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Chapter 9

  • He went home and, without lighting his candle, flung himself on his bed. Bu_e got no sleep till morning; he lay hour after hour tossing, thinking, wondering; his mind had never been so active. It seemed to him his friend ha_aid on him in those last moments a heavy charge and had expressed hersel_lmost as handsomely as if she had listened complacently to an assurance o_is love. It was neither easy nor delightful thoroughly to understand her; bu_ittle by little her perfect meaning sank into his mind and soothed it with _ense of opportunity which somehow stifled his sense of loss. For, to begi_ith, she meant that she could love him in no degree or contingency, in n_maginable future. This was absolute—he knew he could no more alter it than h_ould pull down one of the constellations he lay gazing at through his ope_indow. He wondered to what it was, in the background of her life, she had s_edicated herself. A conception of duty unquenchable to the end? A love tha_o outrage could stifle? "Great heaven!" he groaned; "is the world so rich i_he purest pearls of passion that such tenderness as that can be wasted fo_ver—poured away without a sigh into bottomless darkness?" Had she, in spit_f the detestable present, some precious memory that still kept the door o_ossibility open? Was she prepared to submit to everything and yet to believe?
  • Was it strength, was it weakness, was it a vulgar fear, was it conviction, conscience, constancy?
  • Longmore sank back with a sigh and an oppressive feeling that it was vain t_uess at such a woman's motives. He only felt that those of this one wer_uried deep in her soul and that they must be of the noblest, must contai_othing base. He had his hard impression that endless constancy was all he_aw—a constancy that still found a foothold among crumbling ruins. "She ha_oved once," he said to himself as he rose and wandered to his window; "an_hat's for ever. Yes, yes—if she loved again she'd be COMMON!" He stood for _ong time looking out into the starlit silence of the town and forest an_hinking of what life would have been if his constancy had met her own i_arlier days. But life was this now, and he must live. It was living, really, to stand there with such a faith even in one's self still flung over one b_uch hands. He was not to disappoint her, he was to justify a conception i_ad beguiled her weariness to form. His imagination embraced it; he threw bac_is head and seemed to be looking for his friend's conception among th_linking mocking stars. But it came to him rather on the mild night- win_andering in over the house-tops which covered the rest of so many heavy huma_earts. What she asked he seemed to feel her ask not for her own sake—sh_eared nothing, she needed nothing—but for that of his own happiness and hi_wn character. He must assent to destiny. Why else was he young and strong, intelligent and resolute? He mustn't give it to her to reproach him wit_hinking she had had a moment's attention for his love, give it to her t_lead, to argue, to break off in bitterness. He must see everything fro_bove, her indifference and his own ardour; he must prove his strength, mus_o the handsome thing, must decide that the handsome thing was to submit t_he inevitable, to be supremely delicate, to spare her all pain, to stifle hi_assion, to ask no compensation, to depart without waiting and to try t_elieve that wisdom is its own reward. All this, neither more nor less, it wa_ matter of beautiful friendship with him for her to expect of him. And wha_hould he himself gain by it? He should have pleased her! Well, he flun_imself on his bed again, fell asleep at last and slept till morning.
  • Before noon next day he had made up his mind to leave Saint-Germain at once.
  • It seemed easiest to go without seeing her, and yet if he might ask for _rain of "compensation" this would be five minutes face to face with her. H_assed a restless day. Wherever he went he saw her stand before him in th_usky halo of evening, saw her look at him with an air of still negation mor_ntoxicating than the most passionate self-surrender. He must certainly go, and yet it was hideously hard. He compromised and went to Paris to spend th_est of the day. He strolled along the boulevard and paused sightlessly befor_he shops, sat a while in the Tuileries gardens and looked at the shabb_nfortunates for whom this only was nature and summer; but simply felt afresh, as a result of it all, the dusty dreary lonely world to which Madame de Mauve_ad consigned him.
  • In a sombre mood he made his way back to the centre of motion and sat down a_ table before a cafe door, on the great plain of hot asphalt. Night arrived, the lamps were lighted, the tables near him found occupants, and Paris bega_o wear that evening grimace of hers that seems to tell, in the flare of plat_lass and of theatre-doors, the muffled rumble of swift-rolling carriages, ho_his is no world for you unless you have your pockets lined and you_elicacies perverted. Longmore, however, had neither scruples nor desires; h_ooked at the great preoccupied place for the first time with an easy sense o_epaying its indifference. Before long a carriage drove up to the pavemen_irectly in front of him and remained standing for several minutes withou_ign from its occupant. It was one of those neat plain coupes, drawn by _ingle powerful horse, in which the flaneur figures a pale handsome woma_uried among silk cushions and yawning as she sees the gas-lamps glittering i_he gutters. At last the door opened and out stepped Richard de Mauves. H_topped and leaned on the window for some time, talking in an excited manne_o a person within. At last he gave a nod and the carriage rolled away. H_tood swinging his cane and looking up and down the boulevard, with the air o_ man fumbling, as one might say, the loose change of time. He turned towar_he cafe and was apparently, for want of anything better worth his attention, about to seat himself at one of the tables when he noticed Longmore. H_avered an instant and then, without a shade of difference in his careles_ait, advanced to the accompaniment of a thin recognition. It was the firs_ime they had met since their encounter in the forest after Longmore's fals_tart for Brussels. Madame Clairin's revelations, as he might have regarde_hem, had not made the Count especially present to his mind; he had ha_nother call to meet than the call of disgust. But now, as M. de Mauves cam_oward him he felt abhorrence well up. He made out, however, for the firs_ime, a cloud on this nobleman's superior clearness, and a delight at findin_he shoe somewhere at last pinching HIM, mingled with the resolve to be blan_nd unaccommodating, enabled him to meet the occasion with due promptness.
  • M. de Mauves sat down, and the two men looked at each other across the table, exchanging formal remarks that did little to lend grace to their encounter.
  • Longmore had no reason to suppose the Count knew of his sister's variou_nterventions. He was sure M. de Mauves cared very little about his opinions, and yet he had a sense of something grim in his own New York face which woul_ave made him change colour if keener suspicion had helped it to be rea_here. M. de Mauves didn't change colour, but he looked at his wife's s_ddly, so more than naturally (wouldn't it be?) detached friend with a_ntentness that betrayed at once an irritating memory of the episode in th_ois de Boulogne and such vigilant curiosity as was natural to a gentleman wh_ad entrusted his "honour" to another gentleman's magnanimity—or to hi_rtlessness.
  • It might appear that these virtues shone out of our young man less engagingl_r reassuringly than a few days before; the shadow at any rate fell darke_cross the brow of his critic, who turned away and frowned while lighting _igar. The person in the coupe, he accordingly judged, whether or no the sam_erson as the heroine of the episode of the Bois de Boulogne, was not a sourc_f unalloyed delight. Longmore had dark blue eyes of admirable clarity, settled truth-telling eyes which had in his childhood always made his harshes_askmasters smile at his notion of a subterfuge. An observer watching the tw_en and knowing something of their relations would certainly have said tha_hat he had at last both to recognise and to miss in those eyes must not _ittle have puzzled and tormented M. de Mauves. They took possession of him, they laid him out, they measured him in that state of flatness, they triumphe_ver him, they treated him as no pair of eyes had perhaps ever treated an_ember of his family before. The Count's scheme had been to provide for _ositive state of ease on the part of no one save himself, but here wa_ongmore already, if appearances perhaps not appreciable to the vulgar mean_nything, primed as for some prospect of pleasure more than Parisian. Was thi_andid young barbarian but a faux bonhomme after all? He had never reall_uite satisfied his occasional host, but was he now, for a climax, to leav_im almost gaping?
  • M. de Mauves, as if hating to seem preoccupied, took up the evening paper t_elp himself to seem indifferent. As he glanced over it he threw off som_erfunctory allusion to the crisis—the political—which enabled Longmore t_eply with perfect veracity that, with other things to think about, he had ha_o attention to spare for it. And yet our hero was in truth far from secur_gainst rueful reflexion. The Count's ruffled state was a comfort so far as i_ointed to the possibility that the lady in the coupe might be proving to_any for him; but it ministered to no vindictive sweetness for Longmore so fa_s it should perhaps represent rising jealousy. It passed through his min_hat jealousy is a passion with a double face and that on one of its sides i_ay sometimes almost look generous. It glimmered upon him odiously M. d_auves might grow ashamed of his political compact with his wife, and he fel_ow far more tolerable it would be in future to think of him as alway_mpertinent than to think of him as occasionally contrite. The two me_retended meanwhile for half an hour to outsit each other conveniently; an_he end—at that rate—might have been distant had not the tension in som_egree yielded to the arrival of a friend of M. de Mauves—a tall pal_onsumptive-looking dandy who filled the air with the odour of heliotrope. H_ooked up and down the boulevard wearily, examined the Count's garments i_ome detail, then appeared to refer restlessly to his own, and at las_nnounced resignedly that the Duchess was in town. M. de Mauves must come wit_im to call; she had abused him dreadfully a couple of evenings before—a sur_ign she wanted to see him. "I depend on you," said with an infantine draw_his specimen of an order Longmore felt he had never had occasion s_ntimately to appreciate, "to put her en train."
  • M. de Mauves resisted, he protested that he was d'une humeur massacrante; bu_t last he allowed himself to be drawn to his feet and stood lookin_wkwardly—awkwardly for M. de Mauves—at Longmore. "You'll excuse me," h_ppeared to find some difficulty in saying; "you too probably have occupatio_or the evening?"
  • "None but to catch my train." And our friend looked at his watch.
  • "Ah you go back to Saint-Germain?"
  • "In half an hour."
  • M. de Mauves seemed on the point of disengaging himself from his companion'_rm, which was locked in his own; but on the latter's uttering some persuasiv_urmur he lifted his hat stiffly and turned away.
  • Longmore the next day wandered off to the terrace to try and beguile th_estlessness with which he waited for the evening; he wished to see Madame d_auves for the last time at the hour of long shadows and pale reflected ambe_ights, as he had almost always seen her. Destiny, however, took no account o_his humble plea for poetic justice; it was appointed him to meet her seate_y the great walk under a tree and alone. The hour made the place almos_mpty; the day was warm, but as he took his place beside her a light breez_tirred the leafy edges of their broad circle of shadow. She looked at hi_lmost with no pretence of not having believed herself already rid of him, an_e at once told her that he should leave Saint-Germain that evening, but mus_irst bid her farewell. Her face lighted a moment, he fancied, as he spoke; but she said nothing, only turning it off to far Paris which lay twinkling an_lashing through hot exhalations. "I've a request to make of you," he added.
  • "That you think of me as a man who has felt much and claimed little."
  • She drew a long breath which almost suggested pain. "I can't think of you a_nhappy. That's impossible. You've a life to lead, you've duties, talents, inspirations, interests. I shall hear of your career. And then," she pursue_fter a pause, though as if it had before this quite been settled betwee_hem, "one can't be unhappy through having a better opinion of a frien_nstead of a worse."
  • For a moment he failed to understand her. "Do you mean that there can b_arying degrees in my opinion of you?"
  • She rose and pushed away her chair. "I mean," she said quickly, "that it'_etter to have done nothing in bitterness—nothing in passion." And she bega_o walk.
  • Longmore followed her without answering at first. But he took off his hat an_ith his pocket-handkerchief wiped his forehead. "Where shall you go? wha_hall you do?" he simply asked at last.
  • "Do? I shall do as I've always done—except perhaps that I shall go for a whil_o my husband's old home."
  • "I shall go to MY old one. I've done with Europe for the present," the youn_an added.
  • She glanced at him as he walked beside her, after he had spoken these words, and then bent her eyes for a long time on the ground. But suddenly, as i_ware of her going too far she stopped and put out her hand. "Good-bye. Ma_ou have all the happiness you deserve!"
  • He took her hand with his eyes on her, but something was at work in him tha_ade it impossible to deal in the easy way with her touch. Something o_nfinite value was floating past him, and he had taken an oath, with which an_uch case interfered, not to raise a finger to stop it. It was borne by th_trong current of the world's great life and not of his own small one. Madam_e Mauves disengaged herself, gathered in her long scarf and smiled at hi_lmost as you would do at a child you should wish to encourage. Severa_oments later he was still there watching her leave him and leave him. Whe_he was out of sight he shook himself, walked at once back to his hotel and, without waiting for the evening train, paid his bill and departed.
  • Later in the day M. de Mauves came into his wife's drawing-room, where she sa_aiting to be summoned to dinner. He had dressed as he usually didn't dres_or dining at home. He walked up and down for some moments in silence, the_ang the bell for a servant and went out into the hall to meet him. He ordere_he carriage to take him to the station, paused a moment with his hand on th_nob of the door, dismissed the servant angrily as the latter lingere_bserving him, re-entered the drawing- room, resumed his restless walk and a_ast stopped abruptly before his wife, who had taken up a book. "May I ask th_avour," he said with evident effort, in spite of a forced smile as o_llusion to a large past exercise of the very best taste, "of having _uestion answered?"
  • "It's a favour I never refused," she replied.
  • "Very true. Do you expect this evening a visit from Mr. Longmore?"
  • "Mr. Longmore," said his wife, "has left Saint-Germain." M. de Mauves waited, but his smile expired. "Mr. Longmore," his wife continued, "has gone t_merica."
  • M. de Mauves took it—a rare thing for him—with confessed, if momentary, intellectual indigence. But he raised, as it were, the wind. "Has anythin_appened?" he asked, "Had he a sudden call?" But his question received n_nswer. At the same moment the servant threw open the door and announce_inner; Madame Clairin rustled in, rubbing her white hands, Madame de Mauve_assed silently into the dining-room, but he remained outside—outside of mor_hings, clearly, than his mere salle-a-manger. Before long he went forth t_he terrace and continued his uneasy walk. At the end of a quarter of an hou_he servant came to let him know that his carriage was at the door. "Send i_way," he said without hesitation. "I shan't use it." When the ladies ha_alf-finished dinner he returned and joined them, with a formal apology to hi_ife for his inconsequence.
  • The dishes were brought back, but he hardly tasted them; he drank on the othe_and more wine than usual. There was little talk, scarcely a convivial soun_ave the occasional expressive appreciative "M-m-m!" of Madame Clairin ove_he succulence of some dish. Twice this lady saw her brother's eyes, fixed o_er own over his wineglass, put to her a question she knew she should have t_rritate him later on by not being able to answer. She replied, for th_resent at least, by an elevation of the eyebrows that resembled even to he_wn humour the vain raising of an umbrella in anticipation of a storm. M. d_auves was left alone to finish his wine; he sat over it for more than an hou_nd let the darkness gather about him. At last the servant came in with _etter and lighted a candle. The letter was a telegram, which M. de Mauves, when he had read it, burnt at the candle. After five minutes' meditation h_rote a message on the back of a visiting-card and gave it to the servant t_arry to the office. The man knew quite as much as his master suspected abou_he lady to whom the telegram was addressed; but its contents puzzled him; they consisted of the single word "Impossible." As the evening passed withou_er brother's reappearing in the drawing-room Madame Clairin came to him wher_e sat by his solitary candle. He took no notice of her presence for som_ime, but this affected her as unexpected indulgence. At last, however, h_poke with a particular harshness. "Ce jeune mufle has gone home at an hour'_otice. What the devil does it mean?"
  • Madame Clairin now felt thankful for her umbrella. "It means that I've _ister-in-law whom I've not the honour to understand."
  • He said nothing more and silently allowed her, after a little, to depart. I_ad been her duty to provide him with an explanation, and he was disguste_ith her blankness; but she was—if there was no more to come—getting of_asily. When she had gone he went into the garden and walked up and down wit_is cigar. He saw his wife seated alone on the terrace, but remained below, wandering, turning, pausing, lingering. He remained a long time. It grew lat_nd Madame de Mauves disappeared. Toward midnight he dropped upon a bench, tired, with a long vague exhalation of unrest. It was sinking into his spiri_hat he too didn't understand Madame Clairin's sister-in-law.
  • Longmore was obliged to wait a week in London for a ship. It was very hot, an_e went out one day to Richmond. In the garden of the hotel at which he dine_e met his friend Mrs. Draper, who was staying there. She made eager enquir_bout Madame de Mauves; but Longmore at first, as they sat looking out at th_amous view of the Thames, parried her questions and confined himself to othe_opics. At last she said she was afraid he had something to conceal; whereupon, after a pause, he asked her if she remembered recommending him, i_he letter she had addressed him at Saint-Germain, to draw the sadness fro_er friend's smile. "The last I saw of her was her smile," he said—"when _ade her good-bye."
  • "I remember urging you to 'console' her," Mrs. Draper returned, "and _ondered afterwards whether—model of discretion as you are—I hadn't cut yo_ut work for which you wouldn't thank me."
  • "She has her consolation in herself," the young man said; "she needs none tha_ny one else can offer her. That's for troubles for which—be it more, be i_ess—our own folly has to answer. Madame de Mauves hasn't a grain of foll_eft."
  • "Ah don't say that!"—Mrs. Draper knowingly protested. "Just a little folly'_ften very graceful."
  • Longmore rose to go—she somehow annoyed him. "Don't talk of grace," he said,
  • "till you've measured her reason!"
  • For two years after his return to America he heard nothing of Madame d_auves. That he thought of her intently, constantly, I need hardly say; mos_eople wondered why such a clever young man shouldn't "devote" himself t_omething; but to himself he seemed absorbingly occupied. He never wrote t_er; he believed she wouldn't have "liked" it. At last he heard that Mrs.
  • Draper had come home and he immediately called on her. "Of course," she sai_fter the first greetings, "you're dying for news of Madame de Mauves. Prepar_ourself for something strange. I heard from her two or three times during th_ear after your seeing her. She left Saint-Germain and went to live in th_ountry on some old property of her husband's. She wrote me very kind littl_otes, but I felt somehow that—in spite of what you said about
  • 'consolation'—they were the notes of a wretched woman. The only advice I coul_ave given her was to leave her scamp of a husband and come back to her ow_and and her own people. But this I didn't feel free to do, and yet it made m_o miserable not to be able to help her that I preferred to let ou_orrespondence die a natural death. I had no news of her for a year. Las_ummer, however, I met at Vichy a clever young Frenchman whom I accidentall_earned to be a friend of that charming sister of the Count's, Madame Clairin.
  • I lost no time in asking him what he knew about Madame de Mauves—_ountrywoman of mine and an old friend. 'I congratulate you on the friendshi_f such a person,' he answered. 'That's the terrible little woman who kille_er husband.' You may imagine I promptly asked for an explanation, and he tol_e—from his point of view—what he called the whole story. M. de Mauves ha_ait quelques folies which his wife had taken absurdly to heart. He ha_epented and asked her forgiveness, which she had inexorably refused. She wa_ery pretty, and severity must have suited her style; for, whether or no he_usband had been in love with her before, he fell madly in love with her now.
  • He was the proudest man in France, but he had begged her on his knees to b_e-admitted to favour. All in vain! She was stone, she was ice, she wa_utraged virtue. People noticed a great change in him; he gave up society, ceased to care for anything, looked shockingly. One fine day they discovere_e had blown out his brains. My friend had the story of course from Madam_lairin."
  • Longmore was strongly moved, and his first impulse after he had recovered hi_omposure was to return immediately to Europe. But several years have passed, and he still lingers at home. The truth is that, in the midst of all th_rdent tenderness of his memory of Madame de Mauves, he has become consciou_f a singular feeling—a feeling of wonder, of uncertainty, of awe.