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Chapter 1

Harold Brookenham, whom Mr. Cashmore, ushered in and announced, had
found in the act of helping himself to a cup of tea at the table
apparently just prepared--Harold Brookenham arrived at the point with a
dash so direct as to leave the visitor an option between but two
suppositions: that of a desperate plunge, to have his shame soon over,
or that of the acquired habit of such appeals, which had taught him the
easiest way. There was no great sharpness in the face of Mr. Cashmore,
who was somehow massive without majesty; yet he mightn't have been proof
against the suspicion that his young friend's embarrassment was an easy
precaution, a conscious corrective to the danger of audacity. It
wouldn't have been impossible to divine that if Harold shut his eyes and
jumped it was mainly for the appearance of doing so. Experience was to
be taken as showing that one might get a five-pound note as one got a
light for a cigarette; but one had to check the friendly impulse to ask
for it in the same way. Mr. Cashmore had in fact looked surprised, yet
not on the whole so surprised as the young man seemed to have expected
of him. There was almost a quiet grace in the combination of promptitude
and diffidence with which Harold took over the responsibility of all
proprietorship of the crisp morsel of paper that he slipped with slow
firmness into the pocket of his waistcoat, rubbing it gently in its
passage against the delicately buff-coloured duck of which that garment
was composed. "So quite too awfully kind of you that I really don't know
what to say"--there was a marked recall, in the manner of this speech,
of the sweetness of his mother's droop and the tenderness of her wail.
It was as if he had been moved for the moment to moralise, but the eyes
he raised to his benefactor had the oddest effect of marking that
personage himself as a theme for the moralist.

Mr. Cashmore, who would have been very red-haired if he had not been
very bald, showed a single eye-glass and a long upper lip; he was large
and jaunty, with little petulant movements and intense ejaculations that
were not in the line of his type. "You may say anything you like if you
don't say you'll repay it. That's always nonsense--I hate it."

Harold remained sad, but showed himself really superior. "Then I won't
say it." Pensively, a minute, he appeared to figure the words, in their
absurdity, on the lips of some young man not, like himself, tactful. "I
know just what you mean."

"But I think, you know, that you ought to tell your father," Mr.
Cashmore said.

"Tell him I've borrowed of you?"

Mr. Cashmore good-humouredly demurred. "It would serve me right--it's
so wretched my having listened to you. Tell him, certainly," he went on
after an instant. "But what I mean is that if you're in such straits you
should speak to him like a man."

Harold smiled at the innocence of a friend who could suppose him not to
have exhausted that resource. "I'm ALWAYS speaking to him like a man,
and that's just what puts him so awfully out. He denies to my face that
I AM one. One would suppose, to hear him, not only that I'm a small
objectionable child, but that I'm scarcely even human. He doesn't
conceive me as with human wants."

"Oh," Mr. Cashmore laughed, "you've all--you youngsters--as many wants,
I know, as an advertisement page of the Times."

Harold showed an admiration. "That's awfully good. If you think you
ought to speak of it," he continued, "do it rather to mamma." He noted
the hour. "I'll go, if you'll excuse me, to give you the chance."

The visitor referred to his own watch. "It's your mother herself who
gives the chances--the chances YOU take."

Harold looked kind and simple. "She HAS come in, I know. She'll be with
you in a moment."

He was halfway to the door, but Mr. Cashmore, though so easy, had not
done with him. "I suppose you mean that if it's only your mother who's
told, you may depend on her to shield you."

Harold turned this over as if it were a questionable sovereign, but on
second thoughts he wonderfully smiled. "Do you think that after you've
let me have it you can tell? You could, of course, if you hadn't." He
appeared to work it out for Mr. Cashmore's benefit. "But I don't mind,"
he added, "your telling mamma."

"Don't mind, you mean really, its annoying her so awfully?"

The invitation to repent thrown off in this could only strike the young
man as absurd--it was so previous to any enjoyment. Harold liked things
in their proper order; but at the same time his evolutions were quick.
"I dare say I AM selfish, but what I was thinking was that the terrific
wigging, don't you know?--well, I'd take it from HER. She knows about
one's life--about our having to go on, by no fault of our own, as our
parents start us. She knows all about wants--no one has more than
mamma."

Mr. Cashmore soundlessly glared his amusement. "So she'll say it's all
right?"

"Oh no; she'll let me have it hot. But she'll recognise that at such a
pass more must be done for a fellow, and that may lead to something--
indirectly, don't you see? for she won't TELL my father, she'll only, in
her own way, work on him--that will put me on a better footing and for
which therefore at bottom I shall have to thank YOU!"

The eye assisted by Mr. Cashmore's glass had with a discernible growth
of something like alarm fixed during this address the subject of his
beneficence. The thread of their relations somehow lost itself in the
subtler twist, and he fell back on mere stature, position and property,
things always convenient in the presence of crookedness. "I shall say
nothing to your mother, but I think I shall be rather glad you're not a
son of mine."

Harold wondered at this new element in their talk. "Do your sons never--?"

"Borrow money of their mother's visitors?" Mr. Cashmore had taken him
up, eager, evidently, quite to satisfy him; but the question was caught
on the wing by Mrs. Brookenham herself, who had opened the door as her
friend spoke and who quickly advanced with an echo of it.

"Lady Fanny's visitors?"--and, though her eyes rather avoided than met
his own, she seemed to cover her ladyship's husband with a vague but
practised sympathy. "What on earth are you saying to Harold about them?"
Thus it was that at the end of a few minutes Mr. Cashmore, on the sofa
face to face with her, found his consciousness quite purged of its
actual sense of his weakness and a new turn given to the idea of what,
in one's very drawing-room, might go on behind one's back. Harold had
quickly vanished--had been tacitly disposed of, and Mrs. Brook's caller
had moved even in the short space of time so far in another direction as
to have drawn from her the little cold question: "'Presents'? You don't
mean money?"

He clearly felt the importance of expressing at least by his silence and
his eye-glass what he meant. "Her extravagance is beyond everything, and
though there are bills enough, God knows, that do come in to me, I don't
see how she pulls through unless there are others that go elsewhere."

Mrs. Brookenham had given him his tea--her own she had placed on a small
table near her; and she could now respond freely to the impulse felt, on
this, of settling herself to something of real interest. Except to
Harold she was incapable of reproach, though there were of course shades
in her resignation, and her daughter's report of her to Mr. Longdon as
conscious of an absence of prejudice would have been justified for a
spectator by the particular feeling that Mr. Cashmore's speech caused
her to disclose. What did this feeling wonderfully appear unless
strangely irrelevant? "I've no patience when I hear you talk as if you
weren't horribly rich."

He looked at her an instant as if guessing she might have derived that
impression from Harold. "What has that to do with it? Does a rich man
enjoy any more than a poor his wife's making a fool of him?"

Her eyes opened wider: it was one of her very few ways of betraying
amusement. There was little indeed to be amused at here except his
choice of the particular invidious name. "You know I don't believe a
word you say."

Mr. Cashmore drank his tea, then rose to carry the cup somewhere and put
it down, declining with a motion any assistance. When he was on the sofa
again he resumed their intimate talk. "I like tremendously to be with
you, but you mustn't think I've come here to let you say to me such
dreadful things as that." He was an odd compound, Mr. Cashmore, and the
air of personal good health, the untarnished bloom which sometimes lent
a monstrous serenity to his mention of the barely mentionable, was on
occasion balanced or matched by his playful application of extravagant
terms to matters of much less moment. "You know what I come to you for,
Mrs. Brook: I won't come any more if you're going to be horrid and
impossible."

"You come to me, I suppose, because--for my deep misfortune, I assure
you--I've a kind of vision of things, of the wretched miseries in which
you all knot yourselves up, which you yourselves are as little blessed
with as if, tumbling about together in your heap, you were a litter of
blind kittens."

"Awfully good that--you do lift the burden of my trouble!" He had
laughed out in the manner of the man who made notes for platform use of
things that might serve; but the next moment he was grave again, as if
his observation had reminded him of Harold's praise of his wit. It was
in this spirit that he abruptly brought out: "Where, by the way, is your
daughter?"

"I haven't the least idea. I do all I can to enter into her life, but
you can't get into a railway train while it's on the rush."

Mr. Cashmore swung back to hilarity. "You give me lots of things. Do you
mean she's so 'fast'?" He could keep the ball going.

Mrs. Brookenham obliged him with what she meant. "No; she's a tremendous
dear, and we're great friends. But she has her free young life, which,
by that law of our time that I'm sure I only want, like all other laws,
once I know what they ARE, to accept--she has her precious freshness of
feeling which I say to myself that, so far as control is concerned, I
ought to respect. I try to get her to sit with me, and she does so a
little, because she's kind. But before I know it she leaves me again:
she feels what a difference her presence makes in one's liberty of
talk."

Mr. Cashmore was struck by this picture. "That's awfully charming of
her."

"Isn't it too dear?" The thought of it, for Mrs. Brook, seemed fairly to
open out vistas. "The modern daughter!"

"But not the ancient mother!" Mr. Cashmore smiled.

She shook her head with a world of accepted woe. "'Give me back, give me
back one hour of my youth'! Oh I haven't a single thrill left to answer
a compliment. I sit here now face to face with things as they are. They
come in their turn, I assure you--and they find me," Mrs. Brook sighed,
"ready. Nanda has stepped on the stage and I give her up the house.
Besides," she went on musingly, "it's awfully interesting. It IS the
modern daughter--we're really 'doing' her, the child and I; and as the
modern has always been my own note--I've gone in, I mean, frankly for my
very own Time--who is one, after all, that one should pretend to decline
to go where it may lead?" Mr. Cashmore was unprepared with an answer to
this question, and his hostess continued in a different tone: "It's
sweet her sparing one!"

This, for the visitor, was firmer ground. "Do you mean about talking
before her?"

Mrs. Brook's assent was positively tender. "She won't have a difference
in my freedom. It's as if the dear thing KNEW, don't you see? what we
must keep back. She wants us not to have to think. It's quite maternal!"
she mused again. Then as if with the pleasure of presenting it to him
afresh: "That's the modern daughter!"

"Well," said Mr. Cashmore, "I can't help wishing she were a trifle less
considerate. In that case I might find her with you, and I may tell you
frankly that I get more from her than I do from you. She has the great
merit for me, in the first place, of not being such an admirer of my
wife."

Mrs. Brookenham took this up with interest. "No--you're right; she
doesn't, as I do, SEE Lady Fanny, and that's a kind of mercy."

"There you are then, you inconsistent creature," he cried with a laugh:
"after all you DO believe me! You recognise how benighted it would be
for your daughter not to feel that Fanny's bad."

"You're too tiresome, my dear man," Mrs. Brook returned, "with your
ridiculous simplifications. Fanny's NOT 'bad'; she's magnificently good
--in the sense of being generous and simple and true, too adorably
unaffected and without the least mesquinerie. She's a great calm silver
statue."

Mr. Cashmore showed, on this, something of the strength that comes from
the practice of public debate. "Then why are you glad your daughter
doesn't like her?"

Mrs. Brook smiled as with the sadness of having too much to triumph.
"Because I'm not, like Fanny, without mesquinerie. I'm not generous and
simple. I'm exaggeratedly anxious about Nanda. I care, in spite of
myself, for what people may say. Your wife doesn't--she towers above
them. I can be a shade less brave through the chance of my girl's not
happening to feel her as the rest of us do."

Mr. Cashmore too heavily followed. "To 'feel' her?"

Mrs. Brook floated over. "There would be in that case perhaps something
to hint to her not to shriek on the house-tops. When you say," she
continued, "that one admits, as regards Fanny, anything wrong, you
pervert dreadfully what one does freely grant--that she's a great
glorious pagan. It's a real relief to know such a type--it's like a
flash of insight into history. None the less if you ask me why then it
isn't all right for young things to 'shriek' as I say, I have my answer
perfectly ready." After which, as her visitor seemed not only too
reduced to doubt it, but too baffled to distinguish audibly, for his
credit, between resignation and admiration, she produced: "Because she's
purely instinctive. Her instincts are splendid--but it's terrific."

"That's all I ever maintained it to be!" Mr. Cashmore cried. "It IS
terrific."

"Well," his friend answered, "I'm watching her. We're all watching her.
It's like some great natural poetic thing--an Alpine sunrise or a big
high tide."

"You're amazing!" Mr. Cashmore laughed. "I'm watching her too."

"And I'm also watching YOU!" Mrs. Brook lucidly continued. "What I don't
for a moment believe is that her bills are paid by any one. It's MUCH
more probable," she sagaciously observed, "that they're not paid at
all."

"Oh well, if she can get on that way--!"

"There can't be a place in London," Mrs. Brook pursued, "where they're
not delighted to dress such a woman. She shows things, don't you see? as
some fine tourist region shows the placards in the fields and the
posters on the rocks. And what proof can you adduce?" she asked.

Mr. Cashmore had grown restless; he picked a stray thread off the knee
of his trousers. "Ah when you talk about 'adducing'--!" He appeared to
intimate--as with the hint that if she didn't take care she might bore
him--that it was the kind of word he used only in the House of Commons.

"When I talk about it you can't meet me," she placidly returned. But she
fixed him with her weary penetration. "You try to believe what you CAN'T
believe, in order to give yourself excuses. And she does the same--only
less, for she recognises less in general the need of them. She's so
grand and simple."

Poor Mr. Cashmore stared. "Grander and simpler than I, you mean?"

Mrs. Brookenham thought. "Not simpler--no; but very much grander. She
wouldn't, in the case you conceive, recognise really the need of WHAT
you conceive."

Mr. Cashmore wondered--it was almost mystic. "I don't understand you."

Mrs. Brook, seeing it all from dim depths, tracked it further and
further. "We've talked her over so!"

Mr. Cashmore groaned as if too conscious of it. "Indeed we have!"

"I mean WE"--and it was wonderful how her accent discriminated. "We've
talked you too--but of course we talk to every one." She had a pause
through which there glimmered a ray from luminous hours, the inner
intimacy which, privileged as he was, he couldn't pretend to share; then
she broke out almost impatiently: "We're looking after her--leave her
to US!"

His envy of this nearer approach to what so touched him than he could
himself achieve was in his face, but he tried to throw it off. "I doubt
if after all you're good for her."

But Mrs. Brookenham knew. "She's just the sort of person we ARE good
for, and the thing for her is to be with us as much as possible--just
live with us naturally and easily, listen to our talk, feel our
confidence in her, be kept up, don't you know? by the sense of what we
expect of her splendid type, and so, little by little, let our influence
act. What I meant to say just now is that I do perfectly see her taking
what you call presents."

"Well then," Mr. Cashmore enquired, "what do you want more?"

Mrs. Brook hung fire an instant--she seemed on the point of telling him.
"I DON'T see her, as I said, recognising the obligation."

"The obligation--?"

"To give anything back. Anything at all." Mrs. Brook was positive. "The
comprehension of petty calculations? Never!"

"I don't say the calculations are petty," Mr. Cashmore objected.

"Well, she's a great creature. If she does fall--!" His hostess lost
herself in the view, which was at last all before her. "Be sure we shall
all know it."

"That's exactly what I'm afraid of!"

"Then don't be afraid till we do. She would fall, as it were, on US,
don't you see? and," said Mrs. Brook, with decision this time in her
headshake, "that couldn't be. We MUST keep her up--that's your
guarantee. It's rather too much," she added with the same increase of
briskness, "to have to keep YOU up too. Be very sure that if Carrie
really wavers--"

"Carrie?"

His interruption was clearly too vague to be sincere, and it was as such
that, going straight on, she treated it. "I shall never again give her
three minutes' attention. To answer to you for Fanny without being able--"

"To answer to Fanny for me, do you mean?" He had flushed quickly as if
he awaited her there. "It wouldn't suit you, you contend? Well then, I
hope it will ease you off," he went on with spirit, "to know that I
wholly LOATHE Mrs. Donner."

Mrs. Brook, staring, met the announcement with an absolute change of
colour. "And since when, pray?" It was as if a fabric had crumbled. "She
was here but the other day, and as full of you, poor thing, as an egg of
meat."

Mr. Cashmore could only blush for her. "I don't say she wasn't. My
life's a burden from her."

Nothing, for a spectator, could have been so odd as Mrs. Brook's
disappointment unless it had been her determination. "Have you done with
her already?"

"One has never done with a buzzing insect--!"

"Until one has literally killed it?" Mrs. Brookenham wailed. "I can't
take that from you, my dear man: it was yourself who originally
distilled the poison that courses through her veins." He jumped up at
this as if he couldn't bear it, presenting as he walked across the room,
however, a large foolish fugitive back on which her eyes rested as on a
proof of her penetration. "If you spoil everything by trying to deceive
me, how can I help you?"

He had looked, in his restlessness, at a picture or two, but he finally
turned round. "With whom is it you talk us over? With Petherton and his
friend Mitchy? With your adored Vanderbank? With your awful Duchess?"

"You know my little circle, and you've not always despised it." She met
him on his return with a figure that had visibly flashed out for her.
"Don't foul your own nest! Remember that after all we've more or less
produced you." She had a smile that attenuated a little her image, for
there were things that on a second thought he appeared ready to take
from her. She patted the sofa as if to invite him again to be seated,
and though he still stood before her it was with a face that seemed to
show how her touch went home. "You know I've never quite thought you do
us full honour, but it was because SHE took you for one of us that
Carrie first--"

At this, to stop her, he dropped straight into the seat. "I assure you
there has really been nothing." With a continuation of his fidget he
pulled out his watch. "Won't she come in at all?"

"Do you mean Nanda?"

"Talk me over with HER!" he smiled, "if you like. If you don't believe
Mrs. Donner is dust and ashes to me," he continued, "you do little
justice to your daughter."

"Do you wish to break it to me that you're in love with Nanda?"

He hesitated, but only as if to give weight to his reply. "Awfully. I
can't tell you how I like her."

She wondered. "And pray how will THAT help me? Help me, I mean, to help
you. Is it what I'm to tell your wife?"

He sat looking away, but he evidently had his idea, which he at last
produced. "Why wouldn't it be just the thing? It would exactly prove my
purity."

There might have been in her momentary silence a hint of acceptance of
it as a practical contribution to their problem, and there were indeed
several lights in which it could be considered. Mrs. Brook, on a quick
survey, selected the ironic. "I see, I see. I might by the same law
arrange somehow that Lady Fanny should find herself in love with Edward.
That would 'prove' HER purity. And you could be quite at ease," she
laughed--"he wouldn't make any presents!"

Mr. Cashmore regarded her with a candour that was almost a reproach to
her mirth. "I like your daughter better than I like you."

But it only amused her more. "Is that perhaps because _I_ don't prove
your purity?"

What he might have replied remained in the air, for the door opened so
exactly at the moment she spoke that he rose again with a start and the
butler, coming in, received her enquiry full in the face. This
functionary's answer to it, however, had no more than the usual
austerity. "Mr. Vanderbank and Mr. Longdon."

These visitors took a minute to appear, and Mrs. Brook, not stirring--
still only looking from the sofa calmly up at Mr. Cashmore--used the
time, it might have seemed, for correcting any impression of undue
levity made by her recent question. "Where did you last meet Nanda?"

He glanced at the door to see if he were heard. "At the Grendons'."

"So you do go there?"

"I went over from Hicks the other day for an hour."

"And Carrie was there?"

"Yes. It was a dreadful horrid bore. But I talked only to your
daughter."

She got up--the others were at hand--and offered Mr. Cashmore an
expression that might have struck him as strange. "It's serious."

"Serious?"--he had no eyes for the others.

"She didn't tell me."

He gave a sound, controlled by discretion, which sufficed none the less
to make Mr. Longdon--beholding him for the first time--receive it with
a little of the stiffness of a person greeted with a guffaw. Mr.
Cashmore visibly liked this silence of Nanda's about their meeting.


Henry James

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