach,
arriving thus at no term, could in these odd conditions have established
that he wasn’t only if Kate Cookham had, as either of them might have
said, taken it so--if she had given up the game at last by rising, by
walking away and adding to the distance between them, and he had then
definitely let her vanish into space. It became a fact that when she did
finally rise--though after how long our record scarce takes on itself to
say--it was not to confirm their separation but to put an end to it; and
this by slowly approaching him till she had come within earshot He had
wondered, once aware of it in spite of his averted face, what she would
say and on what note, as it were, she would break their week’s
silence; so that he had to recognise anew, her voice reaching him, that
remarkable quality in her which again and again came up for him as her
art.

“There are twelve hundred and sixty pounds, to be definite, but I have
it all down for you--and you’ve only to draw.”

They lost themselves, these words, rare and exquisite, in the wide
bright genial medium and the Sunday stillness, but even while that
occurred and he was gaping for it she was herself there, in her battered
ladylike truth, to answer for them, to represent them, and, if a further
grace than their simple syllabled beauty were conceivable, almost
embarrassingly to cause them to materialise. Yes, she let her smart and
tight little reticule hang as if it bulged, beneath its clasp, with the
whole portentous sum, and he felt himself glare again at this vividest
of her attested claims. She might have been ready, on the spot, to open
the store to the plunge of his hand, or, with the situation otherwise
conceived, to impose on his pauperised state an acceptance of alms on
a scale unprecedented in the annals of street charity. Nothing so much
counted for him, however, neither grave numeral nor elegant fraction,
as the short, rich, rounded word that the breeze had picked up as it
dropped and seemed now to blow about between them. “To draw--to draw?”
 Yes, he gaped it as if it had no sense; the fact being that even while
he did so he was reading into her use of the term more romance than any
word in the language had ever had for him. He, Herbert Dodd, was to live
to “draw,” like people, scarce hampered by the conditions of earth,
whom he had remotely and circuitously heard about, and in fact when he
walked back with her to where she had been sitting it was very much, for
his strained nerves, as if the very bench of desolation itself were to
be the scene of that exploit and he mightn’t really live till he reached
it.

When they had sat down together she did press the spring of her
reticule, from which she took, not a handful of gold nor a packet of
crisp notes, but an oblong sealed letter, which she had thus waited on
him, she remarked, on purpose to deliver, and which would certify, with
sundry particulars, to the credit she had opened for him at a London
bank. He received it without looking at it--he held it, in the same
manner, conspicuous and unassimilated, for most of the rest of the
immediate time, appearing embarrassed with it, nervously twisting and
flapping it, yet thus publicly retaining it even while aware, beneath
everything, of the strange, the quite dreadful, wouldn’t it be?
engagement that such inaction practically stood for. He could accept
money to that amount, yes--but not for nothing in return. For what then
in return? He kept asking himself for what, while she said other things
and made above all, in her high, shrewd, successful way the point that,
no, he needn’t pretend that his conviction of her continued personal
interest in him wouldn’t have tided him oyer any question besetting
him since their separation. She put it to him that the deep instinct of
where he should at last find her must confidently have worked for him,
since she confessed to her instinct of where she should find _him_;
which meant--oh it came home to him as he fingered his sealed
treasure!--neither more nor less than that she had now created
between them an equality of experience. He wasn’t to have done all the
suffering, _she_ was to have “been through” things he couldn’t even
guess at; and, since he was bargaining away his right ever again to
allude to the unforgettable, so much there was of it, what her tacit
proposition came to was that they were “square” and might start afresh.

He didn’t take up her charge, as his so compromised “pride” yet in a
manner prompted him, that he had enjoyed all the week all those elements
of ease about her; the most he achieved for that was to declare, with an
ingenuity contributing to float him no small distance further, that of
course he had turned up at their old place of tryst, which had been,
through the years, the haunt of his solitude and the goal of his walk
any Sunday morning that seemed too beautiful for church; but that he
hadn’t in the least built on her presence there--since that supposition
gave him, she would understand, wouldn’t she? the air, disagreeable to
him, of having come in search of her. Her quest of himself, once he
had been seated there, would have been another matter--but in short
“Of course after all you did come to me, just now, didn’t you?” He felt
himself, too, lamely and gracelessly grin, as for the final kick of his
honour, in confirmation of the record that he had then yielded but to
her humility. Her humility became for him at this hour and to this tune,
on the bench of desolation, a quantity more prodigious and even more
mysterious than that other guaranteed quantity the finger-tips of his
left hand could feel the tap by the action of his right; though what was
in especial extraordinary was the manner in which she could keep making
him such allowances and yet meet him again, at some turn, as with her
residuum for her clever self so great.

“Come to you, Herbert Dodd?” she imperturbably echoed. “I’ve been coming
to you for the last ten years!”

There had been for him just before this sixty supreme seconds of
intensest aspiration--a minute of his keeping his certificate poised
for a sharp thrust back at her, the thrust of the wild freedom of his
saying: “No, no, I _can’t_ give them up; I can’t simply sink them deep
down in my soul forever, with no cross in all my future to mark _that_
burial; so that if this is what our arrangement means I must decline to
have anything to do with it.” The words none the less hadn’t come, and
when she had herself, a couple of minutes later, spoken those
others, the blood rose to his face as if, given his stiffness and her
extravagance, he had just indeed saved himself.

Everything in fact stopped, even his fidget with his paper; she imposed
a hush, she imposed at any rate the conscious decent form of one, and
he couldn’t afterward have told how long, at this juncture, he must have
sat simply gazing before him. It was so long, at any rate, that Kate
herself got up--and quite indeed, presently, as if her own forms were
now at an end. He had returned her nothing--so what was she waiting for?
She had been on the two other occasions momentarily at a loss, but never
so much so, no doubt, as was thus testified to by her leaving the bench
and moving over once more to the rail of the terrace. She could carry
it off, in a manner, with her resources, that she was waiting with so
little to wait for; she could face him again, after looking off at
the sea, as if this slightly stiff delay, not wholly exempt from
awkwardness, had been but a fine scruple of her courtesy. She had
gathered herself in; after giving him time to appeal she could take
it that he had decided and that nothing was left for her to do. “Well
then,” she clearly launched at him across the broad walk--“well then,
good-bye.”

She had come nearer with it, as if he might rise for some show of
express separation; but he only leaned back motionless, his eyes on her
now--he kept her a moment before him. “Do you mean that we don’t--that
we don’t--?” But he broke down.

“Do I ‘mean’--?” She remained as for questions he might ask, but it
was wellnigh as if there played through her dotty veil an irrepressible
irony for that particular one. “I’ve meant, for long years, I think, all
I’m capable of meaning. I’ve meant so much that I can’t mean more. So
there it is.”

“But if you go,” he appealed--and with a sense as of final flatness,
however he arranged it, for his own attitude--“but if you go sha’n’t I
see you again?”

She waited a little, and it was strangely for him now as if--though at
last so much more gorged with her tribute than she had ever been with
his--something still depended on her. “Do you _like_ to see me?” she
very simply asked.

At this he did get up; that was easier than to say--at least with
responsive simplicity; and again for a little he looked hard and in
silence at his letter; which at last, however, raising his eyes to her
own for the act, while he masked their conscious ruefulness, to his
utmost, in some air of assurance, he slipped into the inner pocket of
his coat, letting it settle there securely. “You’re too wonderful.” But
he frowned at her with it as never in his life. “Where does it all come
from?”

“The wonder of poor me?” Kate Cookham said. “It comes from _you_.”

He shook his head slowly--feeling, with his letter there against his
heart, such a new agility, almost such a new range of interest. “I mean
so _much_ money--so extraordinarily much.”

Well, she held him a while blank. “Does it seem to you extraordinarily
much--twelve-hundred-and-sixty? Because, you know,” she added, “it’s
all.”

“It’s enough!” he returned with a slight thoughtful droop of his head to
the right and his eyes attached to the far horizon as through a shade of
shyness for what he was saying. He felt all her own lingering nearness
somehow on his cheek.

“It’s enough? Thank you then!” she rather oddly went on.

He shifted a little his posture. “It was more than a hundred a year--for
you to get together.”

“Yes,” she assented, “that was what year by year I tried for.”

“But that you could live all the while and save that--!” Yes, he was
at liberty, as he hadn’t been, quite pleasantly to marvel. All his
wonderments in life had been hitherto unanswered--and didn’t the change
mean that here again was the social relation?

“Ah, I didn’t live as you saw me the other day.”

“Yes,” he answered--and didn’t he the next instant feel he must fairly
have smiled with it?--“the other day you _were_ going it!”

“For once in my life,” said Kate Cookham. “I’ve left the hotel,” she
after a moment added.

“Ah, you’re in--a--lodgings?” he found himself inquiring as for positive
sociability.

She had apparently a slight shade of hesitation, but in an instant it
was all right; as what he showed he wanted to know she seemed mostly to
give him. “Yes--but far of course from here. Up on the hill.” To which,
after another instant, “At The Mount, Castle Terrace,” she subjoined.

“Oh, I _know_ The Mount. And Castle Terrace is awfully sunny and nice.”

“Awfully sunny and nice,” Kate Cookham took from him.

“So that if it isn’t,” he pursued, “like the Royal, why you’re at least
comfortable.”

“I shall be comfortable anywhere now,” she replied with a certain
dryness.

It was astonishing, however, what had become of his own. “Because I’ve
accepted----?”

“Call it that!” she dimly smiled.

“I hope then at any rate,” he returned, “you can now thoroughly rest” He
spoke as for a cheerful conclusion and moved again also to smile, though
as with a poor grimace, no doubt; since what he seemed most clearly to
feel was that since he “accepted” he mustn’t, for his last note, have
accepted in sulkiness or gloom. With that, at the same time, he couldn’t
but know, in all his fibres, that with such a still-watching face as the
dotty veil didn’t disguise for him there was no possible concluding, at
least on his part On hers, on hers it was--as he had so often for a week
had reflectively to pronounce things--another affair. Ah, somehow,
both formidably and helpfully, her face concluded--yet in a sense so
strangely enshrouded in things she didn’t tell him. What _must_ she,
what mustn’t she, have done? What she had said--and she had really told
him nothing--was no account of her life; in the midst of which conflict
of opposed recognitions, at any rate, it was as if, for all he could
do, he himself now considerably floundered. “But I can’t think--I can’t
think----!”

“You can’t think I can have made so much money in the time and been
honest?”

“Oh, you’ve been _honest!_” Herbert Dodd distinctly allowed.

It moved her stillness to a gesture--which, however, she had as promptly
checked; and she went on the next instant as for further generosity to
his failure of thought. “Everything was possible, under my stress, with
my hatred.”

“Your hatred--?” For she had paused as if it were after all too
difficult.

“Of what I should for so long have been doing to you.”

With this, for all his failures, a greater light than any yet shone upon
him. “It made you think of ways----?”

“It made me think of everything. It made me work,” said Kate Cookham.
She added, however, the next moment: “But that’s my story.”

“And I mayn’t hear it?”

“No--because I mayn’t hear yours.”

“Oh, mine--!” he said with the strangest, saddest, yet after all most
resigned sense of surrender of it; which he tried to make sound as if he
couldn’t have told it, for its splendor of sacrifice and of misery, even
if he would.

It seemed to move in her a little, exactly, that sense of the invidious.
“Ah, mine too, I assure you----!”

He rallied at once to the interest. “Oh, we _can_ talk then?”

“Never,” she all oddly replied. “Never,” said Kate Cookham.

They remained so, face to face; the effect of which for him was that he
had after a little understood why. That was fundamental. “Well, I see.”

Thus confronted they stayed; and then, as he saw with a contentment that
came up from deeper still, it was indeed she who, with her worn fine
face, would conclude. “But I can take care of you.”

“You _have!_” he said as with nothing left of him but a beautiful
appreciative candour.

“Oh, but you’ll want it now in a way--!” she responsibly answered.

He waited a moment, dropping again on the seat. So, while she still
stood, he looked up at her; with the sense somehow that there were too
many things and that they were all together, terribly, irresistibly,
doubtless blessedly, in her eyes and her whole person; which thus
affected him for the moment as more than he could bear. He leaned
forward, dropping his elbows to his knees and pressing his head on his
hands. So he stayed, saying nothing; only, with the sense of her own
sustained, renewed and wonderful action, knowing that an arm had passed
round him and that he was held. She was beside him on the bench of
desolation.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Finer Grain" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home