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Maurice Guest
by
Henry Handel Richardson




Part I


S'amor non e che dunque e quel ch'io sento?
Ma s'egli e amor, per Dio, che cosa e quale?

PETRARCH



I.



One noon in 189-, a young man stood in front of the new Gewandhaus in
Leipzig, and watched the neat, grass-laid square, until then white and
silent in the sunshine, grow dark with many figures.

The public rehearsal of the weekly concert was just over, and, from
the half light of the warm-coloured hall, which for more than two
hours had held them secluded, some hundreds of people hastened, with
renewed anticipation, towards sunlight and street sounds. There was a
medley of tongues, for many nationalities were represented in the
crowd that surged through the ground-floor and out of the glass doors,
and much noisy ado, for the majority was made up of young people, at
an age that enjoys the sound of its own voice. In black, diverging
lines they poured through the heavy swinging doors, which flapped
ceaselessly to and fro, never quite closing, always opening afresh,
and on descending the shallow steps, they told off into groups, where
all talked at once, with lively gesticulation. A few faces had the
strained look that indicates the conscientious listener; but most of
these young musicians were under the influence of a stimulant more
potent than wine, which manifested itself in a nervous garrulity and a
nervous mirth.

They hummed like bees before a hive. Maurice Guest, who had come out
among the first, lingered to watch a scene that was new to him, of
which he was as yet an onlooker only. Here and there came a member of
the orchestra; with violin-case or black-swathed wind-instrument in
hand, he deftly threaded his way through the throng, bestowing, as he
went, a hasty nod of greeting upon a colleague, a sweep of the hat on
an obsequious pupil. The crowd began to disperse and to overflow in
the surrounding streets. Some of the stragglers loitered to swell the
group that was forming round the back entrance to the building; here
the lank-haired Belgian violinist would appear, the wonders of whose
technique had sent thrills of enthusiasm through his hearers, and
whose close proximity would presently affect them in precisely the
same way. Others again made off, not for the town, with its
prosaic suggestion of work and confinement, but for the freedom of the
woods that lay beyond.

Maurice Guest followed them.

It was a blowy day in early spring. Round white masses of cloud moved
lightly across a deep blue sky, and the trees, still thin and naked,
bent their heads and shook their branches, as if to elude the gambols
of a boisterous playfellow. The sun shone vividly, with restored
power, and though the clouds sometimes passed over his very face, the
shadows only lasted for a moment, and each returning radiance seemed
brighter than the one before. In the pure breath of the wind, as it
gustily swept the earth, was a promise of things vernal, of the tender
beauties of a coming spring; but there was still a keen, delightful
freshness in the air, a vague reminder of frosty starlights and serene
white snow--the untrodden snow of deserted, moon-lit streets--that
quickened the blood, and sent a craving for movement through the
veins. The people who trod the broad, clean roads and the paths of the
wood walked with a spring in their steps; voices were light and high,
and each breath that was drawn increased the sense of buoyancy, of
undiluted satisfaction. With these bursts of golden sunshine, so other
than the pallid gleamings of the winter, came a fresh impulse to life;
and the most insensible was dimly conscious how much had to be made up
for, how much lived into such a day.

Maurice Guest walked among the mossgreen tree-trunks, each of which
vied with the other in the brilliancy of its coating. He was under the
sway of a twofold intoxication: great music and a day rich in promise.
From the flood of melody that had broken over him, the frenzied storms
of applause, he had come out, not into a lamplit darkness that would
have crushed his elation back upon him and hemmed it in, but into the
spacious lightness of a fair blue day, where all that he felt could
expand, as a flower does in the sun.

His walk brought him to a broad stream, which flashed through the wood
like a line of light. He paused on a suspension bridge, and leaning
over the railing, gazed up the river into the distance, at the horizon
and its trees, delicate and feathery in their nakedness against the
sky. Swollen with recent rains and snows, the water came hurrying
towards him--the storm-bed of the little river, which, meandering in
from the country, through pleasant woods, in ever narrowing curves,
ran through the town as a small stream, to be swelled again on
the outskirts by the waters of two other rivers, which joined it at
right angles. The bridge trembled at first, when other people crossed
it, on their way to the woods that lay on the further side, but soon
the last stragglers vanished, and he was alone.

As he looked about, eager to discover beauty in the strip of landscape
that stretched before him--the line of water, its banks of leafless
trees--he was instinctively filled with a desire for something grander,
for a feature in the scene that would answer to his mood. There, where
the water appeared to end in a clump of trees, there, should be
mountains, a gently undulating line, blue with the unapproachable blue
of distance, and high enough to form a background to the view; in
sumer, heavy with haze, melting into the sky; in winter, lined and
edged with snow. From this, his thoughts sprang back to the music he
had heard that morning. All the vague yet eager hopes that had run
riot in his brain, for months past, seemed to have been summed up and
made clear to him, in one supreme phrase of it, a great phrase in C
major, in the concluding movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. First
sounded by the shrill sweet winds, it had suddenly been given out by
the strings, in magnificient unison, and had mounted up and on, to the
jubilant trilling of the little flutes. There was such a courageous
sincerity in this theme, such undauntable resolve; it expressed more
plainly than words what he intended his life of the next few years to
be; for he was full to the brim of ambitious intentions, which he had
never yet had a chance of putting into practice. He felt so ready for
work, so fresh and unworn; the fervour of a deep enthusiasm was
rampant in him. What a single-minded devotion to art, he promised
himself his should be! No other fancy or interest should share his
heart with it, he vowed that to himself this day, when he stood for
the first time on historic ground, where the famous musicians of the
past had found inspiration for their immortal works. And his thoughts
spread their wings and circled above his head; he saw himself already
of these masters' craft, their art his, he wrenching ever new secrets
from them, penetrating the recesses of their genius, becoming one of
themselves. In a vision as vivid as those that cross the brain in a
sleepless night, he saw a dark, compact multitude wait, with breath
suspended, to catch the notes that fell like raindrops from his
fingers; saw himself the all-conspicuous figure, as, with masterful
gestures, he compelled the soul that lay dormant in brass and strings,
to give voice to, to interpret to the many, his subtlest
emotions. And he was overcome by a tremulous compassion with himself
at the idea of wielding such power over an unknown multitude, at the
latent nobility of mind and aim this power implied.

Even when swinging back to the town, he had not shaken himself free of
dreams. The quiet of a foreign midday lay upon the streets, and there
were few discordant sounds, few passers-by, to break the chain of his
thought. He had movememt, silence, space. And as is usual with
active-brained dreamers, he had little or no eye for the real life
about him; he was not struck by the air of comfortable prosperity, of
thriving content, which marked the great commercial centre, and he let
pass, unnoticed, the unfamiliar details of a foreign street, the
trifling yet significant incidents of foreign life. Such impressions
as he received, bore the stamp of his own mood. He was sensible, for
instance, in face of the picturesque houses that clustered together in
the centre of the town, of the spiritual GEMUTLICHKEIT, the absence of
any pomp or pride in their romantic past, which characterises the old
buildings of a German town. These quaint and stately houses, wedged
one into the other, with their many storeys, their steeply sloping
roofs and eye-like roof-windows, were still in sympathetic touch with
the trivial life of the day which swarmed in and about them. He
wandered leisurely along the narrow streets that ran at all angles off
the Market Place, one side of which was formed by the gabled RATHAUS,
with its ground-floor row of busy little shops; and, in fancy, he
peopled these streets with the renowned figures that had once walked
them. He looked up at the dark old houses in which great musicians had
lived, died and been born, and he saw faces that he recognised lean
out of the projecting windows, to watch the life and bustle below, to
catch the last sunbeam that filtered in; he saw them take their daily
walk along these very streets, in the antiquated garments of their
time. They passed him by, shadelike and misanthropic, and seemed to
steal down the opposite side, to avoid his too pertinent gaze. Bluff,
preoccupied, his keen eyes lowered, the burly Cantor passed, as he had
once done day after day, with the disciplined regularity of high
genius, of the honest citizen, to his appointed work in the shadows of
the organ-loft; behind him, one who had pointed to the giant with a
new burst of ardour, the genial little improviser, whose triumphs had
been those of this town, whose fascinating gifts and still more
fascinating personality, had made him the lion of his age. And
it was only another step in this train of half-conscious thought,
that, before a large lettered poster, which stood out black and white
against the reds and yellows of the circular advertisement-column, and
bore the word "Siegfried," Maurice Guest should not merely be filled
with the anticipation of a world of beauty still unexplored, but that
the world should stand to him for a symbol, as it were, of the easeful
and luxurious side of a life dedicated to art--of a world-wide fame;
the society of princes, kings; the gloss of velvet; the dull glow of
gold.--And again, tapering vistas opened up, through which he could
peer into the future, happy in the knowledge, that he stood firm in a
present which made all things possible to a holy zeal, to an
unhesitating grasp.

But it was growing late, and he slowly retraced his steps. In the
restaurant into which he turned for dinner, he was the only customer.
The principal business of the day was at an end; two waiters sat
dozing in corners, and a man behind the counter, who was washing
metal-topped beer-glasses, had almost the whole pile polished bright
before him. Maurice Guest sat down at a table by the window; and, when
he had finished his dinner and lighted a cigarette, he watched the
passers-by, who crossed the pane of glass like the figures in a moving
photograph.

Suddenly the door opened with an energetic click, and a lady came in,
enveloped in an old-fashioned, circular cloak, and carrying on one arm
a pile of paper-covered music. This, she laid on the table next that
at which the young man was sitting, then took off her hat. When she
had also hung up the unbecoming cloak, he saw that she was young and
slight. For the rest, she seemed to bring with her, into the warm,
tranquil atmosphere of the place, heavy with midday musings, a breath
of wind and outdoor freshness--a suggestion that was heightened by the
quick decisiveness of her movements: the briskness with which she
divested herself of her wrappings, the quick smooth of the hair on
either side, the business-like way in which she drew up her chair to
the table and unfolded her napkin.

She seemed to be no stranger there, for, on her entrance, the younger
and more active waiter had at once sprung up with officious haste, and
almost before she was ready, the little table was newly spread and
set, and the dinner of the day before her. She spoke to the man in a
friendly way as she took her seat, and he replied with a pleased and
smiling respect.

Then she began to eat, deliberately, and with an overemphasised
nicety. As she carried her soup-spoon to her lips, Maurice Guest felt
that she was observing him; and throughout the meal, of which she ate
but little, he was aware of a peculiarly straight and penetrating
gaze. It ended by disconcerting him. Beckoning the waiter, he went
through the business of paying his bill, and this done, was about to
push back his chair and rise to his feet, when the man, in gathering
up the money, addressed what seemed to be a question to him. Fearful
lest he had made a mistake in the strange coinage, Maurice looked up
apprehensively. The waiter repeated his words, but the slight
nervousness that gained on the young man made him incapable of
separating the syllables, which were indistinguishably blurred. He
coloured, stuttered, and felt mortally uncomfortable, as, for the
third time, the waiter repeated his remark, with the utmost slowness.

At this point, the girl at the adjacent table put down her knife and
fork, and leaned slightly forward.

"Excuse me," she said, and smiled. "The waiter only said he thought
you must be a stranger here: DER HERR IST GEWISS FREMD IN LEIPZIG?"
Her rather prominent teeth were visible as she spoke.

Maurice, who understood instantly her pronunciation of the words, was
not set any more at his ease by her explanation. "Thanks very much."
he said, still redder than usual. "I . . . er . . . thought the fellow
was saying something about the money."

"And the Saxon dialect is barbarous, isn't it?" she added kindly. "But
perhaps you have not had much experience of it yet."

"No. I only arrived this morning."

At this, she opened her eyes wide. "Why, you are a courageous person!"
she said and laughed, but did not explain what she meant, and he did
not like to ask her.

A cup of coffee was set on the table before her; she held a lump of
sugar in her spoon, and watched it grow brown and dissolve. "Are you
going to make a long stay?" she asked, to help him over his
embarrassment.

"Two years, I hope," said the young man.

"Music?" she queried further, and, as he replied affirmatively: "Then
the Con. of course?"--an enigmatic question that needed to be
explained. "You're piano, are you not?" she went on. "I thought so. It
is hardly possible to mistake the hands"--here she just glanced
at her own, which, large, white, and well formed, were lying on the
table. "With strings, you know, the right hand is as a rule shockingly
defective."

He found the high clearness of her voice very agreeable after the deep
roundnesses of German, and could have gone on listening to it. But she
was brushing the crumbs from her skirt, preparatory to rising.

"Are you an old resident here?" he queried in the hope of detaining
her.

"Yes, quite. I'm at the end of my second year; and don't know whether
to be glad or sorry," she answered. "Time goes like a flash.--Now, look
here, as one who knows the ways of the place, would you let me give
you a piece of advice? Yes?--It's this. You intend to enter the
Conservatorium, you say. Well, be sure you get under a good man--that's
half the battle. Try and play privately to either Schwarz or Bendel.
If you go in for the public examination with all the rest, the people
in the BUREAU will put you to anyone they like, and that is disastrous.
Choose your own master, and beard him in his den beforehand."

"Yes . . . and you recommend? May I ask whom you are with?" he said
eagerly.

"Schwarz is my master; and I couldn't wish for a better. But Bendel is
good, too, in his way, and is much sought after by the
Americans--you're not American, are you? No.--Well, the English colony
runs the American close nowadays. We're a regular army. If you don't
want to, you need hardly mix with foreigners as long as you're here.
We have our clubs and balls and other social functions--and our
geniuses--and our masters who speak English like natives . . . But
there!--you'll soon know all about it yourself."

She nodded pleasantly and rose.

"I must be off," she said. "To-day every minute is precious. That
wretched PROBE spoils the morning, and directly it is over, I have to
rush to an organ-lesson--that's why I'm here. For I can't expect a
PENSION to keep dinner hot for me till nearly three o'clock--can I?
Morning rehearsals are a mistake. What?--you were there, too?
Really?--after a night in the train? Well, you didn't get much, did
you, for your energy? A dull aria, an overture that 'belongs in the
theatre,' as they say here, an indifferently played symphony that one
has heard at least a dozen times. And for us poor pianists, not a
fresh dish this season. Nothing but yesterday's remains heated
up again."

She laughed as she spoke, and Maurice Guest laughed, too, not being
able at the moment to think of anything to say.

Getting the better of the waiter, who stood by, napkin on arm, smiling
and officious, he helped her into the unbecoming cloak; then took up
the parcel of music and opened the door. In his manner of doing this,
there may have been a touch of over-readiness, for no sooner was she
outside, than she quietly took the music from him, and, without even
offering him her hand, said a friendly but curt good-bye: almost
before he had time to return it, he saw her hurrying up the street, as
though she had never vouchsafed him word or thought. The abruptness of
the dismissal left him breathless; in his imagination, they had walked
at least a strip of the street together. He stepped off the pavement
into the road, that he might keep her longer in sight, and for some
time he saw her head, in the close-fitting hat, bobbing along above
the heads of other people.

On turning again, he found that the waiter was watching him from the
window of the restaurant, and it seemed to the young man that the
pale, servile face wore a malicious smile. With the feeling of
disconcertion that springs from being caught in an impulsive action we
have believed unobserved, Maurice spun round on his heel and took a
few quick steps in the opposite direction. When once he was out of
range of the window, however, he dropped his pace, and at the next
corner stopped altogether. He would at least have liked to know her
name. And what in all the world was he to do with himself now?

Clouds had gathered; the airy blue and whiteness of the morning had
become a level sheet of grey, which wiped the colour out of
everything; the wind, no longer tempered by the sun, was chilly, as it
whirled down the narrow streets and freaked about the corners. There
was little temptation now to linger on one's steps. But Maurice Guest
was loath to return to the solitary room that stood to him for home,
to shut himself up with himself, inside four walls: and turning up his
coat collar, he began to walk slowly along the curved
GRIMMAISCHESTRASSE. But the streets were by this time black with
people, most of whom came hurrying towards him, brisk and bustling,
and gay, in spite of the prevailing dullness, at the prospect of the
warm, familiar evening. He was continually obliged to step off the
pavement into the road, to allow a bunch of merry, chattering
girls, their cheeks coloured by the wind beneath the dark fur of their
hats, or a line of gaudy capped, thickset students, to pass him by,
unbroken; and it seemed to him that he was more frequently off the
pavement than on it. He began to feel disconsolate among these jovial
people, who were hastening forward, with such spirit, to some end, and
he had not gone far, before he turned down a side street to be out of
their way. Vaguely damped by his environment, which, with the sun's
retreat, had lost its charm, he gave himself up to his own thoughts,
and was soon busily engaged in thinking over all that had been said by
his quondam acquaintance of the dinner-table, in inventing neatly
turned phrases and felicitous replies. He walked without aim, in a
leisurely way down quiet streets, quickly across big thoroughfares,
and paid no attention to where he was going. The falling darkness made
the quaint streets look strangely alike; it gave them, too, an air of
fantastic unreality: the dark old houses, marshalled in rows on either
side, stood as if lost in contemplation, in the saddening dusk. The
lighting of the street-lamps, which started one by one into existence,
and the conflict with the fading daylight of the uneasily beating
flame, that was swept from side to side in the wind like a woman's
hair--these things made his surroundings seem still shadowier and less
real.

He was roused from his reverie by finding himself on what was
apparently the outskirts of the town. With much difficulty he made his
way back, but he was still far from certain of his whereabouts, when
an unexpected turn to the right brought him out on the spacious
AUGUSTUSPLATZ, in front of the New Theatre. He had been in this square
once already, but now its appearance was changed. The big buildings
that flanked it were lit up; the file of droschkes waiting for fares,
under the bare trees, formed a dotted line of lights. A double row of
hanging lamps before the CAFE FRANCAIS made the corner of the
GRIMMAISCHESTRASSE dazzling to the eyes; and now, too, the massive
white theatre was awake as well. Lights shone from all its high
windows, streamed out through the Corinthian columns and low-porched
doorways. Its festive air was inviting, after his twilight wanderings,
and he went across the square to it. Immediately before the theatre,
early corners stood in knots and chatted; programme--and text-vendors
cried and sold their wares; people came hurrying from all directions,
as to a magnet; hastily they ascended the low steps and disappeared
beneath the portico.

He watched until the last late-comer had vanished. Only he was left;
he again was the outsider. And now, as he stood there in the deserted
square, which, a moment before, had been so animated, he had a sudden
sinking of the heart: he was seized by that acute sense of desolation
that lies in wait for one, caught by nightfall, alone in a strange
city. It stirs up a wild longing, not so much for any particular spot
on earth, as for some familiar hand or voice, to take the edge off an
intolerable loneliness.

He turned and walked rapidly back to the small hotel near the railway
station, at which he was staying until he found lodgings. He was tired
out, and for the first time became thoroughly conscious of this; but
the depression that now closed in upon him, was not due to fatigue
alone, and he knew it. In sane moments--such as the present--when
neither excitement nor enthusiasm warped his judgment, he was under no
illusion about himself; and as he strode through the darkness, he
admitted that, all day long, he had been cheating himself in the usual
way. He understood perfectly that it was by no means a matter of
merely stretching out his hand, to pluck what he would, from this tree
that waved before him; he reminded himself with some bitterness that
he stood, an unheralded stranger, before a solidly compact body of
things and people on which he had not yet made any impression. It was
the old story: he played at expecting a ready capitulation of the
whole--gods and men--and, at the same time, was only too well aware of
the laborious process that was his sole means of entry and fellowship.
Again--to instance another of his mental follies--the pains he had been
at to take possession of the town, to make it respond to his forced
interpretation of it! In reality, it had repelled him--yes, he was
chilled to the heart by the aloofness of this foreign town, to which
not a single tie yet bound him.

By the light of a fluttering candle, in the dingy hotel bedroom, he
sat and wrote a letter, briefly announcing his safe arrival. About to
close the envelope, he hesitated, and then, unfolding the sheet of
paper again, added a few lines to what he had written. These cost him
more trouble than all the rest.

ONCE MORE, HEARTY THANKS TO YOU BOTH, MY DEAR PARENTS, FOR LETTING ME
HAVE MY OWN WAY. I HOPE YOU WILL NEVER HAVE REASON TO REGRET IT. ONE
THING, AT LEAST, I CAN PROMISE YOU, AND THAT IS, THAT NOT A DAY OF MY
TIME HERE SHALL BE WASTED OR MISSPENT. YOU HAVE NOT, I KNOW,
THE SAME FAITH IN ME THAT I HAVE MYSELF, AND THIS HAS OFTEN BEEN A
BITTER THOUGHT TO ME. BUT ONLY HAVE PATIENCE. SOMETHING STRONGER THAN
MYSELF DROVE ME TO IT, AND IF I AM TO SUCCEED ANYWHERE, IT WILL BE
HERE. AND I MEAN TO SUCCEED, IF HUMAN WILL CAN DO IT.

He threw himself on the creaking wooden bed and tried to sleep. But
his brain was active, and the street was noisy; people talked late in
the adjoining room, and trod heavily in the one above. It was long
after midnight before the house was still and he fell into an uneasy
sleep.

Towards morning, he had a strange dream, from which he wakened in a
cold sweat. Once more he was wandering through the streets, as he had
done the previous day, apparently in search of something he could not
find. But he did not know himself what he sought. All of a sudden, on
turning a corner, he came upon a crowd of people gathered round some
object in the road, and at once said to himself, this is it, here it
is. He could not, however, see what it actually was, for the people,
who were muttering to themselves in angry tones, strove to keep him
back. At all costs, he felt, he must get nearer to the mysterious
thing, and, in a spirit of bravado, he was pushing through the crowd
to reach it, when a great clamour arose; every one sprang back, and
fled wildly, shrieking: "Moloch, Moloch!" He did not know in the least
what it meant, but the very strangeness of the word added to the
horror, and he, too, fled with the rest; fled blindly, desperately, up
streets and down, watched, it seemed to him, from every window by a
cold, malignant eye, but never daring to turn his head, lest he should
see the awful thing behind him; fled on and on, through streets that
grew ever vaguer and more shadowy, till at last his feet would carry
him no further: he sank down, with a loud cry, sank down, down, down,
and wakened to find that he was sitting up in bed, clammy with fear,
and that dawn was stealing in at the sides of the window.




II.



In Maurice Guest, it might be said that the smouldering unrest of two
generations burst into flame. As a young man, his father, then a poor
teacher in a small provincial town, had been a prey to certain dreams
and wishes, which harmonised ill with the conditions of his life.
When, for example, on a mild night, he watched the moon scudding a
silvery, cloud-flaked sky; when white clouds sailed swiftly, and soft
spring breezes were hastening past; when, in a word, all things seemed
to be making for some place, unknown, afar-off, where he was not, then
he, too, was seized with a desire to be moving, to strap on a knapsack
and be gone, to wander through foreign countries, to see strange
cities and hear strange tongues, was unconsciously filled with the
desire to taste, lighthearted, irresponsible, the joys and experiences
of the WANDERJAHRE, before settling down to face the
matter-of-factnesss of life. And as the present continually pushed the
realisation of his dreams into the future, he satisfied the immediate
thirst of his soul by playing the flute, and by breathing into the
thin, reedy tones he drew from it, all that he dreamed of, but would
never know. For he presently came to a place in his life where two
paths diverged, and he was forced to make a choice between them. It
was characteristic of the man that he chose the way of least
resistance, and having married, more or less improvidently, he turned
his back on the visions that had haunted his youth: afterwards, the
cares, great and small, that came in the train of the years, drove
them ever further into the background. Want of sympathy in his
home-life blunted the finer edges of his nature; of a gentle and
yielding disposition, he took on the commonplace colour of his
surroundings. After years of unhesitating toil, it is true, the most
pressing material needs died down, but the dreams and ambitions had
died, too, never to come again. And as it is in the nature of things
that no one is less lenient towards romantic longings than he who has
suffered disappointment in them, who has failed to transmute them into
reality, so, in this case, the son's first tentative leanings to a
wider life, met with a more deeply-rooted, though less decisive,
opposition, on the part of the father than of the mother.

But Maurice Guest had a more tenacious hold on life.

The home in which he grew up, was one of those cheerless, middle-class
homes, across which never passes a breath of the great gladness, the
ideal beauty of life; where thought never swings itself above the
material interests of the day gone, the day to come, and existence
grows as timid and trivial as the petty griefs and pleasures that
intersperse it. The days drip past, one by one, like water from a
spout after a rain-shower; and the dull monotony of them benumbs all
wholesome temerity at its core. Maurice Guest had known days of this
kind. For before the irksomeness of the school-bench was well behind
him, he had begun his training as a teacher, and as soon as he had
learnt how to instil his own half-digested knowledge into the minds of
others, he received a small post in the school at which his father
taught. The latter had, for some time, secretly cherished a wish to
send the boy to study at the neighbouring university, to make a
scholar of his eldest son; but the longer he waited, the more
unfavourable did circumstances seem, and the idea finally died before
it was born.

Maurice Guest looked back on the four years he had just come through,
with bitterness; and it was only later, when he was engrossed heart
and soul in congenial work, that he began to recognise, and be vaguely
grateful for, the spirit of order with which they had familiarised
him. At first, he could not recall them without an aversion that was
almost physical: this machine-like regularity, which, in its disregard
of mood and feeling, had something of a divine callousness to human
stirrings; the jarring contact with automaton-like people; his
inadequacy and distaste for a task that grew day by day more painful.
His own knowledge was so hesitating, so uncertain, too slight for
self-confidence, just too much and too fresh to allow him to
generalise with the unthinking assurance that was demanded of him. Yet
had anyone, he asked himself, more obstacles to overcome than he, in
his efforts to set himself free? This silent, undemonstrative father,
who surrounded himself with an unscalable wall of indifference; this
hard-faced, careworn mother, about whose mouth the years had traced
deep lines, and for whom, in the course of a single-handed battle with
life, the true reality had come to be success or failure in the
struggle for bread. What was art to them but an empty name, a pastime
for the drones and idlers of existence? How could he set up his
ambitions before them, to be bowled over like so many ninepins? When,
at length, after much heartburning and conscientious scrupling,
he was mastered by a healthier spirit of self-assertion, which made
him rebel against the uselessness of the conflict, and doggedly
resolve to put an end to it, he was only enabled to stand firm by
summoning to his aid all the strengthening egoism, which is latent in
every more or less artistic nature. To the mother, in her honest
narrowness, the son's choice of a calling which she held to be
unfitting, was something of a tragedy. She allowed no item of her duty
to escape her, and moved about the house as usual, sternly observant
of her daily task, but her lips were compressed to a thin line, and
her face reflected the anger that burnt in her heart, too deep for
speech. In the months that followed, Maurice learnt that the censure
hardest to meet is that which is never put into words, which refuses
to argue or discuss: he chafed inwardly against the unspoken
opposition that will not come out to be grappled with, and overthrown.
And, as he was only too keenly aware, there was more to be faced than
a mere determined aversion to the independence with which he had
struck out: there was, in the first place, a pardonably human sense of
aggrievedness that the eldest-born should cross their plans and
wishes; that, after the year-long care and thought they had bestowed
on him, he should demand fresh efforts from them; and, again, most
harassing of all and most invulnerable, such an entire want of faith
in the powers he was yearning to test--the prophet's lot in the mean
blindness of the family--that, at times, it threatened to shake his
hard-won faith in himself.--But before the winter drew to a close he
was away.

Away!--to go out into the world and be a musican--that was his longing
and his dream. And he never came to quite an honest understanding with
himself on this point, for desire and dream were interwoven in his
mind; he could not separate the one from the other. But when he
weighed them, and allowed them to rise up and take shape before him,
it was invariably in this order that they did so. In reality, although
he himself was but vaguely conscious of the fact, it was to some
extent as means to an end, that, when his eyes had been opened to its
presence, he clutched--like a drowning man who seizes upon a
spar--clutched and held fast to his talent. But the necessary insight
into his powers had first to be gained, for it was not one of those
talents which, from the beginning, strut their little world with the
assurance of the peacock. He was, it is true, gifted with an
instinctive feeling for the value and significance of tones--as
a child he sang by ear in a small, sweet voice, which gained him the
only notice he received at school, and he easily picked out his notes,
and taught himself little pieces, on the old-fashioned, silk-faced
piano, which had belonged to his mother as a girl, and at which, in
the early days of her marriage, she had sung in a high, shrill voice,
the sentimental songs of her youth. But here, for want of incentive,
matters remained; Maurice was kept close at his school-books, and,
boylike, he had no ambition to distinguish himself in a field so
different from that in which his comrades won their spurs. It was only
when, with the end of his schooldays in sight, he was putting away
childish things, that he seriously turned his attention to the piano
and his hands. They were those of the pianist, broad, strong and
supple, and the new occupation soon engrossed him deeply; he gave up
all his spare time to it, and, in a few months, attained so creditable
a proficiency, that he went through a course of instruction with a
local teacher of music, who, scenting talent, dismissed preliminaries
with the assurance of his kind, and initiated his pupil into all that
is false and meretricious in the literature of the piano--the cheaply
pathetic, the tinsel of transcription, the titillating melancholy of
Slavonic dance-music--to leave him, but for an increased agility of
finger, not a whit further forward than he had found him. Then
followed months when the phantom of discontent stalked large through
Maurice's life, grew, indeed, day by day more tangible, more easily
defined; for there came the long, restless summer evenings, when it
seemed as if a tranquil darkness would never fall and bar off the
distant, the unattainable; and as he followed some flat, white country
road, that was lost to sight on the horizon as a tapering line, or
looked out across a stretch of low, luxuriant meadows, the very
placidity of which made heart and blood throb quicker, in a sense of
opposition: then the desire to have finished with the life he knew,
grew almost intolerable, and only a spark was needed to set his
resolve ablaze.

It was one evening when the summer had already dragged itself to a
close, that Maurice walked through a drizzling rain to the
neighbouring cathedral town, to attend a performance of ELIJAH. It was
the first important musical experience of his life, and, carried away
by the volumes of sound, he repressed his agitation so ill, that it
became apparent to his neighbour, a small, wizened, old man, who was
leaning forward, his hands hanging between his knees and his eyes
fixed on the floor, alternately shaking and nodding his head.
In the interval between the parts, they exchanged a few words,
halting, excited on Maurice's part, interrogative on his companion's;
when the performance was over, they walked a part of the way together,
and found so much to say, that often, after this, when his week's work
was behind him, Maurice would cover the intervening miles for the
pleasure of a few hours' conversation with this new friend. In a
small, dark room, the air of which was saturated with tobacco-smoke,
he learned, by degrees, the story of the old musician's life: how,
some thirty years previously, he had drifted into the midst of this
provincial population, where he found it easy to earn enough for his
needs, and where his position was below that of a dancing-master; but
how, long ago, in his youth--that youth of which he spoke with a
far-away tone in his voice, and at which he seemed to be looking out
as at a fading shore--it had been his intention to perfect himself as a
pianist. Life had been against him; when, the resolve was strongest,
poverty and ill-heath kept him down, and since then, with the years
that passed, he had come to see that his place would only have been
among the multitude of little talents, whose destiny it is to imitate
and vulgarise the strivings of genius, to swell the over-huge mass of
mediocrity. And so, he had chosen that his life should he a failure--a
failure, that is, in the eyes of the world; for himself, he judged
otherwise. The truth that could be extracted from words was such a
fluctuating, relative truth. Failure! success!--what WAS success, but a
clinging fast, unabashed by smile or neglect, to that better part in
art, in one's self, that cannot be taken away?--never for a thought's
space being untrue to the ideal each one of us bears in his breast;
never yielding jot or tittle to the world's opinion. That was what it
meant, and he who was proudly conscious of having succeeded thus,
could well afford to regard the lives of others as half-finished and
imperfect; he alone was at one with himself, his life alone was a
harmonious whole.

To Maurice Guest, all this mattered little or not at all; it was
merely the unavoidable introduction. The chief thing was that the old
man had known the world which Maurice so desired to know; he had seen
life, had lived much of his youth in foreign lands, and had the
conversation been skilfully set agoing in this direction, he would lay
a wrinkled hand on his listener's shoulder, and tell him of this
shadowy past, with short hoarse chuckles of pleasure and reminiscence,
which invariably ended in a cough. He painted it in vivid colours, and
with the unconscious heightening of effect that comes natural
to one who looks back upon a happy past, from which the countless
pricks and stings that make up reality have faded, leaving in their
place a sense of dreamy, unreal brightness, like that of sunset upon
distant hills. He told him of Germany, and the gay, careless years he
had spent there, working at his art, years of inspiriting,
untrammelled progress; told him of famous musicians he had seen and
known, of great theatre performances at which he had assisted, of
stirring PREMIERES, long since forgotten, of burning youthful
enthusiasms, of nights sleepless with holy excitement, and days of
fruitful, meditative idleness. Under the spell of these reminiscences,
he seemed to come into touch again with life, and his eyes lit with a
spark of the old fire. At moments, he forgot his companion altogether,
and gazed long and silently before him, nodding and smiling to himself
at the memories he had stirred up in his brain, memories of things
that had long ceased to be, of people who had long been quiet and
unassertive beneath their handful of earth, but for whom alone, the
brave, fair world had once seemed to exist. Then he would lose himself
among strange names, in vague histories of those who had borne these
names, and of what they had become in their subsequent journeyings
towards the light, for which they had set out, side by side, with so
much ardour (and oftenest what he had to tell was a modest
mediocrity); but the greater number of them had lost sight one of the
other; the most inseparable friends had, once parted, soon forgotten.
And the bluish smoke sent upwards as he talked, in clouds and spirals
that mounted rapidly and vanished, seemed to Maurice symbolic of the
brief and shadowy lives that were unrolled before him. But, after all
this, when the lights came, the piano was opened, and then, for an
hour or two, the world was forgotten in a different way. It was here
that the chief landmarks of music emerged from the mists in which, for
Maurice, they had hitherto been enveloped; here he learned that Bach
and Beethoven were giants, and made uncertain efforts at appreciation;
learnt that Gluck was a great composer, Mozart a genius of many parts,
Mendelssohn the direct successor in this line of kings. Sonatas,
symphonies, operas, were hammered out with tremendous force and
precision on the harsh, scrupulously tuned piano; and all were
dominated alike by the hoarse voice of the old man, who never wavered,
never faltered, but sang from beginning to end with all his might.
Each one of the pleasant hours spent in this new world helped to
deepen Maurice's resolution to free himself while there was yet
time; each one gave more clearness and precision to his somewhat
formless desires; for, in all that concerned his art, the nameless old
musician hated his native land, with the hatred of the bigot for those
who are hostile or indifferent to his faith.

With a long and hot-chased goal in sight, a goal towards which our
hearts, in joyous eagerness, have already leapt out, it is astonishing
how easy it becomes to make light of the last, monotonous stretch of
road that remains to be travelled. Is there not, just beyond, a
resting-place?--and cool, green shadows? Events and circumstances which
had hitherto loomed forth gigantic, threatening to crush, now appeared
to Maurice trivial and of little moment; he saw them in other
proportions now, for it seemed to him that he was no longer in their
midst: he stood above them and overlooked them, and, with his eyes
fixed upon a starry future, he joyfully prepared himself for his new
life. What is more, those around him helped him to this altered view
of things. For as the present marched steadily upon the future,
devouring as it went; as the departure this future contained took on
the shape of a fact, the countless details of which called for
attention, it began to be accepted as even the most unpalatable facts
in the long run usually are, with an ungracious resignation in face of
the inevitable. Thus, with all his ardour to be gone, Maurice Guest
came to see the last stage of his home-life almost in a bright light,
and even with a touch of melancholy, as something that was fast
slipping from him, never to be there in all its entirety, exactly as
it now was, again: the last calm hour of respite before he plunged
into the triumphs, but also into the tossings and agitations of the
future.




III.



It was April, and a day such as April will sometimes bring: one of
those days when the air is full of a new, mysterious fragrance, when
the sunshine lies like a flood upon the earth, and high clouds hang
motionless in the far-distant blue--a day at the very heels of which it
would seem that summer was lurking. Maurice Guest stood at his window,
both sides of which were flung open, drinking in the warm air, and
gazing absently up at the stretch of sky, against which the dark
roof-lines of the houses opposite stood out abruptly. His hands were
in his pockets, and, to a light beat of the foot, he hummed softly to
himself, but what, he could not have told: whether some fragment of
melody that had lingered in a niche of his brain and now came to his
lips, or whether a mere audible expression of his mood. The strong,
unreal sun of the afternoon was just beginning to reach the house; it
slanted in, golden, by the side of the window, and threw on the wall
above the piano, a single long bar of light.

He leaned over and looked down into the street far below--still no one
there! But it was only half-past four. He stretched himself long and
luxuriously, as if, by doing so, he would get rid of a restlessness
which arose from repressed physical energy, and also from an
impatience to be more keenly conscious of life, to feel it, as it
were, quicken in him, not unakin to that passionate impulse towards
perfection, which, out-of-doors, was urging on the sap and loosening
firm green buds: he had a day's imprisonment behind him, and all
spring's magic was at work to ferment his blood. How small and close
the room was! He leaned out on the sill, as far out as he could, in
the sun. It was shining full down the street now, gilding the
canal-like river at the foot, and throwing over the tall, dingy houses
on the opposite side, a tawdry brightness, which, unlike that of the
morning with its suggestion of dewy shade, only served to bring out
the shabbiness of broken plaster and paintless window; a shamefaced
yet aggressive shabbiness, where high-arched doorways and wide entries
spoke to better days, and also to a subsequent decay, now openly
admitted in the little placards which dotted them here and there,
bearing the bold-typed words GARCON LOGIS, and dangling bravely
yellow from the windows of the cheap lodgings they proclaimed vacant.
It was very still; the hoarse voice of a fruit-seller crying his wares
in the adjoining streets, was to be heard at intervals, but each time
less distinctly, and from the distance came the faint tones of a
single piano. How different it was in the morning! Then, if, pausing a
moment from his work, he opened the window and leaned out for a brief
refreshment, what a delightful confusion of sounds met his ear! Pianos
rolled noisily up and down, ploughing one through the other, beating
one against the other, key to key, rhythm to rhythm, each in a
clamorous despair at being unable to raise its voice above the rest,
at having to form part of this jumble of discord: some so near at hand
or so directly opposite that, none the less, it was occasionally
possible to follow them through the persistent reiterations of a
fugue, or through some brilliant glancing ETUDE, the notes of which
flew off like sparks; others, further away, of which were audible only
the convulsive treble outbursts and the toneless rumblings of the
bass, now and then cut shrilly through by the piercing sharpness of a
violin, now and then, at quieter moments, borne up and accompanied by
the deep, guttural tones of a neighbouring violoncello. This was
always discovered at work upon scales, uncertain, hesitating scales on
the lower strings, and, heard suddenly, after the other instruments'
genial hubbub, it sounded like some inarticulate animal making uncouth
attempts at expression. At rare intervals there came a lull, and then,
before all burst forth again together, or fell in, one by one, a
single piano or the violin would, like a solo voice in a symphony,
bear the whole burden; or if the wind were in the west, it would
sometimes carry over with it, from the woods on the left, the mournful
notes of a French horn, which some unskilful player had gone out to
practise.

This was that new world of which he was now a part--into which he had
been so auspiciously received.

Yes, the beginning and the thousand petty disquiets that go with
beginnings, were behind him; he had made a start, and he believed a
good one--thanks to Dove. He was really grateful to Dove. A chance
acquaintance, formed on one of those early days when he loitered,
timid and unsure, about the BUREAU of the Conservatorium, Dove had
taken him up with what struck even the grateful new-comer as
extraordinary good-nature, going deliberately out of his way to be of
service to him, meeting him at every turn with assistance and advice.
It was Dove who had helped him over the embarrassments of the
examination; it was through Dove's influence that he had obtained a
private interview with Schwarz, and, in Dove's opinion, Schwarz was
the only master in Leipzig under whom it was worth while to study; the
only one who could be relied on to give the exhaustive TECHNIQUE that
was indispensable, without, in the process, destroying what was of
infinitely more account, the individuality, the TEMPERAMENT of the
student. This and more, Dove set forth at some length in their
conversations; then, warming to his work, he would go further: would
go on to speak of phrasings and interpretations; of an artistic use of
the pedals, and the legitimate participation of the emotions; of the
confines of absolute music as touched in the Ninth Symphony: would
refer incidentally to Schopenhauer and make Wagner his authority,
using terms that were new to his hearer, and, now and then, by way of
emphasis, bringing his palm down flat and noiselessly upon the
table.--It had not taken them long to become friends;
fellow-countrymen, of the same age, with similar aims and interests,
they had soon slipped into one of the easy-going friendships of youth.

A quarter to five! As the strokes from the neighbouring church--clock
died away, the melody of Siegfried's horn was whistled up from the
street, and looking over, Maurice saw his friend. He seized his music
and went hastily down the four flights of stairs.

They crossed the river and came to newer streets. It was delightful
out-of-doors. A light breeze met them as they turned, and a few
ragged, fleecy clouds that it was driving up, only made the sky seem
bluer, The two young men walked leisurely, laughing and talking rather
loudly. Maurice Guest had already, in dress and bearing, taken on a
touch of musicianly disorder, but Dove's lengthier residence had left
no trace upon him; he might have stepped that day from the streets of
the provincial English town to which he belonged. His well brushed
clothes sat with an easy inelegance, his tie was small, his linen
clean, and the only concession he made to his surroundings, the
broad-brimmed, soft felt hat, looked oddly out of place on his
close-cut hair. He carried himself erectly, swinging a little on his
hips.

As they went, he passed in review the important items of the day:
so-and-so had strained a muscle, so-and-so had spoilt a second piano.
But his particular interest centred upon that evening's
ABENDUNTERHALTUNG. A man named Schilsky, whom it was no
exaggeration to call their finest, very finest violinist was to play
Vieuxtemps' Concerto in D. Dove all but smacked his lips as he spoke
of it. In reply to a query from Maurice, he declared with vehemence
that this Schilsky was a genius. Although so great a violinist, he
could play almost every other instrument with case; his memory had
become a by-word; his compositions were already famous. At the present
moment, he was said to be at work upon a symphonic poem, having for
its base a new and extraordinary book, half poetry, half philosophy, a
book which he, Dove, could confidently assert, would effect a
revolution in human thought, but of which, just at the minute, he was
unable to remember the name. Infected by his friend's enthusiasm,
Maurice here recalled having, only the day before, met some one who
answered to Dove's description: the genial Pole had been storming up
the steps of the Conservatorium, two at a time, with wild, affrighted
eyes, and a halo of dishevelled auburn hair.--Dove made no doubt that
he had been seized with a sudden inspiration.

Gewandhaus and Conservatorium lay close together, in a new quarter of
the town. The Conservatorium, a handsome, stone-faced building, three
lofty storeys high, was just now all the more imposing in appearance
as it stood alone in an unfinished street-block, and as, opposite,
hoardings still shut in all that had yet been raised of the great
library, which would eventually overshadow it. The severe plainness of
its long front, with the unbroken lines of windows, did not fail to
impress the unused beholder, who had not for very long gone daily out
and in; it suggested to him the earnest, unswerving efforts,
imperative on his pursuit of the ideal; an ideal which, to many, was
as it were personified by the concert-house in the adjoining square:
it was hither, towards this clear-limned goal, that bore him, like a
magic carpet, the young enthusiast's most ambitious dream.--But in the
life that swarmed about the Conservatorium, there was nothing of a
tedious austerity. It was one of the briskest times of day, and the
short street and the steps of the building were alive with young
people of both sexes. Young men sauntered to and from the cafe at the
corner, or stood gesticulating in animated groups. All alike were
conspicuous for a rather wilful slovenliness, for smooth faces and
bushy hair, while the numerous girls, with whom they paused to laugh
and trifle, were, for the most part, showy in dress and loudly
vivacious in manner. On the kerbstone, a knot of the latter, tittering
among themselves, shot furtive glances at Dove and Maurice as
they passed. Here, a pretty, laughing face was the centre of a little
circle; there, a bevy of girls clustered about a young man, who, his
hands in his pockets, leaned carelessly against the door-arch; and
again, another, plump and much befeathered, with a string of large
pearlbeads round her fat, white neck, had isolated herself from the
rest, to take up, on the steps, a more favourable stand. A master who
went by, a small, jovial man in a big hat, had a word for all the
girls, even a chuck of the chin for one unusually saucy face. Inside,
classes were filing out of the various rooms, other classes were going
in; there was a noisy flocking up and down the broad, central
staircase, i crowding about the notice-board, a going and coming in
the long, stone corridors. The concert-hall was being lighted.

Maurice slowly made his way through the midst of all these people,
while Dove loitered, or stepped out of hearing, with one friend after
another. In a side corridor, off which, cell like, opened a line of
rooms, they pushed a pair of doubledoors, and went in to take their
lesson.

The room they entered was light and high, and contained, besides a
couple of grand pianos, a small table and a row of wooden chairs.
Schwarz stood with his back to the window, biting his nails. He was a
short, thickset man, with keen eyes, and a hard, prominent mouth,
which was rather emphasised than concealed, by the fair, scanty tuft
of hair that hung from his chin. Upon the two new-comers, he bent a
cold, deliberate gaze, which, for some instants, he allowed to rest
chillingly on them, then as deliberately withdrew, having--so at least
it seemed to those who were its object--having, without the tremor of
an eyelid, scanned them like an open page: it was the look,
impenetrable, all-seeing, of the physician for his patient. At the
piano, a young man was playing the Waldstein Sonata. So intent was he
on what he was doing, that his head all but touched the music standing
open before him, while his body, bent thus double, swayed vigorously
from side to side. His face was crimson, and on his forehead stood out
beads of perspiration. He had no cuffs on, and his sleeves were a
little turned back. The movement at an end, he paused, and drawing a
soiled handkerchief from his pocket, passed it rapidly over neck and
brow. In the ADAGIO which followed, he displayed an extreme delicacy
of touch--not, however, but what this also cost him some exertion, for,
previous to the striking of each faint, soft note, his hand described
a curve in the air, the finger he was about to use, lowered,
the others slightly raised, and there was always a second of something
like suspense, before it finally sank upon the expectant note. But
suddenly, without warning, just as the last, lingering tones were
dying to the close they sought, the ADAGIO slipped over into the
limpid gaiety of the RONDO, and then, there was no time more for
premeditation: then his hands twinkled up and down, joining, crossing,
flying asunder, alert with little sprightly quirks and turns, going
ever more nimbly, until the brook was a river, the allegretto a
prestissimo, which flew wildly to its end amid a shower of dazzling
trills.

Schwarz stood grave and apparently impassive; from time to time,
however, when unobserved, he swept the three listeners with a rapid
glance. Maurice Guest was quite carried away; he had never heard
playing like this, and he leaned forward in his seat, and gazed full
at the player, in open admiration. But his neighbour, a pale, thin
man, with one of those engaging and not uncommon faces which, in mould
of feature, in mildness of expression, and still more in the cut of
hair and beard, bear so marked a likeness to the conventional
Christ-portrait: this neighbour looked on with only a languid
interest, which seemed unable to get the upper hand of melancholy
thoughts. Maurice, who believed his feelings shared by all about him,
was chilled by such indifference: he only learned later, after they
had become friends, that nothing roused in Boehmer a real or lasting
interest, save what he, Boehmer, did himself. Dove sat absorbed, as
reverent as if at prayer; but there were also moments when, with his
head a little on one side, he wore an anxious air, as if not fully at
one with the player's rendering; others again, after a passage of
peculiar brilliancy, when he threw at Schwarz a humbly grateful look.
While Schwarz, the sonata over, was busy with his pencil on the margin
of the music, Dove leaned over to Maurice and whispered behind his
hand: "Furst--our best pianist."

Now came the turn of the others, and the master's attention wandered;
he stretched himself, yawned, and sighed aloud, then, in the search
for something he could not find, turned out on the lid of the second
piano the contents of sundry pockets. While Dove played, he wrote as
if for life in a bulky notebook.

Maurice remarked this without being properly conscious of it, so
impressed had he been by the sonata. The exultant beauty of the
great final theme had permeated his every fibre, inciting him,
emboldening him, and, still under the sway of this little elation when
his own turn to play came, he was the richer by it, and acquitted
himself with unusual verve.

As the class was about to leave the room, Schwarz signed to Maurice to
remain behind. For several moments, he paced the floor in silence;
then he stopped suddenly short in front of the young man, and, with
legs apart, one hand at his back, he said in a tone which wavered
between being brutal and confidential, emphasising his words with a
series of smart pencil-raps on his hearer's shoulder:

"Let me tell you something: if I were not of the opinion that you had
ability, I should not detain you this evening. It is no habit of mine,
mark this, to interfere with my pupils. Outside this room, most of
them do not exist for me. In your case, I am making an exception,
because . . ."--Maurice was here so obviously gratified that the
speaker made haste to substitute: "because I should much like to know
how it is that you come to me in the state you do." And without
waiting for a reply: "For you know nothing, or, let us say, worse than
nothing, since what you do know, you must make it your first concern
to forget." He paused, and the young man's face fell so much that he
prolonged the pause, to enjoy the discomfiture he had produced. "But
give me time," he continued, "adequate time, and I will undertake to
make something of you." He lowered his voice, and the taps became more
confidential. "There is good stuff here; you have talent, great
talent, and, as I have observed to-day, you are not wanting in
intelligence. But," and again his voice grew harsher, his eye more
piercing, "understand me, if you please, no trifling with other
studies; let us have no fiddling, no composing. Who works with me,
works for me alone. And a lifetime, I repeat it, a lifetime, is not
long enough to master such an instrument as this!"

He brought his hand down heavily on the lid of the piano, and glared
at Maurice as if he expected the latter to contradict him. Then,
noisily clearing his throat, he began anew to pace the room.

As Maurice stood waiting for his dismissal, with very varied feelings,
of which, however, a faint pride was uppermost; as he stood waiting,
the door opened, and a girl looked in. She hesitated a moment, then
entered, and going up to Schwarz, asked him something in a low voice.
He nodded an assent, nodded two or three times, and with quite
another face; its hitherto unmoved severity had given way to an
indulgent friendliness. She laid her hat and jacket on the table, and
went to the piano.

Schwarz motioned Maurice to a chair. He sat down almost opposite her.

And now came for him one of those moments in life, which,
unlooked-for, undivined, send before them no promise of being
different, in any way, from the commonplace moments that make up the
balance of our days. No gently graduated steps lead up to them: they
are upon us with the violent abruptness of a streak of lightning, and
like this, they, too, may leave behind them a scarry trace. What such
a moment holds within it, is something which has never existed for us
before, something it has never entered our minds to go out and
seek--the corner of earth, happened on by chance, which comes most near
the Wineland of our dreams; the page, idly perhaps begun, which brings
us a new god; the face of the woman who is to be our fate--but,
whatever it may be, let it once exist for us, and the soul responds
forthwith, catching in blind haste at the dimly missed ideal.

For one instant Maurice Guest had looked at the girl before him with
unconcern, but the next it was with an intentness that soon became
intensity, and feverishly grew, until he could not tear his eyes away.
The beauty, whose spell thus bound him, was of that subtle kind which
leaves many a one cold, but, as if just for this reason, is almost
always fateful for those who feel its charm: at them is lanced its
accumulated force. The face was far from faultless; there was no
regularity of feature, no perfection of line, nor was there more than
a touch of the sweet girlish freshness that gladdens like a morning in
May. The features, save for a peremptory turn of mouth and chin, were
unremarkable, and the expression was distant, unchanging . . . but
what was that to him? This deep white skin, the purity of which was
only broken by the pale red of the lips; this dull black hair, which
lay back from the low brow in such wonderful curves, and seemed, of
itself, to fall into the loose knot on the neck--there was something
romantic, exotic about her, which was unlike anything he had ever
seen: she made him think of a rare, hothouse flower; some scentless,
tropical flower, with stiff, waxen petals. And then her eyes! So
profound was their darkness that, when they threw off their covering
of heavy lid, it seemed to his excited fancy as if they must
scorch what they rested on; they looked out from the depths of their
setting like those of a wild beast crouched within a cavern; they lit
up about them like stars, and when they fell, they went out like
stars, and her face took on the pallor of early dawn.

She was playing from memory. She gazed straight before her with
far-away eyes, which only sometimes looked down at her hands, to aid
them in a difficult passage. At her belt, she wore a costly yellow
rose, and as she once leaned towards the treble, where both hands were
at work close together, it fell to the floor. Maurice started forward,
and picking it up, laid it on the piano; beneath the gaslight, it sank
a shadowy gold image in the mirror-like surface. As yet she had paid
no heed to him, but, at this, she turned her head, and, still
continuing to play, let her eyes rest absently on him.

They sank their eyes in each other's. A thrill ran through Maurice, a
quick, sharp thrill, which no sensation of his later life outdid in
keenness and which, on looking back, he could always feel afresh. The
colour rose to his face and his heart beat audibly, but he did not
lower his eyes, and for not doing so, seemed to himself infinitely
bold. A host of confused feelings bore down upon him, well-nigh
blotting out the light; but, in a twinkling, all were swallowed up in
an overpowering sense of gratitude, in a large, vague, happy
thankfulness, which touched him almost to the point of tears. As it
swelled through him and possessed him, he yearned to pour it forth, to
make an offering of this gratefulness--fine tangle of her beauty and
his own glad mood--and, by sustaining her look, he seemed to lay the
offering at her feet. Nor would any tongue have persuaded him that she
did not understand. The few seconds were eternities: when she turned
away it was as if untold hours had passed over him in a body, like a
flight of birds; as if a sudden gulf had gaped between where he now
was and where he had previously stood.

Dismissed curtly, with a word, he hung about the corridor in the hope
of seeing her again; but the piano went on and on, unceasingly. Here,
after some time, he was found by Dove, who carried him off with loud
expressions of surprise.

The concert was more than half over. The main part of the hall was
brightly lit and full of people: from behind, one looked across a sea
of heads. On the platform at the other end, a girl in red was playing
a sonata; a master sat by her side, and leant forward, at regular
intervals, to turn the leaves of the music. Dove and Maurice
remained standing at the back, under the gallery, among a portion of
the audience which shifted continuously: those about them wandered in
and out of the hall at pleasure, now inside, head in hand, critically
intent, now out in the vestibule, stretching their legs, lounging in
easy chat. In the pause that followed the sonata, Dove went towards
the front, to join some ladies who beckoned him, and, while some one
sang a noisy aria, Maurice gave himself up to his own thoughts. They
all led to the same point: how he should contrive to see her again,
how he should learn her name, and, beside them, everything else seemed
remote, unreal; he saw the people next him as if from a distance. But
in a wait that was longer than usual, he was awakened to his
surroundings: a stir ran over the audience, like a gust of wind over
still water; the heads in the seats before him inclined one to
another, wagged and nodded; there was a gentle buzz of voices. Behind
him, the doors opened and shut, letting in all who were outside: they
pressed forward expectantly. On his left, a row of girls tried to
start a round of applause and tittered nervously at their failure.
Schilsky had come down the platform and commenced tuning. He bent his
long, thin body as he pressed his violin to his knee, and his reddish
hair fell over his face. The accompanist, his hands on the keys,
waited for the signal to begin.

Maurice drew a deep breath of anticipation. But the first shrill,
sweet notes had hardly cut the silence, when, the door opening once
more, some one entered and pushed through the standing crowd. He
looked round, uneasy at the disturbance, and found that it was she:
what is more, she came up to his very side. He turned away so hastily
that he touched her arm, causing it to yield a little, and some
moments went by before he ventured to look again. When he did, in some
tremor, he saw that, without fear of discovery, he might look as long
or as often as he chose. She was listening to the player with the
raptness of a painted saint: her whole face listened, the tightened
lips, the open nostrils, the wide, vigilant eyes. Maurice, lost in her
presence, grew dizzy with the scent of her hair--that indefinable
odour, which has something of the raciness in it of new-turned
earth--and foolish wishes arose and jostled one another in his mind: he
would have liked to plunge both hands into the dark, luxuriant mass;
still better, cautiously to draw his palm down this whitest skin,
which, seen so near, had a faint, satin-like sheen. The mere
imagining of it set him throbbing, and the excitement in his blood was
heightened by the sensuous melancholy of the violin, which, just
beyond the pale of his consciousness, throbbed and languished with him
under the masterful bow.

Shortly before the end of the concerto, she turned and made her way
out. Maurice let a few seconds elapse, then followed. But the long
white corridors stretched empty before him; there was no trace of her
to he seen. As he was peering about, in places that were strange to
him, a tumult of applause shook the hall, the doors flew open and the
audience poured out.

Dove had joined other friends, and a number of them left the building
together; everyone spoke loudly and at once. But soon Maurice and Dove
outstepped their companions, for these came to words over the means
used by Schilsky to mount, with bravour, a certain gaudy scale of
octaves, and, at every second pace, they stopped, and wheeled round
with eloquent gesture. In their presence Dove had said little; now he
gave rein to his feelings: his honest face glowed with enthusiasm, the
names of renowned players ran off his lips like beads off a string,
and, in predicting Schilsky a career still more brilliant, his voice
grew husky with emotion.

Maurice listened unmoved to his friend's outpouring, and the first
time Dove stopped for breath, went straight for the matter which, in
his eyes, had dwarfed all others. So eager was he to learn something
of her, that he even made shift to describe her; his attempt fell out
lamely, and a second later he could have bitten off his tongue.

Dove had only half an ear for him.

"Eh? What? What do you say?" he asked as Maurice paused; but his
thoughts were plainly elsewhere. This fact is, just at this moment, he
was intent on watching some ladies: were they going to notice him or
not? The bow made and returned, he brought his mind back to Maurice
with a great show of interest.

Here, however, they all turned in to Seyffert's Cafe and, seating
themselves at a long, narrow table, waited for Schilsky, whom they
intended to fete. But minutes passed, a quarter, then half of an hour,
and still he did not come. To while the time, his playing of the
concerto was roundly commented and discussed. There was none of the
ten or twelve young men but had the complete jargon of the craft at
his finger-tips; not one, too, but was rancorous and admiring in a
breath, now detecting flaws as many as motes in a beam, now
heaping praise. The spirited talk, flying thus helter-skelter through
the gamut of opinion, went forward chiefly in German, which the
foreigners of the party spoke with various accents, but glibly enough;
only now and then did one of them spring over to his mother-tongue, to
fetch a racy idiom or point a joke.

Not having heard a note of Schilsky's playing, Maurice did not trust
himself to say much, and so was free to observe his right-hand
neighbour, a young man who had entered late, and taken a vacant chair
beside him. To the others present, the new-comer paid no heed, to
Maurice he murmured an absent greeting, and then, having called for
beer and emptied his glass at a draught, he appeared mentally to
return whence he had come, or to engage without delay in some urgent
train of thought. His movements were noiseless, but startlingly
abrupt. Thus, after sitting quiet for a time, his head in his hands,
he flung back in his seat with a sort of wildness, and began to stare
fixedly at the ceiling. His face was one of those, which, as by a
mystery, preserve the innocent beauty of their childhood, long after
childhood is a thing of the past: delicate as the rosy lining of a
great sea-shell was the colour that spread from below the forked blue
veins of the temples, and it paled and came again as readily as a
girl's. Girlish, too, were the limpid eyes, which, but for a trick of
dropping unexpectedly, seemed always to be gazing, in thoughtful
surprise, at something that was visible to them alone. As to the
small, frail body, it existed only for sake of the hands: narrow
hands, with long, fleshless fingers, nervous hands, that were never
still.

All at once, in a momentary lull, he leant towards Maurice, and,
without even looking up, asked the latter if he could recall the
opening bars of the prelude to TRISTAN UND ISOLDE. If so, there was a
certain point he would like to lay before him.

"You see, it's this way, old fellow," he said confidentially. "I've
come to the conclusion that if, at the end of the third bar, Wagner
had----"

"Throw him out, throw him out!" cried an American who was sitting
opposite them. "You might as well try to stop a nigger in heat as
Krafft on Wagner."

"That's so," said another American named Ford, who, on arriving, had
not been quite sober, and now, after a few glasses of beer, was
exceedingly tipsy. "That's so. As I've always said, it's a disgrace to
the township, a disgrace, sir. Ought to be put down. Why don't he
write them himself?"

From the depths of his brown study, Krafft looked vaguely at the
speakers, and checked, but not discomposed, drew out a notebook and
jotted down an idea.

Meanwhile, at the far end of the table, Boehmer and a Russian
violinist still harped upon the original string. And, having worked
out Schilsky, they passed on to Zeppelin, his master, and the Russian,
who was not Zeppelin's pupil, set to showing with vehemence that his
"method" was a worthless one. He was barely started when a wiry
American, in a high, grating voice, called Schilsky a wretched fool:
why had he not gone to Berlin at Easter, as he had planned, instead of
dawdling on here where he had no more to gain? At this, several of the
young men laughed and looked significant. Furst--he had proved to be a
jolly little man, who, with unbuttoned vest, absorbed large quantities
of beer and perspired freely--Furst alone was of the opinion, which he
expressed forcibly, in his hearty Saxon dialect, that had Schilsky
left Leipzig at this particular time, he would have been a fool
indeed.

"Look here, boys," he cried, pounding the table to get attention.
"That's all very well, but he must have an eye to the practical side
of things, too----"

"DER BIEDERE SACHSE HOCH!" threw in Boehmer, who was Prussian, and of
a more ideal cast of mind.

"--and a chance such as this, he will certainly never have again. A
hundred thousand marks, if a pfennig, and a face to turn after in the
street! No, he is a confounded deal wiser to stay here and make sure
of her, for that sort is as slippery as an eel."

"Krafft can tell us; he let her go; is she?--is it true?" shouted half
a dozen.

Krafft looked up and winked. His reply was so gross and so witty that
there was a very howl of mirth.

"KRAFFT HOCH, HOCH KRAFFT!" they cried, and roared again, until the
proprietor, a mild, round-faced man, who was loath to meddle with his
best customers, advanced to the middle of the floor, where he stood
smiling uneasily and rubbing his hands.

But it was growing late.

"Why the devil doesn't he come?" yawned Boehmer.

Perhaps," said Dove, mouthing deliberately as if he had a good
thing on his tongue; perhaps, by now, he is safe in the arms of----"

"Jesus or Morpheus?" asked a cockney 'cellist.

"Safe in the arms of Jesus!" sang the tipsy pianist; but he was
outsung by Krafft, who, rising from his seat, gave with dramatic
gesture:

O sink' hernieder,
Nacht der Liebe,
gieb Vergessen,
dass ich lebe . . .

After this, with much laughter and ado, they broke up to seek another
cafe in the heart of the town, where the absinthe was good and the
billiard-table better, two of his friends supporting Ford, who was
testily debating with himself why a composer should compose his own
works. At the first corner, Maurice whispered a word to Dove, and,
unnoticed by the rest, slipped away. For some time, he heard the sound
of their voices down the quiet street. A member of the group, in
defiance of the night, began to sing; and then, just as one bird is
provoked by another, rose a clear, sweet voice he recognised as
Krafft's, in a song the refrain of which was sung by all:

Give me the Rose of Sharon,
And a bottle of Cyprus wine!

What followed was confused, indistinct, but over and over again he
heard:

. . . the Rose of Sharon,
. . . a bottle of Cyprus wine!

until that, too, was lost in the distance.

When he reached his room, he did not light the lamp, but crossed to
the window and stood looking out into the darkness. The day's
impressions, motley as the changes of a kaleidoscope, seethed in his
brain, clamoured to be recalled and set in order; but he kept them
back; he could not face the task. He felt averse to any mental effort,
in need of a repose as absolute as the very essence of silence itself.
The sky was overcast; a wayward breeze blew coolly in upon him and
refreshed him; a few single raindrops fell. In the air a gentle
melancholy was abroad, and, as he stood there, wax for any
passing mood, it descended on him and enveloped him. He gave himself
up to it, unresistingly, allowed himself to toy with it, to sink
beneath it. Just, however, as he was sinking, sinking, he was roused,
suddenly, as from sleep, by the vivid presentiment that something was
about to happen to him: it seemed as if an important event were
looming in the near distance, ready to burst in upon his life, and not
only instantly, but with a monstrous crash of sound. His pulses beat
more quickly, his nerves stretched, like bows. But it was very still;
everything around him slept, and the streets were deserted.

A keen sense of desolation came over him; never, in his life, had he
felt so utterly alone. In all this great city that spread, ocean-like,
around him, not a heart was the lighter for his being there. Oh, to
have some one beside him!--some one who would talk soothingly to him,
of shadowy, far-off things, or, still better, be merely a sympathetic
presence. He passed rapidly in review people he had known, saw their
faces and heard their voices, but not one of them would do. No, he
wanted a friend, the friend he had often dreamed of, whose thoughts
would be his thoughts, with whom there would be no need of speech.
Then his longing swelled, grew fiercer and more undefined, and a
sudden burst of energy convulsed him and struggled to find vent. His
breath came hard, and he stretched his arms out into the night,
uncertainly, as if to grasp something he did not see; but they fell to
his side again. He would have liked to sweep through the air, to feel
the wind rushing dizzily through him; or to be set down before some
feat that demanded the strength of a Titan--anything, no matter what,
to be rid of the fever in his veins. But it beset him, again and
again, only by slow degrees weakening and dying away.

A bitter moisture sprang to his eyes. Leaning his head on his arms, he
endeavoured to call up her face. But it was of no use, though he
strained every nerve; for some time he could see only the rose that
had lain beside her on the piano, and in the troubled image that at
last crowned his patience, her eyes looked out, like jewels, from a
setting of golden petals.

Lying wakeful in the darkness, he saw them more clearly. Now, though,
they had a bluish light, were like moons, moons that burnt. If he lit
the lamp and tried to read, they got between him and the book, and
danced up and down the pages, with jerky, clockwork movements, like
stage fireflies. He put the light out, and lay staring vacantly
at the pale square of the window. And then, just when he was least
expecting it, he saw the whole face, so close to him and so
distinctly, that he started up on his elbow; and in the second or two
it remained--a Medusa-face, opaquely white, with deep, unfathomable
eyes--he recognised, with a shock, that his peace of mind was gone;
that the sudden experience of a few hours back had given his life new
meaning; that something had happened to him which could not be undone;
in other words--with an incredulous gasp at his own folly--that he was
head over ears in love.

Through the uneasy sleep into which he ultimately fell, she, and the
yellow rose, and the Rose of Sharon--a giant flower, with monstrous
crimson petals--passed and repassed, in one of those glorious tangles,
which no dreamer has ever unravelled.

When he wakened, it was broad daylight, and things wore a different
aspect. Not that his impression of the night had faded, but it was
forced to retire behind the hard, clear affairs of the morning. He got
up, full of vigour, impatient to be at work, and having breakfasted,
sat down at the piano, where he remained until his hands dropped from
the keys with fatigue. Throughout these hours, his mind ran chiefly on
the words Schwarz had said to him, the previous evening. They rose
before him in their full significance, and he leisurely chewed the
honeyed cud of praise. "I will undertake to make something of you,
undertake to make something of you"--his brain tore the phrase to
tatters. "Something" was properly vague, as praise should be, and
allowed the imagination free scope. Under the stimulus, everything
came easy; he mastered a passage of bound sixths that had baffled him
for days. And in this elated frame of mind, there was something almost
pleasurable in the pang with which he would become conscious of a
shadow in the background, a spot on his sun to make him unhappy.

Unhappy?--no: it gave a zest to his goings--out and comings-in. Through
long hours of work he was borne up by an ardent hope: afterwards, he
might see her. It made the streets exciting places of possible
surprises. Might she not, at any moment, turn the corner and be before
him? Might she not, this very instant, be going in the same direction
as he, in the next street? But a very little of this pleasant dallying
with chance was enough. One morning, when the houses opposite
were ablaze with sunshine, and he had settled down to practice with a
keen relish for the obstacles to be overcome; on this morning, within
half an hour, his mood swung round to the other extreme, and, from now
on, his desire to see her again was a burning unrest, which roused him
from sleep, and drove him out, at odd hours, no matter what he was
doing. Moodily he scoured the streets round the Conservatorium,
disconcerted by his own folly, and pricked incessantly by the
consciousness of time wasted. A companion at his side might have
dispelled the cobwebs; but Dove, his only friend, he avoided, for the
reason that Dove's unfailing good spirits needed to be met with a
similiar mood. And as for speaking of the matter, the mere thought of
the detailed explanation that would now be necessary, did he open his
lips, filled him with dismay. When four or five days had gone by in
this manner, without result, he took to hanging about, with other
idlers, on the steps of the Conservatorium, always hoping that she
would suddenly emerge from the doors behind him, or come towards him,
a roll of music in her hand.

But she never came.

One afternoon, however, as he loitered there, he encountered his
acquaintance of the very first day. He recognised her while she was
still some distance off, by her peculiar springy gait; at each step,
she rose slightly on the front part of her foot, as if her heels were
on springs. As before, she was indifferently dressed; a small, close
hat came down over her face and hid her forehead; her skirt seemed
shrunken, and hung limp about her ankles, accentuating the
straightness of her figure. But below the brim of the hat her eyes
were as bright as ever, and took note of all that happened. On seeing
Maurice, she professed to remember him "perfectly," beginning to speak
before she had quite come up to him.

The following day they met once more at the same place. This time, she
raised her eyebrows.

"You here again?" she said.

She disappeared inside the building; but a few minutes later returned,
and said she was going for a walk: would he come, too?

He assented, with grateful surprise, and they set off together in the
direction of the woods, as briskly as though they were on an errand.
But when they had crossed the suspension-bridge and reached the
quieter paths that ran through the NONNE, they simultaneously
slackened their pace. The luxuriant undergrowth of shrub, which filled
in, like lacework, the spaces between the tree-trunks, was sprinkled
with its first dots and pricks of green, and the afternoon was
pleasant for walking--sunless and still, and just a little fragrantly
damp from all the rife budding and sprouting. It was a day to further
a friendship more effectually than half a dozen brighter ones; a day
on which to speak out thoughts which a June sky, the indiscreet
playing of full sunlight, even the rustling of the breeze in the
leaves might scare, like fish, from the surface.

When they had laughingly introduced themselves to each other Maurice
Guest's companion talked about herself, with a frankness that left
nothing to be desired, and impressed the young man at her side very
agreeably. Before they had gone far, he knew all about her. Her name
was Madeleine Wade; she came from a small town in Leicestershire, and,
except for a step-brother, stood alone in the world. For several
years, she had been a teacher in a large school near London, and the
position was open for her to return to, when she had completed this,
the final year of her course. Then, however, she would devote herself
exclusively to the teaching of music, and, with this in view, she had
here taken up as many branches of study as she had time for. Besides
piano, which was her chief subject, she learned singing, organ,
counterpoint, and the elements of the violin.

"So much is demanded nowadays," she said in her dear soprano. "And if
you want to get on, it doesn't do to be behindhand. Of course, it
means hard work, but that is nothing to me--I am used to work and love
it. Since I was seventeen--I am twenty-six now--I can fairly say I have
never got up in the morning, without having my whole day mapped and
planned before me.--So you see idlers can have no place on my list of
saints."

She spoke lightly, yet with a certain under-meaning. As, however,
Maurice Guest, on whom her words made a sympathetic impression, as of
something strong and self-reliant--as he did not respond to it, she
fell back on directness, and asked him what he had been doing when she
met him, both on this day and the one before.

"I tell you candidly, I was astonished to find you there again," she
said. "As a rule, new-comers are desperately earnest brooms."

His laugh was a trifle uneasy; and he answered evasively, not meaning
to say much. But he had reckoned without the week of silence that lay
behind him; it had been more of a strain than he knew, and his pent-up
speech once set agoing could not be brought to a stop. An almost
physical need of comunication made itself felt in him; he spoke with a
volubility that was foreign to him, began his sentences with a
confidential "You see," and said things at which he himself was
amazed. He related impressions, not facts, and impressions which,
until now, he had not been conscious of receiving; he told unguardedly
of his plans and ambitions, and even went back and touched on his
home-life, dwelling with considerable bitterness on the scant sympathy
he had received.

His companion looked at him curiously. She had expected a casual
answer to her casual words, a surface frankness, such as she herself
had shown, and, at first, she felt sceptical towards this unbidden
confidence: she did not care for people who gave themselves away at a
word; either they were naive to foolishness or inordinately vain. But
having listened for some time to his outpourings, she began to feel
reassured; and soon she understood that he was talking thus at random,
merely because he was lonely and bottled-up. Before he had finished,
she was even a little gratified by his openness, and on his confiding
to her what Schwarz had said to him, she smiled indulgently.

"Perhaps I took it to mean more than it actually did," said Maurice
apologetically. "But anyhow it was cheering to hear it. You see, I
must prove to the people at home that I was right and they were wrong.
Failure was preached at me on every side. I was the only soul to
believe in myself."

"And you really disliked teaching so?"

"Hated it with all my heart."

She frankly examined him. He had a pale, longish face, with thin lips,
which might indicate either narrow prejudice or a fanatic tenacity.
When he grew animated, he had a habit of opening his eyes very wide,
and of staring straight before him. At such moments, too, he tossed
back his head, with the impatient movements of a young horse. His
hands and feet were good, his clothes of a provincial cut. Her fingers
itched to retie the bow of his cravat for him, to pull him here and
there into shape. Altogether, he made the impression upon her of being
a very young man: when he coloured, or otherwise grew embarrassed,
under her steady gaze, she mentally put him down for less than
twenty. But he had good manners; he allowed her to pass before him,
where the way grew narrow; walked on the outside of the path; made
haste to draw back an obstreperous branch; and not one of these
trifling conventionalities was lost on Madeleine Wade.

They had turned their steps homewards, and were drawing near the edge
of the wood, when, through the tree-trunks, which here were bare and
far apart, they saw two people walking arm in arm; and on turning a
corner found the couple coming straight towards them, on the same path
as themselves. In the full flush of his talk, Maurice Guest did not at
first grasp what was about to happen. He had ended the sentence he was
at, and begun another, before the truth broke on him. Then he
stuttered, lost the thread of his thought, was abruptly silent; and
what he had been going to say, and what, a moment before, had seemed
of the utmost importance, was never said. His companion did not seem
to notice his preoccupation; she gave an exclamation of what sounded
like surprise, and herself looked steadily at the approaching pair.
Thus they went forward to a meeting which the young man had imagined
to himself in many ways, but not in this. The moment he had waited for
had come; and now he wished himself miles away. Meanwhile, they walked
on, in a brutal, matter-of-fact fashion, and at a fairish pace, though
each step he took was an event, and his feet were as heavy and awkward
as if they did not belong to him.

The other two sauntered towards them, without haste. The man she was
with had his arm through hers, her hand in his left hand, while in his
right he twirled a cane. They were not speaking; she looked before
her, rather listlessly, with dark, indifferent eyes. To see this, to
see also that she was taller and broader than he had believed, and in
full daylight somewhat sallow, Maurice had first to conquer an
aversion to look at all, on account of the open familiarity of their
attitude. It was not like this that he had dreamt of finding her. And
so it happened that when, without a word to him, his companion crossed
the path and confronted the other two, he only lingered for an
instant, in an agony of indecision, and then, by an impulse over which
he had no control, walked on and stood out of earshot.

He drew a deep breath, like one who has escaped a danger; but almost
simultaneously he bit his lip with mortification: could any power on
earth make it clear to him why he had acted in this way? All
his thoughts had been directed towards this moment for so long, only
to take this miserable end. A string of contemptuous epithets for
himself rose to his lips. But when he looked back at the group, the
reason of his folly was apparent to him; at the sight of this other
beside her, a sharp twinge of jealousy had run through him and
disturbed his balance. He gazed ardently at her in the hope that she
would look round, but it was only the man--he was caressing his slight
moustache and hitting at loose stones while the girls talked--who
turned, as if drawn by Maurice's stare, and looked full at him, with
studied insolence. In him, Maurice recognised the violinist of the
concert, but he, too, was taller than he had believed, and much
younger. A mere boy, said Maurice to himself; a mere boy, with a
disagreeable dissipated face.

Madeleine Wade came hurrying to rejoin him, apologising for the delay;
the meeting had, however, been fortunate, as she had had a message
from Schwarz to deliver. Maurice let a few seconds elapse, then asked
without preamble: "Who is that?"

His companion looked quickly at him, struck both by his tone and by
his unconscious use of the singular. The air of indifference with
which he was looking out across the meadowland, told its own tale.

"Schilsky? Don't you know Schilsky? Our Joachim IN SPE?" she asked, to
tease him.

Maurice Guest coloured. "Yes, I heard him play the other night," he
answered in good faith. "But I didn't mean him. I meant the--the lady
he was with."

The girl at his side laughed, not very heartily.

"ET TU, BRUTE!" she said. "I might have known it. It really is
remarkable that though so many people don't think Louise goodlooking--I
have often heard her called plain--yet I never knew a man go past her
without turning his head.--You want to know who and what she is? Well,
that depends on whom you ask. Schwarz would tell you she was one of
his most gifted pupils--but no: he always says that of his pretty
girls, and some do find her pretty, you know."

"She is, indeed, very," said Maurice with warmth. "Though I think
pretty is not just the word."

"No, I don't suppose it is," said Madeleine, and this time there was a
note of mockery in her laugh. But Maurice did not let himself be
deterred. As it seemed likely that she was going to let the
subject rest here, he persisted: "But suppose I asked you--what would
you say?"

She gave him a shrewd side-glance. "I think I won't tell you," she
said, more gravely. "If a man has once thought a girl pretty, and all
the rest of it, he's never grateful for the truth. If I said Louise
was a baggage, or a minx, or some other horrid thing, you would always
bear me a grudge for it, so please note, I don't say it--for we are
going to be friends, I hope?"

"I hope so, too," said the young man.

They walked some distance along the unfinished end of the
MOZARTSTRASSE, where only a few villas stood, in newly made gardens.

"At least, I should like to know her name her whole name. You said
Louise, I think?"

She laughed outright at this. "Her name is Dufrayer, Louise Dufrayer,
and she has been here studying with Schwarz for about a year and a
half now. She has some talent, but is indolent to the last degree, and
only works when she can't help it. Also she always has an admirer of
some kind in tow. This, to-day, is her last particular friend.--Is that
biographical matter enough?"

He was afraid he had made himself ridiculous in her eyes, and did not
answer. They walked the rest of the way in silence. At her house-door,
they paused to take leave of each other.

"Good-bye. Come and see me sometimes when you have time. We were once
colleagues, you know, and are now fellow-pupils. I should be glad to
help you if you ever need help."

He thanked her and promised to remember; then walked home without,
knowing how he did it. He had room in brain for one thought only; he
knew her name, he knew her name. He said it again and again to
himself, walked in time with it, and found it as heady as wine; the
mere sound of the spoken syllables seemed to bring her nearer to him,
to establish a mysterious connection between them. Moreover, in itself
it pleased him extraordinarily; and he was vaguely grateful to
something outside himself, that it was a name he could honestly
admire.

In a kind of defiant challenge to unseen powers, he doubled his arm
and felt the muscles in it. Then he sat down at his piano, and, to the
dismay of his landlady--for it was now late evening--practised for a
couple of hours without stopping. And the scales he sent flying
up and down in the darkness had a ring of exultation in them, were
like cries of triumph.

He had discovered the "Open Sesame" to his treasure. And there was
time and to spare. He left everything to the future, in blind trust
that it would bring him good fortune. It was enough that they were
here together, inhabitants of the same town. Besides, he had formed a
friendship with some one who knew her; a way would surely open up, in
which he might make her aware of his presence. In the meantime, it was
something to live for. Each day that dawned might be THE day.

But little by little, like a fountain run dry, his elation subsided,
and, as he lay sleepless, he had a sudden fit of jealous despair. He
remembered, with a horrid distinctness, how he had seen her. Again she
came towards them, at the other's side, hand in hand with him,
inattentive to all but him. Now he could almost have wept at the
recollection. Those clasped hands!--he could have forgiven everything
else, but the thought of these remained with him and stung him. Here
he lay, thinking wild and foolish things, building castles that had no
earthly foundation, and all the time it was another who had the right
to be with her, to walk at her side, and share her thoughts. Again he
was the outsider; behind these two was a life full of detail and
circumstance, of which he knew nothing. His excited brain called up
pictures, imagined fiercely at words and looks, until the darkness and
stillness of the room became unendurable; and he sprang up, threw on
his clothing, and went out. Retracing his steps, he found the very
spot where they had met. Guiltily, with a stealthy look round him,
though wood and night were black as ink, he knelt down and kissed the
gravel where he thought she had stood.




IV.



It was through Dove's agency--Dove was always on the spot to guide and
assist his friends; to advise where the best, or cheapest, or rarest,
of anything was to be had, from secondhand Wagner scores to hair
pomade; he knew those shops where the "half-quarters" of ham or
roast-beef weighed heavier than elsewhere, restaurants where the beer
had least froth and the cutlets were largest for the money; knew the
ins and outs of Leipzig as no other foreigner did, knew all that went
on, and the affairs of everybody, as though he went through life
garnering in just those little facts that others were apt to overlook.
Through Dove, Maurice became a paying guest at a dinner-table kept by
two maiden ladies, who eked out their income by providing a plain
meal, at a low price, for respectable young people.

The company was made up to a large extent of English-speaking
foreigners. There were several university students--grave-faced, older
men, with beards and spectacles--who looked down on the young
musicians, and talked, of set purpose, on abstruse subjects. More
noteworthy were two American pianists: Ford, who could not carry a
single glass of beer, and played better when he had had more than one;
and James, a wiry, red-haired man, with an unfaltering opinion of
himself, and an iron wrist--by means of a week's practice, he could
ruin any piano. Two ladies were also present. Philadelphia Jensen; of
German-American parentage, was a student of voice-production, under a
Swedish singing master who had lately set musical circles in a
ferment, with his new and extraordinary method: its devotees swore
that, in time, it would display marvellous results; but, in the
meantime, the most advanced pupils were only emitting single notes,
and the greater number stood, every morning, before their respective
mirrors, watching their mouths open and shut, fish-fashion, without
producing a sound. Miss Jensen--she preferred the English pronunciation
of the J--was a large, fleshy woman, with a curled fringe and prominent
eyes. Her future stage-presence was the object of general admiration;
it was whispered that she aimed at Isolde. Loud in voice and manner,
she was fond of proclaiming her views on all kinds of subjects,
from diaphragmatic respiration, through GHOSTS, which was being read
by a bold, advanced few, down to the continental methods of regulating
vice--to the intense embarrassment of those who sat next her at table.
Still another American lady, Miss Martin, was studying with Bendel,
the rival of Schwarz; and as she lived in the same quarter of the town
as Dove and Maurice, the three of them often walked home together. For
the most part, Miss Martin was in a state of tragic despair. With the
frankness of her race, she admitted that she had arrived in Leipzig,
expecting to astonish. In this she had been disappointed; Bendel had
treated her like any other of his pupils; she was still playing Haydn
and Czerny, and saw endless vistas of similar composers "back of
these." Dove laid the whole blame on Bendel's method--which he
denounced with eloquence--and strongly advocated her becoming a pupil
of Schwarz. He himself undertook to arrange matters, and, in what
seemed an incredibly short time, the change was effected. For a
little, things went better; Schwarz was reported to have said that she
had talent, great talent, and that he would make something of her; but
soon, she was complaining anew: if there were any difference between
Czerny and Bertini, Haydn and Dussek, some one might "slick up "and
tell her what it was. Off the subject of her own gifts, she was a
lively, affable girl, with china-blue eyes, pale flaxen hair, and
coal-black eyebrows; and both young men got on well with her, in the
usual superficial way. For Maurice Guest, she had the additional
attraction, that he had once seen her in the street with the object of
his romantic fancy.

Since the afternoon when he had heard from Madeleine Wade who this
was, he had not advanced a step nearer making her acquaintance; though
a couple of weeks had passed, though he now knew two people who knew
her, and though his satisfaction at learning her name had immediately
yielded to a hunger for more. And now, hardly a day went by, on which
he did not see her. His infatuation had made him keen of scent; by
following her, with due precaution, he had found out for himself in
the BRUDERSTRASSE, the roomy old house she lived in; had found out how
she came and went. He knew her associates, knew the streets she
preferred, the hour of day at which she was to be met at the
Conservatorium. Far away, at the other end of one of the quiet streets
that lay wide and sunny about the Gewandhaus, when, to other eyes she
was a mere speck in the distance, he learned to recognise her--if only
by the speed at which his heart beat--and he even gave chase to
imaginary resemblances. Once he remained sitting in a tramway far
beyond his destination, because he traced, in one of the passengers, a
curious likeness to her, in long, wavy eyebrows that were highest in
the middle of the forehead.

Thus the pale face with the heavy eyes haunted him by day and by
night.

He was very happy and very unhappy, by turns--never at rest. If he
imagined she had looked observantly at him as she passed, he was
elated for hours after. If she did not seem to notice him, it was
brought home to him anew that he was nothing to her; and once, when he
had gazed too boldly, instead of turning away his eyes, as she went
close by him to Schwarz's room, and she had resented the look with
cold surprise, he felt as culpable as if he had insulted her. He
atoned for his behaviour, the next time they met, by assuming his very
humblest air; once, too, he deliberately threw himself in her way, for
the mere pleasure of standing aside with the emphatic deference of a
slave. Throughout this period, and particularly after an occasion such
as the last, his self-consciousness was so peculiarly intensified that
his surroundings ceased to exist for him--they two were the gigantic
figures on a shadow background--and what he sometimes could not believe
was, that such feelings as these should be seething in him, and she
remain ignorant of them. He lost touch with reality, and dreamed
dreams of imperceptible threads, finer than any gossamer, which could
be spun from soul to soul, without the need of speech.

He heaped on her all the spiritual perfections that answered to her
appearance. And he did not, for a time, observe anything to make him
waver in his faith that she was whiter, stiller, and more
unapproachable--of a different clay, in short, from other women. Then,
however, this illusion was shattered. Late one afternoon, she came
down the stairs of the house she lived in, and, pausing at the door,
looked up and down the hot, empty street, shading her eyes with her
hand. No one was in sight, and she was about to turn away, when, from
where he was watching in a neighbouring doorway, Maurice saw the
red-haired violinist come swiftly round the corner. She saw him, too,
took a few, quick steps towards him, and, believing herself unseen,
looked up in is face as they met; and the passionate tenderness of the
look, the sudden lighting of lip and eye, racked the poor, unwilling
spy for days. To suit this abrupt descent from the pedestal, he
was obliged to carve a new attribute to his idol, and laboriously
adapt it.

Schilsky, this insolent boy, was the thorn in his side. It was
Schilsky she was oftenest to be met with; he was her companion at the
most unexpected hours; and, with reluctance, Maurice had to admit to
himself that she had apparently no thought to spare for anyone else.
But it did not make any difference. The curious way in which he felt
towards her, the strange, overwhelming effect her face had on him,
took no account of outside things. Though he might never hope for a
word from her; though he should learn in the coming moment that she
was the other's promised wife; he could not for that reason banish her
from his mind. His feelings were not to be put on and off, like
clothes; he had no power over them. It was simply a case of accepting
things as they were, and this he sought to do.

But his imagination made it hard for him, by throwing up pictures in
which Schilsky was all-prominent. He saw him the confidant of her joys
and troubles; HE knew their origin, knew what key her day was set in.
If her head ached, if she were tired or spiritless, his hand was on
her brow. The smallest events in her life were an open book to him;
and it was these worthless details that Maurice Guest envied him most.
He kept a tight hold on his fancy, but if, as sometimes happened, it
slipped control, and painted further looks of the kind he had seen
exchanged between them, a kiss or an embrace, he was as wretched as if
he had in reality been present.

At other times, this jealous unrest was not the bitterest drop in his
cup; it was bitterer to know that she was squandering her love on one
who was unworthy of it. At first, from a feeling of exaggerated
delicacy, he had gone out of his way to escape hearing Schilsky's
name; but this mood passed, and gave place to an undignified hankering
to learn everything he could, concerning the young man. What he heard
amounted to this: a talented rascal, the best violinist the
Conservatorium had turned out for years, one to whom all gates would
open; but--this "but" always followed, with a meaning smile and a wink
of the eye: and then came the anecdotes. They had nothing
heaven-scaling in them--these soiled love-stories; this perpetual
impecuniosity; this inability to refuse money, no matter whose the
hand that offered it; this fine art in the disregarding of established
canons--and, to Maurice Guest, bred to sterner standards, they seemed
unspeakably low and mean. Hours came when he strove in vain to
understand her. Ignorant of these things she could not be; was it
within the limits of the possible that she could overlook them?--and he
shivered lest he should be forced to think less highly of her.
Ultimately, sending his mind back over what he had read and heard,
drawing on his own slight experience, he came to a compromise with
himself. He said that most often the best and fairest women loved men
who were unworthy of them. Was it not a weakness and a strength of her
sex to see good where no good was?--a kind of divine frailty, a wilful
blindness, a sweet inability to discern.

At times, again, he felt almost content that Schilsky was what he was.
If the day should ever come when, all barriers down, he, Maurice
Guest, might be intimately associated with her life; if he should ever
have the chance of proving to her what real love was, what a holy
mystic thing, how far removed from a blind passing fancy; if he might
serve her, be her slave, lay his hands under her feet, lead her up and
on, all suffused in a sunset of tenderness: then, she would see that
what she had believed to be love had been nothing but a FATA MORGANA,
a mirage of the skies. And he heard himself whispering words of
incredible fondness to her, saw her listening with wonder in her eyes.

At still other moments, he was ready to renounce every hope, if, by
doing so, he could add jot or tittle to her happiness.

The further he spun himself into his dreams, however, and the better
he learnt to know her in imagination, the harder it grew to take the
first step towards realising his wishes. In those few, brief days,
when he hugged her name to him as a talisman, he waited cheerfully for
something to happen, something unusual, that would bring him to her
notice--a dropped handkerchief, a seat vacated for her at a concert,
even a timely accident. But as day after day went by, in eventless
monotony, he began to cast about him for human aid. From Dove, his
daily companion, Dove of the outstretched paws of continual help, he
now shrank away. Miss Martin was not to be spoken to except in Dove's
company. There was only one person who could assist him, if she would,
and that was Madeleine Wade. He called to mind the hearty invitation
she had given him, and reproached himself for not having taken
advantage of it.

One afternoon, towards six o'clock, he rang the bell of her lodgings
in the MOZARTSTRASSE. This was a new street, the first blocks of which
gave directly on the Gewandhaus square; but, at the further
end, where she lived, a phalanx of redbrick and stucco fronts looked
primly across at a similar line. In the third storey of one of these
houses, Madeleine Wade had a single, large room, the furniture of
which was so skilfully contrived, that, by day, all traces of the
room's double calling were obliterated.

As he entered, on this first occasion, she was practising at a grand
piano which stood before one of the windows. She rose at once, and,
having greeted him warmly, made him sit down among the comfortable
cushions that lined the sofa. Then she took cups and saucers from a
cupboard in the wall, and prepared tea over a spirit-lamp. He soon
felt quite at home with her, and enjoyed himself so well that many
such informal visits followed.

But the fact was not to be denied: it was her surroundings that
attracted him, rather than she herself. True, he found her frankness
delightfully "refreshing," and when he spoke of her, it was as of an
"awfully good sort," "a first-class girl"; for Madeleine was
invariably lively, kind and helpful. At the same time, she was without
doubt a trifle too composed, too sure of herself; she had too keen an
eye for human foibles; she came towards you with a perfectly natural
openness, and she came all the way--there was nothing left for you to
explore. And when not actually with her, it was easy to forget her;
there was never a look or a smile, never a barbed word, never a sudden
spontaneous gesture--the vivid translation of a thought--to stamp itself
on your memory.

But it was only at the outset that he thought things like these.
Madeleine Wade had been through experiences of the same kind before;
and hardly a fortnight later they were calling each other by their
Christian names.

When he came to her, towards evening, tired and inclined to be lonely,
she seated him in a corner of the sofa, and did not ask him to say
much until she had made the tea. Then, when the cups were steaming in
front of them, she discussed sympathetically with him the progress of
his work. She questioned him, too, about

When he came to her, tired and inclined to be lonely, she seated him
in a corner of the sofa, and did not ask him to say much until she
made tea. Then, when the cups were steaming in front of them, she
discussed sympathetically with him the progress of his work. She
questioned him, too, about his home and family, and he read her parts
of his mother's letters, which arrived without fail every Tuesday
morning. She also drew from him a more detailed account of his
previous life; and, in this connection, they had several animated
discussions about teaching, a calling to which Madeleine looked
composedly forward to returning, while Maurice, in strong superlative,
declared he had rather force a flock of sheep to walk in line.
She told him, too, some of the gossip the musical quarter of the town
was rife with, about those in high places; and, in particular, of the
bitter rivalry that had grown up with the years between Schwarz and
Bendel, the chief masters of the piano. If these two met in the
street, they passed each other with a stony stare; if, at an
ABENDUNTERHALTUNG, a pupil of one was to play, the other rose
ostentatiously and left the hall. She also hinted that in order to
obtain all you wanted at the Conservatorium, to be favoured above your
fellows, it was only necessary flagrantly to bribe one of the clerks,
Kleefeld by name, who was open to receive anything, being wretchedly
impecunious and the father of a large family.

Finding, too, that Maurice was bent on learning German, she, who spoke
the language fluently, proposed that they should read it together; and
soon it became their custom to work through a few pages of QUINTUS
FIXLEIN, a scene or two of Schiller, some lyrics of Heine. They also
began to play duets, symphonies old and new, and Madeleine took care
constantly to have something fresh and interesting at hand. To all
this the young man brought an unbounded zeal, and, if he had had his
way, they would have gone on playing or reading far into the evening.

She smiled at his eagerness. "You absorb like a sponge."

When it grew too dark to see, he confided to her that his dearest wish
was to be a conductor. He was not yet clear how it could be managed,
but he was sure that this was the branch of his art for which he had
most aptitude.

Here she interrupted him. "Do you never write verses?"

Her question seemed to him so meaningless that he only laughed, and
went on with what he was saying. For the event of his plan proving
impracticable--at home they had no idea of it--he was training as a
concert-player; but he intended to miss no chance that offered, of
learning how to handle an orchestra.

Throughout these hours of stimulating companionship, however, he did
not lose sight of his original purpose in going to see Madeleine. It
was only that just the right moment never seemed to come; and the name
he was so anxious to hear, had not once been mentioned between them.
Often, in the dusk, his lips twitched to speak it; but he feared his
own awkwardness, and her quick tongue; then, too, the subject was
usually far aside from what they were talking of, and it would have
made a ludicrous impression to drag it in by the hair.

But one day his patience was rewarded. He had carelessly taken
up a paper-bound volume of Chopin, and was on the point of commenting
upon it, for he had lately begun to understand the difference between
a Litolff and a Mikuli. But it slipped from his hand, and he was
obliged to crawl under the piano to pick it up; on a corner of the
cover, in a big, black, scrawly writing, was the name of Marie Louise
Dufrayer. He cleared his throat, laid the volume down, took it up
again; then, realising that the moment had come, he put a bold face on
the matter.

"I see this belongs to Miss Dufrayer," he said bluntly, and, as his
companion's answer was only a careless: "Yes, Louise forgot it the
last time she was here," he went on without delay: "I should like to
know Miss Dufrayer, Madeleine. Do you think you could introduce me to
her?"

Madeleine, who was in the act of taking down a book from her hanging
shelves, turned and looked at him. He was still red in the face, from
the exertion of stooping.

"Introduce you to Louise?" she queried. "Why?--why do you want to be
introduced to her?"

"Oh, I don't know. For no particular reason."

She sat down at the table, opened the book, and turned the leaves.

"Oh well, I daresay I can, if you wish it, and an opportunity
occurs--if you're with me some day when I meet her.--Now shall we go on
with the JUNGFRAU? We were beginning the third act, I think. Here it
is:

Wir waren Herzensbruder, Waffenfreunde,
Fur eine Sache hoben wir den Arm!"

But Maurice did not take the book she handed him across the table.

"Won't you give me a more definite promise than that?"

Madeleine sat back in her chair, and, folding her arms, looked
thoughtfully at him.

Only a momentary silence followed his words, but, in this fraction of
time, a series of impressions swept through her brain with the
continuity of a bird's flight. It was clear to her at once, that what
prompted his insistence was not an ordinary curiosity, or a passing
whim; in a flash, she understood that here, below the surface,
something was at work in him, the existence of which she had not even
suspected. She was more than annoyed with herself at her own
foolish obtuseness; she had had these experiences before, and then, as
now, the object of her interest had invariably been turned aside by
the first pretty, silly face that came his way. The main difference
was that she had been more than ordinarily drawn to Maurice Guest;
and, believing it impossible, in this case, for anyone else to be
sharing the field with her, she had over-indulged the hope that he
sought her out for herself alone.

She endeavoured to learn more. But this time Maurice was on his guard,
and the questions she put, straight though they were, only elicited
the response that he had seen Miss Dufrayer shortly after arriving,
and had been much struck by her.

Madeleine's brain travelled rapidly backwards. "But if I remember
rightly, Maurice, we met Louise one day in the SCHEIBENHOLZ, the first
time we went for a walk together. Why didn't you stop then, and be
introduced to her, if you were so anxious?"

"Why do we ever do foolish things?"

Her amazement was so patent that he made uncomfortable apology for
himself. "It is ridiculous, I know," he said and coloured. "And it
must seem doubly so to you. But that I should want to know her--there's
nothing strange in that, is there? You, too, Madeleine, have surely
admired people sometimes--some one, say, who has done a fine thing--and
have felt that you must know them personally, at all costs?"

"Perhaps I have. But romantic feelings of that kind are sure to end in
smoke. As a rule they've no foundation but our own wishes.--If you take
my advice, Maurice, you will be content to admire Louise at a
distance. Think her as pretty as you like, and imagine her to be all
that's sweet and charming: but never mind about knowing her."

"But why on earth not?"

"Why, nothing will come of it."

"That depends on what you mean by nothing."

"You don't understand. I must be plainer.--Do sit down, and don't
fidget so.--How long have you been here now? Nearly two months. Well,
that's long enough to know something of what's going on. You must have
both seen and heard that Louise has no eyes for anyone but a certain
person, to put it bluntly, that she is wrapped up in Schilsky. This
has been going on for over a year now, and she seems to grow more
infatuated every day. When she first came to Leipzig, we were friends;
she lived in this neighbourhood, and I was able to be of
service to her. Now, weeks go by and I don't see her; she has broken
with every one--for Louise is not a girl to do things by
halves.--Introduce you? Of course I can. But suppose it done, with all
pomp and ceremony, what will you get from it? I know Louise. A word or
two, if her ladyship is in the mood; if not, you will be so much thin
air for her. And after that, a nod if she meets you in the street--and
that's all."

"It's enough."

"You're easily satisfied.--But tell me, honestly now, Maurice, what
possible good can that do you?"

He moved aimlessly about the room. "Good? Must one always look for
good in everything?--I can see quite well that from your point of view
the whole thing must seem absurd. I expect nothing whatever from it,
but I'm going to know her, and that's all about it."

Still in the same position, with folded arms, Madeleine observed him
with unblinking eyes.

"And you won't bear me a grudge, if things go badly?--I mean if you are
disappointed, or dissatisfied?"

He made a gesture of impatience.

"Yes, but I know Louise, and you don't."

He had picked up from the writing-table the photograph of a curate,
and he stared at it as if he had no thought but to let the mild
features stamp themselves on his mind. Madeleine's eyes continued to
bore him through. At last, out of a silence, she said slowly: "Of
course I can introduce you--it's done with a wave of the hand. But, as
your friend, I think it only right to warn you what you must expect.
For I can see you don't understand in the least, and are laying up a
big disappointment for yourself. However, you shall have your way--if
only to show you that I am right."

"Thanks, Madeleine--thanks awfully."

They settled down to read Schiller. But Maurice made one slip after
another, and she let them pass uncorrected. She was annoyed with
herself afresh, for having made too much of the matter, for having
blown it up to a fictitious importance, when the wiser way would have
been to treat it as of no consequence at all.

The next afternoon he arrived, with expectation in his face; but not
on this day, nor the next, nor the next again, did she bring the
subject up between them. On the fourth, however, as he was leaving,
she said abruptly: "You must have patience for a little, Maurice.
Louise has gone to Dresden."

"That's why the blinds are down," he exclaimed without
thinking, then coloured furiously at his own words, and, to smooth
them over, asked: "Why has she gone? For how long?"

But Madeleine caught him up. "SIEH DA, some one has been playing
sentinel!" she said in raillery; and it seemed to him that every fold
in his brain was laid bare to her, before she answered: "She has gone
for a week or ten days--to visit some friends who are staying there."

He nodded, and was about to open the door, when she added: "But set
your mind at rest--HE is here."

Maurice looked sharply up; but a minute or two passed before the true
meaning of her words broke on him. He coloured again--a mortifying
habit he had not outgrown, and one which seemed to affect him more in
the presence of Madeleine than of anyone else.

"It's hardly a thing to joke about."

"Joke!--who is joking?" she asked, and raised her eyebrows so high that
her forehead was filled with wrinkles. "Nothing was further from my
thoughts."

Maurice hesitated, and stood undecided, holding the doorhandle. Then,
following an impulse, he turned and sat down again. "Madeleine, tell
me--I wouldn't ask anyone but you--what sort of a fellow IS this
Schilsky?"

"What sort of a fellow?" She laughed sarcastically. "To be quite
truthful, Maurice, the best fiddler the Con. has turned out for
years."

"Now you're joking again. As if I didn't know that. Everyone says the
same."

"You want his moral character? Well, I'll be equally candid. Or, at
least, I'll give you my opinion of him. It's another superlative. Just
as I consider him the best violinist, I also hold him to be the
greatest scamp in the place--and I've no objection to use a stronger
word if you like. I wouldn't take his hand, no, not if he offered it
to me. The last time he was in this room, about six months ago, he--
well, let us say he borrowed, without a word to me, five or six marks
that were lying loose on the writing-table. Yes, it's a fact," she
repeated, complacently eyeing Maurice's dismay. "Otherwise?--oh,
otherwise, he was born, I think, with a silver spoon in his mouth. He
has one piece of luck after another. Zeppelin discovered him ten years
ago, on a concert-tour--his father is a smith in Warsaw--and brought him
to Leipzig. He was a prodigy, then, and a rich Jewish banker
took him up, and paid for his education; and when he washed his hands
of him in disgust, Schaefele's wife--Schaefele is head of the
HANDELVEREIN, you know--adopted him as a son--some people say as more
than a son, for, though she was nearly forty, she was perfectly crazy
over him, and behaved as foolishly as any of the dozens of silly girls
who have lost their hearts to him."

"I suppose they are engaged," said Maurice after a pause, speaking out
of his own thoughts.

"Do you?" she asked with mild humour. "I really never asked them.--But
this is just another example of his good fortune. When he has worn out
every one else's patience, through his dishonest extravagance, he
picks up a rich wife, who is not averse to supporting him before
marriage."

Maurice looked at her reproachfully. "I wonder you care to repeat such
gossip."

"It's not gossip, Maurice. Every one knows it. Louise makes no mystery
of her doings--doesn't care that much what people say. While as for
him--well, it's enough to know it's Schilsky. The thing is an open
secret. Listen, now, and I'll tell you how it began--just to let you
judge for yourself what kind of a girl you have to deal with in
Louise, and how Schilsky behaves when he wants a thing, and whether
such a pair think a formal engagement necessary to their happiness.
When Louise came here, a year and a half ago, Schilsky was away
somewhere with Zeppelin, and didn't get back till a couple of months
afterwards. As I said, I knew Louise pretty well at that time; she had
got herself into trouble with--but that's neither here nor there. Well,
my lord returns--he himself tells how it happened. It was a Thursday
evening, and a Radius Commemoration was going on at the Con. He went
in late, and stood at the back of the hall. Louise was there, too,
just before him, and, from the first minute he saw her, he couldn't
take his eyes off her--others who were by say, too, he seemed perfectly
fascinated. No one can stare as rudely as Schilsky, and he ended by
making her so uncomfortable that she couldn't bear it any longer, and
went out of the hall. He after her, and it didn't take him an hour to
find out all about her. The next evening, at an ABEND, they were both
there again it was just like Louise to go!--and the same thing was
repeated. She left again before it was over, he followed, and this
time found her in one of the side corridors; and there--mind you,
without a single word having passed between them!--he took her
in his arms and kissed her, kissed her soundly, half a dozen
times--though they had never once spoken to each other: he boasts of it
to this day. That same evening----"

"Don't, Madeleine--please, don't say any more! I don't care to hear
it," broke in Maurice. He had flushed to the roots of his hair, at
some points of resemblance to his own case, then grown pale again, and
now he waved his arm meaninglessly in the air. "He is a scoundrel,
a--a----" But he recognised that he could not condemn one without the
other, and stopped short.

"My dear boy, if I don't tell you, other people will. And at least you
know I mean well by you. Besides," she went on, not without a touch of
malice as she eyed him sitting there, spoiling the leaves of a book.
"Besides, I may as well show you, how you have to treat Louise, if you
want to make an impression on her. You call him a scoundrel, but what
of her? Believe me, Maurice," she said more seriously, "Louise is not
a whit too good for him; they were made for each other. And of course
he will marry her eventually, for the sake of her, money "--here she
paused and looked deliberately at him--"if not for her own."

This time there was no mistaking the meaning of her words.

"Madeleine!"

He rose from his seat with such force that the table tilted.

But Madeleine did not falter. "I told you already, you know, that
Louise doesn't care what is said about her. As soon as this
unfortunate affair began, she threw up the rooms she was in at the
time, and moved nearer the TALSTRASSE--where he lives. Rumour has it
also that she provided herself with an accommodating landlady, who can
be blind and deaf when necessary."

"How CAN you repeat such atrocious scandal?"

He stared at her, in incredulous dismay. Her words were so many
arrows, the points of which remained sticking in him.

She shrugged her shoulders. "Your not believing it doesn't affect the
truth of the story, Maurice. It was the talk of the place when it
happened. And you may despise rumour as you will, my experience is, a
report never springs up that hasn't some basis of fact to go
on--however small."

He choked back, with an effort, the eloquent words that came to his
lips; of what use was it to make himself still more ridiculous in her
eyes? His hat had fallen to the floor; he picked it up, and brushed it
on his sleeve, without knowing what he did. "Oh, well, of
course, if you think that," he said as coolly as he was able, "nothing
I could say would make any difference. Every one is free to his
opinions, I suppose. But, all the same, I must say, Madeleine"--he
grew hot in spite of himself. "You have been her friend, you say; you
have known her intimately; and yet just because she . . . she cares for
this fellow in such a way that she sets caring for him above being
cautious--why, not one woman in a thousand would have the courage for
that sort of thing! It needs courage, not to mind what people--no, what
your friends imagine, and how falsely they interpret what you do.
Besides, one has only to look at her to see how absurd it is. That
face and--I don't know her, Madeleine; I've never spoken to her, and
never may, yet I am absolutely certain that what is said about her
isn't true. So certain that--But after all, if this is what you think
about . . . about it, then all I have to say is, we had better not
discuss the subject again. It does no good, and we should never be of
the same opinion."

Not without embarrassment, now that he had said his say, he turned to
the door. But Madeleine was not in the least angry. She gave him her
hand, and said, with a smile, yet gravely, too: "Agreed, Maurice! We
will not speak of Louise again."




V.



He shunned Madeleine for days after this. He was morose and unhappy,
and brooded darkly over the baseness of wagging tongues. For the first
time in his life he had come into touch with slander, that invisible
Hydra, and straightway it seized upon the one person to whom he was
not indifferent. In this mood it was a relief to him that certain
three windows in the BRUDERSTRASSE remained closed and shuttered; with
the load of malicious gossip fresh on his mind, he chose rather not to
see her; he must first accustom himself to it, as to the scar left by
a wound.

He did not, of course, believe what Madeleine, with her infernal
frankness, had told him; but the knowledge that such a report was
abroad, depressed him unspeakably: it took colour from the sky and
light from the sun. Sometimes in these days, as he sat at his piano,
he had a sudden fit of discouragement, which made it seem not worth
while to continue playing. It was unthinkable that she could be aware
how busy scandal was with her name, and how her careless acts were
spied on and misrepresented; and he turned over in his mind ways and
means by which she might be induced to take more thought for herself
in future.

He did not believe it; but hours of distracting uncertainty came, none
the less, when small things which his memory had stored up made him go
so far as to ask himself, what if it should be true?--what then? But
he had not courage enough to face an answer; he put the possibility
away from him, in the extreme background of his mind, refused to let
his brain piece its observations together. The mere suspicion was a
blasphemy, a blasphemy against her dignified reserve, against her
sweet pale face, her supreme disregard of those about her. Not thus
would guilt have shown itself.

Schilsky, who was the origin of all the evil, he made wide circuits to
avoid. He thought of him, at this time, with what he believed to be a
feeling of purely personal antipathy. In his most downcast moments, he
had swift and foolish visions publicly executing vengeance on him; but
if, a moment later, he saw the violinist's red hair or big hat before
him in the street, he turned aside as though the other had been
plague-struck. Once, however, when he was going up the steps of the
Conservatorium, and Schilsky, in leaping down, pushed carelessly
against him, he returned the knock so rudely and swore with such
downrightness that, in spite of his hurry, Schilsky stopped and fixed
him, and with equal vehemence damned him for a fool of an Englishman.

His despondency spread like a weed. A furious impatience overcame him,
too, at the thought of the innumerable hours he would be forced to
spend at the piano, day in, day out, for months to come, before the
result could be compared with the achievements even of many a
fellow-student. As the private lessons Schwarz gave were too expensive
for him, he decided, as a compromise, to take a course of extra
lessons with Furst, who prepared pupils for the master, and was quite
willing to come to terms, in other words, who taught for what he could
get.

Once a week, then, for the rest of the summer, Maurice climbed the
steep, winding stair of the house in the BRANDVORWERKSTRASSE where
Furst lived with his mother. It was so dark on this stair that, in
dull weather, ill-trimmed lamps burnt all day long on the different
landings. To its convolutions, in its unaired corners, clung what
seemed to be the stale, accumulated smells of years; and these were
continually reinforced; since every day at dinnertime, the various
kitchen-windows, all of which gave on the stair, were opened to let
the piercing odours of cooking escape. The house, like the majority of
its kind in this relatively new street, was divided into countless
small lodgings; three families, with three rooms apiece, lived on each
storey, and on the fifth floor, at the top of the house, the same
number of rooms was let out singly. Part of the third storey was
occupied by a bird-fancier; and between him and the Fursts above waged
perpetual war, one of those petty, unending wars that can only arise
and be kept up when, as here, such heterogeneous elements are forced
to live side by side, under one roof. The fancier, although his
business was nominally in the town, had enough of his wares beside him
to make his house a lively, humming kind of place, and the strife
dated back to a day when, the door standing temptingly ajar, Peter,
the Fursts' lean cat, had sneaked stealthily in upon this, to him,
enchanted ground, and, according to the fancier, had caused the death,
from fright, of a delicate canary, although the culprit had done
nothing more than sit before the cage, licking his lips. This had
happened several years ago, but each party was still fertile in
planning annoyances for the other, and the females did not bow when
they met. On the fourth floor, next the Fursts, lived a pale, harassed
teacher, with a family which had long since outgrown its
accommodation; for the wife was perpetually in childbed, and cots and
cradles were the chief furniture of the house. As the critical moments
of her career drew nigh, the "Frau Lehrer" complained, with an
aggravated bitterness, of the unceasing music that went on behind the
thin partition; and this grievance, together with the racy items of
gossip left behind the midwife's annual visit, like a trail of smoke,
provided her and Furst's mother with infinite food for talk. They were
thick friends again a few minutes after a scene so lively that blows
seemed imminent, and they met every morning on the landing, where,
with broom or child in hand, they stood gossiping by the hour.

When Maurice rang, Frau Furst opened the door to him herself, having
first cautiously examined him through the kitchen window. Drying her
hands on her apron, she ushered him through the tiny entry--a place of
dangers, pitch-dark as it was, and lumbered with chests and
presses--into Franz's room, the "best room" of the house. Here were
collected a red plush suite, which was the pride of Frau Furst's
heart, and all the round, yellowing family photographs; here, too,
stood the well-used Bechstein, pile upon pile of music, a couple of
music-stands, a bust of Schubert, a faded, framed diploma. For years,
assuredly, the windows had never been thrown wide open; the odours of
stale coffee and forgotten dinners, of stove and warmed wood, of
piano, music and beeswax: all these lay as it were in streaks in the
atmosphere, and made it heavy and thought-benumbing.

A willing listener was worth more than gold to Frau Furst and here,
the first time he came, while waiting for Franz, Maurice heard in
detail the history of the family. The father had been an oboist in the
Gewandhaus orchestra, and had died a few years previously, of a chill
incurred after a performance of DIE MEISTERSINGER. At his death, it
had fallen on Franz to support the family; and, thanks to Schwarz's
aid and influence, Franz was able to get as many pupils as he had time
to teach. It was easy to see that this, her eldest son, was the apple
of Frau Furst's eye; her other children seemed to be there only to
meet his needs; his lightest wish was law. Each additional pupil that
sought him out, was a fresh tribute to his genius, each one that left
him, no matter after how long, was unthankful and a traitor.
For the nights on which his quartet met at the house, she prepared as
another woman would for a personal fete; and she watched the candles
grow shorter without a tinge of regret. When Franz played at an
ABENDUNTERHALTUNG, the family turned out in a body. Schwarz was a god,
all-powerful, on whom their welfare depended; and it was necessary to
propitiate him by a quarterly visit on a Sunday morning, when, over
wine and biscuits, she wept real and feigned tears of gratitude.

In this hard-working, careworn woman, who was seldom to be seen but in
petticoat, bed-jacket, and heelless, felt shoes; who, her whole life
long, had been little better than a domestic servant; in her there
existed a devotion to art which had never wavered. It would have
seemed to her contrary to nature that Franz should be anything but a
musician, and it was also quite in the order of things for them to be
poor. Two younger boys, who were still at school, gave up all their
leisure time to music--they had never in their lives tumbled round a
football or swung a bat--and Franz believed that the elder would prove
a skilful violinist. Of the little girls, one had a pure voice and a
good ear, and was to be a singer--for before this Juggernaut, prejudice
went down. Had anyone suggested to Frau Furst that her daughter should
be a clerk, even a teacher, she would have flung up hands of horror;
but music!--that was a different matter. It was, moreover, the single
one of the arts, in which this staunch advocate of womanliness granted
her sex a share.

"Ask Franz," she said to Maurice. "Franz knows. He will explain. All
women can do is to reproduce what some one else has thought or felt."

As an immortal example of the limits set by sex, she invariably fell
back on Clara Schumann, with whom she had more than once come into
personal contact. In her youth, Frau Furst had had a clear soprano
voice, and, to Maurice's interest, she told him how she had sometimes
been sent for to the Schumann's house in the INSELSTRASSE, to sing
Robert's songs for him.

"Clara accompanied me," she said, relating this, the great
reminiscence of her life; "and he was there, too, although I never saw
him face to face. He was too shy for that. But he was behind a screen,
and sometimes he would call: 'I must alter that; it is too high;' or
'Quicker, quicker!' Sometimes even 'Bravo!'"

Her motherly ambitions for Franz knew no bounds. One of the few
diversions she allowed herself was a visit to the theatre--when Franz
had tickets given to him; when one of her favourite operas was
performed; or on the anniversary of her husband's death--and, on such
occasions, she pointed out to the younger children, the links that
bound and would yet bind them to the great house.

"That was your father's seat," she reminded them every time. "The
second row from the end. He came in at the door to the left. And
that," pointing to the conductor's raised chair, "is where Franz will
sit some day." For she dreamed of Franz in all the glory of
KAPELLMEISTER; saw him swinging the little stick that dominated the
theatre-audience, singers and players alike.

And the children, hanging over the high gallery, shuffling their
restless feet, thus had their path as dearly traced for them, their
destiny as surely sealed, as any fate-shackled heroes of antiquity.



* * * * *



Late one afternoon about this time, Franz might have been found
together with his friends Krafft and Schilsky, at the latter's lodging
in the TALSTRASSE. He was astride a chair, over the back of which he
had folded his arms; and his chubby, rubicund face glistened with
moisture.

In the middle of the room, at the corner of a bare deal table that was
piled with loose music and manuscript, Schilsky sat improving and
correcting the tails and bodies of hastily made, notes. He was still
in his nightshirt, over which he had thrown coat and trousers; and,
wide open at the neck, it exposed to the waist a skin of the dead
whiteness peculiar to red-haired people. His face, on the other hand,
was sallow and unfresh; and the reddish rims of the eyes, and the
coarsely self-indulgent mouth, contrasted strikingly with the general
youthfulness of his appearance. He had the true musician's head: round
as a cannon-ball, with a vast, bumpy forehead, on which the soft
fluffy hair began far back, and stood out like a nimbus. His eyes were
either desperately dreamy or desperately sharp, never normally
attentive or at rest; his blunted nose and chin were so short as to
make the face look top-heavy. A carefully tended young moustache stood
straight out along his cheeks. He had large, slender hands, and quick
movements.

The air of the room was like a thin grey veiling, for all three puffed
hard at cigarettes. Without removing his from between his
teeth, Schilsky related an adventure of the night before. He spoke in
jerks, with a strong lisp, intent on what he was doing than on what he
was saying.

"Do you think he'd budge?" he asked in a thick, spluttery way. "Not
he. Till nearly two. And then I couldn't get him along. He thought it
wasn't eleven, and wanted to relieve himself at every corner. To
irritate an imaginary bobby. He disputed with them, too. Heavens, what
sport it was! At last I dragged him up here and got him on the sofa.
Off he rolls again. So I let him lie. He didn't disturb me."

Heinrich Krafft, the hero of the episode lay on the short,
uncomfortable sofa, with the table-cover for a blanket. In answer to
Schilsky, he said faintly, without opening his eyes: "Nothing would.
You are an ox. When I wake this morning, with a mouth like gum arabic,
he sits there as if he had not stirred all night. Then to bed, and
snores till midday, through all the hellish light and noise."

Here Furst could not resist making a little joke. He announced himself
by a chuckle-like the click of a clock about to strike.

"He's got to make the most of his liberty. He doesn't often get off
duty. We know, we know." He laughed tonelessly, and winked at Krafft.

Krafft quoted:

In der Woche zwier--

"Now, you fellows, shut up!" said Schilsky. It was plain that banter
of this kind was not disagreeable to him; at the same time he was just
at the moment too engrossed, to have more than half an car for what
was said. With his short-sighted eyes close to the paper, he was
listening with all his might to some harmonies that his fingers played
on the table. When, a few minutes later he rose and stretched the
stiffness from his limbs, his face, having lost its expression of rapt
concentration, seemed suddenly to have grown younger. He set about
dressing himself by drawing off his nightshirt over his head. At a
word from him, Furst sprang to collect utensils for making coffee.
Heinrich Krafft opened his eyes and followed their movements; and the
look he had for Schilsky was as warily watchful as a cat's.

Schilsky, an undeveloped Hercules--he was narrow in proportion to his
height--and still naked to the waist, took some bottles from a long
line of washes and perfumes that stood on the washstand, and,
crossing to an elegant Venetian-glass mirror, hung beside the window,
lathered his chin. It was a peculiarity of his only to be able to
attend thoroughly to one thing at a time, and a string of witticisms
uttered by Furst passed unheeded. But Krafft's first words made him
start.

Having watched him for some time, the latter said slowly. "I say, old
fellow, are you sure it's all square about Lulu and this Dresden
business?"

Razor in hand, Schilsky turned and looked at him. As he did so, he
coloured, and answered with an over-anxious haste: "Of course I am. I
made her go. She didn't want to"

"That's a well-known trick."

The young man scowled and thrust out his under-lip. "Do you think I'm
not up to their tricks? Do you want to teach me how to manage a woman?
I tell you I sent her away."

He tried to continue shaving, but was visibly uneasy. "Well, if you
won't believe me," he said, with sudden anger, though neither of the
others had spoken. "Now where the deuce is that letter?"

He rummaged among the music and papers on the table; in chaotic
drawers; beneath dirty, fat-scaled dinner-dishes on the washstand;
between door and stove, through a kind of rubbishheap that had formed
with time, of articles of dress, spoiled sheets of music-paper, soiled
linen, empty bottles, and boots, countless boots, single and in pairs.
When he had found what he looked for, he ran his eyes down the page,
as if he were going to read it aloud. Then, however, he changed his
mind; a boyish gratification overspread his face, and, tossing the
letter to Krafft, he bade them read it for themselves. Furst leaned
over the end of the sofa. It was written in English, in a bold,
scrawly hand, and ran, without date or heading:

MY OWN DEAREST

NOW ONLY FOUR DAYS MORE--I COUNT THEM MORNING AND NIGHT. I AM GOOD FOR
NOTHING--MY THOUGHTS ARE ALWAYS WITH YOU. YESTERDAY AT THE GALLERY I
SAT ALONE IN THE ROOM WHERE THE MADONNA IS, PRETENDING ENTHUSIASM--WHILE
THE REST WENT TO HOLBEIN--AND READ YOUR LETTER OVER AND OVER
AGAIN. BUT IT MADE ME A LITTLE UNHAPPY TOO, FOR I SOON FOUND OUT THAT
YOU HAD WRITTEN IT AT THREE DIFFERENT TIMES. IS IT REALLY SO HARD TO
WRITE TO LULU?

HAVE YOU WORKED BETTER FOR WANT OF INTERRUPTION ?--MY DAMNED
INTERRUPTIONS, AS YOU CALLED THEM LAST WEEK WHEN YOU WERE SO ANGRY
WITH ME. SHALL YOU HAVE A GREAT DEAL TO SHOW ME WHEN I COME HOME?
NO--DON'T SAY YOU WILL--OR I SHALL HATE ZARATHUSTRA MORE THAN I DO
ALREADY.

AND NOW ONLY TILL FRIDAY. THIS TIME YOU WILL MEET ME YES?--AND NOT COME
TO THE STATION AN HOUR LATE, AS YOU SAID YOU DID LAST TIME. IF YOU ARE
NOT THERE--I WARN YOU--I SHALL THROW MYSELF UNDER THE TRAIN. I AM
WRITING, TO GRUNHUT. GET FLOWERS--THERE IS MONEY IN ONE OF THE VASES
ON THE WRITING-TABLE. OH, IF YOU ONLY WILL, WE SHALL HAVE SUCH A HAPPY
EVENING--IF ONLY YOU WILL. AND I SHALL NEVER LEAVE YOU AGAIN, NEVER
AGAIN.

YOUR OWN LOVING, L.

Furst could not make out much of this; he was still spelling through
the first paragraph when Krafft had finished. Schilsky, who had gone
on dressing, kept a sharp eye on his friends--particularly on Krafft.

"Well?" he asked eagerly as the letter was laid down.

Krafft was silent, but Furst kissed his finger-tips to a large hanging
photograph of the girl in question, and was facetious on the subject
of dark, sallow women.

"And you, Heinz? What do you say?" demanded Schilsky with growing
impatience.

Still Krafft did not reply, and Schilsky was mastered by a violent
irritation.

"Why the devil can't you open your mouth? What's the matter with you?
Have YOU anything like that to show--you Joseph, you?"

Krafft let a waxen hand drop over the side of the sofa and trail on
the floor. "The letters were burned, dear boy--when you appeared." He
closed his eyes and smiled, seeming to remember something. But a
moment later, he fixed Schilsky sharply, and asked: "You want my
opinion, do you?"

"Of course I do," said Schilsky, and flung things about the room.

"Lulu," said Krafft with deliberation, "Lulu is getting you under her
thumb."

The other sprang up, swore, and aimed a boot, which he had been vainly
trying to put on the wrong foot, at a bottle that protruded from the
rubbish-heap.

"Me? Me under her thumb?" he spluttered--his lips became more
marked under excitement. "I should like to see her try it. You don't
know me. You don't know Lulu. I am her master, I tell you. She can't
call her soul her own."

"And yet," said Krafft, unmoved, "it's a fact all the same."

Schilsky applied a pair of curling tongs to his hair, at such a degree
of heat that a lock frizzled, and came off in his hand. His anger
redoubled. "Is it my fault that she acts like a wet-nurse? Is that
what you call being under her thumb?" he cried.

Furst tried to conciliate him and to make peace. "You're a lucky dog,
old fellow, and you know you are. We all know it--in spite of
occasional tantaras. But you would be still luckier if you took a
friend's sound advice and got you to the registrar. Ten minutes before
the registrar, and everything would be different. Then she might play
up as she liked; you would be master in earnest."

"Registrar?" echoed Krafft with deep scorn. "Listen to the ape! Not if
we can hinder it. When he's fool enough for that--I know him--it will be
with something fresher and less faded, something with the bloom still
on it."

Schilsky winced as though he had been struck. Her age--she was eight
years older than he--was one of his sorest points.

"Oh, come on, now," said Furst as he poured out the coffee. "That's
hardly fair. She's not so young as she might be, it's true, but no one
can hold a candle to her still. Lulu is Lulu."

"Ten minutes before the registrar," continued Krafft, meditatively
shaking his head. "And for the rest of life, chains. And convention.
And security, which stales. And custom, which satiates. Oh no, I am
not for matrimony!"

Schilsky's ill-humour evaporated in a peal of boisterous laughter.
"Yes, and tell us why, chaste Joseph, tell us why," he cried, throwing
a brush at his friend. "Or go to the devil--where you're at home."

Krafft warded off the brush. "Look here," he said, "confess. Have you
kissed another girl for months? Have you had a single billet-doux?"

But Schilsky only winked provokingly. Having finished laughing, he
said with emphasis: "But after Lulu, they are all tame. Lulu is Lulu,
and that's the beginning and end of the matter."

"Exactly my opinion," said Furst. "And yet, boys, if I wanted
to make your mouths water, I could." He closed one eye and smacked his
lips. "I know of something--something young and blond . . . and dimpled
. . . and round, round as a feather-pillow"--he made descriptive
movements of the hand--"with a neck, boys, a neck, I say----" Here in
sheer ecstasy, he stuck fast, and could get no further.

Schilsky roared anew. "He knows of something . . . so he does," he
cried--Furst's pronounced tastes were a standing joke among them.
"Show her to us, old man, show her to us! Where are you hiding her? If
she's under eighteen, she'll do--under eighteen, mind you, not a day
over. Come along, I'm on for a spree. Up with you, Joseph!"

He was ready, come forth from the utter confusion around him, like a
god from a cloud. He wore light grey clothes, a loosely knotted,
bright blue tie, with floating ends and conspicuous white spots, and
buttoned boots of brown kid. Hair and handkerchief were strongly
scented.

Krafft, having been prevailed on to rise, made no further toilet than
that of dipping his head in a basin of water, which stood on the tail
of the grand piano. His hair emerged a mass of dripping ringlets,
covetously eyed by his companions.

They walked along the streets, Schilsky between the others, whom he
overtopped by head and shoulders: three young rebels out against the
Philistines: three bursting charges of animal spirits.

There was to be a concert that evening at the Conservatorium, and,
through vestibule and entrance-halls, which, for this reason, were
unusually crowded, the young men made a kind of triumphal progress.
Especially Schilsky. Not a girl, young or old, but peddled for a word
or a look from him; and he was only too prodigal of insolently
expressive glances, whispered greetings, and warm pressures of the
hand. The open flattery and bold adoration of which he was the object
mounted to his head; he felt secure in his freedom, and brimful of
selfconfidence; and, as the three of them walked back to the town, his
exhilaration, a sheer excess of well-being, was no longer to be kept
within decent bounds.

"Wait!" he cried suddenly as they were passing the Gewandhaus. "Wait a
minute! See me make that woman there take a fit."

He ran across the road to the opposite pavement, where the only person
in sight, a stout, middle-aged woman, was dragging slowly
along, her arms full of parcels; and, planting himself directly in
front of her, so that she was forced to stop, he seized both her hands
and worked them up and down.

"Now upon my soul, who would have thought of seeing you here, you
baggage, you?" he cried vociferously.

The woman was speechless from amazement; her packages fell to the
ground, and she gazed open-mouthed at the wild-haired lad before her,
making, at the same time, vain attempts to free her hands.

"No, this really is luck," he went on, holding her fast. "Come, a
kiss, my duck, just one! EIN KUSSCHEN IN EHREN, you know----" and, in
very fact, he leaned forward and pecked at her cheek.

The blood dyed her face and she panted with rage.

"You young scoundrel!" she gasped. "You impertinent young dog! I'll
give you in charge. I'll--I'II report you to the police. Let me go this
instant--this very instant, do you hear?--or I'll scream for help."

The other two had come over to enjoy the fun. Schilsky turned to them
with a comical air of dismay, and waved his arm. "Well I declare, if I
haven't been and made a mistake!" he exclaimed, and slapped his
forehead. "I'm out by I don't know how much--by twenty years, at least.
No thank you, Madam, keep your kisses! You're much too old and ugly
for me."

He flourished his big hat in her face, pirouetted on his heel, and the
three of them went down the street, hallooing with laughter.

They had supper together at the BAVARIA, Schilsky standing treat; for
they had gone by way of the BRUDERSTRASSE, where he called in to
investigate the vase mentioned in the letter. Afterwards, they
commenced an informal wandering from one haunt to another, now by
themselves, now with stray acquaintances. Krafft, who was still
enfeebled by the previous night, and who, under the best of
circumstances, could not carry as much as his friends, was the first
to give in. For a time, they got him about between them. Then Furst
grew obstreperous, and wanted to pour his beer on the floor as soon as
it was set before him, so that they were put out of two places, in the
second of which they left Krafft. But the better half of the night was
over before Schilsky was comfortably drunk, and in a state to unbosom
himself to a sympathetic waitress, about the hardship it was to be
bound to some one older than yourself. He shed tears of pity at
his lot, and was extremely communicative. "'N KORPER, SCHA-AGE IHNEN,
'N KORPER!" but old, old, a "HALB'SCH JAHR' UND'RT" older than he was,
and desperately jealous.

"It's too bad; such a nice young man as you are," said the MAMSELL,
who, herself not very sober, was sitting at ease on his knee, swinging
her legs. "But you nice ones are always chicken-hearted. Treat her as
she deserves, my chuck, and make no bones about it. Just let her
rip--and you stick to me!"




VI.



One cold, windy afternoon, when dust was stirring and rain seemed
imminent, Maurice Guest walked with bent head and his hat pulled over
his eyes. He was returning from the ZEITZERSTRASSE, where, in a
photographer's show-case, he had a few days earlier discovered a large
photograph of Louise. This was a source of great pleasure to him.
Here, no laws of breeding or delicacy hindered him from gazing at her
as often as he chose.

On this particular day, whether he had looked too long, or whether the
unrest of the weather, the sense of something impending, the dusty
dryness that craved rain, had got into his blood and disquieted him:
whatever it was, he felt restless and sick for news of her, and, at
this very moment, was on his way to Madeleine, in the foolish hope of
hearing her name.

But a little adventure befell him which made him forget his intention.

He was about to turn the corner of a street, when a sudden blast of
wind swept round, bearing with it some half dozen single sheets of
music. For a moment they whirled high, then sank fluttering to the
ground, only to rise again and race one another along the road.
Maurice instinctively gave chase, but it was not easy to catch them;
no sooner had he secured one than the next was out of his reach.

Meanwhile their owner, a young and very pretty girl, looked on and
laughed, without making any effort to help him; and the more he
exerted himself, the more she laughed. In one hand she was carrying a
violin-case, in the other a velvet muff, which now and again she
raised to her lips, as if to conceal her mirth. It was a graceful
movement, but an unnecessary one, for her laughter was of that
charming kind, which never gives offence; and, besides that, although
it was continuous, it was neither hearty enough nor frank enough to be
unbecoming the face was well under control. She stood there, with her
head slightly on one side, and the parted lips showed both rows of
small, even teeth; but the smile was unvarying, and, in spite of her
merriment, her eyes did not for an instant quit the young man's face,
as he darted to and fro.

Maurice could not help laughing himself, red and out of breath
though he was.

"Now for the last one," he said in German.

At these words she seemed more amused than ever. "I don't speak
German," she answered in English, with a strong American accent.

Having captured all the sheets, Maurice tried to arrange them for her.

"It's my Kayser," she explained with a quick, upward glance, adding
the next minute with a fresh ripple of laughter. "He's all to pieces."

"You have too much to carry," said Maurice. "On such a windy day,
too."

"That's what Joan said--Joan is my sister," she continued. "But I guess
it's so cold this afternoon I had to bring a muff along. If my fingers
are stiff I can't play, and then Herr Becker is angry." But she
laughed again as she spoke, and it was plain that the master's wrath
did not exactly incite fear. "Joan always comes along, but to-day
she's sick."

"Will you let me help you?" asked Maurice, and a moment later he was
walking at her side.

She handed over music and violin to him without a trace of hesitation;
and, as they went along the PROMENADE, she talked to him with as
little embarrassment as though they were old acquaintances. It was so
kind of him to help her, she thought; she couldn't imagine how she
would ever have got home without him, alone against the wind; and she
was perfectly sure he must be American--no one but an American would be
so nice. When Maurice denied this, she laughed very much indeed, and
was not sure, this being the case, whether she could like him or not;
as a rule, she didn't like English people; they were stiff and horrid,
and were always wanting either to be introduced or to shake hands.
Here she carried her muff up to her lips again, and her eyes shone
mischievously at him over the dark velvet. Maurice had never known
anyone so easily moved to laughter; whenever she spoke she laughed,
and she laughed at everything he said.

Off the PROMENADE, where the trees were of a marvellous Pale green,
they turned into a street of high spacious houses, the dark lines of
which were here and there broken by an arched gateway, or the delicate
tints of a spring garden. To a window in one of the largest houses
Maurice's little friend looked up, and smiled and nodded.

"There's my sister."

The young man looked, too, and saw a dark, thin-faced girl, who, when
she found four eyes fixed on her, abruptly drew in her head, and as
abruptly put it out again, leaning her two hands on the sill.

"She's wondering who it is," said Maurice's companion gleefully. Then,
turning her face up, she made a speaking-trumpet of her hands, and
cried: "It's all right, Joan.--Now I must run right up and tell her
about it," she said to Maurice. "Perhaps she'll scold; Joan is very
particular. Good-bye. Thank you ever so much for being so good to
me--oh, won't you tell me your name?"

The very next morning brought him a small pink note, faintly scented.
The pointed handwriting was still childish, but there was a coquettish
flourish beneath the pretty signature: Ephie Cayhill. Besides a
graceful word of thanks, she wrote: WE ARE AT HOME EVERY SUNDAY. MAMMA
WOULD BE VERY PLEASED.

Maurice did not scruple to call the following week, and on doing so,
found himself in the midst of one of those English-speaking coteries,
which spring up in all large, continental towns. Foreigners were not
excluded--Maurice discovered two or three of his German friends,
awkwardly balancing their cups on their knees. In order, however, to
gain access to the circle, it was necessary for them to have a
smattering of English; they had also to be flint against any open or
covert fun that might be made of them or their country; and above all,
to be skilled in the art of looking amiable, while these visitors from
other lands heatedly readjusted, to their own satisfaction, all that
did not please them in the life and laws of this country that was
temporarily their home.

Mrs. Cayhill was a handsome woman, who led a comfortable, vegetable
existence, and found it a task to rise from the plump sofa-cushion.
Her pleasant features were slack, and in those moments of life which
called for a sudden decision, they wore the helpless bewilderment of a
woman who has never been required to think for herself. Her grasp on
practical matters was rendered the more lax, too, by her being an
immoderate reader, who fed on novels from morning till night, and
slept with a page turned down beside her bed. She was for ever lost in
the joys or sorrows of some fictitious person, and, in consequence,
remained for the most part completely ignorant of what was going on
around her. When she did happen to become conscious of her
surroundings, she was callous, or merely indifferent, to them; for,
compared with romance, life was dull and diffuse; it lacked the wilful
simplicity, the exaggerative omissions, and forcible perspectives,
which make up art: in other words, life demanded that unceasing work
of selection and rejection, which it is the story-teller's duty to
Perform for his readers. All novels were fish to Mrs. Cayhill's net;
she lived in a world of intrigue and excitement, and, seated in her
easy-chair by the sitting-room window, was generally as remote from
her family as though she were in Timbuctoo.

There was a difference of ten years in age between her daughters, and
it was the younger of the two whose education was being completed.
Johanna, the elder, had been a disappointment to her mother. Left to
her own devices at an impressionable age, the girl had developed
bookish tastes at the cost of her appearance: influenced by a
free-thinking tutor of her brothers', she had read Huxley and Haeckel,
Goethe and Schopenhauer. Her wish had been for a university career,
but she was not of a self-assertive nature, and when Mrs. Cayhill, who
felt her world toppling about her ears at the mention of such a thing,
said: "Not while I live!" she yielded, without a further word; and the
fact that such an emphatic expression of opinion had been drawn from
the mild-tempered mother, made it a matter of course that no other
member of the family took Johanna's part. So she buried her ambitions,
and kept her mother's house in an admirable, methodical way.

It was not the sacrifice it seemed, however, because Johanna adored
her little sister, and would cheerfully have given up more than this
for her sake. Ephie, who was at that time just emerging from
childhood, was very pretty and precocious, and her mother had great
hopes of her. She also tired early of her lesson-books, and, soon
after she turned sixteen, declared her intention of leaving school. As
at least a couple of years had still to elapse before she was old
enough to be introduced in society, Mrs. Cayhill, taking the one
decisive step of her life, determined that travel in Europe should put
the final touches to Ephie's education: a little German and French;
some finishing lessons on the violin; a run through Italy and
Switzerland, and then to Paris, whence they would carry back with them
a complete and costly outfit. So, valiantly, Mrs. Cayhill had her
trunks packed, and, together with Johanna, who would as soon
have thought of denying her age as of letting these two helpless
beings go out into the world alone, they crossed the Atlantic.

For some three months now, they had been established in Leipzig. A
circulating library, rich in English novels, had been discovered; Mrs.
Cayhill was content; and it began to be plain to Johanna that the
greater part of their two years' absence would be spent in this place.
Ephie, too, had already had time to learn that, as far as music was
concerned, her business was not so much with finishing as with
beginning, and that the road to art, which she with all the rest must
follow, was a steep one. She might have found it still more arduous,
had Herr Becker, her master, not been a young man and very
impressionable. And Ephie never looked more charming than when, with
her rounded, dimpled arm raised in an exquisite curve, she leaned her
cheek against the glossy brown wood of her violin.

She was pretty with that untouched, infantine prettiness, before which
old and young go helplessly down. She was small and plump, with a
full, white throat and neck, and soft, rounded hands and wrists, that
were dimpled like a baby's. Her brown hair was drawn back from the low
forehead, but, both here and at the back of her neck, it broke into
innumerable little curls, which were much lighter in colour than the
rest. Her skin, faintly tinged, was as smooth as the skin of a cherry;
it had that exquisite freshness which is only to be found in a very
young girl, and is lovelier than the bloom on ripe fruit. Her dark
blue eyes were well opened, but the black lashes were so long and so
peculiarly straight that the eyes themselves were usually hidden, and
this made it all the more effective did she suddenly look up. Moulded
like wax, the small, upturned nose seemed to draw the top lip after
it; anyhow, the upper lip was too short to meet the lower, and
consequently, they were always slightly apart, in a kind of
questioning amaze. This mouth was the real beauty of the face: bright
red, full, yet delicate, arched like a bow, with corners that went in
and upwards, it belonged, by right of its absolute innocence, to the
face of a little child; and the thought was monstrous that nature and
the years would eventually combine to destroy so perfect a thing.

She also had a charming laugh, with a liquid note in it, that made one
think of water bubbling on a dry summer day.

It was this laugh that held the room on Sunday afternoon, and
drew the handful of young men together, time after time.

Mrs. Cayhill, who, on these occasions, was wont to lay aside her book,
was virtually a deeper echo of her little daughter, and Johanna only
counted in so far as she made and distributed cups of tea at the end
of the room. She did not look with favour on the young men who
gathered there, and her manner to them was curt and unpleasing. Each
of them in turn, as he went up to her for his cup, cudgelled his brain
for something to say; but it was no easy matter to converse with
Johanna. The ordinary small change and polite commonplace of
conversation, she met with a silent contempt. In musical chit-chat,
she took no interest whatever, and pretended to none, openly indeed
"detested music," and was unable to distinguish Mendelssohn from
Wagner, "except by the noise;" while if a bolder man than the rest
rashly ventured on the literary ground that was her special demesne,
she either smiled at what he said, in a disagreeably sarcastic way, or
flatly contradicted him. She was the thorn in the flesh of these young
men; and after having dutifully spent a few awkward moments at her
side, they stole back, one by one, to the opposite end of the room.
Here Ephie, bewitchingly dressed in blue, swung to and fro in a big
American rocking-chair--going backwards, it carried her feet right off
the ground--and talked charming nonsense, to the accompaniment of her
own light laugh, and her mother's deeper notes, which went on like an
organ-point, Mrs. Cayhill finding everything Ephic said, matchlessly
amusing.

As Dove and Maurice walked there together for the first time--it now
leaked out that Dove spent every Sunday afternoon in the
LESSINGSTRASSE--he spoke to Maurice of Johanna. Not in a disparaging
way; Dove had never been heard to mention a woman's name otherwise
than with respect. And, in this case, he deliberately showed up
Johanna's good qualities, in the hope that Maurice might feel
attracted by her, and remain at her side; for Dove had fallen deeply
in love with Ephie, and had, as it was, more rivals than he cared for,
in the field.

"You should get on with her, I think, Guest," he said slily. "You
read these German writers she is so interested in. But don't be
discouraged by her manner. For though she's one of the most unselfish
women I ever met, her way of Speaking is sometimes abrupt. She reminds
me, if it doesn't sound unkind, of a faithful watch-dog, or
something of the sort, which cannot express its devotion as it would
like to."

When, after a lively greeting from Ephie, and a few pleasant words
from Mrs. Cayhill, Maurice found himself standing beside Johanna, the
truth of Dove's simile was obvious to him. This dark, unattractive
girl had apparently no thought for anything but her tea-making; she
moved the cups this way and that, filled the pot with water, blew out
and lighted again the flame of the spirit-lamp, without paying the
least heed to Maurice, making, indeed, such an ostentatious show of
being occupied, that it would have needed a brave man to break in upon
her duties with idle words. He remained standing, however, in a
constrained silence, which lasted until she could not invent anything
else to do, and was obliged to drink her own tea. Then he said
abruptly, in a tone which he meant to be easy, but which was only
jaunty: "And how do you like being in Germany, Miss Cayhill? Does it
not seem very strange after America?"

Johanna lifted her shortsighted eyes to his face, and looked coolly
and disconcertingly at him through her glasses, as if she had just
become aware of his presence.

"Strange? Why should it?" she asked in an unfriendly tone.

"Why, what I mean is, everything must be so different here from what
you are accustomed to--at least it is from what we are used to in
England," he corrected himself. "The ways and manners, and the
language, and all that sort of thing, you know."

"Excuse me, I do not know," she answered in the same tone as before.
"If a person takes the trouble to prepare himself for residence in a
foreign country, nothing need seem either strange or surprising. But
English people, as is well known, expect to find a replica of England
in every country they go to."

There was a pause, in which James, the pianist, who was a regular
visitor, approached to have his cup refilled. All the circle knew, of
course, that Johanna was "doing for a new man"; and it seemed to
Maurice that James half closed one eye at him, and gave him a small,
sympathetic nudge with his elbow.

So he held to his guns. When James had retired, he began anew, without
preamble.

"My friend Dove tells me you are interested in German
literature?" he said with a slight upward inflection in his voice.

Johanna did not reply, but she shot a quick glance at him, and
colouring perceptibly, began to fidget with the tea-things.

"I've done a little in that line myself," continued Maurice, as she
made no move to answer him. "In a modest way, of course. Just lately I
finished reading the JUNGFRAU VON ORLEANS."

"Is that so?" said Johanna with an emphasis which made him colour
also.

"It is very fine, is it not?" he asked less surely, and as she again
acted as though he had not spoken, he lost his presence of mind. "I
suppose you know it? You're sure to."

This time Johanna turned scarlet, as if he had touched her on a sore
spot, and answered at once, sharply and rudely. "And I suppose," she
said, and her hands shook a little as they fussed about the tray,
"that you have also read MARIA STUART, and TELL, and a page or two of
Jean Paul. You have perhaps heard of Lessing and Goethe, and you
consider Heine the one and only German poet."

Maurice did not understand what she meant, but she had spoken so
loudly and forbiddingly that several eyes were turned on them, making
it incumbent on him not to take offence. He emptied his cup, and put
it down, and tried to give the matter an airy turn.

"And why not?" he asked pleasantly. "Is there anything wrong in
thinking so? Schiller and Goethe WERE great poets, weren't they? And
you will grant that Heine is the only German writer who has had
anything approaching a style?"

Johanna's face grew stony. "I have no intention of granting anything,"
she said. "Like all English people--it flatters your national vanity, I
presume--you think German literature began and ended with Heine.--A
miserable Jew!"

"Yes, but I say, one can hardly make him responsible for being a Jew,
can you? What has that got to do with it?" exclaimed Maurice, this
being a point of view that had never presented itself to him. And as
Johanna only murmured something that was inaudible, he added lamely:
"Then you don't think much of Heine?"

But she declined to be drawn into a discussion, even into an
expression of opinion, and the young man continued, with apology in
his tone: "It may be bad taste on my part, of course. But one
hears it said on every side. If you could tell me what I ought to
read . . . or, perhaps, advise me a little?" he ended tentatively.

"I don't lend my books," said Johanna more rudely than she had yet
spoken. And that was all Maurice could get from her. A minute or two
later, she rose and went out of the room.

It became much less restrained as soon as the door had closed behind
her. Ephie laughed more roguishly, and Mrs. Cayhill allowed herself to
find what her little daughter said, droller than before. With an
appearance of unconcern, Maurice strolled back to the group by the
window. Dove was also talking of literature.

"That reminds me, how did you like the book I lent you on Wednesday,
Mrs. Cayhill?" he asked, at the same instant springing forward to pick
up Ephie's handkerchief, which had fallen to the ground.

"Oh, very much indeed, very interesting, very good of you," answered
Mrs. Cayhill. "Ephie, darling, the sun is shining right on your face."

"What was it?" asked James, while Dove jumped up anew to lower the
blind, and Ephie raised a bare, dimpled arm to shade her eyes.

Mrs. Cayhill could not recollect the title just at once she had a
"wretched memory for names"--and went over what she had been reading.

"Let me see, it was . . . no, that was yesterday: SHADOWED BY THREE, a
most delightful Book. On Friday, RICHARD ELSMERE, and--oh, yes, I know,
it was about a farm, an Australian farm."

"THE STORY OF AN AFRICAN FARM," put in Dove mildly, returning to his
seat.

"Australian or African, it doesn't matter which," said Mrs. Cayhill.
"Yes, a nice book, but a little coarse in parts, and very foolish at
the end--the disguising, and the dying out of doors, and the
looking-glass, and all that."

"I must say I think it a very powerful book," said Dove solemnly.
"That part, you know, where the boy listens to the clock ticking in
the night, and thinks to himself that with every tick, a soul goes
home to God. A very striking idea!"

"Why, I think it must be a horrid book," cried Ephie. "All about
dying. Fancy some one dying every minute. It couldn't possibly
be true. For then the world would soon be empty."

"Always there are coming more into it," said Furst, in his blunt,
broken English.

A pause ensued. Dove flicked dust off his trouser-leg; and the
American men present were suddenly fascinated by the bottoms of their
cups. Ephie was the first to regain her composure.

"Now let us talk of something pleasant, something quite different--from
dying." She turned and, over her shoulder, laughed mischievously at
Maurice, who was siting behind her. Then, leaning forward in her
chair, with every eye upon her, she told how Maurice had saved her
music from the wind, and, with an arch face, made him appear very
ridiculous. By her prettily exaggerated description of a heated,
perspiring young man, darting to and fro, and muttering to himself in
German, her hearers, Maurice included, were highly diverted--and no one
more than Mrs. Cayhill.

"You puss, you puss!" she cried, wiping her eyes and shaking a finger
at the naughty girl.

The general amusement had hardly subsided when Furst rose to his feet,
and, drawing his heels together, made a flowery little speech, the
gist of which was, that he would have esteemed himself a most
fortunate man, had he been in Maurice's place. Ephie and her mother
exchanged looks, and shook with ill-concealed mirth, so that Furst,
who had spoken serioulsy and in good faith, sat down red and
uncomfortable; and Boehmer, who was dressed in what he believed to be
American fashion, smiled in a superior manner, to show he was aware
that Furst was making himself ridiculous.

"Look here, Miss Ephie," said James; "the next time you have to go out
alone, just send for me, and I'll take care of you."

"Or me" said Dove. "You have only to let me know."

"No, no, Mr. Dove!" cried Mrs. Cayhill. "You do far too much for her
as it is. You'll spoil her altogether."

But at this, several of the young men exclaimed loudly: that would be
impossible. And Ephie coloured becomingly, raised her lashes, and
distributed winning smiles. Then quiet had been restored, she assured
them that they all very kind, but she would never let anyone go with
her but Joan--dear old Joan. They could not imagine how fond she was of
Joan.

"She is worth more than all of you put together." And at the
cries of: "Oh, oh!" she was thrown into a new fit of merriment, and
went still further. "I would not give Joan's little finger for anyone
in the world."

And meanwhile, as all her hearers--all, that is to say, except Dove,
who sat moody, fingering his slight moustache, and gazing at Ephie
with fondly reproachful eyes--as all of them, with Mrs. Cayhill at
their head, made vehement protest against this sweeping assertion,
Johanna sat alone in her bedroom, at the back of the house. It was a
dull room, looking on a courtyard, but she was always glad to escape
to it from the flippant chatter in the sitting-room. Drawing a little
table to the window, she sat down and began to read. But, on this day,
her thoughts wandered; and, ultimately, propping her chin on her hand,
she fell into reverie, which began with something like "the fool and
his Schiller!" and ended with her rising, and going to the
well-stocked book-shelves that stood at the foot of the bed.

She took out a couple of volumes and looked through them, then
returned them to their places on the shelf. No, she said to herself,
why should she? What she had told the young man was true: she never
lent her books; he would soil them, or, worse still, not appreciate
them as he ought--she could not give anyone who visited there on
Sunday, credit for a nice taste.

Unknown to herself, however, something worked in her, for, the very
next time Maurice was there, she met him in the passage, as he was
leaving, and impulsively thrust a paper parcel into his hand.

"There is a book, if you care to take it."

He did not express the surprise he felt, nor did he look at the title.
But Ephie, who was accompanying him to the door, made a face of
laughing stupefaction behind her sister's back, and went out on the
landing with him, to whisper: "What HAVE you been doing to Joan?"--at
which remark, and at Maurice's blank face, she laughed so immoderately
that she was forced to go down the stairs with him, for fear Joan
should hear her; and, in the house-door, she stood, a white-clad
little figure, and waved her hand to him until he turned the corner.

Having read the first volume of HAMMER UND AMBOSS deep into two
nights, Maurice returned it and carried away the second. But it was
only after he had finished PROBLEMATISCHE NATUREN, and had
expressed himself with due enthusiasm, that Johanna began to thaw a
little. She did not discuss what he read with him; but, going on the
assumption that a person who could relish her favourite author had
some good in him, she gave the young man the following proof of her
favour.

Between Ephie and him there had sprung up spontaneously a mutual
liking, which it is hard to tell the cause of. For Ephie knew nothing
of Maurice's tastes, interests and ambitions, and he did not dream of
asking her to share them. Yet, with the safe instincts of a young
girl, she chose him for a brother from among all her other
acquaintances; called him "Morry"; scarcely ever coquetted with him;
and let him freely into her secrets. It is easier to see why Maurice
was attracted to her; for not only was Ephie pretty and charming; she
was also adorably equable--she did not know what it was to be out of
humour. And she was always glad to see him, always in the best
possible spirits. When he was dull or tired, it acted like a tonic on
him, to sit and let her merry chatter run over him. And soon, he found
plenty of makeshifts to see her; amongst other things, he arranged to
help her twice a week with harmony, which was, to her, an unexplorable
abyss; and he ransacked the rooms and shelves of his acquaintances to
find old Tauchnitz volumes to lend to Mrs. Cayhill.

The latter paid even less attention to the sudden friendship of her
daughter with this young man than the ordinary American mother would
have done; but Johanna's toleration of it was, for the most part, to
be explained by the literary interests before mentioned. For Johanna
was always in a tremble lest Ephie should become spoiled; and
thoughtless Ephie could, at times, cause her a most subtle torture, by
being prettily insincere, by assuming false coquettish airs, or by
seeming to have private thoughts which she did not confide to her
sister. This, and the knowledge that Ephie was now of an age when
every day might be expected to widen the distance between them,
sometimes made Johanna very gruff and short, even with Ephie herself.
As her sister, she alone knew how much was good and true under the
child's light exterior; she admired in Ephie all that she herself had
not--her fair prettiness, her blithe manner, her easy, graceful
words--and, had it been necessary, she would have gone down on her
knees to remove the stones from Ephie's path.

Thus although on the casual observer, Johanna only made the impression
of a dark, morose figure, which hovered round two childlike
beings, intercepting the sunshine of their lives, yet Maurice had soon
come often enough into contact with her to appreciate her
unselfishness; and, for the care she took of Ephie, he could almost
have liked her, had Johanna shown the least readiness to be liked.
Naturally, he did not understand how highly he was favoured by her; he
knew neither the depth of her affection for Ephie, nor the exact
degree of contempt in which she held the young men who dangled there
on a Sunday--poor fools who were growing fat on emotion and silly
ideas, when they should have been taking plain, hard fare at college.
To Dove, Johanna had a particular aversion; chiefly, and in a
contradictory spirit, because it was evident to all that his
intentions were serious. But she could not hinder wayward Ephie from
making a shameless use of him, and then laughing at him behind his
back--a laugh in which Mrs. Cayhill was not always able to refrain from
joining, though it must be said that she was usually loud in her
praises of Dove, at the expense of all visitors who were not American.

"From these Dutch you can't expect much, one way or the other," she
declared. "And young Guest sometimes sits there with a face as long as
my arm. But Dove is really a most sensible young fellow--why, he thinks
just as I do about Arnerica."

And as a special mark of favour, when Dove left the house on Sunday
afternoon, his pockets bulged with NEW YORK HERALDS.




VII.



Meanwhile, before the blinds in the BRUDERSTRASSE were drawn up again,
Maurice had found his way back to Madeleine. When they met, she smiled
at him in a somewhat sarcastic manner, but no reference was made to
the little falling-out they had had, and they began afresh to read and
play together. On the first afternoon, Maurice was full of his new
friends, and described them at length to her. But Madeleine damped his
ardour.

"I know them, yes, of course," she said. "The usual Americans--even
the blue-stocking, from whom heaven defend us. The little one is
pretty enough as long as she keeps her mouth shut. But the moment she
speaks, every illusion is shattered.--Why I don't go there on a Sunday?
Good gracious, do you think they want me?--me, or any other petticoat?
Are honours made to be divided?--No, Maurice, I don't like Americans. I
was once offered a position in America, as 'professor of piano and
voice-production' in a place called Schenectady; but I didn't
hesitate. I said to myself, better one hundred a year in good old
England, than five in a country where the population is so inflated
with its importance that I should always be in danger of running
amuck. And besides that, I should lose my accent, and forget how to
say 'leg'; while the workings of the stomach would be discussed before
me with an unpleasant freedom."

"You're too hard on them, Madeleine," said Maurice, smiling in spite
of himself. But he was beginning to stand in awe of her sharp tongue
and decided opinions; and, in the week that followed, he took himself
resolutely together, and did not let a certain name cross his lips.

Consequently, he was more than surprised on returning to his room one
day, to find a note from Madeleine, saying that she expected Louise
that very afternoon at three.

It was not news to Maurice that Louise had come home. The evening
before, as he turned out of the BRUDERSTRASSE, a closed droschke
turned into it. After the vehicle had lumbered past him and
disappeared, the thought crossed his mind that she might be
inside it. He had not then had time to go back but early this very
morning, he had passed the house and found the windows open. So
Madeleine had engaged her immediately! As usual, Furst had kept him
waiting for his lesson; it was nearly three o'clock already, and he
was so hurried that he could only change his collar; but, on the way
there, in a sudden spurt of gratitude, he ran to a flower-shop, and
bought a large bunch of carnations.

He arrived at Madeleine's room in an elation he did not try to hide;
and over the carnations they had a mock reconciliation. Madeleine
wished to distribute the flowers in different vases about the room,
but he asked her put them all together on the centre table. She
laughed and complied.

For several weeks now, musical circles had been in a stir over the
advent of a new piano-teacher named Schrievers--a person who called
himself a pupil of Liszt, held progressive views, arid, being a free
lance, openly ridiculed the antiquated methods of the Conservatorium.
Madeleine was extremely interested in the case, and, as they sat
waiting, talked about it to Maurice with great warmth, enlarging
especially upon the number of people who had the audacity to call
themselves pupils of Liszt. To Maurice, in his present frame of mind,
the matter seemed of no possible consequence--for all he cared, the
whole population of the town might lay claim to having been at
Weimar--and he could not understand Madeleine finding it important. For
he was in one of those moods when the entire consciousness is so
intently directed towards some end that, outside this end, nothing has
colour or vitality: all that has previously impressed and interested
one, has no more solidity than papier mache. Meanwhile she spoke on,
and did not appear to notice how time was flying. He was forced at
length to take out his watch, and exclaim, in feigned surprise, at the
hour.

"A quarter to four already!"

"Is it so late?" But on seeing his disturbance, she added: "It will be
all right. Louise was never punctual in her life."

He did his best to look unconcerned, and they spoke of that evening's
ABENDUNTERHALTUNG, at which Furst was to play. But by the time the
clock struck four, Maurice had relapsed, in spite of himself, into
silence. Madeleine rallied him.

"You must make shift with my company, Maurice. Not but what I am sure
Louise will come. But you see from this what she is--the most
unreliable creature in the world."

To pass the time, she suggested that he should help her to make
tea, and they were both busy, when the electric bell in the passage
whizzed harshly, and the next moment there came a knock at the door.
But it was not Louise. Instead, two persons entered, one of whom was
Heinrich Krafft, the other a short, thickset girl, in a man's felt hat
and a closely buttoned ulster.

On recognising her visitors, Madeleine made a movement of annoyance,
and drew her brows together. "You, Heinz!" she said.

Undaunted by this greeting, Krafft advanced to her and, taking her
hands, kissed them, one after the other. He was also about to kiss her
on the lips, but she defended herself. "Stop! We are not alone."

"Just for that reason," said the girl in the ulster drily.

"What ill wind blows you here to-day?" Madeleine asked him.

As he was still wearing his hat, she took it off, and dropped it on
the floor beside him; then she recollected Maurice, and made him known
to the other two. Coming forward, Maurice recalled to Krafft's memory
where they had already met, and what had passed between them. Before
he had finished speaking, Krafft burst into an unmannerly peal of
laughter. Madeleine laughed, too, and shook her finger at him. "You
have been up to your tricks again!" Avery Hill, the girl in the
ulster, did not laugh aloud, but a smile played round her mouth, which
Maurice found even more disagreeable than the mirth of which he had
been the innocent cause. He coloured, and withdrew to the window.

Krafft was so convulsed that he was obliged to sit down on the sofa,
where Madeleine fanned him with a sheet of music. He had been seized
by a kind of paroxysm, and laughed on and on, in a mirthless way, till
Avery Hill said suddenly and angrily: "Stop laughing at once, Heinz!
You will have hysterics."

In an instant he was sobered, and now he seemed to fall, without
transition, into a mood of dejection. Taking out his penknife, he set
to paring his nails, in a precise and preoccupied manner. Madeleine
turned to Maurice.

"You'll wonder what all this is about," she said apologetically. "But
Heinz is never happier than when he has succeeded in imposing on some
one--as he evidently did on you."

"Indeed!" said Maurice. Their laughter had been offensive to him, and
he found Krafft, and Madeleine with him, exceedingly foolish.

There was a brief silence. Krafft was absorbed in what he was doing,
and Avery Hill, on sitting down, had lighted a cigarette, which she
smoked steadily, in long-drawn whiffs. She was a pretty girl, in spite
of her severe garb, in spite, too, of her expression, which was too
composed and too self-sure to be altogether pleasing. Her face was
fresh of skin, below smooth fair hair, and her lips were the red, ripe
lips of Botticelli's angels and Madonnas. But the under one, being
fuller than the other, gave the mouth a look of over-decision, and it
would be difficult to imagine anything less girlish than were the cold
grey eyes.

"We came for the book you promised to lend Heinz," she said, blowing
off the spike of ash that had accumulated at the tip of the cigarette.
"He could not rest till he had it."

Madeleine placed a saucer on the table with the request to use it as
an ash-tray, and taking down a volume of De Quincey from the hanging
shelf, held it out to Krafft.

"There you are. It will interest me to hear what you make of it."

Krafft ceased his paring to glance at the title-page. "I shall
probably not open it," he said.

Madeleine laughed, and gave him a light blow on the hand with the
book. "How like you that is! As soon as you know that you can get a
thing, you don't want it any longer."

"Yes, that's Heinz all over," said Avery Hill. "Only what he hasn't
got, seems worth having."

Krafft shut his knife with a click, and put it back in his pocket."
And that's what you women can't understand, isn't it?--that the best of
things is the wishing for them. Once there, and they are nothing--only
another delusion. The happiest man is the man whose wishes are never
fulfilled. He always has a moon to cry for."

"Come, come now," said Madeleine. "We know your love for paradox. But
not to-day. There's no time for philosophising today. Besides, you are
in a pessimistic mood, and that's a bad sign."

"I and pessimism? Listen, heart of my heart, I have a new story for
you." He moved closer to her, and put his arm round her neck. "There
was once a man and his wife----"

But, at the first word, Madeleine put her hands to her ears.

"Mercy, have mercy, Heinz! No stories, I entreat you. And behave
yourself, too. Take your arm away." She tried to remove it. "I have
told you already, I can't have you here to-day. I'm expecting a
visitor."

He laid his head on her shoulder. "Let him come. Let the whole world
come. I don't budge. I am happy here."

"You must go and be happy elsewhere," said Madeleine more decisively
than she had yet spoken. "And before she comes, too."

"She? What she?"

"Never mind."

"For that very reason, Mada."

She whispered a word in his ear. He looked at her, incredulously at
first, then whimsically, with a sham dismay; and then, as if Maurice
had only just taken shape for him, he turned and looked at him also,
and from him to Madeleine, and back to him, finally bursting afresh
into a roar of laughter. Madeleine laid her hand over his mouth. "Take
him away, do," she said to Avery Hill--"as a favour to me."

"Yes, when I have finished my cigarette," said the girl without
stirring.

Unsettled all the same, it would seem, by what he had heard, Krafft
rose and shuffled about the room, with his hands in his pockets.
Approaching Maurice, he even stood for a moment and contemplated him,
with a kind of mock gravity. Maurice acted as if he did not see
Krafft; long since, he had taken up a magazine, and, half hidden in a
chair between window and writing-table, pretended to bury himself in
its contents. But he heard very plainly all that passed, and, at the
effect produced on Krafft by the name of the expected visitor, his
hands trembled with anger. If the fellow had stood looking at him for
another second, he would have got up and knocked him down. But Krafft
turned nonchalantly to the piano, where his attention was caught by a
song that was standing on the rack. He chuckled, and set about making
merciless fun of the music--the composer was an elderly
singing-teacher, of local fame. Madeleine grew angry, and tried to
take it from him.

"Hold your tongue, Heinz! If your own songs were more like this, they
would have a better chance of success. Now be quiet! I won't hear
another word. Herr Wendling is a very good friend of mine."

"A friend! Heavens! She says friend as if it were an excuse for
him.--Mada, let your friend cease making music if he hopes for
salvation. Let him buy a broom and sweep the streets--let him----"

"You are disgusting!"

She had got the music from him, but he was already at the piano,
parodying, from memory, the conventional accompaniment and sentimental
words of the song. "And this," he said, "from the learned ass who is
not yet convinced that the FEUERZAUBER is music, and who groans like a
dredge when the last act of SIEGFRIED is mentioned. Wendling and
Wagner! Listen to this!--for once, I am a full-blooded Wagnerite."

He felt after the chords that prelude Brunnhilde's awakening by
Siegfried. Until now, Avery Hill had sat indifferent, as though what
went on had nothing to do with her; but no sooner had Krafft commenced
to play than she grew uneasy; her eyes lost their cold assurance, and,
suddenly getting up and going round to the front of the piano, she
pushed the young man's hands from the keys. Krafft yielded his place
to her, and, taking up the chords where he had left them, she went on.
She played very well--even Maurice in his disturbance could, not but
notice it--with a firm, masculine touch, and that inborn ease, that
enviable appearance of perfect fitness, of being one with the
instrument, which even the greatest players do not always attain. She
had, besides, grip and rhythm, and long, close-knit hands insinuated
themselves artfully among the complicated harmonies.

When she began to play, Madeleine made "Tch, tch, tch!" and shook her
head, in despair of now ever being rid of them. Krafft remained
standing behind the piano at the window leaning his forehead on the
glass. Maurice, who watched them both surreptitiously, saw his face
change, and grow thoughful as he stood there; but when Avery Hill
ceased abruptly on a discord, he wheeled round at once and patted her on
the back. While looking over to Maurice, he said: "No doubt you found
that very pretty and affecting?"

"I think that's none of your business," said Maurice.

But Krafft did not take umbrage. "You don't say so?" he murmured with
a show of surprise.

"Now, go, go, go!" cried Madeleine. "What have I done to be subjected
to such a visitation? No, Heinz, you don't sit down again. Here's your
hat. Away with you!--or I'll have you put out by force."

And at last they really did go, to a cool bow from Maurice, who
still sat holding his magazine. But Madeleine had hardly closed the
door behind them, when, like a whirlwind, Krafft burst into the room
again.

"Mada, I forgot to ask you something," he said in a stage-whisper,
drawing her aside. "Tell me--you KUPPLERIN, you!--does he know her?" He
pointed over his shoulder with his thumb at Maurice.

Madeleine shook her head, in real vexation and distress, and laid a
finger on her lip. But it was of no use. Stepping over to Maurice,
Krafft bowed low, and held his hat against his breast.

"It is impossible for you to understand how deeply it has interested
me to meet you," he said. "Allow me, from the bottom of my heart, to
wish you success." Whereupon, before Maurice could say "damn!" he was
gone again, leaving his elfin laugh behind him in the air, like smoke.

Madeleine shut the door energetically and gave a sigh of relief.

"Thank goodness! I thought they would never go. And now, the chances
are, they'll run into Louise on the stairs. You'll wonder why I was so
bent on getting rid of them. It's a long story. I'll tell it to you
some other time. But if Louise had found them here when she came, she
would not have stayed. She won't have anything to do with Heinz."

"I don't wonder at it," said Maurice. He stood up and threw the
magazine on the table.

Madeleine displayed more astonishment than she felt. "Why what's the
matter? You're surely not going to take what Heinz said, seriously? He
was in a bad mood to-day, I know, and I noticed you were very short
with him. But you mustn't be foolish enough to be offended by him. No
one ever is. He is allowed to say and do just what he likes. He's our
spoilt child."

Maurice laughed. "The fellow is either a cad, or an unutterable fool.
You, Madeleine, may find his impertinence amusing. I tell you
candidly, I don't!" and he went on to make it clear to her that the
fault would not be his, were Krafft and he ever in the same room
together again. "The kind of man one wants to kick downstairs. What
the deuce did he mean by guffawing like that when you told him who was
coming?"

"You mean about Louise?" Madeleine gave a slight shrug. "Yes,
Maurice--unfortunately that was not to be avoided. But sit down
again, and let me explain things to you. When you hear----"

But he did not want explanations; he did not even want an answer to
the question he had put; his chief concern now was to get away. To
stay there, in that room, for another quarter of an hour, would be
impossible, on such tenterhooks was he. To stay--for what? Only to
listen to more slanderous hints, of the kind he had heard before. As
it was, he did not believe he could face her frankly, should she still
come. He felt as if, in some occult way, he had assisted at a
tampering with her good name.

"You will surely not be so childish?" said Madeleine, on seeing him
take up his hat.

"Childish?--you call it childish?" he exclaimed, growing angry with
her, too. "Do you know what time it is? Three o'clock, you write me,
and it's now a quarter past five. I have sat here doing nothing for
over two mortal hours. It seems to me that's enough, without being
made the butt of your friends' wit into the bargain. I'm sick of the
whole thing. Good-bye."

"We seem bound to quarrel," said Madeleine calmly. "And always about
Louise. But there's no use in being angry. I am not responsible for
what Heinz says and does. And on the mere chance of his coming in
to-day, to sit down and unroll another savoury story to you, about
your idol--would you have thanked me for it? Remember the time I did
try to open you eyes!--It's not fair either to blame me because Louise
hasn't come. I did my best for you. I can't help it if she's as stable
as water."

"I think you dislike her too much to want to help it," said Maurice
grimly. He stood staring at the carnations, and his resentment gave
way to depression, as he recalled the mood which he had bought them.

"Come back as soon as you feel better. I'm not offended, remember!"
Madeleine called after him as he went down the stairs. When she was
alone, she said "Silly boy!" and, still smiling, made excuses for him:
he had come with such pleasurable anticipations, and everything had
gone wrong. Heinz had behaved disagracefully, as only he could. While
as for Louise, one was no more able to rely on her than on a wisp straw;
and she, Madeleine, was little better than a fool not to have known
it.

She moved about the room, putting chairs and papers in their
places, for she could not endure disorder of any kind. Then she sat
down to write a letter; and when, some half hour later, the girl for
whom they had waited, actually came, she met her with exclamations of
genuine surprise.

"Is it really you? I had given you up long ago. Pray, do you know what
time it is?"

She took out her watch and dangled it before the other's eyes. But
Louise Dufrayer hardly glanced at it. As, however, Madeleine
persisted, she said: "I'm late, I know. But it was not my fault. I
couldn't get away."

She unpinned her hat, and shook back her hair; and Madeleine helped
her to take off her jacket, talking all the time. "I have been much
annoyed with you. Does it never occur to you that you may put other
people in awkward positions, by not keeping your word? But you are
just the same as of old--incorrigible."

"Then why try to improve me?" said the other with a show of lightness.
But almost simultaneously she turned away from Madeleine's
matter-of-fact tone, passed her handkerchief over her lips, and after
making a vain attempt to control herself, burst into tears.

Madeleine eyed her shrewdly. "What's the matter with you?"

But the girl who had sunk into a corner of the sofa merely shook her
head, and sobbed; and Madeleine, to whom such emotional outbreaks were
distasteful, went to the writing-table and busied herself there, with
her back to the room. She did not ask for an explanation, nor did her
companion offer any.

Louise abandoned herself to her tears with as little restraint as
though she were alone, holding her handkerchief to her eyes with both
hands and giving deep, spasmodic sobs, which had apparently been held
for some time in cheek.

Afterwards, she sat with her elbow on the end of the sofa, her face on
her hand, and, still shaken at intervals by a convulsive breath,
watched Madeleine make fresh tea. But when she took the cup that was
handed to her, she was so far herself again as to inquire whom she was
to have met, although her voice still did not obey her properly.

"Some one who is anxious to know you," replied Madeleine an air of
mystery. "But he couldn't, or rather would not, wait so long."

Louise showed no further curiosity. But when Madeleine said
with meaning emphasis that Krafft had also been there in the course of
the afternoon, she shrank perceptibly and flushed.

"What! Does he still exist?" she asked with an effort at playfulness.

"As you very well know," answered Madeleine drily. "Tell me, Louise,
how do you manage to keep out of his way?"

Louise made no rejoinder; she raised her cup to her lips, and the dark
blood that had stained her face, in a manner distressing to see,
slowly retreated. She continued to look down, and, the light of her
big, dark eyes gone out, her face seemed wan and dead. Madeleine,
studying her, asked herself, not for the first time, but, as always,
with an unclear irritation, what the secret of the other's charm was.
Beautiful she had never thought Louise; she was not even pretty, in an
honest way--at best, a strange, foreign-looking creature, dark-skinned,
black of eyes and hair, with flashing teeth, and a wonderfully mobile
mouth--and some people, hopeless devotees of a pink and white fairness,
had been known to call her plain. At this moment, she was looking her
worst; the heavy, blue-black lines beneath her eyes were deepened by
crying; her rough hair had been hastily coiled, unbrushed; and she was
wearing a shabby red blouse that was pinned across in front, where a
button was missing. There was nothing young or fresh about her; she
looked her twenty-eight years, every day of them--and more.

And yet, Madeleine knew that those who admired Louise would find her
as desirable at this moment as at any other. Hers was a nameless
charm; it was present in each gesture of the slim hands, in each turn
of the head, in every movement of, the broad, slender body. Strangers
felt it instantly; her very walk seemed provocative of notice; there
was something in the way her skirts clung, and moved with her, that
was different from the motion of other women's. And those whose type
she embodied went crazy about her. Madeleine remembered as though it
were yesterday, the afternoon on which Heinz had burst in to rave to
her of his discovery; and how he would have dragged her out hatless to
see this miracle. She remembered, too, after--days, when she had had
him there, pacing the floor, and pouring out his feelings to her,
infatuated, mad. An he was not the only one; they bowled over like
ninepins; an it would be the same for years to come--was there any
reason to wonder at Maurice Guest?

Meanwhile, as Madeleine sat thinking these and similar things,
Maurice was tramping through the ROSENTAL. The May afternoon, of
lucent sunshine and heaped, fleecy clouds, had tempted a host of
people into the great park, but he soon left them all behind him, for
he walked as though he were pursued. These people, placid, and content
of face, and the brightness of the day, jarred on him; he was out of
patience with himself, with Madeleine, with the World at large.
Especially with Madeleine, he bore her a grudge for her hints and
innuendoes, for being behind the scenes, as it were, and also for
being so ready to enlighten him; but, most of all, for a certain
malicious gratification, which was to be felt in ever word she said
about Louise.

He went steadily on, against the level bars of the afternoon sun and, by
the time he had tired himself bodily, he had worked off his inward
vexation as well. As he walked back towards the town, he was almost
ready to smile at his previous heat. What did all these others matter
to him? They could not hinder him from carrying through what he had
set his mind on. To-morrow was a day, and the next was another, and
the next again; and life, considered thus in days and opportunities,
was infinitely long.

He now felt not only an aversion to dwelling on his thoughts of an
hour back, but also the need of forgetting them altogether. And, in
nearing the LESSINGSTRASSE, he followed an impulse to go to Ephie and
to let her merry laugh wipe out the last traces of his ill-humour.

Mrs. Cayhill and Johanna were both reading in the sitting room, and
though Johanna agreeably laid aside her book, conversation languished.
Ephie was sent for, but did not come, and Maurice was beginning to
wish he had thought twice before calling, when her voice was heard in
the passage, and, a moment later, she burst into the room, with her
arms full of lilac, branches of lilac, which she explained had been
bought early that morning at the flower-market, by one of their
fellow-boarders. She hardly greeted Maurice, but going over to him
held up her scented burden, and was not content till he had buried his
face in it.

"Isn't it just sweet?" she cried holding it high for all to see. "And
the very first that is to be had. Again, Maurice again, put your face
right down into the middle of it--like that."

Mrs. Cayhill laughed, as Maurice obediently bowed his head, but
Johanna reproved her sister.

"Don't be silly, Ephie. You behave as if you had never seen
lilac before."

"Well, neither I have--not such lilac as this, and Maurice hasn't
either," answered Ephie. "You shall smell it too, old Joan!"--and in
spite of Johanna's protests, she forced her sister also to sink her
face in the fragrant white and purple blossoms. But then she left them
lying on the table, and it was Johanna who put them in water.

Mrs. Cayhill withdrew to her bedroom to be undisturbed, and Johanna
went out on an errand. Maurice and Ephie sat side by side on the sofa,
and he helped her to distinguish chords of the seventh, and watched
her make, in her music-book, the big, tailless notes, at which she
herself was always hugely tickled, they`reminded her so of eggs. But
on this particular evening, she was not in a studious mood, and bock,
pencil and india-rubber slid to the floor. Both windows were wide
open; the air that entered was full of pleasant scents, while that of
the room was heavy with lilac. Ephie had taken a spray from one of the
vases, and was playing with it; and when Maurice chid her for
thoughtlessly destroying it, she stuck the pieces in her hair. Not
content with this, she also put bits behind Maurice's ears, and tried
to twist one in the piece of hair that fell on his forehead. Having
thus bedizened them, she leaned back, and, with her hands clasped
behind her head, began to tease the young man. A little bird, it
seemed, had whispered her any number of interesting things about
Madeleine and Maurice, and she had stored them all up. Now, she
repeated them, with a charming impertinence, and was so provoking
that, in laughing exasperation, Maurice took her fluffy, flower-bedecked
head between his hands, and stopped her lips with two sound kisses.

He acted impulsively, without reflecting, but, as soon as it was done,
he felt a curious sense of satisfaction, which had nothing to do with
Ephie, and was like a kind of unconscious revenge taken on some one
else. He was not, however, prepared for the effect of his hasty deed.
Ephie turned scarlet, and jumping up from the sofa, so that all the
blossoms fell from her hair at once, stamped her foot.

"Maurice Guest! How dare you!" she cried angrily, and, to his
surprise, the young man saw that she had tears in her eyes.

He had never known Ephie to be even annoyed, and was consequently
dumfounded; he could not believe, after the direct provocation
she had given him, that his crime had been so great

"But Ephie dear!" he protested. "I had no idea, upon my word I hadn't,
that you would take it like this. What's the matter? It was nothing.
Don't cry. I'm a brute."

"Yes, you are, a horrid brute! I shall never forgive you--never!" said
Ephie, and then she began to cry in earnest.

He put his arm round her, and coaxing her to sit down, wiped away her
tears with his own handkerchief. In vain did he beg her to tell him
why she was so vexed. To all he said, she only shook her head, and
answered: "You had no right to do it."

He vowed solemnly that it should never happen again, but at least a
quarter of an hour elapsed before he succeeded in comforting her, and
even then, she remained more subdued than usual. But when Maurice had
gone, and she had dropped the scattered sprays of lilac out of the
window on his head, she clasped her hands at the back of her neck, and
dropped a curtsy to herself in the locking-glass.

"Him, too!" she said aloud.

She nodded at her reflected self, but her face was grave; for between
these two, small, blue-robed figures was a deep and unsuspected secret.

And Maurice, as he walked away, wondered to himself for still a little
why she should have been so disproportionately angry; but not for
long; for, when he was not actually with Ephie, he was not given to
thinking much about her. Besides, from there, he went straight to the
latter half of an ABENDANTERKALTUNG, to hear Furst play Brahms'
VARIATIONS ON A THEME BY HANDEL




VIII.



That night he had a vivid dream. He dreamt that he was in a garden,
where nothing but lilac grew--grew with a luxuriance he could not have
believed possible, and on fantastic bushes: there were bushes like
steeples and bushes smaller than himself, big and little, broad and
slender, but all were of lilac, and in flower--an extravagant profusion
of white and purple blossoms. He gazed round him in delight, and took
an eager step forward; but, before he could reach the nearest bush, he
saw that it had been an illusion: the bush was stripped and bare, and
the rest were bare as well. "You're too late. It has all been
gathered," he heard a voice say, and at this moment, he saw Ephie at
the end of a long alley of bushes, coming towards him, her arms full
of lilac. She smiled and nodded to him over it, and he heard her
laugh, but when she was half-way down the path, he discovered his
mistake: it was not Ephie but Louise. She came slowly forward, her
laden arms outstretched, and he would have given his life to be able
to advance and to take what she offered him; but he could not stir,
could not lift hand or foot, and his tongue clove to the roof of his
mouth. Her steps grew more hesitating, she seemed hardly to move; and
then, just as she reached the spot where he stood, he found that it
was not she after all, but Madeleine, who laughed at his
disappointment and said: "I'm not offended, remember!"--The revulsion
of feeling was too great; he turned away, without taking the flowers
she held out to him--and awoke.

This dream was present to him all the morning, like a melody that
haunts and recalls. But he worked more laboriously than usual; for he
was aggrieved with himself for having idled away the previous
afternoon, and then, too, Furst's playing had made a profound
impression on him. In vigorous imitation, he sat down to the piano
again, after a hasty dinner snatched in the neighbourhood; but as he
was only playing scales, he propped open before him a little volume of
Goethe's poems, which Johanna had lent him, and suiting his scales to
the metre of the lines, read through one after another of the poems he
liked best. At a particular favourite, he stopped playing and held the
book in both hands.

He had hardly begun anew when the door of his room was
unceremoniously opened, and Dove entered, in the jocose way he adopted
when in a rosy mood. Maurice made a movement to conceal his book,
merely in order to avoid the explanation he new must follow; but was
too late; Dove had espied it. He did not belie himself on this
occasion; he was extremely astonished to find Maurice "still at it,"
but much more so to see a book open before him; and he vented his
surprise loudly and wordily.

"Liszt used to read the newspaper," said Maurice, for the sake of
saying something. He had swung round in the piano-chair, and he yawned
as he spoke, without attempting to disguise it.

"Why, yes, of course, why not?" agreed Dove cordially, afraid lest he
had seemed discouraging. "Why not, indeed? For those who can do it. I
wish I could. But will you believe me, Guest"--here he seated himself,
and settled into an attitude for talking, one hand inserted between
his crossed knees--"will you believe me, when I say I find it a
difficult business to read at all?--at any time. I find it too
stimulating, too ANREGEND, don't you know? I assure you, for weeks
now, I have been trying to read PAST AND PRESENT, and have not yet got
beyond the first page. It gives one so much to think about, opens up
so many new ideas, that I stop myself and say: 'Old fellow, that must
be digested.' This, I see, is poetry"--he ran quickly and disparagingly
through Maurice's little volume, and laid it down again. "I don't care
much for poetry myself, or for novels either. There's so much in life
worth knowing that is true, or of some use to one; and besides, as we
all know, fact is stranger than fiction."

They spoke also of Furst's performance the evening before, and Dove
gave it its due, although he could not conceal his opinion that
Furst's star would ultimately pale before that of a new-comer to the
town, a late addition to the list of Schwarz's pupils, whom he, Dove,
had been "putting up to things a bit." This was a "Manchester man" and
former pupil of Halle's, and it would certainly not be long before he
set the place in a stir. Dove had just come from his lodgings, where
he had been permitted to sit and hear him practise finger-exercises.

"A touch like velvet," declared Dove. "And a stretch!--I have never
seen anything like it. He spans a tenth, nay, an eleventh, more easily
than we do an octave."

The object of Dove's visit was, it transpired, to propose that
Maurice should accompany him that evening to the theatre, where DIE
WALKURE was to be performed; and as, on this day, Dove had reasons for
seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses, he suggested, out of
the fulness of his heart, that they should also invite Madeleine to
join them. Maurice was nothing loath to have the meeting with her
over, and so, though it was not quite three o'clock, they went
together to the MOZARTSTRASSE.

They found Madeleine before her writing-table, which was strewn with
closely written sheets. This was mail-day for America, she explained,
and begged the young men to excuse her finishing an important letter
to an American journalist, with whom she had once "chummed up" on a
trip to Italy.

"One never knows when these people may be of use to one," she was
accustomed to say.

Having addressed and stamped the envelope, and tossed it to the
others, she rose and gave a hand to each. At Maurice, she smiled in a
significant way.

"You should have stayed, my son. Some one came, after all."

Maurice laid an imploring finger on his lips, but Dove had seized the
opportunity of glancing at his cravat in the mirror, and did not seem
to hear.

She agreed willingly to their plan of going to the theatre; she had
thought of it herself; then, a girl she knew had asked her to come to
hear her play in ENSEMBLESPIEL.

"However, I will let that slip. Schelper and Moran-Olden are to sing;
it will be a fine performance. I suppose some one is to be there," she
said laughingly to Dove, "or you would not be of the party."

But Dove only smiled and looked sly.

Without delay, Madeleine began to detail to Maurice, the leading
motives on which the WALKURE was built up; and Dove, having hummed,
strummed and whistled all those he knew by heart, settled down to a
discourse on the legitimacy and development of the motive, and
especially in how far it was to be considered a purely intellectual
implement. He spoke with the utmost good-nature, and was so
unconscious of being a bore that it was impossible to take him amiss.
Madeleine, however, could not resist, from time to time, throwing in a
"Really!" "How extraordinary!" "You don't say so!" among his abstruse
remarks. But her sarcasm was lost on Dove; and even if he had noticed
it, he would only have smiled, unhit, being too sensible and
good-humoured easily to take offence.

It was always a mystery to his friends where Dove got his information;
he was never seen to read, and there was little theorising about art,
little but the practical knowledge of it, in the circles to which he
belonged. But just as he went about picking up small items of gossip,
so he also gathered in stray scraps of thought and information, and
being by nature endowed with an excellent memory, he let nothing that
he had once heard escape him. He had, besides, the talker's gift of
neatly stringing together these tags he had pulled off other people,
of connecting them, and giving them a varnish of originality.

"By no means a fool," Madeleine was in the habit of saying of him. "He
would be easier to deal with if he were."

Here, on the leading motive as handled by Wagner and Wagner's
forerunners, he had an unwritten treatise ripe in his brain. But he
had only just compared the individual motives to the lettered ribbons
that issue from the mouths of the figures in medieval pictures, and
began to hint at the IDEE FIXE of Berlioz, when he was interrupted by
a knock at the door.

"HEREIN!" cried Madeleine in her clear voice; and at the sight of the
person who opened the door, Maurice involuntarily started up from his
chair, and taking his stand behind it, held the back of it firmly with
both hands, in self-defence.

It was Louise.

On seeing the two young men, she hesitated, and, with the door-handle
still in her hand, smiled a faint questioning smile at Madeleine,
raising her eyebrows and showing a thin line of white between her
lips.

"May I come in?" she asked, with her head a little on one side.

"Why, of course you know you may," said Madeleine with some asperity.

And so Louise entered, and came forward to the table at which they had
been sitting; but before anything further could be said, she raised
her arms to catch up a piece of hair which had fallen loose on her
neck. The young men were standing, waiting to greet her, Maurice still
behind his chair; but she did not hurry on their account, or "just on
their account did not hurry," as Madeleine mentally remarked.

Both watched Louise, and followed her movements. To their eyes, she
appeared to be very simply dressed; it was only Madeleine who
appreciated the cost and care of this seeming simplicity. She wore a
plain, close-fitting black dress, of a smooth, shiny stuff, which
obeyed and emphasised the lines and outlines of her body; and, as she
stood, with her arms upraised, composedly aware of being observed,
they could see the line of her side rising and falling with the rise
and fall of each breath. Otherwise, she wore a large black hat, with
feathers and an overhanging brim, which threw shadows on her face, and
made her eyes seem darker than ever.

Letting her arms drop with a sigh of relief, she shook hands with
Dove, and Dove--to Madeleine's diversion and Maurice's intense
disgust--introduced Maurice to her as his friend. She looked full at
the latter, and held out her hand; but before he could take it, she
withdrew it again, and put both it and her left hand behind her back.

"No, no," she said. "I mustn't shake hands with you to-day. Today is
Friday. And to give one's hand for the first time on a Friday would
bring bad luck--to you, if not to me."

She was serious, but both the others laughed, and Maurice, having let
his outstretched hand fall, coloured, and smiled rather foolishly. She
did not seem to notice his discomfiture; turning to Madeleine, she
began to speak of a piece of music she wished to borrow; and then
Maurice had a chance of observing her at his ease, and of listening to
her voice, in which he heard all manner of impossible things. But
while Madeleine, with Dove's assistance, was looking through a pile of
music, Louise came suddenly up to him and said: "You are not offended
with me, are you?" She had a low voice, with a childish cadence in it,
which touched him like a caress.

"Offended? I with you?" He meant to laugh, but his voice shook.

She stared at him, openly astonished, not only at his words, but also
at the tone in which they were said; and the strange, fervent gaze
bent on her by this man whom she saw for the first time in her life,
confused her and made her uneasy. Slowly and coldly she turned away,
but Madeleine, who was charitably occupying Dove as long as she could,
did not take any notice of her. And as the young man continued to
stare at her, she looked out of the window at the lowering grey sky,
and said, with a shudder: "What a day for June!"

All eyes followed hers, Maurice's with the rest; but almost instantly
he brought them back again to her face.

"Louise is a true Southerner," said Madeleine; "and is
wretched if there's a cloud in the sky."

Louise smiled, and he saw her strong white teeth. "It's not quite as
bad as that," she said; and then, although herself not clear why she
should have answered these searching eyes, she added, looking at
Maurice: "I come from Australia."

If she had said she was a visitant from another world, Maurice would
not, at the moment, have felt much surprise; but on hearing the name
of this distant land, on which he would probably never set foot, a
sense of desolation overcame him. He realised anew, with a pang, what
an utter stranger he was to her; of her past life, her home, her
country, he knew and could know nothing.

"That is very far away," he said, speaking out of this feeling, and
then was vexed with himself for having done so. His words sounded
foolish as they lingered on in the stillness that followed them, and
would, he believed, lay him open to Madeleine's ridicule. But he had
not much time in which to repent of them; the music had been found,
and she was going again. He heard her refuse an invitation to stay:
she had an engagement at half-past four. And now Dove, who,
throughout, had kept in the background, looked at his watch and took
up his hat: he had previously offered, unopposed, to do the long wait
outside the theatre, which was necessary when one had no tickets, and
now it was time to go. But when Louise heard the word theatre, she
laid a slim, ungloved hand on Dove's arm.

"The very thing for such a night!"

They all said "AUF WIEDERSEHEN!" to one another; she did not offer to
shake hands again, and Maurice nursed a faint hope that it was on his
account. He opened the window, leant out, and watched them, until they
went round the corner of the street.

Madeleine smiled shrewdly behind his back, but when he turned, she was
grave. She did not make any reference to what had passed, nor did she,
as he feared she would, put questions to him: instead, she showed him
a song of Krafft's, and asked him to play the accompaniment for her.
He gratefully consented, without knowing what he was undertaking. For
the song, a setting of a poem by Lenau, was nominally in C sharp
minor; but it was black with accidentals, and passed through many keys
before it came to a close in D flat major. Besides this, the right
hand had much hard passage-work in quaint scales and broken
octaves, to a syncopated bass of chords that were adapted to the
stretch of no ordinary hand.

"LIEBLOS UND OHNE GOTT AUF EINER HAIDE," sang Madeleine on the high F
sharp; but Maurice, having collected neither his wits nor his fingers,
began blunderingly, could not right himself, and after scrambling
through a few bars, came to a dead stop, and let his hands fall from
the keys.

"Not to-day, Madeleine."

She laughed good-naturedly. "Very well--not to-day. One shouldn't ask
you to believe to-day that DIE GANZE WELT IST ZUM VERZWEIFELN
TRAURIG."

While she made tea, he returned to the window, where he stood with his
hands in his pockets, lost in thought. He told himself once more what
he found it impossible to believe: that he was going to see Louise
again in a few hours; and not only to see her, but to speak to her, to
be at her side. And when his jubilation at this had subsided, he went
over in memory all that had just taken place. His first impression, he
could afford now to admit it, had been almost one of disappointment:
that came from having dreamed so long of a shadowy being, whom he had
called by her name, that the real she was a stranger to him.
Everything about her had been different from what he had expected--her
voice, her smile, her gestures--and in the first moments of their
meeting, he had been chill with fear, lest--lest . . . even yet he did
not venture to think out the thought. But this first sensation of
strangeness over, he had found her more charming, more desirable, than
even he had hoped; and what almost wrung a cry of pleasure from him as
he remembered it, was that not the smallest trifle--no touch of
coquetry, no insincerely spoken word--had marred the perfect impression
of the whole. To know her, to stand before her, he recognised it now,
gave the lie to false slander and report. Hardest of all, however, was
it to grasp that the meeting had actually come to pass and was over:
it had been so ordinary, so everyday, the most natural thing in the
world; there had been no blast of trumpets, nor had any occult
sympathy warned her that she was in the presence of one who had
trembled for weeks at the idea of this moment and again he leaned
forward and gazed at the spot in the street, where she had disappeared
from sight. He was filled with envy of Dove--this was the latter's
reward for his unfailing readiness to oblige others--and in fancy he
saw Dove walking street after street at her side.

In reality, the two parted from each other shortly after turning the
first corner.

On any other day, Dove would have been still more prompt to take leave
of his companion; but, on this particular one, he was in the mood to
be a little reckless. In the morning, he had received, with a
delightful shock, his first letter from Ephie, a very frank, warmly
written note, in which she relied on his great kindness to secure her,
WITHOUT FAIL--these words were deeply underscored--two places in the
PARQUET of the theatre, for that evening's performance. Not the letter
alone, but also its confiding tone, and the reliance it placed in him,
had touched Dove to a deep pleasure; he had been one of the first to
arrive at the box-office that morning, and, although he had not
ventured, unasked, to take himself a seat beside the sisters, he was
now living in the anticipation of promenading the FOYER with them in
the intervals between the acts, and of afterwards escorting them home.

On leaving Louise he made for the theatre with a swinging stride--had
he been in the country, stick in hand, he would have slashed off the
heads of innumerable green and flowering things. As it was, he
whistled--an unusual thing for him to do in the street--then assumed the
air of a man hard pressed for time. Gradually the passers-by began to
look at him with the right amount of attention; he jostled, as if by
accident, one or two of those who were unobservant, then apologised
for his hurry. It was not pleasurable anticipation alone that was
responsible for Dove's state of mind, and for the heightening and
radiation of his self-consciousness. In offering to go early to the
theatre, and to stand at the doors for at least three-quarters of an
hour, in order that the others, coming considerably later might still
have a chance of gaining their favourite seats: in doing this, Dove
was not actuated by a wholly unselfish motive, but by the more
complicated one, which, consciously or unconsciously, was present
beneath all the friendly cares and attentions he bestowed on people.
He was never more content with himself, and with the world at large,
than when he felt that he was essential to the comfort and well-being
of some of his fellow-mortals; than when he, so to speak, had a finger
in the pie of their existence. It engendered a sense of importance,
gave life fulness and variety; and this far outweighed the trifling
inconveniences such welldoing implied. Indeed, he throve on them. For,
in his mild way, Dove had a touch of Caesarean mania--of a lust for
power.

Left to herself, Louise Dufrayer walked slowly home to her room in the
BRUDERSTRASSE, but only to throw a hasty look round. It was just as she
had expected: although it was long past the appointed time, he was not
there. At a flower-shop in a big adjoining street, she bought a bunch
of many-coloured roses, and with these in her hands, went straight to
where Schilsky lived.

Mounting to the third floor of the house in the TALSTRASSE, she
opened, without ceremony, the door of his room, which gave direct on
the landing; but so stealthily that the young man, who was sitting
with his back to the door, did not hear her enter. Before he could
turn, she had sprung forward, her arms were round his neck, and the
roses under his nose. He drew his face away from their damp fragrance,
but did not look up, and, without removing his cigarette, asked in a
tone of extreme bad temper: "What are you doing here, Lulu? What
nonsense is this? For God's sake, shut the door!"

She ruffled his hair with her lips. "You didn't come. And the day has
seemed so long."

He tried to free himself, putting the roses aside with one hand,
while, with his cigarette, he pointed to the sheets of music-paper
that lay before him. "For a very good reason. I've had no time."

She went back and closed the door; and then, sitting down on his knee,
unpinned her big hat, and threw it and the roses on the bed. He put
his arm round her to steady her, and as soon as he held her to him,
his ill-temper was vanquished. He talked volubly of the
instrumentation he was busy with. But she, who could point out almost
every fresh note he put on paper, saw plainly that he had not been at
work for more than a quarter of an hour; and, in a miserable swell of
doubt and jealousy, such as she could never subdue, she asked:

"Were you practising as well?"

He took no notice of these words, and she did not trust herself to say
more, until, with his free hand, he began jotting again, making notes
that were no bigger than pin-heads. Then she laid her hand on his. "I
haven't seen you all day."

But he was too engrossed to listen. "Look here," he said pointing to a
thick-sown bar. "That gave me the deuce of a bother. While here "--and
now he explained to her, in detail, the properties of the tenor-tuba
in B, and the bass-tuba in F, and the use to which he intended to put
these instruments. She heard him with lowered eyes, lightly
caressing the back of his hand with her finger-tips. But when he
ceased speaking, she rubbed her cheek against his.

"It is enough for to-day. Lulu has been lonely."

Not one of his thoughts was with her, she saw that, as he answered: "I
must get this finished."

"To-night?"

"If I can. You know well enough, Lulu, when I'm in the swing----"

"Yes, yes, I know. If only it wouldn't always come, just when I want
you most."

Her face lost its brightness; she rose from his knee and roamed about
the room, watched from the wall by her pictured self.

"But is there ever a moment in the day when you don't want me? You are
never satisfied." He spoke abstractedly, without interest in the
answer she might make, and, relieved of her weight, leant forward
again, while his fingers played some notes on the table. But when she
began to let her hands stray over the loose papers and other articles
that encumbered chairs, piano and washstand, he raised his head and
watched her with a sharp eye.

"For goodness' sake, let those things alone, can't you?" he said after
he had borne her fidgeting for some time.

"You have no secrets from me, I suppose?" She said it with her
tenderest smile, but he scowled so darkly in reply that she went over
to him again, to touch him with her hand. Standing behind him, with
her fingers in his hair, she said: "Just to-day I wanted you so much.
This morning I was so depressed that I could have killed myself."

He turned his head, to give her a significant glance.

"Good reason for the blues, Lulu. I warned you. You want too much of
everything. And can't expect to escape a KATER."

"Too much?" she echoed, quick to resent his words. "Does it seem so to
you? Would days and days of happiness be too much after we have been
separated for a week?--after Wednesday night?--after what you said to me
yesterday?"

"Yesterday I was in the devil of a temper. Why rake up old scores? Now
go home. Or at least keep quiet, and let me get something done."

He shook his head free of her caressing hand, and, worse
still, scratched the place where it had lain. She stood irresolute,
not venturing to touch him again, looking hungrily at him. Her eyes
fell on the piece of neck, smooth, lightly browned, that showed
between his hair and the low collar; and, in an uncontrollable rush of
feeling, she stooped and kissed it. As he accepted the caress, without
demur, she said: "I thought of going to the theatre to-night, dear."

He was pleased and showed it. "That's right--it's just what you need to
cheer you up."

"But I want you to come, too."

He struck the table with his fist. "Good God, can't you get it into
your head that I want to work?"

She laughed, with ready bitterness. "I should think I could. That's
nothing new. You are always busy when I ask you to do anything. You
have time for everything and every one but me. If this were something
you yourself wanted to do to-night, neither your work nor anything
else would stand in the way of it; but my wishes can always be
ignored. Have you forgotten already that I only came home the day
before yesterday?"

He looked sullen. "Now don't make a scene, Lulu. It doesn't do a whit
of good."

"A scene!" she cried, seizing on his words. "Whenever I open my lips
now, you call it a scene. Tell me what I have done, Eugen! Why do you
treat me like this? Are you beginning to care less for me? The first
evening, the very first, I get home, you won't stay with me--you
haven't even kept that evening free for me--and when I ask you about
it, and try to get at the truth--oh, do you remember all the cruel
things you said to me yesterday? I shall never forget them as long as
I live. And now, when I ask you to come out with me--it is such a
little thing-oh, I can't sit at home this evening, Eugen, I can't do
it! If you really loved me, you would understand."

She flung herself across the bed and sobbed despairingly. Schilsky,
who had again made believe during this outburst to be absorbed in his
work, cast a look of mingled anger and discomfort at the prostrate
figure, and for some few moments, succeeded in continuing his
occupation with a show of indifference; but as, in place of abating,
her sobs grew more heart-rending, his own face began to twitch, and
finally he dropped pencil and cigarette, and with a loud expression of
annoyance went over to the bed.

"Lulu," he said persuasively. "Come, Lulu," and bending over
her, he laid his hands on her shoulders and tried to force her to
rise. She resisted him with all her might, but he was the stronger,
and presently he had her on her feet, where, with her head on his
shoulder, she wept out the rest of her tears. He held her to him, and
although his face above her was still dark, did what he could to
soothe her. He could never bear, to see or to hear a woman cry, and
this loud passionate weeping, so careless of anything but itself,
racked his nerves, and filled him with an uneasy wrath against
invisible powers.

"Don't cry, darling, don't cry!" he said again and again. Gradually
she grew calmer, and he, too, was still; but when her sobs were
hushed, and she was clinging to him in silence, he put his hands on
her shoulders and held her back from him, that he might look at her.
His face wore a stubborn expression, which she knew, and which made
him appear years older than he was.

"Now listen to me, Lulu," he said. "When you behave in this way again,
you won't see me afterwards for a week--I promise you that, and you
know I keep my word. Instead of being glad that I am in the right mood
and can get something done, you come here--which you know I have
repeatedly forbidden you to do--and make a fool of yourself like this.
I have explained everything to you. I could not possibly stay on
Wednesday night--why didn't you time your arrival better? But it's just
like you. You would throw the whole of one's future into the balance
for the sake of a whim. Yesterday I was in a beast of a temper--I've
admitted it. But that was made all right last night; and no one but
you would drag it up again."

He spoke with a kind of dogged restraint, which only sometimes gave
way, when the injustice she was guilty of forced itself upon him.
"Now, like a good girl, go home--go to the theatre and enjoy yourself.
I don't mind you being happy without me. At least, go!--under any
circumstances you ought not to be here. How often have I told you
that!" His moderation swept over into the feverish irritation she knew
so well how to kindle in him, and his lisp became so marked that he
was almost unintelligible. "You won't have a rag of reputation left."

"If I don't care, why should you?" She felt for his hand. But he
turned his back. "I won't have it, I tell you. You know what
the student underneath said the last time he met you on the stair."

She pressed her handkerchief to her lips to keep from bursting anew
into sobs, and there was a brief silence--he stood at the window,
gazing savagely at the opposite house-wall--before she said: "Don't
speak to me like that. I'm going--now--this moment. I will never do it
again--never again."

As he only mumbled disbelief at this, she put her arms round his neck,
and raised her tear-stained face to his: her eyes were blurred and
sunken with crying, and her lips were white. He knew every line of her
face by heart; he had known it in so many moods, and under so many
conditions, that he was not as sensitive to its influence as he had
once been; and he stood unwilling, with his hands in his pockets,
while she clung to him and let him feel her weight. But he was very
fond of her, and, as she continued mutely to implore forgiveness--she,
Lulu, his Lulu, whom every one envied him--his hasty anger once more
subsided; he put his arms round her and kissed her. She nestled in
against him, over-happy at his softening, and for some moments they
stood like this, in the absolute physical agreement that always
overcame their differences. In his arms, with her head on his
shoulder, she smoothed back his hair; and while she gazed, with
adoring eyes, at this face that constituted her world, she murmured
words of endearment; and all the unsatisfactory day was annulled by
these few moments of perfect harmony.

It was he who loosened his grasp. "Now, it's all right, isn't it? No
more tears. But you really must be off, or you'll be late."

"Yes. And you?"

He had taken up his violin and was tuning it, preparatory to playing
himself back into the mood she had dissipated. He ran his fingers up
and down, tried flageolets, and slashed chords across the strings.

But when she had sponged her face and pinned on her hat, he said, in
response to her beseeching eyes, which, as so often before, made the
granting of this one request, a touchstone of his love for her: "Look
here, Lulu, if I possibly can, I'll drop in at the end of the first
act. Look out for me then, in the FOYER."

And with this, she was forced to be content.




IX.



When, shortly after five o'clock, Madeleine and Maurice arrived at the
New Theatre, they took their places at the end of a queue which
extended to the corner of the main building; and before they had
stood very long, so many fresh people had been added to the line, that
it had lengthened out until it all but reached the arch of the
theatre-cafe. Dove was well to the fore, and would be one of the first
to gain the box-office. A quarter of an hour had still to elapse before
the doors opened; and Maurice borrowed his companion's textbook, and
read studiously, to acquaint himself with the plot of the opera.
Madeleine took out Wolzogen's FUHRER, with the intention of brushing
up her knowledge of the motives; but, before she had finished a page,
she had grown so interested in what two people behind her were saying
that she turned and took part in the conversation.

The broad expanse of the AUGUSTUSPLATZ facing the theatre was bare and
sunny. A policeman arrived, and ordered the queue in a straighter
line; then he strolled up and down, stroking and smoothing his white
gloves. More people came hurrying over the square to the theatre, and
ranged themselves at the end of the tail. As the hands of the big
clock on the post-office neared the quarter past five, a kind of
tremor ran through the waiting line; it gathered itself more compactly
together. One clock after another boomed the single stroke; sounds
came from within the building; the burly policeman placed himself at
the head of the line. There was a noise of drawn bolts and grating
locks, and after a moment's suspense, light shone out and the big door
was flung open.

"Gent--ly!" shouted the policeman, but the leaders of the queue charged
with a will, and about a dozen people had dashed forward, before he
could throw down a stemming arm, on which those thus hindered leaned
as on a bar of iron. Madeleine and Maurice were to the front of the
second batch. And the arm down, in they flew also, Madeleine leading
through the swing-doors at the side of the corridor, up the steep,
wooden stairs, one flight after another, higher and higher, round and
round, past one, two, three, tiers--a mad race, which ended
almost in the arms of the gate-keeper at the topmost gallery.

Dove was waiting with the tickets, and they easily secured the desired
places; not in the middle of the gallery, where, as Madeleine
explained while she tucked her hat and jacket under the seat, the
monstrous chandelier hid the greater part of the stage, but at the
right-hand side, next the lattice that separated the seats at
seventy-five from those at fifty pfennigs.

"This is first-rate for seeing," said Maurice.

Madeleine laughed. "You see too much--that's the trouble. Wait till
you've watched the men running about the bottom of the Rhine, working
the cages the Rhine-daughters swim in."

As yet, with the exception of the gallery, the great building was
empty. Now the iron fire-curtain rose; but the sunken well of the
orchestra was in darkness, and the expanse of seats on the ground
floor far below, was still encased in white wrappings--her and there an
attendant began to peel them off. Maurice, poring over his book, had
to strain his eyes to read, and this, added to the difficulty of the
German, and his own sense of pleasurable excitement, made him soon
give up the attempt, and attend wholly to what Madeleine was saying.

It was hot already, and the air of the crowded gallery was permeated
with various, pungent odours: some people behind them were eating a
strong-smelling sausage, and the man on the other side of the lattice
reeked of cheap tobacco. When they had been in their seats for about a
quarter of an hour, the lights throughout the theatre went up, and,
directly afterwards, the lower tiers and the ground floor were
sprinkled with figures. One by, one, the members of the orchestra
dropped in,, turned up the lamps attached to their stands, and taking
their instruments, commenced to tune and flourish; and soon stray
motives and scraps of motives came mounting up, like lost birds, from
wind and strings; the man of the drums beat a soft rattatoo, and
applied his ear to the skins of his instruments. Now the players were
in their seats, waiting for the conductor; late-comers in the audience
entered with an air of guilty haste. The chief curtain had risen, and
the stage was hidden only by stuff curtains, bordered with a runic
scroll. A delightful sense of expectation pervaded the theatre.

Maurice had more than once looked furtively at his watch; and, at
every fresh noise behind him, he turned his head--turned so often that
the people in the back seats grew suspicious, and whispered to one
another. Madeleine had drawn his attention to everything worth
noticing; and now, with her opera-glass at her eyes, she pointed out
to him people whom he ought to know. Dove, having eaten a ham-roll at
the buffet on the stair, had ever since sat with his opera-glass glued
to his face, and only at this moment did he remove it with a sigh of
relief.

"There they are," said Madeleine, and showed Maurice the place in the
PARQUET, where Ephie and Johanna Cayhill were sitting. But the young
man only glanced cursorily in the direction she indicated; he was
wondering why Louise did not come--the time had all but gone. He could
not bring himself to ask, partly from fear of being disappointed,
partly because, now that he knew her, it was harder than before to
bring her name over his lips. But the conductor had entered by the
orchestra-door; he stood speaking to the first violinist, and the next
moment would climb into his seat. The players held their instruments
in readiness--and a question trembled on Maurice's tongue. But at this
very moment, a peremptory fanfare rang out behind the scene, and
Madeleine said: "The sword motive, Maurice," to add in the same
breath: "There's Louise."

He looked behind him. "Where?"

She nudged him. "Not here, you silly," she said in a loud whisper.
"Surely you haven't been expecting her to come up here? PARQUET,
fourth row from the front, between two women in plaid dresses--oh, now
the lights have gone."

"Ssh!" said at least half a dozen people about them: her voice was
audible above the growling of the thunder.

Maurice took her opera-glass, and, notwithstanding the darkness into
which the theatre had been plunged, travelled his eyes up and down the
row she named--naturally without success. When the curtains parted and
disclosed the stage, it was a little lighter, but not light enough for
him; he could not find the plaids; or rather there were only plaids in
the row; and there was also more than one head that resembled hers. To
know that she was there was enough to distract him; and he was
conscious of the music and action of the opera merely as something
that was going on outside him, until he received another sharp nudge
from Madeleine on his righthand side.

"You're not attending. And this is the only act you'll be able to make
anything of."

He gave a guilty start, and turned to the stage, where Hunding
had just entered to a pompous measure. In his endeavours to understand
what followed, he was aided by his companions, who prompted him
alternately. But Siegmund's narration seemed endless, and his thoughts
wandered in spite of himself.

"Listen to this," said Dove of a sudden. "It's one of the few songs
Wagner has written." He swayed his head from side to side, to the
opening bars of the love-song; and Maurice found the rhythm so
inviting that he began keeping time with his foot, to the indignation
of a music-loving policeman behind them, who gave an angry: "Pst!"

"One of the finest love-scenes that was ever written," whispered
Madeleine in her decisive way. And Maurice believed her. From this
point on, the music took him up and carried him with it; and when the
great doors burst open, and let in the spring night, he applauded
vigorously with the rest, keeping it up so long that Dove disappeared,
and Madeleine grew impatient.

"Let us go. The interval is none too long."

They went downstairs to the first floor of the building, and entered a
long, broad, brilliantly lighted corridor. Here the majority of the
audience was walking round and round, in a procession of twos and
threes; groups of people also stood at both ends and looked on; others
went in and out of the doors that opened on the great loggia.
Madeleine and Maurice joined the perambulating throng, Madeleine
bowing and smiling to her acquaintances, Maurice eagerly scanning the
faces that came towards him on the opposite side.

Suddenly, a stout gentleman, in gold spectacles, kid gloves tight to
bursting, and a brown frock coat, over the amplitude of which was
slung an opera-glass, started up from a corner, and, seizing both
Madeleine's hands, worked them up and down. At the same time, he made
a ceremonious little speech about the length of time that had elapsed
since their last meeting, and paid her a specious compliment on the
taste she displayed in being present at so serious an opera. Madeleine
laughed, and said a few words in her hard, facile German: the best was
yet to come; "DIE MORAN" was divine as Brunnhilde. Having bowed and
said: "Lohse" to Maurice, the stranger took no further notice of him,
but, drawing Madeleine's hand through his arm, in a manner half
gallant, half paternal, invited her to take ices with him, at the
adjoining buffet.

Maurice remained standing in a corner, scrutinising those who
passed him. He exchanged a few words with one of his companions of the
dinner-table--a small-bodied, big-headed chemical student called
Dickensey, who had a reputation for his cynicism. He had just asked
Maurice whether Siegmund reminded him more of a pork-butcher or a
prizefighter, and had offered to lay a bet that he would never attend
a performance in this theatre when the doors of Hunding's house flew
open, or the sword lit up, at exactly the right moment--when Maurice
caught sight of Dove and the Cayhills. He excused himself, and went to
join them.

Not one of the three looked happy. Johanna was unspeakably bored and
did not conceal it; she gazed with contempt on the noisy, excited
crowd. Dove was not only burning to devote himself to Ephie; he had
also got himself into a dilemma, and was at this moment doing his best
to explain the first act of the opera to Johanna, without touching on
the relationship of the lovers. His face was red with the effort, and
he hailed Maurice's appearance as a welcome diversion. But Ephie, too,
greeted him with pleasure, and touching his arm, drew him back, so
that they dropped behind the others. She was coquettishly dressed this
evening, and looked so charming that people drew one another's
attention to DIE REIZENDE KLEINE ENGLADNDERIN. But Maurice soon
discovered that she was out of spirits, and disposed to be cross. For
fear lest he was the offender, he asked if she had quite forgiven him,
and if they were good friends again. "Oh, I had forgotten all about
it!" But, a moment after, she was grave and quiet--altogether unlike
herself.

"Are you not enjoying yourself, Ephie?"

"No, I'm not. I think it's stupid. And they're all so fat."

This referred to the singers, and was indisputable; Maurice could only
agree with her, and try to rally her. Meanwhile, he continued
surreptitiously to scour the hall, with an evergrowing sense of
disappointment.

Then, suddenly, among those who were passing in the opposite
direction, he saw Louise. In a flash he understood why he had not been
able to find her in the row of seats: he had looked for her in a black
dress, and she was all in white, with heavy white lace at her neck.
Her companion was an Englishman called Eggis, of whom it was rumoured
that he had found it advisable abruptly to leave his native land:
here, he made a precarious living by journalism, and by doing
odd jobs for the consulate. In spite of his shabby clothes, this man,
prematurely bald, with dissipated features, had polished manners and
an air of refinement; and, thoroughly enjoying his position, he was
talking to his companion with vivacity. It was plain that Louise was
only half listening to him; with a faint, absent smile on her lips,
she, too, restlessly scanned the crowd.

They all caught sight of Schilsky at the same moment, and Maurice, on
whom nothing was lost, saw as well the quick look that passed between
Louise and him, and its immediate effect: Louise flashed into a smile,
and was full of gracious attentiveness to the little man at her side.

Schilsky leant against the wall, with his hands in his pockets, his
conspicuous head well back. On entering the FOYER, he had been pounced
on by Miss Jensen. The latter, showily dressed in a large-striped
stuff, had in tow a fellow-singer about half her own size, whom she
was rarely to be seen without; but, on this occasion, the wan little
American stood disconsolately apart, for Miss Jensen was paying no
attention to him. In common with the rest of her sex, she had a
weakness for Schilsky; and besides, on this evening, she needed
specially receptive ears, for she had been studying the role of
Sieglinde, and was full of criticisms and objections. As Ephie and
Maurice passed them, she nodded to the latter and said: "Good evening,
neighbour!" while Schilsky, seizing the chance, broke away, without
troubling to excuse himself. Thus deserted, Miss Jensen detained
Maurice, and so he lost the couple he wanted to keep in sight. But at
the first pause in the conversation, Ephie plucked at his sleeve.

"Let us go out on the balcony."

They went outside on the loggia, where groups of people stood
refreshing themselves in the mild evening air, which was pleasant with
the scent of lilac. Ephie led the way, and Maurice followed her to the
edge of the parapet, where they leaned against one of the pillars.
Here, he found himself again in the neighbourhood of the other two.
Louise, leaning both hands on the stone-work, was looking out over the
square; but Schilsky, lounging as before, with his legs crossed, his
hands in his pockets, had his back to it, and was letting his eyes
range indifferently over the faces before him. As Maurice and Ephie
came up, he yawned long and heartily, and, in so doing, showed all his
defective teeth. Furtively watching them, Maurice saw him lean
towards his companion and say something to her; at the same time, he
touched with his fingertips the lace she wore at the front of her
dress. The familiarity of the action grated on Maurice, and he turned
away his head. When he looked again, a moment or two later, he was
disturbed anew. Louise was leaning forward, still in the same
position, but Schilsky was plainly conversing by means of signs with
some one else. He frowned, half closed his eyes, shook his head, and,
as if by chance, laid a finger on his lips.

"Who's he doing that to?" Maurice asked himself, and followed the
direction of the other's eyes, which were fixed on the corner where he
and Ephie stood. He turned, and looked from side to side; and, as he
did this, he caught a glimpse of Ephie's face, which made him observe
her more nearly: it was flushed, and she was gazing hard at Schilsky.
With a rush of enlightenment, Maurice looked back at the young man,
but this time Schilsky saw that he was being watched; stooping, he
said a nonchalant word to his companion, and thereupon they went
indoors again. All this passed like a flash, but it left, none the
less, a disagreeable impression, and before Maurice had recovered from
it, Ephie said: "Let us go in."

They pressed towards the door.

"I'm poor company to-night, Ephie," he said, feeling already the need
of apologising to her for his ridiculous suspicion. "But you are
quiet, too." He glanced down at her as he spoke, and again was
startled; her expression was set and defiant, but her baby lips
trembled. "What's the matter? I believe you are angry with me for
being so silent."

"I guess it doesn't make any difference to me whether you talk or
not," she replied pettishly. "But I think it's just as dull and stupid
as it can be. I wish I hadn't come."

"Would you like to go home?"

"Of course I wouldn't. I'll stop now I'm here--oh, can't we go quicker?
How slow you are! Do make haste."

He thought he heard tears in her voice, and looked at her in
perplexity. While he contemplated getting her into a quiet corner and
making her tell him truthfully what the matter was, they came upon
Madeleine, who had been searching everywhere for Maurice. Madeleine
had more colour in her cheeks than usual, and, in the pleasing
consciousness that she was having a successful evening, she brought
her good spirits to bear on Ephie, who stood fidgeting beside them.

"You look nice, child," she remarked in her patronising way.
"Your dress is very pretty. But why is your face so red? One would
think you had been crying."

Ephie, growing still redder, tossed her head. "It's no wonder, I'm
sure. The theatre is as hot as an oven. But at least my nose isn't red
as well."

Madeleine was on the point of retorting, but at this moment, the
interval came to an end, and the electric bells rang shrilly. The
people who were nearest the doors went out at once, upstairs and down.
Among the first were Louise and Schilsky, the latter's head as usual
visible above every one else's.

"I will go, too," said Ephie hurriedly. "No, don't bother to come with
me. I'll find my way all right. I guess the others are in front."

"There's something wrong with that child to-night," said Madeleine as
she and Maurice climbed to the gallery. "Pert little thing! But I
suppose even such sparrow-brains have their troubles."

"I suppose they have," said Maurice. He had just realised that the
longed-for interval was over, and with it more of the hopes he had
nursed.

Dove was already in his seat, eating another roll. He moved along to
make room for them, but not a word was to be got out of him, and as
soon as he had finished eating, he raised the opera-glass to his eyes
again. Behind his back, Madeleine whispered a mischievous remark to
Maurice, but the latter smiled wintrily in return. He had searched
swiftly and thoroughly up and down the fourth row of the PARQUET, only
to find that Louise was not in it. This time there could be no doubt
whatever; not a single white dress was in the row, and towards the
middle a seat was vacant. They had gone home then; he would not see
her again--and once more the provoking darkness enveloped the theatre.

This second act had no meaning for him, and he found the various
scenes intolerably long. Dove volunteered no further aid, and
Madeleine's explanations were insufficient; he was perplexed and
bored, and when the curtains fell, joined in the applause merely to
save appearances. The others rose, but he said he would not go
downstairs; and when they had drawn back to let Dove push by and hurry
away, Madeleine said she, too, would stay. However they would at least
go into the corridor, where the air was better. After they had
promenaded several times up and down, they descended to a
lower floor and there, through a little half-moon window that gave on
the FOYER below, they watched the living stream which, underneath, was
going round as before. Madeleine talked without a pause.

"Look at Dove!" She pointed him out as he went by with the two
sisters. "Did you ever see such a gloomy air? He might sit for Werther
to-night. And oh, look, there's Boehmer with his widow--see, the
pretty fattish little woman. She's over forty and has buried two
husbands, but is crazy about Boehmer. They say she's going to marry
him, though he's more than twenty years younger than she is."

At this juncture, to his astonishment, Maurice saw Schilsky and
Louise. He uttered an involuntary exclamation, and Madeleine
understood it. She stopped her gossip to say: "You thought she had
gone, didn't you? Probably she has only changed her seat. They do that
sometimes--he hates PARQUET." And, after a pause: "How cross she looks!
She's evidently in a temper about something. I never saw people hide
their feelings as badly as they do. It's positively indecent."

Her strictures were justifiable; as long as the two below were in
sight, and as often as they came round, they did not exchange word or
look with each other. Schilsky frowned sulkily, and his loose-knitted
body seemed to hang together more loosely than usual, while as for
Louise--Maurice staring hard from his point of vantage could not have
believed it possible for her face to change in this way. She looked
suddenly older, and very tired; and her mobile mouth was hard.

When, an hour later, after a tedious colloquy between Brunnhilde and
Wotan, this long and disappointing evening came to an end, to the more
human strains of the FEUERZAUBER, and they, the last of the
gallery-audience to leave, had tramped down the wooden stairs,
Maurice's heart leapt to his throat to discover, as they turned the
last bend, not only the two Cayhills waiting for them, but also, a
little distance further off, Louise. She stood there, in her white
dress, with a thin scarf over her head.

Madeleine was surprised too. "Louise! Is it you? And alone?"

The girl did not respond. "I want to borrow some money from you,
Madeleine--about five or six marks," she said, without smiling, in one
of those colourless voices that preclude further questioning.

Madeleine was not sure if she had more than a couple of marks
in her purse, and confirmed this on looking through it under a lamp;
but both young men put their hands in their pockets, and the required
sum was made up. As they walked across the square, Louise explained.
Dressed, and ready to start for the theatre, she had not been able to
find her purse.

"I looked everywhere. And yet I had it only this morning. At the last
moment, I came down here to Markwald's. He knows me; and he let me
have the seats on trust. I said I would go in afterwards."

They waited outside the tobacconist's, while she settled her debt.
Before she came out again, Madeleine cast her eyes over the group,
and, having made a rapid surmise, said good-naturedly to Johanna:
"Well, I suppose we shall walk together as far as we can. Shall you
and I lead off?"

Maurice had a sudden vision of bliss; but no sooner had Louise
appeared again, with the shopman bowing behind her, then Ephie came
round to his side, with a naive, matter-of-course air that admitted of
no rebuff, and asked him to carry her opera-glass. Dove and Louise
brought up the rear.

But Dove had only one thought: to be in Maurice's place. Ephie had
behaved so strangely in the theatre; he had certainly done something
to offend her, and, although he had more than once gone over his
conduct of the past week, without finding any want of correctness on
his part, whatever it was, he must make it good without delay.

"You know my friend Guest, I think," he said at last, having racked
his brains to no better result--not for the world would he have had his
companion suspect his anxiety to leave her. "He's a clever fellow, a
very clever fellow. Schwarz thinks a great deal of him. I wonder what
his impressions of the opera were. This was his first experience of
Wagner; it would be interesting to hear what he has to say."

Louise was moody and preoccupied, but Dove's words made her smile.

"Let us ask him," she said.

They quickened their steps and overtook the others. And when Dove,
without further ado, had marched round to Ephie's side, Louise, left
slightly to herself, called Maurice back to her.

"Mr. Guest, we want your opinion of the WALKURE."

Confused to find her suddenly beside him, Maurice was still more
disconcerted at the marked way in which she slackened her pace
to let the other two get in front. Believing, too, that he heard a
note of mockery in her voice, he coloured and hesitated. Only a moment
ago he had had several things worth saying on his tongue; now they
would not out. He stammered a few words, and broke down in them
half-way. She said nothing, and after one of the most embarrassing
pauses he had ever experienced, he avowed in a burst of forlorn
courage: "To tell the truth, I did not hear much of the music."

But Louise, who had merely exchanged one chance companion for another,
did not ask the reason, or display any interest in his confession, and
they went on in silence. Maurice looked stealthily at her: her white
scarf had slipped back and her wavy head was bare. She had not heard
what he said, he told himself; her thoughts had nothing to do with
him. But as he stole glances at her thus, unreproved, he wakened to a
sudden consciousness of what was happening to him: here and now, after
long weeks of waiting, he was walking at her side; he knew her, was
alone with her, in the summer darkness, and, though a cold hand
gripped his throat at the thought, he took the resolve not to let this
moment pass him by, empty-handed. He must say something that would
rouse her to the fact of his existence; something that would linger in
her mind, and make her remember him when he was not there. But they
were half way down the GRIMMAISCHESTRASSE; at the end, where the
PETERSTRASSE crossed it, Dove and the Cayhills would branch off, and
Madeleine return to them. He had no time to choose his phrases.

"When I was introduced to you this afternoon, Miss Dufrayer, you did
not know who I was," he said bluntly. "But I knew you very well--by
sight, I mean, of course. I have seen you often--very often."

He had done what he had hoped to do, had arrested her attention. She
turned and considered him, struck by the tone in which he spoke.

"The first time I saw you," continued Maurice, with the same show of
boldness--"you, of course, will not remember it. It was one evening in
Schwarz's room--in April--months ago. And since then, I . . . well . . .
I----"

She was gazing at him now, in surprise. She remembered at this minute,
how once before, that day, his manner of saying some simple thing had
affected her disagreeably. Then, she had eluded the matter with an
indifferent word; now, she was not in a mood to do this, or in
a mood to show leniency. She was dispirited, at war with herself, and
she welcomed the excuse to vent her own bitterness on another.

"And since then--well?"

"Since then . . . "He hesitated, and gave a nervous laugh at his own
daring. "Since then . . . well, I have thought about you more
than--than is good for my peace of mind."

For a moment amazement kept her silent; then she, too, laughed, and
the walls of the dark houses they were passing seemed to the young man
to re-echo the sound.

"Your peace of mind!"

She repeated the words after him, with such an ironical emphasis that
his unreflected courage curled and shrivelled. He wished the ground
had swallowed him up before he had said them. For, as they fell from
her lips, the audacity he had been guilty of, and the absurdity that
was latent in the words themselves, struck him in the face like
pellets of hail.

"Your peace of mind! What has your peace of mind to do with me?" she
cried, growing extravagantly angry. "I never saw you in my life till
to-day; I may never see you again, and it is all the same to me
whether I do or not.--Oh, my own peace of mind, as you call it, is
quite hard enough to take care of, without having a stranger's thrown
at me! What do you mean by making me responsible for it! I have never
done anything to you."

All the foolish castles Maurice had built came tumbling about his
cars. He grew pale and did not venture to look at her.

"Make you responsible! Oh, how can you misunderstand me so cruelly!"

His consternation was so palpable that it touched her in spite of
herself. Her face had been as naively miserable as a child's, now it
softened, and she spoke more kindly.

"Don't mind what I say. To-night I am tired . . . have a headache . . .
anything you like."

A wave of compassion drowned his petty feelings of injury, and his
sympathy found vent in a few inadequate words.

"Help me?--you?" She laughed, in an unhappy way. "To help, one must
understand, and you couldn't understand though you tried. All you
others lead such quiet lives; you know nothing of what goes on in a
life like mine. Every day I ask myself why I have not thrown myself
out of the window, or over one of the bridges into the river,
and put an end to it."

Wrapped up though she was in herself, she could not help smiling at
his frank gesture of dismay.

"Don't be afraid," she said, and the smile lingered on her lips. "I
shall never do it. I'm too fond of life, and too afraid of death. But
at least," she caught herself up again, "you will see how ridiculous
it is for you to talk to me of your peace of mind. Peace of mind! I
have never even been passably content. Something is always wanting.
To-night, for instance, I feel so much energy in me, and I can make
nothing of it--nothing! If I were a man, I should walk for hours,
bareheaded, through the woods. But to be a woman . . . to be cooped up
inside four walls . . . when the night itself is not large enough to
hold it all!----"

She threw out her hands to emphasise her helplessness, then let them
drop to her sides again. There was a silence, for Maurice could not
think of anything to say; her fluency made him tongue-tied. He
struggled with his embarrassment until they were all but within
earshot of the rest, at the bottom of the street.

"If I . . . if you would let me . . . There is nothing in the world I
wouldn't do to help you," he ended fervently.

She did not reply; they had reached the corner where the others
waited. There was a general leave-taking. Through a kind of mist,
Maurice saw that Ephie's face still wore a hostile look; and she
hardly moved her lips when she bade him good-night.

Madeleine drew her own conclusions as she walked the rest of the way
home between two pale and silent people. She had seen, on coming out
of the theatre, that Louise was in one of her bad moods--a fact easily
to be accounted for by Schilsky's absence. Maurice had evidently been
made to suffer under it, too, for not a syllable was to be drawn from
him, and, after several unavailing attempts she let him alone.

As they crossed the ROSSPLATZ, which lay wide and deserted in the
starlight, Louise said abruptly: "Suppose, instead of going home, we
walk to Connewitz?"

At this proposal, and at Maurice's seconding of it, Madeleine laughed
with healthy derision.

"That is just like one of your crazy notions," she said "What a
creature you are! For my part, I decline with thanks. I have to get a
Moscheles ETUDE ready by to-morrow afternoon, and need all my
wits. But don't let me hinder you. Walk to Grimma if you want to."

"What do you say? Shall you and I go on?" Louise turned to Maurice;
and the young man did not know whether she spoke in jest or in
earnest.

Madeleine knew her better. "Louise!" she said warningly. "Maurice has
work to do to-morrow, too."

"You thought I meant it," said the girl, and laughed so ungovernably
that Madeleine was again driven to remonstrance.

"For goodness' sake, be quiet! We shall have a policeman after us, if
you laugh like that."

Nothing more was said until they stood before the housedoor in the
BRUDERSTRASSE. There Louise, who had lapsed once more into her former
indifference, asked Madeleine to come upstairs with her.

"I will look for the purse again; and then I can give you what I owe
you. Or else I am sure to forget. Oh, it's still early; and the night
is so long. No one can think of sleep yet."

Madeleine was not a night-bird, but she was also not averse to having
a debt paid. Louise looked from her to Maurice. "Will you come, too,
Mr. Guest? It will only take a few minutes," she said, and, seeing his
unhappy face, and remembering what had passed between them, she spoke
more gently than she had yet done.

Maurice felt that he ought to refuse; it was late. But Madeleine
answered for him. "Of course. Come along, Maurice," and he crossed the
threshold behind them.

After lighting a taper, they entered a paved vestibule, and mounted a
flight of broad and very shallow stairs; half-way up, there was a deep
recess for pot-plants, and a wooden seat was attached to the wall. The
house had been a fine one in its day; it was solidly built, had
massive doors with heavy brass fittings, and thick mahogany banisters.
On the first floor were two doors, a large and a small one, side by
side. Louise unlocked the larger, and they stepped into a commodious
lobby, off which several rooms opened. She led the way to the furthest
of these, and entered in front of her companions.

Maurice, hesitating just inside the door, found himself close to a
grand piano, which stood free on all sides, was open, and disorderly
with music. It was a large room, with three windows; and one
end of it was shut off by a high screen, which stretched almost from
wall to wall. A deep sofa stood in an oriel-window; a writing-table
was covered with bric-a-brac, and three tall flower-vases were filled
with purple lilac. But there was a general air of untidiness about the
room; for strewn over the chairs and tables were numerous small
articles of dress and the toilet-hairpins, a veil, a hat and a
skirt--all traces of her intimate presence.

As she lifted the lamp from the writing-table to place it on the
square table before the sofa, Madeleine called her attention to a
folded paper that had lain beneath it.

"It seems to be a letter for you."

She caught at it with a kind of avidity, tore it open, and heedless of
their presence, devoured it, not only with her eyes: but with her
parted lips and eager hands. When she looked up again, her cheeks had
a tinge of colour in them; her eyes shone like faceted jewels; her
smile was radiant and infectious. With no regard for appearances, she
buttoned the note in the bosom of her dress.

"Now we will look for the purse," she said. "But come in, Mr.
Guest--you are still standing at the door. I shall think you are
offended with me. Oh, how hot the room is!--and the lilac is stifling.
First the windows open! And then this scarf off, and some more light.
You will help me to look, will you not?"

It was to Maurice she spoke, with a childlike upturning of her face to
his--an irresistibly confiding gesture. She disappeared behind the
screen, and came out bareheaded, nestling with both hands at the coil
of hair on her neck. Then she lit two candles that stood on the piano
in brass candlesticks, and Maurice lighted her round the room, while
she searched in likely and unlikely places--inside the piano, in empty
vases, in the folds of the curtains--laughing at herself as she did so,
until Madeleine said that this was only nonsense, and came after them
herself. When Maurice held the candle above the writing-table, he
lighted three large photographs of Schilsky, one more dandified than
the other; and he was obliged to raise his other hand to steady the
candlestick.

At last, following a hint from Madeleine, they discovered the purse
between the back of the sofa and the seat; and now Louise remembered
that it had been in the pocket of her dressing-gown that afternoon.

"How stupid of me! I might have known," she said contritely.
"So many things have gone down there in their day. Once a silver
hair-brush that I was fond of; and I sometimes look there when bangles
or hat-pins are missing," and letting her eyes dance at Maurice, she
threw back her head and laughed.

Here, however, another difficulty arose; except for a few nickel
coins, the purse was found to contain only gold, and the required
change could not be made up.

"Never mind; take one of the twenty-mark pieces," she urged. "Yes,
Madeleine, I would rather you did;" and when Madeleine hinted that
Maurice might not find it too troublesome to come back with the change
the following day, she turned to the young man, and saying: "Yes, if
Mr. Guest would be so kind," smiled at him with such a gracious warmth
that it was all he could do to reply with a decent unconcern.

But the hands of the clock on the writing-table were nearing half-past
eleven, and now it was she who referred to the lateness of the hour.

"Thank you very much," she said to Maurice on parting. "And you must
forget the nonsense I talked this evening. I didn't mean it--not a word
of it." She laughed and held out her hand. "I wouldn't shake hands
with you this afternoon, but now--if you will? For to-night I am not
superstitious. Nothing bad will happen; I'm sure of that. And I am
very much obliged to you--for everything. Good night."

Only a few minutes back, he had been steeped in pity for her; now it
seemed as if no one had less need of pity or sympathy than she. He was
bewildered, and went home to pass alternately from a mood of rapture
to one of jealous despair. And the latter was torturous, for, as they
walked, Madeleine had let fall such a vile suspicion that he had
parted from her in anger, calling as he went that if he believed what
she said to be true, he would never put faith in a human being again.

In the light of the morning, of course, he knew that it was
incredible, a mere phantasm born of the dark; and towards four o'clock
that afternoon, he called at the BRUDERSTRASSE with the change. But
Louise was not at home, and as he did not find her in on three
successive days, he did not venture to return. He wrote his name on a
card, and left this, together with the money, in an envelope.




X.



After parting from the rest, Dove and the two Cayhills continued their
way in silence: they were in the shadow thrown by the steep vaulting
of the THOMASKIRCHE, before a word was exchanged between them. Johanna
had several times glanced inquiringly at her sister, but Ephie had
turned away her head, so that only the outline of her cheek was
visible, and as Dove had done exactly the same, Johanna could only
conclude that the two had fallen out. It was something novel for her
to be obliged to talk when Ephie was present, but it was impossible
for them to walk the whole way home as mum as this, especially as Dove
had already heaved more than one deep sigh.

So, as they turned into the PROMENADE, Johanna said with a jerk, and
with an aggressiveness that she could not subdue: "Well, that is the
first and the last time anyone shall persuade me to go to a so-called
opera by Wagner."

"Is not that just a little rash?" asked Dove. He smiled, unruffled,
with a suggestion of patronage; but there was also a preoccupation in
his manner, which showed that he was thinking of other things.

"You call that music," said Johanna, although he had done nothing of
the kind. "I call it noise. I am not musical myself, thank goodness,
but at least I know a tune when I hear one."

"If my opinion had been asked, I should certainly have suggested
something lighter--LOHENGRIN OR TANNHAUSER, for instance," said Dove.

"You would have done us a favour if you had," replied Johanna; and she
meant what she said, in more ways than one. She had been at a loss to
account for Ephie's sudden longing to hear DIE WALKURE, and had gone
to the theatre against her will, simply because she never thwarted
Ephie if she could avoid it. Now, after she had heard the opera, she
felt aggrieved with Dove as well; as far as she had been able to
gather from his vague explanations, from the bawling of the singers,
and from subsequent events, the first act treated of relations so
infamous that, by common consent, they are considered non-existent;
and Johanna was of the opinion that, instead of being so ready
to take tickets for them, Dove might have let drop a hint of the
nature of the piece Ephie wished to see.

After this last remark of Johanna's there was another lengthy pause.
Then Dove, looking fondly at what he could see of Ephie's cheek, said:
"I am afraid Miss Ephie has not enjoyed it either; she is so quiet--so
unlike herself."

Ephie, who had been staring into the darkness, bit her lip: he was at
it again. After the unfriendly way in which Maurice Guest had deserted
her, and forced her into Dove's company, Dove had worried her right
down the GRIMMAISCHESTRASSE, to know what the matter was, and how he
had offended her. She felt exasperated with every one, and if he began
his worryings again, would have to vent her irritation somehow.

"Ephie has only herself to blame if she didn't enjoy it; she was bent
on going," said Johanna, in the mildly didactic manner she invariably
used towards her sister. "But I think she is only tired--or a little
cross."

"Oh, that is not likely," Dove hastened to interpose.

"I am not cross, Joan," said Ephie angrily. "And if it was my fault you
had to come--I've enjoyed myself very much, and I shall go again, as
often as I like. But I won't be teased--I won't indeed!"

This was the sharpest answer Johanna had ever received from Ephie. She
looked at her in dismay, but made no response, for of nothing was
Johanna more afraid than of losing the goodwill Ephie bore her.
Mentally she put her sister's pettishness down to the noise and heat
of the theatre, and it was an additional reason for bearing Wagner and
his music a grudge. Dove also made no further effort to converse
connectedly, but his silence was of a conciliatory kind, and, as they
advanced along the PROMENADE, he could not deny himself the pleasure
of drawing the pretty, perverse child's attention to the crossings,
the ruts in the road, the best bits of pavement, with a: "Walk you
here, Miss Ephie," "Take care," "Allow me," himself meanwhile dancing
from one side of the footpath to the other, until the young girl was
almost distracted.

"I can see for myself, thank you. I have eyes in my head as well as
anyone else," she exclaimed at length; and to Johanna's amazed:
"Ephie!" she retorted: "Yes, Joan, you think no one has a right to be
rude but yourself."

Johanna was more hurt by these words than she would have confessed.
She had hitherto believed that Ephie--affectionate, lazy
little Ephie--accepted her individual peculiarities as an integral part
of her nature: it had not occurred to her that Ephie might be standing
aloof and considering her objectively--let alone mentally using such an
unkind word as rudeness of her. But Ephie's fit of ill-temper, for
such it undoubtedly was, made Johanna see things differently; it
hinted at unsuspected, cold scrutinies in the past, and implied a
somewhat laming care of one's words in the days to come, which would
render it difficult ever again to be one's perfectly natural self.

Had Johanna not been so occupied with her own feelings, she would have
heard the near tears in Ephie's voice; it was with the utmost
difficulty that the girl kept them back, and at the house-door, she
had vanished up the stairs long before Dove had finished saying
good-night. In the corridor, she hesitated whether or no, according to
custom, she should go to her mother's room. Then she put a brave face
on it, and opened the door.

"Here we are, mummy. Good night. I hope the evening wasn't too long."

Long?--on the contrary the hours had flown. Mrs. Cayhill, left to
herself, had all the comfortable sensations of a tippler in the
company of his bottle. She could forge ahead, undeterred by any sense
of duty; she had not to interrupt herself to laugh at Ephie's wit, nor
was she troubled by Johanna's cold eye--that eye which told more plainly
than words, how her elder daughter regarded her self-indulgence.
Propped up in bed on two pillows, she now laid down her book, and put
out her hand to draw Ephie to her.

"Did you enjoy it, darling? Were you amused? But you will tell me all
about it in the morning."

"Yes, mother, in the morning. I am a little tired--but it was very
sweet," said Ephie bravely. "Good night."

Mrs. Cayhill kissed her, and nodded in perfect contentment at the
pretty little figure before her. Ephie was free to go. And at last she
was in her own room--at last!

She hastily locked both doors, one leading to the passage and one to
her sister's room. A moment later, Johanna was at the latter, trying
to open it.

"Ephie! What is the matter? Why have you locked the door? Open it at
once, I insist upon it," she cried anxiously, and as loudly as she
dared, for fear of disturbing the other inmates of the house.

But Ephie begged hard not to be bothered; she had a bad headache,
and only wanted to be quiet.

"Let me give you a powder," urged her sister. "You are so excited--I am
sure you are not well;" and when this, too, was refused: "You had
nothing but some tea, child--you must be hungry. And they have left our
supper on the table."

No, she was not hungry, didn't want any supper, and was very sleepy.

"Well, at least unlock your door," begged Johanna, with visions of the
dark practices which Ephie, the soul of candour, might be contemplating
on the other side. "I will not come in, I promise you," she added.

"Oh, all right," said Ephie crossly. But as soon as she heard that
Johanna had gone, she returned to the middle of the room without
touching the door; and after standing undecided for a moment, as if
not quite sure what was coming next, she sat down on a chair at the
foot of the bed, and suddenly began to cry. The tears had been in
waiting for so long that they flowed without effort, abundantly,
rolling one over another down her cheeks; but she was careful not to
make a sound; for, even when sobbing bitterly, she did not forget that
at any moment Johanna might enter the adjoining room and overhear her.
And then, what a fuss there would be! For Ephie was one of those
fortunate people who always get what they want, and but rarely have
occasion to cry. All her desires had moved low, near earth, and been
easily fulfilled. Did she break her prettiest doll, a still prettier
was forthcoming; did anything happen to cross wish or scheme of hers,
half a dozen brains were at work to think out a compensation.

But now she wept in earnest, behind closed doors, for she had received
an injury which no one could make good. And the more she thought of
it, the more copiously her tears flowed. The evening had been one long
tragedy of disappointment: her fevered anticipation beforehand, her
early throbs of excitement in the theatre, her growing consternation
as the evening advanced, her mortification at being slighted--a
sensation which she experienced for the first time. Again and again
she asked herself what she had done to be treated in this way. What
had happened to change him?

She was sitting upright on her chair, letting the tears stream
unchecked; her two hands lay upturned on her knee; in one of them was
a diminutive lace handkerchief, rolled to a ball, with which now and
then she dabbed away the hottest tears. The windows of the
room were still open, the blinds undrawn, and the street-lamps threw a
flickering mesh of light on the wall. In the glass that hung over the
washstand, she saw her dim reflection: following an impulse, she dried
her eyes, and, with trembling fingers, lighted two candles, one on
each side of the mirror. By this uncertain light, she leant forward
with both hands on the stand, and peered at herself with a new
curiosity.

She was still just as she had come out of the theatre: a many-coloured
silk scarf was twisted round her head, and the brilliant, dangling
fringes, and the stray tendrils of hair that escaped, made a frame for
the rounded oval of her face. And then her skin was so fine, her eyes
were so bright, the straight lashes so black and so long!--she put her
head back, looked at herself through half-closed lids, turned her face
this way and that, even smiling, wet though her cheeks were, in order
that she might see the even line of teeth, with their slightly notched
edges. The smile was still on her lips when the tears welled up again,
ran over, trickled down and dropped with a splash, she watching them,
until a big, unexpected sob rose in her throat, and almost choked her.
Yes, she was pretty--oh, very, very pretty! But it made what had
happened all the harder to understand. How had he had the heart to
treat her so cruelly?

She knelt down by the open window, and laid her head on the sill. The
moon, a mere sharp line of silver, hung fine and slender, like a
polished scimitar, above the dark mass of houses opposite. Turning her
hot face up to it, she saw that it was new, and instantly felt a throb
of relief that she had not caught her first glimpse of it through
glass. She bowed her head to it, quickly, nine times running, and sent
up a prayer to the deity of fortune that had its home there. Good
luck!--the fulfilment of one's wish! She wished in haste, with
tight-closed eyes--and who knew but what, the very next day, her wish
might come true! Tired with crying, above all, tired of the grief
itself, she began more and more to let her thoughts stray to the
morrow. And having once yielded to the allurements of hope, she even
endeavoured to make the best of the past evening, telling herself that
she had not been alone for a single instant; he had really had no
chance of speaking to her. In the next breath, of course, she reminded
herself that he might easily have made a chance, had he wished; and a
healthier feeling of resentment stole over her. Rising from her
cramped position, she shut the window. She resolved to show him that
she was not a person who could be treated in this off-hand
fashion; he should see that she was not to be trifled with.

But she played with her unhappiness a little longer, and even had an
idea of throwing herself on the bed without undressing. She was very
sleepy, though, and the desire to be between the cool, soft sheets was
too strong to be withstood. She slipped out of her clothes, leaving
them just where they fell on the floor, like round pools; and before
she had finished plaiting her hair, she was stifling a hearty yawn.
But in bed, when the light was out, she lay and stared before her.

"I am very, very unhappy. I shall not sleep a wink," she said to
herself, and sighed at the prospect of the night-watch.

But before five minutes had passed her closed hand relaxed, and lay
open and innocent on the coverlet; her breath came regularly--she was
fast asleep. The moon was visible for a time in the setting of the
unshuttered window; and when she wakened next day, toward nine
o'clock, the full morning sun was playing on the bed.

For several months prior to this, Ephie had worshipped Schilsky at a
distance. The very first time she saw him play, he had made a profound
impression on her: he looked so earnest and melancholy, so supremely
indifferent to every one about him, as he stood with his head bent to
his violin. Then, too, he had beautiful hands; and she did not know
which she admired more, his auburn hair with the big hat set so
jauntily on it, or the thrillingly impertinent way he had of staring
at you--through half-closed eyes, with his head well back--in a manner
at once daring and irresistible.

Having come through a period of low spirits, caused by an acute
consciousness of her own littleness and inferiority, Ephie so far
recovered her self-confidence that she was able to look at her
divinity when she met him; and soon after this, she made the
intoxicating discovery that not only did he return her look, but that
he also took notice of her, and deliberately singled her out with his
gaze. And the belief was pardonable on Ephie's part, for Schilsky made
it a point of honour to stare any pretty girl into confusion; besides
which, he had a habit of falling into sheep-like reveries, in which he
saw no more of what or whom he looked at, than do the glassy eyes of
the blind. More than once, Ephie had blushed and writhed in blissful
torture under these stonily staring eyes.

From this to persuading herself that her feelings were returned
was only a step. Events and details, lighter than puff-balls,
were to her links of iron, which formed a wonderful chain of evidence.
She went about nursing the idea that Schilsky desired an introduction
as much as she did; that he was suffering from a romantic and
melancholy attachment, which forbade him attempting to approach her.

At this date, she became an adept at inventing excuses to go to the
Conservatorium when she thought he was likely to be there; and,
suddenly grown rebellious, she shook off Johanna's protectorship,
which until now had weighed lightly on her. She grew fastidious about
her dress, studied before the glass which colours suited her best, and
the effect of a particular bow or ribbon; while on the days she had
her violin-lessons, she developed a coquetry which made nothing seem
good enough to wear, and was the despair of Johanna. When Schilsky
played at an ABENDUNTERHALTUNG, she sat in the front row of seats, and
made her hands ache with applauding. Afterwards she lay wakeful, with
hot cheeks, and dreamt extravagant dreams of sending him great baskets
and bouquets of flowers, with coloured streamers to them, such as the
singers in the opera received on a gala night. And though no name was
given, he would know from whom they came. But on the only occasion she
tried to carry out the scheme, and ventured inside a florist's shop,
her scant command of German, and the excessive circumstantiality of
the matter, made her feel so uncomfortable that she had fled
precipitately, leaving the shopman staring after her in surprise.

Things were at this pass when, one day late in May, Ephie went as
usual to take her lesson. It was two o'clock on a cloudless afternoon,
and so warm that the budding lilac in squares and gardens began to
give out fragrance. In the whitewashed, many-windowed corridors of the
Conservatorium, the light was harsh and shadowless; it jarred on one,
wounded the nerves. So at least thought Schilsky, who was hanging
about the top storey of the building, in extreme ill-humour. He had
been forced to make an appointment with a man to whom he owed money;
the latter had not yet appeared, and Schilsky lounged and swore, with
his two hands deep in his pockets, and his sulkiest expression. But
gradually, he found himself listening to the discordant tones of a
violin--at first unconsciously, as we listen when our thoughts are
elsewhere engaged, then more and more intently. In one of the junior
masters' rooms, some one had begun to play scales in the third
position, uncertainly, with shrill feebleness, seeking out
each note, only to produce it falsely. As this scraping worked on him,
Schilsky could not refrain from rubbing his teeth together, and
screwing up his face as though he had toothache; now that the
miserable little tones had successfully penetrated his ear, they hit
him like so many blows.

"Damn him for a fool!" he said savagely to himself, and found an
outlet for his irritation in repeating these words aloud. Then,
however, as an ETUDE was commenced, with an impotence that struck him
as purely vicious, he could endure the torment no longer. He had seen
in the BUREAU the particular master, and knew that the latter had not
yet come upstairs. Going to the room from which the sounds issued, he
stealthily opened the door.

A girl was standing with her back to him, and was so engrossed in
playing that she did not hear him enter. On seeing this, he proposed
to himself the schoolboy pleasure of creeping up behind her and giving
her a well-deserved fright. He did so, with such effect that, had he
not caught it, her violin would have fallen to the floor.

He took both her wrists in his, held them firm, and, from his superior
height--he was head and shoulders taller than Ephie --looked down on
the miscreant. He recognised her now as a pretty little American whom
he had noticed from time to time about the building; but--but . . .
well, that she was as astoundingly pretty as this, he had had no
notion. His eyes strayed over her face, picking out all its beauties,
and he felt himself growing as soft as butter. Besides, she had
crimsoned down to her bare, dimpled neck; her head drooped; her long
lashes covered her eyes, and a tremulous smile touched the corners of
her mouth, which seemed uncertain whether to laugh or to cry--the
short, upper-lip trembled. He felt from her wrists, and saw from the
uneasy movement of her breast, how wildly her heart was beating--it was
as if one held a bird in one's hand. His ferocity died away; none of
the hard words he had had ready crossed his lips; all he said, and in
his gentlest voice, was: "Have I frightened you?" He was desperately
curious to know the colour of her eyes, and, as she neither answered
him nor looked up, but only grew more and more confused, he let one of
her hands fall, and taking her by the chin, turned her face up to his.
She was forced to look at him for a moment. Upon which, he stooped and
kissed her on the mouth, three times, with a pause between each kiss.
Then, at a noise in the corridor, he swung hastily from the
room, and was just in time to avoid the master, against whom he
brushed up in going out of the door.

Herr Becker looked suspiciously at his favourite pupil's tell-tale face
and air of extreme confusion; and, throughout the lesson, his manner
to her was so cold and short that Ephie played worse than ever before.
After sticking fast in the middle of a passage, she stopped
altogether, and begged to be allowed to go home. When she had gone,
and some one else was playing, Herr Becker stood at the window and
shook his head: round this innocent baby face he had woven several
pretty fancies.

Meanwhile Ephie flew rather than walked home, and having reached her
room unseen, flung herself on the bed, and buried her burning cheeks
in the white coolness of the pillows. Johanna, finding her thus, a
short time after, was alarmed, put questions of various kinds, felt
sure the sun had been too hot for her, and finally stood over the bed,
holding her unfailing remedy, a soothing powder for the nerves.

"Oh, do for goodness' sake, leave me alone, Joan," said Ephie. "I
don't want your powders. I am all right. Just let me be."

She drank the mixture, however, and catching sight of Johanna's
anxious face, and aware that she had been cross, she threw her arms
round her sister, hugged her, and called her a "dear old darling
Joan." But there was something in the stormy tenderness of the
embrace, in the flushed cheeks and glittering eyes that made Johanna
even more uneasy. She insisted upon Ephie lying still and trying to
sleep; and, after taking off her shoes for her, and noiselessly
drawing down the blinds, she went on tiptoe out of the room.

Ephie burrowed more deeply in her pillow, and putting both hands to
her cars, to shut out the world, went over the details of what had
happened. It was like a fairy-story. She walked lazily down the sunny
corridor, entered the class-room, and took off her hat, which Herr
Becker hung up for her, after having playfully examined it. She had
just taken her violin from its case, when he remembered something he
had to do in the BUREAU, and went out of the room, bidding her
practise her scales during his absence; she heard again and smiled at
the funny accent with which he said: "Just a moment." She saw the bare
walls of the room, the dust that lay white on the lid on the piano,
was conscious of the difficulties of C sharp minor. She even knew
the very note at which HE had been beside her--without a word
of warning, as suddenly as though he had sprung from the earth. She
heard the cry she had given, and felt his hands--the hands she had so
often admired--clasp her wrists. He was so close to her that she felt
his breath, and knew the exact shape of the diamond ring he wore on
his little finger. She felt, too, rather than saw the audacious
admiration of his eyes; and his voice was not the less caressing
because a little thick. And then--then--she burrowed more firmly, held
her ears more tightly to, laughed a happy, gurgling laugh that almost
choked her: never, as long as she lived, would she forget the feel of
his moustache as it scratched her lips!

When she rose and looked at herself in the glass, it seemed
extraordinary that there should be no outward difference in her; and
for several days she did not lose this sensation of being mysteriously
changed. She was quieter than usual, and her movements were a little
languid, but a kind of subdued radiance peeped through and shone in
her eyes. She waited confidently for something to happen: she did not
herself know what it would be, but, after the miracle that had
occurred, it was beyond belief that things could jog on in their old
familiar course; and so she waited and expected--at every letter the
postman brought, each time the door-bell rang, whenever she went into
the street.

But after a week had dragged itself to an end, and she had not even
seen Schilsky again, she grew restless and unsure; and sometimes at
night, when Johanna thought she was asleep, she would stand at her
window, and, with a very different face from that which she wore by
day, put countless questions to herself, all of which began with why
and how. And Johanna was again beset by the fear that Ephie was
sickening for an illness, for the child would pass from bursts of
rather forced gaiety to fits of real fretfulness, or sink into brown
studies, from which she wakened with a start. But if, on some such
occasion, Johanna said to her: "Where ARE your thoughts, Ephie?" she
would only laugh, and answer, with a hug: "Wool-gathering, you dear
old bumble-bee!"

From the lesson following the eventful one, Ephie played truant, on
the ground of headache, partly because her fancy pictured him lying in
wait like an ogre to eat her up, and partly from a poor little foolish
fear lest he should think her too easily won. Now, however, she blamed
herself for not having given him an opportunity to speak to her, and
began to frequent the Conservatorium assiduously. When, after
ten long days, she saw him again, an unfailing instinct guided her
aright.

It was in the vestibule, as she was leaving the building, and they met
face to face. Directly she espied him, though her heart thumped
alarmingly, Ephie tossed her head, gazed fixedly at some distant
object, and was altogether as haughty as her parted lips would allow
of. And she played her part so well that Schilsky's attention was
arrested; he remembered who she was, and stared hard at her as she
passed. Not only this, but pleased, he could not have told why, he
turned and followed her out, and standing on the steps, looked after
her. She went down the street with her head in the air, holding her
dress very high to display a lace-befrilled petticoat, and clattering
gracefully on two high-heeled, pointed shoes. He screwed up his eyes
against the sun, in order to see her better--he was short-sighted, too,
but vanity forbade him to wear glasses--and when, at the corner of the
street, Ephie rather spoilt the effect of her behaviour by throwing a
hasty glance back, he laughed and clicked his tongue against the roof
of his mouth.

"VERDAMMT!" he said with expression.

And both on that day and the next, when he admired a well-turned ankle
or a pretty petticoat, he was reminded of the provoking little
American, with the tossed head and baby mouth.

A few days later, in the street that ran alongside the Gewandhaus, he
saw her again.

Ephie, who, in the interval, had upbraided herself incessantly, was
none the less, now the moment had come, about to pass as before--even
more frigidly. But this time Schilsky raised his hat, with a tentative
smile, and, in order not to appear childish, she bowed ever so
slightly. When he was safely past, she could not resist giving a
furtive look behind her, and at precisely the same moment, he turned,
too. In spite of her trouble, Ephic found the coincidence droll; she
tittered, and he saw it, although she immediately laid the back of her
hand on her lips. It was not in him to let this pass unnoticed. With a
few quick steps, he was at her side.

He took off his hat again, and looked at her not quite sure how to
begin.

"I am happy to see you have not forgotten me," he said in excellent
English.

Ephie had impulsively stopped on hearing him come up with her, and
now, colouring deeply, tried to dig a hole in the pavement with the
toe of her shoe. She, too, could not think what to say; and
this, together with the effect produced on her by his peculiar lisp,
made her feel very uncomfortable. She was painfully conscious of his
insistent eyes on her face, as he waited for her to speak; but there
was a distressing pause before he added: "And sorry to see you are
still angry with me."

At this, she found her tongue. Looking, not at him, but at a passer-by
on the opposite side of the street, she said: "Why, I guess I have a
right to be."

She tried to speak severely, but her voice quavered, and once more the
young man was not sure whether the trembling of her lip signified
tears or laughter.

"Are you always so cruel?" he asked, with an intentness that made her
eyes seek the ground again. "Such a little crime! Is there no hope for
me?"

She attempted to be dignified. "Little! I am really not accustomed----"

"Then I'm not to be forgiven?"

His tone was so humble that suddenly she had to laugh. Shooting a
quick glance at him, she said:

"That depends on how you behave in future. If you promise never to----"

Before the words were well out of her mouth, she was aware of her
stupidity; her laugh ended, and she grew redder than before. Schilsky
had laughed, too, quite frankly, and he continued to smile at the
confusion she had fallen into. It seemed a long time before he said
with emphasis: "That is the last thing in the world you should ask of me."

Ephie drooped her head, and dug with her shoe again; she had never
been so tongue-tied as to-day, just when she felt she ought to say
something very cold and decisive. But not an idea presented itself,
and meanwhile he went on: "The punishment would be too hard. The
temptation was so great."

As she was still obstinately silent, he stooped and peeped under the
overhanging brim of her hat. "Such pretty lips!" he said, and then, as
on the former occasion, he took her by the chin and turned her face up
to his.

But she drew back angrily. "Mr. Schilskyl . . . how dare you! Take
your hand away at once."

"There!--I have sinned again," he said, and folded his hands in mock
supplication. "Now I am afraid you will never forgive me.--But listen,
you have the advantage of me; you know my name. Will you not tell me
yours?"

Having retreated a full yard from him, Ephie regained some of
her native self-composure. For the first time, she found herself able
to look straight at him. "No," she said, with a touch of her usual
lightness. "I shall leave you to find it out for yourself; it will
give you something to do."

They both laughed. "At least give me your hand," he said; and when he
held it in his, he would not let her go, until, after much seeming
reluctance on her part, she had detailed to him the days and hours of
her lessons at the Conservatorium, and where he would be likely to
meet her. As before, he stood and watched her go down the street,
hoping that she would turn at the corner. But, on this day, Ephie
whisked along in a great hurry.

On after occasions, he waylaid her as she came and went, and either
stood talking to her, or walked the length of the street beside her.
At the early hour of the afternoon when Ephie had her lessons, he did
not need to fear being seen by acquaintances; the sunshine was
undisturbed in the quiet street. The second time they met, he told her
that he had found out what her name was; and his efforts to pronounce
it afforded Ephie much amusement. Their conversation was always of the
same nature, half banter, half earnest. Ephie, who had rapidly
recovered her assurance, invariably began in her archest manner, and
it became his special pleasure to reduce her, little by little, to a
crimson silence.

But one day, about a fortnight later, she came upon him at a different
hour, when he was not expecting to see her. He was strolling up and
down in front of the Conservatorium, waiting for Louise, who might
appear at any moment. Ephie had been restless all the morning, and had
finally made an excuse to go out: her steps naturally carried her to
the Conservatorium, where she proposed to study the notice-board, on
the chance of seeing Schilsky. When she caught sight of him, her eyes
brightened; she greeted him with an inviting smile, and a saucy
remark. But Schilsky did not take up her tone; he cut her words short.

"What are you doing here to-day?" he asked with a frown of displeasure,
meanwhile keeping a watchful eye on the inner staircase--visible through
the glass doors--down which Louise would come. "I haven't a moment to
spare."

Mortally offended by his manner, Ephie drew back her extended hand,
and giving him a look of surprise and resentment, was about to pass
him by without a further word. But this was more than Schilsky
could bear; he put out his hand to stop her, always, though, with one
eye on the door.

"Now, don't be cross, little girl," he begged impatiently. "It's not my
fault--upon my word it isn't. I wasn't expecting to see you to-day--you
know that. Look here, tell me--this sort of thing is so unsatisfactory--is
there no other place I could see you? What do you do with yourself all
day? Come, answer me, don't be angry."

Ephie melted. "Come and visit us on Sunday afternoon," she said. "We
are always at home then."

He laughed rudely, and took no notice of her words. "Come, think of
something--quick!" he said.

He was on tenterhooks to be gone, and showed it. Ephie grew
flustered, and though she racked her brains, could make no further
suggestion.

"Oh well, if you can't, you know," he said crossly, and loosened his
hold of her arm.

Then, at the last moment, she had a flash of inspiration; she
remembered how, on the previous Sunday, Dove had talked enthusiastically
of an opera-performance, which, if she were not mistaken, was to take
place the following night. Dove had declared that all musical Leipzig
would probably be present in the theatre. Surely she might risk mentioning
this, without fear of another snub.

"I am going to the opera to-morrow night," she said in a small, meek
voice, and was on the verge of tears. Schilsky hardly heard her;
Louise had appeared at the head of the stairs. "The very thing," he
said. "I shall look out for you there, little girl. Good-bye. AUF
WIEDERSEHEN!"

He went down the steps, without even raising his hat, and when Louise
came out, he was sauntering towards the building again, as if he had
come from the other end of the street.

Ephie went home in a state of anger and humiliation which was new to
her. For the first few hours, she was resolved never to speak to
Schilsky again. When this mood passed, she made up her mind that he
should atone for his behaviour to the last iota: he should grovel
before her; she would scarcely deign to look at him. But the nearer
the time came for their meeting, the more were her resentful feelings
swallowed up by the wish to see him. She counted off the hours till
the opera commenced; she concocted a scheme to escape Johanna's
surveillance; she had a story ready, if it should be necessary, of how
she had once been introduced to Schilsky. Her fingers trembled
with impatience as she fastened on a pretty new dress, which had just
been sent home: a light, flowered stuff, with narrow bands of black
velvet artfully applied so as to throw the fairness of her hair and
skin into relief.

The consciousness of looking her best gave her manner a light sureness
that was very charming. But from the moment they entered the FOYER,
Ephie's heart began to sink: the crowd was great; she could not see
Schilsky; and in his place came Dove, who was not to be shaken off.
Even Maurice was bad enough--what concern of his was it how she enjoyed
herself? When, finally, she did discover the person she sought, he
was with some one else, and did not see her; and when she had
succeeded in making him look, he frowned, shook his head, and made
angry signs that she was not to speak to him, afterwards going
downstairs with the sallow girl in white. What did it mean? All
through the tedious second act, Ephie wound her handkerchief round and
round, and in and out of her fingers. Would it never end? How long
would the fat, ugly Brunnhilde stand talking to Siegmund and the woman
who lay so ungracefully between his knees? As if it mattered a straw
what these sham people did or felt! Would he speak to her in the next
interval, or would he not?

The side curtains had hardly swept down before she was up from her
seat, hurrying Johanna away. This time she chose to stand against the
wall, at the end of the FOYER. After a short time, he came in sight,
but he had no more attention to spare for her than before; he did not
even look in her direction. Her one consolation was that obviously he
was not enjoying himself; he wore a surly face, was not speaking, and,
to a remark the girl in white made, he answered by an angry flap of
the hand. When they had twice gone past in this way, and she had each
time vainly put herself forward, Ephie began to take an interest in
what Dove was saying, to smile at him and coquet with him, and the
more openly, the nearer Schilsky drew. Other people grew attentive,
and Dove went into a seventh heaven, which made it hard for him
placidly to accept the fit of pettish silence, she subsequently fell
into.

The crowning touch was put to this disastrous evening by the fact that
Schilsky's companion of the FOYER walked the greater part of the way
home with them; and, what was worse, that she took not the slightest
notice of Ephie.




XI.



Before leaving her bedroom the following morning, Ephie wrote on her
scented pink paper a short letter, which began: "Dear Mr. Schilsky,"
and ended with: "Your sincere friend, Euphemia Stokes Cayhill." In
this letter, she "failed to understand" his conduct of the previous
evening, and asked him for an explanation. Not until she had closed
the envelope, did she remember that she was ignorant of his address.
She bit the end of her pen, thinking hard, and directly breakfast was
over, put on her hat and slipped out of the house.

It was the first time Ephie had had occasion to enter the BUREAU of
the Conservatorium; and, when the heavy door had swung to behind her,
and she was alone in the presence of the secretaries, each of whom was
bent over a high desk, writing in a ledger, her courage almost failed
her. The senior, an old, white-haired man, with a benevolent face, did
not look up; but after she had stood hesitating for some minutes, an
under-secretary solemnly laid down his pen, and coming to the counter,
wished in English to know what he could do for her. Growing very red,
Ephie asked him if he "would . . . could . . . would please tell her
where Mr. Schilsky lived."

Herr Kleefeld leaned both hands on the counter, and disconcerted her
by staring at her over his spectacles.

"Mr. Schilsky? Is it very important?" he said with a leer, as if he
were making a joke.

"Why, yes, indeed," replied Ephie timidly.

He nodded his head, more to himself than to her, went back to his
desk, opened another ledger, and ran his finger down a page, repeating
aloud as he did so, to her extreme embarrassment: "Mr. Schilsky--let me
see. Mr. Schilsky--let me see."

After a pause, he handed her a slip of paper, on which he had
painstakingly copied the address: "TALSTRASSE, 12 III."

"Why, I thank you very much. I have to ask him about some music. Is
there anything to pay?" stammered Ephie.

But Herr Kleefeld, leaning as before on the counter, shook his head
from side to side, with a waggish air, which confused Ephie still
more. She made her escape, and left him there, still wagging, like a
china Mandarin.

Having addressed the letter in the nearest post office, she
entered a confectioner's and bought a pound of chocolate creams; so
that when Johanna met her in the passage, anxious and angry at her
leaving the house without a word, she was able to assert that her
candy-box had been empty, and she felt she could not begin to practise
till it was refilled. But Johanna was very cantankerous, and obliged
her to study an hour overtime to atone for her escapade.

Then followed for Ephie several unhappy days, when all the feeling she
seemed capable of concentrated itself on the visits of the postman.
She remained standing at the window until she had seen him come up the
street, and she was regularly the first to look through the mails as
they lay on the lobby table. Two days brought no reply to her letter.
On the third fell a lesson, which she was resolved not to take. But
when the hour came, she dressed herself with care and went as usual.
Schilsky was nowhere to be seen. Half a week later, the same thing was
repeated, except that on this day, she made herself prettier than
ever: she was like some gay, garden flower, in a big white hat, round
the brim of which lay scarlet poppies, and a dress of a light blue,
which heightened the colour of her cheeks, and, reflected in her eyes,
made them bluer than a fjord in the sun. But her spirits were low; if
she did not see him this time, despair would crush her.

But she did--saw him while she was still some distance off, standing
near the portico of the Conservatorium; and at the sight of him, after
the uncertainty she had gone through during the past week, she could
hardly keep back her tears. He did not come to meet her; he stood and
watched her approach, and only when she reached him, indolently held
out his hand. As she refused to notice it, and went to the extreme
edge of the pavement to avoid it, he made a barrier of his arms, and
forced her to stand still. Holding her thus, with his hand on her
elbow, he looked keenly at her; and, in spite of the obdurate way in
which she kept her eyes turned from him, he saw that she was going to
cry. For a moment he hesitated, afraid of the threatening scene, then,
with a decisive movement, he took her violin-case out of her hand.
Ephie made an ineffectual effort to get possession of it again, but he
held it above her reach, and saying: "Wait a minute," ran up the
steps. He came back without it, and throwing a swift glance round him,
took the young girl's arm, and walked her off at a brisk pace to the
woods. She made a few, faint protests. But he replied: "You and I have
something to say to each other, little girl."

A full hour had elapsed when Ephie appeared again. She was alone, and
walked quickly, casting shy glances from side to side. On reaching the
Conservatorium, she waited in a quiet corner of the vestibule for
nearly a quarter of an hour, before Schilsky sauntered in, and
released her violin from the keeping of the janitor, a good friend of
his.

They had not gone far into the wood; Schilsky knew of a secluded seat,
which was screened by a kind of boscage; and here they had remained.
At first, Ephie had cried heartily, in happy relief, and he had not
been able to console her. He had come to meet her with many good
resolutions, determined not to let the little affair, so lightly
begun, lead to serious issues; but Ephie's tears, and the tale they
told, and the sobbed confessions that slipped out unawares, made it
hard for him to be wise. He put his arm round her, dried her tears
with his own handkerchief, kissed the hand he held. And when he had in
this way petted her back to composure, she suddenly looked up in his
face, and, with a pretty, confiding movement, said:

"Then you do care for me a little?"

It would have need a stronger than he to answer otherwise. "Of course
I do," was easily said, and to avoid the necessity of more, he kissed
the pink dimples at the base of her four fingers, as well as the baby
crease that marked the wrist. The poppy-strewn hat lay on the seat
beside them; the fluffy head and full white throat were bare; in the
mellow light of the trees, the lashes looked jet-black on her cheeks;
at each word, he saw her small, even teeth: and he was so unnerved by
the nearness of all this fresh young beauty that, when Ephie with her
accustomed frankness had told him everything he cared to know, he
found himself saying, in place of what he had intended, that they must
be very cautious. In the meantime, it would not do for them to be seen
together: it might injure his prospects, be harmful to his future.

"Yes, but afterwards?" she asked him promptly.

He kissed her cheek. But she repeated the question, and he was obliged
to reply: that would be a different matter. It was now her turn to be
curious, and one of the first questions she put related to the dark
girl he had been with at the theatre. Playing lightly with her
fingers, Schilsky told her that this was one of his best friends, some
one he had known for a long, long time, to whom he owed much,
and whom he could under no circumstances offend. Ephie looked grave
for a moment; and, in the desire of provoking a pretty confession, he
asked her if she had minded very much seeing him with some one else.
But she made him wince by responding with perfect candour: "With her?
Oh, no! She's quite old."

Before parting, they arranged the date of the next meeting, and, a
beginning once made, they saw each other as often as was feasible.
Ephie grew wonderfully apt at excuses for going out at odd times, and
for prolonged absences. Sound fictions were needed to satisfy Johanna,
and even Maurice Guest was made to act as dummy: he had taken her for
a walk, or they had been together to see Madeleine Wade; and by these
means, and also by occasionally shirking a lesson, she gained a good
deal of freedom. Johanna would as soon have thought of herself being
untruthful as of doubting Ephie, whom she had never known to tell a
lie; and if she did sometimes feel jealous of all the new claims made
on her little sister's attention, such a feeling was only temporary,
and she was, for the most part, content to see Ephie content.

At night, in her own room, lying wakeful with hot cheeks and big eyes,
Ephie went over in memory all that had taken place at their last
meeting, or built high, top-heavy castles for the future. She was
absurdly happy; and her mother and sister had never found her more
charming and lovable, or richer in those trifling inspirations for
brightening life, which happiness brings with it. She looked forward
with secret triumph to the day when she would be able to announce her
engagement to the celebrated young violinist, and the only shadow on
her happiness was that she could not do this immediately. It did not
once cross her mind to doubt the issue: she had always had her way,
and, in her own mind, had long since arranged just how this matter was
to fall out. She would return to America--where, of course, they would
live--and get her clothes ready, and then he would come, and they would
be married--a big wedding, with descriptions in the newspapers. They
would have a big house, and he would play at concerts--as she had once
heard Sarasate play in New York--and every one would stand on tiptoe to
see him. She sat proud and conspicuous in the front row. "His wife.
That is his wife!" people whispered, and they drew respectfully back
to let her pass, as, in a very becoming dress, she swept into the
little room behind the platform, which she alone was permitted to
enter.

One day at this time there was a violent thunderstorm. Towards midday,
the eastern sky grew black with clouds, which, for hours, had been
ominously gathering; a sudden wind rose and swept the dust house-high
through the streets; the thunder rumbled, and each roll came nearer.
When, after a prolonged period of expectation, the storm finally
burst, there was a universal sigh of relief.

The afternoon was damply refreshing. As soon as the rain ceased,
Maurice shut his piano, and walked at a brisk pace to Connewitz, his
head bared beneath the overhanging branches, which were still weighed
down by their burden of drops. At the WALDCAFE on the bank of the
river, in a thickly grown arbour which he entered to drink a glass of
beer, he found Philadelphia Jensen and the pale little American,
Fauvre, taking coffee.

The lady welcomed him with a large, outstretched hand, in the
effusively hearty manner with which she, as it were, took possession
of people; and towards six o'clock, the three walked back through the
woods together, Miss Jensen, resolute of bust as of voice, slightly
ahead of her companions, carrying her hat in her hand, Fauvre dragging
behind, hitting indolently at stones and shrubs, and singing scraps of
melodies to himself in his deep baritone.

Miss Jensen, who had once been a journalist, was an earnest worker for
woman's emancipation, and having now successfully mounted her hobby,
spoke with a thought-deadening eloquence. Maurice had never been
called on to think about the matter, and listened to her words
absent-mindedly, comparing her, as she swept along, to a ship in full
sail. She was just asserting that the ordinary German woman was little
more than means to an end, the end being the man-child, when his
attention was arrested, and, in an instant, jerked far away from Miss
Jensen's theories. As they reached the bend of a path, a sound of
voices came to them through the trees, and on turning a corner,
Maurice caught a glimpse of two people who were going in the opposite
direction, down a side-walk--a passing but vivid glimpse of a light,
flowered dress, of a grey suit of clothes, and auburn hair. Ephie! He
could have sworn to voice and dress; but to whom in all the world was
she talking, so confidentially? At the name that rose to his lips, he
almost stopped short, but the next moment he was afraid lest his
companions should also have seen who it was, and, quickening his
steps, he incited Miss Jensen to talk on. First, however, that
lady said in a surprised tone: "Say, that was Mr. Schilsky, wasn't it?
Who was the lady? Did you perceive?" So there was no possible doubt of
it.

After parting from his companions, he did an errand in the town, and
from there went to the Cayhills' PENSION, determined to ascertain
whether it had really been Ephie he had seen, and if so, what the
meaning of it was.

Mrs. Cayhill and Johanna were in the sitting-room; Johanna looked very
surprised to see him. They had this moment risen from the
supper-table, she told him; Ephie had only just got home in time.
Before anything further could be said, Ephie herself came into the
room; her face was flushed, and she did not seem well-pleased at his
unexpected visit. She hardly greeted him, and instead, commenced
talking about the weather.

"Then you had a pleasant walk?" asked Johanna in a preoccupied
fashion, without looking up from the letter she was writing; and
before Maurice could speak, Ephie, fondling her sister's neck,
answered: "How could it be anything but sweet--after the rain?"

In the face of this frankness, it was on Maurice's tongue to say:
"Then it was you, I saw?" but again she did not give him time. Still
standing behind Johanna's chair, her eyes fixed on the young man's
face with a curious intentness, she continued: "We walked right to
Connewitz and back without a rest."

"I don't think you should take her so far," said Mrs. Cayhill, looking
up from her book with her kindly smile. "She has never been used to
walking and is easily tired--aren't you, my pet?"

"Yes, and then she can't get up the next morning," said Johanna,
mildly dogmatic, considering the following sentence of her letter.

Gradually it broke upon Maurice that Ephie had been making use of his
name. His consternation at the discovery was such that he changed
colour. The others, however, were both too engrossed to notice it.
Ephie grew scarlet, but continued to rattle on, covering his silence.

"Well, perhaps to-day it was a little too far," she admitted. "But
mummy, I won't have you say I'm not strong. Why, Herr Becker is always
telling me how full my tone is getting. Yes indeed. And look at my
muscle."

She turned back the loose sleeve of her blouse, baring almost
the whole of her rounded arm; then, folding it sharply to her, she
invited one after another to test its firmness.

"Quite a prize-fighter, I declare!" laughed Mrs. Cayhill, at the same
time drawing her little daughter to her, to kiss her. But Johanna
frowned, and told Ephie to put down her sleeve at once; there was
something in the childish action that offended the elder sister, she
did not know why. But Maurice had first to lay two of his fingers on
the soft skin, and then to help her to button the cuff.

When, soon after this, he took his leave, Ephie went out of the room
with him. In the dark passage, she caught at his hand.

"Morry, you mustn't tell tales on me," she whispered; and added
pettishly: "Why ever did you just come to-night?"

He tried to see her face. "What is it all about, Ephie?" he asked.
"Then it WAS you, I saw, in the NONNE--by the weir?"

"Me? In the NONNE!" She was genuinely surprised. "You saw me?"

He nodded. By the light that came from the stairs as she opened the
hall-door, she noticed that he looked troubled, and an impulse rose in
her to throw her arms round his neck and say: "Yes, yes, it was me.
Oh, Morry, I am so happy!" But she remembered the reasons for secrecy
that had been imposed on her, and, at the same time, felt somewhat
defiantly inclined towards Maurice. After all, what business was it of
his? Why should he take her to task for what she chose to do? And so
she merely laughed, with assumed merriment, her own charming,
assuaging laugh.

"In the wood?--you old goose! Listen, Morry, I told them I had been
with you, because--why, because one of the girls in my class asked me
to go to the CAFE FRANCAIS with her, and we stayed too long, and ate
too much ice-cream, and Joan doesn't like it, and I knew she would be
cross--that's all! Don't look so glum, you silly! It's nothing," and
she laughed again.

As long as this laugh rang in his ears--to the bottom of the street,
that is--he believed her. Then, the evidence of his senses reasserted
itself, and he knew that what she had told him was false. He had heard
her voice in the wood too distinctly to allow of any mistake, and she
was still wearing the same dress. Besides, she had lied so artlessly
to the others, without a tremor of her candid eyes--why should she not
lie to him, too? She was less likely to be considerate of him than of
Johanna. But his distress at her skill in deceit was so great
that he said: "Ephie, little Ephie!" aloud to himself, just as he
might have done had he heard that she was stricken down by a mortal
illness.

On the top of this, however, came less selfish feelings. What was
almost a sense of guilt took possession of him; he felt as if, in some
way, he were to blame for what had happened; as if nature had intended
him to stand in the place of a brother to this pretty, thoughtless
child. And yet what could he have done? He did not now see Ephie as
often as formerly, and hardly ever alone; on looking back, he began to
suspect that she had purposely avoided him. The exercises in harmony,
which had previously brought them together, had been discontinued.
First, she had said that her teacher was satisfied with what she
herself could do; then, that he had advised her to give up harmony
altogether: she would never make anything of it. In the light of what
had come to pass, Maurice saw that he had let himself be duped by her;
she had lied then as now.

He puzzled his brains to imagine how she had learned to know Schilsky
in the first instance, and when the affair had begun: what he had
overheard that afternoon implied an advanced stage of intimacy; and he
revolved measures by means of which a stop might be put to it. The
only course he could think of was to lay the matter before Johanna;
and yet what would the use of that be? Ephie would deny everything,
make his story ludicrous, himself impossible, and never forgive him
into the bargain. In the end, he might do more good by watching over
her silently, at a distance. If it had only not been Schilsky who was
concerned! Some of the ugly stories he had heard related of the young
man rose up and took vivid shape before his eyes. If any harm came to
Ephie, he alone would be to blame for it; not Johanna, only he knew
the frivolous temptations the young girl was exposed to. Why, in
Heaven's name, had he not taken both her hands, as they stood in the
passage, and insisted on her confessing to him? No, credulous as
usual, he had once more allowed himself to be hoodwinked and put off.

Thus he fretted, without arriving at any clearer conclusion than this:
that he had unwittingly been made accessory to an unpleasant secret.
But where his mind baulked, and refused to work, was when he tried to
understand what all this might mean to the third person involved. Did
Louise know or suspect anything? Had she, perhaps, for weeks past been
suffering under the knowledge?

He stood irresolute, at the crossing where the MOZARTSTRASSE joined
the PROMENADE. A lamp-lighter was beginning his rounds; he came up
with his long pole to the lamp at the corner, and, with a mild
explosion, the little flame sprang into life. Maurice turned on his
heel and went to see Madeleine.

The latter was making her supper of tea, bread, and cold sausage, and
when she heard that he had not eaten, she set a cup and plate before
him, and was glad that she happened to be late. Propped open on the
table was a Danish Grammar, which she conned as she ate; for, in the
coming holidays, she was engaged to go to Norway, as guide and
travelling-companion to a party of Englishwomen.

"I had a letter from London to-day," she said, "with definite
arrangements. So I at once bought this book. I intend to try and
master at least the rudiments of the language--barbarous though it
is--for I want to get some good from the journey. And if one has one's
wits about one, much can be learnt from cab-drivers and railway-porters."

She traced on a map with her forefinger the route they proposed to
follow, and laughed at the idea of the responsibility lying heavy on
her. But when they had finished their supper, and she had talked
informingly for a time of Norway, its people and customs, she looked
at the young man, who sat irresponsive and preoccupied, and considered
him attentively.

"Is anything the matter to-night? Or are you only tired?"

He was tired. But though she herself had suggested it, she was not
satisfied with his answer.

"Something has bothered you. Has your work gone badly?"

No, it was nothing of that sort. But Madeleine persisted: could she be
of any help to him?

"The merest trifle--not worth talking about."

The twilight had grown thick around them; the furniture of the room
lost its form, and stood about in shapeless masses. Through the open
window was heard the whistle of a distant train; a large fly that had
been disturbed buzzed distractingly, undecided where to re-settle for
the night. It was sultry again, after the rain.

"Look here, Maurice," Madeleine said, when she had observed him for
some time in silence. "I don't want to be officious, but
there's something I should like to say to you. It's this. You are far
too soft-hearted. If you want to get on in life, you must think more
about yourself than you do. The battle is to the strong, you know, and
the strong, within limits, are certainly the selfish. Let other people
look after themselves; try not to mind how foolish they are--you can't
improve them. It's harder, I daresay, than it is to be a person of
unlimited sympathies; it's harder to pass the maimed and crippled by,
than to stop and weep over them, and feel their sufferings through
yourself. But YOU have really something in you to occupy yourself
with. You're not one of those people--I won't mention names!--whose own
emptiness forces them to take an intense interest in the doings of
others, and who, the moment they are alone with their thoughts, are
bored to desperation. just as there are people who have no talent for
making a home home-like, and are only happy when they are out of it."

Here she laughed at her own seriousness.

"But you are smiling inwardly, and thinking: the real old school-marm!"

"You don't practise what you preach, Madeleine. Besides, you're
mistaken. At heart, I'm a veritable egoist."

She contradicted him. "I know you better than you know yourself."

He did not reply, and a silence fell, in which the commonplace words
she had last said, went on sounding and resounding, until they had no
more likeness to themselves. Madeleine rose, and pushed back her
chair, with a grating noise.

"I must light the lamp. Sitting in the dark makes for foolishness.
Come, wake up, and tell me what plans you have for the holidays."

"If I had a sister, I should like her to be like you," said Maurice,
watching her busy with the lamp. "Clear-headed, and helpful to a fellow."

"I suppose men always will continue to consider that the greatest
compliment they can pay," said Madeleine, and turned up the light so
high that they both blinked.--And then she scolded the young man
soundly for his intention of remaining in Leipzig during the holidays.

But when he rose to go, she said, with an impulsiveness that was
foreign to her: "I wish you had a friend."

It was his turn to smile. "Have you had enough of me?"

Madeleine, who was sitting with crossed arms, remained grave.
"I mean a man. Some one older than yourself, and who has had
experience. The best-meaning woman in the world doesn't count."

Only a very few days later, an occasion offered when, with profit to
himself, he might have acted upon Madeleine's introductory advice. He
had been for a quick, solitary walk, and was returning, in the evening
between nine and ten o'clock, along one of the paths of the wood, when
suddenly, and close at hand, he heard the sound of voices. He stopped
instantaneously, for by the jump his heart gave, he knew that Louise
was one of the speakers. What she said was inaudible to him; but it
was enough to be able to listen, unseen, to her voice. Hearing it like
this, as something existing for itself, he was amazed at its depth and
clearness; he felt that her personal presence had, until now, hindered
him from appreciating a beautiful but immaterial thing at its true
worth. At first, like a cadence that repeats itself, its tones rose
and fell, but with more subtle inflections than the ordinary voice
has: there was a note in it that might have belonged to a child's
voice; another, more primitive, that betrayed feeling with as little
reserve as the cry of an animal. Then it sank, and went on in a
monotone, like a Hebrew prayer, as if reiterating things worn
threadbare by repetition, and already said too often. Gradually, it
died away in the surrounding silence. There was no response but a
gentle rustling of the leaves overhead. It began anew, and, in the
interval, seemed to have gained in intensity; now there was a
bitterness in it which, when it swelled, made it give out a tone like
the roughly touched strings of an instrument; it seemed to be
accusing, to be telling of unmerited suffering. And, this time, it
elicited a reply, but a casual, indifferent one, which might have
related to the weather, or to the time of night. Louise gave a shrill
laugh, and then, as plainly as if the words were being carved in stone
before his eyes, Maurice heard her say: "You have never given me a
moment's happiness."

As before, no answer was returned, and almost immediately his ear
caught a muffled sound of footsteps. At the same moment, a night-wind
shook the tree-tops; there was a general fluttering and swaying around
him; and he came back to himself to find that he was standing rigid,
holding on to a slender tree that grew close by the path. His first
conscious thought was that this wind meant rain . . . there would be
another storm in the night . . . and the summer holidays--time of
partings--were at the door. She would go away . . . and he would perhaps
never see her again.

Since the evening they had walked home from the theatre together, he
had had no further chance of speaking to her. If they met in the
street, she gave him, as Madeleine had foretold of her, a nod and a
smile; and from this coolness, he had drawn the foolish inference that
she wished to avoid him. Abnormally sensitive, he shrank out of her
way. But now, the mad sympathy that had permeated him on the night she
had made him her confidant grew up in him again; it swelled out into
something monstrous--a gigantic pity that rebounded on himself. For he
knew now why she suffered; and he was cast down both for her and for
himself. It seemed unnatural that he was debarred from giving her just
a fraction of the happiness she craved--he, who, had there been the
least need for it, would have lain himself down for her to tread on.
And in some of the subsequent nights when he could not sleep, he
composed fantastic letters to her, in which he told her this and more,
only to colour guiltily, with the return of daylight, at the
impertinent folly of his thoughts.

But he could not forget the words he had heard her say; they haunted
him like an importunate refrain. Even his busiest hours were set to
them--"You have never given me a moment's happiness"--and they were
alike a torture and a joy.




XII.



The second half of July scattered the little circle in all directions.
Maurice spent a couple of days at the different railway-stations,
seeing his friends off. One after another they passed into that
anticipatory mood, which makes an egoist of the prospective traveller:
his thoughts start, as it were, in advance; he has none left for the
people who are remaining behind, and receives their care and attention
as his due.

Dove was packed and strapped, ready to set out an hour after he had
had his last lesson; and while he printed labels for his luggage, and
took a circumstantial leave of his landlady and her family, with whom
he was a prime favourite by reason of his decent and orderly habits,
Maurice fetched for him from the lending library, the pieces of music
set by Schwarz as a holiday task. Dove was on tenterhooks to be off.
Of late, things had gone superlatively well with him: he had performed
with applause in an ABENDUNTERHALTUNG, and been highly commended by
Schwarz; while, as for Ephie, she had been so sweet and winning, so
modestly encouraging of his suit, that he had every reason to hope for
success in this quarter also. Too dutiful a son, however, to take,
unauthorised, such an important step as that of proposing marriage, he
was now travelling home to sound two elderly people, resident in a
side street in Peterborough, on the advisability of an American
daughter-in-law.

The Cayhills had been among the first to leave, and would be absent
till the middle of September. One afternoon, Maurice started them from
the THURINGER BAHNHOF, on their journey to Switzerland. Having seen
Mrs. Cayhill comfortably settled with her bags, books and cushions, in
the corner of a first-class carriage, and given Johanna assistance with
the tickets, he stood till the train went, talking to Ephie; and he
long retained a picture of her, standing with one foot on the step, in
a becoming travelling-dress, a hat with a veil flying from it, and a
small hand-bag slung across her shoulder, laughing and dimpling, and
well aware of the admiring glances that were cast at her. It was a
relief to Maurice that she was going away for a time; his feeling of
responsibility with regard to her had not flagged, and he had
made a point of seeing her more often, and of knowing more of her
movements than before. As, however, he had not observed anything
further to disturb him, his suspicions were on the verge of
subsiding--as suspicions have a way of doing when we wish them to--and
in the last day or two, he had begun to feel much less sure, and to
wonder if, after all, he had not been mistaken.

"I shall miss you, Morry. I almost wish I were not going," said Ephie,
and this was not untrue, in spite of the pretty new dresses her trunks
contained. "Say, I don't believe I shall enjoy myself one bit. You
will write, Morry, won't you, and tell me what goes on? All the news
you hear and who you see and everything."----

"Be sure you write," said Madeleine, too, when he saw her off early in
the morning to Berlin, where she was to meet her English charges.
"Christiania, POSTE RESTANTE, till the first, and then Bergen. 'FROKEN
WADE,' don't forget."

The train started; her handkerchief fluttered from the window until
the carriage was out of sight.

Maurice was alone; every one he knew disappeared, even Furst, who had
obtained a holiday engagement in a villa near Dresden. An odd
stillness reigned in the BRAUSTRASSE and its neighbourhood; from
houses which had hitherto been clangrous with musical noises, not a
sound issued. Familiar rooms and lodgings were either closely
shuttered, or, in process of scouring, hung out their curtains to
flutter on the sill.

The days passed, unmarked, eventless, like the uniform pages of a dull
book. When the solitude grew unbearable, Maurice went to visit Frau
Furst, and had his supper with the family. He was a welcome guest, for
he not only paid for all the beer that was drunk, but also brought
such a generous portion of sausage for his own supper, that it
supplied one or other of the little girls as well. Afterwards, they
sat round the kitchen-table, listening, the children with the
old-fashioned solemnity that characterised them, to Frau Furst's
reminiscences. Otherwise, he hardly exchanged a word with anyone, but
sat at his piano the livelong day. Of late, Schwarz had been somewhat
cool and off-hand in manner with him; the master had also not
displayed the same detailed interest in his plans for the summer, as
in those of the rest of the class. This was one reason why he had not
gone away like every one else; the other, that he had been unwilling
to write home for an increase of allowance. Sometimes, when the day
was hot, he envied his friends refreshing themselves by wood,
mountain or sea; but, in the main, he worked briskly at Czerny's
FINGERFERTIGKEIT, and with such perseverance that ultimately his
fingers stumbled from fatigue.

With the beginning of August, the heat grew oppressive; all day long,
the sun beat, fierce and unremittent, on this city of the plains, and
the baked pavements were warm to the feet. Business slackened, and the
midday rest in shops and offices was extended beyond its usual limit.
Conservatorium and Gewandhaus, at first given over to relays of
charwomen, their brooms and buckets, soon lay dead and deserted, too;
and if, in the evening, Maurice passed the former building, he would
see the janitor sitting at leisure in the middle of the pavement,
smoking his long black cigar. The old trees in the PROMENADE, and the
young striplings that followed the river in the LAMPESTRASSE, drooped
their brown leaves thick with dust; the familiar smell of roasting
coffee, which haunted most house- and stair-ways, was intensified; and
out of drains and rivers rose nauseous and penetrating odours, from
which there was no escape. Every three or four days, when the
atmosphere of the town had reached a pitch of unsavouriness which it
seemed impossible to surpass, sudden storms swept up, tropical in
their violence: blasts of thunder cracked like splitting beams;
lightning darted along the narrow streets; rain fell in white,
sizzling sheets. But the morning after, it was as hot as ever.

Maurice grew so accustomed to meet no one he knew, that one afternoon
towards the middle of August, he was pulled up by a jerk of surprise
in front of the PLEISSENBURG, on stumbling across Heinrich Krafft. He
had stopped and impulsively greeted the young man, before he recalled
his previous antipathy to him.

Krafft was sauntering along with his hands in his pockets, and, on
being accosted, he looked vaguely and somewhat moodily at Maurice. The
next moment, however, he laid a hand on the lappel of Maurice's coat,
and, without preamble, burst into a witty and obscene anecdote, which
had evidently been in his mind when they met. This story, and the fact
that, by the North Sea, he had stood before breakers twenty feet high,
were the only particulars Maurice bore away from their interview. His
previous impatience with such eccentricity returned, but none the
less, he looked grudgingly after the other's vanishing form.

A day or two later, towards evening, he saw Krafft again. As
he was going through an outlying street, he came upon a group of
children, who were amusing themselves by teasing a cat; the animal had
been hit in the eye by a stone, and cowered, terrified and blinded,
against the wall of a house. The children formed a half circle round
it, and two of the biggest boys held a young and lively dog by the
collar, inciting it and restraining it, and revelling in the cat's
convulsive starts at each capering bark.

While Maurice was considering how to expostulate with them, Krafft
came swiftly up behind, jerked two of the children apart, and, with a
deft and perfectly noiseless movement, caught up the cat and hid its
head under his coat. Then, cuffing the biggest boy, he kicked the dog,
and ordered the rest to disperse. The children did so lingeringly; and
once out of his reach, stood and mocked him.

He begged Maurice to accompany him to his lodgings, and there Maurice
held the animal, a large, half-starved street-cat, while Krafft, on
his knees before it, examined the wound. As he did this, he crooned in
a wordless language, and the cat was quiet, in spite of the pain he
caused it. But directly he took his hands off it, it jumped from the
table, and fled under the furthest corner of the sofa.

Krafft next fetched milk and a saucer, from a cupboard in the wall,
and went down on his knees again: while Maurice sat and watched and
wondered at his tireless endeavours to induce the animal to advance.
He explained his proceedings in a whisper.

"If I put the saucer down and leave it," he said, "it won't help at
all. A cat's confidence must be won straight away."

He was still in this position, making persuasive little noises, when
the door opened, and Avery Hill, his companion of a previous occasion,
entered. At the sight of Krafft crouching on the floor, she paused
with her hand on the door, and looked from him to Maurice.

"Heinz?" she said interrogatively. Then she saw the saucer of milk,
and understood. "Heinz!" she said again; and this time the word was a
reprimand.

"Ssh!--be quiet," said Krafft peevishly, without looking up.

The girl took no notice of Maurice's attempt to greet her. Letting
fall on the grand piano, some volumes of music she was carrying, she
continued sternly: "Another cat!--oh, it is abominable of you! This is
the third he has picked up this year," she said explanatorily,
yet not more to Maurice than to herself. "And the last was so dirty
and destructive that Frau Schulz threatened to turn him out, if he did
not get rid of it. He knows as well as I do that he cannot keep a cat
here."

Her placidly tragic face had grown hard; and altogether, the anger she
displayed seemed out of proportion to the trival offence.

Krafft remained undisturbed. "It's not the least use scolding. Go and
make it right with the old crow.--Come, puss, come."

The girl checked the words that rose to her lips, gave a slight shrug,
and went out of the room. They heard her, in the passage, disputing
with the landlady, who was justly indignant.

"If it weren't for you, Fraulein, I wouldn't keep him another day,"
she declared.

Meanwhile the cat, which, in the girl's presence, had shrunk still
further into its hiding-place, began to make advances. It crept a step
forward, retreated again, stretched out its nose to sniff at the milk,
and, all of a sudden, emerged and drank greedily.

Krafft touched its head, and the animal paused in its hungry gulping
to rub its back against the caressing hand. When the last drop of milk
was finished, it withdrew to its corner, but less suspiciously.

Krafft rose to his feet and stretched himself, and when Avery
returned, he smiled at her.

"Now then, is it all right?"

She did not reply, but went to the piano, to search for something
among the scattered music. Krafft clasped his hands behind his head,
and leaning against the table, watched her with an ironical curl of
the lip.

"O LENE! LENE! O MAGDALENE!" he sang under his breath; and, for the
second time, Maurice received the impression that a by-play was being
carried on between these two.

"Look at this," said Krafft after a pause. "Here, ladies and
gentlemen, is one of those rare persons who have a jot of talent in
them, and off she goes--I don't mean at this moment, but tomorrow, the
day after, every day--to waste it in teaching children finger-exercises.
If you ask her why she does it, she will tell you it is necessary to live.
Necessary to live!--who has ever proved that it is?"

For an instant, it seemed as if the girl were going to flash
out a bitter retort that might have betrayed her. Then she showed the
same self-control as before, and went, without a word, into the next
room. She was absent for a few minutes, and when she reappeared,
carried what was unmistakably a bundle of soiled linen, going away
with this on one arm, the volumes of music she had picked out on the
other. She did not wish the young men good-night, but, in passing
Maurice, she said in an unfriendly tone: "Do you know what time it
is?" and to Krafft: "It is late, Heiriz, you are not to play."

The door had barely closed behind her, when Krafft broke into the
loud, repellent laugh that had so jarred on Maurice at their former
meeting. He had risen at once, and now said he must go. But Krafft
would not hear of it; he pressed him into his seat again, with an
effusive warmth of manner.

"Don't mind her. Stay, like a good fellow. Of course, I am going to
play to you."

He flicked the keys of the piano with his handkerchief, adjusted the
distance of his seat, threw back his head, and half closing his eyes,
began to play. Except for the unsteady flickerings cast on the wall by
a street-lamp, the room was soon in darkness.

Maurice resumed his seat reluctantly. He had been dragged upstairs
against his will; and throughout the foregoing scene, had sat an
uncomfortable spectator. He had as little desire for the girl to
return and find him there, as for Krafft to play to him. But no excuse
for leaving offered itself, and each moment made it harder to interrupt
the player, who had promptly forgotten the fact of his presence.

After he had listened for a time, however, Maurice ceased to think of
escaping. Madeleine had once alluded to Krafft's skill as an
interpreter of Chopin, but, all the same, he had not expected anything
like what he now heard, and at first he could not make anything of it.
He had hitherto only known Chopin's music as played in the sentimental
fashion of the English drawing-room. Here, now, came some one who made
it clear that, no matter how pessimistic it appeared on the surface,
this music was, at its core an essentially masculine music; it kicked
desperately against the pricks of existence; what failed it was only
the last philosophic calm. He could not, of course, know that various
small things had combined to throw the player into one of his most
prodigal moods: the rescue and taming of the cat, the passage-at-arms
with Avery, her stimulating forbiddal, and, last and best, the one
silent listener in the dark--this stranger, picked up at random
in the streets, who had never yet heard him play, and to whom he might
reveal himself with an indecency that friendship precluded.

When at length, Frau Schulz entered, in her bed-jacket, to say that it
was long past ten o'clock, Krafft wakened as if out of a trance, and
hid his eyes from the light. Frau Schulz, a robust person, disregarded
his protests, and herself locked the piano and took the key.

"She makes me promise to," she whispered to Maurice, pointing over her
shoulder at an imaginary person. "If I didn't, he'd go on all night.
He's no more fit to look after himself than a baby--and he gets it
again with his boots in the morning.--Yes, yes, call me names if it
pleases you. Names don't kill. And if I am a hag, you're a rascal,
that's what you are! The way you treat that poor, good creature makes
one's blood boil."

Krafft waved her away, and opening the window, leaned out on the sill:
a wave of warm air filled the room. Maurice rose with renewed
decision, and sought his hat. But Krafft also took his down from a
peg. "Yes, let us go out."

It was a breathless August night, laden with intensified scents and
smells, and the moonlight lay thick and white on the ground: a night
to provoke to extravagant follies. In the utter stillness of the
woods, the young men passed from places of inky blackness into bluish
white patches, dropped through the trees like monstrous silver
thalers. The town lay behind them in a glorifying haze; the river
stretched silver-scaled in the moonlight, like a gigantic fish-back.

Krafft walked in front of his companion, in preoccupied silence. His
slender hands, dangling loosely, still twitched from their recent
exertions, and from time to time, he turned the palms outward, with an
impatient gesture. Maurice wished himself alone. He was not at ease
under this new companionship that had thrust itself upon him; indeed,
a strong mental antagonism was still uppermost in him, towards the
moody creature at whose heels he followed; and if, at this moment, he
had been asked to give voice to his feelings, the term "crazy idiot"
would have been the first to rise to his lips.

Suddenly, without turning, or slackening his pace, Krafft commenced to
speak: at first in a low voice, as if he were thinking aloud. But one
word gave another, his thoughts came rapidly, he began to gesticulate,
and finally, wrought on by the beauty of the night, by this choice
moment for speech, still excited by his own playing, and in an
infinite need of expression, he swept the silence before him with the
force of a flood set free. If he thought Maurice were about to
interrupt him, he made an imploring gesture, and left what he was
saying unfinished, to spring over to the next theme ready in his
brain. Names jostled one another on his tongue: he passed from
Beethoven and Chopin to Berlioz and Wagner, to Liszt and Richard
Strauss--and his words were to Maurice like the unrolling of a great
scroll. In the same breath, he was with Nietzsche, and Apollonic and
Dionysian; and from here he went on to Richard Dehmel, to ANATOL, and
the gentle "Loris" of the early verses; to Max Klinger, and the
propriety of coloured sculpture; to PAPA HAMLET and the future of the
LIED. Maurice, listening intently, had fleeting glimpses into a land
of which he knew nothing. He kept as still as a mouse, in order not to
betray his ignorance; for Krafft was not didactic, and talked as if
the subjects he touched on were as familiar to Maurice as to himself.
On the other hand, Maurice believed it was a matter of indifference to
him whether he was understood or not; he spoke for the pure joy of
talking, out of the motley profusion of his knowledge.

Meanwhile, he had grown personal. And while he was still speaking with
fervour of Vienna--which was his home--of gay, melancholy Wien, he flung
round and put a question to his companion.

"Do you ever think of death?"

Maurice had been the listener for so long that he started.

"Death?" he echoed, and was as much embarrassed as though asked
whether he believed in God. "I don't know. No, I don't think I do. Why
should one think of death when one is alive and well?"

Krafft laughed at this, with a pitying irony. "Happy you!" he said.
"Happy you!" His voice sank, and he continued almost fearfully: "I
have the vision of it before me, always wherever I go. Listen; I will
tell you; it is like this." He laid his hand on Maurice's arm, and
drew him nearer. "I know--no matter how strong and sound I may be at
this moment; no matter how I laugh, or weep, or play the fool; no
matter how little thought I give it, or whether I think about it all
day long--I know the hour will come, at last, when I shall gasp, choke,
grow black in the face, in the vain struggle for another single
mouthful of that air which has always been mine at will. And no one
will be able to help me; there is no escape from that hour; no
power on earth can keep it from me. And it is all a matter of chance
when it happens--a great lottery: one draws to-day, one to-morrow; but
my turn will surely come, and each day that passes brings me
twenty-four hours nearer the end." He drew still closer to Maurice.
"Tell me, have you never stood before a doorway--the doorway of some
strange house that you have perhaps never consciously gone past
before--and waited, with the atrocious curiosity that death and its
hideous paraphernalia waken in one, for a coffin to be carried out?--the
coffin of an utter stranger, who is of interest to you now, for
the first and the last time. And have you not thought to yourself,
with a shudder, that some day, in this selfsame way, under the same
indifferent sky, among a group of loiterers as idly curious as these,
you yourself will be carried out, feet foremost, like a bale of goods,
like useless lumber, all will and dignity gone from you, never to
enter there again?--there, where all the little human things you have
loved, and used, and lived amongst, are lying just as you left
them--the book you laid down, the coat you wore--now all of a greater
worth than you. You are mere dead flesh, and behind the horrid lid lie
stark and cold, with rigid fingers and half-closed eyes, and the chief
desire of every one, even of those you have loved most, is to be rid
of you, to be out of reach of sight and smell of you. And so, after
being carted, and jolted, and unloaded, you will be thrown into a
hole, and your body, ice-cold, and as yielding as meat to the
touch--oh, that awful icy softness!--your flesh will begin to rot, to be
such that not your nearest friend would touch you. God, it is unbearable!"

He wiped his forehead, and Maurice was silent, not knowing what to
say; he felt that such rational arguments as he might be able to
offer, would have little value in the face of this intensely personal
view, which was stammered forth with the bitterness of an accusation.
But as they crossed the suspensionbridge, Krafft stopped, and stood
looking at the water, which glistened in the moonlight like a living
thing.

"No, it is impossible for me to put death out of my mind," he went on.
"And yet, a spring into this silver fire down here would end all that,
and satisfy one's curiosity as well. Why is one not readier to make
the spring?--and what would one's sensations be? The mad rush through
the air--the crash--the sinking in the awful blackness . . ."

"Those of fear and cold. You would wish yourself out again,"
answered Maurice; and as Krafft nodded, without seeming to resent his
tone, he ventured to put forward a few points for the other side of
the question. He suggested that always to be brooding over death
unfitted you for life. Every one had to die when his time came; it was
foolish to look upon your own death as an exception to the rule.
Besides, when sensation had left you--the soul, the spirit, whatever
you liked to call it--what did it matter what afterwards became of your
body? It was, then, in reality, nothing but lumber, fresh nourishment
for the soil; and it was morbid to care so much how it was treated,
just because it had once been your tenement, when it was now as
worthless as the crab's empty shell.

He stuttered this out piece-wise, in his halting German; then paused,
not sure how his companion would take the didactic tone he had fallen
into. But Krafft had turned, and was gazing at him, considering him
attentively for the first time. When Maurice ceased to speak, he
nodded a hasty assent: "Yes, yes, it is quite true. Go on." And as the
former, having nothing more to say, was mute, he added: "You are like
some one I once knew. He was a great musician. I saw him die; he died
by inches; it lasted for months; he could neither die nor live."

"Why do you brood over these things, if you find them so awful? Are
you not afraid your nerves will go through with you, and make you do
something foolish?" asked Maurice, and was himself astonished at his
boldness.

"Of course I am. My life is a perpetual struggle against suicide,"
answered Krafft.

In the distance, a church-clock struck a quarter to twelve, and it was
on Maurice's tongue to suggest that they should move homewards, when,
with one of his unexpected transitions, Krafft turned to him and said
in a low voice: "What do you say? Shall you and I be friends?"

Maurice hesitated, in some embarrassment. "Why yes, I should be very
glad."

"And you will let me say 'DU' to you?"

"Certainly. If you are sure you won't regret it in the morning."

Krafft stretched out his hand. As Maurice held in his the fine, slim
fingers, which seemed mere skin and muscle, a hitherto unknown feeling
of kindliness came over him for the young man at his side. At this
moment, he had the lively sensation that he was the stronger and wiser
of the two, and that it was even a little beneath him to take
the other too seriously.

"You think so poorly of me then? You think no good thing can come out
of me?" asked Krafft, and there was an appealing note in his voice,
which, but a short time back, had been so overbearing.

Had Maurice known him better, he would have promptly retorted: "Don't
be a fool." As it was, he laughed. "Who am I to sit in judgment? The
only thing I do know is, that if I had your talent--no, a quarter of
it--I should pull myself together and astonish the world."

"It sounds so easy; but I have too many doubts of myself," said
Krafft, and laid his hand on Maurice's shoulder. "And I have never had
anyone to keep me up to the mark--till now. I have always needed some
one like you. You are strong and sympathetic; and one has the feeling
that you understand."

Maurice was far from certain that he did. However, he answered in a
frank way, doing his best to keep down the sentimental tone that had
invaded the conversation. At heart he was little moved by this new
friendship, which hail begun with the word itself; he told himself
that it was only a whim of Krafft's, which would be forgotten in the
morning. But, as they stood thus on the bridge, shoulder to shoulder,
he did not understand how he could ever have taken anything this frail
creature did, amiss. At the moment, there was a clinging helplessness
about Krafft, which instinctively roused his manlier feelings. He said
to himself that he had done wrong in lightly condemning his companion;
and, impelled by this sudden burst of protectiveness, he seized the
moment, and spoke earnestly to Krafft of earnest things, of duty, not
only to one's fellows, but to oneself and one's abilities, of the
inspiring gain of unremitted endeavour.

Afterwards, they sauntered home--first to Maurice's lodging, then to
Krafft's, and once again to Maurice's. At this stage, Krafft was
frankness itself; Maurice learnt to his surprise that the slim, boyish
lad at his side was over twenty-seven years of age; that, for several
semesters, Krafft had studied medicine in Vienna, then had thrown up
this "disgusting occupation," to become a clerk in a wealthy uncle's
counting-house. From this, he had drifted into journalism, and
finally, at the instigation of Hans von Bullow, to music; he had been
for two and a half years with Bullow, on travel, and in Hamburg, and
was at present in Leipzig solely to have his "fingers put in order."
His plans for the future were many, and widely divergent. At
one time, a musical career tempted him irresistibly; every one but
Schwarz--this finger-machine, this generator of living
metronomes--believed that he could make a name for himself as a player
of Chopin. At other times, and more often, he contemplated retiring
from the world and entering a monastery. He spoke with a morbid
horror--yet as if the idea of it fascinated him--of the publicity of the
concert-platform, and painted in glowing colours a monastery he knew
of, standing on a wooded hill, not far from Vienna. He had once spent
several weeks there, recovering from an illness, and the gardens, the
trimly bedded flowers, the glancing sunlight in the utter silence of
the corridors, were things he could not forget. He had lain day for
day on a garden-bench, reading Novalis, and it still seemed to him
that the wishless happiness of those days was the greatest he had
known.

Beside this, Maurice's account of himself sounded tame and unimportant;
he felt, too, that the circumstances of English life were too far removed
from his companion's sphere, for the latter to be able to understand them.

On waking next morning, Maurice recalled the incidents of the evening
with a smile; felt a touch of warmth at the remembrance of the moment
when he had held Krafft's hand in his; then classed the whole episode
as strained, and dismissed it from his mind. He had just shut the
piano, after a busy forenoon, when Krafft burst in, his cheeks pink
with haste and excitement. He had discovered a room to let, in the
house he lived in, and nothing would satisfy him but that Maurice
should come instantly to see it. Laughing at his eagerness, Maurice
put forward his reasons for preferring to remain where he was. But
Krafft would take no denial, and not wishing to hurt his feelings,
Maurice gave way, and agreed at least to look at the room.

It was larger and more cheerful than his own, and had also, a
convenient alcove for the bedstead; and after inspecting it, Maurice
felt willing to expend the extra marks it cost. They withdrew to
Krafft's room to come to a decision. There, however, they found Avery
Hill, who, as soon as she heard what they contemplated, put a veto on
it. Growing pale, as she always did where others would have flushed,
she said: "It is an absurd idea--sheer nonsense! I won't have it,
understand that! Pray, excuse me," she continued to Maurice, speaking
in a more friendly tone than she had yet used to him, "but you
must not listen to him. It is just one of his whims--nothing more. In
less than a week, you would wish yourself away again. You have no idea
how changeable he is--how impossible to live with."

Maurice hastened to reassure her. Krafft did not speak; he stood at
the window, with his back to them, his forehead pressed against the
glass.

So Maurice continued to live in the BRAUSTRASSE, under the despotic
rule of Frau Krause, who took every advantage of his good-nature. But
after this, not a day passed without his seeing Krafft; the latter
sought him out on trivial pretexts. Maurice hardly recognised him: he
was gentle, amiable, and amenable to reason; he subordinated himself
entirely to Maurice, and laid an ever-increasing weight on his
opinion. Maurice became able to wind him round his finger; and the
hint of a reproof from him served to throw Krafft into a state of
nervous depression. Without difficulty, Maurice found himself to
rights in his role of mentor, and began to flatter himself that he
would ultimately make of Krafft a decent member of society. As it was,
he soon induced his friend to study in a more methodical way; they
practised for the same number of hours in the forenoon, and met in the
afternoon; and Krafft only sometimes broke through this arrangement,
by appearing in the BRAUSTRASSE early in the morning, and, despite
remonstrance, throwing himself on the sofa, and remaining there, while
Maurice practised. The latter ended by growing accustomed to this whim
as to several other things that had jarred on him--such as Krafft's
love for a dirty jest--and overlooked or forgave them. At first
embarrassed by the mushroom growth of a friendship he had not invited,
he soon grew genuinely attached to Krafft, and missed him when he was
absent from him.

Avery Hill could hardly be termed third in the alliance; Maurice's
advent had thrust her into the background, where she kept watch over
their doings with her cold, disdainful eye. Maurice was not clear how
she regarded his intrusion. Sometimes, particularly when she saw the
improvement in Heinrich's way of life, she seemed to tolerate his
presence gladly; at others again, her jealous aversion to him was too
open to be overlooked. The jealousy was natural; he was an interloper,
and Heinz neglected her shamefully for him; but there was something
else behind it, another feeling, which Maurice could not make out. He
by no means understood the relationship that existed between
his friend and this girl of the stone-grey eyes and stern, red lips.
The two lived almost door by door, went in and out of each other's
rooms at all hours, and yet, he had never heard them exchange an
affectionate word, or seen a mark of endearment pass between them.
Avery's attachment--if such it could be called--was noticeable only in
the many small ways in which she cared for Krafft's comfort; her
manner with him was invariably severe and distant, with the exception
of those occasions when a seeming trifle raised in her a burst of the
dull, passionate anger, beneath which Krafft shrank. Maurice believed
that his friend would be happier away from her; in spite of her fresh
colouring, he, Maurice, found her wanting in attraction, nothing that
a woman ought to be. But her name was rarely mentioned between them;
Krafft was, as a rule, reticent concerning her, and when he did speak
of her, it was in a tone of such contempt that Maurice was glad to
shirk the subject.

"It's all she wants," Krafft had replied, when his companion ventured
to take her part. "She wouldn't thank you to be treated differently.
Believe me, women are all alike; they are made to be trodden on.
Ill-usage brings out their good points--just as kneading makes dough
light. Let them alone, or pamper them, and they spread like a weed,
and choke you"--and he quoted a saying about going to women and not
forgetting the whip, at which Maurice stood aghast.

"But why, if you despise a person like that--why have her always about
you?" he cried, at the end of a flaming plea for woman's dignity and
worth.

Krafft shrugged his shoulders. "I suppose the truth is we are
dependent on them--yes, dependent, from the moment we are laid in the
cradle. It's a woman who puts on our first clothes and a woman who
puts on our last. But why talk about these things?"--he slipped his
arm through Maurice's. "Tell me about yourself; and when you are tired
of talking, I will play."

It usually ended in his playing. They ranged through the highways and
byways of music.

One afternoon--it was a warm, wet, grey day towards the end of
August--Maurice found Krafft in a strangely apathetic mood. The
weather, this moist warmth, had got on his nerves, he said; he had
been unable to settle to anything; was weighed down by a lassitude
heavier than iron. When Maurice entered, he was stretched on the sofa,
with closed eyes; on his chest slept Wotan, the one-eyed cat,
now growing sleek and fat. While Maurice was trying to rally him,
Krafft sprang up. With a precipitance that was the extreme opposite of
his previous sloth, he lowered both window-blinds, and, lighting two
candles, set them on the piano, where they dispersed the immediate
darkness, but no more.

"I am going to play TRISTAN to you."

Maurice had learnt by this time that it was useless to try to thwart
Krafft. He laughed and nodded, and having nothing in particular to do,
lay down in the latter's place on the sofa.

Krafft shook his hair back, and began the prelude to the opera in a
rapt, ecstatic way, finding in the music an outlet for all his
nervousness. At first, he played from memory; when this gave out, he
set the piano-score up before him, then forgot it again, and went on
playing by heart. Sometimes he sang the different parts, in a light,
sweet tenor; sometimes recited them, with dramatic fervour. Only he
never ceased to play, never gave his hearer a moment in which to
recover himself.

Frau Schulz's entry with the lamp, and her grumblings at the
"UNVERSCHAMTE SPEKTAKEL" passed unheeded. A strength that was more
than human seemed to take possession of the frail youth at the piano.
Evening crept on afternoon, night on evening, and still he continued,
drunk with the most emotional music conceived by a human brain.

Even when hands and fingers could do no more, the frenzy that was in
him would not let him rest: he paced the room, and talked--talked for
hours, his eyes ablaze. A church-clock struck ten, then half-past,
then eleven, and not for a moment was he still; his speech seemed,
indeed, to gather impetus as it advanced like a mountain torrent.

Then, all of a sudden, in the middle of a vehement defence of
anti-Semitism, to which he had been led by the misdeeds of those
"arch-charlatans," Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer, he stopped short, like a
run-down clock, and, falling into a chair before the table, buried his
face in his arms. There was silence, the more intense for all that had
preceded it. Wotan wakened from sleep, and was heard to stretch his
limbs, with a yawn and a sigh. The spell was broken; Maurice, his head
in a whirl, rose stiff and cramped from his uncomfortable position on
the sofa.

"You rascal, you make one lose all sense of time. And I am starving. I
must snatch something at Canitz's as I go by."

Krafft started, and raised a haggard face with twitching lips.
"You are not going to leave me?--like this?"

Maurice was both hungry and tired--worn out, in fact.

"We will go somewhere in the town," said Krafft. "And then for a walk.
The rain has stopped--look!"

He drew up one of the blinds, and they saw that the stars were shining.

"Yes, but what about to-morrow?--and to-morrow's work?"

"To-morrow may never come. And to-night is."

"Those are only words. Do you know the time?"

Krafft turned quickly from the window. "And if I make it a test of the
friendship you have professed for me, that you stay here with me
to-night?--You can sleep on the sofa."

"Why on earth get personal?" said Maurice; he could not find his hat,
which had fallen in a dark corner. "Heinz, dear boy, be reasonable.
Come, give me the house-key--like a good fellow."

"It's the first--the only thing, I have asked of you."

"Nonsense. You have asked dozens."

Krafft took a few steps towards him, and threw the key on the floor at
his feet. Wotan, who was at the door, mewing to be let out, sprang
back, in affright.

"Go, go, go!" Krafft cried. "I never want to see you again."

Earlier than usual the next morning, Maurice returned to set things
right, and to laugh with Heinz at their extravagance the night before.
But Krafft was not to be seen. From Frau Schulz, who flounced past him
in the passage, first with hot water, then with black coffee, Maurice
learned that Krafft had been brought home early that morning, in a
disgraceful state of intoxication. Frau Schulz still boiled at the
remembrance.

"SO 'N SCHWEIN, SO 'N SCHWEIN!" she cried. "But this time he goes. I
have said it before and, fool that I am, have always let them persuade
me. But this is the end. Not a day after the fifteenth will I have him
in the house."

Maurice slipped away.

Two days passed before he saw his friend again. He found him pale and
dejected, with reddish, heavy eyes and a sneering smile. He was wholly
changed; his words were tainted with the perverse irony, which, at the
beginning of their acquaintance, had made his manner so repellent. But
now, Maurice was not, at once, frightened away by it; he could not
believe Heinrich's pique was serious, and gave himself trouble
to win his friend back. He chid, laughed, rallied, was earnest and
apologetic, and all this without being conscious of having done wrong.

"I think you had better leave him alone," said Avery, after watching
his fruitless efforts. "He doesn't want you."

It was true; now Krafft had no thought for anyone but Avery. It was
Avery here, and Avery there. He called her by a pet name, was anxious
for her comfort, and hung affectionately on her arm.--The worst of it
was, that he did not seem in the least ashamed of his fickleness.

Maurice made one further attempt to move him, then, hurt and angry,
intruded no more. At first, he was chiefly angry. But, gradually, the
hurt deepened, and became a sense of injury, which made him avoid the
street Krafft lived in, and shun him when they met. He missed him,
after the close companionship of the past weeks, and felt as if he had
been suddenly deprived of a part of himself. And he would no doubt
have missed him more keenly still, if, just at this juncture, his
attention had not been engrossed by another and more important matter.




XIII.



The commencement of the new term had just assembled the incoming
students to sign their names in the venerable rollbook, when the
report spread that Schilsky was willing to play his symphonic poem,
ZARATHUSTRA, to those of his friends who cared to hear it. Curiosity
swelled the number, and Furst lent his house for the occasion.

"You'll come, of course," said the latter to Maurice, as they left
Schwarz's room after their lesson; and Madeleine said the same thing
while driving home from the railway-station, where Maurice had met
her. She was no more a friend of Schilsky's than he was, but she
certainly intended to be present, to hear what kind of stuff he had
turned out.

On the evening of the performance, Maurice and she walked together to
the BRANDVORWERKSTRASSE. Madeleine had still much to say. She had
returned from her holiday in the best of health and spirits, liberally
rewarded for her trouble, and possessed of four new friends, who, no
doubt, would all be of use to her when she settled in England again.
This was to be her last winter in Leipzig, and she was drawing up
detailed plans of work. From now on, she intended to take private
lessons from Schwarz, in addition to those she received in the class.

"Even though they do cost ten marks each, it makes him ever so much
better disposed towards you."

She also told him that she had found a letter from Louise waiting for
her, in which the latter announced her return for the following week.
Louise wrote from England, and all her cry was to be back in Leipzig.

"Of course--now he is here," commented Madeleine. "You know, I suppose,
that he has been travelling with Zeppelin? He has the luck of I don't
know what."

The Cayhills would be absent till the middle of the month; Maurice had
received from Ephie one widely written note, loud in praise of a
family of "perfectly sweet Americans," whom they had learnt to know in
Interlaken, but also expressing eagerness to be at home again in "dear
old Leipzig." Dove had arrived a couple of days ago--and here
Madeleine laughed.

"He is absolutely shiny with resolution," she declared. "Mind, Maurice,
if he takes you into confidence--as he probably will--you are not on any
account to dissuade him from proposing. A snub will do him worlds of
good."

They were not the first to climb the ill-lighted stair that wound up
to the Fursts' dwelling. The entry-door on the fourth storey stood
open, and a hum of voices came from the sitting-room. The circular
hat-stand in the passage was crowded with motley headgear.

As they passed the kitchen, the door of which was ajar, Frau Furst
peeped through the slit, and seeing Maurice, called him in. The
coffee-pot was still on the stove; he must sit down and drink a cup of
coffee.

"There is plenty of time. Schilsky has not come yet, and I have only
this moment sent Adolfchen for the beer."

Maurice asked her if she were not coming in to hear the music. She
laughed good-naturedly at the idea.

"Bless your heart, what should I do in there, among all you young
people? No, no, I can hear just as well where I am. When my good
husband had his evenings, it was always from the kitchen that I
listened."

Pausing, with a saucepan in one hand, a cloth in the other, she said:
"You will hear something good to-night, Herr Guest. Oh, he has talent,
great talent, has young Schilsky! This is not the usual work of a
pupil. It has form, and it has ideas, and it is new and daring. I know
one of the motives from hearing Franz play it," and she hummed a theme
as she replaced on the shelf, the scrupulously cleaned pot. "For such
a young man, it is wonderful; but he will do better still, depend upon
it, he will."

Here she threw a hasty glance round the tiny kitchen, at three of the
children sitting as still as mice in the corner, laid a finger on her
lips, and, bursting with mystery, leaned over the table and asked
Maurice if he could keep a secret.

"He is going away," she whispered.

Maurice stared at her. "Going away? Who is? What do you mean?" he
asked, and was so struck by her peculiar manner that he set his cup
down untouched.

"Why Schilsky, of course." She thought his astonishment was disbelief,
and nodded confirmingly. "Yes, yes, he is going away. And soon, too."

"How do you know?" cried Maurice. Sitting back in his chair,
he stemmed his hands against the edge of the table, and looked
challengingly at Frau Furst.

"Ssh--not so loud," said the latter. "It's a secret, a dead secret--
though I'm sure I don't know why. Franz----"

At this very moment, Franz himself came into the kitchen. He looked
distrustfully at his whispering mother.

"Now then, mother, haven't you got that beer yet?" he demanded. His
genial bonhomie disappeared, as if by magic, when he entered his home
circle, and he was particularly gruff with this adoring woman.

"GLEICH, FRANZCHEN, GLEICH," she answered soothingly, and whisked
about her work again, with the air of one caught napping.

Maurice followed Furst's invitation to join the rest of the party.

The folding-doors between the "best room" and the adjoining bedroom
had been opened wide, and the guests were distributed over the two
rooms. The former was brilliantly lighted by three lamps and two
candles, and all the sitting-accommodation the house contained was
ranged in a semicircle round the grand piano. Here, not a place was
vacant; those who had come late were in the bedroom, making shift with
whatever offered. Two girls and a young man, having pushed back the
feather-bed, sat on the edge of the low wooden bedstead, with their
arms interlaced to give them a better balance. Maurice found Madeleine
on a rickety little sofa that stood at the foot of the bed. Dove sat
on a chest of drawers next the sofa, his long legs dangling in the
air. Beside Madeleine, with his head on her shoulder, was Krafft.

"Oh, there you are," cried Madeleine. "Well, I did my best to keep the
place for you; but it was of no use, as you see. Just sit down,
however. Between us, we'll squeeze him properly."

Maurice was glad that the room, which was lighted only by one small
lamp, was in semi-darkness; for, at the sound of his own voice, it
suddenly became clear to him that the piece of gossip Frau Furst had
volunteered, had been of the nature of a blow. Schilsky's departure
threatened, in a way he postponed for the present thinking out, to
disturb his life; and, in an abrupt need of sympathy, he laid his hand
on Krafft's knee.

"Is it you, old man? What have you been doing with yourself?"

Krafft gave him one of those looks which, in the early days of
their acquaintance, had proved so disconcerting--a look of struggling
recollection.

"Oh, nothing in particular," he replied, without hostility, but also
without warmth. His mind was not with his words, and Maurice withdrew
his hand.

Madeleine leaned forward, dislodging Krafft's head from its
resting-place.

"How long have you two been 'DU' to each other?" she asked, and at
Maurice's curt reply, she pushed Krafft from her. "Sit up and behave
yourself. One would think you had an evil spirit in you to-night."

Krafft was nervously excited: bright red spots burnt on his cheeks,
his hands twitched, and he jerked forward in his seat and threw
himself back again, incessantly.

"No, you are worse than a mosquito," cried Madeleine, losing patience.
"Anyone would think you were going to play yourself. And he will be as
cool as an iceberg. The sofa won't stand it, Heinz. If you can't stop
fidgeting, get up."

He had gone, before she finished speaking; for a slight stir in the
next room made them suppose for a moment that Schilsky was arriving.
Afterwards, Krafft was to be seen straying about, with his hands in
his pockets; and, on observing his rose-pink cheeks and tumbled curly
hair, Madeleine could not refrain from remarking: "He ought to have
been a girl."

The air was already hot, by reason of the lamps, and the many breaths,
and the firmly shut double-windows. The clamour for beer had become
universal by the time Adolfchen arrived with his arms full of bottles.
As there were not enough glasses to go round, every two or three
persons shared one between them--a proceeding that was carried out with
much noisy mirth. Above all other voices was to be heard that of Miss
Jensen, who, in a speckled yellow dress, with a large feather fan in
her hand, sat in the middle of the front row of seats. It was she who
directed how the beer should be apportioned; she advised a few
late-comers where they would still find room, and engaged Furst to
place the lights on the piano to better advantage. Next her, a Mrs.
Lautenschlager, a plump little American lady, with straight yellow
hair which hung down on her shoulders, was relating to her neighbour
on the other side, in a tone that could be clearly heard in both
rooms, how she had "discovered" her voice.

"I come to Schwarz, last fall," she said shaking back her
hair, and making effective use of her babyish mouth; "and he thinks no
end of me. But the other week I was sick, and as I lay in bed, I sung
some--just for fun. And my landlady--she's a regular singer herself--who
was fixing up the room, she claps her hands together and says: 'My
goodness me! Why YOU have a voice!' That's what put it in my head, and
I went to Sperling to hear what he'd got to say. He was just tickled
to death, I guess he was, and he's going to make something dandy of
it, so I stop long enough. I don't know what my husband'll say though.
When I wrote him I was sick, he says: 'Come home and be sick at
home'--that's what he says."

Miss Jensen could not let pass the opportunity of breaking a lance for
her own master, the Swede, and of cutting up Sperling's method, which
she denounced as antiquated. She made quite a little speech, in the
course of which she now and then interrupted herself to remind
Furst--who, was as soft as a pudding before her--of something he had
forgotten to do, such as snuffing the candles or closing the door.

"Just let me hear your scale, will you?" she said patronisingly to
Mrs. Lautenschlager. The latter, nothing loath, stuck out her chin,
opened her mouth, and, for a short time, all other noises were drowned
in a fine, full volume of voice.

On their sofa, Madeleine and Maurlee sat in silence, pretending to
listen to Dove, who was narrating his journey. Madeleine was out of
humour; she tapped the floor, and had a crease in her forehead. As for
Maurice, he was in such poor spirits that she could not but observe
it.

"Why are you so quiet? Is anything the matter?"

He shook his head, without speaking. His vague sense of impending
misfortune had crystallised into a definite thought; he knew now what
it signified. If Schilsky went away from Leipzig, Louise would
probably go, too, and that would be the end of everything.

"I represented to him," he heard Dove saying, "that I had seen the
luggage with my own eyes at Flushing. What do you think he answered?
He looked me up and down, and said: 'ICH WERDE TELEGRAPHIEREN UND
ERKUNDIGUNGEN EINZIEHEN.' Now, do you think if you said to an English
station-master: 'Sir, I saw the luggage with my own eyes,' he would
not believe you? No, in my opinion, the whole German railway-system
needs revision. Would you believe it, we did not make fifty kilometers
in the hour, and yet our engine broke down before Magdeburg?"

So this would be the end; the end of foolish dreams and weak
hopes, which he had never put into words even to himself, which had
never properly existed, and yet had been there, nevertheless, a mass
of gloriously vague perhapses. The end was at hand--an end before there
had been any beginning.

". . . the annoyance of the perpetual interruptions," went on the
voice on the other side. "A lady who was travelling in the same
compartment--a very pleasant person, who was coming over to be a
teacher in a school in Dresden--I have promised to show her our lions
when she visits Leipzig: well, as I was saying, she was quite alarmed
the first time he entered in that way, and it took me some time, I
assure you, to make her believe that this was the German method of
revising tickets."

The break occasioned by the arrival of the beer had been of short
duration, and the audience was growing impatient; at the back of the
room, some one began to stamp his feet; others took it up. Furst
perspired with anxiety, and made repeated journeys to the stair-head,
to see if Schilsky were not coming. The latter was almost an hour late
by now, and jests, bald and witty, were made at his expense. Some one
offered to take a bet that he had fallen asleep and forgotten the
appointment, and at this, one of the girls on the bed, a handsome
creature with bold, prominent eyes, related an anecdote to her
neighbours, concerning Schilsky's powers of sleep. All three exploded
with laughter. In a growing desire to be asked to play, Boehmer had
for some time hung about the piano, and was now just about to drop, as
if by accident, upon the stool, when the cry of: "No Bach!" was
raised--Bach was Boehmer's specialty--and re-echoed, and he retired red
and discomfited to his Place in a corner of the room, where his
companion, a statuesque little English widow, made biting observations
on the company's behaviour. The general rowdyism was at its height,
when some one had the happy idea that Krafft should sing them his
newest song. At this, there was a unanimous shriek of approval, and
several hands dragged Krafft to the piano. But himself the wildest of
them all, he needed no forcing. Flinging himself down on the seat, he
preluded wildly in imitation of Rubinstein. His hearers sat with their
mouths open, a fixed smile on their faces, laughter ready in their
throats, and only Madeleine was coolly contemptuous.

"Tom-fool!" she said in a low voice.

Krafft was confidently expected to burst into one of those
songs for which he was renowned. Few of his friends were able to sing
them, and no one but himself could both sing and play them
simultaneously: they were a monstrous, standing joke. Instead of this,
however, he turned, winked at his audience, and began a slow,
melancholy ditty, with a recurring refrain. He was not allowed to
finish the first verse; a howl of disapproval went up; his hearers
hooted, jeered and stamped.

"Sick cats!"

"Damn your 'WENIG SONNE!'"--this was the refrain.

"Put your head in a bag!"

"Pity he drinks!"

"Give us one of the rousers--the rou . . . sers!"

Krafft himself laughed unbridledly. "DAS ICH SPRICHT!"--he announced.
"In C sharp major."

There was a hush of anticipation, in which Dove, stopping his BRETZEL
half-way to his mouth, was heard to say in his tone of measured
surprise: "C sharp major! Why, that is----"

The rest was drowned in the wild chromatic passages that Krafft sent
up and down the piano with his right hand, while his left followed
with full-bodied chords, each of which exceeded the octave. Before,
however, there was time to laugh, this riot ceased, and became a
mournful cadence, to the slowly passing harmonies of which, Krafft
sang:


I am weary of everything that is, under the sun.
I sicken at the long lines of rain, which are black against the sky;
They drip, for a restless heart, with the drip of despair:
For me, winds must rage, trees bend, and clouds sail stormily.


The whirlwind of the prelude commenced anew; the chords became still
vaster; the player swayed from side to side, like a stripling-tree in
a storm. Madeleine said, "Tch!" in disgust, but the rest of the
company, who had only waited for this, burst into peals of laughter;
some bent double in their seats, some leant back with their chins in
the air. Even Dove smiled. Just, however, as those whose sense of
humour was most highly developed, mopped their faces with gestures of
exhaustion, and assured their neighbours that they "could not, really
could not laugh any more," Furst entered and flapped his hands.

"Here he comes!"

A sudden silence fell, broken only by a few hysterical giggles from
the ladies, and by a frivolous American, who cried: "Now for
ALSO SCHRIE ZENOPHOBIA!" Krafft stopped playing, but remained sitting
at the piano, wiping down the keys with his handkerchief.

Schilsky came in, somewhat embarrassed by the lull which had succeeded
the hubbub heard in the passage, but wholly unconcerned at the
lateness of the hour: except in matters of practical advancement, time
did not exist for him. As soon as he appeared, the two ladies in the
front row began to clap their hands; the rest of the company followed
their example, then, in spite of Furst's efforts to prevent it, rose
and crowded round him. Miss Jensen and her friend made themselves
particularly conspicuous. Mrs Lauterischlager had an infatuation for
the young man, of which she made no secret; she laid her hand
caressingly on his coat-sleeve, and put her face as near his as
propriety admitted.

"Disgusting, the way those women go on with him!" said Madeleine. "And
what is worse, he likes it."

Schilsky listened to the babble of compliments with that mixture of
boyish deference and unequivocal superiority, which made him so
attractive to women. He was too good-natured to interrupt them and
free himself, and would have stood as long as they liked, if Furst had
not come to the rescue and led him to the piano. Schilsky laid his
hand affectionately on Krafft's shoulder, and Krafft sprang up in
exaggerated surprise. The audience took its seats again; the thick
manuscript-score was set up on the music-rack, and the three young men
at the piano had a brief disagreement with one another about turning
the leaves: Krafft was bent on doing it, and Schilsky objected, for
Krafft had a way of forgetting what he was at in the middle of a page.
Krafft flushed, cast an angry look at his friend, and withdrew, in
high dudgeon, to a corner.

Standing beside the piano, so turned to those about him that the two
on the sofa in the next room only saw him sideways, and ill at that,
Schilsky gave a short description of his work. He was nervous, which
aggravated his lisp, and he spoke so rapidly and in such a low voice
that no one but those immediately in front of him, could understand
what he said. But it did not matter in the least; all present had come
only to hear the music; they knew and cared nothing about Zarathustra
and his spiritual development; and one and all waited impatiently for
Schilsky to stop speaking. The listeners in the bedroom----merely
caught disjointed words--WERDEGANG, NOTSCHREI, TARANTELN--but not one
was curious enough even to lean forward in his seat. Madeleine
made sarcastic inward comments on the behaviour of the party.

"It's perfectly clear to you, I suppose," she could not refrain from
observing as, at the finish, Dove sagely wagged his head in agreement.

It transpired that there was an ode to be sung before the last section
of the composition, and a debate ensued who, should sing it. The two
ladies in the front had quite a little quarrel--without knowing
anything about the song--as to which of their voices would best suit
it. Schilsky was silent for a moment, tapping his fingers, then said
suddenly: "Come on, Heinz," and looked at Krafft. But the latter, who
was standing morose, with folded arms, did not move. He had a dozen
reasons why he should not sing; he had a cold, was hoarse, was out of
practice, could not read the music from sight.

"Good Heavens, what a fool Heinz is making of himself tonight!" said
Madeleine.

But Schilsky thumped his fist on the lid, and said, if Krafft did not
sing it, no one should; and that was the end of the matter. Krafft was
pulled to the piano.

Schilsky took his seat, and, losing his nervousness as soon as he
touched the keys, preluded firmly and easily, with his large, white
hands. Now, every one leaned forward to see him better; especially the
ladies threw themselves into positions from which they could watch
hair and hands, and the slender, swaying figure.

"Isn't he divine?" said the bold-eyed girl on the bed, in a loud
whisper, and hung upon her companion's neck in an ecstatic attitude.

After the diversity of noises which had hitherto interfered with his
thinking connectedly, Maurice welcomed the continuous sound of the
music, which went on without a break. He sat in a listening attitude,
shading his eyes with his hand. Through his fingers, he
surreptitiously watched the player. He had never before had an
opportunity of observing Schilsky so closely, and, with a kind of
blatant generosity, he now pointed out to himself each physical detail
that he found prepossessing in the other, every feature that was
likely to attract--in the next breath, only to struggle with his honest
opinion that the composer was a slippery, loose-jointed, caddish
fellow, who could never be proved to be worthy of Louise. But he was
too down-hearted at what he had learnt in the course of the evening,
to rise to any active feeling of dislike.

Intermittently he heard, in spite of himself, something of
Schilsky's music; but he was not in a frame of mind to understand or
to retain any impression of it. He was more effectively jerked out of
his preoccupation by single spoken words, which, from time to time,
struck his ear: this was Furst, who, in the absence of a programme,
announced from his seat beside Schilsky, the headings of the different
sections of the work: WERDEGANG; SEILTANZER--here Maurice saw Dove
conducting with head and hand--NOTSCHREI; SCHWERMUT; TARANTELN--and here
again, but vaguely, as if at a distance, he heard suppressed laughter.
But he was thoroughly roused when Krafft, picking up a sheet of music
and coming round to the front of the piano, began to sing DAS TRUNKENE
LIED. By way of introduction, the low F in the bass of F minor sounded
persistently, at syncopated intervals; Schilsky inclined his head, and
Krafft sang, in his sweet, flute-like voice:


Oh, Mensch! Gieb Acht!
Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht?
"Ich schlief, ich schlief,
Aus tiefem Schlaf bin ich erwacht:
Die Welt ist tief,
Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht."


--the last phrase of which was repeated by the accompaniment, a
semitone higher.


Tief ist ihr Weh,
Lust--tiefer noch als Herzeleid:


As far as this, the voice had been supported by simple, full-sounding
harmonies. Now, from out the depths, still of F minor, rose a
hesitating theme, which seemed to grope its way: in imagination, one
heard it given out by the bass strings; then the violas reiterated it,
and dyed it purple; voice and violins sang it together; the high
little flutes carried it up and beyond, out of reach, to a half close.


Weh spricht: vergeh!


Suddenly and unexpectedly, there entered a light yet mournful phrase
in F major, which was almost a dance-rhythm, and seemed to be a small,
frail pleading for something not rightly understood.


Doch alle Lust will Ewigkeit,
Will tiefe, tiefe Ewigkeit.


The innocent little theme passed away, and the words were sung again
to a stern and fateful close in D flat major.

The concluding section of the work returned to these motives,
developed them, gathered them together, grouped them and interchanged
them, in complicated thermatic counterpoint. Schilsky was barely able
to cope with the difficulties of the score; he exerted himself
desperately, laboured with his head and his whole body, and surmounted
sheerly unplayable parts with the genial slitheriness that is the
privilege of composers.

When, at last, he crashed to a close and wiped his face in exhaustion,
there was a deafening uproar of applause. Loud cries were uttered and
exclamations of enthusiasm; people rose from their seats and crowded
round the piano to congratulate the player. Mrs. Lautenschlager could
not desist from kissing his hand. A tall, thin Russian girl in
spectacles, who had assiduously taken notes throughout, asked in a
loud voice, and her peculiar, hoppy German, for information about the
orchestration. What use had he made of the cymbals? She trusted a
purely Wagnerian one. Schilsky hastened to reopen the score, and sat
himself to answer the question earnestly and at length.

"Come, Maurice, let us go," said Madeleine, rising and shaking the
creases from her skirt. "There will be congratulations enough. He
won't miss ours."

Maurice had had an idea of lingering till everybody else had gone, on
the chance of picking up fresh facts. But he was never good at
excuses. So they slipped out into the passage, followed by Dove; but
while the latter was looking for his hat, Madeleine pulled Maurice
down the stairs.

"Quick, let us go!" she whispered; and, as they heard him coming after
them, she drew her companion down still further, to the cellar flight,
where they remained hidden until Dove had passed them, and his steps
had died away in the street.

"We should have had nothing but his impressions and opinions all the
way home," she said, as they emerged. "He was bottled up from having
to keep quiet so long--I saw it in his face. And I couldn't stand it
to-night. I'm in a bad temper, as you may have observed--or perhaps you
haven't."

No, he had not noticed it.

"Well, you would have, if you hadn't been so taken up with yourself.
What on earth is the matter with you?"

He feigned. surprise: and they walked in silence down one street and
into the next. Then she spoke again. "Do you know--but you're sure not
to know that either--you gave me a nasty turn to-night?"

"I?" His surprise was genuine this time.

"Yes, you--when I heard you say 'DU' to Heinz."

He looked at her in astonishment; but she was not in a hurry to
continue. They walked another street-length, and all she said was:
"How refreshing the air is after those stuffy rooms!"

As they turned a corner however, she made a fresh start.

"I think it's rather hard on me," she said, and laughed as she spoke.
"Here am I again, having to lecture you! The fact is, I suppose, one's
METIER clings to one, in spite of oneself. But there must be something
about you, too, Maurice Guest, that makes one want to do it--want to
look after you, so to speak--as if you couldn't be trusted to take care
of yourself. Well, it disturbed me to-night, to see how intimate you
and Heinz have got."

"Is that all? Why on earth should that trouble you? And anyhow," he
added, "the whole affair came about without any wish of mine."

"How?" she demanded; and when he had told her: "And since then?"

He went into detail, coolly, without the resentment he had previously
felt towards Krafft.

"And that's all?"

"Isn't it enough--for a fellow to go on in that way?"

"And you feel aggrieved?"

"No, not now. At first I was rather sore, though, for Heinz is an
interesting fellow, and we were very thick for a time."

"Yes, of course--until Schilsky comes back. As soon as he appears on
the scene, Master Heinz gives you the cold shoulder. Or perhaps you
didn't know that Heinz is the attendant spirit of that heaven-born
genius?"

Maurice did not reply, and when she spoke again, it was with renewed
seriousness. "Believe me, Maurice, he is no friend for you. It's not
only that you ought to be above letting yourself be treated in this
way, but Heinz's friendship won't do you any good. He belongs to a bad
set here--and Schilsky, too. If you were long with Heinz, you
would be bound to get drawn into it, and then it would be good-bye to
anything you might have done--to work and success. No, take my
advice--it's sincerely meant--and steer clear of Heinz."

Maurice smiled to himself at her womanly idea of Krafft leading him to
perdition. "But you're fond of him yourself, Madeleine," he said. "You
can't help liking him either."

"I daresay I can't. But that is quite a different matter--quite;" and
as if more than enough had now been said, she abruptly left the
subject.

Before going home that night, Maurice made the old round by way of the
BRUDERSTRASSE, and stood and looked up at the closed windows behind
which Louise lived. The house was dark, and as still as was the
deserted street. Only the Venetian blinds seemed to be faintly alive;
the outer windows, removed for the summer, had not yet been replaced,
and a mild wind flapped the blinds, just as it swayed the tops of the
trees in the opposite garden. There was a breath of autumn in the air.
He told himself aloud, in the nightly silence, that she was going
away--as if by repeating the words, he might ultimately grow used to
their meaning. The best that could be hoped for was that she would not
go immediately, but would remain in Leipzig for a few weeks longer.
Then a new fear beset him. What if she never came back again?--if she
had left the place quietly, of set purpose?--if these windows were
closed for good and all? A dryness invaded his throat at the
possibility, and on the top of this evening of almost apathetic
resignation to the inevitable, the knowledge surged up in him that all
he asked was to be allowed to see her just once more. Afterwards, let
come what might. Once again, he must stand face to face with her--must
stamp a picture of her on his brain, to carry with him for ever.

For ever!--And through his feverish sleep ran, like a thread, the
words he had heard Krafft sing, of an eternity that was deep and
dreamless, a joy without beginning or end.



Madeleine had waved her umbrella at him. He crossed the road to where
she was standing in rain-cloak and galoshes. She wished to tell him
that the date of her playing in the ABENDUNTERHALTUNG had been
definitely fixed. About to go, she said:

"Louise is back--did you know?"

Of course he knew, though he did not tell her so--knew almost
the exact hour at which the blinds had been drawn up, the windows
opened, and a flower-pot, in a gaudy pink paper, put out on the sill.

Not many days after this, he came upon Louise herself. She was
standing talking, at a street-corner, to the shabby little Englishman,
Eggis, with whom she had walked the FOYER of the theatre. Maurice was
about to bow and pass by, but she smiled and held out her hand.

"You are back, too, then? To-day I am meeting all my friends."

She had fur about her neck, although the weather was not really cold,
and her face rose out of this setting like a flower from its cup.

This meeting, and the few cordial words she had spoken, helped him
over the days that followed. Sometimes, while he waited for the blow
to fall, his daily life grew very unimportant; things that had
hitherto interested him, now went past like shadows; he himself was a
mere automaton. But sometimes, too, and especially after he had seen
Louise, and touched her living hand, he wondered whether he were not
perhaps tormenting himself unnecessarily. Nothing more had come to
light; no one had hinted by a word at Schilsky's departure; it might
yet prove to be all a mistake.

Then, however, he received a postcard from Madeleine, saying that she
had something interesting to tell him. He went too early, and spent a
quarter of an hour pacing her room. When she entered, she threw him a
look, and, before she had finished taking off her wraps, said:

"Maurice, I have a piece of news for you. Schilsky is going away."

He nodded; his throat was dry.

"Why, you don't mean to say you knew?" she cried, and paused half-way
out of her jacket.

Maurice went to the window, and stood with his back to her. In one of
the houses opposite, at a window on the same level, a girl was
practising the violin; his eyes followed the mechanical movements of
the bow.

He cleared his throat. "Do you--Is it likely--I mean, do you
think?----"

Madeleine understood him. "Yes, I do. Louise won't stay here a day
longer than he does; I'm sure of that."

But otherwise she knew no more than Maurice; and she did not
offer to detain him, when, a few minutes later, he alleged a pressing
appointment. Madeleine was annoyed, and showed it; she had come in
with the intention of being kind to him, of encouraging him, and
discussing the matter sympathetically, and it now turned out that not
only had he known it all the time, but had also kept it a secret from
her. She did not like underhand ways, especially in people whom she
believed she knew inside out.

Now that the pledge of secrecy had been removed from him, Maurice felt
that he wanted facts; and, without thinking more about it than if he
had been there the day before, he climbed the stairs that led to
Krafft's lodging.

He found him at supper; Avery was present, too, and on the table sat
Wotan, who was being regaled with strips of skin off the sausage.
Krafft greeted Maurice with a touch of his former effusiveness; for he
was in a talkative mood, and needed an audience. At his order, Avery
put an extra plate on the table, and Maurice had to share their meal.
It was not hard for him to lead Krafft round to the desired subject.
It seemed that one of the masters in the Conservatorium had expressed
a very unequivocal opinion of Schilsky's talents as a composer, and
Krafft was now sarcastic, now merry, at this critic's expense. Maurice
laid down his knife, and, in the first break, asked abruptly: "When
does he go?"

"Go?--who?" said Krafft indifferently, tickling Wotan's nose with a
piece of skin which he held out of reach.

"Who?--why, Schilsky, of course."

It sounded as if another than he had said the words: they were so
short and harsh. The plate Avery was holding fell to the floor. Krafft
sat back in his chair, and stared at Maurice, with a face that was all
eyes.

"You knew he was going away?--or didn't you?" asked Maurice in a rough
voice. "Every one knows. The whole place knows."

Krafft laughed. "The whole place knows: every one knows," he repeated.
"Every one, yes--every one but me. Every one but me, who had most right
to know. Yes, I alone had the right; for no one has loved him as I
have."

He rose from the table, knocking over his chair. "Or else it is not true?"

"Yes, it is true. Then you didn't know?" said Maurice, bewildered by
the outburst he had evoked.

"No, we didn't know." It was Avery who spoke. She was on her knees,
picking up the pieces of the plate with slow, methodical fingers.

Krafft stood hesitating. Then he went to the piano, opened it,
adjusted the seat, and made all preparations for playing. But with his
fingers ready on the keys, he changed his mind and, instead, laid his
arms on the folded rack and his head on his arms. He did not stir
again, and a long silence followed. The only sound that was to be
heard came from Wotan, who, sitting on his haunches on a corner of the
table, washed the white fur of his belly with an audible swish.




XIV.



Whistling to him to stop, Furst ran the length of a street-block after
Maurice, as the latter left the Conservatorium.

"I say, Guest," he said breathlessly, on catching up with him. "Look
here, I just wanted to tell you, you must be sure and join us
to-night. We are going to give Schilsky a jolly send-off."

They stood at the corner of the WACHTERSTRASSE; it was a blowy day.
Maurice replied evasively, with his eyes on the unbound volume of
Beethoven that Furst was carrying; its tattered edges moved in the
wind.

"When does he go?" he asked, without any show of concern.

Furst looked warily round him, and dropped his voice. "Well, look
here, Guest, I don't mind telling you," he said; he was perspiring
from his run, and dried his neck and face. "I don't mind telling you;
you won't pass it on; for he has his reasons--family or domestic
reasons, if one may say so, tra-la-la!"--he winked, and nudged Maurice
with his elbow--"for not wanting it to get about. It's deuced hard on
him that it should have leaked out at all. I don't know how it
happened; for I was mum, 'pon my honour, I was."

"Yes. And when does he go?" repeated his hearer with the same want of
interest.

"To-morrow morning early, by the first train."

Now to be rid of him! But it was never easy to get away from Furst,
and since Maurice had declared his intention of continuing to take
lessons from him, as good as impossible. Furst was overpowering in his
friendliness, and on this particular occasion, there was no escape for
Maurice before he had promised to make one of the party that was to
meet that night, at a restaurant in the town. Then he bluffly alleged
an errand in the PLAGWITZERSTRASSE, and went off in an opposite
direction to that which his companion had to take.

As soon as Furst was out of sight, he turned into the path that led to
the woods. Overhead, the sky was a monotonous grey expanse, and a
soft, moist wind drove in gusts, before which, on the open
meadow-land, he bent his head. It was a wind that seemed heavy with
unfallen rain; a melancholy wind, as the day itself was melancholy, in
its faded colours, and cloying mildness. With his music under his arm,
Maurice walked to the shelter of the trees. Now that he had learnt the
worst, a kind of numbness came over him; he had felt so intensely in
the course of the past week that, now the crisis was there, he seemed
destitute of feeling.

His feet bore him mechanically to his favourite seat, and here he
remained, with his head in his hands, his eyes fixed on the trodden
gravel of the path. He had to learn, once and for all, that, by
tomorrow, everything would be over; for, notwithstanding the
wretchedness of the past days, he was as far off as ever from
understanding. But he was loath to begin; he sat in a kind of torpor,
conscious only of the objects his eyes rested on: some children had
built a make-believe house of pebbles, with a path leading up to the
doorway, and at this he gazed, estimating the crude architectural
ideas that had occurred to the childish builders. He felt the wind in
his hair, and listened to the soothing noise it made, high above his
head. But gradually overcoming this physical dullness, his mind began
to work again. With a sudden vividness, he saw himself as he had
walked these very woods, seven months before; he remembered the
brilliant colouring of the April day, and the abundance of energy that
had possessed him. Then, on looking into the future, all his thoughts
had been of strenuous endeavour and success. Now, success was a word
like any other, and left him cold.

For a long time, in place of passing on to his real preoccupation, he
considered this, brooding over the change that had come about in him.
Was it, he asked himself, because he had so little whole-hearted
endurance, that when once a thing was within his grasp, that grasp
slackened? Was it that he was able to make the effort required for a
leap, then, the leap over, could not right himself again? He believed
that the slackening interest, the inability to fix his attention,
which he had had to fight against of late, must have some such deeper
significance; for his whole nature--the inherited common sense of
generations--rebelled against tracing it back to the day on which he
had seen a certain face for the first time. It was too absurd to be
credible that because a slender, dark-eyed girl had suddenly come
within his range of vision, his life should thus lose form and
purpose--incredible and unnatural as well--and, in his present
mood, he would have laughed at the suggestion that this was love. To
his mind, love was something frank and beautiful, made for daylight
and the sun; whereas his condition was a source of mortification to
him. To love, without any possible hope of return; to love, knowing
that the person you loved regarded you with less than indifference,
and, what was worse, that this person was passionately attached to
another man--no, there was something indelicate about it, at which his
blood revolted. It was the kind of thing that it suited poets to make
tragedies of, but it did not--should not--happen in sober, daily life.
And if, as it seemed in this case, it was beyond mortal's power to
prevent it, then the only fitting thing to do was promptly to make an
end. And because, over the approach of this end, he suffered, he now
called himself hard names. What had he expected? Had he really
believed that matters could always dally on, in this pleasant,
torturous way? Would he always have been content to be third party,
and miserable outsider? No; the best that could happen to him was now
happening; let the coming day once be past, let a very few weeks have
run their course, and the parting would have lost its sting; he would
be able to look back, regretfully no doubt, but as on something done
with, irrecoverable. Then he would apply himself to his work with all
his heart; and it would be possible to think of her, and remember her,
calmly. If once an end were put to these daily chances of seeing her,
which perpetually fanned his unrest, all would go well.

And yet . . . did he close his eyes and let her face rise up before
him--her sweet, white face, with the unfathomable eyes, and pale,
sensuous mouth--he was shaken by an emotion that knocked his
resolutions as flat as a breath knocks a house of cards. It was not
love, nor anything to do with love, this he could have sworn to: it
was merely the strange physical effect her presence, or the
remembrance of her presence, had had upon him, from the first day on:
a tightening of all centres, a heightening of all faculties, an
intense hope, and as intense a despair. And in this moment, he
confessed to himself that he would have been over-happy to live on
just as he had been doing, if only sometimes he might see her. He
needed her, as he had never felt the need of anyone before; his nature
clamoured for her, imperiously, as it clamoured for light and air. He
had no concern with anyone but her--her only--and he could not let her
go. It was not love; it was a bodily weakness, a pitiable
infirmity: he even felt it degrading that another person should be
able to exercise such an influence over him, that there should be a
part of himself over which he had no control. Not to see her, not to
be able to gather fresh strength from each chance meeting, meant that
the grip life had of him would relax--he grew sick even at the thought
of how, in some unknown place, in the midst of strangers, she would go
on living, and giving her hand and her smile to other people, while he
would never see her again. And he said her name aloud to himself, as
if he were in bodily pain, or as if the sound of it might somehow
bring him aid: he inwardly implored whatever fate was above him to
give him the one small chance he asked--the chance of fair play.

The morning passed, without his knowing it. When, considerably after
his usual dinner-hour, he was back in his room, he looked at familiar
objects with unseeing eyes. He was not conscious of hunger, but going
into the kitchen begged for a cup of the coffee that could be smelt
brewing on Frau Krause's stove. When he had drunk this, a veil seemed
to lift from his brain; he opened and read a letter from home, and was
pricked by compunction at the thought that, except for a few scales
run hastily that morning, he had done no work. But while he still
stood, with his arm on the lid of the piano, an exclamation rose to
his lips; and taking up his hat, he went down the stairs again, and
out into the street. What was he thinking of? If he wished to see
Louise once more, his place was under her windows, or in those streets
she would be likely to pass through.

He walked up and down before the house in the BRUDERSTRASSE, sometimes
including a side street, in order to avoid making himself conspicuous;
putting on a hurried air, if anyone looked curiously at him; lingering
for a quarter of an hour on end, in the shadow of a neighbouring
doorway. Gradually, yet too quickly, the grey afternoon wore to a
close. He had paced to and fro for an hour now, but not a trace of her
had he seen; nor did even a light burn in her room when darkness fell.
A fear lest she should have already gone away, beset him again, and
got the upper hand of him; and wild schemes flitted through his mind.
He would mount the stairs, and ring the door-bell, on some pretext or
other, to learn whether she was still there; and his foot was on the
lowest stair, when his courage failed him, and he turned back. But the
idea had taken root; he could not bear much longer the uncertainty he
was in; and so, towards seven o'clock, when he had hung about
for three hours, and there was still no sign of life in her room, he
went boldly up the broad, winding stair and rang the bell. When the
door was opened, he would find something to say.

The bell, which he had pulled hard, pealed through the house, jangled
on, and, in a series of after-tinkles, died away. There was no
immediate answering sound; the silence persisted, and having waited
for some time, he rang again. Then, in the distance, he heard a door
creak; soft, cautious footsteps crept along the passage; a light
moved; the glass window in the upper half of the door was opened, and
a little old woman peered out, holding a candle above her head. On
seeing the pale face close before her, she drew back, and made as if
to shut the window; for, as a result of poring over newspapers, she
lived in continual expectation of robbery and murder.

"She is not at home," she said with tremulous bravado, in answer to
the young man's question, and again was about to close the window. But
Maurice thrust in his hand, and she could not shut without crushing it.

"Then she is still here? Has she gone out? When will she be back?" he
queried.

"How should I know? And look here, young man, if you don't take away
your hand and leave the house at once, I shall call from the window
for a policeman."

He went slowly down the stairs and across the street, and took up anew
his position in the dark doorway--a proceeding which did not reassure
Fraulein Grunhut, who, regarding his inquiries as a feint, was
watching his movements from between the slats of a window-blind. But
Maurice had not stood again for more than a quarter of an hour, when a
feeling of nausea seized him, and this reminded him that he had
practically eaten nothing since the morning. If he meant to hold out,
he must snatch a bite of food somewhere; afterwards, he would return
and wait, if he had to wait all night.

In front of the PANORAMA on the ROSSPLATZ, he ran into the arms of
Furst, and the latter, when he heard where Maurice was going, had
nothing better to do than to accompany him, and drink a SCHNITT.
Furst, who was in capital spirits at the prospect of the evening,
laughed heartily, told witty anecdotes, and slapped his fat thigh, the
type of rubicund good-humour; and as he was not of an observant turn
of mind, he did not notice his companion's abstraction. Hardly
troubling to dissemble, Maurice paid scant attention to Furst's talk;
he ate avidly, and as soon as he had finished, pushed back his
chair and called to the waiter for his bill.

"I must go," he said, and rose. "I have something important to do this
evening, and can't join you."

Furst, cut short in the middle of a sentence, let his double chin fall
on his collar, and gazed open-mouthed at his companion.

"But I say, Guest, look here!. . ." Maurice heard him expostulate as
the outer door slammed behind him.

He made haste to retrace his steps. The wind had dropped; a fine rain
was beginning to fall; it promised to be a wet night, of empty streets
and glistening pavements. There was no visible change in the windows
of the BRUDERSTRASSE; they were as blankly dark as before. Turning up
his coat-collar, Maurice resumed his patrollings, but more languidly;
he was drowsy from having eaten, and the air was chill. A weakness
overcame him at the thought of the night-watch he had set himself; it
seemed impossible to endure the crawling past of still more hours. He
was tired to exhaustion, and a sudden, strong desire arose in him,
somehow, anyhow, to be taken out of himself, to have his thoughts
diverted into other channels. And this feeling grew upon him with such
force, the idea of remaining where he was, for another hour, became so
intolerable, that he forgot everything else, and turned and ran back
towards the PANORAMA, only afraid lest Furst should have gone without him.

The latter was, in fact, just coming out of the door. He stared in
astonishment at Maurice.

"I've changed my mind," said Maurice, without apology. "Shall we go?
Where's the place?"

Furst mumbled something inaudible; he was grumpy at the other's
behaviour. Scanning him furtively, and noting his odd, excited manner,
he concluded that Maurice had been drinking.

They walked without speaking; Furst hummed to himself. In the
thick-sown, business thoroughfare, the BRUHL, they entered a dingy
cafe and while Furst chattered with the landlord and BUFFETDAME, with
both of whom he was on very friendly terms, Maurice went into the
side-room, where the KNEIPE was to be held, and sat down before a
long, narrow table, spread with a soiled red and blue-checked
tablecloth. He felt cold and sick again, and when the wan PICCOLO set
a beer-mat before him, he sent the lad to the devil for a cognac. The
waiter came with the liqueur-bottle; Maurice drank the contents
of one and then another of the tiny glasses. A genial warmth
ran through him and his nausea ceased. He leaned his head on his
hands, closed his eyes, and, soothed by the heat of the room, had a
few moments' pleasant lapse of consciousness.

He was roused by the entrance of a noisy party of three. These were
strangers to him, and when they had mentioned their names and learned
his, they sat down at the other end of the table and talked among
themselves. They were followed by a couple of men known to Maurice by
sight. One, an Italian, a stout, animated man, with prominent
jet-black eyes and huge white teeth, was a fellow-pupil of Schilsky's,
and a violinist of repute, notwithstanding the size and fleshiness of
his hands, which were out of all proportion to the delicate build of
his instrument. The other was a slender youth of fantastic appearance.
He wore a long, old-fashioned overcoat, which reached to his heels,
and was moulded to a shapely waist; on his fingers were numerous
rings; his bushy hair was scented and thickly curled, his face painted
and pencilled like a woman's. He did not sit down, but, returning to
the public room, leaned over the counter and talked to the BUFFETDAME,
in a tone which had nothing in common with Furst's hearty familiarity.

Next came a couple of Americans, loud, self-assertive, careless of
dress and convention; close behind them still another group, and at
its heels, Dove. The latter entered the room with an apologetic air,
and on sitting down at the head of the table, next Maurice, mentioned
at once that, at heart, he was not partial to this kind of thing, and
was only there because he believed the present to be an exceptional
occasion: who knew but what, in after years, he might not be proud to
claim having, made one of the party on this particular evening?--the
plain truth being that Schilsky was little popular with his own sex,
and, in consequence of the difficulty of beating up a round dozen of
men, Furst had been forced to be very pressing in his invitations, to
have recourse to bribes and promises, or, as in the case of Dove, to
stimulating the imagination. The majority of the guests present were
not particular who paid for their drink, provided they got it.

At Krafft's entry, a stifled laugh went round. To judge from his
appearance, he had not been in bed the previous night: sleep seemed to
hang on his red and sunken eyelids; his hands and face were
dirty, and when he took off his coat, which he had worn turned up at
the neck, it was seen that he had either lost or forgotten his collar.
Shirt and waistcoat were insufficiently buttoned. His walk was steady,
but his eyes had a glassy stare, and did not seem to see what they
rested on. A strong odour of brandy went out from him; but he had not
been many minutes in the room before a stronger and more penetrating
smell made itself felt. The rest of the company began to sniff and
ejaculate, and Furst, having tracked it to the corner where the
overcoats hung, drew out of one of Krafft's pockets a greasy newspaper
parcel, evidently some days old, containing bones, scraps of decaying
meat, and rancid fish. The PICCOLO, summoned by a general shout, was
bade to dispose of the garbage instantly, and to hang the coat in a
draughty place to air. Various epithets were hurled at Krafft, who,
however, sat picking his teeth with unconcern, as if what went on
around him had nothing to do with him.

They were now all collected but Schilsky, and much beer had been
drunk. Furst was in his usual state of agitation lest his friend
should forget to keep the appointment; and the spirits of those--there
were several such present--who suffered almost physical pain from
seeing another than themselves the centre of interest, went up by
leaps and bounds. But at this juncture, Schilsky's voice was heard in
the next room. It was raised and angry; it snarled at a waiter.
Significant glances flew round the table: for the young man's
outbursts of temper were well known to all. He entered, making no
response to the greetings that were offered him, displaying his anger
with genial indifference to what others thought of him. To the PICCOLO
he tossed coat and hat, and swore at the boy for not catching them.
Then he let his loose-limbed body down on the vacant chair, and drank
off the glass of PILSENER that was set before him.

There was a pause of embarrassment. The next moment, however, several
men spoke at once: Furst continued a story he was telling, some one
else capped it, and the mirth these anecdotes provoked was more than
ordinarily uproarious. Schilsky sat silent, letting his sullen mouth
hang, and tapping the table with his fingers. Meanwhile, he emptied
one glass of beer after another. The PICCOLO could hardly cope with
the demands that were made on him, and staggered about, top-heavy, with
his load of glasses.

But it was impossible to let the evening pass as flatly as
this; besides, as the general hilarity increased, it made those
present less sensitive to the mood of the guest of honour. Furst was a
born speaker, and his heart was full. So, presently, he rose to his
feet, struck his glass, and, in spite of Schilsky's deepening scowl,
held a flowery speech about his departing friend. The only answer
Schilsky gave was a muttered request to cease making an idiot of himself.

This was going rather too far; but no one protested, except Ford, the
pianist, who said in English: "Speesch? Call that a speesch?"

Furst, inclined in the first moment of rebuff to be touchy, allowed his
natural goodness of heart to prevail. He leaned forward, and said, not
without pathos: "Old man, we are all your friends here. Something's
the matter. Tell us what it is."

Before Schilsky could reply, Krafft awakened from his apparent stupor to
say with extreme distinctness: "I'll tell you. There's been the devil
to pay."

"Now, chuck it, Krafft!" cried one or two, not without alarm at the
turn things might take.

But Schilsky, whose anger had begun to subside under the influence of
the two litres he had drunk, said slowly and thickly: "Let him be.
What he says is the truth--gospel truth."

"Oh, say, that's to' bad!" cried one of the Americans--a lean man, with
the mouth and chin of a Methodist.

All kept silence now, in the hope that Schilsky would continue. As he
did not, but sat brooding, Furst, in his role of peacemaker, clapped
him on the back. "Well, forget it for to-night, old man! What does it
matter? To-morrow you'll be miles away."

This struck a reminiscence in Ford, who forthwith tried to sing:


I'm off by the morning train,
Across the raging main----


"That's easily said!" Schilsky threw a dark look round the table. "By
those who haven't been through it. I have. And I'd rather have lost a
hand."

Krafft laughed--that is to say, a cackle of laughter issued from his
mouth, while his glazed eyes stared idiotically. "He shall tell us
about it. Waiter, a round of SCHNAPS!"

"Shut up, Krafft!" said Furst uneasily.

"Damn you, Heinz!" cried Schilsky, striking the table. He
swallowed his brandy at a gulp, and held out the glass to be refilled.
His anger fell still more; he began to commiserate himself. "By Hell,
I wish a plague would sweep every woman off the earth!"

"The deuce, why don't you keep clear of them?"

Schilsky laughed, without raising his heavy eyes. "If they'd only give
one the chance. Damn them all!--old and young----I say. If it weren't
for them, a man could lead a quiet life."

"It'll all come out in the wash," consoled the American.

Maurice heard everything that passed, distinctly; but the words seemed
to be bandied at an immeasurable distance from him. He remained quite
undisturbed, and would have felt like a god looking on at the doings
of an infinitesimal world, had it not been for a wheel which revolved
in his head, and hindered him from thinking connectedly. So far,
drinking had brought him no pleasure; and he had sense enough to find
the proximity of Ford disagreeable; for the latter spilt half the
liquor he tried to swallow over himself, and half over his neighbour.

A fresh imprecation of Schilsky's called forth more laughter. On its
subsidence, Krafft awoke to his surroundings again. "What has the old
woman given you?" he asked, with his strange precision of speech and
his drunken eyes.

Schilsky struck the table with his fist. "Look at him!--shamming
drunk, the bitch!" he cried.

"Never mind him; he don't count. How much did she give you?"

"Oh, gee, go on!"

But Schilsky, turned sullen again, refused to answer.

"Out with it then, Krafft!--you know, you scoundrel, you!"

Krafft put his hand to the side of his mouth. "She gave him three
thousand marks."

On all sides the exclamations flew.

"Oh, gee-henna!"

"Golly for her!"

"DREI TAUSEND MARK!--ALLE EHRE!"

Again Krafft leaned forward with a maudlin laugh.

"JAWOHL--but on what condition?"

"Heinz, you ferret out things like a pig's snout," said Furst with an
exaggerated, tipsy disgust.

"What, the old louse made conditions, did she?"

"Is she jealous?"

There was another roar at this. Schilsky looked as black as
thunder.

Again Furst strove to intercede. "Jealous?--in seven devils' name, why
jealous? The old scarecrow! She hasn't an ounce of flesh to her bones."

Schilsky laughed. "Much you know about it, you fool! Flesh or no
flesh, she's as troublesome as the plumpest. I wouldn't go through the
last month again for all you could offer me. Month?--no, nor the last
six months either! It's been a hell of a life. Three of 'em, whole
damned three, at my heels, and each ready to tear the others' eyes
out."

"Three! Hullo!"

"Three? Bah!--what's three?" sneered the painted youth.

Schilsky turned on him. "What's three? Go and try it, if you want to
know, you pap-sodden suckling! Three, I said, and they've ended by
making the place too hot to hold me. But I'm done now. No more for
me!--if my name's what it is."

Having once broken through his reserve, he talked on, with heated
fluency; and the longer he spoke, the more he was carried away by his
grievances. For, all he had asked for, he assured his hearers, had
been peace and quiet--the peace necessary to important work. "Jesus and
Mary! Are a fellow's chief obligations not his obligations to
himself?" At the same time, it was not his intention to put any of the
blame on Lulu's shoulders: she couldn't help herself. "Lulu is Lulu.
I'm damned fond of Lulu, boys, and I've always done my best by her--is
there anyone here who wants to say I haven't?"

There was none; a chorus of sympathetic ayes went up from the party
that was drinking at his expense.

Mollified, he proceeded, asserting vehemently that he would have gone
miles out of his. way to avoid causing Lulu pain. "I'm a soft-hearted
fool--I admit it!--where a woman is concerned." But he had yielded to
her often enough--too often--as it was; the time had come for him to
make a stand. Let those present remember what he had sacrificed only
that summer for Lulu's sake. Would anyone else have done as much for
his girl? He made bold to doubt it. For a man like Zeppelin to come to
him, and to declare, with tears in his eyes, that he could teach him
no more--could he afford to treat a matter like that with indifference?
Had he really been free to make a choice?

Again he looked round the table with emphasis, and those who
had their muscles sufficiently under control, hastened to lay their
faces in seemly folds.

Then, however, Schilsky's mood changed; he struck the table so that
the glasses danced. "And shall I tell you what my reward has been for
not going? Do you want to know how Lulu has treated me for staying on
here? 'You are a quarter of an hour late: where have you been? You've
only written two bars since I saw you this morning: what have you been
doing? A letter has come in a strange writing: who is it from? You've
put on another tie: who have you been to see?' HIMMELSAKRAMENT!" He
drained his glass. "I've had the life of a dog, I tell you--of a dog!
There's not been a moment in the day when she hasn't spied on me, and
followed me, and made me ridiculous. Over every trifle she has got up
a fresh scene. She's even gone so far as to come to my room and search
my pockets, when she knew I wasn't at home."

"Yes, yes," sneered Krafft. "Exactly! And so, gentlemen he was now for
slinking off without a word to her."

"Oh, PFUI!" spat the American.

"Call him a liar!" said a voice.

"Liar?" repeated Schilsky dramatically. "Why liar? I don't deny it. I
would have done it gladly if I could--isn't that just what I've been
saying? Lulu would have got over it all the quicker alone. And then,
why shouldn't I confess it? You're all my friends here." He dropped
his voice. "I'm afraid of Lulu, boys. I was afraid she'd get round me,
and then my chance was gone. She might have shot me, but she wouldn't
have let me go. You never know how a woman of that type'll break
out--never!"

"But she didn't!" said Krafft. "You live."

Schilsky understood him.

"Some brute," he cried savagely, "some dirty brute had nothing better
to do than to tell her."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the painted boy.

Furst blew his nose. "It wasn't me. I was mum. 'Pon my honour, I was."

"My God!" said Schilsky, and fell to remembering it. "What a time I've
been through with her this afternoon!" He threatened to be overcome by
the recollection, and supported his head on his hands. "A woman has no
gratitude," he murmured, and drew his handkerchief from his pocket.
"It is a weak, childish sex--with no inkling of higher things."
Here, however, he suddenly drew himself up. "Life is very hard!" he
cried, in a loud voice. "The perpetual struggle between duty and
inclination for a man of genius . . . !"

He grew franker, and gave gratuitous details of the scene that had
taken place in his room that afternoon. Most of those present were in
ecstasies at this divulging of his private life, which went forward to
the accompaniment of snores from Ford, and the voice of Dove, who,
with portentous gravity, sang over and over again, the first strophe
of THE LAST ROSE OF SUMMER.

"A fury!" said Schilsky. "A . . . a what do you call it ?--a . . . Meg
. . . a Meg--" He gave it up and went on: "By God, but Lulu knows how!
Keep clear of her nails, boys--I'd advise you!" At this point, he
pulled back his collar, and exhibited a long, dark scratch on the side
of his neck. "A little remembrance she gave me to take away with me!"
While he displayed it, he seemed to be rather proud of it; but
immediately afterwards, his mood veered round again to one of bitter
resentment. To illustrate the injustice she had been guilty of, and
his own long-suffering, he related, at length, the story of his
flirtation with Ephie, and the infinite pains he had been at to keep
Louise in ignorance of what was happening. He grew very tender with
himself as he told it. For, according to him, the whole affair had
come about without any assistance of his. "What the deuce was I to do?
Chucked herself full at my head, did the little one. No invitation
necessary--a ripe plum, boys! Touch the plum--and off it tumbles! As
pretty a little thing, too, as ever was made! Had everything arranged
by the second meeting. Papa to set us up; house in New York; money IN
HULLE UND FULLE!"

At the mention of New York, the lean American looked grave. "Look
here, you, don't think you're the whole shoot because you've got a
wave in your hair!" he murmured in English.

But Schilsky did not hear him; his voice droned on, giving the full
particulars of this particular case. He grew momentarily opener.

"One no sooner out of the door than the other was in," he asserted,
and laughed long to himself.

For some time past, Maurice had been possessed by the idea that what
was happening concerned him very nearly, and that he ought to
interfere and put his foot down. His hands had grown cold, and
he sat vainly trying to speak: nothing, however, came, but little
drunken gulps and hiccups. But the first mention of Ephie's name
seemed to put new strength into him; he made a violent effort, and
rose to his feet, holding on to the table with both hands. He could
not, however, manage to attract attention; no one took any notice of
him; and besides this, he had himself no notion what it was that he
really wanted to say.

"And drowns his sorrows in the convivial glass!" he suddenly shouted
in English, at the top of his voice, which he had found. He had a
vague belief that he was quoting a well-known line of poetry, and,
though he did not in the least understand how it applied to the
situation, he continued to repeat it, with varying shades of fervour,
till some one called out: "Oh, stop your blasted rot!"

He laughed hoarsely at this, could not check himself, and was so
exhausted when he had finished that it took him some time to remember
why he was on his feet. Schilsky was still relating: his face was
darkly red, his voice husky, and he flapped his arms with meaningless
gestures. A passionate rebellion, a kind of primitive hatred, gripped
Maurice, and when Schilsky paused for breath, he could contain himself
no longer. He felt the burning need of contradicting the speaker, even
though he could not catch the drift of what was said.

"It's a lie!" he cried fiercely, with such emphasis that every face
was turned to him. "A damned lie!"

"A lie? What the devil do you mean?" responded not one but many
voices--the whole table seemed to be asking him, with the exception of
Dove, who sang on in an ever decreasing tempo.

"Get out!--Let him alone; he's drunk. He doesn't know what he's
saying--He's got rats in his head!" he heard voices asserting.
Forthwith he began a lengthy defence of himself, broken only by gaps
in which his brain refused to work. Conscious that no one was
listening to him, he bawled more and more loudly.

"Oh, quit it, you double-barrelled ass!" said the American.

Schilsky, persuaded by those next him to let the incident pass
unnoticed, contented himself with a: "VERFLUCHTE SCHWEINEREI!" spat,
after Furst's gurgled account of Maurice's previous insobriety, across
the floor behind him, to express his contempt, and proceeded as
dominatingly as before with the narration of his love-affairs.

The blood rushed to Maurice's head at the sound of this voice
which he could neither curb nor understand. Rage mastered him--a
vehement desire to be quits. He kicked back his chair, and rocked to
and fro.

"It's a lie--a dirty lie!" he cried. "You make her unhappy--God, how
unhappy you make her! You illtreat her. You've never given her a day's
happiness. S . . . said so . . . herself. I heard her . . . I
swear . . . I----"

His voice turned to a whine; his words came thick and incoherent.

Schilsky sprang to his feet and aimed the contents of a half-emptied
glass at Maurice's face. "Take that, you blasted spy!--you Englishman!"
he spluttered. "I'll teach you to mix your dirty self in my affairs!"

Every one jumped up; there was noise and confusion; simultaneously two
waiters entered the room, as if they had not been unprepared for
something of this kind. Furst and another man restrained Schilsky by
the arms, reasoning with him with more force than coherence. Maurice,
the beer dripping from chin, collar and shirt-front, struggled
furiously with some one who held him back.

"Let me get at him--let me get at him!" he cried. "I'll teach him to
treat a woman as he does. The sneak--the cur--the filthy cad! He's not fit
to touch her hand--her beautiful hand--her beau . . . ti . . . ful----"
Here, overpowered by his feelings, as much as by superior strength, he
sank on a chair and wept.

"I'll break his bones!" raved Schilsky. "What the hell does he mean by
it?--the INFAME SCHUFT, the AAS, the dirty ENGLANDER! Thinks he'll
sneak after her himself, does he?--What in Jesus' name is it to him how
I treat her? I'll take a stick to her if I like--it's none of his
blasted business! Look here, do you see that?" He freed one hand,
fumbled in his pocket, and, almost inarticulate with rage and liquor,
brandished a key across the table. "Do you see that? That's a key,
isn't it, you drunken hog? Well, with that key, I can let myself into
Lulu's room at any hour I want to; I can go there now, this very
minute, if I like--do you think she'll turn me out, you infernal spy?
Turn me out?--she'd go down on her knees here before you all to get me
back to her!"

Unwilling to be involved in the brawl, the more sober of the party had
begun to seek out their hats and to slink away. A little group round
Schilsky blarneyed and expostulated. Why should the whole
sport of the evening be spoilt in this fashion? What did it matter
what the damned cranky Englishman said? Let him be left to his
swilling. They would clear out, and wind up the night at the BAUER;
and at four, when that shut, they would go on to the BAYRISCHE
BAHNHOF, where they could not only get coffee, but could also see
Schilsky off by a train soon after five. These persuasions prevailed,
and, still swearing, and threatening, and promising, by all that was
holy, to bring Lulu there, by the hair of her head if necessary, to
show whether or no he had the power over her he boasted of, Schilsky
finally allowed himself to be dragged off, and those who were left
lurched out in his wake.

With their exit an abrupt silence fell, and Maurice sank into a heavy
sleep, in which he saw flowery meadows and heard a gently trickling
brook. . . .

"Now then, up with you!--get along!" some one was shouting in his ear,
and, bit by bit, a pasty-faced waiter entered his field of view. "It's
past time, anyhow," and yawning loudly, the waiter turned out all the
gas-jets but one. "Don't yer hear? Up with you! You'll have to look
after the other--now, damn me, if there isn't another of you as well!"
and, from under the table, he drew out a recumbent body.

Maurice then saw that he was still in the company of Dove, who sat
staring into space--like a dead man. Krafft, propped on a chair, hung
his head far back, and the collarless shirt exposed the whole of his
white throat.

The waiter hustled them about. Maurice was comparatively steady on his
legs; and it was found that Dove could walk. But over Krafft, the man
scratched his head and called a comrade. At the mention of a droschke,
however, Maurice all but wept anew with ire and emotion: this was his
dearest friend, the friend of his bosom; he was ready at any time to
stake his life for him, and now he was not to be allowed even to see
him home.

A difficulty arose about Maurice's hat: he was convinced that the one
the waiter jammed so rudely on his head did not belong to him; and it
seemed as if nothing in the world had ever mattered so much to him as
now getting back his own hat. But he had not sufficient fluency to
explain all he meant; before he had finished, the man lost patience;
and suddenly, without any transition, the three of them were in the
street. The raw night air gave them a shock; they gasped and choked a
little. Then the wall of a house rose appositely and met them.
They leaned against it, and Maurice threw the hat from him and
trampled on it, chuckling at the idea that he was revenging himself on
the waiter.

It was a journey of difficulties; not only was he unclear what
locality they were in, but innumerable lifeless things confronted them
and formed obstacles to their progress; they had to charge an
advertisement-column two or three times before they could get round
it. Maurice grew excessively angry, especially with Dove. For while
Heinz let himself be lugged this way and that, Dove, grown loud and
wilful, had ideas of his own, and, in addition to this, sang the whole
time with drunken gravity:


Sez the ragman, to the bagman,
I'll do yees no harm.


"Stop it, you oaf!" cried Maurice, goaded to desperation. "You
beastly, blathering, drunken idiot!"

Then, for a street-length, he himself lapsed into semi-consciousness,
and when he wakened, Dove was gone. He chuckled anew at the thought
that somehow or other they had managed to outwit him.

His intention had been to make for home, but the door before which
they ultimately found themselves was Krafft's. Maurice propped his
companion against the wall, and searched his own pockets for a key.
When he had found one, he could not find the door, and when this was
secured, the key would not fit. The perspiration stood out on his
forehead; he tried again and again, thought the keyhole was dodging
him, and asserted the fact so violently that a window in the first
storey was opened and a head thrust out.

"What in the name of Heaven are you doing down there?" it cried. "You
drunken SCHWEIN, can't you see the door's open?"

In the sitting-room, both fell heavily over a chair; after that, with
infinite labour, he got Heinz on the sofa. He did not attempt to make
a light; enough came in from a street-lamp for him to see what he was
doing.

Lying on his face, Krafft groaned a little, and Maurice suddenly
grasped that he was taken ill. Heinz was ill, Heinz, his best friend,
and he was doing nothing to help him! Shedding tears, he poured out a
glass of water. He believed he was putting the carafe safely back on
the table, but it dropped with a crash to the floor. He was
afraid Frau Schulz would come in, and said in a loud voice: "It's that
fellow there, he's dead drunk, beastly drunk!" Krafft would not drink
the water, and in the attempt to force him, it was spilled over him.
He stirred uneasily, put up his arms and dragged Maurice down, so that
the latter fell on his knees beside the sofa. He made a few
ineffectual efforts to free himself; but one arm held him like a vice;
and in this uncomfortable position, he went to sleep.





Part II




O viva morte, e dilettoso male!

PETRARCH.


I.



The following morning, towards twelve o'clock, a note from Madeleine
was handed to Maurice. In it, she begged him to account to Schwarz for
her absence from the rehearsal of a trio, which was to have taken
place at two.

GO AND EXPLAIN THAT IT IS QUITE IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME TO COME, she wrote.
LOUISE IS VERY ILL; THE DOCTOR IS AFRAID OF BRAIN FEVER. I AM RUSHING,
OFF THIS MOMENT TO SEE ABOUT A NURSE--AND SHALL STAY TILL ONE COMES.

He read the words mechanically, without taking in their meaning. From
the paper, his eyes roved round the room; he saw the tumbled, unopened
bed, from which he had just risen, the traces of his boots on the
coverings. He could not remember how he had come there; his last
recollection was of being turned out of Krafft's room, in what seemed
to be still the middle of the night. Since getting home, he must have
slept a dead sleep.

"Ill? Brain fever?" he repeated to himself, and his mind strove to
pierce the significance of the words. What had happened? Why should
she be ill? A racking uneasiness seized him and would not let him
rest. His inclination was to lay his aching head on the pillow again;
but this was out of the question; and so, though he seldom braved Frau
Krause, he now boldly went to her with a request to warm up his
coffee.

When he had drunk it, and bathed his head, he felt considerably
better. But he still could not call to mind what had occurred. The
previous evening was blurred in its details; he only had a sense of
oppression when he thought of it, as of something that had threatened,
and still did. He was glad to have a definite task before him, and
went out at once, in order to catch Schwarz before he left the
Conservatorium; but it was too late; the master's door was locked. It
was a bright, cold day with strong sunlight; Maurice's eyes ached, and
he shrank from the wind at every corner. Instead of going home, he
went to Madeleine's room and sat down to wait for her. She had
evidently been away since early morning; the piano was dusty and
unopened; the blind at the head of it had not been drawn up. It was a
pleasant dusk; he put his arms on the table, his head on his arms,
and, in spite of his anxiety, fell into a sound sleep.

He was wakened by Madeleine's entrance. It was three o'clock. She came
bustling in, took off her hat, laid it on the piano, and at once drew
up the blind. She was not surprised. to find him there, but exclaimed
at his appearance.

"Good gracious, Maurice, how dreadful you look! Are you ill?"

He hastened to reassure her, and she was a little put out at her
wasted sympathy.

"Well, no wonder, I'm sure, after the doings there were last night. A
pretty way to behave! And that you should have mixed yourself up in it
as you did!--I wouldn't have believed it of you. How I know? My dear
boy, it's the talk of the place."

Her words called up to him a more lucid remembrance of the past
evening than he had yet been capable of. In his eagerness to recollect
everything, he changed colour and looked away. Madeleine put his
confusion down to another cause.

"Never mind, it's over now, and we won't say any more about it. Sit
still, and I'll make you some tea. That will do your head good--for you
have a splitting headache, haven't you? I shall be glad of some
myself, too, after all the running about I've had this morning. I'm
quite worn out."

When she heard that he had had no dinner, she sent for bread and
sausage, and was so busy and unsettled that only when she sat down,
with her cup before her, did he get a chance to say: "What is it,
Madeleine? Is she very ill?"

Madeleine shrugged her shoulders. "Yes, she is ill enough. It's not
easy to say what the matter is, though. The doctor is to see her again
this evening. And I found a nurse."

"Then she is not going away?" He did not mean to say the words aloud;
they escaped him against his will.

His companion raised her eyebrows, filling her forehead with wrinkles.
"Going away?" she echoed. "I should say not. My dear Maurice, what is
more, it turns out she hadn't an idea he was going either. What do you
say to that?" She flushed with sincere indignation. "Not an idea--until
yesterday. My lord had the intention of sneaking off without a word,
and of leaving her to find it out for herself. Oh, it's an
abominable affair altogether!--and has been from beginning to end.
There's much about Louise, as you know, that I don't approve of, and I
think she has behaved weakly--not to call it by a harder name--all
through. But now, she has my entire sympathy. The poor girl is in a
pitiable state."

"Is she . . . dangerously ill?"

"Well, I don't think she'll die of it, exactly--though it might be
better for her if she did. NA!. . . let me fill up your cup. And eat
something more. Oh, he is . . . no words are bad enough for him;
though honestly speaking, I think we might have been prepared for
something of this kind, all along. It seems he made his arrangements
for going on the quiet. Frau Schaefele advanced him the money; for of
course he has nothing of his own. But what condition do you think the
old wretch made? That he should break with Louise. Furst has told me
all about it. I went to him at once this morning. She was always
jealous of Louise--though to him she only talked of the holiness of art
and the artist's calling, and the danger of letting domestic ties
entangle you, and rubbish of that kind. I believe she was at the
bottom of it that he didn't marry Louise long ago. Well, however that
may be, he now let himself be persuaded easily enough. He was hearing
on all sides that he had been here too long; and candidly, I think he
was beginning to feel Louise a drag on him. I know of late they were
not getting on well together. But to be such a coward and a weakling!
To slink off in this fashion! Of course, when it came to the last, he
was simply afraid of her, and of the scene she would make him. Bravery
has as little room in his soul as honesty or manliness. He would
always prefer a back-door exit. Such things excite a man, don't you
know?--and ruffle the necessary artistic composure." She laughed
scornfully. "However, I'm glad to say, he didn't escape scot-free
after all. Everything went well till yesterday afternoon, when Louise,
who was as unsuspecting as a child, heard of it from some one--they say
it was Krafft. Without thinking twice--you know her . . . or rather you
don't--she went straight to Schilsky and confronted him. I can't tell
you what took place between them, but I can imagine something of it,
for when Louise lets herself go, she knows no bounds, and this was a
matter of life and death to her."

Madeleine rose, blew out the flame of the spirit-lamp, and refilled
the teapot.

"Fraulein Grunhut, her landlady, heard her go out yesterday
afternoon, but didn't hear her come in, so it must have been late in
the evening. Louise hates to be pried on, and the old woman is lazy,
so she didn't go to her room till about half-past eight this morning,
when she took in the hot water. Then she found Louise stretched on the
floor, just as she had come in last night, her hat lying beside her.
She was conscious, and her eyes were open, but she was stiff and cold,
and wouldn't speak or move. Grunhut couldn't do anything with her, and
was mortally afraid. She sent for me; and between us we got her to
bed, and I went for a doctor. That was at nine, and I have been on my
feet ever since."

"It's awfully good of you."

"No, she won't die," continued Madeleine meditatively, stirring her
tea. "She's too robust a nature for that. But I shouldn't wonder if it
affected her mind. As I say, she knows no bounds, and has never learnt
self-restraint. It has always been all or nothing with her. And this I
must say: however foolish and wrong the whole thing was, she was
devoted to Schilsky, and sacrificed everything--work, money and
friends--to her infatuation. She lived only for him, and this is a
moral judgment on her. Excess of any kind brings its own punishment
with it."

She rose and smoothed her hair before the mirror.

"And now I really must get to work, and make up for the lost morning.
I haven't touched a note to-day. As for you, Maurice, if you take my
advice, you'll go home and go to bed. A good sleep is what you're
needing. Come to-morrow, if you like, for further news. I shall go
back after supper, and hear what the doctor says. Good-bye."

"Good-bye, Madeleine. You're a brick."

Having returned to his room, he lay face downwards on the sofa. He was
sick at heart. Viewed in the light of the story he had heard from
Madeleine, life seemed too unjust to be endured. It propounded riddles
no one could answer; the vast output of energy that composed it, was
misdirected; on every side was cruelty and suffering. Only the
heartless and selfish--those who deserved to suffer--went free.

He pressed the back of his hand to his tired eyes; and, despite her
good deeds, he felt a sudden antipathy to Madeleine, who, on a day
like this, could take up her ordinary occupation.

In the morning, on awakening from a heavy sleep, he was seized by a
fear lest Louise should have died in the night. Through
brooding on it, the fear became a certainty, and he went early to
Madeleine, making a detour through the BRUDERSTRASSE, where his
suspicions were confirmed by the lowered blinds. He had almost two
hours to wait; it was eleven o'clock before Madeleine returned. Her
face was so grave that his heart seemed to stop beating. But there was
no change in the sick girl's condition; the doctor was perplexed, and
spoke of a consultation. Madeleine was returning at two o'clock to
relieve the nurse.

"You are foolishly letting it upset you altogether," she reproved
Maurice. "And it won't mend matters in the least. Go home and settle
down to work, like a sensible fellow."

He tried to follow Madeleine's advice. But it was of no use; when he
had struggled on for half an hour, he sprang up, realising how
monstrous it was that he should be sitting there, drilling his
fingers, getting the right notes of a turn, the specific shade of a
crescendo, when, not very far away, Louise perhaps lay dying. Again he
felt keenly the contrariness of life; and all the labour which those
around him were expending on the cult of hand and voice and car,
seemed of a ludicrous vanity compared with the grim little tragedy
that touched him so nearly; and in this mood he remained, throughout
the days of suspense that now ensued.

He went regularly every afternoon to Madeleine, and, if she were not
at home, waited till she returned, an hour, two hours, as the case
might be. This was the vital moment of the day--when he read her
tidings from her face.

At first they were always the same: there was no change. Fever did not
set in, but, day and night, Louise lay with wide, strained eyes; she
refused nourishment, and the strongest sleeping-draught had no effect.
Then, early one morning, for some trifling cause which, afterwards, no
one could recall, she broke into a convulsive fit of weeping, went on
till she was exhausted, and subsequently fell asleep.

On the day Maurice learnt that she was out of danger, he walked deep
into the woods. The news had lifted such a load from his mind that he
felt almost happy. But before he reached home again, his brain had
begun to work at matters which, during the period of anxiety, it had
left untouched. At first, in desperation, he had been selfless enough
to hope that Schilsky would return, on learning what had happened.
Now, however, that he had not done so, and Louise had passed safely
through the ordeal, Maurice was ready to tremble lest anything
should occur to soil the robe of saintly suffering, in which he draped
her.

He began to take up the steady routine of his life again. Furst
received him with open arms, and no allusion was made to the night in
the BRUHL. With the cessation of his anxiety, a feeling of benevolence
towards other people awakened in him, and when, one afternoon, Schwarz
asked the assembled class if no one knew what had become of Krafft,
whether he was ill, or anything of the kind, it was Maurice who
volunteered to find out. He remembered now that he had not seen Krafft
at the Conservatorium for a week or more.

Frau Schulz looked astonished to see him, and, holding the door in her
hand, made no mien to let him enter. Herr Krafft was away, she said
gruffly, had been gone for about a week, she did not know where or
why. He had left suddenly one morning, without her knowledge, and the
following day a postcard had come from him, stating that all his
things were to lie untouched till his return.

"He was so queer lately that I'd he just as pleased if he stayed away
altogether," she said. "That's all I can tell you. Maybe you'd get
something more out of her. She knows more than she says, anyhow," and
she pointed with her thumb at the door of the adjoining PENSION.

Maurice rang there, and a dirty maid-servant showed him Avery's room.
At his knock, she opened the door herself, and first looked surprised,
then alarmed at seeing him.

"What's the matter? Has anything happened?" she stammered, like one on
the look-out for bad news.

"Then what do you want?" she asked in her short, unpleasant way, when
he had reassured her.

"I came up to see Heinz. And they tell me he is not here; and Frau
Schulz sent me to you. Schwarz was asking for him. Is it true that he
has gone away?"

"Yes, it's true."

"Where to? Will he be away long?"

"How should I know?" she cried rudely. "Am I his keeper? Find out for
yourself, if you must know," and the door slammed to in his face.

He mentioned the incident to Madeleine that evening. She looked
strangely at him, he thought, and abruptly changed the subject. A day
or two later, on the strength of a rumour that reached his ears, he
tackled Furst, and the latter, who, up to this time, had been of a
praiseworthy reticence, let fall a hint which made Maurice
look blank with amazement. Nevertheless, he could not now avoid seeing
certain incidents in his friendship with Krafft, under a different
aspect.

About a fortnight had elapsed since the beginning of Louise's illness;
she was still obliged to keep her bed. More than once, of late,
Madeleine had returned from her daily visit, decidedly out of temper.

"Louise rubs me up the wrong way," she complained to Maurice. "And she
isn't in the least grateful for all I've done for her. I really think
she prefers having the nurse about her to me."

"Sick people often have such fancies," he consoled her.

"Louise shows hers a little too plainly. Besides, we have never got on
well for long together."

But one afternoon, on coming in, she unpinned her hat and threw it on
the piano, with a decisive haste that was characteristic of her in
anger.

"That's the end; I don't go back again. I'm not paid for my services,
and am under no obligation to listen to such things as Louise said to
me to-day. Enough is enough. She is well on the mend, and must get on
now as best she can. I wash my hands of the whole affair."

"But you're surely not going to take what a sick person says
seriously?" Maurice exclaimed in dismay. "How can she possibly get on
with only those strangers about her?"

"She's not so ill now. She'll be all right," answered Madeleine; she
had opened a letter that was on the table, and did not look up as she
spoke. "There's a limit to everything--even to my patience with her
rudeness."

And on returning the following day, he found, sure enough, that, true
to her word, Madeleine had not gone back. She maintained an obstinate
silence about what had happened, and requested that he would now let
the matter drop.

The truth was that Madeleine's conscience was by no means easy.

She had gone to see Louise on that particular afternoon, with even
more inconvenience to herself than usual. On admitting her, Fraulein
Grunhut had endeavoured to detain her in the passage, mumbling and
gesticulating in the mystery-mongering way with which Madeleine had no
patience. It incited her to answer the old woman in a loud, clear
voice; then, brusquely putting her aside, she opened the door of the
sick girl's room.

As she did so, she utttered an exclamation of surprise.
Louise, in a flannel dressing-gown, was standing at the high tiled
stove behind the door. Both her arms were upraised and held to it, and
she leant her forehead against the tiles.

"Good Heavens, what are you doing out of bed?" cried Madeleine; and,
as she looked round the room: "And where is Sister Martha?"

Louise moved her head, so that another spot of forehead came in
contact with the tiles, and looked up at Madeleine from under her
heavy lids, without replying.

Madeleine laid one by one on the table some small purchases she had
made on the way there.

"Well, are you not going to speak to me to-day?" she said in a
pleasant voice, as she unbuttoned her jacket. "Or tell me what I ask
about the Sister?" There was not a shade of umbrage in her tone.

Louise moved her head again, and looked away from Madeleine to the
wall of the room. "I have got up," she answered, in such a low voice
that Madeleine had to pause in what she was doing, to hear her;
"because I could not bear to lie in bed any longer. And I've sent the
Sister away--because . . . oh, because I couldn't endure having her
about me."

"You have sent Sister Martha away?" echoed Madeleine. "On your own
responsibility? Louise!--how absurd! Well, I suppose I must put on my
hat again and fetch her back. How can you get on alone, I should like
to know? Really, I have no time to come oftener than I do."

"I'm quite well now. I don't need anyone."

"Come, get back into bed, like a good girl, and I will make you some
tea," said Madeleine, in the gently superior tone that one uses to a
sick person, to a young child, to anyone with whom it is not fitting
to dispute.

Instead, Louise left the stove, and sat down in a low American
rocking-chair, where she crouched despondently.

"I wish I had died," she said in a toneless voice.

Madeleine smiled with exaggerated cheerfulness, and rattled the
tea-cups. "Nonsense! You mustn't talk about dying--now that you are
nearly well again. Besides, you know, such things are easily said. One
doesn't mean them."

"I wish I had died. Why didn't you let me die?" repeated Louise in the
same apathetic way.

Madeleine did not reply; she was cogitating whether it would be more
convenient to go after the nurse at once, and what she ought
to do if she could not get her to come back. For Louise would
certainly have despatched her in tragedy-fashion.

Meanwhile the latter had laid her arms along the low arms of the
chair, and now sat gazing from one to the other of her hands. In their
way, these hands of hers had acquired a kind of fame, which she had
once been vain of. They had been photographed; a sculptor had
modelled them for a statue of Antigone--long, slim and strong, with
closely knit fingers, and pale, deep-set nails: hands like those of an
adoring Virgin; hands which had an eloquent language all their own,
but little or no agility, and which were out of place on the keys of a
piano. Louise sat looking at them, and her face was so changed--the
hollow setting of the eyes reminded perpetually of the bones beneath;
the lines were hammered black below the eyes; nostrils and lips were
pinched and thinned--that Madeleine, secretly observing her, remarked
to herself that Louise looked at least ten years older than before.
Her youth, and, with it, such freshness as she had once had, were gone
from her.

"Here is your tea."

The girl drank it slowly, as if swallowing were an effort, while
Madeleine went round the room, touching and ordering, and opening a
window. This done, she looked at her watch.

"I will go now," she said, "and see if I can persuade Sister Martha to
come back. If you haven't mortally offended her, that is."

Louise started up from her chair, and put her cup, only half emptied,
on the table.

"Madeleine!--please--please, don't! I can't have her back again. I am
quite well now. There was nothing more she could do for me. I shall
sleep a thousand times better at night if she is not here. Oh, don't
bring her back again! Her voice cut like a knife, and her hands were
so hard."

She trembled with excitement, and was on the brink of tears.

"Hush!--don't excite yourself like that," said Madeleine, and tried to
soothe her. "There's no need for it. If you are really determined not
to have her, then she shall not come and that's the end of it. Not but
what I think it foolish of you all the same," she could not refrain
from adding. "You are still weak. However, if you prefer it, I'll do
my best to run up this evening to see that you have everything for the
night."

"I don't want you either."

Madeleine shrugged her shoulders, and her pity became tinged
with impatience.

"The doctor says you must go away somewhere, for a change," she said
as she beat up the pillows and smoothed out the crumpled sheets,
preparatory to coaxing her patient back to bed.

Louise shook her head, but did not speak.

"A few weeks' change of air is what you need to set you up again."

"I cannot go away."

"Nonsense! Of course you can. You don't want to be ill all the winter?"

"I don't want to be well."

Madeleine sniffed audibly. "There's no reasoning with you. When you
hear on all sides that it's for your own good----"

"Oh, stop tormenting me!" cried Louise, raising a drawn face with
disordered hair. "I won't go away! Nothing will make me. I shall stay
here--though I never get well again."

"But why? Give me one sensible reason for not going.--You can't!"

"Yes . . . if . . . if Eugen should come back."

The words could only just be caught. Madeleine stood, holding a sheet
with both hands, as though she could not believe her ears.

"Louise!" she said at last, in a tone which meant many things.

Louise began to cry, and was shaken by hard, dry sobs. Madeleine did
not look at her again, but went severely on with her bedmaking. When
she had finished, she crossed to the washstand, and poured out a glass
of water.

Louise took it, humbled and submissive, and gradually her sobs abated.
But now Madeleine, in place of getting ready to leave, as she had
intended, sat down at the centre table, and revolved what she felt it
to be her duty to say. When all sound of crying had ceased, she began
to speak, persuasively, in a quiet voice.

"You have brought the matter up yourself, Louise," she said, "and, now
the ice is broken, there are one or two things I should like to say to
you. First then, you have been very ill, far worse than you know--the
immediate danger is over now, so I can speak of it. But who can tell
what may happen if you persist in remaining on here by yourself, in
the state you are in?"

Louise did not stir; her face was hidden.

"The reason you give for staying is not a serious one, I hope,"
Madeleine proceeded cautiously choosing her words. "After all
the . . . the precautions that were taken to ensure the . . . break,
it is not all likely . . . he would think of returning. And Louise,"
she added with warmth, "even though he did--suppose he did--after the
way he has behaved, and his disgraceful treatment of you----"

Louise looked up for an instant. "That is not true," she said.

"Not true?" echoed Madeleine. "Well, if you are able to admire his
behaviour--if you don't consider it disgraceful--no, more than
that--infamous----" She stopped, not being able to find a stronger
epithet.

"It is not true," said Louise in the same expressionless voice. But
now she lifted her head, and pressed the palms of her hands together.

Madeleine pushed back her chair, as if she were about to rise. "Then I
have nothing more to say," she said; and went on: "If you are ready to
defend a man who has acted towards you as he has--in a way that makes a
respectable person's blood boil--there is indeed nothing more to be
said." She reddened with indignation. "As if it were not bad enough
for him to go, after all you have done for him, but that he must do it
in such a mean, underhand way--it's enough to make one sick. The only
thing to compare with it is his conduct on the night before he left.
Do you know, pray, that on the last evening, at a KNEIPE in the
GOLDENE HIRSCH, he boasted of what you had done for him--boasted about
everything that had happened between you--to a rowdy, tipsy crew? More
than that, he gave shameless details, about you going to his room that
afternoon----"

"It's not true, it's not true," repeated Louise, as if she had got
these few words by heart. She rose from her chair, and leaned on it,
half turning her back to Madeleine, and holding her handkerchief to
her lips.

Madeleine shrugged her shoulders. "Do you think I should say it, if it
weren't?" she asked. "I don't invent scandal. And you are bound to
hear it when you go out again. He did this, and worse than I choose to
tell you, and if you felt as you ought to about it, you would never
give him another thought. He's not worth it. He's not worth any
respectable person's----"

"Respectable!" burst in Louise, and raised two blazing eyes to her
companion's face. "That's the second time. Why do you come
here, Madeleine, and talk like that to me? He did what he was obliged
to--that's all: for I should never have let him go. Can't you see how
preposterous it is to think that by talking of respectability, and
unworthiness, you can make me leave off caring for him?--when for
months I have lived for nothing else? Do you think one can change
one's feelings so easily? Don't you understand that to love a person
once is to love him always and altogether?--his faults as
well--everything he does, good or bad, no matter what other people
think of it? Oh, you have never really cared for anyone yourself, or
you would know it."

"It's not preposterous at all," retorted Madeleine. "Yes--if he had
deserved all the affection you wasted on him, or if unhappy
circumstances had separated you. But that's not the case. He has
behaved scandalously, without the least attempt at shielding you. He
has made you the talk of the place. And you may consider me narrow and
prejudiced, but this I must say--I am boundlessly astonished at you.
When he has shown you as plainly as he can that he's tired of you,
that you should still be ready to defend him, and have so little
proper pride that you even say you would take him back!----"

Louise turned on her. "You would never do that, Madeleine, would
you?--never so far forget yourself as to crawl to a man's feet and
ask--ask?--no, implore forgiveness, for faults you were not conscious of
having committed. You would never beg him to go on loving you, after
he had ceased to care, or think nothing on earth worth having if he
would not--or could not. As I would; as I have done." But chancing to
look at Madeleine, she grew quieter. "You would never do that, would
you?" she repeated. "And do you know why?" Her words came quickly
again; her voice shook with excitement. "Because you will never care
for anyone more than yourself--it isn't in you to do it. You will go
through life, tight on to the end, without knowing what it is to care
for some one--oh, but I mean absolutely, unthinkingly----"

She broke down, and hid her face again. Madeleine had carried the cups
and saucers to a side-table, and now put on her hat.

"And I hope I never shall," she said, forcing herself to speak calmly.
"If I thought it likely, I should never look at a man again."

But Louise had not finished. Coming round to the front of the
rocking-chair, and leaning on the table, she gazed at Madeleine
with wild eyes, while her pale lips poured forth a kind of
revenge for the suffering, real and imaginary, that she had undergone
at the hands of this cooler nature.

"And I'll tell you why. You are doubly safe; for you will never be
able to make a man care so much that--that you are forced to love him
like this in return. It isn't in you to do it. I don't mean because
you're plain. There are plenty of plainer women than you, who can make
men follow them. No, it's your nature--your cold, narrow, egotistic
nature--which only lets you care for things outside yourself in a cold,
narrow way. You will never know what it is to be taken out of yourself,
taken and shaken, till everything you are familiar with falls away."

She laughed; but tears were near at hand. Madeleine had turned her
back on her, and stood buttoning her jacket, with a red, exasperated face.

"I shall not answer you," she said. "You have worked yourself into
such a state that you don't know what you're saying. All the same, I
think you might try to curb your tongue. I have done nothing to
you--but be kind to you."

"Kind to me? Do you call it kind to come here and try to set me
against the man I love best in the world? And who loves me best, too.
Yes; he does. He would never have gone, if he hadn't been forced to--if
I hadn't been a hindrance to him--a drag on him."

"It makes me ashamed of my sex to hear you say such things. That a
woman can so far lose her pride as to----"

"Oh, other women do it in other ways. Do you think I haven't seen how
you have been trying to make some one here like you?--doing your
utmost, without any thoughts of pride or self-respect.--And how you
have failed? Yes, failed. And if you don't believe me, ask him
yourself--ask him who it is that could bring him to her, just by
raising her finger. It's to me he would come, not to you--to me who
have never given him look or thought."

Madeleine paled, then went scarlet. "That's a direct untruth. You!--and
not to egg a man on, if you see he admires you! You know every time a
passer-by looks at you in the street. You feed on such looks--yes, and
return them, too. I have seen you, my lady, looking and being looked
at, by a stranger, in a way no decent woman allows.--For the rest, I'll
trouble you to mind your own business. Whatever I do or don't do,
trust me, I shall at least take care not to make myself the
laughing-stock of the place. Yes, you have only succeeded in making
yourself ridiculous. For while you were cringing before him, and aspiring
to die for his sake, he was making love behind your back to another girl.
For the last six months. Every one knew it, it seems, but you."

She had spoken with unconcealed anger, and now turned to leave the
room. But Louise was at the door before her, and spread herself across
it.

"That's a lie, Madeleine! Of your own making. You shall prove it to me
before you go out of this room. How dare you say such a thing !--how
dare you!"

Madeleine looked at her with cold aversion, and drew back to avoid
touching her.

"Prove it?" she echoed. "Are his own words not proof enough! He told
the whole story that night, just as he had first told all about you.
It had been going on for months. Sometimes, you were hardly out of his
room, before the other was in. And if you don't believe me, ask the
person you're so proud of having attracted, without raising your
finger."

Louise moved away from the door, and went back to the table, on which
she leaned heavily. All the blood had left her face and the dark rings
below her eyes stood out with alarming distinctness. Madeleine felt a
sudden compunction at what she had done.

"It's entirely your own fault that I told you anything whatever about
it," she said, heartily annoyed with herself. "You had no right to
provoke me by saying what you did. I declare, Louise, to be with you
makes one just like you. If it's any consolation to you to know it, he
was drunk at the time, and there's a possibility it may not be true."

"Go away--go out of my room!" cried Louise. And Madeleine went, without
delay, having almost a physical sensation about her throat of the
slender hands stretched so threateningly towards her.--And this
unpleasant feeling remained with her until she turned the corner of
the street.




II.



On the afternoon when Maurice found that Madeleine had kept her word
he went home and paced his room in perplexity. He pictured Louise
lying helpless, too weak to raise her hand. His brain went stupidly
over the few people to whom he might turn for aid. Avery Hill?--Johanna
Cayhill? But Avery was occupied with her own troubles; and Johanna's
relationship to Ephie put her out of the question. He was thinking
fantastic thoughts of somehow offering his own services, or of even
throwing himself on the goodness of a person like Miss Jensen, whose
motherly form must surely imply a corresponding motherliness of heart,
when Frau. Krause entered the room, bearing a letter which she said
had been left for him an hour or two previously. She carried a lamp in
her hand, and eyed her restless lodger with suspicion.

"Why, in the name of goodness, didn't you bring this in when it came?"
he demanded. He held the unopened letter at arm's length, as if he
were afraid of it.

Frau Krause bridled instantly. Did he think she had nothing else to do
than to carry things in and out of his room? The letter had lain on
the chest of drawers in the passage; he could have seen it for
himself, had he troubled to look.

Maurice waved her away. He was staring at the envelope; he believed he
knew the handwriting. His heart beat with precise hammerings. He laid
the letter on the table, and took a few turns in the room before he
picked it up again. On examining it anew, it seemed to him that the
lightly gummed envelope had been tampered with, and he made a
threatening movement towards the door, then checked himself,
remembering that if the letter were what he believed, it would be
written in English. He tore it open, destroying the envelope in his
nervousness. There was no heading, and it was only a few lines long.

I MUST SPEAK TO YOU. WILL YOU COME TO ME THIS EVENING? LOUISE
DUFRAYER.

His heart was thumping now. He was to go to her, she said so
herself; to go this moment, for it was evening already. As it was, she
was perhaps waiting for him, wondering why he did not come. He had not
shaved that day, and his first impulse was to call for hot water. In
the same breath he gave up the idea: it was out of the question by the
poor light of the lamp, and the extraordinary position of the
looking-glass. He made, however, a hasty toilet in his best, only to
colour at himself when finished. Was there ever such a fool as he? His
act contained the germ of an insult: and he rapidly changed back to
his workaday wear.

All this took time, and it was eight o'clock before he rang the
door-bell in the BRUDERSTRASSE. Now, the landlady did not mistake him
for a possible thief. But she looked at him in an unfriendly way, and
said grumblingly that Fraulein had been expecting him for an hour or
more. Then she pointed to the door of the room, and left him to make
his way in alone.

He knocked gently, but no one answered. The old woman, who stood
watching his movements, signed to him to enter, and he turned the
handle. The large room was dark, except for the light shed by a small
lamp, which stood on the table before the sofa. From somewhere out of
the dusk that lay beyond, a white figure rose and came towards him.

Louise was in a crumpled dressing-gown, and her hair was loosened from
its coil on her neck. Maurice saw so much, before she was close beside
him, her eyes searching his face.

"Oh, you have come," she said with a sigh, as if a load had been
lifted from her mind. "I thought you were not coming."

"I only got your note a few minutes ago. I . . . I came at once," he
said, and stammered, as he saw how greatly illness had changed her.

"I knew you would."

She did not give him her hand, but stood gazing at him; and her look
was so helpless and forlorn that he grew uncomfortable.

"You have been ill?" he said, to render the pause that followed less
embarrassing.

"Yes; but I'm better now." She supported herself on the table; her
indecision seemed to increase, and several seconds passed before she
said: "Won't you sit down?"

He took one of the stuffed arm-chairs she indicated; and she went back
to the sofa. Again there was silence. With her elbows on her knees,
her chin on her two hands, Louise stared hard at the pattern of the
tablecloth. Maurice sat stiff and erect, waiting for her to tell him
why she had summoned him.

"You will think it strange that I should send for you like
this . . . when I know you so slightly," she began at length.
"But . . .since I saw you last . . . I have been in trouble,"--her voice
broke, but her eyes remained fixed on the cloth. "And I am quite alone. I
have no one to help me. Then I thought of you; you were kind to me
once; you offered to help me." She paused, and wound her handkerchief
to a ball.

"Anything!--anything that lies in my power," said Maurice fervently. He
fidgeted his hands round the brim of his hat, which he was holding to him.

"Won't you tell me what it is?" he asked, after another long break. "I
should be so glad, and grateful--yes, indeed, grateful--if there were
anything I could do for you."

She met his eyes, and tried to say something, but no sound came over
her lips. She was trying to fasten her thoughts on what she had to
say, but, in spite of her efforts, they eluded her. For more than
twenty-four hours she had brooded over one idea; the strain had been
too great; and, now that the moment had come, her strength deserted
her. She would have liked to lay her head on her arms and sleep; it
almost seemed to her now, in the indifference of sheer fatigue, that
it did not matter whether she spoke or not. But as she looked at the
young man, she became conscious of an expression in his face, which
made her own grow hard.

"I won't be pitied."

Maurice turned very red. His heart had gone out to her in her
distress; and his feelings were painted on his face. His discomfiture
at her discovery was so palpable that it gave her courage to go on.

"You were one of those, were you not, who were present at a certain
cafe in the BRUHL, one evening, three weeks ago." It was more of a
statement than a question. Her eyes held him fast. His retreating
colour rose again; he had a presentiment of what was coming.

"Then you must have heard----" she began quickly, but left the
sentence unended.

His suspicions took shape, and he made a large, vague gesture of
dissent. "You heard all that was said," she continued, without paying
any heed to him. "You heard how . . . how some one--no, how the man I
loved and trusted . . . how he boasted about my caring for him; and
not only that, but how, before that drunken crowd, he told how
I had been to him ... to his room . . . that afternoon----" She could
not finish, and pressed her knotted handkerchief to her lips.

Maurice looked round him for assistance. "You are mistaken," he
declared. "I heard nothing of the kind. Remember, I, too, was among
those . . . in the state you mention," he added as an afterthought,
lowering his voice.

"That is not it." Leaning forward, she opened her eyes so wide that he
saw a rim of white round the brown of the pupils. "You must also have
heard . . . how, all this time, behind my back, there was some one
else . . . someone he cared for . . . when I thought it was only me."

The young man coloured, with her and for her. "It is not true; you
have been misled," he said with vehemence. And, again, a flash of
intuition suggested an afterthought to him. "Can you really believe
it? Don't you think better of him than that?"

For the first time since she had known him, Louise gave him a personal
look, a look that belonged to him alone, and held a warm ray of
gratitude. Then, however, she went on unsparingly: "I want you to tell
me who it was."

He laid his hat on a chair, and used his hands. "But if I assure you
it is not true? If I give you my word that you have been misinformed?"

"Who was it? What is her name?"

He rose, and went away from the table.

"I knew him better than you," she said slowly, as he did not speak:
"you or anyone else--a hundred thousand times better--and I KNOW it is
true."

Still he did not answer. "Then you won't tell me?"

"Tell you? How can I? There's nothing to tell."

"I was wrong then. You have no pity for me?"

"Pity!--I no pity?" he cried, forgetting how, a minute ago, she had
resented his feeling it. "But all the same I can't tell you what you
ask me. You don't realise what it means: putting a slur on a young
girl's name . . . which has never been touched."

Directly he had said this, he was aware of his foolishness; but she
let the admission contained in the words pass unnoticed.

"Then she is not with him?" she cried, springing to her feet, and
there was a jubilation in her voice, which she did not attempt
to suppress. Maurice made no answer, but in his face was such a
mixture of surprise and disconcertion that it was answer enough.

She remained standing, with her head bowed; and Maurice, who, in his
nervousness, had gripped the back of his chair, held it so tightly
that it left a furrow in his hand. He was looking into the lamp, and
did not at first see that Louise had raised her head again and was
contemplating him. When she had succeeded in making him look at her,
she sat down on the sofa and drew the folds of her dressing-gown to
her.

"Come and sit here. I want to speak to you."

But Maurice only shot a quick glance at her, and did not move.

She leaned forward, in her old position. She had pushed the heavy
wings of hair up from her forehead, and this, together with her
extreme pallor, gave her face a look of febrile intensity.

"Maurice Guest," she said slowly, "do you remember a night last
summer, when, by chance, you happened to walk with me, coming home
from the theatre?--Or have you perhaps forgotten?"

He shook his head.

"Then do you remember, too, what you said to me? How, since the first
time you had seen me--you even knew where that was, I believe--you had
thought about me . . . thought too much, or words to that effect. Do
you remember?"

"Do you think when a man says a thing like that he forgets it? "asked
Maurice in a gruff voice. He turned, as he spoke, and looked down on
her with a kind of pitying wisdom. "If you knew how often I have
reproached myself for it!" he added.

"There was no need for that," she answered, and even smiled a little.
"We women never resent having such things said to us--never--though it
is supposed we do, and though we must pretend to. But I remember, too,
I was in a bad mood that night, and was angry with you, after all.
Everything seemed to have gone against me. In the theatre--in . . . Oh,
no, no!" she cried, as she remembrance of that past night, with its
alternations of pain and pleasure, broke over her. "My God!"

Maurice hardly breathed, for fear he should remind her of his
presence. When the paroxysm had passed, she crossed to the window; the
blinds had not been drawn, and leaning her forehead on the glass, she
looked out into the darkness. In spite of his trouble of mind,
the young man could not but comment on the ironic fashion in which
fate was treating him: not once, in all the hours he had spent on the
pavement below, had Louise come, like this, to the window; now that
she did so, he was in the room beside her, wishing himself away.

Then, with a swift movement, she came back to him, and stood at his
side.

"Then it was not true?--what you said that night."

"True?" echoed Maurice. He instinctively moved a step away from her,
and threw a quick glance at the pale face so near his own. "If I were
to tell you how much more than that is true, you wouldn't have
anything more to do with me."

For the second time, she seemed to see him and consider him. But he
kept his head turned stubbornly away.

"You feel like that," she began in slow surprise, to continue
hurriedly: "You care for me like that, and yet, when I ask the first
and only thing I shall ever ask of you, you won't do it? It is a
lesson to me, I suppose, not to come to you for help again.--Oh, I
can't understand you men! You are all--all alike."

"I would do anything in the world for you. Anything but this."

She repeated his last words after him. "But I want nothing else."

"This I can't tell you."

"Then you don't really care. You only think you do. If you can't do
this one small thing for me! Oh, there is no one else I can turn to,
or I would. Oh, please tell me!--you who make-believe to care for me.
You won't? When it comes to the point, a man will do nothing--nothing
at all."

"I would cut off my hands for you. But you are asking me to do
something I think wrong."

"Wrong! What is wrong?--and what is right? They are only words. Is it
right that I should be left like this?--thrown away like a broken
plate? Oh, I shall not rest till I know who it was that took him from
me. And you are the only person who can help me. Are you not a little
sorry for me? Is there nothing I can do to make you sorry?"

"You won't realise what you are asking me to do."

He spoke in a constrained voice, for he felt the impossiblity of
standing out much longer against her. Louise caught the note of
yielding, and taking his hand in hers, laid it against her forehead.

"Feel that! Feel how it throbs and burns! And so it has gone
on for hours now, for days. I can't think or feel--with that fever in
me. I must know who it was, or I shall go mad. Don't torture me then--
you, too! You are good. Be kind to me now. Be my friend, Maurice Guest."

Maurice was vanquished; in a low voice he told her what she wished to
hear. She read the syllables from his lips, repeated the name slowly
after him, then shook her head; she did not know it. Letting his hand
drop, she went back to the sofa.

"Tell me everything you know about her," she said imperiously. "What
is she like?--what is she like? What is the colour of her hair?"

Maurice was a poor hand at description. Questioned thus, he was not
even sure whether to call Ephie pretty or not; he knew that she was
small, and very young, but of her hair he could say little, except
that it was not black.

Louise caught at the detail. "Not black, no, not black!" she cried.
"He had black enough here," and she ran her hands through her own
unruly hair.

There was nothing she did not want to know, did not try to force from
his lips; and a relentless impatience seized her at his powerlessness.

"I must see her for myself," she said at length, when he had stammered
into silence. "You must bring her to me."

"No, that you really can't ask me to do."

She came over to him again, and took his hands. "You will bring her
here to-morrow--to-morrow afternoon. Do you think I shall hurt her? Is
she any better than I am? Oh, don't be afraid! We are not so easily
soiled."

Maurice demurred no more.

"For until I see her, I shall not know--I shall not know," she said to
herself, when he had pledged his word.

The tense expression of her face relaxed; her mouth drooped; she lay
back in the sofa-corner and shut her eyes. For what seemed a long
time, there was no sound in the room. Maurice thought she had fallen
asleep. But at his first light movement she opened her eyes.

"Now go," she said. "Please, go!" And he obeyed.

The night was cold, but, as he stood irresolute in the street, he
wiped the perspiration from his forehead. He felt very perplexed. Only
one thing was clear to him: he had promised to bring Ephie to see her
the next day, and, however wrong it might be, the promise was given
and must be kept. But what he now asked himself was: did not
the bringing of the child, under these circumstances, imply a tacit
acknowledgment that she was seriously involved?--a fact which, all
along, he had striven against admitting. For, after his one encounter
with Ephie and Schilsky, in the woods that summer, and the first
firing of his suspicions, he had seen nothing else to render him
uneasy; a few weeks later, Ephie had gone to Switzerland, and, on her
return in September, or almost directly afterwards--three or four days
at most--Schilsky had taken his departure. There had been, of course,
his drunken boasts to take into account, but firstly, Maurice had only
retained a hazy idea of their nature, and, in the next place, the
events which had followed that evening had been of so much greater
importance to him that he had had no thoughts to spare for Ephie--more
especially as he then knew that Schilsky was out of the way. But now
the whole affair rose vividly before his mind again, and in his heart
he knew that he had always believed--just as Louise believed--in Ephie's
guilt. No: guilt was too strong a word. Yet however harmless the
flirtation might have been in itself, it had been carried on in secret,
in an underhand way: there had been nothing straightforward or above-board
about it; and this alone was enough to compromise a young girl.

The Cayhills had been in Leipzig again for three weeks, but so
occupied had Maurice been during this time, that he had only paid them
one hasty call. Now he felt that he must see Ephie at once, not only
to secure her word that she would come out with him, the following
day, but also to read from her frank eyes and childish lips the
assurance of her innocence, or, at least, the impossibility of her guilt.

But as he walked to the LESSINGSTRASSE, he remembered, without being
able to help it, all the trifles which, at one time or another, had
disturbed his relations with Ephie. He recalled each of the thin,
superficial untruths, by means of which she had defended herself, the
day he had met her with Schilsky: it seemed incredible to him now that
he had not seen through them instantly. He called up her pretty,
insincere behaviour with the circle of young men that gathered round
her; the language of signs by which she had conversed with Schilsky in
the theatre. He remembered the astounding ease with which he had made
her acquaintance in the first case, or rather, with which she had made
his. Even the innocent kiss she had once openly incited him to, and on
the score of which she had been so exaggeratedly angry--this, too, was
summoned to bear witness against her. Each of these incidents
now seemed to point to a fatal frivolity, to a levity of character
which, put to a real test, would offer no resistance.

Supper was over in the PENSION, but only Mrs. Cayhill sat in her
accustomed corner. Ephie was with the rest of the boarders in the
general sitting-room, where Johanna conducted Maurice. Boehmer was
paying an evening visit, as well as a very young American, who
laughed: "Heh, heh!" at everything that was said, thereby displaying
two prominently gold teeth. Mrs. Tully sat on a small sofa, with her
arm round Ephie's waist: they were the centre of the group, and it did
not appear likely that Maurice would get an opportunity of speaking to
Ephie in private. She was in high spirits, and had only a saucy
greeting for him. He sat down beside Johanna, and waited, ill at ease.
Soon his patience was exhausted; rising, he went over to the sofa, and
asked Ephie if he might come to take her for a walk, the next
afternoon. But she would not give him an express promise; she pouted:
after all these weeks, it suddenly occurred to him to come and see
them, and then, the first thing he did, was to ask a favour of her.
Did he really expect her to grant it?

"Don't, Ephie, love, don't!" cried Mrs. Tully in her sprightly way.
"Men are really shocking creatures, and it is our duty, love, to keep
them in their place. If we don't, they grow presumptuous," and she
shot an arch look at Boehmer, who returned it, fingered his beard, and
murmured: "Cruel--cruel!"

"And even if I wanted to go when the time came, how do you expect me
to know so long beforehand? Ever so many things may happen before
to-morrow," said Ephie brilliantly; at which Mrs. Tully laughed very
much indeed, and still more at Boehmer's remark that it was an ancient
privilege of the ladies, never to be obliged to know their own minds.

"It's a libel--take that, you naughty boy!" she cried, and slapped him
playfully on the hand. "Ephie, love, how shall we punish him?"

"He is not to come again for a week," answered Ephie slily; and at
Boehmer's protestations of penitence and despair, both she and Mrs.
Tully laughed till the tears stood in their eyes, Ephie all the more
extravagantly because Maurice stood unsmiling before her.

"I ask this as a direct favour, Ephie. There's something I want to say
to you--something important," he added in a low voice, so that only she
could hear it.

Ephie changed colour at once, and tried to read his face.

"Then I may come at five? You will be ready? Good night."

Johanna followed him into the passage, and stood by while he put on
his coat. They had used up all their small talk in the sitting-room,
and had nothing more to say to each other. When however they shook
hands, she observed impulsively: "Sometimes I wish we were safe back
home again." But Maurice only said: "Indeed?" and displayed no
curiosity to know the reason why.

After he had gone, Ephie was livelier than before, as long as she was
being teased about her pale, importunate admirer. Then, suddenly, she
pleaded a headache, and went to her own room.

Johanna, listening outside the door, concluded from the stillness that
her sister was asleep. But Ephie heard Johanna come and go. She could
not sleep, nor could she get Maurice's words out of her mind. He had
something important to say to her. What could it be? There was only
one important subject in the world for her now; and she longed for the
hour of his visit--longed, hoped, and was more than half afraid.





III.



Since her return to Leipzig, Ephie's spirits had gone up and down like
a barometer in spring. In this short time, she passed through more
changes of mood than in all her previous life. She learned what
uncertainty meant, and suspense, and helplessness; she caught at any
straw of hope, and, for a day on end, would be almost comforted; she
invented numberless excuses for Schilsky, and rejected them, one and
all. For she was quite in the dark about his movements; she had not
seen him since her return, and could hear nothing of him. Only the
first of the letters she had written to him from Switzerland had
elicited a reply, and he had left all the notes she had sent him,
since getting back, unanswered.

Her fellow-boarder, Mrs. Tully, was her only confidant; and that, only
in so far as this lady, knowing that what she called "a little
romance" was going on, had undertaken to enclose any letters that
might arrive during Ephie's absence. Johanna had no suspicions, or
rather she had hitherto had none. In the course of the past week,
however, it had become plain even to her blind, sisterly eyes that
something was the matter with Ephie. She could still be lively when
she liked, almost unnaturally lively, and especially in the company of
Mrs. Tully and her circle; but with these high spirits alternated fits
of depression, and once Johanna had come upon her in tears. Driven
into a corner, Ephie declared that Herr Becker had scolded her at her
lesson; but Johanna was not satisfied with this explanation; for
formerly, the master's blame or praise had left no impression on her
little sister's mind. Even worse than this, Ephie could now, on slight
provocation, be thoroughly peevish--a thing so new in her that it
worried Johanna most of all. The long walks of the summer had been
given up; but Ephie had adopted a way of going in and out of the
house, just as it pleased her, without a word to her sister. Johanna
scrutinised her keenly, and the result was so disturbing that she
resolved to broach the subject to her mother.

On the morning after Maurice's visit, therefore, she appeared in the
sitting-room, with a heap of undarned stockings in one hand,
her work-basket in the other, and with a very determined expression on
her face. But the moment was not a happy one: Mrs. Cayhill was deep in
WHY PAUL FERROL KILLED HIS WIFE; and would be lost to her surroundings
until the end of the book was reached. Had Johanna been of an
observant turn of mind, she would have waited a little; for, finding
the intermediate portion of the novel dry reading, Mrs. Cayhill was
getting over the pages at the rate of three or four a minute, and
would soon have been finished.

But Johanna sat down at the table and opened fire.

"I wish to speak to you, mother," she said firmly.

Mrs. Cayhill did not even blink. Johanna drew several threads across a
hole she was darning, before she repeated, in the same decided tone:
"Do you hear me, mother? There is something I wish to speak to you
about."

"Hm," said Mrs. Cayhill, without raising her eyes from the page. She
heard Johanna, and was even vaguely distracted by her from the web of
circumstance that was enveloping her hero; but she believed, from
experience, that if she took no notice of her, Johanna would not
persist. What the latter had to say would only be a reminder that it
was mail-day, and no letters were ready; or that if she did not put on
her bonnet and go out for a walk, she would be obliged to take another
of her nerve-powders that night: and Mrs. Cayhill hated moral
persuasion with all her heart.

"Put down your book, mother, please, and listen to me," continued
Johanna, without any outward sign of impatience, and as she spoke, she
drew another stocking over her hand.

"What IS the matter, Joan? I wish you would let me be," answered Mrs.
Cayhill querulously, still without looking up.

"It's about Ephie, mother. But you can't hear me if you go on
reading."

"I can hear well enough," said Mrs. Cayhill, and turning a page, she
lost herself, to all appearance, in the next one. Johanna did not
reply, and for some minutes there was silence, broken only by the
turning of the leaves. Then, compelled by something that was stronger
than herself, Mrs. Cayhill laid her book on her knee, gave a loud
sigh, and glanced at Johanna's grave face.

"You are a nuisance, Joan. Well, make haste now--what is it?"

"It's Ephie, mother. I am not easy about her lately. I don't think she
can be well. She is so unlike herself."

"Really, Joan," said Mrs. Cayhill, laughing with an exaggerated
carelessness. "I think I should be the first to notice if she were sick.
But you like to make yourself important, that's what it is, and to have a
finger in every pie. There is nothing whatever the matter with the child."

"She's not well, I'm sure," persisted Johanna, without haste. "I have
noticed it for some time now. I think the air here is not agreeing
with her. I constantly hear it said that this is an enervating place.
I believe it would be better for her if we went somewhere else for the
winter--even if we returned home. Nothing binds us, and health is the
first and chief----"

"Go home?" cried Mrs. Cayhill, and turned her book over on its face.
"Really, Joan, you are absurd! Because Ephie finds it hard to settle
down again, after such a long vacation--and that's all it is--you want
to rush off to a fresh place, when . . . when we are just so
comfortably fixed here for the winter, and where we have at last
gotten us a few friends. As for going home, why, every one would
suppose we'd gone crazy. We haven't been away six months yet--and when
Mr. Cayhill is coming over to fetch us back--and . . . and everything."

She spoke with heat; for she knew from experience that what her elder
daughter resolved on, was likely to be carried through.

"That is all very well, mother," continued Johanna unmoved. "But I
don't think your arguments are sound if we find that Ephie is really
sick, and needs a change."

"Arguments not sound! What big words you love to use, Joan! You let
Ephie be. She grows prettier every day, and she's a favourite wherever
she goes."

"That's another thing. Her head is being turned, and she will soon be
quite spoilt. She begins to like the fuss and attention so well that----"

"You had your chances too, Joan. You needn't be jealous."

Johanna had heard this remark too often to be sensitive to it.

"When it comes to serious 'chances,' as you call them, no one will be
more pleased for Ephie or more interested than I. But this is
something different. You see that yourself, mother, I am sure. These
young men who come about the house are so foolish, and immature, and
they have such different ideas of things from ourselves. They think
so. . . so"--Johanna hesitated for a word--"so laxly on earnest subjects.
And it is telling on Ephie--Look, for instance, at Mr. Dove! I don't
want to say anything against him, in particular. He is really
more serious than the rest. But for some time now, he has been making
himself ridiculous,"--Johanna had blushed for Dove on the occasion of
his last visit. "No one could be more in earnest than he is; but Ephie
only makes fun of him, in a heartless way. She won't see what a grave
matter it is to him."

Mrs. Cayhill laughed, not at all displeased. "Young people will be
young people. You can't put old heads on young shoulders, Joan, or
shut them up in separate houses. Ephie is an extremely pretty girl,
and it will be the same wherever we go.--As for young Dove, he knows
well enough that nothing can come of it, and if he chooses to continue
his attentions, why, he must take the consequences--that's all.
Absurd!--a boy and girl flirtation, and to make so much of it! A
mountain of a molehill, as usual. And half the time, you only imagine
things, and don't see what is going on under your very nose. Anyone
but you, I'm sure, would find more to object to in the way young Guest
behaves than Dove."

"Maurice Guest?" said Johanna, and laid her hands with stocking and
needle on the table.

"Yes, Maurice Guest," repeated Mrs. Cayhill, with complacent mockery.
"Do you think no one has eyes but yourself?--No, Joan, you're not sharp
enough. Just look at the way he went on last night! Every one but you
could see what was the matter with him. Mrs. Tully told me about it
afterwards. Why, he never took his eyes off her."

"Oh, I'm sure you are mistaken," said Johanna earnestly, and was
silent from sheer surprise. "He has been here so seldom of late," she
added after a pause, thinking aloud.

"Just for that very reason," replied Mrs. Cayhill, with the same air
of wisdom. "A nice-minded young man stays away, if he sees that his
feelings are not returned, or if he has no position to offer.--And
another thing I'll tell you, Joan, though you do think yourself so
clever. You don't need to worry if Ephie is odd and fidgety sometimes
just now. At her age, it's only to be expected. You know very well
what I mean. All girls go through the same thing. You did yourself."

After this, she took up her book again, having, she knew, successfully
silenced her daughter, who, on matters of this nature, was extremely
sensitive.

Johanna went methodically on with her darning; but the new idea which
her mother had dropped into her mind, took root and grew. Strange that
it had not occurred to her before! Dove's state of mind had been
patent from the first; but she had had no suspicions of Maurice Guest.
His manner with Ephie had hitherto been that of a brother: he had never
behaved like the rest. Yet, when she looked back on his visit of the
previous evening, she could not but be struck by the strangeness of his
demeanour: his distracted silence, his efforts to speak to Ephie alone,
and the expression with which he had watched her. And Ephie?--what of her?
Now that Johanna thought of it, a change had also come over Ephie's mode
of treating Maurice; the gay insouciance of the early days had given place
to the pert flippancy which, only the night before, had so pained her
sister. What had brought about this change? Was it pique? Was Ephie
chafing, in secret, at his prolonged absences, and was she, girl-like,
anxious to conceal it from him?

Johanna gathered up her work to go to her own room and think the
matter out in private. In the passage, she ran into the arms of Mrs.
Tully, whom she disliked; for, ever since coming to the PENSION, this
lady had carried on a kind of cult with Ephie, which was distasteful
in the extreme to Johanna.

"Oh, Miss Cayhill!" she now exclaimed. "I was just groping my way--it
is indeed groping, is it not?--to your sitting-room. WHERE is your
sister? I want SO much to ask her if she will have tea with me this
afternoon. I am expecting a few friends, and should be so glad if she
would join us."

"Ephie is practising, Mrs. Tully," said Johanna in her coolest tone.
"And I cannot have her disturbed."

"She is so very, very diligent," said Mrs. Tully with enthusiasm. "I
always remark to myself on hearing her, how very idle a life like mine
is in comparison. I am able to do SO little; just a mere trifle here
and there, a little atom of good, one might say. I have no
talents.--And you, too, dear Miss Cayhill. So studious, so clever! I
hear of you on every side," and, letting her eyes rest on Johanna's
head, she wondered why the girl wore her hair so unbecomingly.

Johanna did not respond.

"If only you would let your hair grow, it would make such a difference
to your appearance," said Mrs. Tully suddenly, with disconcerting
outspokenness.

Johanna drew herself up.

"Thanks," she said. "I have always worn my hair like this, and at my
age, have no intention of altering it," and leaving Mrs. Tully
protesting vehemently at such false modesty, she went past her, into
her own room, and shut the door.

She sat down by the window to sew. But her hands soon fell to
her lap, and with her eyes on the backs of the neighbouring houses,
she continued her interrupted reflections. First, though, she threw a
quick, sarcastic side-glance on her mother and herself. As so often
before, when she had wanted to pin her mother's attention to a
subject, the centre of interest had shifted in spite of her efforts,
and they had ended far from where they had begun: further, she,
Johanna, had a way, when it came to the point, not of asking advice or
of faithfully discussing a question, but of emphatically giving her
opinion, or of stating what she considered to be the facts of the
case.

From an odd mixture of experience and self-distrust, Johanna had,
however, acquired a certain faith in her mother's opinions--these
blind, instinctive hits and guesses, which often proved right where
Johanna's carefully drawn conclusions failed. Here, once more, her
mother's idea had broken in upon her like a flash of light, even
though she could not immediately bring herself to accept it. Maurice
and Ephie! She could not reconcile the one with the other. Yet what if
the child were fretting? What if he did not care? A pang shot through
her at the thought that any outsider should have the power to make
Ephie suffer. Oh, she would make him care!--she would talk to him as he
had never been talked to in his life before.

The sisters' rooms were connected by a door; and, gradually, in spite
of her preoccupation, Johanna could not but become aware how brokenly
Ephie was practising. Coaxing, encouragement, and sometimes even
severity, were all, it is true, necessary to pilot Ephie through the
two hours that were her daily task; but as idle as to-day, she had
never been. What could she be doing? Johanna listened intently, but
not a sound came from the room; and impelled by a curiosity to observe
her sister in a new light, she rose and opened the door.

Ephie was standing with her back to it, staring out of the window, and
supporting herself on the table by her violin, which she held by the
neck. At Johanna's entrance, she started, grew very red, and hastily
raised the instrument to her shoulder.

"What are you doing, Ephie? You are wasting a great deal of time,"
said Johanna in the tone of mild reproof that came natural to her, in
speaking to her little sister. "Is anything the matter to-day? If you
don't practice better than this, you won't have the ETUDE ready by
Friday, and Herr Becker will make you take it again--for the third
time."

"He can if he likes. I guess I don't care," said Ephie nonchantly,
and, seizing the opportunity offered for a break, she sat
down, and laid bow and fiddle on the table.

"Have you remembered everything he pointed out to you at your last
lesson?" asked Johanna, going over to the music-stand, and peering at
the pages with her shortsighted eyes. "Let me see--what was it now?
Something about this double-stopping here, and the fingering in this
position."

Ephie laughed. "Old Joan, what do you know about it?"

"Not much, dear, I admit," said Johanna pleasantly. "But try and master
it, like a good girl. So you can get rid of it, and go on to something
else."

Ephie sat back, clasped her hands behind her head, and gave a long
sigh. "Yes, to the next one," she said. "Oh, if you only knew how sick
I am of them, Joan! The next won't be a bit better than this. They are
all alike--a whole book of them."

Johanna looked down at the little figure with the plump, white arms,
and discontented expression; and she tried to find in the childish
face something she had previously not seen there.

"Are you tired of studying, Ephie?" she asked. "Would you like to
leave off and go away?"

"Go away from Leipzig? Where to?" Ephie did not unclasp her hands, but
her eyes grew vigilant.

"Oh, there are plenty of other places, child. Dresden--or Weimar--or
Stuttgart--where you could take lessons just as well. Or if you are
tired of studying altogether, there is no need for you to go on with
it. We can return home, any day. Sometimes, I think it would be better
if we did. You have not been yourself lately, dear. I don't think you
are very well."

"I not myself?--not well? What rubbish you talk, Joan! I am quite
well, and wish you wouldn't tease me. I guess you want to go away
yourself. You are tired of being here. But nothing shall induce me to
go. I love old Leipzig. And I still have heaps to learn before I leave
off studying.--I don't even know whether I shall be ready by spring.
It all depends. And now, Joan, go away." She took up her violin and
put it on her shoulder. "Now it's you who are wasting time. How can I
practise when you stand there talking?"

Johanna was silent. But after this, she did not venture to mention
Maurice's name; and she had turned to leave the room when she
remembered her meeting with Mrs. Tully.

"I would rather you did not go to tea, Ephie," she ended, and then
regretted having said it.

"That's another of your silly prejudices, Joan. I want to know
why you feel so about Mrs. Tully. I think she's lovely. Not that I'd
have gone anyway. I promised Maurice to go for a walk with him at
five. I know what her 'few friends' means, too--just Boehmer, and she
asks me along so people will think he comes to see me, and not her. He
sits there, and twirls his moustache, and makes eyes at her, and she
makes them back. I'm only for show. No, I shouldn't have gone. I can't
bear Boehmer. He's such a goat."

"You didn't think that as long as he came to see us," expostulated
Johanna.

"No, of course not. But so he only comes to see her, I do.--And
sometimes, Joan, why it's just embarrassing. The last afternoon, why,
he had a headache or something, and she made him lie on the sofa, with
a rug over him, so she could bathe his head with eau-de-cologne. I
guess she's going to marry him. And I'm not the only one. The other
day I heard Frau Walter and Frau von Baerle talking in the dining-room
after dinner, and they said the little English widow was very
HEIRATSLUSTIG."

"Ephie, I don't like to hear you repeat such foolish gossip," said
Johanna in real distress. "And if you can understand and remember a
word like that, you might really take more pains with your German. It
is not impossible for you to learn, you see."

"Joan the preacher, and Joan the teacher, and Joan the wise old bird,"
sang Ephie, and laughed. "I think Mrs. Tully is real kind. She's going
to show me a new way to do my hair. This style is quite out in London,
she says."

"Don't let her touch your hair. It couldn't be better than it is,"
said Johanna quickly. But Ephie turned her head this way and that, and
considered herself in the looking-glass.

Now that she knew Maurice was expected that afternoon, Johanna awaited
his arrival with impatience. Meanwhile, she believed she was not wrong
in thinking Ephie unusually excited. At dinner, where, as always, the
elderly boarders made a great fuss over her, her laughter was so loud
as to grate on Johanna's ear; but afterwards, in their own
sitting-room, a trifle sufficed to put her out of temper. A new hat
had been sent home, a hat which Johanna had not yet seen. Now that it
had come, Ephie was not sure whether she liked it or not; and all the
cries of admiration her mother and Mrs. Tully uttered, when she put it
on, were necessary to reassure her. Johanna was silent, and this
unspoken disapproval irritated Ephie.

"Why don't you say something, Joan?" she cried crossly. "I suppose you
think it's homely?"

"Frankly, I don't care for it much, dear. To my mind, it's overtrimmed."

This was so precisely Ephie's own feeling that she was more annoyed
than ever; she taunted Johanna with old-fashioned, countrified tastes;
and, in spite of her mother's comforting assurances, retired in a pet
to her own room.

That afternoon, as they sat together at tea, Mrs. Cayhill, who for
some time had considered Ephie fondly, said: "I can't understand you
thinking she isn't well, Joan. I never saw her look better."

Ephie went crimson. "Now what has Joan been saying about me?" she
asked angrily.

Johanna had left the table, and was reading on the sofa.

"I only said what I repeated to yourself, Ephie. That I didn't think
you were looking well."

"Just fancy," said Mrs. Cayhill, laughing good-humouredly, "she was
saying we ought to leave Leipzig and go to some strange place. Even
back home to America. You don't want to go away, darling, do you?"

"No, really, Joan is too bad," cried Ephie, with a voice in which
tears and exasperation struggled for the mastery. "She always has some
new fad in her head. She can't leave us alone--never! Let her go away,
so she wants to. I won't. I'm happy here. I love being here. Even if
you both go away, I shall stop."

She got up from the table, and went to a window, where she stood
biting her lips, and paying small attention to her mother's elaborate
protests that she, too, had no intention of being moved.

Johanna did not raise her eyes from her book. She could have wept: not
only at the spirit of rebellious dislike, which was beginning to show
more and more clearly in everything Ephie said. But was no one but
herself awake to the change that was taking place in the child, day by
day? She would write to her father, without delay, and make him insist
on their returning to America.

From the moment Maurice entered the room, she did not take her eyes
off him; and, under her scrutiny, the young man soon grew nervous. He
sat and fidgeted, and found nothing to say.

Ephie was wayward: she did not think she wanted to go out; it
looked like rain. Johanna refrained from interfering; but Maurice was
most persistent: he begged Ephie not to disappoint him, and, when this
failed, said angrily that she had no business to bring him there for
such capricious whims. This treatment cowed Ephie; and she went at
once to put on her hat and jacket.

"He wants to speak to her; and she knows it; and is trying to avoid
it," said Johanna to herself; and her heart beat fast for both of
them. But she was alone with Maurice; she must not lose the chance of
sounding him a little.

"Where do you think of going for a walk?" she asked, and her voice had
an odd tone to her ears.

"Where? Oh, to the ROSENTAL--or the SCHEIBENHOLZ--or along the river.
Anywhere. I don't know."

She coughed. "Have you noticed anything strange about Ephie lately?
She is not herself. I'm afraid she is not well."

He had noticed nothing. But he did not face Johanna; and he held the
photograph he was looking at upside down.

She leaned out of the window to watch them walk along the street. At
this moment, she was fully convinced of the correctness of her
mother's assumption; and by the thought of what might take place
within the next hour, she was much disturbed. During the rest of the
afternoon, she found it impossible to settle to anything; and she
wandered from one room to another, unable even to read. But it struck
six, seven, eight o'clock; it was supper-time; and still Ephie had not
come home. Mrs. Cayhill grew anxious, too, and Johanna strained her
eyes, watching the dark street. At nine and at ten, she was pacing the
room, and at eleven, after a messenger had been sent to Maurice's
lodging and had found no one there she buttoned on her rain-cloak, to
accompany one of the servants to the police-station.

"Why did I let her go?--Oh, why did I let her go!"





IV.



Maurice and Ephie walked along the LESSINGSTRASSE without speaking--it
was a dull, mild day, threatening to rain, as it had rained the whole
of the preceding night. But Ephie was not accustomed to be silent; she
found the stillness disconcerting, and before they had gone far, shot
a furtive look at her companion. She did not intend him to see it; but
he did, and turned to her. He cleared his throat, and seemed about to
speak, then changed his mind. Something in his face, as she observed
it more nearly, made Ephie change colour and give an awkward laugh.

"I asked you before how you liked my hat," she said, with another
attempt at the airiness which, to-day, she could not command. "And you
didn't say. I guess you haven't looked at it. You're in such a hurry."

Maurice turned his head; but he did not see the hat. Instead, he
mentally answered a question Louise had put to him the day before, and
which he had then not known how to meet. Yes, Ephie was pretty,
radiantly pretty, with the fresh, unsullied charm of a flower just
blown.

"Joan was so stupid about it," she went on at random; her face still
wore its uncertain smile. "She said it was overtrimmed, and top-heavy,
and didn't become me. As if she ever wore anything that suited her!
But Joan is an old maid. She hasn't a scrap of taste. And as for you,
Maurice, why I just don't believe you know one hat from another. Men
are so stupid."

Again they went forward in silence.

"You are tiresome to-day," she said at length, and looked at him with
a touch of defiance, as a schoolgirl looks at the master with whom she
ventures to remonstrate.

"Yes, I'm a dull companion."

"Knowing it doesn't make it any better."

But she was not really cross; all other feelings were swallowed up by
the uneasiness she felt at his manner of treating her.

"Where are we going?" she suddenly demanded of him, with a
little quick upward note in her voice. "This is not the way to the
SCHEIBENHOLZ."

"No." He had been waiting for the question. "Ephie,"--he cleared his
throat anew. "I am taking you to see a friend--of mine."

"Is that what you brought me out for? Then you didn't want to speak to
me, as you said? Then we're not going for a walk?"

"Afterwards, perhaps. It's like this. Some one I know has been very
ill. Now that she is getting better, she needs rousing and cheering
up, and that kind of thing; and I said I would bring you to call on
her. She knows you by sight--and would like to know you personally," he
added, with a lame effort at explanation.

"Is that so?" said Ephie with sudden indifference; and her heart,
which had begun to thump at the mention of a friend, quieted down at
once. In fancy, she saw an elderly lady with shawls and a footstool,
who had been attracted by her fresh young face; the same thing had
happened to her before.

Now, however, that she knew the object of their walk, she was greatly
relieved, as if a near danger had been averted; but she had not taken
many steps forward before she was telling herself that another hope
was gone. The only thing to do was to take the matter into her own
hands; it was now or never; and simply a question of courage.

"Maurice, say, do many people go away from here in the fall?--leave
the Con., I would say?" she asked abruptly. "I mean is this a time
more people leave than in spring?"

Maurice started; he had been lost in his own thoughts, which all
centred round this meeting he had weakly agreed to arrange. Again and
again he had tried to imagine how it would fall out. But he did not
know Louise well enough to foresee how she would act; and the nearer
the time came, the stronger grew his presentiment of trouble. His
chief remaining hope was that there would be no open speaking, that
Schilsky's name would not be mentioned; and plump into the midst of
this hope fell Ephie's question. He turned on her; she coloured
furiously, and walked into a pool of water; and, at this moment,
everything was as clear to Maurice as though she had said: "Where is
be? Why has he gone?"

"Why do you ask?" he queried with unconscious sharpness. "No, Easter
is the general time for leaving. But people who play in the
PRUFUNGEN then, sometimes stay for the summer term. Why do you ask?"

"Gracious, Maurice, how tiresome you are! Must one always say why? I
only wanted to know. I missed people I used to see about, that's all."

"Yes, a number have not come back."

He was so occupied with what they were saying that he, in his turn,
stepped into a puddle, splashing the water up over her shoe. Ephie was
extremely annoyed.

"Look!--look what you've done!" she cried, showing him her spikey
little shoe. "Why don't you look where you're going? How clumsy you
are!" and, in a sudden burst of illhumour: "I don't know why you're
bringing me here. It's a horrid part of the city anyway. I didn't have
any desire to come. I guess I'll turn back and go home."

"We're almost there now."

"I don't care. I don't want to go."

"But you shall, all the same. What's the matter with you to-day that
you don't know your own mind for two minutes together?"

"You didn't inquire if I wanted to come. You're just horrid, Maurice."

"And you're a capricious child."

He quickened his pace, afraid she might still escape him; and Ephie
had hard work to keep up with him. As she trotted along, a few steps
behind, there arose in her a strong feeling of resentment against
Maurice, which was all the stronger because she suspected that she was
on the brink of hearing her worst suspicions confirmed. But she could
not afford to yield to the feeling, when the last chance she had of
getting definite information was passing from her. Knitting both hands
firmly inside her muff, she asked, with an earnestness which, to one
who knew, was fatally tale-telling: "Did anyone you were acquainted
with leave, Maurice?"

"Yes," said the young man at her side, with brusque determination. He
remained untouched by the tone of appeal in which Ephie put the
question; for he himself suffered under her continued hedging. "Yes,"
he said, "some one did, and that was a man called Schilsky--a tall,
red-haired fellow, a violinist. But he has only just gone. He came
back after the vacation to settle his affairs, and say good-bye to his
friends. Is there anything else you want to know?"

He regretted the words as soon as they were out of his mouth.
After all, Ephie was such a child. He could not see her face, which
was hidden by the brim of the big hat, but there was something
pathetic in the line of her chin, and the droop of her arms and
shoulders. She seemed to shrink under his words--to grow smaller. As he
stood aside to let her pass before him, through the house-door in the
BRUDERSTRASSE, he had a quick revulsion of feeling. Instead of being
rough and cruel to her, he should have tried to win her confidence
with brotherly kindness. But he had had room in his mind for nothing
but the meeting with Louise, and now there was no more time; they were
going up the stairs. All he could do was to say gently: "I ought to
tell you, Ephie, that the person we are going to see has been very,
very ill--and needs treating with the utmost consideration. I rely on
your tact and good-feeling."

But Ephie did not reply; the colour had left her face, and for once,
the short upper-lip closed firmly on the lower one. For some minutes
amazed anger with Maurice was all she felt. Then, however, came the
knowledge of what his words meant: he knew--Maurice knew; he had seen
through her fictions; he would tell on her; there would be dreadful
scenes with Joan; there would be reproaches and recriminations; she
would be locked up, or taken away. As for what lay beyond, his
assertion that Schilsky had been there--had been and gone, without a
word to her--that was a sickening possibility, which, at present, her
mind could not grasp. She grew dizzy under these blows that rained
down on her, one after the other. And meanwhile, she had to keep up
appearances, to go on as though nothing had happened, when it seemed
impossible even to drag herself to the top of the winding flight of
stairs. She held her head down; there was a peculiar clicking in her
throat, which she could not master; she felt at every step as if she
would have to burst out crying.

At the glass of the door, and at the wizened old face that appeared
behind it, she looked with unseeing eyes; and she followed Maurice
mechanically along the passage to a door at the end.

In his agitation the young man forgot to knock; and as they entered, a
figure sprang up from the sofa-corner, and made a few impulsive steps
towards them.

Maurice went over to Louise and took her hand.

"I've brought her," he said in a low tone, and with a kind of appeal
in voice and eyes, which he was not himself aware of. Louise
answered the look, and went on looking at him, as if she were fearful
of letting her eyes stray. Both turned at an exclamation from Ephie.
She was still standing where Maurice had left her, close beside the
door; but her face was flaming, and her right hand fumbled with the
doorhandle.

"Ephie!" said Maurice warningly. He was afraid she would turn the
handle, and, going over to her, took her by the arm.

"Say, Maurice, I'm going home," she said under her breath. "I can't
stop here. Oh, why did you bring me?"

"Ssh!--be a good girl, Ephie," he replied as though speaking to a
child. "Come with me."

An inborn politeness struggled with Ephie's dread. "I can't. I don't
know her name," she whispered. But she let him draw her forward to
where Louise was standing; and she held out her hand.

"Miss--?" she said in a small voice, and waited for the name to be
filled in.

Louise had watched them whispering, with a stony fare, but, at Ephie's
gesture, life came into it. Her eyes opened wide; and drawing back
from the girl's outstretched hand, yet without seeming to see it, she
turned with a hasty movement, and went over to the window, where she
stood with her back to them.

This was the last straw; Ephie dropped on a chair, and hiding her face
in her hands, burst into the tears she had hitherto restrained. Her
previous trouble was increased a hundredfold. For she had recognised
Louise at once; she felt that she was in a trap; and the person who
had entrapped her was Maurice. Holding a tiny lace handkerchief to her
eyes, she sobbed as though her heart would break.

"Don't cry, dear, don't cry," said the young man. "It's all right."
But his thoughts were with Louise. He was apprehensive of what she
might do next.

As if in answer to his fear, she crossed the room.

"Ask her to take her hands down. I want to see her face."

Maurice bent over Ephie, and touched her shoulder.

"Ephie, dear, do you hear? Look up, like a good girl, and speak to
Miss Dufrayer."

But Ephie shook off his hand.

Over her bowed head, their eyes met; and the look Louise gave the
young man was cold and questioning. He shrugged his shoulders:
he could do nothing; and retreating behind the writing-table, he left
the two girls to themselves.

"Stand up, please," said Louise in an unfriendly voice; and as Ephie
did not obey, she made a movement to take her by the wrists.

"No, no!--don't touch me," cried Ephie, and rose in spite of herself.
"What right have you to speak to me like this?"

She could say no more, for, with a quick, unforeseen movement, Louise
took the young girl's face in both hands, and turned it up. And after
her first instinctive effort to draw back, Ephie kept still, like a
fascinated rabbit, her eyes fixed on the dark face that looked down at
her.

Seconds passed into minutes; and the minutes seemed hours. Maurice
watched, on the alert to intervene, if necessary.

At the entrance of her visitors, Louise had been unable to see
distinctly, so stupefied was she by the thought that the person on
whom her thoughts had run, with a kind of madness, for more than
forty-eight hours, was actually in the room beside her--it was just as
though a nightmare phantom had taken bodily form. And then, too,
though she had spent each of these hours in picturing to herself what
this girl would be like, the reality was so opposed to her imagining
that, at first, she could not reconcile the differences.

Now she forced herself to see every line of the face. Nothing escaped
her. She saw how loosened tendrils of hair on neck and forehead became
little curls; saw the finely marked brows, and the dark blue veins at
the temples; the pink and white colouring of the cheeks; the small
nose, modelled as if in wax; the fascinating baby mouth, with its
short upper-lip. Like most dark, sallow women, whose own brief
freshness is past, the elder girl passionately admired such
may-blossom beauty, as something belonging to a different race from
herself. And this was not all: as she continued to look into Ephie's
face, she ceased to be herself; she became the man whose tastes she
knew better than her own; she saw with his eyes, felt with his senses.
She pictured Ephie's face, arch and smiling, lifted to his; and she
understood and excused his weakness. He had not been able to help what
had happened: this was the prettiness that drew him in, the kind he
had invariably turned to look back at, in the street--something fair
and round, adorably small and young, something to be petted and
protected, that clung, and was childishly subordinate. For her dark
sallowness, for her wilful mastery, he had only had a passing fancy.
She was not his type, and she knew it. But to have known it
vaguely, when it did not matter, and to know it at a moment like the
present, were two different things.

In a burst of despair she let her arms fall to her sides; but her
insatiable eyes gazed on; and Ephie, though she was now free, did not
stir, but remained standing, with her face raised, in a silly
fascination. And the eyes, having taken in the curves of cheeks and
chin, and the soft white throat, passed to the rounded, drooping
shoulders, to the plumpness of the girlish figure, embracing the whole
body in their devouring gaze. Ephie went hot and cold beneath them;
she felt as if her clothes were being stripped from her, and she left
standing naked. Louise saw the changing colour, and interpreted it in
her own way. His--all his! He was not the mortal--she knew it only too
well--to have this flower within his reach, and not clutch at it,
instinctively, as a child clutches at sunbeams. It would riot have
been in nature for him to do otherwise than take, greedily, without
reflection. At the thought of it, a spasm of jealousy caught her by
the throat; her hanging hands trembled to hurt this infantile
prettiness, to spoil these lips that had been kissed by his.

Maurice was at her side. "Don't hurt her," he said, and did not know
how the words came to his lips.

The spell was broken. The unnatural expression died out of her face;
she was tired and apathetic.

"Hurt her?" she repeated faintly. "No, don't be afraid. I shall not
hurt her. But if I beat her with ropes till all my strength was gone,
I couldn't hurt her as she has hurt me."

"Hush! Don't say such things."

"I? I hurt you?" said Ephie, and began to cry afresh. "How could I? I
don't even know you."

"No, you don't know me; and yet you have done me the cruellest wrong."

"Oh, no, no," sobbed Ephic. "No, indeed!"

"He was all I had--all I cared for. And you plotted, and planned, and
stole him from me--with your silly baby face."

"It's not true," wept Ephie. "How could I? I didn't know anything
about you. He . . . he never spoke of you."

Louise laughed. "Oh, I can believe that! And you thought, didn't you,
you poor little fool, that he only cared for you? That was why my name
was never mentioned. He didn't need to scheme, and contrive, and lie,
lie abominably, for fear I should come to hear what he was doing!"

"No, indeed," sobbed Ephie. "Never! And you've no right to say
such things of him."

"I no right?" Louise drew herself up. "No right to say what I like of
him? Are you going to tell me what I shall say and what I shan't of
the man I loved?--yes, and who loved me, too, but in a way you couldn't
understandyou who think all you have to do is to smile your silly
smile, and spoil another person's life. You didn't know, no, of course
not!--didn't know this was his room as well as mine. Look, his music is
still lying on the piano; that's the chair he sat in, not many days
ago; here," she took Ephie by the shoulder and drew her behind the
screen, where a small door, papered like the wall, gave, direct from
the stair-head, a second entrance to the room--" here's the door he
came in at.--For he came as he liked, whenever he chose."

"It's not true; it can't be true," said Ephie, and raised her
tear-stained face defiantly. "We are engaged--since the summer. He's
coming back to marry me soon."

"He's coming back to marry you!" echoed Louise in a blank voice. "He's
coming back to marry you!"

She moved a few steps away, and stood by the writing-table, looking
dazed, as if she did not understand. Then she laughed.

Ephie cried with renewed bitterness. "I want to go home."

But Maurice did not pay any attention to her. He was watching Louise,
with a growing dismay. For she continued to laugh, in a breathless
way, with a catch in the throat, which made the laughter sound like
sobbing. On his approaching her, she tried to check herself, but
without success. She wiped her lips, and pressed her handkerchief to
them, then took the handkerchief between her teeth and bit it. She
crossed to the window, and stood with her back to the others; but she
could not stop laughing. She went behind the low, broad screen that
divided the room, and sat down on the edge of the bed; but still she
had to laugh on. She came out again into the other part of the room,
and saw Maurice pale and concerned, and Ephie's tears dried through
pure fear; but the sight of these two made her laugh more violently
than before. She held her face in her hands, and pressed her jaws
together as though she would break them; for they shook with a nervous
convulsion. Her whole body began to shake, with the efforts she made
at repression.

Ephie cowered in her seat. "Oh, Maurice, let us go. I'm so afraid,"
she implored him.

"Don't be frightened! It's all right." But he was following
Louise about the room, entreating her to regain the mastery of
herself. When he did happen to notice Ephie more closely, he said: "Go
downstairs, and wait for me there. I'll come soon."

Ephie did not need twice telling: she turned and fled. He heard the
hall-door bang behind her.

"Do try to control yourself. Miss Dufrayer--Louise! Every one in the
house will hear you."

But she only laughed the more. And now the merest trifles helped to
increase the paroxysm--the way Maurice worked his hands, Ephie's muff
lying forgotten on a chair, the landlady's inquisitive face peering in
at the door. The laugh continued, though it had become a kind of
cackle--a sound without tone. Maurice could bear it no longer. He went
up to her and tried to take her hands. She repulsed him, but he was
too strong for her. He took both her hands in his, and pressed her
down on a chair. He was not clear himself what to do next; but, the
moment he touched her, the laughter ceased. She gasped for breath; he
thought she would choke, and let her hands go again. She pressed them
to her throat; her breath came more and more quickly; her eyes closed;
and falling forward on her knees, she hid her face in the cushioned
seat of the sofa.

Then the tears came, and what tears! In all his life, Maurice had
never heard crying like this. He moved as far away from her as he
could, stood at the window, staring out and biting his lips, while she
sobbed, regardless of his presence, with the utter abandon of a child.
Like a child, too, she wept rebelliously, unchastenedly, as he could
not have believed it possible for a grown person to cry. Such grief as
this, so absolute a despair, had nothing to do with reason or the
reasoning faculties; and the words were not invented that would be
able to soothe it.

But, little by little, a change came over her crying. The rebellion
died out of it; it grew duller, and more blunted, hopeless, without
life. Her strength was almost gone. Now, however, there was another
note of childishness in it, that of complete exhaustion, which it is
so hard to hear. The tears rose to his own eyes; he would have liked
to go to her, to lay his hand on her head, and treat her tenderly, to
make her cease and be happy once more; but he did not dare. Had he
done so, she might not have repelled him; for, in all intensely
passionate grief, there comes a moment of subsidence, when the
grief and its origin are forgotten, and the one overruling desire is
the desire to be comforted, no matter who the comforter and what his
means, so long as they are masterful and strong.

She grew calmer; and soon she was only shaken at widening intervals by
a sob. Then these, too, ceased, and Maurice held his breath. But as,
after a considerable time had elapsed, she still lay without making
sound or movement, he crossed the room to look at her. She was fast
asleep, half sitting, half lying, with her head on the cushions, and
the tears wet on her cheeks. He hesitated between a wish to see her in
a more comfortable position, and an unwillingness to disturb her.
Finally, he took an eider-down quilt from the bed, and wrapped it
round her; then slipped noiselessly from the room.

It was past eight o'clock.


* * * * *


Ephie ran down the stairs as if a spectre were at her heels, and even
when in the street, did not venture to slacken her speed. Although the
dusk was rapidly passing into dark, a good deal of notice was
attracted by the sight of a well-dressed young girl running along,
holding a handkerchief to her face, and every now and then emitting a
loud sob. People stood and stared after her, and some little boys ran
with her. Instead of dropping her pace when she saw this, Ephie grew
confused, and ran more quickly than before. She had turned at random,
on coming out of the house; and she was in a part of the town she did
not know. In her eagerness to get away from people, she took any turn
that offered; and after a time she found that she had crossed the
river, and was on what was almost a country road. A little further
off, she knew, lay the woods; if once she were in their shelter, she
would be safe; and, without stopping to consider that night was
falling, she ran towards them at full speed. On the first seat she
came to she sank breathless and exhausted.

Her first sensation was one of relief at being alone. She unpinned and
took off the big, heavy hat, and laid it on the seat beside her, in
order to be more at her case; and then she cried, heartily, and
without precautions, enjoying to the full the luxury of being
unwatched and unheard. Since teatime, she seemed to have been fighting
her tears, exercising a self-restraint that was new to her and
very hard; and not to-day alone--oh, no, for weeks past, she had been
obliged to act a part. Not even in her bed at night had she been free
to indulge her grief; for, if she cried then, it made her pale and
heavy-eyed next day, and exposed her to Joan's comments. And there
were so many things to cry about: all the emotional excitement of the
summer, with its ups and downs of hope and fear; the never-ceasing
need of dissimulation; the gnawing uncertainty caused by Schilsky's
silence; the growing sense of blankness and disappointment; Joan's
suspicions; Maurice's discovery; the knowledge that Schilsky had gone
away without a word to her; and, worst of all, and most inexplicable,
the terrible visit of the afternoon--at the remembrance of the madwoman
she had escaped from, Ephie's tears flowed with renewed vigour. Her
handkerchief was soaked and useless; she held her fur tippet across
her eyes to receive the tears as they fell; and when this grew too
wet, she raised the skirt of her dress to her face. Not a sound was to
be heard but her sobbing; she was absolutely alone; and she wept on
till those who cared for her, whose chief wish was to keep grief from
her, would hardly have recognized in her the child they loved.

How long she had been there she did not know, when she was startled to
her feet by a loud rustling in the bushes behind her. Then, of a
sudden, she became aware that it was pitch-dark, and that she was all
by herself in the woods. She took to her heels, in a panic of fear,
and did not stop running till the street-lamps came into sight. When
she was under their friendly shine, and could see people walking on
the other side of the river, she remembered that she had left her hat
lying on the seat. At this fresh misfortune, she began to cry anew.
But not for anything in the world would she have ventured back to
fetch it.

She crossed the Pleisse and came to a dark, quiet street, where few
people were; and here she wandered up and down. It was late; at home
they would be sitting at supper now, exhausting themselves in
conjectures where she could be. Ephie was very hungry, and at the
thought of the warmth and light of the supper-table, a lump rose in
her throat. If it had been only her mother, she might have faced
her--but Joan! Home in this plight, at this hour, hatless, and with
swollen face, to meet Joan's eyes and questions!--she shivered at the
idea. Moreover, the whole PENSION would get to know what had
happened to her; she would need to bear inquisitive. looks and words;
she would have to explain, or, still worse, to invent and tell stories
again; and of what use were they now, when all was over? A feeling of
lassitude overcame her--an inability to begin fresh. All over: he would
never put his arm round her again, never come towards her, careless
and smiling, and call her his "little, little girl."

She sobbed to herself as she walked. Everything was bleak, and black,
and cheerless. She would perhaps die of the cold, and then all of
them, Joan in particular, would be filled with remorse. She stood and
looked at the inky water of the river between its stone walls. She had
read of people drowning themselves; what if she went down the steps
and threw herself in?--and she feebly fingered at the gate. But it was
locked and chained; and at the idea of her warm, soft body touching
the icy water; at the picture of herself lying drowned, with dank
hair, or, like the Christian Martyr, floating away on the surface; at
the thought of their grief, of HIM wringing his hands over her corpse,
she was so moved that she wept aloud again, and amost ran to be out of
temptation's way.

It had begun to drizzle. Oh, how tired she was! And she was obliged
constantly to dodge impertinently staring men. In a long, wide street,
she entered a door-way that was not quite so dark as the others, and
sat down on the bottom step of the stairs. Here she must have dozed,
for she was roused by angry voices on the floor above. It sounded like
some one who was drunk; and she fled trembling back to the street.

A neighbouring clock struck ten. At this time of night, she could not
go home, even though she wished to. She was wandering the streets like
any outcast, late at night, without a hat--and her condition of
hatlessness she felt to be the chief stigma. But she was starving with
hunger, and so tired that she could scarcely drag one foot after the
other. Oh, what would they say if they knew what their poor little
Ephie was enduring! Her mother--Joan---Maurice!

Maurice! The thought of him came to her like a ray of light. It was to
Maurice she would turn. He would be good to her, and help her; he had
always been kind to her, till this afternoon. And he knew what had
happened; it would not be necessary to explain.--Oh, Maurice, Maurice!

She knew his address, if she could but find the street. A droschke
passed, and she tried to hail it; but she did not like to
advance too far out of the shadow, on account of her bare head.
Finally, plucking up courage, she inquired the way of a feather-hatted
woman, who had eyed her with an inquisitive stare.

It turned out that the BRAUSTRASSE was just round the corner; she had
perhaps been in the street already, without knowing it; and now she
found it, and the house, without difficulty. The street-door was still
open; or she would never have been bold enough to ring.

The stair was poorly lighted, and full of unsavoury smells. In her
agitation, Ephie rang on a wrong floor, and a strange man answered her
timid inquiry. She climbed a flight higher, and rang again. There was
a long and ominous pause, in which her heart beat fast; if Maurice did
not live here either, she would drop where she stood. She was about to
ring a second time, when felt slippers and an oil lamp moved along the
passage, the glass window was opened, and a woman's face peered out at
her. Yes, Herr Guest lived there, certainly, said Frau Krause, divided
between curiosity and indignation at having to rise from bed; and she
held the lamp above her head, in order to see Ephie better. But he was
not at home, and, even if he were, at this hour of night . . . The
heavy words shuffled along, giving the voracious eyes time to devour.

At the thought that her request might be denied her, Ephie's courage
took its last leap.

"Why, I must see him. I have something important to tell him. Could I
not wait?" she urged in her broken German, feeling unspeakably small
and forlorn. And yielding to a desire to examine more nearly the bare,
damp head and costly furs, Frau Krause allowed the girl to pass before
her into Maurice's room.

She loitered as long as she could over lighting the lamp that stood on
the table; and meanwhile threw repeated glances at Ephie, who, having
given one look round the shabby room, sank into a corner of the sofa
and hid her face: the coarse browed woman, in petticoat and
night-jacket, seemed to her capable of robbery or murder. And so Frau
Krause unwillingly withdrew, to await further developments outside:
the holy, smooth-faced Herr Guest was a deep one, after all.

When Maurice entered, shortly before eleven, Ephie started up from a
broken sleep. He came in pale and disturbed, for Frau Krause had met
him in the passage with angry mutterings about a FRAUENZIMMER in his
room; and his thoughts had at once leaped fearfully to Louise.
When he saw Ephie, he uttered a loud exclamation of surprise.

"Good Lord, Ephie! What on earth are you doing here?"

She sprang at his hands, and caught her breath hysterically.

"Oh, Morry, you've come at last. Oh, I thought you would never come.
Where have you been? Oh, Morry, help me--help me, or I shall die!"

"Whatever is the matter? What are you doing here?"

At his perturbed amazement, she burst into tears, still clinging fast
to his hands. He led her back to the sofa, from which she had sprung.

"Hush, hush! Don't cry like that. What's the matter, child? Tell me
what it is--at once--and let me help you."

"Oh, yes, Morry, help me, help me! There's no one else. I didn't know
where to go. Oh, what shall I do!"

Her own words sounded so pathetic that she sobbed piteously. Maurice
stroked her hand, and waited for her to grow quieter. But now that she
had laid the responsibility of herself on other shoulders, Ephie was
quite unnerved: after the dark and fearful wanderings of the evening,
to be beside some one who knew, who would take care of her, who would
tell her what to do!

She sobbed and sobbed. Only with perseverance did Maurice draw from
her, word by word, an account of where she had been that evening,
broken by such cries as: "Oh, what shall I do! I can't ever go home
again--ever! . . . and I lost my hat. Oh, Morry, Morry! And I didn't
know he had gone away--and it wasn't true what I said, that he was
coming back to marry me soon.. I only said it to spite her, because
she said such dreadful things to me. But we were engaged, all the
same; he said he would come to New York to marry me. And now . . . oh,
dear, oh, Morry! . . ."

"Then he really promised to marry you, did he?"

"Yes, oh, yes. Everything was fixed. The last day I was there," she
wept. "But I didn't know he was going away; he never said a word about
it. Oh, what shall I do! Go after him, and bring him back, Morry. He
must come back. He can't leave me like this, he can't--oh, no, indeed!"

"You don't mean to say you went to see him, Ephie?--alone?--at his
room?" queried Maurice slowly, and he did not know how sternly. "When?
How often? Tell me everything. This is no time for fibbing."

But he could make little of Ephie's sobbed and hazy version of the
story; she herself could not remember clearly now; the
impressions of the last few hours had been so intense as to obliterate
much of what had gone before. "I thought I would drown myself . . .
but the water was so black. Oh, why did you take me to that dreadful
woman? Did you hear what she said? It wasn't true, was it? Oh, it
can't be!"

"It was quite true, Ephie. What he told YOU wasn't true. He never
really cared for anyone but her. They were--were engaged for years."

At this, she wept so heart-rendingly that he was afraid Frau Krause
would come in and interfere.

"You MUST control yourself. Crying won't alter things now. If you had
been frank and candid with us, it would never have happened." This was
the only reproach he could make her; what came after was Johanna's
business, not his. "And now I'm going to take you home. It's nearly
twelve o'clock. Think of the state your mother and sister will be in
about you."

But at the mention of Johanna, Ephie flung herself on the sofa again
and beat the cushions with her hands.

"Not Joan, not Joan!" she wailed. "No, I won't go home. What will she
say to me? Oh, I am so frightened! She'll kill me, I know she will."
And at Maurice's confident assurance that Johanna would have nothing
but love and sympathy for her, she shook her head. "I know Joan.
She'll never forgive me. Morry, let me stay with you. You've always
been kind to me. Oh, don't send me away!"

"Don't be a silly child, Ephie. You know yourself you can't stay
here."

But he gave up urging her, coaxed her to lie down, and sat beside her,
stroking her hair. As he said no more, she gradually ceased to sob,
and in what seemed to the young man an incredibly short time, he heard
from her breathing that she was asleep. He covered her up, and stood a
sheet of music before the lamp, to shade her eyes. In the passage he
ran up against Frau Krause, whom he charged to prevent Ephie in the
event of her attempting to leave the house.

Buttoning up his coat-collar, he hastened through the mistlike rain to
fetch Johanna.

There was a light in every window of the PENSION in the
LESSINGSTRASSE; the street-door and both doors of the flat stood open.
As he mounted the stairs a confused sound of voices struck his car;
and when he entered the passage, he heard Mrs. Cayhill crying noisily.
Johanna came out to him at once; she was in hat and cloak. She
listened stonily to his statement that Ephie was safe at his lodgings,
and put no questions; but, on her returning to the sitting-room, Mrs.
Cayhill's sobs stopped abruptly, and several women spoke at once.

Johanna preserved her uncompromising attitude as they walked the
midnight streets. But as Maurice made no mien to explain matters
further, she so far conquered her aversion as to ask: "What have you
done to her?"

The young man's consternation at this view of the case was so evident
that even she felt the need of wording her question differently.

"Answer me. What is Ephie doing at your rooms?"

Maurice cleared his throat. "It's a long and unpleasant story, Miss
Cayhill. And I'm afraid I must tell it from the beginning.--You didn't
suspect, I fear, that . . . well, that Ephie had a fancy for some one
here?"

At these words, which were very different from those she had expected,
Johanna eyed him in astonishment.

"A fancy!" she repeated incredulously. "What do you mean?"

"Even more--an infatuation," said Maurice with deliberation. "And for
some one I daresay you have never even heard of--a...a man here, a
violinist, called Schilsky."

The elaborate fabric she had that day reared, fell together about
Johanna's ears. She stared at Maurice as if she doubted his sanity;
and she continued to listen, with the same icy air of disbelief, to
his stammered and ineffectual narrative, until he said that he
believed "it" had been "going on since summer."

At this Johanna laughed aloud. "That is quite impossible," she said.
"I knew everything Ephie did, and everywhere she went."

"She met him nearly every day. They exchanged letters, and-----"

"It is impossible," repeated Johanna with vehemence, but less surely.

"----and a sort of engagement seems to have existed between them."

"And you knew this and never said a word to me?"

"I didn't know--not till to-night. I only suspected something--once . . .
long ago. And l couldn't--I mean--one can't say a thing like that
without being quite sure----"

But here he broke down, conscious, as never before, of the negligence
he had been guilty of towards Ephie. And Johanna was not
likely to spare him: there was, indeed, a bitter antagonism to his
half-hearted conduct in the tone in which she said: "I stood to Ephie
in a mother's place. You might have warned me--oh, you might, indeed!"

They walked on in silence--a hard, resentful silence. Then Johanna put
the question he was expecting to hear.

"And what has all this to do with to-night?"

Maurice took up the thread of his narrative again, telling how Ephie
had waited vainly for news since returning from Switzerland, and how
she had only learnt that afternoon that Schilsky had been in Leipzig,
and had gone away again, without seeing her, or letting her know that
he did not intend to return.

"And how did she hear it?"

"At a friend's house."

"What friend?"

"A friend of mine, a--No; I had better be frank with you: the girl
this fellow was engaged to for a year or more."

"And Ephie did not know that?"

He shook his head.

"But you knew, and yet took her there?"

It was a hopeless job to try to exonerate himself. "Yes, there were
reasons--I couldn't help it, in fact. But I'm afraid I should not be
able to make you understand."

"No, never!" retorted Johanna, and squared her shoulders.

But there was more to be said--she had worse to learn before Ephie was
handed over to her care.

"And Ephie has been very foolish," he began anew, without looking at
her. "It seems--from what she has told me tonight--that she has been to
see this man . . . been at his rooms . . . more than once."

At first, he was certain, Johanna did not grasp the meaning of what he
said; she turned a blank face curiously to him. But, a moment later,
she gave a low cry, and hardly able to form the words for excitement,
asked: "Who . . . what . . . what kind of a man was he--this . . .
Schilsky?"

"Rotten," said Maurice; and she did not press him further. He heard
her breath coming quickly, and saw the kind of stiffening that went
through her body; but she kept silence, and did not speak again till
they were almost at his house-door. Then she said, in a voice that was
hoarse with feeling: "It has been all my fault. I did not take proper
care of her. I was blind and foolish. And I shall never be able to
forgive myself for it--never. But that Ephic--my little
Ephie--the child I--that Ephie could . . . could do a thing like
this . . ." Her voice tailed off in a sob.

Maurice struck matches, to light her up the dark staircase; and the
condition of the stairs, the disagreeable smells, the poverty of wall
and door revealed, made Johanna's heart sink still further: to
surroundings such as these had Ephie accustomed herself. They entered
without noise; everything was just as Maurice had left it, except that
the lamp had burned too high and filled the room with its fumes. As
Johanna paused, undecided what to do, Ephie started up, and, at the
sight of her sister, burst into loud cries of fear. Hiding her face,
she sobbed so alarmingly that Johanna did not venture to approach her.
She remained standing beside the table, one thin, ungloved hand
resting on it, while Maurice bent over Ephie and tried to soothe her.

"Please fetch a droschke," Johanna said grimly, as Ephie's sobs showed
no signs of abating; and when, after a lengthy search in the night,
Maurice returned, she was standing in the same position, staring with
drawn, unblinking eyes at the smoky lamp, which no one had thought of
lowering. Ephie was still crying, and only Maurice might go near her.
He coaxed her to rise, wrapped his rug round her, and carried her,
more than he led her, down the stairs.

"Be good enough to drive home with us," said Johanna. And so he sat
with his arm round Ephie, who pressed her face against his shoulder,
while the droschke jolted over the cobbled streets, and Johanna held
herself pale and erect on the opposite seat. She mounted the stairs in
front of them. Ephie was limp and heavy going up; but no sooner did
she catch sight of Mrs. Cayhill than, with a cry, she rushed from the
young man's side, and threw herself into her mother's arms.

"Oh, mummy, mummy!"

Downstairs, in the rain-soaked street, Maurice found the
droschke-driver waiting for his fare. It only amounted to a couple of
marks, and it was no doubt a just retribution for what had happened
that he should be obliged to lay it out; but, none the less, it seemed
like the last straw--the last dismal touch--in a day of forlorn
discomfort.




V.



A few weeks later, a great variety of cabin-trunks and saratogas
blocked the corridor of the PENSION. The addresses they bore were in
Johanna's small, pointed handwriting.

On this, the last afternoon of the Cayhills' stay in Leipzig, Maurice
saw Johanna again for the first time. She had had her hands full. In
the woods, on that damp October night, and on her subsequent
wanderings, Ephie had caught a severe cold; and the doctor had feared
an inflammation of the lungs. This had been staved off; but there was
also, it seemed, a latent weakness of the chest, hitherto unsuspected,
which kept them anxious. Ephie still had a dry, grating cough, which
was troublesome at night, and left her tired and fretful by day. They
were travelling direct to the South of France, where they intended to
remain until she had quite recovered her strength.

Maurice sat beside Johanna on the deep sofa where he and Ephie had
worked at harmony together. But the windows of the room were shut now,
and the room itself looked unfamiliar; for it had been stripped of all
the trifles and fancy things that had given it such a comfortable,
home-like air, and was only the bare, lodging-house room once more.
Johanna was as self-possessed as of old, a trifle paler, a trifle
thinner of lip.

She told him that they intended leaving quietly the next morning,
without partings or farewells. Ephie was still weak and the less
excitement she had to undergo, the better it would be for her.

"Then I shall not see Ephie again?" queried Maurice in surprise.

Johanna thought not: it would only recall the unhappy night to her
memory; besides, she had not asked to see him, as she no doubt would
have done, had she wished it.--At this, the eleventh hour, Johanna did
not think it worth while to tell Maurice that Ephie bore him an
unalterable grudge.

"I never want to see him again."

That was all she said to Johanna; but, during her illness, she had
brooded long over his treachery. And even if things had come all right
in the end, she would never have been able to forgive his
speaking to her of Schilsky in the way he had done. No, she was
finished with Maurice Guest; he was too double-faced, too deceitful
for her.--And she cried bitterly, with her face turned to the wall.

The young man could not but somewhat lamely agree with Johanna that it
was better to let the matter end thus: for he felt that towards the
Cayhills he had been guilty of a breach of trust such as it is
difficult to forgive. At the same time, he was humanly hurt that Ephie
would not even say good-bye to him.

He asked their further plans, and learnt that as soon as Ephie was
well again, they would sail for New York.

"My father has cabled twice for us."

Johanna's manner was uncompromisingly dry and short. After her last
words, there was a long pause, and Maurice made a movement to rise.
But she put out her hand and detained him.

"There is something I should like to say to you." And thereupon, with
the abruptness of a nervous person: "When I have seen my sister and
mother safe back, I intend leaving home myself. I am going to
Harvard."

Maurice realised that the girl was telling him a fact of considerable
importance to herself, and did his best to look interested.

"Really? That's always been a wish of yours, hasn't it?"

"Yes." Johanna coloured, hesitated as he had never known her to do,
then burst out: "And now there is nothing in the way of it." She drew
her thumb across the leaf-corners of a book that was lying on the
table. "Oh, I know what you will say: how, now that Ephie has turned
out to be weak and untrustworthy, there is all the more reason for me
to remain with her, to look after her. But that is not possible." She
faced him sharply, as though he had contradicted her. "I am incapable
of pretending to be the same when my feelings have changed; and, as I
told you--as I knew that night--I shall never be able to feel for Ephie
as I did before. I am ready, as I said, to take all the blame for what
has happened; I was blind and careless. But if the care and affection
of years count for nothing; if I have been so little able to win her
confidence; if, indeed, I have only succeeded in making her dislike
me, by my care of her, so that when she is in trouble, she turns from
me, instead of to me--why, then I have failed lamentably in what I had
made the chief duty of my life."

"Besides," she continued more quietly, "there is another reason:
Ephie is going to fall a victim to her nerves. I see that; and
my poor, foolish mother is doing her best to foster it.--You smile?
Only because you do not understand what it means. It is no laughing
matter. If an American woman once becomes conscious of her nerves,
then Heaven help her!--Now I am not of a disinterested enough nature to
devote myself to sick-nursing where there is no real sickness. And
then, too, my mother intends taking a French maid back with her, and a
person of that class will perform such duties much more competently
than I."

She spoke with bitterness. Maurice mumbled some words of sympathy,
wondering why she should choose to say these things to him.

"Even at home my place is filled," continued Johanna. "The housekeeper
who was appointed during our absence has been found so satisfactory
that she will continue in the post after our return. Everywhere, you
see, I have proved superfluous. There, as here."

"I'm sure you're mistaken," said Maurice with more warmth. "And, Miss
Joan, there's something I should like to say, if I may. Don't you
think you take what has happened here a little too seriously? No doubt
Ephie behaved foolishly. But was it after all any more than a girlish
escapade?"

"Too seriously?"

Johanna turned her shortsighted eyes on the young man, and gazed at
him almost pityingly. How little, oh, how little, she said to herself,
one mortal knew and could know of another, in spite of the medium of
speech, in spite of common experiences! Some of the nights at the
beginning of Ephie's illness returned vividly to her mind, nights,
when she, Johanna, had paced her room by the hour, filled with a
terrible dread, a numbing uncertainty, which she would sooner have
died than have let cross her lips. She had borne it quite alone, this
horrible fear; her mother had been told of the whole affair only what
it was absolutely necessary for her to know. And, naturally enough,
the young man who now sat at her side, being a man, could not be
expected to understand. But the consciousness of her isolation made
Johanna speak with renewed harshness.

"Too seriously?" she repeated. "Oh, I think not. The girlish escapade,
as you call it, was the least of it. If that had been all, if it had
only been her infatuation for some one who was unworthy of
her, I could have forgiven Ephie till seventy times seven. But, after
all these years, after the way I have loved her--no, idolised her!--for
her to treat me as she did--do you think it possible to take that too
seriously? There was no reason she should not have had her little
secrets. If she had let me see that something was going on, which she
did not want to tell me about, do you think I should have forced her?"
--and Johanna spoke in all good faith, forgetful of how she had been
used to clip and doctor Ephie's sentiments. "But that she could
deceive me wilfully, and lie so lightly, with a smile, when, all the
time, she was living a double life, one to my face and one behind my
back--that I cannot forgive. Something has died in me that I used to
feel for her. I could never trust her again, and where there is no
trust there can be no real love."

"She didn't understand what she was doing. She is so young."

"Just for that reason. So young, and so skilled in deceit. That is
hardest of all, even to think of: that she could wear her dear
innocent face, while behind it, in her brain, were cold, calculating
thoughts how she could best deceive me! If there had been but a single
sign to waken my suspicions, then, yes, then I could have forgiven
her," said Johanna, and again forgot how often of late she had been
puzzled by the subtle change in Ephie. "If I could just know that, in
spite of her efforts, she had been too candid to succeed!"

She had unburdened herself and it had been a relief to her, but
nothing could be helped or mended. Both knew this, and after a few
polite questions about her future plans and studies, Maurice rose to
take his leave.

"Say good-bye to them both for me, and give Ephie my love."

"I will. I think she will be sorry afterwards that she did not see
you. She has always liked you."

"Good-bye then. Or perhaps it is only AUF WIEDERSEHEN?"

"I hardly think so." Johanna had returned to her usual sedate manner.
"If I do visit Europe again, it will not be for five or six years at
least."

"And that's a long time. Who knows where I may be, by then!"

He held Johanna's hand in his, and saw her gauntly slim figure
outlined against the bare sitting-room. It was not likely that they
would ever meet again. But he could not summon up any very
lively feelings of regret. Johanna had not touched him deeply; she had
left him as cool as he had no doubt left her; neither had found the
key to the other. Her chief attraction for him had been her devotion
to Ephie; and now, having been put to the test, this was found
wanting. She had been wounded in her own pride and self-love, and
could not forgive. At heart she was no more generous and unselfish
than the rest.

He repeated farewell messages as he stood in the passage. Johanna held
the front door open for him, and, as he went down the stairs, he heard
it close behind him, with that extreme noiselessness that was
characteristic of Johanna's treatment of it.

The following morning, shortly after ten o'clock, a train steamed out
of the THURINGER BAHNHOF, carrying the Cayhills with it. The day was
misty and cheerless, and none of the three travellers turned her head
to give the town a parting glance. They left unattended, without
flowers or other souvenirs, without any of the demonstratively
pathetic farewells, the waving of hats, and crowding about the
carriage-door, which one of the family, at least, had connected
inseverably with their departure. And thus Ephie's musical studies
came to an abrupt and untimely end.


* * * * *


"My faith in women is shattered. I shall never believe in a woman
again."

Dove paced the floor of Maurice's room with long and steady strides,
beneath which a particular board creaked at intervals. His voice was
husky, and the ruddiness of his cheeks had paled.

At the outset of Ephie's illness, Dove had called every morning at the
PENSION, to make inquiries and to leave his regards. But when the
story leaked out, as it soon did, in an exaggerated and distorted
form, he straightway ceased his visits. Thus he was wholly unprepared
for the family's hurried departure, the news of which was broken to
him by Maurice. Dove was dumbfounded. Not a single sententious phrase
crossed his lips; and he remained unashamed of the moisture that
dimmed his eyes. But he maintained his bearing commendably; and it was
impossible not to admire the upright, manly air with which he walked
down the street.

The next day, however, he returned, and was silent no longer. He made
no secret of having been hard hit; just as previously he had
let his friends into his hopes and intentions, so now every one heard
of his reverses. He felt a tremendous need of unbosoming himself; he
had been so sure of success, or, at least, so unthinking of failure,
and the blow to his selfesteem was a rude one.

Maurice sat with his hands in his pockets, and tried to urge reason.
But Dove would not admit even the possibility of his having been
mistaken. He had received innumerable proofs of Ephie's regard for
him.

"Remember how young she was! Girls of that age never know their own
minds," said Maurice. But Dove was inclined to take Johanna's sterner
view, and to cry: "So young and so untender!" for which he, too,
substituted "untrue"; and, just on this score, to deduce unfavourable
inferences for Ephie's whole moral character. As Maurice listened to
him, he could not help thinking that Johanna's affection had been of
the same nature as Dove's, in other words, had had a touch of the
masculine about it: it had existed only as long as it could guide and
subordinate; it denied to its object any midget attempt at individual
life; it set up lofty moral standards, and was implacable when a
smaller, frailer being found it impossible to live up to them.

At the same time, he was sorry for Dove, who, in his blindness, had
laid himself open to receive this snubbing; and he listened patiently,
even a thought flattered by his confidence, until he learnt from
Madeleine that Dove was making the round of his acquaintances, and
behaving in the same way to anyone who would let him. Then he found
that the openness with which Dove related his past hopes, and the
marks of affection Ephie had given him, bordered on indecency. He said
so, with a wrathful frankness; but Dove could not see it in that
light, and was not offended.

As the personal smart weakened, the more serious question that Dove
had to face was, what he was going to tell his relatives at home. For
it now came out that he had represented the affair to them as settled;
in his perfectly sincere optimism, he had regarded himself as an all
but engaged man. And the point that disturbed him was, how to back out
with dignity, yet without violating the truth, on which he set great
store.

"I'm sure he needn't let that trouble him," said Madeleine, on hearing
of his dilemma. "He has only to say that HE has changed his mind,
which is true enough."

This was the conclusion Dove eventually came to himself--
though not with such unseemly haste as Madeleine. Having approached
the matter from all sides, he argued that it would be more considerate
to Ephie to put it in this light than to tell the story in detail. And
consequently, two elderly people in Peterborough nodded to each other
one morning over the breakfast-table, and agreed that Edward had done
well. They had not been much in favour of the American match, but they
had trusted implicitly in their son's good sense, and now, as ever, he
had acted in the most becoming way. He had never given them an hour's
uneasiness since his birth.

Dove wrote:

CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE ARISEN, MY DEAR PARENTS, WHICH MAKE IT
INCONTROVERTIBLY CLEAR TO ME THAT THE YOUNG LADY TO WHOM I WAS PAYING
MY ADDRESSES WHEN I CONSULTED YOU IN SUMMER AND MYSELF WOULD NOT HAVE
KNOWN TRUE HAPPINESS IN OUR UNION. ON MORE INTIMATE ACQUAINTANCE IT
TRANSPIRED THAT OUR CHARACTERS WERE TOTALLY UNSUITED. I HAVE THEREFORE
FOUND IT ADVISABLE TO BANISH THE AFFAIR FROM MY MIND AND TO DEVOTE
MYSELF WHOLLY TO MY STUDIES.

As time passed, and Dove was able to view what had happened more
objectively, he began to feel and even to hint that, all things
considered, he had had a rather lucky escape; and from this, it was
not very far to believing that if he had not just seen through the
whole affair from the beginning, he had at any rate had some inkling
of it; and now, instead of giving proofs of Ephie's affection, he
narrated the gradual growth of his suspicions, and how these had
ultimately been verified. In conclusion, he congratulated himself on
having drawn back, with open eyes, while there was still time.

"Like his cheek!" said Madeleine. "But he could imagine himself into
being the Shah of Persia, if he sat down and gave his mind to it. I
don't believe the snub is going to do him a bit of good. He bobs up
again like a cork, irrepressible. HAVE you heard him quote: 'Frailty
thy name is woman!' or: 'If women could be fair and yet not
fond'?--It's as good as a play."

But altogether, Madeleine was very sharp of tongue since she learnt
the part Maurice had played in what, for a day, was the scandal of the
English-speaking colony. She had taken him to task at once, for his
"lamentable interference."

"Haven't I warned you, Maurice, not to mix yourself up in
Louise's affairs? No good can come of it. She breeds mischief. And if
that absurd child had really drowned herself"--in the version of the
story that had reached Madeleine's ears, Maurice was represented
fishing Ephie bodily from the river--"you would have had to bear the
whole brunt of the blame. It ought to teach you a lesson. For you're
just the kind of boy women will always take advantage of, a mean
advantage, you know. Consider how you were treated in this case--by
both of them! They were not a scrap grateful to you for what you
did--women never are. They only look down on you for letting them have
their own way. Kindness and complaisance don't move them. A
well-developed biceps and a cruel mouth--that's what they want, and
that's all!" she wound up with a flourish, in an extreme bad temper.

She sat, one dull November afternoon, at her piano, and continued to
run her fingers over the keys. Maurice leant on the lid, and listened
to her. But they had barely exchanged a word, when there was a light
tap at the door, and Krafft entered. Both started at his unexpected
appearance, and Madeleine cried: "You come in like a ghost, to
frighten people out of their wits."

Krafft was buttoned to the chin in a travelling-ulster, and looked
pale and thin.

"What news from St. Petersburg?" queried Madeleine with a certain
asperity.

But Maurice recalled an errand he had to do in town; and, on hearing
this, Krafft, who was lolling aimlessly, declared that he would
accompany him.

"But you've only just come!" expostulated Madeleine. "What in the name
of goodness did you climb the stairs for?"

He patted her cheek, without replying.

The young men went away together, Maurice puffing somewhat
ostentatiously at a cigarette. The wind was cold, and Krafft seemed to
shrink into his ulster before it, keeping his hands deep in his
pockets. But from time to time, he threw a side-glance at his friend,
and at length asked, in the tone of appeal which Maurice found it hard
to withstand: "What's the matter, LIEBSTER? Why are you so
different?--so changed?"

"The matter? Nothing--that I'm aware of," said Maurice, and considered
the tip of his cigarette.

"Oh, yes, there is," and Krafft laid a caressing hand on his
companion's arm. "You are changed. You're not frank with me. I feel
such things at once."

"Well, how on earth am I to know when to be frank with you,
and when not? Before you . . . not very long ago, you behaved as if
you didn't want to have anything more to do with me."

"You are changed, and, if I'm not mistaken, I know why," said Krafft,
ignoring his answer. "You have been listening to gossip--to what my
enemies say of me."

"I don't listen to gossip. And I didn't know you had enemies, as you
call them."

"I ?--and not have enemies?" He flared up as though Maurice had
affronted him. "My good fellow, did you ever bear of a man worth his
salt, who didn't have enemies? It's the penalty one pays: only the
dolts and the 'all-too-many' are friends with the whole world. No one
who has work to do that's worth doing, can avoid making enemies. And
who knows what a friend is, who hasn't an enemy to match him? It's a
question of light and shade, theme and counter-theme, of artistic
proportion." He laughed, in his superior way. But directly afterwards,
he dropped back into his former humble tone. "But that you, my friend,
are so ready to let yourself be influenced--I should not have believed
it of you."

"What I heard, I heard from Furst; and I have no reason to suspect him
of falsehood.--Of course, if you assure me it was not true, that's a
different thing." He turned so sharply that he sent a beautiful flush
over Krafft's face. "Come, give me your word, Heirtz, and things will
be straight again."

But Krafft merely shrugged his shoulders, and his colour subsided as
rapidly as it had risen.

"Are you still such an outsider," he asked, "after all this time--in my
society--as to attach importance to a word? What is 'giving a word'? Do
you really think it is of any value? May I not give it tonight, and
take it back to-morrow, according to the mood I am in, according to
whether I believe it myself or not, at the moment?--You think a thing
must either be true or not true? You are wrong. Do you believe, when
you answer a question in the affirmative or the negative, that you are
actually telling the truth? No, my friend, to be perfectly truthful
one would need to lose oneself in a maze of explanation, such as no
questioner would have the patience to listen to. One would need to
take into account the innumerable threads that have gone to making the
statement what it is. Do you think, for instance, if I answered yes or
no, in the present case, it would be true? If I deny what you
heard--does that tell you that I have longed with all my heart for it
to come to pass? Or say I admit it--I should need to unroll my life
before you to make you understand. No, there's no such thing as
absolute truth. If there were, the finest subtleties of existence
would be lost. There is neither positive truth nor positive untruth;
life is not so coarse-fibred as that. And only the grossest natures
can be satisfied with a blunt yes or no. Truth?--it is one of the many
miserable conventions the human brain has tortured itself with, and
its first principle is an utter lack of the imaginative faculties.--A
DIEU!"




VI.



In the days that followed, Maurice threw himself heart and soul into
his work. He had lost ground of late, he saw it plainly now: after his
vigorous start, he had quickly grown slack. He was not, to-day, at the
stage he ought to be, and there was not a doubt but that Schwarz saw
it, too. Now that he, came to think of it, he had more than once been
aware of a studied coolness in the master's manner, of a rather
ostentatious indifference to the quality of the work he brought to the
class: and this he knew by hearsay to be Schwarz's attitude towards
those of his pupils in whom his interest was waning. If he, Maurice,
wished to regain his place in the little Pasha's favour, he must work
like a coal-heaver. But the fact was, the strenuous industry to which
he now condemned himself, was something of a relaxation after the
mental anxiety he had recently undergone; this striking of a black and
white keyboard was a pleasant, thought-deadening employment, and could
be got through, no matter what one's mood.--And so he rose early again,
and did not leave the house till he had five hours' practice behind
him.

WER SICH DER EINSAMKEIT ERGIEBT, ACH, DER IST BALD ALLEIN: at the end
of a fortnight, Maurice smiled to find the words of Goethe's song
proved on himself. If he did not go to see his friends, none of them
came to him. Dove, who was at the stage of: "I told you so," in the
affair of the Cayhills, had found fresh listeners, who were more
sympathetic than Maurice could be expected to be: and Madeleine was up
to her ears in work, as she phrased it, with the "C minor Beethoven."

"Agility of finger equals softening of the brain" was a frequent gibe
of Krafft's; and now and then, at the close of a hard day's work,
Maurice believed that the saying contained a grain of truth. Opening
both halves of his window, he would lean out on the sill, too tired
for connected thought. But when dusk fell, he lay on the sofa, with
his arms clasped under his head, his knees crossed in the air.

At first, in his new buoyancy of spirit, he was able to keep foolish
ideas behind him, as well as to put away all recollection of the
disagreeable events he had been mixed up in of late: after
having, for weeks, borne a load that was too heavy for him, he
breathed freely once more. The responsibility of taking care of Ephie
had been removed from him--and this by far outweighed the little that
he missed her. The matter had wound up, too, in a fairly peaceable
way; all being considered, things might have been worse. So, at first,
he throve under his light-heartedness; and only now became aware how
great the strain of the past few weeks had been. His chief sensation
was relief, and also of relief at being able to feel relieved--indeed,
the moment even came when he thought it would be possible calmly to
accept the fact of Louise having left the town, and of his never being
likely to see her again.

Gradually, however, he began to be astonished at himself, and in the
background of his mind, there arose a somewhat morbid curiosity, even
a slight alarm, at his own indifference. He found it hard to
understand himself. Could his feelings, those feelings which, a week
or two ago, he had believed unalterable, have changed in so short a
time? Was his nature one of so little stability? He began to consider
himself with something approaching dismay, and though, all this time,
he had been going about on a kind of mental tiptoe, for fear of
rousing something that might be dormant in him, he now could not help
probing himself, in order to see if the change he observed were
genuine or not. And this with a steadily increasing frequency. Instead
of continuing thankful for the respite, he ultimately grew uneasy
under it. Am I a person of this weak, straw-like consistency, to be
tossed about by every wind that blows? Is there something beneath it
all that I cannot fathom?

He had not seen Louise since the night he had left her alseep, beside
the sofa; and he was resolved not to see her--not, at least, until she
wished to see him. It was much better for him that the uncertainties
of the bygone months did not begin anew; then, too, she had called him
to her when she was in trouble, and not for anything in the world
would he presume on her appeal. Besides, his presence would recall to
her the unpleasant details connected with Ephie's visit, which he
hoped she had by this time begun to forget. Thus he argued with
himself, giving several reasons where one would have served; and the
upshot of it was, that his own state of mind occupied him
considerably.

His friends noticed the improvement in him; the careworn expression
that had settled down on him of late gave way to his old air
of animation; and on all the small topics of the day, he brought a
sympathetic interest to bear, such as people had ceased to expect from
him. Madeleine, in particular, was satisfied with her "boy," as she
took to calling him. She noted and checked off, in wise silence, each
inch of his progress along the road of healthy endeavour; and the
relations between them bcame almost as hearty as at the commencement
of their friendship. Privately, she believed that the events of the
past month had taught him a lesson, which he would not soon forget. It
was sufficient, however, if they had inspired him with a distrust of
Louise, which would keep him from her for the present; for Madeleine
had grounds for believing that before many weeks had passed, Louise
would have left Leipzig.

So she kept Maurice as close to her as work permitted; and as the
winter's flood of concerts set in, in full force, he accompanied her,
almost nightly, to the Old Gewandhaus or the ALBERTHALLE; for
Madeleine was an indefatigable concert-goer, and never missed a
performer of note, rarely even a first appearance at the HOTEL DE
PRUSSE or a BLUTHNER MATINEE. On the night she herself played in an
AIBENDUNTERHALTUNG, with the easily gained success that attended all
she did, Maurice went with her to the green-room, and was the first
afterwards to tell her how her performance had "gone." That same
evening she took him with her to the house of friends of hers, the
Hensels. There he met some of the best musical society of the place,
made a pleasant impression, and was invited to return.

Meanwhile, winter had set in, with extreme severity. Piercing north
winds drove down the narrow streets, and raged round the corners of
the Gewandhaus square: on emerging from the PROBE on a Wednesday
morning, one's breath was cut clean off, and the tears raced down
one's cheeks. When the wind dropped, there were hard black frosts--a
deadly, stagnant kind of cold, which seemed to penetrate every pore of
the skin and every cranny of the house. Then came the snow, which fell
for three days and nights on end, and for several nights after, so
that the town was lost under a white pall: house-entrances were with
difficulty kept free, and the swept streets were banked with walls of
snow, four and five feet high. The night-frosts redoubled their
keenness; the snow underfoot crackled like electric sparks; the
sleighs crunched the roads. But except for this, and for the tinkling
of the sleigh-bells, the streets were as noiseless as though laid with
straw, and especially while fresh snow still formed a soft
coating on the crisp layer below. All dripping water hung as icicles;
water froze in ewers and pitchers; milk froze in cans and jugs; and
this though the great stoves in the dwelling-rooms were heated to
bursting-point. Red-nosed, red-eared men, on whose beards and
moustaches the breath had turned to ice-drops, cried to one another at
street-corners that such a winter had not been known for thirty years;
and, as they spoke, they stamped their feet, and clapped their hands,
to keep the chilly blood agoing. Women muffled and veiled themselves
like Orientals, hardly showing the tips of their noses; and all manner
of strange, antiquated fur-garments saw the day. At night, if one
opened a window, and peered out at the houses crouching beneath their
thick white load, and at the deserted, snow-bound streets, over which
the street-lamps threw a pale, uncertain light--at night, familiar
things took on an unfamiliar aspect, and the well-known streets might
have been the untrodden ways that led to a new world.

Early in November, all ponds and pools were bearing, and forthwith
many hundreds of people forgot the severity of the weather, and
thronged out with their skates.

Maurice was among the first. He was a passionate skater; and it was
the one form of sport in which he excelled. As four o'clock came
round, he could contain himself no longer; he would rather have gone
without his dinner, thanhave missed, on the JOHANNATEICH, the two
hours that elapsed before the sweepers, crying: "FEIERABEND!" drove
the skaters before them, with their brooms. In a tightly buttoned
square jacket, the collar of which was turned up as far as it would
go, with the flaps of his astrachan cap drawn over his cars, his hands
in coarse woollen gloves, Maurice defied the cold, flying round the
two ponds that formed the JOHANNATEICH, or practising intricate
figures with a Canadian acquaintance in a corner.

Madeleine watched him approvingly from one of the wooden bridges that
spanned the neck connecting the ponds. She rejoiced at his glowing
face and vigorous, boyish pleasure, also at the skill that marked him
out as one of the best skaters present. For some time, Maurice tried
in vain to persuade her to join him. Madeleine, usually so confident,
was here diffident and timid. She had never in her life attempted to
skate, and was sure she would fall. And what should she do if she
broke a thumb or strained a finger?--with her PRUFUNG just before the
door. She would never have the courage to confess to Schwarz
how it had happened; for he was against "sport" in any form. But
Maurice laughed at her fears.

"There is not the least chance of your falling," he cried up to her.
"Do come down, Madeleine. Before you've gone round twice, you'll be
able to throw off all those mufflings."

Finally, she let herself be persuaded, and according to his promise,
Maurice remained at her side from the moment of her first, hesitating
steps, each of which was accompanied by a faint scream, to the time
when, with the aid of only one of his hands, she made uncertain
efforts at striking out. She did not learn quickly; but she was soon
as enthusiastic a skater as Maurice himself; and he fell into the
habit of calling for her, every afternoon, on his way to the ponds.

Dove was also of assistance in the beginning, and, as usual, was well
up in the theory of the thing, though he did not shine in practice.

"Oh, bother, never mind how you go at first. That'll come afterwards,"
said Maurice impatiently. But Dove thought the rules should be
observed from the beginning, and gave Madeleine minute instructions
how to place her feet.

Towards five o'clock, the ice grew more crowded, and especially was
this the case on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when the schools had
half-holidays. On one of these latter days, Maurice did not find
Madeleine at home; and he had been on the ponds for nearly an hour,
before he espied her on a bench beside the GARDEROBE, having her
skates put on by a blue-smocked attendant. He waved his cap to her,
and skated over.

"Why are you so late?"

"Oh, thank goodness, there you are. I should never have dared to stand
up alone in this crowd. Aren't these children awful? Get away, you
little brutes! If you touch me, I'll fall.--Here, give me change," she
said to the ice-man, holding out a twenty-pfennig piece.

Maurice saw that she was unusually excited, and as soon as he had
drawn her out of reach of the children, asked her the reason.

"I've something interesting to tell you, Maurice."

But here Dove, coming up behind, took possession of her left hand,
with no other greeting than the military salute, which, on the ice, he
adopted for all his friends, male and female, alike; and Madeleine
hastily swallowed the rest of her sentence.

They skated round the larger of the ponds several times
without stopping. The cold evening air stung their faces; the sun had
gone down in a lurid haze; Madeleine's skirts swayed behind her and
lent her a fictitious grace.

But presently she cried a halt, and while she rested in a quiet
corner, they watched Maurice doing a complicated figure, which he and
his Canadian friend had invented the day before. Dove was explaining
how it was done--"It is really not so hard as it looks"--when, with a
cry of "ACHTUNG!" some one whizzed in among them, scattered the group,
and, revolving on himself, ended with a jump in the air. It was James.
He took out his handkerchief and blew his nose, in the most
unconcerned manner possible.

"I don't think such acrobatic tricks should be allowed," said
Madeleine disapprovingly; she had been forced to grab Dove's arm to
keep her balance.

"Say, do you boys know the river has six inches and will be open
to-morrow, if it isn't to-day?" asked James, stooping to tighten a
strap.

"Is that so? Oh gee, that's fine!" cried Miss Martin, who had skated
leisurely up in his rear. "Say, you people, why don't we fix up a
party an' go up it nights? A lady in my boarding-house done that with
some folks she was acquainted with last year. Seems to me we oughtn't
to be behind."

Miss Martin was a skilled and graceful skater, and looked her best in
a dark fur hat and jacket, which set off her abundance of pale flaxen
hair. Others had followed her, and it was resolved to form a party for
the following evening, provided Dove had previously ascertained if the
river actually was "free," in order that they ran no risk of being
ignominiously turned off.

"The ice may be a bit rough, but it's a fine run to Connewitz."

"An' by moonlight, too--but say, is there a moon? Why, I presume there
ought to be," said Miss Martin.

"'Doth the moon shine that night we play our play?'" quoted Dove,
examining a tiny pocket-calendar.

"Oh gee, that's fine!" repeated Miss Martin, on hearing his answer.
"Say, we must dance a FRANCAISE. Mr. Guest, you an' I'll be partners,
I surmise," and ceasing to waltz and pirouette with James, she took a
long sweep, then stood steady, and let her skates bear her out to the
middle of the pond. Her skirts clung close in front, and swept
out behind her lithe figure, until it was lost in the crowd.

"Don't you wish YOU could skate like that?" asked the sharp-tongued
little student, called Dickensey, who was standing beside Madeleine.
Madeleine, who held him in contempt because his trousers were baggy at
the knees, and because he had once appeared at a ball in white cotton
gloves, answered with asperity that there were other things in life
besides skating. She had no further chance of speaking to Maurice in
private, so postponed telling her news till the following evening.

Shortly after eight o'clock, the next night, a noisy party whistled
and hallooed in the street below Maurice's window. He was the last to
join, and then some ten or eleven of them picked their steps along the
hard-frozen ruts of the SCHLEUSSIGER WEG, a road that followed the
river to the outskirts of the town. Just above the GERMANIABAD, a
rough scat had been erected on the ice, for the convenience of
skaters. They were the first to make use of it; the snow before it was
untrodden; and the Pleisse wound white and solitary between its banks
of snow.

They set off in a higgledy-piggledy fashion, each striking out for
himself. When, however, they had passed the narrower windings, gone
under the iron bridge which was low enough to catch the unwary by the
forehead, and when the full breadth of the river was before them, they
took hands, and, forming a long line, skated in time to the songs some
one struck up, and in which all joined: THE ROSE OF SHARON, JINGLE
BELLS, THERE IS A TAVERN IN OUR TOWN. As they advanced to the corners
where the big trees trailed their naked branches on the ice, just as
in summer they sank their leaves in the water, Miss Jensen, who,
despite her proportions, was a surprisingly good skater, sent her big
voice over the snow-bound stillness in an aria from the PROPHET; and
after this, Miss Martin, no; to be done, struck up the popular
ALLERSEELEN. This was the song of the hour; they all knew it, and up
and down and across the ice rang out their voices in unison: WIE EINST
IM MAI, WIE EINST IM MAI.

Inside Wagner's WALDCAFE at Connewitz, they sat closely packed round
one of the wooden tables, and drank beer and coffee, and ate BERLINER
PFANNKUCHEN. The great iron stove was almost red-hot; the ladies threw
off their wrappings; cold faces glowed and burnt, and frozen hands
tingled. One and all were in high spirits, and the jollity
reached a climax when, having exchanged hats, James and Miss Jensen
cleared a space in the middle of the floor and danced a nigger-dance,
the lady with her skirts tucked up above her ankles. In the adjoining
room, some one began to play a concertina, and then two or three
couples stood up and danced, with much laughter and many outcries at
the narrowness of the space. Even Dove joined in, his partner being a
very pretty American, whom Miss Martin had brought with her, and whose
side Dove had not left for a moment. Only Madeleine and Dickensey sat
aloof, and for once were agreed: Americans were really "very bad
form." There was no livelier pair than Maurice and Miss Martin; the
latter's voice could be heard above all others, as she taught Maurice
new steps in a corner of the room. Her flaxen hair had partly come
loose, and she did not stop to put it up. They were the first to run
through the dark garden, past the snow-laden benches and arbours,
which, in summer, were buried in greenery; and, from the low wooden
landingplace, they jumped hand in hand on to the ice, and had shot a
long way down the river before any of the rest could follow them.

But this did not please Madeleine. As it was, she was vexed at not
having had the opportunity of a quiet word with Maurice; and when she
had laboriously skated up, with Dickensey, to the spot where, in a
bright splash of moonlight, Maurice and Miss Martin were cutting
ingenious capers, she cried to the former in a peremptory tone:
"There's something wrong with my skate, Maurice. Will you look at it,
please?" and as sharply declined Dickensey's proffered aid.

Maurice came to her side at once, and in this way she detained him.
But Dickensey hovered not far off, and Miss Martin was still in sight.
Madeleine caught her skate in a crack, fell on her knee, and said she
had now loosened the strap altogether. She sat down on a heap of snow,
and Dickensey's shade vanished good-naturedly round a corner.

"Well, YOU seem to be enjoying yourself," she said as Maurice drew off
his gloves and knelt down.

"Why, yes, aren't you?" he replied so frankly that she did not
continue the subject.

"I've been trying all the evening to get a word with you. I told you
yesterday, you remember, that I wanted to speak to you. Sit down here,
for a moment, so that we can talk in peace," and she spread part of her
skirt over the snow-heap.

Maurice complied, and she could not discover any trace of
reluctance in his manner.

"I want your advice," she continued. "I was taken quite by surprise
myself. Schwarz sent for me, you know, after counterpoint. It was
about my PRUFUNG at Easter. If I play then, it's a case of the C minor
Beethoven. Well, now he says it's a thousand pities for me to break
off just at the stage I'm at, and he wants me to stay for another
year. If I do, he'll give me the G major--that's a temptation, isn't
it? On the other hand, I shall have been here my full time--three
years--at Easter. That's a year longer than I originally intended, and
I feel I'm getting too old to be a pupil. But this talk with Schwarz
has upset my plans. I'm naturally flattered at his interesting himself
in me. He wouldn't do it for every one. And I do feel I could gain an
immense deal in another year.--Now, what do you think?"

"Why, stay, of course, Madeleine. If you can afford it, that is. I
can't imagine anyone wanting to leave."

"Oh, my capital will last so long, and it's a good enough investment."

"But wasn't a place being kept open for you in a school?"

"Yes; but I don't think a year more or less will make much difference
to them. I must sound them, of course, though," said Madeleine, and
did not mention that she had written and posted the letter the night
before. "Then you advise me to stay?"

"Why, of course," he repeated, and was mildly astonished at her. "If
everything is as smooth as you say."

"You would miss me, if I left?"

"Why, of course I should," he said again, and wondered what in the
world she was driving at.

"Well, all the better," replied Madeleine. "For when one has really
got to like a person, one would rather it made a difference than not."

She was silent after this, and sat looking down the stretch of ice
they had travelled: the moon was behind a cloud, and the woods on
either side were masses of dense black shadow. Not a soul was in
sight; the river was like a deserted highway. Madeleine stared down
it, and did not feel exactly satisfied with the result of her
investigation. She had not expected anything extraordinary--Heaven
forbid!--but she had been uncomfortably conscious of Maurice's
surprise. To her last remark, he had made no answer: be was
occupied with the screw of one of his skates.

She drew his attention to the fact that, if she remained in Leipzig
for another twelvemonth, they would finish at the same time; and
thereupon she sketched out a plan of them going somewhere together,
and starting a music-school of their own. Maurice, who thought she was
jesting, laughingly assented. But Madeleine was in earnest: "Other
people have done it--why shouldn't we? We could take a 'cellist with
us, and go to America, or Australia, or Canada--there are hundreds of
places. And there's a great deal of money in it, I'm sure. A little
capital would be needed to begin with, but not much, and I could
supply that. You've always said you dreaded going back to the English
provinces to decay--here's your chance!"

She saw the whole scheme cut and dried before her. As they, skated
after the rest, she continued to enlarge upon it, in a detailed way
that astonished Maurice. He confessed that, with a head like hers to
conduct it, such a plan stood a fair chance of success; and thus
encouraged, Madeleine undertook to make a kind of beginning at once,
by sounding some of the numerous friends she had, scattered through
America. Her idea was that they should go over together, and travel to
various places, giving concerts, and acquainting themselves, as they
did so, with the musical conditions of the towns they visited.

"And the 'cellist shall be an American--that will draw."

According to the pace at which they were skating, the others should
have remained well out of reach. But on turning a corner, they came
upon the whole party dancing a FRANCAISE--which two members whistled--on
a patch of ice that was smoother than the rest.

"Here, Guest, come along, we want you," was the cry as soon as Maurice
appeared; and, to Madeleine's deep displeasure, she was thrown on
Dove, whose skill had not sufficed. When the dancing was over, Maurice
once more found himself with Miss Martin, whom, for some distance, he
pushed before him, she standing steady on her skates, and talking to
him over her shoulder.

"That wasn't a bit pretty of you, Mr. Guest," she asserted, with her
long, slow, twanged speech. "It was fixed up yesterday, I recollect,
that you were to dance the FRANCAISE with me. Yes, indeed. An' then I
had to take up with Mr. Dove. Now Mr. Dove is just a lovely gentleman,
but he don't skate elegantly, an' he nearly tumbled me twice.
Yes, indeed. But I presume when Miss Wade says come, then you're most
obliged to go."

"How is it one don't ever see you now?" she queried a moment later.
"It isn't anyhow so pleasurable at dinner as it used to be. But I hear
you're working most hard--it's to' bad."

"It's what one comes to here."

"I guess it is. But I do like to see my friends once in a while. Say,
now, Mr. Guest, won't you drink coffee with me one afternoon? I'll
make you some real American coffee if you do, sir. What they call
coffee here don't count."

She turned, offered him her hand, and they began to skate in long,
outward curving lines.

"I think one has just a fine time here, don't you?" she continued.
"Momma, she came right with me, an' stopped a bit, till I was fixed up
in a boarding-house. But she didn't find it agreeable, no sir. She
missed America, an' presumed I would, too. When she was leaving, she
said to me: 'EI'nor Martin, if you find you can't endure it among
these Dutch, just you cable, and poppa he'll come along an' fetch you
right home,' But I'm sure I haven't desired to quit, no, not once. I
think it's just fine. But then I've gotten me so many friends I don't
ever need to feel lonesome. Why, my friend Susie Fay, she says: 'Why,
EI'nor, I guess you're acquainted with most every one in the place.'
An' I reckon she's not far out. Anyways there ain't more than two
Americans in the city I don't know. An' I see most all strangers that
come. Say, are you acquainted with Miss Moses? She's from Chicago, an'
resides in a boarding-house way down by the COLONNADEN. I got
acquainted with her yesterday. She's a lovely lady, an', why, she's
just as smart as she can be. Say, if you like, I'll invite her along,
so you can get acquainted with her too."

Maurice expressed pleasure at the prospect; and Miss Martin continued
to rattle on, with easy frankness, of herself, her family, and her
friends. He listened vaguely, with half an ear, since it was only
required of him to throw in an occasional word of assent. But suddenly
his attention was arrested, and brought headlong back to what she was
saying: in the string of names that fell from her tongue, he believed
he had caught one he knew.

"Miss Dufrayer?" he queried.

"That's it," replied his companion. "Louise Dufrayer. Well,
sir, as I was going on to remark, when first I was acquainted with
her, she was just as sweet as she could be; yes, indeed; why, she was
just dandy. But she hasn't behaved a bit pretty--I presume you heard
tell of what took place here this fall?"

"Then you know Miss Dufrayer?"

"Yes, indeed. But I don't see her any more, an' I guess I don't want
to. Not but what I've heard she feels pretty mean about it now--beg
pardon?--how I know? Why, indeed, the other day, Schwarz come in an'
told us how she's moping what she can--moping herself to death--if I
recollect, those were his very words. Yes, indeed. She don't take
lessons no more, I presume. I think she should go right away from this
city. It ain't possible to be acquainted with her any more, for all
she's so lonesome, an' one feels sort of bad about it, yes, indeed.
But momma, the last thing she said to me was: 'Now EI'nor Martin, just
keep your eyes open, an' don't get acquainted with people you might
feel bad about afterwards.' An' I presume momma was right. I don't--
Oh, say, do look at her, isn't she a peach?"--this, as her pretty
friend, with Dove in tow, came gliding up to them. "Say, Susie Fay,
are you acquainted with Mr. Guest?"

"MR. Guest. Pleased to know you," said Susie cordially; and Miss
Martin was good-natured enough to skate off with Dove, leaving Maurice
to her friend.

But afterwards, at the bench, as he was undoing Madeleine's skates, he
overheard pretty Susie remark, without much care to moderate her
voice: "Say, EI'nor Martin, that's the quietest sort of young man I've
ever shown round a district. Why, seems to me, he couldn't say 'shoh.'
Guess you shouldn't have left us, EI'nor."

And Miss Martin guessed so, too.





VII.



When he had seen Madeleine home, Maurice returned to his room, and not
feeling inclined to sleep, sat down to read. But his thoughts strayed;
he forgot to turn the page; and sat staring over the book at the
pattern of the tablecloth. Incidents of the evening flashed before
him: Miss Jensen, in James's hat, with her skirts pinned up; Madeleine
earnest and decisive on the bank of snow; the maze and laughter of the
FRANCAISE; Miss Martin's slim, straight figure as he pushed her before
him. He did not try to control these details, nor was he conscious of
a mental effort; they stood out for an instant, as vivid sensations,
then glided by, to make room for others. But, as he let them pass, he
became aware that below them, in depths of his mind he had believed
undisturbed, there was present a feeling of strange unhappiness, which
he did not know the cause of: these sharp pictures resembled an
attempt on the part of his mind, to deceive him as to what was really
going on in him. But he did not want to know, and he allowed his
thoughts to take wider flights: recalling the scheme Madeleine had
proposed, he considered it with a clearness of view, which, at the
time, had been impossible. From this, he turned to America itself, and
reflected on the opportunities the country offered. He saw the two of
them sweeping through vast tracts of uncultivated land, in a train
that outdid all real trains in swiftness; saw unknown tropical places,
where the yellow fruit hung low and heavy, and people walked
shadeless, sandy roads, in white hats, under white umbrellas. He saw
Madeleine and himself on the awning-spanned deck of an ocean steamer,
anchoring in a harbour where the sea was the colour of turquoise,
touched to sapphire where the mountains came down to the shore.

"Moping herself to death": the phrase crystallised in his brain with
such suddenness that he said it aloud. Now he knew what it was that
was troubling him. He had not consciously recalled the words, nor had
they even made a very incisive impression on him at the time; but they
had evidently lain dormant, now to return and to strike him, as if no
others had been said. He explained to himself what they meant.
It was this: outside, in the crisp, stinging air, people lived and
moved, busy with many matters, or sported, as he and his companions
had done that evening: inside, she sat alone, mournful, forsaken. He
saw her in the dark sofacorner, with her head on her hands. Day passed
and night passed, but she was always in the same place; and her head
was bowed so low that her white fingers were lost in the waves of her
hair. He saw her thus with the distinctness of a vision, and except in
this way could not see her at all.

He felt it little short of shameful that he should have carelessly
amused himself; and, as always where she was concerned, a deep,
unreasoning sense of his own unworthiness, filled him. He demanded of
himself, with a new energy, what he could do to help her. Fantastic
plans rose as usual in his mind, and as usual were dismissed. For the
one thing he was determined not to do, was to thrust himself on her
uncalled. Her solitude was of her own choosing, and no one had the
right to break in upon it. It was perhaps her way of doing penance;
and, at this thought, he felt a thrill of satisfaction.

At night, he consoled himself that things would seem different in the
morning; but when he wakened from a restless sleep, crowded with
dreams one more grotesque than another, he was still prone to be
gloomy. He could think more clearly by daylight--that was all: his
pitying sympathy for her had only increased. It interfered with
everything he did; just as it had formerly done--just in the old way.
And he had been on the brink of believing himself grown indifferent,
and stronger in common sense. Fool that he was! Only a word was needed
to bring his card-house down. The placidity of the past weeks had been
a mere coating of thin ice, which had given way beneath the first
test. A distrust of himself took him, a distrust so deep that it
amounted to aversion; for in his present state of mind he discerned
only a despicable weakness. But though he was thus bewildered at his
own inconsistency, he was still assured that he would not approach
Louise--not, that is, unless she sent for him. So much control he still
had over his actions: and he went so far as to make his staying away a
touchstone of his stability. This, too, although reason told him the
end of it all would be, that Louise would actually leave Leipzig,
without sending for him, or even remembering his existence.

He worked steadily enough. A skilled observer might have
remarked a slight contraction of the corners of his mouth; none of his
friends, however, noticed anything, with the exception of Madeleine,
and all she said was: "You look so cross sometimes. Is anything the
matter?"

Late one afternoon, they were on the ice as usual. While Madeleine
talked to Dickensey, Maurice practised beside them. In making a
particularly complicated gyration, he all but overbalanced himself,
and his cap fell on the ice. As he was brushing the snow off it, he
chanced to raise his eyes. A number of people were standing on the
wooden bridge, watching the skaters; to the front, some children
climbed and pushed on the wooden railing. His eye was ranging
carelessly over them, when he started so violently that he again let
his cap drop. He picked it up, threw another hasty look at the bridge,
then turned and skated some distance away, where he could see without
being seen. Yes, he had not been mistaken; it was Louise; he
recognised her although a fur hat almost covered her hair. She was
gazing down, with an intentness he knew in her; one hand rested on the
parapet. And then, as he looked, his blood seemed to congeal: she was
not alone; he saw her turn and speak to some one behind her. For a
moment things swam before him. Then, a blind curiosity drove him
forward to find out whom she spoke to. People moved on the bridge,
obstructing his view, then several went away, and there was no further
hindrance to his seeing: her companion was the shabby little
Englishman, of doubtful reputation, with whom he had met her once or
twice that summer. He felt himself grow cold. But now that he had
certainty, his chief idea was to prevent the others from knowing, too;
he grew sick at the thought of Madeleine's sharp comments, and
Dickensey's cynicism. Rejoining them, he insisted--so imperiously that
Madeleine showed surprise--on their skating with him on the further
pond; and he kept them going round and round without a pause.

When the bridge was empty, and he had made sure that Louise was not
standing anywhere about the edge of the ice, he left his companions,
and, without explanation, crossed to the benches and took off his
skates. He did not, however, go home; he went into the SCHEIBENHOLZ,
and from there along outlying roads till he reached the river; and
then, screwing on his skates again, he struck out with his face to the
wind. Dusk was falling; at first he met some skaters making for home;
but these were few, and he soon left them behind. When the
state of the ice did not allow of his skating further, he plunged into
the woods again, beyond Connewitz, tumbling in his haste, tripping
over snow-bound roots, sinking kneedeep in the soft snow. His
endeavour was to exhaust himself. If he sat at home now, before this
fever was out of him, he might be tempted to knock his head against
the wall of his room. Movement, space, air--plenty of air!--that was
what he needed.

Hitherto, he had been surprised at his own conduct; now he was aghast:
the hot rush of jealousy that had swept through him at the sight of
the couple on the bridge, was a revelation even to himself. His
previous feelings had been those of a child compared with this--a mere
weak revolt against the inevitable. But what had now happened was not
inevitable; that was the sting of it: it was a violent chance-effect.
And his distress was so keen that, for the first time, she, too, had
to bear her share of blame. He said jeeringly to himself, that,
quixotic as ever, he had held aloof from her, leaving her in solitude
to an atonement of his own imagining; and meanwhile, some one who was
not troubled by foolish ideals stepped in and took his place. For it
WAS his place; he could not rid himself of that belief. If anyone had
a right to be at her side it was he, unless, indeed, all that he had
undergone on her behalf during the past months counted for nothing.

Of course this Eggis was an unscrupulous fellow; but it was just such
men as this--he might note that for future use--who won where others
lost. At the same time, he shrank from the idea of imitating him; and
even had he been bold enough, not a single errand could he devise to
serve him as an excuse. He could not go to her and say: I come because
I have seen you with some one else. And yet that would be the truth;
and it would lurk beneath all he said.

The days of anxiety that followed were hard to bear. He dreaded every
street-corner, for fear Louise and the other should turn it; dreaded
raising his eyes to the bridges over the ice; and was so irritable in
temper that Madeleine suggested he should go to Dresden in the
Christmas holidays, for change of air.

For, over all this, Christmas had come down--the season of gift-making,
and glittering Christmas trees, of BOWLE, STOLLEN, and HONIGKUCHEN.
For a fortnight beforehand, the open squares and places were set out
with fir-trees of all sizes--their pungent fragrance met one at every
turn: the shops were ablaze till late evening, crowded with
eagerly seeking purchasers; the streets were impassible for the masses
of country people that thronged them. Every one carried brown paper
parcels, and was in a hurry. As the time drew near, subordinates and
officials grew noticeably polite; the very houseporter touched his cap
at your approach. Bakers' shops were piled high with
WEIHNACHTSSTOLLEN, which were a special mark of the festival: cakes
shaped like torpedoes, whose sugared, almonded coats brisked brown and
tempting. But the spicy scent of the firs was the motive that recurred
most persistently: it clung even to the stairways of the houses.

Maurice had assisted Madeleine with her circumstantial shopping; and,
at dusk on Christmas Eve, he helped her to carry her parcels to the
house of some German friends. He himself was invited to Miss Jensen's,
where a party of English and Americans would celebrate the evening in
their own fashion; but not till eight o'clock. When he had picked out
at a confectioner's, a TORTE for the Fursts, he did not know how to
kill time. He was in an unsettled mood, and the atmosphere of
excitement, which had penetrated the familiar details of life, jarred
on him. It seemed absurdly childish, the way in which even the
grown-up part of the population surrendered itself to the sentimental
pleasures of the season. But foreigners were only big children; or, at
least, they could lay aside age and dignity at will. He felt
misanthropic, and went for a long walk; and when he had passed the
last tree-market, where poor buyers were bargaining for the poor trees
that were left, he met only isolated stragglers. In some houses, the
trees were already lighted.

On his return, he went to a flower-shop in the KONIGSPLATZ, and chose
an azalea to take to Miss Jensen. While he was waiting for the pot to
be swathed in crimped paper, his eye was caught by a large bunch of
red and yellow roses, which stood in a vase at the back of the
counter. He regarded them for a moment, without conscious thought;
then, suddenly colouring, he streched out his hand.

"I'll take those roses, too. What do they cost?"

The girl who served him--a very pretty girl, with plaits of
straw-coloured hair, wound Madonna-like round her head--named a sum
that seemed exorbitant to his inexperience, and told a wordy story of
how they had been ordered, and then countermanded at the last moment.

"A pity. Such fine flowers!"

Her interest was awakened in the rather shabby young man who
paid the price without flinching; and she threw inquisitive looks at
him as she wrapped the roses in tissue-paper.

A moment later, Maurice was in the street with the flowers in his
hand. He had acted so spontaneously that he now believed his mind to
have been made up before he entered the shop; no, more, as if all that
had happened during the past week had led straight up to his impulsive
action. Or was it only that, at the sight of the flowers, a kind of
refrain had begun to run through his head: she loves roses, loves
roses?

But he did not give himself time for reflection; he hurried through
the cold night air, sheltering the flowers under his coat. Soon he was
once more in the BRUDERSTRASSE, on the stair, every step of which,
though he had only climbed it some three or four times, he seemed to
know by heart. As, however, he waited for the door to be opened, his
heart misgave him; he was not sure how she would regard his gift, and,
in a burst of cowardice, he resolved just to hand in the roses,
without even leaving his name. But his first ring remained unanswered,
and before he rang again, he had time to be afraid she would not be at
home--a simple, but disappointing solution.

There was another pause. Then he heard sounds, steps came along the
passage, and the door was opened by Louise herself.

He was so unprepared for this that he could not collect his wits; he
thrust the flowers into her hand, with a few stammered words, and his
foot was on the stair before she could make a movement to stop him.

Louise had peered out from the darkness of the passage to the dusk of
the landing, with the air of one roused from sleep. She looked from
him to the roses in her hand, and back at him. He tried to say
something else, raised his hat, and was about to go. But, when she saw
this, she impulsively stepped towards him.

"Are they for me?" she asked. And added: "Will you not come in?
Please, come in."

At the sound of her voice, Maurice came back from the stair-head. But
it was not possible for him to stay: friends--engaged--a promise of long
standing.

"Ah then . . . of course." She retreated into the shadow of the
doorway. "But I am quite alone. There is no one in but me."

"Why, however does that happen?" Maurice asked quickly, and
was ready at once to be wrath with all the world. He paused
irresolute, with his hand on the banisters.

"I said I didn't mind. But it is lonely."

"I should think it was.--On this night of all others, too."

He followed her down the passage. In the room there was no light
except what played on the walls from the streetlamps, the blinds being
still undrawn. She had been sitting in the dark. Now, she took the
globe off the lamp, and would have lighted it, but she could not find
matches.

"Let me do it," said Maurice, taking out his own; and, over the head
of this trifling service, he had a feeling of intense satisfaction. By
the light that was cast on the table, he watched her free the roses
from their paper, and raise them to her face. She did not mention them
again, but it was ample thanks to see her touch several of them
singly, as she put them in a jug of water.

But this done, they sat on opposite sides of the table, and had
nothing to say to each other. After each banal observation he made
came a heart-rending pause; she let a subject drop as soon as it was
broached. It was over two months now since Maurice had seen her, and
he was startled by the change that had taken place in her. Her face
seemed to have grown longer; and there were hollows in the fine oval
of the cheeks, in consequence of which the nose looked larger, and
more pinched. The chin-lines were sharpened, the eyes more sunken,
while the shadows beneath them were as dark as though they were
plastered on with bistre. But it was chiefly the expression of the
face that had altered: the lifelessness of the eyes was new to it, and
the firm compression of the mouth: now, when she smiled, no thin line
of white appeared, such as he had been used to watch for.

Even more marked than this, though, was the change that had taken
place in her manner. He had known her as passionately self-assertive;
and he could not now accustom himself to the condition of apathy in
which he found her. "Moping to death" had been no exaggeration; help
was needed here, and at once, if she were not to be irretrievably
injured.

As he thought these things, he talked at random. There were not many
topics, however, that could be touched on with impunity, and he
returned more than once to the ice and the skating, as offering a kind
of neutral ground, on which he was safe. And Louise listened, and
sometimes assented; but her look was that of one who listens
to the affairs of another world. Could she not be persuaded to join
them on the JOHANNATEICH, he was asking her. What matter though she
did not skate! It was easily learned. Madeleine had been a beginner
that winter, and now seldom missed an afternoon.

"Oh, if Madeleine is there, I should not go," she said with a touch of
the old arrogance.

Then he told her of the frozen river, with its long, lonely,
grey-white reaches. Her eyes kindled at this, he fancied, and in her
answer was more of herself. "I have never trodden on ice in my life.
Oh, I should be afraid--horribly afraid!"

For those who did not skate there were chairs, he urged--big,
green-painted, sledge-like chairs, which ran smoothly. The ice was
many inches thick; there was not the least need to be afraid.

But she only smiled, and did not answer.

"Then I can't persuade you?" he asked, and was annoyed at his own
powerlessness. She can go with Eggis, he told himself, and
simultaneously spoke out the thought. "I saw you on the bridge the
other day."

But if he had imagined this would rouse her, he was wrong.

"Yes?" she said indifferently, and with that laming want of curiosity
which prevents a subject from being followed up.

They sat in silence for some seconds. With her fingers, she pulled at
the fringe of the tablecloth. Then, all of a sudden rising from her
chair, she went over to the jug of roses, which she had placed on the
writing-table, bent over the flowers with a kind of perceptible
hesitation. and as suddenly came back to her seat.

"Suppose we went to-night." she said, and for the first time looked
hard at Maurice.

"To-night?" he had echoed, before he could check himself.

"Ah yes--I forgot. You are going out."

"That's the least of it," he answered, and stood up, fearful lest she
should sink back into her former listlessness. "But it's Christmas
Eve. There wouldn't be a soul on the river but ourselves. Are you sure
you would like it?"

"Just for that reason," she replied, and wound her handkerchief in and
out of her hands, so afraid was she now that he would refuse. "I could
be ready in five minutes."

With his brain in a whirl, Maurice went back to the flowershop, and,
having written a few words of apology on a card, ordered this to be
sent with his purchase to Miss Jensen. When he returned,
Louise was ready. But he was not satisfied: she did not know how cold
it would be: and he made her put on a heavy jacket under her fur cape,
and take a silk shawl, in which, if necessary, she could muffle up her
head. He himself carried a travelling-rug for her knees.

"As if we were going on a journey!" she said, as she obeyed him. Her
eyes shone with a spark of their old light, in approval of the
adventurous nature of their undertaking.

The hard-frozen streets, over which a cutting wind drove, were
deserted. In many windows, the golden glory of the CHRISTBAUM was
visible; the steep blackness of the houses was splashed with patches
of light. At intervals, a belated holidaymaker was still to be met
with hurrying townwards: only they two were leaving the town, and its
innocent revels, behind them. Maurice had a somewhat guilty feeling
about the whole affair: they also belonged by rights to the town
to-night. He was aware, too, of a vague anxiety, which he could not
repress; and these feelings successfully prevented him taking an undue
pleasure in what was happening to him. He had swung his skates,
fetched in passing, over his shoulder; and they walked as quickly as
the slippery snow permitted. Louise had not spoken since leaving the
house; she also stood mutely by, while the astonished boatman, knocked
out in the middle of his festivities, unlocked the boat-shed where the
ice-chairs were kept. The Christmas punch had made him merry; he
multiplied words, and was even a little facetious at their expense.
According to him, a snow-storm was imminent, and he warned them not to
be late in returning.

Maurice helped Louise into the chair, and wrapped the rug round her.
If she were really afraid, as she had asserted, she did not show it.
Even after they had started, she remained as silent as before; indeed,
on looking back, Maurice thought they had not exchanged a word all the
way to Connewitz. He pushed in a kind of dream; the wind was with
them, and it was comparatively easy work; but the ice was rough, and
too hard, and there were seamy cracks to be avoided. The snow had
drifted into huge piles at the sides; and, as they advanced, it lay
unswept on their track. It was a hazily bright night, but rapid clouds
were passing. Not a creature was to be seen: had a rift opened in the
ice, and had they two gone through it, the mystery of their
disappearance would never have been solved.

Slight, upright, unfathomable as the night, Louise sat before
him. What her thoughts were on this fantastic journey, he never knew,
nor just what secret nerve in her was satisfied by it. By leaning
sideways, he could see that her eyes were fixed on the grey-white
stretch to be travelled: her warm breath came back to him; and the
coil of her hair, with its piquant odour, was so close that, by
bending, he could have touched it with his lips. But he was still in
too detached a mood to be happy; he felt, throughout, as if all this
were happening to some one else, not to him.

At their journey's end, he helped her, cold and stiff, along the snowy
path to the WALDCAFE. In a corner of the big room, which was empty,
they sat beside the stove, before cups of steaming coffee. The
landlady served them herself, and looked with the same curious
interest as the boatman at the forlorn pair.

Louise had laid her fur cap aside with her other wraps, and had drawn
off her gloves; and now she sat with her hand propping her chin. She
was still disinclined to speak; from the expression of her eyes,
Maurice judged that her thought were very far away. Sitting opposite
her, he shaded his own eyes with his hand, and scrutinised her
closely. In the stronger light of this room, he could see more plainly
than before the havoc trouble had made of her face. And yet, in spite
of the shadows that had descended on it, it was still to him the most
adorable face in the world. He could not analyse his feelings any
better now than in the beginning; but this face had exactly the same
effect upon him now as then. It seemed to be a matter of the nerves.
Nor was it the face alone: it was also the lines of throat and chin,
when she turned her head; it was the gesture with which she fingered
the knot of hair on her neck; above all, her hands, whose every
movement was full of meaning: yes, these things sent answering ripples
through him, as sound does through air.

He had stared too openly: she felt his eyes, and raised her own. For a
few seconds, they looked at each other. Then she held out her hand.

"You are my friend."

He pressed it, without replying; he could not think of anything
suitable to say; what rose to his lips was too emotional, too
tell-tale. But he made a vow that, from this day on, she should never
doubt the truth of what she said.

"You are my friend."

He would take care of her as no one had ever yet tried to do.
She might safely give herself into his charge. The unobtrusive aid
that was mingled tenderness and respect, should always be hers.

"Are you warmer now?"

He could not altogether suppress the new note that had got into his
voice. All strangeness seemed to have been swept away between them; he
was wide-awake to the fact that he was sitting alone with her, apart
from the rest of the world.

He looked at his watch: it was time to go; but she begged for a little
longer, and so they sat on for another half-hour, in the warm and
drowsy stillness.

Outside, they found a leaden sky; and they had not gone far before
snow began to fall: great flakes came flying to them, smiting their
faces, stinging their eyes, melting on their lips. The wind was
against them; they were exposed to the full force of the blizzard.
Maurice pushed till he panted; but their progress was slow. At
intervals, he stopped, to shake the snow off the rug, and to enwrap
Louise afresh; and each violent gust that met him when he turned a
corner, smote him doubly; for he pictured to himself the fury with
which it must hurl itself against her, sitting motionless before it.

It took them twice as long to return; and when Louise tried to get out
of the chair, she found herself so paralysed with cold that she could
hardly stand. Blinded by the snow, she clung to Maurice's arm; he
heard her teeth chatter, as they toiled their way along the
ARNDTSTRASSE, through the thick, new snow-layer. Not a droschke was to
be seen; and they were half-way home before they met one. The driver
was drunk or asleep, and had first to be roused. Louise sank limply
into a corner.

The cab slithered and slipped over the dangerous roads, jolting them
from side to side. Maurice had laid the rug across her knees, and she
had ceased to shiver. But, by the light of a street-lamp which they
passed, he was dismayed to see that tears were running down her
cheeks.

"What is it? Are you so cold?--Just a little patience. We shall soon be
there."

He took her hand, and chafed it. At this, she began to cry. He did not
know how to comfort her, and looked out of the window, scanning each
house they passed, to see if it were not the last. She was still
crying when the cab drew up. The house-key had been forgotten; there
was nothing for it but to ring for the landlady, and to stand in the
wind till she came down. The old woman was not so astonished
as Maurice had expected; but she was very wroth at the folly of the
proceeding, and did not scruple to say so.

"SO 'NE DUMMHEIT, SO 'NE DUMMHEIT!" she mumbled, as, between them,
they got Louise up the stairs; and she treated Maurice's advice
concerning cordials and hot drinks with scant courtesy.

"JA, JA--JAWOHL!" she sniffed. And, on the landing, the door was shut
in his face.





VIII.



What she needed, what she had always needed, was a friend, he said to
himself. She had never had anyone to stand by her and advise her to
wisdom, in the matter of impulsive acts and wishes. He would be that
friend. He had not, it was true, made a very happy beginning, with the
expedition that had ended so unfortunately; but he promised himself
not to be led into an indiscretion of the kind again. It was a
friend's part to warn in due time, and to point out the possible
consequences of a rash act. He only excused his behaviour because he
had not seen her for over two months, and had felt too sorry for her
to refuse the first thing she asked of him. But from now on, he would
be firm. He would win her back to life--reawaken her interest in what
was going on around her. He would devote himself to serving her: not
selfishly, as others had done, with their own ends in view; the
gentle, steady aid should be hers, which he had always longed to give
her. He felt strong enough to face any contingency: it seemed, indeed,
as if his love for her had all along been aiming at this issue; as if
each of the unhappy hours he had spent, since first meeting her, was
made up for by the words: "You are my friend."

A deep sense of responsibility filled him. In obedience, however, to a
puritanic streak in his nature, he hedged himself round with
restrictions, lest he should believe he was setting out on all too
primrose a path. He erected limiting boundaries, which were not to be
overstepped. For example, on the two days that followed the memorable
Christmas Eve, he only made inquiries at the door after Louise, and
when he learned that the cold she had caught was better, did not
return. For, on one point, his mind was made up: idle tongues should
have no fresh cause for gossip.

At the expiry of a fortnight, however, he began to fear that if he
remained away any longer, she would think him indifferent to her offer
of friendship. So, late one afternoon, he called to see her. But when
he was face to face with her, he doubted whether she had given him a
thought in the interval: she seemed mildly surprised at his coming. It
was even possible that she had forgotten, by now, what she had said to
him; and he sought anew for a means of impressing himself on
her consciousness.

She was crouched in the rocking-chair, close beside the stove, and was
wrapped in a thick woollen shawl; but the hand she gave him was as
cold as stone. She was trying to keep warm, she said; she had not been
properly warm since the night on the ice.

"But there's an easy remedy for that," said Maurice, who came in ruddy
from the sharp air. "You must go out and walk. Then you will soon get
warm."

But she shuddered at the suggestion, and also made an expressive
gesture to indicate the general laxity of her dress--the soiled
dressing-gown, her untidy hair. Then she leaned forward again, holding
both hands, palms out, to the mica pane in the door of the stove,
through which the red coals glowed.

"If only winter were over!"

He gazed at the expressive lines of hand and wrist, and was reminded
of an adoring Madonna he had somewhere seen engraved: her hands were
held back in the same way; the thumbs slightly thrown out, the three
long fingers together, the little one apart: here as there, was the
same supple, passionate indolence. But he could find no more to say
than on the occasion of his former visit; she did not help him; and
more and more did it seem to the young man as if the words he bad gone
about hugging to him, had never been spoken. After a desperate quarter
of an hour, he rose to take leave. But simultaneously, she, too, got
up from the rocking-chair, and, standing pale and uncertain before
him, asked him if she might trouble him to do something for her. A box
had been sent to her from England, she told him, while she tumbled
over the dusty letters and papers accumulated on the writing-table,
and had been lying unclaimed at the custom-house for several weeks
now--how many she did not know, and she spread out her fingers, with a
funny little movement, to show her ignorance. She had only remembered
it a day or two ago; the dues would no doubt be considerable. If it
were not too much trouble . . . she would be so grateful; she would
rather ask him than Mr. Eggis.

"I should be delighted," said Maurice.

He went the next morning, at nine o'clock, spent a trying hour with
uncivil officials, and, in the afternoon, called to report to Louise.
As he was saying good-bye to her, he inquired if there were
nothing else of a similar nature he could do for her; he was glad to
be of use. Smiling, Louise admitted that there were other things, many
of them, more than he would have patience for. She should try him and
see, said Maurice, and laid his hat down again, to hear what they
were.

As a consequence of this, the following days saw him on various
commissions in different quarters of the town, scanning the names of
shops, searching for streets he did not know. But matters did not
always run smoothly; complications arose, for instance, over a paid
bill that had been sent in a second time, and over an earlier one that
had not been paid at all; and Maurice was forced to confess his
ignorance of the circumstances. When this had happened more than once,
he sat down, with her consent, at the writing-table, to work through
the mass of papers, and the contents of a couple of drawers.

In doing this, he became acquainted with some of the more intimate
details of her life--minute and troublesome details, for which she had
no aptitude. From her scat at the stove, Louise watched him sorting
and reckoning, and she was as grateful to him as it was possible for
her to be, in her present mood. No one had ever done a thing of the
kind for her before; and she was callous to the fact of its being a
stranger, who had his hands thus in her private life. When, horrified
beyond measure at the confusion that reigned in all belonging to her,
Maurice asked her how she had ever succeeded in keeping order, she
told him that, before her illness, there had, now and again, come a
day of strength and purpose, on which she had had the "courage" to
face these distasteful trifles and to end them. But she did not
believe such a day would ever come again.

Bills, bills, bills: dozens of bills, of varying dates, sent in once,
twice, three times, and invariably tossed aside and forgotten--a mode
of proceeding incomprehensible to Maurice, who had never bought
anything on credit in his life. And not because she was in want of
money: there were plenty of gold pieces jingling loose in a drawer;
but from an aversion, which was almost an inability, to take in what
the figures meant. And the amounts added up to alarming totals;
Maurice had no idea what a woman's dress cost, and could only stand
amazed; but the sum spent on fruit and flowers alone, in two months,
represented to his eyes a small fortune. Then there was the Bluthner,
the unused piano; the hire of it had not been paid since the
previous summer. Three terms were owed at Klemm's musical library,
from which no music was now borrowed; fees were still being charged
against her at the Conservatorium, where she had given no formal
notice of leaving. It really did not matter, she said, with that
carelessness concerning money, which was characteristic of her; but it
went against the grain in Maurice to let several pounds be lost for
want of an effort; and he spent a diplomatic half-hour with the
secretaries in the BUREAU, getting her released from paying the whole
of the term that had now begun. As, however, she would not appear
personally, she was under the necessity of writing a letter, stating
that she had left the Conservatorium; and when she had promised twice
to do, it, and it was still unwritten, Maurice stood over her, and
dictated the words into her pen. A day or two afterwards, he prevailed
upon her to do the same for Schwarz, to inform him of her illness, and
to say that, at Easter, if she were better, she would come to him for
a course of private lessons. This was an idea of Maurice's own, and
Louise looked up at him before putting down the words.

"It's not true. But if you think I should say so--it doesn't matter."

This was the burden of all she said: nothing mattered, nothing would
ever matter again. There was not the least need for the half-jesting
tone in which Maurice clothed his air of authority. She obeyed him
blindly, doing what he bade her without question, glad to be
subordinate to his will. As long as he did not ask her to think. or to
feel, or to stir from her chair beside the stove.

But it was only with regard to small practical things; in matters of
more importance she was not to be moved. And the day came, only too
soon, when the positive help Maurice could give her was at an end; she
did not owe a pfennig to anyone; her letters and accounts were filed
and in order. Then she seemed to elude him again. He did what lay in
his power: brought her books that she did not read, brought news and
scraps of chit-chat, which he thought might interest her and which did
not, and an endless store of sympathy. But to all he said and did, she
made the same response: it did not matter.

Since the night on the river, she had not set foot across the
threshold of her room; nervous fears beset her. Maurice was bent on
her going out into the open air; he also wished her to mix with people
again, and thus rid herself of the morbid fancies that were
creeping on her. But she shrank as he spoke of it, and pressed both
hands to her face: it was too cold, she murmured, and too cheerless;
and then the streets! . . . the publicity of the streets, the noise,
the people! This was what she said to him; to herself she added: and
all the old familiar places, to each of which a memory was attached!
He spent hours in urging her to take up some regular occupation; it
would be her salvation, he believed, and, not allowing himself to be
discouraged, he returned to the attack, day after day. But she only
smiled the thin smile with which she defeated most of his proposals
for her good. Work?--what had she to do with work? It had never been
anything to her but a narcotic, enabling her to get through those
hours of the day in which she was alone.

She let Maurice talk on, and hardly heard what he said. He meant well,
but he did not understand. No one understood. No one but herself knew
the weight of the burden she had borne since the day when her
happiness was mercilessly destroyed. Now she could not raise a finger
to help herself. On waking, in the morning, she turned with loathing
from the new day. In the semi-darkness of the room, she lay mo
tionless, half sleeping, or dreaming with open eyes. The clock ticked
benumbingly the long hours away; the wind howled, or the wind was
still; snow fell, or it was frostily clear; but nothing
happened--nothing at all. The day was well ad vanced before she left
her bed for the seat by the stove; there she brooded until she dragged
herself back to bed. One day was the exact counterpart of another.

The only break in the deathlike monotony was Maurice's visit. He came
in, fresh, and eager to see her; he held her hand and said kind things
to her; he talked persuasively, and she listened or not, as she felt
disposed. But little though he was able to touch her, she
unconsciously began to look to his visits; and one day, when he was
detained and could not come, she was aware of a feeling of injury at
his absence.

As time went by, however, Maurice felt more and more clearly that he
was making no headway. His uneasiness increased; for her want of
spirit had something about it that he could not understand. It began
to look to him like a somewhat morbid indulgence in grief.

"This can't go on," he said sternly.

She was in one of her most pitiable moods; for there were gradations
in her unhappiness, as he had learned to know.

"This can't go on. You are killing yourself by inches--and I'm
a party to it."

For the first time, there was a hint of impatience in his manner. To
his surprise, Louise raised her head, raised it quickly, as he had not
seen her make a movement for weeks.

"By inches? Inches only? Oh, I am so strong . . . Nothing hurts me.
Nothing is of any use."

"If you look in the glass, you will see that you're hurting yourself
considerably."

"You mean that I'm getting old ?--and ugly?" she caught him up. "Do you
think I care?--Oh, if I had only had the courage, that day! A few
grains of something, and it would have been all over, long ago. But I
wasn't brave enough. And now I have no more courage in me than
strength in my little finger."

Maurice looked meditatively at her, without replying: this was the
single occasion on which she had been roused to a retort of any kind;
and, bitter though her words were, he could not prevent the spark of
hope which, by their means, was lit in him.

And from this day on, things went forward of themselves. Again and
again, some harmless observation on his part drew forth a caustic
reply from her; it was as if, having once experienced it, she found an
outcry of this kind a relief to her surcharged nerves. At first, what
she said was directed chiefly against herself--this self for which she
now nursed a fanatic hatred, since it had failed her in her need. But,
little by little, he, too, was drawn within the circle of her
bitterness; indeed, it sometimes seemed as if his very kindness
incited her, by laying her under an obligation to him, which it was in
her nature to resent: at others, again, as if she merely wished to try
him, to see how far she might go.

"Do I really deserve that thrust?" he once could not help asking. He
smiled, as he spoke, to take the edge off his words.

Louise threw a penitent glance at him, and, for all answer, held out
her hand.

But, the very next day, after a similar incident, she crossed the room
to him, with the swiftness of movement that was always disturbing in
her, contrasting as it did with her customary indolence. "Forgive me.
I ought not to. And you are the only friend I have. But there's so
much I must say to some one. If I don't say it, I shall go mad."


"Why, of course. That's what I'm here for," said Maurice.

And so it went on--a strange state of things, in which he never called
her by her name, and seldom touched her hand. He had himself well
under control--except for the moment immediately before he saw her, and
the moment after. He could not yet meet her, after the briefest
absence, unmoved.

For a week on end that penetrating rawness had been abroad, which
precedes and accompanies a thaw; and one day, early in February, when,
after the unequalled severity of the winter, the air seemed of an
incredible mildness, the thaw was there in earnest; on the ice of more
than three months' standing, pools of water had formed overnight. By
the JOHANNATEICH, Maurice and Madeleine stood looking dubiously across
the bank of snow, which, here and there, had already collapsed,
leaving miniature crater-rings, flecked with moisture. Several people
who could not tear themselves away, were still flying about the ice,
dexterously avoiding the watery places; and Dove and pretty Susie Fay
called out to them that it was ' better than it looked. But Maurice
was fastidious and Madeleine indifferent; she was really rather tired
of skating, she admitted, as they walked home, and was ashamed to
think of the time she had wasted on it. As, however, this particular
afternoon was already broken into, she would have been glad to go for
a walk; but Maurice did not take up her suggestion, and parted from
her at her house-door.

"Spring is in the air," he sought to tempt Louise, when, a few minutes
later, he entered her room.

She, too, had been aware of the change; for it had aggravated her
dejection. She raised her eyes to his like a tired child, and had not
strength enough to make her usual stand against him. Oh, if he really
wished it so much, she would go out, she said at last. And so he left
her to dress, and ran to the Conservatorium, arriving just in time for
a class.

Later on, a curious uneasiness drew him back to see how she had fared.
It was almost dark, but she had not returned; and he waited for half
an hour before he heard her step in the hall. Directly she came in, he
knew that something was the matter.

In each of her movements was a concentrated, but noiseless energy: she
shut the door after her as if it were never to open again; tore off
rather than unpinned the thick black veil in which she had
shrouded herself; threw her hat on the sofa, furs and jacket to the
hat; then stood motionless, pressing her handkerchief to her lips. Her
face had emerged from its wrappings with renewed pallor; her eyes
shone as if with belladonna. She took no notice of the silent figure
in the corner, did not even look in his direction.

"You've got back," said Maurice, for the sake of saying something.
"It's too late."

At his words, she dropped on a chair, put her arms on the table, and
hid her face in them.

"What's the matter? Has anything happened?" he asked, in quick alarm,
as she burst into violent sobs. He should have been accustomed to her
way of crying by this time--it sounded worse than it was, as he
knew--but it invariably racked him anew. He stood over her; but the
only comfort he ventured on was to lay his hand on her hair--this wild
black hair, which met his fingers springily, with a will of its own.

"What is the matter?" he besought her. "Tell me, Louise--tell me what
it is."

He had to ask several times before he received an answer. Finally, she
sobbed in a muffled voice, without raising her head: "How could you
make me go out! Oh, how COULD you!"

"What do you mean? I don't understand. What is it?" He had visions of
her being annoyed or insulted.

But she only repeated: "How could you! Oh, it was cruel of you!" and
wept afresh.

Word by word, Maurice drew her story from her. There was not very much
to tell.

She had gone out, and had walked hurriedly along quiet by-streets to
the ROSENTAL. But before she had advanced a hundred yards, her courage
began to fail, and the further she went, the more her spirits sank.
Her surroundings were indescribably depressing: the smirched, steadily
retreating snow was leaving bare all the drab brownness it had
concealed--all the dismal little gardens, and dirty corners. Houses,
streets and people wore their most bedraggled air. Particularly the
people: they were as ugly as the areas of roof and stone, off which
the soft white coating had slid; their contours were as painful to
see. And the mud--oh, God, the mud! It spread itself over every inch of
the way; the roads were rivers of filth, which spattered and splashed;
at the sides of the streets, the slush was being swept into beds.
Before she had gone any distance, her boots and skirts were heavy with
it; and she hated mud, she sobbed--hated it, loathed it, it
affected her with a physical disgust--and this lie might have known
when he sent her out. In the ROSENTAL, it was no better; the paths
were so soaked that they squashed under her feet; on both sides, lay
layers of rotten leaves from the autumn; the trees were only a
net-work of blackened twigs, their trunks surrounded by an undergrowth
that was as ragged as unkempt hair. And everything was mouldering: the
smell of moist, earthy decay reminded her of open graves. Not a soul
was visible but herself. She sat on a seat, the only living creature
in the scene, and the past rose before her with resistless force: the
intensity of her happiness; the base cruelty of his conduct; her
misery, her unspeakable misery; her forlorn desolation, which was of a
piece with the desolation around her, and which would never again be
otherwise, though she lived to be an old woman.--How long she sat
thinking things of this kind, she did not know. But all of a sudden
she started up, frightened both by her wretched thoughts and by the
loneliness of the wood; and she fled, not looking behind her, or
pausing to take breath, till she reached the streets. Into the first
empty droschke she met, she had sunk exhausted, and been driven home.

It was of no use trying to reason with her, or to console her.

"I can't bear my life," she sobbed. "It's too hard . . . and there is
no one to help me. If I had done anything to deserve it . . . then it
would be different . . . then I shouldn't complain. But I didn't--
didn't do anything--unless it was that I cared too much. At least it
was a mistake--a dreadful mistake. I should never have shown him how I
cared: I should have made him believe he loved me best. But I was a
fool. I flung it all at his feet. And it was only natural he should
get tired of me. The wonder was that I held him so long. But, oh, how
can one care as I did, and yet be able to plot and plan? I couldn't.
It isn't in me to do it."

She wept despairingly, with her head on her outstretched arms. When
she raised it again, her tear-stained face looked out, Medusa-like,
from its setting of ruffled hair. More to herself than to the young
man, as if, on this day, secret springs had been touched in her, she
continued with terse disconnectedness: "I couldn't believe it; I
wouldn't--even when I heard it from his own lips. You thought, all of
you, that I was ill; but I wasn't; I was only trying to get used to
the terrible thought--just as a suddenly blinded man has to get used to
being always in the dark. And while I was still struggling
came Madeleine, with her cruel tongue, and told me--you know what she
told me. Oh, if his leaving me had been hard to bear, this stung like
scorpions. I wonder I didn't go mad. I should have, if you hadn't come
to help me. For a day and night, I did not move from the corner of
that sofa there. I turned her words over till there was no sense left
in them. My nails cut my palms."

Her clasped hands were slightly stretched from her: her whole attitude
betrayed the tension at which she was speaking. "Oh, my God, how I
hated him . . . hated him . . . how I hate him still! If I live to be
an old, old woman, I shall never forgive him. For, in time, I might
have learnt to bear his leaving me, if it had only been his work that
took him from me. It was always between us, as it was; but it was at
least only a pale brain thing, not living flesh and blood. But that
all the time he should have been deceiving me, taking pains to do
it--that I cannot forgive. At first, I implored, I prayed there might
be some mistake: you, too, told me there was. And I hoped against
hope--till I saw her. Then, I knew it was true-----as plainly as if it
had been written on that wall." She paused for breath, in this bitter
pleasure of laying her heart bare. "For I wasn't the person he could
always have been satisfied with--I see it now. He liked a woman to be
fair, and soft, and gentle--not dark, and hot-tempered. It was only a
phase, a fancy, that brought him to me, and it couldn't have lasted
for ever. But all I asked of him was common honesty--to be open with
me: it wasn't much to ask, was it? Not more than we expect of a
stranger in the street. But it was too much for him, all the same. And
so . . . now . . . I have nothing left to remind me that I ever knew
him. That night, when I had seen her, I burned everything--every
photograph, every scrap of writing I had ever had from him . . . if
only one could burn memories too! I had to tear my heart over it; I
used to think I felt it bleeding, drop by drop. For all the suffering
fell on me, who had done nothing. He went free."

"Are you sure of that? It may have been hard for him, too--harder than
you think." Maurice was looking out of the window, and did not turn.

She shook her head. "The person who cares, can't scheme and contrive.
He didn't care. He never really cared for me--only for himself; at
heart, he was cold and selfish. No, I paid for it all--I who hate and
shrink from pain, who would do anything to avoid it. I want to
go through life knowing only what is bright and happy; and time and
again, I am crushed and flung down. But, in all my life, I haven't
suffered like this. And now perhaps you understand, why I never want
to hear his name again, and why I shall never--not if I live to be a
hundred years old--never forgive him. It isn't in me to do it. As a
child, I ground my heel into a rose if it pricked me."

There was a silence. Then she sighed, and pushed her hair back from
forehead. "I don't know why I should say all this to you," she said
contritely. "But often, just with you, I seem to forget what I am
saying. It must be, I think, because you're so quiet yourself."

At this, Maurice turned and came over to her. "No, it's for another
reason. You need to say these things to some one. You have brooded
over them to yourself till they are magnified out of all proportion.
It's the best thing in the world for you to say them aloud." He drew
up a chair, and sat down beside her. "Listen to me. You told me once,
not very long ago, that I was your friend. Well, I want to speak to
you to-night as that friend, and to play the doctor a little as well.
Will you not go away from here, for a time?--go away and be with people
who know nothing of . . . all this--people you don't need to be afraid
of? Let yourself be persuaded. You have such a healthy nature. Give it
a chance."

She looked at him with a listless forbearance. "Don't go on. I know
everything you are going to say.--That's always the way with you calm,
quiet people, who are not easily moved yourselves. You still but faith
in these trite remedies; for you've never known the ills they're
supposed to cure."

"Never mind me. It's you we have to think of. And I want you to give
my old-fashioned remedy a trial."

But she did not answer, and again a few minutes went by, before she
stretched out her hand to him. "Forget what I've said to-night. I
shall never speak of it again.--But then you, too, must promise not to
make me go out alone--to think and remember--in all the dirt and
ugliness of the streets."

And Maurice promised.




IX.



The unnatural position circumstances had forced him into, was to him
summed up in the fact that he had spoken in defence of the man he
despised above all others. Only at isolated moments was he content
with the part he played; it was wholly unlike what he had intended. He
had wished to be friend and mentor to her, and he was now both; but
nevertheless, there was something wrong about his position. It seemed
as if he had at first been satisfied with too low a place in her
esteem, ever to allow of him taking a higher one. He was conscious
that in her liking for him, there was a drop of contempt. And he
tormented himself with such a question as: should a new crisis in her
life arise, would she, now that she knows you, turn to you? And in
moments of despondency he answered no. He felt the tolerance that
lurked in her regard for him. Kindness and care on his part were not
enough.

None of his friends had an idea of what was going on. No one he knew
lived in the neighbourhood of the BRUDERSTRASSE; and, the skating at
an end, he was free to spend his time as he chose. When another brief
nip of frost occurred, he alleged pressure of work, and did not take
advantage of it.

Then, early one morning, Dove paid him a visit, with a list in his
hand. Since the night of the skating party, his acquaintances had not
seen much of Dove; for he had been in close attendance on the pretty
little American, who made no scruple of exacting his services. Now,
after some preamble, it came out that he wished to include Maurice in
a list of mutual friends, who were clubbing to give a ball--a
"Bachelors' Ball," Dove called it, since the gentlemen were to pay for
the tickets, and to invite the ladies. But Maurice, vexed at the
interruption, made it clear that he had neither time nor inclination
for an affair of this kind: he did not care a rap for dancing. And
after doing his best to persuade him, and talking round the matter for
half an hour, Dove said he did not of course wish to press anyone
against his will, and departed to disturb other people.

Maurice had also to stand fire from Madeleine; for she had counted on
his inviting her. She was first incredulous, then offended, at
his refusal: and she pooh-poohed his strongest argument--that he did
not own a dress-suit. If that was all, she knew a shop in the BRUHL,
where such things could be hired for a song.

Maurice now thought the matter closed. Not many days later, however,
Dove appeared again, with a crestfallen air. He had still over a dozen
tickets on his hands, and, at the low price fixed, unless all were
sold, the expenses of the evening would not be covered. In order to
get rid of him, Maurice bought a ticket, on the condition that he was
not expected to use it, and also suggested some fresh people Dove
might try; so that the latter went off with renewed courage on his
disagreeable errand.

Maurice mentioned the incident to Louise that evening, as he mentioned
any trifle he thought might interest her. He sat on the edge of his
chair, and did not mean to stay; for he had found her on the sofa with
a headache.

So far, she had listened to him with scant attention; but at this, she
raised her eyebrows.

"Then you don't care for dancing?"--she could hardly believe it.

He repeated the words he had used to Dove.

She smiled faintly, looking beyond him, at a sombre patch of sky.

"I should think not. If it were me!----" She raised her hand, and
considered her fingers.

"If it were you?--yes?"

But she did not continue.

It had been almost a spring day: that, no doubt, accounted for her
headache. Maurice made a movement to rise. But Louise turned quickly
on her side, and, in her own intense way, said: "Listen. You have the
ticket, you say? Use it, and take me with you. Will you?"

He smiled as at the whim of a child. But she was in earnest.

"Will you?"

"No, of course not."

He tempered his answer with the same smile. But she was not pleased--he
saw that. Her nostrils tightened, and then, dilated, as they had a way
of doing when she was annoyed. For some time after, she did not speak.

But the very next day, when he was remonstrating with her over some
small duty which she had no inclination to perform, she turned on him
with an unreasonable irritation. "You only want me to do
disagreeable things. Anything that is pleasant, you set yourself
against."

It took him a minute to grasp that she was referring to what he had
said the evening before.

"Yes, but then . . . I didn't think you were in earnest."

"Am I in the habit of saying things I don't mean? And haven't you said
yourself that I am killing myself, shut up in here?--that I must go out
and mix with people? Very well, here is my chance."

He kept silence: he did not know whether she was not mainly inspired
by a spirit of contradiction, and he was afraid of inciting her, by
resistance, to say something she would be unable to retract. "I don't
think you've given the matter sufficient thought," he said at last.
"It can't be decided offhand."

She was angry, even more with herself than with him. "Oh, I know what
you mean. You think I shall be looked askance at. As if it mattered
what people say! All my life I haven't cared, and I shall not begin
now, when I have less reason than ever before."

He did not press the subject; he hoped she would change her mind, and
thus render further discussion unnecessary. But this was not the case;
she clung to the idea, and was deaf to reason. To a certain extent, he
could feel for her; but he was too troubled by the thought of
unpleasant possibilities, not to endeavour to persuade her against it:
he knew, as she did not, how unkindly she had been spoken of; and he
was not sure whether her declared bravado was strong enough to sustain
her. But the more he reasoned, the more determined she was to have her
own way; and she took his efforts in very bad part.

"You pretend to be solicitous about me," she said one afternoon, from
her seat by the fire. "Yet when a chance of diversion comes you
begrudge it to me. You would rather I mouldered on here."

"That's not generous of you. It is only you I am thinking of--in all
this ridiculous affair."

The word stung her. "Ridiculous? How dare you say that! I'm still
young, am I not? And I have blood in my veins, not water. Well, I want
to feel it. For months now, I have been walled up in this tomb. Now I
want to live. Not--do you understand?--to go out alone, on a filthy day,
with no companion but my own thoughts. I want to dance--to
forget myself--with light and music. It's the most natural thing in the
world. Anyone but you would think so."

"It is not life you mean; it's excitement."

"What it means is that you don't want to take me.--Yes, that's what it
is. But I can get some one else. I will send for Eggis; he will have
no objection."

"Why drag in that cad's name? You know very well if you do go, it will
be with me, and no one else."

A slight estrangement grew up between them. Maurice was hurt: she had
shown too openly the small value she set on his opinion. In addition
to this, he was disagreeably affected by her craving for excitement at
any cost. To his mind, there was more than a touch of impropriety in
the proceeding; it was just as if a mourner of a few months' standing
should suddenly discard his mourning, and with it all the other
decencies of grief.

She had not been entirely wrong in accusing him of unreadiness to
accompany her. When he pictured to himself the astonished faces of his
friends, he found it impossible to look forward to the event with
composure. He saw now that it would have been better to make no secret
of his friendship with Louise; so harmless was it that every one he
knew might have assisted at it; but now, the very abruptness of its
disclosure would put it in a bad light. Through Dove, he noised it
abroad that he would probably be present at the ball after all; but he
shunned Madeleine with due precaution, and could not bring himself
even to hint who his companion might be. In his heart, he still
thought it possible that Louise might change her mind at the last
moment--take fright in the end, at what she might have to face.

But the night came, and this had not happened. While he dressed
himself in the hired suit, which was too large here, too small there,
he laid a plan of action for the evening. Since it had to be gone
through with, it must be carried off in a highhanded way. He would do
what he could to make her presence in the hall seem natural; he would
be attentive, without devoting himself wholly to her; and he would
induce her to leave early.

He called for her at eight o'clock. The landlady said that Fraulein
was not quite ready, and told him to wait in the passage. But the door
of the room was ajar, and Louise herself called to him to come in.

It was comparatively dark; for she had the lamp behind the
screen, where he heard her moving about. Her skirts rustled; drawers
and cupboards were pulled noisily open. Then she came out, with the
lamp in her hand.

Maurice was leaning against the piano. He raised his eyes, and made a
step forward, to take the lamp from her. But after one swift, startled
glance, he drew back, colouring furiously. For a moment he could not
collect himself: his heart seemed to have leapt into his throat, and
there to be hammering so hard that he had no voice with which to
answer her greeting.

Owing to what he now termed his idiotic preoccupation with himself, he
had overlooked the fact that she, too, would be in evening dress.
Another thing was, he had never seen Louise in any but street-dress,
or the loose dressing-gown. Now he called himself a fool and absurd;
this was how she was obliged to be. Convention decreed it, hence it
was perfectly decorous; it was his own feelings that were unnatural,
overstrained. But, in the same breath, a small voice whispered to him
that all dresses were not like this one; also that every girl was not
of a beauty, which, thus emphasised, made the common things of life
seen poor and stale.

Louise wore a black dress, which glistened over all its surface, as if
it were sown with sparks; it wound close about her, and out behind her
on the floor. But this was only the sheath, from which rose the
whiteness of her arms and shoulders, and the full column of her
throat, on which the black head looked small. Until now, he had seen
her bared wrist--no more. Now the only break on the long arm was a band
of black velvet, which as it were insisted on the petal-white purity
of the skin, and served in place of a sleeve.

Strange thoughts coursed through the young man's mind. His first
impulse had been to avert his eyes; in this familiar room it did not
seem fitting to see her dressed so differently from the way he had
always known her. Before, however, he had followed this sensation to
an end, he made himself the spontaneous avowal that, until now, he had
never really seen her. He had known and treasured her face--her face
alone. Now he became aware that to the beautiful head belonged also a
beautiful body, that, in short, every bit of her was beautiful and
desirable. And this feeling in its turn was overcome by a painful
reflection: others besides himself would make a similar observation;
she was about to show herself to a hundred other eyes: and this struck
him as such an unbearable profanation, that he could have gone
down on his knees to her, to implore her to stay at home.

Unconscious of his embarrassment, Louise had gone to the
console-glass; and there, with the lamp held first above her head,
then placed on the console-table, she critically examined her
appearance. As if dissatisfied, she held a velvet bow to the side of
her hair, and considered the effect; she took a powderpuff, and patted
cheeks and neck with powder. Next she picked up a narrow band of
velvet, on which a small star was set, and put it round her throat.
But the clasp would not meet behind, and, having tried several times
in vain to fasten it, she gave an impatient exclamation.

"I can't get it in."

As Maurice did not offer to help her, she went out of the room with
the thing in her hand. During the few seconds she was absent, the
young man racked his brain to invent telling reasons which would
induce her not to go; but when she returned, slightly flushed at the
landlady's ready flattery, she was still so engrossed in herself, and
so unmindful of him, that he recognised once more his utter
powerlessness. He only half existed for her this evening: her manner
was as different as her dress.

She gathered her skirts high under her cloak, displaying her feet in
fur-lined snow-boots. In the turmoil of his mind, Maurice found
nothing to say as they went. But she did not notice his silence; there
was a suppressed excitement in her very walk; and she breathed in the
cold, crisp air with open lips and nostrils, like a wild animal.

"Oh, how glad I am I came! I might still have been sitting in that
dull room--when I haven't danced for years--and when I love it so!"

"I can't understand you caring about it," he said, and the few words
contained all his bitterness.

"That is only because you don't know me," she retorted, and laughed.
"Dancing is a passion with me. I have dance-rhythms in my blood, I
think.--My mother was a dancer."

He echoed her words in a helpless way, and a set of new images ran
riot in his brain. But Louise only smiled, and said no more.

They were late in arriving; dancing had already begun; the cloak-rooms
were black with coats and mantles. In the narrow passage that divided
the rooms, two Englishmen were putting on their gloves. As Maurice
changed his shoes, close to the door, he overheard one of
these men say excitedly: "By Jove, there's a pair of shoulders! Who
the deuce is it?"

Maurice knew the speaker by sight: he was a medical student, named
Herries, who, on the ice, had been conspicuous for his skill as a
skater. He had a small dark moustache, and wore a bunch of violets in
his buttonhole.

"You haven't been here long enough, old man, or you wouldn't need to
ask," answered his companion. Then he dropped his voice, and made a
somewhat disparaging remark--so low, however, but what the listener was
forced to hear it, too.

Both laughed a little. But though Maurice rose and clattered his
chair, Herries persisted, with an Englishman's supreme indifference to
the bystander: "Do you think she can dance?"

"Can't tell. Looks a trifle heavy."

"Well, I'll risk it. Come on. Let's get some one to introduce us."

The blood had rushed to Maurice's head and buzzed there: another
second, and he would have stepped out and confronted the speaker. But
the incident had passed like a flash. And it was better so: it would
have been a poor service to her, to begin the evening with an
unpleasantness. Besides, was this not what he had been bracing himself
to expect? He looked stealthily over at Louise; considering the
proximity of the rooms, it was probable that she, too, had overheard
the derogatory words. But when she had put on her gloves, she took his
arm without a trace of discomfiture.

They entered the hall at the close of a polka, and slipped unnoticed
into the train of those who promenaded. But they had not gone once
round, when they were the observed of all eyes; although he looked
straight in front of him, Maurice could see the astonished eyebrows
and open mouths that greeted their advance. At one end of the hall was
an immense mirror: he saw that Louise, who was flushed, held her head
high, and talked to him without a pause. In a kind of bravado, she
made him take her round a second time; and after the third, which was
a solitary progress, they remained standing with their backs to the
mirror. Eggis at once came up, with Herries in his train, and, on
learning that she had no programme, the latter ran off to fetch one.
Before he returned, a third man had joined them, and soon she was the
centre of a little circle. Herries, having returned with the
programme, would not give it up until he had put his initials
opposite several dances. Louise only smiled--a rather artificial smile
that had been on her lips since she entered the hall.

Maurice had fallen back, and now stood unnoticed behind the group.
Once Louise turned her head, and raised her eyebrows interrogatively;
but a feeling that was mingled pride and dismay restrained him; and
as, even when the choosing of dances was over, he did not come
forward, she walked down the hall on Herries's arm. The musicians
began to tune; Dove, as master of ceremonies, was flying about, with
his hands in gloves that were too large for him; people ranged
themselves for the lancers in lines and squares. Maurice lost sight
for a moment of the couple he was watching. As soon as the dance
began, however, he saw them again; they were waltzing to the
FRANCAISE, at the lower end of the hall.

He was driven from the corner in which he had taken refuge, by hearing
some one behind him say, in an angry whisper: "I call it positively
horrid of her to come." It was Susie Fay who spoke; through some
oversight, she had not been asked to dance. Moving slowly along,
behind the couples that began a schottische, he felt a tap on his arm,
and, looking round, saw Miss Jensen. She swept aside her ample skirts,
and invited him to a seat beside her. But he remained standing.

"You don't care for dancing?" she queried. And, when he had replied:
"Well, say, now, Mr. Guest,--we are all dying to know--however have you
gotten Louise Dufrayer along here this evening? It's the queerest
thing out."

"Indeed?" said the young man drily.

"Well, maybe queer is not just the word. But, why, we all presumed she
was perfectly inconsolable--thinking only of another world. That's so.
And then you work a miracle, and out she pops, fit as can be."

"I persuaded her . . . for the sake of variety," mumbled Maurice.

Little Fauvre, the baritone, had come up; but Miss Jensen did not heed
his meek reminder that this was their dance.

"That was excessively kind of you," said the big woman, and looked at
Maurice with shrewd, good-natured eyes. "And no doubt, Louise is most
grateful. She seems to be enjoying herself. Keep quiet, Fauvre, do,
till I am ready.--But I don't like her dress. It's a lovely goods, and
no mistake. But it ain't suitable for a little hop like this. It's too
much."

"How Miss Dufrayer dresses is none of my business."

"Well, maybe not.--Now, Fauvre, come along"--she called it "Fover." "I
reckon you think you've waited long enough."

Maurice, left to himself again, was astonished to hear Madeleine's
voice in his ear. She had made her way to him alone.

"For goodness' sake, pull yourself together," she said cuttingly.
"Every one in the hall can see what's the matter with you."

Before he could answer, she was claimed by her partner--one of the few
Germans scattered through this Anglo-American gathering. "Is zat your
brozzer?" Maurice heard him ask as they moved away. He watched them
dancing together, and found it a ridiculous sight: round Madeleine,
tall and angular, the short, stout man rotated fiercely. From time to
time they stopped, to allow him to wipe his face.

Maurice contemplated escaping from the hall to some quiet room beyond.
But as he was edging forward, he ran into Dove's arms, and that was
the end of it. Dove, it seemed, had had his eye on him. The originator
of the ball confessed that he was not having a particularly good time;
he had everything to superintend--the dances, the musicians, the
arrangements for supper. Besides this, there were at least a dozen too
many ladies present; he believed some of the men had simply given
their tickets away to girl-friends, and had let them come alone. So
far, Dove had been forced to sacrifice himself entirely, and he was
hot and impatient.

"Besides, I've routed half a dozen men out of the billiardroom, more
than once," he complained irrelevantly, wiping the moisture from his
brow. "But it's of no----Now just look at that!" he interrupted
himself. "The 'cellist has had too much to drink already, and they're
handing him more beer. Another glass, and he won't be able to play at
all.--I say, you're not dancing. My dear fellow, it really won't do.
You must help me with some of these women."

Taking Maurice by the arm, he steered him to a corner of the hall
where sat two little provincial English sisters, looking hopeless and
forlorn. Who had invited them, it was impossible to say; but no one
wished to dance with them. They were dressed exactly alike, were alike
in face, too--as like as two nuts, thought Maurice, as he bowed to
them. Their hair was of a nutty brown, their eyes were brown, and they
wore brown d resses. He led them out to dance, one after the other,
and they were overwhelmingly grateful to him. He could hardly
tell them apart; but that did not matter; for, when he took one back
to her seat, the other sat waiting for her turn.

In dancing, he was thrown together with more of his friends, and he
was not slow to catch the looks--cynical, contemptuous, amused--that
were directed at him. Some were disposed to wink, and to call him a
sly dog; others found food for malicious gossip in the way Louise had
deserted him; and, when he met Miss Martin in a quadrille, she snubbed
his advances with a definiteness that left no room for doubt.

Round dances succeeded to square dances; the musicians' playing grew
more mechanical; flowers drooped, and dresses were crushed. An
Englishman or two ran about complaining of the ventilation. As often
as Maurice saw Louise, she was with Herries. At first, she had at
least made a feint of dancing with other people; now she openly showed
her preference. Always this dapper little man, with the violets and
the simpering smile.

They were the two best dancers in the hall. Louise, in particular,
gave herself up to the rhythm of the music with an abandon not often
to be seen in a ball-room. Something of the professional about it,
said Maurice to himself as he watched her; and, in his own estimation,
this was the hardest thought he had yet had of her.

At supper, he sat between the two little sisters, whose birdlike
chatter acted upon him as a reiterated noise acts on the nerves of one
who is trying to sleep. He could hardly bring himself to answer
civilly. At the further end of the table, on the same side as he, sat
Louise. She was with those who had been her partners during the
evening. They were drinking champagne, and were very lively. Maurice
could not see her face; but her loud, excited laugh jarred on his
ears.

Afterwards, the same round was to begin afresh, except that the
sisters had generously introduced him to a friend. But when the first
dance was over, Maurice abruptly excused himself to his surprised
partner, and made his way out of the hall.

At the disordered supper-table, a few people still lingered; and
deserters were again knocking balls about the green cloth of the
billiard-table. Maurice went past them, and up a flight of stairs that
led to a gallery overlooking the hall. This gallery was in
semidarkness. At the back of it, chairs were piled one on top of the
other; but the two front rows had been left standing, from the last
concert held in the building, and here, two or three couples were
sitting out the dance. He went into the extreme corner, where it was
darkest.

At last he was alone. He no longer needed to dance with girls
he did not care a jot for, or to keep up appearances. He was free to
be as wretched as he chose, and he availed himself unreservedly of the
chance. It was not only the personal slight Louise had put upon him
throughout the evening, making use of him, as it were, to the very
door, and then throwing him off: but that she could be attracted by a
mere waxen prettiness, and well-fitting clothes--for the first time,
distrust of her was added to his hurt amazement.

He had not been in his hiding-place for more than a very few minutes,
when the door he had entered by reopened, and a couple came down the
steps to the corner where he was sitting.

"Oh, there's some one there!" cried Louise at the sight of the dark
figure. "Maurice! Is it you? What are you doing here?"

"Sssh!" said Herries warningly, afraid lest her clear voice should
carry too far.

"Yes. It's me," said Maurice stiffly, and rose. "But I'm going. I
shan't disturb you."

"Disturb?" she said, and laughed a little. "Nonsense! Of course not."
From her position on Herries's arm, she looked down at him, uncertain
how to proceed. Then she laughed again. "But how fortunate that I
found you! The next is our dance, isn't it?"---she pretended to
examine her programme. "It will begin in a minute. I think I'll wait
here."

"The next may be, but not the next again, remember," said Herries,
before he allowed her to withdraw her arm. Louise nodded and laughed.
"AUF WIEDERSEHEN!"

But after the door had dosed behind Herries, she remained standing, a
step higher than Maurice, tipping her face with her handkerchief.

When she descended the step, and was on a level with him, he could see
how her eyes glittered.

"Was that lie necessary?--for me?"

"What's the matter, Maurice? Why are you like this? Why have you not
asked me to dance?"

He was unpleasantly worked on by her free use of his name.

"I, you? Have I had a chance?"

"Wasn't it for you to make the chance? Or did you expect me to come to
you: Mr. Guest, will you do me the honour of dancing with me?--Oh,
please, don't be cross. Don't spoil my pleasure--for this one night at
least."

But she laughed again as she spoke, as though she did not fear
his power to do so, and laid her hand on his arm: and, at her touch,
he seemed to feel through sleeve and glove, the superabundance of
vitality that was throbbing in her this evening. She was unable to be
still for a moment; in the delicate pallor of her face, her eyes
burned, black as jet.

"Are you really enjoying yourself so much? What CAN you find in it
all?"

"Come--come down and dance. Listen!--can you resist that music? Quick,
let us go down."

"I dance badly. I'm not Herries."

"But I can suit my step to anyone's. Won't you dance with me?--when I
ask you?"

She had been leaning forward, looking over the balustrade at the
couples arranging themselves below. Now she turned, and put her arm
through his.

They went down the stairs, into the hall. Close beside the door at
which they entered, they began to dance.

In all these months, Maurice had scarcely touched her hand. Now
convention required that he should take her in his arms: he had
complete control over her, could draw her closer, or put her further
away, as he chose. For the first round or two, this was enough to
occupy him entirely: the proximity of the lithe body, the nearness of
the dark head, the firm, warm resistance that her back offered to his
hand.

They were dancing to the music of the WIENER BLUT, most melancholy gay
of waltzes, in which the long, legato, upward sweep of the violins
says as plainly as in words that all is vanity. But with the passing
of the players to the second theme, the melody made a more direct
appeal: there was a passionate unrest in it, which disquieted all who
heard if. The dancers, with flushed cheeks and fixed eyes, responded
instinctively to its challenge: the lapidary swing with which they
followed the rhythm became less circumspect; and a desire to dance
till they could dance no more, took possession of those who were
fanatic. No one yielded to the impulse more readily than Louise; she
was quite carried away. Maurice felt the change in her; an uneasiness
seized him, and increased with every turn. She had all but closed her
eyes; her hair brushed his shoulder; she answered to the lightest
pressure of his arm. Even her face looked strange to him: its
expression, its individuality, all that made it hers, was as if wiped
out. Involuntarily he straightened himself, and his own movements grew
stiffer, in his effort to impart to her some of his own restraint. But
it was useless. And, as they turned and turned, to the
maddening music, cold spots broke out on his forehead: in this manner
she had danced with all her previous partners, and would dance with
those to come. Such a pang of jealousy shot through him at the thought
that, without knowing what he was doing, he pulled her sharply to him.
And she yielded to the tightened embrace as a matter of course.

With a jerk he stopped dancing and loosened his hold of her.

She stood and blinked at lights and people: she had been far away, in
a world of melody and motion, and could not come back to herself all
at once. Wonderingly she looked at Maurice; for the music was going
on, and no one else had left off dancing; and, with the same of
comprehension, but still too dazed to resist, she followed him up the
stairs.

"It's easy to see you don't care for dancing," she said, when they
were back in the corner of the gallery. Her breath came unsteadily,
and again she touched her face with the small, scented handkerchief.

"No. Not dancing like that," he answered rudely. But now again, as so
often before, directly it was put into words, his feeling seemed
strained and puritanic.

Louise leaned forward in her seat to look into his face.

"Like what?--what do you mean? Oh, you foolish boy, what is the matter
with you to-night? You will tell me next I can't dance."

"You dance only too well."

"But you would rather I was a wooden doll--is that it How is one to
please you? First you are vexed with me because YOU did not ask ME to
dance; and when I send my partner away, on your account, you won't
finish one dance with me but exact that I shall sit here, in a dark
corner, and let that glorious music go by. I don't know what to make
of you." But her attention had already wandered to the dancers below.
"Look at them!--Oh, it makes me envious! No one else has dreamt of
stopping yet. For no matter how tired you are beforehand, when you
dance you don't feel it, and as long as the music goes on, you must go
on, too, though it lasted all night.--Oh, how often I have longed for a
night like this! And then I've never met a better dancer than Mr.
Herries."

"And for the sake of his dancing, you can forget what a puppy he is?"

"Puppy?" At the warmth of his interruption, she laughed, the low,
indolent laugh, by means of which she seemed determined, on this
night, to keep anything from touching her too nearly. "How
crude you men are! Because he is handsome and dances well, you reason
that he must necessarily be a simpleton."

"Handsome? Yes--if a tailor's dummy is handsome."

But Louise only laughed again, like one over whom words had no power.
"If he were the veriest scarecrow, I would forgive him--for the sake of
his dancing."

She leant forward, letting her gloved arms lie along her knees; and
above the jet-trimmed line of her bodice, he saw her white chest rise
and fall. At a slight sound behind, she turned and looked expectantly
at the door.

"No, not yet," said the young man at her side. "Besides, even if it
were, this is my dance, remember. You said so yourself."

"You are rude to-night, Maurice--and LANGWEILIG." She averted her face,
and tapped her foot. But the content that lapped her made it
impossible for her to take anything earnestly amiss, and even that
others should show displeasure jarred on her like a false note.

"Don't be angry. To-morrow it will all be different again. Let me have
just this one night of pleasure--let me enjoy myself in my own way."

"To hear you talk, one would think I had no wish but to spoil your
pleasure."

"Oh, I didn't mean that. You misunderstand everything."

"What I say or think has surely no weight with you?"

She gave up the attempt to pacify him, and leaning back in her chair,
stifled a yawn. Then with an exclamation of: "How hot it is up here!"
she peeled off her gloves. With her freed hands, she tidied her hair,
drawing out and thrusting in again the silver dagger that held the
coil together. Then she let her bare arms fall on her lap, where they
lay in strong outline against the black of her dress. One was almost
directly under Maurice's eyes; even by the poor light, he could see
the mark left on the inside of the wrist, by the buttons of the glove.
It was a generously formed arm, but so long that it looked slender,
and its firm white roundness was flawless from wrist to shoulder. He
shut his eyes, but he could see it through his eyelids. Sitting beside
her like this, in the semidarkness, morbidly aware of the perfume of
her hair and dress, he suddenly forgot that he had been rude, and she
indifferent. He was conscious only of the wish to drive it home to
her, how unhappy she was making him.

"Louise," he said so abruptly that she started. "I'm going to
ask you to do something for me. I haven't made many demands, have
I?--since you first called me your friend." He paused and fumbled for
words. "Don't--don't dance any more to-night. Don't dance again."

She stooped forward to look at him. "Not dance again?--I? What do you
mean?"

"What I say. Let us go home."

"Home? Now? When it's only half over?--You don't know what you are
saying." But her surprise was already on the wane.

"Oh, yes, I do. I'm not going to let you dance again."

She laughed, in spite of herself, at the new light in which he was
showing himself. But, the moment after, she ceased to laugh; for, with
an audacity he had not believed himself capable of, Maurice took the
arm that was lying next him, and, midway between wrist and elbow, put
his lips to it, kissing it several times, in different places.

Taken unawares, Louise was helpless. Then she freed herself, ungently.
"No, no, I won't have it. Oh, how can you be so foolish! My
gloves--where is my glove? Pick it up, and give it to me--at once!"

He groped on the dusty floor; the veins in his forehead hammered. She
had moved to a distance, and now stood busy with the gloves; she would
not look at him.

In the uneasy silence that ensued, Herries opened the door: a moment
later, they went out together. Maurice remained standing until he saw
them appear below. Then he dropped back into his seat, and covered his
face with his hands.

He did not regret what he had done; he did not care in the least,
whether he had made her angry with him or not. On the contrary, the
feeling he experienced was akin to relief: disapproval and
mortification, jealousy and powerlessness--all the varying emotions of
the evening--had found vent and alleviation in the few hastily snatched
kisses. He no longer felt injured by her treatment of him: that hardly
seemed to concern him now. His sensations, at this minute, resolved
themselves into the words: "She is mine, she is mine!" which went
round and round in his brain. And then, in a sudden burst of
clearness, he understood what it meant for him to say this. It meant
that the farce of friendship, at which he had played, was at an end;
it meant that he loved her--not as hitherto, with a touch of elegiac
resignation--but with a violence that made him afraid. If seemed
incredible to him now that he had spent two months in close
fellowship with her: it was ludicrous, inhuman. For he now saw, that
his ultimate desire had been neither to help her nor to restore her to
life--that was a comedy he had acted for the benefit of the traditions
in his blood. Brutally, at this moment, he acknowledged that he had
only wished to hear her voice and to touch her hand: to make for
himself so indispensable a place among the necessities of her life
that no one could oust him from it.--Mine--mine! Instinct alone spoke in
him to-night--that same blunt instinct which had reared its head the
first time he saw her, but which, until now, he had kept under, like a
medieval ascetic. No reason came to his aid; he neither looked into
the future nor did he consider the past: he only swore to himself in a
kind of stubborn wrath that she was his, and that no earthly power
should take her from him.

One by one the slow-dragging hours wore away. The dancers' ranks were
thinned; but those who remained, gyrated as insensately as ever. There
was an air of greater freedom over the ball-room. The chaperons who,
earlier in the evening, had sat patiently on the red velvet sofas, had
vanished with their charges, and, in their train, the more sedate of
the company: it was past three o'clock, and now, every few minutes, a
cloaked couple crossed a corner of the hall to the street-door.

When Maurice went downstairs, he could not find Louise, and some time
elapsed before she and Herries emerged from the supper-room. Although
the lines beneath her eyes were like rings of hammered iron, she
danced anew, went on to the very end, with a few other infatuated
people. Finally, the tired musicians rose stiffly to pack their
instruments; and, with a sigh of exhaustion, she received on her
shoulders the cloak Maurice stood holding.

They were among the last to leave the hall; the lights went out behind
them. Herries walked a part of the way home with them, and talked much
and idly--ineffable in his self-conceit, thought Maurice. But Louise
urged him on, saying wild, disconnected things, as if, as long as
words were spoken, it did not matter what they were. Again and again
her laugh resounded: it was hoarse, and did not ring true.

"She has had too much champagne," Maurice said to himself, as he
walked silent at her side.

In the ROSSPLATZ, Herries, who was in a becoming fur cap, and a coat
with a fur-lined collar, took a circumstantial leave of her. He raised
both her hands to his lips.

"To the memory of those divine waltzes--our waltzes!" he said
sentimentally. "And to all the others the future has in store for us!"

She left her hands in his, and smiled at him.

"Till to-morrow then," said Herries. "Or shall you forget your
promise?"

"It is you who will forget--not I."

After this, Maurice and she walked on alone together. It was that
dreariest of all the hours between sunset and dawn, when it is
scarcely night any longer, and yet not nearly day. The crisp frost of
the previous evening had given place to a bleak rawness; the day that
was coming would crawl in, lugubriously, unable to get the better of
the darkness. The houses about them were wrapped in sleep; they two
were the only people abroad, and their footsteps echoed in the damp
streets. But, for once, Louise was not affected by the gloom of her
surroundings. She walked swiftly, and her chief aim seemed to be to
render any but the most trival words impossible. Now, however, her
strained gaiety had the aspect of a fever; Maurice believed that, for
the most part, she did not know what she was saying.

Until they stood in front of the house-door, she kept up the tension.
But when the young man had fitted the key in the lock and turned it,
she looked at him, and, for the first time this night, gave him her
full attention.

"Good night--my friend!"

She was leaning against the woodwork; beneath the lace scarf, her eyes
were bent on him with a strange expression. Maurice looked down into
them, and, for a second or two, held them with his own, in one of
those looks which are not for ordinary use between a man and a woman.
Louise shivered under it, and gave a nervous laugh; the next moment,
she made a slight movement towards him, an involuntary movement, which
was so imperceptible as to be hardly more than an easing of her
position against the doorway, and yet was unmistakable--as unmistakable
as was the little upward motion with which she resigned herself at the
outset of a dance. For an instant, his heart stopped beating; in a
flash he knew that this was the solution: there was only one ending to
this night of longing and excitement, and that was to take her in his
arms, as she stood, to hold her to him in an infinite embrace, till
his own nerves were stilled, and the madness had gone from her. But
the returning beat of his blood brought the knowledge that a morrow
must surely come--a morrow for both of them--a cold, grey day to be
faced and borne. She was not herself, in the bonds of her
unnatural excitement; it was for him to be wise.

He took her limply hanging hand, and looked at her gravely and kindly.

"You are very tired."

At his voice, the wild light died out of her eyes; she seemed to
shrink into herself. "Yes, very tired. And oh, so cold!"

"Can't you get a cup of tea?--something to warm you?"

But she did not hear him; she was already on the stair. He waited till
her steps had died away, then went headlong down the street. But, when
he came to think things over, he did not pride himself on the
self-control he had displayed. On the contrary, he was tormented by
the wish to know what she would have said or done had he yielded to
his impulse; and, for the remainder of the night, his brain lost
itself in a maze of hazardous conjecture. Only when day broke, a
cheerless February day, was he satisfied that he could not have acted
differently.

Upstairs, in her room, Louise lay face downwards on her bed, and
there, her arms thrown wildly out over the pillows, all the froth and
intoxication of the evening gone from her--there lay, and wished she
were dead.


* * * * *


Three days later, towards four o'clock in the afternoon, Maurice
watched the train that carried her from him steam out of the DRESDENER
BAHNHOF.

The clearness he had gained as to his own motives, and the ruthless
probing of himself it induced, both led to the same conclusion: Louise
must go away. The day after the ball, too, he had found her in a state
of collapse, which was unparalleled even in the ups and downs of the
past weeks.

"Anything!--do anything you like with me. I wish I had never been
born;" and, though no muscle of her face moved, large slow tears ran
down her sallow cheeks.

Unconsciously twisting and bending Herries's card, which was lying on
the table, Maurice laid his plan before her. And having won the above
consent, he did not let the grass grow under his feet. He applied to
Miss Jensen for practical aid, and that lady was tactful enough to
give it without curiosity. She knew Dresden well, recommended it as a
lively place, and wrote forthwith to a PENSION there, engaging rooms
for a lady who had just recovered from a severe illness. By tacit
agreement, this was understood to cover any extravagance or
imprudence, of which Louise might make herself guilty.

Now she had gone, and with her, the central interest of his life. But
the tired gesture, with which he took off his hat and wiped his
forehead, as he walked home, was expressive of the relief he felt that
he was not going to see her again for some time.

He let a fortnight elapse--a fortnight of colourless days, unbroken by
word or sign from her. Then, one night, he spent several hours writing
to her--writing a carefully worded letter, in which he put forward the
best reasons he could devise, for her remaining away altogether.

To this he received no answer.




X.



From one of the high, wooden benches, at the back of the amphitheatre
in the ALBERTHALLE, where he had lain at full length, listening to the
performance of a Berlin pianist, Krafft rose, full to the brim of
impressions, and eager to state them.

"That man," he began, as he left the hall between Maurice and Avery
Hill, "is a successful teacher. And therewith his fate as an artist is
sealed. No teacher can get on to the higher rungs of the ladder, and
no inspired musician be a satisfactory teacher. If the artist is
obliged to share his art, his pupils, should they be intelligent, may
pick up something of his skill, learn the trick of certain things; but
the moment he begins to set up dogmas, it is the end of him.--As if it
were possible for one person to prescribe to another, of a totally
different temperament, how he ought to feel in certain passages, or be
affected by certain harmonies! If I, for example, choose to play the
later Beethoven sonatas as I would the Brahms Concerto in B flat, with
a thoroughly modern irony, what is it that hinders me from doing it,
and from satisfying myself, and kindred souls, who are honest enough
to admit their feelings? Tradition, nothing in the world but tradition;
tradition in the shape of the teacher steps in and says anathema: to
this we are not accustomed, ERGO, it cannot be good.--And it is just
the same with those composers who are also pedagogues. They know, none
better, that there are no hard and fast rules in their art; that it is
only convention, or the morbid car of some medieval monk, which has
banished, say, consecutive fifths from what is called g pure writing
'; that further, you need only to have the regulation number of years
behind you, to fling squeamishness to the winds. In other words, you
learn rules to unlearn them with infinite pains. But the pupil, in his
innocence, demands a rigid basis to go on--it is a human weakness,
this, the craving for rules--and his teachers pamper him. Instead of
saying: develop your own ear, rely on yourself, only what you teach
yourself is worth knowing--instead of this, they build up walls and
barriers to hedge him in, behind which, for their benefit, he must go
through the antics of a performing dog. But nemesis overtakes them;
they fall a victim to their own wiles, just as the liar
finally believes his own lies. Ultimately they find their chief
delight in the adroitness with which they themselves overcome
imaginary obstacles."

His companions were silent. Avery Hill had a nine hours' working-day
behind her, and was tired; besides, she made a point of never replying
to Krafft's tirades. Once only, of late, had she said to him in
Maurice's presence: "You would reason the skin off one's bones, Heinz.
You are the most self-conscious person alive." Krafft had been much
annoyed at this remark, and had asked her to call him a Jew and be
done with it; but afterwards, he admitted to Maurice that she was
right.

"And it's only the naive natures that count."

Maurice had found his way back to Krafft; for, in the days of
uncertainty that followed the posting of his letter, he needed human
companionship. Until the question whether Louise would return or not
was decided, he could settle to nothing; and Krafft's ramblings took
him out of himself. Since the ball, his other friends had given him
the cold shoulder; hence it did not matter whether or no they approved
of his renewed intimacy with Krafft--he said "they," but it was
Madeleine who was present to his mind. And Krafft was an easy person
to take up with again; he never bore a grudge, and met Maurice
readily, half-way.

It had not taken the latter long to shape his actions or what he
believed to be the best. But his thoughts were beyond control. He was
as helpless against sudden spells of depression as against dreams of
an iridescent brightness. He could no more avoid dwelling on the
future than reliving the Past. If Louise did not return, these
memories were all that were left him. If she did, what form were their
relations to each other going to assume?--and this was the question
that cost him most anxious thought.

A thing that affected him oddly, at this time, was his growing
inability to call up her face. It was incredible. This face, which he
had supposed he knew so well that he could have drawn it blindfold,
had taken to eluding him; and the more impatient he became, the poorer
was his success. The disquieting thing, however, was, that though he
could not materialise her face, what invariably rose before his eyes
was her long, bare arm, as it had lain on the black stuff of her
dress. At first, it only came when he was battling to secure the face;
then it took to appearing at unexpected moments; and eventually, it
became a kind of nightmare, which haunted him. He would start up from
dreaming of it, his hair moist with perspiration, for,
strangely enough, he was always on the point of doing it harm: either
his teeth were meeting in it, or he had drawn the blade of a knife
down the middle of the blue-veined whiteness, and the blood spurted
out along the line, which reddened instantly in the wake of the knife.

April had come, bringing April weather; it was fitfully sunny, and a
mild and generous dampness spurred on growth: shrubs and bushes were
so thickly sprinkled with small buds that, at a distance, it seemed as
though a transparent green veil had been flung over them. In the
Gewandhaus, according to custom, the Ninth Symphony had brought the
concert season to a close; once more, the chorus had struggled
victoriously with the ODE TO JOY. And early one morning, Maurice held
a note in his hand, in which Louise announced that she had "come
home," the night before.

She had been away for almost two months, and, to a certain extent, he
had grown inured to her absence. At the sight of her handwriting, he
had the sensation of being violently roused from sleep. Now he shrank
from the moment when he should see her again; for it seemed that not
only the present, but all his future depended on it.

Late in the evening, he returned from the visit, puzzled and
depressed.

Seven had boomed from church-clocks far and near, before he reached
the BRUDERSTRASSE, but, nevertheless, he had been kept waiting in the
passage for a quarter of an hour: and he was in such an apprehensive
frame of mind that he took the delay as a bad omen.

When he crossed the threshold, Louise came towards him with one of
those swift movements which meant that she was in good spirits, and
confident of herself. She held out her hands, and smiled at him with
all her dark, mobile face, saying words that were as impulsive as her
gesture. Maurice was always vaguely chilled by her outbursts of
light-heartedness: they seemed to him strained and unreal, so
accustomed had he grown to the darker, less adaptable side of her
nature.

"You have come back?" he said, with her hand in his.

"Yes, I'm here--for the present, at least."

The last words caught in his ear, and buzzed there, making his
foreboding a certainty. On the spot, his courage failed him; and
though Louise continued to ring all the changes her voice was
capable of, he did not recover his spirits. It was not merely the
sense of strangeness, which inevitably attacked him after he had not
seen her for some time; on this occasion, it was more. Partly, it
might be due to the fact that she was dressed in a different way; her
hair was done high on her head, and she wore a light grey dress of
modish cut and design. Her face, too, had grown fuller; the hollows in
her cheeks had vanished; and her skin had that peculiar clear pallor
that was characteristic of it in health.

He was stupidly silent; he could not join in her careless vivacity.
Besides, throughout the visit, nothing was said that it was worth his
coming to hear.

But when she wished him good-bye, she said, with a strange smile:
"Altogether, I am very grateful to you, Maurice, for having made me go
away."

He himself no longer felt any satisfaction at what he had done. As
soon as he left her, he tried to comprehend what had happened: the
change in her was too marked for him to be able to console himself
that he had imagined it. Not only had she seemingly recovered, as if
by magic, from the lassitude of the winter--he could even have forgiven
her the alteration in her style of dress, although this, too, helped
to alienate her from him. But what he ended by recognising, with a
jealous throb, was that she had mentally recovered as well; she was
once more the self-contained girl he had first known, with a gift for
keeping an outsider beyond the circle of her thoughts and feelings. An
outsider! The weeks of intimate companionship were forgotten, seemed
never to have been. She had no further need of him, that was the clue
to the mystery, and the end of the matter.

And so it continued, the next day, and the next again; Louise
deliberately avoided touching on anything that lay below the surface.
She vouchsafed no explanation of the words that had disquieted him,
nor was the letter Maurice had written her once mentioned between
them.

But, though she seemed resolved not to confide in him, she could not
dispense with the small, practical services, he was able to render
her. They were even more necessary to her than before; for, if one
thing was clear, it was that she no longer intended to cloister
herself up inside her four walls: the day after her return, she had
been out till late in the afternoon, and had come home with her hands
full of parcels. She took it now as a matter of course that Maurice
should accompany her; and did not, or would not, notice his
abstraction.

After the lapse of a very short time, however, the young man began to
feel that there was something feverish in the continual high level of
her mood. She broke down, once or twice, in trying to sustain it, and
was more of her eloquently silent self again: one evening, he came
upon her, in the dusk, when she was sitting with her chin on her hand,
looking out before her with the old questioning gaze.

Occasionally he thought that she was waiting for something: in the
middle of a sentence, she would break off, and grow absent-minded; and
more than once, the unexpected advent of the postman threw her into a
state of excitement, which she could not conceal. She was waiting for
a letter. But Maurice was proud, and asked no questions; he took pains
to use the cool, friendly tone, she herself adopted.

Not a week had dragged out, however, since her return, before he was
suffering in a new way, in the oldest, cruellest way of all.

The PENSION at which she had stayed in Dresden, had been frequented by
leisured foreigners: over twenty people, of various nationalities, had
sat down daily at the dinner-table. Among so large a number, it would
have been easy for Louise to hold herself aloof. But, as far as
Maurice could gather, she had felt no inclination to do this. From the
first, she seemed to have been the nucleus of an admiring circle,
chief among the members of which was a family of Americans--a brother
and two sisters, rich Southerners, possessed of a vague leaning
towards art and music. The names of these people recurred persistently
in her talk; and, as the days went by, Maurice found himself listening
for one name in particular, with an irritation he could not master.
Raymond van Houst--a ridiculous name!--fit only for a backstairs
romance. But as often as she spoke of Dresden, it was on her lips.
Whether in the Galleries, or at the Opera, on driving excursions, or
on foot, this man had been at her side; and soon the mere mention of
him was enough to set Maurice's teeth on edge.

One afternoon, he found her standing before an extravagant mass of
flowers, which were heaped up on the table; there were white and
purple violets, a great bunch of lilies of the valley, and roses of
different colours. They had been sent to her from Dresden, she said;
but, beyond this, she offered no explanation. All the vases in the
room were collected before her; but she had not begun to fill
them: she stood with her hands in the flowers, tumbling them about,
enjoying the contact of their moist freshness.

To Maurice's remark that she seemed to take a pleasure in destroying
them, she returned a casual: "What does it matter?" and taking up as
many violets as she could hold, looked defiantly at him over their
purple leaves. Through all she said and did ran a strong undercurrent
of excitement.

But before Maurice left, her manner changed. She came over to him, and
said, without looking up: "Maurice I want to tell you something."

"Yes; what is it?" He spoke with the involuntary coolness this mood of
hers called out in him; and she was quick to feel it. She returned to
the table.

"You ask so prosaically: you are altogether prosaic to-day. And it is
not a thing I can tell you off-hand. You would need to sit down again.
It's a long story; and you were going; and it's late. We will leave it
till to-morrow: that will be time enough. And if it is fine, we can go
out somewhere, and I'll tell you as we go."

It was a brilliant May afternoon: great white clouds were piled one on
the top of another, like bales of wool; and their fantastic bulging
roundnesses made the intervening patches of blue seem doubly distant.
The wind was hardly more than a breath, which curled the tips of thin
branches, and fluttered the loose ends of veils and laces. In the
ROSENTAL, where the meadow-slopes were emerald-green, and each branch
bore its complement of delicately curled leaves, the paths were so
crowded that there could be no question of a connected conversation.
But again, Louise was not in a hurry to begin.

She continued meditative, even when they had reached the KAISERPARK,
and were sitting with their cups before them, in the long, wooden,
shed-like building, open at one side. She had taken off her hat--a
somewhat showy white hat, trimmed with large white feathers--and laid
it on the table; one dark wing of hair fell lower than the other, and
shaded her forehead.

Maurice, who was on tenterhooks, subdued his impatience as long as he
could. Finally, he emptied his cup at a draught, and pushed it away.

"You wanted to speak to me, you said."--His manner was curt, from sheer
nervousness.

His voice startled her. "Yes, I have something to tell you,"
she said, with a hesitation he did not know in her. "But I must go
back a little.--If you remember, Maurice, you wrote to me while I was
away, didn't you?" she said, and looked not at him, but at her hands
clasped before her. "You gave me a number of excellent reasons why it
would be better for me not to come back here. I didn't answer your
letter at the time because . . . What should you say, Maurice, if I
told you now, that I intended to take your advice?"

"You are going away?" The words jerked out gratingly, of themselves.

"Perhaps.--That is what I want to speak to you about. I have a chance
of doing so."

"Chance? How chance?" he asked sharply.

"That's what I am going to tell you, if you will give me time."

Drawing a letter from her pocket, she smoothed the creases out of the
envelope, and handed it to him.

While he read it, she looked away, looked over the enclosure. Some
people were crossing it, and she followed them with her eyes, though
she had often seen their counterparts before. A man in a heavy
ulster--notwithstanding the mildness of the day--stalked on ahead,
unconcerned about the fate of his family, which dragged, a woman and
two children, in the rear: like savages, thought Louise, where the
male goes first, to scent danger. But the crackling of paper recalled
her attention; Maurice was folding the sheet, and replacing it in the
envelope, with a ludicrous precision. His face had taken on a pinched
expression, and he handed the letter back to her without a word.

She looked at him, expecting him to say something; but he was
obdurate. "This was what I was waiting all these days to tell you,"
she said.

"You knew it was coming then?" He scarcely recognised his own voice;
he spoke as he supposed a judge might speak to a proven criminal.

Louise shrugged her shoulders. "No. Yes.--That is, as far as it's
possible to know such a thing."

Through the crude glass window, the sun cast a medley of lines and
lights on her hands, and on the checkered table-cloth. There were two
rough benches, and a square table; the coffeecups stood on a metal
tray; the lid of the pot was odd, did not match the set: all these
inanimate things, which, a moment ago, Maurice had seen without seeing
them, now stood out before his eyes, as if each of them had
acquired an independent life, and no longer fitted into its
background.

"Let us go home," he said, and rose.

"Go home? But we have only just come!" cried Louise, with what seemed
to him pretended surprise. "Why do you want to go home? It is so quiet
here: I can talk to you. For I need your advice, Maurice. You must
help me once again."

"I help you?--in this? No, thank you. All I can do, it seems, is to
wish you joy." He remained standing, with his hand on the back of the
bench.

But at the cold amazement of her eyes, he took his seat again. "It is
a matter for yourself--only you can decide. It's none of my business."
He moved the empty cups about on the cloth.

"But why are you angry?"

"Haven't I good reason to be? To see you--you !--accepting an
impertinence of this kind so quietly. For it IS an impertinence,
Louise, that a man you hardly know should write to you in this
cocksure way and ask you to marry him. Impertinent and absurd!"

"You have a way of finding most things I want to do absurd," she
answered. "In this case, though, you're. mistaken. The tone of the
letter is all it should be. And, besides, I know Mr. Van Houst very
well."

Maurice looked at her with a sardonic smile.

"Seven weeks is a long time," she added.

"Seven weeks!--and for a lifetime!"

"Oh, one can get to know a man inside out, in seven weeks," she said,
with wilful flippancy. "Especially if, from the first, he shows so
plainly . . . Maurice, don't be angry. You have always been kind to
me; you're not going to fail me now that I really need help? I have no
one else, as you very well know." She smiled at him, and held out her
hand. He could not refuse to take it; but he let it drop again
immediately.

"Let me tell you all about it, and how it happened, and then you will
understand," Louise went on, in a persuasive voice--he had once
believed that the sound of this voice would reconcile him to any fate.
"You think the time was short, but we were together every day, and
sometimes all day long. I knew from the first that he cared for me; he
made no secret of it. If anything, it is a proof of tactfulness on his
part that he should have written rather than have spoken to me
himself. I like him for doing it, for giving me time. And
then, listen, Maurice, what I should gain by marrying him. He is rich,
really rich, and good-looking--in an American way--and thirtytwo years
old. His sisters would welcome me--one of them told me as much, and
told me, too, that her brother had never cared for anyone before. He
would make an ideal husband," she added with a sudden recklessness, at
the sight of Maurice's unmoved face. "Americanly chivalrous to the
fingertips, and with just enough of the primitive animal in him to
ward off monotony."

Maurice raised his hand, as if in self-defence. "So you, too, then,
like any other woman, would marry just for the sake of marrying?" he
asked, with bitter disbelief.

"Yes.--And just especially and particularly I."

"For Heaven's sake, let us get out of here!"

Without listening to her protest, he went to find the waiter. Louise
followed him out of the enclosure, carrying hat and gloves in her
hand.

They struck into narrow by-paths going back, to avoid the people. But
it was impossible to escape all, and those they met, eyed them with
curiosity. The clear English voices rang out unconcerned; the pale
girl with the Italian eyes was visibly striving to appease her
companion, who marched ahead, angry and impassive.

For a few hundred yards neither of them spoke. Then Louise began anew.

"And that is not all. You judge harshly and unfairly because you don't
know the facts. I am almost quite alone in the world. I have no
relatives that I care for, except one brother. I lived with him, on
his station in Queensland, until I came here. But now he's married,
and there would be no room for me in the house--figuratively speaking.
If I go back now, I must share his home with his wife, whom I knew and
disliked. While here is some one who is fond of me, and is rich, and
who offers me not only a home of my own, but, what is far more to me,
an entirely new life in a new world."

"Excellent reasons! But in reckoning them up, you have forgotten what
seems to me the most important one of all; whether or no you care for
him, for this . . . "this in his trouble, he could not find a suitable
epithet.

But Louise refused to be touched. "I like him," she answered, and
looked across the slope of meadow they were passing. "I liked him,
yes, as any woman would like a man who treated her as he did
me. He was very good tome. And not in the least repugnant.--But care?"
she interrupted herself. "If by care, you mean . . . Then no, a
hundred thousand times, no! I shall never care for anyone in that way
again, and you know it. I had enough of that to last me all my life."

"Very well, then, and I say, if you married a man you care for as
little as that, I should never believe in a woman again.--Not, of
course, that it matters to you what I believe in and what I don't? But
to hear you--you, Louise!--counting up the profits to be gained from it,
like . . . like--oh, I don't know what! I couldn't have believed it of
you."

"You are a very uncomfortable person, Maurice."

"I mean to be. And more than uncomfortable. Listen to me! You talk of
it lightly and coolly; but if you married this man, without caring for
him more than you say you do, just for the sake of a home, or his
money, or his good manners, or the primitive animal, or whatever it is
that attracts you in him:"--he grew bitter again in spite of
himself--"if you did this, you would be stifling all that is good and
generous in your nature. For you may say what you like; the man is
little more than a stranger to you. What can you know of his real
character? And what can he know of you?"

"He knows as much of me as I ever intend him to know."

"Indeed! Then you wouldn't tell him, for instance, that only a few
months ago, you were eating your heart out for some one else?"

Louise winced as though the words had struck her in the face. Before
she answered, she stood still, in the middle of the path, and pinned
on, with deliberate movements, the big white hat, beneath the drooping
brim and nodding feathers of which, her eyes were as black as coals.

"No, I should not," she said. "Why should I? Do you think it would
make him care more for me to know that I had nearly died of love for
another man?"

"Certainly not. And it might also make him less ready to marry you."

"That's exactly what I think."

One was as bitter as the other; but Maurice was the more violent of
the two.

"And so you would begin the new life you talk of, with lies and
deceit?--A most excellent beginning!"

"If you like to call it that. I only know, that no one with
any sense thinks of dragging up certain things when once they are dead
and buried. Or are you, perhaps, simple enough to believe any man
living would get over what I have to tell him, and care for me
afterwards in the same way ?"

He turned, with tell-tale words on his tongue. But the expression of
her face intimidated him. He had only to look at her to know that, if
he spoke of himself at this moment, she would laugh him to scorn.

But the beloved face acted on him in its own way; his sense of injury
weakened. "Louise," he said in an altered tone; "whatever you say to
the contrary, in a matter like this, I can't advise you. For I don't
understand--and never should.--But of one thing I'm as sure as I am
that the sun will rise to-morrow, and that is, that you won't do it.
Do you honestly think you could go on living, day after day, with a
man you don't sincerely care for?--of whom the most you can say is that
he's not repugnant to you? You little know what it would mean!--And you
may reason as you will; I answer for you; and I say no, and again no.
It isn't in you to do it. You are not mean and petty enough. You can't
hide your feelings, try as you will.--No, you couldn't deceive some
one, by pretending to care for him, for months on end. You would be
miserably unhappy; and then--then I know what would happen. You would
be candid--candid about everything--when it was too late."

There was no mistaking the sincerity of his words. But Louise was
boundlessly irritated, and made no further effort to check her
resentment.

"You have an utterly false and ridiculous idea of me, and of
everything belonging to me."

"I haven't spent all this time with you for nothing. I know you better
than you know yourself. I believe in you, Louise. And I know I am
right. And some day you'll know it, too."

These words only incensed her the more.

"What you know--or think you know--is nothing to me. If you had listened
to me patiently, as I asked you to, instead of losing your temper, and
taking what I said as a personal affront, then, yes, then I should
have told you something else besides. How, when I came back, a
fortnight ago, I was quite resolved to marry this man, if he asked me
marry him and cut myself off for ever from my old life and its hateful
memories.--And why not? I'm still young. I still have a right to
pleasure--and change--and excitement.--And in all these days, I
didn't once hesitate--not till the letter came yesterday--and then not
till night. It wasn't like me; for when once I have made up my mind, I
never go back. So I determined to ask you--ask you to help me to
decide. For you had always been kind to me.--But this is what I get
for doing it." Her anger flared up anew. "You have treated me
abominably, to-day, Maurice; and I shan't forget it. All your
ridiculous notions about right and wrong don't matter a straw. What
does matter is, that when I ask for help, you should behave as if--as
if I were going to commit a crime. Your opinion is nothing to me. If I
decide to marry the man, I shall do it, no matter what you say."

"I'm sure you will."

"And if I don't, let me tell you this: it won't be because of anything
you've said to-day. Not from any high-flown notions of honesty, or
generosity, as you would like to make yourself believe; but merely
because I haven't the energy in me. I couldn't keep it up. I want to
be quiet, to have an easy life. The fact that some one else had to
suffer, too, wouldn't matter to me, in the least. It's myself I think
of, first and foremost, and as long as I live it will always be
myself."

Her voice belied her words; he expected each moment that she would
burst out crying. However, she continued to walk on, with her head
erect; and she did not take back one of the unkind things she had
said.

They parted without being reconciled. Maurice stood and watched her
mount the staircase, in the vain hope that she would turn, before
reaching the top.

He did not see how the fine May afternoon declined, and passed into
evening; how the high stacks of cloud were broken up at sunset, and
shredded into small flakes and strips of cloud, which, saturated with
gold, vanished in their turn: how the shadows in the corners turned
from blue to black; nor did he note the mists that rose like steam
from the ground, intensifying the acrid smell of garlic, with which
the woods abounded. Screened by the thicket, he sat on his accustomed
scat, and gave himself up to being miserable.

For some time he was conscious only of how deeply he had been
wounded--just as one suffers from the bruise after the blow. At the
moment, he had been stunned into a kind of quiescence; now his nerves
throbbed and tingled. But, little by little, a vivid recollection of
what had actually occurred returned to sting him: and certain details
stood out fixed and unforgettable. Yet, in reliving the hours just
past, he felt no regret at the fact that they had quarrelled. What
first smote him was an unspeakable amazement at Louise. The knowledge
that, for weeks on end, she had been contemplating marriage, was
beyond his belief. Hardly recovered from the throes of a suffering
believed incurable, and while he was still going about her with gloved
hands, as it were, she was ready to throw herself into the arms of the
first likely man she met. He could not help himself: in this
connection, every little trait in her that was uncongenial to him,
started up with appalling distinctness. Hitherto, he had put it down
to his own sensitiveness; he was over-nice. But for the most part, he
had forgiven her on account of all she had come through; for he
believed that this grief had swept destructively through her nature,
leaving a jagged wound, which only time could heal. Now, as if to
prove to him what a fool he was, she showed him that he had been
mistaken in this also; she could recover her equilibrium, while he
still hedged her round with solicitude--recover herself, and transfer
her affection to another person. Good God! Was it so easy, a matter of
so little moment, to grow fond of one who was almost a stranger to
her?--for, in spite of what she said to the contrary, he was persuaded
that she had a stronger feeling for this man than she had been willing
to admit: this riper man, with his experienced way of treating women.
Was, then, his own idea of her wholly false? Was there, after all,
something in her nature that he could not, would not, understand? He
denied it fiercely, almost before he had formulated the question: no
matter what her actions were, or what words she said, deep down in her
was an intense will for good, a spring of noble impulse. It was only
that she had never had a proper chance. But he denied it to a vision
of her face: the haunting eyes which, at first sight, had destroyed
his peace of mind; the dead black hair against the ivory-coloured
skin. It was in these things that the truth lay, not in the blind
promptings of her inclination.

For the first time, the idea of marriage took definite shape in his
mind. For all he knew, it might have been lying dormant there, all
along; but he would doubtless have remained unconscious of it, for
weeks to come, had it not been for the events of the afternoon. Now,
however, Louise had made it plain that his feelings for her were of an
exaggerated delicacy; plain that she herself had no such scruples. He
need hesitate no longer. But marry! . . . marriage! . . . he marry
Louise!--at the thought of it, he laughed. That he, Maurice
Guest, should, for an instant, put himself on a par with her American
suitor! The latter, rich, leisured, able to satisfy her caprices,
surround her with luxury: himself, younger than she by several years,
without prospects, with nothing to offer her but a limitless devotion.
He tried to imagine himself saying: "Louise, will you marry me?" and
the words stuck in his throat; for he saw the amused astonishment of
her eyes. And not merely at the presumption he would be guilty of;
what was as clear to him as day was that she did not really care for
him; not as he cared for her; not with the faintest hint of a warmer
feeling. If he had never grasped this before, he did so now, to the
full. Sitting there, he affirmed to himself that she did not even like
him. She was grateful to him, of course, for his help and friendship;
but that was all. Beyond this, he would not have been surprised to
learn from her own lips that she actually disliked him: for there was
something irreconcilable about their two natures. And never, for a
moment, had she considered him in the light of an eligible lover--oh,
how that stung! Here was she, with an attraction for him which nothing
could weaken; and in him was not the smallest lineament, of body or of
mind, to wake a response in her. He was powerless to increase her
happiness by a hair's breadth. Her nerves would never answer to the
inflection of his voice, or the touch of his hand. How could such
things be? What anomaly was here?

To-day, her face rose before him unsought--the sweet, dark face with
the expression of slight melancholy that it wore in repose, as he
loved it best. It was with him when, stiff and tired, he emerged from
his seclusion, and walked home through the trails of mist that hung,
breast-high, on the meadow-land. It was with him under the
street-lamps, and, to its accompanying presence, the strong conviction
grew in him that evasion on his part was no longer possible. Sooner or
later, come what might, the words he had faltered over, even to
himself, would have to be spoken.




XI.



One day, some few weeks later, Madeleine sat at her writingtable,
biting the end of her pen. A sheet of note-paper lay before her; but
she had not yet written a word. She frowned to herself, as she sat.

Hard at work that morning, she had heard a ring at the door-bell, and,
a minute after, her landlady ushered in a visitor, in the shape of
Miss Martin. Madeleine rose from the piano with ill-concealed
annoyance, and having seated Miss Martin on the sofa, waited
impatiently for the gist of her visit; for she was sure that the
lively American would not come to see her without an object. And she
was right: she knew to a nicety when the important moment arrived.
Most of the visit was preamble; Miss Martin talked at length of her
own affairs, assuming, with disarming candour, that they interested
other people as much as herself. She went into particulars about her
increasing dissatisfaction with Schwarz, and retailed the glowing
accounts she heard on all sides of a teacher called Schrievers. He was
not on the staff of the Conservatorium; but he had been a favourite of
Liszt's, and was attracting many pupils. From this, Miss Martin passed
to more general topics, such as the blow Dove had recently received
over the head of his attachment to pretty Susie Fay. "Why, Sue, she
feels perfectly DREADFUL about it. She can't understand Mr. Dove
thinking they were anything but real good friends. Most every one here
knew right away that Sue had her own boy down home in Illinois. Yes,
indeed."

Madeleine displayed her want of interest in Dove's concerns so
plainly, that Miss Martin could not do otherwise than cease discussing
them. She rose to end her call. As, however, she stood for the
momentary exchange of courtesies that preceded the hand-shake, she
said, in an off-hand way: "Miss Wade, I presume I needn't inquire if
you're acquainted with the latest about Louise Dufrayer? I say, I
guess I needn't inquire, seeing you're so well acquainted with Mr.
Guest. I presume, though, you don't see so much of him now. No,
indeed. I hear he's thrown over all his friends. I feel real
disappointed about him. I thought he was a most agreeable young man.
But, as momma says, you never can tell. An' I reckon Louise is
most to blame. Seems like she simply CAN'T exist without a beau. But I
wonder she don't feel ashamed to show herself, the way she's talked
of. Why, the stories I hear about her! . . . an' they're always
together. She's gotten her a heap of new things, too--a millionaire
asked her to marry him, when she was in Dresden, but he wasn't good
enough for her, no ma'am, an' all on account of Mr. Guest.--Yes,
indeed. But I must say I feel kind of sorry for him, anyway. He was a
real pleasant young man."

"Maurice Guest is quite able to look after. himself," said Madeleine
drily.

"Is that so? Well, I presume you ought to know, you were once so well
acquainted with him--if I may say, Miss Wade, we all thought it was you
was his fancy. Yes, indeed."

"Oh, I always knew he liked Louise."

But this was the chief grudge she, too, bore him: that he had been so
little open with her. His seeming frankness had been merely a feint;
he had gone his own way, and had never really let her know what he was
thinking and planning. She now recalled the fact that Louise had only
once been mentioned between them, since the time of her illness, over
six months ago; and she, Madeleine, had foolishly believed his
reticence to be the result of a growing indifference.

Since the night of the ball, they had shunned each other, by tacit
consent. But, though she could avoid him in person, Madeleine could
not close her cars to the gossipy tales that circulated. In the last
few weeks, too, the rumours had become more clamatory: these two
misguided creatures had obviously no regard for public opinion; and
several times, Madeleine had been obliged to go out of her own way, to
escape meeting them face to face. On these occasions, she told herself
that she had done with Maurice Guest; and this decision was the more
easy as, since the beginning of the year, she had moved almost
entirely in German circles. But now the distasteful tattle was thrust
under her very nose. It seemed to put things in a different light to
hear Maurice pitied and discussed in this very room. In listening to
her visitor, she had felt once more how strong her right of possession
was in him; she was his oldest friend in Leipzig. Now she was ready to
blame herself for having let her umbrage stand in the way of them
continuing friends: had he been dropping in as he had formerly done,
she might have prevented things from going so far, and
certainly have been of use in hindering them from growing worse; for,
with Louise, one was never sure. And so she determined to write to
him, without delay. In this, though, she was piqued as well by a
violent curiosity. Louise said to have given up a good match for his
sake! xxx she could not believe it. It was incredible that she could care
for him as he cared for her. Madeleine knew them both too well;
Maurice was not the type of man by whom Louise was attracted.

She wrote in a guarded way.

IT SEEMS ABSURD THAT OLD FRIENDS SHOULD BEHAVE AS WE ARE DOING. IF
ANYTHING THAT HAPPENED WAS MY FAULT, FORGIVE IT, AND SHOW ME YOU DON'T
BEAR ME A GRUDGE, BY COMING TO SEE ME TO-MORROW AFTERNOON.

They had not met for close on four months, and, for the first few
minutes after his arrival, Madeleine was confused by the change that
had taken place in Maurice. It was not only that he was paler and
thinner than of old: his boyish manner had deserted him; and, when he
forgot himself, his eyes had a strange, brooding expression.

"Other-worldly . . . almost," thought Madeleine; and, in order to
surmount an awkwardness she had been resolved not to feel, she talked
glibly. Maurice said he could not stay long, and wished to keep his
hat in his hand; but before he knew it, he was sitting in his
accustomed place on the sofa.

As they stirred their tea, she told him how annoyed she had felt at
having recently had a performance postponed in favour of Avery Hill:
and how the latter was said to be going crazy, with belief in her own
genius. Maurice seemed to be in the dark about what was happening, and
made no attempt to hide his ignorance. She could see, too, that he was
not interested in these things; he played with a tassel of the sofa,
and did not notice when she stopped speaking.

It is his turn now, she said to herself, and left the silence that
followed unbroken. Before it had lasted long, however, he looked up
from his employment of twisting the tassel as far round as it would
go, and then letting it fly back. "I say, Madeleine, now I'm here,
there's something I should like to ask you. I hope, though, you won't
think it impertinence on my part." He cleared his throat. "Once or
twice lately I've heard a report about you--several times, indeed. I
didn't pay any attention to it--not till a few days back, that
is--when I saw it--or thought I saw it--confirmed with my own eyes. I was
at Bonorand's on Monday evening; I was behind you."

In an instant Madeleine had grasped what he was driving at. "Well, and
what of that, pray?" she asked. "Do you think I should have been
there, if I had been ashamed of it?"

"I saw whom you were with," he went on, and treated the tassel so
roughly that it came away in his hand. "I say, Madeleine, it can't be
true, what they say--that you are thinking of . . . of marrying that
old German?"

Madeleine coloured, but continued to meet his eyes. "And why not?" she
asked again.--"Don't destroy my furniture, please."

"Why not?" he echoed, and laid the tassel on the table. "Well, if you
can ask that, I should say you don't know the facts of the case. If I
had a sister, Madeleine, I shouldn't care to see her going about with
that man. He's an old ??  ??--don't you know he has had two wives, and is
divorced from both?"

"Fiddle-dee-dee! You and your sister! Do you think a man is going to
come to nearly fifty without knowing something of life? That he hasn't
been happy in his matrimonial relations is his misfortune, not his
fault."

"Then it's true?"

"Why not?" she asked for the third time.

"Then, of course, I've nothing more to say. I've no right to interfere
in your private affairs. I hoped I should still be in time--that's
all."

"No, you can't go yet, sit still," she said peremptorily. "I too, have
something to say.--But will you first tell me, please, what it can
possibly matter to you, whether you are in time, as you call it, or
not?"

"Why, of course, it matters.--We haven't seen much of each other
lately; but you were my first friend here, and I don't forget it.
Particularly in a case like this, where everything is against the idea
of you marrying this man: your age--your character--all common sense."

"Those are only words, Maurice. With regard to my age, I am over
twenty-seven, as you know. I need no boy of eighteen for a husband.
Then I am plain: I shall never attract anyone by my personal
appearance, nor will a man ever be led to do foolish things for my
sake. I have worked hard all my life, and have never known what it is
to let to-morrow take care of itself.--Now here, at last, comes
a man of an age not wholly unsuitable to mine, whatever you may say.
What though he has enjoyed life? He offers me, not only a certain
social standing, but material comfort for the rest of my days.
Whereas, otherwise, I may slave on to the end, and die eventually in a
governesses' home."

"YOU would never do that. You are not one of that kind. But do you
think, for a moment, you'd be happy in such a position of dependence?"

"That's my own affair. There would certainly be nothing extraordinary
in it, if I were."

"As you put it, perhaps not. But------If it were even some one of your
own race! But these foreigners think so queerly. And then, too,
Madeleine, you'll laugh, I daresay, but I've always thought of you as
different from other women--strong and independent, and quite sure of
yourself. The kind of girl that makes others seem little and stupid.
No one here was good enough for you."

Madeleine's amazement was so great that she did not reply immediately.
Then she laughed. "You have far too high an opinion of me. Do you
really think I like standing alone? That I do it by preference?--You
were never more mistaken, if you do. It has always been a case of
necessity with me, no one ever having asked me to try the other way. I
suppose like you, they thought I enjoyed it. However, set your mind at
rest. Your kind intervention has not come too late. There is still
nothing definite."

"I'm glad to hear it."

"I don't say there mayn't be," she added. "Herr Lohse and I are
excellent friends, and it won't occur to me not to accept the
theatre-tickets and other amusements he is able to give me.--But it is
also possible that for the sake of 'your ideals, I may die a solitary
old maid."

Here she was overcome by the comical side of the matter, and burst out
laughing.

"What a ridiculous boy you are! If you only knew how you have turned
the tables on me. I sent for you, this afternoon, to give you a sound
talking-to, and instead of that, here you sit and lecture me."

"Well, if I have achieved something----"

"It's too absurd," she repeated more tartly. "For you to come here in
this way to care for my character, when you yourself are the talk of
the place."

His face changed, as she had meant it to do. He choked back a
sharp rejoinder. "I'd be obliged, if you'd leave my affairs out of the
question."

"I daresay you would. But that's just what I don't intend to do. For
if there are rumours going the round about me, what on earth is one to
say of you? I needn't go into details. You know quite well what I
mean. Let me tell you that your name is in everybody's mouth, and that
you are being made to appear not only contemptible, but ridiculous."

"The place is a hot-bed of scandal. I've told you that before," he
cried, angry enough now. "These dirty-minded MUSIKER think it outside
the bounds of possibility for two people to be friends." But his tone
was unsure, and he was conscious of it.

"Yes--when one of the two is Louise."

"Kindly leave Miss Dufrayer out of the question."

"Oh, Maurice, don't Miss Dufrayer me!--I knew Louise before you even
knew that she existed.--But answer me one question, and I'm done. Are
you engaged to Louise?"

"Most certainly not."

"Well, then, you ought to be.--For though you don't care what people
say about yourself, your conscience will surely prick you when you
hear that you're destroying the last shred of reputation Louise had
left.--I should be sorry to repeat to you what is being said of her."

But after he had gone, she reproached herself for having put such a
question to him. At the pass things had reached, it was surely best
for him to go through with his infatuation, and get over it. Whereas
she, in a spasm of conventionality, had pointed him out the sure road
to perdition; for the worst thing that could happen would be for him
to bind himself to Louise, in any fashion. As if her reputation
mattered! The more rapidly she got rid of what remained to her, the
better it would be for every one, and particularly for Maurice Guest.

Had Maurice been in doubt as to Madeleine's meaning, it would have
been removed within a few minutes of his leaving the house. As he
turned a corner of the Gewandhaus, he came face to face with Krafft.
Though they had not met for weeks, Heinrich passed with no greeting
but a disagreeable smile. Maurice was not half-way across the road,
however, when Krafft came running back, and, taking the lappel of his
friend's coat, allowed his wit to play round the talent Maurice
displayed for wearing dead men's shoes.

CARMEN was given that night in the theatre; Maurice had fetched
tickets from the box-office in the morning. An ardent liking for the
theatre had sprung up in Louise of late; and they were there sometimes
two or three evenings in succession. Besides this, CARMEN was her
favourite opera, which she never missed. They heard it from the
second-top gallery. Leaning back in his corner, Maurice could see
little of the stage; but the bossy waves of his companion's head were
sharply outlined for him against the opposite tier.

Louise was engrossed in what was happening on the stage; her eyes were
wide open, immovable. He had never known anyone surrender himself so
utterly to the mimic life of the theatre. Under the influence of music
or acting that gripped her, Louise lost all remembrance of her
surroundings: she lived blindly into this unreal world, without the
least attempt at criticism. Afterwards, she returned to herself tired
and dispirited, and with a marked distaste for the dullness of real
life. Here, since the first lively clash of the orchestra, since the
curtain rose on gay Sevilla, she had been as far away from him as if
she were on another planet. Not, he was obliged to confess to himself,
that it made very much difference. Though he was now her constant
companion, though his love for her was stronger than it had ever been,
he knew less of her to-day than he had known six months ago, when one
all-pervading emotion had made her life an open book.

Since that unhappy afternoon on which he learnt the contents of the
letter from Dresden, they had spent a part of nearly every day in each
other's company. Louise had borne him no malice for what he had said
to her; indeed, with the generous forgetfulness of offence, which was
one of the most astonishing traits in her character, she met him, the
day after, as though nothing had passed between them. By common
consent, they never referred to the matter again; Maurice did not know
to this day, whether or how she had answered the letter. For, although
she had forgiven him, she was not quite the same with him as before; a
faint change had come over their relation to each other. It was
something so elusive that he could not have defined it; yet
nevertheless it existed, and he was often acutely conscious of it. It
was not that she kept her thoughts to herself; but she did not say ALL
she thought--that was it. And this shade of reserve, in her who had
been so frank, ate into him sorely. He accepted it, though, as a
chastisement, for he had been in a very contrite frame of mind on
awakening to the knowledge that he had all but lost her. And
so the days had slipped away. An outsider had first to open his eyes
to the fact that it was impossible for things to go on any longer as
they were doing; that, for her sake, he must make an end, and quickly.

And yet it had been so easy to drift, so hard to do otherwise, when
Louise accepted all he did for her as a matter of course, in that
high-handed way of hers which took no account of details. He felt
sorry for her, too, for she was not happy. There was a gnawing
discontent in her just now, and for this, in great measure, he held
himself responsible: for a few weeks she had been buoyed up by the
hope of a new life, and he had been the main agent in destroying this
hope. In return, he had had nothing to offer her--nothing but a rigid
living up to certain uncomfortable ideals, which brought neither
change nor pleasure with them: and, despite his belief in the innate
nobility of her nature, he could not but recognise that ideals were
for her something colder and sterner than for other people.

She made countless demands on his indulgence, and he learnt to see,
only too clearly, what a dependent creature she was. It was more than
a boon, it was a necessity to her, to have some one at her side who
would care for her comfort and well-being. He could not picture her
alone; for no one had less talent than she for the trifles that
compose life. Her thoughts seemed always to be set on something
larger, vaguer, beyond.

He devoted as much time to her as he could spare from his work, and
strove to meet her half-way in all she asked. But it was no slight
matter; for her changes of mood had never been so abrupt as they were
now. He did not know how to treat her. Sometimes, she was cold and
unapproachable, so wrapped up in herself that he could not get near
her; and perhaps only an hour later, her lips would curve upwards in
the smile which made her look absurdly young, and her eyes, too, have
all the questioning wonder of a child's. Or she would be silent with
him, not unkindly, but silent as a sphinx; and, on the same day, a fit
of loquacity would seize her, when she was unable to speak quickly
enough for the words that bubbled to her lips. He managed to please
her seldomer than ever. But however she behaved, he never faltered.
The right to be beside her was now his; and the times she was the
hardest on him were the times he loved her best.

As spring, having reached and passed perfection, slipped over
into summer, she was invaded by a restlessness that nothing could
quell. It got into her hands and her voice, into all her movements,
and worked upon her like a fever-like a crying need. So intense did it
become that it communicated itself to him also. He, too, began to feel
that rest and stillness were impossible for them both, and to be
avoided at any cost.

"I have never really seen spring," Louise said to him, one day, in
excuse of some irrational impulse that had driven her out of the
house. And the quick picture she drew, of how, in her native land, the
brief winter passed almost without transi tion into the scathing
summer; her suggestion of unchanging leaves, brown barrenness, and and
dryness; of grass burnt to cinders, of dust, drought, and hot, sandy
winds: all this helped him to understand something of what she was
feeling. A remembrance of this parched heat was in her veins, making
her eager not to miss any of the young, teeming beauty around her, or
one of the new strange scents; eager to let the magic of this
awakening permeate her and amaze her, like a primeval hap pening. But,
though he thus grasped something of what was going on in her, he was
none the less uneasy under it: just as her feverish unburdening of
herself after hours of silence, so now her attitude towards this mere
change of nature disquieted him; she over-enjoyed it, let herself go
in its exuberance. And, as usual, when she lost hold of her nerves, he
found himself retreating into his shell, practising self-control for
two.

Often, how often he could not count, the words that had to be said had
risen to his lips. But they had never crossed them--in spite of the
wanton greenness of the woods, which should have been the very frame
in which to tell a woman you loved her. But not one drop of her
nervous exaltation was meant for him: she had never shown, by the
least sign, that she cared a jot for him; and daily he became more
convinced that he was chasing a shadow, that he was nothing to her but
the STAFFAGE in the picture of her life. He was torn by doubts, and
mortally afraid of the one little word that would put an end to them.

He recollected one occasion when he had nearly succeeded in telling
her, and when, but for a trick of fate, he would have done so. They
were on their way home from the NONNE, where the delicate undergrowth
of the high old trees was most prodigal, and where Louise had closed
her eyes, and drunk in the rich, earthy odours. They had
paused on the suspension. bridge, and stood, she with one ungloved
hand on the railing, to watch the moving water. Looking at her, it had
seemed to him that just on this afternoon, she might listen to what he
had to say with a merciful attentiveness; she was quiet, and her face
was gentle. He gripped the rail with both hands. But, before he could
open his lips, a third person turned from the wood-path on to the
bridge, making it tremble with his steps--a jaunty cavalry officer,
with a trim moustache and bright dancing eyes. He walked past them,
but threw a searching look at Louise, and, a little further along the
bridge, stood still, as if to watch something that was floating in the
water, in reality to look covertly back at her. She had taken no
notice of him as he passed, but when he paused, she raised her head;
and then she looked at him--with a preoccupied air, it was true, but
none the less steadily, and for several seconds on end. The words died
on Maurice's lips: and going home, he was as irresponsive as she
herself . . .

"I love you, Louise--love you." He said it now, sitting back in his
dark corner in the theatre; but amid the buzz and hum of the music,
and the shouting of the toreadors, he might have called the words
aloud, and still she would not have heard them.

Strangely enough, however, at this moment, for the first time during
the evening, she turned her head. His eyes were fixed on her, in a
dark, exorbitant gaze. Her own face hardened.

"The opera-glass!"

Maurice opened the jeather case, and gave her the glass. Their fingers
met, and hers groped for a moment round his hand. He withdrew it as
though her touch had burnt him. Louise flashed a glance at him, and
laid the opera-glass en the ledge in front of her, without making use
of it.

Slowly the traitorous blood subsided. To the reverberating music,
which held all ears, and left him sitting alone with his fate, Maurice
had a moment of preternatural clearness. He realised that only one
course was open to him, and that was to go away. BEI NACHT UND NEBEL,
if it could not be managed otherwise, but, however it happened, he
must go. More wholly for her sake than Madeleine had dreamed of:
unless he wanted to be led into some preposterous folly that would
embitter the rest of his life. Who could say how long the wall he had
built up round her--of the knowledge he shared with her, of
pity for what she had undergone--would stand against the onset of this
morbid, overmastering desire?

To the gay, feelingless music, he thought out his departure in detail,
sparing himself nothing.

But in the long interval after the second act, when they were
downstairs on the LOGGIA, where it was still half daylight; where the
lights of cafes and street-lamps were only beginning here and there to
dart into existence; where every man they met seemed to notice Louise
with a start of attention: here Maurice was irrevocably convinced that
it would be madness to resign his hard-won post without a struggle.
For that it would long remain empty, he did not for a moment delude
himself.

They hardly exchanged a word during the remainder of the evening. His
mouth was dry. Carmen, and her gaudy fate, drove past him like the
phantasmagoria of a sleepless night.

When, the opera was over, and they stood waiting for the crowd to
thin, he scanned his companion's face with anxiety, to discover her
mood. With her hand on the wire ledge, Louise watched the slow fall of
the iron curtain. Her eyes were heavy; she still lived in what she had
seen.

Her preoccupation continued as they crossed the square; her movements
were listless. Maurice's thoughts went back to a similar night, a year
ago, when, for the first time, he had walked at her side: it had been
just such a warm, lilac-scented night as this, and then, as now, he
had braced himself up to speak. At that time he had known her but
slightly; perhaps, for that very reason, he had been bolder in taking
the plunge.

He turned and looked at her. Her face was averted: he could only see
the side of her cheek, and the clear-cut line of her chin.

"Are you tired, Louise?" he asked, and, in the protective tenderness
of his tone, her name sounded like a term of endearment.

She made a vague gesture, which might signify either yes or no.

"It was too hot for you up there, to-night," he went on. "Next time, I
shall take you a scat downstairs--as I've always wanted to." As she
still did not respond, he added, in a changed voice: "Altogether,
though, it will be better for you to get accustomed to going alone to
the theatre."

She turned at this, with an indolent curiosity. "Why?"

"Because--why, because it will soon be necessary. I'm going away."

He had made a beginning now, clumsily, and not as he had intended, but
it was made, and he would stand fast.

"You are going away?"

She said each word distinctly, as if she doubted her ears.

"Yes."

"Why, Maurice?"

"For several reasons. It's not a new decision. I've been thinking
about it for some time."

"Indeed? Then why choose just to-night to tell me?--you've had plenty
of other chances. And to-night I had enjoyed the theatre, and the
music, and coming out into the air . . ."

"I'm sorry. But I've put it off too long as it is. I ought to have
told you before.--Louise . . . you must see that things can't go on
like this any longer?"

His voice begged her for once to look at the matter as he did. But she
heard only the imperative.

"Must?" she repeated. "I don't see--not at all."

"Yes.--For your sake, I must go."

"Ah!--that makes it clearer. People have been talking, have they? Well,
let them talk."

"I can't hear you spoken of in that way."

"Oh, you're very good. But if we, ourselves, know that what's being
said is not true, what can it matter?"

"I refuse to be the cause of it."

"Do you, indeed?" She laughed. "You refuse? After doing all you can to
make yourself indispensable, you now say: get on as best you can
alone; I've had enough; I must go.--Don't say it's on my account--that
the thought of yourself is not at the bottom of it--for I wouldn't
believe you though you did."

"I give you my word, I have only thought of you. I meant it . . . I
mean it, for the best."

She quickened her steps, and he saw that she was nervously worked up.

"No man can want to injure the woman he respects--as I respect you."

Her shoulders rose, in her own emotional way.

"But tell me one thing," he begged, as she walked inexorable before
him. "Say it will matter a little to you if I go--that you will miss
me--if ever so little . . . Louise !"

"Miss you? What does it matter whether I miss you or not? It
seems to me that counts least of all. You, at any rate, will have
acted properly. You will have nothing to reproach yourself with.--Oh, I
wouldn't be a man for anything on earth! You are all--all alike. I hate
you and despise you--every one of you!"

They were within a few steps of the house. She pressed on, and,
without looking back at him, or wishing him good-night, disappeared in
the doorway.




XII.



It was a hot evening in June: the perfume of the lilac, now in fullest
bloom, lay over squares and gardens like a suspended wave. The sun had
gone down in a cloudless sky; an hour afterwards, the pavements were
still warm to the touch, and the walls of the buildings radiated the
heat they had absorbed. The high old houses in the inner town had all
windows set open, and the occupants leaned out on their
window-cushions, with continental nonchalance. The big garden-cafes
were filled to the last scat. In the woods, the midges buzzed round
people's heads in accompanying clouds; and streaks of treacherous
white mist trailed, like fixed smoke, over the low-lying meadow-land.

Maurice and Louise had rowed to Connewitz; but so late in the evening
that most of the variously shaped boats, with coloured lanterns at
their bows, were returning when they started.

Louise herself had proposed it. When he went to her that afternoon, he
found her stretched on the sofa. A theatre-ticket lay on the table--for
she had taken him at his word, and shown him that she could do without
him. But to-night she had no fancy for the theatre: it was too hot.
She looked very slight and young in her white dress; but was moody and
out of spirits.

On the way to Connewitz, they spoke no more than was necessary. Coming
back, however, they had the river to themselves; and she no longer
needed to steer. He placed cushions for her at the bottom of the boat;
and there she lay, with her hands clasped under her neck, watching the
starry strip of sky, which followed them, between the tops of the
trees above, like a complement of the river below.

The solitude was unbroken; they might have gone down in the murky
water, and no one would ever know how it had happened: a snag caught
unawares; a clumsy movement in the light boat; half a minute, and all
would be over.--Or, for the first and the last time in his life, he
would take her in his arms, hold her to him, feel her cheek on his; he
would kiss her, with kisses that were at once an initiation and a
farewell; then, covering her eyes with his hands, he would gently,
very gently, tilt the boat. A moment's hesitation; it sought
to right itself; rocked violently, and overturned: and beneath it,
locked in each other's arms, they found a common grave. . . .

In fancy, he saw it all. Meanwhile, he rowed on, with long, leisurely
strokes; and the lapping of the water round the oars was the only
sound to be heard.

At home, on the lid of his piano, lay the prospectuses of
music-schools in other towns. They were still arriving, in answer to
the impulsive letters he had written off, the night after the theatre.
But the last to come had remained unopened.--He was well aware of it:
his lingering on had all the appearance of a weak reluctance to face
the inevitable. For he could never make mortal understand what he had
come through, in the course of the past week. He could no more put
into words the isolated spasms of ecstasy he had experienced--when
nothing under the sun seemed impossible--than he could describe the
slough of misery and uncertainty, which, on occasion, he had been
forced to wade through. For the most part, he believed that the words
of contempt Louise had spoken, came straight from her heart; but he
had also known the faint stir ring of a new hope, and particularly was
this the case when he had not seen Louise for some time. Then, at
night, as he lay staring before him, this feeling became a sudden
refulgence, which lighted him through all the dark hours, only to be
reorselessly extinguished by daylight. Most frequently, however, it
was so slender a hope as to be a mere distracting flutter at his
heart. Whence it sprang, he could not tell--he knew Louise too well to
believe, for a moment, that she would make use of pique to hide her
feelings. But there was a something in her manner, which was strained;
in the fact that she, who had never cared, should at length be moved
by words of his; in a certain way she had looked at him, once or twice
in these days; or in a certain way she had avoided looking at him. No,
he did not know what it was. But nevertheless it was there--a faint,
inarticulate existence--and, compared with it, the tangible facts of
life were the shadows of a shadow.

Surely she had fallen asleep. He said her name aloud, to try her.
"Louise!" She did not stir, and the word floated out into the
night--became an expression of the night itself.

They had passed the weir and its foaming, and now glided under the
bridges that spanned the narrower windings of the river. The wooden
bathing-house looked awesome enough to harbour mysteries. Another
sharp turn, among sedge and rushes, and the outlying streets
of the town were on their right. The boat-sheds were in darkness, when
they drew up alongside the narrow landing-place. Maurice got out with
the chain in his hand, and secured the boat. Louise did not follow
immediately. her hair had come down, and she was stiff from the
cramped position in which she had been lying. When she did rise to her
feet, she could hardly stand. He put out his hand, and steadied her by
the arm.

"A heavy dew must be falling. Your sleeve is wet."

She made a movement to draw her arm away; at the same moment, she
tangled her foot in her skirt, tripped, and, if he had not caught her,
would have fallen forward.

"Take care what you're doing! Do you want to drown yourself?"

"I don't know. I shouldn't mind, I think," she answered tonelessly.

His own balance had been endangered. Directly he had righted himself,
he set her from him. But it could not be undone: he had had her in his
arms, had felt all her weight on him. The sensation seemed to take his
strength away: after the long, black, silent evening, her body was
doubly warm, doubly real. He walked her back, along the deserted
streets, at a pace she could not keep up with. She lagged behind. She
was very pale, and her face wore an expression of almost physical
suffering. She looked resolutely away from Maurice; but when her eyes
did chance to rest on him, she was swept by such a sense of nervous
irritation that she hated the sight of him, as he walked before her.

Upstairs, in her room, when he had laid the cushions on the sofa; when
the lamp was lighted and set on the table; when he still stood there,
pale, and wretched, and undecided, Louise came to an abrupt decision.
Advancing to the table, she leaned her hands on it, and bending
forward, raised her white face to his.

"You told me you were going away; why do you not go? Why have you not
already gone?" she asked, and her mouth was hard. "I am waiting . . .
expecting to hear."

His answer was so hasty that it was all but simultaneous.

"Louise!--can't you forgive me?--for what I said the other night?"

"I have nothing to forgive," she replied, coldly in spite of herself.
"You said you must go. I can't keep you here against your will."

"It has made you angry with me. I have made you unhappy."

"You are making us both unhappy," she said in a low voice. "Now, it is
I who say, things can't go on like this."

"I know it." He drew a deep breath. "Louise! . . . if only you could
care a little!"

There was silence after these words, but not a silence of conclusion;
both knew now that more must follow. He raised his head, and looked
into her eyes.

"Can you not see how I love you--and how I suffer?"

It was a statement rather than a question, but he was not aware of
this: he was only amazed that, after all, he should be able to speak
so quietly, in such an even tone of voice.

There was another pause of suspense; his words seemed like balls of
down that he had tossed into the still air: they sank, lingeringly,
without haste; and she stood, and let them descend on her. His haggard
eyes hung on her face; and, as he watched, he saw a change come over
it: the enmity that had been in it, a few seconds back, died out; the
lips softened and relaxed; and when the eyes were raised to his again,
they were kind, full of pity.

"I'm sorry. Poor boy . . . poor Maurice."

She seemed to hesitate; then, with one of her frankest gestures, held
out her hand. At its touch, soft and living, he forgot everything:
plans and resolutions, hopes and despairs, happiness and unhappiness
no longer existed for him; he knew only that she was sorry for him,
that some swift change in her had made her sympathise and understand.
He looked down, with dim eyes, at the sweet, pale face, now alight
with compassion then, with disarming abruptness, he took her head
between his hands, and kissed her, repeatedly, whereever his lips
chanced to fall--on the warm mouth, the closed eyes, temples, and hair.

He was gone before she recovered from her surprise. She had
instinctively stemmed her hands against his shoulders; but, when she
was alone, she stood just as he left her, her eyes still shut, letting
the sensation subside, of rough, unexpected kisses. She had been taken
unawares; her heart was beating. For a moment or two, she remained in
the same attitude; then she passed her hand over her face. "That was
foolish of him . . . very," she said. She looked down at herself and
saw her hands. She stretched them out before her, with a sudden sense
of emptiness.

"If I could care! Yes--if I could only care!"

At two o'clock that morning, Maurice wrote:

FORGIVE ME--I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT I WAS DOING. FOR I LOVE YOU, LOUISE--NO
WOMAN HAS EVER BEEN LOVED AS YOU ARE. I KNOW IT IS FOLLY ON MY PART. I
HAVE NOTHING TO OFFER YOU. BUT BE MY WIFE, AND I WILL WORK MY FINGERS
TO THE BONE FOR YOU.

He went out into the summer night, and posted the letter. Returning to
his room, he threw himself on the sofa, and fell into a heavy sleep,
from which he did not wake till the morning was well advanced.

Work was out of the question that day, when he waited as if for a
sentence of death. He paced his narrow room, incessantly, afraid to go
out, for fear of missing her reply. The hours dragged themselves by,
as it is their special province to do in crises of life; and with each
one that passed, he grew more convinced what her answer to his letter
would be.

It was late in the afternoon when the little boy she employed as a
messenger, put a note into his hands.

COME TO ME THIS EVENING.

It was all but evening now; he went, just as he was, on the heels of
the child.

The windows of her room were open. She sprang up to meet him, then
paused. He looked desperately yet stealthily at her. The commiseration
of the previous night was still in her face; but she was now quite
sure of herself: she drew him to the sofa and made him sit down beside
her. Then, however, for a few seconds, in which he waited with
hammering pulses, she did not speak. The dull fear at his heart became
a certainty; and, unable to bear the suspense any longer, he took one
of her hands and laid it on his forehead.

Then she said: "Maurice--poor, foolish Maurice!--it is not possible. You
see that yourself, I'm sure."

"Yes. I know quite well: it is presumption."

"Oh, I don't mean that. But there are so many reasons. And you, too,
Maurice . . . Look at me, and tell me if what you wrote was not just
an attempt to make up for what happened last night." And as he did not
reply, she added: "You mustn't make yourself reproaches. I, too, was
to blame."

"It was nothing of the sort. I've been trying for weeks now to
tell you. I love you--have loved you since the first time I saw you."

He let go of her hand, and she sat forward, with her arms along her
knees. Her eyes were troubled; but she did not lose her calm manner of
speaking. "I'm sorry, Maurice, very sorry--you believe me' don't you,
when I say so? But believe me, too, it's not so serious as you think.
You are young. You will get over it, and forget--if not soon, at least
in time. You must forget me, and some day you will meet the nice, good
woman, who is to be your wife. And when that happens, you will look
back on your fancy for me as something foolish, and unreal. You won't
be able to understand it then, and you will be grateful to me, for not
having taken you at your word."

Maurice laughed. All the same, he tried to take his dismissal well: he
rose, wrung her hand, and left her.

In the seclusion of his own room, he went through the blackest hour of
his life.

He began to make final preparations for his departure. His choice had
fallen on Stuttgart: it was far distant from Leipzig; he would be well
out of temptation's way--the temptation suddenly to return. He wrote a
letter home, apprising his relatives of his intention: by the time
they received the letter, it would be too late for them to interfere.
Otherwise, he took no one into his confidence. He would greatly have
liked to wait until the present term was over; another month, and the
summer vacation would have begun, and he would have been able to leave
without making himself conspicuous. But every day it grew more
impossible to be there and not to see her--for four days now he had
kept away, fighting down his unreasoning desire to know what she was
doing. He intended only to see her once more, to bid her good-bye.

The afternoon before his interview with Schwarz--he had arranged this
with himself for the morning, at the master's private house--he sat at
his writing-table, destroying papers and old letters. There was a heap
of ashes in the cold stove by the time he took out, tied up in a
separate packet, the few odd scraps of writing he had received from
Louise. He balanced the bundle in his hand, hesitating what to do with
it. Finally, he untied the string, to glance through the letters once
again.

At the sight of the bold, black, familiar writing, in which each
word--two or three to a line--seemed to have a life of its own; at the
well-conned pages, each of which he knew by heart; at the
characteristic, almost masculine signature, and the faint perfume that
still clung to the paper: at the sight of these things all--that he
had been thinking and planning since seeing her last, was effaced from
his mind. As often before, where she was concerned, a wild impulse,
surging up in him, took entire possession of him; and hours of patient
and laborious reasoning were by one swift stroke blotted out.

He rose, locked the letters up again, rested his arm on the lid of the
piano, his head on his arm. The more he toyed with his inclination to
go to her, the more absorbent it became, and straightway it was an
ungovernable longing: it came over him with a dizzy force, which made
him close his eyes; and he was as helpless before it as the drunkard
before his craving to drink. Standing thus, he saw with a flash of
insight that, though he went away as far as steam could carry him, he
would never, as long as he lived, be safe from overthrows of this
kind. It was something elemental, which he could no more control than
the flow of his blood. And he did not even stay to excuse himself to
himself: he went headlong to her, with burning words on his lips.

"My poor boy," she said, when he ceased to speak. "Yes, I know what it
is--that sudden rage that comes over one, to rush back, at all costs,
no matter what happens afterwards.--I'm so sorry for you, Maurice. It
is making me unhappy."

"You are not to be unhappy. It shall not happen again, I promise
you.--Besides, I shall soon be gone now." But at his own words, the
thought of his coming desolation pierced him anew. "Give me just one
straw to cling to! Tell me you won't forget me all at once; that you
will miss me and think of me--if ever so little."

"You asked me that the other night. Was what I said then, not answer
enough?--And besides, in these last four days, since I have been alone,
I've learnt just how much I shall miss you, Maurice. It's my
punishment, I suppose, for growing so dependent on anyone."

"You must go away, too. You can't stay here by yourself. We must both
go, in opposite directions, and begin afresh."

She did not reply at once. "I shouldn't know where to go," she said,
after a time. "Will nothing else do, Maurice? Is there no other
way?--Oh, why can't we go on being friends, as we were!"

He shook his head. "I've struggled against it so long--you don't know.
I've never really been your friend--only I couldn't hurt you
before, by telling you. And it has worn me out; I'm good for nothing.
Louise!--think, just once more--ask yourself, once more, if it's quite
impossible, before you send me into the outer darkness."

She was silent.

"I don't ask you to love me," he went on, in a low voice. "I've come
down from that, in these wretched days. I would be content with less,
much less. I only ask you to let yourself be loved--as I could love
you. If only you could say you liked me a little, all the rest would
come, I'm confident of it. In time, I should make you love me. For I
would take, oh, such care of you! I want to make you happy, only to
make you happy. I've no other wish than to show you what happiness
is."

"It sounds so good . . . you are good, Maurice. But the future--tell
me, have thought of the future?"

"I should think I have.--Do you suppose it means nothing to me to be so
despicably poor as I am? To have absolutely nothing to offer you?"

She took his hand. "That's not what I mean. And you know it. Come, let
us talk sensibly this afternoon, and look things straight in the
face.--You want to marry me, you say, and let the rest come? That is
very, very good of you, and I shall never forget it.--But what does it
mean, Maurice? You have been here a little over a year now, haven't
you?--and still have about a year to stay. When that's over, you will
go back to England. You will settle in some small place, and spend
your life, or the best part of your life, there--oh, Maurice, you are
my kind friend, but I tell you frankly, I couldn't face life in an
English provincial town. I'm not brave enough for that."

He gleaned a ray of hope from her words. "We could live here--anywhere
you liked. I would make it possible. I swear I would."

She shook her head, and went on, with the same reasonable sweetness.
"And then, there's another thing. If I married you, sooner or later
you would have to take me home to your people. Have you really thought
of that, and how you would feel about it, when it came to the
point?--No, no, it's impossible for me to marry you."

"But that--that American!--you would have married him?"

"That was different," she said, and her voice grew thinner.
"It's the knowing that tells, Maurice. You would have that still to
learn. You don't realise it yet, but afterwards, it would come home to
you.--Listen! You have always been kind to me, I owe you such a debt of
gratitude, that I'm going to be frank, brutally frank with you. I've
told you often that I shall never really care for anyone again. You
know that, don't you? Well, I want to tell you, too--I want you to
understand quite, quite clearly that . . . that I belonged to him
altogether--entirely--that I . . . Oh, you know what I mean!"

Maurice covered his face with his hands. "The past is the past. It
should never be mentioned between us. It doesn't matter--nothing
matters now."

"You say that--every one says that--beforehand," she answered; and not
only her words, but also her way of saying them, seemed to set her
down miles away from him, on a lonely pinnacle of experience.
"Afterwards, you would think differently."

"Louise, if you really cared, it would be different. You wouldn't say
such things, then--you would be only too glad not to say them."

In her heart she knew that he was right, and did not contradict him.
The busy little clock on the writing-table ticked away a few seconds.
With a jerk, Maurice rose to his feet. Louise remained sitting, and he
looked down on her black head. His gaze was so insistent that she felt
it, and raised her eyes. His forlorn face moved her.

"Why is it--what is the matter with me?--that I must upset your life
like this? I can't bear to see you so unhappy.--And yet I haven't done
anything, have I? I have always been honest with you; I've never made
myself out to be better than I am. There must be something wrong with
me, I think, that no one can ever be satisfied to be just my
friend.--Yet with you I thought it was different. I thought things
could go on as they were. Maurice, isn't it possible? Say it is! Show
me just one little spark of good in myself!"

"I'm not different from other men, Louise. I deluded myself long
enough, God knows!"

She made a despondent gesture, and turned away. "Well, then, if either
of us should go, I'm the one. You have your work. I do nothing; I have
no ties, no friends--I never even seem to have been able to make
acquaintances. And if I went, you could stay quietly on. In time, you
would forget me.--If I only knew where to go! I am so alone,
and it is all so hard. I shall never know what it is to be happy
myself, or to make anyone else happy--never!" and she burst into tears.

It was his turn now to play the comforter. Drawing a. chair up before
her, he took her hand, and said all he could think of to console her.
He could bear anything, he told her, but to see her unhappy. All would
yet turn out to be for the best. And, on one point, she was to set her
mind at rest: her going away would not benefit him in the least. He
would never consent to stay on alone, where they had been so much
together.

"I've nothing to look forward to, nothing," she sobbed. "There's
nothing I care to live for."

As soon as she was quieter, he left her.

For an hour or more Louise lay huddled up on the sofa, with her face
pressed to her arm.

When she sat up again, she pushed back her heavy hair, and, clasping
her hands loosely round her knees, stared before her with vacant eyes.
But not for long; tired though she was, and though her head ached from
crying, there was still a deep residue of excitement in her. The level
beams of the sun were pouring blindly into the room; the air was dense
and oppressive. She rose to her feet and moved about. She did not know
what to do with herself: she would have liked to go out and walk; but
the dusty, jarring light of the summer streets frightened her. She
thought of music, of the theatre, as a remedy for the long evening
that yawned before her: then dismissed the idea from her mind. She was
in such a condition of restlessness, this night, that the fact of
being forced to sit still between two other human beings, would make
her want to scream.

The sun was getting low; the foliage of the trees in the opposite
gardens was black, with copper edges, against the refulgence of the
sky. She leaned her hands on the sill, and gazed fixedly at the
stretch of red and gold, which, like the afterglow of a fire, flamed
behind the trees. Her eyes were filled with it. She did not think or
feel: she became one, by looking, with the sight before her. As she
stood there, nothing of her existed but her two widely opened eyes;
she was a miracle wrought by the sunset; she WAS the sunset--in one of
those vacancies of mind, which all intense gazers know.

How long she had remained thus she could not have told, when a strange
thing happened to her. From some sub-conscious layer of her brain,
which started into activity because the rest of it was so
passive, a small, still thought glided in, and took possession of her
mind. At first, it was so faint that she hardly grasped it; but, once
established there, it became so vivid that, with one sweep, it blotted
out trees and sunset; so real that it seemed always to have been
present to her. Without conscious effort on her part, the solution to
her difficulties had been found; a decision had been arrived at, but
not by her; it was the work of some force outside herself.

She turned from the window, and pressed her hands to her blinded eyes.
Good God! it was so simple. To think that this had not occurred to her
before!--that, throughout the troubled afternoon, the idea had never
once suggested itself! There was no need of loneliness and suffering
for either of them. He might stay; they both might stay; she could
make him happy, and ward off the change she so dreaded.--Who was she to
stick at it?

But she remained dazed, doubtful as it were of this peaceful ending;
her hand still covered her eyes. Then, with one of the swift movements
by which it was her custom to turn thought into action, she went to
the writing-table, and scrawled a few, big words.

MAURICE, I HAVE FOUND A WAY. COME BACK TO-MORROW EVENING.

She hesitated only over the last two words, and, before writing them,
sat with her chin in her hand, and deliberately considered. Then she
addressed the envelope, and stamped it: it would be soon enough if he
got it through the post, the following morning.

But, with her, to resolve was to act; she was ill at ease under
enforced procrastination; and had often to fight against a burning
impatience, when circumstances delayed the immediate carrying out of
her will. In this case, however, she had voluntarily postponed
Maurice's return for twenty-four hours, when he might have been with
her in less than one: for, in her mind, there lurked the seductive
thought of a long, summer day, with an emotion at its close to which
she could look forward.

In the meantime, she was puzzled how to fill up the evening. After
all, she decided to go to the theatre, where she arrived in time to
hear the last two acts of AIDA. From a seat in the PARQUET, close to
the orchestra, she let the showy music play round her.
Afterwards, she walked home through the lilachaunted night, went to
bed, and at once fell asleep.

Next morning, she wakened early--that was the sole token of
disturbance, she could detect in herself. It was very still; there was
a faint twittering of birds, but the noises of the street had not yet
begun. She lay in the subdued yellow light of her room, with one arm
across her eyes.

Fresh from sleep, she understood certain things as never before. She
saw all that had happened of late--her slow recovery, her striving and
seeking, her growing friendship with Maurice--in a different light. On
this morning, too, she was able to answer one of the questions that
had puzzled her the night before. She saw that the relations in which
they had stood to each other, during the bygone months, would have
been impossible, had she really cared for him. She liked him, yes, had
always liked him; and, in addition, his patience and kindness had made
her deeply grateful to him. But that was all. Neither his hands, nor
his voice, nor his eyes, nor anything he did, had had the power to
touch her--SO to touch her, that her own hands and eyes would have met
his half-way; that the old familiar craving, which was partly fear and
partly attraction, would have made her callous to his welfare. Had
there been a breath of this, things would have come to a climax long
ago. Hot and eager as she was, she could not have lived on coolly at
his side--and, at this moment, she found it difficult to make up her
mind whether she admired Maurice or the reverse, for having been able
to carry his part through.

And yet, though no particle of personal feeling drew her to him, she,
too, had suffered, in her own way, during these weeks of morbid
tension, when he had been incapable either of advancing or retreating.
How great the strain had been, she recognised only in the instant when
he had spanned the breach, in clear, unmistakable words. If he had not
done it, she would have been forced to; for she could never find
herself to rights, for long, in half circumstances: if she were not to
grow bewildered, she had to see her road simple and straight before
her. His words to her after they had been on the river together--more,
perhaps, his bold yet timid kisses--had given her back strength and
assurance. She was no longer the miserable instrument on which he
tried his changes of mood; she was again the giver and the bestower,
since she held a heart and a heart's happiness in the hollow of her
hand.

What people would think and say was a matter of indifference
to her: besides, they practically believed the worst of her already.
No; she had nothing to lose and, it might be, much to gain. And after
all, it meant so little! The first time, perhaps; or if one cared too
much. But in this case, where she had herself well in hand, and where
there was no chance of the blind desire to kill self arising, which
had been her previous undoing; where the chief end aimed at was the
retention of a friend--here, it meant nothing at all.

The thought that she might possibly have scruples on his part to
combat, crossed her mind. She stretched her arm straight above her
head, then laid it across her eyes again. She would like him none the
less for these scruples, did they exist: now, she believed that, at
heart, she had really appreciated his reserve, his holding back, where
others would have been so ready to pounce in. For the first time, she
considered him in the light of a lover, and she saw him differently.
As if the mere contemplation of such a change brought her nearer to
him, she was stirred by a new sensation, which had him as its object.
And under the influence of this feeling, she told herself that perhaps
just in this gentler, kindlier love, which only sought her welfare,
true happiness lay. She strained to read the future. There would be
storms neither of joy nor of pain; but watchful sympathy, and the
fine, manly tenderness that shields and protects. Oh, what if after
all her passionate craving for happiness, it was here at her feet,
having come to her as good things often do, unexpected and unsought!

She could lie still no longer; she sprang up, with an alacrity that
had been wanting in her movements of late. And throughout the long
day, this impression, which was half a hope and half a belief was
present to her mind, making everything she did seem strangely festive.
She almost feared the moment when she would see him again, lest
anything he said should dissipate her hope.

When he came, her eyes followed him searchingly. With an instinct that
was now morbidly sharpened, Maurice was aware of the change in her,
even before he saw her eyes. His own were one devouring question.

She made him sit down beside her.

"What is it, Louise? Tell me--quickly. Remember, I've been all day in
suspense," he said, as seconds passed and she did not speak.

"You got my note then?"

"What is it?--what did you mean?"

"Just a little patience, Maurice. You take one's breath away.
You want to know everything at once. I sent for you because--oh,
because . . . I want you to let us go on being friends."

"Is that all?" he cried, and his face fell. "When I have told you
again and again that's just what I can't do?"

She smiled. "I wish I had known you as a boy, Maurice--oh, but as quite
a young boy!" she said in such a changed voice that he glanced up in
surprise. Whether it was the look she bent on him, or her voice, or
her words, he did not know; but something emboldened him to do what he
had often done in fancy: he slid to his knees before her, and laid his
head on her lap. She began to smooth back his hair, and each time her
hand came forward, she let it rest for a moment.--She wondered how he
would look when he knew.

"You can't care for me, I know. But I would give my life to make you
happy."

"Why do you love me?" She experienced a new pleasure in postponing his
knowing, postponing it indefinitely.

"How can I say? All I know is how I love you--and how I have suffered."

"My poor Maurice," she said, in the same caressing way. "Yes, I shall
always call you poor.--For the love I could give you would be worthless
compared with yours."

"To me it would be everything.--If you only knew how I have longed for
you, and how I have struggled!"

He took enough of her dress to bury his face in. She sat back, and
looked over him into the growing dusk of the room: and, in the
alabaster of her face, nothing seemed to live except her black eyes,
with the half-rings of shadow.

Suddenly, with the unexpectedness that marked her movements when she
was very intent, she leant forward again, and, with her elbow on her
knee, her chin on her hand, said in a low voice: "Is it for ever?"

"For ever and ever."

"Say it's for ever." She still looked past him, but her lips had
parted, and her face wore the expression of a child's listening to
fairy-tales. At her own words, a vista seemed to open up before her,
and, at the other end, in blue haze, shone the great good that had
hitherto eluded her.

"I shall always love you," said the young man. "Nothing can make any
difference."

"For ever," she repeated. "They are pretty words."

Then her expression changed; she took his head between her
hands.

"Maurice . . . I'm older than you, and I know better than you, what
all this means. Believe me, I'm not worth your love. I'm only the
shadow of my old self. And you are still so young and so . . . so
untried. There's still time to turn back, and be wise."

He raised his head.

"What do you mean? Why are you saying these things? I shall always
love you. Life itself is nothing to me, without you. I want you . . .
only you."

He put his arms round her, and tried to draw her to him. But she held
back. At the expression of her face, he had a moment of acute
uncertainty, and would have loosened his hold. But now it was she who
knotted her hands round his neck, and gave him a long, penetrating
look. He was bewildered; he did not understand what it meant; but it
was something so strange that, again, he had the impulse to let her
go. She bent her head, and laid her face against his; cheek rested on
cheek. He took her face between his hands, and stared into her eyes,
as if to tear from them what was passing in her brain. Over both, in
the same breath, swept the warm, irresistible wave of self-surrender.
He caught her to him, roughly and awkwardly, in a desperate embrace,
which the kindly dusk veiled and redeemed.




XIII.



"Now you will not leave me, Maurice?"

"Never . . . while I live."

"And you . . ."

"No. Don't ask me yet. I can't tell you."

"Maurice!"

"Forgive me! Not yet. That after all you should care a little! After
all . . . that you should care so much!"

"And it is for ever?"

"For ever and ever . . . what do you take me for? But not here! Let us
go away--to some new place. We will make it our very own."

Their words came in haste, yet haltingly; were all but inaudible
whispers; went flying back and forwards, like brief cries for aid,
implying a peculiar sense of aloofness, of being cut adrift and thrown
on each other's mercy.

Louise raised her head.

"Yes, we will go away. But now, Maurice--at once!"

"Yes. To-night . . . to-morrow . . . when you like."

The next morning, he set out to find a place. Three weeks of the term
had still to run, and he was to have played in an ABENDUNTERHALTUNG,
before the vacation. But, compared with the emotional upheaval he had
undergone, this long-anticipated event was of small consequence. To
Schwarz, he alleged a succession of nervous headaches, which
interfered with his work. His looks lent colour to the statement; and
though, as a rule, highly irritated by opposition to his plans,
Schwarz only grumbled in moderation. He would have let no one else off
so easily, and, at another time, the knowledge of this would have
rankled in Maurice, as affording a fresh proof of the master's
indifference towards him. As it was, he was thankful for the freedom
it secured him.

On the strength of a chance remark of Madeleine's, which he had
remembered, he found what he looked for, without difficulty. It could
not have been better: a rambling inn, with restaurant, set in a
clearing on the top of a wooded hill, with an open view over the
undulating plains.

That night, he wrote to Louise from the Rochlitzer Berg, painting the
nest he had found for them in glowing colours, and begging her
to come without delay. But the whole of the next day passed without a
word from her, and the next again, and not till the morning of the
third, did he receive a note, announcing her arrival for shortly after
midday. He took it with him to the woods, and lay at full length on
the moss.

Although he had been alone now for more than forty-eight hours--a July
quiet reigned over the place--he had not managed to think connectedly.
He was still dazed, disbelieving of what had happened. Again and again
he told himself that his dreams and hopes--which he had always pushed
forward into a vague and far-off future--had actually come to pass. She
was his, all his; she had given herself ungrudgingly: as soon as he
could make it possible, she would be his wife. But, in the meantime,
this was all he knew: his nearer vision was obstructed by the
stupefying thought of the weeks to come. She was to be there, beside
him, day after day, in a golden paradise of love. He could only think
of it with moist eyes; and he swore to himself that he would repay her
by being more infinitely careful of her than ever man before of the
woman he loved. But though he repeated this to himself, and believed
it, his feelings had unwittingly changed their pole. On his knees
before her, he had vowed that her happiness was the end of all his
pleading; now it was frankly happiness he sought, the happiness of
them both, but, first and foremost, happiness. And it could hardly
have been otherwise: the one unpremeditated mingling of their lives
had killed thought; he could only feel now, and, throughout these
days, he was conscious of each movement he made, as of a song sung
aloud. He wandered up and down the wooded paths, blind to everything
but the image of her face, which was always with him, and oftenest as
it had bent over him that last evening, with the strange new fire in
its eyes. Closing his own, he felt again her arms on his shoulders,
her lips meeting his, and, at such moments, it could happen that he
threw his arms round a tree, in an ungovernable rush of longing.
Beyond the moment when he should clasp her to him again, he could not
see: the future was as indistinct as were the Saxon plains, in the
haze of morning or evening.

He set out to meet her far too early in the day, and when he had
covered the couple of miles that lay between the inn on the hill and
the railway-station at the foot, he was obliged to loiter about the
sleepy little town for over an hour. But gradually the time ticked
away; the hands of his watch pointed to a quarter to two, and
presently he found himself on the shadeless, sandy station
which lay at the end of a long, sandy street, edged with two rows of
young and shadeless trees; found himself looking along the line of
rail that was to bring her to him. Would the signal never go up? He
began to feel, in spite of the strong July sunlight, that there was
something illusive about the whole thing. Or perhaps it was just this
harsh, crude light, without relieving shadows, which made his
surroundings seem unreal to him. However it was, the nearer the moment
came when he would see her again, the more improbable it seemed that
the train, which was even now overdue, should actually be carrying her
towards him--her to him! He would yet waken, with a shock. But then,
coming round a corner in the distance, at the side of a hill, he saw
the train. At first it appeared to remain stationary, then it
increased in size, approached, made a slight curve, and was a snaky
line; it vanished, and reappeared, leaving first a white trail of
cloud, then thick rounded puffs of cloud, until it was actually there,
a great black object, with a creak and a rattle.

He had planted himself at the extreme end of the platform, and the
carriages went past him. He hastened, almost running, along the train.
At the opposite end, a door was opened, the porter took out some bags,
and Louise stepped down, and turned to look for him. He was the only
person on the station, besides the two officials, and in passing she
had caught a glimpse of his face. If he looks like that, every one
will know, she thought to herself, and her first words, as he came
breathlessly up, were: "Maurice, you mustn't look so glad!"

He had never really seen her till now, when, in a white dress, with
eyes and lips alight, she stood alone with him on the wayside
platform. To curb his first, impetuous gesture, Louise had stretched
out both her hands. He stood holding them, unable to take his eyes
from her face. At her movement to withdraw them, he stooped and kissed
them.

"Not look glad? Then you shouldn't have come."

They left her luggage to be sent up later in the day, and set out on
their walk. Going down the shadeless street, and through the town, she
was silent. At first, as they went, Maurice pointed out things that he
thought would interest her, and spoke as if he attached importance to
them. While, in reality, nothing mattered, now that she was beside
him. And gradually, he, too, lapsed into silence, walking by her side
across the square, and through the narrow streets, with the solemnly
festive feelings of a child on Sunday. They crossed the moat,
passed through the gates and courtyard of the old castle, and began to
ascend the steep path that was a short-cut to the woods. It was
exposed to the full glare of the sun, and, on reaching the sheltering
trees, Louise gave a sigh of relief, and stood still to take off her
hat.

"It's so hot. And I like best to be bareheaded."

"Yes, and now I can see you better. Is it really you, at last? I still
can't believe it.--That you should have come to me!"

"Yes, I'm real," she smiled, and thrust the pins through the crown of
the hat. "But very tired, Maurice. It was so hot, and the train was so
slow."

"Tired?--of course, you must be. Come, there's a seat just round this
corner. You shall rest there."

They sat, and he laid his arm along the back of the bench. With his
left hand he turned her face towards him. "I must see you. I expect
every minute to wake and find it's not true."

"And yet you haven't even told me you're glad to see me."

"Glad? No. Glad is only a word."

She leaned lightly against the protective pressure of his arm. On one
of her hands lying in her lap, a large spot of sunlight settled. He
stooped and put his lips to it. She touched his head.

"Were the days long without me?"

"Why didn't you come sooner?"

Not that he cared, or even cared to know, now that she was there. But
he wanted to hear her speak, to remember that he could now have her
voice in his ears, whenever he chose. But Louise was not disposed to
talk; the few words she said, fell unwillingly from her lips. The
stillness of the forest laid its spell upon them: each faint rustling
among the leaves was audible; not a living thing stirred except
themselves. The tall firs and beeches stretched infinitely upwards,
and the patches of light that lay here and there on the moss, made the
cool darkness seem darker.

When they walked on again, Maurice put his arm through hers, and, in.
this intimacy of touch, was conscious of every step she took. It made
him happy to suit his pace to hers, to draw her aside from a spreading
root or loose stone, and to feel her respond to his pressure. She
walked for the most part languidly, looking to the ground. But at a
thickly wooded turn of the path, where it was very dark, where the
sunlight seemed far away, and the pine-scent was more pungent than
elsewhere, she stopped, to drink in the spicy air with open lips and
nostrils.

"It's like wine. Maurice, I'm glad we came here--that you found
this place. Think of it, we might still be sitting indoors, with the
blinds drawn, knowing that the pavements were baking in the sun. While
here! . . . Oh, I shall be happy here!"

She was roused for a moment to a rapturous content with her
surroundings. She looked childishly happy and very young. Maurice
pressed her arm, without speaking: he was so foolishly happy that her
praise of the place affected him like praise of himself. Again, he had
a chastened feeling of exhilaration: as though an acme of satisfaction
had been reached, beyond which it was impossible to go.

On catching sight of the rambling wooden building, in the midst of the
clearing that had been made among the encroaching trees, Louise gave
another cry of pleasure, and before entering the house, went to the
edge of the terrace, and looked down on the plains. But upstairs, in
her room on the first storey, he made her rest in an arm-chair by the
window. He himself prepared the tea, proud to perform the first of the
trivial services which, from now on, were to be his. There was nothing
he would not do for her, and, as a beginning, he persuaded her to lie
down on the sofa and try to sleep.

Once outside again, he did not know how to kill time; and the
remainder of the afternoon seemed interminable. He endeavoured to
read, but could not take in the meaning of two consecutive sentences.
He was afraid to go far away, in case she should wake and miss him. So
he loitered about in the vicinity of the house, and returned every few
minutes, to see if her blind were not drawn up. Finally, he sat down
at one of the tables on the terrace, where he had her window in sight.
Towards six o'clock, his patience was exhausted; going upstairs, he
listened outside the door of her room. Not a sound. With infinite
precaution, he turned the handle, and looked in.

She was lying just as he had left her, fast asleep. Her head was a
little on one side; her left hand was under her cheek, her right lay
palm upwards on the rug that covered her. Maurice sat down in the
arm-chair.

At first, he looked furtively, afraid of disturbing her; then more
openly, in the hope that she would waken. Sitting thus, and thinking
over the miracle that had happened to him, he now sought to find
something in her face for him alone, which had previously not been
there. But his thoughts wandered as he gazed. How he loved it!--this
face of hers. He was invariably worked on afresh by the
blackness of the lustreless hair; by the pale, imperious mouth; by the
dead white pallor of the skin, which shaded to a dusky cream in the
curves of neck and throat, and in the lines beneath the eyes was of a
bluish brown. Now the lashes lay in these encircling rings. Without
doubt, it was the eyes that supplied life to the face: only when they
were open, and the lips parted over the strong teeth, was it possible
to realise how intense a vitality was latent in her. But his love
would wipe out the last trace of this wan tiredness. He would be
infinitely careful of her: he would shield her from the impulsiveness
of her own nature; she should never have cause to regret what she had
done. And the affection that bound them would day by day grow
stronger. All his work, all his thoughts, should belong to her alone;
she would be his beloved wife; and through him she would learn what
love really was.

He rose and stood over her, longing to share his feelings with her.
But she remained sunk in her placid sleep, and as he stood, he became
conscious of a different sensation. He had never seen her face--except
convulsed by weeping--when it was not under full control. Was it
because he had stared so long at it, or was it really changed in
sleep? There was something about it, at this moment, which he could
not explain: it almost looked less fine. The mouth was not so proudly
reticent as he had believed it to be; there was even a want of
restraint about it; and the chin had fallen. He did not care to see it
like this: it made him uneasy. He stooped and touched her hand. She
started up, and could not remember where she was. She put both hands
to her forehead. "Maurice!--what is it? Have I been asleep long?"

He held his watch before her eyes. With a cry she sprang to her feet.
Then she sent him downstairs.

They were the only guests. They had supper alone in a longish room, at
a little table spread with a coloured cloth. The window was open
behind them, and the branches of the trees outside hung into the room.
In honour of the occasion, Maurice ordered wine, and they remained
sitting, after they had finished supper, listening to the rustling and
swishing of the trees. The only drawback to the young man's happiness
was the pertinacious curiosity of the girl who waited on them. She
lingered after she had served them, and stared so hard that Maurice
turned at length and asked her what the matter was.

The girl coloured to the roots of her hair.

"Ach, Fraulein is so pretty," she answered naivly, in her
broad Saxon dialect.

Both laughed, and Louise asked her name, and if she always lived
there. Thus encouraged, Amalie, a buxom, thickset person, with a
number of flaxen plaits, came forward and began to talk. Her eyes were
fixed on Louise, and she only occasionally glanced from her to the
young man.

"It's nice to have a sweetheart," she said suddenly.

Louise laughed again and coloured. "Haven't you got one, Amalie?"

Amalie shook her head, and launched out into a tale of faithlessness
and desertion. "Yes, if I were as pretty as you, Fraulein, it would be
a different thing," she ended, with a hearty sigh.

Maurice clattered up from the table. "All right, Amalie, that'll do."

They went out of doors, and strolled about in the twilight. He had
intended to show her some of the pretty nooks in the neighbourhood of
the house. But she was not as affable with him as she had been with
Amalie; she walked at his side with an air of preoccupied
indifference.

When they sat down on a seat, on the side of the hill, the moon had
risen. It was almost at the full, and a few gently sailing scraps of
cloud, which crossed it, made it seem to be coming towards them. The
plains beneath were veiled in haze; detached sounds mounted from them:
the prolonged barking of a dog, the drone of an approaching train.
Round about them, the air was heavy with the scent of the sun-warmed
pines. Maurice had taken her hand and sat holding it: it was the one
thing that existed for him. All else was vague and unreal: only their
two hearts beat in all the universe. But there was no interchange
between them of binding words or endearments, such as pass between
most lovers.

How long they sat, neither could have told. But suddenly, far below, a
human voice was raised in a long cry, which echoed against the side of
the hill. Louise shivered: and he had a moment of apprehension.

"You're cold. We have sat too long. Let us go."

They rose, and walked slowly back to the house.

Although the doors were still open, the building was in darkness, and
they had to grope their way up the stairs. Outside her room, he paused
to light the candle that was standing on the table, but Louise opened
the door and went in. As she did so, she gave a cry. The blind
had not been lowered, and a patch of greenish-white moonlight lay on
the floor before the window, throwing the rest of the room into massy
shadow. She went forward and stood in it.

"Don't make a light," she said to him over her shoulder.

Maurice put down the matches, with which he had been fumbling, went
quickly in after her, and shut the door.

Before anyone else was astir, he had flung out into the freshness of
the morning. It was cool in the shade of the woods; grass and moss
were a little moist with dew. He did not linger under the trees; he
needed movement; and striding along the driving-road, which ran down
the hill where the incline was easiest, he went out on the plains,
among the little villages that dotted the level land like huge clumps
of mushrooms. He carried his cap in his hand, and let the early sun
play on his head.

When he returned, it was nine o'clock, and he was ravenously hungry.
Amalie carried the coffee and the crisp brown rolls to one of the
small tables on the terrace, and herself stood, after she had served
him, and looked over the edge of the hill. When he had finished
eating, he opened a volume of DICHTUNG UND WAHRHEIT, which he carried
in his pocket, and began to read. But after a few lines, his thoughts
wandered; the book had a chilling effect on him in his present mood;
the writing seemed stiff and strained--the work of a very old man.

At first, that morning, he had not ventured to review even in thought
the past hours. Now, however, that he was again within a stone's throw
of Louise, memories crowded upon him; he gazed, with a passion of
gratefulness, at her window. One detail stood out more vividly than
all the rest. It was that of waking suddenly at dawn, from a dreamless
sleep, and of finding on his pillow, a thick tress of black ruffled
hair. For a moment, he had hardly been able to believe his eyes; and
even yet, the mere remembrance of this dusky hair on the pillow's
whiteness, seemed to bring what had happened home to him, as nothing
else could have done.

She had slept on, undisturbed, and she was still asleep, to judge from
the lowered blind. But though hours seemed to pass while he sat there,
he was not dissatisfied; it was enough to know how near she was to
him.

When she came, she was upon him before he was aware of it. At the
light step behind, he sprang from his seat.

"At last!"

"Are you tired of waiting for me?"

She was in the same white dress, and a soft-brimmed hat fell over her
forehead. He did not answer her words; for Amalie followed on her
heels with fresh coffee, and made a great business of re-setting the
table.

"WUNSCHE GUTEN APPETIT!"

The girl retired to a distance, but still lingered, keeping them in
sight. Maurice leaned across the table. "Tell me how you are. Have you
forgotten me?" He tried to take her hand.

"Take care, Maurice. We can be seen here."

"How that girl stares! Why doesn't she go away?"

"She is envying me my sweetheart again . . . who won't let me eat my
breakfast."

"I've been alone for hours, Louise. Tell me what I want to know."

"Yes--afterwards. The coffee is getting cold."

He sat back and watched her movements, with fanatic eyes. She was not
confused by the insistence of his gaze; but she did not return it. She
was paler than usual; and the lines beneath her eyes were blacker.
Maurice believed that he could detect a new note in her voice this
morning; and he tried to make her speak, in order that he might hear
it; but she was as chary of her words as of her looks. Attracted by
the two strangers, a little child of the landlord's came running up to
stare shyly. She spread a piece of bread with honey, and gave it to
the child. He was absurdly jealous, and she knew it.

For the rest of the morning, she would have been content to bask in
the sun, but when she saw how impatient he was, she gave way, and they
went out of the sight of other people, into the friendly, screening
woods.

"I thought you would never come."

"Why didn't you wake me? Oh, gently, Maurice! You forget that I've
just done my hair."

"To-day I shall forget everything. Let me look at you again . . .
right into your eyes."

"To-day you believe I'm real, don't you? Are you satisfied?"

"And you, Louise, you?--Say you're happy, too!"

They came upon the FRIEDRICH AUGUST TURM, a stone tower, standing on
the highest point of the hill, beside a large quarry; and, too idly
happy to refuse, climbed the stone steps, led by a persuasive old
pensioner, who, on the platform at the top, adjusted the telescope,
and pointed out the distant landmarks, with something of an owner's
pride. On this morning, Maurice would not have been greatly
surprised to hear that the streaky headline of the Dover coast was
visible: he had eyes for her alone, as, with assumed interest, she
followed the old man's hand, learned where Leipzig lay, and how, on a
clear day, its many spires could be distinguished.

"Over there, Maurice . . . a little more to the right. How far away we
seem!"

Leaning against the parapet, he continued to look at her. The few
ordinary words meant in reality something quite different. It was as
if she had said to him: "Yes, yes, be at rest--I am still yours;" and
he told himself, with a feverish pleasure, that, from now on,
everything she said in the presence of others would be a cloak for
what she really meant to say. He had been right, there was a new tone
in her voice this morning, an imperceptible vibration, a sensuous
undertone, which seemed to have been left over from those moments when
it had quivered like a roughly touched string beneath a bow. Going
down the steps behind her, he heard her dress swish from step to step,
and saw the fine grace of her strong, supple body. At a bend in the
stair, he held her back and kissed her neck, just where the hair
stopped growing. On the ground-floor, she paused to pick out a trifle
from a table set with mementoes. The old man praised his wares with
zeal, taking up this and that in his old, reddened hands, on which the
skin was drawn and glazed, like a coating of gelatine. Louise chose a
carved wooden pen; a tiny round of glass was set in the handle,
through which might be seen a view of the tower, with an encircling
motto.

After this, he had her to himself, for the rest of the day. They sat
on a seat that was screened by trees, and thickly grown about. His arm
lay along the back of the bench, and every now and then his hand
sought and pressed the warm, soft round of her shoulder. In this
attitude, he poured out his heart to her. Hitherto, the very essence
of his love had been taciturn endurance; now, he felt how infinitely
much he had to say to her: all that he had undergone since knowing her
first, all the hopes and feelings that had so long been pent up in
him, struggled to escape. Now, there was no hindrance to his telling
her everything; it was not only permissible, but right that he should:
henceforth there must be no strangeness between them, no knowledge,
pleasant or unpleasant, that she did not share. And he went back, and
dwelt on details and events long past, which, unknown to himself, his
memory had stored up; but it was chiefly the restless misery of the
past half year that was his theme--he took the same pleasure
in reciting it, now that it was over, as the convalescent in relating
his sufferings. Besides that, it was easier, there being nothing to
conceal; whereas, in referring to an earlier time, a certain name had
to be shirked and gone round about, like a plague-spot. His
impassioned words knew no halt; he was amazed at his own eloquence.
And the burden of months fell away from him as he talked.

The receptiveness of her silence spurred him on. She sat motionless,
with loosely clasped hands; and spots of light settled on her bare
head, and on the white stuff of her dress. Occasionally, at something
he said, a smile would raise the corners of her mouth; sometimes, but
less often, she turned her head with incredulous eyes. But, though she
was emotionally so irresponsive, Maurice had the feeling that she was
content, even happy, to sit inactive at his side, and listen to his
story.

Each of these first wonderful days was of the same pattern. They
themselves lost count of time, so like was one day to another; and yet
each that passed was a little eternity in itself. The weather was
superb, and to them, in their egotism, it came to seem in the order of
things that they should rise in the morning to cloudless skies and
golden sunshine; that the cool green seclusion of the woods should be
theirs, where they were more securely shut off from the world than
inside the house. Louise lay on the moss, with her arms under her
head, or sat with her back against a tree-trunk. Maurice was always in
front of her, so that he could see her face as he talked--this face of
which he could never see enough.

He was happy, in a dazed way; he could not appraise the extent of his
happiness all at once. Its chief outward sign was the nervous flood of
talk that poured from his lips--as though they had been sealed and
stopped for years. But Louise urged him on; what he had first felt
dimly, he soon knew for certain: that she was never tired of learning
how much he loved her, how he had hoped, and ventured, and despaired,
and how he had been prepared to lose her, up to the very last day. She
also made him describe to her more than once how he had first seen
her: his indelible impression of her as she played; her appearance at
his side in the concert-hall; how he had followed her out and looked
for her, and had vainly tried to learn who she was.

"I stood quite close to you, you say, Maurice? Perhaps I even looked
at you. How strange things are!"

Still, the interest she displayed was of a wholly passive kind; she
took no part herself in this building up of the past. She left
it to him, just as she left all that called for firmness or decision,
in this new phase of her life. The chief step taken, it seemed as if
no further initiative were left in her; she let herself be loved,
waited for everything to come from him, was without will or wish. He
had to ask no self-assertion of her now, no impulsive resolutions.
Over all she did, lay a subtle languor; and her abandon was
absolute--he heard it in the very way she said his name.

In the first riotous joy of possession, Maurice had been conscious of
the change in her as of something inexpressibly sweet and tender,
implying a boundless faith in him. But, before long, it made him
uneasy. He had imagined several things as likely to happen; had
imagined her the cooler and wiser of the two, checking him and chiding
him for his over-devotion; had imagined even moments of self-reproach,
on her part, when she came to think over what she had done. What he
had not imagined was the wordless, unthinking fashion in which she
gave herself into his hands. The very expression of her face altered
in these days: the somewhat defiant, bitter lines he had so loved in
it, and behind which she had screened herself, were smoothed out; the
lips seemed to meet differently, were sweeter, even tremulous; the
eyes were more veiled, far less sure of themselves. He did not admit
to himself how difficult she made things for him. Strengthened, from
the first, by his good resolutions, he was determined not to let
himself be carried off his feet. But it would have been easier for him
to stand firm, had she met him in almost any other way than this--even
with a frank return of feeling, for then they might have spoken
openly, and have helped each other. As it was, he had no thoughts but
of her; his watchful tenderness knew no bounds; but the whole
responsibility was his. It was he who had to maintain the happy mean
in their relations; he to draw the line beyond which it was better for
all their after-lives that they should not go. He affirmed to himself
more than once that he loved her the more for her complete subjection:
it was in keeping with her openhanded nature which could do nothing by
halves. Yet, as time passed, he began to suffer under it, to feel her
absence of will as a disquieting factor--to find anything to which he
could compare it, he had to hark back to the state she had been in
when he first offered her aid and comfort. That was the lassitude of
grief, this of . . . he could not find a word. But it began to tell on
him, and more than once made him a little sharp with her; for, at
moments, he would be seized by an overpowering temptation to
shake her out of her lassitude, to rouse her as he very well knew she
could be roused. And then, strange desires awoke in him; he did not
himself know of what he was capable.

One afternoon, they were in the woods as usual. It was very sultry;
not a leaf stirred. Louise lay with her elbow on the moss-grown roots
of a tree; her eyes were heavy. Maurice, before her, smoked a
cigarette, and watched for the least recognition of his presence,
thinking, meanwhile, that she looked better already for these days
spent out-of-doors--the tiny lines round her eyes were fast
disappearing. By degrees, however, he grew restless under her
protracted silence; there was something ominous about it. He threw his
cigarette away, and, taking her hand, began to pull apart the long
fingers with the small, pink nails, or to gather them together, and
let them drop, one by one, like warm, but lifeless things.

"What ARE you thinking of?" he asked at last, and shut her hand firmly
within his.

She started. "I? . . . thinking? I don't know. I wasn't thinking at
all."

"But you were. I saw it in your face. Your thoughts were miles away."

"I don't know, Maurice. I couldn't tell you now." And a moment later,
she added: "You think one must always be thinking, when one is
silent."

"Yes, I'm jealous of your thoughts. You tell me nothing of them. But
now you have come back to me, and it's all right."

He drew her nearer to him by the hand he held, and, putting his arm
under her neck, bent her head back on the moss. Her stretched throat
was marked by two encircling lines; he traced them with his finger.
She lay and smiled at him. But her eyes remained shaded: they were
meditative, and seemed to be considering him, a little deliberately.

"Tell me, Louise," he said suddenly; "why do you look at me like that?
It's not the first time--I've seen it before. And then, I can't help
thinking there's some mistake--that after all you don't really care for
me. It is so--so critical."

"You are curious to-day, Maurice."

"Yes. There's so much I want to know, and you tell me nothing. It is I
who talk and talk--till you must be tired of hearing me."

"No, I like to listen best. And I have nothing to say."

"Nothing? Really nothing?"

"Only that I'm glad to be here--that I am happy."

He kissed her on the throat, the eyes and the lips; kissed
her, until, under his touch, that vague, elusive influence began to
emanate from her, which, he was aware, might some day overpower him,
and drag him down. They were quite alone, shut in by high trees; no
one would find them, or disturb them. And it was just this mysterious
power in her that his nerves had dreamed of waking: yet now, some
inexplicable instinct made him hesitate, and forbear. He drew his arm
from under her head, and rose to his feet, where he stood looking down
at her. She lay just as he had left her, and he felt unaccountably
impatient.

"There it is again!" he cried. "You are looking at me just as you did
before."

Louise passed her hand over her eyes, and sat up. "Why, Maurice, what
do you mean? It was nothing--only something I was trying to
understand."

But what it was that she did not understand, he could not get her to
tell him.

A fortnight passed. One morning, when a soft south breeze was in
motion, Maurice reminded her with an air of playful severity, that, so
far, they had not learned to know even their nearer surroundings;
while of all the romantic explorings in the pretty Muldental, which he
had had in view for them, not one had been undertaken. Louise was not
fond of walking in the country; she tired easily, and was always
content to bask in the sun and be still. But she did not attempt to
oppose his wish; she put on her hat, and was ready to start.

His love of movement reasserted itself. They went down the
driving-road, and out upon the long, ribbon-like roads that zigzagged
the plains, connecting the dotted villages. These roads were edged
with fruit-trees--apple and cherry. The apples were still hard, green,
polished balls, but the berries were at their prime. And everywhere
men were aloft on ladders, gathering the fruit for market. For the sum
of ten pfennigs, Maurice could get his hat filled, and, by the
roadside, they would sit down to make a second breakfast off black,
luscious cherries, which stained the lips a bluish purple. When it
grew too hot for the open roads, they descended the steep, wooded back
of the bill, to the romantic little town of Wechselburg at its base.
Here, a massive bridge of reddish-yellow stone spanned the winding,
slate-grey Mulde; a sombre, many-windowed castle of the same stone as
the bridge looked out over a wall of magnificent chestnuts.

On returning from these, and various other excursions, they
were pleasantly tired and hungry. After supper, they sat upstairs by
the window in her room, Louise in the big chair, Maurice at her feet,
and there watched the darkness come down, over the tops of the trees.

Somewhat later in the month, the fancy took her to go to a place
called Amerika. Maurice consulted the landlord about the distance.
Their original plan of taking the train a part of the way was,
however, abandoned when the morning came; for it was an uncommonly
lovely day, and a fresh breeze was blowing. So, having scrambled down
to Wechselburg again, they struck out on the flat, and began their
walk. The whole day lay before them; they were bound to no fixed
hours; and, throughout the morning, they made frequent halts, to
gather the wild raspberries that grew by the roadside. Having passed
under a great railway viaduct, which dominated the landscape, they
stopped at a village inn, to rest and drink coffee. About two o'clock,
they came to Rochsburg, and finally arrived, towards the middle of the
afternoon, at the picturesque restaurant that bore the name, of
Amerika. Here they dined. Afterwards, they returned to Rochsburg, but
much less buoyantly--for Louise was growing footsore--paid a
bridge-toll, were shown through the castle, and, at sunset, found
themselves on the little railway-station, waiting for an overdue
train. The restaurant in which they sat, was a kind of shed, roofed by
a covering of Virginia creeper; the station stood on an eminence; the
plains stretched before them, as far as they could see; the evening
sky was an unbroken sheet of red and gold.

The half-hour's journey over--it was made in a narrow wooden
compartment, crowded with peasants returning from a market--they left
the train, and began to climb the hill. But, by now, Louise was at the
end of her strength, and Maurice began to fear that he would never get
her home; she could with difficulty drag one foot after the other, and
had to rest every few minutes, so that it was nearly ten o'clock
before they entered the house. In her room, he knelt before her and
took off her boots; Amalie carried her supper up on a tray. She hardly
touched it: her eyes were closing with fatigue, and she was asleep as
soon as her head touched the pillow.

Next day she did not waken till nearly noon, and she remained in bed
till after dinner. For the rest of the day, she sat in the armchair.
Maurice wished to read to her, but she preferred quiet--did not even
want to be talked to. The weather was on her nerves, she
said--for it had grown very sultry, and the sky was overcast. The
landlord prophesied a thunderstorm. In the evening, however, as it was
still dry, and he had been in the house all day, Maurice went out for
a solitary walk.

He swung down the road at a pace he could only make when he was alone.
It had looked threatening when he left the house, but, as he went, the
clouds piled themselves up with inconceivable rapidity, and before he
was three miles out on the plain, the storm broke, with a sudden fury
from which there was no escape. He took to his heels, and ran to the
next village, some quarter of a mile in front of him. There, in the
smoky room of a tiny inn, together with a handful of country-people,
he was held a prisoner for over two hours; the rain pelted, and the
thunder cracked immediately overhead. When, drenched to the skin, he
reached the top of the hill again, it was going on for midnight. He
had been absent for close on four hours.

The candle in her room was guttering in its socket. By its failing
light, he saw that she was lying across the bed, still dressed. Over
her bent Amalie.

He had visions of sudden illness, and brushed the girl aside.

"What is it? What's the matter?"

At his voice, Louise lifted a wild face, stared at him as though she
did not recognise him, then rose with a cry, and flung herself upon
him.

"Take care! I'm wet through."

For all answer, she burst out crying, and trembled from head to foot.

"What is it, darling? Were you afraid?"

But she only clung to him and trembled.

Amalie was weeping with equal vehemence; he ordered her out of the
room. Notwithstanding his dripping clothes, he was forced to support
Louise. In vain he implored her to speak; it was long before she was
in a state to reply to his questionings. Outside the storm still
raged; it was a wild night.

"What was it? Were you afraid? Did you think I was lost?"

"I don't know--Oh, Maurice! You will never leave me, will you?"

She wounded her lips against his shoulder.

"Leave you! What has put such foolish thoughts into your head?"

"I don't know.--But on a night like this, I feel that anything might
happen."

"And did it really matter so much whether I came back or not?"

He felt her arms tighten round him.

"Did you care as much as that?--Louise!"

"I said: my God!--what if he should never come back! And then, then . . ."

"Then----?"

"And then the noise of the storm . . . and I was so alone . . . and
all the long, long hours . . . and at every sound I said, there he is
. . . and it never was you . . . till I knew you were lying somewhere
. . . dead . . . under a tree."

"You poor little soul!" he began impulsively, then stopped, for he
felt the sudden thrill that ran through her.

"Say that again, Maurice!--say it again!"

"You poor, little fancy-ridden soul!"

"Oh, if you knew how good it sounds!--if I could make you understand!
You're the only person who has ever said a thing like that to me--the
only one who has ever been in the least sorry for me. Promise me
now--promise again--that you will never leave me.--For you are all I
have."

"Promise?--again? When you are more to me than my own life?"

"And you will never get tired of me?--never?"

"My own dear wife!"

She strained him to her with a strength for which he would not have
given her credit. He tried to see her face.

"Do you know what that means?"

"Yes, I know. It means, if you leave me now, I shall die."

By the next morning, all traces of the storm had vanished; the sun
shone; the slanting roads were hard and dry again. Other storms
followed--for it was an exceptionally hot summer--and many an evening
the two were prisoners in her room, listening to the angry roar of the
trees, which lashed each other with a sound like that of the open sea.

Every Sunday in August, too, brought a motley crowd of guests to the
inn, and then the whole terrace was set out with little tables. Two
waiters came to assist Amalie; a band played in an arbour; carts and
wagonettes were hitched to the front of the house; and the noise and
merry-making lasted till late in the night. Together they leaned from
the window of Louise's room, to watch the people; they hardly ventured
out of doors, for it was unpleasant to see their favourite nooks
invaded by strangers. Except on Sundays, however, their
seclusion remained undisturbed; half a dozen visitors were staying in
the other wing of the building, and of these they sometimes caught a
glimpse at meals; but that was all: the solitude they desired was
still theirs.

And so the happy days slid past; August was well advanced, by this
time, and the tropical heat was at its height. In the beginning, it
had been Maurice who regretted the rapid flight of the days: now it
was Louise. Occasionally, a certain shadow settled on her face, and,
at such moments, he well knew what she was thinking of: for, once, out
of the very fulness of his content, he had said to her with a lazy
sigh: "To-day is the first of August," and then, for the first time,
he had seen this look of intense regret cross her face. She had
entreated him not to say any more; and, after that, the speed with
which the month decreased, was not mentioned between them.

But his carelessly dropped words had sown their seed. A couple of
weeks later, the remembrance of the work he had still to do for
Schwarz, before the beginning of the new term, broke over him like a
douche of cold water. It was a resplendent morning; he had been
leaning out of the window, idly tapping his fingers on the sill.
Suddenly they seemed to him to have grown stiff, to have lost their
agility; and by the thoughts that now came, he was so disquieted that
he shut himself up in his own room.

At his first words to her, Louise, who was still in bed, turned pale.
"Yes, yes, be quiet!--I know," she said, and buried her face in the
down pillow.

In this position she remained for some seconds; Maurice stood staring
out of the window. Then, without raising her face, she held out her
hand to him.

He took it; but he did not do what she expected he would: sit down on
the side of the bed, and put his arm round her. He stood holding it,
absent-mindedly. She stole a glance at him, and turned still paler.
Then, with a jerk, she released her hand, sat up in bed, and pushed
her hair from her face.

"Maurice! . . . then if it has to be . . . then to-day . . . please,
please, to-day! Don't ask me to stay here, and think, and remember,
that it's all over--that this is the end--that we shall never, never be
here in this little room again! Oh, I couldn't bear it!--! can't bear
it, Maurice! Let us go away--please, let us go!"

In vain he urged reason; there was no gainsaying her: she
brushed aside, without listening to it, his objection that their rooms
in Leipzig would not be ready for them. Throwing back the bedclothes,
she got up at once and dressed herself, with cold fingers, then flung
herself upon the packing, helped and hindered by Amalie, who wept
beside her. The hour that followed was like a bad dream. Finally,
however, the luggage was carried downstairs, the bill paid, and the
circumstantial good-byes were said: they set off, at full speed, down
the woodpath to the station, to catch the midday train. Louise was
white with exhaustion: her breath came sobbingly. In a firstclass
carriage, he made her lie down on the seat. With her hand in his, he
said what he could to comfort her; for her face was tragic.

"We will come again, darling. It is only AUF WIEDERSEHEN, remember!"

But she shook her head.

"We shall never be here again."

Leipzig, at three o'clock on an August afternoon, lay baking in the
sun. He put her in a covered droschke, himself carrying the bags, for
he could not find a porter.

"At seven, then! Try to sleep. You are so pale."

"Good-bye--good-bye!"

His hand rested on the door of the droschke. She laid hers on it, and
clung to it as though she would never, let it go.





Part III.



. . . dove il Sol tace.

DANTE



I.



Frau Krause was ill pleased at his unlooked-for reappearance, and did not
scruple to say so. From the condition of disorder in which he found his
room, Maurice judged that it had been occupied, during his absence, by the
entire family. Having been caught napping, Frau Krause carried the matter
off with a high hand: she gave him to understand that his behaviour in
descending upon her thus, was not that of a decent lodger. Maurice never
parleyed with her; ascertaining by a glance that his books and music had
been left untouched, he made his escape from the pails of water that were
straightway brought into evidence, as well as from her irate assurances
that the room would be ready for him in a quarter of an hour.

He went into the town, and did various small errands necessary to the
taking up anew of the old life. After he had had dinner, and had looked
through the newspapers, the temptation was strong to go to Louise, and
spend the hot afternoon hours at her side. But he resisted; for that would
have been a poor beginning to the sensible way of life they would have to
follow, from now on. Besides, with the certainty of seeing her again in a
very short time, it was not impossible to be patient. No more uncertainty,
no more doubts and fears!--the day for these was over.--And so, having
satisfied himself that his room was still uninhabitable, he strolled to
the Conservatorium, to see what notices had remained affixed to the
notice-board. As he was leaving again, he met the janitor, and from him
learned that his name was down for the first ADBENDUNTERHALTUNG of the
coming month.

In the shadeless street, he paused irresolute. The heat of the slumbrous
afternoon was oppressive; all animation seemed suspended. The trees in
streets and gardens drooped, brownishyellow, and heavy with dust. The sun
met the eyes blindingly, and was reflected from every house-wall. Maurice
went for a walk in the woods. In his pocket he had a letter, still unread,
which he had found waiting for him that day. It was from his
mother, and his eyes slid carelessly over the pages. There were the usual
reproaches for his prolonged silences, the never-failing reminders that
his time in Leipzig would come to an end the following spring, as well as
several details of domestic interest. Then, however, followed a piece of
news, which rallied his attention.



YOU WILL DOUBTLESS BE INTERESTED TO HEAR, she wrote, THAT YOUR FRIEND THE
OLD MUSIC TEACHER IN NORWICH DIED SUDDENLY LAST WEEK. HIS PUPILS HAD
FALLEN OFF GREATLY OF LATE AND WHEN EVERYTHING HAD BEEN SOLD THERE WAS
SCARCELY ENOUGH TO COVER THE FUNERAL EXPENSES. YOUR FATHER THINKS THAT
THOUGH A YOUNG PERSON FROM LONDON OF THE NAME OF SMITH OR SMYTHE HAS
LATELY SET UP THERE AND ATTRACTED MANY OF THE BEST PAYING FAMILIES YET THE
OLD CONNECTION MIGHT BE WORKED UP AGAIN AND IT WOULD BE WORTH YOUR WHILE
TRYING TO DO IT. AT FIRST YOU COULD LIVE AT HOME AND GO OVER ONCE OR TWICE
A WEEK. YOUR FATHER HAS BEEN MAKING INQUIRIES ABOUT A SUITABLE ROOM.



This news called up a feeling of repugnance in Maurice: it came like a
message from another world; the very baldness of its expression seemed to
throw him back, at one stroke, into the hated atmosphere of his home. He
folded the letter and replaced it in the envelope, with such a conscious
hostility to all that his blood-relations did or said, as he had not felt
since the day when, in their midst, he had struggled to assert his
independence. How little they understood him! It was like them, in their
unimaginative dulness, to suppose that they could arrange his life for
him--draw up the lines on which it was to be spent. He saw himself bound
down hand and foot again, to the occupation he so hated; saw himself
striving to oust the young person from London, just as no doubt his old
friend had striven; saw himself becoming proficient in all the mean, petty
tricks of rival teachers, and either vanquishing or being vanquished, in
the effort to earn a living.

However he viewed them, his prospects had nothing hopeful in them. They
were vague, too, to the last degree. On one question alone was his mind
made up: he meant to marry Louise at the earliest possible date. Whatever
else happened, this should come to pass. For the first time, he thought
with something akin to remorse, over the turn affairs had taken. He had
been blind and dizzy with his infatuation, sick for her to his very
marrow--he could only look back on those feverish weeks in June as
on the horrors of a nightmare--and he would not have missed a single hour
of the happy days at Rochlitz. But, none the less, he had always felt a
peculiar aversion to people who allowed their feelings to get the better
of them. Now, he himself was one of them. If only she were his wife! Had
she consented, he would have married her there and then, without
reflection. They might have lived on, just as they were going to do, and
have kept their marriage a secret, reserving to themselves the pleasure of
knowing that their intimacy was legal. At it was, he must console himself
with the thought that, married or not, they were indissolubly bound: he
knew now better than before, that no other woman would ever exist for him;
and surely, in the case of an all-absorbing passion such as this, the
overstepping of conventional boundaries would not be counted too heavily
against them: laws and conventions existed only for the weak and
vacillating loves of the rest of the world.

Then, however, and almost against his will, the other side of the question
forced itself upon his notice. As the marriage had not already taken
place, as, indeed, Louise chose to evade the subject when he brought it
up, he could not but admit to it would be pleasanter for him if it were
now postponed until he was independent of home-support. His family would,
he knew, bitterly resent his taking the step; and in regard to them, he
was proud. Where Louise was concerned, of course, it was a different
matter: there, no misplaced pride should stand in the way. She had ample
means for her own needs; it was merely a question of earning enough to
keep himself. The sole advantage of the present state of affairs was, that
it might still be concealed; whereas even a secret marriage implied a
possible publicity; it might somehow leak out, and, in the event of this,
he knew that his parents would immediately cut off supplies. If once he
were independent of them, he could do as he liked. He set his teeth at the
thought of it. To no small extent, his way was mapped out for him.
Marrying Louise meant giving up all idea of returning home. He understood
now, more clearly than before, how unfitted she was for the narrow life
that would there be expected of her. And even--if he had longed for
approval and consent, he would never have had courage to ask her to face
the petty, ignoble details of conventional propriety, which such a
sanction implied. No, if he wished to ensure her happiness, he must secure
to her the freer atmosphere in which she was accustomed to live.
He must burn his ships behind him, and the most satisfactory thing was,
that he was able to do it without a pang.

He racked his brains as to the means of making a livelihood. There was
nothing he would not do. He was more ready to work than ever a labourer
with a starving family at his back. But, having let every possibility pass
before his mind's eye, he was forced to the conclusion that the only
occupation open to him was the one he had come to Leipzig to escape. He
was fit for nothing but to be a teacher. All he could do at the piano,
hundreds of others could do better; his talents as a conductor were, he
had learned, of the meagrest; the pleasing little songs he might compose,
of small value. Yet, if this were the price he had to pay for making her
his wife, he was content to pay it: no sacrifice was too great for him.
And then, to be a teacher here meant something different from what it
meant in England. Here, it was possible to retain your self-respect--the
caste of the class was another to begin with--and also to remain in touch
with all that was best worth knowing. As a foreigner, he might add to his
earnings by teaching English; but piano-lessons would of necessity be his
chief source of income. They were plentiful enough: Avery Hill supported
herself entirely by them, and Furst kept his family. Of course, though,
this was due to Schwarz: his influence was a key to all doors. Both of
these were favourite pupils; while a melancholy fact, which had to be
faced, was, that he did not stand well with Schwarz. Somehow, they had
never taken to each other: he, perhaps, had had too open an eye for the
master's foibles, and Schwarz had no doubt been aware, from the first, of
his pupil's fatally divided interests. The crown had probably been set by
his ill-considered flight in July. If he wished ultimately to achieve
something, the interest he had forfeited must be regained, cost what it
might. He would work, in these coming months, as never before. Could he
make a brilliant, even a wholly respectable job of the trio he was to
play, it would go far towards reinstating him in Schwarz's good graces:
and he might then venture to approach the master with a request for
assistance. This was the first piece of work that lay to his hand, and he
would do it with all his might. After that, the rest.

There was no time to lose. A mild despair overcame him at the thought of
the intricate sonata, the long, mazy concerto by Hummel, which had formed
his holiday task. In exactly a fortnight from this date, the vacation came
to an end, and, as yet, he did not know a note of them. Through
the motionless heat of the paved streets, he went home, and turning Frau
Krause out of his room, sat down at the piano to scales and exercises. Not
until he felt suppleness and strength coming back to his fingers, did he
allow his thoughts to wander. Then, however, they leapt to Louise; after
this break in his consciousness, he seemed to have been absent from her
for days.

The sun was full on her windows; curtains and blinds were drawn against
it. While he hesitated, still dazzled by the glare of the streets, she
sprang to meet him, laying both hands on his shoulders.

"At last!"

He blinked, and laughed, and held her at arm's length. "At last?--Why,
what does that mean?"

"That I have been waiting for you, and hoping you would come--for hours."

"But, dearest, I'm too early as it is. It's not six o'clock."

"Yes, I know. But I was so sure you would come sooner,--that you wouldn't
be able to stay away! Oh, the afternoon has been endless; and the heat was
suffocating. I couldn't dress, and I haven't unpacked a thing."

Now he saw that she was in her dressing-gown, and that the bags and
valises stood in a corner, just as they had been carried up from the
droschke.

With her hands still on his shoulders, she put back her head. A thin line
of white appeared between her lips, and, under their drooped lids, her
eyes shone with a moist brilliance. She looked at him eagerly for some
seconds, and it seemed to hirn wistfully, too. Then, in an inexplicable
change of mood, she let her arms fall, and turned away. She had grown pale
and despondent. There was only one thing for him to do: to put his arms
round her and draw her to his knee. Holding her thus, he whispered in her
ear words such as she loved to hear. He had grown skilled in repeating
them. Under the even murmur of his voice, her face grew tranquil; she sank
little by little into a state of well-being; her one fear was that he
would cease speaking.

On the writing-table, a gold-faced clock ticked solemnly: its minutes went
by unheeded. Maurice was the first to feel the disillusioning shudder of
reality; simultaneously, the remembrance returned to him of what he had
come intending to tell her.--He loosened her arms.

"Louise!" he said in an altered voice. "Look up, dear!--and let me
see your eyes. You won't believe me, I think, but I came this evening
meaning to talk very sensibly--nothing but common sense, in fact. There's
a great deal I want to say to you. Come, let us be two rational
people--yes? As a beginning, I'll draw up the blinds. The sun's behind the
houses now,
and the room is so close."

Louise shrank from the violent, dusty light; and her face, a moment back
rapturously content, took on at once a look of apprehension.

"Not to-night, Maurice--not to-night! It's too . . . too hot for common
sense to-night."

He laughed and took her hand. "Be my own brave girl, and help me. You have
only to look at me, as you know, to make me forget everything. And that
mustn't be. We have got to be serious for a little--have you ever thought,
Louise, how seldom you and I have talked seriously together? There was
never time, was there? . . . in all these weeks. There was only time to
tell you how much you are to me.--But now--well, so many things were
running in my head this afternoon. This letter from home was the beginning
of them. Read it--this page here, at least--and then I'll tell you what
I've been thinking."

He put the letter into her hand, and she ran her eyes over the page. But
she laid it down without comment.

A fear crossed his mind. "Don't misunderstand it," he said hastily. "You
know that point was settled months ago. There's no question of going back
for me now--and I'm glad of it. I never want to see England again. But it
gave me a lot to think about--how the staying here was to be managed, and
things like that."

He was conscious of becoming somewhat wordy; and as she did not respond,
his uneasiness grew. In his anxiety to make her think as he did, he
clasped his hand over hers.

"I needn't say again, need I, darling, what the past weeks have meant to
me? I'm so grateful to you for them that I could only prove it with years
of my life. But--and don't misunderstand this either, or think I don't
love you more now than ever before--you know I do. But, look at it as we
will, those weeks were play--glorious play, worth half one's existence,
but still only play. They couldn't last for ever. Now we've come back, and
we have to face work and the workaday world--you see what I mean, I'm
sure?"

There was a note of entreaty in his voice. As she still kept
silence, he gave his whole strength to demolishing the mute opposition he
felt in her.

"From now on, dear, we must make up our minds to be two very sensible
people. I've an enormous amount of work to get through, in the coming
months. And at Easter, I shall probably be thrown on my own resources. But
I'll fight my way somehow--here, beside you. We'll live our own life. Just
you and I.--Let me tell you what I propose to do,"--and here, he laid
before her, in their entirety, his plans for winning over Schwarz, for
gaining a foothold, and for making a modest income. "A good PRUFUNG," he
concluded, "and I'll be able to get anything I want out of him. In the
meantime, I've got to make a decent job next month of the trio--I'm pretty
well in his black books, I can guess, for going off as I did in July.
I must work as I've never done before. Each single day must be mapped out,
and nothing allowed to interfere. It's an undertaking; but you'll help me,
won't you, darling?--as only you can. I've let things go, far too much--I
see it now. But it was impossible--frankly, I didn't care. I only wanted
you. Now, it will . . . it must be different. The unrest is gone; you
belong to me, and I to you. We are sure of each other."

"Oh, it's stifling! There's no air in the room."

She rose from his side, and went to the open window, where she stood with
her back to him. As a result of his words, her life seemed suddenly to
stretch before her, just as dry, and dusty, and commonplace, as the street
she looked down on.

"I want to show you, too," he continued behind her, "that you haven't
utterly thrown yourself away. I know how little I can do; but honest
endeavour must count for something. I ask nothing better than to work for
you, Louise--and you know it."

A wave of warm air came in at the window; the dying afternoon turned to
twilight.

"Yes . . . and I? What am I to do? What room is there for me in your plans
of work?"

He glanced sharply at her; but she had not moved.

"Louise, dearest! I know that what I say must sound selfish and
inconsiderate. And yet I can't help it. I'm forced to ask you to
wait . . . merely to wait. And for what? Good Heavens, no one realises it
as I do! I have nothing to offer you, in return--but my love for you. But
if you knew how strong that is--if you knew how happy I am resolved to
make you! Have a little patience, darling! It will all come right in the
end--if only you love me! And you do, don't you? Say once more you do."

She turned so swiftly that the tail of her dressing-gown twisted, and fell
over on itself.

"Can you still ask that? Have you not had proof enough? Is there an inch
of you that doesn't believe in my love for you? Oh, Maurice! . . . It's
only that I'm tired to-night--and restless. I was so wretched at having to
come back. And the heat has got on my nerves. I wish a great storm would
come, and shake the house, and make the branches of the trees beat against
the panes--do you remember? And we were so safe. The worse the storm was,
the closer you held me." She sat down beside him, on the arm of the sofa.
"Such a night seemed doubly wild after the long, still days that had gone
before it--do you remember?--Oh, why had it all to end? Weren't we happy
enough? Or did we ask too much? Why must time go just the same over
happiness and unhappiness alike?" She got up again, and strayed back to
the window. "Days like those will never--CAN never--come again. Even as it
is, coming back has made a difference. Could you even yesterday have
spoken as you do to-day? Was there any room then for common sense between
us? No, we were too happy. It was enough to know we were alive."

"Be reasonable, darling. I am as sorry as you that these weeks are over;
but, glorious as they were, they couldn't last for ever. And trust me; we
shall know other days just as happy.--But if, because I talk like this,
you imagine I don't love you a hundred times better even than
yesterday--but you don't mean that! You know me better, my Rachel!"

"Yes. Perhaps you're right--you ARE right. But I am right, too."

She came back, and sat down on the sofa again, and propped her chin on her
hand.

"You're tired to-night, dear--that's all. To-morrow things will look
different, and you'll see the truth of what I say. At night, things get
distorted----"

"No, no, one only really sees in the dark," she interrupted him.

--"but in the morning, one can smile at one's fears. Trust me, Louise, and
believe in me. All our future happiness depends on how we act just now."

"Our future happiness . . . yes," she said slowly. "But what of
the present?"

"Isn't it worth while sacrificing a brief present to a long future?"

She threw him a quick glance. "You talk like an orthodox Christian,
Maurice," she said, and added: "The present is here: it belongs to us. The
future is so unclear--who knows what it will bring us!"

"And isn't it just for that very reason that I speak as I do? If
everything lay clear and straight before us, do you think I should bother
about anything but you? It's the uncertainty of the whole thing that
troubles me. But however vague it is, I can tell you one thing that will
happen. And you know, dearest, what that is--the only ambition I have
left: to make you my wife at the earliest possible moment."

She gazed at him meditatively.

"Why wouldn't you let me have my way at first?" he cried. "Why were you
against it? We could have kept it a secret: no one need have known a thing
about it. And I should never have asked you to go to England, or to see my
people. Call it narrow, if you must, I can't help it; it's the only thing
for us to do. Why won't you agree? Tell me what you have against it.
Listen!" He knelt down and put his arms round her. "We have still a
fortnight--that's time enough. Let us go to England to-morrow, and be
married without a word to anyone--in the first registrar's office we find.
Only marry me!"

"Would it make you love me more?"

She looked at him intently, turning the whole weight of her dark glance
upon him.

"You!" he said. "You to ask such a thing! You with these eyes . . . and
this hair! And these hands!--I love every line of them . . . You can't
understand, can you, you bundle of emotions, that I should care for you as
I do, and yet be able to talk soberly? It seems to you a man's way of
loving--and poor at that. But if you imagine I don't love you all the more
for what you have sacrificed for me--no, you didn't say that, I know, but
it comes to the same thing in the end."

She made no answer; and a feeling of discouragement began to creep over
him. He rose to his feet.

"A man who loves a woman as I love you," he said almost violently, "has
only one wish--can have only one. I shall never rest or be thoroughly
happy till you consent to marry me. That you can refuse as you do, seems
to prove that you don't care for me enough."

She put her arms round his neck: her wide sleeves fell back, leaving her
arms bear. "Maurice," she said gently, "why must you worry yourself?--You
know if you are set on our marrying, I'll give way. But I don't want to be
married--not yet. There's plenty of time. It's only a small matter now; it
doesn't seem as if it could make any difference; and yet it might. The
sense of being bound; of some one--no, of the law permitting us to love
each other . . . no, Maurice, not yet.--Listen! I'm older and wiser than
you, and I know. Happiness like this doesn't come every day. Instead of
brooding and hesitating, one must seize it while it's there: it's such a
slippery thing; it's gone before you know it. You can't bind it fast, and
say it shall last so and so long. We have it now; don't let us talk and
reason about it.--Oh, to-day, I'm nervous! Let me make a confession. As a
child I had presentiments--things I foresaw came true, and on the morning
of a misfortune, I've felt such a load on my chest that I could hardly
breathe. Well, to-day, when I came into this room again, it seemed as if
two black wings shut out the sunlight; and I was afraid. The past weeks
have been so unreasonably happy--such happiness mustn't be let go. Help me
to hold it; I can't do it alone. Don't try to make it fast to the future;
while you do that, it's going--do you think one can draw out happiness
like a thread? Oh, help me!--don't let any thing take it from us. And I
will give up everything to it. Only you must always be beside me, Maurice,
and love me. Don't let anything come between us! For my sake, for
my sake!"

In the face of this outpouring, his own opinions seemed of little matter;
his one concern was to ward off the tears that he saw were imminent. He
held her to him, stroked her hair, and murmured words of comfort. But when
she raised her head again, her eyelids were reddened, as though she had
actually wept.

"Now I know you. Now you are my own again," she whispered. "How could I
know you as you were then? I'd never seen you like that--seen you cold and
sensible."

He looked down at her without speaking, in a preoccupied way.

She touched his face with her finger. "Here are lines I don't know--I see
them now for the first time--lines of reason, of common sense, of all that
is strange to me in you."

He caught her hand, continuing to gaze at her with the same
expression of aloofness. "I need them for us both. You have none."

Her lips parted in a smile. Then this faded, and she looked at him with
eyes that reminded him of an untamed animal, or of a startled child.

"Mine . . . still mine!" she said passionately.--And in the hours it took
to reassure her, his primly reasoned conclusions were blown like chaff
before the wind.




II.



The next fortnight flew by; and familiar faces began to appear again. The
steps and inner vestibule of the Conservatorium became a lounge for seeing
acquaintances. In the cafe at the corner, the click of billiard balls was
to be heard from early morning on.

Maurice looked forward to meeting his friends, with some embarrassment. It
was unlikely that the events of the summer had remained a secret; for
that, there was a clique in the place over-much on the alert for scandal,
to which unfortunately the name of Louise Dufrayer lent itself only too
readily. He could not decide what position to take up, with regard to
their present intimacy; to flaunt it openly, to be pointed at as her
lover, would for her sake be repugnant to him. It made him reject an idea
he had revolved, of begging her to let him announce their engagement: for,
in the present state of things, the word "BRAUTIGAM" had an evil sound.
Eventually, he came to the conclusion that they must be more cautious than
they had ever been, and give absolutely no food for talk.

One day, in the GRASSISTRASSE, he came upon a little knot of men he knew.
And it was just as he supposed; the secret was a secret no longer. He saw
it at once in their treatment of him. There was a spice of deference in
their manner: and their looks expressed curiosity, envious surprise, even
a kind of brotherly welcome. After this, Maurice changed his mind. the
only course open to him was to brazen things out. He would not wait for
his friends to show him what they thought; he would be beforehand with
them.

A chance soon offered ofputting his intentions into practice. On entering
Seyffert's one afternoon, he espied Dove, who had just returned. Dove sat
alone at a small table, reading the TAGEBLATT; before him stood a cup of
cocoa. When he saw Maurice, he raised the newspaper a trifle higher, so
that it covered the level of his eyes. But Maurice went across the room,
and touched him on the shoulder. Dove dropped his shield, and sprang up,
exclaiming with surprise. Maurice sat down beside him, and, by dint of a
little wheedling, put Dove at his ease. The latter was bubbling over with
new experiences and future prospects. It seemed that in Peterborough,
Dove's native town, the art of music was taking strides that were
nothing short of marvellous. To hear Dove talk, the palm for progress must
be awarded to Peterborough, over and above all the other towns of Great
Britain; and he was agog with plans and expectations. During the holidays,
he had held conversations with several local magnates, all of whom
expressed themselves in favour of his scheme for founding a school of
music, and promised him their support. Dove had returned to Leipzig in a
brand-new outfit, and a hard hat; his studies were coming to an end in
spring, and he began to think already of casting the skin of Bohemianism.

Maurice listened to him leniently--even drew Dove out a little. But he
kept his eye on the clock. In less than half an hour, he would be with
Louise; from some corner of the semidarkened room, she would spring
towards him, and throw herself into his arms.

The majority of the classes were not yet assembled, when one day, a rumour
rose, and spreading, ran from mouth to mouth. Those who heard it were at
first incredulous; as, however, it continued to make headway, they
whistled to themselves, or vented their surprise in a breathless "ACH!"
Later in the day, they stood about in groups, and excitedly discussed the
subject. Ten of Schwarz's most advanced pupils had left the master for the
outsider named Schrievers. At the head of the list stood Furst.

The Conservatorium, royally endowed and municipally controlled, held to
its time-honoured customs with tenacity. The older masters laboured to
uphold tradition, and such younger ones as were progressively inclined,
had not the influence to effect a change. Unattached teachers were
regarded with suspicion--unless they happened to be former pupils of the
institution, in which case it was assumed that they carried out its
precepts. There had naturally always been plenty of others as well; but
these were comparatively powerless: they could give their pupils neither
imposing certificates, nor gala public performances, such as the
PRUFUNGEN, and, for the most part, they flourished unknown. This was
previous to the arrival of Schrievers. It was now about a year and a half
ago that his settling in Leipzig had caused a flutter in musical circles.
Then, however, he had been forgotten, or at least remembered only at
intervals, when it was heard that he had caught another fish, in the shape
of a renegade pupil.

Schrievers was a burly, red-bearded man, still well under middle
age, and possessed of plenty of push and self-confidence. It soon
transpired that he was an out-and-out champion of modern ideas in music;
for, from the first, he was connected with a leading paper, in which he
made his views known. He had a trenchant pen, and, with unfailing
consistency, criticised the musical conditions of Leipzig adversely. The
progressive LISZTVEREIN, of which he was soon the leading spirit, alone
escaped; the opera, bereft of Nikisch, and the Gewandhaus, under its
gentle and aged conductor, were treated by him with biting sarcasm. But
his chief butt was the Conservatorium, and its ancient methods. He
asserted that not a jot of the curriculum had been altered for fifty
years; and its speedy downfall was the sole result to be expected and
hoped for. The fact that, at this time, some seven hundred odd students
were enrolled on its books went far to discredit this pious hope; but,
nevertheless, Schrievers harped always on the same string; and just as
perpetual dropping wears a stone, so his continued diatribes ate into
emotional and sensitive natures. He began to attract a following, and,
simultaneously, to make himself known as a pupil of Liszt. This brought
him a fresh batch of enemies. Even a small German town is seldom without
its Liszt-pupil, and in Leipzig several were settled, none of whom had
ever heard of Martin Schrievers. They refused to admit him to their
jealous clique. In their opinion, he belonged to that goodly class of
persons, who, having by hook or by crook, contrived to spend an hour in
the Abbe of Weimar's presence, afterwards abused the sacred narre of
pupil. He was hated by these chosen few with more vigour than by the
conservative pedagogues, who, naturally enough, saw the ruin of art in all
he did.

Various reasons were given for his success, no one being willing to
believe that it was due to his merits as a teacher. Some said that he
recognised in a twinkling the weak points of the individual with whom he
had to deal. He humoured foibles, was tender of self-conceit. He also
flattered his pupils by giving them music that was beyond their powers of
execution: those, for instance, who had worked long and with feeble
interest at Czerny, Dussek and Hummel, were dazzled at the prospect of
Liszt and Chopin, which was suddenly thrust beneath their, eyes. Other
ill-wishers believed that his chief bait was the musical SOIREES he gave
when a famous pianist came to the town. By virtue of his journalistic
position, he was personally acquainted with all the great; they
visited at his house, and his pupils had thus not merely the opportunity
of getting to know artists like Rubinstein and d'Albert, and of hearing
them play in private, but, what was more to the point, of themselves
taking part in the performance, and perhaps receiving a golden word from
the great man's lips. And though no huge parchment scroll was forthcoming
on the termination of one's studies, yet Schrievers held the weapon of
criticism in his hand, and, at the first tentative public appearance of
the young performer, could make or mar as he chose. He lived on good
terms, too, with his fellow-critics, so that wire-pulling was
easy--incomparably more so than were the embarrassing visits, open to any
snub, which were common if one was only a pupil of the Conservatorium, and
which, in the case of the ladypupils, included costly bouquets of flowers.

Among those who had deserted Schwarz were some, like Miss Martin,
malcontents, who had flitted from place to place, and from master to
master, in the perpetual hope of discovering that ideal teacher who would
estimate them at their true worth. These were radiantly satisfied with the
change. Miss Martin bore, wherever she went, an octave-study by Liszt, and
flaunted it in the faces of her friends: and Miss Moses, who had been
under Bendel, could not say two sentences without throwing in: "That
Chopin ETUDE I studied last," or: "The Polonaise in E flat I'm working
at;" for, beforehand, she too had been a humble performer of Haydn and
Bertini. James had the prospect of playing a Concerto by Liszt--forbidden
fruit to the pupils of the Conservatorium--in one of the concerts of the
LISZTVEREIN, and was sure, in advance, of being favourably criticised.
Boehmer wished to specialise in Bach, and if Schwarz set himself against
one thing more than another, it was a one-sided musical taste: within the
bounds of classicism, the master demanded catholic sympathies; those
students who had romantic leanings towards Chopin and Schumann, were
castigated with severely classical compositions; and, vice versa, he had
insisted on Boehmer widening his horizon on Schubert and Mendelssohn. And
there were also several others, who, having been dragged forward by
Schwarz, from inefficient beginnings, now left him, to write their
acquired skill to Schrievers' credit. Furst was the greatest riddle of
all. It was he who, on subsequent concert-tours, was to have extended the
fame of the Conservatorium; he was the show pupil of the institution, and,
in the coming PRUFUNGEN, was to have distinguished himself, and
his master with him, by playing Beethoven's Concerto in E flat.

Other teachers besides Schwarz had been forsaken for the new-comer, but in
no case by so large a body of students. They bore their losses
philosophically. Bendel, one of the few masters who spoke English--it was
against the principles of Schwarz to know a word of it: foreign pupils had
to learn his language, not he theirs--Bendel, frequented chiefly by the
American colony, was of a phlegmatic temperament and not easily roused. He
alluded to the backsliders with an ironical jest, preferring to believe
that they were the losers. But Schwarz was of a diametrically opposite
nature. In the short, thickset man, with the all-seeing eyes, and the head
of carefully waved hair, just streaked with grey--a head at once too
massive and too fine for the clumsy body--in Schwarz, dwelt a fierce and
indomitable pride. His was one of those moody, sensitive natures, quick to
resent, always on the look-out for offence. He was ever ready to translate
things into the personal; for though he had an overweening sense of his
own importance, there was yet room in him for a secret doubt; and with
this doubt, he, as it were, put other people to the test. The loss of the
flower of his flock made him doubly unsure; he felt himself a marked man,
for Bendel and other enemies to jeer at. Aloud, he spoke long and
vehemently, as if mere noisy words would heal the wound. And the pupils
who had remained faithful to him, gathered all the more closely round him,
and burned as he did. If wishes could have injured or killed, Furst's
career would then and there have come to an end: his ingratitude, his
treachery, and his lack of moral fibre, were denounced on every hand.

One day, at this time, Maurice entered Schwarz's room. The class was
assembled; but, although the hour was well advanced, no one had begun to
play. The master stood at the window, with his back to the grass-grown
courtyard. He was haranguing, in a strident voice, the three pupils who
sat along the wall. From what followed, Maurice gathered that that very
afternoon Schwarz had been informed of the loss of four more pupils; and
though, as every one knew, he had hitherto not set much store by any of
them, he now discovered latent talent in all four, and was, at the same
time, exasperated that such nonentities should presume to judge him.

To infer from the appearance of those present, the storm had raged fora
considerable period. And still it went on. After the expiry of a
futher interval, Krafft who, throughout, had sat shading his eyes with his
hand, woke as though from sleep, yawned heartily, stretched himself and,
taking out his watch, studied it with profound attention. For the first
time, Schwarz was checked in his flow of words; he coughed, fumbled for an
epithet, then stopped, and, to the general surprise, motioned Krafft to
the piano.

But Heinrich was in a bad mood. He stifled another yawn before beginning,
and played in a mechanical way.

Schwarz had often enough made allowance for this pupil's varying moods; he
was not now in the humour to do so.

"HALT!" he cried before the first page was turned. "What in God's name is
the meaning of this? Do you come here to read from sight?"

Krafft continued to play as if nothing had been said.

"Do you hear me?" thundered Schwarz.

"It's impossible," said Krafft, and proceeded.

"BARMHERZIGER GOTT!--"The master's short neck reddened, and twisted in its
collar.

"Give me music I care to play, and I'll show you how it should be done. I
can make nothing of this," answered Krafft.

Schwarz strode up to the piano, and swept the volume from the rack; it
fell with a crash on the keys and on Krafft's hands, and effectually
hindered him from continuing.

What had gone before was as a summer shower to a deluge. With his arms
stiffly knotted behind his back, Schwarz paced the floor with a tread that
shook it. His steely blue eyes flashed with passion; the veins stood out
on his forehead; his large, prominent mouth gaped above his tuft of beard;
he struck ludicrous attitudes, pouring out, meanwhile, without stint--for
he had soon passed from Krafft's particular case of insubordination to the
general one--pouring out the savage anger and deep-felt injury that had
accumulated in him. Finally, he invited the class to rise and leave him,
there and then. For what, in God's name, were they waiting? Let them up
and away, without more ado!

On receiving the volume of Beethoven on his fingers, Krafft straightened
out the pages, and taking down his hat from its peg, left the room, with
movements of a calculated coolness. But only a pupil of Bullow's might
take such a liberty; the rest had to assist quietly at the painful scene.
Maurice studied his finger nails, and Dove did not once remove his eyes
from the leg of the piano. They, at least, knew from experience that,
in time, the storm would pass; also that it sounded worse, than it
actually was. But a new-comer, a stout Bavarian lad, with hair cut like
Rubinstein's, who was present at the lesson for the first time, was pale
and frightened, and sat drinking in every word.

Towards the end of the hour, when quiet was re-established, one's
inclination was rather to escape from the room and be free, than to sit
down to play something that demanded coolness and concentration. Dove, who
was not sensitive to externals, came safely through the ordeal; but
Maurice made a poor job of the trio in which he had hoped to excel.
Schwarz did not even offer to turn the pages. This, Beyerlein, the
new-comer, did, in a nervous desire to ingratiate himself; but he was
still so flustered that, at a critical moment, he brought the music down
on the keys. Schwarz said nothing; wrapped in the moody silence that
invariably followed his outbursts, he hardly seemed aware that anyone was
playing. After two movements of the trio, he signed to Beyerlein to take
his turn, and proffered no comment on Maurice's work. Maurice would have
hurried away, without a further word, had he not already learned the early
date of his performance. He knew, too, that if the practical side of the
affair--rehearsals with string players, and so on--was not satisfactorily
arranged, he would be blamed for it. So he reminded Schwarz of the matter.
From what ensued, it was plain that the master still bore him a grudge for
absconding in summer. Schwarz glared coldly at him, as if unsure to what
Maurice alluded; and when the latter had recalled the details of the case
to his mind, he said rudely: "You went your way, Herr Guest. Now I go
mine." He commenced to turn the leaves of his ponderous note-book, and
after Maurice had stood for some few minutes, listening to Beyerlein trip
and stumble through Mozart, he felt that, for this day at least, he could
put up with no more, and left the class.




III.



Shaking all disagreeable impressions from him, he sped through the fading
light of the September afternoon.

This was the time--it was six o'clock--at which he could rejoin Louise
with a free mind. It was the exception for him to go earlier, or at other
hours; but, did he chance to go, no matter when, she met him in the same
way--sprang towards him from the window, where she had been sitting or
standing, with her eyes on the street.

"I believe you watch for me all day long," he said to her once.

On this particular afternoon, when he had used much the same words to her,
she put back her head and looked up at him, with a pale, unsmiling face.

"Not quite," she answered slowly. "But I have a fancy, Maurice--a foolish,
fancy--that once you will come early--in the morning--and we shall have
the whole day together again. Perhaps even go away somewhere . . . before
summer is quite over."

"And I promise you, dearest, we will. Just let me get through the next
fortnight, and then I shall be freer. We'll take the train, and go back to
Rochlitz, or anywhere you like. In the meantime, take more care of
yourself. You are far too pale. You will go out tomorrow, yes?--to please
me?"

But this was a request he had often made, and generally in vain.

Since the afternoon of their return, Louise had made no further attempt to
stem or alter circumstance. She accepted Maurice's absences without demur.
But one result was, that her feelings were hoarded up for the few hours he
passed with her: these were then a working-off of emotion; and it seemed
impossible to cram enough into them, to make good the starved remainder of
the day.

Maurice was vaguely troubled. He was himself so busy at this time, and so
full of revived energy, that he could not imagine her happy, living as she
did, entirely without occupation. At first he had tried to persuade her to
take up her music again; but she would not even consider it. To all his
arguments, she made the same reply.

"I have no real talent. With me, it was only an excuse--to get away
from home."

Nor could he induce her to renew her acquaintance with people she had
known.

"Do you know, I once thought you didn't care a jot what people said of
you?" It was not a very kind thing to say; it slipped out unawares.

But she did not take it amiss. "I used not to," she answered with her
invincible frankness. "But now--it seems--I do."

"Why, dearest? Aren't you happy enough not to care?"

For answer, she took his face between her hands, and looked at him with
such an ill-suppressed fire in her eyes that all he could do was to draw
her into his arms.

His pains for her good came to nothing. He took her his favourite books,
but--with the exception of an occasional novel--Louise was no reader. In
those he brought her, she seldom advanced further than the first few
pages; and she could sit for an hour without turning a leaf. He had never
seen her with a piece of sewing or any such feminine employment in her
hands. Nor did she spend time on her person; as a rule, he found her in
her dressing-gown. He had to give up trying to influence her, and to
become reconciled to the fact that she chose to live only for him. But on
this September day, after the unpleasant episode with Schwarz, he had a
fancy to go for a walk; Louise was unwilling; and he felt anew how
preposterous it was for her to spend these fine autumn days, in this
half-dark room.

"You are burying yourself alive--just as you did last winter."

She laid her hand on his lips. "No, no!--don't say that. Now I am happy."

"But are you really? Sometimes I'm not sure." He was tired himself this
evening, and found it difficult to be convinced. "It troubles me when I
think how dull it must be for you. Dearest, are you--can you really be
happy like this?"

"I have you, Maurice."

"But only for an hour or two in the twenty-four. Tell me, what do you
think of?"

"Of you."

"All that time? Of poor, plain, ordinary me?"

"You are mine," she said with vehemence, and looked at him with what he
called her "hungry-beast" eyes.

"You would like to eat me, I think."

"Yes. And I should begin here; this is the bit of you I love best"--and
before he knew what she was going to do, she had stooped, and he felt her
teeth in the skin of his neck.

"That's a strange way of showing your love," he said, and involuntarily
put his hand to the spot, where two bluish-red marks had appeared.

"It's my way. I want you--I WANT you. I want to feel that you're mine--to
make you more mine than you've ever been. I wish I had a hundred arms. I
would hold you with them all, and never let you go."

"But, dearest, one would think I wanted to go. Do you really believe if I
had my own way, I should be anywhere but here with you?"

"No.--I don't know.--How should I know?"

"Doubts?--beloved!"

"No, no, not doubts. It's only--oh, I don't know what it is. If you could
always be with me, Maurice, they wouldn't come. For what I never meant to
happen HAS happened. I have grown to care too much--far too much. I want
you, I need you, at every moment of the day. I want you never to be out of
my sight."

Maurice held her at arm's length, and looked at her. "You can say that--at
last!" And drawing her to him: "Patience, darling. Just a little patience.
Some day you will never be alone again."

"I do have patience, Maurice. But let me be patient in my own way. For I'm
not like you. I have no room in me now for other things. I can't think of
anything else. If I had my way, we should shut ourselves up alone, and
live only for each other. Not share it, not make it just a part of what we
do."

"But man can't live on nectar and honey alone. It wouldn't be life."

"It wouldn't be life, no. It would be more than life."

Some of the evening shadows seemed to invade her face. Her expression was
childishly pathetic. He drew her to his knee.

"I should like to see you happier, Louise--yes, yes, I know!--but I mean
perfectly happy, as you were sometimes at Rochlitz. Since we came back, it
has never been just the right thing--say what you like."

"If only we had never come back!"

"If you still think so, darling, when I've finished here, we'll go
away at once. In the meantime, patience."

"Oh, I don't mean to be unreasonable!" But her head was on his shoulder,
his arms were round her; and in this position, nothing mattered greatly to
her.

Patience?--yes, there was need for him to exhort her to patience. It ate
already into her soul as iron bands eat into flesh. The greater part of
her life was now spent in practising it. And for sheer loathing of it, she
turned over, on waking, and kept her eyes closed, in an attempt to prolong
the night. For the day stretched empty before her; the hours passed, one
by one, like grey-veiled ghosts. Yet not for a moment had she harboured
his idea of regular occupation; she knew herself too well for that. In the
fever into which her blood had worked itself she could settle to nothing:
her attention was centred wholly in herself; and all her senses were
preternaturally acute. But she suffered, too, under the stress of her
feeling; it blunted her, and made her, on the one hand, regardless of
everything outside it, on the other, morbidly sensitive to trifles. She
waited for him, hour after hour, crouched in a corner of the sofa, or
stretched at full length, with closed eyes.

Long before it was time for him to come, she was stationed at the window.
She learned to know the people who appeared in the street between the
hours of four and six so accurately that she could have described them
blindfold. There was the oldfaced little girl who delivered milk; there
was the postman who emptied into his canvas receptacle, the blue
letter-box affixed to the opposite wall; the student with the gashed face
and red cap, who lived a couple of doors further down, and always whistled
the same tune; the big Newfoundland dog that stalked majestically at his
side, and answered to the name of Tasso--she knew them all. These two last
hours were weighted with lead. He came, sometimes a poor half-hour too
soon, but usually not till past six o'clock. Never, in her life, had she
waited for anyone like this, and, towards the end of the time, a sense of
injury, of more than mortal endurance, would steal through her and dull
her heart towards him, in a way that frightened her.

When, at length, she saw him turn the corner, when she had caught and
answered his swift upward glance, she drew back into the shadow of the
room, and hid her face in her hands.

Then she listened.

He had the key of the little papered door in the wall. Between the sound
of his step on the stair, and the turning of the key in the lock,
there was time for her to undergo a moment of suspense that drove her hand
to her throat. What if, after the tension of the afternoon, her heart, her
nerves--parts of her over which she had no control--should not take their
customary bound towards him? What if her pulses should not answer his? But
before she could think her thought to the end, he was there; and when she
saw his kind eyes alight, his eager hands outstretched, her nervous fears
were vanquished. Maurice hardly gave himself time to shut the door, before
catching her to him in a long embrace. And yet, though she did not suspect
it, he, too, had a twinge of uncertainty on entering. Her bodily presence
still affected him with a sense of strangeness--it took him a moment to
get used to her again, as it were--and he was forced to reassure himself
that nothing had changed during his absence, that she was still all his
own.

When the agitation of these first, few, speechless minutes had subsided, a
great tenderness seized Louise; freeing one hand, she smoothed back his
hair from his forehead, with movements each of which was a caress. As for
him, his first impetuous rush of feeling was invariably followed by an
almost morbid pity for her, which, in this form, was a new note in their
relation to each other, or a harking back to the oldest note of all. When
he considered how dependent she was on him, how her one desire was to have
him with her, he felt that he could never repay her or do enough for her:
and, whatever his own state of mind previous to coming, when once he was
there, he exerted himself to the utmost, to cheer her. It was always she
who needed consolation; and, by means of his endearments, she was petted
back to happiness like a tired child.

In his efforts to take her out of herself, Maurice told her how he had
spent the day: where he had been, and whom he had met--every detail that
he thought might interest her. She listened, in grateful silence, but she
never put a question. This at an end, he returned once more, in a kind of
eternal circle, to the one subject of which she never wearied. He might
repeat, for the thousandth time, how dear she was to him, without the
least fear that the story would grow stale in the telling.

And once here, amidst the deep tenderness of his words, he felt her slowly
come to life again, and unfold like a flower. After the long, dead day,
Louise was consumed by a desire to drain such moments as these to the
dregs. She did not let a word of his pass unchallenged, and all that she
herself said, was an attempt to discover some spasm of mental ecstasy,
which they had not yet experienced. Sometimes, the feeling grew so
strong that it forced her to give an outward sign. Slipping to her knees,
she gazed at him with the eyes of a faithful animal. "What have I done to
make you look at me like that?" asked Maurice, amazed.

"What can I do to show you how I love you? Tell me what I can do."

"Do?--what do you want to do? Be your own dear self--that's all, and more
than enough."

But she continued to look beseechingly at him, waiting for the word that
might be the word of her salvation.

"Haven't you done enough already, in giving yourself to me?" he asked,
seeing how she hung on his lips.

But she repeated: "What can I do? Let me do something. Oh, I wish you
would hurt me, or be unkind to me!"

He tried to make her understand that he wished for no such humble
adoration, that, indeed, he could not be happy under it. If either was to
serve the other, it was he; he asked nothing better than to put his hands
under her feet. But he could neither coax her nor laugh her out of her
absorption: she had the will to self-abasement; and she remained
unsatisfied, waiting for the word he would not speak.

Once or twice, during these weeks, they went out in the evening, and, in
the corner of some quiet restaurant, took a festive little meal. But, for
the most part, she preferred to stay at home. She was not dressed, she
said, or she was tired, or it was too hot, or it had rained. And Maurice
did not urge her; for, on the last occasion, the evening had been spoiled
for him by the conduct of some people at a neighbouring table; they had
stared at Louise, and whispered remarks about her. At home, she herself
prepared the supper, moving indolently about the room, her dressing-gown
dragging after her, from table to cupboard, and back again, often with a
pause at his side, in which she forgot what she had set out for. Maurice
disputed each trifling service with her; he could only think of Louise as
made to be waited on, slow to serve herself.

"Let me do it, dearest."

She had risen anew to fetch something. Now she stood beside him, and put
her arms round his neck.

"What can I do for you? Tell me what I can do," she said, and crushed his
head against her breast.

He loosened her fingers, and drew her to his knee. "What do you
want me to say, dear discontent? Do?--you were never meant to do anything
in this world. Your hands were made to lie one on top of the other...so!
Look at them! Most white and most useless!"

"There are things not made with hands," she answered obscurely. She let
him do what he liked; but she kept her face turned away; and over her eyes
passed a faint shadow of resignation.

But this mood also was a transient one; hours followed, when she no longer
sought and questioned, but when she gave, recklessly, in a wild endeavour
to lose the sense of twofold being. And before these outbreaks, the young
man was helpless. His past life, and such experience as he had gathered in
it, grew fantastic and unreal, might all have belonged to some one else:
the sole reality in a world of shadows was this soft human body that he
held in his arms.

Point by point, however, each of which wounded, consciousness fought
itself free again. Such violent extremes of emotion were, in truth,
contrary to his nature. They made him unsure. And, as the pendulum swung
back, something vital in him made protest.

"Sometimes, it seems as if there were something else . . . something
that's not love at all . . . more like hate--yes, as if you hated me . . .
would like to kill me."

Her whole body was moved by the sigh she drew.

"If I only could! Then I should know that you were mine indeed."

"Is it possible for me to be more yours than I am?"

"Part of you would never be mine, though we spent all our lives together."

He roused himself from his lethargy. "How can you say that?--And yet I
think I know what you mean. It's like a kind of rage that comes over
one--Yes, I've felt it, too. Listen, darling!--there are things one can't
say in daylight. I, too, have felt . . . sometimes . . . that in spite of
all my love for you--I mean our love for each other--yet there was still
something, a part of you, I had no power over. The real you is
something--some one I don't really know in spite of all the kisses.
Yes"--and the more he tried to find words for what he meant, the more
convinced he grew of its truth. "Nothing keeps us apart; you love me, are
here in my arms, and yet . . .yet there's a bit of you I can't
influence--that is still strange to me. How often I have to ask you why
you look at me in a certain way, or what you are thinking of! I never know
your thoughts; I've never once been able to read them; you always keep
something back.--Why is it, dear? Is it my fault? If I could just once get
at your real self--if I knew that once, only once, in all these weeks, you
had been mine--every bit of you--then . . . yes, then, I believe I would
be satisfied to . . . to--I don't know what!"

He had spoken in an even, monotonous voice, almost more to himself than to
her. Now, however, he was forced to the opposite extreme of anxious
solicitude. "No, no, I didn't really mean it. Darling! . . . hush!--don't
cry like that. I didn't know what I was saying; it isn 't true, not a word
of it."

She had flung herself across him; her own elemental weeping shook her from
head to foot. He realised, for the first time, the depth and strength of
it, now that it, as it were, went through him, too. Gathering her to him,
he made wild and foolish promises. But nothing soothed her: she wept on,
until the dawn crept in, thinly grey, round the windows. But when it grew
so light that the objects in the room were recovering their form, she fell
asleep, and he hardly dared to breathe, for fear of disturbing her.

By day, the sensations he had tried to express to her seemed the figments
of the night. He needed only to be absent from her to feel the old
restlessness tug at his heart-strings. At such moments, it seemed to him
ridiculous to torment himself about an infinitesimal flaw in their love,
and one which perhaps existed only in his imagination. To be with her
again was his sole desire; and to feel her cheek on his, to be free to run
his hands through her exciting hair, belonged, when he was separated from
her, to that small category of things for which he would have bartered his
soul.

One evening, towards the end of September, Louise watched for him at the
window. It had been a warm autumn day, rich in varying lights and shades.
Now it was late, nearly half-past six, and still he had not come: her eyes
were tired with staring down the street.

When at last he appeared, she saw that that he was carrying flowers. Her
heart, which, at the sight of him, had set up a glad and violent beating,
settled down again at once, to its normal course. She knew what the
flowers meant: in a spirit of candour, which had something disarming in
it, he invariably brought them when he could not stay long with her; and
she had learned to dread seeing them in his hand.

In very truth, he was barely inside the room before he told her
that he could only stay for an hour. He was to play his trio the following
evening, and now, at the last moment, the 'cellist had been taken ill. He
had spent the greater part of the afternoon looking for a substitute, and
having found one, had still to interview him again, to let him know the
time at which Schwarz had appointed an extra rehearsal for the next day.

Maurice had mentioned more than once the date of his playing; but it had
never seemed more to Louise than a disturbing outside fact, to be put out
of mind or kissed away. She had forgotten all about it, and the knowledge
of this overcame her disappointment; she tried to atone, by being
reasonable. Maurice had steeled himself against pleadings and despondency,
and was grateful to her for making things easy. He wished to outdo himself
in tender encouragement; but she remained evasive: and since, in spite of
himself, he could not hinder his thoughts from slipping forward to the
coming evening, he, too, had moments of preoccupied silence.

When the clock struck eight, he rose to go. In saying goodnight, he turned
her face up, and asked her had she decided if she were coming to hear him
play.

It was on her direct lips to reply that she had not thought anything about
it. A glance at his face checked her. He was waiting anxiously for her
answer: it was a matter of importance to him. Her previous sense of
remissness was still with her, hampering her, making her unfree; and for a
minute she did not know what to say.

"Would you mind much if I asked you not to come?" he said as she
hesitated.

"No, of course not," she hastened to respond, glad to be relieved of the
decision. "If you would rather I didn't."

"It's a fancy of mine, dearest--foolish, I know--that I shall get on
better if you're not there."

"It's all right. I understand."

When he had gone, she returned to her place at the window. It was a fine
night: there was no moon; but the stars glittered furiously in the
inky-blue sky, a stretch of which was visible above the gardens. The
vastness of the night, the distance of sky and stars, made her shiver.
Leaning her wrists on the cold, moist sill, she looked down into the
street; it was not very far; but a jump from where she was, to the
pavement, would suffice to put an end to every feeling. She was very
lonely; no one wanted her. Here she might stand, at this forlorn post, for
hours, for the whole night; no one would either know or care.--And
her feeling of error, of unfreedom and desolation grew so hard to bear
that, for fear she should actually throw herself down, she banged the
window to, with a crash that resounded through the street.

But there was something else at work in her to-night, which she could not
understand. She struggled with it, as one struggles with a forgotten
melody, which hovers behind the consciousness, and will not emerge.

Except for the light thrown by a small lamp, the room was in shadow. She
went slowly back to the sofa. On the way she trod on the roses; they had
been knocked down and forgotten. She picked them up, and laid them on the
cushioned seat beside her. They were dark crimson, and gave out a strong
scent: Maurice had seldom brought her such beautiful roses. She sat with
her elbows on her knees, her hands closed and pressed to her cheeks, as
though she could only think with her muscles at a strain. In memory, she
went over what he had said, reflected on what his words meant, and strove,
honestly, to project herself into that part of his life, of which she knew
nothing. But it was not easy; for one thing, the smell of the roses was
too strong; it seemed to hinder her imagination. They had the scent that
only deep red roses have--one which seems to come from a distance, from
the very heart of cool, pure things--and more and more, she felt as if
something within her were trying to find vent in it, something that
swelled up, subsided, and mounted again, with what was almost a physical
effort. It had been the truth when she told him that she understood; but
it had touched her strangely all the same: for it had let her see into an
unsuspected corner of his nature. He, too, then, had a cranny in his
brain, where such fancies lodged--such an eccentric, artist fancy, or
whim, or superstition--as that, out of several hundred people, a single
individual could distract and disturb. He . . . too!

The little word had done it. Now she knew--knew what the roses had been
trying to tell her. And as if invisible hands had touched a spring in her
brain, thereby opening some secret place, the memory of a certain hour
returned to her, returned with such force that she fell on her knees, and
pressed her face to the seat of the sofa. On the floor beside her lay the
roses. Why, oh why, had he needed to bring them to her, on this night of
all others?

On the day she remembered, they had been lavished over the
room-one June evening, two years ago. And ever afterwards, the scent of
blood-red roses had been associated for her with one of the sweet, leading
themes in Beethoven's violin concerto. There was a special concert that
night at the Conservatorium; the hall was filled to the last place. She
waited with him in the green-room, until his turn came to play. Then she
went into the hall, and stood at the back, under the gallery. Once more,
she was aware of the stir that ran through the audience, as Schilsky
walked down the platform. Hardly, however, had he drawn his bow across the
strings, when she felt a touch on her arm, and a Russian, who was an
intimate friend of his, beckoned her outside. There, he told her that he
had been sent to ask her to leave the hall; and they smiled at each other,
in understanding of the whim. Afterwards, she learned how, just about to
step on to the platform, Schilsky had had a presentiment that things would
go wrong if she remained inside. In his gratitude, and in the boyish
exultation with which success filled him, he had collected all the roses,
and wantonly pulled them to pieces. Red petals fell like flakes of red
snow; and, crushed and bruised, the fragile leaves had yielded a scent,
tenfold increased.

While it lasted, the vision was painfully intense: on returning to
herself, she was obliged to look round and think where she was. The lamp
burned steadily; the dull room was just as she had left it. With a cry,
she buried her face in the cushions again, and held her hands to her ears.

More, more, and more again! She was as hungry for these memories as a
child for dainties. She was starved for them. And now, dead to the
present, she relived the past happy hours of triumph and excitement, not
one of which had hung heavy, in each of which her craving for sensation
had been stilled. She saw herself as she had then been, proud, secure,
unspeakably content. Forgotten words rang in her ears, words of love and
of anger, words that were like ointment and like knives. Then, not a day
had been empty or tedious; life was always highly coloured, and there was
neither pleasure nor pain that she had not tasted to the full. Even the
suffering she had gone through, for his sake, was no longer hateful to
her. Anything--anything rather than this dead level of monotony on which
she had fallen.

When, finally, she raised her head, she might, for all she knew, have been
absent for days. Things had lost their familiar aspect; she had once more
lived right through the great experience of her life. Putting her hands to
her forehead, she tried to force her thoughts back to reality.
Then, stiffly, she rose from her knees. In doing so, she touched the
roses. With a gesture that was her real awakening, she caught them up and
pressed them to her face. It was a satisfaction to her that fingers and
cheeks were pricked by their thorns. She was conscious of wishing to hurt
herself. With her lips on the cool buds, she stammered broken words:
"Maurice--my poor Maurice!" and kissed the flowers, feeling as if, in some
occult way, he would be aware of her kisses, of the love she was thus
expending on him.

For, in a sudden revulsion of feeling, she was sensible of a great
compassion for him; and with each pressure of her lips to the roses, she
implored his forgiveness for her unpremeditated desertion. She called to
mind his tenderness, his unceasing care of her, and, closing her eyes,
stretched out her arms to him, in the empty room. Already she began to
live for the following evening, when he would come again. Now, only to
sleep through as many as she could of the hours that separated them! She
would be to him the next night, what she had never yet been: his own rival
in fondness. And as a beginning, she crossed the room, and put the fading
roses in a pitcher of water.




IV.



Towards seven o'clock the following evening, Maurice loitered about the
vestibule of the Conservatorium. In spite of his attempt to time himself,
he had arrived too early, and his predecessor on the programme had still
to play two movements of a sonata by Beethoven.

As he stood there, Madeleine entered by the street-door.

"Is that you?" she asked, in the ironical tone she now habitually used to
him. "You look just as if you were posing for the John in a Rubens
Crucifixion.--Feel shaky? No? You ought to, you know. One plays all the
better for it.--Well, good luck to you! I'll hold my thumbs."

He went along the passage to the little green-room, at the heels of his
string-players. On seeing them go by, it had occurred to him that he might
draw their attention to a passage in the VARIATIONS, with which he had not
been satisfied at rehearsal that day. But when he caught them up, they
were so deep in talk that he hesitated to interrupt. The 'cellist, a
greasy, little fellow with a mop of touzled hair, was relating an
adventure he had had the night before. His droll way of telling it was
more amusing than the long-winded story, and he himself was more tickled
by it than was the violinist, a lanky German-American boy, with oily black
hair and a pimpled face. Throughout, both tuned their instruments
assiduously, with that air of inattention common to string-players.

Meanwhile, the sonata by Beethoven ran its course. While the story-teller
still smacked his lips, it came to an end, and the performer, a tall,
Polish girl, with a long, sallow, bird-like neck, round which was wound a
piece of black velvet, descended the steps. Behind her was heard the
applause of many hands. As this showed no sign of ceasing, Schwarz, who
had come out of the hall by a lower door, bade her return and bow her
thanks. At his words, the girl burst into tears.

"NA, NA, NA!" he said soothingly. "What's all this about? You did
excellently."

She seized his hand and clung to it. The 'cellist ran to fetch water; the
other two young men were embarrassed, and looked away.

Here, however, several friends burst into the room, and bore
Fraulein Prybowski off. Schwarz gave the signal, the stringplayers picked
up their instruments, and the little procession, with Maurice at its head,
mounted the steps to the platform.

Although before an audience for the first time in his life, Maurice had
never felt more composed. Passing by the organ, and the empty seats of the
orchestra, he descended to the front of the platform, where two grand
pianos stood side by side; and, as he went, he noted that the hall was
exceptionally well filled. He let down the lid of the piano to the peg for
chambermusic; he lowered the piano-chair, and flicked the keys with his
handkerchief. And Schwarz, sitting by him, to turn the pages of the music,
felt so sure of this pupil's coolness that he yawned, and stroked the
insides of his trouser-legs.

Maurice was just ready for the start, when the 'cellist, who was restless,
discovered that the stand which had been placed for him was insecure;
rising from his scat, he went to fetch another from the back of the
platform. In the delay that ensued, Maurice looked round at the audience.
He saw innumerable heads and faces, all turned expectantly towards him,
like lines of globular fruits. His eye ranged indifferently over the
occupants of the front seats--strange faces, which told him nothing--until
his attention was arrested by a face almost directly beneath him, in the
second row. For the flash of a second, he thought he knew the person to
whom it belonged, and struggled to recall a name. Then, almost as swiftly,
he dismissed the idea. It was, however, a face of that kind which, once
seen, is never forgotten--a frog-like face, with protruding eyes, and the
frog's expressive leer. Somewhere, not very long ago, this face had been
before him, and had stared at him in the same disconcerting manner--but
where? when? In the few seconds that remained, his brain worked furiously,
sped back in desperate haste over all the likely places where he might
have seen it. And a restaurant evolved itself; a table in a secluded
corner; chrysanthemums and their acrid scent; a screen, round which this
repulsive face had peered. It had fixed them both, with such malevolence
that it had destroyed his pleasure, and he had persuaded Louise to go
home. His memory was now so alert that he could recall the man's two
companions as well.

The scene built itself up with inconceivable rapidity. And while he was
still absorbed by it, Schwarz raised a decisive hand. It was the signal to
begin; he obeyed unthinkingly; and was at the bottom of the first page
before he knew it.

Throughout the whole of the opening movement, he was not rightly
awake to what he was doing. His fingers, like well-drilled soldiers, went
automatically through their work, neither blundering nor forgetting; but
the mind which should have controlled them was unable to concentrate
itself: he heard himself play as though he were listening to some one
else. He was only roused by the burst of applause that succeeded the final
chords. As he struck the first notes of the ANDANTE WITH VARIATIONS, he
nerved himself for an effort; but now, as if it were the result of his
previous inattention, an odd uneasiness beset him; and his beginning to
weigh each note as he played it, his fingers hesitated and grew less sure.
Having failed, through over-care, in the rounding of a turn, he resolved
to let things go as they would, and his thoughts wander at will. The
movements of the trio succeeded one another; the VARIATIONS ceased, and
were followed by the crisp gaiety of the MINUET. The lights above his head
were reflected in the shining ebony of the piano; regularly, every moment
or two, he was struck by the appearance of Schwarz's broad, fat hand,
which crossed his range of vision to turn a leaf; he meditated absently on
a sharp uplifting of this hand that occurred, as though the master were
dissatisfied with the rhythm--the 'cellist's fault, no doubt: he had been
inexact at rehearsal, and, this evening, was too much taken up with his
own witticisms beforehand, to think about what he had to do. And thus the
four divisions of the trio slipped past, separated by a disturbing noise
of hands, which continued to seem as unreal to Maurice as everything else.
Only as the last notes of the PRESTISSIMO died away, in the disappointing,
ineffectual scales in C major, with which the trio closed--not till then
did he grasp that the event to which he had looked forward for many weeks
was behind him, and also that no one present knew less of how it had
passed off than he himself.

With his music in his hand, he turned to Schwarz, to learn what success he
had had, from the master's face. According to custom, Schwarz shook hands
with him; he also nodded. but he did not smile. He was, however, in a
hurry; the old: white-haired director had left his seat, and stood waiting
to speak to him. Both 'cellist and violinist had vanished on the instant;
the audience, eager as ever at the end of a concert to shake off an
imposed restraint, had risen while Maurice still played the final notes;
and, by this time, the hall was all but empty.

He slowly ascended the platform. Now that it was over, he felt how
tired he was; his very legs were tired, as though he had walked for miles.
The green-room was deserted; the gas-jet had been screwed down to a peep.
None of his friends had come to say a word to him. He had really hardly
expected it; but, all the same, a hope had lurked in him that Krafft would
perhaps afterwards make some sign--even Madeleine. As, however, neither of
them appeared, he seemed to read a confirmation of his failure in their
absence, and he loitered for some time in the semi-darkness, unwilling to
face the dispersing crowd. When at length he went down the passage, only a
few stragglers remained. One or two acquaintances congratulated him in due
form, but he knew neither well enough to try to get at the truth. As he
was nearing the street-door, however, Dove came out of the BUREAU. He made
for Maurice at once; his manner was eager, his face bore the imprint of
interesting news.

"I say, Guest!" he cried, while still some way off. "An odd coincidence.
Young Leumann is to play this very same trio next week. A little chap in
knickerbockers, you know--pupils of Rendel's. He is said to have a
glorious LEGATO--just the very thing for the VARIATIONS."

"Indeed?" said Maurice with a well-emphasised dryness. His tone nudged
Dove's memory.

"By the way, all congratulations, of course," he hastened to add. "Never
heard you play better. Especially the MENUETTO. Some people sitting behind
me were reminded of Rubinstein."

"Well, good-night, I'm off," said Maurice, and, even as he spoke, he shot
away, leaving his companion in some surprise.

Once out of Dove's sight, he took off his hat and passed his hand over his
forehead. Any slender hope he might have had was now crushed; his playing
had been so little remarkable that even Dove had been on the point of
overlooking it altogether.

Louise threw herself into his arms. At last! she exulted to herself. But
his greeting had not its usual fervour; instead of kissing her, he laid
his face against her hair. Instantly, she became uncertain. She did not
quite know what she had been expecting; perhaps it had been something of
the old, pleasurable excitement that she had learnt to associate with an
occasion like the present. She put back her head and looked at him, and
her look was a question.

"Yes. At least it's over, thank goodness!" he said in reply.

Not knowing what answer to make to this, she led him to the sofa. They sat
down, and, for a few minutes, neither spoke. Then, he did what on the way
there, he had imagined himself doing: laid his head on her lap, and
himself placed her hands on his hair. She passed them backwards and
forwards; her sense of having been repulsed, yielded, and she tried to
change the current of his thoughts.

"Did you notice, Maurice, as you came along, how full the air was of
different scents to-night?" she asked as her cool hands went to and fro.
"It was like an evening in July. I was at the window trying to make them
out. But the roses were too strong for them; for you see--or rather you
have not seen--all the roses I have got for you--yes, just dark red roses.
This afternoon I went to the little shop at the corner, and bought all
they had. The pretty girl served me--do you remember the pretty girl with
the yellow hair, who tried to make friends with you last summer? You like
roses, too, don't you? Though not as much as I do. They were always my
favourite flowers. As a child, I used to imagine what it would be like to
gather them for a whole day, without stopping. But, like all my wishes
then, this had to be postponed, too, till that wonderful future, which was
to bring me all I wanted. There were only a few bushes where I lived; it
was too dry for them. But the smell of them takes me back--always. I have
only to shut my eyes, and I am full of the old extravagant longings--the
childish impatience with time, which seemed to crawl so slowly . . . even
to stand still."

"Tell me all about it," he murmured, without raising his head.

She smiled and humoured him.

"I like flowers best for their scents," she went on. "No matter what
beautiful colours they have. A camelia is a foolish flower; like a blind
man's face--the chief thing is wanting. But then, of course, the smell
must remind one of pleasant things. It's strange, isn't it, how much
association has to do with pleasure?--or pain. Some things affect me so
strongly that they make me wretched. There's music I can't listen to; I
have to put my hands to my ears, and run away from it; and all because it
takes me back to an unhappy hour, or to a time of my life that I hated.
There are streets I never walk through, even words I dread to hear anyone
say, because they are connected with some one I disliked, or a day
I would rather not have lived. And it is just the same with smells. Wood
smouldering outside!--and all the country round is smoky with bush fires.
Mimosa in the room--and I can feel the sun beating down on deserted shafts
and the stillness of the bush. Rotting leaves and the smell of moist
earth, and I am a little girl again, in short dresses, standing by a
grave--my father's to which I was driven in a high buggy, between two men
in black coats. I can't remember crying at all, or even feeling sorry; I
only smelt the earth--it was in the rainy season and there was water in
the grave.--But flowers give me my pleasantest memories. Passion-flowers
and periwinkles--you will say they have no smell, but it's not true. Flat,
open passionflowers--red or white--with purplish-fringed centres, have a
honey-smell, and make me think of long, hot, cloudless days, which seemed
to have neither beginning nor end. And little periwinkles have a cool
green smell; for they grew along an old paling fence, which was shady and
sometimes even damp. And violets? I never really cared for violets; not
till . . . I mean . . . I never . . ."

She had entangled herself, and broke off so abruptly that he moved. He was
afraid this soothing flow of words was going to cease.

"Yes, yes, go on, tell me some more--about violets."

She hastened to recover herself. "They are silly little flowers. Made to
wither in one's dress . . . or to be crushed. Unless one could have them
in such masses that they filled the room. But lilac, Maurice, great sprays
and bunches of lilac-white and purple--you know, don't you, who will
always be associated with lilac for me? Do you remember some of those
evenings at the theatre, on the balcony between the acts? The gallery was
so hot, and out there it seemed as if the whole town were steeped in
lilac. Or walking home--those glorious nights--when some one was so
silent . . . so moody--do you remember?"

At the peculiar veiled tone that had come into her voice; at this reminder
of a past day of alternate rapture and despair, so different from the
secured happiness of the present; at the thought of this common memory
that had built itself up for them round a flower's scent, a rush of
grateful content overcame Maurice, and, for the first time since entering
the room, he looked up at her with a lover's eyes.

Safe, with her arms round him, he was strong enough to face the
worst. "How good you are to me, dearest! And I don't deserve it. To-night,
you might just have sent me away again, when I came. For I was in a
disagreeable mood--and still am. But you won't give me up just yet for all
that, will you? However despondent I get about myself? For you are all I
have, Louise--in the whole world. Yes, I may as well confess it to you,
to-night was a failure--not a noisy, open one but all the same, it's no
use calling it anything else."

He had laid his head on her lap again, so did not see her face. While he
spoke, Louise looked at him, in a kind of unwilling surprise.
Instinctively, she ceased to pass her hands over his hair.

"Oh, no, Maurice," she then protested, but weakly, without conviction.

"Yes--failure," he repeated, and put more emphasis than before on the
word. "It's no good beating about the bush.--And do you realise what
it--what failure means for us, Louise?"

"Oh, no," she said again, vaguely trying to ward off what she foresaw was
coming. "And why talk about it to-night? You are tired. Things will seem
different in the morning. Shut your eyes again, and lie quite still."

But, the ice once broken, he felt the need of speaking--of speaking out
relentlessly all that was in him. And, as he talked. he found it
impossible to keep still; he paced the room. He was very pale and very
voluble, and made a clean breast of everything that troubled him; not so
much, however, with the idea of confessing it to her, as of easing his own
mind. And now, again, he let her see into his real self, and, unlike the
previous occasion, it was here more than a glimpse that she caught. He was
distressingly frank with her. She heard now, for the first time, of the
foolish ambitions with which he had begun his studies in Leipzig; heard of
their gradual subsidence, and his humble acceptance of his inferiority, as
well as of his present fear that, when his time came to an end, he would
have nothing to show for it--and under the influence of what had just
happened, this fear grew more vivid. It was one thing, he made clear to
her, and unpleasant enough at best, to have to find yourself to rights as
a mediocrity, when you had hoped with all your heart that you were
something more. But what if, having staked everything on it, you should
discover that you had mistaken your calling altogether?

"To-night, you see, I think I should have been a better chimney-sweep. The
real something that makes the musician--even the genuinely musical
outsider--is wanting in me. I've learnt to see that, by degrees, though I
don't know in the least what it is.--But even suppose I were mistaken--who
could tell me that I was? One's friends are only too glad to avoid giving
a downright opinion, and then, too, which of them would one care to trust?
I believe in the end I shall go straight to Schwarz, and get him to tell
me what he thinks of me--whether I'm making a fool of myself or not."

"Oh, I wouldn't do that," Louise said quickly.

It was the first time she had interrupted him. She had sat and followed
his restless movements with a look of apprehension. A certain board in the
floor creaked when he trod on it, and she found herself listening, each
time, for the creaking of this board. She was sorry for him, but she could
not attach the importance he did to his assumed want of success, nor was
she able to subdue the feeling of distaste with which his doubtings
inspired her. It was so necessary, too, this outpouring; she had never
felt curious about the side of his nature which was not the lover's side.
Tonight, it became clear to her that she would have preferred to remain in
ignorance of it. And besides, what he said was so palpable, so undeniable,
that she could not understand his dragging the matter to the surface: she
had never thought of him but as one of the many honest workers, who swell
the majority, and are not destined to rise above the crowd. She had not
dreamed of his considering himself in another light, and it was painful to
her now, to find that he had done so. To put an end to such embarrassing
confidences, she went over to him, and, with her hands on his shoulders,
her face upturned, said all the consoling words she could think of, to
make him forget. They had never yet failed in their effect. But to-night
too much was at work in Maurice, for him to be influenced by them. He
kissed her, and touched her cheek with his hand, then began anew; and she
moved away, with a slight impatience, which she did not try to conceal.

"You brood too much, Maurice . . . and you exaggerate things, too. What if
every one took himself so seriously?--and talked of failure because on a
single occasion he didn't do himself justice?"

"It's more than that with me, dear.--But it's a bad habit, I know--not
that I really mean to take myself too seriously; but all my life I have
been forced to worry about things, and to turn them over."

"It's unhealthy always to be looking into yourself. Let things go
more, and they'll carry you with them."

He took her hands. "What wise-sounding words! And I'm in the wrong, I
know, as usual. But, in this case, it's impossible not to worry. What
happened this evening seems a trifle to you, and no doubt would to every
one else, too. But I had made a kind of touchstone of it; it was to help
to decide the future--that hideously uncertain future of ours! I believe
now, as far as I'm concerned, I don't care whether I ever come to anything
or not. Of course, I should rather have been a success--we all would!--but
caring for you has swallowed up the ridiculous notions I once had. For
your sake--it's you I torment myself about. WHAT is to become of us?"

"If that's all, Maurice! Something will turn up, I'm sure it will. Have a
little patience, and faith in luck . . . or fate . . . or whatever you
like to call it."

"That's a woman's way of looking at things."

He was conscious of speaking somewhat unkindly; but he was hurt by her
lack of sympathy. Instead, however, of smoothing things over, he was
impelled, by an unconquerable impulse, to disclose himself still further.
"Besides, that's not all," he said, and avoided her eyes. "There's
something else, and I may just as well make a clean breast of it. It's not
only that the future is every bit as shadowy to-night as it has always
been: I haven't advanced it by an inch. But I feel to-night that if I
could have been what I once hoped to be--no, how shall I put it? You know,
dear, from the very beginning there has been something wrong, a kind of
barrier between ushasn't there? How often I've tried to find out what it
is! Well, to-night I seem to know. If I were not such an out-and-out
mediocrity, if I had really been able to achieve something, you would care
for me--yes, that's it!--as you can't possibly care now. You would have
to; you wouldn't be able to help yourself."

Her first impulsive denial died on her lips; as he continued to speak, she
seemed to feel in his words an intention to wound her, or, at least, to
accuse her of want of love. When she spoke, it was in a cool voice, as
though she were on her guard against being touched too deeply.

"That has nothing whatever to do with it," she said. "It's you yourself,
Maurice, I care for--not what you can or can't do."

But these words added fuel to his despondency. "Yes, that's just
it," he answered. "For you, I'm in two parts, and one of them means
nothing to you. I've felt it, often enough, though I've never spoken of it
till to-night. Only one side of me really matters to you. But if I'd been
able to accomplish what I once intended--to make a name for myself, or
something of that sort--then it would all have been different. I could
have forced you to be interested in every single thing I did--not only in
the me that loves you, but in every jot of my outside life as well."

Louise did not reply: she had a moment of genuine despondency. The staunch
tenderness she had been resolved to feel for him this evening, collapsed
and shrivelled up; for the morbid self-probing in which he was indulging
made her see him with other eyes. What he said belonged to that category
of things which are too true to be put into words: why could not he, like
every one else, let them rest, and act as if they did not exist? It was as
clear as day: if he were different, the whole story of their relations
would be different, too. But as he could not change his nature, what was
the use of talking about it, and of turning out to her gaze, traits of
mind with which she could not possibly sympathise? Standing, a long white
figure, beside the piano, she let her arms hang weakly at her sides. She
did not try to reason with him again, or even to comfort him; she let him
go on and on, always in the same strain, till her nerves suddenly rebelled
at the needless irritation.

"Oh, WHY must you be like this to-night?" she broke in on him. "Why try to
destroy such happiness as we have? Can you never be content?"

From the way in which he seized upon these words, it seemed as if he had
only been waiting for her to say them. "Such happiness as we have!" he
repeated. "There!--listen!--you yourself admit it. Admit all I've been
saying.--And do you think I can realise that, and be happy? No, I've
suffered under it from the first day. Oh, why, loving you as I do, could I
not have been different?--more worthy of you. Why couldn't I, too, be one
of those favoured mortals . . .? Listen to me," he said lowering his
voice, and speaking rapidly. "Let me make another confession. Do you know
why to-night is doubly hard to bear? It's because--yes, because I know you
must be forced--and not to-night only, but often--to compare me what I am
and what I can do--with . . . with . . . you know who I mean. It's
inevitable--the comparison must be thrust on you every day of your
life. But does that, do you think, make it any the easier for me?"

As the gist of what he was trying to say was borne in upon her, Louise
winced. Her face lost its tired expression, and grew hard. "You are
breaking your word," she said, in a tone she had never before used to him.
"You promised me once, the past should never be mentioned between us."

"I'm not blind, Louise," he went on, as though she had not spoken. "Nor am
I in a mood to-night to make myself any illusions. The remembrance of what
he was--he was never doubtful of himself, was he?--must always--HAS always
stood between us, while I have racked my brains to discover what it was.
To-night it came over me like a flash that it was he--that he . . . he
spoiled you utterly for anyone else; made it impossible for you to care
for anyone who wasn't made of the same stuff as he was. It would never
have occurred to him, would it, to torment you and make you suffer for his
own failure? For the very good reason that he never was a failure. Oh, I
haven't the least doubt what a sorry figure I must cut beside him!"

The unhappy words came out slowly, and seemed to linger in the air. Louise
did not break the pause that followed, and by her silence, assented to
what he said. She still stood motionless beside the piano.

"Or tell me," Maurice cried abruptly, with a ray of hope; "tell me the
truth about it all, for once. Was it mere exaggeration, or was he really
worth so much more than all the rest of us? Of course he could play--I
know that--but so can many a fool. But all the other part of it--his
incredible talent, or luck in everything he touched--was it just report,
or was it really something else?--Tell me."

"He was a genius," she answered, very coldly and distinctly; and her voice
warned him once more that he was trespassing on ground to which he had no
right. But he was too excited to take the warning.

"A genius!" he echoed. "He was a genius! Yes, what did I tell you? Your
very words imply a comparison as you say them. For I?--what am I? A
miserable bungler, a wretched dilettant--or have you another word for it?
Oh, never mind--don't be afraid to say it!--I'm not sensitive tonight. I
can bear to hear your real opinion of me; for it could not possibly be
lower than my own. Let us get at the truth for once, by all means!--But
what I want to know," he cried a moment later, "is, why one should
be given so much and the other so little. To one all the talents and all
your love; and the other unhappy wretch remains an outsider his whole life
long. When you speak in that tone about him, I could wish with all my
heart that he had been no better than I am. It would give me pleasure to
know that he, too, had only been a dabbling amateur--the victim of a
pitiable wish to be what he hadn't the talent for."

He could not face her amazement; he stared at the yellow globe of the lamp
till his eyes smarted.

"It no doubt seems despicable to you," he went on, "but I can't help it. I
hate him for the way he was able to absorb you. He's my worst enemy, for
he has made it impossible for you--the woman I love--to love me wholly in
return.--Of course, you can't--you WON'T understand. You're only aghast at
what you think my littleness. Of all I've gone through, you know nothing,
and don't want to know. But with him, it was different; you had no
difficulty in understanding him. He had the power over you. Look!--at this
very moment, you are siding, not with me, but with him. All my struggling
and striving counts for nothing.--Oh, if I could only understand you!" He
moved to and fro in his agitation. "Why is a woman so impossible? Does
nothing matter to her but tangible success? Do care and consideration
carry no weight? Even matched against the blackguardly egoism of what you
call genius?--Or will you tell me that he considered you? Didn't he treat
you from beginning to end like the scoundrel he was?"

She raised hostile eyes. "You have no right to say that," she said in a
small, icy voice, which seemed to put him at an infinite distance from
her. "You are not able to judge him. You didn't know him as . . . as I
did."

With the last words a deeper note came into her voice, and this was all
Maurice heard. A frenzied fear seized him.

"Louise!" he cried violently. "You care for him still!"

She started, and raised her arms, as if to ward off a blow. "I don't . . .
I don't . . . God knows I don't! I hate him--you know I do!" She had
clapped both hands to her face, and held them there. When she looked up
again, she was able to speak as quietly as before. "But do you want to
make me hate you, too? Do you think it gives me a higher opinion of you,
to hear you talk like that about some one I once cared for? How can I find
it anything but ungenerous?--Yes, you are right, he WAS different--in
every way. He didn't know what it meant to be envious of anyone. He was
as different from you as day from night."

Maurice was hurt to the quick. "Now I know your real opinion of me! Till
now you have been considerate enough to hide it. But to-night I have heard
it from your own lips. You despise me!"

"Well, you drove me to say it," she burst out, wounded in her turn. "I
should never have said it of my own accord--never! Oh, how ungenerous you
are! It's not the first time you've goaded me into saying something, and
then turned round on me for it. You seem to enjoy finding out things you
can feel hurt by.--But have I ever complained? Did I not take you just as
you were, and love you--yes, love you! I knew you couldn't be
different--that it wasn't your fault if you were faint-hearted and . . .
and--But you?--what do you do? You talk as if you worship the ground I
walk on: but you can't let me alone. You are always trying to change
me--to make me what you think I ought to be."

Her words came in haste, stumbling one over the other, as it became plain
to her how deeply this grievance, expressed now for the first time, had
eaten into her soul. "You've never said to yourself, she's what she is
because it's her nature to be. You want to remake my nature and correct
it. You are always believing something is wrong. You knew very well, long
ago, that the best part of me had belonged to some one else. You swore it
didn't matter. But to-night, because there's absolutely nothing else you
can cavil at, you drag it up again--in spite of your promises. I have
always been frank with you. Do you thank me for it? No, it's been my old
fault of giving everything, when it would have been wiser to keep
something back, or at least to pretend to. I might have taken a lesson
from you, in parsimonious reserve. For there's a part of you, you couldn't
give away--not if you lived with a person for a hundred years."

Of all she said, the last words stung him most.

"Yes, and why?" he cried. "Ask yourself why I You are unjust, as only a
woman can be. You say there's a part of me you don't know. If that's true,
what does it mean? It means you don't want to know it. You don't want it
even to exist. You want everything to belong to you. You don't care for me
well enough to be interested in that side of my life which has nothing to
do with you. Your love isn't strong enough for that."

"Love!--need we talk about love?" Her face was so unhappy that it
seerned to have grown years older. "Love is something quite different. It
takes everything just as it is. You have never reaily loved me.".

"I have never really loved you?"

He repeated the words after her, as if he did not understand them, and
with his right hand grasped the table; the ground seemed to be slipping
from under his feet. But Louise did not offer to retract what she had
said, and Maurice had a moment of bewilderment: there, not three yards
from him, sat the woman who was the centre of his life; Louise sat there,
and with all appearance of believing it, could cast doubts on his love for
her. At the thought of it, he was exasperated.

"I not love you!"

His voice was rough, had escaped control. "You have only to lift your
finger, and I'll throw myself from that window on to the pavement."

Louise sat as if turned to stone.

"Don't you hear?" he cried more loudly. "Look up! . . . tell me to do it!"

Still she did not move.

"Louise, Louise!" he implored, throwing himself down before her. "Speak to
me! Don't you hear me?--Louise!"

"Oh, yes, I hear," she said at last. "I hear how ready you are with
promises you know you will not be asked to keep. But the small, everyday
things--those are what you won't do for me."

"Tell me . . . tell me what I shall do!"

"All I ask of you is to be happy. And to let me be happy, too."

He stammered promises and entreaties. Never, never again!--if only this
once she would forgive him; if only she would smile at him, and let the
light come back to her eyes. He had not been responsible for his actions
this evening.

"It was more of a strain than I knew. And after it was over, I had to vent
my disappointment somehow; and it was you, poor darling, who suffered.
Forgive me, Louise!--But try, dear, a little to understand why it was.
Can't you see that I was only like that through fear--yes, fear!--that
somehow you might slip from me. I can't help feeling, one day you will
have had enough of me, and will see me for what I really am."

He tried to put his arms round her, but she held back: she had no
desire to be reconciled. The sole response she made to his beseeching
words was: "I want to be happy."

"But you shall.--Do you think I live for anything else? Only forgive me!
Remember the happiest hours we have spent together. Come back to me; be
mine again! Tell me I am forgiven."

He was in despair; he could not get at her, under her coating of
insensibility. And since his words had no power to move her, he took to
kissing her hands. She left them limply in his; she did not resist him.
From this, he drew courage: he began to treat her more inconsiderately,
compelling her to bend down to him, making her feel his strength; and he
did not cease his efforts till her head had sunk forward, heavy and
submissive, on his shoulder.

They were at peace again: and the joys of reconciliation seemed almost
worth the price they had paid for them.




V.



The following morning, having drunk his coffee, Maurice pushed back the
metal tray on which the delf-ware stood, and remained sitting idle with
his hands before him. It was nine o'clock, and the houses across the road
were beginning to catch stray sunbeams. By this time, his daily work was
as a rule in full swing; but to-day he was in no hurry to commence. He was
even more certain now than he had been on the night before, of his lack of
success; and the idea of starting anew on the dull round filled him with
distaste. He had been so confident that his playing would, in some way or
other, mark a turning-point in his musical career; and lo! it had gone off
with as little fizz and effect as a damp rocket. Lighting a cigarette, he
indulged in ironical reflections. But, none the less, he heard the minutes
ticking past, and as he was not only a creature of habit, but had also a
troublesome northern conscience, he rose before the cigarette had formed
its second spike of ash, and went to the piano: no matter how rebellious
he felt, this was the only occupation open to him; and so he set staunchly
out on the unlovely mechanical exercising, which no pianist can escape.
Meanwhile, he recapitulated the scene in the concert hall, from the few
anticipatory moments, when the 'cellist related amatory adventures, to the
abrupt leave he had taken of Dove at the door of the building. And in the
course of doing this, he was invaded by a mild and agreeable doubt. On
such shadowy impressions as these had he built up his assumption of
failure! Was it possible to be so positive? The unreal state of mind in
which he had played, hindered him from acting as his own judge. The fact
that Schwarz had not been effusive, and that none of his friends had
sought him out, admitted of more than one interpretation. The only real
proof he had was Dove's manner to him; and was not Dove always too full of
his own affairs, or, at least, the affairs of those who were not present
at the moment, to have any at tention to spare for the person he was
actually with? At the idea that he was perhaps mistaken, Maurice grew so
unsettled that he rose from the piano. But, by the time he took his seat
again, he had wavered; say what he would, he could not get rid of
the belief that if he had achieved anything out of the common, Madeleine
would not have made it her business to avoid him. After this, however, his
fluctuating hopes rallied, then sank once more, until it ended in his
leaving the piano. For it was of no use trying to concentrate his thoughts
until he knew.

Even as he said this to himself, his resolution was taken. There was only
one person to whom he could apply, and that was Schwarz. The proceeding
might be unusual, but then the circumstances in which he was placed were
unusual, too. Besides, he asked neither praise nor flattery, merely a
candid opinion.

If, however, he faced Schwarz on this point, there were others on which he
might as well get certainty at the same time. The matter of the PRUFUNG,
for instance, had still to be decided. So much depended on the choice of
piece. His fingers itched towards Chopin or Mendelssohn, for the sole
reason that the technique of these composers was in his blood. Whereas
Beethoven!--he knew from experience how difficult it was to get a
satisfactory effect out of the stern barenesses of Beethoven. They
demanded a skill he could never hope to possess.

Between five and six that afternoon, he made his way to the SEBASTIAN
BACH-STRASSE, where Schwarz lived. It was hot in the new, shadeless
streets through which he passed, and also in crossing the JOHANNAPARK;
hardly a hint of September was in the air. He walked at a slow pace, in
order not to arrive too early, and, for some reason unclear to himself,
avoided stepping on the joins of the paving-stones.

On hearing that he had not come for a lesson, the dirty maidservant, who
opened the third-floor door to him, showed him as a visitor into the best
sitting-room. Maurice remained standing, in prescribed fashion. But he had
no sooner crossed the threshold than he was aware of loud voices in the
adjoining room, separated from the one he was in by large foldingdoors.

"If you think," said a woman's voice, and broke on "think"--"if you think
I'm going to endure a repetition of what happened two years ago, you're
mistaken. Never again shall she enter this house! Oh, you pig, you wretch!
Klara has told me; she saw you through the keyhole--with your arm round
her waist. And I know myself, scarcely a note was struck in the hour. You
have her here on any pretext; you keep her in the class after all the
others have gone. But this time I'm not going to sit still till the
scandal comes out, and she has to leave the place. A man of your
age!--the father of four children!--and this ugly little hussy of
seventeen! Was there ever such a miserable woman as I am! No, she shall
never enter this house again."

"And I say she shall!" came from Schwarz so fiercely that the listener
started. "Aren't you ashamed, woman, at your age, to set a servant spying
at keyholes?--or, what is more likely, spying yourself? Keep to your
kitchen and your pots, and don't dictate to me. I am the master of the
house."

"Not in a case like this. It concerns me. It concerns the children. I say
she shall never enter the door again."

"And I say she shall. Go out of the room!"

A chair grated roughly on a bare floor; a door banged with such violence
that every other door in the house vibrated.

In the silence that ensued, Maurice endeavoured to make his presence known
by walking about. But no one came. His eyes ranged round the room. It was,
with a few slight differences, the ordinary best room of the ordinary
German house. The windows were heavily curtained, and, in front of them,
to the further exclusion of light and air, stood respectively a
flower-table, laden with unlovely green plants, and a room-aquarium. The
plush furniture was stiffly grouped round an oblong table and dotted with
crochet-covers; under a glass shade was a massy bunch of wax flowers; a
vertikow, decorated with shells and grasses, stood cornerwise beside the
sofa; and, at the door, rose white and gaunt a monumental Berlin stove.
But, in addition to this, which was DE RIGUEUR, there were personal
touches: on the walls, besides the usual group of family photographs, in
oval frames, hung the copy of a Madonna by Gabriel Max, two etchings after
Defregger, several large group-photographs of Schwarz's classes in
different years, a framed concert programme, yellow with age, and a
silhouette of Schumann. Over one of the doors hung a withered laurelwreath
of imposing dimensions, and with faded silken ends, on which the
inscription was still legible: DEM GROSSEN KUNSTLER, JOHANNES
SCHWARZ!--Open on a chair, with an embroidered book-marker between its
pages, lay ATTA TROLL; and by the stove, a battered wooden doll sat
against the wall, in a relaxed attitude, with a set leer on its painted
face.

Maurice waited, in growing embarrassment. He had unconsciously fixed his
eyes on the doll; and, in the dead silence of the house, the senseless
face of the creature ruffled his nerves; crossing the room, he knocked it
over with his foot, so that its head fell with a bump on the
parquet floor, where it lay in a still more tipsy position. There was no
doubt that he had arrived at a most inopportune moment; it seemed, too, as
if the servant had forgotten even to announce him.

On cautiously opening the door, with the idea of slipping away, he heard a
child screaming in a distant room, and the mother's voice sharp in rebuke.
The servant was clattering pots and pans in the kitchen, but she heard
Maurice, and put her head out of the door. Her face was red and swollen
with crying.

"What!--you still here?" she said rudely. "I'd forgotten all about you."

"It doesn't matter--another time," murmured Maurice.

But the girl had spoken in a loud voice to make herself heard above the
screaming, which was increasing in volume, and, at her words, a door at
the end of the passage, and facing down it, was opened by about an inch,
and Frau Schwarz peered through the slit.

"Who is it?"

The servant tossed her head, and made no reply. She went back into her
kitchen, and, after a brief absence, during which Frau Schwarz continued
surreptitiously to scrutinise Maurice, came out carrying a large plateful
of BERLINER PFANNKUCHEN. With these she crossed to an opposite room, and,
as she there planked the plate down on the table, she announced the
visitor. A surly voice muttered something in reply. As, however, the girl
insisted in her sulky way, on the length of time the young man had waited,
Schwarz called out stridently: "Well, then, in God's name, let him come
in! And Klara, you tell my wife, if that noise isn't stopped, I'll throw
either her or you downstairs."

Klara appeared again, scarlet with anger, jerked her arm at Maurice, to
signify that he might do the rest for himself, and, retreating into her
kitchen, slammed the door. Left thus, with no alternative, Maurice drew
his heels together, gave the customary rap, and went into the room.

Schwarz was sitting at the table with his head on his hand, tracing the
pattern of the cloth with the blade of his knife. A coffee-service stood
on a tray before him; he had just refilled his cup, and helped himself
from the dish of PFANNKUCHEN, which, freshly baked, sent an inviting odour
through the room. He hardly looked up on Maurice's entrance, and cut short
the young man's apologetic beginnings.

"Well, what is it? What brings you here?"

As Maurice hesitated before the difficulty of plunging offhand into the
object of his visit, Schwarz pointed with his knife at a chair: he could
not speak, for he had just put the best part of a PFANNKUCHEN in his
mouth, and was chewing hard. Maurice sat down, and holding his hat by the
brim, proceeded to explain that he had called on a small personal matter,
which would not occupy more than a minute of the master's time.

"It's in connection with last night that I wished to speak to you, Herr
Professor," he said: the title, which was not Schwarz's by right, he knew
to be a sop. "I should be much obliged to you if you would give me your
candid opinion of my playing. It's not easy to judge oneself--although I
must say, both at the time, and afterwards, I was not too well pleased
with what I had done--that is to say . . ."

"WIE? WAS?" cried Schwarz, and threw a hasty glance at his pupil, while he
helped himself anew from the dish.

Maurice uncrossed his legs, and crossed them again, the same one up.

"My time here comes to an end at Easter, Herr Professor. And it's
important for me to learn what you think of the progress I have made since
being with you. I don't know why," he added less surely, "but of late I
haven't felt satisfied with myself. I seem to have got a certain length
and to have stuck there. I should like to know if you have noticed it,
too. If so, does the fault lie with my want of talent, or--"

"Or with ME, perhaps?" broke in Schwarz, who had with difficulty thus far
restrained himself. He laughed offensively. "With ME--eh?" He struck
himself on the chest, several times in succession, with the butt-end of
his knife, that there might be no doubt to whom he referred. "Upon my
soul, what next I wonder!--what next!" He ceased to laugh, and grew
ungovernably angry. "What the devil do you mean by it? Do you think I've
nothing better to do, at the end of a hard day's work, than to sit here
and give candid opinions, and discuss the progress made by each strummer
who comes to me twice a week for a lesson? Oho, if you are of that
opinion, you may disabuse your mind of it! I'm at your service on Tuesday
and Friday afternoon, when I am paid to be; otherwise, my time is my own."

He laid two of the cakes on top of each other, sliced them through, and
put one of the pieces thus obtained in his mouth. Maurice had
risen, and stood waiting for the breathing-space into which he could
thrust words of apology.

"I beg your pardon, Herr Professor," he now began. "You misunderstand me.
Nothing was further from my mind than----"

But Schwarz had not finished speaking; he rapped the table with his
knife-handle, and, working himself up to a white heat, continued: "But
plain and plump, I'll tell you this, Herr Guest"--he pronounced it
"Gvest." "If you are not satisfied with me, and my teaching, you're at
liberty to try some one else. If this is a preliminary to inscribing
yourself under that miserable humbug, that wretched charlatan, who
pretends to teach the piano, do it, and have done with it! No one will
hinder you--certainly not I. You're under no necessity to come here
beforehand, and apologise, and give your reasons--none of the others did.
Slink off like them, without a word! it's the more decent way in the long
run. They at least knew they were behaving like blackguards."

"You have completely misunderstood me, Herr Schwarz. If you will give me a
moment to explain----"

But Schwarz was in no mood for explanations; he went on again, paying no
heed to Maurice's interruption.

"Who wouldn't rather break stones by the roadside than be a teacher?" he
asked, and sliced and ate, sliced and ate. "Look at the years of labour I
have behind me--twenty and more!--in which I've toiled to the best of my
ability, eight and nine hours, day after day, and eternally for ends that
weren't my own!--And what return do I get for it? A new-comer only needs
to wave a red flag before them, and all alike rush blindly to him. A pupil
of Liszt?--bah! Who was Liszt? A barrel-organ of execution; a perverter of
taste; a worthy ally of that upstart who ruined melody, harmony, and form.
Don't talk to me of Liszt!"

He spoke in spurts, blusteringly, but indistinctly, owing to the fullness
of his mouth.

"But I'm not to be imposed on. I know their tricks. Haven't I myself had
pupils turn to me from Bulow and Rubinstein? Is that not proof enough?
Would they have come if they hadn't known what my method was worth? And I
took them, and spared no pains to make something of them. Haven't I a
right to expect some gratitude from them in return?--Gratitude? Such a
thing doesn't exist; it's a word without meaning, a puffing of the air.
Look at him for whom I did more than for all the rest. Did I take
a pfennig from him in payment?--when I saw that he had talent? Not I! And
I did it all. When he came to me, he couldn't play a scale. I gave him
extra lessons without charge, I put pupils in his way, I got him
scholarships, I enabled him to support his family--they would have been
beggars in the street, but for me. And now soon will be! Yes, I have had
his mother here, weeping at my feet, imploring me to reason with him and
bring him back to his senses. SHE sees where his infamy will land them.
But I? I snap my fingers in his face. He has sown, and he shall reap his
sowing.--But the day will come, I know it, when he will return to me, and
all the rest will follow him, like the sheep they are. Let them come!
They'll see then whether I have need of them or not. They'll see then what
they were worth to me. For I can produce others others, I say!--who will
put him and his fellows out of the running. Do they think I'm done for,
because of this? I'll show them the contrary. I'll show them! Why, I set
no more store by the lot of you than I do by this plate of cakes!"

Again he ate voraciously, and for a few moments, the noise his jaws made
in working was the only sound in the room. Maurice stood in the same
attitude, with his hat in his hand.

"I regret more than I can express, having been the cause of annoying you,
Herr Professor," he said at length with stiff formality. "But I should
like to repeat, once more, that my only object in coming here was to speak
to you about last night. I felt dissatisfied with myself and . . ."

"Dissatisfied?" echoed Schwarz, bringing his jaws together with a snap.
"And what business of yours is it to feel dissatisfied, I'd like to know?
Leave that to me! You'll hear soon enough, I warrant you, when I have
reason to be dissatisfied. Until then, do me the pleasure of minding your
own business."

"Excuse me," said Maurice with warmth, "if this isn't my own
business! . . . As I see it, it's nobody's but mine. And it seemed to me
natural to appeal to you, as the only person who could decide for me
whether I should have anything further to do with art, or whether I should
throw it up altogether."

Schwarz, who was sometimes not averse to a spirited opposition, caught at
the one unlucky word on which he could hang his scorn.

"ART!" he repeated with jocose emphasis--he had finished the plate of
cakes, risen from the table, and was picking teeth at the window.
"Art!--pooh, pooh!--what's art got to do with it? In your place, I should
avoid taking such highflown words on my tongue. Call it something else. Do
you think it makes a jot of difference whether you call it art or . . .
pludderdump? Not so much"--and he snapped his fingers--"will be changed,
though you never call it anything! Vanity!--it's nothing but vanity! A set
of raw youths inflate themselves like frogs, and have opinions on art, as
on what they have eaten for their dinner.--Do your work and hold your
tongue! A scale well played is worth all the words that were ever
said--and that, the majority of you can't do."

He closed his tootpick with a snap, spat dexterously at a spittoon which
stood in a corner of the room, and the interview was over.

As Maurice descended the spiral stair, he said to himself that, no matter
how long he remained in Leipzig, he would never trouble Schwarz with his
presence again. The man was a loose-mouthed bully. But in future he might
seek out others to be the butt of his clumsy wit. He, Maurice, was too
good for that.--And squaring his shoulders, he walked erectly down the
street, and across the JOHANNAPARK.

But none the less, he did not go straight home. For, below the comedy of
intolerance at which he was playing, lurked, as he well knew, the
consciousness that his true impression of the past hour had still to be
faced. He might postpone doing this; he could not shirk it. It was all
very well: he might repeat to himself that he had happened on Schwarz at
an inopportune moment. That did not count. For him, Maurice, the opportune
moment simply did not exist; he was one of those people who are always
inopportune, come and go as they will. He might have waited for days; he
would never have caught Schwarz in the right mood, or in the nick of time.
How he envied those fortunate mortals who always arrived at the right
moment, and instinctively said the right thing! That talent had never been
his. With him it was blunder.

One thing, though, that still perplexed him, was that not once, since he
had been in Leipzig, had he caught a glimpse of that native goodness of
heart, for which he had heard Schwarz lauded. The master had done his duty
by him--nothing more. Neither had had any personal feeling for the other;
and the words Schwarz had used this afternoon had only been the outcome of
a long period of reserve, even of distrust. At this moment, when
he was inclined to take the onus of the misunderstanding on his own
shoulders, Maurice admitted, besides his constant preoccupation--or
possibly just because of it--an innate lack of sympathy in himself, an
inability, either of heart or of imagination, to project himself into the
lives and feelings of people he did not greatly care for. Otherwise, he
would not have gone to Schwarz on such an errand as today's; he would have
remembered that the master was likely to be sore and suspicious. And, from
now on, things would be worse instead of better. Schwarz had no doubt been
left under the impression that Maurice had wished to complain of his
teaching; and impressions of this nature were difficult to erase.

There was nothing to be done, however, but to plod along in the familiar
rut. He must stomach aspersions and injuries, behave as if nothing had
happened. His first hot intention of turning his back on Schwarz soon
yielded to more worldly-wise thoughts. Every practical consideration was
against it. He might avenge himself, if he liked, by running to the rival
teacher like a crossed child; Schrievers would undoubtedly receive him
with open arms, and promise him all he asked. But what could he hope to
accomplish, under a complete change of method, in the few months that were
left? He would also have to forfeit his fees for the coming term, which
were already paid. Schrievers' lessons were expensive, and out of the
small sum that remained to him to live on, it would be impossible to take
more than half a dozen. Another than he might have appealed to Schrievers'
satisfaction in securing a fresh convert; but Maurice had learnt too
thoroughly by now, that he was not one of those happy
exceptions--exceptions by reason of their talent or their temperament--to
whom a master was willing to devote his time free of charge.

Over these reflections night had fallen; and rising, he walked speedily
back by the dark wood-paths. But before he reached the meadows, from which
he could see lights blinking in the scattered villas, his steps had lagged
again. His discouragement had nothing chimerical in it at this moment; it
was part and parcel of himself.--The night was both chilly and misty, and
it was late. But a painful impression of the previous evening lingered in
his mind. Louise would be annoyed with him for keeping her waiting; and he
shrank, in advance, from the thought of another disagreeable scene. He was
not in the mood to-night, to soothe and console.

As he entered the MOZARTSTRASSE, he saw that there was a light in
Madeleine's window. She was at home, then. He imagined her sitting quiet
and busy in her pleasant room, which, except for the ring of lamplight,
was sunk in peaceful shadow. This was what he needed: an hour's rest, dim
light, and Madeleine's sympathetic tact.

Without giving himself time for thought, he mounted the stair and pressed
the bell-knob on the third floor.

On seeing who her visitor was, Madeleine rose with alacrity from the
writing-table.

"Maurice! Is it really you?"

"I was passing. I thought I would run up . . . you're surprised to see
me?"

"Oh, well--you're a stranger now, you know."

She was vexed with herself for showing astonishment. Moving some books,
she made room for him to sit down on the sofa, and, as he was moody, and
seemed in no hurry to state why he had come, she asked if she might finish
the letter she was writing.

"Make yourself comfortable. Here's a cushion for your head."

Through half-closed eyes, he watched her hand travelling across the sheet
of note-paper, and returning at regular intervals, with a sure swoop, to
begin a fresh line. There was no sound except the gentle scratching of her
pen.

Madeleine did not look up till she had finished her letter and addressed
the envelope. Maurice had shut his eyes.

"Are you asleep?" she roused him. "Or only tired?"

"I've a headache."

"I'll make you some tea."

He watched her preparing it, and, by the time she handed him his cup, he
was in the right mood for making her his confidant.

"Look here, Madeleine," he said; "I came up to-night--The fact is, I've
done a foolish thing. And I want to talk to some one about it."

Her eyes grew more alert.

"Let me see if I can help you."

He shook his head. "I'm afraid you can't. But first of all, tell me
frankly, how you thought I got on last night."

"How you got on?" echoed Madeleine, unclear what this was to lead to.
"Why, all right, of course.--Oh, well, if you insist on the truth!--The
fact is, Maurice, you did no better and no worse than the majority of
those who fill the ABEND programmes. What you didn't do, was to reach the
standard your friends had set up for you."

"Thanks. Now listen," and he related to her in detail his misadventure of
the afternoon.

Madeleine followed with close attention. But more distinctly than what he
said, she heard what he did not say. His account of the two last days,
with the unintentional sidelight it threw on just those parts he wished to
keep in darkness, made her aware how complicated and involved his life had
become. But before he finished speaking, she brought all her practical
intelligence to bear on what he said.

"Maurice!" she exclaimed, with a consternation that was three parts
genuine. "I should like to shake you. How COULD you!--what induced you to
do such a foolish thing?" And, as he did not speak: "If only you had come
to me before, instead of after! I should have said: hold what ridiculous
opinions you like yourself, but for goodness' sake keep clear of Schwarz
with them. Yes, ridiculous, and offensive, too. Anyone would have taken
your talk about being dissatisfied just as he did. And after the way he
has been treated of late, he's of course doubly touchy."

"I knew that, when it was too late. But I meant merely to speak straight
out to him, Madeleine--one man to another. You surely don't want to say
he's incapable of allowing one to have an independent opinion? If that's
the case, then he's nothing but the wretched little tyrant Heinz declares
him to be."

"Wait till you have taught as long as he has," said Madeleine, and, at his
muttered: "God forbid!" she continued with more warmth: "You'll know then,
too, that it doesn't matter whether your pupils have opinions or not. He
has seen this kind of thing scores of times before, and knows it must be
kept down."

She paused, and looked at him. "To get on in life, one must have a certain
amount of tact. You are too naive, Maurice, too unsuspecting--one of those
people who would like to carry on social intercourse on a basis of
absolute truth, and then be surprised that it came to an end. You are
altogether a very difficult person to deal with. You are either too
candid, or too reserved. There's no middle way in you. I haven't the least
doubt that Schwarz finds you both perplexing and irritating; he takes the
candour for impertinence, and the reserve for distrust."

Maurice smiled faintly. "Go on--don't spare me. No one ever
troubled before to tell me my failings."

"Oh, I'm quite in earnest. As I look at it, it's entirely your own fault
that you don't stand better with Schwarz. You have never condescended to
humour him, as you ought to have done. You thought it was enough to be
truthful and honest, and to leave the rest to him. Well, it wasn't. I
won't hear a word against Schwarz; he's goodness itself to those who
deserve it. A little bluff and rude at times; but he's too busy to go
about in kid gloves for fear of hurting sensitive people's feelings."

"Why did you never take private lessons from him?" was her next question.
"I told you months ago, you remember, that you ought to.--Oh, yes, you
said they were too expensive, I know, but you could have scraped a few
marks together somehow. You managed to buy books, and books were quite
unnecessary. One lesson a fortnight would have brought you' more into
touch with Schwarz than all you have had in the class. As it is, you don't
know him any better than he knows you. "And as she refilled his tea-cup,
she added: "You quoted Heinz to me just now. But you and I can't afford to
measure people by the same standards as Heinz. We are everyday mortals,
remember.--Besides, in all that counts, he is not worth Schwarz's little
finger."

"You're a warm advocate, Madeleine."

"Yes, and I've reason to be. No one here has been as kind to me as
Schwarz. I came, a complete stranger, and with not more than ordinary
talent. But I went to him, and told him frankly what I wanted to do, how
long I could stay, and how much money I had to spend. He helped me and
advised me. He has let me study what will be of most use to me afterwards,
and he takes as much interest in my future as I do myself. How can I speak
anything but well of him?--What I certainly didn't do, was to go to him
and talk ambiguously about feeling dissatisfied with him . . ."

"With myself, Madeleine. Haven't I made that clear?"

But Madeleine only sniffed.

"Well, it's over and done with now," she said after a pause. "And talking
about it won't mend it.--Tell me, rather, what you intend to do. What are
your plans?"

"Plans? I don't know. I haven't any. Sufficient unto the day, etc."

But of this she disapproved with open scorn. "Rubbish! When your
time here is all but up! And no plans!--One thing, I can tell you anyhow,
is, after to-day you needn't rely on Schwarz for assistance. You've spoilt
your chances with him. The only way of repairing the mischief would be the
lesson I spoke of--one a week as long as you re here."

"I couldn't afford it."

"No, I suppose not," she said sarcastically, and tore a piece of paper
that came under her fingers into narrow strips. "Tell me," she added a
moment later, in a changed tone: "where do you intend to settle when you
return to England? And have you begun to think of advertising yourself
yet?"

He waved his hand before his face as if he were chasing away a fly. "For
God's sake, Madeleine! . . . these alluring prospects!"

"Pray, what else do you expect to do?"

"Well, the truth is, I . . . I'm not going back to England at all. I mean
to settle here."

Madeleine repressed the exclamation that rose to her lips, and stooped to
brush something off the skirt of her dress. Her face was red when she
raised it. She needed no further telling; she understood what his words
implied as clearly as though it were printed black on white before her.
But she spoke in a casual tone.

"However are you going to make that possible?"

He endeavoured to explain.

"I don't envy you," she said drily, when he had finished. "You hardly
realise what lies before you, I think. There are people here who are glad
to get fifty pfennigs an hour, for piano lessons. Think of plodding up and
down stairs, all day long, for fifty pfennigs an hour!"

He was silent.

"While in England, with a little tact and patience, you would soon have
more pupils than you could take at five shillings."

"Tact and patience mean push and a thick skin. But don't worry! I shall
get on all right. And if I don't--life's short, you know."

"But you are just at: the beginning of it--and ridiculously young at that!
Good Heavens, Maurice!" she burst out, unable to contain herself. "Can't
you see that after you've been at home again for a little while, things
that have seemed so important here will have. shrunk into their right
places? You'll be glad to have done with them then, when you are in
orderly circumstances again."

"I'm afraid not," answered the young man. "I'm not a good
forgetter."

"A good forgetter!" repeated Madeleine, and laughed sarcastically. She was
going on to say more, but, just at this moment, a clock outside struck
ten, and Maurice sprang to his feet.

"So late already? I'd no idea. I must be off."

She stood by, and watched him look for his hat.

"Here it is." She picked it up, and handed it to him, with an emphasised
want of haste.

"Good night, Madeleine. Thanks for the truth. I knew I could depend on
you."

"It was well meant. And the truth is always beneficial, you know. Good
night.--Come again, soon."

He heard her last words half-way down the stairs, which he took two at a
time.

The hour he had now to face was a painful ending to an unpleasant day. It
was not merely the fact that he had kept Louise waiting, in aching
suspense, for several hours. It now came out that, after their
disagreement of the previous night, she had confidently expected him to
return to her early in the day, had expected contrition and atonement.
That he had not even suspected this made her doubly bitter against him. In
vain he tried to excuse himself, to offer explanations. She would not
listen to him, nor would she let him touch her. She tore her dress from
between his fingers, brushed his hand off her arm; and, retreating into a
corner of the room, where she stood like an animal at bay, she poured out
over him her accumulated resentment. All she had ever suffered at his
hands, all the infinitesimal differences there had been between them, from
the beginning, the fine points in which he had failed--things of which he
had no knowledge--all these were raked up and cast at him till, numb with
pain, he lost even the wish to comfort her. Sitting down at the table, he
laid his head on his folded arms.

At his feet were the fragments of the little clock, which, in her anger at
his desertion of her, she had trodden to pieces.




VI.



Their first business the next morning was to buy another clock. By
daylight, Louise was full of remorse at what she had done, and in passing
the writing-table, averted her eyes. They went out early to a shop in the
GRIMMAISCHESTRASSE; and Maurice stood by and watched her make her choice.

She loved to buy, and entered into the purchase with leisurely enjoyment.
The shopman and his assistant spared themselves no trouble in fetching and
setting out their wares. Louise handled each clock as it was put before
her, discussed the merits of different styles, and a faint colour mounted
to her cheeks over the difficulty of deciding between two which she liked
equally well. She had pushed up her veil; it swathed her forehead like an
Eastern woman's. Her eagerness, which was expressed in a slight
unsteadiness of nostril and lip, would have had something childish in it,
had it not been for her eyes. They remained heavy and unsmiling; and the
disquieting half-rings below them were more bluely brown than ever.
Leaning sideways. against the counter, Maurice looked away from them to
her hands; her fingers were entirely without ornament, and he would have
liked to load them with rings. As it was, he could not even pay for the
clock she chose; it cost more than he had to spend in a month.

In the street again, she said she was hungry, and, glad to be able to add
his mite to her pleasure, he took her by the arm and steered her to the
CAFE FRANCAIS, where they had coffee and ices. The church-steeples were
booming eleven when they emerged; it did not seem worth while going home
and settling down to work. Instead, they went to the ROSENTAL.

It was a brilliant autumn day, rich in light and shade, and there was only
a breath abroad of the racy freshness that meant subsequent decay. The
leaves were turning red and orange, but had not begun to fall; the sky was
deeply blue; outlines were sharp and precise. They were both in a mood
this morning to be susceptible to their surroundings; they were even eager
to be affected by them, and made happy. The disagreements of the two
preceding nights were like bad dreams, which they were anxious to
forget, or at least to avoid thinking of. Her painful, unreasonable
treatment of him, the evening before, had not been touched on between
them; after his incoherent attempts to justify himself, after his bitter
self-reproaches, when she lay sobbing in his arms, they had both, with
one accord, been silent. Neither of them felt any desire for open-hearted
explanations; they were careful not to stir up the depths anew. Louise was
very quiet; had it not been for her eyes, he might have believed her
happy. But here, just as an hour before in the watchmaker's shop, they
brooded, unable to forget. And yet there was a pliancy about her this
morning, a readiness to meet his wishes, which, as he walked at her side,
made him almost content. The old, foolish dreams awoke in him again, and
vistas opened, of a gentle comradeship, which might still come true, when
the strenuous side of her love for him had worn itself out. If only an
hour like the present could have lasted indefinitely!

It was a happy morning. They ended it with an improvised lunch at the
KAISERPARK; and it remained imprinted on their minds as an unexpected
patch of colour, in an unending row of grey days, given up to duty.

The next one, and the next again, Louise continued in the same yielding
mood, which was wholly different from the emotional expansiveness of the
past weeks. Maurice took a glad advantage of her willingness to please
him, and they had several pleasant walks together: to Napoleon's
battlefields; along the GRUNE GASSE and the POETENWEG to Schiller's house
at Gohlis; and into the heart of the ROSENTAL--DAS WILDE ROSENTAL--where
it was very solitary, and where the great trees seemed to stagger under
their load of stained leaves.

A burst of almost July radiance occurred at this time; and one day, Louise
expressed a wish to go to the country, in order that, by once more being
together for a whole day on end, they might relive in fancy the happy
weeks they had spent on the Rochlitzer Berg. It was never her way to urge
over-much, which made it hard to refuse her; so it was arranged that they
should set off betimes the following Saturday.

Maurice had his reward in the cry of pleasure she gave when he wakened her
to tell her that it was a fine day.

"Get up, dear! It's less than an hour till the train goes."

For the first time for weeks, Louise was her impetuous self again. She
threw things topsy-turvy in the room. It was he who drew her attention to
an unfastened hook, and an unbound ribbon. She only pressed forward.

"Make haste!--oh, make haste! We shall be late."

An overpowering smell of newly-baked rolls issued from the bakers' shops,
and the errand-boys were starting out with their baskets. Women and
house-porters were coming out to wash pavements and entrances: the
collective life of the town was waking up to another uneventful day; but
they two were hastening off to long hours of sunlight and fresh air,
unhampered by the passing of time, or by fallacious ideas of duty; were
setting out for a new bit of world, to strange meals taken in strange
places, reached by white roads, or sequestered wood-paths. In the train,
they were crushed between the baskets of the marketwomen, who were
journeying from one village to another. These sat with their wizened hands
clasped on their high stomachs, or on the handles of their baskets, and
stared, like stupid, placid animals, at the strange young foreign couple
before them. Partly for the frolic of astonishing them, and also because
he was happy at seeing Louise so happy, Maurice kissed her hand; but it
was she who astonished them most. When she gave a cry, or used her hands
with a sudden, vivid effect, or flashed her white teeth in a smile, every
head in the carriage was turned towards her; and when, in addition, she
was overtaken by a fit of loquacity, she was well-nigh devoured by eyes.

They did not travel as far as they had intended. From the carriage window,
she saw a wayside place that took her fancy.

"Here, Maurice; let us get out here."

Having breakfasted, and left their bags at an inn, they strayed at random
along an inviting road lined with apple-trees. When Louise grew tired,
they rested in the arbour of a primitive GASTHAUS, and ate their midday
meal. Afterwards, in a wood, he spread a rug for her, and she lay in a
nest of sun-spots. Only their own voices broke the silence. Then she fell
asleep, and, until she opened her eyes again, and called to him in
surprise, no sound was to be heard but the sudden, crisp rustling of some
bird or insect. When evening fell, they returned to their lodging, ate
their supper in the smoky public room--for, outside, mists had risen--and
then before them stretched, undisturbed, the long evening and the longer
night, to be spent in a strange room, of which they had hitherto not
suspected the existence, but which, from now on, would be indissolubly
bound up with their other memories.

The first day passed in such a manner was as flawless as any they had
known in the height of summer--with all the added attractions of closer
intimacy. In its course, the shadows lifted from her eyes; and
Maurice ceased to remember that he had made a mess of his affairs. But the
very next one failed--as far as Louise was concerned--to reach the same
level: it was like a flower ever so slightly overblown. The lyric charms
that had so pleased her--the dewy freshness of the morning, the solitude,
the unbroken sunshine--were frail things, and, snatched with too eager a
hand, crumbled beneath the touch. They were not made to stand the wear and
tear of repetition. It was also impossible, she found, to live through
again days such as they had spent at Rochlitz; time past was past
irrevocably, with all that belonged to it. And it was further, a mistake
to believe that a more intimate acquaintance meant a keener pleasure; it
was just the stimulus of strangeness, the piquancy of feeling one's way,
that had made up half the fascination of the summer.

With sure instinct, Louise recognised this, even while she exclaimed with
delight. And her heart sank: not until this moment had she known how high
her hopes had been, how firmly she had pinned her faith upon the revival
of passion which these days were to bring to pass. The knowledge that this
had been a delusion, was hard to bear. In thought, she was merciless to
herself, when, on waking, the second morning, she looked with unexpectant
eyes over the day that lay before her. Could nothing satisfy her, she
asked herself? Could she not be content for twenty-four hours on end? Was
it eternally her lot to come to the end of things, before they had
properly begun? It seemed, always, as if she alone must be pressing
forward, without rest. Here, on the second of these days of love and
sunshine, she saw, with absolute clearness, that neither this nor any
other day had anything extraordinary to give her; and sitting silent at
dinner, under an arbour of highly-coloured creeper, she was overcome by
such a laming discouragement, that she laid her knife and fork down, and
could eat no more.

Maurice, watching her across the table, believed that she was over-tired,
and filled up her glass with wine.

But she did not yield without a struggle. And it was not merely rebellion
against the defects of her own nature, which prompted her. The prospect of
the coming months filled her with dismay. When this last brief spell of
pleasure was over, there was nothing left, to which she could look
forward. The approaching winter stretched before her like a starless
night; she was afraid to let her mind dwell on it. What was she to
do?--what was to become of her, when the short dark days came down
again, and shut her in? The thought of it almost drove her mad. Desperate
with fear, she shut her eyes and went blindly forward, determined to
extract every particle of pleasure, or, at least, of oblivion, that the
present offered.

Under these circumstances, the poor human element in their relations
became once again, and more than ever before, the pivot on which their
lives turned. Louise aimed deliberately at bringing this about. Further,
she did what she had never yet done: she brought to bear on their
intercourse all her own hardwon knowledge, and all her arts. She drew from
her store of experience those trifling, yet weighty details, which, once
she has learned them, a woman never forgets. And, in addition to this, she
took advantage of the circumstances in which they found themselves,
utilising to the full the stimulus of strange times and places: she fired
the excitement that lurked in surreptitious embrace and surrender, under
all the dangers of a possible surprise. She was perverse and capricious;
she would turn away from him till she reduced him to despair; then to
yield suddenly, with a completeness that threatened to undo them both. Her
devices were never-ending. Not that they were necessary: for he was
helpless in her hands when she assumed the mastery. But she could not
afford to omit one of the means to her end, for she had herself to lash as
well as him. And so, once more, as at the very beginning, hand grew to be
a weight in hand, something alive, electric; and any chance contact might
rouse a blast in them. She neither asked nor Showed mercy. Drop by drop,
they drained each other of vitality, two sufferers, yet each thirsty for
the other's life-blood; for, with this new attitude on her part, an
element of cruelty had entered into their love. When, with her hands on
his shoulders, her insatiable lips apart, Louise put back her head and
looked at him, Maurice was acutely aware of the hostile feeling in her.
But he, too, knew what it was; for, when he tried to urge prudence on her,
she only laughed at him; and this low, reckless laugh, her savage eyes,
and morbid pallor, invariably took from him every jot of concern.

They returned to Leipzig towards the middle of the first week, in order
not to make their absence too conspicuous. But they had arranged to go
away again, on the following Saturday, and, in the present state of
things, the few intervening days seemed endless. Louise shut herself up,
and would see little of him.

The next week, and the next again, were spent in the same fashion.
A fine and mild October ran its course. For the fourth journey, towards
the end of the month, they had planned to return to Rochlitz. At the last
moment, however, Maurice opposed the scheme, and they left the train at
Grimma. It was Friday, and a superb autumn day. They put up, not in the
town itself, but at an inn about a mile and a half distant from it. This
stood on the edge of a wood, was a favourite summer resort, and had lately
been enlarged by an additional wing. Now, it was empty of guests save
themselves. They occupied a large room in the new part of the building, at
the end of a long corridor, which was shut off by a door from the rest of
the house. They were utterly alone; there was no need for them even to
moderate their voices. In the early morning hours, and on the journey
there, Maurice had thought he noticed something unusual about Louise, and,
more than once, he had asked her if her head ached. But soon he forgot his
solicitude.

Next morning, he felt an irresistible inclination to go out: opening the
window, he leaned on the sill. A fresh, pleasant breeze was blowing; it
bent the tops of the pines, and drove the white clouds smoothly over the
sky. He suggested that they should walk to the ruined cloister of
Nimbschen; but Louise responded very languidly, and he had to coax and
persuade. By the time she was ready to leave the untidy room, the morning
was more than half over, and the shifting clouds had balled themselves
into masses. Before the two emerged from the wood, an even network of
cloud had been drawn over the whole sky; it looked like rain.

They walked as usual in silence, little or nothing being left to say, that
seemed worth the exertion of speech. Each step cost Louise a visible
effort; her arms hung slack at her sides; her very hands felt heavy. The
pallor of her face had a greyish tinge in it. Maurice began to regret
having hurried her out against her will.

They were on a narrow path skirting a wood, when she suddenly expressed a
wish for some tall bulrushes that grew beside a stream, some distance
below. Maurice went down to the edge of the water and began to cut the
rushes. But the ground was marshy, and the finest were beyond his reach.

On the path at the top of the bank, Louise stood and followed his
movements. She watched his ineffectual efforts to seize the further reeds,
saw how they slipped back from between his hands; she watched him
take out his knife and open it, endeavour once more to reach those he
wanted, and, still unsuccessful, choose a dry spot to sit down on; saw him
take off his boots and stockings, then rise and go cautiously out on the
soft ground. Ages seemed to pass while she watched him do these trivial
things; she felt as if she were gradually turning to stone as she stood.
How long he was about it! How deliberately he moved! And she had the odd
sensation, too, that she knew beforehand everything he would and would not
do, just as if she had experienced it already. His movements were of an
impossible circumstantiality, out of all proportion to the trifling
service she had asked of him; for, at heart, she cared as little about the
rushes as about anything else. But it was an unfortunate habit of his, and
one she noticed more and more as time went on, to make much of paltry
details, which, properly, should have been dismissed without a second
thought. It implied a certain tactlessness, to underline the obvious in
this fashion. The very way, for instance, he stretched out his arm,
unclasped his knife, leant forward, and then stooped back to lay the cut
reeds on the bank. Oh, she was tired!--tired to exasperation!--of his ways
and actions--as tired as she was of his words, and of the thousand and one
occurrences, daily repeated, that made up their lives. She would have
liked to creep away, to hide herself in an utter seclusion; while,
instead, it was her lot to assist, hour after hour, at making much of
what, in the depths of her soul, did not concern her at all. Nothing, she
felt, would ever really concern her again. She gazed fixedly before her,
at him, too, but without seeing him, till her sight was blurred; trees and
sky, stream and rushes, swam together in a formless maze. And all of a
sudden, while she was still blind, there ran through her such an intense
feeling of aversion, such a complete satedness with all she had of late
felt and known, that she involuntarily took a step backwards, and pressed
her palms together, in order to hinder herself from screaming aloud. She
could bear it no longer. In a flash, she grasped that she was unable,
utterly unable, to face the day that was before her. She knew in advance
every word, every look and embrace that it held for her: rather than
undergo them afresh, she would throw herself into the water at her feet.
Anywhere, anywhere!--only to get away, to be alone, to cover her face and
see no more! Her hand went to her throat; her breath refused to come; she
shivered so violently that she was afraid she would fall to the ground.

Maurice, all unsuspecting, sat with his back to her, and laced his
boots.

But he was startled into an exclamation, when he climbed the bank and saw
the state she was in.

"Louise! Good Heavens, what's the matter? Are you ill?"

He took her by the arm, and shook her a little, to arrest her attention.

"Maurice! . . . no!" Her voice was hoarse. "Oh, let me go home!"

He repeated the words in amazed alarm. "But what is it, darling? Are you
ill? Are you cold?--that you're trembling like this?"

"No . . . yes. Oh, I want to go home !--back to Leipzig."

"Why, of course, if you want to. At once."

The rushes lay forgotten on the ground. Without further words, they
hastened to the inn. There, Maurice helped her to throw her things into
the bag she had not wholly unpacked, and, having paid the bill, led her,
with the same feverish haste, through the woods and town to the
railway-station. He was full of distressed concern for her, but hardly
dared to show it. for, to all his questions, she only shook her head.
Walking at his side, she dug her nails into her palms till she felt the
blood come, in her effort to conceal and stifle the waves of almost
physical repugnance that passed through her, making it impossible for her
to bear even the touch of his hand. In the train, she leaned back in the
corner, and, shutting her eyes, pretended to be asleep.

They took a droschke home; the driver whipped up his horse; the landlady
was called in to make the first fire of the season. Louise went to bed at
once. She wanted nothing, she said, but to lie still in the darkened room.
He should go away; she preferred to be alone. No, she was not ill, only
tired, but so tired that she could not keep her eyes open. She needed
rest: tomorrow she would be all right again. He should please, please,
leave her, and go away. And, turning her face to the wall, she drew the
bedclothes over her head.

At his wits' end to know what it all meant, Maurice complied. But at home
in his room, he could settle to nothing; he trembled at every footstep on
the stair. No message came, however, and when he had seen her again that
evening, he felt more reassured.

"It's nothing--really nothing. I'm only tired . . . yes, it was too
much. just let me be, Maurice--till to-morrow." And she shut her eyes
again, and kept them shut, till she heard the door close behind him.

He was reassured, but still, for the greater part of the night, he lay
sleepless. He was always agitated anew by the abrupt way in which Louise
passed from mood to mood; but this was something different; he could not
understand it. In the morning, however, he saw things in a less tragic
light; and, on sitting down to the piano, he experienced almost a sense of
satisfaction at the prospect of an undisturbed day's work.

Meanwhile Louise shrank, even in memory, from the feverish weeks just
past, as she had shrunk that day from his touch. And she struggled to keep
her thoughts from dwelling on them. But it was the first time in her life
that she felt a like shame and regret; and she could not rid her mind of
the haunting images. She knew the reason, too; darkness brought the
knowledge. She had believed, had wished to believe, that the failure was
her fault, a result of her unstable nature; whereas the whole undertaking
had been merely a futile attempt to bolster up the impossible, to stave
off the inevitable, to postpone the end. And it had all been in vain. The
end! It would come, as surely as day followed night--had perhaps indeed
already come; for how else could the nervous aversion be explained, which
had seized her that day? What, during the foregoing weeks, she had tried
not to hear; what had sounded in her ears like the tone of a sunken bell,
was there at last, horrible and deafening. She had ceased to care for him,
and ceased, surfeited with abundance, with the same vehement abruptness as
she had once begun. The swiftness with which things had swept to a
conclusion, had, confessedly, been accelerated by her unhappy temperament;
but, however gentle the gradient, the point for which they made would have
remained the same. What she was now forced to recognise was, that the
whole affair had been no more than an episode; and the fact of its having
begun less brutally than others, had not made it a whit better able than
these to withstand decay.

A bitter sense of humiliation came over her. What was she? Not a week
ago--she could count the days on her fingers--the mere touch of his hand
on her hair had made her thrill; and now the sole feeling she was
conscious of was one of dislike. She looked back over the course of her
relations with him, and many things, unclear before, became plain to her.
She had gone into the intimacy deliberately, with open eyes, knowing that
she cared for him only in a friendly way. She had believed, then, that
the gift of herself would mean little to her, while it would secure her a
friend and companion. And then, too--she might as well be quite honest
with herself--she had nourished a romantic hope that a love which
commenced as did this shy, adoring tenderness, would give her something
finer and more enduring than she had hitherto known. Wrong, all wrong,
from beginning to end! It had been no better than those loves which made
no secret of their aim and did not strut about draped in false sentiment.
The end of all was one and the same. But besides this, it had come to mean
more to her than she had ever dreamt of allowing. You could not play with
fire, it seemed, and not be burned. Or, at least, she could not. She was
branded with wounds. The fierce demands in her, over which she had no
control, had once more reared their heads and got the mastery of her, and
of him, too. There had been no chance, beneath their scorching breath, for
a pallid delicacy of feeling.

It did not cross her mind that she would conceal what she felt from him.
Secrecy implied a mental ingenuity, a tiresome care of word and deed. His
eyes must be opened; he, too, must learn to say the horrid word "end." How
infinitely thankful she had now reason to be that she had not yielded to
his persuasions, and married him! No, she had never seriously considered
the idea, even at the height of her folly. But then, she was never quite
sure of herself; there was always a chance that some blind impulse would
spring up in her and overthrow her resolutions. Now, he must suffer,
too--and rightly. For, after all, he had also been to blame. If only he
had not importuned her so persistently, if only he had let her alone,
nothing of this would have happened, and there would be no reason for her
to lie and taunt herself. But, in his silent, obstinate way, he had given
her no peace; and you could not--she could not!--go on living unmoved,
at the side of a person who was crazy with love for you.

For two nights, she slept little. On the third, worn out, she fell, soon
after midnight, into a deep sleep, from which, the following morning, she
wakened refreshed.

When Maurice came, about half-past twelve, her eyes followed him with a
new curiosity, as he drew up a chair and sat down at her bedside. She
wondered what he would say when he knew, and what change would come over
his face. But she made no beginning to enlightening him. In his presence,
she was seized by an ungovernable desire to be distracted, to be
taken out of herself. Also, it was not, she began to grasp, a case of
stating a simple fact, in simple words; it meant all the circumstantiality
of complicated explanation; it meant a still more murderous tearing up of
emotion. And besides this, there was another factor to be reckoned with,
and that was the peculiar mood he was in. For, as soon as he entered the
room, she felt that he was different from what he had been the day before.

She heard the irritation in his voice, as he tried to persuade her to come
out to dinner with him. In fancy she saw it all: saw them walking together
to the restaurant, at a brisk pace, in order to waste none of his valuable
time; saw dinner taken quickly, for the same reason; saw them parting
again at the house-door; then herself in the room alone, straying from
sofa to window and back again, through the long hours of the long
afternoon. A kind of mental nausea seized her at the thought that the old
round was to begin afresh. She brought no answer over her lips. And after
waiting some time in vain for her to speak, Maurice rose, and, still under
the influence of his illhumour, drew up the three blinds, and opened a
window. A cold, dusty sunlight poured into the room.

Louise gave a cry, and put her hands to her eyes.

"The room is so close, and you're so pale," he said in selfexcuse. "Do you
know you've been shut up in here for three days now?"

"My head aches."

"It will never be any better as long as you lie there. Dearest, what is
it? WHAT'S the matter with you?"

"You're unhappy about something," he went on, a moment later. "What is it?
Won't you tell me?"

"Nothing," she murmured. She lay and pressed her palms to her eyeballs, so
firmly that when she removed them, the room was a blur. Maurice, standing
at the window, beat a tattoo on the pane. Then, with his back to her, he
began to speak. He blamed himself for what he called the folly of the past
weeks. "I gave way when I should have been firm. And this is the result.
You have got into a nervous, morbid state. But it's nonsense to think it
can go on."

For the first time, she was conscious of a somewhat critical attitude on
his part; he said "folly" and "nonsense." But she made no comment; she lay
and let his words go over her. They had so little import now. All the
words that had ever been said could not alter a jot of what she
felt--of her intense inward experience.

Her protracted silence, her heavy indifference infected him; and for some
time the only sound to be heard was that of his fingers drumming on the
glass. When he spoke again, he seemed to be concluding an argument with
himself; and indeed, on this particular day, Maurice found it hard to
detach his thoughts from himself, for any length of time.

"It's no use, dear. Things can't go on like this any longer. I've got to
buckle down to work again. I've . . . I. . .I haven't told you yet:
Schwarz is letting me play the Mendelssohn."

She thought she would have to cry aloud; here it was again: the chilling
atmosphere of commonplace, which her nerves were expected to live and be
well in; the well-worn phrases, the "must this," and "must that," the
confident expectation of interest in doings that did not interest her at
all. She could not--it would kill her to begin it anew! And, in spite of
her efforts at repression, an exclamation forced its way through her lips.

At this, Maurice went quickly back to her.

"Forgive me . . . talking about myself, when you are not well."

He knelt down beside the b