Part 5 out of 5
Bernard's for an instant, and for some reason, at this moment,
He rose quickly and walked away to the window where he stood
looking out into the darkness. "The devil--the devil!"
he murmured to himself; "she does n't even know we are to be married--
Gordon has n't been able to trust himself to tell her!"
And this fact seemed pregnant with evidence as to Gordon's
state of mind; it did not appear to simplify the situation.
After a moment, while Bernard stood there with his back turned--
he felt rather awkward and foolish--he heard Blanche begin with her
little surprised voice.
"Ah, you are going away? You are going to travel? But that
's charming; we can travel together. You are not going to travel?
What then are you going to do? You are going back to America?
Ah, but you must n't do that, as soon as I come abroad; that 's
not nice or friendly, Mrs. Vivian, to your poor little old Blanche.
You are not going back to America? Ah, then, I give it up!
What 's the great mystery? Is it something about Angela?
There was always a mystery about Angela. I hope you won't
mind my saying it, my dear; but I was always afraid of you.
My husband--he admires you so much, you know--has often
tried to explain you to me; but I have never understood.
What are you going to do now? Are you going into a convent?
Are you going to be--A-a-h!"
And, suddenly, quickly, interrupting herself, Mrs. Gordon gave
a long, wondering cry. Bernard heard her spring to her feet,
and the two other ladies rise from their seats. Captain Lovelock got
up as well; Bernard heard him knock over his little gilded chair.
There was a pause, during which Blanche went through a little
mute exhibition of amazement and pleasure. Bernard turned round,
to receive half a dozen quick questions.
"What are you hiding away for? What are you blushing for?
I never saw you do anything like that before! Why do you look
so strange, and what are you making me say? Angela, is it true--
is there something like that?" Without waiting for the answer
to this last question, Blanche threw herself upon Mrs. Vivian.
"My own Mrs. Vivian," she cried, "is she married?"
"My dear Blanche," said Bernard, coming forward, "has not Gordon told you?
Angela and I are not married, but we hope to be before long. Gordon only knew
it this morning; we ourselves have only known it a short time. There is no
mystery about it, and we only want your congratulations."
"Well, I must say you have been very quiet about it!" cried Blanche.
"When I was engaged, I wrote you all a letter."
"By Jove, she wrote to me!" observed Captain Lovelock.
Angela went to her and kissed her.
"Your husband does n't seem to have explained me very successfully!"
Mrs. Gordon held Bernard's intended for a moment at arm's length,
with both her hands, looking at her with eyes of real excitement and wonder.
Then she folded her in a prolonged, an exaggerated, embrace.
"Why did n't he tell me--why did n't he tell me?"
she presently began. "He has had all day to tell me, and it
was very cruel of him to let me come here without knowing it.
Could anything be more absurd--more awkward? You don't think
it 's awkward--you don't mind it? Ah well, you are very good!
But I like it, Angela--I like it extremely, immensely. I think
it 's delightful, and I wonder it never occurred to me.
Has it been going on long? Ah, of course, it has been going on!
Did n't it begin at Baden, and did n't I see it there?
Do you mind my alluding to that? At Baden we were all so mixed up
that one could n't tell who was attentive to whom! But Bernard
has been very faithful, my dear; I can assure you of that.
When he was in America he would n't look at another woman.
I know something about that! He stayed three months in my
house and he never spoke to me. Now I know why, Mr. Bernard;
but you might have told me at the time. The reason was
certainly good enough. I always want to know why, you know.
Why Gordon never told me, for instance; that 's what I want to
Blanche refused to sit down again; she declared that she was
so agitated by this charming news that she could not be quiet,
and that she must presently take her departure. Meanwhile she
congratulated each of her friends half a dozen times; she kissed
Mrs. Vivian again, she almost kissed Bernard; she inquired
about details; she longed to hear all about Angela's "things."
Of course they would stop for the wedding; but meantime
she must be very discreet; she must not intrude too much.
Captain Lovelock addressed to Angela a few fragmentary,
but well-intentioned sentences, pulling his beard and fixing his
eyes on the door-knob--an implement which presently turned in his
manly fist, as he opened the door for his companion to withdraw.
Blanche went away in a flutter of ejaculations and protestations
which left our three friends in Mrs. Vivian's little
drawing-room standing looking at each other as the door closed
"It certainly would have been better taste in him to tell her,"
said Bernard, frowning, "and not let other people see how little
communication there is between them. It has mortified her."
"Poor Mr. Wright had his reasons," Mrs. Vivian suggested,
and then she ventured to explain: "He still cares for Angela,
and it was painful to him to talk about her marrying some
This had been Bernard's own reflection, and it was no more
agreeable as Mrs. Vivian presented it; though Angela herself
seemed indifferent to it--seemed, indeed, not to hear it,
as if she were thinking of something else.
"We must simply marry as soon as possible; to-morrow, if necessary,"
said Bernard, with some causticity. "That 's the best thing we can do for
every one. When once Angela is married, Gordon will stop thinking of her.
He will never permit his imagination to hover about a married woman;
I am very sure of that. He does n't approve of that sort of thing, and he has
the same law for himself as for other people."
"It does n't matter," said Angela, simply.
"How do you mean, my daughter, it does n't matter?"
"I don't feel obliged to feel so sorry for him now."
"Now? Pray, what has happened? I am more sorry than ever,
since I have heard poor Blanche's dreadful tone about him."
The girl was silent a moment; then she shook her head, lightly.
"Her tone--her tone? Dearest mother, don't you see?
She is intensely in love with him!"
This observation struck Bernard as extremely ingenious
and worthy of his mistress's fine intelligence; he greeted it
with enthusiasm, and thought of it for the next twelve hours.
The more he thought of it the more felicitous it seemed to him,
and he went to Mrs. Vivian's the next day almost for the express
purpose of saying to Angela that, decidedly, she was right.
He was admitted by his old friend, the little femme de chambre,
who had long since bestowed upon him, definitively, her confidence;
and as in the ante-chamber he heard the voice of a gentleman
raised and talking with some emphasis, come to him from
the salon, he paused a moment, looking at her with an
"Yes," said Mrs. Vivian's attendant, "I must tell Monsieur frankly
that another gentleman is there. Moreover, what does it matter?
Monsieur would perceive it for himself!"
"Has he been here long?" asked Bernard.
"A quarter of an hour. It probably does n't seem long to the gentleman!"
"Is he alone with Mademoiselle?"
"He asked for Mademoiselle only. I introduced him into the salon,
and Mademoiselle, after conversing a little while with Madame,
consented to receive him. They have been alone together,
as I have told Monsieur, since about three o'clock. Madame
is in her own apartment. The position of Monsieur," added this
discriminating woman, "certainly justifies him in entering
Bernard was quite of this opinion, and in a moment more he had crossed
the threshold of the little drawing-room and closed the door behind him.
Angela sat there on a sofa, leaning back with her hands clasped
in her lap and her eyes fixed upon Gordon Wright, who stood squarely
before her, as if he had been making her a resolute speech.
Her face wore a look of distress, almost of alarm;
she kept her place, but her eyes gave Bernard a mute welcome.
Gordon turned and looked at him slowly from head to foot.
Bernard remembered, with a good deal of vividness, the last look
his friend had given him in the Champs Elysees the day before;
and he saw with some satisfaction that this was not exactly
a repetition of that expression of cold horror. It was a question,
however, whether the horror were changed for the better.
Poor Gordon looked intensely sad and grievously wronged.
The keen resentment had faded from his face, but an immense
reproach was there--a heavy, helpless, appealing reproach.
Bernard saw that he had not a scene of violence to dread--
and yet, when he perceived what was coming, he would almost
have preferred violence. Gordon did not offer him his hand,
and before Bernard had had time to say anything, began to
speak again, as if he were going on with what he had been saying
"You have done me a great wrong--you have done me a cruel wrong!
I have been telling it to Miss Vivian; I came on purpose to tell her.
I can't really tell her; I can't tell her the details; it 's too painful!
But you know what I mean! I could n't stand it any longer. I thought
of going away--but I could n't do that. I must come and say what I feel.
I can't bear it now."
This outbreak of a passionate sense of injury in a man habitually
so undemonstrative, so little disposed to call attention to himself,
had in it something at once of the touching and the terrible.
Bernard, for an instant, felt almost bewildered; he asked himself
whether he had not, after all, been a monster of duplicity.
He was guilty of the weakness of taking refuge in what is called,
I believe, in legal phrase, a side-issue.
"Don't say all this before Angela!" he exclaimed, with a kind
of artificial energy. "You know she is not in the least at fault,
and that it can only give her pain. The thing is between ourselves."
Angela was sitting there, looking up at both the men. "I like to hear it,"
"You have a singular taste!" Bernard declared.
"I know it 's between ourselves," cried Gordon, "and that Miss
Vivian is not at fault. She is only too lovely, too wise,
too good! It is you and I that are at fault--horribly at fault!
You see I admit it, and you don't. I never dreamed that I should
live to say such things as this to you; but I never dreamed you
would do what you have done! It 's horrible, most horrible,
that such a difference as this should come between two men
who believed themselves--or whom I believed, at least--
the best friends in the world. For it is a difference--it 's
a great gulf, and nothing will ever fill it up. I must say so;
I can't help it. You know I don't express myself easily;
so, if I break out this way, you may know what I feel.
I know it is a pain to Miss Vivian, and I beg her to forgive me.
She has so much to forgive that she can forgive that, too.
I can't pretend to accept it; I can't sit down and let it pass.
And then, it is n't only my feelings; it 's the right;
it 's the justice. I must say to her that you have no right
to marry her; and beg of her to listen to me and let you
"My dear Gordon, are you crazy?" Bernard demanded, with an energy which,
this time at least, was sufficiently real.
"Very likely I am crazy. I am crazy with disappointment and the bitterness
of what I have lost. Add to that the wretchedness of what I have found!"
"Ah, don't say that, Mr. Wright," Angela begged.
He stood for an instant looking at her, but not heeding her words.
"Will you listen to me again? Will you forget the wrong I did you?--
my stupidity and folly and unworthiness? Will you blot out the past and let
me begin again. I see you as clearly now as the light of that window.
Will you give me another chance?"
Angela turned away her eyes and covered her face with her hands.
"You do pain me!" she murmured.
"You go too far," said Bernard. "To what position does your extraordinary
proposal relegate your wife?"
Gordon turned his pleading eyes on his old friend without a ray of concession;
but for a moment he hesitated. "Don't speak to me of my wife. I have
"Ah, poor girl!" said Angela, springing up from the sofa.
"I am perfectly serious," Gordon went on, addressing himself again to her.
"No, after all, I am not crazy; I see only too clearly--I see what should be;
when people see that, you call them crazy. Bernard has no right--
he must give you up. If you really care for him, you should help him.
He is in a very false position; you should n't wish to see him in such
a position. I can't explain to you--if it were even for my own sake.
But Bernard must have told you; it is not possible that he has not
"I have told Angela everything, Gordon," said Bernard.
"I don't know what you mean by your having done me a wrong!"
the girl exclaimed.
"If he has told you, then--I may say it! In listening to him,
in believing him."
"But you did n't believe me," Bernard exclaimed, "since you
immediately went and offered yourself to Miss Vivian!"
"I believed you all the same! When did I ever not believe you?"
"The last words I ever heard from Mr. Wright were words
of the deepest kindness," said Angela.
She spoke with such a serious, tender grace, that Gordon seemed
stirred to his depths again.
"Ah, give me another chance!" he moaned.
The poor girl could not help her tone, and it was in the same tone
that she continued--
"If you think so well of me, try and be reasonable."
Gordon looked at her, slowly shaking his head.
"Reasonable--reasonable? Yes, you have a right to say that,
for you are full of reason. But so am I. What I ask is within
reasonable limits. "
"Granting your happiness were lost," said Bernard--"I say
that only for the argument--is that a ground for your wishing
to deprive me of mine?"
"It is not yours--it is mine, that you have taken! You put
me off my guard, and then you took it! Yours is elsewhere,
and you are welcome to it!"
"Ah," murmured Bernard, giving him a long look and turning away,
"it is well for you that I am willing still to regard you as my
Gordon went on, more passionately, to Angela.
"He put me off my guard--I can't call it anything else.
I know I gave him a great chance--I encouraged him, urged him,
tempted him. But when once he had spoken, he should have stood
to it. He should n't have had two opinions--one for me,
and one for himself! He put me off my guard. It was because I
still resisted him that I went to you again, that last time.
But I was still afraid of you, and in my heart I believed him.
As I say, I always believed him; it was his great influence
upon me. He is the cleverest, the most intelligent, the most
brilliant of men. I don't think that a grain less than I
ever thought it," he continued, turning again to Bernard.
"I think it only the more, and I don't wonder that you find
a woman to believe it. But what have you done but deceive me?
It was just my belief in your intelligence that reassured me.
When Miss Vivian refused me a second time, and I left Baden,
it was at first with a sort of relief. But there came back a
better feeling--a feeling faint compared to this feeling of to-day,
but strong enough to make me uneasy and to fill me with regret.
To quench my regret, I kept thinking of what you had said,
and it kept me quiet. Your word had such weight with
"How many times more would you have wished to be refused, and how
many refusals would have been required to give me my liberty?"
"That question means nothing, because you never knew that I had again
offered myself to Miss Vivian."
"No; you told me very little, considering all that you made me tell you."
"I told you beforehand that I should do exactly as I chose."
"You should have allowed me the same liberty!"
"Liberty!" cried Gordon. "Had n't you liberty to range the whole world over?
Could n't he have found a thousand other women?"
"It is not for me to think so," said Angela, smiling a little.
Gordon looked at her a moment.
"Ah, you cared for him from the first!" he cried.
"I had seen him before I ever saw you," said the girl.
Bernard suppressed an exclamation. There seemed to flash through these
words a sort of retrospective confession which told him something that she
had never directly told him. She blushed as soon as she had spoken,
and Bernard found a beauty in this of which the brightness blinded him
to the awkward aspect of the fact she had just presented to Gordon.
At this fact Gordon stood staring; then at last he apprehended it--largely.
"Ah, then, it had been a plot between you!" he cried out.
Bernard and Angela exchanged a glance of pity.
"We had met for five minutes, and had exchanged a few words before I
came to Baden. It was in Italy--at Siena. It was a simple accident
that I never told you," Bernard explained.
"I wished that nothing should be said about it," said Angela.
"Ah, you loved him!" Gordon exclaimed.
Angela turned away--she went to the window. Bernard followed
her for three seconds with his eyes; then he went on--
"If it were so, I had no reason to suppose it. You have accused
me of deceiving you, but I deceived only myself. You say I put
you off your guard, but you should rather say you put me on mine.
It was, thanks to that, that I fell into the most senseless,
the most brutal of delusions. The delusion passed away--
it had contained the germ of better things. I saw my error,
and I bitterly repented of it; and on the day you were married I
"Ah, yes, I have no doubt you waited for that!" cried Gordon.
"It may interest you to know that my marriage is a miserable failure."
"I am sorry to hear it--but I can't help it."
"You have seen it with your own eyes. You know all about it,
and I need n't tell you."
"My dear Mr. Wright," said Angela, pleadingly, turning round,
"in Heaven's name, don't say that!"
"Why should n't I say it? I came here on purpose to say it.
I came here with an intention--with a plan. You know what Blanche is--
you need n't pretend, for kindness to me, that you don't. You
know what a precious, what an inestimable wife she must make me--
how devoted, how sympathetic she must be, and what a household
blessing at every hour of the day. Bernard can tell you
all about us--he has seen us in the sanctity of our home."
Gordon gave a bitter laugh and went on, with the same strange,
serious air of explaining his plan. "She despises me, she hates me,
she cares no more for me than for the button on her glove--
by which I mean that she does n't care a hundredth part as much.
You may say that it serves me right, and that I have got
what I deserve. I married her because she was silly.
I wanted a silly wife; I had an idea you were too wise.
Oh, yes, that 's what I thought of you! Blanche knew why I
picked her out, and undertook to supply the article required.
Heaven forgive her! She has certainly kept her engagement.
But you can imagine how it must have made her like me--
knowing why I picked her out! She has disappointed me all
the same. I thought she had a heart; but that was a mistake.
It does n't matter, though, because everything is over between
"What do you mean, everything is over?" Bernard demanded.
"Everything will be over in a few weeks. Then I can speak to Miss
"Ah! I am glad to hear this is not serious," said Bernard.
"Miss Vivian, wait a few weeks," Gordon went on. "Give me another
chance then. Then it will be perfectly right; I shall be free."
"You speak as if you were going to put an end to your wife!"
"She is rapidly putting an end to herself. She means to leave me."
"Poor, unhappy man, do you know what you are saying?"
"Perfectly. I came here to say it. She means to leave me,
and I mean to offer her every facility. She is dying to take
a lover, and she has got an excellent one waiting for her.
Bernard knows whom I mean; I don't know whether you do.
She was ready to take one three months after our marriage.
It is really very good of her to have waited all this time;
but I don't think she can go more than a week or two longer.
She is recommended a southern climate, and I am pretty sure
that in the course of another ten days I may count upon
their starting together for the shores of the Mediterranean.
The shores of the Mediterranean, you know, are lovely,
and I hope they will do her a world of good. As soon as they
have left Paris I will let you know; and then you will of course
admit that, virtually, I am free."
"I don't understand you."
"I suppose you are aware," said Gordon, "that we have the advantage of being
natives of a country in which marriages may be legally dissolved."
Angela stared; then, softly--
"Are you speaking of a divorce?"
"I believe that is what they call it," Gordon answered,
gazing back at her with his densely clouded blue eyes.
"The lawyers do it for you; and if she goes away with Lovelock,
nothing will be more simple than for me to have it arranged."
Angela stared, I say; and Bernard was staring, too. Then the latter,
turning away, broke out into a tremendous, irrepressible laugh.
Gordon looked at him a moment; then he said to Angela, with a deeper tremor
in his voice--
"He was my dearest friend."
"I never felt more devoted to you than at this moment!"
Bernard declared, smiling still.
Gordon had fixed his sombre eyes upon the girl again.
"Do you understand me now?"
Angela looked back at him for some instants.
"Yes," she murmured at last.
"And will you wait, and give me another chance?"
"Yes," she said, in the same tone.
Bernard uttered a quick exclamation, but Angela checked him with a glance,
and Gordon looked from one of them to the other.
"Can I trust you?" Gordon asked.
"I will make you happy," said Angela.
Bernard wondered what under the sun she meant; but he thought
he might safely add--
"I will abide by her choice."
Gordon actually began to smile.
"It won't be long, I think; two or three weeks."
Angela made no answer to this; she fixed her eyes on the floor.
"I shall see Blanche as often as possible," she presently said.
"By all means! The more you see her the better you will understand me.
"I understand you very well now. But you have shaken me very much,
and you must leave me. I shall see you also--often."
Gordon took up his hat and stick; he saw that Bernard did not do the same.
"And Bernard?" he exclaimed.
"I shall ask him to leave Paris," said Angela.
"Will you go?"
"I will do what Angela requests," said Bernard.
"You have heard what she requests; it 's for you to come now."
"Ah, you must at least allow me to take leave!" cried Bernard.
Gordon went to the door, and when he had opened it he stood for a while,
holding it and looking at his companions. Then--
"I assure you she won't be long!" he said to Angela, and rapidly passed out.
The others stood silent till they heard the outer door of the apartment
close behind him.
"And now please to elucidate!" said Bernard, folding his arms.
Angela gave no answer for some moments; then she turned upon
him a smile which appeared incongruous, but which her words
presently helped to explain.
"He is intensely in love with his wife!"
This statement was very effective, but it might well have seemed
at first to do more credit to her satiric powers than to her faculty
of observation. This was the light in which it presented itself
to Bernard; but, little by little, as she amplified the text, he grew
to think well of it, and at last he was quite ready to place it,
as a triumph of sagacity, on a level with that other discovery
which she had made the evening before and with regard to which
his especial errand to-day had been to congratulate her afresh.
It brought him, however, less satisfaction than it appeared to bring
to his clever companion; for, as he observed plausibly enough,
Gordon was quite out of his head, and, this being the case, of what
importance was the secret of his heart?
"The secret of his heart and the condition of his head are one
and the same thing," said Angela. "He is turned upside down by
the wretchedly false position that he has got into with his wife.
She has treated him badly, but he has treated her wrongly.
They are in love with each other, and yet they both do nothing
but hide it. He is not in the least in love with poor me--
not to-day any more than he was three years ago.
He thinks he is, because he is full of sorrow and bitterness,
and because the news of our engagement has given him a shock.
But that 's only a pretext--a chance to pour out the grief
and pain which have been accumulating in his heart under a sense
of his estrangement from Blanche. He is too proud to attribute
his feelings to that cause, even to himself; but he wanted
to cry out and say he was hurt, to demand justice for a wrong;
and the revelation of the state of things between you and me--
which of course strikes him as incongruous; we must allow
largely for that--came to him as a sudden opportunity.
No, no," the girl went on, with a generous ardor in her face,
following further the train of her argument, which she appeared
to find extremely attractive, "I know what you are going to say
and I deny it. I am not fanciful, or sophistical, or irrational,
and I know perfectly what I am about. Men are so stupid;
it 's only women that have real discernment. Leave me alone,
and I shall do something. Blanche is silly, yes, very silly;
but she is not so bad as her husband accused her of being,
in those dreadful words which he will live to repent of.
She is wise enough to care for him, greatly, at bottom,
and to feel her little heart filled with rage and shame
that he does n't appear to care for her. If he would take
her a little more seriously--it 's an immense pity he married
her because she was silly!--she would be flattered by it,
and she would try and deserve it. No, no, no! she does n't,
in reality, care a straw for Captain Lovelock, I assure you,
I promise you she does n't. A woman can tell. She is
in danger, possibly, and if her present situation, as regards
her husband, lasts, she might do something as horrid as he said.
But she would do it out of spite--not out of affection
for the Captain, who must be got immediately out of the way.
She only keeps him to torment her husband and make Gordon
come back to her. She would drop him forever to-morrow."
Angela paused a moment, reflecting, with a kindled eye. "And she
Bernard looked incredulous.
"How will that be, Miss Solomon?"
"You shall see when you come back."
"When I come back? Pray, where am I going?"
"You will leave Paris for a fortnight--as I promised our poor friend."
Bernard gave an irate laugh.
"My dear girl, you are ridiculous! Your promising it was almost
as childish as his asking it."
"To play with a child you must be childish. Just see the effect of this
abominable passion of love, which you have been crying up to me so!
By its operation Gordon Wright, the most sensible man of our acquaintance,
is reduced to the level of infancy! If you will only go away, I will
"You certainly manage me! Pray, where shall I go?"
"Wherever you choose. I will write to you every day."
"That will be an inducement," said Bernard. "You know I have never received
a letter from you."
"I write the most delightful ones!" Angela exclaimed;
and she succeeded in making him promise to start that night
She had just done so when Mrs. Vivian presented herself,
and the good lady was not a little astonished at being informed
of his intention.
"You surely are not going to give up my daughter to oblige Mr. Wright?"
"Upon my word, I feel as if I were!" said Bernard.
"I will explain it, dear mamma," said Angela. "It is very interesting.
Mr. Wright has made a most fearful scene; the state of things between him
and Blanche is dreadful."
Mrs. Vivian opened her clear eyes.
"You really speak as if you liked it!"
"She does like it--she told Gordon so," said Bernard. "I don't
know what she is up to! Gordon has taken leave of his wits;
he wishes to put away his wife."
"To put her away?"
"To repudiate her, as the historians say!"
"To repudiate little Blanche!" murmured Mrs. Vivian, as if she were struck
with the incongruity of the operation.
"I mean to keep them together," said Angela, with a firm decision.
Her mother looked at her with admiration.
"My dear daughter, I will assist you."
The two ladies had such an air of mysterious competence
to the task they had undertaken that it seemed to Bernard that
nothing was left to him but to retire into temporary exile.
He accordingly betook himself to London, where he had social
resources which would, perhaps, make exile endurable.
He found himself, however, little disposed to avail himself
of these resources, and he treated himself to no pleasures
but those of memory and expectation. He ached with a sense
of his absence from Mrs. Vivian's deeply familiar sky-parlor,
which seemed to him for the time the most sacred spot on earth--
if on earth it could be called--and he consigned to those generous
postal receptacles which ornament with their brilliant hue
the London street-corners, an inordinate number of the most
voluminous epistles that had ever been dropped into them.
He took long walks, alone, and thought all the way of Angela,
to whom, it seemed to him, that the character of ministering
angel was extremely becoming. She was faithful to her promise
of writing to him every day, and she was an angel who wielded--
so at least Bernard thought, and he was particular about letters--
a very ingenious pen. Of course she had only one topic--
the success of her operations with regard to Gordon.
"Mamma has undertaken Blanche," she wrote, "and I am devoting
myself to Mr. W. It is really very interesting." She told
Bernard all about it in detail, and he also found it interesting;
doubly so, indeed, for it must be confessed that the charming
figure of the mistress of his affections attempting to heal
a great social breach with her light and delicate hands,
divided his attention pretty equally with the distracted,
the distorted, the almost ludicrous, image of his old
Angela wrote that Gordon had come back to see her the day
after his first visit, and had seemed greatly troubled
on learning that Bernard had taken himself off.
"It was because you insisted on it, of course," he said;
"it was not from feeling the justice of it himself." "I told him,"
said Angela, in her letter, "that I had made a point of it,
but that we certainly ought to give you a little credit for it.
But I could n't insist upon this, for fear of sounding a wrong
note and exciting afresh what I suppose he would be pleased
to term his jealousy. He asked me where you had gone,
and when I told him--'Ah, how he must hate me!' he exclaimed.
'There you are quite wrong,' I answered. 'He feels as kindly
to you as--as I do.' He looked as if he by no means believed this;
but, indeed, he looks as if he believed nothing at all.
He is quite upset and demoralized. He stayed half an hour
and paid me his visit--trying hard to 'please' me again!
Poor man, he is in a charming state to please the fair sex!
But if he does n't please me, he interests me more and more;
I make bold to say that to you. You would have said it would
be very awkward; but, strangely enough, I found it very easy.
I suppose it is because I am so interested. Very likely it
was awkward for him, poor fellow, for I can certify that he was
not a whit happier at the end of his half-hour, in spite of
the privilege he had enjoyed. He said nothing more about you,
and we talked of Paris and New York, of Baden and Rome.
Imagine the situation! I shall make no resistance whatever to it;
I shall simply let him perceive that conversing with me on
these topics does not make him feel a bit more comfortable,
and that he must look elsewhere for a remedy. I said not a word about
She spoke of Blanche, however, the next time. "He came again
this afternoon," she said in her second letter, "and he wore
exactly the same face as yesterday--namely, a very unhappy one.
If I were not entirely too wise to believe his account
of himself, I might suppose that he was unhappy because
Blanche shows symptoms of not taking flight. She has been
with us a great deal--she has no idea what is going on--
and I can't honestly say that she chatters any less than usual.
But she is greatly interested in certain shops that she
is buying out, and especially in her visits to her tailor.
Mamma has proposed to her--in view of your absence--to come
and stay with us, and she does n't seem afraid of the idea.
I told her husband to-day that we had asked her,
and that we hoped he had no objection. 'None whatever;
but she won't come.' 'On the contrary, she says she will.'
'She will pretend to, up to the last minute; and then she
will find a pretext for backing out.' 'Decidedly, you think
very ill of her,' I said. 'She hates me,' he answered,
looking at me strangely. 'You say that of every one,' I said.
'Yesterday you said it of Bernard.' 'Ah, for him there would
be more reason!' he exclaimed. 'I won't attempt to answer
for Bernard,' I went on, 'but I will answer for Blanche.
Your idea of her hating you is a miserable delusion.
She cares for you more than for any one in the world.
You only misunderstand each other, and with a little good
will on both sides you can easily get out of your tangle.'
But he would n't listen to me; he stopped me short.
I saw I should excite him if I insisted; so I dropped
the subject. But it is not for long; he shall listen to
Later she wrote that Blanche had in fact "backed out," and would
not come to stay with them, having given as an excuse that she
was perpetually trying on dresses, and that at Mrs. Vivian's she
should be at an inconvenient distance from the temple of these
sacred rites, and the high priest who conducted the worship.
"But we see her every day," said Angela, "and mamma is
constantly with her. She likes mamma better than me.
Mamma listens to her a great deal and talks to her a little--
I can't do either when we are alone. I don't know what she says--
I mean what mamma says; what Blanche says I know as well
as if I heard it. We see nothing of Captain Lovelock,
and mamma tells me she has not spoken of him for two days.
She thinks this is a better symptom, but I am not so sure.
Poor Mr. Wright treats it as a great triumph that Blanche should
behave as he foretold. He is welcome to the comfort he can get
out of this, for he certainly gets none from anything else.
The society of your correspondent is not that balm to his spirit
which he appeared to expect, and this in spite of the fact
that I have been as gentle and kind with him as I know
how to be. He is very silent--he sometimes sits for ten
minutes without speaking; I assure you it is n't amusing.
Sometimes he looks at me as if he were going to break out
with that crazy idea to which he treated me the other day.
But he says nothing, and then I see that he is not thinking of me--
he is simply thinking of Blanche. The more he thinks of her the
"My dear Bernard," she began on another occasion, "I hope
you are not dying of ennui, etc. Over here things are going
so-so. He asked me yesterday to go with him to the Louvre,
and we walked about among the pictures for half an hour.
Mamma thinks it a very strange sort of thing for me to be doing,
and though she delights, of all things, in a good cause, she is
not sure that this cause is good enough to justify the means.
I admit that the means are very singular, and, as far
as the Louvre is concerned, they were not successful.
We sat and looked for a quarter of an hour at the great
Venus who has lost her arms, and he said never a word.
I think he does n't know what to say. Before we separated
he asked me if I heard from you. 'Oh, yes,' I said,
'every day.' 'And does he speak of me?' 'Never!' I answered;
and I think he looked disappointed." Bernard had, in fact,
in writing to Angela, scarcely mentioned his name. "He had not
been here for two days," she continued, at the end of a week;
"but last evening, very late--too late for a visitor--he came in.
Mamma had left the drawing-room, and I was sitting alone;
I immediately saw that we had reached a crisis. I thought at first
he was going to tell me that Blanche had carried out his prediction;
but I presently saw that this was not where the shoe pinched;
and, besides, I knew that mamma was watching her too closely.
'How can I have ever been such a dull-souled idiot?'
he broke out, as soon as he had got into the room.
'I like to hear you say that,' I said, 'because it does n't seem
to me that you have been at all wise.' 'You are cleverness,
kindness, tact, in the most perfect form!' he went on.
As a veracious historian I am bound to tell you that he paid
me a bushel of compliments, and thanked me in the most
flattering terms for my having let him bore me so for a week.
'You have not bored me,' I said; 'you have interested me.'
'Yes,' he cried, 'as a curious case of monomania. It 's
a part of your kindness to say that; but I know I have bored
you to death; and the end of it all is that you despise me.
You can't help despising me; I despise myself. I used to think
that I was a man, but I have given that up; I am a poor creature!
I used to think I could take things quietly and bear them bravely.
But I can't! If it were not for very shame I could sit
here and cry to you.' 'Don't mind me,' I said; 'you know it
is a part of our agreement that I was not to be critical.'
'Our agreement?' he repeated, vaguely. 'I see you have
forgotten it,' I answered; 'but it does n't in the least matter;
it is not of that I wish to talk to you. All the more that it
has n't done you a particle of good. I have been extremely nice
with you for a week; but you are just as unhappy now as you
were at the beginning. Indeed, I think you are rather worse.'
'Heaven forgive me, Miss Vivian, I believe I am!' he cried.
'Heaven will easily forgive you; you are on the wrong road.
To catch up with your happiness, which has been running away from you,
you must take another; you must travel in the same direction
as Blanche; you must not separate yourself from your wife.'
At the sound of Blanche's name he jumped up and took his usual tone;
he knew all about his wife, and needed no information.
But I made him sit down again, and I made him listen to me.
I made him listen for half an hour, and at the end of the time
he was interested. He had all the appearance of it;
he sat gazing at me, and at last the tears came into his eyes.
I believe I had a moment of eloquence. I don't know what I said,
nor how I said it, to what point it would bear examination,
nor how, if you had been there, it would seem to you, as a
disinterested critic, to hang together; but I know that after
a while there were tears in my own eyes. I begged him not to give
up Blanche; I assured him that she is not so foolish as she seems;
that she is a very delicate little creature to handle, and that,
in reality, whatever she does, she is thinking only of him.
He had been all goodness and kindness to her, I knew that;
but he had not, from the first, been able to conceal
from her that he regarded her chiefly as a pretty kitten.
She wished to be more than that, and she took refuge in flirting,
simply to excite his jealousy and make him feel strongly about her.
He has felt strongly, and he was feeling strongly now;
he was feeling passionately--that was my whole contention.
But he had perhaps never made it plain to those rather near-sighted
little mental eyes of hers, and he had let her suppose something
that could n't fail to rankle in her mind and torment it.
'You have let her suppose,' I said, 'that you were thinking
of me, and the poor girl has been jealous of me. I know it,
but from nothing she herself has said. She has said nothing;
she has been too proud and too considerate. If you don't think
that 's to her honor, I do. She has had a chance every day
for a week, but she has treated me without a grain of spite.
I have appreciated it, I have understood it, and it has touched
me very much. It ought to touch you, Mr. Wright. When she heard
I was engaged to Mr. Longueville, it gave her an immense relief.
And yet, at the same moment you were protesting, and denouncing,
and saying those horrible things about her! I know how she appears--
she likes admiration. But the admiration in the world which she
would most delight in just now would be yours. She plays
with Captain Lovelock as a child does with a wooden harlequin,
she pulls a string and he throws up his arms and legs.
She has about as much intention of eloping with him as a little
girl might have of eloping with a pasteboard Jim Crow.
If you were to have a frank explanation with her,
Blanche would very soon throw Jim Crow out of the window.
I very humbly entreat you to cease thinking of me.
I don't know what wrong you have ever done me, or what kindness
I have ever done you, that you should feel obliged to trouble
your head about me. You see all I am--I tell you now.
I am nothing in the least remarkable. As for your thinking
ill of me at Baden, I never knew it nor cared about it.
If it had been so, you see how I should have got over it.
Dear Mr. Wright, we might be such good friends, if you
would only believe me. She 's so pretty, so charming,
so universally admired. You said just now you had bored me,
but it 's nothing--in spite of all the compliments you have paid me--
to the way I have bored you. If she could only know it--
that I have bored you! Let her see for half an hour that I
am out of your mind--the rest will take care of itself.
She might so easily have made a quarrel with me. The way she has
behaved to me is one of the prettiest things I have ever seen,
and you shall see the way I shall always behave to her!
Don't think it necessary to say out of politeness that I
have not bored you; it is not in the least necessary.
You know perfectly well that you are disappointed in
the charm of my society. And I have done my best, too.
I can honestly affirm that!' For some time he said nothing,
and then he remarked that I was very clever, but he did
n't see a word of sense in what I said. 'It only proves,'
I said, 'that the merit of my conversation is smaller than you
had taken it into your head to fancy. But I have done you good,
all the same. Don't contradict me; you don't know yet;
and it 's too late for us to argue about it. You will tell me
Some three evenings after he received this last report of
the progress of affairs in Paris, Bernard, upon whom the burden
of exile sat none the more lightly as the days went on,
turned out of the Strand into one of the theatres. He had been
gloomily pushing his way through the various London densities--
the November fog, the nocturnal darkness, the jostling crowd.
He was too restless to do anything but walk, and he had been
saying to himself, for the thousandth time, that if he had
been guilty of a misdemeanor in succumbing to the attractions
of the admirable girl who showed to such advantage in letters
of twelve pages, his fault was richly expiated by these days
of impatience and bereavement. He gave little heed to the play;
his thoughts were elsewhere, and, while they rambled,
his eyes wandered round the house. Suddenly, on the other
side of it, he beheld Captain Lovelock, seated squarely
in his orchestra-stall, but, if Bernard was not mistaken,
paying as little attention to the stage as he himself had done.
The Captain's eyes, it is true, were fixed upon the scene;
his head was bent a little, his magnificent beard rippled over
the expanse of his shirt-front. But Bernard was not slow to see
that his gaze was heavy and opaque, and that, though he was
staring at the actresses, their charms were lost upon him.
He saw that, like himself, poor Lovelock had matter for reflection
in his manly breast, and he concluded that Blanche's ponderous
swain was also suffering from a sense of disjunction.
Lovelock sat in the same posture all the evening, and that his
imagination had not projected itself into the play was proved
by the fact that during the entractes he gazed with the same dull
fixedness at the curtain. Bernard forebore to interrupt him;
we know that he was not at this moment socially inclined,
and he judged that the Captain was as little so, inasmuch as causes
even more imperious than those which had operated in his own case
must have been at the bottom of his sudden appearance in London.
On leaving the theatre, however, Bernard found himself detained
with the crowd in the vestibule near the door, which, wide open
to the street, was a scene of agitation and confusion.
It had come on to rain, and the raw dampness mingled itself
with the dusky uproar of the Strand. At last, among the press
of people, as he was passing out, our hero became aware that
he had been brought into contact with Lovelock, who was walking
just beside him. At the same moment Lovelock noticed him--
looked at him for an instant, and then looked away.
But he looked back again the next instant, and the two men
then uttered that inarticulate and inexpressive exclamation
which passes for a sign of greeting among gentlemen
of the Anglo-Saxon race, in their moments of more acute
"Oh, are you here?" said Bernard. "I thought you were in Paris."
"No; I ain't in Paris," Lovelock answered with some dryness.
"Tired of the beastly hole!"
"Oh, I see," said Bernard. "Excuse me while I put up my umbrella."
He put up his umbrella, and from under it, the next moment, he saw
the Captain waving two fingers at him out of the front of a hansom.
When he returned to his hotel he found on his table a letter
superscribed in Gordon Wright's hand. This communication ran
"I believe you are making a fool of me. In Heaven's name,
come back to Paris! G. W."
Bernard hardly knew whether to regard these few words
as a further declaration of war, or as an overture to peace;
but he lost no time in complying with the summons they conveyed.
He started for Paris the next morning, and in the evening,
after he had removed the dust of his journey and swallowed
a hasty dinner, he rang at Mrs. Vivian's door. This lady and her
daughter gave him a welcome which--I will not say satisfied him,
but which, at least, did something toward soothing the still
unhealed wounds of separation.
"And what is the news of Gordon?" he presently asked.
"We have not seen him in three days," said Angela.
"He is cured, dear Bernard; he must be. Angela has been wonderful,"
Mrs. Vivian declared.
"You should have seen mamma with Blanche," her daughter said, smiling.
"It was most remarkable."
Mrs. Vivian smiled, too, very gently.
"Dear little Blanche! Captain Lovelock has gone to London."
"Yes, he thinks it a beastly hole. Ah, no," Bernard added,
"I have got it wrong."
But it little mattered. Late that night, on his return
to his own rooms, Bernard sat gazing at his fire. He had not
begun to undress; he was thinking of a good many things.
He was in the midst of his reflections when there came
a rap at his door, which the next moment was flung open.
Gordon Wright stood there, looking at him--with a gaze which
Bernard returned for a moment before bidding him to come in.
Gordon came in and came up to him; then he held out his hand.
Bernard took it with great satisfaction; his last feeling had been
that he was very weary of this ridiculous quarrel, and it was an
extreme relief to find it was over.
"It was very good of you to go to London," said Gordon,
looking at him with all the old serious honesty of his eyes.
"I have always tried to do what I could to oblige you,"
Bernard answered, smiling.
"You must have cursed me over there," Gordon went on.
"I did, a little. As you were cursing me here, it was permissible."
"That 's over now," said Gordon. "I came to welcome you back.
It seemed to me I could n't lay my head on my pillow without
speaking to you."
"I am glad to get back," Bernard admitted, smiling still.
"I can't deny that. And I find you as I believed I should."
Then he added, seriously--"I knew Angela would keep us
For a moment Gordon said nothing. Then, at last--
"Yes, for that purpose it did n't matter which of us should marry her.
If it had been I," he added, "she would have made you accept it."
"Ah, I don't know!" Bernard exclaimed.
"I am sure of it," said Gordon earnestly--almost argumentatively.
"She 's an extraordinary woman."
"Keeping you good friends with me--that 's a great thing.
But it 's nothing to her keeping you good friends with
Gordon looked at Bernard for an instant; then he fixed his eyes
for some time on the fire.
"Yes, that is the greatest of all things. A man should value his wife.
He should believe in her. He has taken her, and he should keep her--
especially when there is a great deal of good in her. I was a great fool
the other day," he went on. "I don't remember what I said. It was
"It seemed to me feeble," said Bernard. "But it is quite within a man's
rights to be a fool once in a while, and you had never abused of the license."
"Well, I have done it for a lifetime--for a lifetime."
And Gordon took up his hat. He looked into the crown of it
for a moment, and then he fixed his eyes on Bernard's again.
"But there is one thing I hope you won't mind my saying.
I have come back to my old impression of Miss Vivian."
"Your old impression?"
And Miss Vivian's accepted lover frowned a little.
"I mean that she 's not simple. She 's very strange."
Bernard's frown cleared away in a sudden, almost eager smile.
"Say at once that you dislike her! That will do capitally."
Gordon shook his head, and he, too, almost smiled a little.
"It 's not true. She 's very wonderful. And if I did dislike her,
I should struggle with it. It would never do for me to dislike
After he had gone, when the night was half over, Bernard, lying awake a while,
gave a laugh in the still darkness, as this last sentence came back to him.
On the morrow he saw Blanche, for he went to see Gordon.
The latter, at first, was not at home; but he had a quarter
of an hour's talk with his wife, whose powers of conversation
were apparently not in the smallest degree affected by anything
that had occurred.
"I hope you enjoyed your visit to London," she said.
"Did you go to buy Angela a set of diamonds in Bond Street?
You did n't buy anything--you did n't go into a shop?
Then pray what did you go for? Excuse my curiosity--
it seems to me it 's rather flattering. I never know anything
unless I am told. I have n't any powers of observation.
I noticed you went--oh, yes, I observed that very much;
and I thought it very strange, under the circumstances.
Your most intimate friend arrived in Paris, and you choose
the next day to make a little tour! I don't like to see you
treat my husband so; he would never have done it to you.
And if you did n't stay for Gordon, you might have staid for Angela.
I never heard of anything so monstrous as a gentleman rushing
away from the object of his affection, for no particular purpose
that any one could discover, the day after she has accepted him.
It was not the day after? Well, it was too soon, at any rate.
Angela could n't in the least tell me what you had gone for;
she said it was for a 'change.' That was a charming reason!
But she was very much ashamed of you--and so was I; and at last
we all sent Captain Lovelock after you to bring you back.
You came back without him? Ah, so much the better; I suppose
he is still looking for you, and, as he is n't very clever,
that will occupy him for some time. We want to occupy him;
we don't approve of his being so idle. However, for my own part,
I am very glad you were away. I was a great deal at Mrs. Vivian's,
and I should n't have felt nearly so much at liberty to go
if I had known I should always find you there making love
to Mademoiselle. It would n't have seemed to me discreet,--
I know what you are going to say--that it 's the first time
you ever heard of my wishing to avoid an indiscretion.
It 's a taste I have taken up lately,--for the same reason
you went to London, for a 'change.' " Here Blanche paused
for an appreciable moment; and then she added--"Well, I must say,
I have never seen anything so lovely as Mrs. Vivian's influence.
I hope mamma won't be disappointed in it this
When Bernard next saw the other two ladies, he said to them that he was
surprised at the way in which clever women incurred moral responsibilities.
"We like them," said Mrs. Vivian. "We delight in them!"
"Well," said Bernard, "I would n't for the world have it on my conscience
to have reconciled poor Gordon to Mrs. Blanche."
"You are not to say a word against Blanche," Angela declared.
"She 's a little miracle."
"It will be all right, dear Bernard," Mrs. Vivian added,
with soft authority.
"I have taken a great fancy to her," the younger lady went on.
Bernard gave a little laugh.
"Gordon is right in his ultimate opinion. You are very strange!"
"You may abuse me as much as you please; but I will never hear a word
against Mrs. Gordon."
And she never would in future; though it is not recorded that Bernard availed
himself in any special degree of the license offered him in conjunction
with this warning.
Blanche's health within a few days had, according to her own account,
taken a marvellous turn for the better; but her husband appeared
still to think it proper that they should spend the winter beneath
a brilliant sun, and he presently informed his friends that they had
at last settled it between them that a voyage up the Nile must be,
for a thoroughly united couple, a very agreeable pastime. To perform
this expedition advantageously they must repair to Cairo without delay,
and for this reason he was sure that Bernard and Angela would easily
understand their not making a point of waiting for the wedding.
These happy people quite understood it. Their nuptials were to be
celebrated with extreme simplicity. If, however, Gordon was not able
to be present, he, in conjunction with his wife, bought for Angela,
as a bridal gift, a necklace of the most beautiful pearls the Rue de
la Paix could furnish; and on his arrival at Cairo, while he waited
for his dragoman to give the signal for starting, he found time,
in spite of the exactions of that large correspondence which has
been more than once mentioned in the course of our narrative,
to write Bernard the longest letter he had ever addressed to him.
The letter reached Bernard in the middle of his honeymoon.