The Princess Casamassima: Book Second


HYACINTH had been warned by Mr. Vetch as to what brilliant women might do with him (it was only a word on the old fiddler’s life, but the word had had a point), he had been warned by Paul Muniment, and now he was admonished by a person supremely well placed for knowing — a fact that could not fail to deepen the emotion which, any time these three days, had made him draw his breath more quickly. That emotion, however, was now not of a kind to make him fear remote consequences; as he looked over the Princess Casamassima’s drawing-room, and inhaled an air that seemed to him inexpressibly delicate and sweet, he hoped that his adventure would throw him upon his mettle only half as much as the old lady had wished to intimate. He considered, one after the other, the different chairs, couches, and ottomans the room contained — he wished to treat himself to the most sumptuous — and then, for reasons he knew best, sank into a seat covered with rose-colored brocade, of which the legs and frame appeared to be of pure gold. Here he sat perfectly still, with only his heart beating very sensibly, and his eyes coursing, again and again, from one object to another. The splendors and suggestions of Captain Sholto’s apartment were thrown completely into the shade by the scene before him, and as the Princess did not scruple to keep him waiting for twenty minutes (during which the butler came in and set out, on a small table, a glittering tea-service) Hyacinth had time to count over the innumerable bibelots (most of which he had never dreamed of) involved in the personality of a woman of high fashion, and to feel that their beauty and oddity revealed not only whole provinces of art, but refinements of choice, on the part of their owner, complications of mind, and — almost — terrible depths of character.

When at last the door opened, and the servant, reappearing, threw it far back, as if to make a wide passage for a person of the importance of his mistress, Hyacinth’s suspense became very acute ; it was much the same feeling with which, at the theatre, he had sometimes awaited the entrance of a celebrated actress. In this case the actress was to perform for him alone. There was still a moment before she came on, and when she did so she was so simply dressed — besides his seeing her now on her feet — that she looked like a different person. She approached him rapidly, and a little stiffly and shyly, but in the manner in which she shook hands with him there was an evident desire to be frank, and even fraternal. She looked like a different person, but that person had a beauty even more radiant; the fairness of her face shone forth at our young man as if to dissipate any doubts that might have crept over him as to the reality of the vision bequeathed to him by his former interview. And in this brightness and richness of her presence he could not have told you whether she struck him as more proud or more kind.

Copyright, 1886, by HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & Co.

“ I have kept you a long time, but it’s supposed not, usually, to be a bad place, my salon ; there are various things to look at, and perhaps you have noticed them. Over on that side, for instance, there is rather a curious collection of miniatures.” She spoke abruptly, quickly, as if she were conscious that their communion might be awkward, and she were trying to strike, instantly (to conjure that clement away), the sort of note that would make them both most comfortable. Quickly, too, she sat down before her tea-tray and poured him out a cup, which she handed him without asking whether he would have it. He accepted it with a trembling hand, though he had no desire for it ; he was too nervous to swallow the tea, but it would not have occurred to him that it was possible to decline. When he had murmured that he had indeed looked at all her things, but that it would take hours to do justice to such treasures, she asked if he were fond of works of art; adding, however, immediately, that she was afraid he had not many opportunities of seeing them, though, of course, there were the public collections, open to all. Hyacinth said, with perfect veracity, that some of the happiest moments of his life had been spent at the British Museum and the National Gallery, and this reply appeared to interest her greatly, so that she immediately begged him to tell her what he thought of certain pictures and antiques. In this way it was that, in an incredibly short space of time, as it appeared to him, he found himself discussing the Bacchus and Ariadne and the Elgin marbles with “ the most remarkable woman in Europe.” It is true that she herself talked most, passing precipitately from one point to another, asking him questions and not waiting for answers ; describing and qualifying things, expressing feelings, by the aid of phrases that he had never heard before, but which seemed to him illuminating and happy — as when, for instance, she asked what art was, after all, but a synthesis made in the interest of pleasure, or said that she did n’t like England at all, but loved it. It did not occur to him to think these discriminations pedantic. Suddenly she remarked, “ Madame Grandoni told me you saw my husband.”

“ Ah, was the gentleman your husband ? ”

“ Unfortunately ! What do you think of him ? ”

“ Oh, I can’t think ” — Hyacinth murmured.

“ I wish I could n’t, either ! I have n’t seen him for nearly three years. He wanted to see me to-day, but I refused.”

“ Ah ! ” said Hyacinth, staring, and not knowing how he ought to receive so unexpected a confidence. Then, as the suggestions of inexperience are sometimes the happiest of all, he spoke simply what was in his mind, and said, gently, “ It has made you very nervous.” Afterwards, when he had left the house, he wondered how, at that stage, he could have ventured on such a familiar remark.

The Princess took it with a quick, surprised laugh. “ How do you know that ? ” But before he had time to tell how, she added, “ Your saying that — that way — shows me how right I was to ask you to come to see me. You know, I hesitated. It shows me you have perceptions ; I guessed as much the other night at the theatre. If I had n’t, I would n’t have asked you. I may be wrong, but I like people who understand what one says to them, and also what one does n’t say.”

“ Don’t think I understand too much. You might easily exaggerate that,” Hyacinth declared, conscientiously.

“ You confirm, completely, my first impression,” the Princess returned, smiling in a way that showed him he really amused her. “ We shall discover the limits of your comprehension ! I am atrociously nervous. But it will pass. How is your friend the dressmaker?” she inquired, abruptly. And when Hyacinth had briefly given some account of poor Pinnie — told her that she was tolerably well for her, but old and tired and sad, and not very successful — she exclaimed, impatiently, “ Ah, well, she’s not the only one! ” and came back, with irrelevance, to the former question. “ It’s not only my husband’s visit — absolutely unexpected! — that has made me fidgety, but the idea that, now you have been so kind as to come here, you may wonder why, after all, I made such a point of it, and even think any explanation I might be able to give you entirely insufficient.”

“ I don’t want any explanation,” said Hyacinth.

“ It ’s very nice of you to say that, and I shall take you at your word. Explanations usually make things worse. All the same, I don’t want you to think (as you might have done so easily the other evening) that I wish only to treat you as a curious animal.”

“ I don’t care how you treat me ! ” said Hyacinth, smiling.

There was a considerable silence, after which the Princess remarked, “ All I ask of my husband is to let me alone. But he won’t. He won’t reciprocate my indifference.”

Hyacinth asked himself what reply he ought to make to such an announcement as that, and it seemed to him that the least civility demanded was that he should say — as he could with such conviction — “ It can’t be easy to be indifferent to you.”

“ Why not, if I am odious? I can be — oh, there is no doubt of that! However, I can honestly say that with the Prince I have been exceedingly reasonable, and that most of the wrongs — the big ones, those that settled the question — have been on his side. You may tell me, of course, that that’s the pretension of every woman who has made a mess of her marriage. But ask Madame Grandoni.”

“ She will tell me it’s none of my business.”

“ Very true — she might!” the Princess admitted, laughing. “ And I don’t know, either, why I should talk to you about my domestic affairs ; except that I have been wondering what I could do to show confidence in you, in return for your showing so much in me. As this matter of my separation from my husband happens to have been turned uppermost by his sudden descent upon me, I just mention it, though the subject is tiresome enough. Moreover, I ought to let you know that I have very little respect for distinctions of class — the sort of thing they make so much of in this country. They are doubtless convenient in some ways, but when one has a reason—a reason of feeling—for overstepping them, and one allows one’s self to be deterred by some dreary superstition about one’s place, or some one else’s place, then I think it’s ignoble. It always belongs to one’s place not to be a poor creature. I take it that if you are a socialist you think about this as I do ; but lest, by chance, as the sense of those differences is the English religion, it may have rubbed off even on you, though I am more and more impressed with the fact that you are scarcely more British than I am ; lest you should, in spite of your theoretic democracy, be shocked at some of the applications that I, who cherish the creed, am capable of making of it, let me assure you without delay that in that case we should n’t get on together at all, and had better part company before we go further.” She paused, long enough for Hyacinth to declare, with a great deal of emphasis, that he was not easily shocked; and then, restlessly, eagerly, as if it relieved her to talk, and made their queer interview less abnormal that she should talk most, she arrived at the point that she wanted to know the people, and know them intimately — the toilers and stragglers and sufferers — because she was convinced they were the most interesting portion of society, and at the inquiry, “ What could possibly be in worse taste than for me to carry into such an undertaking a pretension of greater delicacy and finer manners ? If I must do that,” she continued, “ it’s simpler to leave them alone. But I can’t leave them alone; they press upon me, they haunt me, they fascinate me. There it is (after all, it’s very simple) : I want to know them, and I want you to help me! ”

“ I will help you with pleasure, to the best of my humble ability. But you will be awfully disappointed,” Hyacinth said. Very strange it seemed to him that within so few days two ladies of rank should have found occasion to express to him the same mysterious longing. A breeze from a thoroughly unexpected quarter was indeed blowing over the aristocracy. Nevertheless, though there was much of the accent of passion in the Princess Casamassima’s communication that there had been in Lady Aurora’s, and though he felt bound to discourage his present interlocutress, as he had done the other, the force that pushed her struck him as a very different mixture from the shy, conscientious, anxious heresies of Rose Muniment’s friend. The temper varied in the two women as much as the face and the manner, and that perhaps made their curiosity the more significant.

“ I have n’t the least doubt of it: there is nothing in life in which I have not been awfully disappointed. But disappointment for disappointment, I shall like it better than some others. You ’ll not persuade me, either, that among the people I speak of, characters and passions and motives are not more natural, more complete, more naif. The upper classes are so insipid ! My husband traces his descent from the fifth century, and he’s the greatest bore on earth. That is the kind of people I was condemned to live with after my marriage. Oh, if you knew what I have been through, you would allow that intelligent mechanics (of course I don’t want to know idiots) would be a pleasant change. I must begin with some one — must n’t I ? — so I began, the other night, with you ! ” As soon as she had uttered these words the Princess added a correction, with the consciousness of her mistake in her face. It made that face, to Hyacinth, more nobly, tenderly pure. “ The only objection to you, individually, is that you have nothing of the people about you — to-day not even the dress.” Her eyes wandered over him from head to foot, and their friendly beauty made him ashamed. “ I wish you had come in the clothes you wear at your work! ”

“ You see you do regard me as a curious animal,” he answered.

It was perhaps to contradict this that, after a moment, she began to tell him more about her domestic affairs. He ought to know who she was, unless Captain Sholto had told him; and she related her parentage—American on the mother’s side, Italian on the father’s — and how she had led, in her younger years, a wandering, Bohemian life, in a thousand different places (always in Europe ; she had never been in America and knew very little about it, though she wanted greatly to cross the Atlantic), and largely, at one period, in Rome. She had been married by her people, in a mercenary way, for the sake of a fortune and a title, and it had turned out as badly as her worst enemy could wish. Her parents were dead, luckily for them, and she had no one near her of her own except Madame Grandoni, who belonged to her only in the sense that she had known her as a girl ; was an association of her — what should she call them ? — her innocent years. Not that she had ever been very innocent; she had had a horrible education. However, she had known a few good people — people she respected, then ; but Madame Graudoni was the only one who had stuck to her. She, too, was liable to leave her any day ; the Princess appeared to intimate that her destiny might require her to take some step which would test severely the old lady’s adhesive property. It would detain her too long to make him understand the stages by which she had arrived at her present state of mind : her disgust with a thousand social arrangements; her rebellion against the selfishness, the corruption, the iniquity, the cruelty, the imbecility, of the people who, all over Europe, had the upper hand. If he could have seen her life, the milieu in which, for several years, she had been condemned to move, the evolution of her opinions (Hyacinth was delighted to hear her use that term) would strike him as perfectly logical. She had been humiliated, outraged, tortured ; she considered that she too was one of the numerous class who could be put on a tolerable footing only by a revolution. At any rate, she had some self-respect left, and there was still more that she wanted to recover; the only way to arrive at that was to throw herself into some effort which would make her forget her own affairs and comprehend the troubles and efforts of others. Hyacinth listened to her with a wonderment which, as she went on, was transformed into fascinated submission ; she seemed so natural, so vivid, so exquisitely generous and sincere. By the time he had been with her for half an hour she had made the situation itself appear natural and usual, and a third person who should have joined them at this moment would have observed nothing to make him suppose that friendly social intercourse between little bookbinders and Neapolitan princesses was not, in London, a matter of daily occurrence.

Hyacinth had seen plenty of women who chattered about themselves and their affairs — a vulgar garrulity of confidence was indeed a leading characteristic of the sex as he had hitherto learned to know it — but he was quick to perceive that the great lady who took the trouble to open herself to him was not of a gossiping habit; that she must be, on the contrary, as a general thing, proudly, ironically, reserved, even to the poiut of passing, with many people, for a model of the unsatisfactory. It was very possible she was capricious ; yet the fact that her present sympathies and curiosities might be a caprice wore, in Hyacinth’s eyes, no sinister aspect. Why was it not a noble and interesting whim, and why might he not stand, for the hour at any rate, in the silvery moonshine it threw upon his path ? It must be added that he was far from understanding everything she said, and some of her allusions and implications were so difficult to seize that they mainly served to reveal to him the limits of his own acquaintance with life. Her words evoked all sorts of shadowy suggestions of things he was condemned not to know, touching him most when he had not the key to them. This was especially the case with her reference to her career in Italy, on her husband’s estates, and her relations with his family; who considered that they had done her a great honor in receiving her into their august circle (putting the best face on a bad business), after they had moved heaven and earth to keep her out of it. The position made for her among these people, and what she had had to suffer from their family tone, their opinions and customs (though what these might be remained vague to her listener), had evidently planted in her soul a lasting resentment and contempt; and Hyacinth gathered that the force of reaction and revenge might carry her far, make her modein and democratic and heretical à outrance, lead her to swear by Darwin and Spencer and the revolutionary spirit. Our young man surely need not have been so sensible of the lacunœ in his comprehension of the Princess, when he could already surmise that personal passion had counted for so much in the formation of her views. This induction, however, which had no harshness, did not make her appear to him any the less a creature compounded of the finest elements ; brilliant, delicate, complicated, but complicated with something divine. It was not until after he had left her that he became conscious she had forced him to talk, as well as talked herself. He drew a long breath as he reflected that he had not made quite such an ass of himself as might very well have happened ; he had been saved by his enjoyment and admiration, which had not gone to his head and prompted him to show that he too, in his improbable little way, was remarkable, but had kept him in a state of anxious, delicious tension, as if the occasion had been a great solemnity. He had said, indeed, much more than he had warrant for, when she questioned him about his socialistic affiliations ; he had spoken as if the movement were vast and complicated, whereas, in fact, so far, at least, as he was as yet concerned with it, and could answer for it from personal knowledge, it was circumscribed by the hideously papered walls of the little club room at the Sun and Moon. He reproached himself with this laxity, but it had not been engendered by vanity. He was only afraid of disappointing his hostess too much ; of making her say, “ Why in the world, then, did you come to see me, if you have nothing more remarkable to relate ? ” — an inquiry to which, of course, he would have had an answer ready, if it had not been impossible to him to say that he had never asked to come ; his coming was her own affair. He wanted too much to come a second time to have the courage to make that speech. Nevertheless, when she exclaimed, changing the subject, abruptly, as she always did, from something else they had been talking about, “ I wonder whether I shall ever see you again!” he replied, with perfect sincerity, that it was very difficult for him to believe anything so delightful could be repeated. There were some kinds of happiness that to many people never came at all, and to others could come only once. He added, “ It is very true I had just that feeling after I left you the other night at the theatre. And yet here I am ! ”

“ Yes, there you are,” said the Princess, thoughtfully, as if this might be a still graver and more embarrassing fact than she had yet supposed it. " I take it there is nothing essentially impossible in my seeing you again ; but it may very well be that you will never again find it so pleasant. Perhaps that’s the happiness that comes but once. At any rate, you know, I am going away.”

“ Oh yes, of course ; every one leaves town,” Hyacinth commented, sagaciously.

“ Do you, Mr. Robinson ? ” asked the Princess.

“ Well, I don’t as a general thing. Nevertheless, it is possible that, this year, I may get two or three days at the seaside. I should like to take my old lady. I have done it before.”

And except for that you will be always at work ? ”

Yes ; but you must understand that I like my work. You must understand that it ’s a great blessing for a young fellow like me to have it.”

“ And if you did n’t have it, what would you do ? Should you starve ? ”

“ Oh, I don’t think I should starve,” the young man replied, judicially.

The Princess looked a little chagrined, but after a moment she remarked, I wonder whether you would come to see me, in the country, somewhere.”

“ Oh, dear ! ” Hyacinth exclaimed, catching his breath. “ You are so kind, I don’t know what to do.”

“ Don’t be banal, please. That’s what other people are. What’s the use of my looking for something fresh in other walks of life, if you are going to be banal, too ? I ask you, would you come ? ”

Hyacinth hesitated a moment. “ Yes, I think I would come. I don’t know, at all, how I should do it — there would be several obstacles ; but wherever you should call for me, I would come.”

“ You mean you can’t leave your work, like that ; you might lose it, if you did, and be in want of money and much embarrassed ? ”

“ Yes, there would be little difficulties of that kind. You see that immediately, in practice, great obstacles come up, when it’s a question of a person like you making friends with a person like me.”

“ That’s the way I like you to talk,” said the Princess, with a pitying gentleness that seemed to her visitor quite sacred. “ After all, I don’t know where I shall be. I have got to pay stupid visits, myself, where the only comfort will be that I shall make the people jump. Every one here thinks me exceedingly odd — as there is no doubt I am! I might be ever so much more so if you would only help me a little. Why should n’t I have my bookbinder, after all? In attendance, you know, it would be awfully chic. We might have immense fun, don’t you think so ? No doubt it will come. At any rate, I shall return to London when I have got through that corvée ; I shall be here next year. In the mean time, don’t forget me,” she went on, rising to her feet. “ Remember, on the contrary, that I expect you to take me into the slums — into very bad places.” Why the idea of these scenes of misery should have lighted up her face is more than may be explained ; but she smiled down at Hyacinth — who, even as he stood up, was of slightly smaller stature—with all her strange, radiant sweetness. Then, in a manner almost equally incongruous, she added a reference to what she had said a moment before : “ I recognize, perfectly, the obstacles, in practice, as you call them ; but though I am not, by nature, persevering, and am really very easily put off, I don’t consider that they will prove insurmountable. They exist on my side as well, and if you will help me to overcome mine, I will do the same for you, with yours.”

These words, repeating themselves again and again in Hyacinth’s consciousness, appeared to give him wings, to help him to float and soar, as he turned that afternoon out of South Street, He had at home a copy of Tennyson’s poems — a single, comprehensive volume, with a double column on the page, in a tolerably neat condition, though he had handled it much. He took it to pieces that same evening, and during the following week, in his hours of leisure, at home in his little room, with the tools he kept there for private use, and a morsel of delicate, blue-tinted Russia leather, of which he obtained possession at the place in Soho, he devoted himself to the task of binding the book as perfectly as he knew how. He worked with passion, with religion, and produced a masterpiece of firmness and finish, of which his own appreciation was as high as that of M. Poupin, when, at the end of the week, he exhibited the fruit of his toil, and much more freely expressed than that of old Crookenden, who granted approbation, but was always too longheaded to create precedents. Hyacinth carried the volume to South Street, as an offering to the Princess ; hoping she would not yet have left London, in which case he would ask the servant to deliver it to her, along with a little note he had sat up all night to compose. But the majestic butler, in charge of the house, opening the door, yet looking down at him as if from a second-story window, took the life out of his vision, and erected himself as an impenetrable medium. The Princess had been absent for some days ; the butler was so good as to inform the young man with the parcel that she was on a visit to a “ juke,” in a distant part of the country. He offered, however, to receive, and even to forward, anything Hyacinth might wish to leave ; but our hero felt a sudden indisposition to launch his humble tribute into the vast, the possible cold, unknown of a ducal circle. He decided to retain his little package for the present ; he would give it to her when he should see her again, and he turned away without parting with it. Later, it seemed to create a sort of material link between the Princess and himself, and at the end of three months it almost appeared to him, not that the exquisite book was an intended present from his own hand, but that it had been placed in that hand by the most remarkable woman in Europe. Rare sensations and impressions, moments of acute happiness, almost always, with Hyacinth, in retrospect, became rather mythic and legendary ; and the superior piece of work he had done, after seeing her last, in the immediate heat of his emotion, turned into a kind of proof and gage, as if a ghost, in vanishing from sight, had left a palpable relic.


The matter concerned him only indirectly, but it may concern the reader more closely to know that before the visit to the duke took place Madame Grandoni granted to Prince Casamassima the private interview she had promised him on that sad Sunday afternoon. She crept out of South Street after breakfast — a repast which under the Princess’s roof was served at twelve o’clock, in the foreign fashion — crossed the sultry solitude into which, at such a season, that precinct resolves itself, and entered the Park, where the grass was already brown and a warm, smoky haze prevailed, a sort of summer edition of what was most characteristic in the London air. The Prince met her, by appointment, at the gate, and they went and sat down together under the trees beside the drive, amid a wilderness of empty chairs, and with nothing to distract their attention from an equestrian or two, left over from the cavalcades of a fortnight before, and whose vain agitation in the saddle the desolate scene seemed to throw into high relief. They remained there for nearly an hour, though Madame Grandoni, in spite of her leaning to friendly interpretations, could not have told herself what comfort it was to the depressed, embarrassed young man at her side. She had nothing to say to him which could better his case, as he bent his mournful gaze on a prospect which was not, after all, perceptibly improved by its not being Sunday, and could only feel that, with her, he must seem to himself to be nearer his wife — to be touching something she had touched. The old lady wished he would resign himself more, but she was willing to minister to that thin illusion, little as she approved of the manner in which he had conducted himself at the time of the last sharp crisis in the remarkable history of his relations with Christina. He had behaved like a spoiled child, with a bad little nature, in a rage ; he had been fatally wanting in dignity and wisdom, and had given the Princess an advantage which she took on the spot and would keep forever. He had acted without manly judgment, had put his uncles upon her (as if she cared for his uncles, though one of them was a powerful prelate), had been suspicious and jealous on exactly the wrong occasions — occasions on which such ideas were a gratuitous injury. He had not been clever enough or strong enough to make good his valid rights, and had transferred the whole quarrel to a ground where his wife was far too accomplished a woman not to obtain the appearance of victory.

There was another reflection that Madame Grandoni made, as her interview with her dejected friend prolonged itself. She could make it the more freely as, besides being naturally quick and appreciative, she had always, during her Roman career, in the dear old days (mingled with bitterness as they had been for her), lived with artists, archæologists, ingenious strangers, people who abounded in good talk, threw out ideas and played with them. It came over her that, really, even if things had not come to that particular crisis, Christina’s active, various, ironical mind, with all its audacities and impatiences, could not have tolerated for long the simple dullness of the Prince’s company. The old lady had said to him, on meeting him, “ Of course, what you want to know immediately is whether she has sent you a message. No, my poor friend, I must tell you the truth. I asked her for one, but she told me that she had nothing whatever, of any kind, to say to you. She knew I was coming out to see you. I have n’t done so en cachette. She does n’t like it, but she accepts the necessity, for this once, since you have made the mistake, as she considers it, of approaching her again. We talked about you, last night, after your note came to me — for five minutes : that is, I talked, and Christina was good enough to listen. At the end, she said this (what I shall tell you), with perfect calmness, and the appearance of being the most reasonable woman in the world. She did n’t ask me to repeat it to you, but I do so because it is the only substitute I can offer you for a message. ‘ I try to occupy my life, my mind, to create interests, in the odious position in which I find myself; I endeavor to get out of myself, my small personal disappointments and troubles, by the aid of such poor faculties as I possess. There are things in the world more interesting, after all, and I hope to succeed in giving my attention to them. It appears to me not too much to ask that the Prince, on his side, should make the same conscientious effort — and leave me alone ! ’ Those were your wife’s remarkable words ; they are all I have to give you.”

After she had given them Madame Grandoni felt a pang of regret; the Prince turned upon her a face so white, bewildered, and wounded. It had seemed to her that they might form a wholesome admonition, but it was now impressed upon her that, as coming from his wife, they were cruel, and she herself felt almost cruel for having repeated them. What they amounted to was an exquisite taunt of his mediocrity — a mediocrity which was, after all, not a crime. How could the Prince occupy himself, what interests could he create, and what faculties, gracious heaven, did he possess ? He was as ignorant as a fish, and as narrow as his hat-band. His expression became pitiful; it was as if he dimly measured the insult, felt it more than saw it — felt that he could not plead incapacity without putting the Princess largely in the right. He gazed at Madame Grandoni, his face worked, and for a moment she thought he was going to burst into tears. But he said nothing — perhaps because he was afraid of that — so that suffering silence, during which she gently laid her hand upon his own, remained his only answer. He might, doubtless, do so much he did n’t, that when Christina touched upon this she was unanswerable. The old lady changed the subject : told him what a curious country England was, in so many ways; offered information as to their possible movements during the summer and autumn, which, within a day or two, had become slightly clearer. But at last, abruptly, as if he had not heard her, he inquired, appealingly, who the young man was who had come in the day he called, just as he was going.

Madame Grandoni hesitated a moment. “ He was the Princess’s bookbinder.”

“ Her bookbinder ? Do you mean her lover ?

“ Prince, how can you dream she will ever live with you again ? ” the old lady asked, in reply to this.

“ Why, then, does she have him in her drawing-room — announced like an ambassador, carrying a hat in his hand like mine ? Where were his books, his bindings ? I should n’t say this to her,” the Prince added, as if the declaration justified him.

“ I told you the other day that she is making studies of the people — the lower orders. The young man you saw is a study.” Madame Grandoni could not help laughing out, as she gave her explanation this turn ; but her mirth elicited no echo from her interlocutor.

“ I have thought that over — over and over ; but the more I think the less I understand. Would it be your idea that she is quite crazy ? I must tell you I don’t care if she is ! ”

“ We are all quite crazy, I think,” said Madame Grandoni; “ but the Princess no more than the rest of us. No, she must try everything ; at present she is trying democracy and socialism.”

Santo Dio ! ” murmured the young man. “ And what do they say here when they see her bookbinder ? ”

“ They haven’t seen him, and perhaps they won’t. But if they do, it won’t matter, because here everything is forgiven. That a person should be singular is all they want. A bookbinder will do as well as anything else.”

The Prince mused a while, and then he said, “ How can she bear the dirt, the bad smell ? ”

“ I don’t know what you are talking about. If you mean the young man you saw at the house (I may tell you, by the way, that it was only the first time he had been there, and that the Princess had only seen him once) — if you mean the little bookbinder, he isn’t dirty, especially what we should call. The people of that kind, here, are not like our dear Romans. Every one has a sponge, as big as your head ; you can see them in the shops.”

“ They are full of gin ; their faces are purple,” said the Prince ; after which he immediately asked, “ If she had only seen him once, how could he have come into her drawing-room that way ? ”

The old lady looked at him with a certain severity. “ Believe, at least, what I say, my poor friend ! Never forget that this was how you spoiled your affairs most of all — by treating a person (and such a person !) as if, as a matter of course, she lied. Christina has many faults, but she has n’t that one ; that’s why I can live with her. She will speak the truth always.”

It was plainly not agreeable to the Prince to be reminded so sharply of his greatest mistake, and he flushed a little as Madame Grandoni spoke. But he did not admit his error, and she doubted whether he even perceived it. At any rate, he remarked, rather grandly, like a man who has still a good deal to say for himself, “ There are things it is better to conceal.”

“ It all depends on whether you are afraid. Christina never is. Oh, I admit that she is very strange, and when the entertainment of watching her, to see how she will carry out some of her inspirations, is not stronger than anything else, I lose all patience with her. When she does n’t fascinate she can only exasperate. But, as regards yourself, since you are here, and as I may not see you again for a long time, or perhaps ever (at my age — I’m a hundred and twenty!), I may as well give you the key of certain parts of your wife’s conduct. It may make it seem to you a little less fantastic. At the bottom, then, of much that she does is the fact that she is ashamed of having married you.”

“ Less fantastic! ” the young man repeated, staring.

“ You may say that there can be nothing more eccentric than that. But you know — or, if not, it is n’t for want of her having told you — that the Princess considers that in the darkest hour of her life she sold herself for a title and a fortune. She regards her doing so as such a horrible piece of frivolity that she can never, for the rest of her days, be serious enough to make up for it.”

“ Yes, I know that she pretends to have been forced. And does she think she ’s so serious now ? ”

“ The young man you saw the other day thinks so,” said the old woman, smiling. “ Sometimes she calls it by another name : she says she has thrown herself with passion into being ‘modern.’ That sums up the greatest number of things that you and your family are not.”

“ Yes, we are not, thank God ! Dio into, Dio mio !” groaned the Prince. He seemed so exhausted by his reflections that he remained sitting in his chair after his companion, lifting her crumpled corpulence out of her own, had proposed that they should walk about a little. She had no ill-nature, but she had already noticed that whenever she was with Christina’s husband the current of conversation made her, as she phrased it, bump against him. After administering these small shocks she always steered away, and now, the Prince having at last got up and offered her his arm, she tried again to talk with him of things he could consider without bitterness. She asked him about the health and habits of his uncles, and he replied, for the moment, with the minuteness which he had been taught that in such a case courtesy demanded ; but by the time that, at her request, they had returned to the gate nearest to South Street (she wished him to come no farther) he had prepared a question to which she had not opened the way.

“ And who and what, then, is this English captain ? About him there is a great deal said.”

“ This English captain ? ”

“Godfrey Gerald Cholto — you see I know a good deal about him,” said the Prince, articulating the English names with difficulty.

They had stopped near the gate, on the edge of Park Lane, and a couple of predatory hansoms dashed at them from opposite quarters. “ I thought that was coming, and at bottom it is he that has occupied you most! ” Madame Grandoni exclaimed, with a sigh. “ But in reality he is the last one you need trouble about; he does n’t count.”

“ Why does n’t he count ? ”

“ I can’t tell you — except that some people don’t, you know. He does n’t even think he does.”

“ Why not, when she receives him always — lets him go wherever she goes ? ”

“ Perhaps that is just the reason. When people give her a chance to get tired of them she takes it rather easily. At any rate, you need n’t be any more jealous of him than you are of me. He’s a convenience, a factotum, but he works without wages.”

“ Isn’t he, then, in love with her? ”

“ Naturally. He has, however, no hope.”

“ Ah, poor gentleman ! ” said the Prince, lugubriously.

“ He accepts the situation better than you. He occupies himself — as she has strongly recommended him, in my hearing, to do — with other women.”

“ Oh, the brute ! ” the Prince exclaimed. “ At all events, he sees her.”

“ Yes, but she does n’t see him ! ” laughed Madame Grandoni, as she turned away.


The pink dressing-gown which Pinnie had engaged to make for Rose Muniment became, in Lomax Place, a conspicuous object, supplying poor Amanda with a constant theme for reference to one of the great occasions of her life — her visit to Belgrave Square with Lady Aurora, after their meeting at Rosy’s bedside. She described this episode, vividly, to her companion, repeating a thousand times that her ladyship’s affability was beyond anything she could have expected. The grandeur of the house in Belgrave Square figured in her recital as something oppressive and fabulous, tempered though it had been by shrouds of brown holland and the nudity of staircases and saloons of which the trappings had been put away. “ If it’s so noble when they ’re out of town, what can it be when they are all there together and everything is out ?” she inquired, suggestively ; and she permitted herself to be restrictive only on two points, one of which was the state of Lady Aurora’s gloves and bonnet-strings. If she had not been afraid to appear to notice the disrepair of these objects, she would have been so happy to offer to do any little mending. “If she would only come to me every week or two, I would keep up her rank for her,” said Pinnie, with visions of a needle that positively flashed in the disinterested service of the aristocracy. She added that her ladyship got all dragged out with her long expeditions to Lambeth; she might be in tatters, for all they could do to help her, at the top of those dreadful stairs, with that strange sick creature (she was too unnatural), thinking only of her own finery and talking about her complexion. If she wanted pink, she should have pink ; but to Pinnie there was something almost unholy in it, like decking out a corpse, or the next thing to it. This was the other element that left Miss Pynsent cold ; it could not be other than difficult for her to enter into the importance her ladyship appeared to attach to those pushing people. The girl was unfortunate, certainly, stuck up there like a kitten on a shelf, but in her ladyship’s place she would have found some topic more in keeping, while they walked about under those tremendous gilded ceilings. Lady Aurora, seeing how she was struck, showed her all over the house, carrying the lamp herself, and telling an old woman who was there — a kind of housekeeper, with ribbons in her cap, who would have pushed Pinnie out if you could push with your eyes — that they would do very well without her. If the pink dressing-gown, in its successive stages of development, filled up the little brown parlor (it was terribly long on the stocks), making such a pervasive rose-colored presence as had n’t been seen there for many a day, this was evidently because it was associated with Lady Aurora, not because it was dedicated to her humble friend.

One day, when Hyacinth came home from his work, Pinnie announced to him, as soon as he entered the room, that her ladyship had been there to look at it — to pass judgment before the last touches were conferred. The dressmaker intimated that in such a case as that her judgment was rather wild, and she had made an embarrassing suggestion about pockets. Whatever could poor Miss Muniment want of pockets, and what had she to put in them ? But she had evidently found the garment far beyond anything she expected, and she had been more affable than ever, and had wanted to know about every one in the Place ; not in a meddling, prying way, either, like some of those upperclass visitors, but quite as if the poor people were the high ones, and she was afraid her curiosity might be “ presumptions.” It was in the same discreet spirit that she had invited Amanda to relate her whole history, and had expressed an interest in the career of her young friend.

“ She said you had charming manners,” Miss Pynsent hastened to remark ; “ but, before heaven, Hyacinth Robinson, I never mentioned a scrap that it could give you pain that any one should talk about.” There was an heroic explicitness in this, on Pinnie’s part, for she knew in advance just how Hyacinth would look at her — fixedly, silently, hopelessly, as if she were still capable of tattling horribly (with the idea that her revelations would increase her importance), and putting forward this hollow theory of her supreme discretion to cover it up. His eyes seemed to say, “ How can I believe you, and yet how can I prove you are lying ? I am very helpless, for I can’t prove that without applying to the person to whom your incorrigible folly has probably led you to brag, to throw out mysterious and tantalizing hints. You know, of course, that I would never condescend to that.” Pinnie suffered, acutely, from this imputation ; yet she exposed herself to it often, because she could never deny herself the pleasure, keener still than her pain, of letting Hyacinth know that he was appreciated, admired, and, for those “ charming manners ” commended by Lady Aurora, even wondered at ; and this kind of interest always appeared to imply a suspicion of his secret — something which, when he expressed to himself the sense of it, he called, resenting it at once and yet finding a certain softness in it, “ a beastly attendrissement.” When Pinnie went on to say to him that Lady Aurora appeared to feel a certain surprise at his never yet having come to Belgrave Square for the famous books, he reflected that he must really wait upon her without more delay, if he wished to keep up his reputation for charming manners ; and meanwhile he considered much the extreme oddity of this new phase of his life (it had opened so suddenly, from one day to the other) — a phase in which his society should have become indispensable to ladies of high rank, and the obscurity of his condition only an attraction the more. They were taking him up, then, one after the other, and they were even taking up poor Pinnie, as a means of getting at him; so that he wondered, with humorous bitterness, whether it meant that his destiny was really seeking him out—that the aristocracy, recognizing a mysterious affinity (with that fineness of flair for which they were remarkable), were coming to him, to save him the trouble of coming to them.

It was late in the day (the beginning of an October evening), and Lady Aurora was at home. Hyacinth had made a mental calculation of the time at which she would have risen from dinner; the operation of “ rising from dinner ” having always been, in his imagination, for some reason or other, highly characteristic of the nobility. He was ignorant of the fact that Lady Aurora’s principal meal consisted of a scrap of fish and a cup of tea, served on a little stand in the dismantled breakfast-parlor. The door was opened for Hyacinth by the insidious old lady whom Pinnie had described, and who listened to his inquiry, conducted him through the house, and ushered him into her ladyship’s presence, without the smallest relaxation of a pair of tightly-closed lips. Hyacinth’s hostess was seated in the little breakfast-parlor, by the light of a couple of candles, immersed, apparently, in a collection of tolerably crumpled papers and account-books. She was ciphering, consulting memoranda, taking notes; she had had her head in her hands, and the silky entanglement of her tresses resisted the rapid effort she made to smooth herself down as she saw the little bookbinder come in. The impression of her fingers remained in little rosy streaks on her pink skin. She exclaimed, instantly, “ Oh, you have come about the books — it’s so very kind of you ; ” and she hurried him off to another room, to which, as she explained, she had had them brought down, for him to choose from. The effect of this precipitation was to make him suppose, at first, that she might wish him to execute his errand as quickly as possible and take himself off ; but he presently perceived that her nervousness, her shyness, were of an order that would always give false ideas. She wanted him to stay, she wanted to talk with him, and she had rushed with him at the books in order to gain time and composure for exercising some subtler art. Hyacinth stayed half an hour, and became more and more convinced that her ladyship was, as he had ventured to pronounce her on the occasion of their last meeting, a regular saint. He was privately a little disappointed in the books, though he selected three or four, as many as he could carry, and promised to come back for others : they denoted, on Lady Aurora’s part, a limited acquaintance with French literature and even a certain puerility of taste. There were several volumes of Lamartine and a set of the spurious memoirs of the Marquise de Créqui ; but for the rest the little library consisted mainly of Marmontel and Madame de Genlis, the Récit d’une Sœur and the tales of M. Émile Souvestre. There were certain members of an intensely modern school, advanced and scientific realists, of whom Hyacinth had heard and on whom he had long desired to put his hand ; but, evidently, none of them had ever stumbled into Lady Aurora’s candid collection, though she did possess a couple of Balzac’s novels, which, by ill-luck, happened to be just those that Hyacinth had read again and again.

There was, nevertheless, something very agreeable to him in the moments he passed in the big, dim, cool, empty house, where, at intervals, monumental pieces of furniture — not crowded and miscellaneous, as he had seen the appurtenances of the Princess — loomed and gleamed, and Lady Aurora’s fantastic intonations awakened echoes which gave him a sense of privilege, of rioting, decently, in the absence of jealous influences. She talked again about the poor people in the south of London, and about the Muniments in particular ; evidently, the only fault she had to find with these latter was that they were not poor enough — not sufficiently exposed to dangers and privations against which she could step in. Hyacinth liked her for this, even though he wished she would talk of something else—he hardly knew what, unless it was that, like Rose Muniment, he wanted to hear more about Inglefield. He did n’t mind, with the poor, goihg into questions of poverty—it even gave him at times a strange, savage satisfaction — but he saw that in discussing them with the rich the interest must inevitably be less ; they could never treat them à fond. Their mistakes and illusions, their thinking they had got hold of the sensations of the destitute when they had n’t at all, would always be more or less irritating. It came over Hyacinth that if he found this want of perspective in Lady Aurora’s deep conscientiousness, it would be a queer enough business when he should come to go into the detail of such matters with the Princess Casamassima.

His present hostess said not a word to him about Pinnie, and he guessed that she had an instinctive desire to place him on the footing on which people do not express approbation or surprise at the decency or good-breeding of each other’s relatives. He saw that she would always treat him as a gentleman, and that even if he should be basely ungrateful she would never call his attention to the fact that she had done so. He should not have occasion to say to her, as he had said to the Princess, that she regarded him as a curious animal ; and it gave him immediately that sense, always so delightful to him, of learning more about life, to perceive there were such different ways (which implied still a good many more) of being a lady of rank. The manner in which Lady Aurora appeared to wish to confer with him on the great problems of pauperism might have implied that he was a benevolent nobleman (Lord Shaftesbury in person), who had endowed many charities, and was noted, in philanthropic schemes, for his practical sense. It was not less present to him that Pinnie might have tattled, put forward his claims to high consanguinity, than it had been when the dressmaker herself descanted on her ladyship’s condescensions ; but he remembered now that he too had only just escaped being asinine, when, the other day, he flashed out an allusion to his accursed origin. At all events, he was much touched by the delicacy with which the daughter of the Inglefield comported herself, simply assuming that he was “ one of themselves ; ” and he reflected that if she did know his history (he was sure he might pass twenty years in her society without discovering whether she did or not), this shade of courtesy, this natural tact, coexisting even with extreme awkwardness, illustrated that “ best breeding” which he had seen alluded to in novels portraying the aristocracy. The only remark on Lady Aurora’s part that savored in the least of looking down at him from a height was when she said, cheerfully, encouragingly, “ I suppose that one of these days you will be setting up in business for yourself; ” and this was not so cruelly patronizing that he could not reply, with a smile equally free from any sort of impertinence, “ Oh dear, no, I shall never do that. I should make a great mess of any attempt to carry on a business. I have n’t a particle of that kind of aptitude.”

Lady Aurora looked a little surprised ; then she said, “ Oh, I see ; you don’t like — you don’t like ”— She hesitated : he saw she was going to say that he did n’t like the idea of going in, to that extent, for a trade; but he stopped her in time from attributing to him a sentiment so foolish, and declared that what he meant was simply that the only faculty he possessed was the faculty of doing his little piece of work, whatever it was, of liking to do it skillfully and prettily, and of liking still better to get his money for it when it was done. His conception of “ business,” or of rising in the world, did n’t go beyond that. “ Oh, yes, I can fancy ! ” her ladyship exclaimed; but she looked at him a moment with eyes which showed that he puzzled her, that she did n’t quite understand his tone. Before he went away she inquired of him, abruptly (nothing had led up to it), what he thought of Captain Sholto, whom she had seen, that other evening, in Audley Court. Didn’t Hyacinth think he was very odd? Hyacinth confessed to this impression ; whereupon Lady Aurora went on anxiously, eagerly: “ Don’t you consider that — that — he is decidedly vulgar ? ”

“ How can I know ? ”

“ You can know perfectly — as well as any one! ” Then she added, “ I think it ’s a pity they should — a — form relations with any one of that kind.”

“ They,” of course, meant Paul Muniment and his sister. “ With a person that may be vulgar?” Hyacinth asked, regarding this solicitude as exquisite. “ But think of the people they know — think of those they are surrounded with — think of all Audley Court!”

“ The poor, the unhappy, the laboring classes? Oh, I don’t call them vulgar!” cried her ladyship, with radiant eyes. The young man, lying awake a good deal that night, laughed to himself, on his pillow, not unkindly, at her fear that he and his friends would be contaminated by the familiar of a princess. He even wondered whether she would not find the Princess herself rather vulgar.


It must not be supposed that Hyacinth’s relations with Millicent Henning had remained unaffected by the remarkable incident she had witnessed at the theatre. It had made a great impression on the young lady from Pimlico ; he never saw her, for several weeks afterwards, that she had not an immense deal to say about it; and though it suited her to take the line of being shocked at the crudity of such proceedings, and of denouncing the Princess for a bold-faced foreigner, of a kind to which any one who knew anything of what could go on in London would give a wide berth, it was easy to see that she was pleased at being brought even into roundabout contact with a person so splendid, and at finding her own discriminating approval of Hyacinth confirmed in such high quarters. She professed to derive her warrant for her low opinion of the lady in the box from information given her by Captain Sholto as he sat beside her — information of which at different moments she gave a different version ; her anecdotes having nothing in common, at least, save that they were alike unflattering to the Princess. Hyacinth had many doubts of the captain’s pouring such confidences into Miss Henning’s ear ; under the circumstances it would be such a very unnatural thing for him to do. He was unnatural — that was true — and he might have told Millicent, who was capable of having plied him with questions, that his distinguished friend was separated from her husband ; but, for the rest, it was more probable that the girl had given the rein to a certain inventive faculty which she had already showed him she possessed, when it was a question of exercising her primitive, half-childish, halfplebeian impulse of destruction, the instinct of pulling down what was above her, the reckless energy that would, precisely, make her so effective in revolutionary scenes. Hyacinth (it has been mentioned) did not consider that Millicent was false, and it struck him as a proof of positive candor that she should make up absurd, abusive stories about a person concerning whom she knew nothing at all, save that she disliked her, and could not hope for esteem, or, indeed, for recognition of any kind, in return. When people were really false you did n’t know where you stood with them, and on such a point as this Miss Henning could never be accused of leaving you in obscurity. She said little else about the captain, and did not pretend to repeat the remainder of his conversation ; taking it with an air of grand indifference when Hyacinth amused himself with repaying her strictures on his new acquaintance by drawing a sufficiently derisive portrait of hers.

He took the ground that Sholto’s admiration for the high-colored beauty in the second balcony had been at the bottom of the whole episode : he had persuaded the Princess to pretend she was a socialist, and should like, therefore, to confer with Hyacinth, in order that he might slip into the seat of this too easily deluded youth. At the same time, it never occurred to our young man to conceal the fact that the lady in the box had followed him up ; he contented himself with saying that this had been no part of the original plot, but a simple result — not unnatural, after all — of his turning out so much more fascinating than one might have supposed. He narrated, with sportive variations, his visit in South Street, and felt that he would never feel the need, with his childhood’s friend, of glossing over that sort of experience. She might make him a scene of jealousy and welcome — there were things that would have much more terror for him than that ; her jealousy, with its violence, its energy, even a certain inconsequent, dare-devil humor that played through it, entertained him, illustrated the frankness, the passion and pluck, that he admired her for. He should never be on the footing of sparing Miss Henning’s susceptibilities ; how fond she might really be of him he could not take upon himself to say, but her affection would never take the form of that sort of delicacy, and their intercourse was plainly foredoomed to be an exchange of thumps and concussions, of sarcastic shouts and mutual défis. He liked her, at bottom, strangely, absurdly ; but after all it was only well enough to torment her — she could bear so much — not well enough to spare her. Of there being any justification of her jealousy of the Princess he never thought ; it could not occur to him to weigh against each other the sentiments he might excite in such opposed bosoms, or those that the spectacle of either emotion might have kindled in his own. He had, no doubt, his share of fatuity, but he found himself unable to associate, mentally, a great lady and a shop-girl in a contest for a prize which should present analogies with his own personality. How could they have anything in common — even so small a thing as a desire to possess themselves of Hyacinth Robinson ? A fact that he did not impart to Millicent, and that he could have no wish to impart to her, was the matter of his pilgrimage to Belgrave Square. He might be in love with the Princess (how could he qualify, as yet, the bewildered emotion she had produced in him ?), and he certainly never would conceive a passion for poor Lady Aurora ; yet it would have given him pain much greater than any he felt in the other case, to hear the girl make free with the ministering angel of Audley Court. The difference was, perhaps, somehow in that she appeared really not to touch or arrive at the Princess at all; whereas Lady Aurora was within her compass.

After paying him that visit at his rooms Hyacinth lost sight of Captain Sholto, who had not again reappeared at the Sun and Moon, the little tavern in Bloomsbury which presented so common and casual a face to the world, and yet, in its unsuspected rear, offered a security as yet unimpugned to machinations going down to the very bottom of things. Nothing was more natural than that the captain should be engaged at this season in the recreations of his class; and our young man took for granted that if he were not hanging about the Princess, on that queer footing as to which he himself had a secret hope that he should some day have more light, he was probably ploughing through northern seas on a yacht or creeping after stags in the Highlands ; our hero’s acquaintance with the light literature of his country being such as to assure him that in one or other of these occupations people of leisure, during the autumn, were necessarily immersed. If the captain were giving his attention to neither, he must have started for Madagascar, or at least for Paris. Happy captain, Hyacinth reflected, while his imagination followed him through all kinds of vivid exotic episodes, and his restless young feet continued to tread, through the stale, flat weeks of September and October, the familiar pavements of Soho and Pentonville, and the shabby sinuous ways which unite these extensive districts. He had told the Princess that he sometimes had a holiday at this period, and that there was a chance of his escorting his respectable companion to the seaside ; but as it turned out, at present, the spare cash for such an excursion was wanting. Hyacinth had indeed, for the moment, an exceptionally keen sense of the absence of this article, and was forcibly reminded that it took a good deal of money to cultivate the society of agreeable women. He not only had not a penny, but he was much in debt, and the explanation of his pinched feeling was in a vague, half-remorseful, half-resigned reference to the numerous occasions when he had had to put his hand in his pocket under penalty of disappointing a young lady whose needs were positive, and, especially, to a certain high crisis (as it might prove to be) in his destiny, when it came over him that one could n’t call on a princess just as one was. So, this year, he did not ask old Crookenden for the week which some of the other men took (Eustache Poupin, who had never quitted London since his arrival, launched himself, precisely that summer, supported by his brave wife, into the British unknown, on the strength of a return ticket to Worthing) ; simply because he would n’t know what to do with it. The best way not to spend money, though it was no doubt not the best in the world to make it, was still to take one’s daily course to the old familiar, shabby shop, where, as the days shortened and November thickened the air to a livid yellow, the uncovered flame of the gas, burning often from the morning on, lighted up the ugliness amid which the hand of practice endeavored to put together a little beauty — the ugliness of a dingy, belittered interior; of battered, dispapered walls; of work-tables stained and hacked; of windows opening into a foul, drizzling street; of the bared arms, the sordid waistcoat-backs, the smeared aprons, the personal odor, the patient, obstinate, irritating shoulders and vulgar, narrow, inevitable faces, of his fellow-laborers. Hyacinth’s relations with his comrades would form a chapter by itself, but all that may be said of the matter here is that the clever little journeyman from Lomax Place had a kind of double identity, and that much as he lived in Mr. Crookenden’s establishment he lived out of it still more. In this busy, pasty, sticky, leathery little world, where wages and beer were the main objects of consideration, he played his part in a manner which caused him to be regarded as a queer lot, but capable of queerness in the line of good-nature too. He had not made good his place there without discovering that the British workman, when animated by the spirit of mirth, has rather a heavy hand, and he tasted of the practical joke in every degree of violence. During his first year he dreamed, with secret passion and suppressed tears, of a day of bliss when at last they would let him alone — a day which arrived in time, for it is always an advantage to be clever, if only one is clever enough. Hyacinth was sufficiently so to have invented a modus vivendi in respect to which M. Poupin said to him, “ Enfin vous voilà ferme ! ” (the Frenchman himself, terribly éprouvé at the beginning, had always bristled with firmness and opposed to insulary grossness a sonorous dignity), and under the influence of which the scenery of Soho figured as a daily, dusky phantasmagoria, relegated to the mechanical, passive part of experience, and giving no hostages to reality, or at least to ambition, save an insufficient number of shillings on Saturday night, and spasmodic reminiscences of delicate work that might have been more delicate still, as well as of certain applications of the tool which he flattered himself were unsurpassed, unless by the supteme Eustace.

One evening in November, after discharging himself of a considerable indebtedness to Pinnie, he had still a sovereign in his pocket — a sovereign which seemed to spin there at the opposed solicitation of a dozen exemplary uses. He had come out for a walk, with a vague intention of pushing as far as Audley Court ; and lurking within this nebulous design, on which the damp breath of the streets, making objects seem that night particularly dim and places particularly far, had blown a certain chill, was a sense that it would be rather nice to take something to Rose Muniment, who delighted in a sixpenny present, and to whom, for some time, he had not rendered any such homage. At last, after he had wandered a while, hesitating between the pilgrimage, to Lambeth and the possibility of still associating his evening in some way or other with that of Miss Henning, he reflected that if a sovereign was to be pulled to pieces it was a simplification to get it changed. He had been traversing the region of Mayfair, partly with the preoccupation of a short cut, and partly from an instinct of self-defense; if one was in danger of spending one’s money precipitately, it was so much gained to plunge into a quarter in which, at that hour especially, there were no shops for little bookbinders. Hyacinth’s victory, however, was imperlect when it occurred to him to turn into a public house in order to convert his gold into convenient silver. When it was a question of entering these establishments he selected in preference the most decent; he never knew what unpleasant people he might find on the other side of the swinging door. Those which glitter, at intervals, amid the residential gloom of Mayfair partake of the general gentility of the neighborhood, so that Hyacinth was not surprised (he had passed into the compartment marked “ private bar ”) to see but a single drinker leaning against the counter on which, with his request very civilly enunciated, he put down his sovereign. He was surprised, on the other hand, when, glancing up again, he became aware that this solitary drinker was Captain Godfrey Sholto.

Why, my dear boy, what a remarkable coincidence ! ” the captain exclaimed. “ For once in five years that I come into a place like this ! ”

“ I don’t come in often myself. I thought you were at Madagascar,” said Hyacinth.

“ Ah, because I have not been at the Sun and Moon ? Well, I have been constantly out of town, you know. And then — don’t you see what I mean ? — I want to be tremendously discreet. That’s the way to get on, is n’t it ? But I dare say you don’t believe in my discretion ! ” Sholto laughed. “ What shall I do to make you understand ? I say, have a brandy and soda,” he continued, as if this might assist Hyacinth’s comprehension. He seemed a trifle flurried, and, if it were possible to imagine such a thing of so independent and whimsical a personage, the least bit abashed or uneasy at having been found in such a low place. It was not any lower, after all, than the Sun and Moon. He was dressed on this occasion according to his station, without the pot-hat and the shabby jacket, and Hyacinth looked at him with a sense that a good tailor must really add a charm to life. Our hero was struck more than ever before with his being the type of man whom, as he strolled about, observing people, he had so often regarded with wonder and envy — the sort of man of whom one said to one’s self that he was the “ finest white,” feeling that he had the world in his pocket. Sholto requested the bar-maid to please not dawdle in preparing the brandy and soda, which Hyacinth had thought to ease off the situation by accepting : this, indeed, was perhaps what the finest white would naturally do. And when the young man had taken the glass from the counter Sholto appeared to encourage him not to linger as he drank it, and smiled down at him very kindly and amusedly, as if the combination of a very small bool, binder and a big tumbler were sufficiently droll. The captain took time, however, to ask Hyacinth how he had spent his autumn and what was the news in Bloomsbury; he further inquired about those delightful people over the river. “ I can’t tell you what an impression they made upon me — that evening, you know.” After this he remarked to Hyacinth, suddenly, irrelevantly, “ And so you are just going to stay on for the winter, quietly ? ” Our young man stared : he wondered what other project any one could attribute to him ; he could not reflect, immediately, that this was the sort of thing the finest whites said to each other when they met, after their fashionable dispersals, and that his friend had only been guilty of a momentary inadvertence. In point of fact, the captain recovered himself : “ Oh, of course you have got your work, and that sort of thing ;” and, as Hyacinth did not succeed in swallowing at a gulp the contents of his big tumbler, he asked him presently whether he had heard anything from the Princess. Hyacinth replied that he could have no news except what the captain might be good enough to give him ; but he added that he did go to see her just before she left town.

“ Ah, you did go to see her ? That ’s quite right — quite right.”

“ I went because she, very kindly, wrote to me to come.”

“ Ah, she wrote to you to come ? ” The captain fixed Hyacinth for a moment with his curious, colorless eyes. “ Do you know you are a devilish privileged mortal ? ”

“ Certainly, I know that.” Hyacinth blushed and felt foolish ; the bar-maid, who had heard this odd couple talking about a princess, was staring at him too, with her elbows on the counter.

“ Do you know there are people who would give their heads that she should write to them to come ?”

“ I have no doubt of it whatever ! ” Hyacinth exclaimed, taking refuge in a laugh which did not sound as natural as he would have liked, and wondering whether his interlocutor were not, precisely, one of these people. In this case the bar-maid might well stare; for deeply convinced as our young man might be that he was the son of Lord Frederick Purvis, there was really no end to the oddity of his being preferred — and by a princess — to Captain Sholto. If anything could have reinforced, at that moment, his sense of this anomaly, it would have been the indescribably gentlemanly way, implying all sorts of common imitations, in which his companion went on.

“ All, well, I see you know how to take it ! And if you are in correspondence with her, why do you say that you can hear from her only through me ? My dear fellow, I am not in correspondence with her. You might think I would naturally be, but I am not.” He added, as Hyacinth had laughed again, in a manner that might have passed for ambiguous, “ So much the worse for me — is that what you mean ? ” Hyacinth replied that he himself had had the honor of hearing from the Princess only once, and he mentioned that she had told him that her letter-writing came only in fits, when it was sometimes very profuse; there were months together that she didn’t touch a pen. “ Oh, I can imagine what she told you ! ” the captain exclaimed. “ Look out for the next fit! She is visiting about. It ’s a great tiling to be in the same house with her — an immense comedy.” He remarked that he had heard, now he remembered, that she either had taken, or was thinking of taking, a house in the country for a few months, and he added that if Hyacinth did n’t propose to finish his brandy and soda they might as well turn out. Hyacinth’s thirst had been very superficial, and as they turned out the captain observed, by way of explanation of his having been found in a public bouse (it was the only attempt of this kind he made), that any friend of his would always know him by his love of curious, out-of-the-way nooks. “ You must have noticed that,” he said, — “ my taste for exploration. If I had n’t explored, I never should have known you, should I ? That was rather a nice little girl in there ; did you twig her figure ? It’s a pity they always have such beastly hands,” Hyacinth, instinctively, had made a motion to go southward, but Sholto, passing a hand into his arm, led him the other way. The house they had quitted was near a corner, which they rounded, the captain pushing forward as if there were some reason for haste. His haste was checked, however, by an immediate collision with a young woman who, coming in the opposite direction, turned the angle as briskly as themselves. At this moment the captain gave Hyacinth a great jerk, but not before he had caught a glimpse of the young woman’s face — it seemed to flash upon him out of the dusk —and given quick voice to his surprise.

“ Hallo, Millicent!” This was the simple cry that escaped from his lips, while the captain, still going on, inquired, “ What’s the matter? Who’s your pretty friend ? ” Hyacinth declined to go on, and repeated Miss Henning’s baptismal name so loudly that the young woman, who had passed them without looking back, was obliged to stop. Then Hyacinth saw that he was not mistaken, though Millicent gave no audible response. She stood looking at him, with her head very high, and he approached her, disengaging himself from Sholto, who, however, hung back only an instant before joining them. Hyacinth’s heart had suddenly begun to beat very fast; there was a sharp shock in the girl’s turning up in just that place at that moment. Yet when she began to laugh, abruptly, with violence, and to ask him why he was looking at her as if she were a kicking horse, he recognized that there was nothing so very extraordinary, after all, in a casual meet ing between persons who were such frequenters of the London streets. Millicent had never concealed the fact that she “ trotted about,” on various errands, at night; and once, when he had said to her that the less a respectable young woman took the evening air alone the better for her respectability, she had asked how respectable he thought she pretended to be, and had remarked that if he would make her a present of a brougham, or even call for her three or four times a week in a cab, she would doubtless preserve more of the precious quality. She could turn the tables quickly enough, and she exclaimed, now, professing, on her own side, great astonishment —

“ What are you prowling about here for? You’re after no good, I’ll be bound! ”

“ Good evening, Miss Henning; what a jolly meeting ! ” said the captain, removing his hat with a humorous flourish.

“ Oh, how d’ye do?” Millicent returned, as if she did not immediately place him.

“ Where were you going so fast ? What are you doing ? ” asked Hyacinth, who had looked from one to the other.

“ Well, I never did see such a manner — from one that knocks about like you ! ” cried Miss Henning. “ I’m going to see a friend of mine who’s a lady’s maid in Curzon Street. Have you anything to say to that ? ”

“ Don’t tell us — don’t tell us!” Sholto interposed, after she had spoken (she had not hesitated an instant). “ I, at least, disavow the indiscretion. Where may not a charming woman be going when she trips with a light foot through the gathering dusk ? ”

“ I say, what are you talking about?” the girl inquired, with dignity, of Hyacinth’s companion. She spoke as if with a resentful suspicion that her foot was not light.

“ On what errand of mercy, of secret tenderness ? ” the captain went on, laughing. “ Secret yourself ! ” cried Millicent. “ Do you two always hunt in couples ? ”

All right, we ’ll turn round and go with you as far as your friend’s,” Hyacinth said.

“ All right,” Millieent replied.

“ All right,” the captain added ; and the three took their way together in the direction of Curzon Street. They walked for a few moments in silence, though the captain whistled, and then Millicent suddenly turned to Hyacinth : —

“ You have n’t told me where you were going, yet.”

“ We met in that public house,” the captain said, “ and we were each so ashamed of being found in such a place by the other that we tumbled out together, without much thinking what we should do with ourselves.”

“ When he’s out with me he pretends he can’t abide them houses,” Miss Henning declared. “ I wish I had looked in that one, to see who was there.”

“ Well, she’s rather nice,” the captain went on. “ She told me her name was Georgiana.”

“ I went to get a piece of money changed,” Hyacinth said, with a sense that there was a certain dishonesty in the air ; glad that he, at least, could afford to speak the truth.

“ To get your grandmother’s nightcap changed ! I recommend you to keep your money together — you ’ve none too much of it ! ” Millieent exclaimed.

“ Is that the reason you are playing me false ?” Hyacinth Hashed out. He had been thinking, with still intentness, as they walked ; at once nursing and wrestling with a kindled suspicion. He was pale with the idea that he was being bamboozled ; yet he was able to say to himself that one must allow, in life, for the element of coincidence, and that he might easily put himself immensely in the wrong by making a groundless charge. It was only later that he pieced his impressions together, and saw them — as it appeared — justify each other ; at present, as soon as he had uttered it, he was almost ashamed of his quick retort to Millicent’s taunt. He ought, at least, to have waited to see what Curzon Street would bring forth.

The girl broke out upon him immediately, repeating, “ False, false ?” with high derision, and wanting to know whether that was the way to knock a lady about in public. She had stopped short on the edge of a crossing, and she went on, with a voice so uplifted that he was glad they were in a street that was rather empty at such an hour : “ You ’re a pretty one to talk about falsity, when a woman has only to leer at you out of an opera-box ! ”

“ Don’t say anything about her” the young man interposed, trembling.

“ And pray why not about ‘ her,’ I should like to know? You don’t pretend she’s a decent woman, I suppose ! ” Millicent’s laughter rang through the quiet neighborhood.

“ My dear fellow, you know you have been to her,” Captain Sholto remarked, smiling.

Hyacinth turned upon him, staring, at once challenged and baffled by his ambiguous part in an incident it was doubtless possible to magnify, but it was not possible to treat as perfectly simple. “ Certainly, I have been to the Princess Casamassima, thanks to you. When you came and begged me, when you dragged me, do you make it a reproach ? Who the devil are you, any way, and wliat do you want of me ? ” our hero cried, His mind Hooded in a moment with everything in the captain that had puzzled him and eluded him. This swelling tide obliterated on the spot everything that had entertained and gratified him.

“ My dear fellow, whatever I am, I am not an ass,” this gentleman replied, with imperturbable good-humor. “ I don’t reproach you with anything. I only wanted to put in a word as a peacemaker. My good friends — my good friends,” and he laid a hand, in his practiced way, on Hyacinth’s shoulder, while, with the other pressed to his heart, he bent on the girl a face of gallantry which had something paternal in it, “ I am determined this absurd misunderstanding shall end as lovers’ quarrels ought always to end.”

Hyacinth withdrew himself from the captain’s touch, and said to Millicent, “ You are not really jealous of — of any one. You pretend that, only to throw dust in my eyes.”

To this sally Miss Henning returned him an answer which promised to be lively, but the captain swept it away in the profusion of his protests. He pronounced them a dear, delightful, abominable young couple ; he declared it was most interesting to see how, in people of their sort, the passions lay near the surface ; he almost pushed them into each other’s arms ; and he wound up by proposing that they should all terminate their little differences by proceeding together to the Pavilion music hall, the nearest place of entertainment in that neighborhood, leaving the lady’s maid in Curzon Street to dress her mistress’s wig in peace. He has been presented to the reader as an accomplished man, and it will doubtless be felt that the picture is justified when I relate that he placed this idea in so attractive a light that his companions finally entered a hansom with him, and rattled toward the haunt of pleasure, Hyacinth sandwiched, on the edge of the seat, between the others. Two or three times his ears burned ; he felt that if there was an understanding between them they had now, behind him, a rare opportunity for carrying it out. If it was at his expense, the whole evening constituted for them, indeed, an opportunity, and this thought rendered his diversion but scantily absorbing, though at the Pavilion the captain engaged a private box and ordered ices to be brought in. Hyacinth cared so little for his little pink pyramid that he suffered Millicent to consume it after she had disposed of her own. It was present to him, however, that if he should make a fool of himself the folly would be of a very gross kind, and this is why he withheld a question which rose to his lips repeatedly — a disposition to inquire of his entertainer why the mischief he had hurried him so out of the public house, if he had not been waiting there, preconcertedly, for Millicent. We know that in Hyacinth’s eyes one of this young lady’s compensatory merits had been that she was not deceitful, and he asked himself if a girl could change, that way, from one month to the other. This was optimistic, but, all the same, he reflected, before leaving the Pavilion, that he could see quite well what Lady Aurora meant by thinking Captain Sholto vulgar.


Paul Muniment had fits of silence, while the others were talking; but on this occasion he had not opened his lips for half an hour. When he talked Hyacinth listened, almost holding his breath ; and when he said nothing Hyacinth watched him fixedly, listening to the others only through the medium of his candid countenance. At the Sun and Moon Muniment paid very little attention to his young friend, doing nothing that should cause it to be perceived they were particular pals ; and Hyacinth even thought, at moments, that he was bored or irritated by the serious manner in which the little bookbinder could not conceal from the world that he took him. He wondered whether this were a system, a calculated prudence, on Muniment’s part, or only a manifestation of that superior brutality, latent in his composition, which never had an intention of unkindness, but was naturally intolerant of palaver. There was pleaty of palaver at the Sun and Moon ; there were nights when a blast of imbecility seemed to blow over the place, and one felt ashamed to be associated with so much insistent ignorance and panting vanity. Then every one, with two or three exceptions, made an ass of himself, thumping the table and repeating over some inane phrase which appeared for the hour to constitute the whole furniture of his mind. There were men who kept saying, “ Them was my words in the month of February last, and what I say I stick to — what I say I stick to ; " and others who perpetually inquired of the company, “ And what the plague am I to do with seventeen shillings — with seventeen shillings ? What am I to do with them — will ye tell me that ? ” an interrogation which, in truth, usually ended by eliciting a ribald reply. There were still others who remarked, to satiety, that if it was not done to-day it would have to be done to-morrow, and several who constantly proclaimed their opinion that the only way was to pull up the Park rails again — just to pluck them straight up. A little shoemaker, with red eyes and a grayish face, whose appearance Hyacinth deplored, scarcely ever expressed himself but in the same form of words : “ Well, are we in earnest, or ain’t we in earnest? — that’s the thing I want to know.” He was terribly in earnest himself, but this was almost the only way he had of showing it ; and he had much in common (though they were always squabbling.) with a large, red-faced man, of uncertain attributes and stertorous breathing, who was understood to know a good deal about dogs, had fat hands, and wore on his forefinger a big silver ring, containing some one’s hair (Hyacinth believed it to be that of a terrier, snappish in life). He had always the same refrain : “ Well, now, are we just starving, or ain’t we just starving? I should like the v’ice of the company on that question.”

When the tone fell as low as this Paul Muniment held his peace, except that he whistled a little, leaning back, with his hands in his pockets and his eyes on the table. Hyacinth often supposed him to be on the point of breaking out and letting the company know what he thought of them — he had a perfectly clear vision of what he must think : but Muniment never compromised his popularity to that degree; he judged it — this he once told Hyacinth — too valuable an instrument, and cultivated the faculty of patience, which had the advantage of showing one more and more that one must do one’s thinking for one’s self. His popularity, indeed, struck Hyacinth as rather an uncertain quantity, and the only mistake he had seen a symptom of on his friend’s part was a tendency to overestimate it. Muniment thought many of their colleagues asinine, but it was Hyacinth’s belief that he himself knew still better how asinine they were ; and this inadequate conception supported, in some degree, on Paul’s part, his theory of his influence — an influence that would be stronger than any other on the day he should choose to exert it. Hyacinth only wished that day would come ; it would not be till then, he was sure, that they would all know where they were, and that the good they were striving for, blindly, obstructedly, in a kind of eternal dirty intellectual fog, would pass from the stage of crude discussion and mere sharp, tantalizing desirableness into that of irresistible reality. Muniment was listened to unanimously, when he spoke, and was much talked about, usually with a knowing, implicit allusiveness, when he was absent ; it was generally admitted that he could see further than most. But it was suspected that he wanted to see further than was necessary ; as one of the most inveterate frequenters of the club remarked one evening, if a man could see as far as he could chuck a brick, that was far enough. There was an idea that he had nothing particular to complain of, personally, or that if he had he did n’t complain of it — an attitude which perhaps contained the germs of a latent disaffection. Hyacinth could easily see that he himself was exposed to the same imputation, but he could n’t help it ; it would have been impossible to him to keep up his character for sincerity by revealing, at the Sun and Moon, the condition of his wardrobe, or announcing that he had not had a morsel of bacon for six months. There were members of the club who were apparently always in the enjoyment of involuntary leisure — narrating the vainest peregrinations in search of a job, the cruelest rebuffs, the most vivid anecdotes of the insolence of office. They made Hyacinth uncomfortably conscious, at times, that if he should be out of work it would be wholly by his own fault ; that he had in his hand a bread-winning tool on which he might absolutely count. He was also aware, however, that his position in this little band of malcontents (it was little only if measured by the numbers that were gathered together on any one occasion ; he liked to think it was large in its latent possibilities, its mysterious ramifications and affiliations) was peculiar and distinguished ; it would be favorable if he had the kind of energy anti assurance that would help him to make use of it. He had an intimate conviction — the proof of it was in the air, in the sensible facility of his footing at the Sun and Moon — that Eustache Poupin had taken upon himself to disseminate the anecdote of his origin, of his mother’s disaster ; in consequence of which, as the victim of social infamy, of heinous laws, it was conceded to him that he had a larger account to settle even than most. He was ab ovo a revolutionist, and that balanced against his smart neckties, a certain suspicious security that was perceived in him as to the h (he had had from his earliest years a natural command of it), and the fact that he possessed the sort of hand on which there is always a premium—an accident somehow to be guarded against in a thorough-going system of equality. He never challenged Poupin on the subject, for he owed the Frenchman too much to reproach him with any officious step that was meant in kindness ; and moreover, his fellow-laborer at old Crookenden’s had said to him, as if to anticipate such an impugnment of his discretion, “ Remember, my child, that I am incapable of drawing aside any veil that you may have preferred to drop over your lacerated personality. Your moral dignity will always be safe with me. But remember at the same time that among the disinherited there is a mystic language which dispenses with proofs — a freemasonry, a reciprocal divination ; they understand each other with half a word.” It was with half a word, then, in Bloomsbury, that Hyacinth had been understood ; but there was a certain delicacy within him that forbade him to push his advantage, to treat implications of sympathy, none the less definite for being roundabout, as steps in the ladder of success. He had no wish to be a leader because his mother had murdered her lover and died in penal servitude : these circumstances recommended intentness, but they also suggested modesty. When the gathering at the Sun and Moon was at its best, and its temper seemed really an earnest of what was the basis of all its calculations — that the people was only a sleeping lion, already breathing shorter and beginning to stretch its limbs — at these hours, some of them thrilling enough, Hyacinth waited for the voice that should allot to him the particular part he was to play. His ambition was to play it with brilliancy, to offer an example — an example, even, that might survive him — of pure youthful, almost juvenile, consecration. He was conscious of no commission to give the promises, to assume the responsibilities, of a redeemer, and he had no envy of the man on whom this burden should rest. Muniment, indeed, might carry it, and it was the first article of his faith that, to help him to carry it the better, he himself was ready for any sacrifice. Then it was — on these nights of intenser vibration — that Hyacinth waited for a sign.

They came oftener, this second winter, for the season was terribly hard; and as, in that lower world, one walked with one’s ear nearer the ground, the deep perpetual groan of London misery seemed to swell and swell, and form the whole undertone of life. The filthy air came into the place in the damp coats of silent men, and hung there till it was brewed to a nauseous warmth, and ugly, serious faces squared themselves through it, and strong-smelling pipes contributed their element in a fierce, dogged manner which appeared to say that it now had to stand for everything — for bread and meat and beer, for shoes and blankets and the poor things at the pawnbroker’s and the smokeless chimney at home. Hyacinth’s colleagues seemed to him wiser then, and more permeated with intentions boding ill to the satisfied classes ; and though the note of popularity was still most effectively struck by the man who could demand oftenest, unpractically, “ What the plague am I to do with seventeen shillings ? ” it was brought home to our hero on more than one occasion that revolution was ripe at last. This was especially the case on the evening I began by referring to, when Eustache Poupin squeezed in and announced, as if it were a great piece of news, that in the east of London, that night, there were forty thousand men out of work. He looked round the circle with his dilated foreign eye, as he took his place; he seemed to address the company individually as well as collectively, and to make each man responsible for hearing him. He owed his position, at the Sun and Moon, to the brilliancy with which he represented the political exile, the magnanimous, immaculate citizen wrenched out of bed at dead of night, torn from his hearthstone, his loved ones, and his profession, and hurried across the frontier with only the coat on his back. Poupin had performed in this character now for many years, but he had never lost the bloom of the outraged proscript, and the passionate pictures he had often drawn of the bitterness of exile were moving even to those who knew with what success he had set up his household gods in Lisson Grove. He was recognized as suffering everything for his opinions ; and his hearers in Bloomsbury — who, after all, even in their most concentrated hours, were very good-natured — appeared never to have made the subtle reflection, though they made many others, that there was a want of tact in his calling upon them to sympathize with him for being one of themselves. He imposed himself by the eloquence of his assumption that if one were not in the beautiful France one was nowhere worth speaking of, and ended by producing an impression that that country had an almost supernatural charm. Muniment had once said to Hyacinth that he was sure Poupin would be very sorry if he should be enabled to go home again, for over there he could n’t be a refugee ; and however this might be, he certainly flourished a good deal in London on the basis of this very fact that he oughtn’t to be there.

“ Why do you tell us that, as if it were so very striking ? Don’t we know it, and haven’t we known it always ? But you are right ; we behave as if we knew nothing at all,” said the German cabinet-maker, who had originally introduced Captain Sholto to the Sun and Moon. He had a long, unhealthy, benevolent face and greasy hair, and constantly wore a kind of untidy bandage round his neck, as if for a local ailment. “ You remind us — that is very well ; but we shall forget it in half an hour. We are not serious.”

Pardon, pardon ; for myself, I do not admit that! ” Poupin replied, striking the table with his finger-tips several times, very fast. “ If I am not serious, I am nothing.”

“ Oh no, you are something,” said the German, smoking his monumental pipe with a contemplative air. “ We are all something ; but I am not sure it is anything very useful.”

“Well, things would be worse without us. I ’d rather be in here, in this kind of muck, than outside,” remarked the fat man, who understood dogs.

“ Certainly, it is very pleasant, especially if you have your beer ; but not so pleasant in the east, where fifty thousand people starve. It is a very unpleasant night,” the cabinet-maker went on.

“ How can it be worse ? ” Eustache Poupin inquired, looking defiantly at the German, as if to make him responsible for the fat man’s reilection. “It is so bad that the imagination recoils, refuses.”

“ Oh, we don’t care for the imagination ! ” the fat man declared. “ We want a compact body, in marching order.”

“ What do you call a compact body ? ” the little gray-faced shoemaker demanded. “ I dare say you don’t mean your kind of body.”

“ Well, I know what I mean,” said the fat man, severely.

“ That’s a grand thing. Perhaps one of these days you ’ll tell us.”

“ You ‘ll see it for yourself, perhaps, before that day comes,” the gentleman with the silver ring rejoined. “ Perhaps when you do, you ’ll remember.”

“ Well, you know, Schinkel says we don’t,” said the shoemaker, nodding at the cloud-compelling German.

“ I don’t care what no man says! ” the dog-fancier exclaimed, gazing straight before him.

“ They say it’s a bad year — the blockheads in the newspapers,” Mr. Schinkel went on, addressing himself to the company at large. “ They say that on purpose—to convey the impression that there are such things as good years. I ask the company, has any gentleman present ever happened to notice that article ? The good year is yet to come : it might begin to-night, if we like ; it all depends on our being able to be serious for a few hours. But that is too much to expect. Mr. Muniment is very serious ; be looks as if he were waiting for the signal ; but he does n’t speak — he never speaks, if I want particularly to hear him. He only considers, very deeply, I am sure. But it is almost as bad to think without speaking as to speak without thinking.”

Hyacinth always admired the cool, easy way in which Muniment comported himself when the attention of the public was directed towards him. These manifestations of curiosity, or of hostility, would have put him out immensely, himself. When a lot of people, especially the kind of people who were collected at the Sun and Moon, looked at him, or listened to him, at once, he always blushed and stammered, feeling that if he could n’t have a million of spectators (which would have been inspiring) he should prefer to have but two or three ; there was something very embarrassing in twenty.

Muniment smiled, for an instant, goodhumoredly ; then, after a moment’s hesitation, looking across at the German, and the German only, as if his remark were worth noticing, but it didn’t matter if the others did n’t understand the reply, he said simply, “ Hoffendahl’s in London.”

“ Hoffendahl ? Lieber Gott ! ” the cabinet-maker exclaimed, taking the pipe out of his mouth. And the two men exchanged a longish glance. Then Mr. Schinkel remarked, “ That surprises me sehr. Are you very sure ? ”

Muniment continued, for a moment, to look at him. “ If I keep quiet for half an hour, with so many valuable suggestions flying all round me, you think I say too little. Then if I open my head to give out three words, you appear to think I say too much.”

“ Ah, no ; on the contrary, I want you to say three more. If you tell me you have seen him I shall be perfectly satisfied.”

“ Upon my word, I should hope so ! Do you think he ’s the kind of party a fellow says he has seen ? ”

“ Yes, when he hasn’t !” said Eustache Poupin, who had been listening. Every one was listening now.

“ It depends on the fellow he says it to. Not even here ? ” the German asked.

“ Oh, here!” Paul Muniment exclaimed, in a peculiar tone, and resumed his muffled whistle again.

“ Take care — take care ; you will make me think you haven’t!” cried Poupin, with his excited expression.

“ That’s just what I want,” said Muniment.

Nun, I understand,” the cabinetmaker remarked, restoring his pipe to his lips after an interval almost as momentous as the stoppage of a steamer in mid-ocean.

'Ere, ’ere ? ” repeated the small shoemaker, indignantly. “ I dare say it’s as good as the place he came from. He might look in and see what he thinks of it.”

“ That’s a place you might tell us a little about, now,” the fat man suggested, as if he had been waiting for his chance.

Before the shoemaker had time to notice this challenge some one inquired, with a hoarse petulance, who the blazes they were talking about ; and Mr. Schinkel took upon himself to reply that they were talking about a man who had n’t done what he had done by simply exchanging abstract ideas, however valuable, with his friends in a respectable pothouse.

“ What the devil has he done, then ?” some one else demanded ; and Muniment replied, quietly, that he had spent twelve years in a Prussian prison, and was consequently still an object of a good deal of interest to the police.

“ Well, if you call that very useful, I must say I prefer a pot-house! ” cried the shoemaker, appealing to all the company, and looking, as it appeared to Hyacinth, particularly hideous.

Dock, doch, it is useful,” the German remarked, philosophically, among his yellow clouds.

“ Do you mean to say you are not prepared for that, yourself?” Muniment inquired of the shoemaker.

“ Prepared for that? I thought we were going to smash that sort of shop altogether; I thought that was the main part of the job.”

“ They will smash best, those who have been inside,” the German declared ; “ unless, perhaps, they are broken, enervated. But Hoffendahl is not enervated.”

“ Ah, no ; no smashing, no smashing,” Muniment went on. “ We want to keep them standing, and even to build a few more ; but the difference will be that we shall put the correct sort in.”

“ I take your idea — that Griffin is one of the correct sort,” the fat man remarked, indicating the shoemaker.

“ I thought we was going to ’ave their ’eads — all that bloomin’ lot ! ” Mr. Griffin declared, protesting; while Eustache Poupin began to enlighten the company as to the great Hoffendahl, one of the purest martyrs of their cause, a man who had been through everything — who had been scarred and branded, tortured, almost flayed, and had never given them the names they wanted to have. Was it possible they did n’t remember that great combined attempt, early in the fifties, which took place in four Continental cities at once, and which, in spite of every effort to smother it up — there had been editors and journalists transported even for hinting at it — had done more for the social question than anything before or since ? “ Through him being served in the manner you describe ? ” some one asked, with plainness ; to which Poupin replied that it was one of those failures that are more glorious than any success. Muniment said that the affair had been only a flash in the pan, but that the great value of it was this — that whereas some forty persons (and of both sexes) had been engaged in it, only one had been seized and had suffered. It had been I Hoffendahl himself who was bagged. Certainly he had suffered much, he had suffered for every one; but from that point of view — that of the economy of material — the thing had been a rare success.

“ Do you know what I call the others ? I call ’em bloody sneaks ! ” the fat man cried ; and Eustache Poupin, turning to Muniment, expressed the hope that he did n’t really approve of such a solution — did n’t consider that an economy of heroism was an advantage to any cause. He himself esteemed Hoffendahl’s attempt because it had shaken, more than it had been shaken since the French Revolution, the rotten fabric of the actual social order, and because that very fact of the impunity, the invisibility, of the persons concerned in it had given the predatory classes, had given all Europe, a shudder that had not yet subsided ; but for his part, he must regret that some of the associates of the devoted victim had not come forward and insisted on sharing with him his tortures and his captivity.

“ C’aurait été d’un bel exemple ! ” said the Frenchman, with an impressive moderation of statement which made even those who could not understand him see that he was saying something fine ; while the cabinet-maker remarked that in Hoffendahl’s place any of them would have stood out just the same. He did n’t care if they set it down to selflove (Mr. Schinkel called it “ loaf ”), but he might say that he himself would have done so if he had been trusted and had been seized.

“ I want to have it all drawn up clear first ; then I ‘ll go in,” said the fat man, who seemed to think it was expected of him to be reassuring.

“ Well, who the dickens is to draw it up, eh ? That’s what we happen to be talking about,” returned his antagonist the shoemaker.

“ A fine example, old man? Is that your idea of a fine example?” Muniment, with his amused face, asked of Poupin. “ A fine example of asininity ! Are there capable people, in such plenty, about the place ? ”

“ Capable of greatness of soul, I grant you not.”

“ Your greatness of soul is usually greatness of blundering. A man’s foremost duty is not to get bagged. If you want to show you ’re solid, that’s the way.”

At this Hyacinth suddenly felt himself moved to speak. “ But some one must be caught, always, must he not ? Has n’t some one always been ? ”

“ Oh, I dare say you ’ll be, if you like it !” Muniment replied, without looking at him. “ If they succeed in potting you, do as Hoffendahl did, and do it as a matter of course ; but if they don’t, make it your supreme duty, make it your religion, to lie close and keep yourself for another go. The world is full of unclean beasts whom I shall be glad to see shoveled away by the thousand ; but when it’s a question of honest men and men of courage, I protest against the idea that two should be sacrificed where one will serve.”

“ Trop d’arithmétique — trop d’arithmétique ! That is fearfully English ! ” Poupin cried.

“ No doubt, no doubt ; what else should it be ? You shall never share my fate, if I have a fate, and I can prevent it ! ” said Muniment, laughing.

Eustache Poupin stared at him and his merriment, as if he thought the English frivolous as well as calculating; then he rejoined, “ If I suffer, I trust it may be for suffering humanity, but I trust it may also be for France.”

“ Oh, I hope you ain’t going to suffer any more for France,” said Mr. Griffin. “ Has n’t it done that insatiable old country of yours some good, by this time, all you ’ve had to put up with ? ”

“ Well, I want to know what Hoffendahl has come over for ; it’s very kind of him, I ’m sure. What is he going to do for us ? — that’s what I want to know,” remarked in a loud, argumentative tone a personage at the end of the table most distant from Muniment’s place. His name was Delancey, and he gave himself out as holding a position in a manufactory of soda-water ; but Hyacinth had a secret belief that he was really a hairdresser — a belief connected with a high, lustrous curl, or crest, which he wore on the summit of his large head, and the manner in which he thrust over his ear, as if it were a barber’s comb, the pencil with which he was careful to take notes of the discussions carried on at the Sun and Moon. His opinions were distinct and frequently expressed ; he had a watery (Muniment had once called it a soda-watery) eye, and a personal aversion to a lord. He desired to change everything except religion, of which he approved.

Muniment answered that he was unable to say, as yet, what the German revolutionist had come to England for, but that he hoped to be able to give some information on the matter the next time they should meet. It was very certain Hoffendahl had n’t come for nothing, and he would undertake to declare that they would all feel, within a short time, that he had given a lift to the cause they were interested in. He had had a great experience, and they might very well find it useful to consult. If there was a way for them, then and there, he was sure to know the way. “ I quite agree with the majority of you — as I take it to be,” Muniment went on, with his fresh, cheerful, reasonable manner — “ I quite agree with you that the time has come to settle upon it and to follow it. I quite agree with you that the actual state of things is” — he paused a moment, and then went on in the same pleasant tone — “ is hellish.”

These remarks were received with a differing demonstration : some of the company declaring that if the Dutchman cared to come round and smoke a pipe they would be glad to see him—perhaps he’d show where the thumb-screws had been put on ; others being strongly of the opinion that they did n’t want any more advice — they had already had advice enough to turn a donkey’s stomach. What they wanted was to put forth their might without any more palaver; to do something, or for some one ; to go out somewhere and smash something, on the spot — why not? — that very night. While they sat there and talked, there were about half a million of people in London that did n’t know where the h— the morrow’s meal was to come from ; what they wanted to do, unless they were just a collection of abominable wind-bags, was to show them where to get it, to take it to them with heaped-up hands. Hyacinth listened, with a divided attention, to interlaced iterations, while the talk blew hot and cold ; there was a genuine emotion, tonight, in the rear of the Sun and Moon, and he felt the contagion of excited purpose. But he was following a train of his own ; he was wondering what Muniment had in reserve (for he was sure he was only playing with the company), and his imagination, quickened by the sense of impending relations with the heroic Hoffendahl and the discussion as to the alternative duty of escaping or of facing one’s fate, had launched itself into possible perils — into the idea of how he might, in a given case, settle for himself that question of paying for the lot. The loud, contradictory, vain, unpractical babble went on about him, but he was definitely conscious only that the project of breaking into the bakers’ shops was well before the assembly, and was receiving a vigorous treatment, and that there was likewise a good deal of reference to the butchers and grocers, and even to the fishmongers. He was in a state of inward exaltation ; he was seized by an intense desire to stand face to face with the sublime Hoffendahl, to hear his voice, to touch his mutilated hand. He was ready for anything : he knew that he himself was safe to breakfast and dine, poorly but sufficiently, and that his colleagues were perhaps even more crude and clumsy than usual ; but a breath of popular passion had passed over him, and he seemed to see, immensely magnified, the monstrosity of the great ulcers and sores of London — the sick, eternal misery crying, in the darkness, in vain, confronted with granaries and treasure-houses and places of delight, where shameless satiety kept guard. In such a mood as this Hyacinth felt that there was no need to consider, to reason : the facts themselves were as imperative as the cry of the drowning ; for while pedantry gained time, did n’t starvation rage ? He knew that Muniment disapproved of delay, that he held the day had come for a forcible rectification of horrible inequalities. In the last conversation they had had together, his chemical friend had given him a more definite warrant than he had ever done before for numbering him in the party of immediate action, though indeed he remarked, on this occasion, once more, that that particular formula which the little bookbinder appeared to have taken such a fancy to was mere gibberish. He hated that sort of little pretentious label ; it was fit only for politicians. None the less, he had been as plain as possible on the point that their game must be now to frighten society, and frighten it effectually ; to make it believe that the swindled classes were at last fairly in league — had really grasped the idea that, closely combined, they would be irresistible. They were not in league, and they had n’t in their totality grasped any idea at all. Muniment was not slow to make that equally plain. All the same, society was scareable, and every great scare was a gain for the people. If Hyacinth had needed warrant to-night for a faith that transcended logic, he would have found it in his recollection of this quiet profession ; but his friend’s words came back to him mainly to make him wonder what that friend had in his head just now. He took no part in the violence of the talk ; he had called Schinkel to come round and sit beside him, and the two appeared to confer together in comfortable absorption, while the brown atmosphere grew denser, the passing to and fro of fire-brands more lively, and the flush of faces more portentous. What Hyacinth would have liked to know most of all was why Muniment had not mentioned to him, first, that Hoffendahl was in London, and that he had seen him ; for he had seen him, though he had dodged Schinkel’s question — of that Hyacinth instantly felt sure. He would ask for more information later ; and meanwhile he wished, without resentment, but with a certain helpless, patient longing, that Muniment would treat him with a little more confidence. If there were a secret in regard to Hoffendahl (and there evidently was : Muniment, quite rightly, though he had dropped the announcement of his arrival, for a certain effect, had no notion of sharing the rest of what he knew with that raw roomful), if there was something to be silent and devoted about, Hyacinth ardently hoped that to him a chance would be given to show how he could practice this superiority. He felt hot and nervous ; he got up suddenly, and, through the dark, tortuous, greasy passage which communicated with the outer world, he went forth into the street. The air was foul and sleety, but it refreshed him, and he stood in front of the public house and smoked another pipe. Bedraggled figures passed in and out, and a damp, tattered, wretched man, with a spongy, purple face, who had been thrust, suddenly, across the threshold, stood and whimpered in the brutal blaze of the row of lamps. The puddles glittered roundabout, and the silent vista of the street, bordered with low black houses, stretched away, in the wintry drizzle, to right and left, losing itself in the huge tragic city, where unmeasured misery lurked beneath the dirty night, ominously, monstrously, still, only howling, in its pain, in the heated human cockpit behind him. Ah, what could he do ? What opportunity would rise ? The blundering, divided counsels he had been listening to only made the helplessness of every one concerned more abject. If he had a definite wish while he stood there, it was that that exalted, deluded company should pour itself forth, with Muniment at its head, and surge through the sleeping city, gathering the myriad miserable out of their slums and burrows, and roll into the selfish squares, and lift a tremendous hungry voice, and awaken the gorged indifferent to a terror that would bring them down. Hyacinth lingered a quarter of an hour, but this grand spectacle gave no sign of coming off, and he finally returned to the noisy club-room, in a state of tormented wonder as to what better idea than this very bad one (which seemed to our young man to have at the least the merit that it was an idea) Muniment could be revolving in that too comprehensive brain of his.

As he reëntered the place he saw that the meeting was breaking up in disorder, or at all events in confusion, and that, certainly, no organized attempt at the rescue of the proletariat would take place that night. All the men were on their feet and were turning away, amid a shuffling of benches and chairs, a hunching of shaggy shoulders, a frugal lowering of superfluous gas, and a varied vivacity of disgust and resignation. The moment after Hyacinth came in, Mr. Delancey, the, supposititious hairdresser, jumped upon a chair at the far end of the room, and shrieked out an accusation which made every one stop and stare at him : —

“ Well, I want you all to know what strikes me, before we part company. There is n’t a man in the blessed lot that is n’t afraid of his bloody skin — afraid, afraid, afraid ! I ’ll go anywhere with any one, but there is n’t another, by G—, by what I can make out ! There is n’t a mother’s son of you that ’ll risk his precious bones ! ”

This little oration affected Hyacinth like a quick blow in the face ; it seemed to leap at him personally, as if a threelegged stool, or some hideous hob-nailed boot, had been shied at him. The room surged round, heaving up and down, while he was conscious of a loud explosion of laughter and scorn ; of cries of “ Order, order ! ” of some clear word of Muniment’s, “ I say, Delancey, just step down ; ” of Eustache Poupin shouting out, “ Vous insultez le peuple — vous insultez le peuple ! ” of other retorts, not remarkable for refinement. The next moment Hyacinth found that he had sprung up on a chair, opposite to the barber, and that at the sight of so rare a phenomenon the commotion had suddenly checked itself. It was the first time he had asked the ear of the company, and it was given on the spot. He was sure he looked very white, and it was even possible they could see him tremble. He could only hope that this did n’t make him ridiculous when he said, " I don’t think it’s right of him to say that. There are others, besides him. At all events, I want to speak for myself : it may do some good; I can’t help it. I’m not afraid ; I’m very sure I’m not. I ’m ready to do anything that will do any good ; anything, anything — I don’t care a rap. In such a cause I should like the idea of danger. I don’t consider my bones precious in the least, compared with some other things. If one is sure one is n’t afraid, and one is accused, why should n’t one say so ?”

It appeared to Hyacinth that he was talking a long time, and when it was over he scarcely knew what happened. He felt himself, in a moment, down almost under the feet of the other men ; stamped upon with intentions of applause, of familiarity ; laughed over and jeered over, and hustled and poked in the ribs. He felt himself also pressed to the bosom of Eustache Poupin, who apparently was sobbing, while he heard some say, “ Did ye hear the little beggar, as bold as a lion ? ” A trial of personal prowess between him and Mr. Delancey was proposed, but somehow it did n’t take place, and at the end of five minutes the club-room emptied itself, not, evidently, to be reconstituted, outside, in a revolutionary procession. Paul Muniment had taken hold of Hyacinth, and said, “ I ’ll trouble you to stay, you little desperado. I ’ll be blowed if I ever expected to see you on the stump ! ” Muniment remained, and M. Poupin and Mr. Schinkel lingered in their overcoats, beneath a dim, surviving gasburner, in the unventilated medium in which, at each renewed gathering, the Bloomsbury club seemed to recognize itself.

“ Upon my word, I believe you ’re game,” said Muniment, looking down at him with a serious face.

“ Of course you think it’s swagger, ‘ self-loaf,’ as Schinkel says. But it is n’t.” Then Hyacinth asked, “ In God’s name, why don’t we do something?”

“ Ah, my child, to whom do you say it ? ” Eustache Poupin exclaimed, folding his arms despairingly.

“ Whom do you mean by ‘we’?” said Muniment.

“ All the lot of us. There are plenty of them ready.”

“ Ready for what ? There is nothing to be done here.”

Hyacinth stared. “ Then why the deuce do you come ? ”

“ I dare say I sha’n’t come much more. This is a place you’ve always overestimated.”

“ I wonder if I’ve overestimated you,” Hyacinth murmured, gazing at his friend.

“ Don’t say that — he is going to introduce us to Hoffendahl ! ” Schinkel exclaimed, putting away his pipe in a receptacle almost as large as a fiddlecase.

“ Should you like to see the genuine article, Robinson ?” Muniment asked, with the same unusual absence of jocosity in his tone.

“ The genuine article ? ” Hyacinth looked from one of his companions to the other.

“ You have never seen it yet — though you think you have.”

“ And why have n’t you shown it to me before ? ”

“ Because I had never seen yon on the stump,” This time Muniment smiled.

“ Bother the stump ! I was trusting you.”

“ Exactly so. That gave me time.”

“ Don’t come unless your mind is made up, mon petit,” said Poupin.

“ Are you going now — to see Hoffendahl ? ” Hyacinth cried.

“ Don’t shout it all over the place. He wants a genteel little customer like you,” Muniment went on.

“ Is it true? Are we all going ?” Hyacinth demanded, eagerly.

“ Yes, these two are in it; they are not very artful, but they are safe,” said Muniment, looking at Poupin and Schinkel.

“ Are you the genuine article, Muniment?” asked Hyacinth, catching this look.

Muniment dropped his eyes on him ; then he said, “ Yes, you ’re the boy he wants. It’s at the other end of London ; we must have a growler.”

“ Be calm, my child ; un voici ! ” and Eustache Poupin led Hyacinth out.

They all walked away from the Sun and Moon, and it was not for some five minutes that they encountered the fourwheeled cab which deepened so the solemnity of their expedition. After they were seated in it, Hyacinth learned that Hoffendahl was in London but for three days, was liable to hurry away on the morrow, and was accustomed to receive visits at all kinds of queer hours. It was getting to be midnight ; the drive seemed interminable, to Hyacinth’s impatience and curiosity. He sat next to Muniment, who passed his arm round him, as if by way of tacit expression of appreciation. They all ended by sitting silent, as the cab jogged along murky miles, and by the time it stopped Hyacinth had wholly lost, in the drizzling gloom, a sense of their whereabouts.

Henry James.