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She had now relinquished the object, laying it upon the bench, and Vanderbank took it up. “It's origin is lost in the night of tiine — it has no history except that I've used it. But I assure you that I do want to give you something. I've never given you anything."
She was silent a little. “The exhibition you're making,” she seriously sighed at last, “ of your inconstancy and superficiality! The relics of you that I have treasured and that I supposed at the time to have meant something !”
“The 'relics'? Have you a lock of my hair?” Then as her meaning came to him: “Oh, little Christmas things? Have you really kept them?”
“ Laid away in a drawer of their own — done up in pink paper."
“I know what you're coming to,” Vanderbank said. “You've given me things, and you're trying to convict me of having lost the sweet sense of them. But you can't do it. Where my heart's concerned I'm a walking reliquary. Pink paper? I use gold paper — and the finest of all, the gold paper of the mind.” He gave a flip with a finger-nail to his cigarette, and looked at its quickened fire; after which he pursued very familiarly, but with a kindness that of itself qualified the mere humor of the thing : “Don't talk, my dear child, as if you didn't really know me for the best friend you have in the world.” As soon as he had spoken he pulled out his watch, so that if his words had led to something of a pause this movement offered a pretext for breaking it. Nanda asked the hour, and, on his replying “ Five-fifteen,” remarked that there wonld now be tea on the terrace, with every one gathered at it. “ Then shall we go and join them ?” her companion demanded.
He had made, however, no other motion, and when, after hesitating, she said “ Yes, with pleasure,” it was also without a change of position. “I like this," she inconsequently added.
“So do I, awfully. Tea on the terrace,” Vanderbank went on, " isn't 'in' it. But who's here?"
“Oh, every one. All your set.”
“ Mine? Have I still a set - with the universal vagabondism you accuse me of ?”
“Well, then, Mitchy's - whoever they are." “ And nobody of yours ?”
“Oh, yes,” Nanda said, “all mine. He must at least have arrived by this time. My set's Mr. Longdon,” she explained. “ He's all of it now.”
“ Then where in the world am I ?”
“A complete set and one over?” Vanderbank laughed. “Where, then, is Tishy ?”
Charming and grave, the girl thought a moment. “She's in Paris, with her mother --- on their way to Aix-les-Bains." Then, with impatience, she continued: “Do you know that's a great deal to say — what you said just now? I mean about your being the best friend I have.”
“Of course I do, and that's exactly why I said it. You see I'm not in the least delicate or graceful or shy about it — I just come out with it and defy you to contradict me. Who, if I'm not the best, is a better one ?”
“Well,” Nanda replied, “I feel since I've known Mr. Longdon that I've almost the sort of friend who makes nobody else count."
“Then, at the end of three months, he has arrived at a value for you that I haven't reached in all these years ?”
“Yes," she returned — "the value of my not being afraid of him."
Vanderbank, on the bench, shifted his position, turning more to her, with an arm over the back. “And you're afraid of me?"
Horribly --- hideously.” “ Then our long, happy relations - "
They're just what make my terror,” she broke in, “particularly abject. Happy relations don't matter. I always think of you with fear.”
His elbow was on the back of the seat, and his hand supported his head. “How awfully curious -- if it be true!”
She had been looking away to the sweet English distance, but at this she made a movement. “Oh, Mr. Van, I'm 'true'!”
As Mr. Van himself could not have expressed, at any subsequent time, to any interested friend, the particular effect upon him of the tone of these words, his chronicler takes advantage of the fact not to pretend to a greater intelligence — to limit himself, on the contrary, to the simple statement that they produced in Mr. Van's cheek a just discernible flush. “ Fear of what?"
“I don't know. Fear is fear."
“Yes, yes -- I see.” He took out another cigarette and occupied a moment in lighting it. “ Well, kindness is kindness too that's all one can say."
He had smoked again awhile before she turned to him. “ Have I wounded you by saying that?”
A certain effect of his flush was still in his smile.
« It seems to me I should like you to wound me.
I did what I wanted a moment ago," he continued with some precipitation : “I brought you out handsomely on the subject of Mr. Longdon. That was my idea — just to draw you."
“Well,” said Nanda, looking away again," he has come into
“He couldn't have come into a place where it gives me more pleasure to see him.”
“But he didn't like, the other day, when I used it to him, that expression,” the girl returned. “He called it mannered modern slang,' and came back again to the extraordinary difference between my speech and my grandmother's.”
“Of course,” the young man understandingly assented. I rather like your speech. Hasn't he by this time, with yon,” he pursued, “ crossed the gulf ? He has with me.”
“Ah, with you there was no gulf. He liked you from the first."
Vanderbank hesitated. “You mean I managed him so well ?”
“I don't know how you managed him, but liking me has been for him a painful, gradual process. I think he does now,” Nanda declared. “He accepts me at last as different — he's trying with me on that basis. He has ended by understanding that when he talks to me of Granny I can't even imagine her.”
Vanderbank puffed away. “I can.”
“ That's what Mitchy says too. But you've both probably got her wrong."
“I don't know,” said Vanderbank —“I've gone into it a good deal. But it's too late. We can't be Greeks if we would.”
Even for this Nanda had no laugh, though she had a quick attention. “Do you call Granny a Greek ?” Her companion slowly rose.
- to finish her off handsomely and have done with her.” He looked again at his watch. “Shall we go! - I want to see if my man and my things have
She kept her seat; there was something to revert to. “My fear of yon isn't superficial. I mean it isn't immediate - not of you just as you stand,” she explained. “It's of some dreadfully possible future you."
"Well,” said the young man, smiling down at her, “don't forget that if there's to be such a monster, there'll also be a future you, proportionately developed, to deal with him.”
Nanda, in the shade, had closed her parasol, and her eyes attached themselves to the small hole she had dug in the ground with its point. “We shall both have moved, you mean?”
“It's charming to think that we shall probably have moved together.”
“Ah, if moving is changing," she returned, “ there won't be much for me in that. I shall never change - I shall be always just the same. The same old-mannered, modern, slangy hack," she continued, quite gravely. “Mr. Longdon has made me feel that."
Vanderbank laughed aloud, and it was especially at her seriousness. “Well, upon my soul! ”
· Yes,” she pursued, “what I am I must remain. I haven't what's called a principle of growth.” Making marks in the earth with her umbrella, she appeared to cipher it out. “I'm about as good as I can be — and about as bad. If Mr. Longdon can't make me different, nobody can."
Vanderbank could only speak in the tone of high amusement. “And he has given up the hope ?”
“Yes — though not me, quite altogether. But the hope he originally had."
“He gives up quickly --- in three months!”
“Oh, these three months," she answered, “have been a long time: the fullest, the most important, for what has happened in them, of my life.” She still poked at the ground; then she added : “And all thanks to you."
“ To me?” - Vanderbank couldn't fancy.
“Why, for what we were speaking of just now -- my being now so in everything and squeezing up and down no matter whose staircase. Isn't it one crowded hour of glorious life?” she asked. “What preceded it was an age, no doubt — but an age without a name.”
Vanderbank watched her a little in silence, then spoke quite beside the question. “It's astonishing how at moments you remind me of your mother!”
At this she got up. “Ah, there it is! It's what I shall never shake off. That, I imagine, is what Mr. Longdon feels.”
Both on their feet now, as if ready for the others, they yet — and even a trifle awkwardly — lingered. It might in fact have appeared to a spectator that some climax had come, on the young man's part, to some state of irresolution as to the utterance of something. What were the words repeatedly on his lips, yet repeatedly not sounded? It would have struck our observer that they were probably not those his lips even now actually formed. “Doesn't he perhaps talk to you too much about yourself ?”
Nanda gave him a dim emile, and he might indeed then have exclaimed on a certain resemblance, a resemblance of expression that had nothing to do with form. It would not have been diminished for him, moreover, by her successful suppression of every sign that she felt bis inquiry a little of a snub. The recall he had previously mentioned could, however, as she answered him, only have been brushed away by a supervening sense of his roughness. “ It isn't so much that, probably, as my own way of going on.” She spoke with a mildness that could scarce have been so full without being an effort. “ Between his patience and my egotism anything is possible. It isn't his talking — it's his listening.” She gave up the point at any rate as if from softness to her actual companion. “Wasn't it you who spoke to mamma about my sitting with her? That's what I mean by my debt to you. It's through you that I'm always there — through you and perhaps a little through Mitchy.”
“Oh, through Mitchy - it must have been more than through me." Vanderbank spoke with the manner of humoring her about a trifle. “Mitchy, delightful man, felt on the subject, I think, still more strongly."
They quitted their place together and at the end of a few steps became aware of the approach of one of the others, a figure but a few yards off, arriving from the quarter from which Nanda had come. “Ah, Mr. Longdon!”- she spoke with eagerness now.
Vanderbank instantly waved a hat.“ Dear old boy!”
“Between you all, at any rate,” she said more gaily, “ you've brought me down."
Vanderbank made no answer till they met their friend, when, by way of greeting, he simply echoed her words.
“ Between us all, you'll be glad to know, we've brought her down.”
Mr. Longdon looked from one of them to the other. " Where have you been together ?”
Nanda was the first to respond. Only talking - on a bench."
“ Well, I want to talk on a bench!” The old man showed a spirit.
“ With me, of course ?” - Vanderbank met it with eagerness.
The girl said nothing, but Mr. Longdon sought her eyes. “No - with Nanda. You must mingle in the crowd." “Ah,” their companion laughed, "you two are the crowd !”