There are 4 Henry James stories in this volume of 1896, all previously published in different magazines.
The Next Time' is a farcical tale around the question whether literary quality requires or maybe even guarantees lack of success. Narrator is a critic whose praise is considered fatal for market success. Main character is a writer who tries desperately to be popular but cannot do it. His wife says of him: one has to think him a great man, because otherwise one would be ashamed of him. Funny and acidic. This must be 'about somebody', and I am rather certain it is about his own self. James is probably both: the failing writer and the 'Kiss of Death' critic.
'Glasses' is a portrait of a pretty and naive young woman, narrated by a painter for whom she sits. She seems to lack social intelligence. She is a gold digger with dubious prospects. The narrator's rumor sources are particularly nasty here. The lady has the added problem that she tries to hide the fact that she needs glasses, which makes her sound a bit stupid by today's standards. But what could a poor gold-digging girl do at the time.
'The Figure in the Carpet' is another hoax, narrated by a young literary critic. He is mesmerized by a novelist's claim, made to himself, that there is a mystery to be found in that man's books, a secret. He starts looking for that secret, together with a friend and colleague. James pulls our legs nicely here. The joke is of the kind found in the Aspern Papers. We walk away empty handed after several hopeful approaches to the `figure in the carpet', the secret pattern. We will never know.
'The Way It Came' is a sophisticated and subtle ghost story. Or is it a story of insane jealousy? Well, maybe both. The text is allegedly a part of a diary by an unspecified woman diarist, introduced by a doubting editor. This device of the text in the text is not often used by James. The diarist tells us of her broken engagement with a man who loved a ghost more than her.