Lady Maresfield had given her boy a push in his plump back and had said t_im, "Go and speak to her now; it's your chance." She had for a long tim_anted this scion to make himself audible to Rose Tramore, but the opportunit_as not easy to come by. The case was complicated. Lady Maresfield had fou_aughters, of whom only one was married. It so happened moreover that thi_ne, Mrs. Vaughan- Vesey, the only person in the world her mother was afrai_f, was the most to be reckoned with. The Honourable Guy was in appearance al_is mother's child, though he was really a simpler soul. He was large an_ink; large, that is, as to everything but the eyes, which were diminishin_oints, and pink as to everything but the hair, which was comparable, faintly, to the hue of the richer rose. He had also, it must be conceded, very smal_eat teeth, which made his smile look like a young lady's. He had no wish t_esemble any such person, but he was perpetually smiling, and he smiled mor_han ever as he approached Rose Tramore, who, looking altogether, to his mind, as a pretty girl should, and wearing a soft white opera-cloak over a softe_lack dress, leaned alone against the wall of the vestibule at Covent Garde_hile, a few paces off, an old gentleman engaged her mother in conversation.
Madame Patti had been singing, and they were all waiting for their carriages.
To their ears at present came a vociferation of names and a rattle of wheels.
The air, through banging doors, entered in damp, warm gusts, heavy with th_tale, slightly sweet taste of the London season when the London season i_verripe and spoiling.
Guy Mangler had only three minutes to reestablish an interrupted acquaintanc_ith our young lady. He reminded her that he had danced with her the yea_efore, and he mentioned that he knew her brother. His mother had lately bee_o see old Mrs. Tramore, but this he did not mention, not being aware of it.
That visit had produced, on Lady Maresfield's part, a private crisis, engendered ideas. One of them was that the grandmother in Hill Street ha_eally forgiven the wilful girl much more than she admitted. Another was tha_here would still be some money for Rose when the others should come int_heirs. Still another was that the others would come into theirs at no distan_ate; the old lady was so visibly going to pieces. There were several mor_esides, as for instance that Rose had already fifteen hundred a year from he_ather. The figure had been betrayed in Hill Street; it was part of the proo_f Mrs. Tramore's decrepitude. Then there was an equal amount that her mothe_ad to dispose of and on which the girl could absolutely count, though o_ourse it might involve much waiting, as the mother, a person of gros_nsensibility, evidently wouldn't die of cold-shouldering. Equally definite, to do it justice, was the conception that Rose was in truth remarkably goo_ooking, and that what she had undertaken to do showed, and would show eve_hould it fail, cleverness of the right sort. Cleverness of the right sort wa_xactly the quality that Lady Maresfield prefigured as indispensable in _oung lady to whom she should marry her second son, over whose ow_eficiencies she flung the veil of a maternal theory that HIS cleverness wa_f a sort that was wrong. Those who knew him less well were content to wis_hat he might not conceal it for such a scruple. This enumeration of hi_other's views does not exhaust the list, and it was in obedience to one to_rofound to be uttered even by the historian that, after a very brief delay, she decided to move across the crowded lobby. Her daughter Bessie was the onl_ne with her; Maggie was dining with the Vaughan-Veseys, and Fanny was not o_n age. Mrs. Tramore the younger showed only an admirable back—her face was t_er old gentleman—and Bessie had drifted to some other people; so that it wa_omparatively easy for Lady Maresfield to say to Rose, in a moment: "My dea_hild, are you never coming to see us?"
"We shall be delighted to come if you'll ask us," Rose smiled.
Lady Maresfield had been prepared for the plural number, and she was a woma_hom it took many plurals to disconcert. "I'm sure Guy is longing for anothe_ance with you," she rejoined, with the most unblinking irrelevance.
"I'm afraid we're not dancing again quite yet," said Rose, glancing at he_other's exposed shoulders, but speaking as if they were muffled in crape.
Lady Maresfield leaned her head on one side and seemed almost wistful. "No_ven at my sister's ball? She's to have something next week. She'll write t_ou."
Rose Tramore, on the spot, looking bright but vague, turned three or fou_hings over in her mind. She remembered that the sister of her interlocutres_as the proverbially rich Mrs. Bray, a bankeress or a breweress or _uilderess, who had so big a house that she couldn't fill it unless she opene_er doors, or her mouth, very wide. Rose had learnt more about London societ_uring these lonely months with her mother than she had ever picked up in Hil_treet. The younger Mrs. Tramore was a mine of commerages, and she had no nee_o go out to bring home the latest intelligence. At any rate Mrs. Bray migh_erve as the end of a wedge. "Oh, I dare say we might think of that," Ros_aid. "It would be very kind of your sister."
"Guy'll think of it, won't you, Guy?" asked Lady Maresfield.
"Rather!" Guy responded, with an intonation as fine as if he had learnt it a_ music hall; while at the same moment the name of his mother's carriage wa_awled through the place. Mrs. Tramore had parted with her old gentleman; sh_urned again to her daughter. Nothing occurred but what always occurred, whic_as exactly this absence of everything—a universal lapse. She didn't exist, even for a second, to any recognising eye. The people who looked at her—o_ourse there were plenty of those—were only the people who didn't exist fo_ers. Lady Maresfield surged away on her son's arm.
It was this noble matron herself who wrote, the next day, inclosing a card o_nvitation from Mrs. Bray and expressing the hope that Rose would come an_ine and let her ladyship take her. She should have only one of her own girls; Gwendolen Vesey was to take the other. Rose handed both the note and the car_n silence to her mother; the latter exhibited only the name of Miss Tramore.
"You had much better go, dear," her mother said; in answer to which Mis_ramore slowly tore up the documents, looking with clear, meditative eyes ou_f the window. Her mother always said "You had better go"—there had been othe_ncidents—and Rose had never even once taken account of the observation. Sh_ould make no first advances, only plenty of second ones, and, condoning n_iscrimination, would treat no omission as venial. She would keep al_oncessions till afterwards; then she would make them one by one. Fightin_ociety was quite as hard as her grandmother had said it would be; but ther_as a tension in it which made the dreariness vibrate—the dreariness of such _inter as she had just passed. Her companion had cried at the end of it, an_he had cried all through; only her tears had been private, while her mother'_ad fallen once for all, at luncheon on the bleak Easter Monday—produced b_he way a silent survey of the deadly square brought home to her that ever_reature but themselves was out of town and having tremendous fun. Rose fel_hat it was useless to attempt to explain simply by her mourning this severit_f solitude; for if people didn't go to parties (at least a few didn't) fo_ix months after their father died, this was the very time other people too_or coming to see them. It was not too much to say that during this firs_inter of Rose's period with her mother she had no communication whatever wit_he world. It had the effect of making her take to reading the new America_ooks: she wanted to see how girls got on by themselves. She had never read s_uch before, and there was a legitimate indifference in it when topics faile_ith her mother. They often failed after the first days, and then, while sh_ent over instructive volumes, this lady, dressed as if for an impendin_unction, sat on the sofa and watched her. Rose was not embarrassed by such a_ppearance, for she could reflect that, a little before, her companion had no_ven a girl who had taken refuge in queer researches to look at. She wa_oreover used to her mother's attitude by this time. She had her ow_escription of it: it was the attitude of waiting for the carriage. If the_idn't go out it was not that Mrs. Tramore was not ready in time, and Rose ha_ven an alarmed prevision of their some day always arriving first. Mrs.
Tramore's conversation at such moments was abrupt, inconsequent and personal.
She sat on the edge of sofas and chairs and glanced occasionally at the fit o_er gloves (she was perpetually gloved, and the fit was a thing it wa_elancholy to see wasted), as people do who are expecting guests to dinner.
Rose used almost to fancy herself at times a perfunctory husband on the othe_ide of the fire.
What she was not yet used to—there was still a charm in it—was her mother'_xtraordinary tact. During the years they lived together they never had _iscussion; a circumstance all the more remarkable since if the girl had _eason for sparing her companion (that of being sorry for her) Mrs. Tramor_ad none for sparing her child. She only showed in doing so a happ_nstinct—the happiest thing about her. She took in perfection a course whic_epresented everything and covered everything; she utterly abjured al_uthority. She testified to her abjuration in hourly ingenious, touching ways.
In this manner nothing had to be talked over, which was a mercy all round. Th_ears on Easter Monday were merely a nervous gust, to help show she was not _hristmas doll from the Burlington Arcade; and there was no lifting up of th_epentant Magdalen, no uttered remorse for the former abandonment of children.
Of the way she could treat her children her demeanour to this one was a_xample; it was an uninterrupted appeal to her eldest daughter for direction.
She took the law from Rose in every circumstance, and if you had noticed thes_adies without knowing their history you would have wondered what tie was fin_nough to make maturity so respectful to youth. No mother was ever so filia_s Mrs. Tramore, and there had never been such a difference of positio_etween sisters. Not that the elder one fawned, which would have been fearful; she only renounced— whatever she had to renounce. If the amount was not muc_he at any rate made no scene over it. Her hand was so light that Rose said o_er secretly, in vague glances at the past, "No wonder people liked her!" Sh_ever characterised the old element of interference with her mother'_espectability more definitely than as "people." They were people, it wa_rue, for whom gentleness must have been everything and who didn't demand _ariety of interests. The desire to "go out" was the one passion that even _loser acquaintance with her parent revealed to Rose Tramore. She marvelled a_ts strength, in the light of the poor lady's history: there was comedy enoug_n this unquenchable flame on the part of a woman who had known such misery.
She had drunk deep of every dishonour, but the bitter cup had left her with _aste for lighted candles, for squeezing up staircases and hooking herself t_he human elbow. Rose had a vision of the future years in which this tast_ould grow with restored exercise—of her mother, in a long-tailed dress, jogging on and on and on, jogging further and further from her sins, through _entury of the "Morning Post" and down the fashionable avenue of time. Sh_erself would then be very old—she herself would be dead. Mrs. Tramore woul_over a span of life for which such an allowance of sin was small. The gir_ould laugh indeed now at that theory of her being dragged down. If one thin_ere more present to her than another it was the very desolation of thei_ropriety. As she glanced at her companion, it sometimes seemed to her that i_he had been a bad woman she would have been worse than that. There wer_ompensations for being "cut" which Mrs. Tramore too much neglected.
The lonely old lady in Hill Street—Rose thought of her that way now- -was th_ne person to whom she was ready to say that she would come to her on an_erms. She wrote this to her three times over, and she knocked still oftene_t her door. But the old lady answered no letters; if Rose had remained i_ill Street it would have been her own function to answer them; and at th_oor, the butler, whom the girl had known for ten years, considered her, whe_e told her his mistress was not at home, quite as he might have considered _oung person who had come about a place and of whose eligibility he took _egative view. That was Rose's one pang, that she probably appeared rathe_eartless. Her aunt Julia had gone to Florence with Edith for the winter, o_urpose to make her appear more so; for Miss Tramore was still the person mos_candalised by her secession. Edith and she, doubtless, often talked over i_lorence the destitution of the aged victim in Hill Street. Eric never came t_ee his sister, because, being full both of family and of personal feeling, h_hought she really ought to have stayed with his grandmother. If she had ha_uch an appurtenance all to herself she might have done what she liked wit_t; but he couldn't forgive such a want of consideration for anything of his.
There were moments when Rose would have been ready to take her hand from th_lough and insist upon reintegration, if only the fierce voice of the ol_ouse had allowed people to look her up. But she read, ever so clearly, tha_er grandmother had made this a question of loyalty to seventy years o_irtue. Mrs. Tramore's forlornness didn't prevent her drawing- room from bein_ very public place, in which Rose could hear certain words reverberate:
"Leave her alone; it's the only way to see how long she'll hold out." The ol_oman's visitors were people who didn't wish to quarrel, and the girl wa_onscious that if they had not let her alone—that is if they had come to he_rom her grandmother—she might perhaps not have held out. She had no friend_uite of her own; she had not been brought up to have them, and it would no_ave been easy in a house which two such persons as her father and his mothe_ivided between them. Her father disapproved of crude intimacies, and all th_ntimacies of youth were crude. He had married at five-and-twenty and coul_estify to such a truth. Rose felt that she shared even Captain Jay with he_randmother; she had seen what HE was worth. Moreover, she had spoken to hi_t that last moment in Hill Street in a way which, taken with her forme_efusal, made it impossible that he should come near her again. She hoped h_ent to see his protectress: he could be a kind of substitute and administe_omfort.
It so happened, however, that the day after she threw Lady Maresfield'_nvitation into the wastepaper basket she received a visit from a certain Mrs.
Donovan, whom she had occasionally seen in Hill Street. She vaguely knew thi_ady for a busybody, but she was in a situation which even busybodies migh_lleviate. Mrs. Donovan was poor, but honest—so scrupulously honest that sh_as perpetually returning visits she had never received. She was always cla_n weather-beaten sealskin, and had an odd air of being prepared for th_orst, which was borne out by her denying that she was Irish. She was of th_nglish Donovans.
"Dear child, won't you go out with me?" she asked.
Rose looked at her a moment and then rang the bell. She spoke of somethin_lse, without answering the question, and when the servant came she said:
"Please tell Mrs. Tramore that Mrs. Donovan has come to see her."
"Oh, that'll be delightful; only you mustn't tell your grandmother!" th_isitor exclaimed.
"Indeed and I've known every one once," the visitor confessed.
Mrs. Tramore, when she came in, was charming and exactly right; she greete_rs. Donovan as if she had met her the week before last, giving her daughte_uch a new illustration of her tact that Rose again had the idea that it wa_o wonder "people" had liked her. The girl grudged Mrs. Donovan so fresh _orsel as a description of her mother at home, rejoicing that she would b_nconvenienced by having to keep the story out of Hill Street. Her mother wen_way before Mrs. Donovan departed, and Rose was touched by guessing he_eason— the thought that since even this circuitous personage had been move_o come, the two might, if left together, invent some remedy. Rose waited t_ee what Mrs. Donovan had in fact invented.
"You won't come out with me then?"
"Come out with you?"
"My daughters are married. You know I'm a lone woman. It would be an immens_leasure to me to have so charming a creature as yourself to present to th_orld."
"I go out with my mother," said Rose, after a moment.
"Yes, but sometimes when she's not inclined?"
"She goes everywhere she wants to go," Rose continued, uttering the bigges_ib of her life and only regretting it should be wasted on Mrs. Donovan.
"Ah, but do you go everywhere YOU want?" the lady asked sociably.
"One goes even to places one hates. Every one does that."
"Oh, what I go through!" this social martyr cried. Then she laid a persuasiv_and on the girl's arm. "Let me show you at a few places first, and then we'l_ee. I'll bring them all here."
"I don't think I understand you," replied Rose, though in Mrs. Donovan's word_he perfectly saw her own theory of the case reflected. For a quarter of _inute she asked herself whether she might not, after all, do so much evi_hat good might come. Mrs. Donovan would take her out the next day, and b_hankful enough to annex such an attraction as a pretty girl. Variou_onsequences would ensue and the long delay would be shortened; her mother'_rawing-room would resound with the clatter of teacups.
"Mrs. Bray's having some big thing next week; come with me there and I'll sho_ou what I mane," Mrs. Donovan pleaded.
"I see what you mane," Rose answered, brushing away her temptation and gettin_p. "I'm much obliged to you."
"You know you're wrong, my dear," said her interlocutress, with angry littl_yes.
"I'm not going to Mrs. Bray's."
"I'll get you a kyard; it'll only cost me a penny stamp."
"I've got one," said the girl, smiling.
"Do you mean a penny stamp?" Mrs. Donovan, especially at departure, alway_bserved all the forms of amity. "You can't do it alone, my darling," sh_eclared.
"Shall they call you a cab?" Rose asked.
"I'll pick one up. I choose my horse. You know you require your start," he_isitor went on.
"Excuse my mother," was Rose's only reply.
"Don't mention it. Come to me when you need me. You'll find me in the Re_ook."
"It's awfully kind of you."
Mrs. Donovan lingered a moment on the threshold. "Who will you HAVE now, m_hild?" she appealed.
"I won't have any one!" Rose turned away, blushing for her. "She came o_peculation," she said afterwards to Mrs. Tramore.
Her mother looked at her a moment in silence. "You can do it if you like, yo_now."
Rose made no direct answer to this observation; she remarked instead: "Se_hat our quiet life allows us to escape."
"We don't escape it. She has been here an hour."
"Once in twenty years! We might meet her three times a day."
"Oh, I'd take her with the rest!" sighed Mrs. Tramore; while her daughte_ecognised that what her companion wanted to do was just what Mrs. Donovan wa_oing. Mrs. Donovan's life was her ideal.
On a Sunday, ten days later, Rose went to see one of her old governesses, o_hom she had lost sight for some time and who had written to her that she wa_n London, unoccupied and ill. This was just the sort of relation into whic_he could throw herself now with inordinate zeal; the idea of it, however, no_reventing a foretaste of the queer expression in the excellent lady's fac_hen she should mention with whom she was living. While she smiled at thi_icture she threw in another joke, asking herself if Miss Hack could be hel_n any degree to constitute the nucleus of a circle. She would come to se_er, in any event—come the more the further she was dragged down. Sunday wa_lways a difficult day with the two ladies—the afternoons made it so apparen_hat they were not frequented. Her mother, it is true, was comprised in th_abits of two or three old gentlemen—she had for a long time avoided mal_riends of less than seventy—who disliked each other enough to make the room, when they were there at once, crack with pressure. Rose sat for a long tim_ith Miss Hack, doing conscientious justice to the conception that there coul_e troubles in the world worse than her own; and when she came back her mothe_as alone, but with a story to tell of a long visit from Mr. Guy Mangler, wh_ad waited and waited for her return. "He's in love with you; he's comin_gain on Tuesday," Mrs. Tramore announced.
"Did he say so?"
"That he's coming back on Tuesday?"
"No, that he's in love with me."
"He didn't need, when he stayed two hours."
"With you? It's you he's in love with, mamma!"
"That will do as well," laughed Mrs. Tramore. "For all the use we shall mak_f him!" she added in a moment.
"We shall make great use of him. His mother sent him."
"Oh, she'll never come!"
"Then HE sha'n't," said Rose. Yet he was admitted on the Tuesday, and afte_he had given him his tea Mrs. Tramore left the young people alone. Ros_ished she hadn't—she herself had another view. At any rate she disliked he_other's view, which she had easily guessed. Mr. Mangler did nothing but sa_ow charming he thought his hostess of the Sunday, and what a tremendousl_olly visit he had had. He didn't remark in so many words "I had no idea you_other was such a good sort"; but this was the spirit of his simple discourse.
Rose liked it at first—a little of it gratified her; then she thought ther_as too much of it for good taste. She had to reflect that one does what on_an and that Mr. Mangler probably thought he was delicate. He wished to conve_hat he desired to make up to her for the injustice of society. Why shouldn'_er mother receive gracefully, she asked (not audibly) and who had ever sai_he didn't? Mr. Mangler had a great deal to say about the disappointment o_is own parent over Miss Tramore's not having come to dine with them the nigh_f his aunt's ball.
"Lady Maresfield knows why I didn't come," Rose answered at last.
"Ah, now, but I don't, you know; can't you tell ME?" asked the young man.
"It doesn't matter, if your mother's clear about it."
"Oh, but why make such an awful mystery of it, when I'm dying to know?"
He talked about this, he chaffed her about it for the rest of his visit: h_ad at last found a topic after his own heart. If her mother considered tha_e might be the emblem of their redemption he was an engine of the mos_rimitive construction. He stayed and stayed; he struck Rose as on the poin_f bringing out something for which he had not quite, as he would have said, the cheek. Sometimes she thought he was going to begin: "By the way, my mothe_old me to propose to you." At other moments he seemed charged with th_dmission: "I say, of course I really know what you're trying to do for her,"
nodding at the door: "therefore hadn't we better speak of it frankly, so tha_ can help you with my mother, and more particularly with my sister Gwendolen, who's the difficult one? The fact is, you see, they won't do anything fo_othing. If you'll accept me they'll call, but they won't call withou_omething 'down.'" Mr. Mangler departed without their speaking frankly, an_ose Tramore had a hot hour during which she almost entertained, vindictively, the project of "accepting" the limpid youth until after she should have go_er mother into circulation. The cream of the vision was that she might brea_ith him later. She could read that this was what her mother would have liked, but the next time he came the door was closed to him, and the next and th_ext.
In August there was nothing to do but to go abroad, with the sense on Rose'_art that the battle was still all to fight; for a round of country visits wa_ot in prospect, and English watering-places constituted one of the fe_ubjects on which the girl had heard her mother express herself with disgust.
Continental autumns had been indeed for years, one of the various forms o_rs. Tramore's atonement, but Rose could only infer that such fruit as the_ad borne was bitter. The stony stare of Belgravia could be practised a_omburg; and somehow it was inveterately only gentlemen who sat next to her a_he table d'hote at Cadenabbia. Gentlemen had never been of any use to Mrs.
Tramore for getting back into society; they had only helped her effectually t_et out of it. She once dropped, to her daughter, in a moralising mood, th_emark that it was astonishing how many of them one could know without it_oing one any good. Fifty of them—even very clever ones—represented a valu_nferior to that of one stupid woman. Rose wondered at the offhand way i_hich her mother could talk of fifty clever men; it seemed to her that th_hole world couldn't contain such a number. She had a sombre sense tha_ankind must be dull and mean. These cogitations took place in a cold hotel, in an eternal Swiss rain, and they had a flat echo in the transalpine valleys, as the lonely ladies went vaguely down to the Italian lakes and cities. Ros_uided their course, at moments, with a kind of aimless ferocity; she move_bruptly, feeling vulgar and hating their life, though destitute of an_efinite vision of another life that would have been open to her. She had se_erself a task and she clung to it; but she appeared to herself despicabl_dle. She had succeeded in not going to Homburg waters, where London wa_rying to wash away some of its stains; that would be too staring a_dvertisement of their situation. The main difference in situations to her no_as the difference of being more or less pitied, at the best an intolerabl_anger; so that the places she preferred were the unsuspicious ones. Sh_anted to triumph with contempt, not with submission.
One morning in September, coming with her mother out of the marble church a_ilan, she perceived that a gentleman who had just passed her on his way int_he cathedral and whose face she had not noticed, had quickly raised his hat, with a suppressed ejaculation. She involuntarily glanced back; the gentlema_ad paused, again uncovering, and Captain Jay stood saluting her in th_talian sunshine. "Oh, good-morning!" she said, and walked on, pursuing he_ourse; her mother was a little in front. She overtook her in a moment, wit_n unreasonable sense, like a gust of cold air, that men were worse than ever, for Captain Jay had apparently moved into the church. Her mother turned a_hey met, and suddenly, as she looked back, an expression of peculia_weetness came into this lady's eyes. It made Rose's take the same directio_nd rest a second time on Captain Jay, who was planted just where he had stoo_ minute before. He immediately came forward, asking Rose with great gravit_f he might speak to her a moment, while Mrs. Tramore went her way again. H_ad the expression of a man who wished to say something very important; ye_is next words were simple enough and consisted of the remark that he had no_een her for a year.
"Is it really so much as that?" asked Rose.
"Very nearly. I would have looked you up, but in the first place I have bee_ery little in London, and in the second I believed it wouldn't have done an_ood."
"You should have put that first," said the girl. "It wouldn't have done an_ood."
He was silent over this a moment, in his customary deciphering way; but th_iew he took of it did not prevent him from inquiring, as she slowly followe_er mother, if he mightn't walk with her now. She answered with a laugh tha_t wouldn't do any good but that he might do as he liked. He replied withou_he slightest manifestation of levity that it would do more good than if h_idn't, and they strolled together, with Mrs. Tramore well before them, acros_he big, amusing piazza, where the front of the cathedral makes a sort o_uilded light. He asked a question or two and he explained his own presence: having a month's holiday, the first clear time for several years, he had jus_opped over the Alps. He inquired if Rose had recent news of the old lady i_ill Street, and it was the only tortuous thing she had ever heard him say.
"I have had no communication of any kind from her since I parted with yo_nder her roof. Hasn't she mentioned that?" said Rose.
"I haven't seen her."
"I thought you were such great friends."
Bertram Jay hesitated a moment. "Well, not so much now."
"What has she done to you?" Rose demanded.
He fidgeted a little, as if he were thinking of something that made hi_nconscious of her question; then, with mild violence, he brought out th_nquiry: "Miss Tramore, are you happy?"
She was startled by the words, for she on her side had bee_eflecting—reflecting that he had broken with her grandmother and that thi_ointed to a reason. It suggested at least that he wouldn't now be so muc_ike a mouthpiece for that cold ancestral tone. She turned off hi_uestion—said it never was a fair one, as you gave yourself away however yo_nswered it. When he repeated "You give yourself away?" as if he didn'_nderstand, she remembered that he had not read the funny American books. Thi_rought them to a silence, for she had enlightened him only by another laugh, and he was evidently preparing another question, which he wished carefully t_isconnect from the former. Presently, just as they were coming near Mrs.
Tramore, it arrived in the words "Is this lady your mother?" On Rose'_ssenting, with the addition that she was travelling with her, he said: "Wil_ou be so kind as to introduce me to her?" They were so close to Mrs. Tramor_hat she probably heard, but she floated away with a single stroke of he_addle and an inattentive poise of her head. It was a striking exhibition o_he famous tact, for Rose delayed to answer, which was exactly what might hav_ade her mother wish to turn; and indeed when at last the girl spoke she onl_aid to her companion: "Why do you ask me that?"
"Because I desire the pleasure of making her acquaintance."
Rose had stopped, and in the middle of the square they stood looking at eac_ther. "Do you remember what you said to me the last time I saw you?"
"Oh, don't speak of that!"
"It's better to speak of it now than to speak of it later."
Bertram Jay looked round him, as if to see whether any one would hear; but th_right foreignness gave him a sense of safety, and he unexpectedly exclaimed:
"Miss Tramore, I love you more than ever!"
"Then you ought to have come to see us," declared the girl, quickly walkin_n.
"You treated me the last time as if I were positively offensive to you."
"So I did, but you know my reason."
"Because I protested against the course you were taking? I did, I did!" th_oung man rang out, as if he still, a little, stuck to that.
His tone made Rose say gaily: "Perhaps you do so yet?"
"I can't tell till I've seen more of your circumstances," he replied wit_minent honesty.
The girl stared; her light laugh filled the air. "And it's in order to se_ore of them and judge that you wish to make my mother's acquaintance?"
He coloured at this and he evaded; then he broke out with a confused "Mis_ramore, let me stay with you a little!" which made her stop again.
"Your company will do us great honour, but there must be a rigid conditio_ttached to our acceptance of it."
"Kindly mention it," said Captain Jay, staring at the facade of the cathedral.
"You don't take us on trial."
"You don't make an observation to me—not a single one, ever, ever!— on th_atter that, in Hill Street, we had our last words about."
Captain Jay appeared to be counting the thousand pinnacles of the church. "_hink you really must be right," he remarked at last.
"There you are!" cried Rose Tramore, and walked rapidly away.
He caught up with her, he laid his hand upon her arm to stay her. "If you'r_oing to Venice, let me go to Venice with you!"
"You don't even understand my condition."
"I'm sure you're right, then: you must be right about everything."
"That's not in the least true, and I don't care a fig whether you're sure o_ot. Please let me go."
He had barred her way, he kept her longer. "I'll go and speak to your mothe_yself!"
Even in the midst of another emotion she was amused at the air of audacit_ccompanying this declaration. Poor Captain Jay might have been on the poin_f marching up to a battery. She looked at him a moment; then she said:
"You'll be disappointed!"
"She's much more proper than grandmamma, because she's much more amiable."
"Dear Miss Tramore—dear Miss Tramore!" the young man murmured helplessly.
"You'll see for yourself. Only there's another condition," Rose went on.
"Another?" he cried, with discouragement and alarm.
"You must understand thoroughly, before you throw in your lot with us even fo_ few days, what our position really is."
"Is it very bad?" asked Bertram Jay artlessly.
"No one has anything to do with us, no one speaks to us, no one looks at us."
"Really?" stared the young man.
"We've no social existence, we're utterly despised."
"Oh, Miss Tramore!" Captain Jay interposed. He added quickly, vaguely, an_ith a want of presence of mind of which he as quickly felt ashamed: "Do non_f your family—?" The question collapsed; the brilliant girl was looking a_im.
"We're extraordinarily happy," she threw out.
"Now that's all I wanted to know!" he exclaimed, with a kind of exaggerate_heery reproach, walking on with her briskly to overtake her mother.
He was not dining at their inn, but he insisted on coming that evening t_heir table d'hote. He sat next Mrs. Tramore, and in the evening h_ccompanied them gallantly to the opera, at a third-rate theatre where the_ere almost the only ladies in the boxes. The next day they went together b_ail to the Charterhouse of Pavia, and while he strolled with the girl, a_hey waited for the homeward train, he said to her candidly: "Your mother'_emarkably pretty." She remembered the words and the feeling they gave her: they were the first note of new era. The feeling was somewhat that of a_nxious, gratified matron who has "presented" her child and is thinking of th_atrimonial market. Men might be of no use, as Mrs. Tramore said, yet it wa_rom this moment Rose dated the rosy dawn of her confidence that her protege_ould go off; and when later, in crowded assemblies, the phrase, or somethin_ike it behind a hat or a fan, fell repeatedly on her anxious ear, "You_other IS in beauty!" or "I've never seen her look better!" she had a fain_ision of the yellow sunshine and the afternoon shadows on the dusty Italia_latform.
Mrs. Tramore's behaviour at this period was a revelation of her nativ_nderstanding of delicate situations. She needed no account of this one fro_er daughter—it was one of the things for which she had a scent; and there wa_ kind of loyalty to the rules of a game in the silent sweetness with whic_he smoothed the path of Bertram Jay. It was clear that she was in her elemen_n fostering the exercise of the affections, and if she ever spoke withou_hinking twice it is probable that she would have exclaimed, with some gaiety,
"Oh, I know all about LOVE!" Rose could see that she thought their companio_ould be a help, in spite of his being no dispenser of patronage. The key t_he gates of fashion had not been placed in his hand, and no one had eve_eard of the ladies of his family, who lived in some vague hollow of th_orkshire moors; but none the less he might administer a muscular push. Ye_ndeed, men in general were broken reeds, but Captain Jay was peculiarl_epresentative. Respectability was the woman's maximum, as honour was th_an's, but this distinguished young soldier inspired more than one kind o_onfidence. Rose had a great deal of attention for the use to which hi_espectability was put; and there mingled with this attention some amusemen_nd much compassion. She saw that after a couple of days he decidedly like_er mother, and that he was yet not in the least aware of it. He took fo_ranted that he believed in her but little; notwithstanding which he woul_ave trusted her with anything except Rose herself. His trusting her with Ros_ould come very soon. He never spoke to her daughter about her qualities o_haracter, but two or three of them (and indeed these were all the poor lad_ad, and they made the best show) were what he had in mind in praising he_ppearance. When he remarked: "What attention Mrs. Tramore seems to attrac_verywhere!" he meant: "What a beautifully simple nature it is!" and when h_aid: "There's something extraordinarily harmonious in the colours she wears,"
it signified: "Upon my word, I never saw such a sweet temper in my life!" Sh_ost one of her boxes at Verona, and made the prettiest joke of it to Captai_ay. When Rose saw this she said to herself, "Next season we shall have onl_o choose." Rose knew what was in the box.
By the time they reached Venice (they had stopped at half a dozen little ol_omantic cities in the most frolicsome aesthetic way) she liked thei_ompanion better than she had ever liked him before. She did him the justic_o recognise that if he was not quite honest with himself he was at leas_holly honest with HER. She reckoned up everything he had been since he joine_hem, and put upon it all an interpretation so favourable to his devotio_hat, catching herself in the act of glossing over one or two episodes tha_ad not struck her at the time as disinterested she exclaimed, beneath he_reath, "Look out—you're falling in love!" But if he liked correctness wasn'_e quite right? Could any one possibly like it more than SHE did? And if h_ad protested against her throwing in her lot with her mother, this was no_ecause of the benefit conferred but because of the injury received. H_xaggerated that injury, but this was the privilege of a lover perfectl_illing to be selfish on behalf of his mistress. He might have wanted he_randmother's money for her, but if he had given her up on first discoverin_hat she was throwing away her chance of it (oh, this was HER doing too!) h_ad given up her grandmother as much: not keeping well with the old woman, a_ome men would have done; not waiting to see how the perverse experiment woul_urn out and appeasing her, if it should promise tolerably, with a view t_uture operations. He had had a simple- minded, evangelical, lurid view o_hat the girl he loved would find herself in for. She could see this now—sh_ould see it from his present bewilderment and mystification, and she like_im and pitied him, with the kindest smile, for the original naivete as wel_s for the actual meekness. No wonder he hadn't known what she was in for, since he now didn't even know what he was in for himself. Were there no_oments when he thought his companions almost unnaturally good, almos_uspiciously safe? He had lost all power to verify that sketch of thei_solation and declassement to which she had treated him on the great square a_ilan. The last thing he noticed was that they were neglected, and he ha_ever, for himself, had such an impression of society.
It could scarcely be enhanced even by the apparition of a large, fair, hot, red-haired young man, carrying a lady's fan in his hand, who suddenly stoo_efore their little party as, on the third evening after their arrival i_enice, it partook of ices at one of the tables before the celebrated Caf_lorian. The lamplit Venetian dusk appeared to have revealed them to thi_entleman as he sat with other friends at a neighbouring table, and he ha_prung up, with unsophisticated glee, to shake hands with Mrs. Tramore and he_aughter. Rose recalled him to her mother, who looked at first as though sh_idn't remember him but presently bestowed a sufficiently gracious smile o_r. Guy Mangler. He gave with youthful candour the history of his movement_nd indicated the whereabouts of his family: he was with his mother an_isters; they had met the Bob Veseys, who had taken Lord Whiteroy's yacht an_ere going to Constantinople. His mother and the girls, poor things, were a_he Grand Hotel, but he was on the yacht with the Veseys, where they had Lor_hiteroy's cook. Wasn't the food in Venice filthy, and wouldn't they come an_ook at the yacht? She wasn't very fast, but she was awfully jolly. His mothe_ight have come if she would, but she wouldn't at first, and now, when sh_anted to, there were other people, who naturally wouldn't turn out for her.
Mr. Mangler sat down; he alluded with artless resentment to the way, in July, the door of his friends had been closed to him. He was going t_onstantinople, but he didn't care—if THEY were going anywhere; meanwhile hi_other hoped awfully they would look her up.
Lady Maresfield, if she had given her son any such message, which Ros_isbelieved, entertained her hope in a manner compatible with her sitting fo_alf an hour, surrounded by her little retinue, without glancing in th_irection of Mrs. Tramore. The girl, however, was aware that this was not _ood enough instance of their humiliation; inasmuch as it was rather she who, on the occasion of their last contact, had held off from Lady Maresfield. Sh_as a little ashamed now of not having answered the note in which this affabl_ersonage ignored her mother. She couldn't help perceiving indeed a di_ovement on the part of some of the other members of the group; she made ou_n attitude of observation in the high-plumed head of Mrs. Vaughan-Vesey. Mrs.
Vesey, perhaps, might have been looking at Captain Jay, for as this gentlema_alked back to the hotel with our young lady (they were at the "Britannia,"
and young Mangler, who clung to them, went in front with Mrs. Tramore) h_evealed to Rose that he had some acquaintance with Lady Maresfield's eldes_aughter, though he didn't know and didn't particularly want to know, he_adyship. He expressed himself with more acerbity than she had ever heard hi_se (Christian charity so generally governed his speech) about the youn_onkey who had been prattling to them. They separated at the door of th_otel. Mrs. Tramore had got rid of Mr. Mangler, and Bertram Jay was in othe_uarters.
"If you know Mrs. Vesey, why didn't you go and speak to her? I'm sure she sa_ou," Rose said.
Captain Jay replied even more circumspectly than usual. "Because I didn't wan_o leave you."
"Well, you can go now; you're free," Rose rejoined.
"Thank you. I shall never go again."
"That won't be civil," said Rose.
"I don't care to be civil. I don't like her."
"Why don't you like her?"
"You ask too many questions."
"I know I do," the girl acknowledged.
Captain Jay had already shaken hands with her, but at this he put out his han_gain. "She's too worldly," he murmured, while he held Rose Tramore's _oment.
"Ah, you dear!" Rose exclaimed almost audibly as, with her mother, she turne_way.
The next morning, upon the Grand Canal, the gondola of our three friend_ncountered a stately barge which, though it contained several persons, seeme_ervaded mainly by one majestic presence. During the instant the gondolas wer_assing each other it was impossible either for Rose Tramore or for he_ompanions not to become conscious that this distinguished identity ha_arkedly inclined itself—a circumstance commemorated the next moment, almos_ithin earshot of the other boat, by the most spontaneous cry that had issue_or many a day from the lips of Mrs. Tramore. "Fancy, my dear, Lady Maresfiel_as bowed to us!"
"We ought to have returned it," Rose answered; but she looked at Bertram Jay, who was opposite to her. He blushed, and she blushed, and during this momen_as born a deeper understanding than had yet existed between these associate_pirits. It had something to do with their going together that afternoon, without her mother, to look at certain out-of-the-way pictures as to whic_uskin had inspired her with a desire to see sincerely. Mrs. Tramore expresse_he wish to stay at home, and the motive of this wish—a finer shade than an_hat even Ruskin had ever found a phrase for—was not translated int_isrepresenting words by either the mother or the daughter. At San Giovanni i_ragora the girl and her companion came upon Mrs. Vaughan-Vesey, who, with on_f her sisters, was also endeavouring to do the earnest thing. She did it t_ose, she did it to Captain Jay, as well as to Gianbellini; she was _andsome, long-necked, aquiline person, of a different type from the rest o_er family, and she did it remarkably well. She secured our friends—it was he_wn expression—for luncheon, on the morrow, on the yacht, and she made i_ublic to Rose that she would come that afternoon to invite her mother. Whe_he girl returned to the hotel, Mrs. Tramore mentioned, before Captain Jay, who had come up to their sitting-room, that Lady Maresfield had called. "Sh_tayed a long time—at least it seemed long!" laughed Mrs. Tramore.
The poor lady could laugh freely now; yet there was some grimness in _olloquy that she had with her daughter after Bertram Jay had departed. Befor_his happened Mrs. Vesey's card, scrawled over in pencil and referring to th_orrow's luncheon, was brought up to Mrs. Tramore.
"They mean it all as a bribe," said the principal recipient of thes_ivilities.
"As a bribe?" Rose repeated.
"She wants to marry you to that boy; they've seen Captain Jay and they'r_rightened."
"Well, dear mamma, I can't take Mr. Mangler for a husband."
"Of course not. But oughtn't we to go to the luncheon?"
"Certainly we'll go to the luncheon," Rose said; and when the affair too_lace, on the morrow, she could feel for the first time that she was takin_er mother out. This appearance was somehow brought home to every one else, and it was really the agent of her success. For it is of the essence of thi_imple history that, in the first place, that success dated from Mrs. Vesey'_enetian dejeuner, and in the second reposed, by a subtle social logic, on th_ery anomaly that had made it dubious. There is always a chance in things, an_ose Tramore's chance was in the fact that Gwendolen Vesey was, as some on_ad said, awfully modern, an immense improvement on the exploded science o_er mother, and capable of seeing what a "draw" there would be in the comedy, if properly brought out, of the reversed positions of Mrs. Tramore and Mrs.
Tramore's diplomatic daughter. With a first-rate managerial eye she perceive_hat people would flock into any room—and all the more into one of hers—to se_ose bring in her dreadful mother. She treated the cream of English society t_his thrilling spectacle later in the autumn, when she once more "secured"
both the performers for a week at Brimble. It made a hit on the spot, the ver_irst evening—the girl was felt to play her part so well. The rumour of th_erformance spread; every one wanted to see it. It was an entertainment o_hich, that winter in the country, and the next season in town, persons o_aste desired to give their friends the freshness. The thing was to make th_ramores come late, after every one had arrived. They were engaged for a fixe_our, like the American imitator and the Patagonian contralto. Mrs. Vesey ha_een the first to say the girl was awfully original, but that became th_eneral view.
Gwendolen Vesey had with her mother one of the few quarrels in which Lad_aresfield had really stood up to such an antagonist (the elder woman had t_ecognise in general in whose veins it was that the blood of the Mangler_lowed) on account of this very circumstance of her attaching more importanc_o Miss Tramore's originality ("Her originality be hanged!" her ladyship ha_one so far as unintelligently to exclaim) than to the prospects of th_nfortunate Guy. Mrs. Vesey actually lost sight of these pressing problems i_er admiration of the way the mother and the daughter, or rather the daughte_nd the mother (it was slightly confusing) "drew." It was Lady Maresfield'_ersion of the case that the brazen girl (she was shockingly coarse) ha_reated poor Guy abominably. At any rate it was made known, just after Easter, that Miss Tramore was to be married to Captain Jay. The marriage was not t_ake place till the summer; but Rose felt that before this the field woul_ractically be won. There had been some bad moments, there had been severa_arm corners and a certain number of cold shoulders and closed doors and ston_tares; but the breach was effectually made—the rest was only a question o_ime. Mrs. Tramore could be trusted to keep what she had gained, and it wa_he dowagers, the old dragons with prominent fangs and glittering scales, who_he trick had already mainly caught. By this time there were several house_nto which the liberated lady had crept alone. Her daughter had been expecte_ith her, but they couldn't turn her out because the girl had stayed behind, and she was fast acquiring a new identity, that of a parental connection wit_he heroine of such a romantic story. She was at least the next best thing t_er daughter, and Rose foresaw the day when she would be valued principally a_ memento of one of the prettiest episodes in the annals of London. At a bi_fficial party, in June, Rose had the joy of introducing Eric to his mother.
She was a little sorry it was an official party—there were some other suc_ueer people there; but Eric called, observing the shade, the next day bu_ne.
No observer, probably, would have been acute enough to fix exactly the momen_t which the girl ceased to take out her mother and began to be taken out b_er. A later phase was more distinguishable—that at which Rose forbore t_nflict on her companion a duality that might become oppressive. She began t_conomise her force, she went only when the particular effect was required.
Her marriage was delayed by the period of mourning consequent upon the deat_f her grandmother, who, the younger Mrs. Tramore averred, was killed by th_umour of her own new birth. She was the only one of the dragons who had no_een tamed. Julia Tramore knew the truth about this—she was determined suc_hings should not kill HER. She would live to do something—she hardly kne_hat. The provisions of her mother's will were published in the "Illustrate_ews"; from which it appeared that everything that was not to go to Eric an_o Julia was to go to the fortunate Edith. Miss Tramore makes no secret of he_wn intentions as regards this favourite.
Edith is not pretty, but Lady Maresfield is waiting for her; she is determine_wendolen Vesey shall not get hold of her. Mrs. Vesey however takes n_nterest in her at all. She is whimsical, as befits a woman of her fashion; but there are two persons she is still very fond of, the delightful Bertra_ays. The fondness of this pair, it must be added, is not wholly expended i_eturn. They are extremely united, but their life is more domestic than migh_ave been expected from the preliminary signs. It owes a portion of it_oncentration to the fact that Mrs. Tramore has now so many places to go t_hat she has almost no time to come to her daughter's. She is, under her son- in-law's roof, a brilliant but a rare apparition, and the other day h_emarked upon the circumstance to his wife.
"If it hadn't been for you," she replied, smiling, "she might have had he_egular place at our fireside."
"Good heavens, how did I prevent it?" cried Captain Jay, with all th_onsciousness of virtue.
"You ordered it otherwise, you goose!" And she says, in the same spirit, whenever her husband commends her (which he does, sometimes, extravagantly) for the way she launched her mother: "Nonsense, my dear—practically it wa_OU!"