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.
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.