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 15

CHAPTER XV

It had been arranged that the two young ladies should proceed to
London under Ralph's escort, though Mrs. Touchett looked with
little favour on the plan. It was just the sort of plan, she
said, that Miss Stackpole would be sure to suggest, and she
enquired if the correspondent of the Interviewer was to take the
party to stay at her favourite boarding-house.

"I don't care where she takes us to stay, so long as there's
local colour," said Isabel. "That's what we're going to London
for."

"I suppose that after a girl has refused an English lord she may
do anything," her aunt rejoined. "After that one needn't stand on
trifles."

"Should you have liked me to marry Lord Warburton?" Isabel
enquired.

"Of course I should."

"I thought you disliked the English so much."

"So I do; but it's all the greater reason for making use of
them."

"Is that your idea of marriage?" And Isabel ventured to add that
her aunt appeared to her to have made very little use of Mr.
Touchett.

"Your uncle's not an English nobleman," said Mrs. Touchett,
"though even if he had been I should still probably have taken up
my residence in Florence."

"Do you think Lord Warburton could make me any better than I am?"
the girl asked with some animation. "I don't mean I'm too good to
improve. I mean that I don't love Lord Warburton enough to marry
him."

"You did right to refuse him then," said Mrs. Touchett in her
smallest, sparest voice. "Only, the next great offer you get, I
hope you'll manage to come up to your standard."

"We had better wait till the offer comes before we talk about it.
I hope very much I may have no more offers for the present. They
upset me completely."

"You probably won't be troubled with them if you adopt
permanently the Bohemian manner of life. However, I've promised
Ralph not to criticise."

"I'll do whatever Ralph says is right," Isabel returned. "I've
unbounded confidence in Ralph."

"His mother's much obliged to you!" this lady dryly laughed.

"It seems to me indeed she ought to feel it!" Isabel
irrepressibly answered.

Ralph had assured her that there would be no violation of decency
in their paying a visit--the little party of three--to the sights
of the metropolis; but Mrs. Touchett took a different view. Like
many ladies of her country who had lived a long time in Europe,
she had completely lost her native tact on such points, and in
her reaction, not in itself deplorable, against the liberty
allowed to young persons beyond the seas, had fallen into
gratuitous and exaggerated scruples. Ralph accompanied their
visitors to town and established them at a quiet inn in a street
that ran at right angles to Piccadilly. His first idea had been
to take them to his father's house in Winchester Square, a large,
dull mansion which at this period of the year was shrouded in
silence and brown holland; but he bethought himself that, the
cook being at Gardencourt, there was no one in the house to get
them their meals, and Pratt's Hotel accordingly became their
resting-place. Ralph, on his side, found quarters in Winchester
Square, having a "den" there of which he was very fond and being
familiar with deeper fears than that of a cold kitchen. He
availed himself largely indeed of the resources of Pratt's Hotel,
beginning his day with an early visit to his fellow travellers,
who had Mr. Pratt in person, in a large bulging white waistcoat,
to remove their dish-covers. Ralph turned up, as he said, after
breakfast, and the little party made out a scheme of
entertainment for the day. As London wears in the month of
September a face blank but for its smears of prior service, the
young man, who occasionally took an apologetic tone, was obliged
to remind his companion, to Miss Stackpole's high derision, that
there wasn't a creature in town.

"I suppose you mean the aristocracy are absent," Henrietta
answered; "but I don't think you could have a better proof that
if they were absent altogether they wouldn't be missed. It seems
to me the place is about as full as it can be. There's no one
here, of course, but three or four millions of people. What is it
you call them--the lower-middle class? They're only the
population of London, and that's of no consequence."

Ralph declared that for him the aristocracy left no void that
Miss Stackpole herself didn't fill, and that a more contented man
was nowhere at that moment to be found. In this he spoke the
truth, for the stale September days, in the huge half-empty town,
had a charm wrapped in them as a coloured gem might be wrapped in
a dusty cloth. When he went home at night to the empty house in
Winchester Square, after a chain of hours with his comparatively
ardent friends, he wandered into the big dusky dining-room, where
the candle he took from the hall-table, after letting himself in,
constituted the only illumination. The square was still, the
house was still; when he raised one of the windows of the
dining-room to let in the air he heard the slow creak of the
boots of a lone constable. His own step, in the empty place,
seemed loud and sonorous; some of the carpets had been raised,
and whenever he moved he roused a melancholy echo. He sat down in
one of the armchairs; the big dark dining table twinkled here and
there in the small candle-light; the pictures on the wall, all of
them very brown, looked vague and incoherent. There was a ghostly
presence as of dinners long since digested, of table-talk that
had lost its actuality. This hint of the supernatural perhaps had
something to do with the fact that his imagination took a flight
and that he remained in his chair a long time beyond the hour at
which he should have been in bed; doing nothing, not even reading
the evening paper. I say he did nothing, and I maintain the
phrase in the face of the fact that he thought at these moments
of Isabel. To think of Isabel could only be for him an idle
pursuit, leading to nothing and profiting little to any one. His
cousin had not yet seemed to him so charming as during these days
spent in sounding, tourist-fashion, the deeps and shallows of the
metropolitan element. Isabel was full of premises, conclusions,
emotions; if she had come in search of local colour she found it
everywhere. She asked more questions than he could answer, and
launched brave theories, as to historic cause and social effect,
that he was equally unable to accept or to refute. The party went
more than once to the British Museum and to that brighter palace
of art which reclaims for antique variety so large an area of a
monotonous suburb; they spent a morning in the Abbey and went on
a penny-steamer to the Tower; they looked at pictures both in
public and private collections and sat on various occasions
beneath the great trees in Kensington Gardens. Henrietta proved
an indestructible sight-seer and a more lenient judge than Ralph
had ventured to hope. She had indeed many disappointments, and
London at large suffered from her vivid remembrance of the strong
points of the American civic idea; but she made the best of its
dingy dignities and only heaved an occasional sigh and uttered a
desultory "Well!" which led no further and lost itself in
retrospect. The truth was that, as she said herself, she was not
in her element. "I've not a sympathy with inanimate objects," she
remarked to Isabel at the National Gallery; and she continued to
suffer from the meagreness of the glimpse that had as yet been
vouchsafed to her of the inner life. Landscapes by Turner and
Assyrian bulls were a poor substitute for the literary
dinner-parties at which she had hoped to meet the genius and
renown of Great Britain.

"Where are your public men, where are your men and women of
intellect?" she enquired of Ralph, standing in the middle of
Trafalgar Square as if she had supposed this to be a place where
she would naturally meet a few. "That's one of them on the top of
the column, you say--Lord Nelson. Was he a lord too? Wasn't he
high enough, that they had to stick him a hundred feet in the
air? That's the past--I don't care about the past; I want to see
some of the leading minds of the present. I won't say of the
future, because I don't believe much in your future." Poor Ralph
had few leading minds among his acquaintance and rarely enjoyed
the pleasure of buttonholing a celebrity; a state of things which
appeared to Miss Stackpole to indicate a deplorable want of
enterprise. "If I were on the other side I should call," she
said, "and tell the gentleman, whoever he might be, that I had
heard a great deal about him and had come to see for myself. But
I gather from what you say that this is not the custom here. You
seem to have plenty of meaningless customs, but none of those
that would help along. We are in advance, certainly. I suppose I
shall have to give up the social side altogether;" and Henrietta,
though she went about with her guidebook and pencil and wrote a
letter to the Interviewer about the Tower (in which she described
the execution of Lady Jane Grey), had a sad sense of falling
below her mission.

The incident that had preceded Isabel's departure from
Gardencourt left a painful trace in our young woman's mind: when
she felt again in her face, as from a recurrent wave, the cold
breath of her last suitor's surprise, she could only muffle her
head till the air cleared. She could not have done less than what
she did; this was certainly true. But her necessity, all the
same, had been as graceless as some physical act in a strained
attitude, and she felt no desire to take credit for her conduct.
Mixed with this imperfect pride, nevertheless, was a feeling of
freedom which in itself was sweet and which, as she wandered
through the great city with her ill-matched companions,
occasionally throbbed into odd demonstrations. When she walked in
Kensington Gardens she stopped the children (mainly of the poorer
sort) whom she saw playing on the grass; she asked them their
names and gave them sixpence and, when they were pretty, kissed
them. Ralph noticed these quaint charities; he noticed everything
she did. One afternoon, that his companions might pass the time,
he invited them to tea in Winchester Square, and he had the house
set in order as much as possible for their visit. There was
another guest to meet them, an amiable bachelor, an old friend of
Ralph's who happened to be in town and for whom prompt commerce
with Miss Stackpole appeared to have neither difficulty nor
dread. Mr. Bantling, a stout, sleek, smiling man of forty,
wonderfully dressed, universally informed and incoherently
amused, laughed immoderately at everything Henrietta said, gave
her several cups of tea, examined in her society the bric-a-brac,
of which Ralph had a considerable collection, and afterwards,
when the host proposed they should go out into the square and
pretend it was a fete-champetre, walked round the limited
enclosure several times with her and, at a dozen turns of their
talk, bounded responsive--as with a positive passion for
argument--to her remarks upon the inner life.

"Oh, I see; I dare say you found it very quiet at Gardencourt.
Naturally there's not much going on there when there's such a lot
of illness about. Touchett's very bad, you know; the doctors have
forbidden his being in England at all, and he has only come back
to take care of his father. The old man, I believe, has half a
dozen things the matter with him. They call it gout, but to my
certain knowledge he has organic disease so developed that you
may depend upon it he'll go, some day soon, quite quickly. Of
course that sort of thing makes a dreadfully dull house; I wonder
they have people when they can do so little for them. Then I
believe Mr. Touchett's always squabbling with his wife; she lives
away from her husband, you know, in that extraordinary American
way of yours. If you want a house where there's always something
going on, I recommend you to go down and stay with my sister,
Lady Pensil, in Bedfordshire. I'll write to her to-morrow and I'm
sure she'll be delighted to ask you. I know just what you want--
you want a house where they go in for theatricals and picnics and
that sort of thing. My sister's just that sort of woman; she's
always getting up something or other and she's always glad to
have the sort of people who help her. I'm sure she'll ask you
down by return of post: she's tremendously fond of distinguished
people and writers. She writes herself, you know; but I haven't
read everything she has written. It's usually poetry, and I don't
go in much for poetry--unless it's Byron. I suppose you think a
great deal of Byron in America," Mr. Bantling continued, expanding
in the stimulating air of Miss Stackpole's attention, bringing up
his sequences promptly and changing his topic with an easy turn
of hand. Yet he none the less gracefully kept in sight of the
idea, dazzling to Henrietta, of her going to stay with Lady
Pensil in Bedfordshire. "I understand what you want; you want to
see some genuine English sport. The Touchetts aren't English at
all, you know; they have their own habits, their own language,
their own food--some odd religion even, I believe, of their own.
The old man thinks it's wicked to hunt, I'm told. You must get
down to my sister's in time for the theatricals, and I'm sure
she'll be glad to give you a part. I'm sure you act well; I
know you're very clever. My sister's forty years old and has
seven children, but she's going to play the principal part. Plain
as she is she makes up awfully well--I will say for her. Of
course you needn't act if you don't want to."

In this manner Mr. Bantling delivered himself while they strolled
over the grass in Winchester Square, which, although it had been
peppered by the London soot, invited the tread to linger.
Henrietta thought her blooming, easy-voiced bachelor, with his
impressibility to feminine merit and his splendid range of
suggestion, a very agreeable man, and she valued the opportunity
he offered her. "I don't know but I would go, if your sister
should ask me. I think it would be my duty. What do you call her
name?"

"Pensil. It's an odd name, but it isn't a bad one."

"I think one name's as good as another. But what's her rank?".

"Oh, she's a baron's wife; a convenient sort of rank. You're fine
enough and you're not too fine."

"I don't know but what she'd be too fine for me. What do you call
the place she lives in--Bedfordshire?"

"She lives away in the northern corner of it. It's a tiresome
country, but I dare say you won't mind it. I'll try and run down
while you're there."

All this was very pleasant to Miss Stackpole, and she was sorry
to be obliged to separate from Lady Pensil's obliging brother.
But it happened that she had met the day before, in Piccadilly,
some friends whom she had not seen for a year: the Miss Climbers,
two ladies from Wilmington, Delaware, who had been travelling on
the Continent and were now preparing to re-embark. Henrietta had
had a long interview with them on the Piccadilly pavement, and
though the three ladies all talked at once they had not exhausted
their store. It had been agreed therefore that Henrietta should
come and dine with them in their lodgings in Jermyn Street at six
o'clock on the morrow, and she now bethought herself of this
engagement. She prepared to start for Jermyn Street, taking leave
first of Ralph Touchett and Isabel, who, seated on garden chairs
in another part of the enclosure, were occupied--if the term may
be used--with an exchange of amenities less pointed than the
practical colloquy of Miss Stackpole and Mr. Bantling. When it
had been settled between Isabel and her friend that they should
be reunited at some reputable hour at Pratt's Hotel, Ralph
remarked that the latter must have a cab. She couldn't walk all
the way to Jermyn Street.

"I suppose you mean it's improper for me to walk alone!"
Henrietta exclaimed. "Merciful powers, have I come to this?"

"There's not the slightest need of your walking alone," Mr.
Bantling gaily interposed. "I should be greatly pleased to go
with you."

"I simply meant that you'd be late for dinner," Ralph returned.
"Those poor ladies may easily believe that we refuse, at the
last, to spare you."

"You had better have a hansom, Henrietta," said Isabel.

"I'll get you a hansom if you'll trust me," Mr. Bantling went on.

"We might walk a little till we meet one."

"I don't see why I shouldn't trust him, do you?" Henrietta
enquired of Isabel.

"I don't see what Mr. Bantling could do to you," Isabel
obligingly answered; "but, if you like, we'll walk with you till
you find your cab."

"Never mind; we'll go alone. Come on, Mr. Bantling, and take care
you get me a good one."

Mr. Bantling promised to do his best, and the two took their
departure, leaving the girl and her cousin together in the
square, over which a clear September twilight had now begun to
gather. It was perfectly still; the wide quadrangle of dusky
houses showed lights in none of the windows, where the shutters
and blinds were closed; the pavements were a vacant expanse, and,
putting aside two small children from a neighbouring slum, who,
attracted by symptoms of abnormal animation in the interior,
poked their faces between the rusty rails of the enclosure, the
most vivid object within sight was the big red pillar-post on the
southeast corner.

"Henrietta will ask him to get into the cab and go with her to
Jermyn Street," Ralph observed. He always spoke of Miss Stackpole
as Henrietta.

"Very possibly," said his companion.

"Or rather, no, she won't," he went on. "But Bantling will ask
leave to get in."

"Very likely again. I'm glad very they're such good friends."

"She has made a conquest. He thinks her a brilliant woman. It may
go far," said Ralph.

Isabel was briefly silent. "I call Henrietta a very brilliant
woman, but I don't think it will go far. They would never really
know each other. He has not the least idea what she really is,
and she has no just comprehension of Mr. Bantling."

"There's no more usual basis of union than a mutual
misunderstanding. But it ought not to be so difficult to
understand Bob Bantling," Ralph added. "He is a very simple
organism."

"Yes, but Henrietta's a simpler one still. And, pray, what am I
to do?" Isabel asked, looking about her through the fading light,
in which the limited landscape-gardening of the square took on a
large and effective appearance. "I don't imagine that you'll
propose that you and I, for our amusement, shall drive about
London in a hansom."

"There's no reason we shouldn't stay here--if you don't dislike
it. It's very warm; there will he half an hour yet before dark;
and if you permit it I'll light a cigarette."

"You may do what you please," said Isabel, "if you'll amuse me
till seven o'clock. I propose at that hour to go back and partake
of a simple and solitary repast--two poached eggs and a muffin--
at Pratt's Hotel."

"Mayn't I dine with you?" Ralph asked.

"No, you'll dine at your club."

They had wandered back to their chairs in the centre of the
square again, and Ralph had lighted his cigarette. It would have
given him extreme pleasure to be present in person at the modest
little feast she had sketched; but in default of this he liked
even being forbidden. For the moment, however, he liked immensely
being alone with her, in the thickening dusk, in the centre of
the multitudinous town; it made her seem to depend upon him and
to be in his power. This power he could exert but vaguely; the
best exercise of it was to accept her decisions submissively
which indeed there was already an emotion in doing. "Why won't
you let me dine with you?" he demanded after a pause.

"Because I don't care for it."

"I suppose you're tired of me."

"I shall be an hour hence. You see I have the gift of
foreknowledge."

"Oh, I shall be delightful meanwhile," said Ralph.

But he said nothing more, and as she made no rejoinder they sat
some time in a stillness which seemed to contradict his promise
of entertainment. It seemed to him she was preoccupied, and he
wondered what she was thinking about; there were two or three
very possible subjects. At last he spoke again. "Is your
objection to my society this evening caused by your
expectation of another visitor?"

She turned her head with a glance of her clear, fair eyes.
"Another visitor? What visitor should I have?"

He had none to suggest; which made his question seem to himself
silly as well as brutal. "You've a great many friends that I
don't know. You've a whole past from which I was perversely
excluded."

"You were reserved for my future. You must remember that my past
is over there across the water. There's none of it here in
London."

"Very good, then, since your future is seated beside you. Capital
thing to have your future so handy." And Ralph lighted another
cigarette and reflected that Isabel probably meant she had
received news that Mr. Caspar Goodwood had crossed to Paris.
After he had lighted his cigarette he puffed it a while, and then
he resumed. "I promised just now to be very amusing; but you see
I don't come up to the mark, and the fact is there's a good deal
of temerity in one's undertaking to amuse a person like you. What
do you care for my feeble attempts? You've grand ideas--you've a
high standard in such matters. I ought at least to bring in a
band of music or a company of mountebanks."

"One mountebank's enough, and you do very well. Pray go on, and
in another ten minutes I shall begin to laugh."

"I assure you I'm very serious," said Ralph. "You do really ask a
great deal."

"I don't know what you mean. I ask nothing."

"You accept nothing," said Ralph. She coloured, and now suddenly
it seemed to her that she guessed his meaning. But why should he
speak to her of such things? He hesitated a little and then he
continued: "There's something I should like very much to say to
you. It's a question I wish to ask. It seems to me I've a right
to ask it, because I've a kind of interest in the answer."

"Ask what you will," Isabel replied gently, "and I'll try to
satisfy you."

"Well then, I hope you won't mind my saying that Warburton has
told me of something that has passed between you."

Isabel suppressed a start; she sat looking at her open fan. "Very
good; I suppose it was natural he should tell you."

"I have his leave to let you know he has done so. He has some
hope still," said Ralph.

"Still?"

"He had it a few days ago."

"I don't believe he has any now," said the girl.

"I'm very sorry for him then; he's such an honest man."

"Pray, did he ask you to talk to me?"

"No, not that. But he told me because he couldn't help it. We're
old friends, and he was greatly disappointed. He sent me a line
asking me to come and see him, and I drove over to Lockleigh the
day before he and his sister lunched with us. He was very
heavy-hearted; he had just got a letter from you."

"Did he show you the letter?" asked Isabel with momentary
loftiness.

"By no means. But he told me it was a neat refusal. I was very
sorry for him," Ralph repeated.

For some moments Isabel said nothing; then at last, "Do you know
how often he had seen me?" she enquired. "Five or six times."

"That's to your glory."

"It's not for that I say it."

"What then do you say it for. Not to prove that poor Warburton's
state of mind's superficial, because I'm pretty sure you don't
think that."

Isabel certainly was unable to say she thought it; but presently
she said something else. "If you've not been requested by Lord
Warburton to argue with me, then you're doing it disinterestedly
--or for the love of argument."

"I've no wish to argue with you at all. I only wish to leave you
alone. I'm simply greatly interested in your own sentiments."

"I'm greatly obliged to you!" cried Isabel with a slightly
nervous laugh.

"Of course you mean that I'm meddling in what doesn't concern me.
But why shouldn't I speak to you of this matter without annoying
you or embarrassing myself? What's the use of being your cousin
if I can't have a few privileges? What's the use of adoring you
without hope of a reward if I can't have a few compensations?
What's the use of being ill and disabled and restricted to mere
spectatorship at the game of life if I really can't see the show
when I've paid so much for my ticket? Tell me this," Ralph went
on while she listened to him with quickened attention. "What had
you in mind when you refused Lord Warburton?"

"What had I in mind?"

"What was the logic--the view of your situation--that dictated so
remarkable an act?"

"I didn't wish to marry him--if that's logic."

"No, that's not logic--and I knew that before. It's really
nothing, you know. What was it you said to yourself? You
certainly said more than that."

Isabel reflected a moment, then answered with a question of her
own. "Why do you call it a remarkable act? That's what your
mother thinks too."

"Warburton's such a thorough good sort; as a man, I consider he
has hardly a fault. And then he's what they call here no end of a
swell. He has immense possessions, and his wife would be thought
a superior being. He unites the intrinsic and the extrinsic
advantages."

Isabel watched her cousin as to see how far he would go. "I
refused him because he was too perfect then. I'm not perfect
myself, and he's too good for me. Besides, his perfection would
irritate me."

"That's ingenious rather than candid," said Ralph. "As a fact you
think nothing in the world too perfect for you."

"Do you think I'm so good?"

"No, but you're exacting, all the same, without the excuse of
thinking yourself good. Nineteen women out of twenty, however,
even of the most exacting sort, would have managed to do with
Warburton. Perhaps you don't know how he has been stalked."

"I don't wish to know. But it seems to me," said Isabel, "that one
day when we talked of him you mentioned odd things in him."
Ralph smokingly considered. "I hope that what I said then had no
weight with you; for they were not faults, the things I spoke of:
they were simply peculiarities of his position. If I had known he
wished to marry you I'd never have alluded to them. I think I
said that as regards that position he was rather a sceptic. It
would have been in your power to make him a believer."

"I think not. I don't understand the matter, and I'm not
conscious of any mission of that sort. You're evidently
disappointed," Isabel added, looking at her cousin with rueful
gentleness. "You'd have liked me to make such a marriage."

"Not in the least. I'm absolutely without a wish on the subject.
I don't pretend to advise you, and I content myself with watching
you--with the deepest interest."

She gave rather a conscious sigh. "I wish I could be as
interesting to myself as I am to you!"

"There you're not candid again; you're extremely interesting to
yourself. Do you know, however," said Ralph, "that if you've
really given Warburton his final answer I'm rather glad it has
been what it was. I don't mean I'm glad for you, and still less
of course for him. I'm glad for myself."

"Are you thinking of proposing to me?"

"By no means. From the point of view I speak of that would be
fatal; I should kill the goose that supplies me with the material
of my inimitable omelettes. I use that animal as the symbol of my
insane illusions. What I mean is that I shall have the thrill of
seeing what a young lady does who won't marry Lord Warburton."

"That's what your mother counts upon too," said Isabel.

"Ah, there will be plenty of spectators! We shall hang on the
rest of your career. I shall not see all of it, but I shall
probably see the most interesting years. Of course if you were to
marry our friend you'd still have a career--a very decent, in
fact a very brilliant one. But relatively speaking it would be a
little prosaic. It would be definitely marked out in advance; it
would be wanting in the unexpected. You know I'm extremely fond
of the unexpected, and now that you've kept the game in your
hands I depend on your giving us some grand example of it."

"I don't understand you very well," said Isabel, "but I do so
well enough to be able to say that if you look for grand examples
of anything from me I shall disappoint you."

"You'll do so only by disappointing yourself and that will go
hard with you!"

To this she made no direct reply; there was an amount of truth in
it that would bear consideration. At last she said abruptly: "I
don't see what harm there is in my wishing not to tie myself. I
don't want to begin life by marrying. There are other things a
woman can do."

"There's nothing she can do so well. But you're of course so
many-sided."

"If one's two-sided it's enough," said Isabel.

"You're the most charming of polygons!" her companion broke out.
At a glance from his companion, however, he became grave, and to
prove it went on: "You want to see life--you'll be hanged if you
don't, as the young men say."

"I don't think I want to see it as the young men want to see it.
But I do want to look about me."

"You want to drain the cup of experience."

"No, I don't wish to touch the cup of experience. It's a poisoned
drink! I only want to see for myself."

"You want to see, but not to feel," Ralph remarked.

"I don't think that if one's a sentient being one can make the
distinction. I'm a good deal like Henrietta. The other day when I
asked her if she wished to marry she said: 'Not till I've seen
Europe!' I too don't wish to marry till I've seen Europe."

"You evidently expect a crowned head will be struck with you."

"No, that would be worse than marrying Lord Warburton. But it's
getting very dark," Isabel continued, "and I must go home." She
rose from her place, but Ralph only sat still and looked at her.
As he remained there she stopped, and they exchanged a gaze that
was full on either side, but especially on Ralph's, of utterances
too vague for words.

"You've answered my question," he said at last. "You've told me
what I wanted. I'm greatly obliged to you."

"It seems to me I've told you very little."

"You've told me the great thing: that the world interests you and
that you want to throw yourself into it."

Her silvery eyes shone a moment in the dusk. "I never said that."
"I think you meant it. Don't repudiate it. It's so fine!"

"I don't know what you're trying to fasten upon me, for I'm not
in the least an adventurous spirit. Women are not like men."

Ralph slowly rose from his seat and they walked together to the
gate of the square. "No," he said; "women rarely boast of their
courage. Men do so with a certain frequency."

"Men have it to boast of!"

"Women have it too. You've a great deal."

"Enough to go home in a cab to Pratt's Hotel, but not more."

Ralph unlocked the gate, and after they had passed out he
fastened it. "We'll find your cab," he said; and as they turned
toward a neighbouring street in which this quest might avail he
asked her again if he mightn't see her safely to the inn.

"By no means," she answered; "you're very tired; you must go home
and go to bed."

The cab was found, and he helped her into it, standing a moment
at the door. "When people forget I'm a poor creature I'm often
incommoded," he said. "But it's worse when they remember it!"

Henry James