An old lady, in a high drawing-room, had had her chair moved
close to the fire, where she sat knitting and warming her knees. She was dressed in deep mourning; her face
had a faded nobleness, tempered, however, by the somewhat illiberal compression
assumed by her lips in obedience to something that was passing in her
mind. She was far from the lamp, but
though her eyes were fixed upon her active needles she was not looking at them. What she really saw was quite another train
of affairs. The room was spacious and
dim; the thick
When she looked up, on the entrance of a girl of twenty, it might have been guessed that the appearance of this young lady was not an interruption of her meditation, but rather a contribution to it. The young lady, who was charming to behold, was also in deep mourning, which had a freshness, if mourning can be fresh, an air of having been lately put on. She went straight to the bell beside the chimney-piece and pulled it, while in her other hand she held a sealed 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 in response to the bell. The time had been sufficient to make the silence between the ladies seem long. The younger one asked the butler to see that her letter should 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 to begin 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 holding out, the tension, though it was already late in the evening, might have lasted long. But the old lady after a little appeared to recognise, a trifle ungraciously, 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 the morning."
"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 the feelings 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 think that 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 her grandmother went on: "What's best for them is that you should acknowledge some responsibility in regard to them and, considering how young they are, try and do something for them."
"They must do as I've done--they must act for themselves. They have their means now, 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 by saying: "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 our respective ways," she added, in a tone of extreme wisdom and philosophy.
Her grandmother straightened out her knitting and began to roll it up. "Be so good 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 came her 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. This attendant took
her work from her, gave her an arm and helped her out of the room, while Rose Tramore, standing before the fire and looking into it,
faced the idea that her grandmother's door would now under all circumstances be
closed to her. She lost no time however
in brooding over this anomaly: it only
added energy to her determination to act.
All she could do to-night was to go to bed, for she felt utterly
weary. She had been living, in imagination,
in a prospective 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 a long, hard strain. Her father had been laid in his grave five
days before, and that morning his will had been read. In the afternoon she had got Edith off to
"Oh, my dear, how charming! I must take another house!" It was in these words that her mother
responded to the announcement Rose had just formally made and with which she
had vaguely expected to produce a certain dignity of effect. In the way of emotion there was apparently no
effect at all, and the girl was wise enough to know that this was not simply on
account of the general line of non-allusion taken by the extremely pretty woman
before her, who looked like her elder sister.
Mrs. Tramore had never manifested, to her
daughter, the slightest consciousness that her position was peculiar; but the
recollection of something more than that fine policy was required to explain
such a failure, to appreciate Rose's sacrifice. It was simply a fresh reminder
that she had never appreciated anything, that she was nothing but a tinted and
stippled surface. Her situation was peculiar indeed. She had been the heroine of a scandal which
had grown dim only because, in the eyes of the
Mrs. Tramore had striven to
extract from this accident something of the austerity of widowhood; but her
mourning only made her deviation more public, she was a widow whose husband was
awkwardly alive. She had not prowled
about the Continent on the classic lines; she had come back to
Her children, as they grew older, fortunately showed signs
of some individuality 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 to their father, whose attitude in the family group, however, was
casual and intermittent. He was charming
and vague; he was like a clever actor who often didn't come to rehearsal.
Fortune, which but for that one stroke had been generous to him, had provided
him with deputies and trouble-takers, as well as with whimsical opinions, and a
reputation for excellent taste, and whist at his club, and perpetual cigars on
morocco sofas, and a beautiful absence of purpose. Nature had thrown in a remarkably fine hand,
which he sometimes passed 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 her mother, on condition that
her visits should be limited to an hour each time and to four in the year. She was to go alone; the other children were
not included in the arrangement. This
was the result of a visit that he himself had paid his repudiated wife at her
urgent request, their only encounter during 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 the license, and in course of the period
that elapsed before her father's death she spent with Mrs. Tramore
exactly eight hours by the watch. Her
father, who was as inconsistent and disappointing as he was amiable, spoke to
her of her mother only once afterwards.
This occasion had been the sequel of her first visit, and he had made no
use of it to ask what she thought of the personality in
After this the periodical interview took place in private, in Mrs. Tramore's beautiful little wasted drawing-room. Rose knew that, rare as these occasions were, her mother would not have kept her "all to herself" had there been anybody she could have shown her to. But in the poor lady's social void there was no one; she had after all her own correctness and she consistently preferred isolation to inferior contacts. So her daughter was subjected only to the maternal; it was not necessary to be definite in qualifying that. The girl had by this time a collection of ideas, gathered by impenetrable processes; she had tasted, in the ostracism of her ambiguous parent, of the acrid fruit of the tree of knowledge. She not only had an approximate vision of what every one had done, but she had a private judgment for each case. She had a particular vision of her father, which did not interfere with his being dear to her, but which was directly concerned in her resolution, after his death, to do the special thing he had expressed the wish she should not do. In the general estimate her grandmother and her grandmother's money had their place, and the strong probability that any enjoyment of the latter commodity would now be withheld from her. It included Edith's marked inclination to receive the law, and doubtless eventually a more substantial memento, from Miss Tramore, and opened the question whether her own course might not contribute to make her sister's appear heartless. The answer to this question however would depend on the success that might attend her own, which would very possibly be small. Eric's attitude was eminently simple; he didn't care to know people who didn't know HIS people. If his mother should ever get back into society perhaps he would take her up. Rose Tramore had decided to do what she could to bring this consummation about; and strangely enough--so mixed were her superstitions and her heresies--a large part of her motive lay in the value she attached to such a consecration.
Of her mother intrinsically she thought very little now, and
if her eyes were fixed on a special achievement it was much more for the sake
of that achievement and to satisfy a latent energy that was in her than because
her heart was wrung by this sufferer.
Her heart had not been wrung at all, though she 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 had her
idea of triumph. She had caught the
inevitable note, the pitch, on her very first visit to
"She'll drag you down, she'll drag you down!" Julia Tramore permitted herself to 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 be upward, and moreover administered by herself, she could look at her aunt with a 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 toiled over 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 for anything."
"She'll keep you out of everything--she'll make you miss everything," Miss Tramore 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 do you 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 was inferior to her niece in capacity for retort and whose limitations made the girl appear pert.
Rose looked at her a moment in silence; then she said, turning away: "I think she'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 my mother 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. There
was something her aunt might have meant by it, but her aunt rarely meant the
best thing she might have meant. Miss Tramore had come up from
Before she left the house a servant brought her a message from her grandmother--the old lady desired to see her in the drawing-room. She had on her 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 to raise her eyes as, after a silence that seemed to express the fulness of her reprobation, while Rose stood motionless, she began: "I wonder if you really understand 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're giving up everything."
The girl was tempted to inquire whether her grandmother called herself "everything"; but she checked this question, answering instead that she knew she was giving up much.
"You're taking a step of which you will feel the effect to the end of your days," 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 good enough for his daughter."
Rose sat down--she could afford to--as if she wished to be very attentive and were 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 never reflected."
Mrs. Tramore stared, as if at a language she had never heard, a farrago, a galimatias. 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 an instant, 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 only judge between my mother and myself. Papa couldn't judge for me." And with this she 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 your place."
"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 a merely provisional and somewhat sketchy answer. "Your ignorance would be melancholy if your behaviour were not so insane."
"Oh, no; I know perfectly what she'll do!" Rose replied, almost gaily. "She'll drag me down."
"She won't even do that," the old lady declared contradictiously. "She'll keep you 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 you leave 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. She had burst into tears, and she sobbed there for a moment, trying hard to recover herself, so as to go downstairs without showing any traces of emotion, passing before the servants and again perhaps before aunt Julia. Mrs. Tramore was too old to cry; she could only drop her knitting and, for a long time, sit with her head bowed and her eyes closed.
Rose had reckoned justly with her aunt Julia; there were no footmen, but this vigilant virgin was posted at the foot of the stairs. She offered no challenge however; she only said: "There's some one in the parlour who wants to see you." The girl demanded a name, but Miss Tramore only mouthed inaudibly and winked and waved. Rose instantly reflected that there was only one man in the world her aunt would look such deep things about. "Captain Jay?" her own eyes asked, while Miss Tramore's were those of a conspirator: they were, for a moment, the only embarrassed eyes Rose had encountered that day. They contributed to make aunt Julia's further response evasive, after her niece inquired if she had communicated in advance with this visitor. Miss Tramore merely said that he had been upstairs with her mother--hadn't she mentioned it?--and had been waiting for her. She thought herself acute in not putting the question 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 fair to 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 an instant she went in.
"The parlour" was the name that had
always been borne by a spacious sitting-room downstairs, an apartment occupied
by her father during his frequent phases of residence in Hill Street--episodes
increasingly frequent after his house in the country had, in consequence, as
Rose perfectly knew, of his spending too much money, been disposed of at a
sacrifice which he always characterised as
horrid. He had been left with the place
in Hertfordshire and his mother with the
In Bertram Jay the elements were surprisingly mingled; you would have gone astray, in reading him, if you had counted on finding the complements of some of his qualities. He would not however have struck you in the least as incomplete, for in every case in which you didn't find the complement you would have found the contradiction. He was in the Royal Engineers, and was tall, lean and high-shouldered. He looked every inch a soldier, yet there were people who considered that he had missed his vocation in not becoming a parson. He took a public interest in the spiritual life of the army. Other persons still, on closer observation, would have felt that his most appropriate field was neither the army nor the church, but simply the world--the social, successful, worldly world. If he had a sword in one hand and a Bible in the other he had a Court Guide concealed somewhere about his person. His profile was hard and handsome, his eyes were both cold and kind, his dark straight hair was imperturbably smooth and prematurely streaked with grey. There was nothing in existence that he didn't take seriously. He had a first-rate power of work and an ambition as minutely organised as a German plan of invasion. His only real recreation was to go to church, but he went to parties when he had time. If he was in love with Rose Tramore this was distracting to him only in the same sense as his religion, and it was included in that department of his extremely sub-divided life. His religion indeed was of an encroaching, annexing sort. Seen from in front he looked diffident and blank, but he was capable of exposing himself in a way (to speak only of the paths of peace) wholly inconsistent with shyness. He had a passion for instance for open-air speaking, but was not thought on the whole to excel in it unless he could help himself out with a hymn. In conversation he kept his eyes on you with a kind of colourless candour, as if he had not understood what you were saying and, in a fashion that made many people turn red, waited before answering. This was only because he was considering their remarks in more relations than they had intended. He had in his face no expression whatever save the one just mentioned, and was, in his profession, already very distinguished.
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 five weeks later he had made her, by letter, an offer of marriage. She showed her father the letter of course, and he told her that it would give him great pleasure 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." Rose had declined the honour, very considerately and kindly, but not simply because her father wished it. She didn't herself wish to detach this flower from the stem, though when the young man wrote again, to express the hope that he MIGHT hope--so long was he willing to wait--and ask if he might not still sometimes see her, she answered even more indulgently than at first. She had shown her father her former letter, but she didn't show him this one; she only told him what it contained, submitting to him also that of her correspondent. Captain Jay moreover wrote to Mr. Tramore, who replied sociably, but so vaguely that he almost neglected the subject under discussion--a communication that made poor 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 her long-sightedness; so that a relation was established under cover of which he still occasionally presented himself in Hill Street--presented himself nominally to the mistress of the house. He had had scruples about the veracity of his visits, but he had disposed of them; he had scruples about so many things that he had had to invent a general way, to dig a central drain. Julia Tramore happened to meet him when she came up to town, and she took a view of him more benevolent than her usual estimate of people encouraged by her mother. The fear of agreeing with that lady was a motive, but there was a stronger 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 about him left their eyes to speak for their lips; and in the light of the poor gentleman'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 take the measure of it. After he had spoken to her about her bereavement, very much as 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 step she 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 ever passed between them. She had always felt with him as if she were standing on an edge, looking down into something decidedly deep. To-day the impression of the perpendicular shaft was there, but it was rather an abyss of confusion and disorder than the large bright space in which she had figured everything as ranged and pigeon-holed, presenting the appearance of the labelled shelves and drawers at a chemist's. He discussed without an invitation to discuss, he appealed without a right to appeal. He was nothing but a suitor tolerated after dismissal, but he took strangely for granted a participation in her affairs. He assumed all sorts of things that made her draw back. He implied that there was everything now to assist them in arriving at an agreement, since she had never informed him that he was positively objectionable; but that this symmetry would be spoiled if she should not be willing to take a little longer to think of certain consequences. She was greatly disconcerted when she saw what consequences he meant and at his reminding her of them. What on earth was the use of a lover if he was to speak only like one's grandmother and one's aunt? He struck her as much in love with her and as particularly careful at the same time as to what he might say. He never mentioned her mother; he only alluded, indirectly but earnestly, to the "step." He disapproved of it altogether, took an unexpectedly prudent, politic view of it. He evidently also believed that she would be dragged down; in other words that she would not be asked out. It was his idea that her mother would contaminate her, so that he should find himself interested in a young person discredited and virtually unmarriageable. All this was more obvious to him than the consideration that a daughter should be merciful. Where was his religion if he understood mercy so little, and where were his talent and his courage if he were so miserably afraid of trumpery social penalties? Rose's heart sank when she reflected that a man supposed to be first-rate hadn't guessed that rather than not do what she could for her mother she would give up all the Engineers in the world. She became aware that she probably would have been moved to place her hand in his on the spot if he had come to her saying "Your idea is the right one; put it through at every cost." She couldn't discuss this with him, though he impressed her as having too much at stake for her to treat him with mere disdain. She sickened at the revelation that a gentleman could see so much in mere vulgarities of opinion, and though she uttered as few words as possible, conversing only in sad smiles and headshakes and in intercepted movements toward the door, she happened, in some unguarded lapse from her reticence, to use the expression that she was disappointed 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 some confidence, 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 you in a light which makes me want to protect you even if I have nothing to gain by 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 need that 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 other affection which I might have the bliss of believing that you are now free, in however small a degree, to entertain."
Rose knew that her mother wouldn't be sorry at all; but she contented herself with rejoining, her hand on the door: "Good-bye. I sha'n't suffer. I'm not afraid."
"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 as he had never looked before, as if he saw something new in her face, as if he had never yet known her. He hadn't displeased her so much but that she would like to give him that impression, and since she felt that she was doing so she lingered an instant for the purpose. It enabled her to see, further, that he turned 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 the nature of their glance made Rose step forward to look. Her mother sat there, brilliant, conspicuous, in the eternal victoria, and the footman was already sounding the knocker. It had been no part of the arrangement that she should come to fetch her; it had been out of the question--a stroke in such bad taste as would have put Rose in the wrong. The girl had never dreamed of it, but somehow, suddenly, perversely, she was glad of it now; she even hoped that her grandmother and her aunt were looking out upstairs.
"My mother has come for me. Good-bye," she repeated; but this time her visitor had got between her and the door.
"Listen to me before you go. I will give you a life's devotion," the young man pleaded. He really barred the way.
She wondered whether her grandmother had told him that if her flight were not prevented she would forfeit money. Then, vividly, it came over her that this would 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 she was out of the house. Aunt Julia, who was sure to have been hovering, had taken flight before the profanity of the knock.
"Heavens, dear, where did you get your mourning?" the lady in the victoria asked of her daughter as they drove away.
Lady Maresfield had given her boy
a push in his plump back and had said to him, "Go and speak to her now;
it's your chance." She had for a
long time wanted this scion to make himself audible to
Rose Tramore, but the opportunity was not easy to
come by. The case was complicated. Lady Maresfield had
four daughters, of whom only one was married.
It so happened moreover that this one, Mrs. Vaughan-Vesey, the only
person in the world her mother was afraid of, was the most to be reckoned with. The Honourable Guy
was in appearance all his mother's child, though he
was really a simpler soul. He was large
and pink; large, that is, as to everything but the eyes, which were diminishing
points, 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 small neat teeth, which made his smile look
like a young lady's. He had no wish to
resemble any such person, but he was perpetually smiling, and he smiled more
than 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 softer black dress, leaned alone against the wall of the
vestibule at Covent Garden while, 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 the stale,
slightly sweet taste of the
Guy Mangler had only three minutes
to reestablish an interrupted acquaintance with our young lady. He reminded her that he had danced with her
the year before, and he mentioned that he knew her brother. His mother had
lately been to 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
"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 woman whom it took many plurals to disconcert. "I'm sure Guy is longing for another dance with you," she rejoined, with the most unblinking irrelevance.
"I'm afraid we're not dancing again quite yet," said Rose, glancing at her mother's exposed shoulders, but speaking as if they were muffled in crape.
Lady Maresfield leaned her head on one side and seemed almost wistful. "Not even at my sister's ball? She's to have something next week. She'll write to you."
Rose Tramore, on the spot, looking
bright but vague, turned three or four things over in her mind. She remembered that the sister of her
interlocutress was the proverbially rich Mrs. Bray, a bankeress
or a breweress or a builderess,
who had so big a house that she couldn't fill it unless she opened her doors,
or her mouth, very wide. Rose had learnt
"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 at a music hall; while at the same moment the name of his mother's carriage was bawled through the place. Mrs. Tramore had parted with her old gentleman; she turned again to her daughter. Nothing occurred but what always occurred, which was 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--of course there were plenty of those--were only the people who didn't exist for hers. Lady Maresfield surged away on her son's arm.
It was this noble matron herself who wrote, the next day, inclosing a card of invitation from Mrs. Bray and expressing the hope that Rose would come and dine 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 card in 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 Miss Tramore slowly tore up the documents, looking with clear, meditative eyes out of the window. Her mother always said "You had better go"--there had been other incidents--and Rose had never even once taken account of the observation. She would make no first advances, only plenty of second ones, and, condoning no discrimination, would treat no omission as venial. She would keep all concessions till afterwards; then she would make them one by one. Fighting society was quite as hard as her grandmother had said it would be; but there was a tension in it which made the dreariness vibrate--the dreariness of such a winter as she had just passed. Her companion had cried at the end of it, and she had cried all through; only her tears had been private, while her mother's had fallen once for all, at luncheon on the bleak Easter Monday--produced by the way a silent survey of the deadly square brought home to her that every creature but themselves was out of town and having tremendous fun. Rose felt that it was useless to attempt to explain simply by her mourning this severity of solitude; for if people didn't go to parties (at least a few didn't) for six months after their father died, this was the very time other people took for coming to see them. It was not too much to say that during this first winter of Rose's period with her mother she had no communication whatever with the world. It had the effect of making her take to reading the new American books: she wanted to see how girls got on by themselves. She had never read so much before, and there was a legitimate indifference in it when topics failed with her mother. They often failed after the first days, and then, while she bent over instructive volumes, this lady, dressed as if for an impending function, sat on the sofa and watched her. Rose was not embarrassed by such an appearance, for she could reflect that, a little before, her companion had not even a girl who had taken refuge in queer researches to look at. She was moreover used to her mother's attitude by this time. She had her own description of it: it was the attitude of waiting for the carriage. If they didn't go out it was not that Mrs. Tramore was not ready in time, and Rose had even 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 of her gloves (she was perpetually gloved, and the fit was a thing it was melancholy 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 other side of the fire.
What she was not yet used to--there was still a charm in it--was her mother's extraordinary tact. During the years they lived together they never had a discussion; a circumstance all the more remarkable since if the girl had a reason for sparing her companion (that of being sorry for her) Mrs. Tramore had none for sparing her child. She only showed in doing so a happy instinct--the happiest thing about her. She took in perfection a course which represented everything and covered everything; she utterly abjured all authority. 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. The tears on Easter Monday were merely a nervous gust, to help show she was not a Christmas doll from the Burlington Arcade; and there was no lifting up of the repentant Magdalen, no uttered remorse for the former abandonment of children. Of the way she could treat her children her demeanour to this one was an example; 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 these ladies without knowing their history you would have wondered what tie was fine enough to make maturity so respectful to youth. No mother was ever so filial as Mrs. Tramore, and there had never been such a difference of position between 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 much she at any rate made no scene over it. Her hand was so light that Rose said of her secretly, in vague glances at the past, "No wonder people liked her!" She never characterised the old element of interference with her mother's respectability more definitely than as "people." They were people, it was true, for whom gentleness must have been everything and who didn't demand a variety of interests. The desire to "go out" was the one passion that even a closer acquaintance with her parent revealed to Rose Tramore. She marvelled at its strength, in the light of the poor lady's history: there was comedy enough in 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 a taste for lighted candles, for squeezing up staircases and hooking herself to the human elbow. Rose had a vision of the future years in which this taste would 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 a century of the "Morning Post" and down the fashionable avenue of time. She herself would then be very old--she herself would be dead. Mrs. Tramore would cover a span of life for which such an allowance of sin was small. The girl could laugh indeed now at that theory of her being dragged down. If one thing were more present to her than another it was the very desolation of their propriety. As she glanced at her companion, it sometimes seemed to her that if she had been a bad woman she would have been worse than that. There were compensations for being "cut" which Mrs. Tramore too much neglected.
The lonely old lady in
It so happened, however, that the day after she threw Lady Maresfield's invitation into the wastepaper basket she received a visit from a certain Mrs. Donovan, whom she had occasionally seen in Hill Street. She vaguely knew this lady for a busybody, but she was in a situation which even busybodies might alleviate. Mrs. Donovan was poor, but honest--so scrupulously honest that she was perpetually returning visits she had never received. She was always clad in weather-beaten sealskin, and had an odd air of being prepared for the worst, which was borne out by her denying that she was Irish. She was of the English 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 something else, 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!" the visitor exclaimed.
"Tell her what?"
"That I come to see your mamma."
"You don't," said Rose.
"Sure I hoped you'd introduce me!" cried Mrs. Donovan, compromising herself in her embarrassment.
"It's not necessary; you knew her once."
"Indeed and I've known every one once," the visitor confessed.
Mrs. Tramore, when she came in,
was charming and exactly right; she greeted Mrs. Donovan as if she had met her
the week before last, giving her daughter such a new illustration of her tact
that Rose again had the idea that it was no wonder "people" had liked
her. The girl grudged Mrs. Donovan so
fresh a morsel as a description of her mother at home, rejoicing that she would
be inconvenienced by having to keep the story out of
"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 immense pleasure to me to have so charming a creature as yourself to present to the world."
"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 biggest fib 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 persuasive hand on the girl's arm. "Let me show you at a few places first, and then we'll see. I'll bring them all here."
"I don't think I understand you," replied Rose, though in Mrs. Donovan's words she perfectly saw her own theory of the case reflected. For a quarter of a minute she asked herself whether she might not, after all, do so much evil that good might come. Mrs. Donovan would take her out the next day, and be thankful enough to annex such an attraction as a pretty girl. Various consequences would ensue and the long delay would be shortened; her mother's drawing-room would resound with the clatter of teacups.
"Mrs. Bray's having some big thing next week; come with me there and I'll show you what I mane," Mrs. Donovan pleaded.
"I see what you mane," Rose answered, brushing away her temptation and getting up. "I'm much obliged to you."
"You know you're wrong, my dear," said her interlocutress, with angry little eyes.
"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, always observed all the forms of amity. "You can't do it alone, my darling," she declared.
"Shall they call you a cab?" Rose asked.
"I'll pick one up. I choose my horse. You know you require your start," her visitor 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 Red Book."
"It's awfully kind of you."
Mrs. Donovan lingered a moment on the threshold. "Who will you HAVE now, my child?" she appealed.
"I won't have any one!" Rose turned away, blushing for her. "She came on speculation," she said afterwards to Mrs. Tramore.
Her mother looked at her a moment in silence. "You can do it if you like, you know."
Rose made no direct answer to this observation; she remarked instead: "See what 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 daughter recognised that what her companion wanted to do was just what Mrs. Donovan was doing. Mrs. Donovan's life was her ideal.
On a Sunday, ten days later, Rose went to see one of her old
governesses, of whom she had lost sight for some time and who had written to
her that she was in
"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 make of 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 after she had given him his tea Mrs. Tramore left the young people alone. Rose wished she hadn't--she herself had another view. At any rate she disliked her mother's view, which she had easily guessed. Mr. Mangler did nothing but say how charming he thought his hostess of the Sunday, and what a tremendously jolly visit he had had. He didn't remark in so many words "I had no idea your mother 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 there was too much of it for good taste. She had to reflect that one does what one can and that Mr. Mangler probably thought he was delicate. He wished to convey that he desired to make up to her for the injustice of society. Why shouldn't her mother receive gracefully, she asked (not audibly) and who had ever said she didn't? Mr. Mangler had a great deal to say about the disappointment of his own parent over Miss Tramore's not having come to dine with them the night of 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: he had at last found a topic after his own heart. If her mother considered that he might be the emblem of their redemption he was an engine of the most primitive construction. He stayed and stayed; he struck Rose as on the point of 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 mother told me to propose to you." At other moments he seemed charged with the admission: "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 that I 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 for nothing. If you'll accept me they'll call, but they won't call without something 'down.'" Mr. Mangler departed without their speaking frankly, and Rose Tramore had a hot hour during which she almost entertained, vindictively, the project of "accepting" the limpid youth until after she should have got her mother into circulation. The cream of the vision was that she might break with 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 the next.
In August there was nothing to do but to go abroad, with the
sense on Rose's part that the battle was still all to fight; for a round of
country visits was not in prospect, and English watering-places constituted one
of the few subjects on which the girl had heard her mother express herself with
disgust. Continental autumns had been
indeed for years, one of the various forms of Mrs. Tramore's
atonement, but Rose could only infer that such fruit as they had borne was bitter. The stony stare of
One morning in September, coming with her mother out of the marble church at Milan, she perceived that a gentleman who had just passed her on his way into the cathedral and whose face she had not noticed, had quickly raised his hat, with a suppressed ejaculation. She involuntarily glanced back; the gentleman had paused, again uncovering, and Captain Jay stood saluting her in the Italian sunshine. "Oh, good-morning!" she said, and walked on, pursuing her course; her mother was a little in front. She overtook her in a moment, with an 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 as they met, and suddenly, as she looked back, an expression of peculiar sweetness came into this lady's eyes. It made Rose's take the same direction and rest a second time on Captain Jay, who was planted just where he had stood a minute before. He immediately came forward, asking Rose with great gravity if he might speak to her a moment, while Mrs. Tramore went her way again. He had the expression of a man who wished to say something very important; yet his next words were simple enough and consisted of the remark that he had not seen 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 been very little in
"You should have put that first," said the girl. "It wouldn't have done any good."
He was silent over this a moment, in his customary
deciphering way; but the view he took of it did not prevent him from inquiring,
as she slowly followed her mother, if he mightn't walk with her now. She answered with a laugh that it wouldn't do
any good but that he might do as he liked.
He replied without the slightest manifestation of levity that it would
do more good than if he didn't, and they strolled together, with Mrs. Tramore well before them, across the big, amusing piazza,
where the front of the cathedral makes a sort of builded
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 just popped
"I have had no communication of any kind from her since I parted with you under 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 him unconscious of her question; then, with mild violence, he brought out the inquiry: "Miss Tramore, are you happy?"
She was startled by the words, for she on her side had been reflecting--reflecting that he had broken with her grandmother and that this pointed to a reason. It suggested at least that he wouldn't now be so much like a mouthpiece for that cold ancestral tone. She turned off his question--said it never was a fair one, as you gave yourself away however you answered it. When he repeated "You give yourself away?" as if he didn't understand, she remembered that he had not read the funny American books. This brought them to a silence, for she had enlightened him only by another laugh, and he was evidently preparing another question, which he wished carefully to disconnect from the former. Presently, just as they were coming near Mrs. Tramore, it arrived in the words "Is this lady your mother?" On Rose's assenting, with the addition that she was travelling with her, he said: "Will you be so kind as to introduce me to her?" They were so close to Mrs. Tramore that she probably heard, but she floated away with a single stroke of her paddle and an inattentive poise of her head. It was a striking exhibition of the famous tact, for Rose delayed to answer, which was exactly what might have made her mother wish to turn; and indeed when at last the girl spoke she only said 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 each other. "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 the bright 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 walking on.
"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!" the young 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 with eminent honesty.
The girl stared; her light laugh filled the air. "And it's in order to see more 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 "Miss Tramore, 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 condition attached 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 the matter that, in
Captain Jay appeared to be counting the thousand pinnacles of the church. "I think 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're going to
"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 or not. Please let me go."
He had barred her way, he kept her longer. "I'll go and speak to your mother myself!"
Even in the midst of another emotion she was amused at the air of audacity accompanying this declaration. Poor Captain Jay might have been on the point of 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 for a 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, and with a want of presence of mind of which he as quickly felt ashamed: "Do none of your family--?" The question collapsed; the brilliant girl was looking at him.
"We're extraordinarily happy," she threw out.
"Now that's all I wanted to know!" he exclaimed, with a kind of exaggerated cheery reproach, walking on with her briskly to overtake her mother.
He was not dining at their inn, but he insisted on coming that evening to their table d'hote. He sat next Mrs. Tramore, and in the evening he accompanied them gallantly to the opera, at a third-rate theatre where they were almost the only ladies in the boxes. The next day they went together by rail to the Charterhouse of Pavia, and while he strolled with the girl, as they waited for the homeward train, he said to her candidly: "Your mother's remarkably 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 an anxious, gratified matron who has "presented" her child and is thinking of the matrimonial market. Men might be of no use, as Mrs. Tramore said, yet it was from this moment Rose dated the rosy dawn of her confidence that her protegee would go off; and when later, in crowded assemblies, the phrase, or something like it behind a hat or a fan, fell repeatedly on her anxious ear, "Your mother IS in beauty!" or "I've never seen her look better!" she had a faint vision of the yellow sunshine and the afternoon shadows on the dusty Italian platform.
Mrs. Tramore's behaviour
at this period was a revelation of her native understanding of delicate
situations. She needed no account of
this one from her daughter--it was one of the things for which she had a scent;
and there was a kind of loyalty to the rules of a game in the silent sweetness
with which she smoothed the path of Bertram Jay. It was clear that she was in her element in
fostering the exercise of the affections, and if she ever spoke without
thinking 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 companion would be a help, in
spite of his being no dispenser of patronage.
The key to the gates of fashion had not been placed in his hand, and no
one had ever heard of the ladies of his family, who lived in some vague hollow
By the time they reached
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 stood before their little party as, on the third evening after their
Lady Maresfield, if she had given her son any such message, which Rose disbelieved, entertained her hope in a manner compatible with her sitting for half an hour, surrounded by her little retinue, without glancing in the direction of Mrs. Tramore. The girl, however, was aware that this was not a good 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. She was a little ashamed now of not having answered the note in which this affable personage ignored her mother. She couldn't help perceiving indeed a dim movement on the part of some of the other members of the group; she made out an 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 gentleman walked 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) he revealed to Rose that he had some acquaintance with Lady Maresfield's eldest daughter, though he didn't know and didn't particularly want to know, her ladyship. He expressed himself with more acerbity than she had ever heard him use (Christian charity so generally governed his speech) about the young donkey who had been prattling to them. They separated at the door of the hotel. Mrs. Tramore had got rid of Mr. Mangler, and Bertram Jay was in other quarters.
"If you know Mrs. Vesey, why didn't you go and speak to her? I'm sure she saw you," Rose said.
Captain Jay replied even more circumspectly than usual. "Because I didn't want to 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 hand again. "She's too worldly," he murmured, while he held Rose Tramore's a moment.
"Ah, you dear!" Rose exclaimed almost audibly as, with her mother, she turned away.
The next morning, upon the
"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 moment was born a deeper understanding than had yet existed between these associated spirits. 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 which Ruskin had inspired her with a desire to see sincerely. Mrs. Tramore expressed the wish to stay at home, and the motive of this wish--a finer shade than any that even Ruskin had ever found a phrase for--was not translated into misrepresenting words by either the mother or the daughter. At San Giovanni in Bragora the girl and her companion came upon Mrs. Vaughan-Vesey, who, with one of her sisters, was also endeavouring to do the earnest thing. She did it to Rose, she did it to Captain Jay, as well as to Gianbellini; she was a handsome, long-necked, aquiline person, of a different type from the rest of her family, and she did it remarkably well. She secured our friends--it was her own expression--for luncheon, on the morrow, on the yacht, and she made it public to Rose that she would come that afternoon to invite her mother. When the girl returned to the hotel, Mrs. Tramore mentioned, before Captain Jay, who had come up to their sitting-room, that Lady Maresfield had called. "She stayed a long time--at least it seemed long!" laughed Mrs. Tramore.
The poor lady could laugh freely now; yet there was some grimness in a colloquy that she had with her daughter after Bertram Jay had departed. Before this happened Mrs. Vesey's card, scrawled over in pencil and referring to the morrow's luncheon, was brought up to Mrs. Tramore.
"They mean it all as a bribe," said the principal recipient of these civilities.
"As a bribe?" Rose repeated.
"She wants to marry you to that boy; they've seen Captain Jay and they're frightened."
"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 took place, on the morrow, she could feel for the first time that she was taking her 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 this simple history that, in the first place, that success dated from Mrs. Vesey's Venetian dejeuner, and in the second reposed, by a subtle social logic, on the very anomaly that had made it dubious. There is always a chance in things, and Rose Tramore's chance was in the fact that Gwendolen Vesey was, as some one had said, awfully modern, an immense improvement on the exploded science of her 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 perceived that people would flock into any room--and all the more into one of hers--to see Rose bring in her dreadful mother. She treated the cream of English society to this 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 very first evening--the girl was felt to play her part so well. The rumour of the performance spread; every one wanted to see it. It was an entertainment of which, that winter in the country, and the next season in town, persons of taste desired to give their friends the freshness. The thing was to make the Tramores come late, after every one had arrived. They were engaged for a fixed hour, like the American imitator and the Patagonian contralto. Mrs. Vesey had been the first to say the girl was awfully original, but that became the general view.
Gwendolen Vesey had with her
mother one of the few quarrels in which Lady Maresfield
had really stood up to such an antagonist (the elder woman had to recognise in general in whose veins it was that the blood
of the Manglers flowed) on account of this very
circumstance of her attaching more importance to Miss Tramore's
originality ("Her originality be hanged!" her ladyship had gone so
far as unintelligently to exclaim) than to the prospects of the unfortunate
Guy. Mrs. Vesey actually lost sight of
these pressing problems in her admiration of the way the mother and the
daughter, or rather the daughter and the mother (it was slightly confusing)
"drew." It was Lady Maresfield's version of the case that the brazen girl (she
was shockingly coarse) had treated 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 to
take place till the summer; but Rose felt that before this the field would
practically be won. There had been some
bad moments, there had been several warm corners and a certain number of cold
shoulders and closed doors and stony stares; but the breach was effectually
made--the rest was only a question of time.
Mrs. Tramore could be trusted to keep what she
had gained, and it was the dowagers, the old dragons with prominent fangs and
glittering scales, whom the trick had already mainly caught. By this time there were several houses into
which the liberated lady had crept alone.
Her daughter had been expected with 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 with the heroine of such a romantic story. She was at least the next best thing to her
daughter, and Rose foresaw the day when she would be valued principally as a
memento of one of the prettiest episodes in the annals of
No observer, probably, would have been acute enough to fix exactly the moment at which the girl ceased to take out her mother and began to be taken out by her. A later phase was more distinguishable--that at which Rose forbore to inflict on her companion a duality that might become oppressive. She began to economise her force, she went only when the particular effect was required. Her marriage was delayed by the period of mourning consequent upon the death of her grandmother, who, the younger Mrs. Tramore averred, was killed by the rumour of her own new birth. She was the only one of the dragons who had not been tamed. Julia Tramore knew the truth about this--she was determined such things should not kill HER. She would live to do something--she hardly knew what. The provisions of her mother's will were published in the "Illustrated News"; from which it appeared that everything that was not to go to Eric and to Julia was to go to the fortunate Edith. Miss Tramore makes no secret of her own intentions as regards this favourite.
Edith is not pretty, but Lady Maresfield is waiting for her; she is determined Gwendolen Vesey shall not get hold of her. Mrs. Vesey however takes no interest 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 Bertram Jays. The fondness of this pair, it must be added, is not wholly expended in return. They are extremely united, but their life is more domestic than might have been expected from the preliminary signs. It owes a portion of its concentration to the fact that Mrs. Tramore has now so many places to go to that 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 he remarked upon the circumstance to his wife.
"If it hadn't been for you," she replied, smiling, "she might have had her regular place at our fireside."
"Good heavens, how did I prevent it?" cried Captain Jay, with all the consciousness 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 was YOU!"