The Chaperon by Henry James
from the 1893 Macmillan and Co. edition
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 London
fog had oozed into it even through its superior defences. It was
full of dusky, massive, valuable things. The old lady sat motionless
save for the regularity of her clicking needles, which seemed as
personal to her and as expressive as prolonged fingers. If she was
thinking something out, she was thinking it thoroughly.
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
"Have you written to your mother?"
"Yes, but only a few lines, to tell her I shall come and see her in
"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
"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
"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
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 St. Leonard's with their aunt
Julia, and then she had had a wretched talk with Eric. Lastly, she
had made up her mind to act in opposition to the formidable will, to
a clause which embodied if not exactly a provision, a recommendation
singularly emphatic. She went to bed and slept the sleep of the
"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 London world, it
paled in the lurid light of the contemporaneous. That attention had
been fixed on it for several days, fifteen years before; there had
been a high relish of the vivid evidence as to his wife's misconduct
with which, in the divorce-court, Charles Tramore had judged well to
regale a cynical public. The case was pronounced awfully bad, and he
obtained his decree. The folly of the wife had been inconceivable, in
spite of other examples: she had quitted her children, she had
followed the "other fellow" abroad. The other fellow hadn't married
her, not having had time: he had lost his life in the Mediterranean
by the capsizing of a boat, before the prohibitory term had expired.
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 London to take her chance. But London would give her no
chance, would have nothing to say to her; as many persons had
remarked, you could never tell how London would behave. It would not
receive Mrs. Tramore again on any terms, and when she was spoken of,
which now was not often, it was inveterately said of her that she
went nowhere. Apparently she had not the qualities for which London
compounds; though in the cases in which it does compound you may
often wonder what these qualities are. She had not at any rate been
successful: her lover was dead, her husband was liked and her
children were pitied, for in payment for a topic London will
parenthetically pity. It was thought interesting and magnanimous
that Charles Tramore had not married again. The disadvantage to his
children of the miserable story was thus left uncorrected, and this,
rather oddly, was counted as HIS sacrifice. His mother, whose
arrangements were elaborate, looked after them a great deal, and they
enjoyed a mixture of laxity and discipline under the roof of their
aunt, Miss Tramore, who was independent, having, for reasons that the
two ladies had exhaustively discussed, determined to lead her own
life. She had set up a home at St. Leonard's, and that contracted
shore had played a considerable part in the upbringing of the little
Tramores. They knew about their mother, as the phrase was, but they
didn't know her; which was naturally deemed more pathetic for them
than for her. She had a house in Chester Square and an income and a
victoria--it served all purposes, as she never went out in the
evening--and flowers on her window-sills, and a remarkable appearance
of youth. The income was supposed to be in part the result of a
bequest from the man for whose sake she had committed the error of
her life, and in the appearance of youth there was a slightly
impertinent implication that it was a sort of afterglow of the same
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 Chester Square or how she liked it. He had only said
"Did she take you out?" and when Rose answered "Yes, she put me
straight into a carriage and drove me up and down Bond Street," had
rejoined sharply "See that that never occurs again." It never did,
but once was enough, every one they knew having happened to be in
Bond Street at that particular hour.
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
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 Chester Square. She had arrived there in
intense excitement, and her excitement was left on her hands in a
manner that reminded her of a difficult air she had once heard sung
at the opera when no one applauded the performer. That flatness had
made her sick, and so did this, in another way. A part of her
agitation proceeded from the fact that her aunt Julia had told her,
in the manner of a burst of confidence, something she was not to
repeat, that she was in appearance the very image of the lady in
Chester Square. The motive that prompted this declaration was
between aunt Julia and her conscience; but it was a great emotion to
the girl to find her entertainer so beautiful. She was tall and
exquisitely slim; she had hair more exactly to Rose Tramore's taste
than any other she had ever seen, even to every detail in the way it
was dressed, and a complexion and a figure of the kind that are
always spoken of as "lovely." Her eyes were irresistible, and so
were her clothes, though the clothes were perhaps a little more
precisely the right thing than the eyes. Her appearance was marked
to her daughter's sense by the highest distinction; though it may be
mentioned that this had never been the opinion of all the world. It
was a revelation to Rose that she herself might look a little like
that. She knew however that aunt Julia had not seen her deposed
sister-in-law for a long time, and she had a general impression that
Mrs. Tramore was to-day a more complete production--for instance as
regarded her air of youth--than she had ever been. There was no
excitement on her side--that was all her visitor's; there was no
emotion--that was excluded by the plan, to say nothing of conditions
more primal. Rose had from the first a glimpse of her mother's plan.
It was to mention nothing and imply nothing, neither to acknowledge,
to explain nor to extenuate. She would leave everything to her
child; with her child she was secure. She only wanted to get back
into society; she would leave even that to her child, whom she
treated not as a high-strung and heroic daughter, a creature of
exaltation, of devotion, but as a new, charming, clever, useful
friend, a little younger than herself. Already on that first day she
had talked about dressmakers. Of course, poor thing, it was to be
remembered that in her circumstances there were not many things she
COULD talk about. "She wants to go out again; that's the only thing
in the wide world she wants," Rose had promptly, compendiously said
to herself. There had been a sequel to this observation, uttered, in
intense engrossment, in her own room half an hour before she had, on
the important evening, made known her decision to her grandmother:
"Then I'll TAKE her out!"
"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
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
"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
"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 St. Leonard's in response to a telegram from
her own parent, for an occasion like the present brought with it, for
a few hours, a certain relaxation of their dissent. "Do what you can
to stop her," the old lady had said; but her daughter found that the
most she could do was not much. They both had a baffled sense that
Rose had thought the question out a good deal further than they; and
this was particularly irritating to Mrs. Tramore, as consciously the
cleverer of the two. A question thought out as far as SHE could
think it had always appeared to her to have performed its human uses;
she had never encountered a ghost emerging from that extinction.
Their great contention was that Rose would cut herself off; and
certainly if she wasn't afraid of that she wasn't afraid of anything.
Julia Tramore could only tell her mother how little the girl was
afraid. She was already prepared to leave the house, taking with her
the possessions, or her share of them, that had accumulated there
during her father's illness. There had been a going and coming of
her maid, a thumping about of boxes, an ordering of four-wheelers; it
appeared to old Mrs. Tramore that something of the objectionableness,
the indecency, of her granddaughter's prospective connection had
already gathered about the place. It was a violation of the decorum
of bereavement which was still fresh there, and from the indignant
gloom of the mistress of the house you might have inferred not so
much that the daughter was about to depart as that the mother was
about to arrive. There had been no conversation on the dreadful
subject at luncheon; for at luncheon at Mrs. Tramore's (her son never
came to it) there were always, even after funerals and other
miseries, stray guests of both sexes whose policy it was to be
cheerful and superficial. Rose had sat down as if nothing had
happened--nothing worse, that is, than her father's death; but no one
had spoken of anything that any one else was thinking of.
Before she left the house a servant brought her a message from 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
"He was kind, he had charming impulses, he was delightful. But he
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
"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 London house, on the general
understanding that they would change about; but during the last years
the community had grown more rigid, mainly at his mother's expense.
The parlour was full of his memory and his habits and his things--his
books and pictures and bibelots, objects that belonged now to Eric.
Rose had sat in it for hours since his death; it was the place in
which she could still be nearest to him. But she felt far from him
as Captain Jay rose erect on her opening the door. This was a very
different presence. He had not liked Captain Jay. She herself had,
but not enough to make a great complication of her father's coldness.
This afternoon however she foresaw complications. At the very outset
for instance she was not pleased with his having arranged such a
surprise for her with her grandmother and her aunt. It was probably
aunt Julia who had sent for him; her grandmother wouldn't have done
it. It placed him immediately on their side, and Rose was almost as
disappointed at this as if she had not known it was quite where he
would naturally be. He had never paid her a special visit, but if
that was what he wished to do why shouldn't he have waited till she
should be under her mother's roof? She knew the reason, but she had
an angry prospect of enjoyment in making him express it. She liked
him enough, after all, if it were measured by the idea of what she
could make him do.
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
"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
"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 London season when the London season is
overripe and spoiling.
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 Hill Street had really forgiven the
wilful girl much more than she admitted. Another was that there
would still be some money for Rose when the others should come into
theirs. Still another was that the others would come into theirs at
no distant date; the old lady was so visibly going to pieces. There
were several more besides, as for instance that Rose had already
fifteen hundred a year from her father. The figure had been betrayed
in Hill Street; it was part of the proof of Mrs. Tramore's
decrepitude. Then there was an equal amount that her mother had to
dispose of and on which the girl could absolutely count, though of
course it might involve much waiting, as the mother, a person of
gross insensibility, evidently wouldn't die of cold-shouldering.
Equally definite, to do it justice, was the conception that Rose was
in truth remarkably good looking, and that what she had undertaken to
do showed, and would show even should it fail, cleverness of the
right sort. Cleverness of the right sort was exactly the quality
that Lady Maresfield prefigured as indispensable in a young lady to
whom she should marry her second son, over whose own deficiencies she
flung the veil of a maternal theory that HIS cleverness was of a sort
that was wrong. Those who knew him less well were content to wish
that he might not conceal it for such a scruple. This enumeration of
his mother's views does not exhaust the list, and it was in obedience
to one too profound 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 only one with her; Maggie was dining with the
Vaughan-Veseys, and Fanny was not of an age. Mrs. Tramore the
younger showed only an admirable back--her face was to her old
gentleman--and Bessie had drifted to some other people; so that it
was comparatively easy for Lady Maresfield to say to Rose, in a
moment: "My dear child, 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 woman whom it took many plurals to disconcert. "I'm sure Guy is
longing for another dance with you," she rejoined, with the most
"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 more about London society during these lonely months with
her mother than she had ever picked up in Hill Street. The younger
Mrs. Tramore was a mine of commerages, and she had no need to go out
to bring home the latest intelligence. At any rate Mrs. Bray might
serve as the end of a wedge. "Oh, I dare say we might think of
that," Rose said. "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 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 Hill Street--Rose thought of her that way
now- -was the one person to whom she was ready to say that she would
come to her on any terms. She wrote this to her three times over, and
she knocked still oftener at her door. But the old lady answered no
letters; if Rose had remained in Hill Street it would have been her
own function to answer them; and at the door, the butler, whom the
girl had known for ten years, considered her, when he told her his
mistress was not at home, quite as he might have considered a young
person who had come about a place and of whose eligibility he took a
negative view. That was Rose's one pang, that she probably appeared
rather heartless. Her aunt Julia had gone to Florence with Edith for
the winter, on purpose to make her appear more so; for Miss Tramore
was still the person most scandalised by her secession. Edith and
she, doubtless, often talked over in Florence the destitution of the
aged victim in Hill Street. Eric never came to see his sister,
because, being full both of family and of personal feeling, he
thought she really ought to have stayed with his grandmother. If she
had had such an appurtenance all to herself she might have done what
she liked with it; 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 the plough and insist
upon reintegration, if only the fierce voice of the old house had
allowed people to look her up. But she read, ever so clearly, that
her grandmother had made this a question of loyalty to seventy years
of virtue. Mrs. Tramore's forlornness didn't prevent her drawing-
room from being a 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 old woman's visitors were people who
didn't wish to quarrel, and the girl was conscious that if they had
not let her alone--that is if they had come to her from her
grandmother--she might perhaps not have held out. She had no friends
quite of her own; she had not been brought up to have them, and it
would not have been easy in a house which two such persons as her
father and his mother divided between them. Her father disapproved
of crude intimacies, and all the intimacies of youth were crude. He
had married at five-and-twenty and could testify to such a truth.
Rose felt that she shared even Captain Jay with her grandmother; she
had seen what HE was worth. Moreover, she had spoken to him at that
last moment in Hill Street in a way which, taken with her former
refusal, made it impossible that he should come near her again. She
hoped he went to see his protectress: he could be a kind of
substitute and administer comfort.
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 Hill Street. Her mother went away before
Mrs. Donovan departed, and Rose was touched by guessing her reason--
the thought that since even this circuitous personage had been moved
to come, the two might, if left together, invent some remedy. Rose
waited to see 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 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
"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 London, unoccupied and ill. This was
just the sort of relation into which she could throw herself now with
inordinate zeal; the idea of it, however, not preventing a foretaste
of the queer expression in the excellent lady's face when she should
mention with whom she was living. While she smiled at this picture
she threw in another joke, asking herself if Miss Hack could be held
in any degree to constitute the nucleus of a circle. She would come
to see her, in any event--come the more the further she was dragged
down. Sunday was always a difficult day with the two ladies--the
afternoons made it so apparent that they were not frequented. Her
mother, it is true, was comprised in the habits of two or three old
gentlemen--she had for a long time avoided male friends 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 time
with Miss Hack, doing conscientious justice to the conception that
there could be troubles in the world worse than her own; and when she
came back her mother was alone, but with a story to tell of a long
visit from Mr. Guy Mangler, who had waited and waited for her return.
"He's in love with you; he's coming again on Tuesday," Mrs. Tramore
"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
"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
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 Belgravia could be practised at
Homburg; and somehow it was inveterately only gentlemen who sat next
to her at the 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 to get out of it. She once dropped, to
her daughter, in a moralising mood, the remark that it was
astonishing how many of them one could know without its doing one any
good. Fifty of them--even very clever ones--represented a value
inferior to that of one stupid woman. Rose wondered at the offhand
way in which her mother could talk of fifty clever men; it seemed to
her that the whole world couldn't contain such a number. She had a
sombre sense that mankind 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. Rose guided their
course, at moments, with a kind of aimless ferocity; she moved
abruptly, feeling vulgar and hating their life, though destitute of
any definite vision of another life that would have been open to her.
She had set herself a task and she clung to it; but she appeared to
herself despicably idle. She had succeeded in not going to Homburg
waters, where London was trying to wash away some of its stains; that
would be too staring an advertisement of their situation. The main
difference in situations to her now was the difference of being more
or less pitied, at the best an intolerable danger; so that the places
she preferred were the unsuspicious ones. She wanted to triumph with
contempt, not with submission.
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 London, and in the second I believed it
wouldn't have done any good."
"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 over the Alps. He inquired if Rose had
recent news of the old lady in Hill 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 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
"You treated me the last time as if I were positively offensive to
"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
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
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
"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
"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 Hill Street, we had our last words
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 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 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
"Dear Miss Tramore--dear Miss Tramore!" the young man murmured
"You'll see for yourself. Only there's another condition," Rose
"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
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
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 of the Yorkshire moors; but none the less
he might administer a muscular push. Yes indeed, men in general were
broken reeds, but Captain Jay was peculiarly representative.
Respectability was the woman's maximum, as honour was the man's, but
this distinguished young soldier inspired more than one kind of
confidence. Rose had a great deal of attention for the use to which
his respectability was put; and there mingled with this attention
some amusement and much compassion. She saw that after a couple of
days he decidedly liked her mother, and that he was yet not in the
least aware of it. He took for granted that he believed in her but
little; notwithstanding which he would have trusted her with anything
except Rose herself. His trusting her with Rose would come very
soon. He never spoke to her daughter about her qualities of
character, but two or three of them (and indeed these were all the
poor lady had, and they made the best show) were what he had in mind
in praising her appearance. When he remarked: "What attention Mrs.
Tramore seems to attract everywhere!" he meant: "What a beautifully
simple nature it is!" and when he said: "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!" She lost
one of her boxes at Verona, and made the prettiest joke of it to
Captain Jay. When Rose saw this she said to herself, "Next season we
shall have only to choose." Rose knew what was in the box.
By the time they reached Venice (they had stopped at half a dozen
little old romantic cities in the most frolicsome aesthetic way) she
liked their companion better than she had ever liked him before. She
did him the justice to recognise that if he was not quite honest with
himself he was at least wholly honest with HER. She reckoned up
everything he had been since he joined them, and put upon it all an
interpretation so favourable to his devotion that, catching herself
in the act of glossing over one or two episodes that had not struck
her at the time as disinterested she exclaimed, beneath her breath,
"Look out--you're falling in love!" But if he liked correctness
wasn't he quite right? Could any one possibly like it more than SHE
did? And if he had protested against her throwing in her lot with
her mother, this was not because of the benefit conferred but because
of the injury received. He exaggerated that injury, but this was the
privilege of a lover perfectly willing to be selfish on behalf of his
mistress. He might have wanted her grandmother's money for her, but
if he had given her up on first discovering that she was throwing
away her chance of it (oh, this was HER doing too!) he had given up
her grandmother as much: not keeping well with the old woman, as
some men would have done; not waiting to see how the perverse
experiment would turn out and appeasing her, if it should promise
tolerably, with a view to future operations. He had had a simple-
minded, evangelical, lurid view of what the girl he loved would find
herself in for. She could see this now--she could see it from his
present bewilderment and mystification, and she liked him and pitied
him, with the kindest smile, for the original naivete as well as 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
not moments when he thought his companions almost unnaturally good,
almost suspiciously safe? He had lost all power to verify that
sketch of their isolation and declassement to which she had treated
him on the great square at Milan. The last thing he noticed was that
they were neglected, and he had never, 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 stood before their little party as, on the third evening
after their arrival in Venice, it partook of ices at one of the
tables before the celebrated Cafe Florian. The lamplit Venetian dusk
appeared to have revealed them to this gentleman as he sat with other
friends at a neighbouring table, and he had sprung up, with
unsophisticated glee, to shake hands with Mrs. Tramore and her
daughter. Rose recalled him to her mother, who looked at first as
though she didn't remember him but presently bestowed a sufficiently
gracious smile on Mr. Guy Mangler. He gave with youthful candour the
history of his movements and indicated the whereabouts of his family:
he was with his mother and sisters; they had met the Bob Veseys, who
had taken Lord Whiteroy's yacht and were going to Constantinople. His
mother and the girls, poor things, were at the Grand Hotel, but he was
on the yacht with the Veseys, where they had Lord Whiteroy's cook.
Wasn't the food in Venice filthy, and wouldn't they come and look at
the yacht? She wasn't very fast, but she was awfully jolly. His
mother might have come if she would, but she wouldn't at first, and
now, when she wanted 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 to Constantinople, but he didn't
care--if THEY were going anywhere; meanwhile his mother hoped awfully
they would look her up.
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 Grand Canal, the gondola of our three
friends encountered a stately barge which, though it contained
several persons, seemed pervaded mainly by one majestic presence.
During the instant the gondolas were passing each other it was
impossible either for Rose Tramore or for her companions not to
become conscious that this distinguished identity had markedly
inclined itself--a circumstance commemorated the next moment, almost
within earshot of the other boat, by the most spontaneous cry that
had issued for many a day from the lips of Mrs. Tramore. "Fancy, my
dear, Lady Maresfield has 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 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.
"They mean it all as a bribe," said the principal recipient of
"As a bribe?" Rose repeated.
"She wants to marry you to that boy; they've seen Captain Jay and
"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 London. At a big official 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 such
queer people there; but Eric called, observing the shade, the next
day but one.
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!"