By the middle of May, Brenda realized that, if she could bring off a betrothal between Ellen Sattell and Giorgio Mastromattei, she could make much more than the fee she would charge Giorgio.
She began by making a purely business approach to Mrs. Sattell. She had, by this time, set up a real estate investment company, and she wanted to either sell shares or contract for loans. Brenda got the answer she expected, that the bulk of the Sattell money was in trust funds that they didn't manage themselves. Brenda explained that she wasn't talking about very large sums of money, perhaps only forty or fifty thousand dollars.
Brenda had already borrowed everything she could in the ordinary way. If she could get another forty thousand from Mrs. Sattell, she could use it for down payments on another string of houses. She really preferred a loan, so that Mrs. Sattell wouldn't end up owning part of the company. Once the money was tripled or quadrupled, the loan could easily be paid back. Brenda, like Napoleon, made no allowances for failure.
At this meeting, which took place over tea at the Park Lane, Brenda carefully didn't attempt to close any deals. Mrs. Sattell had never invested or loaned money, and it would have been entirely out of character for her to do so. But she was desperate to get Ellen married. Brenda would have to show her that the two were connected. She therefore was very vague about money and business, and led the conversation gradually around to Giorgio. Mrs. Sattell said how much she liked him. Brenda agreed. She threw in, quite honestly, that Giorgio, unlike so many Italians and Frenchmen, wasn't a fortune hunter. He wanted only a chance to work to support his wife. He was also interested in going to America, and a man of his talents would surely be able to earn a good living there. That was all well and good. Mrs. Sattell couldn't have agreed more.
The problem, of course, was Ellen. Perhaps Brenda could talk with her. Brenda agreed. A woman like herself, one of the same generation but with a little more experience of the world, could point out a few things about Giorgio which Ellen might find worth considering.
I wasn't present at that meeting between Brenda and Mrs. Sattell, but I can easily imagine it. Brenda would have worn a large hat, high heels, and a full-skirted dress. She was really the prototype for the sort of very sharp businesswoman who makes it a point to appear to be an amateur. She has sometimes reminded me a little of the more courtly sort of Mafia don, one who has a season box at the opera. Both could be distinguished and charming, and could display a good deal of warmth when the occasion demanded it. It would also be a mistake to take either entirely at face value.
Mrs. Sattell was, on the surface, quite the opposite. She was the sort of heavy older woman who was embarrassed about her appearance. Helen did what she could to get her into appropriate clothing, but her mother had a penchant for costly ill-fitting garments that, in any situation, struck just the wrong note. The result was that she looked very slightly pathetic. She also appeared to be soft and lacking in the resolve it would take to force through any difficult issue. Indeed, the meeting between the two ladies must have suggested one between the American version of a young duchess and her elderly cousin from an unfashionable branch of the family.
What wouldn't have been apparent was the fact that, in order to do what she thought was appropriate for Ellen, Mrs. Sattell had a dreadful resolve. She would cheerfully have taken steps which would have caused the Mafia don to frown and cluck his tongue, and at which even Brenda would have balked. Desperation, unlike love, or even greed, knows no bounds.
As it turned out, Ellen was a much more difficult proposition than her mother. Brenda started having Ellen and Helen over to tea, using me to detach Helen while she got to work on Ellen. Giorgio was very definitely not present at these sessions. As Brenda pointed out to me, the whole issue had nothing, really, to do with him. It was between Ellen and her mother.
In 1936 only fairly sophisticated, or very lowly, people knew about lesbianism. Gertrude Stein was famous, but only among people who read good books, and who could read between the lines. Mrs. Sattell, for example, understood not the least thing about it. She therefore misinterpreted almost everything that Ellen did. Brenda, on the other hand, would have known about lesbianism even if she hadn't read good books. She therefore proceeded on the assumption that Ellen's friend in America was more important to her than everyone else put together, and that it would be foolish to try to alter that circumstance.
One couldn't be with Ellen very long without hearing about this friend, a woman named Bella. Sensible people didn't ordinarily encourage Ellen in such talk. The monotony of it, replete with every conceivable unintersting detail, surpassed belief. I felt for Brenda, when, in the course of enjoying Helen, I would hear her, on the other side of the room, ask Ellen about Bella. But I was still curious enough to ask Helen what Bella was really like. Helen replied,
"There's one thing about her that's good, or at least useful, in the present circumstances. She's a second-generation Italian."
As she spoke, Helen smiled and pointed downstairs with one finger. Of course, we both knew that there was an immense distance between Giorgio and the sorts of Sicilians the Americans brought over to work in their factories. But Helen was right. Ellen would scarcely understand the difference, and would be favorably disposed toward any Italian. Later on, if it ever came to that, Giorgio would comprehend Bella totally at first glance. For the rest, I gathered that Bella was ugly, marginally honest, and utterly boring. Helen whispered to me,
"There's one thing I don't understand. Ellen is good looking, and most people are attracted to her. She could easily have found someone much more interesting and attractive. In fact, she did have a beautiful girl of her own class. But she prefers Bella."
"Perhaps Bella is more easily controlled, and more likely to be faithful."
"She only seems that way. Bella isn't really what Ellen is. She's just too ugly to have found a man. If a man ever did look at her, she'd leave Ellen flat."
We were virtually carrying on a conspiracy on the other side of the room, but Ellen didn't seem to realize that we were talking about her. I said,
"If she did leave Ellen, that would cause problems for you wouldn't it?"
"I suppose so. Much as I'd like to see the end of Bella, Ellen would be even worse tempered than she already is. Of course, that might turn out to be Giorgio's problem rather than mine."
It was impossible not to look over at Ellen at that moment, and we both did so. When Helen and I looked back at each other, we communicated almost without exchanging words. Ellen was talking with Brenda in an intense way that I hadn't seen before. No doubt it was mild compared to her interactions with Bella, but one could see something of the fire within. If I had been Brenda, I would have been frightened, but she seemed to be in command of the situation.
In a way, it was almost comical. Brenda was a good deal younger, but was sitting back in her chair in an attitude of casual elegance as she poked idly at a little coffee table with the toe of one shoe. Ellen, by contrast, was leaning forward, worry lines on her handsome face, as she attempted to explain the virtues of, and the injustices suffered by, the absent Bella. It was beginning to look as if Brenda might accomplish more, with a few words, than Mrs. Sattell with whole tirades.
After Helen and Ellen left, I questioned Brenda rather closely.
"Do you realize what you're getting into? Suicide attempts are virtually routine among lesbian lovers, you know."
"I'm being extremely careful. One thing that makes it tricky is that she only half knows that she's a lesbian. On one hand, it's implicit in everything she says and does. But I can see that it's also a deep dark secret, to some extent from herself. She might well do something violent if she thought it was out."
In the weeks that followed, Brenda gradually manipulated Ellen. It wasn't pretty to watch. While it may well have been conducive to Ellen's own good, Brenda was motivated, not by that, but by the hope of a substantial business loan from Mrs. Sattell.
The deal was, in essence, quite simple. Giorgio would marry Ellen and accompany her back to America, where they would have a residence separate from, but near to, that of the other Sattells. Giorgio, in return, would never touch Ellen unless she desired it. She would be able to have Bella over whenever she wished, and the two would have complete security and privacy. Giorgio, of course, had his sexual drives. But he would satisfy them with discretion.
If this matter had been explained in so many words to Ellen, she would have flown utterly off the handle. At the same time, she wasn't subtle enough to pick up hints and recognize, perhaps at a semi-conscious level, the potential rose garden which stood open to her. It was here that Brenda really earned her pay.
Brenda started by talking of mothers and daughters. She often referred to her own mother, inventing freely. The real Thelma was, of course, no good at all. If Brenda had told Thelma that she was, or wanted to be, a lesbian, Thelma would have been as helpful as usual. I could imagine her brightly suggesting a new wardrobe featuring leather boots and a riding crop. Brenda therefore made up a mother very like Mrs. Sattell. While she never pretended to have lesbian tendencies, she stated clearly that she had wanted to do many things forbidden her by her mother. As she put it,
"I found that I couldn't be happy under my mother's thumb. In the end, I broke with her completely."
I was, as usual, talking with Helen, but we both, as if by agreement, let our conversation languish while we listened. Our instincts told us that Brenda had embarked on a path which would soon reach a critical point. Indeed, I could see, out of the corner of my eye, that Ellen was as terrified as a child might be at the mere notion of losing her mother. Ellen might hate her mother, but she could hardly bear the thought of being separated from her for any length of time. Brenda, in all justice, didn't leave Ellen in that state very long. She continued,
"As it turned out, I needn't have done that. I could have married instead, and had the best of both worlds."
Ellen didn't understand, but her thirst for an explanation was rather pathetic. Brenda continued in the manner of someone relating events from the distant past, events that had once been charged with great feeling but were now regarded only wistfully.
"There was a man who wanted to marry me. There was no romance between us, only respect and affection. He wanted to be married to someone of good family and passable appearance. He also wanted a good home and some companionship. I refused him because I didn't love him. It was a great mistake."
Ellen asked why in a voice that was almost breathless. Brenda answered,
"The right kind of husband protects a woman from her mother. He sets the rules in his home. If he respects his wife, he allows her to live as she chooses. If her mother tries to interfere, she'll have to deal with the husband. If I had married this man, his name was Harold, I could have lived next door to my mother. If, for example, she had criticized my clothes, I could have replied, "Harold likes me this way." That would have been the end of it."
Helen knew as well as I did that there had never been any Harold. I hoped only that Brenda wouldn't go too far and mention Giorgio. She didn't. On the other hand, I am sure that it was no accident that, the next time Ellen and Helen came over, Giorgio was present.
The next steps took place while Ellen was teaching Giorgio to play golf. Even after the groundwork had been laid, it must have taken delicacy. I happened to stop downstairs one day after visiting Brenda, in fact, my second visit to her in her new capacity. Giorgio was there, along with the others, all welcoming me fulsomely. In one way the atmosphere was the same as before. Seated on boxes and bits of furniture, we chatted, shouted, gestured, and laughed in bits and pieces of half a dozen languages. Giorgio even pointed at one of the others, slapping his knee, and burst out,
"Ahmed da focka da Chinee girl."
Ahmed, some sort of latter-day Barbary Corsair, smiled, slightly embarrassed but proud. He explained, in surprisingly connected English, that she was, unfortunately, not an English citizen. The conversation then turned to Ellen Sattell or, as they referred to her, 'Miss Ellen.' They had all seen her, with Helen, on her way to visit Brenda. The atmosphere was now sober and dripping with respect. Giorgio spoke as if he were pursuing a beautiful princess, laying flowers at her feet and leaving no stone unturned to win her hand. I was impressed. Brenda had told me that she had discussed the matter in detail with Giorgio, and had given him advice. They were virtually working together.
Giorgio must also have known that I was privy to the details. But he gave me not the least conspiratorial wink. In his mind he was honor bound, as his part of the bargain, to behave in what he took to be the normal manner. I felt sure that he would continue to do so, even if, after their marriage, Ellen and Bella went at it in the upstairs bedroom while he stood in front of the downstairs fireplace. When I left, my mind was easier about the whole thing, including Brenda's part in it. In view of what happened next, it's a good thing that it was.
I think it must have been only about a week later, sometime in August, that I received a note from Mrs. Sattell. It was an invitation to tea at the Park Lane Hotel. She also said that she had been unable to reach Miss Delphinia Muggs, and asked me to pass along an invitation to her. I saw immediately that this was no ordinary invitation. When I mentioned it to Muggs, she was quite doubtful about going. She replied,
"I don't want to be part of any scheme to fleece some rich Americans."
I teased her.
"You don't have any compunctions about doing the research that enables me to fleece rich Britons."
She laughed, but still balked. I finally said,
"Do come along. It isn't every day that you get to be Lady Delphinia."
I had known that Ellen and Howie wouldn't be present. I hadn't been sure about Helen. Would she be allowed to act as older sister in a matter of great family import? In the event, she wasn't there. I later found out why. But that did little to assuage my pain at having to spend an hour or more with a member of the wrong half of the Sattell family. I thanked God that Muggs was there.
Mrs. Sattell was unnaturally cheerful when we arrived. She wasn't the sort to keep secrets very long, and the news fairly babbled out. Brenda had called her, saying that Giorgio was ready to propose marriage to Ellen, but wished to test the water before speaking to her. Of course, Muggs and I knew this already. I had, in fact, advised Brenda that this procedure would be better than having Giorgio propose directly to Ellen. We pretended to be surprised. I then explained to Mrs. Sattell that an Italian gentleman, being too proud to risk rejection, wouldn't actually propose until he was fairly sure that he'd be accepted. Mrs. Sattell turned to Muggs.
"Miss Muggs, I particularly wanted your opinion. Do you think it would be a good match?"
Muggs started to choke, but pretended that she had swallowed her tea backwards. She was really a very upright young woman. Having recovered herself, she started again. There were first some disclaimers. She didn't know either Ellen or Giorgio well. Moreover, it was always very difficult to predict whether a marriage would be a good one, no matter how well one knew the principals. Mrs. Sattell was eating it all up. This was exactly what she expected from the brilliant and dispassionate Lady Delphinia. The more qualifications the better, as long as there was a 'yes' at the end. At length, Muggs said,
"I do think that a woman ought eventually to move out of her parents' home and set up her own, either with a husband or alone. I should have thought that Miss Sattell was equally fitted either to marry or to set out on her own career."
This was quite literally true. Ellen was fitted for neither, and, hence, equally for both. Muggs never went further than that, but Mrs. Sattell took it for a blanket endorsement of the proposed marriage.
When my turn came, I followed Muggs' example and spoke only the truth. I therefore said nothing directly about Ellen, and praised Giorgio. I said that he was an honorable man. I further said that, if the arrangment was workable, as I thought it might be, he would stick to it. Mrs. Sattell, of course, misinterpreted that, too. We were recommending something that might give Ellen freer access to her lover and Giorgio American citizenship. It might also result in a reduced level of conflict between mother and daughter.
Mrs. Sattell took us to be helping her to promulgate a love match. Not least among the benefits, from her point of view, would be her acquisition of a handsome and dashing son- in-law. That part, at any rate, was realistic. Giorgio would play the part the old lady wanted. It was just as this thought was floating through my head that Muggs surprised me by saying,
"I do have one piece of definite advice, Mrs. Sattell. If the wedding is to take place, it should be here in England and should be a simple one. Our sort of people aren't having elaborate weddings any more. They seem so vulgar. When my cousin was married, she wore a white suit and middle heels."
Mrs. Sattell was almost destroyed. She had her heart set on a wedding so lavish that the mere pictures of it would bowl over her friends and acquaintances. No expense would be spared, and it would be replete with every imaginable sort of romantic silliness. She was now being told that it was vulgar.
What was really remarkable was that Muggs, at this point, was something like twenty two years of age. How could she manage a woman so much older so easily? But, then, there was always an uncanny agelessness about Muggs. She looks almost the same now. I suppose Mrs. Sattell must have taken her to be thirty or so. Still, age apart, Mrs. Sattell had already taken it into her head that Lady Delphinia was something of a social arbiter. She now swallowed the bitter pill.
After we had left, I asked Muggs why she had spoiled the old lady's fun. She replied,
"The wedding she had in mind to put on in America would have been utterly awful. Ellen would have refused to wear the dress. She and her mother would have had the worst fight ever over it. And, then, what would they have done with the lover, what's her name, the Sicilian factory worker? Make her the maid of honor? This way, it'll be quick and neat."
The wedding took place a few weeks later. The arrangements were made by no fewer than five ladies, Helen, Brenda, Muggs, Jane, and Mrs. Sattell herself. Jane, using influence, was able to obtain a small but historic chapel. Then, to satisfy Mrs. Sattell, the reception was held in a private room at the Ritz. Muggs, in a spirit of great self-sacrifice, took Mrs. Sattell shopping for her mother-of-the-bride dress.
That got her out of the way, and allowed Brenda and Helen to take Ellen out to purchase her wedding outfit. A rather mannish white suit and accessories were acquired without any difficulties. The critical point was thus passed. Ellen didn't have to wear anything that would humiliate her, and Mrs. Sattell, if she liked, could tell her friends at home that Ellen had been married in a floor-length gown in Westminster Abbey.
During the process of preparation, we came to realize that Mrs. Sattell, whatever she said, had a deal of unencumbered money. She never asked the price of anything. Having kept her in control otherwise, we let her loose in the Ritz to order whatever she liked. After all, not even Ellen would be put off by good food and drink.
The wedding itself went smoothly and uneventfully. In addition to the people of our party, a good many of Giorgio's athletic friends came. They were well-behaved, and their enthusiasm dispelled any impression that this might have been a rag-tag marriage of convenience. Giorgio himself was polished and ceremonious, but not quite enough to suggest that he had been through it all before. My function was to organize the motorcade from the chapel to the Ritz, which I did with a fine display of Rolls Royces and Bentleys.
I had never actually been to the Ritz. I had heard of people being refused entrance if their dress or appearance wasn't quite up to the mark. In addition to not being able to afford even a drink in the bar, I had seen no reason to gratuitously challenge the ruling gods. On this occasion, Mrs. Sattell's money had already talked, and I could safely sashay in under her figurative umbrella, particularly since I was following in Brenda's wake.
The wedding breakfast was laid out on a single long table. By the look of it, some of Giorgio's friends were having their first square meal in months. He himself was forever popping up and wandering up and down the table exchanging salutations, pounding backs, and urging all to eat. What had started out as a rather stiff Anglo-Saxon affair quickly turned into a much looser Latin and mid- Eastern one with shouts, unrestrained laughter, and general good feeling.
Giorgio emerged as the host, and one had the feeling that he might easily invite any stray passers-by in to partake of the feast. The whole atmosphere left some of us a little behind, but not Mrs. Sattell. To put it baldly, she was at heart a peasant. She felt quite comfortable in the middle of a peasant feast.
The other men presented a range of contrasts. Arnold Buckmaster, his eye always on Brenda, was nevertheless able to shout, roar, and laugh with the Mediterranean gentlemen. Ralph, as best man, looked a little uncomfortable as he proposed the toast, but managed it in a style acceptable to both southerners and northerners. Mr. Wilson, from the embassy, looked a little haggard. However, as a diplomat, he had encountered much worse.
It was Howie Sattell, so much less flexible than Ralph, who looked truly uncomfortable. Sitting directly across from him, I at first attempted to distract the boy. In the midst of a rather forced conversation, I realized that, while he probably disliked the style of the soccer players, he was much more embarrassed by his own family. His grandmother was certainly the source of some of this discomfort, but I was rather on her side. The old lady was happy, a bit sentimental perhaps, but who could really blame her? She had for decades taken her younger daughter to be a great unclaimed prize. Now that a man sensible enough to want her had turned up, why should she not exult a bit?
I was about to dismiss Howie as a hopelessly over- sensitive and priggish young boor when I realized that he was looking, not at his grandmother, but at Ellen. I looked too. She was rapidly getting pie-eyed.
As I watched, Ellen gestured oddly and half-shouted something. It looked as though she might be attempting to do a humorous impersonation of someone. She certainly wanted attention, but, fortunately, all the attention was on Giorgio and his friends. Disgruntled, Ellen slumped back in her chair with a black look, took another long drink, and lapsed into sulky silence. It looked as if she had spilled egg on herself at some point, and, at times, her head would dip forward almost into her plate. Then she would make another attempt to engage the group, each one a little feebler than the one before.
I noticed that Helen was on her feet, speaking to the head waiter. She was presumably telling them to discontinue Ellen's champagne. Would Ellen notice if they substituted plain soda? It seemed to me most important that Mrs. Sattell not notice this little difficulty, at least until her financial arrangements with Brenda were settled. I accordingly managed to get a word with Ralph.
The problem was that a drunk bride, called on to cut the cake, might well fall into it. If she was called on to begin the dancing, a number of things, none of them good, might take place. Ralph's first suggestion was that I feign a heart attack and force a curtailment of the proceedings. Rejecting this out of hand, I was enjoined to think of something better.
In the end, it all turned on Ahmed, the Algerian who was fluent in many languages. He proposed a toast in three of those languages. The English toast was one thing. Those in Arabic and Spanish, one or the other intelligible to all the soccer players, were quite different. They, in fact, contained a rather detailed set of instructions.
When the cake arrived, half the party was on its feet, milling around Ellen. Giorgio had one hand on the knife, along with Ellen's, and her chair had been pulled slightly back. Thus, from most positions along the table, it was impossible to see much of Ellen because of the crowd around her. Plates with cake were passed in all directions, and almost everyone ate standing up. It wasn't what had been planned, but the party was obviously a success, and Mrs. Sattell was the last to object.
It wasn't very long before the dancing began with Ellen and Giorgio. The musicians in the corner of the room were almost drowned out by the crowd surrounding the dancers, shouting and clapping. I wasn't able to see the couple at all from my position beside Mrs. Sattell. Indeed, for all I knew, Giorgio might be wafting an inert Ellen around the floor in his arms.
Mrs. Sattell, at this point, gave way to the tears allowed by conventions other than the British ones in these circumstances. Brenda and I together comforted her and got her coffee. Since the couple were starting their honeymoon upstairs in a bridal suite, Ellen, in whatever condition she might be, could easily be spirited away with only a brief farewell to her mother. The inebriation could easily be mistaken for emotion. As if to presage this occasion, Helen came over with some confetti for her mother to throw.
I couldn't help noticing particularly, although I had noticed in a general way before, how lovely Helen looked. In a clinging lavendar dress with a scooped neck, she looked much more fetching than Ellen. I knew that other women weren't supposed to upstage the bride at her wedding, and wondered if Mrs. Sattell thought Helen was doing just that. On the other hand, if the bride is dressed virtually in a man's suit, and is drunk, how could such an attractive sister have avoided such a result?
Ralph soon rose, banged on the table for silence, and wished the couple good luck. He said only a few words, and then handed over gracefully to Ahmed, who added a few more, this time only in Arabic. There was then wild applause, the throwing of confetti, and a brief embrace between Ellen and her mother as Giorgio bore her away.
Although Ahmed's little speech was made to sound merely like an expression of good will, I felt sure that it contained further instructions. Since it wasn't also given in Spanish, a language Giorgio understood, it seemed not to concern him.
The content of that message soon became clear as the soccer group gravitated over to Mrs. Sattell. They quieted considerably, so as not to alarm her, but smiled and gave her a feeling of being at the center of the party. Meanwhile, Ahmed and a couple of his compatriots hove into conversational range. Mrs. Sattell, perhaps partly distracted from the idea that Ellen was losing her virginity upstairs, asked them if they were Moslems. When they answered affirmatively, she asked, with a great enthusiasm,
"You believe in having plural wives, don't you?"
It quickly appeared that Mrs. Sattell was fascinated by all forms of polygamy. She wanted to know about it in surprisingly lurid detail, but, even more, she wanted an account of the domestic arrangments surrouding it. I could see that this was a bit of a shock for Ahmed. Mrs. Sattell's form of prying, I was sure, must offend every canon of Islamic etiquette. However, Ahmed was, not only well-bred, but sophisticated. He had been told that a great deal was hanging in the balance as far as his bountiful landlady, Miss Brenda, was concerned.
Instead of explaining coolly that only a very few rich Moslems would have more than one wife, still less four, he winked apologetically at his comrades and told Mrs. Sattell everything she wanted to know. One had the feeling that Ahmed's father might be among the few who did actually have four wives. For my part, I remarked quietly to Helen,
"I believe that your mother is about to go home and tell her friends that, contrary to their predjudices, both Italians and Arabs are charming and civilized people."
Helen replied archly,
"One is told that travel is supposed to be broadening. Is this what's supposed to happen?"
I put my arm gently around her waist and found that she didn't resist. However, it occurred to me that further advances might put me in a position in which I might be expected to say wise things to Howie. I quickly released her.
There was one other event that did matter. Mrs. Sattell got Brenda aside and explained that, because of the wedding expenses, she had been doing business with a London bank which corresponded with her own bank at home. She gave Brenda the name of a man at the London bank, and asked her to get in touch with him in a few days.
Since the wedding was on a Friday, it was necessary for Brenda to wait until Monday. Moreover, so that she wouldn't seem too forward, she decided to make her approach on Tuesday. That meant a deal of waiting, during which time she, Ralph, and I had a number of discussions.
There was no denying that, despite the success of the wedding, a great deal could go wrong. At worst, the trauma of being married could either put Ellen into a state of catatonia or send her running for her mother. None of us really thought that that was likely. Giorgio was taking Ellen only as far as Brighton. More important, he certainly wouldn't touch any erogenous zones without the most explicit kind of invitation, one that we felt was unlikely to materialize. Unless Ellen was completely irrational, she would emerge from her honeymoon with an implicit agreement of the exact kind that she wanted.
There was also the possibility that Mrs. Sattell's euphoria, and with it her sense of gratitude, would fade over the weekend. It might then be replaced by a degree of fiscal prudence. In my opinion, another possibility was even more dangerous. Mrs. Sattell's gratitude would be undiminished, but her idea of a princely sum, given to Brenda as a reward, would be one hundred dollars. Brenda agreed with me there. She also pointed out that there would be no recourse. There was surely no legal obligation, and, the circumstances of the whole affair being as they were, it was doubtful if there was even a moral one. If Mrs. Sattell wanted to give her a hundred dollars, badgering could produce only another fifty. It would be better to take the hundred, smile sweetly, and sever relations.
In this atmosphere, the outcome was rather surprising. Mrs. Sattell loaned Brenda a hundred thousand with no collateral and a token rate of interest. Brenda, cool as she has always been, apparently maintained her composure only with difficulty. It was important to do so. The banker with whom she dealt knew of the Sanderson name and fortune, but evidently hadn't been aware of the virtual vaporization of that fortune. He had merely assumed that it was the practice of rich Americans to hand large sums of money back and forth for God knew what reasons. He therefore asked no questions, and confined himself to arranging the details.
I must say I was surprised. Mrs. Sattell's action seemed to me almost self-contradictory. As I pointed out to Helen,
"If Ellen were all that her mother believed her to be, it wouldn't be necessary to reward anyone for arranging a marriage."
"Yes, but mother knows better, really. She'll rationalize it by saying that it was a matter of getting past Ellen's obstinacy, but I'm sure she knows that more is wrong than that."
"Then she's a very honorable lady. Will you be next on the marriage list?"
"Probably not. She needs me and knows it. Anyway, there are many reasons why I'm determined not to get married again. You're safe from me, Thomas. But I do value your friendship a great deal."