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THE TRAGIC MUSE 




MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited 

LONDON • BOMBAY • CALCUTTA • MADRAS 
MELBOURNE 

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

NEW YORK • BOSTON • CHICAGO 
DALLAS • SAN FRANCISCO 

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, Ltd. 

TORONTO 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 



BY 



HENRY JAMES 



IN TWO VOLUMES 
VOL. I 




MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED 

ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON 

I 92 I 



COPYRIGHT 



PS 

v.! 



PREFACE 

I PROFESS a certain vagueness of remembrance in 
respect to the origin and growth of The Tragic 
Muse, which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly again, 
beginning January 1889 and running on, inordinately, 
several months beyond its proper twelve. If it be 
ever of interest and profit to put one's finger on the 
productive germ of a work of art, and if in fact a lucid 
account of any such work involves that prime identi- 
fication, I can but look on the present fiction as a poor 
fatherless and motherless, a sort of unregistered and 
unacknowledged birth. I fail to recover my precious 
first moment of consciousness of the idea to which it 
was to give form ; to recognise in it — as I like to do in 
general — the effect of some particular sharp impression 
or concussion. I call such remembered glimmers 
always precious, because without them comes no clear 
vision of what one may have intended, and without 
that vision no straight measure of what one may 
have succeeded in doing. What I make out from 
furthest back is that I must have had from still further 
back, must in fact practically have always had, the 
happy thought of some dramatic picture of the " artist- 
life " and of the difficult terms on which it is at the 
best secured and enjoyed, the general question of its 
having to be not altogether easily paid for. To "do 
something about art " — art, that is, as a human com- 
plication and a social stumbling-block — must have 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

been for me early a good deal of a nursed intention, 
the conflict between art and " the world " striking 
me thus betimes as one of the half-dozen great primary 
motives. I remember even having taken for granted 
with this fond inveteracy that no one of these pregnant 
themes was likely to prove under the test more full of 
matter. This being the case, meanwhile, what would 
all experience have done but enrich one's conviction ? 
— since if, on the one hand, I had gained a more and 
more intimate view of the nature of art and the con- 
ditions therewith imposed, so the world was a con- 
ception that clearly required, and that would for ever 
continue to take, any amount of filUng-in. The happy 
and fruitful truth, at all events, was that there was 
opposition— why there should be was another matter — 
and that the opposition would beget an infinity of 
situations. What had doubtless occurred in fact, 
moreover, was that just this question of the essence 
and the reasons of the opposition had shown itself to 
demand the hght of experience ; so that to the growth 
of experience, truly, the treatment of the subject had 
yielded. It had waited for that advantage. 

Yet I continue to see experience giving me its jog 
mainly in the form of an invitation from the gentle 
editor of the Atlantic, the late Thomas Bailey Aldrich, 
to contribute to his pages a serial that should run 
through the year. That friendly appeal becomes thus 
the most definite statement I can make of the 
" genesis " of the book ; though from the moment 
of its reaching me everything else in the matter 
seems to five again. What lives not least, to be quite 
candid, is the fact that I was to see this production 
make a virtual end, for the time, as by its sinister 
effect — though for reasons still obscure to me — of the 
pleasant old custom of the " running " of the novel. 
Not for many years was I to feel the practice, for my 
benefit, confidingly revive. The influence of The 

vi 



PREFACE 

Tragic Muse was thus exactly other than what I had 
all earnestly (if of course privately enough) invoked 
for it, and I remember well the particular chill, at last, 
of the sense of my having launched it in a great grey 
void from which no echo or message whatever would 
come back. None, in the event, ever came, and as I 
now read the book over I find the circumstance make, 
in its name, for a special tenderness of charity ; even 
for that finer consideration hanging in the parental 
breast about the maimed or slighted, the disfigured 
or defeated, the unlucky or unlikely child — with this 
hapless small mortal thought of further as somehow 
" compromising." I am thus able to take the thing 
as having quite wittingly and undisturbedly existed 
for itself alone, and to liken it to some aromatic bag 
of gathered herbs of which the string has never been 
loosed ; or, better still, to some jar of potpourri, 
shaped and overfigured and polished, but of which 
the lid, never lifted, has provided for the intense 
accumulation of the fragrance within. The consistent, 
the sustained, preserved tone of The Tragic Muse, its 
constant and doubtless rather fine-drawn truth to 
its particular sought pitch and accent, are, critically 
speaking, its principal merit — the inner harmony that 
I perhaps presumptuously permit myself to compare 
to an unevaporated scent. 

After which indeed I may well be summoned to 
say what I mean, in such a business, by an appreciable 
" tone " and how I can justify my claim to it — a 
demonstration that will await us later. Suffice it 
just here that I find the latent historic clue in my 
hand again with the easy recall of my prompt grasp of 
such a chance to make a story about art. There was 
my subject this time — all mature with having long 
waited, and with the blest dignity that my original 
perception of its value was quite lost in the mists of 
youth. I must long have carried in my head the 

vii 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

notion of a young man who should amid difficulty — 
the difficulties being the story — have abandoned 
" pubhc Hfe " for the zealous pursuit of some sup- 
posedly minor craft ; just as, evidently, there had 
hovered before me some possible picture (but all 
comic and ironic) of one of the most saHent London 
" social " passions, the unappeasable curiosity for the 
things of the theatre ; for every one of them, that is, 
except the drama itself, and for the " personality " 
of the performer (almost any performer quite suffi- 
ciently serving) in particular. This latter, verily, had 
struck me as an aspect appeahng mainly to satiric 
treatment ; the only adequate or effective treatment, 
I had again and again felt, for most of the distinctively 
social aspects of London : the general artlessly histri- 
onised air of things caused so many examples to spring 
from behind any hedge. What came up, however, 
at once, for my own stretched canvas, was that it 
would have to be ample, give me really space to turn 
round, and that a single illustrative case might easily 
be meagre fare. The young man who should " chuck " 
admired poUtics, and of course some other admired 
object with them, would be all very well ; but he 
wouldn't be enough — therefore what should one say 
to some other young man who would chuck something 
and somebody else, admired in their way too ? 

There need never, at the worst, be any difficulty 
about the things advantageously chuckable for art ; 
the question is all but of choosing them in the heap.' 
Yet were I to represent a struggle — an interesting 
one, indispensably— with the passions of the theatre 
(as a profession, or at least as an absorption) I should 
have to place the theatre in another hght than the 
satiric. This, however, would by good luck be 
perfectly possible too — without a sacrifice of truth ; 
and I should doubtless even be able to make my 
theatric case as important as I might desire it. It 

viii 



PREFACE 



seemed clear that I needed big cases — small ones would 
practically give my central idea away ; and I make 
out now my still labouring under the illusion that the 
case of the sacrifice for art can ever be, with truth, 
with taste, with discretion involved, apparently and 
showily " big." I daresay it ghmmered upon me 
even then that the very sharpest difficulty of the victim 
of the conflict I should seek to represent, and the very 
highest interest of his predicament, dwell deep in the 
fact that his repudiation of the great obvious, great 
moral or functional or useful character, shall just have 
to consent to resemble a surrender for absolutely 
nothing. Those characters are all large and ex- 
pansive, seated and established and endowed ; whereas 
the most charming truth about the preference for art 
is that to parade abroad so thoroughly inward and 
so naturally embarrassed a matter is to falsify and 
vulgarise it ; that as a preference attended with the 
honours of publicity it is indeed nowhere ; that in 
fact, under the rule of its sincerity, its only honours 
are those of contradiction, concentration and a 
seemingly deplorable indifference to everything but 
itself. Nothing can well figure as less " big," in an 
honest thesis, than a marked instance of somebody's 
wiUingness to pass mainly for an ass. Of these things 
I must, I say, have been in strictness aware ; what I 
perhaps failed of was to note that if a certain romantic 
glamour (even that of mere eccentricity or of a fine 
perversity) may be flung over the act of exchange of a 
" career " for the esthetic life in general, the prose and 
the modesty of the matter yet come in with any 
exhibition of the particular branch of esthetics 
selected. Then it is that the attitude of hero or 
heroine may look too much — for the romantic effect — 
like a low crouching over proved trifles. Art indeed 
has in our day taken on so many honours and emolu- 
ments that the recognition of its importance is more 



IX 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

than a custom, has become on occasion almost a fury : 
the line is drawn- — especially in the English world 
— only at the importance of heeding what it may 
mean. 

The more I turn my pieces over, at any rate, the 
more I now see I must have found in them, and I 
remember how, once well in presence of my three 
typical examples, my fear of too ample a canvas quite 
dropped. The only question was that if I had marked 
my poHtical case, from so far back, for "a story by 
itself," and then marked my theatrical case for another, 
the joining together of these interests, originally seen 
as separate, might, all disgracefully, betray the seam., 
show for mechanical and superficial. A story was a 
story, a picture a picture, and I had a mortal horror 
of two stories, two pictures, in one. The reason of 
this was the clearest — my subject was immediately, 
under that disadvantage, so cheated of its indispen- 
sable centre as to become of no more use for expressing 
a main intention than a wheel without a hub is of use 
for moving a cart. It was a fact, apparently, that one 
had on occasion seen two pictures in one ; v/ere there 
not for instance certain subHme Tintorettos at Venice, 
a measureless Crucifixion in especial, which showed 
without loss of authority half-a-dozen actions separ- 
ately taking place ? Yes, that might be, but there 
had surely been nevertheless a mighty pictorial fusion, 
so that the virtue of composition had somehow 
thereby come all mysteriously to its own. Of course 
the affair would be simple enough if composition 
could be kept out of the question ; yet by what art 
or process, what bars and bolts, what unmuzzled dogs 
and pointed guns, perform that feat ? I had to know 
myself utterly inapt for any such valour and recognise 
that, to make it possible, sundry things should have 
begun for me much further back than I had felt them 
even in their dawn. A picture without composition 



PREFACE 

slights its most precious chance for beauty, and is, 
moreover, not composed at all unless the painter knows 
how that principle of health and safety, working as an 
absolutely premeditated art, has prevailed. There 
may in its absence be life, incontestably, as The 
Newcomes has life, as Les Trois Mousquetaires, as 
Tolstoi's Peace and War, have it ; but what do 
such large, loose, baggy monsters, with their queer 
elements of the accidental and the arbitrary, artistic- 
ally mean ? We have heard it maintained, we well 
remember, that such things are " superior to art " ; 
but we understand least of all what that may mean, 
and we look in vain for the artist, the divine explana- 
tory genius, who will come to our aid and tell us. 
There is life and life, and as waste is only life sacrificed 
and thereby prevented from " counting," I delight 
in a deep-breathing economy and an organic form. 
My business was accordingly to " go in " for complete 
pictorial fusion, some such common interest between 
my two first notions as would, in spite of their birth 
under quite different stars, do them no violence at all. 

I recall with this confirmed infatuation of retro- 
spect that through the mild perceptions I here glance 
at there struck for The Tragic Muse the first hour 
of a season of no small subjective felicity ; lighted 
mainly, I seem to see, by a wide west window that, 
high aloft, looked over near and far London sunsets, 
a half-grey, half-flushed expanse of London life. The 
production of the thing, which yet took a good many 
months, Uves for me again all contemporaneously in 
that full projection, upon my very table, of the good 
fog-filtered Kensington mornings ; which had a way 
indeed of seeing the sunset in and which at the very 
last are merged to memory in a different and a 
sharper pressure, that of an hotel bedroom in Paris 
during the autumn of 1889, with the Exposition du 
Centenaire about to end — and my long story, through 

I xi b 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

the usual difficulties, as well. The usual difficulties 
— and I fairly cherish the record as some adventurer 
in another line may hug the sense of his inveterate 
habit of just saving in time the neck he ever un- 
discourageably risks — were those bequeathed as a 
particular vice of the artistic spirit, against which 
vigilance had been destined from the first to exert 
itself in vain, and the effect of which was that again 
and again, perversely, incurably, the centre of my 
structure would insist on placing itself not, so to speak, 
in the middle. It mattered little that the reader with 
the idea or the suspicion of a structural centre is the 
rarest of friends and of critics— a bird, it would seem, 
as merely fabled as the phoenix : the terminational 
terror was none the less certain to break in and my 
work threaten to masquerade for me as an active 
figure condemned to the disgrace of legs too short, 
ever so much too short, for its body. I urge myself 
to the candid confession that in very few of my pro- 
ductions, to my eye, has the organic centre succeeded 
in getting into proper position. 

Time after time, then, has the precious waistband 
or girdle, studded and buckled and placed for brave 
outward show, practically worked itself, and in spite 
of desperate remonstrance, or in other words essential 
counterplotting, to a point perilously near the knees 
—perilously I mean for the freedom of these parts. 
In several of my compositions this displacement has 
so succeeded, at the crisis, in defying and resisting 
me, has appeared so fraught with probable dishonour, 
that I still turn upon them, in spite of the greater or 
less success of final dissimulation, a rueful and wonder- 
ing eye. These productions have in fact, if I may be 
so bold about it, specious and spurious centres alto- 
gether, to make up for the failure of the true. As to 
which in my list they are, however, that is another 
business, not on any terms to be made known. Such 

xii 



PREFACE 

at least would seem my resolution so far as I have 
thus proceeded. Of any attention ever arrested by 
the pages forming the object of chis reference that 
rigour of discrimination has wholly and consistently 
failed, I gather, to constitute a part. In which fact 
there is perhaps after all a rough justice — since the 
infirmity I speak of, for example, has been always 
but the direct and immediate fruit of a positive excess 
of foresight, the overdone desire to provide for future 
need and lay up heavenly treasure against the de- 
mands of my climax. If the art of the drama, as a 
great French master of it has said, is above all the art 
of preparations, that is true only to a less extent of the 
art of the novel, and true exactly in the degree in 
which the art of the particular novel comes near that of 
the drama. The first half of a fiction insists ever on 
figuring to me as the stage or theatre for the second 
half, and I have in general given so much space to 
making the theatre propitious that my halves have 
too often proved strangely unequal. Thereby has 
arisen with grim regularity the question of artfully, 
of consummately masking the fault and conferring 
on the false quantity the brave appearance of the 
true. 

But I am far from pretending that these despera- 
tions of ingenuity have not — as through seeming 
most of the very essence of the problem — their ex- 
asperated charm ; so far from it that my particular 
supreme predicament in the Paris hotel, after an undue 
primary leakage of time, no doubt, over at the great 
river-spanning museum of the Champ de Mars and the 
Trocadero, fairly takes on to me now the tender grace 
of a day that is dead. Re-reading the last chapters 
of The Tragic Muse I catch again the very odour of 
Paris, which comes up in the rich rumble of the Rue 
de la Paix — with which my room itself, for that 
matter, seems impregnated — and which hangs for 

xiii 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

reminiscence about the embarrassed effort to " finish," 
not ignobly, within my already exceeded limits ; an 
effort prolonged each day to those late afternoon 
hours during which the tone of the terrible city seemed 
to deepen about one to an effect strangely composed 
at once of the auspicious and the fatal. The " plot " 
of Paris thickened at such hours beyond any other 
plot in the world, I think ; but there one sat mean- 
while with another, on one's hands, absolutely requir- 
ing precedence. Not the least imperative of one's 
conditions was thus that one should have really, should 
have finely and (given one's scale) concisely treated 
one's subject, in spite of there being so much of the 
confounded irreducible quantity still to treat. If I 
spoke just now, however, of the " exasperated " 
charm of supreme difficulty, that is because the 
challenge of economic representation so easily becomes, 
in any of the arts, intensely interesting to meet. To 
put all that is possible of one's idea into a form and 
compass that will contain and express it only by 
dehcate adjustments and an exquisite chemistry, so 
that there will at the end be neither a drop of one's 
liquor left nor a hair's breadth of the rim of one's 
glass to spare— every artist will remember how often 
that sort of necessity has carried with it its particular 
inspiration. Therein lies the secret of the appeal, 
to his mind, of the successfully foreshortened thing, 
where representation is arrived at, as I have already 
elsewhere had occasion to urge, not by the addition 
of items (a light that has for its attendant shadow 
a possible dryness) but by' the art of figuring synthetic- 
ally, a compactness into which the imagination may 
cut thick, as into the rich density of wedding-cake. 
The moral of all which indeed, I fear, is, perhaps too 
trivially, but that the " thick," the false, the dis- 
sembling second half of the work before me, associated 
throughout with the effort to weight my dramatic 

xiv 



PREFACE 

values as heavily as might be, since they had to be so 
few, presents that effort as at the very last a quite 
convulsive, yet in its way highly agreeable, spasm. 
Of such mild prodigies is the " history " of any specific 
creative effort composed ! 

But I have got too much out of the " old " Kensing- 
ton light of twenty years ago — a hngering obhque 
ray of which, to-day surely quite extinct, played for 
a benediction over my canvas. From the moment I 
made out, at my high-perched west window, my 
lucky title, that is from the moment Miriam Rooth 
herself had given it me, so this young woman had 
given me with it her own position in the book, and so 
that in turn had given me my precious unity, to which 
no more than Miriam was either Nick Dormer or Peter 
Sherringham to be sacrificed. Much of the interest 
of the matter was immediately, therefore, in working 
out the detail of that unity and — always entrancing 
range of questions — the order, the reason, the relation, 
of presented aspects. With three general aspects, 
that of Miriam's case, that of Nick's and that of 
Sherringham's, there was work in plenty cut out ; 
since happy as it might be to say, " My several actions 
beautifully become one," the point of the affair would 
be in showing them beautifully become so — without 
which showing foul failure hovered and pounced. 
Well, the pleasure of handling an action (or, otherwise 
expressed, of a " story ") is at the worst, for a story- 
teller, immense, and the interest of such a question 
as for example keeping Nick Dormer's story his and 
yet making it also and all effectively in a large part 
Peter Sherringham's, of keeping Sherringham's his 
and yet making it in its high degree his kinsman's too, 
and Miriam Rooth 's into the bargain ; just as Miriam 
Rooth's is by the same token quite operatively his 
and Nick's, and just as that of each of the young men, 
by an equal logic, is very contributively hers — the 

XV 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

interest of such a question, I say, is ever so consider- 
ably the interest of the system on which the v/hole 
thing is done. I see to-day that it was but half a 
system to say, " Oh Miriam, a case herself, is the 
link between the two other cases " ; that device was 
to ask for as much help as it gave and to require a good 
deal more application than it announced on the 
surface. The sense of a system saves the painter from 
the baseness of the arbitrary stroke, the touch without 
its reason, but as payment for that service the process 
insists on being kept impeccably the right one. 

These are intimate truths indeed, of which the 
charm mainly comes out but on experiment and in 
practice ; yet I like to have it well before me here that, 
after all, The Tragic Muse makes it not easy to say 
which of the situations concerned in it predominates 
and rules. What has become in that imperfect order, 
accordingly, of the famous centre of one's subject ? 
It is surely not in Nick's consciousness — since why, if 
it be, are we treated to such an intolerable dose of 
Sherringham's ? It can't be in Sherringham's — we 
have for that altogether an excess of Nick's. How, 
on the other hand, can it be in Miriam's, given that we 
have no direct exhibition of hers whatever, that we 
get at it all inferentially and inductively, seeing it only 
through a more or less bewildered interpretation of 
it by others. The emphasis is all on an absolutely 
objective Miriam, and, this affirmed, how— with such 
an amount of exposed subjectivity all round her — 
can so dense a medium be a centre ? Such questions 
as those go straight — thanks to which they are, I 
profess, delightful ; going straight they are of the sort 
that makes answers possible. Miriam is central then 
to analysis, in spite of being objective ; central in 
virtue of the fact that the whole thing has visibly, 
from the first, to get itself done in dramatic, or at least 
in scenic conditions — though scenic conditions which 

xvi 



PREFACE 

are as near an approach to the dramatic as the novel 
may permit itself and which have this in common with 
the latter, that they move in the hght of alternation. 
This imposes a consistency other than that of the 
novel at its loosest, and, for one's subject, a different 
view and a different placing of the centre. The charm 
of the scenic consistency, the consistency of the 
multiphcation of aspects, that of making them amus- 
ingly various, had haunted the author of The Tragic 
Muse from far back, and he was in due course to 
yield to it all luxuriously, too luxuriously perhaps, 
in The Awkward Age, as will doubtless with the 
extension of these remarks be complacently shown. 

To put himself at any rate as much as possible 
under the protection of it had been ever his practice 
(he had notably done so in The Princess Casamas- 
sima, so frankly panoramic and processional) ; and 
in what case could this protection have had more price 
than in the one before us ? No character in a play 
(any play not a mere monologue) has, for the right 
expression of the thing, a usurping consciousness ; 
the consciousness of others is exhibited exactly in the 
same way as that of the " hero " ; the prodigious 
consciousness of Hamlet, the most capacious and most 
crowded, the moral presence the most asserted, in the 
whole range of fiction, only takes its turn with that 
of the other agents of the story, no matter how 
occasional these may be. It is left, in other words, 
to answer for itself equally with theirs : wherefore 
(by a parity of reasoning if not of example) Miriam's 
might without inconsequence be placed on the same 
footing •; and all in spite of the fact that the " moral 
presence " of each of the men most importantly con- 
cerned with her — or with the second of whom she 
at least is importantly concerned— is independently 
answered for. The idea of the book being, as I have 
said, a picture of some of the personal consequences 

xvii 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

of the art-appetite raised to intensity, swollen to 
voracity, the heavy emphasis falls where the symbol 
of some of the complications so begotten might be 
made (as I judged, heaven forgive me !) most " amus- 
ing " : amusing I mean in the blest very modern 
sense. I never " go behind " Miriam ; only poor 
Sherringham goes, a great deal, and Nick Dormer goes 
a little, and the author, while they so waste wonder- 
ment, goes behind them : but none the less she is as 
thoroughly symbolic, as functional, for illustration of 
the idea, as either of them, while her image bad seemed 
susceptible of a livelier and " prettier " concretion. 
I had desired for her, I remember, all manageable 
vividness — so ineluctable had it long appeared to 
" do the actress," to touch the theatre, to meet that 
connexion somehow or other, in any free plunge of the 
speculative fork into the contemporary social salad. 

The late R. L. Stevenson was to write to me, I 
recall — and precisely on the occasion of The Tragic 
Muse — that he was at a loss to conceive how one 
could find an interest in anything so vulgar or pretend 
to gather fruit in so scrubby an orchard ; but the 
view of a creature of the stage, the view of the " histri- 
onic temperament," as suggestive much less, verily, 
in respect to the poor stage per se than in respect to 
" art " at large, affected me in spite of that as justly 
tenable. An objection of a more pointed order was 
forced upon me by an acute friend later on and in 
another connexion : the challenge of one's right, in 
any pretended show of social realities, to attach to the 
image of a " public character," a supposed particular 
celebrity, a range of interest, of intrinsic distinction, 
greater than any such display of importance on the 
part of eminent members of the class as we see them 
about us. There was a nice point if one would — yet 
only nice enough, after all, to be easily amusing. We 
shall deal with it later on, however, in a more urgent 

xviii 



PREFACE 

connexion. What would have worried me much more 
had it dawned earher is the hght lately thrown by that 
admirable writer M. Anatole France on the question 
of any animated view of the histrionic temperament 
— a light that may well dazzle to distress any ingenu- 
ous worker in the same field. In those parts of his 
brief but inimitable Histoire Comique on which he is 
most to be congratulated — for there are some that 
prompt to reserves — he has " done the actress," as 
well as the actor, done above all the mountebank, 
the mummer and the cahotin, and mixed them up wdth 
the queer theatric air, in a manner that practically 
warns all other hands off the material for ever. At 
the same time I think I saw Miriam, and without a 
sacrifice of truth, that is of the particular glow of 
verisimilitude I wished her most to benefit by, in a 
complexity of relations finer than any that appear 
possible for the gentry of M. Anatole France. 

Her relation to Nick Dormer, for instance, was 
intended as a superior interest — that of being (while 
perfectly sincere, sincere for her, and therefore 
perfectly consonant with her impulse perpetually to 
perform and with her success in performing) the 
result of a touched imagination, a touched pride for 
" art," as well as of the charm cast on other sensi- 
bilities still. Dormer's relation to herself is a different 
matter, of which more presently ; but the sympathy 
she, poor young woman, very generously and intelli- 
gently offers him where most people have so stinted 
it, is disclosed largely at the cost of her egotism and 
her personal pretensions, even though in fact deter- 
mined by her sense of their together, Nick and she, 
postponing the " world " to their conception of other 
and finer decencies. Nick can't on the whole see — 
for I have represented him as in his day quite suffi- 
ciently troubled and anxious — why he should con- 
demn to ugly feebleness his most prized faculty (most 

xix 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

prized, at least, by himself) even in order to keep his 
seat in Parliament, to inherit Mr. Carteret's blessing 
and money, to gratify his mother and carry out the 
mission of his father, to marry Julia Dallow in fine, 
a beautiful imperative woman with a great many 
thousands a year. It all comes back in the last 
analysis to the individual vision of decency, the 
critical as well as the passionate judgement of it 
under sharp stress ; and Nick's vision and judgement, 
all on the esthetic ground, have beautifully coincided, 
to Miriam's imagination, with a now fully marked, 
an inspired and impenitent, choice of her own : so 
that, other considerations powerfully aiding indeed, 
she is ready to see their interest all splendidly as one. 
She is in the uplifted state to which sacrifices and sub- 
missions loom large, but loom so just because they 
must write sympathy, write passion, large. Her 
measure of what she would be capable of for him — 
capable, that is, of not asking of him — will depend on 
what he shall ask of her, but she has no fear of not 
being able to satisfy him, even to the point of " chuck- 
ing " for him, if need be, that artistic identity of her 
own which she has begun to build up. It will all be 
to the glory, therefore, of their common infatuation 
with " art " : she will doubtless be no less willing 
to serve his than she was eager to serve her own, 
purged now of the too great shrillness. 

This puts her quite on a different level from that 
of the vivid monsters of M. France, whose artistic 
identity is the last thing they wish to chuck — their 
only dismissal is of all material and social over- 
draping. Nick Dormer in point of fact asks of 
Miriam nothing but that she shall remain " awfully 
interesting to paint " ; but that is his relation, which, 
as I say, is quite a matter by itself. He at any rate, 
luckily for both of them it may be, doesn't put her to 
the test : he is so busy with his own case, busy with 

XX 



PREFACE 

testing himself and feeling his reality. He has seen 
himself as giving up precious things for an object, 
and that object has somehow not been the young 
woman in question, nor anything very nearly like her. 
She, on the other hand, has asked everything of Peter 
Sherringham, who has asked everything of her ; and 
it is in so doing that she has really most testified for 
art and invited him to testify. With his professed 
interest in the theatre — one of those deep subjections 
that, in men of " taste," the Comedie Fran9aise used 
in old days to conspire for and some such odd and 
affecting examples of which were to be noted — he yet 
offers her his hand and an introduction to the very 
best society if she will leave the stage. The power — 
and her having the sense of the power — to " shine " 
in the world is his highest measure of her, the test 
applied by him to her beautiful human value ; just 
as the manner in which she turns on him is the applica- 
tion of her own standard and touchstone. She is 
perfectly sure of her own ; for — if there were nothing 
else, and there is much — she has tasted blood, so to 
speak, in the form of her so prompt and auspicious 
success with the public, leaving all probations behind 
(the whole of which, as the book gives it, is too rapid 
and sudden, though inevitably so : processes, periods, 
intervals, stages, degrees, connexions, may be easily 
enough and barely enough named, may be uncon- 
vincingly stated, in fiction, to the deep discredit of the 
writer, but it remains the very deuce to represent 
them, especially represent them under strong com- 
pression and in brief and subordinate terms ; and this 
even though the novelist who doesn't represent, and 
represent " all the time," is lost, exactly as much 
lost as the painter who, at his work and given his 
intention, doesn't paint " all the time "). 

Turn upon her friend at any rate Miriam does ; 
and one of my main points is missed if it fails to 

xxi 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

appear that she does so with absolute sincerity and 
with the cold passion of the high critic who knows, 
on sight of them together, the more or less dazzling 
false from the comparatively grey - coloured true. 
Sherringham's whole profession has been that he 
rejoices in her as she is, and that the theatre, the 
organised theatre, will be, as Matthew Arnold was in 
those very days pronouncing it, irresistible ; and it is 
the promptness with which he sheds his pretended 
faith as soon as it feels in the air the breath of reahty, 
as soon as it asks of him a proof or a sacrifice, it is 
this that excites her doubtless sufficiently arrogant 
scorn. Where is the virtue of his high interest if it 
has verily never been an interest to speak of and if 
all it has suddenly to suggest is that, in face of a 
serious call, it shall be unblushingly relinquished ? 
If he and she together, and her great field and future, 
and the whole cause they had armed and declared for, 
have not been serious things they have been base 
make-believes and trivialities — which is what in fact 
the homage of society to art always turns out so soon 
as art presumes not to be vulgar and futile. It is 
immensely the fashion and immensely edifying to 
listen to, this homage, while it confines its attention 
to vanities and frauds ; but it knows only terror, feels 
only horror, the moment that, instead of making all 
the concessions, art proceeds to ask for a few. Miriam 
is nothing if not strenuous, and evidently nothing if 
not " cheeky," where Sherringham is concerned at 
least : these, in the all-egotistical exhibition to which 
she is condemned, are the very elements of her figure 
and the very colours of her portrait. But she is mild 
and inconsequent for Nick Dormer (who demands of 
her so little) ; as if gravely and pityingly embracing 
the truth that his sacrifice, on the right side, is 
probably to have very little of her sort of recompense. 
I must have had it well before me that she was all 

xxii 



PREFACE 

aware of the small strain a great sacrifice to Nick would 
cost her — by reason of the strong effect on her of his 
own superior logic, in which the very intensity of con- 
centration was so to find its account. 

If the man, however, who holds her personally dear 
yet holds her extremely personal message to the world 
cheap, so the man capable of a consistency and, as 
she regards the niktter, of an honesty so much higher 
than Sherringham's, virtually cares, " really " cares, 
no straw for his fellow-struggler. If Nick Dormer 
attracts and ail-indifferently holds her it is because, 
like herself and unlike Peter, he puts " art " first ; 
but the most he thus does for her in the event is to 
let her see how she may enjoy, in intimacy, the rigour 
it has taught him and which he cultivates at her 
expense. This is the situation in which we leave 
her, though there would be more still to be said about 
the difference for her of the two relations — that to 
each of the men — could I fondly suppose as much 
of the interest of the book " left over " for the reader 
as for myself. Sherringham, for instance, offers 
Miriam marriage, ever so " handsomely " ; but if 
nothing might lead me on further than the question 
of what it would have been open to us — us novelists, 
especially in the old days — to show, " serially," a 
young man in Nick Dormer's quite different position 
as offering or a young woman in Miriam's as taking, 
so for that very reason such an excursion is forbidden 
me. The trade of the stage-player, and above all 
of the actress, must have so many detestable sides for 
the person exercising it that we scarce imagine a full 
surrender to it without a full surrender, not less, to 
every immediate compensation, to every freedom 
and the largest ease within reach : which presentment 
of the possible case for Miriam would yet have been 
condemned — and on grounds both various and in- 
teresting to trace — to remain very imperfect. 

xxiii 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

I feel, moreover, that I might still, with space, 
abound in remarks about Nick's character and Nick's 
crisis suggested to my present more reflective vision. 
It strikes me, alas, that he is not quite so interesting 
as he was fondly intended to be, and this in spite of 
the multiplication, within the picture, of his pains and 
penalties ; so that while I turn this slight anomaly 
over I come upon a reason that affects me as singu- 
larly charming and touching and at which indeed I 
have already glanced. Any presentation of the artist 
in triumph must be flat in proportion as it really 
sticks to its subject — it can only smuggle in relief and 
variety. For, to put the matter in an image, all we 
then — in his triumph — see of the charm-compeller is 
the back he turns to us as he bends over his work. 
" His " triumph, decently, is but the triumph of what 
he produces, and that is another affair. His romance 
is the romance he himself projects ; he eats the cake 
of the very rarest privilege, the most luscious baked 
in the oven of the gods — therefore he mayn't " have " 
it, in the form of the privilege of the hero, at the same 
time. The privilege of the hero — that is, of the 
martyr or of the interesting and appealing and com- 
paratively floundering person — places him in quite 
a different category, belongs to him only as to the 
artist deluded, diverted, frustrated or vanquished ; 
when the " amateur " in him gains, for our admiration 
or compassion or whatever, all that the expert has to 
do without. Therefore I strove in vain, I feel, to 
embroil and adorn this young man on whom a hundred 
ingenious touches are thus lavished : he has insisted 
in the event on looking as simple and flat as some 
mere brass check or engraved number, the symbol 
and guarantee of a stored treasure. The better part 
of him is locked too much away from us, and the part 
we see has to pass for — well, what it passes for, so 
lamentedly, among his friends and relatives. No, 

xxiv 



PREFACE 



accordingly, Nick Dormer isn't " the best thing in the 
book," as I judge I imagined he would be, and it 
contains nothing better, I make out, than that pre- 
served and achieved unity and quaUty of tone, a 
value in itself, which I referred to at the beginning 
of these remarks. What I mean by this is that the 
interest created, and the expression of that interest, 
are things kept, as to kind, genuine and true to them- 
selves. The appeal, the fidehty to the prime motive, 
is, with no little art, strained clear (even as silver is 
pohshed) in a degree answering — at least by intention 
— to the air of beauty. There is an awkwardness 
again in having thus belatedly to point such features 
out ; but in that wrought appearance of animation 
and harmony, that effect of free movement and yet 
of recurrent and insistent reference, The Tragic 
Muse has struck me again as conscious of a bright 
advantage. 

HENRY JAMES. 



XXV 



BOOK FIRST 



iH 



B 



The people of France have made it no secret that 
those of England, as a general thing, are to their 
perception an inexpressive and speechless race, per- 
pendicular and unsociable, unaddicted to enriching 
any bareness of contact with verbal or other em- 
broidery. This view might have derived encourage- 
ment, a few years ago, in Paris, from the manner in 
which four persons sat together in silence, one fine 
day about noon, in the garden, as it is called, of the 
Palais de ITndustrie — the central court of the great 
glazed bazaar where, among plants and parterres, 
gravelled walks and thin fountains, are ranged the 
figures and groups, the monuments and busts, which 
form in the annual exhibition of the Salon the de- 
partment of statuary. The spirit of observation is 
naturally high at the Salon, quickened by a thousand 
artful or artless appeals, but it need have put forth 
no great intensity to take in the characters I mention. 
As a solicitation of the eye on definite grounds these 
visitors too constituted a successful plastic fact ; and 
even the most superficial observer would have marked 
them as products of an insular neighbourhood, repre- 
sentatives of that tweed-and-waterproof class with 
which, on the recurrent occasions when the English 
turn out for a holiday — Christmas and Easter, Whit- 
suntide and the autumn — Paris besprinkles itself 
at a night's notice. They had about them the 

3 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

indefinable professional look of the British traveller 
abroad ; the air of preparation for exposure, material 
and moral, which is so oddly combined with the 
serene revelation of security and of persistence, and 
which excites, according to individual susceptibility, 
the ire or the admiration of foreign communities. 
They were the more unmistakable as they presented 
mainly the happier aspects of the energetic race to 
which they had the honour to belong. The fresh 
diffused light of the Salon made them clear and 
important ; they were finished creations, in their 
way, and, ranged there motionless on their green 
bench, were almost as much on exhibition as if they 
had been hung on the line. 

Three ladies and a young man, they were obviously 
a family — a mother, two daughters and a son ; a 
circumstance which had the effect at once of making 
each member of the group doubly typical and of help- 
ing to account for their fine taciturnity. They were 
not, with each other, on terms of ceremony, and also 
were probably fatigued with their course among the 
pictures, the rooms on the upper floor. Their atti- 
tude, on the part of visitors who had superior features 
even if they might appear to some passers-by to have 
neglected a fine opportunity for completing these 
features with an expression, was after all a kind of 
tribute to the state of exhaustion, of bewilderment, 
to which the genius of France is still capable of 
reducing the proud. 

" En v'ld des ahrutis ! " more than one of their 
fellow-gazers might have been heard to exclaim ; and 
certain it is that there was something depressed and 
discouraged in this interesting group, who sat looking 
vaguely before them, not noticing the life of the place, 
somewhat as if each had a private anxiety. It might 
have been finely guessed, however, that though on 
many questions they were closely united this present 

4 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

anxiety was not the same for each. If they looked 
grave, moreover, this was doubtless partly the result 
of their aU being dressed in such mourning as told of 
a recent bereavement. The eldest of the three ladies 
had indeed a face of a fine austere mould which 
would have been moved to gaiety only by some force 
more insidious than any she was Hkely to recognise 
in Paris. Cold, still, and considerably worn, it was 
neither stupid nor hard — it was firm, narrow and 
sharp. This competent matron, acquainted evidently 
with grief but not weakened by it, had a high fore- 
head to which the quality of the skin gave a singular 
polish — it glittered even when seen at a distance ; a 
nose which achieved a high free curve ; and a tendency 
to throw back her head and carry it well above her, 
as if to disengage it from the possible entanglements 
of the rest of her person. If you had seen her walk 
you would have felt her to tread the earth after a 
fashion suggesting that in a world where she had long 
since discovered that one couldn't have one's own 
way one could never tell what annoying aggression 
inight take place, so that it was well, from hour to 
hour, to save what one could. Lady Agnes saved her 
head, her white triangular forehead, over which her 
close-crinkled flaxen hair, reproduced in different 
shades in her children, made a looped silken canopy 
like the marquee at a garden-party. Her daughters 
were as tall as herself — that was visible even as they 
sat there— and one of them, the younger evidently, 
altogether pretty ; a straight, slender, grey - eyed 
English girl of the sort who show " good " figures and 
fresh complexions. The sister, who was not pretty, 
was also straight and slender and grey-eyed. But the 
grey in this case was not so pure, nor were the straight- 
ness and the slenderness so maidenty. The brother of 
these young ladies had taken off his hat as if he felt 
the air of the summer day heavy in the great pavilion. 

5 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

He was a lean, strong, clear-faced youth, with a formed 
nose and thick light-brown hair which lay con- 
tinuously and profusely back from his forehead, so 
that to smooth it from the brow to the neck but a 
single movement of the hand was required. I cannot 
describe him better than by saying that he was the 
sort of young Englishman who looks particularly 
well in strange lands and whose general aspect — 
his inches, his limbs, his friendly eyes, the modula- 
tion of his voice, the cleanness of his flesh-tints and 
the fashion of his garments — excites on the part of 
those who encounter him in far countries on the 
ground of a common speech a delightful sympathy 
of race. This sympathy may sometimes be qualified 
by the seen limits of his apprehension, but it almost 
revels as such horizons recede. We shall see quickly 
enough how accurate a measure it might have taken 
of Nicholas Dormer. There was food for suspicion 
perhaps in the wandering blankness that sat at 
moments in his eyes, as if he had no attention at all, 
not the least in the world, at his command ; but it is 
no more than just to add without delay that this 
discouraging symptom was known among those who 
liked him by the indulgent name of dreaminess. By 
his mother and sisters, for instance, his dreaminess 
was constantly noted. He is the more welcome to the 
benefit of such an interpretation as there is always 
held to be something engaging in the combination of 
the muscular and the musing, the mildness of strength. 

After some time, an interval during which these 
good people might have appeared to have come, in- 
dividually, to the Palais de ITndustrie much less to 
see the works of art than to think over their domestic 
affairs, the young man, rousing himself from his 
reverie, addressed one of the girls. 

" I say, Biddy, why should we sit moping here all 
day ? Come and take a turn about with me." 

6 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

His younger sister, wliile he got up, leaned forward a 
little, looking round her, but she gave for the moment 
no further sign of complying with his invitation. 

" Where shall we find you, then, if Peter comes ? " 
asked the other Miss Dormer, making no movement 
at all. 

" I daresay Peter won't come. He'll leave us here 
to cool our heels." 

" Oh Nick dear ! " Biddy exclaimed in a small 
sweet voice of protest. It was plainly her theory that 
Peter would come, and even a Uttle her fond fear 
that she might miss him should she quit that spot. 

" We shall come back in a quarter of an hour. 
Really I must look at these things," Nick declared, 
turning his face to a marble group which stood near 
them on the right — a man with the skin of a beast 
round his loins, tussling with a naked woman in some 
primitive effort of courtship or capture. 

Lady Agnes followed the direction of her son's 
eyes and then observed : " Everything seems very 
dreadful. I should think Biddy had better sit still. 
Hasn't she seen enough horrors up above ? 

" I daresay that if Peter comes Julia '11 be with 
him," the elder girl remarked irrelevantly. 

" Well then he can take Julia about. That will be 
more proper," said Lady Agnes. 

" Mother dear, she doesn't care a rap about art. 
It's a fearful bore looking at fine things with Julia," 
Nick returned. 

" Won't you go with him, Grace ? " — and Biddy 
appealed to her sister. 

" I think she has awfully good taste ! " Grace 
exclaimed, not answering this inquiry. 

" Don't say nasty things about her ! " Lady Agnes 
broke out solemnly to her son after resting her eyes 
on him a moment with an air of reluctant reprobation. 

" I say nothing but what she'd say herself," the 

7 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

young man urged. " About some things she has very 
good taste, but about this kind of thing she has no 
taste at all." 

" That's better, I think," said Lady Agnes, turning 
her eyes again to the " kind of thing " her son appeared 
to designate. 

" She's awfully clever — awfully ! " Grace went on 
with decision. 

" Awfully, awfully ! " her brother repeated, stand- 
ing in front of her and smiling down at her. 

" You are nasty, Nick. You know you are," said 
the young lady, but more in sorrow than in anger. 

Biddy got up at this, as if the accusatory tone 
prompted her to place herself generously at his side. 
" Mightn't you go and order lunch — in that place, 
you know ? " she asked of her mother. " Then we'd 
come back when it was ready." 

" My dear child, I can't order lunch," Lady Agnes 
replied with a cold impatience which seemed to 
intimate that she had problems far more important 
than those of victualling to contend with. 

" Then perhaps Peter will if he comes. I'm sure 
he's up in everything of that sort." 

" Oh hang Peter ! " Nick exclaimed. " Leave him 
out of account, and do order lunch, mother ; but not 
cold beef and pickles." 

'' I must say — about him — you're not nice," Biddy 
ventured to remark to her brother, hesitating and 
even blushing a little. 

" You make up for it, my dear," the young man 
answered, giving her chin — a very charming, rotund, 
little chin — a friendly whisk with his forefinger. 

" I can't imagine what you've got against him," 
her ladyship said gravely. 

" Dear mother, it's disappointed fondness," Nick 
argued. " They won't answer one's notes ; they won't 
let one know where they are nor what to expect. 

8 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

' Hell has no fury like a woman scorned ' ; nor like 
a man either." 

" Peter has such a tremendous lot to do — it's 
a very busy time at the embassy ; there are sure to 
be reasons," Biddy explained with her pretty eyes. 

" Reasons enough, no doubt ! " said Lady Agnes 
— who accompanied these words with an ambiguous 
sigh, however, as if in Paris even the best reasons 
would naturally be bad ones. 

" Doesn't Julia write to you, doesn't she answer 
you the very day ? " Grace asked, looking at Nick as 
if she were the bold one. 

He waited, returning her glance with a certain 
severity. " What do you know about my correspond- 
ence ? No doubt I ask too much," he went on ; "I'm 
so attached to them. Dear old Peter, dear old Julia ! " 

" She's younger than you, my dear ! " cried the 
elder girl, still resolute. 

" Yes, nineteen days." 

" I'm glad you know her birthday." 

" She knows yours ; she always gives you some- 
thing," Lady Agnes reminded her son. 

" Her taste is good then, isn't it, Nick ? " Grace 
Dormer continued. 

" She makes charming presents ; but, dear mother, 
it isn't her taste. It's her husband's." 

" How her husband's ? " 

" The beautiful objects of which she disposes so 
freely are the things he collected for years laboriously, 
devotedly, poor man ! " 

" She disposes of them to you, but not to others," 
said Lady Agnes. " But that's all right," she added, 
as if this might have been taken for a complaint of 
the limitations of Julia's bounty. " She has to select 
among so many, and that's a proof of taste," her 
ladyship pursued. 

" You can't say she doesn't choose lovely ones," 

9 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Grace remarked to her brother in a tone of some 
triumph. 

" My dear, they're all lovely. George Dallow's 
judgement was so sure, he was incapable of making 
a mistake," Nicholas Dormer returned, 

" I don't see how you can talk of him, he was 
dreadful," said Lady Agnes. 

" My dear, if he was good enough for Julia to marry 
he's good enough for us to talk of." 

" She did him a very great honour." 

" I daresay, but he was not unworthy of it. No 
such enlightened collection of beautiful objects has 
been made in England in our time." 

" You think too much of beautiful objects ! " Lady 
Agnes sighed. 

" I thought you were just now lamenting that I 
think too Httle." 

" It's very nice — his having left Julia so well off," 
Biddy interposed soothingly, as if she foresaw a tangle. 

" He treated her en grand seigneur, absolutely," 
Nick went on. 

" He used to look greasy, all the same " — Grace 
bore on it with a dull weight. " His name ought to 
have been Tallow." 

" You're not saying what Julia would like, if that's 
what you are trying to say," her brother observed. 

" Don't be vulgar, Grace," said Lady Agnes. 

" I know Peter Sherringham's birthday ! " Biddy 
broke out innocently, as a pacific diversion. She had 
passed her hand into Nick's arm, to signify her readi- 
ness to go with him, while she scanned the remoter 
reaches of the garden as if it had occurred to her that 
to direct their steps in some such sense might after all 
be the shorter way to get at Peter. 

" He's too much older than you, my dear," Grace 
answered without encouragement. 

" That's why I've noticed it — he's thirty-four. 

10 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Do you call that too old ? I don't care for slobbering 
infants ! " Biddy cried. 

" Don't be vulgar," Lady Agnes enjoined again. 

" Come, Bid, we'll go and be vulgar together ; for 
that's what we are, I'm afraid," her brother said to 
her. " We'll go and look at all these low works of 
art." 

" Do you really think it's necessary to the child's 
development ? " Lady Agnes demanded as the pair 
turned away. And then while her son, struck as by 
a challenge, paused, lingering a moment with his 
little sister on his arm : " What we've been through 
this morning in this place, and what you've paraded 
before our eyes — the murders, the tortures, all kinds 
of disease and indecency ! " 

Nick looked at his mother as if this sudden protest 
surprised him, but as if also there were lurking 
explanations of it which he quickly guessed. Her 
resentment had the effect not so much of animating 
her cold face as of making it colder, less expressive, 
though visibly prouder. " Ah dear mother, don't do 
the British matron ! " he replied good-humouredly. 

" British matron's soon said ! I don't know what 
they're coming to." 

" How odd that you should have been struck only 
with the disagreeable things when, for myself, I've 
felt it to be most interesting, the most suggestive 
morning Lve passed for ever so many months ! " 

" Oh Nick, Nick ! " Lady Agnes cried with a 
strange depth of feeling. 

" I like them better in London — they're much less 
unpleasant," said Grace Dormer. 

" They're things you can look at," her ladyship 
went on. " We certainly make the better show." 

" The subject doesn't matter, it's the treatment, 
the treatment 1 " Biddy protested in a voice like the 
tinkle of a silver bell. 

II 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Poor little Bid ! " — her brother broke into a 
laugh. 

" How can I learn to model, mamma dear, if I 
don't look at things and if I don't study them ? " the 
girl continued. 

This question passed unheeded, and Nicholas 
Dormer said to his mother, more seriously, but with 
a certain kind explicitness, as if he could make a 
particular allowance : " This place is an immense 
stimulus to me ; it refreshes me, excites me — it's such 
an exhibition of artistic life. It's full of ideas, full 
of refinements ; it gives one such an impression of 
artistic experience. They try everything, they feel 
everything. While you were looking at the murders, 
apparently, I observed an immense deal of curious and 
interesting work. There are too many of them, poor 
devils ; so many who must make their way, who must 
attract attention. Some of them can only taper fort, 
stand on their heads, turn somersaults or commit 
deeds of violence, to make people notice them. After 
that, no doubt, a good many will be quieter. But 
I don't know ; to-day I'm in an appreciative mood 
— I feel indulgent even to them : they give me an 
impression of intelligence, of eager observation. All 
art is one — remember that, Biddy dear," the young 
man continued, smiling down from his height. " It's 
the same great many -headed effort, and any ground 
that's gained by an individual, any spark that's 
struck in any province, is of use and of suggestion to 
all the others. We're all in the same boat." 

" ' We,' do you say, my dear ? Are you really 
setting up for an artist ? " Lady Agnes asked. 

Nick just hesitated. " I was speaking for Biddy." 

" But you are one, Nick — you are ! " the girl 
cried. 

Lady Agnes looked for an instant as if she were 
going to say once more " Don't be vulgar ! " But she 

12 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

suppressed these words, had she intended them, and 
uttered sounds, few in number and not completely 
articulate, to the effect that she hated talking about 
art. While her son spoke she had watched him as 
if failing to follow ; yet something in the tone of her 
exclamation hinted that she had understood him but 
too well. 

" We're all in the same boat," Biddy repeated with 
cheerful zeal. 

" Not me, if you please ! " Lady Agnes rephed. 
" It's horrid messy work, your modelling." 

" Ah but look at the results ! " said the girl eagerly 
— glancing about at the monuments in the garden 
as if in regard even to them she were, through that 
unity" of art her brother had just proclaimed, in some 
degree an effective cause. 

" There's a great deal being done here — a real 
vitality," Nicholas Dormer went on to his mother in 
the same reasonable informing way. " Some of these 
fellows go very far." 

" They do indeed ! " said Lady Agnes. 
"I'm fond of young schools — hke this movement 
in sculpture," Nick insisted wth his shghtly pro- 
voking serenity. 

" They're old enough to know better ! " 
" Mayn't I look, mamma ? It is necessary to my 
development," Biddy declared. 

" You may do as you like," said Lady Agnes with 
dignity. 

" She ought to see good work, you know," the 
young man went on. 

" I leave it to your sense of responsibility." This 
statement was somewhat majestic, and for a moment 
evidently it tempted Nick, almost provoked him, or 
at any rate suggested to him an occasion for some 
pronouncement he had had on his mind. Apparently, 
however, he judged the time on the whole not quite 

13 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

right, and his sister Grace interposed with the 
inquiry — 

" Please, mamma, are we never going to lunch ? " 

" Ah mother, mother ! " the young man murmured 
in a troubled way, looking down at her with a deep 
fold in his forehead. 

For Lady Agnes also, as she returned his look, it 
seemed an occasion ; but mth this difference that 
she had no hesitation in taking advantage of it. She 
was encouraged by his sUght embarrassment, for 
ordinarily Nick was not embarrassed. " You used to 
have so much sense of responsibility," she pursued ; 
" but sometimes I don't know what has become of it 
— ^it seems aU, all gone ! " 

" Ah mother, mother ! " he exclaimed again — as 
if there were so many things to say that it was im- 
possible to choose. But now he stepped closer, bent 
over her and in spite of the publicity of their situa- 
tion gave her a quick expressive kiss. The foreign 
observer whom I took for granted in beginning to 
sketch this scene would have had to admit that the 
rigid English family had after all a capacity for 
emotion. Grace Dormer indeed looked round her to 
see if at this moment they were noticed. She judged 
with satisfaction that they had escaped. 



14 



II 



Nick Dormer walked away with Biddy, but he had 
not gone far before he stopped in front of a clever 
bust, where his mother, in the distance, saw him 
playing in the air wdth his hand, carrying out by this 
gesture, which presumably was applausive, some 
critical remark he had made to tiis sister. Lady 
Agnes raised her glass to her eyes by the long handle 
to which rather a clanking chain v/a,s attached, 
perceiving that the bust represented an ugly old man 
with a bald head ; at which her ladyship indefinitely 
sighed, though it was not apparent in what way such 
an object could be detrimental to her daughter. 
Nick passed on and quickly paused again ; this time, 
his mother discerned, before the marble image of a 
strange grimacing woman. Presently she lost sight 
of him ; he wandered behind things, looking at them 
all round. 

" I ought to get plenty of ideas for my modelling, 
oughtn't I, Nick ? " his sister put to him after a 
moment. 

" Ah my poor child, what shall I say ? " 

" Don't you think I've any capacity for ideas ? " 
the girl continued ruefully. 

" Lots of them, no doubt. But the capacity for 
applying them, for putting them into practice — how 
much of that have you ? " 

" How can I tell till I try ? " 

" Wliat do you mean by trying, Biddy dear ? " 

15 



THE TRAGIC MUSE, 

" Why you know — you've seen me." 

" Do you call that trying ? " her brother amusedly 
demanded. 

" Ah Nick ! " she said with sensibility. But then 
with more spirit : " And please what do you call it ? " 

" Well, this for instance is a good case." And 
her companion pointed to another bust — a head of 
a young man in terra-cotta, at which they had just 
arrived ; a modern young man to whom, with his 
thick neck, his little cap and his wide ring' of dense 
curls, the artist had given the air of some sturdy 
Florentine of the time of Lorenzo. 

Biddy looked at the image a moment. " Ah that's 
not trying ; that's succeeding." 

" Not altogether ; it's only trying seriously." 

" Well, why shouldn't I be serious ? " 

" Mother wouldn't like it. She has inherited the 
fine old superstition that art's pardonable only so 
long as it's bad — so long as it's done at odd hours, 
for a little distraction, like a game of tennis or of 
whist. The only thing that can justify it, the effort 
to carry it as far as one can (which you can't do without 
time and singleness of purpose), she regards as just 
the dangerous, the criminal element. It's the oddest 
hind-part-before view, the drollest immorality." 

" She doesn't want one to be professional," Biddy 
returned as if she could do justice to every system. 

" Better leave it alone then. There are always 
duffers enough." 

" I don't want to be a duffer," Biddy said. " But 
I thought you encouraged me." 

" So I did, my poor child. It was only to en- 
courage myself." 

" With your own work — your painting ? " 

"With my futile, my ill-starred endeavours. 
Union is strength — so that we might present a wider 
front, a larger surface of resistance." 

i6 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Biddy for a while said noticing and they continued 
their tour of observation. She noticed how he passed 
over some things quickly, his first glance sufficing to 
show him if they were worth another, and then 
recognised in a moment the figures that made some 
appeal. His tone puzzled but his certainty of eye 
impressed her, and she felt what a difference there was 
yet between them — how much longer in every case 
she would have taken to discriminate. She was 
aware of how little she could judge of the value of a 
thing till she had looked at it ten minutes ; indeed 
modest little Biddy was compelled privately to add 
" And often not even then." She was mystified, as 
I say — Nick was often mystifying, it was his only 
fault — but one thing was definite : her brother had 
high ability. It was the consciousness of this that 
made her bring out at last : "I don't so much care 
whether or no I please mamma, if I please you." 

" Oh don't lean on me. I'm a wretched broken 
reed — I'm no use really ! " he promptly admonished 
her. 

" Do you mean you're a duffer ? " Biddy asked in 
alarm. 

" Frightful, frightful ! " 

" So that you intend to give up your work — to let 
it alone, as you advise me ? " 

" It has never been my work, all that business, 
Biddy. If it had it would be different. I should 
stick to it." 

" And you won't stick to it ? " the girl said, stand- 
ing before him open-eyed. 

Her brother looked into her eyes a moment, and 
she had a compunction ; she feared she was indiscreet 
and was worrying him. " Your questions are much 
simpler than the elements out of which my answer 
should come." 

" A great talent — what's simpler than that ? " 
I 17 c 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" One excellent thing, dear Biddy : no talent at all! " 
" Well, yours is so real you can't help it." 
" We shall see, we shall see," said Nick Dormer. 
" Let us go look at that big group." 

" We shall see if your talent's real ? " Biddy went 
on as she accompanied him. 

" No ; we shall see if, as you say, I can't help it. 
What nonsense Paris makes one talk ! " the young 
man added as they stopped in front of the composi- 
tion. This was true perhaps, but not in a sense he 
could find himself tempted to deplore. The present 
was far from his first visit to the French capital : he 
had often quitted England and usually made a point 
of " putting in," as he called it, a few days there 
on the outward journey to the Continent or on the 
return ; but at present the feelings, for the most part 
agreeable, attendant upon a change of air and of 
scene had been more punctual and more acute than 
for a long time before, and stronger the sense of 
novelty, refreshment, amusement, of the hundred 
appeals from that quarter of thought to which on the 
whole his attention was apt most frequentlj^, though 
not most confessedly, to stray. He was fonder of 
Paris than most of his countrymen, though not so fond 
perhaps as some other captivated aliens : the place 
had always had the virtue of quickening in him 
sensibly the life of reflexion and observation. It was 
a good while since his impressions had been so favour- 
able to the city by the Seine ; a good while at all 
events since they had ministered so to excitement, 
to exhilaration, to ambition, even to a restlessness 
that was not prevented from being agreeable by the 
excess of agitation in it. Nick could have given the 
reason of this unwonted glow, but his preference was 
very much to keep it to himself. Certainly to persons 
not deeply knowing, or at any rate not deeply curious, 
in relation to the young man's history the explanation 

i8 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

might have seemed to beg the question, consisting as 
it did of the simple formula that he had at last come 
to a crisis. Why a crisis — what was it and why had 
he not come to it before ? The reader shall learn these 
things in time if he cares enough for them. 

Our young man had not in any recent year failed 
to see the Salon, which the general voice this season 
pronounced not particularly good. None the less it 
was the present exhibition that, for some cause con- 
nected with his " crisis," made him think fast, pro- 
duced that effect he had spoken of to his mother as 
a sense of artistic life. The precinct of the marbles 
and bronzes spoke to him especially to-day ; the 
glazed garden, not fiorally rich, with its new pro- 
ductions alternating with perfunctory plants and its 
queer, damp smell, partly the odour of plastic clay, of 
the studios of sculptors, put forth the voice of old 
associations, of other visits, of companionships now 
ended — an insinuating eloquence which was at the 
same time somehow identical with the general sharp 
contagion of Paris. There was youth in the air, and a 
multitudinous newness, for ever reviving, and the 
diffusion of a hundred talents, ingenuities, experi- 
ments. The summer clouds made shadows on the 
roof of the great building ; the white images, hard in 
their crudity, spotted the place with provocations ; the 
rattle of plates at the restaurant sounded sociable 
in the distance, and our young man congratulated 
himself more than ever that he had not missed his 
chance. He felt how it would help him to settle 
something. At the moment he made this reflexion 
his eye fell upon a person who appeared — just in 
the first glimpse — to carry out the idea of help. 
He uttered a lively ejaculation, which, however, in 
its want of finish, Biddy failed to understand ; so 
pertinent, so relevant and congruous, was the other 
party to this encounter. 

19 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

The girl's attention followed her brother's, resting 
with it on a young man who faced them without 
seehig them, engaged as he was in imparting to two 
companions his ideas about one of the works exposed 
to .view. What Biddy remarked was that this young 
man was fair and fat and of the middle stature ; he 
had a round face and a short beard and on his crown 
a mere reminiscence of hair, as the fact that he carried 
his hat in his hand permitted to be observed. Bridget 
Dormer, who was quick, placed him immediately as 
a gentleman, but as a gentleman unlike any other 
gentleman she had ever seen. She would have taken 
him for very foreign but that the words proceeding 
from his mouth reached her ear and imposed them- 
selves as a rare variety of English. It was not that a 
foreigner might not have spoken smoothly enough, 
nor yet that the speech of this young man was not 
smooth. It had in truth a conspicuous and aggressive 
perfection, and Biddy was sure no mere learner would 
have ventured to play such tricks with the tongue. 
He seemed to draw rich effects and wandering airs 
from it — to modulate and manipulate it as he would 
have done a musical instrument. Her view of the 
gentleman's companions was less operative, save for 
her soon making the reflexion that they were people 
whom in any country, from China to Peru, you would 
immediately have taken for natives. One of them 
was an old lady with a shawl ; that was the most 
salient way in which she presented herself. The 
shawl was an ancient much-used fabric of embroidered 
cashmere, such as many ladies wore forty years ago in 
their walks abroad and such as no lady wears to-day. 
It had fallen half off the back of the wearer, but 
at the moment Biddy permitted herself to consider 
her she gave it a violent jerk and brought it up to 
her shoulders again, where she continued to arrange 
and settle it, with a good deal of jauntiness and 

20 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

elegance, while she listened to the talk of the gentle- 
man. Biddy guessed that this little transaction took 
place very frequently, and was not unaware of its 
giving the old lady a droll, factitious, faded appearance, 
as if she were singularly out of step with the age. 
The other person was very much younger — she might 
have been a daughter — and had a pale face, a low 
forehead, and thick dark hair. What she chiefly had, 
however, Biddy rapidly discovered, was a pair of 
largely-gazing eyes. Our young friend was helped 
to the discovery by the accident of their resting at 
this moment for a time — it struck Biddy as very long 
— on her own. Both these ladies were clad in light, 
thin, scant gowns, giving an impression of flowered 
figures and odd transparencies, and in low shoes 
which showed a great deal of stocking and were 
ornamented with large rosettes. Biddy's slightly 
agitated perception travelled directly to their shoes : 
they suggested to her vaguely that the wearers were 
dancers — connected possibly with the old-fashioned 
exhibition of the shawl-dance. By the time she had 
taken in so much as this the mellifluous young man 
had perceived and addressed himself to her brother. 
He came on with an offered hand. Nick greeted him 
and said it was a happy chance — he was uncommonly 
glad to see him. 

" I never come across you — I don't know why," 
Nick added while the two, smiling, looked each other 
up and down like men reunited after a long interval. 

" Oh it seems to me there's reason enough : our 
paths in life are so different." Nick's friend had a 
great deal of manner, as was evinced by his fashion 
of saluting Biddy without knowing her. 

" Different, yes, but not so different as that. 
Don't we both live in London, after all, and in the 
nineteenth century ? " 

" Ah my dear Dormer, excuse me : I don't live 

21 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

in the nineteenth century. Jamais de la vie!" the 
gentleman declared. 

" Nor in London either ? " 

" Yes — when I'm not at Samarcand ! But surely 
we've diverged since the old days. I adore what you 
burn, you bum what I adore." While the stranger 
spoke he looked cheerfully, hospitably, at Biddy ; 
not because it was she, she easily guessed, but because 
it was in his nature to desire a second auditor — a kind 
of sympathetic gallery. Her life was somehow filled 
with shy people, and she immediately knew she had 
never encountered any one who seemed so to know his 
part and recognise his cues. 

" How do you know what I adore ? " Nicholas 
Dormer asked, 

" I know well enough what you used to." 
" That's more than I do myself. There were so 
many things." 

" Yes, there are many things — many, many : that's 
what makes life so amusing." 
" Do you find it amusing ? " 

" My dear fellow, c'est a se tordre. Don't you 
think so ? Ah it was high time I should meet you 
— I see. I've an idea you need me." 

" Upon my word I think I do ! " Nick said in a 
tone which struck his sister and made her wonder 
still more why, if the gentleman was so important as 
that, he didn't introduce him. 

" There are many gods and this is one of their 
temples," the mysterious personage went on. " It's 
a house of strange idols — isn't it ? — and of some 
strange and unnatural sacrifices." 

To Biddy as much as to her brother this remark 
might have been offered ; but the girl's eyes turned 
back to the ladies who for the moment had lost their 
companion. She felt irresjDonsive and feared she 
should pass with this easy cosmopolite for a stiff, 

22 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

scared, English girl, which was not the type she aimed 
at ; but wasn't even ocular commerce overbold so 
long as she hadn't a sign from Nick ? The elder of 
the strange women had turned her back and was 
looking at some bronze figure, losing her shawl again 
as she did so ; but the other stood where their escort 
had quitted her, giving all her attention to his sudden 
sociability with others. Her arms hung at her sides, 
her head was bent, her face lowered, so that she had an 
odd appearance of raising her eyes from under her 
brows ; and in this attitude she was striking, though 
her air was so unconciliatory as almost to seem 
dangerous. Did it express resentment at having 
been abandoned for another girl ? Biddy, who began 
to be frightened — there was a moment when the 
neglected creature resembled a tigress about to spring 
— was tempted to cry out that she had no wish what- 
ever to appropriate the gentleman. Then she made 
the discovery that the young lady too had a manner, 
almost as much as her clever guide, and the rapid 
induction that it perhaps meant no more than his. 
She only looked at Biddy from beneath her eyebrows, 
which were wonderfully arched, but there was ever 
so much of a manner in the way she did it. Biddy 
had a momentary sense of being a figure in a ballet, a 
dramatic ballet — a subordinate motionless figure, to 
be dashed at to music or strangely capered up to. 
It would be a very dramatic ballet indeed if this young 
person were the heroine. She had magnificent hair, 
the girl reflected ; and at the same moment heard 
Nick say to his interlocutor : " You're not in London 
— one can't meet you there ? " 

" I rove, drift, float," was the answer ; " my feel- 
ings direct me — if such a life as mine may be said to 
have a direction. Where there's anything to feel 
I try to be there ! " the young man continued with his 
confiding laugh. 

23 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" I should like to get hold of you," Nick returned. 

" Well, in that case there would be no doubt the 
intellectual adventure. Those are the currents — any 
sort of personal relation — that govern my career." 

" I don't want to lose you this time," Nick con- 
tinued in a tone that excited Biddy's surprise. A 
moment before, when his friend had said that he tried 
to be where there was anything to feel, she had 
wondered how he could endure him. 

" Don't lose me, don't lose me ! " cried the stranger 
after a fashion which affected the girl as the highest 
expression of irresponsibihty she had ever seen. 
" After all why should you ? Let us remain together 
unless I interfere "• — and he looked, smiling and 
interrogative, at Biddy, who still remained blank, 
only noting again that Nick forbore to make them 
acquainted. This was an anomaly, since he prized 
the gentleman so. Still, there could be no anomaly 
of Nick's that wouldn't impose itself on his younger 
sister. 

" Certainly, I keep you," he said, " unless on my 
side I deprive those ladies ! " 

" Charming women, but it's not an indissoluble 
union. We meet, we communicate, we part ! The5^'re 
going — I'm seeing them to the door. I shall come 
back." With this Nick's friend rejoined his com- 
panions, who moved away with him, the strange 
fine eyes of the girl lingering on Biddy's brother as 
well as on Biddy herself as they receded. 

" Who is he — who are they ? " Biddy instantly 
asked. 

" He's a gentleman," Nick made answer- — in- 
sufficiently, she thought, and even with a shade of 
hesitation. He spoke as if she might have supposed 
he was not one, and if he was really one why didn't 
he introduce him ? But Biddy wouldn't for the 
world have put this question, and he now moved to 

24 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

the nearest bench and dropped upon it as to await 
the other's return. No sooner, however, had his 
sister seated herself than he said : " See here, my 
dear, do you think you had better stay ? " 

" Do you want me to go back to mother ? " the girl 
asked with a lengthening visage. 

" Well, what do you think ? " He asked it indeed 
gaily enough. 

" Is your conversation to be about — about private 
affairs ? " 

" No, I can't say that. But I doubt if mother 
would think it the sort of thing that's ' necessary to 
your development.' " 

This assertion appeared to inspire her with the 
eagerness with which she again broke out : " But who 
are they — who are they ? " 

" I know nothing of the ladies. I never saw them 
before. The man's a fellow I knew very well at 
Oxford. He was thought immense fun there. We've 
diverged, as he says, and I had almost lost sight of 
him, but not so much as he thinks, because I've read 
him — read him with interest. He has written a very 
clever book." 

" What kind of a book ? " 

" A sort of novel." 

" What sort of novel ? " 

" Well, I don't know — with a lot of good writing." 
Biddy listened to this so receptively that she thought 
it perverse her brother should add : " I daresay Peter 
will have come if you return to mother." 

" I don't care if he has. Peter's nothing to me. 
But I'll go if you wish it." 

Nick smiled upon her again and then said : "It 
doesn't signify. We'll all go." 

" All ? " she echoed. 

" He won't hurt us. On the contrary he'll do us 
good." 

25 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

This was possible, the girl reflected in silence, but 
none the less the idea struck her as courageous, of 
their taking the odd young man back to breakfast 
with them and with the others, especially if Peter 
should be there. If Peter was nothing to her it was 
singular she should have attached such importance 
to this contingency. The odd young man reappeared, 
and now that she saw him without his queer female 
appendages he seemed personally less weird. He 
struck her, moreover, as generally a good deal ac- 
counted for by the literary character, especially if it 
were responsible for a lot of good writing. As he took 
his place on the bench Nick said to him, indicating 
her, " My sister Bridget," and then mentioned his 
name, " Mr. Gabriel Nash." 

" You enjoy Paris — you're happy here ? " Mr. 
Nash inquired, leaning over his friend to speak to 
the girl. 

Though his words belonged to the situation it 
struck her that his tone didn't, and this made her 
answer him more dryly than she usually spoke. " Oh 
yes, it's very nice." 

" And French art interests you ? You find things 
here that please ? " 

" Oh yes, I like some of them." 

Mr. Nash considered her kindly. " I hoped you'd 
say you like the Academy better." 

" She would if she didn't think you expected it," 
said Nicholas Dormer. 

" Oh Nick ! " Biddy protested. 

" Miss Dormer's herself an English picture," their 
visitor pronounced in the tone of a man whose 
urbanity was a general solvent. 

" That's a comphment if you don't like them ! " 
Biddy exclaimed. 

" Ah some of them, some of them ; there's a certain 
sort of thing ! " Mr. Nash continued. " We must feel 

26 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

everything, everything that we can. We're here for 
that." 

" You do Hke English art then ? " Nick demanded 
with a sHght accent of surprise. 

Mr. Nash indulged his wonder. " My dear 
Dormer, do you remember the old complaint I used 
to make of you ? You had formulas that were like 
walking in one's hat. One may see something in a 
case and one may not." 

" Upon my word," said Nick, " I don't know any 
one who was fonder of a generalisation than you. 
You turned them off as the man at the street-corner 
distributes handbills." , 

" They were my wild oats. I've sown them all." 

" We shaU see that ! " 

" Oh there's nothing of them now : a tame, scanty, 
homely growth. My only good generalisations are 
my actions." 

" We shall see them then." 

" Ah pardon me. You can't see them with the 
naked eye. Moreover, mine are principally negative. 
People's actions, I know, are for the most part the 
things they do — but mine are all the things I don't 
do. There are so many of those, so many, but they 
don't produce any effect. And then all the rest are 
shades — extremely fine shades." 

" Shades of behaviour ? " Nick inquired with an 
interest which surprised his sister, Mr. Nash's dis- 
course striking her mainly as the twaddle of the 
under- wo rid. 

" Shades of impression, of appreciation," said the 
young man with his explanatory smile. " All my 
behaviour consists of my feelings." 

" Well, don't you show your feelings ? You used 
to! " 

" Wasn't it mainly those of disgust ? " Nash asked. 
" Those operate no longer. I've closed that window." 

27 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Do you mean you like everything ? " 

" Dear me, no ! But I look only at what I do 
hke." 

" Do you mean that you've lost the noble faculty 
of disgust ? " 

" I haven't the least idea. I never try it. My 
dear fellow," said Gabriel Nash, " we've only one 
life that we know anything about : fancy taking it 
up with disagreeable impressions ! When then shall 
we go in for the agreeable ? " 

" What do you mean by the agreeable ? " Nick 
demanded. 

" Oh the happy moments of our consciousness — 
the multiplication of those moments. We must save 
as many as possible from the dark gulf." 

Nick had excited surprise on the part of his sister, 
but it was now Biddy's turn to make him open his 
eyes a little. She raised her sweet voice in appeal to 
the stranger. 

" Don't you think there are any wrongs in the 
world — any abuses and sufferings ? " 

"Oh so many, so many ! That's why one must 
choose." 

" Choose to stop them, to reform them — isn't that 
the choice ? " Biddy asked. " That's Nick's," she 
added, blushing and looking at this personage. 

"Ah our divergence — yes!" Mr. Nash sighed. 
" There are all kinds of machinery for that — very 
complicated and ingenious. Your formulas, my dear 
Dormer, your formulas ! " 

" Hang 'em, I haven't got any ! " Nick now 
bravely declared. 

" To me personally the simplest ways are those 
that appeal most," Mr. Nash went on. " We pay too 
much attention to the ugly ; we notice it, we magnify 
it. The great thing is to leave it alone and encourage 
the beautiful." 

28 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" You must be very sure you get hold of the 
beautiful," said Nick. 

" Ah precisely, and that's just the importance of 
the faculty of appreciation. We must train our 
special sense. It's capable of extraordinary exten- 
sion. Life's none too long for that." 

" But what's the good of the extraordinary exten- 
sion if there is no affirmation of it, if it all goes to 
the negative, as you say ? Where are the fine conse- 
quences ? " Dormer asked. 

" In one's own spirit. One is one's self a fine con- 
sequence. That's the most important one we have to 
do with. / am a fine consequence," said Gabriel Nash. 

Biddy rose from the bench at this and stepped 
away a little as to look at a piece of statuary. But 
she had not gone far before, pausing and turning, she 
bent her eyes on the speaker with a heightened colour, 
an air of desperation and the question, after a moment : 
" Are you then an aesthete ? " 

" Ah there's one of the formulas ! That's walking 
in one's hat ! I've no profession, my dear young 
lady. I've no Hat civil. These things are a part of 
the complicated ingenious machinery. As I say, I 
keep to the simplest way. I find that gives one 
enough to do. Merely to be is such a metier ; to live 
such an art ; to feel such a career ! " 

Bridget Dormer turned her back and examined 
her statue, and her brother said to his old friend : 
" And to write ? " 

" To write ? Oh I shaU never do it again ! " 

" You've done it almost well enough to be incon- 
sistent. That book of yours is anything but negative ; 
it's complicated and ingenious." 

" My dear fellow, I'm extremely ashamed of that 
book," said Gabriel Nash. 

" Ah call yourself a bloated Buddhist and have 
done with it ! " his companion exclaimed. 

29 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Have done with it ? I haven't the least desire 
to have done with it. And why should one call one's 
self anything ? One only deprives other people of 
their dearest occupation. Let me add that you don't 
begin to have an insight into the art of life till it 
ceases to be of the smallest consequence to you what 
you may be called. That's rudimentary." 

" But if you go in for shades you must also go in 
for names. You must distinguish," Nick objected. 
" The observer's nothing without his categories, his 
types and varieties." 

" Ah trust him to distinguish ! " said Gabriel 
Nash sweetly. " That's for his own convenience ; 
he has, privately, a terminology to meet it. That's 
one's style. But from the moment it's for the 
convenience of others the signs have to be grosser, 
the shades begin to go. That's a deplorable hour ! 
Literature, you see, is for the convenience of others. 
It requires the most abject concessions. It plays 
such mischief with one's style that really I've had 
to give it up." 

" And politics ? " Nick asked. 

" Well, what about them ? " was Mr. Nash's reply 
with a special cadence as he watched his friend's 
sister, who was still examining her statue. Biddy 
was divided between irritation and curiosity. She 
had interposed space, but she had not gone beyond 
ear-shot. Nick's question made her curiosity throb 
as a rejoinder to his friend's words. 

" That, no doubt you'll say, is still far more for the 
convenience of others — ^is still worse for one's style." 

Biddy turned round in time to hear Mr. Nash 
answer : "It has simply nothing in life to do with 
shades ! I can't say worse for it than that." 

Biddy stepped nearer at this and drew still further 
on her courage. " Won't mamma be waiting ? 
Oughtn't we to go to luncheon ? " 

30 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Both the young men looked up at her and Mr. 
Nash broke out : " You ought to protest ! You 
ought to save him ! " 

" To save him ? " Biddy echoed. 

" He had a style, upon my word he had ! But I've 
seen it go. I've read his speeches." 

" You were capable of that ? " Nick laughed. 

" For you, yes. But it was like listening to a 
nightingale in a brass band." 

" I think they were beautiful," Biddy declared. 

Her brother got up at this tribute, and Mr. Nash, 
rising too, said with his bright colloquial air : " But, 
Miss Dormer, he had eyes. He was made to see — 
to see all over, to see everything. There are so few 
like that." 

" I think he still sees," Biddy returned, wondering 
a little why Nick didn't defend himself. 

" He sees his ' side,' his dreadful ' side,' dear 
young lady. Poor man, fancy your having a ' side ' 
— you, you — and spending your days and your nights 
looking at it ! I'd as soon pass my life looking at 
an advertisement on a hoarding." 

" You don't see me some day a great statesman ? " 
said Nick. 

" My dear fellow, it's exactly what I've a terror of." 

" Mercy ! don't you admire them ? " Biddy cried. 

" It's a trade like another and a method of making 
one's way which society certainly condones. But 
when one can be something better ♦ " 

" Why what in the world is better ? " Biddy asked. 

The young man gasped and Nick, replying for 
him, said : " Gabriel Nash is better ! You must 
come and lunch with us. I must keep you — I must ! " 
he added. 

" We shall save him yet," Mr. Nash kept on easily 
to Biddy while they went and the girl wondered still 
more what her mother would make of him. 

31 



Ill 



After her companions left her Lady Agnes rested 
for five minutes in silence with her elder daughter, at 
the end of which time she observed : "I suppose one 
must have food at any rate," and, getting up, quitted 
the place where they had been sitting. " And where 
are we to go ? I hate eating out of doors," she 
went on. 

" Dear me, when one comes to Paris ! " Grace 

returned in a tone apparently implying that in so 
rash an adventure one must be prepared for com- 
promises and concessions. The two ladies wandered 
to where they saw a large sign of " Buffet " suspended 
in the air, entering a precinct reserved for little white- 
clothed tables, straw-covered chairs and long-aproned 
waiters. One of these functionaries approached them 
with eagerness and with a " Mesdames sont seidcs ? " 
receiving in return from her ladyship the sliglitly 
snappish announcement " Non ; nous sommes beau- 
coup ! " He* introduced them to a table larger than 
most of the others, and under his protection they took 
their places at it and began rather languidly and 
vaguely to consider the question of the repast. The 
waiter had placed a carte in Lady Agnes's hands and 
she studied it, through her eyeglass, with a failure 
of interest, while he enumerated with professional 
fluency the resources of the establishment and Grace 
watched the people at the other tables. She was 

32 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

hungry and had already broken a morsel from a long 
glazed roll. 

" Not cold beef and pickles, you know," she ob- 
served to her mother. Lady Agnes gave no heed to 
this profane remark, but dropped her eye-glass and 
laid down the greasy document. " What does it 
signify ? I daresay it's all nasty," Grace continued ; 
and she added inconscquently : "If Peter comes he's 
sure to be particular." 

" Let him first be particular to come ! " her lady- 
ship exclaimed, turning a cold eye upon the waiter. 

" Poulet chasseur, filets mignons sauce hearnaisc," 
the man suggested. 

" You'll give us what I tell you," said Lady Agnes ; 
and she mentioned with distinctness and authority 
the dishes of which she desired that the meal should 
be composed. He interjected three or four more 
suggestions, but as they produced absolutely no 
impression on her he became silent and submissive, 
doing justice apparently to her ideas. For Lady 
Agnes had ideas, and, though it had suited her 
humour ten minutes before to profess herself helpless 
in such a case, the manner in which she imposed 
them on the waiter as original, practical, and economi- 
cal, showed the high executive woman, the mother 
of children, the daughter of earls, the consort of an 
official, the dispenser of hospitality, looking back 
upon a lifetime of luncheons. She carried many 
cares, and the feeding of multitudes — she was honour- 
ably conscious of having fed them decently, as she 
had always done everything — had ever been one of 
them. " Everything's absurdly dear," she remarked 
to her daughter as the waiter went away. To this 
remark Grace made no answer. She had been used 
for a long time back to hearing that everything was 
very dear ; it was what one always expected. So 
she found the case herself, but she was silent and 

I 33 D 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

inventive about it, and nothing further passed, in the 
way of conversation with her mother, while they 
waited for the latter's orders to be executed, till Lady 
Agnes reflected audibly : "He makes me unhappy, 
the way he talks about Julia." 

" Sometimes I think he does it to torment one. 
One can't mention her ! " Grace responded. 

" It's better not to mention her, but to leave it 
alone." 

" Yet he never mentions her of himself." 

" In some cases that's supposed to show that 
people like people — though of course something 
more's required to prove it," Lady Agnes continued 
to meditate. " Sometimes I think he's thinking of 
her, then at others I can't fancy what he's thinking of." 

"It would be awfully suitable," said Grace, biting 
her roll. 

Her companion had a pause, as if looking for some 
higher ground to put it upon. Then she appeared to 
find this loftier level in the observation : "Of course 
he must Hke her — he has known her always." 

" Nothing can be plainer than that she likes him," 
Grace opined. 

" Poor Julia ! " Lady Agnes almost wailed ; and 
her tone suggested that she knew more about that 
than she was ready to state. 

" It isn't as if she wasn't clever and well read," 
her daughter went on. "If there were nothing else 
there would be a reason in her being so interested in 
politics, in everything that he is." 

" Ah what Nick is — that's what I sometimes 
wonder ! " 

Grace eyed her parent in some despair : " Why, 
mother, isn't he going to be like papa ? " She 
waited for an answer that didn't come ; after which 
she pursued : "I thought you thought him so like 
him already." 

34 



, THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Well, I don't," said Lady Agnes quietly. 

" Who is then ? Certainly Percy isn't." 

Lady Agnes was silent a space. " There's no one 
like your father." 

" Dear papa ! " Grace handsomely concurred. 
Then with a rapid transition : "It would be so jolly 
for all of us — she'd be so nice to us." 

" She's that already — in her way," said Lady 
Agnes conscientiously, having followed the return, 
quick as it was. " Much good does it do her ! " 
And she reproduced the note of her bitterness of a 
moment before. 

" It does her some good that one should look out 
for her. I do, and I think she knows it," Grace de- 
clared. " One can at any rate keep other women off." 

" Don't meddle — you're very clumsy," was her 
mother's not particularly sympathetic rejoinder. 
" There are other women who are beautiful, and 
there are others who are clever and rich." 

" Yes, but not all in one : that's what's so nice in 
Julia. Her fortune would be thrown in ; he wouldn't 
appear to have married her for it." 

" If he does he won't," said Lady Agnes a trifle 
obscurely. 

" Yes, that's what's so charming. And he could 
do anything then, couldn't he ? " 

" Well, your father had no fortune to speak of." 

" Yes, but didn't Uncle Percy help him ? " 

" His wife helped him," said Lady Agnes. 

" Dear mamma ! " — the girl was prompt. " There's 
one thing," she added : "that Mr. Carteret will always 
help Nick." 

" What do you mean by ' always ' ? " 

" Why whether he marries JuHa or not." 

" Things aren't so easy," Lady Agnes judged. " It 
will all depend on Nick's behaviour. He can stop it 
to-morrow." 

35 



THE TRAGIC MUSE. 

Grace Dormer stared ; she evidently thought Mr. 
Carteret's beneficence a part of the scheme of nature. 
" How could he stop it ? " 

" By not being serious. It isn't so hard to prevent 
people giving you money." 

" Serious ? " Grace repeated. " Does he want 
him to be a prig like Lord Egbert ? " 

" Yes — that's exactly what he wants. And what 
he'll do for him he'll do for him only if he marries 
Julia." 

" Has he told you ? " Grace inquired. And then, 
before her mother could answer, "I'm delighted at 
that ! " she cried. 

" He hasn't told me, but that's the way things 
happen." Lady Agnes was less optimistic than her 
daughter, and such optimism as she cultivated was a 
thin tissue with the sense of things as they are showing 
through. "If Nick becomes rich Charles Carteret 
will make him more so. If he doesn't he won't give 
him a shilling." 

" Oh mamma ! " Grace demurred. 
"It's all very well to say that in pubHc Hfe money 
isn't as necessary as it used to be," her ladyship went 
on broodingly. " Those who say so don't know any- 
thing about it. It's always intensely necessary." 

Her daughter, visibly affected by the gloom of her 
manner, felt impelled to evoke as a corrective a more 
cheerful idea. " I daresay ; but there's the fact — 
isn't there ? — that poor papa had so little." 

" Yes, and there's the fact that it killed him ! " 
These words came out with a strange, quick, little 
flare of passion. They startled Grace Dormer, who 
jumped in her place and gasped, " Oh mother ! " 
The next instant, however, she added in a different 
voice, " Oh Peter ! " for, with an air of eagerness, a 
gentleman was walking up to them. 

" How d'ye do, Cousin Agnes ? How d'ye do, 

36 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

little Grace ? " Peter Sherringham laughed and shook 
hands with them, and three minutes later was settled 
in his chair at their table, on which the first elements 
of the meal had been placed. Explanations, on one 
side and the other, were demanded and produced ; 
from which it appeared that the two parties had been 
in some degree at cross-purposes. The day before 
Lady Agnes and her companions travelled to Paris 
Sherringham had gone to London for forty - eight 
hours on private business of the ambassador's, 
arriving, on his return by the night-train, only early 
that morning. There had accordingly been a delay 
in his receiving Nick Dormer's two notes. If Nick 
had come to the embassy in person — he might have 
done him the honour to call — he would have learned 
that the second secretary was absent. Lady Agnes 
was not altogether successful in assigning a motive 
to her son's neglect of this courteous form ; she could 
but say : "I expected him, I wanted him to go ; and 
indeed, not hearing from you, he would have gone 
immediately — an hour or two hence, on leaving this 
place. But we're here so quietly — not to go out, not 
to seem to appeal to the ambassador. Nick put it 
so — ' Oh mother, we'll keep out of it ; a friendly note 
will do.' I don't know definitely what he wanted 
to keep out of, unless anything like gaiety. The 
embassy isn't gay, I know. But Fm sure his note 
was friendly, wasn't it ? I dai-esay you'll see for 
yourself. He's different directly he gets abroad ; 
he doesn't seem to care." Lady Agnes paused a 
moment, not carrying out this particular elucidation ; 
then she resumed : "He said you'd have seen Julia 
and that you'd understand everything from her. 
And when I asked how she'd know he said, " Oh she 
knows everything ! ' " 

" He never said a word to me about JuUa," Peter 
Sherringham returned. Lady Agnes and her daughter 

37 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

exchanged a glance at this : the latter had already 
asked three times where JuUa was, and her ladyship 
dropped that they had been hoping she would be able 
to come with Peter. The young man set forth that 
she was at the moment at an hotel in the Rue de la 
Paix, but had only been there since that morning ; 
he had seen her before proceeding to the Champs 
Elysees. She had come up to Paris by an early train 
— she had been staying at Versailles, of all places in 
the world. She had been a week in Paris on her 
return from Cannes — her stay there had been of 
nearly a month : fancy !— and then had gone out to 
Versailles to see Mrs. Billinghurst. Perhaps they'd 
remember her, poor Dallow's sister. She was stay- 
ing there to teach her daughters' French — she had 
a dozen or two ! — and Julia had spent three days 
with her. She was to return to England about the 
twenty-fifth. It would make seven weeks she must 
have been away from town— a rare thing for her ; 
she usually stuck to it so in summer. 

" Three days with Mrs. Bilhnghurst — how very 
good-natured of her ! " Lady Agnes commented. 

" Oh they're very nice to her," Sherringham said. 

" Well, I hope so ! " Grace Dormer exhaled. 
" Why didn't you make her come here ? " 

" I proposed it, but she wouldn't." Another eye- 
beam, at this, passed between the two ladies and 
Peter went on : " She said you must come and see 
her at the Hotel de Hollande." 

" Of course we'll do that," Lady Agnes declared. 
" Nick went to ask about her at the Westminster." 

" She gave that up ; they wouldn't give her the 
rooms she wanted, her usual set." 

" She's dehghtfully particular ! " Grace said com- 
placently. Then she added : " She does Hke pictures, 
doesn't she ? " 

Peter Sherringham stared. " Oh I daresay. But 

38 



THE XRAGIC MUSE 

that's not what she has in her head this morning. 
She has some news from London — she's immensely 
excited," 

" What has she in her head ? " Lady Agnes 
asked. 

" What's her news from London ? " Grace 
added. 

" She wants Nick to stand." 

" Nick to stand ? " both ladies cried. 

" She undertakes to bring him in for Harsh. Mr. 
Pinks is dead — the fellow, you know, who got the 
seat at the general election. He dropped down in 
London — disease of the heart or something of that 
sort. Julia has her telegram, but I see it was in last 
night's papers." 

" Imagine — Nick never mentioned it ! " said Lady 
Agnes. 

" Don't you know, mother ? — abroad he only reads 
foreign papers." 

" Oh I know. I've no patience with him," her 
ladyship continued. " Dear Julia ! " 

"It's a nasty little place, and Pinks had a tight 
squeeze — 107 or something of that sort ; but if it 
returned a Liberal a year ago very likely it will do so 
again. Julia at any rate believes it can be made to 
— if the man's Nick — and is ready to take the order 
to put him in." 

" I'm sure if she can do it she will," Grace pro- 
nounced. 

" Dear, dear Julia ! And Nick can do something 
for himself," said the mother of this candidate. 

" I've no doubt he can do anything," Peter Sher- 
ringham returned good-naturedly. Then, " Do you 
mean in expenses ? " he inquired. 

" Ah I'm afraid he can't do much in expenses, 
poor dear boy ! And it's dreadful how little we 
can look to Percy." 

39 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Well, I daresay you may look to Julia. I think 
that's her idea." 

" Delightful Julia ! " Lady Agnes broke out. " If 
poor Sir Nicholas could have known ! Of course he 
must go straight home," she added. 

" He won't like that," said Grace. 

" Then he'll have to go without liking it." 

" It will rather spoil youy little excursion, if you've 
only just come," Peter suggested ; "to say nothing 
of the great Biddy's, if she's enjoying Paris." 

" We may stay perhaps-— with Julia to protect 
us," said Lady Agnes. 

" Ah she won't stay ; she'll go over for her man." 

" Her man ? " 

" The fellow who stands, whoever he is — especially 
if he's Nick." These last words caused the eyes of 
Peter Sherringham's companions to meet again, and 
he went on : " She'll go straight down to Harsh." 

" Wonderful JuUa ! " Lady Agnes panted. " Of 
course Nick must go straight there too." 

" Well, I suppose he must see first if they'll have 
him." 

" If they'll have him ? Why how can he tell till 
he tries ? " 

" I mean the people at headquarters, the fellows 
who arrange it." 

Lady Agnes coloured a little. " My dear Peter, 
do you suppose there will be the least doubt of their 
' having ' the son of his father ? " 

" Of course it's a great name. Cousin Agnes — a 
very great name." 

" One of the greatest, simply," Lady Agnes 
smiled. 

"It's the best name in the world ! " said Grace 
more emphatically. 

" All the same it didn't prevent his losing his 
seat." 

40 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" By half-a-dozen votes : it was too odious ! " 
her ladyship cried. 

" I remember — I remember. And in such a case 
as that why didn't they immediately put him in some- 
where else ? " 

" How one sees you live abroad, dear Peter ! 
There happens to have been the most extraordinary 
lack of openings — I never saw anything like it — 
for a year. They've had their hand on him, keep- 
ing him all ready. I daresay they've telegraphed 
him." 

" And he hasn't told you ? " 

Lady Agnes faltered. "He's so very odd when 
he's abroad ! " 

" At home too he lets things go," Grace interposed. 
" He does so little — takes no trouble." Her mother 
suffered this statement to pass unchallenged, and she 
pursued philosophically : "I suppose it's because he 
knows he's so clever." 

" So he is, dear old man. But what does he do, 
what has he been doing, in a positive way ? " 

" He has been painting." 

" Ah not seriously ! " Lady Agnes protested. 

" That's the worst way," said Peter Sherringham. 
" Good things ? " 

Neither of the ladies made a direct response to this, 
but Lady Agnes said : " He has spoken repeatedly. 
They're always calling on him." 

" He speaks magnificently," Grace attested. 

" That's another of the things I lose, living in far 
countries. And he's doing the Salon now with the 
great Biddy ? " 

" Just the things in this part. I can't think what 
keeps them so long," Lady Agnes groaned. " Did 
you ever see such a dreadful place ? " 

Sherringham stared. "Aren't the things good? 
I had an idea ! " 

41 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Good ? " cried Lady Agnes, " They're too 
odious, too wicked." 

"Ah," laughed Peter, " that's what people fall 
into if they live abroad. The French oughtn't to 
live abroad ! " 

" Here they come," Grace announced at this 
point ; " but they've got a strange man with them." 

" That's a bore when we want to talk ! " Lady 
Agnes sighed. 

Peter got up in the spirit of welcome and stood 
a moment watching the others approach. " There 
will be no difficulty in talking, to judge by the gentle- 
man," he dropped ; and while he remains so con- 
spicuous our eyes may briefly rest on him. He was 
middling high and was visibly a representative of the 
nervous rather than of the phlegmatic branch of his 
race. He had an oval face, fine firm features, and a 
complexion that tended to the brown. Brown were 
his eyes, and women thought them soft ; dark brown 
his hair, in which the same critics sometimes regretted 
the absence of a little undulation. It was perhaps 
to conceal this plainness that he wore it very short. 
His teeth were white, his moustache was pointed, 
and so was the small beard that adorned the extremity 
of his chin. His face expressed intelligence and was 
very much alive ; it had the further distinction that 
it often struck superficial observers with a certain 
foreignness of cast. The deeper sort, however, usually 
felt it latently English enough. There was an idea 
that, having taken up the diplomatic career and gone 
to live in strange lands, he cultivated the mask of 
an alien, an Italian or a Spaniard ; of an alien in 
time even — one of the wonderful ubiquitous diplo- 
matic agents of the sixteenth century. In fact, none 
the less, it would have been impossible to be more 
modern than Peter Sherringham — more of one's class 
and one's country. But this didn't prevent several 

42 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

stray persons — Bridget Dormer for instance — from 
admiring the hue of his cheek for its oHve richness 
and his moustache and beard for their resemblance 
to those of Charles I. At the same time — she rather 
jumbled her comparisons — she thought he recalled 
a Titian. 



43 



IV 



Peter's meeting with Nick was of the friendliest on 
both sides, involving a great many " dear fellows " 
and " old boys," and his salutation to the yomiger 
of the Miss Dormers consisted of the frankest " De- 
lighted to see you, my dear Bid ! " There was no 
kissing, but there was cousinship in the air, of a 
conscious, living kind, as Gabriel Nash doubtless 
quickly noted, hovering for a moment outside the 
group. Biddy said nothing to Peter Sherringham, 
but there was no flatness in a silence which heaved, 
as it were, with the fairest physiognomic portents. 
Nick introduced Gabriel Nash to his mother and to 
the other two as " a delightful old friend " whom he 
had just come across, and Sherringham acknowledged 
the act by saying to Mr. Nash, but as if rather less 
for his sake than for that of the presenter : "I've 
seen you very often before." 

" Ah repetition — recurrence : we haven't yet, in 
the study of how to live, abolished that clumsiness, 
have we ? " Mr. Nash genially inquired. "It's a 
poverty in the supernumeraries of our stage that we 
don't pass once for all, but come round and cross 
again like a procession or an army at the theatre. It's 
a sordid economy that ouglit to have been managed 
better. The right thing would be just one appearance, 
and the procession, regardless of expense, for ever 
and for ever different." The company was occupied 

44 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

in placing itself at table, so that the only disengaged 
attention for the moment was Grace's, to whom, as 
her eyes rested on him, the young man addressed 
these last words with a smile. " Alas, it's a very 
shabby idea, isn't it ? The world isn't got up regard- 
less of expense ! " 

Grace looked quickly away from him and said to 
her brother : " Nick, Mr. Pinks is dead." 

" Mr. Pinks ? " asked Gabriel Nash, appearing to 
wonder where he should sit. 

" The member for Harsh ; and Julia wants you to 
stand," the girl went on. 

" Mr. Pinks, the member for Harsh ? What 
names to be sure ! " Gabriel mused cheerfully, still 
unseated. 

" Julia wants me ? I'm much obliged to her ! " 
Nick absently said. " Nash, please sit by my mother, 
with Peter on her other side." 

" My dear, it isn't Julia " — Lady Agnes spoke 
earnestly. "Every one wants you. Haven't you 
heard from your people ? Didn't you know the seat 
was vacant ? 

Nick was looking round the table to see what was 
on it. " Upon my word I don't remember. What 
else have you ordered, mother ? " 

" There's some hceuf braise, my dear, and after- 
wards some galantine. Here's a dish of eggs with 
asparagus-tips." 

" I advise you to go in for it, Nick," said Peter 
Sherringham, to whom the preparation in question 
was presented. 

" Into the eggs \\ith asparagus-tips ? Donnez men 
s'il vous plait. My dear fellow, how can I stand ? 
how can I sit ? Where's the money to come from ? " 

" The money ? Why from Jul ! " Grace began, 

but immediately caught her mother's eye. 

"Poor Juha, how you do work her!" Nick 

45 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

exclaimed. " Nash, I recommend you the asparagus- 
tips. Mother, he's my best friend — do look after 
him." 

" I've an impression I've breakfasted — I'm not 
sure," Nash smiled. 

" With those beautiful ladies ? Try again — you'll 
find out." 

" The money can be managed ; the expenses are 
very small and the seat's certain," Lady Agnes 
pursued, not apparently heeding her son's injunction 
in respect to Nash. 

" Rather — if Julia goes down ! " her elder daughter 
exclaimed. 

" Perhaps Julia won't go down ! " Nick answered 
humorously. 

Biddy was seated next to Mr. Nash, so that she 
could take occasion to ask, " Who are the beautiful 
ladies ? " as if she failed to recognise her brother's 
allusion. In reality this was an innocent trick : she 
was more curious than she could have given a 
suitable reason for about the odd women from whom 
her neighbour had lately separated. 

" Deluded, misguided, infatuated persons ! " Mr. 
Nash replied, understanding that she had asked for 
a description. " Strange eccentric, almost romantic^ 
types. Predestined victims, simple-minded sacrificial 
lambs ! " 

This was copious, yet it was vague, so that Biddy 
could only respond : " Oh all that ? " But mean- 
while Peter Sherringham said to Nick : " Julia's here, 
you know. You must go and see her." 

Nick looked at him an instant rather hard, as if 
to say : " You too ? " But Peter's eyes appeared to 
answer, " No, no, not I " ; upon which his cousin 
rejoined : "Of course I'll go and see her. I'll go 
immediately. Please to thank her for thinking of 
me." 

46 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Thinking of you ? There are plenty to think of 
you ! " Lady Agnes said. " There are sure to be 
telegrams at home. We must go back — we must go 
back ! " 

" We must go back to England ? " Nick Dormer 
asked ; and as his mother made no answer he con- 
tinued : "Do you mean I must go to Harsh ? " 

Her ladyship evaded this question, inquiring of 
Mr. Nash if he would have a morsel of fish ; but her 
gain was small, for this gentleman, struck again by 
the unhappy name of the bereaved constituency, 
only broke out : "Ah what a place to represent ! 
How can you — how can you ? 

" It's an excellent place," said Lady Agnes coldly. 
" I imagine you've never been there. It's a very good 
place indeed. It belongs very largely to my cousin, 
Mrs. Dallow." 

Gabriel partook of the fish, listening with interest. 
" But I thought we had no more pocket-boroughs." 

" It's pockets we rather lack, so many of us. There 
are plenty of Harshes," Nick Dormer observed. 

" I don't know what you mean," Lady Agnes said 
to Nash with considerable majesty. 

Peter Sherringham also addressed him with an 
" Oh it's all right ; they come down on you like a 
shot ! " and the young man continued ingenuously : 

" Do you mean to say you've to pay money to get 
into that awful place — that it's not yon who are 
paid ? " 

" Into that awful place ? " Lady Agnes repeated 
blankly. 

" Into the House of Commons. That you don't 
get a high salary ? " 

" My dear Nash, you're dehghtful : don't leave me 
— don't leave me ! " Nick cried ; while his mother 
looked at him with an eye that demanded : " Who in 
the world's this extraordinary person ? " 

47 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" What then did you think pocket-boroughs were ?" 
Peter Sherringham asked. 

Mr. Nash's facial radiance rested on him. " WTiy, 
boroughs that filled your pocket. To do that sort of 
thing without a bribe — c'est trop fort ! " 

" He Uves at Samarcand," Nick Dormer explained 
to his mother, who flushed perceptibly. " What do 
you advise me ? I'll do whatever you say," he went 
on to his old acquaintance. 

" My dear, my dear ! " Lady Agnes pleaded. 

" See JuHa first, with all respect to Mr. Nash. 
She's of excellent counsel," said Peter Sherringham. 

Mr. Nash smiled across the table at his host. " The 
lady first— the lady first ! I've not a word to suggest 
as against any idea of hers." 

" We mustn't sit here too long, there'll be so 
much to do," said Lady Agnes anxiously, perceiving 
a certain slowness in the service of the hceuf braise. 

Biddy had been up to this moment mainly occupied 
in looking, covertly and in snatches, at Peter Sher- 
ringham ; as was perfectly lawful in a young lady with 
a handsome cousin whom she had ij^ot seen for more 
than a year. But her sweet voice now took license 
to throw in the words : "We know what Mr. Nash 
thinks of pohtics : he told us just now he thinks them 
dreadful." 

" No, not dreadful — only inferior," the personage 
impugned protested. " Everything's relative." 

" Inferior to what ? " Lady Agnes demanded. 

Mr. Nash appeared to consider a moment. " To 
anything else that may be in question." 

" Nothing else is in question ! " said her ladyship 
in a tone that would have been triumphant if it had 
not been so dry. 

" Ah then ! " And her neighbour shook his head 
sadly. He turned after this to Biddy. " The ladies 
whom I was with just now and in whom you were so 

48 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

good as to express an interest ? " Biddy gave a sign 
of assent and he went on : " They're persons theatrical. 
The younger one's trying to go upon the stage." 

" And are you assisting her ? " Biddy inquired, 
pleased she had guessed so nearly right. 

" Not in the least — I'm rather choking her off. I 
consider it the lowest of the arts." 

" Lower than pohtics ? " asked Peter Sherringham, 
who was listening to this. 

" Dear no, I won't say that. I think the Theatre 
Fran9ais a greater institution than the House of 
Commons." 

" I agree with you there ! " laughed Sherringham ; 
" all the more that I don't consider the dramatic art 
a low one. It seems to me on the contrary to include 
all the others." 

" Yes — that's a view. I think it's the view of my 
friends." 

" Of your friends ? " 

" Two ladies — old acquaintances — whom I met in 
Paris a week ago and whom I've just been spending 
an hour with in this place." 

' ' You should have seen them ; they struck me 
very much," Biddy said to her cousin. 

" I should like to see them if they really have any- 
thing to say to the theatre." 

" It can easily be managed. Do you believe in 
the theatre ? " asked Gabriel Nash. 

" Passionately," Sherringham confessed. " Don't 
you ? " 

Before Nash had had time to answer Biddy had 
interposed with a sigh. " How I wish I could go — 
but in Paris I can't ! " 

" I'll take you, Biddy— I vow I'll take you." 

" But the plays, Peter," the girl objected. " Mamma 
says they're worse than the pictures." 

" Oh, we'll arrange that : they shall do one at the 
I 49 E 



THE TRAGIC MUSE " 

Frangais on purpose for a delightful little yearning 
English girl." 

'■ Can you make them ? " 

" I can make them do anything I choose." 

" Ah then it's the theatre that believes in you," 
said Mr. Nash. 

" It would be ungrateful if it didn't after all I've 
done for it ! " Sherringham gaily opined. 

Lady Agnes had withdrawn herself from between 
him and her other guest and, to signify that she at 
least had finished eating, had gone to sit by her son, 
whom she held, with some importunity, in conversa- 
tion. But hearing the theatre talked of she threw 
across an impersonal challenge to the paradoxical 
young man. " Pray should you think it better for a 
gentleman to be an actor ? " 

" Better than being a politician ? Ah, comedian 
for comedian, isn't the actor more honest ? " 

Lady Agnes turned to her son and brought forth 
with spirit : " Think of your great father, Nicholas ! " 

" He was an honest man," said Nicholas. " That's 
perhaps why he couldn't stand it." 

Peter Sherringham judged the colloquy to have 
taken an uncomfortable twist, though not wholly, as 
it seemed to him, by the act of Nick's queer comrade. 
To draw it back to safer ground he said to this person- 
age : " May I ask if the ladies you just spoke of are 
English — Mrs. and Miss Rooth : isn't that the rather 
odd name ? " 

" The very same. Only the daughter, according to 
her kind, desires to be known by some nom de guerre 
before she has even been able to enlist." 

" And what does she call herself ? " Bridget 
Dormer asked. 

" Maud Vavasour, or Edith Temple, or Gladys 
Vane — some rubbish of that sort." 

" What then is her own name ? " 

50 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Miriam — Miriam Rooth. It would do very well 
and would give her the benefit of the prepossessing 
fact that — to the best of my belief at least — she's 
more than half a Jewess." 

"It is as good as Rachel Felix," Sherringham 
said. 

" The name's as good, but not the talent. The 
girl's splendidly stupid." 

" And more than half a Jewess ? Don't you 
believe it ! " Sherringham laughed. 

" Don't believe she's a Jewess ? " Biddy asked, 
still more interested in Miriam Rooth. 

" No, no — that she's stupid, really. If she is she'll 
be the first." 

" Ah you may judge for yourself," Nash rejoined, 
" if you'll come to-morrow afternoon to Madame 
Carre, Rue de Constantinople, a I'entresol." 

" Madame Carre ? Why, I've already a note from 
her — I found it this morning on my return to Paris 
— asking me to look in at five o'clock and listen to a 
jenne Anglaise." 

" That's my arrangement — I obtained the favour. 
The ladies want an opinion, and dear old Carre has 
consented to see them and to give one. Maud Vava- 
sour will recite, and the venerable artist will pass 
judgement." 

Sherringham remembered he had his note in his 
pocket and took it out to look it over. " She wishes 
to make her a little audience — she saj^s she'll do better 
with that — and she asks me because I'm English. 
I shall make a point of going." 

" And bring Dormer if you can : the audience will 
be better. Will you come, Dormer ? " Mr. Nash con- 
tinued, appealing to his friend — " will you come with 
me to hear an English amateur recite and an old 
French actress pitch into her ? " 

Nick looked round from his talk with his mother 

51 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

and Grace. " I'll go anywhere with you so that, as 
I've told you, I mayn't lose sight of you — may keep 
hold of you." 

" Poor Mr. Nash, why is he so useful ? " Lady 
Agnes took a cold freedom to inquire. 

" He steadies me, mother." 

" Oh I wish you'd take me, Peter," Biddy broke 
out wistfully to her cousin. 

" To spend an hour with an old French actress ? 
Do you want to go upon the stage ? " the young man 
asked. 

" No, but I want to see something — to know some- 
thing." 

" Madame Carre's wonderful in her way, but she's 
hardly company for a little English girl." 

"I'm not little, I'm only too big ; and she goes, the 
person you speak of." 

" For a professional purpose and with her good 
mother," smiled Mr. Nash. " I think Lady Agnes 
would hardly venture ! " 

"Oh I've seen her good mother ! " said Biddy as 
if she had her impression of what the worth of that 
protection might be. 

" Yes, but you haven't heard her. It's then that 
you measure her." 

Biddy was wistful still. " Is it the famous Honorine 
Carre, the great celebrity ? " 

" Honorine in person : the incomparable, the 
perfect ! " said Peter Sherringham. " The first artist 
of our time, taking her altogether. She and I are old 
pals ; she has been so good as to come and ' say ' 
things — which she does sometimes still dans le monde 
as no one else can — in my rooms." 

" Make her come then. We can go there ! " 

" One of these days ! " 

" And the young lady — Miriam, Maud, Gladys — 
make her come too." 

52 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Sherringham looked at Nash and the latter was 
bland. " Oh you'll have no difficulty. She'll jump 
at it ! " 

" Very good. I'll give a little artistic tea — with 
Julia too of course. And you must come, Mr. Nash." 
This gentleman promised with an inclination, and 
Peter continued : " But if, as you say, you're not for 
helping the young lady, how came you to arrange this 
interview with the great model ? 

" Precisely to stop her short. The great model will 
find her very bad. Her judgements, as you probably 
know, are Rhadamanthine." 

" Unfortunate creature ! " said Biddy. " I think 
you're cruel." 

" Never mind — I'll look after them," Sherringham 
laughed. 

" And how can Madame Carre judge if the girl 
recites English ? " 

" She's so intelligent that she could judge if she 
recited Chinese," Peter declared. 

" That's true, but the jeime Anglaise recites also in 
French," said Gabriel Nash. 

" Then she isn't stupid." 

" And in Italian, and in several more tongues, for 
aught I know." 

Sherringham was visibly interested. ." Very good 
— we'll put her through them all." 

" She must be most clever," Biddy went on yearn- 
ingly. 

" She has spent her hfe on the Continent ; she has 
wandered about with her mother ; she has picked up 
things." 

" And is she a lady ? " Biddy asked. 

" Oh tremendous ! The great ones of the earth on 
the mother's side. On the father's, on the other 
hand, I imagine, only a Jew stockbroker in the 
City." 

53 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Then they're rich — or ought to be," Sherringham 
suggested. 

" Ought to be — ah there's the bitterness ! The 
stockbroker had too short a go — he was carried off 
in his flower. However, he left his wife a certain 
property, which she appears to have muddled away, 
not having the safeguard of being herself a Hebrew. 
This is what she has lived on till to-day — this and 
another resource. Her husband, as she has often told 
me, had the artistic temperament : that's common, as 
you know, among ces messieurs. He made the most of 
his little opportunities and collected various pictures, 
tapestries, enamels, porcelains, and similar gewgaws. 
He parted with them also, I gather, at a profit ; in 
short he carried on a neat little business as a brocan- 
teur. It was nipped in the bud, but Mrs. Rootli was 
left witli a certain number of these articles in her 
liands ; indeed they must have formed her only 
capital. She was not a woman of business ; she 
turned them, no doubt, to indifferent account ; but 
she sold them piece by piece, and they kept her going 
while her daughter grew up. It was to this precarious 
traffic, conducted with extraordinary mystery and 
delicacy, that, five years ago, in Florence, I was 
indebted for my acquaintance with her. In those 
days I used. to collect — heaven help me ! — I used to 
pick up rubbish which I could ill afford. It was a little 
phase — we have our little phases, haven't we ? " 
Mr. Nash asked with childlike trust — " and I've come 
out on the other side. Mrs. Rooth had an old green 
pot and I heard of her old green pot. To hear of it 
was to long for it, so that I went to see it under cover 
of night. I bought it and a couple of years ago I 
overturned and smashed it. It was the last of the 
little phase. It was not, however, as you've seen, the 
last of Mrs. Rooth. I met her afterwards in London, 
and I found her a year or two ago in Venice. She 

54 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

appears to be a great wanderer. She had other old 
pots, of other colours, red, yellow, black, or blue — 
she could produce them of any complexion you liked. 
I don't know whether she carried them about with her 
or whether she had little secret stores in the principal 
cities of Europe. To-day at any rate they seem all 
gone. On the other hand she has her daughter, who 
has grown up ajid who's a precious vase of another 
kind — less fragile I hope than the rest. May she not 
be overturned and smashed ! " 

Peter Sherringham and Biddy Dormer listened 
with attention to this history, and the girl testified to 
the interest with which she had followed it by saying 
when Mr. Nash had ceased speaking : "A Jewish 
stockbroker, a dealer in curiosities : what an odd 
person to marry — for a person who was well born ! 
I daresay he was a German." 

" His name must have been simply Roth, and the 
poor lady, to smarten it up, has put in another o," 
Sherringham ingeniously suggested. 

" You're both very clever," said Gabriel, " and 
Rudolf Roth, as I happen to know, was indeed the 
designation of Maud Vavasour's papa. But so far as 
the question of derogation goes one might as well 
drown as starve — for what connexion is not a mis- 
alliance when one happens to have the unaccommo- 
dating, the crushing honour of being a Neville-Nugent 
of Castle Nugent ? That's the high lineage of Maud's 
mamma. I seem to have heard it mentioned that 
Rudolf Roth was very versatile and, like most of his 
species, not unacquainted with the practice of music. 
He had been employed to teach the harmonium to 
Miss Neville - Nugent and she had profited by his 
lessons. If his daughter's like him — and she's not like 
her mother — he was darkly anddangerouslyhandsome. 
So I venture rapidly to reconstruct the situation." 

A silence, for the moment, had fallen on Lady 

55 



THE TRAGIC MUSE - 

Agnes and her other two children, so that Mr. Nash, 
with his universal urbanity, practically addressed these 
last remarks to them as well as to his other auditors. 
Lady Agnes looked as if she wondered v/horn he was 
talking about, and having caught the name of a noble 
residence she inquired ; " Castle Nugent — where in 
the world's that ? " 

" It's a domain of immeasurable extent and almost 
inconceivable splendour, but I fear not to be found in 
any prosaic earthly geography ! " Lady Agnes rested 
her eyes on the tablecloth as if she weren't sure a 
liberty had not been taken with her, or at least with 
her " order," and while Mr. Nash continued to 
abound in descriptive suppositions — " It must be on 
the banks of the Manzanares or the Guadalquivir " — 
Peter Sherringham, whose imagination had seemingly 
been kindled by the sketch of Miriam Rooth, took up 
the argument and reminded him that he had a short 
time before assigned a low place to the dramatic art 
and had not yet answered the question as to whether 
he believed in the theatre. Which gave the speaker 
a further chance. " I don't know that I understand 
your question ; there are different ways of taking it. 
Do I think it's important ? Is that what you mean ? 
Important certainly to managers and stage-carpenters 
who want to make money, to ladies and gentlemen 
who want to produce themselves in public by lime- 
light, and to other ladies and gentlemen who are bored 
and stupid and don't know what to do with their even- 
ing. It's a commercial and social convenience which 
may be infinitely worked. But important artistic- 
ally, intellectually ? How can it be — so poor, so 
limited a form ? " 

" Upon my honour it strikes me as rich and 
various ! Do you think it's a poor and limited form, 
Nick ? " Sherringham added, appealing to his 
kinsman. 

56 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" I think whatever Nash thinks. I've no opinion 
to-day but his." 

This answer of the hope of the Dormers drew the 
eyes of his mother and sisters to him and caused his 
friend to exclaim that he wasn't used to such respon- 
sibihties — so few people had ever tested his presence 
of mind by agreeing with him. " Oh I used to be of 
your way of feeling," Nash went on to Sherringham. 
" I understand you perfectly. It's a phase like 
another. I've been through it — j'ai ete comme ga." 

" And you went then very often to the Theatre 
Frangais, and it was there I saw you. I place you 
now." 

"I'm afraid I noticed none of the other spectators," 
Nash explained. " I had no attention but for the 
great Carre — she was still on the stage. Judge of my 
infatuation, and how I can allow for yours, when I tell 
you that I sought her acquaintance, that I couldn't 
rest till I had told her how I hung upon her lips." 

" That's just what / told her," Sherringham 
returned. 

" She was very kind to me. She said : ' Vous me 
rendez des forces.' " 

" That's just what she said to me ! " 

"And we've remained very good friends." 

" So have we ! " laughed Sherringham. " And 
such perfect art as hers — do you mean to say you 
don't consider that important, such a rare dramatic 
intelligence ? " 

"I'm afraid you read the feuilleions. You catch 
their phrases " — Nash spoke with pity. " Dramatic 
intelligence is never rare ; nothing's more common." 

" Then why have we so many shocking actors ? " 

" Have we ? I thought they were mostly good ; 
succeeding more easily and more completely in that 
business than in anything else. What could they do 
— those people generally — if they didn't do that poor 

57 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

thing ? And reflect that the poor thing enables them 
to succeed ! Of course, always, there are numbers of 
people on the stage who are no actors at all, for it's 
even easier to our poor humanity to be ineffectively 
stupid and vulgar than to bring down the house." 

" It's not easy, by what I can see, to produce, 
completely, any artistic effect," Sherringham declared ; 
" and those the actor produces are among the most 
momentous we know. You'll not persuade me that 
to watch such an actress as Madame Carre wasn't 
an education of the taste, an enlargement of one's 
knowledge." 

" She did what she could, poor woman, but in what 
belittling, coarsening conditions ! She had to interpret 
a character in a play, and a character in a play — not 
to say the whole piece : I speak more particularly of 
modern pieces — ^is such a wretchedly small peg to 
hang anything on ! The dramatist shows us so little, 
is so hampered by his audience, is restricted to so 
poor an analysis." 

" I know the complaint. It's all the fashion now. 
The raffines despise the theatre," said Peter Sherring- 
ham in the manner of a man abreast with the culture 
of his age and not to be captured by a surprise. 
" Connu, connu ! " 

" It will be known better yet, won't it ? when the 
essentially brutal nature of the modern audience is 
still more perceived, when it has been properly ana- 
lysed : the omnium gatherum of the population of a big 
commercial city at the hour of the day when their 
taste is at its lowest, flocking out of hideous hotels and 
restaurants, gorged with food, stultified with buying 
and selling and with all the other sordid preoccupa- 
tions of the age, squeezed together in a sweltering 
mass, disappointed in their seats, timing the author, 
timing the actor, wishing to get their money back on 
the spot — all before eleven o'clock. Fancy putting 

58 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

the exquisite before such a tribunal as that ! There's 
not even a question of it. The dramatist wouldn't if 
he could, and in nine cases out of ten he couldn't 
if he would. He has to make the basest concessions. 
One of his principal canons is that he must enable 
his spectators to catch the suburban trains, which stop 
at 11.30. What would you think of any other artist — 
the painter or the novelist — whose governing forces 
should be the dinner and the suburban trains ? The 
old dramatists didn't defer to them — not so much 
at least — and that's why they're less and less actable. 
If they're touched — the large loose men — it's only 
to be mutilated and triviahsed. Besides, they had 
a simpler civilisation to represent — societies in which 
the life of man was in action, in passion, in immediate 
and violent expression. Those things could be put 
upon the playhouse boards with comparatively little 
sacrifice of their completeness and their truth. To-day 
we're so infinitely more reflective and comphcated 
and diffuse that it makes all the difference. What can 
you do with a character, with an idea, with a feeling, 
between dinner and the suburban trains ? You can 
give a gross, rough sketch of them, but how little you 
touch them, how bald you leave them ! What 
crudity compared with what the novelist does ! " 

" Do you write novels, Mr. Nash ? " Peter candidly 
asked. 

" No, but I read them when they're extraordinarily 
good, and I don't go to plays. I read Balzac for 
instance — I encounter the admirable portrait of 
Valerie Marneffe in La Cousine Bette." 

" And you contrast it with the poverty of Emile 
Augier's Seraphine in Les Lionnes Pauvres ? I was 
awaiting you there. That's the cheval de hataille of 
you fellows." 

" What an extraordinary discussion ! What dread- 
ful authors ! " Lady Agnes murmured to her son. 

59 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

But he was listening so attentively to the other 
young men that he made no response, and Peter 
Sherringham went on : 

" I've seen Madame Carre in things of the modern 
repertory, which she has made as vivid to me, caused 
to abide as ineffaceably in my memory, as Valerie 
Marneffe. She's the Balzac, as one may say, of 
actresses." 

" The miniaturist, as it were, of white washers ! " 
Nash offered as a substitute. 

It might have been guessed that Sherringham re- 
sented his damned freedom, yet could but emulate his 
easy form. " You'd be magnanimous if you thought 
the young lady you've introduced to our old friend 
would be important." 

Mr. Nash lightly weighed it. " She might be much 
more so than she ever will be." 

Lady Agnes, however, got up to term-inate the 
scene and even to signify that enough had been said 
about people and questions she had never so much as 
heard of. Every one else rose, the waiter brought 
Nicholas the receipt of the bill, and Sherringham went 
on, to his interlocutor : " Perhaps she'll be more so 
than you think." 

" Perhaps — if you take an interest in her ! " 

" A mystic voice seems to exhort me to do so, to 
whisper that though I've never seen her I shall find 
something in her." On which Peter appealed. " What 
do you say, Biddy — shall I take an interest in her ? " 

The girl faltered, coloured a little, felt a certain 
embarrassment in being publicly treated as an oracle. 
" If she's not nice I don't advise it." 

" And if she is nice ? " 

" You advise it still less ! " her brother exclaimed, 
laughing and putting his arm round her. 

Lady Agnes looked sombre — she might have been 
saying to herself : " Heaven help us, what chance 

60 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

lias a girl of mine with a man who's so agog about 
actresses ? " She was disconcerted and distressed ; a 
multitude of incongruous things, all the morning, had 
been forced upon her attention — displeasing pictures 
and still more displeasing theories aDOut them, vague 
portents of perversity on Nick's part and a strange 
eagerness on Peter's, learned apparently in Paris, to 
discuss, with a person who had a tone she never had 
been exposed to, topics irrelevant and uninteresting, 
almost disgusting, the practical effect of which was 
to make light of her presence. " Let us leave this — 
let us leave this ! " she grimly said. The party 
moved together toward the door of departure, and 
her ruffled spirit was not soothed by hearing her son 
remark to his terrible friend : " You know you don't 
escape me ; I stick to you ! " 

At this Lady Agnes broke out and interposed. 
" Pardon my reminding you that you're going to 
call on Julia." 

" Well, can't Nash also come to call on Julia ? 
That's just what I want — that she should see 
him." 

Peter Sherringham came humanely to his kins- 
woman's assistance. " A better way perhaps will be 
for them to meet under my auspices at my ' dramatic 
tea.' This will enable me to return one favour for 
another. If Mr. Nash is so good as to introduce me 
to this aspirant for honours we estimate so differently, 
ril introduce him to my sister, a much more positive 
quantity." 

" It's easy to see who'll have the best of it ! " 
Grace Dormer declared ; while Nash stood there 
serenely, impartially, in a graceful detached way 
which seemed characteristic of him, assenting to any 
decision that relieved him of the grossness of choice 
and generally confident that things would turn out 
well for him. He was cheerfully helpless and sociably 

6i 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

indifferent ; ready to preside with a smile even at a 
discussion of his own admissibihty. 

" Nick will bring you. I've a little corner at the 
embassy," Sherringham continued. 

" You're ver}^ kind. You must bring him then 
to-morrow — Rue de Constantinople." 

" At five o'clock — don't be afraid." 

" Oh dear ! " Biddy wailed as they went on again 
and Lady Agnes, seizing his arm, marched off more 
quickly with her son. When they came out into the 
Champs Elysees Nick Dormer, looking round, saw 
his friend had disappeared. Biddy had attached her- 
self to Peter, and Grace couldn't have encouraged 
Mr. Nash. 



62 



V 



Lady Agnes's idea had been that her son should go 
straight from the Palais de 1' Industrie to the Hotel 
de Hollande, with or without his mother and his 
sisters as his humour should seem to recommend. 
Much as she desired to see their valued Julia, and as 
she knew her daughters desired it, she was quite 
ready to put off their visit if this sacrifice should con- 
tribute to a speedy confrontation for Nick. She was 
anxious he should talk with Mrs. Dallow, and anxious 
he should be anxious himself ; but it presently ap- 
peared that he was conscious of no pressure of eager- 
ness. His view was that she and the girls should 
go to their cousin without delay and should, if they 
liked, spend the rest of the day in her society. He 
would go later ; he would go in the evening. There 
were lots of things he wanted to do meanwhile. 

This question was discussed with some intensity, 
though not at length, while the little party stood on 
the edge of the Place de la Concorde, to which they 
had proceeded on foot ; and Lady Agnes noticed that 
the " lots of things " to which he proposed to give 
precedence over an urgent duty, a conference -with a 
person who held out full hands to him, were impUed 
somehow in the friendly glance with which he covered 
the great square, the opposite bank of the Seine, the 
steep blue roofs of the quay, the bright immensity of 
Paris. What in the world could be more important 

63 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

than making sure of his seat ? — so quickly did the 
good lady's imagination travel. And now that idea 
appealed to him less than a ramble in search of old 
books and prints — since she was sure this was what 
he had in his head. Julia would be flattered should 
she know it, but of course she mustn't know it. Lady 
Agnes was already thinking of the least injurious 
account she could give of the young man's want of 
precipitation. She would have liked to represent 
him as tremendously occupied, in his room at their 
own hotel, in getting off political letters to every one 
it should concern, and particularly in drawing up his 
address to the electors of Harsh. Fortunately she 
was a woman of innumerable discretions, and a part 
of the worn look that sat in her face came from her 
having schooled herself for years, in commerce with 
her husband and her sons, not to insist unduly. She 
would have liked to insist, nature had formed her to 
insist, and the self-control had told in more ways 
than one. Even now it was powerless to prevent her 
suggesting that before doing anything else Nick should 
at least repair to the inn and see if there weren't some 
telegrams. 

He freely consented to do as much as this, and, 
having called a cab that she might go her way with 
the girls, kissed her again as he had done at the ex- 
hibition. This was an attention that could never 
displease her, but somehow when he kissed her she 
was really the more worried : she had come to recog- 
nise it as a sign that he was slipping away from her, 
and she wished she might frankly take it as his clutch 
at her to save him. She drove off with a vague sense 
that at any rate she and the girls might do something 
toward keeping the place warm for him. She had 
been a little vexed that Peter had not administered 
more of a push toward the Hotel do Hollande, clear 
as it had become to her now that there was a foreign- 

64 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

ness in Peter which was not to be counted on and 
which made him speak of EngHsh affairs and even of 
English domestic pohtics as local and even " funny." 
They were very grandly local, and if one recalled, in 
public life, an occasional droll incident wasn't that, 
liberally viewed, just the warm human comfort of 
them ? As she left the two young men standing to- 
gether in the middle of the Place de la Concorde, the 
grand composition of which Nick, as she looked back, 
appeared to have paused to admire — as if he hadn't 
seen it a thousand times ! — she wished she might have 
thought of Peter's influence with her son as exerted 
a little more in favour of localism. She had a fear 
he wouldn't abbreviate the boy's ill-timed fldnerie. 
However, he had been very nice : he had invited them 
all to dine with him that evening at a convenient 
cafe, promising to bring Julia and one of his col- 
leagues. So much as this he had been willing to do 
to make sure Nick and his sister should meet. His 
want of localism, moreover, was not so great as that 
if it should turn out that there was anything beneath 

his manner toward Biddy ! The upshot of this 

reflexion might have been represented by the cir- 
cumstance of her ladyship's remarking after a minute 
to her younger daughter, who sat opposite her in the 
voiture de place, that it would do no harm if she should 
get a new hat and that the search might be instituted 
that afternoon. 

" A French hat, mamma ? " said Grace. " Oh do 
wait till she gets home ! " 

" I think they're realty prettier here, you know," 
Biddy opined; and Lady Agnes said simply: " I dare- 
say they're cheaper." What was in her mind in fact 
was: "I daresay Peter thinks them becoming." It 
will be seen she had plenty of inward occupation, 
the sum of which was not lessened by her learning 
when she reached the top of the Rue de la Paix that 
I 65 F 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Mrs. Dallow had gone out half an hour before and 
had left no message. She was more disconcerted by 
this incident than she could have explained or than 
she thought was right, as she had taken for granted 
Julia would be in a manner waiting for them. How 
could she be sure Nick wasn't coming ? When people 
were in Paris a few days they didn't mope in the 
house, but she might have waited a little longer or 
have left an explanation. Was she then not so much 
in earnest about Nick's standing ? Didn't she recog- 
nise the importance of being there to see him about 
it ? Lady Agnes wondered if her behaviour were a 
sign of her being already tired of the way this young 
gentleman treated her. Perhaps she had gone out 
because an instinct told. her that the great propriety 
of their meeting early would make no difference with 
him — told her he wouldn't after all come. His 
mother's heart sank as she glanced at this possibihty 
that their precious friend was already tired, she having 
on her side an intuition that there were still harder 
things in store. She had disUked having to tell Mrs. 
Dallow that Nick wouldn't see her till the evening, 
but now she disliked still more her not being there 
to hear it. She even resented a little her kinswoman's 
not having reasoned that she and the girls would come 
in any event, and not thought them worth staying 
in for. It came up indeed that she would perhaps 
have gone to their hotel, which was a good way up 
the Rue de Rivoli, near the Palais Royal — on which 
the cabman was directed to drive to that establish- 
ment. 

As he jogged along she took in some degree the 
measure of what that might mean, JuHa's seeking 
a little to avoid them. Was she growing to dislike 
them ? Did she think they kept too sharp an eye on 
her, so that the idea of their standmg in a still closer 
relation wouldn't be enticing ? Her conduct up to 

66 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

this time had not worn such an appearance, unless 
perhaps a little, just a very little, in the matter of 
her ways with poor Grace. Lady Agnes knew she 
wasn't particularly fond of poor Grace, and could 
even sufficiently guess the reason — the manner in 
which Grace betrayed most how they wanted to make 
sure of her. She remembered how long the girl had 
stayed the last time she had been at Harsh — going 
for an acceptable week and dragging out her visit to 
a month. She took a private heroic vow that Grace 
shouldn't go near the place again for a year ; not 
that is, unless Nick and Julia were married within 
the time. If that were to happen she shouldn't care. 
She recognised that it wasn't absolutely everything 
Julia should be in love with Nick ; it was also better 
she should dislike his mother and sisters after a prob- 
able pursuit of him than before. Lady Agnes did 
justice to the natural rule in virtue of which it usually 
comes to pass that a woman doesn't get on with her 
husband's female belongings, and was even willing 
to be sacrificed to it in her disciplined degree. But 
she desired not to be sacrificed for nothing : if she 
was to be objected to as a mother-in-law she wished 
to be the mother-in-law first. 

At the hotel in the Rue de Rivoli she had the dis- 
appointment of finding that Mrs. Dallow had not 
called, and also that no telegrams had come. She 
went in with the girls for half an hour and then 
straggled out with them again. She was undeter- 
mined and dissatisfied and the afternoon was rather 
a problem ; of the kind, moreover, that she disliked 
most and was least accustomed to : not a choice 
between different things to do — her life had been full 
of that — but a want of anything to do at all. Nick had 
said to her before they separated : " You can knock 
about with the girls, you know ; everything's amusing 
here." That was easily said while he sauntered and 

67 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

gossiped with Peter Sherringham and perhaps went 
to see more pictures Hke those in the Salon. He was 
usually, on such occasions, very good-natured about 
spending his time with them ; but this episode had 
taken altogether a perverse, profane form. She had 
no desire whatever to knock about and was far from 
finding everything in Paris amusing. She had no 
aptitude for aimlessness, and moreover thought it 
vulgar. If she had found Julia's card at the hotel — 
the sign of a hope of catching them just as they came 
back from the Salon — she would have made a second 
attempt to see her before the evening ; but now 
certainly they would leave her alone. Lady Agnes 
wandered joylessly with the girls in the Palais Royal 
and the Rue de Richelieu, and emerged upon the 
Boulevard, where they continued their frugal prowl, 
as Biddy rather irritatingly called it. They went 
into five shops to buy a hat for Biddy, and her 
ladyship's presumptions of cheapness were woefully 
belied. 

" Who in the world's your comic friend ? " Peter 
Sherringham was meanwhile asking of his kinsman 
as they walked together. 

" Ah there's something else you lost by going to 
Cambridge — ^you lost Gabriel Nash ! " 

" He sounds like an Elizabethan dramatist," Sher- 
ringham said. " But I haven't lost him, since it 
appears now I shan't be able to have you without 
^him." 

" Oh, as for that, wait a little. I'm going to try 
him again, but I don't know how he wears. What I 
mean is that you've probably lost his freshness, which 
was the great thing. I rather fear he's becoming 
conventional, or at any rate serious." 

" Bless me, do you call that serious ? " 

" He used to be so gay. He had a real genius for 
playing with ideas. He was a wonderful talker." 

68 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" It seems to me he does very well now," said Peter 
Sherringham. 

" Oh this is nothing. He had great flights of old, 
very great flights ; one saw him rise and rise and turn 
somersaults in the blue — one wondered how far he 
could go. He's very intelligent, and I should think 
it might be interesting to find out what it is that 
prevents the whole man from being as good as his 
parts. I mean in case he isn't so good." 

" I see you more than suspect that. Mayn't it be 
simply that he's too great an ass ? " 

" That would be the whole — I shall see in time 
— but it certainly isn't one of the parts. It may be 
the effect, but it isn't the cause, and it's for the 
cause I claim an interest. Do you think him an ass 
for what he said about the theatre — his pronouncing 
it a coarse art ? " 

" To differ from you about him that reason would 
do," said Sherringham. " The only bad one would 
be one that shouldn't preserve our difference. You 
needn't tell me you agree with him, for frankly I 
don't care." 

" Then your passion still burns ? " Nick Dormer 
asked. 

" My passion ? " 

" I don't mean for any individual exponent of the 
equivocal art : mark the guilty conscience, mark the 
rising blush, mark the confusion of mind ! I mean 
the old sign one knew you best by : your permanent 
stall at the Frangais, your inveterate attendance at 
premieres, the way you ' follow ' the young talents 
and the old." 

" Yes, it's still my little hobby, my little folly if 
you Hke," Sherringham said. " I don't find I get 
tired of it. What will you have ? Strong predilec- 
tions are rather a blessing ; they're simplifying. I'm 
fond of representation — the representation of life : 

69 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

I like it better, I think, than the real thing. You like 
it too, you'd be ready in other conditions to go in for 
it, in your way — so you've no right to cast the stone. 
You like it best done by one vehicle and 1 by another ; 
and our preference on either side has a deep root in 
us. There's a fascination to me in the way the actor 
does it, when his talent — ah he must have that ! — 
has been highly trained. Ah it must he that ! The 
things he can do in this effort at representation, with 
the dramatist to back him, seem to me innumerable 
— he can carry it to a point ! — and I take great pleasure 
in observing them, in recognising and comparing them. 
It's an amusement like another — I don't pretend to 
call it by any exalted name, but in this vale of friction 
it will serve. One can lose one's self in it, and it has 
the recommendation — in common, I suppose, Math the 
study of the other arts — that the further you go in 
it the more you find. So I go rather far, if you will. 
But is it the principal sign one knows me by ? " 
Peter abruptly asked. 

" Don't be ashamed of it," Nick returned — " else 
it will be ashamed of you. I ought to discriminate. 
You're distinguished among my friends and relations 
by your character of rising young diplomatist ; but 
you know I always want the final touch to the picture, 
the last fruit of analysis. Therefore I make out that 
you're conspicuous among rising young diplomatists 
for the infatuation you describe in such pretty terms." 

" You evidently believe it will prevent my ever 
rising very high. But pastime for pastime is it any 
idler than yours ? " 

" Than mine ? " 

" Why you've half-a-dozen while I only allow 
myself the luxury of one. For the theatre's my sole 
vice, really. Is this more wanton, say, than to devote 
weeks to the consideration of the particular way in 
which your friend Mr. Nash may be most intensely 

70 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

a twaddler and a bore ? That's not my ideal of 
choice recreation, but I'd undertake to satisfy you 
about him sooner. You're a young statesman — 
who happens to be an en disponibilite for the moment 
— but you spend not a little of your time in besmear- 
ing canvas with bright-coloured pigments. The idea 
of representation fascinates you, but in your case 
it's representation in oils — or do you practise water- 
colours and pastel too ? You even go much further 
than I, for I study my art of predilection only in the 
works of others. I don't aspire to leave works of 
my own. You're a painter, possibly a great one ; 
but I'm not an actor." Nick Dormer declared he 
would certainly become one — he was so weU on the 
way to it ; and Sherringham, without heeding this 
charge, went on : " Let me add that, considering you 
are a painter, your portrait of the complicated Nash 
is lamentably dim." 

" He's not at all complicated ; he's only too simple 
to give an account of. Most people have a lot of 
attributes and appendages that dress them up and 
superscribe them, and what I like Gabriel for is that 
he hasn't any at all. It makes him, it keeps him, 
so refreshingly cool." 

" By Jove, you match him there ! Isn't it an 
appendage and an attribute to escape kicking ? 
How does he manage that ? " Sherringham asked. 

" I haven't the least idea — I don't know that he 
doesn't rouse the kicking impulse. Besides, he can 
kick back and I don't think any one has ever seen 
him duck or dodge. His means, his profession, his 
belongings have never anything to do with the ques- 
tion. He doesn't shade off into other people ; he's 
as neat as an outline cut out of paper with scissors. 
I like him, therefore, because in dealing with him you 
know what you've got hold of. With most men you 
don't : to pick the flower you must break off the 

71 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

whole dusty, thorny, worldly branch ; you find you're 
taking up in your grasp all sorts of other people and 
things, dangling accidents and conditions. Poor Nash 
has none of those encumbrances : he's the solitary 
fragrant blossom." 

" My dear fellow, you'd be better for a little of 
the same pruning ! " Sherringham retorted ; and the 
young men continued their walk and their gossip, 
jerking each other this way and that, punching each 
other here and there, with an amicable roughness 
consequent on their having been boys together. 
Intimacy had reigned of old between the little Sher- 
ringhams and the little Dormers, united in the country 
by ease of neighbouring and by the fact that there 
was first cousinship, not neglected, among the parents. 
Lady Agnes standing in this plastic relation to Lady 
Windrush, the mother of Peter and Julia as well 
as of other daughters and of a maturer youth who 
was to inherit, and who since then had inherited, the 
ancient barony. Many things had altered later on, 
but not the good reasons for not explaining. One of 
our young men had gone to Eton and the other to 
Harrow — the scattered school on the hill was the 
tradition of the Dormers — and the divergence had 
rather taken its course in university years. Bricket. 
however, had remained accessible to Windrush, and 
Windrush to Bricket, to which estate Percival 
Dormer had now succeeded, terminating the inter- 
change a trifle rudely by letting out that pleasant 
white house in the midlands — its expropriated in- 
habitants. Lady Agnes and her daughters, adored it 
— to an American reputed rich, who in the first flush 
of his sense of contrasts considered that for twelve 
hundred a year he got it at a bargain. Bricket had 
come to the late Sir Nicholas from his elder brother, 
dying Mdfeless and childless. The new baronet, so 
different from his father — though recalling at some 

72 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

points the uncle after whom he had been named — 
that Nick had to make it up by cultivating con- 
formity, roamed about the world, taking shots which 
excited the enthusiasm of society, when society heard 
of them, at the few legitimate creatures of the chase 
the British rifle had up to that time spared. Lady 
Agnes meanwhile settled with her girls in a gabled, 
latticed house in a mentionable quarter, though it 
still required a little explaining, of the temperate 
zone of London. It was not into her lap, poor woman, 
that the revenues of Bricket were poured. There 
was no dower - house attached to that moderate 
property, and the allowance with which the estate 
was charged on her ladyship's behalf was not an 
incitement to grandeur. 

Nick had a room under his mother's roof, which 
he mainly used to dress for dinner when dining in 
Calcutta Gardens, and he had " kept on " his chambers 
in the Temple ; for to a young man in public life 
an independent address was indispensable. Moreover, 
he was suspected of having a studio in an out-of-the- 
way district, the indistinguishable parts of South 
Kensington, incongruous as such a retreat might 
seem in the case of a member of Parliament. It was 
an absurd place to see his constituents unless he 
wanted to paint their portraits, a kind of " repre- 
sentation " with which they would scarce have been 
satisfied ; and in fact the only question of portraiture 
had been when the wives and daughters of several 
of them expressed a wish for the picture of their 
handsome young member. Nick had not offered to 
paint it himself, and the studio was taken for granted 
rather than much looked into by the ladies in Cal- 
cutta Gardens. Too express a disposition to regard 
whims of this sort as extravagance pure and simple 
was known by them to be open to correction ; for 
they were not oblivious that Mr. Carteret had humours 

73 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

which weighed against them in the shape of convenient 
cheques nesthng between the inside pages of legible 
letters of advice. Mr. Carteret was Nick's providence, 
just as Nick was looked to, in a general way, to be 
that of his mother and sisters, especially since it 
had become so plain that Percy, who was not subtly 
selfish, would operate, mainly with a " six-bore," 
quite out of that sphere. It was not for studios 
certainly that Mr. Carteret sent cheques ; but they 
were an expression of general confidence in Nick, 
and a little expansion was natural to a young man 
enjoying such a luxury as that. It was sufficiently 
felt in Calcutta Gardens that he could be looked to 
not to betray such confidence ; for Mr. Carteret's 
behaviour could have no name at all unless one were 
prepared to call it encouraging. He had never pro- 
mised anything, but he was one of the dehghtful 
persons with whom the redemption precedes or dis- 
penses with the vow. He had been an early and life- 
long friend of the late right honourable gentleman, a 
pohtical follower, a devoted admirer, a stanch supporter 
in difficult hours. He had never married, espous- 
ing nothing more reproductive than Sir Nicholas's 
views — he used to write letters to the Times in 
favour of them — and had, so far as was known, 
neither chick nor child ; nothing but an amiable little 
family of eccentricities, the flower of which was his 
odd taste for living in a small, steep, clean country 
town, all green gardens and red walls with a girdle 
of hedge-rows, all clustered about an immense brown 
old abbey. When Lady Agnes's imagination rested 
upon the future of her second son she liked to re- 
member that Mr. Carteret had nothing to " keep 
up " : the inference seemed so direct that he would 
keep up Nick. 

The most important event in the Hfe of this young 
man had been incomparably his success, under his 

74 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 



father's eyes, more than two years before, in the 
sharp contest for Crockhurst — a victory which his 
consecrated name, his extreme youth, his ardour in 
the fray, the marked personal sympathy of the party, 
and the attention excited by the fresh cleverness of 
his speeches, tinted with young idealism and yet 
sticking sufficiently to the question — the burning 
question which has since burned out — had made quite 
splendid. There had been leaders in the newspapers 
about it, half in compliment to her husband, who 
was known to be failing so prematurely — he was 
almost as young to die, and to die famous, for Lady 
Agnes regarded it as famous, as his son had been 
to stand — tributes the boy's mother religiously pre- 
served, cut out and tied together with a ribbon, in 
the innermost drawer of a favourite cabinet. But it 
had been a barren, or almost a barren triumph, for 
in the order of importance in Nick's history another 
incident had run it, as the phrase is, very close : 
nothing less than the quick dissolution of the Parlia- 
ment in which he was so manifestly destined to give 
symptoms of a future. He had not recovered his seat 
at the general election, for the second contest was 
even sharper than the first and the Tories had put 
forward a loud, vulgar, rattling, bullying, money- 
spending man. It was to a certain extent a comfort 
that poor Sir Nicholas, who had been witness of the 
bright hour, should have passed away before the 
darkness. He died with all his hopes on his second 
son's head, unconscious of near disappointment, 
handing on the torch and the tradition, after a long, 
supreme interview with Nick at which Lady Agnes 
had not been present, but which she knew to have 
been a thorough paternal dedication, an august com- 
munication of ideas on the highest national questions 
(she had reason to believe he had touched on those of 
external as well as of domestic and of colonial policy) 

75 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

leaving on the boy's nature and manner from that 
moment the most unmistakable traces. If his tend- 
ency to reverie increased it was because he had so 
much to think over in what his pale father had said 
to him in the hushed dim chamber, laying on him 
the great mission that death had cut short, breath- 
ing into him with unforgettable solemnity the very 
accents — Sir Nicholas's voice had been wonderful 
for richness — that he was to sound again. It was 
work cut out for a lifetime, and that " co-ordinating 
power in relation to detail " which was one of the 
great characteristics of the lamented statesman's 
high distinction — the most analytic of the weekly 
papers was always talking about it— had enabled 
him to rescue the prospect from any shade of vague- 
ness or of ambiguity. 

Five years before Nick Dormer went up to be 
questioned by the electors of Crockhurst Peter Sher- 
ringham had appeared before a board of examiners 
who let him off much less easily, though there were 
also some flattering prejudices in his favour ; such 
influences being a part of the copious, light, unem- 
barrassing baggage with which each of the young 
men began Ufe. Peter passed, however, passed high, 
and had his reward in prompt assignment to smafl, 
subordinate, diplomatic duties in Germany. Since 
then he had had his professional adventures, which 
need not arrest us, inasmuch as they had all paled 
in the light of his appointment, nearly three years 
previous to the moment of our making his acquaint- 
ance, to a secretaryship of embassy in Paris. He 
had done well and had gone fast and for the present 
could draw his breath at ease. It pleased him better 
to remain in Paris as a subordinate than to go to 
Honduras as a principal, and Nick Dormer had not 
put a false colour on the matter in speaking of his 
stall at the Theatre Fran9ais as a sedative to his 

76 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

ambition. Nick's inferiority in age to his cousin sat 
on him more Hghtly than when they had been in 
their teens ; and indeed no one can very well be much 
older than a young man who has figured for a year, 
however imperceptibly, in the House of Commons. 
Separation and diversity had made them reciprocally 
strange enough to give a price to what they shared ; 
they were friends without being particular friends ; 
that further degree could always hang before them as 
a suitable but not oppressive contingency, and they 
were both conscious that it was in their interest to 
keep certain differences to " chaff " each other about 
— so possible was it that they might have quarrelled 
if they had had everything in common. Peter, as 
being wide-minded, was a little irritated to find his 
cousin always so intensely British, while Nick Dormer 
made him the object of the same compassionate 
criticism, recognised in him a rare knack with foreign 
tongues, but reflected, and even with extravagance 
declared, that it was a pity to have gone so far from 
home only to remain so homely. Moreover, Nick had 
his ideas about the- diplomatic mind, finding in it, 
for his own sympathy, always the wrong turn. Dry, 
narrow, barren, poor he pronounced it in familiar 
conversation with the clever secretary ; wanting in 
imagination, in generosity, in the finest perceptions 
and the highest courage. This served as well as 
anything else to keep the peace between them ; it 
was a necessity of their friendly intercourse that they 
should scuffle a little, and it scarcely mattered what 
they scuffled about. Nick Dormer's express enjoy- 
ment of Paris, the shop-windows on the quays, the 
old books on the parapet, the gaiety of the river, the 
grandeur of the Louvre, every fine feature of that 
prodigious face, struck his companion as a sign of 
insularity ; the appreciation of such things having 
become with Sherringham an unconscious habit, a 

11 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

contented assimilation. If poor Nick, for the hour, 
was demonstrative and lyrical, it was because he 
had no other way of sounding the note of farewell to 
the independent life of which the term seemed now 
definitely in sight — the sense so pressed upon him 
that these were the last moments of his freedom. He 
would waste time till half-past seven, because half- 
past seven meant dinner, and dinner meant his mother 
solemnly attended by the strenuous shade of his 
father and re-enforced by Julia. 



78 



VI 



When he arrived with the three members of his 
family at the restaurant of their choice Peter Sher- 
ringham was already seated there by one of the 
immaculate tables, but Mrs. Dallow was not yet on 
the scene, and they had time for a sociable settlement 
— time to take their places and unfold their napkins, 
crunch their rolls, breathe the savoury air, and watch 
the door, before the usual raising of heads and sus- 
pension of forks, the sort of stir that accompanied 
most of this lady's movements, announced her en- 
trance. The dame de comptoir ducked and re-ducked, 
the people looked round, Peter and Nick got up, 
there was a shuffling of chairs — Julia had come. 
Peter was relating how he had stopped at her hotel to 
bring her with him and had found her, according 
to her custom, by no means ready ; on which, fearing 
his guests would arrive first at the rendezvous and 
find no proper welcome, he had come off without her, 
leaving her to follow. He had not brought a friend, 
as he intended, having divined that Julia would 
prefer a pure family party if she wanted to talk about 
her candidate. Now she stood looking down at 
the table and her expectant kinsfolk, drawing off 
her gloves, letting her brother draw off her jacket, 
lifting her hands for some rearrangement of her 
hat. She looked at Nick last, smiling, but only for 
a moment. She said to Peter : " Are we going to dine 

79 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

here ? Oh dear, why didn't you have a private 
room ? " 

Nick had not seen her at all for several weeks and 
had seen her but little for a year, but her off-hand 
cursory manner had not altered in the interval. She 
spoke remarkably fast, as if speech were not in itself 
a pleasure — to have it over as soon as possible ; and 
her brusquerie was of the dark shade friendly critics 
account for by pleading shyness. Shyness had never 
appeared to him an ultimate quality or a real explana- 
tion of anything ; it only explained an effect by 
another effect, neither with a cause to boast of. 
What he suspected in Julia was that her mind was 
less pleasing than her person ; an ugly, a really 
blighting idea, which as yet he had but half accepted. 
It was a case in which she was entitled to the benefit 
of every doubt and oughtn't to be judged without a 
complete trial. Nick meanwhile was afraid of the 
trial — this was partly why he had been of late to see 
her so little — because he was afraid of the sentence, 
afraid of anything that might work to lessen the 
charm it was actually in the power of her beauty to 
shed. There were people who thought her rude, and 
he hated rude women. If he should fasten on that 
view, or rather if that view should fasten on hirr, 
what could still please and what he admired in her 
would lose too much of its sweetness. If it be thought 
odd that he had not yet been able to read the character 
of a woman he had known since childhood the answer 
is that this character had grown faster than Nick's 
observation. The growth was constant, whereas the 
observation was but occasional, though it had begun 
early. If he had attempted inwardly to phrase the 
matter, as he probably had not, he might have pro- 
nounced the effect she produced upon him too much 
a compulsion ; not the coercion of design, of impor- 
tunity, nor the vulgar pressure of family expectation, 

80 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

a betrayed desire he should Hke her enough to marry 
her, but a mixture of divers urgent things ; of the 
sense that she was imperious and generous — probably 
more the former than the latter — and of a certain 
prevision of doom, the influence of the idea that he 
should come to it, that he was predestined. 

This had made him shrink from knowing the 
worst about her ; not the wish {o get used to it in 
time, but what was more characteristic of him, the 
wish to interpose a temporary illusion. Illusions 
and realities and hopes and fears, however, fell into 
confusion whenever he met her after a separation. 
The separation, so far as seeing her alone or as con- 
tinuous talk was concerned, had now been tolerably 
long ; had lasted really ever since his failure to regain 
his seat. An impression had come to him that she 
judged that failure rather stiffly, had thought, and 
had somewhat sharply said, that he ought to have 
done better. This was a part of her imperious way, 
and a part not all to be overlooked on a mere present 
basis. If he were to marry her he should come to 
an understanding with her : he should give her his 
own measure as well as take hers. But the under- 
standing might in the actual case suggest too much 
that he was to marry her. You could quarrel with 
your wife because there were compensations — for 
her ; but you mightn't be prepared to offer these 
compensations as prepayment for the luxury of 
quarrelling. 

It was not that such a luxury wouldn't be consider- 
able, our young man none the less thought as Julia 
Dallow's fine head poised itself before him again ; 
a high spirit was of course better than a mawkish 
to be mismated with, any day in the year. She had 
much the same colour as her brother, but as nothing 
else in her face was the same the resemblance was not 
striking. Her hair was of so dark a brown that it 
I 8i G 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

was commonly regarded as black, and so abundant 
that a plain arrangement was required to keep it in 
natural relation to the rest of her person. Her eyes 
were of a grey sometimes pronounced too light, and 
were not sunken in her face, but placed well on the 
surface. Her nose was perfect, but her mouth was 
too small; and Nick Dormer, and doubtless other 
persons as well, had sometimes wondered how with 
such a mouth her face could have expressed decision. 
Her figure helped it, for she appeared tall — being 
extremely slender — yet was not ; and her head took 
turns and positions which, though a matter of but 
half an inch out of the common this way or that, 
somehow contributed to the air of resolution and 
temper. If it had not .been for her extreme delicacy 
of line and surface she might have been called bold ; 
but as it was she looked refined and quiet— refined 
by tradition and quiet for a purpose. And altogether 
she was beautiful, with the gravity of her elegant 
head, her hair like the depths of darkness, her eyes 
like its earlier clearing, her mouth like a rare pink 
flower. 

Peter said he had not taken a private room because 
he knew Biddy's tastes ; she liked to see the world — 
she had told him so — the curious people, the coming 
and going of Paris. " Oh anything for Biddy ! " JuHa 
replied, smiling at the girl and taking her place. Lady 
Agnes and her elder daughter exchanged one of their 
looks, and Nick exclaimed jocosely that he didn't 
see why the whole party should be sacrificed to a pre- 
sumptuous child. The presumptuous child blush- 
ingly protested she had never expressed any such wish 
to Peter, upon which Nick, with broader humour, 
revealed that Peter had served them so out of 
stinginess : he had pitchforked them together in the 
public room because he wouldn't go to the expense 
of a cabinet. He had brought no guest, no foreigner of 

82 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

distinction nor diplomatic swell, to honour them, and 
now they would see what a paltry dinner he would 
give them. Peter stabbed him indignantly with a long 
roll, and Lady Agnes, who seemed to be waiting 
for some manifestation on Mrs. Dallow's part which 
didn't come, concluded, with a certain coldness, 
that they quite sufficed to themselves for privacy 
as well as for society. Nick called attention to this 
fine phrase of his mother's and said it was awftill)^ 
neat, while Grace and Biddy looked harmoniously 
at Julia's clothes. Nick felt nervous and joked a good 
deal to carry it off — a levity that didn't prevent 
Julia's sajdng to him after a moment : " You might 
have come to see me to-day, you know. Didn't you 
get my message from Peter ? " 

" Scold him, Julia — scold him well. I begged 
him to go," said Lady Agnes ; and to this Grace 
added her voice with an "Oh Julia, do give it to 
him ! " These words, however, had not the effect 
they suggested, since Mrs. Dallow only threw off for 
answer, in her quick curt way, that that would be 
making far too much of him. It was one of the things 
in her that Nick mentally pronounced ungraceful, the 
perversity of pride or of shyness that always made 
her disappoint you a little if she saw you expected 
a thing. She snubbed effusiveness in a way that yet 
gave no interesting hint of any wish to keep it herself 
in reserve. Effusiveness, however, certainly, was the 
last thing of which Lady Agnes would have con- 
sented to be accused ; and Nick, while he replied to 
Julia that he was sure he shouldn't have found her, 
was not unable to perceive the operation on his 
mother of that shade of manner. " He ought to have 
gone ; he owed you that," she went on ; " but it's very 
true he would have had the same luck as we. I went 
with the girls directly after luncheon. I suppose you 
got our card." 

83 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" He might have come after I came in," said Mrs. 
Dallow. 

" Dear Julia, I'm going to see you to-night. I've 
been waiting for that," Nick returned. 

" Of course we had no idea when you'd come in," 
said Lady Agnes. 

"I'm so sorry. You must come to-morrow. I 
hate calls at night," JuHa serenely added. 

"Well then, will you roam with me ? Will you 
wander through Paris on my arm ? " Nick asked, 
smiling. " Will you take a drive with me ? " 

" Oh that would be perfection ! " cried Grace. 

" I thought we were all going somewhere — to the 
Hippodrome, Peter," Biddy said. 

" Oh not all ; just you and me ! " laughed Peter. 

" I'm going home to my bed. I've earned my 
rest," Lady Agnes sighed. 

" Can't Peter take us ? " demanded Grace. " Nick 
can take you home, mamma, if Juha won't receive 
him, and I can look perfectly after Peter and Biddy." 

" Take them to something amusing ; please take 
them," Mrs. Dallow said to her brother. Her voice 
was kind, but had the expectation of assent in it, 
and Nick observed both the good nature and the 
pressure. "You're tired, poor dear," she continued 
to Lady Agnes. " Fancy your being dragged about 
so ! What did you come over f or ? " 

" My mother came because I brought her," Nick 
said. "It's I who have dragged her about. I 
brought her for a little change. I thought it would 
do her good. I wanted to see the Salon." 

" It isn't a bad time. I've a carriage and you must 
use it ; you must use nothing else. It shall take you 
everywhere. I'll drive you about to-morrow." Julia 
dropped these words with all her air of being able 
rather than of wanting ; but Nick had already noted, 
and he noted now afresh and with pleasure, that her 

84 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

lack of unction interfered not a bit with her always 
acting. It was quite sufficiently manifest to him 
that for the rest of the time she might be near his 
mother she would do for her numberless good turns. 
She would give things to the girls — he had a private 
adumbration of that ; expensive Parisian, perhaps 
not perfectly useful, things. 

Lady Agnes was a woman who measured outlays 
and returns, but she was both too acute and too 
just not to recognise the scantest offer from which 
an advantage could proceed. " Dear Julia ! " she 
exclaimed responsively ; and her tone made this 
brevity of acknowledgment adequate. Julia's own 
few words were all she wanted. " It's so interest- 
ing about Harsh," she added. " We're immensely 
excited." 

" Yes, Nick looks it. Merci, pas de vin. It's just 
the thing for you, you know," Julia said to him. 

"To be sure he knows it. He's immensely grate- 
ful. It's really very kind of you." 

" You do me a very great honour, Julia," Nick 
hastened to add. 

" Don't be tiresome, please," that lady returned. 

" We'll talk about it later. Of course there are 
lots of points," Nick pursued. " At present let's be 
purely con\dvial. Somehow Harsh is such a false note 
here. Nous causerons de ga." 

" My dear fellow, you've caught exactly the tone 
of Mr. Gabriel Nash," Peter Sherringham declared 
on this. 

" Who's Mr. Gabriel Nash ? " Mrs. DaUov/ asked. 

" Nick, is he a gentleman ? Biddy says so," Grace 
Dormer interposed before this inquiry was answered. 

"It's to be supposed that any one Nick brings to 
lunch with us ! " Lady Agnes rather coldly sighed. 

" Ah Grace, with your tremendous standard ! " her 
son said ; while Peter Sherringham explained to his 

85 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

sister that Mr. Nash was Nick's new Mentor or oracle 
— whom, moreover, she should see if she would come 
and have tea with him. 

" I haven't the least desire to see him," Julia made 
answer, " any more than I have to talk about Harsh 
and bore poor Peter." 

" Oh certainly, dear, you'd bore me," her brother 
rang out. 

" One thing at a time then. Let us by all means 
be convivial. Only you must show me how," Mrs. 
Dallow went on to Nick. " What does he mean, 
Cousin Agnes ? Does he want us to dram the wine- 
cup, to flash with repartee ? " 

" You'll do very well," said Nick. " You're 
thoroughly charming to-night." 

"Do go to Peter's, Julia, if you want something 
exciting. You'll see a wonderful girl," Biddy broke 
in with her smile on Peter. 

" Wonderful for what ? " 

" For thinking she can act when she can't," said 
the roguish Biddy. 

" Dear me, what people you all know ! I hate 
Peter's theatrical people." 

" And aren't you going home, Julia ? " Lady Agnes 
inquired. 

" Home to the hotel ? " 

" Dear, no, to Harsh — to see about everything." 

" Fm in the midst of telegrams. I don't know yet." 

" I suppose there's no doubt they'll have him," 
Lady Agnes decided to pursue. 

" Who'll have whom ? " 

" Why, the local people and the party managers. 
Fm speaking of the question of my son's standing." 

" They'll have the person I want them to have, 
I daresay. There are so many people in it, in one 
way or another — it's dreadful. I like the way you 
sit there," Julia went on to Nick. 

86 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" So do I," he smiled back at her ; and he thought 
she was charming now, because she was gay and easy 
and willing really, though she might plead incom- 
petence, to understand how jocose a dinner in a pot- 
house in a foreign town might be. She was in good 
humour or was going to be, and not grand nor stiff 
nor indifferent nor haughty nor any of the things 
people who disHked her usually found her and some- 
times even a little made him believe her. The spirit 
of mirth in some cold natures manifests itself not 
altogether happily, their effort of recreation resembles 
too much the bath of the hippopotamus ; but when 
Mrs. Dallow put her elbows on the table one felt 
she could be trusted to get them safely off again. 

For a family in mourning the dinner was lively ; 
the more so that before it was half over Julia had 
arranged that her brother, eschewing the inferior 
spectacle, should take the girls to the Theatre Fran- 
gais. It was her idea, and Nick had a chance to 
observe how an idea was apt to be not successfully 
controverted when it was Julia's. Even the pro- 
gramme appeared to have been prearranged to suit 
it, just the thing for the cheek of the young person 
— II ne Faut Jiirer de Rien and Mademoiselle de la 
Seigliere. Peter was all willingness, but it was Julia 
who settled it, even to sending for the newspaper — 
he was by a rare accident unconscious of the evening's 
bill — and to reassuring Biddy, who was happy but 
anxious, on the article of their being too late for 
good places. Peter could always get good places : a 
word from him and the best box was at his disposal. 
She made him write the word on a card and saw a 
messenger despatched with it to the Rue de Richelieu ; 
and all this without loudness or insistence, paren- 
thetically and authoritatively. The box was be- 
spoken and the carriage, as soon as they had had their 
coffee, found to be in attendance. Peter drove off in 

87 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

it with the girls, understanding that he was to send it 
back, and Nick waited for it over the finished repast 
with the two ladies. After this his mother was 
escorted to it and conveyed to her apartnrients, and 
all the while it had been Julia who governed the 
succession of events. "Do be nice to her," Lady- 
Agnes breathed to him as he placed her in the vehicle 
at the door of the cafe ; and he guessed it gave her a 
comfort to have left him sitting there with Mrs. 
Dallow. 

He had every disposition to be nice to his charming 
cousin ; if things went as she liked them it was the 
proof of a certain fine force in her — the force of 
assuming they would. Julia had her differences — 
some of them were much for the better ; and when she 
was in a mood like this evening's, liberally dominant, 
he was ready to encourage most of what she took 
for granted. While they waited for the return of the 
carriage, which had rolled away with his mother, she 
sat opposite him with her elbows on the table, playing 
first with one and then with another of the objects 
that encumbered it ; after five minutes of which she 
exclaimed," Oh I say, we'll go ! " and got up abruptly, 
asking for her jacket. He said something about the 
carriage and its order to come back for them, and 
she replied, " Well, it can go away again. I don't 
want a carriage," she added : "I want to walk " — 
and in a moment she was out of the place, with the 
people at the tables turning round again and the 
caissiere swaying in her high seat. On the pavement 
of the boulevard she looked up and down : there were 
people at little tables by the door ; there were people 
all over the broad expanse of the asphalt ; there was 
a profusion of light and a pervasion of sound ; and 
everywhere, though the establishment at which they 
had been dining was not in the thick of the fray, the 
tokens of a great traffic of pleasure, that night-aspect 

88 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

of Paris which represents it as a huge market for 
sensations. Beyond the Boulevard des Capucines it 
flared through the warm evening like a vast bazaar, 
and opposite the Cafe Durand the Madeleine rose 
theatrical, a high artful decor before the foothghts of 
the Rue Royale. " Where shall we go, what shall we 
do ? " Mrs. Dallow asked, looking at her companion 
and somewhat to his surprise, as he had supposed she 
wanted but to go home. 

" Anywhere you like. It's so warm we might 
drive instead of going indoors. We might go to the 
Bois. That would be agreeable." 

" Yes, but it wouldn't be walking. However, 
that doesn't matter. It's mild enough for anything 
— for sitting out like all these people. And I've 
never walked in Paris at night : it would amuse 
me." 

Nick hesitated. " So it might, but it isn't particu- 
larly recommended to ladies." 

" I don't care for that if it happens to suit me." 

" Very well then, we'll walk to the Bastille if you 
like." 

JuHa hesitated, on her side, still looking about. 
"It's too far; I'm tired; we'll sit here." And she 
dropped beside an empty table on the " terrace " of 
M. Durand. " This will do ; it's amusing enough 
and we can look at the Madeleine — that's respectable. 
If we must have something we'U have a madere — 
is that respectable ? Not particularly ? So much 
the better. What are those people having ? Bocks ? 
Couldn't we have hocks ? Are they very low ? Then 
I shall have one. I've been so wonderfully good — 
I've been staying at Versailles : je me dots bien cela." 

She insisted, but pronounced the thin liquid in the 
tall glass very disgusting when it was brought. Nick 
was amazed, reflecting that it was not for such a 
discussion as this that his mother had left him with 

89 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

such complacency ; and indeed he too had, as she 
would have had, his share of perplexity, observing 
that after nearly half an hour his cousin still said 
nothing of Harsh. 

She leaned back against the lighted glass of the 
cafe, comfortable and beguiled, watching the passers, 
the opposite shops, the movement of the square in 
front of them. She talked about London, about the 
news sent her in her absence, about Cannes and the 
people she had seen there, about her poor sister-in-law 
and her numerous progeny, together with two or 
three droll things that had happened at Versailles. 
She discoursed considerably about herself, mentioning 
matters of importance on her return to town her 
plans for the rest of the season. Her carriage came 
and drew up, and Nick asked if he should send it 
away ; to which she but answered : " No, let it stand 
a bit." She let it stand a long time and then told him 
to dismiss it — they would after all walk home. She 
took his arm and they went along the boulevard, 
on the right-hand side, to the Rue de la Paix, saying 
little to each other during the transit ; and then they 
passed into the hotel and up to her rooms. All she 
had said on the way was that she was very tired of 
Paris. There was a shaded lamp in her salon, but 
the windows were open and the Ught of the street, 
with its undisturbing murmur, as if everything ran 
on india-rubber, came up through the interstices of 
the balcony and made a vague glow and a flitting of 
shadows on the ceiling. Her maid appeared, busying 
herself a moment ; and when she had gone out 
Julia began suddenly to her companion : " Should 
you mind telling me what's the matter with you ? 

" The matter with me ? " 

" Don't you want to stand ? " 

" I'll do anything to oblige you." 

" Why should you oblige me ? " 

90 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Well, isn't that the way people treat you ? " Nick 
demanded. 

" They treat me best when they're a little serious." 

" My dear Julia, it seems to me I'm serious enough. 
Surely it isn't an occasion to be so very solemn, the 
idea of going down into a small, stodgy, country town 
and talking a lot of rot." 

" Why do you call it rot ? " 

" Because I can think of no other name that on 
the whole describes it so well. You know the sort of 
thing. Come ! — you've listened to enough of it first 
and last. One blushes for it when one sees it in print 
in the local papers. The local papers — ah the thought 
of them makes me want to stay in Paris." 

" If you don't speak well it's your own fault ; you 
know how to perfectly. And you usually do," Julia 
declared. 

" I always do," he conceded, " and that's what I'm 
ashamed of. I speak beautifully. I've got the cursed 
humbugging trick of it. I can turn it on, a fine flood 
of it, at the shortest notice. The better it is the worse 
it is — the kind's so inferior. It has nothing to do 
with the truth or with any search for it ; nothing 
to do with the effort really to understand or really 
to discuss — with intelligence or candour or honesty. 
It's an appeal to everything that for one's self one 
despises," the young man went on ; "to stupidity, 
to ignorance, to prejudice, to the love of names and 
phrases, the love of hollow idiotic words, of shutting 
the eyes tight and making a noise. Do men who 
respect each other or themselves talk to each other 
that way ? They know they'd deserve kicking ! A 
man would blush to say to himself in the darkness of 
the night the things he stands up on a platform in the 
garish light of day to stuff into the ears of a multi- 
tude whose intelligence he pretends he rates high." 
Nick Dormer stood at one of the windows with his 

91 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

hands in his pockets. He had been looking out, but 
as his eloquence flowed faster he turned to his friend, 
who had dropped upon a sofa with her face to the 
window. She had given her jacket and gloves to her 
maid, but had kept on her hat ; and she leaned for- 
ward a Httle as she sat, clasping her hands together 
in her lap and keeping her eyes on him. The lamp, 
in a corner, was so thickly veiled that the room was 
in tempered obscurity, lighted almost equally from 
the street and the brilliant shop - fronts opposite. 
" Therefore why be sapient and solemn about it, like 
an editorial in a newspaper ? " Nick added with a 
smile. 

She continued to look at him after he had spoken, 
then she said : "If you don't want to stand you've 
only to say so. You needn't give your reasons." 

"It's too kind of you to let me off that ! And then 
I'm a tremendous fellow for reasons ; that's my strong 
point, don't you know ? I've a lot more besides those 
I've mentioned, done up and ready for delivery. 
The odd thing is that they don't always govern my 
behaviour. I rather think I do want to stand." 

" Then what you said just now was a speech," 
Julia declared. 

" A speech ? " 

" The ' rot,' the humbug of the hustings." 

" No, those great truths remain, and a good many 
others. But an inner voice tells me I'm in for it. 
And it will be much more graceful to embrace this 
opportunity, accepting your co-operation, than to 
wait for some other and forfeit that advantage." 

" I shall be very glad to help you anywhere," she 
went on. 

" Thanks awfully," he returned, still standing there 
with his hands in his pockets. " You'd do it best in 
your own place, and I've no right to deny myself 
such a help." 

92 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Julia calmly considered. " I don't do it badly." 

" Ah you're so political ! " 

" Of course I am ; it's the only decent thing to 
be. But I can only help you if you'll help yourself. 
I can do a good deal, but I can't do everything. If 
you'll work I'll work with you ; but if you're going 
into it with your hands in your pockets I'll have 
nothing to do with you." Nick instantly changed 
the position of these members and sank into a seat 
with his elbows on his knees. " You're very clever, 
but you must really take a little trouble. Things 
don't drop into people's mouths." 

" I'll try — I'll try. I've a great incentive," he 
admitted. 

" Of course you have." 

" My mother, my poor mother." Julia breathed 
some vague sound and he went on : " And of course 
always my father, dear good man. My mother's 
even more political than you." 

" I daresay she is, and quite right ! " said Mrs. 
Dallow. 

" And she can't tell me a bit more than you can 
what she thinks, what she beheves, what she wants." 

" Pardon me, I can tell you perfectly. There's 
one thing I always immensely want — to keep out 
a lory. 

" I see. That's a great philosophy." 

" It will do very well. And I desire the good of 
the country. I'm not ashamed of that." 

" And can you give me an idea of what it is — the 
good of the country ? " 

" I know perfectly what it isn't. It isn't what 
the Tories want to do." 

" What do they want to do ? " 

" Oh it would take me long to tell you. All sorts 
of trash." 

" It would take you long, and it would take them 

93 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

longer ! All they want to do is to prevent us from 
doing. On our side we want to prevent them from 
preventing us. That's about as clearly as we all see 
it. So on both sides it's a beautiful, lucid, inspiring 
programme." 

" I don't believe in you," Mrs. Dallow replied to 
this, leaning back on her sofa. 

" I hope not, Juha, indeed ! " He paused a 
moment, still with his face toward her and his elbows 
on his knees ; then he pursued : " You're a very 
accomplished woman and a very zealous one ; but 
you haven't an idea, you know — not to call an idea. 
What you mainly want is to be at the head of a 
political salon ; to start one, to keep it up, to make 
it a success." 

" Much you know me ! " Julia protested ; but he 
could see, through the dimness, that her face spoke 
differently. 

" You'll have it in time, but I won't come to it," 
Nick went on. 

" You can't come less than you do," ' 

" When I say you'll have it I mean you've already 
got it. That's why I don't come." 

" I don't think you know what you mean," said 
Mrs. Dallow. " I've an idea that's as good as any 
of yours, any of those you've treated me to this 
evening, it seems to me — the simple idea that one 
ought to do something or other for one's country." 

" ' Something or other ' certainly covers all the 
ground. There's one thing one can always do for 
one's country, which is not to be afraid." 
• " Afraid of what ? " 

Nick Dormer waited a little, as if his idea amused 
him, but he presently said, "I'll tell you another time. 
It's very well to talk so glibly of standing," he added ; 
" but it isn't absolutely foreign to the question that 
I haven't got the cash." 

94 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" What did you do before ? " she asked. 

" The first time my father paid." 

" And the other time ? " 

" Oh Mr. Carteret." 

" Your expenses won't be at all large ; on the 
contrary," said Julia. 

" They shan't be ; I shall look out sharp for that. 
I shall have the great Hutchby." 

" Of course ; but you know I want you to do it 
well." She paused an instant and then : "Of course 
you can send the bill to me." 

" Thanks awfully ; you're tremendously kind. I 
shouldn't think of that." Nick Dormer got up as 
he spoke, and walked to the window again, his com- 
panion's eyes resting on him while he stood with 
his back to her. " I shall manage it somehow," he 
wound up. 

" Mr. Carteret will be delighted," said Julia. 

" I daresay, but I hate taking people's 
money." 

"That's nonsense — when it's for the country. 
Isn't it for them ? " 

" When they get it back ! " Nick replied, turning 
round and looking for his hat. " It's startlingly late ; 
you must be tired." Mrs. Dallow made no response 
to this, and he pursued his quest, successful only 
when he reached a duskier corner of the room, to 
which the hat had been relegated by his cousin's 
maid. " Mr. Carteret will expect so much if he pays. 
And so would you." 

" Yes, I'm bound to say I should ! I should 
expect a great deal — everything." And Mrs. Dallow 
emphasised this assertion by the way she rose erect. 
" If you're riding for a fall, if you're only going in to 
miss it, you had better stay out." 

" How can I miss it with you ? " the young man 
smiled. She uttered a word, impatiently but in- 

95 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

distinguishably, and he continued : " And even if I 
do it will have been immense fun." 

" It is immense fun," said Julia. " But the best 
fun is to win. If you don't ! " 

" If I don't ? " he repeated as she dropped. 

" I'll never speak to you again." 

" How much you expect even when you don't 
pay ! " 

Mrs. Dallow's rejoinder was a justification of this 
remark, expressing as it did the fact that should they 
receive on the morrow information on which she 
believed herself entitled to count, information tend- 
ing to show how hard the Conservatives meant to 
fight, she should look to him to be in the field as 
early as herself. Sunday was a lost day ; she should 
leave Paris on Monday. 

" Oh they'll fight it hard ; they'll put up Kings- 
bury," said Nick, smoothing his hat. " They'll all 
come down — all that can get away. And Kingsbury 
has a very handsome wife." 

" She's not so handsome as your cousin," Julia 
smiled. 

" Oh dear, no — a cousin sooner than a wife any 
day ! " Nick laughed as soon as he had said this, as 
if the speech had an awkward side ; but the repara- 
tion perhaps scarcely mended it, the exaggerated 
mock-meekness with which he added : " I'll do any 
blessed thing you tell me." 

" Come here to-morrow then — as early as ten." 
She turned round, moving to the door wilh him ; but 
before they reached it she brought out : " Pray isn't 
a gentleman to do anything, to be anything ? " 

" To be anything ? " 

" If he doesn't aspire to serve the State." 

" Aspire to make his political fortune, do you 
mean ? Oh bless me, yes, there are other things." 

" What other things that can compare with that ? " 

96 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Well, I for instance, I'm very fond of the arts." 

" Of the arts ? " she echoed. 

" Did you never hear of them ? I'm awfully fond 
of painting." 

At this Julia stopped short, and her fine grey eyes 
had for a moment the air of being set further forward 
in her head. " Don't be odious ! Good-night," she 
said, turning away and leaving him to go. 



97 H 



BOOK SFXOND 



99 



VII 



Peter Sherringham reminded Nick the next day 
that he had promised to be present at Madame 
Carre's interview with the ladies introduced to her 
by Gabriel Nash ; and in the afternoon, conformably 
to this arrangement, the two men took their way to 
the Rue de Constantinople. They found Mr. Nash 
and his friends in the small beflounced drawing-room 
of the old actress, who, as they learned, had sent in 
a request for ten minutes' grace, having been detained 
at a lesson — a rehearsal of the comedie de salon about 
to be given for a charity by a fine lady, at which she 
had consented to be present as an adviser. Mrs. 
Rooth sat on a black satin sofa with her daughter 
beside her while Gabriel Nash, wandering about the 
room, looked at the votive offerings which converted 
the little panelled box, decorated in sallow white and 
gold, into a theatrical museum : the presents, the por- 
traits, the wreaths, the diadems, the letters, framed 
and glazed, the trophies and tributes and relics col- 
lected by Madame Carre during half a century of 
renown. The profusion of this testimony was hardly 
more striking than the confession of something 
missed, something hushed, which seemed to rise from 
it all and make it melancholy, like a reference to 
clappings which, in the nature of things, could now 
only be present as a silence : so that if the place was 
full of history it was the form without the fact, or at 
the most a redundancy of the one to a pinch of the 

lOI 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

other — the history of a mask, of a squeak, of a series 
of vain gestures. 

Some of the objects exhibited by the distinguished 
artist, her early portraits, in lithograph or miniature, 
represented the costume and embodied the manner 
of a period so remote that Nick Dormer, as he glanced 
at them, felt a quickened curiosity to look at the 
woman who reconciled being alive to-day with having 
been alive so long ago. Peter Sherringham already 
knew how she managed this miracle, but every visit 
he paid her added to his amused, charmed sense that 
it was a miracle and that his extraordinary old friend 
had seen things he should never, never see. Those 
were just the things he wanted to see most, and her 
duration, her survival, cheated him agreeably and 
helped him a little to guess them. His appreciation 
of the actor's art was so systematic that it had an 
antiquarian side, and at the risk of representing him 
as attached to an absurd futility it must be said that 
he had as yet hardly known a keener regret for any- 
thing than for the loss of that antecedent world, and 
in particular for his having belatedly missed the great 
comedienne, the light of the French stage in the early 
years of the century, of whose example and instruc- 
tion Madame Carre had had the inestimable benefit. 
She had often described to him her rare predecessor, 
straight from whose hands she had received her most 
celebrated parts and of whom her own manner was 
often a religious imitation ; but her descriptions 
troubled him more than they consoled, only confirm- 
ing his theory, to which so much of his observation 
had already ministered, that the actor's art in general 
was going down and down, descending a slope with 
abysses of vulgarity at its foot, after having reached 
its perfection, more than fifty years ago, in the talent 
of the lady in question. He would have liked to 
dwell for an hour beneath the meridian. 

102 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Gabriel Nash introduced the new-comers to his 
companions ; but the younger of the two ladies gave 
no sign of lending herself to this transaction. The 
girl was very white ; she huddled there, silent and 
rigid, frightened to death, staring, expressionless. If 
Bridget Dormer had seen her at this moment she 
might have felt avenged for the discomfiture of her 
own spirit suffered at the Salon, the day before, under 
the challenging eyes of Maud Vavasour. It was plain 
at the present hour that Miss Vavasour would have 
run away had she not regarded the persons present 
as so many guards and keepers. Her appearance 
made Nick feel as if the little temple of art in which 
they were collected had been the waiting-room of a 
dentist. Sherringham had seen a great many nervous 
girls tremble before the same ordeal, and he liked to 
be kind to them, to say things that would help them 
to do themselves justice. The probabihty in a given 
case was almost overwhelmingly in favour of their 
having any other talent one could think of in a higher 
degree than the dramatic ; but he could rarely re- 
frain from some care that the occasion shouldn't be, 
even as against his conscience, too cruel. There were 
occasions indeed that could scarce be too cruel to 
punish properly certain examples of presumptuous 
ineptitude. He remembered what Mr. Nash had said 
about this bhghted maiden, and perceived that though 
she might be inept she was now anything but pre- 
sumptuous. Gabriel fell to talking with Nick Dormer 
while Peter addressed himself to Mrs. Rooth. There 
was no use as yet for any direct word to the girl, who 
was too scared even to hear. Mrs. Rooth, with her 
shawl fluttering about her, nestled against her daugh- 
ter, putting out her hand to take one of Miriam's 
soothingly. She had pretty, silly, near-sighted eyes, 
a long thin nose, and an upper lip which projected 
over the under as an ornamental cornice rests on its 

103 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

support. " So much depends — really everything ! " 
she said in answer to some sociable observation of 
Sherringham's. " It's either this," and she roUed her 
eyes expressively about the room, " or it's — I don't 
know what ! " 

" Perhaps we're too many," Peter hazarded to her 
daughter. " But really you'll find, after you fairly 
begin, that you'll do better with four or five." 

Before she answered she turned her head and lifted 
her fine eyes. The next instant he saw they were full 
of tears. The words she spoke, however, though 
uttered as if she had tapped a silver gong, had not 
the note of sensibility : " Oh, I don't care ior you ! " 
He laughed at this, declared it was very well said and 
that if she could give Madame Carre such a specimen 

as that ! The actress came in before he had 

finished his phrase, and he observed the way the girl 
ruefully rose to the encounter, hanging her head a 
little and looking out from under her brows. There 
was no sentiment in her face — only a vacancy of awe 
and anguish which had not even the merit of being 
fine of its kind, for it spoke of no spring of reaction. 
Yet the head was good, he noted at the same moment ; 
it was strong and salient and made to tell at a distance. 
Madame Carre scarcely heeded her at first, greeting 
her only in her order among the others and pointing 
to seats, composing the circle with smiles and gestures, 
as if they were all before the prompter's box. The 
old actress presented herself to a casual glance as a 
red-faced, raddled woman in a wig, with beady eyes, 
a hooked nose, and pretty hands ; but Nick Dormer, 
who had a sense for the over-scored human surface, 
soon observed that these comparatively gross marks 
included a great deal of delicate detail — an eyebrow, 
a nostril, a flitting of expressions, as if a multitude 
of little facial wires were pulled from within. This 
accomplished artist had in particular a mouth which 

104 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

was visibly a rare instrument, a pair of lips whose 
curves and fine corners spoke of a lifetime of " points " 
unerringly made and verses exquisitely spoken, help- 
ing to explain the purity of the sound that issued 
from them. Her whole countenance had the look of 
long service — of a thing infinitely worn and used, 
drawn and stretched to excess, with its elasticity 
overdone and its springs relaxed, yet rehgiously 
preserved and kept in repair, even as some valuable 
old timepiece which might have quivered and rumbled 
but could be trusted to strike the hour. At the first 
words she spoke Gabriel Nash exclaimed endearingly : 
"Ah la voix de Celimene ! " Celimene, who wore a 
big red flower on the summit of her dense wig, had a 
very grand air, a toss of the head, and sundry little 
majesties of manner ; in addition to which she was 
strange, almost grotesque, and to some people would 
have been even terrifying, capable of reappearing, 
with her hard eyes, as a queer vision of the darkness. 
She excused herself for having made the company 
wait, and mouthed and mimicked in the drollest v/ay, 
with intonations as fine as a flute, the performance 
and the pretensions of the belles dames to whom she 
had just been endeavouring to communicate a few 
of the rudiments. " Mais celles-ld, c'est une plaisan- 
terie," she went on to Mrs. Rooth ; " whereas you 
and your daughter, chere niadame — I'm sure you are 
quite another matter." 

The girl had got rid of her tears, and was gazing 
at her, and Mrs. Rooth leaned forward and said por- 
tentously : " She knows four languages." 

Madame Carre gave one of her histrionic stares, 
throwing back her head. " That's three too many. 
The thing's to do something proper with one." 

" We're very much in earnest," continued Mrs. 
Rooth, who spoke excellent French. 

" I'm glad to hear it — il n'y a que (;a. La tete est 

105 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

bien — the head's very good," she said as she looked 
at the girl. " But let us see, my dear child, what 
you've got in it ! " The young lady was still power- 
less to speak ; she opened her lips, but nothing came. 
With the failure of this effort she turned her deep 
sombre eyes to the three men. " Un beau regard — 
it carries well," Madame Carre further commented. 
But even as she spoke Miss Rooth's fine gaze was 
suffused again and the next moment she had definitely 
begun to weep. Nick Dormer sprung up ; he felt 
embarrassed and intrusive — there was such an in- 
delicacy in sitting there to watch a poor working- 
girl's struggle with timidity. There was a momentary 
confusion ; Mrs. Rooth's tears were seen also to flow ; 
Mr. Nash took it gaily, addressing, however, at the 
same time, the friendliest, most familiar encourage- 
ment to his companions, and Peter Sherringham 
offered to retire with Nick on the spot, should their 
presence incommode the young lady. But the agita- 
tion was over in a minute ; Madame Carre motioned 
Mrs. Rooth out of her seat and took her place beside 
the girl, and Nash explained judiciously to the other 
men that she'd be worse should the37 leave her. Her 
mother begged them to remain, " so that there should 
be at least some English " ; she spoke as if the old 
actress were an army of Frenchwomen. The young 
heroine of the occasion quickly came round, and 
Madame Carre, on the sofa beside her, held her hand 
and emitted a perfect music of reassurance. " The 
nerves, the nerves — they're half our affair. Have as 
many as you like, if you've got something else too. 
Voyons — do you know anything ? " 

" I know some pieces." 

" Some pieces of the repertoire ? " 

Miriam Rooth stared as if she didn't understand. 
" I know some poetry." 

"English, French, Itahan, German,"said hermother. 

1 06 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Madame Carre gave Mrs. Rooth a look which 
expressed irritation at the recurrence of this announce- 
ment. " Does she wish to act in all those tongues ? 
The phrase-book isn't the comedy ! " 

" It's only to show you how she has been educated." 

" Ah, chere madanie, there's no education that 
matters ! I mean save the right one. Your daughter 
must have a particular form of speech, like me, Hke 
ces messieurs." 

" You see if I can speak French," said the girl, 
smiling dimly at her hostess. She appeared now 
almost to have collected herself. 

" You speak it in perfection." 

" And English just as well," said Miss Rooth. 

" You oughtn't to be an actress — you ought to be 
a governess." 

" Oh don't tell us that : it's to escape from that ! " 
pleaded Mrs. Rooth. 

"I'm very sure your daughter will escape from 
that," Peter Sherringham was moved to interpose. 

"Oh if you could help her ! " said the lady with 
a world of longing. 

" She has certainly aU the qualities that strike 
the eye," Peter returned. 

" You're most kind, sir ! " Mrs. Rooth declared, 
elegantly draping herself. 

" She knows Celimene ; I've heard her do Celi- 
mene," Gabriel Nash said to Madame Carre. 

" And she knows Juliet, she knows Lady Macbeth 
and Cleopatra," added Mrs. Rooth. 

" Voyons, my dear child, do you wish to work for 
the French stage or for the English ? " the old actress 
demanded. 

" Ours would have sore need of you, Miss Rooth," 
Sherringham gallantly threw off. 

" Could you speak to any one in London — could 
you introduce her ? " her mother eagerly asked. 

107 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Dear madam, I must hear her first, and hear 
what Madame Carre says." 

" She has a voice of rare beauty, and I understand 
voices," said Mrs. Rooth. 

" Ah then if she has inteUigence she has every 
gift." 

" She has a most poetic mind," the old lady went 
on. 

" I should like to paint her portrait ; she's made 
for that," Nick Dormer ventured to observe to Mrs. 
Rooth ; partly because struck v/ith the girl's suita- 
bility for sitting, partly to mitigate the crudity of 
inexpressive spectatorship. 

"So all the artists say. I've had three or four 
heads of her, if you would like to see them : she has 
been done in several styles. If you were to do her 
I'm sure it would make her celebrated." 

" And me too," Nick easily laughed. 

" It would indeed — a member of Parliament ! " 
Nash declared. 

" Ah, I have the honour ? " murmured Mrs. 

Rooth, looking gratified and mystified. 

Nick explained that she had no honour at all, and 
meanwhile Madame Carre had been questioning the 
girl. " Chere madame, I can do nothing with your 
daughter : she knows too much ! " she broke out. 
" It's a pity, because I Hke to catch them wild." 

" Oh she's wild enough, if that's all ! And that's 
the very point, the question of where to try," Mrs. 
Rooth went on. " Into what do I launch her — upon 
what dangerous stormy sea ? I've thought of it so 
anxiously." 

" Try here — try the French public : they're so 
much the most serious," said Gabriel Nash. 

" Ah no, trj^ the English : there's such a rare 
opening ! " Sherringham urged in quick opposition. 

" Oh it isn't the public, dear gentlemen. It's the 

, io8 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

private side, the other people— it's the life, it's the 
moral atmosphere." 

" Je ne connais qu'une scene — la notre," Madame 
Carre declared. " I'm assured by every one who 
knows that there's no other." 

" Very correctly assured," said Mr. Nash. " The 
theatre in our countries is puerile and barbarous." 

" There's something to be done for it, and perhaps 
mademoiselle's the person to do it," Sherringham 
contentiously suggested. 

" Ah but, en attendant, what can it do for her ? " 
Madame Carre asked. 

" Well, anything I can help to bring about," said 
Peter Sherringham, more and more struck with the 
girl's rich type. Miriam Rooth sat in silence while 
this discussion went on, looking from one speaker 
to the other with a strange dependent candour. 

" Ah, if your part's marked out I congratulate 
you, mademoiselle ! " — and the old actress under- 
lined the words as she had often underlined others 
on the stage. She smiled with large permissiveness 
on the young aspirant, who appeared not to under- 
stand her. Her tone penetrated, however, to certain 
depths in the mother's nature, adding another stir 
to agitated waters. 

" I feel the responsibility of what she sliall find in 
the life, the standards, of the theatre," Mrs. Rooth 
explained. " Where is the purest tone — where are 
the highest standards ? That's what I ask," the 
good lady continued with a misguided intensity which 
elicited a peal of unceremonious but sociable laughter 
from Gabriel Nash. 

"The purest tone^ — qu'cst-ce que cest que ca ? " 
Madame Carre demanded in the finest manner of 
modern comedy. 

" We're very, very respectable," Mrs. Rooth went 
on, but now smihng and achieving lightness too. 

109 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Wliat I want is to place my daughter where the 
conduct — and the picture of conduct in which she 
should take part — wouldn't be quite absolutely 
dreadful. Now, chere madame, how about all that ; 
how about conduct in the French theatre — all the 
things she should see, the things she should hear, 
the things she should learn ? " 

Her hostess took it, as Sherringham felt, de tres- 
hatit. " I don't think I know what you're talking 
about. They're the things she may see and hear and 
learn everywhere ; only they're better done, they're 
better said, above all they're better taught. The 
only conduct that concerns an actress, it seems to 
me, is her own, and the only way for her to behave 
herself is not to be a helpless stick. I know no other 
conduct." 

" But there aie characters, there are situations, 
which I don't think I should like to see her under- 
take." 

" There are many, no doubt, which she would do 
well to leave alone ! " laughed the Frenchwoman. 

" I shouldn't like to see her represent a very bad 
woman — a really bad one," Mrs. Rooth serenely 
pui"sued. 

" Ah in England then, and in your theatre, every 
one's immaculately good ? Your plays must be even 
more ingenious than I supposed ! " 

" We haven't any plays," said Gabriel Nash. 

" People will write them for Miss Rooth — it will 
be a new era," Sherringham threw in with wanton, 
or at least with combative, optimism. 

" Will you, sir — will you do something ? A sketch 
of one of our grand English ideals ? " the old lady 
asked engagingly. 

" Oh I know what you do with our pieces — to 
show your superior \drtue ! " Madame Carre cried 
before he had time to reply that he wrote nothing 

no 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

but diplomatic memoranda. " Bad women ? Je n'ai 
joue que ga, madame. ' Really ' bad ? I tried to 
make them real! " 

" I can say ' L'Aventuriere,' " Miriam interrupted 
in a cold voice which seemed to hint at a want of 
participation in the maternal solicitudes. 

" Allow us the pleasure of hearing you then. 
Madame Carre will give you the repiique," said Peter 
Sherringham. 

" Certainly, my child ; I can say it without the 
book," Madame Carre responded. " Put yourself 
there — move that chair a Uttle away." She patted 
her young visitor, encouraging her to rise, setthng 
with her the scene they should take, while the three 
men sprang up to arrange a place for the perform- 
ance. Miriam left her seat and looked vaguely about 
her ; then having taken off her hat and given it to 
her mother she stood on the designated spot with her 
eyes to the ground. Abruptly, however, instead of 
beginning the scene, Madame Carre turned to the 
elder lady with an air which showed that a rejoinder 
to this \dsitor's remarks of a moment before had been 
gathering force in her breast. 

" You mix things up, chere madame, and I have it 
on my heart to tell you so. I believe it's rather the 
case with you other English, and I've never been able 
to learn that either your morality or your talent is 
the gainer by it. To be too respectable to go where 
things are done best is in my opinion to be very 
vicious indeed ; and to do them badly in order to 
preserve your virtue is to fall into a grossness more 
shocking than any other. To do them well is virtue 
enough, and not to make a mess of it the only re- 
spectabiUty. That's hard enough to merit Paradise. 
Everything else is base humbug ! Voild, chere ma- 
dame, the answer I have for your scruples ! " 

" It's admirable^ — admirable ; and I am glad my 

III 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

friend Dormer here has had the great advantage of 
hearing you utter it ! " Nash exclaimed with a free 
designation of Nick. 

That young man thought it in effect a speech de- 
noting an inteUigence of the question, yet he rather 
resented the idea that Gabriel should assume it 
would strike him as a revelation ; and to show his 
familiarity with the line of thought it indicated, as 
well as to play his part appreciatively in the little 
circle, he observed to Mrs. Rooth, as if they might 
take many things for granted: " In other words, your 
daughter must find her safeguard in the artistic con- 
science." But he had no sooner spoken than he was 
struck with the oddity of their discussing so publicly, 
and under the poor girl's handsome nose, the con- 
ditions which Miss Rooth might find the best for the 
preservation of her personal integrity. However, 
the anomaly was light and unoppressive — the echoes 
of a public discussion of delicate questions seemed 
to Unger so familiarly in the egotistical httle room. 
Moreover, the heroine of the occasion evidently was 
losing her embarrassment ; she was the priestess on 
the tripod, awaiting the afflatus and thinking only of 
that. Her bared head, of which she had changed the 
position, holding it erect, while her arms hung at her 
sides, was admirable ; her eyes gazed straight out of 
the window and at the houses on the opposite side 
of the Rue de Constantinople. 

Mrs. Rooth had listened to Madame Carre with 
startled, respectful attention, but Nick, considering 
her, was very sure she hadn't at all taken in the great 
artist's httle lesson. Yet this didn't prevent her from 
exclaiming in answer to himself : " Oh a fine artistic 
hfe^ — -what indeed is more beautiful ? " 

Peter Sherringham had said nothing ; he was 
watching Miriam and her attitude. She wore a black 
dress which fell in straight folds ; her face, under her 

112 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

level brows, was pale and regular — -it had a strange, 
strong, tragic beauty. " I don't know what's in her," 
he said to himself ; " nothing, it would seem, from 
her persistent vacancy. But such a face as that, 
such a head, is a fortune ! " Madame Carre brought 
her to book, giving her the first line of the speech 
of Clorinde : "Vous ne me fuyez pas, mon enfant, 
anjourd'lmi." But still the girl hesitated, and for 
an instant appeared to make a vain, convulsive effort. 
In this convulsion she frowned portentously ; her 
low forehead overhung her eyes ; the eyes themselves, 
in shadow, stared, splendid and cold, and her hands 
chnched themselves at her sides. She looked austere 
and terrible and was during this moment an incarna- 
tion the vividness of which drew from Sherringham 
a stifled cry. " Elle est Men belle — ah ga ! " mur- 
mured the old actress ; and in the pause which still 
preceded the issue of sound from the girl's Ups Peter 
turned to his kinsman and said in a low tone : " You 
must paint her just like that." 

" Like that ? " 

" As the Tragic Muse." 

She began to speak ; a long, strong, colourless voice 
quavered in her young throat. She delivered the 
lines of Clorinde in the admired inter\dew with Cehe, 
the gem of the third act, with a rude monotony, and 
then, gaining confidence, with an effort at modula- 
tion which was not altogether successful and which 
evidently she felt not to be so. Madame Carre sent 
back the ball without raising her hand, repeating the 
speeches of Cehe, which her memory possessed from 
their having so often been addressed to her, and 
uttering the verses with soft, communicative art. So 
they went on through the scene, which, when it was 
over, had not precisely been a triumph for Miriam 
Rooth. Sherringham forbore to look at Gabriel Nash, 
and Madame Carre said : "I think you've a voice, 

I 113 I 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

ma fille, somewhere or other. We must try and put 
our hand on it." Then she asked her what instruc- 
tion she had had, and the girl, Hfting her eyebrows, 
looked at her mother while her mother prompted 
her. 

" Mrs. Delamere in London ; she was once an 
ornament of the Enghsh stage. She gives lessons 
just to a very few ; it's a great favour. Such a very 
nice person ! But above all, Signor Ruggieri — ^I 
think he taught us most." Mrs. Rooth explained 
that this gentleman was an Italian tragedian, in 
Rome, who instructed Miriam in the proper manner 
of pronouncing his language and also in the art of 
declaiming and gesticulating. 

" Gesticulating I'U warrant ! " declared their 
hostess. " They mimic as for the deaf, they empha- 
sise as for the blind. Mrs. Delamere is doubtless an 
epitome of all the virtues, but I never heard of her. 
You travel too much," Madame Carre went on ; 
" that's very amusing, but the way to study is to 
stay at home, to shut yourself up and hammer at 
your scales." Mrs. Rooth complained that they had 
no home to stay at ; in reply to which the old actress 
exclaimed : " Oh you Enghsh, you're d'une legereie a 
faire fremir. If you haven't a home you must make, 
or at least for decency pretend to, one. In our pro- 
fession it's the first requisite." 

" But where ? That's what I ask ! " said Mrs. 
Rooth. 

" Why not here ? " Sherringham threw out. 

" Oh here ! " And the good lady shook her head 
with a world of sad significance. 

" Come and live in London and then I shall be 
able to paint your daughter," Nick Dormer interposed. 

" Is that aU it will take, my dear fellow ? " asked 
Gabriel Nash. 

" Ah, London's full of memories," Mrs. Rooth 

114 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

went on. " My father had a great house there — we 
always came up. But all that's over." 

" Study here and then go to London to appear," 
said Peter, feeling frivolous even as he spoke. 

" To appear in French ? " 

" No, in the language of Shakespeare," 

" But we can't study that here." 

" Mr. Sherringham means that he will give you 
lessons," Madame Carre explained. " Let me not 
fail to say it — he's an excellent critic." 

" How do you know that — you who're beyond 
criticism and perfect ? " asked Sherringham : an 
inquiry to which the answer was forestalled by the 
girl's rousing herself to make it public that she could 
recite the " Nights " of Alfred de Musset. 

" Diable ! " said the actress : " that's more than 
I can ! By all means give us a specimen." 

The girl again placed herself in position and rolled 
out a fragment of one of the splendid conversations 
of Musset's poet with his muse — rolled it loudly 
and proudly, tossed it and tumbled it about the room. 
Madame Carre watched her at first, but after a few 
moments she shut her eyes, though the best part of 
the business was to take in her young candidate's 
beauty. Sherringham had supposed Miriam rather 
abashed by the flatness of her first performance, but 
he now saw how little she could have been aware 
of this : she was rather uplifted and emboldened. 
She made a mush of the divine verses, which in spite 
of certain sonorities and cadences, an evident effort 
to imitate a celebrated actress, a comrade of Madame 
Carre, whom she had heard declaim them, she pro- 
duced as if she had been dashing bhndfold at some 
playfellow she was to " catch." When she had 
finished Madame Carre passed no judgement, only 
dropping : " Perhaps you had better say something 
Enghsh." She suggested some Uttle piece of verse — 

115 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

some fable if there were fables in English. She ap- 
peared but scantily surprised to hear that there were 
not — it was a language of which one expected so 
little. Mrs. Rooth said : " She knows her Tennyson 
by heart. I think he's much deeper than La Fon- 
taine " ; and after some deliberation and delay 
Miriam broke into " The Lotus-Eaters," from which 
she passed directly, almost breathlessly, to " Edward 
Gray." Sherringham had by this time heard her 
make four different attempts, and the only general- 
isation very present to him was that she uttered these 
dissimilar compositions in exactly the same tone — 
a solemn, droning, dragging measure suggestive of 
an exhortation from the pulpit and adopted evidently 
with the " affecting " intention and from a crude idea 
of " style." It was all funereal, yet was artlessly 
rough. Sherringham thought her English perform- 
ance less futile than her French, but he could see 
that Madame Carre listened to it even with less 
pleasure. In the way the girl wailed forth some of 
her Tennysonian lines he detected a faint gleam as 
of something pearly in deep water. But the further 
she went the more violently she acted on the nerves 
of Mr. Gabriel Nash : that also he could discover 
from the way this gentleman ended by slipping dis- 
creetly to the window and leaning there with his head 
out and his back to the exhibition. He had the art 
of mute expression ; his attitude said as clearly as 
possible : " No, no, you can't call me either ill- 
mannered or ill-natured. I'm the showman of the 
occasion, moreover, and I avert myself, leaving you 
to judge. If there's a thing in life I hate it's this 
idiotic new fashion of the drawing-room recitation 
and of the insufferable creatures who practise it, who 
prevent conversation, and whom, as they're beneath 
it, you can't punish by criticism. Therefore what 
I'm doing's only too magnanimous — bringing these 

ii6 



THE TRAGIC MUSfi 

benighted women here, pa5n.ng with my person, 
stifling my just repugnance." 

While Sherringham judged privately that the 
manner in which Miss Rooth had acquitted herself 
offered no element of interest, he yet remained aware 
that something surmounted and survived her failure, 
something that would perhaps be worth his curiosity. 
It was the element of outhne and attitude, the way 
she stood, the way she turned her eyes, her head, 
and moved her limbs. These things held the atten- 
tion ; they had a natural authority and, in spite 
of their suggesting too much the school-girl in 
the tahleau-vivant, a " plastic " grandeur. Her face, 
moreover, grew as he watched it ; something delicate 
dawned in it, a dim promise of variety and a touching 
plea for patience, as if it were conscious of being able 
to show in time more shades than the simple and 
striking gloom which had as yet mainly graced it. 
These rather rude physical fehcities formed in short 
her only mark of a vocation, fl^e almost hated to have 
to recognise them ; he had seen them so often when 
they meant nothing at all that he had come at last to 
regard them as almost a guarantee of incompetence. 
He knew Madame Carre valued them singly so little 
that she counted them out in measuring an histrionic 
nature ; when deprived of the escort of other pro- 
perties which helped and completed them she almost 
held them a positive hindrance to success — success 
of the only kind she esteemed. Far oftener than 
himself she had sat in judgement on young women 
for whom hair and eyebrows and a disposition for 
the statuesque would have worked the miracle of 
sanctifying their stupidity if the miracle were work- 
able. But that particular miracle never was. The 
qualities she rated highest were not the gifts but the 
conquests, the effects the actor had worked hard 
for, had dug out of the mine by unwearied study. 

117 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Sherringham remembered to have had in the early 
part of their acquaintance a friendly dispute with her 
on this subject, he having been moved at that time 
to defend doubtless to excess the cause of the gifts. 
She had gone so far as to say that a serious comedian 
ought to be ashamed of them — ashamed of resting 
his case on them ; and when Sherringham had cited 
the great Rachel as a player whose natural endow- 
ment was rich and who had owed her highest triumphs 
to it, she had declared that Rachel was the very 
instance that proved her point ; — a talent assisted by 
one or two primary aids, a voice and a portentous 
brow, but essentially formed by work, unremitting 
and ferocious work. " I don't care a straw for your 
handsome girls," she said ; " but bring me one who's 
ready to drudge the tenth part of the way Rachel 
drudged, and I'll forgive her her beauty. Of course, 
notez bien, Rachel wasn't a grosse bete : that's a gift 
if you hke ! " 

Mrs. Rooth, who was evidently very proud of the 
figure her daughter had made — her daughter who 
for all one could tell affected their hostess precisely 
as a grosse bete — appealed to Madame Carre rashly 
and serenely for a verdict ; but fortunately this lady's 
voluble bonne came rattling in at the same moment 
with the tea-tray. The old actress busied herself in 
dispensing this refreshment, an hospitable attention 
to her English visitors, and under cover of the diver- 
sion thus obtained, while the others talked together, 
Sherringham put her the question: "Well, is there 
anything in my young friend ? " 

" Nothing I can see. She's loud and coarse." 

" She's very much afraid. You must allow for 
that." 

" Afraid of me, immensely, but not a bit afraid 
of her authors — nor of you!" Madame Carre 
smiled. 

ii8 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Aren't you prejudiced by what that fellow Nash 
has told you ? " 

Why prej udiced ? He only told me she was very 
handsome." 

" And don't you think her so ? " 

" Admirable. But I'm not a photographer nor 
a dressmaker nor a coiffeur. I can't do anything 
with ' back hair ' nor with a mere big stare." 

" The head's very noble," said Peter Sherringham. 
" And the voice, when she spoke EngUsh, had some 
sweet tones." 

" Ah your English — possibly ! All I can say is 
that I listened to her conscientiously, and I didn't 
perceive in what she did a single nuance, a single in- 
flexion or intention. But not one, mon cher. 1 don't 
think she's intelligent." 

" But don't they often seem stupid at first ? " 

" Say always ! " 

" Then don't some succeed — even when they're 
handsome ? " 

" When they're handsome they always succeed — 
in one way or another." 

" You don't understand us English," said Peter 
Sherringham. 

Madame Carre drank her tea ; then she replied : 
" Marry her, my son, and give her diamonds. Make 
her an ambassadress ; she'll look very well." 

" She interests you so little that you don't care to 
do anything for her ? " 

" To do anything ? " 

" To give her a few lessons." 

The old actress looked at him a moment ; after 
which, rising from her place near the table on which 
the tea had been served, she said to Miriam Rooth : 
" My dear child, I give my voice for the scene anglaise. 
You did the English things best." 

" Did I do them well ? " asked the girl. 

119 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" You've a great deal to learn ; but you've rude 
force. The main things sont encore a degager, but 
they'll come. You must work." 

" I think she has ideas," said Mrs. Rooth. 

" She gets them from you," Madame Carre 
replied. 

" I must say that if it's to be our theatre I'm 
relieved. I do think ours safer," the good lady con- 
tinued. 

" Ours is dangerous, no doubt." 

" You mean you're more severe," said the girl. 

" Your mother's right," the actress smiled ; " you 
have ideas." 

" But what shall we do then — how shall we pro- 
ceed ? " Mrs. Rooth made this appeal, plaintively 
and vaguely, to the three gentlemen ; but they had 
collected a few steps off and were so occupied in talk 
that it failed to reach them. 

" Work — work — work ! " exclaimed the actress. 

" In English I can play Shakespeare. I want to 
play Shakespeare," Miriam made known. 

" That's fortunate, as in English you haven't any 
one else to play." 

" But he's so great — and he's so pure ! " said 
Mrs. Rooth. 

" That indeed seems the saving of you," Madame 
Carre returned. 

" You think me actually pretty bad, don't you ? " 
the girl demanded with her serious face. 

" Mon Dieu, que vous dirai-je ? Of course you're 
rough ; but so was I at your age. And if you find 
your voice it may carry you far. Besides, what does 
it matter what I think ? How can I judge for your 
English public ? " 

" How shaU I find my voice ? " asked Miriam 
Rooth. 

" By trying. // n'y a que ga. Work like a horse, 

120 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

night and day. Besides, Mr. Sherringham, as he 
says, will help you." 

That gentleman, hearing his name, turned round 
and the girl appealed to him. " Will you help me 
really ? " 

" To find her voice," said Madame Carre. 

" The voice, when it's worth anything, comes 
from the heart ; so I suppose that's where to look 
for it," Gabriel Nash suggested. 

" Much you know ; you haven't got any ! " 
Miriam retorted with the first scintillation of gaiety she 
had shown on this occasion. 

" Any voice, my child ? " Mr. Nash inquired. 

" Any heart — or any manners ! " 

Peter Sherringham made the secret reflexion that 
he liked her better lugubrious, as the note of pertness 
was not totally absent from her mode of emitting 
these few words. He was irritated, moreover, for 
in the brief conference he had just had with the 
young lady's introducer he had had to meet the rather 
difficult call of speaking of her hopefully. Mr. Nash 
had said with his bland smile, " And what impression 
does my young friend make ? " — in respect to which 
Peter's optimism felt engaged by an awkward logic. 
He answered that he recognised promise, though he 
did nothing of the sort ; — at the same time that the 
poor girl, both with the exaggerated " points " of 
her person and the vanity of her attempt at expres- 
sion, constituted a kind of challenge, struck him as 
a subject for inquiry, a problem, an explorable tract. 
She was too bad to jump at and yet too " taldng " — 
perhaps after all only vulgarly — to overlook, especi- 
ally when resting her tragic eyes on him with the 
trust of her deep " Really ? " This note affected him 
as addressed directly to his honour, giving him a^ 
chance to brave verisimilitude, to brave ridicule even 
a little, in order to show in a special case what he 

121 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

had always maintained in general, that the direction of 
a young person's studies for the stage may be an 
interest of as high an order as any other artistic 
appeal. 

" Mr. Nash has rendered us the great service of 
introducing us to Madame Carre, and I'm sure we're 
immensely indebted to him," Mrs. Rooth said to her 
daughter with an air affectionately corrective. 

" But what good does that do us ? " the girl asked, 
smiling at the actress and gently laying her finger- 
tips upon her hand. " Madame Carre listens to me 
with adorable patience, and then sends me about my 
business — ah in the prettiest way in the world." 

" Mademoiselle, you're not so rough ; the tone of 
that's very juste. A la bonne heure; work — work ! " 
the actress cried. " There was an inflexion there — 
or very nearly. Practise it till you've got it." 

" Come and practise it to me, if your mother will 
be so kind as to bring you," said Peter Sherringham. j 

" Do you give lessons — do you understand ? " 
Miriam asked. 

"I'm an old play-goer and I've an unbounded 
belief in my own judgement." 

Old,' sir, is too much to say," Mrs. Rooth remon- 
strated. " My daughter knows your high positioi, 
but she's very direct. You'll always find her so. 
Perhaps you'll say there are less honourable faults. 
We'll come to see you with pleasure. Oh I've been 
at the embassy when I was her age. Therefore 
why shouldn't she go to-day ? That was in Lord 
Davenant's time." 

" A few people are coming to tea with me to- 
morrow. Perhaps you'll come then at five o'clock." 

" It will remind me of the dear old times," said 
Mrs. Rooth. 

" Thank you ; I'll try and do better to-morrow," 
Miriam professed very sweetly. 

122 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" You do better every minute ! " Sherringham 
returned — and he looked at their hostess in support 
of this declaration. 

" She's finding her voice," Madame Carre acknow- 
ledged. 

" She's finding a friend ! " Mrs. Rooth threw in. 

" And don't forget, when you come to London, my 
hope that you'll come and see me," Nick Dormer said 
to the girl. " To try and paint you — that would do 
me good ! " 

" She's finding even two," said Madame Carre. 

" It's to make up for one I've lost ! " And Miriam 
looked with very good stage-scorn at Gabriel Nash. 
" It's he who thinks I'm bad." 

" You say that to make me drive you home ; you 
know it will," Nash returned. 

" We'll all take you home ; why not ? " Sherring- 
ham asked. 

Madame Carre looked at the handsome girl, 
handsomer than ever at this moment, and at the 
three young men who had taken their hats and stood 
ready to accompany her. A deeper expression came 
for an instant into her hard, bright eyes. "Ah la 
jeunesse!" she sighed. "You'd always have that, 
my child, if you were the greatest goose on earth ! " 



123 



VIII 

At Peter Sherringliam's the next day Miriam had 
so evidently come with the expectation of " saying " 
something that it was impossible such a patron of 
the drama should forbear to invite her, little as the 
exhibition at Madame Carre's could have contributed 
to render the invitation prompt. His curiosity had 
been more appeased than stimulated, but he felt 
none the less that he had " taken up " the dark- 
browed girl and her reminiscential mother and must 
face the immediate consequences of the act. This 
responsibility weighed upon him during the twenty- 
four hours that foUowed the ultimate dispersal of the 
little party at the door of the Hotel de la Garonne. 

On quitting Madame Carre the two ladies had 
definitely declined Mr. Nash's offered cab and had 
taken their way homeward on foot and with the 
gentlemen in attendance. The streets of Paris at that 
hour were bright and episodical, and Sherringham 
trod them good-humouredly enough and not too fast, 
leaning a little to talk with Miriam as he went. Their 
pace was regulated by her mother's, who advanced 
on the arm of Gabriel Nash (Nick Dormer was on 
her other side) in refined deprecation. Her sloping 
back was before them, exempt from retentive stiff- 
ness in spite of her rigid principles, with the little 
drama of her lost and recovered shawl perpetually 
going on. 

124 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Sherringham said nothing to the girl about her 
performance or her powers ; their talk was only of 
her manner of life with her mother — their travels, 
their pensions, their economies, their want of a home, 
the many cities she knew well, the foreign tongues 
and the wide view of the world she had acquired. He 
guessed easily enough the dolorous type of exile of 
the two ladies, wanderers in search of Continental 
cheapness, inured to queer contacts and compromises, 
" remarkably well connected " in England, but going 
out for their meals. The girl was but indirectly com- 
municative ; though seemingly less from any plan of 
secrecy than from the habit of associating with people 
whom she didn't honour with her confidence. She 
was fragmentary and abrupt, as well as not in the 
least shy, subdued to dread of Madame Carre as she 
had been for the time. She gave Sherringham a 
reason for this fear, and he thought her reason 
innocently pretentious. " She admired a great artist 
more than anything in the world ; and in the presence 
of art, of great art, her heart beat so fast." Her 
manners were not perfect, and the friction of a varied 
experience had rather roughened than smoothed her. 
She said nothing that proved her intelligent, even 
though he guessed this to be the design of two or three 
of her remarks ; but he parted from her with the 
suspicion that she was, according to the contem- 
porary French phrase, a " nature." 

The Hotel de la Garonne was in a small unreno- 
vated street in which the cobble-stones of old Paris 
stiU flourished, lying between the Avenue de I'Opera 
and the Place de la Bourse. Sherringham had occa- 
sionally traversed the high dimness, but had never 
noticed the tall, stale maison meuhlee, the aspect of 
which, that of a third-rate provincial inn, was an 
illustration of Mrs. Rooth's shrunken standard. " We 
would ask you to come up, but it's quite at the top 

125 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

and we haven't a sitting-room," the poor lady bravely 
explained. " We had to receive Mr. Nash at a cafe." 

Nick Dormer declared that he liked cafes, and 
Miriam, looking at his cousin, dropped with a flash 
of passion the demand : "Do you wonder I should 
want to do something — so that we can stop living 
like pigs ? " 

Peter recognised the next day that though it might 
be boring to listen to her it was better to make her 
recite than to let her do nothing, so effectually did 
the presence of his sister and that of Lady Agnes, 
and even of Grace and Biddy, appear, by a strange 
tacit opposition, to deprive hers, ornamental as it 
was, of a reason. He had only to see them all together 
to perceive that she couldn't pass for having come 
to " meet " them — even her mother's insinuating 
gentility failed to put the occasion on that footing 
— and that she must therefore be assumed to have 
been brought to show them something. She was not 
subdued, not colourless enough to sit there for nothing, 
or even for conversation — the sort of conversation 
that was likely to come off — so that it was inevitable 
to treat her position as connected with the principal 
place on the carpet, with silence and attention and 
the pulUng together of chairs. Even when so estab- 
lished it struck him at first as precarious, in the light, 
or the darkness, of the inexpressive faces of the other 
ladies, seated in couples and rows on sofas — there were 
several in addition to Julia and the Dormers ; mainly 
the wives, with their husbands, of Sherringham's 
fellow-secretaries — scarcely one of whom he felt he 
might count upon for a modicum of gush when the 
girl should have finished. 

Miss Rooth gave a representation of Juliet drink- 
ing the potion, according to the system, as her mother 
explained, of the famous Signor Ruggieri — a scene 
of high fierce sound, of many cries and contortions : 

126 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

she shook her hair (which proved magnificent) half- 
down before the performance was over. Then she 
declaimed several short poems by Victor Hugo, 
selected among many hundred by Mrs. Rooth, as the 
good lady was careful to make known. After this she 
jumped to the American lyre, regaling the company 
with specimens, both familiar and fresh, of Long- 
fellow, Lowell, Wliittier, Holmes, and of two or three 
poetesses now revealed to Sherringham for the first 
time. She flowed so copiously, keeping the floor and 
rejoicing visibly in her luck, that her host was mainly 
occupied with wondering how he could make her 
leave off. He was surprised at the extent of her 
repertory, which, in view of the circumstance that she 
could never have received much encouragement — it 
must have come mainly from her mother, and he 
didn't believe in Signor Ruggieri — denoted a very 
stiff ambition and a blundering energy. It was her 
mother who checked her at last, and he found himself 
suspecting that Gabriel Nash had intimated to the 
old woman that interference was necessary. For him- 
self he was chiefly glad Madame Carre hadn't come. 
It was present to him that she would have judged 
the exhibition, with its badness, its impudence, the 
absence of criticism, whoUy indecent. 

His only new impression of the heroine of the scene 
was that of this same high assurance — her coolness, 
her complacency, her eagerness to go on. She had 
been deadly afraid of the old actress, but was not a bit 
afraid of a cluster of femmes du monde, of Julia, of 
Lady Agnes, of the smart women of the embassy. It 
was positively these personages who were rather in 
fear ; there was certainly a moment when even Julia 
was scared for the first time he had ever remarked 
it. The space was too small, the cries, the convulsions 
and rushes of the dishevelled girl were too near. 
Lady Agnes wore much of the time the countenance 

127 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

she might have shown at the theatre during a play 
in which pistols were fired ; and indeed the manner 
of the young reciter had become more spasmodic 
and more explosive. It appeared, however, that the 
company in general thought her very clever and suc- 
cessful ; which showed, to Sherringham's sense, how 
little they understood the matter. Poor Biddy was 
immensely struck ; she grew flushed and absorbed 
in proportion as Miriam, at her best moments, became 
pale and fatal. It was she who spoke to her first, after 
it was agreed that they had better not fatigue her any 
more ; she advanced a few steps, happening to be 
nearest — she murmured : " Oh thank you so much. 
I never saw anything so beautiful, so grand." 

She looked very red and very pretty as she said this, 
and Peter Sherringham liked her enough to notice 
her more and like her better when she looked prettier 
than usual. As he turned away he heard Miriam 
make answer with no great air of appreciation of her 
tribute : " I've seen you before — two days ago at 
the Salon with Mr. Dormer. Yes, I know he's your 
brother. I've made his acquaintance since. He 
wants to paint my portrait. Do you think he'll do it 
well ? " He was afraid the girl was something of a 
brute — also somewhat grossly vain. This impression 
would perhaps have been confirmed if a part of the 
rest of the short conversation of the two young 
women had reached his ear. Biddy ventured to 
observe that she herself had studied modelling a little 
and that she could understand how any artist would 
think Miss Rooth a splendid subject. If indeed she 
could attempt her head, that would be a chance 
indeed. 

" Thank you," said Miriam with a laugh as of high 
comedy. " I think I had rather not passer par toute 
la famille ! " Then she added : " If your brother's an 
artist I don't understand how he's in Parliament." 

128 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

"Oh he isn't in ParHament now — we only hope 
he will be." 

" Ah I see." 

" And he isn't an artist either," Biddy felt herself 
conscientiously bound to state. 

" Then he isn't anything," said Miss Rooth. 

" Well — he's immensely clever." 

" Ah I see," Miss Rooth again replied. " Mr. Nash 
has puffed him up so." 

" I don't know Mr. Nash," said Biddy, guilty of 
a little dryness as well as of a little misrepresentation, 
and feeling rather snubbed. 

" Well, you needn't wish to." 

Biddy stood with her a moment longer, still look- 
ing at her and not knowing what to say next, but not 
finding her any less handsome because she had such 
odd manners. Biddy had an ingenious little mind, 
which always tried as much as possible to keep 
different things separate. It was pervaded now by 
the reflexion, attended with some relief, that if the 
girl spoke to her with such unexpected familiarity 
of Nick she said nothing at all about Peter. Two 
gentlemen came up, two of Peter's friends, and made 
speeches to Miss Rooth of the kind Biddy supposed 
people learned to make in Paris. It was also doubt- 
less in Paris, the girl privately reasoned, that they 
learned to listen to them as this striking performer 
listened. She received their advances very differently 
from the way she had received Biddy's. Sherring- 
ham noticed his young kinswoman turn away, still 
very red, to go and sit near her mother again, leaving 
Miriam engaged with the two men. It appeared to 
have come over her that for a moment she had been 
strangely spontaneous and bold, and that she had 
paid a little of the penalty. The seat next her mother 
was occupied by Mrs. Rooth, . toward whom Lady 
Agnes's head had incHned itself with a preoccupied 
I 129 K 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

tolerance. He had the conviction Mrs. Rooth was 
telUng her about the Neville - Nugents of Castle 
Nugent and that Lady Agnes was thinking it odd 
she never had heard of them. He said to himself 
that Biddy was generous. She had urged JuHa to 
come in order that they might see how bad the 
strange young woman would be, but now that the 
event had proved dazzhng she forgot this calculation 
and rejoiced in what she innocently supposed to be 
the performer's triumph. She kept away from Julia, i 
however ; she didn't even look at her to invite her 
also to confess that, in vulgar parlance, they had 
been sold. He himself spoke to his sister, who was 
leaning back with a detached air in the comer of a 
sofa, sajdng something which led her to remark in 
reply : " Ah I daresay it's extremely fine, but I 
don't care for tragedy when it treads on one's toes. 
She's like a cow who has kicked over the milking-pail. 
She ought to be tied up." 

" My poor Julia, it isn't extremely fine ; it isn't 
fine at all," Sherringham returned with some irrita- 
tion. 

" Pardon me then. I thought that was why you 
invited us." 

" I imagined she was different," Peter said a Httle 
foolishly. 

" Ah if you don't care for her so much the better. 
It has always seemed to me you make too awfully 
much of those people." 

" Oh I do care for her too — rather. She's interest- 
ing." His sister gave him a momentary, mystified 
glance and he added : " And she's dreadful." He 
felt stupidly annoyed and was ashamed of his annoy- 
ance, as he could have assigned no reason for it. 
It didn't grow less for the moment from his seeing 
Gabriel Nash approach Julia, introduced by Nick 
Dormer. He gave place to the two young men with 

130 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

some alacrity, for he had a sense of being 
wrong in respect to their specimen by Nt. 
presence. He remembered how it had bed 
of their bargain, as it were, that he should ^ 
that gentleman to his sister. He was not soi 
be relieved of the office by Nick, and he even ta 
and ironically wished his kinsman's friend joy o. 
colloquy with Mrs. Dallow. Sherringham's Hfe Wi 
spent wdth people, he was used to people, and both 
as host and as guest he carried the social burden 
in general lightly. He could observe, especially in 
the former capacity, without uneasiness and take the 
temperature without anxiety. But at present his 
company oppressed him ; he felt worried and that he 
showed it — which was the thing in the world he had 
sver held least an honour to a gentleman dedicated 
to diplomacy. He was vexed with the levity that 
tiad made him call his roomful together on so poor a 
pretext, and yet was vexed with the stupidity that 
made the witnesses so evidently find the pretext 
sufficient. He inwardly groaned at the delusion under 
^vhich he had saddled himself with the Tragic Muse — 
1 tragic muse who was strident and pert— and yet 
cashed his visitors would go away and leave him 
done with her. 

Nick Dormer said to Mrs. Dallow that he wanted 
ler to know an old friend of his, one of the cleverest 
nen he knew ; and he added the hope that she would 
)e gentle and encouraging with him : he was so timid 
md so easily disconcerted. Mr. Nash hereupon 
iropped into a chair by the arm of her sofa, their 
;ompanion went away, and Mrs. Dallow turned her 
glance upon her new acquaintance without a per-- 
;eptible change of position. Then she emitted with 
■apidity the remark : " It's very awkward when 
)eople are told one's clever." 

" It's only awkward if one isn't," Gabriel smiled. 

131 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Yes, but so few people are — enough to be talked 
about." 

" Isn't that just the reason why such a matter, 
such an exception, ought to be mentioned to them ? " 
he asked. " They mightn't find it out for themselves. 
Of course, however, as you say, there ought to be a 
certainty ; then they're surer to know it. Dormer's 
a dear fellow, but he's rash and superficial." 

Mrs. Dallow, at this incitement, turned her glance 
a second time on her visitor ; but during the rest of 
the conversation she rarely repeated the movement. 
If she liked Nick Dormer extremely — and it may 
without more delay be communicated to the reader 
that she did — her liking was of a kind that opposed 
no difficulty whatever to her not liking, in case of 
such a complication, a person attached or otherwise 
belonging to him. It was not in her nature to " put 
up " with others for the sake of an individual she 
loved : the putting up was usually consumed in the 
loving, and with nothing left over. If the affection 
that isolates and simplifies its object may be distin- 
guished from the affection that seeks communications 
and contracts for it, Julia Dallow's was quite of the 
encircMng, not to say the narrowing sort. She was 
not so much jealous as essentially exclusive. She 
desired no experience for the familiar and yet partly 
unsounded kinsman in whom she took an interest 
that she wouldn't have desired for herself ; and 
indeed the cause of her interest in him was partly the 
vision of his helping her to the particular extensions 
she did desire — the taste and thrill of great affairs 
and of public action. To have such ambitions for 
him appeared to her the highest honour she could 
do him ; her conscience was in it as well as her 
inclination, and her scheme, to her sense, was noble 
enough to varnish over any disdain she might feel 
for forces drawing him another way. She had a 

132 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Drejudice, in general, against his existing connexions, 
I suspicion of them, and a supply of off-hand contempt 
n waiting. It was a singular circumstance that she 
vas sceptical even when, knowing her as well as he 
lid, he thought them worth recommending to her : 
;he recommendation indeed mostly confirmed the 
iuspicion. 

This was a law from which Gabriel Nash was con- 
iemned to suffer, if suffering could on any occasion 
)e predicated of Gabriel Nash. His pretension was 
n truth that he had purged his Ufe of such possi- 
jiHties of waste, though probably he would have 
idmitted that if that fair vessel should spring a leak 
;he wound in its side would have been dealt by a 
voman's hand. In dining two evenings before with 
ler brother and with the Dormers Mrs. Dallow had 
)een moved to exclaim that Peter and Nick knew 
he most extraordinary people. As regards Peter the 
ittitudinising girl and her mother now pointed that 
noral with sufficient vividness ; so that there was 
ittle arrogance in taking a similar quahty for granted 
)f the conceited man at her elbow, who sat there as 
f he might be capable from one moment to another 
)f leaning over the arm of her sofa. She had not the 
lightest wish to talk with him about himself, and 
vas afraid for an instant that he was on the point of 
)assing from the chapter of his cleverness to that of 
lis timidity. It was a false alarm, however, for he 
)nly animadverted on the pleasures of the elegant 
ixtract hurled — hterally Imrle in general — from the 
;entre of the room at one's defenceless head. He 
ntimated that in his opinion these pleasures were all 
or the performers. The auditors had at any rate 
^ven Miss Rooth a charming afternoon ; that of 
course was what Mrs. Dallow's kind brother had 
nainly intended in arranging the little party. (JuHa 
lated to hear him call her brother " kind " : the 

133 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

term seemed offensively patronising.) But he him- 
self, he related, was now constantly employed in the 
same beneficence, listening two-thirds of his time 
to " intonations " and shrieks. She had doubtless 
observed it herself, how the great current of the age, 
the adoration of the mime, was almost too strong 
for any individual ; how it swept one along and 
dashed one against the rocks. As she made no 
response to this proposition Gabriel Nash asked her 
if she hadn't been struck with the main sign of the 
time, the preponderance of the mountebank, the 
glory and renown, the personal favour, he enjoyed. 
Hadn't she noticed what an immense part of the 
public attention he held in London at least ? For 
in Paris society was not so pervaded with him, and 
the women of the profession, in particular, were not 
in every drawing-room. 

" I don't know what you mean," Mrs. Dallow 
said. " I know nothing of any such people." 

" Aren't they under your feet wherever you turn 
— their performances, their portraits, their speeches, 
their autobiographies, their names, their manners, 
their ugly mugs, as the people say, and their idiotic 
pretensions ? " 

" I daresay it depends on the places one goes to. 
If they're everywhere " — and she paused a moment 
— " I don't go everywhere." 

" I don't go anywhere, but they mount on my 
back at home like the Old Man of the Sea. Just 
observe a little when you return to London," Mr. 
Nash went on with friendly instructiveness. Julia 
got up at this — she didn't like receiving directions ; 
but no other corner of the room appeared to offer her 
any particular reason for crossing to it : she never 
did such a thing without a great inducement. So she 
remained standing there as if she were quitting the 
place in a moment, which indeed she now determined 

134 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

to do ; and her interlocutor, rising also, lingered 
beside her unencouraged but unperturbed. He pro- 
ceeded to remark that Mr. Sherringham was quite 
right to offer Miss Rooth an afternoon's sport ; she 
deserved it as a fine, brave, amiable girl. She was 
highly educated, knew a dozen languages, was of 
illustrious Uneage, and was immensely particular. 

" Immensely particular ? " Mrs. Dallow repeated. 

" Perhaps I should say rather that her mother's so 
on her behalf. Particular about the sort of people 
they meet — the tone, the standard. I'm bound to 
say they're Hke you : they don't go everywhere. 
That spirit's not so common in the mob calling itself 
good society as not to deserve mention." 

She said nothing for a moment ; she looked vaguely 
round the room, but not at Miriam Rooth. Never- 
theless she presently dropped as in forced reference 
to her an impatient shake. " She's dreadfully vulgar;" 

" Ah don't say that to my friend Dormer ! " Mr. 
Nash laughed. 

" Are you and he such great friends ? " Mrs. 
Dallow asked, meeting his eyes. 

" Great enough to make me hope we shall be 
greater," 

Again for a Uttle she said nothing, but then went 
on : " Why shouldn't I say to him that she's vulgar ? " 

" Because he admires her so much. He wants to 
paint her." 

" To paint her ? " 

" To paint her portrait." 

" Oh I see. I daresay she'd do for that." 

Mr. Nash showed further amusement. " If that's 
your opinion of her you're not very complimentary 
to the art he aspires to practise." 

" He aspires to practise ? " she echoed afresh. 

" Haven't you talked with him about it ? Ah you 
must keep him up to it ! " 

135 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Julia Dallow was conscious for a moment of look- 
ing uncomfortable ; but it relieved her to be able to 
demand of her neighbour with a certain manner : 
" Are you an artist ? " 

" I try to be," Nash smiled, " but I work in such 
difficult material." 

He spoke this with such a clever suggestion of 
mysterious things that she was to hear herself once 
more pay him the attention of taking him up. " Diffi- 
cult material ? " 

" I work in life ! ' 

At this she turned away, leaving him the impres- 
sion that she probably misunderstood his speech, 
thinking he meant that he drew from the Uving model 
or some such platitude : as if there could have been 
any likelihood he would have dealings with the dead. 
This indeed would not fully have explained the 
abruptness with which she dropped their conversa- 
tion. Gabriel, however, was used to sudden collapses 
and even to sudden ruptures on the part of those 
addressed by him, and no man had more the secret 
of remaining gracefully with his conversational wares 
on his hands. He saw Mrs. Dallow approach Nick 
Dormer, who was talking with one of the ladies of 
the embassy, and apparently signify that she wished 
to speak to him. He got up and they had a minute's 
talk, after which he turned and took leave of his 
fellow- visitors. She said a word to her brother, Nick 
joined her, and they then came together to the door. 
In this movement the}^ had to pass near Nash, and 
it gave her an opportunity to nod good-bye to him, 
which he was by no means sure she would have done 
if Nick hadn't been with her. The young man just 
stopped ; he said to Nash : "I should like to see 
you this evening late. You must meet me some- 
where." 

" We'll take a walk— I should like that," Nash 

136 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

replied. " I shall smoke a cigar at the cafe on the 
comer of the Place de I'Opera — you'll find me there." 
He prepared to compass his own departure, but before 
doing so he addressed himself to the duty of a few 
civil words to Lady Agnes. This effort proved vain, 
for on one side she was defended by the wall of the 
room and on the other rendered inaccessible by 
Miriam's mother, who clung to her with a quickly- 
rooted fidelity, showing no symptom of desistance. 
Nash decUned perforce upon her daughter Grace, 
who said to him : " You were talking with my cousin 
Mrs. Dallow." 

" To her rather than with her," he smiled. 

" Ah she's very charming," Grace said. 

" She's very beautiful." 

" And very clever," the girl continued. 

" Very, very intelligent." His conversation with 
Miss Dormer went Uttle beyond this, and he pre- 
sently took leave of Peter Sherringham, remarking 
to him as they shook hands that he was very sorry 
for him. But he had courted his fate. 

" What do you mean by my fate ? " Sherringham 
asked. 

" You've got them for life." 

" Why for Hfe, when I now clearly and courage- 
ously recognise that she isn't good ? " 

" Ah but she'll become so," said Gabriel Nash. 

" Do you think that ? " Sherringham brought out 
with a candour that made his visitor laugh. 

" You will — that's more to the purpose ! " the 
latter declared as he went away. 

Ten minutes later Lady Agnes substituted a general, 
vague assent for all further particular ones, drawing 
off from Mrs. Rooth and from the rest of the company 
with her daughters. Peter had had very little talk 
with Biddy, but the girl kept her disappointment out 
of her pretty eyes and said to him : " You told us 

137 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

she didn't know how— but she does ! " There was 
no suggestion of disappointment in this. 

Sherringham held her hand a moment. " Ah it's 
you who know how, dear Biddy ! " he answered ; and 
he was conscious that if the occasion had been more 
private he would have all lawfully kissed her. 

Presently three more of his guests took leave, 
and Mr. Nash's assurance that he had them for life 
recurred to him as he observed that Mrs. Rooth and 
her damsel quite failed to profit by so many examples. 
The Lovicks remained— a colleague and his sociable 
wife — and Peter gave them a hint that they were 
not to plant him there only with the two ladies. 
Miriam quitted Mrs. Lovick, who had attempted, 
with no great subtlety, to engage her, and came up 
to her host as if she suspected him of a design of 
steaUng from the room and had the idea of pre- 
venting it. 

" I want some more tea : will you give me some 
more ? I feel quite faint. You don't seem to suspect 
how this sort of thing takes it out of one." 

Peter apologised extravagantly for not having seen 
to it that she had proper refreshment, and took her 
to the round table, in a corner, on which the little 
collation had been served. He poured out tea foi 
her and pressed bread and butter on her and petits 
fours, of all which she profusely and methodically 
partook. It was late ; the afternoon had faded and 
a lamp been brought in, the wide shade of which 
shed a fair glow on the tea-service and the plates of 
pretty food. The Lovicks sat with Mrs. Rooth at 
the other end of the room, and the girl stood at the 
table, drinking her tea and eating her bread and 
butter. She consumed these articles so freely that 
he wondered if she had been truly in want of a meal 
— ^if they were so poor as to have to count with that 
sort of privation. This supposition was softening, 

138 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

but still not so much so as to make him ask her to 
sit down. She appeared indeed to prefer to stand : 
she looked better so, as if the freedom, the conspicuity 
of being on her feet and treading a stage were agree- 
able to her. While Sherringham lingered near her 
all vaguely, his hands in his pockets and his mind 
now void of everything but a planned evasion of the 
theatrical question — there were moments when he 
was so plentifully tired of it — she broke out abruptly : 
" Confess you think me intolerably bad ! " 
" Intolerably— no." 

" Only tolerably ! I find that worse." 
" Every now and then you do something very 
right," Sherringham said. 

" How many such things did I do to-day ? " 
" Oh three or four. I don't know that I counted 
very carefully." 

She raised her cup to her Ups, looking at him over 
the rim of it— a proceeding that gave her eyes a 
strange expression. " It bores you and you think it 
disagreeable," she then said — " I mean a girl always 
talking about herself." He protested she could never 
bore him and she added : " Oh I don't want compli- 
ments — I want the hard, the precious truth. An 
actress has to talk about herself. What else can she 
talk about, poor vain thing ? " 

" She can talk sometimes about other actresses." 
" That comes to the same thing. You won't be 
serious. I'm awfully serious." There was something 
that caught his attention in the note of this — a 
longing half hopeless, half argumentative to be 
believed in. "If one really wants to do anything 
one must worry it out ; of course everything doesn't 
come the first day," she kept on. " I can't see 
everything at once ; but I can see a little more — 
step by step — as I go ; can't I ? " 

" That's the way — that' the way," he gently 

139 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

enough returned. " When you see the things to do 
the art of doing them will come — if you hammer 
away. The great point's to see them." 

" Yes ; and you don't think me clever enough for 
that." 

" Why do you say so when I've asked you to come 
here on purpose ? " 

" You've asked me to come, but I've had no 
success." 

" On the contrary ; every one thought you 
wonderful." 

" Oh but they don't know ! " said Miriam Rooth. 
" You've not said a word to me. I don't mind your 
not having praised me ; that would be too hmial. 
But if I'm bad — and I know I'm dreadful — I Mdsh 
you'd talk to me about it." 

"It's delightful to talk to you," Peter found him- 
self saying. 

" No, it isn't, but it's kind " ; and she looked 
away from him. 

Her voice had with this a quality which made 
him exclaim : " Every now and then you ' say ' 
something \" 

She turned her eyes back to him and her face had 
a light. " I don't want it to come by accident." 
Then she added : "If there's any good to be got 
from trying, from showing one's self, how can it come 
unless one hears the simple truth, the truth that turns 
one inside out ? It's all for that — to know what one 
is, if one's a stick ! " 

" You've great courage, you've rare qualities," 
Sherringham risked. She had begun to touch him, 
to seem different : he was glad she had not gone. 

But for a little she made no answer, putting down 
her empty cup and yearning over the table as for 
something more to eat. Suddenly she raised her head 
and broke out with vehemence : "I will, I will, I will ! " 

140 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" You'll do what you want, evidently." 
" I will succeed — I will be great. Of course I 
know too little, I've seen too little. But I've always 
liked it ; I've never liked anything else. I used to 
learn things and do scenes and rant about the room 
when I was but five years old." She went on, com- 
municative, persuasive, familiar, egotistical (as was 
necessary), and slightly common, or perhaps only 
natural ; with reminiscences, reasons, and anecdotes, 
an unexpected profusion, and with an air of comrade- 
ship, of freedom in any relation, which seemed to 
plead that she was capable at least of embracing 
that side of the profession she desired to adopt. He 
noted that if she had seen very little, as she said, she 
had also seen a great deal ; but both her experience 
and her innocence had been accidental and irregular. 
She had seen very little acting — the theatre was 
always too expensive. If she could only go often — 
in Paris for instance every night for six months— 
to see the best, the worst, everything, she would 
make things out, would observe and learn what to do, 
what not to do : it would be a school of schools. But 
she couldn't without selling the clothes off her back. 
It was vile and disgusting to be poor, and if ever she 
were to know the bliss of having a few francs in her 
pocket she would make up for it — that she could 
promise ! She had never been acquainted with any 
one who could tell her anything — if it was good or 
bad or right or wrong — except Mrs. Delamere and 
poor Ruggieri. She supposed they had told her a 
great deal, but perhaps they hadn't, and she was 
perfectly willing to give it up if it was bad. Evidently 
Madame Carre thought so ; she thought it was horrid. 
Wasn't it perfectly divine, the way the old woman 
had said those verses, those speeches of Celie ? If 
she would only let her come and listen to her once 
in a while like that it was all she would ask. She 

141 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

had got lots of ideas just from that half-hour ; she 
had practised them over, over, and over again, the 
moment she got home. He might ask her mother — 
he might ask the people next door. If Madame Carre 
didn't think she could work, she might have heard, 
could she have listened at the door, something that 
would show her. But she didn't think her even good 
enough to criticise — since that wasn't criticism, 
telling her her head was good. Of course her head 
was good — she needn't travel up to the quartiers 
excentriques to find that out. It was her mother, the 
way she talked, who gave the idea that she wanted 
to be elegant and moral and a femme du monde and 
all that sort of trash. Of course that put people off, 
when they were only thinking of the real right way. 
Didn't she know, Miriam herself, that this was the 
one thing to think of ? But any one would be kind to 
her mother who knew what a dear she was. " She 
doesn't know when anything's right or wrong, but 
she's a perfect saint," said the girl, obscuring con- 
siderably her vindication. " She doesn't mind when 
I say things over by the hour, dinning them into her 
ears while she sits there and reads. She's a tremen- 
dous reader ; she's awfully up in literature. She 
taught me everything herself. I mean all that sort 
of thing. Of course I'm not so fond of reading ; I 
go in for the book of life." Sherringham wondered 
if her mother had not at any rate taught her that 
phrase — he thought it highly probable. " It would 
give on my nerves, the life I lead her," Miriam con- 
tinued ; " but she's really a delicious woman." 

The oddity of this epithet made Peter laugh, and 
altogether, in a few minutes, which is perhaps a sign 
that he abused his right to be a man of moods, the 
young lady had produced in him a revolution of 
curiosity, set his sympathy in motion. Her mixture, 
as it spread itself before him, was an appeal and 

142 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

a challenge : she was sensitive and dense, she was 
underbred and fine. Certainly she was very various, 
and that was rare ; quite not at this moment the 
heavy -eyed, frightened creature who had pulled 
herself together with such an effort at Madame 
Carre's, nor the elated " phenomenon " who had just 
been declaiming, nor the rather affected and contra- 
dictious young person with whom he had walked 
home from the Rue de Constantinople. Was this 
succession of phases a sign she was really a case of 
the celebrated artistic temperament, the nature that 
made people provoking and interesting ? That Sher- 
ringham himself was of this shifting complexion is 
perhaps proved by his odd capacity for being of two 
different minds very nearly at the same time. Miriam 
was pretty now, with felicities and graces, with 
charming, unusual eyes. Yes, there were things he 
could do for her ; he had already forgotten the chill 
of Mr. Nash's irony, of his prophecy. He was even 
scarce conscious how little in general he liked hints, 
insinuations, favours asked obliquely and plaintively : 
that was doubtless also because the girl was suddenly 
so taking and so fraternising. Perhaps indeed it 
was unjust to qualify as roundabout the manner in 
which Miss Rooth conveyed that it was open to 
him not only to pay for her lessons, but to meet the 
expense of her nightly attendance with her mother 
at instructive exhibitions of theatrical art. It was 
a large order, sending the pair to all the plays ; but 
what Peter now found himself thinking of was not 
so much its largeness as the possible interest of going 
with them sometimes and pointing the moral — the 
technical one — of showing her the things he liked, 
the things he disapproved. She repeated her declara- 
tion that she recognised the fallacy of her mother's 
view of heroines impossibly virtuous and of the 
importance of her looking out for such tremendously 

143 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

proper people. " One must let her talk, but of 
course it creates a prejudice," she said with her eyes 
on Mr. and Mrs. Lovick, who had got up, termin- 
ating their communion with Mrs. Rooth. " It's a 
great muddle, I know, but she can't bear anything 
coarse or nasty — and quite right too. I shouldn't 
either if I didn't have to. But I don't care a sou 
where I go if I can get to act, or who they are if they'll 
help me. I want to act — that's what I want to do ; 
I don't want to meddle in people's affairs. I can 
look out for myself — I'm. all right ! " the girl ex- 
claimed roundly, frankly, with a ring of honesty 
which made her crude and pure. " As for doing the 
bad ones I'm not afraid of that." 

" The bad ones ? " 

" The bad women in the plays — like Madame 
Carre. I'll do any vile creature." 

" I think you'll do best what you are " — and 
Sherringham laughed for the interest of it. " You're 
a strange girl." 

" Je crois Men ! Doesn't one have to be, to want 
to go and exhibit one's self to a loathsome crowd, 
on a platform, with trumpets and a big drum, for 
money — to parade one's body and one's soul ? " 

He looked at her a moment : her face changed 
constantly ; now it had a fine flush and a noble 
delicacy. " Give it up. You're too good for it," 
he found himself pleading. "I doubt if you've an 
idea of what girls have to go through." 

"Never, never — never till I'm pelted!" she 
cried. 

" Then stay on here a bit. I'll take you to the 
theatres." 

" Oh you dear ! " Miriam delightedly exclaimed. 
Mr. and Mrs. Lovick, accompanied by Mrs. Rooth, 
now crossed the room to them, and the girl went 
on in the same tone : " Mamma dear, he's the best 

144 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

friend we've ever had — he's a great deal nicer than I 
thought." 

" So are you, mademoiselle," said Peter Sherring- 
ham. 

" Oh, I trust Mr. Sherringham — I trust him in- 
finitely," Mrs. Rooth returned, covering him with 
her mild, respectable, wheedling eyes. " The kind- 
ness of every one has been beyond everything. Mr. 
and Mrs. Lovick can't say enough. They make the 
most obliging offers. They want you to know their 
brother." 

" Oh I say, he's no brother of mine," Mr. Lovick 
protested good-naturedly. 

" They think he'll be so suggestive, he'll put us 
up to the right things," Mrs. Rooth went on. 

" It's just a little brother of mine — such a dear, 
amusing, clever boy," Mrs. Lovick explained. 

" Do you know she has got nine ? Upon my 
honour she has ! " said her husband. " This one is 
the sixth. Fancy if I had to take them all over ! " 

" Yes, it makes it rather awkward," Mrs. Lovick 
amiably conceded. " He has gone on the stage, poor 
darling — but he acts rather well." 

" He tried for the diplomatic service, but he didn't 
precisely dazzle his examiners," Mr. Lovick further 
mentioned. 

" Edmund's very nasty about him. There are lots 
of gentlemen on the stage — he's not the first." 

" It's such a comfort to hear that," said Mrs. 
Rooth. 

"I'm much obliged to you. Has he got a 
theatre ? " Miriam asked. 

" My dear young lady, he hasn't even got an 
engagement," replied the young man's terrible 
brother-in-law. 

" He hasn't been at it very long, but I'm sure 
he'll get on. He's immensely in earnest and very 
I 145 L 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

good-looking. I just said that if he should come 
over to see us you might rather like to meet him. 
He might give you some tips, as my husband says." 

" I don't care for his looks, but I should like his 
tips," Miriam liberally smiled. 

"And is he coming over to see you?" asked 
Sherringham, to whom, while this exchange of 
remarks, which he had not lost, was going on, 
Mrs. Rooth had in lowered accents addressed herself. 

" Not if I can help it I think ! " But Mr. Lovick 
was so gaily rude that it wasn't embarrassing. 

" Oh sir, I'm sure you're fond of him," Mrs. 
Rooth remonstrated as the party passed together 
into the antechamber. 

" No, really, I like some of the others — four or 
five of them ; but I don't like Arty." 

" We'll make it up to him, then ; we'll like him," 
Miriam answered with spirit ; and her voice rang in 
the staircase — Sherringham attended them a little 
way- — with a charm which her host had rather 
missed in her loudness of the day before. 



146 



IX 



Nick Dormer found his friend Nash that evening 
at the place of their tryst — smoking a cigar, in the 
warm bright night, on the terrace of the cafe forming 
one of the angles of the Place de 1' Opera. He sat 
down with him, but at the end of five minutes uttered 
a protest against the crush and confusion, the pub- 
Hcity and vulgarity of the place, the shuffling pro- 
cession of the crowd, the jostle of fellow-customers, 
the perpetual brush of waiters. " Come away ; I 
want to talk to you and I can't talk here. I don't 
care where we go. It will be pleasant to walk ; we'U 
stroll away to the quartiers serieux. Each time I 
come to Paris I at the end of three days take the 
Boulevard, ^vith its conventional grimace, into greater 
aversion. I hate even to cross it — I go half a mile 
round to avoid it." 

The young men took their course together down 
the Rue de la Paix to the Rue de Rivoh, which 
they crossed, passing beside the gilded rails of the 
Tuileries. The beauty of the night — the only defect 
of which was that the immense illumination of Paris 
kept it from being quite night enough, made it a sort 
of bedizened, rejuvenated day — gave a charm to the 
quieter streets, drew our friends away to the right, 
to the river and the bridges, the older, duskier city. 
The pale ghost of the palace that had perished by fire 

147 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

hung over them a while, and, by the passage now 
open at all times across the garden of the Tuileries, 
they came out upon the Seine. They kept on 
and on, moving slowly, smoking, talking, pausing, 
stopping to look, to emphasise, to compare. They 
fell into discussion, into confidence, into inquiry, 
sympathetic or satiric, and into explanations which 
needed in turn to be explained. The balmy night 
the time for talk, the amusement of Paris, the memory 
of younger passages, gave a lift to the occasion. 
Nick had already forgotten his little brush with Julia 
on his leaving Peter's tea-party at her side, and that 
he had been almost disconcerted by the asperity 
with which she denounced the odious man he had 
taken it into his head to force upon her. Impertinent 
and fatuous she had called him ; and when Nick 
began to plead that he was really neither of these 
things, though he could imagine his manner might 
sometimes suggest them, she had declared that she 
didn't wish to argue about him or ever to hear of 
him again. Nick hadn't counted on her liking Gabriel 
Nash, but had thought her not liking him wouldn't 
perceptibly matter. He had given himself the diver- 
sion, not cruel surely to any one concerned, of seeing 
what she would make of a type she had never before 
met. She had made even less than he expected, and 
her intimation that he had played her a trick had been 
irritating enough to prevent his reflecting that the 
offence might have been in some degree with Nash. 
But he had recovered from his resentment sufficiently 
to ask this personage, with every possible circum- 
stance of implied consideration for the lady, what had 
been the impression made by his charming cousin. 

" Upon my word, my dear fellow, I don't regard 
that as a fair question," Gabriel said. " Besides, if 
you think Mrs. Dallow charming what on earth need 
it matter to you what I think ? The superiority of 

148 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

one man's opinion over another's is never so great 
as when the opinion's about a woman." 

" It was to help me to find out what I think of 
yourself," Nick returned. 

" Oh, that you'll never do. I shall bewilder you 
to the end. The lady with whom you were so good 
as to make me acquainted is a beautiful specimen 
of the English garden-flower, the product of high 
cultivation and much tending ; a tall, delicate stem 
with the head set upon it in a manner which, as a 
thing seen and remembered, should doubtless count 
for us as a gift of the gods. She's the perfect type 
of the object raised or bred, and everything about 
her hangs together and conduces to the effect, from 
the angle of her elbow to the way she drops that 
vague, conventional, dry little ' Oh ! ' which dispenses 
with all further performance. That degree of com- 
pleteness is always satisfying. But I didn't satisfy 
her, and she didn't understand me. I don't think 
they usually understand." 

" She's no worse than I then." 
" Ah she didn't try." 

" No, she doesn't try. But she probably thought 
you a monster of conceit, and she would think so 
still more if she were to hear you talk about her 
trying." 

" Very likely — very likely," said Gabriel Nash. 
" I've an idea a good many people think that. It 
strikes me as comic. I suppose it's a result of my 
little system." 

" What little system ? " 

" Oh nothing more wonderful than the idea of 
being just the same to every one. People have so 
bemuddled themselves that the last thing they can 
conceive is that one should be simple." 

" Lord, do you call yourself simple ? " Nick 
ejaculated. 

149 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Absolutely ; in the sense of having no interest of 
my own to push, no nostrum to advertise, no power 
to conciliate, no axe to grind. I'm not a savage — 
ah far from it ! — but I really think I'm perfectly 
independent." 

" Well, that's always provoking ! " Nick knowingly 
returned. 

"So it would appear, to the great majority of 
one's fellow-mortals ; and I well remember the pang 
with which I originally made that discovery. It 
darkened my spirit at a time when I had no thought 
of evil. What we like, when we're unregenerate, is 
that a new-comer should give us a password, come 
over to our side, join our little camp or religion, 
get into our little boat, in short, whatever it is, 
and help us to row it. It's natural enough ; we're 
mostly in different tubs and cockles, paddling for 
life. Our opinions, our convictions and doctrines 
and standards, are simply the particular thing that 
will make the boat go — our boat, naturally, for they 
may very often be just the thing that will sink 
another. If you won't get in people generally hate 
you." 

" Your metaphor's very lame," said Nick. " It's 
the overcrowded boat that goes to the bottom." 

" Oh I'll give it another leg or two ! Boats can 
be big, in the infinite of space, and a doctrine's a 
raft that floats the better the more passengers it 
carries. A passenger jumps over from time to time, 
not so much from fear of sinking as from a want of 
interest in the course or the company. He swims, he 
plunges, he dives, he dips down and visits the fishes 
and the mermaids and the submarine caves ; he goes 
from craft to craft and spla,shes about, on his own 
account, in the blue, cool water. The regenerate, as 
I call them, are the passengers who jump over in 
search of better fun. I jumped over long ago." 

150 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" And now of course you're at the head of the 
regenerate ; for, in your turn " — Nick found the 
figure deUghtful — " you all form a select school of 
porpoises." 

" Not a bit, and I know nothing about heads — 
in the sense you mean. I've grown a tail if you will ; 
I'm the merman wandering free. It's the jolliest of 
trades ! " 

Before they had gone many steps further Nick 
Dormer stopped short with a question. " I say, my 
dear fellow, do you mind mentioning to me whether 
you're the greatest humbug and charlatan on earth, 
or a genuine intelligence, one that has sifted things 
for itself ? " 

" I do lead your poor British wit a dance — I'm 
so sorry," Nash replied benignly. " But I'm very 
sincere. And I have tried to straighten out things 
a bit for myself." 

" Then why do you give people such a handle ? " 

" Such a handle ? " 

" For thinking you're an — for thinking you're 
a raexe farceur." 

" I daresay it's my manner : they're so unused to 
any sort of candour." 

" Well then why don't you try another ? " Nick 
asked. 

" One has the manner that one can, and mine 
moreover's a part of my little system." 

" Ah if you make so much of your little system 
you're no better than any one else," Nick returned 
as they went on. 

" I don't pretend to be better, for we're all miser- 
able sinners ; I only pretend to be bad in a pleasanter, 
brighter way — by what I can see. It's the simplest 
thing in the world ; just take for granted our right 
to be happy and brave. What's essentially kinder 
and more helpful than that, what's more beneficent ? 

151 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

But the tradition of dreariness, of stodginess, of dull, 
dense, literal prose, has so sealed people's eyes that 
they've ended by thinking the most natural of all 
things the most perverse. Why so keep up the dreari- 
ness, in our poor Uttle day ? No one can tell me why, 
and almost every one calls me names for simply 
asking the question. But I go on, for I believe one 
can do a little good by it. I want so much to do 
a little good," Gabriel Nash continued, taking his 
companion's arm. " My persistence is systematic : 
don't you see what I mean ? I won't be dreary — 
no, no, no ; and I won't recognise the necessity, or 
even, if there be any way out of it, the accident, of 
dreariness in the life that surrounds me. That's 
enough to make people stare : they're so damned 
stupid ! " 

" They think you so damned impudent," Nick 
freely explained. 

At this Nash stopped him short with a small cry, 
and, turning his eyes, Nick saw under the lamps of 
the quay that he had brought a flush of pain into 
his friend's face. " I don't strike you that way ? " 

" Oh ' me ! ' Wasn't it just admitted that I don't 
in the least make you out ? " 

" That's the last thing ! " Nash declared, as if he 
were thinking the idea over, with an air of genuine 
distress. " But with a little patience we'll clear it up 
together — if you care enough about it," he added 
more cheerfully. Letting his companion proceed 
again he continued : " Heaven help us all, what do 
people mean by impudence ? There are many, I 
think, who don't understand its nature or its limits ; 
and upon my word I've Uterally seen mere quickness 
of intelligence or of perception, the jump of a step 
or two, a httle whirr of the wings of talk, mistaken 
for it. Yes, I've encountered men and women who 
thought you impudent if you weren't simply so 

132 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

stupid as they. The only impudence is unprovoked, 
or even mere dull, aggression, and I indignantly 
protest that I'm never guilty of that clumsiness. Ah 
for what do they take one, with their beastly presump- 
tion ? Even to defend myself sometimes I've to make 
believe to myself that I care. I always feel as if I 
didn't successfully make others think so. Perhaps 
they see impudence in that. But I daresay the 
offence is in the things that I take, as I say, for 
granted ; for if one tries to be pleased one passes 
perhaps inevitably for being pleased above all with 
one's self. That's really not my case — ^I find my 
capacity for pleasure deplorably below the mark 
I've set. This is why, as I've told you, I cultivate it, 
I try to bring it up. And I'm actuated by positive 
benevolence ; I've that impudent pretension. That's 
what I mean by being the same to every one, by 
having only one manner. If one's conscious and 
ingenious to that end what's the harm — when one's 
motives are so pure ? By never, never making the 
concession, one may end by becoming a perceptible 
force for good." 

" What concession are you talking about, in God's 
name ? " Nick demanded. 

" Why, that we're here aU for dreariness. It's 
impossible to grant it sometimes if you wish to deny 
it ever." 

" And what do you mean then by dreariness ? 
That's modern slang and terribly vague. Many 
good things are dreary — \nrtue and decency and 
charity, and perseverance and courage and honour." 

" Say at once that life's dreary, my dear fellow ! " 
Gabriel Nash exclaimed. 

" That's on the whole my besetting impression." 

" C'est la que je vous attends ! I'm precisely 
engaged in trying what can be done in taking it the 
other way. It's my little personal experiment. Life 

153 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

consists of the personal experiments of each of us, 
and the point of an experiment is that it shall succeed. 
What we contribute is our treatment of the material, 
our rendering of the text, our style. A sense of the 
quaUties of a style is so rare that many persons should 
doubtless be forgiven for not being able to read, or at 
all events to enjoy, us ; but is that a reason for giving 
• it up — for not being, in this other sphere, if one 
possibly can, an Addison, a Ruskin, a Renan ? Ah 
we must write our best ; it's the great thing we can do 
in the world, on the right side. One has one's form, 
que diahle, and a mighty good thing that one has. 
I'm not afraid of putting all hfe into mine, and with- 
out unduly squeezing it. I'm not afraid of putting 
in honour and courage and charity — without spoil- 
ing them : on the contrary I shall only do them good. 
People may not read you at sight, may not like you, 
but there's a chance they'll come round ; and the 
only way to court the chance is to keep it up — always 
to keep it up. That's what I do, my dear man — 
if you don't think I've perseverance. If some one's 
touched here and there, if you give a little impression 
of truth and charm, that's your reward ; besides of 
course the pleasure for yourself." 

" Don't you think your style's a trifle affected ? ' 
Nick, asked for further amusement. 

" That's always the charge against a personal 
manner : if you've any at all people think you've 
too much. Perhaps, perhaps — who can say ? The 
lurking unexpressed is infinite, and affectation must 
have begun, long ago, with the first act of reflective 
expression — the substitution of the few placed 
articulate words for the cry or the thump or the hug. 
Of course one isn't perfect ; but that's the dehghtful 
thing about art, that there's always more to learn 
and more to do ; it grows bigger the more one uses 
it and meets more questions the more they come up. 

154 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

No doubt I'm rough still, but I'm in the right direc- 
tion : I make it my business to testify for the fine." 

" Ah the fine — there it stands, over there ! " said 
Nick Dormer. " I'm not so sure about yours — I 
don't know what I've got hold of. But Notre Dame 
is truth ; Notre Dame is charm ; on Notre Dame the 
distracted mind can rest. Come over with me and 
look at her ! " 

They had come abreast of the low island from 
which the great cathedral, disengaged to-day from 
her old contacts and adhesions, rises high and fair, 
with her front of beauty and her majestic mass, 
darkened at that hour, or at least simplified, under 
the stars, but only more serene and sublime for her 
happy union far aloft with the cool distance and 
the night. Our young men, fantasticating as freely as 
I leave the reader to estimate, crossed the wide, short 
bridge which made them face toward the monuments 
of old Paris — the Palais de Justice, the Conciergerie, 
the holy chapel of Saint Louis. They came out before 
the church, which looks down on a square where 
the past, once so thick in the very heart of Paris, 
has been made rather a blank, pervaded however 
by the everlasting freshness of the vast cathedral- 
face. It greeted Nick Dormer and Gabriel Nash 
with a kindness the long centuries had done nothing 
to dim. The lamphght of the old city washed its 
foundations, but the towers and buttresses, the 
arches, the galleries, the statues, the vast rose-window, 
the large full composition, seemed to grow clearer 
while they cHmbed higher, as if they had a conscious 
benevolent answer for the upward gaze of men, 

" How it straightens things out and blows away 
one's vapours — anything that's done ! " said Nick ; 
while his companion exclaimed blandly and affection- 
ately : 

" The dear old thing ! " 

155 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" The great point's to do something, instead of 
muddHng and questioning ; and, by Jove, it makes 
me want to ! " 

" Want to build a cathedral ? " Nash inquired. 

" Yes, just that." 

" It's you who puzzle me then, my dear fellow. 
You can't build them out of words." 

" What is it the great poets do ? " asked Nick. 

" Their words are ideas — their words are images, 
enchanting collocations and unforgettable signs. But 
the verbiage of parliamentary speeches ! " 

" Well," said Nick with a candid, reflective sigh, 
" you can rear a great structure of many things — ■ 
not only of stones and timbers and painted glass." 
They walked round this example of one, pausing, 
criticising, admiring, and discussing ; mingling the 
grave with the gay and paradox with contemplation. 
Behind and at the sides the huge, dusky vessel of the 
church seemed to dip into the Seine or rise out of it, 
floating expansively — a ship of stone with its flying 
buttresses thrown forth hke an array of mighty oars. 
Nick Dormer hngered near it in joy, in soothing con- 
tent, as if it had been the temple of a faith so dear to 
him that there was peace and security in its precinct. 
And there was comfort too and consolation of the 
same sort in the company at this moment of Nash's 
equal appreciation, of his response, by his own signs, 
to the great effect. He took it all in so and then so 
gave it all out that Nick was reminded of the radiance 
his boyish admiration had found in him of old, the 
easy grasp of everything of that kind. " Everything 
of that kind " was to Nick's sense the description of 
a wide and bright domain. 

They crossed to the farther side of the river, where 
the influence of the Gothic monument threw a distinc- 
tion even over the Parisian smartnesses^ — the muni- 
cipal rule and measure, the importunate symmetries, 

156 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

the " handsomeness " of everything, the extravagance 
of gashght, the perpetual dick on the neat bridges. 
In front of a quiet httle cafe on the left bank Gabriel 
Nash said, " Let's sit down " — he was always ready 
to sit down. It was a friendly estabUshment and an 
unfashionable quarter, far away from the caravan- 
series ; there were the usual Uttle tables and chairs on 
the quay, the muslin curtains behind the glazed front, 
the general sense of sawdust and of drippings of watery 
beer. The place was subdued to stillness, but not 
extinguished, by the lateness of the hour ; no vehicles 
passed, only now and then a light Parisiaif foot. 
Beyond the parapet they could hear the flow of the 
Seine. Nick Dormer said it made him think of 
the old Paris, of the great .Revolution, of Madame 
Roland, quoi ! Gabriel said they could have watery 
beer but were not obUged to drink it. They sat a 
long time ; they talked a great deal, and the more 
they said the more the unsaid came up. Presently 
Nash found occasion to throw out : " I go about 
my business like any good citizen— that's all." 

" And what is your business ? " 

" The spectacle of the world." 

Nick laughed out. " And what do you do with 
that ? " 

" What does any one do with spectacles ? I look 
at it. I see." 

" You're full of contradictions and inconsistencies," 
Nick however objected. " You described yourself to 
me half an hour ago as an apostle of beauty." 

" Where's the inconsistency ? I do it in the broad 
light of day, whatever I do : that's virtually what I 
meant. If I look at the spectacle of the world I look 
in preference at what's charming in it. Sometimes 
I've to go far to find it — very Ukely ; but that's just 
what I do. I go far — as far as my means permit me. 
Last year I heard of such a delightful little spot ; 

157 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

a place where a wild fig-tree grows in the south wall, 
the outer side, of an old Spanish city. I was told 
it was a deliciously brown corner— the sun making it 
warm in winter. As soon as I could I went there." 
" And what did you do ? " 
" I lay on the first green grass — I liked it." 
" If that sort of thing's all you accompHsh you're 
not encouraging." 

" I accompHsh my happiness — it seems to me 
that's something. I have feeHngs, I have sensations : 
let me tell you that's not so common. It's rare to 
have them, and if you chance to have them it's rare 
not to be ashamed of them. I go after them — when 
I judge they won't hurt any one." 

" You're lucky to have money for your travelling 
expenses," said Nick. 

" No doubt, no doubt ; but 1 do it very cheap. I 
take my stand on my nature, on my fortunate char- 
acter. I'm not ashamed of it, I don't think it's so 
horrible, my character. But we've so befogged and 
befouled the whole question of liberty, of spontaneity, 
of good humour and inclination and enjoyment, that 
there's nothing that makes people stare so as to see 
one natural." 

" You're always thinking too much of ' people.' " 

" They say I think too little," Gabriel smiled. 

" Well, I've agreed to stand for Harsh," said Nick 
with a roundabout transition. 

" It's you then who are lucky to have money." 

" I haven't," Nick explained. " My expenses are 
to be paid." 

" Then you too must think of ' people.' " 

Nick made no answer to this, but after a moment 
said : "I wish very much you had more to show 
for it." 

" T6 show for what ? " 

" Your little system — the jesthetic life." 

158 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Nash hesitated, tolerantly, gaily, as he often did, 
with an air of being embarrassed to choose between 
several answers, any one of which would be so right. 
" Oh having something to show's such a poor business. 
It's a kind of confession of failure." 

" Yes, you're more affected than anything else," 
said Nick impatiently. 

" No, my dear boy, I'm more good-natured : don't 
I prove it ? I'm rather disappointed to find you not 
more accessible to esoteric doctrine. But there is, 
I confess, another plane of intelligence, honourable, 
and very honourable, in its way, from which it may 
legitimately appear important to have something to 
show. If you must confine yourself to that plane I 
won't refuse you my sympathy. After all that's what 
/ have to show ! But the degree of my sympathy 
must of course depend on the nature of the demonstra- 
tion you wish to make." 

" You know it very well — ^you've guessed it," 
Nick returned, looking before him in a conscious, 
modest way which would have been called sheepish 
had he been a few years younger, 

" Ah you've broken the scent with telling me 
you're going back to the House of Commons," said 
Nash. 

" No wonder you don't make it out ! My situa- 
tion's certainly absurd enough. What I really hanker 
for is to be a painter ; and of portraits, on the whole, 
I think. That's the abject, crude, ridiculous fact. In 
this out-of-the-way comer, at the dead of night, in 
lowered tones, I venture to disclose it to you. Isn't 
that the aesthetic Hfe ? " 

" Do you know how to paint ? " asked Nash. 

" Not in the least. No element of burlesque is 
therefore wanting to my position." 

" That makes no difference. I'm so glad." 

" So glad I don't know how ? " 

159 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" So glad of it all. Yes, that only makes it better. 
You're a delightful case, and I like delightful cases. 
We must see it through. I rejoice I met you 
again." 

" Do you think I can do anything ? " Nick in- 
quired. 

" Paint good pictures ? How can I tell without 
seeing some of your work ? Doesn't it come back to 
me that at Oxford you used to sketch very prettily ? 
But that's the last thing that matters." 

" What does matter then ? " Nick asked with his 
eyes on his companion. 

"To be on the right side — -on the side of the 
' fine.' " 

" There'll be precious Httle of the ' fine ' if I produce 
nothing but daubs." 

" Ah you cling to the old false measure of success ! 
I must cure you of that. There'll be the beauty of 
having been disinterested and independent ; of having 
taken the world in the free, brave, personal way." 

" I shall nevertheless paint decently if I can," 
Nick presently said. 

" I'm almost sorry ! It will make your case less 
clear, your example less grand." 

" My example will be grand enough, with the fight 
I shall have to make." 

" The fight ? With whom ? " 

" With myself first of all. I'm awfully against it." 

" Ah but you'll have me on the other side," Nash 
smiled. 

" Well, you'll have more than a handful to meet 
— everything, every one that belongs to me, that 
touches me near or far ; my family, my blood, my 
heredity, my traditions, my promises, my circum- 
stances, my prejudices ; my little past — such as it 
is ; my great future — such as it has been supposed 
it may be." 

1 60 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" I see, I see. It's splendid ! " Nash exclaimed. 
" And Mrs. Dallow into the bargain," he added. 

" Yes, Mrs. Dallow if you like." 

" Are you in love with her ? " 

" Not in the least." 

" Well, she is with you — so I understood." 

" Don't say that," said Nick Dormer with sudden 
sternness. 

" Ah you are, you are ! " his companion pro- 
nounced, judging apparently from this accent. 

" I don't know what I am — heaven help me ! " 
Nick broke out, tossing his hat down on his little tin 
table with vehemence. " I'm a freak of nature and 
a sport of the mocking gods. Why should they go 
out of their way to worry me ? Why should they do 
everything so inconsequent, so improbable, so pre- 
posterous ? It's the vulgarest practical joke. There 
has never been anything of the sort among us ; we're 
all Philistines to the core, with about as much esthetic 
sense as that hat. It's excellent soil — I don't com- 
plain of it — but not a soil to grow that flower. From 
where the devil then has the seed been dropped ? 
I look back from generation to generation ; I scour 
our annals without finding the least little sketching 
grandmother, any sign of a building or versifying 
or collecting or even tulip-raising ancestor. They 
were all as blind as bats, and none the less happy 
for that. I'm a wanton variation, an unaccountable 
monster. My dear father, rest his soul, went through 
life without a suspicion that there's anything in it 
that can't be boiled into blue-books, and became in 
that conviction a very distinguished person. He 
brought me up in the same simplicity and in the 
hope of the same eminence. It would have been 
better if I had remained so. I think it's partly your 
fault that I haven't," Nick went on. " At Oxford 
you were very bad company for me — my evil genius : 
I i6i M 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

you opened my eyes, you communicated the poison. 
Since then, Httle by httle, it has been working within 
me ; vaguely, covertly, insensibly at first, but during 
the last year or two with violence, pertinacity, cruelty. 
I've resorted to every antidote in life ; but it's no use — 
I'm stricken. " C'est Venus toute entiere a sa proie 
attachee — putting Venus for ' art.' It tears me to 
pieces as I may say." 

" I see, I follow you," said Nash, who had listened 
to this recital with radiant interest and curiosity. 
" And that's why you are going to stand." 

"Precisely — it's an antidote. And at present 
you're another." 

" Another ? " 

" That's why I jumped at you. A bigger dose of 
you may disagree with me to that extent that I shall 
either die or get better." 

" I shall control the dilution," said Nash. " Poor 
fellow — if you're elected ! " he added. 

" Poor fellow either way. You don't know the 
atmosphere in which I live, the horror, the scandal 
my apostasy would provoke, the injury and suffer- 
ing it would infhct. I believe it would really kill my 
mother. She thinks my father's watching me from 
the skies." 

" Jolly to make him jump ! " Nash suggested. 

" He'd jump indeed — come straight down on top 
of me. And then the grotesqueness of it — to begin 
all of a sudden at my age." 

" It's perfect indeed, it's too lovely a case," Nash 
raved. 

"Think how it sounds ^ — a paragraph in the 
London papers : ' Mr. Nicholas Dormer, M.P. for 
Harsh and son of the late Right Honourable and 
so forth and so forth, is about to give up his seat 
and withdrav/ from public Hfe in order to devote 
himself to the practice of portrait-painting — and with 

162 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

the more commendable perseverance by reason of 
all the dreadful time he has lost. Orders, in view 
of this, respectfully solicited.' " 

" The nineteenth century's a sweeter time than 
I thought," said Nash. " It's the portrait then that 
haunts your dreams ? " 

" I wish you could see. You must of course come 
immediately to my place in London." 

" Perfidious wretch, you're capable of having 
talent — which of course will spoil everything!" 
Gabriel wailed. 

" No, I'm too old and was too early perverted. 
It's too late to go through the mill." 

" You make me young ! Don't miss your election 
at your peril. Think of the edification." 

" The edification ? " 

" Of your throwing it all up the next moment." 

" That would be pleasant for Mr. Carteret," Nick 
brooded. 

" Mr. Carteret ? " 

" A dear old family friend who'll wish to pay my 
agent's biU." 

" Serve him right for such depraved tastes." 

" You do me good," said Nick as he rose and 
turned away. 

" Don't call me useless then." 

" Ah but not in the way you mean. It's only if 
I don't get in that I shall perhaps console myself with 
the brush," Nick returned with humorous, edifying 
elegance while they retraced their steps. 

" For the sake of all the muses then don't stand. 
For you will get in." 

" Very Ukely. At any rate I've promised." 

" You've promised Mrs. Dallow ? 

'" It's her place — she'll put me in," Nick said. 

" Baleful woman ! But I'll pull you out ! " cried 
Gabriel Nash. 

163 



X 



For several days Peter Sherringham had business 
in hand which left him neither time nor freedom of 
mind to occupy himself actively with the ladies of 
the Hotel de la Garonne, There were moments when 
they brushed across his memory, but their passage 
was rapid and not lighted with complacent attention ; 
for he shrank from bringing to the proof the question 
of whether Miriam would be an interest or only a 
bore. She had left him after their second meeting 
with a quickened sympathy, but in the course of a 
few hours that flame had burned dim. Like most 
other men he was a mixture of impulse and reflexion, 
but was peculiar in this, that thinking things over 
almost always made him think less conveniently. 
He found illusions necessary, so that in order to keep 
an adequate number going he often forbade himself 
any excess of that exercise. Mrs. Rooth and her 
daughter were there and could certainly be trusted 
to make themselves felt. He was conscious of their 
anxiety and their calculations as of a frequent oppres- 
sion, and knew that whatever results might ensue he 
should have to do the costly thing for them. An 
idea of tenacity, of worrying feminine duration, as- 
sociated itself with their presence ; he would have 
assented with a silent nod to the proposition — enunci- 
ated by Gabriel Nash — that he was saddled with 
them. Remedies hovered before him, but these 

164 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

figured also at the same time as complications ; ranging 
vaguely from the expenditure of money to the dis- 
covery that he was in love. This latter accident 
would be particularly tedious ; he had a full percep- 
tion of the arts by which the girl's mother might 
succeed in making it so. It wouldn't be a compensa- 
tion for trouble, but a trouble which in itself would 
require compensations. Would that balm spring 
from the spectacle of the young lady's genius ? The 
genius would have to be very great to justify a rising 
young diplomatist in making a fool of himself. 

With the excuse of pressing work he put off Miss 
Rooth from day to day, and from day to day he ex- 
pected to hear her knock at his door. It would be 
time enough when they ran him to earth again ; and 
he was unable to see how after all he could serve 
them even then. He had proposed impetuously a 
course of the theatres ; but that would be a consider- 
able personal effort now that the summer was about 
to begin — a kee bid for bad air, stale pieces, and 
tired actors. When, however, more than a week had 
elapsed without a reminder of his neglected promise 
it came over him that he must himself in honour give ^ 
a sign. There was a delicacy in such unexpected and 
such difficult discretion — he was touched by being 
let alone. The flurry of work at the embassy was 
over and he had time to ask himself what in especial 
he should do. He wanted something definite to 
suggest before communicating with the Hotel de la 
Garonne. 

As a consequence of this speculation he went back 
to Madame Carre to ask her to reconsider her stern 
judgement and give the young English lady — to 
oblige him — a dozen lessons of the sort she knew so 
well how to give. He was aware that this request 
scarcely stood on its feet ; for in the first place 
Madame Carre never reconsidered when once she had 

165 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

got her impression, and in the second never wasted 
herself on subjects whom nature had not formed to 
do her honour. He knew his asking her to strain a 
point to please him would give her a false idea — save 
that for that matter she had it already — of his rela- 
tions, actual or prospective, with the girl ; but he 
decided he needn't care for this, since Miriam herself 
probably wouldn't care. What he had mainly in 
mind was to say to the old actress that she had been 
mistaken — the jeune Anglaise wasn't such a grue. 
This would take some courage, but it would also add 
to the amusement of his visit. 

He found her at home, but as soon as he had ex- 
pressed his conviction she began : " Oh, your jeune 
Anglaise, I know a great deal more about her than 
you ! She has been back to see me twice ; she 
doesn't go the longest way round. She charges me 
like a grenadier and asks me to give her — guess a 
little what ! — private recitations all to herself. If 
she doesn't succeed it won't be for want of knowing 
how to thump at doors. The other day when I came 
in she was waiting for me ; she had been there two 
hours. My private recitations — have you an idea 
what people pay for them ? " 

" Between artists, you know, there are easier con- 
ditions," Sherringham laughed. 

" How do I know if she's an artist ? She won't 
open her mouth to me ; what she wants is to make 
me say things to her. She does make me — I don't 
know how — and she sits there gaping at me with 
her big eyes. They look like open pockets ! " 

" I daresay she'll profit by it," said Sherringham. 

" I daresay jyoM will ! Her face is stupid while she 
watches me, and when she has tired me out she simply 

walks away. However, as she comes back ! " 

Madame Carre paused a moment, listened and then 
cried : " Didn't I tell you ? " 

i66 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Sherringham heard a parley of voices in the little 
antechamber, and the next moment the door was 
pushed open and Miriam Rooth bounded into the 
room. She was flushed and breathless, without a 
smile, very direct. 

" Will you hear me to-day ? I know four things," 
she immediately broke out. Then seeing Sherring- 
ham she added in the same brisk, earnest tone, as 
if the matter were of the highest importance : " Oh 
how d'ye do ? I'm very glad you're here." She 
said nothing else to him than this, appealed to him 
in no way, made no allusion to his having neglected 
her, but addressed herself to Madame Carre as if he 
had not been there ; making no excuses and using no 
flattery ; taking rather a tone of equal authority — 
all as if the famous artist had an obvious duty to- 
ward her. This was another variation Peter thought ; 
it differed from each of the attitudes in which he had 
previously seen her. It came over him suddenly that 
so far from there being any question of her having 
the histrionic nature she simply had it in such per- 
fection that she was always acting ; that her existence 
was a series of parts assumed for the moment, each 
changed for the next, before the perpetual mirror 
of some curiosity or admiration or wonder — some 
spectatorship that she perceived or imagined in the 
people about her. Interested as he had ever been in 
the profession of which she was potentially an orna- 
ment, this idea startled him by its novelty and even 
lent, on the spot, a formidable, a really appalling 
character to Miriam Rooth. It struck him abruptly 
that a woman whose only being was to " make be- 
lieve," to make believe she had any and every being 
you might like and that would serve a purpose and 
produce a certain effect, and whose identity resided 
in the continuity of her personations, so that she had 
no moral privacy, as he phrased it to himself, but 

167 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

lived in a high wind of exhibition, of figuration — 
such a woman was a kind of monster in whom of 
necessity there would be nothing to "be fond " of, 
because there would be nothing to take hold of. He 
felt for a moment how simple he had been not to 
have achieved before this analysis of the actress. 
The girl's very face made it vivid to him now — the 
discovery that she positively had no countenance of 
her own, but only the countenance of the occasion, 
a sequence, a variety — capable possibly of becoming 
immense — of representative movements. She was 
always trying them, practising them, for her amuse- 
ment or profit, jumping from one to the other and 
extending her range ; and this would doubtless be 
her occupation more and more as she acquired ease 
and confidence. The expression that came nearest 
belonging to her, as it were, was the one that came 
nearest being a blank — an air of inanity v4ien she 
forgot herself in some act of sincere attention. Then 
her eye was heavy and her mouth betrayed a com- 
monness ; though it was perhaps just at such a 
moment that the fine line of her head told most. She 
had looked slightly hete even when Sherringham, 
on their first meeting at Madame Carre's, said to 
Nick Dormer that she was the image of the Tragic 
Muse. 

Now, at any rate, he seemed to see that she might 
do what she liked with her face. It was an elastic 
substance, an element of gutta-percha, like the flexi- 
bility of the gymnast, the lady at the music-hall who 
is shot from the mouth of a cannon. He winced a 
little at this coarser view of the actress ; he had some- 
how always looked more poetically at that priestess 
of art. Yet what was she, the priestess, when one 
came to think of it, but a female gymnast, a mounte- 
bank at higher wages ? She didn't literally hang by 
her heels from a trapeze and hold a fat man in her 

i68 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

teeth, but she made the same use of her tongue, of 
her eyes, of the imitative trick, that her muscular 
sister made of leg and jaw. It was an odd circum- 
stance that Miss Rooth's face seemed to him to-day 
a finer instrument than old Madame Carre's. It was 
doubtless that the girl's was fresh and strong and had 
a future in it, while poor Madame Carre's was worn 
and weary and had only a past. 

The old woman said something, half in jest, half 
in real resentment, about the brutality of youth 
while Miriam went to a mirror and quickly took off 
her hat, patting and arranging her hair as a pre- 
liminary to making herself heard. Sherringham saw 
with surprise and amusement that the keen French- 
woman, who had in her long life exhausted every 
adroitness, was in a manner helpless and coerced, 
obliging all in spite of herself. Her young friend had 
taken but a few days and a couple of visits to become 
a successful force ; she had imposed herself, and 
Madame Carre, while she laughed — yet looked terrible 
too, with such high artifices of eye and gesture — was 
reduced to the last line of defence ; that of pronoun- 
cing her coarse and clumsy, saying she might knock 
her down, but that this proved nothing. She spoke 
jestingly enough not to offend, but her manner be- 
trayed the irritation of an intelligent woman who at 
an advanced age found herself for the first time 
failing to understand. What she didn't understand 
was the kind of social product thus presented to her 
by Gabriel Nash ; and this suggested to Sherring- 
ham that the jeune Anglaise was perhaps indeed 
rare, a new type, as Madame Carre must have seen 
innumerable varieties. He saw the girl was perfectly 
prepared to be abused and that her indifference to 
what might be thought of her discretion was a proof 
of life, health, and spirit, the insolence of conscious 
resources. 

169 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

When she had given herself a touch at the glass 
she turned round, with a rapid " Ecouiez maintenant ! " 
and stood leaning a moment — slightly lowered and 
inclined backward, her hands behind her and support- 
ing her — on the console before the mirror. She waited 
an instant, turning her eyes from one of her com- 
panions to the other as to take possession of them 
— an eminently conscious, intentional proceeding, 
which made Sherringham ask himself what had be- 
come of her former terror and if that and her tears 
had all been a comedy : after which, abruptly straight- 
ening herself, she began to repeat a short French 
poem, an ingenious thing of the day, that she had 
induced Madame Carre to say over to her. She had 
learned it, practised it, rehearsed it to her mother, 
and had now been childishly eager to show what she 
coiild do with it. What she mainly did was to re- 
produce with a crude fidelity, but in extraordinary 
detail, the intonations, the personal quavers and 
cadences of her model. 

" How bad you make me seem to myself and if 
I were you how much better I should say it ! " was 
Madame Carre's first criticism. 

Miriam allowed her, however, little time to de- 
velop it, for she broke out, at the shortest intervals, 
with the several other specimens of verse to which 
the old actress had handed her the key. They were 
all fine lyrics, of tender or ironic intention, by con- 
temporary poets, but depending for effect on taste 
and art, a mastery of the rare shade and the right 
touch, in the interpreter. Miriam had gobbled them 
up, and she gave them forth in the same way as the 
first, with close, rude, audacious mimicry. There 
was a moment for Sherringham when it might have 
been feared their hostess would see in the perform- 
ance a designed burlesque of her manner, her airs 
and graces, her celebrated simpers and grimaces, 

170 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

SO extravagant did it all cause these refinements to 
appear. When it was over the old woman said, 
" Should you like now to hear how you do ? " and, 
without waiting for an answer, phrased and trilled 
the last of the pieces, from beginning to end, exactly 
as her visitor had done, making this imitation of an 
imitation the drollest thing conceivable. If she had 
suffered from the sound of the girl's echo it was a 
perfect revenge. Miriam had dropped on a sofa, 
exhausted, and she stared at first, flushed and wild ; 
then she frankly gave way to pleasure, to interest and 
large laughter. She said afterwards, to defend her- 
self, that the verses in question, and indeed all those 
she had recited, were of the most difiicult sort : you 
had to do them ; they didn't do themselves — they 
were things in which the gros moyens were of no avail. 

"Ah my poor child, your means are all gros moyens; 
you appear to have no others," Madame Carre replied. 
" You do what you can, but there are people like 
that ; it's the way they're made. They can never 
come nearer to fine truth, to the just indication ; 
shades don't exist for them, they don't see certain 
differences. It was to show you a difference that I 
repeated that thing as you repeat it, as you represent 
my doing it. If you're struck with the httle the two 
ways have in common so much the better. But you 
seem to me terribly to alourdir everything you touch." 

Peter read into this judgement a deep irritation — 
Miriam clearly set the teeth of her instructress on 
edge. She acted on her nerves, was made up of rough- 
nesses and thicknesses unknown hitherto to her fine, 
free-playing finger-tips. This exasperation, however, 
was a degree of flattery ; it was neither indiflerence 
nor simple contempt ; it acknowledged a mystifying 
reality in the jeune Anglaise and even a shade of 
importance. The latter remarked, serenely enough, 
that the things she wanted most to do were just 

171 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

those that were not for the gros moyens, the vulgar 
obvious dodges, the starts and shouts that any one 
could think of and that the gros public liked. She 
wanted to do what was most difficult, and to plunge 
into it from the first ; and she explained as if it were 
a discovery of her own that there were two kinds 
of scenes and speeches : those which acted them- 
selves, of which the treatment was plain, the only 
way, so that you had just to take it ; and those open 
to interpretation, with which you had to fight every 
step, rendering, arranging, doing the thing accord- 
ing to your idea. Some of the most effective passages 
and the most celebrated and admired, hke the frenzy 
of JuHet with her potion, were of the former sort ; 
but it was the others she hked best. 

Madame Carre received this revelation good- 
naturedly enough, considering its want of freshness, 
and only laughed at the young lady for looking so 
nobly patronising while she gave it. Her laughter 
appeared partly addressed to the good faitli with 
which Miriam described herself as preponderantly 
interested in the subtler problems of her art. Sher- 
ringham was charmed with the girl's pluck — if it 
was pluck and not mere density ; the stout patience 
with which she submitted, for a purpose, to the old 
woman's rough usage. He wanted to take her away, 
to give her a friendly caution, to advise her not to 
become a bore, not to expose herself. But she held 
up her beautiful head as to show how httle she cared 
at present for any exposure, and that (it was half 
coarseness — Madame Carre was so far right — and half 
fortitude) she had no intention of coming away so 
long as there was anything to be picked up. She 
sat and still she sat, challenging her hostess with 
every sort of question — some reasonable, some in- 
genious, some strangely futile and some highly indis- 
creet ; but all with the effect that, contrary to Peter's 

172 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

expectation, their distinguished friend warmed to the 
work of answering and explaining, became interested, 
was content to keep her and to talk. Yes, she took 
her ease ; she reheved herself, with the rare cynicism 
of the artist — all the crudity, the irony and intensity 
of a discussion of esoteric things — of personal mysteries, 
of methods and secrets. It was the oddest hour our 
young man had ever spent, even in the course ,of 
investigations which had often led him into the 
cuisine, the distillery or back shop, of the admired 
profession. He got up several times to come away ; 
then he remained, partly in order not to leave Miriam 
alone with her terrible initiatress, partly because 
he was both amused and edified, and partly because 
Madame Carre held him by the appeal of her sharp, 
confidential, old eyes, addressing her talk to himself, 
with Miriam but a pretext and subject, a vile illustra- 
tion. She undressed this young lady, as it were, from 
head to foot, turned her inside out, weighed and 
measured and sounded her : it was all, for Sherring- 
ham, a new revelation of the point to which, in her 
profession and nation, an intelligence of the business, 
a ferocious analysis, had been carried and a special 
vocabulary developed. What struck him above all 
was the way she knew her grounds and reasons, so 
that everything was sharp and clear in her mind 
and lay under her hand. If she had rare perceptions 
she had traced them to their source ; she could give 
an account of what she did ; she knew perfectly why, 
could explain it, defend it, amplify it, fight for it : 
all of which was an intellectual joy to her, allowing 
her a chance to abound and insist and discriminate. 
There was a kind of cruelty or at least of hardness in 
it all, to poor Peter's shy EngHsh sense, that sense 
which can never really reconcile itself to any question 
of method and form, and has extraneous sentiments 
to " square," to pacify with compromises and super- 

173 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

ficialities, the general plea for innocence in everything 
and often the flagrant proof of it. In theory there 
was nothing he valued more than just such a logical 
passion as Madame Carre's, but it was apt in fact, 
when he found himself at close quarters with it, to 
appear an ado about nothing. 

If the old woman was hard it was not that many 
of her present conclusions about the jeune Anglaise 
were not indulgent, but that she had a vision of the 
great manner, of right and wrong, of the just and the 
false, so high and reUgious that the indi\ddual was 
nothing before it^ — a prompt and easy sacrifice. 
It made our friend uncomfortable, as he had been 
made uncomfortable by certain feuilletons, reviews 
of the theatres in the Paris newspapers, which he 
was committed to thinking important but of which, 
when they were very good, he was rather ashamed. 
When they were very good, that is when they were 
very thorough, they were very personal, as was inevit- 
able in dealing with the most personal of the arts : 
they went into details ; they put the dots on the ^''s ; 
they discussed impartially the qualities of appear- 
ance, the physical gifts of the poor aspirant, finding 
them in some cases reprehensibly inadequate. Peter 
could never rid himself of a dishke to these pro- 
nouncements ; in the case of the actresses especially 
they struck him as brutal and offensive — unmanly 
as launched by an ensconced, moustachioed critic 
over a cigar. At the same time he was aware of the 
dilemma (he hated it ; it made him blush still more) 
in which his objection lodged him. If one was right 
in caring for the actor's art one ought to have been 
interested in every honest judgement of it, which, 
given the peculiar conditions, would be useful in 
proportion as it should be free. If the criticism that 
recognised frankly these conditions seemed an inferior 
or an unholy thing, then what was to be said for 

174 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

the art itself ? What an implication, if the criticism 
was tolerable only so long as it was worthless — so 
long as it remained vague and timid ! This was a 
knot Peter had never straightened out : he contented 
himself with feeling that there was no reason a theatri- 
cal critic shouldn't be a gentleman, at the same time 
that he often dubbed it an odious trade, which no 
gentleman could possibly follow. The best of the 
fraternity, so conspicuous in Paris, were those who 
didn't follow it — those who, while pretending to 
write about the stage, wrote about everything else. 

It was as if Madame Carre, in pursuance of her 
inflamed sense that the art was everything and the 
individual nothing save as he happened to serve it, 
had said : " Well, if she will have it she shall ; she 
shall know what she's in for, what I went through, 
battered and broken in as we all have been — all who 
are worthy, who have had the honour. She shall know 
the real point of view." It was as if she were still 
beset with Mrs. Rooth's twaddle and muddle, her 
hypocrisy, her idiotic scruples — something she felt 
all need to belabour, to trample on. ' Miriam took 
it all as a bath, a baptism, with shuddering joy 
and gleeful splashes ; staring, wondering, sometimes 
blushing and faihng to follow, but not shrinking nor 
wounded ; laughing, when convicted, at her own 
expense and feeHng evidently that this at last was the 
high cold air of art, an initiation, a discipline that 
nothing could undo. Sherringham said he would see 
her home- — he wanted to talk to her and she must 
walk away with him. " And it's understood then she 
may come back," he added to Madame Carre. " It's 
my affair of course. You'll take an interest in her for 
a month or two ; she'll sit at your feet." 

The old actress had an admirable shrug. " Oh I'll 
knock her about — she seems stout enough ! " 



175 



XI 



When they had descended to the street Miriam 
mentioned to Peter that she was thirsty, dying to 
drink something : upon which he asked her if she 
should have an objection to going with him to a 
cafe. 

" Objection ? I've spent my hfe in cafes ! They're 
warm in winter and you get your lamphght for 
nothing," she explained. " Mamma and I have sat in 
them for hours, many a time, with a consommation of 
three sous, to save fire and candles at home. We've 
Uved in places we couldn't sit in, if you want to know 
— where there was only really room if we were in bed. 
Mamma's money's sent out from. England and some- 
times it usedn't to come. Once it didn't come for 
months — for months and months. I don't kno\'/ 
how we lived. There wasn't any to come ; there 
wasn't any to get home. That isn't amusing when 
you're away in a foreign town without any friends. 
Mamma used to borrow, but people wouldn't always 
lend. You needn't be afraid — she won't borrow of 
you. We're rather better now— something has been 
done in England ; I don't understand what. It's 
only fivepence a year, but it has been settled ; it 
comes regularly ; it used to come only when we had 
written and begged and waited. But it made no 
difference — mamma was always up to her ears in 
books. They served her for food and drink. When 

176 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

she had nothing to eat she began a novel in ten 
volumes — the old - fashioned ones ; they lasted 
longest. She knows every cabinet de lecture in every 
town ; the little, cheap, shabby ones, I mean, in the 
back streets, where they have odd volumes and only 
ask a sou and the books are so old that they smell 
like close rooms. She takes them to the cafes— the 
little, cheap, shabby cafes too — and she reads there all 
the evening. That's very well for her, but it doesn't 
feed me. I don't like a diet of dirty old novels. I 
sit there beside her with nothing to do, not even a 
stocking to mend ; she doesn't think that comme il 
faut. I don't know what the people take me for. 
However, we've never been spoken to : any one can 
see mamma's a great lady. As for me I daresay I 
might be anything dreadful. If you're going to be an 
actress you must get used to being looked at. There 
were people in England who used to ask us to stay ; 
some of them were our cousins — or mamma says they 
were. I've never been very clear about our cousins 
and I don't think they were at all clear about us. 
Some of them are dead ; the others don't ask us any 
more. You should hear mamma on the subject of 
our visits in England. It's very convenient when 
your cousins are dead — that explains everything. 
Mamma has dehghtful phrases : ' My family is almost 
extinct.' Then your family may have been anything 
you like. Ours of course was magnificent. We did 
stay in a place once where there was a deer-park, 
and also private theatricals. I played in them ; 
I was only fifteen years old, but I was very big and I 
thought I was in heaven. I'll go anywhere you like ; 
you needn't be afraid ; we've been in places ! I've 
learned a great deal that way — sitting beside mamma 
and watching people, their faces, their types, their 
movements. There's a great deal goes on in cafes : 
people come to them to talk things over, their private 
I 177 N 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

affairs, their complications ; they have important 
meetings. Oh I've observed scenes between men and 
women — very quiet, terribly quiet, but awful, pathetic, 
tragic ! Once I saw a woman do something that I'm 
going to do some day when I'm great — if I can get 
the situation. I'll tell you what it is sometime — 
I'll do it for you. Oh it is the book of life ! " 

So Miriam discoursed, familiarly, disconnectedly, 
as the pair went their way down the Rue de Con- 
stantinople ; and she continued to abound in anecdote 
and remark after they were seated face to face at 
a little marble table in an establishment Peter had 
selected carefully and where he had caused her, at 
her request, to be accommodated with sirop d'orgeat. 
"I know what it will come to : Madame Carre will 
want to keep me." This was one of the felicities she 
presently threw off. 

" To keep you ? " 

" For the French stage. She won't want to let you 
have me." She said things of that kind, astounding 
in self-complacency, the assumption of quick success. 
She was in earnest, evidently prepared to work, but 
her imagination flew over preliminaries and proba- 
tions, took no account of the steps in the process, 
especially the first tiresome ones, the hard test of 
honesty. He had done nothing for her as yet, given 
no substantial pledge of interest ; yet she was already 
talking as if his protection were assured and jealous. 
Certainly, however, she seemed to belong to him 
very much indeed as she sat facing him at the Paris 
cafe in her youth, her beauty, and her talkative 
confidence. This degree of possession was highly 
agreeable to him and he asked nothing more than to 
make it last and go further. The impulse to draw 
her out was irresistible, to encourage her to show her- 
self all the way ; for if he was really destined to take 
her career in hand he counted on some good equivalent 

178 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

— such for instance as that she should at least amuse 
him. 

" It's very singular ; I know nothing like it," he 
said — " your equal mastery of two languages." 

" Say of half-a-dozen," Miriam smiled. 

" Oh I don't beUeve in the others to the same 
degree. T don't imagine that, with all deference to 
your undeniable facihty, you'd be judged fit to address 
a German or an Italian audience in their own tongue. 
But you might a French, perfectly, and they're the 
most particular of all ; for their idiom's supersensitive 
and they're incapable of enduring the baragouinage 
of foreigners, to which we hsten with such com- 
placency. In fact your French is better than your 
EngUsh— it's more conventional ; there are httle 
queernesses and impurities in your Enghsh, as if you 
had lived abroad too much. Ah you must work 
that." 

" I'll work it with you. I Uke the way you 
speak." 

" You must speak beautifully ; you must do some- 
thing for the standard." 

" For the standard ? " 

" Well, there isn't any after all." Peter had a drop. 
" It has gone to the dogs." 

" Oh I'll bring it back. I know what you mean." 

" No one knows, no one cares ; the sense is gone 
— it isn't in the public," he continued, ventilating 
a grievance he was rarely able to forget, the vision of 
which now suddenly made a mission full of possible 
sanctity for his companion. " Purity of speech, on 
our stage, doesn't exist. Every one speaks as he hkes 
and audiences never notice ; it's the last thing they 
think of. The place is given up to abominable dialects 
and individual tricks, any vulgarity flourishes, and 
on top of it all the Americans, with every conceivable 
crudity, come in to make confusion worse confounded. 

179 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

And when one laments it people stare ; they don't 
know what one means." 

" Do you mean the grand manner, certain pompous 
pronunciations, the style of the Kembles ? " 

" I mean any style that is a style, that's a system, 
a consistency, an art, that contributes a positive 
beauty to utterance. When I pay ten shillings to hear 
you speak I want you to know how, que diable I Say 
that to people and they're mostly lost in stupor ; 
only a few, the very intelligent, exclaim : ' Then you 
want actors to be affected ? ' " 

" And do you ? " asked Miriam full of interest, 

" My poor child, what else under the sun should 
they be ? Isn't their whole art the affectation par 
excellence ? The public won't stand that to-day, so 
one hears it said. If that be true it simply means 
that the theatre, as I care for it, that is as a personal 
art, is at an end." 

" Never, never, never ! " the girl cried in a voice 
that made a dozen people look round. 

" I sometimes think it — that the personal art is 
at an end and that henceforth we shall have only the 
arts, capable no doubt of immense development in 
their v/ay — indeed they've already reached it — of 
the stage-carpenter and the costumer. In Londcn 
the drama is already smothered in scenery ; the inter- 
pretation scrambles off as it can. To get the old 
personal impression, which used to be everything, 
you must go to the poor countries, and most of all to 
Italy." 

" Oh I've had it ; it's very personal ! " said 
Miriam knowingly. 

" You've seen the nudity of the stage, the poor, 
painted, tattered screen behind, and before that void 
the histrionic figure, doing everything it knows how, 
in complete possession. The personality isn't our 
English personality and it may not always carry us 

1 80 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

with it ; but the direction's right, and it has the 
superiority that it's a human exhibition, not a 
mechanical one." 

" I can act just Uke an Italian," Miriam eagerly 
proclaimed. 

"I'd rather you acted like an Englishwoman if an 
Enghsh woman would only act." 
" Oh, I'll show you ! " 

" But you're not Enghsh," said Peter sociably, his 
arms on the table. 

" I beg your pardon. You should hear mamma 
about our ' race.' " 

" You're a Jewess — I'm sure of that," he went 
on. 

She jumped at this, as he was destined to see later 
she would ever jump at anything that might make 
her more interesting or striking ; even at things that 
grotesquely contradicted or excluded each other. 
" That's always possible if one's clever. I'm very 
wilHng, because I want to be the Enghsh Rachel." 

" Then you must leave Madame Carre as soon 
as you've got from her what she can give." 

" Oh you needn't fear ; you shan't lose me," 
the girl rephed with charming gross fatuity. " My 
name's Jewish," she went on, " but it was that of 
my grandmother, my father's mother. She was a 
baroness in Germany. That is, she was the daughter 
of a baron." 

Peter accepted this statement with reservations, 
but he rephed : " Put all that together and it makes 
you very sufficiently of Rachel's tribe." 

" I don't care if I'm of her tribe artistically. I'm 
of the family of the artists— ;e me fiche of any other ! 
I'm in the same style as that woman — I know it." 

" You speak as if you had seen her," he said, 
amused at the way she talked of " that woman." 
" Oh I know all about her — I know all about all 

i8i 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

the great actors. But that won't prevent me from 
speaking divine EngUsh." 

" You must learn lots of verse ; you must repeat 
it to me," Sherringham went on. " You must break 
yourself in till you can say anything. You must 
learn passages of Milton, passages of Wordsworth." 
" Did they write plays ? " 

"Oh it isn't only a matter of plays ! You can't 
speak a part properly till you can speak everything 
else, anything that comes up, especially in propor- 
tion as it's difficult. That gives you authority." 

" Oh yes, I'm going in for authority. There's 
more chance in Enghsh," the girl added in the next 
breath. "There are not so many others — the 
terrible competition. There are so many here — not 
that I'm afraid," she chattered on. " But we've got 
America and they haven't. America's a great place." 

" You talk like a theatrical agent. They're lucky 
not to have it as we have it. Some of them do go, 
and it ruins them." 

" Why, it fills their pockets ! " Miriam cried. 

" Yes, but see what they pay. It's the death of 
an actor to play to big populations that don't under- 
stand his language. It's nothing then but the gros 
moyens ; all his deHcacy perishes. However, they'll 
understand yon." 

" Perhaps I shall be too affected," she said. 

" You won't be more so than Garrick or Mrs. 
Siddons or John Kemble or Edmund Kean. They 
understood Edmund Kean. All reflexion is affecta- 
tion, and all acting's reflexion." 

" I don't know — ^mine's instinct," Miriam con- 
tended. 

" My dear young lady, you talk of ' yours ' ; but 
don't be offended if I tell you that yours doesn't 
exist. Some day it will — if the thing comes off. 
Madame Carre's does, because she has reflected. The 

182 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

talent, the desire, the energy are an instinct ; but by 
the time these things become a performance they're 
an instinct put in its place." 

" Madame Carre's very philosophic. I shall never 
be hke her." 

" Of course you won't — you'll be original. But 
you'll have your own ideas." 

" I daresay I shall have a good many of yours " — 
and she smiled at him across the table. 

They sat a moment looking at each other. " Don't 
go in for coquetry," Peter then said. " It's a waste 
of time." 

" Well, that's civil ! " the girl cried. 

" Oh I don't mean for me, I mean for yourself. 
I want you to be such good faith. I'm bound to 
give you stiff advice. You don't strike me as flirta- 
tious and that sort of thing, and it's much in your 
favour." 

" In my favour ? " 

" It does save time." 

" Perhaps it saves too much. Don't you think the 
artist ought to have passions ? " 

Peter had a pause ; he thought an examination of 
this issue premature. " Flirtations are not passions," 
he rephed. " No, you're simple — at least I suspect 
you are ; for of course with a woman one would be 
clever to know." 

She asked why he pronounced her simple, but he 
judged it best and more consonant with fair play to 
defer even a treatment of this branch of the question ; 
so that to change the subject he said : "Be sure you 
don't betray me to your friend Mr. Nash." 

" Betray you ? Do you mean about your recom- 
mending affectation ? " 

" Dear me, no ; he recommends it himself. That 
is, he practises it, and on a scale ! " 

" But he makes one hate it." 

183 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" He proves what I mean," said Sherringham : 
" that the great comedian's the one who raises it to 
a science. If we paid ten shillings to listen to Mr. 
Nash we should think him very fine. But we want 
to know what it's supposed to be." 

" It's too odious, the way he talks about us \ " 
Miriam cried assentingly. 

" About ' us ' ? " 

" Us poor actors." 

" It's the competition he disKkes," Peter laughed. 

" However, he's very good - natured ; he lent 
mamma thirty pounds," the girl added honestly. 
Our young man, at this information, was not able to 
repress a certain small twinge noted by his companion 
and of which she appeared to mistake the meaning. 
" Of course he'll get it back," she went on while he 
looked at her in silence a Uttle. Fortune had not 
supplied him profusely with money, but his emotion 
was caused by no foresight of his probably having 
also to put his hand in his pocket for Mrs. Rooth. 
It was simply the instinctive recoil of a fastidious 
nature from the idea of famihar intimacy with people 
who lived from hand to mouth, together with a sense 
that this intimacy Would have to be defined if it was 
to go much further. He would wish to know what 
it was supposed to be, like Nash's histrionics. Miriam 
after a moment mistook his thought still more com- 
pletely, and in doing so flashed a portent of the way 
it was in her to strike from time to time a note ex- 
asperatingly, almost consciously vulgar, which one 
would hate for the reason, along with others, that by 
that time one would be in love with her. " Well 
then, he won't — if you don't beheve it ! " she easily 
laughed. He was saying to himself that the only 
possible form was that they should borrow only from 
him. " You're a funny man. I make you blush," 
she persisted. 

184 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" I must reply with the tn quoque, though I've 
not that effect on you." 

" I don't understand," said the girl. 

" You're an extraordinary young lady." 

" You mean I'm horrid. Well, I daresay I am. 
But I'm better when you know me.". 

He made no direct rejoinder to this, but after a 
moment went on : " Your mother must repay that 
money. I'U give it her." 

" You had better give it him ! " cried Miriam. 
" If once mamma has it ! " She interrupted her- 
self and with another and a softer tone, one of 
her professional transitions, remarked : "I suppose 
you've never known any one that was poor." 

" I'm poor myself. That is, I'm very far from 

rich. But why receive favours- ? " And here 

he in turn checked himself with the sense that he 
was indeed taking a great deal on his back if he pre- 
tended already — he had not seen the pair three times 
— to regulate their intercourse with the rest of the 
world. But the girl instantly carried out his thought 
and more than his thought. 

" Favours from Mr. Nash ? Oh he doesn't count ! " 

The way she dropped these words — they would 
have been admirable on the stage — made him reply 
with prompt ease : " What I meant just now was 
that you're not to tell him, after all my swagger, that 
I consider that you and I are really required to save 
our theatre." 

"Oh if we can save it he shall know it ! " She 
added that she must positively get home ; her mother 
would be in a state : she had really scarce ever been 
out alone. He mightn't think it, but so it was. Her 
mother's ideas, those awfully proper ones, were not 
all talk. She did keep her ! Sherringham accepted 
this — he had an adequate and indeed an analytic 
vision of Mrs. Rooth's conservatism ; but he observed 

185 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

at the same time that his companion made no motion 
to rise. He made none either ; he only said : 

" We're very frivolous, the way we chatter. What 
you want to do to get your foot in the stirrup is 
supremely difficult. There's everything to overcome. 
You've neither an engagement nor the prospect of 
an engagement." 

" Oh you'll get me one ! " Her manner presented 
this as so certain that it wasn't worth dilating on ; 
so instead of dilating she inquired abruptly a second 
time : " Why do you think I'm so simple ? " 

" I don't then. Didn't I tell you just now that 
you were extraordinary ? That's the term, moreover, 
that you applied to yourself when you came to see me 
• — when you said a girl had to be a kind of monster 
to wish to go on the stage. It remains the right term 
and your simplicity doesn't mitigate it. What's rare 
in you is that you have — as I suspect at least — no 
nature of your own." Miriam listened to this as if 
preparing to argue with it or not, only as it should 
strike her as a sufficiently brave picture ; but as yet, 
naturally, she failed to understand. " You're always 
I at concert pitch or on your horse ; there are no 
intervals. It's the absence of intervals, of z. fond or 
background, that I don't comprehend. You're an 
embroidery without a canvas." 

" Yes- — perhaps," the girl repHed, her head on one 
side as if she were looking at the pattern of this rarity. 
" But I'm very honest." 

" You can't be everything, both a consummate 
actress and a flower of the field. You've got to 
choose." . 

She looked at him a moment. "I'm glad you 
think I'm so wonderful." 

" Your feigning may be honest in the sense that 
your only feeling is your feigned one," Peter pursued. 
" That's what I mean by the absence of a ground or 

i86 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

of intervals. It's a kind of thing that's a laby- 
rinth ! " 

" I know what I am," she said sententiously. 

But her companion continued, following his own 
train. " Were you really so frightened the first day 
you went to Madame Carre's ? " 

She stared, then with a flush threw back her head. 
" Do you think I was pretending ? " 

" I think you always are. However, your vanity — 
if you had any ! — would be natural." 

" I've plenty of that. I'm not a bit ashamed to 
own it." 

" You'd be capable of trying to ' do ' the human 
peacock. But excuse the audacity and the crudity 
of my speculations — -it only proves my interest. 
What is it that you know you are ? " 

" Why, an artist. Isn't that a canvas ? " 

" Yes, an intellectual, but not a moral." 

" Ah it's everything ! And I'm a good girl too — 
won't that do ? " 

" It remains to be seen," Sherringham laughed. 
" A creature who's absolutely all an artist — I'm 
curious to see that." 

" Surely it has been seen — in lots of painters, lots 
of musicians." 

" Yes, but those arts are not personal Uke yours. 
I mean not so much so. There's something left for 
— what shall I call it ? — for character." 

She stared again with her tragic light. " And do 
■you think I haven't a character ? " As he hesitated 
she pushed back her chair, rising rapidly. 

He looked up at her an instant — she seemed so 
" plastic " ; and then rising too answered : " Delight- 
ful being, you've a hundred ! " 



187 



XII 



The summer arrived and the dense air of the Paris 
theatres became in fact a still more complicated 
mixture ; yet the occasions were Aot few on which 
Sherringham, having placed a box near the stage 
(most often a stuffy, dusky baignoire) at the disposal 
of Mrs. Rooth and her daughter, found time just to 
look in, as he said, to spend a part of the evening 
with them and point the moral of the performance. 
The pieces, the successes of the winter, had entered 
the automatic phase : they went on by the force of 
the impetus acquired, deriving Uttle fresh life from 
the interpretation, and in ordinary conditions their 
strong points, as rendered by the actors, would have 
been as wearisome to this student as an importunate 
repetition of a good story. But it was not long before 
he became aware that the conditions couldn't be 
taken for ordinary. There was a new infusion in his 
consciousness — an element in his life which altered 
the relations of things. He was not easy till he had 
found the right name for it — a name the more satis- 
factory that it was simple, comprehensive, and 
plausible. A new " distraction," in the French sense, 
was what he flattered himself he had discovered ; he 
could recognise that as freely as possible without 
being obliged to classify the agreeable resource as a 
new entanglement. He was neither too much nor 
too Httle diverted ; he had all his usual attention to 

i88 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

give to his work : he had only an employment for 
his odd hours which, without being imperative, had 
over various others the advantage of a certain con- 
tinuity. 

And yet, I hasten to add, he was not so well 
pleased with it but that among his friends he main- 
tained for the present a rich reserve about it. He had 
no irresistible impulse to describe generally how he 
had disinterred a strange, handsome girl whom he was 
bringing up for the theatre. She had been seen by 
several of his associates at his rooms, but was not 
soon to be seen there again. His reserve might by 
the ill-natured have been termed dissimulation, in- 
asmuch as when asked by the ladies of the embassy 
what had become of the young person who had 
amused them that day so cleverly he gave it out that 
her whereabouts was uncertain and her destiny prob- 
ably obscure ; he let it be supposed in a word that his 
benevolence had scarcely survived an accidental, a 
charitable occasion. As he went about his customary 
business, and perhaps even put a little more con- 
science into the transaction of it, there was nothing 
to suggest to others that he was engaged in a private 
speculation of an absorbing kind. It was perhaps 
his weakness that he carried- the apprehension of 
ridicule too far ; but his excuse may have dwelt in 
his holding it unpardonable for a man pubUcly en- 
rolled in the service of his country to be markedly 
ridiculous. It was of course not out of all order that 
such functionaries, their private situation permitting, 
should enjoy a personal acquaintance with stars of 
the dramatic, the lyric, or even the choregraphic 
stage : high diplomatists had indeed not rarely, and 
not invisibly, cultivated this privilege without its 
proving the sepulchre of their reputation. That a 
gentleman who was not a fool should consent a little 
to become one for the sake of a celebrated actress or 

189 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

singer — cela setait vu, though it was not perhaps to 
be recommended. It was not a tendency that was 
encouraged at headquarters, where even the most 
rising young men were not incited to beUeve they 
could never fall. Still, it might pass if kept in its 
place ; and there were ancient worthies yet in the 
profession — though not those whom the tradition had 
helped to go furthest — who held that something of 
the sort was a graceful ornament of the diplomatic 
character. Sherringham was aware he was very 
" rising " ; but Miriam Rooth was not yet a cele- 
brated actress. She was only a young artist in con- 
scientious process of formation and encumbered with 
a mother still more conscientious than herself. She 
was Sijeune Anglaise — a " lady " withal — very earnest 
about artistic, about remunerative problems. He had 
accepted the office of a formative influence ; and that 
was precisely what might provoke derision. He was 
a ministering angel — his patience and good nature 
really entitled him to the epithet and his rewards 
would doubtless some day define themselves ; but 
meanwhile other promotions were in precarious pros- 
pect, for the failure of which these would not, even 
in their abundance, be a compensation. He kept an 
unembarrassed eye on Downing Street, and while it 
may frankly be said for him that he was neither a 
pedant nor a prig he remembered that the last im- 
pression he ought to wish to produce there was that 
of a futile estheticism. 

He felt the case sufficiently important, however, 
when he sat behind Miriam at the play and looked 
over her shoulder at the stage ; her observation being 
so keen and her comments so unexpected in their 
vivacity that his curiosity was refreshed and his atten- 
tion stretched beyond its wont. If the exhibition 
before the foothghts had now lost much of its annual 
brilliancy the fashion in which she followed it was 

190 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

perhaps exhibition enough. The attendance of the 
little party was, moreover, in most cases at the Theatre 
Frangais ; and it has been sufficiently indicated that 
our friend, though the child of a sceptical age and the 
votary of a cynical science, was still candid enough 
to take the serious, the religious view of that estab- 
lishment — the view of M. Sarcey and of the un- 
regenerate provincial mind. " In the trade I follow 
we see things too much in the hard light of reason, 
of calculation," he once remarked to his young 
charge ; " but it's good for the mind to keep up a 
superstition or two ; it leaves a margin — like having 
a second horse to your brougham for night-work. 
The arts, the amusements, the esthetic part of life, 
are night-work, if I may say so without suggesting 
that they're illicit. At any rate you want your 
second horse — your superstition that stays at home 
when the sun's high — to go your rounds with. The 
Frangais is my second horse." 

Miriam's appetite for this interest showed him 
vividly enough how rarely in the past it had been 
within her reach ; and she pleased him at first by 
hking everything, seeing almost no differences and 
taking her deep draught undiluted. She leaned on 
the edge of the box with bright voracity ; tasting to 
the core, yet reHshing the surface, watching each 
movement of each actor, attending to the way each 
thing was said or done as if it were the most important 
thing, and emitting from time to time applausive or 
restrictive sounds. It was a charming show of the 
critical spirit in ecstasy. Sherringham had his wonder 
about it, as a part of the attraction exerted by this 
young lady was that she caused him to have his 
wonder about everything she did. Was it in fact a 
conscious show, a line taken for effect, so that at the 
Comedie her own display should be the most success- 
ful of all ? That question danced attendance on the 

191 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

liberal intercourse of these young people and fortu- 
nately as yet did little to embitter Sherringham's share 
of it. His general sense that she was personating had 
its especial moments of suspense and perplexity, and 
added variety and even occasionally a degree of excite- 
ment to their commerce. At the theatre, for the 
most part, she was really flushed with eagerness ; and 
with the spectators who turned an admiring eye into 
the dim compartment of which she pervaded the 
front she might have passed for a romantic or at least 
an insatiable young woman from the country. 

Mrs. Rooth took a more general view, but attended 
immensely to the story, in respect to which she mani- 
fested a patient good faith which had its surprises 
and its comicalities for her daughter's patron. She 
found no play too tedious, no entr'acte too long, no 
baignoire too hot, no tissue of incidents too compli- 
cated, no situation too unnatural and no sentiments 
too sublime. She gave him the measure of her power 
to sit and sit — an accomplishment to which she owed 
in the struggle for existence such superiority as she 
might be said to have achieved. She could out-sit 
everybody and everything ; looking as if she had 
acquired the practice in repeated years of small 
frugality combined with large leisure — periods when 
she had nothing but hours and days and years to 
spend and had learned to calculate in any situation 
how long she could stay. " Staying " was so often a 
saving — a saving of candles, of fire and even (as it 
sometimes implied a scheme for stray refection) of 
food. Peter saw soon enough how bravely her shreds 
and patches of gentility and equanimity hung together, 
with the aid of whatever casual pins and other make- 
shifts, and if he had been addicted to studying the 
human mixture in its different combinations would 
have found in her an interesting compendium of some 
of the infatuations that survive a hard discipline. He 

192 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

made indeed without difficulty the reflexion that her 
Hfe might have taught her something of the real, at 
the same time that he could scarce help thinking it 
clever of her to have so persistently declined the 
lesson. She appeared to have put it by with a depre- 
cating, ladylike smile — a plea of being too soft and 
bland for experience. 

She took the refined, sentimental, tender view of 
the universe, beginning with her own history and 
feelings. She believed in everything high and pure, 
disinterested and orthodox, and even at the Hotel de 
la Garonne was unconscious of the shabby or the ugly 
side of the world. She never despaired : otherwise 
what would have been the use of being a Neville- 
Nugent ? Only not to have been one — that would 
have been discouraging. She delighted in novels, 
poems, perversions, misrepresentations, and evasions, 
and had a capacity for smooth, superfluous falsification 
which made our young man think her sometimes 
an amusing and sometimes a tedious inventor. But 
she wasn't dangerous even if you believed her ; she 
wasn't even a warning if you didn't. It was harsh 
to call her a hypocrite, since you never could have 
resolved her back into her character, there being no 
reverse at all to her blazonry. She built in the air 
and was not less amiable than she pretended, only 
that was a pretension too. She moved altogether in 
a world of elegant fable and fancy, and Sherringham 
had to live there with her for Miriam's sake, live there 
in sociable, vulgar assent and despite his feeling it 
rather a low neighbourhood. He was at a loss how to 
take what she said — she talked sweetly and discur- 
sively of so many things — tiU he simply noted that he 
could only take it always for untrue. When Miriam 
laughed at her he was rather disagreeably affected : 
" dear mamma's fine stories " was a sufficiently cynical 
reference to the immemorial infirmity of a parent. 
I 193 o 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

But when the girl backed her up, as he phrased it to 
himself, he liked that even less. 

Mrs. Rooth was very fond of a moral and had never 
lost her taste for edification. She delighted in a 
beautiful character and was gratified to find so many 
more than she had supposed represented in the con- 
temporary French drama. She never failed to direct 
Miriam's attention to them and to remind her that 
there is nothing in life so grand as a sublime act, above 
all when sublimely explained. Peter made much of 
the difference between the mother and the daughter, 
thinking it singularly marked — the way one took 
everything for the sense, or behaved as if she did, 
caring only for the plot and the romance, the triumph 
or defeat of virtue and the moral comfort of it all, 
and the way the other was alive but to the manner 
and the art of it, the intensity of truth to appearances. 
Mrs. Rooth abounded in impressive evocations, and 
yet he saw no link between her facile genius and that 
of which Miriam gave symptoms. The poor lady 
never could have been accused of successful deceit, 
whereas the triumph of fraud was exactly what her 
clever child achieved. She made even the true seem 
fictive, while Miriam's effort was to make the Active 
true. Sherringham thought it an odd unpromising 
stock (that of the Neville-Nugents) for a dramatic 
talent to have sprung from, till he reflected that the 
evolution was after all natural : the figurative impulse 
in the mother had become conscious, and therefore 
higher, through finding an aim, which was beauty, 
in the daughter. Likely enough the Hebraic Mr. 
Rooth, with his love of old pots and Christian altar- 
cloths, had supplied in the girl's composition the 
esthetic element, the sense of colour and form. In 
their visits to the theatre there was nothing Mrs. 
Rooth more insisted on than the unprofitableness of 
deceit, as shown by the most distinguished authors — 

194 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

the folly and degradation, the corrosive effect on the 
spirit, of tortuous ways. Their companion soon gave 
up the futile task of piecing together her incongruous 
references to her early life and her family in England. 
He renounced even the doctrine that there was a 
residuum of truth in her claim of great relationships, 
since, existent or not, he cared equally little for her 
ramifications. The principle of this indifference was 
at bottom a certain desire to disconnect and isolate 
Miriam ; for it was disagreeable not to be independent 
in dealing with her, and he could be fully so only if 
she herself were. 

The early weeks of that summer — they went on 
indeed into August — were destined to establish them- 
selves in his memory as a season of pleasant things. 
The ambassador went away and Peter had to wait 
for his own holiday, which he did during the hot days 
contentedly enough — waited in spacious haUs and a 
vast, dim, bird-haunted garden. The official world 
and most other worlds withdrew from Paris, and the 
Place de la Concorde, a larger, whiter desert than 
ever, became by a reversal of custom explorable with 
safety. The Champs Elysees were dusty and rural, 
with little creaking booths and exhibitions that made 
a noise like grasshoppers ; the Arc de Triomphe threw 
its cool, thick shadow for a mile ; the Palais de 
ITndustrie glittered in the light of the long days ; the 
cabmen, in their red waistcoats, dozed inside their 
boxes, while Sherringham permitted himself a " pot " 
hat and rarely met a friend. Thus was Miriam as 
islanded as the chained Andromeda, and thus was it 
possible to deal with her, even Perseus-like, in deep 
detachment. The theatres on the boulevard closed 
for the most part, but the great temple of the Rue de 
Richelieu, with an esthetic responsibility, continued 
imperturbably to dispense examples of style. Madame 
Carre was going to Vichy, but had not yet taken fhght, 

195 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

which was a great advantage for Miriam, who could 
now soHcit her attention with the consciousness that 
she had no engagements en ville. 

" I make her Hsten to me — I make her tell me," 
said the ardent girl, who was always climbing the 
slope of the Rue de Constantinople on the shady side, 
where of July mornings a smell of violets came from 
the moist flower-stands of fat, white-capped bouque- 
tieres in the angles of doorways. Miriam liked the 
Paris of the summer mornings, the clever freshness 
of all the little trades and the open-air life, the cries, 
the talk from door to door, which reminded her of 
the south, where, in the multiplicity of her habita- 
tions, she had lived ; and most of all, the great amuse- 
ment, or nearly, of her walk, the enviable baskets of 
the laundress piled up with frilled and fluted white- 
ness — the certain luxury, she felt while she passed 
with quick prevision, of her own dawn of glory. The 
greatest amusement perhaps was to recognise the 
pretty sentiment of earliness, the particular congruity 
with the hour, in the studied, selected dress of the 
little tripping women who were taking the day, for 
important advantages, while it was tender. At any 
rate she mostly brought with her from her passage 
through the town good humour enough — with the 
penny bunch of violets she always stuck in the front 
of her dress — for whatever awaited her at Madame 
Carre's. She declared to her friend that her dear 
mistress was terribly severe, giving her the most 
difQcrdt, the most exhausting exercises, showing a 
kind of rage for breaking her in. 

" So much the better," Sherringham duly answered ; 
but he asked no questions and was glad to let the 
preceptress and the pupil fight it out together. He 
wanted for the moment to know as little as possible 
about their ways together : he had been over-dosed 
with that knowledge while attending at their second 

196 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

interview. He would send Madame Carre her money 
— she was really most obliging — and in the meantime 
was certain Miriam could take care of herself. Some- 
times he remarked to her that she needn't always 
talk " shop " to him : there were times when he 
was mortally tired of shop — of hers. Moreover, he 
frankly admitted that he was tired of his own, so that 
the restriction was not brutal. When she replied, 
staring, " Why, I thought you considered it as such 
a beautiful, interesting art ! " he had no rejoinder more 
philosophic than " Well, I do ; but there are moments 
when I'm quite sick of it all the same." At other 
times he put it : " Oh yes, the results, the finished 
thing, the dish perfectly seasoned and served : not the 
mess of preparation — at least not always — not the 
experiments that spoil the material." 

" I supposed you to feel just these questions of 
study, of the artistic education, as you've called it 
to me, so fascinating," the girl persisted. She was 
sometimes so flatly lucid. 

" Well, after all, I'm not an actor myself," he could 
but impatiently sigh. 

" You might be one if you were serious," she would 
imperturbably say. To this her friend replied that 
Mr. Gabriel Nash ought to hear this ; which made her 
promise with a certain grimness that she would settle 
him and his theories some day. Not to seem too in- 
consistent — for it was cruel to bewilder her when 
he had taken her up to enlighten — Peter repeated 
over that for a man like himself the interest of the 
whole thing depended on its being considered in a 
large, liberal way and with an intelligence that lifted 
it out of the question of the little tricks of the trade, 
gave it beauty and elevation. But she hereupon let 
him know that Madame Carre held there were no 
little tricks, that everything had its importance as a 
means to a great end, and that if you were not wilhng 

197 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

to try to approfondir the reason why, in a given situa- 
tion, you should scratch your nose with your left hand 
rather than with your right, you were not worthy to 
tread any stage that respected itself. 

" That's very well, but if I must go into details 
read me a little Shelley," groaned the young man in 
the spirit of a high raffine. 

" You're worse than Madame Carre ; you don't 
know what to invent ; between you you'll kill me ! " 
the girl declared. " I think there's a secret league 
between you to spoil my voice, or at least to weaken 
my souffle, before I get it. But a la guerre comme a 
la guerre ! How can I read Shelley, however, when 
I don't understand him ? " 

" That's just what I want to make you do. It's 
a part of your general training. You may do with- 
out that of course — without culture and taste and 
perception ; but in that case you'll be nothing but 
a vulgar cahotine, and nothing will be of any conse- 
quence." He had a theory that the great lyric poets 
— he induced her to read, and recite as well, long 
passages of Wordsworth and Swinburne — would teach 
her many of the secrets of the large utterance, the 
mysteries of rhythm, the communicableness of style, 
the latent music of the language and the art of 
" composing " copious speeches and of retaining her 
stores of free breath. He held in perfect sincerity that 
there was a general sense of things, things of the mind, 
which would be of the highest importance to her and 
to which it was by good fortune just in his power to 
contribute. She would do better in proportion as 
she had more knowledge — even knowledge that might 
superficially show but a remote connexion with her 
business. The actor's talent was essentially a gift, 
a thing by itself, implanted, instinctive, accidental, 
equally unconnected with intellect and with virtue 
— Sherringham was completely of that opinion ; 

198 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

but it struck him as no hetise to believe at the same 
time that intellect — leaving virtue for the moment 
out of the question — might be brought into fruitful 
relation with it. It would be a bigger thing if a 
better mind were projected upon it — projected with- 
out sacrificing the mind. So he lent his young friend 
books she never read — she was on almost irrecon- 
cilable terms with the printed page save for spouting 
it— and in the long summer days, when he had 
leisure, took her to the Louvre to admire the great 
works of painting and sculpture. Here, as on all 
occasions, he was struck with the queer jumble of 
her taste, her mixture of intelligence and puerility. 
He saw she never read what he gave her, though 
she sometimes would shamelessly have liked him to 
suppose so ; but in the presence of famous pictures 
and statues she had remarkable flashes of perception. 
She felt these things, she liked them, though it was 
always because she had an idea she could use them. 
The belief was often presumptuous, but it showed 
what an eye she had to her business. " I could look 
just like that if I tried." " That's the dress I jnean 
to wear when I do Portia." Such were the observa- 
tions apt to drop from her under the suggestion of 
antique marbles or when she stood before a Titian or 
a Bronzino. 

When she uttered them, and many others besides, 
the effect was sometimes irritating to hei; adviser, who 
had to bethink himself a little that she was no more 
egotistical than the histrionic conscience required. He 
wondered if there were necessarily something vulgar 
in the histrionic conscience — something condemned 
only to feel the tricky, personal question. Wasn't it 
better to be perfectly stupid than to have only one eye 
open and wear for ever in the great face of the world 
the expression of a knowing wink ? At the theatre, 
on the numerous July evenings when the Comedie 

199 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Fran9aise exhibited the repertory by the aid of ex- 
ponents determined the more sparse and provincial 
audience should have a taste of the tradition, her 
appreciation was tremendously technical and showed 
it was not for nothing she was now in and out of 
Madame Carre's innermost counsels. But there were 
moments when even her very acuteness seemed to 
him to drag the matter down, to see it in a small and 
superficial sense. What he flattered himself he was 
trying to do for her — and through her for the stage 
of his time, since she was the instrument, and incon- 
testably a fine one, that had come to his hand— was 
precisely to lift it up, make it rare, keep it in the 
region of distinction and breadth. However, she was 
doubtless right and he was wrong, he eventually 
reasoned : you could afford to be vague only if you 
hadn't a responsibility. He had fine ideas, but she 
was to act them out, that is to apply them, and not 
he ; and application was of necessity a vulgarisation, 
a smaller thing than theory. If she should some day 
put forth the great art it wasn't purely fanciful to fore- 
cast tor her, the matter would doubtless be by that 
fact sufficiently transfigured and it wouldn't signify 
that some of the onward steps should have been lame. 
This was clear to him on several occasions when 
she recited or motioned or even merely looked some- 
thing for him better than usual ; then she quite carried 
him away, mg-king him wish to ask no more questions, 
but only let her disembroil herself in her own strong 
fashion. In these hours she gave him forcibly if fit- 
fully that impression of beauty which was to be her 
justification. It was too soon for any general estimate 
of her progress ; Madame Carre had at last given her 
a fine understanding as well as a sore, personal, an 
almost physical, sense of how bad she was. She had 
therefore begun on a new basis, had returned to the 
alphabet and the drill. It was a phase of awkwardness, 

200 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

the splashing of a young swimmer, but buoyancy- 
would certainly come out of it. For the present there 
was mainly no great alteration of the fact that when 
she did things according to her own idea they were 
not, as yet and seriously judged, worth the devil, as 
Madame Carre said, and when she did them according 
to that of her instructress were too apt to be a gross 
parody of that lady's intention. None the less she 
gave glimpses, and her glimpses made him feel not 
only that she was not a fool — this was small relief — 
but that he himself was not. 

He made her stick to her English and read Shake- 
speare aloud to him. Mrs. Rooth had recognised the 
importance of apartments in which they should be 
able to receive so beneficent a visitor, and was now 
mistress of a small salon with a balcony and a rickety 
flower-stand — to say nothing of a view of many 
roofs and chimneys — a very uneven waxed floor, an 
empire clock, an armoire a glace, highly convenient 
for Miriam's posturings, and several cupboard doors 
covered over, allowing for treacherous gaps, with the 
faded magenta paper of the wall. The thing had been 
easily done, for Sherringham had said : " Oh we 
must have a sitting-room for our studies, you know, 
and I'll settle it with the landlady." Mrs. Rooth 
had liked his " we " — indeed she liked everything 
about him — and he saw in this way that she heaved 
with no violence under pecuniary obligations so long 
as they were distinctly understood to be temporary. 
That he should have his money back with interest 
as soon as Miriam was launched was a comfort so 
deeply implied that it only added to intimacy. The 
window stood open on the little balcony, and when the 
sun had left it Peter and Miriam could linger there, 
leaning on the rail and talking above the great hum 
of Paris, with nothing but the neighbouring tiles and 
tall tubes to take account of. Mrs. Rooth, in limp 

201 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

garments much ungirdled, was on the sofa with a 
novel, making good her frequent assertion that she 
could put up with any Hfe that would yield her these 
two conveniences. There were romantic works Peter 
had never read and as to which he had vaguely 
wondered to what class they were addressed — the 
earlier productions of M. Eugene Sue, the once- 
fashionable compositions of Madame Sophie Gay 
— with which Mrs. Rooth was familiar and which 
she was ready to enjoy once more if she could get 
nothing fresher. She had always a greasy volume 
tucked under her while her nose was bent upon the 
pages in hand. She scarcely looked up even when 
Miriam hfted her voice to show their benefactor what 
she could do. These tragic or pathetic notes all went 
out of the window and mingled with the undecipher- 
able concert of Paris, so that no neighbour was dis- 
turbed by them. The girl shrieked and wailed when 
the occasion required it, and Mrs. Rooth only turned 
her page, showing in this way a great esthetic as well 
as a great personal trust. 

She rather annoyed their visitor by the serenity 
of her confidence — for a reason he fully understood 
only later — save when Miriam caught an effect or 
a tone so well that she made him in the pleasure cf 
it forget her parent's contiguity. He continued to 
object to the girl's English, with its foreign patches 
that might pass in prose but were offensive in the 
recitation of verse, and he wanted to know why she 
couldn't speak hke her mother. He had justly to 
acknowledge the charm of Mrs. Rooth's voice and 
tone, which gave a richness even to the fooUsh things 
she said. They were of an excellent insular tradition, 
full both of natural and of cultivated sweetness, and 
they puzzled him when other indications seemed to 
betray her — to refer her to more common air. They 
were like the reverberation of some far-off tutored circle. 

202 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

The connexion between the development of 
Miriam's genius and the necessity of an occasional 
excursion to the country — the charming country that 
lies in so many directions beyond the Parisian hanlieue 
■ — would not have been immediately apparent to a 
superficial observer ; but a day, and then another, 
at Versailles, a day at Fontainebleau and a trip, 
particularly harmonious and happy, to Rambouillet, 
took their places in our young man's plan as a part 
of the indirect but contributive culture, an agency 
in the formation of taste. Intimations of the grand 
manner for instance would proceed in abundance 
from the symmetrical palace and gardens of Louis 
XIV. Peter " adored " Versailles and wandered there 
more than once with the ladies of the Hotel de la 
Garonne. They chose quiet hours, when the fountains 
were dry ; and Mrs. Rooth took an armful of novels 
and sat on a bench in the park, flanked by chpped 
hedges and old statues, while her young companions 
strolled away, walked to the Trianon, explored the 
long, straight vistas of the woods. Rambouillet was 
vague and vivid and sweet ; they felt that they found 
a hundred wise voices there ; and indeed there was 
an old white chateau which contained nothing but 
ghostly sounds. They found at any rate a long 
luncheon, and in the landscape the very spirit of 
silvery summer and of the French pictorial brush. 

I have said that in these days Sherringham 
wondered about many things, and by the time his 
leave of absence came this practice had produced a 
particular speculation. He was surprised that he 
shouldn't be in love with Miriam Rooth and considered 
at moments of leisure the causes of his exemption. He 
had felt from the first that she was a " nature," and 
each time she met his eyes it seemed to come to him 
straighter that her beauty was rare. You had to 
get the good view of her face, but when you did so 

203 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

it was a splendid mobile mask. And the wearer of 
this high ornament had ■ frankness and courage and 
variety — no end of the unusual and the unexpected. 
She had qualities that seldom went together — 
impulses and shynesses, audacities and lapses, some- 
thing coarse, popular, and strong all intermingled 
with disdains and languors and nerves. And then 
above all she was there, was accessible, almost belonged 
to him. He reflected ingeniously that he owed his 
escape to a peculiar cause — to the fact that they had 
together a positive outside object. Objective, as it 
were, was all their communion ; not personal and 
selfish, but a matter of art and business and discussion. 
Discussion had saved him and would save him 
further, for they would always have something to 
quarrel about. Sherringham, who was not a diplo- 
matist for nothing, who had his reasons for steering 
straight and wished neither to deprive the British 
public of a rising star nor to exchange his actual 
situation for that of a yoked impresario, blessed the 
beneficence, the salubrity, the pure exorcism of art. 
At the same time, rather inconsistently and feehng 
that he had a completer vision than before of that 
oddest of animals the artist who happens to have 
been born a woman, he felt warned against a serious 
connexion — he made a great point of the " serious " 
— with so slippery and ticklish a creature. The two 
ladies had only to stay in Paris, save their candle-ends 
and, as Madame Carre had enjoined, practise their 
scales : there were apparent^ no autumn visits to 
EngUsh country-houses in prospect for Mrs. Rooth. 
Peter parted with them on the understanding that in 
London he would look as thoroughly as possible into 
the question of an engagement. The day before he 
began his holiday he went to see Madame Carre, who 
said to him, " Vous devriez bien nous la laisser." 

" She has something then ? " 

204 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" She has most things. She'll go far. It's the first 
time in my life of my beginning with a mistake. But 
don't tell her so. I don't flatter her. She'll be too 
puffed up." 

" Is she very conceited ? " Sherringham asked. 

" Mauvais sujet ! " said Madame Carre. 

It was on the journey to London that he indulged 
in some of those questionings of his state that I have 
mentioned ; but I must add that by the time he 
reached Charing Cross — he smoked a cigar deferred 
till after the Channel in a compartment by himself 
- — ^it had suddenly come over him that they were 
futile. Now that he had left the girl a subversive, 
unpremeditated heart-beat told him — it made him 
hold his breath a minute in the carriage^ — that he 
had after all not escaped. He was in love with her : 
he had been in love with her from the first hour. 



205 



BOOK THIRD 



207 



XIII 

The drive from Harsh to the Place, as it was called 
thereabouts, could be achieved by swift horses in less 
than ten minutes ; and if Mrs. Dallow's ponies were 
capital trotters the general high pitch of the occasion 
made it all congruous they should show their speed. 
The occasion was the polling-day an hour after the 
battle. The ponies had kept pace with other driven 
forces for the week before, passing and repassing the 
neat windows of the fiat little town — Mrs. Dallow 
had the complacent belief that there was none in the 
kingdom in which the flower-stands looked more 
respectable between the stiff muslin curtains — with 
their mistress behind them on her all but silver wheels. 
Very often she was accompanied by the Liberal 
candidate, but even when she was not the equipage 
seemed scarce less to represent his easy, friendly 
confidence. It moved in a radiance of ribbons and 
hand-bills and hand-shakes and smiles ; of quickened 
commerce and sudden intimacy ; of sjnnpathy which 
assumed without presuming and gratitude which 
promised without soliciting. But under Julia's guid- 
ance the ponies pattered now, with no indication of 
a loss of freshness, along the firm, wide avenue which 
wound and curved, to make up in large effect for not 
undulating, from the gates opening straight on the 
town to the Palladian mansion, high, square, grey, 
and clean, which stood among terraces and fountains 
I 209 p 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

in the centre of the park. A generous steed had been 
sacrificed to bring the good news from Ghent to Aix, 
but no such extravagance was after all necessary for 
communicating with Lady Agnes. 

She had remained at the house, not going to the 
Wheatsheaf, the Liberal inn, with the others ; prefer- 
ring to await in privacy and indeed in solitude the 
momentous result of the poU. She had come down 
to Harsh with the two girls in the course of the pro- 
ceedings. Julia hadn't thought they would do much 
good, but she was expansive and indulgent now and 
had generously asked them. Lady Agnes had not 
a nice canvassing manner, effective as she might have 
been in the character of the high, benignant, affable 
mother — looking sweet participation but not inter- 
fering — of the young and handsome, the shining, 
convincing, wonderfully clever and certainly irre- 
sistible aspirant. Grace Dormer had zeal without 
art, and Lady Agnes, who during her husband's life- 
time had seen their affairs follow the satisfactory 
principle of a tendency to defer to supreme merit, 
had never really learned the lesson that voting goes 
by favour. However, she could pray God if she 
couldn't make love to the cheesemonger, and Nick 
felt she had stayed at home to pray for him. I must 
add that Julia Dallow was too happy now, flicking 
her whip in the bright summer air, to say anything 
so ungracious even to herself as that her companion 
had been returned in spite of his nearest female 
relatives. Besides, Biddy had been a rosy help : she 
had looked persuasively pretty, in white and blue, on 
platforms and in recurrent carriages, out of which 
she had tossed, blushing and making people feel 
they would remember her eyes, several words that 
were telling for their very simphcity. 

Mrs. Dallow was really too glad for any definite 
reflexion, even for personal exultation, the vanity of 

210 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

recognising her own large share of the work. Nick 
was in and was now beside her, tired, silent, vague, 
beflowered and beribboned, and he had been splendid 
from beginning to end, beautifully good-humoured 
and at the same time beautifully clever — ^still cleverer 
than she had supposed he could be. The sense of her 
having quickened his cleverness and been repaid by 
it or by his gratitude — -it came to the same thing 
— in a way she appreciated was not assertive and 
jealous : it was lost for the present in the general 
happy break of the long tension. So nothing passed 
between them in their progress to the house ; there 
was no sound in the park but the pleasant rustle of 
summer— it seemed an applausive murmur — and the 
swift roll of the vehicle. 

Lady Agnes already knew, for as soon as the result 
was declared Nick had despatched a mounted man 
to her, carrying the figures on a scrawled card. He 
himself had been far from getting away at once, 
having to respond to the hubbub of acclamation, to 
speak yet again, to thank his electors individually 
and collectively, to chaff the Tories without cheap 
elation, to be carried hither and yon, and above all to 
pretend that the interest of the business was now 
greater for him than ever. If he had said never a word 
after putting himself in Julia's hands to go home it 
was partly perhaps because the consciousness had 
begun to gUmmer within him, on the contrary, of some 
sudden shrinkage of that interest. He wanted to see 
his mother because he knew she wanted to fold him 
close in her arms. They had been open there for this 
purpose the last half-hour, and her expectancy, now 
no longer an ache of suspense, was the reason of 
JuHa's round pace. Yet this very impatience in her 
somehow made Nick wince a httle. Meeting his 
mother was Uke being elected over again. 

The others had not yet come back, and Lady 

211 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Agnes was alone in the large, bright drawing-room. 
When Nick went in with Julia he saw her at the 
further end ; she had evidently been walking up and 
down the whole length of it, and her tall, upright, 
black figure seemed in possession of the fair vastness 
after the manner of an exclam.ation-point at the 
bottom of a blank page. The room, rich and simple, 
was a place of perfection as weU as of splendour in 
delicate tints, with precious specimens of French 
furniture of the last century ranged against walls of 
pale brocade, and here and there a small, almost price- 
less picture. George Dallow had made it, caring for 
these things and liking to talk about them — scarce 
ever about anything else ; so that it appeared to 
represent him stiU, what was best in his kindly, 
limited nature, his friendly, competent, tiresome 
insistence on harmony — on identity of " period." 
Nick could hear him yet, and could see him, too fat and 
with a congenital thickness in his speech, lounging 
there in loose clothes with his eternal cigarette. 
" Now my dear fellow, that's what I call form : I 
don't know what you call it " — that was the way he 
used to begin. All round were flowers in rare vases, 
but it looked a place of which the beauty would have 
smelt sweet even without them. 

Lady Agnes had taken a white rose from one of 
the clusters and was holding it to her face, which was 
turned to the door as Nick crossed the threshold. 
The expression of her figure instantly told him — he 
saw the creased card he had sent her Ijnng on one 
of the beautiful bare tables — how she had been 
sailing up and down in a majesty of satisfaction. 
The inflation of her long plain dress and the brightened 
dimness of her proud face were still in the air. In 
a moment he had kissed her and was being kissed, not 
in quick repetition, but in tender prolongation, with 
which the perfume of the white rose was mixed. 

212 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

But there was something else too — her sweet smothered 
words in his ear : " Oh my boy, my boy — oh your 
father, your father ! " Neither the sense of pleasure 
nor that of pain, with Lady Agnes — as indeed with 
most of the persons with whom this history is con- 
cerned — was a liberation of chatter ; so that for a 
minute all she said again was, " I think of Sir Nicholas 
and wish he were here " ; addressing the words to 
JuHa, who had wandered forward without looking at 
the mother and son. 

" Poor Sir Nicholas ! " said Mrs. Dallow vaguely. 

" Did you make another speech ? " Lady Agnes 
asked. 

" I don't know. Did I ? " Nick appealed. 

" I don't know ! "—and Juha spoke with her back 
turned, doing something to her hat before the glass. 

" Oh of course the confusion, the bewilderment ! " 
said Lady Agnes in a tone rich in political reminiscence. 

" It was really immense fun," Mrs. Dallow went 
so far as to drop. 

" Dearest Juha ! " Lady Agnes deeply breathed. 
Then she added : " It was you who made it sure." 

" There are a lot of people coming to dinner," said 
Juha. 

" Perhaps you'll have to speak again," Lady Agnes 
smiled at her son. 

" Thank you ; I hke the way you talk about it ! " 
cried Nick. " I'm Hke lago : ' from this time forth 
I never will speak word ! ' " 

" Don't say that, Nick," said his mother gravely. 

" Don't be afraid— he'll jabber hke a magpie ! " 
And Juha went out of the room. 

Nick had flung himself on a sofa with an air of 
weariness, though not of completely extinct cheer ; 
and Lady Agnes stood fingering her rose and looking 
down at him. His eyes kept away from her ; they 
seemed fixed on something she couldn't see. " I hope 

213 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

you've thanked Julia handsomely," she presently 
remarked. 

" Why of course, mother." 

" She has done as much as if you hadn't been 
sure." 

" I wasn't in the least sure — and she has done 
everything." 

" She has been too good— but we\^ done some- 
thing. I hope you don't leave out your father," 
Lady Agnes amplified as Nick's glance appeared for 
a moment to question her " we." 

" Never, never ! " Nick uttered these words 
perhaps a httle mechanically, but the next minute he 
added as if suddenly moved to think what he could 
say that would give his mother most pleasure : "Of 
course his name has worked for me. Gone as he is 
he's still ahving force." He felt a good deal of a 
hypocrite, but one didn't win such a seat every 
day in the year. Probably indeed he should never 
win another. 

" He hears you, he watches you, he rejoices in 
you," Lady Agnes opined. 

This idea was oppressive to Nick — that of the 
rejoicing almost as much as of the watching. He had 
made his concession, but, with a certain impulse tc 
divert his mother from following up her advantage, 
he broke out : " JuHa's a tremendously effective 
woman." 

" Of course she is ! " said Lady Agnes knowingly. 

" Her charming appearance is half the battle "— 
Nick explained a Httle coldly what he meant. But 
he felt his coldness an inadequate protection to him 
when he heard his companion observe with something 
of the same sapience : 

" A woman's always effective when she Ukes a 
person so much." 

It discomposed him to be described as a person 

214 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

liked, and so much, and by a woman ; and he simply 
said abruptly : " When are you going away ? " 

" The first moment that's civil — to-morrow morn- 
ing. You'll stay on I hope." 

" Stay on ? What shaU I stay on f or ? " 

" Why you might stay to express your apprecia- 
tion." 

Nick considered. " I've everything to do." 

" I thought everything was done," said Lady 
Agnes. 

" Well, that's just why," her son replied, not very 
lucidly. " I want to do other things — quite other 
things. Ishouldliketotake the next train." And he 
looked at his watch. 

" When there are people coming to dinner to meet 
you .'' 

" They'll meet 3/0^— that's better." 

" I'm sorry any one's coming," Lady Agnes said 
in a tone unencouraging to a deviation from the 
reality of things. " I wish we were alone— just as 
a family. It would please Julia to-day to feel that 
we are one. Do stay with her to-morrow." 

" How wiU that do — when she's alone ? " 

" She won't be alone, with Mrs. Gresham." 

" Mrs. Gresham doesn't count." 

" That's precisely why I want you to stop. And 
her cousin, almost her brother : what an idea that 
it won't do ! Haven't you stayed here before when 
there has been no one ? " 

" I've never stayed much, and there have always 
been people. At any rate it's now different." 

" It's just because it's different. Besides, it isn't 
different and it never was," said Lady Agnes, more 
incoherent in her earnestness than it often happened 
to her to be. " She always hked you and she likes 
you now more than ever — if you caU that different ! " 
Nick got up at this and, without meeting her eyes, 

215 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

walked to one of the windows, Where he stood with 
his back turned and looked out on the great greenness. 
She watched him a moment and she might well have 
been wishing, while he appeared to gaze with intent- 
ness, that it would come to him with the same force 
as it had come to herself — very often before, but 
during these last days more than ever — that the level 
lands of Harsh, stretching away before the window, 
the French garden with its S3nnmetry, its screens 
and its statues, and a great many more things of 
which these were the superficial token, were Julia's 
very own to do with exactly as she liked. No word 
of appreciation or envy, however, dropped from the 
young man's hps, and his mother presently went on : 
" What could be more natural than that after your 
triumphant contest you and she should have lots to 
settle and to talk about — no end of practical questions, 
no end of urgent business ? Aren't you her member, 
and can't her member pass a day with her, and she a 
great proprietor ? " 

Nick turned round at this with an odd expression. 
" Her member — am I hers ? " 

Lady Agnes had a pause — she had need of all her 
tact. " Well, if the place is hers and you represent 

the place ! " she began. But she went no further, 

for Nick had interrupted her with a laugh. 

" What a droll thing to ' represent,' when one 
thinks of it ! And what does it represent, poor stupid 
little borough with its strong, though I admit clean, 
smell of meal and its curiously fat-faced inhabitants ? 
Did you ever see such a collection of fat faces turned 
up at the hustings ? They looked like an enormous 
sofa, with the cheeks for the gathers and the eyes for 
the buttons." 

" Oh well, the next time you shall have a great 
town," Lady Agnes returned, smiling and feeling 
that she was tactful. 

216 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" It will only be a bigger sofa ! I'm joking, of 
course," Nick pursued, " and I ought to be ashamed 
of myself. They've done me the honour to elect me 
and I shall never say a word that's not civil about 
them, poor dears. But even a new member may 
blaspheme to his mother." 

" I wish you'd be serious to your mother " — and 
she went nearer him. 

" The difficulty is that I'm two men ; it's the 
strangest thing that ever was," Nick professed with 
his bright face on her. " I'm two quite distinct 
human beings, who have scarcely a point in common ; 
not even the memory, on the part of one, of the 
achievements or the adventures of the other. One 
man wins the seat but it's the other fellow who sits 
in it." 

" Oh Nick, don't spoil your victory by your per- 
versity ! " she cried as she clasped her hands to him. 

" I went through it with great glee — I won't deny 
that : it excited me, interested me, amused me. 
When once I was in it I Hked it. But now that I'm 
out of it again ! " 

" Out of it ? " His mother stared. " Isn't the 
whole point that you're in ? " 

" Ah now I'm only in the House of Commons." 

For an instant she seemed not to understand and 
to be on the point of laying her finger quickly to her 
lips with a " Hush ! " — as if the late Sir Nicholas 
might have heard the " only." Then while a com- 
prehension of the young man's words promptly super- 
seded that impulse she repUed with force : " You'll 
be in the Lords the day you determine to get there." 

This futile remark made Nick laugh afresh, and 
not only laugh, but kiss her, which was always an 
intenser form of mystification for poor Lady Agnes 
and apparently the one he liked best to inflict ; after 
which he said : " The odd thing is, you know, that 

217 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Harsh has no wants. At least it's not sharply, not 
articulately conscious of them. We all pretended to 
talk them over together, and I promised to carry them 
in my heart of hearts. But upon my honour I can't 
remember one of them. Julia says the wants of 
•Harsh are simply the national wants — rather a pretty 
phrase for Juha. She means she does everything 
for the place ; she's reaUy their member and this 
house in which we stand their legislative chamber. 
Therefore the lacunae I've undertaken to fill out are 
the national wants. It will be rather a job to rectify 
some of them, won't it ? I don't represent the 
appetites of Harsh — Harsh is gorged. I represent 
the ideas of my party. That's what Julia says." 

" Oh never mind what Julia says ! " Lady Agnes 
broke out impatiently. This impatience made it 
singular that the very next word she uttered should 
.be : " My dearest son, I wish to heaven you'd marry 
her. It would be so fitting now ! " she added. 

" Why now ? " Nick frowned. 

" She has shown you such sympathy, such 
devotion." 

" Is it for that she has shown it ? " 

" Ah you might /<g^/ — I can't tell you ! " said Lady 
Agnes reproachfully. 

He blushed at this, as if what he did feel was the 
reproach. " Must I marry her because you like her ? " 

" I ? Why we're all as fond of her as we can be." 

" Dear mother, I hope that any woman I ever may 
marry will be a person agreeable not only to you, 
but also, since you make a point of it, to Grace and 
Biddy. But I must teU you this — that I shall marry 
no woman I'm not unmistakably in love with." 

" And why are you not in love with Julia — 
charming, clever, generous as she is ? " Lady Agnes 
laid her hands on him — she held him tight. " Dearest 
Nick, if you care anything in the world to make me 

218 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

happy you'll stay over here to-morrow and be nice 
to her." 

He waited an instant. "Do you mean propose 
to her ? " 

" With a single word, with the glance of an eye, 
the movement of your httle finger " — and she paused, 
looking intensely, imploringly up into his face — " in 
less time than it takes me to say what I say now, 
you may have it all." As he made no answer, only 
meeting her eyes, she added insistently : " You know 
she's a fine creature — you know she is ! " 

" Dearest mother, what I seem to know better 
than anything else in the world is that I love my 
freedom. I set it far above everything." 

" Your freedom ? What freedom is there in being 
poor ? " Lady Agnes fiercely demanded. " Talk of 
that when Julia puts everything she possesses at your 
feet ! " 

" I can't talk of it, mother — it's too terrible an idea. 
And I can't talk of her, nor of what I think of her. 
You must leave that to me. I do her perfect justice." 

" You don't or you'd marry her to-morrow," she 
passionately argued. " You'd feel the opportunity 
so beautifully rare, with everything in the world to 
make it perfect. Your father would have valued 
it for you beyond everything. Think a little what 
would have given him pleasure. That's what I 
meant when I spoke just now of us all. It wasn't 
of Grace and Biddy I was thinking — fancy ! — it was 
of him. He's with you always ; he takes with you, 
at your side, every step you take yourself. He'd 
bless devoutly your marriage to Julia ; he'd feel 
what it would be for you and for us all. I ask for 
no sacrifice and he'd ask for none. We only ask 
that you don't commit the crime ! " 

Nick Dormer stopped her with another kiss ; he 
murmured " Mother, mother, mother ! " as he bent 

219 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

over her. He wished her not to go on, to let him off ; 
but the deep deprecation in his voice didn't prevent 
her saying : 

" You know it — you know it perfectly. All and 
more than all that I can tell you you know." He 
drew her closer, kissed her again, held her as he would 
have held a child in a paroxysm, soothing her silently 
till it could abate. Her vehemence had brought with 
it tears ; she dried them as she disengaged herself. 
The next moment, however, she resumed, attacking 
him again : " For a public man she'd be the perfect 
companion. She's made for public life — she's made 
to shine, to be concerned in great things, to occupy 
a high position and to help him on. She'd back you 
up in everything as she has backed you in this. 
Together there's nothing you couldn't do. You can 
have the first house in England — yes, the very first ! 
What freedom is there in being poor ? How can you 
do anything without money, and what money can 
you make for yourself — what money will ever come to 
you ? That's the crime — to throw away such an instru- 
ment of power, such a blessed instrument of good." 

" It isn't everything to be rich, mother," said Nick, 
looking at the floor with a particular patience — that 
is with a provisional docility and his hands in his 
pockets. " And it isn't so fearful to be poor." 

" It's vile— it's abject. Don't I know ? " 

" Are you in such acute want ? " he smiled. 

" Ah don't make me explain what you've only 
to look at to see ! " his mother returned as if with 
a richness of allusion to dark elements in her fate. 

" Besides," he easily went on, " there's other 
money in the world than Julia's. I might come by 
some of that." 

" Do you mean Mr. Carteret's ? " The question 
made him laugh as her feeble reference five minutes 
before to the House of Lords had done. But she 

220 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

pursued, too full of her idea to take account of such 
a poor substitute for an answer : " Let me tell you 
one thing, for I've known Charles Carteret much 
longer than you and I understand him better. There's 
nothing you could do that would do you more good 
with him than to marry Julia. I know the way he 
looks at things and I know exactly how that would 
strike him. It would please him, it would charm 
him ; it would be the thing that would most prove 
to him that you're in earnest. You need, you know, 
to do something of that sort," she said as for plain 
speaking. 

" Haven't I come in for Harsh ? " asked Nick. 

" Oh he's* very canny. He likes to see people 
rich. Then he believes in them — then he's likely to 
believe more. He's kind to you because you're your 
father's son ; but I'm sure your being poor takes 
just so much off." 

" He can remedy that so easily," said Nick, 
smiling still. " Is my being kept by Julia what you 
caU my making an effort for myself ? " 

Lady Agnes hesitated ; then " You needn't insult 
Julia ! " she replied. 

" Moreover, if I've her money I shan't want his," 
Nick unheedingly remarked. 

Again his mother waited before answering ; after 
which she produced : " And pray wouldn't you wish 
to be independent ? " 

"You're delightful, dear mother — you're very 
delightful ! I particularly Hke your conception of 
independence. Doesn't it occur to you that at a 
pinch I might improve my fortune by some other 
means than by maldng a mercenary marriage or by 
currying favour with a rich old gentleman ? Doesn't 
it occur to you that I might work ? 

" Work at politics ? How does that make money, 
honourably ? " 

221 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" I don't mean at politics." 

" What do you mean then ? " — and she seemed 
to challenge him to phrase it if he dared. This 
demonstration of her face and voice might have 
affected him, for he remained silent and she con- 
tinued : " Are you elected or not ? " 

" It seems a dream," he rather flatly returned. 

" If you are, act accordingly and don't mix up 
things that are as wide asunder as the poles ! " She 
spoke with sternness and his silence appeared again 
to represent an admission that her sternness counted 
for him. Possibly she was touched by it ; after a few 
moments, at any rate, during which nothing more 
passed between them, she appealed to him in a gentler 
and more anxious key, which had this virtue to touch 
him that he knew it was absolutely the first time in 
her life she had really begged for anything. She had 
never been obliged to beg ; she had got on without 
it and most things had come to her. He might judge 
therefore in what a light she regarded this boon for 
which in her bereft old age she humbled herself to 
be a suitor. There was such a pride in her that he 
could feel what it cost her to go on her knees even 
to her son. He did judge how it was in his power to 
gratify her ; and as he was generous and imaginative 
he was stirred and shaken as it came over him in 
a wave of figurative suggestion that he might make 
up to her for many things. He scarcely needed to 
hear her ask with a pleading wail that was almost 
tragic : " Don't you see how things have turned out 
for us ? Don't you know how unhappy I am, don't 

you know what a bitterness ? " She stopped 

with a sob in her voice and he recognised vividly this 
last tribulation, the unhealed wound of her change 
of life and her lapse from eminence to flatness. " You 
know what Percival is and the comfort I have of him. 
You know the property and what he's doing with it 

222 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

and what comfort I get from that ! Everything's 
dreary but what you can do for us. Everything's 
odious, down to living in a hole with one's girls who 
don't marry. Grace is impossible — I don't know 
what's the matter with her ; no one will look at her, 
and she's so conceited with it — sometimes I feel as 
if I could beat her ! And Biddy will never marry, 
and we're three dismal women in a filthy house, 
and what are three dismal women, more or less, in 
London ? " 

So with an unexpected rage of self-exposure she 
poured out her disappointments and troubles, tore 
away the veil from her sadness and soreness. It 
almost scared him to see how she hated her life, 
though at another time it might have been amusing 
to note how she despised her gardenless house. Of 
course it wasn't a country-house, and she couldn't 
get used to that. Better than he could do — for it 
was the sort of thing into which in any case a woman 
enters more than a man — she felt what a lift into 
brighter air, what a regilding of his sisters' possi- 
bilities, his marriage to Julia would effect for them. 
He couldn't trace the difference, but his mother saw 
it all as a shining picture. She hung the bright 
vision before him now — she stood there like a poor 
woman crying for a kindness. What was filial in 
him, all the piety he owed, especially to the revived 
spirit of his father, more than ever present on a day 
of such public pledges, became from one moment 
to the other as the very handle to the door of the 
chamber of concessions. He had the impulse, so 
embarrassing when it is a question of consistent action, 
to see in a touching, an interesting light any forcibly 
presented sjde of the life of another : such things 
effected a union with something in his life, and in 
the recognition of them was no soreness of sacrifice 
and no consciousness of merit. 

223 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Rapidly, at present, this change of scene took 
place before his spiritual eye. He found himself 
believing, because his mother communicated the 
belief, that it depended but on his own conduct 
richly to alter the social outlook of the three women 
who clung to him and who declared themselves 
forlorn. This was not the highest kind of motive, 
but it contained a spring, it touched into life again 
old injunctions and appeals. Julia's wide kingdom 
opened out round him and seemed somehow to wear 
the face of his own possible future. His mother and 
sisters floated in the rosy element as if he had breathed 
it about them. " The first house in England " she 
had called it ; but it might be the first house in 
Europe, the first in the world, by the fine air and 
the high humanities that should fill it. Everything 
beautiful in his actual, his material view seemed to 
proclaim its value as never before ; the house rose over 
his head as a museum of exquisite rewards, and the 
image of poor George Dallow hovered there obsequi- 
ous, expressing that he had only been the modest, 
tasteful organiser, or even upholsterer, appointed to 
set it all in order and punctually retire. Lady Agnes's 
tone in fine penetrated further than it had done 
yet when she brought out with intensity : " Don't 
desert us — don't desert us." 

" Don't desert you ? " 

" Be great — be great. I'm old, I've lived, I've 
seen. Go in for a great material position. That 
will simplify everything else." 

" I'll do what I can for you — anything, every- 
thing I can. Trust me — leave me alone," Nick 
went on. 

" And you'll stay over — you'll spend the day 
with her ? " 

"I'll stay till she turns me out ! " 

His mother had hold of his hand again now : she 

224 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

raised it to her lips and kissed it. "My dearest son, 
my only joy ! " Then : " I don't see how you can 
resist her," she added. 

" No more do I ! " 

She looked about — there was so much to look at 
— with a deep exhalation. " If you're so fond of art, 
what art is equal to all this ? The joy of living in 
the midst of it — of seeing the finest works every day ! 
You'll have everything the world can give." 

" That's exactly what was just passing in my own 
mind. It's too much," Nick reasoned. 

" Don't be selfish ! " 

" Selfish ? " he echoed. 

" Unselfish then. You'll share it with us." 

" And with JuHa a little, I hope," he said. 

" God bless you ! " cried his mother, looking up 
at him. Her eyes were detained by the sudden 
sense of something in his own that was not clear 
to her ; but before she could challenge it he asked 
abruptly : 

" Why do you talk so of poor Biddy ? Why won't 
she marry ? " 

" You had better ask Peter Sherringham," said 
Lady Agnes. 

" What has he to do with it ? " 

" How odd of you not to know — when it's so 
plain how she thinks of him that it's a matter of 
common gossip." 

" Yes, if you will — we've made it so, and she 
takes it as an angel. But Peter Ukes her." 

" Does he ? Then it's the more shame to him 
to behave as he does. He had better leave his 
wretched actresses alone. That's the love of art 
too ! " mocked Lady Agnes. 

But Nick glossed it all over. " Biddy's so charm- 
ing she'll easily marry some one else." 

" Never, if she loves him. However, Julia will 
I . 225 Q 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

bring it about — Julia will help her," his mother 
pursued more cheerfully. " That's what you'll do 
for us — that she'll do everything ! " 

" Why then more than now ? " he asked. 

" Because we shall be yours." 

" You're mine already." 

" Yes, but she isn't. However, she's as good ! " 
Lady Agnes exulted. 

" She'll turn me out of the house," said Nick. 

" Come and tell me when she does ! But there 
she is — go to her! " And she gave him a push 
toward one of the windows that stood open to the 
terrace. Their hostess had become visible outside ; 
she passed slowly along the terrace with her long 
shadow. "Go to her," his mother repeated — " she's 
waiting for you." 

Nick went out with the air of a man as ready to 
pass that way as another, and at the same moment 
his two sisters, still flushed with participation, 
appeared in a different quarter. 

" We go home to-morrow, but Nick will stay a day 
or two," Lady Agnes said to them. 

" Dear old Nick ! " Grace ejaculated, looking at 
her with intensity. 

" He's going to speak," she went on. " But don'c 
mention it." 

" Don't mention it ? " Biddy asked with a milder 
stare. " Hasn't he spoken enough, poor fellow ? " 

" I mean to Juha," Lady Agnes repUed. 

" Don't you understand, you goose ? " — and Grace 
turned on her sister. 



226 



XIV 

The next morning brought the young man many 
letters and telegrams, and his coffee was placed beside 
him in his room, where he remained until noon 
answering these communications. When he came 
out he learned that his mother and sisters had left 
the house. This information was given him by 
Mrs. Gresham, whom he found deahng with her own 
voluminous budget at one of the tables in the library. 
She was a lady who received thirty letters a day, the 
subject-matter of which, as well as of her punctual 
answers in a hand that would have been " ladylike " 
in a manageress, was a puzzle to those who observed 
her. 

She told Nick that Lady Agnes had not been 
wilUng to disturb him at his work to say good-bye, 
knowing she should see him in a day or two in town. 
He was amused at the way his mother had stolen off 
— as if she feared further conversation might weaken 
the spell she believed herself to have wrought. The 
place was cleared, moreover, of its other visitors, so 
that, as Mrs. Gresham said, the fun was at an end. 
This lady expressed the idea that the fun was after 
all rather a bore. At any rate now they could rest, 
Mrs. Dallow and Nick and she, and she was glad 
Nick was going to stay for a little quiet. She liked 
Harsh best when it was not en fete : then one could 
see what a sympathetic old place it was. She hoped 

227 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Nick was not dreadfully fagged — she feared Julia 
was completely done up. Julia, however, had trans- 
ported her exhaustion to the grounds — she was 
wandering about somewhere. She thought more 
people would be coming to the house, people from the 
town, people from the country, and had gone out so 
as not to have to see them. She had not gone far — 
Nick could easily find her. Nick intimated that he 
himself was not eager for more people, whereupon 
Mrs. Gresham rather archly smiled. " And of course 
you hate me for being here." He made some protest 
and she added : " But I'm almost part of the house, 
you know — I'm one of the chairs or tables." Nick 
declared that he had never seen a house so well 
furnished, and Mrs. Gresham said : "I beUeve there 
are to be some people to dinner ; rather an inter- 
ference, isn't it ? Julia lives so in public. But it's 
all for you." And after a moment she added : " It's 
a wonderful constitution." Nick at first failed to 
seize her allusion- — he thought it a retarded political 
reference, a sudden tribute to the great unwritten 
instrument by which they were all governed and 
under the happy operation of which his fight had been 
so successful. He was on the point of sajdng, " The 
British ? Wonderful ! " when he gathered that the 
intention of his companion had been simply to praise 
Mrs. Dallow's fine robustness. " The surface so deli- 
cate, the action so easy, yet the frame of steel." 

He left Mrs. Gresham to her correspondence and 
went out of the house ; wondering as he walked if she 
wanted him to do the same thing his mother wanted, 
so that her words had been intended for a prick — 
whether even the two ladies had talked over their 
desire together. Mrs. Gresham was a married woman 
who was usually taken for a widow, mainly because 
she was perpetually " sent for " by her friends, who in 
no event sent for Mr. Gresham. She came in every 

228 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

case, with her air of being repandue at the expense of 
dingier belongings. Her figure was admired — that 
is it was sometimes mentioned — and she dressed as 
if it was expected of her to be smart, Hke a young 
woman in a shop or a servant much in view. She 
shpped in and out, accompanied at the piano, talked 
to the neglected visitors, walked in the rain, and after 
the arrival of the post usually had conferences with 
her hostess, during which she stroked her chin and 
looked familiarly responsible. It was her peculiarity 
that people were always saying things to her in a 
lowered voice. She had all sorts of acquaintances 
and in small establishments sometimes wrote the 
menus. Great ones, on the other hand, had no terrors 
for her — she had seen too many. No one had ever 
discovered whether any one else paid her. People 
only knew what they did. 

If Lady Agnes had in the minor key discussed 
with her the propriety of a union between the mistress 
of Harsh and the hope of*the Dormers this last per- 
sonage could take the circumstance for granted 
without irritation and even with cursory indulgence ; 
for he was not unhappy now and his spirit was Hght 
and clear. The summer day was splendid and the 
world, as he looked at it from the terrace, offered no 
more worrying ambiguity than a vault of airy blue 
arching over a lap of solid green. The wide, still trees 
in the park appeared to be waiting for some daily 
inspection, and the rich fields, with their official frill 
of hedges, to rejoice in the light that smiled upon 
them as named and numbered acres. Nick felt him- 
self catch the smile and all the reasons of it : they 
made up a chann to which he had perhaps not 
hitherto done justice — something of the impression 
he had received when younger from showy " views " 
of fine country-seats that had pressed and patted 
nature, as by the fat hands of " benches " of magis- 

229 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

trates and landlords, into supreme respectability 
and comfort. There were a couple of peacocks on 
the terrace, and his eye was caught by the gleam of 
the swans on a distant lake, where was also a Uttle 
temple on an island ; and these objects fell in with 
his humour, which at another time might have been 
ruffled by them as aggressive triumphs of the con- 
ventional. 

It was certainly a proof of youth and health on 
his part that his spirits had risen as the plot thickened 
and that after he had taken his jump into the turbid 
waters of a contested election he had been able to 
tumble and splash not only without a sense of 
awkwardness but with a considerable capacity for 
the frohc. Tepid as we saw him in Paris he had 
found his relation to his opportunity surprisingly 
altered by his httle journey across the Channel, had 
seen things in a new perspective and breathed an air 
that set him and kept him in motion. There had 
been something in it that went to his head — an 
element that his mother and his sisters, his father 
from beyond the grave, Julia Dallow, the Liberal 
party and a hundred friends, were both secretly and 
overtly occupied in pumping into it. If he but half- 
believed in victory he at least liked the wind of the 
onset in his ears, and he had a general sense that 
when one was " stuck " there was always the nearest 
thing at which one must puU. The embarrassment, 
that is the revival of scepticism, which might produce 
an inconsistency shameful to exhibit and yet difficult 
to conceal, was safe enough to come later. Indeed 
at the risk of presenting our young man as too whim- 
sical a personage I may hint that some such sickly 
glow had even now begun to tinge one quarter of his 
inward horizon. 

I am afraid, moreover, that I have no better excuse 
for him than the one he had touched on in that 

230 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

momentous conversation with his mother which I 
have thought it useful to reproduce in full. He was 
conscious of a double nature ; there were two men in 
him, quite separate, whose leading features had Uttle 
in common and each of whom insisted on having an 
independent turn at hfe. Meanwhile then, if he was 
adequately aware that the bed of his moral existence 
would need a good deal of making over if he was to 
lie upon it without unseemly tossing, he was also 
alive to the propriety of not parading his incon- 
sistencies, not letting his unregulated passions become 
a spectacle to the vulgar. He had none of that wish 
to appear deep which is at the bottom of most forms 
of fatuity ; he was perfectly willing to pass for 
decently superficial ; he only aspired to be decently 
continuous. When you were not suitably shallow 
this presented difficulties ; but he would have assented 
to the proposition that you must be as subtle as you 
can and that a high use of subtlety is in consuming 
the smoke of your inner fire. The fire was the great 
thing, not the chimney. He had no view of hfe that 
counted out the need of learning ; it was teaching 
rather as to which he was conscious of no particular 
mission. He enjoyed life, enjoyed it immensely, and 
was ready to pursue it with patience through as many 
channels as possible. He was on his guard, however, 
against making an ass of himself, that is against not 
thinking out his experiments before trying them in 
pubhc. It was because, as yet, he hked life in 
general better than it was clear to him he hked 
particular possibilities that, on the occasion of a 
constituency's holding out a cordial hand to him 
while it extended another in a different direction, a 
certain bloom of boyhood that was on him had not 
paled at the idea of a match. 

He had risen to the fray as he had risen to matches 
at school, for his boyishness could still take a pleasure 

231 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

in an inconsiderate show of agility. He could meet 
electors and conciliate bores and compliment women 
and answer questions and roll off speeches and chaff 
adversaries — he could do these things because it 
was amusing and slightlj^ dangerous, Uke playing 
football or ascending an Alp, pastimes for which 
nature had conferred on him an aptitude not so very 
different in kind from a due volubihty on platforms. 
There were two voices to admonish him that all this 
was not really action at all, but only a pusillanimous 
imitation of it : one of them fitfully audible in the 
depths of his own spirit and the other speaking, in 
the equivocal accents of a very crabbed hand, from a 
letter of four pages by Gabriel Nash. However, Nick 
carried the imitation as far as possible, and the flood 
of sound floated him. What more could a working 
faith have done ? He had not broken with the axiom 
that in a case of doubt one should hold off, for this 
apphed to choice, and he had not at present the 
slightest pretension to choosing. He knew he was 
Hfted along, that what he was doing was not first- 
rate, that nothing was settled by it and that if there 
was a hard knot in his life it would only grow harder 
with keeping. Doing one's sum to-morrow instead 
of to-day doesn't make the sum easier, but at least 
makes to-day so. 

Sometimes in the course of the following fort- 
night it seemed to him he had gone in for Harsh 
because he was sure he should lose ; sometimes he 
foresaw that he should win precisely to punish him 
for having tried and for his want of candour ; and 
when presently he did win he was almost scared at 
his success. Then it appeared to him he had done 
something even worse than not choose — he had 
let others choose for him. The beauty of it was that 
they had chosen with only their own object in their 
eye, for what did they know about his strange alterna- 

232 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

t 

tive ? He was rattled about so for a fortnight — 
Julia taking care of this — that he had no time to 
think save when he tried to remember a quotation 
or an American story, and all his life became an over- 
flow of verbiage. Thought couldn't hear itself for 
the noise, which had to be pleasant and persuasive, 
had to hang more or less together, without its aid. 
Nick was surprised at the airs he could play, and 
often when, the last thing at night, he shut the 
door of his room, found himself privately exclaim- 
ing that he had had no idea he was such a mounte- 
bank. 

I must add that if this reflexion didn't occupy 
him long, and if no meditation, after his return from 
Paris, held him for many moments, there was a 
reason better even than that he was tired, that he 
was busy, that he appreciated the coincidence of the 
hit and the hurrah, the hurrah and the hit. That 
reason was simply Mrs. Dallow, who had suddenly 
become a still lai'ger fact in his consciousness than 
his having turned actively political. She was indeed 
his being so — in the sense that if the politics were his, 
how little soever, the activity was hers. She had | 

better ways of showing she was clever than merely 
saying clever things — which in general only prove 
at the most that one would be clever if one could. 
The accomplished fact itself was almost always the 
demonstration that Mrs. Dallow could ; and when 
Nick came to his senses after the proclamation of the 
victor and the drop of the uproar her figure was, of 
the whole violent dance of shadows, the only thing 
that came back, that stayed. She had been there 
at each of the moments, passing, repassing, return- 
ing, before him, beside him, behind him. She had 
made the business infinitely prettier than it would 
have been without her, added music and flowers 
and ices, a finer charm, converting it into a kind of 

233 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

heroic " function," the form of sport most danger- 
ous. It had been a garden-party, say, with one's hfe 
at stake from pressure of the crowd. The concluded 
affair had bequeathed him thus not only a seat in 
the House of Commons, but a perception of what 
may come of women in high embodiments and an 
abyss of intimacy with one woman in particular. 

She had wrapped him up in something, he didn't 
know what — a sense of facility, an overpowering 
fragrance — and they had moved together in an 
immense fraternity. There had been no love-making, 
no contact that was only personal, no vulgarity of 
flirtation : ihe hurry of the days and the sharpness 
with which they both tended to an outside object had 
made all that irrelevant. It was as if she had been 
too near for him to see her separate from himself ; 
but none the less, when he now drew breath and 
looked back, what had happened met his eyes as a 
composed picture — a picture of which the subject 
was inveterately Julia and her ponies : Julia wonder- 
fully fair and fine, waving her whip, cleaving the 
crowd, holding her head as if it had been a banner, 
smiling up into second-storey windows, carrjdng him 
beside her, carrying him to his doom. He had not 
reckoned at the time, in the few days, how much he 
had driven about with her ; but the image of it was 
there, in his consulted conscience, as well as in a 
personal glow not yet chilled : it looked large as it 
rose before him. The things his mother had said to 
him made a rich enough frame for it all, and the 
whole impression had that night kept him much 
awaker. 



234 



XV 

While, after leaving Mrs. Gresham, he was hesitat- 
ing which way to go and was on the point of haihng 
a gardener to ask if Mrs. Dallow had been seen, he 
noticed, as a spot of colour in an expanse of shrub- 
bery, a far-away parasol moving in the direction of 
the lake. He took his course toward it across the 
park, and as the bearer of the parasol strolled slowly it 
was not five minutes before he had joined her. He 
went to her soundlessly, on the grass — he had been 
whistling at first, but as he got nearer stopped — and 
it was not till he was at hand that she looked round. 
He had watched her go as if she were turning things 
over in her mind, while she brushed the smooth walks |jj 

and the clean turf with her dress, slowly made her 
parasol revolve on her shoulder and carried in the 
other hand a book which he perceived to be a monthly 
review. 

" I came out to get away," she said when he had 
begun to walk with her. 

" Away from me ? " 

" Ah that's impossible." Then she added : " The 
day's so very nice." 

" Lovely weather," Nick dropped. " You want to 
get away from Mrs. Gresham, I suppose." 

She had a pause. " From everything ! " 

" Well, I want to get away too." 

235 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" It has been such a racket. Listen to the dear 
birds." 

" Yes, our noise isn't so good as theirs," said Nick. 
" I feel as if I had been married and had shoes and 
rice thrown after me," he went on. " But not to you, 
Julia — nothing so good as that." 

JuHa made no reply ; she only turned her eyes on 
the ornamental water stretching aM^ay at their right. 
In a moment she exclaimed, " How nasty the lake 
looks ! " and Nick recognised in her tone a sign of 
that odd shyness — a perverse stiffness at a moment 
when she probably but wanted to be soft — which, 
taken in combination with her other qualities, was 
so far from being displeasing to him that it repre- 
sented her nearest approach to extreme charm. He 
was not shy now, for he considered this morning that 
he saw things very straight and in a sense altogether 
superior and deUghtful. This enabled him to be 
generously sorry for his companion — if he were the 
reason of her being in any degree uncomfortable, and 
yet left him to enjoy some of the motions, not in 
themselves without grace, by which her discomfort 
was revealed. He wouldn't insist on anything yet : 
so he observed that her standard in lakes was too 
high, and then talked a little about his mother and 
the girls, their having gone home, his not having 
seen them that morning. Lady Agnes's deep satisfac- 
tion in his victory, and the fact that she would be 
obHged to "do something " for the autumn — take a 
house or something or other. 

" I'll lend her a house," said Mrs. Dallow. 

" Oh Juha, Julia ! " Nick half groaned. 

But she paid no attention to his sound ; she only 
held up her review and said : " See what I've brought 
with me to read — Mr. Hoppus's article." 

" That's right ; then / shan't have to. You'll 
tell me about it." He uttered this without believing 

236 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

she had meant or wished to read the article, which 
was entitled " The Revision of the British Con- 
stitution," in spite of her having encumbered her- 
self with the stiff, fresh magazine. He was deeply 
aware she was not in want of such inward occupation 
as periodical literature could supply. They walked 
along and he added : " But is that what we're in for, 
reading Mr. Hoppus ? Is it the sort of thing con- 
stituents expect ? Or, even worse, pretending to 
have read him when one hasn't ? Oh what a tangled 
web we weave ! " 

" People are talking about it. One has to know. 
It's the article of the month." 

Nick looked at her askance. " You say things 
every now and then for which I could really kill you. 
' The article of the month,' for instance : I could kill 
you for that." 

" Well, kill me ! " Mrs. Dallow returned. 

" Let me carry your book," he went on irrelevantly. 
The hand in which she held it was on the side of her 
on which he was walking, and he put out his own 
hand to take it. But for Sk couple of minutes she 
forbore to give it up, so that they held it together, 
swinging it a little. Before she surrendered it he 
asked where she was going. 

" To the island," she answered. 

" Well, I'll go with you— and I'll kill you there." 

" The things I say are the right things," Julia 
declared. 

" It's just the right things that are wrong. It's 
because you're so poHtical," Nick too lightly ex- 
plained. " It's your horrible ambition. The woman 
who has a salon should have read the article of 
the month. See how one dreadful thing leads to 
another." 

" There are some things that lead to nothing," 
said Mrs. Dallow. 

237 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" No doubt — no doubt. And how are you going 
to get over to your island ? " 
" I don't know." 
" Isn't there a boat ? " 
" I don't know." 

Nick had paused to look round for the boat, but 
his hostess walked on without turning her head. 
" Can you row ? " he then asked. 

" Don't you know I can do everything ? " 
" Yes, to be sure. That's why I want to kill you. 
There's the boat." 

" Shall you drown me ? " she asked. 
" Oh let me perish with you ! " Nick answered 
with a sigh. The boat had been hidden from them 
by the bole of a great tree which rose from the grass 
at the water's edge. It was moored to a small place 
of embarkation and was large enough to hold as many 
persons as were likely to wish to visit at once the little 
temple in the middle of the lake, which Nick liked 
because it was absurd and which Mrs. Dallow had 
never had a particular esteem for. The lake, fed by 
a natural spring, was a liberal sheet of water, measured 
by the scale of park scenery ; and though its principal 
merit was that, taken at a distance, it gave a gleam 
of abstraction to the concrete verdure, doing the 
office of an open eye in a dull face, it could also be 
approached without derision on a sweet summer 
morning when it made a lapping sound and reflected 
candidly various things that were probably finer than 
itself — the sky, the great trees, the flight of birds. 
A man of taste, coming back from Rome a hundred 
years before, had caused a small ornamental structure 
to be raised, from artificial foundations, on its bosom, 
and had endeavoured to make this architectural 
pleasantry as nearly as possible a reminiscence of 
the small ruined rotunda which stands on the bank 
of the Tiber and is pronounced by ciceroni once sacred 

238 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

to Vesta. It was circular, roofed with old tiles, 
surrounded by white columns and considerably 
dilapidated. George Dallow had taken an interest 
in it — it reminded him not in the least of Rome, but 
of other things he liked — and had amused himself 
with restoring it. " Give me your hand— sit there 
and I'll ferry you," Nick said. 

Julia complied, placing herself opposite him in 
the boat ; but as he took up the paddles she declared 
that she preferred to remain on the water — there 
was too much malice prepense in the temple. He 
asked her what she meant by that, and she said it 
was ridiculous to withdraw to an island a few feet 
square on purpose to meditate. She had nothing to 
meditate about that required so much scenery and 
attitude. 

" On the contrary, it would be just to change the 
scene and the pose. It's what we have been doing 
for a week that's attitude ; and to be for half an 
hour where nobody's looking and one hasn't to keep 
it up is just what I wanted to put in an idle irre- 
sponsible day for. I'm not keeping it up now — I 
suppose you've noticed," Nick went on as they floated 
and he scarcely dipped the oars. 

" I don't understand you " — and Julia leaned back 
in the boat. 

He gave no further explanation than to ask in a 
minute : " Have you people to dinner to-night ? " 

" I believe there are three or four, but I'll put 
them off if you like." 

" Must you always live in public, Julia ? " he 
continued. 

She looked at him a moment and he could see how 
she coloured. " We'll go home — I'll put them off." 

" Ah no, don't go home ; it's too jolly here. Let 
them come, let them come, poor wretches ! " 

" How little you know me," Julia presently broke 

239 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

out, " when, ever so many times, I've lived here for 
months without a creature ! " 

" Except Mrs. Gresham, I suppose." 

" I have had to have the house going, I admit." 

" You're perfect, you're admirable, and I don't 
criticise you." 

" I don't understand you ! " she tossed back. 

" That only adds to the generosity of what you've 
done for me," Nick returned, beginning to pull faster. 
He bent over the oars and sent the boat forv^^ard, 
keeping this up for a succession of minutes during 
which they both remained silent. His companion, 
in her place, motionless, reclining — the seat in the 
stern was most comfortable — looked only at the water, 
the sky, the trees. At last he headed for the little 
temple, saying first, however, " Shan't we visit the 
ruin ? " 

" If you like. I don't mind seeing how they keep 
it." 

They reached the white steps leading up to it. 
He held the bo^t and his companion got out ; then, 
when he had made it fast, they mounted together to 
the open door. " They keep the place very well," 
Nick said, looking round. "It's a capital place to 
give up everything in." 

" It might do at least for you to explain what you 
mean." And Julia sat down. 

" I mean to pretend for half an hour that I don't 
represent the burgesses of Harsh. It's charming — it's 
very delicate work. Surely it has been retouched." 

The interior of the pavilion, lighted by windows 
which the circle of columns was supposed outside 
and at a distance to conceal, had a vaulted ceiling 
and was occupied by a few pieces of last-century 
furniture, spare and faded, of which the colours 
matched with the decoration of the walls. These and 
the ceiling, tinted and not exempt from indications 

240 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

of damp, were covered with fine mouldings and 
medallions. It all made a very elegant little tea- 
house, the mistress of which sat on the edge of a sofa 
rolling her parasol and remarking, "You ought to 
read Mr. Hoppus's article to me." 

" Why, is this your salon ? " Nick smiled. 

" What makes you always talk of that ? My 
salon's an invention of your own." 

" But isn't it the idea you're most working 
for ? " 

Suddenly, nervously, she put up her parasol and 
sat under it as if not quite sensible of what she was 
doing. " How much you know me ! I'm not ' work- 
ing ' for anything — that you'll ever guess." 

Nick wandered about the room and looked at 
various things it contained — the odd volumes on 
the tables, the bits of quaint china on the shelves. 
" They do keep it very well. You've got charming 
things." 

" They're supposed to come over every day and 
look after them." 

" They must come over in force." 

" Oh no one knows." 

" It's spick and span. How well you have every- 
thing done ! " 

" I think you've some reason to say so," said Mrs. 
Dallow. Her parasol was now down and she was 
again rolling it tight. 

" But you're right about my not knowing you. 
Why were you so ready to do so much for me ? " 

He stopped in front of her and she looked up at 
him. Her eyes rested long on his own ; then she 
broke out : " Why do you hate me so ? " 

" Was it because you hke me personally ? " Nick 
pursued as if he hadn't heard her. " You may 
think that an odd or positively an odious question ; 
but isn't it natural, my wanting to know ? " 
I 241 R 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Oh if you don't know ! " Julia quite desperately 
sighed. 

" It's a question of being sure." 

" Well then if you're not sure ! " 

" Was it done for me as a friend, as a man ? " 

" You're not a man — you're a child," his hostess 
declared with a face that was cold, though she had 
been smiling the moment before. 

" After all I was a good candidate," Nick went on. 

" What do I care for candidates ? " 

" You're the most delightful woman, Julia," he 
said as he sat down beside her, " and I can't imagine 
what you mean by my hating you." 

" If you haven't discovered that I like j^'ou, you 
might as well." 

" Might as well discover it ? " 

She was grave — he had never seen her so pale 
and never so beautiful. She had stopped rolling 
her parasol ; her hands were folded in her lap and 
her eyes bent on them. Nick sat looking at them 
as well — a trifle awkwardly. " Might as well have 
hated me," she said. 

" We've got on so beautifully together all these 
days : why shouldn't we get on as well for ever and 
ever ? " he brought out. She made no answer, and 
suddenly he said : " Ah Julia, I don't know what 
you've done to me, but you've done it. You've 
done it by strange ways, but it will serve. Yes, I 
hate you," he added in a different tone and with his 
face all nearer. 

" Dear Nick, dear Nick ! " she began. But 

she stopped, feeling his nearness and its intensity, 
a nearness now so great that his arm was round her, 
that he was really in possession of her. She closed 
her eyes but heard him ask again, " Why shouldn't it 
be for ever, for ever ? " in a voice that had for her 
ear a vibration none had ever had. 

2/12 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" You've done it, you've done it," Nick repeated. 

" What do you want of me ? " she appealed. 

" To stay with me — this way — always." 

" Ah not this way," she answered softly, but as if 
in pain and making an effort, with a certain force, 
to detach herself. 

" This way then — or this ! " He took such press- 
ing advantage of her that he had kissed her with 
repetition. She rose while he insisted, but he held 
her yet,' and as he did so his tenderness turned to 
beautiful words. " If you'll marry me, why shouldn't 
it be so simple, so right and good ? " He drew her 
closer again, too close for her to answer. But her 
struggle ceased and she rested on him a minute ; she 
buried her face in his breast. 

" You're hard, and it's cruel ! " she then exclaimed, 
shaking herself free. 

" Hard— cruel ? " 

" You do it with so little ! " And with this, 
unexpectedly to Nick, Julia burst straight into tears. 
Before he could stop her she was at the door of the 
pavilion as if she wished to get immediately away. 
There, however, he stayed her, bending over her 
while she sobbed, unspeakably gentle with her. 

" So little ? It's with everything — with every- 
thing I have." 

" I've done it, you say ? What do you accuse me 
of doing ? " Her tears were already over. 

" Of making me yours ; of being so precious, 
Julia, so exactly what a man wants, as it seems to 
me. I didn't know you could," he went on, smiling 
down at her. " I didn't— no, I didn't." 

"It's what I say — that you've always hated 
me. 

" I'll make it up to you ! " he laughed. 

She leaned on the doorway with her forehead 
against the lintel. " You don't even deny it." 

243 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Contradict you now ? I'll admit it, though it's 
rubbish, on purpose to live it down." 

" It doesn't matter," she said slowly ; " for how- 
ever much you might have liked me you'd never 
have done so half as much as I've cared for you." 

" Oh I'm so poor ! " Nick murmured cheerfully. 

With her eyes looking at him as in a new light 
she slowly shook her head. Then she declared : 
" You never can live it down." 

"I like that ! Haven't I asked you to marry me ? 
When did you ever ask me ? " 

" Every day of my life ! As I say, it's hard — for 
a proud woman." 

" Yes, you're too proud even to answer me." 

" We must think of it, we must talk of it." 

" Think of it ? I've thought of it ever so much." 

" I mean together. There are many things in 
such a question." 

" The principal thing is beautifully to give me your 
word." 

She looked at him afresh all strangely ; then she 
threw off : "I wish I didn't adore you ! " She went 
straight down the steps. 

" You don't adore me at all^ you know, if you leave 
me now. Why do you go ? It's so charming here 
and we're so delightfully alone." 

" Untie the boat ; we'll go on the water," Julia said. 

Nick was at the top of the steps, looking down at 
her. " Ah stay a little — do stay ! " he pleaded. 

"I'll get in myself, I'll pull off," she simply 
answered. 

At this he came down and bent a little to undo the 
rope. He was close to her and as he raised his head 
he felt it caught ; she had seized it in her hands and 
she pressed her lips, as he had never felt lips pressed, 
to the first place they encountered. The next instant 
she was in the boat. 

244 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

This time he dipped the oars very slowly indeed ; 
and, while for a period that was longer than it seemed 
to them they floated vaguely, they mainly sat and 
glowed at each other as if everything had been 
settled. There were reasons enough why Nick should 
be happy ; but it is a singular fact that the leading 
one was the sense of his having escaped a great and 
ugly mistake. The final result of his mother's appeal 
to him the day before had been the idea that he must 
act with unimpeachable honour. He was capable 
of taking it as an assurance that Julia had placed 
him under an obligation a gentleman could regard 
but in one way. If she herself had understood it so, 
putting the vision, or at any rate the appreciation, 
of a closer tie into everything she had done for him, 
the case was conspicuously simple and his course 
unmistakably plain. That is why he had been gay 
when he came out of the house to look for her : he 
could be gay when his course was plain. He could 
be all the gayer, naturally, I must add, that, in 
turning things over as he had done half the night, 
what he had turned up oftenest was the recognition 
that Julia now had a new personal power with him. 
It was not for nothing that she had thrown herself 
personally into his life. She had by her act made 
him live twice as intensely, and such an office, such 
a service, if a man had accepted and deeply tasted 
it, was certainly a thing to put him on his honour. 
He took it as distinct that there was nothing he could 
do in preference that wouldn't be spoiled for him 
by any deflexion from that point. His mother had 
made him uncomfortable by bringing it so heavily 
up that JuHa was in love with him — he didn't like 
in general to be told such things ; but the responsi- 
bility seemed easier to carry and he was less shy 
about it when once he was away from other eyes, 
with only Juha's own to express that truth and with 

245 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

indifferent nature all about. Besides, what discovery 
had he made this morning but that he also was in 
love ? 

" You've got to be a very great man, you know," 
she said to him in the middle of the lake. " I don't 
know what you mean about my salon, but I am 
ambitious." 

" We must look at life in a large, bold way," he 
concurred while he rested his oars. 

" That's what I mean. If I didn't think you 
could I wouldn't look at you." 

" I could what ? " 

" Do everything you ought — everything I imagine, 
I dream of. You are fclever : you can never make 
me believe the contrary after your speech on Tuesday. 
Don't speak to me ! I've seen, I've heard, and I 
know what's in you. I shall hold you to it. You're 
everything you pretend not to be." 

Nick looked at the water while she talked. " Will 
it always be so amusing ? " he asked. 

" Will what always be ? " 

" Why my career." 

" Shan't I make it so ? " 

" Then it will be yours — it won't be mine," said 
Nick. 

" Ah don't say that — don't make me out that sort 
of woman ! If they should say it's me I'd drown 
myself." 

" If they should say what's you ? " 

" Why your getting on. If they should say I 
push you and do things for you. Things I mean 
that you can't do yourself." 

" Well, won't you do them ? It's just what I 
count on." 

" Don't be dreadful," Juha said. " It would be 
loathsome if I were thought the cleverest. That's 
not the sort of man I want to marry." 

246 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

"Oh I shall make you work, my dear ! " 

" Ah that ^! " she sounded in a tone that might 

come back to a man after years. 

" You'll do the great thing, you'll make my life 
the best life," Nick brought out as if he had been 
touched to deep conviction. " I daresay that will 
keep me in heart." 

" In heart ? Why shouldn't you be in heart ? " 
And her eyes, lingering on him, searching him, seemed 
to question him still more than her lips. 

" Oh it will be all right ! " he made answer. 

" You'll like success as well as any one else. 
Don't tell me — you're not so ethereal ! " 

" Yes, I shall like success." 

" So shall I ! And of course I'm glad you'll now 
be able to do things," Julia went on. "I'm glad 
you'll have things. I'm glad I'm not poor." 

" Ah don't speak of that," Nick murmured. 
" Only be nice to my mother. We shall make her 
supremely happy." 

" It wouldn't be for your mother I'd do it — yet 
I'm glad I like your people," Mrs. Dallow rectified. 
" Leave them to me ! " 

" You're generous — you're noble," he stammered. 

" Your mother must live at Broad wood ; she must 
have it for life. It's not at all bad." 

" Ah Julia," her companion repUed, " it's weU I 
love you ! " 

" Why shouldn't you ? " she laughed ; and after 
this no more was said between them till the boat 
touched shore. When she had got out she recalled 
that it was time for luncheon ; but they took no 
action in consequence, strolling in a direction which 
was not that of the house. There was a vista that 
drew them on, a grassy path skirting the foundations 
of scattered beeches and leading to a stile from which 
the charmed wanderer might drop into another 

247 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

division of Mrs. Dallow's property. She said some- 
thing about their going as far as the stile, then the 

next instant exclaimed: "How stupid of you 

you've forgotten Mr, Hoppus ! " 

Nick wondered. " We left him in the temple of 
Vesta. DarHng, I had other things to think of there." 

" I'll send for him," said Julia. 

" Lord, can you think of him now ? " he asked. 

" Of course I can — more than ever." 

" Shall we go back for him ? "—and he pulled up. 

She made no direct answer, but continued to walk, 
saying they would go as far as the stile. " Of course 
I know you're fearfully vague," she presently resumed. 

" I wasn't vague at all. But you were in such 
a hurry to get away." 

" It doesn't signify. I've another at home." 

"Another summer-house?" he more lightly 
suggested. 

" A copy of Mr. Hoppus." 

" Mercy, how you go in for him ! Fancy having 
two ! " 

"He sent me the number of the magazine, and 
the other's the one that comes every month.' ' 

" Every month ; I see "—but his manner justified 
considerably her charge of vagueness. They had 
reached the stile and he leaned over it, looking at 
a great mild meadow and at the browsing beasts in 
the distance. 

" Did you suppose they come every day ? " Juha 
went on. 

" Dear no, thank God ! " They remained there 
a Uttle ; he continued to look at the animals and 
before long added : " Dehghtful English pastoral 
scene. Why do they say it won't paint ? " 

" Who says it won't ? " 

" I don't know — some of them. It will in France ; 
but somehow it. won't here." 

248 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" What are you talking about ? " Mrs. Dallow 
demanded. 

He appeared unable to satisfy her on this point ; 
instead of answering her directly he at any rate said : 
" Is Broadwood very charming ? " 

" Have you never been there ? It shows how 
you've treated me. We used to go there in August. 
George had ideas about it," she added. She had never 
affected not to speak of her late husband, especially 
with Nick, whose kinsman he had in a manner been 
and who had liked him better than some others did. 

" George had ideas about a great many things." 

Yet she appeared conscious it would be rather odd 
on such an occasion to take this up. It was even 
odd in Nick to have said it. " Broad wood's just 
right," she returned at last. " It's neither too small 
nor too big, and it takes care of itself. There's 
nothing to be done : you can't spend a penny." 

" And don't you want to use it ? " 

" We can go and stay with them," said JuUa. 

" They'U think I bring them an angel." And Nick 
covered her white hand, which was resting on the 
stile, with his own large one. 

" As they regard you yourself as an angel they'll 
take it as natural of you to associate with your 
kind." 

" Oh my kind ! " he quite wailed, looking at the 
cows. 

But his very extravagance perhaps saved it, and 
she turned away from him as if starting homeward, 
while he began to retrace his steps with her. 
Suddenly she said : " What did you mean that 
night in Paris ? " 

" That night ?" 

" Wlien you came to the hotel with me after we 
had all dined at that place with Peter." 

" What did I mean ? " 

249 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" About your caring so much for the fine arts. 
You seemed to want to frighten me." 

" Why should you have been frightened ? I can't 
imagine what I had in my head : not now." 

" You are vague," said Juha with a httle flush. 

" Not about the great thing." 

"The great thing? " 

" That I owe you everything an honest man has 
to offer. How can I care about the fine arts now ? " 

She stopped with lighted eyes on him. "Is it 
because you think you owe it — " and she paused, 
still with the heightened colour in her cheek, then 
went on — " that you've spoken to me as you did 
there ? " She tossed her head toward the lake. 

" I think I spoke to you because I couldn't help it." 

" You are vague ! " And she walked on again. 

" You affect me differently from any other woman." 

" Oh other women— — - ! Why shouldn't you care 
about the fine arts now ? " she added. 

" There'll be no time. All my days and my years 
will be none too much for what you expect of me." 

" I don't expect you to give up anything. I only 
expect you to do more." 

" To do more I must do less. I've no talent." 

" No talent ? " 

" I mean for painting." 

Julia pulled up again. " That's odious ! You 
have — you must." 

He burst out laughing. " You're altogether de- 
lightful. But how little you know about it — about 
the honourable practice of any art ! " 

" What do you call practice ? You'll have all 
our things — you'll Uve in the midst of them." 

" Certainly I shall enjoy looking at them, being so 
near them." 

" Don't say I've taken you away then." 

" Taken me away ? " 

250 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" From the love of art. I like them myself now, 
poor George's treasures. I didn't of old so much, 
because it seemed to me he made too much of them — 
he was always talking." 

" Well, I won't always talk," said Nick. 

" You may do as you like — they're yours." 

" Give them to the nation," Nick went on, 

" I Hke that ! When we've done with them." 

" We shall have done with them when your Van- 
dykes and Moronis have cured me of the delusion that I 
may be of their family. Surely that won't take long." 

" You shall paint me," said Juha. 

" Never, never, never ! " He spoke in a tone that 
made his companion stare — then seemed slightly 
embarrassed at this result of his emphasis. To re- 
lieve himself he said, as they had come back to the 
place beside the lake where the boat was moored, 
" Shan't we reaUy go and fetch Mr. Hoppus ? " 

She hesitated. " You may go ; I won't, please." 

" That's not what I want." 

" Obhge me by going. I'll wait here." With 
which she sat down on the bench attached to the 
httle landing. 

Nick, at this, got into the boat and put off ; he 
smiled at her as she sat there watching him. He 
made his short journey, disembarked and went into 
the pavilion ; but when he came out with the object 
of his errand he saw she had quitted her station, had 
returned to the house without him. He rowed back 
quickly, sprang ashore and followed her with long 
steps. Apparently she had gone fast ; she had ahnost 
reached the door when he overtook her. 

" Why did you basely desert me ? " he asked, 
tenderly stopping her there. 

" I don't know. Because I'm so happy." 

" May I tell mother then ? " 

" You may tell her she shall have Broad wood." 

251 



XVI 

He lost no time in going down to see Mr. Carteret, 
to whom he had written immediately after the elec- 
tion and who had answered him in twelve revised 
pages of historical parallel. He used often to envy 
Mr. Carteret's leisure, a sense of which came to him 
now afresh, in the summer evening, as he walked up 
the hill toward the quiet house where enjoyment had 
ever been mingled for him with a vague oppression. 
He was a Uttle boy again, under Mr. Carteret's roof 
— a little boy on whom it had been duly impressed 
that in the wide, plain, peaceful rooms he was not to 
" touch." When he paid a visit to his father's old 
friend there were in fact many things — many topics 
— from which he instinctively kept his hands. Even 
Mr. Chayter, the immemorial blank butler, who was 
so like his master that he might have been a twin 
brother, helped to remind him that he must be good. 
Mr. Carteret seemed to Nick a very grave person, but 
he had the sense that Chayter thought him rather 
frivolous. 

Our young man always came on foot from the 
station, leaving his portmanteau to be carried : the 
direct way was steep and he Uked the slow approach, 
which gave him a chance to look about the place and 
smell the new-mown hay. At this season the air was 
full of it — the fields were so near that it was in the 
clean, still streets. Nick would never have thought 

252 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

of rattling up to Mr. Carteret's door, which had on 
an old brass plate the proprietor's name, as if he had 
been the principal surgeon. The house was in the 
high part, and the neat roofs of other houses, lower 
down the hill, made an immediate prospect for it, 
scarcely counting, however, since the green country 
was just below these, familiar and interpenetrating, 
in the shape of small but thick-tufted gardens. Free 
garden-growths flourished in all the intervals, but 
the only disorder of the place was that there were 
sometimes oats on the pavements. A crooked lane, 
with postern doors and cobblestones, opened near 
Mr. Carteret's house and wandered toward the old 
abbey ; for the abbey was the secondary fact of 
Beauclere — it came after Mr. Carteret. Mr. Carteret 
sometimes went away and the abbey never did ; yet 
somehow what was most of the essence of ihe place 
was that it could boast of the resident in the squarest 
of the square red houses, the one with the finest of 
the arched hall-windows, in three divisions, over the 
widest of the last-century doorways. You saw the 
great church from the doorstep, beyond gardens of 
course, and in the stillness you could hear the flutter 
of the birds that circled round its huge short towers. 
The towers had been finished only as time finishes 
things, by lending assurances to their lapses. There 
is something right in old monuments that have been 
wrong for centuries : some such moral as that was 
usually in Nick's mind as an emanation of Beau- 
clere when he saw the grand fine of the roof ride the 
sky and draw out its length. 

When the door with the brass plate was opened 
and Mr. Chayter appeared in the middle distance — 
he always advanced just to the same spot, as a prime 
minister receives an ambassador — Nick felt anew 
that he would be wonderfully like Mr. Carteret if 
he had had an expression. He denied himself this 

253 



' THE TRAGIC MUSE 

freedom, never giving a sign of recognition, often as 
the young man had been at the house. He was most 
attentive to the visitor's wants, but apparently feared 
that if he allowed a familiarity it might go too far. 
There was always the same question to be asked — 
had Mr. Carteret finished his nap ? He usually had 
not finished it, and this left Nick what he liked — 
time to smoke a cigarette in the garden or even to 
take before dinner a turn about the place. He 
observed now, every time he came, that Mr. Carteret's 
nap lasted a little longer. There was each year a little 
more strength to be gathered for the ceremony of 
dinner : this was the principal symptom — almost the 
only one — that the clear-cheeked old gentleman gave 
of not being so fresh as of yore. He was still wonder- 
ful for his age. To-day he was particularly careful : 
Chayter went so far as to mention to Nick that four 
gentlemen were expected to dinner- — an exuber- 
ance perhaps partly explained by the circumstance 
that Lord Bottomley was one of them. 

The prospect of Lord Bottomley was somehow not 
stirring ; it only made the young man say to himself 
with a quick, thin sigh, " This time I am in for it ! " 
And he immediately had the unpolitical sense again 
that there was nothing so pleasant as the way the 
quiet bachelor house had its best rooms on the big 
garden, which seemed to advance into them through 
their wide windows and ruralise their dulness. 

" I expect it will be a lateish eight, sir," said Mr. 
Chayter, superintending in the library the produc- 
tion of tea on a large scale. Everything at Mr. 
Carteret's seemed to Nick on a larger scale than 
anywhere else — the tea-cups, the knives and forks, 
the door-handles, the chair-backs, the legs of mutton, 
the candles, and the lumps of coal : they represented 
and apparently exhausted the master's sense of 
pleasing effect, for the house was not otherwise 

254 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

decorated. Nick thought it really hideous, but he was 
capa.ble at any time of extracting a degree of amuse- 
ment from anything strongly characteristic, and Mr. 
Carteret's interior expressed a whole view of life. 
Our young man was generous enough to find in it a 
hundred instructive intimations even while it came 
over him — as it always did at Beauclere — that this 
was the view he himself was expected to take. No- 
where were the boiled eggs at breakfast so big or in 
such big receptacles ; his own shoes, arranged in his 
room, looked to him vaster there than at home. 
He went out into the garden and remembered what 
enormous strawberries they should have for dinner. 
In the house was a great deal of Landseer, of oilcloth, 
of woodwork painted and " grained." 

Finding there would be time before the evening 
meal or before Mr. Carteret was likely to see him he 
quitted the house and took a stroll toward the abbey. 
It covered acres of ground on the summit of the hill, 
and there were aspects in which its vast bulk reminded 
him of the ark left high and dry upon Ararat. It was 
the image at least of a great wreck, of the indestruc- 
tible vessel of a faith, washed up there by a storm 
centuries before. The injury of time added to this 
appearance — the infirmities round which, as he 
knew, the battle of restoration had begun to be fought. 
The cry had been raised to save the splendid pile, 
and the counter-cry by the purists, the sentimentalists, 
whatever they were, to save it from being saved. 
They were all exchanging compliments in the morning 
papers. 

Nick sauntered about the church — it took a good 
while ; he leaned against low things and looked up 
at it while he smoked another cigarette. It struck 
him as a great pity such a pile should be touched : so 
much of the past was buried there that it was like 
desecrating, like digging up a grave. Since the years 

255 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

were letting it down so gently why jostle the elbow 
of slow-fingering time ? The fading afternoon was 
exquisitely pure ; the place was empty ; he heard 
nothing but the cries of several children, which 
sounded sweet, who were playing on the flatness of 
the very old tombs. He knew this would inevitably 
be one of the topics at dinner, the restoration of the 
abbey ; it would give rise to a considerable deal 
of orderly debate. Lord Bottornley, oddly enough, 
would probably oppose the expensive project, but on 
grounds that would be characteristic of him even if 
the attitude were not. Nick's nerves always knew on 
this spot what it was to be soothed ; but he shifted 
his position with a shght impatience as the vision 
came over him of Lord Bottomley's treating a ques- 
tion of esthetics. It was enough to rnake one want 
to take the other side, the idea of having the same 
taste as his lordship : one would have it for such 
different reasons. 

Dear Mr. Carteret would be deliberate and fair 
all round and would, Hke his noble friend, exhibit 
much more architectural knowledge than he, Nick, 
possessed : which would not make it a whit less 
droll to our young man that an artistic idea, so Httle 
really assimilated, should be broached at that table 
and in that air. It would remain so outside of their 
minds and their minds would remain so outside of it. 
It would be dropped at last, however, after half an 
hour's gentle worrying, and the conversation would 
inchne itself to pubhc affairs. Mr. Carteret would 
find his natural level — the production of anecdote 
in regard to the formation of early ministries. He 
knew more than any one else about the personages 
of whom certain cabinets would have consisted if 
they had not consisted of others. His favourite 
exercise was to illustrate how different everything 
might have been from what it was, and how the reason 

256 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

of the difference had always been somebody's in- 
abihty to " see his way " to accept the view of some- 
body else — a view usually at the time discussed in 
strict confidence with Mr. Carteret, who surrounded 
his actual violation of that confidence thirty years 
later with many precautions against scandal. In this 
retrospective vein, at the head of his table, the old 
gentleman enjoyed a hearing, or at any rate com- 
manded a silence, often intense. Every one left it 
to some one else to ask another question ; and when 
by chance some one else did so every one was struck 
with admiration at any one's being able to say any- 
thing. Nick knew the moment when he himself would 
take a glass of a particular port and, surreptitiously 
looking at his watch, perceive it was ten o'clock. 
That timepiece might as well mark 1830. 

All this would be a part of the suggestion of leisure 
that invariably descended upon him at Beauclere — 
the image of a sloping shore where the tide of time 
broke with a ripple too faint to be a warning. But 
there was another admonition almost equally sure 
to descend upon his spirit during a stroll in a summer 
hour about the grand abbey ; to sink into it as the 
light lingered on the rough red walls and the local 
accent of the children sounded soft in the churchyard. 
It was simply the sense of England — a sort of appre- 
hended revelation of his country. The dim annals of 
the place were sensibly, heavily in the air — founda- 
tions bafflingly early, a great monastic life, wars of 
the Roses, with battles and blood in the streets, and 
then the long quietude of the respectable centuries, 
all corn-fields and magistrates and vicars — and these 
things were connected with an emotion that arose 
from the green country, the rich land so infinitely 
lived in, and laid on him a hand that was too ghostly 
to press and yet somehow too urgent to be light. It 
produced a throb he couldn't have spoken of, it was 
I 257 S 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

SO deep, and that was half imagination and half 
responsibility. These impressions melted together 
and made a general appeal, of which, with his new 
honours as a legislator, he was the sentient subject. 
If he had a love for that particular scene of life 
mightn't it have a love for him and expect something 
of him ? What fate could be so high as to grow old 
in a national affection ? What a fine sort of reci- 
procity, making mere soreness of all the balms of 
indifference ! 

The great church was still open and he turned into 
it and wandered a little in the twilight that had 
gathered earlier there. The whole structure, with its 
immensity of height and distance, seemed to rest on 
tremendous facts — facts of achievement and endur- 
ance — and the huge Norman pillars to loom through 
the dimness like the ghosts of heroes. Nick was more 
struck with its thick earthly than with its fine spiritual 
reference, and he felt the oppression of his conscience 
as he walked slowly about. It was in his mind that 
nothing in life was really clear, all things were mingled 
and charged, and that patriotism might be an uplift- 
ing passion even if it had to allow for Lord Bottomley 
and for Mr. Carteret's blindness on certain sides. He 
presently noticed that half-past seven was about to 
strike, and as he went back to his old friend's he 
couldn't have said if he walked in gladness or in 
gloom. 

" Mr. Carteret will be in the drawing-room at a 
quarter to eight, sir," Chayter mentioned, and Nick 
as he went to dress asked himself what was the use of 
being a member of Parliament if one was still sensitive 
to an intimation on the part of such a functionary 
that one ought already to have begun that business. 
Chayter's M'ords but meant that Mr. Carteret would 
expect to have a little comfortable conversation with 
him before dinner. Nick's usual rapidity in dressing 

258 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

was, however, quite adequate to the occasion, so that 
his host had not appeared when he went down. 
There were flowers in the unfeminine saloon, which 
contained several paintings in addition to the engrav- 
i ngs of pictures of animals ; but nothing could prevent 
its reminding Nick of a comfortable committee-room. 

Mr. Carteret presently came in with his gold- 
headed stick, a laugh like a series of little warning 
coughs and the air of embarrassment that our young 
man always perceived in him at first. He was almost 
eighty but was still shy — he laughed a great deal, 
faintly and vaguely, at nothing, as if to make up for 
the seriousness with which he took some jokes. He 
always began by looking away from his interlocutor, 
and it was only little by little that his eyes came 
round ; after which their limpid and benevolent blue 
made you wonder why they should ever be circum- 
spect. He was clean-shaven and had a long upper 
lip. When he had seated himself he talked of 
" majorities " and showed a disposition to converse 
on the general subject of the fluctuation of Liberal 
gains. He had an extraordinary memory for facts 
of this sort, and could mention the figures relating to 
the returns from innumerable places in particular 
years. To many of these facts he attached great 
importance, in his simple, kindly, presupposing way ; 
correcting himself five minutes later if he had said 
that in 1857 some one had had 6014 instead of 6004. 

Nick always felt a great hypocrite as he listened to 
him, in spite of the old man's courtesy — a thing so 
charming in itself that it would have been grossness 
to speak of him as a bore. The difficulty was that he 
took for granted all kinds of positive assent, and 
Nick, in such company, found himself steeped in an 
element of tacit pledges which constituted the very 
medium of intercourse and yet made him draw his 
breath a little in pain when for a moment he measured 

259 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

them. There would have been no hypocrisy at all if 
he could have regarded Mr. Carteret as a mere sweet 
spectacle, the last or almost the last illustration of a 
departing tradition of manners. But he represented 
something more than manners ; he represented what 
he believed to be morals and ideas, ideas as regards 
which he took your personal deference — not dis- 
covering how natural that was — for participation. 
Nick hked to think that his father, though ten years 
younger, had found it congruous to make his best 
friend of the owner of so nice a nature : it gave a 
softness to his feeling for that memory to be reminded 
that Sir Nicholas had been of the same general type — 
a type so pure, so disinterested, so concerned for the 
public good. Just so it endeared Mr. Carteret to him 
to perceive that he considered his father had done a 
definite work, prematurely interrupted, which had 
been an absolute benefit to the people of England. 
The oddity was, however, that though both Mr. 
Carteret's aspect and his appreciation were still so 
fresh this relation of his to his late distinguished 
friend made the latter appear to Nick even more 
irrecoverably dead. The good old man had almost 
a vocabulary of his own, made up of old-fashioned 
political phrases and quite untainted with the new 
terms, mostly borrowed from America ; indeed his 
language and his tone made those of almost any one 
who might be talking with him sound by contrast 
rather American. He was, at least nowadays, never 
severe nor denunciatory ; but sometimes in telling an 
anecdote he dropped such an expression as " the 
rascal said to me " or such an epithet as " the vulgar 
dog." 

Nick was always struck with the rare simplicity — 
it came out in his countenance — of one who had lived 
so long and seen so much of affairs that draw forth 
the passions and perversities of men. It often made 

260 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

him say to himself that Mr. Carteret must have had 
many odd parts to have been able to achieve with his 
means so many things requiring cleverness. It was as 
if experience, though coming to him in abundance, 
had dealt with him so clean-handedly as to leave no 
stain, and had moreover never provoked him to any 
general reflexion. He had never proceeded in any 
ironic way from the particular to the general ; cer- 
tainly he had never made a reflexion upon anything 
so unparliamentary as Life. He would have ques- 
tioned the taste of such an extravagance and if he 
had encountered it on the part of another have 
regarded it as an imported foreign toy with the uses 
of which he was unacquainted. Life, for him, was a 
purely practical function, not a question of more or 
less showy phrasing. It must be added that he had 
to Nick's perception his variations — his back windows 
opening into grounds more private. That was visible 
from the way his eye grew cold and his whole polite 
face rather austere when he listened to something he 
didn't agree with or perhaps even understand ; as if 
his modesty didn't in strictness forbid the suspicion 
that a thing he didn't understand would have a prob- 
ability against it. At such times there was something 
rather deadly in the silence in which he simply waited 
with a lapse in his face, not helping his interlocutor 
out. Nick would have been very sorry to attempt to 
communicate to him a matter he wouldn't be likely 
to understand. This cut off of course a multitude of 
subjects. 

The evening passed exactly as he had foreseen, 
even to the markedly prompt dispersal of the guests, 
two of whom were " local " men, earnest and dis- 
tinct, though not particularly distinguished. The 
third was a young, slim, uninitiated gentleman whom 
Lord Bottomley brought with him and concerning 
whom Nick was informed beforehand that he was 

261 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

engaged to be married to the Honourable Jane, his 
lordship's second daughter. There were recurrent 
allusions to Nick's victory, as to which he had the 
fear that he might appear to exhibit less interest in 
it than the company did. He took energetic pre- 
cautions against this and felt repeatedly a little 
spent with them, for the subject always came up 
once more. Yet it was not as his but as theirs that 
they liked the triumph. Mr. Carteret took leave of 
him for the night directly after the other guests had 
gone, using at this moment the words he had often 
used before : 

" You may sit up to any hour you like. I only 
ask that you don't read in bed." 



262 



XVII 

Nick's little visit was to terminate immediately after 
luncheon the following day : much as the old man 
enjoyed his being there he wouldn't have dreamed of 
asking for more of his time now that it had such 
great public uses. He liked infinitely better that his 
young friend should be occupied with parliamentary 
work than only occupied in talking it over with him. 
Talking it over, however, was the next best thing, as 
on the morrow, after breakfast, Mr. Carteret showed 
Nick he considered. They sat in the garden, the 
morning being warm, and the old man had a table 
beside him covered with the letters and newspapers 
the post had poured forth. He was proud of his 
correspondence, which was altogether on public 
affairs, and proud in a manner of the fact that he now 
dictated almost everything. That had more in it of 
the statesman in retirement, a character indeed not 
consciously assumed by Mr. Carteret, but always 
tacitly attributed to him by Nick, who took it rather 
from the pictorial point of view — remembering on 
each occasion only afterwards that though he was in 
retirement he had not exactly been a statesman. A 
young man, a very sharp, handy young man, came 
every morning at ten o'clock and wrote for him till 
luncheon. The young man had a holiday to-day in 
honour of Nick's visit — a fact the mention of which 
led Nick to make some not particularly sincere speech 

263 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

about his being ready to write anything if Mr. Carteret 
were at all pressed. 

" Ah but your own budget — what will become 
of that ? " the old gentleman objected, glancing at 
Nick's pockets as if rather surprised not to see them 
stuffed out with documents in split envelopes. His 
visitor had to confess that he had not directed his 
letters to meet him at Beauclere : he should find them 
in town that afternoon. This led to a little homily 
from Mr. Carteret which made him feel quite guilty ; 
there was such an implication of neglected duty in the 
way the old man said, " You won't do them justice — 
you won't do them justice." He talked for ten 
minutes, in his rich, simple, urbane way, about the 
fatal consequences of getting behind. It was his 
favourite doctrine that one should always be a little 
before, and his own eminently regular respiration 
seemed to illustrate the idea. A man was certainly 
before who had so much in his rear. 

This led to the bestowal of a good deal of general 
advice on the mistakes to avoid at the beginning of 
a parliamentary career — as to which Mr. Carteret 
spoke with the experience of one who had sat for fifty 
years in the House of Commons. Nick was amused, 
but also mystified and even a little irritated, by his 
talk : it was founded on the idea of observation and 
yet our young man couldn't at all regard him as an 
observer. " He doesn't observe me," he said to him- 
self ; " if he did he would see, he wouldn't think i " 

The end of this private cogitation was a vague im- 
patience of all the things his venerable host took for 
granted. He didn't see any of the things Nick saw. 
Some of these latter were the light touches the summer 
morning scattered through the sweet old garden. The 
time passed there a good deal as if it were sitting still 
with a plaid under its feet while Mr. Carteret distilled 
a little more of the wisdom he had laid up in his fifty 

264 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

years. This immense term had something fabulous 
and monstrous for Nick, who wondered whether it 
were the sort of thing his companion supposed he had 
gone in for. It was not strange' Mr. Carteret should 
be different ; he might originally have been more — 
well, to himself Nick was not obliged to phrase it : 
what our young man meant was more of what it was 
perceptible to him that his old friend was not. Should 
even he, Nick, be like that at the end of fifty years ? 
What Mr. Carteret was so good as to expect for him 
was that he should be much more distinguished ; and 
wouldn't this exactly mean much more like that ? 
Of course Nick heard some things he had heard before ; 
as for instance the circumstances that had originally 
led the old man to settle at Beauclere. He had been 
returned for that borough — it was his second seat — 
in years far remote, and had come to live there because 
he then had a conscientious conviction, modified 
indeed by later experience, that a member should be 
constantly resident. He spoke of this now, smiling 
rosily, as he might have spoken of some wild aberra- 
tion of his youth ; yet he called Nick's attention to 
the fact that he still so far clung to his conviction as 
to hold — though of what might be urged on the other 
side he was perfectly aware — that a representative 
should at least be as resident as possible. This gave 
Nick an opening for something that had been on and 
off his lips all the morning. 

" According to that I ought to take up my abode 
at Harsh." 

" In the measure of the convenient I shouldn't be 
sorry to see you do it." 

" It ought to be rather convenient," Nick largely 
smiled. " I've got a piece of news for you whiqh 
I've kept, as one keeps that sort of thing — for it's 
very good— till the last." He waited a little to see if 
Mr. Carteret would guess, and at first thought nothing 

265 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

would come of this. But after resting his young- 
looking eyes on him for a moment the old man said : 

" I should indeed be very happy to hear that you've 
arranged to take a wife." 

" Mrs. Dallow has been so good as to say she'll 
marry me," Nick returned. 

" That's very suitable. I should think it would 
answer." 

" It's very jolly," said Nick. It was well Mr. 
Carteret was not what his guest called observant, or 
he might have found a lower pitch in the sound of 
this sentence than in the sense. 

" Your dear father would have liked it." 

" So my mother says." 

" And she must be delighted." 

" Mrs. Dallow, do you mean ? " Nick asked. 

" I was thinking of your mother. But I don't 
exclude the charming lady. I remember her as a 
little girl. I must have seen her at Windrush. Now 
I understand the fine spirit with which she threw 
herself into your canvass." 

" It was her they elected," said Nick. 

" I don't know," his host went on, " that I've ever 
been an enthusiast for political women, but there's 
no doubt that in approaching the mass of electors 
a graceful, affable manner, the manner of the real 
English lady, is a force not to be despised." 

" Julia's a real English lady and at the same time 
a very political woman," Nick remarked. 

" Isn't it rather in the family ? I remember once 
going to see her mother in town and finding the 
leaders of both parties sitting with her." 

" My principal friend, of the others, is her brother 
Peter. I don't think he troubles himself much about 
that sort of thing," said Nick. 

" What does he trouble himself about ? " Mr. 
Carteret asked with a certain gravity. 

266 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" He's in the diplomatic service ; he's a secretary 
in Paris." 

" That may be serious," said tlie old man. 

" He takes a great interest in the theatre. I 
suppose you'll say that may be serious too," Nick 
laughed. 

" Oh ! " — and Mr. Carteret looked as if he scarcely 
understood. Then he continued : " Well, it can't hurt 
you." 

" It can't hurt me ? " 

" If Mrs. Dallow takes an interest in your 
interests." 

" When a man's in my situation he feels as if 
nothing could hurt him." 

" I'm very glad you're happy," said Mr. Carteret. 
He rested his mild eyes on our young man, who had 
a sense of seeing in them for a moment the faint ghost 
of an old story, the last strange flicker, as from cold 
ashes, of a flame that had become the memory of a 
memory. This glimmer of wonder and envy, the 
revelation of a life intensely celibate, was for an 
instant infinitely touching. Nick had harboured a 
theory, suggested by a vague allusion from his father, 
who had been discreet, that their benevolent friend 
had had in his youth an unhappy love-affair which 
had led him to forswear for ever the commerce of 
woman. What remained in him of conscious renun- 
ciation gave a throb as he looked at his bright com- 
panion, who proposed to take the matter so much the 
other way. " It's good to marry and I think it's 
right. I've not done right, I know that. If she's a 
good woman it's the best thing," Mr. Carteret went 
on. " It's what I've been hoping for you. Some- 
times I've thought of speaking to you." 

" She's a very good woman," said Nick. 

" And I hope she's not poor." Mr. Carteret spoke 
exactly with the same blandness. 

267 



THE' TRAGIC MUSE 

" No indeed, she's rich. Her husband, whom I 
knew and Hked, left her a large fortune." 

" And on what terms does she enjoy it ? " 

" I haven't the least idea," said Nick. 

Mr. Carteret considered. " I see. It doesn't con- 
cern you. It needn't concern you," he added in a 
moment. 

Nick thought of his mother at this, but he re- 
turned : "I daresay she can do what she likes with 
her money." 

" So can I, my dear young friend," said Mr. 
Carteret. 

Nick tried not to look conscious, for he felt a 
significance in the old man's face. He turned his 
own everywhere but toward it, thinking again of his 
mother. " That must be very pleasant, if one has 
any." 

" I wish you had a little more." 

" I don't particularly care," said Nick. 

" Your marriage will assist you ; you can't help 
that," Mr. Carteret declared. " But I should Uke 
you to be under obligations not quite so heavy." 

" Oh I'm so obhged to her for caring for me ! " 

" That the rest doesn't count ? Certainly it's nice 
of her to like you. But why shouldn't she ? Other 
people do." 

" Some of them make me feel as if I abused it," 
said Nick, looking at his host. " That is, they don't 
make me, but I feel it," he corrected. 

"I've no son " — and Mr. Carteret spoke as if his 
companion mightn't have been sure. " Shan't you 
be very kind to her ? " he pursued. " You'll gratify 
her ambition." 

" Oh she thinks me cleverer than I am." 

" That's because she's in love," the old gentleman 
hinted as if this were very subtle. " However, you 
must be as clever as we think you. If you don't 

268 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

prove SO ! " And he paused with his folded 

hands. 

" Well, if I don't ? " asked Nick. 

"Oh it won't do— it won't do," said Mr. Carteret 
in a tone his companion was destined to remember 
afterwards. " I say I've no son," he continued ; 
" but if I had had one he should have risen high," 

" It's well for me such a person doesn't exist. I 
shouldn't easily have found a wife." 

" He would have gone to the altar with a little 
money in his pocket." 

" That would have been the least of his advantages, 
sir," Nick declared. 

" When are you to be married ? " Mr, Carteret 
asked. 

" Ah that's the question. Juha won't yet say." 

" Well," said the old man without the least flourish, 
" you may consider that when it comes off I'll make 
you a settlement." 

" I feel your kindness more than I can express," 
Nick replied ; " but that will probably be the 
moment when I shall be least conscious of wanting 
anything." 

" You'll appreciate it later — you'll appreciate it 
very soon. I shall like you to appreciate it," Mr, 
Carteret went on as if he had a just vision of the way 
a young man of a proper spirit should feel. Then 
he added : " Your father would have Uked you to 
appreciate it." 

" Poor father ! " Nick exclaimed vaguely, rather 
embarrassed, reflecting on the oddity of a position 
in which the ground for holding up his head as the 
husband' of a rich woman would be that he had 
accepted a present of money from another source. 
It was plain he was not fated to go in for independence ; 
the most that he could treat himself to would be 
dependence that was duly grateful, " How much 

269 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

do you expect of me ? " he inquired with a grave 
face. 

" Well, Nicholas, only what your father did. He 
so often spoke of you, I remember, at the last, just 
after you had been with him alone — you know I saw 
him then. He was greatly moved by his interview 
with you, and so was I by what he told me of it. He 
said he should Hve on in you — he should work in 
you. It has always given me a special feeUng, if I 
may use the expression, about you." 

" The feehngs are indeed not usual, dear Mr. 
Carteret, which take so munificent a form. But 
you do — oh you do — expect too much," Nick brought 
himself to say. 

" I expect you to repay me ! " the old man returned 
gaily. " As for the form, I have it, in my mind." 
" The form of repayment ? " 
" The form of repayment ! " 

" Ah don't talk of that now," said Nick, " for, you 
see, nothing else is settled. No one has been told 
except my mother. She has only consented to my 
telling you." 

" Lady Agnes, do you mean ? " 
" Ah no ; dear mother would Uke to pubhsh it on 
the house-tops. She's so glad — she wants us to 
have it over to-morrow. But JuUa herself," Nick 
explained, " wishes to wait. Therefore kindly mention 
it for the present to no one." 

" My dear boy, there's at this rate nothing to ' 
mention ! What does Julia want to wait f or ? " 
" Till I hke her better — that's what she says." 
" It's the way to make you like her worse," Mr. 
Carteret knowingly declared. " Hasn't she your 
affection ? " 

" So much so that her delay makes me exceedingly 
unhappy." 

Mr. Carteret looked at his young friend as if he 

270 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

didn't strike him as quite wretched ; but he put the 
f[uestion : " Then what more does she want ? " 
Nick laughed out at this, though perceiving his host 
liadn't meant it as an epigram ; while the latter 
resumed : " I don't understand. You're engaged or 
\'ou're not engaged." 

" She is, but I'm not. That's what she says about 
it. The trouble is she doesn't beUeve in me." 

Mr, Carteret shone \vith his candour. " Doesn't 
she love you then ? " 

" That's what I ask her. Her answer is that she 
loves me only too well. She's so afraid of being a 
burden to me that she gives me my freedom till I've 
taken another year to think." 

" I Hke the way you talk about other years ! " 
Mr. Carteret cried. " You had better do it while 
I'm here to bless you." 

" She thinks I proposed to her because she got me 
in for Harsh," said Nick. 

" Well, I'm sure it would be a very pretty return." 

" Ah she doesn't beUeve in me," the young man 
repeated. 

" Then I don't believe in her." 

" Don't say that — don't say that. She's a very 
rare creature. But she's proud, shy, suspicious." 

" Suspicious of what ? " 

" Of everything. She thinks I'm not persistent." 

" Oh, oh ! " — Nick's host deprecated such freedom. 

" She can't beheve I shall arrive at true eminence." 

" A good wife should beUeve what her husband 
believes," said Mr. Carteret. 

" Ah unfortunately " — and Nick took the words at 
a run — " I don't beUeve it either." 

Mr, Carteret, who might have been watching an 
odd physical rush, spoke with a certain dryness. 
" Your dear father did." 

" I think of that— I think of that," Nick repUed. 

271 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Certainly it will help me. If I say we're engaged," 
he went on, " it's because I consider it so. She gives 
me my liberty, but I don't take it." 

" Does she expect you to take back your word ? " 

" That's what I ask her. She never will. There- 
fore we're as good as tied." 

" I don't like it," said Mr. Carteret after a moment. 
" I don't like ambiguous, uncertain situations. They 
please me much better when they're definite and 
clear." The retreat of expression had been sounded 
in his face — the aspect it wore when he wished not 
to be encouraging. But after an instant he added 
in a tone more personal : " Don't disappoint me, 
dear boy." 

" Ah not wilUngly ! " his visitor protested. 

" I've told you what I should like to do for you. 
See that the conditions come about promptly in 
which I may do it. Are you sure you do everything 
to satisfy Mrs. Dallow ? " Mr. Carteret continued. 

" I think I'm very nice to her," Nick declared. 
" But she's so ambitious. Frankly speaking, it's a 
pity for her that she Ukes me." 

" She can't help that ! " the old man charmingly 
said. 

" Possibly. But isn't it a reason for taking me 
as I am ? What she wants to do is to take me as 
I may be a year hence." 

" I don't understand — since you tell me that 
even then she won't take back her word," said Mr. 
Carteret. 

" If she doesn't marry me I think she'll never 
marry again at all." 

" What then does she gain by delay ? " 

" Simply this, as I make it out," said Nick— 
" that she'll feel she has been very m^agnanimous. 
She won't have to reproach herself with not having 
given me a chance to change." 

272 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" To change ? What does she think you liable 
to do ? " 

Nick had a pause. " I don't know ! " he then 
said — not at all candidly. 

" Everything has altered : young people in my 
day looked at these questions more naturally," Mr. 
Carteret observed. " A woman in love has no need 
to be magnanimous. If she plays too fair she isn't 
in love," he added shrewdly. 

" Oh, Julia's safe — she's safe," Nick smiled. 

"If it were a question between you and another 
gentleman one might comprehend. But what does 
it mean, between you and nothing ? " 

" I'm much obliged to you, sir," Nick returned, 
" The trouble is that she doesn't know what she has 
got hold of." 

" Ah, if you can't make it clear to her ! " — and 
his friend showed the note of impatience. 

" I'm such a humbug," said the young man. And 
while his companion stared he continued : "I deceive 
people without in the least intending it." 

" What on earth do you mean ? Are you deceiv- 
ing me ? " 

" I don't know — it depends on what you think." 

" I think you're flighty," said Mr. Carteret, with 
the nearest approach to sternness Nick had ever 
observed in him. " I never thought so before." 

" Forgive me ; it's all right. I'm not frivolous ; 
that I promise you I'm not." 

" You have deceived me if you are." 

" It's all right," Nick stammered with a blush. 

" Remember your name — carry it high." 

" I will — as high as possible." 

" You've no excuse. Don't tell me, after your 

speeches at Harsh ! " Nick was on the point of 

declaring again that he was a humbug, so vivid was 

his inner sense of what he thought of his factitious 

I 273 T 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

public utterances, which had the cursed property of 
creating dreadful responsibilities and importunate 
credulities for him. If he was " clever " (ah the 
idiotic " clever " !) what fools many other people 
were ! He repressed his impulse and Mr. Carteret 
pursued. " If, as you express it, Mrs. Dallow doesn't 
know what she has got hold of, won't it clear the 
matter up a little by infonning her that the day 
before your marriage is definitely settled to take 
place you'll come into something comfortable ? " 

A quick vision of what Mr. Carteret would be 
likely to regard as something comfortable flitted 
before Nick, but it didn't prevent his repl}^dng : 
" Oh I'm afraid that won't do any good. It would 
make her like you better, but it wouldn't make her 
like me. I'm afraid she won't care for any benefit 
that comes to me from another hand than hers. Her 
affection's a ver^^ jealous sentiment." 

" It's a very peculiar one ! " sighed Mr. Carteret. 
" Mine's a jealous sentiment too. However, if she 
takes it that way don't tell her." 

" I'll let you know as soon as she comes round," 
said Nick. 

" And you'll tell your mother," Mr. Carteret 
returned. " I shall like her to know." 

" It will be deHghtful news to her. But she's 
keen enough already." 

" I know that. I may mention now that she has 
written to me," the old man added. 

" So I suspected." 

" We've — a — corresponded on the subject," Mr. 
Carteret continued to confess. " My view of the 
advantageous character of such an alliance has 
entirely coincided with hers." 

" It was very good-natured of you then to leave 
me to speak first," said Nick. 

" I should have been disappointed if you hadn't. 

274 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

I don't like all you've told me. But don't disappoint 
me now." 

" Dear Mr. Carteret ! " Nick vaguely and richly 
sounded. 

" I won't disappoint yoii," that gentleman went 
on with a finer point while he looked at his big old- 
fashioned watch. 



275 



BOOK FOURTH 



277 



XVIII 

At first Peter Sherringham thought of asking to be 
transferred to another post and went so far, in 
London, as to take what he believed good advice 
on the subject. The advice perhaps struck him as 
the better for consisting of a strong recommendation 
to do nothing so fooHsh. Two or three reasons were 
mentioned to him why such a request would not, 
in the particular circumstances, raise him in the 
esteem of his superiors, and he promptly recognised 
their force. He next became aware that it might 
help him — not with his superiors but with himself 
— to apply for an extension of leave, and then on 
further reflexion made out that, though there are 
some dangers before which it is perfectly consistent 
with honour to flee, it was better for every one con- 
cerned that he should fight this especial battle on 
the spot. During his hohday his plan of campaign 
gave him plenty of occupation. He refurbished his 
arms, rubbed up his strategy, laid down his lines of 
defence. 

There was only one thing in life his mind had been 
much made up to, but on this question he had never 
wavered : he would get on, to the utmost, in his 
profession. That was a point on which it was 
perfectly lawful to be unamiable to others — to be 
vigilant, eager, suspicious, selfish. He had not in 
fact been unamiable to others, for his affairs had 

279 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

not required it : he had got on well enough without 
hardening his heart. Fortune had been kind to him 
and he had passed so many competitors on the way 
that he could forswear jealousy and be generous. 
But he had always flattered himself his hand wouldn't 
falter on the day he should find it necessary to drop 
bitterness into his cup. This day would be sure to 
dawn, since no career could be all clear water to the 
end ; and then the sacrifice would find him ready. 
His mind was famiHar with the thought of a sacrifice : 
it is true that no great plainness invested beforehand 
the occasion, the object or the victim. All that par- 
ticularly stood out was that the propitiatory offering 
would have to be some cherished enjoyment. Very 
likely indeed this enjo3anent would be associated 
with the charms of another person — a probability 
pregnant with the idea that such charms would have 
to be dashed out of sight. At any rate it never had 
occurred to Sherringham that he himself might be 
the sacrifice. You had to pay to get on, but at 
least you borrowed from others to do it. When you 
couldn't borrow you didn't get on, for what was the 
situation in life in which you met the whole requisition 
yourself ? 

Least of all had it occurred to our friend that the 
wrench might come through his interest in that 
branch of art on which Nick Dormer had raUied 
him. The beauty of a love of the theatre was pre- 
cisely in its being a passion exercised on the easiest 
terms. This was not the region of responsibility. 
It was sniffed at, to its discredit, by the austere ; 
but if it was not, as such people said, a serious field, 
was not the compensation just that you couldn't 
be seriously entangled in it ? Sherringham's great 
advantage, as he regarded the matter, was that he 
had always kept his taste for the drama quite in its 
place. His facetious cousin was free to pretend that 

280 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

it sprawled through his life ; but this was nonsense, 
as any unprejudiced observer of that life would 
unhesitatingly attest. There had not been the least 
sprawling, and his interest in the art of Garrick had 
never, he was sure, made him in any degree ridiculous. 
It had never drawn down from above anything 
approaching a reprimand, a remonstrance, a remark. 
Sherringham was positively proud of his discretion, 
for he was not a little proud of what he did know 
about the stage. Trifling for trifling, there were 
plenty of his fellows who had in their lives infatua- 
tions less edifying and less confessable. Hadn't he 
known men who collected old invitation -cards and 
were ready to commit bassesses for those of the 
eighteenth century ? hadn't he known others who 
had a secret passion for shuffleboard ? His little 
weaknesses were intellectual — they were a part of 
the hfe of the mind. All the same, on the day they 
showed a symptom of interfering they should be 
plucked off with a turn of the wrist. 

Sherringham scented interference now, and inter- 
ference in rather an invidious form. It might be a 
bore, from the point of view of the profession, to find 
one's self, as a critic of the stage, in love with a 
coquine ; but it was a much greater bore to find one's 
self in love with a young woman whose character 
remained to be estimated. Miriam Rooth was 
neither fish nor flesh : one had with her neither the 
guarantees of one's own class nor the immunities of 
hers. What was hers if one came to that ? A rare 
ambiguity on this point was part of the fascination 
she had ended by throwing over him. Poor Peter's 
scheme for getting on had contained no proviso 
against his falling in love, but it had. embodied an 
important clause on the subject of surprises. It 
was always a surprise to fall in love, especially if one 
was looking out for it ; so this contingency had not 

281 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

been worth official paper. But it became a man 
who respected the service he had undertaken for the 
State to be on his guard against predicaments from 
which the only issue was the rigour of matrimony. 
Ambition, in the career, was probably consistent with 
marrying — but only with opening one's eyes very 
wide to do it. That was the fatal surprise — to be 
led to the altar in a dream. Sherringham's view of 
the proprieties attached to such a step was high and 
strict ; and if he held that a man in his position was, 
above all as the position improved, essentially a 
representative of the greatness of his country, he 
considered that the wife of such a personage would 
exercise in her degree — for instance at a foreign court 
— a function no less symbolic. She would in short 
always be a very important quantity, and the scene 
was strewn with illustrations of this general truth. 
She might be such a help and might be such a blight 
that common prudence required some test of her 
in advance. Sherringham had seen women in the 
career, who were stupid or vulgar, make such a mess 
of things as would wring your heart. Then he had 
his positive idea of the perfect ambassadress, the 
full-blown hly of the future ; and with this idea 
Miriam Rooth presented no analogy whatever. 

The girl had described herself with characteristic 
directness as " all right " ; and so she might be, so she 
assuredly was : only all right for what ? He had 
made out she was not sentimental- — that whatever 
capacity she might have for responding to a devotion 
or for desiring it was at any rate not in the direction 
of vague philandering. With him certainly she had 
no disposition to philander. Sherringham almost 
feared to dwell on this, lest it should beget in him 
a rage convertible mainly into caring for her more. 
Rage or no rage it would be charming to be in love 
with her if there were no complications ; but the com- 

282 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

plications were just what was clearest in the prospect. 
He was perhaps cold-blooded to think of them, but 
it must be remembered that they were the particular 
thing his training had equipped him for dealing with. 
He was at all events not too cold-blooded to have, 
for the two months of his hoUday, very little inner 
vision of anything more abstract than Miriam's face. 
The desire to see it again was as pressing as thirst, 
but he tried to practise the endurance of the traveller 
in the desert. He kept the Channel between them, 
but his spirit consumed every day an inch of the 
interval, until — and it was not long — there were no 
more inches left. The last thing he expected the 
future ambassadress to have been was difille de theatre. 
The answer to this objection was of course that 
Miriam was not yet so much of one but that he could 
easily, by a handsome " worldly " offer, arrest her 
development. Then came worrying retorts to that, 
chief among which was the sense that to his artistic 
conscience arresting her development would be a plan 
combining on his part fatuity, not to say imbecility, 
with baseness. It was exactly to her development 
the poor girl had the greatest right, and he shouldn't 
really alter anything by depriving her of it. Wasn't 
she the artist to the tips of her tresses — the ambassa- 
dress never in the world — and wouldn't she take it 
out in something else if one were to make her deviate ? 
So certain was that demonic. gift to insist ever on its 
own. 

Besides, could one make her deviate ? If she had 
no disposition to philander what was his warrant for 
supposing she could be corrupted into respect- 
ability ? How could the career — his career — speak 
to a nature that had gUmpses as vivid as they were 
crude of such a different range and for which success 
meant quite another sauce to the dish ? Would the 
brilliancy of marrjdng Peter Sherringham be such a 

283 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

bribe to relinquishment ? How could he think so 
without pretensions of the sort he pretended exactly 
not to flaunt ? — how could he put himself forward as 
so high a. prize ? Relinquishment of the opportunity 
to exercise a rare talent was not, in the nature of 
things, an easy effort to a young lady who was herself 
presumptuous as well as ambitious. Besides, she 
might eat her cake and have it — might make her 
fortune both on the stage and in the world. Success- 
ful actresses had ended by marrying dukes, and was 
not that better than remaining obscure and marrying 
a commoner ? There were moments when he tried 
to pronounce the girl's " gift " not a force to reckon 
with ; there was so little to show for it as yet that 
the caprice of believing in it would perhaps suddenly 
leave him. But his conviction that it was real was 
too uneasy to make such an experiment peaceful, 
and he came back, moreover, to his deepest impres- 
sion — that of her being of the inward mould for 
which the only consistency is the play of genius. 
Hadn't Madame Carre declared at the last that she 
could " do anything " ? It was true that if Madame 
Carre had been mistaken in the first place she might 
also be mistaken in the second. But in this latter 
case she would be mistaken with Mm — and such an 
error would be too like a truth. 

How, further, shall we exactly measure for him — 
Sherringham felt the discomfort of the advantage 
Miriam had of him — the advantage of her presenting 
herself in a light that rendered any passion he might 
entertain an implication of duty as well as of pleasure ? 
Why there should have been this implication was 
more than he could say ; sometimes he held himself 
rather abject, or at least absurdly superstitious, for 
seeing it. He didn't know, he could scarcely con- 
ceive, of another case of the same general type in 
which he would have recognised it. In foreign 

284 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

countries there were very few ladies of Miss Rooth's 
intended profession who would not have regarded it 
as too strong an order that, to console them for not 
being admitted into drawing-rooms, they should have 
no offset but the exercise of a virtue in which no one 
would believe. This was because in foreign countries 
actresses were not admitted into drawing-rooms : that 
was a pure English drollery, ministering equally little 
to real histrionics and to the higher tone of these 
resorts. Did the oppressive sanctity which made it 
a burden to have to reckon with his young friend come 
then from her being English ? Peter could recall 
cases in which that privilege operated as little as 
possible as a restriction. It came a great deal from 
Mrs. Rooth, in whom he apprehended depths of 
calculation as to what she might achieve for her 
daughter by " working " the idea of a life blameless 
amid dire obsessions. Her romantic turn of mind 
wouldn't in the least prevent her regarding that idea 
as a substantial capital, to be laid out to the best 
worldly advantage. Miriam's essential irreverence 
was capable, on a pretext, of making mince-meat of 
it — that he was sure of ; for the only capital she 
recognised was the talent which some day managers 
and agents would outbid each other in paying for. 
Yet as a creature easy at so many points she was 
fond of her mother, would do anything to oblige — 
that might work in all sorts of ways — and would 
probably like the loose slippers of blamelessness quite 
as well as having to meet some of the queer high 
standards of the opposite camp. 

Sherringham, I may add, had no desire that she 
should indulge a different preference : it was dis- 
tasteful to him to compute the probabilities of a 
young lady's misbehaving for his advantage— that 
seemed to him definitely base — and he would have 
thought himself a blackguard if, even when a prey 

285 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

to his desire, he had not wished the thing that was 
best for the object of it. The thing best for Miriam 
might be to become the wife of the man to whose 
suit she should incUne her ear. That this would 
be the best thing for the gentlem_an in question by 
no means, however, equally followed, and Sherring- 
ham's final conviction was that it would never do 
for him to act the part of that hypothetic personage. 
He asked for no removal and no extension of leave, 
and he proved to himself how well he knew what 
he was about by never addressing a line, during his 
absence, to the Hotel de la Garonne. He would 
simply go straight, inflicting as little injury on Peter 
Sherringham as on any one else. He remained away 
to the last hour of his privilege and continued to act 
lucidly in having nothing to do with the mother and 
daughter for several days after his return to Paris. 

It was when this discipline came to an end one 
afternoon after a week had passed that he felt most 
the force of the reference we have just made to Mrs. 
Rooth's private calculations. He found her at home, 
alone, writing a letter under the lamp, and as soon 
as he came in she cried out that he was the very 
person to whom the letter was addressed. She could 
bear it no longer ; she had permitted herself to re- 
proach him with his terrible silence — to ask why he 
had quite forsaken them. It was an illustration of 
the way in which her visitor had come to regard her 
that he put rather less than more faith into this 
description of the crumpled papers lying on the 
table. He was not even sure he quite believed 
Miriam to have just gone out. He told her mother 
how busy he had been all the while he was away 
and how much time above all he had had to give in 
London to seeing on her daughter's behalf the people 
connected with the theatres. 

" Ah if you pity me tell me you've got her an 

286 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

engagement ! " Mrs. Rooth cried while she clasped 
her hands. 

" I took a great deal of trouble ; I wrote ever so 
many notes, sought introductions, talked with people 
— such impossible people some of them. In short I 
knocked at every door, I went into the question 
exhaustively." And he enumerated the things he 
had done, reported on some of the knowledge he had 
gathered. The difficulties were immense, and even 
with the influence he could command, such as it was, 
there was very little to be achieved in face of them. 
Still he had gained ground : two or three approach- 
able fellows, men with inferior theatres, had listened 
to him better than the others, and there was one in 
particular whom he had a hope he really might have 
interested. From him he had extracted benevolent 
assurances : this person would see Miriam, would 
listen to her, would do for her what he could. The 
trouble was that no one would lift a finger for a girl 
unless she were known, and yet that she never could 
become known till innumerable fingers had been 
lifted. You couldn't go into the water unless you 
could swim, and you couldn't swim until you had 
been in the water. 

" But new performers appear ; they get theatres, 
they get audiences, they get notices in the news- 
papers," Mrs. Rooth objected. " I know of these 
things only what Miriam tells me. It's no knowledge 
that I was born to." 

" It's perfectly true. It's all done with money." 

" And how do they come by money ? " Mrs. Rooth 
candidly asked. 

" When they're women people give it to them." 

" Well, what people now ? " 

" People who believe in them." 

" As you believe in Miriam ? " 

Peter had a pause. " No, rather differently. A 

287 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

poor man doesn't believe in anything the same way 
that a rich man does." 

" Ah don't call yourself poor ! " groaned Mrs. 
Rooth. 

" What good would it do me to be rich ? " 

" Why you could take a theatre. You could do 
it all yourself." 

" And what good would that do me ? " 

" Ah don't you delight in her genius ? " demanded 
Mrs. Rooth. 

" I delight in her mother. You think me more 
disinterested than I am," Sherringham added with 
a certain soreness of irritation. 

" I know why you didn't write ! " Mrs. Rooth 
declared archly. 

" You must go to London," Peter said without 
heeding this remark. 

" Ah if we could only get there it would be a relief. 
I should draw a long breath. There at least I know 
where I am and what people are. But here one lives 
on hollow ground ! " 

" The sooner you get away the better," our young 
man went on. 

" I know why you say that." 

" It's just what I'm explaining." 

" I couldn't have held out if I hadn't been so sure 
of Miriam," said Mrs. Rooth. 

" Well, you needn't hold out any longer." 

" Don't you trust her ? " asked Sherringham 's 
hostess. 

" Trust her ? " 

" You don't trust yourself. That's why you were 
silent, why we might have thought you were dead, 
why we might have perished ourselves." 

" I don't think I understand you ; I don't know 
what you're talking about," Peter returned. " But 
it doesn't matter." 

288 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Doesn't it ? Let yourself go. Why should you 
struggle ? " the old woman agreeably inquired. 

Her unexpected insistence annoyed her visitor, and 
he was silent again, meeting her eyes with reserve 
and on the point of telling her that he didn't like her 
tone. But he had his tongue under such control that 
he was able presently to say instead of this — and it 
was a relief to him to give audible voice to the 
reflexion — " It's a great mistake, either way, for a 
man to be in love with an actress. Either it means 
nothing serious, and what's the use of that ? or it 
means everything, and that's still more delusive." 

" Delusive ? " 

" Idle, unprofitable." 

" Surely a pure affection is its own beautiful 
reward," Mrs. Rooth pleaded with soft reasonableness. 

" In such a case how can it be pure ? " 

" I thought you were talking of an English gentle- 
man," she replied. 

" Call the poor fellow whatever you like : a man 
with his life to lead, his way to make, his work, his 
duties, his career to attend to. If it means nothing, 
as I say, the thing it means least of all is marriage." 

" Oh my own Miriam ! " Mrs. Rooth wailed. 

" Fancy, on the other hand, the complication 
when such a man marries a woman who's on the 
stage." 

Mrs. Rooth looked as if she were trying to follow. 
" Miriam isn't on the stage yet." 

" Go to London and she soon wiU be." 

" Yes, and then you'll have your excuse." 

" My excuse ? " 

" For deserting us altogether." 

He broke into laughter at this, the logic was so 
droll. Then he went on : " Show me some good 
acting and I won't desert you." 

" Good acting ? Ah what's the best acting com- 
I 289 u 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

pared with the position of a true English lady ? If 
you'll take her as she is you may have her," Mrs. 
Rooth suddenly added. 

" As she is, with all her ambitions unassuaged ? " 

" To msivry you — might not that be an ambition ? " 

" A very paltry one. Don't answer for her, don't 
attempt that," said Peter. " You can do much 
better." 

" Do you think you can ? " smiled Mrs. Rooth. 

" I don't want to ; I only want to let it alone. 
She's an artist ; you must give her her head," the 
young man pursued. " You must always give an 
artist his head." 

" But I've known great ladies who were artists. 
In English society there's always a field." 

" Don't talk to me of English society ! Thank 
goodness, in the first place, I don't live in it. Do 
you want her to give up her genius ? " he demanded. 

" I thought you didn't care for it." 

" She'd say, ' No I thank you, dear mamma.' " 

" My wonderful child ! " Mrs. Rooth almost com- 
prehendingly murmured. 

" Have you ever proposed it to her ? " 

" Proposed it ? " 

" That she should give up trying." 

Mrs. Rooth hesitated, looking down. " Not for 
the reason you mean. We don't talk about love," 
she simpered. 

" Then it's so much less time wasted. Don't 
stretch out your hand to the worse when it may 
some day grasp the better," Peter continued. Mrs. 
Rooth raised her eyes at him as if recognising the 
force there might be in that, and he added : " Let 
her blaze out, let her look about her. Then you 
may talk to me if you like." 

" It's very puzzling ! " the old woman artlessly 
sighed. 

290 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

He laughed again and then said : " Now don't tell 
me I'm not a good friend." 

" You are indeed — ^you're a very noble gentle- 
man. That's just why a quiet life with you " 

" It wouldn't be quiet for me\ " he broke in. 
" And that's not what Miriam was made for." 

" Don't say that for my precious one ! " Mrs. Rooth 
quavered. 

" Go to London — go to London," her visitor 
repeated. 

Thoughtfully, after an instant, she extended her 
hand and took from the table the letter on the com- 
position of which he had found her engaged. Then 
with a quick movement she tore it up. " That's 
what Mr. Dash wood says." 

" Mr. Dash wood ? " 

" I forgot you don't know him. He's the brother 
of that lady we met the day you were so good as to 
receive us ; the one who was so kind to us — Mrs. 
Lovick." 

" I never heard of him." 

" Don't you remember how she spoke of him and 
that Mr. Lovick didn't seem very nice about him ? 
She told us that if he were to meet us — and she was 
so good as to intimate that it would be a pleasure to 
him to do so — he might give us, as she said, a tip." 

Peter achieved the effort to recollect. " Yes he 
comes back to me. He's an actor." 

" He's a gentleman too," said Mrs. Rooth. 

" And you've met him, and he has given vou a 
tip ? " 

" As I say, he wants us to go to London.'* 

" I see, but even I can tell you that." 

" Oh yes," said Mrs. Rooth ; " but he says he can 
help us." 

" Keep hold of him then, if he's in the business." 
Peter was all for that. 

291 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" He's a perfect gentleman," said Mrs. Rooth. 
" He's immensely struck with Miriam." 

" Better and better. Keep hold of him." 

" Well, I'm glad you don't object," she grimaced. 

" Why should I object ? " 

" You don't regard us as all your own ? " 

" My own ? Why, I regard you as the public's — 
the world's." 

She gave a little shudder. " There's a sort of 
chill in that. It's grand, but it's cold. However, I 
needn't hesitate then to tell you that it's with Mr. 
Dash wood Miriam has gone out." 

" Why hesitate, gracious heaven ? " But in the 
next breath Sherringham asked : " Where have they 
gone ? " 

" You don't like it ! " his hostess laughed. 

" Why should it be a thing to be enthusiastic 
about ? " 

" Well, he's charming and I trust him." 

" So do I," said Sherringham. 

" They've gone to see Madame Carre." 

" She has come back then ? " 

" She was expected back last week. Miriam wants 
to show her how she has improved." 

" And has she improved ? " 

" How can I tell — with my mother's heart ? " 
asked Mrs. Rooth. " I don't judge ; I only wait and 
pray. But Mr. Dashwood thinks she's wonderful." 

" That's a blessing. And when did he turn up ? " 

" About a fortnight ago. We met Mrs. Lovick at 
the English church, and she was so good as to recog- 
nise us and speak to us. She said she had been 
away with her children — otherwise she'd have come 
to see us. She had just returned to Paris." 

" Yes, I've not yet seen her. I see Lovick," Peter 
added, " but he doesn't talk of his brother-in-law." ' 

" I didn't, that day, like his tone about him," 

292 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Mrs. Rooth observed. " We walked a little way with 
Mrs. Lovick after church and she asked Miriam about 
her prospects and if she were working. Miriam said 
she had no prospects." 

" That wasn't very nice to me," Sherringham 
commented. 

" But when you had left us in black darkness 
what were our prospects ? " 

" I see. It's all right. Go on." 

" Then Mrs. Lovick said her brother was to be 
in Paris a few days and she would tell him to come 
and see us. He arrived, she told him and he came. 
Voila ! " said Mrs. Rooth. 

" So that now — so far as he is concerned — Miss 
Rooth has prospects ? " 

" He isn't a manager unfortunately," she qualified. 

" Where does he act ? " 

" He isn't acting just now ; he has been abroad. 
He has been to Italy, I beheve, and is just stopping 
here on his way to London." 

" I see ; he is a perfect gentleman," said Sher- 
ringham. 

" Ah you're jealous of him ! " 

" No, but you're trying to make me so. The 
more competitors there are for the glory of bringing 
her out the better for her." 

" Mr. Dashwood wants to take a theatre," said 
Mrs. Rooth. 

" Then perhaps he's our man." 

" Oh if you'd help him ! " she richly cried. 

" Help him ? " 

" Help him to help us." 

" We'll all work together ; it will be very jolly," 
said Sherringham gaily. " It's a sacred cause, the 
love of art, and we shall be a happy band. Dash- 
wood's his name ? " he added in a moment. " Mrs. 
Lovick wasn't a Dashwood." 

293 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" It's his nom de theatre — Basil Dashwood. Do 
you like it ? " Mrs. Rooth wonderfully inquired. 

" You say that as Miriam might. Her talent's 
catching ! " 

" She's always practising- — always sajdng things 
over and over to seize the tone. I've her voice in 
my ears. He wants her not to have any." 

" Not to have any what ? " 

" Any nom de theatre. He wants her to use her ' 
own ; he likes it so much. He says it will do so 
well- — you can't better it." 

" He's a capital adviser," said Sherringham, 
getting up. " I'll come back to-mofrow." 

" I won't ask you to wait for them — they may ' 
be so long," his hostess returned. 

" Will he come back with her ? " Peter asked 
while he smoothed his hat. 

" I hope so, at this hour. With my child in the 
streets I tremble. We don't live in cabs, as you 
may easily suppose." 

" Did they go on foot ? " Sherringham continued. 

" Oh yes ; they started in high spirits." 

" And is Mr. Basil Dashwood acquainted with 
Madame Carre ? " 

" Ah no, but he longed to be introduced to her ; 
he persuaded Miriam to take him. Naturally she 
wishes to oblige him. She's very nice to him— if he 
can do anything." 

" Quite right ; that's the way ! " Peter cheerfully 
rang out. 

" And she also wanted him to see what she can 
do for the great critic," Mrs. Rooth added — " that 
terrible old woman in the red wig." 

" That's what I should like to see too," Peter 
permitted himself to acknowledge. 

" Oh she has gone ahead ; she's pleased with 
herself. ' Work, work, work,' said Madame Carre. 

294 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Well, she has worked, worked, worked. That's what 
Mr. Dashwood is pleased with even more than with 
other things." 

" What do you mean by other things ? " 

" Oh her genius and her fine appearance." 

" He approves of her fine appearance ? I ask 
because you think he knows what will take." 

" I know why you ask ! " Mrs. Rooth bravely 
mocked. " He says it will be worth hundreds of 
thousands to her." 

" That's the sort of thing I like to hear," Peter 
returned. " I'll come in to-morrow," he repeated. 

" And shall you mind if Mr. Dashwood's here ? " 

" Does he c©me every day ? " 

" Oh they're always at it." 

" At it ? " He was vague. 

" Why she acts to him — every sort of thing — and 
he says if it will do." 

" How many days has he been here then ? " 

Mrs. Rooth reflected. " Oh I don't know ! Since 
he turned up they've passed so quickly." 

" So far from ' minding ' it I'm eager to see him," 
Sherringham declared ; " and I can imagine nothing 
better than what you describe — if he isn't an awful 
ass." 

" Dear me, if he isn't clever vou must tell us : 
we can't aft'ord to be deceived ! " Mrs. Rooth in- 
nocently wailed. " Wliat do we know — how can we 
judge ? " she appealed. 

He had a pause, his hand on the latch. " Oh, I'll 
tell you frankly what I think of him ! " 



295 



XIX 

When he got into the street he looked about him for 
a cab, but was obhged to walk some distance before 
encountering one. In this little interval he saw no 
reason to modify the determination he had formed 
in descending the steep staircase of the Hotel de 
la Garonne ; indeed the desire prompting it only 
quickened his pace. He had an hour to spare and 
would also go to see Madame Carre. If Miriam and 
her companion had proceeded to the Rue de Con- 
stantinople on foot he would probably reach the 
house as soon as they. It was all quite logical : he 
was eager to see Miriam — that was natural enough ; 
and he had admitted to Mrs. Rooth that he was keen 
on the subject of Mrs. Lovick's theatrical brother, 
in whom such effective aid might perhaps reside. To 
catch Miriam really revealing herself to the old 
actress after the jump she believed herself to have 
taken — since that was her errand — would be a very 
happy stroke, the thought of which made her bene- 
factor impatient. He presently found his cab and, 
as he bounded in, bade the coachman drive fast. 
He learned from Madame Carre's portress that her 
illustrious locataire was at home and that a lady and 
a gentleman had gone up some time before. 

In the little antechamber, after his admission, he 
heard a high voice come from the salon and, stopping 
a moment to listen, noted that Miriam was already 

296 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

launched in a recitation. He was able to make out 
the words, all the more that before he could prevent 
the movement the maid-servant who had led him in 
had already opened the door of the room — one of 
the leaves of it, there being, as in most French doors, 
two of these — before which, within, a heavy curtain 
was suspended. Miriam was in the act of rolling out 
some speech from the English poetic drama — 

" For I am sick and capable of fears, 
Oppressed with wrongs and therefore full of fears." 

He recognised one of the great tirades of Shake- 
speare's Constance and saw she had just begun the 
magnificent scene at the beginning of the third act 
of King John, in which the passionate, injured mother 
and widow sweeps in wild organ-tones the entire 
scale of her irony and wrath. The curtain concealed 
him and he lurked three minutes after he had motioned 
to the femme de chambre to retire on tiptoe. The trio 
in the salon, absorbed in the performance, had 
apparently not heard his entrance or the opening of 
the door, which was covered by the girl's splendid 
declamation. Peter hstened intently, arrested by the 
spirit with which she attacked her formidable verses. 
He had needed to hear her set afloat but a dozen 
of them to measure the long stride she had taken in 
his absence ; they assured him she had leaped into 
possession of her means. He remained where he was 
till she arrived at - 

" Then speak again ; not all thy former tale, 
But this one word, whether thy tale be true." 

This apostrophe, briefly responded to in another 
voice, gave him time quickly to raise the curtain and 
show himself, passing into the room with a " Go on, 
go on ! " and a gesture earnestly deprecating a stop. 

297 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

Miriam, in the full swing of her part, paused but 
for an instant and let herself ring out again, while 
Peter sank into the nearest chair and she fixed him 
with her illumined eyes, that is, with those of the 
raving Constance. Madame Carre, buried in a chair, 
kissed her hand to him, and a young man who, near 
the girl, stood giving the cue, stared at him over the 
top of a little book. " Admirable, magnificent, go 
on," Sherringham repeated — " go on to the end of 
the scene, do it all ! " Miriam's colour rose, yet he 
as quickly felt that she had no personal emotion in 
seeing him again ; the cold passion of art had perched 
on her banner and she listened to herself with an 
ear as vigilant as if she had been a Paganini drawing 
a fiddle-bow. This effect deepened as she went on, 
rising and rising to the great occasion, moving with 
extraordinary ease and in the largest, clearest style 
at the dizzy height of her idea. That she had an 
idea was visible enough, and that the whole thing 
was very different from all Sherringham had hitherto 
heard her attempt. It belonged quite to another 
class of effort ; she was now the finished statue lifted 
from the ground to its pedestal. It was as if the sun 
of her talent had risen above the hills and she knew 
she was moving and would always move in its guid- 
ing light. This conviction was the one artless thing 
that glimmered like a young joy through the tragic 
mask of Constance, and Sherringham's heart beat 
faster as he caught it in her face. It only showed 
her as more intelligent, and yet there had been a 
time when he thought her stupid ! Masterful the 
whole spirit in which she carried the scene, making 
him cry to himself from point to point, " How she 
feels it, sees it and really ' renders ' it ! " 

He looked now and again at Madame Carre and 
saw she had in her lap an open book, apparently a 
French prose version, brought by her visitors, of 

298 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

the play ; but she never either glanced at him or 
at the volume : she only sat screwing into the girl 
her hard, bright eyes, polished by experience like 
line old brasses. The young man uttering the lines 
of the other speakers was attentive in another degree ; 
he followed Miriam, in his own copy, to keep sure 
of the cue ; but he was elated aftd expressive, was 
evidently even surprised ; he coloured and smiled, 
and when he extended his hand to assist Constance 
to rise, after the performer, acting out her text, 
had seated herself grandly on " the huge firm earth," 
he bowed over her as obsequiously as if she had been 
his veritable sovereign. He was a good-looking 
young man, tall, well-proportioned, straight-featured 
and fair, of whom manifestly the first thing to be 
said on any occasion was that he had remarkably 
the stamp of a gentleman. He carried this appearance, 
which proved inveterate and importunate, to a point 
that was almost a denial of its spirit : so prompt 
the question of whether it could be in good taste 
to wear any character, even that particular one, so 
much on one's sleeve. It was literally on his sleeve 
that this young man partly wore his own ; for it 
resided considerably in his garments, and in especial 
in a certain close-fitting dark blue frock-coat, a 
miracle of a fit, which moulded his juvenility just 
enough and not too much, and constituted, as Sher- 
ringham was destined to perceive later, his perpetual 
uniform or badge. It was not till afterwards that 
Peter began to feel exasperated by Basil Dashwood's 
" type " — the young stranger was of course Basil 
Dashwood — and even by his blue frock-coat, the 
recurrent, unvarying, imperturbable good form of his 
aspect. This unprofessional air ended by striking 
the observer as the very profession he had adopted, 
and was indeed, so far as had as yet been indicated, his 
mimetic capital, his main qualification for the stage. 

299 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

The ample and powerful manner in which Miriam 
handled her scene produced its full impression, the 
art with which she surmounted its difficulties, the 
liberality with which she met its great demand upon 
the voice, and the variety of expression that she 
threw into a torrent of objurgation. It was a real 
composition, studded with passages that called a 
suppressed tribute to the lips and seeming to show 
that a talent capable of such an exhibition was 
capable of anything. 

" But thou art fair, and at thy birth, dear boy, 
Nature and Fortune join'd to make thee great : 
Of Nature's gifts thou mayst with liUes boast, 
And with the half-blown rose." 

As the girl turned to her imagined child with this 
exquisite apostrophe — she addressed Mr. Dashwood 
as if he were playing Arthur, and he lowered his 
book, dropped his head and his eyes and looked 
handsome and ingenuous — she opened at a stroke 
to Sherringham's vision a prospect that they would 
yet see her express tenderness better even than any- 
thing else. Her voice was enchanting in these lines, 
and the beauty of her performance was that though 
she uttered the full fury of the part she missed none 
of its poetry. 

" Where did she get hold of that — where did she 
get hold of that ? " Peter wondered while his whole 
sense vibrated. " She hadn't got hold of it when I 
went away." And the assurance flowed over him 
again that she had found the key to her box of 
treasures. In the summer, during their weeks of 
frequent meeting, she had only fumbled with the 
lock. One October day, while he was away, the 
key had slipped in, had fitted, or her finger at last 
had touched the right spring and the capricious 
casket had flown open. 

300 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

It was during the present solemnity that, excited 
by the way she came out and with a hundred stirred 
ideas about her wheeHng through his mind, he was 
for the first time and most vividly visited by a 
perception that ended by becoming frequent with 
him — that of the perfect presence of mind, un- 
confused, unhurried by emotion, that any artistic 
performance requires and that all, whatever the in- 
strument, require in exactly the same degree : the 
application, in other words, clear and calculated, 
crystal-firm as it were, of the idea conceived in the 
glow of experience, of suffering, of joy. He was 
afterwards often to talk of this with Miriam, who, 
however, was never to be able to present him with a 
neat' theory of the subject. She had no knowledge 
that it was publicly discussed ; she only ranged her- 
self in practice on the side of those who hold that at 
the moment of production the artist can't too much 
have his wits about him. When Peter named to 
her the opinion of those maintaining that at such a 
crisis the office of attention ceases to be filled she 
stared with surprise and then broke out : " Ah the 
poor idiots ! " She eventually became, in her judge- 
ments, in impatience and the expression of contempt, 
very free and absolutely irreverent. 

" What a splendid scolding ! " the new visitor 
exclaimed when, on the entrance of the Pope's legate, 
her companion closed the book on the scene. Peter 
pressed his lips to Madame Carre's finger-tips ; the 
old actress got up and held out her arms to Miriam. 
The girl never took her eyes off Sherringham while 
she passed into that lady's embrace and remained 
there. They were full of their usual sombre fire, 
and it was always the case that they expressed too 
much anything they could express at all ; but they 
were not defiant nor even triumphant now — they 
were only deeply explicative. They seemed to say, 

301 



THE TRAGIC MUSE « 

" That's the sort of thing I meant ; that's what I 
had in mind when I asked you to try to do some- 
thing for me." Madame Carre folded her pupil to 
her bosom, holding her there as the old marquise in a 
comedie de moetirs might in the last scene have held 
her god-daughter the ingenue. 

" Have you got me an engagement ? " — the 
young woman then appealed eagerly to her friend. 
" Yes, he has done something splendid for me," she 
went on to Madame Carre, resting her hand caress- 
ingly on one of the actress's while the old woman 
discoursed with Mr. Dashwood, who was telling her 
in very pretty French that he was tremendously excited 
about Miss Rooth. Madame Carre looked at him as if 
she wondered how he appeared when he was calm and 
how, as a dramatic artist, he expressed that condition. 

" Yes, yes, something splendid, for a beginning," 
Peter answered radiantly, recklessly ; feeHng now 
only that he would say anything and do anything 
to please her. He spent on the spot, in imagination, 
his last penny. 

" It's such a pity you couldn't follow it ; you'd 
have hked it so much better," Mr. Dashwood observed 
to their hostess. 

" Couldn't follow it ? Do you take me for une 
sotte ? " the celebrated artist cried. " I suspect I 
followed it de plus pres que vous, monsieur ! " 

" Ah you see the language is so awfully fine," 
Basil Dashwood repUed, looking at his shoes. 

" The language ? Why she rails Uke a fish- wife. 
Is that what you call language ? Ours is another 
business." 

" If you understood, if you understood, you'd see 
all the greatness of it," Miriam declared. And then 
in another tone : " Such delicious expressions ! " 

" On dit que c'est tres-fori. But who can tell if 
you really say it ? " Madame Carre demanded. 

302 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" All, par exemple, I can ! " Sherringham answered. 

" Oh you — you're a Frenchman." 

" Couldn't ho make it out if he weren't ? " asked 
Basil Dash wood. 

The old woman shrugged her shoulders. " He 
wouldn't know." 

" That's flattering to me." 

" Oh you — don't you pretend to complain," 
Madame Carre said. " I prefer our imprecations — 
those of Camille," she went on. " They have the 
beauty des plus belles choses." 

" I can say them too," Miriam broke in. 

" Insolente ! " smiled Madame Carre. " Camille 
doesn't squat down on the floor in the middle of 
them. 

" For grief is proud and makes his owner stoop. 
To me and to the state of my great grief 
Let kings assemble," 

Miriam quickly declaimed. " Ah if you don't feel 
the way she makes a throne of it ! " 

" It's really tremendously fine, chere madame," 
Sherringham said. " There's nothing Hke it." 

" Vous etes insupportahles ," the old woman an- 
swered. " Stay with us. I'll teach you Phedre." 

" Ah Phgedra, Phaedra ! " Basil Dash wood vaguely 
ejaculated, looking more gentlemanly than ever. 

" You've learned all I've taught you, but where the 
devil have you learned what I haven't ? " Madame 
Carre went on. 

" I've worked — I have ; you'd call it work — all 
through the bright, late summer, all through the hot, 
dull, empty days. I've battered down the door — I 
did hear it crash one day. But I'm not so very good 
yet. I'm only in he right direction." 

" Malicieuse ! " growled Madame Carre. 

"Oh I can beat that," the girl went on. 

303 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Did you wake up one morning and iind you had 
grown a pair of wings ? " Peter asked. " Because 
that's what the difference amounts to — you really 
soar. Moreover, you're an angel," he added, charmed 
with her unexpectedness, the good nature of her for- 
bearance to reproach him for not having written to 
her. And it seemed to him privately that she was 
angelic when in answer to this she said ever so 
blandly : 

" You know you read King John with me before 
you went away. I thought over immensely what you 
said. I didn't understand it much at the time — I 
was so stupid. But it all came to me later." 

" I wish you could see yourself," Peter returned. 
" My dear fellow, I do. What sort of a dunce do 
you take me for ? I didn't miss a vibration of my 
voice, a fold of my robe." 

" Well, I didn't see you troubhng about it," Peter 
handsomely insisted. 

" No one ever will. Do you think I'd ever show 
it? " 

"Ays celare artem," Basil Dash wood jocosely 
dropped. 

" You must first have the art to hide," said Sher- 
ringham, wondering a Httle why Miriam didn't intro- 
duce her young friend to him. She was, however, 
both then and later perfectly neglectful of such cares, 
never thinking, never minding how other people got 
on together. When she found they didn't get on she 
jeered at them : that was the nearest she came to 
arranging for them. Our young man noted in her 
from the moment she felt her strength an immense 
increase of this good-humoured inattention to detail 
— all detail save that of her work, to which she was 
ready to sacrifice holocausts of feelings when the 
feehngs were other people's. This conferred on her 
a large profanity, an absence of ceremony as to her 

304 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

social relations, which was both amusing because it 
suggested that she would take what she gave, and 
formidable because it was inconvenient and you 
mightn't care to give what she would take. 

" If you haven't any art it's not quite the same 
as if you didn't hide it, is it ? " Basil Dashwood 
ingeniously threw out. 

" That's right — say one of your clever things ! " 
Miriam sweetly responded. 

" You're always acting," he declared in English 
and with a simple-minded laugh, while Sherringham 
remained struck with his expressing just what he 
himself had felt weeks before. 

" And when you've shown them your fish-wife, 
to your public de la-has, what will you do next ? " 
asked Madame Carre. 

" I'U do JuUet— I'll do Cleopatra." 

" Rather a big bill, isn't it ? " Mr. Dashwood 
volunteered to Sherringham in a friendly but dis- 
criminating manner. 

" Constance and Juliet — take care you don't mix 
them," said Sherringham. 

" I want to be various. You once told me I had 
a hundred characters," Miriam returned. 

" Ah, vous en etes Id ? " cried the old actress. 
" You may have a hundred characters, but j^ou've 
only three plays. I'm told that's all there are in 
English." 

Miriam, admirably indifferent to this charge, 
appealed to Peter. " What arrangements have you 
made ? What do the people want ? " 

" The people at the theatre ? " 

" I'm afraid they don't want King John, and I 
don't believe they hunger for Antony and Cleopatra," 
Basil Dashwood suggested. " Ships and sieges and 
armies and pyramids, you know : we mustn't be too 
heavy." 

I 305 X 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Oh I hate scenery ! " the girl sighed. 

" Elle est stiperbe," said Madame Carre. " You 
must put those pieces on the stage : how will you 
do it ? " 

"Oh we know how to get up a play in London, 
Madame Carre " — Mr. Dash wood was all geniality. 
" They put money on it, you know." 

" On it ? But what do they put in it ? Who'll 
interpret them ? Who'll manage a style Hke that 
— the style of which the rhapsodies she has just 
repeated are a specimen ? Whom have you got that 
one has ever heard of ? " 

" Oh you'll hear of a good deal when once she 
gets started," Dashwood cheerfully contended. 

Madame Carre looked at him a moment ; then, 
" I feel that you'll become very bad," she said to 
Miriam. " I'm glad I shan't see it." 

" People will do things for me — I'll make them," 
the girl declared. " I'll stir them up so that they'll 
have ideas." 

" What people, pray ? " 

" Ah terrible woman ! " Peter theatrically groaned. 

" We translate your pieces — there will be plenty 
of parts," Basil Dashwood said. 

" Why then go out of the door to come in at the 
window ? — especially if you smash it ! An English 
arrangement of a French piece is a pretty woman 
with her back turned." 

" Do you really want to keep her ? " Sherringham 
asked of Madame Carre — quite as if thinking for a 
moment that this after all might be possible. 

She bent her strange eyes on him. " No, you're 
all too queer together. We couldn't be bothered 
with you and you're not worth it." 

" I'm glad it's ' together ' that we're queer then — 
we can console each other." 

" If you only would ; but you don't seem to ! .In 

306 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

short I don't understand you — I give you up. But 
it doesn't matter," said the old woman wearily, " for 
the theatre's dead and even you, ma toute-belle, won't 
bring it to Ufe. Everything's going from bad to 
worse, and I don't care what becomes of you. You 
wouldn't understand us here and they won't under- 
stand you there, and everything's impossible, and 
no one's a whit the wiser, and it's not of the least 
consequence. Only when you raise your arms Hft 
them just a Uttle higher," Madame Carre added. 

" My mother will be happier chez nous," said 
Miriam, throwing her arms straight up and giving 
them a noble tragic movement. 

" You won't be in the least in the right path till 
your mother's in despair." 

" Well, perhaps we can bring that about even in 
London," Sherringham patiently laughed. 

" Dear Mrs. Rooth— she's great fun," Mr. Dash- 
wood as imperturbably dropped. 

Miriam transferred the dark weight of her gaze to 
him as if she were practising. " You won't upset her, 
at any rate." Then she stood with her beautiful and 
fatal mask before her hostess. " I want to do the 
modern too. I want to do le drame, with intense 
realistic effects." 

" And do you want to look Uke the portico of the 
Madeleine when it's draped for a funeral ? " her 
instructress mocked. " Never, never. I don't be- 
heve you're various : that's not the way I see you. 
You're pure tragedy, with de grands eclats de voix in 
the great style, or you're nothing." 

" Be beautiful — ^be only that," Peter urged with 
high interest. " Be only what you can be so well — 
something that one may turn to for a ghmpse of 
perfection, to Hft one out of all the vulgarities of the 
day." 

Thus apostrophised the girl broke out with one of 

307 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

the speeches of Racine's Phaedra, hushing her com- 
panions on the instant. " You'll be the English 
Rachel," said Basil Dashwood when she stopped. 

" Acting in French ! " Madame Carre amended. 
" I don't believe in an English Rachel." 

" I shall have to work it out, what I shall be," 
Miriam concluded with a rich pensive effect. 

" You're in wonderfully good form to-day," Sher- 
ringham said to her ; his appreciation revealing a 
personal subjection he was unable to conceal from his 
companions, much as he wished it. 

" I really mean to do everything." 

" Very well ; after all Garrick did." 

" Then I shall be the Garrick of my sex." 

" There's a very clever author doing something 
for me ; I should like you to see it," said Basil Dash- 
wood, addressing himself equally to Miriam and to 
her diplomatic friend. 

"Ah if you've very clever authors ! " And 

Madame Carre spun the sound to the finest satiric 
thread. 

" I shall be very happy to see it," Peter returned. 

This response was so benevolent that Basil Dash- 
wood presently began : " May I ask you at what 
theatre you've made arrangements ? " 

Sherringham looked at him a moment. " Come 
and see me at the embassy and I'll tell you." Then 
he added : " I know your sister, Mrs. Lovick." 

" So I supposed : that's why I took the liberty of 
asking such a question." 

" It's no liberty, but Mr. Sherringham doesn't 
appear to be able to tell you," said Miriam. 

" Well, you know, it's a very curious world, all 
those theatrical people over there," Peter conceded. 

" Ah don't say anything against them when I'm 
one of them," Basil Dashwood laughed. 

" I might plead the absence of information," Peter 

308 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

returned, " as Miss Rooth has neglected to make us 
acquainted." 

Miriam vaguely smiled. " I know you both so 
little." But she presented them with a great stately 
air to each other, and the two men shook hands while 
Madame Carre observed them. 

" Tiens I you gentlemen meet here for the first 
time ? You do right to become friends — -that's the 
best thing. Live together in peace and mutual con- 
fidence. C'est de beaucoup le plus sage." 

" Certainly, for yoke-fellows," said Sherringham. 

He began the next moment to repeat to his new 
acquaintance some of the things he had been told in 
London ; but their hostess stopped him off, waving 
the talk away with charming overdone stage horror 
and the young hands of the heroines of Marivaux. 
" Ah wait till you go — for that ! Do you suppose I 
care for news of your mountebanks' booths ? " 



309 



XX 



As many people know, there are not, in the famous 
Theatre Frangais, more than a dozen good seats 
accessible to ladies.^ The stalls are forbidden them, 
the boxes are a quarter of a mile from the stage and 
the balcony is a delusion save for a few chairs at either 
end of its vast horseshoe. But there are two excellent 
baignoires d'av ant-scene, which indeed are by no means 
always to be had. It was, however, into one of them 
that, immediately after his return to Paris, Sher- 
ringham ushered Mrs. Rooth and her daughter, with 
the further escort of Basil Dashwood. He had chosen 
the evening of the reappearance of the celebrated 
Mademoiselle Voisin — she had been enjoying a conge 
of three months — an acti-ess whom Miriam had seen 
several times before and for whose method she pro- 
fessed a high though somewhat critical esteem. It 
was only for the return of this charming performer 
that Peter had been waiting to respond to Miriam's 
most ardent wish — that of spending an hour in the 
foyer des artistes of the great theatre. She was the 
person whom he knew best in the house of Mohere ; 
he could count on her to do them the honours some 
night when she was in the " bill," and to make the 
occasion sociable. Miriam had been impatient for 
it — she was so convinced that her eyes would be 
opened in the holy of holies ; but wishing as particu- 

1 1890. 
310 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

larly as he did to participate in her impression he had 
made her promise she wouldn't taste of this experi- 
ence without him — not let Madame Carre, for instance, 
take her in his absence. There were questions the 
girl \\'ished to put to Mademoiselle Voisin — questions 
which, having admired her from the balcony, she felt 
she was exactly the person to answer. She was more 
"in it " now, after all, than Madame Carre, in spite 
of her slenderer talent : she was younger, fresher, more 
modern and — Miriam found the word — less academic. 
She was in fine less " vieux jeu." Peter perfectly 
foresaw the day when his young friend would make 
indulgent allowances for poor Madame Carre, patronis- 
ing her as an old woman of good intentions. 

The play to-night was six months old, a large, 
serious, successful comedy by the most distinguished 
of authors, with a thesis, a chorus embodied in one 
character, a scene a faire and a part full of oppor- 
tunities for Mademoiselle Voisin. There were things 
to be said about this artist, strictures to be dropped 
as to the general quality of her art, and Miriam leaned 
back now, making her comments as if they cost her 
less ; but the actress had knowledge and distinction 
and pathos, and our young lady repeated several 
times : " How quiet she is, how wonderfully quiet ! 
Scarcely anything moves but her face and her voice. 
Le geste rare, but really expressive when it comes. I 
like that economy ; it's the only way to make the 
gesture significant." 

" I don't admire the way she holds her arms," 
Basil Dash wood said : " hke a demoiselle de magasin 
trying on a jacket." 

" Well, she holds them at any rate. I daresay it's 
more than you do with yours." 

" Oh yes, she holds them ; there's no mistake about 
that. ' I hold them, I hope, hein ? ' she seems to say 
to all the house." The young English professional 

311 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

laughed good - humouredly, and Sherringham was 
struck with the pleasant familiarity he had estab- 
lished with their brave companion. He was knowing 
and ready and he said in the first entr'acte- — they 
were waiting for the second to go behind^ — amusing 
perceptive things. " They teach them to be ladylike 
and Voisin's always tr5dng to show that. ' See how 
I walk, see how I sit, see how quiet I am and how I 
have le geste rare. Now can you say I ain't a lady ? ' 
She does it all as if she had a class." 

" Well, to-night I'm her class," said Miriam. 

" Oh I don't mean of actresses, but of femmes 
du monde. She shows them how to act in 
society." 

" You had better take a few lessons," Miriam 
retorted. 

" Ah you should see Voisin in society," Peter 
interposed. 

" Does she go into it ? " Mrs. Rooth demanded 
with interest. 

Her friend hesitated. " She receives a great many 
people." 

" Why shouldn't they when they're nice ? " Mrs. 
Rooth frankly wanted to know. 

" When the people are nice ? " Miriam asked. 

" Now don't tell me she's not what one would 
wish," said Mrs. Rooth to Sherringham. 

" It depends on what that is," he darkly smiled. 

" What I should wish if she were my daughter," 
the old woman rejoined blandly. 

" Ah wish your daughter to act as well as that and 
you'll do the handsome thing for her ! " 

" Well, she seems to feel what she says," Mrs. 
Rooth piously risked. 

" She has some stiff things to say. I mean about 
her past," Basil Dashwood remarked. " The past— 
the dreadful past — on the stage ! " 

312 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Wait till tlie end, to see how she comes out. We 
must all be merciful ! " sighed Mrs. Rooth. 

" We've seen it before ; you know what happens," 
Miriam observed to her mother. 

" I've seen so many I get them mixed." 

" Yes, they're all in queer predicaments. Poor old 
mother — what we show you ! " laughed the girl. 

"Ah it will be wha.t you show me — something 
noble and wise ! " 

" I want to do this ; it's a magnificent part," said 
Miriam. 

" You couldn't put it on in London— they wouldn't 
swallow it," Basil Dashwood declared. 

" Aren't there things they do there to get over the 
difficulties ? " the girl inquired. 

" You can't get over what she did ! "—her com- 
panion had a rueful grimace. 

" Yes, we must pay, we must expiate ! " Mrs. 
Rooth moaned as the curtain rose again. 

When the second act was over our friends passed 
out of their baignoire into those corridors of tribula- 
tion where the bristling ouvreuse, hke a pawnbroker 
driving a roaring trade, mounts guard upon piles of 
heterogeneous clothing, and, gaining the top of the 
fine staircase which forms the state entrance and 
connects the statued vestibule of the basement with 
the grand tier of boxes, opened an ambiguous door 
composed of httle mirrors and found themselves in 
the society of the initiated. The janitors were 
courteous folk who greeted Sherringham as an 
acquaintance, and he had no difficulty in marshalHng 
his Httle troop toward the foyer. They traversed a 
low, curving lobby, hung with pictures and furnished 
with velvet-covered benches where several unrecog- 
nised persons of both sexes looked at them without 
hostiUty, and arrived at an opening, on the right, 
from which, by a short flight of steps, there was a 

313 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

descent to one of the wings of the stage. Here 
Miriam paused, in silent excitement, Uke a young 
warrior arrested by a gUmpse of the battle-field. Her 
vision was carried off through a lane of light to the 
point of vantage from which the actor held the house ; 
but there was a hushed guard over the place and 
curiosity could only glance and pass. 

Then she came with her companions to a sort of 
parlour with a polished floor, not large and rather 
vacant, where her attention flew delightedly to a 
coat-tree, in a corner, from which three or four 
dresses were suspended — dresses she immediately 
perceived to be costumes in that night's pla}/ — 
accompanied by a saucer of something and a much- 
worn powder-puff casually left on a sofa. This was 
a familiar note in the general impression of high 
decorum which had begun at the threshold — a sense 
of majesty in the place. Miriam rushed at the 
powder-puff — there was no one in the room — snatched 
it up and gazed at it with droll veneration, then stood 
rapt a moment before the charming petticoats 
(" That's Dunoyer's first underskirt," she said to 
her mother) while Sherringham explained that in 
this apartment an actress traditionally changed her 
gown when the transaction was simple enough to 
save the long ascent to her loge. He felt himself a 
cicerone showing a church to a party of provincials ; 
and indeed there was a grave hospitaUty in the air, 
mingled with something academic and important, 
the tone of an institution, a temple, which made them 
all, out of respect and delicacy, hold their breath a 
little and tread the shining floors with discretion. 

These precautions increased ^ — Mrs. Rooth crept 
aboirt like a friendly but undomesticated cat — after 
they entered the foyer itself, a square, spacious saloon 
covered with pictures and relics and draped in official 
green velvet, where the genius loci holds a reception 

314 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

every night in the year. The effect was freshly 
cliarming to Peter ; he was fond of the place, always 
saw it again with pleasure, enjoyed its honourable 
look and the way, among the portraits and scrolls, 
the records of a splendid history, the green velvet 
and the waxed floors, the genius loci seemed to be 
" at home " in the quiet lamplight. At the end of 
the room, in an ample chimney, blazed a fire of logs. 
Miriam said nothing ; they looked about, noting 
that most of the portraits and pictures were " old- 
fashioned," and Basil Dash wood expressed dis- 
appointment at the absence of all the people they 
wanted most to see. Three or four gentlemen in 
evening dress circulated slowly, looking, like them- 
selves, at the pictures, and another gentleman stood 
before a lady, with whom he was in conversation, 
seated against the wall. The foyer resembled in 
these conditions a ball-room, cleared for the dance, 
before the guests or the music had arrived. 

" Oh it's enough to see this ; it makes my heart 
beat," said Miriam. " It's full of the vanished past, 
it makes me cry. I feel them here, all, the great 
artists I shall never see. Think of Rachel — look at 
her grand portrait there ! — and how she stood on 
these very boards and trailed over them the robes 
of Hermione and Phedre." The girl broke out 
theatrically, as on the spot was right, not a bit afraid 
of her voice as soon as it rolled through the room ; 
appealing to her companions as they stood under the 
chandelier and making the other persons present, 
who had already given her some attention, turn 
round to stare at so unusual a specimen of the English 
miss. She laughed, musically, when she noticed 
this, and her mother, scandalised, begged her to 
lower her tone. " It's all right. I produce an effect," 
said Miriam : "it shan't be said that I too haven't 
had my little success in the maison de Moliere," 

315 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

And Sherringham repeated that it was all right — the 
place was familiar with mirth and passion, there was 
often wonderful talk there, and it was only the 
setting that was still and solemn. It happened that 
this evening — there was no knowing in advance — 
the scene was not characteristically brilliant ; but 
to confirm his assertion, at the moment he spoke, 
Mademoiselle Dunoyer, who was also in the play, 
came into the room attended by a pair of gentlemen. 

She was the celebrated, the perpetual, the neces- 
sary ingenue, who with all her talent couldn't have 
represented a woman of her actual age. She had the 
gliding, hopping movement of a small bird, the^same 
air of having nothing to do with time, and the clear, 
sure, piercing note, a miracle of exact vocalisation. 
She chaffed her companions, she chaffed the room ; 
she might have been a very clever Httle girl trying to 
personate a more innocent big one. She scattered 
her amiabihty about — showing Miriam how the 
children of Moliere took their ease — and it quickly 
placed her in the friendUest communication with 
Peter Sherringham, who already enjoyed her acquaint- 
ance and who now extended it to his companions, 
and in particular to the young lady stir le point d'entrer 
au theatre. 

" You deserve a happier lot," said the actress, 
looking up at Miriam brightly, as if to a ^reat height, 
and taking her in ; upon which Sherrmgham left 
them together a little and led Mrs. Rooth and young 
Dashwood to consider further some of the pictures. 

" Most delightful, most curious," the old woman 
murmured about everything ; while Basil Dashwood 
exclaimed in the presence of most of the portraits : 
" But their ughness — their ugHness : did you ever 
see such a collection of hideous people ? And those 
who were supposed to be good-looking — the beauties 
of the past — they're worse than the others. Ah you 

316 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

may say what you will, nous sommes mieux que c^ ! " 
Sherringham suspected him of irritation, of not liking 
the theatre of the great rival nation to be thrust down 
his throat. They returned to Miriam and Made- 
moiselle Dunoyer, and Peter asked the actress a 
question about one of the portraits to which there 
was no name attached. She replied, like a child who 
had only played about the room, that she was toute 
honteuse not to be able to tell him the original : she 
had forgotten, she had never asked—" Vous allez me 
trouver Men legere ! " She appealed to the other 
persons present, who formed a gallery for her, and 
laughed in delightful ripples at their suggestions, 
which she covered with ridicule. She bestirred 
herself ; she declared she would ascertain, she 
shouldn't be happy till she did, and swam out of the 
room, with the prettiest paddles, to obtain the infor- 
mation, leaving behind her a perfume of delicate 
kindness and gaiety. She seemed above all things 
obliging, and Peter pronounced her almost as natural 
off the stage as on. She didn't come back. 



317 



XXI 

Whether he had prearranged it is more than I can 
say, but Mademoiselle Voisin delayed so long to 
show herself that Mrs. Rooth, who wished to see 
the rest of the play, though she had sat it out on 
another occasion, expressed a returning relish for her 
corner of the baignoire and gave her conductor the 
best pretext he could have desired for asking Basil 
Dashwood to be so good as to escort her back. When 
the young actor, of whose personal preference Peter 
was quite aware, had led Mrs. Rooth away with an 
absence of moroseness which showed that his striking 
resemblance to a gentleman was not kept for the 
footlights, the two others sat on a divan in the part 
of the room furthest from the entrance, so that it 
gave them a degree of privacy, and Miriam watched 
the coming and going of their fellow-visitors and the 
indefinite people, attached to the theatre, hanging 
about, while her companion gave a name to some of 
the figures, Parisian celebrities. 

" Fancy poor Dashwood cooped up there with 
mamma ! " the girl exclaimed whimsically. 

" You're awfully cruel to him ; but that's of 
course," said Sherringham. 

" It seems to me I'm as kind as you ; you sent 
him off." 

" That was for your mother ; she was tired." 

318 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Oh gammon ! And why, if I were cruel, should 
it be of course ? " 

" Because you must destroy and torment and wear 
out — that's your nature. But you can't help your 
type, can you ? " 

" My type ? " she echoed. 

" It's bad, perverse, dangerous. It's essentially 
insolent." 

" And pray what's yours when you talk like that ? 
Would you say such things if you didn't know the 
depths of my good nature ? " 

" Your good nature all comes back to that," said 
Sherringham. " It's an abyss of ruin — for others. 
You've no respect. I'm speaking of the artistic 
character — in the direction and in the plentitude 
in which you have it. It's unscrupulous, nervous, 
capricious, wanton." 

" I don't know about respect. One can be good," 
Miriam mused and reasoned. 

" It doesn't matter so long as one's powerful," he 
returned. " We can't have everything, and surely 
we ought to understand that we must pay for things. 
A splendid organisation for a special end, like yours, 
is so rare and rich and fine that we oughtn't to grudge 
it its conditions." 

" What do you caU its conditions ? " Miriam asked 
as she turned and looked at him. 

" Oh the need to take its ease, to take up space, 
to make itself at home in the world, to square its 
elbows and knock others about. That's large and 
free ; it's the good nature you speak of. You must 
forage and ravage and leave a track behind you ; you 
must live upon the country you traverse. And you 
give such delight that, after all, you're welcome — 
you're infinitely welcome ! " 

" I don't know what you mean. I only care for 
the idea," the girl said, 

319 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" That's exactly what I pretend — and we must 
all help you to it. You use us, you push us about, 
you break us up. We're your tables and chairs, the 
simple furniture of your life." 

" Whom do you mean by ' we ' ? " 

Peter gave an ironic laugh. " Oh don't be afraid 
-—there will be plenty of others ! " 

She made no return to this, but after a moment 
broke out again. " Poor Dash wood immured with 
mamma — he's like a lame chair that one has put 
into the corner." 

" Don't break him up before he has served. I 
really believe something will come out of him," her 
companion went on. " However, you'll break me 
up first," he added, " and him probably never at all." 

" And why shall I honour you so much more ? " 

" Because I'm a better article and you'll feel 
that." 

" You've the superiority of modesty — I see." 

" I'm better than a young mountebank — I've 
vanity enough to say that." 

She turned on him with a flush in her cheek and 
a splendid dramatic face. " How you hate us ! Yes, 
at bottom, below your little cold taste, you hate us ! " 
she repeated. 

He coloured too, met her eyes, looked into them 
a minute, seemed to accept the imputation and then 
said quickly : " Give it up : come away with me." 

" Come away with you ? " 

" Leave this place. Give it up." 

" You brought me here, you insisted it should be 
only you, and now you must stay," she declared 
with a head-shake and a high manner. " You should 
know what you want, dear Mr. Sherringham." 

" I do — I know now. Come away before you see 
her." 

" Before ? " she seemed to wonder. 

320 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" She's success, this wonderful Voisin, she's 
triumph, she's full accomplishment : the hard, 
brilliant realisation of what I want to avert for 
you." Miriam looked at him in silence, the cold light 
still in her face, and he repeated : " Give it up — give 
it up." 

Her eyes softened after a little ; she smiled and 
then said : " Yes, you're better than poor Dash- 
wood." 

" Give it up and we'll live for ourselves, in our- 
selves, in something that can have a sanctity." 

" All the same you do hate us," the girl went on. 

" I don't want to be conceited, but I mean that 
I'm sufhcientl}^ fine and complicated to tempt you. 
I'm an expensive modem watch with a wonderful 
escapement — therefore you'll smash me if you can." 

" Never — never ! " she said as she got up. " You 
tell me the hour too well." She quitted her com- 
panion and stood looking at Gerome's fine portrait 
of the pale Rachel invested with the antique attributes 
of tragedy. The rise of the curtain had drawn away 
most of the company. Peter, from his bench, watched 
his friend a little, turning his eyes from her to the 
vivid image of the dead actress and thinking how 
little she suffered by the juxtaposition. Presently he 
came over and joined her again and she resumed : 
" I wonder if that's what your cousin had in his 
mind." 

" My cousin ? " 

" What was his name ? Mr. Dormer ; that first 
day at Madame Carre's. He offered to paint my 
portrait." 

" I remember. I put him up to it." 

" Was he thinking of this ? " 

" I doubt if he has ever seen it. I daresay / was." 

" Well, when we go to London he must do it," 
said Miriam. 

I 321 Y 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Oh there's no hurry," Peter was moved to reply. 

"Don't you want my picture? " asked the girl 
with one of her successful touches. 

" I'm not sure I want it from him. I don't know 
quite what he'd make of you." 

" He looked so clever — I liked him. I saw him 
again at your party." 

" He's a jolly good fellow ; but what's one to say," 
Peter put to her, " of a painter who goes for his 
inspiration to the House of Commons ? " 

" To the House of Commons ? " she echoed. 

" He has lately got himself elected." 

" Dear me, what a pity ! I wanted to sit for him. 
But perhaps he won't have me — as I'm not a member 
of Parliament." 

" It's my sister, rather, who has got him in." 

" Your sister who was at your house that day ? 
What has she to do with it ? " Miriam asked. 

" Why she's his cousin just as I am. And in 
addition," Sherringham went on, "she's to be 
married to him." 

" Married — really ? " She had a pause, but she 
continued. "So he paints her, I suppose ? " 

" Not much, probably. His talent in that line 
isn't what she esteems in him most." 

" It isn't great, then ?. " 

" I haven't the least idea." 

" And in the political line ? " the girl persisted. 

" I scarcely can tell. He's very clever." 

" He does paint decently, then ? " 

" I daresay." 

Miriam looked once more at Gerome's picture. 
" I^ancy his going into the House of Commons ! And 
your sister put him there ? " 

" She worked, she canvassed." 

" Ah you're a queer family ! " she sighed, turning 
round at the sound of a step. 

322 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

"We're lost — here's Mademoiselle Voisin," said 
Sherringham. 

This celebrity presented herself smiling and 
addressing Miriam. "I acted for you to-night — I 
did my best." 

" What a pleasure to speak to you, to thank you ! " 
the girl murmured admiringly. She was startled 
and dazzled. 

" I couldn't come to you before, but now I've 
got a rest — for half an hour," the actress went on. 
Gracious and passive, as if a little spent, she let 
Sherringham, without looking at him, take her 
hand and raise it to his lips. " I'm sorry I make 
you lose the others — they're so good in this act," 
she added. 

" We've seen them before and there's nothing so 
good as you," Miriam promptly returned. 

" I like my part," said Mademoiselle Voisin gently, 
smiling still at our young lady with clear, charming 
eyes. " One's always better in that case." 

" She's so bad sometimes, you know ! " Peter 
jested to Miriam ; leading the actress thus to glance 
at him, kindly and vaguely, in a short silence which 
you couldn't call on her part embarrassment, but 
which was still less affectation. 

" And it's so interesting to be here — so interest- 
ing ! " Miriam protested. 

" Ah you like our old house ? Yes, we're very 
proud of it." And Mademoiselle Voisin smiled again 
at Sherringham all good-humouredly, but as if to say : 
" Well, here I am, and what do you want of me ? 
Don't ask me to invent it myself, but if you'll tell 
me I'll do it." Miriam admired the note of discreet 
interrogation in her voice — the sUght suggestion 
of surprise at their " old house " being liked. This 
performer was an astonishment from her seeming 
still more perfect on a nearer view — which was 

323 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

not, the girl had an idea, what performers usually 
did. This was very encouraging to her — it widened 
the programme of a young lady about to embrace the 
scenic career. To' have so much to show before 
the foothghts and yet to have so much left when you 
came off — that was really wo-nderful. Mademoiselle 
Voisin's eyes, as one looked into them, were still 
more agreeable than the distant spectator would have 
supposed ; and there was in her appearance an 
extreme finish which instantly suggested to Miriam 
that she herself, in comparison, was big and rough 
and coarse. 

"You're lovely to-night — you're particularly 
lovely," Sherringham said very frankly, translating 
Miriam's own impression and at the same time giving 
her an illustration of the way that, in Paris at least, 
gentlemen expressed themselves to the stars of the 
drama. She thought she knew her companion very 
well and had been witness of the degree to which, 
in such general conditions, his familiarity could 
increase ; but his address to the slim, distinguished, 
harmonious woman before them had a different 
quality, the note of a special usage. If Miriam had 
had an apprehension that such directness might be 
taken as excessive it was removed by the manner in 
which Mademoiselle Voisin returned : 

" Oh one's always well enough v.'hen one's made 
up ; one's always exactly the same." That served 
as an example of the good taste with which a star 
of the drama could receive homage that was wanting 
in originality. Miriam determined on the spot that 
this should be the way she would ever receive it. The 
grace of her new acquaintance was the greater as the 
becoming bloom to which she alluded as artificial 
was the result of a science so consummate that it 
had none of the grossness of a mask. The percep- 
tion of all this was exciting to our young aspirant, and 

324 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

her excitement relieved itself in the inquiry, which 
struck her as rude as soon as she had uttered it : 

" You acted for ' me ' ? How did you know ? 
What am I to you ? " 

" Monsieur Sherringham has told me about you. 
He says we're nothing beside you — that you're to 
be the great star of the future. I'm proud that 
you've seen me." 

" That of course is what I tell every one," Peter 
acknowledged a trifle awkwardly to Miriam. 

" I can believe it when I see you. Je vous ai hien 
observee," the actress continued in her sweet con- 
ciliatory tone. 

Miriam looked from one of her interlocutors to 
the other as if there were joy for her in this report 
of Sherringham's remarks — joy accompanied and 
partly mitigated, however, by a quicker vision of 
what might have passed between a secretary of 
embassy and a creature so exquisite as Mademoiselle 
Voisin. " Ah you're wonderful people — a most inter- 
esting impression ! " she yearningly sighed. 

" I was looking for you ; he had prepared me. 
We're such old friends ! " said the actress in a tone 
courteously exempt from intention : upon which 
Sherringham, again taking her hand, raised it to his 
lips with a tenderness which her whole appearance 
seemed to bespeak for her, a sort of practical con- 
sideration and carefulness of touch, as if she were 
an object precious and frail, an instrument for 
producing rare sounds, to be handled, like a legendary 
violin, with a recognition of its value. 

" Your dressing-room is so pretty — show her your 
dressing-room," he went on. 

" Willingly, if she'll come up. Vous savez que 
c'est une montee." 

" It's a shame to inflict it on you," Miriam 
objected. 

* 325 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" Comment done ? If it will interest you in the 
least ! " They exchanged civiUties, almost caresses, 
trying which could have the nicest manner to the 
other. It was the actress's manner that struck 
Miricim most ; it denoted such a training, so much 
taste, expressed such a ripe conception of urbanity. 

" No wonder she acts well when she has that tact 
— feels, perceives, is so remarkable, mon Dieu. mon 
Dieii ! " the girl said to herself as they followed their 
conductress into another corridor and up a wide, 
plain staircase. The staircase was spacious and long 
and this part of the estabHshment sombre and still, 
with the gravity of a college or a convent. They 
reached another passage lined with httle doors, on 
each of which the name of a comedian was painted, 
and here the aspect became still more monastic, hke 
that of a row of soUtary ceUs. Mademoiselle Voisin 
led the way to her own door all obligingly and as if 
wishing to be hospitable ; she dropped little subdued, 
friendly attempts at explanation on the way. At her 
threshold the monasticism stopped — Miriam found 
herself in a wonderfully upholstered nook, a nest of 
lamphght and dehcate cretonne. Sa,ve for its pair of 
long glasses it might have been a tiny boudoir, with a 
water-colour drawing of value in each of its panels of 
stretched stuff, with its crackhng fire and its charming 
order. It was intensely bright and extremely hot, 
singularly pretty and exempt from htter. Nothing 
lay about, but a small draped doorway led into an 
inner sanctuary. To Miriam it seemed royal ; it 
immediately made the art of the comedian the most 
distinguished thing in the world. It was just such 
a place as they should have for their intervals if they 
were expected to be great artists. It was a result of 
the same evolution as Mademoiselle Voisin herself — 
not that our young lady found this particular term 
at hand to express her idea. But her mind was flooded 

326 ' 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

with an impression of style, of refinement, of the 
long continuity of a tradition. The actress said, 
" Voild, c'est tout ! " as if it were little enough and 
there were even something clumsy in her having 
brought them so far for nothing, and in their all 
sitting there waiting and looking at each other till it 
was time for her to change her dress. But to Miriam 
it was occupation enough to note what she did and 
said : these things and her whole person and carriage 
struck our young woman as exquisite in their adapta- 
tion to the particular occasion. She had had an idea 
that foreign actresses were rather of the cabotin 
order, but her hostess suggested to her much more 
a princess than a cabotine. She would do things as 
she liked and do them straight off : Miriam couldn't 
fancy her in the gropings and humiliations of 
rehearsal. Everything in her had been sifted and 
formed, her tone was perfect, her amiability complete, 
and she might have been the charming young wife of 
a secretary of state receiving a pair of strangers of 
distinction. The girl observed all her movements. 
And then, as Sherringham had said, she was particu- 
larly lovely. But she suddenly told this gentleman 
that she must put him a la porte — she wanted to change 
her dress. He retired and returned to the foyer, 
where Miriam was to rejoin him after remaining the 
few minutes more with Mademoiselle Voisin and 
coming down with her. He waited for his companion, 
walking up and down and making up his mind ; and 
when she presently came in he said to her : 

" Please don't go back for the rest of the play. 
Stay here." They now had the foyer virtually to 
themselves. 

" I want to stay here. I like it better." She 
moved back to the chimney-piece, from above which 
the cold portrait of Rachel looked down, and as he 
accompanied her he went on : 

327 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

" I meant what I said just now." 

" What you said to Voisin ? " 

" No, no ; to you. Give it up and live with me." 

" Give it up ? " She turned her stage face on him. 

" Give it up and I'll marry you to-morrow." 

" This is a happy time to ask it ! " she said with 
superior amusement. " And this is a good place ! " 

" Very good indeed, and that's why I speak : it's 
a place to make one choose- — it puts it all before 
one." 

" To make you choose, you mean. I'm much 
obUged, but that's not my choice," laughed Miriam. 

" You shall be anything you like except this." 

" Except what I most want to be ? I am much 
obliged." 

" Don't you care for me ? Haven't you any 
gratitude ? " Sherringham insisted. 

" Gratitude for kindly removing the blest cup from 
my lips ? I want to be what she is — I want it more 
than ever." 

" Ah what she is— — ! " He took it impatiently. 

" Do you mean I can't ? We'll see if I can't. 
Tell me more about her — tell me everything." 

" Haven't you seen for yourself and, knowing 
things as you do, can't you judge ? " 

" She's strange, she's mysterious," Miriam allowed, 
looking at the fire. " She showed us nothing — 
nothing of her real self." 

" So much the better, all things considered." 

" Are there all sorts of other things in her life ? 
That's what I beheve," the girl went on, raising her 
eyes to him. 

" I can't tell you what there is in the life of such 
a woman." 

" Imagine — when she's so perfect ! " she exclaimed 
thoughtfully. " Ah she kept me off — she kept me 
off ! Her charming manner is in itself a kind of 

328 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

contempt. It's an abyss — it's the wall of China. 
She has a hard pohsh, an inimitable surface, like 
some wonderful porcelain that costs more than you'd 
think." 

" Do you want to become like that ? " Sherringham 
asked. 

"If I could I should be enchanted. One can 
always try." 

" You must act better than she," he went on. 

" Better ? I thought you wanted me to give it up." 

" Ah I don't know what I want," he cried, " and 
you torment me and turn me inside out ! What I 
want is you yourself." 

" Oh don't worry," said Miriam — now all kindly. 
Then she added that Mademoiselle Voisin had invited 
her to " call " ; to which Sherringham replied with 
a certain dryness that she would probably not find 
that necessary. This made the girl stare and she 
asked : " Do you mean it won't do on account of 
mamma's prejudices ? " 

" Say this time on account of mine." 

" Do you mean because she has lovers ? " 

" Her lovers are none of our business." 

" None of mine, I see. So you've been one of 
them ? " 

" No such luck ! " 

" What a pity ! " she richly wailed. " I should 
have liked to see that. One must see everything — to 
be able to do everything." And as he pressed for 
what in particular she had wished to see she repHed : 
" The way a woman like that receives one of the old 
ones." 

Peter gave a groan at this, which was at the same 
time partly a laugh, and, turning away to drop on 
a bench, ejaculated : " You'U do — you'll do ! " 

He sat there some minutes with his elbows on his 
knees and his face in his hands. His friend remained 

329 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

looking at the portrait of Rachel, after which she put 
to him : " Doesn't such a woman as that receive — 
receive every one ? " 

" Every one who goes to see her, no doubt." 

" And who goes ? " 

" Lots of men — clever men, eminent men." 

" Ah what a charming Life ! Then doesn't she go 
out ? " 

" Not what we Philistines mean by that — not into 
society, never. She never enters a lady's drawing- 
room." 

" How strange, when one's as distinguished as 
that ; except that she must escape a lot of stupid- 
ities and corvees. Then where does she learn such 
manners ? " 

" She teaches manners, a ses heures : she doesn't 
need to learn them." 

" Oh she has given me ideas ! But in London 
actresses go into society," Miriam continued. 

" Oh into ours, such as it is. In London nous 
melons les genres." 

" And shan't I go — I mean if I want ? " 

" You'll have every facility to bore yourself. 
Don't doubt it." 

" And doesn't she feel excluded ? " Miriam asked. 

" Excluded from what ? She has the fullest life." 

" The fullest ? " 

" An intense artistic life. The cleverest men in 
Paris talk over her work with her ; the principal 
authors of plays discuss with her subjects and char- 
acters and questions of treatment. She lives in the 
world of art." 

" Ah the world of art — ^how I envy her ! And you 
offer me Dash wood ! " 

Sherringham rose in his emotion. "I ' offer ' 
you— ? " 

Miriam burst out laughing. " You look so droll ! 

330 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

You offer me yourself, then, instead of all these 
things." 

" My dear child, I also am a ver}- clever man," he 
said, trying to sink his consciousness of ha\dng for 
a moment stood gaping. 

" You are — \'0u are ; I dehght in you. No ladies 
at all — no fe mm es comme il faut ? " she began again. 

" Ah what do they matter ? Your business is the 
artistic Hfe ! " he broke out \nth inconsequence, 
irritated, moreover, at hearing her sound that trixial 
note again. 

" You're a dear — your charming good sense comes 
back to 5'Ou ! \Miat do j^ou want of me, then ? " 

" I want you for myself — not for others ; and 
now, in time, before an\i;hing's done." 

" \Miy, then, did you bring me here ? Ever\iJiing's 
done — I feel it to-night." 

" I know the way you should look at it — if you 
do look at it at all," Sherringham conceded. 

■ ' That's so easy ! I thought j-ou Hked the stage so," 
Miriam artfully added. 

" Don't you want me to be a great swell ? " 

" And don't you want me to be ? " 

" You 'will be — you'll share my glory." 

" So \\ill you share mine." 

" The husband of an actress ? Yes, I see myself 
that ! " Peter cried ^^ith a frank ring of disgust. 

" It's a silly position, no doubt. But if you're too 
good for it why talk about it ? Don't you tliink I'm 
important ? " she demanded. Her companion met 
her eyes and she suddenly said in a different tone : 
" Ah why should we quarrel when you'\-e been so 
kmd, so generous ? Can't we alwa\-s be friends — the 
truest friends ? " 

Her voice sank to the sweetest cadence and her 
eyes were grateful and good as they rested on him. 
She sometimes said things with such perfection that 

331 



THE TRAGIC MUSE 

they seemed dishonest, but in this case he was stirred 
to an expressive response. Just as he was making it, 
however, he was moved to utter other words : " Take 
care, here's Dash wood ! " Mrs. Rooth's tried attend- | 
ant was in the doorway. He had come back to 
say that they really must relieve him. 



END OF VOL. I 



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PS James, Henry 

2116 The tragic muse 

T7 

1921 

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