Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Maurice Guest
Author: Richardson, Henry Handel, 1870-1946
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 "Maurice Guest" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



MAURICE GUEST


by

Henry Handel Richardson



Part I


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

PETRARCH



I.


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

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

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

Maurice Guest followed them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No. I only arrived this morning."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She nodded pleasantly and rose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



II.


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

But Maurice Guest had a more tenacious hold on life.

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

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

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

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

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

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



III.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dove had only half an ear for him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it was growing late.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

until that, too, was lost in the distance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But she never came.

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

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

"You here again?" she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And you really disliked teaching so?"

"Hated it with all my heart."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The girl at his side laughed, not very heartily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



IV.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why do we ever do foolish things?"

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

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

"But why on earth not?"

"Why, nothing will come of it."

"That depends on what you mean by nothing."

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

"It's enough."

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

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

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

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

He made a gesture of impatience.

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

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

"Thanks, Madeleine--thanks awfully."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Madeleine!"

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

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

"How CAN you repeat such atrocious scandal?"

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

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

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

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



V.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* * * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Krafft quoted:

  In der Woche zwier--

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

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

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

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

"That's a well-known trick."

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

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

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

MY OWN DEAREST

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

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

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

YOUR OWN LOVING, L.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The blood dyed her face and she panted with rage.

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

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

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

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

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



VI.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"There's my sister."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



VII.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"A quarter to four already!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"She? What she?"

"Never mind."

"For that very reason, Mada."

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

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

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

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

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

"You are disgusting!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Him, too!" she said aloud.

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

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



VIII.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Dove only smiled and looked sly.

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

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

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

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

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

It was Louise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The very thing for such a night!"

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

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

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

"Not to-day, Madeleine."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Were you practising as well?"

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

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

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

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

"To-night?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But I want you to come, too."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes. And you?"

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

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

And with this, she was forced to be content.



IX.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He looked behind him. "Where?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Are you not enjoying yourself, Ephie?"

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

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

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

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

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

"Let us go out on the balcony."

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

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

They pressed towards the door.

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

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

"Would you like to go home?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Let us ask him," she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And since then--well?"

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

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

"Your peace of mind!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It seems to be a letter for you."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



X.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"VERDAMMT!" he said with expression.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Then I'm not to be forgiven?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



XI.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Then you do care for me a little?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here she laughed at her own seriousness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



XII.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He begged Maurice to accompany him to his lodgings, and there Maurice
held the animal, a large, half-starved street-cat, while Krafft, on his
knees before it, examined the wound. As he did this, he crooned in a
wordless language, and the cat was quiet, in spite of the pain he
caused it. But directly he took his hands off it, it jumped from the
table, and fled under the furthest corner of the sofa.

Krafft next fetched milk and a saucer, from a cupboard in the wall, and
went down on his knees again: while Maurice sat and watched and
wondered at his tireless endeavours to induce the animal to advance. He
explained his proceedings in a whisper.

"If I put the saucer down and leave it," he said, "it won't help at
all. A cat's confidence must be won straight away."

He was still in this position, making persuasive little noises, when
the door opened, and Avery Hill, his companion of a previous occasion,
entered. At the sight of Krafft crouching on the floor, she paused with
her hand on the door, and looked from him to Maurice.

"Heinz?" she said interrogatively. Then she saw the saucer of milk, and
understood. "Heinz!" she said again; and this time the word was a
reprimand.

"Ssh!--be quiet," said Krafft peevishly, without looking up.

The girl took no notice of Maurice's attempt to greet her. Letting fall
on the grand piano, some volumes of music she was carrying, she
continued sternly: "Another cat!--oh, it is abominable of you! This is
the third he has picked up this year," she said explanatorily, yet not
more to Maurice than to herself. "And the last was so dirty and
destructive that Frau Schulz threatened to turn him out, if he did not
get rid of it. He knows as well as I do that he cannot keep a cat here."

Her placidly tragic face had grown hard; and altogether, the anger she
displayed seemed out of proportion to the trival offence.

Krafft remained undisturbed. "It's not the least use scolding. Go and
make it right with the old crow.--Come, puss, come."

The girl checked the words that rose to her lips, gave a slight shrug,
and went out of the room. They heard her, in the passage, disputing
with the landlady, who was justly indignant.

"If it weren't for you, Fraulein, I wouldn't keep him another day," she
declared.

Meanwhile the cat, which, in the girl's presence, had shrunk still
further into its hiding-place, began to make advances. It crept a step
forward, retreated again, stretched out its nose to sniff at the milk,
and, all of a sudden, emerged and drank greedily.

Krafft touched its head, and the animal paused in its hungry gulping to
rub its back against the caressing hand. When the last drop of milk was
finished, it withdrew to its corner, but less suspiciously.

Krafft rose to his feet and stretched himself, and when Avery returned,
he smiled at her.

"Now then, is it all right?"

She did not reply, but went to the piano, to search for something among
the scattered music. Krafft clasped his hands behind his head, and
leaning against the table, watched her with an ironical curl of the lip.

"O LENE! LENE! O MAGDALENE!" he sang under his breath; and, for the
second time, Maurice received the impression that a by-play was being
carried on between these two.

"Look at this," said Krafft after a pause. "Here, ladies and gentlemen,
is one of those rare persons who have a jot of talent in them, and off
she goes--I don't mean at this moment, but tomorrow, the day after,
every day--to waste it in teaching children finger-exercises. If you
ask her why she does it, she will tell you it is necessary to live.
Necessary to live!--who has ever proved that it is?"

For an instant, it seemed as if the girl were going to flash out a
bitter retort that might have betrayed her. Then she showed the same
self-control as before, and went, without a word, into the next room.
She was absent for a few minutes, and when she reappeared, carried what
was unmistakably a bundle of soiled linen, going away with this on one
arm, the volumes of music she had picked out on the other. She did not
wish the young men good-night, but, in passing Maurice, she said in an
unfriendly tone: "Do you know what time it is?" and to Krafft: "It is
late, Heiriz, you are not to play."

The door had barely closed behind her, when Krafft broke into the loud,
repellent laugh that had so jarred on Maurice at their former meeting.
He had risen at once, and now said he must go. But Krafft would not
hear of it; he pressed him into his seat again, with an effusive warmth
of manner.

"Don't mind her. Stay, like a good fellow. Of course, I am going to
play to you."

He flicked the keys of the piano with his handkerchief, adjusted the
distance of his seat, threw back his head, and half closing his eyes,
began to play. Except for the unsteady flickerings cast on the wall by
a street-lamp, the room was soon in darkness.

Maurice resumed his seat reluctantly. He had been dragged upstairs
against his will; and throughout the foregoing scene, had sat an
uncomfortable spectator. He had as little desire for the girl to return
and find him there, as for Krafft to play to him. But no excuse for
leaving offered itself, and each moment made it harder to interrupt the
player, who had promptly forgotten the fact of his presence.

After he had listened for a time, however, Maurice ceased to think of
escaping. Madeleine had once alluded to Krafft's skill as an
interpreter of Chopin, but, all the same, he had not expected anything
like what he now heard, and at first he could not make anything of it.
He had hitherto only known Chopin's music as played in the sentimental
fashion of the English drawing-room. Here, now, came some one who made
it clear that, no matter how pessimistic it appeared on the surface,
this music was, at its core an essentially masculine music; it kicked
desperately against the pricks of existence; what failed it was only
the last philosophic calm. He could not, of course, know that various
small things had combined to throw the player into one of his most
prodigal moods: the rescue and taming of the cat, the passage-at-arms
with Avery, her stimulating forbiddal, and, last and best, the one
silent listener in the dark--this stranger, picked up at random in the
streets, who had never yet heard him play, and to whom he might reveal
himself with an indecency that friendship precluded.

When at length, Frau Schulz entered, in her bed-jacket, to say that it
was long past ten o'clock, Krafft wakened as if out of a trance, and
hid his eyes from the light. Frau Schulz, a robust person, disregarded
his protests, and herself locked the piano and took the key.

"She makes me promise to," she whispered to Maurice, pointing over her
shoulder at an imaginary person. "If I didn't, he'd go on all night.
He's no more fit to look after himself than a baby--and he gets it
again with his boots in the morning.--Yes, yes, call me names if it
pleases you. Names don't kill. And if I am a hag, you're a rascal,
that's what you are! The way you treat that poor, good creature makes
one's blood boil."

Krafft waved her away, and opening the window, leaned out on the sill:
a wave of warm air filled the room. Maurice rose with renewed decision,
and sought his hat. But Krafft also took his down from a peg. "Yes, let
us go out."

It was a breathless August night, laden with intensified scents and
smells, and the moonlight lay thick and white on the ground: a night to
provoke to extravagant follies. In the utter stillness of the woods,
the young men passed from places of inky blackness into bluish white
patches, dropped through the trees like monstrous silver thalers. The
town lay behind them in a glorifying haze; the river stretched
silver-scaled in the moonlight, like a gigantic fish-back.

Krafft walked in front of his companion, in preoccupied silence. His
slender hands, dangling loosely, still twitched from their recent
exertions, and from time to time, he turned the palms outward, with an
impatient gesture. Maurice wished himself alone. He was not at ease
under this new companionship that had thrust itself upon him; indeed, a
strong mental antagonism was still uppermost in him, towards the moody
creature at whose heels he followed; and if, at this moment, he had
been asked to give voice to his feelings, the term "crazy idiot" would
have been the first to rise to his lips.

Suddenly, without turning, or slackening his pace, Krafft commenced to
speak: at first in a low voice, as if he were thinking aloud. But one
word gave another, his thoughts came rapidly, he began to gesticulate,
and finally, wrought on by the beauty of the night, by this choice
moment for speech, still excited by his own playing, and in an infinite
need of expression, he swept the silence before him with the force of a
flood set free. If he thought Maurice were about to interrupt him, he
made an imploring gesture, and left what he was saying unfinished, to
spring over to the next theme ready in his brain. Names jostled one
another on his tongue: he passed from Beethoven and Chopin to Berlioz
and Wagner, to Liszt and Richard Strauss--and his words were to Maurice
like the unrolling of a great scroll. In the same breath, he was with
Nietzsche, and Apollonic and Dionysian; and from here he went on to
Richard Dehmel, to ANATOL, and the gentle "Loris" of the early verses;
to Max Klinger, and the propriety of coloured sculpture; to PAPA HAMLET
and the future of the LIED. Maurice, listening intently, had fleeting
glimpses into a land of which he knew nothing. He kept as still as a
mouse, in order not to betray his ignorance; for Krafft was not
didactic, and talked as if the subjects he touched on were as familiar
to Maurice as to himself. On the other hand, Maurice believed it was a
matter of indifference to him whether he was understood or not; he
spoke for the pure joy of talking, out of the motley profusion of his
knowledge.

Meanwhile, he had grown personal. And while he was still speaking with
fervour of Vienna--which was his home--of gay, melancholy Wien, he
flung round and put a question to his companion.

"Do you ever think of death?"

Maurice had been the listener for so long that he started.

"Death?" he echoed, and was as much embarrassed as though asked whether
he believed in God. "I don't know. No, I don't think I do. Why should
one think of death when one is alive and well?"

Krafft laughed at this, with a pitying irony. "Happy you!" he said.
"Happy you!" His voice sank, and he continued almost fearfully: "I have
the vision of it before me, always wherever I go. Listen; I will tell
you; it is like this." He laid his hand on Maurice's arm, and drew him
nearer. "I know--no matter how strong and sound I may be at this
moment; no matter how I laugh, or weep, or play the fool; no matter how
little thought I give it, or whether I think about it all day long--I
know the hour will come, at last, when I shall gasp, choke, grow black
in the face, in the vain struggle for another single mouthful of that
air which has always been mine at will. And no one will be able to help
me; there is no escape from that hour; no power on earth can keep it
from me. And it is all a matter of chance when it happens--a great
lottery: one draws to-day, one to-morrow; but my turn will surely come,
and each day that passes brings me twenty-four hours nearer the end."
He drew still closer to Maurice. "Tell me, have you never stood before
a doorway--the doorway of some strange house that you have perhaps
never consciously gone past before--and waited, with the atrocious
curiosity that death and its hideous paraphernalia waken in one, for a
coffin to be carried out?--the coffin of an utter stranger, who is of
interest to you now, for the first and the last time. And have you not
thought to yourself, with a shudder, that some day, in this selfsame
way, under the same indifferent sky, among a group of loiterers as idly
curious as these, you yourself will be carried out, feet foremost, like
a bale of goods, like useless lumber, all will and dignity gone from
you, never to enter there again?--there, where all the little human
things you have loved, and used, and lived amongst, are lying just as
you left them--the book you laid down, the coat you wore--now all of a
greater worth than you. You are mere dead flesh, and behind the horrid
lid lie stark and cold, with rigid fingers and half-closed eyes, and
the chief desire of every one, even of those you have loved most, is to
be rid of you, to be out of reach of sight and smell of you. And so,
after being carted, and jolted, and unloaded, you will be thrown into a
hole, and your body, ice-cold, and as yielding as meat to the
touch--oh, that awful icy softness!--your flesh will begin to rot, to
be such that not your nearest friend would touch you. God, it is
unbearable!"

He wiped his forehead, and Maurice was silent, not knowing what to say;
he felt that such rational arguments as he might be able to offer,
would have little value in the face of this intensely personal view,
which was stammered forth with the bitterness of an accusation. But as
they crossed the suspension bridge, Krafft stopped, and stood looking
at the water, which glistened in the moonlight like a living thing.

"No, it is impossible for me to put death out of my mind," he went on.
"And yet, a spring into this silver fire down here would end all that,
and satisfy one's curiosity as well. Why is one not readier to make the
spring?--and what would one's sensations be? The mad rush through the
air--the crash--the sinking in the awful blackness ..."

"Those of fear and cold. You would wish yourself out again," answered
Maurice; and as Krafft nodded, without seeming to resent his tone, he
ventured to put forward a few points for the other side of the
question. He suggested that always to be brooding over death unfitted
you for life. Every one had to die when his time came; it was foolish
to look upon your own death as an exception to the rule. Besides, when
sensation had left you--the soul, the spirit, whatever you liked to
call it--what did it matter what afterwards became of your body? It
was, then, in reality, nothing but lumber, fresh nourishment for the
soil; and it was morbid to care so much how it was treated, just
because it had once been your tenement, when it was now as worthless as
the crab's empty shell.

He stuttered this out piece-wise, in his halting German; then paused,
not sure how his companion would take the didactic tone he had fallen
into. But Krafft had turned, and was gazing at him, considering him
attentively for the first time. When Maurice ceased to speak, he nodded
a hasty assent: "Yes, yes, it is quite true. Go on." And as the former,
having nothing more to say, was mute, he added: "You are like some one
I once knew. He was a great musician. I saw him die; he died by inches;
it lasted for months; he could neither die nor live."

"Why do you brood over these things, if you find them so awful? Are you
not afraid your nerves will go through with you, and make you do
something foolish?" asked Maurice, and was himself astonished at his
boldness.

"Of course I am. My life is a perpetual struggle against suicide,"
answered Krafft.

In the distance, a church-clock struck a quarter to twelve, and it was
on Maurice's tongue to suggest that they should move homewards, when,
with one of his unexpected transitions, Krafft turned to him and said
in a low voice: "What do you say? Shall you and I be friends?"

Maurice hesitated, in some embarrassment. "Why yes, I should be very
glad."

"And you will let me say 'DU' to you?"

"Certainly. If you are sure you won't regret it in the morning."

Krafft stretched out his hand. As Maurice held in his the fine, slim
fingers, which seemed mere skin and muscle, a hitherto unknown feeling
of kindliness came over him for the young man at his side. At this
moment, he had the lively sensation that he was the stronger and wiser
of the two, and that it was even a little beneath him to take the other
too seriously.

"You think so poorly of me then? You think no good thing can come out
of me?" asked Krafft, and there was an appealing note in his voice,
which, but a short time back, had been so overbearing.

Had Maurice known him better, he would have promptly retorted: "Don't
be a fool." As it was, he laughed. "Who am I to sit in judgment? The
only thing I do know is, that if I had your talent--no, a quarter of
it--I should pull myself together and astonish the world."

"It sounds so easy; but I have too many doubts of myself," said Krafft,
and laid his hand on Maurice's shoulder. "And I have never had anyone
to keep me up to the mark--till now. I have always needed some one like
you. You are strong and sympathetic; and one has the feeling that you
understand."

Maurice was far from certain that he did. However, he answered in a
frank way, doing his best to keep down the sentimental tone that had
invaded the conversation. At heart he was little moved by this new
friendship, which hail begun with the word itself; he told himself that
it was only a whim of Krafft's, which would be forgotten in the
morning. But, as they stood thus on the bridge, shoulder to shoulder,
he did not understand how he could ever have taken anything this frail
creature did, amiss. At the moment, there was a clinging helplessness
about Krafft, which instinctively roused his manlier feelings. He said
to himself that he had done wrong in lightly condemning his companion;
and, impelled by this sudden burst of protectiveness, he seized the
moment, and spoke earnestly to Krafft of earnest things, of duty, not
only to one's fellows, but to oneself and one's abilities, of the
inspiring gain of unremitted endeavour.

Afterwards, they sauntered home--first to Maurice's lodging, then to
Krafft's, and once again to Maurice's. At this stage, Krafft was
frankness itself; Maurice learnt to his surprise that the slim, boyish
lad at his side was over twenty-seven years of age; that, for several
semesters, Krafft had studied medicine in Vienna, then had thrown up
this "disgusting occupation," to become a clerk in a wealthy uncle's
counting-house. From this, he had drifted into journalism, and finally,
at the instigation of Hans von Bullow, to music; he had been for two
and a half years with Bullow, on travel, and in Hamburg, and was at
present in Leipzig solely to have his "fingers put in order." His plans
for the future were many, and widely divergent. At one time, a musical
career tempted him irresistibly; every one but Schwarz--this
finger-machine, this generator of living metronomes--believed that he
could make a name for himself as a player of Chopin. At other times,
and more often, he contemplated retiring from the world and entering a
monastery. He spoke with a morbid horror--yet as if the idea of it
fascinated him--of the publicity of the concert-platform, and painted
in glowing colours a monastery he knew of, standing on a wooded hill,
not far from Vienna. He had once spent several weeks there, recovering
from an illness, and the gardens, the trimly bedded flowers, the
glancing sunlight in the utter silence of the corridors, were things he
could not forget. He had lain day for day on a garden-bench, reading
Novalis, and it still seemed to him that the wishless happiness of
those days was the greatest he had known.

Beside this, Maurice's account of himself sounded tame and unimportant;
he felt, too, that the circumstances of English life were too far
removed from his companion's sphere, for the latter to be able to
understand them.

On waking next morning, Maurice recalled the incidents of the evening
with a smile; felt a touch of warmth at the remembrance of the moment
when he had held Krafft's hand in his; then classed the whole episode
as strained, and dismissed it from his mind. He had just shut the
piano, after a busy forenoon, when Krafft burst in, his cheeks pink
with haste and excitement. He had discovered a room to let, in the
house he lived in, and nothing would satisfy him but that Maurice
should come instantly to see it. Laughing at his eagerness, Maurice put
forward his reasons for preferring to remain where he was. But Krafft
would take no denial, and not wishing to hurt his feelings, Maurice
gave way, and agreed at least to look at the room.

It was larger and more cheerful than his own, and had also, a
convenient alcove for the bedstead; and after inspecting it, Maurice
felt willing to expend the extra marks it cost. They withdrew to
Krafft's room to come to a decision. There, however, they found Avery
Hill, who, as soon as she heard what they contemplated, put a veto on
it. Growing pale, as she always did where others would have flushed,
she said: "It is an absurd idea--sheer nonsense! I won't have it,
understand that! Pray, excuse me," she continued to Maurice, speaking
in a more friendly tone than she had yet used to him, "but you must not
listen to him. It is just one of his whims--nothing more. In less than
a week, you would wish yourself away again. You have no idea how
changeable he is--how impossible to live with."

Maurice hastened to reassure her. Krafft did not speak; he stood at the
window, with his back to them, his forehead pressed against the glass.

So Maurice continued to live in the BRAUSTRASSE, under the despotic
rule of Frau Krause, who took every advantage of his good-nature. But
after this, not a day passed without his seeing Krafft; the latter
sought him out on trivial pretexts. Maurice hardly recognised him: he
was gentle, amiable, and amenable to reason; he subordinated himself
entirely to Maurice, and laid an ever-increasing weight on his opinion.
Maurice became able to wind him round his finger; and the hint of a
reproof from him served to throw Krafft into a state of nervous
depression. Without difficulty, Maurice found himself to rights in his
role of mentor, and began to flatter himself that he would ultimately
make of Krafft a decent member of society. As it was, he soon induced
his friend to study in a more methodical way; they practised for the
same number of hours in the forenoon, and met in the afternoon; and
Krafft only sometimes broke through this arrangement, by appearing in
the BRAUSTRASSE early in the morning, and, despite remonstrance,
throwing himself on the sofa, and remaining there, while Maurice
practised. The latter ended by growing accustomed to this whim as to
several other things that had jarred on him--such as Krafft's love for
a dirty jest--and overlooked or forgave them. At first embarrassed by
the mushroom growth of a friendship he had not invited, he soon grew
genuinely attached to Krafft, and missed him when he was absent from
him.

Avery Hill could hardly be termed third in the alliance; Maurice's
advent had thrust her into the background, where she kept watch over
their doings with her cold, disdainful eye. Maurice was not clear how
she regarded his intrusion. Sometimes, particularly when she saw the
improvement in Heinrich's way of life, she seemed to tolerate his
presence gladly; at others again, her jealous aversion to him was too
open to be overlooked. The jealousy was natural; he was an interloper,
and Heinz neglected her shamefully for him; but there was something
else behind it, another feeling, which Maurice could not make out. He
by no means understood the relationship that existed between his friend
and this girl of the stone-grey eyes and stern, red lips. The two lived
almost door by door, went in and out of each other's rooms at all
hours, and yet, he had never heard them exchange an affectionate word,
or seen a mark of endearment pass between them. Avery's attachment--if
such it could be called--was noticeable only in the many small ways in
which she cared for Krafft's comfort; her manner with him was
invariably severe and distant, with the exception of those occasions
when a seeming trifle raised in her a burst of the dull, passionate
anger, beneath which Krafft shrank. Maurice believed that his friend
would be happier away from her; in spite of her fresh colouring, he,
Maurice, found her wanting in attraction, nothing that a woman ought to
be. But her name was rarely mentioned between them; Krafft was, as a
rule, reticent concerning her, and when he did speak of her, it was in
a tone of such contempt that Maurice was glad to shirk the subject.

"It's all she wants," Krafft had replied, when his companion ventured
to take her part. "She wouldn't thank you to be treated differently.
Believe me, women are all alike; they are made to be trodden on.
Ill-usage brings out their good points--just as kneading makes dough
light. Let them alone, or pamper them, and they spread like a weed, and
choke you"--and he quoted a saying about going to women and not
forgetting the whip, at which Maurice stood aghast.

"But why, if you despise a person like that--why have her always about
you?" he cried, at the end of a flaming plea for woman's dignity and
worth.

Krafft shrugged his shoulders. "I suppose the truth is we are dependent
on them--yes, dependent, from the moment we are laid in the cradle.
It's a woman who puts on our first clothes and a woman who puts on our
last. But why talk about these things?"--he slipped his arm through
Maurice's. "Tell me about yourself; and when you are tired of talking,
I will play."

It usually ended in his playing. They ranged through the highways and
byways of music.

One afternoon--it was a warm, wet, grey day towards the end of
August--Maurice found Krafft in a strangely apathetic mood. The
weather, this moist warmth, had got on his nerves, he said; he had been
unable to settle to anything; was weighed down by a lassitude heavier
than iron. When Maurice entered, he was stretched on the sofa, with
closed eyes; on his chest slept Wotan, the one-eyed cat, now growing
sleek and fat. While Maurice was trying to rally him, Krafft sprang up.
With a precipitance that was the extreme opposite of his previous
sloth, he lowered both window-blinds, and, lighting two candles, set
them on the piano, where they dispersed the immediate darkness, but no
more.

"I am going to play TRISTAN to you."

Maurice had learnt by this time that it was useless to try to thwart
Krafft. He laughed and nodded, and having nothing in particular to do,
lay down in the latter's place on the sofa.

Krafft shook his hair back, and began the prelude to the opera in a
rapt, ecstatic way, finding in the music an outlet for all his
nervousness. At first, he played from memory; when this gave out, he
set the piano-score up before him, then forgot it again, and went on
playing by heart. Sometimes he sang the different parts, in a light,
sweet tenor; sometimes recited them, with dramatic fervour. Only he
never ceased to play, never gave his hearer a moment in which to
recover himself.

Frau Schulz's entry with the lamp, and her grumblings at the
"UNVERSCHAMTE SPEKTAKEL" passed unheeded. A strength that was more than
human seemed to take possession of the frail youth at the piano.
Evening crept on afternoon, night on evening, and still he continued,
drunk with the most emotional music conceived by a human brain.

Even when hands and fingers could do no more, the frenzy that was in
him would not let him rest: he paced the room, and talked--talked for
hours, his eyes ablaze. A church-clock struck ten, then half-past, then
eleven, and not for a moment was he still; his speech seemed, indeed,
to gather impetus as it advanced like a mountain torrent.

Then, all of a sudden, in the middle of a vehement defence of
anti-Semitism, to which he had been led by the misdeeds of those
"arch-charlatans," Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer, he stopped short, like a
run-down clock, and, falling into a chair before the table, buried his
face in his arms. There was silence, the more intense for all that had
preceded it. Wotan wakened from sleep, and was heard to stretch his
limbs, with a yawn and a sigh. The spell was broken; Maurice, his head
in a whirl, rose stiff and cramped from his uncomfortable position on
the sofa.

"You rascal, you make one lose all sense of time. And I am starving. I
must snatch something at Canitz's as I go by."

Krafft started, and raised a haggard face with twitching lips. "You are
not going to leave me?--like this?"

Maurice was both hungry and tired--worn out, in fact.

"We will go somewhere in the town," said Krafft. "And then for a walk.
The rain has stopped--look!"

He drew up one of the blinds, and they saw that the stars were shining.

"Yes, but what about to-morrow?--and to-morrow's work?"

"To-morrow may never come. And to-night is."

"Those are only words. Do you know the time?"

Krafft turned quickly from the window. "And if I make it a test of the
friendship you have professed for me, that you stay here with me
to-night?--You can sleep on the sofa."

"Why on earth get personal?" said Maurice; he could not find his hat,
which had fallen in a dark corner. "Heinz, dear boy, be reasonable.
Come, give me the house-key--like a good fellow."

"It's the first--the only thing, I have asked of you."

"Nonsense. You have asked dozens."

Krafft took a few steps towards him, and threw the key on the floor at
his feet. Wotan, who was at the door, mewing to be let out, sprang
back, in affright.

"Go, go, go!" Krafft cried. "I never want to see you again."

Earlier than usual the next morning, Maurice returned to set things
right, and to laugh with Heinz at their extravagance the night before.
But Krafft was not to be seen. From Frau Schulz, who flounced past him
in the passage, first with hot water, then with black coffee, Maurice
learned that Krafft had been brought home early that morning, in a
disgraceful state of intoxication. Frau Schulz still boiled at the
remembrance.

"SO 'N SCHWEIN, SO 'N SCHWEIN!" she cried. "But this time he goes. I
have said it before and, fool that I am, have always let them persuade
me. But this is the end. Not a day after the fifteenth will I have him
in the house."

Maurice slipped away.

Two days passed before he saw his friend again. He found him pale and
dejected, with reddish, heavy eyes and a sneering smile. He was wholly
changed; his words were tainted with the perverse irony, which, at the
beginning of their acquaintance, had made his manner so repellent. But
now, Maurice was not, at once, frightened away by it; he could not
believe Heinrich's pique was serious, and gave himself trouble to win
his friend back. He chid, laughed, rallied, was earnest and apologetic,
and all this without being conscious of having done wrong.

"I think you had better leave him alone," said Avery, after watching
his fruitless efforts. "He doesn't want you."

It was true; now Krafft had no thought for anyone but Avery. It was
Avery here, and Avery there. He called her by a pet name, was anxious
for her comfort, and hung affectionately on her arm.--The worst of it
was, that he did not seem in the least ashamed of his fickleness.

Maurice made one further attempt to move him, then, hurt and angry,
intruded no more. At first, he was chiefly angry. But, gradually, the
hurt deepened, and became a sense of injury, which made him avoid the
street Krafft lived in, and shun him when they met. He missed him,
after the close companionship of the past weeks, and felt as if he had
been suddenly deprived of a part of himself. And he would no doubt have
missed him more keenly still, if, just at this juncture, his attention
had not been engrossed by another and more important matter.



XIII.


The commencement of the new term had just assembled the incoming
students to sign their names in the venerable rollbook, when the report
spread that Schilsky was willing to play his symphonic poem,
ZARATHUSTRA, to those of his friends who cared to hear it. Curiosity
swelled the number, and Furst lent his house for the occasion.

"You'll come, of course," said the latter to Maurice, as they left
Schwarz's room after their lesson; and Madeleine said the same thing
while driving home from the railway-station, where Maurice had met her.
She was no more a friend of Schilsky's than he was, but she certainly
intended to be present, to hear what kind of stuff he had turned out.

On the evening of the performance, Maurice and she walked together to
the BRANDVORWERKSTRASSE. Madeleine had still much to say. She had
returned from her holiday in the best of health and spirits, liberally
rewarded for her trouble, and possessed of four new friends, who, no
doubt, would all be of use to her when she settled in England again.
This was to be her last winter in Leipzig, and she was drawing up
detailed plans of work. From now on, she intended to take private
lessons from Schwarz, in addition to those she received in the class.

"Even though they do cost ten marks each, it makes him ever so much
better disposed towards you."

She also told him that she had found a letter from Louise waiting for
her, in which the latter announced her return for the following week.
Louise wrote from England, and all her cry was to be back in Leipzig.

"Of course--now he is here," commented Madeleine. "You know, I suppose,
that he has been travelling with Zeppelin? He has the luck of I don't
know what."

The Cayhills would be absent till the middle of the month; Maurice had
received from Ephie one widely written note, loud in praise of a family
of "perfectly sweet Americans," whom they had learnt to know in
Interlaken, but also expressing eagerness to be at home again in "dear
old Leipzig." Dove had arrived a couple of days ago--and here Madeleine
laughed.

"He is absolutely shiny with resolution," she declared. "Mind, Maurice,
if he takes you into confidence--as he probably will--you are not on
any account to dissuade him from proposing. A snub will do him worlds
of good."

They were not the first to climb the ill-lighted stair that wound up to
the Fursts' dwelling. The entry-door on the fourth storey stood open,
and a hum of voices came from the sitting-room. The circular hat-stand
in the passage was crowded with motley headgear.

As they passed the kitchen, the door of which was ajar, Frau Furst
peeped through the slit, and seeing Maurice, called him in. The
coffee-pot was still on the stove; he must sit down and drink a cup of
coffee.

"There is plenty of time. Schilsky has not come yet, and I have only
this moment sent Adolfchen for the beer."

Maurice asked her if she were not coming in to hear the music. She
laughed good-naturedly at the idea.

"Bless your heart, what should I do in there, among all you young
people? No, no, I can hear just as well where I am. When my good
husband had his evenings, it was always from the kitchen that I
listened."

Pausing, with a saucepan in one hand, a cloth in the other, she said:
"You will hear something good to-night, Herr Guest. Oh, he has talent,
great talent, has young Schilsky! This is not the usual work of a
pupil. It has form, and it has ideas, and it is new and daring. I know
one of the motives from hearing Franz play it," and she hummed a theme
as she replaced on the shelf, the scrupulously cleaned pot. "For such a
young man, it is wonderful; but he will do better still, depend upon
it, he will."

Here she threw a hasty glance round the tiny kitchen, at three of the
children sitting as still as mice in the corner, laid a finger on her
lips, and, bursting with mystery, leaned over the table and asked
Maurice if he could keep a secret.

"He is going away," she whispered.

Maurice stared at her. "Going away? Who is? What do you mean?" he
asked, and was so struck by her peculiar manner that he set his cup
down untouched.

"Why Schilsky, of course." She thought his astonishment was disbelief,
and nodded confirmingly. "Yes, yes, he is going away. And soon, too."

"How do you know?" cried Maurice. Sitting back in his chair, he stemmed
his hands against the edge of the table, and looked challengingly at
Frau Furst.

"Ssh--not so loud," said the latter. "It's a secret, a dead
secret--though I'm sure I don't know why. Franz----"

At this very moment, Franz himself came into the kitchen. He looked
distrustfully at his whispering mother.

"Now then, mother, haven't you got that beer yet?" he demanded. His
genial bonhomie disappeared, as if by magic, when he entered his home
circle, and he was particularly gruff with this adoring woman.

"GLEICH, FRANZCHEN, GLEICH," she answered soothingly, and whisked about
her work again, with the air of one caught napping.

Maurice followed Furst's invitation to join the rest of the party.

The folding-doors between the "best room" and the adjoining bedroom had
been opened wide, and the guests were distributed over the two rooms.
The former was brilliantly lighted by three lamps and two candles, and
all the sitting-accommodation the house contained was ranged in a
semicircle round the grand piano. Here, not a place was vacant; those
who had come late were in the bedroom, making shift with whatever
offered. Two girls and a young man, having pushed back the feather-bed,
sat on the edge of the low wooden bedstead, with their arms interlaced
to give them a better balance. Maurice found Madeleine on a rickety
little sofa that stood at the foot of the bed. Dove sat on a chest of
drawers next the sofa, his long legs dangling in the air. Beside
Madeleine, with his head on her shoulder, was Krafft.

"Oh, there you are," cried Madeleine. "Well, I did my best to keep the
place for you; but it was of no use, as you see. Just sit down,
however. Between us, we'll squeeze him properly."

Maurice was glad that the room, which was lighted only by one small
lamp, was in semi-darkness; for, at the sound of his own voice, it
suddenly became clear to him that the piece of gossip Frau Furst had
volunteered, had been of the nature of a blow. Schilsky's departure
threatened, in a way he postponed for the present thinking out, to
disturb his life; and, in an abrupt need of sympathy, he laid his hand
on Krafft's knee.

"Is it you, old man? What have you been doing with yourself?"

Krafft gave him one of those looks which, in the early days of their
acquaintance, had proved so disconcerting--a look of struggling
recollection.

"Oh, nothing in particular," he replied, without hostility, but also
without warmth. His mind was not with his words, and Maurice withdrew
his hand.

Madeleine leaned forward, dislodging Krafft's head from its
resting-place.

"How long have you two been 'DU' to each other?" she asked, and at
Maurice's curt reply, she pushed Krafft from her. "Sit up and behave
yourself. One would think you had an evil spirit in you to-night."

Krafft was nervously excited: bright red spots burnt on his cheeks, his
hands twitched, and he jerked forward in his seat and threw himself
back again, incessantly.

"No, you are worse than a mosquito," cried Madeleine, losing patience.
"Anyone would think you were going to play yourself. And he will be as
cool as an iceberg. The sofa won't stand it, Heinz. If you can't stop
fidgeting, get up."

He had gone, before she finished speaking; for a slight stir in the
next room made them suppose for a moment that Schilsky was arriving.
Afterwards, Krafft was to be seen straying about, with his hands in his
pockets; and, on observing his rose-pink cheeks and tumbled curly hair,
Madeleine could not refrain from remarking: "He ought to have been a
girl."

The air was already hot, by reason of the lamps, and the many breaths,
and the firmly shut double-windows. The clamour for beer had become
universal by the time Adolfchen arrived with his arms full of bottles.
As there were not enough glasses to go round, every two or three
persons shared one between them--a proceeding that was carried out with
much noisy mirth. Above all other voices was to be heard that of Miss
Jensen, who, in a speckled yellow dress, with a large feather fan in
her hand, sat in the middle of the front row of seats. It was she who
directed how the beer should be apportioned; she advised a few
late-comers where they would still find room, and engaged Furst to
place the lights on the piano to better advantage. Next her, a Mrs.
Lautenschlager, a plump little American lady, with straight yellow hair
which hung down on her shoulders, was relating to her neighbour on the
other side, in a tone that could be clearly heard in both rooms, how
she had "discovered" her voice.

"I come to Schwarz, last fall," she said shaking back her hair, and
making effective use of her babyish mouth; "and he thinks no end of me.
But the other week I was sick, and as I lay in bed, I sung some--just
for fun. And my landlady--she's a regular singer herself--who was
fixing up the room, she claps her hands together and says: 'My goodness
me! Why YOU have a voice!' That's what put it in my head, and I went to
Sperling to hear what he'd got to say. He was just tickled to death, I
guess he was, and he's going to make something dandy of it, so I stop
long enough. I don't know what my husband'll say though. When I wrote
him I was sick, he says: 'Come home and be sick at home'--that's what
he says."

Miss Jensen could not let pass the opportunity of breaking a lance for
her own master, the Swede, and of cutting up Sperling's method, which
she denounced as antiquated. She made quite a little speech, in the
course of which she now and then interrupted herself to remind
Furst--who, was as soft as a pudding before her--of something he had
forgotten to do, such as snuffing the candles or closing the door.

"Just let me hear your scale, will you?" she said patronisingly to Mrs.
Lautenschlager. The latter, nothing loath, stuck out her chin, opened
her mouth, and, for a short time, all other noises were drowned in a
fine, full volume of voice.

On their sofa, Madeleine and Maurlee sat in silence, pretending to
listen to Dove, who was narrating his journey. Madeleine was out of
humour; she tapped the floor, and had a crease in her forehead. As for
Maurice, he was in such poor spirits that she could not but observe it.

"Why are you so quiet? Is anything the matter?"

He shook his head, without speaking. His vague sense of impending
misfortune had crystallised into a definite thought; he knew now what
it signified. If Schilsky went away from Leipzig, Louise would probably
go, too, and that would be the end of everything.

"I represented to him," he heard Dove saying, "that I had seen the
luggage with my own eyes at Flushing. What do you think he answered? He
looked me up and down, and said: 'ICH WERDE TELEGRAPHIEREN UND
ERKUNDIGUNGEN EINZIEHEN.' Now, do you think if you said to an English
station-master: 'Sir, I saw the luggage with my own eyes,' he would not
believe you? No, in my opinion, the whole German railway-system needs
revision. Would you believe it, we did not make fifty kilometers in the
hour, and yet our engine broke down before Magdeburg?"

So this would be the end; the end of foolish dreams and weak hopes,
which he had never put into words even to himself, which had never
properly existed, and yet had been there, nevertheless, a mass of
gloriously vague perhapses. The end was at hand--an end before there
had been any beginning.

"... the annoyance of the perpetual interruptions," went on the voice
on the other side. "A lady who was travelling in the same
compartment--a very pleasant person, who was coming over to be a
teacher in a school in Dresden--I have promised to show her our lions
when she visits Leipzig: well, as I was saying, she was quite alarmed
the first time he entered in that way, and it took me some time, I
assure you, to make her believe that this was the German method of
revising tickets."

The break occasioned by the arrival of the beer had been of short
duration, and the audience was growing impatient; at the back of the
room, some one began to stamp his feet; others took it up. Furst
perspired with anxiety, and made repeated journeys to the stair-head,
to see if Schilsky were not coming. The latter was almost an hour late
by now, and jests, bald and witty, were made at his expense. Some one
offered to take a bet that he had fallen asleep and forgotten the
appointment, and at this, one of the girls on the bed, a handsome
creature with bold, prominent eyes, related an anecdote to her
neighbours, concerning Schilsky's powers of sleep. All three exploded
with laughter. In a growing desire to be asked to play, Boehmer had for
some time hung about the piano, and was now just about to drop, as if
by accident, upon the stool, when the cry of: "No Bach!" was
raised--Bach was Boehmer's specialty--and re-echoed, and he retired red
and discomfited to his Place in a corner of the room, where his
companion, a statuesque little English widow, made biting observations
on the company's behaviour. The general rowdyism was at its height,
when some one had the happy idea that Krafft should sing them his
newest song. At this, there was a unanimous shriek of approval, and
several hands dragged Krafft to the piano. But himself the wildest of
them all, he needed no forcing. Flinging himself down on the seat, he
preluded wildly in imitation of Rubinstein. His hearers sat with their
mouths open, a fixed smile on their faces, laughter ready in their
throats, and only Madeleine was coolly contemptuous.

"Tom-fool!" she said in a low voice.

Krafft was confidently expected to burst into one of those songs for
which he was renowned. Few of his friends were able to sing them, and
no one but himself could both sing and play them simultaneously: they
were a monstrous, standing joke. Instead of this, however, he turned,
winked at his audience, and began a slow, melancholy ditty, with a
recurring refrain. He was not allowed to finish the first verse; a howl
of disapproval went up; his hearers hooted, jeered and stamped.

"Sick cats!"

"Damn your 'WENIG SONNE!'"--this was the refrain.

"Put your head in a bag!"

"Pity he drinks!"

"Give us one of the rousers--the rou ... sers!"

Krafft himself laughed unbridledly. "DAS ICH SPRICHT!"--he announced.
"In C sharp major."

There was a hush of anticipation, in which Dove, stopping his BRETZEL
half-way to his mouth, was heard to say in his tone of measured
surprise: "C sharp major! Why, that is----"

The rest was drowned in the wild chromatic passages that Krafft sent up
and down the piano with his right hand, while his left followed with
full-bodied chords, each of which exceeded the octave. Before, however,
there was time to laugh, this riot ceased, and became a mournful
cadence, to the slowly passing harmonies of which, Krafft sang:

  I am weary of everything that is, under the sun.
  I sicken at the long lines of rain, which are black against the sky;
  They drip, for a restless heart, with the drip of despair:
  For me, winds must rage, trees bend, and clouds sail stormily.


The whirlwind of the prelude commenced anew; the chords became still
vaster; the player swayed from side to side, like a stripling-tree in a
storm. Madeleine said, "Tch!" in disgust, but the rest of the company,
who had only waited for this, burst into peals of laughter; some bent
double in their seats, some leant back with their chins in the air.
Even Dove smiled. Just, however, as those whose sense of humour was
most highly developed, mopped their faces with gestures of exhaustion,
and assured their neighbours that they "could not, really could not
laugh any more," Furst entered and flapped his hands.

"Here he comes!"

A sudden silence fell, broken only by a few hysterical giggles from the
ladies, and by a frivolous American, who cried: "Now for ALSO SCHRIE
ZENOPHOBIA!" Krafft stopped playing, but remained sitting at the piano,
wiping down the keys with his handkerchief.

Schilsky came in, somewhat embarrassed by the lull which had succeeded
the hubbub heard in the passage, but wholly unconcerned at the lateness
of the hour: except in matters of practical advancement, time did not
exist for him. As soon as he appeared, the two ladies in the front row
began to clap their hands; the rest of the company followed their
example, then, in spite of Furst's efforts to prevent it, rose and
crowded round him. Miss Jensen and her friend made themselves
particularly conspicuous. Mrs Lauterischlager had an infatuation for
the young man, of which she made no secret; she laid her hand
caressingly on his coat-sleeve, and put her face as near his as
propriety admitted.

"Disgusting, the way those women go on with him!" said Madeleine. "And
what is worse, he likes it."

Schilsky listened to the babble of compliments with that mixture of
boyish deference and unequivocal superiority, which made him so
attractive to women. He was too good-natured to interrupt them and free
himself, and would have stood as long as they liked, if Furst had not
come to the rescue and led him to the piano. Schilsky laid his hand
affectionately on Krafft's shoulder, and Krafft sprang up in
exaggerated surprise. The audience took its seats again; the thick
manuscript-score was set up on the music-rack, and the three young men
at the piano had a brief disagreement with one another about turning
the leaves: Krafft was bent on doing it, and Schilsky objected, for
Krafft had a way of forgetting what he was at in the middle of a page.
Krafft flushed, cast an angry look at his friend, and withdrew, in high
dudgeon, to a corner.

Standing beside the piano, so turned to those about him that the two on
the sofa in the next room only saw him sideways, and ill at that,
Schilsky gave a short description of his work. He was nervous, which
aggravated his lisp, and he spoke so rapidly and in such a low voice
that no one but those immediately in front of him, could understand
what he said. But it did not matter in the least; all present had come
only to hear the music; they knew and cared nothing about Zarathustra
and his spiritual development; and one and all waited impatiently for
Schilsky to stop speaking. The listeners in the bedroom----merely
caught disjointed words--WERDEGANG, NOTSCHREI, TARANTELN--but not one
was curious enough even to lean forward in his seat. Madeleine made
sarcastic inward comments on the behaviour of the party.

"It's perfectly clear to you, I suppose," she could not refrain from
observing as, at the finish, Dove sagely wagged his head in agreement.

It transpired that there was an ode to be sung before the last section
of the composition, and a debate ensued who, should sing it. The two
ladies in the front had quite a little quarrel--without knowing
anything about the song--as to which of their voices would best suit
it. Schilsky was silent for a moment, tapping his fingers, then said
suddenly: "Come on, Heinz," and looked at Krafft. But the latter, who
was standing morose, with folded arms, did not move. He had a dozen
reasons why he should not sing; he had a cold, was hoarse, was out of
practice, could not read the music from sight.

"Good Heavens, what a fool Heinz is making of himself tonight!" said
Madeleine.

But Schilsky thumped his fist on the lid, and said, if Krafft did not
sing it, no one should; and that was the end of the matter. Krafft was
pulled to the piano.

Schilsky took his seat, and, losing his nervousness as soon as he
touched the keys, preluded firmly and easily, with his large, white
hands. Now, every one leaned forward to see him better; especially the
ladies threw themselves into positions from which they could watch hair
and hands, and the slender, swaying figure.

"Isn't he divine?" said the bold-eyed girl on the bed, in a loud
whisper, and hung upon her companion's neck in an ecstatic attitude.

After the diversity of noises which had hitherto interfered with his
thinking connectedly, Maurice welcomed the continuous sound of the
music, which went on without a break. He sat in a listening attitude,
shading his eyes with his hand. Through his fingers, he surreptitiously
watched the player. He had never before had an opportunity of observing
Schilsky so closely, and, with a kind of blatant generosity, he now
pointed out to himself each physical detail that he found prepossessing
in the other, every feature that was likely to attract--in the next
breath, only to struggle with his honest opinion that the composer was
a slippery, loose-jointed, caddish fellow, who could never be proved to
be worthy of Louise. But he was too down-hearted at what he had learnt
in the course of the evening, to rise to any active feeling of dislike.

Intermittently he heard, in spite of himself, something of Schilsky's
music; but he was not in a frame of mind to understand or to retain any
impression of it. He was more effectively jerked out of his
preoccupation by single spoken words, which, from time to time, struck
his ear: this was Furst, who, in the absence of a programme, announced
from his seat beside Schilsky, the headings of the different sections
of the work: WERDEGANG; SEILTANZER--here Maurice saw Dove conducting
with head and hand--NOTSCHREI; SCHWERMUT; TARANTELN--and here again,
but vaguely, as if at a distance, he heard suppressed laughter. But he
was thoroughly roused when Krafft, picking up a sheet of music and
coming round to the front of the piano, began to sing DAS TRUNKENE
LIED. By way of introduction, the low F in the bass of F minor sounded
persistently, at syncopated intervals; Schilsky inclined his head, and
Krafft sang, in his sweet, flute-like voice:

  Oh, Mensch! Gieb Acht!
  Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht?
  "Ich schlief, ich schlief,
  Aus tiefem Schlaf bin ich erwacht:
  Die Welt ist tief,
  Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht."

--the last phrase of which was repeated by the accompaniment, a
semitone higher.


  Tief ist ihr Weh,
  Lust--tiefer noch als Herzeleid:


As far as this, the voice had been supported by simple, full-sounding
harmonies. Now, from out the depths, still of F minor, rose a
hesitating theme, which seemed to grope its way: in imagination, one
heard it given out by the bass strings; then the violas reiterated it,
and dyed it purple; voice and violins sang it together; the high little
flutes carried it up and beyond, out of reach, to a half close.


  Weh spricht: vergeh!


Suddenly and unexpectedly, there entered a light yet mournful phrase in
F major, which was almost a dance-rhythm, and seemed to be a small,
frail pleading for something not rightly understood.


  Doch alle Lust will Ewigkeit,
  Will tiefe, tiefe Ewigkeit.


The innocent little theme passed away, and the words were sung again to
a stern and fateful close in D flat major.

The concluding section of the work returned to these motives, developed
them, gathered them together, grouped them and interchanged them, in
complicated thermatic counterpoint. Schilsky was barely able to cope
with the difficulties of the score; he exerted himself desperately,
laboured with his head and his whole body, and surmounted sheerly
unplayable parts with the genial slitheriness that is the privilege of
composers.

When, at last, he crashed to a close and wiped his face in exhaustion,
there was a deafening uproar of applause. Loud cries were uttered and
exclamations of enthusiasm; people rose from their seats and crowded
round the piano to congratulate the player. Mrs. Lautenschlager could
not desist from kissing his hand. A tall, thin Russian girl in
spectacles, who had assiduously taken notes throughout, asked in a loud
voice, and her peculiar, hoppy German, for information about the
orchestration. What use had he made of the cymbals? She trusted a
purely Wagnerian one. Schilsky hastened to reopen the score, and sat
himself to answer the question earnestly and at length.

"Come, Maurice, let us go," said Madeleine, rising and shaking the
creases from her skirt. "There will be congratulations enough. He won't
miss ours."

Maurice had had an idea of lingering till everybody else had gone, on
the chance of picking up fresh facts. But he was never good at excuses.
So they slipped out into the passage, followed by Dove; but while the
latter was looking for his hat, Madeleine pulled Maurice down the
stairs.

"Quick, let us go!" she whispered; and, as they heard him coming after
them, she drew her companion down still further, to the cellar flight,
where they remained hidden until Dove had passed them, and his steps
had died away in the street.

"We should have had nothing but his impressions and opinions all the
way home," she said, as they emerged. "He was bottled up from having to
keep quiet so long--I saw it in his face. And I couldn't stand it
to-night. I'm in a bad temper, as you may have observed--or perhaps you
haven't."

No, he had not noticed it.

"Well, you would have, if you hadn't been so taken up with yourself.
What on earth is the matter with you?"

He feigned surprise: and they walked in silence down one street and
into the next. Then she spoke again. "Do you know--but you're sure not
to know that either--you gave me a nasty turn to-night?"

"I?" His surprise was genuine this time.

"Yes, you--when I heard you say 'DU' to Heinz."

He looked at her in astonishment; but she was not in a hurry to
continue. They walked another street-length, and all she said was: "How
refreshing the air is after those stuffy rooms!"

As they turned a corner however, she made a fresh start.

"I think it's rather hard on me," she said, and laughed as she spoke.
"Here am I again, having to lecture you! The fact is, I suppose, one's
METIER clings to one, in spite of oneself. But there must be something
about you, too, Maurice Guest, that makes one want to do it--want to
look after you, so to speak--as if you couldn't be trusted to take care
of yourself. Well, it disturbed me to-night, to see how intimate you
and Heinz have got."

"Is that all? Why on earth should that trouble you? And anyhow," he
added, "the whole affair came about without any wish of mine."

"How?" she demanded; and when he had told her: "And since then?"

He went into detail, coolly, without the resentment he had previously
felt towards Krafft.

"And that's all?"

"Isn't it enough--for a fellow to go on in that way?"

"And you feel aggrieved?"

"No, not now. At first I was rather sore, though, for Heinz is an
interesting fellow, and we were very thick for a time."

"Yes, of course--until Schilsky comes back. As soon as he appears on
the scene, Master Heinz gives you the cold shoulder. Or perhaps you
didn't know that Heinz is the attendant spirit of that heaven-born
genius?"

Maurice did not reply, and when she spoke again, it was with renewed
seriousness. "Believe me, Maurice, he is no friend for you. It's not
only that you ought to be above letting yourself be treated in this
way, but Heinz's friendship won't do you any good. He belongs to a bad
set here--and Schilsky, too. If you were long with Heinz, you would be
bound to get drawn into it, and then it would be good-bye to anything
you might have done--to work and success. No, take my advice--it's
sincerely meant--and steer clear of Heinz."

Maurice smiled to himself at her womanly idea of Krafft leading him to
perdition. "But you're fond of him yourself, Madeleine," he said. "You
can't help liking him either."

"I daresay I can't. But that is quite a different matter--quite;" and
as if more than enough had now been said, she abruptly left the subject.

Before going home that night, Maurice made the old round by way of the
BRUDERSTRASSE, and stood and looked up at the closed windows behind
which Louise lived. The house was dark, and as still as was the
deserted street. Only the Venetian blinds seemed to be faintly alive;
the outer windows, removed for the summer, had not yet been replaced,
and a mild wind flapped the blinds, just as it swayed the tops of the
trees in the opposite garden. There was a breath of autumn in the air.
He told himself aloud, in the nightly silence, that she was going
away--as if by repeating the words, he might ultimately grow used to
their meaning. The best that could be hoped for was that she would not
go immediately, but would remain in Leipzig for a few weeks longer.
Then a new fear beset him. What if she never came back again?--if she
had left the place quietly, of set purpose?--if these windows were
closed for good and all? A dryness invaded his throat at the
possibility, and on the top of this evening of almost apathetic
resignation to the inevitable, the knowledge surged up in him that all
he asked was to be allowed to see her just once more. Afterwards, let
come what might. Once again, he must stand face to face with her--must
stamp a picture of her on his brain, to carry with him for ever.

For ever!--And through his feverish sleep ran, like a thread, the words
he had heard Krafft sing, of an eternity that was deep and dreamless, a
joy without beginning or end.



Madeleine had waved her umbrella at him. He crossed the road to where
she was standing in rain-cloak and galoshes. She wished to tell him
that the date of her playing in the ABENDUNTERHALTUNG had been
definitely fixed. About to go, she said:

"Louise is back--did you know?"

Of course he knew, though he did not tell her so--knew almost the exact
hour at which the blinds had been drawn up, the windows opened, and a
flower-pot, in a gaudy pink paper, put out on the sill.

Not many days after this, he came upon Louise herself. She was standing
talking, at a street-corner, to the shabby little Englishman, Eggis,
with whom she had walked the FOYER of the theatre. Maurice was about to
bow and pass by, but she smiled and held out her hand.

"You are back, too, then? To-day I am meeting all my friends."

She had fur about her neck, although the weather was not really cold,
and her face rose out of this setting like a flower from its cup.

This meeting, and the few cordial words she had spoken, helped him over
the days that followed. Sometimes, while he waited for the blow to
fall, his daily life grew very unimportant; things that had hitherto
interested him, now went past like shadows; he himself was a mere
automaton. But sometimes, too, and especially after he had seen Louise,
and touched her living hand, he wondered whether he were not perhaps
tormenting himself unnecessarily. Nothing more had come to light; no
one had hinted by a word at Schilsky's departure; it might yet prove to
be all a mistake.

Then, however, he received a postcard from Madeleine, saying that she
had something interesting to tell him. He went too early, and spent a
quarter of an hour pacing her room. When she entered, she threw him a
look, and, before she had finished taking off her wraps, said:

"Maurice, I have a piece of news for you. Schilsky is going away."

He nodded; his throat was dry.

"Why, you don't mean to say you knew?" she cried, and paused half-way
out of her jacket.

Maurice went to the window, and stood with his back to her. In one of
the houses opposite, at a window on the same level, a girl was
practising the violin; his eyes followed the mechanical movements of
the bow.

He cleared his throat. "Do you--Is it likely--I mean, do you think?----"

Madeleine understood him. "Yes, I do. Louise won't stay here a day
longer than he does; I'm sure of that."

But otherwise she knew no more than Maurice; and she did not offer to
detain him, when, a few minutes later, he alleged a pressing
appointment. Madeleine was annoyed, and showed it; she had come in with
the intention of being kind to him, of encouraging him, and discussing
the matter sympathetically, and it now turned out that not only had he
known it all the time, but had also kept it a secret from her. She did
not like underhand ways, especially in people whom she believed she
knew inside out.

Now that the pledge of secrecy had been removed from him, Maurice felt
that he wanted facts; and, without thinking more about it than if he
had been there the day before, he climbed the stairs that led to
Krafft's lodging.

He found him at supper; Avery was present, too, and on the table sat
Wotan, who was being regaled with strips of skin off the sausage.
Krafft greeted Maurice with a touch of his former effusiveness; for he
was in a talkative mood, and needed an audience. At his order, Avery
put an extra plate on the table, and Maurice had to share their meal.
It was not hard for him to lead Krafft round to the desired subject. It
seemed that one of the masters in the Conservatorium had expressed a
very unequivocal opinion of Schilsky's talents as a composer, and
Krafft was now sarcastic, now merry, at this critic's expense. Maurice
laid down his knife, and, in the first break, asked abruptly: "When
does he go?"

"Go?--who?" said Krafft indifferently, tickling Wotan's nose with a
piece of skin which he held out of reach.

"Who?--why, Schilsky, of course."

It sounded as if another than he had said the words: they were so short
and harsh. The plate Avery was holding fell to the floor. Krafft sat
back in his chair, and stared at Maurice, with a face that was all eyes.

"You knew he was going away?--or didn't you?" asked Maurice in a rough
voice. "Every one knows. The whole place knows."

Krafft laughed. "The whole place knows: every one knows," he repeated.
"Every one, yes--every one but me. Every one but me, who had most right
to know. Yes, I alone had the right; for no one has loved him as I
have."

He rose from the table, knocking over his chair. "Or else it is not
true?"

"Yes, it is true. Then you didn't know?" said Maurice, bewildered by
the outburst he had evoked.

"No, we didn't know." It was Avery who spoke. She was on her knees,
picking up the pieces of the plate with slow, methodical fingers.

Krafft stood hesitating. Then he went to the piano, opened it, adjusted
the seat, and made all preparations for playing. But with his fingers
ready on the keys, he changed his mind and, instead, laid his arms on
the folded rack and his head on his arms. He did not stir again, and a
long silence followed. The only sound that was to be heard came from
Wotan, who, sitting on his haunches on a corner of the table, washed
the white fur of his belly with an audible swish.



XIV.


Whistling to him to stop, Furst ran the length of a street-block after
Maurice, as the latter left the Conservatorium.

"I say, Guest," he said breathlessly, on catching up with him. "Look
here, I just wanted to tell you, you must be sure and join us to-night.
We are going to give Schilsky a jolly send-off."

They stood at the corner of the WACHTERSTRASSE; it was a blowy day.
Maurice replied evasively, with his eyes on the unbound volume of
Beethoven that Furst was carrying; its tattered edges moved in the wind.

"When does he go?" he asked, without any show of concern.

Furst looked warily round him, and dropped his voice. "Well, look here,
Guest, I don't mind telling you," he said; he was perspiring from his
run, and dried his neck and face. "I don't mind telling you; you won't
pass it on; for he has his reasons--family or domestic reasons, if one
may say so, tra-la-la!"--he winked, and nudged Maurice with his
elbow--"for not wanting it to get about. It's deuced hard on him that
it should have leaked out at all. I don't know how it happened; for I
was mum, 'pon my honour, I was."

"Yes. And when does he go?" repeated his hearer with the same want of
interest.

"To-morrow morning early, by the first train."

Now to be rid of him! But it was never easy to get away from Furst, and
since Maurice had declared his intention of continuing to take lessons
from him, as good as impossible. Furst was overpowering in his
friendliness, and on this particular occasion, there was no escape for
Maurice before he had promised to make one of the party that was to
meet that night, at a restaurant in the town. Then he bluffly alleged
an errand in the PLAGWITZERSTRASSE, and went off in an opposite
direction to that which his companion had to take.

As soon as Furst was out of sight, he turned into the path that led to
the woods. Overhead, the sky was a monotonous grey expanse, and a soft,
moist wind drove in gusts, before which, on the open meadow-land, he
bent his head. It was a wind that seemed heavy with unfallen rain; a
melancholy wind, as the day itself was melancholy, in its faded
colours, and cloying mildness. With his music under his arm, Maurice
walked to the shelter of the trees. Now that he had learnt the worst, a
kind of numbness came over him; he had felt so intensely in the course
of the past week that, now the crisis was there, he seemed destitute of
feeling.

His feet bore him mechanically to his favourite seat, and here he
remained, with his head in his hands, his eyes fixed on the trodden
gravel of the path. He had to learn, once and for all, that, by
tomorrow, everything would be over; for, notwithstanding the
wretchedness of the past days, he was as far off as ever from
understanding. But he was loath to begin; he sat in a kind of torpor,
conscious only of the objects his eyes rested on: some children had
built a make-believe house of pebbles, with a path leading up to the
doorway, and at this he gazed, estimating the crude architectural ideas
that had occurred to the childish builders. He felt the wind in his
hair, and listened to the soothing noise it made, high above his head.
But gradually overcoming this physical dullness, his mind began to work
again. With a sudden vividness, he saw himself as he had walked these
very woods, seven months before; he remembered the brilliant colouring
of the April day, and the abundance of energy that had possessed him.
Then, on looking into the future, all his thoughts had been of
strenuous endeavour and success. Now, success was a word like any
other, and left him cold.

For a long time, in place of passing on to his real preoccupation, he
considered this, brooding over the change that had come about in him.
Was it, he asked himself, because he had so little whole-hearted
endurance, that when once a thing was within his grasp, that grasp
slackened? Was it that he was able to make the effort required for a
leap, then, the leap over, could not right himself again? He believed
that the slackening interest, the inability to fix his attention, which
he had had to fight against of late, must have some such deeper
significance; for his whole nature--the inherited common sense of
generations--rebelled against tracing it back to the day on which he
had seen a certain face for the first time. It was too absurd to be
credible that because a slender, dark-eyed girl had suddenly come
within his range of vision, his life should thus lose form and
purpose--incredible and unnatural as well--and, in his present mood, he
would have laughed at the suggestion that this was love. To his mind,
love was something frank and beautiful, made for daylight and the sun;
whereas his condition was a source of mortification to him. To love,
without any possible hope of return; to love, knowing that the person
you loved regarded you with less than indifference, and, what was
worse, that this person was passionately attached to another man--no,
there was something indelicate about it, at which his blood revolted.
It was the kind of thing that it suited poets to make tragedies of, but
it did not--should not--happen in sober, daily life. And if, as it
seemed in this case, it was beyond mortal's power to prevent it, then
the only fitting thing to do was promptly to make an end. And because,
over the approach of this end, he suffered, he now called himself hard
names. What had he expected? Had he really believed that matters could
always dally on, in this pleasant, torturous way? Would he always have
been content to be third party, and miserable outsider? No; the best
that could happen to him was now happening; let the coming day once be
past, let a very few weeks have run their course, and the parting would
have lost its sting; he would be able to look back, regretfully no
doubt, but as on something done with, irrecoverable. Then he would
apply himself to his work with all his heart; and it would be possible
to think of her, and remember her, calmly. If once an end were put to
these daily chances of seeing her, which perpetually fanned his unrest,
all would go well.

And yet ... did he close his eyes and let her face rise up before
him--her sweet, white face, with the unfathomable eyes, and pale,
sensuous mouth--he was shaken by an emotion that knocked his
resolutions as flat as a breath knocks a house of cards. It was not
love, nor anything to do with love, this he could have sworn to: it was
merely the strange physical effect her presence, or the remembrance of
her presence, had had upon him, from the first day on: a tightening of
all centres, a heightening of all faculties, an intense hope, and as
intense a despair. And in this moment, he confessed to himself that he
would have been over-happy to live on just as he had been doing, if
only sometimes he might see her. He needed her, as he had never felt
the need of anyone before; his nature clamoured for her, imperiously,
as it clamoured for light and air. He had no concern with anyone but
her--her only--and he could not let her go. It was not love; it was a
bodily weakness, a pitiable infirmity: he even felt it degrading that
another person should be able to exercise such an influence over him,
that there should be a part of himself over which he had no control.
Not to see her, not to be able to gather fresh strength from each
chance meeting, meant that the grip life had of him would relax--he
grew sick even at the thought of how, in some unknown place, in the
midst of strangers, she would go on living, and giving her hand and her
smile to other people, while he would never see her again. And he said
her name aloud to himself, as if he were in bodily pain, or as if the
sound of it might somehow bring him aid: he inwardly implored whatever
fate was above him to give him the one small chance he asked--the
chance of fair play.

The morning passed, without his knowing it. When, considerably after
his usual dinner-hour, he was back in his room, he looked at familiar
objects with unseeing eyes. He was not conscious of hunger, but going
into the kitchen begged for a cup of the coffee that could be smelt
brewing on Frau Krause's stove. When he had drunk this, a veil seemed
to lift from his brain; he opened and read a letter from home, and was
pricked by compunction at the thought that, except for a few scales run
hastily that morning, he had done no work. But while he still stood,
with his arm on the lid of the piano, an exclamation rose to his lips;
and taking up his hat, he went down the stairs again, and out into the
street. What was he thinking of? If he wished to see Louise once more,
his place was under her windows, or in those streets she would be
likely to pass through.

He walked up and down before the house in the BRUDERSTRASSE, sometimes
including a side street, in order to avoid making himself conspicuous;
putting on a hurried air, if anyone looked curiously at him; lingering
for a quarter of an hour on end, in the shadow of a neighbouring
doorway. Gradually, yet too quickly, the grey afternoon wore to a
close. He had paced to and fro for an hour now, but not a trace of her
had he seen; nor did even a light burn in her room when darkness fell.
A fear lest she should have already gone away, beset him again, and got
the upper hand of him; and wild schemes flitted through his mind. He
would mount the stairs, and ring the door-bell, on some pretext or
other, to learn whether she was still there; and his foot was on the
lowest stair, when his courage failed him, and he turned back. But the
idea had taken root; he could not bear much longer the uncertainty he
was in; and so, towards seven o'clock, when he had hung about for three
hours, and there was still no sign of life in her room, he went boldly
up the broad, winding stair and rang the bell. When the door was
opened, he would find something to say.

The bell, which he had pulled hard, pealed through the house, jangled
on, and, in a series of after-tinkles, died away. There was no
immediate answering sound; the silence persisted, and having waited for
some time, he rang again. Then, in the distance, he heard a door creak;
soft, cautious footsteps crept along the passage; a light moved; the
glass window in the upper half of the door was opened, and a little old
woman peered out, holding a candle above her head. On seeing the pale
face close before her, she drew back, and made as if to shut the
window; for, as a result of poring over newspapers, she lived in
continual expectation of robbery and murder.

"She is not at home," she said with tremulous bravado, in answer to the
young man's question, and again was about to close the window. But
Maurice thrust in his hand, and she could not shut without crushing it.

"Then she is still here? Has she gone out? When will she be back?" he
queried.

"How should I know? And look here, young man, if you don't take away
your hand and leave the house at once, I shall call from the window for
a policeman."

He went slowly down the stairs and across the street, and took up anew
his position in the dark doorway--a proceeding which did not reassure
Fraulein Grunhut, who, regarding his inquiries as a feint, was watching
his movements from between the slats of a window-blind. But Maurice had
not stood again for more than a quarter of an hour, when a feeling of
nausea seized him, and this reminded him that he had practically eaten
nothing since the morning. If he meant to hold out, he must snatch a
bite of food somewhere; afterwards, he would return and wait, if he had
to wait all night.

In front of the PANORAMA on the ROSSPLATZ, he ran into the arms of
Furst, and the latter, when he heard where Maurice was going, had
nothing better to do than to accompany him, and drink a SCHNITT. Furst,
who was in capital spirits at the prospect of the evening, laughed
heartily, told witty anecdotes, and slapped his fat thigh, the type of
rubicund good-humour; and as he was not of an observant turn of mind,
he did not notice his companion's abstraction. Hardly troubling to
dissemble, Maurice paid scant attention to Furst's talk; he ate avidly,
and as soon as he had finished, pushed back his chair and called to the
waiter for his bill.

"I must go," he said, and rose. "I have something important to do this
evening, and can't join you."

Furst, cut short in the middle of a sentence, let his double chin fall
on his collar, and gazed open-mouthed at his companion.

"But I say, Guest, look here!..." Maurice heard him expostulate as the
outer door slammed behind him.

He made haste to retrace his steps. The wind had dropped; a fine rain
was beginning to fall; it promised to be a wet night, of empty streets
and glistening pavements. There was no visible change in the windows of
the BRUDERSTRASSE; they were as blankly dark as before. Turning up his
coat-collar, Maurice resumed his patrollings, but more languidly; he
was drowsy from having eaten, and the air was chill. A weakness
overcame him at the thought of the night-watch he had set himself; it
seemed impossible to endure the crawling past of still more hours. He
was tired to exhaustion, and a sudden, strong desire arose in him,
somehow, anyhow, to be taken out of himself, to have his thoughts
diverted into other channels. And this feeling grew upon him with such
force, the idea of remaining where he was, for another hour, became so
intolerable, that he forgot everything else, and turned and ran back
towards the PANORAMA, only afraid lest Furst should have gone without
him.

The latter was, in fact, just coming out of the door. He stared in
astonishment at Maurice.

"I've changed my mind," said Maurice, without apology. "Shall we go?
Where's the place?"

Furst mumbled something inaudible; he was grumpy at the other's
behaviour. Scanning him furtively, and noting his odd, excited manner,
he concluded that Maurice had been drinking.

They walked without speaking; Furst hummed to himself. In the
thick-sown, business thoroughfare, the BRUHL, they entered a dingy cafe
and while Furst chattered with the landlord and BUFFETDAME, with both
of whom he was on very friendly terms, Maurice went into the side-room,
where the KNEIPE was to be held, and sat down before a long, narrow
table, spread with a soiled red and blue-checked tablecloth. He felt
cold and sick again, and when the wan PICCOLO set a beer-mat before
him, he sent the lad to the devil for a cognac. The waiter came with
the liqueur-bottle; Maurice drank the contents of one and then another
of the tiny glasses. A genial warmth ran through him and his nausea
ceased. He leaned his head on his hands, closed his eyes, and, soothed
by the heat of the room, had a few moments' pleasant lapse of
consciousness.

He was roused by the entrance of a noisy party of three. These were
strangers to him, and when they had mentioned their names and learned
his, they sat down at the other end of the table and talked among
themselves. They were followed by a couple of men known to Maurice by
sight. One, an Italian, a stout, animated man, with prominent jet-black
eyes and huge white teeth, was a fellow-pupil of Schilsky's, and a
violinist of repute, notwithstanding the size and fleshiness of his
hands, which were out of all proportion to the delicate build of his
instrument. The other was a slender youth of fantastic appearance. He
wore a long, old-fashioned overcoat, which reached to his heels, and
was moulded to a shapely waist; on his fingers were numerous rings; his
bushy hair was scented and thickly curled, his face painted and
pencilled like a woman's. He did not sit down, but, returning to the
public room, leaned over the counter and talked to the BUFFETDAME, in a
tone which had nothing in common with Furst's hearty familiarity.

Next came a couple of Americans, loud, self-assertive, careless of
dress and convention; close behind them still another group, and at its
heels, Dove. The latter entered the room with an apologetic air, and on
sitting down at the head of the table, next Maurice, mentioned at once
that, at heart, he was not partial to this kind of thing, and was only
there because he believed the present to be an exceptional occasion:
who knew but what, in after years, he might not be proud to claim
having, made one of the party on this particular evening?--the plain
truth being that Schilsky was little popular with his own sex, and, in
consequence of the difficulty of beating up a round dozen of men, Furst
had been forced to be very pressing in his invitations, to have
recourse to bribes and promises, or, as in the case of Dove, to
stimulating the imagination. The majority of the guests present were
not particular who paid for their drink, provided they got it.

At Krafft's entry, a stifled laugh went round. To judge from his
appearance, he had not been in bed the previous night: sleep seemed to
hang on his red and sunken eyelids; his hands and face were dirty, and
when he took off his coat, which he had worn turned up at the neck, it
was seen that he had either lost or forgotten his collar. Shirt and
waistcoat were insufficiently buttoned. His walk was steady, but his
eyes had a glassy stare, and did not seem to see what they rested on. A
strong odour of brandy went out from him; but he had not been many
minutes in the room before a stronger and more penetrating smell made
itself felt. The rest of the company began to sniff and ejaculate, and
Furst, having tracked it to the corner where the overcoats hung, drew
out of one of Krafft's pockets a greasy newspaper parcel, evidently
some days old, containing bones, scraps of decaying meat, and rancid
fish. The PICCOLO, summoned by a general shout, was bade to dispose of
the garbage instantly, and to hang the coat in a draughty place to air.
Various epithets were hurled at Krafft, who, however, sat picking his
teeth with unconcern, as if what went on around him had nothing to do
with him.

They were now all collected but Schilsky, and much beer had been drunk.
Furst was in his usual state of agitation lest his friend should forget
to keep the appointment; and the spirits of those--there were several
such present--who suffered almost physical pain from seeing another
than themselves the centre of interest, went up by leaps and bounds.
But at this juncture, Schilsky's voice was heard in the next room. It
was raised and angry; it snarled at a waiter. Significant glances flew
round the table: for the young man's outbursts of temper were well
known to all. He entered, making no response to the greetings that were
offered him, displaying his anger with genial indifference to what
others thought of him. To the PICCOLO he tossed coat and hat, and swore
at the boy for not catching them. Then he let his loose-limbed body
down on the vacant chair, and drank off the glass of PILSENER that was
set before him.

There was a pause of embarrassment. The next moment, however, several
men spoke at once: Furst continued a story he was telling, some one
else capped it, and the mirth these anecdotes provoked was more than
ordinarily uproarious. Schilsky sat silent, letting his sullen mouth
hang, and tapping the table with his fingers. Meanwhile, he emptied one
glass of beer after another. The PICCOLO could hardly cope with the
demands that were made on him, and staggered about, top-heavy, with his
load of glasses.

But it was impossible to let the evening pass as flatly as this;
besides, as the general hilarity increased, it made those present less
sensitive to the mood of the guest of honour. Furst was a born speaker,
and his heart was full. So, presently, he rose to his feet, struck his
glass, and, in spite of Schilsky's deepening scowl, held a flowery
speech about his departing friend. The only answer Schilsky gave was a
muttered request to cease making an idiot of himself.

This was going rather too far; but no one protested, except Ford, the
pianist, who said in English: "Speesch? Call that a speesch?"

Furst, inclined in the first moment of rebuff to be touchy, allowed his
natural goodness of heart to prevail. He leaned forward, and said, not
without pathos: "Old man, we are all your friends here. Something's the
matter. Tell us what it is."

Before Schilsky could reply, Krafft awakened from his apparent stupor
to say with extreme distinctness: "I'll tell you. There's been the
devil to pay."

"Now, chuck it, Krafft!" cried one or two, not without alarm at the
turn things might take.

But Schilsky, whose anger had begun to subside under the influence of
the two litres he had drunk, said slowly and thickly: "Let him be. What
he says is the truth--gospel truth."

"Oh, say, that's to' bad!" cried one of the Americans--a lean man, with
the mouth and chin of a Methodist.

All kept silence now, in the hope that Schilsky would continue. As he
did not, but sat brooding, Furst, in his role of peacemaker, clapped
him on the back. "Well, forget it for to-night, old man! What does it
matter? To-morrow you'll be miles away."

This struck a reminiscence in Ford, who forthwith tried to sing:

  I'm off by the morning train,
  Across the raging main----


"That's easily said!" Schilsky threw a dark look round the table. "By
those who haven't been through it. I have. And I'd rather have lost a
hand."

Krafft laughed--that is to say, a cackle of laughter issued from his
mouth, while his glazed eyes stared idiotically. "He shall tell us
about it. Waiter, a round of SCHNAPS!"

"Shut up, Krafft!" said Furst uneasily.

"Damn you, Heinz!" cried Schilsky, striking the table. He swallowed his
brandy at a gulp, and held out the glass to be refilled. His anger fell
still more; he began to commiserate himself. "By Hell, I wish a plague
would sweep every woman off the earth!"

"The deuce, why don't you keep clear of them?"

Schilsky laughed, without raising his heavy eyes. "If they'd only give
one the chance. Damn them all!--old and young----I say. If it weren't
for them, a man could lead a quiet life."

"It'll all come out in the wash," consoled the American.

Maurice heard everything that passed, distinctly; but the words seemed
to be bandied at an immeasurable distance from him. He remained quite
undisturbed, and would have felt like a god looking on at the doings of
an infinitesimal world, had it not been for a wheel which revolved in
his head, and hindered him from thinking connectedly. So far, drinking
had brought him no pleasure; and he had sense enough to find the
proximity of Ford disagreeable; for the latter spilt half the liquor he
tried to swallow over himself, and half over his neighbour.

A fresh imprecation of Schilsky's called forth more laughter. On its
subsidence, Krafft awoke to his surroundings again. "What has the old
woman given you?" he asked, with his strange precision of speech and
his drunken eyes.

Schilsky struck the table with his fist. "Look at him!--shamming drunk,
the bitch!" he cried.

"Never mind him; he don't count. How much did she give you?"

"Oh, gee, go on!"

But Schilsky, turned sullen again, refused to answer.

"Out with it then, Krafft!--you know, you scoundrel, you!"

Krafft put his hand to the side of his mouth. "She gave him three
thousand marks."

On all sides the exclamations flew.

"Oh, gee-henna!"

"Golly for her!"

"DREI TAUSEND MARK!--ALLE EHRE!"

Again Krafft leaned forward with a maudlin laugh.

"JAWOHL--but on what condition?"

"Heinz, you ferret out things like a pig's snout," said Furst with an
exaggerated, tipsy disgust.

"What, the old louse made conditions, did she?"

"Is she jealous?"

There was another roar at this. Schilsky looked as black as thunder.

Again Furst strove to intercede. "Jealous?--in seven devils' name, why
jealous? The old scarecrow! She hasn't an ounce of flesh to her bones."

Schilsky laughed. "Much you know about it, you fool! Flesh or no flesh,
she's as troublesome as the plumpest. I wouldn't go through the last
month again for all you could offer me. Month?--no, nor the last six
months either! It's been a hell of a life. Three of 'em, whole damned
three, at my heels, and each ready to tear the others' eyes out."

"Three! Hullo!"

"Three? Bah!--what's three?" sneered the painted youth.

Schilsky turned on him. "What's three? Go and try it, if you want to
know, you pap-sodden suckling! Three, I said, and they've ended by
making the place too hot to hold me. But I'm done now. No more for
me!--if my name's what it is."

Having once broken through his reserve, he talked on, with heated
fluency; and the longer he spoke, the more he was carried away by his
grievances. For, all he had asked for, he assured his hearers, had been
peace and quiet--the peace necessary to important work. "Jesus and
Mary! Are a fellow's chief obligations not his obligations to himself?"
At the same time, it was not his intention to put any of the blame on
Lulu's shoulders: she couldn't help herself. "Lulu is Lulu. I'm damned
fond of Lulu, boys, and I've always done my best by her--is there
anyone here who wants to say I haven't?"

There was none; a chorus of sympathetic ayes went up from the party
that was drinking at his expense.

Mollified, he proceeded, asserting vehemently that he would have gone
miles out of his way to avoid causing Lulu pain. "I'm a soft-hearted
fool--I admit it!--where a woman is concerned." But he had yielded to
her often enough--too often--as it was; the time had come for him to
make a stand. Let those present remember what he had sacrificed only
that summer for Lulu's sake. Would anyone else have done as much for
his girl? He made bold to doubt it. For a man like Zeppelin to come to
him, and to declare, with tears in his eyes, that he could teach him no
more--could he afford to treat a matter like that with indifference?
Had he really been free to make a choice?

Again he looked round the table with emphasis, and those who had their
muscles sufficiently under control, hastened to lay their faces in
seemly folds.

Then, however, Schilsky's mood changed; he struck the table so that the
glasses danced. "And shall I tell you what my reward has been for not
going? Do you want to know how Lulu has treated me for staying on here?
'You are a quarter of an hour late: where have you been? You've only
written two bars since I saw you this morning: what have you been
doing? A letter has come in a strange writing: who is it from? You've
put on another tie: who have you been to see?' HIMMELSAKRAMENT!" He
drained his glass. "I've had the life of a dog, I tell you--of a dog!
There's not been a moment in the day when she hasn't spied on me, and
followed me, and made me ridiculous. Over every trifle she has got up a
fresh scene. She's even gone so far as to come to my room and search my
pockets, when she knew I wasn't at home."

"Yes, yes," sneered Krafft. "Exactly! And so, gentlemen he was now for
slinking off without a word to her."

"Oh, PFUI!" spat the American.

"Call him a liar!" said a voice.

"Liar?" repeated Schilsky dramatically. "Why liar? I don't deny it. I
would have done it gladly if I could--isn't that just what I've been
saying? Lulu would have got over it all the quicker alone. And then,
why shouldn't I confess it? You're all my friends here." He dropped his
voice. "I'm afraid of Lulu, boys. I was afraid she'd get round me, and
then my chance was gone. She might have shot me, but she wouldn't have
let me go. You never know how a woman of that type'll break out--never!"

"But she didn't!" said Krafft. "You live."

Schilsky understood him.

"Some brute," he cried savagely, "some dirty brute had nothing better
to do than to tell her."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the painted boy.

Furst blew his nose. "It wasn't me. I was mum. 'Pon my honour, I was."

"My God!" said Schilsky, and fell to remembering it. "What a time I've
been through with her this afternoon!" He threatened to be overcome by
the recollection, and supported his head on his hands. "A woman has no
gratitude," he murmured, and drew his handkerchief from his pocket. "It
is a weak, childish sex--with no inkling of higher things." Here,
however, he suddenly drew himself up. "Life is very hard!" he cried, in
a loud voice. "The perpetual struggle between duty and inclination for
a man of genius ...!"

He grew franker, and gave gratuitous details of the scene that had
taken place in his room that afternoon. Most of those present were in
ecstasies at this divulging of his private life, which went forward to
the accompaniment of snores from Ford, and the voice of Dove, who, with
portentous gravity, sang over and over again, the first strophe of THE
LAST ROSE OF SUMMER.

"A fury!" said Schilsky. "A ... a what do you call it?--a ... Meg ... a
Meg--" He gave it up and went on: "By God, but Lulu knows how! Keep
clear of her nails, boys--I'd advise you!" At this point, he pulled
back his collar, and exhibited a long, dark scratch on the side of his
neck. "A little remembrance she gave me to take away with me!" While he
displayed it, he seemed to be rather proud of it; but immediately
afterwards, his mood veered round again to one of bitter resentment. To
illustrate the injustice she had been guilty of, and his own
long-suffering, he related, at length, the story of his flirtation with
Ephie, and the infinite pains he had been at to keep Louise in
ignorance of what was happening. He grew very tender with himself as he
told it. For, according to him, the whole affair had come about without
any assistance of his. "What the deuce was I to do? Chucked herself
full at my head, did the little one. No invitation necessary--a ripe
plum, boys! Touch the plum--and off it tumbles! As pretty a little
thing, too, as ever was made! Had everything arranged by the second
meeting. Papa to set us up; house in New York; money IN HULLE UND
FULLE!"

At the mention of New York, the lean American looked grave. "Look here,
you, don't think you're the whole shoot because you've got a wave in
your hair!" he murmured in English.

But Schilsky did not hear him; his voice droned on, giving the full
particulars of this particular case. He grew momentarily opener.

"One no sooner out of the door than the other was in," he asserted, and
laughed long to himself.

For some time past, Maurice had been possessed by the idea that what
was happening concerned him very nearly, and that he ought to interfere
and put his foot down. His hands had grown cold, and he sat vainly
trying to speak: nothing, however, came, but little drunken gulps and
hiccups. But the first mention of Ephie's name seemed to put new
strength into him; he made a violent effort, and rose to his feet,
holding on to the table with both hands. He could not, however, manage
to attract attention; no one took any notice of him; and besides this,
he had himself no notion what it was that he really wanted to say.

"And drowns his sorrows in the convivial glass!" he suddenly shouted in
English, at the top of his voice, which he had found. He had a vague
belief that he was quoting a well-known line of poetry, and, though he
did not in the least understand how it applied to the situation, he
continued to repeat it, with varying shades of fervour, till some one
called out: "Oh, stop your blasted rot!"

He laughed hoarsely at this, could not check himself, and was so
exhausted when he had finished that it took him some time to remember
why he was on his feet. Schilsky was still relating: his face was
darkly red, his voice husky, and he flapped his arms with meaningless
gestures. A passionate rebellion, a kind of primitive hatred, gripped
Maurice, and when Schilsky paused for breath, he could contain himself
no longer. He felt the burning need of contradicting the speaker, even
though he could not catch the drift of what was said.

"It's a lie!" he cried fiercely, with such emphasis that every face was
turned to him. "A damned lie!"

"A lie? What the devil do you mean?" responded not one but many
voices--the whole table seemed to be asking him, with the exception of
Dove, who sang on in an ever decreasing tempo.

"Get out!--Let him alone; he's drunk. He doesn't know what he's
saying--He's got rats in his head!" he heard voices asserting.
Forthwith he began a lengthy defence of himself, broken only by gaps in
which his brain refused to work. Conscious that no one was listening to
him, he bawled more and more loudly.

"Oh, quit it, you double-barrelled ass!" said the American.

Schilsky, persuaded by those next him to let the incident pass
unnoticed, contented himself with a: "VERFLUCHTE SCHWEINEREI!" spat,
after Furst's gurgled account of Maurice's previous insobriety, across
the floor behind him, to express his contempt, and proceeded as
dominatingly as before with the narration of his love-affairs.

The blood rushed to Maurice's head at the sound of this voice which he
could neither curb nor understand. Rage mastered him--a vehement desire
to be quits. He kicked back his chair, and rocked to and fro.

"It's a lie--a dirty lie!" he cried. "You make her unhappy--God, how
unhappy you make her! You illtreat her. You've never given her a day's
happiness. S ... said so ... herself. I heard her ... I swear ... I----"

His voice turned to a whine; his words came thick and incoherent.

Schilsky sprang to his feet and aimed the contents of a half-emptied
glass at Maurice's face. "Take that, you blasted spy!--you Englishman!"
he spluttered. "I'll teach you to mix your dirty self in my affairs!"

Every one jumped up; there was noise and confusion; simultaneously two
waiters entered the room, as if they had not been unprepared for
something of this kind. Furst and another man restrained Schilsky by
the arms, reasoning with him with more force than coherence. Maurice,
the beer dripping from chin, collar and shirt-front, struggled
furiously with some one who held him back.

"Let me get at him--let me get at him!" he cried. "I'll teach him to
treat a woman as he does. The sneak--the cur--the filthy cad! He's not
fit to touch her hand--her beautiful hand--her beau ... ti ... ful----"
Here, overpowered by his feelings, as much as by superior strength, he
sank on a chair and wept.

"I'll break his bones!" raved Schilsky. "What the hell does he mean by
it?--the INFAME SCHUFT, the AAS, the dirty ENGLANDER! Thinks he'll
sneak after her himself, does he?--What in Jesus' name is it to him how
I treat her? I'll take a stick to her if I like--it's none of his
blasted business! Look here, do you see that?" He freed one hand,
fumbled in his pocket, and, almost inarticulate with rage and liquor,
brandished a key across the table. "Do you see that? That's a key,
isn't it, you drunken hog? Well, with that key, I can let myself into
Lulu's room at any hour I want to; I can go there now, this very
minute, if I like--do you think she'll turn me out, you infernal spy?
Turn me out?--she'd go down on her knees here before you all to get me
back to her!"

Unwilling to be involved in the brawl, the more sober of the party had
begun to seek out their hats and to slink away. A little group round
Schilsky blarneyed and expostulated. Why should the whole sport of the
evening be spoilt in this fashion? What did it matter what the damned
cranky Englishman said? Let him be left to his swilling. They would
clear out, and wind up the night at the BAUER; and at four, when that
shut, they would go on to the BAYRISCHE BAHNHOF, where they could not
only get coffee, but could also see Schilsky off by a train soon after
five. These persuasions prevailed, and, still swearing, and
threatening, and promising, by all that was holy, to bring Lulu there,
by the hair of her head if necessary, to show whether or no he had the
power over her he boasted of, Schilsky finally allowed himself to be
dragged off, and those who were left lurched out in his wake.

With their exit an abrupt silence fell, and Maurice sank into a heavy
sleep, in which he saw flowery meadows and heard a gently trickling
brook....

"Now then, up with you!--get along!" some one was shouting in his ear,
and, bit by bit, a pasty-faced waiter entered his field of view. "It's
past time, anyhow," and yawning loudly, the waiter turned out all the
gas-jets but one. "Don't yer hear? Up with you! You'll have to look
after the other--now, damn me, if there isn't another of you as well!"
and, from under the table, he drew out a recumbent body.

Maurice then saw that he was still in the company of Dove, who sat
staring into space--like a dead man. Krafft, propped on a chair, hung
his head far back, and the collarless shirt exposed the whole of his
white throat.

The waiter hustled them about. Maurice was comparatively steady on his
legs; and it was found that Dove could walk. But over Krafft, the man
scratched his head and called a comrade. At the mention of a droschke,
however, Maurice all but wept anew with ire and emotion: this was his
dearest friend, the friend of his bosom; he was ready at any time to
stake his life for him, and now he was not to be allowed even to see
him home.

A difficulty arose about Maurice's hat: he was convinced that the one
the waiter jammed so rudely on his head did not belong to him; and it
seemed as if nothing in the world had ever mattered so much to him as
now getting back his own hat. But he had not sufficient fluency to
explain all he meant; before he had finished, the man lost patience;
and suddenly, without any transition, the three of them were in the
street. The raw night air gave them a shock; they gasped and choked a
little. Then the wall of a house rose appositely and met them. They
leaned against it, and Maurice threw the hat from him and trampled on
it, chuckling at the idea that he was revenging himself on the waiter.

It was a journey of difficulties; not only was he unclear what locality
they were in, but innumerable lifeless things confronted them and
formed obstacles to their progress; they had to charge an
advertisement-column two or three times before they could get round it.
Maurice grew excessively angry, especially with Dove. For while Heinz
let himself be lugged this way and that, Dove, grown loud and wilful,
had ideas of his own, and, in addition to this, sang the whole time
with drunken gravity:

  Sez the ragman, to the bagman,
  I'll do yees no harm.


"Stop it, you oaf!" cried Maurice, goaded to desperation. "You beastly,
blathering, drunken idiot!"

Then, for a street-length, he himself lapsed into semi-consciousness,
and when he wakened, Dove was gone. He chuckled anew at the thought
that somehow or other they had managed to outwit him.

His intention had been to make for home, but the door before which they
ultimately found themselves was Krafft's. Maurice propped his companion
against the wall, and searched his own pockets for a key. When he had
found one, he could not find the door, and when this was secured, the
key would not fit. The perspiration stood out on his forehead; he tried
again and again, thought the keyhole was dodging him, and asserted the
fact so violently that a window in the first storey was opened and a
head thrust out.

"What in the name of Heaven are you doing down there?" it cried. "You
drunken SCHWEIN, can't you see the door's open?"

In the sitting-room, both fell heavily over a chair; after that, with
infinite labour, he got Heinz on the sofa. He did not attempt to make a
light; enough came in from a street-lamp for him to see what he was
doing.

Lying on his face, Krafft groaned a little, and Maurice suddenly
grasped that he was taken ill. Heinz was ill, Heinz, his best friend,
and he was doing nothing to help him! Shedding tears, he poured out a
glass of water. He believed he was putting the carafe safely back on
the table, but it dropped with a crash to the floor. He was afraid Frau
Schulz would come in, and said in a loud voice: "It's that fellow
there, he's dead drunk, beastly drunk!" Krafft would not drink the
water, and in the attempt to force him, it was spilled over him. He
stirred uneasily, put up his arms and dragged Maurice down, so that the
latter fell on his knees beside the sofa. He made a few ineffectual
efforts to free himself; but one arm held him like a vice; and in this
uncomfortable position, he went to sleep.



Part II



  O viva morte, e dilettoso male!

PETRARCH.



I.


The following morning, towards twelve o'clock, a note from Madeleine
was handed to Maurice. In it, she begged him to account to Schwarz for
her absence from the rehearsal of a trio, which was to have taken place
at two.

GO AND EXPLAIN THAT IT IS QUITE IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME TO COME, she wrote.
LOUISE IS VERY ILL; THE DOCTOR IS AFRAID OF BRAIN FEVER. I AM RUSHING,
OFF THIS MOMENT TO SEE ABOUT A NURSE--AND SHALL STAY TILL ONE COMES.

He read the words mechanically, without taking in their meaning. From
the paper, his eyes roved round the room; he saw the tumbled, unopened
bed, from which he had just risen, the traces of his boots on the
coverings. He could not remember how he had come there; his last
recollection was of being turned out of Krafft's room, in what seemed
to be still the middle of the night. Since getting home, he must have
slept a dead sleep.

"Ill? Brain fever?" he repeated to himself, and his mind strove to
pierce the significance of the words. What had happened? Why should she
be ill? A racking uneasiness seized him and would not let him rest. His
inclination was to lay his aching head on the pillow again; but this
was out of the question; and so, though he seldom braved Frau Krause,
he now boldly went to her with a request to warm up his coffee.

When he had drunk it, and bathed his head, he felt considerably better.
But he still could not call to mind what had occurred. The previous
evening was blurred in its details; he only had a sense of oppression
when he thought of it, as of something that had threatened, and still
did. He was glad to have a definite task before him, and went out at
once, in order to catch Schwarz before he left the Conservatorium; but
it was too late; the master's door was locked. It was a bright, cold
day with strong sunlight; Maurice's eyes ached, and he shrank from the
wind at every corner. Instead of going home, he went to Madeleine's
room and sat down to wait for her. She had evidently been away since
early morning; the piano was dusty and unopened; the blind at the head
of it had not been drawn up. It was a pleasant dusk; he put his arms on
the table, his head on his arms, and, in spite of his anxiety, fell
into a sound sleep.

He was wakened by Madeleine's entrance. It was three o'clock. She came
bustling in, took off her hat, laid it on the piano, and at once drew
up the blind. She was not surprised to find him there, but exclaimed at
his appearance.

"Good gracious, Maurice, how dreadful you look! Are you ill?"

He hastened to reassure her, and she was a little put out at her wasted
sympathy.

"Well, no wonder, I'm sure, after the doings there were last night. A
pretty way to behave! And that you should have mixed yourself up in it
as you did!--I wouldn't have believed it of you. How I know? My dear
boy, it's the talk of the place."

Her words called up to him a more lucid remembrance of the past evening
than he had yet been capable of. In his eagerness to recollect
everything, he changed colour and looked away. Madeleine put his
confusion down to another cause.

"Never mind, it's over now, and we won't say any more about it. Sit
still, and I'll make you some tea. That will do your head good--for you
have a splitting headache, haven't you? I shall be glad of some myself,
too, after all the running about I've had this morning. I'm quite worn
out."

When she heard that he had had no dinner, she sent for bread and
sausage, and was so busy and unsettled that only when she sat down,
with her cup before her, did he get a chance to say: "What is it,
Madeleine? Is she very ill?"

Madeleine shrugged her shoulders. "Yes, she is ill enough. It's not
easy to say what the matter is, though. The doctor is to see her again
this evening. And I found a nurse."

"Then she is not going away?" He did not mean to say the words aloud;
they escaped him against his will.

His companion raised her eyebrows, filling her forehead with wrinkles.
"Going away?" she echoed. "I should say not. My dear Maurice, what is
more, it turns out she hadn't an idea he was going either. What do you
say to that?" She flushed with sincere indignation. "Not an idea--until
yesterday. My lord had the intention of sneaking off without a word,
and of leaving her to find it out for herself. Oh, it's an abominable
affair altogether!--and has been from beginning to end. There's much
about Louise, as you know, that I don't approve of, and I think she has
behaved weakly--not to call it by a harder name--all through. But now,
she has my entire sympathy. The poor girl is in a pitiable state."

"Is she ... dangerously ill?"

"Well, I don't think she'll die of it, exactly--though it might be
better for her if she did. NA!... let me fill up your cup. And eat
something more. Oh, he is ... no words are bad enough for him; though
honestly speaking, I think we might have been prepared for something of
this kind, all along. It seems he made his arrangements for going on
the quiet. Frau Schaefele advanced him the money; for of course he has
nothing of his own. But what condition do you think the old wretch
made? That he should break with Louise. Furst has told me all about it.
I went to him at once this morning. She was always jealous of
Louise--though to him she only talked of the holiness of art and the
artist's calling, and the danger of letting domestic ties entangle you,
and rubbish of that kind. I believe she was at the bottom of it that he
didn't marry Louise long ago. Well, however that may be, he now let
himself be persuaded easily enough. He was hearing on all sides that he
had been here too long; and candidly, I think he was beginning to feel
Louise a drag on him. I know of late they were not getting on well
together. But to be such a coward and a weakling! To slink off in this
fashion! Of course, when it came to the last, he was simply afraid of
her, and of the scene she would make him. Bravery has as little room in
his soul as honesty or manliness. He would always prefer a back-door
exit. Such things excite a man, don't you know?--and ruffle the
necessary artistic composure." She laughed scornfully. "However, I'm
glad to say, he didn't escape scot-free after all. Everything went well
till yesterday afternoon, when Louise, who was as unsuspecting as a
child, heard of it from some one--they say it was Krafft. Without
thinking twice--you know her ... or rather you don't--she went straight
to Schilsky and confronted him. I can't tell you what took place
between them, but I can imagine something of it, for when Louise lets
herself go, she knows no bounds, and this was a matter of life and
death to her."

Madeleine rose, blew out the flame of the spirit-lamp, and refilled the
teapot.

"Fraulein Grunhut, her landlady, heard her go out yesterday afternoon,
but didn't hear her come in, so it must have been late in the evening.
Louise hates to be pried on, and the old woman is lazy, so she didn't
go to her room till about half-past eight this morning, when she took
in the hot water. Then she found Louise stretched on the floor, just as
she had come in last night, her hat lying beside her. She was
conscious, and her eyes were open, but she was stiff and cold, and
wouldn't speak or move. Grunhut couldn't do anything with her, and was
mortally afraid. She sent for me; and between us we got her to bed, and
I went for a doctor. That was at nine, and I have been on my feet ever
since."

"It's awfully good of you."

"No, she won't die," continued Madeleine meditatively, stirring her
tea. "She's too robust a nature for that. But I shouldn't wonder if it
affected her mind. As I say, she knows no bounds, and has never learnt
self-restraint. It has always been all or nothing with her. And this I
must say: however foolish and wrong the whole thing was, she was
devoted to Schilsky, and sacrificed everything--work, money and
friends--to her infatuation. She lived only for him, and this is a
moral judgment on her. Excess of any kind brings its own punishment
with it."

She rose and smoothed her hair before the mirror.

"And now I really must get to work, and make up for the lost morning. I
haven't touched a note to-day. As for you, Maurice, if you take my
advice, you'll go home and go to bed. A good sleep is what you're
needing. Come to-morrow, if you like, for further news. I shall go back
after supper, and hear what the doctor says. Good-bye."

"Good-bye, Madeleine. You're a brick."

Having returned to his room, he lay face downwards on the sofa. He was
sick at heart. Viewed in the light of the story he had heard from
Madeleine, life seemed too unjust to be endured. It propounded riddles
no one could answer; the vast output of energy that composed it, was
misdirected; on every side was cruelty and suffering. Only the
heartless and selfish--those who deserved to suffer--went free.

He pressed the back of his hand to his tired eyes; and, despite her
good deeds, he felt a sudden antipathy to Madeleine, who, on a day like
this, could take up her ordinary occupation.

In the morning, on awakening from a heavy sleep, he was seized by a
fear lest Louise should have died in the night. Through brooding on it,
the fear became a certainty, and he went early to Madeleine, making a
detour through the BRUDERSTRASSE, where his suspicions were confirmed
by the lowered blinds. He had almost two hours to wait; it was eleven
o'clock before Madeleine returned. Her face was so grave that his heart
seemed to stop beating. But there was no change in the sick girl's
condition; the doctor was perplexed, and spoke of a consultation.
Madeleine was returning at two o'clock to relieve the nurse.

"You are foolishly letting it upset you altogether," she reproved
Maurice. "And it won't mend matters in the least. Go home and settle
down to work, like a sensible fellow."

He tried to follow Madeleine's advice. But it was of no use; when he
had struggled on for half an hour, he sprang up, realising how
monstrous it was that he should be sitting there, drilling his fingers,
getting the right notes of a turn, the specific shade of a crescendo,
when, not very far away, Louise perhaps lay dying. Again he felt keenly
the contrariness of life; and all the labour which those around him
were expending on the cult of hand and voice and car, seemed of a
ludicrous vanity compared with the grim little tragedy that touched him
so nearly; and in this mood he remained, throughout the days of
suspense that now ensued.

He went regularly every afternoon to Madeleine, and, if she were not at
home, waited till she returned, an hour, two hours, as the case might
be. This was the vital moment of the day--when he read her tidings from
her face.

At first they were always the same: there was no change. Fever did not
set in, but, day and night, Louise lay with wide, strained eyes; she
refused nourishment, and the strongest sleeping-draught had no effect.
Then, early one morning, for some trifling cause which, afterwards, no
one could recall, she broke into a convulsive fit of weeping, went on
till she was exhausted, and subsequently fell asleep.

On the day Maurice learnt that she was out of danger, he walked deep
into the woods. The news had lifted such a load from his mind that he
felt almost happy. But before he reached home again, his brain had
begun to work at matters which, during the period of anxiety, it had
left untouched. At first, in desperation, he had been selfless enough
to hope that Schilsky would return, on learning what had happened. Now,
however, that he had not done so, and Louise had passed safely through
the ordeal, Maurice was ready to tremble lest anything should occur to
soil the robe of saintly suffering, in which he draped her.

He began to take up the steady routine of his life again. Furst
received him with open arms, and no allusion was made to the night in
the BRUHL. With the cessation of his anxiety, a feeling of benevolence
towards other people awakened in him, and when, one afternoon, Schwarz
asked the assembled class if no one knew what had become of Krafft,
whether he was ill, or anything of the kind, it was Maurice who
volunteered to find out. He remembered now that he had not seen Krafft
at the Conservatorium for a week or more.

Frau Schulz looked astonished to see him, and, holding the door in her
hand, made no mien to let him enter. Herr Krafft was away, she said
gruffly, had been gone for about a week, she did not know where or why.
He had left suddenly one morning, without her knowledge, and the
following day a postcard had come from him, stating that all his things
were to lie untouched till his return.

"He was so queer lately that I'd be just as pleased if he stayed away
altogether," she said. "That's all I can tell you. Maybe you'd get
something more out of her. She knows more than she says, anyhow," and
she pointed with her thumb at the door of the adjoining PENSION.

Maurice rang there, and a dirty maid-servant showed him Avery's room.
At his knock, she opened the door herself, and first looked surprised,
then alarmed at seeing him.

"What's the matter? Has anything happened?" she stammered, like one on
the look-out for bad news.

"Then what do you want?" she asked in her short, unpleasant way, when
he had reassured her.

"I came up to see Heinz. And they tell me he is not here; and Frau
Schulz sent me to you. Schwarz was asking for him. Is it true that he
has gone away?"

"Yes, it's true."

"Where to? Will he be away long?"

"How should I know?" she cried rudely. "Am I his keeper? Find out for
yourself, if you must know," and the door slammed to in his face.

He mentioned the incident to Madeleine that evening. She looked
strangely at him, he thought, and abruptly changed the subject. A day
or two later, on the strength of a rumour that reached his ears, he
tackled Furst, and the latter, who, up to this time, had been of a
praiseworthy reticence, let fall a hint which made Maurice look blank
with amazement. Nevertheless, he could not now avoid seeing certain
incidents in his friendship with Krafft, under a different aspect.

About a fortnight had elapsed since the beginning of Louise's illness;
she was still obliged to keep her bed. More than once, of late,
Madeleine had returned from her daily visit, decidedly out of temper.

"Louise rubs me up the wrong way," she complained to Maurice. "And she
isn't in the least grateful for all I've done for her. I really think
she prefers having the nurse about her to me."

"Sick people often have such fancies," he consoled her.

"Louise shows hers a little too plainly. Besides, we have never got on
well for long together."

But one afternoon, on coming in, she unpinned her hat and threw it on
the piano, with a decisive haste that was characteristic of her in
anger.

"That's the end; I don't go back again. I'm not paid for my services,
and am under no obligation to listen to such things as Louise said to
me to-day. Enough is enough. She is well on the mend, and must get on
now as best she can. I wash my hands of the whole affair."

"But you're surely not going to take what a sick person says
seriously?" Maurice exclaimed in dismay. "How can she possibly get on
with only those strangers about her?"

"She's not so ill now. She'll be all right," answered Madeleine; she
had opened a letter that was on the table, and did not look up as she
spoke. "There's a limit to everything--even to my patience with her
rudeness."

And on returning the following day, he found, sure enough, that, true
to her word, Madeleine had not gone back. She maintained an obstinate
silence about what had happened, and requested that he would now let
the matter drop.

The truth was that Madeleine's conscience was by no means easy.

She had gone to see Louise on that particular afternoon, with even more
inconvenience to herself than usual. On admitting her, Fraulein Grunhut
had endeavoured to detain her in the passage, mumbling and
gesticulating in the mystery-mongering way with which Madeleine had no
patience. It incited her to answer the old woman in a loud, clear
voice; then, brusquely putting her aside, she opened the door of the
sick girl's room.

As she did so, she uttered an exclamation of surprise. Louise, in a
flannel dressing-gown, was standing at the high tiled stove behind the
door. Both her arms were upraised and held to it, and she leant her
forehead against the tiles.

"Good Heavens, what are you doing out of bed?" cried Madeleine; and, as
she looked round the room: "And where is Sister Martha?"

Louise moved her head, so that another spot of forehead came in contact
with the tiles, and looked up at Madeleine from under her heavy lids,
without replying.

Madeleine laid one by one on the table some small purchases she had
made on the way there.

"Well, are you not going to speak to me to-day?" she said in a pleasant
voice, as she unbuttoned her jacket. "Or tell me what I ask about the
Sister?" There was not a shade of umbrage in her tone.

Louise moved her head again, and looked away from Madeleine to the wall
of the room. "I have got up," she answered, in such a low voice that
Madeleine had to pause in what she was doing, to hear her; "because I
could not bear to lie in bed any longer. And I've sent the Sister
away--because ... oh, because I couldn't endure having her about me."

"You have sent Sister Martha away?" echoed Madeleine. "On your own
responsibility? Louise!--how absurd! Well, I suppose I must put on my
hat again and fetch her back. How can you get on alone, I should like
to know? Really, I have no time to come oftener than I do."

"I'm quite well now. I don't need anyone."

"Come, get back into bed, like a good girl, and I will make you some
tea," said Madeleine, in the gently superior tone that one uses to a
sick person, to a young child, to anyone with whom it is not fitting to
dispute.

Instead, Louise left the stove, and sat down in a low American
rocking-chair, where she crouched despondently.

"I wish I had died," she said in a toneless voice.

Madeleine smiled with exaggerated cheerfulness, and rattled the
tea-cups. "Nonsense! You mustn't talk about dying--now that you are
nearly well again. Besides, you know, such things are easily said. One
doesn't mean them."

"I wish I had died. Why didn't you let me die?" repeated Louise in the
same apathetic way.

Madeleine did not reply; she was cogitating whether it would be more
convenient to go after the nurse at once, and what she ought to do if
she could not get her to come back. For Louise would certainly have
despatched her in tragedy-fashion.

Meanwhile the latter had laid her arms along the low arms of the chair,
and now sat gazing from one to the other of her hands. In their way,
these hands of hers had acquired a kind of fame, which she had once
been vain of. They had been photographed; a sculptor had modelled them
for a statue of Antigone--long, slim and strong, with closely knit
fingers, and pale, deep-set nails: hands like those of an adoring
Virgin; hands which had an eloquent language all their own, but little
or no agility, and which were out of place on the keys of a piano.
Louise sat looking at them, and her face was so changed--the hollow
setting of the eyes reminded perpetually of the bones beneath; the
lines were hammered black below the eyes; nostrils and lips were
pinched and thinned--that Madeleine, secretly observing her, remarked
to herself that Louise looked at least ten years older than before. Her
youth, and, with it, such freshness as she had once had, were gone from
her.

"Here is your tea."

The girl drank it slowly, as if swallowing were an effort, while
Madeleine went round the room, touching and ordering, and opening a
window. This done, she looked at her watch.

"I will go now," she said, "and see if I can persuade Sister Martha to
come back. If you haven't mortally offended her, that is."

Louise started up from her chair, and put her cup, only half emptied,
on the table.

"Madeleine!--please--please, don't! I can't have her back again. I am
quite well now. There was nothing more she could do for me. I shall
sleep a thousand times better at night if she is not here. Oh, don't
bring her back again! Her voice cut like a knife, and her hands were so
hard."

She trembled with excitement, and was on the brink of tears.

"Hush!--don't excite yourself like that," said Madeleine, and tried to
soothe her. "There's no need for it. If you are really determined not
to have her, then she shall not come and that's the end of it. Not but
what I think it foolish of you all the same," she could not refrain
from adding. "You are still weak. However, if you prefer it, I'll do my
best to run up this evening to see that you have everything for the
night."

"I don't want you either."

Madeleine shrugged her shoulders, and her pity became tinged with
impatience.

"The doctor says you must go away somewhere, for a change," she said as
she beat up the pillows and smoothed out the crumpled sheets,
preparatory to coaxing her patient back to bed.

Louise shook her head, but did not speak.

"A few weeks' change of air is what you need to set you up again."

"I cannot go away."

"Nonsense! Of course you can. You don't want to be ill all the winter?"

"I don't want to be well."

Madeleine sniffed audibly. "There's no reasoning with you. When you
hear on all sides that it's for your own good----"

"Oh, stop tormenting me!" cried Louise, raising a drawn face with
disordered hair. "I won't go away! Nothing will make me. I shall stay
here--though I never get well again."

"But why? Give me one sensible reason for not going.--You can't!"

"Yes ... if ... if Eugen should come back."

The words could only just be caught. Madeleine stood, holding a sheet
with both hands, as though she could not believe her ears.

"Louise!" she said at last, in a tone which meant many things.

Louise began to cry, and was shaken by hard, dry sobs. Madeleine did
not look at her again, but went severely on with her bedmaking. When
she had finished, she crossed to the washstand, and poured out a glass
of water.

Louise took it, humbled and submissive, and gradually her sobs abated.
But now Madeleine, in place of getting ready to leave, as she had
intended, sat down at the centre table, and revolved what she felt it
to be her duty to say. When all sound of crying had ceased, she began
to speak, persuasively, in a quiet voice.

"You have brought the matter up yourself, Louise," she said, "and, now
the ice is broken, there are one or two things I should like to say to
you. First then, you have been very ill, far worse than you know--the
immediate danger is over now, so I can speak of it. But who can tell
what may happen if you persist in remaining on here by yourself, in the
state you are in?"

Louise did not stir; her face was hidden.

"The reason you give for staying is not a serious one, I hope,"
Madeleine proceeded cautiously choosing her words. "After all the ...
the precautions that were taken to ensure the ... break, it is not all
likely ... he would think of returning. And Louise," she added with
warmth, "even though he did--suppose he did--after the way he has
behaved, and his disgraceful treatment of you----"

Louise looked up for an instant. "That is not true," she said.

"Not true?" echoed Madeleine. "Well, if you are able to admire his
behaviour--if you don't consider it disgraceful--no, more than
that--infamous----" She stopped, not being able to find a stronger
epithet.

"It is not true," said Louise in the same expressionless voice. But now
she lifted her head, and pressed the palms of her hands together.

Madeleine pushed back her chair, as if she were about to rise. "Then I
have nothing more to say," she said; and went on: "If you are ready to
defend a man who has acted towards you as he has--in a way that makes a
respectable person's blood boil--there is indeed nothing more to be
said." She reddened with indignation. "As if it were not bad enough for
him to go, after all you have done for him, but that he must do it in
such a mean, underhand way--it's enough to make one sick. The only
thing to compare with it is his conduct on the night before he left. Do
you know, pray, that on the last evening, at a KNEIPE in the GOLDENE
HIRSCH, he boasted of what you had done for him--boasted about
everything that had happened between you--to a rowdy, tipsy crew? More
than that, he gave shameless details, about you going to his room that
afternoon----"

"It's not true, it's not true," repeated Louise, as if she had got
these few words by heart. She rose from her chair, and leaned on it,
half turning her back to Madeleine, and holding her handkerchief to her
lips.

Madeleine shrugged her shoulders. "Do you think I should say it, if it
weren't?" she asked. "I don't invent scandal. And you are bound to hear
it when you go out again. He did this, and worse than I choose to tell
you, and if you felt as you ought to about it, you would never give him
another thought. He's not worth it. He's not worth any respectable
person's----"

"Respectable!" burst in Louise, and raised two blazing eyes to her
companion's face. "That's the second time. Why do you come here,
Madeleine, and talk like that to me? He did what he was obliged
to--that's all: for I should never have let him go. Can't you see how
preposterous it is to think that by talking of respectability, and
unworthiness, you can make me leave off caring for him?--when for
months I have lived for nothing else? Do you think one can change one's
feelings so easily? Don't you understand that to love a person once is
to love him always and altogether?--his faults as well--everything he
does, good or bad, no matter what other people think of it? Oh, you
have never really cared for anyone yourself, or you would know it."

"It's not preposterous at all," retorted Madeleine. "Yes--if he had
deserved all the affection you wasted on him, or if unhappy
circumstances had separated you. But that's not the case. He has
behaved scandalously, without the least attempt at shielding you. He
has made you the talk of the place. And you may consider me narrow and
prejudiced, but this I must say--I am boundlessly astonished at you.
When he has shown you as plainly as he can that he's tired of you, that
you should still be ready to defend him, and have so little proper
pride that you even say you would take him back!----"

Louise turned on her. "You would never do that, Madeleine, would
you?--never so far forget yourself as to crawl to a man's feet and
ask--ask?--no, implore forgiveness, for faults you were not conscious
of having committed. You would never beg him to go on loving you, after
he had ceased to care, or think nothing on earth worth having if he
would not--or could not. As I would; as I have done." But chancing to
look at Madeleine, she grew quieter. "You would never do that, would
you?" she repeated. "And do you know why?" Her words came quickly
again; her voice shook with excitement. "Because you will never care
for anyone more than yourself--it isn't in you to do it. You will go
through life, tight on to the end, without knowing what it is to care
for some one--oh, but I mean absolutely, unthinkingly----"

She broke down, and hid her face again. Madeleine had carried the cups
and saucers to a side-table, and now put on her hat.

"And I hope I never shall," she said, forcing herself to speak calmly.
"If I thought it likely, I should never look at a man again."

But Louise had not finished. Coming round to the front of the
rocking-chair, and leaning on the table, she gazed at Madeleine with
wild eyes, while her pale lips poured forth a kind of revenge for the
suffering, real and imaginary, that she had undergone at the hands of
this cooler nature.

"And I'll tell you why. You are doubly safe; for you will never be able
to make a man care so much that--that you are forced to love him like
this in return. It isn't in you to do it. I don't mean because you're
plain. There are plenty of plainer women than you, who can make men
follow them. No, it's your nature--your cold, narrow, egotistic
nature--which only lets you care for things outside yourself in a cold,
narrow way. You will never know what it is to be taken out of yourself,
taken and shaken, till everything you are familiar with falls away."

She laughed; but tears were near at hand. Madeleine had turned her back
on her, and stood buttoning her jacket, with a red, exasperated face.

"I shall not answer you," she said. "You have worked yourself into such
a state that you don't know what you're saying. All the same, I think
you might try to curb your tongue. I have done nothing to you--but be
kind to you."

"Kind to me? Do you call it kind to come here and try to set me against
the man I love best in the world? And who loves me best, too. Yes; he
does. He would never have gone, if he hadn't been forced to--if I
hadn't been a hindrance to him--a drag on him."

"It makes me ashamed of my sex to hear you say such things. That a
woman can so far lose her pride as to----"

"Oh, other women do it in other ways. Do you think I haven't seen how
you have been trying to make some one here like you?--doing your
utmost, without any thoughts of pride or self-respect.--And how you
have failed? Yes, failed. And if you don't believe me, ask him
yourself--ask him who it is that could bring him to her, just by
raising her finger. It's to me he would come, not to you--to me who
have never given him look or thought."

Madeleine paled, then went scarlet. "That's a direct untruth. You!--and
not to egg a man on, if you see he admires you! You know every time a
passer-by looks at you in the street. You feed on such looks--yes, and
return them, too. I have seen you, my lady, looking and being looked
at, by a stranger, in a way no decent woman allows.--For the rest, I'll
trouble you to mind your own business. Whatever I do or don't do, trust
me, I shall at least take care not to make myself the laughing-stock of
the place. Yes, you have only succeeded in making yourself ridiculous.
For while you were cringing before him, and aspiring to die for his
sake, he was making love behind your back to another girl. For the last
six months. Every one knew it, it seems, but you."

She had spoken with unconcealed anger, and now turned to leave the
room. But Louise was at the door before her, and spread herself across
it.

"That's a lie, Madeleine! Of your own making. You shall prove it to me
before you go out of this room. How dare you say such a thing!--how
dare you!"

Madeleine looked at her with cold aversion, and drew back to avoid
touching her.

"Prove it?" she echoed. "Are his own words not proof enough! He told
the whole story that night, just as he had first told all about you. It
had been going on for months. Sometimes, you were hardly out of his
room, before the other was in. And if you don't believe me, ask the
person you're so proud of having attracted, without raising your
finger."

Louise moved away from the door, and went back to the table, on which
she leaned heavily. All the blood had left her face and the dark rings
below her eyes stood out with alarming distinctness. Madeleine felt a
sudden compunction at what she had done.

"It's entirely your own fault that I told you anything whatever about
it," she said, heartily annoyed with herself. "You had no right to
provoke me by saying what you did. I declare, Louise, to be with you
makes one just like you. If it's any consolation to you to know it, he
was drunk at the time, and there's a possibility it may not be true."

"Go away--go out of my room!" cried Louise. And Madeleine went, without
delay, having almost a physical sensation about her throat of the
slender hands stretched so threateningly towards her.--And this
unpleasant feeling remained with her until she turned the corner of the
street.



II.


On the afternoon when Maurice found that Madeleine had kept her word he
went home and paced his room in perplexity. He pictured Louise lying
helpless, too weak to raise her hand. His brain went stupidly over the
few people to whom he might turn for aid. Avery Hill?--Johanna Cayhill?
But Avery was occupied with her own troubles; and Johanna's
relationship to Ephie put her out of the question. He was thinking
fantastic thoughts of somehow offering his own services, or of even
throwing himself on the goodness of a person like Miss Jensen, whose
motherly form must surely imply a corresponding motherliness of heart,
when Frau. Krause entered the room, bearing a letter which she said had
been left for him an hour or two previously. She carried a lamp in her
hand, and eyed her restless lodger with suspicion.

"Why, in the name of goodness, didn't you bring this in when it came?"
he demanded. He held the unopened letter at arm's length, as if he were
afraid of it.

Frau Krause bridled instantly. Did he think she had nothing else to do
than to carry things in and out of his room? The letter had lain on the
chest of drawers in the passage; he could have seen it for himself, had
he troubled to look.

Maurice waved her away. He was staring at the envelope; he believed he
knew the handwriting. His heart beat with precise hammerings. He laid
the letter on the table, and took a few turns in the room before he
picked it up again. On examining it anew, it seemed to him that the
lightly gummed envelope had been tampered with, and he made a
threatening movement towards the door, then checked himself,
remembering that if the letter were what he believed, it would be
written in English. He tore it open, destroying the envelope in his
nervousness. There was no heading, and it was only a few lines long.

I MUST SPEAK TO YOU. WILL YOU COME TO ME THIS EVENING? LOUISE DUFRAYER.

His heart was thumping now. He was to go to her, she said so herself;
to go this moment, for it was evening already. As it was, she was
perhaps waiting for him, wondering why he did not come. He had not
shaved that day, and his first impulse was to call for hot water. In
the same breath he gave up the idea: it was out of the question by the
poor light of the lamp, and the extraordinary position of the
looking-glass. He made, however, a hasty toilet in his best, only to
colour at himself when finished. Was there ever such a fool as he? His
act contained the germ of an insult: and he rapidly changed back to his
workaday wear.

All this took time, and it was eight o'clock before he rang the
door-bell in the BRUDERSTRASSE. Now, the landlady did not mistake him
for a possible thief. But she looked at him in an unfriendly way, and
said grumblingly that Fraulein had been expecting him for an hour or
more. Then she pointed to the door of the room, and left him to make
his way in alone.

He knocked gently, but no one answered. The old woman, who stood
watching his movements, signed to him to enter, and he turned the
handle. The large room was dark, except for the light shed by a small
lamp, which stood on the table before the sofa. From somewhere out of
the dusk that lay beyond, a white figure rose and came towards him.

Louise was in a crumpled dressing-gown, and her hair was loosened from
its coil on her neck. Maurice saw so much, before she was close beside
him, her eyes searching his face.

"Oh, you have come," she said with a sigh, as if a load had been lifted
from her mind. "I thought you were not coming."

"I only got your note a few minutes ago. I ... I came at once," he
said, and stammered, as he saw how greatly illness had changed her.

"I knew you would."

She did not give him her hand, but stood gazing at him; and her look
was so helpless and forlorn that he grew uncomfortable.

"You have been ill?" he said, to render the pause that followed less
embarrassing.

"Yes; but I'm better now." She supported herself on the table; her
indecision seemed to increase, and several seconds passed before she
said: "Won't you sit down?"

He took one of the stuffed arm-chairs she indicated; and she went back
to the sofa. Again there was silence. With her elbows on her knees, her
chin on her two hands, Louise stared hard at the pattern of the
tablecloth. Maurice sat stiff and erect, waiting for her to tell him
why she had summoned him.

"You will think it strange that I should send for you like this ...
when I know you so slightly," she began at length. "But ...since I saw
you last ... I have been in trouble,"--her voice broke, but her eyes
remained fixed on the cloth. "And I am quite alone. I have no one to
help me. Then I thought of you; you were kind to me once; you offered
to help me." She paused, and wound her handkerchief to a ball.

"Anything!--anything that lies in my power," said Maurice fervently. He
fidgeted his hands round the brim of his hat, which he was holding to
him.

"Won't you tell me what it is?" he asked, after another long break. "I
should be so glad, and grateful--yes, indeed, grateful--if there were
anything I could do for you."

She met his eyes, and tried to say something, but no sound came over
her lips. She was trying to fasten her thoughts on what she had to say,
but, in spite of her efforts, they eluded her. For more than
twenty-four hours she had brooded over one idea; the strain had been
too great; and, now that the moment had come, her strength deserted
her. She would have liked to lay her head on her arms and sleep; it
almost seemed to her now, in the indifference of sheer fatigue, that it
did not matter whether she spoke or not. But as she looked at the young
man, she became conscious of an expression in his face, which made her
own grow hard.

"I won't be pitied."

Maurice turned very red. His heart had gone out to her in her distress;
and his feelings were painted on his face. His discomfiture at her
discovery was so palpable that it gave her courage to go on.

"You were one of those, were you not, who were present at a certain
cafe in the BRUHL, one evening, three weeks ago." It was more of a
statement than a question. Her eyes held him fast. His retreating
colour rose again; he had a presentiment of what was coming.

"Then you must have heard----" she began quickly, but left the sentence
unended.

His suspicions took shape, and he made a large, vague gesture of
dissent. "You heard all that was said," she continued, without paying
any heed to him. "You heard how ... how some one--no, how the man I
loved and trusted ... how he boasted about my caring for him; and not
only that, but how, before that drunken crowd, he told how I had been
to him ... to his room ... that afternoon----" She could not finish,
and pressed her knotted handkerchief to her lips.

Maurice looked round him for assistance. "You are mistaken," he
declared. "I heard nothing of the kind. Remember, I, too, was among
those ... in the state you mention," he added as an afterthought,
lowering his voice.

"That is not it." Leaning forward, she opened her eyes so wide that he
saw a rim of white round the brown of the pupils. "You must also have
heard ... how, all this time, behind my back, there was some one else
... someone he cared for ... when I thought it was only me."

The young man coloured, with her and for her. "It is not true; you have
been misled," he said with vehemence. And, again, a flash of intuition
suggested an afterthought to him. "Can you really believe it? Don't you
think better of him than that?"

For the first time since she had known him, Louise gave him a personal
look, a look that belonged to him alone, and held a warm ray of
gratitude. Then, however, she went on unsparingly: "I want you to tell
me who it was."

He laid his hat on a chair, and used his hands. "But if I assure you it
is not true? If I give you my word that you have been misinformed?"

"Who was it? What is her name?"

He rose, and went away from the table.

"I knew him better than you," she said slowly, as he did not speak:
"you or anyone else--a hundred thousand times better--and I KNOW it is
true."

Still he did not answer. "Then you won't tell me?"

"Tell you? How can I? There's nothing to tell."

"I was wrong then. You have no pity for me?"

"Pity!--I no pity?" he cried, forgetting how, a minute ago, she had
resented his feeling it. "But all the same I can't tell you what you
ask me. You don't realise what it means: putting a slur on a young
girl's name ... which has never been touched."

Directly he had said this, he was aware of his foolishness; but she let
the admission contained in the words pass unnoticed.

"Then she is not with him?" she cried, springing to her feet, and there
was a jubilation in her voice, which she did not attempt to suppress.
Maurice made no answer, but in his face was such a mixture of surprise
and disconcertion that it was answer enough.

She remained standing, with her head bowed; and Maurice, who, in his
nervousness, had gripped the back of his chair, held it so tightly that
it left a furrow in his hand. He was looking into the lamp, and did not
at first see that Louise had raised her head again and was
contemplating him. When she had succeeded in making him look at her,
she sat down on the sofa and drew the folds of her dressing-gown to her.

"Come and sit here. I want to speak to you."

But Maurice only shot a quick glance at her, and did not move.

She leaned forward, in her old position. She had pushed the heavy wings
of hair up from her forehead, and this, together with her extreme
pallor, gave her face a look of febrile intensity.

"Maurice Guest," she said slowly, "do you remember a night last summer,
when, by chance, you happened to walk with me, coming home from the
theatre?--Or have you perhaps forgotten?"

He shook his head.

"Then do you remember, too, what you said to me? How, since the first
time you had seen me--you even knew where that was, I believe--you had
thought about me ... thought too much, or words to that effect. Do you
remember?"

"Do you think when a man says a thing like that he forgets it?" asked
Maurice in a gruff voice. He turned, as he spoke, and looked down on
her with a kind of pitying wisdom. "If you knew how often I have
reproached myself for it!" he added.

"There was no need for that," she answered, and even smiled a little.
"We women never resent having such things said to us--never--though it
is supposed we do, and though we must pretend to. But I remember, too,
I was in a bad mood that night, and was angry with you, after all.
Everything seemed to have gone against me. In the theatre--in ... Oh,
no, no!" she cried, as she remembrance of that past night, with its
alternations of pain and pleasure, broke over her. "My God!"

Maurice hardly breathed, for fear he should remind her of his presence.
When the paroxysm had passed, she crossed to the window; the blinds had
not been drawn, and leaning her forehead on the glass, she looked out
into the darkness. In spite of his trouble of mind, the young man could
not but comment on the ironic fashion in which fate was treating him:
not once, in all the hours he had spent on the pavement below, had
Louise come, like this, to the window; now that she did so, he was in
the room beside her, wishing himself away.

Then, with a swift movement, she came back to him, and stood at his
side.

"Then it was not true?--what you said that night."

"True?" echoed Maurice. He instinctively moved a step away from her,
and threw a quick glance at the pale face so near his own. "If I were
to tell you how much more than that is true, you wouldn't have anything
more to do with me."

For the second time, she seemed to see him and consider him. But he
kept his head turned stubbornly away.

"You feel like that," she began in slow surprise, to continue
hurriedly: "You care for me like that, and yet, when I ask the first
and only thing I shall ever ask of you, you won't do it? It is a lesson
to me, I suppose, not to come to you for help again.--Oh, I can't
understand you men! You are all--all alike."

"I would do anything in the world for you. Anything but this."

She repeated his last words after him. "But I want nothing else."

"This I can't tell you."

"Then you don't really care. You only think you do. If you can't do
this one small thing for me! Oh, there is no one else I can turn to, or
I would. Oh, please tell me!--you who make-believe to care for me. You
won't? When it comes to the point, a man will do nothing--nothing at
all."

"I would cut off my hands for you. But you are asking me to do
something I think wrong."

"Wrong! What is wrong?--and what is right? They are only words. Is it
right that I should be left like this?--thrown away like a broken
plate? Oh, I shall not rest till I know who it was that took him from
me. And you are the only person who can help me. Are you not a little
sorry for me? Is there nothing I can do to make you sorry?"

"You won't realise what you are asking me to do."

He spoke in a constrained voice, for he felt the impossibility of
standing out much longer against her. Louise caught the note of
yielding, and taking his hand in hers, laid it against her forehead.

"Feel that! Feel how it throbs and burns! And so it has gone on for
hours now, for days. I can't think or feel--with that fever in me. I
must know who it was, or I shall go mad. Don't torture me then--you,
too! You are good. Be kind to me now. Be my friend, Maurice Guest."

Maurice was vanquished; in a low voice he told her what she wished to
hear. She read the syllables from his lips, repeated the name slowly
after him, then shook her head; she did not know it. Letting his hand
drop, she went back to the sofa.

"Tell me everything you know about her," she said imperiously. "What is
she like?--what is she like? What is the colour of her hair?"

Maurice was a poor hand at description. Questioned thus, he was not
even sure whether to call Ephie pretty or not; he knew that she was
small, and very young, but of her hair he could say little, except that
it was not black.

Louise caught at the detail. "Not black, no, not black!" she cried. "He
had black enough here," and she ran her hands through her own unruly
hair.

There was nothing she did not want to know, did not try to force from
his lips; and a relentless impatience seized her at his powerlessness.

"I must see her for myself," she said at length, when he had stammered
into silence. "You must bring her to me."

"No, that you really can't ask me to do."

She came over to him again, and took his hands. "You will bring her
here to-morrow--to-morrow afternoon. Do you think I shall hurt her? Is
she any better than I am? Oh, don't be afraid! We are not so easily
soiled."

Maurice demurred no more.

"For until I see her, I shall not know--I shall not know," she said to
herself, when he had pledged his word.

The tense expression of her face relaxed; her mouth drooped; she lay
back in the sofa-corner and shut her eyes. For what seemed a long time,
there was no sound in the room. Maurice thought she had fallen asleep.
But at his first light movement she opened her eyes.

"Now go," she said. "Please, go!" And he obeyed.

The night was cold, but, as he stood irresolute in the street, he wiped
the perspiration from his forehead. He felt very perplexed. Only one
thing was clear to him: he had promised to bring Ephie to see her the
next day, and, however wrong it might be, the promise was given and
must be kept. But what he now asked himself was: did not the bringing
of the child, under these circumstances, imply a tacit acknowledgment
that she was seriously involved?--a fact which, all along, he had
striven against admitting. For, after his one encounter with Ephie and
Schilsky, in the woods that summer, and the first firing of his
suspicions, he had seen nothing else to render him uneasy; a few weeks
later, Ephie had gone to Switzerland, and, on her return in September,
or almost directly afterwards--three or four days at most--Schilsky had
taken his departure. There had been, of course, his drunken boasts to
take into account, but firstly, Maurice had only retained a hazy idea
of their nature, and, in the next place, the events which had followed
that evening had been of so much greater importance to him that he had
had no thoughts to spare for Ephie--more especially as he then knew
that Schilsky was out of the way. But now the whole affair rose vividly
before his mind again, and in his heart he knew that he had always
believed--just as Louise believed--in Ephie's guilt. No: guilt was too
strong a word. Yet however harmless the flirtation might have been in
itself, it had been carried on in secret, in an underhand way: there
had been nothing straightforward or above-board about it; and this
alone was enough to compromise a young girl.

The Cayhills had been in Leipzig again for three weeks, but so occupied
had Maurice been during this time, that he had only paid them one hasty
call. Now he felt that he must see Ephie at once, not only to secure
her word that she would come out with him, the following day, but also
to read from her frank eyes and childish lips the assurance of her
innocence, or, at least, the impossibility of her guilt.

But as he walked to the LESSINGSTRASSE, he remembered, without being
able to help it, all the trifles which, at one time or another, had
disturbed his relations with Ephie. He recalled each of the thin,
superficial untruths, by means of which she had defended herself, the
day he had met her with Schilsky: it seemed incredible to him now that
he had not seen through them instantly. He called up her pretty,
insincere behaviour with the circle of young men that gathered round
her; the language of signs by which she had conversed with Schilsky in
the theatre. He remembered the astounding ease with which he had made
her acquaintance in the first case, or rather, with which she had made
his. Even the innocent kiss she had once openly incited him to, and on
the score of which she had been so exaggeratedly angry--this, too, was
summoned to bear witness against her. Each of these incidents now
seemed to point to a fatal frivolity, to a levity of character which,
put to a real test, would offer no resistance.

Supper was over in the PENSION, but only Mrs. Cayhill sat in her
accustomed corner. Ephie was with the rest of the boarders in the
general sitting-room, where Johanna conducted Maurice. Boehmer was
paying an evening visit, as well as a very young American, who laughed:
"Heh, heh!" at everything that was said, thereby displaying two
prominently gold teeth. Mrs. Tully sat on a small sofa, with her arm
round Ephie's waist: they were the centre of the group, and it did not
appear likely that Maurice would get an opportunity of speaking to
Ephie in private. She was in high spirits, and had only a saucy
greeting for him. He sat down beside Johanna, and waited, ill at ease.
Soon his patience was exhausted; rising, he went over to the sofa, and
asked Ephie if he might come to take her for a walk, the next
afternoon. But she would not give him an express promise; she pouted:
after all these weeks, it suddenly occurred to him to come and see
them, and then, the first thing he did, was to ask a favour of her. Did
he really expect her to grant it?

"Don't, Ephie, love, don't!" cried Mrs. Tully in her sprightly way.
"Men are really shocking creatures, and it is our duty, love, to keep
them in their place. If we don't, they grow presumptuous," and she shot
an arch look at Boehmer, who returned it, fingered his beard, and
murmured: "Cruel--cruel!"

"And even if I wanted to go when the time came, how do you expect me to
know so long beforehand? Ever so many things may happen before
to-morrow," said Ephie brilliantly; at which Mrs. Tully laughed very
much indeed, and still more at Boehmer's remark that it was an ancient
privilege of the ladies, never to be obliged to know their own minds.

"It's a libel--take that, you naughty boy!" she cried, and slapped him
playfully on the hand. "Ephie, love, how shall we punish him?"

"He is not to come again for a week," answered Ephie slily; and at
Boehmer's protestations of penitence and despair, both she and Mrs.
Tully laughed till the tears stood in their eyes, Ephie all the more
extravagantly because Maurice stood unsmiling before her.

"I ask this as a direct favour, Ephie. There's something I want to say
to you--something important," he added in a low voice, so that only she
could hear it.

Ephie changed colour at once, and tried to read his face.

"Then I may come at five? You will be ready? Good night."

Johanna followed him into the passage, and stood by while he put on his
coat. They had used up all their small talk in the sitting-room, and
had nothing more to say to each other. When however they shook hands,
she observed impulsively: "Sometimes I wish we were safe back home
again." But Maurice only said: "Indeed?" and displayed no curiosity to
know the reason why.

After he had gone, Ephie was livelier than before, as long as she was
being teased about her pale, importunate admirer. Then, suddenly, she
pleaded a headache, and went to her own room.

Johanna, listening outside the door, concluded from the stillness that
her sister was asleep. But Ephie heard Johanna come and go. She could
not sleep, nor could she get Maurice's words out of her mind. He had
something important to say to her. What could it be? There was only one
important subject in the world for her now; and she longed for the hour
of his visit--longed, hoped, and was more than half afraid.



III.


Since her return to Leipzig, Ephie's spirits had gone up and down like
a barometer in spring. In this short time, she passed through more
changes of mood than in all her previous life. She learned what
uncertainty meant, and suspense, and helplessness; she caught at any
straw of hope, and, for a day on end, would be almost comforted; she
invented numberless excuses for Schilsky, and rejected them, one and
all. For she was quite in the dark about his movements; she had not
seen him since her return, and could hear nothing of him. Only the
first of the letters she had written to him from Switzerland had
elicited a reply, and he had left all the notes she had sent him, since
getting back, unanswered.

Her fellow-boarder, Mrs. Tully, was her only confidant; and that, only
in so far as this lady, knowing that what she called "a little romance"
was going on, had undertaken to enclose any letters that might arrive
during Ephie's absence. Johanna had no suspicions, or rather she had
hitherto had none. In the course of the past week, however, it had
become plain even to her blind, sisterly eyes that something was the
matter with Ephie. She could still be lively when she liked, almost
unnaturally lively, and especially in the company of Mrs. Tully and her
circle; but with these high spirits alternated fits of depression, and
once Johanna had come upon her in tears. Driven into a corner, Ephie
declared that Herr Becker had scolded her at her lesson; but Johanna
was not satisfied with this explanation; for formerly, the master's
blame or praise had left no impression on her little sister's mind.
Even worse than this, Ephie could now, on slight provocation, be
thoroughly peevish--a thing so new in her that it worried Johanna most
of all. The long walks of the summer had been given up; but Ephie had
adopted a way of going in and out of the house, just as it pleased her,
without a word to her sister. Johanna scrutinised her keenly, and the
result was so disturbing that she resolved to broach the subject to her
mother.

On the morning after Maurice's visit, therefore, she appeared in the
sitting-room, with a heap of undarned stockings in one hand, her
work-basket in the other, and with a very determined expression on her
face. But the moment was not a happy one: Mrs. Cayhill was deep in WHY
PAUL FERROL KILLED HIS WIFE; and would be lost to her surroundings
until the end of the book was reached. Had Johanna been of an observant
turn of mind, she would have waited a little; for, finding the
intermediate portion of the novel dry reading, Mrs. Cayhill was getting
over the pages at the rate of three or four a minute, and would soon
have been finished.

But Johanna sat down at the table and opened fire.

"I wish to speak to you, mother," she said firmly.

Mrs. Cayhill did not even blink. Johanna drew several threads across a
hole she was darning, before she repeated, in the same decided tone:
"Do you hear me, mother? There is something I wish to speak to you
about."

"Hm," said Mrs. Cayhill, without raising her eyes from the page. She
heard Johanna, and was even vaguely distracted by her from the web of
circumstance that was enveloping her hero; but she believed, from
experience, that if she took no notice of her, Johanna would not
persist. What the latter had to say would only be a reminder that it
was mail-day, and no letters were ready; or that if she did not put on
her bonnet and go out for a walk, she would be obliged to take another
of her nerve-powders that night: and Mrs. Cayhill hated moral
persuasion with all her heart.

"Put down your book, mother, please, and listen to me," continued
Johanna, without any outward sign of impatience, and as she spoke, she
drew another stocking over her hand.

"What IS the matter, Joan? I wish you would let me be," answered Mrs.
Cayhill querulously, still without looking up.

"It's about Ephie, mother. But you can't hear me if you go on reading."

"I can hear well enough," said Mrs. Cayhill, and turning a page, she
lost herself, to all appearance, in the next one. Johanna did not
reply, and for some minutes there was silence, broken only by the
turning of the leaves. Then, compelled by something that was stronger
than herself, Mrs. Cayhill laid her book on her knee, gave a loud sigh,
and glanced at Johanna's grave face.

"You are a nuisance, Joan. Well, make haste now--what is it?"

"It's Ephie, mother. I am not easy about her lately. I don't think she
can be well. She is so unlike herself."

"Really, Joan," said Mrs. Cayhill, laughing with an exaggerated
carelessness. "I think I should be the first to notice if she were
sick. But you like to make yourself important, that's what it is, and
to have a finger in every pie. There is nothing whatever the matter
with the child."

"She's not well, I'm sure," persisted Johanna, without haste. "I have
noticed it for some time now. I think the air here is not agreeing with
her. I constantly hear it said that this is an enervating place. I
believe it would be better for her if we went somewhere else for the
winter--even if we returned home. Nothing binds us, and health is the
first and chief----"

"Go home?" cried Mrs. Cayhill, and turned her book over on its face.
"Really, Joan, you are absurd! Because Ephie finds it hard to settle
down again, after such a long vacation--and that's all it is--you want
to rush off to a fresh place, when ... when we are just so comfortably
fixed here for the winter, and where we have at last gotten us a few
friends. As for going home, why, every one would suppose we'd gone
crazy. We haven't been away six months yet--and when Mr. Cayhill is
coming over to fetch us back--and ... and everything."

She spoke with heat; for she knew from experience that what her elder
daughter resolved on, was likely to be carried through.

"That is all very well, mother," continued Johanna unmoved. "But I
don't think your arguments are sound if we find that Ephie is really
sick, and needs a change."

"Arguments not sound! What big words you love to use, Joan! You let
Ephie be. She grows prettier every day, and she's a favourite wherever
she goes."

"That's another thing. Her head is being turned, and she will soon be
quite spoilt. She begins to like the fuss and attention so well
that----"

"You had your chances too, Joan. You needn't be jealous."

Johanna had heard this remark too often to be sensitive to it.

"When it comes to serious 'chances,' as you call them, no one will be
more pleased for Ephie or more interested than I. But this is something
different. You see that yourself, mother, I am sure. These young men
who come about the house are so foolish, and immature, and they have
such different ideas of things from ourselves. They think so...
so"--Johanna hesitated for a word--"so laxly on earnest subjects. And
it is telling on Ephie--Look, for instance, at Mr. Dove! I don't want
to say anything against him, in particular. He is really more serious
than the rest. But for some time now, he has been making himself
ridiculous,"--Johanna had blushed for Dove on the occasion of his last
visit. "No one could be more in earnest than he is; but Ephie only
makes fun of him, in a heartless way. She won't see what a grave matter
it is to him."

Mrs. Cayhill laughed, not at all displeased. "Young people will be
young people. You can't put old heads on young shoulders, Joan, or shut
them up in separate houses. Ephie is an extremely pretty girl, and it
will be the same wherever we go.--As for young Dove, he knows well
enough that nothing can come of it, and if he chooses to continue his
attentions, why, he must take the consequences--that's all. Absurd!--a
boy and girl flirtation, and to make so much of it! A mountain of a
molehill, as usual. And half the time, you only imagine things, and
don't see what is going on under your very nose. Anyone but you, I'm
sure, would find more to object to in the way young Guest behaves than
Dove."

"Maurice Guest?" said Johanna, and laid her hands with stocking and
needle on the table.

"Yes, Maurice Guest," repeated Mrs. Cayhill, with complacent mockery.
"Do you think no one has eyes but yourself?--No, Joan, you're not sharp
enough. Just look at the way he went on last night! Every one but you
could see what was the matter with him. Mrs. Tully told me about it
afterwards. Why, he never took his eyes off her."

"Oh, I'm sure you are mistaken," said Johanna earnestly, and was silent
from sheer surprise. "He has been here so seldom of late," she added
after a pause, thinking aloud.

"Just for that very reason," replied Mrs. Cayhill, with the same air of
wisdom. "A nice-minded young man stays away, if he sees that his
feelings are not returned, or if he has no position to offer.--And
another thing I'll tell you, Joan, though you do think yourself so
clever. You don't need to worry if Ephie is odd and fidgety sometimes
just now. At her age, it's only to be expected. You know very well what
I mean. All girls go through the same thing. You did yourself."

After this, she took up her book again, having, she knew, successfully
silenced her daughter, who, on matters of this nature, was extremely
sensitive.

Johanna went methodically on with her darning; but the new idea which
her mother had dropped into her mind, took root and grew. Strange that
it had not occurred to her before! Dove's state of mind had been patent
from the first; but she had had no suspicions of Maurice Guest. His
manner with Ephie had hitherto been that of a brother: he had never
behaved like the rest. Yet, when she looked back on his visit of the
previous evening, she could not but be struck by the strangeness of his
demeanour: his distracted silence, his efforts to speak to Ephie alone,
and the expression with which he had watched her. And Ephie?--what of
her? Now that Johanna thought of it, a change had also come over
Ephie's mode of treating Maurice; the gay insouciance of the early days
had given place to the pert flippancy which, only the night before, had
so pained her sister. What had brought about this change? Was it pique?
Was Ephie chafing, in secret, at his prolonged absences, and was she,
girl-like, anxious to conceal it from him?

Johanna gathered up her work to go to her own room and think the matter
out in private. In the passage, she ran into the arms of Mrs. Tully,
whom she disliked; for, ever since coming to the PENSION, this lady had
carried on a kind of cult with Ephie, which was distasteful in the
extreme to Johanna.

"Oh, Miss Cayhill!" she now exclaimed. "I was just groping my way--it
is indeed groping, is it not?--to your sitting-room. WHERE is your
sister? I want SO much to ask her if she will have tea with me this
afternoon. I am expecting a few friends, and should be so glad if she
would join us."

"Ephie is practising, Mrs. Tully," said Johanna in her coolest tone.
"And I cannot have her disturbed."

"She is so very, very diligent," said Mrs. Tully with enthusiasm. "I
always remark to myself on hearing her, how very idle a life like mine
is in comparison. I am able to do SO little; just a mere trifle here
and there, a little atom of good, one might say. I have no
talents.--And you, too, dear Miss Cayhill. So studious, so clever! I
hear of you on every side," and, letting her eyes rest on Johanna's
head, she wondered why the girl wore her hair so unbecomingly.

Johanna did not respond.

"If only you would let your hair grow, it would make such a difference
to your appearance," said Mrs. Tully suddenly, with disconcerting
outspokenness.

Johanna drew herself up.

"Thanks," she said. "I have always worn my hair like this, and at my
age, have no intention of altering it," and leaving Mrs. Tully
protesting vehemently at such false modesty, she went past her, into
her own room, and shut the door.

She sat down by the window to sew. But her hands soon fell to her lap,
and with her eyes on the backs of the neighbouring houses, she
continued her interrupted reflections. First, though, she threw a
quick, sarcastic side-glance on her mother and herself. As so often
before, when she had wanted to pin her mother's attention to a subject,
the centre of interest had shifted in spite of her efforts, and they
had ended far from where they had begun: further, she, Johanna, had a
way, when it came to the point, not of asking advice or of faithfully
discussing a question, but of emphatically giving her opinion, or of
stating what she considered to be the facts of the case.

From an odd mixture of experience and self-distrust, Johanna had,
however, acquired a certain faith in her mother's opinions--these
blind, instinctive hits and guesses, which often proved right where
Johanna's carefully drawn conclusions failed. Here, once more, her
mother's idea had broken in upon her like a flash of light, even though
she could not immediately bring herself to accept it. Maurice and
Ephie! She could not reconcile the one with the other. Yet what if the
child were fretting? What if he did not care? A pang shot through her
at the thought that any outsider should have the power to make Ephie
suffer. Oh, she would make him care!--she would talk to him as he had
never been talked to in his life before.

The sisters' rooms were connected by a door; and, gradually, in spite
of her preoccupation, Johanna could not but become aware how brokenly
Ephie was practising. Coaxing, encouragement, and sometimes even
severity, were all, it is true, necessary to pilot Ephie through the
two hours that were her daily task; but as idle as to-day, she had
never been. What could she be doing? Johanna listened intently, but not
a sound came from the room; and impelled by a curiosity to observe her
sister in a new light, she rose and opened the door.

Ephie was standing with her back to it, staring out of the window, and
supporting herself on the table by her violin, which she held by the
neck. At Johanna's entrance, she started, grew very red, and hastily
raised the instrument to her shoulder.

"What are you doing, Ephie? You are wasting a great deal of time," said
Johanna in the tone of mild reproof that came natural to her, in
speaking to her little sister. "Is anything the matter to-day? If you
don't practice better than this, you won't have the ETUDE ready by
Friday, and Herr Becker will make you take it again--for the third
time."

"He can if he likes. I guess I don't care," said Ephie nonchalantly,
and, seizing the opportunity offered for a break, she sat down, and
laid bow and fiddle on the table.

"Have you remembered everything he pointed out to you at your last
lesson?" asked Johanna, going over to the music-stand, and peering at
the pages with her shortsighted eyes. "Let me see--what was it now?
Something about this double-stopping here, and the fingering in this
position."

Ephie laughed. "Old Joan, what do you know about it?"

"Not much, dear, I admit," said Johanna pleasantly. "But try and master
it, like a good girl. So you can get rid of it, and go on to something
else."

Ephie sat back, clasped her hands behind her head, and gave a long
sigh. "Yes, to the next one," she said. "Oh, if you only knew how sick
I am of them, Joan! The next won't be a bit better than this. They are
all alike--a whole book of them."

Johanna looked down at the little figure with the plump, white arms,
and discontented expression; and she tried to find in the childish face
something she had previously not seen there.

"Are you tired of studying, Ephie?" she asked. "Would you like to leave
off and go away?"

"Go away from Leipzig? Where to?" Ephie did not unclasp her hands, but
her eyes grew vigilant.

"Oh, there are plenty of other places, child. Dresden--or Weimar--or
Stuttgart--where you could take lessons just as well. Or if you are
tired of studying altogether, there is no need for you to go on with
it. We can return home, any day. Sometimes, I think it would be better
if we did. You have not been yourself lately, dear. I don't think you
are very well."

"I not myself?--not well? What rubbish you talk, Joan! I am quite well,
and wish you wouldn't tease me. I guess you want to go away yourself.
You are tired of being here. But nothing shall induce me to go. I love
old Leipzig. And I still have heaps to learn before I leave off
studying.--I don't even know whether I shall be ready by spring. It all
depends. And now, Joan, go away." She took up her violin and put it on
her shoulder. "Now it's you who are wasting time. How can I practise
when you stand there talking?"

Johanna was silent. But after this, she did not venture to mention
Maurice's name; and she had turned to leave the room when she
remembered her meeting with Mrs. Tully.

"I would rather you did not go to tea, Ephie," she ended, and then
regretted having said it.

"That's another of your silly prejudices, Joan. I want to know why you
feel so about Mrs. Tully. I think she's lovely. Not that I'd have gone
anyway. I promised Maurice to go for a walk with him at five. I know
what her 'few friends' means, too--just Boehmer, and she asks me along
so people will think he comes to see me, and not her. He sits there,
and twirls his moustache, and makes eyes at her, and she makes them
back. I'm only for show. No, I shouldn't have gone. I can't bear
Boehmer. He's such a goat."

"You didn't think that as long as he came to see us," expostulated
Johanna.

"No, of course not. But so he only comes to see her, I do.--And
sometimes, Joan, why it's just embarrassing. The last afternoon, why,
he had a headache or something, and she made him lie on the sofa, with
a rug over him, so she could bathe his head with eau-de-cologne. I
guess she's going to marry him. And I'm not the only one. The other day
I heard Frau Walter and Frau von Baerle talking in the dining-room
after dinner, and they said the little English widow was very
HEIRATSLUSTIG."

"Ephie, I don't like to hear you repeat such foolish gossip," said
Johanna in real distress. "And if you can understand and remember a
word like that, you might really take more pains with your German. It
is not impossible for you to learn, you see."

"Joan the preacher, and Joan the teacher, and Joan the wise old bird,"
sang Ephie, and laughed. "I think Mrs. Tully is real kind. She's going
to show me a new way to do my hair. This style is quite out in London,
she says."

"Don't let her touch your hair. It couldn't be better than it is," said
Johanna quickly. But Ephie turned her head this way and that, and
considered herself in the looking-glass.

Now that she knew Maurice was expected that afternoon, Johanna awaited
his arrival with impatience. Meanwhile, she believed she was not wrong
in thinking Ephie unusually excited. At dinner, where, as always, the
elderly boarders made a great fuss over her, her laughter was so loud
as to grate on Johanna's ear; but afterwards, in their own
sitting-room, a trifle sufficed to put her out of temper. A new hat had
been sent home, a hat which Johanna had not yet seen. Now that it had
come, Ephie was not sure whether she liked it or not; and all the cries
of admiration her mother and Mrs. Tully uttered, when she put it on,
were necessary to reassure her. Johanna was silent, and this unspoken
disapproval irritated Ephie.

"Why don't you say something, Joan?" she cried crossly. "I suppose you
think it's homely?"

"Frankly, I don't care for it much, dear. To my mind, it's overtrimmed."

This was so precisely Ephie's own feeling that she was more annoyed
than ever; she taunted Johanna with old-fashioned, countrified tastes;
and, in spite of her mother's comforting assurances, retired in a pet
to her own room.

That afternoon, as they sat together at tea, Mrs. Cayhill, who for some
time had considered Ephie fondly, said: "I can't understand you
thinking she isn't well, Joan. I never saw her look better."

Ephie went crimson. "Now what has Joan been saying about me?" she asked
angrily.

Johanna had left the table, and was reading on the sofa.

"I only said what I repeated to yourself, Ephie. That I didn't think
you were looking well."

"Just fancy," said Mrs. Cayhill, laughing good-humouredly, "she was
saying we ought to leave Leipzig and go to some strange place. Even
back home to America. You don't want to go away, darling, do you?"

"No, really, Joan is too bad," cried Ephie, with a voice in which tears
and exasperation struggled for the mastery. "She always has some new
fad in her head. She can't leave us alone--never! Let her go away, so
she wants to. I won't. I'm happy here. I love being here. Even if you
both go away, I shall stop."

She got up from the table, and went to a window, where she stood biting
her lips, and paying small attention to her mother's elaborate protests
that she, too, had no intention of being moved.

Johanna did not raise her eyes from her book. She could have wept: not
only at the spirit of rebellious dislike, which was beginning to show
more and more clearly in everything Ephie said. But was no one but
herself awake to the change that was taking place in the child, day by
day? She would write to her father, without delay, and make him insist
on their returning to America.

From the moment Maurice entered the room, she did not take her eyes off
him; and, under her scrutiny, the young man soon grew nervous. He sat
and fidgeted, and found nothing to say.

Ephie was wayward: she did not think she wanted to go out; it looked
like rain. Johanna refrained from interfering; but Maurice was most
persistent: he begged Ephie not to disappoint him, and, when this
failed, said angrily that she had no business to bring him there for
such capricious whims. This treatment cowed Ephie; and she went at once
to put on her hat and jacket.

"He wants to speak to her; and she knows it; and is trying to avoid
it," said Johanna to herself; and her heart beat fast for both of them.
But she was alone with Maurice; she must not lose the chance of
sounding him a little.

"Where do you think of going for a walk?" she asked, and her voice had
an odd tone to her ears.

"Where? Oh, to the ROSENTAL--or the SCHEIBENHOLZ--or along the river.
Anywhere. I don't know."

She coughed. "Have you noticed anything strange about Ephie lately? She
is not herself. I'm afraid she is not well."

He had noticed nothing. But he did not face Johanna; and he held the
photograph he was looking at upside down.

She leaned out of the window to watch them walk along the street. At
this moment, she was fully convinced of the correctness of her mother's
assumption; and by the thought of what might take place within the next
hour, she was much disturbed. During the rest of the afternoon, she
found it impossible to settle to anything; and she wandered from one
room to another, unable even to read. But it struck six, seven, eight
o'clock; it was supper-time; and still Ephie had not come home. Mrs.
Cayhill grew anxious, too, and Johanna strained her eyes, watching the
dark street. At nine and at ten, she was pacing the room, and at
eleven, after a messenger had been sent to Maurice's lodging and had
found no one there she buttoned on her rain-cloak, to accompany one of
the servants to the police-station.

"Why did I let her go?--Oh, why did I let her go!"



IV.


Maurice and Ephie walked along the LESSINGSTRASSE without speaking--it
was a dull, mild day, threatening to rain, as it had rained the whole
of the preceding night. But Ephie was not accustomed to be silent; she
found the stillness disconcerting, and before they had gone far, shot a
furtive look at her companion. She did not intend him to see it; but he
did, and turned to her. He cleared his throat, and seemed about to
speak, then changed his mind. Something in his face, as she observed it
more nearly, made Ephie change colour and give an awkward laugh.

"I asked you before how you liked my hat," she said, with another
attempt at the airiness which, to-day, she could not command. "And you
didn't say. I guess you haven't looked at it. You're in such a hurry."

Maurice turned his head; but he did not see the hat. Instead, he
mentally answered a question Louise had put to him the day before, and
which he had then not known how to meet. Yes, Ephie was pretty,
radiantly pretty, with the fresh, unsullied charm of a flower just
blown.

"Joan was so stupid about it," she went on at random; her face still
wore its uncertain smile. "She said it was overtrimmed, and top-heavy,
and didn't become me. As if she ever wore anything that suited her! But
Joan is an old maid. She hasn't a scrap of taste. And as for you,
Maurice, why I just don't believe you know one hat from another. Men
are so stupid."

Again they went forward in silence.

"You are tiresome to-day," she said at length, and looked at him with a
touch of defiance, as a schoolgirl looks at the master with whom she
ventures to remonstrate.

"Yes, I'm a dull companion."

"Knowing it doesn't make it any better."

But she was not really cross; all other feelings were swallowed up by
the uneasiness she felt at his manner of treating her.

"Where are we going?" she suddenly demanded of him, with a little quick
upward note in her voice. "This is not the way to the SCHEIBENHOLZ."

"No." He had been waiting for the question. "Ephie,"--he cleared his
throat anew. "I am taking you to see a friend--of mine."

"Is that what you brought me out for? Then you didn't want to speak to
me, as you said? Then we're not going for a walk?"

"Afterwards, perhaps. It's like this. Some one I know has been very
ill. Now that she is getting better, she needs rousing and cheering up,
and that kind of thing; and I said I would bring you to call on her.
She knows you by sight--and would like to know you personally," he
added, with a lame effort at explanation.

"Is that so?" said Ephie with sudden indifference; and her heart, which
had begun to thump at the mention of a friend, quieted down at once. In
fancy, she saw an elderly lady with shawls and a footstool, who had
been attracted by her fresh young face; the same thing had happened to
her before.

Now, however, that she knew the object of their walk, she was greatly
relieved, as if a near danger had been averted; but she had not taken
many steps forward before she was telling herself that another hope was
gone. The only thing to do was to take the matter into her own hands;
it was now or never; and simply a question of courage.

"Maurice, say, do many people go away from here in the fall?--leave the
Con., I would say?" she asked abruptly. "I mean is this a time more
people leave than in spring?"

Maurice started; he had been lost in his own thoughts, which all
centred round this meeting he had weakly agreed to arrange. Again and
again he had tried to imagine how it would fall out. But he did not
know Louise well enough to foresee how she would act; and the nearer
the time came, the stronger grew his presentiment of trouble. His chief
remaining hope was that there would be no open speaking, that
Schilsky's name would not be mentioned; and plump into the midst of
this hope fell Ephie's question. He turned on her; she coloured
furiously, and walked into a pool of water; and, at this moment,
everything was as clear to Maurice as though she had said: "Where is
be? Why has he gone?"

"Why do you ask?" he queried with unconscious sharpness. "No, Easter is
the general time for leaving. But people who play in the PRUFUNGEN
then, sometimes stay for the summer term. Why do you ask?"

"Gracious, Maurice, how tiresome you are! Must one always say why? I
only wanted to know. I missed people I used to see about, that's all."

"Yes, a number have not come back."

He was so occupied with what they were saying that he, in his turn,
stepped into a puddle, splashing the water up over her shoe. Ephie was
extremely annoyed.

"Look!--look what you've done!" she cried, showing him her spikey
little shoe. "Why don't you look where you're going? How clumsy you
are!" and, in a sudden burst of illhumour: "I don't know why you're
bringing me here. It's a horrid part of the city anyway. I didn't have
any desire to come. I guess I'll turn back and go home."

"We're almost there now."

"I don't care. I don't want to go."

"But you shall, all the same. What's the matter with you to-day that
you don't know your own mind for two minutes together?"

"You didn't inquire if I wanted to come. You're just horrid, Maurice."

"And you're a capricious child."

He quickened his pace, afraid she might still escape him; and Ephie had
hard work to keep up with him. As she trotted along, a few steps
behind, there arose in her a strong feeling of resentment against
Maurice, which was all the stronger because she suspected that she was
on the brink of hearing her worst suspicions confirmed. But she could
not afford to yield to the feeling, when the last chance she had of
getting definite information was passing from her. Knitting both hands
firmly inside her muff, she asked, with an earnestness which, to one
who knew, was fatally tale-telling: "Did anyone you were acquainted
with leave, Maurice?"

"Yes," said the young man at her side, with brusque determination. He
remained untouched by the tone of appeal in which Ephie put the
question; for he himself suffered under her continued hedging. "Yes,"
he said, "some one did, and that was a man called Schilsky--a tall,
red-haired fellow, a violinist. But he has only just gone. He came back
after the vacation to settle his affairs, and say good-bye to his
friends. Is there anything else you want to know?"

He regretted the words as soon as they were out of his mouth. After
all, Ephie was such a child. He could not see her face, which was
hidden by the brim of the big hat, but there was something pathetic in
the line of her chin, and the droop of her arms and shoulders. She
seemed to shrink under his words--to grow smaller. As he stood aside to
let her pass before him, through the house-door in the BRUDERSTRASSE,
he had a quick revulsion of feeling. Instead of being rough and cruel
to her, he should have tried to win her confidence with brotherly
kindness. But he had had room in his mind for nothing but the meeting
with Louise, and now there was no more time; they were going up the
stairs. All he could do was to say gently: "I ought to tell you, Ephie,
that the person we are going to see has been very, very ill--and needs
treating with the utmost consideration. I rely on your tact and
good-feeling."

But Ephie did not reply; the colour had left her face, and for once,
the short upper-lip closed firmly on the lower one. For some minutes
amazed anger with Maurice was all she felt. Then, however, came the
knowledge of what his words meant: he knew--Maurice knew; he had seen
through her fictions; he would tell on her; there would be dreadful
scenes with Joan; there would be reproaches and recriminations; she
would be locked up, or taken away. As for what lay beyond, his
assertion that Schilsky had been there--had been and gone, without a
word to her--that was a sickening possibility, which, at present, her
mind could not grasp. She grew dizzy under these blows that rained down
on her, one after the other. And meanwhile, she had to keep up
appearances, to go on as though nothing had happened, when it seemed
impossible even to drag herself to the top of the winding flight of
stairs. She held her head down; there was a peculiar clicking in her
throat, which she could not master; she felt at every step as if she
would have to burst out crying.

At the glass of the door, and at the wizened old face that appeared
behind it, she looked with unseeing eyes; and she followed Maurice
mechanically along the passage to a door at the end.

In his agitation the young man forgot to knock; and as they entered, a
figure sprang up from the sofa-corner, and made a few impulsive steps
towards them.

Maurice went over to Louise and took her hand.

"I've brought her," he said in a low tone, and with a kind of appeal in
voice and eyes, which he was not himself aware of. Louise answered the
look, and went on looking at him, as if she were fearful of letting her
eyes stray. Both turned at an exclamation from Ephie. She was still
standing where Maurice had left her, close beside the door; but her
face was flaming, and her right hand fumbled with the doorhandle.

"Ephie!" said Maurice warningly. He was afraid she would turn the
handle, and, going over to her, took her by the arm.

"Say, Maurice, I'm going home," she said under her breath. "I can't
stop here. Oh, why did you bring me?"

"Ssh!--be a good girl, Ephie," he replied as though speaking to a
child. "Come with me."

An inborn politeness struggled with Ephie's dread. "I can't. I don't
know her name," she whispered. But she let him draw her forward to
where Louise was standing; and she held out her hand.

"Miss--?" she said in a small voice, and waited for the name to be
filled in.

Louise had watched them whispering, with a stony fare, but, at Ephie's
gesture, life came into it. Her eyes opened wide; and drawing back from
the girl's outstretched hand, yet without seeming to see it, she turned
with a hasty movement, and went over to the window, where she stood
with her back to them.

This was the last straw; Ephie dropped on a chair, and hiding her face
in her hands, burst into the tears she had hitherto restrained. Her
previous trouble was increased a hundredfold. For she had recognised
Louise at once; she felt that she was in a trap; and the person who had
entrapped her was Maurice. Holding a tiny lace handkerchief to her
eyes, she sobbed as though her heart would break.

"Don't cry, dear, don't cry," said the young man. "It's all right." But
his thoughts were with Louise. He was apprehensive of what she might do
next.

As if in answer to his fear, she crossed the room.

"Ask her to take her hands down. I want to see her face."

Maurice bent over Ephie, and touched her shoulder.

"Ephie, dear, do you hear? Look up, like a good girl, and speak to Miss
Dufrayer."

But Ephie shook off his hand.

Over her bowed head, their eyes met; and the look Louise gave the young
man was cold and questioning. He shrugged his shoulders: he could do
nothing; and retreating behind the writing-table, he left the two girls
to themselves.

"Stand up, please," said Louise in an unfriendly voice; and as Ephie
did not obey, she made a movement to take her by the wrists.

"No, no!--don't touch me," cried Ephie, and rose in spite of herself.
"What right have you to speak to me like this?"

She could say no more, for, with a quick, unforeseen movement, Louise
took the young girl's face in both hands, and turned it up. And after
her first instinctive effort to draw back, Ephie kept still, like a
fascinated rabbit, her eyes fixed on the dark face that looked down at
her.

Seconds passed into minutes; and the minutes seemed hours. Maurice
watched, on the alert to intervene, if necessary.

At the entrance of her visitors, Louise had been unable to see
distinctly, so stupefied was she by the thought that the person on whom
her thoughts had run, with a kind of madness, for more than forty-eight
hours, was actually in the room beside her--it was just as though a
nightmare phantom had taken bodily form. And then, too, though she had
spent each of these hours in picturing to herself what this girl would
be like, the reality was so opposed to her imagining that, at first,
she could not reconcile the differences.

Now she forced herself to see every line of the face. Nothing escaped
her. She saw how loosened tendrils of hair on neck and forehead became
little curls; saw the finely marked brows, and the dark blue veins at
the temples; the pink and white colouring of the cheeks; the small
nose, modelled as if in wax; the fascinating baby mouth, with its short
upper-lip. Like most dark, sallow women, whose own brief freshness is
past, the elder girl passionately admired such may-blossom beauty, as
something belonging to a different race from herself. And this was not
all: as she continued to look into Ephie's face, she ceased to be
herself; she became the man whose tastes she knew better than her own;
she saw with his eyes, felt with his senses. She pictured Ephie's face,
arch and smiling, lifted to his; and she understood and excused his
weakness. He had not been able to help what had happened: this was the
prettiness that drew him in, the kind he had invariably turned to look
back at, in the street--something fair and round, adorably small and
young, something to be petted and protected, that clung, and was
childishly subordinate. For her dark sallowness, for her wilful
mastery, he had only had a passing fancy. She was not his type, and she
knew it. But to have known it vaguely, when it did not matter, and to
know it at a moment like the present, were two different things.

In a burst of despair she let her arms fall to her sides; but her
insatiable eyes gazed on; and Ephie, though she was now free, did not
stir, but remained standing, with her face raised, in a silly
fascination. And the eyes, having taken in the curves of cheeks and
chin, and the soft white throat, passed to the rounded, drooping
shoulders, to the plumpness of the girlish figure, embracing the whole
body in their devouring gaze. Ephie went hot and cold beneath them; she
felt as if her clothes were being stripped from her, and she left
standing naked. Louise saw the changing colour, and interpreted it in
her own way. His--all his! He was not the mortal--she knew it only too
well--to have this flower within his reach, and not clutch at it,
instinctively, as a child clutches at sunbeams. It would riot have been
in nature for him to do otherwise than take, greedily, without
reflection. At the thought of it, a spasm of jealousy caught her by the
throat; her hanging hands trembled to hurt this infantile prettiness,
to spoil these lips that had been kissed by his.

Maurice was at her side. "Don't hurt her," he said, and did not know
how the words came to his lips.

The spell was broken. The unnatural expression died out of her face;
she was tired and apathetic.

"Hurt her?" she repeated faintly. "No, don't be afraid. I shall not
hurt her. But if I beat her with ropes till all my strength was gone, I
couldn't hurt her as she has hurt me."

"Hush! Don't say such things."

"I? I hurt you?" said Ephie, and began to cry afresh. "How could I? I
don't even know you."

"No, you don't know me; and yet you have done me the cruellest wrong."

"Oh, no, no," sobbed Ephic. "No, indeed!"

"He was all I had--all I cared for. And you plotted, and planned, and
stole him from me--with your silly baby face."

"It's not true," wept Ephie. "How could I? I didn't know anything about
you. He ... he never spoke of you."

Louise laughed. "Oh, I can believe that! And you thought, didn't you,
you poor little fool, that he only cared for you? That was why my name
was never mentioned. He didn't need to scheme, and contrive, and lie,
lie abominably, for fear I should come to hear what he was doing!"

"No, indeed," sobbed Ephie. "Never! And you've no right to say such
things of him."

"I no right?" Louise drew herself up. "No right to say what I like of
him? Are you going to tell me what I shall say and what I shan't of the
man I loved?--yes, and who loved me, too, but in a way you couldn't
understand you who think all you have to do is to smile your silly
smile, and spoil another person's life. You didn't know, no, of course
not!--didn't know this was his room as well as mine. Look, his music is
still lying on the piano; that's the chair he sat in, not many days
ago; here," she took Ephie by the shoulder and drew her behind the
screen, where a small door, papered like the wall, gave, direct from
the stair-head, a second entrance to the room--"here's the door he came
in at.--For he came as he liked, whenever he chose."

"It's not true; it can't be true," said Ephie, and raised her
tear-stained face defiantly. "We are engaged--since the summer. He's
coming back to marry me soon."

"He's coming back to marry you!" echoed Louise in a blank voice. "He's
coming back to marry you!"

She moved a few steps away, and stood by the writing-table, looking
dazed, as if she did not understand. Then she laughed.

Ephie cried with renewed bitterness. "I want to go home."

But Maurice did not pay any attention to her. He was watching Louise,
with a growing dismay. For she continued to laugh, in a breathless way,
with a catch in the throat, which made the laughter sound like sobbing.
On his approaching her, she tried to check herself, but without
success. She wiped her lips, and pressed her handkerchief to them, then
took the handkerchief between her teeth and bit it. She crossed to the
window, and stood with her back to the others; but she could not stop
laughing. She went behind the low, broad screen that divided the room,
and sat down on the edge of the bed; but still she had to laugh on. She
came out again into the other part of the room, and saw Maurice pale
and concerned, and Ephie's tears dried through pure fear; but the sight
of these two made her laugh more violently than before. She held her
face in her hands, and pressed her jaws together as though she would
break them; for they shook with a nervous convulsion. Her whole body
began to shake, with the efforts she made at repression.

Ephie cowered in her seat. "Oh, Maurice, let us go. I'm so afraid," she
implored him.

"Don't be frightened! It's all right." But he was following Louise
about the room, entreating her to regain the mastery of herself. When
he did happen to notice Ephie more closely, he said: "Go downstairs,
and wait for me there. I'll come soon."

Ephie did not need twice telling: she turned and fled. He heard the
hall-door bang behind her.

"Do try to control yourself. Miss Dufrayer--Louise! Every one in the
house will hear you."

But she only laughed the more. And now the merest trifles helped to
increase the paroxysm--the way Maurice worked his hands, Ephie's muff
lying forgotten on a chair, the landlady's inquisitive face peering in
at the door. The laugh continued, though it had become a kind of
cackle--a sound without tone. Maurice could bear it no longer. He went
up to her and tried to take her hands. She repulsed him, but he was too
strong for her. He took both her hands in his, and pressed her down on
a chair. He was not clear himself what to do next; but, the moment he
touched her, the laughter ceased. She gasped for breath; he thought she
would choke, and let her hands go again. She pressed them to her
throat; her breath came more and more quickly; her eyes closed; and
falling forward on her knees, she hid her face in the cushioned seat of
the sofa.

Then the tears came, and what tears! In all his life, Maurice had never
heard crying like this. He moved as far away from her as he could,
stood at the window, staring out and biting his lips, while she sobbed,
regardless of his presence, with the utter abandon of a child. Like a
child, too, she wept rebelliously, unchastenedly, as he could not have
believed it possible for a grown person to cry. Such grief as this, so
absolute a despair, had nothing to do with reason or the reasoning
faculties; and the words were not invented that would be able to soothe
it.

But, little by little, a change came over her crying. The rebellion
died out of it; it grew duller, and more blunted, hopeless, without
life. Her strength was almost gone. Now, however, there was another
note of childishness in it, that of complete exhaustion, which it is so
hard to hear. The tears rose to his own eyes; he would have liked to go
to her, to lay his hand on her head, and treat her tenderly, to make
her cease and be happy once more; but he did not dare. Had he done so,
she might not have repelled him; for, in all intensely passionate
grief, there comes a moment of subsidence, when the grief and its
origin are forgotten, and the one overruling desire is the desire to be
comforted, no matter who the comforter and what his means, so long as
they are masterful and strong.

She grew calmer; and soon she was only shaken at widening intervals by
a sob. Then these, too, ceased, and Maurice held his breath. But as,
after a considerable time had elapsed, she still lay without making
sound or movement, he crossed the room to look at her. She was fast
asleep, half sitting, half lying, with her head on the cushions, and
the tears wet on her cheeks. He hesitated between a wish to see her in
a more comfortable position, and an unwillingness to disturb her.
Finally, he took an eider-down quilt from the bed, and wrapped it round
her; then slipped noiselessly from the room.

It was past eight o'clock.


* * * * *


Ephie ran down the stairs as if a spectre were at her heels, and even
when in the street, did not venture to slacken her speed. Although the
dusk was rapidly passing into dark, a good deal of notice was attracted
by the sight of a well-dressed young girl running along, holding a
handkerchief to her face, and every now and then emitting a loud sob.
People stood and stared after her, and some little boys ran with her.
Instead of dropping her pace when she saw this, Ephie grew confused,
and ran more quickly than before. She had turned at random, on coming
out of the house; and she was in a part of the town she did not know.
In her eagerness to get away from people, she took any turn that
offered; and after a time she found that she had crossed the river, and
was on what was almost a country road. A little further off, she knew,
lay the woods; if once she were in their shelter, she would be safe;
and, without stopping to consider that night was falling, she ran
towards them at full speed. On the first seat she came to she sank
breathless and exhausted.

Her first sensation was one of relief at being alone. She unpinned and
took off the big, heavy hat, and laid it on the seat beside her, in
order to be more at her case; and then she cried, heartily, and without
precautions, enjoying to the full the luxury of being unwatched and
unheard. Since teatime, she seemed to have been fighting her tears,
exercising a self-restraint that was new to her and very hard; and not
to-day alone--oh, no, for weeks past, she had been obliged to act a
part. Not even in her bed at night had she been free to indulge her
grief; for, if she cried then, it made her pale and heavy-eyed next
day, and exposed her to Joan's comments. And there were so many things
to cry about: all the emotional excitement of the summer, with its ups
and downs of hope and fear; the never-ceasing need of dissimulation;
the gnawing uncertainty caused by Schilsky's silence; the growing sense
of blankness and disappointment; Joan's suspicions; Maurice's
discovery; the knowledge that Schilsky had gone away without a word to
her; and, worst of all, and most inexplicable, the terrible visit of
the afternoon--at the remembrance of the madwoman she had escaped from,
Ephie's tears flowed with renewed vigour. Her handkerchief was soaked
and useless; she held her fur tippet across her eyes to receive the
tears as they fell; and when this grew too wet, she raised the skirt of
her dress to her face. Not a sound was to be heard but her sobbing; she
was absolutely alone; and she wept on till those who cared for her,
whose chief wish was to keep grief from her, would hardly have
recognized in her the child they loved.

How long she had been there she did not know, when she was startled to
her feet by a loud rustling in the bushes behind her. Then, of a
sudden, she became aware that it was pitch-dark, and that she was all
by herself in the woods. She took to her heels, in a panic of fear, and
did not stop running till the street-lamps came into sight. When she
was under their friendly shine, and could see people walking on the
other side of the river, she remembered that she had left her hat lying
on the seat. At this fresh misfortune, she began to cry anew. But not
for anything in the world would she have ventured back to fetch it.

She crossed the Pleisse and came to a dark, quiet street, where few
people were; and here she wandered up and down. It was late; at home
they would be sitting at supper now, exhausting themselves in
conjectures where she could be. Ephie was very hungry, and at the
thought of the warmth and light of the supper-table, a lump rose in her
throat. If it had been only her mother, she might have faced her--but
Joan! Home in this plight, at this hour, hatless, and with swollen
face, to meet Joan's eyes and questions!--she shivered at the idea.
Moreover, the whole PENSION would get to know what had happened to her;
she would need to bear inquisitive looks and words; she would have to
explain, or, still worse, to invent and tell stories again; and of what
use were they now, when all was over? A feeling of lassitude overcame
her--an inability to begin fresh. All over: he would never put his arm
round her again, never come towards her, careless and smiling, and call
her his "little, little girl."

She sobbed to herself as she walked. Everything was bleak, and black,
and cheerless. She would perhaps die of the cold, and then all of them,
Joan in particular, would be filled with remorse. She stood and looked
at the inky water of the river between its stone walls. She had read of
people drowning themselves; what if she went down the steps and threw
herself in?--and she feebly fingered at the gate. But it was locked and
chained; and at the idea of her warm, soft body touching the icy water;
at the picture of herself lying drowned, with dank hair, or, like the
Christian Martyr, floating away on the surface; at the thought of their
grief, of HIM wringing his hands over her corpse, she was so moved that
she wept aloud again, and almost ran to be out of temptation's way.

It had begun to drizzle. Oh, how tired she was! And she was obliged
constantly to dodge impertinently staring men. In a long, wide street,
she entered a door-way that was not quite so dark as the others, and
sat down on the bottom step of the stairs. Here she must have dozed,
for she was roused by angry voices on the floor above. It sounded like
some one who was drunk; and she fled trembling back to the street.

A neighbouring clock struck ten. At this time of night, she could not
go home, even though she wished to. She was wandering the streets like
any outcast, late at night, without a hat--and her condition of
hatlessness she felt to be the chief stigma. But she was starving with
hunger, and so tired that she could scarcely drag one foot after the
other. Oh, what would they say if they knew what their poor little
Ephie was enduring! Her mother--Joan---Maurice!

Maurice! The thought of him came to her like a ray of light. It was to
Maurice she would turn. He would be good to her, and help her; he had
always been kind to her, till this afternoon. And he knew what had
happened; it would not be necessary to explain.--Oh, Maurice, Maurice!

She knew his address, if she could but find the street. A droschke
passed, and she tried to hail it; but she did not like to advance too
far out of the shadow, on account of her bare head. Finally, plucking
up courage, she inquired the way of a feather-hatted woman, who had
eyed her with an inquisitive stare.

It turned out that the BRAUSTRASSE was just round the corner; she had
perhaps been in the street already, without knowing it; and now she
found it, and the house, without difficulty. The street-door was still
open; or she would never have been bold enough to ring.

The stair was poorly lighted, and full of unsavoury smells. In her
agitation, Ephie rang on a wrong floor, and a strange man answered her
timid inquiry. She climbed a flight higher, and rang again. There was a
long and ominous pause, in which her heart beat fast; if Maurice did
not live here either, she would drop where she stood. She was about to
ring a second time, when felt slippers and an oil lamp moved along the
passage, the glass window was opened, and a woman's face peered out at
her. Yes, Herr Guest lived there, certainly, said Frau Krause, divided
between curiosity and indignation at having to rise from bed; and she
held the lamp above her head, in order to see Ephie better. But he was
not at home, and, even if he were, at this hour of night ... The heavy
words shuffled along, giving the voracious eyes time to devour.

At the thought that her request might be denied her, Ephie's courage
took its last leap.

"Why, I must see him. I have something important to tell him. Could I
not wait?" she urged in her broken German, feeling unspeakably small
and forlorn. And yielding to a desire to examine more nearly the bare,
damp head and costly furs, Frau Krause allowed the girl to pass before
her into Maurice's room.

She loitered as long as she could over lighting the lamp that stood on
the table; and meanwhile threw repeated glances at Ephie, who, having
given one look round the shabby room, sank into a corner of the sofa
and hid her face: the coarse browed woman, in petticoat and
night-jacket, seemed to her capable of robbery or murder. And so Frau
Krause unwillingly withdrew, to await further developments outside: the
holy, smooth-faced Herr Guest was a deep one, after all.

When Maurice entered, shortly before eleven, Ephie started up from a
broken sleep. He came in pale and disturbed, for Frau Krause had met
him in the passage with angry mutterings about a FRAUENZIMMER in his
room; and his thoughts had at once leaped fearfully to Louise. When he
saw Ephie, he uttered a loud exclamation of surprise.

"Good Lord, Ephie! What on earth are you doing here?"

She sprang at his hands, and caught her breath hysterically.

"Oh, Morry, you've come at last. Oh, I thought you would never come.
Where have you been? Oh, Morry, help me--help me, or I shall die!"

"Whatever is the matter? What are you doing here?"

At his perturbed amazement, she burst into tears, still clinging fast
to his hands. He led her back to the sofa, from which she had sprung.

"Hush, hush! Don't cry like that. What's the matter, child? Tell me
what it is--at once--and let me help you."

"Oh, yes, Morry, help me, help me! There's no one else. I didn't know
where to go. Oh, what shall I do!"

Her own words sounded so pathetic that she sobbed piteously. Maurice
stroked her hand, and waited for her to grow quieter. But now that she
had laid the responsibility of herself on other shoulders, Ephie was
quite unnerved: after the dark and fearful wanderings of the evening,
to be beside some one who knew, who would take care of her, who would
tell her what to do!

She sobbed and sobbed. Only with perseverance did Maurice draw from
her, word by word, an account of where she had been that evening,
broken by such cries as: "Oh, what shall I do! I can't ever go home
again--ever! ... and I lost my hat. Oh, Morry, Morry! And I didn't know
he had gone away--and it wasn't true what I said, that he was coming
back to marry me soon.. I only said it to spite her, because she said
such dreadful things to me. But we were engaged, all the same; he said
he would come to New York to marry me. And now ... oh, dear, oh, Morry!
..."

"Then he really promised to marry you, did he?"

"Yes, oh, yes. Everything was fixed. The last day I was there," she
wept. "But I didn't know he was going away; he never said a word about
it. Oh, what shall I do! Go after him, and bring him back, Morry. He
must come back. He can't leave me like this, he can't--oh, no, indeed!"

"You don't mean to say you went to see him, Ephie?--alone?--at his
room?" queried Maurice slowly, and he did not know how sternly. "When?
How often? Tell me everything. This is no time for fibbing."

But he could make little of Ephie's sobbed and hazy version of the
story; she herself could not remember clearly now; the impressions of
the last few hours had been so intense as to obliterate much of what
had gone before. "I thought I would drown myself ... but the water was
so black. Oh, why did you take me to that dreadful woman? Did you hear
what she said? It wasn't true, was it? Oh, it can't be!"

"It was quite true, Ephie. What he told YOU wasn't true. He never
really cared for anyone but her. They were--were engaged for years."

At this, she wept so heart-rendingly that he was afraid Frau Krause
would come in and interfere.

"You MUST control yourself. Crying won't alter things now. If you had
been frank and candid with us, it would never have happened." This was
the only reproach he could make her; what came after was Johanna's
business, not his. "And now I'm going to take you home. It's nearly
twelve o'clock. Think of the state your mother and sister will be in
about you."

But at the mention of Johanna, Ephie flung herself on the sofa again
and beat the cushions with her hands.

"Not Joan, not Joan!" she wailed. "No, I won't go home. What will she
say to me? Oh, I am so frightened! She'll kill me, I know she will."
And at Maurice's confident assurance that Johanna would have nothing
but love and sympathy for her, she shook her head. "I know Joan. She'll
never forgive me. Morry, let me stay with you. You've always been kind
to me. Oh, don't send me away!"

"Don't be a silly child, Ephie. You know yourself you can't stay here."

But he gave up urging her, coaxed her to lie down, and sat beside her,
stroking her hair. As he said no more, she gradually ceased to sob, and
in what seemed to the young man an incredibly short time, he heard from
her breathing that she was asleep. He covered her up, and stood a sheet
of music before the lamp, to shade her eyes. In the passage he ran up
against Frau Krause, whom he charged to prevent Ephie in the event of
her attempting to leave the house.

Buttoning up his coat-collar, he hastened through the mistlike rain to
fetch Johanna.

There was a light in every window of the PENSION in the LESSINGSTRASSE;
the street-door and both doors of the flat stood open. As he mounted
the stairs a confused sound of voices struck his car; and when he
entered the passage, he heard Mrs. Cayhill crying noisily. Johanna came
out to him at once; she was in hat and cloak. She listened stonily to
his statement that Ephie was safe at his lodgings, and put no
questions; but, on her returning to the sitting-room, Mrs. Cayhill's
sobs stopped abruptly, and several women spoke at once.

Johanna preserved her uncompromising attitude as they walked the
midnight streets. But as Maurice made no mien to explain matters
further, she so far conquered her aversion as to ask: "What have you
done to her?"

The young man's consternation at this view of the case was so evident
that even she felt the need of wording her question differently.

"Answer me. What is Ephie doing at your rooms?"

Maurice cleared his throat. "It's a long and unpleasant story, Miss
Cayhill. And I'm afraid I must tell it from the beginning.--You didn't
suspect, I fear, that ... well, that Ephie had a fancy for some one
here?"

At these words, which were very different from those she had expected,
Johanna eyed him in astonishment.

"A fancy!" she repeated incredulously. "What do you mean?"

"Even more--an infatuation," said Maurice with deliberation. "And for
some one I daresay you have never even heard of--a...a man here, a
violinist, called Schilsky."

The elaborate fabric she had that day reared, fell together about
Johanna's ears. She stared at Maurice as if she doubted his sanity; and
she continued to listen, with the same icy air of disbelief, to his
stammered and ineffectual narrative, until he said that he believed
"it" had been "going on since summer."

At this Johanna laughed aloud. "That is quite impossible," she said. "I
knew everything Ephie did, and everywhere she went."

"She met him nearly every day. They exchanged letters, and-----"

"It is impossible," repeated Johanna with vehemence, but less surely.

"----and a sort of engagement seems to have existed between them."

"And you knew this and never said a word to me?"

"I didn't know--not till to-night. I only suspected something--once ...
long ago. And I couldn't--I mean--one can't say a thing like that
without being quite sure----"

But here he broke down, conscious, as never before, of the negligence
he had been guilty of towards Ephie. And Johanna was not likely to
spare him: there was, indeed, a bitter antagonism to his half-hearted
conduct in the tone in which she said: "I stood to Ephie in a mother's
place. You might have warned me--oh, you might, indeed!"

They walked on in silence--a hard, resentful silence. Then Johanna put
the question he was expecting to hear.

"And what has all this to do with to-night?"

Maurice took up the thread of his narrative again, telling how Ephie
had waited vainly for news since returning from Switzerland, and how
she had only learnt that afternoon that Schilsky had been in Leipzig,
and had gone away again, without seeing her, or letting her know that
he did not intend to return.

"And how did she hear it?"

"At a friend's house."

"What friend?"

"A friend of mine, a--No; I had better be frank with you: the girl this
fellow was engaged to for a year or more."

"And Ephie did not know that?"

He shook his head.

"But you knew, and yet took her there?"

It was a hopeless job to try to exonerate himself. "Yes, there were
reasons--I couldn't help it, in fact. But I'm afraid I should not be
able to make you understand."

"No, never!" retorted Johanna, and squared her shoulders.

But there was more to be said--she had worse to learn before Ephie was
handed over to her care.

"And Ephie has been very foolish," he began anew, without looking at
her. "It seems--from what she has told me tonight--that she has been to
see this man ... been at his rooms ... more than once."

At first, he was certain, Johanna did not grasp the meaning of what he
said; she turned a blank face curiously to him. But, a moment later,
she gave a low cry, and hardly able to form the words for excitement,
asked: "Who ... what ... what kind of a man was he--this ... Schilsky?"

"Rotten," said Maurice; and she did not press him further. He heard her
breath coming quickly, and saw the kind of stiffening that went through
her body; but she kept silence, and did not speak again till they were
almost at his house-door. Then she said, in a voice that was hoarse
with feeling: "It has been all my fault. I did not take proper care of
her. I was blind and foolish. And I shall never be able to forgive
myself for it--never. But that Ephic--my little Ephie--the child
I--that Ephie could ... could do a thing like this ..." Her voice
tailed off in a sob.

Maurice struck matches, to light her up the dark staircase; and the
condition of the stairs, the disagreeable smells, the poverty of wall
and door revealed, made Johanna's heart sink still further: to
surroundings such as these had Ephie accustomed herself. They entered
without noise; everything was just as Maurice had left it, except that
the lamp had burned too high and filled the room with its fumes. As
Johanna paused, undecided what to do, Ephie started up, and, at the
sight of her sister, burst into loud cries of fear. Hiding her face,
she sobbed so alarmingly that Johanna did not venture to approach her.
She remained standing beside the table, one thin, ungloved hand resting
on it, while Maurice bent over Ephie and tried to soothe her.

"Please fetch a droschke," Johanna said grimly, as Ephie's sobs showed
no signs of abating; and when, after a lengthy search in the night,
Maurice returned, she was standing in the same position, staring with
drawn, unblinking eyes at the smoky lamp, which no one had thought of
lowering. Ephie was still crying, and only Maurice might go near her.
He coaxed her to rise, wrapped his rug round her, and carried her, more
than he led her, down the stairs.

"Be good enough to drive home with us," said Johanna. And so he sat
with his arm round Ephie, who pressed her face against his shoulder,
while the droschke jolted over the cobbled streets, and Johanna held
herself pale and erect on the opposite seat. She mounted the stairs in
front of them. Ephie was limp and heavy going up; but no sooner did she
catch sight of Mrs. Cayhill than, with a cry, she rushed from the young
man's side, and threw herself into her mother's arms.

"Oh, mummy, mummy!"

Downstairs, in the rain-soaked street, Maurice found the
droschke-driver waiting for his fare. It only amounted to a couple of
marks, and it was no doubt a just retribution for what had happened
that he should be obliged to lay it out; but, none the less, it seemed
like the last straw--the last dismal touch--in a day of forlorn
discomfort.



V.


A few weeks later, a great variety of cabin-trunks and saratogas
blocked the corridor of the PENSION. The addresses they bore were in
Johanna's small, pointed handwriting.

On this, the last afternoon of the Cayhills' stay in Leipzig, Maurice
saw Johanna again for the first time. She had had her hands full. In
the woods, on that damp October night, and on her subsequent
wanderings, Ephie had caught a severe cold; and the doctor had feared
an inflammation of the lungs. This had been staved off; but there was
also, it seemed, a latent weakness of the chest, hitherto unsuspected,
which kept them anxious. Ephie still had a dry, grating cough, which
was troublesome at night, and left her tired and fretful by day. They
were travelling direct to the South of France, where they intended to
remain until she had quite recovered her strength.

Maurice sat beside Johanna on the deep sofa where he and Ephie had
worked at harmony together. But the windows of the room were shut now,
and the room itself looked unfamiliar; for it had been stripped of all
the trifles and fancy things that had given it such a comfortable,
home-like air, and was only the bare, lodging-house room once more.
Johanna was as self-possessed as of old, a trifle paler, a trifle
thinner of lip.

She told him that they intended leaving quietly the next morning,
without partings or farewells. Ephie was still weak and the less
excitement she had to undergo, the better it would be for her.

"Then I shall not see Ephie again?" queried Maurice in surprise.

Johanna thought not: it would only recall the unhappy night to her
memory; besides, she had not asked to see him, as she no doubt would
have done, had she wished it.--At this, the eleventh hour, Johanna did
not think it worth while to tell Maurice that Ephie bore him an
unalterable grudge.

"I never want to see him again."

That was all she said to Johanna; but, during her illness, she had
brooded long over his treachery. And even if things had come all right
in the end, she would never have been able to forgive his speaking to
her of Schilsky in the way he had done. No, she was finished with
Maurice Guest; he was too double-faced, too deceitful for her.--And she
cried bitterly, with her face turned to the wall.

The young man could not but somewhat lamely agree with Johanna that it
was better to let the matter end thus: for he felt that towards the
Cayhills he had been guilty of a breach of trust such as it is
difficult to forgive. At the same time, he was humanly hurt that Ephie
would not even say good-bye to him.

He asked their further plans, and learnt that as soon as Ephie was well
again, they would sail for New York.

"My father has cabled twice for us."

Johanna's manner was uncompromisingly dry and short. After her last
words, there was a long pause, and Maurice made a movement to rise. But
she put out her hand and detained him.

"There is something I should like to say to you." And thereupon, with
the abruptness of a nervous person: "When I have seen my sister and
mother safe back, I intend leaving home myself. I am going to Harvard."

Maurice realised that the girl was telling him a fact of considerable
importance to herself, and did his best to look interested.

"Really? That's always been a wish of yours, hasn't it?"

"Yes." Johanna coloured, hesitated as he had never known her to do,
then burst out: "And now there is nothing in the way of it." She drew
her thumb across the leaf-corners of a book that was lying on the
table. "Oh, I know what you will say: how, now that Ephie has turned
out to be weak and untrustworthy, there is all the more reason for me
to remain with her, to look after her. But that is not possible." She
faced him sharply, as though he had contradicted her. "I am incapable
of pretending to be the same when my feelings have changed; and, as I
told you--as I knew that night--I shall never be able to feel for Ephie
as I did before. I am ready, as I said, to take all the blame for what
has happened; I was blind and careless. But if the care and affection
of years count for nothing; if I have been so little able to win her
confidence; if, indeed, I have only succeeded in making her dislike me,
by my care of her, so that when she is in trouble, she turns from me,
instead of to me--why, then I have failed lamentably in what I had made
the chief duty of my life."

"Besides," she continued more quietly, "there is another reason: Ephie
is going to fall a victim to her nerves. I see that; and my poor,
foolish mother is doing her best to foster it.--You smile? Only because
you do not understand what it means. It is no laughing matter. If an
American woman once becomes conscious of her nerves, then Heaven help
her!--Now I am not of a disinterested enough nature to devote myself to
sick-nursing where there is no real sickness. And then, too, my mother
intends taking a French maid back with her, and a person of that class
will perform such duties much more competently than I."

She spoke with bitterness. Maurice mumbled some words of sympathy,
wondering why she should choose to say these things to him.

"Even at home my place is filled," continued Johanna. "The housekeeper
who was appointed during our absence has been found so satisfactory
that she will continue in the post after our return. Everywhere, you
see, I have proved superfluous. There, as here."

"I'm sure you're mistaken," said Maurice with more warmth. "And, Miss
Joan, there's something I should like to say, if I may. Don't you think
you take what has happened here a little too seriously? No doubt Ephie
behaved foolishly. But was it after all any more than a girlish
escapade?"

"Too seriously?"

Johanna turned her shortsighted eyes on the young man, and gazed at him
almost pityingly. How little, oh, how little, she said to herself, one
mortal knew and could know of another, in spite of the medium of
speech, in spite of common experiences! Some of the nights at the
beginning of Ephie's illness returned vividly to her mind, nights, when
she, Johanna, had paced her room by the hour, filled with a terrible
dread, a numbing uncertainty, which she would sooner have died than
have let cross her lips. She had borne it quite alone, this horrible
fear; her mother had been told of the whole affair only what it was
absolutely necessary for her to know. And, naturally enough, the young
man who now sat at her side, being a man, could not be expected to
understand. But the consciousness of her isolation made Johanna speak
with renewed harshness.

"Too seriously?" she repeated. "Oh, I think not. The girlish escapade,
as you call it, was the least of it. If that had been all, if it had
only been her infatuation for some one who was unworthy of her, I could
have forgiven Ephie till seventy times seven. But, after all these
years, after the way I have loved her--no, idolised her!--for her to
treat me as she did--do you think it possible to take that too
seriously? There was no reason she should not have had her little
secrets. If she had let me see that something was going on, which she
did not want to tell me about, do you think I should have forced
her?"--and Johanna spoke in all good faith, forgetful of how she had
been used to clip and doctor Ephie's sentiments. "But that she could
deceive me wilfully, and lie so lightly, with a smile, when, all the
time, she was living a double life, one to my face and one behind my
back--that I cannot forgive. Something has died in me that I used to
feel for her. I could never trust her again, and where there is no
trust there can be no real love."

"She didn't understand what she was doing. She is so young."

"Just for that reason. So young, and so skilled in deceit. That is
hardest of all, even to think of: that she could wear her dear innocent
face, while behind it, in her brain, were cold, calculating thoughts
how she could best deceive me! If there had been but a single sign to
waken my suspicions, then, yes, then I could have forgiven her," said
Johanna, and again forgot how often of late she had been puzzled by the
subtle change in Ephie. "If I could just know that, in spite of her
efforts, she had been too candid to succeed!"

She had unburdened herself and it had been a relief to her, but nothing
could be helped or mended. Both knew this, and after a few polite
questions about her future plans and studies, Maurice rose to take his
leave.

"Say good-bye to them both for me, and give Ephie my love."

"I will. I think she will be sorry afterwards that she did not see you.
She has always liked you."

"Good-bye then. Or perhaps it is only AUF WIEDERSEHEN?"

"I hardly think so." Johanna had returned to her usual sedate manner.
"If I do visit Europe again, it will not be for five or six years at
least."

"And that's a long time. Who knows where I may be, by then!"

He held Johanna's hand in his, and saw her gauntly slim figure outlined
against the bare sitting-room. It was not likely that they would ever
meet again. But he could not summon up any very lively feelings of
regret. Johanna had not touched him deeply; she had left him as cool as
he had no doubt left her; neither had found the key to the other. Her
chief attraction for him had been her devotion to Ephie; and now,
having been put to the test, this was found wanting. She had been
wounded in her own pride and self-love, and could not forgive. At heart
she was no more generous and unselfish than the rest.

He repeated farewell messages as he stood in the passage. Johanna held
the front door open for him, and, as he went down the stairs, he heard
it close behind him, with that extreme noiselessness that was
characteristic of Johanna's treatment of it.

The following morning, shortly after ten o'clock, a train steamed out
of the THURINGER BAHNHOF, carrying the Cayhills with it. The day was
misty and cheerless, and none of the three travellers turned her head
to give the town a parting glance. They left unattended, without
flowers or other souvenirs, without any of the demonstratively pathetic
farewells, the waving of hats, and crowding about the carriage-door,
which one of the family, at least, had connected inseverably with their
departure. And thus Ephie's musical studies came to an abrupt and
untimely end.


* * * * *


"My faith in women is shattered. I shall never believe in a woman
again."

Dove paced the floor of Maurice's room with long and steady strides,
beneath which a particular board creaked at intervals. His voice was
husky, and the ruddiness of his cheeks had paled.

At the outset of Ephie's illness, Dove had called every morning at the
PENSION, to make inquiries and to leave his regards. But when the story
leaked out, as it soon did, in an exaggerated and distorted form, he
straightway ceased his visits. Thus he was wholly unprepared for the
family's hurried departure, the news of which was broken to him by
Maurice. Dove was dumbfounded. Not a single sententious phrase crossed
his lips; and he remained unashamed of the moisture that dimmed his
eyes. But he maintained his bearing commendably; and it was impossible
not to admire the upright, manly air with which he walked down the
street.

The next day, however, he returned, and was silent no longer. He made
no secret of having been hard hit; just as previously he had let his
friends into his hopes and intentions, so now every one heard of his
reverses. He felt a tremendous need of unbosoming himself; he had been
so sure of success, or, at least, so unthinking of failure, and the
blow to his selfesteem was a rude one.

Maurice sat with his hands in his pockets, and tried to urge reason.
But Dove would not admit even the possibility of his having been
mistaken. He had received innumerable proofs of Ephie's regard for him.

"Remember how young she was! Girls of that age never know their own
minds," said Maurice. But Dove was inclined to take Johanna's sterner
view, and to cry: "So young and so untender!" for which he, too,
substituted "untrue"; and, just on this score, to deduce unfavourable
inferences for Ephie's whole moral character. As Maurice listened to
him, he could not help thinking that Johanna's affection had been of
the same nature as Dove's, in other words, had had a touch of the
masculine about it: it had existed only as long as it could guide and
subordinate; it denied to its object any midget attempt at individual
life; it set up lofty moral standards, and was implacable when a
smaller, frailer being found it impossible to live up to them.

At the same time, he was sorry for Dove, who, in his blindness, had
laid himself open to receive this snubbing; and he listened patiently,
even a thought flattered by his confidence, until he learnt from
Madeleine that Dove was making the round of his acquaintances, and
behaving in the same way to anyone who would let him. Then he found
that the openness with which Dove related his past hopes, and the marks
of affection Ephie had given him, bordered on indecency. He said so,
with a wrathful frankness; but Dove could not see it in that light, and
was not offended.

As the personal smart weakened, the more serious question that Dove had
to face was, what he was going to tell his relatives at home. For it
now came out that he had represented the affair to them as settled; in
his perfectly sincere optimism, he had regarded himself as an all but
engaged man. And the point that disturbed him was, how to back out with
dignity, yet without violating the truth, on which he set great store.

"I'm sure he needn't let that trouble him," said Madeleine, on hearing
of his dilemma. "He has only to say that HE has changed his mind, which
is true enough."

This was the conclusion Dove eventually came to himself--though not
with such unseemly haste as Madeleine. Having approached the matter
from all sides, he argued that it would be more considerate to Ephie to
put it in this light than to tell the story in detail. And
consequently, two elderly people in Peterborough nodded to each other
one morning over the breakfast-table, and agreed that Edward had done
well. They had not been much in favour of the American match, but they
had trusted implicitly in their son's good sense, and now, as ever, he
had acted in the most becoming way. He had never given them an hour's
uneasiness since his birth.

Dove wrote:

CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE ARISEN, MY DEAR PARENTS, WHICH MAKE IT
INCONTROVERTIBLY CLEAR TO ME THAT THE YOUNG LADY TO WHOM I WAS PAYING
MY ADDRESSES WHEN I CONSULTED YOU IN SUMMER AND MYSELF WOULD NOT HAVE
KNOWN TRUE HAPPINESS IN OUR UNION. ON MORE INTIMATE ACQUAINTANCE IT
TRANSPIRED THAT OUR CHARACTERS WERE TOTALLY UNSUITED. I HAVE THEREFORE
FOUND IT ADVISABLE TO BANISH THE AFFAIR FROM MY MIND AND TO DEVOTE
MYSELF WHOLLY TO MY STUDIES.

As time passed, and Dove was able to view what had happened more
objectively, he began to feel and even to hint that, all things
considered, he had had a rather lucky escape; and from this, it was not
very far to believing that if he had not just seen through the whole
affair from the beginning, he had at any rate had some inkling of it;
and now, instead of giving proofs of Ephie's affection, he narrated the
gradual growth of his suspicions, and how these had ultimately been
verified. In conclusion, he congratulated himself on having drawn back,
with open eyes, while there was still time.

"Like his cheek!" said Madeleine. "But he could imagine himself into
being the Shah of Persia, if he sat down and gave his mind to it. I
don't believe the snub is going to do him a bit of good. He bobs up
again like a cork, irrepressible. HAVE you heard him quote: 'Frailty
thy name is woman!' or: 'If women could be fair and yet not
fond'?--It's as good as a play."

But altogether, Madeleine was very sharp of tongue since she learnt the
part Maurice had played in what, for a day, was the scandal of the
English-speaking colony. She had taken him to task at once, for his
"lamentable interference."

"Haven't I warned you, Maurice, not to mix yourself up in Louise's
affairs? No good can come of it. She breeds mischief. And if that
absurd child had really drowned herself"--in the version of the story
that had reached Madeleine's ears, Maurice was represented fishing
Ephie bodily from the river--"you would have had to bear the whole
brunt of the blame. It ought to teach you a lesson. For you're just the
kind of boy women will always take advantage of, a mean advantage, you
know. Consider how you were treated in this case--by both of them! They
were not a scrap grateful to you for what you did--women never are.
They only look down on you for letting them have their own way.
Kindness and complaisance don't move them. A well-developed biceps and
a cruel mouth--that's what they want, and that's all!" she wound up
with a flourish, in an extreme bad temper.

She sat, one dull November afternoon, at her piano, and continued to
run her fingers over the keys. Maurice leant on the lid, and listened
to her. But they had barely exchanged a word, when there was a light
tap at the door, and Krafft entered. Both started at his unexpected
appearance, and Madeleine cried: "You come in like a ghost, to frighten
people out of their wits."

Krafft was buttoned to the chin in a travelling-ulster, and looked pale
and thin.

"What news from St. Petersburg?" queried Madeleine with a certain
asperity.

But Maurice recalled an errand he had to do in town; and, on hearing
this, Krafft, who was lolling aimlessly, declared that he would
accompany him.

"But you've only just come!" expostulated Madeleine. "What in the name
of goodness did you climb the stairs for?"

He patted her cheek, without replying.

The young men went away together, Maurice puffing somewhat
ostentatiously at a cigarette. The wind was cold, and Krafft seemed to
shrink into his ulster before it, keeping his hands deep in his
pockets. But from time to time, he threw a side-glance at his friend,
and at length asked, in the tone of appeal which Maurice found it hard
to withstand: "What's the matter, LIEBSTER? Why are you so
different?--so changed?"

"The matter? Nothing--that I'm aware of," said Maurice, and considered
the tip of his cigarette.

"Oh, yes, there is," and Krafft laid a caressing hand on his
companion's arm. "You are changed. You're not frank with me. I feel
such things at once."

"Well, how on earth am I to know when to be frank with you, and when
not? Before you ... not very long ago, you behaved as if you didn't
want to have anything more to do with me."

"You are changed, and, if I'm not mistaken, I know why," said Krafft,
ignoring his answer. "You have been listening to gossip--to what my
enemies say of me."

"I don't listen to gossip. And I didn't know you had enemies, as you
call them."

"I?--and not have enemies?" He flared up as though Maurice had
affronted him. "My good fellow, did you ever bear of a man worth his
salt, who didn't have enemies? It's the penalty one pays: only the
dolts and the 'all-too-many' are friends with the whole world. No one
who has work to do that's worth doing, can avoid making enemies. And
who knows what a friend is, who hasn't an enemy to match him? It's a
question of light and shade, theme and counter-theme, of artistic
proportion." He laughed, in his superior way. But directly afterwards,
he dropped back into his former humble tone. "But that you, my friend,
are so ready to let yourself be influenced--I should not have believed
it of you."

"What I heard, I heard from Furst; and I have no reason to suspect him
of falsehood.--Of course, if you assure me it was not true, that's a
different thing." He turned so sharply that he sent a beautiful flush
over Krafft's face. "Come, give me your word, Heirtz, and things will
be straight again."

But Krafft merely shrugged his shoulders, and his colour subsided as
rapidly as it had risen.

"Are you still such an outsider," he asked, "after all this time--in my
society--as to attach importance to a word? What is 'giving a word'? Do
you really think it is of any value? May I not give it tonight, and
take it back to-morrow, according to the mood I am in, according to
whether I believe it myself or not, at the moment?--You think a thing
must either be true or not true? You are wrong. Do you believe, when
you answer a question in the affirmative or the negative, that you are
actually telling the truth? No, my friend, to be perfectly truthful one
would need to lose oneself in a maze of explanation, such as no
questioner would have the patience to listen to. One would need to take
into account the innumerable threads that have gone to making the
statement what it is. Do you think, for instance, if I answered yes or
no, in the present case, it would be true? If I deny what you
heard--does that tell you that I have longed with all my heart for it
to come to pass? Or say I admit it--I should need to unroll my life
before you to make you understand. No, there's no such thing as
absolute truth. If there were, the finest subtleties of existence would
be lost. There is neither positive truth nor positive untruth; life is
not so coarse-fibred as that. And only the grossest natures can be
satisfied with a blunt yes or no. Truth?--it is one of the many
miserable conventions the human brain has tortured itself with, and its
first principle is an utter lack of the imaginative faculties.--A DIEU!"



VI.


In the days that followed, Maurice threw himself heart and soul into
his work. He had lost ground of late, he saw it plainly now: after his
vigorous start, he had quickly grown slack. He was not, to-day, at the
stage he ought to be, and there was not a doubt but that Schwarz saw
it, too. Now that he, came to think of it, he had more than once been
aware of a studied coolness in the master's manner, of a rather
ostentatious indifference to the quality of the work he brought to the
class: and this he knew by hearsay to be Schwarz's attitude towards
those of his pupils in whom his interest was waning. If he, Maurice,
wished to regain his place in the little Pasha's favour, he must work
like a coal-heaver. But the fact was, the strenuous industry to which
he now condemned himself, was something of a relaxation after the
mental anxiety he had recently undergone; this striking of a black and
white keyboard was a pleasant, thought-deadening employment, and could
be got through, no matter what one's mood.--And so he rose early again,
and did not leave the house till he had five hours' practice behind him.

WER SICH DER EINSAMKEIT ERGIEBT, ACH, DER IST BALD ALLEIN: at the end
of a fortnight, Maurice smiled to find the words of Goethe's song
proved on himself. If he did not go to see his friends, none of them
came to him. Dove, who was at the stage of: "I told you so," in the
affair of the Cayhills, had found fresh listeners, who were more
sympathetic than Maurice could be expected to be: and Madeleine was up
to her ears in work, as she phrased it, with the "C minor Beethoven."

"Agility of finger equals softening of the brain" was a frequent gibe
of Krafft's; and now and then, at the close of a hard day's work,
Maurice believed that the saying contained a grain of truth. Opening
both halves of his window, he would lean out on the sill, too tired for
connected thought. But when dusk fell, he lay on the sofa, with his
arms clasped under his head, his knees crossed in the air.

At first, in his new buoyancy of spirit, he was able to keep foolish
ideas behind him, as well as to put away all recollection of the
disagreeable events he had been mixed up in of late: after having, for
weeks, borne a load that was too heavy for him, he breathed freely once
more. The responsibility of taking care of Ephie had been removed from
him--and this by far outweighed the little that he missed her. The
matter had wound up, too, in a fairly peaceable way; all being
considered, things might have been worse. So, at first, he throve under
his light-heartedness; and only now became aware how great the strain
of the past few weeks had been. His chief sensation was relief, and
also of relief at being able to feel relieved--indeed, the moment even
came when he thought it would be possible calmly to accept the fact of
Louise having left the town, and of his never being likely to see her
again.

Gradually, however, he began to be astonished at himself, and in the
background of his mind, there arose a somewhat morbid curiosity, even a
slight alarm, at his own indifference. He found it hard to understand
himself. Could his feelings, those feelings which, a week or two ago,
he had believed unalterable, have changed in so short a time? Was his
nature one of so little stability? He began to consider himself with
something approaching dismay, and though, all this time, he had been
going about on a kind of mental tiptoe, for fear of rousing something
that might be dormant in him, he now could not help probing himself, in
order to see if the change he observed were genuine or not. And this
with a steadily increasing frequency. Instead of continuing thankful
for the respite, he ultimately grew uneasy under it. Am I a person of
this weak, straw-like consistency, to be tossed about by every wind
that blows? Is there something beneath it all that I cannot fathom?

He had not seen Louise since the night he had left her asleep, beside
the sofa; and he was resolved not to see her--not, at least, until she
wished to see him. It was much better for him that the uncertainties of
the bygone months did not begin anew; then, too, she had called him to
her when she was in trouble, and not for anything in the world would he
presume on her appeal. Besides, his presence would recall to her the
unpleasant details connected with Ephie's visit, which he hoped she had
by this time begun to forget. Thus he argued with himself, giving
several reasons where one would have served; and the upshot of it was,
that his own state of mind occupied him considerably.

His friends noticed the improvement in him; the careworn expression
that had settled down on him of late gave way to his old air of
animation; and on all the small topics of the day, he brought a
sympathetic interest to bear, such as people had ceased to expect from
him. Madeleine, in particular, was satisfied with her "boy," as she
took to calling him. She noted and checked off, in wise silence, each
inch of his progress along the road of healthy endeavour; and the
relations between them became almost as hearty as at the commencement
of their friendship. Privately, she believed that the events of the
past month had taught him a lesson, which he would not soon forget. It
was sufficient, however, if they had inspired him with a distrust of
Louise, which would keep him from her for the present; for Madeleine
had grounds for believing that before many weeks had passed, Louise
would have left Leipzig.

So she kept Maurice as close to her as work permitted; and as the
winter's flood of concerts set in, in full force, he accompanied her,
almost nightly, to the Old Gewandhaus or the ALBERTHALLE; for Madeleine
was an indefatigable concert-goer, and never missed a performer of
note, rarely even a first appearance at the HOTEL DE PRUSSE or a
BLUTHNER MATINEE. On the night she herself played in an
AIBENDUNTERHALTUNG, with the easily gained success that attended all
she did, Maurice went with her to the green-room, and was the first
afterwards to tell her how her performance had "gone." That same
evening she took him with her to the house of friends of hers, the
Hensels. There he met some of the best musical society of the place,
made a pleasant impression, and was invited to return.

Meanwhile, winter had set in, with extreme severity. Piercing north
winds drove down the narrow streets, and raged round the corners of the
Gewandhaus square: on emerging from the PROBE on a Wednesday morning,
one's breath was cut clean off, and the tears raced down one's cheeks.
When the wind dropped, there were hard black frosts--a deadly, stagnant
kind of cold, which seemed to penetrate every pore of the skin and
every cranny of the house. Then came the snow, which fell for three
days and nights on end, and for several nights after, so that the town
was lost under a white pall: house-entrances were with difficulty kept
free, and the swept streets were banked with walls of snow, four and
five feet high. The night-frosts redoubled their keenness; the snow
underfoot crackled like electric sparks; the sleighs crunched the
roads. But except for this, and for the tinkling of the sleigh-bells,
the streets were as noiseless as though laid with straw, and especially
while fresh snow still formed a soft coating on the crisp layer below.
All dripping water hung as icicles; water froze in ewers and pitchers;
milk froze in cans and jugs; and this though the great stoves in the
dwelling-rooms were heated to bursting-point. Red-nosed, red-eared men,
on whose beards and moustaches the breath had turned to ice-drops,
cried to one another at street-corners that such a winter had not been
known for thirty years; and, as they spoke, they stamped their feet,
and clapped their hands, to keep the chilly blood agoing. Women muffled
and veiled themselves like Orientals, hardly showing the tips of their
noses; and all manner of strange, antiquated fur-garments saw the day.
At night, if one opened a window, and peered out at the houses
crouching beneath their thick white load, and at the deserted,
snow-bound streets, over which the street-lamps threw a pale, uncertain
light--at night, familiar things took on an unfamiliar aspect, and the
well-known streets might have been the untrodden ways that led to a new
world.

Early in November, all ponds and pools were bearing, and forthwith many
hundreds of people forgot the severity of the weather, and thronged out
with their skates.

Maurice was among the first. He was a passionate skater; and it was the
one form of sport in which he excelled. As four o'clock came round, he
could contain himself no longer; he would rather have gone without his
dinner, than have missed, on the JOHANNATEICH, the two hours that
elapsed before the sweepers, crying: "FEIERABEND!" drove the skaters
before them, with their brooms. In a tightly buttoned square jacket,
the collar of which was turned up as far as it would go, with the flaps
of his astrachan cap drawn over his cars, his hands in coarse woollen
gloves, Maurice defied the cold, flying round the two ponds that formed
the JOHANNATEICH, or practising intricate figures with a Canadian
acquaintance in a corner.

Madeleine watched him approvingly from one of the wooden bridges that
spanned the neck connecting the ponds. She rejoiced at his glowing face
and vigorous, boyish pleasure, also at the skill that marked him out as
one of the best skaters present. For some time, Maurice tried in vain
to persuade her to join him. Madeleine, usually so confident, was here
diffident and timid. She had never in her life attempted to skate, and
was sure she would fall. And what should she do if she broke a thumb or
strained a finger?--with her PRUFUNG just before the door. She would
never have the courage to confess to Schwarz how it had happened; for
he was against "sport" in any form. But Maurice laughed at her fears.

"There is not the least chance of your falling," he cried up to her.
"Do come down, Madeleine. Before you've gone round twice, you'll be
able to throw off all those mufflings."

Finally, she let herself be persuaded, and according to his promise,
Maurice remained at her side from the moment of her first, hesitating
steps, each of which was accompanied by a faint scream, to the time
when, with the aid of only one of his hands, she made uncertain efforts
at striking out. She did not learn quickly; but she was soon as
enthusiastic a skater as Maurice himself; and he fell into the habit of
calling for her, every afternoon, on his way to the ponds.

Dove was also of assistance in the beginning, and, as usual, was well
up in the theory of the thing, though he did not shine in practice.

"Oh, bother, never mind how you go at first. That'll come afterwards,"
said Maurice impatiently. But Dove thought the rules should be observed
from the beginning, and gave Madeleine minute instructions how to place
her feet.

Towards five o'clock, the ice grew more crowded, and especially was
this the case on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when the schools had
half-holidays. On one of these latter days, Maurice did not find
Madeleine at home; and he had been on the ponds for nearly an hour,
before he espied her on a bench beside the GARDEROBE, having her skates
put on by a blue-smocked attendant. He waved his cap to her, and skated
over.

"Why are you so late?"

"Oh, thank goodness, there you are. I should never have dared to stand
up alone in this crowd. Aren't these children awful? Get away, you
little brutes! If you touch me, I'll fall.--Here, give me change," she
said to the ice-man, holding out a twenty-pfennig piece.

Maurice saw that she was unusually excited, and as soon as he had drawn
her out of reach of the children, asked her the reason.

"I've something interesting to tell you, Maurice."

But here Dove, coming up behind, took possession of her left hand, with
no other greeting than the military salute, which, on the ice, he
adopted for all his friends, male and female, alike; and Madeleine
hastily swallowed the rest of her sentence.

They skated round the larger of the ponds several times without
stopping. The cold evening air stung their faces; the sun had gone down
in a lurid haze; Madeleine's skirts swayed behind her and lent her a
fictitious grace.

But presently she cried a halt, and while she rested in a quiet corner,
they watched Maurice doing a complicated figure, which he and his
Canadian friend had invented the day before. Dove was explaining how it
was done--"It is really not so hard as it looks"--when, with a cry of
"ACHTUNG!" some one whizzed in among them, scattered the group, and,
revolving on himself, ended with a jump in the air. It was James. He
took out his handkerchief and blew his nose, in the most unconcerned
manner possible.

"I don't think such acrobatic tricks should be allowed," said Madeleine
disapprovingly; she had been forced to grab Dove's arm to keep her
balance.

"Say, do you boys know the river has six inches and will be open
to-morrow, if it isn't to-day?" asked James, stooping to tighten a
strap.

"Is that so? Oh gee, that's fine!" cried Miss Martin, who had skated
leisurely up in his rear. "Say, you people, why don't we fix up a party
an' go up it nights? A lady in my boarding-house done that with some
folks she was acquainted with last year. Seems to me we oughtn't to be
behind."

Miss Martin was a skilled and graceful skater, and looked her best in a
dark fur hat and jacket, which set off her abundance of pale flaxen
hair. Others had followed her, and it was resolved to form a party for
the following evening, provided Dove had previously ascertained if the
river actually was "free," in order that they ran no risk of being
ignominiously turned off.

"The ice may be a bit rough, but it's a fine run to Connewitz."

"An' by moonlight, too--but say, is there a moon? Why, I presume there
ought to be," said Miss Martin.

"'Doth the moon shine that night we play our play?'" quoted Dove,
examining a tiny pocket-calendar.

"Oh gee, that's fine!" repeated Miss Martin, on hearing his answer.
"Say, we must dance a FRANCAISE. Mr. Guest, you an' I'll be partners, I
surmise," and ceasing to waltz and pirouette with James, she took a
long sweep, then stood steady, and let her skates bear her out to the
middle of the pond. Her skirts clung close in front, and swept out
behind her lithe figure, until it was lost in the crowd.

"Don't you wish YOU could skate like that?" asked the sharp-tongued
little student, called Dickensey, who was standing beside Madeleine.
Madeleine, who held him in contempt because his trousers were baggy at
the knees, and because he had once appeared at a ball in white cotton
gloves, answered with asperity that there were other things in life
besides skating. She had no further chance of speaking to Maurice in
private, so postponed telling her news till the following evening.

Shortly after eight o'clock, the next night, a noisy party whistled and
hallooed in the street below Maurice's window. He was the last to join,
and then some ten or eleven of them picked their steps along the
hard-frozen ruts of the SCHLEUSSIGER WEG, a road that followed the
river to the outskirts of the town. Just above the GERMANIABAD, a rough
scat had been erected on the ice, for the convenience of skaters. They
were the first to make use of it; the snow before it was untrodden; and
the Pleisse wound white and solitary between its banks of snow.

They set off in a higgledy-piggledy fashion, each striking out for
himself. When, however, they had passed the narrower windings, gone
under the iron bridge which was low enough to catch the unwary by the
forehead, and when the full breadth of the river was before them, they
took hands, and, forming a long line, skated in time to the songs some
one struck up, and in which all joined: THE ROSE OF SHARON, JINGLE
BELLS, THERE IS A TAVERN IN OUR TOWN. As they advanced to the corners
where the big trees trailed their naked branches on the ice, just as in
summer they sank their leaves in the water, Miss Jensen, who, despite
her proportions, was a surprisingly good skater, sent her big voice
over the snow-bound stillness in an aria from the PROPHET; and after
this, Miss Martin, no; to be done, struck up the popular ALLERSEELEN.
This was the song of the hour; they all knew it, and up and down and
across the ice rang out their voices in unison: WIE EINST IM MAI, WIE
EINST IM MAI.

Inside Wagner's WALDCAFE at Connewitz, they sat closely packed round
one of the wooden tables, and drank beer and coffee, and ate BERLINER
PFANNKUCHEN. The great iron stove was almost red-hot; the ladies threw
off their wrappings; cold faces glowed and burnt, and frozen hands
tingled. One and all were in high spirits, and the jollity reached a
climax when, having exchanged hats, James and Miss Jensen cleared a
space in the middle of the floor and danced a nigger-dance, the lady
with her skirts tucked up above her ankles. In the adjoining room, some
one began to play a concertina, and then two or three couples stood up
and danced, with much laughter and many outcries at the narrowness of
the space. Even Dove joined in, his partner being a very pretty
American, whom Miss Martin had brought with her, and whose side Dove
had not left for a moment. Only Madeleine and Dickensey sat aloof, and
for once were agreed: Americans were really "very bad form." There was
no livelier pair than Maurice and Miss Martin; the latter's voice could
be heard above all others, as she taught Maurice new steps in a corner
of the room. Her flaxen hair had partly come loose, and she did not
stop to put it up. They were the first to run through the dark garden,
past the snow-laden benches and arbours, which, in summer, were buried
in greenery; and, from the low wooden landing place, they jumped hand
in hand on to the ice, and had shot a long way down the river before
any of the rest could follow them.

But this did not please Madeleine. As it was, she was vexed at not
having had the opportunity of a quiet word with Maurice; and when she
had laboriously skated up, with Dickensey, to the spot where, in a
bright splash of moonlight, Maurice and Miss Martin were cutting
ingenious capers, she cried to the former in a peremptory tone:
"There's something wrong with my skate, Maurice. Will you look at it,
please?" and as sharply declined Dickensey's proffered aid.

Maurice came to her side at once, and in this way she detained him. But
Dickensey hovered not far off, and Miss Martin was still in sight.
Madeleine caught her skate in a crack, fell on her knee, and said she
had now loosened the strap altogether. She sat down on a heap of snow,
and Dickensey's shade vanished good-naturedly round a corner.

"Well, YOU seem to be enjoying yourself," she said as Maurice drew off
his gloves and knelt down.

"Why, yes, aren't you?" he replied so frankly that she did not continue
the subject.

"I've been trying all the evening to get a word with you. I told you
yesterday, you remember, that I wanted to speak to you. Sit down here,
for a moment, so that we can talk in peace," and she spread part of her
skirt over the snow-heap.

Maurice complied, and she could not discover any trace of reluctance in
his manner.

"I want your advice," she continued. "I was taken quite by surprise
myself. Schwarz sent for me, you know, after counterpoint. It was about
my PRUFUNG at Easter. If I play then, it's a case of the C minor
Beethoven. Well, now he says it's a thousand pities for me to break off
just at the stage I'm at, and he wants me to stay for another year. If
I do, he'll give me the G major--that's a temptation, isn't it? On the
other hand, I shall have been here my full time--three years--at
Easter. That's a year longer than I originally intended, and I feel I'm
getting too old to be a pupil. But this talk with Schwarz has upset my
plans. I'm naturally flattered at his interesting himself in me. He
wouldn't do it for every one. And I do feel I could gain an immense
deal in another year.--Now, what do you think?"

"Why, stay, of course, Madeleine. If you can afford it, that is. I
can't imagine anyone wanting to leave."

"Oh, my capital will last so long, and it's a good enough investment."

"But wasn't a place being kept open for you in a school?"

"Yes; but I don't think a year more or less will make much difference
to them. I must sound them, of course, though," said Madeleine, and did
not mention that she had written and posted the letter the night
before. "Then you advise me to stay?"

"Why, of course," he repeated, and was mildly astonished at her. "If
everything is as smooth as you say."

"You would miss me, if I left?"

"Why, of course I should," he said again, and wondered what in the
world she was driving at.

"Well, all the better," replied Madeleine. "For when one has really got
to like a person, one would rather it made a difference than not."

She was silent after this, and sat looking down the stretch of ice they
had travelled: the moon was behind a cloud, and the woods on either
side were masses of dense black shadow. Not a soul was in sight; the
river was like a deserted highway. Madeleine stared down it, and did
not feel exactly satisfied with the result of her investigation. She
had not expected anything extraordinary--Heaven forbid!--but she had
been uncomfortably conscious of Maurice's surprise. To her last remark,
he had made no answer: he was occupied with the screw of one of his
skates.

She drew his attention to the fact that, if she remained in Leipzig for
another twelvemonth, they would finish at the same time; and thereupon
she sketched out a plan of them going somewhere together, and starting
a music-school of their own. Maurice, who thought she was jesting,
laughingly assented. But Madeleine was in earnest: "Other people have
done it--why shouldn't we? We could take a 'cellist with us, and go to
America, or Australia, or Canada--there are hundreds of places. And
there's a great deal of money in it, I'm sure. A little capital would
be needed to begin with, but not much, and I could supply that. You've
always said you dreaded going back to the English provinces to
decay--here's your chance!"

She saw the whole scheme cut and dried before her. As they, skated
after the rest, she continued to enlarge upon it, in a detailed way
that astonished Maurice. He confessed that, with a head like hers to
conduct it, such a plan stood a fair chance of success; and thus
encouraged, Madeleine undertook to make a kind of beginning at once, by
sounding some of the numerous friends she had, scattered through
America. Her idea was that they should go over together, and travel to
various places, giving concerts, and acquainting themselves, as they
did so, with the musical conditions of the towns they visited.

"And the 'cellist shall be an American--that will draw."

According to the pace at which they were skating, the others should
have remained well out of reach. But on turning a corner, they came
upon the whole party dancing a FRANCAISE--which two members
whistled--on a patch of ice that was smoother than the rest.

"Here, Guest, come along, we want you," was the cry as soon as Maurice
appeared; and, to Madeleine's deep displeasure, she was thrown on Dove,
whose skill had not sufficed. When the dancing was over, Maurice once
more found himself with Miss Martin, whom, for some distance, he pushed
before him, she standing steady on her skates, and talking to him over
her shoulder.

"That wasn't a bit pretty of you, Mr. Guest," she asserted, with her
long, slow, twanged speech. "It was fixed up yesterday, I recollect,
that you were to dance the FRANCAISE with me. Yes, indeed. An' then I
had to take up with Mr. Dove. Now Mr. Dove is just a lovely gentleman,
but he don't skate elegantly, an' he nearly tumbled me twice. Yes,
indeed. But I presume when Miss Wade says come, then you're most
obliged to go."

"How is it one don't ever see you now?" she queried a moment later. "It
isn't anyhow so pleasurable at dinner as it used to be. But I hear
you're working most hard--it's to' bad."

"It's what one comes to here."

"I guess it is. But I do like to see my friends once in a while. Say,
now, Mr. Guest, won't you drink coffee with me one afternoon? I'll make
you some real American coffee if you do, sir. What they call coffee
here don't count."

She turned, offered him her hand, and they began to skate in long,
outward curving lines.

"I think one has just a fine time here, don't you?" she continued.
"Momma, she came right with me, an' stopped a bit, till I was fixed up
in a boarding-house. But she didn't find it agreeable, no sir. She
missed America, an' presumed I would, too. When she was leaving, she
said to me: 'EI'nor Martin, if you find you can't endure it among these
Dutch, just you cable, and poppa he'll come along an' fetch you right
home,' But I'm sure I haven't desired to quit, no, not once. I think
it's just fine. But then I've gotten me so many friends I don't ever
need to feel lonesome. Why, my friend Susie Fay, she says: 'Why,
EI'nor, I guess you're acquainted with most every one in the place.'
An' I reckon she's not far out. Anyways there ain't more than two
Americans in the city I don't know. An' I see most all strangers that
come. Say, are you acquainted with Miss Moses? She's from Chicago, an'
resides in a boarding-house way down by the COLONNADEN. I got
acquainted with her yesterday. She's a lovely lady, an', why, she's
just as smart as she can be. Say, if you like, I'll invite her along,
so you can get acquainted with her too."

Maurice expressed pleasure at the prospect; and Miss Martin continued
to rattle on, with easy frankness, of herself, her family, and her
friends. He listened vaguely, with half an ear, since it was only
required of him to throw in an occasional word of assent. But suddenly
his attention was arrested, and brought headlong back to what she was
saying: in the string of names that fell from her tongue, he believed
he had caught one he knew.

"Miss Dufrayer?" he queried.

"That's it," replied his companion. "Louise Dufrayer. Well, sir, as I
was going on to remark, when first I was acquainted with her, she was
just as sweet as she could be; yes, indeed; why, she was just dandy.
But she hasn't behaved a bit pretty--I presume you heard tell of what
took place here this fall?"

"Then you know Miss Dufrayer?"

"Yes, indeed. But I don't see her any more, an' I guess I don't want
to. Not but what I've heard she feels pretty mean about it now--beg
pardon?--how I know? Why, indeed, the other day, Schwarz come in an'
told us how she's moping what she can--moping herself to death--if I
recollect, those were his very words. Yes, indeed. She don't take
lessons no more, I presume. I think she should go right away from this
city. It ain't possible to be acquainted with her any more, for all
she's so lonesome, an' one feels sort of bad about it, yes, indeed. But
momma, the last thing she said to me was: 'Now EI'nor Martin, just keep
your eyes open, an' don't get acquainted with people you might feel bad
about afterwards.' An' I presume momma was right. I don't-- Oh, say, do
look at her, isn't she a peach?"--this, as her pretty friend, with Dove
in tow, came gliding up to them. "Say, Susie Fay, are you acquainted
with Mr. Guest?"

"MR. Guest. Pleased to know you," said Susie cordially; and Miss Martin
was good-natured enough to skate off with Dove, leaving Maurice to her
friend.

But afterwards, at the bench, as he was undoing Madeleine's skates, he
overheard pretty Susie remark, without much care to moderate her voice:
"Say, EI'nor Martin, that's the quietest sort of young man I've ever
shown round a district. Why, seems to me, he couldn't say 'shoh.' Guess
you shouldn't have left us, EI'nor."

And Miss Martin guessed so, too.



VII.


When he had seen Madeleine home, Maurice returned to his room, and not
feeling inclined to sleep, sat down to read. But his thoughts strayed;
he forgot to turn the page; and sat staring over the book at the
pattern of the tablecloth. Incidents of the evening flashed before him:
Miss Jensen, in James's hat, with her skirts pinned up; Madeleine
earnest and decisive on the bank of snow; the maze and laughter of the
FRANCAISE; Miss Martin's slim, straight figure as he pushed her before
him. He did not try to control these details, nor was he conscious of a
mental effort; they stood out for an instant, as vivid sensations, then
glided by, to make room for others. But, as he let them pass, he became
aware that below them, in depths of his mind he had believed
undisturbed, there was present a feeling of strange unhappiness, which
he did not know the cause of: these sharp pictures resembled an attempt
on the part of his mind, to deceive him as to what was really going on
in him. But he did not want to know, and he allowed his thoughts to
take wider flights: recalling the scheme Madeleine had proposed, he
considered it with a clearness of view, which, at the time, had been
impossible. From this, he turned to America itself, and reflected on
the opportunities the country offered. He saw the two of them sweeping
through vast tracts of uncultivated land, in a train that outdid all
real trains in swiftness; saw unknown tropical places, where the yellow
fruit hung low and heavy, and people walked shadeless, sandy roads, in
white hats, under white umbrellas. He saw Madeleine and himself on the
awning-spanned deck of an ocean steamer, anchoring in a harbour where
the sea was the colour of turquoise, touched to sapphire where the
mountains came down to the shore.

"Moping herself to death": the phrase crystallised in his brain with
such suddenness that he said it aloud. Now he knew what it was that was
troubling him. He had not consciously recalled the words, nor had they
even made a very incisive impression on him at the time; but they had
evidently lain dormant, now to return and to strike him, as if no
others had been said. He explained to himself what they meant. It was
this: outside, in the crisp, stinging air, people lived and moved, busy
with many matters, or sported, as he and his companions had done that
evening: inside, she sat alone, mournful, forsaken. He saw her in the
dark sofacorner, with her head on her hands. Day passed and night
passed, but she was always in the same place; and her head was bowed so
low that her white fingers were lost in the waves of her hair. He saw
her thus with the distinctness of a vision, and except in this way
could not see her at all.

He felt it little short of shameful that he should have carelessly
amused himself; and, as always where she was concerned, a deep,
unreasoning sense of his own unworthiness, filled him. He demanded of
himself, with a new energy, what he could do to help her. Fantastic
plans rose as usual in his mind, and as usual were dismissed. For the
one thing he was determined not to do, was to thrust himself on her
uncalled. Her solitude was of her own choosing, and no one had the
right to break in upon it. It was perhaps her way of doing penance;
and, at this thought, he felt a thrill of satisfaction.

At night, he consoled himself that things would seem different in the
morning; but when he wakened from a restless sleep, crowded with dreams
one more grotesque than another, he was still prone to be gloomy. He
could think more clearly by daylight--that was all: his pitying
sympathy for her had only increased. It interfered with everything he
did; just as it had formerly done--just in the old way. And he had been
on the brink of believing himself grown indifferent, and stronger in
common sense. Fool that he was! Only a word was needed to bring his
card-house down. The placidity of the past weeks had been a mere
coating of thin ice, which had given way beneath the first test. A
distrust of himself took him, a distrust so deep that it amounted to
aversion; for in his present state of mind he discerned only a
despicable weakness. But though he was thus bewildered at his own
inconsistency, he was still assured that he would not approach
Louise--not, that is, unless she sent for him. So much control he still
had over his actions: and he went so far as to make his staying away a
touchstone of his stability. This, too, although reason told him the
end of it all would be, that Louise would actually leave Leipzig,
without sending for him, or even remembering his existence.

He worked steadily enough. A skilled observer might have remarked a
slight contraction of the corners of his mouth; none of his friends,
however, noticed anything, with the exception of Madeleine, and all she
said was: "You look so cross sometimes. Is anything the matter?"

Late one afternoon, they were on the ice as usual. While Madeleine
talked to Dickensey, Maurice practised beside them. In making a
particularly complicated gyration, he all but overbalanced himself, and
his cap fell on the ice. As he was brushing the snow off it, he chanced
to raise his eyes. A number of people were standing on the wooden
bridge, watching the skaters; to the front, some children climbed and
pushed on the wooden railing. His eye was ranging carelessly over them,
when he started so violently that he again let his cap drop. He picked
it up, threw another hasty look at the bridge, then turned and skated
some distance away, where he could see without being seen. Yes, he had
not been mistaken; it was Louise; he recognised her although a fur hat
almost covered her hair. She was gazing down, with an intentness he
knew in her; one hand rested on the parapet. And then, as he looked,
his blood seemed to congeal: she was not alone; he saw her turn and
speak to some one behind her. For a moment things swam before him.
Then, a blind curiosity drove him forward to find out whom she spoke
to. People moved on the bridge, obstructing his view, then several went
away, and there was no further hindrance to his seeing: her companion
was the shabby little Englishman, of doubtful reputation, with whom he
had met her once or twice that summer. He felt himself grow cold. But
now that he had certainty, his chief idea was to prevent the others
from knowing, too; he grew sick at the thought of Madeleine's sharp
comments, and Dickensey's cynicism. Rejoining them, he insisted--so
imperiously that Madeleine showed surprise--on their skating with him
on the further pond; and he kept them going round and round without a
pause.

When the bridge was empty, and he had made sure that Louise was not
standing anywhere about the edge of the ice, he left his companions,
and, without explanation, crossed to the benches and took off his
skates. He did not, however, go home; he went into the SCHEIBENHOLZ,
and from there along outlying roads till he reached the river; and
then, screwing on his skates again, he struck out with his face to the
wind. Dusk was falling; at first he met some skaters making for home;
but these were few, and he soon left them behind. When the state of the
ice did not allow of his skating further, he plunged into the woods
again, beyond Connewitz, tumbling in his haste, tripping over
snow-bound roots, sinking kneedeep in the soft snow. His endeavour was
to exhaust himself. If he sat at home now, before this fever was out of
him, he might be tempted to knock his head against the wall of his
room. Movement, space, air--plenty of air!--that was what he needed.

Hitherto, he had been surprised at his own conduct; now he was aghast:
the hot rush of jealousy that had swept through him at the sight of the
couple on the bridge, was a revelation even to himself. His previous
feelings had been those of a child compared with this--a mere weak
revolt against the inevitable. But what had now happened was not
inevitable; that was the sting of it: it was a violent chance-effect.
And his distress was so keen that, for the first time, she, too, had to
bear her share of blame. He said jeeringly to himself, that, quixotic
as ever, he had held aloof from her, leaving her in solitude to an
atonement of his own imagining; and meanwhile, some one who was not
troubled by foolish ideals stepped in and took his place. For it WAS
his place; he could not rid himself of that belief. If anyone had a
right to be at her side it was he, unless, indeed, all that he had
undergone on her behalf during the past months counted for nothing.

Of course this Eggis was an unscrupulous fellow; but it was just such
men as this--he might note that for future use--who won where others
lost. At the same time, he shrank from the idea of imitating him; and
even had he been bold enough, not a single errand could he devise to
serve him as an excuse. He could not go to her and say: I come because
I have seen you with some one else. And yet that would be the truth;
and it would lurk beneath all he said.

The days of anxiety that followed were hard to bear. He dreaded every
street-corner, for fear Louise and the other should turn it; dreaded
raising his eyes to the bridges over the ice; and was so irritable in
temper that Madeleine suggested he should go to Dresden in the
Christmas holidays, for change of air.

For, over all this, Christmas had come down--the season of gift-making,
and glittering Christmas trees, of BOWLE, STOLLEN, and HONIGKUCHEN. For
a fortnight beforehand, the open squares and places were set out with
fir-trees of all sizes--their pungent fragrance met one at every turn:
the shops were ablaze till late evening, crowded with eagerly seeking
purchasers; the streets were impassible for the masses of country
people that thronged them. Every one carried brown paper parcels, and
was in a hurry. As the time drew near, subordinates and officials grew
noticeably polite; the very houseporter touched his cap at your
approach. Bakers' shops were piled high with WEIHNACHTSSTOLLEN, which
were a special mark of the festival: cakes shaped like torpedoes, whose
sugared, almonded coats brisked brown and tempting. But the spicy scent
of the firs was the motive that recurred most persistently: it clung
even to the stairways of the houses.

Maurice had assisted Madeleine with her circumstantial shopping; and,
at dusk on Christmas Eve, he helped her to carry her parcels to the
house of some German friends. He himself was invited to Miss Jensen's,
where a party of English and Americans would celebrate the evening in
their own fashion; but not till eight o'clock. When he had picked out
at a confectioner's, a TORTE for the Fursts, he did not know how to
kill time. He was in an unsettled mood, and the atmosphere of
excitement, which had penetrated the familiar details of life, jarred
on him. It seemed absurdly childish, the way in which even the grown-up
part of the population surrendered itself to the sentimental pleasures
of the season. But foreigners were only big children; or, at least,
they could lay aside age and dignity at will. He felt misanthropic, and
went for a long walk; and when he had passed the last tree-market,
where poor buyers were bargaining for the poor trees that were left, he
met only isolated stragglers. In some houses, the trees were already
lighted.

On his return, he went to a flower-shop in the KONIGSPLATZ, and chose
an azalea to take to Miss Jensen. While he was waiting for the pot to
be swathed in crimped paper, his eye was caught by a large bunch of red
and yellow roses, which stood in a vase at the back of the counter. He
regarded them for a moment, without conscious thought; then, suddenly
colouring, he stretched out his hand.

"I'll take those roses, too. What do they cost?"

The girl who served him--a very pretty girl, with plaits of
straw-coloured hair, wound Madonna-like round her head--named a sum
that seemed exorbitant to his inexperience, and told a wordy story of
how they had been ordered, and then countermanded at the last moment.

"A pity. Such fine flowers!"

Her interest was awakened in the rather shabby young man who paid the
price without flinching; and she threw inquisitive looks at him as she
wrapped the roses in tissue-paper.

A moment later, Maurice was in the street with the flowers in his hand.
He had acted so spontaneously that he now believed his mind to have
been made up before he entered the shop; no, more, as if all that had
happened during the past week had led straight up to his impulsive
action. Or was it only that, at the sight of the flowers, a kind of
refrain had begun to run through his head: she loves roses, loves roses?

But he did not give himself time for reflection; he hurried through the
cold night air, sheltering the flowers under his coat. Soon he was once
more in the BRUDERSTRASSE, on the stair, every step of which, though he
had only climbed it some three or four times, he seemed to know by
heart. As, however, he waited for the door to be opened, his heart
misgave him; he was not sure how she would regard his gift, and, in a
burst of cowardice, he resolved just to hand in the roses, without even
leaving his name. But his first ring remained unanswered, and before he
rang again, he had time to be afraid she would not be at home--a
simple, but disappointing solution.

There was another pause. Then he heard sounds, steps came along the
passage, and the door was opened by Louise herself.

He was so unprepared for this that he could not collect his wits; he
thrust the flowers into her hand, with a few stammered words, and his
foot was on the stair before she could make a movement to stop him.

Louise had peered out from the darkness of the passage to the dusk of
the landing, with the air of one roused from sleep. She looked from him
to the roses in her hand, and back at him. He tried to say something
else, raised his hat, and was about to go. But, when she saw this, she
impulsively stepped towards him.

"Are they for me?" she asked. And added: "Will you not come in? Please,
come in."

At the sound of her voice, Maurice came back from the stair-head. But
it was not possible for him to stay: friends--engaged--a promise of
long standing.

"Ah then ... of course." She retreated into the shadow of the doorway.
"But I am quite alone. There is no one in but me."

"Why, however does that happen?" Maurice asked quickly, and was ready
at once to be wrath with all the world. He paused irresolute, with his
hand on the banisters.

"I said I didn't mind. But it is lonely."

"I should think it was.--On this night of all others, too."

He followed her down the passage. In the room there was no light except
what played on the walls from the streetlamps, the blinds being still
undrawn. She had been sitting in the dark. Now, she took the globe off
the lamp, and would have lighted it, but she could not find matches.

"Let me do it," said Maurice, taking out his own; and, over the head of
this trifling service, he had a feeling of intense satisfaction. By the
light that was cast on the table, he watched her free the roses from
their paper, and raise them to her face. She did not mention them
again, but it was ample thanks to see her touch several of them singly,
as she put them in a jug of water.

But this done, they sat on opposite sides of the table, and had nothing
to say to each other. After each banal observation he made came a
heart-rending pause; she let a subject drop as soon as it was broached.
It was over two months now since Maurice had seen her, and he was
startled by the change that had taken place in her. Her face seemed to
have grown longer; and there were hollows in the fine oval of the
cheeks, in consequence of which the nose looked larger, and more
pinched. The chin-lines were sharpened, the eyes more sunken, while the
shadows beneath them were as dark as though they were plastered on with
bistre. But it was chiefly the expression of the face that had altered:
the lifelessness of the eyes was new to it, and the firm compression of
the mouth: now, when she smiled, no thin line of white appeared, such
as he had been used to watch for.

Even more marked than this, though, was the change that had taken place
in her manner. He had known her as passionately self-assertive; and he
could not now accustom himself to the condition of apathy in which he
found her. "Moping to death" had been no exaggeration; help was needed
here, and at once, if she were not to be irretrievably injured.

As he thought these things, he talked at random. There were not many
topics, however, that could be touched on with impunity, and he
returned more than once to the ice and the skating, as offering a kind
of neutral ground, on which he was safe. And Louise listened, and
sometimes assented; but her look was that of one who listens to the
affairs of another world. Could she not be persuaded to join them on
the JOHANNATEICH, he was asking her. What matter though she did not
skate! It was easily learned. Madeleine had been a beginner that
winter, and now seldom missed an afternoon.

"Oh, if Madeleine is there, I should not go," she said with a touch of
the old arrogance.

Then he told her of the frozen river, with its long, lonely, grey-white
reaches. Her eyes kindled at this, he fancied, and in her answer was
more of herself. "I have never trodden on ice in my life. Oh, I should
be afraid--horribly afraid!"

For those who did not skate there were chairs, he urged--big,
green-painted, sledge-like chairs, which ran smoothly. The ice was many
inches thick; there was not the least need to be afraid.

But she only smiled, and did not answer.

"Then I can't persuade you?" he asked, and was annoyed at his own
powerlessness. She can go with Eggis, he told himself, and
simultaneously spoke out the thought. "I saw you on the bridge the
other day."

But if he had imagined this would rouse her, he was wrong.

"Yes?" she said indifferently, and with that laming want of curiosity
which prevents a subject from being followed up.

They sat in silence for some seconds. With her fingers, she pulled at
the fringe of the tablecloth. Then, all of a sudden rising from her
chair, she went over to the jug of roses, which she had placed on the
writing-table, bent over the flowers with a kind of perceptible
hesitation, and as suddenly came back to her seat.

"Suppose we went to-night." she said, and for the first time looked
hard at Maurice.

"To-night?" he had echoed, before he could check himself.

"Ah yes--I forgot. You are going out."

"That's the least of it," he answered, and stood up, fearful lest she
should sink back into her former listlessness. "But it's Christmas Eve.
There wouldn't be a soul on the river but ourselves. Are you sure you
would like it?"

"Just for that reason," she replied, and wound her handkerchief in and
out of her hands, so afraid was she now that he would refuse. "I could
be ready in five minutes."

With his brain in a whirl, Maurice went back to the flowershop, and,
having written a few words of apology on a card, ordered this to be
sent with his purchase to Miss Jensen. When he returned, Louise was
ready. But he was not satisfied: she did not know how cold it would be:
and he made her put on a heavy jacket under her fur cape, and take a
silk shawl, in which, if necessary, she could muffle up her head. He
himself carried a travelling-rug for her knees.

"As if we were going on a journey!" she said, as she obeyed him. Her
eyes shone with a spark of their old light, in approval of the
adventurous nature of their undertaking.

The hard-frozen streets, over which a cutting wind drove, were
deserted. In many windows, the golden glory of the CHRISTBAUM was
visible; the steep blackness of the houses was splashed with patches of
light. At intervals, a belated holidaymaker was still to be met with
hurrying townwards: only they two were leaving the town, and its
innocent revels, behind them. Maurice had a somewhat guilty feeling
about the whole affair: they also belonged by rights to the town
to-night. He was aware, too, of a vague anxiety, which he could not
repress; and these feelings successfully prevented him taking an undue
pleasure in what was happening to him. He had swung his skates, fetched
in passing, over his shoulder; and they walked as quickly as the
slippery snow permitted. Louise had not spoken since leaving the house;
she also stood mutely by, while the astonished boatman, knocked out in
the middle of his festivities, unlocked the boat-shed where the
ice-chairs were kept. The Christmas punch had made him merry; he
multiplied words, and was even a little facetious at their expense.
According to him, a snow-storm was imminent, and he warned them not to
be late in returning.

Maurice helped Louise into the chair, and wrapped the rug round her. If
she were really afraid, as she had asserted, she did not show it. Even
after they had started, she remained as silent as before; indeed, on
looking back, Maurice thought they had not exchanged a word all the way
to Connewitz. He pushed in a kind of dream; the wind was with them, and
it was comparatively easy work; but the ice was rough, and too hard,
and there were seamy cracks to be avoided. The snow had drifted into
huge piles at the sides; and, as they advanced, it lay unswept on their
track. It was a hazily bright night, but rapid clouds were passing. Not
a creature was to be seen: had a rift opened in the ice, and had they
two gone through it, the mystery of their disappearance would never
have been solved.

Slight, upright, unfathomable as the night, Louise sat before him. What
her thoughts were on this fantastic journey, he never knew, nor just
what secret nerve in her was satisfied by it. By leaning sideways, he
could see that her eyes were fixed on the grey-white stretch to be
travelled: her warm breath came back to him; and the coil of her hair,
with its piquant odour, was so close that, by bending, he could have
touched it with his lips. But he was still in too detached a mood to be
happy; he felt, throughout, as if all this were happening to some one
else, not to him.

At their journey's end, he helped her, cold and stiff, along the snowy
path to the WALDCAFE. In a corner of the big room, which was empty,
they sat beside the stove, before cups of steaming coffee. The landlady
served them herself, and looked with the same curious interest as the
boatman at the forlorn pair.

Louise had laid her fur cap aside with her other wraps, and had drawn
off her gloves; and now she sat with her hand propping her chin. She
was still disinclined to speak; from the expression of her eyes,
Maurice judged that her thought were very far away. Sitting opposite
her, he shaded his own eyes with his hand, and scrutinised her closely.
In the stronger light of this room, he could see more plainly than
before the havoc trouble had made of her face. And yet, in spite of the
shadows that had descended on it, it was still to him the most adorable
face in the world. He could not analyse his feelings any better now
than in the beginning; but this face had exactly the same effect upon
him now as then. It seemed to be a matter of the nerves. Nor was it the
face alone: it was also the lines of throat and chin, when she turned
her head; it was the gesture with which she fingered the knot of hair
on her neck; above all, her hands, whose every movement was full of
meaning: yes, these things sent answering ripples through him, as sound
does through air.

He had stared too openly: she felt his eyes, and raised her own. For a
few seconds, they looked at each other. Then she held out her hand.

"You are my friend."

He pressed it, without replying; he could not think of anything
suitable to say; what rose to his lips was too emotional, too
tell-tale. But he made a vow that, from this day on, she should never
doubt the truth of what she said.

"You are my friend."

He would take care of her as no one had ever yet tried to do. She might
safely give herself into his charge. The unobtrusive aid that was
mingled tenderness and respect, should always be hers.

"Are you warmer now?"

He could not altogether suppress the new note that had got into his
voice. All strangeness seemed to have been swept away between them; he
was wide-awake to the fact that he was sitting alone with her, apart
from the rest of the world.

He looked at his watch: it was time to go; but she begged for a little
longer, and so they sat on for another half-hour, in the warm and
drowsy stillness.

Outside, they found a leaden sky; and they had not gone far before snow
began to fall: great flakes came flying to them, smiting their faces,
stinging their eyes, melting on their lips. The wind was against them;
they were exposed to the full force of the blizzard. Maurice pushed
till he panted; but their progress was slow. At intervals, he stopped,
to shake the snow off the rug, and to enwrap Louise afresh; and each
violent gust that met him when he turned a corner, smote him doubly;
for he pictured to himself the fury with which it must hurl itself
against her, sitting motionless before it.

It took them twice as long to return; and when Louise tried to get out
of the chair, she found herself so paralysed with cold that she could
hardly stand. Blinded by the snow, she clung to Maurice's arm; he heard
her teeth chatter, as they toiled their way along the ARNDTSTRASSE,
through the thick, new snow-layer. Not a droschke was to be seen; and
they were half-way home before they met one. The driver was drunk or
asleep, and had first to be roused. Louise sank limply into a corner.

The cab slithered and slipped over the dangerous roads, jolting them
from side to side. Maurice had laid the rug across her knees, and she
had ceased to shiver. But, by the light of a street-lamp which they
passed, he was dismayed to see that tears were running down her cheeks.

"What is it? Are you so cold?--Just a little patience. We shall soon be
there."

He took her hand, and chafed it. At this, she began to cry. He did not
know how to comfort her, and looked out of the window, scanning each
house they passed, to see if it were not the last. She was still crying
when the cab drew up. The house-key had been forgotten; there was
nothing for it but to ring for the landlady, and to stand in the wind
till she came down. The old woman was not so astonished as Maurice had
expected; but she was very wroth at the folly of the proceeding, and
did not scruple to say so.

"SO 'NE DUMMHEIT, SO 'NE DUMMHEIT!" she mumbled, as, between them, they
got Louise up the stairs; and she treated Maurice's advice concerning
cordials and hot drinks with scant courtesy.

"JA, JA--JAWOHL!" she sniffed. And, on the landing, the door was shut
in his face.



VIII.


What she needed, what she had always needed, was a friend, he said to
himself. She had never had anyone to stand by her and advise her to
wisdom, in the matter of impulsive acts and wishes. He would be that
friend. He had not, it was true, made a very happy beginning, with the
expedition that had ended so unfortunately; but he promised himself not
to be led into an indiscretion of the kind again. It was a friend's
part to warn in due time, and to point out the possible consequences of
a rash act. He only excused his behaviour because he had not seen her
for over two months, and had felt too sorry for her to refuse the first
thing she asked of him. But from now on, he would be firm. He would win
her back to life--reawaken her interest in what was going on around
her. He would devote himself to serving her: not selfishly, as others
had done, with their own ends in view; the gentle, steady aid should be
hers, which he had always longed to give her. He felt strong enough to
face any contingency: it seemed, indeed, as if his love for her had all
along been aiming at this issue; as if each of the unhappy hours he had
spent, since first meeting her, was made up for by the words: "You are
my friend."

A deep sense of responsibility filled him. In obedience, however, to a
puritanic streak in his nature, he hedged himself round with
restrictions, lest he should believe he was setting out on all too
primrose a path. He erected limiting boundaries, which were not to be
overstepped. For example, on the two days that followed the memorable
Christmas Eve, he only made inquiries at the door after Louise, and
when he learned that the cold she had caught was better, did not
return. For, on one point, his mind was made up: idle tongues should
have no fresh cause for gossip.

At the expiry of a fortnight, however, he began to fear that if he
remained away any longer, she would think him indifferent to her offer
of friendship. So, late one afternoon, he called to see her. But when
he was face to face with her, he doubted whether she had given him a
thought in the interval: she seemed mildly surprised at his coming. It
was even possible that she had forgotten, by now, what she had said to
him; and he sought anew for a means of impressing himself on her
consciousness.

She was crouched in the rocking-chair, close beside the stove, and was
wrapped in a thick woollen shawl; but the hand she gave him was as cold
as stone. She was trying to keep warm, she said; she had not been
properly warm since the night on the ice.

"But there's an easy remedy for that," said Maurice, who came in ruddy
from the sharp air. "You must go out and walk. Then you will soon get
warm."

But she shuddered at the suggestion, and also made an expressive
gesture to indicate the general laxity of her dress--the soiled
dressing-gown, her untidy hair. Then she leaned forward again, holding
both hands, palms out, to the mica pane in the door of the stove,
through which the red coals glowed.

"If only winter were over!"

He gazed at the expressive lines of hand and wrist, and was reminded of
an adoring Madonna he had somewhere seen engraved: her hands were held
back in the same way; the thumbs slightly thrown out, the three long
fingers together, the little one apart: here as there, was the same
supple, passionate indolence. But he could find no more to say than on
the occasion of his former visit; she did not help him; and more and
more did it seem to the young man as if the words he had gone about
hugging to him, had never been spoken. After a desperate quarter of an
hour, he rose to take leave. But simultaneously, she, too, got up from
the rocking-chair, and, standing pale and uncertain before him, asked
him if she might trouble him to do something for her. A box had been
sent to her from England, she told him, while she tumbled over the
dusty letters and papers accumulated on the writing-table, and had been
lying unclaimed at the custom-house for several weeks now--how many she
did not know, and she spread out her fingers, with a funny little
movement, to show her ignorance. She had only remembered it a day or
two ago; the dues would no doubt be considerable. If it were not too
much trouble ... she would be so grateful; she would rather ask him
than Mr. Eggis.

"I should be delighted," said Maurice.

He went the next morning, at nine o'clock, spent a trying hour with
uncivil officials, and, in the afternoon, called to report to Louise.
As he was saying good-bye to her, he inquired if there were nothing
else of a similar nature he could do for her; he was glad to be of use.
Smiling, Louise admitted that there were other things, many of them,
more than he would have patience for. She should try him and see, said
Maurice, and laid his hat down again, to hear what they were.

As a consequence of this, the following days saw him on various
commissions in different quarters of the town, scanning the names of
shops, searching for streets he did not know. But matters did not
always run smoothly; complications arose, for instance, over a paid
bill that had been sent in a second time, and over an earlier one that
had not been paid at all; and Maurice was forced to confess his
ignorance of the circumstances. When this had happened more than once,
he sat down, with her consent, at the writing-table, to work through
the mass of papers, and the contents of a couple of drawers.

In doing this, he became acquainted with some of the more intimate
details of her life--minute and troublesome details, for which she had
no aptitude. From her scat at the stove, Louise watched him sorting and
reckoning, and she was as grateful to him as it was possible for her to
be, in her present mood. No one had ever done a thing of the kind for
her before; and she was callous to the fact of its being a stranger,
who had his hands thus in her private life. When, horrified beyond
measure at the confusion that reigned in all belonging to her, Maurice
asked her how she had ever succeeded in keeping order, she told him
that, before her illness, there had, now and again, come a day of
strength and purpose, on which she had had the "courage" to face these
distasteful trifles and to end them. But she did not believe such a day
would ever come again.

Bills, bills, bills: dozens of bills, of varying dates, sent in once,
twice, three times, and invariably tossed aside and forgotten--a mode
of proceeding incomprehensible to Maurice, who had never bought
anything on credit in his life. And not because she was in want of
money: there were plenty of gold pieces jingling loose in a drawer; but
from an aversion, which was almost an inability, to take in what the
figures meant. And the amounts added up to alarming totals; Maurice had
no idea what a woman's dress cost, and could only stand amazed; but the
sum spent on fruit and flowers alone, in two months, represented to his
eyes a small fortune. Then there was the Bluthner, the unused piano;
the hire of it had not been paid since the previous summer. Three terms
were owed at Klemm's musical library, from which no music was now
borrowed; fees were still being charged against her at the
Conservatorium, where she had given no formal notice of leaving. It
really did not matter, she said, with that carelessness concerning
money, which was characteristic of her; but it went against the grain
in Maurice to let several pounds be lost for want of an effort; and he
spent a diplomatic half-hour with the secretaries in the BUREAU,
getting her released from paying the whole of the term that had now
begun. As, however, she would not appear personally, she was under the
necessity of writing a letter, stating that she had left the
Conservatorium; and when she had promised twice to do, it, and it was
still unwritten, Maurice stood over her, and dictated the words into
her pen. A day or two afterwards, he prevailed upon her to do the same
for Schwarz, to inform him of her illness, and to say that, at Easter,
if she were better, she would come to him for a course of private
lessons. This was an idea of Maurice's own, and Louise looked up at him
before putting down the words.

"It's not true. But if you think I should say so--it doesn't matter."

This was the burden of all she said: nothing mattered, nothing would
ever matter again. There was not the least need for the half-jesting
tone in which Maurice clothed his air of authority. She obeyed him
blindly, doing what he bade her without question, glad to be
subordinate to his will. As long as he did not ask her to think, or to
feel, or to stir from her chair beside the stove.

But it was only with regard to small practical things; in matters of
more importance she was not to be moved. And the day came, only too
soon, when the positive help Maurice could give her was at an end; she
did not owe a pfennig to anyone; her letters and accounts were filed
and in order. Then she seemed to elude him again. He did what lay in
his power: brought her books that she did not read, brought news and
scraps of chit-chat, which he thought might interest her and which did
not, and an endless store of sympathy. But to all he said and did, she
made the same response: it did not matter.

Since the night on the river, she had not set foot across the threshold
of her room; nervous fears beset her. Maurice was bent on her going out
into the open air; he also wished her to mix with people again, and
thus rid herself of the morbid fancies that were creeping on her. But
she shrank as he spoke of it, and pressed both hands to her face: it
was too cold, she murmured, and too cheerless; and then the streets!
... the publicity of the streets, the noise, the people! This was what
she said to him; to herself she added: and all the old familiar places,
to each of which a memory was attached! He spent hours in urging her to
take up some regular occupation; it would be her salvation, he
believed, and, not allowing himself to be discouraged, he returned to
the attack, day after day. But she only smiled the thin smile with
which she defeated most of his proposals for her good. Work?--what had
she to do with work? It had never been anything to her but a narcotic,
enabling her to get through those hours of the day in which she was
alone.

She let Maurice talk on, and hardly heard what he said. He meant well,
but he did not understand. No one understood. No one but herself knew
the weight of the burden she had borne since the day when her happiness
was mercilessly destroyed. Now she could not raise a finger to help
herself. On waking, in the morning, she turned with loathing from the
new day. In the semi-darkness of the room, she lay motionless, half
sleeping, or dreaming with open eyes. The clock ticked benumbingly the
long hours away; the wind howled, or the wind was still; snow fell, or
it was frostily clear; but nothing happened--nothing at all. The day
was well advanced before she left her bed for the seat by the stove;
there she brooded until she dragged herself back to bed. One day was
the exact counterpart of another.

The only break in the deathlike monotony was Maurice's visit. He came
in, fresh, and eager to see her; he held her hand and said kind things
to her; he talked persuasively, and she listened or not, as she felt
disposed. But little though he was able to touch her, she unconsciously
began to look to his visits; and one day, when he was detained and
could not come, she was aware of a feeling of injury at his absence.

As time went by, however, Maurice felt more and more clearly that he
was making no headway. His uneasiness increased; for her want of spirit
had something about it that he could not understand. It began to look
to him like a somewhat morbid indulgence in grief.

"This can't go on," he said sternly.

She was in one of her most pitiable moods; for there were gradations in
her unhappiness, as he had learned to know.

"This can't go on. You are killing yourself by inches--and I'm a party
to it."

For the first time, there was a hint of impatience in his manner. To
his surprise, Louise raised her head, raised it quickly, as he had not
seen her make a movement for weeks.

"By inches? Inches only? Oh, I am so strong ... Nothing hurts me.
Nothing is of any use."

"If you look in the glass, you will see that you're hurting yourself
considerably."

"You mean that I'm getting old?--and ugly?" she caught him up. "Do you
think I care?--Oh, if I had only had the courage, that day! A few
grains of something, and it would have been all over, long ago. But I
wasn't brave enough. And now I have no more courage in me than strength
in my little finger."

Maurice looked meditatively at her, without replying: this was the
single occasion on which she had been roused to a retort of any kind;
and, bitter though her words were, he could not prevent the spark of
hope which, by their means, was lit in him.

And from this day on, things went forward of themselves. Again and
again, some harmless observation on his part drew forth a caustic reply
from her; it was as if, having once experienced it, she found an outcry
of this kind a relief to her surcharged nerves. At first, what she said
was directed chiefly against herself--this self for which she now
nursed a fanatic hatred, since it had failed her in her need. But,
little by little, he, too, was drawn within the circle of her
bitterness; indeed, it sometimes seemed as if his very kindness incited
her, by laying her under an obligation to him, which it was in her
nature to resent: at others, again, as if she merely wished to try him,
to see how far she might go.

"Do I really deserve that thrust?" he once could not help asking. He
smiled, as he spoke, to take the edge off his words.

Louise threw a penitent glance at him, and, for all answer, held out
her hand.

But, the very next day, after a similar incident, she crossed the room
to him, with the swiftness of movement that was always disturbing in
her, contrasting as it did with her customary indolence. "Forgive me. I
ought not to. And you are the only friend I have. But there's so much I
must say to some one. If I don't say it, I shall go mad."


"Why, of course. That's what I'm here for," said Maurice.

And so it went on--a strange state of things, in which he never called
her by her name, and seldom touched her hand. He had himself well under
control--except for the moment immediately before he saw her, and the
moment after. He could not yet meet her, after the briefest absence,
unmoved.

For a week on end that penetrating rawness had been abroad, which
precedes and accompanies a thaw; and one day, early in February, when,
after the unequalled severity of the winter, the air seemed of an
incredible mildness, the thaw was there in earnest; on the ice of more
than three months' standing, pools of water had formed overnight. By
the JOHANNATEICH, Maurice and Madeleine stood looking dubiously across
the bank of snow, which, here and there, had already collapsed, leaving
miniature crater-rings, flecked with moisture. Several people who could
not tear themselves away, were still flying about the ice, dexterously
avoiding the watery places; and Dove and pretty Susie Fay called out to
them that it was better than it looked. But Maurice was fastidious and
Madeleine indifferent; she was really rather tired of skating, she
admitted, as they walked home, and was ashamed to think of the time she
had wasted on it. As, however, this particular afternoon was already
broken into, she would have been glad to go for a walk; but Maurice did
not take up her suggestion, and parted from her at her house-door.

"Spring is in the air," he sought to tempt Louise, when, a few minutes
later, he entered her room.

She, too, had been aware of the change; for it had aggravated her
dejection. She raised her eyes to his like a tired child, and had not
strength enough to make her usual stand against him. Oh, if he really
wished it so much, she would go out, she said at last. And so he left
her to dress, and ran to the Conservatorium, arriving just in time for
a class.

Later on, a curious uneasiness drew him back to see how she had fared.
It was almost dark, but she had not returned; and he waited for half an
hour before he heard her step in the hall. Directly she came in, he
knew that something was the matter.

In each of her movements was a concentrated, but noiseless energy: she
shut the door after her as if it were never to open again; tore off
rather than unpinned the thick black veil in which she had shrouded
herself; threw her hat on the sofa, furs and jacket to the hat; then
stood motionless, pressing her handkerchief to her lips. Her face had
emerged from its wrappings with renewed pallor; her eyes shone as if
with belladonna. She took no notice of the silent figure in the corner,
did not even look in his direction.

"You've got back," said Maurice, for the sake of saying something.
"It's too late."

At his words, she dropped on a chair, put her arms on the table, and
hid her face in them.

"What's the matter? Has anything happened?" he asked, in quick alarm,
as she burst into violent sobs. He should have been accustomed to her
way of crying by this time--it sounded worse than it was, as he
knew--but it invariably racked him anew. He stood over her; but the
only comfort he ventured on was to lay his hand on her hair--this wild
black hair, which met his fingers springily, with a will of its own.

"What is the matter?" he besought her. "Tell me, Louise--tell me what
it is."

He had to ask several times before he received an answer. Finally, she
sobbed in a muffled voice, without raising her head: "How could you
make me go out! Oh, how COULD you!"

"What do you mean? I don't understand. What is it?" He had visions of
her being annoyed or insulted.

But she only repeated: "How could you! Oh, it was cruel of you!" and
wept afresh.

Word by word, Maurice drew her story from her. There was not very much
to tell.

She had gone out, and had walked hurriedly along quiet by-streets to
the ROSENTAL. But before she had advanced a hundred yards, her courage
began to fail, and the further she went, the more her spirits sank. Her
surroundings were indescribably depressing: the smirched, steadily
retreating snow was leaving bare all the drab brownness it had
concealed--all the dismal little gardens, and dirty corners. Houses,
streets and people wore their most bedraggled air. Particularly the
people: they were as ugly as the areas of roof and stone, off which the
soft white coating had slid; their contours were as painful to see. And
the mud--oh, God, the mud! It spread itself over every inch of the way;
the roads were rivers of filth, which spattered and splashed; at the
sides of the streets, the slush was being swept into beds. Before she
had gone any distance, her boots and skirts were heavy with it; and she
hated mud, she sobbed--hated it, loathed it, it affected her with a
physical disgust--and this lie might have known when he sent her out.
In the ROSENTAL, it was no better; the paths were so soaked that they
squashed under her feet; on both sides, lay layers of rotten leaves
from the autumn; the trees were only a net-work of blackened twigs,
their trunks surrounded by an undergrowth that was as ragged as unkempt
hair. And everything was mouldering: the smell of moist, earthy decay
reminded her of open graves. Not a soul was visible but herself. She
sat on a seat, the only living creature in the scene, and the past rose
before her with resistless force: the intensity of her happiness; the
base cruelty of his conduct; her misery, her unspeakable misery; her
forlorn desolation, which was of a piece with the desolation around
her, and which would never again be otherwise, though she lived to be
an old woman.--How long she sat thinking things of this kind, she did
not know. But all of a sudden she started up, frightened both by her
wretched thoughts and by the loneliness of the wood; and she fled, not
looking behind her, or pausing to take breath, till she reached the
streets. Into the first empty droschke she met, she had sunk exhausted,
and been driven home.

It was of no use trying to reason with her, or to console her.

"I can't bear my life," she sobbed. "It's too hard ... and there is no
one to help me. If I had done anything to deserve it ... then it would
be different ... then I shouldn't complain. But I didn't--didn't do
anything--unless it was that I cared too much. At least it was a
mistake--a dreadful mistake. I should never have shown him how I cared:
I should have made him believe he loved me best. But I was a fool. I
flung it all at his feet. And it was only natural he should get tired
of me. The wonder was that I held him so long. But, oh, how can one
care as I did, and yet be able to plot and plan? I couldn't. It isn't
in me to do it."

She wept despairingly, with her head on her outstretched arms. When she
raised it again, her tear-stained face looked out, Medusa-like, from
its setting of ruffled hair. More to herself than to the young man, as
if, on this day, secret springs had been touched in her, she continued
with terse disconnectedness: "I couldn't believe it; I wouldn't--even
when I heard it from his own lips. You thought, all of you, that I was
ill; but I wasn't; I was only trying to get used to the terrible
thought--just as a suddenly blinded man has to get used to being always
in the dark. And while I was still struggling came Madeleine, with her
cruel tongue, and told me--you know what she told me. Oh, if his
leaving me had been hard to bear, this stung like scorpions. I wonder I
didn't go mad. I should have, if you hadn't come to help me. For a day
and night, I did not move from the corner of that sofa there. I turned
her words over till there was no sense left in them. My nails cut my
palms."

Her clasped hands were slightly stretched from her: her whole attitude
betrayed the tension at which she was speaking. "Oh, my God, how I
hated him ... hated him ... how I hate him still! If I live to be an
old, old woman, I shall never forgive him. For, in time, I might have
learnt to bear his leaving me, if it had only been his work that took
him from me. It was always between us, as it was; but it was at least
only a pale brain thing, not living flesh and blood. But that all the
time he should have been deceiving me, taking pains to do it--that I
cannot forgive. At first, I implored, I prayed there might be some
mistake: you, too, told me there was. And I hoped against hope--till I
saw her. Then, I knew it was true-----as plainly as if it had been
written on that wall." She paused for breath, in this bitter pleasure
of laying her heart bare. "For I wasn't the person he could always have
been satisfied with--I see it now. He liked a woman to be fair, and
soft, and gentle--not dark, and hot-tempered. It was only a phase, a
fancy, that brought him to me, and it couldn't have lasted for ever.
But all I asked of him was common honesty--to be open with me: it
wasn't much to ask, was it? Not more than we expect of a stranger in
the street. But it was too much for him, all the same. And so ... now
... I have nothing left to remind me that I ever knew him. That night,
when I had seen her, I burned everything--every photograph, every scrap
of writing I had ever had from him ... if only one could burn memories
too! I had to tear my heart over it; I used to think I felt it
bleeding, drop by drop. For all the suffering fell on me, who had done
nothing. He went free."

"Are you sure of that? It may have been hard for him, too--harder than
you think." Maurice was looking out of the window, and did not turn.

She shook her head. "The person who cares, can't scheme and contrive.
He didn't care. He never really cared for me--only for himself; at
heart, he was cold and selfish. No, I paid for it all--I who hate and
shrink from pain, who would do anything to avoid it. I want to go
through life knowing only what is bright and happy; and time and again,
I am crushed and flung down. But, in all my life, I haven't suffered
like this. And now perhaps you understand, why I never want to hear his
name again, and why I shall never--not if I live to be a hundred years
old--never forgive him. It isn't in me to do it. As a child, I ground
my heel into a rose if it pricked me."

There was a silence. Then she sighed, and pushed her hair back from
forehead. "I don't know why I should say all this to you," she said
contritely. "But often, just with you, I seem to forget what I am
saying. It must be, I think, because you're so quiet yourself."

At this, Maurice turned and came over to her. "No, it's for another
reason. You need to say these things to some one. You have brooded over
them to yourself till they are magnified out of all proportion. It's
the best thing in the world for you to say them aloud." He drew up a
chair, and sat down beside her. "Listen to me. You told me once, not
very long ago, that I was your friend. Well, I want to speak to you
to-night as that friend, and to play the doctor a little as well. Will
you not go away from here, for a time?--go away and be with people who
know nothing of ... all this--people you don't need to be afraid of?
Let yourself be persuaded. You have such a healthy nature. Give it a
chance."

She looked at him with a listless forbearance. "Don't go on. I know
everything you are going to say.--That's always the way with you calm,
quiet people, who are not easily moved yourselves. You still but faith
in these trite remedies; for you've never known the ills they're
supposed to cure."

"Never mind me. It's you we have to think of. And I want you to give my
old-fashioned remedy a trial."

But she did not answer, and again a few minutes went by, before she
stretched out her hand to him. "Forget what I've said to-night. I shall
never speak of it again.--But then you, too, must promise not to make
me go out alone--to think and remember--in all the dirt and ugliness of
the streets."

And Maurice promised.



IX.


The unnatural position circumstances had forced him into, was to him
summed up in the fact that he had spoken in defence of the man he
despised above all others. Only at isolated moments was he content with
the part he played; it was wholly unlike what he had intended. He had
wished to be friend and mentor to her, and he was now both; but
nevertheless, there was something wrong about his position. It seemed
as if he had at first been satisfied with too low a place in her
esteem, ever to allow of him taking a higher one. He was conscious that
in her liking for him, there was a drop of contempt. And he tormented
himself with such a question as: should a new crisis in her life arise,
would she, now that she knows you, turn to you? And in moments of
despondency he answered no. He felt the tolerance that lurked in her
regard for him. Kindness and care on his part were not enough.

None of his friends had an idea of what was going on. No one he knew
lived in the neighbourhood of the BRUDERSTRASSE; and, the skating at an
end, he was free to spend his time as he chose. When another brief nip
of frost occurred, he alleged pressure of work, and did not take
advantage of it.

Then, early one morning, Dove paid him a visit, with a list in his
hand. Since the night of the skating party, his acquaintances had not
seen much of Dove; for he had been in close attendance on the pretty
little American, who made no scruple of exacting his services. Now,
after some preamble, it came out that he wished to include Maurice in a
list of mutual friends, who were clubbing to give a ball--a "Bachelors'
Ball," Dove called it, since the gentlemen were to pay for the tickets,
and to invite the ladies. But Maurice, vexed at the interruption, made
it clear that he had neither time nor inclination for an affair of this
kind: he did not care a rap for dancing. And after doing his best to
persuade him, and talking round the matter for half an hour, Dove said
he did not of course wish to press anyone against his will, and
departed to disturb other people.

Maurice had also to stand fire from Madeleine; for she had counted on
his inviting her. She was first incredulous, then offended, at his
refusal: and she pooh-poohed his strongest argument--that he did not
own a dress-suit. If that was all, she knew a shop in the BRUHL, where
such things could be hired for a song.

Maurice now thought the matter closed. Not many days later, however,
Dove appeared again, with a crestfallen air. He had still over a dozen
tickets on his hands, and, at the low price fixed, unless all were
sold, the expenses of the evening would not be covered. In order to get
rid of him, Maurice bought a ticket, on the condition that he was not
expected to use it, and also suggested some fresh people Dove might
try; so that the latter went off with renewed courage on his
disagreeable errand.

Maurice mentioned the incident to Louise that evening, as he mentioned
any trifle he thought might interest her. He sat on the edge of his
chair, and did not mean to stay; for he had found her on the sofa with
a headache.

So far, she had listened to him with scant attention; but at this, she
raised her eyebrows.

"Then you don't care for dancing?"--she could hardly believe it.

He repeated the words he had used to Dove.

She smiled faintly, looking beyond him, at a sombre patch of sky.

"I should think not. If it were me!----" She raised her hand, and
considered her fingers.

"If it were you?--yes?"

But she did not continue.

It had been almost a spring day: that, no doubt, accounted for her
headache. Maurice made a movement to rise. But Louise turned quickly on
her side, and, in her own intense way, said: "Listen. You have the
ticket, you say? Use it, and take me with you. Will you?"

He smiled as at the whim of a child. But she was in earnest.

"Will you?"

"No, of course not."

He tempered his answer with the same smile. But she was not pleased--he
saw that. Her nostrils tightened, and then, dilated, as they had a way
of doing when she was annoyed. For some time after, she did not speak.

But the very next day, when he was remonstrating with her over some
small duty which she had no inclination to perform, she turned on him
with an unreasonable irritation. "You only want me to do disagreeable
things. Anything that is pleasant, you set yourself against."

It took him a minute to grasp that she was referring to what he had
said the evening before.

"Yes, but then ... I didn't think you were in earnest."

"Am I in the habit of saying things I don't mean? And haven't you said
yourself that I am killing myself, shut up in here?--that I must go out
and mix with people? Very well, here is my chance."

He kept silence: he did not know whether she was not mainly inspired by
a spirit of contradiction, and he was afraid of inciting her, by
resistance, to say something she would be unable to retract. "I don't
think you've given the matter sufficient thought," he said at last. "It
can't be decided offhand."

She was angry, even more with herself than with him. "Oh, I know what
you mean. You think I shall be looked askance at. As if it mattered
what people say! All my life I haven't cared, and I shall not begin
now, when I have less reason than ever before."

He did not press the subject; he hoped she would change her mind, and
thus render further discussion unnecessary. But this was not the case;
she clung to the idea, and was deaf to reason. To a certain extent, he
could feel for her; but he was too troubled by the thought of
unpleasant possibilities, not to endeavour to persuade her against it:
he knew, as she did not, how unkindly she had been spoken of; and he
was not sure whether her declared bravado was strong enough to sustain
her. But the more he reasoned, the more determined she was to have her
own way; and she took his efforts in very bad part.

"You pretend to be solicitous about me," she said one afternoon, from
her seat by the fire. "Yet when a chance of diversion comes you
begrudge it to me. You would rather I mouldered on here."

"That's not generous of you. It is only you I am thinking of--in all
this ridiculous affair."

The word stung her. "Ridiculous? How dare you say that! I'm still
young, am I not? And I have blood in my veins, not water. Well, I want
to feel it. For months now, I have been walled up in this tomb. Now I
want to live. Not--do you understand?--to go out alone, on a filthy
day, with no companion but my own thoughts. I want to dance--to forget
myself--with light and music. It's the most natural thing in the world.
Anyone but you would think so."

"It is not life you mean; it's excitement."

"What it means is that you don't want to take me.--Yes, that's what it
is. But I can get some one else. I will send for Eggis; he will have no
objection."

"Why drag in that cad's name? You know very well if you do go, it will
be with me, and no one else."

A slight estrangement grew up between them. Maurice was hurt: she had
shown too openly the small value she set on his opinion. In addition to
this, he was disagreeably affected by her craving for excitement at any
cost. To his mind, there was more than a touch of impropriety in the
proceeding; it was just as if a mourner of a few months' standing
should suddenly discard his mourning, and with it all the other
decencies of grief.

She had not been entirely wrong in accusing him of unreadiness to
accompany her. When he pictured to himself the astonished faces of his
friends, he found it impossible to look forward to the event with
composure. He saw now that it would have been better to make no secret
of his friendship with Louise; so harmless was it that every one he
knew might have assisted at it; but now, the very abruptness of its
disclosure would put it in a bad light. Through Dove, he noised it
abroad that he would probably be present at the ball after all; but he
shunned Madeleine with due precaution, and could not bring himself even
to hint who his companion might be. In his heart, he still thought it
possible that Louise might change her mind at the last moment--take
fright in the end, at what she might have to face.

But the night came, and this had not happened. While he dressed himself
in the hired suit, which was too large here, too small there, he laid a
plan of action for the evening. Since it had to be gone through with,
it must be carried off in a highhanded way. He would do what he could
to make her presence in the hall seem natural; he would be attentive,
without devoting himself wholly to her; and he would induce her to
leave early.

He called for her at eight o'clock. The landlady said that Fraulein was
not quite ready, and told him to wait in the passage. But the door of
the room was ajar, and Louise herself called to him to come in.

It was comparatively dark; for she had the lamp behind the screen,
where he heard her moving about. Her skirts rustled; drawers and
cupboards were pulled noisily open. Then she came out, with the lamp in
her hand.

Maurice was leaning against the piano. He raised his eyes, and made a
step forward, to take the lamp from her. But after one swift, startled
glance, he drew back, colouring furiously. For a moment he could not
collect himself: his heart seemed to have leapt into his throat, and
there to be hammering so hard that he had no voice with which to answer
her greeting.

Owing to what he now termed his idiotic preoccupation with himself, he
had overlooked the fact that she, too, would be in evening dress.
Another thing was, he had never seen Louise in any but street-dress, or
the loose dressing-gown. Now he called himself a fool and absurd; this
was how she was obliged to be. Convention decreed it, hence it was
perfectly decorous; it was his own feelings that were unnatural,
overstrained. But, in the same breath, a small voice whispered to him
that all dresses were not like this one; also that every girl was not
of a beauty, which, thus emphasised, made the common things of life
seen poor and stale.

Louise wore a black dress, which glistened over all its surface, as if
it were sown with sparks; it wound close about her, and out behind her
on the floor. But this was only the sheath, from which rose the
whiteness of her arms and shoulders, and the full column of her throat,
on which the black head looked small. Until now, he had seen her bared
wrist--no more. Now the only break on the long arm was a band of black
velvet, which as it were insisted on the petal-white purity of the
skin, and served in place of a sleeve.

Strange thoughts coursed through the young man's mind. His first
impulse had been to avert his eyes; in this familiar room it did not
seem fitting to see her dressed so differently from the way he had
always known her. Before, however, he had followed this sensation to an
end, he made himself the spontaneous avowal that, until now, he had
never really seen her. He had known and treasured her face--her face
alone. Now he became aware that to the beautiful head belonged also a
beautiful body, that, in short, every bit of her was beautiful and
desirable. And this feeling in its turn was overcome by a painful
reflection: others besides himself would make a similar observation;
she was about to show herself to a hundred other eyes: and this struck
him as such an unbearable profanation, that he could have gone down on
his knees to her, to implore her to stay at home.

Unconscious of his embarrassment, Louise had gone to the console-glass;
and there, with the lamp held first above her head, then placed on the
console-table, she critically examined her appearance. As if
dissatisfied, she held a velvet bow to the side of her hair, and
considered the effect; she took a powderpuff, and patted cheeks and
neck with powder. Next she picked up a narrow band of velvet, on which
a small star was set, and put it round her throat. But the clasp would
not meet behind, and, having tried several times in vain to fasten it,
she gave an impatient exclamation.

"I can't get it in."

As Maurice did not offer to help her, she went out of the room with the
thing in her hand. During the few seconds she was absent, the young man
racked his brain to invent telling reasons which would induce her not
to go; but when she returned, slightly flushed at the landlady's ready
flattery, she was still so engrossed in herself, and so unmindful of
him, that he recognised once more his utter powerlessness. He only half
existed for her this evening: her manner was as different as her dress.

She gathered her skirts high under her cloak, displaying her feet in
fur-lined snow-boots. In the turmoil of his mind, Maurice found nothing
to say as they went. But she did not notice his silence; there was a
suppressed excitement in her very walk; and she breathed in the cold,
crisp air with open lips and nostrils, like a wild animal.

"Oh, how glad I am I came! I might still have been sitting in that dull
room--when I haven't danced for years--and when I love it so!"

"I can't understand you caring about it," he said, and the few words
contained all his bitterness.

"That is only because you don't know me," she retorted, and laughed.
"Dancing is a passion with me. I have dance-rhythms in my blood, I
think.--My mother was a dancer."

He echoed her words in a helpless way, and a set of new images ran riot
in his brain. But Louise only smiled, and said no more.

They were late in arriving; dancing had already begun; the cloak-rooms
were black with coats and mantles. In the narrow passage that divided
the rooms, two Englishmen were putting on their gloves. As Maurice
changed his shoes, close to the door, he overheard one of these men say
excitedly: "By Jove, there's a pair of shoulders! Who the deuce is it?"

Maurice knew the speaker by sight: he was a medical student, named
Herries, who, on the ice, had been conspicuous for his skill as a
skater. He had a small dark moustache, and wore a bunch of violets in
his buttonhole.

"You haven't been here long enough, old man, or you wouldn't need to
ask," answered his companion. Then he dropped his voice, and made a
somewhat disparaging remark--so low, however, but what the listener was
forced to hear it, too.

Both laughed a little. But though Maurice rose and clattered his chair,
Herries persisted, with an Englishman's supreme indifference to the
bystander: "Do you think she can dance?"

"Can't tell. Looks a trifle heavy."

"Well, I'll risk it. Come on. Let's get some one to introduce us."

The blood had rushed to Maurice's head and buzzed there: another
second, and he would have stepped out and confronted the speaker. But
the incident had passed like a flash. And it was better so: it would
have been a poor service to her, to begin the evening with an
unpleasantness. Besides, was this not what he had been bracing himself
to expect? He looked stealthily over at Louise; considering the
proximity of the rooms, it was probable that she, too, had overheard
the derogatory words. But when she had put on her gloves, she took his
arm without a trace of discomfiture.

They entered the hall at the close of a polka, and slipped unnoticed
into the train of those who promenaded. But they had not gone once
round, when they were the observed of all eyes; although he looked
straight in front of him, Maurice could see the astonished eyebrows and
open mouths that greeted their advance. At one end of the hall was an
immense mirror: he saw that Louise, who was flushed, held her head
high, and talked to him without a pause. In a kind of bravado, she made
him take her round a second time; and after the third, which was a
solitary progress, they remained standing with their backs to the
mirror. Eggis at once came up, with Herries in his train, and, on
learning that she had no programme, the latter ran off to fetch one.
Before he returned, a third man had joined them, and soon she was the
centre of a little circle. Herries, having returned with the programme,
would not give it up until he had put his initials opposite several
dances. Louise only smiled--a rather artificial smile that had been on
her lips since she entered the hall.

Maurice had fallen back, and now stood unnoticed behind the group. Once
Louise turned her head, and raised her eyebrows interrogatively; but a
feeling that was mingled pride and dismay restrained him; and as, even
when the choosing of dances was over, he did not come forward, she
walked down the hall on Herries's arm. The musicians began to tune;
Dove, as master of ceremonies, was flying about, with his hands in
gloves that were too large for him; people ranged themselves for the
lancers in lines and squares. Maurice lost sight for a moment of the
couple he was watching. As soon as the dance began, however, he saw
them again; they were waltzing to the FRANCAISE, at the lower end of
the hall.

He was driven from the corner in which he had taken refuge, by hearing
some one behind him say, in an angry whisper: "I call it positively
horrid of her to come." It was Susie Fay who spoke; through some
oversight, she had not been asked to dance. Moving slowly along, behind
the couples that began a schottische, he felt a tap on his arm, and,
looking round, saw Miss Jensen. She swept aside her ample skirts, and
invited him to a seat beside her. But he remained standing.

"You don't care for dancing?" she queried. And, when he had replied:
"Well, say, now, Mr. Guest,--we are all dying to know--however have you
gotten Louise Dufrayer along here this evening? It's the queerest thing
out."

"Indeed?" said the young man drily.

"Well, maybe queer is not just the word. But, why, we all presumed she
was perfectly inconsolable--thinking only of another world. That's so.
And then you work a miracle, and out she pops, fit as can be."

"I persuaded her ... for the sake of variety," mumbled Maurice.

Little Fauvre, the baritone, had come up; but Miss Jensen did not heed
his meek reminder that this was their dance.

"That was excessively kind of you," said the big woman, and looked at
Maurice with shrewd, good-natured eyes. "And no doubt, Louise is most
grateful. She seems to be enjoying herself. Keep quiet, Fauvre, do,
till I am ready.--But I don't like her dress. It's a lovely goods, and
no mistake. But it ain't suitable for a little hop like this. It's too
much."

"How Miss Dufrayer dresses is none of my business."

"Well, maybe not.--Now, Fauvre, come along"--she called it "Fover." "I
reckon you think you've waited long enough."

Maurice, left to himself again, was astonished to hear Madeleine's
voice in his ear. She had made her way to him alone.

"For goodness' sake, pull yourself together," she said cuttingly.
"Every one in the hall can see what's the matter with you."

Before he could answer, she was claimed by her partner--one of the few
Germans scattered through this Anglo-American gathering. "Is zat your
brozzer?" Maurice heard him ask as they moved away. He watched them
dancing together, and found it a ridiculous sight: round Madeleine,
tall and angular, the short, stout man rotated fiercely. From time to
time they stopped, to allow him to wipe his face.

Maurice contemplated escaping from the hall to some quiet room beyond.
But as he was edging forward, he ran into Dove's arms, and that was the
end of it. Dove, it seemed, had had his eye on him. The originator of
the ball confessed that he was not having a particularly good time; he
had everything to superintend--the dances, the musicians, the
arrangements for supper. Besides this, there were at least a dozen too
many ladies present; he believed some of the men had simply given their
tickets away to girl-friends, and had let them come alone. So far, Dove
had been forced to sacrifice himself entirely, and he was hot and
impatient.

"Besides, I've routed half a dozen men out of the billiardroom, more
than once," he complained irrelevantly, wiping the moisture from his
brow. "But it's of no----Now just look at that!" he interrupted
himself. "The 'cellist has had too much to drink already, and they're
handing him more beer. Another glass, and he won't be able to play at
all.--I say, you're not dancing. My dear fellow, it really won't do.
You must help me with some of these women."

Taking Maurice by the arm, he steered him to a corner of the hall where
sat two little provincial English sisters, looking hopeless and
forlorn. Who had invited them, it was impossible to say; but no one
wished to dance with them. They were dressed exactly alike, were alike
in face, too--as like as two nuts, thought Maurice, as he bowed to
them. Their hair was of a nutty brown, their eyes were brown, and they
wore brown dresses. He led them out to dance, one after the other, and
they were overwhelmingly grateful to him. He could hardly tell them
apart; but that did not matter; for, when he took one back to her seat,
the other sat waiting for her turn.

In dancing, he was thrown together with more of his friends, and he was
not slow to catch the looks--cynical, contemptuous, amused--that were
directed at him. Some were disposed to wink, and to call him a sly dog;
others found food for malicious gossip in the way Louise had deserted
him; and, when he met Miss Martin in a quadrille, she snubbed his
advances with a definiteness that left no room for doubt.

Round dances succeeded to square dances; the musicians' playing grew
more mechanical; flowers drooped, and dresses were crushed. An
Englishman or two ran about complaining of the ventilation. As often as
Maurice saw Louise, she was with Herries. At first, she had at least
made a feint of dancing with other people; now she openly showed her
preference. Always this dapper little man, with the violets and the
simpering smile.

They were the two best dancers in the hall. Louise, in particular, gave
herself up to the rhythm of the music with an abandon not often to be
seen in a ball-room. Something of the professional about it, said
Maurice to himself as he watched her; and, in his own estimation, this
was the hardest thought he had yet had of her.

At supper, he sat between the two little sisters, whose birdlike
chatter acted upon him as a reiterated noise acts on the nerves of one
who is trying to sleep. He could hardly bring himself to answer
civilly. At the further end of the table, on the same side as he, sat
Louise. She was with those who had been her partners during the
evening. They were drinking champagne, and were very lively. Maurice
could not see her face; but her loud, excited laugh jarred on his ears.

Afterwards, the same round was to begin afresh, except that the sisters
had generously introduced him to a friend. But when the first dance was
over, Maurice abruptly excused himself to his surprised partner, and
made his way out of the hall.

At the disordered supper-table, a few people still lingered; and
deserters were again knocking balls about the green cloth of the
billiard-table. Maurice went past them, and up a flight of stairs that
led to a gallery overlooking the hall. This gallery was in
semidarkness. At the back of it, chairs were piled one on top of the
other; but the two front rows had been left standing, from the last
concert held in the building, and here, two or three couples were
sitting out the dance. He went into the extreme corner, where it was
darkest.

At last he was alone. He no longer needed to dance with girls he did
not care a jot for, or to keep up appearances. He was free to be as
wretched as he chose, and he availed himself unreservedly of the
chance. It was not only the personal slight Louise had put upon him
throughout the evening, making use of him, as it were, to the very
door, and then throwing him off: but that she could be attracted by a
mere waxen prettiness, and well-fitting clothes--for the first time,
distrust of her was added to his hurt amazement.

He had not been in his hiding-place for more than a very few minutes,
when the door he had entered by reopened, and a couple came down the
steps to the corner where he was sitting.

"Oh, there's some one there!" cried Louise at the sight of the dark
figure. "Maurice! Is it you? What are you doing here?"

"Sssh!" said Herries warningly, afraid lest her clear voice should
carry too far.

"Yes. It's me," said Maurice stiffly, and rose. "But I'm going. I
shan't disturb you."

"Disturb?" she said, and laughed a little. "Nonsense! Of course not."
From her position on Herries's arm, she looked down at him, uncertain
how to proceed. Then she laughed again. "But how fortunate that I found
you! The next is our dance, isn't it?"---she pretended to examine her
programme. "It will begin in a minute. I think I'll wait here."

"The next may be, but not the next again, remember," said Herries,
before he allowed her to withdraw her arm. Louise nodded and laughed.
"AUF WIEDERSEHEN!"

But after the door had dosed behind Herries, she remained standing, a
step higher than Maurice, tipping her face with her handkerchief.

When she descended the step, and was on a level with him, he could see
how her eyes glittered.

"Was that lie necessary?--for me?"

"What's the matter, Maurice? Why are you like this? Why have you not
asked me to dance?"

He was unpleasantly worked on by her free use of his name.

"I, you? Have I had a chance?"

"Wasn't it for you to make the chance? Or did you expect me to come to
you: Mr. Guest, will you do me the honour of dancing with me?--Oh,
please, don't be cross. Don't spoil my pleasure--for this one night at
least."

But she laughed again as she spoke, as though she did not fear his
power to do so, and laid her hand on his arm: and, at her touch, he
seemed to feel through sleeve and glove, the superabundance of vitality
that was throbbing in her this evening. She was unable to be still for
a moment; in the delicate pallor of her face, her eyes burned, black as
jet.

"Are you really enjoying yourself so much? What CAN you find in it all?"

"Come--come down and dance. Listen!--can you resist that music? Quick,
let us go down."

"I dance badly. I'm not Herries."

"But I can suit my step to anyone's. Won't you dance with me?--when I
ask you?"

She had been leaning forward, looking over the balustrade at the
couples arranging themselves below. Now she turned, and put her arm
through his.

They went down the stairs, into the hall. Close beside the door at
which they entered, they began to dance.

In all these months, Maurice had scarcely touched her hand. Now
convention required that he should take her in his arms: he had
complete control over her, could draw her closer, or put her further
away, as he chose. For the first round or two, this was enough to
occupy him entirely: the proximity of the lithe body, the nearness of
the dark head, the firm, warm resistance that her back offered to his
hand.

They were dancing to the music of the WIENER BLUT, most melancholy gay
of waltzes, in which the long, legato, upward sweep of the violins says
as plainly as in words that all is vanity. But with the passing of the
players to the second theme, the melody made a more direct appeal:
there was a passionate unrest in it, which disquieted all who heard it.
The dancers, with flushed cheeks and fixed eyes, responded
instinctively to its challenge: the lapidary swing with which they
followed the rhythm became less circumspect; and a desire to dance till
they could dance no more, took possession of those who were fanatic. No
one yielded to the impulse more readily than Louise; she was quite
carried away. Maurice felt the change in her; an uneasiness seized him,
and increased with every turn. She had all but closed her eyes; her
hair brushed his shoulder; she answered to the lightest pressure of his
arm. Even her face looked strange to him: its expression, its
individuality, all that made it hers, was as if wiped out.
Involuntarily he straightened himself, and his own movements grew
stiffer, in his effort to impart to her some of his own restraint. But
it was useless. And, as they turned and turned, to the maddening music,
cold spots broke out on his forehead: in this manner she had danced
with all her previous partners, and would dance with those to come.
Such a pang of jealousy shot through him at the thought that, without
knowing what he was doing, he pulled her sharply to him. And she
yielded to the tightened embrace as a matter of course.

With a jerk he stopped dancing and loosened his hold of her.

She stood and blinked at lights and people: she had been far away, in a
world of melody and motion, and could not come back to herself all at
once. Wonderingly she looked at Maurice; for the music was going on,
and no one else had left off dancing; and, with the same of
comprehension, but still too dazed to resist, she followed him up the
stairs.

"It's easy to see you don't care for dancing," she said, when they were
back in the corner of the gallery. Her breath came unsteadily, and
again she touched her face with the small, scented handkerchief.

"No. Not dancing like that," he answered rudely. But now again, as so
often before, directly it was put into words, his feeling seemed
strained and puritanic.

Louise leaned forward in her seat to look into his face.

"Like what?--what do you mean? Oh, you foolish boy, what is the matter
with you to-night? You will tell me next I can't dance."

"You dance only too well."

"But you would rather I was a wooden doll--is that it How is one to
please you? First you are vexed with me because YOU did not ask ME to
dance; and when I send my partner away, on your account, you won't
finish one dance with me but exact that I shall sit here, in a dark
corner, and let that glorious music go by. I don't know what to make of
you." But her attention had already wandered to the dancers below.
"Look at them!--Oh, it makes me envious! No one else has dreamt of
stopping yet. For no matter how tired you are beforehand, when you
dance you don't feel it, and as long as the music goes on, you must go
on, too, though it lasted all night.--Oh, how often I have longed for a
night like this! And then I've never met a better dancer than Mr.
Herries."

"And for the sake of his dancing, you can forget what a puppy he is?"

"Puppy?" At the warmth of his interruption, she laughed, the low,
indolent laugh, by means of which she seemed determined, on this night,
to keep anything from touching her too nearly. "How crude you men are!
Because he is handsome and dances well, you reason that he must
necessarily be a simpleton."

"Handsome? Yes--if a tailor's dummy is handsome."

But Louise only laughed again, like one over whom words had no power.
"If he were the veriest scarecrow, I would forgive him--for the sake of
his dancing."

She leant forward, letting her gloved arms lie along her knees; and
above the jet-trimmed line of her bodice, he saw her white chest rise
and fall. At a slight sound behind, she turned and looked expectantly
at the door.

"No, not yet," said the young man at her side. "Besides, even if it
were, this is my dance, remember. You said so yourself."

"You are rude to-night, Maurice--and LANGWEILIG." She averted her face,
and tapped her foot. But the content that lapped her made it impossible
for her to take anything earnestly amiss, and even that others should
show displeasure jarred on her like a false note.

"Don't be angry. To-morrow it will all be different again. Let me have
just this one night of pleasure--let me enjoy myself in my own way."

"To hear you talk, one would think I had no wish but to spoil your
pleasure."

"Oh, I didn't mean that. You misunderstand everything."

"What I say or think has surely no weight with you?"

She gave up the attempt to pacify him, and leaning back in her chair,
stifled a yawn. Then with an exclamation of: "How hot it is up here!"
she peeled off her gloves. With her freed hands, she tidied her hair,
drawing out and thrusting in again the silver dagger that held the coil
together. Then she let her bare arms fall on her lap, where they lay in
strong outline against the black of her dress. One was almost directly
under Maurice's eyes; even by the poor light, he could see the mark
left on the inside of the wrist, by the buttons of the glove. It was a
generously formed arm, but so long that it looked slender, and its firm
white roundness was flawless from wrist to shoulder. He shut his eyes,
but he could see it through his eyelids. Sitting beside her like this,
in the semidarkness, morbidly aware of the perfume of her hair and
dress, he suddenly forgot that he had been rude, and she indifferent.
He was conscious only of the wish to drive it home to her, how unhappy
she was making him.

"Louise," he said so abruptly that she started. "I'm going to ask you
to do something for me. I haven't made many demands, have I?--since you
first called me your friend." He paused and fumbled for words.
"Don't--don't dance any more to-night. Don't dance again."

She stooped forward to look at him. "Not dance again?--I? What do you
mean?"

"What I say. Let us go home."

"Home? Now? When it's only half over?--You don't know what you are
saying." But her surprise was already on the wane.

"Oh, yes, I do. I'm not going to let you dance again."

She laughed, in spite of herself, at the new light in which he was
showing himself. But, the moment after, she ceased to laugh; for, with
an audacity he had not believed himself capable of, Maurice took the
arm that was lying next him, and, midway between wrist and elbow, put
his lips to it, kissing it several times, in different places.

Taken unawares, Louise was helpless. Then she freed herself, ungently.
"No, no, I won't have it. Oh, how can you be so foolish! My
gloves--where is my glove? Pick it up, and give it to me--at once!"

He groped on the dusty floor; the veins in his forehead hammered. She
had moved to a distance, and now stood busy with the gloves; she would
not look at him.

In the uneasy silence that ensued, Herries opened the door: a moment
later, they went out together. Maurice remained standing until he saw
them appear below. Then he dropped back into his seat, and covered his
face with his hands.

He did not regret what he had done; he did not care in the least,
whether he had made her angry with him or not. On the contrary, the
feeling he experienced was akin to relief: disapproval and
mortification, jealousy and powerlessness--all the varying emotions of
the evening--had found vent and alleviation in the few hastily snatched
kisses. He no longer felt injured by her treatment of him: that hardly
seemed to concern him now. His sensations, at this minute, resolved
themselves into the words: "She is mine, she is mine!" which went round
and round in his brain. And then, in a sudden burst of clearness, he
understood what it meant for him to say this. It meant that the farce
of friendship, at which he had played, was at an end; it meant that he
loved her--not as hitherto, with a touch of elegiac resignation--but
with a violence that made him afraid. If seemed incredible to him now
that he had spent two months in close fellowship with her: it was
ludicrous, inhuman. For he now saw, that his ultimate desire had been
neither to help her nor to restore her to life--that was a comedy he
had acted for the benefit of the traditions in his blood. Brutally, at
this moment, he acknowledged that he had only wished to hear her voice
and to touch her hand: to make for himself so indispensable a place
among the necessities of her life that no one could oust him from
it.--Mine--mine! Instinct alone spoke in him to-night--that same blunt
instinct which had reared its head the first time he saw her, but
which, until now, he had kept under, like a medieval ascetic. No reason
came to his aid; he neither looked into the future nor did he consider
the past: he only swore to himself in a kind of stubborn wrath that she
was his, and that no earthly power should take her from him.

One by one the slow-dragging hours wore away. The dancers' ranks were
thinned; but those who remained, gyrated as insensately as ever. There
was an air of greater freedom over the ball-room. The chaperons who,
earlier in the evening, had sat patiently on the red velvet sofas, had
vanished with their charges, and, in their train, the more sedate of
the company: it was past three o'clock, and now, every few minutes, a
cloaked couple crossed a corner of the hall to the street-door.

When Maurice went downstairs, he could not find Louise, and some time
elapsed before she and Herries emerged from the supper-room. Although
the lines beneath her eyes were like rings of hammered iron, she danced
anew, went on to the very end, with a few other infatuated people.
Finally, the tired musicians rose stiffly to pack their instruments;
and, with a sigh of exhaustion, she received on her shoulders the cloak
Maurice stood holding.

They were among the last to leave the hall; the lights went out behind
them. Herries walked a part of the way home with them, and talked much
and idly--ineffable in his self-conceit, thought Maurice. But Louise
urged him on, saying wild, disconnected things, as if, as long as words
were spoken, it did not matter what they were. Again and again her
laugh resounded: it was hoarse, and did not ring true.

"She has had too much champagne," Maurice said to himself, as he walked
silent at her side.

In the ROSSPLATZ, Herries, who was in a becoming fur cap, and a coat
with a fur-lined collar, took a circumstantial leave of her. He raised
both her hands to his lips.

"To the memory of those divine waltzes--our waltzes!" he said
sentimentally. "And to all the others the future has in store for us!"

She left her hands in his, and smiled at him.

"Till to-morrow then," said Herries. "Or shall you forget your promise?"

"It is you who will forget--not I."

After this, Maurice and she walked on alone together. It was that
dreariest of all the hours between sunset and dawn, when it is scarcely
night any longer, and yet not nearly day. The crisp frost of the
previous evening had given place to a bleak rawness; the day that was
coming would crawl in, lugubriously, unable to get the better of the
darkness. The houses about them were wrapped in sleep; they two were
the only people abroad, and their footsteps echoed in the damp streets.
But, for once, Louise was not affected by the gloom of her
surroundings. She walked swiftly, and her chief aim seemed to be to
render any but the most trival words impossible. Now, however, her
strained gaiety had the aspect of a fever; Maurice believed that, for
the most part, she did not know what she was saying.

Until they stood in front of the house-door, she kept up the tension.
But when the young man had fitted the key in the lock and turned it,
she looked at him, and, for the first time this night, gave him her
full attention.

"Good night--my friend!"

She was leaning against the woodwork; beneath the lace scarf, her eyes
were bent on him with a strange expression. Maurice looked down into
them, and, for a second or two, held them with his own, in one of those
looks which are not for ordinary use between a man and a woman. Louise
shivered under it, and gave a nervous laugh; the next moment, she made
a slight movement towards him, an involuntary movement, which was so
imperceptible as to be hardly more than an easing of her position
against the doorway, and yet was unmistakable--as unmistakable as was
the little upward motion with which she resigned herself at the outset
of a dance. For an instant, his heart stopped beating; in a flash he
knew that this was the solution: there was only one ending to this
night of longing and excitement, and that was to take her in his arms,
as she stood, to hold her to him in an infinite embrace, till his own
nerves were stilled, and the madness had gone from her. But the
returning beat of his blood brought the knowledge that a morrow must
surely come--a morrow for both of them--a cold, grey day to be faced
and borne. She was not herself, in the bonds of her unnatural
excitement; it was for him to be wise.

He took her limply hanging hand, and looked at her gravely and kindly.

"You are very tired."

At his voice, the wild light died out of her eyes; she seemed to shrink
into herself. "Yes, very tired. And oh, so cold!"

"Can't you get a cup of tea?--something to warm you?"

But she did not hear him; she was already on the stair. He waited till
her steps had died away, then went headlong down the street. But, when
he came to think things over, he did not pride himself on the
self-control he had displayed. On the contrary, he was tormented by the
wish to know what she would have said or done had he yielded to his
impulse; and, for the remainder of the night, his brain lost itself in
a maze of hazardous conjecture. Only when day broke, a cheerless
February day, was he satisfied that he could not have acted differently.

Upstairs, in her room, Louise lay face downwards on her bed, and there,
her arms thrown wildly out over the pillows, all the froth and
intoxication of the evening gone from her--there lay, and wished she
were dead.


* * * * *


Three days later, towards four o'clock in the afternoon, Maurice
watched the train that carried her from him steam out of the DRESDENER
BAHNHOF.

The clearness he had gained as to his own motives, and the ruthless
probing of himself it induced, both led to the same conclusion: Louise
must go away. The day after the ball, too, he had found her in a state
of collapse, which was unparalleled even in the ups and downs of the
past weeks.

"Anything!--do anything you like with me. I wish I had never been
born;" and, though no muscle of her face moved, large slow tears ran
down her sallow cheeks.

Unconsciously twisting and bending Herries's card, which was lying on
the table, Maurice laid his plan before her. And having won the above
consent, he did not let the grass grow under his feet. He applied to
Miss Jensen for practical aid, and that lady was tactful enough to give
it without curiosity. She knew Dresden well, recommended it as a lively
place, and wrote forthwith to a PENSION there, engaging rooms for a
lady who had just recovered from a severe illness. By tacit agreement,
this was understood to cover any extravagance or imprudence, of which
Louise might make herself guilty.

Now she had gone, and with her, the central interest of his life. But
the tired gesture, with which he took off his hat and wiped his
forehead, as he walked home, was expressive of the relief he felt that
he was not going to see her again for some time.

He let a fortnight elapse--a fortnight of colourless days, unbroken by
word or sign from her. Then, one night, he spent several hours writing
to her--writing a carefully worded letter, in which he put forward the
best reasons he could devise, for her remaining away altogether.

To this he received no answer.



X.


From one of the high, wooden benches, at the back of the amphitheatre
in the ALBERTHALLE, where he had lain at full length, listening to the
performance of a Berlin pianist, Krafft rose, full to the brim of
impressions, and eager to state them.

"That man," he began, as he left the hall between Maurice and Avery
Hill, "is a successful teacher. And therewith his fate as an artist is
sealed. No teacher can get on to the higher rungs of the ladder, and no
inspired musician be a satisfactory teacher. If the artist is obliged
to share his art, his pupils, should they be intelligent, may pick up
something of his skill, learn the trick of certain things; but the
moment he begins to set up dogmas, it is the end of him.--As if it were
possible for one person to prescribe to another, of a totally different
temperament, how he ought to feel in certain passages, or be affected
by certain harmonies! If I, for example, choose to play the later
Beethoven sonatas as I would the Brahms Concerto in B flat, with a
thoroughly modern irony, what is it that hinders me from doing it, and
from satisfying myself, and kindred souls, who are honest enough to
admit their feelings? Tradition, nothing in the world but tradition;
tradition in the shape of the teacher steps in and says anathema: to
this we are not accustomed, ERGO, it cannot be good.--And it is just
the same with those composers who are also pedagogues. They know, none
better, that there are no hard and fast rules in their art; that it is
only convention, or the morbid car of some medieval monk, which has
banished, say, consecutive fifths from what is called g pure writing ';
that further, you need only to have the regulation number of years
behind you, to fling squeamishness to the winds. In other words, you
learn rules to unlearn them with infinite pains. But the pupil, in his
innocence, demands a rigid basis to go on--it is a human weakness,
this, the craving for rules--and his teachers pamper him. Instead of
saying: develop your own ear, rely on yourself, only what you teach
yourself is worth knowing--instead of this, they build up walls and
barriers to hedge him in, behind which, for their benefit, he must go
through the antics of a performing dog. But nemesis overtakes them;
they fall a victim to their own wiles, just as the liar finally
believes his own lies. Ultimately they find their chief delight in the
adroitness with which they themselves overcome imaginary obstacles."

His companions were silent. Avery Hill had a nine hours' working-day
behind her, and was tired; besides, she made a point of never replying
to Krafft's tirades. Once only, of late, had she said to him in
Maurice's presence: "You would reason the skin off one's bones, Heinz.
You are the most self-conscious person alive." Krafft had been much
annoyed at this remark, and had asked her to call him a Jew and be done
with it; but afterwards, he admitted to Maurice that she was right.

"And it's only the naive natures that count."

Maurice had found his way back to Krafft; for, in the days of
uncertainty that followed the posting of his letter, he needed human
companionship. Until the question whether Louise would return or not
was decided, he could settle to nothing; and Krafft's ramblings took
him out of himself. Since the ball, his other friends had given him the
cold shoulder; hence it did not matter whether or no they approved of
his renewed intimacy with Krafft--he said "they," but it was Madeleine
who was present to his mind. And Krafft was an easy person to take up
with again; he never bore a grudge, and met Maurice readily, half-way.

It had not taken the latter long to shape his actions or what he
believed to be the best. But his thoughts were beyond control. He was
as helpless against sudden spells of depression as against dreams of an
iridescent brightness. He could no more avoid dwelling on the future
than reliving the Past. If Louise did not return, these memories were
all that were left him. If she did, what form were their relations to
each other going to assume?--and this was the question that cost him
most anxious thought.

A thing that affected him oddly, at this time, was his growing
inability to call up her face. It was incredible. This face, which he
had supposed he knew so well that he could have drawn it blindfold, had
taken to eluding him; and the more impatient he became, the poorer was
his success. The disquieting thing, however, was, that though he could
not materialise her face, what invariably rose before his eyes was her
long, bare arm, as it had lain on the black stuff of her dress. At
first, it only came when he was battling to secure the face; then it
took to appearing at unexpected moments; and eventually, it became a
kind of nightmare, which haunted him. He would start up from dreaming
of it, his hair moist with perspiration, for, strangely enough, he was
always on the point of doing it harm: either his teeth were meeting in
it, or he had drawn the blade of a knife down the middle of the
blue-veined whiteness, and the blood spurted out along the line, which
reddened instantly in the wake of the knife.

April had come, bringing April weather; it was fitfully sunny, and a
mild and generous dampness spurred on growth: shrubs and bushes were so
thickly sprinkled with small buds that, at a distance, it seemed as
though a transparent green veil had been flung over them. In the
Gewandhaus, according to custom, the Ninth Symphony had brought the
concert season to a close; once more, the chorus had struggled
victoriously with the ODE TO JOY. And early one morning, Maurice held a
note in his hand, in which Louise announced that she had "come home,"
the night before.

She had been away for almost two months, and, to a certain extent, he
had grown inured to her absence. At the sight of her handwriting, he
had the sensation of being violently roused from sleep. Now he shrank
from the moment when he should see her again; for it seemed that not
only the present, but all his future depended on it.

Late in the evening, he returned from the visit, puzzled and depressed.

Seven had boomed from church-clocks far and near, before he reached the
BRUDERSTRASSE, but, nevertheless, he had been kept waiting in the
passage for a quarter of an hour: and he was in such an apprehensive
frame of mind that he took the delay as a bad omen.

When he crossed the threshold, Louise came towards him with one of
those swift movements which meant that she was in good spirits, and
confident of herself. She held out her hands, and smiled at him with
all her dark, mobile face, saying words that were as impulsive as her
gesture. Maurice was always vaguely chilled by her outbursts of
light-heartedness: they seemed to him strained and unreal, so
accustomed had he grown to the darker, less adaptable side of her
nature.

"You have come back?" he said, with her hand in his.

"Yes, I'm here--for the present, at least."

The last words caught in his ear, and buzzed there, making his
foreboding a certainty. On the spot, his courage failed him; and though
Louise continued to ring all the changes her voice was capable of, he
did not recover his spirits. It was not merely the sense of
strangeness, which inevitably attacked him after he had not seen her
for some time; on this occasion, it was more. Partly, it might be due
to the fact that she was dressed in a different way; her hair was done
high on her head, and she wore a light grey dress of modish cut and
design. Her face, too, had grown fuller; the hollows in her cheeks had
vanished; and her skin had that peculiar clear pallor that was
characteristic of it in health.

He was stupidly silent; he could not join in her careless vivacity.
Besides, throughout the visit, nothing was said that it was worth his
coming to hear.

But when she wished him good-bye, she said, with a strange smile:
"Altogether, I am very grateful to you, Maurice, for having made me go
away."

He himself no longer felt any satisfaction at what he had done. As soon
as he left her, he tried to comprehend what had happened: the change in
her was too marked for him to be able to console himself that he had
imagined it. Not only had she seemingly recovered, as if by magic, from
the lassitude of the winter--he could even have forgiven her the
alteration in her style of dress, although this, too, helped to
alienate her from him. But what he ended by recognising, with a jealous
throb, was that she had mentally recovered as well; she was once more
the self-contained girl he had first known, with a gift for keeping an
outsider beyond the circle of her thoughts and feelings. An outsider!
The weeks of intimate companionship were forgotten, seemed never to
have been. She had no further need of him, that was the clue to the
mystery, and the end of the matter.

And so it continued, the next day, and the next again; Louise
deliberately avoided touching on anything that lay below the surface.
She vouchsafed no explanation of the words that had disquieted him, nor
was the letter Maurice had written her once mentioned between them.

But, though she seemed resolved not to confide in him, she could not
dispense with the small, practical services, he was able to render her.
They were even more necessary to her than before; for, if one thing was
clear, it was that she no longer intended to cloister herself up inside
her four walls: the day after her return, she had been out till late in
the afternoon, and had come home with her hands full of parcels. She
took it now as a matter of course that Maurice should accompany her;
and did not, or would not, notice his abstraction.

After the lapse of a very short time, however, the young man began to
feel that there was something feverish in the continual high level of
her mood. She broke down, once or twice, in trying to sustain it, and
was more of her eloquently silent self again: one evening, he came upon
her, in the dusk, when she was sitting with her chin on her hand,
looking out before her with the old questioning gaze.

Occasionally he thought that she was waiting for something: in the
middle of a sentence, she would break off, and grow absent-minded; and
more than once, the unexpected advent of the postman threw her into a
state of excitement, which she could not conceal. She was waiting for a
letter. But Maurice was proud, and asked no questions; he took pains to
use the cool, friendly tone, she herself adopted.

Not a week had dragged out, however, since her return, before he was
suffering in a new way, in the oldest, cruellest way of all.

The PENSION at which she had stayed in Dresden, had been frequented by
leisured foreigners: over twenty people, of various nationalities, had
sat down daily at the dinner-table. Among so large a number, it would
have been easy for Louise to hold herself aloof. But, as far as Maurice
could gather, she had felt no inclination to do this. From the first,
she seemed to have been the nucleus of an admiring circle, chief among
the members of which was a family of Americans--a brother and two
sisters, rich Southerners, possessed of a vague leaning towards art and
music. The names of these people recurred persistently in her talk;
and, as the days went by, Maurice found himself listening for one name
in particular, with an irritation he could not master. Raymond van
Houst--a ridiculous name!--fit only for a backstairs romance. But as
often as she spoke of Dresden, it was on her lips. Whether in the
Galleries, or at the Opera, on driving excursions, or on foot, this man
had been at her side; and soon the mere mention of him was enough to
set Maurice's teeth on edge.

One afternoon, he found her standing before an extravagant mass of
flowers, which were heaped up on the table; there were white and purple
violets, a great bunch of lilies of the valley, and roses of different
colours. They had been sent to her from Dresden, she said; but, beyond
this, she offered no explanation. All the vases in the room were
collected before her; but she had not begun to fill them: she stood
with her hands in the flowers, tumbling them about, enjoying the
contact of their moist freshness.

To Maurice's remark that she seemed to take a pleasure in destroying
them, she returned a casual: "What does it matter?" and taking up as
many violets as she could hold, looked defiantly at him over their
purple leaves. Through all she said and did ran a strong undercurrent
of excitement.

But before Maurice left, her manner changed. She came over to him, and
said, without looking up: "Maurice I want to tell you something."

"Yes; what is it?" He spoke with the involuntary coolness this mood of
hers called out in him; and she was quick to feel it. She returned to
the table.

"You ask so prosaically: you are altogether prosaic to-day. And it is
not a thing I can tell you off-hand. You would need to sit down again.
It's a long story; and you were going; and it's late. We will leave it
till to-morrow: that will be time enough. And if it is fine, we can go
out somewhere, and I'll tell you as we go."

It was a brilliant May afternoon: great white clouds were piled one on
the top of another, like bales of wool; and their fantastic bulging
roundnesses made the intervening patches of blue seem doubly distant.
The wind was hardly more than a breath, which curled the tips of thin
branches, and fluttered the loose ends of veils and laces. In the
ROSENTAL, where the meadow-slopes were emerald-green, and each branch
bore its complement of delicately curled leaves, the paths were so
crowded that there could be no question of a connected conversation.
But again, Louise was not in a hurry to begin.

She continued meditative, even when they had reached the KAISERPARK,
and were sitting with their cups before them, in the long, wooden,
shed-like building, open at one side. She had taken off her hat--a
somewhat showy white hat, trimmed with large white feathers--and laid
it on the table; one dark wing of hair fell lower than the other, and
shaded her forehead.

Maurice, who was on tenterhooks, subdued his impatience as long as he
could. Finally, he emptied his cup at a draught, and pushed it away.

"You wanted to speak to me, you said."--His manner was curt, from sheer
nervousness.

His voice startled her. "Yes, I have something to tell you," she said,
with a hesitation he did not know in her. "But I must go back a
little.--If you remember, Maurice, you wrote to me while I was away,
didn't you?" she said, and looked not at him, but at her hands clasped
before her. "You gave me a number of excellent reasons why it would be
better for me not to come back here. I didn't answer your letter at the
time because ... What should you say, Maurice, if I told you now, that
I intended to take your advice?"

"You are going away?" The words jerked out gratingly, of themselves.

"Perhaps.--That is what I want to speak to you about. I have a chance
of doing so."

"Chance? How chance?" he asked sharply.

"That's what I am going to tell you, if you will give me time."

Drawing a letter from her pocket, she smoothed the creases out of the
envelope, and handed it to him.

While he read it, she looked away, looked over the enclosure. Some
people were crossing it, and she followed them with her eyes, though
she had often seen their counterparts before. A man in a heavy
ulster--notwithstanding the mildness of the day--stalked on ahead,
unconcerned about the fate of his family, which dragged, a woman and
two children, in the rear: like savages, thought Louise, where the male
goes first, to scent danger. But the crackling of paper recalled her
attention; Maurice was folding the sheet, and replacing it in the
envelope, with a ludicrous precision. His face had taken on a pinched
expression, and he handed the letter back to her without a word.

She looked at him, expecting him to say something; but he was obdurate.
"This was what I was waiting all these days to tell you," she said.

"You knew it was coming then?" He scarcely recognised his own voice; he
spoke as he supposed a judge might speak to a proven criminal.

Louise shrugged her shoulders. "No. Yes.--That is, as far as it's
possible to know such a thing."

Through the crude glass window, the sun cast a medley of lines and
lights on her hands, and on the checkered table-cloth. There were two
rough benches, and a square table; the coffeecups stood on a metal
tray; the lid of the pot was odd, did not match the set: all these
inanimate things, which, a moment ago, Maurice had seen without seeing
them, now stood out before his eyes, as if each of them had acquired an
independent life, and no longer fitted into its background.

"Let us go home," he said, and rose.

"Go home? But we have only just come!" cried Louise, with what seemed
to him pretended surprise. "Why do you want to go home? It is so quiet
here: I can talk to you. For I need your advice, Maurice. You must help
me once again."

"I help you?--in this? No, thank you. All I can do, it seems, is to
wish you joy." He remained standing, with his hand on the back of the
bench.

But at the cold amazement of her eyes, he took his seat again. "It is a
matter for yourself--only you can decide. It's none of my business." He
moved the empty cups about on the cloth.

"But why are you angry?"

"Haven't I good reason to be? To see you--you!--accepting an
impertinence of this kind so quietly. For it IS an impertinence,
Louise, that a man you hardly know should write to you in this cocksure
way and ask you to marry him. Impertinent and absurd!"

"You have a way of finding most things I want to do absurd," she
answered. "In this case, though, you're mistaken. The tone of the
letter is all it should be. And, besides, I know Mr. Van Houst very
well."

Maurice looked at her with a sardonic smile.

"Seven weeks is a long time," she added.

"Seven weeks!--and for a lifetime!"

"Oh, one can get to know a man inside out, in seven weeks," she said,
with wilful flippancy. "Especially if, from the first, he shows so
plainly ... Maurice, don't be angry. You have always been kind to me;
you're not going to fail me now that I really need help? I have no one
else, as you very well know." She smiled at him, and held out her hand.
He could not refuse to take it; but he let it drop again immediately.

"Let me tell you all about it, and how it happened, and then you will
understand," Louise went on, in a persuasive voice--he had once
believed that the sound of this voice would reconcile him to any fate.
"You think the time was short, but we were together every day, and
sometimes all day long. I knew from the first that he cared for me; he
made no secret of it. If anything, it is a proof of tactfulness on his
part that he should have written rather than have spoken to me himself.
I like him for doing it, for giving me time. And then, listen, Maurice,
what I should gain by marrying him. He is rich, really rich, and
good-looking--in an American way--and thirty-two years old. His sisters
would welcome me--one of them told me as much, and told me, too, that
her brother had never cared for anyone before. He would make an ideal
husband," she added with a sudden recklessness, at the sight of
Maurice's unmoved face. "Americanly chivalrous to the fingertips, and
with just enough of the primitive animal in him to ward off monotony."

Maurice raised his hand, as if in self-defence. "So you, too, then,
like any other woman, would marry just for the sake of marrying?" he
asked, with bitter disbelief.

"Yes.--And just especially and particularly I."

"For Heaven's sake, let us get out of here!"

Without listening to her protest, he went to find the waiter. Louise
followed him out of the enclosure, carrying hat and gloves in her hand.

They struck into narrow by-paths going back, to avoid the people. But
it was impossible to escape all, and those they met, eyed them with
curiosity. The clear English voices rang out unconcerned; the pale girl
with the Italian eyes was visibly striving to appease her companion,
who marched ahead, angry and impassive.

For a few hundred yards neither of them spoke. Then Louise began anew.

"And that is not all. You judge harshly and unfairly because you don't
know the facts. I am almost quite alone in the world. I have no
relatives that I care for, except one brother. I lived with him, on his
station in Queensland, until I came here. But now he's married, and
there would be no room for me in the house--figuratively speaking. If I
go back now, I must share his home with his wife, whom I knew and
disliked. While here is some one who is fond of me, and is rich, and
who offers me not only a home of my own, but, what is far more to me,
an entirely new life in a new world."

"Excellent reasons! But in reckoning them up, you have forgotten what
seems to me the most important one of all; whether or no you care for
him, for this ..." this in his trouble, he could not find a suitable
epithet.

But Louise refused to be touched. "I like him," she answered, and
looked across the slope of meadow they were passing. "I liked him, yes,
as any woman would like a man who treated her as he did me. He was very
good tome. And not in the least repugnant.--But care?" she interrupted
herself. "If by care, you mean ... Then no, a hundred thousand times,
no! I shall never care for anyone in that way again, and you know it. I
had enough of that to last me all my life."

"Very well, then, and I say, if you married a man you care for as
little as that, I should never believe in a woman again.--Not, of
course, that it matters to you what I believe in and what I don't? But
to hear you--you, Louise!--counting up the profits to be gained from
it, like ... like--oh, I don't know what! I couldn't have believed it
of you."

"You are a very uncomfortable person, Maurice."

"I mean to be. And more than uncomfortable. Listen to me! You talk of
it lightly and coolly; but if you married this man, without caring for
him more than you say you do, just for the sake of a home, or his
money, or his good manners, or the primitive animal, or whatever it is
that attracts you in him:"--he grew bitter again in spite of
himself--"if you did this, you would be stifling all that is good and
generous in your nature. For you may say what you like; the man is
little more than a stranger to you. What can you know of his real
character? And what can he know of you?"

"He knows as much of me as I ever intend him to know."

"Indeed! Then you wouldn't tell him, for instance, that only a few
months ago, you were eating your heart out for some one else?"

Louise winced as though the words had struck her in the face. Before
she answered, she stood still, in the middle of the path, and pinned
on, with deliberate movements, the big white hat, beneath the drooping
brim and nodding feathers of which, her eyes were as black as coals.

"No, I should not," she said. "Why should I? Do you think it would make
him care more for me to know that I had nearly died of love for another
man?"

"Certainly not. And it might also make him less ready to marry you."

"That's exactly what I think."

One was as bitter as the other; but Maurice was the more violent of the
two.

"And so you would begin the new life you talk of, with lies and
deceit?--A most excellent beginning!"

"If you like to call it that. I only know, that no one with any sense
thinks of dragging up certain things when once they are dead and
buried. Or are you, perhaps, simple enough to believe any man living
would get over what I have to tell him, and care for me afterwards in
the same way?"

He turned, with tell-tale words on his tongue. But the expression of
her face intimidated him. He had only to look at her to know that, if
he spoke of himself at this moment, she would laugh him to scorn.

But the beloved face acted on him in its own way; his sense of injury
weakened. "Louise," he said in an altered tone; "whatever you say to
the contrary, in a matter like this, I can't advise you. For I don't
understand--and never should.--But of one thing I'm as sure as I am
that the sun will rise to-morrow, and that is, that you won't do it. Do
you honestly think you could go on living, day after day, with a man
you don't sincerely care for?--of whom the most you can say is that
he's not repugnant to you? You little know what it would mean!--And you
may reason as you will; I answer for you; and I say no, and again no.
It isn't in you to do it. You are not mean and petty enough. You can't
hide your feelings, try as you will.--No, you couldn't deceive some
one, by pretending to care for him, for months on end. You would be
miserably unhappy; and then--then I know what would happen. You would
be candid--candid about everything--when it was too late."

There was no mistaking the sincerity of his words. But Louise was
boundlessly irritated, and made no further effort to check her
resentment.

"You have an utterly false and ridiculous idea of me, and of everything
belonging to me."

"I haven't spent all this time with you for nothing. I know you better
than you know yourself. I believe in you, Louise. And I know I am
right. And some day you'll know it, too."

These words only incensed her the more.

"What you know--or think you know--is nothing to me. If you had
listened to me patiently, as I asked you to, instead of losing your
temper, and taking what I said as a personal affront, then, yes, then I
should have told you something else besides. How, when I came back, a
fortnight ago, I was quite resolved to marry this man, if he asked me
marry him and cut myself off for ever from my old life and its hateful
memories.--And why not? I'm still young. I still have a right to
pleasure--and change--and excitement.--And in all these days, I didn't
once hesitate--not till the letter came yesterday--and then not till
night. It wasn't like me; for when once I have made up my mind, I never
go back. So I determined to ask you--ask you to help me to decide. For
you had always been kind to me.--But this is what I get for doing it."
Her anger flared up anew. "You have treated me abominably, to-day,
Maurice; and I shan't forget it. All your ridiculous notions about
right and wrong don't matter a straw. What does matter is, that when I
ask for help, you should behave as if--as if I were going to commit a
crime. Your opinion is nothing to me. If I decide to marry the man, I
shall do it, no matter what you say."

"I'm sure you will."

"And if I don't, let me tell you this: it won't be because of anything
you've said to-day. Not from any high-flown notions of honesty, or
generosity, as you would like to make yourself believe; but merely
because I haven't the energy in me. I couldn't keep it up. I want to be
quiet, to have an easy life. The fact that some one else had to suffer,
too, wouldn't matter to me, in the least. It's myself I think of, first
and foremost, and as long as I live it will always be myself."

Her voice belied her words; he expected each moment that she would
burst out crying. However, she continued to walk on, with her head
erect; and she did not take back one of the unkind things she had said.

They parted without being reconciled. Maurice stood and watched her
mount the staircase, in the vain hope that she would turn, before
reaching the top.

He did not see how the fine May afternoon declined, and passed into
evening; how the high stacks of cloud were broken up at sunset, and
shredded into small flakes and strips of cloud, which, saturated with
gold, vanished in their turn: how the shadows in the corners turned
from blue to black; nor did he note the mists that rose like steam from
the ground, intensifying the acrid smell of garlic, with which the
woods abounded. Screened by the thicket, he sat on his accustomed scat,
and gave himself up to being miserable.

For some time he was conscious only of how deeply he had been
wounded--just as one suffers from the bruise after the blow. At the
moment, he had been stunned into a kind of quiescence; now his nerves
throbbed and tingled. But, little by little, a vivid recollection of
what had actually occurred returned to sting him: and certain details
stood out fixed and unforgettable. Yet, in reliving the hours just
past, he felt no regret at the fact that they had quarrelled. What
first smote him was an unspeakable amazement at Louise. The knowledge
that, for weeks on end, she had been contemplating marriage, was beyond
his belief. Hardly recovered from the throes of a suffering believed
incurable, and while he was still going about her with gloved hands, as
it were, she was ready to throw herself into the arms of the first
likely man she met. He could not help himself: in this connection,
every little trait in her that was uncongenial to him, started up with
appalling distinctness. Hitherto, he had put it down to his own
sensitiveness; he was over-nice. But for the most part, he had forgiven
her on account of all she had come through; for he believed that this
grief had swept destructively through her nature, leaving a jagged
wound, which only time could heal. Now, as if to prove to him what a
fool he was, she showed him that he had been mistaken in this also; she
could recover her equilibrium, while he still hedged her round with
solicitude--recover herself, and transfer her affection to another
person. Good God! Was it so easy, a matter of so little moment, to grow
fond of one who was almost a stranger to her?--for, in spite of what
she said to the contrary, he was persuaded that she had a stronger
feeling for this man than she had been willing to admit: this riper
man, with his experienced way of treating women. Was, then, his own
idea of her wholly false? Was there, after all, something in her nature
that he could not, would not, understand? He denied it fiercely, almost
before he had formulated the question: no matter what her actions were,
or what words she said, deep down in her was an intense will for good,
a spring of noble impulse. It was only that she had never had a proper
chance. But he denied it to a vision of her face: the haunting eyes
which, at first sight, had destroyed his peace of mind; the dead black
hair against the ivory-coloured skin. It was in these things that the
truth lay, not in the blind promptings of her inclination.

For the first time, the idea of marriage took definite shape in his
mind. For all he knew, it might have been lying dormant there, all
along; but he would doubtless have remained unconscious of it, for
weeks to come, had it not been for the events of the afternoon. Now,
however, Louise had made it plain that his feelings for her were of an
exaggerated delicacy; plain that she herself had no such scruples. He
need hesitate no longer. But marry! ... marriage! ... he marry
Louise!--at the thought of it, he laughed. That he, Maurice Guest,
should, for an instant, put himself on a par with her American suitor!
The latter, rich, leisured, able to satisfy her caprices, surround her
with luxury: himself, younger than she by several years, without
prospects, with nothing to offer her but a limitless devotion. He tried
to imagine himself saying: "Louise, will you marry me?" and the words
stuck in his throat; for he saw the amused astonishment of her eyes.
And not merely at the presumption he would be guilty of; what was as
clear to him as day was that she did not really care for him; not as he
cared for her; not with the faintest hint of a warmer feeling. If he
had never grasped this before, he did so now, to the full. Sitting
there, he affirmed to himself that she did not even like him. She was
grateful to him, of course, for his help and friendship; but that was
all. Beyond this, he would not have been surprised to learn from her
own lips that she actually disliked him: for there was something
irreconcilable about their two natures. And never, for a moment, had
she considered him in the light of an eligible lover--oh, how that
stung! Here was she, with an attraction for him which nothing could
weaken; and in him was not the smallest lineament, of body or of mind,
to wake a response in her. He was powerless to increase her happiness
by a hair's breadth. Her nerves would never answer to the inflection of
his voice, or the touch of his hand. How could such things be? What
anomaly was here?

To-day, her face rose before him unsought--the sweet, dark face with
the expression of slight melancholy that it wore in repose, as he loved
it best. It was with him when, stiff and tired, he emerged from his
seclusion, and walked home through the trails of mist that hung,
breast-high, on the meadow-land. It was with him under the
street-lamps, and, to its accompanying presence, the strong conviction
grew in him that evasion on his part was no longer possible. Sooner or
later, come what might, the words he had faltered over, even to
himself, would have to be spoken.



XI.


One day, some few weeks later, Madeleine sat at her writingtable,
biting the end of her pen. A sheet of note-paper lay before her; but
she had not yet written a word. She frowned to herself, as she sat.

Hard at work that morning, she had heard a ring at the door-bell, and,
a minute after, her landlady ushered in a visitor, in the shape of Miss
Martin. Madeleine rose from the piano with ill-concealed annoyance, and
having seated Miss Martin on the sofa, waited impatiently for the gist
of her visit; for she was sure that the lively American would not come
to see her without an object. And she was right: she knew to a nicety
when the important moment arrived. Most of the visit was preamble; Miss
Martin talked at length of her own affairs, assuming, with disarming
candour, that they interested other people as much as herself. She went
into particulars about her increasing dissatisfaction with Schwarz, and
retailed the glowing accounts she heard on all sides of a teacher
called Schrievers. He was not on the staff of the Conservatorium; but
he had been a favourite of Liszt's, and was attracting many pupils.
From this, Miss Martin passed to more general topics, such as the blow
Dove had recently received over the head of his attachment to pretty
Susie Fay. "Why, Sue, she feels perfectly DREADFUL about it. She can't
understand Mr. Dove thinking they were anything but real good friends.
Most every one here knew right away that Sue had her own boy down home
in Illinois. Yes, indeed."

Madeleine displayed her want of interest in Dove's concerns so plainly,
that Miss Martin could not do otherwise than cease discussing them. She
rose to end her call. As, however, she stood for the momentary exchange
of courtesies that preceded the hand-shake, she said, in an off-hand
way: "Miss Wade, I presume I needn't inquire if you're acquainted with
the latest about Louise Dufrayer? I say, I guess I needn't inquire,
seeing you're so well acquainted with Mr. Guest. I presume, though, you
don't see so much of him now. No, indeed. I hear he's thrown over all
his friends. I feel real disappointed about him. I thought he was a
most agreeable young man. But, as momma says, you never can tell. An' I
reckon Louise is most to blame. Seems like she simply CAN'T exist
without a beau. But I wonder she don't feel ashamed to show herself,
the way she's talked of. Why, the stories I hear about her! ... an'
they're always together. She's gotten her a heap of new things, too--a
millionaire asked her to marry him, when she was in Dresden, but he
wasn't good enough for her, no ma'am, an' all on account of Mr.
Guest.--Yes, indeed. But I must say I feel kind of sorry for him,
anyway. He was a real pleasant young man."

"Maurice Guest is quite able to look after himself," said Madeleine
drily.

"Is that so? Well, I presume you ought to know, you were once so well
acquainted with him--if I may say, Miss Wade, we all thought it was you
was his fancy. Yes, indeed."

"Oh, I always knew he liked Louise."

But this was the chief grudge she, too, bore him: that he had been so
little open with her. His seeming frankness had been merely a feint; he
had gone his own way, and had never really let her know what he was
thinking and planning. She now recalled the fact that Louise had only
once been mentioned between them, since the time of her illness, over
six months ago; and she, Madeleine, had foolishly believed his
reticence to be the result of a growing indifference.

Since the night of the ball, they had shunned each other, by tacit
consent. But, though she could avoid him in person, Madeleine could not
close her cars to the gossipy tales that circulated. In the last few
weeks, too, the rumours had become more clamatory: these two misguided
creatures had obviously no regard for public opinion; and several
times, Madeleine had been obliged to go out of her own way, to escape
meeting them face to face. On these occasions, she told herself that
she had done with Maurice Guest; and this decision was the more easy
as, since the beginning of the year, she had moved almost entirely in
German circles. But now the distasteful tattle was thrust under her
very nose. It seemed to put things in a different light to hear Maurice
pitied and discussed in this very room. In listening to her visitor,
she had felt once more how strong her right of possession was in him;
she was his oldest friend in Leipzig. Now she was ready to blame
herself for having let her umbrage stand in the way of them continuing
friends: had he been dropping in as he had formerly done, she might
have prevented things from going so far, and certainly have been of use
in hindering them from growing worse; for, with Louise, one was never
sure. And so she determined to write to him, without delay. In this,
though, she was piqued as well by a violent curiosity. Louise said to
have given up a good match for his sake! xxx she could not believe it.
It was incredible that she could care for him as he cared for her.
Madeleine knew them both too well; Maurice was not the type of man by
whom Louise was attracted.

She wrote in a guarded way.

IT SEEMS ABSURD THAT OLD FRIENDS SHOULD BEHAVE AS WE ARE DOING. IF
ANYTHING THAT HAPPENED WAS MY FAULT, FORGIVE IT, AND SHOW ME YOU DON'T
BEAR ME A GRUDGE, BY COMING TO SEE ME TO-MORROW AFTERNOON.

They had not met for close on four months, and, for the first few
minutes after his arrival, Madeleine was confused by the change that
had taken place in Maurice. It was not only that he was paler and
thinner than of old: his boyish manner had deserted him; and, when he
forgot himself, his eyes had a strange, brooding expression.

"Other-worldly ... almost," thought Madeleine; and, in order to
surmount an awkwardness she had been resolved not to feel, she talked
glibly. Maurice said he could not stay long, and wished to keep his hat
in his hand; but before he knew it, he was sitting in his accustomed
place on the sofa.

As they stirred their tea, she told him how annoyed she had felt at
having recently had a performance postponed in favour of Avery Hill:
and how the latter was said to be going crazy, with belief in her own
genius. Maurice seemed to be in the dark about what was happening, and
made no attempt to hide his ignorance. She could see, too, that he was
not interested in these things; he played with a tassel of the sofa,
and did not notice when she stopped speaking.

It is his turn now, she said to herself, and left the silence that
followed unbroken. Before it had lasted long, however, he looked up
from his employment of twisting the tassel as far round as it would go,
and then letting it fly back. "I say, Madeleine, now I'm here, there's
something I should like to ask you. I hope, though, you won't think it
impertinence on my part." He cleared his throat. "Once or twice lately
I've heard a report about you--several times, indeed. I didn't pay any
attention to it--not till a few days back, that is--when I saw it--or
thought I saw it--confirmed with my own eyes. I was at Bonorand's on
Monday evening; I was behind you."

In an instant Madeleine had grasped what he was driving at. "Well, and
what of that, pray?" she asked. "Do you think I should have been there,
if I had been ashamed of it?"

"I saw whom you were with," he went on, and treated the tassel so
roughly that it came away in his hand. "I say, Madeleine, it can't be
true, what they say--that you are thinking of ... of marrying that old
German?"

Madeleine coloured, but continued to meet his eyes. "And why not?" she
asked again.--"Don't destroy my furniture, please."

"Why not?" he echoed, and laid the tassel on the table. "Well, if you
can ask that, I should say you don't know the facts of the case. If I
had a sister, Madeleine, I shouldn't care to see her going about with
that man. He's an old ?? ??--don't you know he has had two wives, and
is divorced from both?"

"Fiddle-dee-dee! You and your sister! Do you think a man is going to
come to nearly fifty without knowing something of life? That he hasn't
been happy in his matrimonial relations is his misfortune, not his
fault."

"Then it's true?"

"Why not?" she asked for the third time.

"Then, of course, I've nothing more to say. I've no right to interfere
in your private affairs. I hoped I should still be in time--that's all."

"No, you can't go yet, sit still," she said peremptorily. "I too, have
something to say.--But will you first tell me, please, what it can
possibly matter to you, whether you are in time, as you call it, or
not?"

"Why, of course, it matters.--We haven't seen much of each other
lately; but you were my first friend here, and I don't forget it.
Particularly in a case like this, where everything is against the idea
of you marrying this man: your age--your character--all common sense."

"Those are only words, Maurice. With regard to my age, I am over
twenty-seven, as you know. I need no boy of eighteen for a husband.
Then I am plain: I shall never attract anyone by my personal
appearance, nor will a man ever be led to do foolish things for my
sake. I have worked hard all my life, and have never known what it is
to let to-morrow take care of itself.--Now here, at last, comes a man
of an age not wholly unsuitable to mine, whatever you may say. What
though he has enjoyed life? He offers me, not only a certain social
standing, but material comfort for the rest of my days. Whereas,
otherwise, I may slave on to the end, and die eventually in a
governesses' home."

"YOU would never do that. You are not one of that kind. But do you
think, for a moment, you'd be happy in such a position of dependence?"

"That's my own affair. There would certainly be nothing extraordinary
in it, if I were."

"As you put it, perhaps not. But------If it were even some one of your
own race! But these foreigners think so queerly. And then, too,
Madeleine, you'll laugh, I daresay, but I've always thought of you as
different from other women--strong and independent, and quite sure of
yourself. The kind of girl that makes others seem little and stupid. No
one here was good enough for you."

Madeleine's amazement was so great that she did not reply immediately.
Then she laughed. "You have far too high an opinion of me. Do you
really think I like standing alone? That I do it by preference?--You
were never more mistaken, if you do. It has always been a case of
necessity with me, no one ever having asked me to try the other way. I
suppose like you, they thought I enjoyed it. However, set your mind at
rest. Your kind intervention has not come too late. There is still
nothing definite."

"I'm glad to hear it."

"I don't say there mayn't be," she added. "Herr Lohse and I are
excellent friends, and it won't occur to me not to accept the
theatre-tickets and other amusements he is able to give me.--But it is
also possible that for the sake of 'your ideals, I may die a solitary
old maid."

Here she was overcome by the comical side of the matter, and burst out
laughing.

"What a ridiculous boy you are! If you only knew how you have turned
the tables on me. I sent for you, this afternoon, to give you a sound
talking-to, and instead of that, here you sit and lecture me."

"Well, if I have achieved something----"

"It's too absurd," she repeated more tartly. "For you to come here in
this way to care for my character, when you yourself are the talk of
the place."

His face changed, as she had meant it to do. He choked back a sharp
rejoinder. "I'd be obliged, if you'd leave my affairs out of the
question."

"I daresay you would. But that's just what I don't intend to do. For if
there are rumours going the round about me, what on earth is one to say
of you? I needn't go into details. You know quite well what I mean. Let
me tell you that your name is in everybody's mouth, and that you are
being made to appear not only contemptible, but ridiculous."

"The place is a hot-bed of scandal. I've told you that before," he
cried, angry enough now. "These dirty-minded MUSIKER think it outside
the bounds of possibility for two people to be friends." But his tone
was unsure, and he was conscious of it.

"Yes--when one of the two is Louise."

"Kindly leave Miss Dufrayer out of the question."

"Oh, Maurice, don't Miss Dufrayer me!--I knew Louise before you even
knew that she existed.--But answer me one question, and I'm done. Are
you engaged to Louise?"

"Most certainly not."

"Well, then, you ought to be.--For though you don't care what people
say about yourself, your conscience will surely prick you when you hear
that you're destroying the last shred of reputation Louise had left.--I
should be sorry to repeat to you what is being said of her."

But after he had gone, she reproached herself for having put such a
question to him. At the pass things had reached, it was surely best for
him to go through with his infatuation, and get over it. Whereas she,
in a spasm of conventionality, had pointed him out the sure road to
perdition; for the worst thing that could happen would be for him to
bind himself to Louise, in any fashion. As if her reputation mattered!
The more rapidly she got rid of what remained to her, the better it
would be for every one, and particularly for Maurice Guest.

Had Maurice been in doubt as to Madeleine's meaning, it would have been
removed within a few minutes of his leaving the house. As he turned a
corner of the Gewandhaus, he came face to face with Krafft. Though they
had not met for weeks, Heinrich passed with no greeting but a
disagreeable smile. Maurice was not half-way across the road, however,
when Krafft came running back, and, taking the lappel of his friend's
coat, allowed his wit to play round the talent Maurice displayed for
wearing dead men's shoes.

CARMEN was given that night in the theatre; Maurice had fetched tickets
from the box-office in the morning. An ardent liking for the theatre
had sprung up in Louise of late; and they were there sometimes two or
three evenings in succession. Besides this, CARMEN was her favourite
opera, which she never missed. They heard it from the second-top
gallery. Leaning back in his corner, Maurice could see little of the
stage; but the bossy waves of his companion's head were sharply
outlined for him against the opposite tier.

Louise was engrossed in what was happening on the stage; her eyes were
wide open, immovable. He had never known anyone surrender himself so
utterly to the mimic life of the theatre. Under the influence of music
or acting that gripped her, Louise lost all remembrance of her
surroundings: she lived blindly into this unreal world, without the
least attempt at criticism. Afterwards, she returned to herself tired
and dispirited, and with a marked distaste for the dullness of real
life. Here, since the first lively clash of the orchestra, since the
curtain rose on gay Sevilla, she had been as far away from him as if
she were on another planet. Not, he was obliged to confess to himself,
that it made very much difference. Though he was now her constant
companion, though his love for her was stronger than it had ever been,
he knew less of her to-day than he had known six months ago, when one
all-pervading emotion had made her life an open book.

Since that unhappy afternoon on which he learnt the contents of the
letter from Dresden, they had spent a part of nearly every day in each
other's company. Louise had borne him no malice for what he had said to
her; indeed, with the generous forgetfulness of offence, which was one
of the most astonishing traits in her character, she met him, the day
after, as though nothing had passed between them. By common consent,
they never referred to the matter again; Maurice did not know to this
day, whether or how she had answered the letter. For, although she had
forgiven him, she was not quite the same with him as before; a faint
change had come over their relation to each other. It was something so
elusive that he could not have defined it; yet nevertheless it existed,
and he was often acutely conscious of it. It was not that she kept her
thoughts to herself; but she did not say ALL she thought--that was it.
And this shade of reserve, in her who had been so frank, ate into him
sorely. He accepted it, though, as a chastisement, for he had been in a
very contrite frame of mind on awakening to the knowledge that he had
all but lost her. And so the days had slipped away. An outsider had
first to open his eyes to the fact that it was impossible for things to
go on any longer as they were doing; that, for her sake, he must make
an end, and quickly.

And yet it had been so easy to drift, so hard to do otherwise, when
Louise accepted all he did for her as a matter of course, in that
high-handed way of hers which took no account of details. He felt sorry
for her, too, for she was not happy. There was a gnawing discontent in
her just now, and for this, in great measure, he held himself
responsible: for a few weeks she had been buoyed up by the hope of a
new life, and he had been the main agent in destroying this hope. In
return, he had had nothing to offer her--nothing but a rigid living up
to certain uncomfortable ideals, which brought neither change nor
pleasure with them: and, despite his belief in the innate nobility of
her nature, he could not but recognise that ideals were for her
something colder and sterner than for other people.

She made countless demands on his indulgence, and he learnt to see,
only too clearly, what a dependent creature she was. It was more than a
boon, it was a necessity to her, to have some one at her side who would
care for her comfort and well-being. He could not picture her alone;
for no one had less talent than she for the trifles that compose life.
Her thoughts seemed always to be set on something larger, vaguer,
beyond.

He devoted as much time to her as he could spare from his work, and
strove to meet her half-way in all she asked. But it was no slight
matter; for her changes of mood had never been so abrupt as they were
now. He did not know how to treat her. Sometimes, she was cold and
unapproachable, so wrapped up in herself that he could not get near
her; and perhaps only an hour later, her lips would curve upwards in
the smile which made her look absurdly young, and her eyes, too, have
all the questioning wonder of a child's. Or she would be silent with
him, not unkindly, but silent as a sphinx; and, on the same day, a fit
of loquacity would seize her, when she was unable to speak quickly
enough for the words that bubbled to her lips. He managed to please her
seldomer than ever. But however she behaved, he never faltered. The
right to be beside her was now his; and the times she was the hardest
on him were the times he loved her best.

As spring, having reached and passed perfection, slipped over into
summer, she was invaded by a restlessness that nothing could quell. It
got into her hands and her voice, into all her movements, and worked
upon her like a fever-like a crying need. So intense did it become that
it communicated itself to him also. He, too, began to feel that rest
and stillness were impossible for them both, and to be avoided at any
cost.

"I have never really seen spring," Louise said to him, one day, in
excuse of some irrational impulse that had driven her out of the house.
And the quick picture she drew, of how, in her native land, the brief
winter passed almost without transition into the scathing summer; her
suggestion of unchanging leaves, brown barrenness, and and dryness; of
grass burnt to cinders, of dust, drought, and hot, sandy winds: all
this helped him to understand something of what she was feeling. A
remembrance of this parched heat was in her veins, making her eager not
to miss any of the young, teeming beauty around her, or one of the new
strange scents; eager to let the magic of this awakening permeate her
and amaze her, like a primeval happening. But, though he thus grasped
something of what was going on in her, he was none the less uneasy
under it: just as her feverish unburdening of herself after hours of
silence, so now her attitude towards this mere change of nature
disquieted him; she over-enjoyed it, let herself go in its exuberance.
And, as usual, when she lost hold of her nerves, he found himself
retreating into his shell, practising self-control for two.

Often, how often he could not count, the words that had to be said had
risen to his lips. But they had never crossed them--in spite of the
wanton greenness of the woods, which should have been the very frame in
which to tell a woman you loved her. But not one drop of her nervous
exaltation was meant for him: she had never shown, by the least sign,
that she cared a jot for him; and daily he became more convinced that
he was chasing a shadow, that he was nothing to her but the STAFFAGE in
the picture of her life. He was torn by doubts, and mortally afraid of
the one little word that would put an end to them.

He recollected one occasion when he had nearly succeeded in telling
her, and when, but for a trick of fate, he would have done so. They
were on their way home from the NONNE, where the delicate undergrowth
of the high old trees was most prodigal, and where Louise had closed
her eyes, and drunk in the rich, earthy odours. They had paused on the
suspension bridge, and stood, she with one ungloved hand on the
railing, to watch the moving water. Looking at her, it had seemed to
him that just on this afternoon, she might listen to what he had to say
with a merciful attentiveness; she was quiet, and her face was gentle.
He gripped the rail with both hands. But, before he could open his
lips, a third person turned from the wood-path on to the bridge, making
it tremble with his steps--a jaunty cavalry officer, with a trim
moustache and bright dancing eyes. He walked past them, but threw a
searching look at Louise, and, a little further along the bridge, stood
still, as if to watch something that was floating in the water, in
reality to look covertly back at her. She had taken no notice of him as
he passed, but when he paused, she raised her head; and then she looked
at him--with a preoccupied air, it was true, but none the less
steadily, and for several seconds on end. The words died on Maurice's
lips: and going home, he was as irresponsive as she herself ...

"I love you, Louise--love you." He said it now, sitting back in his
dark corner in the theatre; but amid the buzz and hum of the music, and
the shouting of the toreadors, he might have called the words aloud,
and still she would not have heard them.

Strangely enough, however, at this moment, for the first time during
the evening, she turned her head. His eyes were fixed on her, in a
dark, exorbitant gaze. Her own face hardened.

"The opera-glass!"

Maurice opened the leather case, and gave her the glass. Their fingers
met, and hers groped for a moment round his hand. He withdrew it as
though her touch had burnt him. Louise flashed a glance at him, and
laid the opera-glass en the ledge in front of her, without making use
of it.

Slowly the traitorous blood subsided. To the reverberating music, which
held all ears, and left him sitting alone with his fate, Maurice had a
moment of preternatural clearness. He realised that only one course was
open to him, and that was to go away. BEI NACHT UND NEBEL, if it could
not be managed otherwise, but, however it happened, he must go. More
wholly for her sake than Madeleine had dreamed of: unless he wanted to
be led into some preposterous folly that would embitter the rest of his
life. Who could say how long the wall he had built up round her--of the
knowledge he shared with her, of pity for what she had undergone--would
stand against the onset of this morbid, overmastering desire?

To the gay, feelingless music, he thought out his departure in detail,
sparing himself nothing.

But in the long interval after the second act, when they were
downstairs on the LOGGIA, where it was still half daylight; where the
lights of cafes and street-lamps were only beginning here and there to
dart into existence; where every man they met seemed to notice Louise
with a start of attention: here Maurice was irrevocably convinced that
it would be madness to resign his hard-won post without a struggle. For
that it would long remain empty, he did not for a moment delude himself.

They hardly exchanged a word during the remainder of the evening. His
mouth was dry. Carmen, and her gaudy fate, drove past him like the
phantasmagoria of a sleepless night.

When, the opera was over, and they stood waiting for the crowd to thin,
he scanned his companion's face with anxiety, to discover her mood.
With her hand on the wire ledge, Louise watched the slow fall of the
iron curtain. Her eyes were heavy; she still lived in what she had seen.

Her preoccupation continued as they crossed the square; her movements
were listless. Maurice's thoughts went back to a similar night, a year
ago, when, for the first time, he had walked at her side: it had been
just such a warm, lilac-scented night as this, and then, as now, he had
braced himself up to speak. At that time he had known her but slightly;
perhaps, for that very reason, he had been bolder in taking the plunge.

He turned and looked at her. Her face was averted: he could only see
the side of her cheek, and the clear-cut line of her chin.

"Are you tired, Louise?" he asked, and, in the protective tenderness of
his tone, her name sounded like a term of endearment.

She made a vague gesture, which might signify either yes or no.

"It was too hot for you up there, to-night," he went on. "Next time, I
shall take you a scat downstairs--as I've always wanted to." As she
still did not respond, he added, in a changed voice: "Altogether,
though, it will be better for you to get accustomed to going alone to
the theatre."

She turned at this, with an indolent curiosity. "Why?"

"Because--why, because it will soon be necessary. I'm going away."

He had made a beginning now, clumsily, and not as he had intended, but
it was made, and he would stand fast.

"You are going away?"

She said each word distinctly, as if she doubted her ears.

"Yes."

"Why, Maurice?"

"For several reasons. It's not a new decision. I've been thinking about
it for some time."

"Indeed? Then why choose just to-night to tell me?--you've had plenty
of other chances. And to-night I had enjoyed the theatre, and the
music, and coming out into the air ..."

"I'm sorry. But I've put it off too long as it is. I ought to have told
you before.--Louise ... you must see that things can't go on like this
any longer?"

His voice begged her for once to look at the matter as he did. But she
heard only the imperative.

"Must?" she repeated. "I don't see--not at all."

"Yes.--For your sake, I must go."

"Ah!--that makes it clearer. People have been talking, have they? Well,
let them talk."

"I can't hear you spoken of in that way."

"Oh, you're very good. But if we, ourselves, know that what's being
said is not true, what can it matter?"

"I refuse to be the cause of it."

"Do you, indeed?" She laughed. "You refuse? After doing all you can to
make yourself indispensable, you now say: get on as best you can alone;
I've had enough; I must go.--Don't say it's on my account--that the
thought of yourself is not at the bottom of it--for I wouldn't believe
you though you did."

"I give you my word, I have only thought of you. I meant it ... I mean
it, for the best."

She quickened her steps, and he saw that she was nervously worked up.

"No man can want to injure the woman he respects--as I respect you."

Her shoulders rose, in her own emotional way.

"But tell me one thing," he begged, as she walked inexorable before
him. "Say it will matter a little to you if I go--that you will miss
me--if ever so little ... Louise!"

"Miss you? What does it matter whether I miss you or not? It seems to
me that counts least of all. You, at any rate, will have acted
properly. You will have nothing to reproach yourself with.--Oh, I
wouldn't be a man for anything on earth! You are all--all alike. I hate
you and despise you--every one of you!"

They were within a few steps of the house. She pressed on, and, without
looking back at him, or wishing him good-night, disappeared in the
doorway.



XII.


It was a hot evening in June: the perfume of the lilac, now in fullest
bloom, lay over squares and gardens like a suspended wave. The sun had
gone down in a cloudless sky; an hour afterwards, the pavements were
still warm to the touch, and the walls of the buildings radiated the
heat they had absorbed. The high old houses in the inner town had all
windows set open, and the occupants leaned out on their
window-cushions, with continental nonchalance. The big garden-cafes
were filled to the last scat. In the woods, the midges buzzed round
people's heads in accompanying clouds; and streaks of treacherous white
mist trailed, like fixed smoke, over the low-lying meadow-land.

Maurice and Louise had rowed to Connewitz; but so late in the evening
that most of the variously shaped boats, with coloured lanterns at
their bows, were returning when they started.

Louise herself had proposed it. When he went to her that afternoon, he
found her stretched on the sofa. A theatre-ticket lay on the table--for
she had taken him at his word, and shown him that she could do without
him. But to-night she had no fancy for the theatre: it was too hot. She
looked very slight and young in her white dress; but was moody and out
of spirits.

On the way to Connewitz, they spoke no more than was necessary. Coming
back, however, they had the river to themselves; and she no longer
needed to steer. He placed cushions for her at the bottom of the boat;
and there she lay, with her hands clasped under her neck, watching the
starry strip of sky, which followed them, between the tops of the trees
above, like a complement of the river below.

The solitude was unbroken; they might have gone down in the murky
water, and no one would ever know how it had happened: a snag caught
unawares; a clumsy movement in the light boat; half a minute, and all
would be over.--Or, for the first and the last time in his life, he
would take her in his arms, hold her to him, feel her cheek on his; he
would kiss her, with kisses that were at once an initiation and a
farewell; then, covering her eyes with his hands, he would gently, very
gently, tilt the boat. A moment's hesitation; it sought to right
itself; rocked violently, and overturned: and beneath it, locked in
each other's arms, they found a common grave....

In fancy, he saw it all. Meanwhile, he rowed on, with long, leisurely
strokes; and the lapping of the water round the oars was the only sound
to be heard.

At home, on the lid of his piano, lay the prospectuses of music-schools
in other towns. They were still arriving, in answer to the impulsive
letters he had written off, the night after the theatre. But the last
to come had remained unopened.--He was well aware of it: his lingering
on had all the appearance of a weak reluctance to face the inevitable.
For he could never make mortal understand what he had come through, in
the course of the past week. He could no more put into words the
isolated spasms of ecstasy he had experienced--when nothing under the
sun seemed impossible--than he could describe the slough of misery and
uncertainty, which, on occasion, he had been forced to wade through.
For the most part, he believed that the words of contempt Louise had
spoken, came straight from her heart; but he had also known the faint
stir ring of a new hope, and particularly was this the case when he had
not seen Louise for some time. Then, at night, as he lay staring before
him, this feeling became a sudden refulgence, which lighted him through
all the dark hours, only to be remorselessly extinguished by daylight.
Most frequently, however, it was so slender a hope as to be a mere
distracting flutter at his heart. Whence it sprang, he could not
tell--he knew Louise too well to believe, for a moment, that she would
make use of pique to hide her feelings. But there was a something in
her manner, which was strained; in the fact that she, who had never
cared, should at length be moved by words of his; in a certain way she
had looked at him, once or twice in these days; or in a certain way she
had avoided looking at him. No, he did not know what it was. But
nevertheless it was there--a faint, inarticulate existence--and,
compared with it, the tangible facts of life were the shadows of a
shadow.

Surely she had fallen asleep. He said her name aloud, to try her.
"Louise!" She did not stir, and the word floated out into the
night--became an expression of the night itself.

They had passed the weir and its foaming, and now glided under the
bridges that spanned the narrower windings of the river. The wooden
bathing-house looked awesome enough to harbour mysteries. Another sharp
turn, among sedge and rushes, and the outlying streets of the town were
on their right. The boat-sheds were in darkness, when they drew up
alongside the narrow landing-place. Maurice got out with the chain in
his hand, and secured the boat. Louise did not follow immediately. Her
hair had come down, and she was stiff from the cramped position in
which she had been lying. When she did rise to her feet, she could
hardly stand. He put out his hand, and steadied her by the arm.

"A heavy dew must be falling. Your sleeve is wet."

She made a movement to draw her arm away; at the same moment, she
tangled her foot in her skirt, tripped, and, if he had not caught her,
would have fallen forward.

"Take care what you're doing! Do you want to drown yourself?"

"I don't know. I shouldn't mind, I think," she answered tonelessly.

His own balance had been endangered. Directly he had righted himself,
he set her from him. But it could not be undone: he had had her in his
arms, had felt all her weight on him. The sensation seemed to take his
strength away: after the long, black, silent evening, her body was
doubly warm, doubly real. He walked her back, along the deserted
streets, at a pace she could not keep up with. She lagged behind. She
was very pale, and her face wore an expression of almost physical
suffering. She looked resolutely away from Maurice; but when her eyes
did chance to rest on him, she was swept by such a sense of nervous
irritation that she hated the sight of him, as he walked before her.

Upstairs, in her room, when he had laid the cushions on the sofa; when
the lamp was lighted and set on the table; when he still stood there,
pale, and wretched, and undecided, Louise came to an abrupt decision.
Advancing to the table, she leaned her hands on it, and bending
forward, raised her white face to his.

"You told me you were going away; why do you not go? Why have you not
already gone?" she asked, and her mouth was hard. "I am waiting ...
expecting to hear."

His answer was so hasty that it was all but simultaneous.

"Louise!--can't you forgive me?--for what I said the other night?"

"I have nothing to forgive," she replied, coldly in spite of herself.
"You said you must go. I can't keep you here against your will."

"It has made you angry with me. I have made you unhappy."

"You are making us both unhappy," she said in a low voice. "Now, it is
I who say, things can't go on like this."

"I know it." He drew a deep breath. "Louise! ... if only you could care
a little!"

There was silence after these words, but not a silence of conclusion;
both knew now that more must follow. He raised his head, and looked
into her eyes.

"Can you not see how I love you--and how I suffer?"

It was a statement rather than a question, but he was not aware of
this: he was only amazed that, after all, he should be able to speak so
quietly, in such an even tone of voice.

There was another pause of suspense; his words seemed like balls of
down that he had tossed into the still air: they sank, lingeringly,
without haste; and she stood, and let them descend on her. His haggard
eyes hung on her face; and, as he watched, he saw a change come over
it: the enmity that had been in it, a few seconds back, died out; the
lips softened and relaxed; and when the eyes were raised to his again,
they were kind, full of pity.

"I'm sorry. Poor boy ... poor Maurice."

She seemed to hesitate; then, with one of her frankest gestures, held
out her hand. At its touch, soft and living, he forgot everything:
plans and resolutions, hopes and despairs, happiness and unhappiness no
longer existed for him; he knew only that she was sorry for him, that
some swift change in her had made her sympathise and understand. He
looked down, with dim eyes, at the sweet, pale face, now alight with
compassion then, with disarming abruptness, he took her head between
his hands, and kissed her, repeatedly, whereever his lips chanced to
fall--on the warm mouth, the closed eyes, temples, and hair.

He was gone before she recovered from her surprise. She had
instinctively stemmed her hands against his shoulders; but, when she
was alone, she stood just as he left her, her eyes still shut, letting
the sensation subside, of rough, unexpected kisses. She had been taken
unawares; her heart was beating. For a moment or two, she remained in
the same attitude; then she passed her hand over her face. "That was
foolish of him ... very," she said. She looked down at herself and saw
her hands. She stretched them out before her, with a sudden sense of
emptiness.

"If I could care! Yes--if I could only care!"

At two o'clock that morning, Maurice wrote:

FORGIVE ME--I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT I WAS DOING. FOR I LOVE YOU, LOUISE--NO
WOMAN HAS EVER BEEN LOVED AS YOU ARE. I KNOW IT IS FOLLY ON MY PART. I
HAVE NOTHING TO OFFER YOU. BUT BE MY WIFE, AND I WILL WORK MY FINGERS
TO THE BONE FOR YOU.

He went out into the summer night, and posted the letter. Returning to
his room, he threw himself on the sofa, and fell into a heavy sleep,
from which he did not wake till the morning was well advanced.

Work was out of the question that day, when he waited as if for a
sentence of death. He paced his narrow room, incessantly, afraid to go
out, for fear of missing her reply. The hours dragged themselves by, as
it is their special province to do in crises of life; and with each one
that passed, he grew more convinced what her answer to his letter would
be.

It was late in the afternoon when the little boy she employed as a
messenger, put a note into his hands.

COME TO ME THIS EVENING.

It was all but evening now; he went, just as he was, on the heels of
the child.

The windows of her room were open. She sprang up to meet him, then
paused. He looked desperately yet stealthily at her. The commiseration
of the previous night was still in her face; but she was now quite sure
of herself: she drew him to the sofa and made him sit down beside her.
Then, however, for a few seconds, in which he waited with hammering
pulses, she did not speak. The dull fear at his heart became a
certainty; and, unable to bear the suspense any longer, he took one of
her hands and laid it on his forehead.

Then she said: "Maurice--poor, foolish Maurice!--it is not possible.
You see that yourself, I'm sure."

"Yes. I know quite well: it is presumption."

"Oh, I don't mean that. But there are so many reasons. And you, too,
Maurice ... Look at me, and tell me if what you wrote was not just an
attempt to make up for what happened last night." And as he did not
reply, she added: "You mustn't make yourself reproaches. I, too, was to
blame."

"It was nothing of the sort. I've been trying for weeks now to tell
you. I love you--have loved you since the first time I saw you."

He let go of her hand, and she sat forward, with her arms along her
knees. Her eyes were troubled; but she did not lose her calm manner of
speaking. "I'm sorry, Maurice, very sorry--you believe me' don't you,
when I say so? But believe me, too, it's not so serious as you think.
You are young. You will get over it, and forget--if not soon, at least
in time. You must forget me, and some day you will meet the nice, good
woman, who is to be your wife. And when that happens, you will look
back on your fancy for me as something foolish, and unreal. You won't
be able to understand it then, and you will be grateful to me, for not
having taken you at your word."

Maurice laughed. All the same, he tried to take his dismissal well: he
rose, wrung her hand, and left her.

In the seclusion of his own room, he went through the blackest hour of
his life.

He began to make final preparations for his departure. His choice had
fallen on Stuttgart: it was far distant from Leipzig; he would be well
out of temptation's way--the temptation suddenly to return. He wrote a
letter home, apprising his relatives of his intention: by the time they
received the letter, it would be too late for them to interfere.
Otherwise, he took no one into his confidence. He would greatly have
liked to wait until the present term was over; another month, and the
summer vacation would have begun, and he would have been able to leave
without making himself conspicuous. But every day it grew more
impossible to be there and not to see her--for four days now he had
kept away, fighting down his unreasoning desire to know what she was
doing. He intended only to see her once more, to bid her good-bye.

The afternoon before his interview with Schwarz--he had arranged this
with himself for the morning, at the master's private house--he sat at
his writing-table, destroying papers and old letters. There was a heap
of ashes in the cold stove by the time he took out, tied up in a
separate packet, the few odd scraps of writing he had received from
Louise. He balanced the bundle in his hand, hesitating what to do with
it. Finally, he untied the string, to glance through the letters once
again.

At the sight of the bold, black, familiar writing, in which each
word--two or three to a line--seemed to have a life of its own; at the
well-conned pages, each of which he knew by heart; at the
characteristic, almost masculine signature, and the faint perfume that
still clung to the paper: at the sight of these things all--that he had
been thinking and planning since seeing her last, was effaced from his
mind. As often before, where she was concerned, a wild impulse, surging
up in him, took entire possession of him; and hours of patient and
laborious reasoning were by one swift stroke blotted out.

He rose, locked the letters up again, rested his arm on the lid of the
piano, his head on his arm. The more he toyed with his inclination to
go to her, the more absorbent it became, and straightway it was an
ungovernable longing: it came over him with a dizzy force, which made
him close his eyes; and he was as helpless before it as the drunkard
before his craving to drink. Standing thus, he saw with a flash of
insight that, though he went away as far as steam could carry him, he
would never, as long as he lived, be safe from overthrows of this kind.
It was something elemental, which he could no more control than the
flow of his blood. And he did not even stay to excuse himself to
himself: he went headlong to her, with burning words on his lips.

"My poor boy," she said, when he ceased to speak. "Yes, I know what it
is--that sudden rage that comes over one, to rush back, at all costs,
no matter what happens afterwards.--I'm so sorry for you, Maurice. It
is making me unhappy."

"You are not to be unhappy. It shall not happen again, I promise
you.--Besides, I shall soon be gone now." But at his own words, the
thought of his coming desolation pierced him anew. "Give me just one
straw to cling to! Tell me you won't forget me all at once; that you
will miss me and think of me--if ever so little."

"You asked me that the other night. Was what I said then, not answer
enough?--And besides, in these last four days, since I have been alone,
I've learnt just how much I shall miss you, Maurice. It's my
punishment, I suppose, for growing so dependent on anyone."

"You must go away, too. You can't stay here by yourself. We must both
go, in opposite directions, and begin afresh."

She did not reply at once. "I shouldn't know where to go," she said,
after a time. "Will nothing else do, Maurice? Is there no other
way?--Oh, why can't we go on being friends, as we were!"

He shook his head. "I've struggled against it so long--you don't know.
I've never really been your friend--only I couldn't hurt you before, by
telling you. And it has worn me out; I'm good for nothing.
Louise!--think, just once more--ask yourself, once more, if it's quite
impossible, before you send me into the outer darkness."

She was silent.

"I don't ask you to love me," he went on, in a low voice. "I've come
down from that, in these wretched days. I would be content with less,
much less. I only ask you to let yourself be loved--as I could love
you. If only you could say you liked me a little, all the rest would
come, I'm confident of it. In time, I should make you love me. For I
would take, oh, such care of you! I want to make you happy, only to
make you happy. I've no other wish than to show you what happiness is."

"It sounds so good ... you are good, Maurice. But the future--tell me,
have thought of the future?"

"I should think I have.--Do you suppose it means nothing to me to be so
despicably poor as I am? To have absolutely nothing to offer you?"

She took his hand. "That's not what I mean. And you know it. Come, let
us talk sensibly this afternoon, and look things straight in the
face.--You want to marry me, you say, and let the rest come? That is
very, very good of you, and I shall never forget it.--But what does it
mean, Maurice? You have been here a little over a year now, haven't
you?--and still have about a year to stay. When that's over, you will
go back to England. You will settle in some small place, and spend your
life, or the best part of your life, there--oh, Maurice, you are my
kind friend, but I tell you frankly, I couldn't face life in an English
provincial town. I'm not brave enough for that."

He gleaned a ray of hope from her words. "We could live here--anywhere
you liked. I would make it possible. I swear I would."

She shook her head, and went on, with the same reasonable sweetness.
"And then, there's another thing. If I married you, sooner or later you
would have to take me home to your people. Have you really thought of
that, and how you would feel about it, when it came to the point?--No,
no, it's impossible for me to marry you."

"But that--that American!--you would have married him?"

"That was different," she said, and her voice grew thinner. "It's the
knowing that tells, Maurice. You would have that still to learn. You
don't realise it yet, but afterwards, it would come home to
you.--Listen! You have always been kind to me, I owe you such a debt of
gratitude, that I'm going to be frank, brutally frank with you. I've
told you often that I shall never really care for anyone again. You
know that, don't you? Well, I want to tell you, too--I want you to
understand quite, quite clearly that ... that I belonged to him
altogether--entirely--that I ... Oh, you know what I mean!"

Maurice covered his face with his hands. "The past is the past. It
should never be mentioned between us. It doesn't matter--nothing
matters now."

"You say that--every one says that--beforehand," she answered; and not
only her words, but also her way of saying them, seemed to set her down
miles away from him, on a lonely pinnacle of experience. "Afterwards,
you would think differently."

"Louise, if you really cared, it would be different. You wouldn't say
such things, then--you would be only too glad not to say them."

In her heart she knew that he was right, and did not contradict him.
The busy little clock on the writing-table ticked away a few seconds.
With a jerk, Maurice rose to his feet. Louise remained sitting, and he
looked down on her black head. His gaze was so insistent that she felt
it, and raised her eyes. His forlorn face moved her.

"Why is it--what is the matter with me?--that I must upset your life
like this? I can't bear to see you so unhappy.--And yet I haven't done
anything, have I? I have always been honest with you; I've never made
myself out to be better than I am. There must be something wrong with
me, I think, that no one can ever be satisfied to be just my
friend.--Yet with you I thought it was different. I thought things
could go on as they were. Maurice, isn't it possible? Say it is! Show
me just one little spark of good in myself!"

"I'm not different from other men, Louise. I deluded myself long
enough, God knows!"

She made a despondent gesture, and turned away. "Well, then, if either
of us should go, I'm the one. You have your work. I do nothing; I have
no ties, no friends--I never even seem to have been able to make
acquaintances. And if I went, you could stay quietly on. In time, you
would forget me.--If I only knew where to go! I am so alone, and it is
all so hard. I shall never know what it is to be happy myself, or to
make anyone else happy--never!" and she burst into tears.

It was his turn now to play the comforter. Drawing a. chair up before
her, he took her hand, and said all he could think of to console her.
He could bear anything, he told her, but to see her unhappy. All would
yet turn out to be for the best. And, on one point, she was to set her
mind at rest: her going away would not benefit him in the least. He
would never consent to stay on alone, where they had been so much
together.

"I've nothing to look forward to, nothing," she sobbed. "There's
nothing I care to live for."

As soon as she was quieter, he left her.

For an hour or more Louise lay huddled up on the sofa, with her face
pressed to her arm.

When she sat up again, she pushed back her heavy hair, and, clasping
her hands loosely round her knees, stared before her with vacant eyes.
But not for long; tired though she was, and though her head ached from
crying, there was still a deep residue of excitement in her. The level
beams of the sun were pouring blindly into the room; the air was dense
and oppressive. She rose to her feet and moved about. She did not know
what to do with herself: she would have liked to go out and walk; but
the dusty, jarring light of the summer streets frightened her. She
thought of music, of the theatre, as a remedy for the long evening that
yawned before her: then dismissed the idea from her mind. She was in
such a condition of restlessness, this night, that the fact of being
forced to sit still between two other human beings, would make her want
to scream.

The sun was getting low; the foliage of the trees in the opposite
gardens was black, with copper edges, against the refulgence of the
sky. She leaned her hands on the sill, and gazed fixedly at the stretch
of red and gold, which, like the afterglow of a fire, flamed behind the
trees. Her eyes were filled with it. She did not think or feel: she
became one, by looking, with the sight before her. As she stood there,
nothing of her existed but her two widely opened eyes; she was a
miracle wrought by the sunset; she WAS the sunset--in one of those
vacancies of mind, which all intense gazers know.

How long she had remained thus she could not have told, when a strange
thing happened to her. From some sub-conscious layer of her brain,
which started into activity because the rest of it was so passive, a
small, still thought glided in, and took possession of her mind. At
first, it was so faint that she hardly grasped it; but, once
established there, it became so vivid that, with one sweep, it blotted
out trees and sunset; so real that it seemed always to have been
present to her. Without conscious effort on her part, the solution to
her difficulties had been found; a decision had been arrived at, but
not by her; it was the work of some force outside herself.

She turned from the window, and pressed her hands to her blinded eyes.
Good God! it was so simple. To think that this had not occurred to her
before!--that, throughout the troubled afternoon, the idea had never
once suggested itself! There was no need of loneliness and suffering
for either of them. He might stay; they both might stay; she could make
him happy, and ward off the change she so dreaded.--Who was she to
stick at it?

But she remained dazed, doubtful as it were of this peaceful ending;
her hand still covered her eyes. Then, with one of the swift movements
by which it was her custom to turn thought into action, she went to the
writing-table, and scrawled a few, big words.

MAURICE, I HAVE FOUND A WAY. COME BACK TO-MORROW EVENING.

She hesitated only over the last two words, and, before writing them,
sat with her chin in her hand, and deliberately considered. Then she
addressed the envelope, and stamped it: it would be soon enough if he
got it through the post, the following morning.

But, with her, to resolve was to act; she was ill at ease under
enforced procrastination; and had often to fight against a burning
impatience, when circumstances delayed the immediate carrying out of
her will. In this case, however, she had voluntarily postponed
Maurice's return for twenty-four hours, when he might have been with
her in less than one: for, in her mind, there lurked the seductive
thought of a long, summer day, with an emotion at its close to which
she could look forward.

In the meantime, she was puzzled how to fill up the evening. After all,
she decided to go to the theatre, where she arrived in time to hear the
last two acts of AIDA. From a seat in the PARQUET, close to the
orchestra, she let the showy music play round her. Afterwards, she
walked home through the lilac-haunted night, went to bed, and at once
fell asleep.

Next morning, she wakened early--that was the sole token of
disturbance, she could detect in herself. It was very still; there was
a faint twittering of birds, but the noises of the street had not yet
begun. She lay in the subdued yellow light of her room, with one arm
across her eyes.

Fresh from sleep, she understood certain things as never before. She
saw all that had happened of late--her slow recovery, her striving and
seeking, her growing friendship with Maurice--in a different light. On
this morning, too, she was able to answer one of the questions that had
puzzled her the night before. She saw that the relations in which they
had stood to each other, during the bygone months, would have been
impossible, had she really cared for him. She liked him, yes, had
always liked him; and, in addition, his patience and kindness had made
her deeply grateful to him. But that was all. Neither his hands, nor
his voice, nor his eyes, nor anything he did, had had the power to
touch her--SO to touch her, that her own hands and eyes would have met
his half-way; that the old familiar craving, which was partly fear and
partly attraction, would have made her callous to his welfare. Had
there been a breath of this, things would have come to a climax long
ago. Hot and eager as she was, she could not have lived on coolly at
his side--and, at this moment, she found it difficult to make up her
mind whether she admired Maurice or the reverse, for having been able
to carry his part through.

And yet, though no particle of personal feeling drew her to him, she,
too, had suffered, in her own way, during these weeks of morbid
tension, when he had been incapable either of advancing or retreating.
How great the strain had been, she recognised only in the instant when
he had spanned the breach, in clear, unmistakable words. If he had not
done it, she would have been forced to; for she could never find
herself to rights, for long, in half circumstances: if she were not to
grow bewildered, she had to see her road simple and straight before
her. His words to her after they had been on the river together--more,
perhaps, his bold yet timid kisses--had given her back strength and
assurance. She was no longer the miserable instrument on which he tried
his changes of mood; she was again the giver and the bestower, since
she held a heart and a heart's happiness in the hollow of her hand.

What people would think and say was a matter of indifference to her:
besides, they practically believed the worst of her already. No; she
had nothing to lose and, it might be, much to gain. And after all, it
meant so little! The first time, perhaps; or if one cared too much. But
in this case, where she had herself well in hand, and where there was
no chance of the blind desire to kill self arising, which had been her
previous undoing; where the chief end aimed at was the retention of a
friend--here, it meant nothing at all.

The thought that she might possibly have scruples on his part to
combat, crossed her mind. She stretched her arm straight above her
head, then laid it across her eyes again. She would like him none the
less for these scruples, did they exist: now, she believed that, at
heart, she had really appreciated his reserve, his holding back, where
others would have been so ready to pounce in. For the first time, she
considered him in the light of a lover, and she saw him differently. As
if the mere contemplation of such a change brought her nearer to him,
she was stirred by a new sensation, which had him as its object. And
under the influence of this feeling, she told herself that perhaps just
in this gentler, kindlier love, which only sought her welfare, true
happiness lay. She strained to read the future. There would be storms
neither of joy nor of pain; but watchful sympathy, and the fine, manly
tenderness that shields and protects. Oh, what if after all her
passionate craving for happiness, it was here at her feet, having come
to her as good things often do, unexpected and unsought!

She could lie still no longer; she sprang up, with an alacrity that had
been wanting in her movements of late. And throughout the long day,
this impression, which was half a hope and half a belief was present to
her mind, making everything she did seem strangely festive. She almost
feared the moment when she would see him again, lest anything he said
should dissipate her hope.

When he came, her eyes followed him searchingly. With an instinct that
was now morbidly sharpened, Maurice was aware of the change in her,
even before he saw her eyes. His own were one devouring question.

She made him sit down beside her.

"What is it, Louise? Tell me--quickly. Remember, I've been all day in
suspense," he said, as seconds passed and she did not speak.

"You got my note then?"

"What is it?--what did you mean?"

"Just a little patience, Maurice. You take one's breath away. You want
to know everything at once. I sent for you because--oh, because ... I
want you to let us go on being friends."

"Is that all?" he cried, and his face fell. "When I have told you again
and again that's just what I can't do?"

She smiled. "I wish I had known you as a boy, Maurice--oh, but as quite
a young boy!" she said in such a changed voice that he glanced up in
surprise. Whether it was the look she bent on him, or her voice, or her
words, he did not know; but something emboldened him to do what he had
often done in fancy: he slid to his knees before her, and laid his head
on her lap. She began to smooth back his hair, and each time her hand
came forward, she let it rest for a moment.--She wondered how he would
look when he knew.

"You can't care for me, I know. But I would give my life to make you
happy."

"Why do you love me?" She experienced a new pleasure in postponing his
knowing, postponing it indefinitely.

"How can I say? All I know is how I love you--and how I have suffered."

"My poor Maurice," she said, in the same caressing way. "Yes, I shall
always call you poor.--For the love I could give you would be worthless
compared with yours."

"To me it would be everything.--If you only knew how I have longed for
you, and how I have struggled!"

He took enough of her dress to bury his face in. She sat back, and
looked over him into the growing dusk of the room: and, in the
alabaster of her face, nothing seemed to live except her black eyes,
with the half-rings of shadow.

Suddenly, with the unexpectedness that marked her movements when she
was very intent, she leant forward again, and, with her elbow on her
knee, her chin on her hand, said in a low voice: "Is it for ever?"

"For ever and ever."

"Say it's for ever." She still looked past him, but her lips had
parted, and her face wore the expression of a child's listening to
fairy-tales. At her own words, a vista seemed to open up before her,
and, at the other end, in blue haze, shone the great good that had
hitherto eluded her.

"I shall always love you," said the young man. "Nothing can make any
difference."

"For ever," she repeated. "They are pretty words."

Then her expression changed; she took his head between her hands.

"Maurice ... I'm older than you, and I know better than you, what all
this means. Believe me, I'm not worth your love. I'm only the shadow of
my old self. And you are still so young and so ... so untried. There's
still time to turn back, and be wise."

He raised his head.

"What do you mean? Why are you saying these things? I shall always love
you. Life itself is nothing to me, without you. I want you ... only
you."

He put his arms round her, and tried to draw her to him. But she held
back. At the expression of her face, he had a moment of acute
uncertainty, and would have loosened his hold. But now it was she who
knotted her hands round his neck, and gave him a long, penetrating
look. He was bewildered; he did not understand what it meant; but it
was something so strange that, again, he had the impulse to let her go.
She bent her head, and laid her face against his; cheek rested on
cheek. He took her face between his hands, and stared into her eyes, as
if to tear from them what was passing in her brain. Over both, in the
same breath, swept the warm, irresistible wave of self-surrender. He
caught her to him, roughly and awkwardly, in a desperate embrace, which
the kindly dusk veiled and redeemed.



XIII.


"Now you will not leave me, Maurice?"

"Never ... while I live."

"And you ..."

"No. Don't ask me yet. I can't tell you."

"Maurice!"

"Forgive me! Not yet. That after all you should care a little! After
all ... that you should care so much!"

"And it is for ever?"

"For ever and ever ... what do you take me for? But not here! Let us go
away--to some new place. We will make it our very own."

Their words came in haste, yet haltingly; were all but inaudible
whispers; went flying back and forwards, like brief cries for aid,
implying a peculiar sense of aloofness, of being cut adrift and thrown
on each other's mercy.

Louise raised her head.

"Yes, we will go away. But now, Maurice--at once!"

"Yes. To-night ... to-morrow ... when you like."

The next morning, he set out to find a place. Three weeks of the term
had still to run, and he was to have played in an ABENDUNTERHALTUNG,
before the vacation. But, compared with the emotional upheaval he had
undergone, this long-anticipated event was of small consequence. To
Schwarz, he alleged a succession of nervous headaches, which interfered
with his work. His looks lent colour to the statement; and though, as a
rule, highly irritated by opposition to his plans, Schwarz only
grumbled in moderation. He would have let no one else off so easily,
and, at another time, the knowledge of this would have rankled in
Maurice, as affording a fresh proof of the master's indifference
towards him. As it was, he was thankful for the freedom it secured him.

On the strength of a chance remark of Madeleine's, which he had
remembered, he found what he looked for, without difficulty. It could
not have been better: a rambling inn, with restaurant, set in a
clearing on the top of a wooded hill, with an open view over the
undulating plains.

That night, he wrote to Louise from the Rochlitzer Berg, painting the
nest he had found for them in glowing colours, and begging her to come
without delay. But the whole of the next day passed without a word from
her, and the next again, and not till the morning of the third, did he
receive a note, announcing her arrival for shortly after midday. He
took it with him to the woods, and lay at full length on the moss.

Although he had been alone now for more than forty-eight hours--a July
quiet reigned over the place--he had not managed to think connectedly.
He was still dazed, disbelieving of what had happened. Again and again
he told himself that his dreams and hopes--which he had always pushed
forward into a vague and far-off future--had actually come to pass. She
was his, all his; she had given herself ungrudgingly: as soon as he
could make it possible, she would be his wife. But, in the meantime,
this was all he knew: his nearer vision was obstructed by the
stupefying thought of the weeks to come. She was to be there, beside
him, day after day, in a golden paradise of love. He could only think
of it with moist eyes; and he swore to himself that he would repay her
by being more infinitely careful of her than ever man before of the
woman he loved. But though he repeated this to himself, and believed
it, his feelings had unwittingly changed their pole. On his knees
before her, he had vowed that her happiness was the end of all his
pleading; now it was frankly happiness he sought, the happiness of them
both, but, first and foremost, happiness. And it could hardly have been
otherwise: the one unpremeditated mingling of their lives had killed
thought; he could only feel now, and, throughout these days, he was
conscious of each movement he made, as of a song sung aloud. He
wandered up and down the wooded paths, blind to everything but the
image of her face, which was always with him, and oftenest as it had
bent over him that last evening, with the strange new fire in its eyes.
Closing his own, he felt again her arms on his shoulders, her lips
meeting his, and, at such moments, it could happen that he threw his
arms round a tree, in an ungovernable rush of longing. Beyond the
moment when he should clasp her to him again, he could not see: the
future was as indistinct as were the Saxon plains, in the haze of
morning or evening.

He set out to meet her far too early in the day, and when he had
covered the couple of miles that lay between the inn on the hill and
the railway-station at the foot, he was obliged to loiter about the
sleepy little town for over an hour. But gradually the time ticked
away; the hands of his watch pointed to a quarter to two, and presently
he found himself on the shadeless, sandy station which lay at the end
of a long, sandy street, edged with two rows of young and shadeless
trees; found himself looking along the line of rail that was to bring
her to him. Would the signal never go up? He began to feel, in spite of
the strong July sunlight, that there was something illusive about the
whole thing. Or perhaps it was just this harsh, crude light, without
relieving shadows, which made his surroundings seem unreal to him.
However it was, the nearer the moment came when he would see her again,
the more improbable it seemed that the train, which was even now
overdue, should actually be carrying her towards him--her to him! He
would yet waken, with a shock. But then, coming round a corner in the
distance, at the side of a hill, he saw the train. At first it appeared
to remain stationary, then it increased in size, approached, made a
slight curve, and was a snaky line; it vanished, and reappeared,
leaving first a white trail of cloud, then thick rounded puffs of
cloud, until it was actually there, a great black object, with a creak
and a rattle.

He had planted himself at the extreme end of the platform, and the
carriages went past him. He hastened, almost running, along the train.
At the opposite end, a door was opened, the porter took out some bags,
and Louise stepped down, and turned to look for him. He was the only
person on the station, besides the two officials, and in passing she
had caught a glimpse of his face. If he looks like that, every one will
know, she thought to herself, and her first words, as he came
breathlessly up, were: "Maurice, you mustn't look so glad!"

He had never really seen her till now, when, in a white dress, with
eyes and lips alight, she stood alone with him on the wayside platform.
To curb his first, impetuous gesture, Louise had stretched out both her
hands. He stood holding them, unable to take his eyes from her face. At
her movement to withdraw them, he stooped and kissed them.

"Not look glad? Then you shouldn't have come."

They left her luggage to be sent up later in the day, and set out on
their walk. Going down the shadeless street, and through the town, she
was silent. At first, as they went, Maurice pointed out things that he
thought would interest her, and spoke as if he attached importance to
them. While, in reality, nothing mattered, now that she was beside him.
And gradually, he, too, lapsed into silence, walking by her side across
the square, and through the narrow streets, with the solemnly festive
feelings of a child on Sunday. They crossed the moat, passed through
the gates and courtyard of the old castle, and began to ascend the
steep path that was a short-cut to the woods. It was exposed to the
full glare of the sun, and, on reaching the sheltering trees, Louise
gave a sigh of relief, and stood still to take off her hat.

"It's so hot. And I like best to be bareheaded."

"Yes, and now I can see you better. Is it really you, at last? I still
can't believe it.--That you should have come to me!"

"Yes, I'm real," she smiled, and thrust the pins through the crown of
the hat. "But very tired, Maurice. It was so hot, and the train was so
slow."

"Tired?--of course, you must be. Come, there's a seat just round this
corner. You shall rest there."

They sat, and he laid his arm along the back of the bench. With his
left hand he turned her face towards him. "I must see you. I expect
every minute to wake and find it's not true."

"And yet you haven't even told me you're glad to see me."

"Glad? No. Glad is only a word."

She leaned lightly against the protective pressure of his arm. On one
of her hands lying in her lap, a large spot of sunlight settled. He
stooped and put his lips to it. She touched his head.

"Were the days long without me?"

"Why didn't you come sooner?"

Not that he cared, or even cared to know, now that she was there. But
he wanted to hear her speak, to remember that he could now have her
voice in his ears, whenever he chose. But Louise was not disposed to
talk; the few words she said, fell unwillingly from her lips. The
stillness of the forest laid its spell upon them: each faint rustling
among the leaves was audible; not a living thing stirred except
themselves. The tall firs and beeches stretched infinitely upwards, and
the patches of light that lay here and there on the moss, made the cool
darkness seem darker.

When they walked on again, Maurice put his arm through hers, and, in.
this intimacy of touch, was conscious of every step she took. It made
him happy to suit his pace to hers, to draw her aside from a spreading
root or loose stone, and to feel her respond to his pressure. She
walked for the most part languidly, looking to the ground. But at a
thickly wooded turn of the path, where it was very dark, where the
sunlight seemed far away, and the pine-scent was more pungent than
elsewhere, she stopped, to drink in the spicy air with open lips and
nostrils.

"It's like wine. Maurice, I'm glad we came here--that you found this
place. Think of it, we might still be sitting indoors, with the blinds
drawn, knowing that the pavements were baking in the sun. While here!
... Oh, I shall be happy here!"

She was roused for a moment to a rapturous content with her
surroundings. She looked childishly happy and very young. Maurice
pressed her arm, without speaking: he was so foolishly happy that her
praise of the place affected him like praise of himself. Again, he had
a chastened feeling of exhilaration: as though an acme of satisfaction
had been reached, beyond which it was impossible to go.

On catching sight of the rambling wooden building, in the midst of the
clearing that had been made among the encroaching trees, Louise gave
another cry of pleasure, and before entering the house, went to the
edge of the terrace, and looked down on the plains. But upstairs, in
her room on the first storey, he made her rest in an arm-chair by the
window. He himself prepared the tea, proud to perform the first of the
trivial services which, from now on, were to be his. There was nothing
he would not do for her, and, as a beginning, he persuaded her to lie
down on the sofa and try to sleep.

Once outside again, he did not know how to kill time; and the remainder
of the afternoon seemed interminable. He endeavoured to read, but could
not take in the meaning of two consecutive sentences. He was afraid to
go far away, in case she should wake and miss him. So he loitered about
in the vicinity of the house, and returned every few minutes, to see if
her blind were not drawn up. Finally, he sat down at one of the tables
on the terrace, where he had her window in sight. Towards six o'clock,
his patience was exhausted; going upstairs, he listened outside the
door of her room. Not a sound. With infinite precaution, he turned the
handle, and looked in.

She was lying just as he had left her, fast asleep. Her head was a
little on one side; her left hand was under her cheek, her right lay
palm upwards on the rug that covered her. Maurice sat down in the
arm-chair.

At first, he looked furtively, afraid of disturbing her; then more
openly, in the hope that she would waken. Sitting thus, and thinking
over the miracle that had happened to him, he now sought to find
something in her face for him alone, which had previously not been
there. But his thoughts wandered as he gazed. How he loved it!--this
face of hers. He was invariably worked on afresh by the blackness of
the lustreless hair; by the pale, imperious mouth; by the dead white
pallor of the skin, which shaded to a dusky cream in the curves of neck
and throat, and in the lines beneath the eyes was of a bluish brown.
Now the lashes lay in these encircling rings. Without doubt, it was the
eyes that supplied life to the face: only when they were open, and the
lips parted over the strong teeth, was it possible to realise how
intense a vitality was latent in her. But his love would wipe out the
last trace of this wan tiredness. He would be infinitely careful of
her: he would shield her from the impulsiveness of her own nature; she
should never have cause to regret what she had done. And the affection
that bound them would day by day grow stronger. All his work, all his
thoughts, should belong to her alone; she would be his beloved wife;
and through him she would learn what love really was.

He rose and stood over her, longing to share his feelings with her. But
she remained sunk in her placid sleep, and as he stood, he became
conscious of a different sensation. He had never seen her face--except
convulsed by weeping--when it was not under full control. Was it
because he had stared so long at it, or was it really changed in sleep?
There was something about it, at this moment, which he could not
explain: it almost looked less fine. The mouth was not so proudly
reticent as he had believed it to be; there was even a want of
restraint about it; and the chin had fallen. He did not care to see it
like this: it made him uneasy. He stooped and touched her hand. She
started up, and could not remember where she was. She put both hands to
her forehead. "Maurice!--what is it? Have I been asleep long?"

He held his watch before her eyes. With a cry she sprang to her feet.
Then she sent him downstairs.

They were the only guests. They had supper alone in a longish room, at
a little table spread with a coloured cloth. The window was open behind
them, and the branches of the trees outside hung into the room. In
honour of the occasion, Maurice ordered wine, and they remained
sitting, after they had finished supper, listening to the rustling and
swishing of the trees. The only drawback to the young man's happiness
was the pertinacious curiosity of the girl who waited on them. She
lingered after she had served them, and stared so hard that Maurice
turned at length and asked her what the matter was.

The girl coloured to the roots of her hair.

"Ach, Fraulein is so pretty," she answered naively, in her broad Saxon
dialect.

Both laughed, and Louise asked her name, and if she always lived there.
Thus encouraged, Amalie, a buxom, thickset person, with a number of
flaxen plaits, came forward and began to talk. Her eyes were fixed on
Louise, and she only occasionally glanced from her to the young man.

"It's nice to have a sweetheart," she said suddenly.

Louise laughed again and coloured. "Haven't you got one, Amalie?"

Amalie shook her head, and launched out into a tale of faithlessness
and desertion. "Yes, if I were as pretty as you, Fraulein, it would be
a different thing," she ended, with a hearty sigh.

Maurice clattered up from the table. "All right, Amalie, that'll do."

They went out of doors, and strolled about in the twilight. He had
intended to show her some of the pretty nooks in the neighbourhood of
the house. But she was not as affable with him as she had been with
Amalie; she walked at his side with an air of preoccupied indifference.

When they sat down on a seat, on the side of the hill, the moon had
risen. It was almost at the full, and a few gently sailing scraps of
cloud, which crossed it, made it seem to be coming towards them. The
plains beneath were veiled in haze; detached sounds mounted from them:
the prolonged barking of a dog, the drone of an approaching train.
Round about them, the air was heavy with the scent of the sun-warmed
pines. Maurice had taken her hand and sat holding it: it was the one
thing that existed for him. All else was vague and unreal: only their
two hearts beat in all the universe. But there was no interchange
between them of binding words or endearments, such as pass between most
lovers.

How long they sat, neither could have told. But suddenly, far below, a
human voice was raised in a long cry, which echoed against the side of
the hill. Louise shivered: and he had a moment of apprehension.

"You're cold. We have sat too long. Let us go."

They rose, and walked slowly back to the house.

Although the doors were still open, the building was in darkness, and
they had to grope their way up the stairs. Outside her room, he paused
to light the candle that was standing on the table, but Louise opened
the door and went in. As she did so, she gave a cry. The blind had not
been lowered, and a patch of greenish-white moonlight lay on the floor
before the window, throwing the rest of the room into massy shadow. She
went forward and stood in it.

"Don't make a light," she said to him over her shoulder.

Maurice put down the matches, with which he had been fumbling, went
quickly in after her, and shut the door.

Before anyone else was astir, he had flung out into the freshness of
the morning. It was cool in the shade of the woods; grass and moss were
a little moist with dew. He did not linger under the trees; he needed
movement; and striding along the driving-road, which ran down the hill
where the incline was easiest, he went out on the plains, among the
little villages that dotted the level land like huge clumps of
mushrooms. He carried his cap in his hand, and let the early sun play
on his head.

When he returned, it was nine o'clock, and he was ravenously hungry.
Amalie carried the coffee and the crisp brown rolls to one of the small
tables on the terrace, and herself stood, after she had served him, and
looked over the edge of the hill. When he had finished eating, he
opened a volume of DICHTUNG UND WAHRHEIT, which he carried in his
pocket, and began to read. But after a few lines, his thoughts
wandered; the book had a chilling effect on him in his present mood;
the writing seemed stiff and strained--the work of a very old man.

At first, that morning, he had not ventured to review even in thought
the past hours. Now, however, that he was again within a stone's throw
of Louise, memories crowded upon him; he gazed, with a passion of
gratefulness, at her window. One detail stood out more vividly than all
the rest. It was that of waking suddenly at dawn, from a dreamless
sleep, and of finding on his pillow, a thick tress of black ruffled
hair. For a moment, he had hardly been able to believe his eyes; and
even yet, the mere remembrance of this dusky hair on the pillow's
whiteness, seemed to bring what had happened home to him, as nothing
else could have done.

She had slept on, undisturbed, and she was still asleep, to judge from
the lowered blind. But though hours seemed to pass while he sat there,
he was not dissatisfied; it was enough to know how near she was to him.

When she came, she was upon him before he was aware of it. At the light
step behind, he sprang from his seat.

"At last!"

"Are you tired of waiting for me?"

She was in the same white dress, and a soft-brimmed hat fell over her
forehead. He did not answer her words; for Amalie followed on her heels
with fresh coffee, and made a great business of re-setting the table.

"WUNSCHE GUTEN APPETIT!"

The girl retired to a distance, but still lingered, keeping them in
sight. Maurice leaned across the table. "Tell me how you are. Have you
forgotten me?" He tried to take her hand.

"Take care, Maurice. We can be seen here."

"How that girl stares! Why doesn't she go away?"

"She is envying me my sweetheart again ... who won't let me eat my
breakfast."

"I've been alone for hours, Louise. Tell me what I want to know."

"Yes--afterwards. The coffee is getting cold."

He sat back and watched her movements, with fanatic eyes. She was not
confused by the insistence of his gaze; but she did not return it. She
was paler than usual; and the lines beneath her eyes were blacker.
Maurice believed that he could detect a new note in her voice this
morning; and he tried to make her speak, in order that he might hear
it; but she was as chary of her words as of her looks. Attracted by the
two strangers, a little child of the landlord's came running up to
stare shyly. She spread a piece of bread with honey, and gave it to the
child. He was absurdly jealous, and she knew it.

For the rest of the morning, she would have been content to bask in the
sun, but when she saw how impatient he was, she gave way, and they went
out of the sight of other people, into the friendly, screening woods.

"I thought you would never come."

"Why didn't you wake me? Oh, gently, Maurice! You forget that I've just
done my hair."

"To-day I shall forget everything. Let me look at you again ... right
into your eyes."

"To-day you believe I'm real, don't you? Are you satisfied?"

"And you, Louise, you?--Say you're happy, too!"

They came upon the FRIEDRICH AUGUST TURM, a stone tower, standing on
the highest point of the hill, beside a large quarry; and, too idly
happy to refuse, climbed the stone steps, led by a persuasive old
pensioner, who, on the platform at the top, adjusted the telescope, and
pointed out the distant landmarks, with something of an owner's pride.
On this morning, Maurice would not have been greatly surprised to hear
that the streaky headline of the Dover coast was visible: he had eyes
for her alone, as, with assumed interest, she followed the old man's
hand, learned where Leipzig lay, and how, on a clear day, its many
spires could be distinguished.

"Over there, Maurice ... a little more to the right. How far away we
seem!"

Leaning against the parapet, he continued to look at her. The few
ordinary words meant in reality something quite different. It was as if
she had said to him: "Yes, yes, be at rest--I am still yours;" and he
told himself, with a feverish pleasure, that, from now on, everything
she said in the presence of others would be a cloak for what she really
meant to say. He had been right, there was a new tone in her voice this
morning, an imperceptible vibration, a sensuous undertone, which seemed
to have been left over from those moments when it had quivered like a
roughly touched string beneath a bow. Going down the steps behind her,
he heard her dress swish from step to step, and saw the fine grace of
her strong, supple body. At a bend in the stair, he held her back and
kissed her neck, just where the hair stopped growing. On the
ground-floor, she paused to pick out a trifle from a table set with
mementoes. The old man praised his wares with zeal, taking up this and
that in his old, reddened hands, on which the skin was drawn and
glazed, like a coating of gelatine. Louise chose a carved wooden pen; a
tiny round of glass was set in the handle, through which might be seen
a view of the tower, with an encircling motto.

After this, he had her to himself, for the rest of the day. They sat on
a seat that was screened by trees, and thickly grown about. His arm lay
along the back of the bench, and every now and then his hand sought and
pressed the warm, soft round of her shoulder. In this attitude, he
poured out his heart to her. Hitherto, the very essence of his love had
been taciturn endurance; now, he felt how infinitely much he had to say
to her: all that he had undergone since knowing her first, all the
hopes and feelings that had so long been pent up in him, struggled to
escape. Now, there was no hindrance to his telling her everything; it
was not only permissible, but right that he should: henceforth there
must be no strangeness between them, no knowledge, pleasant or
unpleasant, that she did not share. And he went back, and dwelt on
details and events long past, which, unknown to himself, his memory had
stored up; but it was chiefly the restless misery of the past half year
that was his theme--he took the same pleasure in reciting it, now that
it was over, as the convalescent in relating his sufferings. Besides
that, it was easier, there being nothing to conceal; whereas, in
referring to an earlier time, a certain name had to be shirked and gone
round about, like a plague-spot. His impassioned words knew no halt; he
was amazed at his own eloquence. And the burden of months fell away
from him as he talked.

The receptiveness of her silence spurred him on. She sat motionless,
with loosely clasped hands; and spots of light settled on her bare
head, and on the white stuff of her dress. Occasionally, at something
he said, a smile would raise the corners of her mouth; sometimes, but
less often, she turned her head with incredulous eyes. But, though she
was emotionally so irresponsive, Maurice had the feeling that she was
content, even happy, to sit inactive at his side, and listen to his
story.

Each of these first wonderful days was of the same pattern. They
themselves lost count of time, so like was one day to another; and yet
each that passed was a little eternity in itself. The weather was
superb, and to them, in their egotism, it came to seem in the order of
things that they should rise in the morning to cloudless skies and
golden sunshine; that the cool green seclusion of the woods should be
theirs, where they were more securely shut off from the world than
inside the house. Louise lay on the moss, with her arms under her head,
or sat with her back against a tree-trunk. Maurice was always in front
of her, so that he could see her face as he talked--this face of which
he could never see enough.

He was happy, in a dazed way; he could not appraise the extent of his
happiness all at once. Its chief outward sign was the nervous flood of
talk that poured from his lips--as though they had been sealed and
stopped for years. But Louise urged him on; what he had first felt
dimly, he soon knew for certain: that she was never tired of learning
how much he loved her, how he had hoped, and ventured, and despaired,
and how he had been prepared to lose her, up to the very last day. She
also made him describe to her more than once how he had first seen her:
his indelible impression of her as she played; her appearance at his
side in the concert-hall; how he had followed her out and looked for
her, and had vainly tried to learn who she was.

"I stood quite close to you, you say, Maurice? Perhaps I even looked at
you. How strange things are!"

Still, the interest she displayed was of a wholly passive kind; she
took no part herself in this building up of the past. She left it to
him, just as she left all that called for firmness or decision, in this
new phase of her life. The chief step taken, it seemed as if no further
initiative were left in her; she let herself be loved, waited for
everything to come from him, was without will or wish. He had to ask no
self-assertion of her now, no impulsive resolutions. Over all she did,
lay a subtle languor; and her abandon was absolute--he heard it in the
very way she said his name.

In the first riotous joy of possession, Maurice had been conscious of
the change in her as of something inexpressibly sweet and tender,
implying a boundless faith in him. But, before long, it made him
uneasy. He had imagined several things as likely to happen; had
imagined her the cooler and wiser of the two, checking him and chiding
him for his over-devotion; had imagined even moments of self-reproach,
on her part, when she came to think over what she had done. What he had
not imagined was the wordless, unthinking fashion in which she gave
herself into his hands. The very expression of her face altered in
these days: the somewhat defiant, bitter lines he had so loved in it,
and behind which she had screened herself, were smoothed out; the lips
seemed to meet differently, were sweeter, even tremulous; the eyes were
more veiled, far less sure of themselves. He did not admit to himself
how difficult she made things for him. Strengthened, from the first, by
his good resolutions, he was determined not to let himself be carried
off his feet. But it would have been easier for him to stand firm, had
she met him in almost any other way than this--even with a frank return
of feeling, for then they might have spoken openly, and have helped
each other. As it was, he had no thoughts but of her; his watchful
tenderness knew no bounds; but the whole responsibility was his. It was
he who had to maintain the happy mean in their relations; he to draw
the line beyond which it was better for all their after-lives that they
should not go. He affirmed to himself more than once that he loved her
the more for her complete subjection: it was in keeping with her
openhanded nature which could do nothing by halves. Yet, as time
passed, he began to suffer under it, to feel her absence of will as a
disquieting factor--to find anything to which he could compare it, he
had to hark back to the state she had been in when he first offered her
aid and comfort. That was the lassitude of grief, this of ... he could
not find a word. But it began to tell on him, and more than once made
him a little sharp with her; for, at moments, he would be seized by an
overpowering temptation to shake her out of her lassitude, to rouse her
as he very well knew she could be roused. And then, strange desires
awoke in him; he did not himself know of what he was capable.

One afternoon, they were in the woods as usual. It was very sultry; not
a leaf stirred. Louise lay with her elbow on the moss-grown roots of a
tree; her eyes were heavy. Maurice, before her, smoked a cigarette, and
watched for the least recognition of his presence, thinking, meanwhile,
that she looked better already for these days spent out-of-doors--the
tiny lines round her eyes were fast disappearing. By degrees, however,
he grew restless under her protracted silence; there was something
ominous about it. He threw his cigarette away, and, taking her hand,
began to pull apart the long fingers with the small, pink nails, or to
gather them together, and let them drop, one by one, like warm, but
lifeless things.

"What ARE you thinking of?" he asked at last, and shut her hand firmly
within his.

She started. "I? ... thinking? I don't know. I wasn't thinking at all."

"But you were. I saw it in your face. Your thoughts were miles away."

"I don't know, Maurice. I couldn't tell you now." And a moment later,
she added: "You think one must always be thinking, when one is silent."

"Yes, I'm jealous of your thoughts. You tell me nothing of them. But
now you have come back to me, and it's all right."

He drew her nearer to him by the hand he held, and, putting his arm
under her neck, bent her head back on the moss. Her stretched throat
was marked by two encircling lines; he traced them with his finger. She
lay and smiled at him. But her eyes remained shaded: they were
meditative, and seemed to be considering him, a little deliberately.

"Tell me, Louise," he said suddenly; "why do you look at me like that?
It's not the first time--I've seen it before. And then, I can't help
thinking there's some mistake--that after all you don't really care for
me. It is so--so critical."

"You are curious to-day, Maurice."

"Yes. There's so much I want to know, and you tell me nothing. It is I
who talk and talk--till you must be tired of hearing me."

"No, I like to listen best. And I have nothing to say."

"Nothing? Really nothing?"

"Only that I'm glad to be here--that I am happy."

He kissed her on the throat, the eyes and the lips; kissed her, until,
under his touch, that vague, elusive influence began to emanate from
her, which, he was aware, might some day overpower him, and drag him
down. They were quite alone, shut in by high trees; no one would find
them, or disturb them. And it was just this mysterious power in her
that his nerves had dreamed of waking: yet now, some inexplicable
instinct made him hesitate, and forbear. He drew his arm from under her
head, and rose to his feet, where he stood looking down at her. She lay
just as he had left her, and he felt unaccountably impatient.

"There it is again!" he cried. "You are looking at me just as you did
before."

Louise passed her hand over her eyes, and sat up. "Why, Maurice, what
do you mean? It was nothing--only something I was trying to understand."

But what it was that she did not understand, he could not get her to
tell him.

A fortnight passed. One morning, when a soft south breeze was in
motion, Maurice reminded her with an air of playful severity, that, so
far, they had not learned to know even their nearer surroundings; while
of all the romantic explorings in the pretty Muldental, which he had
had in view for them, not one had been undertaken. Louise was not fond
of walking in the country; she tired easily, and was always content to
bask in the sun and be still. But she did not attempt to oppose his
wish; she put on her hat, and was ready to start.

His love of movement reasserted itself. They went down the
driving-road, and out upon the long, ribbon-like roads that zigzagged
the plains, connecting the dotted villages. These roads were edged with
fruit-trees--apple and cherry. The apples were still hard, green,
polished balls, but the berries were at their prime. And everywhere men
were aloft on ladders, gathering the fruit for market. For the sum of
ten pfennigs, Maurice could get his hat filled, and, by the roadside,
they would sit down to make a second breakfast off black, luscious
cherries, which stained the lips a bluish purple. When it grew too hot
for the open roads, they descended the steep, wooded back of the bill,
to the romantic little town of Wechselburg at its base. Here, a massive
bridge of reddish-yellow stone spanned the winding, slate-grey Mulde; a
sombre, many-windowed castle of the same stone as the bridge looked out
over a wall of magnificent chestnuts.

On returning from these, and various other excursions, they were
pleasantly tired and hungry. After supper, they sat upstairs by the
window in her room, Louise in the big chair, Maurice at her feet, and
there watched the darkness come down, over the tops of the trees.

Somewhat later in the month, the fancy took her to go to a place called
Amerika. Maurice consulted the landlord about the distance. Their
original plan of taking the train a part of the way was, however,
abandoned when the morning came; for it was an uncommonly lovely day,
and a fresh breeze was blowing. So, having scrambled down to
Wechselburg again, they struck out on the flat, and began their walk.
The whole day lay before them; they were bound to no fixed hours; and,
throughout the morning, they made frequent halts, to gather the wild
raspberries that grew by the roadside. Having passed under a great
railway viaduct, which dominated the landscape, they stopped at a
village inn, to rest and drink coffee. About two o'clock, they came to
Rochsburg, and finally arrived, towards the middle of the afternoon, at
the picturesque restaurant that bore the name, of Amerika. Here they
dined. Afterwards, they returned to Rochsburg, but much less
buoyantly--for Louise was growing footsore--paid a bridge-toll, were
shown through the castle, and, at sunset, found themselves on the
little railway-station, waiting for an overdue train. The restaurant in
which they sat, was a kind of shed, roofed by a covering of Virginia
creeper; the station stood on an eminence; the plains stretched before
them, as far as they could see; the evening sky was an unbroken sheet
of red and gold.

The half-hour's journey over--it was made in a narrow wooden
compartment, crowded with peasants returning from a market--they left
the train, and began to climb the hill. But, by now, Louise was at the
end of her strength, and Maurice began to fear that he would never get
her home; she could with difficulty drag one foot after the other, and
had to rest every few minutes, so that it was nearly ten o'clock before
they entered the house. In her room, he knelt before her and took off
her boots; Amalie carried her supper up on a tray. She hardly touched
it: her eyes were closing with fatigue, and she was asleep as soon as
her head touched the pillow.

Next day she did not waken till nearly noon, and she remained in bed
till after dinner. For the rest of the day, she sat in the armchair.
Maurice wished to read to her, but she preferred quiet--did not even
want to be talked to. The weather was on her nerves, she said--for it
had grown very sultry, and the sky was overcast. The landlord
prophesied a thunderstorm. In the evening, however, as it was still
dry, and he had been in the house all day, Maurice went out for a
solitary walk.

He swung down the road at a pace he could only make when he was alone.
It had looked threatening when he left the house, but, as he went, the
clouds piled themselves up with inconceivable rapidity, and before he
was three miles out on the plain, the storm broke, with a sudden fury
from which there was no escape. He took to his heels, and ran to the
next village, some quarter of a mile in front of him. There, in the
smoky room of a tiny inn, together with a handful of country-people, he
was held a prisoner for over two hours; the rain pelted, and the
thunder cracked immediately overhead. When, drenched to the skin, he
reached the top of the hill again, it was going on for midnight. He had
been absent for close on four hours.

The candle in her room was guttering in its socket. By its failing
light, he saw that she was lying across the bed, still dressed. Over
her bent Amalie.

He had visions of sudden illness, and brushed the girl aside.

"What is it? What's the matter?"

At his voice, Louise lifted a wild face, stared at him as though she
did not recognise him, then rose with a cry, and flung herself upon him.

"Take care! I'm wet through."

For all answer, she burst out crying, and trembled from head to foot.

"What is it, darling? Were you afraid?"

But she only clung to him and trembled.

Amalie was weeping with equal vehemence; he ordered her out of the
room. Notwithstanding his dripping clothes, he was forced to support
Louise. In vain he implored her to speak; it was long before she was in
a state to reply to his questionings. Outside the storm still raged; it
was a wild night.

"What was it? Were you afraid? Did you think I was lost?"

"I don't know--Oh, Maurice! You will never leave me, will you?"

She wounded her lips against his shoulder.

"Leave you! What has put such foolish thoughts into your head?"

"I don't know.--But on a night like this, I feel that anything might
happen."

"And did it really matter so much whether I came back or not?"

He felt her arms tighten round him.

"Did you care as much as that?--Louise!"

"I said: my God!--what if he should never come back! And then, then ..."

"Then----?"

"And then the noise of the storm ... and I was so alone ... and all the
long, long hours ... and at every sound I said, there he is ... and it
never was you ... till I knew you were lying somewhere ... dead ...
under a tree."

"You poor little soul!" he began impulsively, then stopped, for he felt
the sudden thrill that ran through her.

"Say that again, Maurice!--say it again!"

"You poor, little fancy-ridden soul!"

"Oh, if you knew how good it sounds!--if I could make you understand!
You're the only person who has ever said a thing like that to me--the
only one who has ever been in the least sorry for me. Promise me
now--promise again--that you will never leave me.--For you are all I
have."

"Promise?--again? When you are more to me than my own life?"

"And you will never get tired of me?--never?"

"My own dear wife!"

She strained him to her with a strength for which he would not have
given her credit. He tried to see her face.

"Do you know what that means?"

"Yes, I know. It means, if you leave me now, I shall die."

By the next morning, all traces of the storm had vanished; the sun
shone; the slanting roads were hard and dry again. Other storms
followed--for it was an exceptionally hot summer--and many an evening
the two were prisoners in her room, listening to the angry roar of the
trees, which lashed each other with a sound like that of the open sea.

Every Sunday in August, too, brought a motley crowd of guests to the
inn, and then the whole terrace was set out with little tables. Two
waiters came to assist Amalie; a band played in an arbour; carts and
wagonettes were hitched to the front of the house; and the noise and
merry-making lasted till late in the night. Together they leaned from
the window of Louise's room, to watch the people; they hardly ventured
out of doors, for it was unpleasant to see their favourite nooks
invaded by strangers. Except on Sundays, however, their seclusion
remained undisturbed; half a dozen visitors were staying in the other
wing of the building, and of these they sometimes caught a glimpse at
meals; but that was all: the solitude they desired was still theirs.

And so the happy days slid past; August was well advanced, by this
time, and the tropical heat was at its height. In the beginning, it had
been Maurice who regretted the rapid flight of the days: now it was
Louise. Occasionally, a certain shadow settled on her face, and, at
such moments, he well knew what she was thinking of: for, once, out of
the very fulness of his content, he had said to her with a lazy sigh:
"To-day is the first of August," and then, for the first time, he had
seen this look of intense regret cross her face. She had entreated him
not to say any more; and, after that, the speed with which the month
decreased, was not mentioned between them.

But his carelessly dropped words had sown their seed. A couple of weeks
later, the remembrance of the work he had still to do for Schwarz,
before the beginning of the new term, broke over him like a douche of
cold water. It was a resplendent morning; he had been leaning out of
the window, idly tapping his fingers on the sill. Suddenly they seemed
to him to have grown stiff, to have lost their agility; and by the
thoughts that now came, he was so disquieted that he shut himself up in
his own room.

At his first words to her, Louise, who was still in bed, turned pale.
"Yes, yes, be quiet!--I know," she said, and buried her face in the
down pillow.

In this position she remained for some seconds; Maurice stood staring
out of the window. Then, without raising her face, she held out her
hand to him.

He took it; but he did not do what she expected he would: sit down on
the side of the bed, and put his arm round her. He stood holding it,
absent-mindedly. She stole a glance at him, and turned still paler.
Then, with a jerk, she released her hand, sat up in bed, and pushed her
hair from her face.

"Maurice! ... then if it has to be ... then to-day ... please, please,
to-day! Don't ask me to stay here, and think, and remember, that it's
all over--that this is the end--that we shall never, never be here in
this little room again! Oh, I couldn't bear it!--! can't bear it,
Maurice! Let us go away--please, let us go!"

In vain he urged reason; there was no gainsaying her: she brushed
aside, without listening to it, his objection that their rooms in
Leipzig would not be ready for them. Throwing back the bedclothes, she
got up at once and dressed herself, with cold fingers, then flung
herself upon the packing, helped and hindered by Amalie, who wept
beside her. The hour that followed was like a bad dream. Finally,
however, the luggage was carried downstairs, the bill paid, and the
circumstantial good-byes were said: they set off, at full speed, down
the woodpath to the station, to catch the midday train. Louise was
white with exhaustion: her breath came sobbingly. In a firstclass
carriage, he made her lie down on the seat. With her hand in his, he
said what he could to comfort her; for her face was tragic.

"We will come again, darling. It is only AUF WIEDERSEHEN, remember!"

But she shook her head.

"We shall never be here again."

Leipzig, at three o'clock on an August afternoon, lay baking in the
sun. He put her in a covered droschke, himself carrying the bags, for
he could not find a porter.

"At seven, then! Try to sleep. You are so pale."

"Good-bye--good-bye!"

His hand rested on the door of the droschke. She laid hers on it, and
clung to it as though she would never, let it go.



Part III.



  ... dove il Sol tace.

DANTE



I.


Frau Krause was ill pleased at his unlooked-for reappearance, and did
not scruple to say so. From the condition of disorder in which he found
his room, Maurice judged that it had been occupied, during his absence,
by the entire family. Having been caught napping, Frau Krause carried
the matter off with a high hand: she gave him to understand that his
behaviour in descending upon her thus, was not that of a decent lodger.
Maurice never parleyed with her; ascertaining by a glance that his
books and music had been left untouched, he made his escape from the
pails of water that were straightway brought into evidence, as well as
from her irate assurances that the room would be ready for him in a
quarter of an hour.

He went into the town, and did various small errands necessary to the
taking up anew of the old life. After he had had dinner, and had looked
through the newspapers, the temptation was strong to go to Louise, and
spend the hot afternoon hours at her side. But he resisted; for that
would have been a poor beginning to the sensible way of life they would
have to follow, from now on. Besides, with the certainty of seeing her
again in a very short time, it was not impossible to be patient. No
more uncertainty, no more doubts and fears!--the day for these was
over.--And so, having satisfied himself that his room was still
uninhabitable, he strolled to the Conservatorium, to see what notices
had remained affixed to the notice-board. As he was leaving again, he
met the janitor, and from him learned that his name was down for the
first ADBENDUNTERHALTUNG of the coming month.

In the shadeless street, he paused irresolute. The heat of the
slumbrous afternoon was oppressive; all animation seemed suspended. The
trees in streets and gardens drooped, brownishyellow, and heavy with
dust. The sun met the eyes blindingly, and was reflected from every
house-wall. Maurice went for a walk in the woods. In his pocket he had
a letter, still unread, which he had found waiting for him that day. It
was from his mother, and his eyes slid carelessly over the pages. There
were the usual reproaches for his prolonged silences, the never-failing
reminders that his time in Leipzig would come to an end the following
spring, as well as several details of domestic interest. Then, however,
followed a piece of news, which rallied his attention.



YOU WILL DOUBTLESS BE INTERESTED TO HEAR, she wrote, THAT YOUR FRIEND
THE OLD MUSIC TEACHER IN NORWICH DIED SUDDENLY LAST WEEK. HIS PUPILS
HAD FALLEN OFF GREATLY OF LATE AND WHEN EVERYTHING HAD BEEN SOLD THERE
WAS SCARCELY ENOUGH TO COVER THE FUNERAL EXPENSES. YOUR FATHER THINKS
THAT THOUGH A YOUNG PERSON FROM LONDON OF THE NAME OF SMITH OR SMYTHE
HAS LATELY SET UP THERE AND ATTRACTED MANY OF THE BEST PAYING FAMILIES
YET THE OLD CONNECTION MIGHT BE WORKED UP AGAIN AND IT WOULD BE WORTH
YOUR WHILE TRYING TO DO IT. AT FIRST YOU COULD LIVE AT HOME AND GO OVER
ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK. YOUR FATHER HAS BEEN MAKING INQUIRIES ABOUT A
SUITABLE ROOM.



This news called up a feeling of repugnance in Maurice: it came like a
message from another world; the very baldness of its expression seemed
to throw him back, at one stroke, into the hated atmosphere of his
home. He folded the letter and replaced it in the envelope, with such a
conscious hostility to all that his blood-relations did or said, as he
had not felt since the day when, in their midst, he had struggled to
assert his independence. How little they understood him! It was like
them, in their unimaginative dulness, to suppose that they could
arrange his life for him--draw up the lines on which it was to be
spent. He saw himself bound down hand and foot again, to the occupation
he so hated; saw himself striving to oust the young person from London,
just as no doubt his old friend had striven; saw himself becoming
proficient in all the mean, petty tricks of rival teachers, and either
vanquishing or being vanquished, in the effort to earn a living.

However he viewed them, his prospects had nothing hopeful in them. They
were vague, too, to the last degree. On one question alone was his mind
made up: he meant to marry Louise at the earliest possible date.
Whatever else happened, this should come to pass. For the first time,
he thought with something akin to remorse, over the turn affairs had
taken. He had been blind and dizzy with his infatuation, sick for her
to his very marrow--he could only look back on those feverish weeks in
June as on the horrors of a nightmare--and he would not have missed a
single hour of the happy days at Rochlitz. But, none the less, he had
always felt a peculiar aversion to people who allowed their feelings to
get the better of them. Now, he himself was one of them. If only she
were his wife! Had she consented, he would have married her there and
then, without reflection. They might have lived on, just as they were
going to do, and have kept their marriage a secret, reserving to
themselves the pleasure of knowing that their intimacy was legal. At it
was, he must console himself with the thought that, married or not,
they were indissolubly bound: he knew now better than before, that no
other woman would ever exist for him; and surely, in the case of an
all-absorbing passion such as this, the overstepping of conventional
boundaries would not be counted too heavily against them: laws and
conventions existed only for the weak and vacillating loves of the rest
of the world.

Then, however, and almost against his will, the other side of the
question forced itself upon his notice. As the marriage had not already
taken place, as, indeed, Louise chose to evade the subject when he
brought it up, he could not but admit to it would be pleasanter for him
if it were now postponed until he was independent of home-support. His
family would, he knew, bitterly resent his taking the step; and in
regard to them, he was proud. Where Louise was concerned, of course, it
was a different matter: there, no misplaced pride should stand in the
way. She had ample means for her own needs; it was merely a question of
earning enough to keep himself. The sole advantage of the present state
of affairs was, that it might still be concealed; whereas even a secret
marriage implied a possible publicity; it might somehow leak out, and,
in the event of this, he knew that his parents would immediately cut
off supplies. If once he were independent of them, he could do as he
liked. He set his teeth at the thought of it. To no small extent, his
way was mapped out for him. Marrying Louise meant giving up all idea of
returning home. He understood now, more clearly than before, how
unfitted she was for the narrow life that would there be expected of
her. And even--if he had longed for approval and consent, he would
never have had courage to ask her to face the petty, ignoble details of
conventional propriety, which such a sanction implied. No, if he wished
to ensure her happiness, he must secure to her the freer atmosphere in
which she was accustomed to live. He must burn his ships behind him,
and the most satisfactory thing was, that he was able to do it without
a pang.

He racked his brains as to the means of making a livelihood. There was
nothing he would not do. He was more ready to work than ever a labourer
with a starving family at his back. But, having let every possibility
pass before his mind's eye, he was forced to the conclusion that the
only occupation open to him was the one he had come to Leipzig to
escape. He was fit for nothing but to be a teacher. All he could do at
the piano, hundreds of others could do better; his talents as a
conductor were, he had learned, of the meagrest; the pleasing little
songs he might compose, of small value. Yet, if this were the price he
had to pay for making her his wife, he was content to pay it: no
sacrifice was too great for him. And then, to be a teacher here meant
something different from what it meant in England. Here, it was
possible to retain your self-respect--the caste of the class was
another to begin with--and also to remain in touch with all that was
best worth knowing. As a foreigner, he might add to his earnings by
teaching English; but piano-lessons would of necessity be his chief
source of income. They were plentiful enough: Avery Hill supported
herself entirely by them, and Furst kept his family. Of course, though,
this was due to Schwarz: his influence was a key to all doors. Both of
these were favourite pupils; while a melancholy fact, which had to be
faced, was, that he did not stand well with Schwarz. Somehow, they had
never taken to each other: he, perhaps, had had too open an eye for the
master's foibles, and Schwarz had no doubt been aware, from the first,
of his pupil's fatally divided interests. The crown had probably been
set by his ill-considered flight in July. If he wished ultimately to
achieve something, the interest he had forfeited must be regained, cost
what it might. He would work, in these coming months, as never before.
Could he make a brilliant, even a wholly respectable job of the trio he
was to play, it would go far towards reinstating him in Schwarz's good
graces: and he might then venture to approach the master with a request
for assistance. This was the first piece of work that lay to his hand,
and he would do it with all his might. After that, the rest.

There was no time to lose. A mild despair overcame him at the thought
of the intricate sonata, the long, mazy concerto by Hummel, which had
formed his holiday task. In exactly a fortnight from this date, the
vacation came to an end, and, as yet, he did not know a note of them.
Through the motionless heat of the paved streets, he went home, and
turning Frau Krause out of his room, sat down at the piano to scales
and exercises. Not until he felt suppleness and strength coming back to
his fingers, did he allow his thoughts to wander. Then, however, they
leapt to Louise; after this break in his consciousness, he seemed to
have been absent from her for days.

The sun was full on her windows; curtains and blinds were drawn against
it. While he hesitated, still dazzled by the glare of the streets, she
sprang to meet him, laying both hands on his shoulders.

"At last!"

He blinked, and laughed, and held her at arm's length. "At last?--Why,
what does that mean?"

"That I have been waiting for you, and hoping you would come--for
hours."

"But, dearest, I'm too early as it is. It's not six o'clock."

"Yes, I know. But I was so sure you would come sooner,--that you
wouldn't be able to stay away! Oh, the afternoon has been endless; and
the heat was suffocating. I couldn't dress, and I haven't unpacked a
thing."

Now he saw that she was in her dressing-gown, and that the bags and
valises stood in a corner, just as they had been carried up from the
droschke.

With her hands still on his shoulders, she put back her head. A thin
line of white appeared between her lips, and, under their drooped lids,
her eyes shone with a moist brilliance. She looked at him eagerly for
some seconds, and it seemed to him wistfully, too. Then, in an
inexplicable change of mood, she let her arms fall, and turned away.
She had grown pale and despondent. There was only one thing for him to
do: to put his arms round her and draw her to his knee. Holding her
thus, he whispered in her ear words such as she loved to hear. He had
grown skilled in repeating them. Under the even murmur of his voice,
her face grew tranquil; she sank little by little into a state of
well-being; her one fear was that he would cease speaking.

On the writing-table, a gold-faced clock ticked solemnly: its minutes
went by unheeded. Maurice was the first to feel the disillusioning
shudder of reality; simultaneously, the remembrance returned to him of
what he had come intending to tell her.--He loosened her arms.

"Louise!" he said in an altered voice. "Look up, dear!--and let me see
your eyes. You won't believe me, I think, but I came this evening
meaning to talk very sensibly--nothing but common sense, in fact.
There's a great deal I want to say to you. Come, let us be two rational
people--yes? As a beginning, I'll draw up the blinds. The sun's behind
the houses now, and the room is so close."

Louise shrank from the violent, dusty light; and her face, a moment
back rapturously content, took on at once a look of apprehension.

"Not to-night, Maurice--not to-night! It's too ... too hot for common
sense to-night."

He laughed and took her hand. "Be my own brave girl, and help me. You
have only to look at me, as you know, to make me forget everything. And
that mustn't be. We have got to be serious for a little--have you ever
thought, Louise, how seldom you and I have talked seriously together?
There was never time, was there? ... in all these weeks. There was only
time to tell you how much you are to me.--But now--well, so many things
were running in my head this afternoon. This letter from home was the
beginning of them. Read it--this page here, at least--and then I'll
tell you what I've been thinking."

He put the letter into her hand, and she ran her eyes over the page.
But she laid it down without comment.

A fear crossed his mind. "Don't misunderstand it," he said hastily.
"You know that point was settled months ago. There's no question of
going back for me now--and I'm glad of it. I never want to see England
again. But it gave me a lot to think about--how the staying here was to
be managed, and things like that."

He was conscious of becoming somewhat wordy; and as she did not
respond, his uneasiness grew. In his anxiety to make her think as he
did, he clasped his hand over hers.

"I needn't say again, need I, darling, what the past weeks have meant
to me? I'm so grateful to you for them that I could only prove it with
years of my life. But--and don't misunderstand this either, or think I
don't love you more now than ever before--you know I do. But, look at
it as we will, those weeks were play--glorious play, worth half one's
existence, but still only play. They couldn't last for ever. Now we've
come back, and we have to face work and the workaday world--you see
what I mean, I'm sure?"

There was a note of entreaty in his voice. As she still kept silence,
he gave his whole strength to demolishing the mute opposition he felt
in her.

"From now on, dear, we must make up our minds to be two very sensible
people. I've an enormous amount of work to get through, in the coming
months. And at Easter, I shall probably be thrown on my own resources.
But I'll fight my way somehow--here, beside you. We'll live our own
life. Just you and I.--Let me tell you what I propose to do,"--and
here, he laid before her, in their entirety, his plans for winning over
Schwarz, for gaining a foothold, and for making a modest income. "A
good PRUFUNG," he concluded, "and I'll be able to get anything I want
out of him. In the meantime, I've got to make a decent job next month
of the trio--I'm pretty well in his black books, I can guess, for going
off as I did in July. I must work as I've never done before. Each
single day must be mapped out, and nothing allowed to interfere. It's
an undertaking; but you'll help me, won't you, darling?--as only you
can. I've let things go, far too much--I see it now. But it was
impossible--frankly, I didn't care. I only wanted you. Now, it will ...
it must be different. The unrest is gone; you belong to me, and I to
you. We are sure of each other."

"Oh, it's stifling! There's no air in the room."

She rose from his side, and went to the open window, where she stood
with her back to him. As a result of his words, her life seemed
suddenly to stretch before her, just as dry, and dusty, and
commonplace, as the street she looked down on.

"I want to show you, too," he continued behind her, "that you haven't
utterly thrown yourself away. I know how little I can do; but honest
endeavour must count for something. I ask nothing better than to work
for you, Louise--and you know it."

A wave of warm air came in at the window; the dying afternoon turned to
twilight.

"Yes ... and I? What am I to do? What room is there for me in your
plans of work?"

He glanced sharply at her; but she had not moved.

"Louise, dearest! I know that what I say must sound selfish and
inconsiderate. And yet I can't help it. I'm forced to ask you to wait
... merely to wait. And for what? Good Heavens, no one realises it as I
do! I have nothing to offer you, in return--but my love for you. But if
you knew how strong that is--if you knew how happy I am resolved to
make you! Have a little patience, darling! It will all come right in
the end--if only you love me! And you do, don't you? Say once more you
do."

She turned so swiftly that the tail of her dressing-gown twisted, and
fell over on itself.

"Can you still ask that? Have you not had proof enough? Is there an
inch of you that doesn't believe in my love for you? Oh, Maurice! ...
It's only that I'm tired to-night--and restless. I was so wretched at
having to come back. And the heat has got on my nerves. I wish a great
storm would come, and shake the house, and make the branches of the
trees beat against the panes--do you remember? And we were so safe. The
worse the storm was, the closer you held me." She sat down beside him,
on the arm of the sofa. "Such a night seemed doubly wild after the
long, still days that had gone before it--do you remember?--Oh, why had
it all to end? Weren't we happy enough? Or did we ask too much? Why
must time go just the same over happiness and unhappiness alike?" She
got up again, and strayed back to the window. "Days like those will
never--CAN never--come again. Even as it is, coming back has made a
difference. Could you even yesterday have spoken as you do to-day? Was
there any room then for common sense between us? No, we were too happy.
It was enough to know we were alive."

"Be reasonable, darling. I am as sorry as you that these weeks are
over; but, glorious as they were, they couldn't last for ever. And
trust me; we shall know other days just as happy.--But if, because I
talk like this, you imagine I don't love you a hundred times better
even than yesterday--but you don't mean that! You know me better, my
Rachel!"

"Yes. Perhaps you're right--you ARE right. But I am right, too."

She came back, and sat down on the sofa again, and propped her chin on
her hand.

"You're tired to-night, dear--that's all. To-morrow things will look
different, and you'll see the truth of what I say. At night, things get
distorted----"

"No, no, one only really sees in the dark," she interrupted him.

--"but in the morning, one can smile at one's fears. Trust me, Louise,
and believe in me. All our future happiness depends on how we act just
now."

"Our future happiness ... yes," she said slowly. "But what of the
present?"

"Isn't it worth while sacrificing a brief present to a long future?"

She threw him a quick glance. "You talk like an orthodox Christian,
Maurice," she said, and added: "The present is here: it belongs to us.
The future is so unclear--who knows what it will bring us!"

"And isn't it just for that very reason that I speak as I do? If
everything lay clear and straight before us, do you think I should
bother about anything but you? It's the uncertainty of the whole thing
that troubles me. But however vague it is, I can tell you one thing
that will happen. And you know, dearest, what that is--the only
ambition I have left: to make you my wife at the earliest possible
moment."

She gazed at him meditatively.

"Why wouldn't you let me have my way at first?" he cried. "Why were you
against it? We could have kept it a secret: no one need have known a
thing about it. And I should never have asked you to go to England, or
to see my people. Call it narrow, if you must, I can't help it; it's
the only thing for us to do. Why won't you agree? Tell me what you have
against it. Listen!" He knelt down and put his arms round her. "We have
still a fortnight--that's time enough. Let us go to England to-morrow,
and be married without a word to anyone--in the first registrar's
office we find. Only marry me!"

"Would it make you love me more?"

She looked at him intently, turning the whole weight of her dark glance
upon him.

"You!" he said. "You to ask such a thing! You with these eyes ... and
this hair! And these hands!--I love every line of them ... You can't
understand, can you, you bundle of emotions, that I should care for you
as I do, and yet be able to talk soberly? It seems to you a man's way
of loving--and poor at that. But if you imagine I don't love you all
the more for what you have sacrificed for me--no, you didn't say that,
I know, but it comes to the same thing in the end."

She made no answer; and a feeling of discouragement began to creep over
him. He rose to his feet.

"A man who loves a woman as I love you," he said almost violently, "has
only one wish--can have only one. I shall never rest or be thoroughly
happy till you consent to marry me. That you can refuse as you do,
seems to prove that you don't care for me enough."

She put her arms round his neck: her wide sleeves fell back, leaving
her arms bear. "Maurice," she said gently, "why must you worry
yourself?--You know if you are set on our marrying, I'll give way. But
I don't want to be married--not yet. There's plenty of time. It's only
a small matter now; it doesn't seem as if it could make any difference;
and yet it might. The sense of being bound; of some one--no, of the law
permitting us to love each other ... no, Maurice, not yet.--Listen! I'm
older and wiser than you, and I know. Happiness like this doesn't come
every day. Instead of brooding and hesitating, one must seize it while
it's there: it's such a slippery thing; it's gone before you know it.
You can't bind it fast, and say it shall last so and so long. We have
it now; don't let us talk and reason about it.--Oh, to-day, I'm
nervous! Let me make a confession. As a child I had
presentiments--things I foresaw came true, and on the morning of a
misfortune, I've felt such a load on my chest that I could hardly
breathe. Well, to-day, when I came into this room again, it seemed as
if two black wings shut out the sunlight; and I was afraid. The past
weeks have been so unreasonably happy--such happiness mustn't be let
go. Help me to hold it; I can't do it alone. Don't try to make it fast
to the future; while you do that, it's going--do you think one can draw
out happiness like a thread? Oh, help me!--don't let any thing take it
from us. And I will give up everything to it. Only you must always be
beside me, Maurice, and love me. Don't let anything come between us!
For my sake, for my sake!"

In the face of this outpouring, his own opinions seemed of little
matter; his one concern was to ward off the tears that he saw were
imminent. He held her to him, stroked her hair, and murmured words of
comfort. But when she raised her head again, her eyelids were reddened,
as though she had actually wept.

"Now I know you. Now you are my own again," she whispered. "How could I
know you as you were then? I'd never seen you like that--seen you cold
and sensible."

He looked down at her without speaking, in a preoccupied way.

She touched his face with her finger. "Here are lines I don't know--I
see them now for the first time--lines of reason, of common sense, of
all that is strange to me in you."

He caught her hand, continuing to gaze at her with the same expression
of aloofness. "I need them for us both. You have none."

Her lips parted in a smile. Then this faded, and she looked at him with
eyes that reminded him of an untamed animal, or of a startled child.

"Mine ... still mine!" she said passionately.--And in the hours it took
to reassure her, his primly reasoned conclusions were blown like chaff
before the wind.



II.


The next fortnight flew by; and familiar faces began to appear again.
The steps and inner vestibule of the Conservatorium became a lounge for
seeing acquaintances. In the cafe at the corner, the click of billiard
balls was to be heard from early morning on.

Maurice looked forward to meeting his friends, with some embarrassment.
It was unlikely that the events of the summer had remained a secret;
for that, there was a clique in the place over-much on the alert for
scandal, to which unfortunately the name of Louise Dufrayer lent itself
only too readily. He could not decide what position to take up, with
regard to their present intimacy; to flaunt it openly, to be pointed at
as her lover, would for her sake be repugnant to him. It made him
reject an idea he had revolved, of begging her to let him announce
their engagement: for, in the present state of things, the word
"BRAUTIGAM" had an evil sound. Eventually, he came to the conclusion
that they must be more cautious than they had ever been, and give
absolutely no food for talk.

One day, in the GRASSISTRASSE, he came upon a little knot of men he
knew. And it was just as he supposed; the secret was a secret no
longer. He saw it at once in their treatment of him. There was a spice
of deference in their manner: and their looks expressed curiosity,
envious surprise, even a kind of brotherly welcome. After this, Maurice
changed his mind. The only course open to him was to brazen things out.
He would not wait for his friends to show him what they thought; he
would be beforehand with them.

A chance soon offered of putting his intentions into practice. On
entering Seyffert's one afternoon, he espied Dove, who had just
returned. Dove sat alone at a small table, reading the TAGEBLATT;
before him stood a cup of cocoa. When he saw Maurice, he raised the
newspaper a trifle higher, so that it covered the level of his eyes.
But Maurice went across the room, and touched him on the shoulder. Dove
dropped his shield, and sprang up, exclaiming with surprise. Maurice
sat down beside him, and, by dint of a little wheedling, put Dove at
his ease. The latter was bubbling over with new experiences and future
prospects. It seemed that in Peterborough, Dove's native town, the art
of music was taking strides that were nothing short of marvellous. To
hear Dove talk, the palm for progress must be awarded to Peterborough,
over and above all the other towns of Great Britain; and he was agog
with plans and expectations. During the holidays, he had held
conversations with several local magnates, all of whom expressed
themselves in favour of his scheme for founding a school of music, and
promised him their support. Dove had returned to Leipzig in a brand-new
outfit, and a hard hat; his studies were coming to an end in spring,
and he began to think already of casting the skin of Bohemianism.

Maurice listened to him leniently--even drew Dove out a little. But he
kept his eye on the clock. In less than half an hour, he would be with
Louise; from some corner of the semidarkened room, she would spring
towards him, and throw herself into his arms.

The majority of the classes were not yet assembled, when one day, a
rumour rose, and spreading, ran from mouth to mouth. Those who heard it
were at first incredulous; as, however, it continued to make headway,
they whistled to themselves, or vented their surprise in a breathless
"ACH!" Later in the day, they stood about in groups, and excitedly
discussed the subject. Ten of Schwarz's most advanced pupils had left
the master for the outsider named Schrievers. At the head of the list
stood Furst.

The Conservatorium, royally endowed and municipally controlled, held to
its time-honoured customs with tenacity. The older masters laboured to
uphold tradition, and such younger ones as were progressively inclined,
had not the influence to effect a change. Unattached teachers were
regarded with suspicion--unless they happened to be former pupils of
the institution, in which case it was assumed that they carried out its
precepts. There had naturally always been plenty of others as well; but
these were comparatively powerless: they could give their pupils
neither imposing certificates, nor gala public performances, such as
the PRUFUNGEN, and, for the most part, they flourished unknown. This
was previous to the arrival of Schrievers. It was now about a year and
a half ago that his settling in Leipzig had caused a flutter in musical
circles. Then, however, he had been forgotten, or at least remembered
only at intervals, when it was heard that he had caught another fish,
in the shape of a renegade pupil.

Schrievers was a burly, red-bearded man, still well under middle age,
and possessed of plenty of push and self-confidence. It soon transpired
that he was an out-and-out champion of modern ideas in music; for, from
the first, he was connected with a leading paper, in which he made his
views known. He had a trenchant pen, and, with unfailing consistency,
criticised the musical conditions of Leipzig adversely. The progressive
LISZTVEREIN, of which he was soon the leading spirit, alone escaped;
the opera, bereft of Nikisch, and the Gewandhaus, under its gentle and
aged conductor, were treated by him with biting sarcasm. But his chief
butt was the Conservatorium, and its ancient methods. He asserted that
not a jot of the curriculum had been altered for fifty years; and its
speedy downfall was the sole result to be expected and hoped for. The
fact that, at this time, some seven hundred odd students were enrolled
on its books went far to discredit this pious hope; but, nevertheless,
Schrievers harped always on the same string; and just as perpetual
dropping wears a stone, so his continued diatribes ate into emotional
and sensitive natures. He began to attract a following, and,
simultaneously, to make himself known as a pupil of Liszt. This brought
him a fresh batch of enemies. Even a small German town is seldom
without its Liszt-pupil, and in Leipzig several were settled, none of
whom had ever heard of Martin Schrievers. They refused to admit him to
their jealous clique. In their opinion, he belonged to that goodly
class of persons, who, having by hook or by crook, contrived to spend
an hour in the Abbe of Weimar's presence, afterwards abused the sacred
narre of pupil. He was hated by these chosen few with more vigour than
by the conservative pedagogues, who, naturally enough, saw the ruin of
art in all he did.

Various reasons were given for his success, no one being willing to
believe that it was due to his merits as a teacher. Some said that he
recognised in a twinkling the weak points of the individual with whom
he had to deal. He humoured foibles, was tender of self-conceit. He
also flattered his pupils by giving them music that was beyond their
powers of execution: those, for instance, who had worked long and with
feeble interest at Czerny, Dussek and Hummel, were dazzled at the
prospect of Liszt and Chopin, which was suddenly thrust beneath their
eyes. Other ill-wishers believed that his chief bait was the musical
SOIREES he gave when a famous pianist came to the town. By virtue of
his journalistic position, he was personally acquainted with all the
great; they visited at his house, and his pupils had thus not merely
the opportunity of getting to know artists like Rubinstein and
d'Albert, and of hearing them play in private, but, what was more to
the point, of themselves taking part in the performance, and perhaps
receiving a golden word from the great man's lips. And though no huge
parchment scroll was forthcoming on the termination of one's studies,
yet Schrievers held the weapon of criticism in his hand, and, at the
first tentative public appearance of the young performer, could make or
mar as he chose. He lived on good terms, too, with his fellow-critics,
so that wire-pulling was easy--incomparably more so than were the
embarrassing visits, open to any snub, which were common if one was
only a pupil of the Conservatorium, and which, in the case of the
ladypupils, included costly bouquets of flowers.

Among those who had deserted Schwarz were some, like Miss Martin,
malcontents, who had flitted from place to place, and from master to
master, in the perpetual hope of discovering that ideal teacher who
would estimate them at their true worth. These were radiantly satisfied
with the change. Miss Martin bore, wherever she went, an octave-study
by Liszt, and flaunted it in the faces of her friends: and Miss Moses,
who had been under Bendel, could not say two sentences without throwing
in: "That Chopin ETUDE I studied last," or: "The Polonaise in E flat
I'm working at;" for, beforehand, she too had been a humble performer
of Haydn and Bertini. James had the prospect of playing a Concerto by
Liszt--forbidden fruit to the pupils of the Conservatorium--in one of
the concerts of the LISZTVEREIN, and was sure, in advance, of being
favourably criticised. Boehmer wished to specialise in Bach, and if
Schwarz set himself against one thing more than another, it was a
one-sided musical taste: within the bounds of classicism, the master
demanded catholic sympathies; those students who had romantic leanings
towards Chopin and Schumann, were castigated with severely classical
compositions; and, vice versa, he had insisted on Boehmer widening his
horizon on Schubert and Mendelssohn. And there were also several
others, who, having been dragged forward by Schwarz, from inefficient
beginnings, now left him, to write their acquired skill to Schrievers'
credit. Furst was the greatest riddle of all. It was he who, on
subsequent concert-tours, was to have extended the fame of the
Conservatorium; he was the show pupil of the institution, and, in the
coming PRUFUNGEN, was to have distinguished himself, and his master
with him, by playing Beethoven's Concerto in E flat.

Other teachers besides Schwarz had been forsaken for the new-comer, but
in no case by so large a body of students. They bore their losses
philosophically. Bendel, one of the few masters who spoke English--it
was against the principles of Schwarz to know a word of it: foreign
pupils had to learn his language, not he theirs--Bendel, frequented
chiefly by the American colony, was of a phlegmatic temperament and not
easily roused. He alluded to the backsliders with an ironical jest,
preferring to believe that they were the losers. But Schwarz was of a
diametrically opposite nature. In the short, thickset man, with the
all-seeing eyes, and the head of carefully waved hair, just streaked
with grey--a head at once too massive and too fine for the clumsy
body--in Schwarz, dwelt a fierce and indomitable pride. His was one of
those moody, sensitive natures, quick to resent, always on the look-out
for offence. He was ever ready to translate things into the personal;
for though he had an overweening sense of his own importance, there was
yet room in him for a secret doubt; and with this doubt, he, as it
were, put other people to the test. The loss of the flower of his flock
made him doubly unsure; he felt himself a marked man, for Bendel and
other enemies to jeer at. Aloud, he spoke long and vehemently, as if
mere noisy words would heal the wound. And the pupils who had remained
faithful to him, gathered all the more closely round him, and burned as
he did. If wishes could have injured or killed, Furst's career would
then and there have come to an end: his ingratitude, his treachery, and
his lack of moral fibre, were denounced on every hand.

One day, at this time, Maurice entered Schwarz's room. The class was
assembled; but, although the hour was well advanced, no one had begun
to play. The master stood at the window, with his back to the
grass-grown courtyard. He was haranguing, in a strident voice, the
three pupils who sat along the wall. From what followed, Maurice
gathered that that very afternoon Schwarz had been informed of the loss
of four more pupils; and though, as every one knew, he had hitherto not
set much store by any of them, he now discovered latent talent in all
four, and was, at the same time, exasperated that such nonentities
should presume to judge him.

To infer from the appearance of those present, the storm had raged fora
considerable period. And still it went on. After the expiry of a
further interval, Krafft who, throughout, had sat shading his eyes with
his hand, woke as though from sleep, yawned heartily, stretched himself
and, taking out his watch, studied it with profound attention. For the
first time, Schwarz was checked in his flow of words; he coughed,
fumbled for an epithet, then stopped, and, to the general surprise,
motioned Krafft to the piano.

But Heinrich was in a bad mood. He stifled another yawn before
beginning, and played in a mechanical way.

Schwarz had often enough made allowance for this pupil's varying moods;
he was not now in the humour to do so.

"HALT!" he cried before the first page was turned. "What in God's name
is the meaning of this? Do you come here to read from sight?"

Krafft continued to play as if nothing had been said.

"Do you hear me?" thundered Schwarz.

"It's impossible," said Krafft, and proceeded.

"BARMHERZIGER GOTT!--" The master's short neck reddened, and twisted in
its collar.

"Give me music I care to play, and I'll show you how it should be done.
I can make nothing of this," answered Krafft.

Schwarz strode up to the piano, and swept the volume from the rack; it
fell with a crash on the keys and on Krafft's hands, and effectually
hindered him from continuing.

What had gone before was as a summer shower to a deluge. With his arms
stiffly knotted behind his back, Schwarz paced the floor with a tread
that shook it. His steely blue eyes flashed with passion; the veins
stood out on his forehead; his large, prominent mouth gaped above his
tuft of beard; he struck ludicrous attitudes, pouring out, meanwhile,
without stint--for he had soon passed from Krafft's particular case of
insubordination to the general one--pouring out the savage anger and
deep-felt injury that had accumulated in him. Finally, he invited the
class to rise and leave him, there and then. For what, in God's name,
were they waiting? Let them up and away, without more ado!

On receiving the volume of Beethoven on his fingers, Krafft
straightened out the pages, and taking down his hat from its peg, left
the room, with movements of a calculated coolness. But only a pupil of
Bullow's might take such a liberty; the rest had to assist quietly at
the painful scene. Maurice studied his finger nails, and Dove did not
once remove his eyes from the leg of the piano. They, at least, knew
from experience that, in time, the storm would pass; also that it
sounded worse, than it actually was. But a new-comer, a stout Bavarian
lad, with hair cut like Rubinstein's, who was present at the lesson for
the first time, was pale and frightened, and sat drinking in every word.

Towards the end of the hour, when quiet was re-established, one's
inclination was rather to escape from the room and be free, than to sit
down to play something that demanded coolness and concentration. Dove,
who was not sensitive to externals, came safely through the ordeal; but
Maurice made a poor job of the trio in which he had hoped to excel.
Schwarz did not even offer to turn the pages. This, Beyerlein, the
new-comer, did, in a nervous desire to ingratiate himself; but he was
still so flustered that, at a critical moment, he brought the music
down on the keys. Schwarz said nothing; wrapped in the moody silence
that invariably followed his outbursts, he hardly seemed aware that
anyone was playing. After two movements of the trio, he signed to
Beyerlein to take his turn, and proffered no comment on Maurice's work.
Maurice would have hurried away, without a further word, had he not
already learned the early date of his performance. He knew, too, that
if the practical side of the affair--rehearsals with string players,
and so on--was not satisfactorily arranged, he would be blamed for it.
So he reminded Schwarz of the matter. From what ensued, it was plain
that the master still bore him a grudge for absconding in summer.
Schwarz glared coldly at him, as if unsure to what Maurice alluded; and
when the latter had recalled the details of the case to his mind, he
said rudely: "You went your way, Herr Guest. Now I go mine." He
commenced to turn the leaves of his ponderous note-book, and after
Maurice had stood for some few minutes, listening to Beyerlein trip and
stumble through Mozart, he felt that, for this day at least, he could
put up with no more, and left the class.



III.


Shaking all disagreeable impressions from him, he sped through the
fading light of the September afternoon.

This was the time--it was six o'clock--at which he could rejoin Louise
with a free mind. It was the exception for him to go earlier, or at
other hours; but, did he chance to go, no matter when, she met him in
the same way--sprang towards him from the window, where she had been
sitting or standing, with her eyes on the street.

"I believe you watch for me all day long," he said to her once.

On this particular afternoon, when he had used much the same words to
her, she put back her head and looked up at him, with a pale, unsmiling
face.

"Not quite," she answered slowly. "But I have a fancy, Maurice--a
foolish, fancy--that once you will come early--in the morning--and we
shall have the whole day together again. Perhaps even go away somewhere
... before summer is quite over."

"And I promise you, dearest, we will. Just let me get through the next
fortnight, and then I shall be freer. We'll take the train, and go back
to Rochlitz, or anywhere you like. In the meantime, take more care of
yourself. You are far too pale. You will go out tomorrow, yes?--to
please me?"

But this was a request he had often made, and generally in vain.

Since the afternoon of their return, Louise had made no further attempt
to stem or alter circumstance. She accepted Maurice's absences without
demur. But one result was, that her feelings were hoarded up for the
few hours he passed with her: these were then a working-off of emotion;
and it seemed impossible to cram enough into them, to make good the
starved remainder of the day.

Maurice was vaguely troubled. He was himself so busy at this time, and
so full of revived energy, that he could not imagine her happy, living
as she did, entirely without occupation. At first he had tried to
persuade her to take up her music again; but she would not even
consider it. To all his arguments, she made the same reply.

"I have no real talent. With me, it was only an excuse--to get away
from home."

Nor could he induce her to renew her acquaintance with people she had
known.

"Do you know, I once thought you didn't care a jot what people said of
you?" It was not a very kind thing to say; it slipped out unawares.

But she did not take it amiss. "I used not to," she answered with her
invincible frankness. "But now--it seems--I do."

"Why, dearest? Aren't you happy enough not to care?"

For answer, she took his face between her hands, and looked at him with
such an ill-suppressed fire in her eyes that all he could do was to
draw her into his arms.

His pains for her good came to nothing. He took her his favourite
books, but--with the exception of an occasional novel--Louise was no
reader. In those he brought her, she seldom advanced further than the
first few pages; and she could sit for an hour without turning a leaf.
He had never seen her with a piece of sewing or any such feminine
employment in her hands. Nor did she spend time on her person; as a
rule, he found her in her dressing-gown. He had to give up trying to
influence her, and to become reconciled to the fact that she chose to
live only for him. But on this September day, after the unpleasant
episode with Schwarz, he had a fancy to go for a walk; Louise was
unwilling; and he felt anew how preposterous it was for her to spend
these fine autumn days, in this half-dark room.

"You are burying yourself alive--just as you did last winter."

She laid her hand on his lips. "No, no!--don't say that. Now I am
happy."

"But are you really? Sometimes I'm not sure." He was tired himself this
evening, and found it difficult to be convinced. "It troubles me when I
think how dull it must be for you. Dearest, are you--can you really be
happy like this?"

"I have you, Maurice."

"But only for an hour or two in the twenty-four. Tell me, what do you
think of?"

"Of you."

"All that time? Of poor, plain, ordinary me?"

"You are mine," she said with vehemence, and looked at him with what he
called her "hungry-beast" eyes.

"You would like to eat me, I think."

"Yes. And I should begin here; this is the bit of you I love best"--and
before he knew what she was going to do, she had stooped, and he felt
her teeth in the skin of his neck.

"That's a strange way of showing your love," he said, and involuntarily
put his hand to the spot, where two bluish-red marks had appeared.

"It's my way. I want you--I WANT you. I want to feel that you're
mine--to make you more mine than you've ever been. I wish I had a
hundred arms. I would hold you with them all, and never let you go."

"But, dearest, one would think I wanted to go. Do you really believe if
I had my own way, I should be anywhere but here with you?"

"No.--I don't know.--How should I know?"

"Doubts?--beloved!"

"No, no, not doubts. It's only--oh, I don't know what it is. If you
could always be with me, Maurice, they wouldn't come. For what I never
meant to happen HAS happened. I have grown to care too much--far too
much. I want you, I need you, at every moment of the day. I want you
never to be out of my sight."

Maurice held her at arm's length, and looked at her. "You can say
that--at last!" And drawing her to him: "Patience, darling. Just a
little patience. Some day you will never be alone again."

"I do have patience, Maurice. But let me be patient in my own way. For
I'm not like you. I have no room in me now for other things. I can't
think of anything else. If I had my way, we should shut ourselves up
alone, and live only for each other. Not share it, not make it just a
part of what we do."

"But man can't live on nectar and honey alone. It wouldn't be life."

"It wouldn't be life, no. It would be more than life."

Some of the evening shadows seemed to invade her face. Her expression
was childishly pathetic. He drew her to his knee.

"I should like to see you happier, Louise--yes, yes, I know!--but I
mean perfectly happy, as you were sometimes at Rochlitz. Since we came
back, it has never been just the right thing--say what you like."

"If only we had never come back!"

"If you still think so, darling, when I've finished here, we'll go away
at once. In the meantime, patience."

"Oh, I don't mean to be unreasonable!" But her head was on his
shoulder, his arms were round her; and in this position, nothing
mattered greatly to her.

Patience?--yes, there was need for him to exhort her to patience. It
ate already into her soul as iron bands eat into flesh. The greater
part of her life was now spent in practising it. And for sheer loathing
of it, she turned over, on waking, and kept her eyes closed, in an
attempt to prolong the night. For the day stretched empty before her;
the hours passed, one by one, like grey-veiled ghosts. Yet not for a
moment had she harboured his idea of regular occupation; she knew
herself too well for that. In the fever into which her blood had worked
itself she could settle to nothing: her attention was centred wholly in
herself; and all her senses were preternaturally acute. But she
suffered, too, under the stress of her feeling; it blunted her, and
made her, on the one hand, regardless of everything outside it, on the
other, morbidly sensitive to trifles. She waited for him, hour after
hour, crouched in a corner of the sofa, or stretched at full length,
with closed eyes.

Long before it was time for him to come, she was stationed at the
window. She learned to know the people who appeared in the street
between the hours of four and six so accurately that she could have
described them blindfold. There was the oldfaced little girl who
delivered milk; there was the postman who emptied into his canvas
receptacle, the blue letter-box affixed to the opposite wall; the
student with the gashed face and red cap, who lived a couple of doors
further down, and always whistled the same tune; the big Newfoundland
dog that stalked majestically at his side, and answered to the name of
Tasso--she knew them all. These two last hours were weighted with lead.
He came, sometimes a poor half-hour too soon, but usually not till past
six o'clock. Never, in her life, had she waited for anyone like this,
and, towards the end of the time, a sense of injury, of more than
mortal endurance, would steal through her and dull her heart towards
him, in a way that frightened her.

When, at length, she saw him turn the corner, when she had caught and
answered his swift upward glance, she drew back into the shadow of the
room, and hid her face in her hands.

Then she listened.

He had the key of the little papered door in the wall. Between the
sound of his step on the stair, and the turning of the key in the lock,
there was time for her to undergo a moment of suspense that drove her
hand to her throat. What if, after the tension of the afternoon, her
heart, her nerves--parts of her over which she had no control--should
not take their customary bound towards him? What if her pulses should
not answer his? But before she could think her thought to the end, he
was there; and when she saw his kind eyes alight, his eager hands
outstretched, her nervous fears were vanquished. Maurice hardly gave
himself time to shut the door, before catching her to him in a long
embrace. And yet, though she did not suspect it, he, too, had a twinge
of uncertainty on entering. Her bodily presence still affected him with
a sense of strangeness--it took him a moment to get used to her again,
as it were--and he was forced to reassure himself that nothing had
changed during his absence, that she was still all his own.

When the agitation of these first, few, speechless minutes had
subsided, a great tenderness seized Louise; freeing one hand, she
smoothed back his hair from his forehead, with movements each of which
was a caress. As for him, his first impetuous rush of feeling was
invariably followed by an almost morbid pity for her, which, in this
form, was a new note in their relation to each other, or a harking back
to the oldest note of all. When he considered how dependent she was on
him, how her one desire was to have him with her, he felt that he could
never repay her or do enough for her: and, whatever his own state of
mind previous to coming, when once he was there, he exerted himself to
the utmost, to cheer her. It was always she who needed consolation;
and, by means of his endearments, she was petted back to happiness like
a tired child.

In his efforts to take her out of herself, Maurice told her how he had
spent the day: where he had been, and whom he had met--every detail
that he thought might interest her. She listened, in grateful silence,
but she never put a question. This at an end, he returned once more, in
a kind of eternal circle, to the one subject of which she never
wearied. He might repeat, for the thousandth time, how dear she was to
him, without the least fear that the story would grow stale in the
telling.

And once here, amidst the deep tenderness of his words, he felt her
slowly come to life again, and unfold like a flower. After the long,
dead day, Louise was consumed by a desire to drain such moments as
these to the dregs. She did not let a word of his pass unchallenged,
and all that she herself said, was an attempt to discover some spasm of
mental ecstasy, which they had not yet experienced. Sometimes, the
feeling grew so strong that it forced her to give an outward sign.
Slipping to her knees, she gazed at him with the eyes of a faithful
animal. "What have I done to make you look at me like that?" asked
Maurice, amazed.

"What can I do to show you how I love you? Tell me what I can do."

"Do?--what do you want to do? Be your own dear self--that's all, and
more than enough."

But she continued to look beseechingly at him, waiting for the word
that might be the word of her salvation.

"Haven't you done enough already, in giving yourself to me?" he asked,
seeing how she hung on his lips.

But she repeated: "What can I do? Let me do something. Oh, I wish you
would hurt me, or be unkind to me!"

He tried to make her understand that he wished for no such humble
adoration, that, indeed, he could not be happy under it. If either was
to serve the other, it was he; he asked nothing better than to put his
hands under her feet. But he could neither coax her nor laugh her out
of her absorption: she had the will to self-abasement; and she remained
unsatisfied, waiting for the word he would not speak.

Once or twice, during these weeks, they went out in the evening, and,
in the corner of some quiet restaurant, took a festive little meal.
But, for the most part, she preferred to stay at home. She was not
dressed, she said, or she was tired, or it was too hot, or it had
rained. And Maurice did not urge her; for, on the last occasion, the
evening had been spoiled for him by the conduct of some people at a
neighbouring table; they had stared at Louise, and whispered remarks
about her. At home, she herself prepared the supper, moving indolently
about the room, her dressing-gown dragging after her, from table to
cupboard, and back again, often with a pause at his side, in which she
forgot what she had set out for. Maurice disputed each trifling service
with her; he could only think of Louise as made to be waited on, slow
to serve herself.

"Let me do it, dearest."

She had risen anew to fetch something. Now she stood beside him, and
put her arms round his neck.

"What can I do for you? Tell me what I can do," she said, and crushed
his head against her breast.

He loosened her fingers, and drew her to his knee. "What do you want me
to say, dear discontent? Do?--you were never meant to do anything in
this world. Your hands were made to lie one on top of the other...so!
Look at them! Most white and most useless!"

"There are things not made with hands," she answered obscurely. She let
him do what he liked; but she kept her face turned away; and over her
eyes passed a faint shadow of resignation.

But this mood also was a transient one; hours followed, when she no
longer sought and questioned, but when she gave, recklessly, in a wild
endeavour to lose the sense of twofold being. And before these
outbreaks, the young man was helpless. His past life, and such
experience as he had gathered in it, grew fantastic and unreal, might
all have belonged to some one else: the sole reality in a world of
shadows was this soft human body that he held in his arms.

Point by point, however, each of which wounded, consciousness fought
itself free again. Such violent extremes of emotion were, in truth,
contrary to his nature. They made him unsure. And, as the pendulum
swung back, something vital in him made protest.

"Sometimes, it seems as if there were something else ... something
that's not love at all ... more like hate--yes, as if you hated me ...
would like to kill me."

Her whole body was moved by the sigh she drew.

"If I only could! Then I should know that you were mine indeed."

"Is it possible for me to be more yours than I am?"

"Part of you would never be mine, though we spent all our lives
together."

He roused himself from his lethargy. "How can you say that?--And yet I
think I know what you mean. It's like a kind of rage that comes over
one--Yes, I've felt it, too. Listen, darling!--there are things one
can't say in daylight. I, too, have felt ... sometimes ... that in
spite of all my love for you--I mean our love for each other--yet there
was still something, a part of you, I had no power over. The real you
is something--some one I don't really know in spite of all the kisses.
Yes"--and the more he tried to find words for what he meant, the more
convinced he grew of its truth. "Nothing keeps us apart; you love me,
are here in my arms, and yet ...yet there's a bit of you I can't
influence--that is still strange to me. How often I have to ask you why
you look at me in a certain way, or what you are thinking of! I never
know your thoughts; I've never once been able to read them; you always
keep something back.--Why is it, dear? Is it my fault? If I could just
once get at your real self--if I knew that once, only once, in all
these weeks, you had been mine--every bit of you--then ... yes, then, I
believe I would be satisfied to ... to--I don't know what!"

He had spoken in an even, monotonous voice, almost more to himself than
to her. Now, however, he was forced to the opposite extreme of anxious
solicitude. "No, no, I didn't really mean it. Darling! ... hush!--don't
cry like that. I didn't know what I was saying; it isn't true, not a
word of it."

She had flung herself across him; her own elemental weeping shook her
from head to foot. He realised, for the first time, the depth and
strength of it, now that it, as it were, went through him, too.
Gathering her to him, he made wild and foolish promises. But nothing
soothed her: she wept on, until the dawn crept in, thinly grey, round
the windows. But when it grew so light that the objects in the room
were recovering their form, she fell asleep, and he hardly dared to
breathe, for fear of disturbing her.

By day, the sensations he had tried to express to her seemed the
figments of the night. He needed only to be absent from her to feel the
old restlessness tug at his heart-strings. At such moments, it seemed
to him ridiculous to torment himself about an infinitesimal flaw in
their love, and one which perhaps existed only in his imagination. To
be with her again was his sole desire; and to feel her cheek on his, to
be free to run his hands through her exciting hair, belonged, when he
was separated from her, to that small category of things for which he
would have bartered his soul.

One evening, towards the end of September, Louise watched for him at
the window. It had been a warm autumn day, rich in varying lights and
shades. Now it was late, nearly half-past six, and still he had not
come: her eyes were tired with staring down the street.

When at last he appeared, she saw that that he was carrying flowers.
Her heart, which, at the sight of him, had set up a glad and violent
beating, settled down again at once, to its normal course. She knew
what the flowers meant: in a spirit of candour, which had something
disarming in it, he invariably brought them when he could not stay long
with her; and she had learned to dread seeing them in his hand.

In very truth, he was barely inside the room before he told her that he
could only stay for an hour. He was to play his trio the following
evening, and now, at the last moment, the 'cellist had been taken ill.
He had spent the greater part of the afternoon looking for a
substitute, and having found one, had still to interview him again, to
let him know the time at which Schwarz had appointed an extra rehearsal
for the next day.

Maurice had mentioned more than once the date of his playing; but it
had never seemed more to Louise than a disturbing outside fact, to be
put out of mind or kissed away. She had forgotten all about it, and the
knowledge of this overcame her disappointment; she tried to atone, by
being reasonable. Maurice had steeled himself against pleadings and
despondency, and was grateful to her for making things easy. He wished
to outdo himself in tender encouragement; but she remained evasive: and
since, in spite of himself, he could not hinder his thoughts from
slipping forward to the coming evening, he, too, had moments of
preoccupied silence.

When the clock struck eight, he rose to go. In saying goodnight, he
turned her face up, and asked her had she decided if she were coming to
hear him play.

It was on her direct lips to reply that she had not thought anything
about it. A glance at his face checked her. He was waiting anxiously
for her answer: it was a matter of importance to him. Her previous
sense of remissness was still with her, hampering her, making her
unfree; and for a minute she did not know what to say.

"Would you mind much if I asked you not to come?" he said as she
hesitated.

"No, of course not," she hastened to respond, glad to be relieved of
the decision. "If you would rather I didn't."

"It's a fancy of mine, dearest--foolish, I know--that I shall get on
better if you're not there."

"It's all right. I understand."

When he had gone, she returned to her place at the window. It was a
fine night: there was no moon; but the stars glittered furiously in the
inky-blue sky, a stretch of which was visible above the gardens. The
vastness of the night, the distance of sky and stars, made her shiver.
Leaning her wrists on the cold, moist sill, she looked down into the
street; it was not very far; but a jump from where she was, to the
pavement, would suffice to put an end to every feeling. She was very
lonely; no one wanted her. Here she might stand, at this forlorn post,
for hours, for the whole night; no one would either know or care.--And
her feeling of error, of unfreedom and desolation grew so hard to bear
that, for fear she should actually throw herself down, she banged the
window to, with a crash that resounded through the street.

But there was something else at work in her to-night, which she could
not understand. She struggled with it, as one struggles with a
forgotten melody, which hovers behind the consciousness, and will not
emerge.

Except for the light thrown by a small lamp, the room was in shadow.
She went slowly back to the sofa. On the way she trod on the roses;
they had been knocked down and forgotten. She picked them up, and laid
them on the cushioned seat beside her. They were dark crimson, and gave
out a strong scent: Maurice had seldom brought her such beautiful
roses. She sat with her elbows on her knees, her hands closed and
pressed to her cheeks, as though she could only think with her muscles
at a strain. In memory, she went over what he had said, reflected on
what his words meant, and strove, honestly, to project herself into
that part of his life, of which she knew nothing. But it was not easy;
for one thing, the smell of the roses was too strong; it seemed to
hinder her imagination. They had the scent that only deep red roses
have--one which seems to come from a distance, from the very heart of
cool, pure things--and more and more, she felt as if something within
her were trying to find vent in it, something that swelled up,
subsided, and mounted again, with what was almost a physical effort. It
had been the truth when she told him that she understood; but it had
touched her strangely all the same: for it had let her see into an
unsuspected corner of his nature. He, too, then, had a cranny in his
brain, where such fancies lodged--such an eccentric, artist fancy, or
whim, or superstition--as that, out of several hundred people, a single
individual could distract and disturb. He ... too!

The little word had done it. Now she knew--knew what the roses had been
trying to tell her. And as if invisible hands had touched a spring in
her brain, thereby opening some secret place, the memory of a certain
hour returned to her, returned with such force that she fell on her
knees, and pressed her face to the seat of the sofa. On the floor
beside her lay the roses. Why, oh why, had he needed to bring them to
her, on this night of all others?

On the day she remembered, they had been lavished over the room-one
June evening, two years ago. And ever afterwards, the scent of
blood-red roses had been associated for her with one of the sweet,
leading themes in Beethoven's violin concerto. There was a special
concert that night at the Conservatorium; the hall was filled to the
last place. She waited with him in the green-room, until his turn came
to play. Then she went into the hall, and stood at the back, under the
gallery. Once more, she was aware of the stir that ran through the
audience, as Schilsky walked down the platform. Hardly, however, had he
drawn his bow across the strings, when she felt a touch on her arm, and
a Russian, who was an intimate friend of his, beckoned her outside.
There, he told her that he had been sent to ask her to leave the hall;
and they smiled at each other, in understanding of the whim.
Afterwards, she learned how, just about to step on to the platform,
Schilsky had had a presentiment that things would go wrong if she
remained inside. In his gratitude, and in the boyish exultation with
which success filled him, he had collected all the roses, and wantonly
pulled them to pieces. Red petals fell like flakes of red snow; and,
crushed and bruised, the fragile leaves had yielded a scent, tenfold
increased.

While it lasted, the vision was painfully intense: on returning to
herself, she was obliged to look round and think where she was. The
lamp burned steadily; the dull room was just as she had left it. With a
cry, she buried her face in the cushions again, and held her hands to
her ears.

More, more, and more again! She was as hungry for these memories as a
child for dainties. She was starved for them. And now, dead to the
present, she relived the past happy hours of triumph and excitement,
not one of which had hung heavy, in each of which her craving for
sensation had been stilled. She saw herself as she had then been,
proud, secure, unspeakably content. Forgotten words rang in her ears,
words of love and of anger, words that were like ointment and like
knives. Then, not a day had been empty or tedious; life was always
highly coloured, and there was neither pleasure nor pain that she had
not tasted to the full. Even the suffering she had gone through, for
his sake, was no longer hateful to her. Anything--anything rather than
this dead level of monotony on which she had fallen.

When, finally, she raised her head, she might, for all she knew, have
been absent for days. Things had lost their familiar aspect; she had
once more lived right through the great experience of her life. Putting
her hands to her forehead, she tried to force her thoughts back to
reality. Then, stiffly, she rose from her knees. In doing so, she
touched the roses. With a gesture that was her real awakening, she
caught them up and pressed them to her face. It was a satisfaction to
her that fingers and cheeks were pricked by their thorns. She was
conscious of wishing to hurt herself. With her lips on the cool buds,
she stammered broken words: "Maurice--my poor Maurice!" and kissed the
flowers, feeling as if, in some occult way, he would be aware of her
kisses, of the love she was thus expending on him.

For, in a sudden revulsion of feeling, she was sensible of a great
compassion for him; and with each pressure of her lips to the roses,
she implored his forgiveness for her unpremeditated desertion. She
called to mind his tenderness, his unceasing care of her, and, closing
her eyes, stretched out her arms to him, in the empty room. Already she
began to live for the following evening, when he would come again. Now,
only to sleep through as many as she could of the hours that separated
them! She would be to him the next night, what she had never yet been:
his own rival in fondness. And as a beginning, she crossed the room,
and put the fading roses in a pitcher of water.



IV.


Towards seven o'clock the following evening, Maurice loitered about the
vestibule of the Conservatorium. In spite of his attempt to time
himself, he had arrived too early, and his predecessor on the programme
had still to play two movements of a sonata by Beethoven.

As he stood there, Madeleine entered by the street-door.

"Is that you?" she asked, in the ironical tone she now habitually used
to him. "You look just as if you were posing for the John in a Rubens
Crucifixion.--Feel shaky? No? You ought to, you know. One plays all the
better for it.--Well, good luck to you! I'll hold my thumbs."

He went along the passage to the little green-room, at the heels of his
string-players. On seeing them go by, it had occurred to him that he
might draw their attention to a passage in the VARIATIONS, with which
he had not been satisfied at rehearsal that day. But when he caught
them up, they were so deep in talk that he hesitated to interrupt. The
'cellist, a greasy, little fellow with a mop of touzled hair, was
relating an adventure he had had the night before. His droll way of
telling it was more amusing than the long-winded story, and he himself
was more tickled by it than was the violinist, a lanky German-American
boy, with oily black hair and a pimpled face. Throughout, both tuned
their instruments assiduously, with that air of inattention common to
string-players.

Meanwhile, the sonata by Beethoven ran its course. While the
story-teller still smacked his lips, it came to an end, and the
performer, a tall, Polish girl, with a long, sallow, bird-like neck,
round which was wound a piece of black velvet, descended the steps.
Behind her was heard the applause of many hands. As this showed no sign
of ceasing, Schwarz, who had come out of the hall by a lower door, bade
her return and bow her thanks. At his words, the girl burst into tears.

"NA, NA, NA!" he said soothingly. "What's all this about? You did
excellently."

She seized his hand and clung to it. The 'cellist ran to fetch water;
the other two young men were embarrassed, and looked away.

Here, however, several friends burst into the room, and bore Fraulein
Prybowski off. Schwarz gave the signal, the stringplayers picked up
their instruments, and the little procession, with Maurice at its head,
mounted the steps to the platform.

Although before an audience for the first time in his life, Maurice had
never felt more composed. Passing by the organ, and the empty seats of
the orchestra, he descended to the front of the platform, where two
grand pianos stood side by side; and, as he went, he noted that the
hall was exceptionally well filled. He let down the lid of the piano to
the peg for chambermusic; he lowered the piano-chair, and flicked the
keys with his handkerchief. And Schwarz, sitting by him, to turn the
pages of the music, felt so sure of this pupil's coolness that he
yawned, and stroked the insides of his trouser-legs.

Maurice was just ready for the start, when the 'cellist, who was
restless, discovered that the stand which had been placed for him was
insecure; rising from his scat, he went to fetch another from the back
of the platform. In the delay that ensued, Maurice looked round at the
audience. He saw innumerable heads and faces, all turned expectantly
towards him, like lines of globular fruits. His eye ranged
indifferently over the occupants of the front seats--strange faces,
which told him nothing--until his attention was arrested by a face
almost directly beneath him, in the second row. For the flash of a
second, he thought he knew the person to whom it belonged, and
struggled to recall a name. Then, almost as swiftly, he dismissed the
idea. It was, however, a face of that kind which, once seen, is never
forgotten--a frog-like face, with protruding eyes, and the frog's
expressive leer. Somewhere, not very long ago, this face had been
before him, and had stared at him in the same disconcerting manner--but
where? when? In the few seconds that remained, his brain worked
furiously, sped back in desperate haste over all the likely places
where he might have seen it. And a restaurant evolved itself; a table
in a secluded corner; chrysanthemums and their acrid scent; a screen,
round which this repulsive face had peered. It had fixed them both,
with such malevolence that it had destroyed his pleasure, and he had
persuaded Louise to go home. His memory was now so alert that he could
recall the man's two companions as well.

The scene built itself up with inconceivable rapidity. And while he was
still absorbed by it, Schwarz raised a decisive hand. It was the signal
to begin; he obeyed unthinkingly; and was at the bottom of the first
page before he knew it.

Throughout the whole of the opening movement, he was not rightly awake
to what he was doing. His fingers, like well-drilled soldiers, went
automatically through their work, neither blundering nor forgetting;
but the mind which should have controlled them was unable to
concentrate itself: he heard himself play as though he were listening
to some one else. He was only roused by the burst of applause that
succeeded the final chords. As he struck the first notes of the ANDANTE
WITH VARIATIONS, he nerved himself for an effort; but now, as if it
were the result of his previous inattention, an odd uneasiness beset
him; and his beginning to weigh each note as he played it, his fingers
hesitated and grew less sure. Having failed, through over-care, in the
rounding of a turn, he resolved to let things go as they would, and his
thoughts wander at will. The movements of the trio succeeded one
another; the VARIATIONS ceased, and were followed by the crisp gaiety
of the MINUET. The lights above his head were reflected in the shining
ebony of the piano; regularly, every moment or two, he was struck by
the appearance of Schwarz's broad, fat hand, which crossed his range of
vision to turn a leaf; he meditated absently on a sharp uplifting of
this hand that occurred, as though the master were dissatisfied with
the rhythm--the 'cellist's fault, no doubt: he had been inexact at
rehearsal, and, this evening, was too much taken up with his own
witticisms beforehand, to think about what he had to do. And thus the
four divisions of the trio slipped past, separated by a disturbing
noise of hands, which continued to seem as unreal to Maurice as
everything else. Only as the last notes of the PRESTISSIMO died away,
in the disappointing, ineffectual scales in C major, with which the
trio closed--not till then did he grasp that the event to which he had
looked forward for many weeks was behind him, and also that no one
present knew less of how it had passed off than he himself.

With his music in his hand, he turned to Schwarz, to learn what success
he had had, from the master's face. According to custom, Schwarz shook
hands with him; he also nodded, but he did not smile. He was, however,
in a hurry; the old: white-haired director had left his seat, and stood
waiting to speak to him. Both 'cellist and violinist had vanished on
the instant; the audience, eager as ever at the end of a concert to
shake off an imposed restraint, had risen while Maurice still played
the final notes; and, by this time, the hall was all but empty.

He slowly ascended the platform. Now that it was over, he felt how
tired he was; his very legs were tired, as though he had walked for
miles. The green-room was deserted; the gas-jet had been screwed down
to a peep. None of his friends had come to say a word to him. He had
really hardly expected it; but, all the same, a hope had lurked in him
that Krafft would perhaps afterwards make some sign--even Madeleine.
As, however, neither of them appeared, he seemed to read a confirmation
of his failure in their absence, and he loitered for some time in the
semi-darkness, unwilling to face the dispersing crowd. When at length
he went down the passage, only a few stragglers remained. One or two
acquaintances congratulated him in due form, but he knew neither well
enough to try to get at the truth. As he was nearing the street-door,
however, Dove came out of the BUREAU. He made for Maurice at once; his
manner was eager, his face bore the imprint of interesting news.

"I say, Guest!" he cried, while still some way off. "An odd
coincidence. Young Leumann is to play this very same trio next week. A
little chap in knickerbockers, you know--pupils of Rendel's. He is said
to have a glorious LEGATO--just the very thing for the VARIATIONS."

"Indeed?" said Maurice with a well-emphasised dryness. His tone nudged
Dove's memory.

"By the way, all congratulations, of course," he hastened to add.
"Never heard you play better. Especially the MENUETTO. Some people
sitting behind me were reminded of Rubinstein."

"Well, good-night, I'm off," said Maurice, and, even as he spoke, he
shot away, leaving his companion in some surprise.

Once out of Dove's sight, he took off his hat and passed his hand over
his forehead. Any slender hope he might have had was now crushed; his
playing had been so little remarkable that even Dove had been on the
point of overlooking it altogether.

Louise threw herself into his arms. At last! she exulted to herself.
But his greeting had not its usual fervour; instead of kissing her, he
laid his face against her hair. Instantly, she became uncertain. She
did not quite know what she had been expecting; perhaps it had been
something of the old, pleasurable excitement that she had learnt to
associate with an occasion like the present. She put back her head and
looked at him, and her look was a question.

"Yes. At least it's over, thank goodness!" he said in reply.

Not knowing what answer to make to this, she led him to the sofa. They
sat down, and, for a few minutes, neither spoke. Then, he did what on
the way there, he had imagined himself doing: laid his head on her lap,
and himself placed her hands on his hair. She passed them backwards and
forwards; her sense of having been repulsed, yielded, and she tried to
change the current of his thoughts.

"Did you notice, Maurice, as you came along, how full the air was of
different scents to-night?" she asked as her cool hands went to and
fro. "It was like an evening in July. I was at the window trying to
make them out. But the roses were too strong for them; for you see--or
rather you have not seen--all the roses I have got for you--yes, just
dark red roses. This afternoon I went to the little shop at the corner,
and bought all they had. The pretty girl served me--do you remember the
pretty girl with the yellow hair, who tried to make friends with you
last summer? You like roses, too, don't you? Though not as much as I
do. They were always my favourite flowers. As a child, I used to
imagine what it would be like to gather them for a whole day, without
stopping. But, like all my wishes then, this had to be postponed, too,
till that wonderful future, which was to bring me all I wanted. There
were only a few bushes where I lived; it was too dry for them. But the
smell of them takes me back--always. I have only to shut my eyes, and I
am full of the old extravagant longings--the childish impatience with
time, which seemed to crawl so slowly ... even to stand still."

"Tell me all about it," he murmured, without raising his head.

She smiled and humoured him.

"I like flowers best for their scents," she went on. "No matter what
beautiful colours they have. A camelia is a foolish flower; like a
blind man's face--the chief thing is wanting. But then, of course, the
smell must remind one of pleasant things. It's strange, isn't it, how
much association has to do with pleasure?--or pain. Some things affect
me so strongly that they make me wretched. There's music I can't listen
to; I have to put my hands to my ears, and run away from it; and all
because it takes me back to an unhappy hour, or to a time of my life
that I hated. There are streets I never walk through, even words I
dread to hear anyone say, because they are connected with some one I
disliked, or a day I would rather not have lived. And it is just the
same with smells. Wood smouldering outside!--and all the country round
is smoky with bush fires. Mimosa in the room--and I can feel the sun
beating down on deserted shafts and the stillness of the bush. Rotting
leaves and the smell of moist earth, and I am a little girl again, in
short dresses, standing by a grave--my father's to which I was driven
in a high buggy, between two men in black coats. I can't remember
crying at all, or even feeling sorry; I only smelt the earth--it was in
the rainy season and there was water in the grave.--But flowers give me
my pleasantest memories. Passion-flowers and periwinkles--you will say
they have no smell, but it's not true. Flat, open passionflowers--red
or white--with purplish-fringed centres, have a honey-smell, and make
me think of long, hot, cloudless days, which seemed to have neither
beginning nor end. And little periwinkles have a cool green smell; for
they grew along an old paling fence, which was shady and sometimes even
damp. And violets? I never really cared for violets; not till ... I
mean ... I never ..."

She had entangled herself, and broke off so abruptly that he moved. He
was afraid this soothing flow of words was going to cease.

"Yes, yes, go on, tell me some more--about violets."

She hastened to recover herself. "They are silly little flowers. Made
to wither in one's dress ... or to be crushed. Unless one could have
them in such masses that they filled the room. But lilac, Maurice,
great sprays and bunches of lilac-white and purple--you know, don't
you, who will always be associated with lilac for me? Do you remember
some of those evenings at the theatre, on the balcony between the acts?
The gallery was so hot, and out there it seemed as if the whole town
were steeped in lilac. Or walking home--those glorious nights--when
some one was so silent ... so moody--do you remember?"

At the peculiar veiled tone that had come into her voice; at this
reminder of a past day of alternate rapture and despair, so different
from the secured happiness of the present; at the thought of this
common memory that had built itself up for them round a flower's scent,
a rush of grateful content overcame Maurice, and, for the first time
since entering the room, he looked up at her with a lover's eyes.

Safe, with her arms round him, he was strong enough to face the worst.
"How good you are to me, dearest! And I don't deserve it. To-night, you
might just have sent me away again, when I came. For I was in a
disagreeable mood--and still am. But you won't give me up just yet for
all that, will you? However despondent I get about myself? For you are
all I have, Louise--in the whole world. Yes, I may as well confess it
to you, to-night was a failure--not a noisy, open one but all the same,
it's no use calling it anything else."

He had laid his head on her lap again, so did not see her face. While
he spoke, Louise looked at him, in a kind of unwilling surprise.
Instinctively, she ceased to pass her hands over his hair.

"Oh, no, Maurice," she then protested, but weakly, without conviction.

"Yes--failure," he repeated, and put more emphasis than before on the
word. "It's no good beating about the bush.--And do you realise what
it--what failure means for us, Louise?"

"Oh, no," she said again, vaguely trying to ward off what she foresaw
was coming. "And why talk about it to-night? You are tired. Things will
seem different in the morning. Shut your eyes again, and lie quite
still."

But, the ice once broken, he felt the need of speaking--of speaking out
relentlessly all that was in him. And, as he talked, he found it
impossible to keep still; he paced the room. He was very pale and very
voluble, and made a clean breast of everything that troubled him; not
so much, however, with the idea of confessing it to her, as of easing
his own mind. And now, again, he let her see into his real self, and,
unlike the previous occasion, it was here more than a glimpse that she
caught. He was distressingly frank with her. She heard now, for the
first time, of the foolish ambitions with which he had begun his
studies in Leipzig; heard of their gradual subsidence, and his humble
acceptance of his inferiority, as well as of his present fear that,
when his time came to an end, he would have nothing to show for it--and
under the influence of what had just happened, this fear grew more
vivid. It was one thing, he made clear to her, and unpleasant enough at
best, to have to find yourself to rights as a mediocrity, when you had
hoped with all your heart that you were something more. But what if,
having staked everything on it, you should discover that you had
mistaken your calling altogether?

"To-night, you see, I think I should have been a better chimney-sweep.
The real something that makes the musician--even the genuinely musical
outsider--is wanting in me. I've learnt to see that, by degrees, though
I don't know in the least what it is.--But even suppose I were
mistaken--who could tell me that I was? One's friends are only too glad
to avoid giving a downright opinion, and then, too, which of them would
one care to trust? I believe in the end I shall go straight to Schwarz,
and get him to tell me what he thinks of me--whether I'm making a fool
of myself or not."

"Oh, I wouldn't do that," Louise said quickly.

It was the first time she had interrupted him. She had sat and followed
his restless movements with a look of apprehension. A certain board in
the floor creaked when he trod on it, and she found herself listening,
each time, for the creaking of this board. She was sorry for him, but
she could not attach the importance he did to his assumed want of
success, nor was she able to subdue the feeling of distaste with which
his doubtings inspired her. It was so necessary, too, this outpouring;
she had never felt curious about the side of his nature which was not
the lover's side. Tonight, it became clear to her that she would have
preferred to remain in ignorance of it. And besides, what he said was
so palpable, so undeniable, that she could not understand his dragging
the matter to the surface: she had never thought of him but as one of
the many honest workers, who swell the majority, and are not destined
to rise above the crowd. She had not dreamed of his considering himself
in another light, and it was painful to her now, to find that he had
done so. To put an end to such embarrassing confidences, she went over
to him, and, with her hands on his shoulders, her face upturned, said
all the consoling words she could think of, to make him forget. They
had never yet failed in their effect. But to-night too much was at work
in Maurice, for him to be influenced by them. He kissed her, and
touched her cheek with his hand, then began anew; and she moved away,
with a slight impatience, which she did not try to conceal.

"You brood too much, Maurice ... and you exaggerate things, too. What
if every one took himself so seriously?--and talked of failure because
on a single occasion he didn't do himself justice?"

"It's more than that with me, dear.--But it's a bad habit, I know--not
that I really mean to take myself too seriously; but all my life I have
been forced to worry about things, and to turn them over."

"It's unhealthy always to be looking into yourself. Let things go more,
and they'll carry you with them."

He took her hands. "What wise-sounding words! And I'm in the wrong, I
know, as usual. But, in this case, it's impossible not to worry. What
happened this evening seems a trifle to you, and no doubt would to
every one else, too. But I had made a kind of touchstone of it; it was
to help to decide the future--that hideously uncertain future of ours!
I believe now, as far as I'm concerned, I don't care whether I ever
come to anything or not. Of course, I should rather have been a
success--we all would!--but caring for you has swallowed up the
ridiculous notions I once had. For your sake--it's you I torment myself
about. WHAT is to become of us?"

"If that's all, Maurice! Something will turn up, I'm sure it will. Have
a little patience, and faith in luck ... or fate ... or whatever you
like to call it."

"That's a woman's way of looking at things."

He was conscious of speaking somewhat unkindly; but he was hurt by her
lack of sympathy. Instead, however, of smoothing things over, he was
impelled, by an unconquerable impulse, to disclose himself still
further. "Besides, that's not all," he said, and avoided her eyes.
"There's something else, and I may just as well make a clean breast of
it. It's not only that the future is every bit as shadowy to-night as
it has always been: I haven't advanced it by an inch. But I feel
to-night that if I could have been what I once hoped to be--no, how
shall I put it? You know, dear, from the very beginning there has been
something wrong, a kind of barrier between us hasn't there? How often
I've tried to find out what it is! Well, to-night I seem to know. If I
were not such an out-and-out mediocrity, if I had really been able to
achieve something, you would care for me--yes, that's it!--as you can't
possibly care now. You would have to; you wouldn't be able to help
yourself."

Her first impulsive denial died on her lips; as he continued to speak,
she seemed to feel in his words an intention to wound her, or, at
least, to accuse her of want of love. When she spoke, it was in a cool
voice, as though she were on her guard against being touched too deeply.

"That has nothing whatever to do with it," she said. "It's you
yourself, Maurice, I care for--not what you can or can't do."

But these words added fuel to his despondency. "Yes, that's just it,"
he answered. "For you, I'm in two parts, and one of them means nothing
to you. I've felt it, often enough, though I've never spoken of it till
to-night. Only one side of me really matters to you. But if I'd been
able to accomplish what I once intended--to make a name for myself, or
something of that sort--then it would all have been different. I could
have forced you to be interested in every single thing I did--not only
in the me that loves you, but in every jot of my outside life as well."

Louise did not reply: she had a moment of genuine despondency. The
staunch tenderness she had been resolved to feel for him this evening,
collapsed and shrivelled up; for the morbid self-probing in which he
was indulging made her see him with other eyes. What he said belonged
to that category of things which are too true to be put into words: why
could not he, like every one else, let them rest, and act as if they
did not exist? It was as clear as day: if he were different, the whole
story of their relations would be different, too. But as he could not
change his nature, what was the use of talking about it, and of turning
out to her gaze, traits of mind with which she could not possibly
sympathise? Standing, a long white figure, beside the piano, she let
her arms hang weakly at her sides. She did not try to reason with him
again, or even to comfort him; she let him go on and on, always in the
same strain, till her nerves suddenly rebelled at the needless
irritation.

"Oh, WHY must you be like this to-night?" she broke in on him. "Why try
to destroy such happiness as we have? Can you never be content?"

From the way in which he seized upon these words, it seemed as if he
had only been waiting for her to say them. "Such happiness as we have!"
he repeated. "There!--listen!--you yourself admit it. Admit all I've
been saying.--And do you think I can realise that, and be happy? No,
I've suffered under it from the first day. Oh, why, loving you as I do,
could I not have been different?--more worthy of you. Why couldn't I,
too, be one of those favoured mortals ...? Listen to me," he said
lowering his voice, and speaking rapidly. "Let me make another
confession. Do you know why to-night is doubly hard to bear? It's
because--yes, because I know you must be forced--and not to-night only,
but often--to compare me what I am and what I can do--with ... with ...
you know who I mean. It's inevitable--the comparison must be thrust on
you every day of your life. But does that, do you think, make it any
the easier for me?"

As the gist of what he was trying to say was borne in upon her, Louise
winced. Her face lost its tired expression, and grew hard. "You are
breaking your word," she said, in a tone she had never before used to
him. "You promised me once, the past should never be mentioned between
us."

"I'm not blind, Louise," he went on, as though she had not spoken. "Nor
am I in a mood to-night to make myself any illusions. The remembrance
of what he was--he was never doubtful of himself, was he?--must
always--HAS always stood between us, while I have racked my brains to
discover what it was. To-night it came over me like a flash that it was
he--that he ... he spoiled you utterly for anyone else; made it
impossible for you to care for anyone who wasn't made of the same stuff
as he was. It would never have occurred to him, would it, to torment
you and make you suffer for his own failure? For the very good reason
that he never was a failure. Oh, I haven't the least doubt what a sorry
figure I must cut beside him!"

The unhappy words came out slowly, and seemed to linger in the air.
Louise did not break the pause that followed, and by her silence,
assented to what he said. She still stood motionless beside the piano.

"Or tell me," Maurice cried abruptly, with a ray of hope; "tell me the
truth about it all, for once. Was it mere exaggeration, or was he
really worth so much more than all the rest of us? Of course he could
play--I know that--but so can many a fool. But all the other part of
it--his incredible talent, or luck in everything he touched--was it
just report, or was it really something else?--Tell me."

"He was a genius," she answered, very coldly and distinctly; and her
voice warned him once more that he was trespassing on ground to which
he had no right. But he was too excited to take the warning.

"A genius!" he echoed. "He was a genius! Yes, what did I tell you? Your
very words imply a comparison as you say them. For I?--what am I? A
miserable bungler, a wretched dilettant--or have you another word for
it? Oh, never mind--don't be afraid to say it!--I'm not sensitive
tonight. I can bear to hear your real opinion of me; for it could not
possibly be lower than my own. Let us get at the truth for once, by all
means!--But what I want to know," he cried a moment later, "is, why one
should be given so much and the other so little. To one all the talents
and all your love; and the other unhappy wretch remains an outsider his
whole life long. When you speak in that tone about him, I could wish
with all my heart that he had been no better than I am. It would give
me pleasure to know that he, too, had only been a dabbling amateur--the
victim of a pitiable wish to be what he hadn't the talent for."

He could not face her amazement; he stared at the yellow globe of the
lamp till his eyes smarted.

"It no doubt seems despicable to you," he went on, "but I can't help
it. I hate him for the way he was able to absorb you. He's my worst
enemy, for he has made it impossible for you--the woman I love--to love
me wholly in return.--Of course, you can't--you WON'T understand.
You're only aghast at what you think my littleness. Of all I've gone
through, you know nothing, and don't want to know. But with him, it was
different; you had no difficulty in understanding him. He had the power
over you. Look!--at this very moment, you are siding, not with me, but
with him. All my struggling and striving counts for nothing.--Oh, if I
could only understand you!" He moved to and fro in his agitation. "Why
is a woman so impossible? Does nothing matter to her but tangible
success? Do care and consideration carry no weight? Even matched
against the blackguardly egoism of what you call genius?--Or will you
tell me that he considered you? Didn't he treat you from beginning to
end like the scoundrel he was?"

She raised hostile eyes. "You have no right to say that," she said in a
small, icy voice, which seemed to put him at an infinite distance from
her. "You are not able to judge him. You didn't know him as ... as I
did."

With the last words a deeper note came into her voice, and this was all
Maurice heard. A frenzied fear seized him.

"Louise!" he cried violently. "You care for him still!"

She started, and raised her arms, as if to ward off a blow. "I don't
... I don't ... God knows I don't! I hate him--you know I do!" She had
clapped both hands to her face, and held them there. When she looked up
again, she was able to speak as quietly as before. "But do you want to
make me hate you, too? Do you think it gives me a higher opinion of
you, to hear you talk like that about some one I once cared for? How
can I find it anything but ungenerous?--Yes, you are right, he WAS
different--in every way. He didn't know what it meant to be envious of
anyone. He was as different from you as day from night."

Maurice was hurt to the quick. "Now I know your real opinion of me!
Till now you have been considerate enough to hide it. But to-night I
have heard it from your own lips. You despise me!"

"Well, you drove me to say it," she burst out, wounded in her turn. "I
should never have said it of my own accord--never! Oh, how ungenerous
you are! It's not the first time you've goaded me into saying
something, and then turned round on me for it. You seem to enjoy
finding out things you can feel hurt by.--But have I ever complained?
Did I not take you just as you were, and love you--yes, love you! I
knew you couldn't be different--that it wasn't your fault if you were
faint-hearted and ... and--But you?--what do you do? You talk as if you
worship the ground I walk on: but you can't let me alone. You are
always trying to change me--to make me what you think I ought to be."

Her words came in haste, stumbling one over the other, as it became
plain to her how deeply this grievance, expressed now for the first
time, had eaten into her soul. "You've never said to yourself, she's
what she is because it's her nature to be. You want to remake my nature
and correct it. You are always believing something is wrong. You knew
very well, long ago, that the best part of me had belonged to some one
else. You swore it didn't matter. But to-night, because there's
absolutely nothing else you can cavil at, you drag it up again--in
spite of your promises. I have always been frank with you. Do you thank
me for it? No, it's been my old fault of giving everything, when it
would have been wiser to keep something back, or at least to pretend
to. I might have taken a lesson from you, in parsimonious reserve. For
there's a part of you, you couldn't give away--not if you lived with a
person for a hundred years."

Of all she said, the last words stung him most.

"Yes, and why?" he cried. "Ask yourself why I You are unjust, as only a
woman can be. You say there's a part of me you don't know. If that's
true, what does it mean? It means you don't want to know it. You don't
want it even to exist. You want everything to belong to you. You don't
care for me well enough to be interested in that side of my life which
has nothing to do with you. Your love isn't strong enough for that."

"Love!--need we talk about love?" Her face was so unhappy that it
seemed to have grown years older. "Love is something quite different.
It takes everything just as it is. You have never really loved me.".

"I have never really loved you?"

He repeated the words after her, as if he did not understand them, and
with his right hand grasped the table; the ground seemed to be slipping
from under his feet. But Louise did not offer to retract what she had
said, and Maurice had a moment of bewilderment: there, not three yards
from him, sat the woman who was the centre of his life; Louise sat
there, and with all appearance of believing it, could cast doubts on
his love for her. At the thought of it, he was exasperated.

"I not love you!"

His voice was rough, had escaped control. "You have only to lift your
finger, and I'll throw myself from that window on to the pavement."

Louise sat as if turned to stone.

"Don't you hear?" he cried more loudly. "Look up! ... tell me to do it!"

Still she did not move.

"Louise, Louise!" he implored, throwing himself down before her. "Speak
to me! Don't you hear me?--Louise!"

"Oh, yes, I hear," she said at last. "I hear how ready you are with
promises you know you will not be asked to keep. But the small,
everyday things--those are what you won't do for me."

"Tell me ... tell me what I shall do!"

"All I ask of you is to be happy. And to let me be happy, too."

He stammered promises and entreaties. Never, never again!--if only this
once she would forgive him; if only she would smile at him, and let the
light come back to her eyes. He had not been responsible for his
actions this evening.

"It was more of a strain than I knew. And after it was over, I had to
vent my disappointment somehow; and it was you, poor darling, who
suffered. Forgive me, Louise!--But try, dear, a little to understand
why it was. Can't you see that I was only like that through fear--yes,
fear!--that somehow you might slip from me. I can't help feeling, one
day you will have had enough of me, and will see me for what I really
am."

He tried to put his arms round her, but she held back: she had no
desire to be reconciled. The sole response she made to his beseeching
words was: "I want to be happy."

"But you shall.--Do you think I live for anything else? Only forgive
me! Remember the happiest hours we have spent together. Come back to
me; be mine again! Tell me I am forgiven."

He was in despair; he could not get at her, under her coating of
insensibility. And since his words had no power to move her, he took to
kissing her hands. She left them limply in his; she did not resist him.
From this, he drew courage: he began to treat her more inconsiderately,
compelling her to bend down to him, making her feel his strength; and
he did not cease his efforts till her head had sunk forward, heavy and
submissive, on his shoulder.

They were at peace again: and the joys of reconciliation seemed almost
worth the price they had paid for them.



V.


The following morning, having drunk his coffee, Maurice pushed back the
metal tray on which the delf-ware stood, and remained sitting idle with
his hands before him. It was nine o'clock, and the houses across the
road were beginning to catch stray sunbeams. By this time, his daily
work was as a rule in full swing; but to-day he was in no hurry to
commence. He was even more certain now than he had been on the night
before, of his lack of success; and the idea of starting anew on the
dull round filled him with distaste. He had been so confident that his
playing would, in some way or other, mark a turning-point in his
musical career; and lo! it had gone off with as little fizz and effect
as a damp rocket. Lighting a cigarette, he indulged in ironical
reflections. But, none the less, he heard the minutes ticking past, and
as he was not only a creature of habit, but had also a troublesome
northern conscience, he rose before the cigarette had formed its second
spike of ash, and went to the piano: no matter how rebellious he felt,
this was the only occupation open to him; and so he set staunchly out
on the unlovely mechanical exercising, which no pianist can escape.
Meanwhile, he recapitulated the scene in the concert hall, from the few
anticipatory moments, when the 'cellist related amatory adventures, to
the abrupt leave he had taken of Dove at the door of the building. And
in the course of doing this, he was invaded by a mild and agreeable
doubt. On such shadowy impressions as these had he built up his
assumption of failure! Was it possible to be so positive? The unreal
state of mind in which he had played, hindered him from acting as his
own judge. The fact that Schwarz had not been effusive, and that none
of his friends had sought him out, admitted of more than one
interpretation. The only real proof he had was Dove's manner to him;
and was not Dove always too full of his own affairs, or, at least, the
affairs of those who were not present at the moment, to have any
attention to spare for the person he was actually with? At the idea
that he was perhaps mistaken, Maurice grew so unsettled that he rose
from the piano. But, by the time he took his seat again, he had
wavered; say what he would, he could not get rid of the belief that if
he had achieved anything out of the common, Madeleine would not have
made it her business to avoid him. After this, however, his fluctuating
hopes rallied, then sank once more, until it ended in his leaving the
piano. For it was of no use trying to concentrate his thoughts until he
knew.

Even as he said this to himself, his resolution was taken. There was
only one person to whom he could apply, and that was Schwarz. The
proceeding might be unusual, but then the circumstances in which he was
placed were unusual, too. Besides, he asked neither praise nor
flattery, merely a candid opinion.

If, however, he faced Schwarz on this point, there were others on which
he might as well get certainty at the same time. The matter of the
PRUFUNG, for instance, had still to be decided. So much depended on the
choice of piece. His fingers itched towards Chopin or Mendelssohn, for
the sole reason that the technique of these composers was in his blood.
Whereas Beethoven!--he knew from experience how difficult it was to get
a satisfactory effect out of the stern barenesses of Beethoven. They
demanded a skill he could never hope to possess.

Between five and six that afternoon, he made his way to the SEBASTIAN
BACH-STRASSE, where Schwarz lived. It was hot in the new, shadeless
streets through which he passed, and also in crossing the JOHANNAPARK;
hardly a hint of September was in the air. He walked at a slow pace, in
order not to arrive too early, and, for some reason unclear to himself,
avoided stepping on the joins of the paving-stones.

On hearing that he had not come for a lesson, the dirty maidservant,
who opened the third-floor door to him, showed him as a visitor into
the best sitting-room. Maurice remained standing, in prescribed
fashion. But he had no sooner crossed the threshold than he was aware
of loud voices in the adjoining room, separated from the one he was in
by large foldingdoors.

"If you think," said a woman's voice, and broke on "think"--"if you
think I'm going to endure a repetition of what happened two years ago,
you're mistaken. Never again shall she enter this house! Oh, you pig,
you wretch! Klara has told me; she saw you through the keyhole--with
your arm round her waist. And I know myself, scarcely a note was struck
in the hour. You have her here on any pretext; you keep her in the
class after all the others have gone. But this time I'm not going to
sit still till the scandal comes out, and she has to leave the place. A
man of your age!--the father of four children!--and this ugly little
hussy of seventeen! Was there ever such a miserable woman as I am! No,
she shall never enter this house again."

"And I say she shall!" came from Schwarz so fiercely that the listener
started. "Aren't you ashamed, woman, at your age, to set a servant
spying at keyholes?--or, what is more likely, spying yourself? Keep to
your kitchen and your pots, and don't dictate to me. I am the master of
the house."

"Not in a case like this. It concerns me. It concerns the children. I
say she shall never enter the door again."

"And I say she shall. Go out of the room!"

A chair grated roughly on a bare floor; a door banged with such
violence that every other door in the house vibrated.

In the silence that ensued, Maurice endeavoured to make his presence
known by walking about. But no one came. His eyes ranged round the
room. It was, with a few slight differences, the ordinary best room of
the ordinary German house. The windows were heavily curtained, and, in
front of them, to the further exclusion of light and air, stood
respectively a flower-table, laden with unlovely green plants, and a
room-aquarium. The plush furniture was stiffly grouped round an oblong
table and dotted with crochet-covers; under a glass shade was a massy
bunch of wax flowers; a vertikow, decorated with shells and grasses,
stood cornerwise beside the sofa; and, at the door, rose white and
gaunt a monumental Berlin stove. But, in addition to this, which was DE
RIGUEUR, there were personal touches: on the walls, besides the usual
group of family photographs, in oval frames, hung the copy of a Madonna
by Gabriel Max, two etchings after Defregger, several large
group-photographs of Schwarz's classes in different years, a framed
concert programme, yellow with age, and a silhouette of Schumann. Over
one of the doors hung a withered laurelwreath of imposing dimensions,
and with faded silken ends, on which the inscription was still legible:
DEM GROSSEN KUNSTLER, JOHANNES SCHWARZ!--Open on a chair, with an
embroidered book-marker between its pages, lay ATTA TROLL; and by the
stove, a battered wooden doll sat against the wall, in a relaxed
attitude, with a set leer on its painted face.

Maurice waited, in growing embarrassment. He had unconsciously fixed
his eyes on the doll; and, in the dead silence of the house, the
senseless face of the creature ruffled his nerves; crossing the room,
he knocked it over with his foot, so that its head fell with a bump on
the parquet floor, where it lay in a still more tipsy position. There
was no doubt that he had arrived at a most inopportune moment; it
seemed, too, as if the servant had forgotten even to announce him.

On cautiously opening the door, with the idea of slipping away, he
heard a child screaming in a distant room, and the mother's voice sharp
in rebuke. The servant was clattering pots and pans in the kitchen, but
she heard Maurice, and put her head out of the door. Her face was red
and swollen with crying.

"What!--you still here?" she said rudely. "I'd forgotten all about you."

"It doesn't matter--another time," murmured Maurice.

But the girl had spoken in a loud voice to make herself heard above the
screaming, which was increasing in volume, and, at her words, a door at
the end of the passage, and facing down it, was opened by about an
inch, and Frau Schwarz peered through the slit.

"Who is it?"

The servant tossed her head, and made no reply. She went back into her
kitchen, and, after a brief absence, during which Frau Schwarz
continued surreptitiously to scrutinise Maurice, came out carrying a
large plateful of BERLINER PFANNKUCHEN. With these she crossed to an
opposite room, and, as she there planked the plate down on the table,
she announced the visitor. A surly voice muttered something in reply.
As, however, the girl insisted in her sulky way, on the length of time
the young man had waited, Schwarz called out stridently: "Well, then,
in God's name, let him come in! And Klara, you tell my wife, if that
noise isn't stopped, I'll throw either her or you downstairs."

Klara appeared again, scarlet with anger, jerked her arm at Maurice, to
signify that he might do the rest for himself, and, retreating into her
kitchen, slammed the door. Left thus, with no alternative, Maurice drew
his heels together, gave the customary rap, and went into the room.

Schwarz was sitting at the table with his head on his hand, tracing the
pattern of the cloth with the blade of his knife. A coffee-service
stood on a tray before him; he had just refilled his cup, and helped
himself from the dish of PFANNKUCHEN, which, freshly baked, sent an
inviting odour through the room. He hardly looked up on Maurice's
entrance, and cut short the young man's apologetic beginnings.

"Well, what is it? What brings you here?"

As Maurice hesitated before the difficulty of plunging offhand into the
object of his visit, Schwarz pointed with his knife at a chair: he
could not speak, for he had just put the best part of a PFANNKUCHEN in
his mouth, and was chewing hard. Maurice sat down, and holding his hat
by the brim, proceeded to explain that he had called on a small
personal matter, which would not occupy more than a minute of the
master's time.

"It's in connection with last night that I wished to speak to you, Herr
Professor," he said: the title, which was not Schwarz's by right, he
knew to be a sop. "I should be much obliged to you if you would give me
your candid opinion of my playing. It's not easy to judge
oneself--although I must say, both at the time, and afterwards, I was
not too well pleased with what I had done--that is to say ..."

"WIE? WAS?" cried Schwarz, and threw a hasty glance at his pupil, while
he helped himself anew from the dish.

Maurice uncrossed his legs, and crossed them again, the same one up.

"My time here comes to an end at Easter, Herr Professor. And it's
important for me to learn what you think of the progress I have made
since being with you. I don't know why," he added less surely, "but of
late I haven't felt satisfied with myself. I seem to have got a certain
length and to have stuck there. I should like to know if you have
noticed it, too. If so, does the fault lie with my want of talent, or--"

"Or with ME, perhaps?" broke in Schwarz, who had with difficulty thus
far restrained himself. He laughed offensively. "With ME--eh?" He
struck himself on the chest, several times in succession, with the
butt-end of his knife, that there might be no doubt to whom he
referred. "Upon my soul, what next I wonder!--what next!" He ceased to
laugh, and grew ungovernably angry. "What the devil do you mean by it?
Do you think I've nothing better to do, at the end of a hard day's
work, than to sit here and give candid opinions, and discuss the
progress made by each strummer who comes to me twice a week for a
lesson? Oho, if you are of that opinion, you may disabuse your mind of
it! I'm at your service on Tuesday and Friday afternoon, when I am paid
to be; otherwise, my time is my own."

He laid two of the cakes on top of each other, sliced them through, and
put one of the pieces thus obtained in his mouth. Maurice had risen,
and stood waiting for the breathing-space into which he could thrust
words of apology.

"I beg your pardon, Herr Professor," he now began. "You misunderstand
me. Nothing was further from my mind than----"

But Schwarz had not finished speaking; he rapped the table with his
knife-handle, and, working himself up to a white heat, continued: "But
plain and plump, I'll tell you this, Herr Guest"--he pronounced it
"Gvest." "If you are not satisfied with me, and my teaching, you're at
liberty to try some one else. If this is a preliminary to inscribing
yourself under that miserable humbug, that wretched charlatan, who
pretends to teach the piano, do it, and have done with it! No one will
hinder you--certainly not I. You're under no necessity to come here
beforehand, and apologise, and give your reasons--none of the others
did. Slink off like them, without a word! it's the more decent way in
the long run. They at least knew they were behaving like blackguards."

"You have completely misunderstood me, Herr Schwarz. If you will give
me a moment to explain----"

But Schwarz was in no mood for explanations; he went on again, paying
no heed to Maurice's interruption.

"Who wouldn't rather break stones by the roadside than be a teacher?"
he asked, and sliced and ate, sliced and ate. "Look at the years of
labour I have behind me--twenty and more!--in which I've toiled to the
best of my ability, eight and nine hours, day after day, and eternally
for ends that weren't my own!--And what return do I get for it? A
new-comer only needs to wave a red flag before them, and all alike rush
blindly to him. A pupil of Liszt?--bah! Who was Liszt? A barrel-organ
of execution; a perverter of taste; a worthy ally of that upstart who
ruined melody, harmony, and form. Don't talk to me of Liszt!"

He spoke in spurts, blusteringly, but indistinctly, owing to the
fullness of his mouth.

"But I'm not to be imposed on. I know their tricks. Haven't I myself
had pupils turn to me from Bulow and Rubinstein? Is that not proof
enough? Would they have come if they hadn't known what my method was
worth? And I took them, and spared no pains to make something of them.
Haven't I a right to expect some gratitude from them in
return?--Gratitude? Such a thing doesn't exist; it's a word without
meaning, a puffing of the air. Look at him for whom I did more than for
all the rest. Did I take a pfennig from him in payment?--when I saw
that he had talent? Not I! And I did it all. When he came to me, he
couldn't play a scale. I gave him extra lessons without charge, I put
pupils in his way, I got him scholarships, I enabled him to support his
family--they would have been beggars in the street, but for me. And now
soon will be! Yes, I have had his mother here, weeping at my feet,
imploring me to reason with him and bring him back to his senses. SHE
sees where his infamy will land them. But I? I snap my fingers in his
face. He has sown, and he shall reap his sowing.--But the day will
come, I know it, when he will return to me, and all the rest will
follow him, like the sheep they are. Let them come! They'll see then
whether I have need of them or not. They'll see then what they were
worth to me. For I can produce others others, I say!--who will put him
and his fellows out of the running. Do they think I'm done for, because
of this? I'll show them the contrary. I'll show them! Why, I set no
more store by the lot of you than I do by this plate of cakes!"

Again he ate voraciously, and for a few moments, the noise his jaws
made in working was the only sound in the room. Maurice stood in the
same attitude, with his hat in his hand.

"I regret more than I can express, having been the cause of annoying
you, Herr Professor," he said at length with stiff formality. "But I
should like to repeat, once more, that my only object in coming here
was to speak to you about last night. I felt dissatisfied with myself
and ..."

"Dissatisfied?" echoed Schwarz, bringing his jaws together with a snap.
"And what business of yours is it to feel dissatisfied, I'd like to
know? Leave that to me! You'll hear soon enough, I warrant you, when I
have reason to be dissatisfied. Until then, do me the pleasure of
minding your own business."

"Excuse me," said Maurice with warmth, "if this isn't my own business!
... As I see it, it's nobody's but mine. And it seemed to me natural to
appeal to you, as the only person who could decide for me whether I
should have anything further to do with art, or whether I should throw
it up altogether."

Schwarz, who was sometimes not averse to a spirited opposition, caught
at the one unlucky word on which he could hang his scorn.

"ART!" he repeated with jocose emphasis--he had finished the plate of
cakes, risen from the table, and was picking teeth at the window.
"Art!--pooh, pooh!--what's art got to do with it? In your place, I
should avoid taking such highflown words on my tongue. Call it
something else. Do you think it makes a jot of difference whether you
call it art or ... pludderdump? Not so much"--and he snapped his
fingers--"will be changed, though you never call it anything!
Vanity!--it's nothing but vanity! A set of raw youths inflate
themselves like frogs, and have opinions on art, as on what they have
eaten for their dinner.--Do your work and hold your tongue! A scale
well played is worth all the words that were ever said--and that, the
majority of you can't do."

He closed his toothpick with a snap, spat dexterously at a spittoon
which stood in a corner of the room, and the interview was over.

As Maurice descended the spiral stair, he said to himself that, no
matter how long he remained in Leipzig, he would never trouble Schwarz
with his presence again. The man was a loose-mouthed bully. But in
future he might seek out others to be the butt of his clumsy wit. He,
Maurice, was too good for that.--And squaring his shoulders, he walked
erectly down the street, and across the JOHANNAPARK.

But none the less, he did not go straight home. For, below the comedy
of intolerance at which he was playing, lurked, as he well knew, the
consciousness that his true impression of the past hour had still to be
faced. He might postpone doing this; he could not shirk it. It was all
very well: he might repeat to himself that he had happened on Schwarz
at an inopportune moment. That did not count. For him, Maurice, the
opportune moment simply did not exist; he was one of those people who
are always inopportune, come and go as they will. He might have waited
for days; he would never have caught Schwarz in the right mood, or in
the nick of time. How he envied those fortunate mortals who always
arrived at the right moment, and instinctively said the right thing!
That talent had never been his. With him it was blunder.

One thing, though, that still perplexed him, was that not once, since
he had been in Leipzig, had he caught a glimpse of that native goodness
of heart, for which he had heard Schwarz lauded. The master had done
his duty by him--nothing more. Neither had had any personal feeling for
the other; and the words Schwarz had used this afternoon had only been
the outcome of a long period of reserve, even of distrust. At this
moment, when he was inclined to take the onus of the misunderstanding
on his own shoulders, Maurice admitted, besides his constant
preoccupation--or possibly just because of it--an innate lack of
sympathy in himself, an inability, either of heart or of imagination,
to project himself into the lives and feelings of people he did not
greatly care for. Otherwise, he would not have gone to Schwarz on such
an errand as today's; he would have remembered that the master was
likely to be sore and suspicious. And, from now on, things would be
worse instead of better. Schwarz had no doubt been left under the
impression that Maurice had wished to complain of his teaching; and
impressions of this nature were difficult to erase.

There was nothing to be done, however, but to plod along in the
familiar rut. He must stomach aspersions and injuries, behave as if
nothing had happened. His first hot intention of turning his back on
Schwarz soon yielded to more worldly-wise thoughts. Every practical
consideration was against it. He might avenge himself, if he liked, by
running to the rival teacher like a crossed child; Schrievers would
undoubtedly receive him with open arms, and promise him all he asked.
But what could he hope to accomplish, under a complete change of
method, in the few months that were left? He would also have to forfeit
his fees for the coming term, which were already paid. Schrievers'
lessons were expensive, and out of the small sum that remained to him
to live on, it would be impossible to take more than half a dozen.
Another than he might have appealed to Schrievers' satisfaction in
securing a fresh convert; but Maurice had learnt too thoroughly by now,
that he was not one of those happy exceptions--exceptions by reason of
their talent or their temperament--to whom a master was willing to
devote his time free of charge.

Over these reflections night had fallen; and rising, he walked speedily
back by the dark wood-paths. But before he reached the meadows, from
which he could see lights blinking in the scattered villas, his steps
had lagged again. His discouragement had nothing chimerical in it at
this moment; it was part and parcel of himself.--The night was both
chilly and misty, and it was late. But a painful impression of the
previous evening lingered in his mind. Louise would be annoyed with him
for keeping her waiting; and he shrank, in advance, from the thought of
another disagreeable scene. He was not in the mood to-night, to soothe
and console.

As he entered the MOZARTSTRASSE, he saw that there was a light in
Madeleine's window. She was at home, then. He imagined her sitting
quiet and busy in her pleasant room, which, except for the ring of
lamplight, was sunk in peaceful shadow. This was what he needed: an
hour's rest, dim light, and Madeleine's sympathetic tact.

Without giving himself time for thought, he mounted the stair and
pressed the bell-knob on the third floor.

On seeing who her visitor was, Madeleine rose with alacrity from the
writing-table.

"Maurice! Is it really you?"

"I was passing. I thought I would run up ... you're surprised to see
me?"

"Oh, well--you're a stranger now, you know."

She was vexed with herself for showing astonishment. Moving some books,
she made room for him to sit down on the sofa, and, as he was moody,
and seemed in no hurry to state why he had come, she asked if she might
finish the letter she was writing.

"Make yourself comfortable. Here's a cushion for your head."

Through half-closed eyes, he watched her hand travelling across the
sheet of note-paper, and returning at regular intervals, with a sure
swoop, to begin a fresh line. There was no sound except the gentle
scratching of her pen.

Madeleine did not look up till she had finished her letter and
addressed the envelope. Maurice had shut his eyes.

"Are you asleep?" she roused him. "Or only tired?"

"I've a headache."

"I'll make you some tea."

He watched her preparing it, and, by the time she handed him his cup,
he was in the right mood for making her his confidant.

"Look here, Madeleine," he said; "I came up to-night--The fact is, I've
done a foolish thing. And I want to talk to some one about it."

Her eyes grew more alert.

"Let me see if I can help you."

He shook his head. "I'm afraid you can't. But first of all, tell me
frankly, how you thought I got on last night."

"How you got on?" echoed Madeleine, unclear what this was to lead to.
"Why, all right, of course.--Oh, well, if you insist on the truth!--The
fact is, Maurice, you did no better and no worse than the majority of
those who fill the ABEND programmes. What you didn't do, was to reach
the standard your friends had set up for you."

"Thanks. Now listen," and he related to her in detail his misadventure
of the afternoon.

Madeleine followed with close attention. But more distinctly than what
he said, she heard what he did not say. His account of the two last
days, with the unintentional sidelight it threw on just those parts he
wished to keep in darkness, made her aware how complicated and involved
his life had become. But before he finished speaking, she brought all
her practical intelligence to bear on what he said.

"Maurice!" she exclaimed, with a consternation that was three parts
genuine. "I should like to shake you. How COULD you!--what induced you
to do such a foolish thing?" And, as he did not speak: "If only you had
come to me before, instead of after! I should have said: hold what
ridiculous opinions you like yourself, but for goodness' sake keep
clear of Schwarz with them. Yes, ridiculous, and offensive, too. Anyone
would have taken your talk about being dissatisfied just as he did. And
after the way he has been treated of late, he's of course doubly
touchy."

"I knew that, when it was too late. But I meant merely to speak
straight out to him, Madeleine--one man to another. You surely don't
want to say he's incapable of allowing one to have an independent
opinion? If that's the case, then he's nothing but the wretched little
tyrant Heinz declares him to be."

"Wait till you have taught as long as he has," said Madeleine, and, at
his muttered: "God forbid!" she continued with more warmth: "You'll
know then, too, that it doesn't matter whether your pupils have
opinions or not. He has seen this kind of thing scores of times before,
and knows it must be kept down."

She paused, and looked at him. "To get on in life, one must have a
certain amount of tact. You are too naive, Maurice, too
unsuspecting--one of those people who would like to carry on social
intercourse on a basis of absolute truth, and then be surprised that it
came to an end. You are altogether a very difficult person to deal
with. You are either too candid, or too reserved. There's no middle way
in you. I haven't the least doubt that Schwarz finds you both
perplexing and irritating; he takes the candour for impertinence, and
the reserve for distrust."

Maurice smiled faintly. "Go on--don't spare me. No one ever troubled
before to tell me my failings."

"Oh, I'm quite in earnest. As I look at it, it's entirely your own
fault that you don't stand better with Schwarz. You have never
condescended to humour him, as you ought to have done. You thought it
was enough to be truthful and honest, and to leave the rest to him.
Well, it wasn't. I won't hear a word against Schwarz; he's goodness
itself to those who deserve it. A little bluff and rude at times; but
he's too busy to go about in kid gloves for fear of hurting sensitive
people's feelings."

"Why did you never take private lessons from him?" was her next
question. "I told you months ago, you remember, that you ought to.--Oh,
yes, you said they were too expensive, I know, but you could have
scraped a few marks together somehow. You managed to buy books, and
books were quite unnecessary. One lesson a fortnight would have brought
you' more into touch with Schwarz than all you have had in the class.
As it is, you don't know him any better than he knows you." And as she
refilled his tea-cup, she added: "You quoted Heinz to me just now. But
you and I can't afford to measure people by the same standards as
Heinz. We are everyday mortals, remember.--Besides, in all that counts,
he is not worth Schwarz's little finger."

"You're a warm advocate, Madeleine."

"Yes, and I've reason to be. No one here has been as kind to me as
Schwarz. I came, a complete stranger, and with not more than ordinary
talent. But I went to him, and told him frankly what I wanted to do,
how long I could stay, and how much money I had to spend. He helped me
and advised me. He has let me study what will be of most use to me
afterwards, and he takes as much interest in my future as I do myself.
How can I speak anything but well of him?--What I certainly didn't do,
was to go to him and talk ambiguously about feeling dissatisfied with
him ..."

"With myself, Madeleine. Haven't I made that clear?"

But Madeleine only sniffed.

"Well, it's over and done with now," she said after a pause. "And
talking about it won't mend it.--Tell me, rather, what you intend to
do. What are your plans?"

"Plans? I don't know. I haven't any. Sufficient unto the day, etc."

But of this she disapproved with open scorn. "Rubbish! When your time
here is all but up! And no plans!--One thing, I can tell you anyhow,
is, after to-day you needn't rely on Schwarz for assistance. You've
spoilt your chances with him. The only way of repairing the mischief
would be the lesson I spoke of--one a week as long as you re here."

"I couldn't afford it."

"No, I suppose not," she said sarcastically, and tore a piece of paper
that came under her fingers into narrow strips. "Tell me," she added a
moment later, in a changed tone: "where do you intend to settle when
you return to England? And have you begun to think of advertising
yourself yet?"

He waved his hand before his face as if he were chasing away a fly.
"For God's sake, Madeleine! ... these alluring prospects!"

"Pray, what else do you expect to do?"

"Well, the truth is, I ... I'm not going back to England at all. I mean
to settle here."

Madeleine repressed the exclamation that rose to her lips, and stooped
to brush something off the skirt of her dress. Her face was red when
she raised it. She needed no further telling; she understood what his
words implied as clearly as though it were printed black on white
before her. But she spoke in a casual tone.

"However are you going to make that possible?"

He endeavoured to explain.

"I don't envy you," she said drily, when he had finished. "You hardly
realise what lies before you, I think. There are people here who are
glad to get fifty pfennigs an hour, for piano lessons. Think of
plodding up and down stairs, all day long, for fifty pfennigs an hour!"

He was silent.

"While in England, with a little tact and patience, you would soon have
more pupils than you could take at five shillings."

"Tact and patience mean push and a thick skin. But don't worry! I shall
get on all right. And if I don't--life's short, you know."

"But you are just at: the beginning of it--and ridiculously young at
that! Good Heavens, Maurice!" she burst out, unable to contain herself.
"Can't you see that after you've been at home again for a little while,
things that have seemed so important here will have shrunk into their
right places? You'll be glad to have done with them then, when you are
in orderly circumstances again."

"I'm afraid not," answered the young man. "I'm not a good forgetter."

"A good forgetter!" repeated Madeleine, and laughed sarcastically. She
was going on to say more, but, just at this moment, a clock outside
struck ten, and Maurice sprang to his feet.

"So late already? I'd no idea. I must be off."

She stood by, and watched him look for his hat.

"Here it is." She picked it up, and handed it to him, with an
emphasised want of haste.

"Good night, Madeleine. Thanks for the truth. I knew I could depend on
you."

"It was well meant. And the truth is always beneficial, you know. Good
night.--Come again, soon."

He heard her last words half-way down the stairs, which he took two at
a time.

The hour he had now to face was a painful ending to an unpleasant day.
It was not merely the fact that he had kept Louise waiting, in aching
suspense, for several hours. It now came out that, after their
disagreement of the previous night, she had confidently expected him to
return to her early in the day, had expected contrition and atonement.
That he had not even suspected this made her doubly bitter against him.
In vain he tried to excuse himself, to offer explanations. She would
not listen to him, nor would she let him touch her. She tore her dress
from between his fingers, brushed his hand off her arm; and, retreating
into a corner of the room, where she stood like an animal at bay, she
poured out over him her accumulated resentment. All she had ever
suffered at his hands, all the infinitesimal differences there had been
between them, from the beginning, the fine points in which he had
failed--things of which he had no knowledge--all these were raked up
and cast at him till, numb with pain, he lost even the wish to comfort
her. Sitting down at the table, he laid his head on his folded arms.

At his feet were the fragments of the little clock, which, in her anger
at his desertion of her, she had trodden to pieces.



VI.


Their first business the next morning was to buy another clock. By
daylight, Louise was full of remorse at what she had done, and in
passing the writing-table, averted her eyes. They went out early to a
shop in the GRIMMAISCHESTRASSE; and Maurice stood by and watched her
make her choice.

She loved to buy, and entered into the purchase with leisurely
enjoyment. The shopman and his assistant spared themselves no trouble
in fetching and setting out their wares. Louise handled each clock as
it was put before her, discussed the merits of different styles, and a
faint colour mounted to her cheeks over the difficulty of deciding
between two which she liked equally well. She had pushed up her veil;
it swathed her forehead like an Eastern woman's. Her eagerness, which
was expressed in a slight unsteadiness of nostril and lip, would have
had something childish in it, had it not been for her eyes. They
remained heavy and unsmiling; and the disquieting half-rings below them
were more bluely brown than ever. Leaning sideways against the counter,
Maurice looked away from them to her hands; her fingers were entirely
without ornament, and he would have liked to load them with rings. As
it was, he could not even pay for the clock she chose; it cost more
than he had to spend in a month.

In the street again, she said she was hungry, and, glad to be able to
add his mite to her pleasure, he took her by the arm and steered her to
the CAFE FRANCAIS, where they had coffee and ices. The church-steeples
were booming eleven when they emerged; it did not seem worth while
going home and settling down to work. Instead, they went to the
ROSENTAL.

It was a brilliant autumn day, rich in light and shade, and there was
only a breath abroad of the racy freshness that meant subsequent decay.
The leaves were turning red and orange, but had not begun to fall; the
sky was deeply blue; outlines were sharp and precise. They were both in
a mood this morning to be susceptible to their surroundings; they were
even eager to be affected by them, and made happy. The disagreements of
the two preceding nights were like bad dreams, which they were anxious
to forget, or at least to avoid thinking of. Her painful, unreasonable
treatment of him, the evening before, had not been touched on between
them; after his incoherent attempts to justify himself, after his
bitter self-reproaches, when she lay sobbing in his arms, they had
both, with one accord, been silent. Neither of them felt any desire for
open-hearted explanations; they were careful not to stir up the depths
anew. Louise was very quiet; had it not been for her eyes, he might
have believed her happy. But here, just as an hour before in the
watchmaker's shop, they brooded, unable to forget. And yet there was a
pliancy about her this morning, a readiness to meet his wishes, which,
as he walked at her side, made him almost content. The old, foolish
dreams awoke in him again, and vistas opened, of a gentle comradeship,
which might still come true, when the strenuous side of her love for
him had worn itself out. If only an hour like the present could have
lasted indefinitely!

It was a happy morning. They ended it with an improvised lunch at the
KAISERPARK; and it remained imprinted on their minds as an unexpected
patch of colour, in an unending row of grey days, given up to duty.

The next one, and the next again, Louise continued in the same yielding
mood, which was wholly different from the emotional expansiveness of
the past weeks. Maurice took a glad advantage of her willingness to
please him, and they had several pleasant walks together: to Napoleon's
battlefields; along the GRUNE GASSE and the POETENWEG to Schiller's
house at Gohlis; and into the heart of the ROSENTAL--DAS WILDE
ROSENTAL--where it was very solitary, and where the great trees seemed
to stagger under their load of stained leaves.

A burst of almost July radiance occurred at this time; and one day,
Louise expressed a wish to go to the country, in order that, by once
more being together for a whole day on end, they might relive in fancy
the happy weeks they had spent on the Rochlitzer Berg. It was never her
way to urge over-much, which made it hard to refuse her; so it was
arranged that they should set off betimes the following Saturday.

Maurice had his reward in the cry of pleasure she gave when he wakened
her to tell her that it was a fine day.

"Get up, dear! It's less than an hour till the train goes."

For the first time for weeks, Louise was her impetuous self again. She
threw things topsy-turvy in the room. It was he who drew her attention
to an unfastened hook, and an unbound ribbon. She only pressed forward.

"Make haste!--oh, make haste! We shall be late."

An overpowering smell of newly-baked rolls issued from the bakers'
shops, and the errand-boys were starting out with their baskets. Women
and house-porters were coming out to wash pavements and entrances: the
collective life of the town was waking up to another uneventful day;
but they two were hastening off to long hours of sunlight and fresh
air, unhampered by the passing of time, or by fallacious ideas of duty;
were setting out for a new bit of world, to strange meals taken in
strange places, reached by white roads, or sequestered wood-paths. In
the train, they were crushed between the baskets of the marketwomen,
who were journeying from one village to another. These sat with their
wizened hands clasped on their high stomachs, or on the handles of
their baskets, and stared, like stupid, placid animals, at the strange
young foreign couple before them. Partly for the frolic of astonishing
them, and also because he was happy at seeing Louise so happy, Maurice
kissed her hand; but it was she who astonished them most. When she gave
a cry, or used her hands with a sudden, vivid effect, or flashed her
white teeth in a smile, every head in the carriage was turned towards
her; and when, in addition, she was overtaken by a fit of loquacity,
she was well-nigh devoured by eyes.

They did not travel as far as they had intended. From the carriage
window, she saw a wayside place that took her fancy.

"Here, Maurice; let us get out here."

Having breakfasted, and left their bags at an inn, they strayed at
random along an inviting road lined with apple-trees. When Louise grew
tired, they rested in the arbour of a primitive GASTHAUS, and ate their
midday meal. Afterwards, in a wood, he spread a rug for her, and she
lay in a nest of sun-spots. Only their own voices broke the silence.
Then she fell asleep, and, until she opened her eyes again, and called
to him in surprise, no sound was to be heard but the sudden, crisp
rustling of some bird or insect. When evening fell, they returned to
their lodging, ate their supper in the smoky public room--for, outside,
mists had risen--and then before them stretched, undisturbed, the long
evening and the longer night, to be spent in a strange room, of which
they had hitherto not suspected the existence, but which, from now on,
would be indissolubly bound up with their other memories.

The first day passed in such a manner was as flawless as any they had
known in the height of summer--with all the added attractions of closer
intimacy. In its course, the shadows lifted from her eyes; and Maurice
ceased to remember that he had made a mess of his affairs. But the very
next one failed--as far as Louise was concerned--to reach the same
level: it was like a flower ever so slightly overblown. The lyric
charms that had so pleased her--the dewy freshness of the morning, the
solitude, the unbroken sunshine--were frail things, and, snatched with
too eager a hand, crumbled beneath the touch. They were not made to
stand the wear and tear of repetition. It was also impossible, she
found, to live through again days such as they had spent at Rochlitz;
time past was past irrevocably, with all that belonged to it. And it
was further, a mistake to believe that a more intimate acquaintance
meant a keener pleasure; it was just the stimulus of strangeness, the
piquancy of feeling one's way, that had made up half the fascination of
the summer.

With sure instinct, Louise recognised this, even while she exclaimed
with delight. And her heart sank: not until this moment had she known
how high her hopes had been, how firmly she had pinned her faith upon
the revival of passion which these days were to bring to pass. The
knowledge that this had been a delusion, was hard to bear. In thought,
she was merciless to herself, when, on waking, the second morning, she
looked with unexpectant eyes over the day that lay before her. Could
nothing satisfy her, she asked herself? Could she not be content for
twenty-four hours on end? Was it eternally her lot to come to the end
of things, before they had properly begun? It seemed, always, as if she
alone must be pressing forward, without rest. Here, on the second of
these days of love and sunshine, she saw, with absolute clearness, that
neither this nor any other day had anything extraordinary to give her;
and sitting silent at dinner, under an arbour of highly-coloured
creeper, she was overcome by such a laming discouragement, that she
laid her knife and fork down, and could eat no more.

Maurice, watching her across the table, believed that she was
over-tired, and filled up her glass with wine.

But she did not yield without a struggle. And it was not merely
rebellion against the defects of her own nature, which prompted her.
The prospect of the coming months filled her with dismay. When this
last brief spell of pleasure was over, there was nothing left, to which
she could look forward. The approaching winter stretched before her
like a starless night; she was afraid to let her mind dwell on it. What
was she to do?--what was to become of her, when the short dark days
came down again, and shut her in? The thought of it almost drove her
mad. Desperate with fear, she shut her eyes and went blindly forward,
determined to extract every particle of pleasure, or, at least, of
oblivion, that the present offered.

Under these circumstances, the poor human element in their relations
became once again, and more than ever before, the pivot on which their
lives turned. Louise aimed deliberately at bringing this about.
Further, she did what she had never yet done: she brought to bear on
their intercourse all her own hardwon knowledge, and all her arts. She
drew from her store of experience those trifling, yet weighty details,
which, once she has learned them, a woman never forgets. And, in
addition to this, she took advantage of the circumstances in which they
found themselves, utilising to the full the stimulus of strange times
and places: she fired the excitement that lurked in surreptitious
embrace and surrender, under all the dangers of a possible surprise.
She was perverse and capricious; she would turn away from him till she
reduced him to despair; then to yield suddenly, with a completeness
that threatened to undo them both. Her devices were never-ending. Not
that they were necessary: for he was helpless in her hands when she
assumed the mastery. But she could not afford to omit one of the means
to her end, for she had herself to lash as well as him. And so, once
more, as at the very beginning, hand grew to be a weight in hand,
something alive, electric; and any chance contact might rouse a blast
in them. She neither asked nor Showed mercy. Drop by drop, they drained
each other of vitality, two sufferers, yet each thirsty for the other's
life-blood; for, with this new attitude on her part, an element of
cruelty had entered into their love. When, with her hands on his
shoulders, her insatiable lips apart, Louise put back her head and
looked at him, Maurice was acutely aware of the hostile feeling in her.
But he, too, knew what it was; for, when he tried to urge prudence on
her, she only laughed at him; and this low, reckless laugh, her savage
eyes, and morbid pallor, invariably took from him every jot of concern.

They returned to Leipzig towards the middle of the first week, in order
not to make their absence too conspicuous. But they had arranged to go
away again, on the following Saturday, and, in the present state of
things, the few intervening days seemed endless. Louise shut herself
up, and would see little of him.

The next week, and the next again, were spent in the same fashion. A
fine and mild October ran its course. For the fourth journey, towards
the end of the month, they had planned to return to Rochlitz. At the
last moment, however, Maurice opposed the scheme, and they left the
train at Grimma. It was Friday, and a superb autumn day. They put up,
not in the town itself, but at an inn about a mile and a half distant
from it. This stood on the edge of a wood, was a favourite summer
resort, and had lately been enlarged by an additional wing. Now, it was
empty of guests save themselves. They occupied a large room in the new
part of the building, at the end of a long corridor, which was shut off
by a door from the rest of the house. They were utterly alone; there
was no need for them even to moderate their voices. In the early
morning hours, and on the journey there, Maurice had thought he noticed
something unusual about Louise, and, more than once, he had asked her
if her head ached. But soon he forgot his solicitude.

Next morning, he felt an irresistible inclination to go out: opening
the window, he leaned on the sill. A fresh, pleasant breeze was
blowing; it bent the tops of the pines, and drove the white clouds
smoothly over the sky. He suggested that they should walk to the ruined
cloister of Nimbschen; but Louise responded very languidly, and he had
to coax and persuade. By the time she was ready to leave the untidy
room, the morning was more than half over, and the shifting clouds had
balled themselves into masses. Before the two emerged from the wood, an
even network of cloud had been drawn over the whole sky; it looked like
rain.

They walked as usual in silence, little or nothing being left to say,
that seemed worth the exertion of speech. Each step cost Louise a
visible effort; her arms hung slack at her sides; her very hands felt
heavy. The pallor of her face had a greyish tinge in it. Maurice began
to regret having hurried her out against her will.

They were on a narrow path skirting a wood, when she suddenly expressed
a wish for some tall bulrushes that grew beside a stream, some distance
below. Maurice went down to the edge of the water and began to cut the
rushes. But the ground was marshy, and the finest were beyond his reach.

On the path at the top of the bank, Louise stood and followed his
movements. She watched his ineffectual efforts to seize the further
reeds, saw how they slipped back from between his hands; she watched
him take out his knife and open it, endeavour once more to reach those
he wanted, and, still unsuccessful, choose a dry spot to sit down on;
saw him take off his boots and stockings, then rise and go cautiously
out on the soft ground. Ages seemed to pass while she watched him do
these trivial things; she felt as if she were gradually turning to
stone as she stood. How long he was about it! How deliberately he
moved! And she had the odd sensation, too, that she knew beforehand
everything he would and would not do, just as if she had experienced it
already. His movements were of an impossible circumstantiality, out of
all proportion to the trifling service she had asked of him; for, at
heart, she cared as little about the rushes as about anything else. But
it was an unfortunate habit of his, and one she noticed more and more
as time went on, to make much of paltry details, which, properly,
should have been dismissed without a second thought. It implied a
certain tactlessness, to underline the obvious in this fashion. The
very way, for instance, he stretched out his arm, unclasped his knife,
leant forward, and then stooped back to lay the cut reeds on the bank.
Oh, she was tired!--tired to exasperation!--of his ways and actions--as
tired as she was of his words, and of the thousand and one occurrences,
daily repeated, that made up their lives. She would have liked to creep
away, to hide herself in an utter seclusion; while, instead, it was her
lot to assist, hour after hour, at making much of what, in the depths
of her soul, did not concern her at all. Nothing, she felt, would ever
really concern her again. She gazed fixedly before her, at him, too,
but without seeing him, till her sight was blurred; trees and sky,
stream and rushes, swam together in a formless maze. And all of a
sudden, while she was still blind, there ran through her such an
intense feeling of aversion, such a complete satedness with all she had
of late felt and known, that she involuntarily took a step backwards,
and pressed her palms together, in order to hinder herself from
screaming aloud. She could bear it no longer. In a flash, she grasped
that she was unable, utterly unable, to face the day that was before
her. She knew in advance every word, every look and embrace that it
held for her: rather than undergo them afresh, she would throw herself
into the water at her feet. Anywhere, anywhere!--only to get away, to
be alone, to cover her face and see no more! Her hand went to her
throat; her breath refused to come; she shivered so violently that she
was afraid she would fall to the ground.

Maurice, all unsuspecting, sat with his back to her, and laced his
boots.

But he was startled into an exclamation, when he climbed the bank and
saw the state she was in.

"Louise! Good Heavens, what's the matter? Are you ill?"

He took her by the arm, and shook her a little, to arrest her attention.

"Maurice! ... no!" Her voice was hoarse. "Oh, let me go home!"

He repeated the words in amazed alarm. "But what is it, darling? Are
you ill? Are you cold?--that you're trembling like this?"

"No ... yes. Oh, I want to go home!--back to Leipzig."

"Why, of course, if you want to. At once."

The rushes lay forgotten on the ground. Without further words, they
hastened to the inn. There, Maurice helped her to throw her things into
the bag she had not wholly unpacked, and, having paid the bill, led
her, with the same feverish haste, through the woods and town to the
railway-station. He was full of distressed concern for her, but hardly
dared to show it, for, to all his questions, she only shook her head.
Walking at his side, she dug her nails into her palms till she felt the
blood come, in her effort to conceal and stifle the waves of almost
physical repugnance that passed through her, making it impossible for
her to bear even the touch of his hand. In the train, she leaned back
in the corner, and, shutting her eyes, pretended to be asleep.

They took a droschke home; the driver whipped up his horse; the
landlady was called in to make the first fire of the season. Louise
went to bed at once. She wanted nothing, she said, but to lie still in
the darkened room. He should go away; she preferred to be alone. No,
she was not ill, only tired, but so tired that she could not keep her
eyes open. She needed rest: tomorrow she would be all right again. He
should please, please, leave her, and go away. And, turning her face to
the wall, she drew the bedclothes over her head.

At his wits' end to know what it all meant, Maurice complied. But at
home in his room, he could settle to nothing; he trembled at every
footstep on the stair. No message came, however, and when he had seen
her again that evening, he felt more reassured.

"It's nothing--really nothing. I'm only tired ... yes, it was too much.
Just let me be, Maurice--till to-morrow." And she shut her eyes again,
and kept them shut, till she heard the door close behind him.

He was reassured, but still, for the greater part of the night, he lay
sleepless. He was always agitated anew by the abrupt way in which
Louise passed from mood to mood; but this was something different; he
could not understand it. In the morning, however, he saw things in a
less tragic light; and, on sitting down to the piano, he experienced
almost a sense of satisfaction at the prospect of an undisturbed day's
work.

Meanwhile Louise shrank, even in memory, from the feverish weeks just
past, as she had shrunk that day from his touch. And she struggled to
keep her thoughts from dwelling on them. But it was the first time in
her life that she felt a like shame and regret; and she could not rid
her mind of the haunting images. She knew the reason, too; darkness
brought the knowledge. She had believed, had wished to believe, that