Chapter 6

One afternoon, as I came down from my quarters to go out, I found Miss Tita in the sala: it was our first encounter on that ground since I had come to the house. She put on no air of being there by accident; there was an ignorance of such arts in her angular, diffident directness. That I might be quite sure she was waiting for me she informed me of the fact and told me that Miss Bordereau wished to see me: she would take me into the room at that moment if I had time. If I had been late for a love tryst I would have stayed for this, and I quickly signified that I should be delighted to wait upon the old lady. “She wants to talk with you—to know you,” Miss Tita said, smiling as if she herself appreciated that idea; and she led me to the door of her aunt’s apartment. I stopped her a moment before she had opened it, looking at her with some curiosity. I told her that this was a great satisfaction to me and a great honor; but all the same I should like to ask what had made Miss Bordereau change so suddenly. It was only the other day that she wouldn’t suffer me near her. Miss Tita was not embarrassed by my question; she had as many little unexpected serenities as if she told fibs, but the odd part of them was that they had on the contrary their source in her truthfulness. “Oh, my aunt changes,” she answered; “it’s so terribly dull—I suppose she’s tired.”

“But you told me that she wanted more and more to be alone.”

Poor Miss Tita colored, as if she found me over-insistent. “Well, if you don’t believe she wants to see you—I haven’t invented it! I think people often are capricious when they are very old.”

“That’s perfectly true. I only wanted to be clear as to whether you have repeated to her what I told you the other night.”

“What you told me?”

“About Jeffrey Aspern—that I am looking for materials.”

“If I had told her do you think she would have sent for you?”

“That’s exactly what I want to know. If she wants to keep him to herself she might have sent for me to tell me so.”

“She won’t speak of him,” said Miss Tita. Then as she opened the door she added in a lower tone, “I have told her nothing.”

The old woman was sitting in the same place in which I had seen her last, in the same position, with the same mystifying bandage over her eyes. her welcome was to turn her almost invisible face to me and show me that while she sat silent she saw me clearly. I made no motion to shake hands with her; I felt too well on this occasion that that was out of place forever. It had been sufficiently enjoined upon me that she was too sacred for that sort of reciprocity—too venerable to touch. There was something so grim in her aspect (it was partly the accident of her green shade), as I stood there to be measured, that I ceased on the spot to feel any doubt as to her knowing my secret, though I did not in the least suspect that Miss Tita had not just spoken the truth. She had not betrayed me, but the old woman’s brooding instinct had served her; she had turned me over and over in the long, still hours, and she had guessed. The worst of it was that she looked terribly like an old woman who at a pinch would burn her papers. Miss Tita pushed a chair forward, saying to me, “This will be a good place for you to sit.” As I took possession of it I asked after Miss Bordereau’s health; expressed the hope that in spite of the very hot weather it was satisfactory. She replied that it was good enough—good enough; that it was a great thing to be alive.

“Oh, as to that, it depends upon what you compare it with!” I exclaimed, laughing.

“I don’t compare—I don’t compare. If I did that I should have given everything up long ago.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.