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.