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Chapter 3

Very different was Mrs. Brook's welcome of the restored wanderer to
whom, in a brief space, she addressed every expression of surprise and
delight, though marking indeed at last, as a qualification of these
things, her regret that he declined to partake of her tea or to allow
her to make him what she called "snug for a talk" in his customary
corner of her sofa. He pleaded frankly agitation and embarrassment,
reminded her even that he was awfully shy and that after separations,
complications, whatever might at any time happen, he was conscious of
the dust that had settled on intercourse and that he couldn't blow away
in a single breath. She was only, according to her nature, to indulge
him if, while he walked about and changed his place, he came to the
surface but in patches and pieces. There was so much he wanted to know
that--well, as they had arrived only the night before, she could judge.
There was knowledge, it became clear, that Mrs. Brook almost equally
craved, so that it even looked at first as if, on either side,
confidence might be choked by curiosity. This disaster was finally
barred by the fact that the spirit of enquiry found for Mitchy material
that was comparatively plastic. That was after all apparent enough when
at the end of a few vain passes he brought out sociably: "Well, has he
done it?"

Still indeed there was something in Mrs. Brook's face that seemed to
reply "Oh come--don't rush it, you know!" and something in the movement
with which she turned away that described the state of their question as
by no means so simple as that. On his refusal of tea she had rung for
the removal of the table, and the bell was at this moment answered by
the two men. Little ensued then, for some minutes, while the servants
were present; she spoke only as the butler was about to close the door.
"If Mr. Longdon presently comes show him into Mr. Brookenham's room if
Mr. Brookenham isn't there. If he is show him into the dining-room and
in either case let me immediately know."

The man waited expressionless. "And in case of his asking for Miss
Brookenham--?"

"He won't!" she replied with a sharpness before which her interlocutor
retired. "He will!" she then added in quite another tone to Mitchy.
"That is, you know, he perfectly MAY. But oh the subtlety of servants!"
she sighed.

Mitchy was now all there. "Mr. Longdon's in town then?"

"For the first time since you went away. He's to call this afternoon."

"And you want to see him alone?"

Mrs. Brook thought. "I don't think I want to see him at all."

"Then your keeping him below--?"

"Is so that he shan't burst in till I know. It's YOU, my dear, I want to
see."

Mitchy glared about. "Well, don't take it ill if, in return for that, I
say I myself want to see every one. I could have done even just now with
a little more of Edward."

Mrs. Brook, in her own manner and with a slow headshake, looked lovely.
"_I_ couldn't." Then she puzzled it out with a pause. "It even does come
over me that if you don't mind--!"

"What, my dear woman," said Mitchy encouragingly, "did I EVER mind? I
assure you," he laughed, "I haven't come back to begin!"

At this, suddenly dropping everything else, she laid her hand on him.
"Mitchy love, ARE you happy?"

So for a moment they stood confronted. "Not perhaps as YOU would have
tried to make me."

"Well, you've still GOT me, you know."

"Oh," said Mitchy, "I've got a great deal. How, if I really look at it,
can a man of my peculiar nature--it IS, you know, awfully peculiar--NOT
be happy? Think, if one is driven to it for instance, of the breadth of
my sympathies."

Mrs. Brook, as a result of thinking, appeared for a little to demur.
"Yes--but one mustn't be too much driven to it. It's by one's sympathies
that one suffers. If you should do that I couldn't bear it."

She clearly evoked for Mitchy a definite image. "It WOULD be funny,
wouldn't it? But you wouldn't have to. I'd go off and do it alone
somewhere--in a dark room, I think, or on a desert island; at any rate
where nobody should see. Where's the harm moreover," he went on, "of any
suffering that doesn't bore one, as I'm sure, however much its outer
aspect might amuse some others, mine wouldn't bore me? What I should do
in my desert island or my dark room, I feel, would be just to dance
about with the thrill of it--which is exactly the exhibition of
ludicrous gambols that I would fain have arranged to spare you. I assure
you, dear Mrs. Brook," he wound up, "that I'm not in the least bored
now. Everything's so interesting."

"You're beautiful!" she vaguely interposed.

But he pursued without heeding: "Was perhaps what you had in your head
that _I_ should see him--?"

She came back but slowly, however, to the moment. "Mr. Longdon? Well,
yes. You know he can't bear ME--"

"Yes, yes"--Mitchy was almost eager.

It had already sent her off again. "You're too lovely. You HAVE come
back the same. It seemed to me," she after an instant explained, "that I
wanted him to be seen--"

"Without inconvenience, as it were, either to himself or to you? Then,"
said Mitchy, who visibly felt that he had taken her up successfully, "it
strikes me that I'm absolutely your man. It's delicious to come back to
a use."

But she was much more dim about it. "Oh what you've come back to--!"

"It's just what I'm trying to get at. Van is still then where I left
him?"

She was just silent. "Did you really believe he would move?"

Mitchy took a few turns, speaking almost with his back presented. "Well,
with all the reasons--!" After which, while she watched him, he was
before her again with a question. "It's utterly off?"

"When was it ever really on?"

"Oh I know your view, and that, I think," said Mitchy, "is the most
extraordinary part of it. I can tell you it would have put ME on."

"My view?" Mrs. Brook thought. "Have you forgotten that I had for you
too a view that didn't?"

"Ah but we didn't differ, you and I. It wasn't a defiance and a
prophecy. You wanted ME."

"I did indeed!" Mrs. Brook said simply.

"And you didn't want him. For HER, I mean. So you risked showing it."

She looked surprised. "DID I?"

Again they were face to face. "Your candour's divine!"

She wondered. "Do you mean it was even then?"

Mitchy smiled at her till he was red. "It's exquisite now."

"Well," she presently returned, "I knew my Van!"

"_I_ thought I knew 'yours' too," Mitchy said. Their eyes met a minute
and he added: "But I didn't." Then he exclaimed: "How you've worked
it!"

She looked barely conscious. "'Worked it'?" After which, with a slightly
sharper note: "How do you know--while you've been amusing yourself in
places that I'd give my head to see again but never shall--what I've
been doing?"

"Well, I saw, you know, that night at Tishy's, just before we left
England, your wonderful start. I got a look at your attitude, as it
were, and your system."

Her eyes were now far away, and she spoke after an instant without
moving them. "And didn't I by the same token get a look at yours?"

"Mine?" Mitchy thought, but seemed to doubt. "My dear child, I hadn't
any then."

"You mean that it has formed itself--your system--since?"

He shook his head with decision. "I assure you I'm quite at sea. I've
never had, and I have as little as ever now, anything but my general
philosophy, which I won't attempt at present to go into and of which
moreover I think you've had first and last your glimpses. What I made
out in you that night was a perfect policy."

Mrs. Brook had another of her infantine stares. "Every one that night
seems to have made out something! All I can say is at any rate," she
went on, "that in that case you were all far deeper than I was."

"It was just a blind instinct, without a programme or a scheme? Perhaps
then, since it has so perfectly succeeded, the name doesn't matter. I'm
lost, as I tell you," Mitchy declared, "in admiration of its success."

She looked, as before, so young, yet so grave. "What do you call its
success?"

"Let me ask you rather--mayn't I?--what YOU call its failure."

Mrs. Brook, who had been standing for some minutes, seated herself at
this as if to respond to his idea. But the next moment she had fallen
back into thought. "Have you often heard from him?"

"Never once."

"And have you written?"

"Not a word either. I left it, you see," Mitchy smiled, "all, to YOU."
After which he continued: "Has he been with you much?"

She just hesitated. "As little as possible. But as it happens he was
here just now."

Her visitor fairly flushed. "And I've only missed him?"

Her pause again was of the briefest. "You wouldn't if he HAD gone up."

"'Gone up'?"

"To Nanda, who has now her own sitting-room, as you know; for whom he
immediately asked and for whose benefit, whatever you may think, I was
at the end of a quarter of an hour, I assure you, perfectly ready to
release him. He changed his mind, however, and went away without seeing
her."

Mitchy showed the deepest interest. "And what made him change his mind?"

"Well, I'm thinking it out."

He appeared to watch this labour. "But with no light yet?"

"When it comes I'll tell you."

He hung fire once more but an instant. "You didn't yourself work the
thing again?"

She rose at this in strange sincerity. "I think, you know, you go very
far."

"Why, didn't we just now settle," he promptly replied, "that it's all
instinctive and unconscious? If it was so that night at Tishy's--!"

"Ah, voyons, voyons," she broke in, "what did I do even then?" He
laughed out at something in her tone. "You'd like it again all
pictured--?"

"I'm not afraid."

"Why, you just simply--publicly--took her back."

"And where was the monstrosity of that?"

"In the one little right place. In your removal of every doubt--"

"Well, of what?" He had appeared not quite to know how to put it. But he
saw at last. "Why, of what we may still hope to do for her. Thanks to
your care there were specimens." Then as she had the look of trying
vainly to focus a few, "I can't recover them one by one," he pursued,
"but the whole thing was quite lurid enough to do us all credit."

She met him after a little, but at such an odd point. "Pardon me if I
scarcely see how much of the credit was yours. For the first time since
I've known you, you went in for decency."

Mitchy's surprise showed as real. "It struck you as decency--?"

Since he wished she thought it over. "Oh your behaviour--!"

"My behaviour was--my condition. Do you call THAT decent? No, you're
quite out." He spoke, in his good nature, with an approach to reproof.
"How can I ever--?"

But it had already brought her quite round, and to a firmer earth that
she clearly preferred to tread. "Are things really bad with you, Mitch?"

"Well, I'll tell you how they are. But not now."

"Some other time?--on your honour?"

"You shall have it all. Don't be afraid."

She dimly smiled. "It will be like old times."

He rather demurred. "For you perhaps. But not for me."

In spite of what he said it did hold her, and her hand again almost
caressed him. "But--till you do tell me--is it very very dreadful?"

"That's just perhaps what I may have to get you to decide."

"Then shall I help you?" she eagerly asked.

"I think it will be quite in your line."

At the thought of her line--it sounded somehow so general--she released
him a little with a sigh, yet still looking round, as it were, for
possibilities. "Jane, you know, is in a state."

"Yes, Jane's in a state. That's a comfort!"

She continued in a manner to cling to him. "But is it your only one?"

He was very kind and patient. "Not perhaps quite."

"I'M a little of one?"

"My dear child, as you see."

Yes, she saw, but was still on the wing. "And shall you have recourse--?"

"To what?" he asked as she appeared to falter.

"I don't mean to anything violent. But shall you tell Nanda?"

Mitchy wondered. "Tell her--?"

"Well, everything. I think, you know," Mrs. Brook musingly observed,
"that it would really serve her right."

Mitchy's silence, which lasted a minute, seemed to take the idea, but
not perhaps quite to know what to do with it. "Ah I'm afraid I shall
never really serve her right!"

Just as he spoke the butler reappeared; at sight of whom Mrs. Brook
immediately guessed. "Mr. Longdon?"

"In Mr. Brookenham's room, ma'am. Mr. Brookenham has gone out."

"And where has he gone?"

"I think, ma'am, only for some evening papers."

She had an intense look for Mitchy; then she said to the man: "Ask him
to wait three minutes--I'll ring;" turning again to her visitor as soon
as they were alone. "You don't know how I'm trusting you!"

"Trusting me?"

"Why, if he comes up to you."

Mitchy thought. "Hadn't I better go down?"

"No--you may have Edward back. If you see him you must see him here. If
I don't myself it's for a reason."

Mitchy again just sounded her. "His not, as you a while ago hinted--?"

"Yes, caring for what I say." She had a pause, but she brought it out.
"He doesn't believe a word--!"

"Of what you tell him?" Mitchy was splendid. "I see. And you want
something said to him."

"Yes, that he'll take from YOU. Only it's for you," Mrs. Brook went on,
"really and honestly, and as I trust you, to give it. But the comfort of
you is that you'll do so if you promise."

Mitchy was infinitely struck. "But I haven't promised, eh? Of course I
can't till I know what it is."

"It's to put before him--!"

"Oh I see: the situation."

"What has happened here to-day. Van's marked retreat and how, with the
time that has passed, it makes us at last know where we are. You of
course for yourself," Mrs. Brook wound up, "see that."

"Where we are?" Mitchy took a turn and came back. "But what then did Van
come for? If you speak of a retreat there must have been an advance."

"Oh," said Mrs. Brook, "he simply wanted not to look too brutal. After
so much absence he COULD come."

"Well, if he established that he isn't brutal, where was the retreat?"

"In his not going up to Nanda. He came--frankly--to do that, but made up
his mind on second thoughts that he couldn't risk even being civil to
her."

Mitchy had visibly warmed to his work. "Well, and what made the
difference?"

She wondered. "What difference?"

"Why, of the effect, as you say, of his second thoughts. Thoughts of
what?"

"Oh," said Mrs. Brook suddenly and as if it were quite simple--"I know
THAT! Suspicions."

"And of whom?"

"Why, of YOU, you goose. Of your not having done--"

"Well, what?" he persisted as she paused.

"How shall I say it? The best thing for yourself. And of Nanda's feeling
that. Don't you see?"

In the effort of seeing, or perhaps indeed in the full act of it, poor
Mitchy glared as never before. "Do you mean Van's JEALOUS of me?"

Pressed as she was, there was something in his face that momentarily
hushed her. "There it is!" she achieved however at last.

"Of ME?" Mitchy went on.

What was in his face so suddenly and strangely--was the look of rising
tears--at sight of which, as from a compunction as prompt, she showed a
lovely flush. "There it is, there it is," she repeated. "You ask me for
a reason, and it's the only one I see. Of course if you don't care," she
added, "he needn't come up. He can go straight to Nanda."

Mitchy had turned away again as with the impulse of hiding the tears
that had risen and that had not wholly disappeared even by the time he
faced about. "Did Nanda know he was to come?"

"Mr. Longdon?"

"No, no. Was she expecting Van--?"

"My dear man," Mrs. Brook mildly wailed, "when can she have NOT been?"

Mitchy looked hard for an instant at the floor. "I mean does she know he
has been and gone?"

Mrs. Brook, from where she stood and through the window, looked rather
at the sky. "Her father will have told her."

"Her father?" Mitchy frankly wondered. "Is HE in it?"

Mrs. Brook had at this a longer pause. "You assume, I suppose, Mitchy
dear," she then quavered "that I put him up--!"

"Put Edward up?" he broke in.

"No--that of course. Put Van up to ideas--!"

He caught it again. "About ME--what you call his suspicions?" He seemed
to weigh the charge, but it ended, while he passed his hand hard over
his eyes, in weariness and in the nearest approach to coldness he had
ever shown Mrs. Brook. "It doesn't matter. It's every one's fate to be
in one way or another the subject of ideas. Do then," he continued, "let
Mr. Longdon come up."

She instantly rang the bell. "Then I'll go to Nanda. But don't look
frightened," she added as she came back, "as to what we may--Edward or
I--do next. It's only to tell her that he'll be with her."

"Good. I'll tell Tatton," Mitchy replied.

Still, however, she lingered. "Shall you ever care for me more?"

He had almost the air, as he waited for her to go, of the master of the
house, for she had made herself before him, as he stood with his back to
the fire, as humble as a tolerated visitor. "Oh just as much. Where's
the difference? Aren't our ties in fact rather multiplied?"

"That's the way _I_ want to feel it. And from the moment you recognise
with me--"

"Yes?"

"Well, that he never, you know, really WOULD--"

He took her mercifully up. "There's no harm done?" Mitchy thought of it.

It made her still hover. "Nanda will be rich. Toward that you CAN help,
and it's really, I may now tell you, what it came into my head you
should see our friend here FOR."

He maintained his waiting attitude. "Thanks, thanks."

"You're our guardian angel!" she exclaimed.

At this he laughed out. "Wait till you see what Mr. Longdon does!"

But she took no notice. "I want you to see before I go that I've done
nothing for myself. Van, after all--!" she mused.

"Well?"

"Only hates me. It isn't as with you," she said. "I've really lost him."

Mitchy for an instant, with the eyes that had shown his tears, glared
away into space. "He can't very positively, you know, now like ANY of
us. He misses a fortune."

"There it is!" Mrs. Brook once more observed. Then she had a comparative
brightness. "I'm so glad YOU don't!" He gave another laugh, but she was
already facing Mr. Tatton, who had again answered the bell. "Show Mr.
Longdon up."

"I'm to tell him then it's at your request?" Mitchy asked when the
butler had gone.

"That you receive him? Oh yes. He'll be the last to quarrel with that.
But there's one more thing."

It was something over which of a sudden she had one of her returns of
anxiety. "I've been trying for months and months to remember to find out
from you--"

"Well, what?" he enquired, as she looked odd.

"Why if Harold ever gave back to you, as he swore to me on his honour he
would, that five-pound note--!"

"But which, dear lady?" The sense of other incongruities than those they
had been dealing with seemed to arrive now for Mitchy's aid.

"The one that, ages ago, one day when you and Van were here, we had the
joke about. You produced it, in sport, as a 'fine' for something, and
put it on that table; after which, before I knew what you were about,
before I could run after you, you had gone off and ridiculously left it.
Of course the next minute--and again before I could turn round--Harold
had pounced on it, and I tried in vain to recover it from him. But all I
could get him to do--"

"Was to promise to restore it straight to its owner?" Mitchy had
listened so much less in surprise than in amusement that he had
apparently after a moment re-established the scene. "Oh I recollect--he
did settle with me. THAT'S all right."

She fixed him from the door of the next room. "You got every penny?"

"Every penny. But fancy your bringing it up!"

"Ah I always do, you know--SOME day."

"Yes, you're of a rigour--! But be at peace. Harold's quite square," he
went on, "and I quite meant to have asked you about him."

Mrs. Brook, promptly, was all for this. "Oh it's all right."

Mitchy came nearer. "Lady Fanny--?"

"Yes--HAS stayed for him."

"Ah," said Mitchy, "I knew you'd do it! But hush--they're coming!" On
which, while she whisked away, he went back to the fire.


Henry James

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