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A Round of Visits
by [?]

Mark remembered how uneasy she had made him–how that very talk with her had wound him up to fear, as so acute and intent a little person she affected him; though he had affirmed with all emphasis and flourish his own confidence and defended, to iteration, his old friend. This passage had remained with him for a certain pleasant heat of intimacy, his partner, of the charming appearance, being what she was; he liked to think how they had fraternised over their difference and called each other idiots, or almost, without offence. It was always a link to have scuffled, failing a real scratch, with such a character; and he had at present the flutter of feeling that something of this would abide. He hadn’t been hurrying home, at the London time, in any case; he was doing nothing then, and had continued to do it; he would want, before showing suspicion–that had been his attitude–to have more, after all, to go upon. Mrs. Folliott also, and with a great actual profession of it, remembered and rejoiced; and, also staying in the house as she was, sat with him, under a spreading palm, in a wondrous rococo salon, surrounded by the pinkest, that is the fleshiest, imitation Boucher panels, and wanted to know if he now stood up for his swindler. She would herself have tumbled on a cloud, very passably, in a fleshy Boucher manner, hadn’t she been over-dressed for such an exercise; but she was quite realistically aware of what had so naturally happened–she was prompt about Bloodgood’s “flight.”

She had acted with energy, on getting back–she had saved what she could; which hadn’t, however, prevented her losing all disgustedly some ten thousand dollars. She was lovely, lively, friendly, interested, she connected Monteith perfectly with their discussion that day during the water-party on the Thames; but, sitting here with him half an hour, she talked only of her peculiar, her cruel sacrifice–since she should never get a penny back. He had felt himself, on their meeting, quite yearningly reach out to her–so decidedly, by the morning’s end, and that of his scattered sombre stations, had he been sated with meaningless contacts, with the sense of people all about him intensely, though harmlessly, animated, yet at the same time raspingly indifferent. They would have, he and she at least, their common pang–through which fact, somehow, he should feel less stranded. It wasn’t that he wanted to be pitied–he fairly didn’t pity himself; he winced, rather, and even to vicarious anguish, as it rose again, for poor shamed Bloodgood’s doom-ridden figure. But he wanted, as with a desperate charity, to give some easier turn to the mere ugliness of the main facts; to work off his obsession from them by mixing with it some other blame, some other pity, it scarce mattered what–if it might be some other experience; as an effect of which larger ventilation it would have, after a fashion and for a man of free sensibility, a diluted and less poisonous taste.

By the end of five minutes of Mrs. Folliott, however, he felt his dry lips seal themselves to a makeshift simper. She could take nothing–no better, no broader perception of anything than fitted her own small faculty; so that though she must have recalled or imagined that he had still, up to lately, had interests at stake, the rapid result of her egotistical little chatter was to make him wish he might rather have conversed with the French waiter dangling in the long vista that showed the oriental cafe as a climax, or with the policeman, outside, the top of whose helmet peeped above the ledge of a window. She bewailed her wretched money to excess–she who, he was sure, had quantities more; she pawed and tossed her bare bone, with her little extraordinarily gemmed and manicured hands, till it acted on his nerves; she rang all the changes on the story, the dire fatality, of her having wavered and muddled, thought of this and but done that, of her stupid failure to have pounced, when she had first meant to, in season. She abused the author of their wrongs–recognising thus too Monteith’s right to loathe him–for the desperado he assuredly had proved, but with a vulgarity of analysis and an incapacity for the higher criticism, as her listener felt it to be, which made him determine resentfully, almost grimly, that she shouldn’t have the benefit of a grain of his vision or his version of what had befallen them, and of how, in particular, it had come; and should never dream thereby (though much would she suffer from that!) of how interesting he might have been. She had, in a finer sense, no manners, and to be concerned with her in any retrospect was–since their discourse was of losses–to feel the dignity of history incur the very gravest. It was true that such fantasies, or that any shade of inward irony, would be Greek to Mrs. Folliott. It was also true, however, and not much more strange, when she had presently the comparatively happy thought of “Lunch with us, you poor dear!” and mentioned three or four of her “crowd”–a new crowd, rather, for her, all great Sunday lunchers there and immense fun, who would in a moment be turning up–that this seemed to him as easy as anything else; so that after a little, deeper in the jungle and while, under the temperature as of high noon, with the crowd complete and “ordering,” he wiped the perspiration from his brow, he felt he was letting himself go. He did that certainly to the extent of leaving far behind any question of Mrs. Folliott’s manners. They didn’t matter there–nobody’s did; and if she ceased to lament her ten thousand it was only because, among higher voices, she couldn’t make herself heard. Poor Blood-good didn’t have a show, as they might have said, didn’t get through at any point; the crowd was so new that–there either having been no hue and cry for him, or having been too many others, for other absconders, in the intervals–they had never so much as heard of him and would have no more of Mrs. Folliott’s true inwardness, on that subject at least, than she had lately cared to have of Monteith’s.