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Chapter 10

  • It had seemed to him a good idea to interrogate Mrs. Vivian; but there are _reat many good ideas that are never put into execution. As he approached he_ith a smile and a salutation, and, with the air of asking leave to take _iberty, seated himself in the empty chair beside her, he felt a humorou_elish of her own probable dismay which relaxed the investigating impulse. Hi_mpulse was now simply to prove to her that he was the most unobjectionabl_ellow in the world—a proposition which resolved itself into several ingeniou_bservations upon the weather, the music, the charms and the drawbacks o_aden, the merits of the volume that she held in her lap. If Mrs. Vivia_hould be annoyed, should be fluttered, Bernard would feel very sorry for her; there was nothing in the world that he respected more than the mora_onsciousness of a little Boston woman whose view of life was serious an_hose imagination was subject to alarms. He held it to be a temple o_elicacy, where one should walk on tiptoe, and he wished to exhibit to Mrs.
  • Vivian the possible lightness of his own step. She herself was incapable o_eing rude or ungracious, and now that she was fairly confronted with th_lausible object of her mistrust, she composed herself to her usual attitud_f refined liberality. Her book was a volume of Victor Cousin.
  • "You must have an extraordinary power of abstracting your mind," Bernard sai_o her, observing it. "Studying philosophy at the Baden Kursaal strikes me a_ real intellectual feat."
  • "Don't you think we need a little philosophy here?"
  • "By all means—what we bring with us. But I should n't attempt the use of th_ext-book on the spot."
  • "You should n't speak of yourself as if you were not clever," said Mrs.
  • Vivian. "Every one says you are so very clever."
  • Longueville stared; there was an unexpectedness in the speech and a_ncongruity in Mrs. Vivian's beginning to flatter him. He needed to remin_imself that if she was a Bostonian, she was a Bostonian perverted.
  • "Ah, my dear madam, every one is no one," he said, laughing.
  • "It was Mr. Wright, in particular," she rejoined. "He has always told u_hat."
  • "He is blinded by friendship."
  • "Ah yes, we know about your friendship," said Mrs. Vivian. "He has told u_bout that."
  • "You are making him out a terrible talker!"
  • "We think he talks so well—we are so very fond of his conversation."
  • "It 's usually excellent," said Bernard. "But it depends a good deal on th_ubject."
  • "Oh," rejoined Mrs. Vivian, "we always let him choose his subjects." An_ropping her eyes as if in sudden reflection, she began to smooth down th_rumpled corner of her volume.
  • It occurred to Bernard that—by some mysterious impulse—she was suddenl_resenting him with a chance to ask her the question that Blanche Evers ha_ust suggested. Two or three other things as well occurred to him. Captai_ovelock had been struck with the fact that she favored Gordon Wright'_ddresses to her daughter, and Captain Lovelock had a grotesque theory tha_he had set her heart upon seeing this young lady come into six thousand _ear. Miss Evers's devoted swain had never struck Bernard as a brillian_easoner, but our friend suddenly found himself regarding him as one of th_nspired. The form of depravity into which the New England conscience ha_apsed on Mrs. Vivian's part was an undue appreciation of a possible son-in- law's income! In this illuminating discovery everything else became clear.
  • Mrs. Vivian disliked her humble servant because he had not thirty thousan_ollars a year, and because at a moment when it was Angela's prime duty t_oncentrate her thoughts upon Gordon Wright's great advantages, a clever youn_an of paltry fortune was a superfluous diversion.
  • "When you say clever, everything is relative," he presently observed. "Now, there is Captain Lovelock; he has a certain kind of cleverness; he is ver_bservant."
  • Mrs. Vivian glanced up with a preoccupied air.
  • "We don't like Captain Lovelock," she said.
  • "I have heard him say capital things," Bernard answered.
  • "We think him brutal," said Mrs. Vivian. "Please don't praise Captai_ovelock."
  • "Oh, I only want to be just."
  • Mrs. Vivian for a moment said nothing.
  • "Do you want very much to be just?" she presently asked.
  • "It 's my most ardent desire."
  • "I 'm glad to hear that—and I can easily believe it," said Mrs. Vivian.
  • Bernard gave her a grateful smile, but while he smiled, he asked himself _erious question. "Why the deuce does she go on flattering me?—You have alway_een very kind to me," he said aloud.
  • "It 's on Mr. Wright's account," she answered demurely.
  • In speaking the words I have just quoted, Bernard Longueville had fel_imself, with a certain compunction, to be skirting the edge of cleve_mpudence; but Mrs. Vivian's quiet little reply suggested to him that he_leverness, if not her impudence, was almost equal to his own. He remarked t_imself that he had not yet done her justice.
  • "You bring everything back to Gordon Wright," he said, continuing to smile.
  • Mrs. Vivian blushed a little.
  • "It is because he is really at the foundation of everything that is pleasan_or us here. When we first came we had some very disagreeable rooms, and a_oon as he arrived he found us some excellent ones—that were less expensive.
  • And then, Mr. Longueville," she added, with a soft, sweet emphasis whic_hould properly have contradicted the idea of audacity, but which, t_ernard's awakened sense, seemed really to impart a vivid color to it, "he wa_lso the cause of your joining our little party."
  • "Oh, among his services that should never be forgotten. You should set up _ablet to commemorate it, in the wall of the Kursaal!—The wicked littl_oman!" Bernard mentally subjoined.
  • Mrs. Vivian appeared quite unruffled by his sportive sarcasm, and sh_ontinued to enumerate her obligations to Gordon Wright.
  • "There are so many ways in which a gentleman can be of assistance to thre_oor lonely women, especially when he is at the same time so friendly and s_elicate as Mr. Wright. I don't know what we should have done without him, an_ feel as if every one ought to know it. He seems like a very old friend. M_aughter and I quite worship him. I will not conceal from you that when I sa_ou coming through the grounds a short time ago without him I was very muc_isappointed. I hope he is not ill."
  • Bernard sat listening, with his eyes on the ground.
  • "Oh no, he is simply at home writing letters."
  • Mrs. Vivian was silent a moment.
  • "I suppose he has a very large correspondence."
  • "I really don't know. Just now that I am with him he has a smaller one tha_sual."
  • "Ah yes. When you are separated I suppose you write volumes to each other. Bu_e must have a great many business letters."
  • "It is very likely," said Bernard. "And if he has, you may be sure he write_hem."
  • "Order and method!" Mrs. Vivian exclaimed. "With his immense property thos_irtues are necessary."
  • Bernard glanced at her a moment.
  • "My dear Lovelock," he said to himself, "you are not such a fool as yo_eem.—Gordon's virtues are always necessary, doubtless," he went on. "Bu_hould you say his property was immense?"
  • Mrs. Vivian made a delicate little movement of deprecation. "Oh, don't ask m_o say! I know nothing about it; I only supposed he was rich."
  • "He is rich; but he is not a Croesus."
  • "Oh, you fashionable young men have a standard of luxury!" said Mrs. Vivian, with a little laugh. "To a poverty-stricken widow such a fortune as Mr.
  • Wright's seems magnificent."
  • "Don't call me such horrible names!" exclaimed Bernard. "Our friend ha_ertainly money enough and to spare."
  • "That was all I meant. He once had occasion to allude to his property, but h_as so modest, so reserved in the tone he took about it, that one hardly kne_hat to think."
  • "He is ashamed of being rich," said Bernard. "He would be sure to represen_verything unfavorably."
  • "That 's just what I thought!" This ejaculation was more eager than Mrs.
  • Vivian might have intended, but even had it been less so, Bernard was in _ood to appreciate it. "I felt that we should make allowances for his modesty.
  • But it was in very good taste," Mrs. Vivian added.
  • "He 's a fortunate man," said Bernard. "He gets credit for his good taste—an_e gets credit for the full figure of his income as well!"
  • "Ah," murmured Mrs. Vivian, rising lightly, as if to make her words appea_ore casual, "I don't know the full figure of his income."
  • She was turning away, and Bernard, as he raised his hat and separated fro_er, felt that it was rather cruel that he should let her go withou_nlightening her ignorance. But he said to himself that she knew quite enough.
  • Indeed, he took a walk along the Lichtenthal Alley and carried out this lin_f reflection. Whether or no Miss Vivian were in love with Gordon Wright, he_other was enamored of Gordon's fortune, and it had suddenly occurred to he_hat instead of treating the friend of her daughter's suitor with civi_istrust, she would help her case better by giving him a hint of her state o_ind and appealing to his sense of propriety. Nothing could be more natura_han that Mrs. Vivian should suppose that Bernard desired his friend'_uccess; for, as our thoughtful hero said to himself, what she had hithert_aken it into her head to fear was not that Bernard should fall in love wit_er daughter, but that her daughter should fall in love with him. Watering- place life is notoriously conducive to idleness of mind, and Bernard strolle_or half an hour along the overarched avenue, glancing alternately at thes_wo insupposable cases.
  • A few days afterward, late in the evening, Gordon Wright came to his room a_he hotel.
  • "I have just received a letter from my sister," he said. "I am afraid I shal_ave to go away."
  • "Ah, I 'm sorry for that," said Bernard, who was so well pleased with th_ctual that he desired no mutation.
  • "I mean only for a short time," Gordon explained. "My poor sister writes fro_ngland, telling me that my brother-in-law is suddenly obliged to go home. Sh_as decided not to remain behind, and they are to sail a fortnight hence. Sh_ants very much to see me before she goes, and as I don't know when I shal_ee her again, I feel as if I ought to join her immediately and spend th_nterval with her. That will take about a fortnight."
  • "I appreciate the sanctity of family ties and I project myself into you_ituation," said Bernard. "On the other hand, I don't envy you a breathles_ourney from Baden to Folkestone."
  • "It 's the coming back that will be breathless," exclaimed Gordon, smiling.
  • "You will certainly come back, then?"
  • "Most certainly. Mrs. Vivian is to be here another month."
  • "I understand. Well, we shall miss you very much."
  • Gordon Wright looked for a moment at his companion.
  • "You will stay here, then? I am so glad of that."
  • "I was taking it for granted; but on reflection—what do you recommend?"
  • "I recommend you to stay."
  • "My dear fellow, your word is law," said Bernard.
  • "I want you to take care of those ladies," his friend went on. "I don't lik_o leave them alone."
  • "You are joking!" cried Bernard. "When did you ever hear of my 'taking care'
  • of any one? It 's as much as I can do to take care of myself."
  • "This is very easy," said Gordon. "I simply want to feel that they have a ma_bout them."
  • "They will have a man at any rate—they have the devoted Lovelock."
  • "That 's just why I want them to have another. He has only an eye to Mis_vers, who, by the way, is extremely bored with him. You look after th_thers. You have made yourself very agreeable to them, and they like yo_xtremely."
  • "Ah," said Bernard, laughing, "if you are going to be coarse and flattering, _ollapse. If you are going to titillate my vanity, I succumb."
  • "It won't be so disagreeable," Gordon observed, with an intention vaguel_umorous.
  • "Oh no, it won't be disagreeable. I will go to Mrs. Vivian every morning, ha_n hand, for my orders."
  • Gordon Wright, with his hands in his pockets and a meditative expression, too_everal turns about the room.
  • "It will be a capital chance," he said, at last, stopping in front of hi_ompanion.
  • "A chance for what?"
  • "A chance to arrive at a conclusion about my young friend."
  • Bernard gave a gentle groan.
  • "Are you coming back to that? Did n't I arrive at a conclusion long ago? Di_'t I tell you she was a delightful girl?"
  • "Do you call that a conclusion? The first comer could tell me that at the en_f an hour."
  • "Do you want me to invent something different?" Bernard asked. "I can't inven_nything better."
  • "I don't want you to invent anything. I only want you to observe her—to stud_er in complete independence. You will have her to yourself—my absence wil_eave you at liberty. Hang it, sir," Gordon declared, "I should think yo_ould like it!"
  • "Damn it, sir, you 're delicious!" Bernard answered; and he broke into a_rrepressible laugh. "I don't suppose it 's for my pleasure that you sugges_he arrangement."
  • Gordon took a turn about the room again.
  • "No, it 's for mine. At least, it 's for my benefit."
  • "For your benefit?"
  • "I have got all sorts of ideas—I told you the other day. They are all mixed u_ogether and I want a fresh impression."
  • "My impressions are never fresh," Bernard replied.
  • "They would be if you had a little good-will—if you entered a little into m_ilemma." The note of reproach was so distinct in these words that Bernar_tood staring. "You never take anything seriously," his companion went on.
  • Bernard tried to answer as seriously as possible.
  • "Your dilemma seems to me of all dilemmas the strangest."
  • "That may be; but different people take things differently. Don't you see,"
  • Gordon went on with a sudden outbreak of passion—"don't you see that I a_orribly divided in mind? I care immensely for Angela Vivian—and yet—and yet—_m afraid of her."
  • "Afraid of her?"
  • "I am afraid she 's cleverer than I—that she would be a difficult wife; tha_he might do strange things."
  • "What sort of things?"
  • "Well, that she might flirt, for instance."
  • "That 's not a thing for a man to fear."
  • "Not when he supposes his wife to be fond of him—no. But I don't suppos_hat—I have given that up. If I should induce Angela Vivian to accept me sh_ould do it on grounds purely reasonable. She would think it best, simply.
  • That would give her a chance to repent."
  • Bernard sat for some time looking at his friend.
  • "You say she is cleverer than you. It 's impossible to be cleverer than you."
  • "Oh, come, Longueville!" said Gordon, angrily.
  • "I am speaking very seriously. You have done a remarkably clever thing. Yo_ave impressed me with the reality, and with—what shall I term it?—th_stimable character of what you call your dilemma. Now this fresh impressio_f mine—what do you propose to do with it when you get it?"
  • "Such things are always useful. It will be a good thing to have."
  • "I am much obliged to you; but do you propose to let anything depend upon it?
  • Do you propose to take or to leave Miss Vivian—that is, to return to th_harge or to give up trying—in consequence of my fresh impression?"
  • Gordon seemed perfectly unembarrassed by this question, in spite of th_ronical light which it projected upon his sentimental perplexity.
  • "I propose to do what I choose!" he said.
  • "That 's a relief to me," Bernard rejoined. "This idea of yours is, after all, only the play of the scientific mind."
  • "I shall contradict you flat if I choose," Gordon went on.
  • "Ah, it 's well to warn me of that," said Bernard, laughing. "Even the mos_incere judgment in the world likes to be notified a little of the danger o_eing contradicted."
  • "Is yours the most sincere judgment in the world?" Gordon demanded.
  • "That 's a very pertinent question. Does n't it occur to you that you may hav_eason to be jealous—leaving me alone, with an open field, with the woman o_our choice?"
  • "I wish to heaven I could be jealous!" Gordon exclaimed. "That would simplif_he thing—that would give me a lift."
  • And the next day, after some more talk, it seemed really with a hope of thi_ontingency—though, indeed, he laughed about it—that he started for England.