The Aspern Papers HTML version

Chapter VII
The fear of what this side of her character might have led her to do made me
nervous for days afterward. I waited for an intimation from Miss Tita; I almost
figured to myself that it was her duty to keep me informed, to let me know
definitely whether or no Miss Bordereau had sacrificed her treasures. But as she
gave no sign I lost patience and determined to judge so far as was possible with
my own senses. I sent late one afternoon to ask if I might pay the ladies a visit,
and my servant came back with surprising news. Miss Bordereau could be
approached without the least difficulty; she had been moved out into the sala and
was sitting by the window that overlooked the garden. I descended and found
this picture correct; the old lady had been wheeled forth into the world and had a
certain air, which came mainly perhaps from some brighter element in her dress,
of being prepared again to have converse with it. It had not yet, however, begun
to flock about her; she was perfectly alone and, though the door leading to her
own quarters stood open, I had at first no glimpse of Miss Tita. The window at
which she sat had the afternoon shade and, one of the shutters having been
pushed back, she could see the pleasant garden, where the summer sun had by
this time dried up too many of the plants--she could see the yellow light and the
long shadows.
"Have you come to tell me that you will take the rooms for six months more?" she
asked as I approached her, startling me by something coarse in her cupidity
almost as much as if she had not already given me a specimen of it. Juliana's
desire to make our acquaintance lucrative had been, as I have sufficiently
indicated, a false note in my image of the woman who had inspired a great poet
with immortal lines; but I may say here definitely that I recognized after all that it
behooved me to make a large allowance for her. It was I who had kindled the
unholy flame; it was I who had put into her head that she had the means of
making money. She appeared never to have thought of that; she had been living
wastefully for years, in a house five times too big for her, on a footing that I could
explain only by the presumption that, excessive as it was, the space she enjoyed
cost her next to nothing and that small as were her revenues they left her, for
Venice, an appreciable margin. I had descended on her one day and taught her
to calculate, and my almost extravagant comedy on the subject of the garden
had presented me irresistibly in the light of a victim. Like all persons who achieve
the miracle of changing their point of view when they are old she had been
intensely converted; she had seized my hint with a desperate, tremulous clutch.
I invited myself to go and get one of the chairs that stood, at a distance, against
the wall (she had given herself no concern as to whether I should sit or stand);
and while I placed it near her I began, gaily, "Oh, dear madam, what an
imagination you have, what an intellectual sweep! I am a poor devil of a man of
letters who lives from day to day. How can I take palaces by the year? My
existence is precarious. I don't know whether six months hence I shall have