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HE had been out but once since his arrival, Mark Monteith; that was the next day after — he had disembarked by night on the previous; then everything had come at once, as he would have said, everything had changed. He had got in on Tuesday; he had spent Wednesday for the most part down town, looking into the dismal subject of his anxiety — the anxiety that, under a sudden decision, had brought him across the unfriendly sea at mid-winter, and it was through information reaching him on Wednesday evening that he had measured his loss, measured above all his pain. These were two distinct things, he felt, and, though both bad, one much worse than the other. It wasn’t till the next three days had pretty well ebbed, in fact, that he knew himself for so badly wounded. He had waked up on Thursday morning, so far as he had slept at all, with the sense, together, of a blinding New York blizzard and of a deep sore inward ache. The great white savage storm would have kept him at the best within doors, but his stricken state was by itself quite reason enough.
He so felt the blow indeed, so gasped, before what had happened to him, at the ugliness, the bitterness, and, beyond these things, the sinister strangeness, that, the matter of his dismay little by little detaching and projecting itself, settling there face to face with him as something he must now live with always, he might have been in charge of some horrid alien thing, some violent, scared, unhappy creature whom there was small joy, of a truth, in remaining with, but whose behaviour wouldn’t perhaps bring him under notice, nor otherwise compromise him, so long as he should stay to watch it. A young jibbering ape of one of the more formidable sorts, or an ominous infant panther, smuggled into the great gaudy hotel and whom it might yet be important he shouldn’t advertise, couldn’t have affected him as needing more domestic attention. The great gaudy hotel — The Pocahontas, but carried out largely on “Du Barry” lines — made all about him, beside, behind, below, above, in blocks and tiers and superpositions, a sufficient defensive hugeness; so that, between the massive labyrinth and the New York weather, life in a lighthouse during a gale would scarce have kept him more apart. Even when in the course of that worse Thursday it had occurred to him for vague relief that the odious certified facts couldn’t be all his misery, and that, with his throat and a probable temperature, a brush of the epidemic, which was for ever brushing him, accounted for something, even then he couldn’t resign himself to bed and broth and dimness, but only circled and prowled the more within his high cage, only watched the more from his tenth story the rage of the elements.
In the afternoon he had a doctor — the caravanserai, which supplied everything in quantities, had one for each group of so many rooms — just in order to be assured that he was grippÃ© enough for anything. What his visitor, making light of his attack, perversely told him was that he was, much rather, “blue” enough, and from causes doubtless known to himself — which didn’t come to the same thing; but he “gave him something,” prescribed him warmth and quiet and broth and courage, and came back the next day as to readminister this last dose. He then pronounced him better, and on Saturday pronounced him well — all the more that the storm had abated and the snow had been dealt with as New York, at a push, knew how to deal with things. Oh, how New York knew how to deal — to deal, that is, with other accumulations lying passive to its hand — was exactly what Mark now ached with his impression of; so that, still threshing about in this consciousness, he had on the Saturday come near to breaking out as to what was the matter with him. The Doctor brought in somehow the air of the hotel — which, cheerfully and conscientiously, by his simple philosophy, the good man wished to diffuse; breathing forth all the echoes of other woes and worries and pointing the honest moral that, especially with such a thermometer, there were enough of these to go round.
Our sufferer, by that time, would have liked to tell some one; extracting, to the last acid strain of it, the full strength of his sorrow, taking it all in as he could only do by himself and with the conditions favourable at least to this, had been his natural first need. But now, he supposed, he must be better; there was something of his heart’s heaviness he wanted so to give out. He had rummaged forth on the Thursday night half a dozen old photographs stuck into a leather frame, a small show-case that formed part of his usual equipage of travel — he mostly set it up on a table when he stayed anywhere long enough; and in one of the neat gilt-edged squares of this convenient portable array, as familiar as his shaving-glass or the hair-brushes, of backs and monograms now so beautifully toned and wasted, long ago given him by his mother, Phil Blood-good handsomely faced him. Not contemporaneous, and a little faded, but so saying what it said only the more dreadfully, the image seemed to sit there, at an immemorial window, like some long effective and only at last exposed “decoy” of fate. It was because he was so beautifully good-looking, because he was so charming and clever and frank — besides being one’s third cousin, or whatever it was, one’s early schoolfellow and one’s later college classmate — that one had abjectly trusted him. To live thus with his unremoved, undestroyed, engaging, treacherous face, had been, as our traveller desired, to live with all of the felt pang; had been to consume it in such a single hot, sore mouthful as would so far as possible dispose of it and leave but cold dregs. Thus, if the Doctor, casting about for pleasantness, had happened to notice him there, salient since he was, and possibly by the same stroke even to know him, as New York — and more or less to its cost now, mightn’t one say? — so abundantly and agreeable had, the cup would have overflowed and Monteith, for all he could be sure of the contrary, would have relieved himself positively in tears.
“Oh he’s what’s the matter with me — that, looking after some of my poor dividends, as he for the ten years of my absence had served me by doing, he has simply jockeyed me out of the whole little collection, such as it was, and taken the opportunity of my return, inevitably at last bewildered and uneasy, to ‘sail,’ ten days ago, for parts unknown and as yet unguessable. It isn’t the beastly values themselves, however; that’s only awkward and I can still live, though I don’t quite know how I shall turn round; it’s the horror of his having done it, and done it to me — without a mitigation or, so to speak, a warning or an excuse.” That, at a hint or a jog, is what he would have brought out — only to feel afterward, no doubt, that he had wasted his impulse and profaned even a little his sincerity. The Doctor didn’t in the event so much as glance at his cluster of portraits — which fact quite put before our friend the essentially more vivid range of imagery that a pair of eyes transferred from room to room and from one queer case to another, in such a place as that, would mainly be adjusted to. It wasn’t for him to relieve himself touchingly, strikingly or whatever, to such a man: such a man might much more pertinently — save for professional discretion — have emptied out there his own bag of wonders; prodigies of observation, flowers of oddity, flowers of misery, flowers of the monstrous, gathered in current hotel practice. Countless possibilities, making doctors perfunctory, Mark felt, swarmed and seethed at their doors; it showed for an incalculable world, and at last, on Sunday, he decided to leave his room.
Everything, as he passed through the place, went on — all the offices of life, the whole bustle of the market, and withal, surprisingly, scarce less that of the nursery and the playground; the whole sprawl in especial of the great gregarious fireside: it was a complete social scene in itself, on which types might figure and passions rage and plots thicken and dramas develop, without reference to any other sphere, or perhaps even to anything at all outside. The signs of this met him at every turn as he threaded the labyrinth, passing from one extraordinary masquerade of expensive objects, one portentous “period” of decoration, one violent phase of publicity, to another: the heavy heat, the luxuriance, the extravagance, the quantity, the colour, gave the impression of some wondrous tropical forest, where vociferous, bright-eyed, and feathered creatures, of every variety of size and hue, were half smothered between undergrowths of velvet and tapestry and ramifications of marble and bronze. The fauna and the flora startled him alike, and among them his bruised spirit drew in and folded its wings. But he roamed and rested, exploring and in a manner enjoying the vast rankness — in the depth of which he suddenly encountered Mrs. Folliott, whom he had last seen, six months before, in London, and who had spoken to him then, precisely, of Phil Bloodgood, for several years previous her confidential American agent and factotum too, as she might say, but at that time so little in her good books, for the extraordinary things he seemed to be doing, that she was just hurrying home, she had made no scruple of mentioning, to take everything out of his hands.
Mark remembered how uneasy she had made him — how that very talk with her had wound him up to fear, as so acute and intent a little person she affected him; though he had affirmed with all emphasis and flourish his own confidence and defended, to iteration, his old friend. This passage had remained with him for a certain pleasant heat of intimacy, his partner, of the charming appearance, being what she was; he liked to think how they had fraternised over their difference and called each other idiots, or almost, without offence. It was always a link to have scuffled, failing a real scratch, with such a character; and he had at present the flutter of feeling that something of this would abide. He hadn’t been hurrying home, at the London time, in any case; he was doing nothing then, and had continued to do it; he would want, before showing suspicion — that had been his attitude — to have more, after all, to go upon. Mrs. Folliott also, and with a great actual profession of it, remembered and rejoiced; and, also staying in the house as she was, sat with him, under a spreading palm, in a wondrous rococo salon, surrounded by the pinkest, that is the fleshiest, imitation Boucher panels, and wanted to know if he now stood up for his swindler. She would herself have tumbled on a cloud, very passably, in a fleshy Boucher manner, hadn’t she been over-dressed for such an exercise; but she was quite realistically aware of what had so naturally happened — she was prompt about Bloodgood’s “flight.”
She had acted with energy, on getting back — she had saved what she could; which hadn’t, however, prevented her losing all disgustedly some ten thousand dollars. She was lovely, lively, friendly, interested, she connected Monteith perfectly with their discussion that day during the water-party on the Thames; but, sitting here with him half an hour, she talked only of her peculiar, her cruel sacrifice — since she should never get a penny back. He had felt himself, on their meeting, quite yearningly reach out to her — so decidedly, by the morning’s end, and that of his scattered sombre stations, had he been sated with meaningless contacts, with the sense of people all about him intensely, though harmlessly, animated, yet at the same time raspingly indifferent. They would have, he and she at least, their common pang — through which fact, somehow, he should feel less stranded. It wasn’t that he wanted to be pitied — he fairly didn’t pity himself; he winced, rather, and even to vicarious anguish, as it rose again, for poor shamed Bloodgood’s doom-ridden figure. But he wanted, as with a desperate charity, to give some easier turn to the mere ugliness of the main facts; to work off his obsession from them by mixing with it some other blame, some other pity, it scarce mattered what — if it might be some other experience; as an effect of which larger ventilation it would have, after a fashion and for a man of free sensibility, a diluted and less poisonous taste.
By the end of five minutes of Mrs. Folliott, however, he felt his dry lips seal themselves to a makeshift simper. She could take nothing — no better, no broader perception of anything than fitted her own small faculty; so that though she must have recalled or imagined that he had still, up to lately, had interests at stake, the rapid result of her egotistical little chatter was to make him wish he might rather have conversed with the French waiter dangling in the long vista that showed the oriental cafÃ© as a climax, or with the policeman, outside, the top of whose helmet peeped above the ledge of a window. She bewailed her wretched money to excess — she who, he was sure, had quantities more; she pawed and tossed her bare bone, with her little extraordinarily gemmed and manicured hands, till it acted on his nerves; she rang all the changes on the story, the dire fatality, of her having wavered and muddled, thought of this and but done that, of her stupid failure to have pounced, when she had first meant to, in season. She abused the author of their wrongs — recognising thus too Monteith’s right to loathe him — for the desperado he assuredly had proved, but with a vulgarity of analysis and an incapacity for the higher criticism, as her listener felt it to be, which made him determine resentfully, almost grimly, that she shouldn’t have the benefit of a grain of his vision or his version of what had befallen them, and of how, in particular, it had come; and should never dream thereby (though much would she suffer from that!) of how interesting he might have been. She had, in a finer sense, no manners, and to be concerned with her in any retrospect was — since their discourse was of losses — to feel the dignity of history incur the very gravest. It was true that such fantasies, or that any shade of inward irony, would be Greek to Mrs. Folliott. It was also true, however, and not much more strange, when she had presently the comparatively happy thought of “Lunch with us, you poor dear!” and mentioned three or four of her “crowd” — a new crowd, rather, for her, all great Sunday lunchers there and immense fun, who would in a moment be turning up — that this seemed to him as easy as anything else; so that after a little, deeper in the jungle and while, under the temperature as of high noon, with the crowd complete and “ordering,” he wiped the perspiration from his brow, he felt he was letting himself go. He did that certainly to the extent of leaving far behind any question of Mrs. Folliott’s manners. They didn’t matter there — nobody’s did; and if she ceased to lament her ten thousand it was only because, among higher voices, she couldn’t make herself heard. Poor Blood-good didn’t have a show, as they might have said, didn’t get through at any point; the crowd was so new that — there either having been no hue and cry for him, or having been too many others, for other absconders, in the intervals — they had never so much as heard of him and would have no more of Mrs. Folliott’s true inwardness, on that subject at least, than she had lately cared to have of Monteith’s.
There was nothing like a crowd, this unfortunate knew, for making one feel lonely, and he felt so increasingly during the meal; but he got thus at least in a measure away from the terrible little lady; after which, and before the end of the hour, he wanted still more to get away from every one else. He was in fact about to perform this manoeuvre when he was checked by the jolly young woman he had been having on his left and who had more to say about the Hotels, up and down the town, than he had ever known a young woman to have to say on any subject at all; she expressed herself in hotel terms exclusively, the names of those establishments playing through her speech as the leit-motif might have recurrently flashed and romped through a piece of profane modern music. She wanted to present him to the pretty girl she had brought with her, and who had apparently signified to her that she must do so.
“I think you know my brother-in-law, Mr. Newton Winch,” the pretty girl had immediately said; she moved her head and shoulders together, as by a common spring, the effect of a stiff neck or of something loosened in her back hair; but becoming, queerly enough, all the prettier for doing so. He had seen in the papers, her brother-in-law, Mr. Monteith’s arrival — Mr. Mark P. Monteith, wasn’t it? — and where he was, and she had been with him, three days before, at the time; whereupon he had said “Hullo, what can have brought old Mark back?” He seemed to have believed — Newton had seemed — that that shirker, as he called him, never would come; and she guessed that if she had known she was going to meet such a former friend (“Which he claims you are, sir,” said the pretty girl) he would have asked her to find out what the trouble could be. But the real satisfaction would just be, she went on, if his former friend would himself go and see him and tell him; he had appeared of late so down.
“Oh, I remember him” — Mark didn’t repudiate the friendship, placing him easily; only then he wasn’t married and the pretty girl’s sister must have come in later: which showed, his not knowing such things, how they had lost touch. The pretty girl was sorry to have to say in return to this that her sister wasn’t living — had died two years after marrying; so that Newton was up there in Fiftieth Street alone; where (in explanation of his being “down”) he had been shut up for days with bad grippe; though now on the mend, or she wouldn’t have gone to him, not she, who had had it nineteen times and didn’t want to have it again. But the horrid poison just seemed to have entered into poor Newton’s soul.
“That’s the way it can take you, don’t you know?” And then as, with her single twist, she just charmingly hunched her eyes at our friend, “Don’t you want to go to see him?”
Mark bethought himself: “Well, I’m going to see a lady ——— ”
She took the words from his mouth. “Of course you’re going to see a lady — every man in New York is. But Newton isn’t a lady, unfortunately for him, to-day; and Sunday afternoon in this place, in this weather, alone ———!”
“Yes, isn’t it awful?” — he was quite drawn to her.
“Oh, you’ve got your lady!”
“Yes, I’ve got my lady, thank goodness!” The fervour of which was his sincere tribute to the note he had had on Friday morning from Mrs. Ash, the only thing that had a little tempered his gloom.
“Well then, feel for others. Fit him in. Tell him why!”
“Why I’ve come back? I’m glad I have — since it was to see you!” Monteith made brave enough answer, promising to do what he could. He liked the pretty girl, with her straight attack and her free awkwardness — also with her difference from the others through something of a sense and a distinction given her by so clearly having Newton on her mind. Yet it was odd to him, and it showed the lapse of the years, that Winch — as he had known him of old — could be to that degree on any one’s mind.
Outside in the intensity of the cold — it was a jump from the Tropics to the Pole — he felt afresh the force of what he had just been saying; that if it weren’t for the fact of Mrs. Ash’s good letter of welcome, despatched, characteristically, as soon as she had, like the faithful sufferer in Fiftieth Street, observed his name, in a newspaper, on one of the hotel-lists, he should verily, for want of a connection and an abutment, have scarce dared to face the void and the chill together, but have sneaked back into the jungle and there tried to lose himself. He made, as it was, the opposite effort, resolute to walk, though hovering now and then at vague crossways, radiations of roads to nothing, or taking cold counsel of the long but still sketchy vista, as it struck him, of the northward Avenue, bright and bleak, fresh and harsh, rich and evident somehow, a perspective like a page of florid modern platitudes. He didn’t quite know what he had expected for his return — not certainly serenades and deputations; but without Mrs. Ash his mail would have quite lacked geniality, and it was as if Phil Blood-good had gone off not only with so large a slice of his small peculium, but with all the broken bits of the past, the loose ends of old relationships, that he had supposed he might pick up again. Well, perhaps he should still pick up a few — by the sweat of his brow; no motion of their own at least, he by this time judged, would send them fluttering into his hand.
Which reflections but quickened his forecast of this charm of the old Paris inveteracy renewed — the so-prized custom of nine years before, when he still believed in results from his fond frequentation of the Beaux Arts; that of walking over the river to the Rue de Marignan, precisely, every Sunday without exception, and sitting at her fireside, and often all offensively, no doubt, outstaying every one. How he had used to want those hours then, and how again, after a little, at present, the Rue de Marignan might have been before him! He had gone to her there at that time with his troubles, such as they were, and they had always worked for her amusement — which had been her happy, her clever way of taking them: she couldn’t have done anything better for them in that phase, poor innocent things compared with what they might have been, than be amused by them. Perhaps that was what she would still be — with those of his present hour; now too they might inspire her with the touch she best applied and was most instinctive mistress of: this didn’t at all events strike him as what he should most resent. It wasn’t as if Mrs. Folliott, to make up for boring him with her own plaint, for example, had had so much as a gleam of conscious diversion over his.
“I’m so delighted to see you, I’ve such immensities to tell you!” — it began with the highest animation twenty minutes later, the very moment he stood there, the sense of the Rue de Marignan in the charming room and in the things about all reconstituted, regrouped, wonderfully preserved, down to the very sitting-places in the same relations, and down to the faint sweet mustiness of generations of cigarettes; but everything else different, and even vaguely alien, and by a measure still other than that of their own stretched interval and of the dear delightful woman’s just a little pathetic alteration of face. He had allowed for the nine years, and so, it was to be hoped, had she; but the last thing, otherwise, that would have been touched, he immediately felt, was the quality, the intensity, of her care to see him. She cared, oh so visibly and touchingly and almost radiantly — save for her being, yes, distinctly, a little more battered than from even a good nine years’ worth; nothing could in fact have perched with so crowning an impatience on the heap of what she had to “tell” as that special shade of revived consciousness of having him in particular to tell it to. It wasn’t perhaps much to matter how soon she brought out and caused to ring, as it were, on the little recognised marqueterie table between them (such an anciently envied treasure), the heaviest gold-piece of current history she was to pay him with for having just so felicitously come back: he knew already, without the telling, that intimate domestic tension must lately, within those walls, have reached a climax and that he could serve supremely — oh how he was going to serve! — as the most sympathetic of all pairs of ears.
The whole thing was upon him, in any case, with the minimum of delay: Bob had had it from her, definitely, the first of the week, and it was absolutely final now, that they must set up avowedly separate lives — without horrible “proceedings” of any sort, but with her own situation, her independence, secured to her once for all. She had been coming to it, taking her time, and she had gone through — well, so old a friend would guess enough what; but she was at the point, oh blessedly now, where she meant to stay, he’d see if she didn’t; with which, in this wonderful way, he himself had arrived for the cream of it and she was just selfishly glad. Bob had gone to Washington — ostensibly on business, but really to recover breath; she had, speaking vulgarly, knocked the wind out of him and was allowing him time to turn round. Mrs. Folliott moreover, she was sure, would have gone — was certainly believed to have been seen there five days ago; and of course his first necessity, for public use, would be to patch up something with Mrs. Folliott. Mark knew about Mrs. Folliott? — who was only, for that matter, one of a regular “bevy.” Not that it signified, however, if he didn’t: she would tell him about her later.
He took occasion from the first fraction of a break not quite to know what he knew about Mrs. Folliott — though perhaps he could imagine a little; and it was probably at this minute that, having definitely settled to a position, and precisely in his very own tapestry bergÃ¨re, the one with the delicious little spectral “subjects” on the back and seat, he partly exhaled, and yet managed partly to keep to himself, the deep resigned sigh of a general comprehension. He knew what he was “in” for, he heard her go on — she said it again and again, seemed constantly to be saying it while she smiled at him with her peculiar fine charm, her positive gaiety of sensibility, scarce dimmed: “I’m just selfishly glad, just selfishly glad!” Well, she was going to have reason to be; she was going to put the whole case to him, all her troubles and plans, and each act of the tragi-comedy of her recent existence, as to the dearest and safest sympathiser in all the world. There would be no chance for his case, though it was so much for his case he had come; yet there took place within him but a mild, dumb convulsion, the momentary strain of his substituting, by the turn of a hand, one prospect of interest for another.
Squaring himself in his old bergÃ¨re, and with his lips, during the effort, compressed to the same passive grimace that had an hour or two before operated for the encouragement of Mrs. Folliott — just as it was to clear the stage completely for the present more prolonged performance — he shut straight down, as he even in the act called it to himself, on any personal claim for social consideration and rendered a perfect little agony of justice to the grounds of his friend’s vividness. For it was all the justice that could be expected of him that, though, secretly, he wasn’t going to be interested in her being interesting, she was yet going to be so, all the same, by the very force of her lovely material (Bob Ash was such a pure pearl of a donkey!) and he was going to keep on knowing she was — yes, to the very end. When after the lapse of an hour he rose to go, the rich fact that she had been was there between them, and with an effect of the frankly, fearlessly, harmlessly intimate fireside passage for it that went beyond even the best memories of the pleasant past. He hadn’t “amused” her, no, in quite the same way as in the Rue de Marignan time — it had then been he who for the most part took frequent turns, emphatic, explosive, elocutionary, over that wonderful waxed parquet while she laughed as for the young perversity of him from the depths of the second, the matching bergÃ¨re. To-day she herself held and swept the floor, putting him merely to the trouble of his perpetual “Brava!” But that was all through the change of basis — the amusement, another name only for the thrilled absorption, having been inevitably for him; as how could it have failed to be with such a regular “treat” to his curiosity? With the tea-hour now other callers were turning up, and he got away on the plea of his wanting so to think it all over. He hoped again he hadn’t too queer a grin with his assurance to her, as if she would quite know what he meant, that he had been thrilled to the core. But she returned, quite radiantly, that he had carried her completely away; and her sincerity was proved by the final frankness of their temporary parting. “My pleasure of you is selfish, horribly, I admit; so that if that doesn’t suit you —!” Her faded beauty flushed again as she said it.
In the street again, as he resumed his walk, he saw how perfectly it would have to suit him and how he probably for a long time wouldn’t be suited otherwise. Between them and that time, however, what mightn’t, for him, poor devil, on his new basis, have happened? She wasn’t at any rate within any calculable period going to care so much for anything as for the so quaintly droll terms in which her rearrangement with her husband — thanks to that gentleman’s inimitable fatuity — would have to be made. This was what it was to own, exactly, her special grace — the brightest gaiety in the finest sensibility; such a display of which combination, Mark felt as he went (if he could but have done it still more justice) she must have regaled him with! That exquisite last flush of her fadedness could only remain with him; yet while he presently stopped at a street-corner in a district redeemed from desolation but by the passage just then of a choked trolley-car that howled, as he paused for it, beneath the weight of its human accretions, he seemed to know the inward “sinking” that had been determined in a hungry man by some extravagant sight of the preparation of somebody else’s dinner. Florence Ash was dining, so to speak, off the feast of appreciation, appreciation of what she had to “tell” him, that he had left her seated at; and she was welcome, assuredly — welcome, welcome, welcome, he musingly, he wistfully, and yet at the same time a trifle mechanically, repeated, stayed as he was a moment longer by the suffering shriek of another public vehicle and a sudden odd automatic return of his mind to the pretty girl, the flower of Mrs. Folliott’s crowd, who had spoken to him of Newton Winch. It was extraordinarily as if, on the instant, she reminded him, from across the town, that she had offered him dinner: it was really quite strangely, while he stood there, as if she had told him where he could go and get it. With which, none the less, it was apparently where he wouldn’t find her — and what was there, after all, of nutritive in the image of Newton Winch? He made up his mind in a moment that it owed that property, which the pretty girl had somehow made imputable, to the fact of its simply being just then the one image of anything known to him that the terrible place had to offer. Nothing, he a minute later reflected, could have been so “rum” as that, sick and sore, of a bleak New York eventide, he should have had nowhere to turn if not to the said Fiftieth Street.
That was the direction he accordingly took, for when he found the number given him by the same remarkable agent of fate also present to his memory he recognised the direct intervention of Providence and how it absolutely required a miracle to explain his so precipitately embracing this loosest of connections. The miracle indeed soon grew clearer: Providence had, on some obscure system, chosen this very ridiculous hour to save him from cultivation of the sin of selfishness, the obsession of egotism, and was breaking him to its will by constantly directing his attention to the claims of others. Who could say what at that critical moment mightn’t have become of Mrs. Folliott (otherwise too then so sadly embroiled!) if she hadn’t been enabled to air to him her grievance and her rage? — just as who could deny that it must have done Florence Ash a world of good to have put her thoughts about Bob in order by the aid of a person to whom the vision of Bob in the light of those thoughts (or in other words to whom her vision of Bob and nothing else) would mean so delightfully much? It was on the same general lines that poor Newton Winch, bereft, alone, ill, perhaps dying, and with the drawback of a not very sympathetic personality — as Mark remembered it at least — to contend against in almost any conceivable appeal to human furtherance, it was on these lines, very much, that the luckless case in Fiftieth Street was offered him as a source of salutary discipline. The moment for such a lesson might strike him as strange, in view of the quite special and independent opportunity for exercise that his spirit had during the last three days enjoyed there in his hotel bedroom; but evidently his languor of charity needed some admonition finer than any it might trust to chance for, and by the time he at last, Winch’s residence recognised, was duly elevated to his level and had pressed the electric button at his door, he felt himself acting indeed as under stimulus of a sharp poke in the side.
Within the apartment to which he had been admitted, moreover, the fine intelligence we have imputed to him was in the course of three minutes confirmed; since it took him no longer than that to say to himself, facing his old acquaintance, that he had never seen any one so improved. The place, which had the semblance of a high studio light as well as a general air of other profusions and amplitudes, might have put him off a little by its several rather glaringly false accents, those of contemporary domestic “art” striking a little wild. The scene was smaller, but the rich confused complexion of the Pocahontas, showing through Du Barry paint and patches, might have set the example — which had been followed with the costliest candour — so that, clearly, Winch was in these days rich, as most people in New York seemed rich; as, in spite of Bob’s depredations, Florence Ash was, as even Mrs. Folliott was in spite of Phil Bloodgood’s, as even Phil Bloodgood himself must have been for reasons too obvious; as in fine every one had a secret for being, or for feeling, or for looking, every one at least but Mark Monteith.
These facts were as nothing, however, in presence of his quick and strong impression that his pale, nervous, smiling, clean-shaven host had undergone since their last meeting some extraordinary process of refinement. He had been ill, unmistakably, and the effects of a plunge into plain clean living, where any fineness had remained, were often startling, sometimes almost charming. But independently of this, and for a much longer time, some principle of intelligence, some art of life, would discernibly have worked in him. Remembered from college years and from those two or three luckless and faithless ones of the Law School as constitutionally common, as consistently and thereby doubtless even rather powerfully coarse, clever only for uncouth and questionable things, he yet presented himself now as if he had suddenly and mysteriously been educated. There was a charm in his wide, “drawn,” convalescent smile, in the way his fine fingers — had he anything like fine fingers of old? — played, and just fidgeted, over the prompt and perhaps a trifle incoherent offer of cigars, cordials, ashtrays, over the question of his visitor’s hat, stick, fur coat, general best accommodation and ease; and how the deuce, accordingly, had charm, for coming out so on top, Mark wondered, “squared” the other old elements? For the short interval so to have dealt with him what force had it turned on, what patented process, of the portentous New York order in which there were so many, had it skilfully applied? Were these the things New York did when you just gave her all her head, and that he himself then had perhaps too complacently missed? Strange almost to the point of putting him positively off at first — quite as an exhibition of the uncanny — this sense of Newton’s having all the while neither missed nor muffed anything, and having, as with an eye to the coup de thÃ©Ã¢tre to come, lowered one’s expectations, at the start, to that abject pitch. It might have been taken verily for an act of bad faith — really for such a rare stroke of subtlety as could scarce have been achieved by a straight or natural aim.
So much as this at least came and went in Monteith’s agitated mind; the oddest intensity of apprehension, admiration, mystification, which the high north-light of the March afternoon and the quite splendidly vulgar appeal of fifty overdone decorative effects somehow fostered and sharpened. Everything had already gone, however, the next moment, for wasn’t the man he had come so much too intelligently himself to patronise absolutely bowling him over with the extraordinary speech: “See here, you know — you must be ill, or have had a bad shock, or some beastly upset: are you very sure you ought to have come out?” Yes, he after an instant believed his ears; coarse common Newton Winch, whom he had called on because he could, as a gentleman, after all afford to, coarse common Newton Winch, who had had troubles and been epidemically poisoned, lamentably sick, who bore in his face and in the very tension, quite exactly the “charm,” of his manner, the traces of his late ordeal, and, for that matter, of scarce completed gallant emergence — this astonishing ex-comrade was simply writing himself at a stroke (into our friend’s excited imagination at all events) the most distinguished of men. Oh, he was going to be interesting, if Florence Ash had been going to be; but Mark felt how, under the law of a lively present difference, that would be as an effect of one’s having one’s self thoroughly rallied. He knew within the minute that the tears stood in his eyes; he stared through them at his friend with a sharp “Why, how do you know? How can you?” To which he added before Winch could speak: “I met your charming sister-in-law a couple of hours since — at luncheon, at the Pocahontas; and heard from her that you were badly laid up and had spoken of me. So I came to minister to you.”
The object of this design hovered there again, considerably restless, shifting from foot to foot, changing his place, beginning and giving up motions, striking matches for a fresh cigarette, offering them again, redundantly, to his guest and then not lighting himself — but all the while with the smile of another creature than the creature known to Mark; all the while with the history of something that had happened to him ever so handsomely shining out. Mark was conscious within himself from this time on of two quite distinct processes of notation — that of his practically instant surrender to the consequences of the act of perception in his host of which the two women trained suppos-ably in the art of pleasing had been altogether incapable; and that of some other condition on Newton’s part that left his own poor power of divination nothing less than shamed. This last was signally the case on the former’s saying, ever so responsively, almost radiantly, in answer to his account of how he happened to come: “Oh then it’s very interesting!” That was the astonishing note, after what he had been through: neither Mrs. Folliott nor Florence Ash had so much as hinted or breathed to him that he might have incurred that praise. No wonder therefore he was now taken — with this fresh party’s instant suspicion and imputation of it; though it was indeed for some minutes next as if each tried to see which could accuse the other of the greater miracle of penetration. Mark was so struck, in a word, with the extraordinarily straight guess Winch had had there in reserve for him that, other quick impressions helping, there was nothing for him but to bring out, himself: “There must be, my dear man, something rather wonderful the matter with you!” The quite more intensely and more irresistibly drawn grin, the quite unmistakably deeper consciousness in the dark, wide eye, that accompanied the not quite immediate answer to which remark he was afterward to remember. “How do you know that — or why do you think it?” “Because there must be — for you to see! I shouldn’t have expected it.”
“Then you take me for a damned fool?” laughed wonderful Newton Winch.
He could say nothing that, whether as to the sense of it or as to the way of it, didn’t so enrich Mark’s vision of him that our friend, after a little, as this effect proceeded, caught himself in the act of almost too curiously gaping. Everything, from moment to moment, fed his curiosity; such a question, for instance, as whether the quite ordinary peepers of the Newton Winch of their earlier youth could have looked, under any provocation, either dark or wide; such a question, above all, as how this incalculable apparition came by the whole startling power of play of its extravagantly sensitive labial connections — exposed, so to its advantage (he now jumped at one explanation) by the removal of what had probably been one of the vulgar-est of moustaches. With this, at the same time, the oddity of that particular consequence was vivid to him; the glare of his curiosity fairly lasting while he remembered how he had once noted the very opposite turn of the experiment for Phil Bloodgood. He would have said in advance that poor Winch couldn’t have afforded to risk showing his “real” mouth; just as he would have said that in spite of the fine ornament that so considerably muffled it Phil could only have gained by showing his. But to have seen Phil shorn — as he once had done — was earnestly to pray that he might promptly again bristle; beneath Phil’s moustache lurked nothing to “make up” for it in case of removal. While he thought of which things the line of grimace, as he could only have called it, the mobile, interesting, ironic line the great double curve of which connected, in the face before him, the strong nostril with the lower cheek, became the very key to his first idea of Newton’s capture of refinement. He had shaved and was happily transfigured. Phil Bloodgood had shaved and been wellnigh lost; though why should he just now too precipitately drag the reminiscence in?
That question too, at the queer touch of association, played up for Mark even under so much proof that the state of his own soul was being with the lapse of every instant registered. Phil Bloodgood had brought about the state of his soul — there was accordingly that amount of connection; only it became further remarkable that from the moment his companion had sounded him, and sounded him, he knew, down to the last truth of things, his disposition, his necessity to talk, the desire that had in the morning broken the spell of his confinement, the impulse that had thrown him so defeatedly into Mrs. Folliott’s arms and into Florence Ash’s, these forces seemed to feel their impatience ebb and their discretion suddenly grow. His companion was talking again, but just then, incongruously, made his need to communicate lose itself. It was as if his personal case had already been touched by some tender hand — and that, after all, was the modest limit of its greed. “I know now why you came back — did Lottie mention how I had wondered? But sit down, sit down — only let me, nervous beast as I am, take it standing! — and believe me when I tell you that I’ve now ceased to wonder. My dear chap, I have it! It can’t but have been for poor Phil Blood-good. He sticks out of you, the brute — as how, with what he has done to you, shouldn’t he? There was a man to see me yesterday — Tim Slater, whom I don’t think you know, but who’s ‘on’ everything within about two minutes of its happening (I never saw such a fellow!) and who confirmed my supposition, all my own, however, mind you, at first, that you’re one of the sufferers. So how the devil can you not feel knocked? Why should you look as if you were having the time of your life? What a hog to have played it on you, on you, of all his friends!” So Newton Winch continued, and so the air between the two men might have been, for a momentary watcher — which is indeed what I can but invite the reader to become — that of a nervously displayed, but all considerate, as well as most acute, curiosity on the one side, and that on the other, after a little, of an eventually fascinated acceptance of so much free and in especial of so much right attention. “Do you mind my asking you? Because if you do I won’t press; but as a man whose own responsibilities, some of ’em at least, don’t differ much, I gather, from some of his, one would like to know how he was ever allowed to get to the point —! But I do plough you up?”
Mark sat back in his chair, moved but holding himself, his elbows squared on each arm, his hands a bit convulsively interlocked across him — very much in fact as he had appeared an hour ago in the old tapestry bergÃ¨re; but as his rigour was all then that of the grinding effort to profess and to give, so it was considerably now for the fear of too hysterically gushing. Somehow too — since his wound was to that extent open — he winced at hearing the author of it branded. He hadn’t so much minded the epithets Mrs. Folliott had applied, for they were to the appropriator of her securities. As the appropriator of his own he didn’t so much want to brand him as — just more “amusingly” even, if one would. — to make out, perhaps, with intelligent help, how such a man, in such a relation, could come to tread such a path: which was exactly the interesting light that Winch’s curiosity and sympathy were there to assist him to. He pleaded at any rate immediately his advertising no grievance. “I feel sore, I admit, and it’s a horrid sort of thing to have had happen; but when you call him a brute and a hog I rather squirm, for brutes and hogs never live, I guess, in the sort of hell in which he now must be.”
Newton Winch, before the fireplace, his hands deep in his pockets, where his guest could see his long fingers beat a tattoo on his thighs, Newton Winch dangled and swung himself, and threw back his head and laughed. “Well, I must say you take it amazingly! — all the more that to see you again this way is to feel that if, all along, there was a man whose delicacy and confidence and general attitude might have marked him for a particular consideration, you’d have been the man.” And they were more directly face to face again; with Newton smiling and smiling so appreciatively; making our friend in fact almost ask himself when before a man had ever grinned from ear to ear to the effect of its so becoming him. What he replied, however, was that Newton described in those flattering terms a client temptingly fatuous; after which, and the exchange of another protest or two in the interest of justice and decency, and another plea or two in that of the still finer contention that even the basest misdeeds had always somewhere or other, could one get at it, their propitiatory side, our hero found himself on his feet again, under the influence of a sudden failure of everything but horror — a horror determined by some turn of their talk and indeed by the very fact of the freedom of it. It was as if a far-borne sound of the hue and cry, a vision of his old friend hunted and at bay, had suddenly broken in — this other friend’s, this irresistibly intelligent other companion’s, practically vivid projection of that making the worst ugliness real. “Oh, it’s just making my wry face to somebody, and your letting me and caring and wanting to know: that,” Mark said, “is what does me good; not any other hideous question. I mean I don’t take any interest in my case — what one wonders about, you see, is what can be done for him. I mean, that is” — for he floundered a little, not knowing at last quite what he did mean, a great rush of mere memories, a great humming sound as of thick, thick echoes, rising now to an assault that he met with his face indeed contorted. If he didn’t take care he should howl; so he more or less successfully took care — yet with his host vividly watching him while he shook the danger temporarily off. “I don’t mind — though it’s rather that; my having felt this morning, after three dismal dumb bad days, that one’s friends perhaps would be thinking of one. All I’m conscious of now — I give you my word — is that I’d like to see him.”
“You’d like to see him?”
“Oh, I don’t say,” Mark ruefully smiled, “that I should like him to see me —!”
Newton Winch, from where he stood — and they were together now, on the great hearth-rug that was a triumph of modern orientalism — put out one of the noted fine hands and, with an expressive headshake, laid it on his shoulder. “Don’t wish him that, Monteith — don’t wish him that!”
“Well, but,” — and Mark raised his eyebrows still higher — “he’d see I bear up; pretty well!”
“God forbid he should see, my dear fellow!” Newton cried as for the pang of it.
Mark had for his idea, at any rate, the oddest sense of an exaltation that grew by this use of frankness. “I’d go to him. Hanged if I wouldn’t — anywhere!”
His companion’s hand still rested on him. “You’d go to him?”
Mark stood up to it — though trying to sink solemnity as pretentious. “I’d go like a shot.” And then he added: “And it’s probably what — when we’ve turned round — I shall do.”
“When ‘we’ have turned round?”
“Well” — he was a trifle disconcerted at the tone — “I say that because you’ll have helped me.”
“Oh, I do nothing but want to help you!” Winch replied — which made it right again; especially as our friend still felt himself reassuringly and sustainingly grasped. But Winch went on: “You would go to him — in kindness?”
“Well — to understand.”
“To understand how he could swindle you?”
“Well,” Mark kept on, “to try and make out with him how, after such things —!” But he stopped; he couldn’t name them.
It was as if his companion knew. “Such things as you’ve done for him of course — such services as you’ve rendered him.”
“Ah, from far back. If I could tell you,” our friend vainly wailed — “if I could tell you!”
Newton Winch patted his shoulder. “Tell me — tell me!”
“The sort of relation, I mean; ever so many things of a kind —!” Again, however, he pulled up; he felt the tremor of his voice.
“Tell me, tell me,” Winch repeated with the same movement.
The tone in it now made their eyes meet again, and with this presentation of the altered face Mark measured as not before, for some reason, the extent of the recent ravage. “You must have been ill indeed.”
“Pretty bad. But I’m better. And you do me good” — with which the light of convalescence came back.
“I don’t awfully bore you?”
Winch shook his head. “You keep me up — and you see how no one else comes near me.”
Mark’s eyes made out that he was better — though it wasn’t yet that nothing was the matter with him. If there was ever a man with whom there was still something the matter —! Yet one couldn’t insist on that, and meanwhile he clearly did want company. “Then there we are. I myself had no one to go to.”
“You save my life,” Newton renewedly grinned.
“Well, it’s your own fault,” Mark replied to that, “if you make me take advantage of you.” Winch had withdrawn his hand, which was back, violently shaking keys or money, in his trousers pocket; and in this position he had abruptly a pause, a sensible, absence, that might have represented either some odd drop of attention, some turn-off to another thought, or just simply the sudden act of listening. His guest had indeed himself — under suggestion — the impression of a sound. “Mayn’t you perhaps — if you hear something — have a call?”
Mark had said it so lightly, however, that he was the more struck with his host’s appearing to turn just paler; and, with it, the latter now was listening. “You hear something?”
“I thought you did.” Winch himself, on Mark’s own pressure of the outside bell, had opened the door of the apartment — an indication then, it sufficiently appeared, that Sunday afternoons were servants’, or attendants’, or even trained nurses’ holidays. It had also marked the stage of his convalescence, and to that extent — after his first flush of surprise — had but smoothed Monteith’s way. At present he barely gave further attention; detaching himself as under some odd cross-impulse, he had quitted the spot and then taken, in the wide room, a restless turn — only, however, to revert in a moment to his friend’s just-uttered deprecation of the danger of boring him. “If I make you take advantage of me — that is blessedly talk to me — it’s exactly what I want to do. Talk to me — talk to me!” He positively waved it on; pulling up again, however, in his own talk, to say with a certain urgency: “Hadn’t you better sit down?”
Mark, who stayed before the fire, couldn’t but excuse himself. “Thanks — I’m very well so. I think of things and I fidget.”
Winch stood a moment with his eyes on the ground. “Are you very sure?”
“Quite — I’m all right if you don’t mind.”
“Then as you like!” With which, shaking to extravagance again his long legs, Newton had swung off — only with a movement that, now his back was turned, affected his visitor as the most whimsical of all the forms of his rather unnatural manner. He was curiously different with his back turned, as Mark now for the first time saw it — dangling and somewhat wavering, as from an excess of uncertainty of gait; and this impression was so strange, it created in our friend, uneasily and on the spot, such a need of explanation, that his speech was stayed long enough to give Winch time to turn round again. The latter had indeed by this moment reached one of the limits of the place, the wide studio bay, where he paused, his back to the light and his face afresh presented, to let his just passingly depressed and quickened eyes take in as much as possible of the large floor, range over it with such brief freedom of search as the disposition of the furniture permitted. He was looking for something, though the betrayed reach of vision was but of an instant. Mark caught it, however, and with his own sensibility all in vibration, found himself feeling at once that it meant something and that what it meant was connected with his entertainer’s slightly marked appeal to him, the appeal of a moment before, not to remain standing. Winch knew by this time quite easily enough that he was hanging fire; which meant that they were suddenly facing each other across the wide space with a new consciousness.
Everything had changed — changed extraordinarily with the mere turning of that gentleman’s back, the treacherous aspect of which its owner couldn’t surely have suspected. If the question was of the pitch of their sensibility, at all events, it wouldn’t be Mark’s that should vibrate to least purpose. Visibly it had come to his host that something had within the few instants remarkably happened, but there glimmered on him an induction that still made him keep his own manner. Newton himself might now resort to any manner he liked. His eyes had raked the floor to recover the position of something dropped or misplaced, and something, above all, awkward or compromising; and he had wanted his companion not to command this scene from the hearth-rug, the hearthrug where he had been just before holding him, hypnotising him to blindness, because the object in question would there be most exposed to sight Mark embraced this with a further drop — while the apprehension penetrated — of his power to go on, and with an immense desire at the same time that his eyes should seem only to look at his friend; who broke out now, for that matter, with a fresh appeal. “Aren’t you going to take advantage of me, man — aren’t you going to take it?”
Everything had changed, we have noted, and nothing could more have proved it than the fact that, by the same turn, sincerity of desire had dropped out of Winch’s chords, while irritation, sharp and almost imperious, had come in. “That’s because he sees I see something!” Mark said to himself; but he had no need to add that it shouldn’t prevent his seeing more — for the simple reason that, in a miraculous fashion, this was exactly what he did do in glaring out the harder. It was beyond explanation, but the very act of blinking thus in an attempt at showy steadiness became one and the same thing with an optical excursion lasting the millionth of a minute and making him aware that the edge of a rug, at the point where an arm-chair, pushed a little out of position, over-straddled it, happened just not wholly to have covered in something small and queer, neat and bright, crooked and compact, in spite of the strong toe-tip surreptitiously applied to giving it the right lift Our gentleman, from where he hovered, and while looking straight at the master of the scene, yet saw, as by the tiny flash of a reflection from fine metal, under the chair. What he recognised, or at least guessed at, as sinister, made him for a moment turn cold, and that chill was on him while Winch again addressed him — as differently as possible from any manner yet used. “I beg of you in God’s name to talk to me — to talk to me!”
It had the ring of pure alarm and anguish, but was by this turn at least more human than the dazzling glitter of intelligence to which the poor man had up to now been treating him. “It’s you, my good friend, who are in deep trouble,” Mark was accordingly quick to reply, “and I ask your pardon for being so taken up with my own sorry business.”
“Of course I’m in deep trouble” — with which Winch came nearer again; “but turning you on was exactly what I wanted.”
Mark Monteith, at this, couldn’t, for all his rising dismay, but laugh out; his sense of the ridiculous so swallowed up, for that brief convulsion, his sense of the sinister. Of such conivence in pain, it seemed, was the fact of another’s pain, and of so much worth again disinterested sympathy! “Your interest was then ——?”
“My interest was in your being interesting. For you are! And my nerves —!” said Newton Winch with a face from which the mystifying smile had vanished, yet in which distinction, as Mark so persistently appreciated it, still sat in the midst of ravage.
Mark wondered and wondered — he made strange things out. “Your nerves have needed company.” He could lay his hand on him now, even as shortly before he had felt Winch’s own pressure of possession and detention. “As good for you yourself, that — or still better,” he went on — “than I and my grievance were to have found you. Talk to we, talk to we, Newton Winch!” he added with an immense inspiration of charity.
“That’s a different matter — that others but too much can do! But I’ll say this. If you want to go to Phil Bloodgood ——!”
“Well?” said Mark as he stopped. He stopped, and Mark had now a hand on each of his shoulders and held him at arm’s-length, held him with a fine idea that was not disconnected from the sight of the small neat weapon he had been fingering in the low luxurious morocco chair — it was of the finest orange colour — and then had laid beside him on the carpet; where, after he had admitted his visitor, his presence of mind coming back to it and suggesting that he couldn’t pick it up without making it more conspicuous, he had thought, by some swing of the foot or other casual manoeuvre, to dissimulate its visibility.
They were at close quarters now as not before and Winch perfectly passive, with eyes that somehow had no shadow of a secret left and with the betrayal to the sentient hands that grasped him of an intense, an extraordinary general tremor. To Mark’s challenge he opposed afresh a brief silence, but the very quality of it, with his face speaking, was that of a gaping wound. “Well, you needn’t take that trouble. You see I’m such another.”
“Such another as Phil ———?”
He didn’t blink. “I don’t know for sure, but I guess I’m worse.”
“Do you mean you’re guilty ———?”
“I mean I shall be wanted. Only I’ve stayed to take it.”
Mark threw back his head, but only tightened his hands. He inexpressibly understood, and nothing in life had ever been so strange and dreadful to him as his thus helping himself by a longer and straighter stretch, as it were, to the monstrous sense of his friend’s “education.” It had been, in its immeasurable action, the education of business, of which the fruits were all around them. Yet prodigious was the interest, for prodigious truly — it seemed to loom before Mark — must have been the system. “To ‘take’ it?” he echoed; and then, though faltering a little, “To take what?”
He had scarce spoken when a long sharp sound shrilled in from the outer door, seeming of so high and peremptory a pitch that with the start it gave him his grasp of his host’s shoulders relaxed an instant, though to the effect of no movement in them but what came from just a sensibly intenser vibration of the whole man. “For that!” said Newton Winch.
“Then you’ve known ———?”
“I’ve expected. You’ve helped me to wait.” And then as Mark gave an ironic wail: “You’ve tided me over. My condition has wanted somebody or something. Therefore, to complete this service, will you be so good as to open the door?”
Deep in the eyes Mark looked him, and still to the detection of no glimmer of the earlier man in the depths. The earlier man had been what he invidiously remembered — yet would he had been the whole simpler story! Then he moved his own eyes straight to the chair under which the revolver lay and which was but a couple of yards away. He felt his companion take this consciousness in, and it determined in them another long, mute exchange. “What do you mean to do?”
“On your honour?”
“My ‘honour’?” his host returned with an accent that he felt even as it sounded he should never forget.
It brought to his own face a crimson flush — he dropped his guarding hands. Then as for a last look at him: “You’re wonderful!”
“We are wonderful,” said Newton Winch, while, simultaneously with the words, the pressed electric bell again and for a longer time pierced the warm cigaretted air.
Mark turned, threw up his arms, and it was only when he had passed through the vestibule and laid his hand on the door-knob that the horrible noise dropped. The next moment he was face to face with two visitors, a nondescript personage in a high hat and an astrakhan collar and cuffs, and a great belted constable, a splendid massive New York “officer” of the type he had had occasion to wonder at much again in the course of his walk, the type so by itself — his wide observation quite suggested — among those of the peacemakers of the earth. The pair stepped straight in — no word was said; but as he closed the door behind them Mark heard the infallible crack of a discharged pistol and, so nearly with it as to make all one violence, the sound of a great fall; things the effect of which was to lift him, as it were, with his company, across the threshold of the room in a shorter time than that taken by this record of the fact. But their rush availed little; Newton was stretched on his back before the fire; he had held the weapon horribly to his temple, and his upturned face was disfigured. The emissaries of the law, looking down at him, exhaled simultaneously a gruff imprecation, and then while the worthy in the high hat bent over the subject of their visit the one in the helmet raised a severe pair of eyes to Mark. “Don’t you think, sir, you might have prevented it?”
Mark took a hundred things in, it seemed to him — things of the scene, of the moment, and of all the strange moments before; but one appearance more vividly even than the others stared out at him. “I really think I must practically have caused it.”
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