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.