Confidence (London: Macmillan & Co., 1921)/Chapter 19


Bernard left then and went, as he had announced, to California. When he arrived there, he asked himself why he had come, and was unable to mention any other reason than that he had announced it. He began to feel restless again, and to drift back to those vague dissatisfactions which had accompanied him through his long journey in the far East. He succeeded, however, in keeping these unreasonable feelings at bay for some time. He strove to occupy himself, to take an interest in Californian problems. Bernard, however, was neither an economist nor a cattle-fancier, and he found that, as the phrase is, there was not a great deal to take hold of. He wandered about, admired the climate and the big peaches, thought a while of going to Japan, and ended by going to Mexico. In this way he passed several months, and justified, in the eyes of other people at least, his long journey across the Continent. At last he made it again, in the opposite sense. He went back to New York, where the summer had already begun, and here he invented a solution of the difficulty presented by life to a culpably unoccupied and ill-regulated man. The solution was not in the least original, and I am almost ashamed to mention so stale and conventional a device. Bernard simply conceived the plan of returning to Europe. Such as it was, however, he carried it out with an audacity worthy of a better cause. He was sensibly happier since he had made up his mind to it. Gordon Wright and his wife were out of town, but Bernard went into the country, as boldly as you please, to inform them of his little project and take a long leave of them. He had made arrangements to sail immediately, and, as at such short notice it was impossible to find good quarters on one of the English vessels, he had engaged a berth on a French steamer which was to convey him to Havre. On going down to Gordon's house in the country, he was conscious of a good deal of eagerness to know what had become of that latent irritation of which Blanche had given him a specimen. Apparently it had quite subsided; Blanche was wreathed in smiles; she was living in a bower of roses. Bernard, indeed, had no opportunity for investigating her state of mind, for he found several people in the house, and Blanche, who had an exalted standard of the duties of a hostess, was occupied in making life agreeable to her guests, most of whom were gentlemen. She had in this way that great remedy for dissatisfaction which Bernard lacked—something interesting to do. Bernard felt a good deal of genuine sadness in taking leave of Gordon, to whom he continued to feel even more kindly than in earlier days. He had quite forgotten that Gordon was jealous of him—which he was not, as Bernard said. Certainly, Gordon showed nothing of it now, and nothing could have been more friendly than their parting. Gordon, too, for a man who was never boisterous, seemed very contented. He was fond of exercising hospitality, and he confessed to Bernard that he was just now in the humour for having his house full of people. Fortune continued to gratify this generous taste; for just as Bernard was coming away another guest made his appearance. The new-comer was none other than Captain Augustus Lovelock, who had just arrived in New York, and who, as he added, had long desired to visit the United States. Bernard merely witnessed his arrival, and was struck with the fact that as he presented himself—it seemed quite a surprise—Blanche really stopped chattering.