The Aspern Papers HTML version

Chapter VIII
As it turned out the precaution had not been needed, for three hours later, just as
I had finished my dinner, Miss Bordereau's niece appeared, unannounced, in the
open doorway of the room in which my simple repasts were served. I remember
well that I felt no surprise at seeing her; which is not a proof that I did not believe
in her timidity. It was immense, but in a case in which there was a particular
reason for boldness it never would have prevented her from running up to my
rooms. I saw that she was now quite full of a particular reason; it threw her
forward--made her seize me, as I rose to meet her, by the arm.
"My aunt is very ill; I think she is dying!"
"Never in the world," I answered bitterly. "Don't you be afraid!"
"Do go for a doctor--do, do! Olimpia is gone for the one we always have, but she
doesn't come back; I don't know what has happened to her. I told her that if he
was not at home she was to follow him where he had gone; but apparently she is
following him all over Venice. I don't know what to do--she looks so as if she
were sinking."
"May I see her, may I judge?" I asked. "Of course I shall be delighted to bring
someone; but hadn't we better send my man instead, so that I may stay with
Miss Tita assented to this and I dispatched my servant for the best doctor in the
neighborhood. I hurried downstairs with her, and on the way she told me that an
hour after I quitted them in the afternoon Miss Bordereau had had an attack of
"oppression," a terrible difficulty in breathing. This had subsided but had left her
so exhausted that she did not come up: she seemed all gone. I repeated that she
was not gone, that she would not go yet; whereupon Miss Tita gave me a
sharper sidelong glance than she had ever directed at me and said, "Really, what
do you mean? I suppose you don't accuse her of making believe!" I forget what
reply I made to this, but I grant that in my heart I thought the old woman capable
of any weird maneuver. Miss Tita wanted to know what I had done to her; her
aunt had told her that I had made her so angry. I declared I had done nothing-- I
had been exceedingly careful; to which my companion rejoined that Miss
Bordereau had assured her she had had a scene with me-- a scene that had
upset her. I answered with some resentment that it was a scene of her own
making--that I couldn't think what she was angry with me for unless for not seeing
my way to give a thousand pounds for the portrait of Jeffrey Aspern. "And did she
show you that? Oh, gracious--oh, deary me!" groaned Miss Tita, who appeared
to feel that the situation was passing out of her control and that the elements of
her fate were thickening around her. I said that I would give anything to possess