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The Chaperon

The Chaperon

Henry James

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1

  • An old lady, in a high drawing-room, had had her chair moved close to th_ire, where she sat knitting and warming her knees. She was dressed in dee_ourning; her face had a faded nobleness, tempered, however, by the somewha_lliberal compression assumed by her lips in obedience to something that wa_assing in her mind. She was far from the lamp, but though her eyes were fixe_pon her active needles she was not looking at them. What she really saw wa_uite another train of affairs. The room was spacious and dim; the thic_ondon fog had oozed into it even through its superior defences. It was ful_f dusky, massive, valuable things. The old lady sat motionless save for th_egularity of her clicking needles, which seemed as personal to her and a_xpressive as prolonged fingers. If she was thinking something out, she wa_hinking it thoroughly.
  • When she looked up, on the entrance of a girl of twenty, it might have bee_uessed that the appearance of this young lady was not an interruption of he_editation, but rather a contribution to it. The young lady, who was charmin_o behold, was also in deep mourning, which had a freshness, if mourning ca_e fresh, an air of having been lately put on. She went straight to the bel_eside the chimney-piece and pulled it, while in her other hand she held _ealed and directed letter. Her companion glanced in silence at the letter; then she looked still harder at her work. The girl hovered near the fireplace, without speaking, and after a due, a dignified interval the butler appeared i_esponse to the bell. The time had been sufficient to make the silence betwee_he ladies seem long. The younger one asked the butler to see that her lette_hould be posted; and after he had gone out she moved vaguely about the room, as if to give her grandmother—for such was the elder personage—a chance t_egin a colloquy of which she herself preferred not to strike the first note.
  • As equally with herself her companion was on the face of it capable of holdin_ut, the tension, though it was already late in the evening, might have laste_ong. But the old lady after a little appeared to recognise, a trifl_ngraciously, the girl's superior resources.
  • "Have you written to your mother?"
  • "Yes, but only a few lines, to tell her I shall come and see her in th_orning."
  • "Is that all you've got to say?" asked the grandmother.
  • "I don't quite know what you want me to say."
  • "I want you to say that you've made up your mind."
  • "Yes, I've done that, granny."
  • "You intend to respect your father's wishes?"
  • "It depends upon what you mean by respecting them. I do justice to th_eelings by which they were dictated."
  • "What do you mean by justice?" the old lady retorted.
  • The girl was silent a moment; then she said: "You'll see my idea of it."
  • "I see it already! You'll go and live with her."
  • "I shall talk the situation over with her to-morrow and tell her that I thin_hat will be best."
  • "Best for her, no doubt!"
  • "What's best for her is best for me."
  • "And for your brother and sister?" As the girl made no reply to this he_randmother went on: "What's best for them is that you should acknowledge som_esponsibility in regard to them and, considering how young they are, try an_o something for them."
  • "They must do as I've done—they must act for themselves. They have their mean_ow, and they're free."
  • "Free? They're mere children."
  • "Let me remind you that Eric is older than I."
  • "He doesn't like his mother," said the old lady, as if that were an answer.
  • "I never said he did. And she adores him."
  • "Oh, your mother's adorations!"
  • "Don't abuse her now," the girl rejoined, after a pause.
  • The old lady forbore to abuse her, but she made up for it the next moment b_aying: "It will be dreadful for Edith."
  • "What will be dreadful?"
  • "Your desertion of her."
  • "The desertion's on her side."
  • "Her consideration for her father does her honour."
  • "Of course I'm a brute, n'en parlons plus," said the girl. "We must go ou_espective ways," she added, in a tone of extreme wisdom and philosophy.
  • Her grandmother straightened out her knitting and began to roll it up. "Be s_ood as to ring for my maid," she said, after a minute. The young lady rang, and there was another wait and another conscious hush. Before the maid cam_er mistress remarked: "Of course then you'll not come to ME, you know."
  • "What do you mean by 'coming' to you?"
  • "I can't receive you on that footing."
  • "She'll not come WITH me, if you mean that."
  • "I don't mean that," said the old lady, getting up as her maid came in. Thi_ttendant took her work from her, gave her an arm and helped her out of th_oom, while Rose Tramore, standing before the fire and looking into it, face_he idea that her grandmother's door would now under all circumstances b_losed to her. She lost no time however in brooding over this anomaly: it onl_dded energy to her determination to act. All she could do to-night was to g_o bed, for she felt utterly weary. She had been living, in imagination, in _rospective struggle, and it had left her as exhausted as a real fight.
  • Moreover this was the culmination of a crisis, of weeks of suspense, of _ong, hard strain. Her father had been laid in his grave five days before, an_hat morning his will had been read. In the afternoon she had got Edith off t_t. Leonard's with their aunt Julia, and then she had had a wretched talk wit_ric. Lastly, she had made up her mind to act in opposition to the formidabl_ill, to a clause which embodied if not exactly a provision, a recommendatio_ingularly emphatic. She went to bed and slept the sleep of the just.
  • "Oh, my dear, how charming! I must take another house!" It was in these word_hat her mother responded to the announcement Rose had just formally made an_ith which she had vaguely expected to produce a certain dignity of effect. I_he way of emotion there was apparently no effect at all, and the girl wa_ise enough to know that this was not simply on account of the general line o_on- allusion taken by the extremely pretty woman before her, who looked lik_er elder sister. Mrs. Tramore had never manifested, to her daughter, th_lightest consciousness that her position was peculiar; but the recollectio_f something more than that fine policy was required to explain such _ailure, to appreciate Rose's sacrifice. It was simply a fresh reminder tha_he had never appreciated anything, that she was nothing but a tinted an_tippled surface. Her situation was peculiar indeed. She had been the heroin_f a scandal which had grown dim only because, in the eyes of the Londo_orld, it paled in the lurid light of the contemporaneous. That attention ha_een fixed on it for several days, fifteen years before; there had been a hig_elish of the vivid evidence as to his wife's misconduct with which, in th_ivorce-court, Charles Tramore had judged well to regale a cynical public. Th_ase was pronounced awfully bad, and he obtained his decree. The folly of th_ife had been inconceivable, in spite of other examples: she had quitted he_hildren, she had followed the "other fellow" abroad. The other fellow hadn'_arried her, not having had time: he had lost his life in the Mediterranean b_he capsizing of a boat, before the prohibitory term had expired.
  • Mrs. Tramore had striven to extract from this accident something of th_usterity of widowhood; but her mourning only made her deviation more public, she was a widow whose husband was awkwardly alive. She had not prowled abou_he Continent on the classic lines; she had come back to London to take he_hance. But London would give her no chance, would have nothing to say to her; as many persons had remarked, you could never tell how London would behave. I_ould not receive Mrs. Tramore again on any terms, and when she was spoken of, which now was not often, it was inveterately said of her that she wen_owhere. Apparently she had not the qualities for which London compounds; though in the cases in which it does compound you may often wonder what thes_ualities are. She had not at any rate been successful: her lover was dead, her husband was liked and her children were pitied, for in payment for a topi_ondon will parenthetically pity. It was thought interesting and magnanimou_hat Charles Tramore had not married again. The disadvantage to his childre_f the miserable story was thus left uncorrected, and this, rather oddly, wa_ounted as HIS sacrifice. His mother, whose arrangements were elaborate, looked after them a great deal, and they enjoyed a mixture of laxity an_iscipline under the roof of their aunt, Miss Tramore, who was independent, having, for reasons that the two ladies had exhaustively discussed, determine_o lead her own life. She had set up a home at St. Leonard's, and tha_ontracted shore had played a considerable part in the upbringing of th_ittle Tramores. They knew about their mother, as the phrase was, but the_idn't know her; which was naturally deemed more pathetic for them than fo_er. She had a house in Chester Square and an income and a victoria—it serve_ll purposes, as she never went out in the evening—and flowers on her window- sills, and a remarkable appearance of youth. The income was supposed to be i_art the result of a bequest from the man for whose sake she had committed th_rror of her life, and in the appearance of youth there was a slightl_mpertinent implication that it was a sort of afterglow of the sam_onnection.
  • Her children, as they grew older, fortunately showed signs of som_ndividuality of disposition. Edith, the second girl, clung to her aunt Julia; Eric, the son, clung frantically to polo; while Rose, the elder daughter, appeared to cling mainly to herself. Collectively, of course, they clung t_heir father, whose attitude in the family group, however, was casual an_ntermittent. He was charming and vague; he was like a clever actor who ofte_idn't come to rehearsal. Fortune, which but for that one stroke had bee_enerous to him, had provided him with deputies and trouble-takers, as well a_ith whimsical opinions, and a reputation for excellent taste, and whist a_is club, and perpetual cigars on morocco sofas, and a beautiful absence o_urpose. Nature had thrown in a remarkably fine hand, which he sometime_assed over his children's heads when they were glossy from the nursery brush.
  • On Rose's eighteenth birthday he said to her that she might go to see he_other, on condition that her visits should be limited to an hour each tim_nd to four in the year. She was to go alone; the other children were no_ncluded in the arrangement. This was the result of a visit that he himsel_ad paid his repudiated wife at her urgent request, their only encounte_uring the fifteen years. The girl knew as much as this from her aunt Julia, who was full of tell-tale secrecies. She availed herself eagerly of th_icense, and in course of the period that elapsed before her father's deat_he spent with Mrs. Tramore exactly eight hours by the watch. Her father, wh_as as inconsistent and disappointing as he was amiable, spoke to her of he_other only once afterwards. This occasion had been the sequel of her firs_isit, and he had made no use of it to ask what she thought of the personalit_n Chester Square or how she liked it. He had only said "Did she take yo_ut?" and when Rose answered "Yes, she put me straight into a carriage an_rove me up and down Bond Street," had rejoined sharply "See that that neve_ccurs again." It never did, but once was enough, every one they knew havin_appened to be in Bond Street at that particular hour.
  • After this the periodical interview took place in private, in Mrs. Tramore'_eautiful little wasted drawing-room. Rose knew that, rare as these occasion_ere, her mother would not have kept her "all to herself" had there bee_nybody she could have shown her to. But in the poor lady's social void ther_as no one; she had after all her own correctness and she consistentl_referred isolation to inferior contacts. So her daughter was subjected onl_o the maternal; it was not necessary to be definite in qualifying that. Th_irl had by this time a collection of ideas, gathered by impenetrabl_rocesses; she had tasted, in the ostracism of her ambiguous parent, of th_crid fruit of the tree of knowledge. She not only had an approximate visio_f what every one had done, but she had a private judgment for each case. Sh_ad a particular vision of her father, which did not interfere with his bein_ear to her, but which was directly concerned in her resolution, after hi_eath, to do the special thing he had expressed the wish she should not do. I_he general estimate her grandmother and her grandmother's money had thei_lace, and the strong probability that any enjoyment of the latter commodit_ould now be withheld from her. It included Edith's marked inclination t_eceive the law, and doubtless eventually a more substantial memento, fro_iss Tramore, and opened the question whether her own course might no_ontribute to make her sister's appear heartless. The answer to this questio_owever would depend on the success that might attend her own, which woul_ery possibly be small. Eric's attitude was eminently simple; he didn't car_o know people who didn't know HIS people. If his mother should ever get bac_nto society perhaps he would take her up. Rose Tramore had decided to do wha_he could to bring this consummation about; and strangely enough—so mixed wer_er superstitions and her heresies—a large part of her motive lay in the valu_he attached to such a consecration.
  • Of her mother intrinsically she thought very little now, and if her eyes wer_ixed on a special achievement it was much more for the sake of tha_chievement and to satisfy a latent energy that was in her than because he_eart was wrung by this sufferer. Her heart had not been wrung at all, thoug_he had quite held it out for the experience. Her purpose was a pious game, but it was still essentially a game. Among the ideas I have mentioned she ha_er idea of triumph. She had caught the inevitable note, the pitch, on he_ery first visit to Chester Square. She had arrived there in intens_xcitement, and her excitement was left on her hands in a manner that reminde_er of a difficult air she had once heard sung at the opera when no on_pplauded the performer. That flatness had made her sick, and so did this, i_nother way. A part of her agitation proceeded from the fact that her aun_ulia had told her, in the manner of a burst of confidence, something she wa_ot to repeat, that she was in appearance the very image of the lady i_hester Square. The motive that prompted this declaration was between aun_ulia and her conscience; but it was a great emotion to the girl to find he_ntertainer so beautiful. She was tall and exquisitely slim; she had hair mor_xactly to Rose Tramore's taste than any other she had ever seen, even t_very detail in the way it was dressed, and a complexion and a figure of th_ind that are always spoken of as "lovely." Her eyes were irresistible, and s_ere her clothes, though the clothes were perhaps a little more precisely th_ight thing than the eyes. Her appearance was marked to her daughter's sens_y the highest distinction; though it may be mentioned that this had neve_een the opinion of all the world. It was a revelation to Rose that sh_erself might look a little like that. She knew however that aunt Julia ha_ot seen her deposed sister-in-law for a long time, and she had a genera_mpression that Mrs. Tramore was to-day a more complete production—fo_nstance as regarded her air of youth—than she had ever been. There was n_xcitement on her side—that was all her visitor's; there was no emotion—tha_as excluded by the plan, to say nothing of conditions more primal. Rose ha_rom the first a glimpse of her mother's plan. It was to mention nothing an_mply nothing, neither to acknowledge, to explain nor to extenuate. She woul_eave everything to her child; with her child she was secure. She only wante_o get back into society; she would leave even that to her child, whom sh_reated not as a high-strung and heroic daughter, a creature of exaltation, o_evotion, but as a new, charming, clever, useful friend, a little younger tha_erself. Already on that first day she had talked about dressmakers. O_ourse, poor thing, it was to be remembered that in her circumstances ther_ere not many things she COULD talk about. "She wants to go out again; that'_he only thing in the wide world she wants," Rose had promptly, compendiousl_aid to herself. There had been a sequel to this observation, uttered, i_ntense engrossment, in her own room half an hour before she had, on th_mportant evening, made known her decision to her grandmother: "Then I'll TAK_er out!"
  • "She'll drag you down, she'll drag you down!" Julia Tramore permitted hersel_o remark to her niece, the next day, in a tone of feverish prophecy.
  • As the girl's own theory was that all the dragging there might be would b_pward, and moreover administered by herself, she could look at her aunt wit_ cold and inscrutable eye.
  • "Very well, then, I shall be out of your sight, from the pinnacle you occupy, and I sha'n't trouble you."
  • "Do you reproach me for my disinterested exertions, for the way I've toile_ver you, the way I've lived for you?" Miss Tramore demanded.
  • "Don't reproach ME for being kind to my mother and I won't reproach you fo_nything."
  • "She'll keep you out of everything—she'll make you miss everything," Mis_ramore continued.
  • "Then she'll make me miss a great deal that's odious," said the girl.
  • "You're too young for such extravagances," her aunt declared.
  • "And yet Edith, who is younger than I, seems to be too old for them: how d_ou arrange that? My mother's society will make me older," Rose replied.
  • "Don't speak to me of your mother; you HAVE no mother."
  • "Then if I'm an orphan I must settle things for myself."
  • "Do you justify her, do you approve of her?" cried Miss Tramore, who wa_nferior to her niece in capacity for retort and whose limitations made th_irl appear pert.
  • Rose looked at her a moment in silence; then she said, turning away: "I thin_he's charming."
  • "And do you propose to become charming in the same manner?"
  • "Her manner is perfect; it would be an excellent model. But I can't discuss m_other with you."
  • "You'll have to discuss her with some other people!" Miss Tramore proclaimed, going out of the room.
  • Rose wondered whether this were a general or a particular vaticination. Ther_as something her aunt might have meant by it, but her aunt rarely meant th_est thing she might have meant. Miss Tramore had come up from St. Leonard'_n response to a telegram from her own parent, for an occasion like th_resent brought with it, for a few hours, a certain relaxation of thei_issent. "Do what you can to stop her," the old lady had said; but he_aughter found that the most she could do was not much. They both had _affled sense that Rose had thought the question out a good deal further tha_hey; and this was particularly irritating to Mrs. Tramore, as consciously th_leverer of the two. A question thought out as far as SHE could think it ha_lways appeared to her to have performed its human uses; she had neve_ncountered a ghost emerging from that extinction. Their great contention wa_hat Rose would cut herself off; and certainly if she wasn't afraid of tha_he wasn't afraid of anything. Julia Tramore could only tell her mother ho_ittle the girl was afraid. She was already prepared to leave the house, taking with her the possessions, or her share of them, that had accumulate_here during her father's illness. There had been a going and coming of he_aid, a thumping about of boxes, an ordering of four-wheelers; it appeared t_ld Mrs. Tramore that something of the objectionableness, the indecency, o_er granddaughter's prospective connection had already gathered about th_lace. It was a violation of the decorum of bereavement which was still fres_here, and from the indignant gloom of the mistress of the house you migh_ave inferred not so much that the daughter was about to depart as that th_other was about to arrive. There had been no conversation on the dreadfu_ubject at luncheon; for at luncheon at Mrs. Tramore's (her son never came t_t) there were always, even after funerals and other miseries, stray guests o_oth sexes whose policy it was to be cheerful and superficial. Rose had sa_own as if nothing had happened—nothing worse, that is, than her father'_eath; but no one had spoken of anything that any one else was thinking of.
  • Before she left the house a servant brought her a message from he_randmother—the old lady desired to see her in the drawing-room. She had o_er bonnet, and she went down as if she were about to step into her cab. Mrs.
  • Tramore sat there with her eternal knitting, from which she forebore even t_aise her eyes as, after a silence that seemed to express the fulness of he_eprobation, while Rose stood motionless, she began: "I wonder if you reall_nderstand what you're doing."
  • "I think so. I'm not so stupid."
  • "I never thought you were; but I don't know what to make of you now. You'r_iving up everything."
  • The girl was tempted to inquire whether her grandmother called herself
  • "everything"; but she checked this question, answering instead that she kne_he was giving up much.
  • "You're taking a step of which you will feel the effect to the end of you_ays," Mrs. Tramore went on.
  • "In a good conscience, I heartily hope," said Rose.
  • "Your father's conscience was good enough for his mother; it ought to be goo_nough for his daughter."
  • Rose sat down—she could afford to—as if she wished to be very attentive an_ere still accessible to argument. But this demonstration only ushered in, after a moment, the surprising words "I don't think papa had any conscience."
  • "What in the name of all that's unnatural do you mean?" Mrs. Tramore cried, over her glasses. "The dearest and best creature that ever lived!"
  • "He was kind, he had charming impulses, he was delightful. But he neve_eflected."
  • Mrs. Tramore stared, as if at a language she had never heard, a farrago, _alimatias. Her life was made up of items, but she had never had to deal, intellectually, with a fine shade. Then while her needles, which had paused a_nstant, began to fly again, she rejoined: "Do you know what you are, my dear?
  • You're a dreadful little prig. Where do you pick up such talk?"
  • "Of course I don't mean to judge between them," Rose pursued. "I can onl_udge between my mother and myself. Papa couldn't judge for me." And with thi_he got up.
  • "One would think you were horrid. I never thought so before."
  • "Thank you for that."
  • "You're embarking on a struggle with society," continued Mrs. Tramore, indulging in an unusual flight of oratory. "Society will put you in you_lace."
  • "Hasn't it too many other things to do?" asked the girl.
  • This question had an ingenuity which led her grandmother to meet it with _erely provisional and somewhat sketchy answer. "Your ignorance would b_elancholy if your behaviour were not so insane."
  • "Oh, no; I know perfectly what she'll do!" Rose replied, almost gaily. "She'l_rag me down."
  • "She won't even do that," the old lady declared contradictiously. "She'll kee_ou forever in the same dull hole."
  • "I shall come and see YOU, granny, when I want something more lively."
  • "You may come if you like, but you'll come no further than the door. If yo_eave this house now you don't enter it again."
  • Rose hesitated a moment. "Do you really mean that?"
  • "You may judge whether I choose such a time to joke."
  • "Good-bye, then," said the girl.
  • "Good-bye."
  • Rose quitted the room successfully enough; but on the other side of the door, on the landing, she sank into a chair and buried her face in her hands. Sh_ad burst into tears, and she sobbed there for a moment, trying hard t_ecover herself, so as to go downstairs without showing any traces of emotion, passing before the servants and again perhaps before aunt Julia. Mrs. Tramor_as too old to cry; she could only drop her knitting and, for a long time, si_ith her head bowed and her eyes closed.
  • Rose had reckoned justly with her aunt Julia; there were no footmen, but thi_igilant virgin was posted at the foot of the stairs. She offered no challeng_owever; she only said: "There's some one in the parlour who wants to se_ou." The girl demanded a name, but Miss Tramore only mouthed inaudibly an_inked and waved. Rose instantly reflected that there was only one man in th_orld her aunt would look such deep things about. "Captain Jay?" her own eye_sked, while Miss Tramore's were those of a conspirator: they were, for _oment, the only embarrassed eyes Rose had encountered that day. The_ontributed to make aunt Julia's further response evasive, after her niec_nquired if she had communicated in advance with this visitor. Miss Tramor_erely said that he had been upstairs with her mother—hadn't she mentione_t?—and had been waiting for her. She thought herself acute in not putting th_uestion of the girl's seeing him before her as a favour to him or to herself; she presented it as a duty, and wound up with the proposition: "It's not fai_o him, it's not kind, not to let him speak to you before you go."
  • "What does he want to say?" Rose demanded.
  • "Go in and find out."
  • She really knew, for she had found out before; but after standing uncertain a_nstant she went in. "The parlour" was the name that had always been borne b_ spacious sitting-room downstairs, an apartment occupied by her father durin_is frequent phases of residence in Hill Street—episodes increasingly frequen_fter his house in the country had, in consequence, as Rose perfectly knew, o_is spending too much money, been disposed of at a sacrifice which he alway_haracterised as horrid. He had been left with the place in Hertfordshire an_is mother with the London house, on the general understanding that they woul_hange about; but during the last years the community had grown more rigid, mainly at his mother's expense. The parlour was full of his memory and hi_abits and his things—his books and pictures and bibelots, objects tha_elonged now to Eric. Rose had sat in it for hours since his death; it was th_lace in which she could still be nearest to him. But she felt far from him a_aptain Jay rose erect on her opening the door. This was a very differen_resence. He had not liked Captain Jay. She herself had, but not enough t_ake a great complication of her father's coldness. This afternoon however sh_oresaw complications. At the very outset for instance she was not please_ith his having arranged such a surprise for her with her grandmother and he_unt. It was probably aunt Julia who had sent for him; her grandmothe_ouldn't have done it. It placed him immediately on their side, and Rose wa_lmost as disappointed at this as if she had not known it was quite where h_ould naturally be. He had never paid her a special visit, but if that wa_hat he wished to do why shouldn't he have waited till she should be under he_other's roof? She knew the reason, but she had an angry prospect of enjoymen_n making him express it. She liked him enough, after all, if it were measure_y the idea of what she could make him do.
  • In Bertram Jay the elements were surprisingly mingled; you would have gon_stray, in reading him, if you had counted on finding the complements of som_f his qualities. He would not however have struck you in the least a_ncomplete, for in every case in which you didn't find the complement yo_ould have found the contradiction. He was in the Royal Engineers, and wa_all, lean and high- shouldered. He looked every inch a soldier, yet ther_ere people who considered that he had missed his vocation in not becoming _arson. He took a public interest in the spiritual life of the army. Othe_ersons still, on closer observation, would have felt that his mos_ppropriate field was neither the army nor the church, but simply th_orld—the social, successful, worldly world. If he had a sword in one hand an_ Bible in the other he had a Court Guide concealed somewhere about hi_erson. His profile was hard and handsome, his eyes were both cold and kind, his dark straight hair was imperturbably smooth and prematurely streaked wit_rey. There was nothing in existence that he didn't take seriously. He had _irst-rate power of work and an ambition as minutely organised as a Germa_lan of invasion. His only real recreation was to go to church, but he went t_arties when he had time. If he was in love with Rose Tramore this wa_istracting to him only in the same sense as his religion, and it was include_n that department of his extremely sub-divided life. His religion indeed wa_f an encroaching, annexing sort. Seen from in front he looked diffident an_lank, but he was capable of exposing himself in a way (to speak only of th_aths of peace) wholly inconsistent with shyness. He had a passion fo_nstance for open-air speaking, but was not thought on the whole to excel i_t unless he could help himself out with a hymn. In conversation he kept hi_yes on you with a kind of colourless candour, as if he had not understoo_hat you were saying and, in a fashion that made many people turn red, waite_efore answering. This was only because he was considering their remarks i_ore relations than they had intended. He had in his face no expressio_hatever save the one just mentioned, and was, in his profession, already ver_istinguished.
  • He had seen Rose Tramore for the first time on a Sunday of the previous March, at a house in the country at which she was staying with her father, and fiv_eeks later he had made her, by letter, an offer of marriage. She showed he_ather the letter of course, and he told her that it would give him grea_leasure that she should send Captain Jay about his business. "My dear child,"
  • he said, "we must really have some one who will be better fun than that." Ros_ad declined the honour, very considerately and kindly, but not simply becaus_er father wished it. She didn't herself wish to detach this flower from th_tem, though when the young man wrote again, to express the hope that he MIGH_ope—so long was he willing to wait—and ask if he might not still sometime_ee her, she answered even more indulgently than at first. She had shown he_ather her former letter, but she didn't show him this one; she only told hi_hat it contained, submitting to him also that of her correspondent. Captai_ay moreover wrote to Mr. Tramore, who replied sociably, but so vaguely tha_e almost neglected the subject under discussion—a communication that mad_oor Bertram ponder long. He could never get to the bottom of the superficial, and all the proprieties and conventions of life were profound to him.
  • Fortunately for him old Mrs. Tramore liked him, he was satisfactory to he_ong-sightedness; so that a relation was established under cover of which h_till occasionally presented himself in Hill Street—presented himsel_ominally to the mistress of the house. He had had scruples about the veracit_f his visits, but he had disposed of them; he had scruples about so man_hings that he had had to invent a general way, to dig a central drain. Juli_ramore happened to meet him when she came up to town, and she took a view o_im more benevolent than her usual estimate of people encouraged by he_other. The fear of agreeing with that lady was a motive, but there was _tronger one, in this particular case, in the fear of agreeing with her niece, who had rejected him. His situation might be held to have improved when Mr.
  • Tramore was taken so gravely ill that with regard to his recovery those abou_im left their eyes to speak for their lips; and in the light of the poo_entleman's recent death it was doubtless better than it had ever been.
  • He was only a quarter of an hour with the girl, but this gave him time to tak_he measure of it. After he had spoken to her about her bereavement, very muc_s an especially mild missionary might have spoken to a beautiful Polynesian, he let her know that he had learned from her companions the very strong ste_he was about to take. This led to their spending together ten minutes which, to her mind, threw more light on his character than anything that had eve_assed between them. She had always felt with him as if she were standing o_n edge, looking down into something decidedly deep. To-day the impression o_he perpendicular shaft was there, but it was rather an abyss of confusion an_isorder than the large bright space in which she had figured everything a_anged and pigeon-holed, presenting the appearance of the labelled shelves an_rawers at a chemist's. He discussed without an invitation to discuss, h_ppealed without a right to appeal. He was nothing but a suitor tolerate_fter dismissal, but he took strangely for granted a participation in he_ffairs. He assumed all sorts of things that made her draw back. He implie_hat there was everything now to assist them in arriving at an agreement, since she had never informed him that he was positively objectionable; bu_hat this symmetry would be spoiled if she should not be willing to take _ittle longer to think of certain consequences. She was greatly disconcerte_hen she saw what consequences he meant and at his reminding her of them. Wha_n earth was the use of a lover if he was to speak only like one's grandmothe_nd one's aunt? He struck her as much in love with her and as particularl_areful at the same time as to what he might say. He never mentioned he_other; he only alluded, indirectly but earnestly, to the "step." H_isapproved of it altogether, took an unexpectedly prudent, politic view o_t. He evidently also believed that she would be dragged down; in other word_hat she would not be asked out. It was his idea that her mother woul_ontaminate her, so that he should find himself interested in a young perso_iscredited and virtually unmarriageable. All this was more obvious to hi_han the consideration that a daughter should be merciful. Where was hi_eligion if he understood mercy so little, and where were his talent and hi_ourage if he were so miserably afraid of trumpery social penalties? Rose'_eart sank when she reflected that a man supposed to be first-rate hadn'_uessed that rather than not do what she could for her mother she would giv_p all the Engineers in the world. She became aware that she probably woul_ave been moved to place her hand in his on the spot if he had come to he_aying "Your idea is the right one; put it through at every cost." Sh_ouldn't discuss this with him, though he impressed her as having too much a_take for her to treat him with mere disdain. She sickened at the revelatio_hat a gentleman could see so much in mere vulgarities of opinion, and thoug_he uttered as few words as possible, conversing only in sad smiles an_eadshakes and in intercepted movements toward the door, she happened, in som_nguarded lapse from her reticence, to use the expression that she wa_isappointed in him. He caught at it and, seeming to drop his field-glass, pressed upon her with nearer, tenderer eyes.
  • "Can I be so happy as to believe, then, that you had thought of me with som_onfidence, with some faith?"
  • "If you didn't suppose so, what is the sense of this visit?" Rose asked.
  • "One can be faithful without reciprocity," said the young man. "I regard yo_n a light which makes me want to protect you even if I have nothing to gai_y it."
  • "Yet you speak as if you thought you might keep me for yourself."
  • "For YOURSELF. I don't want you to suffer."
  • "Nor to suffer yourself by my doing so," said Rose, looking down.
  • "Ah, if you would only marry me next month!" he broke out inconsequently.
  • "And give up going to mamma?" Rose waited to see if he would say "What nee_hat matter? Can't your mother come to us?" But he said nothing of the sort; he only answered -
  • "She surely would be sorry to interfere with the exercise of any othe_ffection which I might have the bliss of believing that you are now free, i_owever small a degree, to entertain."
  • Rose knew that her mother wouldn't be sorry at all; but she contented hersel_ith rejoining, her hand on the door: "Good-bye. I sha'n't suffer. I'm no_fraid."
  • "You don't know how terrible, how cruel, the world can be."
  • "Yes, I do know. I know everything!"
  • The declaration sprang from her lips in a tone which made him look at her a_e had never looked before, as if he saw something new in her face, as if h_ad never yet known her. He hadn't displeased her so much but that she woul_ike to give him that impression, and since she felt that she was doing so sh_ingered an instant for the purpose. It enabled her to see, further, that h_urned red; then to become aware that a carriage had stopped at the door.
  • Captain Jay's eyes, from where he stood, fell upon this arrival, and th_ature of their glance made Rose step forward to look. Her mother sat there, brilliant, conspicuous, in the eternal victoria, and the footman was alread_ounding the knocker. It had been no part of the arrangement that she shoul_ome to fetch her; it had been out of the question—a stroke in such bad tast_s would have put Rose in the wrong. The girl had never dreamed of it, bu_omehow, suddenly, perversely, she was glad of it now; she even hoped that he_randmother and her aunt were looking out upstairs.
  • "My mother has come for me. Good-bye," she repeated; but this time her visito_ad got between her and the door.
  • "Listen to me before you go. I will give you a life's devotion," the young ma_leaded. He really barred the way.
  • She wondered whether her grandmother had told him that if her flight were no_revented she would forfeit money. Then, vividly, it came over her that thi_ould be what he was occupied with. "I shall never think of you—let me go!"
  • she cried, with passion.
  • Captain Jay opened the door, but Rose didn't see his face, and in a moment sh_as out of the house. Aunt Julia, who was sure to have been hovering, ha_aken flight before the profanity of the knock.
  • "Heavens, dear, where did you get your mourning?" the lady in the victori_sked of her daughter as they drove away.