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Title: Ships That Pass in the Night
Author: Harraden, Beatrice, 1864-1936
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ships That Pass in the Night" ***

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SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT.

CONTENTS.

PART I.

I.     A NEW-COMER
II.    WHICH CONTAINS A FEW DETAILS
III.   MRS. REFFOLD LEARNS HER LESSON
IV.    CONCERNING WARLI AND MARIE
V.     THE DISAGREEABLE MAN
VI.    THE TRAVELLER AND THE TEMPLE OF KNOWLEDGE
VII.   BERNARDINE
VIII.  THE STORY MOVES ON AT LAST
IX.    BERNARDINE PREACHES
X.     THE DISAGREEABLE MAN IS SEEN IN A NEW LIGHT
XI.   "IF ONE HAS MADE THE ONE GREAT SACRIFICE"
XII.   THE DISAGREEABLE MAN MAKES A LOAN
XIII.  A DOMESTIC SCENE
XIV.   CONCERNING THE CARETAKERS
XV.    WHICH CONTAINS NOTHING
XVI.   WHEN THE SOUL KNOWS ITS OWN REMORSE
XVII.  A RETURN TO OLD PASTURES
XVIII. A BETROTHAL
XIX.   SHIPS THAT SPEAK EACH OTHER IN PASSING
XX.    A LOVE-LETTER

PART II.

I.     THE DUSTING OF THE BOOKS
II.    BERNARDINE BEGINS HER BOOK
III.   FAILURE AND SUCCESS: A PROLOGUE
IV.    THE DISAGREEABLE MAN GIVES UP HIS FREEDOM
V.     THE BUILDING OF THE BRIDGE



SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT.


PART I.


CHAPTER I.

A NEW-COMER.


"YES, indeed," remarked one of the guests at the English table, "yes,
indeed, we start life thinking that we shall build a great cathedral,
a crowning glory to architecture, and we end by contriving a mud hut!"

"I am glad you think so well of human nature," said the Disagreeable Man,
suddenly looking up from the newspaper which he always read during meal-
time. "I should be more inclined to say that we end by being content to
dig a hole, and get into it, like the earth men."

A silence followed these words; the English community at that end of the
table was struck with astonishment at hearing the Disagreeable Man speak.
The few sentences he had spoken during the last four years at Petershof
were on record; this was decidedly the longest of them all.

"He is going to speak again," whispered beautiful Mrs. Reffold to her
neighbour.

The Disagreeable Man once more looked up from his newspaper.

"Please, pass me the Yorkshire relish," he said in his rough way to a
sitting next to him.

The spell was broken, and the conversation started afresh. But the girl
who had passed the Yorkshire relish sat silent and listless, her food
untouched, and her wine untasted. She was small and thin; her face
looked haggard. She was a new-comer, and had, indeed, arrived at
Petershof only two hours before the _table-d'hôte_ bell rang. But there
did not seem to be any nervous shrinking in her manner, nor any shyness
at having to face the two hundred and fifty guests of the Kurhaus. She
seemed rather to be unaware of their presence; or, if aware of,
certainly indifferent to the scrutiny under which she was being placed.
She was recalled to reality by the voice of the Disagreeable Man. She
did not hear what he said, but she mechanically stretched out her hand
and passed him the mustard-pot.

"Is that what you asked for?" she said half dreamily; "or was it the
water-bottle?"

"You are rather deaf, I should think," said the Disagreeable Man
placidly. "I only remarked that it was a pity you were not eating your
dinner. Perhaps the scrutiny of the two hundred and fifty guests in
this civilized place is a vexation to you."

"I did not know they were scrutinizing," she answered; "and even if
they are, what does it matter to me? I am sure I am quite too tired to
care."

"Why have you come here?" asked the Disagreeable Man suddenly.

"Probably for the same reason as yourself," she said; "to get better
or well."

"You won't get better," he answered cruelly; "I know your type well;
you burn yourselves out quickly. And--my God--how I envy you!"

"So you have pronounced my doom," she said, looking at him intently.
Then she laughed but there was no merriment in the laughter.

"Listen," she said, as she bent nearer to him; "because you are
hopeless, it does not follow that you should try to make others
hopeless too. You have drunk deep of the cup of poison; I can see that.
To hand the cup on to others is the part of a coward."

She walked past the English table, and the Polish table, and so out of
the Kurhaus dining-hall.



CHAPTER II.

CONTAINS A FEW DETAILS.


IN an old second-hand bookshop in London, an old man sat reading
Gibbon's History of Rome. He did not put down his book when the postman
brought him a letter. He just glanced indifferently at the letter, and
impatiently at the postman. Zerviah Holme did not like to be interrupted
when he was reading Gibbon; and as he was always reading Gibbon, an
interruption was always regarded by him as an insult.

About two hours afterwards, he opened the letter, and learnt that his
niece, Bernardine, had arrived safely in Petershof, and that she
intended to get better and come home strong. He tore up the letter,
and instinctively turned to the photograph on the mantelpiece. It was
the picture of a face young and yet old, sad and yet with possibilities
of merriment, thin and drawn and almost wrinkled, and with piercing eyes
which, even in the dull lifelessness of the photograph, seemed to be
burning themselves away. Not a pleasing nor a good face; yet intensely
pathetic because of its undisguised harassment.

Zerviah looked at it for a moment.

"She has never been much to either of us," he said to himself. "And yet,
when Malvina was alive, I used to think that she was hard on Bernardine.
I believe I said so once or twice. But Malvina had her own way of
looking at things. Well, that is over now."

He then, with characteristic speed, dismissed all thoughts which did not
relate to Roman History; and the remembrance of Malvina, his wife, and
Bernardine, his niece, took up an accustomed position in the background
of his mind.

Bernardine had suffered a cheerless childhood in which dolls and toys
took no leading part. She had no affection to bestow on any doll, nor
any woolly lamb, nor apparently on any human person; unless, perhaps,
there was the possibility of a friendly inclination towards Uncle
Zerviah, who would not have understood the value of any deeper feeling,
and did not therefore call the child cold-hearted and unresponsive, as
he might well have done.

This she certainly was, judged by the standard of other children; but
then no softening influences had been at work during her tenderest
years. Aunt Malvina knew as much about sympathy as she did about the
properties of an ellipse; and even the fairies had failed to win little
Bernardine. At first they tried with loving patience what they might do
for her; they came out of their books, and danced and sang to her, and
whispered sweet stories to her, at twilight, the fairies' own time. But
she would have none of them, for all their gentle persuasion. So they
gave up trying to please her, and left her as they had found her,
loveless. What can be said of a childhood which even the fairies have
failed to touch with the warm glow of affection?

Such a little restless spirit, striving to express itself now in this
direction, now in that; yet always actuated by the same constant force,
_the desire for work_. Bernardine seemed to have no special wish to be
useful to others; she seemed just to have a natural tendency to work,
even as others have a natural tendency to play. She was always in
earnest; life for little Bernardine meant something serious.

Then the years went by.  She grew up and filled her life with many
interests and ambitions.  She was at least a worker, if nothing else;
she had always been a diligent scholar, and now she took her place as an
able teacher. She was self-reliant, and, perhaps, somewhat conceited.
But, at least, Bernardine the young woman had learnt something which
Bernardine the young child had not been able to learn: she learnt how
to smile.  It took her, about six and twenty years to learn; still,
some people take longer than that; in fact, many never learn. This is
a brief summary of Bernardine Holme's past.

Then, one day, when she was in the full swing of her many engrossing
occupations: teaching, writing articles for newspapers, attending
socialistic meetings, and taking part in political discussions--she was
essentially a modern product, this Bernardine--one day she fell ill.
She lingered in London for some time, and then she went to Petershof.


CHAPTER III.

MRS. REFFOLD LEARNS A LESSON.


PETERSHOF was a winter resort for consumptive patients, though, indeed,
many people simply needed the change of a bracing climate went there to
spend a few months; and came, away wonderfully better for the mountain
air. This was what Bernardine Holme hoped to do; she was broken down in
every way, but it was thought that a prolonged stay in Petershof might
help her back to a reasonable amount of health, or, at least, prevent
her from slipping into further decline. She had come alone, because she
had no relations except that old uncle, and no money to pay any friend
who might have been willing to come with her. But she probably cared
very little, and the morning after her arrival, she strolled out by
herself, investigating the place where she was about to spend six months.
She was dragging herself along, when she met the Disagreeable Man. She
stopped him. He was not accustomed to be stopped by any one, and he
looked rather astonished.

"You were not very cheering last night," she said to him.

"I believe I am not generally considered to be lively," he answered, as
he knocked the snow of his boot.

"Still, I am sorry I spoke to you as I did," she went on frankly. "It
was foolish of me to mind what you said."

He made no reference to his own remark, and passing on his way again,
when he turned back and walked with her.

"I have been here nearly seven years," he said and there was a ring of
sadness in his voice as he spoke, which he immediately corrected. "If
you want to know anything about the place, I can tell you. If you are
able to walk, I can show you some lovely spots, where you will not be
bothered with people. I can take you to a snow fairy-land. If you are
sad and disappointed, you will find shining comfort there. It is not
all sadness in Petershof. In the silent snow forests, if you dig the
snow away, you will find the tiny buds nestling in their white nursery.
If the sun does not dazzle your eyes, you may always see the great
mountains piercing the sky. These wonders have been a happiness to me.
You are not too ill but that they may be a happiness to you also."

"Nothing can be much of a happiness to me," she said, half to herself,
and her lips quivered. "I have had to give up so much: all my work,
all my ambitions."

"You are not the only one who has had to do that," he said sharply.
"Why make a fuss? Things arrange themselves, and eventually we adjust
ourselves to the new arrangement. A great deal of caring and grieving,
phase one; still more caring and grieving, phase two; less caring and
grieving, phase three; no further feeling whatsoever, phase four.
Mercifully I am at phase four. You are at phase one. Make a quick
journey over the stages."

He turned and left her, and she strolled along, thinking of his words,
wondering how long it would take her to arrive at his indifference.
She had always looked upon indifference as paralysis of the soul, and
paralysis meant death, nay, was worse than death. And here was this man,
who had obviously suffered both mentally and physically, telling her
that the only sensible course was to learn not to care. How could she
learn not to care? All her life long she had studied and worked and
cultivated herself in every direction in the hope of being able to take
a high place in literature, or, in any case, to do something in life
distinctly better than what other people did. When everything was coming
near to her grasp, when there seemed a fair chance of realizing her
ambitions, she had suddenly fallen ill, broken up so entirely in every
way, that those who knew her when she was well, could scarcely recognize
her now that she was ill. The doctors spoke of an overstrained nervous
system: the pestilence of these modern days; they spoke of rest, change
of work and scene, bracing air. She might regain her vitality; she might
not. Those who had played themselves out must pay the penalty. She was
thinking of her whole history, pitying herself profoundly, coming to
the conclusion, after true human fashion, that she was the worst-used
person on earth, and that no one but herself knew what disappointed
ambitions were; she was thinking of all this, and looking profoundly
miserable and martyr-like, when some one called her by her name. She
looked round and saw one of the English ladies belonging to the Kurhaus;
Bernardine had noticed her the previous night. She seemed in capital
spirits, and had three or four admirers waiting on her very words.
She was a tall, handsome woman, dressed in a superb fur-trimmed cloak,
a woman of splendid bearing and address. Bernardine looked a
contemptible little piece of humanity beside her. Some such impression
conveyed itself to the two men who were walking with Mrs. Reffold.
They looked at the one woman, and then at the other, and smiled at each
other, as men do smile on such occasions.

"I am going to speak to this little thing," Mrs. Reffold had said to
her two companions before they came near Bernardine. "I must find out
who she is, and where she comes from. And, fancy, she has come quite
alone. I have inquired. How hopelessly out of fashion she dresses.
And what a hat!"

"I should not take the trouble to speak to her," said one of the men.
"She may fasten herself on to you. You know what a bore that is."

"Oh, I can easily snub any one if I wish," replied Mrs. Reffold,
rather disdainfully.

So she hastened up to Bernardine, and held out her well-gloved hand.

"I had not a chance of speaking to you last night, Miss Holme," she
said. "You retired so early. I hope you have rested after your journey.
You seemed quite worn out."

"Thank you," said Bernardine, looking admiringly at the beautiful woman,
and envying her, just as all plain women envy their handsome sisters.

"You are not alone, I suppose?" continued Mrs. Reffold.

"Yes, quite alone," answered Bernardine.

"But you are evidently acquainted with Mr. Allitsen, your neighbour at
table," said Mrs. Reffold; "so you will not feel quite lonely here.
It is a great advantage to have a friend at a place like this."

"I never saw him before last night," said Bernardine.

"Is it possible?" said Mrs. Reffold, in her pleasantest voice. "Then
you _have_ made a triumph of the Disagreeable Man. He very rarely deigns
to talk with any of us. He does not even appear to see us. He sits
quietly and reads. It would be interesting to hear what his conversation
is like. I should be quite amused to know what you did talk about."

"I dare say you would," said Bernardine quietly.

Then Mrs. Behold, wishing to screen her inquisitiveness, plunged into a
description of Petershof life, speaking enthusiastically about
everything, except the scenery, which she did not mention. After a time
she ventured to begin once more taking soundings. But some how or other,
those bright eyes of Bernardine, which looked at her so searchingly,
made her a little nervous, and, perhaps, a little indiscreet.

"Your father will miss you," she said tentatively.

"I should think probably not," answered Bernardine. "One is not easily
missed, you know." There was a twinkle in Bernardine's eye as she added,
"He is probably occupied with other things!"

"What is your father?" asked Mrs. Reffold, in her most coaxing tones.

"I don't know what he is now," answered Bernardine placidly. "But he
was a genius. He is dead."

Mrs. Reffold gave a slight start, for she began to feel that this
insignificant little person was making fun of her. This would never do,
and before witnesses too. So she gathered together her best resources
and said:

"Dear me, how very unfortunate: a genius too. Death is indeed cruel.
And here one sees so much of it, that unless one learns to steel one's
heart, one becomes melancholy. Ah, it is indeed sad to see all this
suffering!" (Mrs Reffold herself had quite succeeded in steeling her
heart against her own invalid husband.) She then gave an account of
several bad cases of consumption, not forgetting to mention two
instances of suicide which had lately taken place in Petershof.

"One gentleman was a Russian," she said. "Fancy coming all the way,
from Russia to this little out-of-the-world place! But people come from
the uttermost ends of the earth, though of course there are many
Londoners here.  I suppose you are from London?"

"I am not living in London now," said Bernardine cautiously.

"But you know it, without doubt," continued Mrs. Reffold. "There are
several Kensington people here. You may meet some friends: indeed in
our hotel there are two or three families from Lexham Gardens."

Bernardine smiled a little viciously; looked first at Mrs. Reffold's
two companions with an amused sort of indulgence, and then at the lady
herself She paused a moment, and then said:

"Have you asked all the questions you wish to ask? And, if so, may I
ask one of you. Where does one get the best tea?"

Mrs. Reffold gave an inward gasp, but pointed gracefully to a small
confectionery shop on the other side of the road. Mrs. Reffold did
everything gracefully.

Bernardine thanked her, crossed the road, and passed into the shop.

"Now I have taught her a lesson not to interfere with me," said
Bernardine to herself. "How beautiful she is."

Mrs. Reffold and her two companions went silently on their way.
At last the silence was broken.

"Well, I'm blessed!" said the taller of the two, lighting a cigar.

"So am I," said the other, lighting his cigar too.

"Those are precisely my own feelings," remarked Mrs. Reffold.

But she had learnt her lesson.


CHAPTER IV.

CONCERNING WÄRLI AND MARIE.


WÄRLI, the little hunchback postman, a cheery soul, came whistling up
the Kurhaus stairs, carrying with him that precious parcel of registered
letters, which gave him the position of being the most important person
in Petershof. He was a linguist, too, was Wärli, and could speak broken
English in a most fascinating way, agreeable to every one, but
intelligible only to himself. Well, he came whistling up the stairs
when he heard Marie's blithe voice humming her favourite spinning-song.

"Ei, Ei!" he said to himself; "Marie is in a good temper to-day. I will
give her a call as I pass."

He arranged his neckerchief and smoothed his curls; and when he reached
the end of the landing, he paused outside a little glass-door, and, all
unobserved, watched Marie in her pantry cleaning the candlesticks and
lamps.

Marie heard a knock, and, looking up from her work, saw Wärli.

"Good day, Wärli," she said, glancing hurriedly at a tiny broken mirror
suspended on the wall. "I suppose you have a letter for me. How
delightful!"

"Never mind about the letter just now," he said, waving his hand as
though wishing to dismiss the subject. "How nice to hear you singing
so sweetly, Marie! Dear me, in the old days at Grüsch, how often I have
heard that song of the spinning-wheels. You have forgotten the old days,
Marie, though you remember the song."

"Give me my letter, Wärli, and go about your work," said Marie,
pretending to be impatient. But all the same her eyes looked extremely
friendly. There was something very winning about the hunchback's face.

"Ah, ah! Marie," he said, shaking his curly head; "I know how it is
with you: you only like people in fine binding. They have not always
fine hearts."

"What nonsense you talk Wärli!" said Marie "There, just hand me the
oil-can. You can fill this lamp for me. Not too full, you goose! And
this one also, ah, you're letting the oil trickle down!  Why, you're
not fit for anything except carrying letters! Here, give me my letter."

"What pretty flowers," said Wärli. "Now if there is one thing I do like,
it is a flower. Can you spare me one, Marie? Put one in my button-hole,
do!"

"You are a nuisance this afternoon," said Marie, smiling and pinning a
flower on Wärli's blue coat. Just then a bell rang violently.

"Those Portuguese ladies will drive me quite mad," said Marie. "They
always ring just when I am enjoying myself?"

"When you, an enjoying yourself!" said Wärli triumphantly.

"Of course," returned Marie; "I always do enjoy cleaning the oil-lamps;
I always did!"

"Ah, I'd forgotten the oil-lamps!" said Wärli.

"And so had I!" laughed Marie. "Na, na, there goes that bell again!
Won't they be angry! Won't they scold at me! Here, Wärli, give me my
letter, and I'll be off."

"I never told you I had any letter for you," remarked Wärli. "It was
entirely your own idea. Good afternoon, Fräulein Marie."

The Portuguese ladies' bell rang again, still more passionately this
time; but Marie did not seem to hear nor care. She wished to be
revenged on that impudent postman. She went to the top of the stairs
and called after Wärli in her most coaxing tones:

"Do step down one moment; I want to show you something!"

"I must deliver the registered letters," said Wärli, with official
haughtiness. "I have already wasted too much of my time."

"Won't you waste a few more minutes on me?" pleaded Marie pathetically.
"It is not often I see you now."

Wärli came down again, looking very happy.

"I want to show you such a beautiful photograph I've had taken," said
Marie. "Ach, it is beautiful!"

"You must give one to me," said Wärli eagerly.

"Oh, I can't do that," replied Marie, as she opened the drawer and took
out a small packet. "It was a present to me from the Polish gentleman
himself. He saw me the other day here in the pantry. I was so tired,
and I had fallen asleep with my broom, just as you see me here. So he
made a photograph of me. He admires me very much. Isn't it nice? and
isn't the Polish gentleman clever? and isn't it nice to have so much
attention paid to one? Oh, there's that horrid bell again! Good
afternoon, Herr Wärli. That is all I have to say to you, thank you."

Wärli's feelings towards the Polish gentleman were not of the
friendliest that day.



CHAPTER V.

THE DISAGREEABLE MAN.


ROBERT ALLITSEN told Bernardine that she was not likely to be on
friendly terms with the English people in the Kurhaus.

"They will not care about you, and you will not care about the
foreigners. So you will thus be thrown on your own resources,
just as I was when I came."

"I cannot say that I have any resources," Bernardine answered. "I don't
feel well enough to try to do any writing, or else it would be
delightful to have the uninterrupted leisure."

So she had probably told him a little about her life and occupation;
although it was not likely that she would have given him any serious
confidences. Still, people are often surprisingly frank about
themselves, even those who pride themselves upon being the most
reticent mortals in the world.

"But now, having the leisure," she continued, "I have not the brains!"

"I never knew any writer who had," said the Disagreeable Man grimly.

"Perhaps your experience has been limited," she suggested.

"Why don't you read?" he said. "There is a good library here. It
contains all the books we don't want to read."

"I am tired of reading," Bernardine said. "I seem to have been reading
all my life. My uncle, with whom I live, keeps, a second-hand book-shop,
and ever since I can remember, I have been surrounded by books. They
have not done me much good, nor any one else either."

"No, probably not," he said. "But now that you have left off reading,
you will have a chance of learning something, if you live long enough.
It is wonderful how much one does learn when one does not read. It is
almost awful. If you don't care about reading now, why do you not
occupy yourself with cheese-mites?"

"I do not feel drawn towards cheese-mites."

"Perhaps not, at first; but all the same they form a subject which is
very engaging. Or any branch of bacteriology."

"Well, if you were to lend me your microscope, perhaps I might begin."

"I could not do that," he answered quickly. "I never lend my things."

"No, I did not suppose you would," she said. "I knew I was safe in
making the suggestion."

"You are rather quick of perception in spite of all your book reading,"
he said. "Yes, you are quite right. I am selfish. I dislike lending my
things, and I dislike spending my money except on myself. If you have
the misfortune to linger on as I do you will know that it is perfectly
legitimate to be selfish in small things, _if one has made the one
great sacrifice_."

"And what may that be?"

She asked so eagerly that he looked at her, and then saw how worn and
tired, her face was; and the words which he was intending to speak,
died on his lips.

"Look at those asses of people on toboggans," he said brusquely. "Could
you manage to enjoy yourself in that way? That might do you good."

"Yes," she said; "but it would not be any pleasure to me."

She stopped to watch the toboggans flying down the road. And the
Disagreeable Man went his own solitary way, a forlorn figure, with a
face almost expressionless, and a manner wholly impenetrable.

He had lived nearly seven years at Petershof, and, like many others was
obliged to continue staying there if he wished to continue staying in
this planet. It was not probable that he had any wish to prolong his
frail existence, but he did his duty to his mother by conserving his
life; and this feeble flame of duty and affection was the only lingering
bit of warmth in a heart frozen almost by ill health and disappointed
ambitions. The moralists tell us that suffering ennobles, and that a
right acceptation of hindrances goes towards forming a beautiful
character. But this result must largely depend on the original
character: certainly, in the case of Robert Allitsen, suffering had not
ennobled his mind, nor disappointment sweetened his disposition. His
title of "Disagreeable Man" had been fairly earned, and he hugged it to
himself with a triumphant secret satisfaction.

There were some people in Petershof who were inclined to believe certain
absurd rumours about his alleged kindness. It was said that on more than
one occasion he had nursed the suffering and the dying in sad Petershof,
and, with all the sorrowful tenderness worthy of a loving mother, had
helped them to take their leave of life. But these were only rumours,
and there was nothing in Robert Allitsen's ordinary bearing to justify
such talk. So the foolish people who, for the sake of making themselves
peculiar, revived these unlikely fictions, were speedily ridiculed and
reduced to silence. And the Disagreeable Man remained the Disagreeable
Man, with a clean record for unamiability.

He lived a life apart from others. Most of his time was occupied in
photography, or in the use and study of the microscope, or in chemistry.
His photographs were considered to be most beautiful. Not that he showed
them specially to any one; but he generally sent a specimen of his work
to the Monthly Photograph Portfolio, and hence it was that people
learned to know of his skill. He might be seen any fine day trudging
along in company with his photographic apparatus, and a desolate dog,
who looked almost as cheerless as his chosen comrade. Neither the one
took any notice of the other; Allitsen was no more genial to the dog
than he was to the Kurhaus guests; the dog was no more demonstrative
to Robert Allitsen than he was to any one in Petershof.

Still, they were "something" to each other, that unexplainable
"something" which has to explain almost every kind of attachment.

He had no friends in Petershof, and apparently had no friends anywhere.
No one wrote to him, except his old mother; the papers which were sent
to him came from a stationer's.

He read all during meal-time. But now and again he spoke a few words
with Bernardine Holme, whose place was next to him. It never occurred
to him to say good morning, nor to give a greeting of any kind, nor to
show a courtesy. One day during lunch, however, he did take the trouble
to stoop and pick up Bernardine Holme's shawl, which had fallen for the
third time to the ground.

"I never saw a female wear a shawl more carelessly than you," he said.
"You don't seem to know anything about it."

His manner was always gruff. Every one complained of him. Every one
always had complained of him. He had never been heard to laugh. Once
or twice he had been seen to smile on occasions when people talked
confidently of recovering their health. It was a beautiful smile worthy
of a better cause. It was a smile which made one pause to wonder what
could have been the original disposition of the Disagreeable Man before
ill-health had cut him off from the affairs of active life. Was he happy
or unhappy? It was not known. He gave no sign of either the one state or
the other. He always looked very ill, but he did not seem to get worse.
He had never been known to make the faintest allusion to his own health.
He never "smoked" his thermometer in public; and this was the more
remarkable in an hotel where people would even leave off a conversation
and say: "Excuse me, Sir or Madam, I must now take my temperature. We
will resume the topic in a few minutes."

He never lent any papers or books, and he never borrowed any.

He had a room at the top of the hotel, and he lived his life, amongst
his chemistry bottles, his scientific books, his microscope, and his
camera. He never sat in any of the hotel drawing-rooms. There was
nothing striking nor eccentric about his appearance. He was neither
ugly nor good-looking, neither tall nor short, neither fair nor dark.
He was thin and frail, and rather bent. But that might be the
description of any one in Petershof. There was nothing pathetic about
him, no suggestion even of poetry, which gives a reverence to suffering,
whether mental or physical. As there was no expression on his face,
so also there was no expression in his eyes: no distant longing, no
far-off fixedness; nothing, indeed, to awaken sad sympathy.

The only positive thing about him was his rudeness. Was it natural or
cultivated? No one in Petershof could say. He had always been as he was;
and there was no reason to suppose that he would ever be different.

He was, in fact, like the glacier of which he had such a fine view from
his room; like the glacier, an unchanging feature of the neighbourhood.

No one loved it better than the Disagreeable Man did; he watched the
sunlight on it, now pale golden, now fiery red. He loved the sky, the
dull grey, or the bright blue. He loved the snow forests, and the
snow-girt streams, and the ice cathedrals, and the great firs patient
beneath their snow-burden. He loved the frozen waterfalls, and the
costly diamonds in the snow. He knew, too, where the flowers nestled
in their white nursery. He was, indeed, an authority on Alpine botany.
The same tender hands which plucked the flowers in the spring-time,
dissected them and laid them bare beneath the microscope. But he did
not love them the less for that.

Were these pursuits a comfort to him? Did they help him to forget that
there was a time when he, too, was burning with ambition to distinguish
himself, and be one of the marked men of the age?

Who could say?


CHAPTER VI.

THE TRAVELLER AND THE TEMPLE OF KNOWLEDGE.


COUNTLESS ages ago a Traveller, much worn with journeying, climbed up
the last bit of rough road which led to the summit of a high mountain.
There was a temple on that mountain. And the Traveller had vowed that
he would reach it before death prevented him. He knew the journey was
long, and the road rough. He knew that the mountain was the most
difficult of ascent of that mountain chain, called "The Ideals."  But
he had a strongly-hoping heart and a sure foot. He lost all sense of
time, but he never lost the feeling of hope.

"Even if I faint by the way-side," he said to himself, "and am not
able to reach the summit, still it is something to be on the road
which leads to the High Ideals."

That was how he comforted himself when he was weary. He never lost
more hope than that; and surely that was little enough.

And now he had reached the temple.

He rang the bell, and an old white-haired man opened the gate. He
smiled sadly when he saw the Traveller.

"_And yet another one_," he murmured. "What does it all mean?"

The Traveller did not hear what he murmured.

"Old white-haired man," he said, "tell me; and so I have come at last
to the wonderful Temple of Knowledge. I have been journeying hither all
my life. Ah, but it is hard work climbing up to the Ideals."

The old man touched the Traveller on the arm. "Listen," he said gently.
"This is not the Temple of Knowledge. And the Ideals are not a chain of
mountains; they are a stretch of plains, and the Temple of Knowledge is
in their centre. You have come the wrong road. Alas, poor Traveller!"

The light in the Traveller's eyes had faded. The hope in his heart died.
And he became old and withered. He leaned heavily on his staff.

"Can one rest here?" he asked wearily.

"No."

"Is there a way down the other side of these mountains?"

"No."

"What are these mountains called?"

"They have no name."

"And the temple--how do you call the temple?"

"It has no name!"

"Then I call it the Temple of Broken Hearts," said the Traveller.

And he turned and went. But the old white-haired man followed him.

"Brother," he said, "you are not the first to come here, but you may be
the last. Go back to the plains, and tell the dwellers in the plains
that the Temple of True Knowledge is in their very midst; any one may
enter it who chooses, the gate is not even closed. The Temple has
always been in the plains, in the very heart of life, and work, and
daily effort. The philosopher may enter, the stone-breaker may enter.
You must have passed it every day of your life; a plain, venerable
building, unlike your glorious cathedrals."

"I have seen the children playing near it," said the Traveller. "When
I was a, child I used to play there. Ah, if I had only known! Well,
the past is the past."

He would have rested against a huge stone, but that the old white-haired
man prevented him.

"Do not rest," he said. "If you once rest there, you will not rise again.
When you once rest, you will know how weary you are."

"I have no wish to go farther," said the Traveller. "My journey is done;
it may have been in the wrong direction, but still it is done."

"Nay, do not linger here," urged the old man. "Retrace your steps.
Though you are broken-hearted yourself, you may save others from
breaking their hearts. Those whom you meet on this road, you can turn
back. Those who are but starting in this direction you can bid pause
and consider how mad it is to suppose that the Temple of True Knowledge
should have been built on an isolated and dangerous mountain. Tell them
that although God seems hard, He is not as hard as all that. Tell them
that the Ideals are not a mountain range, but their own plains, where
their great cities are built, and where the corn grows, and where men
and women are toiling, sometimes in sorrow and sometimes in joy."

"I will go," said the Traveller.

And he started.

But he had grown old and weary. And the journey was long; and the
retracing of one's steps is more toilsome than the tracing of them.
The ascent, with all the vigour and hope of life to help him, had been
difficult enough; the descent, with no vigour and no hope to help him,
was almost impossible.

So that it was not probable that the Traveller lived to reach the plains.
But whether he reached them or not, still he had started And not many
Travellers do that.


CHAPTER VII.

BERNARDINE.


THE crisp mountain air and the warm sunshine began slowly to have their
effect on Bernardine, in spite of the Disagreeable Man's verdict. She
still looked singularly lifeless, and appeared to drag herself about
with painful effort; but the place suited her, and she enjoyed sitting
in the sun listening to the music which was played by a scratchy string
band. Some of the Kurhaus guests, seeing that she was alone and ailing,
made some attempts to be kindly to her. She always seemed astonished
that people should concern themselves about her; whatever her faults
were, it never struck her that she might be of any importance to others,
however important she might be to herself. She was grateful for any
little kindness which was shewn her; but at first she kept very much to
herself, talking chiefly with the Disagreeable Man, who, by the way,
had surprised every one--but no one more than himself--by his unwonted
behaviour in bestowing even a fraction of his companionship on a
Petershof human being.

There was a great deal of curiosity about her, but no one ventured to
question her since Mrs. Reffold's defeat. Mrs. Reffold herself rather
avoided her, having always a vague suspicion that Bernardine tried to
make fun of her.  But whether out of perversity or not, Bernardine never
would be avoided by her, never let her pass by without a: few words of
conversation, and always went to her for information, much to the
amusement of Mrs. Reffold's faithful attendants. There was always a
twinkle in Bernardine's eye when she spoke with Mrs. Reffold. She never
fastened herself on to any one; no one could say she intruded. As time
went, on there was a vague sort of feeling that she did not intrude
enough. She was ready to speak if any one cared to speak with her, but
she never began a conversation except with Mrs. Reffold. When people
did talk to her, they found her genial. Then the sad face would smile
kindly, and the sad eyes speak kind sympathy. Or some bit of fun would
flash forth, and a peal of young laughter ring out. It seemed strange
that such fun could come from her.

Those who noticed her, said she appeared always to be thinking.

She was thinking and learning.

Some few remarks roughly made by the Disagreeable Man had impressed her
deeply.

"You have come to a new world," he said, "the world of suffering. You
are in a fury because your career has been checked, and because you have
been put on the shelf; you, of all people. Now you will learn how many
quite as able as yourself, and abler, have been put on the shelf too,
and have to stay there. You are only a pupil in suffering. What about
the professors? If your wonderful wisdom has left you with any sense at
all, look about you and learn."

So she was looking, and thinking, and learning. And as the days went by,
perhaps a softer light came into her eyes.

All her life long, her standard of judging people had been an
intellectual standard, or an artistic standard: what people had done
with outward and visible signs; how far they had contributed to thought;
how far they had influenced any great movement, or originated it; how
much of a benefit they had been to their century or their country; how
much social or political activity, how much educational energy they had
devoted to the pressing need of the times.

She was undoubtedly a clever, cultured young woman; the great work of
her life had been self-culture. To know and understand, she had spared
neither herself nor any one else. To know, and to use her acquired
knowledge intellectually as teacher and, perhaps, too, as writer, had
been the great aim of her life. Everything that furthered this aim won
her instant attention. It never struck her that she was selfish. One
does not think of that until the great check comes. One goes on, and
would go on. But a barrier rises up. Then, finding one can advance no
further, one turns round; and what does one see?

Bernardine saw that she had come a long journey. She saw what the
Traveller saw. That was all she saw at first. Then she remembered that
she had done the journey entirely for her own sake. Perhaps it might
not have looked so dreary if it had been undertaken for some one else.

She had claimed nothing of any one; she had given nothing to any one.
She had simply taken her life in her own hands and made what she could
of it. What had she made of it?

Many women asked for riches, for position, for influence and authority
and admiration. She had only asked to be able to work. It seemed little
enough to ask. That she asked so little placed her, so she thought,
apart from the common herd of eager askers. To be cut off from active
life and earnest work was a possibility which never occurred to her.

It never crossed her mind that in asking for the one thing for which
she longed, she was really asking for the greatest thing. Now, in the
hour of her enfeeblement, and in the hour of the bitterness of her
heart, she still prided herself upon wanting so little.

"It seems so little to ask," she cried to herself time after time.
"I only want to be able to do a few strokes of work. I would be content
now to do so little, if only I might do some. The laziest day-labourer
on the road would laugh at the small amount of work which would content
me now."

She told the Disagreeable Man that one day.

"So you think you are moderate in your demands," he said to her. "You
are a most amusing young woman. You are so perfectly unconscious how
exacting you really are. For, after all, what is it you want? You want
to have that wonderful brain of yours restored, so that you may begin
to teach, and, perhaps, write a book. Well, to repeat my former words:
you are still at phase one, and you are longing to be strong enough to
fulfil your ambitions and write a book. When you arrive at I phase four,
you will be quite content to dust one of your uncle's books instead:
far more useful work and far more worthy of encouragement. If every one
who wrote books now would be satisfied to dust books already written,
what a regenerated world it would become!"

She laughed good-temperedly. His remarks did not vex her; or, at least,
she showed no vexation. He seemed to have constituted himself as her
critic, and she made no objections. She had given him little bits of
stray confidence about herself, and she received everything he had to
say with that kind of forbearance which chivalry bids us show to the
weak and ailing. She made allowances for him; but she did more than that
for him: she did not let him see that she made allowances. Moreover,
she recognized amidst all his roughness a certain kind of sympathy which
she could not resent, because it was not aggressive. For to some natures
the expression of sympathy is an irritation; to be sympathized with
means to be pitied, and to be pitied means to be looked down upon. She
was sorry for him, but she would not have told him so for worlds; he
would have shrunk from pity as much as she did. And yet the sympathy
which she thought she did not want for herself, she was silently giving
to those around her, like herself, thwarted, each in a different way
perhaps, still thwarted all the same.

She found more than once that she was learning to measure people by a
standard different from her former one; not by what they had _done_ or
_been_, but by what they had _suffered_. But such a change as this does
not come suddenly, though, in a place like Petershof, it comes quickly,
almost unconsciously.

She became immensely interested in some of the guests; and there were
curious types in the Kurhaus. The foreigners attracted her chiefly; a
little Parisian danseuse, none too quiet in her manner, won Bernardine's
fancy.

"I so want to get better, _chérie_," she said to Bernardine. "Life is so
bright. Death: ah, how the very thought makes one shiver! That horrid
doctor says I must not skate; it is not wise. When was I wise? Wise
people don't enjoy themselves. And I have enjoyed myself, and will
still."

"How can you go about with that little danseuse?" the Disagreeable Man
said to Bernardine one day. "Do you know who she is?"

"Yes," said Bernardine; "she is the lady who thinks you must be a very
ill-bred person because you stalk into meals, with your hands in your
pockets. She wondered how I could bring myself to speak to you."

"I dare say many people wonder at that," said Robert Allitsen rather
peevishly.

"Oh no," replied Bernardine; "they wonder that you talk to me. They
think I must either be very clever or else very disagreeable."

"I should not call you clever," said Robert Allitsen grimly.

"No," answered Bernardine pensively. "But I always did think myself
clever until I came here. Now I am beginning to know better. But it
is rather a shock, isn't it?"

"I have never experienced the shock," he said.

"Then you still think you are clever?" she asked.

"There is only one man my intellectual equal in Petershof, and he is
not here any more," he said gravely. "Now I come to remember, he died.
That is the worst of making friendships here; people die."

"Still, it is something to be left king of the intellectual world,"
said Bernardine. "I never thought of you in that light."

There was a sly smile about, her lips as she spoke, and there was the
ghost of a smile on the Disagreeable Man's face.

"Why do you talk with that horrid Swede?" he said suddenly. "He is a
wretched low foreigner. Have you heard some of his views?"

"Some of them," answered Bernardine cheerfully. "One of his views is
really amusing: that it is very rude of you to read the newspaper during
meal-time; and he asks if it is an English custom. I tell him it depends
entirely on the Englishman, and the Englishman's neighbour!"

So she too had her raps at him, but always in the kindest way.

He had a curious effect on her. His very bitterness seemed to check in
its growth her own bitterness. The cup of poison of which he himself had
drunk deep, he passed on to her. She drank of it, and it did not poison
her. She was morbid, and she needed cheerful companionship. His dismal
companionship and his hard way of looking at life ought by rights to
have oppressed her. Instead of which she became less sorrowful.

Was the Disagreeable Man, perhaps, a reader of character? Did he know
how to help her in his own grim gruff way? He himself had suffered so
much; perhaps he did know.


CHAPTER VIII.

THE STORY MOVES ON AT LAST.


BERNARDINE was playing chess one day with the Swedish Professor. On the
Kurhaus terrace the guests were sunning themselves, warmly wrapped up to
protect themselves from the cold, and well-provided with parasols to
protect themselves from the glare. Some were reading, some were playing
cards or Russian dominoes, and others were doing nothing. There was a
good deal of fun, and a great deal of screaming amongst the Portuguese
colony. The little danseuse and three gentlemen acquaintances were
drinking coffee, and not behaving too quietly. Pretty Fraulein Muller was
leaning over her balcony carrying on a conversation with a picturesque
Spanish youth below. Most of the English party had gone sledging and
tobogganing. Mrs. Reffold had asked Bernardine to join them, but she had
refused. Mrs. Reffold's friends were anything but attractive to
Bernardine, although she liked Mrs. Reffold herself immensely. There was
no special reason why she should like her; she certainly had no cause to
admire her every-day behaviour, nor her neglect of her invalid husband,
who was passing away, uncared for in the present, and not likely to be
mourned for in the future. Mrs. Reffold was gay, careless, and beautiful.
She understood nothing about nursing, and cared less. So a trained nurse
looked after Mr. Reffold, and Mrs. Reffold went sledging.

"Dear Wilfrid is so unselfish," she said. "He will not have me stay at
home. But I feel very selfish." That was her stock remark. Most people
answered her by saying: "Oh no, Mrs. Reffold, don't say that." But when
she made the remark to Bernardine, and expected the usual reply,
Bernardine said instead: "Mr. Reffold seems lonely."

"Oh, he has a trained nurse, and she can read to him," said Mrs. Reffold
hurriedly. She seemed ruffled.

"I had a trained nurse once," replied Bernardine; "and she could read;
but she would not. She said it hurt her throat."

"Dear me, how very unfortunate for you," said Mrs. Reffold. "Ah, there
is Captain Graham calling. I must not keep the sledges waiting."

That was a few days ago, but to-day, when Bernardine was playing chess
with the Swedish Professor, Mrs. Reffold came to her. There was a
curious mixture of shyness and abandon in Mrs. Reffold's manner.

"Miss Holme," she said, "I have thought of such a splendid idea. Will
you go and see Mr. Reffold this afternoon? That would be a nice little
change for him."

Bernardine smiled.

"If you wish it," she answered.

Mrs. Reffold nodded and hastened away, and Bernardine continued her
game, and, having finished it, rose to go.

The Reffolds were rich, and lived in a suite of apartments in the more
luxurious part of the Kurhaus.

Bernardine knocked at the door, and the nurse came to open it.

"Mrs. Reffold asks me to visit Mr. Reffold," Bernardine said; and the
nurse showed her into the pleasant sitting-room.

Mr. Reffold was lying on the sofa. He looked up as Bernardine came in,
and a smile of pleasure spread over his wan face.

"I don't know whether I intrude," said Bernardine; "but Mrs. Reffold
said I might come to see you."

Mr. Reffold signed to the nurse to withdraw.

She had never before spoken to him. She had often seen him lying by
himself in the sunshine.

"Are you paid for coming to me he?" asked eagerly.

The words seemed rude enough, but there was no rudeness in the manner.

"No, I am not paid," she said gently; and then she took a chair and sat
near him.

"Ah, that's well!" he said, with a sigh of relief "I'm so tired of paid
service. To know that things are done for me because a certain amount of
francs are given so that those things may be done--well, one gets weary
of it; that's all!"

There was bitterness in every word he spoke. "I lie here," he said,
"and the loneliness of it--the loneliness of it!"

"Shall I read to you?" she asked kindly. She did not know what to say
to him.

"I want to talk first," he replied. "I want to talk first to some one
who is not paid for talking to me. I have often watched you, and
wondered who you were. Why do you look so sad? No one is waiting for
you to die?"

"Don't talk like that!" she said; and she bent over him and arranged
the cushions for him more comfortably. He looked just like a great lank
tired child.

"Are you one of my wife's friends?" he asked.

"I don't suppose I am," she answered gently; "but I like her, all the
same. Indeed, I like her very much. And I think her beautiful!"

"Ah, she is beautiful!" he said eagerly. "Doesn't she look splendid in
her furs? By Jove, you are right! She is a beautiful woman. I am proud
of her!"

Then the smile faded from his face.

"Beautiful," he said half to himself, "but hard."

"Come now," said Bernardine; "you are surrounded with books and
newspapers. What shall I read to you?"

"No one reads what I want," he answered peevishly. "My tastes are not
their tastes. I don't suppose you would care to read what I want to
hear!"

"Well," she said cheerily, "try me. Make your choice."

"Very well, the _Sporting and Dramatic_," he said. "Read every word of
that. And about that theatrical divorce case. And every word of that
too. Don't you skip, and cheat me."

She laughed and settled herself down to amuse him. And he listened
contentedly.

"That is something like literature," he said once or twice. "I can
understand papers of that sort going like wild-fire."

When he was tired of being read to, she talked to him in a manner that
would have astonished the Disagreeable Man: not of books, nor learning,
but of people she had met and of Places she had seen; and there was fun
in everything she said. She knew London well, and she could tell him
about the Jewish and the Chinese quarters, and about her adventures in
company with a man who took her here, there, and everywhere.

She made him some tea, and she cheered the poor fellow as he had not
been cheered for months.

"You're just a little brick," he said, when she was leaving. Then once
more he added eagerly:

"And you're not to be paid, are you?"

"Not a single _sou_!" she laughed. "What a strange idea of yours!"

"You are not offended?" he said anxiously. "But you can't think what a
difference it makes to me. You are not offended?"

"Not in the least!" she answered. "I know quite well how you mean it.
You want a little kindness with nothing at the back of it. Now,
good-bye!"

He called her when she was outside the door.

"I say, will you come again soon?"

"Yes, I will come to-morrow."

"Do you know you've been a little brick. I hope I haven't tired you.
You are only a bit of a thing yourself. But, by Jove, you know how to
put a fellow in a good temper!"

When Mrs. Reffold went down to _table-d'hôte_ that night, she met
Bernardine on the stairs, and stopped to speak with her.

"We've had a splendid afternoon," she said; "and we've arranged to go
again to-morrow at the same time. Such a pity you don't come! Oh, by
the way, thank you for going to see my husband. I hope he did not tire
you. He is a little querulous, I think. He so enjoyed your visit. Poor
fellow! it is sad to see him so ill, isn't it?"


CHAPTER IX.

BERNARDINE PREACHES.


AFTER this, scarcely a day passed but Bernardine went to see Mr. Reffold.
The most inexperienced eye could have known that he was becoming rapidly
worse. Marie, the chambermaid, knew it, and spoke of it frequently to
Bernardine.

"The poor lonely fellow!" she said, time after time.

Every one, except Mrs. Reffold, seemed to recognize that Mr. Reffold's
days were numbered. Either she did not or would not understand. She made
no alteration in the disposal of her time: sledging parties and skating
picnics were the order of the day; she was thoroughly pleased with
herself, and received the attentions of her admirers as a matter of
course. The Petershof climate had got into her head; and it is a
well-known fact that this glorious air has the effect on some people of
banishing from their minds all inconvenient notions of duty and devotion,
and all memory of the special object of their sojourn in Petershof. The
coolness and calmness with which such people ignore their
responsibilities, or allow strangers to assume them, would be an
occasion for humour, if it were not an opportunity for indignation:
though indeed it would take a very exceptionally sober-minded spectator
not to get some fun out of the blissful self-satisfaction and
unconsciousness which characterize the most negligent of 'caretakers.'

Mrs. Reffold was not the only sinner in this respect. It would have been
interesting to get together a tea-party of invalids alone, and set the
ball rolling about the respective behaviours of their respective friends.
Not a pleasing chronicle: no very choice pages to add to the book of real
life; still, valuable items in their way, representative of the actual as
opposed to the ideal. In most instances there would have been ample
testimony to that cruel monster, known as Neglect.

Bernardine spoke once to the Disagreeable Man on this subject. She spoke
with indignation, and he answered with indifference, shrugging his
shoulders.

"These things occur," he said "It is not that they are worse here than
everywhere else; it is simply that they are together in an accumulated
mass, and, as such, strike us with tremendous force. I myself am
accustomed to these exhibitions of selfishness and neglect. I should be
astonished if they did not take place. Don't mix yourself up with
anything. If people are neglected, they _are_ neglected, and there is
the end of it. To imagine that you or I are going to do any good by
filling up the breach, is simply an insanity leading to unnecessarily
disagreeable consequences. I know you go to see Mr. Reffold. Take my
advice, and keep away."

"You speak like a Calvinist," she answered, rather ruffled, "with the
quintessence of self-protectiveness; and I don't believe you mean a
word you say."

"My dear young woman," he said, "we are not living in a poetry book
bound with gilt edges. We are living in a paper-backed volume of prose.
Be sensible. Don't ruffle yourself on account of other people. Don't
even trouble to criticize them; it is only a nuisance to yourself. All
this simply points back to my first suggestion: fill up your time with
some hobby, cheese-mites or the influenza bacillus, and then you will
be quite content to let people be neglected, lonely, and to die. You
will look upon it as an ordinary and natural process."

She waved her hand as though to stop him.

"There are days," she said, "when I can't bear to talk with you. And
this is one of them."

"I am sorry," he answered, quite gently for him. And he moved away from
her, and started for his usual lonely walk.

Bernardine turned home, intending to go to see Mr. Reffold. He had become
quite attached to her, and looked forward eagerly to her visits. He said
her voice was gentle and her manner quiet; there was no bustling vitality
about het to irritate his worn nerves. He was probably an empty-headed,
stupid fellow; but it was none the less sad to see him passing away.

He called her 'Little Brick.' He said that no other epithet suited her
so exactly. He was quite satisfied now that she was not paid for coming
to see him. As for the reading, no one could read the _Sporting and
Dramatic News_ and the _Era_ so well as Little Brick. Sometimes he
spoke with her about his wife, but only in general terms of bitterness,
and not always complainingly. She listened and said nothing.

"I'm a chap that wants very little," he said once. "Those who want
little, get nothing."

That was all he said, but Bernardine knew to whom he referred.

To-day, as Bernardine was on her way back to the Kurhaus, she was
thinking constantly of Mrs. Reffold, and wondering whether she ought to
be made to realize that her husband was becoming rapidly worse. Whilst
engrossed with this thought, a long train of sledges and toboggans
passed her. The sound of the bells and the noisy merriment made her look
up, and she saw beautiful Mrs. Reffold amongst the pleasure-seekers.

"If only I dared tell her now," said Bernardine to herself, "loudly and
before them all!"

Then a more sensible mood came over her. "After all, it is not my
affair," she said.

And the sledges passed away out of hearing.

When Bernardine sat with Mr. Reffold that afternoon she did not mention
that she had seen his wife. He coughed a great deal, and seemed to be
worse than usual, and complained of fever. But he liked to have her,
and would not hear of her going.

"Stay," he said. "It is not much of a pleasure to you, but it is a great
pleasure to me."

There was an anxious look on his face, such a look as people wear when
they wish to ask some question of great moment, but dare not begin.

At last he seemed to summon up courage.

"Little Brick," he said, in a weak low voice, "I have something on my
mind. You won't laugh, I know. You're not the sort. I know you're clever
and thoughtful, and all that; you could tell me more than all the
parsons put together. I know you're clever; my wife says so. She says
only a very clever woman would wear such boots and hats!"

Bernardine smiled.

"Well," she said kindly, "tell me."

"You must have thought a good deal, I suppose," he continued, "about
life and death, and that sort of thing. I've never thought at all. Does
it matter, Little Brick? It's too late now. I can't begin to think. But
speak to me; tell me what you think. Do you believe we get another
chance, and are glad to behave less like curs and brutes? Or is it all
ended in that lonely little churchyard here? I've never troubled about
these things before, but now I know I am so near that gloomy little
churchyard--well, it makes me wonder. As for the Bible, I never cared
to read it, I was never much of a reader, though I've got through two
or three firework novels and sporting stories. Does it matter, Little
Brick?"

"How do I know?" she said gently. "How does any one know? People say
they know; but it is all a great mystery--nothing but a mystery.
Everything that we say, can be but a guess. People have gone mad over
their guessing, or they have broken their hearts. But still the mystery
remains, and we cannot solve it."

"If you don't know anything, Little Brick," he said, "at least tell me
what you think: and don't be too learned; remember I'm only a brainless
fellow."

He seemed to be waiting eagerly for her answer.

"If I were you," she said, "I should not worry. Just make up your mind
to do better when you get another chance. One can't do more than that.
That is what I shall think of: that God will give each one of us another
chance, and that each one of us will take it and do better--I and you
and every one. So there is no need to fret over failure, when one hopes
one may be allowed to redeem that failure later on. Besides which, life
is very hard. Why, we ourselves recognize that. If there be a God, some
Intelligence greater than human intelligence, he will understand better
than ourselves that life is very hard and difficult, and he will be
astonished not _because we are not better, but because we are not
worse_. At least, that would be my notion of a God. I should not worry,
if I were you. Just make up your mind to do better if you get the
chance, and be content with that."

"If that is what you think, Little Brick," he answered, "it is quite
good enough for me. And it does not matter about prayers and the Bible,
and all that sort of thing?"

"I don't think it matters," she said. "I never have thought such things
mattered. What does matter, is to judge gently, and not to come down
like a sledge-hammer on other people's failings. Who are we, any of us,
that we should be hard on others?"

"And not come down like a sledge-hammer on other people's failings," he
repeated slowly. "I wonder if I have ever judged gently."

"I believe you have," she answered.

He shook his head.

"No," he said; "I have been a paltry fellow. I have been lying here,
and elsewhere too, eating my heart away with bitterness, until you came.
Since then I have sometimes forgotten to feel bitter. A little kindness
does away with a great deal of bitterness."

He turned wearily on his side.

"I think I could sleep, Little Brick," he said, almost in a whisper.
"I want to dream about your sermon.  And I'm not to worry, am I?"

"No," she answered, as she stepped noiselessly across the room; "you
are not to worry."


CHAPTER X.

THE DISAGREEABLE MAN IS SEEN IN A NEW LIGHT.


ONE specially fine morning a knock came at Bernardine's door. She
opened it, and found Robert Allitsen standing there, trying to recover
his breath.

"I am going to Loschwitz, a village about twelve miles off," he said.
"And I have ordered a sledge. Do you care to come too?"

"If I may pay my share," she said.

"Of course," he answered; "I did not suppose you would like to be paid
for any better than I should like to pay for you."

Bernardine laughed.

"When do we start?" she asked.

"Now," he answered. "Bring a rug, and also that shawl of yours which is
always falling down, and come at once without any fuss. We shall be out
for the whole day. What about Mrs. Grundy? We could manage to take her
if you wished, but she would not be comfortable sitting amongst the
photographic apparatus, and I certainly should not give up my seat to
her."

"Then leave her at home," said Bernardine cheerily.

And so they settled it.

In less than a quarter of an hour they had started; and Bernardine
leaned luxuriously back to enjoy to the full her first sledge-drive.

It was all new to her: the swift passing through the crisp air without
any sensation of motion; the sleepy tinkling of the bells on the horses'
heads; the noiseless cutting through of the snow-path.

All these weeks she had known nothing of the country, and now she found
herself in the snow fairy-land of which the Disagreeable Man had often
spoken to her.  Around, vast plains of untouched snow, whiter than any
dream of whiteness, jewelled by the sunshine with priceless diamonds,
numberless as the sands of the sea. The great pines bearing their burden
of snow patiently; others, less patient, having shaken themselves free
from what the heavens had sent them to bear. And now the streams,
flowing on reluctantly over ice-coated rocks, and the ice cathedrals
formed by the icicles between the rocks.

And always the same silence, save for the tinkling of the horses' bells.

On the heights the quaint chalets, some merely huts for storing wood; on
others, farms, or the homes of peasants; some dark brown, almost black,
betraying their age; others of a paler hue, showing that the sun had not
yet mellowed them into a deep rich colour. And on all alike, the fringe
of icicles. A wonderful white world.

It was a long time before Bernardine even wished to speak. This
beautiful whiteness may become monotonous after a time, but there is
something very awe-inspiring about it, something which catches the soul
and holds it.

The Disagreeable Man sat quietly by her side. Once or twice he bent
forward to protect the camera when the sledge gave a lurch.

After some time they met a procession of sledges laden with timber;
and August, the driver, and Robert Allitsen exchanged some fun and
merriment with the drivers in their quaint blue smocks. The noise of
the conversation, and the excitement of getting past the sledges,
brought Bernardine back to speech again.

"I have never before enjoyed anything so much," she said.

"So you have found your tongue," he said. "Do you mind talking a little
now? I feel rather lonely."

This was said in such a pathetic, aggrieved tone, that Bernardine
laughed and looked at her companion. His face wore an unusually bright
expression. He was evidently out to enjoy himself.

"_You_ talk," she said; "and tell me all about the country."

And he told her what he knew, and, amongst other things, about the
avalanches. He was able to point out where some had fallen the previous
year. He stopped in the middle of his conversation to tell her to put up
her umbrella.

"I can't trouble to hold it for you," he said; "but I don't mind opening
it. The sun is blazing to-day, and you will get your eyes bad if you are
not careful. That would be a pity, for you seem to me rather better
lately."

"What a confession for you to make of any one!" said she.

"Oh, I don't mean to say that you will ever get well," he added grimly.
"You seem to have pulled yourself in too many directions for that. You
have tried to be too alive; and, now you are obliged to join the genus
cabbage."

"I am certainly less ill than I was when I first came," she said; "and I
feel in a better frame of mind altogether. I am learning a good deal in
sad Petershof."

"That is more than I have done," he answered.

"Well, perhaps you teach instead," she said. "You have taught me several
things. Now, go on telling me about the country people. You like them?"

"I love them," he said simply. "I know them well, and they know me. You
see I have been in this district so long now, and have walked about so
much, that the very wood cutters know me; and the drivers give me lifts
on their piles of timber."

"You are not surly with the poor people, then?" said Bernardine; "though
I must say I cannot imagine you being genial. Were you ever genial, I
wonder?"

"I don't think that has ever been laid to my charge," he answered.

The time passed away pleasantly. The Disagreeable Man was scarcely
himself to-day; or was it that he was more like himself? He seemed in a
boyish mood; he made fun out of nothing, and laughed with such young
fresh laughter, that even August, the grave blue-spectacled driver, was
moved to mirth. As for Bernardine, she had to look at Robert Allitsen
several times to be sure that he was the same Robert Allitsen she had
known two hours ago in Petershof. But she made no remark, and showed no
surprise, but met his merriness half way. No one could be a cheerier
companion than herself when she chose.

At last they arrived at Loschwitz. The sledge wound its way through the
sloshy streets of the queer little village, and finally drew up in front
of the Gasthaus. It was a black sunburnt châlet, with green shutters,
and steps leading up to a green balcony. A fringe of sausages hung from
the roof; red bedding was scorching in the sunshine; three cats were
sunning themselves on the steps; a young woman sat in the green balcony
knitting. There were some curious inscriptions on the walls of the
châlet, and the date was distinctly marked, "1670."

An old woman over the way sat in her doorway spinning. She looked up as
the sledge stopped before the Gasthaus; but the young woman in the green
balcony went on knitting, and saw nothing.

A buxom elderly Hausfrau, came out to greet the guests. She wore a
naturally kind expression on her old face, but when she saw who the
gentleman was, the kindness positive increased to kindness superlative.

She first retired and called out:

"Liza, Fritz, Liza, Trüdchen, come quickly!"

Then she came back, and cried:

"Herr Allitsen, what a surprise!"

She shook his hand times without number, greeted Bernardine with
motherly tenderness, and interspersed all her remarks with frantic
cries of "Liza, Fritz, Trüdchen, make haste!"

She became very hot and excited, and gesticulated violently.

All this time the young woman sat knitting, but not looking up. She
had been beautiful, but her face was worn now, and her eyes had that
vacant stare which betokened the vacant mind.

The mother whispered to Robert Allitsen:

"She notices no one now; she sits there always waiting."

Tears came into the kind old eyes.

Robert Allitsen went and bent down to the young woman, and held out
his hand.

"Catharina," he said gently.

She looked up then, and saw him, and recognized him.

Then the sad face smiled a welcome.

He sat near her, and took her knitting in his hand, pretending to
examine what she had done, chatting to her quietly all the time. He
asked her what she had been doing with herself since he had last seen
her, and she said:

"Waiting. I am always waiting."

He knew that she referred to her lover, who had been lost in an
avalanche the eve before their wedding morning. That was four years ago,
but Catharina was still waiting. Allitsen remembered her as a bright
young girl, singing in the Gasthaus, waiting cheerfully on the guests:
a bright gracious presence. No one could cook trout as she could; many a
dish of trout had she served up for him. And now she sat in the sunshine,
knitting and waiting, scarcely ever looking up. That was her life.

"Catharina," he said, as he gave her back her knitting, "do you remember
how you used to cook me the trout?"

Another smile passed over her face. Yes, she remembered.

"Will you cook me some to-day?"

She shook her head, and returned to her knitting.

Bernardine watched the Disagreeable Man with amazement. She could not
have believed that his manner could be so tender and kindly. The old
mother standing near her whispered:

"He was always so good to us all; we love him, every one of us. When
poor Catharina was betrothed five years ago, it was to Herr Allitsen we
first told the good news. He has a wonderful way about him--just look at
him with Catharina now. She has not noticed any one for months, but she
knows him, you see."

At that moment the other members of the household came: Liza, Fritz, and
Trüdchen; Liza, a maiden of nineteen, of the homely Swiss type; Fritz, a
handsome lad of fourteen; and Trüdchen, just free from school, with her
school-satchel swung on her back. There was no shyness in their greeting;
the Disagreeable Man was evidently an old and much-loved friend, and
inspired confidence, not awe. Trüdchen fumbled in his coat pocket, and
found what she expected to find there, some sweets, which she immediately
began to eat, perfectly contented and self-satisfied. She smiled and
nodded at Robert Allitsen, as though to reassure him that the sweets
were not bad, and that she was enjoying them.

"Liza will see to lunch," said the old mother. "You shall have some
mutton cutlets and some _forellen_. But before she goes, she has
something to tell you."

"I am betrothed to Hans," Liza said, blushing.

"I always knew you were fond of Hans," said the Disagreeable Man.
"He is a good fellow, Liza, and I'm glad you love him. But haven't you
just teased him!"

"That was good for him," Liza said brightly.

"Is he here to-day?" Robert Allitsen asked.

Liza nodded.

"Then I shall take your photographs," he said.

While they had been speaking, Catharina rose from her seat, and passed
into the house.

Her mother followed her, and watched her go into the kitchen.

"I should like to cook the _forellen_," she said very quietly.

It was months since she had done anything in the house. The old mother's
heart beat with pleasure.

"Catharina, my best loved child!" she whispered; and she gathered the
poor suffering soul near to her.

In about half an hour the Disagreeable Man and Bernardine sat down to
their meal. Robert Allitsen had ordered a bottle of Sassella, and he was
just pouring it out when Catharina brought in the _forellen_.

"Why, Catharina," he said, "you don't mean you've cooked them? Then they
will be good!" She smiled, and seemed pleased, and then went out of the
room.

Then he told Bernardine her history, and spoke with such kindness and
sympathy that Bernardine was again amazed at him. But she made no remark.

"Catharina was always sorry that I was ill," he said. "When I stayed
here, as I have done, for weeks together, she used to take every care
of me. And it was a kindly sympathy which I could not resent. In those
days I was suffering more than I have done for a long time now, and she
was very pitiful. She could not bear to hear me cough. I used to tell
her that she must learn not to feel. But you see she did not learn her
lesson, for when this trouble came on her, she felt too much. And you
see what she is."

They had a cheery meal together, and then Bernardine talked with the
old mother, whilst the Disagreeable Man busied himself with his camera.
Liza was for putting on her best dress, and doing her hair in some
wonderful way. But he would not hear of such a thing. But seeing that
she looked disappointed, he gave in, and said she should be photographed
just as she wished; and off she ran to change her attire. She went up to
her room a picturesque, homely working girl, and she came down a tidy,
awkward-looking young woman, with all her finery on, and all her charm
off.

The Disagreeable Man grunted, but said nothing.

Then Hans arrived, and then came the posing, which caused much
amusement. They both stood perfectly straight, just as a soldier stands
before presenting arms. Both faces were perfectly expressionless. The
Disagreeable Man was in despair.

"Look happy!" he entreated.

They tried to smile, but the anxiety to do so produced an expression of
melancholy which was too much for the gravity of the photographer. He
laughed heartily.

"Look as though you weren't going to be photographed," he suggested.
"Liza, for goodness' sake look as though you were baking the bread;
and Hans, try and believe that you are doing some of your beautiful
carving."

The patience of the photographer was something wonderful. At last he
succeeded in making them appear at their ease. And then he told Liza
that she must go and change her dress, and be photographed now in the
way he wished. She came down again, looking fifty times prettier in her
working clothes.

Now he was in his element. He arranged Liza and Hans on the sledge of
timber, which had then driven up, and made a picturesque group of them
all: Hans and Liza sitting side by side on the timber, the horses
standing there so patiently after their long journey through the forests,
the driver leaning against his sledge smoking his long china pipe.

"That will be something like a picture," he said to Bernardine, when the
performance was over. "Now I am going for about a mile's walk. Will you
come with me and see what I am going to photograph, or will you rest
here till I come back?"

She chose the latter, and during his absence was shown the treasures
and possessions of a Swiss peasant's home.

She was taken to see the cows in the stalls, and had a lecture given her
on the respective merits of Schneewitchen, a white cow, Kartoffelkuehen,
a dark brown one, and Röslein, the beauty of them all. Then she looked
at the spinning-wheel, and watched the old Hausfrau turn the treadle.
And so the time passed, Bernardine making, good friends of them all.
Catharina had returned to her knitting, and began working, and, as
before, not noticing any one. But Bernardine sat by her side, playing
with the cat, and after a time Catharina looked up at Bernardine's
little thin face, and, after some hesitation, stroked it gently with
her hand.

"Fräulein is not strong," she said tenderly. "If Fräulein lived here,
I should take care of her."

That was a remnant of Catharina's past. She had always loved everything
that was ailing and weakly.

Her hand rested on Bernardine's hand. Bernardine pressed it in kindly
sympathy, thinking the while of the girl's past happiness and resent
bereavement.

"Liza is betrothed," she said, as though to herself. "They don't tell
me; but I know. I was betrothed once."

She went on knitting.  And that was all she said of herself.

Then after a pause she said:

"Fräulein is betrothed?"

Bernardine smiled, and shook her head, and Catharina made no further
inquiries. But she looked up from her work from time to time, and seemed
pleased that Bernardine still stayed with her. At last the old mother
came to say that the coffee was ready, and Bernardine followed her into
the parlour.

She watched Bernardine drinking the coffee, and finally poured herself
out a cup too.

"This is the first time Herr Allitsen has ever brought a friend," she
said. "He has always been alone. Fräulein is betrothed to Herr Allitsen--
is that so? Ah, I am glad. He is so good and, so kind."

Bernardine stopped drinking her coffee.

"No, I am not betrothed," she said cheerily. "We are just friends; and
not always that either. We quarrel."

"All lovers do that," persisted Frau Steinhart triumphantly.

"Well, you ask him yourself," said Bernardine, much amused. She had
never looked upon Robert Allitsen in that light before. "See, there
he comes!"

Bernardine was not present at the court martial, but this was what
occurred. Whilst the Disagreeable Man was paying the reckoning, Frau
Steinhart said in her most motherly tones:

"Fräulein is a very dear young lady: Herr Allitsen has made a wise
choice. He is betrothed at last!"

The Disagreeable Man stopped counting out the money.

"Stupid old Frau Steinhart!" he said good-naturedly. "People like myself
don't get betrothed. We get buried instead!"

"Na, na!" she answered. "What a thing to say--and so unlike you too!
No, but tell me!"

"Well, I am telling you the truth," he replied. "If you won't believe
me, ask Fräulein herself."

"I have asked her," said Frau Steinhart, "and she told me to ask you."

The Disagreeable Man was much amused. He had never thought of Bernardine
in that way.

He paid the bill, and then did something which rather astonished Frau
Steinhart, and half convinced her.

He took the bill to Bernardine, told her the amount of her share, and
she repaid him then and there.

There was a twinkle in her eye as she looked up at him. Then the
composure of her features relaxed, and she laughed.

He laughed too, but no comment was made upon the episode. Then began
the goodbyes, and the preparations for the return journey.

Bernardine bent over Catharina, and kissed her sad face.

"Fräulein will come again?" she whispered eagerly.

And Bernardine promised. There was something in Bernardine's manner
which had won the poor girl's fancy: some unspoken sympathy, some quiet
geniality.

Just as they were starting, Frau Steinhart whispered to Robert Allitsen:

"It is a little disappointing to me, Herr Allitsen. I did so hope you
were betrothed."

August, the blue-spectacled driver, cracked his whip, and of the horses
started homewards.

For some time there was no conversation between the two occupants of the
sledge. Bernardine, was busy thinking about the experiences of the day,
and the Disagreeable Man seemed in a brown study. At last he broke the
silence by asking her how she liked his friends, and what she thought
of Swiss home life; and so the time passed pleasantly.

He looked at her once, and said she seemed cold.

"You are not warmly clothed," he said. "I have an extra coat. Put it on;
don't make a fuss but do so at once. I know the climate and you don't."

She obeyed, and said she was all the cosier for it. As they were nearing
Petershof, he said half-nervously:

"So my friends took you for my betrothed. I hope you are not offended."

"Why should I be?" she said frankly. "I was only amused, because there
never were two people less lover-like than you and I are."

"No, that's quite true," he replied, in a tone of voice which betokened
relief.

"So that I really don't see that we need concern ourselves further in
the matter," she added wishing to put him quite at his ease. "I'm not
offended, and you are not offended, and there's an end of it."

"You seem to me to be a very sensible young woman in some respects," the
Disagreeable Man remarked after a pause. He was now quite cheerful again,
and felt he could really praise his companion. "Although you have read
so much, you seem to me sometimes to take a sensible view of things.
Now, I don't want to be betrothed to you, any more than I suppose you
want to be betrothed to me. And yet we can talk quietly about the matter
without a scene. That would be impossible with most women."

Bernardine laughed. "Well, I only know," she said cheerily, "that I have
enjoyed my day very much, and I'm much obliged to you for your
companionship. The fresh air, and the change of surroundings, will have
done me good."

His reply was characteristic of him.

"It is the least disagreeable day I have spent for many months," he said
quietly.

"Let me settle with you for the sledge now," she said, drawing out her
purse, just as they came in sight of the Kurhaus.

They settled money matters, and were quits.

Then he helped her out of the sledge, and he stooped to pick up the
shawl she dropped.

"Here is the shawl you are always dropping," he said. "You're rather
cold, aren't you? Here, come to the restaurant and have some brandy.
Don't make a fuss. I know what's the right thing for you!"

She followed him to the restaurant, touched by his rough kindness. He
himself took nothing, but he paid for her brandy.

That evening after _table-d'hôte_, or rather after he had finished his
dinner, he rose to go to his room as usual. He generally went off
without a remark. But to-night he said:

"Good-night, and thank you for your companionship. It has been my
birthday to-day, and I've quite enjoyed it."


CHAPTER XI.

"IF ONE HAS MADE THE ONE GREAT SACRIFICE."


THERE was a suicide in the Kurhaus one afternoon. A Dutchman, Vandervelt,
had received rather a bad account of himself from the doctor a few days
previously, and in a fit of depression, so it was thought, he had put a
bullet through his head. It had occurred through Marie's unconscious
agency. She found him lying on his sofa when she went as usual to take
him his afternoon glass of milk. He asked her to give him a packet which
was on the top shelf of his cupboard.

"Willingly," she said, and she jumped nimbly on the chair, and gave him
the case.

"Anything more?" she asked kindly, as she watched him draw himself up
from the sofa. She thought at the time that he looked wild and strange;
but then, as she pathetically said afterwards, who did not look wild
and strange in the Kurhaus?

"Yes," he said. "Here are five francs for you."

She thought that rather unusual too; but five francs, especially coming
unexpectedly like that, were not to be despised, and Marie determined to
send them off to that Mutterli at home in the nut-brown châlet at Grüsch.

So she thanked Mynheer van Vandervelt, and went off to her pantry to
drink some cold tea which the English people had left, and to clean the
lamps. Having done that, and knowing that the matron was busily engaged
carrying on a flirtation with a young Frenchman, Marie took out her
writing materials, and began a letter to her old mother. These peasants
know how to love each other, and some of them know how to tell each
other too. Marie knew. And she told her mother of the gifts she was
bringing home, the little nothings given her by the guests.

She was very happy writing this letter: the little nut-brown home rose
before her.

"Ach!" she said, "how I long to be home!"

And then she put down her pen, and sighed.

"Ach!" she said, "and when I'm there, I shall long to be here. _Da wo
ich nicht bin, da ist das Gluck_."

Marie was something of a philosopher.

Suddenly she heard the report of a pistol, followed by a second report.
She dashed out of her little pantry, and ran in the direction of the
sound. She saw Wärli in the passage. He was looking scared, and his
letters had fallen to the ground. He pointed to No. 54.

It was the Dutchman's room.

Help arrived. The door was forced open, and Vandervelt was found dead.
The case from which he had taken the pistol was lying on the sofa. When
Marie saw that, she knew that she had been an unconscious accomplice.
Her tender heart overflowed with grief.

Whilst others were lifting him up, she leaned her head against the wall,
and sobbed.

"It was my fault, it was my fault!" she cried. "I gave him the case.
But how was I to know?"

They took her away, and tried to comfort her, but it was all in vain.

"And he gave me five francs," she sobbed. "I shudder to think of them."

It was all in vain that Wärli gave her a letter for which she had been
longing for many days.

"It is from your _Mutterli_," he said, as he put it into her hands. "I
give it willingly. I don't like the look of one or two of the letters
I have to give you, Mariechen. That Hans writes to you. Confound him!"

But nothing could cheer her.  Wärli went away shaking his curly head
sadly, shocked at the death of the Dutchman, and shocked at Marie's
sorrow. And the cheery little postman did not do much whistling that
evening.

Bernardine heard of Marie's trouble, and rang for her to come. Marie
answered the bell, looking the picture of misery. Her kind face was
tear-stained, and her only voice was a sob.

Bernardine drew the girl to her.

"Poor old Marie," she whispered. "Come and cry your kind heart out, and
then you will feel better. Sit by me here, and don't try to speak. And
I will make you some tea in true English fashion, and you must take it
hot, and it will do you good."

The simple sisterly kindness and silent sympathy soothed Marie after a
time. The sobs ceased, and the tears also. And Marie put her hand in her
pocket and gave Bernardine the five francs.

"Fräulein Holme, I hate them." she said. "I could never keep them. How
could I send them now to my old mother? They would bring her ill luck--
indeed they would."

The matter was solved by Bernardine in a masterly fashion. She suggested
that Marie should buy flowers with the money, and put them on the
Dutchman's coffin. This idea comforted Marie beyond Bernardine's most
sanguine expectations.

"A beautiful tin wreath," she said several times. "I know the exact kind.
When my father died, we put one on his grave."

That same evening, during _table-d'hôte_, Bernardine told the Disagreeable
Man the history of the afternoon. He had been developing photographs,
and had heard nothing. He seemed very little interested in her relation
of the suicide, and merely remarked:

"Well, there's one person less in the world."

"I think you make these remarks from habit," Bernardine said quietly,
and she went on with her dinner, attempting no further conversation with
him. She herself had been much moved by the sad occurrence; every one
in the Kurhaus was more or less upset; and there was a thoughtful,
anxious expression on more than one ordinarily thoughtless face. The
little French danseuse was quiet: the Portuguese ladies were decidedly
tearful, the vulgar German Baroness was quite depressed: the comedian at
the Belgian table ate his dinner in silence. In fact, there was a weight
pressing down on all. Was it really possible, thought Bernardine, that
Robert Allitsen was the only one there unconcerned and unmoved? She had
seen him in a different light amongst his friends, the country folk,
but it was just a glimpse which had not lasted long. The young-
heartedness, the geniality, the sympathy which had so astonished her
during their day's outing, astonished her still more by their total
disappearance. The gruffness had returned: or had it never been absent?
The lovelessness and leadenness of his temperament had once more
asserted themselves: or was it that they had never for one single day
been in the background?

These thoughts passed through her mind as he sat next to her reading his
paper--that paper which he never passed on to any one. She hardened her
heart against him; there was no need for ill-health and disappointment
to have brought any one to a miserable state of indifference like that.
Then she looked at his wan face and frail form, and her heart softened
at once. At the moment when her heart softened to him, he astonished her
by handing her his paper.

"Here is something to interest you," he said, "an article on Realism in
Fiction, or some nonsense like that. You needn't read it now. I don't
want the paper again.''

"I thought you never lent anything," she said, as she glanced at the
article, "much less gave it."

"Giving and lending are not usually in my line," he replied. "I think I
told you once that I thought selfishness perfectly desirable and
legitimate, if one had made the one great sacrifice."

"Yes," she said eagerly, "I have often wondered what you considered the
one great sacrifice."

"Come out into the air," he answered, "and I will tell you."

She went to put on her cloak and, hat, and found him waiting for her at
the top of the staircase. They passed out into the beautiful night: the
sky was radiantly bejewelled, the air crisp and cold, and harmless to do
ill. In the distance, the jodelling of some peasants. In the hotels, the
fun and merriment, side by side with the suffering and hopelessness. In
the deaconess's house, the body of the Dutchman. In God's heavens, God's
stars.

Robert Allitsen and Bernardine walked silently for some time.

"Well," she said, "now tell me."

"The one great sacrifice," he said half to himself, "is the going on
living one's life for the sake of another, when everything that would
seem to make life acceptable has been wrenched away, not the pleasures,
but the duties, and the possibilities of expressing one's energies,
either in one direction or another: when, in fact, living is only a
long tedious dying. If one has made this sacrifice, everything else
may be forgiven."

He paused a moment, and then continued:

"I have made this sacrifice, therefore I consider I have done my part
without flinching. The greatest thing I had to give up, I gave up: my
death. More could not be required of any one!"

He paused again, and Bernardine was silent from mere awe.

"But freedom comes at last," he said, "and some day I shall be free.
When my mother dies, I shall be free. She is old. If I were to die, I
should break her heart, or, rather she would fancy that her heart was
broken. (And it comes to the same thing). And I should not like to give
her more grief than she has had. So I am just waiting, it may be months,
or weeks, or years. But I know how to wait: if I have not learnt
anything else, I have learnt how to wait. And then" . . .

Bernardine had unconsciously put her hand on his arm; her face was full
of suffering.

"And then?" she asked, with almost painful eagerness.

"And then I shall follow your Dutchman's example," he said deliberately.

Bernardine's hand fell from the Disagreeable Man's arm.

She shivered.

"You are cold, you little thing," he said, almost tenderly for him.
"You are shivering."

"Was I?" she said, with a short laugh. "I was wondering when you would
get your freedom, and whether you would use it in the fashion you now
intend!"

"Why should there be any doubt?" he asked.

"One always hopes there would be a doubt," she said, half in a whisper.

Then he looked up, and saw all the pain on the little face.


CHAPTER XII.

THE DISAGREEABLE MAN MAKES A LOAN.


THE Dutchman was buried in the little cemetery which faced the hospital.
Marie's tin wreath was placed on the grave. And there the matter ended.
The Kurhaus guests recovered from their depression: the German Baroness
returned to her buoyant vulgarity, the little danseuse to her busy
flirtations. The French Marchioness, celebrated in Parisian circles for
her domestic virtues, from which she was now taking a holiday, and a
very considerable holiday too, gathered her nerves together again and
took renewed pleasure in the society of the Russian gentleman. The
French Marchioness had already been requested to leave three other
hotels in Petershof; but it was not at all probable that the proprietors
of the Kurhaus would have presumed to measure Madame's morality or
immorality. The Kurhaus committee had a benign indulgence for humanity--
provided of course that humanity had a purse--an indulgence which some
of the English hotels would not have done badly to imitate. There was a
story afloat concerning the English quarter, that a tired little English
lady, of no importance to look at, probably not rich, and probably not
handsome, came to the most respectable hotel in Petershof, thinking to
find there the peace and quiet which her weariness required.

But no one knew who the little lady was, whence she had come, and why.
She kept entirely to herself, and was thankful for the luxury of
loneliness after some overwhelming sorrow.

One day she was requested to go. The proprietor of the hotel was
distressed, but he could not do otherwise than comply with the demands
of his guests.

"It is not known who you are, Mademoiselle," he said. "And you are not
approved of. You English are curious people. But what can I do? You
have a cheap room, and are a stranger to me. The others have expensive
apartments, and come year after year. You see my position, Mademoiselle?
I am sorry."

So the little tired lady had to go. That was how the story went. It was
not known what became of her, but it was known that the English people
in the Kurhaus tried to persuade her to come to them. But she had lost
heart, and left in distress.

This could not have happened in the Kurhaus, where all were received on
equal terms, those about whom nothing was known, and those about whom
too much was known. The strange mixture and the contrasts of character
afforded endless scope for observation and amusement, and Bernardine,
who was daily becoming more interested in her surroundings, felt that
she would have been sorry to have exchanged her present abode for the
English quarter. The amusing part of it was that the English people in
the Kurhaus were regarded by their compatriots in the English quarter
as sheep of the blackest dye! This was all the more ridiculous because
with two exceptions--firstly of Mrs. Reffold, who took nearly all her
pleasures with the American colony in the Grand Hotel; and secondly,
of a Scotch widow who had returned to Petershof to weep over her
husband's grave, but put away her grief together with her widow's
weeds, and consoled herself with a Spanish gentleman--with these two
exceptions, the little English community in the Kurhaus was most humdrum
and harmless, being occupied, as in the case of the Disagreeable Man,
with cameras and cheese-mites, or in other cases with the still more
engrossing pastime of taking care of one's ill-health, whether real or
fancied: but yet, an innocent hobby in itself and giving one absolutely
no leisure to do anything worse: a great recommendation for any pastime.

This was not Bernardine's occupation: it was difficult to say what she
did with herself, for she had not yet followed Robert Allitsen's advice
and taken up some definite work: and the very fact that she had no such
wish, pointed probably to a state of health which forbade it. She,
naturally so keen and hard-working, was content to take what the hour
brought, and the hour brought various things: chess with the Swedish
professor, or Russian dominoes with the shrivelled-up little Polish
governess who always tried to cheat, and who clutched her tiny winnings
with precisely the same greediness shown by the Monte Carlo female
gamblers. Or the hour brought a stroll with the French danseuse and her
poodle, and a conversation about the mere trivialities of life, which a
year or two, or even a few months ago, Bernardine would have condemned
as beneath contempt, but, which were now taking their rightful place in
her new standard of importances. For some natures learn with greater
difficulty and after greater delay than others, that the real
importances of our existence are the nothingnesses of every-day life,
the nothingnesses which the philosopher in his study, reasoning about
and analysing human character, is apt to overlook; but which,
nevertheless, make him and every one else more of a human reality and
less of an abstraction. And Bernardine, hitherto occupied with so-called
intellectual pursuits, with problems of the study, of no value to the
great world outside the study, or with social problems of the great
world, great movements, and great questions, was now just beginning to
appreciate the value of the little incidents of that same great world.
Or the hour brought its own thoughts, and Bernardine found herself
constantly thinking of the Disagreeable Man: always in sorrow and always
with sympathy, and sometimes with tenderness.

When he told her about the one sacrifice, she could have wished to wrap
him round with love and tenderness. If he could only have known it, he
had never been so near love as then. She had suffered so much herself,
and, with increasing weaknesses, had so wished to put off the burden of
the flesh, that her whole heart went out to him.

Would he get his freedom, she wondered, and would he use it? Sometimes
when she was with him, she would look up to see whether she could read
the answer in his face; but she never saw any variation of expression
there, nothing to give her even a suggestion. But this she noticed: that
there was a marked variation in his manner, and that when he had been
rough in bearing, or bitter in speech, he made silent amends at the
earliest opportunity by being less rough and less bitter. She felt this
was no small concession on the part of the Disagreeable Man.

He was particularly disagreeable on the day when the Dutchman was buried,
and so the following day when Bernardine met him in the little English
library, she was not surprised to find him almost kindly.

He had chosen the book which she wanted, but he gave it up to her at once
without any grumbling, though Bernardine expected him to change his mind
before they left the library.

"Well," he said, as they walked along together, "and have you recovered
from the death of the Dutchman?"

"Have you recovered, rather let me ask?" she said. "You were in a horrid
mood last night."

"I was feeling wretchedly ill," he said quietly.

That was the first time he had ever alluded to his own health.

"Not that there is any need to make an excuse," he continued, "for I do
not recognise that there is any necessity to consult one's surroundings,
and alter the inclination of one's mind accordingly. Still, as a matter
of fact, I felt very ill!"

"And to-day?" she asked.

"To-day I am myself again," he answered quickly: "that usual normal self
of mine, whatever that may mean. I slept well, and I dreamed of you.
I can't say that I had been thinking of you, because I had not. But I
dreamed that we were children together, and playmates. Now that was very
odd: because I was a lonely child, and never had any playmates."

"And I was lonely too," said Bernardine.

"Every one is lonely," he said, "but every one does not know it."

"But now and again the knowledge comes like a revelation," she said,
"and we realise that we stand practically alone, out of any one's reach
for help or comfort. When you come to think of it, too, how little able
we are to explain ourselves. When you have wanted to say something which
was burning within you, have you not noticed on the face of the listener
that unmistakable look of non-comprehension, which throws you back on
yourself? That is one of the moments when the soul knows its own
loneliness!"

Robert Allitsen looked up at her.

"You little thing," he said, "you put things neatly sometimes. You have
felt, haven't you?"

"I suppose so," she said. "But that is true of most people."

"I beg your pardon," he answered, "most people neither think nor feel:
unless they think they have an ache, and then they feel it!"

"I believe," said Bernardine, "that there is more thinking and feeling
than one generally supposes."

"Well, I can't be bothered with that now," he said. "And you interrupted
me about my dream. That is an annoying habit you have."

"Go on," she said. "I apologize!"

"I dreamed we were children together, and playmates," he continued. "We
were not at all happy together, but still we were playmates. There was
nothing we did not quarrel about. You were disagreeable, and I was
spiteful. Our greatest dispute was over a Christmas-tree. And that was
odd, too, for I have never seen a Christmas-tree."

"Well?" she said, for he had paused. "What a long time you take to tell
story."

"You were not called Bernardine," he said. "You were called by some
ordinary sensible name. I don't remember what. But you were very
disagreeable. That I remember well. At last you disappeared, and I went
about looking for you 'If I can find something to cause a quarrel,'
I said to myself, 'she will come back.' So I went and smashed your
doll's head. But you did not come back. Then I set on fire your doll's
house. But even that did not bring you back. Nothing brought you back.
That was my dream. I hope you are not offended. Not that it makes any
difference if you are."

Bernardine laughed.

"I am sorry that I should have been such an unpleasant playmate," she
said. "It was a good thing I did disappear."

"Perhaps it was," he said. "There would have been a terrible scene about
that doll's head. An odd thing for me to dream about Christmas-trees and
dolls and playmates: especially when I went to sleep thinking about my
new camera."

"You have a new camera?" she asked.

"Yes," he answered, "and a beauty, too. Would you like to see it?"

She expressed a wish to see it, and when they reached the Kurhaus, she
went with him up to his beautiful room, where he spent his time in the
company of his microscope and his chemical bottles and his photographic
possessions.

"If you sit down and look at those photographs, I will make you some
tea," he said. "There is the camera, but please not to touch it until I
am ready to show it myself."

She watched him preparing the tea; he did everything so daintily, this
Disagreeable Man. He put a handkerchief on the table, to serve for an
afternoon tea-cloth, and a tiny vase of violets formed the centre-piece.
He had no cups, but he polished up two tumblers, and no housemaid could
have been more particular, about their glossiness. Then he boiled the
water and made the tea. Once she offered to help him; but he shook his
head.

"Kindly not to interfere." he said grimly. "No one can make tea better
than I can."

After tea, they began the inspection of the new camera, and Robert
Allitsen showed her all the newest improvements. He did not seem to
think much of her intelligence, for he explained everything as though
he were talking to a child, until Bernardine rather lost patience.

"You need not enter into such elaborate explanations," she suggested.
"I have a small amount of intelligence, though you do not seem to
detect it."

He looked at her as one might look at an impatient child.

"Kindly not to interrupt me," he replied mildly. "How very impatient you
are! And how restless! What must you have been like before you fell ill?"

But he took the hint all the same, and shortened his explanations, and
as Bernardine was genuinely interested, he was well satisfied. From time
to time he looked at his old camera and at his companion, and from the
expression of unease on his face, it was evident that some contest was
going on in his mind. Twice he stood near his old camera, and turned
round to Bernardine intending to make some remark. Then he chanced his
mind, and walked abruptly to the other end of the room as though to seek
advice from his chemical bottles. Bernardine meanwhile had risen from
her chair, and was looking out of the window.

"You have a lovely view," she said. "It must be nice to look at that
when you are tired of dissecting cheese-mites. All the same, I think
the white scenery gives one a great sense of sadness and loneliness."

"Why do you speak always of loneliness?" he asked.

"I have been thinking a good deal about it," she said. "When I was
strong and vigorous, the idea of loneliness never entered my mind. Now I
see how lonely most people are. If I believed in God as a Personal God,
I should be inclined to think that loneliness were part of his scheme:
so that the soul of man might turn to him and him alone."

The Disagreeable Man was standing by his camera again: his decision was
made.

"Don't think about those questions," he said kindly. "Don't worry and
fret too much about the philosophy of life. Leave philosophy alone, and
take to photography instead. Here, I will lend you my old camera."

"Do you mean that?" she asked, glancing at him in astonishment.

"Of course I mean it," he said.

He looked remarkably pleased with himself, and Bernardine could not
help smiling.

He looked just as a child looks when he has given up a toy to another
child, and is conscious that he has behaved himself rather well.

"I am very much obliged to you," she said frankly. "I have had a great
wish to learn photography."

"I might have lent my camera to you before, mightn't I?" he said
thoughtfully.

"No," she answered. "There was not any reason."

"No," he said, with a kind of relief, "there was not any reason. That
is quite true!"

"When will you give me my first lesson?" she asked. "Perhaps, though,
you would like to wait a few days, in case you change your mind."

"It takes me some time to make up my mind," he replied, "but I do not
change it. So I will give you your first lesson to-morrow. Only you
must not be impatient. You must consent to be taught; you cannot
possibly know everything!"

They fixed a time for the morrow, and Bernardine went off with the
camera; and meeting Marie on the staircase, confided to her the piece
of good fortune which had befallen her.

"See what Herr Allitsen has lent me, Marie!" she said.

Marie raised her hands in astonishment.

"Who would have thought such a thing of Herr Allitsen?" said Marie.
"Why, he does not like lending me a match."

Bernardine laughed and passed on to her room.

And the Disagreeable Man meanwhile was cutting a new scientific book
which had just come from England. He spent a good deal of money on
himself. He was soon absorbed in this book, and much interested in the
diagrams.

Suddenly he looked up to the corner where the old camera had stood,
before Bernardine took it away in triumph.

"I hope she won't hurt that camera," he said a little uneasily.
"I am half sorry that" . . .

Then a kinder mood took possession of him.

"Well, at least it will keep her from fussing and fretting and thinking.
Still, I hope she won't hurt it."


CHAPTER XIII.

A DOMESTIC SCENE.


ONE afternoon when Mrs. Reffold came to say good-bye to her husband
before going out for the usual sledge-drive, he surprised her by his
unwonted manner.

"Take your cloak off," he said sharply. "You cannot go for your drive
this afternoon. You don't often give up your time to me; you must do so
to-day."

She was so astonished, that she at once laid aside her cloak and hat,
and touched the bell.

"Why are you ringing?" Mr. Reffold asked testily.

"To send a message of excuse," she answered, with provoking cheerfulness.

She scribbled something on a card, and gave it to the servant who
answered the bell.

"Now," she said, with great sweetness of manner. And she sat down beside
him, drew out her fancy-work, and worked away contentedly. She would
have made a charming study of a devoted wife soothing a much-loved
husband in his hours of sickness and weariness.

"Do you mind giving up your drive?" he asked.

"Not in the least," she replied. "I am rather tired of sledging."

"You soon get tired of things, Winifred," he said.

"Yes, I do," was the answer. "I am so easily bored. I am quite tired of
this place."

"You will have to stay here a little longer," he said, "and then you
will be free to go where you choose. I wish I could die quicker for you,
Winifred."

Mrs. Reffold looked up from her embroidery.

"You will get better soon," she said. "You are better."

"Yes, you've helped a good deal to make me better," he said bitterly.
"You have been a most unselfish person haven't you? You have given me
every care and attention, haven't you?"

"You seem to me in a very strange mood to-day," she said, looking
puzzled. "I don't understand you."

Mr. Reffold laughed.

"Poor Winifred," he said. "If it is ever your lot to fall ill and be
neglected, perhaps then you will think of me."

"Neglected?" she said, in some surprise. "What do you mean? I thought
you had everything you wanted. The nurse brought excellent testimonials.
I was careful in the choice of her. You have never complained before."

He turned wearily on his side, and made no answer. And for some time
there was silence between them.

Then he watched her as she bent over her embroidery.

"You are very beautiful, Winifred," he said quietly, "but you are a
selfish woman. Has it ever struck you that you are selfish?"

Mrs. Reffold gave no reply, but she made a resolution to write to her
particular friend at Cannes and confide to her how very trying her
husband had become.

"I suppose it is part of his illness," she thought meekly. "But it is
hard to have to bear it."

And Mrs. Reffold pitied herself profoundly. She stitched sincere pity
for herself into that piece of embroidery.

"I remember you telling me," continued Mr. Reffold, "that sick people
repelled you. That was when I was strong and vigorous. But since I have
been ill, I have often recalled your words. Poor Winifred! You did not
think then that you would have an invalid husband on your hands. Well,
you were not intended for sick-room nursing, and you have not tried to
be what you were not intended for. Perhaps you were right, after all."

"I don't know why you should be so unkind to-day," Mrs. Reffold said,
with pathetic patience. "I can't understand you. You have never spoken
like this before."

"No," he said; "but I have thought like this before. All the hours you
have left me lonely, I have been thinking like this, with my heart full
of bitterness against you, until that little girl, that Little Brick
came along."

After that, it was some time before he spoke. He was thinking of his
Little Brick, and of all the pleasant hours he had spent with her, and
of the kind, wise words she had spoken to him, an ignorant fellow. She
was something like a companion.

So he went on thinking, and Mrs. Reffold went on embroidering. She was
now feeling herself to be almost a heroine. It is a very easy matter to
make oneself into a heroine or a martyr. Selfish, neglectful? What did
he mean? Oh, it was just part of his illness. She must go on bearing her
burden as she had borne it these many months. Her rightful position was
in a London ball-room. Instead of which, she had to be shut up in an
Alpine village: a hard lot. It was little enough pleasure she could get,
and apparently her husband grudged her that. His manner to her this
afternoon was not such as to encourage her to stay in from her drive on
another occasion. To-morrow she would go sledging.

That flash of light which reveals ourselves to ourselves had not yet
come to Mrs. Reffold.

She looked at her husband, and thought from his restfulness that he had
gone to sleep, and she was just beginning to write to that particular
friend at Cannes, to tell her what a trial she was undergoing, when
Mr. Reffold called her to his side.

"Winifred," he said gently, and there was tenderness in his voice, and
love written on his face, "Winifred, I am sorry if I have been sharp to
you. Little Brick says we mustn't come down like sledge-hammers on each
other; and that is what I have been doing this afternoon. Perhaps I have
been hard: I am such an illness to myself, that I must be an illness to
others too. And you weren't meant for this sort of thing--were you? You
are a bright beautiful creature, and I am an unfortunate dog not to have
been able to make you happier. I know I am irritable. I can't help
myself, indeed I can't."

This great long fellow was so yearning for love and sympathy.

What would it not have been to him if she had gathered him into her
arms, and soothed all his irritability and suffering with her love?

But she pressed his hand, and kissed him lightly on the cheek, and told
him that he had been a little sharp, but that she quite understood, and
that she was not hurt. Her charm of manner gave him some satisfaction;
and when Bernardine came in a few minutes later, she found Mr. Reffold
looking happier and more contented than she had ever seen him.
Mrs. Reffold, who was relieved at the interruption, received Bernardine
warmly, though there was a certain amount of shyness which she had never
been able to conquer in Bernardine's presence. There was something in
the younger woman which quelled Mrs. Reffold: it may have been some
mental quality, or it may have been her boots!

"Little Brick," said Mr. Reffold, "isn't it nice to have Winifred here?
And I have been so disagreeable and snappish."

"Oh, we won't say anything about that now," said Mrs. Reffold, smiling
sweetly.

"But I've said I am sorry," he continued. "And one can't do more."

"No," said Bernardine, who was amused at the notion of Mr. Reffold
apologizing to Mrs. Reffold, and of Mrs. Reffold posing as the gracious
forgiver, "one can't do more." But she could not control her feelings,
and she laughed.

"You seem rather merry this afternoon," Mr. Reffold said, in a
reproachful tone of voice.

"Yes," she said. And she laughed again. Mrs. Reffold's forgiving
graciousness had altogether upset her gravity.

"You might at least tell us the joke," Mrs. Reffold said.  Bernardine
looked at her hopelessly, and laughed again.

"I have been developing photographs all the afternoon," she said, "and
I suppose the closeness of the air and the badness of my negatives have
been too much for me. Anyway, I know I must seem very rude."

She recovered herself after that, and tried hard not to think of
Mrs. Reffold as the dispenser of forgiveness, although it was some time
before she could look at her hostess without wishing to laugh. The
corners of her mouth twitched, and her brown eyes twinkled mischievously,
and she spoke very rapidly, making fun of her first attempts at
photography, and criticising herself so comically, that both and
Mrs. Reffold were much amused.

All the same, Bernardine was relieved when Mrs. Reffold went to fetch
some silks, and left her with Mr. Reffold.

"I am very happy this afternoon, Little Brick," he said to her. "My
wife has been sitting with me. But instead of enjoying the pleasure as
I ought to have done, I began to find fault with her. I don't know how
long I should not have gone on grumbling, but that I suddenly
recollected what you taught me: that we were not to come down like
sledge-hammers on each other's failings. When I remembered that, it was
quite easy to forgive all the neglect and thoughtlessness. Since you
have talked to me, Little Brick, everything has become easier to me!"

"It is something in your own mind which has worked this," she said;
"your own kind, generous mind, and you put it down to my words!"

But he shook his head.

"If I knew of any poor unfortunate devil that wanted to be eased and
comforted," he said, "I should tell him about you, Little Brick. You
have been very good to me. You may be clever, but you have never worried
my stupid brain with too much scholarship. I'm just an ignorant chap,
and you've never let me feel it."

He took her hand and raised it reverently to his lips.

"I say," he continued, "tell my wife it made me happy to have her with
me this afternoon; then perhaps she will stay in another time. I should
like her to know. And she was sweet in her manner, wasn't she? And, by
Jove, she is beautiful! I am glad you have seen her here to-day. It must
be dull for her with an invalid like me. And I know I am irritable. Go
and tell her that she made me happy--will you?"

The little bit of happiness at which the poor fellow snatched, seemed
to make him more pathetic than before. Bernardine promised to tell his
wife, and went of to find her, making as an excuse a book which
Mrs. Reffold had offered to lend her. Mrs. Reffold was in her bedroom.
She asked. Bernardine to sit down whilst she searched for the book.
She had a very gracious manner when she chose.

"You are looking much better, Miss Holme," she said kindly. "I cannot
help noticing your face. It looks younger and brighter. The bracing air
has done you good."

"Yes, I am better," Bernardine said, rather astonished that Mrs. Reffold
should have noticed her at all. "Mr. Allitsen informs me that I shall
live, but never be strong. He settles every question of that sort to his
own satisfaction, but not always to the satisfaction of other people!"

"He is a curious person," Mrs. Reffold said smiling; "though I must say
he is not quite as gruff as he used to be. You seem to be good friends
with him."

She would have liked to say more on this subject, but experience had
taught her that Bernardine was not to be trifled with.

"I don't know about being good friends," Bernardine said, "but I have a
great sympathy for him. I know myself what it is to be cut off from
work and active life. I have been through a misery. But mine is nothing
to his."

She rose to go, but Mrs. Reffold detained her.

Don't go yet,' she said. "It is pleasant to have you."

She was leaning back in an arm-chair playing with the fringe of an
antimacassar.

"Oh, how tired I am of this horrid place!" she said suddenly. "And I
have had a most wearying afternoon.  Mr. Reffold seems to be more
irritable every day. It is very hard that I should have to bear it."

Bernardine listened to her in astonishment.

"Yes," she added, "I am quite worn out. He never used to be so
irritable. It is all very tiresome. It is quite telling on my health."

She looked the picture of health.

Bernardine gasped; and Mrs. Reffold continued:

"His grumbling this afternoon has been incessant; so much so that he
himself was ashamed, and asked me to forgive him. You heard him, didn't
you?"

"Yes, I heard him," Bernardine said.

"And of course I forgave him at once," Mrs. Reffold said piously.
"Naturally one would do that, but the vexation remains all the same."

"Can these things be!" thought Bernardine to herself

"He spoke in a most ridiculous way," she went on: "it certainly is not
encouraging for me to spend another afternoon with him. I shall go
sledging to-morrow."

"You generally do go sledging, don't you?" Bernardine asked mildly.

Mrs. Reffold looked at her suspiciously. She was never quite sure that
Bernardine was not making fun of her.

"It is little enough pleasure I do have," she added, as though in self-
defence. "And he seems to grudge me that too."

"I don't think he would grudge you anything," Bernardine said, with
some warmth. "He loves you too much for that. You don't know how much
pleasure you give him when you spare him a little of your time. He told
me how happy you made him this afternoon. You could see for yourself
that he was happy. Mrs. Reffold, make him happy whilst you still have
him. Don't you understand that he is passing away from you--don't you
understand, or is it that you won't? We all see it, all except you!"

She stopped suddenly, surprised at her boldness.

Mrs. Reffold was still leaning back in the arm-chair, her hands clasped
together above her beautiful head. Her face was pale. She did not speak.
Bernardine waited. The silence was unbroken save by the merry cries of
some children tobogganing in the Kurhaus garden. The stillness grew
oppressive, and Bernardine rose.  She knew from the effort which those
few words had cost her, how far removed she was from her old former self.

"Good-bye, Mrs. Reffold," she said nervously.

"Good-bye, Miss Holme," was the only answer.


CHAPTER XIV.

CONCERNING THE CARETAKERS


THE Doctors in Petershof always said that the caretakers of the invalids
were a much greater anxiety than the invalids themselves. The invalids
would either get better or die: one of two things probably. At any rate,
you knew where you were with them. But not so with the caretakers: there
was nothing they were not capable of doing--except taking reasonable
care of their invalids! They either fussed about too much, or else they
did not fuss about at all. They all began by doing the right thing: they
all ended by doing the wrong. The fussy ones had fits of apathy, when
the poor irritable patients seemed to get a little better; the negligent
ones had paroxysms of attentiveness, when their invalids, accustomed to
loneliness and neglect, seemed to become rather worse by being worried.

To remonstrate with the caretakers would have been folly: for they were
well satisfied with their own methods.

To contrive their departure would have been an impossibility: for they
were firmly convinced that their presence was necessary to the welfare
of their charges. And then, too, judging from the way in which they
managed to amuse themselves, they liked being in Petershof, though they
never owned that to the invalids. On the contrary, it was the custom for
the caretakers to depreciate the place, and to deplore the necessity
which obliged them to continue there month after month. They were fond,
too, of talking about the sacrifices which they made, and the pleasures
which they willingly gave up in order to stay with their invalids. They
said this in the presence of their invalids. And if the latter had told
them by all means to pack up and go back to the pleasures which they
had renounced, they would have been astonished at the ingratitude which
could suggest the idea.

They were amusing characters, these caretakers. They were so thoroughly
unconscious of their own deficiencies. They might neglect their own
invalids, but they would look after other people's invalids, and play
the nurse most soothingly and prettily where there was no call and no
occasion. Then they would come and relate to their neglected dear ones
what they had been doing for others: and the dear ones would smile
quietly, and watch the buttons being stitched on for strangers, and the
cornflour which they could not, get nicely made for themselves, being
carefully prepared for other people's neglected dear ones.

Some of the dear ones were rather bitter. But there were many of a
higher order of intelligence, who seemed to realize that they had no
right to be ill, and that being ill, and therefore a burden on their
friends, they must make the best of everything, and be grateful for
what was given them, and patient when anything was withheld. Others of
a still higher order of understanding, attributed the eccentricities of
the caretakers to one cause alone: the Petershof air. They know it had
the invariable effect of getting into the head, and upsetting the
balance of those who drank deep of it. Therefore no one was to blame,
and no one need be bitter. But these were the philosophers of the
colony: a select and dainty few in any colony. But there were several
rebels amongst the invalids, and they found consolation in confiding to
each other their separate grievances. They generally held their
conferences in the rooms known as the newspaper-rooms, where they were
not likely to be interrupted by any caretakers who might have stayed at
home because, they were tired out.

To-day there were only a few rebels gathered together, but they were
more than usually excited, because the Doctors had told several of them
that their respective caretakers must be sent home.

"What must I do?" said little Mdlle. Gerardy, wringing her hands. "The
Doctor says that I must tell my sister to go home: that she only worries
me, and makes me worse. He calls her a 'whirlwind.' If I won't tell her,
then he will tell her, and we shall have some more scenes. Mon Dieu! and
I am so tired of them. They terrify me. I would suffer anything rather
than have a fresh scene.  And I can't get her to do anything for, me.
She has no time for, me. And, yet she thinks she takes the greatest
possible care of me, and devotes the whole day to me. Why, sometimes I
never see her for hours together."

"Well, at least she does not quarrel with every one, as my mother does,"
said a Polish gentleman, M. Lichinsky. "Nearly every day she has a
quarrel with some one or other; and then she comes to me and says she
has been insulted. And others come to me mad with rage, and complain
that they have been insulted by her. As though I were to blame! I tell
them that now. I tell them that my mother's quarrels are not my quarrels.
But one longs for peace. And the Doctor says I must have it, and that
my mother must go home at once. If I tell her that, she will have a
tremendous quarrel with the Doctor. As it is, he will scarcely speak to
her. So you see, Mademoiselle Gerardy, that I, too, am in a bad plight.
What am I to do?"

Then a young American spoke. He had been getting gradually worse since
he came to Petershof, but his brother, a bright sturdy young fellow,
seemed quite unconscious of the seriousness of his condition.

"And what am I to do?" he asked pathetically. "My brother does not even
think I am ill. He says I am to rouse myself and come skating and
tobogganing with him. Then I tell him that the Doctor says I must lie
quietly in the sun. I have no one to take care of me, so I try to take
a little care of myself, and then I am laughed at. It is bad enough to
be ill; but it is worse when those who might help you a little, won't
even believe in your illness. I wrote home once and told them; but they
go by what he says; and they, too, tell me to rouse myself."

His cheeks were sunken, his eyes were leaden. There was no power in his
voice, no vigour in his frame. He was just slipping quickly down the
hill for want of proper care and understanding.

"I don't know whether I am much better off than you," said an English
lady, Mrs. Bridgetower. "I certainly have a trained nurse to look after
me, but she is altogether too much for me, and she does just as she
pleases. She is always ailing, or else pretends to be; and she is always
depressed. She grumbles from eight in the morning till nine at night.
I have heard that she is cheerful with other people, but she never gives
me the benefit of her brightness. Poor thing! She does feel the cold
very much, but it is not very cheering to see her crouching neat the
stove, with her arms almost clasping it! When she is not talking of her
own looks, all she says is: 'Oh, if I had only not come to Petershof!'
or, 'Why did I ever leave that hospital in Manchester?' or, 'The cold
is eating into the very marrow of my bones.' At first she used to read
to me; but it was such a dismal performance that I could not bear to
hear her. Why don't I send her home? Well, my husband will not hear of
me being alone, and he thinks I might do worse than keep Nurse Frances.
And perhaps I might."

"I would give a good deal to have a sister like pretty Fräulein Müller
has," said little Fräulein Oberhof. "She came to look after me the other
day when I was alone. She has the kindest way about her. But when my
sister came in, she was not pleased to find Fräulein Sophie Müller with
me. She does not do anything for me herself, and she does not like any
one else to do anything either. Still, she is very good to other people.
She comes up from the theatre sometimes at half-past nine--that is the
hour when I am just sleepy--and she stamps about the room, and makes
cornflour for the old Polish lady. Then off she goes, taking with her
the cornflour together with my sleep. Once I complained, but she said I
was irritable. You can't think how teasing it is to hear the noise of
the spoon stirring the cornflour just when you are feeling drowsy. You
say to yourself, 'Will that cornflour never be made? It seems to take
centuries."

"One could be more patient if it were being made for oneself," said
M. Lichinsky. "But at least, Fräulein, your sister does not quarrel
with every one. You must be grateful for that mercy!"

Even as he spoke, a stout lady thrust herself into the reading-room.
She looked very hot and excited. She was M. Lichinsky's mother. She
spoke, with a whirlwind of Polish words. It is sometimes difficult to
know when these people are angry and when they are pleased. But there
was no mistake about Mme. Lichinsky. She was always angry. Her son rose
from the sofa and followed her to the door. Then he turned round to his
confederates, and shrugged his shoulders.

"Another quarrel!" he said hopelessly.


CHAPTER XV.

WHICH CONTAINS NOTHING.


"YOU may have talent for other things," Robert Allitsen said one day to
Bernardine, "but you certainly have no talent for photography. You have
not made the slightest progress."

"I don't at all agree with you," Bernardine answered rather peevishly.
"I think I am getting on very well."

"You are no judge," he said. "To begin with, you cannot focus properly.
You have a crooked eye. I have told you that several times!"

"You certainly have," she put in. "You don't let me forget that."

"Your photograph of that horrid little danseuse whom you like so much,"
he said, "is simply abominable. She looks like a fury. Well, she may be
one for all I know, but in real life she has not the appearance of one."

"I think that is the best photograph I have done," Bernardine said,
highly indignant. She could tolerate his uppishness about subjects of
which she knew far more than he did; but his masterfulness about a
subject of which she really knew nothing was more than she could bear
with patience. He had not the tact to see that she was irritated.

"I don't know about it being the best," he said; "unless it is the best
specimen of your inexperience. Looked at from that point of view, it
does stand first!"

She flushed crimson with temper.

"Nothing is easier than to make fun of others," she said fiercely. "It
is the resource of the ignorant."

Then, after the fashion of angry women, having said her say, she stalked
away. If there had been a door to bang, she would certainly have banged
it. However, she did what she could under the circumstances: she pushed
a curtain roughly aside, and passed into the concert-room, where every
night of the season's six months, a scratchy string orchestra entertained
the Kurhaus guests. She left the Disagreeable Man standing in the passage.

"Dear me," he said thoughtfully. And he stroked his chin. Then he trudged
slowly up to his room.

"Dear me," he said once more.

Arrived in his bedroom, he began to read. But after a few minutes he
shut his book, took the lamp to the looking-glass and brushed his hair.
Then he put on a black coat and a white silk tie. There was a speck of
dust on the coat. He carefully removed that, and then extinguished the
lamp.

On his way downstairs he met Marie, who gazed at him in astonishment.
It was quite unusual for him to be seen again when he had once come up
from _table-d'hôte_. She noticed the black coat and the white silk tie
too, and reported on these eccentricities to her colleague Anna.

The Disagreeable Man meanwhile had reached the Concert Hall. He glanced
around, and saw where Bernardine was sitting, and then chose a place in
the opposite direction, quite by himself. He looked somewhat like a dog
who has been well beaten. Now and again he looked up to see whether she
still kept her seat. The bad music was a great irritation to him. But he
stayed on heroically. There was no reason why he should stay. Gradually,
too, the audience began to thin. Still he lingered, always looking like
a dog in punishment.

At last Bernardine rose, and the Disagreeable Man rose too. He followed
her humbly to the door. She turned and saw him.

"I am sorry I put you in a bad temper," he said. "It was stupid of me."

"I am sorry I got into a bad temper," she answered, laughing. "It was
stupid of me."

"I think I have said enough to apologize," he said. "It is a process I
dislike very much."

And with that he wished her good-night and went to his room.

But that was not the end of the matter, for the next day when he was
taking his breakfast with her, he of his own accord returned to the
subject.

"It was partly your own fault that I vexed you last night," he said.
"You have never before been touchy, and so I have become accustomed to
saying what I choose. And it is not in my nature to be flattering."

"That is a very truthful statement of yours," she said, as she poured
out her coffee. "But I own I was touchy. And so I shall be again if you
make such cutting remarks about my photographs!"

"You have a crooked eye," he said grimly. "Look there, for instance!
You have poured your coffee outside the cup. Of course you can do as
you like, but the usual custom is to pour it inside the cup."

They both laughed, and the good understanding between them was cemented
again.

"You are certainly getting better," he said suddenly. "I should not be
surprised if you were able to write a book after all. Not that a new
book is wanted. There are too many books as it is; and not enough people
to dust them. Still, it is not probable that you would be considerate
enough to remember that. You will write your book."

Bernardine shook her head.

"I don't seem to care now," she said. "I think I could now be content
with a quieter and more useful part."

"You will write your book," he continued. "Now listen to me. Whatever
else you may do, don't make your characters hold long discussions with
each other. In real life, people do not talk four pages at a time
without stopping. Also, if you bring together two clever men, don't make
them talk cleverly. Clever people do not. It is only the stupid who
think they must talk cleverly all the time. And don't detain your reader
too long: if you must have a sunset, let it be a short one. I could give
you many more hints which would be useful to you."

"But why not use your own hints for yourself?" she suggested.

"That would be selfish of me," he said solemnly. "I wish you to profit
by them."

"You are learning to be unselfish at a very rapid rate," Bernardine said.

At that moment Mrs. Reffold came into the breakfast-room, and, seeing
Bernardine, gave her a stiff bow.

"I thought you and Mrs. Reffold were such friends," Robert Allitsen said.

Bernardine then told him of her last interview with Mrs. Reffold.

"Well, if you feel uncomfortable, it is as it should be," he said. "I
don't see what business you had to point out to Mrs. Reffold her duty.
I dare say she knows it quite well though she may not choose to do it.
I am sure I should resent it, if any one pointed out my duty to me.
Every one knows his own duty. And it is his own affair whether or not
he does it."

"I wonder if you are right," Bernardine said. "I never meant to presume;
but her indifference had exasperated me."

"Why should you be exasperated about other people's affairs?" he said.
"And why interfere at all?"

"Being interested is not the same as being interfering," she replied
quickly.

"It is difficult to be the one without being the other," he said. "It
requires a genius. There is a genius for being sympathetic as well as
a genius for being good. And geniuses are few."

"But I knew one," Bernardine said. "There was a friend to whom in the
first days of my trouble I turned for sympathy. When others only
irritated, she could soothe. She had only to come into my room, and
all was well with me."

There were tears in Bernardine's eyes as she spoke.

"Well," said the Disagreeable Man kindly, "and where is your genius now?"

"She went away, she and hers," Bernardine said "And that was the end of
that chapter!"

"Poor little child," he said, half to himself. "Don't I too know
something about the ending of such a chapter?"

But Bernardine did not hear him; she was thinking of her friend. She was
thinking, as we all think, that those to whom in our suffering we turn
for sympathy, become hallowed beings. Saints they may not be; but for
want of a better name, saints they are to us, gracious and lovely
presences. The great time Eternity, the great space Death, could not rob
them of their saintship; for they were canonized by our bitterest tears.

She was roused from her reverie by the Disagreeable Man, who got up, and
pushed his chair noisily under the table.

"Will you come and help me to develop some photographs?" he asked
cheerily. "You do not need to have a straight eye for that!"

Then as they went along together, he said:

"When we come to think about it seriously, it is rather absurd for us to
expect to have uninterrupted stretches of happiness. Happiness falls to
our share in separate detached bits; and those of us who are wise,
content ourselves with these broken fragments."

"But who is wise?" Bernardine asked. "Why, we all expect to be happy.
No one told us that we were to be happy. Still, though no one told us,
it is the true instinct of human nature."

"It would be interesting to know at what particular period of evolution
into our present glorious types we felt that instinct for the first
time," he said. "The sunshine must have had something to do with it.
You see how a dog throws itself down in the sunshine; the most wretched
cur heaves a sigh of content then; the sulkiest cat begins to purr."

They were standing outside the room set apart for the photograph-maniacs
of the Kurhaus.

"I cannot go into that horrid little hole," Bernardine said. "And
besides, I have promised to play chess with the Swedish professor.
And after that I am going to photograph Marie. I promised Wärli I would."

The Disagreeable Man smiled grimly.

"I hope he will be able to recognize her!" he said. Then, feeling that
he was on dangerous ground, he added quickly:

"If you want any more plates, I can oblige you."

On her way to her room she stopped to talk to pretty Fräulein Müller,
who was in high spirits, having had an excellent report from the Doctor.
Fräulein Müller always insisted on talking English with Bernardine; and
as her knowledge of it was limited, a certain amount of imagination was
necessary to enable her to be understood.

"Ah, Miss Holme," she said, "I have deceived an exquisite report from
the Doctor."

"You are looking ever so well," Bernardine said. "And the love-making
with the Spanish gentleman goes on well, too?"

"Ach!" was the merry answer. "That is your inventory! I am quite
indolent to him!"

At that moment the Spanish gentleman came out of the Kurhaus flower-
shop, with a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

"Mademoiselle," he said, handing them to Fräulein Müller, and at the
same time putting his hand to his heart. He had not noticed Bernardine
at first, and when he saw her, he became somewhat confused. She smiled
at them both, and escaped into the flower-shop, which was situated in
one of the covered passages connecting the mother-building with the
dependencies. Herr Schmidt, the gardener, was making a wreath. His
favourite companion, a saffron cat, was playing with the wire. Schmidt
was rather an ill-tempered man, but he liked Bernardine.

"I have put these violets aside for you, Fräulein," he said, in his
sulky way. "I meant to have sent them to your room, but have been
interrupted in my work."

"You spoil me with your gifts," she said.

"You spoil my cat with the milk," he replied, looking up from his work.

"That is a beautiful wreath you are making, Herr Schmidt," she said.
"Who has died? Any one in the Kurhaus?"

"No, Fräulein. But I ought to keep my door locked when I make these
wreaths. People get frightened, and think they, too, are going to die.
Shall you be frightened, I wonder?"

"No, I believe not," she answered as she took possession of her violets,
and stroked the saffron cat. "But I am glad no one has died here."

"It is for a young, beautiful lady," he said. "She was in the Kurhaus
two years ago. I liked her. So I am taking extra pains. She did not care
for the flowers to be wired. So I am trying my best without the wire.
But it is difficult."

She left him to his work, and went away, thinking. All the time she had
now been in Petershof had not sufficed to make her indifferent to the
sadness of her surroundings. In vain the Disagreeable Man's preachings,
in vain her own reasonings with herself.

These people here who suffered, and faded, and passed away, who were
they to her?

Why should the faintest shadow steal across her soul on account of them?

There was no reason. And still she felt for them all, she who in the old
days would have thought it waste of time to spare a moment's reflection
on anything so unimportant as the sufferings of an _individual_ human
being.

And the bridge between her former and her present self was her own
illness.

What dull-minded sheep we must all be, how lacking in the very elements
of imagination, since we are only able to learn by personal experience
of grief and suffering, something about the suffering and grief of
others!

Yea, how the dogs must wonder at us: those dogs who know when we are in
pain or trouble, and nestle nearer to us.

So Bernardine reached her own door. She heard her name called, and,
turning round, saw Mrs. Reffold. There was a scared look on the
beautiful face.

"Miss Holme," she said, "I have been sent for--I daren't go to him
alone--I want you--he is worse. I am" . . .

Bernardine took her hand, and the two women hurried away in silence.


CHAPTER XVI.

WHEN THE SOUL KNOWS ITS OWN REMORSE.


BERNARDINE had seen Mr. Reffold the previous day. She had sat by his
side and held his hand. He had smiled at her many times, but he only
spoke once.

"Little Brick," he whispered--for his voice had become nothing but a
whisper. "I remember all you told me. God bless you. But what a long
time it does take to die."

But that was yesterday.

The lane had come to an ending at last, and Mr. Reffold lay dead.

They bore him to the little mortuary chapel. And Bernardine stayed with
Mrs. Reffold, who seemed afraid to be alone. She clung to Bernardine's
hand.

"No, no," she said excitedly, "you must not go! I can't bear to be
alone: you must stay with me!"

She expressed no sorrow, no regret. She did not even speak his name.
She just sat nursing her beautiful face.

Once or twice Bernardine tried to slip away. This waiting about was a
strain on her, and she felt that she was doing no good.

But each time Mrs. Reffold looked up and prevented her.

"No, no," she said. "I can't bear myself without you. I must have you
near me. Why should you leave me?"

So Bernardine lingered. She tried to read a book which lay on the table.
She counted the lines and dots on the wall-paper. She thought about the
dead man; and about the living woman. She had pitied him; but when she
looked at the stricken face of his wife, Bernardine's whole heart rose
up in pity for her. Remorse would come, although it might not remain
long. The soul would see itself face to face for one brief moment; and
then forget its own likeness.

But for the moment--what a weight of suffering, what a whole century of
agony!

Bernardine grew very tender for Mrs. Reffold: she bent over the sofa,
and fondled the beautiful face.

"Mrs. Reffold" . . .  she whispered.

That was all she said: but it was enough.

Mrs. Reffold burst into an agony of tears.

"Oh, Miss Holme," she sobbed, "and I was not even kind to him! And now
it is too late. How can I ever bear myself?"

And then it was that the soul knew its own remorse.


CHAPTER XVII.

A RETURN TO OLD PASTURES.


SHE had left him alone and neglected for whole hours when he was alive.
And now when he was dead, and it probably mattered little to him where
he was laid, it was some time before she could, make up her mind to
leave him in the lonely little Petershof cemetery.

"It will be so dreary for him there," she said to the Doctor.

"Not so dreary as you made it for him here," thought the Doctor.

But he did not say that: he just urged her quietly to have her husband
buried in Petershof; and she yielded.

So they laid him to rest in the dreary cemetery.

Bernardine went to the funeral, much against the Disagreeable Man's wish.

"You are looking like a ghost yourself," he said to her. "Come out with
me into the country instead."

But she shook her head.

"Another day," she said. "And Mrs. Reffold wants me. I can't leave her
alone, for she is so miserable."

The Disagreeable Man shrugged his shoulders, and went of by himself.

Mrs. Reffold clung very much to Bernardine those last days before she
left Petershof. She had decided to go to Wiesbaden, where she had
relations; and she invited Bernardine to go with her: it was more than
that, she almost begged her. Bernardine refused.

"I have been from England nearly five months," she said, "and my money
is coming to an end. I must go back and work."

"Then come away with me as my companion," Mrs. Reffold suggested. "And
I will pay you a handsome salary."

Bernardine could not be persuaded.

"No," she said. "I could not earn money that way: it would not suit me.
And besides, you would not care to be a long time with me: you would
soon tire of me. You think you would like to have me with you now. But
I know how it would be: You would be sorry, and so should I. So let us
part as we are now: you going your way, and I going mine. We live in
different worlds, Mrs. Reffold. It would be as senseless for me to
venture into yours, as for you to come into mine. Do you think I am
unkind?"

So they parted. Mrs. Reffold had spoken no word of affection to
Bernardine, but at the, station, as she bent down to kiss her, she
whispered:

"I know you will not think too hardly of me.  Still, will you promise
me? And if you are ever in trouble, and I can help you, will you write
to me?"

And Bernardine promised.

When she got back to her room, she found a small packet on her table.
It contained Mr. Reffold's watch-chain. She had so often seen him
playing with it. There was a little piece of paper enclosed with it,
and Mr. Reffold had written on it some two months ago: "Give my watch-
chain to Little Brick, if she will sacrifice a little of her pride, and
accept the gift." Bernardine unfastened her watch from the black hair
cord, and attached it instead to Mr. Reffold's massive gold chain.

As she sat there fiddling with it, the idea seized her that she would
be all the better for a day's outing. At first she thought she would go
alone, and then she decided to ask Robert Allitsen. She learnt from
Marie that he was in the dark room, and she hastened down. She knocked
several times before there was any answer.

"I can't be disturbed just now," he said. "Who is it?"

"I can't shout to you," she said.

The Disagreeable Man opened the door of the dark room.

"My negatives will be spoilt," he said gruffly. Then seeing Bernardine
standing there, he added:

"Why, you look as though you wanted some brandy."

"No," she said, smiling at his sudden change of manner. "I want fresh
air, a sledge drive, and a day's outing. Will you come?"

He made no answer, and retired once more into the dark room. Then he
came out with his camera.

"We will go to that inn again," he said cheerily. "I want to take the
photographs to those peasants."

In half an hours time they were on their way. It was the same drive as
before: and since then, Bernardine had seen more of the country, and was
more accustomed to the wonderful white scenery: but still the "white
presences" awed her, and still the deep silence held her. It was the
same scene, and yet not the same either, for the season was now far
advanced, and the melting of the snows had begun. In the far distance
the whiteness seemed as before; but on the slopes near at hand, the
green was beginning to assert itself, and some of the great trees had
cast off their heavy burdens, and appeared more gloomy in their freedom
than in the days of their snow-bondage. The roads were no longer quite
so even as before; the sledge glided along when it could, and bumped
along when it must. Still, there was sufficient snow left to make the
drive possible, and even pleasant.

The two companions were quiet. Once only the Disagreeable Man made a
remark, and then he said:

"I am afraid my negatives will be spoilt!"

"You said that before," Bernardine remarked.

"Well, I say it again," he answered in his grim way.

Then came a long pause.

"The best part of the winter is over," he said. "We may have some more
snow; but it is more probable that we shall not. It is not enjoyable
being here during the melting time."

"Well, in any case I should not be here much longer," she said; "and
for a simple reason, too. I have nearly come to the end of my money.
I shall have to go back and set to work again. I should not have been
able to give myself this chance, but that my uncle spared me some of
his money, to which I added my savings."

 "Are you badly of?" the Disagreeable Man asked rather timidly.

"I have very few wants," she answered brightly. "And wealth is only a
relative word, after all.''

"It is a pity that you should go back to work so soon," he said half to
himself. "You are only just better; and it is easy to lose what one has
gained."

"Oh, I am not likely to lose," she answered; "but I shall be careful
this time. I shall do a little teaching, and perhaps a little writing:
not much--you need not be vexed. I shall not try to pick up the other
threads yet. I shall not be political, nor educational, nor anything
else great."

"If you call politics or education great," he said. "And heaven defend
me from political or highly educated women!"

"You say that because you know nothing about them," she said sharply.

"Thank you," he replied. "I have met them quite often enough!"

"That was probably some time ago," she said rather heartlessly. "If you
have lived here so long, how can you judge of the changes which go on
in the world outside Petershof?"

"If I have lived here so long," he repeated, in the bitterness of his
heart.

Bernardine did not notice: she was on a subject which always excited her.

"I don't know so much about the political women," she said, "but I do
know about the higher education people. The writers who rail against
the women of this date are really describing the women of ten years ago.
Why, the Girton girl of ten years ago seems a different creation from
the Girton girl of to-day. Yet the latter has been the steady outgrowth
of the former!"

"And the difference between them?" asked the Disagreeable Man; "since
you pride yourself on being so well informed."

"The Girton girl of ten years ago," said Bernardine, "was a, sombre,
spectacled person, carelessly and dowdily dressed, who gave herself up
to wisdom, and despised every one who did not know the Agamemnon by
heart. She was probably not lovable; but she deserves to be honoured
and thankfully remembered. She fought for woman's right to be well
educated, and I cannot bear to hear her slighted. The fresh-hearted
young girl who nowadays plays a good game of tennis, and takes a high
place in the Classical or Mathematical Tripos, and is book learnèd,
without being bookish, and . . ."

"What other virtues are left, I wonder?" he interrupted.

"And who does not scorn to take a pride in her looks because she happens
to take a pride in her books," continued Bernardine, looking at the
Disagreeable Man, and not seeming to see him: "she is what she is by
reason of that grave and loveless woman who won the battle for her."

Here she paused.

"But how ridiculous for me to talk to you in this way!" she said. "It
is not likely that you would be interested in the widening out of
women's lives."

"And pray why not?" he asked. "Have I been on the shelf too long?"

"I think you would not have been interested even if you had never been
on the shelf," she said frankly. "You are not the type of man to be
generous to woman."

"May I ask one little question of you, which shall conclude this
subject," he said, "since here we are already at the Gasthaus: to which
type of learned woman do you lay claim to belong?"

Bernardine laughed.

"That I leave to your own powers of discrimination." she said, and then
added, "if you have any."

And that was the end of the matter, for the word spread about that Herr
Allitsen had arrived, and every one turned out to give the two guests
greeting. Frau Steinhart smothered Bernardine with motherly tenderness,
and whispered in her ear:

"You are betrothed now, liebes Fräulein? Ach, I am sure of it."

But Bernardine smiled and shook her head, and went to greet the others
who crowded round them; and at last poor Catharina drew near too,
holding Bernardine's hand lovingly within her own. Then Hans, Liza's
lover, came upon the scene, and Liza told the Disagreeable Man that she
and Hans were to be married in a month's time. And the Disagreeable Man,
much to Bernardine's amazement, drew from his pocket a small parcel,
which he confided to Liza's care. Every one pressed round her while she
opened it, and found what she had so often wished for, a silver watch
and chain.

"Ach," she cried, "how heavenly! How all the girls here will envy me!
How angry my dear friend Susanna will be!"

Then there were the photographs to be examined.

Liza looked with stubborn disapproval on the pictures of herself in her
working-dress. But she did not conceal her admiration of the portraits
which showed her to the world in her best finery.

"Ach," she cried, "this is something like a photograph!"

The Disagreeable Man grunted, but behaved after the fashion of a hero,
claiming, however, a little silent sympathy from Bernardine.

It was a pleasant, homely scene: and Bernardine, who, felt quite at her
ease amongst these people, chatted away with them as though she had
known them all her life.

Then Frau Steinhart suddenly remembered that her guests needed some food,
and Liza was despatched to her duties as cook; though it was some time
before she could be induced to leave off looking at the photographs.

"Take them with you, Liza," said the Disagreeable Man. "Then we shall
get our meal all the quicker!"

She ran off laughing, and finally Bernardine found herself alone with
Catharina.

"Liza is very happy," she said to Bernardine. "She loves, and is loved."

"That is the greatest happiness," Bernardine said half to herself.

"Fräulein knows?" Catharina asked eagerly.

Bernardine looked wistfully at her companion. "No, Catharina," she said.
"I have only heard and read and seen."

"Then _you_ cannot understand," Catharina said almost proudly. "But _I_
understand!"

She spoke no more after that, but took up her knitting, and watched
Bernardine playing with the kittens. She was playing with the kittens,
and she was thinking; and all the time she felt conscious that this
peasant woman, stricken in mind and body, was pitying her because that
great happiness of loving and being loved had not come into her life.
It had seemed something apart from her; she had never even wanted it.
She had wished to stand alone, like a little rock out at sea.

And now?

In a few minutes the Disagreeable Man and she sat down to their meal.
In spite of her excitement, Liza managed to prepare everything nicely;
though when she was making the omelette _aux fines herbes_, she had to
be kept guarded lest she might run off to have another look at the
silver watch and the photographs of herself in her finest frock!

Then Bernardine and Robert Allitsen drank to the health of Hans and
Liza: and then came the time of reckoning. When he was paying the bill,
Frau Steinhart, having given him the change, said coaxingly:

"Last time, you and Fräulein each paid a share: to-day you pay all. Then
perhaps you are betrothed at last, dear Herr Allitsen? Ach, how the old
Hausfrau wishes you happiness! Who deserves to be happy, if it is not
our dear Herr Allitsen?"

"You have given me twenty centimes too much," he said quietly. "You
have your head so full of other things that you cannot reckon properly."

But seeing that she looked troubled lest she might have offended him,
he added quickly:

"When I am betrothed, good little old housemother, you shall be the
first to know."

And she had to be content with that. She asked no more questions of
either of them: but she was terribly disappointed. There was something
a little comical in her disappointment; but Robert Allitsen was not
amused at it, as he had been on a former occasion. As he leaned back
in the sledge, with the same girl for his companion, he recalled his
feelings. He had been astonished and amused, and perhaps a little shy,
and a great deal relieved that she had been sensible enough to be
amused too.

And now?

They had been constantly together for many months: he who had never
cared before for companionship, had found himself turning more and more
to her.

_And now he was going to lose her_.

He looked up once or twice to make sure that she was still by his side:
she sat there so quietly. At last he spoke in his usual gruff way.

"Have you exhausted all your eloquence in your oration about learned
women?" he asked.

"No, I am reserving it for a better audience," she answered, trying to
be bright. But she was not bright.

"I believe you came out to the country to day to seek for cheerfulness,"
he said after a pause. "Have you found it?"

"I do not know," she said. "It takes me some time to recover from
shocks; and Mr. Reffold's death was a sorrow to me. What do you think
about death? Have you any theories about life and death, and the bridge
between them? Could you say anything to help one?"

"Nothing," he answered. "Who could? And by what means?"

"Has there been no value in philosophy," she asked, "and the meditations
of learned men?"

"Philosophy!" he sneered. "What has it done for us? It has taught us
some processes of the mind's working; taught us a few wonderful things
which interest the few; but the centuries have come and gone, and the
only thing which the whole human race pants to know, remains unknown:
our beloved ones, shall we meet them, and how?--the great secret of the
universe. We ask for bread, and these philosophers give us a stone.
What help could come from them: or from any one? Death is simply one of
the hard facts of life."

"And the greatest evil," she said.

"We weave our romances about the next world," he continued; "and any
one who has a fresh romance to relate, or an old one dressed up in new
language, will be listened to, and welcomed. That helps some people for
a little while; and when the charm of the romance is over, then they
are ready for another, perhaps more fantastic than the last. But the
plot is always the same: our beloved ones--shall we meet them, and how?
Isn't it pitiful? Why cannot we be more impersonal? These puny, petty
minds of ours! When will they learn to expand?"

"Why should we learn to be more impersonal?" she said. "There was a time
when I felt like that; but now I have learnt something better: that we
need not be ashamed of being human; above all, of having the best of
human instincts, love, and the passionate wish for its continuance, and
the unceasing grief at its withdrawal. There is no indignity in this;
nor any trace of weakmindedness in our restless craving to know about
the Hereafter, and the possibilities of meeting again those whom we have
lost here. It is right, and natural, and lovely that it should be the
most important question. I know that many will say that there _are_
weightier questions: they say so, but do they think so? Do we want to
know first and foremost whether we shall do our work better elsewhere:
whether we shall be endowed with more wisdom: whether, as poor
Mr. Reffold said, we shall be glad to behave less like curs, and more
like heroes? These questions come in, but they can be put aside. The
other question can _never_ be put on one side. If that were to become
possible, it would only be so because the human heart had lost the best
part of itself, its own humanity. We shall go on building our bridge
between life and death, each one for himself. When we see that it is
not strong enough, we shall break it down and build another. We shall
watch other people building their bridges. We shall imitate, or
criticise, or condemn. But as time goes on, we shall learn not to
interfere, we shall know that one bridge is probably as good as the
other; and that the greatest value of them all has been in the building
of them. It does not matter what we build, but build we must: you, and I,
and every one."

"I have long ceased to build my bridge," the Disagreeable Man said.

"It is an almost unconscious process," she said. "Perhaps you are still
at work, or perhaps you are resting."

He shrugged his shoulders, and the two comrades fell into silence again.

They were within two miles of Petershof, when he broke the silence:
there was something wonderfully gentle in his voice.

"You little thing," he said, "we are nearing home, and I have something
to ask you. It is easier for me to ask here in the free open country,
where the space seems to give us breathing room for our cramped lungs
and minds!"

"Well," she said kindly; she wondered what he could have to say.

"I am a little nervous of offending you," he continued, "and yet I trust
you. It is only this. You said you had come to the end of your money,
and that you must go home. It seems a pity when you are getting better.
I have so much more than I need. I don't offer it to you as a gift, but
I thought if you wished to stay longer, a loan from me would not be
quite impossible to you. You could repay as quickly or as slowly as was
convenient to you, and I should only be grateful and" . . .

He stopped suddenly.

The tears had gathered in Bernardine's eyes her hand rested for one
moment on his arm.

"Mr. Allitsen," she said, "you did well to trust me. But I could not
borrow money of any one, unless I was obliged. If I could of any one,
it would have been of you. It is not a month ago since I was a little
anxious about money; my remittances did not come. I thought then that
if obliged to ask for temporary help, I should come to you: so you see
if you have trusted me, I, too, have trusted you."

A smile passed over the Disagreeable Man's face, one of his rare,
beautiful smiles.

"Supposing you change your mind," he said quietly, "you will not find
that I have changed mine."

Then a few minutes brought them back to Petershof.


CHAPTER XVIII.

A BETROTHAL.


HE had loved her so patiently, and now he felt that he must have his
answer. It was only fair to her, and to himself too, that he should know
exactly where he stood in her affections. She had certainly given him
little signs here and there, which had made him believe that she was not
indifferent to his admiration. Little signs were all very well for a
short time; but meanwhile the season was coming to an end: she had told
him that she was going back to her work at home. And then perhaps he
would lose her altogether. It would not be safe now for him to delay a
single day longer. So the little postman armed himself with courage.

Wärli's brain was muddled that day. He who prided himself upon knowing
the names of all the guests in Petershof, made the most absurd mistakes
about people and letters too; and received in acknowledgment of his
stupidity a series of scoldings which would have unnerved a stronger
person than the little hunchback postman.

In fact, he ceased to care how he gave out the letters: all the
envelopes seemed to have the same name on them: _Marie Truog_. Every
word which he tried to decipher turned to that; so finally he tried no
more, leaving the destination of the letter to be decided by the
impulse of the moment. At last he arrived at that quarter of the
Kurhaus where Marie held sway. He heard her singing in her pantry.
Suddenly she was summoned downstairs by an impatient bellringer,
and on her return found Wärli waiting in the passage.

"What a goose you are!" she cried, throwing a letter at him; "you have
left the wrong letter at No. 82."

Then some one else rang, and Marie hurried off again. She came back with
another letter in her hand, and found Wärli sitting in her pantry.

"The wrong letter left at No. 54," she said, "and Madame in a horrid
temper in consequence. What a nuisance you are to-day, Wärli! Can't you
read? Here, give the remaining letters to me. I'll sort them."

Wärli took off his little round hat, and wiped his forehead.

"I can't read to-day, Marie," he said; something has gone wrong with me.
Every name I look at turns to Marie Truog. I ought to have brought every
one of the letters to you. But I knew they could not be all for you,
though you have so many admirers. For they would not be likely to write
at the same time, to catch the same post."

"It would be very dull if they did," said Marie, who was polishing some
water-bottles with more diligence than was usual or even necessary.

"But I am the one who loves you, Mariechen," the little postman said.
"I have always loved you ever since I can remember. I am not much to
look at, Mariechen: the binding of the book is not beautiful, but the
book itself is not a bad book."

Marie went on polishing the water-bottles. Then she held them up to the
light to admire their unwonted cleanness.

"I don't plead for myself," continued Wärli. "If you don't love me, that
is the end of the matter. But if you do love me, Mariechen, and will
marry me, you won't be unhappy. Now I have said all."

Marie put down the water-bottles, and turned to Wärli.

"You have been a long time in telling me," she said, pouting. "Why
didn't you tell me three months ago? It's too late now."

"Oh. Mariechen!" said the little postman, seizing her hand and covering
it with kisses; "you love some one else-you are already betrothed? And
now it's too late, and you love some one else!"

"I never said I loved some one else," Marie replied; "I only said it was
too late. Why, it must be nearly five o'clock, and my lamps are not yet
ready. I haven't a moment to spare. Dear me, and there is no oil in the
can; no, not one little drop!

"The devil take the oil!" exclaimed Wärli, snatching the can out of her
hands. "What do I want to know about the oil in the can? I want to know
about the love in your heart. Oh, Mariechen, don't keep me waiting like
this! Just tell me if you love me, and make me the merriest soul in all
Switzerland."

"Must I tell the truth," she said, in a most melancholy tone of voice;
"the truth and nothing else? Well, Wärli, if you must know . . . how I
grieve to hurt you . . ." Wärli's heart sank, the tears came into his
eyes. "But since it must be the truth, and nothing else," continued the
torturer, "well Fritz . . . I love you!"

A few minutes afterwards, the Disagreeable Man, having failed to attract
any notice by ringing, descended to Marie's pantry, to fetch his lamp.
He discovered Wärli embracing his betrothed.

"I am sorry to intrude," he said grimly, and he retreated at once. But
directly afterwards he came back.

"The matron has just come upstairs," he said. And he hurried away.


CHAPTER XIX.

"SHIPS THAT SPEAK EACH OTHER IN PASSING."


MANY of the guests in the foreign quarter had made a start downwards
into the plains; and the Kurhaus itself, though still well filled with
visitors, was every week losing some of its invalids. A few of the
tables looked desolate, and some were not occupied at all, the lingerers
having chosen, now that their party was broken up, to seek the refuge of
another table. So that many stragglers found their way to the English
dining-board, each bringing with him his own national bad manners, and
causing much annoyance to the Disagreeable Man, who was a true John Bull
in his contempt of all foreigners. The English table was, so he said,
like England herself: the haven of other nation's offscourings.

There were several other signs, too, that the season was far advanced.
The food had fallen of in quality and quantity. The invalids, some of
them better and some of them worse, had become impatient. And plans were
being discussed, where formerly temperatures and coughs and general
symptoms were the usual subjects of conversation! The caretakers, too,
were in a state of agitation; some few keenly anxious to be of to new
pastures; and others, who had perhaps formed attachments, an occurrence
not unusual in Petershof, were wishing to hold back time with both
hands, and were therefore delighted that the weather, which had not
yet broken up, gave no legitimate excuse for immediate departure.

Pretty Fräulein Müller had gone, leaving her Spanish gentleman quite
disconsolate for the time being. The French Marchioness had returned to
the Parisian circles where she was celebrated for all the domestic
virtues, from which she had been taking such a prolonged holiday in
Petershof. The little French danseuse and her poodle had left for Monte
Carlo. M. Lichinsky and his mother passed on to the Tyrol, where Madame
would no doubt have plenty of opportunities for quarrelling: or not
finding them, would certainly make them without any delay, by this means
keeping herself in good spirits and her son in bad health. There were
some, too, who had hurried off without paying their doctors: being of
course those who had received the greatest attention, and who had
expressed the greatest gratitude in their time of trouble, but who were
of opinion that thankfulness could very well take the place of francs:
an opinion not entirely shared by the doctors themselves.

The Swedish professor had betaken himself off, with his chessmen and his
chessboard. The little Polish governess who clutched so eagerly at her
paltry winnings, caressing those centimes with the same fondness and
fever that a greater gambler grasps his thousands of francs, she, had
left too; and, indeed, most of Bernardine's acquaintances had gone their
several ways, after six months' constant intercourse, and companionship,
saying good-bye with the same indifference as though they were saying
good-morning or good-afternoon.

This cold-heartedness struck Bernardine more than once, and she spoke
of it to Robert Allitsen. It was the day before her own departure, and
she had gone down with him to the restaurant, and sat sipping her
coffee, and making her complaint.

"Such indifference is astonishing, and it is sad too. I cannot
understand it," she said.

"That is because you are a goose," he replied, pouring out some more
coffee for himself, and as an after thought, for her too, "You pretend
to know something about the human heart, and yet you do not seem to
grasp the fact that most of us are very little interested in other
people: they for us and we for them can spare only a small fraction of
time and attention. We may, perhaps, think to the contrary, believing
that we occupy an important position in their lives; until one day,
when we are feeling most confident of our value, we see an unmistakable
sign, given quite unconsciously by our friends, that we are after all
nothing to them: we can be done without, put on one side, and forgotten
when not present. Then, if we are foolish, we are wounded by this
discovery, and we draw back into ourselves. But if we are wise, we draw
back into ourselves without being wounded: recognizing as fair and
reasonable that people can only have time and attention for their
immediate belongings. Isolated persons have to learn this lesson sooner
or later; and the sooner they do learn it, the better."

"And you," she asked, "you have learnt this lesson?"

"Long ago," he said decidedly.

"You take a hard view of life," she said.

"Life has not been very bright for me," he answered. "But I own that I
have not cultivated my garden. And now it is too late: the weeds have
sprung up everywhere. Once or twice I have thought lately that I would
begin to clear away the weeds, but I have not the courage now. And
perhaps it does not matter much."

"I think it does matter," she said gently. "But I am no better than you,
for I have not cultivated my garden.''

"It would not be such a difficult business for you as for me," he said,
smiling sadly.

They left the restaurant, and sauntered out together.

"And to-morrow you will be gone," he said.

"I shall miss you," Bernardine said.

"That is simply a question of time," he remarked. "I shall probably miss
you at first. But we adjust ourselves easily to altered circumstances:
mercifully. A few days, a few weeks at most, and then that state of
becoming accustomed, called by pious folk, resignation."

"Then you think that the every-day companionship, the every-day exchange
of thoughts and ideas, counts for little or, nothing?" she asked.

"That is about the colour of it," he answered, in his old gruff way.

She thought of his words when she was packing: the many pleasant hours
were to count for nothing; for nothing the little bits of fun, the
little displays of temper and vexation, the snatches of serious talk,
the contradictions, and all the petty details of six months' close
companionship.

He was not different from the others who had parted from her so lightly.
No wonder, then, that he could sympathise with them.

That last night at Petershof, Bernardine hardened her heart against the
Disagreeable Man.

"I am glad I am able to do so," she said to herself. "It makes it
easier for me to go."

Then the vision of a forlorn figure rose before her. And the little
hard heart softened at once.

In the morning they breakfasted together as usual. There was scarcely
any conversation between them. He asked for her address, and she told
him that she was going back to her uncle who kept the second-hand book-
shop in Stone Street.

"I will send you a guide-book from the Tyrol," he explained. "I shall
be going there in a week or two to see my mother."

"I hope you will find her in good health," she said.

Then it suddenly flashed across her mind what he had told her about his
one great sacrifice for his mother's sake. She looked up at him, and he
met her glance without flinching.

He said good-bye to her at the foot of the staircase.

It was the first time she had ever shaken hands with him.

"Good-bye," he said gently. "Good luck to you."

"Good-bye," she answered.

He went up the stairs, and turned round as though he wished to say
something more. But he changed his mind, and kept his own counsel.

An hour later Bernardine left Petershof. Only the concierge of the
Kurhaus saw her off at the station.


CHAPTER XX.

A LOVE-LETTER.


TWO days after Bernardine had left Petershof, the snows began to melt.
Nothing could be drearier than that process: nothing more desolate than
the outlook.

The Disagreeable Man sat in his bedroom trying to read Carpenter's
Anatomy. It failed to hold him. Then he looked out of the window, and
listened to the dripping of the icicles. At last he took a pen, and
wrote as follows:

"LITTLE COMRADE, LITTLE PLAYMATE."

"I could not believe that you were really going. When you first said
that you would soon be leaving, I listened with unconcern, because it
did not seem possible that the time could come when we should not be
together; that the days would come and go, and that I should not know
how you were; whether you were better, and more hopeful about your life
and your work, or whether the old misery of indifference and ill-health
was still clinging to you; whether your voice was strong as of one who
had slept well and felt refreshed, or whether it was weak like that of
one who had watched through the long night.

"It did not seem possible that such a time could come. Many cruel things
have happened to me, as to scores of others, but this is the most cruel
of all. Against my wish and against my knowledge, you have crept into my
life as a necessity, and now I have to give you up. You are better, God
bless you, and you go back to a fuller life, and to carry on your work,
and to put to account those talents which no one realises more than I do;
and as for myself, God help me, I am left to wither away.

"You little one, you dear little one, I never wished to love you. I had
never loved any one, never drawn near to any one. I have lived lonely
all my young life; for I am only a young man yet. I said to myself time
after time: 'I will not love her. It will not do me any good, nor her
any good.' And then in my state of health, what right had I to think of
marriage, and making a home for myself? Of course that was out of the
question. And then I thought, that because I was a doomed man, cut off
from the pleasures which make a lovely thing of life, it did not follow
that I might not love you in my own quiet way, hugging my secret to
myself, until the love became all the greater because it was my secret.
I reasoned about it too: it could not harm you that I loved you. No one
could be the worse for being loved. So little by little I yielded myself
this luxury; and my heart once so dried up, began to flower again; yes,
little one, you will smile when I tell you that my heart broke out into
flower.

"When I think of it all now, I am not sorry that I let myself go. At
least I have learnt what I knew nothing of before: now I understand what
people mean when they say that love adds a dignity to life which nothing
else can give. That dignity is mine now, nothing can take it from me;
it is my own. You are my very own; I love everything about you. From the
beginning I recognized that you were clever and capable. Though I often
made fun of what you said, that was simply a way I had; and when I saw
you did not mind, I continued in that way, hoping always to vex you;
your good temper provoked me, because I knew that you made allowances
for me being a Petershof invalid. You would never have suffered a strong
man to criticize you as I did; you would have flown at him, for you are
a feverish little child: not a quiet woolly lamb. At first I was wild
that you should make allowances for me. And then I gave in, as weak men
are obliged. When you came, I saw that your troubles and sufferings
would make you bitter. Do you know who helped to cure you? _It was I_.
I have seen that often before. That is the one little bit of good I have
done in the world: I have helped to cure cynicism. You were shocked at
the things I said, and you were saved. I did not save you intentionally,
so I am not posing as a philanthropist. I merely mention that you came
here hard, and you went back tender. That was partly because you have
lived in the City of Suffering. Some people live there and learn
nothing. But you would learn to feel only too much. I wish that your
capacity for feeling were less; but then you would not be yourself,
your present self I mean, for you have changed even since I have known
you. Every week you seemed to become more gentle. You thought me rough
and gruff at parting, little comrade: I meant to be so. If you had only
known, there was a whole world of tenderness for you in my heart. I
could not trust myself to be tender to you; you would have guessed my
secret. And I wanted you to go away undisturbed. You do not feel things
lightly, and it was best for you that you should harden your heart
against me.

"If you could harden your heart against me. But I am not sure about
that. I believe that . . . Ah, well, I'm a foolish fellow; but some day,
dear, I'll tell you what I think . . . I have treasured many of your
sayings in my memory. I can never be as though I had never known you.
Many of your words I have repeated to myself afterwards until they
seemed to represent my own thoughts. I specially remember what you
said about God having made us lonely, so that we might be obliged to
turn to him. For we are all lonely, though some of us not quite so much
as others. You yourself spoke often of being lonely. Oh, my own little
one! Your loneliness is nothing compared to mine.  How often I could
have told you that.

"I have never seen any of your work, but I think you have now something
to say to others, and that you will say it well. And if you have the
courage to be simple when it comes to the point, you will succeed. And
I believe you will have the courage, I believe everything of you.

"But whatever you do or do not, you will always be the same to me: my
own little one, my very own. I have been waiting all my life for you;
and I have given you my heart entire. If you only knew that, you could
not call yourself lonely any more. If any one was ever loved, it is you,
dear heart.

"Do you remember how those peasants at the Gasthaus thought we were
betrothed? I thought that might annoy you; and though I was relieved at
the time, still, later on, I wished you had been annoyed. That would
have shown that you were not indifferent. From that time my love for
you grew apace. You must not mind me telling you so often; I must go on
telling you. Just think, dear, this is the first love-letter I have ever
written: and every word of love is a whole world of love. I shall never
call my life a failure now. I may have failed in everything else, but
not in loving. Oh, little one, it can't be that I am not to be with you,
and not to have you for my own! And yet how can that be? It is not I who
may hold you in my arms. Some strong man must love and wrap you round
with tenderness and softness. You little independent child, in spite of
all your wonderful views and theories, you will soon be glad to lean on
some one for comfort and sympathy. And then perhaps that troubled little
spirit of yours may find its rest. Would to God I were that strong man!

"But because I love you, my own little darling, I will not spoil your
life. I won't ask you to give me even one thought. But if I believed
that it were of any good to say a prayer, I should pray that you may
soon find that strong man; for it is not well for any of us to stand
alone. There comes a time when the loneliness is more than we can bear.

"There is one thing I want you to know: indeed I am not the gruff fellow
I have so often seemed. Do believe that. Do you remember how I told you
that I dreamed of losing you? And now the dream has come true. I am
always looking for you, and cannot find you.

"You have been very good to me; so patient, and genial, and frank. No
one before has ever been so good. Even if I did not love you, I should
say that.

"But I do love you, no one can take that from me: it is my own dignity,
the crown of my life. Such a poor life . . . no, no, I won't say that
now. I cannot pity myself now  . . . no, I cannot . . ."

The Disagreeable Man stopped writing, and the pen dropped on the table.

He buried his tear-stained face in his hands. He cried his heart out,
this Disagreeable Man.

Then he took the letter which he had just been writing, and he tore it
into fragments.


END OF PART I.



PART II.


CHAPTER I.

THE DUSTING OF THE BOOKS.


IT was now more than three weeks since Bernardine's return to London.
She had gone back to her old home, at her uncle's second-hand book-shop.
She spent her time in dusting the books, and arranging them in some
kind of order; for old Zerviah Holme had ceased to interest himself
much in his belongings, and sat in the little inner room reading as
usual Gibbon's "History of Rome." Customers might please themselves
about coming: Zerviah Holme had never cared about amassing money, and
now he cared even less than before. A frugal breakfast, a frugal dinner,
a box full of snuff, and a shelf full of Gibbon were the old man's only
requirements: an undemanding life, and therefore a loveless one; since
the less we ask for, the less we get.

When Malvina his wife died, people said: "He will miss her."

But he did not seem to miss her: he took his breakfast, his pinch of
snuff, his Gibbon, in precisely the same way as before, and in the same
quantities.

When Bernardine first fell ill, people said: "He will be sorry. He is
fond of her in his own queer way."

But he did not seem to be sorry. He did not understand anything about
illness. The thought of it worried him; so he put it from him. He
remembered vaguely that Bernardine's father had suddenly become ill,
that his powers had all failed him, and that he lingered on, just a
wreck of humanity, and then died. That was twenty years ago. Then he
thought of Bernardine, and said to himself, "History repeats itself."
That was all.

Unkind? No; for when it was told him that she must go away, he looked
at her wonderingly, and then went out. It was very rarely that he went
out. He came back with fifty pounds.

"When that is done," he told her, "I can find more."

When she went away, people said: "He will he lonely."

But he did not seem to be lonely. They asked him once, and he said:
"I always have Gibbon."

And when she came back, they said: "He will be glad."

But her return seemed to make no difference to him.

He looked at her in his usual sightless manner, and asked her what she
intended to do.

"I shall dust the books," she said.

"Ah, I dare say they want it," he remarked.

"I shall get a little teaching to do," she continued. "And I shall take
care of you."

"Ah," he said vaguely. He did not understand what she meant. She had
never been very near to him, and he had never been very near to her.
He had taken but little notice of her comings and goings; she had either
never tried to win his interest or had failed: probably the latter. Now
she was going to take care of him.

This was the home to which Bernardine had returned. She came back with
many resolutions to help to make his old age bright. She looked back
now, and saw how little she had given of herself to her aunt and her
uncle. Aunt Malvina was dead, and Bernardine did not regret her. Uncle
Zerviah was here still; she would be tender with him, and win his
affection. She thought she could not begin better than by looking after
his books. Each one was dusted carefully. The dingy old shop was
restored to cleanliness. Bernardine became interested in her task.
"I will work up the business," she thought. She did not care in the
least about the books; she never looked into them except to clean them;
but she was thankful to have the occupation at hand: something to help
her over a difficult time. For the most trying part of an illness is
when we are ill no longer; when there is no excuse for being idle and
listless; when, in fact, we could work if we would: then is the moment
for us to begin on anything which presents itself, until we have the
courage and the inclination to go back to our own particular work: that
which we have longed to do, and about which we now care nothing.

So Bernardine dusted books and sometimes sold them. All the time she
thought of the Disagreeable Man. She missed him in her life. She had
never loved before, and she loved him. The forlorn figure rose before
her, and her eyes filled with tears. Sometimes the tears fell on the
books, and spotted them.

Still, on the whole she was bright; but she found things difficult. She
had lost her old enthusiasms, and nothing yet had taken their place.
She went back to the circle of her acquaintances, and found that she
had slipped away from touch with them. Whilst she had been ill, they
had been busily at work on matters social and educational and political.

She thought them hard, the women especially: they thought her weak.
They were disappointed in her; she was now looking for the more human
qualities in them, and she, too, was disappointed.

"You have changed," they said to her: "but then of course you have been
ill, haven't you?"

With these strong, active people, to be ill and useless is a reproach.
And Bernardine felt it as such. But she had changed, and she herself
perceived it in many ways. It was not that she was necessarily better,
but that she was different; probably more human, and probably less self-
confident. She had lived in a world of books, and she had burst through
that bondage and come out into a wider and a freer land.

New sorts of interests came into her life. What she had lost in
strength, she had gained in tenderness. Her very manner was gentler,
her mode of speech less assertive. At least, this was the criticism of
those who had liked her but little before her illness.

"She has learnt," they said amongst themselves. And they were not
scholars. They _knew_.

These, two or three of them, drew her nearer to them. She was alone
there with the old man, and, though better, needed care. They mothered
her as well as they could, at first timidly, and then with that sweet
despotism which is for us all an easy yoke to bear. They were drawn to
her as they had never been drawn before. They felt that she was no
longer analysing them, weighing them in her intellectual balance, and
finding them wanting; so they were free with her now, and revealed to
her qualities at which she had never guessed before.

As the days went on, Zerviah began to notice that things were somehow
different. He found some flowers near his table. He was reading about
Nero at the time; but he put aside his Gibbon, and fondled the flowers
instead. Bernardine did not know that.

One morning when she was out, he went into the shop and saw a great
change there. Some one had been busy at work. The old man was pleased:
he loved his books, though of late he had neglected them.

"She never used to take any interest in them," he said to himself.
"I wonder why she does now?"

He began to count upon seeing her. When she came back from her outings,
he was glad. But she did not know. If he had given any sign of welcome
to her during those first difficult days, it would have been a great
encouragement to her.

He watched her feeding the sparrows. One day when she was not there, he
went and did the same. Another day when she had forgotten, he surprised
her by reminding her.

"You have forgotten to feed the sparrows," he said. "They must be quite
hungry."

That seemed to break the ice a little. The next morning when she was
arranging some books in the old shop, he came in and watched her.

"It is a comfort to have you," he said. That was all he said, but
Bernardine flushed with pleasure.

"I wish I had been more to you all these years," she said gently.

He did not quite take that in: and returned hastily to Gibbon.

Then they began to stroll out together. They had nothing to talk about:
he was not interested in the outside world, and she was not interested
in Roman History. But they were trying to get nearer to each other: they
had lived years together, but they had never advanced a step; now they
were trying, she consciously, he unconsciously. But it was a slow
process, and pathetic, as everything human is.

"If we could only find some subject which we both liked," Bernardine
thought to herself. "That might knit us together."

Well, they found a subject; though, perhaps, it was an unlikely one.
The cart-horses: those great, strong, patient toilers of the road
attracted their attention, and after that no walk was without its
pleasure or interest. The brewers' horses were the favourites, though
there were others, too, which met with their approval. He began to know
and recognize them. He was almost like a child in his newfound interest.
On Whit Monday they both went to the cart-horse parade in Regent's Park.
They talked about the enjoyment for days afterwards.

"Next year," he told her, "we must subscribe to the fund, even if we
have to sell a book."

He did not like to sell his books: he parted with them painfully, as
some people part with their illusions.

Bernardine bought a paper for herself every day; but one evening she
came in without one. She had been seeing after some teaching, and had
without any difficulty succeeded in getting some temporary light work
at one of the high schools. She forgot to buy her newspaper.

The old man noticed this. He put on his shabby felt hat, and went down
the street, and brought in a copy of the _Daily News_.

"I don't remember what you like, but will this do?" he asked.

He was quite proud of himself for showing her this attention, almost as
proud as the Disagreeable Man, when he did something kind and thoughtful.

Bernardine thought of him, and the tears came into her eyes at once.
When did she not think of him? Then she glanced at the front sheet, and
in the death column her eye rested on his name: and she read that Robert
Allitsen's mother had passed away. So the Disagreeable Man had won his
freedom at last. His words echoed back to her:

"But I know how to wait: if I have not learnt anything else, I have
learnt how to wait. And some day I shall be free. And then . . ."



CHAPTER Il.

BERNARDINE BEGINS HER BOOK.


AFTER the announcement of Mrs. Allitsen's death, Bernardine lived in a
misery of suspense. Every day she scanned the obituary, fearing to find
the record of another death, fearing and yet wishing to know. The
Disagreeable Man had yearned for his freedom these many years, and now
he was at liberty to do what he chose with his poor life. It was of no
value to him. Many a time she sat and shuddered. Many a time she began
to write to him. Then she remembered that after all he had cared nothing
for her companionship. He would not wish to hear from her. And besides,
what had she to say to him?

A feeling of desolation came over her. It was not enough for her to take
care of the old man who was drawing nearer to her every day; nor was it
enough for her to dust the books, and serve any chance customers who
might look in. In the midst of her trouble she remembered some of her
old ambitions; and she turned to them for comfort as we turn to old
friends.

"I will try to begin my book," she said to herself. "If I can only get
interested in it, I shall forget my anxiety!"

But the love of her work had left her. Bernardine fretted. She sat in
the old bookshop, her pen unused, her paper uncovered. She was very
miserable.

Then one evening when she was feeling that it was of no use trying to
force herself to begin her book, she took her pen suddenly, and wrote
the following prologue.



CHAPTER III.

FAILURE AND SUCCESS: A PROLOGUE.


FAILURE and Success passed away from Earth, and found themselves in a
Foreign Land. Success still wore her laurel-wreath which she had won on
Earth. There was a look of ease about her whole appearance; and there
was a smile of pleasure and satisfaction on her face, as though she knew
she had done well and had deserved her honours.

Failure's head was bowed: no laurel-wreath encircled it. Her face was
wan, and pain-engraven. She had once been beautiful and hopeful, but
she had long since lost both hope and beauty. They stood together,
these two, waiting for an audience with the Sovereign of the Foreign
Land. An old grey-haired man came to them and asked their names.

"I am Success," said Success, advancing a step forward, and smiling at
him, and pointing to her laurel-wreath.

He shook his head.

"Ah," he said, "do not be too confident. Very often things go by
opposites in this land. What you call Success, we often call Failure;
what you call Failure, we call Success. Do you see those two men waiting
there? The one nearer to us was thought to be a good man in your world;
the other was generally accounted bad. But here we call the bad man
good, and the good man bad. That seems strange to you. Well then, look
yonder. You considered that statesman to be sincere; but we say he was
insincere. We chose as our poet-laureate a man at whom your world
scoffed. Ay, and those flowers yonder: for us they have a fragrant
charm; we love to see them near us. But you do not even take the trouble
to pluck them from the hedges where they grow in rich profusion. So, you
see, what we value as a treasure, you do not value at all."

Then he turned to Failure.

"And your name?" he asked kindly, though indeed he must have known it.

"I am Failure," she said sadly.

He took her by the hand.

"Come, now, Success," he said to her: "let me lead you into the
Presence-Chamber."

Then she who had been called Failure, and was now called Success,
lifted up her bowed head, and raised her weary frame, and smiled at
the music of her new name. And with that smile she regained her beauty
and her hope. And hope having come back to her, all her strength
returned.

"But what of her," she asked regretfully of the old grey-haired man;
"must she be left?"

"She will learn," the old man whispered. "She is learning already.
Come, now: we must not linger."

So she of the new name passed into the Presence-Chamber.

But the Sovereign said:

"The world needs you, dear and honoured worker. You know your real
name: do not heed what the world may call you. Go back and work, but
take with you this time unconquerable hope."

So she went back and worked, taking with her unconquerable hope, and
the sweet remembrance of the Sovereign's words, and the gracious music
of her Real Name.


CHAPTER IV.

THE DISAGREEABLE MAN GIVES UP HIS FREEDOM.


THE morning after Bernardine began her book, she and old Zerviah were
sitting together in the shop. He had come from the little inner room
where he had been reading Gibbon for the last two hours. He still held
the volume in his hand; but he did not continue reading, he watched her
arranging the pages of a dilapidated book.

Suddenly she looked up from her work.

"Uncle Zerviah," she said brusquely, "you have lived through a long
life, and must have passed through many different experiences. Was
there ever a time when you cared for people rather than books?"

"Yes," he answered a little uneasily. He was not accustomed to have
questions asked of him.

"Tell me about it," she said.

"It was long ago," he said half dreamily, "long before I married
Malvina. And she died. That was all."

"That was all," repeated Bernardine, looking at him wonderingly.
Then she drew nearer to him.

"And you have loved, Uncle Zerviah? And you were loved?"

"Yes, indeed," he answered, softly.

"Then you would not laugh at me if I were to unburden my heart to you?"

For answer, she felt the touch of his old hand on her head. And thus
encouraged, she told him the story of the Disagreeable Man. She told him
how she had never before loved any one until she loved the Disagreeable
Man.

It was all very quietly told, in a simple and dignified manner:
nevertheless, for all that, it was an unburdening of her heart; her
listener being an old scholar who had almost forgotten the very name of
love.

She was still talking, and he was still listening, when the shop door
creaked. Zerviah crept quietly away, and Bernardine looked up.

The Disagreeable Man stood at the counter.

"You little thing," he said, "I have come to see you. It is eight years
since I was in England."

Bernardine leaned over the counter.

"And you ought not to be here now," she said, looking at his thin face.
He seemed to have shrunk away since she had last seen him.

"I am free to do what I choose," he said. "My mother is dead."

"I know." Bernardine said gently. "But you are not free."

He made no answer to that, but slipped into the chair.

"You look tired," he said. "What have you been doing?"

"I have been dusting the books," she answered, smiling at him. "You
remember you told me I should be content to do that. The very oldest
and shabbiest have had my tenderest care. I found the shop in disorder.
You see it now."

"I should not call it particularly tidy now," he said grimly. "Still,
I suppose you have done your best. Well, and what else?"

"I have been trying to take care of my old uncle," she said. "We are
just beginning to understand each other a little. And he is beginning
to feel glad to have me. When I first discovered that, the days became
easier to me. It makes us into dignified persons when we find out that
there is a place for us to fill."

"Some people never find it out," he said.

"Probably, like myself, they went on for a long time, without caring,"
she answered. "I think I have had more luck than I deserve."

"Well," said the Disagreeable Man. "And you are glad to take up your
life again?"

"No," she said quietly. "I have not got as far as that yet. But I
believe that after some little time I may be glad. I hope so, I am
working for that. Sometimes I begin to have a keen interest in
everything. I wake up with an enthusiasm. After about two hours I have
lost it again."

"Poor little child," he said tenderly. "I, too know what that is. But
you _will_ get back to gladness: not the same kind of satisfaction as
before; but some other satisfaction, that compensation which is said
to be included in the scheme."

"And I have begun my book," she said, pointing to a few sheets lying on
the counter: that is to say, I have written the Prologue."

"Then the dusting of the books has not sufficed?" he said, scanning her
curiously.

"I wanted not to think of myself," Bernardine, said. "Now that I have
begun it, I shall enjoy going on with it. I hope it will be a companion
to me."

"I wonder whether you will make a failure or a success of it?" he
remarked. "I wish I could have seen."

"So you will," she said. "I shall finish it, and you will read it in
Petershof."

"I shall not be going back to Petershof," he said. "Why should I go
there now?"

"For the same reason that you went there eight years ago," she said.

"I went there for my mother's sake," he said.

"Then you will go there now for my sake," she said deliberately.

He looked up quickly my little

"Little Bernardine," he cried, "my Little Bernardine--is it possible
that you care what becomes of me?"

She had been leaning against the counter, and now she raised herself,
and stood erect, a proud, dignified little figure.

"Yes, I do care," she said simply, and with true earnestness. "I care
with all my heart. And even if I did not care, you know you would not
be free. No one is free. You know that better than I do. We do not
belong to ourselves: there are countless people depending on us, people
whom we have never seen, and whom we never shall see. What we do,
decides what they will be."

He still did not speak.

"But it is not for those others that I plead," she continued. "I plead
for myself. I can't spare you, indeed, indeed I can't spare you! . . ."

Her voice trembled, but she went on bravely:

"So you will go back to the mountains," she said. "You will live out
your life like a man. Others may prove themselves cowards, but the
Disagreeable Man has a better part to play."

He still did not speak. Was it that he could not trust himself to words?
But in that brief time, the thoughts which passed through his mind were
such as to overwhelm him. A picture rose up before him: a picture of a
man and woman leading their lives together, each happy in the other's
love; not a love born of fancy, but a love based on comradeship and true
understanding of the soul. The picture faded, and the Disagreeable Man
raised his eyes and looked at the little figure standing near him.

"Little child, little child," he said wearily, "since it is your wish,
I will go back to the mountains."

Then he bent over the counter, and put his hand on hers.

"I will come and see you to-morrow," he said. "I think there are one or
two things I want to say to you."

The next moment he was gone.

In the afternoon of that same day Bernardine went to the City. She was
not unhappy: she had been making plans for herself. She would work hard,
and fill her life as full as possible. There should be no room for
unhealthy thought. She would go and spend her holidays in Petershof.
There would be pleasure in that for him and for her. She would tell him
so to-morrow. She knew he would be glad.

"Above all," she said to herself, "there shall be no room for unhealthy
thought. I must cultivate my garden."

That was what she was thinking of at four in the afternoon: how she
could best cultivate her garden.

At five she was lying unconscious in the accident-ward of the New
Hospital: she had been knocked down by a waggon, and terribly injured.

She will not recover, the Doctor said to the nurse. "You see she is
sinking rapidly. Poor little thing!"

At six she regained consciousness, and opened her eyes. The nurse bent
over her. Then she whispered:

"Tell the Disagreeable Man how I wish I could have seen him to-morrow.
We had so much to say to each other. And now . . ."

The brown eyes looked at the nurse so entreatingly. It was a long time
before she could forget the pathos of those brown eyes.

A few minutes later, she made another sign as though she wished to
speak.  Nurse Katharine bent nearer. Then she whispered:

"Tell the Disagreeable Man to go back to the mountains, and begin to
build his bridge: it must be strong and . . ."

Bernardine died.


CHAPTER V.

THE BUILDING OF THE BRIDGE.


ROBERT ALLITSEN came to the old book-shop to see Zerviah Holme before
returning to the mountains. He found him reading Gibbon. These two men
had stood by Bernardine's grave.

"I was beginning to know her," the old man said.

"I have always known her," the young man said. "I cannot remember a
time when she has not been part of my life."

"She loved you," Zerviah said. "She was telling me so the very morning
when you came."

Then, with a tenderness which was almost foreign to him, Zerviah told
Robert Allitsen how Bernardine had opened her heart to him. She had
never loved any one before: but she had loved the Disagreeable Man.

"I did not love him because I was sorry for him," she had said. "I
loved him for himself."

Those were her very words.

"Thank you," said the Disagreeable Man. "And God bless you for telling
me."

Then he added:

"There were some few loose sheets of paper on the counter. She had
begun her book. May I have them?"

Zerviah placed them in his hand.

"And this photograph," the old man said kindly. "I will spare it for
you."

The picture of the little thin eager face was folded up with the papers.

The two men parted.

Zerviah Holme went back to his Roman History. The Disagreeable Man went
back to the mountains: to live his life out there, and to build his
bridge, as we all do, whether consciously or unconsciously. If it
breaks down, we build it again.

"We will build it stronger this time," we say to ourselves.

So we begin once more.

We are very patient.

And meanwhile the years pass.



THE END





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we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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