Part 3 out of 5
"Oh, the little one--the little one weeps."
"Miss Evers weeps!" exclaimed Bernard, to whom the vision of this
young lady in tears had never presented itself.
"That happens to young ladies when they are unhappy," said the girl;
and with an artless yet significant smile she carried a big red hand to
the left side of a broad bosom.
"I am sorry she is unhappy; but which of the other ladies is ill?"
"The mother is very busy."
"And the daughter is ill?"
The young woman looked at him an instant, smiling again,
and the light in her little blue eyes indicated confusion,
but not perversity.
"No, the mamma is ill," she exclaimed, "and the daughter is very busy.
They are preparing to leave Baden."
"To leave Baden? When do they go?"
"I don't quite know, lieber Herr; but very soon."
With this information Bernard turned away. He was rather surprised,
but he reflected that Mrs. Vivian had not proposed to spend her life
on the banks of the Oos, and that people were leaving Baden every day
in the year. In the evening, at the Kursaal, he met Captain Lovelock,
who was wandering about with an air of explosive sadness.
"Damn it, they 're going--yes, they 're going," said the Captain,
after the two young men had exchanged a few allusions to current events.
"Fancy their leaving us in that heartless manner! It 's not the time
to run away--it 's the time to keep your rooms, if you 're so lucky as to
have any. The races begin next week and there 'll be a tremendous crowd.
All the grand-ducal people are coming. Miss Evers wanted awfully to see
the Grand Duke, and I promised her an introduction. I can't make out what
Mrs. Vivian is up to. I bet you a ten-pound note she 's giving chase.
Our friend Wright has come back and gone off again, and Mrs. Vivian
means to strike camp and follow. She 'll pot him yet; you see if she
"She is running away from you, dangerous man!" said Bernard.
"Do you mean on account of Miss Evers? Well, I admire Miss Evers--
I don't mind admitting that; but I ain't dangerous,"
said Captain Lovelock, with a lustreless eye.
"How can a fellow be dangerous when he has n't ten shillings
in his pocket? Desperation, do you call it? But Miss Evers
has n't money, so far as I have heard. I don't ask you,"
Lovelock continued--"I don't care a damn whether she has or not.
She 's a devilish charming girl, and I don't mind telling
you I 'm hit. I stand no chance--I know I stand no chance.
Mrs. Vivian 's down on me, and, by Jove, Mrs. Vivian 's right.
I 'm not the husband to pick out for a young woman of expensive
habits and no expectations. Gordon Wright's the sort of young
man that 's wanted, and, hang me, if Mrs. Vivian did n't want
him so much for her own daughter, I believe she 'd try and bag
him for the little one. Gad, I believe that to keep me off she
would like to cut him in two and give half to each of them!
I 'm afraid of that little woman. She has got a little
voice like a screw-driver. But for all that, if I could get
away from this cursed place, I would keep the girl in sight--
hang me if I would n't! I 'd cut the races--dash me if I
would n't! But I 'm in pawn, if you know what that means.
I owe a beastly lot of money at the inn, and that impudent
little beggar of a landlord won't let me out of his sight.
The luck 's dead against me at those filthy tables;
I have n't won a farthing in three weeks. I wrote to my brother
the other day, and this morning I got an answer from him--
a cursed, canting letter of good advice, remarking that he had
already paid my debts seven times. It does n't happen to be seven;
it 's only six, or six and a half! Does he expect me to spend
the rest of my life at the Hotel de Hollande? Perhaps he would
like me to engage as a waiter there and pay it off by serving
at the table d'hote. It would be convenient for him the next time
he comes abroad with his seven daughters and two governesses.
I hate the smell of their beastly table d'hote! You 're
sorry I 'm hard up? I 'm sure I 'm much obliged to you.
Can you be of any service? My dear fellow, if you are bent on
throwing your money about the place I 'm not the man to stop you."
Bernard's winnings of the previous night were burning a hole,
as the phrase is, in his pocket. Ten thousand francs had never
before seemed to him so heavy a load to carry, and to lighten
the weight of his good luck by lending fifty pounds to a less
fortunate fellow-player was an operation that not only gratified
his good-nature but strongly commended itself to his conscience.
His conscience, however, made its conditions. "My dear Longueville,"
Lovelock went on, "I have always gone in for family feeling,
early associations, and all that sort of thing. That 's what made
me confide my difficulties to Dovedale. But, upon my honor,
you remind me of the good Samaritan, or that sort of person;
you are fonder of me than my own brother! I 'll take fifty
pounds with pleasure, thank you, and you shall have them again--
at the earliest opportunity. My earliest convenience--
will that do? Damn it, it is a convenience, is n't it?
You make your conditions. My dear fellow, I accept them in advance.
That I 'm not to follow up Miss Evers--is that what you mean?
Have you been commissioned by the family to buy me off?
It 's devilish cruel to take advantage of my poverty! Though I
'm poor, I 'm honest. But I am honest, my dear Longueville;
that 's the point. I 'll give you my word, and I 'll keep it.
I won't go near that girl again--I won't think of her till
I 've got rid of your fifty pounds. It 's a dreadful
encouragement to extravagance, but that 's your lookout.
I 'll stop for their beastly races and the young lady shall be
Longueville called the next morning at Mrs. Vivian's, and learned
that the three ladies had left Baden by the early train,
a couple of hours before. This fact produced in his mind
a variety of emotions--surprise, annoyance, embarrassment.
In spite of his effort to think it natural they should go,
he found something precipitate and inexplicable in the manner
of their going, and he declared to himself that one of the party,
at least, had been unkind and ungracious in not giving him a chance
to say good-bye. He took refuge by anticipation, as it were,
in this reflection, whenever, for the next three or four days,
he foresaw himself stopping short, as he had done before,
and asking himself whether he had done an injury to Angela Vivian.
This was an idle and unpractical question, inasmuch as the answer
was not forthcoming; whereas it was quite simple and conclusive
to say, without the note of interrogation, that she was,
in spite of many attractive points, an abrupt and capricious
young woman. During the three or four days in question,
Bernard lingered on at Baden, uncertain what to do or
where to go, feeling as if he had received a sudden check--
a sort of spiritual snub--which arrested the accumulation
of motive. Lovelock, also, whom Bernard saw every day,
appeared to think that destiny had given him a slap in the face,
for he had not enjoyed the satisfaction of a last interview with
"I thought she might have written me a note," said the Captain;
"but it appears she does n't write. Some girls don't write,
Bernard remarked that it was possible Lovelock would still have news
of Miss Blanche; and before he left Baden he learned that she had
addressed her forsaken swain a charming little note from Lausanne,
where the three ladies had paused in their flight from Baden,
and where Mrs. Vivian had decreed that for the present they
"I 'm devilish glad she writes," said Captain Lovelock;
"some girls do write, you know."
Blanche found Lausanne most horrid after Baden, for whose
delights she languished. The delights of Baden, however,
were not obvious just now to her correspondent, who had taken
Bernard's fifty pounds into the Kursaal and left them there.
Bernard, on learning his misfortune, lent him another fifty,
with which he performed a second series of unsuccessful experiments;
and our hero was not at his ease until he had passed over
to his luckless friend the whole amount of his own winnings,
every penny of which found its way through Captain Lovelock's
fingers back into the bank. When this operation was completed,
Bernard left Baden, the Captain gloomily accompanying him to
I have said that there had come over Bernard a singular sense of freedom.
One of the uses he made of his freedom was to undertake a long journey.
He went to the East and remained absent from Europe for upward of two years--
a period of his life of which it is not proposed to offer a complete history.
The East is a wonderful region, and Bernard, investigating the mysteries
of Asia, saw a great many curious and beautiful things. He had moments
of keen enjoyment; he laid up a great store of impressions and even
a considerable sum of knowledge. But, nevertheless, he was not destined
to look back upon this episode with any particular complacency.
It was less delightful than it was supposed to be; it was less successful
than it might have been. By what unnatural element the cup of pleasure
was adulterated, he would have been very much at a loss to say;
but it was an incontestable fact that at times he sipped it as a medicine,
rather than quaffed it as a nectar. When people congratulated him
on his opportunity of seeing the world, and said they envied him
the privilege of seeing it so well, he felt even more than the usual
degree of irritation produced by an insinuation that fortune thinks
so poorly of us as to give us easy terms. Misplaced sympathy is the least
available of superfluities, and Bernard at this time found himself
thinking that there was a good deal of impertinence in the world.
He would, however, readily have confessed that, in so far as he failed
to enjoy his Oriental wanderings, the fault was his own; though he would
have made mentally the gratifying reflection that never was a fault
less deliberate. If, during the period of which I speak, his natural
gayety had sunk to a minor key, a partial explanation may be found
in the fact that he was deprived of the society of his late companion.
It was an odd circumstance that the two young men had not met since
Gordon's abrupt departure from Baden. Gordon went to Berlin, and shortly
afterward to America, so that they were on opposite sides of the globe.
Before he returned to his own country, Bernard made by letter two or
three offers to join him in Europe, anywhere that was agreeable to him.
Gordon answered that his movements were very uncertain, and that he should
be sorry to trouble Bernard to follow him about. He had put him to this
inconvenience in making him travel from Venice to Baden, and one such
favor at a time was enough to ask, even of the most obliging of men.
Bernard was, of course, afraid that what he had told Gordon about Angela
Vivian was really the cause of a state of things which, as between
two such good friends, wore a perceptible resemblance to alienation.
Gordon had given her up; but he bore Bernard a grudge for speaking
ill of her, and so long as this disagreeable impression should last,
he preferred not to see him. Bernard was frank enough to charge
the poor fellow with a lingering rancor, of which he made, indeed,
no great crime. But Gordon denied the allegation, and assured him that,
to his own perception, there was no decline in their intimacy.
He only requested, as a favor and as a tribute to "just susceptibilities,"
that Bernard would allude no more either to Miss Vivian or to what had
happened at Baden. This request was easy to comply with, and Bernard,
in writing, strictly conformed to it; but it seemed to him that the act
of doing so was in itself a cooling-off. What would be a better proof
of what is called a "tension" than an agreement to avoid a natural topic?
Bernard moralized a little over Gordon's "just susceptibilities,"
and felt that the existence of a perverse resentment in so honest a nature
was a fact gained to his acquaintance with psychological science.
It cannot be said, however, that he suffered this fact to occupy
at all times the foreground of his consciousness. Bernard was like
some great painters; his foregrounds were very happily arranged.
He heard nothing of Mrs. Vivian and her daughter, beyond a rumor that
they had gone to Italy; and he learned, on apparently good authority,
that Blanche Evers had returned to New York with her mother. He wondered
whether Captain Lovelock was still in pawn at the Hotel de Hollande.
If he did not allow himself to wonder too curiously whether he had done
a harm to Gordon, it may be affirmed that he was haunted by the recurrence
of that other question, of which mention has already been made.
Had he done a harm to Angela Vivian, and did she know that he had done it?
This inquiry by no means made him miserable, and it was far from
awaiting him regularly on his pillow. But it visited him at intervals,
and sometimes in the strangest places--suddenly, abruptly, in the stillness
of an Indian temple, or amid the shrillness of an Oriental crowd.
He became familiar with it at last; he called it his Jack-in-the-box. Some
invisible touch of circumstance would press the spring, and the little
image would pop up, staring him in the face and grinning an interrogation.
Bernard always clapped down the lid, for he regarded this phenomenon
as strikingly inane. But if it was more frequent than any pang of
conscience connected with the remembrance of Gordon himself, this last
sentiment was certainly lively enough to make it a great relief to hear
at last a rumor that the excellent fellow was about to be married.
The rumor reached him at Athens; it was vague and indirect, and it omitted
the name of his betrothed. But Bernard made the most of it, and took comfort
in the thought that his friend had recovered his spirits and his appetite for
It was not till our hero reached Paris, on his return
from the distant East, that the rumor I have just mentioned
acquired an appreciable consistency. Here, indeed, it took
the shape of authentic information. Among a number of delayed
letters which had been awaiting him at his banker's he found
a communication from Gordon Wright. During the previous year
or two his correspondence with this trusted--and trusting--
friend had not been frequent, and Bernard had received little
direct news of him. Three or four short letters had overtaken
him in his wanderings--letters as cordial, to all appearance,
if not as voluminous, as the punctual missives of an earlier time.
Bernard made a point of satisfying himself that they were as cordial;
he weighed them in the scales of impartial suspicion. It seemed
to him on the whole that there was no relaxation of Gordon's
epistolary tone. If he wrote less often than he used to do,
that was a thing that very commonly happened as men grew older.
The closest intimacies, moreover, had phases and seasons,
intermissions and revivals, and even if his friend had, in fact,
averted his countenance from him, this was simply the accomplishment
of a periodical revolution which would bring them in due order
face to face again. Bernard made a point, himself, of writing
tolerably often and writing always in the friendliest tone.
He made it a matter of conscience--he liked to feel that he was
treating Gordon generously, and not demanding an eye for an eye.
The letter he found in Paris was so short that I may give
"My dear Bernard (it ran), I must write to you before I
write to any one else, though unfortunately you are so far
away that you can't be the first to congratulate me.
Try and not be the last, however. I am going to be married--
as soon as possible. You know the young lady, so you can
appreciate the situation. Do you remember little Blanche Evers,
whom we used to see three years ago at Baden-Baden? Of course
you remember her, for I know you used often to talk with her.
You will be rather surprised, perhaps, at my having selected
her as the partner of a life-time; but we manage these matters
according to our lights. I am very much in love with her,
and I hold that an excellent reason. I have been ready
any time this year or two to fall in love with some simple,
trusting, child-like nature. I find this in perfection in this
charming young girl. I find her so natural and fresh.
I remember telling you once that I did n't wish to be fascinated--
that I wanted to estimate scientifically the woman I should marry.
I have altogether got over that, and I don't know how I
ever came to talk such nonsense. I am fascinated now,
and I assure you I like it! The best of it is that I find
it does n't in the least prevent my estimating Blanche.
I judge her very fairly--I see just what she is. She 's simple--
that 's what I want; she 's tender--that 's what I long for.
You will remember how pretty she is; I need n't remind you of that.
She was much younger then, and she has greatly developed
and improved in these two or three years. But she will always
be young and innocent--I don't want her to improve too much.
She came back to America with her mother the winter after we met
her at Baden, but I never saw her again till three months ago.
Then I saw her with new eyes, and I wondered I could have been
so blind. But I was n't ready for her till then, and what makes
me so happy now is to know that I have come to my present
way of feeling by experience. That gives me confidence--
you see I am a reasoner still. But I am under the charm,
for all my reason. We are to be married in a month--
try and come back to the wedding. Blanche sends you a message,
which I will give you verbatim. 'Tell him I am not such
a silly little chatterbox as I used to be at Baden.
I am a great deal wiser; I am almost as clever as Angela Vivian.'
She has an idea you thought Miss Vivian very clever--but it is
not true that she is equally so. I am very happy; come home and
Bernard went home, but he was not able to reach the United States
in time for Gordon's wedding, which took place at midsummer.
Bernard, arriving late in the autumn, found his friend
a married man of some months' standing, and was able to judge,
according to his invitation, whether he appeared happy.
The first effect of the letter I have just quoted had been
an immense surprise; the second had been a series of reflections
which were quite the negative of surprise; and these operations
of Bernard's mind had finally merged themselves in a simple
sentiment of jollity. He was delighted that Gordon should
be married; he felt jovial about it; he was almost indifferent
to the question of whom he had chosen. Certainly, at first,
the choice of Blanche Evers seemed highly incongruous;
it was difficult to imagine a young woman less shaped to minister
to Gordon's strenuous needs than the light-hearted and empty-headed
little flirt whose inconsequent prattle had remained for Bernard
one of the least importunate memories of a charming time.
Blanche Evers was a pretty little goose--the prettiest
of little geese, perhaps, and doubtless the most amiable;
but she was not a companion for a peculiarly serious man,
who would like his wife to share his view of human responsibilities.
What a singular selection--what a queer infatuation!
Bernard had no sooner committed himself to this line of
criticism than he stopped short, with the sudden consciousness
of error carried almost to the point of naivetae.
He exclaimed that Blanche Evers was exactly the sort of girl
that men of Gordon Wright's stamp always ended by falling
in love with, and that poor Gordon knew very much better what
he was about in this case than he had done in trying to solve
the deep problem of a comfortable life with Angela Vivian.
This was what your strong, solid, sensible fellows always came to;
they paid, in this particular, a larger tribute to pure fancy than
the people who were supposed habitually to cultivate that muse.
Blanche Evers was what the French call an article of fantasy,
and Gordon had taken a pleasure in finding her deliciously useless.
He cultivated utility in other ways, and it pleased and
flattered him to feel that he could afford, morally speaking,
to have a kittenish wife. He had within himself a fund
of common sense to draw upon, so that to espouse a paragon
of wisdom would be but to carry water to the fountain.
He could easily make up for the deficiencies of a wife who was
a little silly, and if she charmed and amused him, he could
treat himself to the luxury of these sensations for themselves.
He was not in the least afraid of being ruined by it,
and if Blanche's birdlike chatter and turns of the head had
made a fool of him, he knew it perfectly well, and simply took
his stand upon his rights. Every man has a right to a little
flower-bed, and life is not all mere kitchen-gardening. Bernard
rapidly extemporized this rough explanation of the surprise
his friend had offered him, and he found it all-sufficient
for his immediate needs. He wrote Blanche a charming note,
to which she replied with a great deal of spirit and grace.
Her little letter was very prettily turned, and Bernard,
reading it over two or three times, said to himself that,
to do her justice, she might very well have polished
her intellect a trifle during these two or three years.
As she was older, she could hardly help being wiser.
It even occurred to Bernard that she might have profited by the sort
of experience that is known as the discipline of suffering.
What had become of Captain Lovelock and that tender passion which
was apparently none the less genuine for having been expressed
in the slang of a humorous period? Had they been permanently
separated by judicious guardians, and had she been obliged
to obliterate his image from her lightly-beating little heart?
Bernard had felt sure at Baden that, beneath her contemptuous
airs and that impertinent consciousness of the difficulties
of conquest by which a pretty American girl attests her
allegiance to a civilization in which young women occupy
the highest place--he had felt sure that Blanche had a high
appreciation of her handsome Englishman, and that if Lovelock
should continue to relish her charms, he might count upon
the advantages of reciprocity. But it occurred to Bernard
that Captain Lovelock had perhaps been faithless; that, at least,
the discourtesy of chance and the inhumanity of an elder
brother might have kept him an eternal prisoner at the Hotel
de Hollande (where, for all Bernard knew to the contrary,
he had been obliged to work out his destiny in the arduous
character of a polyglot waiter); so that the poor young girl,
casting backward glances along the path of Mrs. Vivian's retreat,
and failing to detect the onward rush of a rescuing cavalier,
had perforce believed herself forsaken, and had been obliged
to summon philosophy to her aid. It was very possible that
her philosophic studies had taught her the art of reflection;
and that, as she would have said herself, she was tremendously
toned down. Once, at Baden, when Gordon Wright happened
to take upon himself to remark that little Miss Evers was bored
by her English gallant, Bernard had ventured to observe,
in petto, that Gordon knew nothing about it. But all this was
of no consequence now, and Bernard steered further and further
away from the liability to detect fallacies in his friend.
Gordon had engaged himself to marry, and our critical hero
had not a grain of fault to find with this resolution.
It was a capital thing; it was just what he wanted; it would
do him a world of good. Bernard rejoiced with him sincerely,
and regretted extremely that a series of solemn engagements
to pay visits in England should prevent his being present at the
They were well over, as I have said, when he reached New York.
The honeymoon had waned, and the business of married life had begun.
Bernard, at the end, had sailed from England rather abruptly.
A friend who had a remarkably good cabin on one of the steamers was
obliged by a sudden detention to give it up, and on his offering it
to Longueville, the latter availed himself gratefully of this opportunity
of being a little less discomposed than usual by the Atlantic billows.
He therefore embarked at two days' notice, a fortnight earlier than he had
intended and than he had written to Gordon to expect him. Gordon, of course,
had written that he was to seek no hospitality but that which Blanche
was now prepared--they had a charming house--so graciously to dispense;
but Bernard, nevertheless, leaving the ship early in the morning,
had betaken himself to an hotel. He wished not to anticipate his welcome,
and he determined to report himself to Gordon first and to come
back with his luggage later in the day. After purifying himself
of his sea-stains, he left his hotel and walked up the Fifth Avenue
with all a newly-landed voyager's enjoyment of terrestrial locomotion.
It was a charming autumn day; there was a golden haze in the air;
he supposed it was the Indian summer. The broad sidewalk of the Fifth
Avenue was scattered over with dry leaves--crimson and orange and amber.
He tossed them with his stick as he passed; they rustled and murmured
with the motion, and it reminded him of the way he used to kick them
in front of him over these same pavements in his riotous infancy.
It was a pleasure, after many wanderings, to find himself in his native
land again, and Bernard Longueville, as he went, paid his compliments
to his mother-city. The brightness and gayety of the place seemed a greeting
to a returning son, and he felt a throb of affection for the freshest,
the youngest, the easiest and most good-natured of great capitals.
On presenting himself at Gordon's door, Bernard was told that the master
of the house was not at home; he went in, however, to see the mistress.
She was in her drawing-room, alone; she had on her bonnet, as if she
had been going out. She gave him a joyous, demonstrative little welcome;
she was evidently very glad to see him. Bernard had thought it
possible she had "improved," and she was certainly prettier than ever.
He instantly perceived that she was still a chatterbox;
it remained to be seen whether the quality of her discourse were
"Well, Mr. Longueville," she exclaimed, "where in the world did you
drop from, and how long did it take you to cross the Atlantic?
Three days, eh? It could n't have taken you many more,
for it was only the other day that Gordon told me you were not
to sail till the 20th. You changed your mind, eh? I did n't
know you ever changed your mind. Gordon never changes his.
That 's not a reason, eh, because you are not a bit like Gordon.
Well, I never thought you were, except that you are a man.
Now what are you laughing at? What should you like me
call you? You are a man, I suppose; you are not a god.
That 's what you would like me to call you, I have no doubt.
I must keep that for Gordon? I shall certainly keep it a good while.
I know a good deal more about gentlemen than I did when I
last saw you, and I assure you I don't think they are a bit
god-like. I suppose that 's why you always drop down from
the sky--you think it 's more divine. I remember that 's
the way you arrived at Baden when we were there together;
the first thing we knew, you were standing in the midst of us.
Do you remember that evening when you presented yourself? You came
up and touched Gordon on the shoulder, and he gave a little jump.
He will give another little jump when he sees you to-day. He
gives a great many little jumps; I keep him skipping about!
I remember perfectly the way we were sitting that evening
at Baden, and the way you looked at me when you came up.
I saw you before Gordon--I see a good many things before Gordon.
What did you look at me that way for? I always meant to ask you.
I was dying to know."
"For the simplest reason in the world," said Bernard.
"Because you were so pretty."
"Ah no, it was n't that! I know all about that look.
It was something else--as if you knew something about me.
I don't know what you can have known. There was very little
to know about me, except that I was intensely silly. Really, I was
awfully silly that summer at Baden--you would n't believe
how silly I was. But I don't see how you could have known that--
before you had spoken to me. It came out in my conversation--
it came out awfully. My mother was a good deal disappointed
in Mrs. Vivian's influence; she had expected so much from it.
But it was not poor Mrs. Vivian's fault, it was some one's else.
Have you ever seen the Vivians again? They are always in Europe;
they have gone to live in Paris. That evening when you came
up and spoke to Gordon, I never thought that three years
afterward I should be married to him, and I don't suppose
you did either. Is that what you meant by looking at me?
Perhaps you can tell the future. I wish you would tell my
"Oh, I can tell that easily," said Bernard.
"What will happen to me?"
"Nothing particular; it will be a little dull--the perfect happiness
of a charming woman married to the best fellow in the world."
"Ah, what a horrid future!" cried Blanche, with a little petulant cry.
"I want to be happy, but I certainly don't want to be dull.
If you say that again you will make me repent of having married
the best fellow in the world. I mean to be happy, but I certainly
shall not be dull if I can help it."
"I was wrong to say that," said Bernard, "because, after all,
my dear young lady, there must be an excitement in having
so kind a husband as you have got. Gordon's devotion is quite
capable of taking a new form--of inventing a new kindness--
every day in the year."
Blanche looked at him an instant, with less than her usual
consciousness of her momentary pose.
"My husband is very kind," she said gently.
She had hardly spoken the words when Gordon came in.
He stopped a moment on seeing Bernard, glanced at his wife,
blushed, flushed, and with a loud, frank exclamation of pleasure,
grasped his friend by both hands. It was so long since he had seen
Bernard that he seemed a good deal moved; he stood there smiling,
clasping his hands, looking him in the eyes, unable for some
moments to speak. Bernard, on his side, was greatly pleased;
it was delightful to him to look into Gordon's honest face
again and to return his manly grasp. And he looked well--
he looked happy; to see that was more delightful yet.
During these few instants, while they exchanged a silent pledge
of renewed friendship, Bernard's elastic perception embraced
several things besides the consciousness of his own pleasure.
He saw that Gordon looked well and happy, but that he
looked older, too, and more serious, more marked by life.
He looked as if something had happened to him--as, in fact,
something had. Bernard saw a latent spark in his friend's eye
that seemed to question his own for an impression of Blanche--
to question it eagerly, and yet to deprecate judgment.
He saw, too--with the fact made more vivid by Gordon's
standing there beside her in his manly sincerity and throwing
it into contrast--that Blanche was the same little posturing
coquette of a Blanche whom, at Baden, he would have treated it
as a broad joke that Gordon Wright should dream of marrying.
He saw, in a word, that it was what it had first struck him as being--
an incongruous union. All this was a good deal for Bernard
to see in the course of half a minute, especially through
the rather opaque medium of a feeling of irreflective joy;
and his impressions at this moment have a value only in so far
as they were destined to be confirmed by larger opportunity.
"You have come a little sooner than we expected," said Gordon;
"but you are all the more welcome."
"It was rather a risk," Blanche observed. "One should be notified,
when one wishes to make a good impression."
"Ah, my dear lady," said Bernard, "you made your impression--
as far as I am concerned--a long time ago, and I doubt whether
it would have gained anything to-day by your having prepared
They were standing before the fire-place, on the great hearth-rug,
and Blanche, while she listened to this speech, was feeling,
with uplifted arm, for a curl that had strayed from her chignon.
"She prepares her effects very quickly," said Gordon, laughing gently.
"They follow each other very fast!"
Blanche kept her hand behind her head, which was bent slightly forward;
her bare arm emerged from her hanging sleeve, and, with her eyes glancing
upward from under her lowered brows, she smiled at her two spectators.
Her husband laid his hand on Bernard's arm.
"Is n't she pretty?" he cried; and he spoke with a sort of tender
delight in being sure at least of this point.
"Tremendously pretty!" said Bernard. "I told her so half an hour
before you came in."
"Ah, it was time I should arrive!" Gordon exclaimed.
Blanche was manifestly not in the least discomposed by this
frank discussion of her charms, for the air of distinguished
esteem adopted by both of her companions diminished the crudity
of their remarks. But she gave a little pout of irritated modesty--
it was more becoming than anything she had done yet--and declared
that if they wished to talk her over, they were very welcome;
but she should prefer their waiting till she got out of the room.
So she left them, reminding Bernard that he was to send for his luggage
and remain, and promising to give immediate orders for the preparation
of his apartment. Bernard opened the door for her to pass out;
she gave him a charming nod as he stood there, and he turned
back to Gordon with the reflection of her smile in his face.
Gordon was watching him; Gordon was dying to know what he thought
of her. It was a curious mania of Gordon's, this wanting to know
what one thought of the women he loved; but Bernard just now felt
abundantly able to humor it. He was so pleased at seeing him
"She 's a delightful creature," Bernard said, with cordial vagueness,
shaking hands with his friend again.
Gordon glanced at him a moment, and then, coloring a little,
looked straight out of the window; whereupon Bernard remembered
that these were just the terms in which, at Baden, after his
companion's absence, he had attempted to qualify Angela Vivian.
Gordon was conscious--he was conscious of the oddity of
"Of course it surprised you," he said, in a moment, still looking
out of the window.
"What, my dear fellow?"
"Well, you know," said Bernard, "everything surprises me.
I am of a very conjectural habit of mind. All sorts of ideas
come into my head, and yet when the simplest things happen I am
always rather startled. I live in a reverie, and I am perpetually
waked up by people doing things."
Gordon transferred his eyes from the window to Bernard's face--
to his whole person.
"You are waked up? But you fall asleep again!"
"I fall asleep very easily," said Bernard.
Gordon looked at him from head to foot, smiling and shaking his head.
"You are not changed," he said. "You have travelled in unknown lands;
you have had, I suppose, all sorts of adventures; but you are the same man I
used to know."
"I am sorry for that!"
"You have the same way of representing--of misrepresenting, yourself."
"Well, if I am not changed," said Bernard, "I can ill afford
to lose so valuable an art."
"Taking you altogether, I am glad you are the same," Gordon answered, simply;
"but you must come into my part of the house."
Yes, he was conscious--he was very conscious; so Bernard reflected
during the two or three first days of his visit to his friend.
Gordon knew it must seem strange to so irreverent a critic
that a man who had once aspired to the hand of so intelligent
a girl--putting other things aside--as Angela Vivian should,
as the Ghost in "Hamlet" says, have "declined upon"
a young lady who, in force of understanding, was so very much
Miss Vivian's inferior; and this knowledge kept him ill
at his ease and gave him a certain pitiable awkwardness.
Bernard's sense of the anomaly grew rapidly less acute;
he made various observations which helped it to seem natural.
Blanche was wonderfully pretty; she was very graceful,
innocent, amusing. Since Gordon had determined to marry a
little goose, he had chosen the animal with extreme discernment.
It had quite the plumage of a swan, and it sailed along
the stream of life with an extraordinary lightness of motion.
He asked himself indeed at times whether Blanche were really
so silly as she seemed; he doubted whether any woman could be
so silly as Blanche seemed. He had a suspicion at times that,
for ends of her own, she was playing a part--the suspicion
arising from the fact that, as usually happens in such cases,
she over-played it. Her empty chatter, her futility,
her childish coquetry and frivolity--such light wares could
hardly be the whole substance of any woman's being; there was
something beneath them which Blanche was keeping out of sight.
She had a scrap of a mind somewhere, and even a little particle
of a heart. If one looked long enough one might catch
a glimpse of these possessions. But why should she keep
them out of sight, and what were the ends that she proposed
to serve by this uncomfortable perversity? Bernard wondered
whether she were fond of her husband, and he heard it intimated
by several good people in New York who had had some observation
of the courtship, that she had married him for his money.
He was very sorry to find that this was taken for granted,
and he determined, on the whole, not to believe it.
He was disgusted with the idea of such a want of gratitude;
for, if Gordon Wright had loved Miss Evers for herself,
the young lady might certainly have discovered the intrinsic value
of so disinterested a suitor. Her mother had the credit of having
made the match. Gordon was known to be looking for a wife;
Mrs. Evers had put her little feather-head of a daughter
very much forward, and Gordon was as easily captivated as a
child by the sound of a rattle. Blanche had an affection
for him now, however; Bernard saw no reason to doubt that,
and certainly she would have been a very flimsy creature indeed
if she had not been touched by his inexhaustible kindness.
She had every conceivable indulgence, and if she married
him for his money, at least she had got what she wanted.
She led the most agreeable life conceivable, and she ought to be
in high good-humor. It was impossible to have a prettier house,
a prettier carriage, more jewels and laces for the adornment
of a plump little person. It was impossible to go to
more parties, to give better dinners, to have fewer privations
or annoyances. Bernard was so much struck with all this that,
advancing rapidly in the intimacy of his gracious hostess,
he ventured to call her attention to her blessings.
She answered that she was perfectly aware of them, and there
was no pretty speech she was not prepared to make about
"I know what you want to say," she went on; "you want to say
that he spoils me, and I don't see why you should hesitate.
You generally say everything you want, and you need n't
be afraid of me. He does n't spoil me, simply because I am
so bad I can't be spoiled; but that 's of no consequence.
I was spoiled ages ago; every one spoiled me--every one except
Mrs. Vivian. I was always fond of having everything I want,
and I generally managed to get it. I always had lovely clothes;
mamma thought that was a kind of a duty. If it was a duty,
I don't suppose it counts as a part of the spoiling.
But I was very much indulged, and I know I have everything now.
Gordon is a perfect husband; I believe if I were to ask him
for a present of his nose, he would cut it off and give it to me.
I think I will ask him for a small piece of it some day;
it will rather improve him to have an inch or two less.
I don't say he 's handsome; but he 's just as good as he can be.
Some people say that if you are very fond of a person you always
think them handsome; but I don't agree with that at all.
I am very fond of Gordon, and yet I am not blinded by affection,
as regards his personal appearance. He 's too light for my taste,
and too red. And because you think people handsome, it does
n't follow that you are fond of them. I used to have a friend
who was awfully handsome--the handsomest man I ever saw--
and I was perfectly conscious of his defects. But I 'm not
conscious of Gordon's, and I don't believe he has got any.
He 's so intensely kind; it 's quite pathetic. One would think
he had done me an injury in marrying me, and that he wanted
to make up for it. If he has done me an injury I have n't
discovered it yet, and I don't believe I ever shall. I certainly
shall not as long as he lets me order all the clothes I want.
I have ordered five dresses this week, and I mean to order
two more. When I told Gordon, what do you think he did?
He simply kissed me. Well, if that 's not expressive,
I don't know what he could have done. He kisses me about
seventeen times a day. I suppose it 's very improper for
a woman to tell any one how often her husband kisses her;
but, as you happen to have seen him do it, I don't suppose you
will be scandalized. I know you are not easily scandalized;
I am not afraid of you. You are scandalized at my getting
so many dresses? Well, I told you I was spoiled--I freely
acknowledge it. That 's why I was afraid to tell Gordon--
because when I was married I had such a lot of things;
I was supposed to have dresses enough to last for a year.
But Gordon had n't to pay for them, so there was no harm in my
letting him feel that he has a wife. If he thinks I am extravagant,
he can easily stop kissing me. You don't think it would be easy
to stop? It 's very well, then, for those that have never
Bernard had a good deal of conversation with Blanche, of which,
so far as she was concerned, the foregoing remarks may serve
as a specimen. Gordon was away from home during much of the day;
he had a chemical laboratory in which he was greatly interested,
and which he took Bernard to see; it was fitted up with the latest
contrivances for the pursuit of experimental science, and was
the resort of needy young students, who enjoyed, at Gordon's expense,
the opportunity for pushing their researches. The place did great
honor to Gordon's liberality and to his ingenuity; but Blanche,
who had also paid it a visit, could never speak of it without a pretty
"Nothing would induce me to go there again," she declared,
"and I consider myself very fortunate to have escaped from it
with my life. It 's filled with all sorts of horrible things,
that fizzle up and go off, or that make you turn some dreadful
color if you look at them. I expect to hear a great clap some day,
and half an hour afterward to see Gordon brought home in several
hundred small pieces, put up in a dozen little bottles.
I got a horrid little stain in the middle of my dress that one
of the young men--the young savants--was so good as to drop there.
Did you see the young savants who work under Gordon's orders?
I thought they were too forlorn; there is n't one of them
you would look at. If you can believe it, there was n't
one of them that looked at me; they took no more notice of me
than if I had been the charwoman. They might have shown me
some attention, at least, as the wife of the proprietor.
What is it that Gordon 's called--is n't there some other name?
If you say 'proprietor,' it sounds as if he kept an hotel.
I certainly don't want to pass for the wife of an hotel-keeper.
What does he call himself? He must have some name.
I hate telling people he 's a chemist; it sounds just as
if he kept a shop. That 's what they call the druggists
in England, and I formed the habit while I was there.
It makes me feel as if he were some dreadful little man, with big
green bottles in the window and 'night-bell' painted outside.
He does n't call himself anything? Well, that 's exactly
like Gordon! I wonder he consents to have a name at all.
When I was telling some one about the young men who work under
his orders--the young savants--he said I must not say that--
I must not speak of their working 'under his orders.'
I don't know what he would like me to say! Under his
During the hours of Gordon's absence, Bernard had frequent colloquies
with his friend's wife, whose irresponsible prattle amused him,
and in whom he tried to discover some faculty, some quality,
which might be a positive guarantee of Gordon's future felicity.
But often, of course, Gordon was an auditor as well; I say an auditor,
because it seemed to Bernard that he had grown to be less of a talker than
of yore. Doubtless, when a man finds himself united to a garrulous wife,
he naturally learns to hold his tongue; but sometimes, at the close
of one of Blanche's discursive monologues, on glancing at her husband
just to see how he took it, and seeing him sit perfectly silent,
with a fixed, inexpressive smile, Bernard said to himself that Gordon
found the lesson of listening attended with some embarrassments.
Gordon, as the years went by, was growing a little inscrutable;
but this, too, in certain circumstances, was a usual tendency.
The operations of the mind, with deepening experience,
became more complex, and people were less apt to emit immature
reflections at forty than they had been in their earlier days.
Bernard felt a great kindness in these days for his old friend;
he never yet had seemed to him such a good fellow, nor appealed
so strongly to the benevolence of his disposition. Sometimes, of old,
Gordon used to irritate him; but this danger appeared completely
to have passed away. Bernard prolonged his visit; it gave him
pleasure to be able to testify in this manner to his good will.
Gordon was the kindest of hosts, and if in conversation, when his wife
was present, he gave precedence to her superior powers, he had at
other times a good deal of pleasant bachelor-talk with his guest.
He seemed very happy; he had plenty of occupation and plenty
of practical intentions. The season went on, and Bernard enjoyed
his life. He enjoyed the keen and brilliant American winter,
and he found it very pleasant to be treated as a distinguished
stranger in his own land--a situation to which his long and repeated
absences had relegated him. The hospitality of New York was profuse;
the charm of its daughters extreme; the radiance of its skies superb.
Bernard was the restless and professionless mortal that we know,
wandering in life from one vague experiment to another,
constantly gratified and never satisfied, to whom no imperious
finality had as yet presented itself; and, nevertheless, for a time
he contrived to limit his horizon to the passing hour, and to make
a good many hours pass in the drawing-room of a demonstrative
For Mrs. Gordon was a flirt; that had become tolerably obvious.
Bernard had known of old that Blanche Evers was one, and two or three months'
observation of his friend's wife assured him that she did not judge
a certain ethereal coquetry to be inconsistent with the conjugal character.
Blanche flirted, in fact, more or less with all men, but her opportunity
for playing her harmless batteries upon Bernard were of course
exceptionally large. The poor fellow was perpetually under fire,
and it was inevitable that he should reply with some precision of aim.
It seemed to him all child's play, and it is certain that when his back
was turned to his pretty hostess he never found himself thinking of her.
He had not the least reason to suppose that she thought of him--
excessive concentration of mind was the last vice of which he accused her.
But before the winter was over, he discovered that Mrs. Gordon Wright
was being talked about, and that his own name was, as the newspapers say,
mentioned in connection with that of his friend's wife. The discovery greatly
disgusted him; Bernard Longueville's chronicler must do him the justice
to say that it failed to yield him an even transient thrill of pleasure.
He thought it very improbable that this vulgar rumor had reached
Gordon's ears; but he nevertheless--very naturally--instantly made up his
mind to leave the house. He lost no time in saying to Gordon that he had
suddenly determined to go to California, and that he was sure he must
be glad to get rid of him. Gordon expressed no surprise and no regret.
He simply laid his hand on his shoulder and said, very quietly, looking at him
in the eyes--
"Very well; the pleasantest things must come to an end."
It was not till an hour afterwards that Bernard said to himself
that his friend's manner of receiving the announcement of his
departure had been rather odd. He had neither said a word
about his staying longer nor urged him to come back again,
and there had been (it now seemed to Bernard) an audible undertone
of relief in the single sentence with which he assented to his
visitor's withdrawal. Could it be possible that poor Gordon
was jealous of him, that he had heard this loathsome gossip,
or that his own observation had given him an alarm?
He had certainly never betrayed the smallest sense of injury;
but it was to be remembered that even if he were uneasy,
Gordon was quite capable, with his characteristic habit of
weighing everything, his own honor included, in scrupulously
adjusted scales, of denying himself the luxury of active suspicion.
He would never have let a half suspicion make a difference in
his conduct, and he would not have dissimulated; he would simply
have resisted belief. His hospitality had been without a flaw,
and if he had really been wishing Bernard out of his house,
he had behaved with admirable self-control. Bernard, however,
followed this train of thought a very short distance. It was
odious to him to believe that he could have appeared to Gordon,
however guiltlessly, to have invaded even in imagination the mystic
line of the marital monopoly; not to say that, moreover, if one
came to that, he really cared about as much for poor little
Blanche as for the weather-cock on the nearest steeple.
He simply hurried his preparations for departure, and he told Blanche
that he should have to bid her farewell on the following day.
He had found her in the drawing-room, waiting for dinner.
She was expecting company to dine, and Gordon had not yet
She was sitting in the vague glow of the fire-light, in a wonderful
blue dress, with two little blue feet crossed on the rug and pointed at
the hearth. She received Bernard's announcement with small satisfaction,
and expended a great deal of familiar ridicule on his project of a journey
to California. Then, suddenly getting up and looking at him a moment--
"I know why you are going," she said.
"I am glad to hear my explanations have not been lost."
"Your explanations are all nonsense. You are going for another reason.
"Well," said Bernard, "if you insist upon it, it 's because you
are too sharp with me."
"It 's because of me. So much as that is true." Bernard wondered what she
was going to say--if she were going to be silly enough to allude to the most
impudent of fictions; then, as she stood opening and closing her blue fan
and smiling at him in the fire-light, he felt that she was silly enough
for anything. "It 's because of all the talk--it 's because of Gordon.
You need n't be afraid of Gordon."
"Afraid of him? I don't know what you mean," said Bernard, gravely.
Blanche gave a little laugh.
"You have discovered that people are talking about us--about you and me.
I must say I wonder you care. I don't care, and if it 's because of Gordon,
you might as well know that he does n't care. If he does n't care, I don't
see why I should; and if I don't, I don't see why you should!"
"You pay too much attention to such insipid drivel in even mentioning it."
"Well, if I have the credit of saying what I should n't--to you or to
any one else--I don't see why I should n't have the advantage too.
Gordon does n't care--he does n't care what I do or say. He does n't care
a pin for me!"
She spoke in her usual rattling, rambling voice, and brought out this
declaration with a curious absence of resentment.
"You talk about advantage," said Bernard. "I don't see what advantage
it is to you to say that."
"I want to--I must--I will! That 's the advantage!" This came
out with a sudden sharpness of tone; she spoke more excitedly.
"He does n't care a button for me, and he never did!
I don't know what he married me for. He cares for something else--
he thinks of something else. I don't know what it is--I suppose it
These words gave Bernard a certain shock, but he had his intelligence
sufficiently in hand to contradict them with energy.
"You labor under a monstrous delusion," he exclaimed.
"Your husband thinks you fascinating."
This epithet, pronounced with a fine distinctness, was ringing
in the air when the door opened and Gordon came in.
He looked for a moment from Bernard to his wife, and then,
approaching the latter, he said, softly--
"Do you know that he leaves us to-morrow?"
Bernard left then and went to California; but when he arrived
there he asked himself why he had come, and was unable to mention
any other reason than that he had announced it. He began to feel
restless again, and to drift back to that chronic chagrin
which had accompanied him through his long journey in the East.
He succeeded, however, in keeping these unreasonable feelings
at bay for some time, and he strove to occupy himself,
to take an interest in Californian problems. Bernard, however,
was neither an economist nor a cattle-fancier, and he found that,
as the phrase is, there was not a great deal to take hold of.
He wandered about, admired the climate and the big peaches,
thought a while of going to Japan, and ended by going to Mexico.
In this way he passed several months, and justified,
in the eyes of other people at least, his long journey across
the Continent. At last he made it again, in the opposite sense.
He went back to New York, where the summer had already begun,
and here he invented a solution for the difficulty presented
by life to a culpably unoccupied and ill-regulated man.
The solution was not in the least original, and I am almost
ashamed to mention so stale and conventional a device.
Bernard simply hit upon the plan of returning to Europe.
Such as it was, however, he carried it out with an audacity worthy
of a better cause, and was sensibly happier since he had made up
his mind to it. Gordon Wright and his wife were out of town,
but Bernard went into the country, as boldly as you please,
to inform them of his little project and take a long leave of them.
He had made his arrangements to sail immediately, and, as at
such short notice it was impossible to find good quarters
on one of the English vessels, he had engaged a berth
on a French steamer, which would convey him to Havre.
On going down to Gordon's house in the country, he was conscious
of a good deal of eagerness to know what had become of that
latent irritation of which Blanche had given him a specimen.
Apparently it had quite subsided; Blanche was wreathed in smiles;
she was living in a bower of roses. Bernard, indeed, had no
opportunity for investigating her state of mind, for he found
several people in the house, and Blanche, who had an exalted
standard of the duties of a hostess, was occupied in making
life agreeable to her guests, most of whom were gentlemen.
She had in this way that great remedy for dissatisfaction
which Bernard lacked--something interesting to do. Bernard felt
a good deal of genuine sadness in taking leave of Gordon, to whom
he contrived to feel even more kindly than in earlier days.
He had quite forgotten that Gordon was jealous of him--
which he was not, as Bernard said. Certainly, Gordon showed
nothing of it now, and nothing could have been more friendly than
their parting. Gordon, also, for a man who was never boisterous,
seemed very contented. He was fond of exercising hospitality,
and he confessed to Bernard that he was just now in the humor
for having his house full of people. Fortune continued
to gratify this generous taste; for just as Bernard was coming
away another guest made his appearance. The new-comer was none
other than the Honourable Augustus Lovelock, who had just arrived
in New York, and who, as he added, had long desired to visit
the United States. Bernard merely witnessed his arrival,
and was struck with the fact that as he presented himself--
it seemed quite a surprise--Blanche really stopped
I have called it a stale expedient on Bernard Longueville's part
to "go to Europe" again, like the most commonplace American; and it
is certain that, as our young man stood and looked out of the window
of his inn at Havre, an hour after his arrival at that sea-port,
his adventure did not strike him as having any great freshness.
He had no plans nor intentions; he had not even any very definite desires.
He had felt the impulse to come back to Europe, and he had obeyed it;
but now that he had arrived, his impulse seemed to have little more
to say to him. He perceived it, indeed--mentally--in the attitude
of a small street-boy playing upon his nose with that vulgar gesture
which is supposed to represent the elation of successful fraud.
There was a large blank wall before his window, painted a dirty yellow
and much discolored by the weather; a broad patch of summer sunlight
rested upon it and brought out the full vulgarity of its complexion.
Bernard stared a while at this blank wall, which struck him
in some degree as a symbol of his own present moral prospect.
Then suddenly he turned away, with the declaration that,
whatever truth there might be in symbolism, he, at any rate,
had not come to Europe to spend the precious remnant of his youth
in a malodorous Norman sea-port. The weather was very hot,
and neither the hotel nor the town at large appeared to form
an attractive sejour for persons of an irritable nostril.
To go to Paris, however, was hardly more attractive than to remain
at Havre, for Bernard had a lively vision of the heated bitumen
and the glaring frontages of the French capital. But if a Norman
town was close and dull, the Norman country was notoriously fresh
and entertaining, and the next morning Bernard got into a caleche,
with his luggage, and bade its proprietor drive him along the coast.
Once he had begun to rumble through this charming landscape,
he was in much better humor with his situation; the air was
freshened by a breeze from the sea; the blooming country,
without walls or fences, lay open to the traveller's eye;
the grain-fields and copses were shimmering in the summer wind;
the pink-faced cottages peeped through the ripening orchard-boughs,
and the gray towers of the old churches were silvered by the morning-light
At the end of some three hours, Bernard arrived at a little
watering-place which lay close upon the shore, in the embrace
of a pair of white-armed cliffs. It had a quaint and primitive
aspect and a natural picturesqueness which commended it to
Bernard's taste. There was evidently a great deal of nature
about it, and at this moment, nature, embodied in the clear,
gay sunshine, in the blue and quiet sea, in the daisied
grass of the high-shouldered downs, had an air of inviting
the intelligent observer to postpone his difficulties.
Blanquais-les-Galets, as Bernard learned the name of this
unfashionable resort to be, was twenty miles from a railway,
and the place wore an expression of unaffected rusticity.
Bernard stopped at an inn for his noonday breakfast, and then,
with his appreciation quickened by the homely felicity of this repast,
determined to go no further. He engaged a room at the inn,
dismissed his vehicle, and gave himself up to the contemplation
of French sea-side manners. These were chiefly to be observed
upon a pebbly strand which lay along the front of the village
and served as the gathering-point of its idler inhabitants.
Bathing in the sea was the chief occupation of these
good people, including, as it did, prolonged spectatorship
of the process and infinite conversation upon its mysteries.
The little world of Blanquais appeared to form a large family party,
of highly developed amphibious habits, which sat gossiping
all day upon the warm pebbles, occasionally dipping into
the sea and drying itself in the sun, without any relaxation
of personal intimacy. All this was very amusing to Bernard,
who in the course of the day took a bath with the rest.
The ocean was, after all, very large, and when one took
one's plunge one seemed to have it quite to one's self.
When he had dressed himself again, Bernard stretched himself
on the beach, feeling happier than he had done in a long time,
and pulled his hat over his eyes. The feeling of happiness was
an odd one; it had come over him suddenly, without visible cause;
but, such as it was, our hero made the most of it.
As he lay there it seemed to deepen; his immersion and his
exercise in the salt water had given him an agreeable languor.
This presently became a drowsiness which was not less agreeable,
and Bernard felt himself going to sleep. There were sounds
in the air above his head--sounds of the crunching and rattling
of the loose, smooth stones as his neighbors moved about on them;
of high-pitched French voices exchanging colloquial cries;
of the plash of the bathers in the distant water, and the short,
soft breaking of the waves. But these things came to his ears
more vaguely and remotely, and at last they faded away.
Bernard enjoyed half an hour of that light and easy slumber
which is apt to overtake idle people in recumbent attitudes
in the open air on August afternoons. It brought with it
an exquisite sense of rest, and the rest was not spoiled
by the fact that it was animated by a charming dream.
Dreams are vague things, and this one had the defects of its species;
but it was somehow concerned with the image of a young lady
whom Bernard had formerly known, and who had beautiful eyes,
into which--in the dream--he found himself looking.
He waked up to find himself looking into the crown of his hat,
which had been resting on the bridge of his nose.
He removed it, and half raised himself, resting on his elbow
and preparing to taste, in another position, of a little more
of that exquisite rest of which mention has just been made.
The world about him was still amusing and charming;
the chatter of his companions, losing itself in the large
sea-presence, the plash of the divers and swimmers,
the deep blue of the ocean and the silvery white of the cliff,
had that striking air of indifference to the fact that his mind
had been absent from them which we are apt to find in mundane
things on emerging from a nap. The same people were sitting
near him on the beach--the same, and yet not quite the same.
He found himself noticing a person whom he had not noticed before--
a young lady, who was seated in a low portable chair, some dozen
yards off, with her eyes bent upon a book. Her head was in shade;
her large parasol made, indeed, an awning for her whole person,
which in this way, in the quiet attitude of perusal, seemed to
abstract itself from the glare and murmur of the beach.
The clear shadow of her umbrella--it was lined with blue--
was deep upon her face; but it was not deep enough to
prevent Bernard from recognizing a profile that he knew.
He suddenly sat upright, with an intensely quickened vision.
Was he dreaming still, or had he waked? In a moment he felt
that he was acutely awake; he heard her, across the interval,
turn the page of her book. For a single instant, as she
did so, she looked with level brows at the glittering ocean;
then, lowering her eyes, she went on with her reading.
In this barely perceptible movement he saw Angela Vivian;
it was wonderful how well he remembered her. She was evidently
reading very seriously; she was much interested in her book.
She was alone; Bernard looked about for her mother, but Mrs. Vivian
was not in sight. By this time Bernard had become aware that
he was agitated; the exquisite rest of a few moments before
had passed away. His agitation struck him as unreasonable;
in a few minutes he made up his mind that it was absurd.
He had done her an injury--yes; but as she sat there losing herself
in a French novel--Bernard could see it was a French novel--
he could not make out that she was the worse for it. It had not
affected her appearance; Miss Vivian was still a handsome girl.
Bernard hoped she would not look toward him or recognize him;
he wished to look at her at his ease; to think it over;
to make up his mind. The idea of meeting Angela Vivian again
had often come into his thoughts; I may, indeed, say that it was
a tolerably familiar presence there; but the fact, nevertheless,
now presented itself with all the violence of an accident
for which he was totally unprepared. He had often asked
himself what he should say to her, how he should carry himself,
and how he should probably find the young lady; but, with whatever
ingenuity he might at the moment have answered these questions,
his intelligence at present felt decidedly overtaxed.
She was a very pretty girl to whom he had done a wrong; this was
the final attitude into which, with a good deal of preliminary
shifting and wavering, she had settled in his recollection.
The wrong was a right, doubtless, from certain points of view;
but from the girl's own it could only seem an injury to which
its having been inflicted by a clever young man with whom she
had been on agreeable terms, necessarily added a touch of
In every disadvantage that a woman suffers at the hands of a man,
there is inevitably, in what concerns the man, an element of cowardice.
When I say "inevitably," I mean that this is what the woman sees in it.
This is what Bernard believed that Angela Vivian saw in the fact
that by giving his friend a bad account of her he had prevented her
making an opulent marriage. At first he had said to himself that,
whether he had held his tongue or spoken, she had already lost her chance;
but with time, somehow, this reflection had lost its weight in the scale.
It conveyed little re-assurance to his irritated conscience--
it had become imponderable and impertinent. At the moment of which I
speak it entirely failed to present itself, even for form's sake;
and as he sat looking at this superior creature who came back
to him out of an episode of his past, he thought of her simply
as an unprotected woman toward whom he had been indelicate.
It is not an agreeable thing for a delicate man like Bernard
Longueville to have to accommodate himself to such an accident,
but this is nevertheless what it seemed needful that he should do.
If she bore him a grudge he must think it natural; if she had vowed
him a hatred he must allow her the comfort of it. He had done
the only thing possible, but that made it no better for her.
He had wronged her. The circumstances mattered nothing, and as
he could not make it up to her, the only reasonable thing was to keep
out of her way. He had stepped into her path now, and the proper
thing was to step out of it. If it could give her no pleasure
to see him again, it could certainly do him no good to see her.
He had seen her by this time pretty well--as far as mere seeing went,
and as yet, apparently, he was none the worse for that; but his hope
that he should himself escape unperceived had now become acute.
It is singular that this hope should not have led him instantly
to turn his back and move away; but the explanation of his
imprudent delay is simply that he wished to see a little more
of Miss Vivian. He was unable to bring himself to the point.
Those clever things that he might have said to her quite faded away.
The only good taste was to take himself off, and spare her
the trouble of inventing civilities that she could not feel.
And yet he continued to sit there from moment to moment, arrested,
detained, fascinated, by the accident of her not looking round--
of her having let him watch her so long. She turned another page,
and another, and her reading absorbed her still. He was so near her
that he could have touched her dress with the point of his umbrella.
At last she raised her eyes and rested them a while on the blue
horizon, straight in front of her, but as yet without turning
them aside. This, however, augmented the danger of her doing so,
and Bernard, with a good deal of an effort, rose to his feet.
The effort, doubtless, kept the movement from being either as light
or as swift as it might have been, and it vaguely attracted his
neighbor's attention. She turned her head and glanced at him,
with a glance that evidently expected but to touch him and pass.
It touched him, and it was on the point of passing; then it
suddenly checked itself; she had recognized him. She looked
at him, straight and open-eyed, out of the shadow of her parasol,
and Bernard stood there--motionless now--receiving her gaze.
How long it lasted need not be narrated. It was probably a matter
of a few seconds, but to Bernard it seemed a little eternity.
He met her eyes, he looked straight into her face; now that she had seen
him he could do nothing else. Bernard's little eternity, however,
came to an end; Miss Vivian dropped her eyes upon her book again.
She let them rest upon it only a moment; then she closed it
and slowly rose from her chair, turning away from Bernard.
He still stood looking at her--stupidly, foolishly, helplessly enough,
as it seemed to him; no sign of recognition had been exchanged.
Angela Vivian hesitated a minute; she now had her back turned to him,
and he fancied her light, flexible figure was agitated by her indecision.
She looked along the sunny beach which stretched its shallow curve
to where the little bay ended and the white wall of the cliffs began.
She looked down toward the sea, and up toward the little Casino
which was perched on a low embankment, communicating with the beach
at two or three points by a short flight of steps. Bernard saw--
or supposed he saw--that she was asking herself whither she had best
turn to avoid him. He had not blushed when she looked at him--
he had rather turned a little pale; but he blushed now, for it
really seemed odious to have literally driven the poor girl to bay.
Miss Vivian decided to take refuge in the Casino, and she passed
along one of the little pathways of planks that were laid here
and there across the beach, and directed herself to the nearest
flight of steps. Before she had gone two paces a complete change
came over Bernard's feeling; his only wish now was to speak to her--
to explain--to tell her he would go away. There was another row
of steps at a short distance behind him; he rapidly ascended
them and reached the little terrace of the Casino. Miss Vivian
stood there; she was apparently hesitating again which way to turn.
Bernard came straight up to her, with a gallant smile and a greeting.
The comparison is a coarse one, but he felt that he was taking
the bull by the horns. Angela Vivian stood watching him
"You did n't recognize me," he said, "and your not recognizing me made me--
made me hesitate."
For a moment she said nothing, and then--
"You are more timid than you used to be!" she answered.
He could hardly have said what expression he had expected to find in her face;
his apprehension had, perhaps, not painted her obtrusively pale and haughty,
aggressively cold and stern; but it had figured something different from the
look he encountered. Miss Vivian was simply blushing--that was what Bernard
mainly perceived; he saw that her surprise had been extreme--complete.
Her blush was re-assuring; it contradicted the idea of impatient resentment,
and Bernard took some satisfaction in noting that it was prolonged.
"Yes, I am more timid than I used to be," he said.
In spite of her blush, she continued to look at him very directly;
but she had always done that--she always met one's eye; and Bernard
now instantly found all the beauty that he had ever found before in
her pure, unevasive glance.
"I don't know whether I am more brave," she said; "but I must tell the truth--
I instantly recognized you."
"You gave no sign!"
"I supposed I gave a striking one--in getting up and going away."
"Ah!" said Bernard, "as I say, I am more timid than I was,
and I did n't venture to interpret that as a sign of recognition."
"It was a sign of surprise."
"Not of pleasure!" said Bernard. He felt this to be a venturesome,
and from the point of view of taste perhaps a reprehensible, remark;
but he made it because he was now feeling his ground, and it seemed
better to make it gravely than with assumed jocosity.
"Great surprises are to me never pleasures," Angela answered;
"I am not fond of shocks of any kind. The pleasure is another matter.
I have not yet got over my surprise."
"If I had known you were here, I would have written to you beforehand,"
said Bernard, laughing.
Miss Vivian, beneath her expanded parasol, gave a little shrug
of her shoulders.
"Even that would have been a surprise."
"You mean a shock, eh? Did you suppose I was dead?"
Now, at last, she lowered her eyes, and her blush slowly died away.
"I knew nothing about it."
"Of course you could n't know, and we are all mortal. It was
natural that you should n't expect--simply on turning your head--
to find me lying on the pebbles at Blanquais-les-Galets. You
were a great surprise to me, as well; but I differ from you--
I like surprises."
"It is rather refreshing to hear that one is a surprise,"
said the girl.
"Especially when in that capacity one is liked!" Bernard exclaimed.
"I don't say that--because such sensations pass away.
I am now beginning to get over mine."
The light mockery of her tone struck him as the echo of an unforgotten air.
He looked at her a moment, and then he said--
"You are not changed; I find you quite the same."
"I am sorry for that!" And she turned away.
"What are you doing?" he asked. "Where are you going?"
She looked about her, without answering, up and down the little terrace.
The Casino at Blanquais was a much more modest place of reunion than
the Conversation-house at Baden-Baden. It was a small, low structure
of brightly painted wood, containing but three or four rooms,
and furnished all along its front with a narrow covered gallery,
which offered a delusive shelter from the rougher moods of the fine,
fresh weather. It was somewhat rude and shabby--the subscription
for the season was low--but it had a simple picturesqueness.
Its little terrace was a very convenient place for a stroll,
and the great view of the ocean and of the marble-white crags
that formed the broad gate-way of the shallow bay, was a sufficient
compensation for the absence of luxuries. There were a few people
sitting in the gallery, and a few others scattered upon the terrace;
but the pleasure-seekers of Blanquais were, for the most part,
immersed in the salt water or disseminated on the grassy downs.
"I am looking for my mother," said Angela Vivian.
"I hope your mother is well."
"Very well, thank you."
"May I help you to look for her?" Bernard asked.
Her eyes paused in their quest, and rested a moment upon her companion.
"She is not here," she said presently. "She has gone home."
"What do you call home?" Bernard demanded.
"The sort of place that we always call home; a bad little house
that we have taken for a month."
"Will you let me come and see it?"
"It 's nothing to see."
Bernard hesitated a moment.
"Is that a refusal?"
"I should never think of giving it so fine a name."
"There would be nothing fine in forbidding me your door.
Don't think that!" said Bernard, with rather a forced laugh.
It was difficult to know what the girl thought; but she said,
in a moment--
"We shall be very happy to see you. I am going home."
"May I walk with you so far?" asked Bernard.
"It is not far; it 's only three minutes." And Angela moved
slowly to the gate of the Casino.
Bernard walked beside her, and for some moments nothing was said
between them. As the silence continued, he became aware of it,
and it vexed him that she should leave certain things unsaid.
She had asked him no question--neither whence he had come, nor how long
he would stay, nor what had happened to him since they parted.
He wished to see whether this was intention or accident. He was
already complaining to himself that she expressed no interest in him,
and he was perfectly aware that this was a ridiculous feeling.
He had come to speak to her in order to tell her that he was
going away, and yet, at the end of five minutes, he had asked leave
to come and see her. This sudden gyration of mind was grotesque,
and Bernard knew it; but, nevertheless, he had an immense
expectation that, if he should give her time, she would manifest
some curiosity as to his own situation. He tried to give her time;
he held his tongue; but she continued to say nothing. They passed
along a sort of winding lane, where two or three fishermen's cottages,
with old brown nets suspended on the walls and drying in the sun,
stood open to the road, on the other side of which was
a patch of salt-looking grass, browsed by a donkey that was
"It 's so long since we parted, and we have so much to say to each other!"
Bernard exclaimed at last, and he accompanied this declaration with a laugh
much more spontaneous than the one he had given a few moments before.
It might have gratified him, however, to observe that his companion appeared
to see no ground for joking in the idea that they should have a good deal
to say to each other.
"Yes, it 's a long time since we spent those pleasant weeks at Baden,"
she rejoined. "Have you been there again?"
This was a question, and though it was a very simple one,
Bernard was charmed with it.
"I would n't go back for the world!" he said. "And you?"
"Would I go back? Oh yes; I thought it so agreeable."
With this he was less pleased; he had expected the traces
of resentment, and he was actually disappointed at not finding them.
But here was the little house of which his companion had spoken,
and it seemed, indeed, a rather bad one. That is, it was one of
those diminutive structures which are known at French watering-places
as "chalets," and, with an exiguity of furniture, are let for the season
to families that pride themselves upon their powers of contraction.
This one was a very humble specimen of its class, though it was
doubtless a not inadequate abode for two quiet and frugal women.
It had a few inches of garden, and there were flowers in pots
in the open windows, where some extremely fresh white curtains
were gently fluttering in the breath of the neighboring ocean.
The little door stood wide open.
"This is where we live," said Angela; and she stopped and laid her hand
upon the little garden-gate.
"It 's very fair," said Bernard. "I think it 's better than the pastry-cook's
They stood there, and she looked over the gate at the geraniums.
She did not ask him to come in; but, on the other hand,
keeping the gate closed, she made no movement to leave him.
The Casino was now quite out of sight, and the whole place was
perfectly still. Suddenly, turning her eyes upon Bernard with a
certain strange inconsequence--
"I have not seen you here before," she observed.
He gave a little laugh.
"I suppose it 's because I only arrived this morning.
I think that if I had been here you would have noticed me."
"You arrived this morning?"
"Three or four hours ago. So, if the remark were not in questionable taste,
I should say we had not lost time."
"You may say what you please," said Angela, simply. "Where did
you come from?"
Interrogation, now it had come, was most satisfactory, and Bernard was glad
to believe that there was an element of the unexpected in his answer.
"You came straight from California to this place?"
"I arrived at Havre only yesterday."
"And why did you come here?"
"It would be graceful of me to be able to answer--'Because I
knew you were here.' But unfortunately I did not know it.
It was a mere chance; or rather, I feel like saying it was
Angela looked at the geraniums again.
"It was very singular," she said. "We might have been in so many places
besides this one. And you might have come to so many places besides
"It is all the more singular, that one of the last persons I saw in
America was your charming friend Blanche, who married Gordon Wright.
She did n't tell me you were here."
"She had no reason to know it," said the girl. "She is not my friend--
as you are her husband's friend."
"Ah no, I don't suppose that. But she might have heard from you."
"She does n't hear from us. My mother used to write to her
for a while after she left Europe, but she has given it up."
She paused a moment, and then she added--"Blanche is too silly!"
Bernard noted this, wondering how it bore upon his theory
of a spiteful element in his companion. Of course Blanche
was silly; but, equally of course, this young lady's perception
of it was quickened by Blanche's having married a rich man
whom she herself might have married.
"Gordon does n't think so," Bernard said.
Angela looked at him a moment.
"I am very glad to hear it," she rejoined, gently.
"Yes, it is very fortunate."
"Is he well?" the girl asked. "Is he happy?"
"He has all the air of it."
"I am very glad to hear it," she repeated. And then she moved
the latch of the gate and passed in. At the same moment her mother
appeared in the open door-way. Mrs. Vivian had apparently been summoned
by the sound of her daughter's colloquy with an unrecognized voice,
and when she saw Bernard she gave a sharp little cry of surprise.
Then she stood gazing at him.
Since the dispersion of the little party at Baden-Baden he had not
devoted much meditation to this conscientious gentlewoman who had
been so tenderly anxious to establish her daughter properly in life;
but there had been in his mind a tacit assumption that if Angela deemed
that he had played her a trick Mrs. Vivian's view of his conduct was not
more charitable. He felt that he must have seemed to her very unkind,
and that in so far as a well-regulated conscience permitted the exercise
of unpractical passions, she honored him with a superior detestation.
The instant he beheld her on her threshold this conviction rose to
the surface of his consciousness and made him feel that now, at least,
his hour had come.
"It is Mr. Longueville, whom we met at Baden," said Angela
to her mother, gravely.
Mrs. Vivian began to smile, and stepped down quickly toward the gate.
"Ah, Mr. Longueville," she murmured, "it 's so long--it 's so pleasant--
it 's so strange--"
And suddenly she stopped, still smiling. Her smile had an odd intensity;
she was trembling a little, and Bernard, who was prepared for hissing scorn,
perceived with a deep, an almost violent, surprise, a touching agitation,
an eager friendliness.
"Yes, it 's very long," he said; "it 's very pleasant.
I have only just arrived; I met Miss Vivian."
"And you are not coming in?" asked Angela's mother, very graciously.
"Your daughter has not asked me!" said Bernard.
"Ah, my dearest," murmured Mrs. Vivian, looking at the girl.
Her daughter returned her glance, and then the elder lady paused again,
and simply began to smile at Bernard, who recognized in her glance that
queer little intimation--shy and cautious, yet perfectly discernible--
of a desire to have a private understanding with what he felt that she
mentally termed his better nature, which he had more than once perceived at
"Ah no, she has not asked me," Bernard repeated, laughing gently.
Then Angela turned her eyes upon him, and the expression of those fine
organs was strikingly agreeable. It had, moreover, the merit of being
easily interpreted; it said very plainly, "Please don't insist, but leave
me alone." And it said it not at all sharply--very gently and pleadingly.
Bernard found himself understanding it so well that he literally blushed
"Don't you come to the Casino in the evening, as you used to come
to the Kursaal?" he asked.
Mrs. Vivian looked again at her daughter, who had passed into the door-way
of the cottage; then she said--
"We will go this evening."
"I shall look for you eagerly," Bernard rejoined. "Auf wiedersehen,
as we used to say at Baden!"
Mrs. Vivian waved him a response over the gate, her daughter gave
him a glance from the threshold, and he took his way back to his inn.
He awaited the evening with great impatience; he fancied
he had made a discovery, and he wished to confirm it.
The discovery was that his idea that she bore him a grudge,
that she was conscious of an injury, that he was associated
in her mind with a wrong, had all been a morbid illusion.
She had forgiven, she had forgotten, she did n't care,
she had possibly never cared! This, at least, was his
theory now, and he longed for a little more light upon it.
His old sense of her being a complex and intricate girl had,
in that quarter of an hour of talk with her, again become lively,
so that he was not absolutely sure his apprehensions had been vain.
But, with his quick vision of things, he had got the impression,
at any rate, that she had no vulgar resentment of any slight he might
have put upon her, or any disadvantage he might have caused her.
Her feeling about such a matter would be large and original.
Bernard desired to see more of that, and in the evening,
in fact, it seemed to him that he did so.
The terrace of the Casino was far from offering the brilliant
spectacle of the promenade in front of the gaming-rooms at Baden.
It had neither the liberal illumination, the distinguished frequenters,
nor the superior music which formed the attraction of that celebrated spot;
but it had a modest animation of its own, in which the starlight
on the open sea took the place of clustered lamps, and the mighty
resonance of the waves performed the function of an orchestra.
Mrs. Vivian made her appearance with her daughter, and Bernard,
as he used to do at Baden, chose a corner to place some chairs for them.
The crowd was small, for most of the visitors had compressed
themselves into one of the rooms, where a shrill operetta was being
performed by a strolling troupe. Mrs. Vivian's visit was a short one;
she remained at the Casino less than half an hour. But Bernard had some
talk with Angela. He sat beside her--her mother was on the other side,
talking with an old French lady whose acquaintance she had made
on the beach. Between Bernard and Angela several things were said.
When his friends went away Bernard walked home with them.
He bade them good-night at the door of their chalet, and then
slowly strolled back to the Casino. The terrace was nearly empty;
every one had gone to listen to the operetta, the sound of whose
contemporary gayety came through the open, hot-looking windows in little
thin quavers and catches. The ocean was rumbling just beneath;
it made a ruder but richer music. Bernard stood looking at it a moment;
then he went down the steps to the beach. The tide was rather low;
he walked slowly down to the line of the breaking waves.
The sea looked huge and black and simple; everything was vague
in the unassisted darkness. Bernard stood there some time;
there was nothing but the sound and the sharp, fresh smell.
Suddenly he put his hand to his heart; it was beating very fast.
An immense conviction had come over him--abruptly, then and there--
and for a moment he held his breath. It was like a word spoken
in the darkness--he held his breath to listen. He was in love
with Angela Vivian, and his love was a throbbing passion!
He sat down on the stones where he stood--it filled him with a kind of
It filled him with a kind of awe, and the feeling was by no
means agreeable. It was not a feeling to which even a man
of Bernard Longueville's easy power of extracting the savour
from a sensation could rapidly habituate himself, and for the rest
of that night it was far from making of our hero the happy man
that a lover just coming to self-consciousness is supposed to be.
It was wrong--it was dishonorable--it was impossible--and yet it was;
it was, as nothing in his own personal experience had ever been.
He seemed hitherto to have been living by proxy, in a vision,
in reflection--to have been an echo, a shadow, a futile attempt;
but this at last was life itself, this was a fact, this was reality.
For these things one lived; these were the things that
people had died for. Love had been a fable before this--
doubtless a very pretty one; and passion had been a
literary phrase--employed obviously with considerable effect.
But now he stood in a personal relation to these familiar ideas,
which gave them a very much keener import; they had laid their
hand upon him in the darkness, he felt it upon his shoulder,
and he knew by its pressure that it was the hand of destiny.
What made this sensation a shock was the element that was mixed
with it; the fact that it came not simply and singly, but with an
attendant shadow in which it immediately merged and lost itself.
It was forbidden fruit--he knew it the instant he had touched it.
He felt that he had pledged himself not to do just this thing
which was gleaming before him so divinely--not to widen the crevice,
not to open the door that would flood him with light.
Friendship and honor were at stake; they stood at his left hand,
as his new-born passion stood already at his right;
they claimed him as well, and their grasp had a pressure
which might become acutely painful. The soul is a still more
tender organism than the body, and it shrinks from the prospect
of being subjected to violence. Violence--spiritual violence--
was what our luxurious hero feared; and it is not too much to say
that as he lingered there by the sea, late into the night,
while the gurgitation of the waves grew deeper to his ear,
the prospect came to have an element of positive terror.
The two faces of his situation stood confronting each other;
it was a rigid, brutal opposition, and Bernard held his breath
for a while with the wonder of what would come of it.
He sat a long time upon the beach; the night grew very cold,
but he had no sense of it. Then he went away and passed
before the Casino again, and wandered through the village.
The Casino was shrouded in darkness and silence, and there was nothing
in the streets of the little town but the salt smell of the sea,
a vague aroma of fish and the distant sound of the breakers.
Little by little, Bernard lost the feeling of having been startled,
and began to perceive that he could reason about his trouble.
Trouble it was, though this seems an odd name for the consciousness
of a bright enchantment; and the first thing that reason,
definitely consulted, told him about the matter was that he had
been in love with Angela Vivian any time these three years.
This sapient faculty supplied him with further information;
only two or three of the items of which, however, it is necessary
to reproduce. He had been a great fool--an incredible fool--
not to have discovered before this what was the matter with him!
Bernard's sense of his own shrewdness--always tolerably acute--
had never received such a bruise as this present perception
that a great many things had been taking place in his
clever mind without his clever mind suspecting them.
But it little mattered, his reason went on to declare,
what he had suspected or what he might now feel about it;
his present business was to leave Blanquais-les-Galets
at sunrise the next morning and never rest his eyes upon
Angela Vivian again. This was his duty; it had the merit
of being perfectly plain and definite, easily apprehended,
and unattended, as far as he could discover, with the smallest
material difficulties. Not only this, reason continued to remark;
but the moral difficulties were equally inconsiderable.
He had never breathed a word of his passion to Miss Vivian--
quite the contrary; he had never committed himself nor
given her the smallest reason to suspect his hidden flame;
and he was therefore perfectly free to turn his back upon her--
he could never incur the reproach of trifling with her affections.
Bernard was in that state of mind when it is the greatest of
blessings to be saved the distress of choice--to see a straight
path before you and to feel that you have only to follow it.
Upon the straight path I have indicated, he fixed his eyes very hard;
of course he would take his departure at the earliest possible hour
on the morrow. There was a streak of morning in the eastern sky
by the time he knocked for re-admittance at the door of the inn,
which was opened to him by a mysterious old woman in a nightcap
and meagre accessories, whose identity he failed to ascertain;
and he laid himself down to rest--he was very tired--with his
attention fastened, as I say, on the idea--on the very image--of
On waking up the next morning, rather late, he found, however, that it
had attached itself to a very different object. His vision was filled
with the brightness of the delightful fact itself, which seemed
to impregnate the sweet morning air and to flutter in the light,
fresh breeze that came through his open window from the sea.
He saw a great patch of the sea between a couple of red-tiled roofs;
it was bluer than any sea had ever been before. He had not slept long--
only three or four hours; but he had quite slept off his dread.
The shadow had dropped away and nothing was left but the beauty
of his love, which seemed to shine in the freshness of the early day.
He felt absurdly happy--as if he had discovered El Dorado; quite apart
from consequences--he was not thinking of consequences, which of course
were another affair--the feeling was intrinsically the finest one
he had ever had, and--as a mere feeling--he had not done with it yet.
The consideration of consequences could easily be deferred,
and there would, meanwhile, be no injury to any one in his extracting,
very quietly, a little subjective joy from the state of his heart.
He would let the flower bloom for a day before plucking it up
by the roots. Upon this latter course he was perfectly resolved,
and in view of such an heroic resolution the subjective interlude
appeared no more than his just privilege. The project of leaving
Blanquais-les-Galets at nine o'clock in the morning dropped lightly
from his mind, making no noise as it fell; but another took its place,
which had an air of being still more excellent and which consisted
of starting off on a long walk and absenting himself for the day.
Bernard grasped his stick and wandered away; he climbed the great
shoulder of the further cliff and found himself on the level downs.
Here there was apparently no obstacle whatever to his walking
as far as his fancy should carry him. The summer was still
in a splendid mood, and the hot and quiet day--it was a Sunday--
seemed to constitute a deep, silent smile on the face of nature.
The sea glistened on one side, and the crops ripened on the other;
the larks, losing themselves in the dense sunshine, made it ring
here and there in undiscoverable spots; this was the only sound
save when Bernard, pausing now and then in his walk, found himself
hearing far below him, at the base of the cliff, the drawling murmur
of a wave. He walked a great many miles and passed through half
a dozen of those rude fishing-hamlets, lodged in some sloping
hollow of the cliffs, so many of which, of late years, all along
the Norman coast, have adorned themselves with a couple of hotels
and a row of bathing-machines. He walked so far that the shadows
had begun to lengthen before he bethought himself of stopping;
the afternoon had come on and had already begun to wane.
The grassy downs still stretched before him, shaded here and there
with shallow but windless dells. He looked for the softest place
and then flung himself down on the grass; he lay there for a long time,
thinking of many things. He had determined to give himself up
to a day's happiness; it was happiness of a very harmless kind--
the satisfaction of thought, the bliss of mere consciousness;
but such as it was it did not elude him nor turn bitter in his heart,
and the long summer day closed upon him before his spirit,
hovering in perpetual circles round the idea of what might be,
had begun to rest its wing. When he rose to his feet again it was
too late to return to Blanquais in the same way that he had come;
the evening was at hand, the light was already fading, and the walk
he had taken was one which even if he had not felt very tired,
he would have thought it imprudent to attempt to repeat in the darkness.
He made his way to the nearest village, where he was able to hire
a rustic carriole, in which primitive conveyance, gaining the high-road,
he jogged and jostled through the hours of the evening slowly back
to his starting-point. It wanted an hour of midnight by the time
he reached his inn, and there was nothing left for him but to go to
He went in the unshaken faith that he should leave Blanquais
early on the morrow. But early on the morrow it occurred
to him that it would be simply grotesque to go off without
taking leave of Mrs. Vivian and her daughter, and offering
them some explanation of his intention. He had given them
to understand that, so delighted was he to find them there,
he would remain at Blanquais at least as long as they.
He must have seemed to them wanting in civility, to spend
a whole bright Sunday without apparently troubling his head
about them, and if the unlucky fact of his being in love
with the girl were a reason for doing his duty, it was at least
not a reason for being rude. He had not yet come to that--
to accepting rudeness as an incident of virtue; it had always
been his theory that virtue had the best manners in the world,
and he flattered himself at any rate that he could guard his
integrity without making himself ridiculous. So, at what he
thought a proper hour, in the course of the morning, he retraced
his steps along the little lane through which, two days ago,
Angela Vivian had shown him the way to her mother's door.
At this humble portal he knocked; the windows of the little
chalet were open, and the white curtains, behind the flower-pots,
were fluttering as he had seen them before. The door was
opened by a neat young woman, who informed him very promptly
that Madame and Mademoiselle had left Blanquais a couple
of hours earlier. They had gone to Paris--yes, very suddenly,
taking with them but little luggage, and they had left her--
she had the honor of being the femme de chambre of ces dames--
to put up their remaining possessions and follow as soon as possible.
On Bernard's expressing surprise and saying that he had supposed
them to be fixed at the sea-side for the rest of the season,
the femme de chambre, who seemed a very intelligent person,
begged to remind him that the season was drawing to a close,
that Madame had taken the chalet but for five weeks, only ten
days of which period were yet to expire, that ces dames,
as Monsieur perhaps knew, were great travellers, who had been
half over the world and thought nothing of breaking camp at
an hour's notice, and that, in fine, Madame might very well
have received a telegram summoning her to another part of
"And where have the ladies gone?" asked Bernard.
"For the moment, to Paris."
"And in Paris where have they gone?"
"Dame, chez elles--to their house," said the femme de chambre,
who appeared to think that Bernard asked too many questions.
But Bernard persisted.
"Where is their house?"
The waiting-maid looked at him from head to foot.
"If Monsieur wishes to write, many of Madame's letters come to her banker,"
she said, inscrutably.
"And who is her banker?"
"He lives in the Rue de Provence."
"Very good--I will find him out," said our hero, turning away.
The discriminating reader who has been so good as to interest
himself in this little narrative will perhaps at this point
exclaim with a pardonable consciousness of shrewdness:
"Of course he went the next day to the Rue de Provence!"
Of course, yes; only as it happens Bernard did nothing of the kind.
He did one of the most singular things he ever did in his life--
a thing that puzzled him even at the time, and with regard
to which he often afterward wondered whence he had drawn
the ability for so remarkable a feat--he simply spent a fortnight
at Blanquais-les-Galets. It was a very quiet fortnight;
he spoke to no one, he formed no relations, he was company
to himself. It may be added that he had never found his own
company half so good. He struck himself as a reasonable,
delicate fellow, who looked at things in such a way as to make
him refrain--refrain successfully, that was the point--
from concerning himself practically about Angela Vivian.
His saying that he would find out the banker in the Rue de
Provence had been for the benefit of the femme de chambre,
whom he thought rather impertinent; he had really no
intention whatever of entering that classic thoroughfare.
He took long walks, rambled on the beach, along the base
of the cliffs and among the brown sea-caves, and he thought
a good deal of certain incidents which have figured at an earlier
stage of this narrative. He had forbidden himself the future,
as an object of contemplation, and it was therefore a matter
of necessity that his imagination should take refuge among
the warm and familiar episodes of the past. He wondered
why Mrs. Vivian should have left the place so suddenly,
and was of course struck with the analogy between this
incident and her abrupt departure from Baden. It annoyed him,
it troubled him, but it by no means rekindled the alarm he had
felt on first perceiving the injured Angela on the beach.
That alarm had been quenched by Angela's manner during the hour
that followed and during their short talk in the evening.
This evening was to be forever memorable, for it had brought
with it the revelation which still, at moments, suddenly made
Bernard tremble; but it had also brought him the assurance
that Angela cared as little as possible for anything
that a chance acquaintance might have said about her.
It is all the more singular, therefore, that one evening,
after he had been at Blanquais a fortnight, a train of thought
should suddenly have been set in motion in his mind.
It was kindled by no outward occurrence, but by some wandering
spark of fancy or of memory, and the immediate effect
of it was to startle our hero very much as he had been
startled on the evening I have described. The circumstances
were the same; he had wandered down to the beach alone,
very late, and he stood looking at the duskily-tumbling sea.
Suddenly the same voice that had spoken before murmured
another phrase in the darkness, and it rang upon his ear
for the rest of the night. It startled him, as I have said,
at first; then, the next morning, it led him to take his
departure for Paris. During the journey it lingered in his ear;
he sat in the corner of the railway-carriage with his eyes
closed, abstracted, on purpose to prolong the reverberation.
If it were not true it was at least, as the Italians have it,
ben trovato, and it was wonderful how well it bore thinking of.
It bears telling less well; but I can at least give a hint of it.
The theory that Angela hated him had evaporated in her presence,
and another of a very different sort had sprung into being.
It fitted a great many of the facts, it explained a great
many contradictions, anomalies, mysteries, and it accounted
for Miss Vivian's insisting upon her mother's leaving Blanquais
at a few hours' notice, even better than the theory of her
resentment could have done. At any rate, it obliterated
Bernard's scruples very effectually, and led him on his
arrival in Paris to repair instantly to the Rue de Provence.
This street contains more than one banker, but there is one with
whom Bernard deemed Mrs. Vivian most likely to have dealings.
He found he had reckoned rightly, and he had no difficulty
in procuring her address. Having done so, however, he by no
means went immediately to see her; he waited a couple of days--
perhaps to give those obliterated scruples I have spoken of a
chance to revive. They kept very quiet, and it must be confessed
that Bernard took no great pains to recall them to life.
After he had been in Paris three days, he knocked at Mrs. Vivian's
It was opened by the little waiting-maid whom he had seen at Blanquais,
and who looked at him very hard before she answered his inquiry.