MRS. ROOTH explored the place discreetly, on tiptoe, gossiping as site went, and bending her head and her eyeglass over various objects with an air of imperfect comprehension which did not prevent Nick from being reminded of the story of her underhand commercial habits told by Gabriel Nash at the exhibition in Paris, the first time her name had fallen on his ear. A queer old woman from whom, if you approached her in the right way, you could buy old pots — it was in this character that she had originally been introduced to him. He had lost sight of it afterwards, but it revived again as his observant eyes, at the same time that they followed his active hand, became aware of her instinctive appraising gestures. There was a moment when he laughed out gayly — there was so little in his poor studio to appraise. Mrs. Rooth’s vague, polite, disappointed bent back and head made a subject, the subject of a sketch, in an instant: they gave such a sudden pictorial glimpse of the element of race. He found himself seeing the immemorial Jewess in her, holding up a candle in a crammed back-shop. There was no candle, indeed, and his studio was not crammed, and it had never occurred to him before that she was of Hebrew strain, except on the general theory, held with pertinacity by several clever people, that most of us are more or less so. The late Mr. Rooth had been, and his daughter was visibly her father’s child ; so that, flanked by such a pair, good Semitic reasons were surely not wanting to the mother. Receiving Miriam’s little satiric shower without shaking her shoulders, she might, at any rate, have been the descendant of a tribe long persecuted. Her blandness was imperturbable, and she professed that she would be as still as a mouse. Miriam, on the other side of the room, in the tranquil beauty of her attitude (it was “found " indeed, as Nick had said), watched her a little, and then exclaimed that she wished she had locked her up at home. Putting aside her humorous account of the dangers to which she was exposed from her mother, it was not whimsical to imagine that, within the limits of that repose from which the Neville-Nugents never wholly departed, Mrs. Rooth might indeed be a trifle fidgety and have something on her mind. Nick presently mentioned that it would not be possible for him to “send home” this second performance ; and he added, in the exuberance of having already got a little into relation with his work, that perhaps that did n’t matter, inasmuch as — if Miriam would give him his time, to say nothing of her own — a third masterpiece might also, some day, very well come off. His model rose to this without conditions, assuring him that he might count upon her till she grew too old and too ugly, and that nothing would make her so happy as that he should paint her as often as Romney had painted the celebrated Lady Hamilton. “ Ah, Lady Hamilton ! ” deprecated Mrs. Rooth; while Miriam, who had on occasion the candor of a fine acquisitiveness, inquired what particular reason there might be for his not letting them have the picture he was now beginning.
“ Why, I’ve promised it to Peter Sherringham — he has offered me money for it,” Nick replied. ” However, he’s welcome to it for nothing, poor fellow, and I shall be delighted to do the best I can for him,”
Mrs. Rooth, still prowling, stopped in the middle of the room at this, and Miriam exclaimed, “ He offered you money — just as we came in ? ”
“ You met. him, then, at the door, with my sister ? I supposed you had — he’s taking her home,” said Nick.
“Your sister is a lovely girl —such an aristocratic type! breathed Mrs. Rooth. Then she added, “ I ‘ve a tremendous confession to make to you.
“ Mamma’s confessions have to be tremendous to correspond with her crimes,”said Miriam. “ She asked Miss Dormer to come and see us — suggested even that you might bring her some Sunday. I don’t like the way mamma does such things — too much humility, too many simagrées, after all; but I also said what I could to be nice to her. Your sister is charming — awfully pretty and modest. If you were to press me, I should tell you frankly that it seems to me rather a social muddle, this rubbing shoulders of ‘ nice girls ’ and filles de théâtre: I shouldn’t think it would do your young ladies much good. However, it’s their own affair, and no doubt there ’s no more need of their thinking we ‘re worse than we are than of their thinking we re better. The people they live with don’t seem to know the difference— I sometimes make my reflections about the public one works for.”
“ Ah, if you go in for the public’s knowing differences, you’re far too particular,”Nick laughed. “ D’où tombezvous? as you affected French people say. If you have anything at stake on that, you had simply better not play.”
“ Dear Mr. Dormer, don’t encourage her to be so dreadful; for it is dreadful, the way she talks,” Mrs. Rooth broke in. “ One would think we were not respectable — one would think I had never known what I have known, and been what I have been.”
“ What one would think, beloved mother, is that you are a still greater humbug than you are. It ’s you, on the contrary, that go down on your knees, that pour forth apologies about our being vagabonds.”
“ Vagabonds — listen to her ! — after the education I ‘ve given her and our magnificent prospects! ” wailed Mrs. Rooth, sinking, with clasped hands, upon the nearest ottoman.
“ Not after our prospects, if prospects they are: a good deal before them.
Yes, you’ve taught me tongues, and I’m greatly obliged to you — they no doubt impart variety, as well as incoherency, to my conversation ; and that of people in our line is, for the most part, notoriously monotonous and shoppy. The gift of tongues is, in general, the sign of your genuine adventurer. Dear mamma, I’ve no low standard — that’s the last thing,” Miriam went on. “My weakness is my exalted conception of respectability. Ah, parlez-moi de ça and of the way I understand it ! Oh, if I were to go in for being respectable you ‘d see something fine. I ‘m awfully conservative, and I know what respectability is, even when I meet people of society on the accidental middle ground of glowering or smirking. I know also what it is n’t — it is n’t the sweet union of little girls and actresses. I should carry it much further than any of these people : I should never look at the likes of us ! Every hour I live I see that the wisdom of the ages was in the experience of dear old Madame Carré — was in a hundred things she told me. She is founded a rock. After that,” Miriam went on, to her host, “ I can assure you that if you were so good as to bring Miss Dormer to see us we should be angelically careful of her and surround her with every attention and precaution.”
“ The likes of us — the likes of us ! ” Mrs. Rooth repeated plaintively, with ineffectual, perfunctory resentment. “ I don’t know what you are talking about, and I decline to be turned upside down. I have my ideas as well as you, and I repudiate the charge of false humility. I’ve been through too many troubles to be proud, and a pleasant, polite manner was the rule of my life even in the days when, God knows, I had everything. I have never changed, and if, with God’s help, I had a civil tongue then, I have a civil tongue now. It’s more than you always have, my poor perverse and passionate child. Once a lady always a lady — all the footlights in the world, turn them up as high as you will, won’t make a difference. And I think people know it, people who know anything (if I may use such an expression), and it’s because they know it that I ‘m not afraid to address them courteously. And I must say — and I call Mr. Dormer to witness, for if he could reason with you a bit about it he might render several people a service —your conduct to Mr. Slierringliam simply breaks my heart,” Mrs. Rooth concluded, with a jump of several steps in the fine avenue of her argument.
Nick was appealed to, but he hesitated a moment, and while he hesitated Miriam remarked, “ Mother is good — mother is very good; but it is only little by little that you discover how good she is.” This seemed to leave Nick free to ask Mrs. Rooth, with the preliminary intimation that what she had just said was very striking, what she meant by her daughter’s conduct to Peter Sherringham. Before Mrs. Rooth could answer this question, however, Miriam interposed, irrelevantly, with one of her own. “ Do you mind telling me if you made your sister go off with Mr. Sherringham because you knew it was about time for me to turn up ? Poor Mr. Dormer, I get you into trouble, don’t I?" she added sympathetically.
“ Into trouble ? ” echoed Nick, looking at her head but not at her eyes.
“ Well, we won’t talk about that ! ” Miriam exclaimed, with a rich laugh.
Nick now hastened to say that he had nothing to do with his sister’s leaving the studio — she had only come, as it happened, for a moment. She had walked away with Peter Sherringham because they were cousins and old friends ; he was to leave England immediately, for a long time, and he had offered her his company going home. Mrs. Rooth shook her head very knowingly over the “ long time ” that Mr. Sherringham would be absent — she plainly had her ideas about that; and she conscientiously related that in the course of the short conversation they had all had at the door of the house her daughter had reminded Miss Dormer of something that had passed between them, in Paris, in regard to the charming young lady’s modeling her head.
“ I did it to make the question of our meeting less absurd — to put it on the footing of our both being artists. I don’t ask you if she has talent.” said Miriam.
“ Then I need n’t tell you,” answered Nick. " I ’m sure she has talent and a very refined inspiration. I see something in that corner, covered with a mysterious veil,” Mrs. Rooth insinuated ; which led Miriam to ask immediately —
“ Has she been trying her hand at Mr. Sherringham?”
“ When should she try her hand, poor dear young lady ? He’s always sitting with us,” said Mrs. Rooth.
“ Dear mamma, you exaggerate. He has his moments, when he seems to say his prayers to me ; but we’ve had some success in cutting them down. Il s’est bien détaché ces-jours-ci, and I’m very happy for him. Of course it’s an impertinent allusion for me to make ; but I should be so delighted if I could think of him as a little in love with Miss Dormer,” the girl pursued, addressing Nick.
“He is, I think, just a little—just a tiny bit,” said Nick, working away ; while Mrs. Rooth ejaculated, to her daughter, simultaneously —
“ How can you ask such fantastic questions when you know that he’s dying for you ? ”
“ Oh, dying! — he’s dying very hard ! ” cried Miriam. “ Mr. Sherringham is a man of whom I can’t speak with too much esteem and affection, and who may be destined to perish by some horrid fever (which God forbid!) in the unpleasant country he’s going to. But he won’t have caught his fever from your humble servant.”
“ You may kill him even while you remain in perfect health yourself,” said Nick ; “ and since we are talking of the matter, I don’t see the harm in my confessing that he strikes me as bad—oh. as very bad indeed.”
“ And yet. he’s in love with your sister ? —je n’y suis plus.”
“ He tries to be, for he sees that as regards you there are difficulties. He would like to put his hand on some nice girl who would be an antidote to his poison.”
“ Difficulties are a mild name for them ; poison, even, is a mild name for the ill he suffers from. The principal difficulty is that he does n’t know what he wants. The next is that I don’t either — or what I want myself. I only know what I don’t want.” said Miriam brightly, as if she were uttering some happy, beneficent truth. “ I don’t want a person who takes things even less simply than I do myself. Mr. Sherringham, poor man, must be very uncomfortable, for one side of him is perpetually fighting against the other side. He’s trying to serve God and Mammon, and I don’t know how God will come off. What I like in you is that you have definitely let Mammon go — it’s the only way. That’s my earnest conviction, and yet they call us people light. Poor Mr. Sherringham has tremendous ambitions — tremendous riguardi, as we used to say in Italy. He wants to enjoy every comfort and to save every appearance, and all without making a sacrifice. He expects others—me, for instance — to make all the sacrifices. Merci, much as I esteem him and much as I owe him !
I don’t know how he ever came to stray, at all, into our bold, bad Bohemia : it was a cruel trick for fortune to play him. He can’t keep out of it, he’s perpetually making dashes across the border, and yet he ’s not in the least at home there. There’s another in whose position (if I were in it) I would n’t look at the likes of us ! ”
“ I don’t know much about the matter, but I have an idea Peter thinks he has made, or at least is making, sacrifices.”
“ So much the better—you must encourage him, you must help him.”
“ I don’t know what my daughter is talking about—she is much too clever for me,” Mrs. Rooth put in. “ But there’s one way you can encourage Mr. Sherringham — there ’s one way you can help him ; and perhaps it won’t make it any worse for a gentleman of your good nature that it will help me at the same time. Can’t I look to you, dear Mr. Dormer, to see that he does come to the theatre to-night — that he does n’t feel himself obliged to stay away ? ”
What danger is there of his staying away ? ” Nick asked.
“ If lie’s bent on sacrifices, that’s a very good one to begin with,” Miriam observed.
“ That’s the mad, bad way she talks to him — she has forbidden the dear, unhappy gentleman the house! ” her mother cried. “ She brought it up to him just now, at the door, before Miss Dormer: such very odd form ! She pretends to impose her commands upon him.”
“ Oh, he ’ll be there — we’re going to dine together,” said Nick. And when Miriam asked him what that had to do with it he went on, “ Why, we’ve arranged it ; I ’m going, and he won’t let me go alone.”
“ You ’re going? I sent you no places,” Miriam objected.
“Yes, but I’ve got one. Why did n’t you, after all I’ve done for you ? ”
She hesitated a moment. “ Because I’m so good. No matter,” she added: “ if Mr. Sherringham comes, I won’t act.”
“ Won’t you act for me ? ”
“ She ’ll act like an angel,” Mrs. Rooth protested. “ She might do, she might be, anything in the world ; but she won’t take common pains.”
“ Of one thing there ’s no doubt,” said Miriam : “ that compared with the rest of us — poor, passionless creatures — mamma does know what she wants.”
“ And what is that ? ” inquired Nick, chalking away.
“ She wants everything.”
” Never, never — I ’m much more humble,”retorted the old woman ; upon which her daughter requested her to give, then, to Mr. Dormer, who was a reasonable man and an excellent judge, a general idea of the scope of her desires.
As, however, Mrs. Booth, sighing and deprecating, was not quick to comply with the injunction, the girl attempted a short cut to the truth with the abrupt inquiry, “ Do you believe for a single moment he d marry me?
“ Why, he has proposed to you— you’ve told me, yourself — a dozen times.”
“ Proposed what to me? I ‘ve told you that neither a dozen times nor once, because I’ve never understood. He has made wonderful speeches, but he has never been serious.”
“You told me he had been in the seventh heaven of devotion, especially that night we went to the foyer of the Francais,” Mrs. Rooth insisted.
“ Do you call the seventh heaven of devotion serious ? He ’s in love with me, je le veux bien ; he’s so poisoned, as Mr. Dormer vividly says, as to require an antidote; but he has never spoken to me as if he really expected me to listen to him, and he’s the more of a gentleman from that fact. He knows we have n’t a common ground — that a grasshopper can’t mate with a fish. So he has taken care to say to me only more than he can possibly mean. That makes it just nothing.”
“ Did he say more than he can possibly mean when he took formal leave of you yesterday — forever and ever ?
“ Pray don’t you call that a sacrifice ? ” Nick asked.
“ Oh, he took it all back, his sacrifice, before he left the house.”
“ Then has that no meaning? demanded Mrs. Rooth.
“ None that I can make out.”
“ Oh, I ’ve no patience with you : you can be stupid when you will as well as clever when you will ! ” the old woman groaned.
“ What mamma wishes me to understand and to practice is the particular way to be clever with Mr. Sherringham,” said Miriam. “ There are doubtless depths of wisdom and virtue in it.
But I can see only one way ; namely, to be perfectly honest.”
“ I like to hear you talk — it. makes you live, brings you out,”Nick mentioned. " And you sit beautifully still. All I want to say is, please continue to do so ; remain exactly as you are — it’s rather important — for the next ten minutes.”
“We ’re washing our dirty linen before you. but it’s all right,” Miriam answered, “ because it shows you what sort of people we are, and that’s what you need to know. Don’t make me vague and arranged and fine, in this new thing,” she continued : “ make me characteristic and real; make life, with all its horrid facts and truths, stick out of me. I wish you could put mother in too; make us live there side by side and tell our little story. ‘ The wonderful actress and her still more wonderful mamma ’ — don’t you think that’s an awfully good subject ? ”
Mrs. Rooth, at this, cried shame on her daughter’s wanton humors, professing that she herself would never accept so much from Nick’s good-nature, and Miriam settled it that, at any rate, he was some day and in some way to do her mother and sail very near the wind.
“ She does n’t believe he wants to marry me, any more than you do,”the girl, taking up her dispute again after a moment, represented to Nick ; “ hut she believes — how indeed can I tell you what she believes ?—that I can work it (that’s about it), so that in the fullness of time I shall hold him in a vise. I ’m to keep him along for the present, but not to listen to him, for if I listen to him I shall lose him. It’s ingenious, it’s complicated; but I dare say you follow me.”
“ Don’t move — don’t move,” said Nick. “ Excuse a beginner.”
“ No, I shall explain quietly. Somehow (here it’s very complicated and you must n’t lose the thread), I shall he an actress and make a tremendous lot of money, and somehow, too (I suppose a little later), I shall become an ambassadress and be the favorite of courts. So you see it will all be delightful. Only 1 shall have to go straight! Mamma reminds me of a story I once heard about the mother of a young lady who was in receipt of much civility from the pretender to a crown, which indeed he, and the young lady too, afterwards more or less wore. The old countess watched the course of events and gave her daughter the cleverest advice : ‘ Tiens bon, ma fille, and you shall sit upon a throne.’ Mamma wishes me to tenir bon (she apparently thinks there’s a danger I may not), so that, if I don’t sit upon a throne, I shall at least parade at the foot of one. And if before that, for ten years, I pile up the money, they ’ll forgive me the way I ‘ve made it. I should hope so, if I ’ve tenu bon ! Only, ten years is a good while to hold out, is n’t it? If it is n’t Mr. Slierringham it will be some one else. Mr. Sherringham has the great merit of being a bird in the hand. I’m to keep him along, I’m to be still more diplomatic than even he can be.”
Mrs. Rooth listened to her daughter with an air of assumed reprobation which melted, before the girl had done, into a diverted, complacent smile — the gratification of finding herself the proprietress of so much wit and irony and grace. Miriam’s account of her mother’s views was a scene of comedy, and there was instinctive art in the way she added touch to touch and made point upon point. She was so quiet, to oblige her painter, that only her fine lips moved — all her expression was in their charming utterance. Mrs. Rooth, after the first flutter of a less cynical spirit, consented to be sacrificed to an effect of an order she had now been educated to recognize ; so that she hesitated only for a moment, when Miriam had ceased speaking, before she broke out, endearingly, with a little titter and “ Comédienne ! ” She looked at Nick Dormer as if to say, “Ain’t she fascinating? That’s the way she does for you ! ”
“ It ’s rather cruel, is n’t it,” said Miriam, “to deprive people of the luxury of calling one an actress as they ’d call one a liar ? I represent, but I represent truly.”
“ Mr. Sherringham would marry you to-morrow — there ’s no question of ten years !" cried Mrs. Rooth, with a comicality of plainness.
Miriam smiled at Nick, appealing for a sort, of pity for her mother. " Is n’t it droll, the way she can’t get it out of her head?" Then, turning, almost coaxingly, to the old woman, " Voyons, look about you : they don’t marry us like that.”
“But they do—cela se voit tous les jours. Ask Mr. Dormer.”
“ Oh, never ! ” said Miriam : “ it would be as if I asked him to give us a practical illustration.”
“ I shall never give any illustration of matrimony ; for me that question’s over,” said Nick.
Miriam rested kind eyes on him.
“ Dear me, how you must hate me ! ” And before he had time to reply she went on, to her mother, " People marry them to make them leave the stage; which proves exactly what I say.”
“ Ah, they offer them the finest positions,” reasoned Mrs. Rooth.
“ Do you want me to leave it, then ? ”
“ Oh, you can manage, if you will ! ”
“ The only managing I know anything about is to do my work. If I manage that, I shall pull through.”
“ But, dearest, may our work not be of many sorts ? ”
“I only know one,” said Miriam.
At this Mrs. Rooth got up with a sigh. " I see you do wish to drive me into the street.”
“ Mamma’s bewildered — there are so many paths she wants to follow, there are so many bundles of hay. As I told you, she wishes to gobble them all,” Miriam went on. Then she added, “ Yes, go and take the carriage ; take a turn round the Park — you always delight in that — and come back for me in an hour.”
“ I ’m too vexed with you ; the air will do me good,” said Mrs. Rooth. But before she went she added, to Nick, “ I have your assurance that you will bring him, then, to-night ? ”
“ Bring Peter ? I don’t think I shall have to drag him,” said Nick. " But you must do me the justice to remember that if I should resort to force I should do something that’s not particularly in my interest — I should be magnanimous.”
“ We must always be that, must n’t we ? ” moralized Mrs. Rooth.
“How could it affect your interest ? Miriam inquired, less abstractly, of Nick.
“ Yes, as you say,” her mother reminded him, “ the question of marriage has ceased to exist for you.”
“Mamma goes straight at it! ” laughed the girl, getting up, while Nick rubbed his canvas before answering. Miriam went to Mrs. Rooth and settled her bonnet and mantle in preparation for her drive ; then stood for a moment with a filial arm about her, as if they were waiting for their host’s explanation. This, however, when it came, halted visibly.
“ Why, you said awhile ago that if Peter was there you would n’t act.”
“ I ’ll act for him,” smiled Miriam, encircling her mother.
“ It does n’t matter whom it’s for ! ” Mrs. Rooth declared sagaciously.
“ Take your drive and relax your mind,” said the girl, kissing her. “ Come for me in an hour ; not later, but not sooner.” She went with her to the door, bundled her out, closed it behind her, and came back to the position she had quitted. “ This is the peace I want! ” she exclaimed, with relief, as she settled into it.
Peter Sherringham said so little during the performance that his companion was struck by his dumbness, especially as Miriam’s acting seemed to Nick Dormer magnificent. He held his breath while she was on the stage — she gave the whole thing, including the spectator’s emotion, such a lift. She had not carried out her fantastic menace of not exerting herself, and, as Mrs. Rooth had said, it little mattered for whom she acted. Nick was conscious, as he watched her, that she went through it all for herself, for the idea that possessed her and that she rendered with extraordinary breadth. She could not open the door a part of the way to it and let it simply peep in ; if it entered at all it must enter in full procession and occupy the premises in state.
This was what had happened on an occasion which, as Nick noted in his stall, grew larger with each throb of the responsive house; till by the time the play was half over it appeared to stretch out wide arms to the future. Nick had often heard more applause, but he had never heard more attention ; for they were all charmed and hushed together, and success seemed to be sitting down with them. There had been, of course, plenty of announcement — the newspapers had abounded, and the arts of the manager had taken the freest license ; but it was easy to feel a fine universal consensus and to recognize the intrinsic buoyancy of the evening. People snatched their eyes from the stage for an instant, to look at each other, and a sense of intelligence deepened and spread. It was a part of the impression that the actress was only now really showing, for this time she had verse to deal with and she made it unexpectedly exquisite. She was beauty, she was music, she was truth; she was passion and persuasion and tenderness.
She caught up the obstreperous play in soothing, entwining arms and carried it into the high places of poetry, of style. And she had such tones of nature, such concealments of art, such effusions of life, that the whole scene glowed with the color she communicated, and the house, as if pervaded with rosy fire, glowed back at the scene. Nick looked round in the intervals; he felt excited and flushed — the night had turned into a feast of fraternity and he expected to see people embrace each other. The crowd, the flutter, the triumph, the surprise, the signals and rumors, the heated air, his associates, near him, pointing out other figures, who presumably were celebrated but whom he had never heard of, all amused him and banished every impulse of criticism. Miriam was as satisfactory as some right sensation — she would feed the memory with the ineffaceable.
One of the things that amused Nick, or at least helped to fill his attention, was Peter’s attitude, which apparently did not exclude criticism ; rather indeed mainly implied it. Sherringham never took his eyes off the actress, but he made no remark about her and he never stirred out of his chair. Nick had, from the first, a plan of going round to speak to her, but as his companion evidently meant not to move he had a delicacy in regard to being more forward. During their brief dinner together (they made a rigid point of not being late), Peter had been silent and irremediably serious, but also, his kinsman judged, full of the wish to make it plain that he was calm. In his seat he was calmer than ever ; had an air even of trying to suggest to Nick that las attendance, preoccupied as he was with deeper solemnities, was slightly mechanical, the result of a conception of duty, a habit of courtesy. When, during a scene in the second act—a scene from which Miriam was absent — Nick observed to him that, from his inexpressiveness, one might gather he was not pleased, he replied after a moment, “ I’ve been looking for her mistakes.” And when Nick rejoined to this that he certainly wouldn’t find them he said again, in an odd tone, " No, I sha’n’t find them — I sha’n’t find them.” It might have seemed that, since the girl’s performance was a dazzling success, he regarded his evening as rather a failure.
After the third act Nick said candidly? " My dear fellow, how can you sit here ? Are n t you going to speak to her ? ”
To which Peter replied inscrutably, “ Lord, no, never again; I bade her good-by yesterday. She knows what I think of her manner. It’s very fine, but she carries it a little too far. Besides, she didn’t want me to come, and it ’s therefore more discreet to keep away from her.”
“Surely it isn’t an hour for discretion! " cried Nick. “ Excuse me, at any rate, for five minutes.”
He went behind, and reappeared only as the curtain was rising on the fourth act; and in the interval between the fourth and the fifth he went again for a shorter time. Peter was personally detached, but he consented to listen to his companion’s vivid account of the state of things on the stage, where the elation of victory had made every one merry. The strain was over, the ship was in port, and they were all wiping their faces and grinning. Miriam — yes, positively—was grinning too, and she hadn’t asked a question about Peter nor sent him a message. They were shaking hands and fraternizing, all round. They were on the eve (more was the pity) of a tremendous run. Peter groaned, irrepressibly, at this ; it was, save for a slight manifestation a moment later, the only sign of emotion that Nick’s report elicited from him. There was but one voice of regret that they had n’t put on the piece earlier, as the end of the season would interrupt the run. There was but one voice, too, about the fourth act—it was believed that all London would rush to see the fourth act. There was a wonderful lot of people, and Miriam was charming ; she was receiving there, in the ugly place, like a kind of royalty, with a smile and a word for each. She was like a young queen on her accession. When she saw him, Nick, she had kissed her hand to him, over the heads of the courtiers. Nick’s artless comment on this was that she had such pretty manners. It made Sherringham laugh, apparently at his companion’s conception of the manners of a young queen. Mrs. Rooth, with a dozen shawls on her arm, was as red as a turkey ; but you could n’t tell whether Miriam was red or pale : she was so cleverly, awfully cleverly, painted — perhaps a little too much. Dashwood, of course, was greatly to the fore, but you did n’t have to mention his own performance to him : he was magnanimous and would use nothing but the feminine pronoun. He did n’t say much, indeed, but he evidently had ideas; he nodded significant things and whistled inimitable sounds — “heuh, heuh! ” He was perfectly satisfied ; moreover, he looked further ahead than any one.
It was on coming back to his place after the fourth act that Nick put in, for Sherringham’s benefit, most of these touches in his sketch of the situation. If Peter had continued to look for Miriam’s mistakes he had not yet found them : the fourth act, bristling with dangers, putting a premium on every sort of cheap effect, had rounded itself without a flaw. Sitting there alone, while Nick was away, he had leisure to meditate on the wonder of this—on the art with which the girl had separated passion from violence, filling the whole place and never screaming ; for it had seemed to him, in London, sometimes, of old, that the yell of theatrical emotion rang through the shrinking night like a fatal warning. Miriam had never been more present to him than at this hour; but she was inextricably transmuted — present, essentially, as the romantic heroine she represented. His state of mind was of the strangest, and he was conscious of its strangeness ; just as he was conscious, in his person, of a cessation of resistance which identified itself absurdly with liberation. He felt weak at the same time that be felt excited, and he felt excited at the same time that he knew, or believed he knew, that his face was a blank. He saw things as a shining confusion, and yet somehow something monstrously definite kept surging out of them. Miriam was a beautiful, actual, fictive, impossible young woman, of a past age and undiscoverable country, who spoke in blank verse and overflowed with metaphor, who was exalted and heroic beyond all human convenience, and who yet was irresistibly real and related to one’s own affairs. But that reality was a part of her spectator’s joy, and she was not changed back to the common by his perception of the magnificent trick of art with which it was connected. Before Nick Dormer rejoined him Sherringham, taking a visiting-card from his pocket, wrote on it in pencil a few words in a foreign tongue; but as at that moment he saw Nick coming in he immediately put it out of view.
The last thing before the curtain rose on the fifth act Nick mentioned that he had brought him a message from Basil Dashwood, who hoped they both, on leaving the theatre, would come to supper with him, in company with Miriam and her mother and several others: he had prepared a little informal banquet in honor of so famous a night. At this, while the curtain was rising, Peter immediately took out his card again and added something — he wrote the finest small hand you could see. Nick asked him what he was doing, and after an hesitation he replied — ” It’s a word to say I can’t come.”
“ To Dashwood ? Oh, I shall go,” said Nick.
“Well, I hope you ’ll enjoy it! ” his companion replied, in a tone which came back to him afterwards.
When the curtain fell on the last act the people stayed, standing up in their places for the most part. The applause shook the house — the recall became a clamor, the relief from a long tension. This was a moment, in any performance, that Sherringham detested, but he stood for an instant beside Nick, who clapped like a school-boy. There was a veritable roar, and the curtain drew back at the side most removed from them. Sherringham could see that Basil Dashwood was holding it, making a passage for the male “ juvenile lead,” who had Miriam in tow. Nick redoubled his efforts; heard the plaudits swell; saw the bows of the leading gentleman, who was hot and fat; saw Miriam, personally conducted and closer to the footlights, grow brighter and bigger and more swaying ; and then became aware that Sherringham had, with extreme agility, slipped out of the stalls. Nick had already lost sight of him — he had apparently taken but a minute to escape from the house. Nick wondered at his quitting him without a farewell, if he was to leave England on the morrow and they were not to meet at the hospitable Dashwood’s. He wondered even what Peter was “ up to,” since, as he had assured him, there was no question of his going round to Miriam. He waited to see this young lady reappear three times, dragging Dashwood behind her at the second with a friendly arm, to whom, in turn, was hooked Miss Fanny Rover, the actress entrusted, in the piece, with the inevitable comic relief. He went out slowly, with the crowd, and at the door looked again for Peter, who struck him as deficient for once in form. He could n’t know that, in another direction and while he was helping the house to “ rise ” at Miriam, his kinsman had been particularly explicit.
On reaching the lobby Sherringham had pounced upon a small boy in buttons, who appeared to be superfluously connected with a desolate refreshment-room and was peeping, on tiptoe, at the stage, through the glazed hole in the door of a box. Into one of the child’s hands he thrust the card he had drawn again from his waistcoat, and into the other the largest silver coin he could find in the same receptacle, while he bent over him with words of adjuration — words which the little page tried to help himself to apprehend by instantly attempting to peruse the other words written on the card.
“That’s no use—it’s Italian,” said Peter; “only carry it round to Miss Rooth, without a minute’s delay. Place it in her hand, and she will give you some object — a bracelet, a glove or a flower — to bring me back as a sign that she has received it. I shall be outside ; bring me there what she gives you, and you shall have another shilling — only fly ! ”
Sherringham’s small messenger sounded him a moment with the sharp face of London wage-earning, and still more of London tip-earning, infancy, and vanished as swiftly as a slave of the Arabian Nights. While his patron waited in the lobby the audience began to pour out, and before the urchin had come back to him Peter was clapped on the shoulder by Nick Dormer.
“ I’m glad I have n’t lost you,” said Nick ; “ but why did n’t you stay to give her a hand ? ”
“ Give her a hand ? I hated it.”
“ My dear fellow, I don’t follow you,” Nick rejoined. “ If you won’t come to Dashwood’s supper I fear our ways don’t lie together.”
“ Thank him very much ; say I have to get up at an unnatural hour.” To this Peter added, “ I think I ought to tell you she may not be there.”
“Miss Rooth? Why, it’s for her.”
“ I’m waiting for a word from her — she may change her mind.”
Nick stared at his companion. “ For you ? Why, what have you proposed? “
“ I’ve proposed marriage,”said Peter, in a strange voice.
“ I say ” — Nick broke out; and at the same moment Peter’s messenger squeezed through the press and stood before him.
“She has given me nothing, sir,”the boy announced; “ but she says I ‘m to say, ‘ Yes, sir.’ ”
Nick marveled a moment. “ You’ve proposed through him ? ”
“ Ay, and she accepts. Good-night! ’’ Peter exclaimed ; and, turning away, he bounded into a hansom. He said something to the driver through the roof, and Nick’s eyes followed the cab as it started off. Nick was mystified, was even amused; especially when the youth in buttons, planted there and wondering too, remarked to him —
“ Please, sir, he told me he ’d give me a shilling, and he’ve forgot it.”
“ Oh, I can’t pay you for that! ’’ Nick laughed. He was vexed about the supper.
Peter Sherringham rolled away through the summer night to St. John’s Wood. He had put the pressure of strong words upon Miriam, entreating her to drive home immediately, without any one, without even her mother. He wished to see her alone, for a purpose that he would fully and satisfactorily explain — couldn’t she trust him? He supplicated her to remember his own situation and throw over her supper, throw over everything. He would wait for her, with unspeakable impatience, in Balaklava Place.
He did so, when he got there, but it took half an hour. Interminable seemed his lonely vigil in Miss Lumley’s drawing-room, where the character of the original proprietress came out to him, more than before, in a kind of afterglow of old sociabilities, a vulgar ghostly vibration. The numerous candles had been lighted for him, and Mrs. Rooth’s familiar fictions were lying about; but his nerves forbade him the solace of taking a chair and a book. He walked up and down, thinking and listening, and as the long window, the balmy air permitting, stood open into the garden, he passed several times in and out. A carriage appeared to stop at the gate — then there was nothing; he heard the rare rattle of wheels and the far-off hum of London. His impatience was unreasonable, and though he knew this it persisted; it would have been no easy matter for Miriam to break away from the flock of her congratulators. Still less simple was it, doubtless, for her to leave poor Dashwood with his supper on his hands. Perhaps she would bring Dashwood with her, to time her ; she was capable of playing him — that is, playing Sherringham — or even playing them both that trick. Perhaps the little wretch in buttons (Peter remembered now the neglected shilling) had only pretended to go round with his card, had come back with an invented answer. But how could he know, since, presumably, he could n’t read Italian, that his answer would fit the message? Peter was sorry now that he himself had not gone round, not snatched Miriam bodily away, made sure of her and of what he wanted of her.
When half an hour had elapsed he regarded it as proved that she would not come, and, asking himself what he should do, determined to drive off again and seize her at Basil Dashwood’s feast. Then he remembered Nick had mentioned that this entertainment was not to be held at the young actor’s lodgings, but at some tavern or restaurant, the name of which he had not heeded. Suddenly, however, Sherringham became aware with joy that this name did n’t matter, for there was something at the garden-door at last. He rushed out before Miriam had had time to ring, and saw, as she stepped out of the carriage, that she was alone. Now that she was there, that he had this evidence she had listened to him and trusted him, all his impatience and exasperation melted away and a flood of pleading tenderness came out in the first words he spoke to her. It was far “ dearer ” of her than he had any right to dream, but she was the best and kindest creature — this showed it — as well as the most wonderful. He was really not off his head with his contradictory ways; no, before heaven he was n’t, and he would explain, he would make everything clear. Everything was changed.
Miriam stopped short, in the little dusky garden, looking at him in the light of the open window. Then she called back to the coachman — they had left the garden-door open — “ Wait for me, mind ; I shall want you again.”
“ What’s the matter — won’t you stay?” Peter asked. “Are you going out again at this absurd hour ? I won’t hurt you,” he urged gently. And he went back and closed the garden-door. He wanted to say to the coachman, “ It’s no matter ; please drive away.” At the same time he would n’t for the world have done anything displeasing to Miriam.
“I’ve come because I thought it better to-night, as things have turned out, to do the thing you ask me, whatever it may be. That is probably what you calculated I would think, eh? What this evening has been you’ve seen, and I must allow that your hand is in it. That you know for yourself — that you doubtless felt as you sat there. But I confess I don’t imagine what you want of me here, now,” Miriam added. She had remained standing in the path.
Peter felt the irony of her “ now,” and how it made a fool of him, but he had been prepared for it and for much worse. He had begged her not to think him a fool, but in truth, at present, he cared little if she did. Very likely he was, in spite of his plea that everything was changed — he cared little even himself. However, he spoke in the tone of intense reason and of the fullest disposition to satisfy her. This lucidity only took still more from the dignity of his tergiversation : his separation from her the day before had had such pretensions to being lucid. But the explanation, the satisfaction, were in the very fact, and the fact had complete possession of him. He named it when he replied to Miriam, “ I’ve simply overrated my strength.”
“ Oh, I knew — I knew ! That’s why I entreated you not to come ! ” she groaned. She turned away impatiently, and for a moment he thought she would retreat to her carriage. But he passed his hand into her arm, to draw her forward, and after an instant he felt her yield.
“ The fact is we must have this thing out,” he said. Then he added, as he made her go into the house, bending over her. " The failure of my strength — that was just the reason of my coming.”
She burst out laughing at these words, as she entered the drawing-room, and her laugh made them sound pompous in their false wisdom. She flung off, as a goodnatured tribute to the image of their having the thing out, a white shawl that had been wrapped round her. She was still painted and bedizened, in the splendid dress of her fifth act, so that she seemed in a certain way covered and alienated by the character she had been representing. “ Whatever it is you want (when I understand), you ’ll be very brief, won’t you? Do you know I’ve given up a charming supper for you ? Mamma has gone there. I ’ve promised to go back to them.”
“ You re an angel not to have let her come with you. I’m sure she wanted to,” said Sherringham. “ Oh, she’s all right, but she ’s nervous,” Miriam rejoined. Then she added quickly, “ Could n’t she keep you away, after all?”
“ Whom are you talking about ? ” Biddy Dormer was as absent from Sherringham’s mind as if she had never existed.
“ The charming girl you were with this morning. Is she so afraid of obliging me? Oh, she ’d be so good for you ! ”
“ Don’t speak of that,” said Peter gravely. “ I was in perfect good faith yesterday, when I took leave of you. I was — I was. But I can’t — I can’t: you are too unutterably dear to me.”
“Oh, don’t — please don’t,” moaned Miriam. She stood before the fireless chimney-piece with one of her hands upon it. “ If it’s only to say that, don’t you know, what’s the use ? ”
“ It is n’t only to say that. I ‘ve a plan, a perfect plan : the whole thing lies clear before me.”
“ And what is the whole thing?”
He hesitated a moment. “ You say your mother ’s nervous. Ah, if you knew how nervous I am ! ”
“Well, I ‘m not. Go on.”
“ Give it up — give it up ! ” stammered Sherringham.
“Give it up?” Miriam fixed him like a mild Medusa.
“ I ’ll marry you to-morrow if you ’ll renounce ; and in return for the sacrifice you make for me I ‘11 do more for you than ever was done for a woman before.”
“ Renounce, after to-night? Do you call that a plan ? ” asked Miriam. “ Those are old words and very foolish ones: you wanted something of the sort a year ago.”
“ Oh. I fluttered round the idea then ; we were talking in the air. I did n’t really believe I could make you see it then, and certainly you did n’t see it. My own future, moreover, was n’t definite to me. I did n’t know what I could offer you. But these last months have made a difference, and I do know now. Now what I say is deliberate, it ’s deeply meditated. I simply can ‘t; live without you, and I hold that together we may do great things.”
“ What sort of things ? ” Miriam inquired.
“ The things of my profession — of my life — the things one does for one’s country, the responsibility and the honor of great affairs ; deeply fascinating when one’s immersed in them, and more exciting than the excitements of the theatre. Care for me only a little and you ‘ll see what they are, they ‘ll take hold of you. Believe me, believe me,” Sherringham pleaded, “ every fibre of my being trembles in what I say to you.”
“ You admitted yesterday it would n’t do,” said Miriam. “ Where were the fibres of your being then ? ”
“ They trembled even more than now, and I was trying, like an ass, not to feel them. Where was this evening, yesterday — where were the maddening hours I’ve just spent ? Ah, you re the perfection of perfections, and as I sat there to-night you taught me what I really want.”
“ The perfection of perfections ?" the girl repeated interrogatively, with the strangest smile.
“ I need n’t try to tell you : you must have felt, to-night, with such rapture, what you are, what you can do. How can I give that up ? ” Sherringham asked.
“ How can I, my poor friend ? I like your plans and your responsibilities and your great affairs, as you call them. Voyons, they ’re infantile. I ‘ve just shown that I ’m a perfection of perfections : therefore it’s just, the moment to renounce, as you gracefully say ? Oh. I was sure, I was sure ! ” And Miriam paused, resting kind, pitying eyes upon her visitor, as if she were trying to think of some arrangement that would help him out of his absurdity. “ I was sure. I mean, that if you did come your poor dear doting brain would be quite addled,” she presently went on. “ I can’t be a muff, in public, just for you, pourtant. Dear me, why do you like us so much ? ”
“ Like you ? I loathe you ! ”
“ Je le vois parbleu blen ! I mean, why do you feel us, judge us, understand us so well ? I please you because you see, because you know; and because I please you, you must adapt me to your convenience, you must take me over, as they say. You admire me as an artist, and therefore you wish to put me into a box in which the artist will breathe her last. Ah, be reasonable ; you must let her live ! ”
“ Let her live ? As if I could prevent her living ! ” Peter cried, with unmistakable conviction. “ Even if I wanted, how could I prevent a spirit like yours from expressing itself ? Don’t talk about my putting you in a box, for, dearest child, I ‘m taking you out of one. The artist is irrepressible, eternal; she ‘ll be in everything you are and in everything you do, and you ‘ll go about with her triumphantly, exerting your powers, charming the world, carrying everything before you.”
Miriam’s color rose, through her paint, at this vivid picture, and she asked whimsically, “ Shall you like that ? ”
“ Like my wife to be the most brilliant woman in Europe ? I think I can do with it.”
“ Are n’t you afraid of me ? ”
“ Not a bit.”
“ Bravely said. How little you know me, after all! ” sighed the girl.
“ I tell the truth,” Peter went on ;
“ and you must do me the justice to admit that I have taken the time to dig deep into my feelings. I’m not an infatuated boy ; I ’ve lived, I’ve had experience, I’ve observed ; in short I know what I ’m about. It is n’t a thing to reason about ; it ‘s simply a need that consumes me. I’ve put it on starvation diet, but it’s no use — really, it’s no use, Miriam,”poor Sherringham pursued, with a soft quaver that betrayed all his sincerity. “ It is n’t a question of my trusting you ; it’s simply a question of your trusting me. You ‘re all right, as I ve heard you say yourself; you’re frank, spontaneous, generous; you ‘re a magnificent creature. Just quietly marry me, and I ‘ll manage you.”
” Manage me?" The girl’s inflection was droll; it made Sherringham change color.
“ I mean I ‘ll give you a larger life than the largest you can get in any other way. The stage is great, no doubt, but the world is greater. It’s a bigger theatre than any of those places in the Strand. We’ll go in for realities instead of fables, and you ’ll do them far better than you do the fables.”
Miriam had listened to him attentively, but her face showed her despair at his perverted ingenuity. “ Excuse me for saying so, after your delightful tributes to my worth, she returned, in a moment, “ but I ‘ve never listened to such a flood of determined sophistry. You think so well of me that humility itself ought to keep me silent; nevertheless, I must utter a few shabby words of sense. I’m a magnificent creature on the stage — well and good ; it’s what I want to be, and it ’s charming to see such evidence that I succeed. But off the stage — come, come; I should lose all my advantages. The fact is so patent that it seems to me I ‘m very good-natured even to discuss it with you.”
“ Are you on the stage now, pray ? Ah, Miriam, if it were not for the respect I owe you ! ” her companion murmured.
“If it were not for that I shouldn’t have come here to meet you. My talent is the thing that takes you : could there be a better proof than that it’s to-night’s exhibition of it that has settled you ? It’s indeed a misfortune that you are so sensitive to this particular kind of talent, since it plays such tricks with your power to see things as they are. Without it I should be a dull, ignorant, thirdrate woman, and yet that’s the fate you ask me to face, and insanely pretend you are ready to face yourself.”
“Without it—without it?" Sherringham cried. “ Your own sophistry is infinitely worse than mine. I should like to see you without it for the fiftieth part of a second. What I ask you to give up is the dusty boards of the playhouse and the flaring footlights, but not the very essence of your being. Your talent is yourself, and it’s because it ’s yourself that I yearn for you. If it had been a thing you could leave behind by the easy dodge of stepping off the stage I would never have looked at you a second time. Don’t talk to me as if I were a simpleton, with your false simplifications! You were made to charm and console, to represent beauty and harmony and variety to miserable human beings ; and the daily life of man is the theatre for that—not a vulgar shop with a turnstile, that’s open only once in the twenty-four hours. Without it, verily! ’ Sherringham went on, with rising scorn and exasperated passion. “Please let me know the first time you ‘re without your face, without your voice, your step, your exquisite spirit, the turn of your head and the wonder of your eye ! ”
Miriam, at this, moved away from him with a port that resembled what she sometimes showed on the stage when she turned her young back upon the footlights and then, after a few steps, grandly swept round again. This evolution she performed (it was over in an instant) on the present occasion; even to stopping short with her eyes upon him and her head erect. “ Surely it’s strange,”she said, “the way the other solution never occurs to you.”
“ The other solution ? ”
“That you should stay on the stage.”
“ I don’t understand you,” Sherringham confessed. “ Stay on my stage ; come off your own.”
Sherringham hesitated a moment. “ You mean that if I ‘ll do that you ‘ll have me ? ”
“ I mean that if it were to occur to you to offer me a little sacrifice on your own side, it might place the matter in a slightly more attractive light.”
“ Continue to let you act — as my wife?” Sherringham demanded. “Is it areal condition ? Am I to understand that those are your terms? ”
“ I may say so without fear, because you ‘ll never accept them.”
“ Would you accept them, from me — accept the sacrifice, see me throw up my work, my prospects (of course I should have to do that), and simply become your appendage ? ”
“My dear fellow, you invite me with the best conscience in the world to become yours.”
“ The cases are not equal. You would make of me the husband of an actress. I should make of you the wife of an ambassador.”
The husband of an actress, c’est, bientôt dit, in that tone of scorn! If you’re consistent,” said Miriam, “it ought to be a proud position for you.”
“ What do you mean, if I ’m consistent ? ”
“ Haven’t you always insisted on the beauty and interest of our art and the greatness of our mission ? Have n’t you almost come to blows with poor Gabriel Nash about it ? What did all that mean if you won’t face the first consequences of your theory ? Either it was an enlightened conviction or it was an empty pretense. If it was heartless humbug I’m glad to know it,”Miriam rolled out, with a darkening eye. “ The better the cause, it seems to me, the better the deed ; and if the theatre is important to the ‘human spirit,’ as you used to say so charmingly, and if, into the bargain, you have the pull of being so fond of me, I don’t see why it should be monstrous to give us your services, in an intelligent indirect way. Of course, if you’re not serious we needn’t talk at all; but if you are, with your conception of what the actor can do, why is it so base to come to the actor’s aid, taking one devotion with another ? If I ’m so fine I’m worth looking after a bit, and the place where I ’m finest is the place to look after me ! ”
“ You were never finer than at this minute, in the deepest domesticity of private life,” Sherringham returned. " I have no conception whatever of what the actor can do, and no theory whatever about the importance of the theatre. Any infatuation of that sort has completely quitted me, and for all I care the theatre may go to the dogs.”
“ You ’re dishonest, you ’re ungrateful, you ’re false ! ” Miriam flashed. “It was the theatre that brought you here; if it had n’t been for the theatre I never would have looked at you. It was in the name of the theatre you first made love to me ; it is to the theatre that you owe every advantage that, so far as I ‘m concerned, you possess.”
“ I seem to possess a great many! ” groaned Sheriingham.
“ You might certainly make more of those you have! You make me angry, but I want to be fair,” said the glowing girl, “and I can’t be unless you will. You are not fair, nor candid, nor honorable, when you swallow your words and abjure your faith, when you throw over old friends and old memories for a selfish purpose.”
“ ‘ Selfish purpose ’ is, in your own convenient idiom, bientôt dit,” Sherringham answered. “ I suppose you consider that if I truly esteemed you I should be ashamed to deprive the world of the light of your genius. Perhaps my esteem isn’t of the right quality (there are different kinds, are n’t there ?) ; at any rate, I’ve explained that I propose to deprive the world of nothing at all. You shall be celebrated, allez ! ” “ Rubbish — rubbish! ” Miriam mocked, turning away again. “ I know, of course,” she added quickly, “ that to befool yourself with such platitudes you must be pretty bad.”
“ Yes, I’m pretty bad,” Sherringham admitted, looking at her dismally. “ What do you do with the declaration you made me the other day — the day I found my cousin here —that you ‘d take me if I should come to you as one who had risen high ? ”
Miriam reflected a moment. “ I remember— the chaff about the orders, the stars and garters. My poor dear friend, don’t be so painfully literal. Don’t you know a joke when you see it? It was to worry your cousin, was n’t it ? But it did n’t in the least succeed.”
“ Why should you wish to worry my cousin ? ”
“ Because he ’s so provoking. And surely I had my freedom no less than I have it now. Pray, what explanations should I have owed you and in what fear of you should I have gone ? However, that has nothing to do with it. Say I did tell you that we might arrange it on the day that you should come to me covered with glory in the shape of little tinkling medals : why should you anticipate that transaction by so many years and knock me down such a long time in advance? Where is the glory, please, and where are the medals ? ”
“ Dearest girl, am I not going to America (a capital promotion) next month,” Sherringham argued, “and can’t you trust me enough to believe that I speak with a real appreciation of the facts — that I ’m not lying to you, in short — when I tell you that I ‘ve my foot in the stirrup ? The glory’s dawning. I’m all right, too.”
“ What you propose to me. then, is to accompany you tout bonnement to your new post.”
“ You put it in a nutshell,” smiled Sherringham.
“ You ’re touching ; it, has its charm. But you can’t get anything in America, you know. I ‘m assured there are no medals to be picked up there. That ’s why the diplomatic body hate it.”
“ It’s on the way—it ’s on the way,” Sherringham hammered, feverishly. “ They don’t keep us long in disagreeable places, unless we want to stay. There’s one thing you can get anywhere if you ‘re clever, and nowhere it you ‘re not, and in the disagreeable places, generally, more than in the others: and that (since it’s the element of the question we ‘re discussing) is simply success. It’s odious to be put on one’s swagger, but I protest against being treated as if I had nothing to offer — to offer to a person who has such glories of her own. I ‘m not a little presumptuous ass ; I’m a man accomplished and determined, and the omens are on my side.”Peter faltered a moment, and then, with a queer expression, he went on : " Remember, after all, that, strictly speaking, your glories are also still in the future. An exclamation, at these words, burst from Miriam’s lips, but her companion resumed quickly : “ Ask my official superiors, ask any of my colleagues, if they consider that I ’ve nothing to offer.”