The Princess Casamassima, by Henry James

41

Hyacinth waited a long time, but when at last Millicent came to the door the splendour of her appearance did much to justify her delay. He heard an immense rustling on the staircase, accompanied by a creaking of that inexpensive structure, and then she brushed forward into the narrow, dusky passage where he had been standing for a quarter of an hour. She looked flushed; she exhaled a strong, cheap perfume; and she instantly thrust her muff, a tight, fat, beribboned receptacle, at him, to be held while she adjusted her gloves to her large vulgar hands. Hyacinth opened the door – it was so natural an assumption that they would not be able to talk properly in the passage – and they came out to the low steps, lingering there in the yellow Sunday sunshine. A loud ejaculation on the beauty of the day broke from Millicent, though, as we know, she was not addicted to facile admirations. The winter was not over, but the spring had begun, and the smoky London air allowed the baffled citizens, by way of a change, to see through it. The town could refresh its recollections of the sky, and the sky could ascertain the geographical position of the town. The essential dimness of the low perspectives had by no means disappeared, but it had loosened its folds; it lingered as a blur of mist, interwoven with pretty sun-tints and faint transparencies. There was warmth and there was light, and a view of the shutters of shops, and the church bells were ringing. Miss Henning remarked that it was a ‘shime’ she couldn’t have a place to ask a gentleman to sit down; but what were you to do when you had such a grind for your living, and a room, to keep yourself tidy, no bigger than a pill-box? She couldn’t, herself, abide waiting outside; she knew something about it when she took things home to ladies to choose (the time they spent was long enough to choose a husband!) and it always made her feel quite miserable. It was something cruel. If she could have what she liked she knew what she would have; and she hinted at a mystic bower where a visitor could sit and enjoy himself – with the morning paper, or a nice view out of the window, or even a glass of sherry – so that, in an adjacent apartment, she could dress without getting in a fidget, which always made her red in the face.

“I don’t know how I ’ave pitched on my things,” she remarked, presenting her magnificence to Hyacinth, who became aware that she had put a small plump book into her muff. He explained that, the day being so fine, he had come to propose to her to take a walk with him, in the manner of ancient times. They might spend an hour or two in the Park and stroll beside the Serpentine, or even paddle about on it, if she liked, and watch the lambkins, or feed the ducks, if she would put a crust in her pocket. The prospect of paddling Miss Henning entirely declined; she had no idea of wetting her flounces, and she left those rough pleasures, especially of a Sunday, to a lower class of young woman. But she didn’t mind if she did go for a turn, though he didn’t deserve any such favour, after the way he hadn’t been near her, if she had died in her garret. She was not one that was to be dropped and taken up at any man’s convenience – she didn’t keep one of those offices for servants out of place. Millicent expressed the belief that if the day had not been so lovely she would have sent Hyacinth about his business; it was lucky for him that she was always forgiving such was her sensitive, generous nature) when the sun was out. Only there was one thing – she couldn’t abide making no difference for Sunday; it was her personal habit to go to church, and she should have it on her conscience if she gave it up for a lark. Hyacinth had already been impressed, more than once, by the manner in which his blooming friend stickled for the religious observance: of all the queer disparities of her nature, her devotional turn struck him as perhaps the queerest. She held her head erect through the longest and dullest sermon, and came out of the place of worship with her fine face embellished by the publicity of her virtue. She was exasperated by the general secularity of Hyacinth’s behaviour, especially taken in conjunction with his general straightness, and was only consoled a little by the fact that if he didn’t drink, or fight, or steal, at least he indulged in unlimited wickedness of opinion – theories as bad as anything that people got ten years for. Hyacinth had not yet revealed to her that his theories had somehow lately come to be held with less tension; an instinct of kindness had forbidden him to deprive her of a grievance which ministered so much to sociability. He had not reflected that she would have been more aggrieved, and consequently more delightful, if her condemnation of his godlessness had been deprived of confirmatory indications.

On the present occasion she let him know that she would go for a walk with him if he would first accompany her to church; and it was in vain he represented to her that this proceeding would deprive them of their morning, inasmuch as after church she would have to dine, and in the interval there would be no time left. She replied, with a toss of her head, that she dined when she liked; besides on Sundays she had cold fare – it was left out for her; an argument to which Hyacinth had to assent, his ignorance of her domestic economy being complete, thanks to the maidenly mystery, the vagueness of reference and explanation, in which, in spite of great freedom of complaint, perpetual announcements of intended change, impending promotion and high bids for her services in other quarters, she had always enshrouded her private affairs. Hyacinth walked by her side to the place of worship she preferred – her choice was made apparently from a large experience; and as they went he remarked that it was a good job he wasn’t married to her. Lord, how she would bully him, how she would ‘squeeze’ him, in such a case! The worst of it would be that – such was his amiable, peace-loving nature – he would obey like a showman’s poodle. And pray, whom was a man to obey, asked Millicent, if he was not to obey his wife? She sat up in her pew with a majesty that carried out this idea; she seemed to answer, in her proper person, for creeds and communions and sacraments; she was more than devotional, she was almost pontifical. Hyacinth had never felt himself under such distinguished protection; the Princess Casamassima came back to him, in comparison, as a Bohemian, a shabby adventuress. He had come to see her to-day not for the sake of her austerity (he had had too gloomy a week for that), but for that of her genial side; yet now that she treated him to the severer spectacle it struck him for the moment as really grand sport – a kind of magnification of her rich vitality. She had her phases and caprices, like the Princess herself; and if they were not the same as those of the lady of Madeira Crescent they proved at least that she was as brave a woman. No one but a capital girl could give herself such airs; she would have a consciousness of the large reserve of pliancy required for making up for them. The Princess wished to destroy society and Millicent wished to uphold it; and as Hyacinth, by the side of his childhood’s friend, listened to practised intonings, he was obliged to recognise the liberality of a fate which had sometimes appeared invidious. He had been provided with the best opportunities for choosing between the beauty of the original and the beauty of the conventional.

Fortunately, on this particular Sunday, there was no sermon (fortunately, I mean, from the point of view of Hyacinth’s heretical impatience), so that after the congregation dispersed there was still plenty of time for a walk in the Park. Our friends traversed that barely-interrupted expanse of irrepressible herbage which stretches from the Birdcage Walk to Hyde Park Corner, and took their way to Kensington Gardens, beside the Serpentine. Once Millicent’s religious exercises were over for the day (she as rigidly forbore to repeat them in the afternoon as she made a point of the first service), once she had lifted her voice in prayer and praise, she changed her allure; moving to a different measure, uttering her sentiments in a high, free manner, and not minding that it should be perceived that she had on her very best gown and was out, if need be, for the day. She was mainly engaged, for some time, in overhauling Hyacinth for his long absence, demanding, as usual, some account of what he had been ‘up to’. He listened to her philosophically, liking and enjoying her chaff, which seemed to him, oddly enough, wholesome and refreshing, and absolutely declining to satisfy her. He remarked, as he had had occasion to do before, that if he asked no explanations of her the least he had a right to expect in return was that she should let him off as easily; and even the indignation with which she received this plea did not make him feel that an éclaircissement between them could be a serious thing. There was nothing to explain and nothing to forgive; they were a pair of very fallible individuals, united much more by their weaknesses than by any consistency or fidelity that they might pretend to practise toward each other. It was an old acquaintance – the oldest thing, to-day, except Mr Vetch’s friendship, in Hyacinth’s life; and strange as this may appear, it inspired our young man with a kind of indulgent piety. The probability that Millicent ‘kept company’ with other men had quite ceased to torment his imagination; it was no longer necessary to his happiness to be certain about it in order that he might dismiss her from his mind. He could be as happy without it as with it, and he felt a new modesty in regard to prying into her affairs. He was so little in a position to be stern with her that her assumption that he recognised a right on her own part to chide him seemed to him only a part of her perpetual clumsiness – a clumsiness that was not soothing but was nevertheless, in its rich spontaneity, one of the things he liked her for.

“If you have come to see me only to make jokes at my expense, you had better have stayed away altogether,” she said, with dignity, as they came out of the Green Park. “In the first place it’s rude, in the second place it’s silly, and in the third place I see through you.”

“My dear Millicent, the motions you go through, the resentment you profess, are purely perfunctory,” her companion replied. “But it doesn’t matter; go on – say anything you like. I came to see you for recreation, for a little entertainment without effort of my own. I scarcely ventured to hope, however, that you would make me laugh – I have been so dismal for a long time. In fact, I am dismal still. I wish I had your disposition! My mirth is feverish.”

“The first thing I require of any friend is that he should respect me,” Miss Henning announced. “You lead a bad life. I know what to think about that,” she continued, irrelevantly.

“And is it out of respect for you that you wish me to lead a better one? To-day, then, is so much saved out of my wickedness. Let us get on the grass,” Hyacinth continued; “it is innocent and pastoral to feel it under one’s feet. It’s jolly to be with you; you understand everything.”

“I don’t understand everything you say, but I understand everything you hide,” the young woman returned, as the great central expanse of Hyde Park, looking intensely green and browsable, stretched away before them.

“Then I shall soon become a mystery to you, for I mean from this time forth to cease to seek safety in concealment. You’ll know nothing about me then, for it will be all under your nose.”

“Well, there’s nothing so pretty as nature,” Millicent observed, surveying the smutty sheep who find pasturage in the fields that extend from Knightsbridge to the Bayswater Road. “What will you do when you’re so bad you can’t go to the shop?” she added, with a sudden transition. And when he asked why he should ever be so bad as that, she said she could see he was in a fever; she hadn’t noticed it at first, because he never had had any more complexion than a cheese. Was it something he had caught in some of those back slums, where he went prying about with his wicked ideas? It served him right for taking as little good into such places as ever came out of them. Would his fine friends – a precious lot they were, that put it off on him to do all the nasty part! – would they find the doctor, and the port wine, and the money, and all the rest, when he was laid up – perhaps for months – through their putting such rot into his head and his putting it into others that could carry it even less? Millicent stopped on the grass, in the watery sunshine, and bent on her companion an eye in which he perceived, freshly, an awakened curiosity, a friendly, reckless ray, a pledge of substantial comradeship. Suddenly she exclaimed, quitting the tone of exaggerated derision which she had used a moment before, “You little rascal, you’ve got something on your heart! Has your Princess given you the sack?”

“My poor girl, your talk is a queer mixture,” Hyacinth murmured. “But it may well be. It is not queerer than my life.”

“Well, I’m glad you admit that!” the young woman cried, walking on with a flutter of her ribbons.

“Your ideas about my ideas!” Hyacinth continued. “Yes, you should see me in the back slums. I’m a bigger Philistine than you, Miss Henning.”

“You’ve got more ridiculous names, if that’s what you mean. I don’t believe that half the time you know what you do mean, yourself. I don’t believe you even know, with all your thinking, what you do think. That’s your disease.”

“It’s astonishing how you sometimes put your finger on the place,” Hyacinth rejoined. “I mean to think no more – I mean to give it up. Avoid it yourself, my dear Millicent – avoid it as you would a baleful vice. It confers no true happiness. Let us live in the world of irreflective contemplation – let us live in the present hour.”

“I don’t care how I live, nor where I live,” said Millicent, “so long as I can do as I like. It’s them that are over you – it’s them that cut it fine! But you never were really satisfactory to me – not as one friend should be to another,” she pursued, reverting irresistibly to the concrete and turning still upon her companion that fine fairness which had no cause to shrink from a daylight exhibition. “Do you remember that day I came back to Lomax Place ever so long ago, and called on poor dear Miss Pynsent (she couldn’t abide me; she didn’t like my form), and waited till you came in, and went out for a walk with you, and had tea at a coffee-shop? Well, I don’t mind telling you that you weren’t satisfactory to me then, and that I consider myself remarkably good-natured, ever since, to have kept you so little up to the mark. You always tried to carry it off as if you were telling one everything, and you never told one nothing at all.”

“What is it you want me to tell, my dear child?” Hyacinth inquired, putting his hand into her arm. “I’ll tell you anything you like.”

“I dare say you’ll tell me a lot of trash! Certainly, I tried kindness,” Miss Henning declared.

“Try it again; don’t give it up,” said her companion, strolling along with her in close association.

She stopped short, detaching herself, though not with intention. “Well, then, has she – has she chucked you over?”

Hyacinth turned his eyes away; he looked at the green expanse, misty and sunny, dotted with Sunday-keeping figures which made it seem larger; at the wooded boundary of the Park, beyond the grassy moat of Kensington Gardens; at a shining reach of the Serpentine on one side and the far façades of Bayswater, brightened by the fine weather and the privilege of their view, on the other. “Well, you know I rather think so,” he replied, in a moment.

“Ah, the nasty brute!” cried Millicent, as they resumed their walk.

Upwards of an hour later they were sitting under the great trees of Kensington Gardens, those scattered over the slope which rises gently from the side of the water most distant from the old red palace. They had taken possession of a couple of the chairs placed there for the convenience of that part of the public for which a penny is not, as the French say, an affair, and Millicent, of whom such speculations were highly characteristic, had devoted considerable conjecture to the question whether the functionary charged with collecting the said penny would omit to come and ask for his fee. Miss Henning liked to enjoy her pleasures gratis, as well as to see others do so, and even that of sitting in a penny chair could touch her more deeply in proportion as she might feel that nothing would be paid for it. The man came round, however, and after that her pleasure could only take the form of sitting as long as possible, to recover her money. This question had been settled, and two or three others, of a much weightier kind, had come up. At the moment we again participate in the conversation of the pair Millicent was leaning forward, earnest and attentive, with her hands clasped in her lap and her multitudinous silver bracelets tumbled forward upon her wrists. Her face, with its parted lips and eyes clouded to gentleness, wore an expression which Hyacinth had never seen there before and which caused him to say to her, “After all, dear Milly, you’re a good old fellow!”

“Why did you never tell me before – years ago?” she asked.

“It’s always soon enough to commit an imbecility! I don’t know why I tell you to-day, sitting here in a charming place, in balmy air, amid pleasing suggestions, without any reason or practical end. The story is hideous, and I have held my tongue for so long! It would have been an effort, an impossible effort, at any time, to do otherwise. Somehow, to-day it hasn’t been an effort; and indeed I have spoken just because the air is sweet, and the place ornamental, and the day a holiday, and your company exhilarating. All this has had the effect that an object has if you plunge it into a cup of water – the water overflows. Only in my case it’s not water, but a very foul liquid indeed. Excuse the bad odour!”

There had been a flush of excitement in Millicent’s face while she listened to what had gone before; it lingered there, and as a colour heightened by emotion is never unbecoming to a handsome woman, it enriched her exceptional expression. “I wouldn’t have been so rough with you,” she presently remarked.

“My dear lass, this isn’t rough!” her companion exclaimed.

“You’re all of a tremble.” She put out her hand and laid it on his own, as if she had been a nurse feeling his pulse.

“Very likely. I’m a nervous little beast,” said Hyacinth.

“Any one would be nervous, to think of anything so awful. And when it’s yourself!” And the girl’s manner represented the dreadfulness of such a contingency. “You require sympathy,” she added, in a tone that made Hyacinth smile; the words sounded like a medical prescription.

“A tablespoonful every half-hour,” he rejoined, keeping her hand, which she was about to draw away.

“You would have been nicer, too,” Millicent went on.

“How do you mean, I would have been nicer?”

“Well, I like you now,” said Miss Henning. And this time she drew away her hand, as if, after such a speech, to recover her dignity.

“It’s a pity I have always been so terribly under the influence of women,” Hyacinth murmured, folding his arms.

He was surprised at the delicacy with which Millicent replied: “You must remember that they have a great deal to make up to you.”

“Do you mean for my mother? Ah, she would have made it up, if they had let her! But the sex in general have been very nice to me,” he continued. “It’s wonderful the kindness they have shown me, and the amount of pleasure I have derived from their society.”

It would perhaps be inquiring too closely to consider whether this reference to sources of consolation other than those that sprang from her own bosom had an irritating effect on Millicent; at all events after a moment’s silence she answered it by asking, “Does she know – your trumpery Princess?”

“Yes, but she doesn’t mind it.”

“That’s most uncommonly kind of her!” cried the girl, with a scornful laugh.

“It annoys me very much to hear you apply invidious epithets to her. You know nothing about her.”

“How do you know what I know, please?” Millicent asked this question with the habit of her natural pugnacity, but the next instant she dropped her voice, as if she remembered that she was in the presence of a great misfortune. “Hasn’t she treated you most shamefully, and you such a regular dear?”

“Not in the least. It is I that, as you may say, have rounded on her. She made my acquaintance because I was interested in the same things as she was. Her interest has continued, has increased, but mine, for some reason or other, has declined. She has been consistent, and I have been fickle.”

“Your interest has declined, in the Princess?” Millicent questioned, following imperfectly this somewhat complicated statement.

“Oh dear, no. I mean only in some views that I used to have.”

“Ay, when you thought everything should go to the lowest! That’s a good job!” Miss Henning exclaimed, with an indulgent laugh, as if, after all, Hyacinth’s views and the changes in his views were not what was most important. “And your grand lady still holds for the costermongers?”

“She wants to take hold of the great question of material misery; she wants to do something to make that misery less. I don’t care for her means, I don’t like her processes. But when I think of what there is to be done, and of the courage and devotion of those that set themselves to do it, it seems to me sometimes that with my reserves and scruples I’m a very poor creature.”

“You are a poor creature – to sit there and put such accusations on yourself!” the girl flashed out. “If you haven’t a spirit for yourself, I promise you I’ve got one for you! If she hasn’t chucked you over why in the name of common sense did you say just now that she has? And why is your dear old face as white as my stocking?”

Hyacinth looked at her awhile without answering, as if he took a placid pleasure in her violence. “I don’t know – I don’t understand.”

She put out her hand and took possession of his own; for a minute she held it, as if she wished to check herself, finding some influence in his touch that would help her. They sat in silence, looking at the ornamental water and the landscape-gardening beyond, which was reflected in it; until Millicent turned her eyes again upon her companion and remarked, “Well, that’s the way I’d have served him too!”

It took him a moment to perceive that she was alluding to the vengeance wrought upon Lord Frederick. “Don’t speak of that; you’ll never again hear a word about it on my lips. It’s all darkness.”

“I always knew you were a gentleman,” the girl went on.

“A queer variety, cara mia,” her companion rejoined, not very candidly, as we know the theories he himself had cultivated on this point. “Of course you had heard poor Pinnie’s incurable indiscretions. They used to exasperate me when she was alive, but I forgive her now. It’s time I should, when I begin to talk myself. I think I’m breaking up.”

“Oh, it wasn’t Miss Pynsent; it was just yourself.”

“Pray, what did I ever say, in those days?”

“It wasn’t what you said,” Millicent answered, with refinement. “I guessed the whole business – except, of course, what she got her time for, and you being taken to that death-bed – that day I came back to the Place. Couldn’t you see I was turning it over? And did I ever throw it up at you, whatever high words we might have had? Therefore what I say now is no more than I thought then; it only makes you nicer.”

She was crude, she was common, she even had the vice of unskillful exaggeration, for he himself honestly could not understand how the situation he had described could make him nicer. But when the faculty of affection that was in her rose, as it were, to the surface, it diffused a sense of rest, almost of protection, deepening, at any rate, the luxury of the balmy holiday, the interlude in the grind of the week’s work; so that, though neither of them had dined, Hyacinth would have been delighted to sit with her there the whole afternoon. It seemed a pause in something bitter that was happening to him, making it stop awhile or pushing it off to a distance. His thoughts hovered about that with a pertinacity of which they themselves were weary; but they regarded it now with a kind of wounded indifference. It would be too much, no doubt, to say that Millicent’s society appeared a compensation, but it seemed at least a resource. She too, evidently, was highly content; she made no proposal to retrace their steps. She interrogated him about his father’s family, and whether they were going to let him go on like that always, without ever holding out so much as a little finger to him; and she declared, in a manner that was meant to gratify him by the indignation it conveyed, though the awkwardness of the turn made him smile, that if she were one of them she couldn’t ‘abear’ the thought of a relation of hers being in such a poor way. Hyacinth already knew what Miss Henning thought of his business at old Crookenden’s and of the feebleness of a young man of his parts contenting himself with a career which was after all a mere getting of one’s living by one’s ’ands. He had to do with books; but so had any shop-boy who should carry such articles to the residence of purchasers; and plainly Millicent had never discovered wherein the art he practised differed from that of a plumber, a glazier. He had not forgotten the shock he once administered to her by letting her know that he wore an apron; she looked down on such conditions from the summit of her own intellectual profession, for she wore mantles and jackets and shawls, and the long trains of robes exhibited in the window on dummies of wire and taken down to be transferred to her own undulating person, and had never a scrap to do with making them up, but just with talking about them and showing them off, and persuading people of their beauty and cheapness. It had been a source of endless comfort to her, in her arduous evolution, that she herself never worked with her ’ands. Hyacinth answered her inquiries, as she had answered his own of old, by asking her what those people owed to the son of a person who had brought murder and mourning into their bright sublimities, and whether she thought he was very highly recommended to them. His question made her reflect for a moment; after which she returned, with the finest spirit, “Well, if your position was so miserable, ain’t that all the more reason they should give you a lift? Oh, it’s something cruel!” she cried; and she added that in his place she would have found a way to bring herself under their notice. She wouldn’t have drudged out her life in Soho if she had had gentlefolks’ blood in her veins! “If they had noticed you they would have liked you,” she was so good as to observe; but she immediately remembered, also, that in that case he would have been carried away quite over her head. She was not prepared to say that she would have given him up, little good as she had ever got of him. In that case he would have been thick with real swells, and she emphasised the ‘real’ by way of a thrust at the fine lady of Madeira Crescent – an artifice which was wasted, however, inasmuch as Hyacinth was sure she had extracted from Sholto a tolerably detailed history of the personage in question. Millicent was tender and tenderly sportive, and he was struck with the fact that his base birth really made little impression upon her; she accounted it an accident much less grave than he had been in the habit of doing. She was touched and moved; but what moved her was his story of his mother’s dreadful revenge, her long imprisonment and his childish visit to the jail, with the later discovery of his peculiar footing in the world. These things produced a generous agitation – something the same in kind as the impressions she had occasionally derived from the perusal of the Family Herald. What affected her most, and what she came back to, was the whole element of Lord Frederick and the misery of Hyacinth’s having got so little good out of his affiliation to that nobleman. She couldn’t get over his friends not having done something, though her imagination was still vague as to what they might have done. It was the queerest thing in the world, to Hyacinth, to find her apparently assuming that if he had not been so inefficient he might have ‘worked’ the whole dark episode as a source of distinction, of glory. She wouldn’t have been a nobleman’s daughter for nothing! Oh, the left hand was as good as the right; her respectability, for the moment, didn’t care for that! His long silence was what most astonished her; it put her out of patience, and there was a strange candour in her wonderment at his not having bragged about his grand relations. They had become vivid and concrete to her now, in comparison with the timid shadows that Pinnie had set into spasmodic circulation. Millicent bumped about in the hushed past of her companion with the oddest mixture of sympathy and criticism, and with good intentions which had the effect of profane voices holloaing for echoes.

“Me only – me and her? Certainly, I ought to be obliged, even though it is late in the day. The first time you saw her I suppose you told her – that night you went into her box at the theatre, eh? She’d have worse to tell you, I’m sure, if she could ever bring herself to speak the truth. And do you mean to say you never broke it to your big friend in the chemical line?”

“No, we have never talked about it.”

“Men are rare creatures!” Millicent cried. “You never so much as mentioned it?”

“It wasn’t necessary. He knew it otherwise – he knew it through his sister.”

“How do you know that, if he never spoke?”

“Oh, because he was jolly good to me,” said Hyacinth.

“Well, I don’t suppose that ruined him,” Miss Henning rejoined. “And how did his sister know it?”

“Oh, I don’t know; she guessed it.”

Millicent stared. “It was none of her business.” Then she added, “He was jolly good to you? Ain’t he good to you now?” She asked this question in her loud, free voice, which rang through the bright stillness of the place.

Hyacinth delayed for a minute to answer her, and when at last he did so it was without looking at her: “I don’t know; I can’t make it out.”

“Well, I can, then!” And Millicent jerked him round toward her and inspected him with her big bright eyes. “You silly baby, has he been serving you?” She pressed her question upon him; she asked if that was what disagreed with him. His lips gave her no answer, but apparently, after an instant, she found one in his face. “Has he been making up to her ladyship – is that his game?” she broke out. “Do you mean to say she’d look at the likes of him?”

“The likes of him? He’s as fine a man as stands!” said Hyacinth. “They have the same views, they are doing the same work.”

“Oh, he hasn’t changed his opinions, then – not like you?”

“No, he knows what he wants; he knows what he thinks.”

“Very much the same work, I’ll be bound!” cried Millicent, in large derision. “He knows what he wants, and I dare say he’ll get it.”

Hyacinth got up, turning away from her; but she also rose, and passed her hand into his arm. “It’s their own business; they can do as they please.”

“Oh, don’t try to be a saint; you put me out of patience!” the girl responded, with characteristic energy. “They’re a precious pair, and it would do me good to hear you say so.”

“A man shouldn’t turn against his friends,” Hyacinth went on, with desperate sententiousness.

“That’s for them to remember; there’s no danger of your forgetting it.” They had begun to walk, but she stopped him; she was suddenly smiling at him, and her face was radiant. She went on, with caressing inconsequence: “All that you have told me – it has made you nicer.”

“I don’t see that, but it has certainly made you so. My dear girl, you’re a comfort,” Hyacinth added, as they strolled on again.

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