May 7th, 1898

[on this date is a list of ideas to remember to work on, including : ]

6. The Miss Balch and Lady G. incident. Imagine the protectress (Respectability) dealing death upon the person coming to denounce. She (Respectability) must get her money, etc.

February 15th (Lamb House), 1899   [continued…]

Look also, a little, mon bon, into what may come out, further, of the little something-or-other deposited long since in your memory – your fancy – by the queer confidence made you by the late Miss B. (B…h) on the subject of what she had undertaken to do for the tarée Lady G. – her baffled, defeated undertaking. I say ‘look into it a little’ because I find I dashed off last summer, at the beginning of this vol., a reference to some gleam it appeared then to have thrown up. Miss B., say (her equivalent) took the money – that is, has had half – and is to receive the rest when the job is done. Frustration threatens her in the person of some interfering, protesting, fatal marplot of a revealer, a maker definite of the facts, of the tarée woman’s actual history. This is dreadful to Miss B., who is in want of her money. She must oppose it, must prevent it. If she is frustrated she won’t get her precious money. What does she do? I appear to have been visited by the flight of fancy that she ‘kills’ her upsetter. There is something fine in that – but ‘kills’ is soon said. ‘The killing’, I find I remarked, ‘is the difficulty.’ It is indeed! But I must let it simmer – I must worry it out! The whole essence of the thing is of course not in the very usé element of the tarée woman’s desire to creep in – but in the situation of the Miss B. woman, with her gagne-pain of these offices, the way she works her relations, etc., etc. The essence is that she does something bold, big and prompt.

It comes to me that she does something better than any ‘killing’ – comes through the portal of one’s seeing how ‘boldness’ and promptness shows itself as a sort of anticipating, forestalling and turning of the tables. Again, however, the thing becomes a little drama, and from the moment it becomes that, strains for more space. Well, one must only sacrifice more: that’s all. This would be really a little cynical comedy. Miss B. has a suppressed, disowned appendage of a horrid, disreputable kind – I don’t see what he can be but fearfully taré and impossible brother, who turns up sometimes to ask for money, to exasperate and mortify her, to try and beg or bully her into getting him back into society. He has been the subject of a ‘scandal’ years before, and has more or less vanished – but leaving a name that is known. He can’t be a brother – he must be a cousin; of another name. Mettons that he isn’t a ‘sponge’ – that he has means, that he’s even rich. Only he’s out of society. I wish I could make him a murderer!

February 16th, [1899]

I’ve been ill again (with beastly little trail of influenza) – which was what broke the above off. But let me try to go on with this, and 2 or 3 more things in more or less stammering accents and very briefly.

I see the ‘appendage’ of ‘Miss B…h’ must be – say – a stepbrother – with a different name; and that he must, decidedly, not be rich, as that has obvious interference. He is discredited, disgraced, has had to leave England; but he comes back after an interval and wants money from his sister-in-law. I put this crudely and temporarily. He and Lady G. have both been with her the day of the visit of the protesting friend. Well – well – I needn’t (feeling rather seedy and sickish) worry this out now further than just to state simply that one’s little climax and subject consists in the ‘light’ that comes to Miss B. on seeing her visitor (on some trace or gleam!) suddenly flash into a curiosity, a desire to see, to know, THIS taré one. He comes up between them. ‘And he too – drat them all – wants to get back into society! But I can do nothing for him. I wash my hands!’

Effect of this on visitor. ‘You think him hopeless?’ ‘Utterly’ – but she has MENTIONED that it’s some of her MONEY he wants, has told of this in fact to explain her need for the sum (£300) which the defeat of the effort for Lady G. will deprive her of. This is the beginning. The visitor warms to him – the PICTURE of the ‘warming’ given; and the climax becomes the bargain struck: the intermeddling woman allowing Miss B. to operate in peace on condition of her presenting her to – allowing her to take in hand the case of – the peccant and compromised stepbrother. But how must he have been compromised? There’s the difficulty. I must leave it vaguish – or put cards. Cards will probably do. His poverty a proof of the baselessness of the allegations against him.

Rome, Hotel d’Europe, May 16th [1899]

[one of the items on this date, or subsequently before October 5th, is a list of ‘Anecdotes’ to work on, including : ]

14. Yes – literally: the Miss B. and Lady G. idea – concentratedissimo: 4 sections of 28 pages – 7 (with ‘talk’) each [“Mrs Medwin”]