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Chapter 19

  • I have called it a stale expedient on Bernard Longueville's part to "go t_urope" again, like the most commonplace American; and it is certain that, a_ur young man stood and looked out of the window of his inn at Havre, an hou_fter his arrival at that sea-port, his adventure did not strike him as havin_ny great freshness. He had no plans nor intentions; he had not even any ver_efinite desires. He had felt the impulse to come back to Europe, and he ha_beyed it; but now that he had arrived, his impulse seemed to have little mor_o say to him. He perceived it, indeed—mentally—in the attitude of a smal_treet-boy playing upon his nose with that vulgar gesture which is supposed t_epresent the elation of successful fraud. There was a large blank wall befor_is window, painted a dirty yellow and much discolored by the weather; a broa_atch of summer sunlight rested upon it and brought out the full vulgarity o_ts complexion. Bernard stared a while at this blank wall, which struck him i_ome degree as a symbol of his own present moral prospect. Then suddenly h_urned away, with the declaration that, whatever truth there might be i_ymbolism, he, at any rate, had not come to Europe to spend the preciou_emnant of his youth in a malodorous Norman sea-port. The weather was ver_ot, and neither the hotel nor the town at large appeared to form a_ttractive sejour for persons of an irritable nostril. To go to Paris, however, was hardly more attractive than to remain at Havre, for Bernard had _ively vision of the heated bitumen and the glaring frontages of the Frenc_apital. But if a Norman town was close and dull, the Norman country wa_otoriously fresh and entertaining, and the next morning Bernard got into _aleche, 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 muc_etter humor with his situation; the air was freshened by a breeze from th_ea; the blooming country, without walls or fences, lay open to th_raveller's eye; the grain-fields and copses were shimmering in the summe_ind; the pink-faced cottages peeped through the ripening orchard-boughs, an_he gray towers of the old churches were silvered by the morning-light o_rance.
  • At the end of some three hours, Bernard arrived at a little watering-plac_hich lay close upon the shore, in the embrace of a pair of white-arme_liffs. It had a quaint and primitive aspect and a natural picturesquenes_hich commended it to Bernard's taste. There was evidently a great deal o_ature about it, and at this moment, nature, embodied in the clear, ga_unshine, in the blue and quiet sea, in the daisied grass of the high- shouldered downs, had an air of inviting the intelligent observer to postpon_is difficulties. Blanquais-les-Galets, as Bernard learned the name of thi_nfashionable resort to be, was twenty miles from a railway, and the plac_ore an expression of unaffected rusticity. Bernard stopped at an inn for hi_oonday breakfast, and then, with his appreciation quickened by the homel_elicity of this repast, determined to go no further. He engaged a room at th_nn, dismissed his vehicle, and gave himself up to the contemplation of Frenc_ea-side manners. These were chiefly to be observed upon a pebbly strand whic_ay along the front of the village and served as the gathering-point of it_dler inhabitants. Bathing in the sea was the chief occupation of these goo_eople, including, as it did, prolonged spectatorship of the process an_nfinite conversation upon its mysteries. The little world of Blanquai_ppeared to form a large family party, of highly developed amphibious habits, which sat gossiping all day upon the warm pebbles, occasionally dipping int_he sea and drying itself in the sun, without any relaxation of persona_ntimacy. All this was very amusing to Bernard, who in the course of the da_ook a bath with the rest. The ocean was, after all, very large, and when on_ook one's plunge one seemed to have it quite to one's self. When he ha_ressed himself again, Bernard stretched himself on the beach, feeling happie_han he had done in a long time, and pulled his hat over his eyes. The feelin_f happiness was an odd one; it had come over him suddenly, without visibl_ause; but, such as it was, our hero made the most of it. As he lay there i_eemed to deepen; his immersion and his exercise in the salt water had give_im an agreeable languor. This presently became a drowsiness which was no_ess agreeable, and Bernard felt himself going to sleep. There were sounds i_he 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 Frenc_oices exchanging colloquial cries; of the plash of the bathers in the distan_ater, and the short, soft breaking of the waves. But these things came to hi_ars more vaguely and remotely, and at last they faded away. Bernard enjoye_alf an hour of that light and easy slumber which is apt to overtake idl_eople in recumbent attitudes in the open air on August afternoons. It brough_ith it an exquisite sense of rest, and the rest was not spoiled by the fac_hat it was animated by a charming dream. Dreams are vague things, and thi_ne had the defects of its species; but it was somehow concerned with th_mage of a young lady whom Bernard had formerly known, and who had beautifu_yes, into which—in the dream—he found himself looking. He waked up to fin_imself looking into the crown of his hat, which had been resting on th_ridge of his nose. He removed it, and half raised himself, resting on hi_lbow and preparing to taste, in another position, of a little more of tha_xquisite rest of which mention has just been made. The world about him wa_till amusing and charming; the chatter of his companions, losing itself i_he large sea-presence, the plash of the divers and swimmers, the deep blue o_he ocean and the silvery white of the cliff, had that striking air o_ndifference to the fact that his mind had been absent from them which we ar_pt to find in mundane things on emerging from a nap. The same people wer_itting near him on the beach—the same, and yet not quite the same. He foun_imself noticing a person whom he had not noticed before—a young lady, who wa_eated in a low portable chair, some dozen yards off, with her eyes bent upo_ book. Her head was in shade; her large parasol made, indeed, an awning fo_er whole person, which in this way, in the quiet attitude of perusal, seeme_o abstract itself from the glare and murmur of the beach. The clear shadow o_er umbrella—it was lined with blue—was deep upon her face; but it was no_eep enough to prevent Bernard from recognizing a profile that he knew. H_uddenly sat upright, with an intensely quickened vision. Was he dreamin_till, or had he waked? In a moment he felt that he was acutely awake; h_eard her, across the interval, turn the page of her book. For a singl_nstant, 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 barel_erceptible movement he saw Angela Vivian; it was wonderful how well h_emembered her. She was evidently reading very seriously; she was muc_nterested 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 tha_e 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 min_hat it was absurd. He had done her an injury—yes; but as she sat there losin_erself in a French novel—Bernard could see it was a French novel—he could no_ake 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 towar_im 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 com_nto his thoughts; I may, indeed, say that it was a tolerably familia_resence there; but the fact, nevertheless, now presented itself with all th_iolence of an accident for which he was totally unprepared. He had ofte_sked himself what he should say to her, how he should carry himself, and ho_e should probably find the young lady; but, with whatever ingenuity he migh_t the moment have answered these questions, his intelligence at present fel_ecidedly 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 preliminar_hifting and wavering, she had settled in his recollection. The wrong was _ight, doubtless, from certain points of view; but from the girl's own i_ould only seem an injury to which its having been inflicted by a clever youn_an with whom she had been on agreeable terms, necessarily added a touch o_aseness.
  • In every disadvantage that a woman suffers at the hands of a man, there i_nevitably, 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 wha_ernard believed that Angela Vivian saw in the fact that by giving his frien_ bad account of her he had prevented her making an opulent marriage. At firs_e had said to himself that, whether he had held his tongue or spoken, she ha_lready lost her chance; but with time, somehow, this reflection had lost it_eight in the scale. It conveyed little re-assurance to his irritate_onscience—it had become imponderable and impertinent. At the moment of whic_ speak it entirely failed to present itself, even for form's sake; and as h_at looking at this superior creature who came back to him out of an episod_f his past, he thought of her simply as an unprotected woman toward whom h_ad been indelicate. It is not an agreeable thing for a delicate man lik_ernard Longueville to have to accommodate himself to such an accident, bu_his is nevertheless what it seemed needful that he should do. If she bore hi_ grudge he must think it natural; if she had vowed him a hatred he must allo_er the comfort of it. He had done the only thing possible, but that made i_o better for her. He had wronged her. The circumstances mattered nothing, an_s he could not make it up to her, the only reasonable thing was to keep ou_f her way. He had stepped into her path now, and the proper thing was to ste_ut of it. If it could give her no pleasure to see him again, it coul_ertainly do him no good to see her. He had seen her by this time prett_ell—as far as mere seeing went, and as yet, apparently, he was none the wors_or that; but his hope that he should himself escape unperceived had no_ecome acute. It is singular that this hope should not have led him instantl_o turn his back and move away; but the explanation of his imprudent delay i_imply that he wished to see a little more of Miss Vivian. He was unable t_ring himself to the point. Those clever things that he might have said to he_uite faded away. The only good taste was to take himself off, and spare he_he trouble of inventing civilities that she could not feel. And yet h_ontinued 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 s_ong. She turned another page, and another, and her reading absorbed he_till. He was so near her that he could have touched her dress with the poin_f his umbrella. At last she raised her eyes and rested them a while on th_lue 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 goo_eal of an effort, rose to his feet. The effort, doubtless, kept the movemen_rom being either as light or as swift as it might have been, and it vaguel_ttracted 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 touche_im, and it was on the point of passing; then it suddenly checked itself; sh_ad recognized him. She looked at him, straight and open-eyed, out of th_hadow of her parasol, and Bernard stood there—motionless now—receiving he_aze. How long it lasted need not be narrated. It was probably a matter of _ew seconds, but to Bernard it seemed a little eternity. He met her eyes, h_ooked straight into her face; now that she had seen him he could do nothin_lse. Bernard's little eternity, however, came to an end; Miss Vivian droppe_er eyes upon her book again. She let them rest upon it only a moment; the_he closed it and slowly rose from her chair, turning away from Bernard. H_till stood looking at her—stupidly, foolishly, helplessly enough, as i_eemed to him; no sign of recognition had been exchanged. Angela Vivia_esitated a minute; she now had her back turned to him, and he fancied he_ight, flexible figure was agitated by her indecision. She looked along th_unny beach which stretched its shallow curve to where the little bay ende_nd the white wall of the cliffs began. She looked down toward the sea, and u_oward the little Casino which was perched on a low embankment, communicatin_ith the beach at two or three points by a short flight of steps. Bernar_aw—or supposed he saw—that she was asking herself whither she had best tur_o avoid him. He had not blushed when she looked at him—he had rather turned _ittle pale; but he blushed now, for it really seemed odious to have literall_riven 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 her_nd there across the beach, and directed herself to the nearest flight o_teps. Before she had gone two paces a complete change came over Bernard'_eeling; his only wish now was to speak to her—to explain—to tell her he woul_o away. There was another row of steps at a short distance behind him; h_apidly ascended them and reached the little terrace of the Casino. Mis_ivian stood there; she was apparently hesitating again which way to turn.
  • Bernard came straight up to her, with a gallant smile and a greeting. Th_omparison is a coarse one, but he felt that he was taking the bull by th_orns. Angela Vivian stood watching him arrive.
  • "You did n't recognize me," he said, "and your not recognizing me made me—mad_e 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 th_ook he encountered. Miss Vivian was simply blushing—that was what Bernar_ainly perceived; he saw that her surprise had been extreme—complete. He_lush was re-assuring; it contradicted the idea of impatient resentment, an_ernard 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 ha_lways done that—she always met one's eye; and Bernard now instantly found al_he 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—_nstantly 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'_enture 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 fro_he point of view of taste perhaps a reprehensible, remark; but he made i_ecause he was now feeling his ground, and it seemed better to make it gravel_han with assumed jocosity.
  • "Great surprises are to me never pleasures," Angela answered; "I am not fon_f shocks of any kind. The pleasure is another matter. I have not yet got ove_y surprise."
  • "If I had known you were here, I would have written to you beforehand," sai_ernard, laughing.
  • Miss Vivian, beneath her expanded parasol, gave a little shrug of he_houlders.
  • "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 yo_hould n't expect—simply on turning your head—to find me lying on the pebble_t Blanquais-les-Galets. You were a great surprise to me, as well; but _iffer 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 ge_ver mine."
  • The light mockery of her tone struck him as the echo of an unforgotten air. H_ooked 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. Th_asino at Blanquais was a much more modest place of reunion than th_onversation-house at Baden-Baden. It was a small, low structure of brightl_ainted wood, containing but three or four rooms, and furnished all along it_ront with a narrow covered gallery, which offered a delusive shelter from th_ougher moods of the fine, fresh weather. It was somewhat rude and shabby—th_ubscription for the season was low—but it had a simple picturesqueness. It_ittle terrace was a very convenient place for a stroll, and the great view o_he ocean and of the marble-white crags that formed the broad gate-way of th_hallow bay, was a sufficient compensation for the absence of luxuries. Ther_ere a few people sitting in the gallery, and a few others scattered upon th_errace; 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 hav_aken 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 gat_f the Casino.