The Other House, by Henry James

v

THREE minutes later Tony Bream put his question to his other visitor. “ Is it true that you know what Julia a while ago had the room cleared in order to say to me? ”

Rose hesitated. “ Mrs. Beever repeated to you that I told her so? Yes, then; I probably do know.” She waited again a little. “The poor darling announced to you her conviction that she’s dying.” Then at the face with which he greeted her exactitude: “ I haven’t needed to be a monster of cunning to guess! ” she exclaimed.

He had perceptibly paled: it made a difference, a kind of importance for that absurdity that it was already in other ears. “She has said the same to you? ”

Rose gave a pitying smile. “ She has done me that honour.”

“Do you mean today? ”

“To-day and once before.”

Tony looked simple in his wonder. “Yester day?”

Rose hesitated again. “No; before your child was born. Soon after I came.”

“She had made up her mind then from the first? ”

“Yes,” said Rose, with the serenity of superior sense; “she had laid out for herself that pleasant little prospect. She called it a presentiment, a fixed idea.”

Tony took this in with a frown. “And you never spoke of it? ”

“To you? Why in the world should I when she herself didn’t? I took it perfectly for what it was an inevitable but unimportant result of the nervous depression produced by her step mother’s visit.”

Tony had fidgeted away with his hands in the pockets of his trousers. “Damn her stepmother’s visit! ”

“That’s exactly what I did! ” Rose laughed. “Damn her stepmother too! ” the young man angrily pursued.

“Hush!” said the girl soothingly: “we mustn’t curse our relations before the Doctor! ” Doctor Ramage had come back from his patient, and she mentioned to him that the medicine for which she had gone out would immediately be delivered.

“Many thanks,” he replied: “I’ll pick it up myself. I must run out to another case.” Then with a friendly hand to Tony and a nod at the room he had quitted: “Things are quiet.”

Tony, gratefully grasping his hand, detained him by it. “ And what was that loud ring that called you? ”

“A stupid flurry of Nurse. I was ashamed of her.”

“Then why did you stay so long? ”

“To have it out with your wife. She wants you again.”

Tony eagerly dropped his hand. “Then I go!”

The Doctor raised his liberated member. “ In a quarter of an hour not before. I’m most reluctant, but I allow her five minutes.”

“It may make her easier afterwards,” Rose observed.

“That’s precisely the ground of my giving in. Take care, you know; Nurse will time you,” the Doctor said to Tony.

“So many thanks. And you’ll come back? ”

“The moment I’m free.”

When he had gone Tony stood there sombre. “She wants to say it again that’s what she wants.”

“Well,” Rose answered, “ the more she says it the less it’s true. It’s not she who decides it.”

“No,” Tony brooded; “it’s not she. But it’s not you and I either,” he soon went on.

“It’s not even the Doctor,” Rose remarked with her conscious irony.

Her companion rested his troubled eyes on her. “And yet he’s as worried as if it were.” She protested against this imputation with a word to which he paid no heed. “ If anything should happen ” and his eyes seemed to go as far as his thought “ what on earth do you suppose would become of me? ”

The girl looked down, very grave. “Men have borne such things.”

“Very badly the real ones.” He seemed to lose himself in the effort to embrace the worst, to think it out. “ What should I do? where should I turn? ”

She was silent a little. “ You ask me too much! ” she helplessly sighed.

“Don’t say that,” replied Tony, “ at a moment when I know so little if I mayn’t have to ask you still more! ” This exclamation made her meet his eyes with a turn of her own that might have struck him had he not been following another train. “ To you I can say it, Rose she’s inex pressibly dear to me.”

She showed him a face intensely receptive. “ It’s for your affection for her that I’ve really given you mine.” Then she shook her head seemed to shake out, like the overflow of a cup, her generous gaiety. “ But be easy. We shan’t have loved her so much only to lose her.”

“I’ll be hanged if we shall! ” Tony responded. “And such talk’s a vile false note in the midst of a joy like yours.”

“Like mine? ” Rose exhibited some vague ness.

Her companion was already accessible to the amusement of it. “ I hope that’s not the way you mean to look at Mr. Vidal! ”

“Ah, Mr. Vidal!” she ambiguously murmured.

“Shan’t you then be glad to see him? ”

“Intensely glad. But how shall I say it? ” She thought a moment and then went on as if she found the answer to her question in Tony’s exceptional intelligence and their comfortable in timacy. “ There’s gladness and gladness. It isn’t love’s young dream; it’s rather an old and rather a sad story. We’ve worried and waited we’ve been acquainted with grief. We’ve come together a weary way.”

“I know you’ve had a horrid grind. But isn’t this the end of it? ”

Rose hesitated. “That’s just what he’s to settle.”

“Happily, I see! Just look at him.”

The glass doors, as Tony spoke, had been thrown open by the butler. The young man from China was there a short, meagre young man, with a smooth face and a dark blue double-breasted jacket. “ Mr. Vidal! ” the butler an nounced, withdrawing again, while the visitor, whose entrance had been rapid, suddenly and shyly faltered at the sight of his host. His pause, however, lasted but just long enough to enable Rose to bridge it over with the frankest maidenly grace; and Tony’s quick sense of being out of place at this reunion was not a bar to the im pression of her charming, instant action, her soft “Dennis, Dennis! ” her light, fluttered arms, her tenderly bent head and the short, bright stillness of her clasp of her lover. Tony shone down at them with the pleasure of having helped them, and the warmth of it was in his immediate grasp of the traveller’s hand. He cut short his em barrassed thanks he was too delighted; and leav ing him with the remark that he would presently come back to show him his room, he went off again to poor Julia.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 21:02