NOTES: (1) Italics for emphasis indicated by upper case, by lower case for the word _I_. Foreign words and phrases, when italicized in the original, are indicated thus: _comme il faut_. Accent marks in foreign words have been removed. (2) Numbers in parentheses indicate the beginning of each page in the 1909 New York Edition. (3) The New York Edition's spaces in contractions have been removed in this etext. (4) To avoid the insertion of hard returns at the end of every line (which makes searching across line-breaks in downloaded files difficult), download with the HTML option, not the TXT option. Then paragraphs will be ended with hard returns and HTML tags, (capital P enclosed in angle-brackets).
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Excerpt from the Preface to Volume 18:
(v) It was in Rome during the autumn of 1877; a friend then living there but settled now in a South less weighted with appeals and memories happened to mention--which she might perfectly not have done--some simple and uninformed American lady of the previous winter, whose young daughter, a child of nature and of freedom, accompanying her from hotel to hotel, had "picked up" by the wayside, with the best conscience in the world, a good-looking Roman, of vague identity, astonished at his luck, yet (so far as might be, by the pair) all innocently, all serenely exhibited and introduced: this at least till the occurrence of some small social check, some interrupting incident, of no great gravity or dignity, and which I forget. I had never heard, save on this showing, of the amiable but not otherwise eminent ladies, who weren't in fact named, I think, and whose case had merely served to point a familiar moral; and it must have been just their want of salience that left a margin for the small pencil-mark inveterately signifying, in such connexions, "Dramatise, dramatise!" The result of my recognising a few months later the sense of my pencil-mark was the short chronicle of "Daisy Miller," which I indited in London the following spring and then addressed, with no conditions attached, as I remember, to the editor of a magazine that had its seat of publication at Philadelphia and had lately appeared to appreciate my contributions. That gentleman however (an historian of some repute) promptly returned me my missive, and with an absence of comment that struck me at the time as rather grim--as, given the circumstances, requiring indeed some explanation: till a friend to whom I appealed for light, giving him the thing to read, declared it could only have passed with the Philadelphian critic for "an outrage on American girlhood." (vi) This was verily a light, and of bewildering intensity; though I was presently to read into the matter a further helpful inference. To the fault of being outrageous this little composition added that of being essentially and pre-eminently a _nouvelle_; a signal example in fact of that type, foredoomed at the best, in more cases than not, to editorial disfavour. If accordingly I was afterwards to be cradled, almost blissfully, in the conception that "Daisy" at least, among my productions, might approach "success," such success for example, on her eventual appearance, as the state of being promptly pirated in Boston--a sweet tribute I hadn't yet received and was never again to know--the irony of things yet claimed its rights, I couldn't but long continue to feel, in the circumstance that quite a special reprobation had waited on the first appearance in the world of the ultimately most prosperous child of my invention. So doubly discredited, at all events, this bantling met indulgence, with no great delay, in the eyes of my admirable friend the late Leslie Stephen and was published in two numbers of _The Cornhill Magazine _ (1878).
It qualified itself in that publication and afterwards as "a Study"; for reasons which I confess I fail to recapture unless they may have taken account simply of a certain flatness in my poor little heroine's literal denomination. Flatness indeed, one must have felt, was the very sum of her story; so that perhaps after all the attached epithet was meant but as a deprecation, addressed to the reader, of any great critical hope of stirring scenes. It provided for mere concentration, and on an object scant and superficially vulgar--from which, however, a sufficiently brooding tenderness might eventually extract a shy incongruous charm. I suppress at all events here the appended qualification--in view of the simple truth, which ought from the first to have been apparent to me, that my little exhibition is made to no degree whatever in critical but, quite inordinately and extravagantly, in poetical terms. It comes back to me that I was at a certain hour long afterwards to have reflected, in this connexion, on the characteristic free play of the whirligig (vii) of time. It was in Italy again--in Venice and in the prized society of an interesting friend, now dead, with whom I happened to wait, on the Grand Canal, at the animated water-steps of one of the hotels. The considerable little terrace there was so disposed as to make a salient stage for certain demonstrations on the part of two young girls, children THEY, if ever, of nature and of freedom, whose use of those resources, in the general public eye, and under our own as we sat in the gondola, drew from the lips of a second companion, sociably afloat with us, the remark that there before us, with no sign absent, were a couple of attesting Daisy Millers. Then it was that, in my charming hostess's prompt protest, the whirligig, as I have called it, at once betrayed itself. "How can you liken THOSE creatures to a figure of which the only fault is touchingly to have transmuted so sorry a type and to have, by a poetic artifice, not only led our judgement of it astray, but made ANY judgement quite impossible?" With which this gentle lady and admirable critic turned on the author himself. "You KNOW you quite falsified, by the turn you gave it, the thing you had begun with having in mind, the thing you had had, to satiety, the chance of 'observing': your pretty perversion of it, or your unprincipled mystification of our sense of it, does it really too much honour--in spite of which, none the less, as anything charming or touching always to that extent justifies itself, we after a fashion forgive and understand you. But why WASTE your romance? There are cases, too many, in which you've done it again; in which, provoked by a spirit of observation at first no doubt sufficiently sincere, and with the measured and felt truth fairly twitching your sleeve, you have yielded to your incurable prejudice in favour of grace--to whatever it is in you that makes so inordinately for form and prettiness and pathos; not to say sometimes for misplaced drolling. Is it that you've after all too much imagination? Those awful young women capering at the hotel-door, THEY are the real little Daisy Millers that were; whereas yours in the tale is such a one, more's the pity, as--for pitch of the ingenuous, for quality of the (viii) artless--couldn't possibly have been at all." My answer to all which bristled of course with more professions than I can or need report here; the chief of them inevitably to the effect that my supposedly typical little figure was of course pure poetry, and had never been anything else; since this is what helpful imagination, in however slight a dose, ever directly makes for. As for the original grossness of readers, I dare say I added, that was another matter--but one which at any rate had then quite ceased to signify.
At the little town of Vevey, in Switzerland, there is a particularly comfortable hotel; there are indeed many hotels, since the entertainment of tourists is the business of the place, which, as many travellers will remember, is seated upon the edge of a remarkably blue lake--a lake that it behoves every tourist to visit. The shore of the lake presents an unbroken array of establishments of this order, of every category, from the "grand hotel" of the newest fashion, with a chalk-white front, a hundred balconies, and a dozen flags flying from its roof, to the small Swiss pension of an elder day, with its name inscribed in German-looking lettering upon a pink or yellow wall and an awkward summer-house in the angle of the garden. One of the hotels at Vevey, however, is famous, even classical, being distinguished from many of its upstart neighbours by an air both of luxury and of maturity. In this region, through the month of June, American travellers are extremely numerous; it may be said indeed that Vevey assumes at that time some of the characteristics of an American watering-place. There are sights and sounds that evoke a vision, an echo, of Newport and Saratoga. There is a flitting hither and thither of "stylish" young girls, a rustling of muslin (4) flounces, a rattle of dance-music in the morning hours, a sound of high-pitched voices at all times. You receive an impression of these things at the excellent inn of the "Trois Couronnes," and are transported in fancy to the Ocean House or to Congress Hall. But at the "Trois Couronnes," it must be added, there are other features much at variance with these suggestions: neat German waiters who look like secretaries of legation; Russian princesses sitting in the garden; little Polish boys walking about, held by the hand, with their governors; a view of the snowy crest of the Dent du Midi and the picturesque towers of the Castle of Chillon.
I hardly know whether it was the analogies or the differences that were uppermost in the mind of a young American, who, two or three years ago, sat in the garden of the "Trois Couronnes," looking about him rather idly at some of the graceful objects I have mentioned. It was a beautiful summer morning, and in whatever fashion the young American looked at things they must have seemed to him charming. He had come from Geneva the day before, by the little steamer, to see his aunt, who was staying at the hotel--Geneva having been for a long time his place of residence. But his aunt had a headache--his aunt had almost always a headache--and she was now shut up in her room smelling camphor, so that he was at liberty to wander about. He was some seven-and-twenty years of age; when his friends spoke of him they usually said that he was at Geneva "studying." When his enemies spoke of him they said--but after all he had no enemies: he was extremely amiable and (5) generally liked. What I should say is simply that when certain persons spoke of him they conveyed that the reason of his spending so much time at Geneva was that he was extremely devoted to a lady who lived there--a foreign lady, a person older than himself. Very few Americans--truly I think none--had ever seen this lady, about whom there were some singular stories. But Winterbourne had an old attachment for the little capital of Calvinism; he had been put to school there as a boy and had afterwards even gone, on trial--trial of the grey old "Academy" on the steep and stony hillside--to college there; circumstances which had led to his forming a great many youthful friendships. Many of these he had kept, and they were a source of great satisfaction to him.
After knocking at his aunt's door and learning that she was indisposed he had taken a walk about the town and then he had come in to his breakfast. He had now finished that repast, but was enjoying a small cup of coffee which had been served him on a little table in the garden by one of the waiters who looked like _attaches_. At last he finished his coffee and lit a cigarette. Presently a small boy came walking along the path--an urchin of nine or ten. The child, who was diminutive for his years, had an aged expression of countenance, a pale complexion and sharp little features. He was dressed in knickerbockers and had red stockings that displayed his poor little spindle-shanks; he also wore a brilliant red cravat. He carried in his hand a long alpenstock, the sharp point of which he thrust into everything he approached--the flower-beds, the garden-benches, the trains of the (6) ladies' dresses. In front of Winterbourne he paused, looking at him with a pair of bright and penetrating little eyes.
"Will you give me a lump of sugar?" he asked in a small sharp hard voice--a voice immature and yet somehow not young.
Winterbourne glanced at the light table near him, on which his coffee-service rested, and saw that several morsels of sugar remained. "Yes, you may take one," he answered; "but I don't think too much sugar good for little boys."
This little boy stepped forward and carefully selected three of the coveted fragments, two of which he buried in the pocket of his knickerbockers, depositing the other as promptly in another place. He poked his alpenstock, lance-fashion, into Winterbourne's bench and tried to crack the lump of sugar with his teeth.
"Oh blazes; it's har-r-d!" he exclaimed, divesting vowel and consonants, pertinently enough, of any taint of softness.
Winterbourne had immediately gathered that he might have the honour of claiming him as a countryman. "Take care you don't hurt your teeth," he said paternally.
"I haven't got any teeth to hurt. They've all come out. I've only got seven teeth. Mother counted them last night, and one came out right afterwards. She said she'd slap me if any more came out. I can't help it. It's this old Europe. It's the climate that makes them come out. In America they didn't come out. It's these hotels."
(7) Winterbourne was much amused. "If you eat three lumps of sugar your mother will certainly slap you," he ventured.
"She's got to give me some candy then," rejoined his young interlocutor. "I can't get any candy here--any American candy. American candy's the best candy."
"And are American little boys the best little boys?" Winterbourne asked.
"I don't know. I'M an American boy," said the child.
"I see you're one of the best!" the young man laughed.
"Are you an American man?" pursued this vivacious infant. And then on his friend's affirmative reply, "American men are the best," he declared with assurance.
His companion thanked him for the compliment, and the child, who had now got astride of his alpenstock, stood looking about him while he attacked another lump of sugar. Winterbourne wondered if he himself had been like this in his infancy, for he had been brought to Europe at about the same age.
"Here comes my sister!" cried his young compatriot. "She's an American girl, you bet!"
Winterbourne looked along the path and saw a beautiful young lady advancing. "American girls are the best girls," he thereupon cheerfully remarked to his visitor.
"My sister ain't the best!" the child promptly returned. "She's always blowing at me."
"I imagine that's your fault, not hers," said Winterbourne. (8) The young lady meanwhile had drawn near. She was dressed in white muslin, with a hundred frills and flounces and knots of pale-coloured ribbon. Bareheaded, she balanced in her hand a large parasol with a deep border of embroidery; and she was strikingly, admirably pretty. "How pretty they are!" thought our friend, who straightened himself in his seat as if he were ready to rise.
The young lady paused in front of his bench, near the parapet of the garden, which overlooked the lake. The small boy had now converted his alpenstock into a vaulting-pole, by the aid of which he was springing about in the gravel and kicking it up not a little. "Why Randolph," she freely began, "what ARE you doing?"
"I'm going up the Alps!" cried Randolph. "This is the way!" And he gave another extravagant jump, scattering the pebbles about Winterbourne's ears.
"That's the way they come down," said Winterbourne.
"He's an American man!" proclaimed Randolph in his harsh little voice.
The young lady gave no heed to this circumstance, but looked straight at her brother. "Well, I guess you'd better be quiet," she simply observed.
It seemed to Winterbourne that he had been in a manner presented. He got up and stepped slowly toward the charming creature, throwing away his cigarette. "This little boy and I have made acquaintance," he said with great civility. In Geneva, as he had been perfectly aware, a young man wasn't at liberty (9) to speak to a young unmarried lady save under certain rarely-occurring conditions; but here at Vevey what conditions could be better than these?--a pretty American girl coming to stand in front of you in a garden with all the confidence in life. This pretty American girl, whatever that might prove, on hearing Winterbourne's observation simply glanced at him; she then turned her head and looked over the parapet, at the lake and the opposite mountains. He wondered whether he had gone too far, but decided that he must gallantly advance rather than retreat. While he was thinking of something else to say the young lady turned again to the little boy, whom she addressed quite as if they were alone together. "I should like to know where you got that pole."
"I bought it!" Randolph shouted.
"You don't mean to say you're going to take it to Italy!"
"Yes, I'm going to take it t' Italy!" the child rang out.
She glanced over the front of her dress and smoothed out a knot or two of ribbon. Then she gave her sweet eyes to the prospect again. "Well, I guess you'd better leave it somewhere," she dropped after a moment.
"Are you going to Italy?" Winterbourne now decided very respectfully to enquire.
She glanced at him with lovely remoteness. "Yes, sir," she then replied. And she said nothing more.
"And are you--a--thinking of the Simplon?" he pursued with a slight drop of assurance.
"I don't know," she said. "I suppose it's some (10) mountain. Randolph, what mountain are we thinking of?"
"Thinking of?"--the boy stared.
"Why going right over."
"Going to where?" he demanded.
"Why right down to Italy"--Winterbourne felt vague emulations.
"I don't know," said Randolph. "I don't want to go t' Italy. I want to go to America."
"Oh Italy's a beautiful place!" the young man laughed.
"Can you get candy there?" Randolph asked of all the echoes.
"I hope not," said his sister. "I guess you've had enough candy, and mother thinks so too."
"I haven't had any for ever so long--for a hundred weeks!" cried the boy, still jumping about.
The young lady inspected her flounces and smoothed her ribbons again; and Winterbourne presently risked an observation on the beauty of the view. He was ceasing to be in doubt, for he had begun to perceive that she was really not in the least embarrassed. She might be cold, she might be austere, she might even be prim; for that was apparently--he had already so generalised--what the most "distant" American girls did: they came and planted themselves straight in front of you to show how rigidly unapproachable they were. There hadn't been the slightest flush in her fresh fairness however; so that she was clearly neither offended nor fluttered. Only she was composed--he had seen that before too--of charming little parts that didn't match and that made no (11) _ensemble_; and if she looked another way when he spoke to her, and seemed not particularly to hear him, this was simply her habit, her manner, the result of her having no idea whatever of "form" (with such a tell-tale appendage as Randolph where in the world would she have got it?) in any such connexion. As he talked a little more and pointed out some of the objects of interest in the view, with which she appeared wholly unacquainted, she gradually, none the less, gave him more of the benefit of her attention; and then he saw that act unqualified by the faintest shadow of reserve. It wasn't however what would have been called a "bold" front that she presented, for her expression was as decently limpid as the very cleanest water. Her eyes were the very prettiest conceivable, and indeed Winterbourne hadn't for a long time seen anything prettier than his fair country-woman's various features--her complexion, her nose, her ears, her teeth. He took a great interest generally in that range of effects and was addicted to noting and, as it were, recording them; so that in regard to this young lady's face he made several observations. It wasn't at all insipid, yet at the same time wasn't pointedly--what point, on earth, could she ever make?--expressive; and though it offered such a collection of small finenesses and neatnesses he mentally accused it--very forgivingly--of a want of finish. He thought nothing more likely than that its wearer would have had her own experience of the action of her charms, as she would certainly have acquired a resulting confidence; but even should she depend on this for her main amusement her bright sweet superficial (12) little visage gave out neither mockery nor irony. Before long it became clear that, however these things might be, she was much disposed to conversation. She remarked to Winterbourne that they were going to Rome for the winter--she and her mother and Randolph. She asked him if he was a "real American"; she wouldn't have taken him for one; he seemed more like a German--this flower was gathered as from a large field of comparison--especially when he spoke. Winterbourne, laughing, answered that he had met Germans who spoke like Americans, but not, so far as he remembered, any American with the resemblance she noted. Then he asked her if she mightn't be more at ease should she occupy the bench he had just quitted. She answered that she liked hanging round, but she none the less resignedly, after a little, dropped to the bench. She told him she was from New York State--"if you know where that is"; but our friend really quickened this current by catching hold of her small slippery brother and making him stand a few minutes by his side.
"Tell me your honest name, my boy." So he artfully proceeded.
In response to which the child was indeed unvarnished truth. "Randolph C. Miller. And I'll tell you hers." With which he levelled his alpenstock at his sister.
"You had better wait till you're asked!" said this young lady quite at her leisure.
"I should like very much to know YOUR name," Winterbourne made free to reply.
"Her name's Daisy Miller!" cried the urchin. (13) "But that ain't her real name; that ain't her name on her cards."
"It's a pity you haven't got one of my cards!" Miss Miller quite as naturally remarked.
"Her real name's Annie P. Miller," the boy went on.
It seemed, all amazingly, to do her good. "Ask him HIS now"--and she indicated their friend.
But to this point Randolph seemed perfectly indifferent; he continued to supply information with regard to his own family. "My father's name is Ezra B. Miller. My father ain't in Europe--he's in a better place than Europe." Winterbourne for a moment supposed this the manner in which the child had been taught to intimate that Mr. Miller had been removed to the sphere of celestial rewards. But Randolph immediately added: "My father's in Schenectady. He's got a big business. My father's rich, you bet."
"Well!" ejaculated Miss Miller, lowering her parasol and looking at the embroidered border. Winterbourne presently released the child, who departed, dragging his alpenstock along the path. "He don't like Europe," said the girl as with an artless instinct for historic truth. "He wants to go back."
"To Schenectady, you mean?"
"Yes, he wants to go right home. He hasn't got any boys here. There's one boy here, but he always goes round with a teacher. They won't let him play."
"And your brother hasn't any teacher?" Winterbourne enquired.
It tapped, at a touch, the spring of confidence. "Mother thought of getting him one--to travel (14) round with us. There was a lady told her of a very good teacher; an American lady--perhaps you know her--Mrs. Sanders. I think she came from Boston. She told her of this teacher, and we thought of getting him to travel round with us. But Randolph said he didn't want a teacher travelling round with us. He said he wouldn't have lessons when he was in the cars. And we ARE in the cars about half the time. There was an English lady we met in the cars--I think her name was Miss Featherstone; perhaps you know her. She wanted to know why I didn't give Randolph lessons--give him 'instruction,' she called it. I guess he could give me more instruction than I could give him. He's very smart."
"Yes," said Winterbourne; "he seems very smart."
"Mother's going to get a teacher for him as soon as we get t' Italy. Can you get good teachers in Italy?"
"Very good, I should think," Winterbourne hastened to reply.
"Or else she's going to find some school. He ought to learn some more. He's only nine. He's going to college." And in this way Miss Miller continued to converse upon the affairs of her family and upon other topics. She sat there with her extremely pretty hands, ornamented with very brilliant rings, folded in her lap, and with her pretty eyes now resting upon those of Winterbourne, now wandering over the garden, the people who passed before her and the beautiful view. She addressed her new acquaintance as if she had known him a long time. He found it very pleasant. It was many years since he had heard a young girl talk so (15) much. It might have been said of this wandering maiden who had come and sat down beside him upon a bench that she chattered. She was very quiet, she sat in a charming tranquil attitude; but her lips and her eyes were constantly moving. She had a soft slender agreeable voice, and her tone was distinctly sociable. She gave Winterbourne a report of her movements and intentions, and those of her mother and brother, in Europe, and enumerated in particular the various hotels at which they had stopped. "That English lady in the cars," she said--"Miss Featherstone--asked me if we didn't all live in hotels in America. I told her I had never been in so many hotels in my life as since I came to Europe. I've never seen so many--it's nothing but hotels." But Miss Miller made this remark with no querulous accent; she appeared to be in the best humour with everything. She declared that the hotels were very good when once you got used to their ways and that Europe was perfectly entrancing. She wasn't disappointed--not a bit. Perhaps it was because she had heard so much about it before. She had ever so many intimate friends who had been there ever so many times, and that way she had got thoroughly posted. And then she had had ever so many dresses and things from Paris. Whenever she put on a Paris dress she felt as if she were in Europe.
"It was a kind of a wishing-cap," Winterbourne smiled.
"Yes," said Miss Miller at once and without examining this analogy; "it always made me wish I was here. But I needn't have done that for dresses. I'm (16) sure they send all the pretty ones to America; you see the most frightful things here. The only thing I don't like," she proceeded, "is the society. There ain't any society--or if there is I don't know where it keeps itself. Do you? I suppose there's some society somewhere, but I haven't seen anything of it. I'm very fond of society and I've always had plenty of it. I don't mean only in Schenectady, but in New York. I used to go to New York every winter. In New York I had lots of society. Last winter I had seventeen dinners given me, and three of them were by gentlemen," added Daisy Miller. "I've more friends in New York than in Schenectady--more gentlemen friends; and more young lady friends too," she resumed in a moment. She paused again for an instant; she was looking at Winterbourne with all her prettiness in her frank gay eyes and in her clear rather uniform smile. "I've always had," she said, "a great deal of gentlemen's society."
Poor Winterbourne was amused and perplexed--above all he was charmed. He had never yet heard a young girl express herself in just this fashion; never at least save in cases where to say such things was to have at the same time some rather complicated consciousness about them. And yet was he to accuse Miss Daisy Miller of an actual or a potential _arriere-pensee_, as they said at Geneva? He felt he had lived at Geneva so long as to have got morally muddled; he had lost the right sense for the young American tone. Never indeed since he had grown old enough to appreciate things had he encountered a young compatriot of so "strong" a type as this. Certainly she was very (17) charming, but how extraordinarily communicative and how tremendously easy! Was she simply a pretty girl from New York State--were they all like that, the pretty girls who had had a good deal of gentlemen's society? Or was she also a designing, an audacious, in short an expert young person? Yes, his instinct for such a question had ceased to serve him, and his reason could but mislead. Miss Daisy Miller looked extremely innocent. Some people had told him that after all American girls WERE exceedingly innocent, and others had told him that after all they weren't. He must on the whole take Miss Daisy Miller for a flirt--a pretty American flirt. He had never as yet had relations with representatives of that class. He had known here in Europe two or three women--persons older than Miss Daisy Miller and provided, for respectability's sake, with husbands--who were great coquettes; dangerous terrible women with whom one's light commerce might indeed take a serious turn. But this charming apparition wasn't a coquette in that sense; she was very unsophisticated; she was only a pretty American flirt. Winterbourne was almost grateful for having found the formula that applied to Miss Daisy Miller. He leaned back in his seat; he remarked to himself that she had the finest little nose he had ever seen; he wondered what were the regular conditions and limitations of one's intercourse with a pretty American flirt. It presently became apparent that he was on the way to learn.
"Have you been to that old castle?" the girl soon asked, pointing with her parasol to the far-shining walls of the Chateau de Chillon.
(18) "Yes, formerly, more than once," said Winterbourne. "You too, I suppose, have seen it?"
"No, we haven't been there. I want to go there dreadfully. Of course I mean to go there. I wouldn't go away from here without having seen that old castle."
"It's a very pretty excursion," the young man returned, "and very easy to make. You can drive, you know, or you can go by the little steamer."
"You can go in the cars," said Miss Miller.
"Yes, you can go in the cars," Winterbourne assented.
"Our courier says they take you right up to the castle," she continued. "We were going last week, but mother gave out. She suffers dreadfully from dyspepsia. She said she couldn't any more go--!" But this sketch of Mrs. Miller's plea remained unfinished. "Randolph wouldn't go either; he says he don't think much of old castles. But I guess we'll go this week if we can get Randolph."
"Your brother isn't interested in ancient monuments?" Winterbourne indulgently asked.
He now drew her, as he guessed she would herself have said, every time. "Why no, he says he don't care much about old castles. He's only nine. He wants to stay at the hotel. Mother's afraid to leave him alone, and the courier won't stay with him; so we haven't been to many places. But it will be too bad if we don't go up there." And Miss Miller pointed again at the Chateau de Chillon.
"I should think it might be arranged," Winterbourne was thus emboldened to reply. "Couldn't you (19) get some one to stay--for the afternoon--with Randolph?"
Miss Miller looked at him a moment, and then with all serenity, "I wish YOU'D stay with him!" she said.
He pretended to consider it. "I'd much rather go to Chillon with you."
"With me?" she asked without a shadow of emotion.
She didn't rise blushing, as a young person at Geneva would have done; and yet, conscious that he had gone very far, he thought it possible she had drawn back. "And with your mother," he answered very respectfully.
But it seemed that both his audacity and his respect were lost on Miss Daisy Miller. "I guess mother wouldn't go--for YOU," she smiled. "And she ain't much BENT on going, anyway. She don't like to ride round in the afternoon." After which she familiarly proceeded: "But did you really mean what you said just now--that you'd like to go up there?"
"Most earnestly I meant it," Winterbourne declared.
"Then we may arrange it. If mother will stay with Randolph I guess Eugenio will."
"Eugenio?" the young man echoed.
"Eugenio's our courier. He doesn't like to stay with Randolph--he's the most fastidious man I ever saw. But he's a splendid courier. I guess he'll stay at home with Randolph if mother does, and then we can go to the castle."
Winterbourne reflected for an instant as lucidly as possible: "we" could only mean Miss Miller and (20) himself. This prospect seemed almost too good to believe; he felt as if he ought to kiss the young lady's hand. Possibly he would have done so,--and quite spoiled his chance; but at this moment another person--presumably Eugenio--appeared. A tall handsome man, with superb whiskers and wearing a velvet morning-coat and a voluminous watch-guard, approached the young lady, looking sharply at her companion. "Oh Eugenio!" she said with the friendliest accent.
Eugenio had eyed Winterbourne from head to foot; he now bowed gravely to Miss Miller. "I have the honour to inform Mademoiselle that luncheon's on table."
Mademoiselle slowly rose. "See here, Eugenio, I'm going to that old castle anyway."
"To the Chateau de Chillon, Mademoiselle?" the courier enquired. "Mademoiselle has made arrangements?" he added in a tone that struck Winterbourne as impertinent.
Eugenio's tone apparently threw, even to Miss Miller's own apprehension, a slightly ironical light on her position. She turned to Winterbourne with the slightest blush. "You won't back out?"
"I shall not be happy till we go!" he protested.
"And you're staying in this hotel?" she went on. "And you're really American?"
The courier still stood there with an effect of offence for the young man so far as the latter saw in it a tacit reflexion on Miss Miller's behaviour and an insinuation that she "picked up" acquaintances. "I shall have the honour of presenting to you a person (21) who'll tell you all about me," he said, smiling, and referring to his aunt.
"Oh well, we'll go some day," she beautifully answered; with which she gave him a smile and turned away. She put up her parasol and walked back to the inn beside Eugenio. Winterbourne stood watching her, and as she moved away, drawing her muslin furbelows over the walk, he spoke to himself of her natural elegance.
He had, however, engaged to do more than proved feasible in promising to present his aunt, Mrs. Costello, to Miss Daisy Miller. As soon as that lady had got better of her headache he waited on her in her apartment and, after a show of the proper solicitude about her health, asked if she had noticed in the hotel an American family--a mamma, a daughter and an obstreperous little boy.
"An obstreperous little boy and a preposterous big courier?" said Mrs. Costello. "Oh yes, I've noticed them. Seen them, heard them and kept out of their way." Mrs. Costello was a widow of fortune, a person of much distinction and who frequently intimated that if she hadn't been so dreadfully liable to sick-headaches she would probably have left a deeper impress on her time. She had a long pale face, a high nose and a great deal of very striking white hair, which she wore in large puffs and over the top of her head. She had two sons married in New York and another who was now in Europe. This young man was amusing himself at Homburg and, though guided by his taste, was rarely observed to visit any particular city at the moment selected by his mother for her appearance there. Her nephew, who had come to Vevey expressly to see her, was therefore more attentive than, as she said, her very own. He had imbibed at Geneva the idea that one must be irreproachable in all such forms. Mrs. (23) Costello hadn't seen him for many years and was now greatly pleased with him, manifesting her approbation by initiating him into many of the secrets of that social sway which, as he could see she would like him to think, she exerted from her stronghold in Forty-Second Street. She admitted that she was very exclusive, but if he had been better acquainted with New York he would see that one had to be. And her picture of the minutely hierarchical constitution of the society of that city, which she presented to him in many different lights, was, to Winterbourne's imagination, almost oppressively striking.
He at once recognised from her tone that Miss Daisy Miller's place in the social scale was low. "I'm afraid you don't approve of them," he pursued in reference to his new friends.
"They're horribly common"--it was perfectly simple. "They're the sort of Americans that one does one's duty by just ignoring."
"Ah you just ignore them?"--the young man took it in.
"I can't NOT, my dear Frederick. I wouldn't if I hadn't to, but I have to."
"The little girl's very pretty," he went on in a moment.
"Of course she's very pretty. But she's of the last crudity."
"I see what you mean of course," he allowed after another pause.
"She has that charming look they all have," his aunt resumed. "I can't think where they pick it up; and she dresses in perfection--no, you don't know (24) how well she dresses. I can't think where they get their taste."
"But, my dear aunt, she's not, after all, a Comanche savage."
"She is a young lady," said Mrs. Costello, "who has an intimacy with her mamma's courier?"
"An 'intimacy' with him?" Ah there it was!
"There's no other name for such a relation. But the skinny little mother's just as bad! They treat the courier as a familiar friend--as a gentleman and a scholar. I shouldn't wonder if he dines with them. Very likely they've never seen a man with such good manners, such fine clothes, so LIKE a gentleman--or a scholar. He probably corresponds to the young lady's idea of a count. He sits with them in the garden of an evening. I think he smokes in their faces."
Winterbourne listened with interest to these disclosures; they helped him to make up his mind about Miss Daisy. Evidently she was rather wild. "Well," he said, "I'm not a courier and I didn't smoke in her face, and yet she was very charming to me."
"You had better have mentioned at first," Mrs. Costello returned with dignity, "that you had made her valuable acquaintance."
"We simply met in the garden and talked a bit."
"By appointment--no? Ah that's still to come! Pray what did you say?"
"I said I should take the liberty of introducing her to my admirable aunt."
"Your admirable aunt's a thousand times obliged to you."
"It was to guarantee my respectability."
(25) "And pray who's to guarantee hers?"
"Ah you're cruel!" said the young man. "She's a very innocent girl."
"You don't say that as if you believed it," Mrs. Costello returned.
"She's completely uneducated," Winterbourne acknowledged, "but she's wonderfully pretty, and in short she's very nice. To prove I believe it I'm going to take her to the Chateau de Chillon."
Mrs. Costello made a wondrous face. "You two are going off there together? I should say it proved just the contrary. How long had you known her, may I ask, when this interesting project was formed? You haven't been twenty-four hours in the house."
"I had known her half an hour!" Winterbourne smiled.
"Then she's just what I supposed."
"And what do you suppose?"
"Why that she's a horror."
Our youth was silent for some moments. "You really think then," he presently began, and with a desire for trustworthy information, "you really think that--" But he paused again while his aunt waited.
"Think what, sir?"
"That she's the sort of young lady who expects a man sooner or later to--well, we'll call it carry her off?"
"I haven't the least idea what such young ladies expect a man to do. But I really consider you had better not meddle with little American girls who are uneducated, as you mildly put it. You've lived too (26) long out of the country. You'll be sure to make some great mistake. You're too innocent."
"My dear aunt, not so much as that comes to!" he protested with a laugh and a curl of his moustache.
"You're too guilty then!"
He continued all thoughtfully to finger the ornament in question. "You won't let the poor girl know you then?" he asked at last.
"Is it literally true that she's going to the Chateau de Chillon with you?"
"I've no doubt she fully intends it."
"Then, my dear Frederick," said Mrs. Costello, "I must decline the honour of her acquaintance. I'm an old woman, but I'm not too old--thank heaven--to be honestly shocked!"
"But don't they all do these things--the little American girls at home?" Winterbourne enquired.
Mrs. Costello stared a moment. "I should like to see my granddaughters do them!" she then grimly returned.
This seemed to throw some light on the matter, for Winterbourne remembered to have heard his pretty cousins in New York, the daughters of this lady's two daughters, called "tremendous flirts." If therefore Miss Daisy Miller exceeded the liberal licence allowed to these young women it was probable she did go even by the American allowance rather far. Winterbourne was impatient to see her again, and it vexed, it even a little humiliated him, that he shouldn't by instinct appreciate her justly.
Though so impatient to see her again he hardly knew what ground he should give for his aunt's refusal (27) to become acquainted with her; but he discovered promptly enough that with Miss Daisy Miller there was no great need of walking on tiptoe. He found her that evening in the garden, wandering about in the warm starlight after the manner of an indolent sylph and swinging to and fro the largest fan he had ever beheld. It was ten o'clock. He had dined with his aunt, had been sitting with her since dinner, and had just taken leave of her till the morrow. His young friend frankly rejoiced to renew their intercourse; she pronounced it the stupidest evening she had ever passed.
"Have you been all alone?" he asked with no intention of an epigram and no effect of her perceiving one.
"I've been walking round with mother. But mother gets tired walking round," Miss Miller explained.
"Has she gone to bed?"
"No, she doesn't like to go to bed. She doesn't sleep scarcely any--not three hours. She says she doesn't know how she lives. She's dreadfully nervous. I guess she sleeps more than she thinks. She's gone somewhere after Randolph; she wants to try to get him to go to bed. He doesn't like to go to bed."
The soft impartiality of her _constatations_, as Winterbourne would have termed them, was a thing by itself--exquisite little fatalist as they seemed to make her. "Let us hope she'll persuade him," he encouragingly said.
"Well, she'll talk to him all she can--but he doesn't like her to talk to him": with which Miss Daisy opened and closed her fan. "She's going to try (28) to get Eugenio to talk to him. But Randolph ain't afraid of Eugenio. Eugenio's a splendid courier, but he can't make much impression on Randolph! I don't believe he'll go to bed before eleven." Her detachment from any invidious judgement of this was, to her companion's sense, inimitable; and it appeared that Randolph's vigil was in fact triumphantly prolonged, for Winterbourne attended her in her stroll for some time without meeting her mother. "I've been looking round for that lady you want to introduce me to," she resumed--"I guess she's your aunt." Then on his admitting the fact and expressing some curiosity as to how she had learned it, she said she had heard all about Mrs. Costello from the chambermaid. She was very quiet and very _comme il faut_; she wore white puffs; she spoke to no one and she never dined at the common table. Every two days she had a headache. "I think that's a lovely description, headache and all!" said Miss Daisy, chattering along in her thin gay voice. "I want to know her ever so much. I know just what YOUR aunt would be; I know I'd like her. She'd be very exclusive. I like a lady to be exclusive; I'm dying to be exclusive myself. Well, I guess we ARE exclusive, mother and I. We don't speak to any one--or they don't speak to us. I suppose it's about the same thing. Anyway, I shall be ever so glad to meet your aunt."
Winterbourne was embarrassed--he could but trump up some evasion. "She'd be most happy, but I'm afraid those tiresome headaches are always to be reckoned with."
The girl looked at him through the fine dusk. (29) "Well, I suppose she doesn't have a headache every day."
He had to make the best of it. "She tells me she wonderfully does." He didn't know what else to say.
Miss Miller stopped and stood looking at him. Her prettiness was still visible in the darkness; she kept flapping to and fro her enormous fan. "She doesn't want to know me!" she then lightly broke out. "Why don't you say so? You needn't be afraid. I'M not afraid!" And she quite crowed for the fun of it.
Winterbourne distinguished however a wee false note in this: he was touched, shocked, mortified by it. "My dear young lady, she knows no one. She goes through life immured. It's her wretched health."
The young girl walked on a few steps in the glee of the thing. "You needn't be afraid," she repeated. "Why should she want to know me?" Then she paused again; she was close to the parapet of the garden, and in front of her was the starlit lake. There was a vague sheen on its surface, and in the distance were dimly-seen mountain forms. Daisy Miller looked out at these great lights and shades and again proclaimed a gay indifference--"Gracious! she IS exclusive!" Winterbourne wondered if she were seriously wounded and for a moment almost wished her sense of injury might be such as to make it becoming in him to reassure and comfort her. He had a pleasant sense that she would be all accessible to a respectful tenderness at that moment. He felt quite ready to sacrifice his aunt--conversationally; to acknowledge she was a proud rude woman and to make the point that they needn't mind her. But before he had (30) time to commit himself to this questionable mixture of gallantry and impiety, the young lady, resuming her walk, gave an exclamation in quite another tone. "Well, here's mother! I guess she HASN'T got Randolph to go to bed." The figure of a lady appeared, at a distance, very indistinct in the darkness; it advanced with a slow and wavering step and then suddenly seemed to pause.
"Are you sure it's your mother? Can you make her out in this thick dusk?" Winterbourne asked.
"Well," the girl laughed, "I guess I know my own mother! And when she has got on my shawl too. She's always wearing my things."
The lady in question, ceasing now to approach, hovered vaguely about the spot at which she had checked her steps.
"I'm afraid your mother doesn't see you," said Winterbourne. "Or perhaps," he added--thinking, with Miss Miller, the joke permissible--"perhaps she feels guilty about your shawl."
"Oh it's a fearful old thing!" his companion placidly answered. "I told her she could wear it if she didn't mind looking like a fright. She won't come here because she sees you."
"Ah then," said Winterbourne, "I had better leave you."
"Oh no--come on!" the girl insisted.
"I'm afraid your mother doesn't approve of my walking with you."
She gave him, he thought, the oddest glance. "It isn't for me; it's for you--that is it's for HER. Well, I don't know who it's for! But mother doesn't like (31) any of my gentlemen friends. She's right down timid. She always makes a fuss if I introduce a gentleman. But I DO introduce them--almost always. If I didn't introduce my gentlemen friends to mother," Miss Miller added, in her small flat monotone, "I shouldn't think I was natural."
"Well, to introduce me," Winterbourne remarked, "you must know my name." And he proceeded to pronounce it.
"Oh my--I can't say all that!" cried his companion, much amused. But by this time they had come up to Mrs. Miller, who, as they drew near, walked to the parapet of the garden and leaned on it, looking intently at the lake and presenting her back to them. "Mother!" said the girl in a tone of decision--upon which the elder lady turned round. "Mr. Frederick Forsyth Winterbourne," said the latter's young friend, repeating his lesson of a moment before and introducing him very frankly and prettily. "Common" she might be, as Mrs. Costello had pronounced her; yet what provision was made by that epithet for her queer little native grace?
Her mother was a small spare light person, with a wandering eye, a scarce perceptible nose, and, as to make up for it, an unmistakeable forehead, decorated--but too far back, as Winterbourne mentally described it--with thin much-frizzled hair. Like her daughter Mrs. Miller was dressed with extreme elegance; she had enormous diamonds in her ears. So far as the young man could observe, she gave him no greeting--she certainly wasn't looking at him. Daisy was near her, pulling her shawl (32) straight. "What are you doing, poking round here?" this young lady enquired--yet by no means with the harshness of accent her choice of words might have implied.
"Well, I don't know"--and the new-comer turned to the lake again.
"I shouldn't think you'd want that shawl!" Daisy familiarly proceeded.
"Well--I do!" her mother answered with a sound that partook for Winterbourne of an odd strain between mirth and woe.
"Did you get Randolph to go to bed?" Daisy asked.
"No, I couldn't induce him"--and Mrs. Miller seemed to confess to the same mild fatalism as her daughter. "He wants to talk to the waiter. He LIKES to talk to that waiter."
"I was just telling Mr. Winterbourne," the girl went on; and to the young man's ear her tone might have indicated that she had been uttering his name all her life.
"Oh yes!" he concurred--"I've the pleasure of knowing your son."
Randolph's mamma was silent; she kept her attention on the lake. But at last a sigh broke from her. "Well, I don't see how he lives!"
"Anyhow, it isn't so bad as it was at Dover," Daisy at least opined.
"And what occurred at Dover?" Winterbourne desired to know.
"He wouldn't go to bed at all. I guess he sat up all night--in the public parlour. He wasn't in (33) bed at twelve o'clock: it seemed as if he couldn't budge."
"It was half-past twelve when i gave up," Mrs. Miller recorded with passionless accuracy.
It was of great interest to Winterbourne. "Does he sleep much during the day?"
"I guess he doesn't sleep VERY much," Daisy rejoined.
"I wish he just WOULD!" said her mother. "It seems as if he MUST make it up somehow."
"Well, I guess it's we that make it up. I think he's real tiresome," Daisy pursued.
After which, for some moments, there was silence. "Well, Daisy Miller," the elder lady then unexpectedly broke out, "I shouldn't think you'd want to talk against your own brother!"
"Well, he IS tiresome, mother," said the girl, but with no sharpness of insistence.
"Well, he's only nine," Mrs. Miller lucidly urged.
"Well, he wouldn't go up to that castle, anyway," her daughter replied as for accommodation. "I'm going up there with Mr. Winterbourne."
To this announcement, very placidly made, Daisy's parent offered no response. Winterbourne took for granted on this that she opposed such a course; but he said to himself at the same time that she was a simple easily-managed person and that a few deferential protestations would modify her attitude. "Yes," he therefore interposed, "your daughter has kindly allowed me the honour of being her guide."
Mrs. Miller's wandering eyes attached themselves with an appealing air to her other companion, who, (34) however, strolled a few steps further, gently humming to herself. "I presume you'll go in the cars," she then quite colourlessly remarked.
"Yes, or in the boat," said Winterbourne.
"Well, of course I don't know," Mrs. Miller returned. "I've never been up to that castle."
"It is a pity you shouldn't go," he observed, beginning to feel reassured as to her opposition. And yet he was quite prepared to find that as a matter of course she meant to accompany her daughter.
It was on this view accordingly that light was projected for him. "We've been thinking ever so much about going, but it seems as if we couldn't. Of course Daisy--she wants to go round everywhere. But there's a lady here--I don't know her name--she says she shouldn't think we'd want to go to see castles HERE; she should think we'd want to wait till we got t' Italy. It seems as if there would be so many there," continued Mrs. Miller with an air of increasing confidence. "Of course we only want to see the principal ones. We visited several in England," she presently added.
"Ah yes, in England there are beautiful castles," said Winterbourne. "But Chillon here is very well worth seeing."
"Well, if Daisy feels up to it--" said Mrs. Miller in a tone that seemed to break under the burden of such conceptions. "It seems as if there's nothing she won't undertake."
"Oh I'm pretty sure she'll enjoy it!" Winterbourne declared. And he desired more and more to make it a certainty that he was to have the privilege of (35) a _tete-a-tete _ with the young lady who was still strolling along in front of them and softly vocalising. "You're not disposed, madam," he enquired, "to make the so interesting excursion yourself?"
So addressed Daisy's mother looked at him an instant with a certain scared obliquity and then walked forward in silence. Then, "I guess she had better go alone," she said simply.
It gave him occasion to note that this was a very different type of maternity from that of the vigilant matrons who massed themselves in the forefront of social intercourse in the dark old city at the other end of the lake. But his meditations were interrupted by hearing his name very distinctly pronounced by Mrs. Miller's unprotected daughter. "Mr. Winterbourne!" she piped from a considerable distance.
"Mademoiselle!" said the young man.
"Don't you want to take me out in a boat?"
"At present?" he asked.
"Why of course!" she gaily returned.
"Well, Annie Miller!" exclaimed her mother.
"I beg you, madam, to let her go," he hereupon eagerly pleaded; so instantly had he been struck with the romantic side of this chance to guide through the summer starlight a skiff freighted with a fresh and beautiful young girl.
"I shouldn't think she'd want to," said her mother. "I should think she'd rather go indoors."
"I'm sure Mr. Winterbourne wants to TAKE me," Daisy declared. "He's so awfully devoted!"
"I'll row you over to Chillon under the stars."
"I don't believe it!" Daisy laughed.
(36) "Well!" the elder lady again gasped, as in rebuke of this freedom.
"You haven't spoken to me for half an hour," her daughter went on.
"I've been having some very pleasant conversation with your mother," Winterbourne replied.
"Oh pshaw! I want you to take me out in a boat!" Daisy went on as if nothing else had been said. They had all stopped and she had turned round and was looking at her friend. Her face wore a charming smile, her pretty eyes gleamed in the darkness, she swung her great fan about. No, he felt, it was impossible to be prettier than that.
"There are half a dozen boats moored at that landing-place," and he pointed to a range of steps that descended from the garden to the lake. "If you'll do me the honour to accept my arm we'll go and select one of them."
She stood there smiling; she threw back her head; she laughed as for the drollery of this. "I like a gentleman to be formal!"
"I assure you it's a formal offer."
"I was bound I'd make you say something," Daisy agreeably mocked.
"You see it's not very difficult," said Winterbourne. "But I'm afraid you're chaffing me."
"I think not, sir," Mrs. Miller shyly pleaded.
"Do then let me give you a row," he persisted to Daisy.
"It's quite lovely, the way you say that!" she cried in reward.
"It will be still more lovely to do it."
(37) "Yes, it would be lovely!" But she made no movement to accompany him; she only remained an elegant image of free light irony.
"I guess you'd better find out what time it is," her mother impartially contributed.
"It's eleven o'clock, Madam," said a voice with a foreign accent out of the neighbouring darkness; and Winterbourne, turning, recognised the florid personage he had already seen in attendance. He had apparently just approached.
"Oh Eugenio," said Daisy, "I'm going out with Mr. Winterbourne in a boat!"
Eugenio bowed. "At this hour of the night, Mademoiselle?"
"I'm going with Mr. Winterbourne," she repeated with her shining smile. "I'm going this very minute."
"Do tell her she can't, Eugenio," Mrs. Miller said to the courier.
"I think you had better not go out in a boat, Mademoiselle," the man declared.
Winterbourne wished to goodness this pretty girl were not on such familiar terms with her courier; but he said nothing, and she meanwhile added to his ground. "I suppose you don't think it's proper! My!" she wailed; "Eugenio doesn't think anything's proper."
"I'm nevertheless quite at your service," Winterbourne hastened to remark.
"Does Mademoiselle propose to go alone?" Eugenio asked of Mrs. Miller.
"Oh no, with this gentleman!" cried Daisy's mamma for reassurance.
(38) "I MEANT alone with the gentleman." The courier looked for a moment at Winterbourne--the latter seemed to make out in his face a vague presumptuous intelligence as at the expense of their companions--and then solemnly and with a bow, "As Mademoiselle pleases!" he said.
But Daisy broke off at this. "Oh I hoped you'd make a fuss! I don't care to go now."
"Ah but I myself shall make a fuss if you don't go," Winterbourne declared with spirit.
"That's all I want--a little fuss!" With which she began to laugh again.
"Mr. Randolph has retired for the night!" the courier hereupon importantly announced.
"Oh Daisy, now we can go then!" cried Mrs. Miller.
Her daughter turned away from their friend, all lighted with her odd perversity. "Good-night--I hope you're disappointed or disgusted or something!"
He looked at her gravely, taking her by the hand she offered. "I'm puzzled, if you want to know!" he answered.
"Well, I hope it won't keep you awake!" she said very smartly; and, under the escort of the privileged Eugenio, the two ladies passed toward the house.
Winterbourne's eyes followed them; he was indeed quite mystified. He lingered beside the lake a quarter of an hour, baffled by the question of the girl's sudden familiarities and caprices. But the only very definite conclusion he came to was that he should enjoy deucedly "going off" with her somewhere.
(39) Two days later he went off with her to the Castle of Chillon. He waited for her in the large hall of the hotel, where the couriers, the servants, the foreign tourists were lounging about and staring. It wasn't the place he would have chosen for a tryst, but she had placidly appointed it. She came tripping downstairs, buttoning her long gloves, squeezing her folded parasol against her pretty figure, dressed exactly in the way that consorted best, to his fancy, with their adventure. He was a man of imagination and, as our ancestors used to say, of sensibility; as he took in her charming air and caught from the great staircase her impatient confiding step the note of some small sweet strain of romance, not intense but clear and sweet, seemed to sound for their start. He could have believed he was REALLY going "off" with her. He led her out through all the idle people assembled--they all looked at her straight and hard: she had begun to chatter as soon as she joined him. His preference had been that they should be conveyed to Chillon in a carriage, but she expressed a lively wish to go in the little steamer--there would be such a lovely breeze upon the water and they should see such lots of people. The sail wasn't long, but Winterbourne's companion found time for many characteristic remarks and other demonstrations, not a few of which were, from the extremity of their candour, slightly disconcerting. To the young man himself their small excursion showed so for delightfully irregular and incongruously intimate that, even allowing for her habitual sense of freedom, he had some expectation of seeing her appear to find in it the same savour. But it must be confessed (40) that he was in this particular rather disappointed. Miss Miller was highly animated, she was in the brightest spirits; but she was clearly not at all in a nervous flutter--as she should have been to match HIS tension; she avoided neither his eyes nor those of any one else; she neither coloured from an awkward consciousness when she looked at him nor when she saw that people were looking at herself. People continued to look at her a great deal, and Winterbourne could at least take pleasure in his pretty companion's distinguished air. He had been privately afraid she would talk loud, laugh overmuch, and even perhaps desire to move extravagantly about the boat. But he quite forgot his fears; he sat smiling with his eyes on her face while, without stirring from her place, she delivered herself of a great number of original reflexions. It was the most charming innocent prattle he had ever heard, for, by his own experience hitherto, when young persons were so ingenuous they were less articulate and when they were so confident were more sophisticated. If he had assented to the idea that she was "common," at any rate, WAS she proving so, after all, or was he simply getting used to her commonness? Her discourse was for the most part of what immediately and superficially surrounded them, but there were moments when it threw out a longer look or took a sudden straight plunge.
"What on EARTH are you so solemn about?" she suddenly demanded, fixing her agreeable eyes on her friend's.
"AM I solemn?" he asked. "I had an idea I was grinning from ear to ear."
(41) "You look as if you were taking me to a prayer-meeting or a funeral. If that's a grin your ears are very near together."
"Should you like me to dance a hornpipe on the deck?"
"Pray do, and I'll carry round your hat. It will pay the expenses of our journey."
"I never was better pleased in my life," Winterbourne returned.
She looked at him a moment, then let it renew her amusement. "I like to make you say those things. You're a queer mixture!"
In the castle, after they had landed, nothing could exceed the light independence of her humour. She tripped about the vaulted chambers, rustled her skirts in the corkscrew staircases, flirted back with a pretty little cry and a shudder from the edge of the oubliettes and turned a singularly well-shaped ear to everything Winterbourne told her about the place. But he saw she cared little for mediaeval history and that the grim ghosts of Chillon loomed but faintly before her. They had the good fortune to have been able to wander without other society than that of their guide; and Winterbourne arranged with this companion that they shouldn't be hurried--that they should linger and pause wherever they chose. He interpreted the bargain generously--Winterbourne on his side had been generous--and ended by leaving them quite to themselves. Miss Miller's observations were marked by no logical consistency; for anything she wanted to say she was sure to find a pretext. She found a great many, in the tortuous passages and rugged embrasures (42) of the place, for asking her young man sudden questions about himself, his family, his previous history, his tastes, his habits, his designs, and for supplying information on corresponding points in her own situation. Of her own tastes, habits and designs the charming creature was prepared to give the most definite and indeed the most favourable account.
"Well, I hope you know enough!" she exclaimed after Winterbourne had sketched for her something of the story of the unhappy Bonnivard. "I never saw a man that knew so much!" The history of Bonnivard had evidently, as they say, gone into one ear and out of the other. But this easy erudition struck her none the less as wonderful, and she was soon quite sure she wished Winterbourne would travel with them and "go round" with them: they too in that case might learn something about something. "Don't you want to come and teach Randolph?" she asked; "I guess he'd improve with a gentleman teacher." Winterbourne was certain that nothing could possibly please him so much, but that he had unfortunately other occupations. "Other occupations? I don't believe a speck of it!" she protested. "What do you mean now? You're not in business." The young man allowed that he was not in business, but he had engagements which even within a day or two would necessitate his return to Geneva. "Oh bother!" she panted, "I don't believe it!" and she began to talk about something else. But a few moments later, when he was pointing out to her the interesting design of an antique fireplace, she broke out irrelevantly: "You don't mean to say you're going back to Geneva?"
(43) "It is a melancholy fact that I shall have to report myself there to-morrow."
She met it with a vivacity that could only flatter him. "Well, Mr. Winterbourne, I think you're horrid!"
"Oh don't say such dreadful things!" he quite sincerely pleaded--"just at the last."
"The last?" the girl cried; "I call it the very first! I've half a mind to leave you here and go straight back to the hotel alone." And for the next ten minutes she did nothing but call him horrid. Poor Winterbourne was fairly bewildered; no young lady had as yet done him the honour to be so agitated by the mention of his personal plans. His companion, after this, ceased to pay any attention to the curiosities of Chillon or the beauties of the lake; she opened fire on the special charmer in Geneva whom she appeared to have instantly taken it for granted that he was hurrying back to see. How did Miss Daisy Miller know of that agent of his fate in Geneva? Winterbourne, who denied the existence of such a person, was quite unable to discover; and he was divided between amazement at the rapidity of her induction and amusement at the directness of her criticism. She struck him afresh, in all this, as an extraordinary mixture of innocence and crudity. "Does she never allow you more than three days at a time?" Miss Miller wished ironically to know. "Doesn't she give you a vacation in summer? there's no one so hard-worked but they can get leave to go off somewhere at this season. I suppose if you stay another day she'll come right after you in the boat. Do wait over till Friday and I'll go (44) down to the landing to see her arrive!" He began at last even to feel he had been wrong to be disappointed in the temper in which his young lady had embarked. If he had missed the personal accent, the personal accent was now making its appearance. It sounded very distinctly, toward the end, in her telling him she'd stop "teasing" him if he'd promise her solemnly to come down to Rome that winter.
"That's not a difficult promise to make," he hastened to acknowledge. "My aunt has taken an apartment in Rome from January and has already asked me to come and see her."
"I don't want you to come for your aunt," said Daisy; "I want you just to come for me." And this was the only allusion he was ever to hear her make again to his invidious kinswoman. He promised her that at any rate he would certainly come, and after this she forbore from teasing. Winterbourne took a carriage and they drove back to Vevey in the dusk; the girl at his side, her animation a little spent, was now quite distractingly passive.
In the evening he mentioned to Mrs. Costello that he had spent the afternoon at Chillon with Miss Daisy Miller.
"The Americans--of the courier?" asked this lady.
"Ah happily the courier stayed at home."
"She went with you all alone?"
Mrs. Costello sniffed a little at her smelling-bottle. "And that," she exclaimed, "is the little abomination you wanted me to know!"
Winterbourne, who had returned to Geneva the day after his excursion to Chillon, went to Rome toward the end of January. His aunt had been established there a considerable time and he had received from her a couple of characteristic letters. "Those people you were so devoted to last summer at Vevey have turned up here, courier and all," she wrote. "They seem to have made several acquaintances, but the courier continues to be the most _intime_. The young lady, however, is also very intimate with various third-rate Italians, with whom she rackets about in a way that makes much talk. Bring me that pretty novel of Cherbuliez's--'Paule Mere'--and don't come later than the 23d."
Our friend would in the natural course of events, on arriving in Rome, have presently ascertained Mrs. Miller's address at the American banker's and gone to pay his compliments to Miss Daisy. "After what happened at Vevey I certainly think I may call upon them," he said to Mrs. Costello.
"If after what happens--at Vevey and everywhere--you desire to keep up the acquaintance, you're very welcome. Of course you're not squeamish--a man may know every one. Men are welcome to the privilege!"
"Pray what is it then that 'happens'--here for instance?" Winterbourne asked.
"Well, the girl tears about alone with her unmistakeably (46) low foreigners. As to what happens further you must apply elsewhere for information. She has picked up half a dozen of the regular Roman fortune-hunters of the inferior sort and she takes them about to such houses as she may put HER nose into. When she comes to a party--such a party as she can come to--she brings with her a gentleman with a good deal of manner and a wonderful moustache."
"And where's the mother?"
"I haven't the least idea. They're very dreadful people."
Winterbourne thought them over in these new lights. "They're very ignorant--very innocent only, and utterly uncivilised. Depend on it they're not `bad.'"
"They're hopelessly vulgar," said Mrs. Costello. "Whether or no being hopelessly vulgar is being `bad' is a question for the metaphysicians. They're bad enough to blush for, at any rate; and for this short life that's quite enough."
The news that his little friend the child of nature of the Swiss lakeside was now surrounded by half a dozen wonderful moustaches checked Winterbourne's impulse to go straightway to see her. He had perhaps not definitely flattered himself that he had made an ineffaceable impression upon her heart, but he was annoyed at hearing of a state of affairs so little in harmony with an image that had lately flitted in and out of his own meditations; the image of a very pretty girl looking out of an old Roman window and asking herself urgently when Mr. Winterbourne would arrive. If, however, he determined to wait a little before reminding (47) this young lady of his claim to her faithful remembrance, he called with more promptitude on two or three other friends. One of these friends was an American lady who had spent several winters at Geneva, where she had placed her children at school. She was a very accomplished woman and she lived in Via Gregoriana. Winterbourne found her in a little crimson drawing-room on a third floor; the room was filled with southern sunshine. He hadn't been there ten minutes when the servant, appearing in the doorway, announced complacently "Madame Mila!" This announcement was presently followed by the entrance of little Randolph Miller, who stopped in the middle of the room and stood staring at Winterbourne. An instant later his pretty sister crossed the threshold; and then, after a considerable interval, the parent of the pair slowly advanced.
"I guess I know you!" Randolph broke ground without delay.
"I'm sure you know a great many things"--and his old friend clutched him all interestedly by the arm. "How's your education coming on?"
Daisy was engaged in some pretty babble with her hostess, but when she heard Winterbourne's voice she quickly turned her head with a "Well, I declare!" which he met smiling. "I told you I should come, you know."
"Well, I didn't believe it," she answered.
"I'm much obliged to you for that," laughed the young man.
"You might have come to see me then," Daisy went on as if they had parted the week before.
(48) "I arrived only yesterday."
"I don't believe any such thing!" the girl declared afresh.
Winterbourne turned with a protesting smile to her mother, but this lady evaded his glance and, seating herself, fixed her eyes on her son. "We've got a bigger place than this," Randolph hereupon broke out. "It's all gold on the walls."
Mrs. Miller, more of a fatalist apparently than ever, turned uneasily in her chair. "I told you if I was to bring you you'd say something!" she stated as for the benefit of such of the company as might hear it.
"I told YOU!" Randolph retorted. "I tell YOU, sir!" he added jocosely, giving Winterbourne a thump on the knee. "It IS bigger too!"
As Daisy's conversation with her hostess still occupied her Winterbourne judged it becoming to address a few words to her mother--such as "I hope you've been well since we parted at Vevey."
Mrs. Miller now certainly looked at him--at his chin. "Not very well, sir," she answered.
"She's got the dyspepsia," said Randolph. "I've got it too. Father's got it bad. But I've got it worst!"
This proclamation, instead of embarrassing Mrs. Miller, seemed to soothe her by reconstituting the environment to which she was most accustomed. "I suffer from the liver," she amiably whined to Winterbourne. "I think it's this climate; it's less bracing than Schenectady, especially in the winter season. I don't know whether you know we reside at Schenectady. I was saying to Daisy that I certainly hadn't found any one like Dr. Davis and I didn't believe I (49) WOULD. Oh up in Schenectady, he stands first; they think everything of Dr. Davis. He has so much to do, and yet there was nothing he wouldn't do for ME. He said he never saw anything like my dyspepsia, but he was bound to get at it. I'm sure there was nothing he wouldn't try, and I didn't care what he did to me if he only brought me relief. He was just going to try something new, and I just longed for it, when we came right off. Mr. Miller felt as if he wanted Daisy to see Europe for herself. But I couldn't help writing the other day that I supposed it was all right for Daisy, but that I didn't know as I COULD get on much longer without Dr. Davis. At Schenectady he stands at the very top; and there's a great deal of sickness there too. It affects my sleep."
Winterbourne had a good deal of pathological gossip with Dr. Davis's patient, during which Daisy chattered unremittingly to her own companion. The young man asked Mrs. Miller how she was pleased with Rome. "Well, I must say I'm disappointed," she confessed. "We had heard so much about it--I suppose we had heard too much. But we couldn't help that. We had been led to expect something different."
Winterbourne, however, abounded in reassurance. "Ah wait a little, and you'll grow very fond of it."
"I hate it worse and worse every day!" cried Randolph.
"You're like the infant Hannibal," his friend laughed.
"No I ain't--like any infant!" Randolph declared at a venture.
"Well, that's so--and you never WERE!" his (50) mother concurred. "But we've seen places," she resumed, "that I'd put a long way ahead of Rome." And in reply to Winterbourne's interrogation, "There's Zurich--up there in the mountains," she instanced; "I think Zurich's real lovely, and we hadn't heard half so much about it."
"The best place we've seen's the _City of Richmond_!" said Randolph.
"He means the ship," Mrs. Miller explained. "We crossed in that ship. Randolph had a good time on the _City of Richmond_."
"It's the best place I'VE struck," the child repeated. "Only it was turned the wrong way."
"Well, we've got to turn the right way sometime," said Mrs. Miller with strained but weak optimism. Winterbourne expressed the hope that her daughter at least appreciated the so various interest of Rome, and she declared with some spirit that Daisy was quite carried away. "It's on account of the society--the society's splendid. She goes round everywhere; she has made a great number of acquaintances. Of course she goes round more than I do. I must say they've all been very sweet--they've taken her right in. And then she knows a great many gentlemen. Oh she thinks there's nothing like Rome. Of course it's a great deal pleasanter for a young lady if she knows plenty of gentlemen."
By this time Daisy had turned her attention again to Winterbourne, but in quite the same free form. "I've been telling Mrs. Walker how mean you were!"
"And what's the evidence you've offered?" he asked, a trifle disconcerted, for all his superior gallantry, (51) by her inadequate measure of the zeal of an admirer who on his way down to Rome had stopped neither at Bologna nor at Florence, simply because of a certain sweet appeal to his fond fancy, not to say to his finest curiosity. He remembered how a cynical compatriot had once told him that American women--the pretty ones, and this gave a largeness to the axiom--were at once the most exacting in the world and the least endowed with a sense of indebtedness.
"Why you were awfully mean up at Vevey," Daisy said. "You wouldn't do most anything. You wouldn't stay there when I asked you."
"Dearest young lady," cried Winterbourne, with generous passion, "have I come all the way to Rome only to be riddled by your silver shafts?"
"Just hear him say that!"--and she gave an affectionate twist to a bow on her hostess's dress. "Did you ever hear anything so quaint?"
"So `quaint,' my dear?" echoed Mrs. Walker more critically--quite in the tone of a partisan of Winterbourne.
"Well, I don't know"--and the girl continued to finger her ribbons. "Mrs. Walker, I want to tell you something."
"Say, mother-r," broke in Randolph with his rough ends to his words, "I tell you you've got to go. Eugenio'll raise something!"
"I'm not afraid of Eugenio," said Daisy with a toss of her head. "Look here, Mrs. Walker," she went on, "you know I'm coming to your party."
"I'm delighted to hear it."
"I've got a lovely dress."
(52) "I'm very sure of that."
"But I want to ask a favour--permission to bring a friend."
"I shall be happy to see any of your friends," said Mrs. Walker, who turned with a smile to Mrs. Miller.
"Oh they're not my friends," cried that lady, squirming in shy repudiation. "It seems as if they didn't take to ME--I never spoke to one of them!"
"It's an intimate friend of mine, Mr. Giovanelli," Daisy pursued without a tremor in her young clearness or a shadow on her shining bloom.
Mrs. Walker had a pause and gave a rapid glance at Winterbourne. "I shall be glad to see Mr. Giovanelli," she then returned.
"He's just the finest kind of Italian," Daisy pursued with the prettiest serenity. "He's a great friend of mine and the handsomest man in the world--except Mr. Winterbourne! He knows plenty of Italians, but he wants to know some Americans. It seems as if he was crazy about Americans. He's tremendously bright. He's perfectly lovely!"
It was settled that this paragon should be brought to Mrs. Walker's party, and then Mrs. Miller prepared to take her leave. "I guess we'll go right back to the hotel," she remarked with a confessed failure of the larger imagination.
"You may go back to the hotel, mother," Daisy replied, "but I'm just going to walk round."
"She's going to go it with Mr. Giovanelli," Randolph unscrupulously commented.
"I'm going to go it on the Pincio," Daisy peaceably (53) smiled, while the way that she "condoned" these things almost melted Winterbourne's heart.
"Alone, my dear--at this hour?" Mrs. Walker asked. The afternoon was drawing to a close--it was the hour for the throng of carriages and of contemplative pedestrians. "I don't consider it's safe, Daisy," her hostess firmly asserted.
"Neither do I then," Mrs. Miller thus borrowed confidence to add. "You'll catch the fever as sure as you live. Remember what Dr. Davis told you!"
"Give her some of that medicine before she starts in," Randolph suggested.
The company had risen to its feet; Daisy, still showing her pretty teeth, bent over and kissed her hostess. "Mrs. Walker, you're too perfect," she simply said. "I'm not going alone; I'm going to meet a friend."
"Your friend won't keep you from catching the fever even if it IS his own second nature," Mrs. Miller observed.
"Is it Mr. Giovanelli that's the dangerous attraction?" Mrs. Walker asked without mercy.
Winterbourne was watching the challenged girl; at this question his attention quickened. She stood there smiling and smoothing her bonnet-ribbons; she glanced at Winterbourne. Then, while she glanced and smiled, she brought out all affirmatively and without a shade of hesitation: "Mr. Giovanelli--the beautiful Giovanelli."
"My dear young friend"--and, taking her hand, Mrs. Walker turned to pleading--"don't prowl off to the Pincio at this hour to meet a beautiful Italian."
(54) "Well, he speaks first-rate English," Mrs. Miller incoherently mentioned.
"Gracious me," Daisy piped up, "I don't want to do anything that's going to affect my health--or my character either! There's an easy way to settle it." Her eyes continued to play over Winterbourne. "The Pincio's only a hundred yards off, and if Mr. Winterbourne were as polite as he pretends he'd offer to walk right in with me!"
Winterbourne's politeness hastened to proclaim itself, and the girl gave him gracious leave to accompany her. They passed downstairs before her mother, and at the door he saw Mrs. Miller's carriage drawn up, with the ornamental courier whose acquaintance he had made at Vevey seated within. "Good-bye, Eugenio," cried Daisy; "I'm going to take a walk!" The distance from Via Gregoriana to the beautiful garden at the other end of the Pincian Hill is in fact rapidly traversed. As the day was splendid, however, and the concourse of vehicles, walkers and loungers numerous, the young Americans found their progress much delayed. This fact was highly agreeable to Winterbourne, in spite of his consciousness of his singular situation. The slow-moving, idly-gazing Roman crowd bestowed much attention on the extremely pretty young woman of English race who passed through it, with some difficulty, on his arm; and he wondered what on earth had been in Daisy's mind when she proposed to exhibit herself unattended to its appreciation. His own mission, to her sense, was apparently to consign her to the hands of Mr. Giovanelli; but, at once (55) annoyed and gratified, he resolved that he would do no such thing.
"Why haven't you been to see me?" she meanwhile asked. "You can't get out of that."
"I've had the honour of telling you that I've only just stepped out of the train."
"You must have stayed in the train a good while after it stopped!" she derisively cried. "I suppose you were asleep. You've had time to go to see Mrs. Walker."
"I knew Mrs. Walker--" Winterbourne began to explain.
"I know where you knew her. You knew her at Geneva. She told me so. Well, you knew me at Vevey. That's just as good. So you ought to have come." She asked him no other question than this; she began to prattle about her own affairs. "We've got splendid rooms at the hotel; Eugenio says they're the best rooms in Rome. We're going to stay all winter--if we don't die of the fever; and I guess we'll stay then! It's a great deal nicer than I thought; I thought it would be fearfully quiet--in fact I was sure it would be deadly pokey. I foresaw we should be going round all the time with one of those dreadful old men who explain about the pictures and things. But we only had about a week of that, and now I'm enjoying myself. I know ever so many people, and they're all so charming. The society's extremely select. There are all kinds--English and Germans and Italians. I think I like the English best. I like their style of conversation. But there are some lovely Americans. I never saw anything so hospitable. (56) There's something or other every day. There's not much dancing--but I must say I never thought dancing was everything. I was always fond of conversation. I guess I'll have plenty at Mrs. Walker's--her rooms are so small." When they had passed the gate of the Pincian Gardens Miss Miller began to wonder where Mr. Giovanelli might be. "We had better go straight to that place in front, where you look at the view."
Winterbourne at this took a stand. "I certainly shan't help you to find him."
"Then I shall find him without you," Daisy said with spirit.
"You certainly won't leave me!" he protested.
She burst into her familiar little laugh. "Are you afraid you'll get lost--or run over? But there's Giovanelli leaning against that tree. He's staring at the women in the carriages: did you ever see anything so cool?"
Winterbourne descried hereupon at some distance a little figure that stood with folded arms and nursing its cane. It had a handsome face, a hat artfully poised, a glass in one eye and a nosegay in its buttonhole. Daisy's friend looked at it a moment and then said: "Do you mean to speak to that thing?"
"Do I mean to speak to him? Why you don't suppose I mean to communicate by signs!"
"Pray understand then," the young man returned, "that I intend to remain with you."
Daisy stopped and looked at him without a sign of troubled consciousness, with nothing in her face but (57) her charming eyes, her charming teeth and her happy dimples. "Well, she's a cool one!" he thought.
"I don't like the way you say that," she declared. "It's too imperious."
"I beg your pardon if I say it wrong. The main point's to give you an idea of my meaning."
The girl looked at him more gravely, but with eyes that were prettier than ever. "I've never allowed a gentleman to dictate to me or to interfere with anything I do."
"I think that's just where your mistake has come in," he retorted. "You should sometimes listen to a gentleman--the right one."
At this she began to laugh again. "I do nothing but listen to gentlemen! Tell me if Mr. Giovanelli is the right one."
The gentleman with the nosegay in his bosom had now made out our two friends and was approaching Miss Miller with obsequious rapidity. He bowed to Winterbourne as well as to the latter's compatriot; he seemed to shine, in his coxcombical way, with the desire to please and the fact of his own intelligent joy, though Winterbourne thought him not a bad-looking fellow. But he nevertheless said to Daisy: "No, he's not the right one."
She had clearly a natural turn for free introductions; she mentioned with the easiest grace the name of each of her companions to the other. She strolled forward with one of them on either hand; Mr. Giovanelli, who spoke English very cleverly--Winterbourne afterwards learned that he had practised the idiom upon a great many American heiresses--addressed (58) her a great deal of very polite nonsense. He had the best possible manners, and the young American, who said nothing, reflected on that depth of Italian subtlety, so strangely opposed to Anglo-Saxon simplicity, which enables people to show a smoother surface in proportion as they're more acutely displeased. Giovanelli of course had counted upon something more intimate--he had not bargained for a party of three; but he kept his temper in a manner that suggested far-stretching intentions. Winterbourne flattered himself he had taken his measure. "He's anything but a gentleman," said the young American; "he isn't even a very plausible imitation of one. He's a music-master or a penny-a-liner or a third-rate artist. He's awfully on his good behaviour, but damn his fine eyes!" Mr. Giovanelli had indeed great advantages; but it was deeply disgusting to Daisy's other friend that something in her shouldn't have instinctively discriminated against such a type. Giovanelli chattered and jested and made himself agreeable according to his honest Roman lights. It was true that if he was an imitation the imitation was studied. "Nevertheless," Winterbourne said to himself, "a nice girl ought to know!" And then he came back to the dreadful question of whether this WAS in fact a nice girl. Would a nice girl--even allowing for her being a little American flirt--make a rendezvous with a presumably low-lived foreigner? The rendezvous in this case indeed had been in broad daylight and in the most crowded corner of Rome; but wasn't it possible to regard the choice of these very circumstances as a proof more of vulgarity than of anything (59) else? Singular though it may seem, Winterbourne was vexed that the girl, in joining her _amoroso_, shouldn't appear more impatient of his own company, and he was vexed precisely because of his inclination. It was impossible to regard her as a wholly unspotted flower--she lacked a certain indispensable fineness; and it would therefore much simplify the situation to be able to treat her as the subject of one of the visitations known to romancers as "lawless passions." That she should seem to wish to get rid of him would have helped him to think more lightly of her, just as to be able to think more lightly of her would have made her less perplexing. Daisy at any rate continued on this occasion to present herself as an inscrutable combination of audacity and innocence.
She had been walking some quarter of an hour, attended by her two cavaliers and responding in a tone of very childish gaiety, as it after all struck one of them, to the pretty speeches of the other, when a carriage that had detached itself from the revolving train drew up beside the path. At the same moment Winterbourne noticed that his friend Mrs. Walker--the lady whose house he had lately left--was seated in the vehicle and was beckoning to him. Leaving Miss Miller's side, he hastened to obey her summons--and all to find her flushed, excited, scandalised. "It's really too dreadful"--she earnestly appealed to him. "That crazy girl mustn't do this sort of thing. She mustn't walk here with you two men. Fifty people have remarked her."
Winterbourne--suddenly and rather oddly rubbed the wrong way by this--raised his grave eyebrows. (60) "I think it's a pity to make too much fuss about it."
"It's a pity to let the girl ruin herself!"
"She's very innocent," he reasoned in his own troubled interest.
"She's very reckless," cried Mrs. Walker, "and goodness knows how far--left to itself--it may go. Did you ever," she proceeded to enquire, "see anything so blatantly imbecile as the mother? After you had all left me just now I couldn't sit still for thinking of it. It seemed too pitiful not even to attempt to save them. I ordered the carriage and put on my bonnet and came here as quickly as possible. Thank heaven I've found you!"
"What do you propose to do with us?" Winterbourne uncomfortably smiled.
"To ask her to get in, to drive her about here for half an hour--so that the world may see she's not running absolutely wild--and then take her safely home."
"I don't think it's a very happy thought," he said after reflexion, "but you're at liberty to try."
Mrs. Walker accordingly tried. The young man went in pursuit of their young lady who had simply nodded and smiled, from her distance, at her recent patroness in the carriage and then had gone her way with her own companion. On learning, in the event, that Mrs. Walker had followed her, she retraced her steps, however, with a perfect good grace and with Mr. Giovanelli at her side. She professed herself "enchanted" to have a chance to present this gentleman to her good friend, and immediately achieved the (61) introduction; declaring with it, and as if it were of as little importance, that she had never in her life seen anything so lovely as that lady's carriage-rug.
"I'm glad you admire it," said her poor pursuer, smiling sweetly. "Will you get in and let me put it over you?"
"Oh no, thank you!"--Daisy knew her mind. "I'll admire it ever so much more as I see you driving round with it."
"Do get in and drive round WITH me," Mrs. Walker pleaded.
"That would be charming, but it's so fascinating just as I am!"--with which the girl radiantly took in the gentlemen on either side of her.
"It may be fascinating, dear child, but it's not the custom here," urged the lady of the victoria, leaning forward in this vehicle with her hands devoutly clasped.
"Well, it ought to be then!" Daisy imperturbably laughed. "If I didn't walk I'd expire."
"You should walk with your mother, dear," cried Mrs. Walker with a loss of patience.
"With my mother dear?" the girl amusedly echoed. Winterbourne saw she scented interference. "My mother never walked ten steps in her life. And then, you know," she blandly added, "I'm more than five years old."
"You're old enough to be more reasonable. You're old enough, dear Miss Miller, to be talked about."
Daisy wondered to extravagance. "Talked about? What do you mean?"
"Come into my carriage and I'll tell you."
(62) Daisy turned shining eyes again from one of the gentlemen beside her to the other. Mr. Giovanelli was bowing to and fro, rubbing down his gloves and laughing irresponsibly; Winterbourne thought the scene the most unpleasant possible. "I don't think I want to know what you mean," the girl presently said. "I don't think I should like it."
Winterbourne only wished Mrs. Walker would tuck up her carriage-rug and drive away; but this lady, as she afterwards told him, didn't feel she could "rest there." "Should you prefer being thought a very reckless girl?" she accordingly asked.
"Gracious me!" exclaimed Daisy. She looked again at Mr. Giovanelli, then she turned to her other companion. There was a small pink flush in her cheek; she was tremendously pretty. "Does Mr. Winterbourne think," she put to him with a wonderful bright intensity of appeal, "that--to save my reputation--I ought to get into the carriage?"
It really embarrassed him; for an instant he cast about--so strange was it to hear her speak that way of her "reputation." But he himself in fact had to speak in accordance with gallantry. The finest gallantry here was surely just to tell her the truth; and the truth, for our young man, as the few indications I have been able to give have made him known to the reader, was that his charming friend should listen to the voice of civilised society. He took in again her exquisite prettiness and then said the more distinctly: "I think you should get into the carriage."
Daisy gave the rein to her amusement. "I never heard anything so stiff! If this is improper, Mrs. (63) Walker," she pursued, "then I'm ALL improper, and you had better give me right up. Good-bye; I hope you'll have a lovely ride!"--and with Mr. Giovanelli, who made a triumphantly obsequious salute, she turned away.
Mrs. Walker sat looking after her, and there were tears in Mrs. Walker's eyes. "Get in here, sir," she said to Winterbourne, indicating the place beside her. The young man answered that he felt bound to accompany Miss Miller; whereupon the lady of the victoria declared that if he refused her this favour she would never speak to him again. She was evidently wound up. He accordingly hastened to overtake Daisy and her more faithful ally, and, offering her his hand, told her that Mrs. Walker had made a stringent claim on his presence. He had expected her to answer with something rather free, something still more significant of the perversity from which the voice of society, through the lips of their distressed friend, had so earnestly endeavoured to dissuade her. But she only let her hand slip, as she scarce looked at him, through his slightly awkward grasp; while Mr. Giovanelli, to make it worse, bade him farewell with too emphatic a flourish of the hat.
Winterbourne was not in the best possible humour as he took his seat beside the author of his sacrifice. "That was not clever of you," he said candidly, as the vehicle mingled again with the throng of carriages.
"In such a case," his companion answered, "I don't want to be clever--I only want to be TRUE!"
"Well, your truth has only offended the strange little creature--it has only put her off."
(64) "It has happened very well"--Mrs. Walker accepted her work. "If she's so perfectly determined to compromise herself the sooner one knows it the better--one can act accordingly."
"I suspect she meant no great harm, you know," Winterbourne maturely opined.
"So I thought a month ago. But she has been going too far."
"What has she been doing?"
"Everything that's not done here. Flirting with any man she can pick up; sitting in corners with mysterious Italians; dancing all the evening with the same partners; receiving visits at eleven o'clock at night. Her mother melts away when the visitors come."
"But her brother," laughed Winterbourne, "sits up till two in the morning."
"He must be edified by what he sees. I'm told that at their hotel every one's talking about her and that a smile goes round among the servants when a gentleman comes and asks for Miss Miller."
"Ah we needn't mind the servants!" Winterbourne compassionately signified. "The poor girl's only fault," he presently added, "is her complete lack of education."
"She's naturally indelicate," Mrs. Walker, on her side, reasoned. "Take that example this morning. How long had you known her at Vevey?"
"A couple of days."
"Imagine then the taste of her making it a personal matter that you should have left the place!"
He agreed that taste wasn't the strong point of the Millers--after which he was silent for some (65) moments; but only at last to add: "I suspect, Mrs. Walker, that you and I have lived too long at Geneva!" And he further noted that he should be glad to learn with what particular design she had made him enter her carriage.
"I wanted to enjoin on you the importance of your ceasing your relations with Miss Miller; that of your not appearing to flirt with her; that of your giving her no further opportunity to expose herself; that of your in short letting her alone."
"I'm afraid I can't do anything quite so enlightened as THAT," he returned. "I like her awfully, you know."
"All the more reason you shouldn't help her to make a scandal."
"Well, there shall be nothing scandalous in my attentions to her," he was willing to promise.
"There certainly will be in the way she takes them. But I've said what I had on my conscience," Mrs. Walker pursued. "If you wish to rejoin the young lady I'll put you down. Here, by the way, you have a chance."
The carriage was engaged in that part of the Pincian drive which overhangs the wall of Rome and overlooks the beautiful Villa Borghese. It is bordered by a large parapet, near which are several seats. One of these, at a distance, was occupied by a gentleman and a lady, toward whom Mrs. Walker gave a toss of her head. At the same moment these persons rose and walked to the parapet. Winterbourne had asked the coachman to stop; he now descended from the carriage. His companion looked at him a moment in (66) silence and then, while he raised his hat, drove majestically away. He stood where he had alighted; he had turned his eyes toward Daisy and her cavalier. They evidently saw no one; they were too deeply occupied with each other. When they reached the low garden-wall they remained a little looking off at the great flat-topped pine-clusters of Villa Borghese; then the girl's attendant admirer seated himself familiarly on the broad ledge of the wall. The western sun in the opposite sky sent out a brilliant shaft through a couple of cloud-bars; whereupon the gallant Giovanelli took her parasol out of her hands and opened it. She came a little nearer and he held the parasol over her; then, still holding it, he let it so rest on her shoulder that both of their heads were hidden from Winterbourne. This young man stayed but a moment longer; then he began to walk. But he walked--not toward the couple united beneath the parasol, rather toward the residence of his aunt Mrs. Costello.
He flattered himself on the following day that there was no smiling among the servants when he at least asked for Mrs. Miller at her hotel. This lady and her daughter, however, were not at home; and on the next day after, repeating his visit, Winterbourne again was met by a denial. Mrs. Walker's party took place on the evening of the third day, and in spite of the final reserves that had marked his last interview with that social critic our young man was among the guests. Mrs. Walker was one of those pilgrims from the younger world who, while in contact with the elder, make a point, in their own phrase, of studying European society; and she had on this occasion collected several specimens of diversely-born humanity to serve, as might be, for text-books. When Winterbourne arrived the little person he desired most to find wasn't there; but in a few moments he saw Mrs. Miller come in alone, very shyly and ruefully. This lady's hair, above the dead waste of her temples, was more frizzled than ever. As she approached their hostess Winterbourne also drew near.
"You see I've come all alone," said Daisy's unsupported parent. "I'm so frightened I don't know what to do; it's the first time I've ever been to a party alone--especially in this country. I wanted to bring Randolph or Eugenio or some one, but Daisy just pushed me off by myself. I ain't used to going round alone."
(68) "And doesn't your daughter intend to favour us with her society?" Mrs. Walker impressively enquired.
"Well, Daisy's all dressed," Mrs. Miller testified with that accent of the dispassionate, if not of the philosophic, historian with which she always recorded the current incidents of her daughter's career. "She got dressed on purpose before dinner. But she has a friend of hers there; that gentleman--the handsomest of the Italians--that she wanted to bring. They've got going at the piano--it seems as if they couldn't leave off. Mr. Giovanelli does sing splendidly. But I guess they'll come before very long," Mrs. Miller hopefully concluded.
"I'm sorry she should come--in that particular way," Mrs. Walker permitted herself to observe.
"Well, I told her there was no use in her getting dressed before dinner if she was going to wait three hours," returned Daisy's mamma. "I didn't see the use of her putting on such a dress as that to sit round with Mr. Giovanelli."
"This is most horrible!" said Mrs. Walker, turning away and addressing herself to Winterbourne. "_Elle s'afiche, la malheureuse_. It's her revenge for my having ventured to remonstrate with her. When she comes I shan't speak to her."
Daisy came after eleven o'clock, but she wasn't, on such an occasion, a young lady to wait to be spoken to. She rustled forward in radiant loveliness, smiling and chattering, carrying a large bouquet and attended by Mr. Giovanelli. Every one stopped talking and turned and looked at her while she floated up to Mrs. (69) Walker. "I'm afraid you thought I never was coming, so I sent mother off to tell you. I wanted to make Mr. Giovanelli practise some things before he came; you know he sings beautifully, and I want you to ask him to sing. This is Mr. Giovanelli; you know I introduced him to you; he's got the most lovely voice and he knows the most charming set of songs. I made him go over them this evening on purpose; we had the greatest time at the hotel." Of all this Daisy delivered herself with the sweetest brightest loudest confidence, looking now at her hostess and now at all the room, while she gave a series of little pats, round her very white shoulders, to the edges of her dress. "Is there any one I know?" she as undiscourageably asked.
"I think every one knows you!" said Mrs. Walker as with a grand intention; and she gave a very cursory greeting to Mr. Giovanelli. This gentleman bore himself gallantly; he smiled and bowed and showed his white teeth, he curled his moustaches and rolled his eyes and performed all the proper functions of a handsome Italian at an evening party. He sang, very prettily, half a dozen songs, though Mrs. Walker afterwards declared that she had been quite unable to find out who asked him. It was apparently not Daisy who had set him in motion--this young lady being seated a distance from the piano and though she had publicly, as it were, professed herself his musical patroness or guarantor, giving herself to gay and audible discourse while he warbled.
"It's a pity these rooms are so small; we can't dance," she remarked to Winterbourne as if she had seen him five minutes before.
(70) "I'm not sorry we can't dance," he candidly returned. "I'm incapable of a step."
"Of course you're incapable of a step," the girl assented. "I should think your legs WOULD be stiff cooped in there so much of the time in that victoria."
"Well, they were very restless there three days ago," he amicably laughed; "all they really wanted was to dance attendance on you."
"Oh my other friend--my friend in need--stuck to me; he seems more at one with his limbs than you are--I'll say that for him. But did you ever hear anything so cool," Daisy demanded, "as Mrs. Walker's wanting me to get into her carriage and drop poor Mr. Giovanelli, and under the pretext that it was proper? People have different ideas! It would have been most unkind; he had been talking about that walk for ten days."
"He shouldn't have talked about it at all," Winterbourne decided to make answer on this: "he would never have proposed to a young lady of this country to walk about the streets of Rome with him."
"About the streets?" she cried with her pretty stare. "Where then would he have proposed to her to walk? The Pincio ain't the streets either, I guess; and I besides, thank goodness, am not a young lady of this country. The young ladies of this country have a dreadfully pokey time of it, by what I can discover; I don't see why I should change my habits for SUCH stupids."
"I'm afraid your habits are those of a ruthless flirt," said Winterbourne with studied severity.
"Of course they are!"--and she hoped, evidently, (71) by the manner of it, to take his breath away. "I'm a fearful frightful flirt! Did you ever hear of a nice girl that wasn't? But I suppose you'll tell me now I'm not a nice girl."
He remained grave indeed under the shock of her cynical profession. "You're a very nice girl, but I wish you'd flirt with me, and me only."
"Ah thank you, thank you very much: you're the last man I should think of flirting with. As I've had the pleasure of informing you, you're too stiff."
"You say that too often," he resentfully remarked.
Daisy gave a delighted laugh. "If I could have the sweet hope of making you angry I'd say it again."
"Don't do that--when I'm angry I'm stiffer than ever. But if you won't flirt with me do cease at least to flirt with your friend at the piano. They don't," he declared as in full sympathy with "them," "understand that sort of thing here."
"I thought they understood nothing else!" Daisy cried with startling world-knowledge.
"Not in young unmarried women."
"It seems to me much more proper in young unmarried than in old married ones," she retorted.
"Well," said Winterbourne, "when you deal with natives you must go by the custom of the country. American flirting is a purely American silliness; it has--in its ineptitude of innocence--no place in THIS system. So when you show yourself in public with Mr. Giovanelli and without your mother--"
"Gracious, poor mother!"--and she made it beautifully unspeakable.
Winterbourne had a touched sense for this, but it (72) didn't alter his attitude. "Though YOU may be flirting Mr. Giovanelli isn't--he means something else."
"He isn't preaching at any rate," she returned. "And if you want very much to know, we're neither of us flirting--not a little speck. We're too good friends for that. We're real intimate friends."
He was to continue to find her thus at moments inimitable. "Ah," he then judged, "if you're in love with each other it's another affair altogether!"
She had allowed him up to this point to speak so frankly that he had no thought of shocking her by the force of his logic; yet she now none the less immediately rose, blushing visibly and leaving him mentally to exclaim that the name of little American flirts was incoherence. "Mr. Giovanelli at least," she answered, sparing but a single small queer glance for it, a queerer small glance, he felt, than he had ever yet had from her--"Mr. Giovanelli never says to me such very disagreeable things."
It had an effect on him--he stood staring. The subject of their contention had finished singing; he left the piano, and his recognition of what--a little awkwardly--didn't take place in celebration of this might nevertheless have been an acclaimed operatic tenor's series of repeated ducks before the curtain. So he bowed himself over to Daisy. "Won't you come to the other room and have some tea?" he asked--offering Mrs. Walker's slightly thin refreshment as he might have done all the kingdoms of the earth.
Daisy at last turned on Winterbourne a more natural and calculable light. He was but the more (73) muddled by it, however, since so inconsequent a smile made nothing clear--it seemed at the most to prove in her a sweetness and softness that reverted instinctively to the pardon of offences. "It has never occurred to Mr. Winterbourne to offer me any tea," she said with her finest little intention of torment and triumph.
"I've offered you excellent advice," the young man permitted himself to growl.
"I prefer weak tea!" cried Daisy, and she went off with the brilliant Giovanelli. She sat with him in the adjoining room, in the embrasure of the window, for the rest of the evening. There was an interesting performance at the piano, but neither of these conversers gave heed to it. When Daisy came to take leave of Mrs. Walker this lady conscientiously repaired the weakness of which she had been guilty at the moment of the girl's arrival--she turned her back straight on Miss Miller and left her to depart with what grace she might. Winterbourne happened to be near the door; he saw it all. Daisy turned very pale and looked at her mother, but Mrs. Miller was humbly unconscious of any rupture of any law or of any deviation from any custom. She appeared indeed to have felt an incongruous impulse to draw attention to her own striking conformity. "Good-night, Mrs. Walker," she said; "we've had a beautiful evening. You see if I let Daisy come to parties without me I don't want her to go away without me." Daisy turned away, looking with a small white prettiness, a blighted grace, at the circle near the door: Winterbourne saw that for the first moment she was too (74) much shocked and puzzled even for indignation. He on his side was greatly touched.
"That was very cruel," he promptly remarked to Mrs. Walker.
But this lady's face was also as a stone. "She never enters my drawing-room again."
Since Winterbourne then, hereupon, was not to meet her in Mrs. Walker's drawing-room he went as often as possible to Mrs. Miller's hotel. The ladies were rarely at home, but when he found them the devoted Giovanelli was always present. Very often the glossy little Roman, serene in success, but not unduly presumptuous, occupied with Daisy alone the florid salon enjoyed by Eugenio's care, Mrs. Miller being apparently ever of the opinion that discretion is the better part of solicitude. Winterbourne noted, at first with surprise, that Daisy on these occasions was neither embarrassed nor annoyed by his own entrance; but he presently began to feel that she had no more surprises for him and that he really liked, after all, not making out what she was "up to." She showed no displeasure for the interruption of her _tete-a-tete_ with Giovanelli; she could chatter as freshly and freely with two gentlemen as with one, and this easy flow had ever the same anomaly for her earlier friend that it was so free without availing itself of its freedom. Winterbourne reflected that if she was seriously interested in the Italian it was odd she shouldn't take more trouble to preserve the sanctity of their interviews, and he liked her the better for her innocent-looking indifference and her inexhaustible gaiety. He could hardly have said why, but she struck him (75) as a young person not formed for a troublesome jealousy. Smile at such a betrayal though the reader may, it was a fact with regard to the women who had hitherto interested him that, given certain contingencies, Winterbourne could see himself afraid--literally afraid--of these ladies. It pleased him to believe that even were twenty other things different and Daisy should love him and he should know it and like it, he would still never be afraid of Daisy. It must be added that this conviction was not altogether flattering to her: it represented that she was nothing every way if not light.
But she was evidently very much interested in Giovanelli. She looked at him whenever he spoke; she was perpetually telling him to do this and to do that; she was constantly chaffing and abusing him. She appeared completely to have forgotten that her other friend had said anything to displease her at Mrs. Walker's entertainment. One Sunday afternoon, having gone to Saint Peter's with his aunt, Winterbourne became aware that the young woman held in horror by that lady was strolling about the great church under escort of her coxcomb of the Corso. It amused him, after a debate, to point out the exemplary pair--even at the cost, as it proved, of Mrs. Costello's saying when she had taken them in through her eye-glass: "That's what makes you so pensive in these days, eh?"
"I hadn't the least idea I was pensive," he pleaded.
"You're very much preoccupied; you're always thinking of something."
(76) "And what is it," he asked, "that you accuse me of thinking of?"
"Of that young lady's, Miss Baker's, Miss Chandler's--what's her name?--Miss Miller's intrigue with that little barber's block."
"Do you call it an intrigue," he asked--"an affair that goes on with such peculiar publicity?"
"That's their folly," said Mrs. Costello, "it's not their merit."
"No," he insisted with a hint perhaps of the preoccupation to which his aunt had alluded--"I don't believe there's anything to be called an intrigue."
"Well"--and Mrs. Costello dropped her glass--"I've heard a dozen people speak of it: they say she's quite carried away by him."
"They're certainly as thick as thieves," our embarrassed young man allowed.
Mrs. Costello came back to them, however, after a little; and Winterbourne recognised in this a further illustration--than that supplied by his own condition--of the spell projected by the case. "He's certainly very handsome. One easily sees how it is. She thinks him the most elegant man in the world, the finest gentleman possible. She has never seen anything like him--he's better even than the courier. It was the courier probably who introduced him, and if he succeeds in marrying the young lady the courier will come in for a magnificent commission."
"I don't believe she thinks of marrying him," Winterbourne reasoned, "and I don't believe he hopes to marry her."
(77) "You may be very sure she thinks of nothing at all. She romps on from day to day, from hour to hour, as they did in the Golden Age. I can imagine nothing more vulgar," said Mrs. Costello, whose figure of speech scarcely went on all fours. "And at the same time," she added, "depend upon it she may tell you any moment that she is `engaged.'"
"I think that's more than Giovanelli really expects," said Winterbourne.
"And who is Giovanelli?"
"The shiny--but, to do him justice, not greasy--little Roman. I've asked questions about him and learned something. He's apparently a perfectly respectable little man. I believe he's in a small way a _cavaliere avvocato_. But he doesn't move in what are called the first circles. I think it really not absolutely impossible the courier introduced him. He's evidently immensely charmed with Miss Miller. If she thinks him the finest gentleman in the world, he, on his side, has never found himself in personal contact with such splendour, such opulence, such personal daintiness, as this young lady's. And then she must seem to him wonderfully pretty and interesting. Yes, he can't really hope to pull it off. That must appear to him too impossible a piece of luck. He has nothing but his handsome face to offer, and there's a substantial, a possibly explosive Mr. Miller in that mysterious land of dollars and six-shooters. Giovanelli's but too conscious that he hasn't a title to offer. If he were only a count or a _marchese_! What on earth can he make of the way they've taken him up?"
"He accounts for it by his handsome face and (78) thinks Miss Miller a young lady _qui se passe ses fantaisies_!"
"It's very true," Winterbourne pursued, "that Daisy and her mamma haven't yet risen to that stage of--what shall I call it?--of culture, at which the idea of catching a count or a _marchese_ begins. I believe them intellectually incapable of that conception."
"Ah but the _cavaliere avvocato_ doesn't believe them!" cried Mrs. Costello.
Of the observation excited by Daisy's "intrigue" Winterbourne gathered that day at Saint Peter's sufficient evidence. A dozen of the American colonists in Rome came to talk with his relative, who sat on a small portable stool at the base of one of the great pilasters. The vesper-service was going forward in splendid chants and organ-tones in the adjacent choir, and meanwhile, between Mrs. Costello and her friends, much was said about poor little Miss Miller's going really "too far." Winterbourne was not pleased with what he heard; but when, coming out upon the great steps of the church, he saw Daisy, who had emerged before him, get into an open cab with her accomplice and roll away through the cynical streets of Rome, the measure of her course struck him as simply there to take. He felt very sorry for her--not exactly that he believed she had completely lost her wits, but because it was painful to see so much that was pretty and undefended and natural sink so low in human estimation. He made an attempt after this to give a hint to Mrs. Miller. He met one day in the Corso a friend--a tourist like himself--who had just come out of the Doria Palace, where he had been (79) walking through the beautiful gallery. His friend "went on" for some moments about the great portrait of Innocent X, by Velasquez, suspended in one of the cabinets of the palace, and then said: "And in the same cabinet, by the way, I enjoyed sight of an image of a different kind; that little American who's so much more a work of nature than of art and whom you pointed out to me last week." In answer to Winterbourne's enquiries his friend narrated that the little American--prettier now than ever--was seated with a companion in the secluded nook in which the papal presence is enshrined.
"All alone?" the young man heard himself disingenuously ask.
"Alone with a little Italian who sports in his button-hole a stack of flowers. The girl's a charming beauty, but I thought I understood from you the other day that she's a young lady _du meilleur monde_."
"So she is!" said Winterbourne; and having assured himself that his informant had seen the interesting pair but ten minutes before, he jumped into a cab and went to call on Mrs. Miller. She was at home, but she apologised for receiving him in Daisy's absence.
"She's gone out somewhere with Mr. Giovanelli. She's always going round with Mr. Giovanelli."
"I've noticed they're intimate indeed," Winterbourne concurred.
"Oh it seems as if they couldn't live without each other!" said Mrs. Miller. "Well, he's a real gentleman anyhow. I guess I have the joke on Daisy--that she MUST be engaged!"
(80) "And how does your daughter TAKE the joke?"
"Oh she just says she ain't. But she might as WELL be!" this philosophic parent resumed. "She goes on as if she was. But I've made Mr. Giovanelli promise to tell me if Daisy don't. I'd want to write to Mr. Miller about it--wouldn't you?"
Winterbourne replied that he certainly should; and the state of mind of Daisy's mamma struck him as so unprecedented in the annals of parental vigilance that he recoiled before the attempt to educate at a single interview either her conscience or her wit.
After this Daisy was never at home and he ceased to meet her at the houses of their common acquaintance, because, as he perceived, these shrewd people had quite made up their minds as to the length she must have gone. They ceased to invite her, intimating that they wished to make, and make strongly, for the benefit of observant Europeans, the point that though Miss Daisy Miller was a pretty American girl all right, her behaviour wasn't pretty at all--was in fact regarded by her compatriots as quite monstrous. Winterbourne wondered how she felt about all the cold shoulders that were turned upon her, and sometimes found himself suspecting with impatience that she simply didn't feel and didn't know. He set her down as hopelessly childish and shallow, as such mere giddiness and ignorance incarnate as was powerless either to heed or to suffer. Then at other moments he couldn't doubt that she carried about in her elegant and irresponsible little organism a defiant, passionate, perfectly observant consciousness of the impression (81) she produced. He asked himself whether the defiance would come from the consciousness of innocence or from her being essentially a young person of the reckless class. Then it had to be admitted, he felt, that holding fast to a belief in her "innocence" was more and more but a matter of gallantry too fine-spun for use. As I have already had occasion to relate, he was reduced without pleasure to this chopping of logic and vexed at his poor fallibility, his want of instinctive certitude as to how far her extravagance was generic and national and how far it was crudely personal. Whatever it was he had helplessly missed her, and now it was too late. She was "carried away" by Mr. Giovanelli.
A few days after his brief interview with her mother he came across her at that supreme seat of flowering desolation known as the Palace of the Caesars. The early Roman spring had filled the air with bloom and perfume, and the rugged surface of the Palatine was muffled with tender verdure. Daisy moved at her ease over the great mounds of ruin that are embanked with mossy marble and paved with monumental inscriptions. It seemed to him he had never known Rome so lovely as just then. He looked off at the enchanting harmony of line and colour that remotely encircles the city--he inhaled the softly humid odours and felt the freshness of the year and the antiquity of the place reaffirm themselves in deep interfusion. It struck him also that Daisy had never showed to the eye for so utterly charming; but this had been his conviction on every occasion of their meeting. Giovanelli was of course at her side, and (82) Giovanelli too glowed as never before with something of the glory of his race.
"Well," she broke out upon the friend it would have been such mockery to designate as the latter's rival, "I should think you'd be quite lonesome!"
"Lonesome?" Winterbourne resignedly echoed.
"You're always going round by yourself. Can't you get any one to walk with you?"
"I'm not so fortunate," he answered, "as your gallant companion."
Giovanelli had from the first treated him with distinguished politeness; he listened with a deferential air to his remarks; he laughed punctiliously at his pleasantries; he attached such importance as he could find terms for to Miss Miller's cold compatriot. He carried himself in no degree like a jealous wooer; he had obviously a great deal of tact; he had no objection to any one's expecting a little humility of him. It even struck Winterbourne that he almost yearned at times for some private communication in the interest of his character for common sense; a chance to remark to him as another intelligent man that, bless him, HE knew how extraordinary was their young lady and didn't flatter himself with confident--at least TOO confident and too delusive--hopes of matrimony and dollars. On this occasion he strolled away from his charming charge to pluck a sprig of almond-blossom which he carefully arranged in his button-hole.
"I know why you say that," Daisy meanwhile observed. "Because you think I go round too much with HIM!" And she nodded at her discreet attendant.
(83) "Every one thinks so--if you care to know," was all Winterbourne found to reply.
"Of course I care to know!"--she made this point with much expression. "But I don't believe a word of it. They're only pretending to be shocked. They don't really care a straw what I do. Besides, I don't go round so much."
"I think you'll find they do care. They'll show it--disagreeably," he took on himself to state.
Daisy weighed the importance of that idea. "How--disagreeably?"
"Haven't you noticed anything?" he compassionately asked.
"I've noticed YOU. But I noticed you've no more `give' than a ramrod the first time ever I saw you."
"You'll find at least that I've more `give' than several others," he patiently smiled.
"How shall I find it?"
"By going to see the others."
"What will they do to me?"
"They'll show you the cold shoulder. Do you know what that means?"
Daisy was looking at him intently; she began to colour. "Do you mean as Mrs. Walker did the other night?"
"Exactly as Mrs. Walker did the other night."
She looked away at Giovanelli, still titivating with his almond-blossom. Then with her attention again on the important subject: "I shouldn't think you'd let people be so unkind!"
"How can I help it?"
"I should think you'd want to say something."
(84) "I do want to say something"--and Winterbourne paused a moment. "I want to say that your mother tells me she believes you engaged."
"Well, I guess she does," said Daisy very simply.
The young man began to laugh. "And does Randolph believe it?"
"I guess Randolph doesn't believe anything." This testimony to Randolph's scepticism excited Winterbourne to further mirth, and he noticed that Giovanelli was coming back to them. Daisy, observing it as well, addressed herself again to her countryman. "Since you've mentioned it," she said, "I AM engaged." He looked at her hard--he had stopped laughing. "You don't believe it!" she added.
He asked himself, and it was for a moment like testing a heart-beat; after which, "Yes, I believe it!" he said.
"Oh no, you don't," she answered. "But IF you possibly do," she still more perversely pursued--"well, I ain't!"
Miss Miller and her constant guide were on their way to the gate of the enclosure, so that Winterbourne, who had but lately entered, presently took leave of them. A week later on he went to dine at a beautiful villa on the Caelian Hill, and, on arriving, dismissed his hired vehicle. The evening was perfect and he promised himself the satisfaction of walking home beneath the Arch of Constantine and past the vaguely-lighted monuments of the Forum. Above was a moon half-developed, whose radiance was not brilliant but veiled in a thin cloud-curtain that seemed to diffuse and equalise it. When on his return from the (85) villa at eleven o'clock he approached the dusky circle of the Colosseum the sense of the romantic in him easily suggested that the interior, in such an atmosphere, would well repay a glance. He turned aside and walked to one of the empty arches, near which, as he observed, an open carriage--one of the little Roman street-cabs--was stationed. Then he passed in among the cavernous shadows of the great structure and emerged upon the clear and silent arena. The place had never seemed to him more impressive. One half of the gigantic circus was in deep shade while the other slept in the luminous dusk. As he stood there he began to murmur Byron's famous lines out of "Manfred"; but before he had finished his quotation he remembered that if nocturnal meditation thereabouts was the fruit of a rich literary culture it was none the less deprecated by medical science. The air of other ages surrounded one; but the air of other ages, coldly analysed, was no better than a villainous miasma. Winterbourne sought, however, toward the middle of the arena, a further reach of vision, intending the next moment a hasty retreat. The great cross in the centre was almost obscured; only as he drew near did he make it out distinctly. He thus also distinguished two persons stationed on the low steps that formed its base. One of these was a woman seated; her companion hovered before her.
Presently the sound of the woman's voice came to him distinctly in the warm night-air. "Well, he looks at us as one of the old lions or tigers may have looked at the Christian martyrs!" These words were winged with their accent, so that they fluttered and settled (86) about him in the darkness like vague white doves. It was Miss Daisy Miller who had released them for flight.
"Let us hope he's not very hungry"--the bland Giovanelli fell in with her humour. "He'll have to take ME first; you'll serve for dessert."
Winterbourne felt himself pulled up with final horror now--and, it must be added, with final relief. It was as if a sudden clearance had taken place in the ambiguity of the poor girl's appearances and the whole riddle of her contradictions had grown easy to read. She was a young lady about the SHADES of whose perversity a foolish puzzled gentleman need no longer trouble his head or his heart. That once questionable quantity HAD no shades--it was a mere black little blot. He stood there looking at her, looking at her companion too, and not reflecting that though he saw them vaguely he himself must have been more brightly presented. He felt angry at all his shiftings of view--he felt ashamed of all his tender little scruples and all his witless little mercies. He was about to advance again, and then again checked himself; not from the fear of doing her injustice, but from a sense of the danger of showing undue exhilaration for this disburdenment of cautious criticism. He turned away toward the entrance of the place; but as he did so he heard Daisy speak again.
"Why it was Mr. Winterbourne! He saw me and he cuts me dead!"
What a clever little reprobate she was, he was amply able to reflect at this, and how smartly she feigned, how promptly she sought to play off on him, a surprised (87) and injured innocence! But nothing would induce him to cut her either "dead" or to within any measurable distance even of the famous "inch" of her life. He came forward again and went toward the great cross. Daisy had got up and Giovanelli lifted his hat. Winterbourne had now begun to think simply of the madness, on the ground of exposure and infection, of a frail young creature's lounging away such hours in a nest of malaria. What if she WERE the most plausible of little reprobates? That was no reason for her dying of the _perniciosa_. "How long have you been `fooling round' here?" he asked with conscious roughness.
Daisy, lovely in the sinister silver radiance, appraised him a moment, roughness and all. "Well, I guess all the evening." She answered with spirit and, he could see even then, with exaggeration. "I never saw anything so quaint."
"I'm afraid," he returned, "you'll not think a bad attack of Roman fever very quaint. This is the way people catch it. I wonder," he added to Giovanelli, "that you, a native Roman, should countenance such extraordinary rashness."
"Ah," said this seasoned subject, "for myself I have no fear."
"Neither have I--for you!" Winterbourne retorted in French. "I'm speaking for this young lady."
Giovanelli raised his well-shaped eyebrows and showed his shining teeth, but took his critic's rebuke with docility. "I assured Mademoiselle it was a grave indiscretion, but when was Mademoiselle ever prudent?"
(88) "I never was sick, and I don't mean to be!" Mademoiselle declared. "I don't look like much, but I'm healthy! I was bound to see the Colosseum by moonlight--I wouldn't have wanted to go home without THAT; and we've had the most beautiful time, haven't we, Mr. Giovanelli? If there has been any danger Eugenio can give me some pills. Eugenio has got some splendid pills."
"i should advise you then," said Winterbourne, "to drive home as fast as possible and take one!"
Giovanelli smiled as for the striking happy thought. "What you say is very wise. I'll go and make sure the carriage is at hand." And he went forward rapidly.
Daisy followed with Winterbourne. He tried to deny himself the small fine anguish of looking at her, but his eyes themselves refused to spare him, and she seemed moreover not in the least embarrassed. He spoke no word; Daisy chattered over the beauty of the place: "Well, I HAVE seen the Colosseum by moonlight--that's one thing I can rave about!" Then noticing her companion's silence she asked him why he was so stiff--it had always been her great word. He made no answer, but he felt his laugh an immense negation of stiffness. They passed under one of the dark archways; Giovanelli was in front with the carriage. Here Daisy stopped a moment, looking at her compatriot. "DID you believe I was engaged the other day?"
"It doesn't matter now what I believed the other day!" he replied with infinite point.
It was a wonder how she didn't wince for it. "Well, what do you believe now?"
(89) "I believe it makes very little difference whether you're engaged or not!"
He felt her lighted eyes fairly penetrate the thick gloom of the vaulted passage--as if to seek some access to him she hadn't yet compassed. But Giovanelli, with a graceful inconsequence, was at present all for retreat. "Quick, quick; if we get in by midnight we're quite safe!"
Daisy took her seat in the carriage and the fortunate Italian placed himself beside her. "Don't forget Eugenio's pills!" said Winterbourne as he lifted his hat.
"I don't care," she unexpectedly cried out for this, "whether I have Roman fever or not!" On which the cab-driver cracked his whip and they rolled across the desultory patches of antique pavement.
Winterbourne--to do him justice, as it were--mentioned to no one that he had encountered Miss Miller at midnight in the Colosseum with a gentleman; in spite of which deep discretion, however, the fact of the scandalous adventure was known a couple of days later, with a dozen vivid details, to every member of the little American circle, and was commented accordingly. Winterbourne judged thus that the people about the hotel had been thoroughly empowered to testify, and that after Daisy's return there would have been an exchange of jokes between the porter and the cab-driver. But the young man became aware at the same moment of how thoroughly it had ceased to ruffle him that the little American flirt should be "talked about" by low-minded menials. These sources of current criticism a day or two (90) later abounded still further: the little American flirt was alarmingly ill and the doctors now in possession of the scene. Winterbourne, when the rumour came to him, immediately went to the hotel for more news. He found that two or three charitable friends had preceded him and that they were being entertained in Mrs. Miller's salon by the all-efficient Randolph.
"It's going round at night that way, you bet--that's what has made her so sick. She's always going round at night. I shouldn't think she'd want to--it's so plaguey dark over here. You can't see anything over here without the moon's right up. In America they don't go round by the moon!" Mrs. Miller meanwhile wholly surrendered to her genius for unapparent uses; her salon knew her less than ever, and she was presumably now at least giving her daughter the advantage of her society. It was clear that Daisy was dangerously ill.
Winterbourne constantly attended for news from the sick-room, which reached him, however, but with worrying indirectness, though he once had speech, for a moment, of the poor girl's physician and once saw Mrs. Miller, who, sharply alarmed, struck him as thereby more happily inspired than he could have conceived and indeed as the most noiseless and light-handed of nurses. She invoked a good deal the remote shade of Dr. Davis, but Winterbourne paid her the compliment of taking her after all for less monstrous a goose. To this indulgence indeed something she further said perhaps even more insidiously disposed him. "Daisy spoke of you the other day quite pleasantly. Half the time she doesn't know what (91) she's saying, but that time I think she did. She gave me a message--she told me to tell you. She wanted you to know she never was engaged to that handsome Italian who was always round. I'm sure I'm very glad; Mr. Giovanelli hasn't been near us since she was taken ill. I thought he was so much of a gentleman, but I don't call that very polite! A lady told me he was afraid I hadn't approved of his being round with her so much evenings. Of course it ain't as if their evenings were as pleasant as ours--since WE don't seem to feel that way about the poison. I guess I DON'T see the point now; but I suppose he knows I'm a lady and I'd scorn to raise a fuss. Anyway, she wants you to realise she ain't engaged. I don't know why she makes so much of it, but she said to me three times `Mind you tell Mr. Winterbourne.' And then she told me to ask if you remembered the time you went up to that castle in Switzerland. But I said I wouldn't give any such messages as THAT. Only if she ain't engaged I guess I'm glad to realise it too."
But, as Winterbourne had originally judged, the truth on this question had small actual relevance. A week after this the poor girl died; it had been indeed a terrible case of the _perniciosa_. A grave was found for her in the little Protestant cemetery, by an angle of the wall of imperial Rome, beneath the cypresses and the thick spring-flowers. Winterbourne stood there beside it with a number of other mourners; a number larger than the scandal excited by the young lady's career might have made probable. Near him stood Giovanelli, who came nearer still before Winterbourne (92) turned away. Giovanelli, in decorous mourning, showed but a whiter face; his button-hole lacked its nosegay and he had visibly something urgent--and even to distress--to say, which he scarce knew how to "place." He decided at last to confide it with a pale convulsion to Winterbourne. "She was the most beautiful young lady I ever saw, and the most amiable." To which he added in a moment: "Also--naturally!--the most innocent."
Winterbourne sounded him with hard dry eyes, but presently repeated his words, "The most innocent?"
"The most innocent!"
It came somehow so much too late that our friend could only glare at its having come at all. "Why the devil," he asked, "did you take her to that fatal place?"
Giovanelli raised his neat shoulders and eyebrows to within suspicion of a shrug. "For myself I had no fear; and SHE--she did what she liked."
Winterbourne's eyes attached themselves to the ground. "She did what she liked!"
It determined on the part of poor Giovanelli a further pious, a further candid, confidence. "If she had lived I should have got nothing. She never would have married me."
It had been spoken as if to attest, in all sincerity, his disinterestedness, but Winterbourne scarce knew what welcome to give it. He said, however, with a grace inferior to his friend's: "I dare say not."
The latter was even by this not discouraged. "For a moment I hoped so. But no. I'm convinced."
(93) Winterbourne took it in; he stood staring at the raw protuberance among the April daisies. When he turned round again his fellow mourner had stepped back.
He almost immediately left Rome, but the following summer he again met his aunt Mrs. Costello at Vevey. Mrs. Costello extracted from the charming old hotel there a value that the Miller family hadn't mastered the secret of. In the interval Winterbourne had often thought of the most interesting member of that trio--of her mystifying manners and her queer adventure. One day he spoke of her to his aunt--said it was on his conscience he had done her injustice.
"I'm sure I don't know"--that lady showed caution. "How did your injustice affect her?"
"She sent me a message before her death which I didn't understand at the time. But I've understood it since. She would have appreciated one's esteem."
"She took an odd way to gain it! But do you mean by what you say," Mrs. Costello asked, "that she would have reciprocated one's affection?"
As he made no answer to this she after a little looked round at him--he hadn't been directly within sight; but the effect of that wasn't to make her repeat her question. He spoke, however, after a while. "You were right in that remark that you made last summer. I was booked to make a mistake. I've lived too long in foreign parts." And this time she herself said nothing.
Nevertheless he soon went back to live at Geneva, (94) whence there continue to come the most contradictory accounts of his motives of sojourn: a report that he's "studying" hard--an intimation that he's much interested in a very clever foreign lady.
End of the text of "Daisy Miller"