Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 5

I was doubtless often a nuisance to my friends in those years; but
there were sacrifices I declined to make, and I never passed the
hat to George Gravener. I never forgot our little discussion in
Ebury Street, and I think it stuck in my throat to have to treat
him to the avowal I had found so easy to Mss Anvoy. It had cost me
nothing to confide to this charming girl, but it would have cost me
much to confide to the friend of my youth, that the character of
the "real gentleman" wasn't an attribute of the man I took such
pains for. Was this because I had already generalised to the point
of perceiving that women are really the unfastidious sex? I knew
at any rate that Gravener, already quite in view but still hungry
and frugal, had naturally enough more ambition than charity. He
had sharp aims for stray sovereigns, being in view most from the
tall steeple of Clockborough. His immediate ambition was to occupy
e lui seul the field of vision of that smokily-seeing city, and all
his movements and postures were calculated for the favouring angle.
The movement of the hand as to the pocket had thus to alternate
gracefully with the posture of the hand on the heart. He talked to
Clockborough in short only less beguilingly than Frank Saltram
talked to HIS electors; with the difference to our credit, however,
that we had already voted and that our candidate had no antagonist
but himself. He had more than once been at Wimbledon--it was Mrs.
Mulville's work not mine--and by the time the claret was served had
seen the god descend. He took more pains to swing his censer than
I had expected, but on our way back to town he forestalled any
little triumph I might have been so artless as to express by the
observation that such a man was--a hundred times!--a man to use and
never a man to be used by. I remember that this neat remark
humiliated me almost as much as if virtually, in the fever of
broken slumbers, I hadn't often made it myself. The difference was
that on Gravener's part a force attached to it that could never
attach to it on mine. He was ABLE to use people--he had the
machinery; and the irony of Saltram's being made showy at
Clockborough came out to me when he said, as if he had no memory of
our original talk and the idea were quite fresh to him: "I hate
his type, you know, but I'll be hanged if I don't put some of those
things in. I can find a place for them: we might even find a
place for the fellow himself." I myself should have had some fear-
-not, I need scarcely say, for the "things" themselves, but for
some other things very near them; in fine for the rest of my
eloquence.

Later on I could see that the oracle of Wimbledon was not in this
case so appropriate as he would have been had the polities of the
gods only coincided more exactly with those of the party. There
was a distinct moment when, without saying anything more definite
to me, Gravener entertained the idea of annexing Mr. Saltram. Such
a project was delusive, for the discovery of analogies between his
body of doctrine and that pressed from headquarters upon
Clockborough--the bottling, in a word, of the air of those lungs
for convenient public uncorking in corn-exchanges--was an
experiment for which no one had the leisure. The only thing would
have been to carry him massively about, paid, caged, clipped; to
turn him on for a particular occasion in a particular channel.
Frank Saltram's channel, however, was essentially not calculable,
and there was no knowing what disastrous floods might have ensued.
For what there would have been to do THE EMPIRE, the great
newspaper, was there to look to; but it was no new misfortune that
there were delicate situations in which THE EMPIRE broke down. In
fine there was an instinctive apprehension that a clever young
journalist commissioned to report on Mr. Saltram might never come
back from the errand. No one knew better than George Gravener that
that was a time when prompt returns counted double. If he
therefore found our friend an exasperating waste of orthodoxy it
was because of his being, as he said, poor Gravener, up in the
clouds, not because he was down in the dust. The man would have
been, just as he was, a real enough gentleman if he could have
helped to put in a real gentleman. Gravener's great objection to
the actual member was that he was not one.

Lady Coxon had a fine old house, a house with "grounds," at
Clockborough, which she had let; but after she returned from abroad
I learned from Mrs. Saltram that the lease had fallen in and that
she had gone down to resume possession. I could see the faded red
livery, the big square shoulders, the high-walled garden of this
decent abode. As the rumble of dissolution grew louder the suitor
would have pressed his suit, and I found myself hoping the politics
of the late Mayor's widow wouldn't be such as to admonish her to
ask him to dinner; perhaps indeed I went so far as to pray, they
would naturally form a bar to any contact. I tried to focus the
many-buttoned page, in the daily airing, as he perhaps even pushed
the Bath-chair over somebody's toes. I was destined to hear, none
the less, through Mrs. Saltram--who, I afterwards learned, was in
correspondence with Lady Coxon's housekeeper--that Gravener was
known to have spoken of the habitation I had in my eye as the
pleasantest thing at Clockborough. On his part, I was sure, this
was the voice not of envy but of experience. The vivid scene was
now peopled, and I could see him in the old-time garden with Miss
Anvoy, who would be certain, and very justly, to think him good-
looking. It would be too much to describe myself as troubled by
this play of surmise; but I occur to remember the relief, singular
enough, of feeling it suddenly brushed away by an annoyance really
much greater; an annoyance the result of its happening to come over
me about that time with a rush that I was simply ashamed of Frank
Saltram. There were limits after all, and my mark at last had been
reached.

I had had my disgusts, if I may allow myself to-day such an
expression; but this was a supreme revolt. Certain things cleared
up in my mind, certain values stood out. It was all very well to
have an unfortunate temperament; there was nothing so unfortunate
as to have, for practical purposes, nothing else. I avoided George
Gravener at this moment and reflected that at such a time I should
do so most effectually by leaving England. I wanted to forget
Frank Saltram--that was all. I didn't want to do anything in the
world to him but that. Indignation had withered on the stalk, and
I felt that one could pity him as much as one ought only by never
thinking of him again. It wasn't for anything he had done to me;
it was for what he had done to the Mulvilles. Adelaide cried about
it for a week, and her husband, profiting by the example so
signally given him of the fatal effect of a want of character, left
the letter, the drop too much, unanswered. The letter, an
incredible one, addressed by Saltram to Wimbledon during a stay
with the Pudneys at Ramsgate, was the central feature of the
incident, which, however, had many features, each more painful than
whichever other we compared it with. The Pudneys had behaved
shockingly, but that was no excuse. Base ingratitude, gross
indecency--one had one's choice only of such formulas as that the
more they fitted the less they gave one rest. These are dead aches
now, and I am under no obligation, thank heaven, to be definite
about the business. There are things which if I had had to tell
them--well, would have stopped me off here altogether.

I went abroad for the general election, and if I don't know how
much, on the Continent, I forgot, I at least know how much I
missed, him. At a distance, in a foreign land, ignoring, abjuring,
unlearning him, I discovered what he had done for me. I owed him,
oh unmistakeably, certain noble conceptions; I had lighted my
little taper at his smoky lamp, and lo it continued to twinkle.
But the light it gave me just showed me how much more I wanted. I
was pursued of course by letters from Mrs. Saltram which I didn't
scruple not to read, though quite aware her embarrassments couldn't
but be now of the gravest. I sacrificed to propriety by simply
putting them away, and this is how, one day as my absence drew to
an end, my eye, while I rummaged in my desk for another paper, was
caught by a name on a leaf that had detached itself from the
packet. The allusion was to Miss Anvoy, who, it appeared, was
engaged to be married to Mr. George Gravener; and the news was two
months old. A direct question of Mrs. Saltram's had thus remained
unanswered--she had enquired of me in a postscript what sort of man
this aspirant to such a hand might be. The great other fact about
him just then was that he had been triumphantly returned for
Clockborough in the interest of the party that had swept the
country--so that I might easily have referred Mrs. Saltram to the
journals of the day. Yet when I at last wrote her that I was
coming home and would discharge my accumulated burden by seeing
her, I but remarked in regard to her question that she must really
put it to Miss Anvoy.

Henry James

Sorry, no summary available yet.