The Coxon Fund

The Coxon Fund

By

Henry James

"THEY'VE got him for life ! " I said to myself that evening on
my way back to the station ; but later, alone in the com-
partment (from Wimbledon to Waterloo, before the glory of the
District Railway), I amended this declaration in the light of the
sense that my friends would probably after all not enjoy a monopoly
of Mr. Saltram. I won't pretend to have taken his vast measure on
that first occasion ; but I think I had achieved a glimpse of what
the privilege of his acquaintance might mean for many persons in
the way of charges accepted. He had been a great experience,
and it was this perhaps that had put me into a frame for divining
that we should all have the honour, sooner or later, of dealing
with him as a whole. Whatever impression I then received of
the amount of this total, I had a full enough vision of the patience
of the Mulvilles. He was staying with them for the winter ;
Adelaide dropped it in a tone which drew the sting from the
temporary. These excellent people might indeed have been
content to give the circle of hospitality a diameter of six months ;
but if they didn't say that he was staying for the summer as well
it was only because this was more than they ventured to hope. I

remember

By Henry James 291

remember that at dinner that evening he wore slippers, new and
predominantly purple, of some queer carpet-stuff : but the Mul-
villes were still in the stage of supposing that he might be
snatched from them by higher bidders. At a later time they
grew, poor dears, to fear no snatching ; but theirs was a fidelity
which needed no help from competition to make them proud.
Wonderful indeed as, when all was said, you inevitably pro-
nounced Frank Saltram, it was not to be overlooked that the
Kent Mulvilles were in their way still more extraordinary ; as
striking an instance as could easily be encountered of the familiar
truth that remarkable men find remarkable conveniences.

They had sent for me from Wimbledon to come out and dine,
and there had been an implication in Adelaide's note (judged by
her notes alone she might have been thought silly), that it was a
case in which something momentous was to be determined or done.
I had never known them not to be in a state about somebody, and
I daresay I tried to be droll on this point in accepting their invita-
tion. On finding myself in the presence of their latest revelation
I had not at first felt irreverence droop— and, thank heaven, I
have never been absolutely deprived of that alternative in Mr.
Saltram's company. I saw, however (I hasten to declare it), that
compared to this specimen their other phoenixes had been birds of
inconsiderable feather, and I afterwards took credit to myself for
not having even in primal bewilderments made a mistake about
the essence of the man. He had an incomparable gift ; I never
was blind to it— it dazzles me at present. It dazzles me perhaps
even more in remembrance than in fact, for I'm not unaware that
for a subject so magnificent the imagination goes to some expense,
inserting a jewel here and there or giving a twist to a plume.
How the art of portraiture would rejoice in this figure if the art of
portraiture had only the canvas ! Nature, however, had really

rounded

292 The Coxon Fund

rounded it, and if memory, hovering about it, sometimes holds her
breath, this is because the voice that comes back was really
golden.

Though the great man was an inmate and didn't dress he kept
dinner on this occasion waiting long, and the first words he uttered
on coming into the room were a triumphant announcement to
Mulville that he had found out something. Not catching the
allusion and gaping doubtless a little at his face, I privately asked
Adelaide what he had found out. I shall never forget the look
she gave me as she replied : " Everything ! " She really believed
it. At that moment, at any rate, he had found out that the mercy
of the Mulvilles was infinite. He had previously of course
discovered, as I had myself for that matter, that their dinners were
soignès. Let me not indeed, in saying this, neglect to declare that
I shall falsify my counterfeit if I seem to hint that there was in
his nature any ounce of calculation. He took whatever came, but
he never plotted for it, and no man who was so much of an
absorbent can ever have been so little of a parasite. He had a
system of the universe, but he had no system of sponging— that
was quite hand to mouth. He had fine, gross, easy senses, but it
was not his good-natured appetite that wrought confusion. If he
had loved us for our dinners we could have paid with our dinners,
and it would have been a great economy of finer matter. I make
free in these connections with the plural possessive because, if I
was never able to do what the Mulvilles did, and people with still
bigger houses and simpler charities, I met, first and last, every
demand of reflection, of emotion— particularly perhaps those of
gratitude and of resentment. No one, I think, paid the tribute
of giving him up so often, and if it's rendering honour to borrow
wisdow I have a right to talk of my sacrifices. He yielded
lessons as the sea yields fish —I lived for a while on this diet.

Sometimes

By Henry James 293

Sometimes it almost appeared to me that his massive, monstrous
failure —if failure after all it was— had been intended for my
private recreation. He fairly pampered my curiosity ; but the
history of that experience would take me too far. This is not the
large canvas I just now spoke of, and I would not have approached
him with my present hand had it been a question of all the
features. Frank Saltram's features, for artistic purposes, are verily
the anecdotes that are to be gathered. Their name is legion,
aud this is only one, of which the interest is that it concerns even
more closely several other persons. Such episodes, as one looks
back, are the little dramas that made up the innumerable facets of
the big drama— which is yet to be reported.


II


It is furthermore remarkable that though the two stories are
distinct— my own, as it were, and this other, they equally began,
in a manner, the first night of my acquaintance with Frank
Saltram, the night I came back from Wimbledon so agitated with
a new sense of life that, in London, for the very thrill of it, I
could only walk home. Walking and swinging my stick, I over-
took, at Buckingham Gate, George Gravener, and George
Gravener's story may be said to have begun with my making him,
as our paths lay together, come home with me for a talk. I duly
remember, let me parenthesise, that it was still more that or another
person, and also that several years were to elapse before it was to
extend to a second chapter. I had much to say to him, none the
less, about my visit to the Mulvilles, whom he more indifferently
knew, and I was at any rate so amusing that for long afterwards

he

294 The Coxon Fund

he never encountered me without asking for news of the old man
of the sea. I hadn't said Mr. Saltram was old, and it was to be
seen that he was of an age to outweather George Gravener. I
had at that time a lodging in Ebury Street, and Gravener was
staying at his brother's empty house in Eaton Square. At Cam-
bridge, five years before, even in our devastating set, his intellectual
power had seemed to me almost awful. Some one had once asked
me privately, with blanched cheeks, what it was then that after
all such a mind as that left standing. " It leaves itself ! " I could
recollect devoutly replying. I could smile at present at this
reminiscence, for even before we got to Ebury Street I was struck
with the fact that, save in the sense of being well set up on his
legs, George Gravener had actually ceased to tower. The uni-
verse he laid low had somehow bloomed again— the usual
eminences were visible. I wondered whether he had lost his
humour, or only, dreadful thought, had never had any— not even
when I had fancied him most Aristophanesque. What was the
need of appealing to laughter, however, I could enviously inquire,
where you might appeal so confidently to measurement ? Mr.
Saltram's queer figure, his thick nose and hanging lip were fresh to
me : in the light of my old friend's fine cold symmetry they
presented mere success in amusing as the refuge of conscious
ugliness. Already, at hungry twenty-six, Gravener looked as
blank and parliamentary as if he were fifty and popular. In my
scrap of a residence (he had a worldling's eye for its futile con-
veniences, but never a comrade's joke), I sounded Frank Saltram
in his ears ; a circumstance I mention in order to note that even
then I was surprised at his impatience of my enlivenment. As he
had never before heard of the personage, it took indeed the form
of impatience of the preposterous Mulvilles, his relation to whom,
like mine, had had its origin in an early, a childish intimacy with

the

By Henry James 295

the young Adelaide, the fruit of multiplied ties in the previous
generation. When she married Kent Mulville, who was older
than Gravener and T, and much more amiable, I gained a friend,
but Gravener practically lost one. We were affected in different
ways by the form taken by what he called their deplorable social
action— the form (the term was also his) of nasty second-rate
gush. I may have held in my for intèrieur that the good people
at Wimbledon were beautiful fools, but when he sniffed at them
I couldn't help taking the opposite line, for I already felt that
even should we happen to agree it would always be for reasons
that differed. It came home to me that he was admirably British
as, without so much as a sociable sneer at my bookbinder, he
turned away from the serried rows of my little French library.

" Of course I've never seen the fellow, but it's clear enough he's
a humbug."

"Clear enough is just what it isn't," I replied: "if it only
were !" That ejaculation on my part must have been the be-
ginning of what was to be later a long ache for final frivolous rest.
Gravener was profound enough to remark after a moment that
in the first place he couldn't be anything but a Dissenter, and
when I answered that the very note of his fascination was his
extraordinary speculative breadth he retorted that there was no
cad like your cultivated cad and that I might depend upon dis-
covering (since I had had the levity not already to have inquired),
that my shining light proceeded, a generation back, from a
Methodist cheesemonger. I confess I was struck with his
insistence, and I said, after reflection: "It may be— I admit it
may be ; but why on earth are you so sure ? "— asking the
question mainly to lay him the trap of saying that it was because
the poor man didn't dress for dinner. He took an instant to dodge
my trap and come blandly out the other side.

"Because

296 The Coxon Fund

"Because the Kent Mulvilles have invented him. They've an
infallible hand for frauds. All their geese are swans. They were
born to be duped, they like it, they cry for it, they don't know
anything from anything, and they disgust one (luckily perhaps !)
with Christian charity." His intensity was doubtless an
accident, but it might have been a strange foreknowledge.
I forget what protest I dropped ; it was at any rate something
which led him to go on after a moment : " I only ask one
thing—it's perfectly simple. Is a man, in a given case, a real
gentleman ? "

"A real gentleman, my dear fellow that's so soon said ! "

" Not so soon when he isn't ! If they've got hold of one this
time he must be a great rascal ! "

" I might feel injured," I answered, " if I didn't reflect that they
don't rave about me."

" Don't be too sure ! I'll grant that he's a gentleman," Gravener
presently added, " if you'll admit that he's a scamp."

"I don't know which to admire most, your logic or your bene-
volence."

My friend coloured at this, but he didn't change the subject.
"Where did they pick him up ? "

" I think they were struck with something he had published."

" I can fancy the dreary thing ! "

" I believe they found out he had all sorts of worries and
difficulties."

" That, of course, was not to be endured, and they jumped at
the privilege of paying his debts ! " I replied that I knew nothing
about his debts, and I reminded my visitor that though the dear
Mulvilles were angels they were neither idiots nor millionaires.
What they mainly aimed at was re-uniting Mr. Saltram to his
wife. " I was expecting to hear that he has basely abandoned her,"

Gravener

By Henry James 297

Gravener went on, at this, " and I'm too glad you don't disappoint
me."

I tried to recall exactly what Mrs. Mulville had told me. " He
didn't leave her— no. It's she who has left him."

" Left him to us?" Gravener asked. " The monster— many
thanks ! I decline to take him."

"You'll hear more about him in spite of yourself. I can't, no,
I really can't, resist the impression that he's a big man." I was
already learning —to my shame perhaps be it said —just the tone
that my old friend least liked.

"It's doubtless only a trifle," he returned, " but you haven't
happened to mention what his reputation's to rest on."

" Why, on what I began by boring you with— his extraordinary
mind."

" As exhibited in his writings ? "

" Possibly in his writings, but certainly in his talk, which is far
and away the richest I ever listened to."

" And what is it all about ? "

" My dear fellow, don't ask me ! About everything ! " I
pursued, reminding myself of poor Adelaide. " About his idea of
things," I then more charitably added. " You must have heard
him to know what I mean —it's unlike anything that ever was
heard." I coloured, I admit, I overcharged a little, for such a
picture was an anticipation of Saltram's later development and
still more of my fuller acquaintance with him. However, I really
expressed, a little lyrically perhaps, my actual imagination of him
when I proceeded to declare that, in a cloud of tradition, of legend,
he might very well go down to posterity as the greatest of all
great talkers. Before we parted George Gravener demanded why
such a row should be made about a chatterbox the more and why
he should be pampered and pensioned. The greater the windbag

the

298 The Coxon Fund

the greater the calamity. Out of proportion to all other move-
ments on earth had come to be this wagging of the tongue. We
were drenched with talk— our wretched age was dying of it. I
differed from him here sincerely, only going so far as to concede,
and gladly, that we were drenched with sound. It was not,
however, the mere speakers who were killing us— it was the mere
stammerers. Fine talk was as rare as it was refreshing —the gift
of the gods themselves, the one starry spangle on the ragged cloak
of humanity. How many men were there who rose to this privi-
lege, of how many masters of conversation could he boast the
acquaintance ? Dying of talk ? —why, we were dying of the lack
of it ! Bad writing wasn't talk, as many people seemed to think,
and even good wasn't always to be compared to it. From the best
talk, indeed, the best writing had something to learn. I fancifully
added that we too should peradventure be gilded by the legend,
should be pointed at for having listened, for having actually heard.
Gravener, who had looked at his watch and discovered it was mid-
night, found to all this a response beautifully characteristic of him.

"There is one little sovereign circumstance," he remarked,
" which is common to the best talk and the worst." He looked at
this moment as if he meant so much that I thought he could only
mean once more that neither of them mattered if a man wasn't
a real gentleman. Perhaps it was what he did mean ; he deprived
me, however, of the exultation of being right by putting the truth
in a slightly different way. " The only thing that really counts
for one's estimate of a person is his conduct." He had his watch
still in his hand, and I reproached him with unfair play in having
ascertained beforehand that it was now the hour at which I always
gave in. My pleasantry so far failed to mollify him as that he
presently added that to the rule he had just enunciated there was
absolutely no exception.

" None

By Henry James 299

" None whatever ? "

" None whatever."

" Trust me then to try to be good at any price ! " I laughed as
I went with him to the door. " I declare I will be, if I have to
be horrible ! "




III


If that first night was one of the liveliest, or at any rate was the
freshest, of my exaltation, there was another, four years later, that
was one of my great discomposures. Repetition, I well knew by
this time, was the secret of Saltram's power to alienate, and of
course one would never have seen him at his finest if one hadn't
seen him in his remorses. They set in mainly at this season and
were magnificent, orchestral. I was perfectly aware that one of
these great sweeps was now gathering ; but none the less, in our
arduous attempt to set him on his feet as a lecturer, it was im-
possible not to feel that two failures were a large order, as we said,
for a short course of five. This was the second time, and it was
past nine o'clock ; the audience, a muster unprecedented and really
encouraging, had fortunately the attitude of blandness that might
have been looked for in persons whom the promise (if I am not
mistaken) of an Analysis of Primary Ideas had drawn to the
neighbourhood of Upper Baker Street. There was in those days
in that region a petty lecture-hall to be secured on terms as
moderate as the funds left at our disposal by the irrepressible
question of the maintenance of five small Saltrams (I include the
mother) and one large one. By the time the Saltrams, of differ-
ent sizes, were all maintained, we had pretty well poured out the

The Yellow Book Vol. II. R

oil

300 The Coxon Fund

oil that might have lubricated the machinery for enabling the
most original of men to appear to maintain them.

It was I, the other time, who had been forced into the breach,
standing up there, for an odious lamplit moment to explain to
half-a-dozen thin benches, where the earnest brows were virtu-
ously void of guesses, that we couldn't put so much as a finger
on Mr. Saltram. There was nothing to plead but that our
scouts had been out from the early hours and that we were afraid
that on one of his walks abroad— he took one, for meditation,
whenever he was to address such a company —some accident had
disabled or delayed him. The meditative walks were a fiction,
for he never, that any one could discover, prepared anything but a
magnificent prospectus ; so that his circulars and programmes, of
which I possess an almost complete collection, are as the solemn
ghosts of generations never born. I put the case, as it seemed to
me, at the best ; but I admit I had been angry, and Kent Mul-
ville was shocked at my want of attenuation. This time there-
fore I left the excuses to his more practised patience, only
relieving myself in response to a direct appeal from a young lady
next whom, in the hall, I found myself sitting. My position was
an accident, but if it had been calculated the reason would
scarcely have eluded an observer of the fact that no one else in
the room had an appearance so charming. I think indeed she
was the only person there who looked at her ease, who had come
a little in the spirit of adventure. She seemed to carry amuse-
ment in her handsome young head, and her presence quite gave
me the sense of a sudden extension of Saltram's sphere of in-
fluence. He was doing better than we hoped and he had chosen
this occasion, of all occasions, to succumb to heaven knew which
of his infirmities. The young lady produced an impression of
auburn hair and black velvet, and had on her other hand a com-

panion

By Henry James 301

panion of obscurer type, presumably a waiting-maid. She herself
might perhaps have been a foreign countess, and before she spoke
to me I had beguiled our sorry interval by thinking that she
brought vaguely back the first page of some novel of Madame
Sand. It didn't make her more fathomable to perceive in a few
minutes that she could only be an American ; it simply en-
gendered depressing reflections as to the possible check to contri-
butions from Boston. She asked me if, as a person apparently
more initiated, I would recommend further waiting, and I replied
that if she considered I was on my honour I would privately
deprecate it. Perhaps she didn't ; at any rate something passed
between us that led us to talk until she became aware that we
were almost the only people left. I presently discovered that she
knew Mrs. Saltram, and this explained in a manner the miracle.
The brotherhood of the friends of the husband were as nothing to
the brotherhood, or perhaps I should say the sisterhood, of the
friends of the wife. Like the Kent Mulvilles I belonged to both
fraternities, and even better than they I think I had sounded the
dark abyss of Mrs. Saltram's wrongs. She bored me to extinc-
tion, and I knew but too well how she had bored her husband ;
but she had her partisans, the most inveterate of whom were
indeed the handful of poor Saltram's backers. They did her
liberal justice, whereas her peculiar comforters had nothing but
hatred for our philosopher. I am bound to say it was we, how-
ever— we of both camps, as it were —who had always done most
for her.

I thought my young lady looked rich —I scarcely knew why ;
and I hoped she had put her hand in her pocket. But I soon dis-
covered that she was not a partisan— she was only a generous,
irresponsible inquirer. She had come to England to see her aunt,
and it was at her aunt's she had met the dreary lady we had all so

much

302 The Coxon Fund

much on our minds. I saw she would help to pass the time
when she observed that it was a pity this lady wasn't intrinsically
more interesting. That was refreshing, for it was an article of
faith in Mrs. Saltram's circle —at least among those who scorned
to know her horrid husband— that she was attractive on her
merits. She was really a very common person, as Saltram himself
would have been if he hadn't been a prodigy. The question of
vulgarity had no application to him, but it was a measure that his
wife kept challenging you to apply to her. I hasten to add that
the consequences of your doing so were no sufficient reason for
his having left her to starve. " He doesn't seem to have much
force of character," said my young lady ; at which I laughed out
so loud that my departing friends looked back at me over their
shoulders as if I were making a joke of their discomfiture. My
joke probably cost Saltram a subscription or two, but it helped me
on with my interlocutress. " She says he drinks like a fish," she
sociably continued, "and yet she admits that his mind is wonder-
fully clear." It was amusing to converse with a pretty girl who
could talk of the clearness of Saltram's mind. I tried to tell her
—I had it almost on my conscience— what was the proper way to
regard him ; an effort attended perhaps more than ever on this
occasion with the usual effect of my feeling that I wasn't after all
very sure of it. She had come to-night out of high curiosity—
she had wanted to find out this proper way for herself. She had
read some of his papers and hadn't understood them ; but it was
at home, at her aunt's, that her curiosity had been kindled—
kindled mainly by his wife's remarkable stories of his want of
virtue. " I suppose they ought to have kept me away," my com-
panion dropped, " and I suppose they would have done so if I
hadn't somehow got an idea that he's fascinating. In fact Mrs.
Saltram herself says he is."

"So

By Henry James 303

" So you came to see where the fascination resides ? Well,
you've seen ! "

"My young lady raised her fine eyebrows. " Do you mean in
his bad faith ? "

" In the extraordinary effects of it ; his possession, that is, of
some quality or other that condemns us in advance to forgive him
the humiliation, as I may call it, to which he has subjected us."

" The humiliation ? "

" Why mine, for instance, as one of his guarantors, before you
as the purchaser of a ticket."

"You don't look humiliated a bit, and if you did I should let
you off, disappointed as I am ; for the mysterious quality you
speak of is just the quality I came to see."

" Oh, you can't see it ! " I exclaimed.

" How then do you get at it ? "

" You don't ! You musn't suppose he's good-looking," I
added.

" Why, his wife says he is ! "

My hilarity may have struck my interlocutress as excessive, but
I confess it broke out afresh. Had she acted only in obedience to
this singular plea, so characteristic, on Mrs. Saltram's part, of what
was irritating in the narrowness of that lady's point of view ?
"Mrs. Saltram," I explained, "undervalues him where he is
strongest, so that, to make up for it perhaps, she overpraises him
where he's weak. He's not, assuredly, superficially attractive ; he's
middle-aged, fat, featureless save for his great eyes."

" Yes, his great eyes," said my young lady attentively. She had
evidently heard all about them.

" They're tragic and splendid —lights on a dangerous coast.
But he moves badly and dresses worse, and altogether he's strange
to behold."

My

304 The Coxon Fund

My companion appeared to reflect on this, and after a moment
she inquired : " Do you call him a real gentleman ?"

I started slightly at the question, for I had a sense of recognising
it : George Gravener, years before that first flushed night, had
put me face to face with it. It had embarrassed me then, but it
didn't embarrass me now, for I had lived with it and overcome it
and disposed of it. " A real gentleman ? Decidedly not ! "

My promptitude surprised her a little, but I quickly felt that it
was not to Gravener I was now talking. " Do you say that
because he's— what do you call it in England ?— of humble
extraction ? "

" Not a bit. His father was a country schoolmaster and his
mother the widow of a sexton, but that has nothing to do with it.
I say it simply because I know him well."

" But isn't it an awful drawback ? "

" Awful —quite awful."

" I mean, isn't it positively fatal ? "

"Fatal to what ? Not to his magnificent vitality."

Again there was a meditative moment, "And is his magnificent
vitality the cause of his vices ? "

" Your questions are formidable, but I'm glad you put them. I
was thinking of his noble intellect. His vices, as you say, have
been much exaggerated : they consist mainly after all in one com-
prehensive misfortune."

" A want of will ? "

" A want of dignity."

" He doesn't recognise his obligations ? "

" On the contrary, he recognises them with effusion, especially
in public : he smiles and bows and beckons across the street to
them. But when they pass over he turns away, and he speedily
loses them in the crowd. The recognition is purely spiritual— it

isn't

By Henry James 305

isn't in the least social. So he leaves all his belongings to other
people to take care of. He accepts favours, loans, sacrifices, with
nothing more restrictive than an agony of shame. Fortunately
we're a little faithful band, and we do what we can." I held my
tongue about the natural children, engendered, to the number of
three, in the wantonness of his youth. I only remarked that he
did make efforts— often tremendous ones. " But the efforts," I
said, " never come to much ; the only things that come to much
are the abandonments, the surrenders."

" And how much do they come to ? "

"I've told you before that your questions are terrible ! They
come, these mere exercises of genius, to a great body of poetry, of
philosophy, a notable mass of speculation, of discovery. The
genius is there, you see, to meet the surrender ; but there's no
genius to support the defence."

" But what is there, after all, at his age, to show ? "

" In the way of achievement recognised and reputation estab-
lished ? " I interrupted. " To 'show' if you will, there isn't
much, for his writing, mostly, isn't as fine as his talk. Moreover,
two-thirds of his work are merely colossal projects and announce-
ments. 'Showing' Frank Saltram is often a poor business ; we
endeavoured, you will have observed, to show him to-night !
However, if he had lectured, he would have lectured divinely. It
would just have been his talk."

" And what would his talk just have been ? "

I was conscious of some ineffectiveness as well perhaps as of a
little impatience as I replied : " The exhibition of a splendid
intellect." My young lady looked not quite satisfied at this, but
as I was not prepared for another question I hastily pursued :
" The sight of a great suspended, swinging crystal, huge, lucid,
lustrous, a block of light, flashing back every impression of life and

every

306 The Coxon Fund

every possibility of thought ! This gave her something to think
about till we had passed out to the dusky porch of the hall, in
front of which the lamps of a quiet brougham were almost the
only thing Saltram's treachery hadn't extinguished. I went with
her to the door of her carriage, out of which she leaned a moment
after she had thanked me and taken her seat. Her smile even in
the darkness was pretty. " I do want to see that crystal ! "

" You've only to come to the next lecture."

"I go abroad in a day or two with my aunt."

" Wait over till next week," I suggested. " It's worth it."

She became grave. " Not unless he really comes ! " At
which the brougham started off, carrying her away too fast,
fortunately for my manners, to allow me to exclaim " Ingra-
titude !"


IV


Mrs. Saltram made a great affair of her right to be informed
where her husband had been the second evening he failed to meet
his audience. She came to me to ascertain, but I couldn't satisfy
her, for in spite of my ingenuity I remained in ignorance. It
was not till much later that I found this had not been the case
with Kent Mulville, whose hope for the best never twirled its
thumbs more placidly than when he happened to know the worst.
He had known it on the occasion I speak of— that is immediately
after. He was impenetrable then, but he ultimately confessed—
more than I shall venture to confess to-day. It was of course
familiar to me that Saltram was incapable of keeping the engage-
ments which, after their separation, he had entered into with
regard to his wife, a deeply wronged, justly resentful, quite irre-

proachable

By Henry James 307

proachable and insufferable person. She often appeared at my
chambers to talk over his lacunae, for if, as she declared, she had
washed her hands of him, she had carefully preserved the water of
this ablution and she handed it about for inspection. She had
arts of her own of exciting one's impatience, the most infallible of
which was perhaps her assumption that we were kind to her
because we liked her. In reality her personal fall had been a sort
of social rise, for there had been a moment when, in our little
conscientious circle, her desolation almost made her the fashion.
Her voice was grating and her children ugly ; moreover she hated
the good Mulvilles, whom I more and more loved. They were
the people who by doing most for her husband had in the long
run done most for herself; and the warm confidence with which
he had laid his length upon them was a pressure gentle compared
with her stiffer pcrsuadability. I am bound to say he didn't
criticise his benefactors, though practically he got tired of them ;
she, however, had the highest standards about eleemosynary forms.
She offered the odd spectacle of a spirit puffed up by dependence,
and indeed it had introduced her to some excellent society. She
pitied me for not knowing certain people who aided her and
whom she doubtless patronised in turn for their luck in not
knowing me. I daresay I should have got on with her better if
she had had a ray of imagination— if it had occasionally seemed to
occur to her to regard Saltram's manifestations in any other
manner than as separate subjects of woe. They were all flowers
of his nature, pearls strung on an endless thread ; but she had a
stubborn little way of challenging them one after the other, as if
she never suspected that he had a nature, such as it was, or
that deficiencies might be organic ; the irritating effect of a mind
incapable of a generalisation. One might doubtless have overdone
the idea that there was a general exemption for such a man ; but

if

308 The Coxon Fund

if this had happened it would have been through one's feeling that
there could be none for such a woman.

I recognised her superiority when I asked her about the aunt of
the disappointed young lady : it sounded like a sentence from a
phrase-book. She triumphed in what she told me and she may
have triumphed still more in what she withheld. My friend of
the other evening, Miss Anvoy, had but lately come to England ;
Lady Coxon, the aunt, had been established here for years in
consequence of her marriage with the late Sir Gregory of that ilk.
She had a house in the Regent's Park and a Bath-chair and a
page ; and above all she had sympathy. Mrs. Saltram had made
her acquaintance through mutual friends. This vagueness caused
me to feel how much I was out of it and how large an inde-
pendent circle Mrs. Saltram had at her command. I should have
been glad to know more about the charming Miss Anvoy, but I
felt that I should know most by not depriving her of her advantage,
as she might have mysterious means of depriving me of my
knowledge. For the present, moreover, this experience was
arrested, Lady Coxon having in fact gone abroad, accompanied by
her niece. The niece, besides being immensely clever, was an
heiress, Mrs. Saltram said ; the only daughter and the light of
the eyes of some great American merchant, a man, over there, of
endless indulgences and dollars. She had pretty clothes and pretty
manners, and she had, what was prettier still, the great thing of
all. The great thing of all for Mrs. Saltram was always sym-
pathy, and she spoke as if during the absence of these ladies she
might not know where to turn for it. A few months later
indeed, when they had come back, her tone perceptibly changed :
she alluded to them, on my leading her up to it, rather as to
persons in her debt for favours received. What had happened I
didn't know, but I saw it would take only a little more or a little

less

By Henry James 309

less to make her speak of them as thankless subjects of social
countenance— people for whom she had vainly tried to do some-
thing. I confess I saw that it would not be in a mere week or
two that I should rid myself of the image of Ruth Anvoy, in whose
very name, when I learnt it, I found something secretly to like.
I should probably neither see her nor hear of her again : the knight's
widow (he had been mayor of Clockborough) would pass away,
and the heiress would return to her inheritance. I gathered with
surprise that she had not communicated to his wife the story of
her attempt to hear Mr. Saltram, and I founded this reticence on
the easy supposition that Mrs. Saltram had fatigued by over-
pressure the spring of the sympathy of which she boasted.
The girl at any rate would forget the small adventure, be
distracted, take a husband ; besides which she would lack oppor-
tunity to repeat her experiment.

We clung to the idea of the brilliant course, delivered without
a tumble, that, as a lecturer, would still make the paying public
aware of our great mind ; but the fact remained that in the case
of an inspiration so unequal there was treachery, there was fallacy
at least, in the very conception of a series. In our scrutiny of
ways and means we were inevitably subject to the old convention
of the synopsis, the syllabus, partly of course not to lose the
advantage of his grand free hand in drawing up such things ; but
for myself I laughed at our categories even while I stickled for
them. It was indeed amusing work to be scrupulous for Frank
Saltram, who also at moments laughed about it, so far as the rise
and fall of a luxurious sigh might pass for such a sound. He ad-
mitted with a candour all his own that he was in truth only to be
depended on in the Mulvilles' drawing-room. " Yes," he suggest-
ively conceded, " it's there, I think, that I am at my best ; quite
late, when it gets toward eleven— and if I've not been too much

worried."

310 The Coxon Fund

worried." We all knew what too much worry meant ; it meant
too enslaved for the hour to the superstition of sobriety. On the
Saturdays I used to bring my portmanteau, so as not to have
to think of eleven o'clock trains. I had a bold theory that
as regards this temple of talk and its altars of cushioned chintz, its
pictures and its flowers, its large fireside and clear lamplight, we
might really arrive at something if the Mulvilles would only
charge for admission. But here it was that the Mulvilles shame-
lessly broke down ; as there is a flaw in every perfection, this was
the inexpugnable refuge of their egotism. They declined to
make their saloon a market, so that Saltram's golden words con-
tinued to be the only coin that rang there. It can have happened
to no man, however, to be paid a greater price than such an
enchanted hush as surrounded him on his greatest nights. The
most profane, on these occasions, felt a presence ; all minor elo-
quence grew dumb. Adelaide Mulville, for the pride of her
hospitality, anxiously watched the door or stealthily poked the
fire. I used to call it the music-room, for we had anticipated
Bayreuth. The very gates of the kingdom of light seemed to
open and the horizon of thought to flash with the beauty of a
sunrise at sea.

In the consideration of ways and means, the sittings of our little
board, we were always conscious of the creak of Mrs. Saltram's
shoes. She hovered, she interrupted, she almost presided, the state
of affairs being mostly such as to supply her with every incentive
for inquiring what was to be done next. It was the pressing
pursuit of this knowledge that, in concatenations of omnibuses and
usually in very wet weather, led her so often to my door. She
thought us spiritless creatures with editors and publishers ; but she
carried matters to no great effect when she personally pushed into
back-shops. She wanted all moneys to be paid to herself; they

were

By Henry James 311

were otherwise liable to such strange adventures. They trickled
away into the desert, and they were mainly at best, alas, but a
slender stream. The editors and the publishers were the last people
to take this remarkable thinker at the valuation that has now pretty
well come to be established. The former were half distraught
between the desire to "cut" him and the difficulty of finding a
crevice for their shears ; and when a volume on this or that por-
tentous subject was proposed to the latter they suggested alternative
titles which, as reported to our friend, brought into his face the
noble blank melancholy that sometimes made it handsome. The
title of an unwritten book didn't after all much matter, but some
masterpiece of Saltram's may have died in his bosom of the shudder
with which it was then convulsed. The ideal solution, failing the
fee at Kent Mulville's door, would have been some system of
subscription to projected treatises with their non-appearance
provided for— provided for, I mean, by the indulgence of sub-
scribers. The author's real misfortune was that subscribers were
so wretchedly literal. When they tastelessly inquired why
publication had not ensued I was tempted to ask who in the world
had ever been so published. Nature herself had brought him out
in voluminous form, and the money was simply a deposit on
borrowing the work.


V


I was doubtless often a nuisance to my friends in those years ;
but there were sacrifices I declined to make, and I never passed
the hat to George Gravener. I never forgot our little discussion
in Ebury Street, and I think it stuck in my throat to have to
make to him the admission I had made so easily to Miss Anvoy.

It

312 The Coxon Fund

It had cost me nothing to confide to this charming girl, but it
would have cost me much to confide to the friend of my youth,
that the character of the " real gentleman " was not an attribute of
the man I took such pains for. Was this because I had already
generalised to the point of perceiving that women are really the
unfastidious sex ? I knew at any rate that Gravener, already
quite in view but still hungry and frugal, had naturally enough
more ambition than charity. He had sharp aims for stray
sovereigns, being in view most from the tall steeple of Clock-
borough. His immediate ambition was to wholly occupy the field
of vision of that smokily-seeing city, and all his movements and
postures were calculated at this angle. The movement of the
hand to the pocket had thus to alternate gracefully with the posture
of the hand on the heart. He talked to Clockborough in short
only less beguilingly than Frank Saltram talked to his electors ;
with the difference in our favour, however, that we had already
voted and that our candidate had no antagonist but himself. He
had more than once been at Wimbledon— it was Mrs. Mulville's
work, not mine —and, by the time the claret was served, had seen
the god descend. He took more pains to swing his censer than I
had expected, but on our way back to town he forestalled any little
triumph I might have been so artless as to express by the obser-
vation that such a man was— a hundred times ! —a man to use
and never a man to be used by. I remember that this neat remark
humiliated me almost as much as if virtually, in the fever of broken
slumbers, I hadn't often made it myself. The difference was that
on Gravener's part a force attached to it that could never attach
to it on mine. He was able to use him in short, he had the
machinery ; and the irony of Saltram's being made showy at
Clockborough came out to me when he said, as if he had no
memory of our original talk and the idea were quite fresh to him :

"I hate

By Henry James 313

" I hate his type, you know, but I'll be hanged if I don't put some
of those things in. I can find a place for them : we might even
find a place for the fellow himself." I myself should have had some
fear, not, I need scarcely say, for the " things " themselves, but for
some other things very near them— in fine for the rest of my
eloquence.

Later on I could see that the oracle of Wimbledon was not in
this case so serviceable as he would have been had the politics of
the gods only coincided more exactly with those of the party.
There was a distinct moment when, without saying anything more
definite to me, Gravener entertained the idea of "getting hold"
of Mr. Saltram. Such a project was factitious, for the discovery
of analogies between his body of doctrine and that pressed from
headquarters upon Clockborough— the bottling, in a word, of the
air of those lungs for convenient public uncorking in corn-
exchanges— was an experiment for which no one had the leisure.
The only thing would have been to carry him massively about,
paid, caged, clipped : to turn him on for a particular occasion in a
particular channel. Frank Saltram's channel, however, was
essentially not calculable, and there was no knowing what disas-
trous floods might have issued. For what there would have been
to do " The Empire," the great newspaper, was there to look to ;
but it was no new misfortune that there were delicate situations in
which " The Empire " broke down. In fine there was an
instinctive apprehension that a clever young journalist commis-
sioned to report upon Mr. Saltram might never come back from
the errand. No one knew better than George Gravener that that
was a time when prompt returns counted double. If he therefore
found our friend an exasperating waste of orthodoxy, it was because
he was, as he said, up in the clouds ; not because he was down in
the dust. He would have been a real enough gentleman if he

could

314 The Coxon Fund

could have helped to put in a real gentleman. Gravener's great
objection to the actual member was that he was not one.

Lady Coxon had a fine old house, a house with " grounds," at
Clockborough, which she had let ; but after she returned from
abroad I learned from Mrs. Saltram that the lease had fallen in and
that she had gone down to resume possession. I could see the
faded red livery, the big square shoulders, the high-walled garden
of this decent abode. As the rumble of dissolution grew louder
the suitor would have pressed his suit, and I found myself hoping
that the politics of the late Mayor's widow would not be such as
to enjoin upon her to ask him to dinner ; perhaps indeed I went
so far as to hope that they would be such as to put all countenance
out of the question. I tried to focus the page, in the daily airing,
as he perhaps even pushed the Bath-chair over somebody's toes.
I was destined to hear, however, through Mrs. Saltram (who, I
afterwards learned, was in correspondence with Lady Coxon's
housekeeper), that Gravener was known to have spoken of the
habitation I had in my eye as the pleasantest thing at Clock-
borough. On his part, I was sure, this was the voice not of envy
but of experience. The vivid scene was now peopled, and I
could see him in the old-time garden with Miss Anvoy, who
would be certain, and very justly, to think him good-looking. It
would be too much to say that I was troubled by such an image ;
but I seem to remember the relief, singular enough, of feeling it
suddenly brushed away by an annoyance really much greater ; an
annoyance the result of its happening to come over me about that
time with a rush that I was simply ashamed of Frank Saltram.
There were limits after all, and my mark at last had been reached.

I had had my disgusts, if I may allow myself to-day such an
expression ; but this was a supreme revolt. Certain things cleared
up in my mind, certain values stood out. It was all very well to

talk

By Henry James 315

talk of an unfortunate temperament ; there were misfortunes that
people should themselves correct, and correct in private, without
calling in assistance. I avoided George Gravener at this moment,
and reflected that at such a time I should do so most effectually
by leaving England. I wanted to forget Frank Saltram —that was
all. I didn't want to do anything in the world to him but that.
Indignation had withered on the stalk, and I felt that one could
pity him as much as one ought only by never thinking of him
again. It wasn't for anything he had done to me ; it was for
something he had done to the Mulvilles. Adelaide cried about it
for a week, and her husband, profiting by the example so signally
given him of the fatal effect of a want of character, left the letter
unanswered. The letter, an incredible one, addressed by Saltram
to Wimbledon during a stay with the Pudneys at Ramsgate, was
the central feature of the incident, which, however, had many
features, each more painful than whichever other we compared
it with. The Pudneys had behaved shockingly, but that was
no excuse. Base ingratitude, gross indecency— one had one's
choice only of such formulas as that the more they fitted the
less they gave one rest. These are dead aches now, and I am
under no obligation, thank heaven, to be definite about the busi-
ness. There are things which if I had had to tell them— well, I
wouldn't have told my story.

I went abroad for the general election, and if I don't know how
much, on the Continent, I forgot, I at least know how much I
missed, him. At a distance, in a foreign land, ignoring, abjuring,
unlearning him, I discovered what he had done for me. I owed
him, oh unmistakably, certain noble conceptions ; I had lighted
my little taper at his smoky lamp, and lo, it continued to twinkle.
But the light it gave me just showed me how much more I
wanted. I was pursued of course by letters from Mrs. Saltram,

The Yellow Book Vol. II. s

which

316 The Coxon Fund

which I didn't scruple not to read, though I was duly conscious
that her embarrassments would now be of the gravest. I sacrificed
to propriety by simply putting them away, and this is how, one
day as my absence drew to an end, my eye, as I rummaged in my
desk for another paper, was caught by a name on a leaf that had
detached itself from the packet. The allusion was to Miss Anvoy,
who, it appeared, was engaged to be married to Mr. George
Gravener ; and the news was two months old. A direct question
of Mrs. Saltram's had thus remained unanswered —she had in-
quired of me in a postscript what sort of man this Mr. Gravener
might be. This Mr. Gravener had been triumphantly returned
for Clockborough, in the interest of the party that had swept the
country, so that I might easily have referred Mrs. Saltram to the
journals of the day. But when I at last wrote to her that I was
coming home and would discharge my accumulated burden by
seeing her, I remarked in regard to her question that she must
really put it to Miss Anvoy.


VI


I had almost avoided the general election, but some of its con-
sequences, on my return, had squarely to be faced. The season,
in London, began to breathe again and to flap its folded wings.
Confidence, under the new ministry, was understood to be reviving,
and one of the symptoms, in the social body, was a recovery of
appetite. People once more fed together, and it happened that,
one Saturday night, at somebody's house, I fed with George
Gravener. When the ladies left the room I moved up to where
he sat and offered him my congratulation. " On my election ? "
he asked after a moment ; whereupon I feigned, jocosely not to

have

By Henry James 317

have heard of his election and to be alluding to something much
more important, the rumour of his engagement. I daresay I
coloured however, for his political victory had momentarily passed
out of my mind. What was present to it was that he was to
marry that beautiful girl ; and yet his question made me conscious
of some embarrassment —I had not intended to put that before
everything. He himself indeed ought gracefully to have done so,
and I remember thinking the whole man was in this assumption,
that in expressing my sense of what he had won I had fixed my
thoughts on his " seat." We straightened the matter out, and he
was so much lighter in hand than I had lately seen him that his
spirits might well have been fed from a double source. He was so
good as to say that he hoped I should soon make the acquaintance
of Miss Anvoy, who, with her aunt, was presently coming up to
town. Lady Coxon, in the country, had been seriously unwell,
and this had delayed their arrival. I told him I had heard the
marriage would be a splendid one ; on which, brightened and
humanised by his luck, he laughed and said : " Do you mean for
her ?" When I had again explained what I meant he went on :
" Oh, she's an American, but you'd scarcely know it ; unless,
perhaps," he added, " by her being used to more money than
most girls in England, even the daughters of rich men. That
wouldn't in the least do for a fellow like me, you know, if it wasn't
for the great liberality of her father. He really has been most
kind, and everything is quite satisfactory." He added that his
eldest brother had taken a tremendous fancy to her and that
during a recent visit at Coldfield she had nearly won over Lady
Maddock. I gathered from something he dropped later that the
free-handed gentleman beyond the seas had not made a settlement,
but had given a handsome present and was apparently to be looked
to, across the water, for other favours. People are simplified alike

by

318 The Coxon Fund

by great contentments and great yearnings, and whether or no it
was Gravener's directness that begot my own, I seem to recall
that in some turn taken by our talk he almost imposed it upon me
as an act of decorum to ask if Miss Anvoy had also by chance
expectations from her aunt. My inquiry elicited that Lady
Coxon, who was the oddest of women, would have in any con-
tingency to act under her late husband's will, which was odder
still, saddling her with a mass of queer obligations intermingled
with queer loopholes. There were several dreary people, Coxon
relations, old maids, whom she would have more or less to con-
sider. Gravener laughed, without saying no, when I suggested
that the young lady might come in through a loophole ; then
suddenly, as if he suspected that I had turned a lantern on him, he
exclaimed quite dryly : " That's all rot —one is moved by other
springs ! "

A fortnight later, at Lady Coxon's own house, I understood
well enough the springs one was moved by. Gravener had
spoken of me there as an old friend, and I received a gracious
invitation to dine. The knight's widow was again indisposed—
she had succumbed at the eleventh hour ; so that I found Miss
Anvoy bravely playing hostess, without even Gravener's help,
inasmuch as, to make matters worse, he had just sent up word
that the House, the insatiable House, with which he supposed he
had contracted for easier terms, positively declined to release him.
I was struck with the courage, the grace and gaiety of the young
lady left to deal unaided with the possibilities of the Regent's
Park. I did what I could to help her to keep them down, or up,
after I had recovered from the confusion of seeing her slightly dis-
concerted at perceiving in the guest introduced by her intended
the gentleman with whom she had had that talk about Frank
Saltram. I had at that moment my first glimpse of the fact that

she

By Henry James 319

she was a person who could carry a responsibility ; but I leave the
reader to judge of my sense of the aggravation, for either of us, of
such a burden when I heard the servant announce Mrs. Saltram.
From what immediately passed between the two ladies I gathered
that the latter had been sent for post-haste to fill the gap created
by the absence of the mistress of the house. " Good ! " I
exclaimed, " she will be put by me! " and my apprehension was
promptly justified. Mrs. Saltram taken into dinner, and taken in
as a consequence of an appeal to her amiability, was Mrs.
Saltram with a vengeance. I asked myself what Miss Anvoy
meant by doing such things, but the only answer I arrived at was
that Gravener was verily fortunate. She had not happened to tell
him of her visit to Upper Baker Street, but she would certainly
tell him to-morrow ; not indeed that this would make him like any
better her having had the simplicity to invite such a person as
Mrs. Saltram on such an occasion. I reflected that I had never
seen a young woman put such ignorance into her cleverness, such
freedom into her modesty : this, I think, was when, after dinner,
she said to me frankly, with almost jubilant mirth : "Oh, you
don't admire Mrs. Saltram ! " Why should I ? She was truly an
innocent maiden. I had briefly to consider before I could reply
that my objection to the lady in question was the objection often
formulated in regard to persons met at the social board I knew
all her stories. Then, as Miss Anvoy remained momentarily
vague, I added : "About her husband."

" Oh yes, but there are some new ones."

"None for me. Oh, novelty would be pleasant !"

" Doesn't it appear that of late he has been particularly
horrid ? "

"His fluctuations don't matter," I replied; "they are all
covered by the single circumstance I mentioned the evening we

waited

320 The Coxon Fund

waited for him together. What will you have ? He has no
dignity."

Miss Anvoy, who had been introducing with her American
distinctness, looked encouragingly round at some of the combina-
tions she had risked. " It's too bad I can't see him."

" You mean Gravener won't let you ? "

"I haven't asked him. He lets me do everything."

" But you know he knows him and wonders what some of us
see in him."

" We haven't happened to talk of him," the girl said.

" Get him to take you some day out to see the Mulvilles."

" I thought Mr. Saltram had thrown the Mulvilles over."

"Utterly. But that won't prevent his being planted there
again, to bloom like a rose, within a month or two."

Miss Anvoy thought a moment. Then, "I should like to see
them," she said with her fostering smile.

" They're tremendously worth it. You mustn't miss them."

"I'll make George take me," she went on as Mrs. Saltram
came up to interrupt us. The girl smiled at her as kindly as she
had smiled at me, and addressing the question to her, continued :
" But the chance of a lecture— one of the wonderful lectures ?
Isn't there another course announced ! "

"Another? There are about thirty!" I exclaimed, turning
away and feeling Mrs. Saltram's little eyes in my back. A few
days after this, I heard that Gravener's marriage was near at
hand —was settled for Whitsuntide ; but as I had received
no invitation I doubted it, and presently there came to me in
fact the report of a postponement. Something was the matter ;
what was the matter was supposed to be that Lady Coxon
was now critically ill. I had called on her after my dinner in
the Regent s Park, but I had neither seen her nor seen Miss

Anvoy.

By Henry James 321

Anvoy. I forget to-day the exact order in which, at this period,
certain incidents occurred and the particular stage at which it
suddenly struck me, making me catch my breath a little, that the
progression, the acceleration was for all the world that of a drama.
This was probably rather late in the day, and the exact order
doesn't matter. What had already occurred was some accident
determining a more patient wait. George Gravener, whom I
met again, in fact told me as much, but without signs of pertur-
bation. Lady Coxon had to be constantly attended to, and
there were other good reasons as well. Lady Coxon had to be
so constantly attended to that on the occasion of a second attempt
in the Regent's Park I equally failed to obtain a sight of her
niece. I judged it discreet under the circumstances not to
make a third ; but this didn't matter, for it was through Adelaide
Mulville that the side-wind of the comedy, though I was at
first unwitting, began to reach me. I went to Wimbledon
at times because Saltram was there and I went at others
because he was not. The Pudneys, who had taken him to
Birmingham, had already got rid of him, and we had a horrible
consciousness of his wandering roofless, in dishonour, about the
smoky Midlands, almost as the injured Lear wandered on the
storm-lashed heath. His room, upstairs, had been lately done up
(I could hear the crackle of the new chintz), and the difference
only made his smirches and bruises, his splendid tainted genius, the
more tragic. If he wasn't barefoot in the mire, he was sure to be
unconventionally shod. These were the things Adelaide and I, who
were old enough friends to stare at each other in silence, talked
about when we didn't speak. When we spoke it was only about
the charming girl George Gravener was to marry, whom he had
brought out the other Sunday. I could see that this introduction
had been happy, for Mrs. Mulville commemorated it in the only

way

322 The Coxon Fund

way in which she ever expressed her confidence in a new relation.
"She likes me —she likes me": her native humility exulted in
that measure of success. We all knew for ourselves how she
liked those who liked her, and as regards Ruth Anvoy she was
more easily won over than Lady Maddock.


VII


One of the consequences, for the Mulville?, of the sacrifices
they made for Frank Saltram was that they had to give up their
carriage. Adelaide drove gently into London in a one-horse
greenish thing, an early Victorian landau, hired, near at hand,
imaginatively, from a broken-down jobmaster whose wife was in
consumption— a vehicle that made people turn round all the more
when her pensioner sat beside her in a soft white hat and a shawl,
one of her own. This was his position and I daresay his costume
when on an afternoon in July she went to return Miss Anvoy's
visit. The wheel of fate had now revolved, and amid silences
deep and exhaustive, compunctions and condonations alike unutter-
able, Saltram was reinstated. Was it in pride or in penance that
Mrs. Mulville began immediately to drive him about ? If he was
ashamed of his ingratitude she might have been ashamed of her
forgiveness ; but she was incorrigibly capable of liking him to be
seen strikingly seated in the landau while she was in shops or
with her acquaintance. However, if he was in the pillory for
twenty minutes in the Regent's Park (I mean at Lady Coxon's
door, while her companion paid her call), it was not for the further
humiliation of any one concerned that she presently came out for
him in person, not even to show either of them what a fool she was

that

By Henry James 323

that she drew him in to be introduced to the clever young Ameri-
can. Her account of this introduction I had in its order, but
before that, very late in the season, under Gravener's auspices, I
met Miss Anvoy at tea at the House of Commons. The member
for Clockborough had gathered a group of pretty ladies, and the
Mulvilles were not of the party. On the great terrace, as I
strolled off a little with her, the guest of honour immediately
exclaimed to me : " I've seen him, you know— I've seen him ! "
She told me about Saltram's call.

"And how did you find him ? "

"Oh, so strange !"

"You didn't like him?"

"I can't tell till I see him again."

" You want to do that ? "

She was silent a moment. "Immensely."

We stopped ; I fancied she had become aware Gravener was
looking at us. She turned back toward the knot of the others,
and I said: "Dislike him as much as you will— I see you're
bitten."

" Bitten ? " I thought she coloured a little.

" Oh, it doesn't matter ! " I laughed ; " one doesn't die of it."

" I hope I sha'n't die of anything before I've seen more of
Mrs. Mulville." I rejoiced with her over plain Adelaide, whom
she pronounced the loveliest woman she had met in England ; but
before we separated I remarked to her that it was an act of mere
humanity to warn her that if she should see more of Frank Saltram
(which would be likely to follow on any increase of acquaintance
with Mrs. Mulville), she might find herself flattening her nose
against the clear hard pane of an eternal question— that of the
relative importance of virtue. She replied that this was surely
a subject on which one took everything for granted ; whereupon

I admitted

324 The Coxon Fund

I admitted that I had perhaps expressed myself ill. What I
referred to was what I had referred to the night we met in Upper
Baker Street— the importance relative (relative to virtue) of other
gifts. She asked me if I called virtue a gift— as if it were handed
to us in a parcel on our birthday ; and I declared that this very
question showed me the problem had already caught her by the
skirt. She would have help however, help that I myself had once
had, in resisting its tendency to make one cross.

" What help do you mean ? "

" That of the member for Clockborough."

She stared, smiled, then exclaimed : " Why, my idea has been
to help him ! "

She had helped him —I had his own word for it that at Clock-
borough her bedevilment of the voters had really put him in. She
would do so doubtless again and again, but I heard the very next
month that this fine faculty had undergone a temporary eclipse.
News of the catastrophe first came to me from Mrs. Saltram, and
it was afterwards confirmed at Wimbledon : poor Miss Anvoy
was in trouble —great disasters, in America, had suddenly summoned
her home. Her father, in New York, had had reverses— lost so
much money that no one knew what mightn't yet come of it.
It was Adelaide who told me that she had gone off, alone, at less
than a week's notice.

" Alone ? Gravener has permitted that ? "

" What will you have ? The House of Commons ? "

I'm afraid I damned the House of Commons : I was so much
interested. Of course he would follow her as soon as he was
free to make her his wife ; only she mightn't now be able to
bring him anything like the marriage-portion of which he had
begun by having the pleasant confidence. Mrs. Mulville let me
know what was already said : she was charming, this Miss Anvoy,

but

By Henry James 325

but really these American girls ! What was a man to do ?
Mr. Saltram, according to Mrs. Mulville, was of opinion that a
man was never to suffer his relation to money to become a spiritual
relation, but was to keep it wholesomely mechanical. " Moi pas
comprendre !
" I commented on this; in rejoinder to which
Adelaide, with her beautiful sympathy, explained that she supposed
he simply meant that the thing was to use it, don t you know ! but
not to think too much about it. " To take it, but not to thank
you for it ? " I still more profanely inquired. For a quarter of an
hour afterwards she wouldn't look at me, but this didn't prevent my
asking her what had been the result, that afternoon in the Regent's
Park, of her taking our friend to see Miss Anvoy.

" Oh, so charming ! " she answered, brightening. " He said he
recognised in her a nature he could absolutely trust."

" Yes, but I'm speaking of the effect on herself."

Mrs. Mulville was silent an instant. " It was everything one
could wish."

Something in her tone made me laugh. Do you mean she
gave him something ? "

" Well, since you ask me ! "

" Right there on the spot ? "

Again poor Adelaide faltered. " It was to me of course she
gave it."

I stared ; somehow I couldn't see the scene. " Do you mean a
sum of money ? "

" It was very handsome." Now at last she met my eyes though
I could see it was with an effort. " Thirty pounds."

" Straight out of her pocket ? "

"Out of the drawer of a table at which she had been writing.
She just slipped the folded notes into my hand. He wasn't look-
ing ; it was while he was going back to the carriage. " Oh," said

Adelaide

326 The Coxon Fund

Adelaide reassuringly, " I dole it out ! " The dear practical soul
thought my agitation, for I confess I was agitated, had reference
to the administration of the money. Her disclosure made me for
a moment muse violently, and I daresay that during that moment
I wondered if anything else in the world makes people as indelicate
as unselfishness. I uttered, I suppose, some vague synthetic cry,
for she went on as if she had had a glimpse of my inward amaze
at such episodes. " I assure you, my dear friend, he was in one of
his happy hours."

But I wasn't thinking of that. " Truly, indeed, these American
girls ! " I said. "With her father in the very act, as it were, of
cheating her betrothed ! "

Mrs. Mulville stared. " Oh, I suppose Mr. Anvoy has scarcely
failed on purpose. Very likely they won't be able to keep it up,
but there it was, and it was a very beautiful impulse."

" You say Saltram was very fine ? "

" Beyond everything. He surprised even me."

" And I know what you've heard." After a moment I added :
" Had he peradventure caught a glimpse of the money in the table-
drawers? "

At this my companion honestly flushed. " How can you be so
cruel when you know how little he calculates ?"

" Forgive me, I do know it. But you tell me things that act on
my nerves. I'm sure he hadn't caught a glimpse of anything but
some splendid idea."

Mrs. Mulville brightly concurred. " And perhaps even of her
beautiful listening face."

"Perhaps, even ! And what was it all about I?"

" His talk 1 It was à propos of her engagement, which I had
told him about : the idea of marriage, the philosophy, the poetry,
the profundity of it." It was impossible wholly to restrain one's

mirth

By Henry James 327

mirth at this, and some rude ripple that I emitted again caused my
companion to admonish me. " It sounds a little stale, but you
know his freshness."

" Of illustration ? Indeed I do ! "

" And how he has always been right on that great question."

"On what great question, dear lady, hasn't he been right ?"

"Of what other great men can you equally say it ? I mean that
he has never, but never, had a deviation ? " Mrs. Mulville exultantly
demanded.

I tried to think of some other great man, but I had to give it
up. " Didn't Miss Anvoy express her satisfaction in any less
diffident way than by her charming present ? " I was reduced to
inquiring instead.

"Oh yes, she overflowed to me on the steps while he was getting
into the carriage." These words somehow brushed up a picture
of Saltram's big shawled back as he hoisted himself into the green
landau. " She said she was not disappointed," Adelaide pursued.

I meditated a moment. " Did he wear his shawl ?"

" His shawl ? " She had not even noticed.

"I mean yours."

"He looked very nice, and you know he's always clean. Miss
Anvoy used such a remarkable expression —she said his mind is like
a crystal ! "

I pricked up my ears. " A crystal ? "

"Suspended in the moral world— swinging and shining and
flashing there. She's monstrously clever, you know."

I reflected again. " Monstrously ! "

George

328 The Coxon Fund

VIII


George Gravener didn't follow her, for late in September, after
the House had risen, I met him in a railway-carriage. He was
coming up from Scotland, and I had just quitted the abode of a
relation who lived near Durham. The current of travel back to
London was not yet strong ; at any rate on entering the compart-
ment I found he had had it for some time to himself. We fared
in company, and though he had a blue-book in his lap and the
open jaws of his bag threatened me with the white teeth of con-
fused papers, we inevitably, we even at last sociably, conversed. I
saw that things were not well with him, but I asked no question
until something dropped by himself made an absence of curiosity
almost rude. He mentioned that he was worried about his good
old friend Lady Coxon, who, with her niece likely to be detained
some time in America, lay seriously ill at Clockborough, much on
his mind and on his hands.

"Ah, Miss Anvoy's in America?"

" Her father has got into a horrid mess, lost no end of money."

I hesitated, after expressing due concern, but I presently said,
" I hope that raises no obstacle to your marriage."

"None whatever; moreover it's my trade to meet objections.
But it may create tiresome delays, of which there have been too
many, from various causes, already. Lady Coxon got very bad,
then she got much better. Then Mr. Anvoy suddenly began to
totter, and now he seems quite on his back. I'm afraid he's
really in for some big disaster. Lady Coxon is worse again,
awfully upset by the news from America, and she sends me word

that

By Henry James 329

that she must have Ruth. How can I give her Ruth ? I haven't
got Ruth myself ! "

" Surely you haven't lost her," I smiled.

" She's everything to her wretched father. She writes me by
every post, telling me to smooth her aunt's pillow. I've other
things to smooth ; but the old lady, save for her servants, is really
alone. She won't receive her Coxon relations, because she's angry
at so much of her money going to them. Besides, she's off her
head," said Gravener very frankly.

I don't remember whether it was this, or what it was, that
made me ask if she had not such an appreciation of Mrs. Saltram
as might render that active person of some use.

He gave me a cold glance, asking me what had put Mrs. Saltram
into my head, and I replied that she was unfortunately never out of
it. I happened to remember the wonderful accounts she had given
me of the kindness Lady Coxon had shown her. Gravener
declared this to be false : Lady Coxon, who didn't care for her,
hadn't seen her three times. The only foundation for it was that
Miss Anvoy, who used, poor girl, to chuck money about in a
manner she must now regret, had for an hour seen in the miserable
woman (you could never know what she would see in people), an
interesting pretext for the liberality with which her nature
overflowed. But even Miss Anvoy was now quite tired of her.
Gravener told me more about the crash in New York and the
annoyance it had been to him, and we also glanced here and there
in other directions; but by the time we got to Doncaster the
principal thing he had communicated was that he was keeping
something back. We stopped at that station, and, at the carriage
door, some one made a movement to get in. Gravener uttered a
sound of impatience, and I said to myself that but for this I should
have had the secret. Then the intruder, for some reason, spared

us

330 The Coxon Fund

us his company ; we started afresh, and my hope of the secret
returned. Gravener remained silent however, and I pretended to
go to sleep ; in fact, in discouragement, I really dozed. When I
opened my eyes I found he was looking at me with an injured air.
He tossed away with some vivacity the remnant of a cigarette and
then he said : " If you're not too sleepy I want to put you a case."
I answered that I would make every effort to attend, and I felt
it was going to be interesting when he went on : " As I told you
a while ago, Lady Coxon, poor dear, is a maniac." His tone had
much behind it— was full of promise. 1 inquired if her ladyship's
misfortune were a feature of her malady or only of her character,
and he replied that it was a product of both. The case he wanted
to put me was a matter on which it would interest him to have
the impression— the judgment, he might also say —of another
person. "I mean of the average intelligent man," he said : " but
you see I take what I can get." There would be the technical,
the strictly legal view ; then there would be the way the question
would strike a man of the world. He had lighted another
cigarette while he talked, and I saw he was glad to have it to
handle when he brought out at last, with a laugh slightly artificial :
" In fact it's a subject on which Miss Anvoy and I are pulling
different ways."

" And you want me to pronounce between you ? I pronounce
in advance for Miss Anvoy."

" In advance —that's quite right. That's how I pronounced
when I asked her to marry me. But my story will interest you
only so far as your mind is not made up." Gravener puffed his
cigarette a minute and then continued : " Are you familiar with
the idea of the Endowment of Research ? "

" Of Research ? " I was at sea for a moment.

" I give you Lady Coxon's phrase. She has it on the brain."

"She

By Henry James 331

" She wishes to endow —— ? "

" Some earnest and disinterested seeker," Gravener said. " It
was a half-baked plan of her late husband's, and he handed it on to
her ; setting apart in his will a sum of money of which she was to
enjoy the interest for life, but of which, should she eventually see
her opportunity the matter was left largely to her discretion
she would best honour his memory by determining the exemplary
public use. This sum of money, no less than thirteen thousand
pounds, was to be called the Coxon Fund ; and poor Sir Gregory
evidently proposed to himself that the Coxon Fund should cover
his name with glory— be universally desired and admired. He left
his wife a full declaration of his views; so far at least as that term
may be applied to views vitiated by a vagueness really infantine.
A little learning is a dangerous thing, and a good citizen who
happens to have been an ass is worse for a community than the
small-pox. He's worst of all when he's dead, because then he can't
be stopped. However, such as they were, the poor man's
aspirations are now in his wife's bosom, or fermenting rather in
her foolish brain : it lies with her to carry them out. But of
course she must first catch her hare."

" Her earnest, disinterested seeker ? "

"The man suffering most from want of means, want of the
pecuniary independence necessary to cause the light that is in him
to shine upon the human race. The man, in a word, who,
having the rest of the machinery, the spiritual, the intellectual, is
most hampered in his search."

" His search for what ? "

" For Moral Truth. That's what Sir Gregory calls it."

I burst out laughing. " Delightful, munificent Sir Gregory !
It's a charming idea."

"So Miss Anvoy thinks."

The Yellow Book Vol. II. T

"Has

332 The Coxon Fund

" Has she a candidate for the Fund ? "

" Not that I know of; and she's perfectly reasonable about it.
But Lady Coxon has put the matter before her, and we've
naturally had a lot of talk."

" Talk that, as you've so interestingly intimated, has landed you
in a disagreement."

"She considers there's something in it," Gravener said.

" And you consider there's nothing ? "

"It seems to me a puerility fraught with consequences in-
evitably grotesque and possibly immoral. To begin with, fancy
the idea of constituting an endowment without establishing a
tribunal— a bench of competent people, of judges."

" The sole tribunal is Lady Coxon ?

" And any one she chooses to invite."

" But she has invited you."

" I'm not competent— I hate the thing. Besides, she hasn't.
The real history of the matter, I take it, is that the inspiration
was originally Lady Coxon's own, that she infected him with it,
and that the flattering option left her is simply his tribute to her
beautiful, her aboriginal enthusiasm. She came to England forty
years ago, a thin transcendental Bostonian, and even her odd,
happy, frumpy Clockborough marriage never really materialised
her. She feels indeed that she has become very British —as if that,
as a process, as a Werden, were conceivable ; but it's precisely what
makes her cling to the notion of the 'Fund' as to a link with the
ideal."

" How can she cling if she's dying ? "

" Do you mean how can she act in the matter ? " my companion
asked. " That's precisely the question. She can't ! As she has
never yet caught her hare, never spied out her lucky impostor
(how should she, with the life she has led ?) her husband's inten-

tion

By Henry James 333

tion has come very near lasping. His idea, to do him justice, was
that it should lapse if exactly the right person, the perfect mixture
of genius and chill penury, should fail to turn up. Ah! Lady
Coxon's very particular— she says there must be no mistake."

I found all this quite thrilling —I took it in with avidity.
" If she dies without doing anything, what becomes of the
money ? " I demanded.

" It goes back to his family, if she hasn't made some other
disposition of it."

"She may do that, then— she may divert it ? "

" Her hands are not tied. The proof is that three months ago
she offered to make it over to her niece."

" For Miss Anvoy's own use ? "

" For Miss Anvoy's own use— on the occasion of her prospect-
ive marriage. She was discouraged —the earnest seeker required
so earnest a search. She was afraid of making a mistake ; every
one she could think of seemed either not earnest enough or not
poor enough. On the receipt of the first bad news about Mr.
Anvoy's affairs she proposed to Ruth to make the sacrifice for
her. As the situation in New York got worse she repeated her
proposal."

"Which Miss Anvoy declined ? "

" Except as a formal trust."

" You mean except as committing herself legally to place the
money ? "

" On the head of the deserving object, the great man frustrated,"
said Gravener. " She only consents to act in the spirit of Sir
Gregory's scheme."

" And you blame her for that ? : I asked with an excited
smile.

My tone was not harsh, but he coloured a little and there was a

queer

334 The Coxon Fund

queer light in his eye. " My dear fellow, if I 'blamed' the young
lady I'm engaged to, I shouldn't immediately say so even to so old
a friend as you." I saw that some deep discomfort, some restless
desire to be sided with, reassuringly, becomingly reflected, had
been at the bottom of his drifting so far, and I was genuinely
touched by his confidence. It was inconsistent with his habits ;
but being troubled about a woman was not, for him, a habit : that
itself was an inconsistency. George Gravener could stand
straight enough before any other combination of forces. It
amused me to think that the combination he had succumbed to
had an American accent, a transcendental aunt and an insolvent
father ; but all my old loyalty to him mustered to meet this
unexpected hint that I could help him. I saw that I could from
the insincere tone in which he pursued : " I've criticised her of
course, I've contended with her, and it has been great fun." It
clearly couldn't have been such great fun as to make it improper
for me presently to ask if Miss Anvoy had nothing at all settled
upon herself. To this he replied that she had only a trifle from
her mother— a mere four hundred a year, which was exactly why
it would be convenient to him that she shouldn't decline, in the
face of this total change in her prospects, an accession of income
which would distinctly help them to marry. When I inquired if
there were no other way in which so rich and so affectionate an
aunt could cause the weight of her benevolence to be felt, he
answered that Lady Coxon was affectionate indeed, but was
scarcely to be called rich. She could let her project of the Fund
lapse for her niece s benefit, but she couldn't do anything else.
She had been accustomed to regard her as tremendously provided
for, and she was up to her eyes in promises to anxious Coxons.
She was a woman of an inordinate conscience, and her conscience
was now a distress to her, hovering round her bed in irreconcilable

forms

By Henry James 335

forms of resentful husbands, portionless nieces and undiscoverable
philosophers.

We were by this time getting into the whirr of fleeting plat-
forms, the multiplication of lights. " I think you'll find," I said
with a laugh, "that the difficulty will disappear in the very fact
that the philosopher is undiscoverable."

He began to gather up his papers. " Who can set a limit to
the ingenuity of an extravagant woman ? "

" Yes, after all, who indeed ? " I echoed as I recalled the
extravagance commemorated in Mrs. Mulville's anecdote of Miss
Anvoy and the thirty pounds.


IX


The thing I had been most sensible of in that talk with George
Gravener was the way Saltram's name kept out of it. It seemed
to me at the time that we were quite pointedly silent about him ;
yet afterwards I inclined to think that there had been on my
companion's part no conscious avoidance. Later on I was sure
of this, and for the best of reasons— the reason, namely, of my
perceiving more completely that, for evil as well as for good,
he left Gravener's imagination utterly cold. Gravener was not
afraid of him ; he was too much disgusted with him. No more
was I, doubtless, and for very much the same reason. I treated
my friend's story as an absolute confidence ; but when before
Christmas, by Mrs. Saltram, I was informed of Lady Coxon's
death without having had news of Miss Anvoy's return, I found
myself taking for granted that we should hear no more of these
nuptials, in which I now recognised an element incongruous from

the

336 The Coxon Fund

the first. I began to ask myself how people who suited each
other so little could please each other so much. The charm was
some material charm, some affinity exquisite doubtless, but super-
ficial ; some surrender to youth and beauty and passion, to force
and grace and fortune, happy accidents and easy contacts. They
might dote on each other's persons, but how could they know each
other's souls ? How could they have the same prejudices, how
could they have the same horizon ? Such questions, I confess,
seemed quenched but not answered when, one day in February,
going out to Wimbledon, I found my young lady in the house.
A passion that had brought her back across the wintry ocean was
as much of a passion as was necessary. No impulse equally strong
indeed had drawn George Gravener to America ; a circumstance
on which, however, I reflected only long enough to remind
myself that it was none of my business. Ruth Anvoy was
distinctly different, and I felt that the difference was not simply
that of her being in mourning. Mrs. Mulville told me soon
enough what it was : it was the difference between a handsome
girl with large expectations and a handsome girl with only four
hundred a year. This explanation indeed didn't wholly content
me, not even when I learned that her mourning had a double
cause— learned that poor Mr. Anvoy, giving way altogether,
buried under the ruins of his fortune and leaving next to nothing,
had died a few weeks before.

" So she has come out to marry George Gravener ? " I de-
manded. "Wouldn't it have been prettier of him to have saved
her the trouble ? "

" Hasn't the House just met ? said Adelaide. Then she
added : " I gather that her having come is exactly a sign that the
marriage is a little shaky. If it were certain, so self-respecting a
girl as Ruth would have waited for him over there."

I noted

By Henry James 337

I noted that they were already Ruth and Adelaide, but what I
said was : " Do you mean that she has returned to make it a
certainty ?"

No, I mean that I imagine she has come out for some reason
independent of it." Adelaide could only imagine as yet, and
there was more, as we found, to be revealed. Mrs. Mulville, on
hearing of her arrival, had brought the young lady out, in the
green landau, for the Sunday. The Coxons were in possession of
the house in the Regent's Park, and Miss Anvoy was in dreary
lodgings. George Gravener was with her when Adelaide called,
but he had assented graciously enough to the little visit at Wim-
bledon. The carriage, with Mr. Saltram in it but not mentioned,
had been sent off on some errand from which it was to return and
pick the ladies up. Gravener left them together, and at the end
of an hour, on the Saturday afternoon, the party of three drove out
to Wimbledon. This was the girl's second glimpse of our great
man, and I was interested in asking Mrs. Mulville if the impression
made by the first appeared to have been confirmed. On her
replying, after consideration, that of course with time and oppor-
tunity it couldn't fail to be, but that as yet she was disappointed, I
was sufficiently struck with her use of this last word to question
her further.

"Do you mean that you're disappointed because you judge that
Miss Anvoy is ? "

" Yes ; I hoped for a greater effect last evening. We had two
or three people, but he scarcely opened his mouth."

" He'll be all the better this evening," I added after a moment.
" What particular importance do you attach to the idea of her
being impressed ? "

Adelaide turned herclear,pale eyes on me as if she were amazed at
my levity. "Why, the importance of her being as happy as we are ! "

I'm

338 The Coxon Fund

I'm afraid that at this my levity increased. " Oh, that's a
happiness almost too great to wish a person ! " I saw she had not
yet in her mind what I had in mine, and at any rate the visitor's
actual bliss was limited to a walk in the garden with Kent Mul-
ville. Later in the afternoon I also took one, and I saw nothing
of Miss Anvoy till dinner, at which we were without the company
of Saltram, who had caused it to be reported that he was out of
sorts and lying down. This made us, most of us —for there were
other friends present —convey to each other in silence some of the
unutterable things which in those years our eyes had inevitably
acquired the art of expressing. If an American inquirer had not
been there we would have expressed them otherwise, and Adelaide
would have pretended not to hear. I had seen her, before the
very fact, abstract herself nobly ; and I knew that more than once,
to keep it from the servants, managing, dissimulating cleverly, she
had helped her husband to carry him bodily to his room. Just
recently he had been so wise and so deep and so high that I had
begun to be nervous— to wonder if by chance there were some-
thing behind it, if he were kept straight, for instance, by the know-
ledge that the hated Pudneys would have more to tell us if they
chose. He was lying low, but unfortunately it was common
knowledge with us that the biggest splashes took place in the
quietest pools. We should have had a merry life indeed if all the
splashes had sprinkled us as refreshingly as the waters we were
even then to feel about our ears. Kent Mulville had been up to
his room, but had come back with a facial inscrutability that I had
seen him achieve in equal measure only on the evening I waited in
the lecture-room with Miss Anvoy. I said to myself that our
friend had gone out, but I was glad that the presence of a com-
parative stranger deprived us of the dreary duty of suggesting to
each other, in respect of his errand, edifying possibilities in which

we

By Henry James 339

we didn't ourselves believe. At ten o'clock he came into the
drawing-room with his waistcoat much awry but his eyes sending
out great signals. It was precisely with his entrance that I ceased
to be vividly conscious of him. I saw that the crystal, as I had
called it, had begun to swing, and I had need of my immediate
attention for Miss Anvoy.

Even when I was told afterwards that he had, as we might have
said to-day, broken the record, the manner in which that attention
had been rewarded relieved me of a sense of loss. I had of course
a perfect general consciousness that something great was
going on : it was a little like having been etherised to hear Herr
Joachim play. The old music was in the air ; I felt the strong
pulse of thought, the sink and swell, the flight, the poise, the plunge;
but I knew something about one of the listeners that nobody else
knew, and Saltram's monologue could reach me only through that
medium. To this hour I m of no use when, as a witness, I'm
appealed to (for they still absurdly contend about it), as to whether
or no on that historic night he was drunk ; and my position is
slightly ridiculous, for I have never cared to tell them what it
really was I was taken up with. What I got out of it is the only
morsel of the total experience that is quite my own. The others
were shared, but this is incommunicable. I feel that now, I'm
bound to say, in even thus roughly evoking the occasion, and it
takes something from my pride of clearness. However, I shall
perhaps be as clear as is absolutely necessary if I remark that she
was too much given up to her own intensity of observation to be
sensible of mine. It was plainly not the question of her marriage
that had brought her back. I greatly enjoyed this discovery and
was sure that had that question alone been involved she would
have remained away. In this case doubtless Gravener would, in
spite of the House of Commons, have found means to rejoin her.

It

340 The Coxon Fund

It afterwards made me uncomfortable for her that, alone in the
lodging Mrs. Mulville had put before me as dreary, she should
have in any degree the air of waiting for her fate ; so that I was
presently relieved at hearing of her having gone to stay at Cold-
field. If she was in England at all while the engagement stood
the only proper place for her was under Lady Maddock's wing.
Now that she was unfortunate and relatively poor, perhaps her
prospective sister-in-law would be wholly won over. There
would be much to say, if I had space, about the way her behaviour,
as I caught gleams of it, ministered to the image that had taken
birth in my mind, to my private amusement, as I listened to
George Gravener in the railway carriage. I watched her in the
light of this queer possibility— a formidable thing certainly to
meet —and I was aware that it coloured, extravagantly perhaps,
my interpretation of her very looks and tones. At Wimbledon
for instance it had seemed to me that she was literally afraid of
Saltram, in dread of a coercion that she had begun already to feel.
I had come up to town with her the next day and had been con-
vinced that, though deeply interested, she was immensely on her
guard. She would show as little as possible before she should be
ready to show everything. What this final exhibition might be
on the part of a girl perceptibly so able to think things out I
found it great sport to conjecture. It would have been exciting
to be approached by her, appealed to by her for advice ; but I
prayed to heaven I mightn't find myself in such a predicament.
If there was really a present rigour in the situation of which
Gravener had sketched for me the elements she would have to get
out of her difficulty by herself. It was not I who had launched
her and it was not I who could help her. I didn't fail to ask
myself why, since I couldn't help her, I should think so much
about her. It was in part my suspense that was responsible for

this:

By Henry James 341

this : I waited impatiently to see whether she wouldn't have told
Mrs. Mulville a portion at least of what I had learned from
Gravener. But I saw Mrs. Mulville was still reduced to wonder
what she had come out again for if she hadn't come as a concilia-
tory bride. That she had come in some other character was the
only thing that fitted all the appearances. Having for family
reasons to spend some time that spring in the west of England, I
was in a manner out of earshot of the great oceanic rumble (I
mean of the continuous hum of Saltram's thought), and my
nervousness tended to keep me quiet. There was something I
wanted so little to have to say that my prudence surmounted my
curiosity. I only wondered if Ruth Anvoy talked over the idea
of the Coxon Fund with Lady Maddock, and also somewhat why
I didn't hear from Wimbledon. I had a reproachful note about
something or other from Mrs. Saltram, but it contained no
mention of Lady Coxon's niece, on whom her eyes had been
much less fixed since the recent untoward events.


X


Adelaide's silence was fully explained later ; it was practically
explained when in June, returning to London, liwas honoured by
this admirable woman with an early visit. As soon as she
appeared I guessed everything, and as soon as she told me that
darling Ruth had been in her house nearly a month I
exclaimed : " What in the name of maidenly modesty is she
staying in England for ? "

" Because she loves me so ! " cried Adelaide gaily. But she
had not come to see me only to tell me Miss Anvoy loved her :

that

342 The Coxon Fund

that was now sufficiently established, and what was much more to
the point was that Mr. Gravener had now raised an objection to
it. That is he had protested against her being at Wimbledon,
where in the innocence of his heart he had originally brought
her himself; in short he wanted her to put an end to their
engagement in the only proper, the only happy manner.

" And why in the world doesn't she do so ? " I inquired.

Adelaide hesitated. " She says you know." Then on my also
hesitating she added : " A condition he makes."

" The Coxon Fund ? " I cried.

" He has mentioned to her his having told you about it."

" Ah, but so little ! Do you mean she has accepted the
trust ! "

" In the most splendid spirit— as a duty about which there can
be no two opinions." Then said Adelaide after an instant : " Of
course she's thinking of Mr. Saltram."

I gave a quick cry at this, which, in its violence, made my
visitor turn pale. " How very awful ! "

"Awful ?"

"Why, to have anything to do with such an idea oneself."

" I'm sure you needn't ! " Mrs. Mulville gave a slight toss of
her head.

" He isn't good enough ! " I went on ; to which she responded
with an ejaculation almost as lively as mine had been. This made
me, with genuine, immediate horror, exclaim : " You haven't
influenced her, I hope !" and my emphasis brought back the
blood with a rush to poor Adelaide's face. She declared while she
blushed (for I had frightened her again), that she had never in-
fluenced anybody and that the girl had only seen and heard and
judged for herself. He had influenced her, if I would, as he did
everyone who had a soul : that word, as we knew, even expressed

feebly

By Henry James 343

feebly the power of the things he said to haunt the mind. How
could she, Adelaide, help it if Miss Anvoy's mind was haunted ?
I demanded with a groan what right a pretty girl engaged to a
rising M.P. had to have a mind ; but the only explanation my
bewildered friend could give me was that she was so clever. She
regarded Mr. Saltram naturally as a tremendous force for good.
She was intelligent enough to understand him and generous
enough to admire.

" She's many things enough, but is she, among them, rich
enough?" I demanded. "Rich enough, I mean, to sacrifice
such a lot of good money ? "

" That's for herself to judge. Besides, it's not her own money ;
she doesn't in the least consider it so."

"And Gravener does, if not his own : and that's the whole
difficulty ? "

" The difficulty that brought her back, yes : she had absolutely
to see her poor aunt s solicitor. It's clear that by Lady Coxon's
will she may have the money, but it's still clearer to her conscience
that the original condition, definite, intensely implied on her
uncle's part, is attached to the use of it. She can only take one
view of it. It's for the Endowment or it's for nothing."

" The Endowment is a conception superficially sublime but
fundamentally ridiculous."

"Are you repeating Mr. Gravener's words ? " Adelaide asked.

" Possibly, though I've not seen him for months. It's simply
the way it strikes me too. It's an old wife s tale. Gravener
made some reference to the legal aspect, but such an absurdly loose
arrangement has no legal aspect."

"Ruth doesn't insist on that," said Mrs. Mulville ; "and it's,
for her, exactly this weakness that constitutes the force of the
moral obligation."

"Are

344 The Coxon Fund

" Are you repeating her words ?" I inquired. I forgot what
else Adelaide said, but she said she was magnificent. I thought of
George Gravener confronted with such magnificence as that, and
I asked what could have made two such people ever suppose they
understood each other. Mrs. Mulville assured me the girl loved
him as such a woman could love and that she suffered as such a
woman could suffer. Nevertheless she wanted to see me. At
this I sprang up with a groan. " Oh, I m so sorry !— when ? "
Small though her sense of humour, I think Adelaide laughed at
my tone. We discussed the day, the nearest, it would be con-
venient I should come out ; but before she went I asked my visitor
how long she had been acquainted with these prodigies.

" For several weeks, but I was pledged to secrecy."

"And that's why you didn't write ? "

" I couldn't very well tell you she was with me without telling
you that no time had even yet been fixed for her marriage. And
I couldn't very well tell you as much as that without telling you
what I knew of the reason of it. It was not till a day or two
ago," Mrs. Mulville went on, " that she asked me to ask you if
you wouldn't come and see her. Then at last she said that you
knew about the idea of the Endowment."

I considered a little. " Why on earth does she want to see
me ? "

" To talk with you, naturally, about Mr. Saltram."

" As a subject for the prize ?" This was hugely obvious, and
I presently exclaimed: "I think I'll sail to-morrow for
Australia."

" Well then— sail ! " said Mrs. Mulville, getting up.

"On Thursday at five, we said?" I frivolously continued.
The appointment was made definite and I inquired how, all this
time, the unconscious candidate had carried himself.

"In

By Henry James 345

" In perfection, really, by the happiest of chances : he has been a
dear. And then, as to what we revere him for, in the most
wonderful form. His very highest— pure celestial light. You
won't do him an ill turn ? " Adelaide pleaded at the door.

What danger can equal for him the danger to which he is ex-
posed from himself? " I asked. " Look out sharp, if he has lately
been reasonable. He will presently treat us to some exhibition that
will make an Endowment a scandal."

" A scandal ? " Mrs. Mulville dolorously echoed.

" Is Miss Anvoy prepared for that ? "

My visitor, for a moment, screwed her parasol into my carpet.
" He grows larger every day."

" So do you ! " I laughed as she went off.

That girl at Wimbledon, on the Thursday afternoon, more than
justified my apprehensions. I recognised fully now the cause of
the agitation she had produced in me from the first —the faint fore-
knowledge that there was something very stiff I should have to do
for her. I felt more than ever committed to my fate as, standing
before her in the big drawing-room where they had tactfully left
us to ourselves, I tried with a smile to string together the pearls
of lucidity which, from her chair, she successively tossed me. Pale
and bright, in her monotonous mourning, she was an image of
intelligent purpose, of the passion of duty ; but I asked myself
whether any girl had ever had so charming an instinct as that
which permitted her to laugh out, as if in the joy of her difficulty,
into the blasèe old room. This remarkable young woman could
be earnest without being solemn, and at moments when I ought
doubtless to have cursed her obstinacy I found myself watching the
unstudied play of her eyebrows or the recurrence of a singularly
intense whiteness produced by the parting of her lips. These
aberrations, I hasten to add, didn't prevent my learning soon

enough

346 The Coxon Fund

enough why she had wished to see me. Her reason for this was
as distinct as her beauty : it was to make me explain what I had
meant, on the occasion of our first meeting, by Mr. Saltram's want
of dignity. It wasn't that she couldn't imagine, but she desired
it there from my lips. What she really desired of course was
to know whether there was worse about him than what she had
found out for herself. She hadn't been a month in the house with
him, that way, without discovering that he wasn't a man of starch
and whalebone. He was like a jelly without a mould, he had to
be embanked ; and that was precisely the source of her interest
in him and the ground of her project. She put her project boldly
before me: there it stood in its preposterous beauty. She was as
willing to take the humorous view of it as I could be : the only
difference was that for her the humorous view of a thing was not
necessarily prohibitive, was not paralysing.

Moreover she professed that she couldn't discuss with me the
primary question —the moral obligation : that was in her own
breast. There were things she couldn't go into— injunctions,
impressions she had received. They were a part of the
closest intimacy of her intercourse with her aunt, they were abso-
lutely clear to her ; and on questions of delicacy, the interpretation
of a fidelity, of a promise, one had always in the last resort to
make up one's mind for oneself. It was the idea of the applica-
tion to the particular case, such a splendid one at last, that troubled
her, and she admitted that it stirred very deep things. She didn't
pretend that such a responsibility was a simple matter ; if it had
been she wouldn't have attempted to saddle me with any portion
of it. The Mulvilles were sympathy itself ; but were they abso-
lutely candid ? Could they indeed be, in their position —would it
even have been to be desired ? Yes, she had sent for me to ask
no less than that of me— whether there was anything dreadful

kept

By Henry James 347

kept back. She made no allusion whatever to George Gravener
—I thought her silence the only good taste and her gaiety perhaps
a part of the very anxiety of that discretion, the effect of a deter-
mination that people shouldn't know from herself that her relations
with the man she was to marry were strained. All the weight,
however, that she left me to throw was a sufficient implication of
the weight that he had thrown in vain. Oh, she knew the
question of character was immense, and that one couldn't entertain
any plan for making merit comfortable without running the
gauntlet of that terrible procession of interrogation-points which,
like a young ladies' school out for a walk, hooked their uniform
noses at the tail of governess Conduct. But were we absolutely to
hold that their was never, never, never an exception, never, never,
never an occasion for liberal acceptance, for clever charity, for
suspended pedantry— for letting one side, in short, outbalance
another? When Miss Anvoy threw off this inquiry I could have
embraced her for so delightfully emphasising her unlikeness to
Mrs. Saltram. " Why not have the courage of one's forgiveness,"
she asked, "as well as the enthusiasm of one's adhesion ? "

"Seeing how wonderfully you have threshed the whole thing
out," I evasively replied, "gives me an extraordinary notion of the
point your enthusiasm has reached."

She considered this remark an instant with her eye on mine, and
I divined that it struck her I might possibly intend it as a reference
to some personal subjection to our fat philosopher, to some fanciful
transfigurement, some perversion of taste. At least I couldn't in-
terpret otherwise the sudden flush that came into her face. Such
a manifestation, as the result of any word of mine, embarrassed
me ; but while I was thinking how to reassure her the colour I
speak of passed away in a smile of exquisite good nature. " Oh,
you see, one forgets so wonderfully how one dislikes him ! " she

The Yellow Book Vol. II. U

said ;

348 The Coxon Fund

said ; and if her tone simply extinguished his strange figure with
the brush of its compassion, it also rings in my ear to-day as the
purest of all our praises. But with what quick response of com-
passion such a relegation of the man himself made me privately
sigh : " Ah, poor Saltram ! " She instantly, with this, took the
measure of all I didn't believe, and it enabled her to go on :
" What can one do when a person has given such a lift to one's
interest in life ?"

" Yes, what can one do ? " If I struck her as a little vague it
was because I was thinking of another person. I indulged in
another inarticulate murmur —" Poor George Gravener ! " What
had become of the lift he had given that interest ? Later on I
made up my mind that she was sore and stricken at the appearance
he presented of wanting the miserable money. It was the hidden
reason of her alienation. The probable sincerity, in spite of the
illiberality, of his scruples about the particular use of it under dis-
cussion didn't efface the ugliness of his demand that they should
buy a good house with it. Then, as for his alienation, he didn't,
pardonably enough, grasp the lift Frank Saltram had given her
interest in life. If a mere spectator could ask that last question,
with what rage in his heart the man himself might ! He was
not, like her, I was to see, too proud to show me why he was
disappointed.




XI


I was unable, this time, to stay to dinner : such, at any rate,
was the plea on which I took leave. I desired in truth to get
away from my young lady, for that obviously helped me not to
pretend to satisfy her. How could I satisfy her ? I asked myself

how

By Henry James 349

—how could I tell her how much had been kept back ? I didn't
even know, myself, and I certainly didn't desire to know. My
own policy had ever been to learn the least about poor Saltram's
weaknesses —not to learn the most. A great deal that I had in
fact learned had been forced upon me by his wife. There was
something even irritating in Miss Anvoy's crude conscientious-
ness, and I wondered why after all she couldn't have let him alone
and been content to entrust George Gravener with the purchase
of the good house. I was sure he would have driven a bargain,
got something excellent and cheap. I laughed louder even than
she, I temporised, I failed her ; I told her I must think over her
case. I professed a horror of responsibilities and twitted her with
her own extravagant passion for them. It was not really that I
was afraid of the scandal, the moral discredit for the Fund ;
what troubled me most was a feeling of a different order. Of
course, as the beneficiary of the Fund was to enjoy a simple life-
interest, as it was hoped that new beneficiaries would arise and
come up to new standards, it would not be a trifle that the first of
these worthies should not have been a striking example of the
domestic virtues. The Fund would start badly, as it were, and the
laurel would, in some respects at least, scarcely be greener from
the brows of the original wearer. That idea however was at
that hour, as I have hinted, not the source of anxiety it ought
perhaps to have been, for I felt less the irregularity of Saltram's
getting the money than that of this exalted young woman's
giving it up. I wanted her to have it for herself, and I told her
so before I went away. She looked graver at this than she had
looked at all, saying she hoped such a preference wouldn't make
me dishonest.

It made me, to begin with, very restless— made me, instead of
going straight to the station, fidget a little about that many-

coloured

350 The Coxon Fund

coloured Common which gives Wimbledon horizons. There
was a worry for me to work off, or rather keep at a distance, for I
declined even to admit to myself that I had, in Miss Anvoy's
phrase, been saddled with it. What could have been clearer
indeed than the attitude of recognising perfectly what a world of
trouble the Coxon Fund would in future save us, and of yet
liking better to face a continuance of that trouble than see, and in
fact contribute to, a deviation from attainable bliss in the life of
two other persons in whom I was deeply interested ? Suddenly,
at the end of twenty minutes, there was projected across this clear-
ness the image of a massive, middle-aged man seated on a bench,
under a tree, with sad, far-wandering eyes and plump white hands
folded on the head of a stick— a stick I recognised, a stout gold-
headed staff ithat I had given him in throbbing days. I stopped
short as he turned his face to me, and it happened that for some
reason or other I took in as I had perhaps never done before the
beauty of his rich blank gaze. It was charged with experience as
the sky is charged with light, and I felt on the instant as if we
had been overspanned and conjoined by the great arch of a bridge
or the great dome of a temple. Doubtless I was rendered pecu-
liarly sensitive to it by something in the way I had been giving
him up and sinking him. While 1 met it I stood there smitten,
and I felt myself responding to it with a sort of guilty grimace.
This brought back his attention in a smile which expressed for me
a cheerful, weary patience, a bruised noble gentleness. I had told
Miss Anvoy that he had no dignity, but what did he seem to me,
all unbuttoned and fatigued as he waited for me to come up, if he
didn't seem unconcerned with small things, didn't seem in short
majestic ? There was majesty in his mere unconsciousness of our
little conferences and puzzlements over his maintenance and his
reward.

After

By Henry James 351

After I had sat by him a few minutes I passed my arm over
his big soft shoulder (wherever you touched him you found
equally little firmness,) and said in a tone of which the
suppliance fell oddly on my own ear : " Come back to town
with me, old friend— come back and spend the evening." I
wanted to hold him, I wanted to keep him, and at Waterloo, an
hour later, I telegraphed possessively to the Mulvilles. When he
objected, as regards staying all night, that he had no things, I
asked him if he hadn't everything of mine. I had abstained from
ordering dinner, and it was too late for preliminaries at a club ; so
we were reduced to tea and fried fish at my rooms —reduced also
to the transcendent. Something had come up which made me
want him to feel at peace with me, which was all the dear man
himself wanted on any occasion. I had too often had to press
upon him considerations irrelevant, but it gives me pleasure now to
think that on that particular evening I didn't even mention Mrs.
Saltram and the children. Late into the night we smoked and
talked ; old shames and old rigours fell away from us ; I only let
him see that I was conscious of what I owed him. He was as
mild as contrition and as abundant as faith ; he was never so fine
as on a shy return, and even better at forgiving than at being
forgiven. I daresay it was a smaller matter than that famous
night at Wimbledon, the night of the problematical sobriety and
of Miss Anvoy's initiation ; but I was as much in it on this
occasion as I had been out of it then. At about 1.30 he was
sublime.

He never, under any circumstances, rose till all other risings
were over, and his breakfasts, at Wimbledon, had always been the
principal reason mentioned by departing cooks. The coast was
therefore clear for me to receive her when, early the next morn-
ing, to my surprise, it was announced to me that his wife had

called.

352 The Coxon Fund

called. I hesitated, after she had come up, about telling her
Saltram was in the house, but she herself settled the question, kept
me reticent, by drawing forth a sealed letter which, looking at me
very hard in the eyes, she placed, with a pregnant absence of com-
ment, in my hand. For a single moment there glimmered before
me the fond hope that Mrs. Saltram had tendered me, as it were,
her resignation and desired to embody the act in an unsparing
form. To bring this about I would have feigned any humilia-
tion ; but after my eyes had caught the superscription I heard my
self say with a flatness that betrayed a sense of something very
different from relief: "Oh, the Pudneys ? " I knew their enve-
lopes, though they didn t know mine. They always used the kind
sold at post-offices with the stamp affixed, and as this letter had
not been posted they had wasted a penny on me. I had seen their
horrid missives to the Mulvilles, but had not been in direct corre-
spondence with them.

"They enclosed it to me, to be delivered. They doubtless
explain to you that they hadn't your address."

I turned the thing over without opening it. " Why in the
world should they write to me ? "

"Because they have something to tell you. The worst,"
Mrs. Saltram dryly added.

It was another chapter, I felt, of the history of their lamentable
quarrel with her husband, the episode in which, vindictively,
disingenuously as they themselves had behaved, one had to admit
that he had put himself more grossly in the wrong than at any
moment of his life. He had begun by insulting the matchless
Mulvilles for these more specious protectors, and then, according
to his wont at the end of a few months, had dug a still deeper
ditch for his aberration than the chasm left yawning behind. The
chasm at Wimbledon was now blessedly closed; but the Pudneys

across

By Henry James 353

across their persistent gulf, kept up the nastiest fire. I never
doubted they had a strong case, and I had been from the first for
not defending him— reasoning that if they were not contradicted
they would perhaps subside. This was above all what I wanted,
and I so far prevailed, that I did arrest the correspondence in time
to save our little circle an infliction heavier than it perhaps would
have borne. I knew, that is I divined, that they had produced as
yet as much as they dared, conscious as they were in their
own virtue of an exposed place in which Saltram could have
planted a blow. It was a question with them whether a man who
had himself so much to cover up would dare ; so that these vessels
of rancour were in a manner afraid of each other. I judged that
on the day the Pudneys should cease for some reason or other to
be afraid they would treat us to some revelation more disconcert-
ing than any of its predecessors. As I held Mr. Saltram's letter
in my hand it was distinctly communicated to me that the day
had come— they had ceased to be afraid. "I don't want to know
the worst," I presently declared.

" You'll have to open the letter. It also contains an enclo-
sure."

I felt it— it was fat and uncanny. " Wheels within wheels ! "
I exclaimed. " There is something for me too to deliver."

" So they tell me —to Miss Anvoy."

I stared ; I felt a certain thrill. " Why don't they send it to
her directly ? "

Mrs. Saltram hesitated ! " Because she's staying with Mr. and
Mrs. Mulville."

"And why should that prevent ? "

Again my visitor faltered, and I began to reflect on the
grotesque, the unconscious perversity of her action. I was the only
person save George Gravener and the Mulvilles who was aware of

Sir

354 The Coxon Fund

Sir Gregory Coxon's and of Miss Anvoy's strange bounty. Where
could there have been a more signal illustration of the clumsiness
of human affairs than her having complacently selected this moment
to fly in the face of it ? " There's the chance of their seeing her
letters. They know Mr. Pudney's hand."

Still I didn't understand ; then it flashed upon me. " You
mean they might intercept it ? How can you imply anything so
base ? " I indignantly demanded.

"It's not I; it's Mr. Pudney ! " cried Mrs. Saltram with a
flush. " It's his own idea."

"Then why couldn't he send the letter to you to be de-
livered ? "

Mrs. Saltram's colour deepened ; she gave me another hard
look. " You must make that out for yourself."

I made it out quickly enough. " It's a denunciation ? "

"A real lady doesn't betray her husband !" this virtuous woman
exclaimed.

I burst out laughing, and I fear my laugh may have had an
effect of impertinence.

"Especially to Miss Anvoy, who's so easily shocked ? Why
do such things concern her ? " I asked, much at a loss.

"Because she's there, exposed to all his craft. Mr. and Mrs.
Pudney have been watching this ; they feel she may be taken in."

"Thank you for all the rest of us ! What difference can it
make, when she has lost her power to contribute ? "

Again Mrs. Saltram considered ; then very nobly : " There are
other things in the world than money," she remarked. This
hadn't occurred to her so long as the young lady had any ; but
she now added, with a glance at my letter, that Mr. and Mrs.
Pudney doubtless explained their motives. " It's all in kindness,"
she continued as she got up.

" Kindness

By Henry James 355

" Kindness to Miss Anvoy ? You took, on the whole, another
view of kindness before her reverses."

My companion smiled with some acidity. " Perhaps you're no
safer than the Mulvilles ! "

I didn't want her to think that, nor that she should report to
the Pudneys that they had not been happy in their agent ; and I
well remember that this was the moment at which I began, with
considerable emotion, to promise myself to enjoin upon Miss
Anvoy never to open any letter that should come to her with a
stamp worked into the envelope. My emotion and I fear I must
add my confusion quickly increased ; I presently should have
been as glad to frighten Mrs. Saltram as to think I might by
some diplomacy restore the Pudneys to a quieter vigilance.
" It's best you should take my view of my safety," I at any rate
soon responded. When I saw she didn't know what I meant by
this I added : " You may turn out to have done, in bringing me
this letter, a thing you will profoundly regret." My tone had a
significance which, I could see, did make her uneasy, and there
was a moment, after I had made two or three more remarks of
studiously bewildering effect, at which her eyes followed so
hungrily the little flourish of the letter with which I emphasised
them, that I instinctively slipped Mr. Pudney's communication
into my pocket. She looked, in her embarrassed annoyance, as if
she might grab it and send it back to him. I felt, after she had
gone, as if I had almost given her my word I wouldn't deliver the
enclosure. The passionate movement, at any rate, with which,
in solitude, I transferred the whole thing, unopened, from my
pocket to a drawer which I double-locked would have amounted,
for an initiated observer, to some such promise.

Mrs.

356 The Coxon Fund




XII


Mrs. Saltram left me drawing my breath more quickly and
indeed almost in pain— as if I had just perilously grazed the loss
of something precious. I didn't quite know what it was —it had
a shocking resemblance to my honour. The emotion was the
livelier doubtless in that my pulses were still shaken with the
great rejoicing with which, the night before, I had rallied to the
most potent inspirer it could ever have been a man s fortune to
meet. What had dropped from me like a cumbersome garment
as Saltram appeared before me in the afternoon on the heath was
the disposition to haggle over his value. Hang it, one had to
choose, one had to put that value somewhere ; so I would put it
really high and have done with it. Mrs. Mulville drove in for
him at a discreet hour— the earliest she could presume him to
have got up ; and I learned that Miss Anvoy would also have
come had she not been expecting a visit from Mr. Gravener. I
was perfectly mindful that I was under bonds to see this young
lady, and also that I had a letter to deliver to her ; but I took my
time, I waited from day to day. I left Mrs. Saltram to deal as
her apprehensions should prompt with the Pudneys. I knew at
last what I meant —I had ceased to wince at my responsibility.
I gave this supreme impression of Saltram time to fade if it
would ; but it didn't fade, and, individually, it has not faded even
now. During the month that I thus invited myself to stiffen
again Adelaide Mulville, perplexed by my absence, wrote to me
to ask why I was so stiff. At that season of the year I was
usually oftener with them. She also wrote that she feared a real
estrangement had set in between Mr. Gravener and her sweet

young

By Henry James 357

young friend— a state of things only partly satisfactory to her so
long as the advantage accruing to Mr. Saltram failed to disengage
itself from the cold mists of theory. She intimated that her sweet
young friend was, if anything, a trifle too reserved ; she also
intimated that there might now be an opening for another clever
young man. There never was the slightest opening, I may here
parenthesise, and of course the question can't come up to-day.
These are old frustrations now. Ruth Anvoy has not married, I
hear, and neither have I. During the month, toward the end, I
wrote to George Gravener to ask if, on a special errand, I might
come to see him, and his answer was to knock the very next day
at my door. I saw he had immediately connected my inquiry
with the talk we had had in the railway carriage, and his prompti-
tude showed that the ashes of his eagerness were not yet cold. I
told him there was something I thought I ought in candour to let
him know— I recognised the obligation his friendly confidence
had laid upon me.

" You mean that Miss Anvoy has talked to you ? She has told
me so herself," he said.

" It was not to tell so that I wanted to see you," I replied ;
"for it seemed to me that such a communication would rest
wholly with herself. If however she did speak to you of our
conversation she probably told you that I was discouraging."

" Discouraging ?"

" On the subject of a present application of the Coxon Fund."

" To the case of Mr. Saltram ? My dear fellow, I don't know
what you call discouraging ! " Gravener exclaimed.

" Well, I thought I was, and I thought she thought I was."

" I believe she did, but such a thing is measured by the effect.
She's not discouraged."

" That's her own affair. The reason I asked you to see me

was

358 The Coxon Fund

was that it appeared to me I ought to tell you frankly that
decidedly I can't undertake to produce that effect. In fact I
don't want to ! "

"It's very good of you, damn you !" my visitor laughed, red
and really grave. Then he said : " You would like to see that
fellow publicly glorified— perched on the pedestal of a great com-
plimentary fortune ? "

"Taking one form of public recognition with another, it seems
to me on the whole I could bear it. When I see the compli-
ments that are paid right and left, I ask myself why this one
shouldn't take its course. This therefore is what you're entitled
to have looked to me to mention to you. I have some evidence
that perhaps would be really dissuasive, but I propose to invite
Miss Anvoy to remain in ignorance of it."

" And to invite me to do the same ? "

" Oh, you don't require it— you've evidence enough. I speak
of a sealed letter which I've been requested to deliver to her."

" And you don't mean to ? "

" There's only one consideration that would make me."

Gravener's clear, handsome eyes plunged into mine a minute ;
but evidently without fishing up a clue to this motive— a failure
by which I was almost wounded. "What does the letter con-
tain ? "

" It's sealed, as I tell you, and I don't know what it contains."

" Why is it sent through you ? "

" Rather than you ? " I hesitated a moment. " The only ex-
planation I can think of is that the person sending it may have
imagined your relations with Miss Anvoy to be at an end —may
have been told they were by Mrs. Saltram."

" My relations with Miss Anvoy are not at an end," poor
Gravener stammered.

Again

By Henry James 359

Again, for an instant, I deliberated. "The offer I propose to
make you gives me the right to put you a question remarkably
direct. Are you still engaged to Miss Anvoy ? "

" No, I'm not," he slowly brought out. " But we're perfectly
good friends."

" Such good friends that you will again become prospective
husband and wife if the obstacle in your path be removed ? "

" Removed ? " Gravener vaguely repeated.

" If I give Miss Anvoy the letter I speak of she may drop her
project."

" Then for God's sake give it ! "

"I ll do so if you're ready to assure me that her dropping it
would now presumably bring about your marriage."

" I'd marry her the next day ! " my visitor cried.

" Yes, but would she marry you ? What I ask of you of
course is nothing less than your word of honour as to your con-
viction of this. If you give it me," I said, "I'll place the letter
in her hand to-day."

Gravener took up his hat ; turning it mechanically round, he
stood looking a moment hard at its unruffled perfection. Then,
very angrily, honestly and gallantly : " Place it in hell ! " he
broke out ; with which he clapped the hat on his head and left me.

" Will you read it or not ? " I said to Ruth Anvoy, at Wimble-
don, when I had told her the story of Mrs. Saltram's visit.

She reflected for a period which was probably of the briefest,
but which was long enough to make me nervous. " Have you
brought it with you ? "

" No indeed. It's at home, locked up."

There was another great silence, and then she said : " Go back
and destroy it."

I went back, but I didn't destroy it till after Saltram's death,

when

360 The Coxon Fund

when I burnt it unread. The Pudneys approached her again
pressingly, but, prompt as they were, the Coxon Fund had already
become an operative benefit and a general amaze ; Mr. Saltram,
while we gathered about, as it were, to watch the manna descend,
was already drawing the magnificent income. He drew it as he
had always drawn everything, with a grand abstracted gesture.
Its magnificence, alas, as all the world now knows, quite quenched
him ; it was the beginning of his decline. It was also naturally
a new grievance for his wife, who began to believe in him as soon
as he was blighted and who to this day accuses us of having bribed
him to gratify the fad of a pushing American, to renounce his
glorious office, to become, as she says, like everybody else. On
the day he found himself able to publish he wholly ceased to produce.
This deprived us, as may easily be imagined, of much of our
occupation, and especially deprived the Mulvilles, whose want of
self-support I never measured till they lost their great inmate.
They have no one to live on now. Adelaide's most frequent
reference to their destitution is embodied in the remark that dear
far-away Ruth's intentions were doubtless good. She and Kent
are even yet looking for another prop, but every one is so dread-
fully robust. With Saltram the type was scattered, the grander,
the elder style. They have got their carriage back, but what's an
empty carriage ? In short, I think we were all happier as well as
poorer before ; even including George Gravener, who, by the
deaths of his brother and his nephew, has lately become Lord
Maddock. His wife, whose fortune clears the property, is
criminally dull ; he hates being in the Upper House and he has
not yet had high office. But what are these accidents, which I
should perhaps apologise for mentioning, in the light of the great
eventual boon promised the patient by the rate at which the Coxon
Fund must be rolling up ?





MLA citation: James, Henry. "The Coxon Fund." The Yellow Book 2 (July 1894): 290-360. The Yellow Nineties Online. Ed. Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra. Ryerson University, 2010. Web. [Date of access]. http://www.1890s.ca/HTML.aspx?s=YBV2_james_coxon.html