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Chapter 4 Souls Belated

  • Their railway-carriage had been full when the train left Bologna; but at th_irst station beyond Milan their only remaining companion—a courtly person wh_te garlic out of a carpet-bag—had left his crumb-strewn seat with a bow.
  • Lydia's eye regretfully followed the shiny broadcloth of his retreating bac_ill it lost itself in the cloud of touts and cab-drivers hanging about th_tation; then she glanced across at Gannett and caught the same regret in hi_ook. They were both sorry to be alone.
  • "_Par-ten-za!_" shouted the guard. The train vibrated to a sudden slamming o_oors; a waiter ran along the platform with a tray of fossilized sandwiches; _elated porter flung a bundle of shawls and band-boxes into a third-clas_arriage; the guard snapped out a brief _Partensa!_ which indicated the purel_rnamental nature of his first shout; and the train swung out of the station.
  • The direction of the road had changed, and a shaft of sunlight struck acros_he dusty red velvet seats into Lydia's corner. Gannett did not notice it. H_ad returned to his _Revue de Paris,_ and she had to rise and lower the shad_f the farther window. Against the vast horizon of their leisure suc_ncidents stood out sharply.
  • Having lowered the shade, Lydia sat down, leaving the length of the carriag_etween herself and Gannett. At length he missed her and looked up.
  • "I moved out of the sun," she hastily explained.
  • He looked at her curiously: the sun was beating on her through the shade.
  • "Very well," he said pleasantly; adding, "You don't mind?" as he drew _igarette-case from his pocket.
  • It was a refreshing touch, relieving the tension of her spirit with th_uggestion that, after all, if he could _smoke_—! The relief was onl_omentary. Her experience of smokers was limited (her husband had disapprove_f the use of tobacco) but she knew from hearsay that men sometimes smoked t_et away from things; that a cigar might be the masculine equivalent o_arkened windows and a headache. Gannett, after a puff or two, returned to hi_eview.
  • It was just as she had foreseen; he feared to speak as much as she did. It wa_ne of the misfortunes of their situation that they were never busy enough t_ecessitate, or even to justify, the postponement of unpleasant discussions.
  • If they avoided a question it was obviously, unconcealably because th_uestion was disagreeable. They had unlimited leisure and an accumulation o_ental energy to devote to any subject that presented itself; new topics wer_n fact at a premium. Lydia sometimes had premonitions of a famine-stricke_eriod when there would he nothing left to talk about, and she had alread_aught herself doling out piecemeal what, in the first prodigality of thei_onfidences, she would have flung to him in a breath. Their silence therefor_ight simply mean that they had nothing to say; but it was anothe_isadvantage of their position that it allowed infinite opportunity for th_lassification of minute differences. Lydia had learned to distinguish betwee_eal and factitious silences; and under Gannett's she now detected a hum o_peech to which her own thoughts made breathless answer.
  • How could it be otherwise, with that thing between them? She glanced up at th_ack overhead. The thing was there, in her dressing-bag, symbolicall_uspended over her head and his. He was thinking of it now, just as she was; they had been thinking of it in unison ever since they had entered the train.
  • While the carriage had held other travellers they had screened her from hi_houghts; but now that he and she were alone she knew exactly what was passin_hrough his mind; she could almost hear him asking himself what he should sa_o her… .
  • The thing had come that morning, brought up to her in an innocent-lookin_nvelope with the rest of their letters, as they were leaving the hotel a_ologna. As she tore it open, she and Gannett were laughing over som_neptitude of the local guide-book—they had been driven, of late, to make th_ost of such incidental humors of travel. Even when she had unfolded th_ocument she took it for some unimportant business paper sent abroad for he_ignature, and her eye travelled inattentively over the curly Whereases of th_reamble until a word arrested her:—Divorce. There it stood, an impassabl_arrier, between her husband's name and hers.
  • She had been prepared for it, of course, as healthy people are said to b_repared for death, in the sense of knowing it must come without in the leas_xpecting that it will. She had known from the first that Tillotson meant t_ivorce her—but what did it matter? Nothing mattered, in those first days o_upreme deliverance, but the fact that she was free; and not so much (she ha_egun to be aware) that freedom had released her from Tillotson as that it ha_iven her to Gannett. This discovery had not been agreeable to her self- esteem. She had preferred to think that Tillotson had himself embodied all he_easons for leaving him; and those he represented had seemed cogent enough t_tand in no need of reinforcement. Yet she had not left him till she me_annett. It was her love for Gannett that had made life with Tillotson so poo_nd incomplete a business. If she had never, from the first, regarded he_arriage as a full cancelling of her claims upon life, she had at least, for _umber of years, accepted it as a provisional compensation,—she had made it
  • "do." Existence in the commodious Tillotson mansion in Fifth Avenue—with Mrs.
  • Tillotson senior commanding the approaches from the second-story fron_indows—had been reduced to a series of purely automatic acts. The mora_tmosphere of the Tillotson interior was as carefully screened and curtaine_s the house itself: Mrs. Tillotson senior dreaded ideas as much as a draugh_n her back. Prudent people liked an even temperature; and to do anythin_nexpected was as foolish as going out in the rain. One of the chie_dvantages of being rich was that one need not be exposed to unforesee_ontingencies: by the use of ordinary firmness and common sense one could mak_ure of doing exactly the same thing every day at the same hour. Thes_octrines, reverentially imbibed with his mother's milk, Tillotson (a mode_on who had never given his parents an hour's anxiety) complacently expounde_o his wife, testifying to his sense of their importance by the regularit_ith which he wore goloshes on damp days, his punctuality at meals, and hi_laborate precautions against burglars and contagious diseases. Lydia, comin_rom a smaller town, and entering New York life through the portals of th_illotson mansion, had mechanically accepted this point of view as inseparabl_rom having a front pew in church and a parterre box at the opera. All th_eople who came to the house revolved in the same small circle of prejudices.
  • It was the kind of society in which, after dinner, the ladies compared th_xorbitant charges of their children's teachers, and agreed that, even wit_he new duties on French clothes, it was cheaper in the end to get everythin_rom Worth; while the husbands, over their cigars, lamented municipa_orruption, and decided that the men to start a reform were those who had n_rivate interests at stake.
  • To Lydia this view of life had become a matter of course, just as lumberin_bout in her mother-in-law's landau had come to seem the only possible mean_f locomotion, and listening every Sunday to a fashionable Presbyterian divin_he inevitable atonement for having thought oneself bored on the other si_ays of the week. Before she met Gannett her life had seemed merely dull: hi_oming made it appear like one of those dismal Cruikshank prints in which th_eople are all ugly and all engaged in occupations that are either vulgar o_tupid.
  • It was natural that Tillotson should be the chief sufferer from thi_eadjustment of focus. Gannett's nearness had made her husband ridiculous, an_ part of the ridicule had been reflected on herself. Her tolerance laid he_pen to a suspicion of obtuseness from which she must, at all costs, clea_erself in Gannett's eyes.
  • She did not understand this until afterwards. At the time she fancied that sh_ad merely reached the limits of endurance. In so large a charter of libertie_s the mere act of leaving Tillotson seemed to confer, the small question o_ivorce or no divorce did not count. It was when she saw that she had left he_usband only to be with Gannett that she perceived the significance o_nything affecting their relations. Her husband, in casting her off, ha_irtually flung her at Gannett: it was thus that the world viewed it. Th_easure of alacrity with which Gannett would receive her would be the subjec_f curious speculation over afternoon-tea tables and in club corners. She kne_hat would be said—she had heard it so often of others! The recollectio_athed her in misery. The men would probably back Gannett to "do the decen_hing"; but the ladies' eye-brows would emphasize the worthlessness of suc_nforced fidelity; and after all, they would be right. She had put herself i_ position where Gannett "owed" her something; where, as a gentleman, he wa_ound to "stand the damage." The idea of accepting such compensation had neve_rossed her mind; the so-called rehabilitation of such a marriage had alway_eemed to her the only real disgrace. What she dreaded was the necessity o_aving to explain herself; of having to combat his arguments; of calculating, in spite of herself, the exact measure of insistence with which he presse_hem. She knew not whether she most shrank from his insisting too much or to_ittle. In such a case the nicest sense of proportion might be at fault; an_ow easy to fall into the error of taking her resistance for a test of hi_incerity! Whichever way she turned, an ironical implication confronted her: she had the exasperated sense of having walked into the trap of some stupi_ractical joke.
  • Beneath all these preoccupations lurked the dread of what he was thinking.
  • Sooner or later, of course, he would have to speak; but that, in the meantime, he should think, even for a moment, that there was any use in speaking, seeme_o her simply unendurable. Her sensitiveness on this point was aggravated b_nother fear, as yet barely on the level of consciousness; the fear o_nwillingly involving Gannett in the trammels of her dependence. To look upo_im as the instrument of her liberation; to resist in herself the leas_endency to a wifely taking possession of his future; had seemed to Lydia th_ne way of maintaining the dignity of their relation. Her view had no_hanged, but she was aware of a growing inability to keep her thoughts fixe_n the essential point—the point of parting with Gannett. It was easy to fac_s long as she kept it sufficiently far off: but what was this act of menta_ostponement but a gradual encroachment on his future? What was needful wa_he courage to recognize the moment when, by some word or look, thei_oluntary fellowship should be transformed into a bondage the more wearin_hat it was based on none of those common obligations which make the mos_mperfect marriage in some sort a centre of gravity.
  • When the porter, at the next station, threw the door open, Lydia drew back, making way for the hoped-for intruder; but none came, and the train took u_ts leisurely progress through the spring wheat-fields and budding copses. Sh_ow began to hope that Gannett would speak before the next station. Sh_atched him furtively, half-disposed to return to the seat opposite his, bu_here was an artificiality about his absorption that restrained her. She ha_ever before seen him read with so conspicuous an air of warding of_nterruption. What could he be thinking of? Why should he be afraid to speak?
  • Or was it her answer that he dreaded?
  • The train paused for the passing of an express, and he put down his book an_eaned out of the window. Presently he turned to her with a smile. "There's _olly old villa out here," he said.
  • His easy tone relieved her, and she smiled back at him as she crossed over t_is corner.
  • Beyond the embankment, through the opening in a mossy wall, she caught sigh_f the villa, with its broken balustrades, its stagnant fountains, and th_tone satyr closing the perspective of a dusky grass-walk.
  • "How should you like to live there?" he asked as the train moved on.
  • "There?"
  • "In some such place, I mean. One might do worse, don't you think so? Ther_ust be at least two centuries of solitude under those yew-trees. Shouldn'_ou like it?"
  • "I—I don't know," she faltered. She knew now that he meant to speak.
  • He lit another cigarette. "We shall have to live somewhere, you know," he sai_s he bent above the match.
  • Lydia tried to speak carelessly. "_Je n'en vois pas la nécessité!_ Why no_ive everywhere, as we have been doing?"
  • "But we can't travel forever, can we?"
  • "Oh, forever's a long word," she objected, picking up the review he had throw_side.
  • "For the rest of our lives then," he said, moving nearer.
  • She made a slight gesture which caused his hand to slip from hers.
  • "Why should we make plans? I thought you agreed with me that it's pleasante_o drift."
  • He looked at her hesitatingly. "It's been pleasant, certainly; but I suppose _hall have to get at my work again some day. You know I haven't written a lin_ince—all this time," he hastily emended.
  • She flamed with sympathy and self-reproach. "Oh, if you mean _that_—if yo_ant to write—of course we must settle down. How stupid of me not to hav_hought of it sooner! Where shall we go? Where do you think you could wor_est? We oughtn't to lose any more time."
  • He hesitated again. "I had thought of a villa in these parts. It's quiet; w_houldn't be bothered. Should you like it?"
  • "Of course I should like it." She paused and looked away. "But I thought— _emember your telling me once that your best work had been done in a crowd—i_ig cities. Why should you shut yourself up in a desert?"
  • Gannett, for a moment, made no reply. At length he said, avoiding her eye a_arefully as she avoided his: "It might be different now; I can't tell, o_ourse, till I try. A writer ought not to be dependent on his _milieu_; it's _istake to humor oneself in that way; and I thought that just at first yo_ight prefer to be—"
  • She faced him. "To be what?"
  • "Well—quiet. I mean—"
  • "What do you mean by 'at first'?" she interrupted.
  • He paused again. "I mean after we are married."
  • She thrust up her chin and turned toward the window. "Thank you!" she tosse_ack at him.
  • "Lydia!" he exclaimed blankly; and she felt in every fibre of her averte_erson that he had made the inconceivable, the unpardonable mistake o_nticipating her acquiescence.
  • The train rattled on and he groped for a third cigarette. Lydia remaine_ilent.
  • "I haven't offended you?" he ventured at length, in the tone of a man wh_eels his way.
  • She shook her head with a sigh. "I thought you understood," she moaned. Thei_yes met and she moved back to his side.
  • "Do you want to know how not to offend me? By taking it for granted, once fo_ll, that you've said your say on this odious question and that I've sai_ine, and that we stand just where we did this morning before that— tha_ateful paper came to spoil everything between us!"
  • "To spoil everything between us? What on earth do you mean? Aren't you glad t_e free?"
  • "I was free before."
  • "Not to marry me," he suggested.
  • "But I don't want to marry you!" she cried.
  • She saw that he turned pale. "I'm obtuse, I suppose," he said slowly. "_onfess I don't see what you're driving at. Are you tired of the whol_usiness? Or was I simply a—an excuse for getting away? Perhaps you didn'_are to travel alone? Was that it? And now you want to chuck me?" His voic_ad grown harsh. "You owe me a straight answer, you know; don't be tender- hearted!"
  • Her eyes swam as she leaned to him. "Don't you see it's because I care— because I care so much? Oh, Ralph! Can't you see how it would humiliate me?
  • Try to feel it as a woman would! Don't you see the misery of being made you_ife in this way? If I'd known you as a girl—that would have been a rea_arriage! But now—this vulgar fraud upon society—and upon a society w_espised and laughed at—this sneaking back into a position that we'v_oluntarily forfeited: don't you see what a cheap compromise it is? We neithe_f us believe in the abstract 'sacredness' of marriage; we both know that n_eremony is needed to consecrate our love for each other; what object can w_ave in marrying, except the secret fear of each that the other may escape, o_he secret longing to work our way back gradually—oh, very gradually—into th_steem of the people whose conventional morality we have always ridiculed an_ated? And the very fact that, after a decent interval, these same peopl_ould come and dine with us—the women who talk about the indissolubility o_arriage, and who would let me die in a gutter to-day because I am 'leading _ife of sin'— doesn't that disgust you more than their turning their backs o_s now? I can stand being cut by them, but I couldn't stand their coming t_all and asking what I meant to do about visiting that unfortunate Mrs. So- and-so!"
  • She paused, and Gannett maintained a perplexed silence.
  • "You judge things too theoretically," he said at length, slowly. "Life is mad_p of compromises."
  • "The life we ran away from—yes! If we had been willing to accept them"— sh_lushed—"we might have gone on meeting each other at Mrs. Tillotson'_inners."
  • He smiled slightly. "I didn't know that we ran away to found a new system o_thics. I supposed it was because we loved each other."
  • "Life is complex, of course; isn't it the very recognition of that fact tha_eparates us from the people who see it _tout d'une pièce?_ If they ar_ight—if marriage is sacred in itself and the individual must always b_acrificed to the family—then there can be no real marriage between us, sinc_ur—our being together is a protest against the sacrifice of the individual t_he family." She interrupted herself with a laugh. "You'll say now that I'_iving you a lecture on sociology! Of course one acts as one can—as one must, perhaps—pulled by all sorts of invisible threads; but at least one needn'_retend, for social advantages, to subscribe to a creed that ignores th_omplexity of human motives—that classifies people by arbitrary signs, an_uts it in everybody's reach to be on Mrs. Tillotson's visiting-list. It ma_e necessary that the world should be ruled by conventions—but if we believe_n them, why did we break through them? And if we don't believe in them, is i_onest to take advantage of the protection they afford?"
  • Gannett hesitated. "One may believe in them or not; but as long as they d_ule the world it is only by taking advantage of their protection that one ca_ind a _modus vivendi."_
  • "Do outlaws need a _modus vivendi?"_
  • He looked at her hopelessly. Nothing is more perplexing to man than the menta_rocess of a woman who reasons her emotions.
  • She thought she had scored a point and followed it up passionately. "You d_nderstand, don't you? You see how the very thought of the thing humiliate_e! We are together to-day because we choose to be—don't let us look an_arther than that!" She caught his hands. "Promise me you'll never speak of i_gain; promise me you'll never think of it even," she implored, with a tearfu_rodigality of italics.
  • Through what followed—his protests, his arguments, his final unconvince_ubmission to her wishes—she had a sense of his but half-discerning all that, for her, had made the moment so tumultuous. They had reached that memorabl_oint in every heart-history when, for the first time, the man seems obtus_nd the woman irrational. It was the abundance of his intentions that console_er, on reflection, for what they lacked in quality. After all, it would hav_een worse, incalculably worse, to have detected any over-readiness t_nderstand her.
  • When the train at night-fall brought them to their journey's end at the edg_f one of the lakes, Lydia was glad that they were not, as usual, to pass fro_ne solitude to another. Their wanderings during the year had indeed been lik_he flight of outlaws: through Sicily, Dalmatia, Transylvania and Souther_taly they had persisted in their tacit avoidance of their kind. Isolation, a_irst, had deepened the flavor of their happiness, as night intensifies th_cent of certain flowers; but in the new phase on which they were entering, Lydia's chief wish was that they should be less abnormally exposed to th_ction of each other's thoughts.
  • She shrank, nevertheless, as the brightly-looming bulk of the fashionabl_nglo-American hotel on the water's brink began to radiate toward thei_dvancing boat its vivid suggestion of social order, visitors' lists, Churc_ervices, and the bland inquisition of the _table-d'hôte_. The mere fact tha_n a moment or two she must take her place on the hotel register as Mrs.
  • Gannett seemed to weaken the springs of her resistance.
  • They had meant to stay for a night only, on their way to a lofty village amon_he glaciers of Monte Rosa; but after the first plunge into publicity, whe_hey entered the dining-room, Lydia felt the relief of being lost in a crowd, of ceasing for a moment to be the centre of Gannett's scrutiny; and in hi_ace she caught the reflection of her feeling. After dinner, when she wen_pstairs, he strolled into the smoking-room, and an hour or two later, sittin_n the darkness of her window, she heard his voice below and saw him walkin_p and down the terrace with a companion cigar at his side. When he came up h_old her he had been talking to the hotel chaplain—a very good sort of fellow.
  • "Queer little microcosms, these hotels! Most of these people live here al_ummer and then migrate to Italy or the Riviera. The English are the onl_eople who can lead that kind of life with dignity—those soft-voiced ol_adies in Shetland shawls somehow carry the British Empire under their caps.
  • Civis Romanus sum. It's a curious study—there might be some good things t_ork up here."
  • He stood before her with the vivid preoccupied stare of the novelist on th_rail of a "subject." With a relief that was half painful she noticed that, for the first time since they had been together, he was hardly aware of he_resence. "Do you think you could write here?"
  • "Here? I don't know." His stare dropped. "After being out of things so lon_ne's first impressions are bound to be tremendously vivid, you know. I see _ozen threads already that one might follow—"
  • He broke off with a touch of embarrassment.
  • "Then follow them. We'll stay," she said with sudden decision.
  • "Stay here?" He glanced at her in surprise, and then, walking to the window, looked out upon the dusky slumber of the garden.
  • "Why not?" she said at length, in a tone of veiled irritation.
  • "The place is full of old cats in caps who gossip with the chaplain. Shall yo_ike—I mean, it would be different if—"
  • She flamed up.
  • "Do you suppose I care? It's none of their business."
  • "Of course not; but you won't get them to think so."
  • "They may think what they please."
  • He looked at her doubtfully.
  • "It's for you to decide."
  • "We'll stay," she repeated.
  • Gannett, before they met, had made himself known as a successful writer o_hort stories and of a novel which had achieved the distinction of bein_idely discussed. The reviewers called him "promising," and Lydia now accuse_erself of having too long interfered with the fulfilment of his promise.
  • There was a special irony in the fact, since his passionate assurances tha_nly the stimulus of her companionship could bring out his latent faculty ha_lmost given the dignity of a "vocation" to her course: there had been moment_hen she had felt unable to assume, before posterity, the responsibility o_hwarting his career. And, after all, he had not written a line since they ha_een together: his first desire to write had come from renewed contact wit_he world! Was it all a mistake then? Must the most intelligent choice wor_ore disastrously than the blundering combinations of chance? Or was there _till more humiliating answer to her perplexities? His sudden impulse o_ctivity so exactly coincided with her own wish to withdraw, for a time, fro_he range of his observation, that she wondered if he too were not seekin_anctuary from intolerable problems.
  • "You must begin to-morrow!" she cried, hiding a tremor under the laugh wit_hich she added, "I wonder if there's any ink in the inkstand?"
  • Whatever else they had at the Hotel Bellosguardo, they had, as Miss Pinsen_aid, "a certain tone." It was to Lady Susan Condit that they owed thi_nestimable benefit; an advantage ranking in Miss Pinsent's opinion above eve_he lawn tennis courts and the resident chaplain. It was the fact of Lad_usan's annual visit that made the hotel what it was. Miss Pinsent wa_ertainly the last to underrate such a privilege:—"It's so important, my dear, forming as we do a little family, that there should be some one to give _th_one_; and no one could do it better than Lady Susan—an earl's daughter and _erson of such determination. Dear Mrs. Ainger now—who really ought, you know, when Lady Susan's away— absolutely refuses to assert herself." Miss Pinsen_niffed derisively. "A bishop's niece!—my dear, I saw her once actually giv_n to some South Americans—and before us all. She gave up her seat at table t_blige them—such a lack of dignity! Lady Susan spoke to her very plainly abou_t afterwards."
  • Miss Pinsent glanced across the lake and adjusted her auburn front.
  • "But of course I don't deny that the stand Lady Susan takes is not always eas_o live up to—for the rest of us, I mean. Monsieur Grossart, our goo_roprietor, finds it trying at times, I know—he has said as much, privately, to Mrs. Ainger and me. After all, the poor man is not to blame for wanting t_ill his hotel, is he? And Lady Susan is so difficult—so very difficult—abou_ew people. One might almost say that she disapproves of them beforehand, o_rinciple. And yet she's had warnings— she very nearly made a dreadful mistak_nce with the Duchess of Levens, who dyed her hair and—well, swore and smoked.
  • One would have thought that might have been a lesson to Lady Susan." Mis_insent resumed her knitting with a sigh. "There are exceptions, of course.
  • She took at once to you and Mr. Gannett—it was quite remarkable, really. Oh, _on't mean that either—of course not! It was perfectly natural—we all though_ou so charming and interesting from the first day—we knew at once that Mr.
  • Gannett was intellectual, by the magazines you took in; but you know what _ean. Lady Susan is so very—well, I won't say prejudiced, as Mrs. Ainge_oes—but so prepared not to like new people, that her taking to you in tha_ay was a surprise to us all, I confess."
  • Miss Pinsent sent a significant glance down the long laurustinus alley fro_he other end of which two people—a lady and gentleman—were strolling towar_hem through the smiling neglect of the garden.
  • "In this case, of course, it's very different; that I'm willing to admit.
  • Their looks are against them; but, as Mrs. Ainger says, one can't exactly tel_hem so."
  • "She's very handsome," Lydia ventured, with her eyes on the lady, who showed, under the dome of a vivid sunshade, the hour-glass figure and superlativ_oloring of a Christmas chromo.
  • "That's the worst of it. She's too handsome."
  • "Well, after all, she can't help that."
  • "Other people manage to," said Miss Pinsent skeptically.
  • "But isn't it rather unfair of Lady Susan—considering that nothing is know_bout them?"
  • "But, my dear, that's the very thing that's against them. It's infinitel_orse than any actual knowledge."
  • Lydia mentally agreed that, in the case of Mrs. Linton, it possibly might be.
  • "I wonder why they came here?" she mused.
  • "That's against them too. It's always a bad sign when loud people come to _uiet place. And they've brought van-loads of boxes—her maid told Mrs.
  • Ainger's that they meant to stop indefinitely."
  • "And Lady Susan actually turned her back on her in the _salon?_"
  • "My dear, she said it was for our sakes: that makes it so unanswerable! Bu_oor Grossart is in a way! The Lintons have taken his most expensive suite, you know—the yellow damask drawing-room above the portico—and they hav_hampagne with every meal!"
  • They were silent as Mr. and Mrs. Linton sauntered by; the lady wit_empestuous brows and challenging chin; the gentleman, a blond stripling, trailing after her, head downward, like a reluctant child dragged by hi_urse.
  • "What does your husband think of them, my dear?" Miss Pinsent whispered a_hey passed out of earshot.
  • Lydia stooped to pick a violet in the border.
  • "He hasn't told me."
  • "Of your speaking to them, I mean. Would he approve of that? I know how ver_articular nice Americans are. I think your action might make a difference; i_ould certainly carry weight with Lady Susan."
  • "Dear Miss Pinsent, you flatter me!"
  • Lydia rose and gathered up her book and sunshade.
  • "Well, if you're asked for an opinion—if Lady Susan asks you for one—I thin_ou ought to be prepared," Miss Pinsent admonished her as she moved away.
  • Lady Susan held her own. She ignored the Lintons, and her little family, a_iss Pinsent phrased it, followed suit. Even Mrs. Ainger agreed that it wa_bligatory. If Lady Susan owed it to the others not to speak to the Lintons, the others clearly owed it to Lady Susan to back her up. It was generall_ound expedient, at the Hotel Bellosguardo, to adopt this form of reasoning.
  • Whatever effect this combined action may have had upon the Lintons, it did no_t least have that of driving them away. Monsieur Grossart, after a few day_f suspense, had the satisfaction of seeing them settle down in his yello_amask premier with what looked like a permanent installation of palm-tree_nd silk sofa-cushions, and a gratifying continuance in the consumption o_hampagne. Mrs. Linton trailed her Doucet draperies up and down the garde_ith the same challenging air, while her husband, smoking innumerabl_igarettes, dragged himself dejectedly in her wake; but neither of them, afte_he first encounter with Lady Susan, made any attempt to extend thei_cquaintance. They simply ignored their ignorers. As Miss Pinsent resentfull_bserved, they behaved exactly as though the hotel were empty.
  • It was therefore a matter of surprise, as well as of displeasure, to Lydia, t_ind, on glancing up one day from her seat in the garden, that the shado_hich had fallen across her book was that of the enigmatic Mrs. Linton.
  • "I want to speak to you," that lady said, in a rich hard voice that seemed th_udible expression of her gown and her complexion.
  • Lydia started. She certainly did not want to speak to Mrs. Linton.
  • "Shall I sit down here?" the latter continued, fixing her intensely-shade_yes on Lydia's face, "or are you afraid of being seen with me?"
  • "Afraid?" Lydia colored. "Sit down, please. What is it that you wish to say?"
  • Mrs. Linton, with a smile, drew up a garden-chair and crossed one open- wor_nkle above the other.
  • "I want you to tell me what my husband said to your husband last night."
  • Lydia turned pale.
  • "My husband—to yours?" she faltered, staring at the other.
  • "Didn't you know they were closeted together for hours in the smoking-roo_fter you went upstairs? My man didn't get to bed until nearly two o'clock an_hen he did I couldn't get a word out of him. When he wants to be aggravatin_'ll back him against anybody living!" Her teeth and eyes flashed persuasivel_pon Lydia. "But you'll tell me what they were talking about, won't you? _now I can trust you—you look so awfully kind. And it's for his own good. He'_uch a precious donkey and I'm so afraid he's got into some beastly scrape o_ther. If he'd only trust his own old woman! But they're always writing to hi_nd setting him against me. And I've got nobody to turn to." She laid her han_n Lydia's with a rattle of bracelets. "You'll help me, won't you?"
  • Lydia drew back from the smiling fierceness of her brows.
  • "I'm sorry—but I don't think I understand. My husband has said nothing to m_f—of yours."
  • The great black crescents above Mrs. Linton's eyes met angrily.
  • "I say—is that true?" she demanded.
  • Lydia rose from her seat.
  • "Oh, look here, I didn't mean that, you know—you mustn't take one up so! Can'_ou see how rattled I am?"
  • Lydia saw that, in fact, her beautiful mouth was quivering beneath softene_yes.
  • "I'm beside myself!" the splendid creature wailed, dropping into her seat.
  • "I'm so sorry," Lydia repeated, forcing herself to speak kindly; "but how ca_ help you?"
  • Mrs. Linton raised her head sharply.
  • "By finding out—there's a darling!"
  • "Finding what out?"
  • "What Trevenna told him."
  • "Trevenna—?" Lydia echoed in bewilderment.
  • Mrs. Linton clapped her hand to her mouth.
  • "Oh, Lord—there, it's out! What a fool I am! But I supposed of course yo_new; I supposed everybody knew." She dried her eyes and bridled. "Didn't yo_now that he's Lord Trevenna? I'm Mrs. Cope."
  • Lydia recognized the names. They had figured in a flamboyant elopement whic_ad thrilled fashionable London some six months earlier.
  • "Now you see how it is—you understand, don't you?" Mrs. Cope continued on _ote of appeal. "I knew you would—that's the reason I came to you. I suppos_e felt the same thing about your husband; he's not spoken to another soul i_he place." Her face grew anxious again. "He's awfully sensitive, generally—h_eels our position, he says—as if it wasn't my place to feel that! But when h_oes get talking there's no knowing what he'll say. I know he's been broodin_ver something lately, and I must find out what it is—it's to his interes_hat I should. I always tell him that I think only of his interest; if he'_nly trust me! But he's been so odd lately—I can't think what he's plotting.
  • You will help me, dear?"
  • Lydia, who had remained standing, looked away uncomfortably.
  • "If you mean by finding out what Lord Trevenna has told my husband, I'm afrai_t's impossible."
  • "Why impossible?"
  • "Because I infer that it was told in confidence."
  • Mrs. Cope stared incredulously.
  • "Well, what of that? Your husband looks such a dear—any one can see he'_wfully gone on you. What's to prevent your getting it out of him?"
  • Lydia flushed.
  • "I'm not a spy!" she exclaimed.
  • "A spy—a spy? How dare you?" Mrs. Cope flamed out. "Oh, I don't mean tha_ither! Don't be angry with me—I'm so miserable." She essayed a softer note.
  • "Do you call that spying—for one woman to help out another? I do need help s_readfully! I'm at my wits' end with Trevenna, I am indeed. He's such a boy—_ere baby, you know; he's only two-and-twenty." She dropped her orbed lids.
  • "He's younger than me—only fancy! a few months younger. I tell him he ought t_isten to me as if I was his mother; oughtn't he now? But he won't, he won't!
  • All his people are at him, you see—oh, I know their little game! Trying to ge_im away from me before I can get my divorce—that's what they're up to. A_irst he wouldn't listen to them; he used to toss their letters over to me t_ead; but now he reads them himself, and answers 'em too, I fancy; he's alway_hut up in his room, writing. If I only knew what his plan is I could stop hi_ast enough—he's such a simpleton. But he's dreadfully deep too—at times _an't make him out. But I know he's told your husband everything—I knew tha_ast night the minute I laid eyes on him. And I must find out—you must hel_e—I've got no one else to turn to!"
  • She caught Lydia's fingers in a stormy pressure.
  • "Say you'll help me—you and your husband."
  • Lydia tried to free herself.
  • "What you ask is impossible; you must see that it is. No one could interfer_n—in the way you ask."
  • Mrs. Cope's clutch tightened.
  • "You won't, then? You won't?"
  • "Certainly not. Let me go, please."
  • Mrs. Cope released her with a laugh.
  • "Oh, go by all means—pray don't let me detain you! Shall you go and tell Lad_usan Condit that there's a pair of us—or shall I save you the trouble o_nlightening her?"
  • Lydia stood still in the middle of the path, seeing her antagonist through _ist of terror. Mrs. Cope was still laughing.
  • "Oh, I'm not spiteful by nature, my dear; but you're a little more than fles_nd blood can stand! It's impossible, is it? Let you go, indeed! You're to_ood to be mixed up in my affairs, are you? Why, you little fool, the firs_ay I laid eyes on you I saw that you and I were both in the same box—that'_he reason I spoke to you."
  • She stepped nearer, her smile dilating on Lydia like a lamp through a fog.
  • "You can take your choice, you know; I always play fair. If you'll tell I'l_romise not to. Now then, which is it to be?"
  • Lydia, involuntarily, had begun to move away from the pelting storm of words; but at this she turned and sat down again.
  • "You may go," she said simply. "I shall stay here."
  • She stayed there for a long time, in the hypnotized contemplation, not of Mrs.
  • Cope's present, but of her own past. Gannett, early that morning, had gone of_n a long walk—he had fallen into the habit of taking these mountain-tramp_ith various fellow-lodgers; but even had he been within reach she could no_ave gone to him just then. She had to deal with herself first. She wa_urprised to find how, in the last months, she had lost the habit o_ntrospection. Since their coming to the Hotel Bellosguardo she and Gannet_ad tacitly avoided themselves and each other.
  • She was aroused by the whistle of the three o'clock steamboat as it neared th_anding just beyond the hotel gates. Three o'clock! Then Gannett would soon b_ack—he had told her to expect him before four. She rose hurriedly, her fac_verted from the inquisitorial facade of the hotel. She could not see him jus_et; she could not go indoors. She slipped through one of the overgrow_arden-alleys and climbed a steep path to the hills.
  • It was dark when she opened their sitting-room door. Gannett was sitting o_he window-ledge smoking a cigarette. Cigarettes were now his chief resource: he had not written a line during the two months they had spent at the Hote_ellosguardo. In that respect, it had turned out not to be the right milie_fter all.
  • He started up at Lydia's entrance.
  • "Where have you been? I was getting anxious."
  • She sat down in a chair near the door.
  • "Up the mountain," she said wearily.
  • "Alone?"
  • "Yes."
  • Gannett threw away his cigarette: the sound of her voice made him want to se_er face.
  • "Shall we have a little light?" he suggested.
  • She made no answer and he lifted the globe from the lamp and put a match t_he wick. Then he looked at her.
  • "Anything wrong? You look done up."
  • She sat glancing vaguely about the little sitting-room, dimly lit by th_allid-globed lamp, which left in twilight the outlines of the furniture, o_is writing-table heaped with books and papers, of the tea-roses and jasmin_rooping on the mantel-piece. How like home it had all grown—how like home!
  • "Lydia, what is wrong?" he repeated.
  • She moved away from him, feeling for her hatpins and turning to lay her ha_nd sunshade on the table.
  • Suddenly she said: "That woman has been talking to me."
  • Gannett stared.
  • "That woman? What woman?"
  • "Mrs. Linton—Mrs. Cope."
  • He gave a start of annoyance, still, as she perceived, not grasping the ful_mport of her words.
  • "The deuce! She told you—?"
  • "She told me everything."
  • Gannett looked at her anxiously.
  • "What impudence! I'm so sorry that you should have been exposed to this, dear."
  • "Exposed!" Lydia laughed.
  • Gannett's brow clouded and they looked away from each other.
  • "Do you know why she told me? She had the best of reasons. The first time sh_aid eyes on me she saw that we were both in the same box."
  • "Lydia!"
  • "So it was natural, of course, that she should turn to me in a difficulty."
  • "What difficulty?"
  • "It seems she has reason to think that Lord Trevenna's people are trying t_et him away from her before she gets her divorce—"
  • "Well?"
  • "And she fancied he had been consulting with you last night as to—as to th_est way of escaping from her."
  • Gannett stood up with an angry forehead.
  • "Well—what concern of yours was all this dirty business? Why should she go t_ou?"
  • "Don't you see? It's so simple. I was to wheedle his secret out of you."
  • "To oblige that woman?"
  • "Yes; or, if I was unwilling to oblige her, then to protect myself."
  • "To protect yourself? Against whom?"
  • "Against her telling every one in the hotel that she and I are in the sam_ox."
  • "She threatened that?"
  • "She left me the choice of telling it myself or of doing it for me."
  • "The beast!"
  • There was a long silence. Lydia had seated herself on the sofa, beyond th_adius of the lamp, and he leaned against the window. His next questio_urprised her.
  • "When did this happen? At what time, I mean?" She looked at him vaguely.
  • "I don't know—after luncheon, I think. Yes, I remember; it must have been a_bout three o'clock."
  • He stepped into the middle of the room and as he approached the light she sa_hat his brow had cleared.
  • "Why do you ask?" she said.
  • "Because when I came in, at about half-past three, the mail was just bein_istributed, and Mrs. Cope was waiting as usual to pounce on her letters; yo_now she was always watching for the postman. She was standing so close to m_hat I couldn't help seeing a big official-looking envelope that was handed t_er. She tore it open, gave one look at the inside, and rushed off upstair_ike a whirlwind, with the director shouting after her that she had left al_er other letters behind. I don't believe she ever thought of you again afte_hat paper was put into her hand."
  • "Why?"
  • "Because she was too busy. I was sitting in the window, watching for you, whe_he five o'clock boat left, and who should go on board, bag and baggage, vale_nd maid, dressing-bags and poodle, but Mrs. Cope and Trevenna. Just an hou_nd a half to pack up in! And you should have seen her when they started. Sh_as radiant—shaking hands with everybody— waving her handkerchief from th_eck—distributing bows and smiles like an empress. If ever a woman got wha_he wanted just in the nick of time that woman did. She'll be Lady Trevenn_ithin a week, I'll wager."
  • "You think she has her divorce?"
  • "I'm sure of it. And she must have got it just after her talk with you."
  • Lydia was silent.
  • At length she said, with a kind of reluctance, "She was horribly angry whe_he left me. It wouldn't have taken long to tell Lady Susan Condit."
  • "Lady Susan Condit has not been told."
  • "How do you know?"
  • "Because when I went downstairs half an hour ago I met Lady Susan on the way—"
  • He stopped, half smiling.
  • "Well?"
  • "And she stopped to ask if I thought you would act as patroness to a charit_oncert she is getting up."
  • In spite of themselves they both broke into a laugh. Lydia's ended in sobs an_he sank down with her face hidden. Gannett bent over her, seeking her hands.
  • "That vile woman—I ought to have warned you to keep away from her; I can'_orgive myself! But he spoke to me in confidence; and I never dreamed—well, it's all over now."
  • Lydia lifted her head.
  • "Not for me. It's only just beginning."
  • "What do you mean?"
  • She put him gently aside and moved in her turn to the window. Then she wen_n, with her face turned toward the shimmering blackness of the lake, "You se_f course that it might happen again at any moment."
  • "What?"
  • "This—this risk of being found out. And we could hardly count again on such _ucky combination of chances, could we?"
  • He sat down with a groan.
  • Still keeping her face toward the darkness, she said, "I want you to go an_ell Lady Susan—and the others."
  • Gannett, who had moved towards her, paused a few feet off.
  • "Why do you wish me to do this?" he said at length, with less surprise in hi_oice than she had been prepared for.
  • "Because I've behaved basely, abominably, since we came here: letting thes_eople believe we were married—lying with every breath I drew—"
  • "Yes, I've felt that too," Gannett exclaimed with sudden energy.
  • The words shook her like a tempest: all her thoughts seemed to fall about he_n ruins.
  • "You—you've felt so?"
  • "Of course I have." He spoke with low-voiced vehemence. "Do you suppose I lik_laying the sneak any better than you do? It's damnable."
  • He had dropped on the arm of a chair, and they stared at each other like blin_eople who suddenly see.
  • "But you have liked it here," she faltered.
  • "Oh, I've liked it—I've liked it." He moved impatiently. "Haven't you?"
  • "Yes," she burst out; "that's the worst of it—that's what I can't bear. _ancied it was for your sake that I insisted on staying—because you though_ou could write here; and perhaps just at first that really was the reason.
  • But afterwards I wanted to stay myself—I loved it." She broke into a laugh.
  • "Oh, do you see the full derision of it? These people—the very prototypes o_he bores you took me away from, with the same fenced— in view of life, th_ame keep-off-the-grass morality, the same little cautious virtues and th_ame little frightened vices—well, I've clung to them, I've delighted in them, I've done my best to please them. I've toadied Lady Susan, I've gossiped wit_iss Pinsent, I've pretended to be shocked with Mrs. Ainger. Respectability!
  • It was the one thing in life that I was sure I didn't care about, and it'_rown so precious to me that I've stolen it because I couldn't get it in an_ther way."
  • She moved across the room and returned to his side with another laugh.
  • "I who used to fancy myself unconventional! I must have been born with a card- case in my hand. You should have seen me with that poor woman in the garden.
  • She came to me for help, poor creature, because she fancied that, having
  • 'sinned,' as they call it, I might feel some pity for others who had bee_empted in the same way. Not I! She didn't know me. Lady Susan would have bee_inder, because Lady Susan wouldn't have been afraid. I hated the woman—my on_hought was not to be seen with her—I could have killed her for guessing m_ecret. The one thing that mattered to me at that moment was my standing wit_ady Susan!"
  • Gannett did not speak.
  • "And you—you've felt it too!" she broke out accusingly. "You've enjoyed bein_ith these people as much as I have; you've let the chaplain talk to you b_he hour about 'The Reign of Law' and Professor Drummond. When they asked yo_o hand the plate in church I was watching you—_you wanted to accept."_
  • She stepped close, laying her hand on his arm.
  • "Do you know, I begin to see what marriage is for. It's to keep people awa_rom each other. Sometimes I think that two people who love each other can b_aved from madness only by the things that come between them—children, duties, visits, bores, relations—the things that protect married people from eac_ther. We've been too close together—that has been our sin. We've seen th_akedness of each other's souls."
  • She sank again on the sofa, hiding her face in her hands.
  • Gannett stood above her perplexedly: he felt as though she were being swep_way by some implacable current while he stood helpless on its bank.
  • At length he said, "Lydia, don't think me a brute—but don't you see yoursel_hat it won't do?"
  • "Yes, I see it won't do," she said without raising her head.
  • His face cleared.
  • "Then we'll go to-morrow."
  • "Go—where?"
  • "To Paris; to be married."
  • For a long time she made no answer; then she asked slowly, "Would they have u_ere if we were married?"
  • "Have us here?"
  • "I mean Lady Susan—and the others."
  • "Have us here? Of course they would."
  • "Not if they knew—at least, not unless they could pretend not to know."
  • He made an impatient gesture.
  • "We shouldn't come back here, of course; and other people needn't know—no on_eed know."
  • She sighed. "Then it's only another form of deception and a meaner one. Don'_ou see that?"
  • "I see that we're not accountable to any Lady Susans on earth!"
  • "Then why are you ashamed of what we are doing here?"
  • "Because I'm sick of pretending that you're my wife when you're not—when yo_on't be."
  • She looked at him sadly.
  • "If I were your wife you'd have to go on pretending. You'd have to preten_hat I'd never been—anything else. And our friends would have to pretend tha_hey believed what you pretended."
  • Gannett pulled off the sofa-tassel and flung it away.
  • "You're impossible," he groaned.
  • "It's not I—it's our being together that's impossible. I only want you to se_hat marriage won't help it."
  • "What will help it then?"
  • She raised her head.
  • "My leaving you."
  • "Your leaving me?" He sat motionless, staring at the tassel which lay at th_ther end of the room. At length some impulse of retaliation for the pain sh_as inflicting made him say deliberately:
  • "And where would you go if you left me?"
  • "Oh!" she cried.
  • He was at her side in an instant.
  • "Lydia—Lydia—you know I didn't mean it; I couldn't mean it! But you've drive_e out of my senses; I don't know what I'm saying. Can't you get out of thi_abyrinth of self-torture? It's destroying us both."
  • "That's why I must leave you."
  • "How easily you say it!" He drew her hands down and made her face him. "You'r_ery scrupulous about yourself—and others. But have you thought of me? Yo_ave no right to leave me unless you've ceased to care—"
  • "It's because I care—"
  • "Then I have a right to be heard. If you love me you can't leave me."
  • Her eyes defied him.
  • "Why not?"
  • He dropped her hands and rose from her side.
  • "Can you?" he said sadly.
  • The hour was late and the lamp flickered and sank. She stood up with a shive_nd turned toward the door of her room.
  • At daylight a sound in Lydia's room woke Gannett from a troubled sleep. He sa_p and listened. She was moving about softly, as though fearful of disturbin_im. He heard her push back one of the creaking shutters; then there was _oment's silence, which seemed to indicate that she was waiting to see if th_oise had roused him.
  • Presently she began to move again. She had spent a sleepless night, probably, and was dressing to go down to the garden for a breath of air. Gannett ros_lso; but some undefinable instinct made his movements as cautious as hers. H_tole to his window and looked out through the slats of the shutter.
  • It had rained in the night and the dawn was gray and lifeless. The cloud- muffled hills across the lake were reflected in its surface as in a tarnishe_irror. In the garden, the birds were beginning to shake the drops from th_otionless laurustinus-boughs.
  • An immense pity for Lydia filled Gannett's soul. Her seeming intellectua_ndependence had blinded him for a time to the feminine cast of her mind. H_ad never thought of her as a woman who wept and clung: there was a lucidit_n her intuitions that made them appear to be the result of reasoning. Now h_aw the cruelty he had committed in detaching her from the normal condition_f life; he felt, too, the insight with which she had hit upon the real caus_f their suffering. Their life was "impossible," as she had said—and its wors_enalty was that it had made any other life impossible for them. Even had hi_ove lessened, he was bound to her now by a hundred ties of pity and self- reproach; and she, poor child! must turn back to him as Latude returned to hi_ell… .
  • A new sound startled him: it was the stealthy closing of Lydia's door. H_rept to his own and heard her footsteps passing down the corridor. Then h_ent back to the window and looked out.
  • A minute or two later he saw her go down the steps of the porch and enter th_arden. From his post of observation her face was invisible, but somethin_bout her appearance struck him. She wore a long travelling cloak and unde_ts folds he detected the outline of a bag or bundle. He drew a deep breat_nd stood watching her.
  • She walked quickly down the laurustinus alley toward the gate; there sh_aused a moment, glancing about the little shady square. The stone benche_nder the trees were empty, and she seemed to gather resolution from th_olitude about her, for she crossed the square to the steam-boat landing, an_e saw her pause before the ticket-office at the head of the wharf. Now sh_as buying her ticket. Gannett turned his head a moment to look at the clock: the boat was due in five minutes. He had time to jump into his clothes an_vertake her—
  • He made no attempt to move; an obscure reluctance restrained him. If an_hought emerged from the tumult of his sensations, it was that he must let he_o if she wished it. He had spoken last night of his rights: what were they?
  • At the last issue, he and she were two separate beings, not made one by th_iracle of common forbearances, duties, abnegations, but bound together in _oyade of passion that left them resisting yet clinging as they went down.
  • After buying her ticket, Lydia had stood for a moment looking out across th_ake; then he saw her seat herself on one of the benches near the landing. H_nd she, at that moment, were both listening for the same sound: the whistl_f the boat as it rounded the nearest promontory. Gannett turned again t_lance at the clock: the boat was due now.
  • Where would she go? What would her life be when she had left him? She had n_ear relations and few friends. There was money enough … but she asked so muc_f life, in ways so complex and immaterial. He thought of her as walking bare- footed through a stony waste. No one would understand her—no one would pit_er—and he, who did both, was powerless to come to her aid… .
  • He saw that she had risen from the bench and walked toward the edge of th_ake. She stood looking in the direction from which the steamboat was to come; then she turned to the ticket-office, doubtless to ask the cause of the delay.
  • After that she went back to the bench and sat down with bent head. What wa_he thinking of?
  • The whistle sounded; she started up, and Gannett involuntarily made a movemen_oward the door. But he turned back and continued to watch her. She stoo_otionless, her eyes on the trail of smoke that preceded the appearance of th_oat. Then the little craft rounded the point, a dead- white object on th_eaden water: a minute later it was puffing and backing at the wharf.
  • The few passengers who were waiting—two or three peasants and a snuff_riest—were clustered near the ticket-office. Lydia stood apart under th_rees.
  • The boat lay alongside now; the gang-plank was run out and the peasants wen_n board with their baskets of vegetables, followed by the priest. Still Lydi_id not move. A bell began to ring querulously; there was a shriek of steam, and some one must have called to her that she would be late, for she starte_orward, as though in answer to a summons. She moved waveringly, and at th_dge of the wharf she paused. Gannett saw a sailor beckon to her; the bel_ang again and she stepped upon the gang-plank.
  • Half-way down the short incline to the deck she stopped again; then she turne_nd ran back to the land. The gang-plank was drawn in, the bell ceased t_ing, and the boat backed out into the lake. Lydia, with slow steps, wa_alking toward the garden… .
  • As she approached the hotel she looked up furtively and Gannett drew back int_he room. He sat down beside a table; a Bradshaw lay at his elbow, an_echanically, without knowing what he did, he began looking out the trains t_aris… .