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The Tragic Muse (London & New York: Macmillan & Co., 1890)/Volume 1/Chapter 4

< The Tragic Muse (London & New York: Macmillan & Co., 1890)‎ | Volume 1


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 younger of the Miss Dormers consisted of the frankest "Delighted 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 no doubt quickly perceived, hovering for a moment outside the group. Biddy said nothing to Peter Sherringham, but there was no flatness in a silence which afforded such opportunities for a pretty smile. 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 have 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 that we don't pass once for all, but come round and cross again, like a procession at the theatre. It's a shabby economy that ought to have been managed better. The right thing would be just one appearance, and the procession, regardless of expense, forever and forever different."

The company was occupied 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 regardless 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!" observed Nicholas Dormer. "Nash, please sit by my mother, with Peter on her other side."

"My dear, it isn't Julia," Lady Agnes remarked, earnestly, to her son. "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 bœuf braisé, my dear, and afterwards some galantine. Here is 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 with asparagus-tips? Donnez m'en, 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 Julia, how you do work her!" Nick exclaimed. "Nash, I recommend the asparagus-tips. Mother, he's my best friend; do look after him."

"I have an impression I have breakfasted—I am not sure," Nash observed.

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

"The money can be managed; the expenses are very small and the seat is certain," Lady Agnes declared, 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 recognize 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 separated.

"Deluded, misguided, infatuated persons!" Gabriel 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!" But meanwhile Peter Sherringham said to Nick—

"Julia's here, you know. You must go and see her."

Nick looked at him for 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."

"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 continued: "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 have 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 Gabriel, 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 have to pay to get into that place—that it's not you that are paid?"

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

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

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

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

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

"He lives at Samarcand," Nick Dormer explained to his mother, who coloured 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 Julia first, with all respect to Mr. Nash. She's of excellent counsel," said Peter Sherringham.

Gabriel Nash smiled across the table at Dormer. "The lady first—the lady first! I have not a word to suggest as against any idea of hers."

"We must not sit here too long, there will be so much to do," said Lady Agnes, anxiously, perceiving a certain slowness in the service of the bœuf braisé.

Biddy had been up to this moment mainly occupied in looking, covertly and at intervals, at Peter Sherringham; as was perfectly lawful in a young lady with a handsome cousin whom she had not 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 politics: he told us just now he thinks they are dreadful."

"No, not dreadful—only inferior," the personage impugned protested. "Everything is 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 dry.

"Ah, then!" And her neighbour shook his head sadly. He turned, after this, to Biddy, saying to her: "The ladies whom I was with just now, and in whom you were so good as to express an interest?" Biddy gave a sign of assent, and he went on: "They are persons theatrical; the younger one is trying to go upon the stage."

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

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

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

"Dear, no, I won't say that. I think the Théâtre Français 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. On the contrary, it seems to me 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 have 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 have really anything 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 Mr. 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 Français on purpose for a delightful little 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 Gabriel Nash.

"It would be ungrateful if it didn't!" Pater Sherringham laughed.

Lady Agnes had withdrawn herself from between him and Mr. Nash, and, to signify that she, at least, had finished eating, had gone to sit by her son, whom she held, with some importunity, in conversation. 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 exclaimed with spirit: "Think of your great father, Nicholas!"

"He was an honest man; that perhaps is 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 personage: "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?"

"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 is 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 is magnificently stupid."

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

"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 Carré, Rue de Constantinople, à l'entresol."

"Madame Carré? 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 jeune Anglaise."

"That's my arrangement—I obtained the favour. The ladies want an opinion, and dear old Carré has consented to see them and to give one. Gladys will recite something and the venerable artist will pass judgment."

Sherringham remembered that he had his note in his pocket, and he took it out and looked it over. "She wishes to make her a little audience—she says 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 continued, appealing to his friend,—"will you come with me to see an old French actress and to hear an English amateur recite?"

Nick looked round from his talk with his mother and Grace. "I'll go anywhere with you, so that, as I've told you, I may not lose sight of you, may keep hold of you."

"Poor Mr. Nash, why is he so useful?" Lady Agnes demanded with a laugh.

"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 inquired.

"No, but I want to see something, to know something."

"Madame Carré is wonderful in her way, but she is 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 Gabriel Nash. "I think Lady Agnes would hardly venture—"

"Oh, I've seen her good mother!" said Biddy, as if she had an 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 Carré, 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, as she does sometimes still dans le monde as no one else does, in my rooms."

"Make her come, then; we can go there!"

"One of these days!"

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

Sherringham looked at Nash, and the latter exclaimed: "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. The great model will find her very bad. Her judgments, as you probably know, are Rhadamanthine."

"Poor girl!" said Biddy. "I think you're cruel."

"Never mind; I'll look after them," said Sherringham.

"And how can Madame Carré 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 jeune 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, yearningly.

"She has spent her life 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."

"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 lived upon 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 brocanteur. It was nipped in the bud, but Mrs. Rooth was left with a certain number of these articles in her hands; indeed they must have constituted the most palpable part of her heritage. 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?" asked Gabriel Nash, with childlike trust—"and I have 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 it and smashed it. It was the last of the little phase. It was not, however, as you have seen, the last of Mrs. Rooth. I saw her afterwards in London, and I met her a year or two ago in Venice. She 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 and who is 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 dare say 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 are both very clever," said Gabriel Nash, "and Rudolf Roth, as I happen to know, was indeed the designation of Maud Vavasour's papa. But, as far as the question of derogation goes, one might as well drown as starve, for what connection is not a misalliance when one happens to have the cumbersome, the unaccommodating honour of being a Neville-Nugent of Castle Nugent? Such was 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 is like him—and she is not like her mother—he was darkly and dangerously handsome. So I venture rapidly to reconstruct the situation."

A silence, for the moment, had fallen upon Lady 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 whom he was talking about, and having caught the name of a noble residence she inquired—

"Castle Nugent—where is that?"

"It's a domain of immeasurable extent and almost inconceivable splendour, but I fear it isn't to be found in any prosaic earthly geography!" Lady Agnes rested her eyes on the tablecloth, as if she were not sure a liberty had not been taken with her, 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 appeared to have been strongly kindled by the sketch of Miriam Rooth, challenging him sociably, reminded him that he had a short time before assigned a low place to the dramatic art and had not yet answered his question as to whether he believed in the theatre. This gave Nash an opportunity to go on:

"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 evening. It's a commercial and social convenience which may be infinitely worked. But important artistically, intellectually? How can it be—so poor, so limited a form?"

"Dear me, it strikes me as so rich, so various! Do you think it's poor and limited, Nick?" Sherringham added, appealing to his kinsman.

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

This answer of Nick Dormer's drew the eyes of his mother and sisters to him, and caused his friend to exclaim that he was not used to such responsibilities, 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 said to Sherringham. "I understand you perfectly. It's a phase like another. I've been through it—j'ai été comme ça."

"And you went, then, very often to the Théâtre Français, 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 Carré—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 that I hung upon her lips."

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

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

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

"And we have 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 feuilletons. You catch their phrases," Gabriel Nash blandly rejoined. "Dramatic intelligence is never rare; nothing is more common."

"Then why have we so many bad 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? And reflect that that 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 that the actor produces are among the most moving that we know. You'll not persuade me that to watch such an actress as Madame Carré was not 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 raffinés despise the theatre," said Peter Sherringham, 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 analyzed: 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 speculations of the day, 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, before eleven o'clock. Fancy putting 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 are less and less actable. If they are touched—the large fellows—it's only to be mutilated and trivialized. Besides, they had a simpler civilization 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 are so infinitely more reflective and complicated 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 demanded.

"No, but I read them when they are extraordinarily good, and I don't go to plays. I read Balzac, for instance—I encounter the magnificent portrait of Valérie 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 bataille of you fellows."

"What an extraordinary discussion! What dreadful authors!" Lady Agnes murmured to her son. But he was listening so attentively to the other young men that he made no response, and Peter Sherringham went on:

"I have seen Madame Carré in parts, in the modern repertory, which she has made as vivid to me, caused to abide as ineffaceably in my memory, as Valérie Marneffe. She is the Balzac, as one may say, of actresses."

"The miniaturist, as it were, of whitewashers!" Nash rejoined, laughing.

It might have been guessed that Sherringham was irritated, but the other disputant was so good-humoured that he abundantly recognized his own obligation to appear so.

"You would be magnanimous if you thought the young lady you have introduced to our old friend would be important."

"She might be much more so than she ever will be."

Lady Agnes got up, to terminate the scene, and even to signify that enough had been said about people and questions she had never heard of. Every one else rose, the waiter brought Nick the receipt of the bill, and Sherringham went on, to his interlocutor—

"Perhaps she will 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 have never seen her, I shall find something in her. What do you say, Biddy, shall I take an interest in her?"

Biddy hesitated a moment, 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: "Dear me, what chance has 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 about them, vague portents of perversity on the part of Nicholas, 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, the practical effect of which was to make light of her presence. "Let us leave this—let us leave this!" she almost moaned. 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 leave us—I stick to you!"

At this Lady Agnes broke out and interposed: "Excuse me for reminding you that you are 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 her ladyship'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, I will introduce him to my sister, a much more positive quantity."

"It is easy to see who'll have the best of it!" Grace Dormer exclaimed; and Gabriel 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 indifferent; ready to preside with a smile even at a discussion of his own admissibility.

"Nick will bring you. I have a little corner at the Embassy," Sherringham continued.

"You are very kind. You must bring him, then, tomorrow—Rue de Constantinople."

"At five o'clock—don't be afraid."

"Oh, dear!" said Biddy, 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 Elysées Nick Dormer, looking round, saw that his friend had disappeared. Biddy had attached herself to Peter, and Grace apparently had not encouraged Mr. Nash.