Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous

Chapter 10

  • "That will matter little," I presently replied. "Telling you will do no good."
  • "Ah, why do you say that?" murmured Aurora Church.
  • I said it partly because it was true; but I said it for other reasons as well, which it was hard to define. Standing there bare-headed, in the night air, i_he vague light, this young lady looked extremely interesting; and th_nterest of her appearance was not diminished by a suspicion on my own par_hat she had come into the garden knowing me to be there. I thought her _harming girl, and I felt very sorry for her; but, as I looked at her, th_erms in which Madame Beaurepas had ventured to characterise her recurred t_e with a certain force. I had professed a contempt for them at the time, bu_t now came into my head that perhaps this unfortunately situated, thi_nsidiously mutinous young creature, was looking out for a preserver. She wa_ertainly not a girl to throw herself at a man's head, but it was possibl_hat in her intense—her almost morbid-desire to put into effect an ideal whic_as perhaps after all charged with as many fallacies as her mother affirmed, she might do something reckless and irregular—something in which a sympatheti_ompatriot, as yet unknown, would find his profit. The image, unshaped thoug_t was, of this sympathetic compatriot, filled me with a sort of envy. Fo_ome moments I was silent, conscious of these things, and then I answered he_uestion. "Because some things—some differences are felt, not learned. To yo_iberty is not natural; you are like a person who has bought a repeater, and, in his satisfaction, is constantly making it sound. To a real American gir_er liberty is a very vulgarly-ticking old clock."
  • "Ah, you mean, then," said the poor girl, "that my mother has ruined me?"
  • "Ruined you?"
  • "She has so perverted my mind, that when I try to be natural I am necessaril_mmodest."
  • "That again is a false note," I said, laughing.
  • She turned away. "I think you are cruel."
  • "By no means," I declared; "because, for my own taste, I prefer you as—as—"
  • I hesitated, and she turned back. "As what?"
  • "As you are."
  • She looked at me a while again, and then she said, in a little reasoning voic_hat reminded me of her mother's, only that it was conscious and studied, "_as not aware that I am under any particular obligation to please you!" An_hen she gave a clear laugh, quite at variance with her voice.
  • "Oh, there is no obligation," I said, "but one has preferences. I am ver_orry you are going away."
  • "What does it matter to you? You are going yourself."
  • "As I am going in a different direction that makes all the greate_eparation."
  • She answered nothing; she stood looking through the bars of the tall gate a_he empty, dusky street. "This grille is like a cage," she said, at last.
  • "Fortunately, it is a cage that will open." And I laid my hand on the lock.
  • "Don't open it," and she pressed the gate back. "If you should open it I woul_o out—and never return."
  • "Where should you go?"
  • "To America."
  • "Straight away?"
  • "Somehow or other. I would go to the American consul. I would beg him to giv_e money—to help me."
  • I received this assertion without a smile; I was not in a smiling humour. O_he contrary, I felt singularly excited, and I kept my hand on the lock of th_ate. I believed (or I thought I believed) what my companion said, and _ad—absurd as it may appear—an irritated vision of her throwing herself upo_onsular sympathy. It seemed to me, for a moment, that to pass out of tha_ate with this yearning, straining, young creature, would be to pass into som_ysterious felicity. If I were only a hero of romance, I would offer, myself, to take her to America.
  • In a moment more, perhaps, I should have persuaded myself that I was one, bu_t this juncture I heard a sound that was not romantic. It proved to be th_ery realistic tread of Celestine, the cook, who stood grinning at us as w_urned about from our colloquy.
  • "I ask bien pardon," said Celestine. "The mother of Mademoiselle desires tha_ademoiselle should come in immediately. M. le Pasteur Galopin has come t_ake his adieux to ces dames."
  • Aurora gave me only one glance, but it was a touching one. Then she slowl_eparted with Celestine.
  • The next morning, on coming into the garden, I found that Mrs. Church and he_aughter had departed. I was informed of this fact by old M. Pigeonneau, wh_at there under a tree, having his coffee at a little green table.
  • "I have nothing to envy you," he said; "I had the last glimpse of tha_harming Miss Aurora."
  • "I had a very late glimpse," I answered, "and it was all I could possibl_esire."
  • "I have always noticed," rejoined M. Pigeonneau, "That your desires are mor_oderate than mine. Que voulez-vous? I am of the old school. Je crois que l_ace se perd. I regret the departure of that young girl: she had an enchantin_mile. Ce sera une femme d'esprit. For the mother, I can console myself. I a_ot sure that SHE was a femme d'esprit, though she wished to pass for one.
  • Round, rosy, potelee, she yet had not the temperament of her appearance; sh_as a femme austere. I have often noticed that contradiction in America_adies. You see a plump little woman, with a speaking eye, and the contour an_omplexion of a ripe peach, and if you venture to conduct yourself in th_mallest degree in accordance with these indices, you discover a species o_ethodist—of what do you call it?—of Quakeress. On the other hand, yo_ncounter a tall, lean, angular person, without colour, without grace, al_lbows and knees, and you find it's a nature of the tropics! The women of dut_ook like coquettes, and the others look like alpenstocks! However, we hav_till the handsome Madame Ruck—a real femme de Rubens, celle- la. It is ver_rue that to talk to her one must know the Flemish tongue!"
  • I had determined, in accordance with my brother's telegram, to go away in th_fternoon; so that, having various duties to perform, I left M. Pigeonneau t_is international comparisons. Among other things, I went in the course of th_orning to the banker's, to draw money for my journey, and there I found Mr.
  • Ruck, with a pile of crumpled letters in his lap, his chair tipped back, an_is eyes gloomily fixed on the fringe of the green plush table-cloth. _imidly expressed the hope that he had got better news from home; whereupon h_ave me a look in which, considering his provocation, the absence o_rritation was conspicuous.
  • He took up his letters in his large hand, and crushing them together, held i_ut to me. "That epistolary matter," he said, "is worth about five cents. Bu_ guess," he added, rising, "I have taken it in by this time." When I ha_rawn my money I asked him to come and breakfast with me at the littl_rasserie, much favoured by students, to which I used to resort in the ol_own. "I couldn't eat, sir," he said, "I—couldn't eat. Bad news takes away th_ppetite. But I guess I'll go with you, so that I needn't go to table dow_here at the pension. The old woman down there is always accusing me o_urning up my nose at her food. Well, I guess I shan't turn up my nose a_nything now."
  • We went to the little brasserie, where poor Mr. Ruck made the lightes_ossible breakfast. But if he ate very little, he talked a great deal; h_alked about business, going into a hundred details in which I was quit_nable to follow him. His talk was not angry nor bitter; it was a long, meditative, melancholy monologue; if it had been a trifle less incoherent _hould almost have called it philosophic. I was very sorry for him; I wante_o do something for him, but the only thing I could do was, when we ha_reakfasted, to see him safely back to the Pension Beaurepas. We went acros_he Treille and down the Corraterie, out of which we turned into the Rue d_hone. In this latter street, as all the world knows, are many of thos_rilliant jewellers' shops for which Geneva is famous. I always admired thei_littering windows, and never passed them without a lingering glance. Even o_his occasion, pre-occupied as I was with my impending departure, and with m_ompanion's troubles, I suffered my eyes to wander along the precious tier_hat flashed and twinkled behind the huge clear plates of glass. Thanks t_his inveterate habit, I made a discovery. In the largest and most brillian_f these establishments I perceived two ladies, seated before the counter wit_n air of absorption, which sufficiently proclaimed their identity. I hoped m_ompanion would not see them, but as we came abreast of the door, a littl_eyond, we found it open to the warm summer air. Mr. Ruck happened to glanc_n, and he immediately recognised his wife and daughter. He slowly stopped, looking at them; I wondered what he would do. The salesman was holding up _racelet before them, on its velvet cushion, and flashing it about in a_rresistible manner.
  • Mr. Ruck said nothing, but he presently went in, and I did the same.
  • "It will be an opportunity," I remarked, as cheerfully as possible, "for me t_id good-bye to the ladies."
  • They turned round when Mr. Ruck came in, and looked at him without confusion.
  • "Well, you had better go home to breakfast," remarked his wife. Miss Soph_ade no remark, but she took the bracelet from the attendant and gazed at i_ery fixedly. Mr. Ruck seated himself on an empty stool and looked round th_hop.
  • "Well, you have been here before," said his wife; "you were here the first da_e came."
  • Miss Ruck extended the precious object in her hands towards me. "Don't yo_hink that sweet?" she inquired.
  • I looked at it a moment. "No, I think it's ugly."
  • She glanced at me a moment, incredulous. "Well, I don't believe you have an_aste."
  • "Why, sir, it's just lovely," said Mrs. Ruck.
  • "You'll see it some day on me, any way," her daughter declared.
  • "No, he won't," said Mr. Ruck, quietly.
  • "It will be his own fault, then," Miss Sophy observed.
  • "Well, if we are going to Chamouni we want to get something here," said Mrs.
  • Ruck. "We may not have another chance."
  • Mr. Ruck was still looking round the shop, whistling in a very low tone. "W_in't going to Chamouni. We are going to New York city, straight."
  • "Well, I'm glad to hear that," said Mrs. Ruck. "Don't you suppose we want t_ake something home?"
  • "If we are going straight back I must have that bracelet," her daughte_eclared, "Only I don't want a velvet case; I want a satin case."
  • "I must bid you good-bye," I said to the ladies. "I am leaving Geneva in a_our or two."
  • "Take a good look at that bracelet, so you'll know it when you see it," sai_iss Sophy.
  • "She's bound to have something," remarked her mother, almost proudly.
  • Mr. Ruck was still vaguely inspecting the shop; he was still whistling _ittle. "I am afraid he is not at all well," I said, softly, to his wife.
  • She twisted her head a little, and glanced at him.
  • "Well, I wish he'd improve!" she exclaimed.
  • "A satin case, and a nice one!" said Miss Ruck to the shopman.
  • I bade Mr. Ruck good-bye. "Don't wait for me," he said, sitting there on hi_tool, and not meeting my eye. "I've got to see this thing through."
  • I went back to the Pension Beaurepas, and when, an hour later, I left it wit_y luggage, the family had not returned.