In the Cage, by Henry James

Chapter 25

“I think you must have heard me speak of Mr. Drake?” Mrs. Jordan had never looked so queer, nor her smile so suggestive of a large benevolent bite.

“Mr. Drake? Oh yes; isn’t he a friend of Lord Rye?”

“A great and trusted friend. Almost — I may say — a loved friend.”

Mrs. Jordan’s “almost” had such an oddity that her companion was moved, rather flippantly perhaps, to take it up. “Don’t people as good as love their friends when they I trust them?”

It pulled up a little the eulogist of Mr. Drake. “Well, my dear, I love you — ”

“But you don’t trust me?” the girl unmercifully asked.

Again Mrs. Jordan paused — still she looked queer. “Yes,” she replied with a certain austerity; “that’s exactly what I’m about to give you rather a remarkable proof of.” The sense of its being remarkable was already so strong that, while she bridled a little, this held her auditor in a momentary muteness of submission. “Mr. Drake has rendered his lordship for several years services that his lordship has highly appreciated and that make it all the more — a — unexpected that they should, perhaps a little suddenly, separate.”

“Separate?” Our young lady was mystified, but she tried to be interested; and she already saw that she had put the saddle on the wrong horse. She had heard something of Mr. Drake, who was a member of his lordship’s circle — the member with whom, apparently, Mrs. Jordan’s avocations had most happened to throw her. She was only a little puzzled at the “separation.” “Well, at any rate,” she smiled, “if they separate as friends —!”

“Oh his lordship takes the greatest interest in Mr. Drake’s future. He’ll do anything for him; he has in fact just done a great deal. There must, you know, be changes —!”

“No one knows it better than I,” the girl said. She wished to draw her interlocutress out. “There will be changes enough for me.”

“You’re leaving Cocker’s?”

The ornament of that establishment waited a moment to answer, and then it was indirect. “Tell me what you’re doing.”

“Well, what will you think of it?”

“Why that you’ve found the opening you were always so sure of.”

Mrs. Jordan, on this, appeared to muse with embarrassed intensity. “I was always sure, yes — and yet I often wasn’t!”

“Well, I hope you’re sure now. Sure, I mean, of Mr. Drake.”

“Yes, my dear, I think I may say I am. I kept him going till I was.”

“Then he’s yours?”

“My very own.”

“How nice! And awfully rich?” our young woman went on.

Mrs. Jordan showed promptly enough that she loved for higher things. “Awfully handsome — six foot two. And he has put by.”

“Quite like Mr. Mudge, then!” that gentleman’s friend rather desperately exclaimed.

“Oh not quite!” Mr. Drake’s was ambiguous about it, but the name of Mr. Mudge had evidently given her some sort of stimulus. “He’ll have more opportunity now, at any rate. He’s going to Lady Bradeen.”

“To Lady Bradeen?” This was bewilderment. “‘Going — ’?”

The girl had seen, from the way Mrs. Jordan looked at her, that the effect of the name had been to make her let something out. “Do you know her?”

She floundered, but she found her feet. “Well, you’ll remember I’ve often told you that if you’ve grand clients I have them too.”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Jordan; “but the great difference is that you hate yours, whereas I really love mine. Do you know Lady Bradeen?” she pursued.

“Down to the ground! She’s always in and out.”

Mrs. Jordan’s foolish eyes confessed, in fixing themselves on this sketch, to a degree of wonder and even of envy. But she bore up and, with a certain gaiety, “Do you hate her?” she demanded.

Her visitor’s reply was prompt. “Dear no! — not nearly so much as some of them. She’s too outrageously beautiful.”

Mrs. Jordan continued to gaze. “Outrageously?”

“Well, yes; deliciously.” What was really delicious was Mrs. Jordan’s vagueness. “You don’t know her — you’ve not seen her?” her guest lightly continued.

“No, but I’ve heard a great deal about her.”

“So have I!” our young lady exclaimed.

Jordan looked an instant as if she suspected her good faith, or at least her seriousness. “You know some friend —?”

“Of Lady Bradeen’s? Oh yes — I know one.”

“Only one?”

The girl laughed out. “Only one — but he’s so intimate.”

Mrs. Jordan just hesitated. “He’s a gentleman?”

“Yes, he’s not a lady.”

Her interlocutress appeared to muse. “She’s immensely surrounded.”

“She will be — with Mr. Drake!”

Mrs. Jordan’s gaze became strangely fixed. “Is she very good-looking?”

“The handsomest person I know.”

Mrs. Jordan continued to brood. “Well, I know some beauties.” Then with her odd jerkiness: “Do you think she looks good?”

“Because that’s not always the case with the good-looking?” — the other took it up. “No, indeed, it isn’t: that’s one thing Cocker’s has taught me. Still, there are some people who have everything. Lady Bradeen, at any rate, has enough: eyes and a nose and a mouth, a complexion, a figure — ”

“A figure?” Mrs. Jordan almost broke in.

“A figure, a head of hair!” The girl made a little conscious motion that seemed to let the hair all down, and her companion watched the wonderful show. “But Mr. Drake is another —?”

“Another?” — Mrs. Jordan’s thoughts had to come back from a distance.

“Of her ladyship’s admirers. He’s ‘going,’ you say, to her?”

At this Mrs. Jordan really faltered. “She has engaged him.”

“Engaged him?” — our young woman was quite at sea.

“In the same capacity as Lord Rye.”

“And was Lord Rye engaged?”

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38