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"Well, we ARE a pair!" the poor lady's visitor broke out to her at
the end of her explanation in a manner disconcerting enough. The
poor lady was Miss Cutter, who lived in South Audley Street, where
she had an "upper half" so concise that it had to pass boldly for
convenient; and her visitor was her half-brother, whom she hadn't
seen for three years. She was remarkable for a maturity of which
every symptom might have been observed to be admirably controlled,
had not a tendency to stoutness just affirmed its independence.
Her present, no doubt, insisted too much on her past, but with the
excuse, sufficiently valid, that she must certainly once have been
prettier. She was clearly not contented with once--she wished to
be prettier again. She neglected nothing that could produce that
illusion, and, being both fair and fat, dressed almost wholly in
black. When she added a little colour it was not, at any rate, to
her drapery. Her small rooms had the peculiarity that everything
they contained appeared to testify with vividness to her position
in society, quite as if they had been furnished by the bounty of
admiring friends. They were adorned indeed almost exclusively with
objects that nobody buys, as had more than once been remarked by
spectators of her own sex, for herself, and would have been
luxurious if luxury consisted mainly in photographic portraits
slashed across with signatures, in baskets of flowers beribboned
with the cards of passing compatriots, and in a neat collection of
red volumes, blue volumes, alphabetical volumes, aids to London
lucidity, of every sort, devoted to addresses and engagements. To
be in Miss Cutter's tiny drawing-room, in short, even with Miss
Cutter alone--should you by any chance have found her so--was
somehow to be in the world and in a crowd. It was like an agency--
it bristled with particulars.
This was what the tall lean loose gentleman lounging there before
her might have appeared to read in the suggestive scene over which,
while she talked to him, his eyes moved without haste and without
rest. "Oh come, Mamie!" he occasionally threw off; and the words
were evidently connected with the impression thus absorbed. His
comparative youth spoke of waste even as her positive--her too
positive--spoke of economy. There was only one thing, that is, to
make up in him for everything he had lost, though it was distinct
enough indeed that this thing might sometimes serve. It consisted
in the perfection of an indifference, an indifference at the
present moment directed to the plea--a plea of inability, of pure
destitution--with which his sister had met him. Yet it had even
now a wider embrace, took in quite sufficiently all consequences of
queerness, confessed in advance to the false note that, in such a
setting, he almost excruciatingly constituted. He cared as little
that he looked at moments all his impudence as that he looked all
his shabbiness, all his cleverness, all his history. These
different things were written in him--in his premature baldness,
his seamed strained face, the lapse from bravery of his long tawny
moustache; above all in his easy friendly universally acquainted
eye, so much too sociable for mere conversation. What possible
relation with him could be natural enough to meet it? He wore a
scant rough Inverness cape and a pair of black trousers, wanting in
substance and marked with the sheen of time, that had presumably
once served for evening use. He spoke with the slowness helplessly
permitted to Americans--as something too slow to be stopped--and he
repeated that he found himself associated with Miss Cutter in a
harmony calling for wonder. She had been telling him not only that
she couldn't possibly give him ten pounds, but that his unexpected
arrival, should he insist on being much in view, might seriously
interfere with arrangements necessary to her own maintenance; on
which he had begun by replying that he of course knew she had long
ago spent her money, but that he looked to her now exactly because
she had, without the aid of that convenience, mastered the art of
"I'd really go away with a fiver, my dear, if you'd only tell me
how you do it. It's no use saying only, as you've always said,
that 'people are very kind to you.' What the devil are they kind
to you FOR?"
"Well, one reason is precisely that no particular inconvenience has
hitherto been supposed to attach to me. I'm just what I am," said
Mamie Cutter; "nothing less and nothing more. It's awkward to have
to explain to you, which moreover I really needn't in the least.
I'm clever and amusing and charming." She was uneasy and even
frightened, but she kept her temper and met him with a grace of her
own. "I don't think you ought to ask me more questions than I ask
"Ah my dear," said the odd young man, "I'VE no mysteries. Why in
the world, since it was what you came out for and have devoted so
much of your time to, haven't you pulled it off? Why haven't you
"Why haven't YOU?" she retorted. "Do you think that if I had it
would have been better for you?--that my husband would for a moment
have put up with you? Do you mind my asking you if you'll kindly
go NOW?" she went on after a glance at the clock. "I'm expecting a
friend, whom I must see alone, on a matter of great importance--"
"And my being seen with you may compromise your respectability or
undermine your nerve?" He sprawled imperturbably in his place,
crossing again, in another sense, his long black legs and showing,
above his low shoes, an absurd reach of parti-coloured sock. "I
take your point well enough, but mayn't you be after all quite
wrong? If you can't do anything for me couldn't you at least do
something with me? If it comes to that, I'm clever and amusing and
charming too! I've been such an ass that you don't appreciate me.
But people like me--I assure you they do. They usually don't know
what an ass I've been; they only see the surface, which"--and he
stretched himself afresh as she looked him up and down--"you CAN
imagine them, can't you, rather taken with? I'M 'what I am' too;
nothing less and nothing more. That's true of us as a family, you
see. We ARE a crew!" He delivered himself serenely. His voice
was soft and flat, his pleasant eyes, his simple tones tending to
the solemn, achieved at moments that effect of quaintness which is,
in certain connexions, socially so known and enjoyed. "English
people have quite a weakness for me--more than any others. I get
on with them beautifully. I've always been with them abroad. They
think me," the young man explained, "diabolically American."
"You!" Such stupidity drew from her a sigh of compassion.
Her companion apparently quite understood it. "Are you homesick,
Mamie?" he asked, with wondering irrelevance.
The manner of the question made her, for some reason, in spite of
her preoccupations, break into a laugh. A shade of indulgence, a
sense of other things, came back to her. "You are funny, Scott!"
"Well," remarked Scott, "that's just what I claim. But ARE you so
homesick?" he spaciously inquired, not as to a practical end, but
from an easy play of intelligence.
"I'm just dying of it!" said Mamie Cutter.
"Why so am I!" Her visitor had a sweetness of concurrence.
"We're the only decent people," Miss Cutter declared. "And I know.
You don't--you can't; and I can't explain. Come in," she continued
with a return of her impatience and an increase of her decision,
"at seven sharp."
She had quitted her seat some time before, and now, to get him into
motion, hovered before him while, still motionless, he looked up at
her. Something intimate, in the silence, appeared to pass between
them--a community of fatigue and failure and, after all, of
intelligence. There was a final cynical humour in it. It
determined him, in any case, at last, and he slowly rose, taking in
again as he stood there the testimony of the room. He might have
been counting the photographs, but he looked at the flowers with
detachment. "Who's coming?"
"Then what are you doing for her?"
"I work for every one," she promptly returned.
"For every one who pays? So I suppose. Yet isn't it only we who
There was a drollery, not lost on her, in the way his queer
presence lent itself to his emphasised plural.
"Do you consider that YOU do?"
"At this, with his deliberation, he came back to his charming idea.
"Only try me, and see if I can't be MADE to. Work me in." On her
sharply presenting her back he stared a little at the clock. "If I
come at seven may I stay to dinner?"
It brought her round again. "Impossible. I'm dining out."
She had to think. "With Lord Considine."
"Oh my eye!" Scott exclaimed.
She looked at him gloomily. "Is THAT sort of tone what makes you
pay? I think you might understand," she went on, "that if you're
to sponge on me successfully you mustn't ruin me. I must have SOME
remote resemblance to a lady."
"Yes? But why must _I_?" Her exasperated silence was full of
answers, of which however his inimitable manner took no account.
"You don't understand my real strength; I doubt if you even
understand your own. You're clever, Mamie, but you're not so
clever as I supposed. However," he pursued, "it's out of Mrs.
Medwin that you'll get it."
"Why the cheque that will enable you to assist me."
On this, for a moment, she met his eyes. "If you'll come back at
seven sharp--not a minute before, and not a minute after, I'll give
you two five-pound notes."
He thought it over. "Whom are you expecting a minute after?"
It sent her to the window with a groan almost of anguish, and she
answered nothing till she had looked at the street. "If you injure
me, you know, Scott, you'll be sorry."
"I wouldn't injure you for the world. What I want to do in fact is
really to help you, and I promise you that I won't leave you--by
which I mean won't leave London--till I've effected something
really pleasant for you. I like you, Mamie, because I like pluck;
I like you much more than you like me. I like you very, VERY
much." He had at last with this reached the door and opened it,
but he remained with his hand on the latch. "What does Mrs. Medwin
want of you?" he thus brought out.
She had come round to see him disappear, and in the relief of this
prospect she again just indulged him.
He waited another minute. "And you're going to do it?"
"I'm going to do it," said Mamie Cutter.
"Well then that ought to be a haul. Call it THREE fivers!" he
laughed. "At seven sharp." And at last he left her alone.
Miss Cutter waited till she heard the house-door close; after
which, in a sightless mechanical way, she moved about the room
readjusting various objects he had not touched. It was as if his
mere voice and accent had spoiled her form. But she was not left
too long to reckon with these things, for Mrs. Medwin was promptly
announced. This lady was not, more than her hostess, in the first
flush of her youth; her appearance--the scattered remains of beauty
manipulated by taste--resembled one of the light repasts in which
the fragments of yesterday's dinner figure with a conscious ease
that makes up for the want of presence. She was perhaps of an
effect still too immediate to be called interesting, but she was
candid, gentle and surprised--not fatiguingly surprised, only just
in the right degree; and her white face--it was too white--with the
fixed eyes, the somewhat touzled hair and the Louis Seize hat,
might at the end of the very long neck have suggested the head of a
princess carried on a pike in a revolution. She immediately took
up the business that had brought her, with the air however of
drawing from the omens then discernible less confidence than she
had hoped. The complication lay in the fact that if it was Mamie's
part to present the omens, that lady yet had so to colour them as
to make her own service large. She perhaps over-coloured; for her
friend gave way to momentary despair.
"What you mean is then that it's simply impossible?"
"Oh no," said Mamie with a qualified emphasis. "It's POSSIBLE."
"But disgustingly difficult?"
"As difficult as you like."
"Then what can I do that I haven't done?"
"You can only wait a little longer."
"But that's just what I HAVE done. I've done nothing else. I'm
always waiting a little longer!"
Miss Cutter retained, in spite of this pathos, her grasp of the
subject. "THE thing, as I've told you, is for you first to be
"But if people won't look at me?"
"They WILL?" Mrs. Medwin was eager.
"They shall," her hostess went on. "It's their only having heard--
without having seen."'
"But if they stare straight the other way?" Mrs. Medwin continued
to object. "You can't simply go up to them and twist their heads
"It's just what I can," said Mamie Cutter.
But her charming visitor, heedless for the moment of this
attenuation, had found the way to put it. "It's the old story.
You can't go into the water till you swim, and you can't swim till
you go into the water. I can't be spoken to till I'm seen, but I
can't be seen till I'm spoken to."
She met this lucidity, Miss Cutter, with but an instant's lapse.
"You say I can't twist their heads about. But I HAVE twisted
It had been quietly produced, but it gave her companion a jerk.
"They say 'Yes'?"
She summed it up. "All but one. SHE says 'No.'"
Mrs. Medwin thought; then jumped. "Lady Wantridge?"
Miss Cutter, as more delicate, only bowed admission. "I shall see
her either this afternoon or late to-morrow. But she has written."
Her visitor wondered again. "May I see her letter?"
"No." She spoke with decision. "But I shall square her."
"Well"--and Miss Cutter, as if looking upward for inspiration,
fixed her eyes a while on the ceiling--"well, it will come to me."
Mrs. Medwin watched her--it was impressive. "And will they come to
you--the others?" This question drew out the fact that they would-
-so far at least as they consisted of Lady Edward, Lady Bellhouse
and Mrs. Pouncer, who had engaged to muster, at the signal of tea,
on the 14th--prepared, as it were, for the worst. There was of
course always the chance that Lady Wantridge might take the field,
in such force as to paralyse them, though that danger, at the same
time, seemed inconsistent with her being squared. It didn't
perhaps all quite ideally hang together; but what it sufficiently
came to was that if she was the one who could do most FOR a person
in Mrs. Medwin's position she was also the one who could do most
against. It would therefore be distinctly what our friend
familiarly spoke of as "collar-work." The effect of these mixed
considerations was at any rate that Mamie eventually acquiesced in
the idea, handsomely thrown out by her client, that she should have
an "advance" to go on with. Miss Cutter confessed that it seemed
at times as if one scarce COULD go on; but the advance was, in
spite of this delicacy, still more delicately made--made in the
form of a banknote, several sovereigns, some loose silver, and two
coppers, the whole contents of her purse, neatly disposed by Mrs.
Medwin on one of the tiny tables. It seemed to clear the air for
deeper intimacies, the fruit of which was that Mamie, lonely after
all in her crowd and always more helpful than helped, eventually
brought out that the way Scott had been going on was what seemed
momentarily to overshadow her own power to do so.
"I've had a descent from him." But she had to explain. "My half-
brother--Scott Homer. A wretch."
"What kind of a wretch?"
"Every kind. I lose sight of him at times--he disappears abroad.
But he always turns up again, worse than ever."
"No. Rather pleasant. Awfully clever--awfully travelled and
"Then what's the matter with him?"
Mamie mused, hesitated--seemed to see a wide past. "I don't know."
"Something in the background?" Then as her friend was silent,
"Something queer about cards?" Mrs. Medwin threw off.
"I don't know--and I don't want to!"
"Ah well, I'm sure _I_ don't," Mrs. Medwin returned with spirit.
The note of sharpness was perhaps also a little in the observation
she made as she gathered herself to go. "Do you mind my saying
Mamie took her eyes quickly from the money on the little stand.
"You may say what you like."
"I only mean that anything awkward you may have to keep out of the
way does seem to make more wonderful, doesn't it, that you should
have got just where you are? I allude, you know, to your
"I see." Miss Cutter somewhat coldly smiled. "To my power."
"So awfully remarkable in an American."
"Ah you like us so."
Mrs. Medwin candidly considered. "But we don't, dearest."
Her companion's smile brightened. "Then why do you come to me?"
"Oh I like YOU!" Mrs. Medwin made out.
"Then that's it. There are no 'Americans.' It's always 'you.'"
"Me?" Mrs. Medwin looked lovely, but a little muddled.
"ME!" Mamie Cutter laughed. "But if you like me, you dear thing,
you can judge if I like YOU." She gave her a kiss to dismiss her.
"I'll see you again when I've seen her."
"Lady Wantridge? I hope so, indeed. I'll turn up late to-morrow,
if you don't catch me first. Has it come to you yet?" the visitor,
now at the door, went on.
"No; but it will. There's time."
"Oh a little less every day!"
Miss Cutter had approached the table and glanced again at the gold
and silver and the note, not indeed absolutely overlooking the two
coppers. "The balance," she put it, "the day after?"
"That very night if you like."
"Then count on me."
"Oh if I didn't--!" But the door closed on the dark idea.
Yearningly then, and only when it had done so, Miss Cutter took up
She went out with it ten minutes later, and, the calls on her time
being many, remained out so long that at half-past six she hadn't
come back. At that hour, on the other hand, Scott Homer knocked at
her door, where her maid, who opened it with a weak pretence of
holding it firm, ventured to announce to him, as a lesson well
learnt, that he hadn't been expected till seven. No lesson, none
the less, could prevail against his native art. He pleaded
fatigue, her, the maid's, dreadful depressing London, and the need
to curl up somewhere. If she'd just leave him quiet half an hour
that old sofa upstairs would do for it; of which he took quickly
such effectual possession that when five minutes later she peeped,
nervous for her broken vow, into the drawing-room, the faithless
young woman found him extended at his length and peacefully asleep.
The situation before Miss Cutter's return developed in other
directions still, and when that event took place, at a few minutes
past seven, these circumstances were, by the foot of the stair,
between mistress and maid, the subject of some interrogative gasps
and scared admissions. Lady Wantridge had arrived shortly after
the interloper, and wishing, as she said, to wait, had gone
straight up in spite of being told he was lying down.
"She distinctly understood he was there?"
"Oh yes ma'am; I thought it right to mention."
"And what did you call him?"
"Well, ma'am, I thought it unfair to YOU to call him anything but a
Mamie took it all in, though there might well be more of it than
one could quickly embrace. "But if she has had time," she flashed,
"to find out he isn't one?"
"Oh ma'am, she had a quarter of an hour."
"Then she isn't with him still?"
"No ma'am; she came down again at last. She rang, and I saw her
here, and she said she wouldn't wait longer."
Miss Cutter darkly mused. "Yet had already waited--?"
"Quite a quarter."
"Mercy on us!" She began to mount. Before reaching the top
however she had reflected that quite a quarter was long if Lady
Wantridge had only been shocked. On the other hand it was short if
she had only been pleased. But how COULD she have been pleased?
The very essence of their actual crisis was just that there was no
pleasing her. Mamie had but to open the drawing-room door indeed
to perceive that this was not true at least of Scott Homer, who was
Miss Cutter expressed to her brother without reserve her sense of
the constitutional, the brutal selfishness that had determined his
mistimed return. It had taken place, in violation of their
agreement, exactly at the moment when it was most cruel to her that
he should be there, and if she must now completely wash her hands
of him he had only himself to thank. She had come in flushed with
resentment and for a moment had been voluble, but it would have
been striking that, though the way he received her might have
seemed but to aggravate, it presently justified him by causing
their relation really to take a stride. He had the art of
confounding those who would quarrel with him by reducing them to
the humiliation of a stirred curiosity.
"What COULD she have made of you?" Mamie demanded.
"My dear girl, she's not a woman who's eager to make too much of
anything--anything, I mean, that will prevent her from doing as she
likes, what she takes into her head. Of course," he continued to
explain, "if it's something she doesn't want to do, she'll make as
much as Moses."
Mamie wondered if that was the way he talked to her visitor, but
felt obliged to own to his acuteness. It was an exact description
of Lady Wantridge, and she was conscious of tucking it away for
future use in a corner of her miscellaneous little mind. She
withheld however all present acknowledgment, only addressing him
another question. "Did you really get on with her?"
"Have you still to learn, darling--I can't help again putting it to
you--that I get on with everybody? That's just what I don't seem
able to drive into you. Only see how I get on with YOU."
She almost stood corrected. "What I mean is of course whether--"
"Whether she made love to me? Shyly, yet--or because--shamefully?
She would certainly have liked awfully to stay."
"Then why didn't she?"
"Because, on account of some other matter--and I could see it was
true--she hadn't time. Twenty minutes--she was here less--were all
she came to give you. So don't be afraid I've frightened her away.
She'll come back."
Mamie thought it over. "Yet you didn't go with her to the door?"
"She wouldn't let me, and I know when to do what I'm told--quite as
much as what I'm not told. She wanted to find out about me. I
mean from your little creature; a pearl of fidelity, by the way."
"But what on earth did she come up for?" Mamie again found herself
appealing, and just by that fact showing her need of help.
"Because she always goes up." Then as, in the presence of this
rapid generalisation, to say nothing of that of such a relative
altogether, Miss Cutter could only show as comparatively blank: "I
mean she knows when to go up and when to come down. She has
instincts; she didn't know whom you might have up here. It's a
kind of compliment to you anyway. Why Mamie," Scott pursued, "you
don't know the curiosity we any of us inspire. You wouldn't
believe what I've seen. The bigger bugs they are the more they're
on the lookout."
Mamie still followed, but at a distance. "The lookout for what?"
"Why for anything that will help them to live. You've been here
all this time without making out then, about them, what I've had to
pick out as I can? They're dead, don't you see? And WE'RE alive."
"You? Oh!"--Mamie almost laughed about it.
"Well, they're a worn-out old lot anyhow; they've used up their
resources. They do look out and I'll do them the justice to say
they're not afraid--not even of me!" he continued as his sister
again showed something of the same irony. "Lady Wantridge at any
rate wasn't; that's what I mean by her having made love to me. She
does what she likes. Mind it, you know." He was by this time
fairly teaching her to read one of her best friends, and when,
after it, he had come back to the great point of his lesson--that
of her failure, through feminine inferiority, practically to grasp
the truth that their being just as they were, he and she, was the
real card for them to play--when he had renewed that reminder he
left her absolutely in a state of dependence. Her impulse to press
him on the subject of Lady Wantridge dropped; it was as if she had
felt that, whatever had taken place, something would somehow come
of it. She was to be in a manner disappointed, but the impression
helped to keep her over to the next morning, when, as Scott had
foretold, his new acquaintance did reappear, explaining to Miss
Cutter that she had acted the day before to gain time and that she
even now sought to gain it by not waiting longer. What, she
promptly intimated she had asked herself, could that friend be
thinking of? She must show where she stood before things had gone
too far. If she had brought her answer without more delay she
wished make it sharp. Mrs. Medwin? Never! "No, my dear--not I.
THERE I stop."
Mamie had known it would be "collar-work," but somehow now, at the
beginning she felt her heart sink. It was not that she had
expected to carry the position with a rush, but that, as always
after an interval, her visitor's defences really loomed--and quite,
as it were, to the material vision--too large. She was always
planted with them, voluminous, in the very centre of the passage;
was like a person accommodated with a chair in some unlawful place
at the theatre. She wouldn't move and you couldn't get round.
Mamie's calculation indeed had not been on getting round; she was
obliged to recognise that, too foolishly and fondly, she had
dreamed of inducing a surrender. Her dream had been the fruit of
her need; but, conscious that she was even yet unequipped for
pressure, she felt, almost for the first time in her life,
superficial and crude. She was to be paid--but with what was she,
to that end, to pay? She had engaged to find an answer to this
question, but the answer had not, according to her promise, "come."
And Lady Wantridge meanwhile massed herself, and there was no view
of her that didn't show her as verily, by some process too obscure
to be traced, the hard depository of the social law. She was no
younger, no fresher, no stronger, really, than any of them; she was
only, with a kind of haggard fineness, a sharpened taste for life,
and, with all sorts of things behind and beneath her, more abysmal
and more immoral, more secure and more impertinent. The points she
made were two in number. One was that she absolutely declined; the
other was that she quite doubted if Mamie herself had measured the
job. The thing couldn't be done. But say it COULD be; was Mamie
quite the person to do it? To this Miss Cutter, with a sweet
smile, replied that she quite understood how little she might seem
so. "I'm only one of the persons to whom it has appeared that YOU
"Then who are the others?"
"Well, to begin with, Lady Edward, Lady Bellhouse and Mrs.
"Do you mean that they'll come to meet her?"
"I've seen them, and they've promised."
"To come, of course," Lady Wantridge said, "if _I_ come."
Her hostess cast about. "Oh of course you could prevent them. But
I should take it as awfully kind of you not to. WON'T you do this
for me?" Mamie pleaded.
Her friend looked over the room very much as Scott had done. "Do
they really understand what it's FOR?"
"Perfectly. So that she may call."
"And what good will that do her?"
Miss Cutter faltered, but she presently brought it out. "Naturally
what one hopes is that, you'll ask her."
"Ask her to call?"
"Ask her to dine. Ask her, if you'd be so truly sweet, for a
Sunday; or something of that sort, and even if only in one of your
MOST mixed parties, to Catchmore."
Miss Cutter felt the less hopeful after this effort in that her
companion only showed a strange good nature. And it wasn't a
satiric amiability, though it WAS amusement. "Take Mrs. Medwin
into my family?"
"Some day when you're taking forty others."
"Ah but what I don't see is what it does for YOU. You're already
so welcome among us that you can scarcely improve your position
even by forming for us the most delightful relation."
"Well, I know how dear you are," Mamie Cutter replied; "but one has
after all more than one side and more than one sympathy. I like
her, you know." And even at this Lady Wantridge wasn't shocked;
she showed that ease and blandness which were her way,
unfortunately, of being most impossible. She remarked that SHE
might listen to such things, because she was clever enough for them
not to matter; only Mamie should take care how she went about
saying them at large. When she became definite however, in a
minute, on the subject of the public facts, Miss Cutter soon found
herself ready to make her own concession. Of course she didn't
dispute THEM: there they were; they were unfortunately on record,
and, nothing was to be done about them but to--Mamie found it in
truth at this point a little difficult.
"Well, what? Pretend already to have forgotten them?"
"Why not, when you've done it in so many other cases?"
"There ARE no other cases so bad. One meets them at any rate as
they come. Some you can manage, others you can't. It's no use,
you must give them up. They're past patching; there's nothing to
be done with them. There's nothing accordingly to be done with
Mrs. Medwin but to put her off." And Lady Wantridge rose to her
"Well, you know, I DO do things," Mamie quavered with a smile so
strained that it partook of exaltation.
"You help people? Oh yes, I've known you to do wonders. But
stick," said Lady Wantridge with strong and cheerful emphasis, "to
Miss Cutter, gazing, got up. "You don't do justice, Lady
Wantridge, to your own compatriots. Some of them are really
charming. Besides," said Mamie, "working for mine often strikes
me, so far as the interest--the inspiration and excitement, don't
you know?--go, as rather too easy. You all, as I constantly have
occasion to say, like us so!"
Her companion frankly weighed it. "Yes; it takes that to account
for your position. I've always thought of you nevertheless as
keeping for their benefit a regular working agency. They come to
you, and you place them. There remains, I confess," her ladyship
went on in the same free spirit, "the great wonder--"
"Of how I first placed my poor little self? Yes," Mamie bravely
conceded, "when _I_ began there was no agency. I just worked my
passage. I didn't even come to YOU, did I? You never noticed me
till, as Mrs. Short Stokes says, 'I was 'way, 'way up!' Mrs.
Medwin," she threw in, "can't get over it." Then, as her friend
looked vague: "Over my social situation."
"Well, it's no great flattery to you to say," Lady Wantridge good-
humouredly returned, "that she certainly can't hope for one
resembling it." Yet it really seemed to spread there before them.
"You simply MADE Mrs. Short Stokes."
"In spite of her name!" Mamie smiled.
"Oh your 'names'--! In spite of everything."
"Ah I'm something of an artist." With which, and a relapse marked
by her wistful eyes into the gravity of the matter, she supremely
fixed her friend. She felt how little she minded betraying at last
the extremity of her need, and it was out of this extremity that
her appeal proceeded. "Have I really had your last word? It means
so much to me."
Lady Wantridge came straight to the point. "You mean you depend on
"Is it all you have?"
"But Mrs. Short Stokes and the others--'rolling,' aren't they?
Don't they pay up?"
"Ah," sighed Mamie, "if it wasn't for THEM--!"
Lady Wantridge perceived. "You've had so much?"
"I couldn't have gone on."
"Then what do you do with it all?"
"Oh most of it goes back to them. There are all sorts, and it's
all help. Some of them have nothing."
"Oh if you feed the hungry," Lady Wantridge laughed, "you're indeed
in a great way of business. Is Mrs. Medwin"--her transition was
"Really. He left her everything."
"So that if I do say 'yes'--"
"It will quite set me up."
"I see--and how much more responsible it makes one! But I'd rather
myself give you the money."
"Oh!" Mamie coldly murmured.
"You mean I mayn't suspect your prices? Well, I daresay I don't!
But I'd rather give you ten pounds."
"Oh!" Mamie repeated in a tone that sufficiently covered her
prices. The question was in every way larger. "Do you never
forgive?" she reproachfully inquired. The door opened however at
the moment she spoke and Scott Homer presented himself.
Scott Homer wore exactly, to his sister's eyes, the aspect he had
worn the day before, and it also formed to her sense the great
feature of his impartial greeting.
"How d'ye do, Mamie? How d'ye do, Lady Wantridge?"
"How d'ye do again?" Lady Wantridge replied with an equanimity
striking to her hostess. It was as if Scott's own had been
contagious; it was almost indeed as if she had seen him before.
Had she ever so seen him--before the previous day? While Miss
Cutter put to herself this question her visitor at all events met
the one she had previously uttered. "Ever 'forgive'?" this
personage echoed in a tone that made as little account as possible
of the interruption. "Dear yes! The people I HAVE forgiven!" She
laughed--perhaps a little nervously; and she was now looking at
Scott. The way she looked at him was precisely what had already
had its effect for his sister. "The people I can!"
"Can you forgive me?" asked Scott Homer.
She took it so easily. "But--what?"
Mamie interposed; she turned directly to her brother. "Don't try
her. Leave it so." She had had an inspiration, it was the most
extraordinary thing in the world. "Don't try HIM"--she had turned
to their companion. She looked grave, sad, strange. "Leave it
so." Yes, it was a distinct inspiration, which she couldn't have
explained, but which had come, prompted by something she had
caught--the extent of the recognition expressed--in Lady
Wantridge's face. It had come absolutely of a sudden, straight out
of the opposition of the two figures before her--quite as if a
concussion had struck a light. The light was helped by her
quickened sense that her friend's silence on the incident of the
day before showed some sort of consciousness. She looked
surprised. "Do you know my brother?"
"DO I know you?" Lady Wantridge asked of him.
"No, Lady Wantridge," Scott pleasantly confessed, "not one little
"Well then if you MUST go--" and Mamie offered her a hand. "But
I'll go down with you. NOT YOU!" she launched at her brother, who
immediately effaced himself. His way of doing so--and he had
already done so, as for Lady Wantridge, in respect to their
previous encounter--struck her even at the moment as an instinctive
if slightly blind tribute to her possession of an idea; and as
such, in its celerity, made her so admire him, and their common
wit, that she on the spot more than forgave him his queerness. He
was right. He could be as queer as he liked! The queerer the
better! It was at the foot of the stairs, when she had got her
guest down, that what she had assured Mrs. Medwin would come did
indeed come. "DID you meet him here yesterday?"
"Dear yes. Isn't he too funny?"
"Yes," said Mamie gloomily. "He IS funny. But had you ever met
"Oh!"--and Mamie's tone might have meant many things.
Lady Wantridge however, after all, easily overlooked it. "I only
knew he was one of your odd Americans. That's why, when I heard
yesterday here that he was up there awaiting your return, I didn't
let that prevent me. I thought he might be. He certainly," her
ladyship laughed, "IS."
"Yes, he's very American," Mamie went on in the same way.
"As you say, we ARE fond of you! Good-bye," said Lady Wantridge.
But Mamie had not half done with her. She felt more and more--or
she hoped at least--that she looked strange. She WAS, no doubt, if
it came to that, strange. "Lady Wantridge," she almost
convulsively broke out, "I don't know whether you'll understand me,
but I seem to feel that I must act with you--I don't know what to
call it!--responsibly. He IS my brother."
"Surely--and why not?" Lady Wantridge stared. "He's the image of
"Thank you!"--and Mamie was stranger than ever.
"Oh he's good-looking. He's handsome, my dear. Oddly--but
distinctly!" Her ladyship was for treating it much as a joke.
But Mamie, all sombre, would have none of this. She boldly gave
him up. "I think he's awful."
"He is indeed--delightfully. And where DO you get your ways of
saying things? It isn't anything--and the things aren't anything.
But it's so droll."
"Don't let yourself, all the same," Mamie consistently pursued, "be
carried away by it. The thing can't be done--simply."
Lady Wantridge wondered. "'Done simply'?"
"Done at all."
"But what can't be?"
"Why, what you might think--from his pleasantness. What he spoke
of your doing for him."
Lady Wantridge recalled. "Forgiving him?"
"He asked you if you couldn't. But you can't. It's too dreadful
for me, as so near a relation, to have, loyally--loyally to YOU--to
say it. But he's impossible."
It was so portentously produced that her ladyship had somehow to
meet it. "What's the matter with him?"
"I don't know."
"Then what's the matter with YOU?" Lady Wantridge inquired.
"It's because I WON'T know," Mamie--not without dignity--explained.
"Then _I_ won't either."
"Precisely. Don't. It's something," Mamie pursued, with some
inconsequence, "that--somewhere or other, at some time or other--he
appears to have done. Something that has made a difference in his
"'Something'?" Lady Wantridge echoed again. "What kind of thing?"
Mamie looked up at the light above the door, through which the
London sky was doubly dim. "I haven't the least idea."
"Then what kind of difference?"
Mamie's gaze was still at the light. "The difference you see."
Lady Wantridge, rather obligingly, seemed to ask herself what she
saw. "But I don't see any! It seems, at least," she added, "such
an amusing one! And he has such nice eyes."
"Oh DEAR eyes!" Mamie conceded; but with too much sadness, for the
moment, about the connexions of the subject, to say more.
It almost forced her companion after an instant to proceed. "Do
you mean he can't go home?"
She weighed her responsibility. "I only make out--more's the
pity!--that he doesn't."
"Is it then something too terrible--?"
She thought again. "I don't know what--for men--IS too terrible."
"Well then as you don't know what 'is' for women either--good-bye!"
her visitor laughed.
It practically wound up the interview; which, however, terminating
thus on a considerable stir of the air, was to give Miss Cutter for
several days the sense of being much blown about. The degree to
which, to begin with, she had been drawn--or perhaps rather pushed-
-closer to Scott was marked in the brief colloquy that she on her
friend's departure had with him. He had immediately said it.
"You'll see if she doesn't ask me down!"
"Oh I've known them at places--at Cannes, at Pau, at Shanghai--do
it sooner still. I always know when they will. You CAN'T make out
they don't love me!" He spoke almost plaintively, as if he wished
"Then I don't see why it hasn't done you more good."
"Why Mamie," he patiently reasoned, "what more good COULD it? As I
tell you," he explained, "it has just been my life."
"Then why do you come to me for money?"
"Oh they don't give me THAT!" Scott returned.
"So that it only means then, after all, that I, at the best, must
keep you up?"
He fixed on her the nice eyes Lady Wantridge admired. "Do you mean
to tell me that already--at this very moment--I'm not distinctly
She gave him back his look. "Wait till she HAS asked you, and
then," Mamie added, "decline."
Scott, not too grossly, wondered. "As acting for YOU?"
Mamie's next injunction was answer enough. "But BEFORE--yes--
He took it in. "Call--but decline. Good!"
"The rest," she said, "I leave to you." And she left it in fact
with such confidence that for a couple of days she was not only
conscious of no need to give Mrs. Medwin another turn of the screw,
but positively evaded, in her fortitude, the reappearance of that
lady. It was not till the fourth day that she waited upon her,
finding her, as she had expected, tense.
"Lady Wantridge WILL--?"
"Yes, though she says she won't."
"She says she won't? O-oh!" Mrs. Medwin moaned.
"Sit tight all the same. I HAVE her!"
"Through Scott--whom she wants."
"Your bad brother!" Mrs. Medwin stared. "What does she want of
"To amuse them at Catchmore. Anything for that. And he WOULD.
But he shan't!" Mamie declared. "He shan't go unless she comes.
She must meet you first--you're my condition."
"O-o-oh!" Mrs. Medwin's tone was a wonder of hope and fear. "But
doesn't he want to go?"
"He wants what I want. She draws the line at YOU. I draw the line
"But SHE--doesn't she mind that he's bad?"
It was so artless that Mamie laughed. "No--it doesn't touch her.
Besides, perhaps he isn't. It isn't as for you--people seem not to
know. He has settled everything, at all events, by going to see
her. It's before her that he's the thing she'll have to have."
"For Sundays in the country. A feature--THE feature."
"So she has asked him?"
"Yes--and he has declined."
"For ME?" Mrs. Medwin panted.
"For me," said Mamie on the door-step. "But I don't leave him for
long." Her hansom had waited. "She'll come."
Lady Wantridge did come. She met in South Audley Street, on the
fourteenth, at tea, the ladies whom Mamie had named to her,
together with three or four others, and it was rather a master-
stroke for Miss Cutter that if Mrs. Medwin was modestly present
Scott Homer was as markedly not. This occasion, however, is a
medal that would take rare casting, as would also, for that matter,
even the minor light and shade, the lower relief, of the pecuniary
transaction that Mrs. Medwin's flushed gratitude scarce awaited the
dispersal of the company munificently to complete. A new
understanding indeed on the spot rebounded from it, the conception
of which, in Mamie's mind, had promptly bloomed. "He shan't go now
unless he takes you." Then, as her fancy always moved quicker for
her client than her client's own--"Down with him to Catchmore!
When he goes to amuse them YOU," she serenely developed, "shall
amuse them too." Mrs. Medwin's response was again rather oddly
divided, but she was sufficiently intelligible when it came to
meeting the hint that this latter provision would represent success
to the tune of a separate fee. "Say," Mamie had suggested, "the
"Very well; the same."
The knowledge that it was to be the same had perhaps something to
do also with the obliging spirit in which Scott eventually went.
It was all at the last rather hurried--a party rapidly got together
for the Grand Duke, who was in England but for the hour, who had
good-naturedly proposed himself, and who liked his parties small,
intimate and funny. This one was of the smallest and was finally
judged to conform neither too little nor too much to the other
conditions--after a brief whirlwind of wires and counterwires, and
an iterated waiting of hansoms at various doors--to include Mrs.
Medwin. It was from Catchmore itself that, snatching, a moment--on
the wondrous Sunday afternoon, this lady had the harmonious thought
of sending the new cheque. She was in bliss enough, but her
scribble none the less intimated that it was Scott who amused them
most. He WAS the feature.
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