THE COLLECTED EDITION OFTHE WORKS OF W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM  THE RAZORS EDGE
Books by W. Somerset MaughamLIZA OF LAMBETHMRS. CRADDOCKTHE MAGICIANOF HUMAN BONDAGETHE MOON AND SIXPENCETHE TREMBLING OF ...
W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM       _________    THERAZORS EDGE    heinemann : london
William Heinemann Ltd LONDON MELBOURNE   TORONTO     CAPE TOWN AUCKLAND         First published 1944  Reprinted 1944, 1945...
The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over ; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.                    ...
CHAPTER ONE                               (i)I HAVE never begun a novel with more misgiving. If Icall it a novel it is onl...
water. Then my book, if it is read at all, will be read onlyfor what intrinsic interest it may possess. But it may bethat ...
that you cant come to know by hearsay, you can onlyknow them if you have lived them. You can only knowthem if you are them...
I had known Elliott Templeton for fifteen years. Hewas at this time in his late fifties, a tall, elegant man withgood feat...
money he had, but his ducal landlord certainly made himpay a lot for his apartment and it was furnished withobjects of val...
country house visits in the early autumn, and in Paris,where he had settled down, he knew everyone whom ayoung American co...
sight of me. But then I happened to make a somewhatstartling success as a playwright, and presently I becameaware that Ell...
times he had to do more. It was then, somewhat naivelyafter what he had told me, that he asked me to come tothe party he w...
especially when you were alone with him, to be amusing.He had a pleasantly malicious tongue and there was noscandal about ...
three of them, and the abbé was scintillating. Elliottshostess brought the conversation around to Catholicismand the abbé ...
sensation of triumph that never palled; and I think that atthe back of it all was a passionate romanticism that ledhim to ...
Clement Talbot for the St. Erths. The duchess wasdelighted with him. Youll see Louisas house for your-self. How she can ha...
help thinking that Mr. Chester Bradley knew what hewas about when he abandoned this to make his way inthe city.Presently w...
"But shes such a sweet woman," Mrs. Bradley expostu-lated, as though it were very hoity-toity of me not toknow that royal ...
I had caught the professional look he gave the room as hecame in and the involuntary lifting of his bushy eyebrows.It was ...
"Im sure its very comfortable and all that, he said,"but if you ask me point-blank, well, I do think its prettyawful."Isab...
treat the room. Elliott was all for Louis Quinze, whileIsabel wanted a refectory table and Italian chairs. Brabazonthought...
and I seemed to see in her expression not only love butfondness. Their eyes met and there was in his a tender-ness that wa...
"He was. Much too young. He behaved very badly.He ran away from school and went to Canada. By lyinghis head off he got the...
or something like that. His mother was a Philadelphianof old Quaker stock.""You speak of them in the past. Are they dead?"...
till I can get back to Paris. Its the only place in the worldfor a civilized man to live. My dear fellow, dyou know howthe...
of chaff was bandied across the table, everyone talked atthe top of his voice and there was a great deal of laughter.They ...
respected. He built us a new church at Marvin and hesgiven a million dollars to the University of Chicago.""His sons a fin...
mature age seldom suspect how unmercifully and yet withwhat insight the very young judge us. I looked again intoher greeni...
She was fond of him and thought he would make Isabelhappy."Her characters stronger than his. She can give himjust what he ...
Then I added my word."But what reason does he give for refusing the variousoffers that are made him?""None. Except that th...
"Hes a beau of Isabels. All the time Larry was awayhe was very attentive. She likes him and if the war hadlasted much long...
"Youve been away from America so long, Elliott," saidMrs. Bradley, with a dry smile, "youve forgotten that inthis country ...
see it was Larry. He was the last person I should haveexpected to find in such a place. He looked up as I passed,recognize...
continuing the conversation without awareness of thatlong silence."When I came back from France they all wanted me togo to...
whither. He strangely excited my sympathy. I had never beforeheard him speak much and it was only now that I becameconscio...
concentration. He had neither noticed me go nor come.I had various things to do during the afternoon and didnot go back to...
"You didnt tell me, Dad, said Gray.Mr. Maturin turned to me."You know Larry, dont you?" I nodded. "Gray persuaded meto tak...
clients for thirty years and they trust me. To tell you the truth,Id rather lose my own money than see them lose theirs."G...
opinion that for the run of mankind industry was essential.Larry was a perfectly ordinary young fellow, of no socialconseq...
with, breast of chicken in aspic, with a heart-of-lettucesalad for which Ill make the dressing myself, and afterthe pate i...
"Shes been crying. Larrys going to Paris. Hes goingto be away for two years. Shes promised to wait for him.""Why does he w...
to an inexperienced girl," but he did no better than hermother had done. I received the impression that she hadtold him, n...
be quite presentable; I can guarantee to show him a sideof French life that very few Americans have a chance ofseeing. Bel...
anything directly about what Elliott had told me, butI had something to say that I thought she might be gladto hear."I saw...
"I could try," I answered prudently.Isabel did not speak till we reached the drugstore, and I,having nothing to say, said ...
"Uncle Elliott says hes often been surprised at yourpower of observation. He says nothing much escapes you,but that your g...
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Maugham, w. somerset the razor's edge

  1. 1. THE COLLECTED EDITION OFTHE WORKS OF W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM THE RAZORS EDGE
  2. 2. Books by W. Somerset MaughamLIZA OF LAMBETHMRS. CRADDOCKTHE MAGICIANOF HUMAN BONDAGETHE MOON AND SIXPENCETHE TREMBLING OF A LEAPON A CHINESE SCREENTHE PAINTED VEILTHE CASUARINA TREEASHENDENTHE GENTLEMAN IN THE PARLOURCAKES AND ALEFIRST PERSON SINGULARTHE NARROW CORNERAH KINGDON FERNANDOCOSMOPOLITANSTHEATRETHE SUMMING UPCHRISTMAS HOLIDAYBOOKS AND YOUTHE MIXTURE AS BEFOREUP AT THE VILLASTRICTLY PERSONALTHE RAZORS EDGETHEN AND NOWCREATURES OF CIRCUMSTANCECATALINAHERE AND THERE (Collection of Short Stories)QUARTET (Four Short Stories with Film Script)A WRITERS NOTEBOOKTRIO (Three Short Stories with Film Scripts)THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES (3 Vols.)ENCORE (Three Short Stories with Film Scripts)THE VAGRANT MOODTHE COLLECTED PLAYS (3 Vols.)THE SELECTED NOVELS (3 Vols.)THE PARTIAL VIEWTEN NOVELS AND THEIR AUTHORSTHE TRAVEL BOOKSPOINTS OF VIEWPURELY FOR MY PLEASURE
  3. 3. W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM _________ THERAZORS EDGE heinemann : london
  4. 4. William Heinemann Ltd LONDON MELBOURNE TORONTO CAPE TOWN AUCKLAND First published 1944 Reprinted 1944, 1945, 1946, 1948 Collected Edition 1949Reprinted 1952, 1953, 1955, 1960, 1964 Printed in Great Britain by Bookprint limited Kingswood, Surrey
  5. 5. The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over ; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard. KATHA-UPANISHAD
  6. 6. CHAPTER ONE (i)I HAVE never begun a novel with more misgiving. If Icall it a novel it is only because I dont know what else tocall it. I have little story to tell and I end neither with adeath nor a marriage. Death ends all things and so is thecomprehensive conclusion of a story, but marriage finishesit very properly too and the sophisticated are ill-advised tosneer at what is by convention termed a happy ending. Itis a sound instinct of the common people which persuadesthem that with this all that needs to be said is said. Whenmale and female, after whatever vicissitudes you like, areat last brought together they have fulfilled their biologicalfunction and interest passes to the generation that is tocome. But I leave my reader in the air. This book consistsof my recollections of a man with whom I was thrown intoclose contact only at long intervals, and I have little know-ledge of what happened to him in between. I suppose thatby the exercise of invention I could fill the gaps plausiblyenough and so make my narrative more coherent; but Ihave no wish to do that. I only want to set down whatI know of my own knowledge.Many years ago I wrote a novel called The Moon andSixpence. In that I took a famous painter, Paul Gauguin,and, using the novelists privilege, devised a number ofincidents to illustrate the character I had created on thesuggestions afforded me by the scanty facts I knew aboutthe French artist. In the present book I have attemptedto do nothing of the kind. I have invented nothing. Tosave embarrassment to people still living I have given tothe persons who play a part in this story names of my owncontriving, and 1 have in other ways taken pains to makesure that no one should recognize them. The man I amwriting about is not famous. It may be that he never willbe. It may be that when his life at last comes to an endhe will leave no more trace of his sojourn on earth than astone thrown into a river leaves on the surface of the 1
  7. 7. water. Then my book, if it is read at all, will be read onlyfor what intrinsic interest it may possess. But it may bethat the way of life that he has chosen for himself and thepeculiar strength and sweetness of his character may havean ever-growing influence over his fellow men so that, longafter his death perhaps, it may be realized that there livedin this age a very remarkable creature. Then it will bequite clear of whom I write in this book and those whowant to know at least a little about his early life may findin it something to their purpose. I think my book, withinits acknowledged limitations, will be a useful source ofinformation to my friends biographers.I do not pretend that the conversations I have recordedcan be regarded as verbatim reports. I never kept notesof what was said on this or the other occasion, but I havea good memory for what concerns me, and though 1 haveput these conversations in my own words they faithfullyrepresent, I believe, what was said. I remarked a littlewhile back that I have invented nothing; I want now tomodify that statement. I have taken the liberty thathistorians have taken from the time of Herodotus to putinto the mouths of the persons of my narrative speechesthat I did not myself hear and could not possibly haveheard. I have done this for the same reasons as thehistorians have, to give liveliness and verisimilitude toscenes that would have been ineffective if they had beenmerely recounted. I want to be read and I think I amjustified in doing what I can to make my book readable.The intelligent reader will easily see for himself where Ihave used this artifice, and he is at perfect liberty toreject it.Another reason that has caused me to embark upon thiswork with apprehension is that the persons I have chieflyto deal with are American. It is very difficult to knowpeople and I dont think one can ever really know any butones own countrymen. For men and women are not onlythemselves; they are also the region in which they werebom, the city apartment or the farm in which they learntto walk, the games they played as children, the old wivestales they overheard, the food they ate, the schools theyattended, the sports they followed, the poets they read,and the God they believed in. It is all these things thathave made them what they are, and these are the things 2
  8. 8. that you cant come to know by hearsay, you can onlyknow them if you have lived them. You can only knowthem if you are them. And because you cannot knowpersons of a nation foreign to you except from observation,it is difficult to give them credibility in the pages of abook. Even so subtle and careful an observer as HenryJames, though he lived in England for forty years, nevermanaged to create an Englishman who was through andthrough English. For my part, except in a few short storiesI have never attempted to deal with any but my owncountrymen, and if I have ventured to do otherwise inshort stories it is because in them you can treat yourcharacters more summarily. You give the reader broadindications and leave him to fill in the details. It may beasked why, if I turned Paul Gauguin into an Englishman,I could not do the same with the persons of this book.The answer is simple: I couldnt. They would not thenhave been the people they are. I do not pretend that theyare American as Americans see themselves; they areAmerican seen through an English eye. I have notattempted to reproduce the peculiarities of their speech.The mess English writers make when they try to do thisis only equalled by the mess American writers make whenthey try to reproduce English as spoken in England. Slangis the great pitfall. Henry James in his English storiesmade constant use of it, but never quite as the English do,so that instead of getting the colloquial effect he was after,it too often gives the English reader an uncomfortable jolt. (ii)In 1919 I happened to be in Chicago on my way to theFar East, and for reasons that have nothing to do with thisnarrative I was staying there for two or three weeks. I hadrecently brought out a successful novel and being for themoment news I had no sooner arrived than I was inter-viewed. Next morning my telephone rang. I answered."Elliott Templeton speaking.""Elliott? I thought you were in Paris.""No, Im visiting with my sister. We want you to comealong and lunch with us today.""I should love to."He named the hour and gave me the address. 3
  9. 9. I had known Elliott Templeton for fifteen years. Hewas at this time in his late fifties, a tall, elegant man withgood features and thick waving dark hair only sufficientlygreying to add to the distinction of his appearance. Hewas always beautifully dressed. He got his haberdasheryat Charvets, but his suits, his shoes and his hats inLondon. He had an apartment in Paris on the RiveGauche in the fashionable Rue St. Guillaume. Peoplewho did not like him said he was a dealer, but this was acharge that he resented with indignation. He had tasteand knowledge, and he did not mind admitting that inbygone years, when he first settled in Paris, he had givenrich collectors who wanted to buy pictures the benefit ofhis advice; and when through his social connections heheard that some impoverished nobleman, English orFrench, was disposed to sell a picture of first-rate qualityhe was glad to put him in touch with the directors ofAmerican museums who, he happened to know, were onthe lookout for a fine example of such and such a master.There were many old families in France and some inEngland whose circumstances compelled them to partwith a signed piece of Buhl or a writing-table made byChippendale himself if it could be done quietly, and theywere glad to know a man of great culture and perfectmanners who could arrange the matter with discretion.One would naturally suppose that Elliott profited by thetransactions, but one was too well bred to mention it.Unkind people asserted that everything in his apartmentwas for sale and that after he had invited wealthyAmericans to an excellent lunch, with vintage wines, oneor two of his valuable drawings would disappear or amarquetry commode would be replaced by one in lacquer.When he was asked why a particular piece had vanishedhe very plausibly explained that he hadnt thought it quiteup to his mark and had exchanged it for one of much finerquality. He added that it was tiresome always to look atthe same things.Nous autres américains, we Americans," he said, "likechange. It is at once our weakness and our strength."Some of the American ladies in Paris, who claimed toknow all about him, said that his family was quite poorand if he was able to live in the way he did it was onlybecause he had been very clever. I do not know how much 4
  10. 10. money he had, but his ducal landlord certainly made himpay a lot for his apartment and it was furnished withobjects of value. On the walls were drawings by the greatFrench masters, Watteau, Fragonard, Claude Lorraineand so on; Savonnerie and Aubusson rugs displayed theirbeauty on the parquet floors; and in tne drawing-roomthere was a Louis Quinze suite in petit point of suchelegance that it might well have belonged, as he claimed,to Madame de Pompadour. Anyhow he had enough tolive in what he considered was the proper style for agentleman without trying to earn money, and the methodby which he had done so in the past was a matter which,unless you wished to lose his acquaintance, you were wisenot to refer to. Thus relieved of material cares he gavehimself over to the ruling passion of his life, which wassocial relationships. His business connections with theimpecunious great both in France and in England hadsecured the foothold he had obtained on his arrival inEurope as a young man with letters of introduction topersons of consequence. His origins recommended himto the American ladies of title to whom he brought letters,for he was of an old Virginian family and through hismother traced his descent from one of the signatories otthe Declaration of Independence. He was well favoured,bright, a good dancer, a fair shot and a fine tennis player.He was an asset at any party. He was lavish with flowersand expensive boxes of chocolates, and though he enter-tained little, when he did it was with an originality thatpleased. It amused these rich ladies to be taken tobohemian restaurants in Soho or bistros in the LatinQuarter. He was always prepared to make himself usefuland there was nothing, however tiresome, that you askedhim to do for you that he would not do with pleasure. Hetook an immense amount of trouble to make himself agree-able to ageing women, and it was not long before he wasthe ami de la maison, the household pet, in many animposing mansion. His amiability was extreme; he neverminded being asked at the last moment because someonehad thrown you over and you could put him next to avery boring old lady and count on him to be as charmingand amusing with her as he knew how.In two or more years, both in London to which he wentfor the last part of the season and to pay a round of 5
  11. 11. country house visits in the early autumn, and in Paris,where he had settled down, he knew everyone whom ayoung American could know. The ladies who had firstintroduced him into society were surprised to discover howwide the circle of his acquaintance had grown. Their feel-ings were mixed. On the one hand they were pleased thattheir young protege had made so great a success, and onthe other a trifle nettled that he should be on intimateterms with persons with whom their own relations hadremained strictly formal. Though he continued to beobliging and useful to them, they were uneasily consciousthat he had used them as stepping-stones to his socialadvancement. They were afraid he was a snob. And ofcourse he was. He was a colossal snob. He was a snobwithout shame. He would put up with any affront, hewould ignore any rebuff, he would swallow any rudenessto get asked to a party he wanted to go to or to make aconnection with some crusty old dowager of great name.He was indefatigable. When he had fixed his eye on hisprey he hunted it with the persistence of a botanist whowill expose himself to dangers of flood, earthquake, feverand hostile natives to find an orchid of peculiar rarity. Thewar of 1914 gave him his final chance. When it broke outhe joined an ambulance corps and served first in Flandersand then in the Argonne; he came back after a year with ared ribbon in his buttonhole and secured a position in theRed Cross in Paris. By then he was in affluent circum-stances and he contributed generously to the good workspatronized by persons of consequence. He was always readywith his exquisite taste and his gift for organization to help inany charitable function that was widely publicized. Hebecame a member of the two most exclusive clubs in Paris. Hewas ce cher Elliott to the greatest ladies in France. He hadfinally arrived. (iii)When I first met Elliott I was just a young author likeanother and he took no notice of me. He never forgot aface and when I ran across him here or there he shookhands with me cordially, but showed no desire to furtherour acquaintance; and if I saw him at the opera, say, hebeing with a person of high rank, he was apt not to catch 6
  12. 12. sight of me. But then I happened to make a somewhatstartling success as a playwright, and presently I becameaware that Elliott regarded me with a warmer feeling. Oneday I received a note from him asking me to lunch atClaridges, where he lived when in London. It was a smallparty and not a very smart one, and I conceived the notionthat he was trying me out. But from then on, since mysuccess had brought me many new friends, I began to seehim more frequently. Shortly after this I spent someweeks of the autumn in Paris and met him at the house ofa common acquaintance. He asked me where I was stay-ing and in a day or two I received another invitation tolunch, this time at his apartment; when I arrived I wassurprised to see that it was a party of considerable distinc-tion. I giggled to myself. I knew that with his perfectsense of social relations he had realized that in Englishsociety as an author I was not of much account, but that inFrance, where an author just because he is an author hasprestige, I was. During the years that followed ouracquaintance became fairly intimate without ever develop-ing into friendship. I doubt whether it was possible forElliott Templeton to be a friend. He took no interest inpeople apart from their social position. When I chancedto be in Paris or he in London, he continued to ask me toparties when he wanted an extra man or was obliged toentertain travelling Americans. Some of these were, Isuspected, old clients and some were strangers sent to himwith letters of introduction. They were the cross of hislife. He felt he had to do something for them and yetwas unwilling to have them meet his grand friends. Thebest way of disposing of them of course was to give themdinner and take them to a play, but that was often difficultwhen he was engaged every evening for three weeks ahead,and also he had an inkling that they would scarcely besatisfied with that. Since I was an author and so of littleconsequence he didnt mind telling me his troubles onthis matter."People in America are so inconsiderate in the way they giveletters. Its not that Im not delighted to see the people whoare sent to me, but I really dont see why should inflict themon my friends."He sought to make amends by sending them greatbaskets of roses and huge boxes of chocolates, but some- 7
  13. 13. times he had to do more. It was then, somewhat naivelyafter what he had told me, that he asked me to come tothe party he was organizing."They want to meet you so much," he wrote to flatter me."Mrs. So and So is a very cultivated woman and shes readevery word youve written."Mrs. So and So would then tell me shed so much enjoyed mybook Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill and congratulate me on myplay The Mollusc. The first of these was written by HughWalpole and the second by Hubert Henry Davies. (iv)If I have given the reader an impression that ElliottTempleton was a despicable character I have done him aninjustice.He was for one thing what the French call serviable, aword for which, so far as I know, there is no exactequivalent in English. The dictionary tells me that service-able in the sense of helpful, obliging and kind is archaic.That is just what Elliott was. He was generous, andthough early in his career he had doubtless showeredflowers, candy and presents on his acquaintance from anulterior motive, he continued to do so when it was nolonger necessary. It caused him pleasure to give. He washospitable. His chef was as good as any in Paris and youcould be sure at his table of having set before you theearliest delicacies of the season. His wine proved theexcellence of his judgment. It is true that his guests werechosen for their social importance rather than because theywere good company, but he took care to invite at leastone or two for their powers of entertainment, so that hisparties were almost always amusing. People laughed athim behind his back and called him a filthy snob, butnevertheless accepted his invitations with alacrity. HisFrench was fluent and correct and his accent perfect. Hehad taken great pains to adopt the manner of speech as itis spoken in England and you had to have a very sensitiveear to catch now and then an American intonation. Hewas a good talker if only you could keep him off thesubject of dukes and duchesses, but even about them, nowthat his position was unassailable, he allowed himself, 8
  14. 14. especially when you were alone with him, to be amusing.He had a pleasantly malicious tongue and there was noscandal about these exalted personages that did not reachhis ears. From him I learnt who was the father of the PrincessXs last child and who was the mistress of the Marquis de Y.I dont believe even Marcel Proust knew more of the inner lifeof the aristocracy than Elliott Templeton.When I was in Paris we used often to lunch together,sometimes at his apartment and sometimes at a restaurant.I like to wander about the antiquity shops, occasionallyto buy but more often to look, and Elliott was alwaysenchanted to go with me. He had knowledge and a reallove of beautiful objects. I think he knew every shop ofthe kind in Paris and was on familiar terms with the pro-prietor. He adored haggling and when we started outwould say to me:"If theres anything you want dont try to buy it your-self. Just give me a hint and let me do the rest."He would be delighted when he had got for me some-thing I fancied for half the asking price. It was a treat towatch him bargain. He would argue, cajole, lose histemper, appeal to the sellers better nature, ridicule him,point out the defects of the object in question, threatennever to cross his threshold again, sigh, shrug his shoulders,admonish, start for the door in frowning anger and whenfinally he had won his point shake his head sadly as thoughhe accepted defeat with resignation. Then he wouldwhisper to me in English."Take it with you. It would be cheap at double themoney."Elliott was a zealous Catholic. He had not lived longin Paris before he met an abbé who was celebrated forhis success in bringing infidels and heretics back to thefold. He was a great diner-out and a noted wit. He con-fined his ministrations to the rich and the aristocratic. Itwas inevitable that Elliott should be attracted by a manwho, though of humble origins, was a welcome guest inthe most exclusive houses, and he confided to a wealthyAmerican lady who was one of the abbés recent convertsthat, though his family had always been Episcopalian, hehad for long been interested in the Catholic Church. Sheasked Elliott to meet the abbé at dinner one evening, just 9
  15. 15. three of them, and the abbé was scintillating. Elliottshostess brought the conversation around to Catholicismand the abbé spoke of it with unction, but withoutpedantry, as a man of the world, though a priest, speakingto another man of the world. Elliott was flattered todiscover that the abbé knew all about him."The Duchesse de Vendôme was speaking of you the otherday. She told me that she thought you highly intelligent."Elliott flushed with pleasure. He had been presented to HerRoyal Highness, but it had never occurred to him that shewould give him a second thought. The abbé spoke of the faithwith wisdom and benignity; he was broad-minded, modern inhis outlook and tolerant. He made the Church seem to Elliottvery like a select club that a well-bred man owed it to himselfto belong to. Six months later he was received into it. Hisconversion, combined with the generosity he showed in hiscontributions to Catholic charities, opened several doors thathad been closed to him before.It may be that his motives in abandoning the faith ofhis fathers were mixed, but there could be no doubt ofhis devoutness when he had done so. He attended Massevery Sunday at the church frequented by the best people,went to confession regularly and made periodical visits toRome. In course of time he was rewarded for his piety bybeing made a papal chamberlain, and the assiduity withwhich he performed the duties of his office was rewardedby the order of, I think, the Holy Sepulchre. His careeras a Catholic was in fact no less successful than his careeras an homme du monde.I often asked myself what was the cause of the snob-bishness that obsessed this man who was so intelligent,so kindly and so cultivated. He was no upstart. Hisfather had been president of one of the southern universi-ties and his grandfather a divine of some eminence.Elliott was too clever not to see that many of the personswho accepted his invitations did so only to get a freemeal and that of these some were stupid and some worth-less. The glamour of their resounding titles blinded himto their faults. I can only guess that to be on terms ofintimate familiarity with these gentlemen of ancient line-age, to be the faithful retainer of their ladies, gave him a 10
  16. 16. sensation of triumph that never palled; and I think that atthe back of it all was a passionate romanticism that ledhim to see in the weedy little French duke the crusaderwho had gone to the Holy Land with Saint Louis and inthe blustering, fox-hunting English earl the ancestor whohad attended Henry the Eighth to the Field of the Clothof Gold. In the company of such as these he felt thathe lived in a spacious and gallant past. I think when heturned the pages of the Almanach de Gotha his heartbeat warmly as one name after another brought back tohim recollections of old wars, historic sieges and celebratedduels, diplomatic intrigues and the love affairs of kings.Such anyhow was Elliott Templeton. (v)I was having a wash and a brush-up before starting outto go to the luncheon Elliott had invited me to, when theyrang up from the desk to say that he was below. I was alittle surprised, but as soon as I was ready went down."I thought it would be safer if I came and fetched you,"he said as we shook hands. "I dont know how well youknow Chicago,"He had the feeling I have noticed in some Americanswho have lived many years abroad that America is adifficult and even dangerous place in which the Europeancannot safely be left to find his way about by himself."Its early yet. We might walk part of the way," hesuggested.There was a slight nip in the air, but not a cloud in thesky, and it was pleasant to stretch ones legs."I thought Id better tell you about my sister beforeyou meet her," said Elliott as we walked along. "Shesstayed with me once or twice in Paris, but I dont thinkyou were there at the time. Its not a big party, youknow. Only my sister and her daughter Isabel andGregory Brabazon.""The decorator?" I asked."Yes. My sisters house is awful, and Isabel and I wanther to have it done over. I happened to hear that Gregorywas in Chicago and so I got her to ask him to lunch to-day. Hes not quite a gentleman, of course, but he hastaste. He did Raney Castle for Mary Olifant and St. 11
  17. 17. Clement Talbot for the St. Erths. The duchess wasdelighted with him. Youll see Louisas house for your-self. How she can have lived in it all these years I shallnever understand. For the matter of that how she canlive in Chicago I shall never understand either."It appeared that Mrs. Bradley was a widow with threechildren, two sons and a daughter; but the sons weremuch older and married. One was in a govennent postin the Philippines and the other, in the diplomatic serviceas his father had been, was at Buenos Aires. Mrs Bradleyshusband had occupied posts in various parts of the world,and after being first secretary in Rome for some years wasmade minister to one of the republics on the west coastof South America and had there died."I wanted Louisa to sell the house in Chicago when hepassed over," Elliott went on, "but she had a sentimentabout it. It had been in the Bradley family for quite along while. The Bradleys are one of the oldest families inIllinois. They came from Virginia in 1839 and took upland about sixty miles from what is now Chicago. Theystill own it." Elliott hesitated a httle and looked at meto see how I would take it. "The Bradley who settledhere was what I suppose you might call a farmer. Imnot sure whether you know, but about the middle of lastcentury, when the Middle West began to be opened up,quite a number of Virginians, younger sons of good family,you know, were tempted by the lure of the unknown toleave the fleshpots of their native state. My brother-in-laws father, Chester Bradley, saw that Chicago had afuture and entered a law office here. At all events hemade enough money to leave his son very adequatelyprovided for."Elliotts manner, rather than his words, suggested thatperhaps it was not quite the thing for the late ChesterBradley to have left the stately mansion and the broadacres he had inherited to enter an office, but the factthat he had amassed a fortune at least partly compensatedfor it. Elliott was none too pleased when on a lateroccasion Mrs. Bradley showed me some snapshots of whathe called their "place" in the country, and I saw a modestframe house with a pretty little garden, but with a bamand a cowhouse and hog pens within a stones throw,surrounded by a desolate waste of flat fields. I couldnt 12
  18. 18. help thinking that Mr. Chester Bradley knew what hewas about when he abandoned this to make his way inthe city.Presently we hailed a taxi. It put us down before abrown-stone house. Narrow and rather high, and youascended to the front door by a flight of steep steps. Itwas in a row of houses, in a street that led off Lake ShoreDrive, and its appearance, even on that bright autumnday, was so drab that you wondered how anyone couldfeel any sentiment about it. The door was opened by atall and stout Negro butler with white hair, and we wereushered into the drawing-room. Mrs. Bradley got up fromher chair as we came in and Elliott presented me to her.She must have been a handsome woman when young, forher features, though on the large side, were good and shehad fine eyes. But her sallowish face, almost agressivelydestitute of make-up, had sagged and it was plain thatshe had lost the battle with the corpulence of middleage. I surmised that she was unwilling to accept defeat,for when she sat down she sat very erect in a straight-backed chair which the cruel armour of her corsets doubt-less made more comfortable than an upholstered one. Shewore a blue gown, heavily braided, and her high collar wasstiff with whalebone. She had a fine head of white hairtightly marcelled and intricately dressed. Her other guesthad not arrived and while waiting for him we talked ofone thing and another."Elliott tells me that you came over by the southernroute," said Mrs. Bradley. "Did you stop in Rome?""Yes, I spent a week there,""And how is dear Queen Margherita?"Somewhat surprised by her question, I said I didnt know."Oh, didnt you go and see her? Such a very nicewoman. She was so kind to us when we were in Rome.Mr. Bradley was first secretary. Why didnt you go andsee her? Youre not like Elliott, so black that you cantgo to the Quirinal?""Not at all," I smiled. "The fact is I dont know her.""Dont you?" said Mrs. Bradley as though she couldhardly believe her ears. "Why not?""To tell you the truth authors dont hobnob with kingsand queens as a general rule." 13
  19. 19. "But shes such a sweet woman," Mrs. Bradley expostu-lated, as though it were very hoity-toity of me not toknow that royal personage. "Im sure youd like her."At this moment the door was opened and the butlerushered in Gregory Brabazon.Gregory Brabazon, notwithstanding his name, was nota romantic creature. He was a short, very fat man, asbald as an egg except for a ring of black curly hair roundhis ears and at the back of his neck, with a red, naked facethat looked as though it were on the point of breakingout into a violent sweat, quick grey eyes, sensual lips anda heavy jowl. He was an Englishman and I had some-times met him at bohemian parties in London. Hewas very jovial, very hearty and laughed a great deal,but you didnt have to be a great judge of character toknow that his noisy friendliness was merely cover for avery astute man of business. He had been for some yearsthe most successful decorator in London. He had a greatbooming voice and little fat hands that were wonderfullyexpressive. With telling gestures, with a spate of excitedwords he could thrill the imagination of a doubting clientso that it was almost impossible to withhold the order heseemed to make it a favour to accept.The butler came in again with a tray of cocktails."We wont wait for Isabel," said Mrs. Bradley as shetook one."Where is she?" asked Elliott."She went to play golf with Larry. She said she mightbe late."Elliott turned to me."Larry is Laurence Darrell. Isabel is supposed to beengaged to him.""I didnt know you drank cocktails, Elliott, I said."I dont," he answered grimly, as he sipped the one hehad taken, "but in this barbarous land of prohibitionwhat can one do?" He sighed. "Theyre beginning toserve them in some houses in Paris. Evil communicationscorrupt good manners.""Stuff and nonsense, Elliott," said Mrs Bradley.She said it good-naturedly enough, but with a deci-sion that suggested to me that she was a woman ofcharacter and I suspected from the look she gave him,amused but shrewd, that she had no illusions about him.I wondered what she would make of Gregory Brabazon. 14
  20. 20. I had caught the professional look he gave the room as hecame in and the involuntary lifting of his bushy eyebrows.It was indeed an amazing room. The paper on the walls,the cretonne of the curtains and on the upholsteredfurniture were of the same pattern; on the walls wereoil paintings in massive gold frames that the Bradleys hadevidently bought when they were in Rome. Virgins ofthe school of Raphael, Virgins of the school of GuidoReni, landscapes of the school of Zuccarelli, mins of theschool of Pannini. There were the trophies of theirsojourn in Peking, blackwood tables too profusely carved,huge cloisonne vases, and there were the purchases theyhad made in Chili or Peru, obese figures in hard stoneand earthenware vases. There was a Chippendale writing-table and a marquetry vitrine. The lamp-shades were ofwhite silk on which some ill-advised artist had paintedshepherds and shepherdesses in Watteau costumes. Itwas hideous and yet, I dont know why, agreeable. It hada homely, lived-in air and you felt that that incrediblejumble had a significance. All those incongruous objectsbelonged together because they were part of Mrs. Bradleyslife.We had finished our cocktails when the door was flungopen and a girl came in, followed by a boy."Are we late?" she asked. "Ive brought Larry back. Isthere anything for him to eat?""I expect so," smiled Mrs. Bradley. "Ring the bell andtell Eugene to put another place.""He opened the door for us. Ive already told him.""This is my daughter Isabel," said Mrs. Bradley, turn-ing to me. "And this is Laurence Darrell."Isabel gave me a rapid handshake and turned im-petuously to Gregory Brabazon."Are you Mr. Brabazon? Ive been crazy to meet you.I love what youve done for Clementine Dormer. Isntthis room terrible? Ive been trying to get Mamma to dosomething about it for years and now youre in Chicagoits our chance. Tell me honestly what you think of it."I knew that was the last thing Brabazon would do. Hegave Mrs. Bradley a quick glance, but her impassive facetold him nothing. He decided that Isabel was the personwho counted and broke into a boisterous laugh. 15
  21. 21. "Im sure its very comfortable and all that, he said,"but if you ask me point-blank, well, I do think its prettyawful."Isabel was a tall girl with the oval face, straight nose,fine eyes and full mouth that appeared to be characteristicof the family. She was comely though on the fat side,which I ascribed to her age, and I guessed that she wouldfine down as she grew older. She had strong, good hands,though they also were a trifle fat, and her legs, displayedby her short skirt, were fat too. She had a good skin anda high colour, which exercise and the drive back in anopen car had doubtless heightened. She was sparkling andvivacious. Her radiant health, her playful gaiety, her enjoy-ment of life, the happiness you felt in her were exhilarat-ing. She was so natural that she made Elliott, for all hiselegance, look rather tawdry. Her freshness made Mrs.Bradley, with her pasty, lined face, look tired and old.We went down to lunch. Gregory Brabazon blinkedwhen he saw the dining-room. The walls were paperedwith a dark red paper that imitated stuff and hung withportraits of grim, sour-faced men and women, very badlypainted, who were the immediate forebears of the late Mr.Bradley. He was there, too, with a heavy moustache, verystiff in a frock coat and a white starched collar. Mrs.Bradley, painted by a French artist of the nineties, hungover the chimney piece in full evening dress of pale bluesatin with pearls around her neck and a diamond star inher hair. With one bejewelled hand she fingered a lacescarf so carefully painted that you could count every stitchand with the other negligently held an ostrich-feather fan.The furniture, of black oak, was overwhelming."What do you think of it?" asked Isabel of GregoryBrabazon as we sat down."Im sure it cost a great deal of money," he answered."It did," said Mrs. Bradley. "It was given to us as awedding present by Mr. Bradleys father. Its been all overthe world with us. Lisbon, Peking, Quito, Rome. DearQueen Margherita admired it very much.""What would you do if it was yours?" Isabel askedBrabazon, but before he could answer, Elliott answeredfor him."Burn it," he said.The three of them began to discuss how they would 16
  22. 22. treat the room. Elliott was all for Louis Quinze, whileIsabel wanted a refectory table and Italian chairs. Brabazonthought Chippendale would be more in keeping with Mrs.Bradleys personality."I always think thats so important, he said, "a personspersonality." He turned to Elliott. "Of course you knowthe Duchess of Olifant?""Mary? Shes one of my most intimate friends.""She wanted me to do her dining-room and the momentI saw her I said George the Second.""How right you were. I noticed the room the last timeI dined there. Its in perfect taste."So the conversation went on. Mrs. Bradley listened, butyou could not tell what she was thinking. I said little andIsabels young man, Larry, Id forgotten his surname, saidnothing at all. He was sitting on the other side of thetable between Brabazon and Elliott and every now andthen I glanced at him. He looked very young. He wasabout the same height as Elliott, just under six feet, thinand loose-limbed. He was a pleasant-looking boy, neitherhandsome nor plain, rather shy and in no way remarkable.I was interested in the fact that though, so far as I couldremember, he hadnt said half a dozen words since enter-ing the house, he seemed perfectly at ease and in a curiousway appeared to take part in the conversation withoutopening his mouth. I noticed his hands. They were long,but not large for his size, beautifully shaped and at thesame time strong. I thought that a painter would bepleased to paint them. He was slightly built but notdelicate in appearance; on the contrary I should have saidhe was wiry and resistant. His face, grave in repose, wastanned, but otherwise there was little colour in it, and hisfeatures, though regular enough, were undistinguished. Hehad rather high cheekbones and his temples were hollow.He had dark brown hair with a slight wave in it. His eyeslooked larger than they really were because they were deepset in the orbits and his lashes were thick and long. Hiseyes were peculiar, not of the rich hazel that Isabel sharedwith her mother and her uncle, but so dark that the irismade one colour with the pupil, and this gave them apeculiar intensity. He had a natural grace that was attrac-tive and I could see why Isabel had been taken by him.Now and again her glance rested on him for a moment 17
  23. 23. and I seemed to see in her expression not only love butfondness. Their eyes met and there was in his a tender-ness that was beautiful to see. There is nothing moretouching than the sight of young love, and I, a middle-aged man then, envied them, but at the same time, Icouldnt imagine why, I felt sorry for them. It was sillybecause, so far as I knew, there was no impediment totheir happiness; their circumstances seemed easy and therewas no reason why they should not marry and live happilyever afterwards.Isabel, Elliott and Gregory Brabazon went on talking ofthe redecoration of the house, trying to get out of Mrs.Bradley at least an admission that something should bedone, but she only smiled amiably."You mustnt try to rush me. I want to have time tothink it over." She turned to the boy. "What do youthink of it all, Larry?"He looked round the table, a smile in his eyes."I dont think it matters one way or the other," he said."You beast, Larry," cried Isabel. "I particularly toldyou to back us up.""If Aunt Louisa is happy with what shes got, what isthe object of changing?"His question was so much to the point and so sensiblethat it made me laugh. He looked at me then and smiled."And dont grin like that just because youve made avery stupid remark," said Isabel.But he only grinned the more, and I noticed then thathe had small and white and regular teeth. There was some-thing in the look he gave Isabel that made her flush andcatch her breath. Unless I was mistaken she was madly inlove with him, but I dont know what it was that gave methe feeling that in her love for him there was also some-thing maternal. It was a little unexpected in so young agirl. With a soft smile on her lips she directed her atten-tion once more to Gregory Brabazon."Dont pay any attention to him. Hes very stupid andentirely uneducated. He doesnt know anything aboutanything except flying.""Flying?" I said."He was an aviator in the war.""I should have thought he was too young to have beenin the war." 18
  24. 24. "He was. Much too young. He behaved very badly.He ran away from school and went to Canada. By lyinghis head off he got them to believe he was eighteen andgot into the air corps. He was fighting in France at thetime of the armistice.""Youre boring your mothers guests, Isabel," said Larry."Ive known him all my life, and when he came back helooked lovely in his uniform, with all those pretty ribbonson his tunic, so I just sat on his doorstep, so to speak, tillhe consented to marry me just to have a little peace andquiet. The competition was awful.""Really, Isabel," said her mother.Larry leant over towards me."I hope you dont believe a word she says. Isabel isnta bad girl really, but shes a liar."Luncheon was finished and soon after Elliott and I left.I had told him before that I was going to the museum tolook at the pictures and he said he would take ine, I dontparticularly like going to a gallery with anyone else, butI could not say I would sooner go alone, so I acceptedhis company. On our way we spoke of Isabel andLarry,"Its rather charming to see two young things so muchin love with one another," I said."Theyre much too young to marry.""Why? Its such fun to be young and in love and to marry.""Dont be ridiculous. Shes nineteen and hes only justtwenty. He hasnt got a job. He has a tiny income, threethousand a year Louisa tells me, and Louisas not a richwoman by any manner of means. She needs all she has.""Well, he can get a job.""Thats just it. Hes not trying to. He seems to be quitesatisfied to do nothing.""I dare say he had a pretty rough time in the war. Hemay want a rest.""Hes been resting for a year. Thats surely long enough.""I thought he seemed a nice sort of boy.""Oh, I have nothing against him. Hes quite well bomand all that sort of thing. His father came from Baltimore.He was assistant professor of Romance languages at Yale 19
  25. 25. or something like that. His mother was a Philadelphianof old Quaker stock.""You speak of them in the past. Are they dead?""Yes, his mother died in childbirth and his father abouttwelve years ago. He was brought up by an old collegefriend of his fathers whos a doctor at Marvin. Thatshow Louisa and Isabel knew him.""Wheres Marvin?""Thats where the Bradley place is. Louisa spends thesummer there. She was sorry for the child. Dr. Nelsonsa bachelor and didnt know the first thing about bringingup a boy. It was Louisa who insisted that he should besent to St. Pauls and she always had him out here for hisChristmas vacation." Elliott shrugged a Gallic shoulder."I should have thought she would foresee the inevitableresult."We had now arrived at the museum and our attentionwas directed to the pictures. Once more I was impressedby Elliotts knowledge and taste. He shepherded mearound the rooms as though I were a group of tourists,and no professor of art could have discoursed more instruc-tively than he did. Making up my mind to come again bymyself when I could wander at will and have a good time,I submitted; after a while he looked at his watch."Let us go," he said. "I never spend more than onehour in a gallery. That is as long as ones power of apprecia-tion persists. We will finish another day."I thanked him warmly when we separated. I went myway perhaps a wiser but certainly a peevish man.When I was saying good-bye to Mrs. Bradley she toldme that next day Isabel was having a few of her youngfriends in to dinner and they were going on to dance after-wards, and if I would come Elliott and I could have a talkwhen they had gone."Youll be doing him a kindness," she added. "Hes beenabroad so long, he feels rather out of it here. He doesnt seemable to find anyone he has anything in common with."I accepted and before we parted on the museum stepsElliott told me he was glad I had."Im like a lost soul in this great city," he said. "Ipromised Louisa to spend six weeks with her, we hadntseen one another since 1912, but Im counting the days 20
  26. 26. till I can get back to Paris. Its the only place in the worldfor a civilized man to live. My dear fellow, dyou know howthey look upon me here? They look upon me as a freak.Savages."I laughed and left. (vi)The following evening, having refused Elliotts tele-phoned offer to fetch me, I arrived quite safely at Mrs.Bradleys house. I had been delayed by someone who hadcome to see me and was a trifle late. So much noise camefrom the sitting-room as I walked upstairs that I thoughtit must be a large party and 1 was surprised to find thatthere were, including myself, only twelve people. Mrs.Bradley was very grand in green satin with a dog-collar ofseed pearls round her neck, and Elliott in his well-cutdinner jacket looked elegant as he alone could look. Whenhe shook hands with me my nostrils were assailed by allthe perfumes of Arabia. I was introduced to a stoutish,tall man with a red face who looked somewhat ill at easein evening clothes. He was a Dr. Nelson, but at themoment that meant nothing to me. The rest of the partyconsisted of Isabels friends, but their names escaped mcas soon as I heard them. The girls were young and prettyand the men young and upstanding. None of them madeany impression on me except one boy and that only be-cause he was so tall and so massive. He must have beensix foot three or four and he had great broad shoulders.Isabel was looking very pretty; she was dressed in whitesilk, with a long, hobbled skirt that concealed her fat legs;the cut of her frock showed that she had well-developedbreasts; her bare arms were a trifle fat, but her neck waslovely. She was excited and her fine eyes sparkled. Therewas no doubt about it, she was a very pretty and desirableyoung woman, but it was obvious that unless she took careshe would develop an unbecoming corpulence.At dinner I found myself placed between Mrs. Bradleyand a shy drab girl who seemed even younger than theothers. As we sat down, to make the way easier Mrs.Bradley explained that her grandparents lived at Marvinand that she and Isabel had been at school together. Hername, the only one I heard mentioned, was Sophie. A lot 21
  27. 27. of chaff was bandied across the table, everyone talked atthe top of his voice and there was a great deal of laughter.They seemed to know one another very well. When I wasnot occupied with my hostess I attempted to make con-versation with my neighbour, but I had no great success.She was quieter than the rest. She was not pretty, butshe had an amusing face, with a little tilted nose, a widemouth and greenish blue eyes; her hair, simply done, wasof a sandy brown. She was very thin and her chest wasalmost as flat as a boys. She laughed at the badinage thatwent on, but in a manner that was a little forced so thatyou felt she wasnt as much amused as she pretended tobe. I guessed that she was making an effort to be a goodsport. I could not make out if she was a trifle stupid oronly painfully timid and, having tried various topics ofconversation only to have them dropped, for want of any-thing better to say I asked her to tell me who all thepeople at table were."Well, you know Dr. Nelson," she said, indicating themiddle-aged man who was opposite me on Mrs. Bradleysother side. "Hes Larrys guardian. Hes our doctor atMarvin. Hes very clever, he invents gadgets for planesthat no one will have anything to do with and when heisnt doing that he drinks."There was a gleam in her pale eyes as she said this thatmade me suspect that there was more in her than I had atfirst supposed. She went on to give me the names of oneyoung thing after another, telling me who their parentswere, and in the case of the men what college theyhad been to and what work they did. It wasnt veryilluminating."Shes very sweet," or: "Hes a very good golfer.""And who is that big fellow with the eyebrows?""That? Oh, thats Gray Maturin. His fathers got anenormous house on the river at Marvin. Hes our million-aire. Were very proud of him. He gives us class. Maturin,Hobbes, Rayner and Smith. Hes one of the richest menin Chicago and Grays his only son."She put such a pleasant irony into that list of names that Igave her an inquisitive glance. She caught it and flushed."Tell me more about Mr. Maturin.""Theres nothing to tell. Hes rich. Hes highly 22
  28. 28. respected. He built us a new church at Marvin and hesgiven a million dollars to the University of Chicago.""His sons a fine-looking fellow.""Hes nice. Youd never think his grandfather was shanty Irishand his grandmother a Swedish waitress in an eating house."Gray Maturin was striking rather than handsome. He had arugged, unfinished look; a short blunt nose, a sensual mouthand the florid Irish complexion; a great quantity of ravenblack hair, very sleek, and under heavy eyebrows clear, veryblue eyes. Though built on so large a scale he was finelyproportioned, and stripped he must have been a fine figure ofman. He was obviously very powerful. His virility wasimpressive. He made Larry who was sitting next to him,though only three or four inches shorter, look puny."Hes very much admired," said my shy neighbour. "Iknow several girls who would stop at nothing short ofmurder to get him. But they havent a chance.""Why not?""You dont know anything, do you?""How should I?""Hes so much in love with Isabel, he cant see straight,and Isabels in love with Larry.""Whats to prevent him from setting to and cuttingLarry out?""Larrys his best friend.""I suppose that complicates matters.""If youre as high-principled as Gray is."I was not sure whether she said this in all seriousness orwhether there was in her tone a hint of mockery. Therewas nothing saucy in her manner, forward or pert, and yetI got the impression that she was lacking neither in humournor in shrewdness. I wondered what she was really think-ing while she made conversation with me, but that I knewI should never find out. She was obviously unsure of her-self and I conceived the notion that she was an only childwho had lived a secluded life with people a great deal olderthan herself. There was a modesty, an unobtrusivenessabout her that I found engaging, but if I was right inthinking that she had lived much alone I guessed that shehad quietly observed the older persons she lived with andhad formed decided opinions upon them. We who are of 23
  29. 29. mature age seldom suspect how unmercifully and yet withwhat insight the very young judge us. I looked again intoher greenish blue eyes."How old are you?" I asked."Seventeen.""Do you read much?" I asked at a venture.But before she could answer, Mrs. Bradley, attentive to herduties as a hostess, drew me to her with some remark andbefore I could disengage myself dinner was at an end.The young people went off at once to wherever they weregoing and the four of us who were left went up to thesitting-room.I was surprised that I had been asked to this party, forafter a little desultory conversation they began to talk ofa matter that I should have thought they would have pre-ferred to discuss in private. I could not make up my mindwhether it would be more discreet in me to get up and goor whether, as a disinterested audience of one, I was use-ful to them. The question at issue was Larrys odd dis-inclination to go to work, and it had been brought to apoint by an offer from Mr. Maturin, the father of the boywho had been at dinner, to take him into his office. Itwas a fine opportunity. With abihty and industry Larrycould look forward to making in due course a great deal ofmoney. Young Gray Maturin was eager for him to take it.I cannot remember all that was said, but the gist of it is clearin my memory. On Larrys return from France Dr. Nelson, hisguardian, had suggested that he should go to college, but hehad refused. It was natural that he should want to do nothingfor a while; he had had a hard time and had been twice,though not severely, wounded. Dr. Nelson thought that he wasstill suffering from shock and it seemed a good idea that heshould rest till he had completely recovered. But the weekspassed into months and now it was over a year since hedbeen out of uniform. It appeared that he had done well in theair corps and on his return he cut something of a figure inChicago, the result of which was that several business menoffered him positions. He thanked them, but refused. He gaveno reason except that he hadnt made up his mind what hewanted to do. He became engaged to Isabel. This was nosurprise to Mrs. Bradley since they had been inseparable foryears and she knew that Isabel was in love with him. 24
  30. 30. She was fond of him and thought he would make Isabelhappy."Her characters stronger than his. She can give himjust what he lacks."Though they were both so young Mrs. Bradley was quitewilling that they should marry at once, but she wasnt pre-pared for them to do so until Larry had gone to work. Hehad a little money of his own, but even if he had had tentimes more than he had she would have insisted on this.So far as I could gather, what she and Elliott wished tofind out from Dr. Nelson was what Larry intended to do.They wanted him to use his influence to get him to acceptthe job that Mr. Maturin offered him."You know I never had much authority over Larry," hesaid. "Even as a boy he went his own way.""I know. You let him run wild. Its a miracle hesturned out as well as he has."Dr. Nelson, who had been drinking quite heavily, gaveher a sour look. His red face grew a trifle redder."I was very busy. I had my own affairs to attend to. Itook him because there was nowhere else for him to goand his father was a friend of mine. He wasnt easy to doanything with.""I dont know how you can say that," Mrs. Bradleyanswered tartly. "He has a very sweet disposition.""What are you to do with a boy who never argues withyou, but does exactly what he likes and when you get madat him just says hes sorry and lets you storm? If hedbeen my own son I could have beaten him. I couldntbeat a boy who hadnt got a relation in the world andwhose father had left him to me because he thought Idbe kind to him.""Thats neither here nor there," said Elliott, somewhatirritably. "The position is this: hes dawdled around longenough; hes got a fine chance of a position in which hestands to make a lot of money and if he wants to marryIsabel he must take it.""He must see that in the present state of the world,"Mrs. Bradley put in, "a man has to work. Hes perfectlystrong and well now. We all know how after the warbetween the States there were men who never did a strokeafter they came back from it. They were a burden to theirfamilies and useless to the community." 25
  31. 31. Then I added my word."But what reason does he give for refusing the variousoffers that are made him?""None. Except that they dont appeal to him.""But doesnt he want to do anything?""Apparently not."Dr. Nelson helped himself to another highball. He tooka long drink and then looked at his two friends."Shall I tell you what my impression is? I dare say Im not agreat judge of human nature, but at any rate after thirty-oddyears of practice I think I know something about it. The wardid something to Larry. He didnt come back the same personthat he went. Its not only that hes older. Somethinghappened that changed his personality.""What sort of thing?" I asked."I wouldnt know. Hes very reticent about his warexperiences." Dr. Nelson turned to Mrs. Bradley. "Hashe ever talked to you about them, Louisa?"She shook her head."No. When he first came back we tried to get him totell us some of his adventures, but he only laughed in thatway of his and said there was nothing to tell. He hasnteven told Isabel. Shes tried and tried, but she hasnt gota thing out of him."The conversation went on in this unsatisfactory wayand presently Dr. Nelson, looking at his watch, said hemust go. I prepared to leave with him, but Elliott pressedme to stay. When he had gone, Mrs. Bradley apologizedfor troubling me with their private affairs and expressedher fear that I had been bored."But you see its all very much on my mind," shefinished."Mr. Maugham is very discreet, Louisa; you neednt be afraidof telling him anything. I havent the feeling that Bob Nelsonand Larry are very close, but there are some things thatLouisa and I thought wed better not mention to him.""Elliott.""Youve told him so much, you may as well tell him therest. I dont know whether you noticed Gray Maturin atdinner?""Hes so big, one could hardly fail to." 26
  32. 32. "Hes a beau of Isabels. All the time Larry was awayhe was very attentive. She likes him and if the war hadlasted much longer she might very well have married him.He proposed to her. She didnt accept and she didntrefuse. Louisa guessed she didnt want to make up hermind till Larry came home.""How is it that he wasnt in the war?" I asked."He strained his heart playing football. Its nothingserious, but the army wouldnt take him. Anyhow whenLarry came home he had no chance. Isabel turned himdown flat."I didnt know what I was expected to say to that, so Isaid nothing. Elliott went on. With his distinguishedappearance and his Oxford accent he couldnt have beenmore like an official of high standing at the Foreign Office."Of course Larrys a very nice boy and it was damnedsporting of him to mn away and join the air corps, butIm a pretty good judge of character. . , ." He gave aknowing little smile and made the only reference I everheard him make to the fact that he had made a fortuneby dealing in works of art. "Otherwise I shouldnt haveat this moment a tidy sum in gilt-edged securities. Andmy opinion is that Larry will never amount to very much.He has no money to speak of and no standing. GrayMaturin is a very different proposition. He has a goodold Irish name. Theyve had a bishop in the family, and adramatist and several distinguished soldiers and scholars.""How do you know all that?" I asked."Its the sort of thing one knows," he answered casually."As a matter of fact I happened to be glancing throughthe Dictionary of National Biography the other day atthe club and I came across the name."I didnt think it was my business to repeat what myneighbour at dinner had told me of the shanty Irishmanand the Swedish waitress who were Grays grandfather andgrandmother. Elliott proceeded."Weve all known Henry Maturin for many years. Hesa very fine man and a very rich one. Grays stepping intothe best brokerage house in Chicago. Hes got tne worldat his feet. He wants to marry Isabel and one cant denythat from her point of view it would be a very goodmatch. Im all in favour of it myself and I know Louisais too." 27
  33. 33. "Youve been away from America so long, Elliott," saidMrs. Bradley, with a dry smile, "youve forgotten that inthis country girls dont many because their mothers andtheir uncles are in favour of it.""That is nothing to be proud of, Louisa," said Elliottsharply. "As the result of thirty years experience I maytell you that a marriage arranged with proper regard to posi-tion, fortune and community of circumstances has everyadvantage over a love match. In France, which after allis the only civilized country in the world, Isabel wouldmarry Gray without thinking twice about it; then, aftera year or two, if she wanted it, shed take Larry as herlover. Gray would install a prominent actress in a luxuriousapartment, and everyone would be perfectly happy."Mrs. Bradley was no fool. She looked at her brotherwith sly amusement."The objection to that, Elliott, is that as the New York playsonly come here for limited periods, Gray could only hope tokeep the tenants of his luxurious apartment for a veryuncertain length of time. That would surely be very unsettlingfor all parties."Elliott smiled."Gray could buy a seat on the New York stock exchange.After all, if you must live in America I cant see any objectin living anywhere but in New York.I left soon after this, but before I did Elliott, I hardlyknow why, asked me if I would lunch with him to meetthe Maturins, father and son."Henry is the best type of the American businessman,"he said, "and I think you ought to know him. Hes lookedafter our investments for many years."I hadnt any particular wish to do this, but no reason torefuse, so I said I would be glad to. (vii)I had been put up for the length of my stay at a clubwhich possessed a good library and next morning I wentthere to look at one or two of the university magazinesthat for the person who does not subscribe to them havealways been rather hard to come by. It was early andthere was only one other person there. He was seated ina big leather chair absorbed in a book. I was surprised to 28
  34. 34. see it was Larry. He was the last person I should haveexpected to find in such a place. He looked up as I passed,recognized rne and made as if to get up."Dont move," I said, and then almost automatically:"What are you reading?""A book," he said, with a smile, but a smile so engagingthat the rebuff of his answer was in no way offensive.He closed it and looking at me with his peculiarlyopaque eyes held it so that I couldnt see the title."Did you have a good time last night?"I asked."Wonderful. Didnt get home till five.""Its very strenuous of you to be here so bright andearly.""I come here a good deal. Generally I have the placeto myself at this time.""I wont disturb you.""Youre not disturbing me," he said, smiling again, and now itoccurred to me that he had a smile of great sweetness. It wasnot a brilliant, flashing smile, it was a smile that lit his face aswith an inner light. He was sitting in an alcove made byjutting out shelves and there was a chair next to him. He puthis hand on the arm. "Wont you sit down for a minute?""All right."He handed me the book he was holding."Thats what I was reading."I looked at it and saw it was William Jamess Principles ofPsychology. It is, of course, a standard work and important inthe history of the science with which it deals; it is moreoverexceedingly readable; but it is not the sort of book I shouldhave expected to see in the hands of a very young man, anaviator, who had been dancing till five in the morning."Why are you reading this?" I asked."Im very ignorant.""Youre also very young," I smiled.He did not speak for so long a time that I began to findthe silence awkward and I was on the point of getting upand looking for the magazines I had come to find. But Ihad a feeling that he wanted to say something. He lookedinto vacancy, his face grave and intent, and seemed tomeditate. I waited. I was curious to know what it was allabout. When he began to speak it was as though he were 29
  35. 35. continuing the conversation without awareness of thatlong silence."When I came back from France they all wanted me togo to college. I couldnt. After what Id been through Ifelt I couldnt go back to school. I learnt nothing at myprep school anyway. I felt I couldnt enter into a fresh-mans life. They wouldnt have liked me. I didnt want toact a part I didnt feel. And I didnt think the instructorswould teach me the sort of things I wanted to know.""Of course I know this is no business of mine," Ianswered, "but Im not convinced you were right. I thinkI understand what you mean and I can see that, afterbeing in the war for two years, it would have been rathera nuisance to become the sort of glorified schoolboy anundergraduate is during his first and second years. I cantbelieve they wouldnt have liked you. I dont know muchabout American universities, but I dont believe Americanundergraduates are very different from English ones, per-haps a little more boisterous and a little more inclined tohorse-play, but on the whole very decent, sensible boys,and I take it that if you dont want to lead their livestheyre quite willing, if you exercise a little tact, to let youlead yours. I never went to Cambridge as my brothers did.I had the chance, but I refused it. I wanted to get outinto the world. Ive always r^retted it. I think it wouldhave saved me a lot of mistakes. You learn more quicklyunder the guidance of experienced teachers. You waste alot of time going down blind alleys if you have no one tolead you.""You may be right. I dont mind if I make mistakes. Itmay be that in one of the blind alleys I may find some-thing to my purpose.""What is your purpose?"He hesitated a moment."Thats just it. I don t quite know it yet."I was silent, for there didnt seem to be anything to sayin answer to that. I, who from a very early age have alwayshad before me a clear and definite purpose, was inclinedto feel impatient; but I chid myself; I had what I can onlycall an intuition that there was in the soul of that boysome confused striving, whether of half-thought-out ideasor of dimly felt emotions I could not tell, which filledhim with a restlessness that urged him he did not know 30
  36. 36. whither. He strangely excited my sympathy. I had never beforeheard him speak much and it was only now that I becameconscious of the melodiousness of his voice. It was very persu-asive. It was like balm. When I considered that, his engagingsmile and the expressiveness of his very black eyes I couldwell understand that Isabel was in love with him. There wasindeed something very lovable about him. He turned his headand looked at me without embarrassment, but with an expres-sion in his eyes that was at once scrutinizing and amused."Am I right in thinking that after we all went off todance last night you talked about me?""Part of the time.""I thought that was why Uncle Bob had been pressedto come to dinner. He hates going out.""It appears that youve got the offer of a very good job.""A wonderful job.""Are you going to take it?""I dont think so.""Why not?""I dont want to."I was butting into an affair that was no concern of mine, but Ihad a notion that just because I was a stranger from a foreigncountry Larry was not disinclined to talk to me about it."Well, you know when people are no good at anythingelse they become writers," I said, with a chuckle."I have no talent.""Then what do you want to do?"He gave me his radiant, fascinating smile."Loaf," he said.I had to laugh."I shouldnt have thought Chicago the best place in theworld to do that in," I said. "Anyhow, Ill leave you to yourreading. I want to have a look at the Yale Quarterly.I got up. When I left the library Lany was stillabsorbed in William Jamess book. I lunched by myselfat the club and since it was quiet in the library went backthere to smoke my cigar and idle an hour or two away,riding and writing letters. I was surprised to see Larrystill immersed in his book. He looked as if he hadntmoved since I left him. He was still there when aboutfour I went away. I was struck by his evident power of 31
  37. 37. concentration. He had neither noticed me go nor come.I had various things to do during the afternoon and didnot go back to the Blackstone till it was time to changefor the dinner party I was going to. On my way I wasseized with an impulse of curiosity. I dropped into theclub once more and went into the library. There werequite a number of people there then, reading the papersand what not. Larry was still sitting in the same chair,intent on the same book. Odd! (viii)Next day Elliott asked me to lunch at the PalmerHouse to meet the elder Maturin and his son. We wereonly four. Henry Maturin was a big man, nearly as bigas nis son, with a red fleshy face and a great jowl, and hehad the same blunt aggressive nose, but his eyes weresmaller than his sons, not so blue and very, very shrewd.Though he could not have been much more than fifty helooked ten years older and his hair rapidly thinning, wassnow-white. At first sight he was not prepossessing. Helooked as though for many years he had done himself toowell, and I received the impression of a brutal, clever,competent man who, in business matters at all events,would be pitiless. At first he said little and I had a notionthat he was taking my measure. I could not but perceivethat he looked upon Elliott as something of a joke. Gray,amiable and polite, was almost completely silent and theparty would have been sticky if Elliott, with his perfectsocial tact, hadnt kept up a flow of easy conversation. Iguessed that in the past he had acquired a good deal ofexperience in dealing with Middle Western businessmenwho had to be cajoled into paying a fancy price for an oldmaster. Presently Mr. Maturin began to feel more at hisease and he made one or two remarks that showed he wasbrighter than he looked and indeed had a dry sense ofhumour. For a while the conversation turned on stocksand shares. I should have been surprised to discover thatElliott was very knowledgeable on the subject if I hadnot long been aware that for all his nonsense he wasnobodys fool. It was then that Mr. Maturin remarked:"I had a letter from Grays friend Larry Darrell thismorning." 32
  38. 38. "You didnt tell me, Dad, said Gray.Mr. Maturin turned to me."You know Larry, dont you?" I nodded. "Gray persuaded meto take him into my business. Theyre great friends. Graythinks the world of him,""What did he say, Dad?""He thanked me. He said he realized it was a greatchance for a young fellow and hed thought it over verycarefully and come to the conclusion he’d have been adisappointment to me and thought it better to refuse.""Thats very foolish of him," said Elliott."It is," said Mr. Maturin."Im awfully sorry, Dad," said Gray. "It would havebeen grand if we could have worked together.""You can lead a horse to the water, but you cant make himdrink."Mr. Maturin looked at his son while he said this andhis shrewd eyes softened. I realized that there was anotherside to the hard businessman; he doted on this greathulking son of his. He turned to me once more."Dyou know, that boy did our course in two under par onSunday. He beat me seven and six. I could have brained himwith my niblick. And to think that I taught him to play golfmyself."He was brimming over with pride. I began to like him."I had a lot of luck, Dad.""Not a bit of it. Is it luck when you get out of a bunker and layyour ball six inches from the hole? Thirty-five yards if it wasan inch, the shot was. I want him to go into the amateurchampionship next year.""I shouldnt be able to spare the time.""Im your boss, aint I?""Dont I know it! The hell you raise if Im a minute late at theoffice."Mr. Maturin chuckled."Hes trying to make me out a tyrant," he said to me."Dont you believe him. Im my business, my partnersare no good, and Im very proud of my business. Ivestarted this boy of mine at the bottom and I expect himto work his way up just like any young fellow Ive hired,so that when the time comes for him to take my placehell be ready for it. Its a great responsibility, a business likemine. Ive looked after the investments of some of my 33
  39. 39. clients for thirty years and they trust me. To tell you the truth,Id rather lose my own money than see them lose theirs."Gray laughed."The other day when an old girl came in and wantedto invest a thousand dollars in a wildcat scheme that herminister had recommended he refused to take the order,and when she insisted he gave her such hell that she wentout sobbing. And then he called up the minister andgave him hell too.""People say a lot of hard things about us brokers, butthere are brokers and brokers. I dont want people to losemoney, I want them to make it, and the way they act,most of them, youd think their one object in life was toget rid of every cent they have.""Well, what did you think of him?" Elliott asked meas we walked away after the Maturins had left us to goback to the office."Im always glad to meet new types. I thought themutual affection of father and son was rather touching.I dont know that thats so common in England.""He adores that boy. Hes a queer mixture. What hesaid about his clients was quite true. Hes got hundredsof old women, retired service men and ministers whosesavings he looks after. Id have thought they were moretrouble than theyre worth, but he takes pride in theconfidence they have in him. But when hes got some bigdeal on and hes up against powerful interests there isnta man who can be harder and more ruthless. Theres nomercy in him then. He wants his pound of flesh andtheres nothing much hell stop at to get it. Get on thewrong side of him and hell not only ruin you, but get abig laugh out of doing it."On getting home Elliott told Mrs. Bradley that Larryhad refused Henry Maturins offer. Isabel had been lunch-ing with girl friends and came in while they were stilltalking about it. They told her. I gathered from Elliottsaccount of the conversation that ensued that he hadexpressed himself with considerable eloquence. Thoughhe had certainly not done a stroke of work for ten years,and the work by which he had amassed an ample com-petence had been far from arduous, he was firmly of 34
  40. 40. opinion that for the run of mankind industry was essential.Larry was a perfectly ordinary young fellow, of no socialconsequence, and there was no possible reason why heshouldnt conform to the commendable customs of hiscountry. It was evident to a man as clear-sighted asElliott that America was entering upon a period ofprosperity such as it had never known. Larry had a chanceof getting in on the ground floor, and if he kept his noseto the gnndstone he might well be many times a million-aire by the time he was forty. If he wanted to retire thenand live like a gentleman, in Paris, say, with an apartmentin the Avenue du Bois and a chateau in Touraine, he(Elliott) would have nothing to say against it. But LouisaBradley was more succinct and more unanswerable."If he loves you, he ought to be prepared to work for you."I dont know what Isabel answered to all this, but shewas sensible enough to see that her elders had reason ontheir side. All the young men of her acquaintance werestudying to enter some profession or already busy in anoffice. Larry could hardly expect to live the rest of hislife on his distinguished record in the air corps. The warwas over, everyone was sick of it and anxious only toforget about it as quickly as possible. The result of thediscussion was that Isabel agreed to have the matter outwith Larry once and for all. Mrs. Bradley suggested thatIsabel should ask him to drive her down to Marvin. Shewas ordering new curtains for the living-room and hadmislaid the measurements, so she wanted Isabel to takethem again."Bob Nelson will give you luncheon," she said."I have a better plan than that," said Elliott. "Put upa luncheon basket for them and let them lunch on thestoop and after lunch they can talk.""That would be fun," said Isabel."There are few things so pleasant as a picnic luncheaten in perfect comfort," Elliott added sententiously."The old Duchesse dUzès used to tell me that the mostrecalcitrant male becomes amenable to suggestion in theseconditions. What will you give them for luncheon?""Stuffed eggs and a chicken sandwich.""Nonsense. You cant have a picnic without pâté defoie gras. You must give them curried shrimps to start 35
  41. 41. with, breast of chicken in aspic, with a heart-of-lettucesalad for which Ill make the dressing myself, and afterthe pate if you like, as a concession to your Americanhabits, an apple pie.""I shall give them stuffed eggs and a chicken sandwich,Elliott," said Mrs. Bradley with decision."Well, mark my words, itll be a failure and youll onlyhave yourself to blame.""Larry eats very little, Uncle Elliott," said Isabel, "andI dont believe he notices what he eats.""I hope you dont think that is to his credit, my poorchild," her uncle returned.But what Mrs. Bradley said they should have was whatthey got. When Elliott later told me the outcome of theexcursion he shrugged his shoulders in a very French way."I told them it would be a failure. I begged Louisa toput in a bottle of the Montrachet I sent her just beforethe war, but she wouldnt listen to me. They took athermos of hot coffee and nothing else. What would youexpect?"It appeared that Louisa Bradley and Elliott were sittingby themselves in the living-room when they heard thecar stop at the door and Isabel came into the house. Itwas just after dark and the curtains were drawn. Elliottwas lounging in an arm-chair by the fireside reading a noveland Mrs. Bradley was at work on a piece of tapestry thatwas to be made into a fire-screen. Isabel did not come in,but went on up to her room. Elliott looked over hisspectacles at his sister."I expect shes gone to take off her hat. Shell be downin a mmute," she said.But Isabel did not come. Several minutes passed."Perhaps shes tired. She may be lying down.""Wouldnt you have expected Larry to have come in?""Dont be exasperating, Elliott.""Well, its your business, not mine."He returned to his book. Mrs. Bradley went on working. Butwhen half an hour had gone by she got up suddenly."I think perhaps Id better go up and see that shes allright. If shes resting I wont disturb her."She left the room, but in a very short while came down again. 36
  42. 42. "Shes been crying. Larrys going to Paris. Hes goingto be away for two years. Shes promised to wait for him.""Why does he want to go to Paris?""Its no good asking me questions, Elliott. I dont know. Shewont tell me anything. She says she understands and she isntgoing to stand in his way. I said to her, If hes prepared toleave you for two years he cant love you very much. I canthelp that, she said, the thing that matters is that I love himvery much. Even after whats happened today? I said.Todays made me love him more than ever I did, she said,and he does love me; Mamma. Im sure of that. "Elhott reflected for a while."And whats to happen at the end of two years?""I tell you I dont know, Elliott.""Dont you think its very unsatisfactory?""Very.""Theres only one thing to be said and that is thattheyre both very young. It wont hurt them to wait twoyears and in that time a lot may happen."They agreed that it would be better to leave Isabel inpeace. They were going out to dinner that night."I dont want to upset her," said Mrs. Bradley. "People wouldonly wonder if her eyes were all swollen."But next day after luncheon, which they had by themselves,Mrs. Bradley brought the subject up again. But she got littleout of Isabel."Theres really nothing more to tell you than Ive toldyou already, Mamma," sne said."But what does he want to do in Paris?"Isabel smiled, for she knew how preposterous her answerwould seem to her mother."Loaf.""Loaf? What on earth do you mean?""Thats what he told me.""Really I have no patience with you. If you had anyspirit youd have broken off your engagement there andthen. Hes just playing with you."Isabel looked at the ring she wore on her left hand."What can I do? I love him."Then Elliott entered the conversation. He approached thematter with his famous tact, "Not as if I was her uncle, mydear fellow, but as a man of the world speaking 37
  43. 43. to an inexperienced girl," but he did no better than hermother had done. I received the impression that she hadtold him, no doubt politely but quite unmistakably, tomind his own business. Elliott told me all this later on inthe day in the little sitting-room I had at the Blackstone."Of course Louisa is quite right," he added. "Its all veryunsatisfactory, but thats the sort of thing you run up againstwhen young people are left to arrange their marriages on nobetter basis than mutual inclination. Ive told Louisa not toworry; I think itll turn out better than she expects. WithLarry out of the way and young Gray Maturin on the spot—well, if I know anything about my fellow creatures theoutcome is fairly obvious. When youre eighteen youremotions are violent, but theyre not durable.""Youre full of worldly wisdom, Elliott," I smiled."I havent read my La Rochefoucauld for nothing. Youknow what Chicago is; theyll be meeting all the time. Itflatters a girl to have a man so devoted to her, and whenshe knows there isnt one of her girl friends who wouldntbe only too glad to marry him—well, I ask you, is it inhuman nature to resist the temptation of cutting out every-one else? I mean its like going to a party where youknow youll be bored to distraction and the only refresh-ments will be lemonade and biscuits; but you go becauseyou know your best friends would give their eyeteeth toand havent been asked.""When does Larry go?""I dont know. I dont think thats been decided yet."Elliott took a long, thin cigarette case in platinum andgold out of his pocket and extracted an Egyptian cigarette.Not for him were Fatimas, Chesterfields, Camels orLucky Strikes. He looked at me with a smile full ofinsinuation. "Of course I wouldnt care to say so toLouisa, but I dont mind telling you that I have a sneak-ing sympathy for the young fellow. I understand that hegot a glimpse of Paris during the war, and I cant blamehim if he was captivated by the only city in the worldfit for a civilized man to live in. Hes young and I haveno doubt he wants to sow his wild oats before he settlesdown to married life. Very natural and very proper, Illkeep an eye on him. Ill introduce him to the right people;he has nice manners and with a hint or two from me hell 38
  44. 44. be quite presentable; I can guarantee to show him a sideof French life that very few Americans have a chance ofseeing. Believe me, my dear fellow, the average Americancan get into the kingdom of heaven much more easilythat he can get into the Boulevard St, Germain. Hestwenty and he has charm. I think I could probably arrangea liaison for him with an older woman. It would formhim. I always think theres no better education for ayoung man than to become the lover of a woman of acertain age and of course if she is the sort of person I havein view, a femme du monde, you know, it wouldimmediately give him a situation in Paris.""Did you tell that to Mrs. Bradley?" I asked, smiling.Elliott chuckled."My dear fellow, if theres one thing I pride myself onits my tact. I did not tell her. She wouldnt understand,poor dear. Its one of the things Ive never understoodabout Louisa; though shes lived half her life in diplomaticsociety, in half the capitals of the world, shes remainedhopelessly American." (ix)That evening I went to dine at a great stone house onLake Shore Drive which looked as though the architecthad started to build a medieval castle and then, changinghis mind in the middle, had decided to turn it into aSwiss chalet. It was a huge party and I was glad when Igot into the vast and sumptuous drawing-room, all statues,palms, chandeliers, old masters, and overstuffed furniture,to see that there were at least a few people I knew. I wasintroduced by Henry Maturin to his thin, raddled, frailwife. I said how dyou do to Mrs. Bradley and Isabel.Isabel was looking very pretty in a red silk dress thatsuited her dark hair and rich hazel eyes. She appearedto be in high spirits and no one could have guessed thatshe had so recently gone through a harassing experience.She was talking gaily to the two or three young men, Grayamong them, who surrounded her. She sat at dinner atanother table and I could not see her, but afterwards,when we men, after lingering interminably over our coffee,liqueurs and cigars, returned to the drawing-room, I hada chance to speak to her. I knew her too little to say 39
  45. 45. anything directly about what Elliott had told me, butI had something to say that I thought she might be gladto hear."I saw your young man the other day in the club," Iremarked casually."Oh, did you?"She spoke as casually as I had, but I perceived that shewas instantly alert. Her eyes grew watchful and I thoughtI read in them something like apprehension."He was reading in the library. I was very muchimpressed by his power of concentration. He was readingwhen I went in soon after ten, he was still reading when Iwent back after lunch, and he was reading when 1 went inagain on my way out to dinner. I dont believe hed movedfrom his chair for the best part of ten hours.""What was he reading?""William Jamess Principles of Psychology."She looked down so that I had no means of knowinghow what I had said affected her, but I had a notion thatshe was at once puzzled and relieved. I was at thatmoment fetched by my host who wanted me to play bridgeand by the time the game broke up Isabel and her motherhad gone. (x)A couple of days later I went to say good-bye to Mrs.Bradley and Elliott. I found them sitting over a cup oftea. Isabel came in shortly after me. We talked aboutmy approaching journey, I thanked them for their kindnessto me during my stay in Chicago and after a decentinterval got up to go."Ill walk with you as far as the drugstore," said Isabel."Ive just remembered theres something I want to get."The last words Mrs. Bradley said to me were: "Youwill give my love to dear Queen Margherita the next timeyou see her, wont you?"I had given up disclaiming any acquaintance with thataugust lady and answered glibly that I would be sure to.When we got into the street Isabel gave me a sidelongsmiling glance."Dyou think you could drink an ice-cream soda?" sheasked me. 40
  46. 46. "I could try," I answered prudently.Isabel did not speak till we reached the drugstore, and I,having nothing to say, said nothing. We went in and satat a table on chairs with twisted wire backs and twistedwire legs. They were very uncomfortable. I ordered twoice-cream sodas. There were a few people at the countersbuying; two or three couples were seated at other tables,but they were busy with their own concerns; and to allintents and purposes we were alone. I lit a cigarette andwaited while Isabel with every appearance of satisfactionsucked at a long straw. I had a notion that she wasnervous."I wanted to talk to you," she said abruptly."I gathered that," I smiled.For a moment or two she looked at me reflectively."Why did you say that about Larry at the Satter-thwaites the night before last?""I thought it would interest you. It occurred to methat perhaps you didnt quite know what his idea of loafingwas.""Uncle Elliotts a terrible gossip. When he said hewas going to the Blackstone to have a chat with you I knewhe was going to tell you all about everything.""Ive known him a good many years, you know. He getsa lot of fun out of talking about other peoples business.""He does," she smiled. But it was only a gleam. Shelooked at me steadily and her eyes were serious. "Whatdo you think of Larry?""Ive only seen him three times. He seems a very nice boy.""Is that all?"There was a note of distress in her voice."No, not quite. Its hard for me to say; you see, I know him solittle. Of course, hes attractive. Theres something modestand friendly and gentle in him that is very appealing. Hes gota lot of self-possession for so young a man. He isnt quite likeany of the other boys Ive met here."While I was thus fumblingly trying to put into wordsan impression that was not distinct in my own mind,Isabel looked at me intently. When I had finished shegave a little sigh, as if of relief, and then flashed a charm-ing, almost roguish smile at me. 41
  47. 47. "Uncle Elliott says hes often been surprised at yourpower of observation. He says nothing much escapes you,but that your great asset as a writer is your common sense.""I can think of a quality that would be more valuable,"I answered dryly. "Talent, for instance.""You know, I have no one to talk this over with.Mamma can only see things from her own point of view.She wants my future to be assured.""Thats natural, isnt it?""And Uncle Elliott only looks at it from the social side.My own friends, those of my generation, I mean, thinkLarrys a washout. It hurts terribly.""Of course.""Its not that theyre not nice to him. One cant helpbeing nice to Larry. But they look upon him as a joke.They josh him a lot and it exasperates them that hedoesnt seem to care. He only laughs. You know howthings are at present?""I only know what Elliott has told me.""May I tell you exactly what happened when we wentdown to Marvin?""Of course."I have reconstructed Isabels account partly from myrecollection of what she then said to me and partly withthe help of my imagination. But it was a long talk thatshe and Larry had, and I have no doubt that they said agreat deal more than I now propose to relate. I suspectthat as people do on these occasions they not only saidmuch that was irrelevant, but said the same things overand over again.When Isabel awoke and saw that it was a fine day shegave Larry a ring and, telling him that her mother wantedher to go to Marvin to do something for her, asked himto drive her down. She took the precaution to add athermos of martinis to the thermos of coffee her motherhad told Eugene to put in the basket. Larrys roadster wasa recent acquisition and he was proud of it. He was a fastdriver and the speed at which he went exhilarated themboth. When they arrived, Isabel, with Larry to write downthe figures, measured the curtains that were to be replaced.Then they set out the luncheon on the stoop. It wassheltered from any wind there was and the sun of theIndian summer was good to bask in. The house, on a dirt 42

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