Some three evenings after he received this last report of the progress o_ffairs in Paris, Bernard, upon whom the burden of exile sat none the mor_ightly as the days went on, turned out of the Strand into one of th_heatres. He had been gloomily pushing his way through the various Londo_ensities—the November fog, the nocturnal darkness, the jostling crowd. He wa_oo restless to do anything but walk, and he had been saying to himself, fo_he thousandth time, that if he had been guilty of a misdemeanor in succumbin_o the attractions of the admirable girl who showed to such advantage i_etters of twelve pages, his fault was richly expiated by these days o_mpatience and bereavement. He gave little heed to the play; his thoughts wer_lsewhere, and, while they rambled, his eyes wandered round the house.
Suddenly, on the other side of it, he beheld Captain Lovelock, seated squarel_n his orchestra-stall, but, if Bernard was not mistaken, paying as littl_ttention 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 bear_ippled over the expanse of his shirt-front. But Bernard was not slow to se_hat his gaze was heavy and opaque, and that, though he was staring at th_ctresses, their charms were lost upon him. He saw that, like himself, poo_ovelock had matter for reflection in his manly breast, and he concluded tha_lanche's ponderous swain was also suffering from a sense of disjunction.
Lovelock sat in the same posture all the evening, and that his imagination ha_ot projected itself into the play was proved by the fact that during th_ntractes he gazed with the same dull fixedness at the curtain. Bernar_orebore to interrupt him; we know that he was not at this moment sociall_nclined, and he judged that the Captain was as little so, inasmuch as cause_ven more imperious than those which had operated in his own case must hav_een at the bottom of his sudden appearance in London. On leaving the theatre, however, Bernard found himself detained with the crowd in the vestibule nea_he door, which, wide open to the street, was a scene of agitation an_onfusion. It had come on to rain, and the raw dampness mingled itself wit_he dusky uproar of the Strand. At last, among the press of people, as he wa_assing out, our hero became aware that he had been brought into contact wit_ovelock, who was walking just beside him. At the same moment Lovelock notice_im—looked at him for an instant, and then looked away. But he looked bac_gain the next instant, and the two men then uttered that inarticulate an_nexpressive exclamation which passes for a sign of greeting among gentleme_f the Anglo-Saxon race, in their moments of more acute self-consciousness.
"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 th_eastly 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 Captai_aving two fingers at him out of the front of a hansom. When he returned t_is hotel he found on his table a letter superscribed in Gordon Wright's hand.
This communication ran as follows:
"I believe you are making a fool of me. In Heaven's name, come back to Paris!
Bernard hardly knew whether to regard these few words as a further declaratio_f war, or as an overture to peace; but he lost no time in complying with th_ummons they conveyed. He started for Paris the next morning, and in th_vening, after he had removed the dust of his journey and swallowed a hast_inner, he rang at Mrs. Vivian's door. This lady and her daughter gave him _elcome which—I will not say satisfied him, but which, at least, did somethin_oward 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.
"You should have seen mamma with Blanche," her daughter said, smiling. "It wa_ost 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 i_rong."
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 thinkin_f a good many things. He was in the midst of his reflections when there cam_ rap at his door, which the next moment was flung open. Gordon Wright stoo_here, looking at him—with a gaze which Bernard returned for a moment befor_idding him to come in. Gordon came in and came up to him; then he held ou_is hand. Bernard took it with great satisfaction; his last feeling had bee_hat he was very weary of this ridiculous quarrel, and it was an extrem_elief to find it was over.
"It was very good of you to go to London," said Gordon, looking at him wit_ll 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 m_ 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 kne_ngela would keep us good friends."
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 i_ad 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 a_xtraordinary woman."
"Keeping you good friends with me—that 's a great thing. But it 's nothing t_er keeping you good friends with your wife."
Gordon looked at Bernard for an instant; then he fixed his eyes for some tim_n the fire.
"Yes, that is the greatest of all things. A man should value his wife. H_hould believe in her. He has taken her, and he should keep her—especiall_hen 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 very weak."
"It seemed to me feeble," said Bernard. "But it is quite within a man's right_o 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 hi_at. He looked into the crown of it for a moment, and then he fixed his eye_n Bernard's again. "But there is one thing I hope you won't mind my saying. _ave 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 shoul_truggle with it. It would never do for me to dislike your wife!"
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, whos_owers of conversation were apparently not in the smallest degree affected b_nything that had occurred.
"I hope you enjoyed your visit to London," she said. "Did you go to buy Angel_ set of diamonds in Bond Street? You did n't buy anything—you did n't go int_ 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 an_owers of observation. I noticed you went—oh, yes, I observed that very much; and I thought it very strange, under the circumstances. Your most intimat_riend arrived in Paris, and you choose the next day to make a little tour! _on'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 neve_eard of anything so monstrous as a gentleman rushing away from the object o_is affection, for no particular purpose that any one could discover, the da_fter 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; sh_aid it was for a 'change.' That was a charming reason! But she was very muc_shamed of you—and so was I; and at last we all sent Captain Lovelock afte_ou to bring you back. You came back without him? Ah, so much the better; _uppose he is still looking for you, and, as he is n't very clever, that wil_ccupy him for some time. We want to occupy him; we don't approve of his bein_o idle. However, for my own part, I am very glad you were away. I was a grea_eal at Mrs. Vivian's, and I should n't have felt nearly so much at liberty t_o 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—tha_t '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, fo_ 'change.'" Here Blanche paused for an appreciable moment; and then sh_dded—"Well, I must say, I have never seen anything so lovely as Mrs. Vivian'_nfluence. I hope mamma won't be disappointed in it this time."
When Bernard next saw the other two ladies, he said to them that he wa_urprised 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 t_ave reconciled poor Gordon to Mrs. Blanche."
"You are not to say a word against Blanche," Angela declared. "She 's a littl_iracle."
"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 agains_rs. Gordon."
And she never would in future; though it is not recorded that Bernard availe_imself in any special degree of the license offered him in conjunction wit_his warning.
Blanche's health within a few days had, according to her own account, taken _arvellous turn for the better; but her husband appeared still to think i_roper that they should spend the winter beneath a brilliant sun, and h_resently informed his friends that they had at last settled it between the_hat a voyage up the Nile must be, for a thoroughly united couple, a ver_greeable pastime. To perform this expedition advantageously they must repai_o Cairo without delay, and for this reason he was sure that Bernard an_ngela would easily understand their not making a point of waiting for th_edding. These happy people quite understood it. Their nuptials were to b_elebrated with extreme simplicity. If, however, Gordon was not able to b_resent, he, in conjunction with his wife, bought for Angela, as a brida_ift, a necklace of the most beautiful pearls the Rue de la Paix coul_urnish; and on his arrival at Cairo, while he waited for his dragoman to giv_he signal for starting, he found time, in spite of the exactions of tha_arge correspondence which has been more than once mentioned in the course o_ur narrative, to write Bernard the longest letter he had ever addressed t_im. The letter reached Bernard in the middle of his honeymoon.