Confidence, by Henry James

Chapter 13

More than a fortnight had elapsed, but Gordon Wright had not re-appeared, and Bernard suddenly decided that he would leave Baden. He found Mrs. Vivian and her daughter, very opportunely, in the garden of the pleasant, homely Schloss which forms the residence of the Grand Dukes of Baden during their visits to the scene of our narrative, and which, perched upon the hill-side directly above the little town, is surrounded with charming old shrubberies and terraces. To this garden a portion of the public is admitted, and Bernard, who liked the place, had been there more than once. One of the terraces had a high parapet, against which Angela was leaning, looking across the valley. Mrs. Vivian was not at first in sight, but Bernard presently perceived her seated under a tree with Victor Cousin in her hand. As Bernard approached the young girl, Angela, who had not seen him, turned round.

“Don’t move,” he said. “You were just in the position in which I painted your portrait at Siena.”

“Don’t speak of that,” she answered.

“I have never understood,” said Bernard, “why you insist upon ignoring that charming incident.”

She resumed for a moment her former position, and stood looking at the opposite hills.

“That ‘s just how you were — in profile — with your head a little thrown back.”

“It was an odious incident!” Angela exclaimed, rapidly changing her attitude.

Bernard was on the point of making a rejoinder, but he thought of Gordon Wright and held his tongue. He presently told her that he intended to leave Baden on the morrow.

They were walking toward her mother. She looked round at him quickly.

“Where are you going?”

“To Paris,” he said, quite at hazard; for he had not in the least determined where to go.

“To Paris — in the month of August?” And she gave a little laugh. “What a happy inspiration!”

She gave a little laugh, but she said nothing more, and Bernard gave no further account of his plan. They went and sat down near Mrs. Vivian for ten minutes, and then they got up again and strolled to another part of the garden. They had it all to themselves, and it was filled with things that Bernard liked — inequalities of level, with mossy steps connecting them, rose-trees trained upon old brick walls, horizontal trellises arranged like Italian pergolas, and here and there a towering poplar, looking as if it had survived from some more primitive stage of culture, with its stiff boughs motionless and its leaves forever trembling. They made almost the whole circuit of the garden, and then Angela mentioned very quietly that she had heard that morning from Mr. Wright, and that he would not return for another week.

“You had better stay,” she presently added, as if Gordon’s continued absence were an added reason.

“I don’t know,” said Bernard. “It is sometimes difficult to say what one had better do.”

I hesitate to bring against him that most inglorious of all charges, an accusation of sentimental fatuity, of the disposition to invent obstacles to enjoyment so that he might have the pleasure of seeing a pretty girl attempt to remove them. But it must be admitted that if Bernard really thought at present that he had better leave Baden, the observation I have just quoted was not so much a sign of this conviction as of the hope that his companion would proceed to gainsay it. The hope was not disappointed, though I must add that no sooner had it been gratified than Bernard began to feel ashamed of it.

“This certainly is not one of those cases,” said Angela. “The thing is surely very simple now.”

“What makes it so simple?”

She hesitated a moment.

“The fact that I ask you to stay.”

“You ask me?” he repeated, softly.

“Ah,” she exclaimed, “one does n’t say those things twice!”

She turned away, and they went back to her mother, who gave Bernard a wonderful little look of half urgent, half remonstrant inquiry. As they left the garden he walked beside Mrs. Vivian, Angela going in front of them at a distance. The elder lady began immediately to talk to him of Gordon Wright.

“He ‘s not coming back for another week, you know,” she said. “I am sorry he stays away so long.”

“Ah yes,” Bernard answered, “it seems very long indeed.”

And it had, in fact, seemed to him very long.

“I suppose he is always likely to have business,” said Mrs. Vivian.

“You may be very sure it is not for his pleasure that he stays away.”

“I know he is faithful to old friends,” said Mrs. Vivian. “I am sure he has not forgotten us.”

“I certainly count upon that,” Bernard exclaimed —“remembering him as we do!”

Mrs. Vivian glanced at him gratefully.

“Oh yes, we remember him — we remember him daily, hourly. At least, I can speak for my daughter and myself. He has been so very kind to us.” Bernard said nothing, and she went on. “And you have been so very kind to us, too, Mr. Longueville. I want so much to thank you.”

“Oh no, don’t!” said Bernard, frowning. “I would rather you should n’t.”

“Of course,” Mrs. Vivian added, “I know it ‘s all on his account; but that makes me wish to thank you all the more. Let me express my gratitude, in advance, for the rest of the time, till he comes back. That ‘s more responsibility than you bargained for,” she said, with a little nervous laugh.

“Yes, it ‘s more than I bargained for. I am thinking of going away.”

Mrs. Vivian almost gave a little jump, and then she paused on the Baden cobble-stones, looking up at him.

“If you must go, Mr. Longueville — don’t sacrifice yourself!”

The exclamation fell upon Bernard’s ear with a certain softly mocking cadence which was sufficient, however, to make this organ tingle.

“Oh, after all, you know,” he said, as they walked on —“after all, you know, I am not like Wright — I have no business.”

He walked with the ladies to the door of their lodging. Angela kept always in front. She stood there, however, at the little confectioner’s window until the others came up. She let her mother pass in, and then she said to Bernard, looking at him —

“Shall I see you again?”

“Some time, I hope.”

“I mean — are you going away?”

Bernard looked for a moment at a little pink sugar cherub — a species of Cupid, with a gilded bow — which figured among the pastry-cook’s enticements. Then he said —

“I will come and tell you this evening.”

And in the evening he went to tell her; she had mentioned during the walk in the garden of the Schloss that they should not go out. As he approached Mrs. Vivian’s door he saw a figure in a light dress standing in the little balcony. He stopped and looked up, and then the person in the light dress, leaning her hands on the railing, with her shoulders a little raised, bent over and looked down at him. It was very dark, but even through the thick dusk he thought he perceived the finest brilliancy of Angela Vivian’s smile.

“I shall not go away,” he said, lifting his voice a little.

She made no answer; she only stood looking down at him through the warm dusk and smiling. He went into the house, and he remained at Baden–Baden till Gordon came back.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38