The Aspern Papers HTML version

Chapter IX
I left Venice the next morning, as soon as I learned that the old lady had not
succumbed, as I feared at the moment, to the shock I had given her--the shock I
may also say she had given me. How in the world could I have supposed her
capable of getting out of bed by herself? I failed to see Miss Tita before going; I
only saw the donna, whom I entrusted with a note for her younger mistress. In
this note I mentioned that I should be absent but for a few days. I went to
Treviso, to Bassano, to Castelfranco; I took walks and drives and looked at
musty old churches with ill-lighted pictures and spent hours seated smoking at
the doors of cafes, where there were flies and yellow curtains, on the shady side
of sleepy little squares. In spite of these pastimes, which were mechanical and
perfunctory, I scantily enjoyed my journey: there was too strong a taste of the
disagreeable in my life. I had been devilish awkward, as the young men say, to
be found by Miss Bordereau in the dead of night examining the attachment of her
bureau; and it had not been less so to have to believe for a good many hours
afterward that it was highly probable I had killed her. In writing to Miss Tita I
attempted to minimize these irregularities; but as she gave me no word of answer
I could not know what impression I made upon her. It rankled in my mind that I
had been called a publishing scoundrel, for certainly I did publish and certainly I
had not been very delicate. There was a moment when I stood convinced that
the only way to make up for this latter fault was to take myself away altogether on
the instant; to sacrifice my hopes and relieve the two poor women forever of the
oppression of my intercourse. Then I reflected that I had better try a short
absence first, for I must already have had a sense (unexpressed and dim) that in
disappearing completely it would not be merely my own hopes that I should
condemn to extinction. It would perhaps be sufficient if I stayed away long
enough to give the elder lady time to think she was rid of me. That she would
wish to be rid of me after this (if I was not rid of her) was now not to be doubted:
that nocturnal scene would have cured her of the disposition to put up with my
company for the sake of my dollars. I said to myself that after all I could not
abandon Miss Tita, and I continued to say this even while I observed that she
quite failed to comply with my earnest request (I had given her two or three
addresses, at little towns, post restante) that she would let me know how she
was getting on. I would have made my servant write to me but that he was
unable to manage a pen. It struck me there was a kind of scorn in Miss Tita's
silence (little disdainful as she had ever been), so that I was uncomfortable and
sore. I had scruples about going back and yet I had others about not doing so, for
I wanted to put myself on a better footing. The end of it was that I did return to
Venice on the twelfth day; and as my gondola gently bumped against Miss
Bordereau's steps a certain palpitation of suspense told me that I had done
myself a violence in holding off so long.