Prepared by Professor Judith Boss
Part 4 out of 5
"You see I have found Mrs. Vivian's dwelling, though you would n't give me
the address," Bernard said to her, smiling.
"Monsieur has put some time to it!" the young woman answered dryly.
And she informed him that Madame was at home, though Mademoiselle,
for whom he had not asked, was not.
Mrs. Vivian occupied a diminutive apartment at the summit of one
of the tall white houses which ornament the neighborhood of the Arc
de Triomphe. The early days of September had arrived, but Paris
was still a city of absentees. The weather was warm and charming,
and a certain savour of early autumn in the air was in accord
with the somewhat melancholy aspect of the empty streets and closed
shutters of this honorable quarter, where the end of the monumental
vistas seemed to be curtained with a hazy emanation from the Seine.
It was late in the afternoon when Bernard was ushered into
Mrs. Vivian's little high-nestling drawing-room, and a patch
of sunset tints, faintly red, rested softly upon the gilded wall.
Bernard had seen these ladies only in borrowed and provisional abodes;
but here was a place where they were really living and which was
stamped with their tastes, their habits, their charm. The little
salon was very elegant; it contained a multitude of pretty things,
and it appeared to Bernard to be arranged in perfection.
The long windows--the ceiling being low, they were really very short--
opened upon one of those solid balconies, occupying the width
of the apartment, which are often in Paris a compensation for
living up five flights of stairs, and this balcony was filled
with flowers and cushions. Bernard stepped out upon it to await
the coming of Mrs. Vivian, and, as she was not quick to appear,
he had time to see that his friends enjoyed a magnificent view.
They looked up at the triumphal Arch, which presented itself at a
picturesque angle, and near the green tree-tops of the Champs Elysees,
beyond which they caught a broad gleam of the Seine and a glimpse,
blue in the distance, of the great towers of Notre Dame.
The whole vast city lay before them and beneath them, with its ordered
brilliancy and its mingled aspect of compression and expansion;
and yet the huge Parisian murmur died away before it reached
Mrs. Vivian's sky-parlor, which seemed to Bernard the brightest
and quietest little habitation he had ever known.
His hostess came rustling in at last; she seemed agitated;
she knocked over with the skirt of her dress a little gilded
chair which was reflected in the polished parquet as in a sheet
of looking-glass. Mrs. Vivian had a fixed smile--she hardly knew
what to say.
"I found your address at the banker's," said Bernard. "Your maid,
at Blanquais, refused to give it to me."
Mrs. Vivian gave him a little look--there was always more or less
of it in her face--which seemed equivalent to an entreaty that her
interlocutor should spare her.
"Maids are so strange," she murmured; "especially the French!"
It pleased Bernard for the moment not to spare her, though he felt
a sort of delight of kindness for her.
"Your going off from Blanquais so suddenly, without leaving me
any explanation, any clue, any message of any sort--made me feel
at first as if you did n't wish that I should look you up.
It reminded me of the way you left Baden--do you remember?--
three years ago."
"Baden was so charming--but one could n't stay forever,"
said Mrs. Vivian.
"I had a sort of theory one could. Our life was so pleasant that it
seemed a shame to break the spell, and if no one had moved I am sure
we might be sitting there now."
Mrs. Vivian stared, still with her little fixed smile.
"I think we should have had bad weather."
"Very likely," said Bernard, laughing. "Nature would have
grown jealous of our good-humor--of our tranquil happiness.
And after all, here we are together again--that is, some of us.
But I have only my own audacity to thank for it. I was quite free
to believe that you were not at all pleased to see me re-appear--
and it is only because I am not easy to discourage--am indeed
probably a rather impudent fellow--that I have ventured to come
"I am very glad to see you re-appear, Mr. Longueville,"
Mrs. Vivian declared with the accent of veracity.
"It was your daughter's idea, then, running away from Blanquais?"
Mrs. Vivian lowered her eyes.
"We were obliged to go to Fontainebleau. We have but just come back.
I thought of writing to you," she softly added.
"Ah, what pleasure that would have given me!"
"I mean, to tell you where we were, and that we should have been
so happy to see you."
"I thank you for the intention. I suppose your daughter would n't let
you carry it out."
"Angela is so peculiar," Mrs. Vivian said, simply.
"You told me that the first time I saw you."
"Yes, at Siena," said Mrs. Vivian.
"I am glad to hear you speak frankly of that place!"
"Perhaps it 's better," Mrs. Vivian murmured. She got up
and went to the window; then stepping upon the balcony,
she looked down a moment into the street. "She will come
back in a moment," she said, coming into the room again.
"She has gone to see a friend who lives just beside us.
We don't mind about Siena now," she added, softly.
Bernard understood her--understood this to be a retraction
of the request she had made of him at Baden.
"Dear little woman," he said to himself, "she wants to marry
her daughter still--only now she wants to marry her to me!"
He wished to show her that he understood her, and he was on
the point of seizing her hand, to do he did n't know what--
to hold it, to press it, to kiss it--when he heard the sharp
twang of the bell at the door of the little apartment.
Mrs. Vivian fluttered away.
"It 's Angela," she cried, and she stood there waiting and listening,
smiling at Bernard, with her handkerchief pressed to her lips.
In a moment the girl came into the drawing-room, but on seeing
Bernard she stopped, with her hand on the door-knob. Her mother
went to her and kissed her.
"It 's Mr. Longueville, dearest--he has found us out."
"Found us out?" repeated Angela, with a little laugh.
"What a singular expression!"
She was blushing as she had blushed when she first saw him at Blanquais.
She seemed to Bernard now to have a great and peculiar brightness--
something she had never had before.
"I certainly have been looking for you," he said. "I was greatly
disappointed when I found you had taken flight from Blanquais."
"Taken flight?" She repeated his words as she had repeated
her mother's. "That is also a strange way of speaking!"
"I don't care what I say," said Bernard, "so long as I make
you understand that I have wanted very much to see you again,
and that I have wondered every day whether I might venture--"
"I don't know why you should n't venture!" she interrupted,
giving her little laugh again. "We are not so terrible,
are we, mamma?--that is, when once you have climbed our five
flights of stairs."
"I came up very fast," said Bernard, "and I find your apartment magnificent."
"Mr. Longueville must come again, must he not, dear?" asked mamma.
"I shall come very often, with your leave," Bernard declared.
"It will be immensely kind," said Angela, looking away.
"I am not sure that you will think it that."
"I don't know what you are trying to prove," said Angela;
"first that we ran away from you, and then that we are not nice
to our visitors."
"Oh no, not that!" Bernard exclaimed; "for I assure you I shall
not care how cold you are with me."
She walked away toward another door, which was masked with a curtain
that she lifted.
"I am glad to hear that, for it gives me courage to say that I am very tired,
and that I beg you will excuse me."
She glanced at him a moment over her shoulder; then she passed out,
dropping the curtain.
Bernard stood there face to face with Mrs. Vivian, whose eyes seemed
to plead with him more than ever. In his own there was an excited smile.
"Please don't mind that," she murmured. "I know it 's true
that she is tired."
"Mind it, dear lady?" cried the young man. "I delight in it.
It 's just what I like."
"Ah, she 's very peculiar!" sighed Mrs. Vivian.
"She is strange--yes. But I think I understand her a little."
"You must come back to-morrow, then."
"I hope to have many to-morrows!" cried Bernard as he took his departure.
And he had them in fact. He called the next day at the same hour,
and he found the mother and the daughter together in their pretty salon.
Angela was very gentle and gracious; he suspected Mrs. Vivian had given
her a tender little lecture upon the manner in which she had received
him the day before. After he had been there five minutes, Mrs. Vivian
took a decanter of water that was standing upon a table and went out on
the balcony to irrigate her flowers. Bernard watched her a while from his
place in the room; then she moved along the balcony and out of sight.
Some ten minutes elapsed without her re-appearing, and then Bernard stepped
to the threshold of the window and looked for her. She was not there,
and as he came and took his seat near Angela again, he announced,
rather formally, that Mrs. Vivian had passed back into one of the
Angela was silent a moment--then she said--
"Should you like me to call her?"
She was very peculiar--that was very true; yet Bernard held
to his declaration of the day before that he now understood
her a little.
"No, I don't desire it," he said. "I wish to see you alone;
I have something particular to say to you."
She turned her face toward him, and there was something in its expression
that showed him that he looked to her more serious than he had ever looked.
He sat down again; for some moments he hesitated to go on.
"You frighten me," she said laughing; and in spite of her laugh
this was obviously true.
"I assure you my state of mind is anything but formidable.
I am afraid of you, on the contrary; I am humble and apologetic."
"I am sorry for that," said Angela. "I particularly dislike
receiving apologies, even when I know what they are for.
What yours are for, I can't imagine."
"You don't dislike me--you don't hate me?" Bernard suddenly broke out.
"You don't ask me that humbly. Excuse me therefore if I say I have other,
and more practical, things to do."
"You despise me," said Bernard.
"That is not humble either, for you seem to insist upon it."
"It would be after all a way of thinking of me, and I have a reason
for wishing you to do that."
"I remember very well that you used to have a reason for everything.
It was not always a good one."
"This one is excellent," said Bernard, gravely. "I have been in love
with you for three years."
She got up slowly, turning away.
"Is that what you wished to say to me?"
She went toward the open window, and he followed her.
"I hope it does n't offend you. I don't say it lightly--
it 's not a piece of gallantry. It 's the very truth of my being.
I did n't know it till lately--strange as that may seem.
I loved you long before I knew it--before I ventured or presumed
to know it. I was thinking of you when I seemed to myself
to be thinking of other things. It is very strange--there are
things in it I don't understand. I travelled over the world,
I tried to interest, to divert myself; but at bottom it was
a perfect failure. To see you again--that was what I wanted.
When I saw you last month at Blanquais I knew it;
then everything became clear. It was the answer to the riddle.
I wished to read it very clearly--I wished to be sure;
therefore I did n't follow you immediately. I questioned my heart--
I cross-questioned it. It has borne the examination, and now I
am sure. I am very sure. I love you as my life--I beg you to listen
She had listened--she had listened intently, looking straight
out of the window and without moving.
"You have seen very little of me," she said, presently, turning her
illuminated eye on him.
"I have seen enough," Bernard added, smiling. "You must remember
that at Baden I saw a good deal of you."
"Yes, but that did n't make you like me. I don't understand."
Bernard stood there a moment, frowning, with his eyes lowered.
"I can imagine that. But I think I can explain."
"Don't explain now," said Angela. "You have said enough;
explain some other time." And she went out on the balcony.
Bernard, of course, in a moment was beside her, and, disregarding
her injunction, he began to explain.
"I thought I disliked you--but I have come to the conclusion
it was just the contrary. In reality I was in love with you.
I had been so from the first time I saw you--when I made
that sketch of you at Siena."
"That in itself needs an explanation. I was not at all nice then--
I was very rude, very perverse. I was horrid!"
"Ah, you admit it!" cried Bernard, with a sort of quick elation.
She had been pale, but she suddenly blushed.
"Your own conduct was singular, as I remember it. It was not
"Perhaps not; but at least it was meant to be. I did n't know how to
please you then, and I am far from supposing that I have learned now.
But I entreat you to give me a chance."
She was silent a while; her eyes wandered over the great prospect of Paris.
"Do you know how you can please me now?" she said, at last.
"By leaving me alone."
Bernard looked at her a moment, then came straight back into the drawing-room
and took his hat.
"You see I avail myself of the first chance. But I shall come back to-morrow."
"I am greatly obliged to you for what you have said.
Such a speech as that deserves to be listened to with consideration.
You may come back to-morrow," Angela added.
On the morrow, when he came back, she received him alone.
"How did you know, at Baden, that I did n't like you?" he asked,
as soon as she would allow him.
She smiled, very gently.
"You assured me yesterday that you did like me."
"I mean that I supposed I did n't. How did you know that?"
"I can only say that I observed."
"You must have observed very closely, for, superficially, I rather
had the air of admiring you," said Bernard.
"It was very superficial."
"You don't mean that; for, after all, that is just what my admiration,
my interest in you, were not. They were deep, they were latent.
They were not superficial--they were subterranean."
"You are contradicting yourself, and I am perfectly consistent,"
said Angela. "Your sentiments were so well hidden that I supposed I
"I remember that at Baden, you used to contradict yourself,"
"You have a terrible memory!"
"Don't call it terrible, for it sees everything now in a charming light--
in the light of this understanding that we have at last arrived at,
which seems to shine backward--to shine full on those Baden days."
"Have we at last arrived at an understanding?" she asked,
with a grave directness which Bernard thought the most beautiful
thing he had ever seen.
"It only depends upon you," he declared; and then he broke
out again into a protestation of passionate tenderness.
"Don't put me off this time," he cried. "You have had time
to think about it; you have had time to get over the surprise,
the shock. I love you, and I offer you everything that belongs
to me in this world." As she looked at him with her dark,
clear eyes, weighing this precious vow and yet not committing
herself--"Ah, you don't forgive me!" he murmured.
She gazed at him with the same solemn brightness.
"What have I to forgive you?"
This question seemed to him enchanting. He reached forward
and took her hands, and if Mrs. Vivian had come in she would
have seen him kneeling at her daughter's feet.
But Mrs. Vivian remained in seclusion, and Bernard saw her only the next time
"I am very happy, because I think my daughter is happy,"
"And what do you think of me?"
"I think you are very clever. You must promise me to be very good to her."
"I am clever enough to promise that."
"I think you are good enough to keep it," said Mrs. Vivian.
She looked as happy as she said, and her happiness gave her
a communicative, confidential tendency. "It is very strange
how things come about--how the wheel turns round," she went on.
"I suppose there is no harm in my telling you that I believe she
always cared for you."
"Why did n't you tell me before?" said Bernard, with almost
"How could I? I don't go about the world offering my daughter to people--
especially to indifferent people."
"At Baden you did n't think I was indifferent. You were afraid
of my not being indifferent enough."
Mrs. Vivian colored.
"Ah, at Baden I was a little too anxious!"
"Too anxious I should n't speak to your daughter!" said Bernard, laughing.
"At Baden," Mrs. Vivian went on, "I had views. But I have n't any now--
I have given them up."
"That makes your acceptance of me very flattering!" Bernard exclaimed,
laughing still more gaily.
"I have something better," said Mrs. Vivian, laying her finger-tips
on his arm. "I have confidence."
Bernard did his best to encourage this gracious sentiment,
and it seemed to him that there was something yet to be done
to implant it more firmly in Angela's breast.
"I have a confession to make to you," he said to her one day.
"I wish you would listen to it."
"Is it something very horrible?" Angela asked.
"Something very horrible indeed. I once did you an injury."
"An injury?" she repeated, in a tone which seemed to reduce
the offence to contemptible proportions by simple vagueness
of mind about it.
"I don't know what to call it," said Bernard. "A poor service--
Angela gave a shrug, or rather an imitation of a shrug;
for she was not a shrugging person.
"I never knew it."
"I misrepresented you to Gordon Wright," Bernard went on.
"Why do you speak to me of him?" she asked rather sadly.
"Does it displease you?"
She hesitated a little.
"Yes, it displeases me. If your confession has anything to do with him,
I would rather not hear it."
Bernard returned to the subject another time--he had plenty of opportunities.
He spent a portion of every day in the company of these dear women;
and these days were the happiest of his life. The autumn weather
was warm and soothing, the quartier was still deserted, and the uproar
of the great city, which seemed a hundred miles away, reached them
through the dense October air with a softened and muffled sound.
The evenings, however, were growing cool, and before long they
lighted the first fire of the season in Mrs. Vivian's heavily draped
little chimney-piece. On this occasion Bernard sat there with Angela,
watching the bright crackle of the wood and feeling that the charm
of winter nights had begun. These two young persons were alone together
in the gathering dusk; it was the hour before dinner, before the lamp had
"I insist upon making you my confession," said Bernard.
"I shall be very unhappy until you let me do it."
"Unhappy? You are the happiest of men."
"I lie upon roses, if you will; but this memory, this remorse,
is a folded rose-leaf. I was completely mistaken about you at Baden;
I thought all manner of evil of you--or at least I said it."
"Men are dull creatures," said Angela.
"I think they are. So much so that, as I look back upon that time,
there are some things I don't understand even now."
"I don't see why you should look back. People in our position are supposed
to look forward."
"You don't like those Baden days yourself," said Bernard.
"You don't like to think of them."
"What a wonderful discovery!"
Bernard looked at her a moment in the brightening fire-light.
"What part was it you tried to play there?"
Angela shook her head.
"Men are dull creatures."
"I have already granted that, and I am eating humble pie in asking
for an explanation."
"What did you say of me?" Angela asked, after a silence.
"I said you were a coquette. Remember that I am simply historical."
She got up and stood in front of the fire, having her hand
on the chimney-piece and looking down at the blaze.
For some moments she remained there. Bernard could not see
"I said you were a dangerous woman to marry," he went on deliberately.
"I said it because I thought it. I gave Gordon an opinion about you--
it was a very unfavorable one. I could n't make you out--I thought you
were playing a double part. I believed that you were ready to marry him,
and yet I saw--I thought I saw--" and Bernard paused again.
"What did you see?" and Angela turned toward him.
"That you were encouraging me--playing with me."
"And you did n't like that?"
"I liked it immensely--for myself! But did n't like it for Gordon;
and I must do myself the justice to say that I thought more of him
than of myself."
"You were an excellent friend," said Angela, simply.
"I believe I was. And I am so still," Bernard added.
She shook her head sadly.
"Poor Mr. Wright!"
"He is a dear good fellow," said Bernard.
"Thoroughly good, and dear, doubtless to his wife, the affectionate Blanche."
"You don't like him--you don't like her," said Bernard.
"Those are two very different matters. I am very sorry for Mr. Wright.
"You need n't be that. He is doing very well."
"So you have already informed me. But I am sorry for him,
all the same."
"That does n't answer my question," Bernard exclaimed,
with a certain irritation. "What part were you playing?"
"What part do you think?"
"Have n't I told you I gave it up, long ago?"
Angela stood with her back to the fire, looking at him;
her hands were locked behind her.
"Did it ever strike you that my position at Baden was a charming one?--
knowing that I had been handed over to you to be put under the microscope--
like an insect with a pin stuck through it!"
"How in the world did you know it? I thought we were particularly careful."
"How can a woman help knowing such a thing? She guesses it--
she discovers it by instinct; especially if she be a proud woman."
"Ah," said Bernard, "if pride is a source of information,
you must be a prodigy of knowledge!"
"I don't know that you are particularly humble!" the girl retorted.
"The meekest and most submissive of her sex would not have consented
to have such a bargain as that made about her--such a trick played
"My dearest Angela, it was no bargain--no trick!" Bernard interposed.
"It was a clumsy trick--it was a bad bargain!" she declared.
"At any rate I hated it--I hated the idea of your pretending to pass
judgment upon me; of your having come to Baden for the purpose.
It was as if Mr. Wright had been buying a horse and you had undertaken to
put me through my paces!"
"I undertook nothing--I declined to undertake."
"You certainly made a study of me--and I was determined you should get
your lesson wrong. I determined to embarrass, to mislead, to defeat you.
Or rather, I did n't determine; I simply obeyed a natural impulse
of self-defence--the impulse to evade the fierce light of criticism.
I wished to put you in the wrong."
"You did it all very well. You put me admirably in the wrong."
"The only justification for my doing it at all was my doing it well,"
"You were justified then! You must have hated me fiercely."
She turned her back to him and stood looking at the fire again.
"Yes, there are some things that I did that can be accounted
for only by an intense aversion."
She said this so naturally that in spite of a certain theory that was
touched upon a few pages back, Bernard was a good deal bewildered.
He rose from the sofa where he had been lounging and went and stood beside
her a moment. Then he passed his arm round her waist and murmured an
"I don't know what you are trying to make me say!" she answered.
He looked down at her for a moment as he held her close to him.
"I don't see, after all, why I should wish to make you say it.
It would only make my remorse more acute."
She was musing, with her eyes on the fire, and for a moment
she made no answer; then, as if her attention were returning--
"Are you still talking about your remorse?" she asked.
"You see I put it very strongly."
"That I was a horrid creature?"
"That you were not a woman to marry."
"Ah, my poor Bernard," said Angela, "I can't attempt to prove to you
that you are not inconsistent!"
The month of September drew to a close, and she consented to fix a day
for their wedding. The last of October was the moment selected,
and the selection was almost all that was wanting to Bernard's happiness.
I say "almost," for there was a solitary spot in his consciousness
which felt numb and dead--unpervaded by the joy with which the rest
of his spirit seemed to thrill and tingle. The removal of this hard
grain in the sweet savour of life was needed to complete his felicity.
Bernard felt that he had made the necessary excision when,
at the end of the month, he wrote to Gordon Wright of his engagement.
He had been putting off the performance of this duty from day to day--
it seemed so hard to accomplish it gracefully. He did it at
the end very briefly; it struck him that this was the best way.
Three days after he had sent his letter there arrived one from
Gordon himself, informing Bernard that he had suddenly determined
to bring Blanche to Europe. She was not well, and they would lose
no time. They were to sail within a week after his writing.
The letter contained a postscript--"Captain Lovelock comes
Bernard prepared for Gordon's arrival in Paris, which,
according to his letter, would take place in a few days.
He was not intending to stop in England; Blanche desired
to proceed immediately to the French capital, to confer
with her man-milliner, after which it was probable that
they would go to Italy or to the East for the winter.
"I have given her a choice of Rome or the Nile," said Gordon,
"but she tells me she does n't care a fig where we go."
I say that Bernard prepared to receive his friends, and I
mean that he prepared morally--or even intellectually.
Materially speaking, he could simply hold himself in readiness
to engage an apartment at a hotel and to go to meet them
at the station. He expected to hear from Gordon as soon
as this interesting trio should reach England, but the first
notification he received came from a Parisian hotel.
It came to him in the shape of a very short note, in the morning,
shortly before lunch, and was to the effect that his friends had
alighted in the Rue de la Paix the night before.
"We were tired, and I have slept late," said Gordon; "otherwise you
should have heard from me earlier. Come to lunch, if possible.
I want extremely to see you."
Bernard, of course, made a point of going to lunch. In as short a time
as possible he found himself in Gordon's sitting-room at the Hotel Middlesex.
The table was laid for the midday repast, and a gentleman stood with his back
to the door, looking out of the window. As Bernard came in, this gentleman
turned and exhibited the ambrosial beard, the symmetrical shape,
the monocular appendage, of Captain Lovelock.
The Captain screwed his glass into his eye, and greeted Bernard
in his usual fashion--that is, as if he had parted with him overnight.
"Oh, good morning! Beastly morning, is n't it?
I suppose you are come to luncheon--I have come to luncheon.
It ought to be on table, you know--it 's nearly two o'clock.
But I dare say you have noticed foreigners are never punctual--
it 's only English servants that are punctual. And they don't
understand luncheon, you know--they can't make out our eating at
this sort of hour. You know they always dine so beastly early.
Do you remember the sort of time they used to dine at Baden?--
half-past five, half-past six; some unearthly hour of
that kind. That 's the sort of time you dine in America.
I found they 'd invite a man at half-past six. That 's what I
call being in a hurry for your food. You know they always
accuse the Americans of making a rush for their victuals.
I am bound to say that in New York, and that sort of place,
the victuals were very good when you got them.
I hope you don't mind my saying anything about America?
You know the Americans are so deucedly thin-skinned--they always
bristle up if you say anything against their institutions.
The English don't care a rap what you say--they 've got
a different sort of temper, you know. With the Americans I
'm deuced careful--I never breathe a word about anything.
While I was over there I went in for being complimentary.
I laid it on thick, and I found they would take all I could
give them. I did n't see much of their institutions, after all;
I went in for seeing the people. Some of the people
were charming--upon my soul, I was surprised at some of
the people. I dare say you know some of the people I saw;
they were as nice people as you would see anywhere.
There were always a lot of people about Mrs. Wright, you know;
they told me they were all the best people. You know she is
always late for everything. She always comes in after every
one is there--looking so devilish pretty, pulling on her gloves.
She wears the longest gloves I ever saw in my life. Upon my word,
if they don't come, I think I will ring the bell and ask
the waiter what 's the matter. Would n't you ring the bell?
It 's a great mistake, their trying to carry out their
ideas of lunching. That 's Wright's character, you know;
he 's always trying to carry out some idea. When I am abroad,
I go in for the foreign breakfast myself. You may depend upon it
they had better give up trying to do this sort of thing at this
Captain Lovelock was more disposed to conversation than Bernard
had known him before. His discourse of old had been languid
and fragmentary, and our hero had never heard him pursue
a train of ideas through so many involutions. To Bernard's
observant eye, indeed, the Captain was an altered man.
His manner betrayed a certain restless desire to be agreeable,
to anticipate judgment--a disposition to smile, and be civil,
and entertain his auditor, a tendency to move about and look out of
the window and at the clock. He struck Bernard as a trifle nervous--
as less solidly planted on his feet than when he lounged along
the Baden gravel-walks by the side of his usual companion--
a lady for whom, apparently, his admiration was still considerable.
Bernard was curious to see whether he would ring the bell
to inquire into the delay attending the service of lunch;
but before this sentiment, rather idle under the circumstances,
was gratified, Blanche passed into the room from a
neighboring apartment. To Bernard's perception Blanche,
at least, was always Blanche; she was a person in whom it would
not have occurred to him to expect any puzzling variation,
and the tone of her little, soft, thin voice instantly rang
in his ear like an echo of yesterday's talk. He had already
remarked to himself that after however long an interval one
might see Blanche, she re-appeared with an air of familiarity.
This was in some sense, indeed, a proof of the agreeable impression
she made, and she looked exceedingly pretty as she now suddenly
stopped on seeing our two gentlemen, and gave a little cry
"Ah! I did n't know you were here. They never told me.
Have you been waiting a long time? How d' ye do? You must
think we are polite." She held out her hand to Bernard,
smiling very graciously. At Captain Lovelock she barely glanced.
"I hope you are very well," she went on to Longueville;
"but I need n't ask that. You 're as blooming as a rose.
What in the world has happened to you? You look so brilliant--
so fresh. Can you say that to a man--that he looks fresh?
Or can you only say that about butter and eggs?"
"It depends upon the man," said Captain Lovelock. "You can't say
that a man 's fresh who spends his time in running about after you!"
"Ah, are you here?" cried Blanche with another little cry
of surprise. "I did n't notice you--I thought you were the waiter.
This is what he calls running about after me," she added,
to Bernard; "coming to breakfast without being asked.
How queerly they have arranged the table!" she went on,
gazing with her little elevated eyebrows at this piece of furniture.
"I always thought that in Paris, if they could n't do anything else,
they could arrange a table. I don't like that at all--
those horrid little dishes on each side! Don't you think
those things ought to be off the table, Mr. Longueville?
I don't like to see a lot of things I 'm not eating.
And I told them to have some flowers--pray, where are the flowers?
Do they call those things flowers? They look as if they had
come out of the landlady's bonnet! Mr. Longueville, do look at
"They are not like me--they are not very fresh," laughed Bernard.
"It 's no great matter--we have not got to eat them,"
growled Captain Lovelock.
"I should think you would expect to--with the luncheon you usually make!"
rejoined Blanche. "Since you are here, though I did n't ask you, you might
as well make yourself useful. Will you be so good as to ring the bell?
If Gordon expects that we are going to wait another quarter of an hour for him
he exaggerates the patience of a long-suffering wife. If you are very curious
to know what he is about, he is writing letters, by way of a change.
He writes about eighty a day; his correspondents must be strong people!
It 's a lucky thing for me that I am married to Gordon; if I were not
he might write to me--to me, to whom it 's a misery to have to answer
even an invitation to dinner! To begin with, I don't know how to spell.
If Captain Lovelock ever boasts that he has had letters from me,
you may know it 's an invention. He has never had anything but telegrams--
three telegrams--that I sent him in America about a pair of slippers
that he had left at our house and that I did n't know what to do with.
Captain Lovelock's slippers are no trifle to have on one's hands--
on one's feet, I suppose I ought to say. For telegrams the spelling does
n't matter; the people at the office correct it--or if they don't you can
put it off on them. I never see anything nowadays but Gordon's back,"
she went on, as they took their places at table--"his noble broad back,
as he sits writing his letters. That 's my principal view of my husband.
I think that now we are in Paris I ought to have a portrait of it
by one of the great artists. It would be such a characteristic pose.
I have quite forgotten his face and I don't think I should know
Gordon's face, however, presented itself just at this moment;
he came in quickly, with his countenance flushed with the pleasure
of meeting his old friend again. He had the sun-scorched look
of a traveller who has just crossed the Atlantic, and he smiled at
Bernard with his honest eyes.
"Don't think me a great brute for not being here to receive you,"
he said, as he clasped his hand. "I was writing an important letter
and I put it to myself in this way: 'If I interrupt my letter
I shall have to come back and finish it; whereas if I finish
it now, I can have all the rest of the day to spend with him.'
So I stuck to it to the end, and now we can be inseparable."
"You may be sure Gordon reasoned it out," said Blanche,
while her husband offered his hand in silence to Captain Lovelock.
"Gordon's reasoning is as fine as other people's feeling!" declared Bernard,
who was conscious of a desire to say something very pleasant to Gordon,
and who did not at all approve of Blanche's little ironical tone about
"And Bernard's compliments are better than either," said Gordon,
laughing and taking his seat at table.
"I have been paying him compliments," Blanche went on.
"I have been telling him he looks so brilliant, so blooming--
as if something had happened to him, as if he had inherited
a fortune. He must have been doing something very wicked,
and he ought to tell us all about it, to amuse us.
I am sure you are a dreadful Parisian, Mr. Longueville.
Remember that we are three dull, virtuous people, exceedingly bored
with each other's society, and wanting to hear something
strange and exciting. If it 's a little improper, that won't
"You certainly are looking uncommonly well," said Gordon,
still smiling, across the table, at his friend. "I see what
"My dear Gordon, that 's a great event," his wife interposed.
"It 's a good deal to pretend, certainly," he went on, smiling always,
with his red face and his blue eyes. "But this is no great credit
to me, because Bernard's superb condition would strike any one.
You look as if you were going to marry the Lord Mayor's daughter!"
If Bernard was blooming, his bloom at this juncture must have deepened,
and in so doing indeed have contributed an even brighter tint to his
expression of salubrious happiness. It was one of the rare occasions
of his life when he was at a loss for a verbal expedient.
"It 's a great match," he nevertheless murmured, jestingly.
"You must excuse my inflated appearance."
"It has absorbed you so much that you have had no time to write to me,"
said Gordon. "I expected to hear from you after you arrived."
"I wrote to you a fortnight ago--just before receiving your own letter.
You left New York before my letter reached it."
"Ah, it will have crossed us," said Gordon. "But now that we
have your society I don't care. Your letters, of course,
are delightful, but that is still better."
In spite of this sympathetic statement Bernard cannot be said to have enjoyed
his lunch; he was thinking of something else that lay before him and that
was not agreeable. He was like a man who has an acrobatic feat to perform--
a wide ditch to leap, a high pole to climb--and who has a presentiment
of fractures and bruises. Fortunately he was not obliged to talk much,
as Mrs. Gordon displayed even more than her usual vivacity, rendering her
companions the graceful service of lifting the burden of conversation from
"I suppose you were surprised to see us rushing out here
so suddenly," she observed in the course of the repast.
"We had said nothing about it when you last saw us,
and I believe we are supposed to tell you everything,
ain't we? I certainly have told you a great many things,
and there are some of them I hope you have n't repeated.
I have no doubt you have told them all over Paris, but I don't
care what you tell in Paris--Paris is n't so easily shocked.
Captain Lovelock does n't repeat what I tell him; I set him up
as a model of discretion. I have told him some pretty bad things,
and he has liked them so much he has kept them all to himself.
I say my bad things to Captain Lovelock, and my good things
to other people; he does n't know the difference and he is
"Other people as well often don't know the difference,"
said Gordon, gravely. "You ought always to tell us which
Blanche gave her husband a little impertinent stare.
"When I am not appreciated," she said, with an attempt
at superior dryness, "I am too proud to point it out.
I don't know whether you know that I 'm proud," she went on,
turning to Gordon and glancing at Captain Lovelock; "it 's
a good thing to know. I suppose Gordon will say that I ought
to be too proud to point that out; but what are you to do
when no one has any imagination? You have a grain or two,
Mr. Longueville; but Captain Lovelock has n't a speck.
As for Gordon, je n'en parle pas! But even you, Mr. Longueville,
would never imagine that I am an interesting invalid--
that we are travelling for my delicate health. The doctors
have n't given me up, but I have given them up. I know I
don't look as if I were out of health; but that 's because I
always try to look my best. My appearance proves nothing--
absolutely nothing. Do you think my appearance proves anything,
Captain Lovelock scrutinized Blanche's appearance with a fixed and solemn eye;
and then he replied--
"It proves you are very lovely."
Blanche kissed her finger-tips to him in return for this compliment.
"You only need to give Captain Lovelock a chance,"
she rattled on, "and he is as clever as any one. That 's what I
like to do to my friends--I like to make chances for them.
Captain Lovelock is like my dear little blue terrier that I
left at home. If I hold out a stick he will jump over it.
He won't jump without the stick; but as soon as I produce it
he knows what he has to do. He looks at it a moment and then
he gives his little hop. He knows he will have a lump of sugar,
and Captain Lovelock expects one as well. Dear Captain Lovelock,
shall I ring for a lump? Would n't it be touching?
Gar;alcon, un morceau de sucre pour Monsieur le Capitaine!
But what I give Monsieur le Capitaine is moral sugar! I usually
administer it in private, and he shall have a good big morsel when you
Gordon got up, turning to Bernard and looking at his watch.
"Let us go away, in that case," he said, smiling, "and leave
Captain Lovelock to receive his reward. We will go and take
a walk; we will go up the Champs Elysees. Good morning,
Monsieur le Capitaine."
Neither Blanche nor the Captain offered any opposition to this proposal,
and Bernard took leave of his hostess and joined Gordon, who had already
passed into the antechamber.
Gordon took his arm and they gained the street; they strolled
in the direction of the Champs Elysees.
"For a little exercise and a good deal of talk, it 's the pleasantest place,"
said Gordon. "I have a good deal to say; I have a good deal to ask you."
Bernard felt the familiar pressure of his friend's hand, as it
rested on his arm, and it seemed to him never to have lain there
with so heavy a weight. It held him fast--it held him to account;
it seemed a physical symbol of responsibility. Bernard was
not re-assured by hearing that Gordon had a great deal to say,
and he expected a sudden explosion of bitterness on the subject
of Blanche's irremediable triviality. The afternoon was a lovely one--
the day was a perfect example of the mellowest mood of autumn.
The air was warm and filled with a golden haze, which seemed to hang
about the bare Parisian trees, as if with a tender impulse to drape
their nakedness. A fine day in Paris brings out a wonderfully
bright and appreciative multitude of strollers and loungers,
and the liberal spaces of the Champs Elysees were on this occasion
filled with those placid votaries of inexpensive entertainment
who abound in the French capital. The benches and chairs on
the edge of the great avenue exhibited a dense fraternity of gazers,
and up and down the broad walk passed the slow-moving and easily
pleased pedestrians. Gordon, in spite of his announcement that he had
a good deal to say, confined himself at first to superficial allusions,
and Bernard after a while had the satisfaction of perceiving that he was
not likely, for the moment, to strike the note of conjugal discord.
He appeared, indeed, to feel no desire to speak of Blanche in any
manner whatever. He fell into the humor of the hour and the scene,
looked at the crowd, talked about trifles. He remarked that Paris
was a wonderful place after all, and that a little glimpse of
the Parisian picture was a capital thing as a change; said he was
very glad they had come, and that for his part he was willing to stay
"And what have you been doing with yourself?" he asked.
"How have you been occupied, and what are you meaning to do?"
Bernard said nothing for a moment, and Gordon presently glanced at his face
to see why he was silent. Bernard, looking askance, met his companion's eyes,
and then, resting his own upon them, he stopped short. His heart was beating;
it was a question of saying to Gordon outright, "I have been occupied in
becoming engaged to Angela Vivian." But he could n't say it, and yet he must
say something. He tried to invent something; but he could think of nothing,
and still Gordon was looking at him.
"I am so glad to see you!" he exclaimed, for want of something better;
and he blushed--he felt foolish, he felt false--as he said it.
"My dear Bernard!" Gordon murmured gratefully, as they walked on.
"It 's very good of you to say that; I am very glad we are together again.
I want to say something," he added, in a moment; "I hope you won't
mind it--" Bernard gave a little laugh at his companion's scruples,
and Gordon continued. "To tell the truth, it has sometimes
seemed to me that we were not so good friends as we used to be--
that something had come between us--I don't know what, I don't know why.
I don't know what to call it but a sort of lowering of the temperature.
I don't know whether you have felt it, or whether it has been simply
a fancy of mine. Whatever it may have been, it 's all over, is n't it?
We are too old friends--too good friends--not to stick together.
Of course, the rubs of life may occasionally loosen the cohesion;
but it is very good to feel that, with a little direct contact,
it may easily be re-established. Is n't that so? But we should n't
reason about these things; one feels them, and that 's enough."
Gordon spoke in his clear, cheerful voice, and Bernard listened intently.
It seemed to him there was an undertone of pain and effort in his
companion's speech; it was that of an unhappy man trying to be wise
and make the best of things.
"Ah, the rubs of life--the rubs of life!" Bernard repeated vaguely.
"We must n't mind them," said Gordon, with a conscientious laugh.
"We must toughen our hides; or, at the worst, we must plaster
up our bruises. But why should we choose this particular
place and hour for talking of the pains of life?" he went on.
"Are we not in the midst of its pleasures? I mean, henceforth,
to cultivate its pleasures. What are yours, just now, Bernard?
Is n't it supposed that in Paris one must amuse one's self?
How have you been amusing yourself?"
"I have been leading a very quiet life," said Bernard.
"I notice that 's what people always say when they have been
particularly dissipated. What have you done? Whom have you
seen that one knows?"
Bernard was silent a moment.
"I have seen some old friends of yours," he said at last.
"I have seen Mrs. Vivian and her daughter."
"Ah!" Gordon made this exclamation, and then stopped short.
Bernard looked at him, but Gordon was looking away;
his eyes had caught some one in the crowd. Bernard followed
the direction they had taken, and then Gordon went on:
"Talk of the devil--excuse the adage! Are not those the ladies
Mrs. Vivian and her daughter were, in fact, seated among a great many other
quiet people, in a couple of hired chairs, at the edge of the great avenue.
They were turned toward our two friends, and when Bernard distinguished them,
in the well-dressed multitude, they were looking straight at Gordon Wright.
"They see you!" said Bernard.
"You say that as if I wished to run away," Gordon answered.
"I don't want to run away; on the contrary, I want to speak
"That 's easily done," said Bernard, and they advanced to the two ladies.
Mrs. Vivian and her daughter rose from their chairs as they came;
they had evidently rapidly exchanged observations, and had decided
that it would facilitate their interview with Gordon Wright to
receive him standing. He made his way to them through the crowd,
blushing deeply, as he always did when excited; then he stood there
bare-headed, shaking hands with each of them, with a fixed smile,
and with nothing, apparently, to say. Bernard watched Angela's face;
she was giving his companion a beautiful smile. Mrs. Vivian was
"I was sure it was you," said Gordon at last. "We were just talking of you."
"Did Mr. Longueville deny it was we?" asked Mrs. Vivian, archly; "after we
had supposed that we had made an impression on him!"
"I knew you were in Paris--we were in the act of talking of you,"
Gordon went on. "I am very glad to see you."
Bernard had shaken hands with Angela, looking at her intently;
and in her eyes, as his own met them, it seemed to him
that there was a gleam of mockery. At whom was she mocking--
at Gordon, or at himself? Bernard was uncomfortable enough not
to care to be mocked; but he felt even more sorry that Gordon
"We also knew you were coming--Mr. Longueville had told us,"
said Mrs. Vivian; "and we have been expecting the pleasure of
seeing Blanche. Dear little Blanche!"
"Dear little Blanche will immediately come and see you,"
"Immediately, we hope," said Mrs. Vivian. "We shall be so very glad."
Bernard perceived that she wished to say something soothing and sympathetic
to poor Gordon; having it, as he supposed, on her conscience that,
after having once encouraged him to regard himself as indispensable
(in the capacity of son-in-law) to her happiness, she should now present
to him the spectacle of a felicity which had established itself without
his aid. "We were so very much interested in your marriage," she went on.
"We thought it so--so delightful."
Gordon fixed his eyes on the ground for a moment.
"I owe it partly to you," he answered. "You had done so much for Blanche.
You had so cultivated her mind and polished her manners that her attractions
were doubled, and I fell an easy victim to them."
He uttered these words with an exaggerated solemnity, the result
of which was to produce, for a moment, an almost embarrassing silence.
Bernard was rapidly becoming more and more impatient of his
own embarrassment, and now he exclaimed, in a loud and jovial voice--
"Blanche makes victims by the dozen! I was a victim last winter;
we are all victims!"
"Dear little Blanche!" Mrs. Vivian murmured again.
Angela had said nothing; she had simply stood there, making no attempt
to address herself to Gordon, and yet with no affectation of reserve
or of indifference. Now she seemed to feel the impulse to speak to him.
"When Blanche comes to see us, you must be sure to come with her,"
she said, with a friendly smile.
Gordon looked at her, but he said nothing.
"We were so sorry to hear she is out of health," Angela went on.
Still Gordon was silent, with his eyes fixed on her expressive
and charming face.
"It is not serious," he murmured at last.
"She used to be so well--so bright," said Angela, who also appeared
to have the desire to say something kind and comfortable.
Gordon made no response to this; he only looked at her.
"I hope you are well, Miss Vivian," he broke out at last.
"Very well, thank you."
"Do you live in Paris?"
"We have pitched our tent here for the present."
"Do you like it?"
"I find it no worse than other places."
Gordon appeared to desire to talk with her; but he could think of nothing
to say. Talking with her was a pretext for looking at her; and Bernard,
who thought she had never been so handsome as at that particular moment,
smiling at her troubled ex-lover, could easily conceive that his friend
should desire to prolong this privilege.
"Have you been sitting here long?" Gordon asked, thinking of something
"Half an hour. We came out to walk, and my mother felt tired.
It is time we should turn homeward," Angela added.
"Yes, I am tired, my daughter. We must take a voiture,
if Mr. Longueville will be so good as to find us one,"
said Mrs. Vivian.
Bernard, professing great alacrity, looked about him; but he still
lingered near his companions. Gordon had thought of something else.
"Have you been to Baden again?" Bernard heard him ask. But at
this moment Bernard espied at a distance an empty hackney-carriage
crawling up the avenue, and he was obliged to go and signal to it.
When he came back, followed by the vehicle, the two ladies,
accompanied by Gordon, had come to the edge of the pavement.
They shook hands with Gordon before getting into the cab, and
Mrs. Vivian exclaimed--
"Be sure you give our love to your dear wife!"
Then the two ladies settled themselves and smiled their adieux,
and the little victoria rumbled away at an easy pace, while Bernard
stood with Gordon, looking after it. They watched it a moment,
and then Gordon turned to his companion. He looked at Bernard
for some moments intently, with a singular expression.
"It is strange for me to see her!" he said, presently.
"I hope it is not altogether disagreeable," Bernard answered smiling.
"She is delightfully handsome," Gordon went on.
"She is a beautiful woman."
"And the strange thing is that she strikes me now so differently,"
Gordon continued. "I used to think her so mysterious--so ambiguous.
She seems to be now so simple."
"Ah," said Bernard, laughing, "that's an improvement!"
"So simple and so good!" Gordon exclaimed.
Bernard laid his hand on his companion's shoulder, shaking his head slowly.
"You must not think too much about that," he said.
"So simple--so good--so charming!" Gordon repeated.
"Ah, my dear Gordon!" Bernard murmured.
But still Gordon continued.
"So intelligent, so reasonable, so sensible."
"Have you discovered all that in two minutes' talk?"
"Yes, in two minutes' talk. I should n't hesitate about her now!"
"It 's better you should n't say that," said Bernard.
"Why should n't I say it? It seems to me it 's my duty to say it."
"No--your duty lies elsewhere," said Bernard. "There are two reasons.
One is that you have married another woman."
"What difference does that make?" cried Gordon.
Bernard made no attempt to answer this inquiry; he simply went on--
"The other is--the other is--"
But here he paused.
"What is the other?" Gordon asked.
"That I am engaged to marry Miss Vivian."
And with this Bernard took his hand off Gordon's shoulder.
Gordon stood staring.
"To marry Miss Vivian?"
Now that Bernard had heard himself say it, audibly, distinctly, loudly,
the spell of his apprehension seemed broken, and he went on bravely.
"We are to be married very shortly. It has all come about within a
few weeks. It will seem to you very strange--perhaps you won't like it.
That 's why I have hesitated to tell you."
Gordon turned pale; it was the first time Bernard had ever seen him do so;
evidently he did not like it. He stood staring and frowning.
"Why, I thought--I thought," he began at last--"I thought that you
"I supposed so, too," said Bernard. "But I have got over that."
Gordon turned away, looking up the great avenue into the crowd.
Then turning back, he said--
"I am very much surprised."
"And you are not pleased!"
Gordon fixed his eyes on the ground a moment.
"I congratulate you on your engagement," he said at last,
looking up with a face that seemed to Bernard hard and unnatural.
"It is very good of you to say that, but of course you can't like it!
I was sure you would n't like it. But what could I do? I fell in love
with her, and I could n't run away simply to spare you a surprise.
My dear Gordon," Bernard added, "you will get used to it."
"Very likely," said Gordon, dryly. "But you must give me time."
"As long as you like!"
Gordon stood for a moment again staring down at the ground.
"Very well, then, I will take my time," he said. "Good-bye!"
And he turned away, as if to walk off alone.
"Where are you going?" asked Bernard, stopping him.
"I don't know--to the hotel, anywhere. To try to get used to what you
have told me."
"Don't try too hard; it will come of itself," said Bernard.
"We shall see!"
And Gordon turned away again.
"Do you prefer to go alone?"
"Very much--if you will excuse me!"
"I have asked you to excuse a greater want of ceremony!"
said Bernard, smiling.
"I have not done so yet!" Gordon rejoined; and marching off,
he mingled with the crowd.
Bernard watched him till he lost sight of him, and then,
dropping into the first empty chair that he saw, he sat and
reflected that his friend liked it quite as little as he had feared.
Bernard sat thinking for a long time; at first with a good deal
of mortification--at last with a good deal of bitterness.
He felt angry at last; but he was not angry with himself.
He was displeased with poor Gordon, and with Gordon's displeasure.
He was uncomfortable, and he was vexed at his discomfort.
It formed, it seemed to him, no natural part of his situation;
he had had no glimpse of it in the book of fate where he registered
on a fair blank page his betrothal to a charming girl.
That Gordon should be surprised, and even a little shocked
and annoyed--this was his right and his privilege;
Bernard had been prepared for that, and had determined to make
the best of it. But it must not go too far; there were limits
to the morsel of humble pie that he was disposed to swallow.
Something in Gordon's air and figure, as he went off in a huff,
looking vicious and dangerous--yes, that was positively
his look--left a sinister impression on Bernard's mind, and,
after a while, made him glad to take refuge in being angry.
One would like to know what Gordon expected, par exemple!
Did he expect Bernard to give up Angela simply to save him a shock;
or to back out of his engagement by way of an ideal reparation?
No, it was too absurd, and, if Gordon had a wife of his own,
why in the name of justice should not Bernard have
Being angry was a relief, but it was not exactly a solution,
and Bernard, at last, leaving his place, where for an hour
or two he had been absolutely unconscious of everything
that went on around him, wandered about for some time in deep
restlessness and irritation. At one moment he thought
of going back to Gordon's hotel, to see him, to explain.
But then he became aware that he was too angry for that--
to say nothing of Gordon's being too angry also; and, moreover,
that there was nothing to explain. He was to marry Angela Vivian;
that was a very simple fact--it needed no explanation.
Was it so wonderful, so inconceivable, an incident so unlikely
to happen? He went, as he always did on Sunday, to dine with
Mrs. Vivian, and it seemed to him that he perceived in the two
ladies some symptoms of a discomposure which had the same
origin as his own. Bernard, on this occasion, at dinner,
failed to make himself particularly agreeable; he ate fast--
as if he had no idea what he was eating, and talked little;
every now and then his eyes rested for some time upon Angela,
with a strange, eagerly excited expression, as if he were looking
her over and trying to make up his mind about her afresh.
This young lady bore his inscrutable scrutiny with a deal of
superficial composure; but she was also silent, and she returned
his gaze, from time to time, with an air of unusual anxiety.
She was thinking, of course, of Gordon, Bernard said to himself;
and a woman's first meeting, in after years, with an ex-lover
must always make a certain impression upon her. Gordon, however,
had never been a lover, and if Bernard noted Angela's gravity it
was not because he felt jealous. "She is simply sorry for him,"
he said to himself; and by the time he had finished his dinner it
began to come back to him that he was sorry, too. Mrs. Vivian
was probably sorry as well, for she had a slightly confused
and preoccupied look--a look from which, even in the midst
of his chagrin, Bernard extracted some entertainment.
It was Mrs. Vivian's intermittent conscience that had been
reminded of one of its lapses; her meeting with Gordon Wright
had recalled the least exemplary episode of her life--the time
when she whispered mercenary counsel in the ear of a daughter
who sat, grave and pale, looking at her with eyes that wondered.
Mrs. Vivian blushed a little now, when she met Bernard's eyes;
and to remind herself that she was after all a virtuous woman,
talked as much as possible about superior and harmless things--
the beauty of the autumn weather, the pleasure of seeing French
papas walking about on Sunday with their progeny in their hands,
the peculiarities of the pulpit-oratory of the country as exemplified
in the discourse of a Protestant pasteur whom she had been to hear in
When they rose from table and went back into her little drawing-room, she
left her daughter alone for awhile with Bernard. The two were standing
together before the fire; Bernard watched Mrs. Vivian close the door
softly behind her. Then, looking for a moment at his companion--
"He is furious!" he announced at last.
"Furious?" said Angela. "Do you mean Mr. Wright?"
"The amiable, reasonable Gordon. He takes it very hard."
"Do you mean about me?" asked Angela.
"It 's not with you he 's furious, of course; it is with me.
He won't let me off easily."
Angela looked for a moment at the fire.
"I am very sorry for him," she said, at last.
"It seems to me I am the one to be pitied," said Bernard;
"and I don't see what compassion you, of all people in the world,
Angela again rested her eyes on the fire; then presently,
"He liked me very much," she remarked.
"All the more shame to him!" cried Bernard.
"What do you mean?" asked the girl, with her beautiful stare.
"If he liked you, why did he give you up?"
"He did n't give me up."
"What do you mean, please?" asked Bernard, staring back at her.
"I sent him away--I refused him," said Angela.
"Yes; but you thought better of it, and your mother had persuaded
you that if he should ask you again, you had better accept him.
Then it was that he backed out--in consequence of what I said to him on
his return from England."
She shook her head slowly, with a strange smile.
"My poor Bernard, you are talking very wildly. He did ask me again."
"That night?" cried Bernard.
"The night he came back from England--the last time I saw him,
"After I had denounced you?" our puzzled hero exclaimed,
"I am sorry to let you know the small effect of your words!"
Bernard folded his hands together--almost devoutly--and stood gazing
at her with a long, inarticulate murmur of satisfaction.
"Ah! then, I did n't injure you--I did n't deprive you of a chance?"
"Oh, sir, the intention on your part was the same!" Angela exclaimed.
"Then all my uneasiness, all my remorse, were wasted?"
he went on.
But she kept the same tone, and its tender archness only gave a greater
sweetness to his sense of relief.
"It was a very small penance for you to pay."
"You dismissed him definitely, and that was why he vanished?"
asked Bernard, wondering still.
"He gave me another 'chance,' as you elegantly express it,
and I declined to take advantage of it."
"Ah, well, now," cried Bernard, "I am sorry for him!"
"I was very kind--very respectful," said Angela. "I thanked him from
the bottom of my heart; I begged his pardon very humbly for the wrong--
if wrong it was--that I was doing him. I did n't in the least require
of him that he should leave Baden at seven o'clock the next morning.
I had no idea that he would do so, and that was the reason that I
insisted to my mother that we ourselves should go away. When we went I
knew nothing about his having gone, and I supposed he was still there.
I did n't wish to meet him again."
Angela gave this information slowly, softly, with pauses between
the sentences, as if she were recalling the circumstances with a
certain effort; and meanwhile Bernard, with his transfigured face
and his eyes fixed upon her lips, was moving excitedly about the room.
"Well, he can't accuse me, then!" he broke out again.
"If what I said had no more effect upon him than that,
I certainly did him no wrong."
"I think you are rather vexed he did n't believe you,"
"I confess I don't understand it. He had all the air of it.
He certainly had not the air of a man who was going to rush off
and give you the last proof of his confidence."
"It was not a proof of confidence," said Angela. "It had nothing to do
with me. It was as between himself and you; it was a proof of independence.
He did believe you, more or less, and what you said fell in with his
own impressions--strange impressions that they were, poor man!
At the same time, as I say, he liked me, too; it was out of his liking
me that all his trouble came! He caught himself in the act of listening
to you too credulously--and that seemed to him unmanly and dishonorable.
The sensation brought with it a reaction, and to prove to himself
that in such a matter he could be influenced by nobody, he marched away,
an hour after he had talked with you, and, in the teeth of his
perfect mistrust, confirmed by your account of my irregularities--
heaven forgive you both!--again asked me to be his wife. But he hoped I
"Ah," cried Bernard, "the recreant! He deserved--he deserved--"
"That I should accept him?" Angela asked, smiling still.
Bernard was so much affected by this revelation, it seemed
to him to make such a difference in his own responsibility
and to lift such a weight off his conscience, that he broke
out again into the liveliest ejaculations of relief.
"Oh, I don't care for anything, now, and I can do what I please!
Gordon may hate me, and I shall be sorry for him; but it 's not my fault,
and I owe him no reparation. No, no; I am free!"
"It 's only I who am not, I suppose," said Angela, "and the reparation
must come from me! If he is unhappy, I must take the responsibility."
"Ah yes, of course," said Bernard, kissing her.
"But why should he be unhappy?" asked Angela. "If I refused him,
it was what he wanted."
"He is hard to please," Bernard rejoined. "He has got a wife of his own."
"If Blanche does n't please him, he is certainly difficult;"
and Angela mused a little. "But you told me the other day that
they were getting on so well."
"Yes, I believe I told you," Bernard answered, musing a little too.
"You are not attending to what I say."
"No, I am thinking of something else--I am thinking of what it was that made
you refuse him that way, at the last, after you had let your mother hope."
And Bernard stood there, smiling at her.
"Don't think any more; you will not find out," the girl declared,
"Ah, it was cruel of you to let me think I was wrong all these years,"
he went on; "and, at the time, since you meant to refuse him, you might
have been more frank with me."
"I thought my fault had been that I was too frank."
"I was densely stupid, and you might have made me understand better."
"Ah," said Angela, "you ask a great deal of a girl!"
"Why have you let me go on so long thinking that my deluded words had
had an effect upon Gordon--feeling that I had done you a brutal wrong?
It was real to me, the wrong--and I have told you of the pangs and
the shame which, for so many months, it has cost me! Why have you never
undeceived me until to-day, and then only by accident?"
At this question Angela blushed a little; then she answered, smiling--
"It was my vengeance."
Bernard shook his head.
"That won't do--you don't mean it. You never cared--you were too proud
to care; and when I spoke to you about my fault, you did n't even know
what I meant. You might have told me, therefore, that my remorse was idle,
that what I said to Gordon had not been of the smallest consequence,
and that the rupture had come from yourself."
For some time Angela said nothing, then at last she gave him one of the deeply
serious looks with which her face was occasionally ornamented.
"If you want really to know, then--can't you see that your remorse seemed to
me connected in a certain way with your affection; a sort of guarantee of it?
You thought you had injured some one or other, and that seemed to be mixed up
with your loving me, and therefore I let it alone."
"Ah," said Bernard, "my remorse is all gone, and yet I think
I love you about as much as ever! So you see how wrong you
were not to tell me."
"The wrong to you I don't care about. It is very true I might have told
you for Mr. Wright's sake. It would perhaps have made him look better.
But as you never attacked him for deserting me, it seemed needless for me
to defend him."
"I confess," said Bernard, "I am quite at sea about Gordon's look in
the matter. Is he looking better now--or is he looking worse? You put it
very well just now; I was attending to you, though you said I was not.
If he hoped you would refuse him, with whom is his quarrel at present?
And why was he so cool to me for months after we parted at Baden?
If that was his state of mind, why should he accuse me of inconsistency?"
"There is something in it, after all, that a woman can understand.
I don't know whether a man can. He hoped I would refuse him, and yet
when I had done so he was vexed. After a while his vexation subsided,
and he married poor Blanche; but, on learning to-day that I had accepted you,
it flickered up again. I suppose that was natural enough; but it won't
"What will not be serious, my dear?" asked Mrs. Vivian, who had come back
to the drawing-room, and who, apparently, could not hear that the attribute
in question was wanting in any direction, without some alarm.
"Shall I tell mamma, Bernard?" said Angela.
"Ah, my dear child, I hope it 's nothing that threatens your
mutual happiness," mamma murmured, with gentle earnestness.
"Does it threaten our mutual happiness, Bernard?" the girl went on, smiling.
"Let Mrs. Vivian decide whether we ought to let it make us miserable,"
said Bernard. "Dear Mrs. Vivian, you are a casuist, and this is a
"Is it anything about poor Mr. Wright?" the elder lady inquired.
"Why do you say 'poor' Mr. Wright?" asked Bernard.
"Because I am sadly afraid he is not happy with Blanche."
"How did you discover that--without seeing them together?"
"Well, perhaps you will think me very fanciful," said Mrs. Vivian;
"but it was by the way he looked at Angela. He has such an
"He looked at me very kindly, mamma," Angela observed.
"He regularly stared, my daughter. In any one else I should
have said it was rude. But his situation is so peculiar;
and one could see that he admired you still." And Mrs. Vivian
gave a little soft sigh.
"Ah! she is thinking of the thirty thousand a year," Bernard said to himself.
"I am sure I hope he admires me still," the girl cried, laughing.
"There is no great harm in that."
"He was comparing you with Blanche--and he was struck with the contrast."
"It could n't have been in my favor. If it 's a question of being looked at,
Blanche bears it better than I."
"Poor little Blanche!" murmured Mrs. Vivian, sweetly.
"Why did you tell me he was so happy with her?" Angela asked,
turning to Bernard, abruptly.
Bernard gazed at her a moment, with his eyebrows raised.
"I never saw any one ask such sudden questions!" he exclaimed.
"You can answer me at your leisure," she rejoined, turning away.
"It was because I adored you."
"You would n't say that at your leisure," said the girl.
Mrs. Vivian stood watching them.
"You, who are so happy together, you ought to think kindly of others
who are less fortunate."
"That is very true, Mrs. Vivian; and I have never thought
of any one so kindly as I have of Gordon for the last year."
Angela turned round again.
"Is Blanche so very bad, then?"
"You will see for yourself!"
"Ah, no," said Mrs. Vivian, "she is not bad; she is only very light.
I am so glad she is to be near us again. I think a great deal can
be done by association. We must help her, Angela. I think we helped
"It is also very true that she is light, Mrs. Vivian,"
Bernard observed, "and if you could make her a little heavier,
I should be tremendously grateful."
Bernard's prospective mother-in-law looked at him a little.
"I don't know whether you are laughing at me--I always think you are.
But I shall not give up Blanche for that. I never give up any one that I
have once tried to help. Blanche will come back to me."
Mrs. Vivian had hardly spoken when the sharp little vibration of her
door-bell was heard in the hall. Bernard stood for a moment looking
at the door of the drawing-room.
"It is poor Gordon come to make a scene!" he announced.
"Is that what you mean--that he opposed your marriage?" asked Mrs. Vivian,
with a frightened air.
"I don't know what he proposes to do with Blanche," said Bernard, laughing.
There were voices in the hall. Angela had been listening.
"You say she will come back to you, mamma," she exclaimed.
"Here she is arrived!"
At the same moment the door was thrown open, and Mrs. Gordon
appeared on the threshold with a gentleman behind her.
Blanche stood an instant looking into the lighted room and hesitating--
flushed a little, smiling, extremely pretty.
"May I come in?" she said, "and may I bring in Captain Lovelock?"
The two ladies, of course, fluttering toward her with every demonstration
of hospitality, drew her into the room, while Bernard proceeded to greet
the Captain, who advanced with a certain awkward and bashful majesty,
almost sweeping with his great stature Mrs. Vivian's humble ceiling.
There was a tender exchange of embraces between Blanche and her friends,
and the charming visitor, losing no time, began to chatter with
her usual volubility. Mrs. Vivian and Angela made her companion
graciously welcome; but Blanche begged they would n't mind him--she had
only brought him as a watch-dog.
"His place is on the rug," she said. "Captain Lovelock,
go and lie down on the rug."
"Upon my soul, there is nothing else but rugs in these French places!"
the Captain rejoined, looking round Mrs. Vivian's salon. "Which rug do
Mrs. Vivian had remarked to Blanche that it was very kind of her
to come first, and Blanche declared that she could not have laid
her head on her pillow before she had seen her dear Mrs. Vivian.
"Do you suppose I would wait because I am married?"
she inquired, with a keen little smile in her charming eyes.
"I am not so much married as that, I can tell you! Do you think
I look much as if I were married, with no one to bring me here
to-night but Captain Lovelock?"
"I am sure Captain Lovelock is a very gallant escort,"
said Mrs. Vivian.
"Oh, he was not afraid--that is, he was not afraid of the journey,
though it lay all through those dreadful wild Champs Elysees.
But when we arrived, he was afraid to come in--to come up here.
Captain Lovelock is so modest, you know--in spite of all the success
he had in America. He will tell you about the success he had in America;
it quite makes up for the defeat of the British army in the Revolution.
They were defeated in the Revolution, the British, were n't they?
I always told him so, but he insists they were not. 'How do we
come to be free, then?' I always ask him; 'I suppose you admit
that we are free.' Then he becomes personal and says that I am
free enough, certainly. But it 's the general fact I mean; I wish you
would tell him about the general fact. I think he would believe you,
because he knows you know a great deal about history and all that.
I don't mean this evening, but some time when it is convenient.
He did n't want to come in--he wanted to stay in the carriage
and smoke a cigar; he thought you would n't like it, his coming
with me the first time. But I told him he need n't mind that,
for I would certainly explain. I would be very careful to let you
know that I brought him only as a substitute. A substitute for whom?
A substitute for my husband, of course. My dear Mrs. Vivian,
of course I ought to bring you some pretty message from Gordon--
that he is dying to come and see you, only that he had nineteen letters
to write and that he could n't possibly stir from his fireside.
I suppose a good wife ought to invent excuses for her husband--
ought to throw herself into the breach; is n't that what they call it?
But I am afraid I am not a good wife. Do you think I am a good wife,
Mr. Longueville? You once stayed three months with us, and you had
a chance to see. I don't ask you that seriously, because you never
tell the truth. I always do; so I will say I am not a good wife.
And then the breach is too big, and I am too little. Oh, I am
too little, Mrs. Vivian; I know I am too little. I am the smallest
woman living; Gordon can scarcely see me with a microscope,
and I believe he has the most powerful one in America. He is going
to get another here; that is one of the things he came abroad for;
perhaps it will do better. I do tell the truth, don't I, Mrs. Vivian?
I have that merit, if I have n't any other. You once told me
so at Baden; you said you could say one thing for me, at any rate--
that I did n't tell fibs. You were very nice to me at Baden,"
Blanche went on, with her little intent smile, laying her hand
in that of her hostess. "You see, I have never forgotten it.
So, to keep up my reputation, I must tell the truth about Gordon.
He simply said he would n't come--voila! He gave no reason
and he did n't send you any pretty message. He simply declined,
and he went out somewhere else. So you see he is n't writing letters.
I don't know where he can have gone; perhaps he has gone to the theatre.
I know it is n't proper to go to the theatre on Sunday evening;
but they say charity begins at home, and as Gordon's does n't
begin at home, perhaps it does n't begin anywhere. I told him
that if he would n't come with me I would come alone, and he said I
might do as I chose--that he was not in a humor for making visits.
I wanted to come to you very much; I had been thinking about it
all day; and I am so fond of a visit like this in the evening,
without being invited. Then I thought perhaps you had a salon--
does n't every one in Paris have a salon? I tried to have a salon
in New York, only Gordon said it would n't do. He said it was n't
in our manners. Is this a salon to-night, Mrs. Vivian? Oh, do say
it is; I should like so much to see Captain Lovelock in a salon!
By good fortune he happened to have been dining with us;
so I told him he must bring me here. I told you I would explain,
Captain Lovelock," she added, "and I hope you think I have made it
The Captain had turned very red during this wandering discourse.
He sat pulling his beard and shifting the position which, with his
stalwart person, he had taken up on a little gilded chair--a piece
of furniture which every now and then gave a delicate creak.
"I always understand you well enough till you begin to explain,"
he rejoined, with a candid, even if embarrassed, laugh. "Then, by Jove,
I 'm quite in the woods. You see such a lot more in things than most people.
Does n't she, Miss Vivian?"
"Blanche has a fine imagination," said Angela, smiling frankly
at the charming visitor.
When Blanche was fairly adrift upon the current of her articulate
reflections, it was the habit of her companions--indeed, it was
a sort of tacit agreement among them--simply to make a circle
and admire. They sat about and looked at her--yawning, perhaps,
a little at times, but on the whole very well entertained,
and often exchanging a smiling commentary with each other.
She looked at them, smiled at them each, in succession.
Every one had his turn, and this always helped to give Blanche
an audience. Incoherent and aimless as much of her talk was,
she never looked prettier than in the attitude of improvisation--
or rather, I should say, than in the hundred attitudes which
she assumed at such a time. Perpetually moving, she was yet
constantly graceful, and while she twisted her body and turned
her head, with charming hands that never ceased to gesticulate,
and little, conscious, brilliant eyes that looked everywhere
at once--eyes that seemed to chatter even faster than her lips--
she made you forget the nonsense she poured forth, or think
of it only as a part of her personal picturesqueness.
The thing was a regular performance; the practice of unlimited
chatter had made her perfect. She rested upon her audience
and held it together, and the sight of half a dozen pairs
of amused and fascinated faces led her from one piece
of folly to another. On this occasion, her audience was far
from failing her, for they were all greatly interested.
Captain Lovelock's interest, as we know, was chronic,
and our three other friends were much occupied with a matter
with which Blanche was intimately connected. Bernard, as he
listened to her, smiling mechanically, was not encouraged.
He remembered what Mrs. Vivian had said shortly before she
came in, and it was not pleasant to him to think that Gordon
had been occupied half the day in contrasting the finest girl
in the world with this magnified butterfly. The contrast was
sufficiently striking as Angela sat there near her, very still,
bending her handsome head a little, with her hands crossed
in her lap, and on her lips a kind but inscrutable smile.
Mrs. Vivian was on the sofa next to Blanche, one of whose hands,
when it was not otherwise occupied, she occasionally took into
"Dear little Blanche!" she softly murmured, at intervals.
These few remarks represent a longer pause than Mrs. Gordon often suffered
to occur. She continued to deliver herself upon a hundred topics, and it
hardly matters where we take her up.
"I have n't the least idea what we are going to do.
I have nothing to say about it whatever. Gordon tells me
every day I must decide, and then I ask Captain Lovelock what
he thinks; because, you see, he always thinks a great deal.
Captain Lovelock says he does n't care a fig--that he will go
wherever I go. So you see that does n't carry us very far.
I want to settle on some place where Captain Lovelock won't go,
but he won't help me at all. I think it will look better
for him not to follow us; don't you think it will look better,
Mrs. Vivian? Not that I care in the least where we go--
or whether Captain Lovelock follows us, either. I don't take
any interest in anything, Mrs. Vivian; don't you think that is
very sad? Gordon may go anywhere he likes--to St. Petersburg,
or to Bombay."
"You might go to a worse place than Bombay," said Captain Lovelock,
speaking with the authority of an Anglo-Indian rich in reminiscences.
Blanche gave him a little stare.
"Ah well, that 's knocked on the head! From the way you speak
of it, I think you would come after us; and the more I think
of that, the more I see it would n't do. But we have got
to go to some southern place, because I am very unwell.
I have n't the least idea what 's the matter with me, and neither
has any one else; but that does n't make any difference.
It 's settled that I am out of health. One might as well
be out of it as in it, for all the advantage it is.
If you are out of health, at any rate you can come abroad.
It was Gordon's discovery--he 's always making discoveries.
You see it 's because I 'm so silly; he can always put it
down to my being an invalid. What I should like to do,
Mrs. Vivian, would be to spend the winter with you--
just sitting on the sofa beside you and holding your hand.
It would be rather tiresome for you; but I really think it would
be better for me than anything else. I have never forgotten
how kind you were to me before my marriage--that summer at Baden.
You were everything to me--you and Captain Lovelock. I am sure
I should be happy if I never went out of this lovely room.
You have got it so beautifully arranged--I mean to do my own
room just like it when I go home. And you have got such
lovely clothes. You never used to say anything about it,
but you and Angela always had better clothes than I. Are you
always so quiet and serious--never talking about chiffons--
always reading some wonderful book? I wish you would let me
come and stay with you. If you only ask me, Gordon would be
too delighted. He would n't have to trouble about me any more.
He could go and live over in the Latin Quarter--that 's
the desire of his heart--and think of nothing but old bottles.
I know it is n't very good manners to beg for an invitation,"
Blanche went on, smiling with a gentler radiance; "but when it 's
a question of one's health. One wants to keep one's self alive--
does n't one? One wants to keep one's self going. It would
be so good for me, Mrs. Vivian; it would really be very good for
She had turned round more and more to her hostess as she talked;
and at last she had given both her hands to Mrs. Vivian, and sat
looking at her with a singular mixture of earnestness and jocosity.
It was hard to know whether Blanche were expressing a real desire
or a momentary caprice, and whether this abrupt little petition
were to be taken seriously, or treated merely as a dramatic pose
in a series of more or less effective attitudes. Her smile had become
almost a grimace, she was flushed, she showed her pretty teeth;
but there was a little passionate quiver in her voice.
"My dear child," said Mrs. Vivian, "we should be delighted to have you
pay us a visit, and we should be so happy if we could do you any good.
But I am afraid you would very soon get tired of us, and I ought
to tell you, frankly, that our little home is to be--a broken up.
You know there is to be a--a change," the good lady continued,
with a hesitation which apparently came from a sense of walking
on uncertain ground, while she glanced with a smile at Bernard
Blanche sat there with her little excited, yet innocent--
too innocent--stare; her eyes followed Mrs. Vivian's. They met
Back to Full Books