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Some Short Stories by Henry James

Part 3 out of 3

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"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
your Americans!"

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?"

"All. Now."

"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
immediate--"really rich?"

"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
him before?"

"Dear no!"

"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!"

"So soon?"

"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
she could.

"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
keeping you?"

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!"

"But how?"

"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
at HIM."

"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."

"Have to?"

"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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