He could not return home. He remained alone outside the town until the evening, by which time the answer might well have arrived. It was there.
“My beloved son, you are always welcome; most of all when you are unhappy!” The word you was underlined. He grew deadly pale, and went slowly into his own room. There Angelika let him remain for a while in peace, then came in and lit the lamp. He could see that she was much agitated, and that every now and then she cast hasty glances at him.
“Do you know what, Rafael? you ought simply to go straight to your mother. It is too bad, both on account of our future and hers. We shall be ruined by gossip and trash.”
He was too unhappy to be contemptuous. She had no respect for anybody or anything, he thought; why, then, should he be angry because she felt none, either for his mother or for his position in regard to her? But how vulgar Angelika seemed to him, as she bent over a troublesome lamp and let her impatience break out! Her mouth but too easily acquired a coarse expression. Her small head would rear itself above her broad shoulders with a snake-like expression, and her thick wrist—
“Well,” she said, “when all is said and done, that disgusting Hellebergene is not worth making a fuss over.”
Now she is annoyed with herself, he thought, and must have her say. She will not rest until she has picked a quarrel; but she shall not have that satisfaction.
“After all that has been said and all that has happened there—”
But this, too, missed fire. “How could I have supposed that she could manage my mother?” He got up and paced the room. “Is that what mother felt? Yet they were such good friends. I suspected nothing then. How is it that mother’s instinct is always more delicate? have I blunted mine?”
When, a little later, Angelika came in again, he looked so unhappy that she was struck by it, and she then showed herself so kind and fertile in resource on his behalf, and there was such sunshine in her cheerfulness and flow of spirits during the evening, that he actually brightened up under it, and thought—If mother could have brought herself to try the experiment, perhaps after all it might have answered. There is so much that is good and capable in this curious creature.
He went to the children. From the first day he and they had taken to each other. They had been unhappy in the great pension, with a mother who seldom came near them or took any notice of them, except as clothes to be patched, mouths to feed, or faults to be punished.
Rafael had in his nature the unconventionality which delights in children’s confidence, and he felt a desire to love and to be loved. Children are quick to feel this.