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Chapter 2

  • I called on them the next at their lodgings, the modesty of which was enhance_y a hundred pretty feminine devices—flowers and photographs and portabl_nick-knacks and a hired piano and morsels of old brocade flung over angula_ofas. I took them to drive; I met them again at the Kursaal; I arranged tha_e should dine together, after the Homburg fashion, at the same table d'hote;
  • and during several days this revived familiar intercourse continued, imitatin_ntimacy if not quite achieving it. I was pleased, as my companions passed th_ime for me and the conditions of our life were soothing—the feeling of summe_nd shade and music and leisure in the German gardens and woods, where w_trolled and sat and gossiped; to which may be added a vague sociable sens_hat among people whose challenge to the curiosity was mainly not irresistibl_e kept quite to ourselves. We were on the footing of old friends who stil_ad in regard to each other discoveries to make. We knew each other's natur_ut didn't know each other's experience; so that when Mrs. Pallant related t_e what she had been "up to," as I called it, for so many years, the forme_nowledge attached a hundred interpretative footnotes—as if I had been editin_n author who presented difficulties—to the interesting page. There wa_othing new to me in the fact that I didn't esteem her, but there was relie_n my finding that this wasn't necessary at Homburg and that I could like he_n spite of it. She struck me, in the oddest way, as both improved an_egenerate; the two processes, in her nature, might have gone on together. Sh_as battered and world-worn and, spiritually speaking, vulgarised; somethin_resh had rubbed off her—it even included the vivacity of her early desire t_o the best thing for herself—and something rather stale had rubbed on. At th_ame time she betrayed a scepticism, and that was rather becoming, for it ha_uenched the eagerness of her prime, the mercenary principle I had so suffere_rom. She had grown weary and detached, and since she affected me as mor_mpressed with the evil of the world than with the good, this was a gain; i_ther words her accretion of indifference, if not of cynicism, showed a softe_urface than that of her old ambitions. Furthermore I had to recognise tha_er devotion to her daughter was a kind of religion; she had done the ver_est possible for Linda.
  • Linda was curious, Linda was interesting; I've seen girls I like_etter—charming as this one might be—but have never seen one who for the hou_ou were with her (the impression passed somehow when she was out of sight)
  • occupied you so completely. I can best describe the attention she provoked b_aying that she struck you above all things as a felicitous FINA_roduct—after the fashion of some plant or some fruit, some waxen orchid o_ome perfect peach. She was clearly the result of a process of calculation, _rocess patiently educative, a pressure exerted, and all artfully, so that sh_hould reach a high point.
  • This high point had been the star of her mother's heaven—it hung before her s_nquenchably—and had shed the only light (in default of a better) that was t_hine on the poor lady's path. It stood her instead of every other ideal. Th_ery most and the very best—that was what the girl had been led on to achieve;
  • I mean of course, since no real miracle had been wrought, the most and th_est she was capable of. She was as pretty, as graceful, as intelligent, a_ell-bred, as well-informed, as well-dressed, as could have been conceived fo_er; her music, her singing, her German, her French, her English, her step,
  • her tone, her glance, her manner, everything in her person and movement, fro_he shade and twist of her hair to the way you saw her finger-nails were pin_hen she raised her hand, had been carried so far that one found one's sel_ccepting them as the very measure of young grace. I regarded her thus as _odel, yet it was a part of her perfection that she had none of the stiffnes_f a pattern. If she held the observation it was because you wondered wher_nd when she would break down; but she never broke down, either in her Frenc_ccent or in her role of educated angel.
  • After Archie had come the ladies were manifestly his greatest resource, an_ll the world knows why a party of four is more convenient than a party o_hree. My nephew had kept me waiting a week, with a serenity all his own; bu_his very coolness was a help to harmony—so long, that is, as I didn't lose m_emper with it. I didn't, for the most part, because my young man'_nperturbed acceptance of the most various forms of good fortune had more tha_nything else the effect of amusing me. I had seen little of him for the las_hree or four years; I wondered what his impending majority would have made o_im—he didn't at all carry himself as if the wind of his fortune wer_ising—and I watched him with a solicitude that usually ended in a joke. H_as a tall fresh- coloured youth, with a candid circular countenance and _ove of cigarettes, horses and boats which had not been sacrificed to mor_trenuous studies. He was reassuringly natural, in a supercivilised age, and _oon made up my mind that the formula of his character was in the clearing o_he inward scene by his so preordained lack of imagination. If he was seren_his was still further simplifying. After that I had time to meditate on th_ine that divides the serene from the inane, the simple from the silly. H_asn't clever; the fonder theory quite defied our cultivation, though Mrs.
  • Pallant tried it once or twice; but on the other hand it struck me his want o_it might be a good defensive weapon. It wasn't the sort of density that woul_et him in, but the sort that would keep him out. By which I don't mean tha_e had shortsighted suspicions, but that on the contrary imagination woul_ever be needed to save him, since she would never put him in danger. He wa_n short a well-grown well-washed muscular young American, whose extrem_alubrity might have made him pass for conceited. If he looked pleased wit_imself it was only because he was pleased with life—as well he might be, wit_he fortune that awaited the stroke of his twenty-first year—and his bi_ealthy independent person was an inevitable part of that. I am bound to ad_hat he was accommodating— for which I was grateful. His habits were active,
  • but he didn't insist on my adopting them and he made numerous and generou_acrifices for my society. When I say he made them for mine I must dul_emember that mine and that of Mrs. Pallant and Linda were now very much th_ame thing. He was willing to sit and smoke for hours under the trees or,
  • adapting his long legs to the pace of his three companions, stroll through th_earer woods of the charming little hill-range of the Taunus to those rusti_irthschaften where coffee might be drunk under a trellis. Mrs. Pallant took _reat interest in him; she made him, with his easy uncle, a subject o_iscourse; she pronounced him a delightful specimen, as a young gentleman o_is period and country. She even asked me the sort of "figure" his fortun_ight really amount to, and professed a rage of envy when I told her what _upposed it to be. While we were so occupied Archie, on his side, couldn't d_ess than converse with Linda, nor to tell the truth did he betray the leas_nclination for any different exercise. They strolled away together whil_heir elders rested; two or three times, in the evening, when the ballroom o_he Kursaal was lighted and dance-music played, they whirled over the smoot_loor in a waltz that stirred my memory. Whether it had the same effect o_rs. Pallant's I know not: she held her peace. We had on certain occasions ou_oments, almost our half-hours, of unembarrassed silence while our youn_ompanions disported themselves. But if at other times her enquiries an_omments were numerous on this article of my ingenuous charge, that might ver_ell have passed for a courteous recognition of the frequent admiration _xpressed for Linda—an admiration that drew from her, I noticed, but scan_irect response. I was struck thus with her reserve when I spoke of he_aughter—my remarks produced so little of a maternal flutter. Her detachment,
  • her air of having no fatuous illusions and not being blinded by prejudice,
  • seemed to me at times to savour of affectation. Either she answered me with _ague and impatient sigh and changed the subject, or else she said befor_oing so: "Oh yes, yes, she's a very brilliant creature. She ought to be: Go_nows what I've done for her!" The reader will have noted my fondness, in al_ases, for the explanations of things; as an example of which I had my theor_ere that she was disappointed in the girl. Where then had her specia_alculation failed? As she couldn't possibly have wished her prettier or mor_leasing, the pang must have been for her not having made a successful use o_er gifts. Had she expected her to "land" a prince the day after leaving th_choolroom? There was after all plenty of time for this, with Linda but two-
  • and-twenty. It didn't occur to me to wonder if the source of her mother'_epidity was that the young lady had not turned out so nice a nature as sh_ad hoped, because in the first place Linda struck me as perfectly innocent,
  • and because in the second I wasn't paid, in the French phrase, for supposin_ouisa Pallant much concerned on that score. The last hypothesis I should hav_nvoked was that of private despair at bad moral symptoms. And in relation t_inda's nature I had before me the daily spectacle of her manner with m_ephew. It was as charming as it could be without betrayal of a desire to lea_im on. She was as familiar as a cousin, but as a distant one—a cousin who ha_een brought up to observe degrees. She was so much cleverer than Archie tha_he couldn't help laughing at him, but she didn't laugh enough to exclud_ariety, being well aware, no doubt, that a woman's cleverness most shines i_ontrast with a man's stupidity when she pretends to take that stupidity fo_er law. Linda Pallant moreover was not a chatterbox; as she knew the value o_any things she knew the value of intervals. There were a good many in th_onversation of these young persons; my nephew's own speech, to say nothing o_is thought, abounding in comfortable lapses; so that I sometimes wondered ho_heir association was kept at that pitch of continuity of which it gave th_mpression. It was friendly enough, evidently, when Archie sat near her —nea_nough for low murmurs, had such risen to his lips—and watched her wit_nterested eyes and with freedom not to try too hard to make himsel_greeable. She had always something in hand—a flower in her tapestry t_inish, the leaves of a magazine to cut, a button to sew on her glove (sh_arried a little work-bag in her pocket and was a person of the dainties_abits), a pencil to ply ever so neatly in a sketchbook which she rested o_er knee. When we were indoors—mainly then at her mother's modest rooms—sh_ad always the resource of her piano, of which she was of course a perfec_istress.
  • These pursuits supported her, they helped her to an assurance under suc_arrow inspection—I ended by rebuking Archie for it; I told him he stared th_oor girl out of countenance—and she sought further relief in smiling all ove_he place. When my young man's eyes shone at her those of Miss Pallan_ddressed themselves brightly to the trees and clouds and other surroundin_bjects, including her mother and me. Sometimes she broke into a sudde_mbarrassed happy pointless laugh. When she wandered off with him she looke_ack at us in a manner that promised it wasn't for long and that she was wit_s still in spirit. If I liked her I had therefore my good reason: it was man_ day since a pretty girl had had the air of taking me so much into account.
  • Sometimes when they were so far away as not to disturb us she read aloud _ittle to Mr. Archie. I don't know where she got her books—I never provide_hem, and certainly he didn't. He was no reader and I fear he often dozed.