And about twelve, after a little light supper, the party broke up, Alf driving down to 토토사이트 Richmond, and Lady Austell, who had made up her little disagreement with Jim, dropping him at his rooms. It was but a step from Park Lane there, but they held a short and pointed conversation on their way.

“A delightful, charming evening,” she said; “all so{244} genuine and honest, with no forced gaiety or insincere welcome. How happy and content Dora ought to be.”

“The question being whether she is,” remarked Jim.

“My dear, have you noticed anything?” asked his mother rather quickly. “Certainly during that recitation she looked a little—a little inscrutable. What a deplorable performance, was it not? And if that odious woman had sung any more I think I should have screamed. But Dora and Claude? Do you think the dear fellow is a little on her nerves?”

“Yes, I think the dear fellow is a little on her nerves,” said Jim, with marked evenness of tone. “Can you not imagine the possibility of that? Consider.”

It was very likely that Lady Austell considered. She did not, however, think good to inform Jim of the result of this consideration.

“And he?” she asked.

“I am not in his confidence,” said Jim. “I am only in his flat. And here it is. Thanks so much, dear mother, for the lift. Won’t you come in? No?”

“I must speak to Dora,” said she, as the brougham stopped.

“I think that would be very unwise of you. She knows all you would say, about his honour, his kindness, and so on. But at the present moment I think she feels that all the cardinal virtues do not make up for—well, for things like that recitation.”

Lady Austell thought over this for a moment as Jim got out.

“You are friends with Claude?” she asked. “Real friends, I mean?{245}”

“No, I can’t stand him, and I think he can’t stand me.”

Lady Austell could not resist giving her son a little dab.

“And yet you use his flat?” she said.

“Oh, yes, and drink his wine and smoke his cigars. You would rather have liked the flat, wouldn’t you? Perhaps he’ll lend it you another time. He likes doing kind things that don’t incommode him. I think he likes feeling it doesn’t matter to him, and I feel that the fact that we dislike each other gives a certain piquancy to them. Good night; I’m so glad you liked your party. It is refreshing after the glitter and hollowness of the world to get close to family affection again.”

It seemed to her that a little flame of true bitterness, quite unlike his usually genial cynicism and insouciance, shone in these words.

“Good night, dear,” she said very softly; “I hope nothing has disagreed with you.”

Jim laughed a little to himself as he ascended the thickly carpeted stairs to the flat on the first floor, but the laugh was not of long duration or of very genuine quality. He felt at enmity with all the world in spite of the excellent dinner he had eaten. He felt that Dora was a fool to let little things like—well, like that recitation—come between her and the immense enjoyment that could be got out of life if only you had, as was the case with her, a limitless power of commanding its pleasures. And yet, if those pleasures were to be indissolubly wrapped up with an Osborne environment he felt he almost understood her absence of content. To{246} put a case—if he was given the choice of going to Newmarket to-morrow with Lady Osborne in her two-thousand-pound seventy-horse-power Napier, or of travelling there third class at his own expense, what would he do? Certainly, if the choice was for one day only, he would go in the car, but if the choice concerned going there every day for the rest of his life, or hers, the question hardly needed an answer. The thing would become unbearable. And Dora had to go, not to Newmarket only, but everywhere, everywhere with Claude. And for himself, he would sooner have gone anywhere with Mrs. Osborne than with him.

It is more blessed to give than to receive; in many cases it is certainly easier to give with a good grace than to receive in the same spirit. And if the gift is made without sacrifice it is, unless the recipient is genuinely attached to the giver, most difficult to receive it charitably. It may be received with gratitude if it is much wanted, but the gratitude here is felt not toward the giver, but toward the gift. Toward the giver there is liable to spring up, especially if he is not liked before, a feeling compared with which mere dislike is mild. It was so with Jim now.

He squirted some whisky into a glass, put a lump of clinking ice into it, and added some Perrier water. All these things were Claude’s, so was the chair in which he sat, so was the cigar, the end of which he had just bitten off. This latter operation he had not performed with his usual neatness; there was a piece of loose leaf detached, which might spoil the even smoking of it, and he threw it away and took another. They were all{247} Claude’s, and if his drinks and his cigars had been made of molten gold, Jim felt he would sit up till morning, even at the cost of personal inconvenience, in order to consume as much as possible of them. The evening too, “the charming, pleasant party,” of which his mother had spoken so foolishly, had enraged him. There had been all there that money, the one thing in the world he desired so much, could possibly buy, and they had found nothing better to do than listen to ridiculous songs, hear an unspeakable recitation, and play an absurd round game. He hated them all, not only because they were rich, but because they were ill-bred and contented. Jovial happiness (the more to be resented because of its joviality), a happiness, he knew well, that was really independent of money, trickled and oozed from them like resin from a healthy fir tree; happiness was their sap, their life; they were sticky with it. And he was afraid he knew where that came from; it came not only from their good digestion, but from their kindness, their simplicity, their nice natures. But if he at this moment had the opportunity of changing his own nature with that of any of these Osbornes, to take their kindness, their joviality, their simple contentment with and pleasure in life, with all their wealth thrown in, he would have preferred himself with all his disabilities and poverty. There was something about them all, some inherent commonness, that he would not have made part of himself at any price. Only a day or two ago he had been telling Dora to put the purseholders in a good temper at whatever cost, not to mind about their being not quite—and now he saw her difficulty. It was not{248} possible even to think of them in a humorous light; they were awful grotesques, nightmares, for all their happiness and wealth, if you were obliged to have much to do with them.