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[Pg 149]

"Really, Mr. Trenchard," she said, "I don't think you can know very much about it. As Mr. Light-Johnson says, we should face facts." She ended her sentence with a hint of indulgence as though she would say: "He's very, very young. We must excuse him on the score of his youth."

Both the women laughed. It seemed to them an excellent joke.

"If you imagine it was the fog," said Martha Proctor, "that brought me in to-day, you are greatly mistaken. I've been meaning to come for weeks. You say you're diffident, well, I'm diffident too, although I wouldn't have any one in the world to know it. Here I am at forty-two, and I'm a failure. No, don't protest. It's true. I know I've got a name and something of a position and young authors are said to wait nervously for[Pg 240] my Olympian utterances, but as a matter of fact I've got about as much influence and power as that jam-pot there. But it isn't only with myself I'm disappointedI'm disappointed with everybody."

He stared at her with such astonishment that she was able to push past him into the hall before he could prevent her.

"No, no," Millie jumped to her feet. "You're not to say a word against him. You're not indeed. It's myself who's to blame for things being as they are. I should have been stronger and forced him to take me to his mother. I despise myself. I[Pg 262] who thought I was so strong. But we quarrel, and then I'm sorry, and then we quarrel again."

It may be said at once to save further time and trouble that the two young men detested one another at sight. It was natural and inevitable that they should. Henry with his untidy hair, his badly shaven chin, his clumsy clothes and his crookedly-balancing pince-nez would of course seem to Bunny Baxter[Pg 209] a terrible fellow to appear in public with. It would shock him deeply, too, that so lovely a creature as Millie could possibly have so plain a relation. It would also be at once apparent to him that here was some one from whom he could hope for nothing socially, whether borrowing of money, introductions to fashionable clubs, or the name of a new tailor who allowed, indeed invited, unlimited credit. It was quite clear that Henry was a gate to none of these things. On Henry's side it was natural that he should at once be prejudiced against any one who was "dressed up." He admitted to himself that Baxter looked a gentleman, but his hair, his clothes, his shoes, had all of them that easy perfection that would never, never, did he live for a million years, be granted to Henry.

"I've very nearly departed on one or two occasions," said Millie.

From the very first, long before he had spoken to her on that morning in the Cromwell Road, she had made with her hands a figure of fair and lovely report. It might be true that also from the very first she had seen that Bunny, like Roderick Hudson, "evidently had a native relish for rich accessories, and appropriated what came to his hand," or, like the young man in Galleon's Widow's Comedy, "believed that the glories of the world were by right divine his own natural property"all this she had seen and it had but dressed the figure with the finer colour and glow. Bunny was handsome enough and clever enough and bright enough to carry off the accessories as many a more dingy mortal might not do. And so, having set up her figure, she proceeded to deck it with every little treasure and ornament that she could find. All the little kindnesses, the unselfish thoughts, the sudden impulses of affection, the thanks and the promises and the ardours she collected and arranged. At first there had been many of these; when Bunny was happy and things went well with him he was kind and generous.

"Of course it's going to be finished," said Henry suddenly.

"If I weren't?" said Henry, blushing. Of all things he hated most to be called a prig.

"There must be. . . . There must be. . . . To go out like this when one's heart and soul are at their strongest. And He is loving, I can't but fancy. He smiles, perhaps, at the importance that we give to death and to pain. So short a time it must seem to Him that we are here. . . . But if He isn't. . . . If there is nothing more What a cruel, cold game for Something to play with us"

"That'sthat's what you said the other daythat you wanted to escape."