Julia floated even to her own sense swan-like away — she left in her wake their fairly stupefied submission: it was as if she had, by an exquisite authority, now placed them, each for each, and they would have nothing to do but be happy together. Never had she so exulted as on this ridiculous occasion in the noted items of her beauty. Le compte y était, as they used to say in Paris — every one of them, for her immediate employment, was there; and there was something in it after all. It didn’t necessarily, this sum of thumping little figures, imply charm — especially for “refined” people: nobody knew better than Julia that inexpressible charm and quotable “charms” (quotable like prices, rates, shares, or whatever, the things they dealt in down-town) are two distinct categories; the safest thing for the latter being, on the whole, that it might include the former, and the great strength of the former being that it might perfectly dispense with the latter. Mrs. Drack was not refined, not the least little bit; but what would be the case with Murray Brush now — after his three years of Europe? He had done so what he liked with her — which had seemed so then just the meaning, hadn’t it? of their being “engaged”— that he had made her not see, while the absurdity lasted (the absurdity of their pretending to believe they could marry without a cent), how little he was of metal without alloy: this had come up for her, remarkably, but afterward — come up for her as she looked back. Then she had drawn her conclusion, which was one of the many that Basil French had made her draw. It was a queer service Basil was going to have rendered her, this having made everything she had ever done impossible, if he wasn’t going to give her a new chance. If he was it was doubtless right enough. On the other hand, Murray might have improved, if such a quantity of alloy, as she called it, were, in any man, reducible, and if Paris were the place all happily to reduce it. She had her doubts — anxious and aching on the spot, and had expressed them to Mr. Pitman: certainly, of old, he had been more open to the quotable than to the inexpressible, to charms than to charm. If she could try the quotable, however, and with such a grand result, on Mrs. Drack, she couldn’t now on Murray — in respect to whom everything had changed. So that if he hadn’t a sense for the subtler appeal, the appeal appreciable by people not vulgar, on which alone she could depend, what on earth would become of her? She could but yearningly hope, at any rate, as she made up her mind to write to him immediately at his club. It was a question of the right sensibility in him. Perhaps he would have acquired it in Europe.
Two days later indeed — for he had promptly and charmingly replied, keeping with alacrity the appointment she had judged best to propose for a morning hour in a sequestered alley of the Park — two days later she was to be struck well-nigh to alarm by everything he had acquired: so much it seemed to make that it threatened somehow a complication, and her plan, so far as she had arrived at one, dwelt in the desire above all to simplify. She wanted no grain more of extravagance or excess of anything — risking as she had done, none the less, a recall of ancient license in proposing to Murray such a place of meeting. She had her reasons — she wished intensely to discriminate: Basil French had several times waited on her at her mother’s habitation, their horrible flat which was so much too far up and too near the East Side; he had dined there and lunched there and gone with her thence to other places, notably to see pictures, and had in particular adjourned with her twice to the Metropolitan Museum, in which he took a great interest, in which she professed a delight, and their second visit to which had wound up in her encounter with Mr. Pitman, after her companion had yielded, at her urgent instance, to an exceptional need of keeping a business engagement. She mightn’t, in delicacy, in decency, entertain Murray Brush where she had entertained Mr. French — she was given over now to these exquisite perceptions and proprieties and bent on devoutly observing them; and Mr. French, by good-luck, had never been with her in the Park: partly because he had never pressed it, and partly because she would have held off if he had, so haunted were those devious paths and favoring shades by the general echo of her untrammelled past. If he had never suggested their taking a turn there this was because, quite divinably, he held it would commit him further than he had yet gone; and if she on her side had practised a like reserve it was because the place reeked for her, as she inwardly said, with old associations. It reeked with nothing so much perhaps as with the memories evoked by the young man who now awaited her in the nook she had been so competent to indicate; but in what corner of the town, should she look for them, wouldn’t those footsteps creak back into muffled life, and to what expedient would she be reduced should she attempt to avoid all such tracks? The Museum was full of tracks, tracks by the hundred — the way really she had knocked about! — but she had to see people somewhere, and she couldn’t pretend to dodge every ghost.
All she could do was not to make confusion, make mixtures, of the living; though she asked herself enough what mixture she mightn’t find herself to have prepared if Mr. French should, not so very impossibly, for a restless, roaming man —her effect on him! — happen to pass while she sat there with the mustachioed personage round whose name Mrs. Maule would probably have caused detrimental anecdote most thickly to cluster. There existed, she was sure, a mass of luxuriant legend about the “lengths” her engagement with Murray Brush had gone; she could herself fairly feel them in the air, these streamers of evil, black flags flown as in warning, the vast redundancy of so cheap and so dingy social bunting, in fine, that flapped over the stations she had successively moved away from and which were empty now, for such an ado, even to grotesqueness. The vivacity of that conviction was what had at present determined her, while it was the way he listened after she had quickly broken ground, while it was the special character of the interested look in his handsome face, handsomer than ever yet, that represented for her the civilization he had somehow taken on. Just so it was the quantity of that gain, in its turn, that had at the end of ten minutes begun to affect her as holding up a light to the wide reach of her step. “There was never anything the least serious between us, not a sign or a scrap, do you mind? of anything beyond the merest pleasant friendly acquaintance; and if you’re not ready to go to the stake on it for me you may as well know in time what it is you’ll probably cost me.”
She had immediately plunged, measuring her effect and having thought it well over; and what corresponded to her question of his having become a better person to appeal to was the appearance of interest she had so easily created in him. She felt on the spot the difference that made — it was indeed his form of being more civilized: it was the sense in which Europe in general and Paris in particular had made him develop. By every calculation — and her calculations, based on the intimacy of her knowledge, had been many and deep — he would help her the better the more intelligent he should have become; yet she was to recognize later on that the first chill of foreseen disaster had been caught by her as, at a given moment, this greater refinement of his attention seemed to exhale it. It was just what she had wanted —“if I can only get him interested —!” so that, this proving quite vividly possible, why did the light it lifted strike her as lurid? Was it partly by reason of his inordinate romantic good looks, those of a gallant, genial conqueror, but which, involving so glossy a brownness of eye, so manly a crispness of curl, so red-lipped a radiance of smile, so natural a bravery of port, prescribed to any response he might facially, might expressively, make a sort of florid, disproportionate amplitude? The explanation, in any case, didn’t matter; he was going to mean well — that she could feel, and also that he had meant better in the past, presumably, than he had managed to convince her of his doing at the time: the oddity she hadn’t now reckoned with was this fact that from the moment he did advertise an interest it should show almost as what she would have called weird. It made a change in him that didn’t go with the rest — as if he had broken his nose or put on spectacles, lost his handsome hair or sacrificed his splendid mustache: her conception, her necessity, as she saw, had been that something should be added to him for her use, but nothing for his own alteration.
He had affirmed himself, and his character, and his temper, and his health, and his appetite, and his ignorance, and his obstinacy, and his whole charming, coarse, heartless personality, during their engagement, by twenty forms of natural emphasis, but never by emphasis of interest. How in fact could you feel interest unless you should know, within you, some dim stir of imagination? There was nothing in the world of which Murray Brush was less capable than of such a dim stir, because you only began to imagine when you felt some approach to a need to understand. He had never felt it; for hadn’t he been born, to his personal vision, with that perfect intuition of everything which reduces all the suggested preliminaries of judgment to the impertinence — when it’s a question of your entering your house — of a dumpage of bricks at your door? He had had, in short, neither to imagine nor to perceive, because he had, from the first pulse of his intelligence, simply and supremely known: so that, at this hour, face to face with him, it came over her that she had, in their old relation, dispensed with any such convenience of comprehension on his part even to a degree she had not measured at the time. What therefore must he not have seemed to her as a form of life, a form of avidity and activity, blatantly successful in its own conceit, that he could have dazzled her so against the interest of her very faculties and functions? Strangely and richly historic all that backward mystery, and only leaving for her mind the wonder of such a mixture of possession and detachment as they would clearly to-day both know. For each to be so little at last to the other when, during months together, the idea of all abundance, all quantity, had been, for each, drawn from the other and addressed to the other — what was it monstrously like but some fantastic act of getting rid of a person by going to lock yourself up in the sanctum sanctorum of that person’s house, amid every evidence of that person’s habits and nature? What was going to happen, at any rate, was that Murray would show himself as beautifully and consciously understanding — and it would be prodigious that Europe should have inoculated him with that delicacy. Yes, he wouldn’t claim to know now till she had told him — an aid to performance he had surely never before waited for, or been indebted to, from any one; and then, so knowing, he would charmingly endeavor to “meet,” to oblige and to gratify. He would find it, her case, ever so worthy of his benevolence, and would be literally inspired to reflect that he must hear about it first.
She let him hear then everything, in spite of feeling herself slip, while she did so, to some doom as yet incalculable; she went on very much as she had done for Mr. Pitman and Mrs. Drack, with the rage of desperation and, as she was afterward to call it to herself, the fascination of the abyss. She didn’t know, couldn’t have said at the time, why his projected benevolence should have had most so the virtue to scare her: he would patronize her, as an effect of her vividness, if not of her charm, and would do this with all high intention, finding her case, or rather their case, their funny old case, taking on of a sudden such refreshing and edifying life, to the last degree curious and even important; but there were gaps of connection between this and the intensity of the perception here overtaking her that she shouldn’t be able to move in any direction without dishing herself. That she couldn’t afford it where she had got to — couldn’t afford the deplorable vulgarity of having been so many times informally affianced and contracted (putting it only at that, at its being by the new lights and fashions so unpardonably vulgar): he took this from her without turning, as she might have said, a hair; except just to indicate, with his new superiority, that he felt the distinguished appeal and notably the pathos of it. He still took it from her that she hoped nothing, as it were, from any other alibi— the people to drag into court being too many and too scattered; but that, as it was with him, Murray Brush, she had been most vulgar, most everything she had better not have been, so she depended on him for the innocence it was actually vital she should establish. He flushed or frowned or winced no more at that than he did when she once more fairly emptied her satchel and, quite as if they had been Nancy and the Artful Dodger, or some nefarious pair of that sort, talking things over in the manner of Oliver Twist, revealed to him the fondness of her view that, could she but have produced a cleaner slate, she might by this time have pulled it off with Mr. French. Yes, he let her in that way sacrifice her honorable connection with him — all the more honorable for being so completely at an end — to the crudity of her plan for not missing another connection, so much more brilliant than what he offered, and for bringing another man, with whom she so invidiously and unflatteringly compared him, into her greedy life.
There was only a moment during which, by a particular lustrous look she had never had from him before, he just made her wonder which turn he was going to take; she felt, however, as safe as was consistent with her sense of having probably but added to her danger, when he brought out, the next instant: “Don’t you seem to take the ground that we were guilty — that you were ever guilty — of something we shouldn’t have been? What did we ever do that was secret, or underhand, or any way not to be acknowledged? What did we do but exchange our young vows with the best faith in the world — publicly, rejoicingly, with the full assent of every one connected with us? I mean of course,” he said with his grave kind smile, “till we broke off so completely because we found that — practically, financially, on the hard worldly basis — we couldn’t work it. What harm, in the sight of God or man, Julia,” he asked in his fine rich way, “did we ever do?”
She gave him back his look, turning pale. “Am I talking of that? Am I talking of what we know? I’m talking of what others feel — of what they have to feel; of what it’s just enough for them to know not to be able to get over it, once they do really know it. How do they know what didn’t pass between us, with all the opportunities we had? That’s none of their business — if we were idiots enough, on the top of everything! What you may or mayn’t have done doesn’t count, for you; but there are people for whom it’s loathsome that a girl should have gone on like that from one person to another and still pretend to be — well, all that a nice girl is supposed to be. It’s as if we had but just waked up, mother and I, to such a remarkable prejudice; and now we have it — when we could do so well without it! — staring us in the face. That mother should have insanely let me, should so vulgarly have taken it for my natural, my social career —that’s the disgusting, humiliating thing: with the lovely account it gives of both of us! But mother’s view of a delicacy in things!” she went on with scathing grimness; “mother’s measure of anything, with her grand ‘gained cases’ (there’ll be another yet, she finds them so easy!) of which she’s so publicly proud! You see I’ve no margin,” said Julia; letting him take it from her flushed face as much as he would that her mother hadn’t left her an inch. It was that he should make use of the spade with her for the restoration of a bit of a margin just wide enough to perch on till the tide of peril should have ebbed a little, it was that he should give her that lift —!
Well, it was all there from him after these last words; it was before her that he really took hold. “Oh, my dear child, I can see! Of course there are people — ideas change in our society so fast! — who are not in sympathy with the old American freedom and who read, I dare say, all sorts of uncanny things into it. Naturally you must take them as they are — from the moment,” said Murray Brush, who had lighted, by her leave, a cigarette, “your life-path does, for weal or for woe, cross with theirs.” He had every now and then such an elegant phrase. “Awfully interesting, certainly, your case. It’s enough for me that it is yours — I make it my own. I put myself absolutely in your place; you’ll understand from me, without professions, won’t you? that I do. Command me in every way! What I do like is the sympathy with which you’ve inspired him. I don’t, I’m sorry to say, happen to know him personally,”— he smoked away, looking off; “but of course one knows all about him generally, and I’m sure he’s right for you, I’m sure it would be charming, if you yourself think so. Therefore trust me and even — what shall I say? — leave it to me a little, won’t you?” He had been watching, as in his fumes, the fine growth of his possibilities; and with this he turned on her the large warmth of his charity. It was like a subscription of a half-a-million. “I’ll take care of you.”
She found herself for a moment looking up at him from as far below as the point from which the school-child, with round eyes raised to the wall, gazes at the parti-colored map of the world. Yes, it was a warmth, it was a special benignity, that had never yet dropped on her from any one; and she wouldn’t for the first few moments have known how to describe it or even quite what to do with it. Then, as it still rested, his fine improved expression aiding, the sense of what had happened came over her with a rush. She was being, yes, patronized; and that was really as new to her — the freeborn American girl who might, if she had wished, have got engaged and disengaged not six times but sixty — as it would have been to be crowned or crucified. The Frenches themselves didn’t do it — the Frenches themselves didn’t dare it. It was as strange as one would: she recognized it when it came, but anything might have come rather — and it was coming by (of all people in the world) Murray Brush! It overwhelmed her; still she could speak, with however faint a quaver and however sick a smile. “You’ll lie for me like a gentleman?”
“As far as that goes till I’m black in the face!” And then while he glowed at her and she wondered if he would pointedly look his lies that way, and if, in fine, his florid, gallant, knowing, almost winking intelligence, common as she had never seen the common vivified, would represent his notion of “blackness”: “See here, Julia; I’ll do more.”
“Everything. I’ll take it right in hand. I’ll fling over you —”
“Fling over me —?” she continued to echo as he fascinatingly fixed her.
“Well, the biggest kind of rose-colored mantle!” And this time, oh, he did wink: it would be the way he was going to wink (and in the grandest good faith in the world) when indignantly denying, under inquisition, that there had been “a sign or a scrap” between them. But there was more to come; he decided she should have it all. “Julia, you’ve got to know now.” He hung fire but an instant more. “Julia, I’m going to be married.” His “Julias” were somehow death to her; she could feel that even through all the rest. “Julia, I announce my engagement.”
“Oh, lordy, lordy!” she wailed: it might have been addressed to Mr. Pitman.
The force of it had brought her to her feet, but he sat there smiling up as at the natural tribute of her interest. “I tell you before any one else; it’s not to be ‘out’ for a day or two yet. But we want you to know; she said that as soon as I mentioned to her that I had heard from you. I mention to her everything, you see!”— and he almost simpered while, still in his seat, he held the end of his cigarette, all delicately and as for a form of gentle emphasis, with the tips of his fine fingers. “You’ve not met her, Mary Lindeck, I think: she tells me she hasn’t the pleasure of knowing you, but she desires it so much — particularly longs for it. She’ll take an interest too,” he went on; “you must let me immediately bring her to you. She has heard so much about you and she really wants to see you.”
“Oh mercy me!” poor Julia gasped again — so strangely did history repeat itself and so did this appear the echo, on Murray Brush’s lips, and quite to drollery, of that sympathetic curiosity of Mrs. Drack’s which Mr. Pitman had, as they said, voiced. Well, there had played before her the vision of a ledge of safety in face of a rising tide; but this deepened quickly to a sense more forlorn, the cold swish of waters already up to her waist and that would soon be up to her chin. It came really but from the air of her friend, from the perfect benevolence and high unconsciousness with which he kept his posture — as if to show he could patronize her from below upward quite as well as from above down. And as she took it all in, as it spread to a flood, with the great lumps and masses of truth it was floating, she knew inevitable submission, not to say submersion, as she had never known it in her life; going down and down before it, not even putting out her hands to resist or cling by the way, only reading into the young man’s very face an immense fatality and, for all his bright nobleness his absence of rancor or of protesting pride, the great gray blankness of her doom. It was as if the earnest Miss Lindeck, tall and mild, high and lean, with eye-glasses and a big nose, but “marked” in a noticeable way, elegant and distinguished and refined, as you could see from a mile off, and as graceful, for common despair of imitation, as the curves of the “copy” set of old by one’s writing-master — it was as if this stately well-wisher, whom indeed she had never exchanged a word with, but whom she had recognized and placed and winced at as soon as he spoke of her, figured there beside him now as also in portentous charge of her case.
He had ushered her into it in that way as if his mere right word sufficed; and Julia could see them throne together, beautifully at one in all the interests they now shared, and regard her as an object of almost tender solicitude. It was positively as if they had become engaged for her good — in such a happy light as it shed. That was the way people you had known, known a bit intimately, looked at you as soon as they took on the high matrimonial propriety that sponged over the more or less wild past to which you belonged, and of which, all of a sudden, they were aware only through some suggestion it made them for reminding you definitely that you still had a place. On her having had a day or two before to meet Mrs. Drack and to rise to her expectation she had seen and felt herself act, had above all admired herself, and had at any rate known what she said, even though losing, at her altitude, any distinctness in the others. She could have repeated later on the detail of her performance — if she hadn’t preferred to keep it with her as a mere locked-up, a mere unhandled treasure. At present, however, as everything was for her at first deadened and vague, true to the general effect of sounds and motions in water, she couldn’t have said afterward what words she spoke, what face she showed, what impression she made — at least till she had pulled herself round to precautions. She only knew she had turned away, and that this movement must have sooner or later determined his rising to join her, his deciding to accept it, gracefully and condoningly — condoningly in respect to her natural emotion, her inevitable little pang — for an intimation that they would be better on their feet.
They trod then afresh their ancient paths; and though it pressed upon her hatefully that he must have taken her abruptness for a smothered shock, the flare-up of her old feeling at the breath of his news, she had still to see herself condemned to allow him this, condemned really to encourage him in the mistake of believing her suspicious of feminine spite and doubtful of Miss Lindeck’s zeal. She was so far from doubtful that she was but too appalled at it and at the officious mass in which it loomed, and this instinct of dread, before their walk was over, before she had guided him round to one of the smaller gates, there to slip off again by herself, was positively to find on the bosom of her flood a plank by the aid of which she kept in a manner and for the time afloat. She took ten minutes to pant, to blow gently, to paddle disguisedly, to accommodate herself, in a word, to the elements she had let loose; but as a reward of her effort at least she then saw how her determined vision accounted for everything. Beside her friend on the bench she had truly felt all his cables cut, truly swallowed down the fact that if he still perceived she was pretty — and how pretty! — it had ceased appreciably to matter to him. It had lighted the folly of her preliminary fear, the fear of his even yet to some effect of confusion or other inconvenience for her, proving more alive to the quotable in her, as she had called it, than to the inexpressible. She had reckoned with the awkwardness of that possible failure of his measure of her charm, by which his renewed apprehension of her grosser ornaments, those with which he had most affinity, might too much profit; but she need have concerned herself as little for his sensibility on one head as on the other. She had ceased personally, ceased materially — in respect, as who should say, to any optical or tactile advantage — to exist for him, and the whole office of his manner had been the more piously and gallantly to dress the dead presence with flowers. This was all to his credit and his honor, but what it clearly certified was that their case was at last not even one of spirit reaching out to spirit. He had plenty of spirit — had all the spirit required for his having engaged himself to Miss Lindeck, into which result, once she had got her head well up again, she read, as they proceeded, one sharp meaning after another. It was therefore toward the subtler essence of that mature young woman alone that he was occupied in stretching; what was definite to him about Julia Bride being merely, being entirely — which was indeed thereby quite enough — that she might end by scaling her worldly height. They would push, they would shove, they would “boost,” they would arch both their straight backs as pedestals for her tiptoe; and at the same time, by some sweet prodigy of mechanics, she would pull them up and up with her.
Wondrous things hovered before her in the course of this walk; her consciousness had become, by an extraordinary turn, a music-box in which, its lid well down, the most remarkable tunes were sounding. It played for her ear alone, and the lid, as she might have figured, was her firm plan of holding out till she got home, of not betraying — to her companion at least — the extent to which she was demoralized. To see him think her demoralized by mistrust of the sincerity of the service to be meddlesomely rendered her by his future wife — she would have hurled herself publicly into the lake there at their side, would have splashed, in her beautiful clothes, among the frightened swans, rather than invite him to that ineptitude. Oh, her sincerity, Mary Lindeck’s — she would be drenched with her sincerity, and she would be drenched, yes, with his; so that, from inward convulsion to convulsion, she had, before they reached their gate, pulled up in the path. There was something her head had been full of these three or four minutes, the intensest little tune of the music-box, and it made its way to her lips now; belonging — for all the good it could do her! — to the two or three sorts of solicitude she might properly express.
“I hope she has a fortune, if you don’t mind my speaking of it: I mean some of the money we didn’t in our time have — and that we missed, after all, in our poor way and for what we then wanted of it, so quite dreadfully.”
She had been able to wreathe it in a grace quite equal to any he himself had employed; and it was to be said for him also that he kept up, on this, the standard. “Oh, she’s not, thank goodness, at all badly off, poor dear. We shall do very well. How sweet of you to have thought of it! May I tell her that too?” he splendidly glared. Yes, he glared — how couldn’t he, with what his mind was really full of? But, all the same, he came just here, by her vision, nearer than at any other point to being a gentleman. He came quite within an ace of it — with his taking from her thus the prescription of humility of service, his consenting to act in the interest of her avidity, his letting her mount that way, on his bowed shoulders, to the success in which he could suppose she still believed. He couldn’t know, he would never know, that she had then and there ceased to believe in it — that she saw as clear as the sun in the sky the exact manner in which, between them, before they had done, the Murray Brushes, all zeal and sincerity, all interest in her interesting case, would dish, would ruin, would utterly destroy her. He wouldn’t have needed to go on, for the force and truth of this; but he did go on — he was as crashingly consistent as a motorcar without a brake. He was visibly in love with the idea of what they might do for her and of the rare “social” opportunity that they would, by the same stroke, embrace. How he had been offhand with it, how he had made it parenthetic, that he didn’t happen “personally” to know Basil French — as if it would have been at all likely he should know him, even im personally, and as if he could conceal from her the fact that, since she had made him her overture, this gentleman’s name supremely baited her hook! Oh, they would help Julia Bride if they could — they would do their remarkable best; but they would at any rate have made his acquaintance over it, and she might indeed leave the rest to their thoroughness. He would already have known, he would already have heard; her appeal, she was more and more sure, wouldn’t have come to him as a revelation. He had already talked it over with her, with Miss Lindeck, to whom the Frenches, in their fortress, had never been accessible, and his whole attitude bristled, to Julia’s eyes, with the betrayal of her hand, her voice, her pressure, her calculation. His tone, in fact, as he talked, fairly thrust these things into her face. “But you must see her for yourself. You’ll judge her. You’ll love her. My dear child”— he brought it all out, and if he spoke of children he might, in his candor, have been himself infantine —“my dear child, she’s the person to do it for you. Make it over to her; but,” he laughed, “of course see her first! Couldn’t you,” he wound up — for they were now near their gate, where she was to leave him —“couldn’t you just simply make us meet him, at tea say, informally; just us alone, as pleasant old friends of whom you’d have so naturally and frankly spoken to him: and then see what we’d make of that?”
It was all in his expression; he couldn’t keep it out of that, and his shining good looks couldn’t: ah, he was so fatally much too handsome for her! So the gap showed just there, in his admirable mask and his admirable eagerness; the yawning little chasm showed where the gentleman fell short. But she took this in, she took everything in, she felt herself do it, she heard herself say, while they paused before separation, that she quite saw the point of the meeting, as he suggested, at her tea. She would propose it to Mr. French and would let them know; and he must assuredly bring Miss Lindeck, bring her “right away,” bring her soon, bring them, his fiancée and her, together somehow, and as quickly as possible — so that they should be old friends before the tea. She would propose it to Mr. French, propose it to Mr. French: that hummed in her ears as she went — after she had really got away; hummed as if she were repeating it over, giving it out to the passers, to the pavement, to the sky, and all as in wild discord with the intense little concert of her music-box. The extraordinary thing too was that she quite believed she should do it, and fully meant to; desperately, fantastically passive — since she almost reeled with it as she proceeded — she was capable of proposing anything to any one: capable too of thinking it likely Mr. French would come, for he had never on her previous proposals declined anything. Yes, she would keep it up to the end, this pretence of owing them salvation, and might even live to take comfort in having done for them what they wanted. What they wanted couldn’t but be to get at the Frenches, and what Miss Lindeck above all wanted, baffled of it otherwise, with so many others of the baffled, was to get at Mr. French — for all Mr. French would want of either of them! — still more than Murray did. It was not till after she had got home, got straight into her own room and flung herself on her face, that she yielded to the full taste of the bitterness of missing a connection, missing the man himself, with power to create such a social appetite, such a grab at what might be gained by them. He could make people, even people like these two and whom there were still other people to envy, he could make them push and snatch and scramble like that — and then remain as incapable of taking her from the hands of such patrons as of receiving her straight, say, from those of Mrs. Drack. It was a high note, too, of Julia’s wonderful composition that, even in the long, lonely moan of her conviction of her now certain ruin, all this grim lucidity, the perfect clearance of passion, but made her supremely proud of him.
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