But on the following evening, Bernard again found himself seated in friendl_olloquy with this interesting girl, while Gordon Wright discoursed with he_other on one side, and little Blanche Evers chattered to the admiring eyes o_aptain Lovelock on the other.
"You and your mother are very kind to that little girl," our hero said; "yo_ust be a great advantage to her."
Angela Vivian directed her eyes to her neighbors, and let them rest a while o_he young girl's little fidgeting figure and her fresh, coquettish face. Fo_ome moments she said nothing, and to Longueville, turning over several thing_n his mind, and watching her, it seemed that her glance was one of disfavor.
He divined, he scarcely knew how, that her esteem for her pretty companion wa_mall.
"I don't know that I am very kind," said Miss Vivian. "I have done nothing i_articular for her."
"Mr. Wright tells me you came to this place mainly on her account."
"I came for myself," said Miss Vivian. "The consideration you speak of perhap_ad weight with my mother."
"You are not an easy person to say appreciative things to," Bernard rejoined.
"One is tempted to say them; but you don't take them."
The young girl colored as she listened to this observation.
"I don't think you know," she murmured, looking away. Then, "Set it down t_odesty," she added.
"That, of course, is what I have done. To what else could one possibl_ttribute an indifference to compliments?"
"There is something else. One might be proud."
"There you are again!" Bernard exclaimed. "You won't even let me praise you_odesty."
"I would rather you should rebuke my pride."
"That is so humble a speech that it leaves no room for rebuke."
For a moment Miss Vivian said nothing.
"Men are singularly base," she declared presently, with a little smile. "The_on't care in the least to say things that might help a person. They only car_o say things that may seem effective and agreeable."
"I see: you think that to say agreeable things is a great misdemeanor."
"It comes from their vanity," Miss Vivian went on, as if she had not hear_im. "They wish to appear agreeable and get credit for cleverness an_endresse, no matter how silly it would be for another person to believ_hem."
Bernard was a good deal amused, and a little nettled.
"Women, then," he said, "have rather a fondness for producing a ba_mpression—they like to appear disagreeable?"
His companion bent her eyes upon her fan for a moment as she opened and close_t.
"They are capable of resigning themselves to it—for a purpose."
Bernard was moved to extreme merriment.
"For what purpose?"
"I don't know that I mean for a purpose," said Miss Vivian; "but for _ecessity."
"Ah, what an odious necessity!"
"Necessities usually are odious. But women meet them. Men evade them and shir_hem."
"I contest your proposition. Women are themselves necessities; but they ar_ot odious ones!" And Bernard added, in a moment, "One could n't evade them, if they were!"
"I object to being called a necessity," said Angela Vivian. "It diminishe_ne's merit."
"Ah, but it enhances the charm of life!"
"For men, doubtless!"
"The charm of life is very great," Bernard went on, looking up at the dusk_ills and the summer stars, seen through a sort of mist of music and talk, an_f powdery light projected from the softly lurid windows of the gaming-rooms.
"The charm of life is extreme. I am unacquainted with odious necessities. _bject to nothing!"
Angela Vivian looked about her as he had done—looked perhaps a moment longe_t the summer stars; and if she had not already proved herself a young lady o_ contradictory turn, it might have been supposed she was just then tacitl_dmitting the charm of life to be considerable.
"Do you suppose Miss Evers often resigns herself to being disagreeable—for _urpose?" asked Longueville, who had glanced at Captain Lovelock's companio_gain.
"She can't be disagreeable; she is too gentle, too soft."
"Do you mean too silly?"
"I don't know that I call her silly. She is not very wise; but she has n_retensions—absolutely none—so that one is not struck with anythin_ncongruous."
"What a terrible description! I suppose one ought to have a few pretensions."
"You see one comes off more easily without them," said Miss Vivian.
"Do you call that coming off easily?"
She looked at him a moment gravely.
"I am very fond of Blanche," she said.
"Captain Lovelock is rather fond of her," Bernard went on.
The girl assented.
"He is completely fascinated—he is very much in love with her."
"And do they mean to make an international match?"
"I hope not; my mother and I are greatly troubled."
"Is n't he a good fellow?"
"He is a good fellow; but he is a mere trifler. He has n't a penny, I believe, and he has very expensive habits. He gambles a great deal. We don't know wha_o do."
"You should send for the young lady's mother."
"We have written to her pressingly. She answers that Blanche can take care o_erself, and that she must stay at Marienbad to finish her cure. She has jus_egun a new one."
"Ah well," said Bernard, "doubtless Blanche can take care of herself."
For a moment his companion said nothing; then she exclaimed—
"It 's what a girl ought to be able to do!"
"I am sure you are!" said Bernard.
She met his eyes, and she was going to make some rejoinder; but before she ha_ime to speak, her mother's little, clear, conciliatory voice interposed. Mrs.
Vivian appealed to her daughter, as she had done the night before.
"Dear Angela, what was the name of the gentleman who delivered that delightfu_ourse of lectures that we heard in Geneva, on—what was the title?—'Th_edeeming Features of the Pagan Morality.'"
Angela flushed a little.
"I have quite forgotten his name, mamma," she said, without looking round.
"Come and sit by me, my dear, and we will talk them over. I wish Mr. Wright t_ear about them," Mrs. Vivian went on.
"Do you wish to convert him to paganism?" Bernard asked.
"The lectures were very dull; they had no redeeming features," said Angela, getting up, but turning away from her mother. She stood looking at Bernar_ongueville; he saw she was annoyed at her mother's interference. "Every no_nd then," she said, "I take a turn through the gaming-rooms. The last time, Captain Lovelock went with me. Will you come to-night?"
Bernard assented with expressive alacrity; he was charmed with her not wishin_o break off her conversation with him.
"Ah, we 'll all go!" said Mrs. Vivian, who had been listening, and she invite_he others to accompany her to the Kursaal.
They left their places, but Angela went first, with Bernard Longueville by he_ide; and the idea of her having publicly braved her mother, as it were, fo_he sake of his society, lent for the moment an almost ecstatic energy to hi_read. If he had been tempted to presume upon his triumph, however, he woul_ave found a check in the fact that the young girl herself tasted very soberl_f the sweets of defiance. She was silent and grave; she had a manner whic_ook the edge from the wantonness of filial independence. Yet, for all this, Bernard was pleased with his position; and, as he walked with her through th_ighted and crowded rooms, where they soon detached themselves from thei_ompanions, he felt that peculiar satisfaction which best expresses itself i_ilence. Angela looked a while at the rows of still, attentive faces, fixe_pon the luminous green circle, across which little heaps of louis d'or wer_eing pushed to and fro, and she continued to say nothing. Then at last sh_xclaimed simply, "Come away!" They turned away and passed into anothe_hamber, in which there was no gambling. It was an immense apartment, apparently a ball-room; but at present it was quite unoccupied. There wer_reen velvet benches all around it, and a great polished floor stretched away, shining in the light of chandeliers adorned with innumerable glass drops. Mis_ivian stood a moment on the threshold; then she passed in, and they stoppe_n the middle of the place, facing each other, and with their figure_eflected as if they had been standing on a sheet of ice. There was no one i_he room; they were entirely alone.
"Why don't you recognize me?" Bernard murmured quickly.
"Why do you seem to forget our meeting at Siena?"
She might have answered if she had answered immediately; but she hesitated, and while she did so something happened at the other end of the room whic_aused her to shift her glance. A green velvet porti; agere suspended in on_f the door-ways—not that through which our friends had passed—was lifted, an_ordon Wright stood there, holding it up, and looking at them. His companion_ere behind him.
"Ah, here they are!" cried Gordon, in his loud, clear voice.
This appeared to strike Angela Vivian as an interruption, and Bernard saw i_ery much in the same light.