Paste by Henry James
"I've found a lot more things," her cousin said to her the day after
the second funeral; "they're up in her room—but they're things I wish
YOU'D look at."
The pair of mourners, sufficiently stricken, were in the garden of
the vicarage together, before luncheon, waiting to be summoned to that
meal, and Arthur Prime had still in his face the intention, she was
moved to call it rather than the expression, of feeling something or
other. Some such appearance was in itself of course natural within a
week of his stepmother's death, within three of his father's; but what
was most present to the girl, herself sensitive and shrewd, was that he
seemed somehow to brood without sorrow, to suffer without what she in
her own case would have called pain. He turned away from her after this
last speech—it was a good deal his habit to drop an observation and
leave her to pick it up without assistance. If the vicar's widow, now
in her turn finally translated, had not really belonged to him it was
not for want of her giving herself, so far as he ever would take her;
and she had lain for three days all alone at the end of the passage, in
the great cold chamber of hospitality, the dampish greenish room where
visitors slept and where several of the ladies of the parish had,
without effect, offered, in pairs and successions, piously to watch
with her. His personal connexion with the parish was now slighter than
ever, and he had really not waited for this opportunity to show the
ladies what he thought of them. She felt that she herself had, during
her doleful month's leave from Bleet, where she was governess, rather
taken her place in the same snubbed order; but it was presently, none
the less, with a better little hope of coming in for some remembrance,
some relic, that she went up to look at the things he had spoken of,
the identity of which, as a confused cluster of bright objects on a
table in the darkened room, shimmered at her as soon as she had opened
They met her eyes for the first time, but in a moment, before
touching them, she knew them as things of the theatre, as very much too
fine to have been with any verisimilitude things of the vicarage. They
were too dreadfully good to be true, for her aunt had had no jewels to
speak of, and these were coronets and girdles, diamonds, rubies and
sapphires. Flagrant tinsel and glass, they looked strangely vulgar, but
if after the first queer shock of them she found herself taking them up
it was for the very proof, never yet so distinct to her, of a far-off
faded story. An honest widowed cleric with a small son and a large
sense of Shakespeare had, on a brave latitude of habit as well as of
taste—since it implied his having in very fact dropped deep into the
"pit"—conceived for an obscure actress several years older than
himself an admiration of which the prompt offer of his reverend name
and hortatory hand was the sufficiently candid sign. The response had
perhaps in those dim years, so far as eccentricity was concerned, even
bettered the proposal, and Charlotte, turning the tale over, had long
since drawn from it a measure of the career renounced by the
undistinguished comedienne—doubtless also tragic, or perhaps
pantomimic, at a pinch—of her late uncle's dreams. This career
couldn't have been eminent and must much more probably have been
"You see what it is—old stuff of the time she never liked to
Our young woman gave a start; her companion had after all rejoined
her and had apparently watched a moment her slightly scared
recognition. "So I said to myself," she replied. Then to show
intelligence, yet keep clear of twaddle: "How peculiar they look!"
"They look awful," said Arthur Prime. "Cheap gilt, diamonds as big
as potatoes. These are trappings of a ruder age than ours. Actors do
themselves better now."
"Oh now," said Charlotte, not to be less knowing, "actresses have
"Some of them." Arthur spoke dryly.
"I mean the bad ones—the nobodies too."
"Oh some of the nobodies have the biggest. But mamma wasn't of that
"A nobody?" Charlotte risked.
"Not a nobody to whom somebody—well, not a nobody with diamonds.
It isn't all worth, this trash, five pounds."
There was something in the old gewgaws that spoke to her, and she
continued to turn them over. "They're relics. I think they have their
melancholy and even their dignity."
Arthur observed another pause. "Do you care for them?" he then
asked. "I mean," he promptly added, "as a souvenir."
"Of you?" Charlotte threw off.
"Of me? What have I to do with it? Of your poor dead aunt who was
so kind to you," he said with virtuous sternness.
"Well, I'd rather have them than nothing."
"Then please take them," he returned in a tone of relief which
expressed somehow more of the eager than of the gracious.
"Thank you." Charlotte lifted two or three objects up and set them
down again. Though they were lighter than the materials they imitated
they were so much more extravagant that they struck her in truth as
rather an awkward heritage, to which she might have preferred even a
matchbox or a penwiper. They were indeed shameless pinchbeck. "Had you
any idea she had kept them?"
"I don't at all believe she HAD kept them or knew they were there,
and I'm very sure my father didn't. They had quite equally worked off
any tenderness for the connexion. These odds and ends, which she
thought had been given away or destroyed, had simply got thrust into a
dark corner and been forgotten."
Charlotte wondered. "Where then did you find them?"
"In that old tin box"—and the young man pointed to the receptacle
from which he had dislodged them and which stood on a neighbouring
chair. "It's rather a good box still, but I'm afraid I can't give you
The girl took no heed of the box; she continued only to look at
the trinkets. "What corner had she found?"
"She hadn't 'found' it," her companion sharply insisted; "she had
simply lost it. The whole thing had passed from her mind. The box was
on the top shelf of the old school-room closet, which, until one put
one's head into it from a step-ladder, looked, from below, quite
cleared out. The door's narrow and the part of the closet to the left
goes well into the wall. The box had stuck there for years."
Charlotte was conscious of a mind divided and a vision vaguely
troubled, and once more she took up two or three of the subjects of
this revelation; a big bracelet in the form of a gilt serpent with many
twists and beady eyes, a brazen belt studded with emeralds and rubies,
a chain, of flamboyant architecture, to which, at the Theatre Royal
Little Peddlington, Hamlet's mother must have been concerned to attach
the portrait of the successor to Hamlet's father. "Are you very sure
they're not really worth something? Their mere weight alone—!" she
vaguely observed, balancing a moment a royal diadem that might have
crowned one of the creations of the famous Mrs. Jarley.
But Arthur Prime, it was clear, had already thought the question
over and found the answer easy. "If they had been worth anything to
speak of she would long ago have sold them. My father and she had
unfortunately never been in a position to keep any considerable value
locked up." And while his companion took in the obvious force of this
he went on with a flourish just marked enough not to escape her: "If
they're worth anything at all—why you're only the more welcome to
Charlotte had now in her hand a small bag of faded figured
silk—one of those antique conveniences that speak to us, in terms of
evaporated camphor and lavender, of the part they have played in some
personal history; but though she had for the first time drawn the
string she looked much more at the young man than at the questionable
treasure it appeared to contain. "I shall like them. They're all I
"All you have—?"
"That belonged to her."
He swelled a little, then looked about him as if to appeal—as
against her avidity—to the whole poor place. "Well, what else do you
"Nothing. Thank you very much." With which she bent her eyes on the
article wrapped, and now only exposed, in her superannuated satchel—a
string of large pearls, such a shining circle as might once have graced
the neck of a provincial Ophelia and borne company to a flaxen wig.
"This perhaps IS worth something. Feel it." And she passed him the
necklace, the weight of which she had gathered for a moment into her
He measured it in the same way with his own, but remained quite
detached. "Worth at most thirty shillings."
"Surely not if it's paste?"
"But IS it paste?"
He gave a small sniff of impatience. "Pearls nearly as big as
"But they're heavy," Charlotte declared.
"No heavier than anything else." And he gave them back with an
allowance for her simplicity. "Do you imagine for a moment they're
She studied them a little, feeling them, turning them round.
"Mightn't they possibly be?"
"Of that size—stuck away with that trash?"
"I admit it isn't likely," Charlotte presently said. "And pearls
are so easily imitated."
"That's just what—to a person who knows—they're not. These have
no lustre, no play."
"No—they ARE dull. They're opaque."
"Besides," he lucidly enquired, "how could she ever have come by
"Mightn't they have been a present?"
Arthur stared at the question as if it were almost improper.
"Because actresses are exposed—?" He pulled up, however, not saying to
what, and before she could supply the deficiency had, with the sharp
ejaculation of "No, they mightn't!" turned his back on her and walked
away. His manner made her feel she had probably been wanting in tact,
and before he returned to the subject, the last thing that evening, she
had satisfied herself of the ground of his resentment. They had been
talking of her departure the next morning, the hour of her train and
the fly that would come for her, and it was precisely these things that
gave him his effective chance. "I really can't allow you to leave the
house under the impression that my stepmother was at ANY time of her
life the sort of person to allow herself to be approached—"
"With pearl necklaces and that sort of thing?" Arthur had made for
her somehow the difficulty that she couldn't show him she understood
him without seeming pert.
It at any rate only added to his own gravity. "That sort of thing,
"I didn't think when I spoke this morning—but I see what you mean."
"I mean that she was beyond reproach," said Arthur Prime.
"A hundred times yes."
"Therefore if she couldn't, out of her slender gains, ever have
paid for a row of pearls—"
"She couldn't, in that atmosphere, ever properly have had one? Of
course she couldn't. I've seen perfectly since our talk," Charlotte
went on, "that that string of beads isn't even as an imitation very
good. The little clasp itself doesn't seem even gold. With false
pearls, I suppose," the girl mused, "it naturally wouldn't be."
"The whole thing's rotten paste," her companion returned as if to
have done with it. "If it were NOT, and she had kept it all these years
"Yes?" Charlotte sounded as he paused.
"Why I shouldn't know what to think!"
"Oh I see." She had met him with a certain blankness, but
adequately enough, it seemed, for him to regard the subject as
dismissed; and there was no reversion to it between them before, on the
morrow, when she had with difficulty made a place for them in her
trunk, she carried off these florid survivals.
At Bleet she found small occasion to revert to them and, in an air
charged with such quite other references, even felt, after she had laid
them away, much enshrouded, beneath various piles of clothing, that
they formed a collection not wholly without its note of the ridiculous.
Yet she was never, for the joke, tempted to show them to her pupils,
though Gwendolen and Blanche in particular always wanted, on her
return, to know what she had brought back; so that without an accident
by which the case was quite changed they might have appeared to enter
on a new phase of interment. The essence of the accident was the sudden
illness, at the last moment, of Lady Bobby, whose advent had been so
much counted on to spice the five days' feast laid out for the coming
of age of the eldest son of the house; and its equally marked effect
was the dispatch of a pressing message, in quite another direction, to
Mrs. Guy, who, could she by a miracle be secured—she was always
engaged ten parties deep—might be trusted to supply, it was believed,
an element of exuberance scarcely less potent. Mrs. Guy was already
known to several of the visitors already on the scene, but she wasn't
yet known to our young lady, who found her, after many wires and
counter-wires had at last determined the triumph of her arrival, a
strange charming little red-haired black-dressed woman, a person with
the face of a baby and the authority of a commodore. She took on the
spot the discreet, the exceptional young governess into the confidence
of her designs and, still more, of her doubts; intimating that it was a
policy she almost always promptly pursued.
"To-morrow and Thursday are all right," she said frankly to
Charlotte on the second day, "but I'm not half-satisfied with Friday."
"What improvement then do you suggest?"
"Well, my strong point, you know, is tableaux vivants."
"Charming. And what is your favourite character?"
"Boss!" said Mrs. Guy with decision; and it was very markedly under
that ensign that she had, within a few hours, completely planned her
campaign and recruited her troop. Every word she uttered was to the
point, but none more so than, after a general survey of their
equipment, her final enquiry of Charlotte. She had been looking about,
but half-appeased, at the muster of decoration and drapery. "We shall
be dull. We shall want more colour. You've nothing else?"
Charlotte had a thought. "No—I've SOME things."
"Then why don't you bring them?"
The girl weighed it. "Would you come to my room?"
"No," said Mrs. Guy—"bring them to-night to mine."
So Charlotte, at the evening's end, after candlesticks had
flickered through brown old passages bedward, arrived at her friend's
door with the burden of her aunt's relics. But she promptly expressed a
fear. "Are they too garish?"
When she had poured them out on the sofa Mrs. Guy was but a minute,
before the glass, in clapping on the diadem. "Awfully jolly—we can do
"But they're only glass and tin."
"Larger than life they are, RATHER!—which is exactly what's
wanted for tableaux. OUR jewels, for historic scenes, don't tell—the
real thing falls short. Rowena must have rubies as big as eggs. Leave
them with me," Mrs. Guy continued—"they'll inspire me. Good-night."
The next morning she was in fact—yet very strangely—inspired.
"Yes, I'LL do Rowena. But I don't, my dear, understand."
Mrs. Guy gave a very lighted stare. "How you come to have such
Poor Charlotte smiled. "By inheritance."
"They belonged to my aunt, who died some months ago. She was on the
stage a few years in early life, and these are a part of her trappings."
"She left them to you?"
"No; my cousin, her stepson, who naturally has no use for them,
gave them to me for remembrance of her. She was a dear kind thing,
always so nice to me, and I was fond of her."
Mrs. Guy had listened with frank interest. "But it's HE who must be
a dear kind thing!"
Charlotte wondered. "You think so?"
"Is HE," her friend went on, "also 'always so nice' to you?"
The girl, at this, face to face there with the brilliant visitor in
the deserted breakfast-room, took a deeper sounding. "What is it?"
"Don't you know?"
Something came over her. "The pearls—?" But the question fainted
on her lips.
"Doesn't HE know?"
Charlotte found herself flushing. "They're NOT paste?"
"Haven't you looked at them?"
She was conscious of two kinds of embarrassment. "YOU have?"
"And they're real?"
Mrs. Guy became slightly mystifying and returned for all answer:
"Come again, when you've done with the children, to my room."
Our young woman found she had done with the children that morning
so promptly as to reveal to them a new joy, and when she reappeared
before Mrs. Guy this lady had already encircled a plump white throat
with the only ornament, surely, in all the late Mrs. Prime's—the
effaced Miss Bradshaw's—collection, in the least qualified to raise a
question. If Charlotte had never yet once, before the glass, tied the
string of pearls about her own neck, this was because she had been
capable of no such stoop to approved "imitation"; but she had now only
to look at Mrs. Guy to see that, so disposed, the ambiguous objects
might have passed for frank originals. "What in the world have you done
"Only handled them, understood them, admired them and put them on.
That's what pearls want; they want to be worn—it wakes them up.
They're alive, don't you see? How HAVE these been treated? They must
have been buried, ignored, despised. They were half-dead. Don't you
KNOW about pearls?" Mrs. Guy threw off as she fondly fingered the
"How SHOULD I? Do YOU?"
"Everything. These were simply asleep, and from the moment I really
touched them—well," said their wearer lovingly, "it only took one's
"It took more than mine—though I did just wonder; and than
Arthur's," Charlotte brooded. She found herself almost panting. "Then
"Oh their value's excellent."
The girl, for a deep contemplative moment, took another plunge into
the wonder, the beauty and the mystery. "Are you SURE?"
Her companion wheeled round for impatience. "Sure? For what kind of
an idiot, my dear, do you take me?"
It was beyond Charlotte Prime to say. "For the same kind as
Arthur—and as myself," she could only suggest. "But my cousin didn't
know. He thinks they're worthless."
"Because of the rest of the lot? Then your cousin's an ass. But
what—if, as I understood you, he gave them to you—has he to do with
"Why if he gave them to me as worthless and they turn out
"You must give them back? I don't see that—if he was such a
noodle. He took the risk."
Charlotte fed, in fancy, on the pearls, which decidedly were
exquisite, but which at the present moment somehow presented themselves
much more as Mrs. Guy's than either as Arthur's or as her own. "Yes—he
did take it; even after I had distinctly hinted to him that they looked
to me different from the other pieces."
"Well then!" said Mrs. Guy with something more than triumph—with a
positive odd relief.
But it had the effect of making our young woman think with more
intensity. "Ah you see he thought they couldn't be different,
because—so peculiarly—they shouldn't be."
"Shouldn't? I don't understand."
"Why how would she have got them?"—so Charlotte candidly put it.
"She? Who?" There was a capacity in Mrs. Guy's tone for a sinking
"Why the person I told you of: his stepmother, my uncle's
wife—among whose poor old things, extraordinarily thrust away and out
of sight, he happened to find them."
Mrs. Guy came a step nearer to the effaced Miss Bradshaw. "Do you
mean she may have stolen them?"
"No. But she had been an actress."
"Oh well then," cried Mrs. Guy, "wouldn't that be just how?"
"Yes, except that she wasn't at all a brilliant one, nor in receipt
of large pay." The girl even threw off a nervous joke. "I'm afraid she
couldn't have been our Rowena."
Mrs. Guy took it up. "Was she very ugly?"
"No. She may very well, when young, have looked rather nice."
"Well then!" was Mrs. Guy's sharp comment and fresh triumph.
"You mean it was a present? That's just what he so dislikes the
idea of her having received—a present from an admirer capable of
going such lengths."
"Because she wouldn't have taken it for nothing? Speriamo
—that she wasn't a brute. The 'length' her admirer went was the length
of a whole row. Let us hope she was just a little kind!"
"Well," Charlotte went on, "that she was 'kind' might seem to be
shown by the fact that neither her husband, nor his son, nor I, his
niece, knew or dreamed of her possessing anything so precious; by her
having kept the gift all the rest of her life beyond discovery—out of
sight and protected from suspicion."
"As if, you mean"—Mrs. Guy was quick—"she had been wedded to it
and yet was ashamed of it? Fancy," she laughed while she manipulated
the rare beads, "being ashamed of THESE!"
"But you see she had married a clergyman."
"Yes, she must have been 'rum.' But at any rate he had married HER.
What did he suppose?"
"Why that she had never been of the sort by whom such offerings are
"Ah my dear, the sort by whom they're NOT—!" But Mrs. Guy caught
herself up. "And her stepson thought the same?"
"Was he then, if only her stepson—"
"So fond of her as that comes to? Yes; he had never known,
consciously, his real mother, and, without children of her own, she was
very patient and nice with him. And i liked her so," the girl pursued,
"that at the end of ten years, in so strange a manner, to 'give her
"Is impossible to you? Then don't!" said Mrs. Guy with decision.
"Ah but if they're real I can't keep them!" Charlotte, with her
eyes on them, moaned in her impatience. "It's too difficult."
"Where's the difficulty, if he has such sentiments that he'd rather
sacrifice the necklace than admit it, with the presumption it carries
with it, to be genuine? You've only to be silent."
"And keep it? How can i ever wear it?"
"You'd have to hide it, like your aunt?" Mrs. Guy was amused. "You
can easily sell it."
Her companion walked round her for a look at the affair from
behind. The clasp was certainly, doubtless intentionally, misleading,
but everything else was indeed lovely. "Well, I must think. Why didn't
SHE sell them?" Charlotte broke out in her trouble.
Mrs. Guy had an instant answer. "Doesn't that prove what they
secretly recalled to her? You've only to be silent!" she ardently
"I must think—I must think!"
Mrs. Guy stood with her hands attached but motionless. "Then you
want them back?"
As if with the dread of touching them Charlotte retreated to the
door. "I'll tell you to-night."
"But may I wear them?"
"This evening—at dinner."
It was the sharp selfish pressure of this that really, on the spot,
determined the girl; but for the moment, before closing the door on the
question, she only said: "As you like!"
They were busy much of the day with preparation and rehearsal, and
at dinner that evening the concourse of guests was such that a place
among them for Miss Prime failed to find itself marked. At the time the
company rose she was therefore alone in the school-room, where, towards
eleven o'clock, she received a visit from Mrs. Guy. This lady's white
shoulders heaved, under the pearls, with an emotion that the very red
lips which formed, as if for the full effect, the happiest opposition
of colour, were not slow to translate. "My dear, you should have seen
the sensation—they've had a success!"
Charlotte, dumb a moment, took it all in. "It IS as if they knew
it—they're more and more alive. But so much the worse for both of us!
I can't," she brought out with an effort, "be silent."
"You mean to return them?"
"If I don't I'm a thief."
Mrs. Guy gave her a long hard look: what was decidedly not of the
baby in Mrs. Guy's face was a certain air of established habit in the
eyes. Then, with a sharp little jerk of her head and a backward reach
of her bare beautiful arms, she undid the clasp and, taking off the
necklace, laid it on the table. "If you do you're a goose."
"Well, of the two—!" said our young lady, gathering it up with a
sigh. And as if to get it, for the pang it gave, out of sight as soon
as possible, she shut it up, clicking the lock, in the drawer of her
own little table; after which, when she turned again, her companion
looked naked and plain without it. "But what will you say?" it then
occurred to her to demand.
"Downstairs—to explain?" Mrs. Guy was after all trying at least to
keep her temper. "Oh I'll put on something else and say the clasp's
broken. And you won't of course name ME to him," she added.
"As having undeceived me? No—I'll say that, looking at the thing
more carefully, it's my own private idea."
"And does he know how little you really know?"
"As an expert—surely. And he has always much the conceit of his
"Then he won't believe you—as he so hates to. He'll stick to his
judgement and maintain his gift, and we shall have the darlings back!"
With which reviving assurance Mrs. Guy kissed her young friend for
She was not, however, to be gratified or justified by any prompt
event, for, whether or no paste entered into the composition of the
ornament in question, Charlotte shrank from the temerity of dispatching
it to town by post. Mrs. Guy was thus disappointed of the hope of
seeing the business settled—"by return," she had seemed to
expect—before the end of the revels. The revels, moreover, rising to a
frantic pitch, pressed for all her attention, and it was at last only
in the general confusion of leave-taking that she made,
parenthetically, a dash at the person in the whole company with whom
her contact had been most interesting.
"Come, what will you take for them?"
"The pearls? Ah, you'll have to treat with my cousin."
Mrs. Guy, with quick intensity, lent herself. "Where then does he
"In chambers in the Temple. You can find him."
"But what's the use, if YOU do neither one thing nor the other?"
"Oh I SHALL do the 'other,' " Charlotte said: "I'm only waiting
till I go up. You want them so awfully?" She curiously, solemnly again,
"I'm dying for them. There's a special charm in them—I don't know
what it is: they tell so their history."
"But what do you know of that?"
"Just what they themselves say. It's all IN them—and it comes out.
They breathe a tenderness—they have the white glow of it. My dear,"
hissed Mrs. Guy in supreme confidence and as she buttoned her
glove—"they're things of love!"
"Oh!" our young woman vaguely exclaimed.
"They're things of passion!"
"Mercy!" she gasped, turning short off. But these words remained,
though indeed their help was scarce needed, Charlotte being in private
face to face with a new light, as she by this time felt she must call
it, on the dear dead kind colourless lady whose career had turned so
sharp a corner in the middle. The pearls had quite taken their place as
a revelation. She might have received them for nothing—admit that; but
she couldn't have kept them so long and so unprofitably hidden,
couldn't have enjoyed them only in secret, for nothing; and she had
mixed them in her reliquary with false things in order to put curiosity
and detection off the scent. Over this strange fact poor Charlotte
interminably mused: it became more touching, more attaching for her
than she could now confide to any ear. How bad or how happy—in the
sophisticated sense of Mrs. Guy and the young man at the Temple—the
effaced Miss Bradshaw must have been to have had to be so mute! The
little governess at Bleet put on the necklace now in secret sessions;
she wore it sometimes under her dress; she came to feel verily a
haunting passion for it. Yet in her penniless state she would have
parted with it for money; she gave herself also to dreams of what in
this direction it would do for her. The sophistry of her so often
saying to herself that Arthur had after all definitely pronounced her
welcome to any gain from his gift that might accrue—this trick
remained innocent, as she perfectly knew it for what it was. Then there
was always the possibility of his—as she could only picture it—rising
to the occasion. Mightn't he have a grand magnanimous moment?—mightn't
he just say "Oh I couldn't of course have afforded to let you have it
if I had known; but since you HAVE got it, and have made out the truth
by your own wit, I really can't screw myself down to the shabbiness of
taking it back"?
She had, as it proved, to wait a long time—to wait till, at the
end of several months, the great house of Bleet had, with due
deliberation, for the season, transferred itself to town; after which,
however, she fairly snatched at her first freedom to knock, dressed in
her best and armed with her disclosure, at the door of her doubting
kinsman. It was still with doubt and not quite with the face she had
hoped that he listened to her story. He had turned pale, she thought,
as she produced the necklace, and he appeared above all disagreeably
affected. Well, perhaps there was reason, she more than ever
remembered; but what on earth was one, in close touch with the fact, to
do? She had laid the pearls on his table, where, without his having at
first put so much as a finger to them, they met his hard cold stare.
"I don't believe in them," he simply said at last.
"That's exactly then," she returned with some spirit, "what I
wanted to hear!"
She fancied that at this his colour changed; it was indeed vivid to
her afterwards—for she was to have a long recall of the scene—that
she had made him quite angrily flush. "It's a beastly unpleasant
imputation, you know!"—and he walked away from her as he had always
walked at the vicarage.
"It's none of MY making, I'm sure," said Charlotte Prime. "If
you're afraid to believe they're real—"
"Well?"—and he turned, across the room, sharp round at her.
"Why it's not my fault."
He said nothing more, for a moment, on this; he only came back to
the table. "They're what I originally said they were. They're rotten
"Then I may keep them?"
"No. I want a better opinion."
"Than your own?"
"Than YOUR own." He dropped on the pearls another queer stare;
then, after a moment, bringing himself to touch them, did exactly what
she had herself done in the presence of Mrs. Guy at Bleet— gathered
them together, marched off with them to a drawer, put them in and
clicked the key. "You say I'm afraid," he went on as he again met her;
"but I shan't be afraid to take them to Bond Street."
"And if the people say they're real—?"
He had a pause and then his strangest manner. "They won't say it!
There was something in the way he brought it out that deprived poor
Charlotte, as she was perfectly aware, of any manner at all. "Oh!" she
simply sounded, as she had sounded for her last word to Mrs. Guy; and
within a minute, without more conversation, she had taken her departure.
A fortnight later she received a communication from him, and toward
the end of the season one of the entertainments in Eaton Square was
graced by the presence of Mrs. Guy. Charlotte was not at dinner, but
she came down afterwards, and this guest, on seeing her, abandoned a
very beautiful young man on purpose to cross and speak to her. The
guest displayed a lovely necklace and had apparently not lost her habit
of overflowing with the pride of such ornaments.
"Do you see?" She was in high joy.
They were indeed splendid pearls—so far as poor Charlotte could
feel that she knew, after what had come and gone, about such mysteries.
The poor girl had a sickly smile. "They're almost as fine as Arthur's."
"Almost? Where, my dear, are your eyes? They ARE 'Arthur's'!" After
which, to meet the flood of crimson that accompanied her young friend's
start: "I tracked them—after your folly, and, by miraculous luck,
recognised them in the Bond Street window to which he had disposed of
"DISPOSED of them?" Charlotte gasped. "He wrote me that I had
insulted his mother and that the people had shown him he was right—had
pronounced them utter paste."
Mrs. Guy gave a stare. "Ah I told you he wouldn't bear it! No. But
I had, I assure you," she wound up, "to drive my bargain!"
Charlotte scarce heard or saw; she was full of her private wrong.
"He wrote me," she panted, "that he had smashed them."
Mrs. Guy could only wonder and pity. "He's really morbid!" But it
wasn't quite clear which of the pair she pitied; though the young
person employed in Eaton Square felt really morbid too after they had
separated and she found herself full of thought. She even went the
length of asking herself what sort of a bargain Mrs. Guy had driven and
whether the marvel of the recognition in Bond Street had been a
veracious account of the matter. Hadn't she perhaps in truth dealt with
Arthur directly? It came back to Charlotte almost luridly that she had
had his address.