Click here to Download The Touchstone PDF Book by Edith Wharton Language English having PDF Size 1 MB and No of Pages 53.
Glennard dropped the Spectator and sat looking into the fire. The club was filling up, but he still had to himself the small inner room, with its darkening outlook down the rain-streaked prospect of Fifth Avenue. It was all dull and dismal enough, yet a moment earlier his boredom had been perversely tinged by a sense of resentment at the thought that.
The Touchstone PDF Book by Edith Wharton
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As things were going, he might in time have to surrender even the despised privilege of boring himself within those particular four walls. It was not that he cared much for the club, but that the remote contingency of having to give it up stood to him, just then, perhaps by very reason of its insignificance and remoteness.
For the symbol of his increasing abnegations; of that perpetual paring-off that was gradually reducing existence to the naked business of keeping himself alive. It was the futility of his multiplied shifts and privations that made them seem unworthy of a high attitude.
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The sense that, however rapidly he eliminated the superfluous, his cleared horizon was likely to offer no nearer view of the one prospect toward which he strained. To give up things in order to marry the woman one loves is easier than to give them up without being brought appreciably nearer to such a conclusion.
Through the open door he saw young Hollingsworth rise with a yawn from the ineffectual solace of a brandy-and-soda and transport his purposeless person to the window. Glennard measured his course with a contemptuous eye. It was so like Hollingsworth to get up and look out of the window just as it was growing too dark to see anything!
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There was a man rich enough to do what he pleased—had he been capable of being pleased—yet barred from all conceivable achievement by his own impervious dulness; while, a few feet off, Glennard, who wanted only enough to keep a decent coat on his back and a roof over the head of the woman he loved Glennard.
Who had sweated, toiled, denied himself for the scant measure of opportunity that his zeal would have converted into a kingdom—sat wretchedly calculating that, even when he had resigned from the club, and knocked off his cigars, and given up his Sundays out of town, he would still be no nearer attainment.
The Spectator had slipped to his feet and as he picked it up his eye fell again on the paragraph addressed to the friends of Mrs. Aubyn. He had read it for the first time with a scarcely perceptible quickening of attention: her name had so long been public property that his eye passed it unseeingly. The Touchstone PDF Book
As the crowd in the street hurries without a glance by some familiar monument. “Information concerning the period previous to her coming to England….” The words were an evocation. He saw her again as she had looked at their first meeting, the poor woman of genius with her long pale face and short-sighted eyes.
Softened a little by the grace of youth and inexperience, but so incapable even then of any hold upon the pulses. When she spoke, indeed, she was wonderful, more wonderful, perhaps, than when later, to Glennard’s fancy at least, the consciousness of memorable things uttered seemed to take from even her most intimate speech.
The perfect bloom of privacy. It was in those earliest days, if ever, that he had come near loving her; though even then his sentiment had lived only in the intervals of its expression. Later, when to be loved by her had been a state to touch any man’s imagination, the physical reluctance had, inexplicably, so overborne the intellectual attraction.
That the last years had been, to both of them, an agony of conflicting impulses. Even now, if, in turning over old papers, his hand lit on her letters, the touch filled him with inarticulate misery…. “She had so few intimate friends… that letters will be of special value.”The Touchstone PDF Book
So few intimate friends! For years she had had but one; one who in the last years had requited her wonderful pages, her tragic outpourings of love, humility, and pardon, with the scant phrases by which a man evades the vulgarest of sentimental importunities.
He had been a brute in spite of himself, and sometimes, now that the remembrance of her face had faded, and only her voice and words remained with him, he chafed at his own inadequacy, his stupid inability to rise to the height of her passion. His egoism was not of a kind to mirror its complacency in the adventure.
To have been loved by the most brilliant woman of her day, and to have been incapable of loving her, seemed to him, in looking back, the most derisive evidence of his limitations; and his remorseful tenderness for her memory was complicated with a sense of irritation against her for having given him once for all the measure of his emotional capacity. The Touchstone PDF Book
It was not often, however, that he thus probed the past. The public, in taking possession of Mrs. Aubyn, had eased his shoulders of their burden. There was something fatuous in an attitude of sentimental apology toward a memory already classic.
To reproach one’s self for not having loved Margaret Aubyn was a good deal like being disturbed by an inability to admire the Venus of Milo. From her cold niche of fame she looked down ironically enough on his self-flagellations…. It was only when he came on something that belonged to her that he felt a sudden renewal of the old feeling.
The strange dual impulse that drew him to her voice but drove him from her hand, so that even now, at sight of anything she had touched, his heart contracted painfully. It happened seldom nowadays. Her little presents, one by one, had disappeared from his rooms, and her letters. The Touchstone PDF Book Download
Kept from some unacknowledged puerile vanity in the possession of such treasures, seldom came beneath his hand. “It’s just this way,” he began again, with an effort. “When letters are as personal as—as these of my friend’s…. Well, I don’t mind telling you that the cash would make a heap of difference to me.
Such a lot that it rather obscures my judgment—the fact is if I could lay my hand on a few thousands now I could get into a big thing, and without appreciable risk; and I’d like to know whether you think I’d be justified—under the circumstances….” He paused, with a dry throat.
It seemed to him at the moment that it would be impossible for him ever to sink lower in his own estimation. He was in truth less ashamed of weighing the temptation than of submitting his scruples to a man like Flamel, and affecting to appeal to sentiments of delicacy on the absence of which he had consciously reckoned. The Touchstone PDF Book Download
But he had reached a point where each word seemed to compel another, as each wave in a stream is forced forward by the pressure behind it; and before Flamel could speak he had faltered out—“You don’t think people could say… could criticise the man….” “But the man’s dead, isn’t he?”
“He’s dead—yes; but can I assume the responsibility without—” Flamel hesitated; and almost immediately Glennard’s scruples gave way to irritation. If at this hour Flamel were to affect an inopportune reluctance—! The older man’s answer reassured him. “Why need you assume any responsibility?
Your name won’t appear, of course; and as to your friend’s, I don’t see why his should, either. He wasn’t a celebrity himself, I suppose?” “No, no.” “Then the letters can be addressed to Mr. Blank. Doesn’t that make it all right?” Glennard’s hesitation revived. “For the public, yes. But I don’t see that it alters the case for me. The Touchstone PDF Book Download
The question is, ought I to publish them at all?” “Of course you ought to.” Flamel spoke with invigorating emphasis. “I doubt if you’d be justified in keeping them back. Anything of Margaret Aubyn’s is more or less public property by this time. She’s too great for any one of us.
I was only wondering how you could use them to the best advantage—to yourself, I mean. How many are there?” “Oh, a lot; perhaps a hundred—I haven’t counted. There may be more….” “Gad! What a haul! When were they written?” “I don’t know—that is—they corresponded for years. What’s the odds?”
He moved toward his hat with a vague impulse of flight. “It all counts,” said Flamel, imperturbably. “A long correspondence—one, I mean, that covers a great deal of time—is obviously worth more than if the same number of letters had been written within a year. At any rate, you won’t give them to Joslin? They’d fill a book, wouldn’t they?” The Touchstone PDF Book Free
The week in town had been sultry, and the men, in the Sunday emancipation of white flannel and duck, filled the deck-chairs of the yacht with their outstretched apathy, following, through a mist of cigarette-smoke, the flitting inconsequences of the women.
The party was a small one—Flamel had few intimate friends—but composed of more heterogeneous atoms than the little pools into which society usually runs. The reaction from the chief episode of his earlier life had bred in Glennard an uneasy distaste for any kind of personal saliency.
Cleverness was useful in business; but in society it seemed to him as futile as the sham cascades formed by a stream that might have been used to drive a mill. He liked the collective point of view that goes with the civilized uniformity of dress-clothes, and his wife’s attitude implied the same preference. The Touchstone PDF Book Free
Yet they found themselves slipping more and more into Flamel’s intimacy. Alexa had once or twice said that she enjoyed meeting clever people; but her enjoyment took the negative form of a smiling receptivity; and Glennard felt a growing preference for the kind of people who have their thinking done for them by the community.
Still, the deck of the yacht was a pleasant refuge from the heat on shore, and his wife’s profile, serenely projected against the changing blue, lay on his retina like a cool hand on the nerves. He had never been more impressed by the kind of absoluteness that lifted her beauty above the transient effects of other women.
Making the most harmonious face seem an accidental collocation of features. The ladies who directly suggested this comparison were of a kind accustomed to take similar risks with more gratifying results. Mrs. Armiger had in fact long been the triumphant alternative of those who couldn’t “see” Alexa Glennard’s looks. The Touchstone PDF Book Free
And Mrs. Touchett’s claims to consideration were founded on that distribution of effects which is the wonder of those who admire a highly cultivated country. The third lady of the trio which Glennard’s fancy had put to such unflattering uses, was bound by circumstances to support the claims of the other two.
This was Mrs. Dresham, the wife of the editor of the Radiator. Mrs. Dresham was a lady who had rescued herself from social obscurity by assuming the role of her husband’s exponent and interpreter; and Dresham’s leisure being devoted to the cultivation of remarkable women, his wife’s attitude committed her to the public celebration of their remarkableness.
For the conceivable tedium of this duty, Mrs. Dresham was repaid by the fact that there were people who took her for a remarkable woman; and who in turn probably purchased similar distinction with the small change of her reflected importance. The Touchstone PDF Book Free
As to the other ladies of the party, they were simply the wives of some of the men—the kind of women who expect to be talked to collectively and to have their questions left unanswered. The dinner passed off safely. Flamel, always at his best in Alexa’s presence, gave her the kind of attention which is like a beaconing light thrown on the speaker’s words.
His answers seemed to bring out a latent significance in her phrases, as the sculptor draws his statue from the block. Glennard, under his wife’s composure, detected a sensibility to this manoeuvre, and the discovery was like the lightning-flash across a nocturnal landscape.
Thus far these momentary illuminations had served only to reveal the strangeness of the intervening country: each fresh observation seemed to increase the sum-total of his ignorance. Her simplicity of outline was more puzzling than a complex surface. The Touchstone PDF Book Free
One may conceivably work one’s way through a labyrinth; but Alexa’s candor was like a snow-covered plain where, the road once lost, there are no landmarks to travel by.