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Title: Jean-Christophe, Volume I
Author: Rolland, Romain
Language: English
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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.

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JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VOLUME I

DAWN, MORNING, YOUTH, REVOLT

by Romain Rolland

Translated by Gilbert Cannan



PREFACE


"Jean-Christophe" is the history of the development of a musician of
genius. The present volume comprises the first four volumes of the original
French, viz.: "L'Aube," "Le Matin," "L'Adolescent," and "La Révólte," which
are designated in the translation as Part I--The Dawn; Part II--Morning;
Part III--Youth; Part IV--Revolt. Parts I and II carry Jean-Christophe from
the moment of his birth to the day when, after his first encounter with
Woman, at the age of fifteen, he falls back upon a Puritan creed. Parts
III and IV describe the succeeding five years of his life, when, at the
age of twenty, his sincerity, integrity, and unswerving honesty have made
existence impossible for him in the little Rhine town of his birth. An act
of open revolt against German militarism compels him to cross the frontier
and take refuge in Paris, and the remainder of this vast book is devoted to
the adventures of Jean-Christophe in France.

His creator has said that he has always conceived and thought of the life
of his hero and of the book as a river. So far as the book has a plan, that
is its plan. It has no literary artifice, no "plot." The words of it hang
together in defiance of syntax, just as the thoughts of it follow one on
the other in defiance of every system of philosophy. Every phase of the
book is pregnant with the next phase. It is as direct and simple as life
itself, for life is simple when the truth of it is known, as it was known
instinctively by Jean-Christophe. The river is explored as though it were
absolutely uncharted. Nothing that has ever been said or thought of life is
accepted without being brought to the test of Jean-Christophe's own life.
What is not true for him does not exist; and, as there are very few of
the processes of human growth or decay which are not analysed, there is
disclosed to the reader the most comprehensive survey of modern life which
has appeared in literature in this century.

To leave M. Rolland's simile of the river, and to take another, the book
has seemed to me like a, mighty bridge leading from the world of ideas of
the nineteenth century to the world of ideas of the twentieth. The whole
thought of the nineteenth century seems to be gathered together to make the
starting-point for Jean-Christophe's leap into the future. All that was
most religious in that thought seems to be concentrated in Jean-Christophe,
and when the history of the book is traced, it appears that M. Rolland has
it by direct inheritance.

M. Rolland was born in 1866 at Clamecy, in the center of France, of a
French family of pure descent, and educated in Paris and Rome. At Rome, in
1890, he met Malwida von Meysenburg, a German lady who had taken refuge
in England after the Revolution of 1848, and there knew Kossuth, Mazzini,
Herzen, Ledin, Rollin, and Louis Blanc. Later, in Italy, she counted among
her friends Wagner, Liszt, Lenbach, Nietzsche, Garibaldi, and Ibsen. She
died in 1908. Rolland came to her impregnated with Tolstoyan ideas, and
with her wide knowledge of men and movements she helped him to discover his
own ideas. In her "Mémoires d'une Idéaliste" she wrote of him: "In this
young Frenchman I discovered the same idealism, the same lofty aspiration,
the same profound grasp of every great intellectual manifestation that I
had already found in the greatest men of other nationalities."

The germ of "Jean-Christophe" was conceived during this period--the
"Wanderjahre"--of M. Rolland's life. On his return to Paris he became
associated with a movement towards the renascence of the theater as a
social machine, and wrote several plays. He has since been a musical critic
and a lecturer on music and art at the Sorbonne. He has written Lives of
Beethoven, Michael Angelo, and Hugo Wolf. Always his endeavor has been the
pursuit of the heroic. To him the great men are the men of absolute truth.
Jean-Christophe must have the truth and tell the truth, at all costs, in
despite of circumstance, in despite of himself, in despite even of life.
It is his law. It is M. Rolland's law. The struggle all through the book
is between the pure life of Jean-Christophe and the common acceptance of
the second-rate and the second-hand by the substitution of civic or social
morality, which is only a compromise, for individual morality, which
demands that every man should be delivered up to the unswerving judgment of
his own soul. Everywhere Jean-Christophe is hurled against compromise and
untruth, individual and national. He discovers the German lie very quickly;
the French lie grimaces at him as soon as he sets foot in Paris.

The book itself breaks down the frontier between France and Germany. If one
frontier is broken, all are broken. The truth about anything is universal
truth, and the experiences of Jean-Christophe, the adventures of his soul
(there are no other adventures), are in a greater or less degree those of
every human being who passes through this life from the tyranny of the past
to the service of the future.

The book contains a host of characters who become as friends, or, at least,
as interesting neighbors, to the reader. Jean-Christophe gathers people
in his progress, and as they are all brought to the test of his genius,
they appear clearly for what they are. Even the most unpleasant of them is
human, and demands sympathy.

The recognition of Jean-Christophe as a book which marks a stage in
progress was instantaneous in France. It is hardly possible yet to judge
it. It is impossible to deny its vitality. It exists. Christophe is as real
as the gentlemen whose portraits are posted outside the Queen's Hall, and
much more real than many of them. The book clears the air. An open mind
coming to it cannot fail to be refreshed and strengthened by its voyage
down the river of a man's life, and if the book is followed to its end, the
voyager will discover with Christophe that there is joy beneath sorrow, joy
through sorrow ("Durch Leiden Freude").

Those are the last words of M. Rolland's life of Beethoven; they are words
of Beethoven himself: "La devise de tout âme héroïque."

In his preface, "To the Friends of Christophe," which precedes the seventh
volume, "Dans la Maison," M. Rolland writes:

"I was isolated: like so many others in France I was stifling in a world
morally inimical to me: I wanted air: I wanted to react against an
unhealthy civilization, against ideas corrupted by a sham élite: I wanted
to say to them: 'You lie! You do not represent France!' To do so I needed a
hero with a pure heart and unclouded vision, whose soul would be stainless
enough for him to have the right to speak; one whose voice would be loud
enough for him to gain a hearing, I have patiently begotten this hero. The
work was in conception for many years before I set myself to write a word
of it. Christophe only set out on his journey when I had been able to see
the end of it for him."

If M. Rolland's act of faith in writing Jean-Christophe were only concerned
with France, if the polemic of it were not directed against a universal
evil, there would be no reason for translation. But, like Zarathustra, it
is a book for all and none. M. Rolland has written what he believes to be
the truth, and as Dr. Johnson observed: "Every man has a right to utter
what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for
it...."

By its truth and its absolute integrity--since Tolstoy I know of no
writing so crystal clear--"Jean-Christophe" is the first great book of the
twentieth century. In a sense it begins the twentieth century. It bridges
transition, and shows us where we stand. It reveals the past and the
present, and leaves the future open to us....

GILBERT CANNAN



CONTENTS


THE DAWN

  I
 II
III


MORNING

  I. THE DEATH OF JEAN MICHEL
 II. OTTO
III. MINNA


YOUTH

  I. THE HOUSE OF EULER
 II. SABINE
III. ADA


REVOLT

  I. SHIFTING SANDS
 II. ENGULFED
III. DELIVERANCE



THE DAWN

  Dianzi, nell'alba che precede al giorno,
  Quando l'anima tua dentro dormìa....
                                         _Purgatorio_, ix.



I

  Come, quando i vapori umidi e spessi
  A diradar cominciansi, la spera
  Del sol debilemente entra per essi....
                                         _Purgatorio_, xvii.

From behind the house rises the murmuring of the river. All day long the
rain has been beating against the window-panes; a stream of water trickles
down the window at the corner where it is broken. The yellowish light of
the day dies down. The room is dim and dull.

The new-born child stirs in his cradle. Although the old man left his
sabots at the door when he entered, his footsteps make the floor creak. The
child begins to whine. The mother leans out of her bed to comfort it; and
the grandfather gropes to light the lamp, so that the child shall not be
frightened by the night when he awakes. The flame of the lamp lights up old
Jean Michel's red face, with its rough white beard and morose expression
and quick eyes. He goes near the cradle. His cloak smells wet, and as he
walks he drags his large blue list slippers, Louisa signs to him not to go
too near. She is fair, almost white; her features are drawn; her gentle,
stupid face is marked with red in patches; her lips are pale and' swollen,
and they are parted in a timid smile; her eyes devour the child--and her
eyes are blue and vague; the pupils are small, but there is an infinite
tenderness in them.

The child wakes and cries, and his eyes are troubled. Oh! how terrible! The
darkness, the sudden flash of the lamp, the hallucinations of a mind as
yet hardly detached from chaos, the stifling, roaring night in which it is
enveloped, the illimitable gloom from which, like blinding shafts of light,
there emerge acute sensations, sorrows, phantoms--those enormous faces
leaning over him, those eyes that pierce through him, penetrating, are
beyond his comprehension!... He has not the strength to cry out; terror
holds him motionless, with eyes and mouth wide open and he rattles in his
throat. His large head, that seems to have swollen up, is wrinkled with the
grotesque and lamentable grimaces that he makes; the skin of his face and
hands is brown and purple, and spotted with yellow....

"Dear God!" said the old man with conviction: "How ugly he is!"

He put the lamp down on the table.

Louisa pouted like a scolded child. Jean Michel looked at her out of the
corner of his eye and laughed.

"You don't want me to say that he is beautiful? You would not believe it.
Come, it is not your fault. They are all like that."

The child came out of the stupor and immobility into which he had been
thrown by the light of the lamp and the eyes of the old man. He began to
cry. Perhaps he instinctively felt in his mother's eyes a caress which made
it possible for him to complain. She held out her arms for him and said:

"Give him to me."

The old man began, as usual, to air his theories:

"You ought not to give way to children when they cry. You must just let
them cry."

But he came and took the child and grumbled:

"I never saw one quite so ugly."

Louisa took the child feverishly and pressed it to her bosom. She looked at
it with a bashful and delighted smile.

"Oh, my poor child!" she said shamefacedly. "How ugly you are--how ugly!
and how I love you!"

Jean Michel went back to the fireside. He began to poke the fire in
protest, but a smile gave the lie to the moroseness and solemnity of his
expression.

"Good girl!" he said. "Don't worry about it. He has plenty of time to
alter. And even so, what does it matter? Only one thing is asked of him:
that he should grow into an honest man."

The child was comforted by contact with his mother's warm body. He could be
heard sucking her milk and gurgling and snorting. Jean Michel turned in his
chair, and said once more, with some emphasis:

"There's nothing finer than an honest man."

He was silent for a moment, pondering whether it would not be proper to
elaborate this thought; but he found nothing more to say, and after a
silence he said irritably:

"Why isn't your husband here?"

"I think he is at the theater," said Louisa timidly. "There is a
rehearsal."

"The theater is closed. I passed it just now. One of his lies."

"No. Don't be always blaming him. I must have misunderstood. He must have
been kept for one of his lessons."

"He ought to have come back," said the old man, not satisfied. He stopped
for a moment, and then asked, in a rather lower voice and with some shame:

"Has he been ... again?"

"No, father--no, father," said Louisa hurriedly.

The old man looked at her; she avoided his eyes.

"It's not true. You're lying."

She wept in silence.

"Dear God!" said the old man, kicking at the fire with his foot. The poker
fell with a clatter. The mother and the child trembled.

"Father, please--please!" said Louisa. "You will make him cry."

The child hesitated for a second or two whether to cry or to go on with his
meal; but not being able to do both at once, he went on with the meal.

Jean Michel continued in a lower tone, though with outbursts of anger:

"What have I done to the good God to have this drunkard for my son? What
is the use of my having lived as I have lived, and of having denied myself
everything all my life! But you--you--can't you do anything to stop it?
Heavens! That's what you ought to do.... You should keep him at home!..."

Louisa wept still more.

"Don't scold me!... I am unhappy enough as it is! I have done everything
I could. If you knew how terrified I am when I am alone! Always I seem to
hear his step on the stairs. Then I wait for the door to open, or I ask
myself: 'O God! what will he look like?' ... It makes me ill to think of
it!"

She was shaken by her sobs. The old man grew anxious. He went to her and
laid the disheveled bedclothes about her trembling shoulders and caressed
her head with his hands.

"Come, come, don't be afraid. I am here."

She calmed herself for the child's sake, and tried to smile.

"I was wrong to tell you that."

The old man shook his head as he looked at her.

"My poor child, it was not much of a present that I gave you."

"It's my own fault," she said. "He ought not to have married me. He is
sorry for what he did."

"What, do you mean that he regrets?..."

"You know. You were angry yourself because I became his wife."

"We won't talk about that. It is true I was vexed. A young man like that--I
can say so without hurting you--a young man whom I had carefully brought
up, a distinguished musician, a real artist--might have looked higher than
you, who had nothing and were of a lower class, and not even of the same
trade. For more than a hundred years no Krafft has ever married a woman who
was not a musician! But, you know, I bear you no grudge, and am fond of
you, and have been ever since I learned to know you. Besides, there's no
going back on a choice once it's made; there's nothing left but to do one's
duty honestly."

He went and sat down again, thought for a little, and then said, with the
solemnity in which he invested all his aphorisms:

"The first thing in life is to do one's duty."

He waited for contradiction, and spat on the fire. Then, as neither mother
nor child raised any objection, he was for going on, but relapsed into
silence.

       *       *       *       *       *

They said no more. Both Jean Michel, sitting by the fireside, and Louisa,
in her bed, dreamed sadly. The old man, in spite of what he had said, had
bitter thoughts about his son's marriage, and Louisa was thinking of it
also, and blaming herself, although she had nothing wherewith to reproach
herself.

She had been a servant when, to everybody's surprise, and her own
especially, she married Melchior Krafft, Jean Michel's son. The Kraffts
were without fortune, but were considerable people in the little Rhine
town in which the old man had settled down more than fifty years before.
Both father and son were musicians, and known to all the musicians of
the country from Cologne to Mannheim. Melchior played the violin at the
Hof-Theater, and Jean Michel had formerly been director of the grand-ducal
concerts. The old man had been profoundly humiliated by his son's marriage,
for he had built great hopes upon Melchior; he had wished to make him the
distinguished man which he had failed to become himself. This mad freak
destroyed all his ambitions. He had stormed at first, and showered curses
upon Melchior and Louisa. But, being a good-hearted creature, he forgave
his daughter-in-law when he learned to know her better; and he even came
by a paternal affection for her, which showed itself for the most part in
snubs.

No one ever understood what it was that drove Melchior to such a
marriage--least of all Melchior. It was certainly not Louisa's beauty. She
had no seductive quality: she was small, rather pale, and delicate, and
she was a striking contrast to Melchior and Jean Michel, who were both big
and broad, red-faced giants, heavy-handed, hearty eaters and drinkers,
laughter-loving and noisy. She seemed to be crushed by them; no one
noticed her, and she seemed to wish to escape even what little notice she
attracted. If Melchior had been a kind-hearted man, it would have been
credible that he should prefer Louisa's simple goodness to every other
advantage; but a vainer man never was. It seemed incredible that a young
man of his kidney, fairly good-looking, and quite conscious of it, very
foolish, but not without talent, and in a position to look for some
well-dowered match, and capable even--who knows?--of turning the head of
one of his pupils among the people of the town, should suddenly have chosen
a girl of the people--poor, uneducated, without beauty, a girl who could in
no way advance his career.

But Melchior was one of those men who always do the opposite of what is
expected of them and of what they expect of themselves. It is not that they
are not warned--a man who is warned is worth two men, says the proverb.
They profess never to be the dupe of anything, and that they steer their
ship with unerring hand towards a definite point. But they reckon without
themselves, for they do not know themselves. In one of those moments of
forgetfulness which are habitual with them they let go the tiller, and, as
is natural when things are left to themselves, they take a naughty pleasure
in rounding on their masters. The ship which is released from its course at
once strikes a rock, and Melchior, bent upon intrigue, married a cook. And
yet he was neither drunk nor in a stupor on the day when he bound himself
to her for life, and he was not under any passionate impulse; far from it.
But perhaps there are in us forces other than mind and heart, other even
than the senses--mysterious forces which take hold of us in the moments
when the others are asleep; and perhaps it was such forces that Melchior
had found in the depths of those pale eyes which had looked at him so
timidly one evening when he had accosted the girl on the bank of the river,
and had sat down beside her in the reeds--without knowing why--and had
given her his hand.

Hardly was he married than he was appalled by what he had done, and he did
not hide what he felt from poor Louisa, who humbly asked his pardon. He
was not a bad fellow, and he willingly granted her that; but immediately
remorse would seize him again when he was with his friends or in the houses
of his rich pupils, who were disdainful in their treatment of him, and no
longer trembled at the touch of his hand when he corrected the position of
their fingers on the keyboard. Then he would return gloomy of countenance,
and Louisa, with a catch at her heart, would read in it with the first
glance the customary reproach; or he would stay out late at one inn or
another, there to seek self-respect or kindliness from others. On such
evenings he would return shouting with laughter, and this was more doleful
for Louisa than the hidden reproach and gloomy rancor that prevailed on
other days. She felt that she was to a certain extent responsible for the
fits of madness in which the small remnant of her husband's sense would
disappear, together with the household money. Melchior sank lower and
lower. At an age when he should have been engaged in unceasing toil to
develop his mediocre talent, he just let things slide, and others took his
place.

But what did that matter to the unknown force which had thrown him in with
the little flaxen-haired servant? He had played his part, and little
Jean-Christophe had just set foot on this earth whither his destiny had
thrust him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Night was fully come. Louisa's voice roused old Jean Michel from the torpor
into which he had sunk by the fireside as he thought of the sorrows of the
past and present.

"It must be late, father," said the young woman affectionately. "You ought
to go home; you have far to go."

"I am waiting for Melchior," replied the old man.

"Please, no. I would rather you did not stay."

"Why?"

The old man raised his head and looked fiercely at her.

She did not reply.

He resumed.

"You are afraid. You do not want me to meet him?"

"Yes, yes; it would only make things worse. You would make each other
angry, and I don't want that. Please, please go!"

The old man sighed, rose, and said:

"Well ... I'll go."

He went to her and brushed her forehead with his stiff beard. He asked
if she wanted anything, put out the lamp, and went stumbling against the
chairs in the darkness of the room. But he had no sooner reached the
staircase than he thought of his son returning drunk, and he stopped at
each step, imagining a thousand dangers that might arise if Melchior were
allowed to return alone....

In the bed by his mother's side the child was stirring again. An unknown
sorrow had arisen from the depths of his being. He stiffened himself
against her. He twisted his body, clenched his fists, and knitted
his brows. His suffering increased steadily, quietly, certain of its
strength. He knew not what it was, nor whence it came. It appeared
immense,--infinite, and he began to cry lamentably. His mother caressed him
with her gentle hands. Already his suffering was less acute. But he went on
weeping, for he felt it still near, still inside himself. A man who suffers
can lessen his anguish by knowing whence it comes. By thought he can locate
it in a certain portion of his body which can be cured, or, if necessary,
torn away. He fixes the bounds of it, and separates it from himself. A
child has no such illusive resource. His first encounter with suffering is
more tragic and more true. Like his own being, it seems infinite. He feels
that it is seated in his bosom, housed in his heart, and is mistress of his
flesh. And it is so. It will not leave his body until it has eaten it away.

His mother hugs him to her, murmuring: "It is done--it is done! Don't
cry, my little Jesus, my little goldfish...." But his intermittent outcry
continues. It is as though this wretched, unformed, and unconscious mass
had a presentiment of a whole life of sorrow awaiting, him, and nothing can
appease him....

The bells of St. Martin rang out in the night. Their voices are solemn and
slow. In the damp air they come like footsteps on moss. The child became
silent in the middle of a sob. The marvelous music, like a flood of milk,
surged sweetly through him. The night was lit up; the air was moist and
tender. His sorrow disappeared, his heart began to laugh, and he slid, into
his dreams with a sigh of abandonment.

The three bells went on softly ringing in the morrow's festival. Louisa
also dreamed, as she listened to them, of her own past misery and of what
would become in the future of the dear little child sleeping by her side.
She had been for hours lying in her bed, weary and suffering. Her hands and
her body were burning; the heavy eiderdown crushed her; she felt crushed
and oppressed by the darkness; but she dared not move. She looked at the
child, and the night did not prevent her reading his features, that looked
so old. Sleep overcame her; fevered images passed through her brain. She
thought she heard Melchior open the door, and her heart leaped.
Occasionally the murmuring of the stream rose more loudly through the
silence, like the roaring of some beast. The window once or twice gave a
sound under the beating of the rain. The bells rang out more slowly, and
then died down, and Louisa slept by the side of her child.

All this time Jean Michel was waiting outside the house, dripping with
rain, his beard wet with the mist. He was waiting for the return of his
wretched son: for his mind, never ceasing, had insisted on telling him all
sorts of tragedies brought about by drunkenness; and although he did not
believe them, he could not hate slept a wink if he had gone away without
having seen his son return. The sound of the bells made him: melancholy,
for he remembered all his shattered hopes. He thought of what he was doing
at such an hour in the street, and for very shame he wept.

       *       *       *       *       *

The vast tide of the days moves slowly. Day and night come up and go down
with unfailing regularity, like the ebb and low of an infinite ocean. Weeks
and months go by, and then begin again, and the succession of days is like
one day.

The day is immense, inscrutable, marking the even beat of light and
darkness, and the beat of the life of the torpid creature dreaming in the
depths of his cradle--his imperious needs, sorrowful or glad--so regular
that the night and the day which bring them seem by them to be brought
about.

The pendulum of life moves heavily, and in its slow beat the whole creature
seems to be absorbed. The rest is no more than dreams, snatches of dreams,
formless and swarming, and dust of atoms dancing aimlessly, a dizzy whirl
passing, and bringing laughter or horror. Outcry, moving shadows, grinning
shapes, sorrows, terrors, laughter, dreams, dreams.... All is a dream, both
day and night.... And in such chaos the light of friendly eyes that smile
upon him, the flood of joy that surges through his body from his mother's
body, from her breasts filled with milk--the force that is in him, the
immense, unconscious force gathering in him, the turbulent ocean roaring
in the narrow prison of the child's body. For eyes that could see into it
there would be revealed whole worlds half buried in the darkness, nebulæ
taking shape, a universe in the making. His being is limitless. He is all
that there is....

Months pass.... Islands of memory begin to rise above the river of his
life. At first they are little uncharted islands, rocks just peeping above
the surface of the waters. Round about them and behind in the twilight of
the dawn stretches the great untroubled sheet of water; then new islands,
touched to gold by the sun.

So from the abyss of the soul there emerge shapes definite, and scenes of a
strange clarity. In the boundless day which dawns once more, ever the same,
with its great monotonous beat, there begins to show forth the round of
days, hand in hand, and some of their forms are smiling, others sad. But
ever the links of the chain are broken, and memories are linked together
above weeks and months....

The River ... the Bells ... as long as he can remember--far back in the
abysses of time, at every hour of his life--always their voices, familiar
and resonant, have rung out....

Night--half asleep--a pale light made white the window.... The river
murmurs. Through the silence its voice rises omnipotent; it reigns over
all creatures. Sometimes it caresses their sleep, and seems almost itself
to die away in the roaring of its torrent. Sometimes it grows angry, and
howls like a furious beast about to bite. The clamor ceases. Now there is a
murmuring of infinite tenderness, silvery sounds like clear little bells,
like the laughter of children, or soft singing voices, or dancing music--a
great mother voice that never, never goes to sleep! It rocks the child, as
it has rocked through the ages, from birth to death, the generations that
were before him; it fills all his thoughts, and lives in all his dreams,
wraps him round with the cloak of its fluid harmonies, which still will be
about him when he lies in the little cemetery that sleeps by the water's
edge, washed by the Rhine....

The bells.... It is dawn! They answer each other's call, sad, melancholy,
friendly, gentle. At the sound of their slow voices there rise in him hosts
of dreams--dreams of the past, desires, hopes, regrets for creatures who
are gone, unknown to the child, although he had his being in them, and they
live again in him. Ages of memory ring out in that music. So much mourning,
so many festivals! And from the depths of the room it is as though, when
they are heard, there passed lovely waves of sound through the soft air,
free winging birds, and the moist soughing of the wind. Through the window
smiles a patch of blue sky; a sunbeam slips through the curtains to the
bed. The little world known to the eyes of the child, all that he can see
from his bed every morning as he awakes, all that with so much effort he is
beginning to recognize and classify, so that he may be master of it--his
kingdom is lit up. There is the table where people eat, the cupboard where
he hides to play, the tiled floor along which he crawls, and the wall-paper
which in its antic shapes holds for him so many humorous or terrifying
stories, and the clock which chatters and stammers so many words which he
alone can understand. How many things there are in this room! He does not
know them all. Every day he sets out on a voyage of exploration in this
universe which is his. Everything is his. Nothing is immaterial; everything
has its worth, man or fly, Everything lives--the cat, the fire, the table,
the grains of dust which dance in a sunbeam. The room is a country, a day
is a lifetime. How is a creature to know himself in the midst of these vast
spaces? The world is so large! A creature is lost in it. And the faces, the
actions, the movement, the noise, which make round about him an unending
turmoil!... He is weary; his eyes close; he goes to sleep. That sweet deep
sleep that overcomes him suddenly at any time, and wherever he may be--on
his mother's lap, or under the table, where he loves to hide!... It is
good. All is good....

These first days come buzzing up in his mind like a field of corn or a wood
stirred by the wind, and cast in shadow by the great fleeting clouds....

       *       *       *       *       *

The shadows pass; the sun penetrates the forest. Jean-Christophe begins to
find his way through the labyrinth of the day.

It is morning. His parents are asleep. He is in his little bed, lying on
his back. He looks at the rays of light dancing on the ceiling. There is
infinite amusement in it. Now he laughs out loud with one of those jolly
children's laughs which stir the hearts of those that hear them. His mother
leans out of her bed towards him, and says: "What is it, then, little mad
thing?" Then he laughs again, and perhaps he makes an effort to laugh
because he has an audience. His mamma looks severe, and lays a finger on
her lips to warn him lest he should wake his father: but her weary eyes
smile in spite of herself. They whisper together. Then there is a furious
growl from his father. Both tremble. His mother hastily turns her back on
him, like a naughty little girl: she pretends to be asleep. Jean-Christophe
buries himself in his bed, and holds his breath.... Dead silence.

After some time the little face hidden under the clothes comes to the
surface again. On the roof the weathercock creaks. The rain-pipe gurgles;
the Angelus sounds. When the wind comes from the east, the distant bells
of the villages on the other bank of the river give answer. The sparrows
foregathered in the ivy-clad wall make a deafening noise, from which three
or four voices, always the same, ring out more shrilly than the others,
just as in the games of a band of children. A pigeon coos at the top of a
chimney. The child abandons himself to the lullaby of these sounds. He hums
to himself softly, then a little more loudly, then quite loudly, then very
loudly, until once more his father cries out in exasperation: "That little
donkey never will be quiet! Wait a little, and I'll pull your ears!" Then
Jean-Christophe buries himself in the bedclothes again, and does not know
whether to laugh or cry. He is terrified and humiliated; and at the same
time the idea of the donkey with which his father has compared him makes
him burst out laughing. From the depths of his bed he imitates its braying.
This time he is whipped. He sheds every tear that is in him. What has he
done? He wanted so much to laugh and to get up! And he is forbidden to
budge. How do people sleep forever? When will they get up?...

One day he could not contain himself. He heard a cat and a dog and
something queer in the street. He slipped out of bed, and, creeping
awkwardly with his bare feet on the tiles, he tried to go down the stairs
to see what it was; but the door was shut. To open it, he climbed on to
a chair; the whole thing collapsed, and he hurt himself and howled. And
once more at the top of the stairs he was whipped. He is always being
whipped!...

       *       *       *       *       *

He is in church with his grandfather. He is bored. He is not very
comfortable. He is forbidden to stir, and all the people are saying all
together words that he does not understand. They all look solemn and
gloomy. It is not their usual way of looking. He looks at them, half
frightened. Old Lena, their neighbor, who is sitting next to him, looks
very cross; there are moments when he does not recognize even his
grandfather. He is afraid a little. Then he grows used to it, and tries to
find relief from boredom by every means at his disposal. He balances on
one leg, twists his neck to look at the ceiling, makes faces, pulls his
grandfather's coat, investigates the straws in his chair, tries to make a
hole in them with his finger, listens to the singing of birds, and yawns so
that he is like to dislocate his jaw.

Suddenly there is a deluge of sound; the organ is played. A thrill goes
down his spine. He turns and stands with his chin resting on the back of
his chair, and he looks very wise. He does not understand this noise; he
does not know the meaning of it; it is dazzling, bewildering, and he can
hear nothing clearly. But it is good. It is as though he were no longer
sitting there on an uncomfortable chair in a tiresome old house. He is
suspended in mid-air, like a bird; and when the flood of sound rushes from
one end of the church to the other, filling the arches, reverberating
from wall to wall, he is carried with it, flying and skimming hither and
thither, with nothing to do but to abandon himself to it. He is free; he is
happy. The sun shines.... He falls asleep.

His grandfather is displeased with him. He behaves ill at Mass.

       *       *       *       *       *

He is at home, sitting on the ground, with his feet in his hands. He has
just decided that the door-mat is a boat, and the tiled floor a river. He
all but drowned in stepping off the carpet. He is surprised and a little
put out that the others pay no attention to the matter as he does when he
goes into the room. He seizes his mother by the skirts. "You see it is
water! You must go across by the bridge." (The bridge is a series of holes
between the red tiles.) His mother crosses without even listening to him.
He is vexed, as a dramatic author is vexed when he sees his audience
talking during his great work.

Next moment he thinks no more of it. The tiled floor is no longer the sea.
He is lying down on it, stretched full-length, with his chin on the tiles,
humming music of his own composition, and gravely sucking his thumb and
dribbling. He is lost in contemplation of a crack between the tiles. The
lines of the tiles grimace like faces. The imperceptible hole grows larger,
and becomes a valley; there are mountains about it. A centipede moves: it
is as large as an elephant. Thunder might crash, the child would not hear
it.

No one bothers about him, and he has no need of any one. He can even do
without door-mat boats, and caverns in the tiled floor, with their
fantastic fauna. His body is enough. What a source of entertainment! He
spends hours in looking at his nails and shouting with laughter. They have
all different faces, and are like people that he knows. And the rest of
his body!... He goes on with the inspection of all that he has. How many
surprising things! There are so many marvels. He is absorbed in looking at
them.

But he was very roughly picked up when they caught him at it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sometimes he takes advantage of his mother's back being turned, to escape
from the house. At first they used to run after him and bring him back.
Then they got used to letting him go alone, only so he did not go too
far away. The house is at the end of the town; the country begins almost
at once. As long as he is within sight of the windows he goes without
stopping, very deliberately, and now and then hopping on one foot. But as
soon as he has passed the corner of the road, and the brushwood hides him
from view, he changes abruptly. He stops there, with his finger in his
mouth, to find out what story he shall tell himself that day; for he is
full of stories. True, they are all very much like each other, and every
one of them could be told in a few lines. He chooses. Generally he takes up
the same story, sometimes from the point where it left off, sometimes from
the beginning, with variations. But any trifle--a word heard by chance--is
enough to set his mind off on another direction.

Chance was fruitful of resources. It is impossible to imagine what can be
made of a simple piece of wood, a broken bough found alongside a hedge.
(You break them off when you do not find them.) It was a magic wand. If it
were long and thin, it became a lance, or perhaps a sword; to brandish it
aloft was enough to cause armies to spring from the earth. Jean-Christophe
was their general, marching in front of them, setting them an example, and
leading them to the assault of a hillock. If the branch were flexible,
it changed into a whip. Jean-Christophe mounted on horseback and leaped
precipices. Sometimes his mount would slip, and the horseman would find
himself at the bottom of the ditch, sorrily looking at his dirty hands
and barked knees. If the wand were lithe, then Jean-Christophe would make
himself the conductor of an orchestra: he would be both conductor and
orchestra; he conducted and he sang; and then he would salute the bushes,
with their little green heads stirring in the wind.

He was also a magician. He walked with great strides through the fields,
looking at the sky and waving his arms. He commanded the clouds. He wished
them to go to the right, but they went to the left. Then he would abuse
them, and repeat his command. He would watch them out of the corner of his
eye, and his heart would beat as he looked to see if there were not at
least a little one which would obey him. But they went on calmly moving to
the left. Then he would stamp his foot, and threaten them with his stick,
and angrily order them to go to the left; and this time, in truth, they
obeyed him. He was happy and proud of his power. He would touch the flowers
and bid them change into golden carriages, as he had been told they did in
the stories; and, although it never happened, he was quite convinced that
it would happen if only he had patience. He would look for a grasshopper to
turn into a hare; he would gently lay his stick on its back, and speak a
rune. The insect would escape: he would bar its way. A few moments later he
would be lying on his belly near to it, looking at it. Then he would have
forgotten that he was a magician, and just amuse himself with turning the
poor beast on its back, while he laughed aloud at its contortions.

It occurred to him also to tie a piece of string to his magic wand, and
gravely cast it into the river, and wait for a fish to come and bite. He
knew perfectly well that fish do not usually bite at a piece of string
without bait or hook; but he thought that for once in a way, and for him,
they might make an exception to their rule; and in his inexhaustible
confidence, he carried it so far as to fish in the street with a whip
through the grating of a sewer. He would draw up the whip from time to time
excitedly, pretending that the cord of it was more heavy, and that he had
caught a treasure, as in a story that his grandfather had told him....

And always in the middle of all these games there used to occur to him
moments of strange dreaming and complete forgetfulness. Everything about
him would then be blotted out; he would not know what he was doing, and
was not even conscious of himself. These attacks would take him unawares.
Sometimes as he walked or went upstairs a void would suddenly open before
him. He would seem then to have lost all thought. But when he came back
to himself, he was shocked and bewildered to find himself in the same
place on the dark staircase. It was as though he had lived through a whole
lifetime--in the space of a few steps.

His grandfather used often to take him with him on his evening walk. The
little boy used to trot by his side and give him his hand. They used to
go by the roads, across plowed fields, which smelled strong and good. The
grasshoppers chirped. Enormous crows poised along the road used to watch
them approach from afar, and then fly away heavily as they came up with
them.

His grandfather would cough. Jean-Christophe knew quite well what that
meant. The old man was burning with the desire to tell a story; but he
wanted it to appear that the child had asked him for one. Jean-Christophe
did not fail him; they understood each other. The old man had a tremendous
affection for his grandson, and it was a great joy to find in him a willing
audience. He loved to tell of episodes in his own life, or stories of great
men, ancient and modern. His voice would then become emphatic and filled
with emotion, and would tremble with a childish joy, which he used to
try to stifle. He seemed delighted to hear his own voice. Unhappily,
words used to fail him when he opened his mouth to speak. He was used to
such disappointment, for it always came upon him with his outbursts of
eloquence. And as he used to forget it with each new attempt, he never
succeeded in resigning himself to it.

He used to talk of Regulus, and Arminius, of the soldiers of Lützow, of
Koerner, and of Frédéric Stabs, who tried to kill the Emperor Napoleon.
His face would glow as he told of incredible deeds of heroism. He used to
pronounce historic words in such a solemn voice that it was impossible to
hear them, and he used to try artfully to keep his hearer on tenterhooks at
the thrilling moments. He would stop, pretend to choke, and noisily blow
his nose; and his heart would leap when the child asked, in a voice choking
with impatience: "And then, grandfather?"

There came a day, when Jean-Christophe was a little older, when he
perceived his grandfather's method; and then he wickedly set himself to
assume an air of indifference to the rest of the story, and that hurt the
poor old man. But for the moment Jean-Christophe is altogether held by the
power of the story-teller. His blood leaped at the dramatic passages. He
did not know what it was all about, neither where nor when these deeds were
done, or whether his grandfather knew Arminius, or whether Regulus were
not--God knows why!--some one whom he had seen at church last Sunday. But
his heart and the old man's heart swelled with joy and pride in the tale of
heroic deeds, as though they themselves had done them; for the old man and
the child were both children.

Jean-Christophe was less happy when his grandfather interpolated in the
pathetic passages one of those abstruse discourses so dear to him. There
were moral thoughts generally traceable to some idea, honest enough, but
a little trite, such as "Gentleness is better than violence," or "Honor
is the dearest thing in life," or "It is better to be good than to be
wicked"--only they were much more involved. Jean-Christophe's grandfather
had no fear of the criticism of his youthful audience, and abandoned
himself to his habitual emphatic manner; he was not afraid of repeating the
same phrases, or of not finishing them, or even, if he lost himself in his
discourse, of saying anything that came into his head, to stop up the gaps
in his thoughts; and he used to punctuate his words, in order to give them
greater force, with inappropriate gestures. The boy used to listen with
profound respect, and he thought his grandfather very eloquent, but a
little tiresome.

Both of them loved to return again and again to the fabulous legend of the
Corsican conqueror who had taken Europe. Jean-Christophe's grandfather had
known him. He had almost fought against him. But he was a man to admit the
greatness of his adversaries: he had said so twenty times. He would have
given one of his arms for such a man to have been born on this side of the
Rhine. Fate had decreed otherwise; he admired him, and had fought against
him--that is, he had been on the point of fighting against him. But when
Napoleon had been no farther than ten leagues away, and they had marched
out to meet him, a sudden panic had dispersed the little band in a forest,
and every man had fled, crying, "We are betrayed!" In vain, as the old man
used to tell, in vain did he endeavor to rally the fugitives; he threw
himself in front of them, threatening them and weeping: he had been swept
away in the flood of them, and on the morrow had found himself at an
extraordinary distance from the field of battle--For so he called the place
of the rout. But Jean-Christophe used impatiently to bring him back to
the exploits of the hero, and he was delighted by his marvelous progress
through the world. He saw him followed by innumerable men, giving vent to
great cries of love, and at a wave of his hand hurling themselves in swarms
upon flying enemies--they were always in flight. It was a fairy-tale. The
old man added a little to it to fill out the story; he conquered Spain, and
almost conquered England, which he could not abide.

Old Krafft used to intersperse his enthusiastic narratives with indignant
apostrophes addressed to his hero. The patriot awoke in him, more perhaps
when he told of the Emperor's defeats than of the Battle of Jena. He would
stop to shake his fist at the river, and spit contemptuously, and mouth
noble insults--he did not stoop to less than that. He would call him
"rascal," "wild beast," "immoral." And if such words were intended to
restore to the boy's mind a sense of justice, it must be confessed that
they failed in their object; for childish logic leaped to this conclusion:
"If a great man like that had no morality, morality is not a great thing,
and what matters most is to be a great man." But the old man was far from
suspecting the thoughts which were running along by his side.

They would both be silent, pondering each after his own fashion, these
admirable stories--except when the old man used to meet one of his noble
patrons taking a walk. Then he would stop, and bow very low, and breathe
lavishly the formulæ of obsequious politeness. The child used to blush for
it without knowing why. But his grandfather at heart had a vast respect for
established power and persons who had "arrived"; and possibly his great
love for the heroes of whom he told was only because he saw in them persons
who had arrived at a point higher than the others.

When it was very hot, old Krafft used to sit under a tree, and was not long
in dozing off. Then Jean-Christophe used to sit near him on a heap of loose
stones or a milestone, or some high seat, uncomfortable and peculiar; and
he used to wag his little legs, and hum to himself, and dream. Or sometimes
he used to lie on his back and watch the clouds go by; they looked like
oxen, and giants, and hats, and old ladies, and immense landscapes. He used
to talk to them in a low voice, or be absorbed in a little cloud which a
great one was on the point of devouring. He was afraid of those which were
very black, almost blue, and of those which went very fast. It seemed to
him that they played an enormous part in life, and he was surprised that
neither his grandfather nor his mother paid any attention to them. They
were terrible beings if they wished to do harm. Fortunately, they used to
go by, kindly enough, a little grotesque, and they did not stop. The boy
used in the end to turn giddy with watching them too long, and he used to
fidget with his legs and arms, as though he were on the point of falling
from the sky. His eyelids then would wink, and sleep would overcome him.
Silence.... The leaves murmur gently and tremble in the sun; a faint mist
passes through the air; the uncertain flies hover, booming like an organ;
the grasshoppers, drunk with the summer, chirp eagerly and hurriedly; all
is silent.... Under the vault of the trees the cry of the green woodpecker
has magic sounds. Far away on the plain a peasant's voice harangues his
oxen; the shoes of a horse ring out on the white road. Jean-Christophe's
eyes close. Near him an ant passes along a dead branch across a furrow. He
loses consciousness.... Ages have passed. He wakes. The ant has not yet
crossed the twig.

Sometimes the old man would sleep too long, and his face would grow rigid,
and his long nose would grow longer, and his mouth stand open.
Jean-Christophe used then to look at him uneasily, and in fear of seeing
his head change gradually into some fantastic shape. He used to sing
loudly, so as to wake him up, or tumble down noisily from his heap of
stones. One day it occurred to him to throw a handful of pine-needles in
his grandfather's face, and tell him that they had fallen from the tree.
The old man believed him, and that made Jean-Christophe laugh. But,
unfortunately, he tried the trick again, and just when he had raised his
hand he saw his grandfather's eyes watching him. It was a terrible affair.
The old man was solemn, and allowed no liberty to be taken with the respect
due to himself. They were estranged for more than a week.

The worse the road was, the more beautiful it was to Jean-Christophe. Every
stone had a meaning for him; he knew them all. The shape of a rut seemed to
him to be a geographical accident almost of the same kind as the great mass
of the Taunus. In his head he had the map of all the ditches and hillocks
of the region extending two kilometers round about the house, and when he
made any change in the fixed ordering of the furrows, he thought himself no
less important than an engineer with a gang of navvies; and when with his
heel he crushed the dried top of a clod of earth, and filled up the valley
at the foot of it, it seemed to him that his day had not been wasted.

Sometimes they would meet a peasant in his cart on the highroad, and,
if the peasant knew Jean-Christophe's grandfather they would climb up
by his side. That was a Paradise on earth. The horse went fast, and
Jean-Christophe laughed with delight, except when they passed other
people walking; then he would look serious and indifferent, like a person
accustomed to drive in a carriage, but his heart was filled with pride. His
grandfather and the man would talk without bothering about him. Hidden and
crushed by their legs, hardly sitting, sometimes not sitting at all, he was
perfectly happy. He talked aloud, without troubling about any answer to
what he said. He watched the horse's ears moving. What strange creatures
those ears were! They moved in every direction--to right and left; they
hitched forward, and fell to one side, and turned backwards in such a
ridiculous way that he: burst out laughing. He would pinch his grandfather
to make him look at them; but his grandfather was not interested in them.
He would repulse Jean-Christophe, and tell him to be quiet. Jean-Christophe
would ponder. He thought that when people grow up they are not surprised by
anything, and that when they are strong they know everything; and he would
try to be grown up himself, and to hide his curiosity, and appear to be
indifferent.

He was silent them The rolling of the carriage made him drowsy. The horse's
little bells danced--ding, ding; dong, ding. Music awoke in the air, and
hovered about the silvery bells, like a swarm of bees. It beat gaily with
the rhythm of the cart--an endless source of song, and one song came
on another's heels. To Jean-Christophe they were superb. There was one
especially which he thought so beautiful that he tried to draw his
grandfather's attention to it. He sang it aloud. They took no heed of
him. He began it again in a higher key, then again shrilly, and then old
Jean Michel said irritably: "Be quiet; you are deafening me with your
trumpet-call!" That took away his breath. He blushed and was silent and
mortified. He crushed with his contempt the two stockish imbeciles who did
not understand the sublimity of his song, which opened wide the heavens! He
thought them very ugly, with their week-old beards, and they smelled very
ill.

He found consolation, in watching the horse's shadow. That an astonishing
sight. The beast ran along with them lying on its side. In the evening,
when they returned, it covered a part of the field. They came upon a rick,
and the shadow's head would rise up and then return to its place when they
had passed. Its snout was flattened out like a burst balloon; its ears were
large, and pointed like candles. Was it really a shadow or a creature?
Jean-Christophe would not have liked to encounter it alone. He would not
have run after it as he did after his grandfather's shadow, so as to walk
on its head and trample it under foot. The shadows of the trees when the
sun was low were also objects of meditation. They made barriers along the
road, and looked like phantoms, melancholy and grotesque, saying, "Go no
farther!" and the creaking axles and the horse's shoes repeated, "No
farther!"

Jean-Christophe's grandfather and the driver never ceased their endless
chatter. Sometimes they would raise their voices, especially when they
talked of local affairs or things going wrong. The child would cease to
dream, and look at them uneasily. It seemed to him that they were angry
with each other, and he was afraid that they would come to blows. However,
on the contrary, they best understood each other in their common dislikes.
For the most part, they were without haired or the least passion; they
talked of small matters loudly, just for the pleasure of talking, as
is the joy of the people. But Jean-Christophe, not understanding their
conversation, only heard the loud tones of their voices and saw their
agitated faces, and thought fearfully: "How wicked he looks! Surely they
hate each other! How he rolls his eyes, and how wide he opens his mouth! He
spat on my nose in his fury. O Lord, he will kill my grandfather!..."

The carriage stopped. The peasant said: "Here you are." The two deadly
enemies shook hands. Jean-Christophe's grandfather got down first; the
peasant handed him the little boy. The whip flicked the horse, the carriage
rolled away, and there they were by the little sunken road near the Rhine.
The sun dipped down below the fields. The path wound almost to the water's
edge. The plentiful soft grass yielded under their feet, crackling.
Alder-trees leaned over the river, almost half in the water. A cloud of
gnats danced. A boat passed noiselessly, drawn on by the peaceful current,
striding along. The water sucked the branches of the willows with a little
noise like lips. The light was soft and misty, the air fresh, the river
silvery gray. They reached their home, and the crickets chirped, and on the
threshold smiled his mother's dear face....

Oh, delightful memories, kindly visions, which will hum their melody in
their tuneful flight through life!... Journeys in later life, great towns
and moving seas, dream countries and loved faces, are not so exactly graven
in the soul as these childish walks, or the corner of the garden seen every
day through the window, through the steam and mist made by the child's
mouth glued to it for want of other occupation....

Evening now, and the house is shut up. Home ... the refuge from all
terrifying things--darkness, night, fear, things unknown. No enemy can pass
the threshold.... The fire flares. A golden duck turns slowly on the spit;
a delicious smell of fat and of crisping flesh scents the room. The joy of
eating, incomparable delight, a religious enthusiasm, thrills of joy! The
body is too languid with the soft warmth, and the fatigues of the day,
and the familiar voices. The act of digestion plunges it in ecstasy, and
faces, shadows, the lampshade, the tongues of flame dancing with a shower
of stars in the fireplace--all take on a magical appearance of delight.
Jean-Christophe lays his cheek on his plate, the better to enjoy all this
happiness....

He is in his soft bed. How did he come there? He is overcome with
weariness. The buzzing of the voices in the room and the visions of the
day are intermingled in his mind. His father takes his violin; the shrill
sweet sounds cry out complaining in the night. But the crowning joy is
when his mother comes and takes Jean-Christophe's hands. He is drowsy,
and, leaning over him, in a low voice she sings, as he asks, an, old song
with words that have no meaning. His father thinks such music stupid, but
Jean-Christophe never wearies of it. He holds his breath, and is between
laughing and crying. His heart is intoxicated. He does not know where he
is, and he is overflowing with tenderness. He throws his little arms round
his mother's neck, and hugs her with all his strength. She says, laughing:

"You want to strangle me?"

He hugs her close. How he loves her! How he loves everything! Everybody,
everything! All is good, all is beautiful.... He sleeps. The cricket on the
hearth cheeps. His grandfather's tales, the great heroes, float by in the
happy night.... To be a hero like them!... Yes, he will be that ... he is
that.... Ah, how good it is to live!

       *       *       *       *       *

What an abundance of strength, joy, pride, is in that little creature! What
superfluous energy! His body and mind never cease to move; they are carried
round and round breathlessly. Like a little salamander, he dances day and
night in the flames. His is an unwearying enthusiasm finding its food in
all things. A delicious dream, a bubbling well, a treasure of inexhaustible
hope, a laugh, a song, unending drunkenness. Life does not hold him yet;
always he escapes it. He swims in the infinite. How happy he is! He is made
to be happy! There is nothing in him that does not believe in happiness,
and does not cling to it with all his little strength and passion!...

Life will soon see to it that he is brought to reason.



II

  L'alba vinceva l'ora, mattutina.
  Che fuggia 'nnanzi, si che di lontano
  Conobbi il tremolar della marina....
                  _Purgatorio_, i.


The Kraffts came originally from Antwerp. Old Jean Michel had left the
country as a result of a boyish freak, a violent quarrel, such as he had
often had, for he was devilish pugnacious, and it had had an unfortunate
ending. He settled down, almost fifty years ago, in the little town of the
principality, with its red-pointed roofs and shady gardens, lying on the
slope of a gentle hill, mirrored in the pale green eyes of _Vater Rhein_.
An excellent musician, he had readily gained appreciation in a country of
musicians. He had taken root there by marrying, forty years ago, Clara
Sartorius, daughter of the Prince's _Kapellmeister_, whose duties he took
over. Clara was a placid German with two passions--cooking and music. She
had for her husband a veneration only equaled by that which she had for her
father, Jean Michel no less admired his wife. They had lived together in
perfect amity for fifteen years, and they had four children. Then Clara
died; and Jean Michel bemoaned her loss, and then, five months later,
married Ottilia Schütz, a girl of twenty, with red cheeks, robust and
smiling. After eight years of marriage she also died, but in that time
she gave him seven children--eleven children in all, of whom only one had
survived. Although he loved them much, all these bereavements had not
shaken his good-humor. The greatest blow had been the death of Ottilia,
three years ago, which had come to him at an age when it is difficult to
start life again and to make a new home. But after a moment's confusion old
Jean Michel regained his equilibrium, which no misfortune seemed able to
disturb.

He was an affectionate man, but health was the strongest thing in him. He
had a physical repugnance from sadness, and a need of gaiety, great gaiety,
Flemish fashion--an enormous and childish laugh. Whatever might be his
grief, he did not drink one drop the less, nor miss one bite at table, and
his band never had one day off. Under his direction the Court orchestra
won a small celebrity in the Rhine country, where Jean Michel had become
legendary by reason of his athletic stature and his outbursts of anger. He
could not master them, in spite of all his efforts, for the violent man was
at bottom timid and afraid of compromising himself. He loved decorum and
feared opinion. But his blood ran away with him. He used to see red, and
he used to be the victim of sudden fits of crazy impatience, not only at
rehearsals, but at the concerts, where once in the Prince's presence he
had hurled his bâton and had stamped about like a man possessed, as he
apostrophized one of the musicians in a furious and stuttering voice. The
Prince was amused, but the artists in question were rancorous against
him. In vain did Jean Michel, ashamed of his outburst, try to pass it by
immediately in exaggerated obsequiousness. On the next occasion he would
break out again, and as this extreme irritability increased with age, in
the end it made his position very difficult. He felt it himself, and one
day, when his outbursts had all but caused the whole orchestra to strike,
he sent in his resignation. He hoped that in consideration of his services
they would make difficulties about accepting it, and would ask him to stay.
There was nothing of the kind, and as he was too proud to go back on his
offer, he left, brokenhearted, and crying out upon the ingratitude of
mankind.

Since that time he had not known how to fill his days. He was more than
seventy, but he was still vigorous, and he went on working and going up and
down the town from morning to night, giving lessons, and entering into
discussions, pronouncing perorations, and entering into everything. He
was ingenious, and found all sorts of ways of keeping himself occupied.
He began to repair musical instruments; he invented, experimented, and
sometimes discovered improvements. He composed also, and set store by his
compositions. He had once written a _Missa Solennis_, of which he used
often to talk, and it was the glory of his family. It had cost him so much
trouble that he had all but brought about a congestion of the mind in the
writing of it. He tried to persuade himself that it was a work of genius,
but he knew perfectly well with what emptiness of thought it had been
written, and he dared not look again at the manuscript, because every time
he did so he recognized in the phrases that he had thought to be his own,
rags taken from other authors, painfully pieced together haphazard. It was
a great sorrow to him. He had ideas sometimes which he thought admirable.
He would run tremblingly to his table. Could he keep his inspiration this
time? But hardly had he taken pen in hand than he found himself alone in
silence, and all his efforts to call to life again the vanished voices
ended only in bringing to his ears familiar melodies of Mendelssohn or
Brahms.

"There are," says George Sand, "unhappy geniuses who lack the power of
expression, and carry down to their graves the unknown region of their
thoughts, as has said a member of that great family of illustrious mutes
or stammerers--Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire." Old Jean Michel belonged to that
family. He was no more successful in expressing himself in music than in
words, and he always deceived himself. He would so much have loved to talk,
to write, to be a great musician, an eloquent orator! It was his secret
sore. He told no one of it, did not admit it to himself, tried not to think
of it; but he did think of it, in spite of himself, and so there was the
seed of death in his soul.

Poor old man! In nothing did he succeed in being absolutely himself. There
were in him so many seeds of beauty and power, but they never put forth
fruit; a profound and touching faith in the dignity of Art and the moral
value of life, but it was nearly always translated in an emphatic and
ridiculous fashion; so much noble pride, and in life an almost servile
admiration of his superiors; so lofty a desire for independence, and,
in fact, absolute docility; pretensions to strength of mind, and every
conceivable superstition; a passion for heroism, real courage, and so much
timidity!--a nature to stop by the wayside.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jean Michel had transferred all his ambitions to his son, and at first
Melchior had promised to realize them. From childhood he had shown great
musical gifts. He learned with extraordinary facility, and quickly acquired
as a violinist a virtuosity which for a long time made him the favorite,
almost the idol, of the Court concerts. He played the piano and other
instruments pleasantly. He was a fine talker, well, though a little
heavily, built, and was of the type which passes in Germany for classic
beauty; he had a large brow that expressed nothing, large regular features,
and a curled beard--a Jupiter of the banks of the Rhine. Old Jean Michel
enjoyed his son's success; he was ecstatic over the virtuoso's _tours de
force_, he who had never been able properly to play any instrument. In
truth, Melchior would have had no difficulty in expressing what he thought.
The trouble was that he did not think; and he did not even bother about it.
He had the soul of a mediocre comedian who takes pains with the inflexions
of his voice without caring about what they express, and, with anxious
vanity, watches their effect on his audience.

The odd thing was that, in spite of his constant anxiety about his stage
pose, there was in him, as in Jean Michel, in spite of his timid respect
for social conventions, a curious, irregular, unexpected and chaotic
quality, which made people say that the Kraffts were a bit crazy. It did
not harm him at first; it seemed as though these very eccentricities were
the proof of the genius attributed to him; for it is understood among
people of common sense that an artist has none. But it was not long
before his extravagances were traced to their source--usually the bottle.
Nietzsche says that Bacchus is the God of Music, and Melchior's instinct
was of the same opinion; but in his case his god was very ungrateful to
him; far from giving him the ideas he lacked, he took away from him the few
that he had. After his absurd marriage--absurd in the eyes of the world,
and therefore also in his own--he gave himself up to it more and more. He
neglected his playing--so secure in his own superiority that very soon he
lost it. Other _virtuosi_ came to succeed him in public favor. That
was bitter to him, but instead of rousing his energy, these rebuffs only
discouraged him. He avenged himself by crying down his rivals with his
pot-fellows. In his absurd conceit he counted on succeeding his father as
musical director: another man was appointed. He thought himself persecuted,
and took on the airs of a misunderstood genius. Thanks to the esteem in
which old Krafft was held, he kept his place as a violin in the orchestra,
but gradually he lost all his lessons in the town. And if this blow struck
most at his vanity, it touched his purse even more. For several years the
resources of his household had grown less and less, following on various
reverses of fortune. After having known plenty, want came, and every day
increased. Melchior refused to take notice of it; he did not spend one
penny the less on his toilet or his pleasures.

He was not a bad man, but a half-good man, which is perhaps worse--weak,
without spring, without moral strength, but for the rest, in his own
opinion, a good father, a good son, a good husband, a good man--and perhaps
he was good, if to be so it is enough to possess an easy kindness, which
is quickly touched, and that animal affection by which a man loves his kin
as a part of himself. It cannot even be said that he was very egoistic; he
had not personality enough for that. He was nothing. They are a terrible
thing in life, these people who are nothing. Like a dead weight thrown into
the air, they fall, and must fall; and in their fall they drag with them
everything that they have.

It was when the situation of his family had reached its most difficult
point, that little Jean-Christophe began to understand what was going on
about him.

He was no longer the only child. Melchior gave his wife a child every year,
without troubling to think what was to become of it later. Two had died
young; two others were three and four years old. Melchior never bothered
about them. Louisa, when she had to go out, left them with Jean-Christophe,
now six years old.

The charge cost Jean-Christophe something, for he had to sacrifice to his
duty his splendid afternoons in the fields. But he was proud of being
treated as a man, and gravely fulfilled his task. He amused the children as
best he could by showing them his games, and he set himself to talk to them
as he had heard his mother talking to the baby. Or he would carry them in
his arms, one after another, as he had seen her do; he bent under their
weight, and clenched his teeth, and with all his strength clutched his
little brother to his breast, so as to prevent his falling. The children
always wanted to be carried--they were never tired of it; and when
Jean-Christophe could do no more, they wept without ceasing. They made him
very unhappy, and he was often troubled about them. They were very dirty,
and needed maternal attentions. Jean-Christophe did not know what to do.
They took advantage of him. Sometimes he wanted to slap them, but he
thought, "They are little; they do not know," and, magnanimously, he let
them pinch him, and beat him, and tease him. Ernest used to howl for
nothing; he used to stamp his feet and roll about in a passion; he was a
nervous child, and Louisa had bidden Jean-Christophe not to oppose his
whims. As for Rodolphe, he was as malicious as a monkey; he always took
advantage of Jean-Christophe having Ernest in his arms, to play all sorts
of silly pranks behind his back; he used to break toys, spill water, dirty
his frock, and knock the plates over as he rummaged in the cupboard.

And when Louisa returned, instead of praising Jean-Christophe, she used to
say to him, without scolding him, but with an injured air, as she saw the
havoc; "My poor child, you are not very clever!"

Jean-Christophe would be mortified, and his heart would grow big within
him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Louisa, who let no opportunity escape of earning a little money, used to
go out as cook for exceptional occasions, such, as marriages or baptismal
feasts. Melchior pretended to know nothing about it--it touched his
vanity--but he was not annoyed with her for doing it, so long as he did not
know. Jean-Christophe had as yet no idea of the difficulties of life; he
knew no other limit to his will than the will of his parents, and that did
not stand much in his way, for they let him do pretty much as he pleased.
His one idea was to grow up, so as to be able to do as he liked. He had no
conception of obstacles standing in the way at every turn, and he had never
the least idea but that his parents were completely their own masters. It
was a shock to his whole being when, for the first time, he perceived that
among men there are those who command, and those who are commanded, and
that his own people were not of the first class; it was the first crisis of
his life.

It happened one afternoon. His mother had dressed him in his cleanest
clothes, old clothes given to her which Louisa's ingenuity and patience had
turned to account. He went to find her, as they had agreed, at the house
in which she was working. He was abashed at the idea of entering alone. A
footman was swaggering in the porch; he stopped the boy, and asked him
patronizingly what he wanted. Jean-Christophe blushed, and murmured that
he had come to see "Frau Krafft"--as he had been told to say.

"Frau Krafft? What do you want with Frau Krafft?" asked the footman,
ironically emphasizing the word _Frau_, "Your mother? Go down there.
You will find Louisa in the kitchen at the end of the passage."

He went, growing redder and redder. He was ashamed to hear his mother
called familiarly _Louisa_. He was humiliated; he would have liked to run
away down to his dear river, and the shelter of the brushwood where he used
to tell himself stories.

In the kitchen he came upon a number of other servants, who greeted him
with noisy exclamations. At the back, near the stove, his mother smiled at
him with tender embarrassment. He ran to her, and clung to her skirts. She
was wearing a white apron, and holding a wooden spoon. She made him more
unhappy by trying to raise his chin so as to look in his face, and to make
him hold out his hand to everybody there and say good-day to them. He would
not; he turned to the wall and hid his face in his arms. Then gradually he
gained courage, and peeped out of his hiding-place with merry bright eyes,
which hid again every time any one looked at him. He stole looks at the
people there. His mother looked busy and important, and he did not know her
like that; she went from one saucepan to another, tasting, giving advice,
in a sure voice explaining recipes, and the cook of the house listened
respectfully. The boy's heart swelled with pride as he saw how much his
mother was appreciated, and the great part that she played in this splendid
room, adorned with magnificent objects of gold and silver.

Suddenly conversation ceased. The door opened. A lady entered with a
rustling of the stuffs she was wearing. She cast a suspicious look about
her. She was no longer young, and yet she was wearing a light dress with
wide sleeves. She caught up her dress in her hand, so as not to brush
against anything. It did not prevent her going to the stove and looking
at the dishes, and even tasting them. When she raised her hand a little,
her sleeve fell back, and her arm was bare to the elbow. Jean-Christophe
thought this ugly and improper. How dryly and abruptly she spoke to Louisa!
And how humbly Louisa replied! Jean-Christophe hated it. He hid away in his
corner, so as not to be observed, but it was no use. The lady asked who the
little boy might be. Louisa fetched him and presented him; she held his
hands to prevent his hiding his face. And, though he wanted to break away
and flee, Jean-Christophe felt instinctively that this time he must not
resist. The lady looked at the boy's scared face, and at first she gave him
a kindly, motherly smile. But then she resumed her patronizing air, and
asked him about his behavior, and his piety, and put questions to him, to
which he did not reply. She looked to see how his clothes fitted him, and
Louisa eagerly declared that they were magnificent. She pulled down his
waistcoat to remove the creases. Jean-Christophe wanted to cry, it fitted
so tightly. He did not understand why his mother was giving thanks.

The lady took him by the hand and said that she would take him to her own
children. Jean-Christophe cast a look of despair at his mother; but she
smiled at the mistress so eagerly that he saw that there was nothing to
hope for from her, and he followed his guide like a sheep that is led to
the slaughter.

They came to a garden, where two cross-looking children, a boy and a girl,
about the same age as Jean-Christophe, were apparently sulky with each
other. Jean-Christophe's advent created a diversion. They came up to
examine the new arrival. Jean-Christophe, left with the children by the
lady, stood stock-still in a pathway, not daring to raise his eyes. The
two others stood motionless a short distance away, and looked him up and
down, nudged each other, and tittered. Finally, they made up their minds.
They asked him who he was, whence he came, and what his father did.
Jean-Christophe, turned to stone, made no reply; he was terrified almost
to the point of tears, especially of the little girl, who had fair hair in
plaits, a short skirt, and bare legs.

They began to play. Just as Jean-Christophe was beginning to be a little
happier, the little boy stopped dead in front of him, and touching his
coat, said:

"Hullo! That's mine!"

Jean-Christophe did not understand. Furious at this assertion that his coat
belonged to some one else, he shook his head violently in denial.

"I know it all right," said the boy. "It's my old blue waistcoat. There's a
spot on it."

And he put his finger on the spot. Then, going on with his inspection, he
examined Jean-Christophe's feet, and asked what his mended-up shoes were
made of. Jean-Christophe grew crimson. The little girl pouted and whispered
to her brother--Jean-Christophe heard it--that it was a little poor boy.
Jean-Christophe resented the word. He thought he would succeed In combating
the insulting opinions, as he stammered in a choking voice that he was the
son of Melchior Krafft. and that his mother was Louisa the cook. It seemed
to him that this title was as good as any other, and he was right. But the
two children, interested in the news, did not seem to esteem him any the
more for it. On the contrary, they took on a patronizing tone. They asked
him what he was going to be--a cook or a coachman. Jean-Christophe
revolted. He felt an iciness steal into his heart.

Encouraged by his silence, the two rich children, who had conceived for
the little poor boy one of those cruel and unreasoning antipathies which
children have, tried various amusing ways of tormenting him, The little
girl especially was implacable. She observed that Jean-Christophe could
hardly run, because his clothes were so tight, and she conceived the
subtle idea of making him jump. They made an obstacle of little seats,
and insisted on Jean-Christophe clearing it. The wretched child dared not
say what it was that prevented his jumping. He gathered himself together,
hurled himself through, the air, and measured his length on the ground.
They roared with laughter at him. He had to try again. Tears in his eyes,
he made a desperate attempt, and this time succeeded in jumping. That did
not satisfy his tormentors, who decided that the obstacle was not high
enough, and they built it up until it became a regular break-neck affair.
Jean-Christophe tried to rebel, and declared that he would not jump.
Then the little girl called him a coward, and said that he was afraid.
Jean-Christophe could not stand that, and, knowing that he must fall, he
jumped, and fell. His feet caught in the obstacle; the whole thing toppled
over with him. He grazed his hands and almost broke his head, and, as a
crowning misfortune, his trousers tore at the knees and elsewhere. He was
sick with shame; he heard the two children dancing with delight round him;
he suffered horribly. He felt that they, despised and hated him. Why? Why?
He would gladly have died! There is no more cruel suffering than that
of a child who discovers for the first time the wickedness of others; he
believes then that he is persecuted by the--whole world, and there is
nothing to support him; there is nothing then--nothing!... Jean-Christophe
tried to get up; the little boy pushed him down again; the little girl
kicked him. He tried again, and they both jumped on him, and sat on his
back and pressed his face down into the ground. Then rage seized him--it
was too much. His hands were bruised, his fine coat was torn--a catastrophe
for him!--shame, pain, revolt against the injustice of it, so many
misfortunes all at once, plunged him in blind fury. He rose to his hands
and knees, shook himself like a dog, and rolled his tormentors over; and
when they returned to the assault he butted at them, head down, bowled over
the little girl, and, with one blow of his fist, knocked the boy into the
middle of a flower-bed.

They howled. The children ran into the house with piercing cries. Doors
slammed, and cries of anger were heard. The lady ran out as quickly as
her long dress would let her. Jean-Christophe saw her coming, and made no
attempt to escape. He was terrified at what he had done; it was a thing
unheard of, a crime; but he regretted nothing. He waited. He was lost. So
much the better! He was reduced to despair.

The lady pounced on him. He felt her beat him. He heard her talking in a
furious voice, a flood of words; but he could distinguish nothing. His
little enemies had come back to see his shame, and screamed shrilly. There
were servants--a babel of voices. To complete his downfall, Louisa, who
had been summoned, appeared, and, instead of defending him, she began to
scold him--she, too, without knowing anything--and bade him beg pardon. He
refused angrily. She shook him, and dragged him by the hand to the lady and
the children, and bade him go on his knees. But he stamped and roared, and
bit his mother's hand. Finally, he escaped among the servants, who laughed.

He went away, his heart beating furiously, his face burning with anger and
the slaps which he had received. He tried not to think, and he hurried
along because he did not want to cry in the street. He wanted to be at
home, so as to be able to find the comfort of tears. He choked; the blood
beat in his head; he was at bursting-point.

Finally, he arrived; he ran up the old black staircase to his usual
nook in the bay of a window above the river; he hurled himself into it
breathlessly, and then there came a flood of tears. He did not know exactly
why he was crying, but he had to cry; and when the first flood of them was
done, he wept again because he wanted, with a sort of rage, to make himself
suffer, as if he could in this way punish the others as well as himself.
Then he thought that his father must be coming home, and that his mother
would tell him everything, and that his own miseries were by no means at an
end. He resolved on flight, no matter whither, never to return.

Just as he was going downstairs, he bumped into his father, who was coming
up.

"What are you doing, boy? Where are you going?" asked Melchior.

He did not reply.

"You are up to some folly. What have you done?"

Jean-Christophe held his peace.

"What have you done?" repeated Melchior. "Will you answer?"

The boy began to cry and Melchior to shout, vying with each other until
they heard Louisa hurriedly coming up the stairs. She arrived, still upset.
She began with violent reproach and further chastisement, in which Melchior
joined as soon as he understood--and probably before--with blows that
would have felled an ox. Both shouted; the boy roared. They ended by angry
argument. All the time that he was beating his son, Melchior maintained
that he was right, and that this was the sort of thing that one came by,
by going out to service with people who thought they could do everything
because they had money; and as she beat the child, Louisa shouted that her
husband was a brute, that she would never let him touch the boy, and that
he had really hurt him. Jean-Christophe was, in fact, bleeding a little
from the nose, but he hardly gave a thought to it, and he was not in the
least thankful to his mother for stopping it with a wet cloth, since she
went on scolding him. In the end they pushed him away in a dark closet, and
shut him up without any supper.

He heard them shouting at each other, and he did not know which of them he
detested most. He thought it must be his mother, for he had never expected
any such wickedness from her. All the misfortunes of the day overwhelmed
him: all that he had suffered--the injustice of the children, the injustice
of the lady, the injustice of his parents, and--this he felt like an open
wound, without quite knowing why--the degradation of his parents, of whom
he was so proud, before these evil and contemptible people. Such cowardice,
of which for the first time he had become vaguely conscious, seemed ignoble
to him. Everything was upset for him--his admiration for his own people,
the religious respect with which they inspired him, his confidence in life,
the simple need that he had of loving others and of being loved, his moral
faith, blind but absolute. It was a complete cataclysm. He was crushed
by brute force, without any means of defending himself or of ever again
escaping. He choked. He thought himself on the point of death. All his body
stiffened in desperate revolt. He beat with fists, feet, head, against the
wall, howled, was seized with convulsions, and fell to the floor, hurting
himself against the furniture.

His parents, running up, took him in their arms. They vied with each other
now as to who should be the more tender with him. His mother undressed
him, carried him to his bed, and sat by him and remained with him until he
was calmer. But he did not yield one inch. He forgave her nothing, and
pretended to be asleep to get rid of her. His mother seemed to him bad
and cowardly. He had no suspicion of all the suffering that she had to go
through in order to live and give a living to her family, and of what she
had borne in taking sides against him.

After he had exhausted to the last drop the incredible store of tears that
is in the eyes of a child, he felt somewhat comforted. He was tired and
worn out, but his nerves were too much on stretch for him to sleep. The
visions that had been with him floated before him again in his semi-torpor.
Especially he saw again the little girl with her bright eyes and her
turned-up, disdainful little nose, her hair hanging down to her shoulders,
her bare legs and her childish, affected way of talking. He trembled, as it
seemed to him that he could hear her voice. He remembered how stupid he had
been with her, and he conceived a savage hatred for her. He did not pardon
her for having brought him low, and was consumed with the desire to
humiliate her and to make her weep. He sought means of doing this, but
found none. There was no sign of her ever caring about him. But by way of
consoling himself he supposed that everything was as he wished it to be. He
supposed that he had become very powerful and famous, and decided that she
was in love with him. Then he began to tell himself one of those absurd
stories which in the end he would regard as more real than reality.

She was dying of love, but he spurned her. When he passed before her house
she watched him pass, hiding behind the curtains, and he knew that she
watched him, but he pretended to take no notice, and talked gaily. Even he
left the country, and journeyed far to add to her anguish. He did great
things. Here he introduced into his narrative fragments chosen from his
grandfather's heroic tales, and all this time she was falling ill of grief.
Her mother, that proud dame, came to beg of him: "My poor child is dying.
I beg you to come!" He went. She was in her bed. Her face was pale and
sunken. She held out her arms to him. She could not speak, but she took his
hands and kissed them as she wept. Then he looked at her with marvelous
kindness and tenderness. He bade her recover, and consented to let her love
him. At this point of the story, when he amused himself by drawing out the
coming together by repeating their gestures and words several times, sleep
overcame him, and he slept and was consoled.

But when he opened his eyes it was day, and it no longer shone so lightly
or so carelessly as its predecessor. There was a great change in the world.
Jean-Christophe now knew the meaning of injustice.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were now times of extremely straitened circumstances at home. They
became more and more frequent. They lived meagerly then. No one was more
sensible of it than Jean-Christophe. His father saw nothing. He was served
first, and there was always enough for him. He talked noisily, and roared
with laughter at his own jokes, and he never noticed his wife's glances
as she gave a forced laugh, while she watched him helping himself.
When he passed the dish it was more than half empty. Louisa helped the
children--two potatoes each. When it came to Jean-Christophe's turn there
were sometimes only three left, and his mother was not helped. He knew that
beforehand; he had counted them before they came to him. Then he summoned
up courage, and said carelessly:

"Only one, mother."

She was a little put out.

"Two, like the others."

"No, please; only one."

"Aren't you hungry?"

"No, I'm not very hungry."

But she, too, only took one, and they peeled them carefully, cut them up
in little pieces, and tried to eat them as slowly as possible. His mother
watched him. When he had finished:

"Come, take it!"

"No, mother."

"But you are ill?"

"I am not ill, but I have eaten enough."

Then his father would reproach him with being obstinate, and take the last
potato for himself. But Jean-Christophe learned that trick, and he used to
keep it on his plate for Ernest, his little brother, who was always hungry,
and watched him out of the corner of his eyes from the beginning of dinner,
and ended by asking:

"Aren't you going to eat it? Give it me, then, Jean-Christophe."

Oh, how Jean-Christophe detested his father, how he hated him for not
thinking of them, or for not even dreaming that he was eating their share!
He was so hungry that he hated him, and would gladly have told him so; but
he thought in his pride that he had no right, since he could not earn his
own living. His father had earned the bread that he took. He himself was
good for nothing; he was a burden on everybody; he had no right to talk.
Later on he would talk--if there were any later on. Oh, he would die of
hunger first!...

He suffered more than another child would have done from these cruel fasts.
His robust stomach was in agony. Sometimes he trembled because of it; his
head ached. There was a hole in his chest--a hole which turned and widened,
as if a gimlet were being twisted in it. But he did not complain. He felt
his mother's eyes upon him, and assumed an expression of indifference.
Louisa, with a clutching at her heart, understood vaguely that her little
boy was denying himself so that the others might have more. She rejected
the idea, but always returned to it. She dared not investigate it or ask
Jean-Christophe if it were true, for, if it were true, what could she
do? She had been used to privation since her childhood. What is the use
of complaining when there is nothing to be done? She never suspected,
indeed--she, with her frail health and small needs--that the boy might
suffer more than herself. She did not say anything, but once or twice,
when the others were gone, the children to the street, Melchior about his
business, she asked her eldest son to stay to do her some small service.
Jean-Christophe would hold her skein while she unwound it. Suddenly she
would throw everything away, and draw him passionately to her. She would
take him on her knees, although he was quite heavy, and would hug and hug
him. He would fling his arms round her neck, and the two of them would weep
desperately, embracing each other.

"My poor little boy!..."

"Mother, mother!..."

They said no more, but they understood each other.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was some time before Jean-Christophe realized that his father drank.
Melchior's intemperance did not--at least, in the beginning--exceed
tolerable limits. It was not brutish. It showed itself rather by wild
outbursts of happiness. He used to make foolish remarks, and sing loudly
for hours together as he drummed on the table, and sometimes he insisted on
dancing with Louisa and the children. Jean-Christophe saw that his mother
looked sad. She would shrink back and bend her face over her work; she
avoided the drunkard's eyes, and used to try gently to quiet him when
he said coarse things that made her blush. But Jean-Christophe did not
understand, and he was in such need of gaiety that these noisy home-comings
of his father were almost a festival to him. The house was melancholy, and
these follies were a relaxation for him. He used to laugh heartily at
Melchior's crazy antics and stupid jokes; he sang and danced with him; and
he was put out when his mother in an angry voice ordered him to cease. How
could it be wrong, since his father did it? Although his ever keen
observation, which never forgot anything it had seen, told him that there
were in his father's behavior several things which did not accord with his
childish and imperious sense of justice, yet he continued to admire him.
A child has so much need of an object of admiration! Doubtless it is one
of the eternal forms of self-love. When a man is, or knows himself to be,
too weak to accomplish his desires and satisfy his pride, as a child he
transfers them to his parents, or, as a man who has failed, he transfers
them to his children. They are, or shall be, all that he dreamed of
being--his champions, his avengers--and in this proud abdication in their
favor, love and egoism are mingled so forcefully and yet so gently as to
bring him keen delight. Jean-Christophe forgot all his grudges against his
father, and cast about to find reasons for admiring him. He admired his
figure, his strong arms, his voice, his laugh, his gaiety, and he shone
with pride when he heard praise of his father's talents as a virtuoso, or
when Melchior himself recited with some amplification the eulogies he had
received. He believed in his father's boasts, and looked upon him as a
genius, as one of his grandfather's heroes.

One evening about seven o'clock he was alone in the house. His little
brothers had gone out with Jean Michel. Louisa was washing the linen in
the river. The door opened, and Melchior plunged in. He was hatless and
disheveled. He cut a sort of caper to cross the threshold, and then plumped
down in a chair by the table. Jean-Christophe began to laugh, thinking it
was a part of one of the usual buffooneries, and he approached him. But
as soon as he looked more closely at him the desire to laugh left him.
Melchior sat there with his arms hanging, and looking straight in front
of him, seeing nothing, with his eyes blinking. His face was crimson, his
mouth was open, and from it there gurgled every now and then a silly laugh.
Jean-Christophe stood stock-still. He thought at first that his father was
joking, but when he saw that he did not budge he was panic-stricken.

"Papa, papa!" he cried.

Melchior went on gobbling like a fowl. Jean-Christophe took him by the arm
in despair, and shook him with all his strength.

"Papa, dear papa, answer me, please, please!"

Melchior's body shook like a boneless thing, and all but fell. His head
flopped towards Jean-Christophe; he looked at him and babbled incoherently
and irritably. When Jean-Christophe's eyes met those clouded eyes he was
seized with panic terror. He ran away to the other end of the room, and
threw himself on his knees by the bed, and buried his face in the clothes.
He remained so for some time. Melchior swung heavily on the chair,
sniggering. Jean-Christophe stopped his ears, so as not to hear him,
and trembled. What was happening within him was inexpressible. It was a
terrible upheaval--terror, sorrow, as though for some one dead, some one
dear and honored.

No one came; they were left alone. Night fell, and Jean-Christophe's fear
grew as the minutes passed. He could not help listening, and his blood
froze as he heard the voice that he did not recognize. The silence made
it all the more terrifying; the limping clock beat time for the senseless
babbling. He could bear it no longer; he wished to fly. But he had, to pass
his father to get out, and Jean-Christophe shuddered, at the idea of seeing
those eyes again; it seemed to him that he must die if he did. He tried to
creep on hands and knees to the door of the room. He could not breathe; he
would not look; he stopped at the least movement from Melchior, whose feet
he could see under the table. One of the drunken man's legs trembled.
Jean-Christophe reached the door. With one trembling hand he pushed the
handle, but in his terror he let go. It shut to again. Melchior turned to
look. The chair on which he was balanced toppled over; he fell down with a
crash. Jean-Christophe in his terror had no strength left for flight. He
remained glued to the wall, looking at his father stretched there at his
feet, and he cried for help.

His fall sobered Melchior a little. He cursed and swore, and thumped on
the chair that had played him such a trick. He tried vainly to get up, and
then did manage to sit up with his back resting against the table, and he
recognized his surroundings. He saw Jean-Christophe crying; he called him.
Jean-Christophe wanted to run away; he could not stir. Melchior called him
again, and as the child did not come, he swore angrily. Jean-Christophe
went near him, trembling in every limb. Melchior drew the boy near him, and
made him sit on his knees. He began by pulling his ears, and in a thick,
stuttering voice delivered a homily on the respect due from a son to
his father. Then he went off suddenly on a new train of thought, and
made him jump in his arms while he rattled off silly jokes. He wriggled
with laughter. From that he passed immediately to melancholy ideas. He
commiserated the boy and himself; he hugged him so that he was like to
choke, covered him with kisses and tears, and finally rocked him in his
arms, intoning the _De Profundis_. Jean-Christophe made no effort to break
loose; he was frozen with horror. Stifled against his father's bosom,
feeling his breath hiccoughing and smelling of wine upon his face, wet with
his kisses and repulsive tears, he was in an agony of fear and disgust. He
would have screamed, but no sound would come from his lips. He remained in
this horrible condition for an age, as it seemed to him, until the door
opened, and Louisa came in with a basket of linen on her arm. She gave a
cry, let the basket fall, rushed at Jean-Christophe, and with a violence
which seemed incredible in her she wrenched Melchior's arm, crying:

"Drunken, drunken wretch!"

Her eyes flashed with anger.

Jean-Christophe thought his father was going to kill her. But Melchior
was so startled by the threatening appearance of his wife that he made no
reply, and began to weep. He rolled on the floor; he beat his head against
the furniture, and said that she was right, that he was a drunkard, that
he brought misery upon his family, and was ruining his poor children, and
wished he were dead. Louisa had contemptuously turned her back on him. She
carried Jean-Christophe into the next room, and caressed him and tried to
comfort him. The boy went on trembling, and did not answer his mother's
questions; then he burst out sobbing. Louisa bathed his face with water.
She kissed him, and used tender words, and wept with him. In the end they
were both comforted. She knelt, and made him kneel by her side. They prayed
to God to cure father of his disgusting habit, and make him the kind, good
man that he used to be. Louisa put the child to bed. He wanted her to stay
by his bedside and hold his hand. Louisa spent part of the night sitting
on Jean-Christophe's bed. He was feverish. The drunken man snored on the
floor.

Some time after that, one day at school, when Jean-Christophe was spending
his time watching the flies on the ceiling, and thumping his neighbors,
to make them fall off the form, the schoolmaster, who had taken a dislike
to him, because he was always fidgeting and laughing, and would never
learn anything, made an unhappy allusion. Jean-Christophe had fallen
down himself, and the schoolmaster said he seemed to be like to follow
brilliantly in the footsteps of a certain well-known person. All the boys
burst out laughing, and some of them took upon themselves to point the
allusion with comment both lucid and vigorous. Jean-Christophe got up,
livid with shame, seized his ink-pot, and hurled it with all his strength
at the nearest boy whom he saw laughing. The schoolmaster fell on him and
beat him. He was thrashed, made to kneel, and set to do an enormous
imposition.

He went home, pale and storming, though he said never a word. He declared
frigidly that he would not go to school again. They paid no attention to
what he said. Next morning, when his mother reminded him that it was time
to go, he replied quietly that he had said that he was not going any more.
In rain Louisa begged and screamed and threatened; it was no use. He stayed
sitting in his corner, obstinate. Melchior thrashed him. He howled, but
every time they bade him go after the thrashing was over he replied
angrily, "No!" They asked him at least to say why. He clenched his teeth,
and would not. Melchior took hold of him, carried him to school, and gave
him into the master's charge. They set him on his form, and he began
methodically to break everything within reach--his inkstand, his pen. He
tore up his copy-book and lesson-book, all quite openly, with his eye on
the schoolmaster, provocative. They shut him up in a dark room. A few
moments later the schoolmaster found him with his handkerchief tied round
his neck, tugging with all his strength at the two ends of it. He was
trying to strangle himself.

They had to send him back.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jean-Christophe was impervious to sickness. He had inherited from
his father and grandfather their robust constitutions. They were not
mollycoddles in that family; well or ill, they never worried, and nothing
could bring about any change in the habits of the two Kraffts, father and
son. They went out winter and summer, in all weathers, and stayed for hours
together out in rain or sun, sometimes bareheaded and with their coats
open, from carelessness or bravado, and walked for miles without being
tired, and they looked with pity and disdain upon poor Louisa, who never
said anything, but had to stop. She would go pale, and her legs would
swell, and her heart would thump. Jean-Christophe was not far from sharing
the scorn of his mother; he did not understand people being ill. When he
fell, or knocked himself, or cut himself, or burned himself, he did not
cry; but he was angry with the thing that had injured him. His father's
brutalities and the roughness of his little playmates, the urchins of the
street, with whom he used to fight, hardened him. He was not afraid of
blows, and more than once he returned home with bleeding nose and bruised
forehead. One day he had to be wrenched away, almost suffocated, from one
of these fierce tussles in which he had bowled over his adversary, who was
savagely banging his head on the ground. That seemed natural enough to him,
for he was prepared to do unto others as they did unto himself.

And yet he was afraid of all sorts of things, and although no one knew
it--for he was very proud--nothing brought him go much suffering during
a part of his childhood as these same terrors. For two or three years
especially they gnawed at him like a disease.

He was afraid of the mysterious something that lurks in darkness--evil
powers that seemed to lie in wait for his life, the roaring of monsters
which fearfully haunt the mind of every child and appear in everything that
he sees, the relic perhaps of a form long dead, hallucinations of the first
days after emerging from chaos, from the fearful slumber in his mother's
womb, from the awakening of the larva from the depths of matter.

He was afraid of the garret door. It opened on to the stairs, and was
almost always ajar. When he had to pass it he felt his heart heating; he
would spring forward and jump by it without looking. It seemed to him that
there was some one or something behind it. When it was closed he heard
distinctly something moving behind it. That was not surprising, for there
were large rats; but he imagined a monster, with rattling bones, and flesh
hanging in rags, a horse's head, horrible and terrifying eyes, shapeless.
He did not want to think of it, but did so in spite of himself. With
trembling hand he would make sure that the door was locked; but that did
not keep him from turning round ten times as he went downstairs.

He was afraid of the night outside. Sometimes he used to stay late with
his grandfather, or was sent out in the evening on some errand. Old Krafft
lived a little outside the town in the last house on the Cologne road.
Between the house and the first lighted windows of the town there was a
distance of two or three hundred yards, which seemed three times as long
to Jean-Christophe. There were places where the road twisted and it was
impossible to see anything. The country was deserted in the evening, the
earth grew black, and the sky was awfully pale. When he came out from
the hedges that lined the road, and climbed up the slope, he could still
see a yellowish gleam on the horizon, but it gave no light, and was more
oppressive than the night; it made the darkness only darker; it was a
deathly light. The clouds came down almost to earth. The hedges grew
enormous and moved. The gaunt trees were like grotesque old men. The sides
of the wood were stark white. The darkness moved. There were dwarfs sitting
in the ditches, lights in the grass, fearful flying things in the air,
shrill cries of insects coming from nowhere. Jean-Christophe was always in
anguish, expecting some fearsome or strange putting forth of Nature. He
would run, with his heart leaping in his bosom.

When he saw the light in his grandfather's room he would gain confidence.
But worst of all was when old Krafft was not at home. That was most
terrifying. The old house, lost in the country, frightened the boy even in
daylight. He forgot his fears when his grandfather was there, but sometimes
the old man would leave him alone, and go out without warning him.
Jean-Christophe did not mind that. The room was quiet. Everything in it
was familiar and kindly. There was a great white wooden bedstead, by
the bedside was a great Bible on a shelf, artificial flowers were on
the mantelpiece, with photographs of the old man's two wives and eleven
children--and at the bottom of each photograph he had written the date of
birth and death--on the walls were framed texts and vile chromolithographs
of Mozart and Beethoven. A little piano stood in one corner, a great
violoncello in another; rows of books higgledy-piggledy, pipes, and in
the window pots of geraniums. It was like being surrounded with friends.
The old man could be heard moving about in the next room, and planing or
hammering, and talking to himself, calling himself an idiot, or singing in
a loud voice, improvising a _potpourri_ of scraps of chants and sentimental
_Lieder_, warlike marches, and drinking songs. Here was shelter and refuge.
Jean-Christophe would sit in the great armchair by the window, with a book
on his knees, bending over the pictures and losing himself in them. The day
would die down, his eyes would grow weary, and then he would look no more,
and fall into vague dreaming. The wheels of a cart would rumble by along
the road, a cow would moo in the fields; the bells of the town, weary and
sleepy, would ring the evening Angelus. Vague desires, happy presentiments,
would awake in the heart of the dreaming child.

Suddenly Jean-Christophe would awake, filled with dull uneasiness. He would
raise his eyes--night! He would listen--silence! His grandfather had just
gone out. He shuddered. He leaned out of the window to try to see him. The
road was deserted; things began to take on a threatening aspect. Oh God!
If _that_ should be coming! What? He could not tell. The fearful thing.
The doors were not properly shut. The wooden stairs creaked as under a
footstep. The boy leaped up, dragged the armchair, the two chairs and the
table, to the most remote corner of the room; he made a barrier of them;
the armchair against the wall, a chair to the right, a chair to the left,
and the table in front of him. In the middle he planted a pair of steps,
and, perched on top with his book and other books, like provisions against
a siege, he breathed again, having decided in his childish imagination that
the enemy could not pass the barrier--that was not to be allowed.

But the enemy would creep forth, even from his book. Among the old books
which the old man had picked up were some with pictures which made a
profound impression on the child: they attracted and yet terrified him.
There were fantastic visions--temptations of St. Anthony--in which
skeletons of birds hung in bottles, and thousands of eggs writhe like worms
in disemboweled frogs, and heads walk on feet, and asses play trumpets, and
household utensils and corpses of animals walk gravely, wrapped in great
cloths, bowing like old ladies. Jean-Christophe was horrified by them, but
always returned to them, drawn on by disgust. He would look at them for a
long time, and every now and then look furtively about him to see what was
stirring in the folds of the curtains. A picture of a flayed man in an
anatomy book was still more horrible to him. He trembled as he turned the
page when he came to the place where it was in the book. This shapeless
medley was grimly etched for him. The creative power inherent in every
child's mind filled out the meagerness of the setting of them. He saw no
difference between the daubs and the reality. At night they had an even
more powerful influence over his dreams than the living things that he saw
during the day.

He was afraid to sleep. For several years nightmares poisoned his rest. He
wandered in cellars, and through the manhole saw the grinning flayed man
entering. He was alone in a room, and he heard a stealthy footstep in the
corridor; he hurled himself against the door to close it, and was just in
time to hold the handle; but it was turned from the outside; he could not
turn the key, his strength left him, and he cried for help. He was with his
family, and suddenly their faces changed; they did crazy things. He was
reading quietly, and he felt that an invisible being was all _round_ him.
He tried to fly, but felt himself bound. He tried to cry out, but he was
gagged. A loathsome grip was about his neck. He awoke, suffocating, and
with his teeth chattering; and he went on trembling long after he was
awake; he could not be rid of his agony.

The roam in which he slept was a hole without door or windows; an old
curtain hung up by a curtain-rod over the entrance was all that separated
it from the room of his father and mother. The thick air stifled him. His
brother, who slept in the same bed, used to kick him. His head burned, and
he was a prey to a sort of hallucination in which all the little troubles
of the day reappeared infinitely magnified. In this state of nervous
tension, bordering on delirium, the least shock was an agony to him. The
creaking of a plank terrified him. His father's breathing took on fantastic
proportions. It seemed to be no longer a human breathing, and the monstrous
sound was horrible to him; it seemed to him that there must be a beast
sleeping there. The night crushed him; it would never end; it must always
be so; he was lying there for months and months. He gasped for breath; he
half raised himself on his bed, sat up, dried his sweating face with his
shirt-sleeve. Sometimes he nudged his brother Rodolphe to wake him up; but
Rodolphe moaned, drew away from him the rest of the bedclothes, and went on
sleeping.

So he stayed in feverish agony until a pale beam of light appeared on
the floor below the curtain. This timorous paleness of the distant dawn
suddenly brought him peace. He felt the light gliding into the room, when
it was still impossible to distinguish it from darkness. Then his fever
would die down, his blood would grow calm, like a flooded river returning
to its bed; an even warmth would flow through all his body, and his eyes,
burning from sleeplessness, would close in spite of himself.

In the evening it was terrible to him to see the approach of the hour of
sleep. He vowed that he would not give way to it, to watch the whole night
through, fearing his nightmares, But in the end weariness always overcame
him, and it was always when he was least on his guard that the monsters
returned.

Fearful night! So sweet to most children, so terrible to some!... He was
afraid to sleep. He was afraid of not sleeping. Waking or sleeping, he
was surrounded by monstrous shapes, the phantoms of his own brain, the
larvæ floating in the half-day and twilight of childhood, as in the dark
chiaroscuro of sickness.

But these fancied terrors were soon to be blotted out in the great
Fear--that which is in the hearts of all men; that Fear which Wisdom does
in vain preen itself on forgetting or denying--Death.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day when he was rummaging in a cupboard, he came upon several things
that he did not know--a child's frock and a striped bonnet. He took them in
triumph to his mother, who, instead of smiling at him, looked vexed, and
bade him, take them back to the place where he had found them. When he
hesitated to obey, and asked her why, she snatched them from him without
reply, and put them on a shelf where he could not reach them. Roused to
curiosity, he plied her with questions. At last she told him that there had
been a little brother who had died before Jean-Christophe came into the
world. He was taken aback--he had never heard tell of him. He was silent
for a moment, and then tried to find out more. His mother seemed to be lost
in thought; but she told him that the little brother was called
Jean-Christophe like himself, but was more sensible. He put more questions
to her, but she would not reply readily. She told him only that his brother
was in Heaven, and was praying for them all. Jean-Christophe could get no
more out of her; she bade him be quiet, and to let her go on with her work.
She seemed to be absorbed in her sewing; she looked anxious, and did not
raise her eyes. But after some time she looked at him where he was in the
corner, whither he had retired to sulk, began to smile, and told him to go
and play outside.

These scraps of conversation profoundly agitated Jean-Christophe. There had
been a child, a little boy, belonging to his mother, like himself, bearing
the same name, almost exactly the same, and he was dead! Dead! He did not
exactly know what that was, but it was something terrible. And they never
talked of this other Jean-Christophe; he was quite forgotten. It would be
the same with him if he were to die? This thought was with him still in the
evening at table with his family, when he saw them all laughing and talking
of trifles. So, then, it was possible that they would be gay after he was
dead! Oh! he never would have believed that his mother could be selfish
enough to laugh after the death of her little boy! He hated them all. He
wanted to weep for himself, for his own death, in advance. At the same time
he wanted to ask a whole heap of questions, but he dared not; he remembered
the voice in which his mother had bid him be quiet. At last he could
contain himself no longer, and one night when he had gone to bed, and
Louisa came to kiss him, he asked:

"Mother, did he sleep in my bed?"

The poor woman trembled, and, trying to take on an indifferent tone of
voice, she asked:

"Who?"

"The little boy who is dead," said Jean-Christophe in a whisper.

His mother clutched him with her hands.

"Be quiet--quiet," she said.

Her voice trembled. Jean-Christophe, whose head was leaning against her
bosom, heard her heart beating. There was a moment of silence, then she
said:

"You must never talk of that, my dear.... Go to sleep.... No, it was not
his bed."

She kissed him. He thought he felt her cheek wet against his. He wished he
could have been sure of it. He was a little comforted. There was grief in
her then! Then he doubted it again the next moment, when he heard her in
the next room talking in a quiet, ordinary voice. Which was true--that or
what had just been? He turned about for long in his bed without finding any
answer. He wanted his mother to suffer; not that he also did not suffer in
the knowledge that she was sad, but it would have done him so much good, in
spite of everything! He would have felt himself less alone. He slept, and
next day thought no more of it.

Some weeks afterwards one of the urchins with whom he played in the street
did not come at the usual time. One of them said that he was ill, and they
got used to not seeing him in their games. It was explained, it was quite
simple. One evening Jean-Christophe had gone to bed; it was early, and from
the recess in which his bed was, he saw the light in the room. There was a
knock at the door. A neighbor had come to have a chat. He listened
absently, telling himself stories as usual. The words of their talk did not
reach him. Suddenly he heard the neighbor say: "He is dead." His blood
stopped, for he had understood who was dead. He listened and held his
breath. His parents cried out. Melchior's booming voice said:

"Jean-Christophe, do you hear? Poor Fritz is dead."

Jean-Christophe made an effort, and replied quietly:

"Yes, papa."

His bosom was drawn tight as in a vise.

Melchior went on:

"'Yes, papa.' Is that all you say? You are not grieved by it."

Louisa, who understood the child, said:

"'Ssh! Let him sleep!"

And they talked in whispers. But Jean-Christophe, pricking his ears,
gathered all the details of illness--typhoid fever, cold baths, delirium,
the parents' grief. He could not breathe, a lump in his throat choked him.
He shuddered. All these horrible things took shape in his mind. Above all,
he gleaned that the disease was contagious--that is, that he also might die
in the same way--and terror froze him, for he remembered that he had shaken
hands with Fritz the last time he had seen him, and that very day had gone
past the house. But he made no sound, so as to avoid having to talk, and
when his father, after the neighbor had gone, asked him: "Jean-Christophe,
are you asleep?" he did not reply. He heard Melchior saying to Louisa:

"The boy has no heart."

Louisa did not reply, but a moment later she came and gently raised the
curtain and looked at the little bed. Jean-Christophe only just had time to
close his eyes and imitate the regular breathing which his brothers made
when they were asleep. Louisa went away on tip-toe. And yet how he wanted
to keep her! How he wanted to tell her that he was afraid, and to ask her
to save him, or at least to comfort him! But he was afraid of their
laughing at him, and treating him as a coward; and besides, he knew only
too well that nothing that they might say would be any good. And for hours
he lay there in agony, thinking that he felt the disease creeping over him,
and pains in his head, a stricture of the heart, and thinking in terror:
"It is the end. I am ill. I am going to die. I am going to die!"... Once he
sat up in his bed and called to his mother in a low voice; but they were
asleep, and he dared not wake them.

From that time on his childhood was poisoned by the idea of death. His
nerves delivered him up to all sorts of little baseless sicknesses, to
depression, to sudden transports, and fits of choking. His imagination ran
riot with these troubles, and thought it saw in all of them the murderous
beast which was to rob him of his life. How many times he suffered agonies,
with his mother sitting only a few yards away from him, and she guessing
nothing! For in his cowardice he was brave enough to conceal all his terror
in a strange jumble of feeling--pride in not turning to others, shame of
being afraid, and the scrupulousness of a tenderness which forbade him to
trouble his mother. But he never ceased to think: "This time I am ill. I am
seriously ill. It is diphtheria...." He had chanced on the word
"diphtheria."... "Dear God! not this time!..."

He had religious ideas: he loved to believe what his mother had told, him,
that after death the soul ascended to the Lord, and if it were pious
entered into the garden of paradise. But the idea of this journey rather
frightened than attracted him. He was not at all envious of the children
whom God, as a recompense, according to his mother, took in their sleep and
called to Him without having made them suffer. He trembled, as he went to
sleep, for fear that God should indulge this whimsy at his expense. It must
be terrible to be taken suddenly from the warmth of one's bed and dragged
through the void into the presence of God. He imagined God as an enormous
sun, with a voice of thunder. How it must hurt! It must barn the eyes,
ears--all one's soul! Then, God could punish--you never know.... And
besides, that did not prevent all the other horrors which he did not know
very well, though he could guess them from what he had heard--your body in
a box, all alone at the bottom of a hole, lost in the crowd of those
revolting cemeteries to which he was taken to pray.... God! God! How sad!
how sad!...

And yet it was not exactly joyous to live, and be hungry, and see your
father drunk, and to be beaten, to suffer in so many ways from the
wickedness of other children, from the insulting pity of grown-up persons,
and to be understood by no one, not even by your mother. Everybody
humiliates you, no one loves you. You are alone--alone, and matter so
little! Yes; but it was just this that made him want to live. He felt in
himself a surging power of wrath. A strange thing, that power! It could do
nothing yet; it was as though it were afar off and gagged, swaddled,
paralyzed; he had no idea what it wanted, what, later on, it would be. But
it was in him; he was sure of it; he felt it stirring and crying out.
To-morrow--to-morrow, what a voyage he would take! He had a savage desire
to live, to punish the wicked, to do great things. "Oh! but how I will live
when I am ..." he pondered a little--"when I am eighteen!" Sometimes he put
it at twenty-one; that was the extreme limit. He thought that was enough
for the domination of the world. He thought of the heroes dearest to
him--of Napoleon, and of that other more remote hero, whom he preferred,
Alexander the Great. Surely he would be like them if only he lived for
another twelve--ten years. He never thought of pitying those who died at
thirty. They were old; they had lived their lives; it was their fault if
they hat failed. But to die now ... despair! Too terrible to pass while yet
a little child, and forever to be in the minds of men a little boy whom
everybody thinks he has the right to scold! He wept with rage at the
thought, as though he were already dead.

This agony of death tortured his childish years--corrected only by disgust
with all life and the sadness of his own.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in the midst of these gloomy shadows, in the stifling night that
every moment seemed to intensify about him, that there began to shine, like
a star lost in the dark abysm of space, the light which was to illuminate
his life: divine music....

His grandfather gave the children an old piano, which one of his clients,
anxious to be rid of it, had asked him to take. His patient ingenuity had
almost put it in order. The present had not been very well received. Louisa
thought her room already too small, without filling it up any more; and
Melchior said that Jean Michel had not ruined himself over it: just
firewood. Only Jean-Christophe was glad of it without exactly knowing why.
It seemed to him a magic box, full of marvelous stories, just like the ones
in the fairy-book--a volume of the "Thousand and One Nights"--which his
grandfather read to him sometimes to their mutual delight. He had heard his
father try the piano on the day of its arrival, and draw from it a little
rain of arpeggios like the drops that a puff of wind shakes from the wet
branches of a tree after a shower. He clapped his hands, and cried
"Encore!" but Melchior scornfully closed the piano, saying that it was
worthless. Jean-Christophe did not insist, but after that he was always
hovering about the instrument. As soon as no one was near he would raise
the lid, and softly press down a key, just as if he were moving with his
finger the living shell of some great insect; he wanted to push out the
creature that was locked up in it. Sometimes in his haste he would strike
too hard, and then his mother would cry out, "Will you not be quiet? Don't
go touching everything!" or else he would pinch himself cruelly in closing
the piano, and make piteous faces as he sucked his bruised fingers....

Now his greatest joy is when his mother is gone out for a day's service, or
to pay some visit in the town. He listens as she goes down the stairs, and
into the street, and away. He is alone. He opens the piano, and brings up a
chair, and perches on it. His shoulders just about reach the keyboard; it
is enough for what he wants. Why does he wait until he is alone? No one
would prevent his playing so long as he did not make too much noise. But he
is ashamed before the others, and dare not. And then they talk and move
about: that spoils his pleasure. It is so much more beautiful when he is
alone! Jean-Christophe holds his breath so that the silence may be even
greater, and also because he is a little excited, as though he were going
to let off a gun. His heart beats as he lays his finger on the key;
sometimes he lifts his finger after he has the key half pressed down, and
lays it on another. Does he know what will come out of it, more than what
will come out of the other? Suddenly a sound issues from it; there are deep
sounds and high sounds, some tinkling, some roaring. The child listens to
them one by one as they die away and finally cease to be; they hover in the
air like bells heard far off, coming near in the wind, and then going away
again; then when you listen you hear in the distance other voices,
different, joining in and droning like flying insects; they seem to call to
you, to draw you away farther--farther and farther into the mysterious
regions, where they dive down and are lost.... They are gone!... No; still
they murmur.... A little beating of wings.... How strange it all is! They
are like spirits. How is it that they are so obedient? how is it that they
are held captive in this old box? But best of all is when you lay two
fingers on two keys at once. Then you never know exactly what will happen.
Sometimes the two spirits are hostile; they are angry with each other, and
fight; and hate each other, and buzz testily. Then voices are raised; they
cry out, angrily, now sorrowfully. Jean-Christophe adores that; it is as
though there were monsters chained up, biting at their fetters, beating
against the bars of their prison; they are like to break them, and burst
out like the monsters in the fairy-book--the genii imprisoned in the Arab
bottles under the seal of Solomon. Others flatter you; they try to cajole
you, but you feel that they only want to bite, that they are hot and
fevered. Jean-Christophe does not know what they want, but they lure him
and disturb him; they make him almost blush. And sometimes there are notes
that love each other; sounds embrace, as people do with their arms when
they kiss: they are gracious and sweet. These are the good spirits; their
faces are smiling, and there are no lines in them; they love little
Jean-Christophe, and little Jean-Christophe loves them. Tears come to his
eyes as he hears them, and he is never weary of calling them up. They are
his friends, his dear, tender friends....

So the child journeys through the forest of sounds, and round him he is
conscious of thousands of forces lying in wait for him, and calling to him
to caress or devour him....

One day Melchior came upon him thus. He made him jump with fear at the
sound of his great voice. Jean-Christophe, thinking he was doing wrong,
quickly put his hands up to his ears to ward off the blows he feared. But
Melchior did not scold him, strange to say; he was in a good temper, and
laughed.

"You like that, boy?" he asked, patting his head kindly. "Would you like me
to teach you to play it?"

Would he like!... Delighted, he murmured: "Yes." The two of them sat down
at the piano, Jean-Christophe perched this time on a pile of big books, and
very attentively he took his first lesson. He learned first of all that the
buzzing spirits have strange names, like Chinese names, of one syllable, or
even of one letter. He was astonished; he imagined them to be different
from that: beautiful, caressing names, like the princesses in the fairy
stories. He did not like the familiarity with which his father talked of
them. Again, when Melchior evoked them they were not the same; they seemed
to become indifferent as they rolled out from under his fingers. But
Jean-Christophe was glad to learn about the relationships between them,
their hierarchy, the scales, which were like a King commanding an army, or
like a band of negroes marching in single file. He was surprised to see
that each soldier, or each negro, could become a monarch in his turn, or
the head of a similar band, and that it was possible to summon whole
battalions from one end to the other of the keyboard. It amused him to hold
the thread which made them march. But it was a small thing compared with
what he had seen at first; his enchanted forest was lost. However, he set
himself to learn, for it was not tiresome, and he was surprised at his
father's patience. Melchior did not weary of it either; he made him begin
the same thing over again ten times. Jean-Christophe did not understand why
he should take so much trouble; his father loved him, then? That was good!
The boy worked away; his heart was filled with gratitude.

He would have been less docile had he known what thoughts were springing
into being in his father's head.

       *       *       *       *       *

From that day on Melchior took him to the house of a neighbor, where three
times a week there was chamber music. Melchior played first violin, Jean
Michel the violoncello. The other two were a bank-clerk and the old
watchmaker of the _Schillerstrasse_. Every now and then the chemist joined
them with his flute. They began at five, and went on till nine. Between
each piece they drank beer. Neighbors used to come in and out, and listen
without a word, leaning against the wall, and nodding their heads, and
beating time with their feet, and filling the room with clouds of
tobacco-smoke. Page followed page, piece followed piece, but the patience
of the musicians was never exhausted. They did not speak; they were all
attention; their brows were knit, and from time to time they grunted with
pleasure, but for the rest they were perfectly incapable not only of
expressing, but even of feeling, the beauty of what they played. They
played neither very accurately nor in good time, but they never went off
the rails, and followed faithfully the marked changes of tone. They had
that musical facility which is easily satisfied, that mediocre perfection
which, is so plentiful in the race which is said to be the most musical in
the world. They had also that great appetite which does not stickle for the
quality of its food, so only there be quantity--that healthy appetite to
which all music is good, and the more substantial the better--it sees no
difference between Brahms and Beethoven, or between the works of the same
master, between an empty concerto and a moving sonata, because they are
fashioned of the same stuff.

Jean-Christophe sat apart in a corner, which was his own, behind the piano.
No one could disturb him there, for to reach it he had to go on all fours.
It was half dark there, and the boy had just room to lie on the floor if he
huddled up. The smoke of the tobacco filled his eyes and throat: dust, too;
there were large flakes of it like sheepskin, but he did not mind that, and
listened gravely, squatting there Turkish fashion, and widening the holes
in the cloth of the piano with his dirty little fingers. He did not like
everything that they played; but nothing that they played bored him, and he
never tried to formulate his opinions, for he thought himself too small to
know anything. Only some music sent him to sleep, some woke him up; it was
never disagreeable to him. Without his knowing it, it was nearly always
good music that excited him. Sure of not being seen, he made faces, he
wrinkled his nose, ground his teeth, or stuck out his tongue; his eyes
flashed with anger or drooped languidly; he moved his arms and legs with a
defiant and valiant air; he wanted to march, to lunge out, to pulverize the
world. He fidgeted so much that in the end a head would peer over the
piano, and say: "Hullo, boy, are you mad? Leave the piano.... Take your
hand away, or I'll pull your ears!" And that made him crestfallen and
angry. Why did they want to spoil his pleasure? He was not doing any harm.
Must he always be tormented! His father chimed in. They chid him for making
a noise, and said that he did not like music. And in the end he believed
it. These honest citizens grinding out concertos would have been astonished
if they had been told that the only person in the company who really felt
the music was the little boy.

If they wanted him to keep quiet, why did they play airs which make you
march? In those pages were rearing horses, swords, war-cries, the pride of
triumph; and they wanted him, like them, to do no more than wag his head
and beat time with his feet! They had only to play placid dreams or some of
those chattering pages which talk so much and say nothing. There are plenty
of them, for example, like that piece of Goldmark's, of which the old
watchmaker had just said with a delighted smile: "It is pretty. There is no
harshness in it. All the corners are rounded off...." The boy was very
quiet then. He became drowsy. He did not know what they were playing hardly
heard it; but he was happy; his limbs were numbed, and he was dreaming.

His dreams were not a consecutive story; they had neither head nor tail. It
was rarely that he saw a definite picture; his mother making a cake, and
with a knife removing the paste that clung to her fingers; a water-rat that
he had seen the night before swimming in the river; a whip that he wanted
to make with a willow wand.... Heaven knows why these things should have
cropped up in his memory at such a time! But most often he saw nothing at
all, and yet he felt things innumerable and infinite. It was as though
there were a number of very important things not to be spoken of, or not
worth speaking of, because they were so well known, and because they had
always been so. Some of them were sad, terribly sad; but there was nothing
painful in them, as there is in the things that belong to real life; they
were not ugly and debasing, like the blows that Jean-Christophe had from
his father, or like the things that were in his head when, sick at heart
with shame, he thought of some humiliation; they filled the mind with a
melancholy calm. And some were bright and shining, shedding torrents of
joy. And Jean-Christophe thought: "Yes, it is _thus_--thus that I will do
by-and-by." He did not know exactly what _thus_ was, nor why he said it,
but he felt that he had to say it, and that it was clear as day. He heard
the sound of a sea, and he was quite near to it, kept from it only by a
wall of dunes. Jean-Christophe had no idea what sea it was, or what it
wanted with him, but he was conscious that it would rise above the barrier
of dunes. And then!... Then all would be well, and he would be quite happy.
Nothing to do but to hear it, then, quite near, to sink to sleep to the
sound of its great voice, soothing away all his little griefs and
humiliations. They were sad still, but no longer shameful nor injurious;
everything seemed natural and almost sweet.

Very often it was mediocre music that produced this intoxication in him.
The writers of it were poor devils, with no thought in their heads but the
gaining of money, or the hiding away of the emptiness of their lives by
tagging notes together according to accepted formulæ--or to be original, in
defiance of formulæ. But in the notes of music, even when handled by an
idiot, there is such a power of life that they can let loose storms in a
simple soul. Perhaps even the dreams suggested by the idiots are more
mysterious and more free than those breathed by an imperious thought which
drags you along by force; for aimless movement and empty chatter do not
disturb the mind in its own pondering....

So, forgotten and forgetting, the child stayed in his corner behind the
piano, until suddenly he felt ants climbing up his legs. And he remembered
then that he was a little boy wife dirty nails, and that he was rubbing his
nose against a white-washed wall, and holding his feet in his hands.

On the day when Melchior, stealing on tiptoe, had surprised the boy at the
keyboard that was too high for him, he had stayed to watch him for a
moment, and suddenly there had flashed upon him: "A little prodigy!... Why
had he not thought of it?... What luck for the family!..." No doubt he had
thought that the boy would be a little peasant like his mother. "It would
cost nothing to try. What a great thing it would be! He would take him all
over Germany, perhaps abroad. It would be a jolly life, and noble to boot."
Melchior never failed to look for the nobility hidden in all he did, for it
was not often that he failed to find it, after some reflection.

Strong in this assurance, immediately after supper, as soon as he had taken
his last mouthful, he dumped the child once more in front of the piano, and
made him go through the day's lesson until his eyes closed in weariness.
Then three times the next day. Then the day after that. Then every day.
Jean-Christophe soon tired of it; then he was sick to death of it; finally
he could stand it no more, and tried to revolt against it. There was no
point in what he was made to do: nothing but learning to run as fast as
possible over the keys, by loosening the thumb, or exercising the fourth
finger, which would cling awkwardly to the two next to it. It got on his
nerves; there was nothing beautiful in it. There was an end of the magic
sounds, and fascinating monsters, and the universe of dreams felt in one
moment.... Nothing but scales and exercises--dry, monotonous, dull--duller
than the conversation at meal-time, which was always the same--always about
the dishes, and always the same dishes. At first the child listened
absently to what his father said. When he was severely reprimanded he went
on with a bad grace. He paid no attention to abuse; he met it with bad
temper. The last straw was when one evening he heard Melchior unfold his
plans in the next room. So it was in order to put him on show like a trick
animal that he was so badgered and forced every day to move bits of ivory!
He was not even given time to go and see his beloved river. What was it
made them so set against him? He was angry, hurt in his pride, robbed of
his liberty. He decided that he would play no more, or as badly as
possible, and would discourage his father. It would be hard, but at all
costs he must keep his independence.

The very next lesson he began to put his plan into execution. He set
himself conscientiously to hit the notes awry, or to bungle every touch.
Melchior cried out, then roared, and blows began to rain. He had a heavy
ruler. At every false note he struck the boy's fingers, and at the same
time shouted in his ears, so that he was like to deafen him.
Jean-Christophe's face twitched tinder the pain of it; he bit his lips to
keep himself from crying, and stoically went on hitting the notes all
wrong, bobbing his head down whenever he felt a blow coming. But his system
was not good, and it was not long before he began to see that it was so.
Melchior was as obstinate as his son, and he swore that even if they were
to stay there two days and two nights he would not let him off a single
note until it had been properly played. Then Jean-Christophe tried too
deliberately to play wrongly, and Melchior began to suspect the trick, as
he saw that the boy's hand fell heavily to one side at every note with
obvious intent. The blows became more frequent; Jean-Christophe was no
longer conscious of his fingers. He wept pitifully and silently, sniffing,
and swallowing down his sobs and tears. He understood that he had nothing
to gain by going on like that, and that he would have to resort to
desperate measures. He stopped, and, trembling at the thought of the storm
which was about to let loose, he said valiantly:

"Papa, I won't play any more."

Melchior choked.

"What! What!..." he cried.

He took and almost broke the boy's arm with shaking it. Jean-Christophe,
trembling more and more, and raising his elbow to ward off the blows, said
again:

"I won't play any more. First, because I don't like being beaten. And
then...."

He could not finish. A terrific blow knocked the wind out of him, and
Melchior roared:

"Ah! you don't like being beaten? You don't like it?..."

Blows rained. Jean-Christophe bawled through his sobs:

"And then ... I don't like music!... I don't like music!..."

He slipped down from his chair. Melchior roughly put him back, and knocked
his knuckles against the keyboard. He cried:

"You shall play!"

And Jean-Christophe shouted:

"No! No! I won't play!"

Melchior had to surrender. He thrashed the boy, thrust him from the room,
and said that he should have nothing to eat all day, or the whole month,
until he had played all his exercises without a mistake. He kicked him out
and slammed the door after him,

Jean-Christophe found himself on the stairs, the dark and dirty stairs,
worm-eaten. A draught came through a broken pane in the skylight, and the
walls were dripping. Jean-Christophe sat on one of the greasy steps; his
heart was beating wildly with anger and emotion. In a low voice he cursed
his father:

"Beast! That's what you are! A beast ... a gross creature ... a brute! Yes,
a brute!... and I hate you, I hate you!... Oh, I wish you were dead! I wish
you were dead!"

His bosom swelled. He looked desperately at the sticky staircase and the
spider's web swinging in the wind above the broken pane. He felt alone,
lost in his misery. He looked at the gap in the banisters.... What if he
were to throw himself down?... or out of the window?... Yes, what if he
were to kill himself to punish them? How remorseful they would be! He heard
the noise of his fall from the stairs. The door upstairs opened suddenly.
Agonized voices cried: "He has fallen!--He has fallen!" Footsteps clattered
downstairs. His father and mother threw themselves weeping upon his body.
His mother sobbed: "It is your fault! You have killed him!" His father
waved his arms, threw himself on his knees, beat his head against the
banisters, and cried: "What a wretch am I! What a wretch am I!" The sight
of all this softened his misery. He was on the point of taking pity on
their grief; but then he thought that it was well for them, Had he enjoyed
his revenge....

When his story was ended, he found himself once more at the top of the
stairs in the dark; he looked down once more, and his desire to throw
himself down was gone. He even, shuddered a little, and moved away from the
edge, thinking that he might fall. Then he felt that he was a prisoner,
like a poor bird in a cage--a prisoner forever, with nothing to do but to
break his head and hurt himself. He wept, wept, and he robbed his eyes with
his dirty little hands, so that in a moment he was filthy. As he wept he
never left off looking at the things about him, and he found some
distraction in that. He stopped moaning for a moment to look at the spider
which, had just begun to move. Then he began with less conviction. He
listened to the sound of his own weeping, and went on, mechanically with
his sobbing, without much knowing why he did so. Soon he got up; he was
attracted by the window. He sat on the window-sill, retiring into the
background, and watched the spider furtively. It interested while it
revolted him.

Below the Rhine flowed, washing the walls of the house. In the staircase
window it was like being suspended over the river in a moving sky.
Jean-Christophe never limped down the stairs without taking a long look at
it, but he had never yet seen it as it was to-day. Grief sharpens the
senses; it is as though everything were more sharply graven on the vision
after tears have washed away the dim traces of memory. The river was like
a living thing to the child--a creature inexplicable, but how much more
powerful than all the creatures that he knew! Jean-Christophe leaned
forward to see it better; he pressed his mouth and flattened his nose
against the pane. Where was _it_ going? What did _it_ want? _It_ looked
free, and sure of its road.... Nothing could stop _it_. At all hours of the
day or night, rain or sun, whether there were joy or sorrow in the house,
_it_ went on going by, and it was as though nothing mattered to _it_, as
though _it_ never knew sorrow, and rejoiced in its strength. What joy to
be like _it_, to run through the fields, and by willow-branches, and over
little shining pebbles and crisping sand, and to care for nothing, to be
cramped by nothing, to be free!...

The boy looked and listened greedily; it was as though he were borne
along by the river, moving by with it.... When he closed his eyes he
saw color--blue, green, yellow, red, and great chasing shadows and
sunbeams.... What he sees takes shape. Now it is a large plain, reeds, corn
waving under a breeze scented with new grass and mint. Flowers on every
side--cornflowers, poppies, violets. How lovely it is! How sweet the air!
How good it is to lie down in the thick, soft grass!... Jean-Christophe
feels glad and a little bewildered, as he does when on feast-days his
father pours into his glass a little Rhine wine.... The river goes by....
The country is changed.... Now there are trees leaning over the water;
their delicate leaves, like little hands, dip, move, and turn about in
the water. A village among the trees is mirrored in the river. There are
cypress-trees, and the crosses of the cemetery showing above the white wall
washed by the stream. Then there are rocks, a mountain gorge, vines on the
slopes, a little pine-wood, and ruined castles.... And once more the plain,
corn, birds, and the sun....

The great green mass of the river goes by smoothly, like a single
thought; there are no waves, almost no ripples--smooth, oily patches.
Jean-Christophe does not see it; he has closed his eyes to hear it better.
The ceaseless roaring fills him, makes him giddy; he is exalted by this
eternal, masterful dream which goes no man knows whither. Over the turmoil
of its depths rush waters, in swift rhythm, eagerly, ardently. And from the
rhythm ascends music, like a vine climbing a trellis--arpeggios from silver
keys, sorrowful violins, velvety and smooth-sounding flutes.... The country
has disappeared. The river has disappeared. There floats by only a strange,
soft, and twilight atmosphere. Jean-Christophe's heart flutters with
emotion. What does he see now? Oh! Charming faces!... A little girl with
brown tresses calls to him, slowly, softly, and mockingly.... A pale
boy's face looks at him with melancholy blue eyes.... Others smile; other
eyes look at him--curious and provoking eyes, and their glances make
him blush--eyes affectionate and mournful, like the eyes of a dog--eyes
imperious, eyes suffering.... And the pale face of a woman, with black
hair, and lips close pressed, and eyes so large that they obscure her other
features, and they gaze upon Jean-Christophe with an ardor that hurts
him.... And, dearest of all, that face which smiles upon him with clear
gray eyes and lips a little open, showing gleaming white teeth.... Ah! how
kind and tender is that smile! All his heart is tenderness from it! How
good it is to love! Again! Smile upon me again! Do not go!... Alas! it is
gone!... But it leaves in his heart sweetness ineffable. Evil, sorrow,
are no more; nothing is left.... Nothing, only an airy dream, like serene
music, floating down a sunbeam, like the gossamers on fine summer days....
What has happened? What are these visions that fill the child with sadness
and sweet sorrow? Never had he seen them before, and yet he knew them and
recognized them. Whence come they? From what obscure abysm of creation? Are
they what has been ... _or what will be?_...

Now all is done, every haunting form is gone. Once more through a misty
veil, as though he were soaring high above it, the river in flood appears,
covering the fields, and rolling by, majestic, slow, almost still. And far,
far away, like a steely light upon the horizon, a watery plain, a line of
trembling waves--the sea. The river runs down to it. The sea seems to run
up to the river. She fires him. He desires her. He must lose himself in
her.... The music hovers; lovely dance rhythms swing out madly; all the
world is rocked in their triumphant whirligig.... The soul, set free,
cleaves space, like swallows' flight, like swallows drunk with the air,
skimming across the sky with shrill cries.... Joy! Joy! There is nothing,
nothing!... Oh, infinite happiness!...

Hours passed; it was evening; the staircase was in darkness. Drops of rain
made rings upon the river's gown, and the current bore them dancing away.
Sometimes the branch of a tree or pieces of black bark passed noiselessly
and disappeared. The murderous spider had withdrawn to her darkest corner.
And little Jean-Christophe was still leaning forward on the window-sill.
His face was pale and dirty; happiness shone in him. He was asleep.



III

  E la faccia del sol nascere ombrata.
              _Purgatorio_, xxx.


He had to surrender. In spite of an obstinate and heroic resistance, blows
triumphed over his ill-will. Every morning for three hours, and for three
hours every evening, Jean-Christophe was set before the instrument of
torture. All on edge with attention and weariness, with large tears rolling
down his cheeks and nose, he moved his little red hands over the black and
white keys--his hands were often stiff with cold--under the threatening
ruler, which descended at every false note, and the harangues of his
master, which were more odious to him than the blows. He thought that he
hated music. And yet he applied himself to it with a zest which fear of
Melchior did not altogether explain. Certain words of his grandfather had
made an impression on him. The old man, seeing his grandson weeping, had
told him, with that gravity which he always maintained for the boy, that it
was worth while suffering a little for the most beautiful and noble art
given to men for their consolation and glory. And Jean-Christophe, who was
grateful to his grandfather for talking to him like a man, had been
secretly touched by these simple words, which sorted well with his childish
stoicism and growing pride. But, more than by argument, he was bound and
enslaved by the memory of certain musical emotions, bound and enslaved to
the detested art, against which he tried in vain to rebel.

There was in the town, as usual in Germany, a theater, where opera,
opéra-comique, operetta, drama, comedy, and vaudeville are presented--every
sort of play of every style and fashion. There were performances three
times a week from six to nine in the evening. Old Jean Michel never missed
one, and was equally interested in everything. Once he took his grandson
with him. Several days beforehand he told him at length what the piece was
about. Jean-Christophe did not understand it, but he did gather that there
would be terrible things in it, and while he was consumed with the desire
to see them he was much afraid, though he dared not confess it. He knew
that there was to be a storm, and he was fearful of being struck by
lightning. He knew that there was to be a battle, and he was not at all
sure that he would not be killed. On the night before, in bed, he went
through real agony, and on the day of the performance he almost wished that
his grandfather might be prevented from coming for him. But when the hour
was near, and his grandfather did not come, he began to worry, and every
other minute looked out of the window. At last the old man appeared, and
they set out together. His heart leaped in his bosom; his tongue was dry,
and he could not speak.

They arrived at the mysterious building which was so often talked about at
home. At the door Jean Michel met some acquaintances, and the boy, who was
holding his hand tight because he was afraid of being lost, could not
understand how they could talk and laugh quietly at such a moment.

Jean Michel took his usual place in the first row behind the orchestra. He
leaned on the balustrade, and began a long conversation with the
contra-bass. He was at home there; there he was listened to because of his
authority as a musician, and he made the most of it; it might almost be
said that he abused it. Jean-Christophe could hear nothing. He was
overwhelmed by his expectation of the play, by the appearance of the
theater, which seemed magnificent to him, by the splendor of the audience,
who frightened him terribly. He dared not turn his head, for he thought
that all eyes were fixed on him. He hugged his little cap between his
knees, and he stared at the magic curtain with round eyes.

At last three blows were struck. His grandfather blew his nose, and drew
the _libretto_ from his pocket. He always followed it scrupulously, so much
so that sometimes he neglected what was happening on the stage. The
orchestra began to play. With the opening chords Jean-Christophe felt more
at ease. He was at home in this world of sound, and from that moment,
however extravagant the play might be, it seemed natural to him.

The curtain was raised, to reveal pasteboard trees and creatures who were
not much more real. The boy looked at it all, gaping with admiration, but
he was not surprised. The piece set in a fantastic East, of which he could
have had no idea. The poem was a web of ineptitudes, in which no human
quality was perceptible. Jean-Christophe hardly grasped it at all; he made
extraordinary mistakes, took one character for another, and pulled at his
grandfather's sleeve to ask him absurd questions, which showed that he had
understood nothing. He was not bored: passionately interested, on the
contrary. Bound the idiotic _libretto_ he built a romance of his own
invention, which had no sort of relation to the one that was represented on
the stage. Every moment some incident upset his romance, and he had to
repair it, but that did not worry him. He had made his choice of the people
who moved upon the stage, making all sorts of different sounds, and
breathlessly he followed the fate of those upon whom he had fastened his
sympathy. He was especially concerned with a fair lady, of uncertain age,
who had long, brilliantly fair hair, eyes of an unnatural size, and bare
feet. The monstrous improbabilities of the setting did not shock him. His
keen, childish eyes did not perceive the grotesque ugliness of the actors,
large and fleshy, and the deformed chorus of all sizes in two lines, nor
the pointlessness of their gestures, nor their faces bloated by their
shrieks, nor the full wigs, nor the high heels of the tenor, nor the
make-up of his lady-love, whose face was streaked with variegated
penciling. He was in the condition of a lover, whose passion blinds him to
the actual aspect of the beloved object. The marvelous power of illusion,
natural to children, stopped all unpleasant sensations on the way, and
transformed them.

The music especially worked wonders. It bathed the whole scene in a misty
atmosphere, in which everything became beautiful, noble, and desirable. It
bred in the soul a desperate need of love, and at the same time showed
phantoms of love on all sides, to fill the void that itself had created.
Little Jean-Christophe was overwhelmed by his emotion. There were words,
gestures, musical phrases which disturbed him; he dared not then raise his
eyes; he knew not whether it were well or ill; he blushed and grew pale by
turns; sometimes there came drops of sweat upon his brow, and he was
fearful lest all the people there should see his distress. When the
catastrophe came about which inevitably breaks upon lovers in the fourth
act of an opera so as to provide the tenor and the _prima donna_ with an
opportunity for showing off their shrillest screams, the child thought he
must choke; his throat hurt him as though he had caught cold; he clutched
at his neck with his hands, and could not swallow his saliva; tears welled
up in him; his hands and feet were frozen. Fortunately, his grandfather was
not much less moved. He enjoyed the theater with a childish simplicity.
During the dramatic passages he coughed carelessly to hide his distress,
but Jean-Christophe saw it, and it delighted him. It was horribly hot;
Jean-Christophe was dropping with sleep, and he was very uncomfortable. But
he thought only: "Is there much longer? It cannot be finished!" Then
suddenly it was finished, without his knowing why. The curtain fell; the
audience rose; the enchantment was broken.

They went home through the night, the two children--the old man and the
little boy. What a fine night! What a serene moonlight! They said nothing;
they were turning over their memories. At last the old man said:

"Did you like it, boy?"

Jean-Christophe could not reply; he was still fearful from emotion, and he
would not speak, so as not to break the spell; he had to make an effort to
whisper, with a sigh:

"Oh yes."

The old man smiled. After a time he went on:

"It's a fine thing--a musician's trade! To create things like that, such
marvelous spectacles--is there anything more glorious? It is to be God on
earth!"

The boy's mind leaped to that. What! a man had made all that! That had not
occurred to him. It had seemed that it must have made itself, must be the
work of Nature. A man, a musician, such as he would be some day! Oh, to be
that for one day, only one day! And then afterwards ... afterwards,
whatever you like! Die, if necessary! He asked:

"What man made that, grandfather?"

The old man told him of François Marie Hassler, a young German artist who
lived at Berlin. He had known him once. Jean-Christophe listened, all ears.
Suddenly he said:

"And you, grandfather?"

The old man trembled.

"What?" he asked.

"Did you do things like that--you too?"

"Certainly," said the old man a little crossly.

He was silent, and after they had walked a little he sighed heavily. It
was one of the sorrows of his life. He had always longed to write for the
theater, and inspiration had always betrayed him. He had in his desk one or
two acts written, but he had so little illusion as to their worth that he
had never dared to submit them to an outside judgment.

They said no more until they reached home. Neither slept. The old man was
troubled. He took his Bible for consolation. In bed Jean-Christophe turned
over and over the events of the evening; he recollected the smallest
details, and the girl with the bare feet reappeared before him. As he dozed
off a musical phrase rang in his ears as distinctly as if the orchestra
were there. All his body leaped; he sat up on his pillow, his head buzzing
with music, and he thought: "Some day I also shall write. Oh, can I ever do
it?"

From that moment he had only one desire, to go to the theater again, and he
set himself to work more keenly, because they made a visit to the theater
his reward. He thought of nothing but that; half the week he thought of the
last performance, and the other half he thought of the next. He was fearful
of being ill on a theater day, and this fear made him often, find in
himself the symptoms of three or four illnesses. When the day came he did
not eat; he fidgeted like a soul in agony; he looked at the clock fifty
times, and thought that the evening would never come; finally, unable to
contain himself, he would go out an hour before the office opened, for fear
of not being able to procure a seat, and, as he was the first in the empty
theater, he used to grow uneasy. His grandfather had told him that once
or twice the audience had not been large enough, and so the players
had preferred not to perform, and to give back the money. He watched
the arrivals and counted them, thinking: "Twenty-three, twenty-four,
twenty-five.... Oh, it is not enough ... there will never be enough!" 'And
when he saw some important person enter the circle or the stalls, his heart
was lighter, and he said to himself: "They will never dare to send him
away. Surely they will play for him." But he was not convinced; he would
not be reassured until the musicians took their places. And even then he
would be afraid that the curtain would rise, and they would announce, as
they had done one evening, a change of programme. With lynx eyes he watched
the stand of the contra-bass to see if the title written on his music was
that of the piece announced. And when he had seen it there, two minutes
later he would look again to make quite sure that he had not been wrong.
The conductor was not there. He must be ill. There was a stirring behind
the curtain, and a sound of voices and hurried footsteps. Was there an
accident, some untoward misfortune? Silence again. The conductor was at
his post. Everything seemed ready at last.... They did not begin! What
was happening? He boiled over with impatience. Then the bell rang. His
heart thumped away. The orchestra began the overture, and for a few hours
Jean-Christophe would swim in happiness, troubled only by the idea that it
must soon come to an end.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some time after that a musical event brought even more excitement into
Jean-Christophe's thoughts. François Marie Hassler, the author of the
first opera which had so bowled him over, was to visit the town. He was to
conduct a concert consisting of his compositions. The town was excited. The
young musician was the subject of violent discussion in Germany, and for a
fortnight he was the only topic of conversation. It was a different matter
when he arrived. The friends of Melchior and old Jean Michel continually
came for news, and they went away with the most extravagant notions of the
musician's habits and eccentricities. The child followed these narratives
with eager attention. The idea that the great man was there in the town,
breathing the same air as himself, treading the same stones, threw him into
a state of dumb exaltation. He lived only in the hope of seeing him.

Hassler was staying at the Palace as the guest of the Grand Duke. He hardly
went out, except to the theater for rehearsals, to which Jean-Christophe
was not admitted, and as he was very lazy, he went to and fro in
the Prince's carriage. Therefore, Jean-Christophe did not have many
opportunities of seeing him, and he only succeeded once in catching sight
of him as he drove in the carriage. He saw his fur coat, and wasted hours
in waiting in the street, thrusting and jostling his way to right and left,
and before and behind, to win and keep his place in front of the loungers.
He consoled himself with spending half his days watching the windows of the
Palace which had been pointed out as those of the master. Most often he
only saw the shutters, for Hassler got up late, and the windows were closed
almost all morning. This habit had made well-informed persons say that
Hassler could not bear the light of day, and lived in eternal night.

At length Jean-Christophe was able to approach his hero. It was the day of
the concert. All the town was there. The Grand Duke and his Court occupied
the great royal box, surmounted with a crown supported by two chubby
cherubim. The theater was in gala array. The stage was decorated with
branches of oak and flowering laurel. All the musicians of any account made
it a point of honor to take their places in the orchestra. Melchior was at
his post, and Jean Michel was conducting the chorus.

When Hassler appeared there was loud applause from every part of the house,
and the ladies rose to see him better. Jean-Christophe devoured him with
his eyes. Hassler had a young, sensitive face, though it was already rather
puffy and tired-looking; his temples were bald, and his hair was thin on
the crown of his head; for the rest, fair, curly hair. His blue eyes looked
vague. He had a little fair mustache and an expressive mouth, which was
rarely still, but twitched with a thousand imperceptible movements. He was
tall, and held himself badly--not from awkwardness, but from weariness or
boredom. He conducted capriciously and lithely, with his whole awkward body
swaying, like his music, with gestures, now caressing, now sharp and jerky.
It was easy to see that he was very nervous, and his music was the exact
reflection of himself. The quivering and jerky life of it broke through the
usual apathy of the orchestra. Jean-Christophe breathed heavily; in spite
of his fear of drawing attention to himself, he could not stand still in
his place; he fidgeted, got up, and the music gave him such violent and
unexpected shocks that he had to move his head, arms, and legs, to the
great discomfort of his neighbors, who warded off his kicks as best they
could. The whole audience was enthusiastic, fascinated by the success,
rather than by the compositions. At the end there was a storm of applause
and cries, in which the trumpets in the orchestra joined, German fashion,
with their triumphant blare in salute of the conqueror, Jean-Christophe
trembled with pride, as though these honors were for himself. He enjoyed
seeing Hassler's face light up with childish pleasure. The ladies threw
flowers, the men waved their hats, and the audience rushed for the
platform. Every one wanted to shake the master's hand. Jean-Christophe
saw one enthusiast raise the master's hand to his lips, another steal a
handkerchief that Hassler had left on the corner of his desk. He wanted
to reach the platform also, although he did not know why, for if at that
moment he had found himself near Hassler, he would have fled at once in
terror and emotion. But he butted with all his force, like a ram, among the
skirts and legs that divided him from Hassler. He was too small; he could
not break through.

Fortunately, when the concert was over, his grandfather came and took him
to join in a party to serenade Hassler. It was night, and torches were
lighted. All the musicians of the orchestra were there. They talked only of
the marvelous compositions they had heard. They arrived outside the Palace,
and took up their places without a sound under the master's windows. They
took on an air of secrecy, although everybody, including Hassler, knew what
was to come. In the silence of the night they began to play certain famous
fragments of Hassler's compositions. He appeared at the window with the
Prince, and they roared in their honor. Both bowed. A servant came from the
Prince to invite the musicians to enter the Palace. They passed through
great rooms, with frescoes representing naked men with helmets; they were
of a reddish color, and were making gestures of defiance. The sky was
covered with great clouds like sponges. There were also men and women of
marble clad in waist-cloths made of iron. The guests walked on carpets so
thick that their tread was inaudible, and they came at length to a room
which was as light as day, and there were tables laden with drinks and good
things.

The Grand Duke was there, but Jean-Christophe did not see him; he had eyes
only for Hassler. Hassler came towards them; he thanked them. He picked his
words carefully, stopped awkwardly in the middle of a sentence, and
extricated himself with a quip which made everybody laugh. They began to
eat. Hassler took four or five musicians aside. He singled out
Jean-Christophe's grandfather, and addressed very flattering words to him:
he recollected that Jean Michel had been one of the first to perform his
works, and he said that he had often heard tell of his excellence from a
friend of his who had been a pupil of the old man's. Jean-Christophe's
grandfather expressed his gratitude profusely; he replied with such
extraordinary eulogy that, in spite of his adoration of Hassler, the boy
was ashamed. But to Hassler they seemed to be pleasant and in the rational
order. Finally, the old man, who had lost himself in his rigmarole, took
Jean-Christophe by the hand, and presented him to Hassler. Hassler smiled
at Jean-Christophe, and carelessly patted his head, and when he learned
that the boy liked his music, and had not slept for several nights in
anticipation of seeing him, he took him in his arms and plied him with
questions. Jean-Christophe, struck, dumb and blushing with pleasure, dared
not look at him. Hassler took him by the chin and lifted his face up.
Jean-Christophe ventured to look. Hassler's eyes were kind and smiling; he
began to smile too. Then he felt so happy, so wonderfully happy in the
great man's arms, that he burst into tears. Hassler was touched by this
simple affection, and was more kind than ever. He kissed the boy and talked
to him tenderly. At the same time he said funny things and tickled him to
make him laugh; and Jean-Christophe could not help laughing through his
tears. Soon he became at ease, and answered Hassler readily, and of his own
accord he began to whisper in his ear all his small ambitions, as though he
and Hassler were old friends; he told him how he wanted to be a musician
like Hassler, and, like Hassler, to make beautiful things, and to be a
great man. He, was always ashamed, talked confidently; he did not know what
he was saying; he was in a sort of ecstasy, Hassler smiled at his prattling
and said:

"When you are a man, and have become a good musician, you shall come and
see me in Berlin. I shall make something of you."

Jean-Christophe was too delighted to reply.

Hassler teased him.

"You don't want to?"

Jean-Christophe nodded his head violently five or six times, meaning "Yes."

"It is a bargain, then?"

Jean-Christophe nodded again.

"Kiss me, then."

Jean-Christophe threw his arms round Hassler's neck and hugged him with all
his strength.

"Oh, you are wetting me! Let go! Your nose wants wiping!"

Hassler laughed, and wiped the boy's nose himself, a little
self-consciously, though he was quite jolly. He put him down, then took him
by the hand and led him to a table, where he filled his pockets with cake,
and left him, saying:

"Good-bye! Remember your promise."

Jean-Christophe swam in happiness. The rest of the world had ceased to
exist for him. He could remember nothing of what had happened earlier in
the evening; he followed lovingly Hassler's every expression and gesture.
One thing that he said struck him. Hassler was holding a glass in his hand;
he was talking, and his face suddenly hardened, and he said:

"The joy of such a day must not make us forget our enemies. We must never
forget our enemies. It is not their fault that we are not crushed out of
existence. It will not be our fault if that does not happen to them. That
is why the toast I propose is that there are people whose health ... we
will not drink!"

Everybody applauded and laughed at this original toast. Hassler had laughed
with the others and his good-humored expression had returned. But
Jean-Christophe was put off by it. Although he did not permit himself to
criticise any action of his hero, it hurt him that he had thought ugly
things, when on such a night there ought to be nothing but brilliant
thoughts and fancies. But he did not examine what he felt, and the
impression that it made was soon driven out by his great joy and the drop
of champagne which he drank out of his grandfather's glass.

On the way back the old man never stopped talking; he was delighted with
the praise that Hassler had given him; he cried out that Hassler was a
genius such as had not been known for a century. Jean-Christophe said
nothing, locking up in his heart his intoxication of love. _He_ had kissed
him. _He_ had held him in his arms! How good _he_ was! How great!

"Ah," he thought in bed, as he kissed his pillow passionately, "I would die
for him--die for him!"

The brilliant meteor which had flashed across the sky of the little town
that night had a decisive influence on Jean-Christophe's mind. All his
childhood Hassler was the model on which his eyes were fixed, and to follow
his example the little man of six decided that he also would write music.
To tell the truth, he had been doing so for long enough without knowing it,
and he had not waited to be conscious of composing before he composed.

Everything is music for the born musician. Everything that throbs, or
moves, or stirs, or palpitates--sunlit summer days, nights when the wind
howls, flickering light, the twinkling of the stars, storms, the song of
birds, the buzzing of insects, the murmuring of trees, voices, loved or
loathed, familiar fireside sounds, a creaking door, blood moving in the
veins in the silence of the night--everything that is is music; all that is
needed is that it should be heard. All the music of creation found its echo
in Jean-Christophe. Everything that he saw, everything that he felt, was
translated into music without his being conscious of it. He was like a
buzzing hive of bees. But no one noticed it, himself least of all.

Like all children, he hummed perpetually at every hour of the day. Whatever
he was doing--whether he were walking in the street, hopping on one foot,
or lying on the floor at his grandfather's, with his head in his hands,
absorbed in the pictures of a book, or sitting in his little chair in the
darkest corner of the kitchen, dreaming aimlessly in the twilight--always
the monotonous murmuring of his little trumpet was to be heard, played with
lips closed and cheeks blown out. His mother seldom paid any heed to it,
but, once in a while, she would protest.

When he was tired of this state of half-sleep he would have to move and
make a noise. Then he made music, singing it at the top of his voice. He
had made tunes for every occasion. He had a tune for splashing in his
wash-basin in the morning, like a little duck. He had a tune for sitting on
the piano-stool in front of the detested instrument, and another for
getting off it, and this was a more brilliant affair than the other. He had
one for his mother putting the soup on the table; he used to go before her
then blowing a blare of trumpets. He played triumphal marches by which to
go solemnly from the dining-room to the bedroom. Sometimes he would
organize little processions with his two small brothers; all then would
file out gravely, one after another, and each had a tune to march to. But,
as was right and proper, Jean-Christophe kept the best for himself. Every
one of his tunes was strictly appropriated to its special occasion, and
Jean-Christophe never by any chance confused them. Anybody else would have
made mistakes, but he knew the shades of difference between them exactly.

One day at his grandfather's house he was going round the room clicking his
heels, head up and chest out; he went round and round and round, so that it
was a wonder he did not turn sick, and played one of his compositions. The
old man, who was shaving, stopped in the middle of it, and, with his face
covered with lather, came to look at him, and said:

"What are you singing, boy?"

Jean-Christophe said he did not know.

"Sing it again!" said Jean Michel.

Jean-Christophe tried; he could not remember the tune. Proud of having
attracted his grandfather's attention, he tried to make him admire his
voice, and sang after his own fashion an air from some opera, but that was
not what the old man wanted. Jean Michel said nothing, and seemed not to
notice him any more. But he left the door of his room ajar while the boy
was playing alone in the next room.

A few days later Jean-Christophe, with the chairs arranged about him, was
playing a comedy in music, which he had made up of scraps that he
remembered from the theater, and he was making steps and bows, as he had
seen them done in a minuet, and addressing himself to the portrait of
Beethoven which hung above the table. As he turned with a pirouette he saw
his grandfather watching him through the half-open door. He thought the old
man was laughing at him; he was abashed, and stopped dead; he ran to the
window, and pressed his face against the panes, pretending that he had been
watching something of the greatest interest. But the old man said nothing;
he came to him and kissed him, and Jean-Christophe saw that he was pleased.
His vanity made the most of these signs; he was clever enough to see that
he had been appreciated; but he did not know exactly which his grandfather
had admired most--his talent as a dramatic author, or as a musician, or as
a singer, or as a dancer. He inclined, to the latter, for he prided himself
on this.

A week later, when he had forgotten the whole affair, his grandfather said
mysteriously that he had something to show him. He opened his desk, took
out a music-book, and put it on the rack of the piano, and told the boy to
play. Jean-Christophe was very much interested, and deciphered it fairly
well. The notes were written by hand in the old man's large handwriting,
and he had taken especial pains with it. The headings were adorned with
scrolls and flourishes. After some moments the old man, who was sitting
beside Jean-Christophe turning the pages for him, asked him what the music
was. Jean-Christophe had been too much absorbed in his playing to notice
what he had played, and said that he did not know it.

"Listen!... You don't know it?"

Yes; he thought he knew it, but he did not know where he had heard it. The
old man laughed.

"Think."

Jean-Christophe shook his head.

"I don't know."

A light was fast dawning in his mind; it seemed to him that the air....
But, no! He dared not.... He would not recognize it.

"I don't know, grandfather."

He blushed.

"What, you little fool, don't you see that it is your own?"

He was sure of it, but to hear it said made his heart thump.

"Oh! grandfather!..."

Beaming, the old man showed him the book.

"See: _Aria_. It is what you were singing on Tuesday when you were lying on
the floor. _March_. That is what I asked you to sing again last week, and
you could not remember it. _Minuet_. That is what you were dancing by the
armchair. Look!"

On the cover was written in wonderful Gothic letters:

"_The Pleasures of Childhood: Aria, Minuetto, Valse, and Marcia, Op. 1, by
Jean-Christophe Krafft_."

Jean-Christophe was dazzled by it. To see his name, and that fine title,
and that large book--his work!... He went on murmuring:

"Oh! grandfather! grandfather!..."

The old man drew him to him. Jean-Christophe threw himself on his knees,
and hid his head in Jean Michel's bosom. He was covered with blushes from
his happiness. The old man was even happier, and went on, in a voice which
he tried to make indifferent, for he felt that he was on the point of
breaking down:

"Of course, I added the accompaniment and the harmony to fit the song. And
then"--he coughed--"and then, I added a _trio_ to the minuet, because ...
because it is usual ... and then.... I think it is not at all bad."

He played it. Jean-Christophe was very proud of collaborating with his
grandfather.

"But, grandfather, you must put your name to it too."

"It is not worth while. It is not worth while others besides yourself
knowing it. Only"--here his voice trembled--"only, later on, when I am no
more, it will remind you of your old grandfather ... eh? You won't forget
him?"

The poor old man did not say that he had been unable to resist the quite
innocent pleasure of introducing one of his own unfortunate airs into his
grandson's work, which he felt was destined to survive him; but his desire
to share in this imaginary glory was very humble and very touching, since
it was enough for him anonymously to transmit to posterity a scrap of his
own thought, so as not altogether to perish. Jean-Christophe was touched by
it, and covered his face with kisses, and the old man, growing more and
more tender, kissed his hair.

"You will remember me? Later on, when you are a good musician, a great
artist, who will bring honor to his family, to his art, and to his country,
when you are famous, you will remember that it was your old grandfather who
first perceived it, and foretold what you would be?"

There were tears in his eyes as he listened to his own words. He was
reluctant to let such signs of weakness be seen. He had an attack of
coughing, became moody, and sent the boy away hugging the precious
manuscript.

Jean-Christophe went home bewildered by his happiness. The stones danced
about him. The reception he had from his family sobered him a little. When
he blurted out the splendor of his musical exploit they cried out upon him.
His mother laughed at him. Melchior declared that the old man was mad, and
that he would do better to take care of himself than to set about turning
the boy's head. As for Jean-Christophe, he would oblige by putting such
follies from his mind, and sitting down _illico_ at the piano and playing
exercises for four hours. He must first learn to play properly; and as for
composing, there was plenty of time for that later on when he had nothing
better to do.

Melchior was not, as these words of wisdom might indicate, trying to keep
the boy from the dangerous exaltation of a too early pride. On the
contrary, he proved immediately that this was not so. But never having
himself had any idea to express in music, and never having had the least
need to express an idea, he had come, as a _virtuoso_, to consider
composing a secondary matter, which was only given value by the art of the
executant. He was not insensible of the tremendous enthusiasm roused by
great composers like Hassler. For such ovations he had the respect which he
always paid to success--mingled, perhaps, with a little secret
jealousy--for it seemed to him that such applause was stolen from him. But
he knew by experience that the successes of the great _virtuosi_ are no
less remarkable, and are more personal in character, and therefore more
fruitful of agreeable and flattering consequences. He affected to pay
profound homage to the genius of the master musicians; but he took a great
delight in telling absurd anecdotes of them, presenting their intelligence
and morals in a lamentable light. He placed the _virtuoso_ at the top of
the artistic ladder, for, he said, it is well known that the tongue is the
noblest member of the body, and what would thought be without words? What
would music be without the executant? But whatever may have been the reason
for the scolding that he gave Jean-Christophe, it was not without its uses
in restoring some common sense to the boy, who was almost beside himself
with his grandfather's praises. It was not quite enough. Jean-Christophe,
of course, decided that his grandfather was much cleverer than his father,
and though he sat down at the piano without sulking, he did so not so much
for the sake of obedience as to be able to dream in peace, as he always did
while his fingers ran, mechanically over the keyboard. While he played his
interminable exercises he heard a proud voice inside himself saying over
and over again: "I am a composer--a great composer."

From that day on, since he was a composer, he set himself to composing.
Before he had even learned to write, he continued to cipher crotchets and
quavers on scraps of paper, which he tore from the household account-books.
But in the effort to find out what he was thinking, and to set it down in
black and white, he arrived at thinking nothing, except when he wanted to
think something. But he did not for that give up making musical phrases,
and as he was a born musician he made them somehow, even if they meant
nothing at all. Then he would take them in triumph to his grandfather, who
wept with joy over them--he wept easily now that he was growing old--and
vowed that they were wonderful.

All this was like to spoil him altogether. Fortunately, his own good sense
saved him, helped by the influence of a man who made no pretension of
having any influence over anybody, and set nothing before the eyes of the
world but a commonsense point of view. This man was Louisa's brother.

Like her, he was small, thin, puny, and rather round-shouldered. No one
knew exactly how old he was; he could not be more than forty, but he looked
more than fifty. He had a little wrinkled face, with a pink complexion, and
kind pale blue eyes, like faded forget-me-nots. When he took off his cap,
which he used fussily to wear everywhere from his fear of draughts, he
exposed a little pink bald head, conical in shape, which was the great
delight of Jean-Christophe and his brothers. They never left off teasing
him about it, asking him what he had done with his hair, and, encouraged by
Melchior's pleasantries, threatening to smack it. He was the first to laugh
at them, and put up with their treatment of him patiently. He was a
peddler; he used to go from village to village with a pack on his back,
containing everything--groceries, stationery, confectionery, handkerchiefs,
scarves, shoes, pickles, almanacs, songs, and drugs. Several attempts had
been made to make him settle down, and to buy him a little business--a
store or a drapery shop. But he could not do it. One night he would get up,
push the key under the door, and set off again with his pack. Weeks and
months went by before he was seen again. Then he would reappear. Some
evening they would hear him fumbling at the door; it would half open, and
the little bald head, politely uncovered, would appear with its kind eyes
and timid smile. He would say, "Good-evening, everybody," carefully wipe
his shoes before entering, salute everybody, beginning with the eldest, and
go and sit in the most remote corner of the room. There he would light his
pipe, and sit huddled up, waiting quietly until the usual storm of
questions was over. The two Kraffts, Jean-Christophe's father and
grandfather, had a jeering contempt for him. The little freak seemed
ridiculous to them, and their pride was touched by the low degree of the
peddler. They made him feel it, but he seemed to take no notice of it, and
showed them a profound respect which disarmed them, especially the old man,
who was very sensitive to what people thought of him. They used to crush
him with heavy pleasantries, which often brought the blush to Louisa's
cheeks. Accustomed to bow without dispute to the intellectual superiority
of the Kraffts, she had no doubt that her husband and father-in-law were
right; but she loved her brother, and her brother had for her a dumb
adoration. They were the only members of their family, and they were both
humble, crushed, and thrust aside by life; they were united in sadness and
tenderness by a bond of mutual pity and common suffering, borne in secret.
With the Kraffts--robust, noisy, brutal, solidly built for living, and
living joyously--these two weak, kindly creatures, out of their setting, so
to speak, outside life, understood and pitied each other without ever
saying anything about it.

Jean-Christophe, with the cruel carelessness of childhood, shared the
contempt of his father and grandfather for the little peddler. He made fun
of him, and treated him as a comic figure; he worried him with stupid
teasing, which his uncle bore with his unshakable phlegm. But
Jean-Christophe loved him, without quite knowing why. He loved him first of
all as a plaything with which he did what he liked. He loved him also
because he always gave him something nice--a dainty, a picture, an amusing
toy. The little man's return was a joy for the children, for he always had
some surprise for them. Poor as he was, he always contrived to bring them
each a present, and he never forgot the birthday of any one of the family.
He always turned up on these august days, and brought out of his pocket
some jolly present, lovingly chosen. They were so used to it that they
hardly thought of thanking him; it seemed natural, and he appeared to be
sufficiently repaid by the pleasure he had given. But Jean-Christophe, who
did not sleep very well, and during the night used to turn over in his mind
the events of the day, used sometimes to think that his uncle was very
kind, and he used to be filled with floods of gratitude to the poor man. He
never showed it when the day came, because he thought that the others would
laugh at him. Besides, he was too little to see in kindness all the rare
value that it has. In the language of children, kind and stupid are almost
synonymous, and Uncle Gottfried seemed to be the living proof of it.

One evening when Melchior was dining out, Gottfried was left alone in the
living-room, while Louisa put the children to bed. He went out, and sat by
the river a few yards away from the house. Jean-Christophe, having nothing
better to do, followed him, and, as usual, tormented him with his puppy
tricks until he was out of breath, and dropped down on the grass at his
feet. Lying on his belly, he buried his nose in the turf. When he had
recovered his breath, he cast about for some new crazy thing to say. When
he found it he shouted it out, and rolled about with laughing, with his
face still buried in the earth. He received no answer. Surprised by the
silence, he raised his head, and began to repeat his joke. He saw
Gottfried's face lit up by the last beams of the setting sun cast through
golden mists. He swallowed down his words. Gottfried smiled with his eyes
half closed and his mouth half open, and in his sorrowful face was an
expression of sadness and unutterable melancholy. Jean-Christophe, with his
face in his hands, watched him. The night came; little by little
Gottfried's face disappeared. Silence reigned. Jean-Christophe in his turn
was filled with the mysterious impressions which had been reflected on
Gottfried's face. He fell into a vague stupor. The earth was in darkness,
the sky was bright; the stars peeped out. The little waves of the river
chattered against the bank. The boy grew sleepy. Without seeing them, he
bit off little blades of grass. A grasshopper chirped near him. It seemed
to him that he was going to sleep.

Suddenly, in the dark, Gottfried began to sing. He sang in a weak, husky
voice, as though to himself; he could not have been heard twenty yards
away. But there was sincerity and emotion in his voice; it was as though he
were thinking aloud, and that through the song, as through clear water, the
very inmost heart of him was to be seen. Never had Jean-Christophe heard
such singing, and never had he heard such a song. Slow, simple, childish,
it moved gravely, sadly, a little monotonously, never hurrying--with long
pauses--then setting out again on its way, careless where it arrived, and
losing itself in the night. It seemed to come from far away, and it went no
man knows whither. Its serenity was full of sorrow, and beneath its seeming
peace there dwelt an agony of the ages. Jean-Christophe held his breath; he
dared not move; he was cold with emotion. When it was done he crawled
towards Gottfried, and in a choking voice said:

"Uncle!"

Gottfried did not reply.

"Uncle!" repeated the boy, placing his hands and chin on Gottfried's knees.

Gottfried said kindly:

"Well, boy..."

"What is it, uncle? Tell me! What were you singing?"

"I don't know."

"Tell me what it is!"

"I don't know. Just a song."

"A song that you made."

"No, not I! What an idea!... It is an old song."

"Who made it?"

"No one knows...."

"When?"

"No one knows...."

"When you were little?"

"Before I was born, before my father was born, and before his father, and
before his father's father.... It has always been."

"How strange! No one has ever told me about it."

He thought for a moment.

"Uncle, do you know any other?"

"Yes."

"Sing another, please."

"Why should I sing another? One is enough. One sings when one wants to
sing, when one has to sing. One must not sing for the fun of it."

"But what about when one makes music?"

"That is not music."

The boy was lost in thought. He did not quite understand. But he asked for
no explanation. It was true, it was not music, not like all the rest. He
went on:

"Uncle, have you ever made them?"

"Made what?"

"Songs!"

"Songs? Oh! How should I make them? They can't be made."

With his usual logic the boy insisted:

"But, uncle, it must have been made once...."

Gottfried shook his head obstinately.

"It has always been."

The boy returned to the attack:

"But, uncle, isn't it possible to make other songs, new songs?"

"Why make them? There are enough for everything. There are songs for when
you are sad, and for when you are gay; for when you are weary, and for when
you are thinking of home; for when you despise yourself, because you have
been a vile sinner, a worm upon the earth; for when you want to weep,
because people have not been kind to you; and for when your heart is glad
because the world is beautiful, and you see God's heaven, which, like Him,
is always kind, and seems to laugh at you.... There are songs for
everything, everything. Why should I make them?"

"To be a great man!" said the boy, full of his grandfather's teaching and
his simple dreams.

Gottfried laughed softly. Jean-Christophe, a little hurt, asked him:

"Why are you laughing?"

Gottfried said:

"Oh! I?... I am nobody."

He kissed the boy's head, and said:

"You want to be a great man?"

"Yes," said Jean-Christophe proudly. He thought Gottfried would admire him.
But Gottfried replied:

"What for?"

Jean-Christophe was taken aback. He thought for a moment, and said:

"To make beautiful songs!"

Gottfried laughed again, and said:

"You want to make beautiful songs, so as to be a great man; and you want to
be a great man, so as to make beautiful songs. You are like a dog chasing
its own tail."

Jean-Christophe was dashed. At any other time he would not have borne his
uncle laughing at him, he at whom he was used to laughing. And, at the same
time, he would never have thought Gottfried clever enough to stump him with
an argument. He cast about for some answer or some impertinence to throw at
him, but could find none. Gottfried went on:

"When you are as great as from here to Coblentz, you will never make a
single song."

Jean-Christophe revolted on that.

"And if I will!..."

"The more you want to, the less you can. To make songs, you have to be like
those creatures. Listen...."

The moon had risen, round and gleaming, behind the fields. A silvery mist
hovered above the ground and the shimmering waters. The frogs croaked, and
in the meadows the melodious fluting of the toads arose. The shrill tremolo
of the grasshoppers seemed to answer the twinkling of the stars. The wind
rustled softly in the branches of the alders. From the hills above the
river there came down the sweet light song of a nightingale.

"What need is there to sing?" sighed Gottfried, after a long silence. (It
was not clear whether he were talking to himself or to Jean-Christophe.)
"Don't they sing sweeter than anything that you could make?"

Jean-Christophe had often heard these sounds of the night, and he loved
them. But never had he heard them as he heard them now. It was true: what
need was there to sing?... His heart was full of tenderness and sorrow. He
was fain to embrace the meadows, the river, the sky, the clear stars. He
was filled with love for his uncle Gottfried, who seemed to him now the
best, the cleverest, the most beautiful of men. He thought how he had
misjudged him, and he thought that his uncle was sad because he,
Jean-Christophe, had misjudged him. He was remorseful. He wanted to cry
out: "Uncle, do not be sad! I will not be naughty again. Forgive me, I love
you!" But he dared not. And suddenly he threw himself into Gottfried's
arms, but the words would not come, only he repeated, "I love you!" and
kissed him passionately. Gottfried was surprised and touched, and went on
saying, "What? What?" and kissed him. Then he got up, took him by the hand,
and said: "We must go in." Jean-Christophe was sad because his uncle had
not understood him. But as they came to the house, Gottfried said: "If you
like we'll go again to hear God's music, and I will sing you some more
songs." And when Jean-Christophe kissed him gratefully as they said
good-night, he saw that his uncle had understood.

Thereafter they often went for walks together in the evening, and they
walked without a word along by the river, or through the fields. Gottfried
slowly smoked his pipe, and Jean-Christophe, a little frightened by the
darkness, would give him his hand. They would sit down on the grass, and
after a few moments of silence Gottfried would talk to him about the stars
and the clouds; he taught him to distinguish the breathing of the earth,
air, and water, the songs, cries, and sounds of the little worlds of
flying, creeping, hopping, and swimming things swarming in the darkness,
and the signs of rain and fine weather, and the countless instruments of
the symphony of the night. Sometimes Gottfried would sing tunes, sad or
gay, but always of the same kind, and always in the end Jean-Christophe
would be brought to the same sorrow. But he would never sing more than one
song in an evening, and Jean-Christophe noticed that he did not sing gladly
when he was asked to do so; it had to come of itself, just when he wanted
to. Sometimes they had to wait for a long time without speaking, and just
when Jean-Christophe was beginning to think, "He is not going to sing this
evening," Gottfried would make up his mind.

One evening, when nothing would induce Gottfried to sing, Jean-Christophe
thought of submitting to him one of his own small compositions, in the
making of which he found so much trouble and pride. He wanted to show what
an artist he was. Gottfried listened very quietly, and then said:

"That is very ugly, my poor dear Jean-Christophe!"

Jean-Christophe was so hurt that he could find nothing to say. Gottfried
went on pityingly:

"Why did you do it? It is so ugly! No one forced you to do it."

Hot with anger, Jean-Christophe protested:

"My grandfather thinks my music fine."

"Ah!" said Gottfried, not turning a hair. "No doubt he is right. He is a
learned man. He knows all about music. I know nothing about it...."

And after a moment:

"But I think that is very ugly."

He looked quietly at Jean-Christophe, and saw his angry face, and smiled,
and said:

"Have you composed any others? Perhaps I shall like the others better than
that."

Jean-Christophe thought that his other compositions might wipe out the
impression of the first, and he sang them all. Gottfried said nothing; he
waited until they were finished. Then he shook his head, and with profound
conviction said:

"They are even more ugly."

Jean-Christophe shut his lips, and his chin trembled; he wanted to cry.
Gottfried went on as though he himself were upset.

"How ugly they are!"

Jean-Christophe, with tears in his voice, cried out: "But why do you say
they are ugly?"

Gottfried looked at him with his frank eyes.

"Why?... I don't know.... Wait.... They are ugly ... first, because they
are stupid.... Yes, that's it.... They are stupid, they don't mean
anything.... You see? When you wrote, you had nothing to say. Why did you
write them?"

"I don't know," said Jean-Christophe, in a piteous voice. "I wanted to
write something pretty."

"There you are! You wrote for the sake of writing. You wrote because you
wanted to be a great musician, and to be admired. You have been proud; you
have been a liar; you have been punished.... You see! A man is always
punished when he is proud and a liar in music. Music must be modest and
sincere--or else, what is it? Impious, a blasphemy of the Lord, who has
given us song to tell the honest truth."

He saw the boy's distress, and tried to kiss him. But Jean-Christophe
turned angrily away, and for several days he sulked. He hated Gottfried.
But it was in vain that he said over and over to himself: "He is an ass! He
knows nothing--nothing! My grandfather, who is much cleverer, likes my
music." In his heart he knew that his uncle was right, and Gottfried's
words were graven on his inmost soul; he was ashamed to have been a liar.

And, in spite of his resentment, he always thought of it when he was
writing music, and often he tore up what he had written, being ashamed
already of what Gottfried would have thought of it. When he got over it,
and wrote a melody which he knew to be not quite sincere, he hid it
carefully from his uncle; he was fearful of his judgment, and was quite
happy when Gottfried just said of one of his pieces: "That is not so very
ugly.... I like it...."

Sometimes, by way of revenge, he used to trick him by giving him as his own
melodies from the great musicians, and he was delighted when it happened
that Gottfried disliked them heartily. But that did not trouble Gottfried.
He would laugh loudly when he saw Jean-Christophe clap his hands and dance
about him delightedly, and he always returned to his usual argument: "It is
well enough written, but it says nothing." He always refused to be present
at one of the little concerts given in Melchior's house. However beautiful
the music might be, he would begin to yawn and look sleepy with boredom.
Very soon he would be unable to bear it any longer, and would steal away
quietly. He used to say:

"You see, my boy, everything that you write in the house is not music.
Music in a house is like sunshine in a room. Music is to be found outside
where you breathe God's dear fresh air."

He was always talking of God, for he was very pious, unlike the two
Kraffts, father and son, who were free-thinkers, and took care to eat meat
on Fridays.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly, for no apparent reason, Melchior changed his opinion. Not only
did he approve of his father having put together Jean-Christophe's
inspirations, but, to the boy's great surprise, he spent several evenings
in making two or three copies of his manuscript. To every question put to
him on the subject, he replied impressively, "We shall see; ..." or he
would rub his hands and laugh, smack the boy's head by way of a joke, or
turn him up and blithely spank him. Jean-Christophe loathed these
familiarities, but he saw that his father was pleased, and did not know
why.

Then there were mysterious confabulations between Melchior and his father.
And one evening Jean-Christophe, to his astonishment, learned that he,
Jean-Christophe, had dedicated to H.S.H. the Grand Duke Leopold the
_Pleasures of Childhood_. Melchior had sounded the disposition of the
Prince, who had shown himself graciously inclined to accept the homage.
Thereupon Melchior declared that without losing a moment they must,
_primo_, draw up the official request to the Prince; _secondo_, publish the
work; _tertio_, organize a concert to give it a hearing.

There were further long conferences between Melchior and Jean Michel. They
argued heatedly for two or three evenings. It was forbidden to interrupt
them. Melchior wrote, erased; erased, wrote. The old man talked loudly, as
though he were reciting verses. Sometimes they squabbled or thumped on the
table because they could not find a word.

Then Jean-Christophe was called, made to sit at the table with a pen in his
hand, his father on his right, his grandfather on his left, and the old man
began to dictate words which he did not understand, because he found it
difficult to write every word in his enormous letters, because Melchior was
shouting in his ear, and because the old man declaimed with such emphasis
that Jean-Christophe, put out by the sound of the words, could not bother
to listen to their meaning. The old man was no less in a state of emotion.
He could not sit still, and he walked up and down the room, involuntarily
illustrating the text of what he read with gestures, but he came every
minute to look over what the boy had written, and Jean-Christophe,
frightened by the two large faces looking over his shoulder, put out his
tongue, and held his pen clumsily. A mist floated before his eyes; he made
too many strokes, or smudged what he had written; and Melchior roared, and
Jean Michel stormed; and he had to begin again, and then again, and when he
thought that they had at last come to an end, a great blot fell on the
immaculate page. Then they pulled his ears, and he burst into tears; but
they forbade him to weep, because he was spoiling the paper, and they began
to dictate, beginning all over again, and he thought it would go on like
that to the end of his life.

At last it was finished, and Jean Michel leaned against the mantelpiece,
and read over their handiwork in a voice trembling with pleasure, while
Melchior sat straddled across a chair, and looked at the ceiling and wagged
his chair and, as a connoisseur, rolled round his tongue the style of the
following epistle:

   "_Most Noble and Sublime Highness! Most
                Gracious Lord!_

"From my fourth year Music has been the first occupation of my childish
days. So soon as I allied myself to the noble Muse, who roused my soul to
pure harmony, I loved her, and, as it seemed to me, she returned my love.
Now I am in my sixth year, and for some time my Muse in hours of
inspiration has whispered in my ears: 'Be bold! Be bold! Write down the
harmonies of thy soul!' 'Six years old,' thought I, 'and how should I be
bold? What would the learned in the art say of me?' I hesitated. I
trembled. But my Muse insisted. I obeyed. I wrote.

"And now shall I,

          "_O Most Sublime Highness!_

"--shall I have the temerity and audacity to place upon the steps of Thy
Throne the first-fruits of my youthful labors?... Shall I make so bold as
to hope that Thou wilt let fall upon them the august approbation of Thy
paternal regard?...

"Oh, yes! For Science and the Arts have ever found in Thee their sage
Mæcenas, their generous champion, and talent puts forth its flowers under
the ægis of Thy holy protection.

"In this profound and certain faith I dare, then, approach Thee with these
youthful efforts. Receive them as a pure offering of my childish
veneration, and of Thy goodness deign,

"_O Most Sublime Highness!_

"to glance at them, and at their young author, who bows at Thy feet deeply
and in humility!

"_From the most submissive, faithful, and obedient servant of His Most
Noble and Most Sublime Highness_,

"JEAN-CHRISTOPHE KRAFFT."

Jean-Christophe heard nothing. He was very happy to have finished, and,
fearing that he would be made to begin again, he ran away to the fields. He
had no idea of what he had written, and he cared not at all. But when the
old man had finished his reading he began again to taste the full flavor of
it, and when the second reading came to an end Melchior and he declared
that it was a little masterpiece. That was also the opinion of the Grand
Duke, to whom the letter was presented, with a copy of the musical work. He
was kind enough to send word that he found both quite charming. He granted
permission for the concert, and ordered that the hall of his Academy of
Music should be put at Melchior's disposal, and deigned to promise that he
would have the young artist presented to himself on the day of the
performance.

Melchior set about organizing the concert as quickly as possible. He
engaged the support of the _Hof Musik Verein_, and as the success of his
first ventures had blown out his sense of proportion, he undertook at the
same time to publish a magnificent edition of the _Pleasures of Childhood_.
He wanted to have printed on the cover of it a portrait of Jean-Christophe
at the piano, with himself, Melchior, standing by his side, violin in hand.
He had to abandon that, not on account of the cost--Melchior did not stop
at any expense--but because there was not time enough. He fell back on an
allegorical design representing a cradle, a trumpet, a drum, a wooden
horse, grouped round a lyre which put forth rays like the sun. The
title-page bore, together with a long dedication, in which the name of the
Prince stood out in enormous letters, a notice to the effect that "Herr
Jean-Christophe Krafft was six years old." He was, in fact, seven and a
half. The printing of the design was very expensive. To meet the bill for
it, Jean Michel had to sell an old eighteenth-century chest, carved with
faces, which he had never consented to sell, in spite of the repeated
offers of Wormser, the furniture-dealer. But Melchior had no doubt but the
subscriptions would cover the cost, and beyond that the expenses of
printing the composition.

One other question occupied his mind: how to dress Jean-Christophe on the
day of the concert. There was a family council to decide the matter.
Melchior would have liked the boy to appear in a short frock and bare legs,
like a child of four. But Jean-Christophe was very large for his age, and
everybody knew him. They could not hope to deceive any one. Melchior had a
great idea. He decided that the boy should wear a dress-coat and white tie.
In vain did Louisa protest that they would make her poor boy ridiculous.
Melchior anticipated exactly the success and merriment that would be
produced by such an unexpected appearance. It was decided on, and the
tailor came and measured Jean-Christophe for his little coat. He had also
to have fine linen and patent-leather pumps, and all that swallowed up
their last penny. Jean-Christophe was very uncomfortable in his new
clothes. To make him used to them they made him try on his various
garments. For a whole month he hardly left the piano-stool. They taught him
to bow. He had never a moment of liberty. He raged against it, but dared
not rebel, for he thought that he was going to accomplish something
startling. He was both proud and afraid of it. They pampered him; they were
afraid he would catch cold; they swathed his neck in scarves; they warmed
his boots in case they were wet; and at table he had the best of
everything.

At last the great day arrived. The barber came to preside over his toilet
and curl Jean-Christophe's rebellious hair. He did not leave it until he
had made it look like a sheep-skin. All the family walked round
Jean-Christophe and declared that he was superb. Melchior, after looking
him up and down, and turning him about and about, was seized with an idea,
and went off to fetch a large flower, which he put in his buttonhole. But
when Louisa saw him she raised her hands, and cried out distressfully that
he looked like a monkey. That hurt him cruelly. He did not know whether to
be ashamed or proud of his garb. Instinctively he felt humiliated, and he
was more so at the concert. Humiliation was to be for him the outstanding
emotion of that memorable day.

       *       *       *       *       *

The concert was about to begin. The hall was half empty; the Grand Duke had
not arrived. One of those kindly and well-informed friends who always
appear on these occasions came and told them that there was a Council being
held at the Palace, and that the Grand Duke would not come. He had it on
good authority. Melchior was in despair. He fidgeted, paced up and down,
and looked repeatedly out of the window. Old Jean Michel was also in
torment, but he was concerned, for his grandson. He bombarded him with
instructions. Jean-Christophe was infected by the nervousness of his
family. He was not in the least anxious about his compositions, but he was
troubled by the thought of the bows that he had to make to the audience,
and thinking of them brought him to agony.

However, he had to begin; the audience was growing impatient. The orchestra
of the _Hof Musik Verein_ began the _Coriolan Overture_. The boy knew
neither Coriolan nor Beethoven, for though he had often heard Beethoven's
music, he had not known it. He never bothered about the names of the works
he heard. He gave them names of his own invention, while he created little
stories or pictures for them. He classified them usually in three
categories: fire, water, and earth, with a thousand degrees between each.
Mozart belonged almost always to water. He was a meadow by the side of a
river, a transparent mist floating over the water, a spring shower, or a
rainbow. Beethoven was fire--now a furnace with gigantic flames and vast
columns of smoke; now a burning forest, a heavy and terrible cloud,
flashing lightning; now a wide sky full of quivering stars, one of which
breaks free, swoops, and; dies on a fine September night setting the heart
beating. Now; the imperious ardor of that heroic soul burned him like fire.
Everything else disappeared. What was it all to him?--Melchior in despair,
Jean Michel agitated, all the busy world, the audience, the Grand Duke,
little Jean-Christophe. What had.' he to do with all these? What lay
between them and him? Was that he--he, himself?... He was given up to the
furious will that carried him headlong. He followed it breathlessly, with
tears in his eyes, and his legs numb, thrilling from the palms of his hands
to the soles of his feet. His blood drummed! "Charge!" and he trembled in
every limb. And as he listened so intensely, Hiding behind a curtain, his
heart suddenly leaped violently. The orchestra had stopped short in the
middle of a bar, and after a moment's silence, it broke into a crashing of
brass and cymbals with a military march, officially strident. The
transition from one sort of music to another was so brutal, so unexpected,
that Jean-Christophe ground his teeth and stamped his foot with rage, and
shook his fist at the wall. But Melchior rejoiced. The Grand Duke had come
in, and the orchestra was saluting him with the National Anthem. And in a
trembling voice Jean Michel gave his last instructions to his grandson.

The overture began again, and this time was finished. It was now
Jean-Christophe's turn. Melchior had arranged the programme to show off at
the same time the skill of both father and son. They were to play together
a sonata of Mozart for violin and piano. For the sake of effect he had
decided that Jean-Christophe should enter alone. He was led to the entrance
of the stage and showed the piano at the front, and for the last time it
was explained what he had to do, and then he was pushed on from the wings.

He was not much afraid, for he was used to the theater; but when he found
himself alone on the platform, with hundreds of eyes staring at him, he
became suddenly so frightened that instinctively he moved backwards and
turned towards the wings to go back again. He saw his father there
gesticulating and with his eyes blazing. He had to go on. Besides, the
audience had seen him. As he advanced there arose a twittering of
curiosity, followed soon by laughter, which grew louder and louder.
Melchior had not been wrong, and the boy's garb had all the effect
anticipated. The audience rocked with laughter at the sight of the child
with his long hair and gipsy complexion timidly trotting across the
platform in the evening dress of a man of the world. They got up to see him
better. Soon the hilarity was general. There was nothing unkindly in it,
but it would have made the most hardened musician lose his head.
Jean-Christophe, terrified by the noise, and the eyes watching, and the
glasses turned upon him, had only one idea: to reach the piano as quickly
as possible, for it seemed to him a refuge, an island in the midst of the
sea. With head down, looking neither to right nor left, he ran quickly
across the platform, and when he reached the middle of it, instead of
bowing to the audience, as had been arranged, he turned his back on it, and
plunged straight for the piano. The chair was too high for him to sit down
without his father's help, and in his distress, instead of waiting, he
climbed up on to it on his knees. That increased the merriment of the
audience, but now Jean-Christophe was safe. Sitting at his instrument, he
was afraid of no one.

Melchior came at last. He gained by the good-humor of the audience, who
welcomed him with warm applause. The sonata began. The boy played it with
imperturbable certainty, with his lips pressed tight in concentration, his
eyes fixed on the keys, his little legs hanging down from the chair. He
became more at ease as the notes rolled out; he was among friends that he
knew. A murmur of approbation reached him, and waves of pride and
satisfaction surged through him as he thought that all these people were
silent to listen to him and to admire him. But hardly had he finished when
fear overcame him again, and the applause which greeted him gave him more
shame than pleasure. His shame increased when Melchior took him by the
hand, and advanced with him to the edge of the platform, and made him bow
to the public. He obeyed, and bowed very low, with a funny awkwardness; but
he was humiliated, and blushed for what he had done, as though it were a
thing ridiculous and ugly.

He had to sit at the piano again, and he played the _Pleasures of
Childhood_. Then the audience was enraptured. After each piece they shouted
enthusiastically. They wanted him to begin again, and he was proud of his
success and at the same time almost hurt by such applause, which was also a
command. At the end the whole audience rose to acclaim him; the Grand Duke
led the applause. But as Jean-Christophe was now alone on the platform he
dared not budge from his seat. The applause redoubled. He bent his head
lower and lower, blushing and hang-dog in expression, and he looked
steadily away from the audience. Melchior came. He took him in his arms,
and told him to blow kisses. He pointed out to him the Grand Duke's box.
Jean-Christophe turned a deaf ear. Melchior took his arm, and threatened
him in a low voice. Then he did as he was told passively, but he did not
look at anybody, he did not raise his eyes, but went on turning his head
away, and he was unhappy. He was suffering; how, he did not know. His
vanity was suffering. He did not like the people who were there at all. It
was no use their applauding; he could not forgive them for having laughed
and for being amused by his humiliation; he could not forgive them for
having seen him in such a ridiculous position--held in mid-air to blow
kisses. He disliked them even for applauding, and when Melchior did at last
put him down, he ran away to the wings. A lady threw a bunch of violets up
at him as he went. It brushed his face. He was panic-stricken and ran as
fast as he could, turning over a chair that was in his way. The faster he
ran the more they laughed, and the more they laughed the faster he ran.

At last he reached the exit, which was filled with people looking at him.
He forced his way through, butting, and ran and hid himself at the back of
the anteroom. His grandfather was in high feather, and covered him with
blessings. The musicians of the orchestra shouted with laughter, and
congratulated the boy, who refused to look at them or to shake hands with
them. Melchior listened intently, gaging the applause, which had not yet
ceased, and wanted to take Jean-Christophe on to the stage again. But the
boy refused angrily, clung to his grandfather's coat-tails, and kicked at
everybody who came near him. At last he burst into tears, and they had to
let him be.

Just at this moment an officer came to say that the Grand Duke wished the
artists to go to his box. How could the child be presented in such a state?
Melchior swore angrily, and his wrath only had the effect of making
Jean-Christophe's tears flow faster. To stop them, his grandfather promised
him a pound of chocolates if he would not cry any more, and
Jean-Christophe, who was greedy, stopped dead, swallowed down his tears,
and let them carry him off; but they had to swear at first most solemnly
that they would not take him on to the platform again.

In the anteroom of the Grand Ducal box he was presented to a gentleman in a
dress-coat, with a face like a pug-dog, bristling mustaches, and a short,
pointed beard--a little red-faced man, inclined to stoutness, who addressed
him with bantering familiarity, and called him "Mozart _redivivus_!" This
was the Grand Duke. Then, he was presented in turn to the Grand Duchess and
her daughter, and their suite. But as he did not dare raise his eyes, the
only thing he could remember of this brilliant company was a series of
gowns and uniforms from, the waist down to the feet. He sat on the lap of
the young Princess, and dared not move or breathe. She asked him questions,
which Melchior answered in an obsequious voice with formal replies,
respectful and servile; but she did not listen to Melchior, and went on
teasing the child. He grew redder and redder, and, thinking that everybody
must have noticed it, he thought he must explain it away and said with a
long sigh:

"My face is red. I am hot."

That made the girl shout with laughter. But Jean-Christophe did not mind it
in her, as he had in his audience just before, for her laughter was
pleasant, and she kissed him, and he did not dislike that.

Then he saw his grandfather in the passage at the door of the box, beaming
and bashful. The old man was fain to show himself, and also to say a few
words, but he dared not, because no one had spoken to him. He was enjoying
his grandson's glory at a distance. Jean-Christophe became tender, and felt
an irresistible impulse to procure justice also for the old man, so that
they should know his worth. His tongue was loosed, and he reached up to the
ear of his new friend and whispered to her:

"I will tell you a secret."

She laughed, and said:

"What?"

"You know," he went on--"you know the pretty _trio_ in my _minuetto_, the
_minuetto_ I played?... You know it?..." (He hummed it gently.) "... Well,
grandfather wrote it, not I. All the other airs are mine. But that is the
best. Grandfather wrote it. Grandfather did not want me to say anything.
You won't tell anybody?..." (He pointed out the old man.) "That is my
grandfather. I love him; he is very kind to me."

At that the young Princess laughed again, said that he was a darling,
covered him with kisses, and, to the consternation of Jean-Christophe and
his grandfather, told everybody. Everybody laughed then, and the Grand Duke
congratulated the old man, who was covered with confusion, tried in vain to
explain himself, and stammered like a guilty criminal. But Jean-Christophe
said not another word to the girl, and in spite of her wheedling he
remained dumb and stiff. He despised her for having broken her promise. His
idea of princes suffered considerably from this disloyalty. He was so angry
about it that he did not hear anything that was said, or that the Prince
had appointed him laughingly his pianist in ordinary, his _Hof Musicus_.

He went out with his relatives, and found himself surrounded in
the corridors of the theater, and even in the street, with people
congratulating him or kissing him. That displeased him greatly, for he did
not like being kissed, and did not like people meddling with him without
asking his permission.

At last they reached home, and then hardly was the door closed than
Melchior began to call him a "little idiot" because he had said that the
_trio_ was not his own. As the boy was under the impression that he had
done a fine thing, which deserved praise, and not blame, he rebelled, and
was impertinent. Melchior lost his temper, and said that he would box his
ears, although he had played his music well enough, because with his idiocy
he had spoiled the whole effect of the concert. Jean-Christophe had a
profound sense of justice. He went and sulked in a corner; he visited his
contempt upon his father, the Princess, and the whole world. He was hurt
also because the neighbors came and congratulated his parents and laughed
with them, as if it were they who had played, and as if it were their
affair.

At this moment a servant of the Court came with a beautiful gold watch from
the Grand Duke and a box of lovely sweets from the young Princess. Both
presents gave great pleasure to Jean-Christophe, and he did not know which
gave him the more; but he was in such a bad temper that he would not
admit it to himself, and he went on sulking, scowling at the sweets, and
wondering whether he could properly accept a gift from a person who had
betrayed his confidence. As he was on the point of giving in his father
wanted to set him down at once at the table, and make him write at his
dictation a letter of thanks. This was too much. Either from the nervous
strain of the day, or from instinctive shame at beginning the letter,
as Melchior wanted him to, with the words, "The little servant and
musician--_Knecht und Musicus_--of Your Highness ..." he burst into tears,
and was inconsolable. The servant waited and scoffed. Melchior had to
write the letter. That did not make him exactly kindly disposed towards
Jean-Christophe. As, a crowning misfortune, the boy let his watch fall and
broke it, A storm of reproaches broke upon him. Melchior shouted that he
would have to go without dessert. Jean-Christophe said angrily that that
was what he wanted. To punish him, Louisa, said that she would begin by
confiscating his sweets. Jean-Christophe was up in arms at that, and said
that the box was his, and no one else's, and that no one should take it
away from him! He was smacked, and in a fit of anger snatched the box
from his mother's hands, hurled it on the floor, and stamped on it He was
whipped, taken to his room, undressed, and put to bed.

In the evening he heard his parents dining with friends--a magnificent
repast, prepared a week before in honor of the concert. He was like to die
with wrath at such injustice. They laughed loudly, and touched glasses.
They had told the guests that the boy was tired, and no one bothered about
him. Only after dinner, when the party was breaking up, he heard a slow,
shuffling step come into his room, and old Jean Michel bent over his bed
and kissed him, and said: "Dear little Jean-Christophe!..." Then, as if he
were ashamed, he went away without another word. He had slipped into his
hand some sweetmeats which he had hidden in his pocket.

That softened Jean-Christophe; but he was so tired with all the day's
emotions that he had not the strength to think about what his grandfather
had done. He had not even the strength to reach out to the good things the
old man had given him. He was worn out, and went to sleep almost at once.

His sleep was light. He had acute nervous attacks, like electric shocks,
which shook his whole body. In his dreams he was haunted by wild music. He
awoke in the night. The Beethoven overture that he had heard at the concert
was roaring in his ears. It filled the room with its mighty beat. He sat,
up in his bed, rubbed his eyes and ears, and asked himself if he were
asleep. No; he was not asleep. He recognized the sound, he recognized
those roars of anger, those savage cries; he heard the throbbing of that
passionate heart leaping in his bosom, that tumult of the blood; he felt
on his face the frantic heating of the wind; lashing and destroying, then
stopping suddenly, cut off by an Herculean will. That Titanic soul entered
his body, blew out his limbs and his soul, and seemed to give them colossal
proportions. He strode over all the world. He was like a mountain, and
storms raged within him--storms of wrath, storms of sorrow!... Ah, what
sorrow!... But they were nothing! He felt so strong!... To suffer--still to
suffer!... Ah, how good it is to be strong! How good it is to suffer when a
man is strong!...

He laughed. His laughter rang out in the silence of the night. His father
woke up and cried:

"Who is there?"

His mother whispered:

"Ssh! the boy is dreaming!"

All then were silent; round them all was silence. The music died away, and
nothing sounded but the regular breathing of the human creatures asleep in
the room, comrades in misery, thrown together by Fate in the same frail
barque, bound onwards by a wild whirling force through the night.

(Jean-Christophe's letter to the Grand Duke Leopold is inspired by
Beethoven's letter to the Prince Elector of Bonn, written when he was
eleven.)



MORNING


I

THE DEATH OF JEAN MICHEL


Years have passed. Jean-Christophe is nearly eleven. His musical education
is proceeding. He is learning harmony with Florian Holzer, the organist of
St. Martin's, a friend of his grandfather's, a very learned man, who
teaches him that the chords and series of chords that he most loves, and
the harmonica which softly greet his heart and ear, those that he cannot
hear without a little thrill running down his spine, are bad and forbidden.
When he asks why, no reply is forthcoming but that it is so; the rules
forbid them. As he is naturally in revolt against discipline, he loves them
only the more. His delight is to find examples of them in the great and
admired musicians, and to take them to his grandfather or his master. His
grandfather replies that in the great musicians they are admirable, and
that Beethoven and Bach can take any liberty. His master, less
conciliatory, is angry, and says acidly that the masters did better things.

Jean-Christophe has a free pass for the concerts and the theater. He has
learned to play every instrument a little. He is already quite skilful with
the violin, and his father procured him a seat in the orchestra. He
acquitted himself so well there that after a few months' probation he was
officially appointed second violin in the _Hof Musik Verein_. He has begun
to earn his living. Not too soon either, for affairs at home have gone from
bad to worse. Melchior's intemperance has swamped him, and his grandfather
is growing old.

Jean-Christophe has taken in the melancholy situation. He is already as
grave and anxious as a man. He fulfils his task valiantly, though it does
not interest him, and he is apt to fall asleep in the orchestra in the
evenings, because it is late and he is tired. The theater no longer rouses
in him the emotion it used to do when he was little. When he was
little--four years ago--his greatest ambition had been to occupy the place
that he now holds. But now he dislikes most of the music he is made to
play. He dare not yet pronounce judgment upon it, but he does find it
foolish; and if by chance they do play lovely things, he is displeased by
the carelessness with which they are rendered, and his best-beloved works
are made to appear like his neighbors and colleagues in the orchestra, who,
as soon as the curtain has fallen, when they have done with blowing and
scraping, mop their brows and smile and chatter quietly, as though they had
just finished an hour's gymnastics. And he has been close to his former
flame, the fair barefooted singer. He meets her quite often during the
_entr'acte_ in the saloon. She knows that he was once in love with her, and
she kisses him often. That gives him no pleasure. He is disgusted by her
paint and scent and her fat arms and her greediness. He hates her now.

The Grand Duke did not forget his pianist in ordinary. Not that the small
pension, which was granted to him with this title was regularly paid--it
had to be asked for--but from time to time Jean-Christophe used to receive
orders to go to the Palace when there were distinguished guests, or simply
when Their Highnesses took it into their heads that they wanted to hear
him. It was almost always in the evening, at the time when Jean-Christophe
wanted to be alone. He had to leave everything and hurry off. Sometimes he
was made to wait in the anteroom, because dinner was not finished. The
servants, accustomed to see him, used to address him familiarly. Then he
would be led into a great room full of mirrors and lights, in which
well-fed men and women used to stare at him with horrid curiosity. He had
to cross the waxed floor to kiss Their Highnesses' hands, and the more he
grew the more awkward he became, for he felt that he was in a ridiculous
position, and his pride used to suffer.

When it was all done he used to sit at the piano and have to play for these
idiots. He thought them idiots. There were moments when their indifference
so oppressed him as he played that he was often on the point of stopping in
the middle of a piece. There was no air about him; he was near suffocation,
seemed losing his senses. When he finished he was overwhelmed with
congratulations and laden with compliments; he was introduced all round. He
thought they looked at him like some strange animal in the Prince's
menagerie, and that the words of praise were addressed rather to his master
than to himself. He thought himself brought low, and he developed a morbid
sensibility from which he suffered the more as he dared not show it. He saw
offense in the most simple actions. If any one laughed in a corner of the
room, he imagined himself to be the cause of it, and he knew not whether it
were his manners, or his clothes, or his person, or his hands, or his feet,
that caused the laughter. He was humiliated by everything. He was
humiliated if people did not talk to him, humiliated if they did,
humiliated if they gave him sweets like a child, humiliated especially when
the Grand Duke, as sometimes happened, in princely fashion dismissed him by
pressing a piece of money into his hand. He was wretched at being poor and
at being treated as a poor boy. One evening, as he was going home, the
money that he had received weighed so heavily upon him that he threw it
through a cellar window, and then immediately he would have done anything
to get it back, for at home there was a month's old account with the
butcher to pay.

His relatives never suspected these injuries to his pride. They were
delighted at his favor with the Prince. Poor Louisa could conceive of
nothing finer for her son than these evenings at the Palace in splendid
society. As for Melchior, he used to brag of it continually to his
boon-fellows. But Jean-Christophe's grandfather was happier than any. He
pretended to be independent and democratic, and to despise greatness, but
he had a simple admiration for money, power, honors, social distinction,
and he took unbounded pride in seeing his grandson, moving among those who
had these things. He delighted in them as though such glory was a
reflection upon himself, and in spite of all his efforts to appear calm and
indifferent, his face used to glow. On the evenings when Jean-Christophe
went to the Palace, old Jean Michel used always to contrive to stay about
the house on some pretext or another. He used to await his grandson's
return with childish impatience, and when Jean-Christophe came in he would
begin at once with a careless air to ply him with seeming idle questions,
such as:

"Well, did things go well to-night?"

Or he would make little hints like:

"Here's our Jean-Christophe; he can tell us some news."

Or he would produce some ingenious compliment by way of flattery:

"Here's our young nobleman!"

But Jean-Christophe, out of sorts and out of temper, would reply with a
curt "Good-evening!" and go and sulk in a corner. But the old man would
persist, and ply him with more direct questions, to which the boy replied
only "Yes," or "No." Then the others would join in and ask for details.
Jean-Christophe would look more and more thunderous. They had to drag the
words from his lips until Jean Michel would lose his temper and hurl
insults at him. Then Jean-Christophe would reply with scant respect, and
the end would be a rumpus. The old man would go out and slam the door. So
Jean-Christophe spoiled the joy of these poor people, who had no inkling of
the cause of his bad temper. It was not their fault if they had the souls
of servants, and never dreamed that it is possible to be otherwise.

Jean-Christophe was turned into himself, and though he never judged his
family, yet he felt a gulf between himself and them. No doubt he
exaggerated what lay between them, and in spite of their different ways of
thought it is quite probable that they could have understood each other if
he had been able to talk intimately to them. But it is known that nothing
is more difficult than absolute intimacy between children and parents, even
when there is much love between them, for on the one side respect
discourages confidence, and on the other the idea, often erroneous, of the
superiority of age and experience prevents them taking seriously enough the
child's feelings, which are often just as interesting as those of grown-up
persons, and almost always more sincere.

But the people that Jean-Christophe saw at home and the conversation that
he heard there widened the distance between himself and his family.

Melchior's friends used to frequent the house--mostly musicians of the
orchestra, single men and hard drinkers. They were not bad fellows, but
vulgar. They made the house shake with their footsteps and their laughter.
They loved music, but they spoke of it with a stupidity that was revolting.
The coarse indiscretion of their enthusiasm wounded the boy's modesty of
feeling. When they praised a work that he loved it was as though they were
insulting him personally. He would stiffen himself and grow pale, frozen,
and pretend not to take any interest in music. He would have hated it had
that been possible. Melchior used to say:

"The fellow has no heart. He feels nothing. I don't know where he gets it
from."

Sometimes they used to sing German four-part songs--four-footed as
well--and these were all exactly like themselves--slow-moving, solemn and
broad, fashioned of dull melodies. Then Jean-Christophe used to fly to the
most distant room and hurl insults at the wall.

His grandfather also had friends: the organist, the furniture-dealer, the
watch-maker, the contra-bass--garrulous old men, who used always to pass
round the same jokes and plunge into interminable discussions on art,
politics, or the family trees of the countryside, much less interested in
the subjects of which they talked than happy to talk and to find an
audience.

As for Louisa, she used only to see some of her neighbors who brought her
the gossip of the place, and at rare intervals a "kind lady," who, under
pretext of taking an interest in her, used to come and engage her services
for a dinner-party, and pretend to watch over the religious education of
the children.

But of all who came to the house, none was more repugnant to
Jean-Christophe than his Uncle Theodore, a stepson of his grandfather's, a
son by a former marriage of his grandmother Clara, Jean Michel's first
wife. He was a partner in a great commercial house which did business in
Africa and the Far East. He was the exact type of one of those Germans of
the new style, whose affectation it is scoffingly to repudiate the old
idealism of the race, and, intoxicated by conquest, to maintain a cult of
strength and success which shows that they are not accustomed to seeing
them on their side. But as it is difficult at once to change the age-old
nature of a people, the despised idealism sprang up again in him at every
turn in language, manners, and moral habits and the quotations from Goethe
to fit the smallest incidents of domestic life, for he was a singular
compound of conscience and self-interest. There was in him a curious effort
to reconcile the honest principles of the old German _bourgeoisie_ with the
cynicism of these new commercial _condottieri_--a compound which forever
gave out a repulsive flavor of hypocrisy, forever striving to make of
German strength, avarice, and self-interest the symbols of all right,
justice, and truth.

Jean-Christophe's loyalty was deeply injured by all this. He could not tell
whether his uncle were right or no, but he hated him, and marked him down
for an enemy. His grandfather had no great love for him either, and was in
revolt against his theories; but he was easily crushed in argument by
Theodore's fluency, which was never hard put to it to turn into ridicule
the old man's simple generosity. In the end Jean Michel came to be ashamed
of his own good-heartedness, and by way of showing that he was not so much
behind the times as they thought, he used to try to talk like Theodore; but
the words came hollow from his lips, and he was ill at ease with them.
Whatever he may have thought of him, Theodore did impress him. He felt
respect for such practical skill, which he admired the more for knowing
himself to be absolutely incapable of it. He used to dream of putting one
of his grandsons to similar work. That was Melchior's idea also. He
intended to make Rodolphe follow in his uncle's footsteps. And so the whole
family set itself to flatter this rich relation of whom they expected help.
He, seeing that he was necessary to them, took advantage of it to cut a
fine masterful figure, He meddled in everything, gave advice upon
everything, and made no attempt to conceal his contempt for art and
artists. Rather, he blazoned it abroad for the mere pleasure of humiliating
his musicianly relations, and he used to indulge in stupid jokes at their
expense, and the cowards used to laugh.

Jean-Christophe, especially, was singled out as a butt for his uncle's
jests. He was not patient under them. He would say nothing, but he used to
grind his teeth angrily, and his uncle used to laugh at his speechless
rage. But one day, when Theodore went too far in his teasing,
Jean-Christophe, losing control of himself, spat in his face. It was a
fearful affair. The insult was so monstrous that his uncle was at first
paralyzed by it; then words came back to him, and he broke out into a flood
of abuse. Jean-Christophe sat petrified by the enormity of the thing that
he had done, and did not even feel the blows that rained down upon him; but
when they tried to force him down on his knees before his uncle, he broke
away, jostled his mother aside, and ran out of the house. He did not stop
until he could breathe no more, and then he was right out in the country.
He heard voices calling him, and he debated within himself whether he had
not better throw himself into the river, since he could not do so with his
enemy. He spent the night in the fields. At dawn he went and knocked at his
grandfather's door. The old man had been so upset by Jean-Christophe's
disappearance--he had not slept for it--that he had not the heart to scold
him. He took him home, and then nothing was said to him, because it was
apparent that he was still in an excited condition, and they had to smooth
him down, for he had to play at the Palace that evening. But for several
weeks Melchior continued to overwhelm him with his complaints, addressed to
nobody in particular, about the trouble that a man takes to give an example
of an irreproachable life and good manners to unworthy creatures who
dishonor him. And when his Uncle Theodore met him in the street, he turned
his head and held his nose by way of showing his extreme disgust.

Finding so little sympathy at home, Jean-Christophe spent as little time
there as possible. He chafed against the continual restraint which they
strove to set upon him. There were too many things, too many people, that
he had to respect, and he was never allowed to ask why, and Jean-Christophe
did not possess the bump of respect. The more they tried to discipline him
and to turn him into an honest little German _bourgeois_, the more he felt
the need of breaking free from it all. It would have been his pleasure
after the dull, tedious, formal performances which he had to attend in the
orchestra or at the Palace to roll in the grass like a fowl, and to slide
down the grassy slope on the seat of his new trousers, or to have a
stone-fight with the urchins of the neighborhood. It was not because he was
afraid of scoldings and thwackings that he did not do these things more
often, but because he had no playmates. He could not get on with other
children. Even the little guttersnipes did not like playing with him,
because he took every game too seriously, and struck too lustily. He had
grown used to being driven in on himself, and to living apart from children
of his own age. He was ashamed of not being clever at games, and dared not
take part in their sport. And he used to pretend to take no interest in it,
although he was consumed by the desire to be asked to play with them. But
they never said anything to him, and then he would go away hurt, but
assuming indifference.

He found consolation in wandering with Uncle Gottfried when he was in the
neighborhood. He became more and more friendly with him, and sympathized
with his independent temper. He understood so well now Gottfried's delight
in tramping the roads without a tie in the world! Often they used to go out
together in the evening into the country, straight on, aimlessly, and as
Gottfried always forgot the time, they used to come back very late, and
then were scolded. Gottfried knew that it was wrong, but Jean-Christophe
used to implore, and he could not himself resist the pleasure of it. About
midnight he would stand in front of the house and whistle, an agreed
signal. Jean-Christophe would be in his bed fully dressed. He would slip
out with his shoes in his hand, and, holding his breath, creep with all the
artful skill of a savage to the kitchen window, which opened on to the
road. He would climb on to the table; Gottfried would take him on his
shoulders, and then off they would go, happy as truants.

Sometimes they would go and seek out Jeremy the fisherman, a friend of
Gottfried's, and then they would slip out in his boat under the moon. The
water dropping from the oars gave out little arpeggios, then chromatic
scales. A milky vapor hung tremulous over the surface of the waters. The
stars quivered. The cocks called to each other from either bank, and
sometimes in the depths of the sky they heard the trilling of larks
ascending from earth, deceived by the light of the moon. They were silent.
Gottfried hummed a tune. Jeremy told strange tales of the lives of the
beasts--tales that gained in mystery from the curt and enigmatic manner of
their telling. The moon hid herself behind the woods. They skirted the
black mass of the hills. The darkness of the water and the sky mingled.
There was never a ripple on the water. Sounds died down. The boat glided
through the night. Was she gliding? Was she moving? Was she still?... The
reeds parted with a sound like the rustling of silk. The boat grounded
noiselessly. They climbed out on to the bank, and returned on foot. They
would not return until dawn. They followed the river-bank. Clouds of silver
ablets, green as ears of corn, or blue as jewels, teemed in the first light
of day. They swarmed like the serpents of Medusa's head, and flung
themselves greedily at the bread thrown to them; they plunged for it as it
sank, and turned in spirals, and then darted away in a flash, like a ray of
light. The river took on rosy and purple hues of reflection. The birds woke
one after another. The truants hurried back. Just as carefully as when they
had set out, they returned to the room, with its thick atmosphere, and
Jean-Christophe, worn out, fell into bed, and slept at once, with his body
sweet-smelling with the smell of the fields.

All was well, and nothing would have been known, but that one day Ernest,
his younger brother, betrayed Jean-Christophe's midnight sallies. From that
moment they were forbidden, and he was watched. But he contrived to escape,
and he preferred the society of the little peddler and his friends to any
other. His family was scandalized. Melchior said that he had the tastes of
a laborer. Old Jean Michel was jealous of Jean-Christophe's affection for
Gottfried, and used to lecture him about lowering himself so far as to like
such vulgar company when he had the honor of mixing with the best people
and of being the servant of princes. It was considered that Jean-Christophe
was lacking in dignity and self-respect.

In spite of the penury which increased with Melchior's intemperance and
folly, life was tolerable as long as Jean Michel was there. He was the only
creature who had any influence over Melchior, and who could hold him back
to a certain extent from his vice. The esteem in which he was generally
held did serve to pass over the drunkard's freaks, and he used constantly
to come to the aid of the household with money. Besides the modest pension
which he enjoyed as retired _Kapellmeister_, he was still able to earn
small sums by giving lessons and tuning pianos. He gave most of it to his
daughter-in-law, for he perceived her difficulties, though she strove to
hide them from him. Louisa hated the idea that he was denying himself for
them, and it was all the more to the old man's credit in that he had always
been accustomed to a large way of living and had great needs to satisfy.
Sometimes even his ordinary sacrifices were not sufficient, and to meet
some urgent debt Jean Michel would have secretly to sell a piece of
furniture or books, or some relic that he set store by. Melchior knew that
his father made presents to Louisa that were concealed from himself, and
very often he would lay hands on them, in spite of protest. But when this
came to the old man's ears--not from Louisa, who said nothing of her
troubles to him, but from one of his grandchildren--he would fly into a
terrible passion, and there were frightful scenes between the two men. They
were both extraordinarily violent, and they would come to round oaths and
threats--almost it seemed as though they would come to blows. But even in
his most angry passion respect would hold Melchior in check, and, however
drunk he might be, in the end he would bow his head to the torrent of
insults and humiliating reproach which his father poured out upon him. But
for that he did not cease to watch for the first opportunity of breaking
out again, and with his thoughts on the future, Jean Michel would be filled
with melancholy and anxious fears.

"My poor children," he used to say to Louisa, "what will become, of you
when I am no longer here?... Fortunately," he would add, fondling
Jean-Christophe, "I can go on until this fellow pulls you out of the mire."
But he was out in his reckoning; he was at the end of his road. No one
would have suspected it. He was surprisingly strong. He was past eighty; he
had a full head of hair, a white mane, still gray in patches, and in his
thick beard were still black hairs. He had only about ten teeth left, but
with these he could chew lustily. It was a pleasure to see him at table. He
had a hearty appetite, and though, he reproached Melchior for drinking, he
always emptied his bottle himself. He had a preference for white Moselle.
For the rest--wine, beer, cider--he could do justice to all the good things
that the Lord hath made. He was not so foolish as to lose his reason in his
cups, and he kept to his allowance. It is true that it was a plentiful
allowance, and that a feebler intelligence must have been made drunk by it.
He was strong of foot and eye, and indefatigably active. He got up at six,
and performed his ablutions scrupulously, for he cared for his appearance
and respected his person. He lived alone in his house, of which he was sole
occupant, and never let his daughter-in-law meddle with his affairs. He
cleaned out his room, made his own coffee, sewed on his buttons, nailed,
and glued, and altered; and going to and fro and up and down stairs in his
shirt-sleeves, he never stopped singing in a sounding bass which he loved
to let ring out as he accompanied himself with operatic gestures. And then
he used to go out in all weathers. He went about his business, omitting
none, but he was not often punctual. He was to be seen at every street
corner arguing with some acquaintance or joking with some woman whose face
he had remembered, for he loved pretty women and old friends. And so he was
always late, and never knew the time. But he never let the dinner-hour slip
by. He dined wherever he might be, inviting himself, and he would not go
home until late--after nightfall, after a visit to his grandchildren. Then
he would go to bed, and before he went to sleep read a page of his old
Bible, and during the night--for he never slept for more than an hour or
two together--he would get up to take down one of his old books, bought
second-hand--history, theology, belles-lettres, or science. He used to read
at random a few pages, which interested and bored him, and he did not
rightly understand them, though he did not skip a word, until sleep came to
him again. On Sunday he would go to church, walk with the children, and
play bowls. He had never been ill, except for a little gout in his toes,
which used to make him swear at night while he was reading his Bible. It
seemed as though he might live to be a hundred, and he himself could see no
reason why he should not live longer. When people said that he would die a
centenarian, he used to think, like another illustrious old man, that no
limit can be appointed to the goodness of Providence, The only sign that he
was growing old was that he was more easily brought to tears, and was
becoming every day more irritable. The smallest impatience with him could
throw him into a violent fury. His red face and short neck would grow
redder than ever. He would stutter angrily, and have to stop, choking. The
family doctor, an old friend, had warned him to take care and to moderate
both his anger and his appetite. But with an old man's obstinacy he plunged
into acts of still greater recklessness out of bravado, and he laughed at
medicine and doctors. He pretended to despise death, and did not mince his
language when he declared that he was not afraid of it.

One summer day, when it was very hot, and he had drunk copiously, and
argued in the market-place, he went home and began to work quietly in his
garden. He loved digging. Bareheaded under the sun, still irritated by his
argument, he dug angrily. Jean-Christophe was sitting in the arbor with a
book in his hand, but he was not reading. He was dreaming and listening to
the cheeping of the crickets, and mechanically following his grandfather's
movements. The old man's back was towards him; he was bending and plucking
out weeds. Suddenly Jean-Christophe saw him rise, beat against the air with
his arms, and fall heavily with his face to the ground. For a moment he
wanted to laugh; then he saw that the old man did not stir. He called to
him, ran to him, and shook him with all his strength. Fear seized him. He
knelt, and with his two hands tried to raise the great head from the
ground. It was so heavy and he trembled so that he could hardly move it.
But when he saw the eyes turned up, white and bloody, he was frozen with
horror and, with a shrill cry, let the head fall. He got up in terror, ran
away and out of the place. He cried and wept. A man passing by stopped the
boy. Jean-Christophe could not speak, but he pointed to the house. The man
went in, and Jean-Christophe followed him. Others had heard his cries, and
they came from the neighboring houses. Soon the garden was full of people.
They trampled the flowers, and bent down over the old man. They cried
aloud. Two or three men lifted him up. Jean-Christophe stayed by the gate,
turned to the wall, and hid his face in his hands. He was afraid to look,
but he could not help himself, and when they passed him he saw through his
fingers the old man's huge body, limp and flabby. One arm dragged along the
ground, the head, leaning against the knee of one of the men carrying the
body, bobbed at every step, and the face was scarred, covered with mud,
bleeding. The mouth was open and the eyes were fearful. He howled again,
and took to flight. He ran as though something were after him, and never
stopped until he reached home. He burst into the kitchen with frightful
cries. Louisa was cleaning vegetables. He hurled himself at her, and hugged
her desperately, imploring her help. His face was distorted with his sobs;
he could hardly speak. But at the first word she understood. She went
white, let the things fall from her hands, and without a word rushed from
the house.

Jean-Christophe was left alone, crouching against a cupboard. He went on
weeping. His brothers were playing. He could not make out quite what had
happened. He did not think of his grandfather; he was thinking only of the
dreadful sights he had just seen, and he was in terror lest he should be
made to return to see them again.

And as it turned out in the evening, when the other children, tired of
doing every sort of mischief in the house, were beginning to feel wearied
and hungry, Louisa rushed in again, took them by the hand, and led them to
their grandfather's house. She walked very fast, and Ernest and Rodolphe
tried to complain, as usual; but Louisa bade them be silent in such a tone
of voice that they held their peace. An instinctive fear seized them, and
when they entered the house they began to weep. It was not yet night. The
last hours of the sunset cast strange lights over the inside of the
house--on the door-handle, on the mirror, on the violin hung on the wall in
the chief room, which was half in darkness. But in the old man's room a
candle was alight, and the flickering flame, vying with the livid, dying
day, made the heavy darkness of the room more oppressive. Melchior was
sitting near the window, loudly weeping. The doctor, leaning over the bed,
hid from sight what was lying there. Jean-Christophe's heart beat so that
it was like to break. Louisa made the children kneel at the foot of the
bed. Jean-Christophe stole a glance. He expected something so terrifying
after what he had seen in the afternoon that at the first glimpse he was
almost comforted. His grandfather lay motionless, and seemed to be asleep.
For a moment the child believed that the old man was better, and that all
was at an end. But when he heard his heavy breathing; when, as he looked
closer, he saw the swollen face, on which the wound that he had come by in
the fall had made a broad scar; when he understood that here was a man at
point of death, he began to tremble; and while he repeated Louisa's prayer
for the restoration of his grandfather, in his heart he prayed that if the
old man could not get well he might be already dead. He was terrified at
the prospect of what was going to happen.

The old man had not been conscious since the moment of his fall. He only
returned to consciousness for a moment, enough to learn his condition, and
that was lamentable. The priest was there, and recited the last prayers
over him. They raised the old man on his pillow. He opened his eyes slowly,
and they seemed no longer to obey his will. He breathed noisily, and with
unseeing eyes looked at the faces and the lights, and suddenly he opened
his mouth. A nameless terror showed on his features.

"But then ..." he gasped--"but I am going to die!"

The awful sound of his voice pierced Jean-Christophe's heart. Never, never
was it to fade from his memory. The old man said no more. He moaned like a
little child. The stupor took him once more, but his breathing became more
and more difficult. He groaned, he fidgeted with his hands, he seemed to
struggle against the mortal sleep. In his semi-consciousness he cried once:

"Mother!"

Oh, the biting impression that it made, this mumbling of the old man,
calling in anguish on his mother, as Jean-Christophe would himself have
done--his mother, of whom he was never known to talk in life, to whom he
now turned instinctively, the last futile refuge in the last terror!...
Then he seemed to be comforted for a moment. He had once more a flicker of
consciousness. His heavy eyes, the pupils of which seemed to move
aimlessly, met those of the boy frozen in his fear. They lit up. The old
man tried to smile and speak. Louisa took Jean-Christophe and led him to
the bedside. Jean Michel moved his lips, and tried to caress his head with
his hand, but then he fell back into his torpor. It was the end.

They sent the children into the next room, but they had too much to do to
worry about them, and Jean-Christophe, under the attraction of the horror
of it, peeped through the half-open door at the tragic face on the pillow;
the man strangled by the firm, clutch that had him by the neck; the face
which grew ever more hollow as he watched; the sinking of the creature into
the void, which seemed to suck it down like a pump; and the horrible
death-rattle, the mechanical breathing, like a bubble of air bursting on
the surface of waters; the last efforts of the body, which strives to live
when the soul is no longer. Then the head fell on one side on the pillow.
All, all was silence.

A few moments later, in the midst of the sobs and prayers and the confusion
caused by the death, Louisa saw the child, pale, wide-eyed, with gaping
mouth, clutching convulsively at the handle of the door. She ran to him. He
had a seizure in her arms. She carried him away. He lost consciousness. He
woke up to find himself in his bed. He howled in terror, because he had
been left alone for a moment, had another seizure, and fainted again. For
the rest of the night and the next day he was in a fever. Finally, he grew
calm, and on the next night fell into a deep sleep, which lasted until the
middle of the following day. He felt that some one was walking in his room,
that his mother was leaning over his bed and kissing him. He thought he
heard the sweet distant sound of bells. But he would not stir; he was in a
dream.

When he opened his eyes again his Uncle Gottfried was sitting at the foot
of his bed. Jean-Christophe was worn out, and could remember nothing. Then
his memory returned, and: he began to weep. Gottfried got up and kissed
him.

"Well, my boy--well?" he said gently.

"Oh, uncle, uncle!" sobbed the boy, clinging to him.

"Cry, then ..." said Gottfried. "Cry!"

He also was weeping.

When he was a little comforted Jean-Christophe dried his eyes and looked at
Gottfried. Gottfried understood that he wanted to ask something.

"No," he said, putting a finger to his lips, "you must not talk. It is good
to cry, bad to talk."

The boy insisted.

"It is no good."

"Only one thing--only one!..."

"What?"

Jean-Christophe hesitated.

"Oh, uncle!" he asked, "where is he now?"

Gottfried answered:

"He is with the Lord, my boy."

But that was not what Jean-Christophe had asked.

"No; you do not understand. Where is he--he _himself_?" (He meant the
body.)

He went on in a trembling voice:

"Is _he_ still in the house?"

"They buried the good man this morning," said Gottfried. "Did you not hear
the bells?"

Jean-Christophe was comforted. Then, when he thought that he would never
see his beloved grandfather again, he wept once more bitterly.

"Poor little beast!" said Gottfried, looking pityingly at the child.

Jean-Christophe expected Gottfried to console him, but Gottfried made no
attempt to do so, knowing that it was useless.

"Uncle Gottfried," asked the boy, "are not you afraid of it, too?"

(Much did he wish that Gottfried should not have been afraid, and would
tell him the secret of it!)

"'Ssh!" he said, in a troubled voice....

"And how is one not to be afraid?" he said, after a moment. "But what can
one do? It is so. One must put up with it."

Jean-Christophe shook his head in protest.

"One has to put up with it, my boy," said Gottfried. "_He_ ordered it up
yonder. One has to love what _He_ has ordered."

"I hate Him!" said Jean-Christophe, angrily shaking his fist at the sky.

Gottfried fearfully bade him be silent. Jean-Christophe himself was afraid
of what he had just said, and he began to pray with Gottfried. But blood
boiled, and as he repeated the words of servile humility and resignation
there was in his inmost heart a feeling of passionate revolt and horror of
the abominable thing and the monstrous Being who had been able to create
it.

Days passed and nights of rain over the freshly-turned earth under which
lay the remains of poor old Jean Michel. At the moment Melchior wept and
cried and sobbed much, but the week was not out before Jean-Christophe
heard him laughing heartily. When the name of the dead man was pronounced
in his presence, his face grew longer and a lugubrious expression came into
it, but in a moment he would begin to talk and gesticulate excitedly. He
was sincerely afflicted, but it was impossible for him to remain sad for
long.

Louisa, passive and resigned, accepted the misfortune as she accepted
everything. She added a prayer to her daily prayers; she went regularly to
the cemetery, and cared for the grass as if it were part of her household.

Gottfried paid touching attention to the little patch of ground where the
old man slept. When he came to the neighborhood, he brought a little
souvenir--a cross that he had made, or flowers that Jean Michel had loved.
He never missed, even if he were only in the town for a few hours, and he
did it by stealth.

Sometimes Louisa took Jean-Christophe with her on her visits to the
cemetery. Jean-Christophe revolted in disgust against the fat patch of
earth clad in its sinister adornment of flowers and trees, and against the
heavy scent which mounts to the sun, mingling with the breath of the
sonorous cypress. But he dared not confess his disgust, because he
condemned it in himself as cowardly and impious. He was very unhappy. His
grandfather's death haunted him incessantly, and yet he had long known what
death was, and had thought about it and been afraid of it. But he had never
before seen it, and he who sees it for the first time learns that he knew
nothing, neither of death nor of life. One moment brings everything
tottering. Reason is of no avail. You thought you were alive, you thought
you had some experience of life; you see then that you knew nothing, that
you have been living in a veil of illusions spun by your own mind to hide
from your eyes the awful countenance of reality. There is no connection
between the idea of suffering and the creature who bleeds and suffers.
There is no connection between the idea of death and the convulsions of
body and soul in combat and in death. Human language, human wisdom, are
only a puppet-show of stiff mechanical dolls by the side of the grim charm
of reality and the creatures of mind and blood, whose desperate and vain
efforts are strained to the fixing of a life which crumbles away with every
day.

Jean-Christophe thought of death day and night. Memories of the last agony
pursued him. He heard that horrible breathing; every night, whatever he
might be doing, he saw his grandfather again. All Nature was changed; it
seemed as though there were an icy vapor drawn over her. Round him,
everywhere, whichever way he turned, he felt upon his face the fatal
breathing of the blind, all-powerful Beast; he felt himself in the grip of
that fearful destructive Form, and he felt that there was nothing to be
done. But, far from crushing him, the thought of it set him aflame with
hate and indignation. He was never resigned to it. He butted head down
against the impossible; it mattered nothing that he broke his head, and was
forced to realize that he was not the stronger. He never ceased to revolt
against suffering. From that time on his life was an unceasing struggle
against the savagery of a Fate which he could not admit.

The very misery of his life afforded him relief from the obsession of his
thoughts. The ruin of his family, which only Jean Michel had withheld,
proceeded apace when he was removed. With him the Kraffts had lost their
chief means of support, and misery entered the house.

Melchior increased it. Far from working more, he abandoned himself utterly
to his vice when he was free of the only force that had held him in check.
Almost every night he returned home drunk, and he never brought back his
earnings. Besides, he had lost almost all his lessons. One day he had
appeared at the house of one of his pupils in a state of complete
intoxication, and, as a consequence of this scandal, all doors were closed
to him. He was only tolerated in the orchestra out of regard for the memory
of his father, but Louisa trembled lest he should he dismissed any day
after a scene. He had already been threatened with it on several evenings
when he had turned up in his place about the end of the performance.

Twice or thrice he had forgotten altogether to put in an appearance. And of
what was he not capable in those moments of stupid excitement when he was
taken with the itch to do and say idiotic things! Had he not taken it into
his head one evening to try and play his great violin concerto in the
middle of an act of the _Valkyrie_? They were hard put to it to stop him.
Sometimes, too, he would shout with laughter in the middle of a performance
at the amusing pictures that were presented on the stage or whirling in his
own brain. He was a joy to his colleagues, and they passed over many things
because he was so funny. But such indulgence was worse than severity, and
Jean-Christophe could have died for shame.

The boy was now first violin in the orchestra. He sat so that he could
watch over his father, and, when necessary, beseech him, and make him be
silent. It was not easy, and the best thing was not to pay any attention
to him, for if he did, as soon as the sot felt that eyes were upon
him, he would take to making faces or launch out into a speech. Then
Jean-Christophe would turn away, trembling with fear lest he should commit
some outrageous prank. He would try to be absorbed in his work, but he
could not help hearing Melchior's utterances and the laughter of his
colleagues. Tears would come into his eyes. The musicians, good fellows
that they were, had seen that, and were sorry for him. They would hush
their laughter, and only talk about his father when Jean-Christophe was not
by. But Jean-Christophe was conscious of their pity. He knew that as soon
as he had gone their jokes would break out again, and that Melchior was the
laughing-stock of the town. He could not stop him, and he was in torment.
He used to bring his father home after the play. He would take his arm, put
up with his pleasantries, and try to conceal the stumbling in his walk. But
he deceived no one, and in spite of all his efforts it was very rarely that
he could succeed in leading Melchior all the way home. At the corner of the
street Melchior would declare that he had an urgent appointment with some
friends, and no argument could dissuade him from keeping this engagement.
Jean-Christophe took care not to insist too much, so as not to expose
himself to a scene and paternal imprecations which might attract the
neighbors to their windows.

All the household money slipped away in this fashion. Melchior was not
satisfied with drinking away his earnings; he drank away all that his wife
and son so hardly earned. Louisa used to weep, but she dared not resist,
since her husband had harshly reminded her that nothing in the house
belonged to her, and that he had married her without a sou. Jean-Christophe
tried to resist. Melchior boxed his ears, treated him like a naughty child,
and took the money out of his hands. The boy was twelve or thirteen. He was
strong, and was beginning to kick against being beaten; but he was still
afraid to rebel, and rather than expose himself to fresh humiliations of
the kind he let himself be plundered. The only resource that Louisa and
Jean-Christophe had was to hide their money; but Melchior was singularly
ingenious in discovering their hiding-places when they were not there.

Soon that was not enough for him. He sold the things that he had inherited
from his father. Jean-Christophe sadly saw the precious relics go--the
books, the bed, the furniture, the portraits of musicians. He could say
nothing. But one day, when Melchior had crashed into Jean Michel's old
piano, he swore as he rubbed his knee, and said that there was no longer
room to move about in his own house, and that he would rid the house of
all such gimcrackery. Jean-Christophe cried aloud. It was true that the
rooms were too full, since all Jean Michel's belongings were crowded
into them, so as to be able to sell the house, that dear house in which
Jean-Christophe had spent the happiest hours of his childhood. It was true
also that the old piano was not worth much, that it was husky in tone, and
that for a long time Jean-Christophe had not used it, since he played on
the fine new piano due to the generosity of the Prince; but however old and
useless it might be, it was Jean-Christophe's best friend. It had awakened
the child to the boundless world of music; on its worn yellow keys he had
discovered with his fingers the kingdom of sounds and its laws; it had been
his grandfather's work (months had gone to repairing it for his grandson),
and he was proud of it; it was in some sort a holy relic, and
Jean-Christophe protested that his father had no right to sell it. Melchior
bade him be silent. Jean-Christophe cried louder than ever that the piano
was his, and that he forbade any one to touch it; but Melchior looked at
him with an evil smile, and said nothing.

Next day Jean-Christophe had forgotten the affair. He came home tired, but
in a fairly good temper. He was struck by the sly looks of his brothers.
They pretended to be absorbed in their books, but they followed him with
their eyes, and watched all his movements, and bent over their books
again when he looked at them. He had no doubt that they had played some
trick upon him, but he was used to that, and did not worry about it, but
determined, when he had found it out, to give them a good thrashing, as he
always did on such occasions. He scorned to look into the matter, and he
began to talk to his father, who was sitting by the fire, and questioned
him as to the doings of the day with an affectation of interest which
suited him but ill; and while he talked he saw that Melchior was exchanging
stealthy nods and winks with the two children. Something caught at his
heart. He ran into his room. The place where the piano had stood was empty!
He gave a cry of anguish. In the next room he heard the stifled laughter of
his brothers. The blood rushed to his face. He rushed in to them, and
cried:

"My piano!"

Melchior raised his head with an air of calm bewilderment which made
the children roar with laughter. He could not contain himself when he
saw Jean-Christophe's piteous look, and he turned aside to guffaw.
Jean-Christophe no longer knew what he was doing. He hurled himself like
a mad thing on his father. Melchior, lolling in his chair, had no time to
protect himself. The boy seized him by the throat and cried:

"Thief! Thief!"

It was only for a moment. Melchior shook himself, and sent Jean-Christophe
rolling down on to the tile floor, though in his fury he was clinging
to him like grim death. The boy's head crashed against the tiles.
Jean-Christophe got upon his knees. He was livid, and he went on saying in
a choking voice:

"Thief, thief!... You are robbing us--mother and me.... Thief!... You are
selling my grandfather!"

Melchior rose to his feet, and held his fist above Jean-Christophe's head.
The boy stared at him with hate; in his eyes. He was trembling with rage.
Melchior began to tremble, too.

He sat down, and hid his face in his hands. The two children had run away
screaming. Silence followed the uproar. Melchior groaned and mumbled.
Jean-Christophe, against the wall, never ceased glaring at him with
clenched teeth, and he trembled in every limb. Melchior began to blame
himself.

"I am a thief! I rob my family! My children despise me! It were better if
I were dead!"

When he had finished whining, Jean-Christophe did not budge, but asked him
harshly:

"Where is the piano?"

"At Wormser's," said Melchior, not daring to look at him.

Jean-Christophe took a step forward, and said:

"The money!"

Melchior, crushed, took the money from his pocket and gave it to his son.
Jean-Christophe turned towards the door. Melchior called him:

"Jean-Christophe!"

Jean-Christophe stopped. Melchior went on in a quavering voice:

"Dear Jean-Christophe ... do not despise me!"

Jean-Christophe flung his arms round his neck and sobbed:

"No, father--dear father! I do not despise you! I am so unhappy!"

They wept loudly. Melchior lamented:

"It is not my fault. I am not bad. That's true, Jean-Christophe? I am not
bad?"

He promised that he would drink no more. Jean-Christophe wagged his head
doubtfully, and Melchior admitted that he could not resist it when he had
money in his hands. Jean-Christophe thought for a moment and said:

"You see, father, we must..."

He stopped.

"What then?"

"I am ashamed..."

"Of whom?" asked Melchior naïvely.

"Of you."

Melchior made a face and said:

"That's nothing."

Jean-Christophe explained that they would have to put all the family money,
even Melchior's contribution, into the hands of some one else, who would
dole it out to Melchior day by day, or week by week, as he needed it.
Melchior, who was in humble mood--he was not altogether starving--agreed
to the proposition, and declared that he would then and there write a
letter to the Grand Duke to ask that the pension which came to him should
be regularly paid over in his name to Jean-Christophe. Jean-Christophe
refused, blushing for his father's humiliation. But Melchior, thirsting
for self-sacrifice, insisted on writing. He was much moved by his own
magnanimity. Jean-Christophe refused to take the letter, and when Louisa
came in and was acquainted with the turn of events, she declared that she
would rather beg in the streets than expose her husband to such an insult.
She added that she had every confidence in him, and that she was sure he
would make amends out of love for the children and herself. In the end
there was a scene of tender reconciliation and Melchior's letter was left
on the table, and then fell under the cupboard, where it remained
concealed.

But a few days later, when she was cleaning up, Louisa found it there, and
as she was very unhappy about Melchior's fresh outbreaks--he had forgotten
all about it--instead of tearing it up, she kept it. She kept it for
several months, always rejecting the idea of making use of it, in spite of
the suffering she had to endure. But one day, when she saw Melchior once
more beating Jean-Christophe and robbing him of his money, she could bear
it no longer, and when she was left alone with the boy, who was weeping,
she went and fetched the letter, and gave it him, and said:

"Go!"

Jean-Christophe hesitated, but he understood that there was no other way
if they wished to save from the wreck the little that was left to them.
He went to the Palace. He took nearly an hour to walk a distance that
ordinarily took twenty minutes. He was overwhelmed by the shame of what
he was doing. His pride, which had grown great in the years of sorrow and
isolation, bled at the thought of publicly confessing his father's vice.
He knew perfectly well that it was known to everybody, but by a strange
and natural inconsequence he would not admit it, and pretended to notice
nothing, and he would rather have been hewn in pieces than agree. And now,
of his own accord, he was going!... Twenty times he was on the point of
turning back. He walked two or three times round the town, turning away
just as he came near the Palace. He was not alone in his plight. His mother
and brothers had also to be considered. Since his father had deserted them
and betrayed them, it was his business as eldest son to take his place and
come to their assistance. There was no room for hesitation or pride; he
had to swallow down his shame. He entered the Palace. On the staircase he
almost turned and fled. He knelt down on a step; he stayed for several
minutes on the landing, with his hand on the door, until some one coming
made him go in.

Every one in the offices knew him. He asked to see His Excellency the
Director of the Theaters, Baron de Hammer Langbach. A young clerk, sleek,
bald, pink-faced, with a white waistcoat and a pink tie, shook his hand
familiarly, and began to talk about the opera of the night before.
Jean-Christophe repeated his question. The clerk replied that His
Excellency was busy for the moment, but that if Jean-Christophe had a
request to make they could present it with other documents which were to
be sent in for His Excellency's signature. Jean-Christophe held out his
letter. The clerk read it, and gave a cry of surprise.

"Oh, indeed!" he said brightly. "That is a good idea. He ought to have
thought of that long ago! He never did anything better in his life! Ah, the
old sot! How the devil did he bring himself to do it?"

He stopped short. Jean-Christophe had snatched the paper out of his hands,
and, white with rage, shouted:

"I forbid you!... I forbid you to insult me!"

The clerk was staggered.

"But, my dear Jean-Christophe," he began to say, "whoever thought of
insulting you? I only said what everybody thinks, and what you think
yourself."

"No!" cried Jean-Christophe angrily.

"What! you don't think so? You don't think that he drinks?"

"It is not true!" said Jean-Christophe.

He stamped his foot.

The clerk shrugged his shoulders.

"In that case, why did he write this letter?"

"Because," said Jean-Christophe (he did not know what to say)--"because,
when I come for my wages every month, I prefer to take my father's at the
same time. It is no good our both putting ourselves out.... My father is
very busy."

He reddened at the absurdity of his explanation. The clerk looked at him
with pity and irony in his eyes. Jean-Christophe crumpled the paper in his
hands, and turned to go. The clerk got up and took him by the arm.

"Wait a moment," he said. "I'll go and fix it up for you."

He went into the Director's office. Jean-Christophe waited, with the eyes
of the other clerks upon him. His blood boiled. He did not know what he was
doing, what to do, or what he ought to do. He thought of going away before
the answer was brought to him, and he had just made up his mind to that
when the door opened.

"His Excellency will see you," said the too obliging clerk.

Jean-Christophe had to go in.

His Excellency Baron de Hammer Langbach, a little neat old man with
whiskers, mustaches, and a shaven chin, looked at Jean-Christophe over his
golden spectacles without stopping writing, nor did he give any response to
the boy's awkward bow.

"So," he said, after a moment, "you are asking, Herr Krafft ...?"

"Your Excellency," said Jean-Christophe hurriedly, "I ask your pardon. I
have thought better of it. I have nothing to ask."

The old man sought no explanation for this sudden reconsideration. He
looked more closely at Jean-Christophe, coughed, and said:

"Herr Krafft, will you give me the letter that is in your hand?"

Jean-Christophe saw that the Director's gaze was fixed on the paper which
he was still unconsciously holding crumpled up in his hand.

"It is no use, Your Excellency," he murmured. "It is not worth while now."

"Please give it me," said the old man quietly, as though he had not heard.

Mechanically Jean-Christophe gave him the crumpled letter, but he plunged
into a torrent of stuttered words while he held out his hand for the
letter. His Excellency carefully smoothed out the paper, read it, looked at
Jean-Christophe, let him flounder about with his explanations, then checked
him, and said with a malicious light in his eyes:

"Very well, Herr Krafft; the request is granted."

He dismissed him with a wave of his hand and went on with his writing.

Jean-Christophe went out, crushed.

"No offense, Jean-Christophe!" said the clerk kindly, when the boy came
into the office again. Jean-Christophe let him shake his hand without
daring to raise his eyes. He found himself outside the Palace. He was cold
with shame. Everything that had been said to him recurred in his memory,
and he imagined that there was an insulting irony in the pity of the people
who honored and were sorry for him. He went home, and answered only with a
few irritable words Louisa's questions, as though he bore a grudge against
her for what he had just done. He was racked by remorse when he thought of
his father. He wanted to confess everything to him, and to beg his pardon.
Melchior was not there. Jean-Christophe kept awake far into the night,
waiting for him. The more he thought of him the more his remorse quickened.
He idealized him; he thought of him as weak, kind, unhappy, betrayed by his
own family. As soon as he heard his step on the stairs he leaped from his
bed to go and meet him, and throw himself in his arms; but Melchior was in
such a disgusting state of intoxication that Jean-Christophe had not even
the courage to go near him, and he went to bed again, laughing bitterly at
his own illusions.

When Melchior learned a few days later of what had happened, he was in a
towering passion, and, in spite of all Jean-Christophe's entreaties, he
went and made a scene at the Palace. But he returned with his tail between
his legs, and breathed not a word of what had happened. He had been
very badly received. He had been told that he would have to take a very
different tone about the matter, that the pension had only been continued
out of consideration for the worth of his son, and that if in the
future there came any scandal concerning him to their ears, it would be
suppressed. And so Jean-Christophe was much surprised and comforted to see
his father accept his living from day to day, and even boast about having
taken, the initiative in the _sacrifice_.

But that did not keep Melchior from complaining outside that he had been
robbed by his wife and children, that he had put himself out for them all
his life, and that now they let him want for everything. He tried also to
extract money from Jean-Christophe by all sorts of ingenious tricks and
devices, which often used to make Jean-Christophe laugh, although he was
hardly ever taken in by them. But as Jean-Christophe held firm, Melchior
did not insist. He was curiously intimidated by the severity in the eyes
of this boy of fourteen who judged him. He used to avenge himself by some
stealthy, dirty trick. He used to go to the cabaret and eat and drink as
much as he pleased, and then pay nothing, pretending that his son would
pay his debts. Jean-Christophe did not protest, for fear of increasing
the scandal, and he and Louisa exhausted their resources in discharging
Melchior's debts. In the end Melchior more and more lost interest in his
work as violinist, since he no longer received his wages, and his absence
from the theater became so frequent that, in spite of Jean-Christophe's
entreaties, they had to dismiss him. The boy was left to support his
father, his brothers, and the whole household.

So at fourteen Jean-Christophe became the head of the family.

       *       *       *       *       *

He stoutly faced his formidable task. His pride would not allow him to
resort to the charity of others. He vowed that he would pull through alone.
From his earliest days he had suffered too much from seeing his mother
accept and even ask for humiliating charitable offerings. He used to argue
the matter with her when she returned home triumphant with some present
that she had obtained from one of her patronesses. She saw no harm in it,
and was glad to be able, thanks to the money, to spare Jean-Christophe a
little, and to bring another meager dish forth for supper. But
Jean-Christophe would become gloomy, and would not talk all evening, and
would even refuse, without giving any reason, to touch food gained in this
way. Louisa was vexed, and clumsily urged her son to eat. He was not to be
budged, and in the end she would lose her temper, and say unkind things to
him, and he would retort. Then he would fling his napkin on the table and
go out. His father would shrug his shoulders and call him a _poseur_; his
brothers would laugh at him and eat his portion.

But he had somehow to find a livelihood. His earnings from the orchestra
were not enough. He gave lessons. His talents as an instrumentalist, his
good reputation, and, above all, the Prince's patronage, brought him a
numerous _clientèle_ among the middle classes. Every morning from nine
o'clock on he taught the piano to little girls, many of them older than
himself, who frightened him horribly with their coquetry and maddened him
with the clumsiness of their playing. They were absolutely stupid as far
as music went, but, on the other hand, they had all, more or less, a keen
sense of ridicule, and their mocking looks spared none of Jean-Christophe's
awkwardnesses. It was torture for him. Sitting by their side on the edge of
his chair, stiff, and red in the face; bursting with anger, and not daring
to stir; controlling himself so as not to say stupid things, and afraid of
the sound of his own voice, so that he could hardly speak a word; trying
to look severe, and feeling that his pupil was looking at him out of the
corner of her eye, he would lose countenance, grow confused in the middle
of a remark; fearing to make himself ridiculous, he would become so, and
break out into violent reproach. But it was very easy for his pupils to
avenge themselves, and they did not fail to do so, and upset him by a
certain way of looking at him, and by asking him the simplest questions,
which made him blush up to the roots of his hair; or they would ask him to
do them some small service, such as fetching something they had forgotten
from a piece of furniture, and that was for him a most painful ordeal, for
he had to cross the room under fire of malicious looks, which pitilessly
remarked the least awkwardness in his movements and his clumsy legs, his
stiff arms, his body cramped by his shyness.

From these lessons he had to hasten to rehearsal at the theater. Often he
had no time for lunch, and he used to carry a piece of bread and some cold
meat in his pocket to eat during the interval. Sometimes he had to take
the place of Tobias Pfeiffer, the _Musik Direktor_, who was interested in
him, and sometimes had him to conduct the orchestra rehearsals instead of
himself. And he had also to go on with his own musical education. Other
piano lessons filled his day until the hour of the performance, and very
often in the evening after the play he was sent for to play at the Palace.
There he had to play for an hour or two. The Princess laid claim to a
knowledge of music. She was very fond of it, but had never been able
to perceive the difference between good and bad. She used to make
Jean-Christophe play through strange programmes, in which dull rhapsodies
stood side by side with masterpieces. But her greatest pleasure was to make
him improvise, and she used to provide him with heartbreakingly sentimental
themes.

Jean-Christophe used to leave about midnight, worn out, with his hands
burning, his head aching, his stomach empty. He was in a sweat, and outside
snow would be falling, or there would be an icy fog. He had to walk across
half the town to reach home. He went on foot, his teeth chattering, longing
to sleep and to cry, and he had to take care not to splash his only evening
dress-suit in the puddles.

He would go up to his room, which he still shared with his brothers, and
never was he so overwhelmed by disgust and despair with his life as at the
moment when in his attic, with its stifling smell, he was at last permitted
to take off the halter of his misery. He had hardly the heart to undress
himself. Happily, no sooner did his head touch the pillow than he would
sink into a heavy sleep which deprived him of all consciousness of his
troubles.

But he had to get up by dawn in summer, and before dawn in winter. He
wished to do his own work. It was all the free time that he had between
five o'clock and eight. Even then he had to waste some of it by work to
command, for his title of _Hof Musicus_ and his favor with the Grand Duke
exacted from him official compositions for the Court festivals.

So the very source of his life was poisoned. Even his dreams were not free,
but, as usual, this restraint made them only the stronger. When nothing
hampers action, the soul has fewer reasons for action, and the closer the
walls of Jean-Christophe's prison of care and banal tasks were drawn about
him, the more his heart in its revolt felt its independence. In a life
without obstacles he would doubtless have abandoned himself to chance and
to the voluptuous sauntering of adolescence. As he could be free only for
an hour or two a day, his strength flowed into that space of time like a
river between walls of rock. It is a good discipline for art for a man to
confine his efforts between unshakable bounds. In that sense it may be said
that misery is a master, not only of thought, but of style; it teaches
sobriety to the mind as to the body. When time is doled out and thoughts
measured, a man says no word too much, and grows accustomed to thinking
only what is essential; so he lives at double pressure, having less time
for living.

This had happened in Jean-Christophe's case. Under his yoke he took
full stock of the value of liberty and he never frittered away the
precious minutes with useless words or actions. His natural tendency
to write diffusely, given up to all the caprice of a mind sincere but
indiscriminating, found correction in being forced to think and do as much
as possible in the least possible time. Nothing had so much influence on
his artistic and moral development--not the lessons of his masters, nor the
example of the masterpieces. During the years when the character is formed
he came to consider music as an exact language, in which every sound has a
meaning, and at the same time he came to loathe those musicians who talk
without saying anything.

And yet the compositions which he wrote at this time were still far from
expressing himself completely, because he was still very far from having
completely discovered himself. He was seeking himself through the mass of
acquired feelings which education imposes on a child as second nature. He
had only intuitions of his true being, until he should feel the passions
of adolescence, which strip the personality of its borrowed garments as a
thunder-clap purges the sky of the mists that hang over it. Vague and great
forebodings were mingled in him with strange memories, of which he could
not rid himself. He raged against these lies; he was wretched to see how
inferior what he wrote was to what he thought; he had bitter doubts of
himself. But he could not resign himself to such a stupid defeat. He longed
passionately to do better, to write great things, and always he missed
fire. After a moment of illusion as he wrote, he saw that what he had done
was worthless. He tore it up; he burned everything that he did; and, to
crown his humiliation, he had to see his official works, the most mediocre
of all, preserved, and he could not destroy them--the concerto, _The
Royal Eagle_, for the Prince's birthday and the cantata, _The Marriage
of Pallas_, written on the occasion of the marriage of Princess
Adelaide--published at great expense in _éditions de luxe_, which
perpetuated his imbecilities for posterity; for he believed in posterity.
He wept in his humiliation.

Fevered years! No respite, no release--nothing to create a diversion from
such maddening toil; no games, no friends. How should he have them? In the
afternoon, when other children played, young Jean-Christophe, with his
brows knit in attention, was at his place in the orchestra in the dusty and
ill-lighted theater; and in the evening, when other children were abed, he
was still there, sitting in his chair, bowed with weariness.

No intimacy with his brothers. The younger, Ernest, was twelve. He was a
little ragamuffin, vicious and impudent, who spent his days with other
rapscallions like himself, and from their company had caught not only
deplorable manners, but shameful habits which good Jean-Christophe, who
had never so much as suspected their existence, was horrified to see one
day. The other, Rodolphe, the favorite of Uncle Theodore, was to go into
business. He was steady, quiet, but sly. He thought himself much superior
to Jean-Christophe, and did not admit his authority in the house, although
it seemed natural to him to eat the food that he provided. He had espoused
the cause of Theodore and Melchior's ill-feeling against Jean-Christophe
and used to repeat their absurd gossip. Neither of the brothers cared for
music, and Rodolphe, in imitation of his uncle, affected to despise it.
Chafing against Jean-Christophe's authority and lectures--for he took
himself very seriously as the head of the family--the two boys had tried to
rebel; but Jean-Christophe, who had lusty fists and the consciousness of
right, sent them packing. Still they did not for that cease to do with him
as they liked. They abused his credulity, and laid traps for him, into
which he invariably fell. They used to extort money from him with barefaced
lies, and laughed at him behind his back. Jean-Christophe was always taken
in. He had so much need of being loved that an affectionate word was enough
to disarm his rancor. He would have forgiven them everything for a little
love. But his confidence was cruelly shaken when he heard them laughing at
his stupidity after a scene of hypocritical embracing which had moved him
to tears, and they had taken advantage of it to rob him of a gold watch, a
present from the Prince, which they coveted. He despised them, and yet went
on letting himself be taken in from his unconquerable tendency to trust and
to love. He knew it. He raged against himself, and he used to thrash his
brothers soundly when he discovered once more that they had tricked him.
That did not keep him from swallowing almost immediately the fresh hook
which it pleased them to bait for him.

A more bitter cause of suffering was in store for him. He learned from
officious neighbors that his father was speaking ill of him. After having
been proud of his son's successes, and having boasted of them everywhere,
Melchior was weak and shameful enough to be jealous of them. He tried to
decry them. It was stupid to weep; Jean-Christophe could only shrug his
shoulders in contempt. It was no use being angry about it, for his father
did not know what he was doing, and was embittered by his own downfall. The
boy said nothing. He was afraid, if he said anything, of being too hard;
but he was cut to the heart.

They were melancholy gatherings at the family evening meal round the lamp,
with a spotted cloth, with all the stupid chatter and the sound of the jaws
of these people whom he despised and pitied, and yet loved in spite of
everything. Only between himself and his brave mother did Jean-Christophe
feel a bond of affection. But Louisa, like himself, exhausted herself
during the day, and in the evening she was worn out and hardly spoke, and
after dinner used to sleep in her chair over her darning. And she was so
good that she seemed to make no difference in her love between her husband
and her three sons. She loved them all equally. Jean-Christophe did not
find in her the trusted friend that he so much needed.

So he was driven in upon himself. For days together he would not speak,
fulfilling his tiresome and wearing task with a sort of silent rage. Such
a mode of living was dangerous, especially for a child at a critical age,
when he is most sensitive, and is exposed to every agent of destruction
and the risk of being deformed for the rest of his life. Jean-Christophe's
health suffered seriously. He had been endowed by his parents with a
healthy constitution and a sound and healthy body; but his very healthiness
only served to feed his suffering when the weight of weariness and too
early cares had opened up a gap by which it might enter. Quite early in
life there were signs of grave nervous disorders. When he was a small boy
he was subject to fainting-fits and convulsions and vomiting whenever he
encountered opposition. When he was seven or eight, about the time of the
concert, his sleep had been troubled. He used to talk, cry, laugh and weep
in his sleep, and this habit returned to him whenever he had too much to
think of. Then he had cruel headaches, sometimes shooting pains at the base
of his skull or the top of his head, sometimes a leaden heaviness. His eyes
troubled him. Sometimes it was as though red-hot needles were piercing his
eyeballs. He was subject to fits of dizziness, when he could not see to
read, and had to stop for a minute or two. Insufficient and unsound food
and irregular meals ruined the health of his stomach. He was racked by
internal pains or exhausted by diarrhea. But nothing brought him more
suffering than his heart. It beat with a crazy irregularity. Sometimes it
would leap in his bosom, and seem like to break; sometimes it would hardly
beat at all, and seem like to stop. At night his temperature would vary
alarmingly; it would change suddenly from fever-point to next to nothing.
He would burn, then shiver with cold, pass through agony. His throat would
go dry; a lump in it would prevent his breathing. Naturally his imagination
took fire. He dared not say anything to his family of what he was going
through, but he was continually dissecting it with a minuteness which
either enlarged his sufferings or created new ones. He decided that he had
every known illness one after the other. He believed that he was going
blind, and as he sometimes used to turn giddy as he walked, he thought that
he was going to fall down dead. Always that dreadful fear of being stopped
on his road, of dying before his time, obsessed him, overwhelmed him, and
pursued him. Ah, if he had to die, at least let it not be now, not before
he had tasted victory!...

Victory ... the fixed idea which never ceases to burn within him without
his being fully aware of it--the idea which bears him up through all his
disgust and fatigues and the stagnant morass of such a life! A dim and
great foreknowledge of what he will be some day, of what he is already!...
What is he? A sick, nervous child, who plays the violin in the orchestra
and writes mediocre concertos? No; far more than such a child. That is no
more than the wrapping, the seeming of a day; that is not his Being. There
is no connection between his Being and the existing shape of his face and
thought. He knows that well. When he looks at himself in the mirror he does
not know himself. That broad red face, those prominent eyebrows, those
little sunken eyes, that short thick nose, that sullen mouth--the whole
mask, ugly and vulgar, is foreign to himself. Neither does he know himself
in his writings. He judges, he knows that what he does and what he is are
nothing; and yet he is sure of what he will be and do. Sometimes he falls
foul of such certainty as a vain lie. He takes pleasure in humiliating
himself and bitterly mortifying himself by way of punishment. But his
certainty endures; nothing can alter it. Whatever he does, whatever he
thinks, none of his thoughts, actions, or writings contain him or express
him, He knows, he has this strange presentiment, that the more that he is,
is not contained in the present but is what he _will be_, what he _will be
to-morrow. He will be!_... He is fired by that faith, he is intoxicated by
that light! Ah, if only _To-day_ does not block the way! If only he does
not fall into one of the cunning traps which _To-day_ is forever laying for
him!

So he steers his bark across the sea of days, turning his eyes neither to
right nor left, motionless at the helm, with his gaze fixed on the bourne,
the refuge, the end that he has in sight. In the orchestra, among the
talkative musicians, at table with his own family, at the Palace, while he
is playing without a thought of what he is playing, for the entertainment
of Royal folk--it is in that future, that future which a speck may bring
toppling to earth--no matter, it is in that that he lives.

       *       *       *       *       *

He is at his old piano, in his garret, alone. Night falls. The dying light
of day is cast upon his music. He strains his eyes to read the notes until
the last ray of light is dead. The tenderness of hearts that are dead
breathed forth from the dumb page fills him with love. His eyes are filled
with tears. It seems to him that a beloved creature is standing behind him,
that soft breathing caresses his cheek, that two arms are about his neck.
He turns, trembling. He feels, he knows, that he is not alone. A soul that
loves and is loved is there, near him. He groans aloud because he cannot
perceive it, and yet that shadow of bitterness falling upon his ecstasy
has sweetness, too. Even sadness has its light. He thinks of his beloved
masters, of the genius that is gone, though its soul lives on in the music
which it had lived in its life. His heart is overflowing with love; he
dreams of the superhuman happiness which must have been the lot of these
glorious men, since the reflection only of their happiness is still so much
aflame. He dreams of being like them, of giving out such love as this, with
lost rays to lighten his misery with a godlike smile. In his turn to be a
god, to give out the warmth of joy, to be a sun of life!...

Alas! if one day he does become the equal of those whom he loves, if he
does achieve that brilliant happiness for which he longs, he will see the
illusion that was upon him....



II

OTTO


One Sunday when Jean-Christophe had been invited by his _Musik Direktor_
to dine at the little country house which Tobias Pfeiffer owned an hour's
journey from the town, he took the Rhine steamboat. On deck he sat next to
a boy about his own age, who eagerly made room for him. Jean-Christophe
paid no attention, but after a moment, feeling that his neighbor had never
taken his eyes off him, he turned and looked at him. He was a fair boy,
with round pink cheeks, with his hair parted on one side, and a shade of
down on his lip. He looked frankly what he was--a hobbledehoy--though he
made great efforts to seem grown up. He was dressed with ostentatious
care--flannel suit, light gloves, white shoes, and a pale blue tie--and he
carried a little stick in his hand. He looked at Jean-Christophe out of
the corner of his eye without turning his head, with his neck stiff, like
a hen; and when Jean-Christophe looked at him he blushed up to his ears,
took a newspaper from his pocket, and pretended to be absorbed in it, and
to look important over it. But a few minutes later he dashed to pick up
Jean-Christophe's hat, which had fallen. Jean-Christophe, surprised at
such politeness, looked once more at the boy, and once more he blushed.
Jean-Christophe thanked him curtly, for he did not like such obsequious
eagerness, and he hated to be fussed with. All the same, he was flattered
by it.

Soon it passed from his thoughts; his attention was occupied by the view.
It was long since he had been able to escape from the town, and so he had
keen pleasure in the wind that beat against his face, in the sound of the
water against the boat, in the great stretch of water and the changing
spectacle presented by the banks--bluffs gray and dull, willow-trees half
under water, pale vines, legendary rocks, towns crowned with Gothic towers
and factory chimneys belching black smoke. And as he was in ecstasy over it
all, his neighbor in a choking voice timidly imparted a few historic facts
concerning the ruins that they saw, cleverly restored and covered with ivy.
He seemed to be lecturing to himself. Jean-Christophe, roused to interest,
plied him with questions. The other replied eagerly, glad to display his
knowledge, and with every sentence he addressed himself directly to
Jean-Christophe, calling him "_Herr Hof Violinist_."

"You know me, then?" said Jean-Christophe.

"Oh yes," said the boy, with a simple admiration that tickled
Jean-Christophe's vanity.

They talked. The boy had often seen Jean-Christophe at concerts, and his
imagination had been touched by everything that he had heard about him. He
did not say so to Jean-Christophe, but Jean-Christophe felt it, and was
pleasantly surprised by it. He was not used to being spoken to in this tone
of eager respect. He went on questioning his neighbor about the history
of the country through which they were passing. The other set out all the
knowledge that he had, and Jean-Christophe admired his learning. But that
was only the peg on which their conversation hung. What interested them was
the making of each other's acquaintance. They dared not frankly approach
the subject; they returned to it again and again with awkward questions.
Finally they plunged, and Jean-Christophe learned that his new friend was
called Otto Diener, and was the son of a rich merchant in the town. It
appeared, naturally, that they had friends in common, and little by little
their tongues were loosed. They were talking eagerly when the boat arrived
at the town at which Jean-Christophe was to get out. Otto got out, too.
That surprised them, and Jean-Christophe proposed that they should take
a walk together until dinner-time. They struck out across the fields.
Jean-Christophe had taken Otto's arm familiarly, and was telling him his
plans as if he had known him from his birth. He had been so much deprived
of the society of children of his own age that he found an inexpressible
joy in being with this boy, so learned and well brought up, who was in
sympathy with him.

Time passed, and Jean-Christophe took no count of it. Diener, proud of the
confidence which the young musician showed him, dared not point out that
the dinner-hour had rung. At last he thought that he must remind him of
it, but Jean-Christophe, who had begun the ascent of a hill in the woods,
declared that they most go to the top, and when they reached it he lay down
on the grass as though he meant to spend the day there. After a quarter
of an hour Diener, seeing that he seemed to have no intention of moving,
hazarded again:

"And your dinner?"

Jean-Christophe, lying at full length, with his hands behind his head, said
quietly:

"Tssh!"

Then he looked at Otto, saw his scared look, and began to laugh.

"It is too good here," he explained. "I shan't go. Let them wait for me!"

He half rose.

"Are you in a hurry? No? Do you know what we'll do? We'll dine together. I
know of an inn."

Diener would have had many objections to make--not that any one was waiting
for him, but because it was hard for him to come to any sudden decision,
whatever it might be. He was methodical, and needed to be prepared
beforehand. But Jean-Christophe's question was put in such a tone as
allowed of no refusal. He let himself be dragged off, and they began to
talk again.

At the inn their eagerness died down. Both were occupied with the question
as to who should give the dinner, and each within himself made it a point
of honor to give it--Diener because he was the richer, Jean-Christophe
because he was the poorer. They made no direct reference to the matter,
but Diener made great efforts to assert his right by the tone of authority
which he tried to take as he asked for the menu. Jean-Christophe understood
what he was at and turned the tables on him by ordering other dishes of a
rare kind. He wanted to show that he was as much at his ease as anybody,
and when Diener tried again by endeavoring to take upon himself the choice
of wine, Jean-Christophe crushed him with a look, and ordered a bottle of
one of the most expensive vintages they had in the inn.

When they found themselves seated before a considerable repast, they were
abashed by it. They could find nothing to say, ate mincingly, and were
awkward and constrained in their movements. They became conscious suddenly
that they were strangers, and they watched each other. They made vain
efforts to revive the conversation; it dropped immediately. Their first
half-hour was a time of fearful boredom. Fortunately, the meat and drink
soon had an effect on them, and they looked at each other more confidently.
Jean-Christophe especially, who was not used to such good things, became
extraordinarily loquacious. He told of the difficulties of his life, and
Otto, breaking through his reserve, confessed that he also was not happy.
He was weak and timid, and his schoolfellows put upon him. They laughed
at him, and could not forgive him for despising their vulgar manners.
They played all sorts of tricks on him. Jean-Christophe clenched his
fists, and said they had better not try it in his presence. Otto also was
misunderstood by his family. Jean-Christophe knew the unhappiness of that,
and they commiserated each other on their common misfortunes. Diener's
parents wanted him to become a merchant, and to step into his father's
place, but he wanted to be a poet. He would be a poet, even though he had
to fly the town, like Schiller, and brave poverty! (His father's fortune
would all come to him, and it was considerable.) He confessed blushingly
that he had already written verses on the sadness of life, but he could not
bring himself to recite them, in spite of Jean-Christophe's entreaties.
But in the end he did give two or three of them, dithering with emotion.
Jean-Christophe thought them admirable. They exchanged plans. Later on they
would work together; they would write dramas and song-cycles. They admired
each other. Besides his reputation as a musician, Jean-Christophe's
strength and bold ways made an impression on Otto, and Jean-Christophe was
sensible of Otto's elegance and distinguished manners--everything in this
world is relative--and of his ease of manner--that ease of manner which he
looked and longed for.

Made drowsy by their meal, with their elbows on the table, they talked and
listened to each other with softness in their eyes. The afternoon drew
on; they had to go. Otto made a last attempt to procure the bill, but
Jean-Christophe nailed him to his seat with an angry look which made it
impossible for him to insist. Jean-Christophe was only uneasy on one
point--that he might be asked for more than he had. He would have given his
watch and everything that he had about him rather than admit it to Otto.
But he was not called on to go so far. He had to spend on the dinner almost
the whole of his month's money.

They went down the hill again. The shades of evening were beginning to fall
over the pine-woods. Their tops were still bathed in rosy light; they swung
slowly with a surging sound. The carpet of purple pine-needles deadened the
sound of their footsteps. They said no word. Jean-Christophe felt a strange
sweet sadness welling through his heart. He was happy; he wished to talk,
but was weighed down with his sweet sorrow. He stopped for a moment, and
so did Otto. All was silence. Flies buzzed high above them in a ray of
sunlight; a rotten branch fell. Jean-Christophe took Otto's hand, and in a
trembling voice said:

"Will you be my friend?"

Otto murmured:

"Yes."

They shook hands; their hearts beat; they dared hardly look at each other.

After a moment they walked on. They were a few paces away from each other,
and they dared say no more until they were out of the woods. They were
fearful of each other, and of their strange emotion. They walked very fast,
and never stopped until they had issued from the shadow of the trees; then
they took courage again, and joined hands. They marveled at the limpid
evening falling, and they talked disconnectedly.

On the boat, sitting at the bows in the brilliant twilight, they tried to
talk of trivial matters, but they gave no heed to what they were saying.
They were lost in their own happiness and weariness. They felt no need to
talk, or to hold hands, or even to look at each other; they were near each
other.

When they were near their journey's end they agreed to meet again on the
following Sunday, Jean-Christophe took Otto to his door. Under the light
of the gas they timidly smiled and murmured _au revoir_. They were glad to
part, so wearied were they by the tension at which they had been living for
those hours and by the pain it cost them to break the silence with a single
word.

Jean-Christophe returned alone in the night. His heart was singing: "I have
a friend! I have a friend!" He saw nothing, he heard nothing, he thought of
nothing else.

He was very sleepy, and fell asleep as soon as he reached his room; but he
was awakened twice or thrice during the night, as by some fixed idea. He
repeated, "I have a friend," and went to sleep again at once.

Next morning it seemed to be all a dream. To test the reality of it, he
tried to recall the smallest details of the day. He was absorbed by this
occupation while he was giving his lessons, and even during the afternoon
he was so absent during the orchestra rehearsal that when he left he could
hardly remember what he had been playing.

When he returned home he found a letter waiting for him. He had no need to
ask himself whence it came. He ran and shut himself up in his room to read
it. It was written on pale blue paper in a labored, long, uncertain hand,
with very correct flourishes:

DEAR HERR JEAN-CHRISTOPHE--dare I say HONORED FRIEND?--

I am thinking much of our doings yesterday, and I do thank you tremendously
for your kindness to me. I am so grateful for all that you have done, and
for your kind words, and the delightful walk and the excellent dinner! I am
only worried that you should have spent so much money on it. What a lovely
day! Do you not think there was something providential in that strange
meeting? It seems to me that it was Fate decreed that we should meet. How
glad I shall be to see you again on Sunday! I hope you will not have had
too much unpleasantness for having missed the _Hof Musik Direktor's_
dinner. I should be so sorry if you had any trouble because of me.

Dear Herr Jean-Christophe, I am always

Your very devoted servant and friend,

OTTO DIENER.

P.S.--On Sunday please do not call for me at home. It would be better, if
you will, for us to meet at the _Schloss Garten_.

Jean-Christophe read the letter with tears in his eyes. He kissed it; he
laughed aloud; he jumped about on his bed. Then he ran to the table and
took pen in hand to reply at once. He could not wait a moment. But he was
not used to writing. He could not express what was swelling in his heart;
he dug into the paper with his pen, and blackened his fingers with ink; he
stamped impatiently. At last, by dint of putting out his tongue and making
five or six drafts, he succeeded in writing in malformed letters, which
flew out in all directions, and with terrific mistakes in spelling:

"MY SOUL,--

"How dare you speak of gratitude, because I love you? Have I not told you
how sad I was and lonely before I knew you? Your friendship is the greatest
of blessings. Yesterday I was happy, happy!--for the first time in my life.
I weep for joy as I read your letter. Yes, my beloved, there is no doubt
that it was Fate brought us together. Fate wishes that we should be friends
to do great things. Friends! The lovely word! Can it be that at last I have
a friend? Oh! you will never leave me? You will be faithful to me? Always!
always!... How beautiful it will be to grow up together, to work together,
to bring together--I my musical whimsies, and all the crazy things that go
chasing through my mind; you your intelligence and amazing learning! How
much you know! I have never met a man so clever as you. There are moments
when I am uneasy. I seem to be unworthy of your friendship. You are so
noble and so accomplished, and I am so grateful to you for loving so coarse
a creature as myself!... But no! I have just said, let there be no talk of
gratitude. In friendship there is no obligation nor benefaction. I would
not accept any benefaction! We are equal, since we love. How impatient
I am to see you! I will not call for you at home, since you do not
wish it--although, to tell the truth, I do not understand all these
precautions--but you are the wiser; you are surely right....

"One word only! No more talk of money. I hate money--the word and the thing
itself. If I am not rich, I am yet rich enough to give to my friend, and it
is my joy to give all I can for him. Would not you do the same? And if I
needed it, would you not be the first to give me all your fortune? But that
shall never be! I have sound fists and a sound head, and I shall always be
able to earn the bread that I eat. Till Sunday! Dear God, a whole week
without seeing you! And for two days I have not seen you! How have I been
able to live so long without you?

"The conductor tried to grumble, but do not bother about it any more than I
do. What are others to me? I care nothing what they think or what they may
ever think of me. Only you matter. Love me well, my soul; love me as I love
you! I cannot tell you how much I love you. I am yours, yours, yours, from
the tips of my fingers to the apple of my eye.

"Yours always,

"JEAN-CHRISTOPHE."

Jean-Christophe was devoured with impatience for the rest of the week. He
would go out of his way, and make long turns to pass by Otto's house. Not
that he counted on seeing him, but the sight of the house was enough to
make him grow pale and red with emotion. On the Thursday he could bear it
no longer, and sent a second letter even more high-flown than the first.
Otto answered it sentimentally.

Sunday came at length, and Otto was punctually at the meeting-place. But
Jean-Christophe had been there for an hour, waiting impatiently for the
walk. He began to imagine dreadfully that Otto would not come. He trembled
lest Otto should be ill, for he did not suppose for a moment that Otto
might break his word. He whispered over and over again, "Dear God, let him
come--let him come!" and he struck at the pebbles in the avenue with his
stick, saying to himself that if he missed three times Otto would not come,
but if he hit them Otto would appear at once. In spite of his care and
the easiness of the test, he had just missed three times when he saw Otto
coming at his easy, deliberate pace; for Otto was above all things correct,
even when he was most moved. Jean-Christophe ran to him, and with his
throat dry wished him "Good-day!" Otto replied, "Good-day!" and they found
that they had nothing more to say to each other, except that the weather
was fine and that it was five or six minutes past ten, or it might be ten
past, because the castle clock was always slow.

They went to the station, and went by rail to a neighboring place which was
a favorite excursion from the town. On the way they exchanged not more than
ten words. They tried to make up for it by eloquent looks, but they were
no more successful. In vain did they try to tell each other what friends
they were; their eyes would say nothing at all. They were just playacting.
Jean-Christophe saw that, and was humiliated. He did not understand how
he could not express or even feel all that had filled his heart an hour
before. Otto did not, perhaps, so exactly take stock of their failure,
because he was less sincere, and examined himself with more circumspection,
but he was just as disappointed. The truth is that the boys had, during
their week of separation, blown out their feelings to such a diapason that
it was impossible for them to keep them actually at that pitch, and when
they met again their first impression must of necessity be false. They had
to break away from it, but they could not bring themselves to agree to it.

All day they wandered in the country without ever breaking through the
awkwardness and constraint that were upon them. It was a holiday. The inns
and woods were filled with a rabble of excursionists--little _bourgeois_
families who made a great noise and ate everywhere. That added to their
ill-humor. They attributed to the poor people the impossibility of again
finding the carelessness of their first walk. But they talked, they
took great pains to find subjects of conversation; they were afraid of
finding that they had nothing to say to each other. Otto displayed his
school-learning; Jean-Christophe entered into technical explanations of
musical compositions and violin-playing. They oppressed each other; they
crushed each other by talking; and they never stopped talking, trembling
lest they should, for then there opened before them abysses of silence
which horrified them. Otto came near to weeping, and Jean-Christophe was
near leaving him and running away as hard as he could, he was so bored and
ashamed.

Only an hour before they had to take the train again did they thaw. In the
depths of the woods a dog was barking; he was hunting on his own account.
Jean-Christophe proposed that they should hide by his path to try and see
his quarry. They ran into the midst of the thicket. The dog came near them,
and then went away again. They went to right and left, went forward and
doubled. The barking grew louder: the dog was choking with impatience in
his lust for slaughter. He came near once more. Jean-Christophe and Otto,
lying on the dead leaves in the rut of a path, waited and held their
breath. The barking stopped; the dog had lost the scent. They heard his yap
once again in the distance; then silence came upon the woods. Not a sound,
only the mysterious hum of millions of creatures, insects, and creeping
things, moving unceasingly, destroying the forest--the measured breathing
of death, which never stops. The boys listened, they did not stir. Just
when they got up, disappointed, and said, "It is all over; he will not
come!" a little hare plunged out of the thicket. He came straight upon
them. They saw him at the same moment, and gave a cry of joy. The hare
turned in his tracks and jumped aside. They saw him dash into the brushwood
head over heels. The stirring of the rumpled leaves vanished away like a
ripple on the face of waters. Although they were sorry for having cried
out, the adventure filled them with joy. They rocked with laughter as they
thought of the hare's terrified leap, and Jean-Christophe imitated it
grotesquely. Otto did the same. Then they chased each other. Otto was the
hare, Jean-Christophe the dog. They plunged through woods and meadows,
dashing through hedges and leaping ditches. A peasant shouted at them,
because they had rushed over a field of rye. They did not stop to hear him.
Jean-Christophe imitated the hoarse barking of the dog to such perfection
that Otto laughed until he cried. At last they rolled down a slope,
shouting like mad things. When they could not utter another sound they sat
up and looked at each other, with tears of laughter in their eyes. They
were quite happy and pleased with themselves. They were no longer trying to
play the heroic friend; they were frankly what they were--two boys.

They came back arm-in-arm, singing senseless songs, and yet, when they were
on the point of returning to the town, they thought they had better resume
their pose, and under the last tree of the woods they carved their initials
intertwined. But then good temper had the better of their sentimentality,
and in the train they shouted with laughter whenever they looked at
each other. They parted assuring each other that they had had a "hugely
delightful" (_kolossal entzückend_) day, and that conviction gained with
them when they were alone once more.

       *       *       *       *       *

They resumed their work of construction more patient and ingenious even
than that of the bees, for of a few mediocre scraps of memory they
fashioned a marvelous image of themselves and their friendship. After
having idealized each other during the week, they met again on the Sunday,
and in spite of the discrepancy between the truth and their illusion, they
got used to not noticing it and to twisting things to fit in with their
desires.

They were proud of being friends. The very contrast of their natures
brought them together. Jean-Christophe knew nothing so beautiful as Otto.
His fine hands, his lovely hair, his fresh complexion, his shy speech,
the politeness of his manners, and his scrupulous care of his appearance
delighted him. Otto was subjugated by Jean-Christophe's brimming strength
and independence. Accustomed by age-old inheritance to religious respect
for all authority, he took a fearful joy in the company of a comrade in
whose nature was so little reverence for the established order of things.
He had a little voluptuous thrill of terror whenever he heard him decry
every reputation in the town, and even mimic the Grand Duke himself.
Jean-Christophe knew the fascination that he exercised over his friend,
and used to exaggerate his aggressive temper. Like some old revolutionary,
he hewed away at social conventions and the laws of the State. Otto would
listen, scandalized and delighted. He used timidly to try and join in, but
he was always careful to look round to see if any one could hear.

Jean-Christophe never failed, when they walked together, to leap the fences
of a field whenever he saw a board forbidding it, or he would pick fruit
over the walls of private grounds. Otto was in terror lest they should be
discovered. But such feelings had for him an exquisite savor, and in the
evening, when he had returned, he would think himself a hero. He admired
Jean-Christophe fearfully. His instinct of obedience found a satisfying
quality in a friendship in which he had only to acquiesce in the will of
his friend. Jean-Christophe never put him to the trouble of coming to a
decision. He decided everything, decreed the doings of the day, decreed
even the ordering of life, making plans, which admitted of no discussion,
for Otto's future, just as he did for his own family. Otto fell in
with them, though he was a little put aback by hearing Jean-Christophe
dispose of his fortune for the building later on of a theater of his own
contriving. But, intimidated by his friend's imperious tones, he did not
protest, being convinced also by his friend's conviction that the money
amassed by _Commerzienrath_ Oscar Diener could be put to no nobler use.
Jean-Christophe never for a moment had any idea that he might be violating
Otto's will. He was instinctively a despot, and never imagined that his
friend's wishes might be different from his own. Had Otto expressed a
desire different from his own, he would not have hesitated to sacrifice his
own personal preference. He would have sacrificed even more for him. He was
consumed by the desire to run some risk for him. He wished passionately
that there might appear some opportunity of putting his friendship to the
test. When they were out walking he used to hope that they might meet some
danger, so that he might fling himself forward to face it. He would have
loved to die for Otto. Meanwhile, he watched over him with a restless
solicitude, gave him his hand in awkward places, as though he were a girl.
He was afraid that he might be tired, afraid that he might be hot, afraid
that he might be cold. When they sat down under a tree he took off his coat
to put it about his friend's shoulders; when they walked he carried his
cloak. He would have carried Otto himself. He used to devour him with his
eyes like a lover, and, to tell the truth, he was in love.

He did not know it, not knowing yet what love was. But sometimes, when they
were together, he was overtaken by a strange unease--the same that had
choked him on that first day of their friendship in the pine-woods--and the
blood would rush to his face and set his cheeks aflame. He was afraid. By
an instinctive unanimity the two boys used furtively to separate and run
away from each other, and one would lag behind on the road. They would
pretend to be busy looking for blackberries in the hedges, and they did not
know what it was that so perturbed them.

But it was in their letters especially that their feelings flew high. They
were not then in any danger of being contradicted by facts, and nothing
could check their illusions or intimidate them. They wrote to each other
two or three times a week in a passionately lyric style. They hardly ever
spoke of real happenings or common things; they raised great problems in an
apocalyptic manner, which passed imperceptibly from enthusiasm to despair.
They called each other, "My blessing, my hope, my beloved, my Self." They
made a fearful hash of the word "Soul." They painted in tragic colors the
sadness of their lot, and were desolate at having brought into the
existence of their friend the sorrows of their existence.

"I am sorry, my love," wrote Jean-Christophe, "for the pain which I bring
you. I cannot bear that you should suffer. It must not be. _I will not have
it_." (He underlined the words with a stroke of the pen that dug into the
paper.) "If you suffer, where shall I find strength to live? I have no
happiness but in you. Oh, be happy! I will gladly take all the burden of
sorrow upon myself! Think of me! Love me! I have such great need of being
loved. From your love there comes to me a warmth which gives me life. If
you knew how I shiver! There is winter and a biting wind in my heart. I
embrace your soul."

"My thought kisses yours," replied Otto.

"I take your face in my hands," was Jean-Christophe's answer, "and what I
have not done and will not do with my lips I do with all my being. I kiss
you as I love you, Prudence!",

Otto pretended to doubt him.

"Do you love me as much as I love you?"

"O God," wrote Jean-Christophe, "not as much, but ten a hundred, a thousand
times more! What! Do you not feel it? What would you have me do to stir
your heart?"

"What a lovely friendship is ours!" sighed Otto. "Was, there ever its like
in history? It is sweet and fresh as a dream. If only it does not pass
away! If you were to cease to love me!"

"How stupid you are, my beloved!" replied Jean-Christophe. "Forgive me, but
your weakling fear enrages me. How can you ask whether I shall cease to
love you! For me to live is to love you. Death is powerless against my
love. You yourself could do nothing if you wished to destroy it. Even if
you betrayed me, even if you rent my heart, I should die with a blessing
upon you for the love with which you fill me. Once for all, then, do not be
uneasy, and vex me no more with these cowardly doubts!"

But a week later it was he who wrote:

"It is three days now since I heard a word fall from your lips. I tremble.
Would you forget me? My blood freezes at the thought.... Yes, doubtless....
The other day only I saw your coldness towards me. You love me no longer!
You are thinking of leaving me!... Listen! If you forget me, if you ever
betray me, I will kill you like a dog!"

"You do me wrong, my dear heart," groaned Otto. "You draw tears from me. I
do not deserve this. But you can do as you will. You have such rights over
me that, if you were to break my soul, there would always be a spark left
to live and love you always!"

"Heavenly powers!" cried Jean-Christophe. "I have made my friend weep!...
Heap insults on me, beat me, trample me underfoot! I am a wretch! I do not
deserve your love!"

They had special ways of writing the address on their letters, of placing
the stamp--upside down, askew, at bottom in a corner of the envelope--to
distinguish their letters from those which they wrote to persons who did
not matter. These childish secrets had the charm of the sweet mysteries of
love.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day, as he was returning from a lesson, Jean-Christophe saw Otto
in the street with a boy of his own age. They were laughing and talking
familiarly. Jean-Christophe went pale, and followed them with his eyes
until they had disappeared round the corner of the street. They had not
seen him. He went home. It was as though a cloud had passed over the sun;
all was dark.

When they met on the following Sunday, Jean-Christophe said nothing at
first; but after they had been walking for half an hour he said in a
choking voice:

"I saw you on Wednesday in the _Königgasse_."

"Ah!" said Otto.

And he blushed.

Jean-Christophe went on:

"You were not alone."

"No," said Otto; "I was with some one."

Jean-Christophe swallowed down his spittle and asked in a voice which he
strove to make careless:

"Who was it?"

"My cousin Franz."

"Ah!" said Jean-Christophe; and after a moment: "You have never said
anything about him to me."

"He lives at Rheinbach."

"Do you see him often?"

"He comes here sometimes."

"And you, do you go and stay with him?"

"Sometimes."

"Ah!" said Jean-Christophe again.

Otto, who was not sorry to turn the conversation, pointed out a bird who
was pecking at a tree. They talked of other things. Ten minutes later
Jean-Christophe broke out again:

"Are you friends with him?"

"With whom?" asked Otto.

(He knew perfectly who was meant.)

"With your cousin."

"Yes. Why?"

"Oh, nothing!"

Otto did not like his cousin much, for he used to bother him with bad
jokes; but a strange malign instinct made him add a few moments later:

"He is very nice."

"Who?" asked Jean-Christophe.

(He knew quite well who was meant.)

"Franz."

Otto waited for Jean-Christophe to say something, but he seemed not to have
heard. He was cutting a switch from a hazel-tree. Otto went on:

"He is amusing. He has all sorts of stories."

Jean-Christophe whistled carelessly.

Otto renewed the attack:

"And he is so clever ... and distinguished!..."

Jean-Christophe shrugged his shoulders as though to say:

"What interest can this person have for me?"

And as Otto, piqued, began to go on, he brutally cut him short, and pointed
out a spot to which to run.

They did not touch on the subject again the whole afternoon, but they were
frigid, affecting an exaggerated politeness which was unusual for them,
especially for Jean-Christophe. The words stuck in his throat. At last he
could contain himself no longer, and in the middle of the road he turned to
Otto, who was lagging five yards behind. He took him fiercely by the hands,
and let loose upon him:

"Listen, Otto! I will not--I will not let you be so friendly with Franz,
because ... because you are my friend, and I will not let you love any one
more than me! I will not! You see, you are everything to me! You cannot ...
you must not!... If I lost you, there would be nothing left but death. I do
not know what I should do. I should kill myself; I should kill you! No,
forgive me!..."

Tears fell from his eyes.

Otto, moved and frightened by the sincerity of such grief, growling out
threats, made haste to swear that he did not and never would love anybody
so much as Jean-Christophe, that Franz was nothing to him, and that he
would not see him again if Jean-Christophe wished it. Jean-Christophe drank
in his words, and his heart took new life. He laughed and breathed heavily;
he thanked Otto effusively. He was ashamed of having made such a scene, but
he was relieved of a great weight. They stood face to face and looked at
each other, not moving, and holding hands. They were very happy and very
much embarrassed. They became silent; then they began to talk again, and
found their old gaiety. They felt more at one than ever.

But it was not the last scene of the kind. Now that Otto felt his power
over Jean-Christophe, he was tempted to abuse it. He knew his sore spot,
and was irresistibly tempted to place his finger on it. Not that he had
any pleasure in Jean-Christophe's anger; on the contrary, it made him
unhappy--but he felt his power by making Jean-Christophe suffer. He was not
bad; he had the soul of a girl.

In spite of his promises, he continued to appear arm in arm with Franz or
some other comrade. They made a great noise between them, and he used to
laugh in an affected way. When Jean-Christophe reproached him with it,
he used to titter and pretend not to take him seriously, until, seeing
Jean-Christophe's eyes change and his lips tremble with anger, he would
change his tone, and fearfully promise not to do it again, and the next day
he would do it. Jean-Christophe would write him furious letters, in which
he called him:

"Scoundrel! Let me never hear of you again! I do not know you! May the
devil take you and all dogs of your kidney!"

But a tearful word from Otto, or, as he ever did, the sending of a flower
as a token of his eternal constancy, was enough for Jean-Christophe to be
plunged in remorse, and to write:

"My angel, I am mad! Forget my idiocy. You are the best of men. Your little
finger alone is worth more than all stupid Jean-Christophe. You have the
treasures of an ingenuous and delicate tenderness. I kiss your flower with
tears in my eyes. It is there on my heart. I thrust it into my skin with
blows of my fist. I would that it could make me bleed, so that I might the
more feel your exquisite goodness and my own infamous folly!..."

But they began to weary of each other. It is false to pretend that little
quarrels feed friendship. Jean-Christophe was sore against Otto for the
injustice that Otto made him be guilty of. He tried to argue with himself;
he laid the blame upon his own despotic temper. His loyal and eager nature,
brought for the first time to the test of love, gave itself utterly, and
demanded a gift as utter without the reservation of one particle of the
heart. He admitted no sharing in friendship. Being ready to sacrifice all
for his friend, he thought it right and even necessary that his friend
should wholly sacrifice himself and everything for him. But he was
beginning to feel that the world was not built on the model of his own
inflexible character, and that he was asking things which others could not
give. Then he tried to submit. He blamed himself, he regarded himself as an
egoist, who had no right to encroach upon the liberty of his friend, and
to monopolize his affection. He did sincerely endeavor to leave him free,
whatever it might cost himself. In a spirit of humiliation he did set
himself to pledge Otto not to neglect Franz; he tried to persuade himself
that he was glad to see him finding pleasure in society other than his own.
But when Otto, who was not deceived, maliciously obeyed him, he could not
help lowering at him, and then he broke out again.

If necessary, he would have forgiven Otto for preferring other friends to
himself; but what he could not stomach was the lie. Otto was neither liar
nor hypocrite, but it was as difficult for him to tell the truth as for
a stutterer to pronounce words. What he said was never altogether true
nor altogether false. Either from timidity or from uncertainty of his own
feelings he rarely spoke definitely. His answers were equivocal, and, above
all, upon every occasion he made mystery and was secret in a way that set
Jean-Christophe beside himself. When he was caught tripping, or was caught
in what, according to the conventions of their friendship, was a fault,
instead of admitting it he would go on denying it and telling absurd
stories. One day Jean-Christophe, exasperated, struck him. He thought it
must be the end of their friendship and that Otto would never forgive him;
but after sulking for a few hours Otto came back as though nothing had
happened. He had no resentment for Jean-Christophe's violence--perhaps even
it was not unpleasing to him, and had a certain charm for him--and yet
he resented Jean-Christophe letting himself be tricked, gulping down all
his mendacities. He despised him a little, and thought himself superior.
Jean-Christophe, for his part, resented Otto's receiving blows without
revolting.

They no longer saw each other with the eyes of those first days. Their
failings showed up in full light. Otto found Jean-Christophe's independence
less charming. Jean-Christophe was a tiresome companion when they went
walking. He had no sort of concern for correctness. He used to dress as he
liked, take off his coat, open his waistcoat, walk with open collar, roll
up his shirt-sleeves, put his hat on the end of his stick, and fling out
his chest in the air. He used to swing his arms as he walked, whistle, and
sing at the top of his voice. He used to be red in the face, sweaty, and
dusty. He looked like a peasant returning from a fair. The aristocratic
Otto used to be mortified at being seen in his company. When he saw a
carriage coming he used to contrive to lag some ten paces behind, and to
look as though he were walking alone.

Jean-Christophe was no less embarrassing company when he began to talk at
an inn or in a railway-carriage when they were returning home. He used to
talk loudly, and say anything that came into his head, and treat Otto with
a disgusting familiarity. He used to express opinions quite recklessly
concerning people known to everybody, or even about the appearance of
people sitting only a few yards away from him, or he would enter into
intimate details concerning his health and domestic affairs. It was useless
for Otto to roll his eyes and to make signals of alarm. Jean-Christophe
seemed not to notice them, and no more controlled himself than if he had
been alone. Otto would see smiles on the faces of his neighbors, and would
gladly have sunk into the ground. He thought Jean-Christophe coarse, and
could not understand how he could ever have found delight in him.

What was most serious was that Jean-Christophe was just as reckless
and indifferent concerning all the hedges, fences, inclosures, walls,
prohibitions of entry, threats of fines, _Verbot_ of all sorts, and
everything that sought to confine his liberty and protect the sacred rights
of property against it. Otto lived in fear from moment to moment, and all
his protests were useless. Jean-Christophe grew worse out of bravado.

One day, when Jean-Christophe, with Otto at his heels, was walking
perfectly at home across a private wood, in spite of, or because of, the
walls fortified with broken bottles which they had had to clear, they found
themselves suddenly face to face with a gamekeeper, who let fire a volley
of oaths at them, and after keeping them for some time under a threat of
legal proceedings, packed them off in the most ignominious fashion. Otto
did not shine under this ordeal. He thought that he was already in jail,
and wept, stupidly protesting that he had gone in by accident, and that he
had followed Jean-Christophe without knowing whither he was going. When
he saw that he was safe, instead of being glad, he bitterly reproached
Jean-Christophe. He complained that Jean-Christophe had brought him
into trouble. Jean-Christophe quelled him with a look, and called him
"Lily-liver!" There was a quick passage of words. Otto would have left
Jean-Christophe if he had known how to find the way home. He was forced to
follow him, but they affected to pretend that they were not together.

A storm was brewing. In their anger they had not seen it coming. The baking
countryside resounded with the cries of insects. Suddenly all was still.
They only grew aware of the silence after a few minutes. Their ears buzzed.
They raised their eyes; the sky was black; huge, heavy, livid clouds
overcast it. They came up from every side like a cavalry-charge. They
seemed all to be hastening towards an invisible point, drawn by a gap in
the sky. Otto, in terror, dare not tell his fears, and Jean-Christophe took
a malignant pleasure in pretending not to notice anything. But without
saying a word they drew nearer together. They were alone in the wide
country. Silence. Not a wind stirred,--hardly a fevered tremor that made
the little leaves of the trees shiver now and then. Suddenly a whirling
wind raised the dust, twisted the trees and lashed them furiously. And the
silence came again, more terrible than before. Otto, in a trembling voice,
spoke at last.

"It is a storm. We must go home."

Jean-Christophe said:

"Let us go home."

But it was too late. A blinding, savage light flashed, the heavens roared,
the vault of clouds rumbled. In a moment they were wrapped about by the
hurricane, maddened by the lightning, deafened by the thunder, drenched
from head to foot. They were in deserted country, half an hour from the
nearest house. In the lashing rain, in the dim light, came the great red
flashes of the storm. They tried to run but, their wet clothes clinging,
they could hardly walk. Their shoes slipped on their feet, the water
trickled down their bodies. It was difficult to breathe. Otto's teeth
were chattering, and he was mad with rage. He said biting things to
Jean-Christophe. He wanted to stop; he declared that it was dangerous to
walk; he threatened to sit down on the road, to sleep on the soil in the
middle of the plowed fields. Jean-Christophe made no reply. He went on
walking, blinded by the wind, the rain, and the lightning; deafened by the
noise; a little uneasy, but unwilling to admit it.

And suddenly it was all over. The storm had passed, as it had come. But
they were both in a pitiful condition. In truth, Jean-Christophe was, as
usual, so disheveled that a little more disorder made hardly any difference
to him. But Otto, so neat, so careful of his appearance, cut a sorry
figure. It was as though he had just taken a bath in his clothes, and
Jean-Christophe, turning and seeing him, could not help roaring with
laughter. Otto was so exhausted that he could not even be angry.
Jean-Christophe took pity and talked gaily to him. Otto replied with a look
of fury. Jean-Christophe made him stop at a farm. They dried themselves
before a great fire, and drank hot wine. Jean-Christophe thought the
adventure funny, and tried to laugh at it; but that was not at all to
Otto's taste, and he was morose and silent for the rest of their walk. They
came back sulking and did not shake hands when they parted.

As a result of this prank they did not see each other for more than a week.
They were severe in their judgment of each other. But after inflicting
punishment on themselves by depriving themselves of one of their Sunday
walks, they got so bored that their rancor died away. Jean-Christophe made
the first advances as usual. Otto condescended to meet them, and they made
peace.

In spite of their disagreement it was impossible for them to do without
each other. They had many faults; they were both egoists. But their egoism
was naïve; it knew not the self-seeking of maturity which makes it so
repulsive; it knew not itself even; it was almost lovable, and did not
prevent them from sincerely loving each other! Young Otto used to weep on
his pillow as he told himself stories of romantic devotion of which he was
the hero; lie used to invent pathetic adventures, in which he was strong,
valiant, intrepid, and protected Jean-Christophe, whom he used to imagine
that he adored. Jean-Christophe never saw or heard anything beautiful or
strange without thinking: "If only Otto were here!" He carried the image
of his friend into his whole life, and that image used to be transfigured,
and become so gentle that, in spite of all that he knew about Otto, it used
to intoxicate him. Certain words of Otto's which he used to remember long
after they were spoken, and to embellish by the way, used to make him
tremble with emotion. They imitated each other. Otto aped Jean-Christophe's
manners, gestures, and writing. Jean-Christophe was sometimes irritated
by the shadow which repeated every word that he said and dished up his
thoughts as though they were its own. But he did not see that he himself
was imitating Otto, and copying his way of dressing, walking, and
pronouncing certain words. They were under a fascination. They were infused
one in the other; their hearts were overflowing with tenderness. They
trickled over with it on every side like a fountain. Each imagined that his
friend was the cause of it. They did not know that it was the waking of
their adolescence.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jean-Christophe, who never distrusted any one, used to leave his papers
lying about. But an instinctive modesty made him keep together the drafts
of the letters which he scrawled to Otto, and the replies. But he did not
lock them up; he just placed them between the leaves of one of his
music-books, where he felt certain that no one would look for them. He
reckoned without his brothers' malice.

He had seen them for some time laughing and whispering and looking at
him; they were declaiming to each other fragments of speech which threw
them into wild laughter. Jean-Christophe could not catch the words, and,
following his usual tactics with them, he feigned utter indifference to
everything they might do or say. A few words roused his attention; he
thought he recognized them. Soon he was left without doubt that they had
read his letters. But when he challenged Ernest and Rodolphe, who were
calling each other "My dear soul," with pretended earnestness, he could
get nothing from them. The little wretches pretended not to understand,
and said that they had the right to call each other whatever they liked.
Jean-Christophe, who had found all the letters in their places, did not
insist farther.

Shortly afterwards he caught Ernest in the act of thieving; the little
beast was rummaging in the drawer of the chest in which Louisa kept her
money. Jean-Christophe shook him, and took advantage of the opportunity to
tell him everything that he had stored up against him. He enumerated, in
terms of scant courtesy, the misdeeds of Ernest, and it was not a short
catalogue. Ernest took the lecture in bad part; he replied impudently
that Jean-Christophe had nothing to reproach him with, and he hinted at
unmentionable things in his brother's friendship with Otto. Jean-Christophe
did not understand; but when he grasped that Otto was being dragged into
the quarrel he demanded an explanation of Ernest. The boy tittered; then,
when he saw Jean-Christophe white with anger, he refused to say any more.
Jean-Christophe saw that he would obtain nothing in that way; he sat down,
shrugged his shoulders, and affected a profound contempt for Ernest.
Ernest, piqued by this, was impudent again; he set himself to hurt his
brother, and set forth a litany of things each more cruel and more vile
than the last. Jean-Christophe kept a tight hand on himself. When at last
he did understand, he saw red; he leaped from his chair. Ernest had no time
to cry out. Jean-Christophe had hurled himself on him, and rolled with him
into the middle of the room, and beat his head against the tiles. On the
frightful cries of the victim, Louisa, Melchior, everybody, came running.
They rescued Ernest in a parlous state. Jean-Christophe would not loose his
prey; they had to beat and beat him. They called him a savage beast, and he
looked it. His eyes were bursting from his head, he was grinding his teeth,
and his only thought was to hurl himself again on Ernest. When they asked
him what had happened, his fury increased, and he cried out that he would
kill him. Ernest also refused to tell.

Jean-Christophe could not eat nor sleep. He was shaking with fever,
and wept in his bed. It was not only for Otto that he was suffering. A
revolution was taking place in him. Ernest had no idea of the hurt that
he had been able to do his brother. Jean-Christophe was at heart of a
puritanical intolerance, which could not admit the dark ways of life, and
was discovering them one by one with horror. At fifteen, with his free life
and strong instincts, he remained strangely simple. His natural purity and
ceaseless toil had protected him. His brother's words had opened up abyss
on abyss before him. Never would he have conceived such infamies, and now
that the idea of it had come to him, all his joy in loving and being loved
was spoiled. Not only his friendship with Otto, but friendship itself was
poisoned.

It was much worse when certain sarcastic allusions made him think, perhaps
wrongly, that he was the object of the unwholesome curiosity of the
town, and especially, when, some time afterwards, Melchior made a remark
about his walks with Otto. Probably there was no malice in Melchior, but
Jean-Christophe, on the watch, read hidden meanings into every word, and
almost he thought himself guilty. At the same time Otto was passing through
a similar crisis.

They tried still to see each other in secret. But it was impossible for
them to regain the carelessness of their old relation. Their frankness was
spoiled. The two boys who loved each other with a tenderness so fearful
that they had never dared exchange a fraternal kiss, and had imagined that
there could be no greater happiness than in seeing each other, and in being
friends, and sharing each other's dreams, now felt that they were stained
and spotted by the suspicion of evil minds. They came to see evil even in
the most innocent acts: a look, a hand-clasp--they blushed, they had evil
thoughts. Their relation became intolerable.

Without saying anything they saw each other less often. They tried writing
to each other, but they set a watch upon their expressions. Their letters
became cold and insipid. They grew disheartened. Jean-Christophe excused
himself on the ground of his work, Otto on the ground of being too busy,
and their correspondence ceased. Soon afterwards Otto left for the
University, and the friendship which had lightened a few months of their
lives died down and out.

And also, a new love, of which this had been only the forerunner, took
possession of Jean-Christophe's heart, and made every other light seem pale
by its side.



III

MINNA


Four or five months before these events Frau Josephs von Kerich, widow of
Councilor Stephan von Kerich, had left Berlin, where her husband's duties
had hitherto detained them, and settled down with her daughter in the
little Rhine town, in her native country. She had an old house with a
large garden, almost a park, which sloped down to the river, not far from
Jean-Christophe's home. From his attic Jean-Christophe could see the heavy
branches of the trees hanging over the walls, and the high peak of the red
roof with its mossy tiles. A little sloping alley, with hardly room to
pass, ran alongside the park to the right; from there, by climbing a post,
you could look over the wall. Jean-Christophe did not fail to make use of
it. He could then see the grassy avenues, the lawns like open meadows, the
trees interlacing and growing wild, and the white front of the house with
its shutters obstinately closed. Once or twice a year a gardener made the
rounds, and aired the house. But soon Nature resumed her sway over the
garden, and silence reigned over all.

That silence impressed Jean-Christophe. He used often stealthily to climb
up to his watch-tower, and as he grew taller, his eyes, then his nose, then
his mouth reached up to the top of the wall; now he could put his arms over
it if he stood on tiptoe, and, in spite of the discomfort of that position,
he used to stay so, with his chin on the wall, looking, listening, while
the evening unfolded over the lawns its soft waves of gold, which lit up
with bluish rays the shade of the pines. There he could forget himself
until he heard footsteps approaching in the street. The night scattered its
scents over the garden: lilac in spring, acacia in summer, dead leaves in
the autumn. When Jean-Christophe, was on his way home in the evening from
the Palace, however weary he might be, he used to stand by the door to
drink in the delicious scent, and it was hard for him to go back to the
smells of his room. And often he had played--when he used to play--in
the little square with its tufts of grass between the stones, before the
gateway of the house of the Kerichs. On each side of the gate grew a
chestnut-tree a hundred years old; his grandfather used to come and sit
beneath them, and smoke his pipe, and the children used to use the nuts for
missiles, and toys.

One morning, as he went up the alley, he climbed up the post as usual. He
was thinking of other things, and looked absently. He was just going to
climb down when he felt that there was something unusual about it. He
looked towards the house. The windows were open; the sun was shining into
them and, although no one was to be seen, the old place seemed to have been
roused from its fifteen years' sleep, and to be smiling in its awakening.
Jean-Christophe went home uneasy in his mind.

At dinner his father talked of what was the topic of the neighborhood: the
arrival of Frau Kerich and her daughter with an incredible quantity of
luggage. The chestnut square was filled with rascals who had turned up to
help unload the carts. Jean-Christophe was excited by the news, which, in
his limited life, was an important event, and he returned to his work,
trying to imagine the inhabitants of the enchanted house from his father's
story, as usual hyperbolical. Then he became absorbed in his work, and had
forgotten the whole affair when, just as he was about to go home in the
evening, he remembered it all, and he was impelled by curiosity to climb
his watch-tower to spy out what might be toward within the walls. He saw
nothing but the quiet avenue, in which the motionless trees seemed to be
sleeping in the last rays of the sun. In a few moments he had forgotten why
he was looking, and abandoned himself as he always did to the sweetness of
the silence. That strange place--standing erect, perilously balanced on the
top of a post--was meet for dreams. Coming from the ugly alley, stuffy and
dark, the sunny gardens were of a magical radiance. His spirit wandered
freely through these regions of harmony, and music sang in him; they lulled
him and he forgot time and material things, and was only concerned to miss
none of the whisperings of his heart.

So he dreamed open-eyed and open-mouthed, and he could not have told how
long he had been dreaming, for he saw nothing. Suddenly his heart leaped.
In front of him, at a bend in an avenue, were two women's faces looking at
him. One, a young lady in black, with fine irregular features and fair
hair, tail, elegant, with carelessness and indifference in the poise of her
head, was looking at him with kind, laughing eyes. The other, a girl of
fifteen, also in deep mourning, looked as though she were going to burst
out into a fit of wild laughter; she was standing a little behind her
mother, who, without looking at her, signed to her to be quiet. She covered
her lips with her hands, as if she were hard put to it not to burst out
laughing. She was a little creature with a fresh face, white, pink, and
round-cheeked; she had a plump little nose, a plump little mouth, a plump
little chin, firm eyebrows, bright eyes, and a mass of fair hair plaited
and wound round her head in a crown to show her rounded neck and her smooth
white forehead--a Cranach face.

Jean-Christophe was turned to stone by this apparition. He could not go
away, but stayed, glued to his post, with his mouth wide open. It was only
when he saw the young lady coming towards him with her kindly mocking smile
that he wrenched himself away, and jumped--tumbled--down into the alley,
dragging with him pieces of plaster from the wall. He heard a kind voice
calling him, "Little boy!" and a shout of childish laughter, clear and
liquid as the song of a bird. He found himself in the alley on hands and
knees, and, after a moment's bewilderment, he ran away as hard as he could
go, as though he was afraid of being pursued. He was ashamed, and his shame
kept bursting upon him again when he was alone in his room at home. After
that he dared not go down the alley, fearing oddly that they might be lying
in wait for him. When he had to go by the house, he kept close to the
walls, lowered his head, and almost ran without ever looking back. At the
same time he never ceased to think of the two faces that he had seen; he
used to go up to the attic, taking off his shoes so as not to be heard,
and to look his hardest out through the skylight in the direction of the
Kerichs' house and park, although he knew perfectly well that it was
impossible to see anything but the tops of the trees and the topmost
chimneys.

About a month later, at one of the weekly concerts of the _Hof Musik
Verein_, he was playing a concerto for piano and orchestra of his own
composition. He had reached the last movement when he chanced to see in
the box facing him Frau and Fräulein Kerich looking at him. He so little
expected to see them that he was astounded, and almost missed out his
reply to the orchestra. He went on playing mechanically to the end of
the piece. When it was finished he saw, although he was not looking in
their direction, that Frau and Fräulein Kerich were applauding a little
exaggeratedly, as though they wished him to see that they were applauding.
He hurried away from the stage. As he was leaving the theater he saw Frau
Kerich in the lobby, separated from him by several rows of people, and she
seemed to be waiting for him to pass. It was impossible for him not to see
her, but he pretended not to do so, and, brushing his way through, he left
hurriedly by the stage-door of the theater. Then he was angry with himself,
for he knew quite well that Frau Kerich meant no harm. But he knew that in
the same situation he would do the same again. He was in terror of meeting
her in the street. Whenever he saw at a distance a figure that resembled
her, he used to turn aside and take another road.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was she who came to him. She sought him out at home.

One morning when he came back to dinner Louisa proudly told him that a
lackey in breeches and livery had left a letter for him, and she gave him
a large black-edged envelope, on the back of which was engraved the Kerich
arms. Jean-Christophe opened it, and trembled as he read these words:

"Frau Josepha von Kerich requests the pleasure of _Hof Musicus_
Jean-Christophe Krafft's company at tea to-day at half-past five."

"I shall not go," declared Jean-Christophe.

"What!" cried Louisa. "I said that you would go."

Jean-Christophe made a scene, and reproached his mother with meddling in
affairs that were no concern of hers.

"The servant waited for a reply. I said that you were free to-day. You have
nothing to do then."

In vain did Jean-Christophe lose his temper, and swear that he would not
go; he could not get out of it now. When the appointed time came, he got
ready fuming; in his heart of hearts he was not sorry that chance had so
done violence to his whims.

Frau von Kerich had had no difficulty in recognizing in the pianist at the
concert the little savage whose shaggy head had appeared over her garden
wall on the day of her arrival. She had made inquiries about him of her
neighbors, and what she learned about Jean-Christophe's family and the
boy's brave and difficult life had roused interest in him, and a desire to
talk to him.

Jean-Christophe, trussed up in an absurd coat, which made him look like a
country parson, arrived at the house quite ill with shyness. He tried to
persuade himself that Frau and Fräulein Kerich had had no time to remark
his features on the day when they had first seen him. A servant led him
down a long corridor, thickly carpeted, so that his footsteps made no
sound, to a room with a glass-paneled door which opened on to the garden.
It was raining a little, and cold; a good fire was burning in the
fireplace. Near the window, through which he had a peep of the wet trees
in the mist, the two ladies were sitting. Frau Kerich was working and her
daughter was reading a book when Jean-Christophe entered. When they saw him
they exchanged a sly look.

"They know me again," thought Jean-Christophe, abashed.

He bobbed awkwardly, and went on bobbing.

Frau von Kerich smiled cheerfully, and held out her hand.

"Good-day, my dear neighbor," she said. "I am glad to see you. Since I
heard you at the concert I have been wanting to tell you how much pleasure
you gave me. And as the only way of telling you was to invite you here, I
hope you will forgive me for having done so."

In the kindly, conventional words of welcome there was so much cordiality,
in spite of a hidden sting of irony, that Jean-Christophe grew more at his
ease.

"They do not know me again," he thought, comforted.

Frau von Kerich presented her daughter, who had closed her book and was
looking interestedly at Jean-Christophe.

"My daughter Minna," she said, "She wanted so much to see you."

"But, mamma," said Minna, "it is not the first time that we have seen each
other."

And she laughed aloud.

"They do know me again," thought Jean-Christophe, crestfallen.

"True," said Frau von Kerich, laughing too, "you paid us a visit the day we
came."

At these words the girl laughed again, and Jean-Christophe looked so
pitiful that when Minna looked at him she laughed more than ever. She could
not control herself, and she laughed until she cried. Frau von Kerich tried
to stop her, but she, too, could not help laughing, and Jean-Christophe,
in spite of his constraint, fell victim to the contagiousness of it. Their
merriment was irresistible; it was impossible to take offense at it. But
Jean-Christophe lost countenance altogether when Minna caught her breath
again, and asked him whatever he could be doing on the wall. She was
tickled by his uneasiness. He murmured, altogether at a loss. Frau von
Kerich came to his aid, and turned the conversation by pouring out tea.

She questioned him amiably about his life. But he did not gain confidence.
He could not sit down; he could not hold his cup, which threatened to
upset; and whenever they offered him water, milk, sugar or cakes, he
thought that he had to get up hurriedly and bow his thanks, stiff, trussed
up in his frock-coat, collar, and tie, like a tortoise in its shell,
not daring and not being able to turn his head to right or left, and
overwhelmed by Frau von Kerich's innumerable questions, and the warmth of
her manner, frozen by Minna's looks, which he felt were taking in his
features, his hands, his movements, his clothes. They made him even more
uncomfortable by trying to put him at his ease--Frau von Kerich, by her
flow of words, Minna by the coquettish eyes which instinctively she made at
him to amuse herself.

Finally they gave up trying to get anything more from him than bows and
monosyllables, and Frau von Kerich, who had the whole burden of the
conversation, asked him, when she was worn out, to play the piano. Much
more shy of them than of a concert audience, he played an adagio of Mozart.
But his very shyness, the uneasiness which was beginning to fill his heart
from the company of the two women, the ingenuous emotion with which his
bosom swelled, which made him happy and unhappy, were in tune with the
tenderness and youthful modesty of the music, and gave it the charm of
spring. Frau von Kerich was moved by it; she said so with the exaggerated
words of praise customary among men and women of the world; she was none
the less sincere for that, and the very excess of the flattery was sweet
coming from such charming lips. Naughty Minna said nothing, and looked
astonished at the boy who was so stupid when he talked, but was so eloquent
with his fingers. Jean-Christophe felt their sympathy, and grew bold under
it. He went on playing; then, half turning towards Minna, with an awkward
smile and without raising his eyes, he said timidly:

"This is what I was doing on the wall."

He played a little piece in which he had, in fact, developed the musical
ideas which had come to him in his favorite spot as he looked into the
garden, not, be it said, on the evening when he had seen Minna and Frau von
Kerich--for some obscure reason, known only to his heart, he was trying to
persuade himself that it was so--but long before, and in the calm rhythm of
the _andante con moto_, there were to be found the serene impression of the
singing of birds, mutterings of beasts, and the majestic slumber of the
great trees in the peace of the sunset.

The two hearers listened delightedly. When he had finished Frau von Kerich
rose, took his hands with her usual vivacity, and thanked him effusively.
Minna clapped her hands, and cried that it was "admirable," and that to
make him compose other works as "sublime" as that, she would have a ladder
placed against the wall, so that he might work there at his case. Frau von
Kerich told Jean-Christophe not to listen to silly Minna; she begged him to
come as often as he liked to her garden, since he loved it, and she added
that he need never bother to call on them if he found it tiresome.

"You need never bother to come and see us," added Minna. "Only if you do
not come, beware!"

She wagged her finger in menace.

Minna was possessed by no imperious desire that Jean-Christophe should come
to see her, or should even follow the rules of politeness with regard to
herself, but it pleased her to produce a little effect which instinctively
she felt to be charming.

Jean-Christophe blushed delightedly. Frau von Kerich won him completely by
the tact with which she spoke of his mother and grandfather, whom she had
known. The warmth and kindness of the two ladies touched his heart; he
exaggerated their easy urbanity, their worldly graciousness, in his desire
to think it heartfelt and deep. He began to tell them, with his naïve
trustfulness, of his plans and his wretchedness. He did not notice that
more than an hour had passed, and he jumped with surprise when a servant
came and announced dinner. But his confusion turned to happiness when Frau
von Kerich told him to stay and dine with them, like the good friends that
they were going to be, and were already. A place was laid for him between
the mother and daughter, and at table his talents did not show to such
advantage as at the piano. That part of his education had been much
neglected; it was his impression that eating and drinking were the
essential things at table, and not the manner of them. And so tidy Minna
looked at him, pouting and a little horrified.

They thought that he would go immediately after supper. But he followed
them into the little room, and sat with them, and had no idea of going.
Minna stifled her yawns, and made signs to her mother. He did not notice
them, because he was dumb with his happiness, and thought they were like
himself--because Minna, when she looked at him, made eyes at him from
habit--and finally, once he was seated, he did not quite know how to get up
and take his leave. He would have stayed all night had not Frau von Kerich
sent him away herself, without ceremony, but kindly.

He went, carrying in his heart the soft light of the brown eyes of Frau von
Kerich and the blue eyes of Minna; on his hands he felt the sweet contact
of soft fingers, soft as flowers, and a subtle perfume, which he had never
before breathed, enveloped him, bewildered him, brought him almost to
swooning.

       *       *       *       *       *

He went again two days later, as was arranged, to give Minna a
music-lesson. Thereafter, under this arrangement, he went regularly twice a
week in the morning, and very often he went again in the evening to play
and talk.

Frau von Kerich was glad to see him. She was a clever and a kind woman. She
was thirty-five when she lost her husband, and although young in body and
at heart, she was not sorry to withdraw from the world in which she had
gone far since her marriage. Perhaps she left it the more easily because
she had found it very amusing, and thought wisely that she could not both
eat her cake and have it. She was devoted to the memory of Herr von Kerich,
not that she had felt anything like love for him when they married; but
good-fellowship was enough for her; she was of an easy temper and an
affectionate disposition.

She had given herself up to her daughter's education; but the same
moderation which she had had in her love, held in check the impulsive and
morbid quality which is sometimes in motherhood, when the child is the only
creature upon whom the woman can expend her jealous need of loving and
being loved. She loved Minna much, but was clear in her judgment of her,
and did not conceal any of her imperfections any more than she tried to
deceive herself about herself. Witty and clever, she had a keen eye for
discovering at a glance the weakness, and ridiculous side, of any person;
she took great pleasure in it, without ever being the least malicious, for
she was as indulgent as she was scoffing, and while she laughed at people
she loved to be of use to them.

Young Jean-Christophe gave food both to her kindness and to her critical
mind. During the first days of her sojourn in the little town, when her
mourning kept her out of society, Jean-Christophe was a distraction
for her--primarily by his talent. She loved music, although she was no
musician; she found in it a physical and moral well-being in which thoughts
could idly sink into a pleasant melancholy. Sitting by the fire--while
Jean-Christophe played--a book in her hands, and smiling vaguely, she took
a silent delight in the mechanical movements of his fingers, and the
purposeless wanderings of her reverie, hovering among the sad, sweet images
of the past.

But more even than the music, the musician interested her. She was clever
enough to be conscious of Jean-Christophe's rare gifts, although she was
not capable of perceiving his really original quality. It gave her a
curious pleasure to watch the waking of those mysterious fires which she
saw kindling in him. She had quickly appreciated his moral qualities, his
uprightness, his courage, the sort of Stoicism in him, so touching in
a child. But for all that she did mot view him the less with the usual
perspicacity of her sharp, mocking eyes. His awkwardness, his ugliness, his
little ridiculous qualities amused her; she did not take him altogether
seriously; she did not take many things seriously. Jean-Christophe's antic
outbursts, his violence, his fantastic humor, made her think sometimes
that he was a little unbalanced; she saw in him one of the Kraffts, honest
men and good musicians, but always a little wrong in the head. Her light
irony escaped Jean-Christophe; he was conscious only of Frau von Kerich's
kindness. He was so unused to any one being kind to him! Although his
duties at the Palace brought him into daily contact with the world, poor
Jean-Christophe had remained a little savage, untutored and uneducated. The
selfishness of the Court was only concerned in turning him to its profit
and not in helping him in any way. He went to the Palace, sat at the
piano, played, and went away again, and nobody ever took the trouble to
talk to him, except absently to pay him some banal compliment. Since his
grandfather's death, no one, either at home or outside, had ever thought
of helping him to learn the conduct of life, or to be a man. He suffered
cruelly from his ignorance and the roughness of his manners. He went
through an agony and bloody sweat to shape himself alone, but he did not
succeed. Books, conversation, example--all were lacking. He would fain have
confessed his distress to a friend, but could not bring himself to do so.
Even with Otto he had not dared, because at the first words he had uttered,
Otto had assumed a tone of disdainful superiority which had burned into him
like hot iron.

And now with Frau von Kerich it all became easy. Of her own accord, without
his having to ask anything--it cost Jean-Christophe's pride so much!--she
showed him gently what he should not do, told him what he ought to do,
advised him how to dress, eat, walk, talk, and never passed over any fault
of manners, taste, or language; and he could not be hurt by it, so light
and careful was her touch in the handling of the boy's easily injured
vanity. She took in hand also his literary education without seeming to be
concerned with it; she never showed surprise at his strange ignorance, but
never let slip an opportunity of correcting his mistakes simply, easily, as
if it were natural for him to have been in error; and, instead of alarming
him with pedantic lessons, she conceived the idea of employing their
evening meetings by making Minna or Jean-Christophe read passages of
history, or of the poets, German and foreign. She treated him as a son of
the house, with a few fine shades of patronizing familiarity which he never
saw. She was even concerned with his clothes, gave him new ones, knitted
him a woolen comforter, presented him with little toilet things, and all so
gently that he never was put about by her care or her presents. In short,
she gave him all the little attentions and the quasi-maternal care which
come to every good woman instinctively for a child who is intrusted to
her, or trusts himself to her, without her having any deep feeling for
it. But Jean-Christophe thought that all the tenderness was given to him
personally, and he was filled with gratitude; he would break out into
little awkward, passionate speeches, which seemed a little ridiculous to
Frau von Kerich, though they did not fail to give her pleasure.

With Minna his relation was very different. When Jean-Christophe met her
again at her first lesson, he was still intoxicated by his memories of
the preceding evening and of the girl's soft looks, and he was greatly
surprised to find her an altogether different person from the girl he had
seen only a few hours before. She hardly looked at him, and did not listen
to what he said, and when she raised her eyes to him, he saw in them so
icy a coldness that he was chilled by it. He tortured himself for a long
time to discover wherein lay his offense. He had given none, and Minna's
feelings were neither more nor less favorable than on the preceding day;
just as she had been then, Minna was completely indifferent to him. If on
the first occasion she had smiled upon him in welcome, it was from a girl's
instinctive coquetry, who delights to try the power of her eyes on the
first comer, be it only a trimmed poodle who turns up to fill her idle
hours. But since the preceding day the too-easy conquest had already lost
interest for her. She had subjected Jean-Christophe to a severe scrutiny
and she thought him an ugly boy, poor, ill-bred, who played the piano well,
though he had ugly hands, held his fork at table abominably, and ate his
fish with a knife. Then he seemed to her very uninteresting. She wanted to
have music-lessons from him; she wanted, even, to amuse herself with him,
because for the moment she had no other companion, and because in spite of
her pretensions of being no longer a child, she had still in gusts a crazy
longing to play, a need of expending her superfluous gaiety, which was, in
her as in her mother, still further roused by the constraint imposed by
their mourning. But she took no more account of Jean-Christophe than of
a domestic animal, and if it still happened occasionally during the days
of her greatest coldness that she made eyes at him, it was purely out of
forgetfulness, and because she was thinking of something else, or simply
so as not to get out of practice. And when she looked at him like that,
Jean-Christophe's heart used to leap. It is doubtful if she saw it; she was
telling herself stories. For she was at the age when we delight the senses
with sweet fluttering dreams. She was forever absorbed in thoughts of love,
filled with a curiosity which was only innocent from ignorance. And she
only thought of love, as a well-taught young lady should, in terms of
marriage. Her ideal was far from having taken definite shape. Sometimes she
dreamed of marrying a lieutenant, sometimes of marrying a poet, properly
sublime, _à la_ Schiller. One project devoured another and the last
was always welcomed with the same gravity and just the same amount of
conviction. For the rest, all of them were quite ready to give way before
a profitable reality, for it is wonderful to see how easily romantic girls
forget their dreams, when something less ideal, but more certain, appears
before them.

As it was, sentimental Minna was, in spite of all, calm and cold. In spite
of her aristocratic name, and the pride with which the ennobling particle
filled her, she had the soul of a little German housewife in the exquisite
days of adolescence.

       *       *       *       *       *

Naturally Jean-Christophe did not in the least understand the complicated
mechanism--more complicated in appearance than in reality--of the feminine
heart. He was often baffled by the ways of his friends, but he was so happy
in loving them that he credited them with all that disturbed and made him
sad with them, so as to persuade himself that he was as much loved by them
as he loved them himself. A word or an affectionate look plunged him in
delight. Sometimes he was so bowled over by it that he would burst into
tears.

Sitting by the table in the quiet little room, with Frau von Kerich a few
yards away sewing by the light of the lamp--Minna reading on the other
side of the table, and no one talking, he looking through the half-open
garden-door at the gravel of the avenue glistening under the moon, a soft
murmur coming from the tops of the trees--his heart would be so full of
happiness that suddenly, for no reason, he would leap from his chair, throw
himself at Frau von Kerich's feet, seize her hand, needle or no needle,
cover it with kisses, press it to his lips, his cheeks, his eyes, and sob.
Minna would raise her eyes, lightly shrug her shoulders, and make a face.
Frau von Kerich would smile down at the big boy groveling at her feet, and
pat his head with her free hand, and say to him in her pretty voice,
affectionately and ironically:

"Well, well, old fellow! What is it?"

Oh, the sweetness of that voice, that peace, that silence, that soft air
in which were no shouts, no roughness, no violence, that oasis in the
harsh desert of life, and--heroic light gilding with its rays people and
things--the light of the enchanted world conjured up by the reading of the
divine poets! Goethe, Schiller, Shakespeare, springs of strength, of
sorrow, and of love!...

Minna, with her head down over the book, and her face faintly colored by
her animated delivery, would read in her fresh voice, with its slight lisp,
and try to sound important when she spoke in the characters of warriors
and kings. Sometimes Frau von Kerich herself would take the book; then she
would lend to tragic histories the spiritual and tender graciousness of her
own nature, but most often she would listen, lying back in her chair, her
never-ending needlework in her lap; she would smile at her own thoughts,
for always she would come back to them through every book.

Jean-Christophe also had tried to read, but he had had to give it up; he
stammered, stumbled over the words, skipped the punctuation, seemed to
understand nothing, and would be so moved that he would have to stop in the
middle of the pathetic passages, feeling tears coming. Then in a tantrum he
would throw the book down on the table, and his two friends would burst out
laughing.... How he loved them! He carried the image of them everywhere
with him, and they were mingled with the persons in Shakespeare and Goethe.
He could hardly distinguish between them. Some fragrant word of the poets
which called up from the depths of his being passionate emotions could not
in him be severed from the beloved lips that had made him hear it for the
first time. Even twenty years later he could never read Egmont or Romeo, or
see them played, without there leaping up in him at certain lines the
memory of those quiet evenings, those dreams of happiness, and the beloved
faces of Frau von Kerich and Minna.

He would spend hours looking at them in the evening when they were reading;
in the night when he was dreaming in his bed, awake, with his eyes closed;
during the day, when he was dreaming at his place in the orchestra, playing
mechanically with his eyes half closed. He had the most innocent tenderness
for them, and, knowing nothing of love, he thought he was in love. But he
did not quite know whether it was with the mother or the daughter. He went
into the matter gravely, and did not know which to choose. And yet, as it
seemed to him he must at all costs make his choice, he inclined towards
Frau von Kerich. And he did in fact discover, as soon as he had made up
his mind to it, that it was she that he loved. He loved her quick eyes,
the absent smile upon her half-open lips, her pretty forehead, so young in
seeming, and the parting to one side in her fine, soft hair, her rather
husky voice, with its little cough, her motherly hands, the elegance of her
movements, and her mysterious soul. He would thrill with happiness when,
sitting by his side, she would kindly explain to him the meaning of some
passage in a book which he did not understand; she would lay her hand on
Jean-Christophe's shoulder; he would feel the warmth of her fingers, her
breath on his cheek, the sweet perfume of her body; he would listen in
ecstasy, lose all thought of the book, and understand nothing at all. She
would see that and ask him to repeat what she had said; then he would say
nothing, and she would laughingly be angry, and tap his nose with her book,
telling him that he would always be a little donkey. To that he would reply
that he did not care so long as he was _her_ little donkey, and she did not
drive him out of her house. She would pretend to make objections; then she
would say that although he was an ugly little donkey, and very stupid, she
would agree to keep him--and perhaps even to love him--although he was good
for nothing, if at the least he would be just _good_. Then they would both
laugh, and he would go swimming in his joy.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he discovered that he loved Frau von Kerich, Jean-Christophe broke
away from Minna. He was beginning to be irritated by her coldness and
disdain, and as, by dint of seeing her often, he had been emboldened little
by little to resume his freedom of manner with her, he did not conceal his
exasperation from her. She loved to sting him, and he would reply sharply.
They were always saying unkind things to each other, and Frau von Kerich
only laughed at them. Jean-Christophe, who never got the better in such
passages of words, used sometimes to issue from them so infuriated that he
thought he detested Minna; and he persuaded himself that he only went to
her house again because of Frau von Kerich.

He went on giving her music lessons. Twice a week, from nine to ten in the
morning, he superintended the girl's scales and exercises. The room in
which they did this was Minna's studio--an odd workroom, which, with an
amusing fidelity, reflected the singular disorder of her little feminine
mind.

On the table were little figures of musical cats--a whole orchestra--one
playing a violin, another the violoncello--a little pocket-mirror, toilet
things and writing things, tidily arranged. On the shelves were tiny busts
of musicians--Beethoven frowning, Wagner with his velvet cap, and the
Apollo Belvedere. On the mantelpiece, by a frog smoking a red pipe, a paper
fan on which was painted the Bayreuth Theater. On the two bookshelves
were a few books--Lübke, Mommsen, Schiller, "Sans Famille," Jules Verne,
Montaigne. On the walls large photographs of the Sistine Madonna, and
pictures by Herkomer, edged with blue and green ribbons. There was also
a view of a Swiss hotel in a frame of silver thistles; and above all,
everywhere in profusion, in every corner of the room, photographs of
officers, tenors, conductors, girl-friends, all with inscriptions, almost
all with verse--or at least what is accepted as verse in Germany. In the
center of the room, on a marble pillar, was enthroned a bust of Brahms,
with a beard; and, above the piano, little plush monkeys and cotillion
trophies hung by threads.

Minna would arrive late, her eyes still puffy with sleep, sulky; she would
hardly reach out her hand to Jean-Christophe, coldly bid him good-day, and,
without a word, gravely and with dignity sit down at the piano. When she
was alone, it pleased her to play interminable scales, for that allowed her
agreeably to prolong her half-somnolent condition and the dreams which she
was spinning for herself. But Jean-Christophe would compel her to fix her
attention on difficult exercises, and so sometimes she would avenge herself
by playing them as badly as she could. She was a fair musician, but she did
not like music--like many German women. But, like them, she thought she
ought to like it, and she took her lessons conscientiously enough, except
for certain moments of diabolical malice indulged in to enrage her master.
She could enrage him much more by the icy indifference with which she set
herself to her task. But the worst was when she took it into her head that
it was her duty to throw her soul into an expressive passage: then she
would become sentimental and feel nothing.

Young Jean-Christophe, sitting by her side, was not very polite. He never
paid her compliments--far from it. She resented that, and never let any
remark pass without answering it. She would argue about everything that he
said, and when she made a mistake she would insist that she was playing
what was written. He would get cross, and they would go on exchanging
ungracious words and impertinences. With her eyes on the keys, she never
ceased to watch Jean-Christophe and enjoy his fury. As a relief from
boredom she would invent stupid little tricks, with no other object than
to interrupt the lesson and to annoy Jean-Christophe. She would pretend
to choke, so as to make herself interesting; she would have a fit of
coughing, or she would have something very important to say to the maid.
Jean-Christophe knew that she was play-acting; and Minna knew that
Jean-Christophe knew that she was play-acting; and it amused her, for
Jean-Christophe could not tell her what he was thinking.

One day, when she was indulging in this amusement and was coughing
languidly, hiding her mouth in her handkerchief, as if she were on the
point of choking, but in reality watching Jean-Christophe's exasperation
out of the corner of her eye, she conceived the ingenious idea of letting
the handkerchief fall, so as to make Jean-Christophe pick it up, which he
did with the worst grace in the world. She rewarded him with a "Thank you!"
in her grand manner, which nearly made him explode.

She thought the game too good not to be repeated. Next day she did it
again. Jean-Christophe did not budge; he was boiling with rage. She waited
a moment, and then said in an injured tone:

"Will you please pick up my handkerchief?"

Jean-Christophe could not contain himself.

"I am not your servant!" he cried roughly. "Pick it up yourself!"

Minna choked with rage. She got up suddenly from her stool, which fell
over.

"Oh, this is too much!" she said, and angrily thumped the piano; and she
left the room in a fury.

Jean-Christophe waited. She did not come back. He was ashamed of what he
had done; he felt that he had behaved like a little cad. And he was at the
end of his tether; she made fun of him too impudently! He was afraid lest
Minna should complain to her mother, and he should be forever banished from
Frau von Kerich's thoughts. He knew not what to do; for if he was sorry for
his brutality, no power on earth would have made him ask pardon.

He came again on the chance the next day, although he thought that
Minna would refuse to take her lesson. But Minna, who was too proud to
complain to anybody--Minna, whose conscience was not shielded against
reproach--appeared again, after making him wait five minutes more than
usual; and she sat down at the piano, stiff, upright, without turning her
head or saying a word, as though Jean-Christophe no longer existed for her.
But she did not fail to take her lesson, and all the subsequent lessons,
because she knew very well that Jean-Christophe was a fine musician, and
that she ought to learn to play the piano properly if she wished to
be--what she wished to be--a well-bred young lady of finished education.

But how bored she was! How they bored each other!

       *       *       *       *       *

One misty morning in March, when little flakes of snow were flying, like
feathers, in the gray air, they were in the studio. It was hardly daylight.
Minna was arguing, as usual, about a false note that she had struck, and
pretending that it "was written so." Although he knew perfectly well that
she was lying, Jean-Christophe bent over the book to look at the passage in
question closely. Her hand was on the rack, and she did not move it. His
lips were near her hand. He tried to read and could not; he was looking at
something else--a thing soft, transparent, like the petals of a flower.
Suddenly--he did not know what he was thinking of--he pressed his lips as
hard as he could on the little hand.

They were both dumfounded by it. He flung backwards; she withdrew her
hand--both blushing. They said no word; they did not look at each other.
After a moment of confused silence she began to play again; she was very
uneasy: her bosom rose and fell as though she were under some weight; she
struck wrong note after wrong note. He did not notice it; he was more
uneasy than she. His temples throbbed; he heard nothing; he knew not what
she was playing; and, to break the silence, he made a few random remarks in
a choking voice. He thought that he was forever lost in Minna's opinion.
He was confounded by what he had done, thought it stupid and rude. The
lesson-hour over, he left Minna without looking at her, and even forgot
to say good-bye. She did not mind. She had no thought now of deeming
Jean-Christophe ill-mannered; and if she made so many mistakes in playing,
it was because all the time she was watching him out of the corner of her
eye with astonishment and curiosity, and--for the first time--sympathy.

When she was left alone, instead of going to look for her mother as usual,
she shut herself up in her room and examined this extraordinary event. She
sat with her face in her hands in front of the mirror. Her eyes seemed to
her soft and gleaming. She bit gently at her lip in the effort of thinking.
And as she looked complacently at her pretty face, she visualized the
scene, and blushed and smiled. At dinner she was animated and merry. She
refused to go out at once, and stayed in the drawing-room for part of the
afternoon; she had some work in her hand, and did not make ten stitches
without a mistake, but what did that matter! In a corner of the room, with
her back turned to her mother, she smiled; or, under a sudden impulse to
let herself go, she pranced about the room and sang at the top of her
voice. Frau von Kerich started and called her mad. Minna flung her arms
round her neck, shaking with laughter, and hugged and kissed her.

In the evening, when she went to her room, it was a long time before
she went to bed. She went on looking at herself in the mirror, trying
to remember, and having thought all through the day of the same
thing--thinking of nothing. She undressed slowly; she stopped every moment,
sitting on the bed, trying to remember what Jean-Christophe was like. It
was a Jean-Christophe of fantasy who appeared, and now he did not seem
nearly so uncouth to her. She went to bed and put out the light. Ten
minutes later the scene of the morning rushed back into her mind, and she
burst out laughing. Her mother got up softly and opened the door, thinking
that, against orders, she was reading in bed. She found Minna lying quietly
in her bed, with her eyes wide open in the dim candlelight.

"What is it?" she asked. "What is amusing you?"

"Nothing," said Minna gravely. "I was thinking."

"You are very lucky to find your own company so amusing. But go to sleep."

"Yes, mamma," replied Minna meekly. Inside herself she was grumbling; "Go
away! Do go away!" until the door was closed, and she could go on enjoying
her dreams. She fell into a sweet drowsiness. When she was nearly asleep,
she leaped for joy:

"He loves me.... What happiness! How good of him to love me!... How I love
him!"

She kissed her pillow and went fast asleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

When next they were together Jean-Christophe was surprised at Minna's
amiability. She gave him "Good-day," and asked him how he was in a very
soft voice; she sat at the piano, looking wise and modest; she was an angel
of docility. There were none of her naughty schoolgirl's tricks, but she
listened religiously to Jean-Christophe's remarks, acknowledged that they
were right, gave little timid cries herself when she made a mistake and set
herself to be more accurate. Jean-Christophe could not understand it. In a
very short time she made astounding progress. Not only did she play better,
but with musical feeling. Little as he was given to flattery, he had to pay
her a compliment. She blushed with pleasure, and thanked him for it with a
look tearful with gratitude. She took pains with her toilet for him; she
wore ribbons of an exquisite shade; she gave Jean-Christophe little smiles
and soft glances, which he disliked, for they irritated him, and moved him
to the depths of his soul. And now it was she who made conversation, but
there was nothing childish in what she said; she talked gravely, and quoted
the poets in a pedantic and pretentious way. He hardly ever replied; he was
ill at ease. This new Minna that he did not know astonished and disquieted
him.

Always she watched him. She was waiting.... For what?... Did she know
herself?... She was waiting for him to do it again. He took good care not
to; for he was convinced that he had behaved like a clod; he seemed never
to give a thought to it. She grew restless, and one day when he was sitting
quietly at a respectful distance from her dangerous little paws, she was
seized with impatience: with a movement so quick that she had no time to
think of it, she herself thrust her little hand against his lips. He was
staggered by it, then furious and ashamed. But none the less he kissed it
very passionately. Her naïve effrontery enraged him; he was on the point of
leaving her there and then.

But he could not. He was entrapped. Whirling thoughts rushed in his mind;
he could make nothing of them. Like mists ascending from a valley they rose
from the depths of his heart. He wandered hither and thither at random
through this mist of love, and whatever he did, he did but turn round and
round an obscure fixed idea, a Desire unknown, terrible and fascinating as
a flame to an insect. It was the sudden eruption of the blind forces of
Nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

They passed through a period of waiting. They watched each other, desired
each other, were fearful of each other. They were uneasy. But they did not
for that desist from their little hostilities and sulkinesses; only there
were no more familiarities between them; they were silent. Each was busy
constructing their love in silence.

Love has curious retroactive effects. As soon as Jean-Christophe discovered
that he loved Minna, he discovered at the same time that he had always
loved her. For three months they had been seeing each other almost every
day without ever suspecting the existence of their love. But from the day
when he did actually love her, he was absolutely convinced that he had
loved her from all eternity.

It was a good thing for him to have discovered at last _whom_ he loved.
He had loved for so long without knowing whom! It was a sort of relief to
him, like a sick man, who, suffering from a general illness, vague and
enervating, sees it become definite in sharp pain in some portion of his
body. Nothing is more wearing than love without a definite object; it eats
away and saps the strength like a fever. A known passion leads the mind to
excess; that is exhausting, but at least one knows why. It is an excess; it
is not a wasting away. Anything rather than emptiness.

Although Minna had given Jean-Christophe good reason to believe that she
was not indifferent to him, he did not fail to torture himself with the
idea that she despised him. They had never had any very clear idea of each
other, but this idea had never been more confused and false than it was
now; it consisted of a series of strange fantasies which could never be
made to agree, for they passed from one extreme to the other, endowing each
other in turn with faults and charms which they did not possess--charms
when they were parted, faults when they were together. In either case they
were wide of the mark.

They did not know themselves what they desired. For Jean-Christophe his
love took shape as that thirst for tenderness, imperious, absolute,
demanding reciprocation, which had burned in him since childhood,
which he demanded from others, and wished to impose on them by will or
force. Sometimes this despotic desire of full sacrifice of himself and
others--especially others, perhaps--was mingled with gusts of a brutal
and obscure desire, which set him whirling, and he did not understand it.
Minna, curious above all things, and delighted to have a romance, tried
to extract as much pleasure as possible from it for her vanity and
sentimentality; she tricked herself whole-heartedly as to what she was
feeling. A great part of their love was purely literary. They fed on the
books they had read, and were forever ascribing to themselves feelings
which they did not possess.

But the moment was to come when all these little lies and small egoisms
were to vanish away before the divine light of love. A day, an hour, a few
seconds of eternity.... And it was so unexpected!...

       *       *       *       *       *

One evening they were alone and talking. The room was growing dark. Their
conversation took a serious turn. They talked of the infinite, of Life, and
Death. It made a larger frame for their little passion. Minna complained of
her loneliness, which led naturally to Jean-Christophe's answer that she
was not so lonely as she thought.

"No," she said, shaking her head. "That is only words. Every one lives for
himself; no one is interested in you; nobody loves you."

Silence.

"And I?" said Jean-Christophe suddenly, pale with emotion.

Impulsive Minna jumped to her feet, and took his hands.

The door opened. They flung apart. Frau von Kerich entered. Jean-Christophe
buried himself in a book, which he held upside down. Minna bent over her
work, and pricked her finger with her needle.

They were not alone together for the rest of the evening, and they were
afraid of being left. When Frau von Kerich got up to look for something in
the next room, Minna, not usually obliging, ran to fetch it for her, and
Jean-Christophe took advantage of her absence to take his leave without
saying goodnight to her.

Next day they met again, impatient to resume their interrupted
conversation. They did not succeed. Yet circumstances were favorable to
them. They went a walk with Frau von Kerich, and had plenty of opportunity
for talking as much as they liked. But Jean-Christophe could not speak, and
he was so unhappy that he stayed as far away as possible from Minna. And
she pretended not to notice his discourtesy; but she was piqued by it, and
showed it. When Jean-Christophe did at last contrive to utter a few words,
she listened icily; he had hardly the courage to finish his sentence. They
were coming to the end of the walk. Time was flying. And he was wretched at
not having been able to make use of it.

A week passed. They thought they had mistaken their feeling for each other.
They were not sure but that they had dreamed the scene of that evening.
Minna was resentful against Jean-Christophe. Jean-Christophe was afraid of
meeting her alone. They were colder to each other than ever.

A day came when it had rained all morning and part of the afternoon. They
had stayed in the house without speaking, reading, yawning, looking out of
the window; they were bored and cross. About four o'clock the sky cleared.
They ran into the garden. They leaned their elbows on the terrace wall,
and looked down at the lawns sloping to the river. The earth was steaming;
a soft mist was ascending to the sun; little rain-drops glittered on
the grass; the smell of the damp earth and the perfume of the flowers
intermingled; around them buzzed a golden swarm of bees. They were side by
side, not looking at each other; they could not bring themselves to break
the silence. A bee came up and clung awkwardly to a clump of wistaria heavy
with rain, and sent a shower of water down on them. They both laughed, and
at once they felt that they were no longer cross with each other, and were
friends again. But still they did not look at each other. Suddenly, without
turning her head, she took his hand, and said:

"Come!"

She led him quickly to the little labyrinth with its box-bordered paths,
which was in the middle of the grove. They climbed up the slope, slipping
on the soaking ground, and the wet trees shook out their branches over
them. Near the top she stopped to breathe.

"Wait ... wait ..." she said in a low voice, trying to take breath.

He looked at her. She was looking away; she was smiling, breathing hard,
with her lips parted; her hand was trembling in Jean-Christophe's. They
felt the blood throbbing in their linked hands and their trembling fingers.
Around them all was silent. The pale shoots of the trees were quivering in
the sun; a gentle rain dropped from the leaves with silvery sounds, and in
the sky were the shrill cries of swallows.

She turned her head towards him; it was a lightning flash. She flung her
arms about his neck; he flung himself into her arms.

"Minna! Minna! My darling!..."

"I love you, Jean Christophe! I love you!"

They sat on a wet wooden seat. They were filled with love, sweet, profound,
absurd. Everything else had vanished. No more egoism, no more vanity, no
more reservation. Love, love--that is what their laughing, tearful eyes
were saying. The cold coquette of a girl, the proud boy, were devoured with
the need of self-sacrifice, of giving, of suffering, of dying for each
other. They did not know each other; they were not the same; everything was
changed; their hearts, their faces, their eyes, gave out a radiance of the
most touching kindness and tenderness. Moments of purity, of self-denial,
of absolute giving of themselves, which through life will never return!

After a desperate murmuring of words and passionate promises to belong to
each other forever, after kisses and incoherent words of delight, they saw
that it was late, and they ran back hand in hand, almost falling in the
narrow paths, bumping into trees, feeling nothing, blind and drunk with the
joy of it.

When he left her he did not go home; he could not have gone to sleep. He
left the town, and walked over the fields; he walked blindly through the
night. The air was fresh, the country dark and deserted. A screech-owl
hooted shrilly. Jean-Christophe went on like a sleep-walker. The little
lights of the town quivered on the plain, and the stars in the dark sky. He
sat on a wall by the road and suddenly burst into tears. He did not know
why. He was too happy, and the excess of his joy was compounded of sadness
and delight; there was in it thankfulness for his happiness, pity for
those who were not happy, a melancholy and sweet feeling of the frailty of
things, the mad joy of living. He wept for delight, and slept in the midst
of his tears. When he awoke dawn was peeping. White mists floated over the
river, and veiled the town, where Minna, worn out; was sleeping, while in
her heart was the light of her smile of happiness.

       *       *       *       *       *

They contrived to meet again in the garden next morning and told their love
once more, but now the divine unconsciousness of it all was gone. She was a
little playing the part of the girl in love, and he, though more sincere,
was also playing a part. They talked of what their life should be. He
regretted his poverty and humble estate. She affected to be generous, and
enjoyed her generosity. She said that she cared nothing for money. That was
true, for she knew nothing about it, having never known the lack of it. He
promised that he would become a great artist; that she thought fine and
amusing, like a novel. She thought it her duty to behave really like a
woman in love. She read poetry; she was sentimental. He was touched by the
infection. He took pains with his dress; he was absurd; he set a guard upon
his speech; he was pretentious. Frau von Kerich watched him and laughed,
and asked herself what could have made him so stupid.

But they had moments of marvelous poetry, and these would suddenly burst
upon them out of dull days, like sunshine through a mist. A look, a
gesture, a meaningless word, and they were bathed in happiness; they had
their good-byes in the evening on the dimly-lighted stairs, and their eyes
would seek each other, divine each other through the half darkness, and the
thrill of their hands as they touched, the trembling in their voices, all
those little nothings that fed their memory at night, as they slept so
lightly that the chiming of each hour would awake them, and their hearts
would sing "I am loved," like the murmuring of a stream.

They discovered the charm of things. Spring smiled with a marvelous
sweetness. The heavens were brilliant, the air was soft, as they had never
been before. All the town--the red roofs, the old walls, the cobbled
streets--showed with a kindly charm that moved Jean-Christophe. At night,
when everybody was asleep, Minna would get up from her bed, and stand by
the window, drowsy and feverish. And in the afternoon, when he was not
there, she would sit in a swing, and dream, with a book on her knees,
her eyes half closed, sleepy and lazily happy, mind and body hovering
in the spring air. She would spend hours at the piano, with a patience
exasperating to others, going over and over again scales and passages which
made her turn pale and cold with emotion. She would weep when she heard
Schumann's music. She felt full of pity and kindness for all creatures, and
so did he. They would give money stealthily to poor people whom they met in
the street, and would then exchange glances of compassion; they were happy
in their kindness.

To tell the truth, they were kind only by fits and starts. Minna suddenly
discovered how sad was the humble life of devotion of old Frida, who had
been a servant in the house since her mother's childhood, and at once she
ran and hugged her, to the great astonishment of the good old creature, who
was busy mending the linen in the kitchen. But that did not keep her from
speaking harshly to her a few hours later, when Frida did not come at once
on the sound of the bell. And Jean-Christophe, who was consumed with love
for all humanity, and would turn aside so as not to crush an insect, was
entirely indifferent to his own family. By a strange reaction he was
colder and more curt with them the more affectionate he was to all other
creatures; he hardly gave thought to them; he spoke abruptly to them, and
found no interest in seeing them. Both in Jean-Christophe and Minna their
kindness was only a surfeit of tenderness which overflowed at intervals to
the benefit of the first comer. Except for these overflowings they were
more egoistic than ever, for their minds were filled only with the one
thought, and everything was brought back to that.

How much of Jean-Christophe's life was filled with the girl's face! What
emotion was in him when he saw her white frock in the distance, when he was
looking for her in the garden; when at the theater, sitting a few yards
away from their empty places, he heard the door of their box open, and the
mocking voice that he knew so well; when in some outside conversation the
dear name of Kerich cropped up! He would go pale and blush; for a moment or
two he would see and hear nothing. And then there would be a rush of blood
over all his body, the assault of unknown forces.

The little German girl, naïve and sensual, had odd little tricks. She would
place her ring on a little pile of flour, and he would have to get it again
and again with his teeth without whitening his nose. Or she would pass a
thread through a biscuit, and put one end of it in her mouth and one in
his, and then they had to nibble the thread to see who could get to the
biscuit first. Their faces would come together; they would feel each
other's breathing; their lips would touch, and they would laugh forcedly,
while their hands would turn to ice. Jean-Christophe would feel a desire to
bite, to hurt; he would fling back, and she would go on laughing forcedly.
They would turn away, pretend indifference, and steal glances at each
other.

These disturbing games had a disquieting attraction for them; they wanted
to play them, and yet avoided them. Jean-Christophe was fearful of them,
and preferred even the constraint of the meetings when Frau von Kerich or
some one else was present. So outside presence could break in upon the
converse of their loving hearts; constraint only made their love sweeter
and more intense. Everything gained infinitely in value; a word, a
movement of the lips, a glance were enough to make the rich new treasure
of their inner life shine through the dull veil of ordinary existence.
They alone could see it, or so they thought, and smiled, happy in their
little mysteries. Their words were no more than those of a drawing-room
conversation about trivial matters; to them they were an unending song of
love. They read the most fleeting changes in their faces and voices as in
an open book; they could have read as well with their eyes closed, for they
had only to listen to their hearts to hear in them the echo of the heart
of the beloved. They were full of confidence in life, in happiness, in
themselves. Their hopes were boundless. They loved, they were loved, happy,
without a shadow, without a doubt, without a fear of the future. Wonderful
serenity of those days of spring! Not a cloud in the sky. A faith so fresh
that it seems that nothing can ever tarnish it. A joy so abounding that
nothing can ever exhaust it. Are they living? Are they dreaming? Doubtless
they are dreaming. There is nothing in common between life and their
dream--nothing, except in that moment of magic: they are but a dream
themselves; their being has melted away at the touch of love.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not long before Frau von Kerich perceived their little intrigue,
which they thought very subtly managed, though it was very clumsy. Minna
had suspected it from the moment when her mother had entered suddenly one
day when she was talking to Jean-Christophe, and standing as near to him as
she could, and on the click of the door they had darted apart as quickly
as possible, covered with confusion. Frau von Kerich had pretended to see
nothing. Minna was almost sorry. She would have liked a tussle with her
mother; it would have been more romantic.

Her mother took care to give her no opportunity for it; she was too clever
to be anxious, or to make any remark about it. But to Minna she talked
ironically about Jean-Christophe, and made merciless fun of his foibles;
she demolished him in a few words. She did not do it deliberately; she
acted upon instinct, with the treachery natural to a woman who is defending
her own. It was useless for Minna to resist, and sulk, and be impertinent,
and go on denying the truth of her remarks; there was only too much
justification for them, and Frau von Kerich had a cruel skill in flicking
the raw spot. The largeness of Jean-Christophe's boots, the ugliness of his
clothes, his ill-brushed hat, his provincial accent, his ridiculous way of
bowing, the vulgarity of his loud-voicedness, nothing was forgotten which
might sting Minna's vanity. Such remarks were always simple and made by the
way; they never took the form of a set speech, and when Minna, irritated,
got upon her high horse to reply, Frau von Kerich would innocently be off
on another subject. But the blow struck home, and Minna was sore under it.

She began to look at Jean-Christophe with a less indulgent eye. He was
vaguely conscious of it, and uneasily asked her:

"Why do you look at me like that?"

And she answered:

"Oh, nothing!"

But a moment after, when he was merry, she would harshly reproach him for
laughing so loudly. He was abashed; he never would have thought that he
would have to take care not to laugh too loudly with her: all his gaiety
was spoiled. Or when he was talking absolutely at his ease, she would
absently interrupt him to make some unpleasant remark about his clothes,
or she would take exception to his common expressions with pedantic
aggressiveness. Then he would lose all desire to talk, and sometimes would
be cross. Then he would persuade himself that these ways which so irritated
him were a proof of Minna's interest in him, and she would persuade herself
also that it was so. He would try humbly to do better. But she was never
much pleased with him, for he hardly ever succeeded.

But he had no time--nor had Minna--to perceive the change that was taking
place in her. Easter came, and Minna had to go with her mother to stay with
some relations near Weimar.

During the last week before the separation they returned to the intimacy of
the first days. Except for little outbursts of impatience Minna was more
affectionate than ever. On the eve of her departure they went for a long
walk in the park; she led Jean-Christophe mysteriously to the arbor, and
put about his neck a little scented bag, in which she had placed a lock of
her hair; they renewed their eternal vows, and swore to write to each other
every day; and they chose a star out of the sky, and arranged to look at it
every evening at the same time.

The fatal day arrived. Ten times during the night he had asked himself,
"Where will she be to-morrow?" and now he thought, "It is to-day. This
morning she is still here; to-night she will be here no longer." He went
to her house before eight o'clock. She was not up; he set out to walk in
the park; he could not; he returned. The passages were full of boxes and
parcels; he sat down in a corner of the room listening for the creaking of
doors and floors, and recognizing the footsteps on the floor above him.
Frau von Kerich passed, smiled as she saw him and, without stopping, threw
him a mocking good-day. Minna came at last; she was pale, her eyelids were
swollen; she had not slept any more than he during the night. She gave
orders busily to the servants; she held out her hand to Jean-Christophe,
and went on talking to old Frida. She was ready to go. Frau von Kerich came
back. They argued about a hat-box. Minna seemed to pay no attention to
Jean-Christophe, who was standing, forgotten and unhappy, by the piano. She
went out with her mother, then came back; from the door she called out to
Frau von Kerich. She closed the door. They were alone. She ran to him, took
his hand, and dragged him into the little room next door; its shutters were
closed. Then she put her face up to Jean-Christophe's and kissed him
wildly. With tears in her eyes she said:

"You promise--you promise that you will love me always?"

They sobbed quietly, and made convulsive efforts to choke their sobs down
so as not to be heard. They broke apart as they heard footsteps
approaching. Minna dried her eyes, and resumed her busy air with the
servants, but her voice trembled.

He succeeded in snatching her handkerchief, which she had let fall--her
little dirty handkerchief, crumpled and wet with her tears.

He went to the station with his friends in their carriage. Sitting opposite
each other Jean-Christophe and Minna hardly dared look at each other for
fear of bursting into tears. Their hands sought each other, and clasped
until they hurt. Frau von Kerich watched them with quizzical good-humor,
and seemed not to see anything. The time arrived. Jean-Christophe was
standing by the door of the train when it began to move, and he ran
alongside the carriage, not looking where he was going, jostling against
porters, his eyes fixed on Minna's eyes, until the train was gone. He went
on running until it was lost from sight. Then he stopped, out of breath,
and found himself on the station platform among people of no importance. He
went home, and, fortunately, his family were all out, and all through the
morning he wept.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the first time he knew the frightful sorrow of parting, an intolerable
torture for all loving hearts. The world is empty; life is empty; all is
empty. The heart is choked; it is impossible to breathe; there is mortal
agony; it is difficult, impossible, to live--especially when all around you
there are the traces of the departed loved one, when everything about you
is forever calling up her image, when you remain in the surroundings in
which you lived together, she and you, when it is a torment to try to live
again in the same places the happiness that is gone. Then it is as though
an abyss were opened at your feet; you lean over it; you turn giddy; you
almost fall. You fall. You think you are face to face with Death. And so
you are; parting is one of his faces. You watch the beloved of your heart
pass away; life is effaced; only a black hole is left--nothingness.

Jean-Christophe went and visited all the beloved spots, so as to suffer
more. Frau von Kerich had left him the key of the garden, so that he could
go there while they were away. He went there that very day, and was like
to choke with sorrow. It seemed to him as he entered that he might find
there a little of her who was gone; he found only too much of her; her
image hovered over all the lawns; he expected to see her appear at all
the corners of the paths; he knew well that she would not appear, but he
tormented himself with pretending that she might, and he went over the
tracks of his memories of love--the path to the labyrinth, the terrace
carpeted with wistaria, the seat in the arbor, and he inflicted torture on
himself by saying: "A week ago ... three days ago ... yesterday, it was
so. Yesterday she was here ... this very morning...." He racked his heart
with these thoughts until he had to stop, choking, and like to die. In his
sorrow was mingled anger with himself for having wasted all that time, and
not having made use of it. So many minutes, so many hours, when he had
enjoyed the infinite happiness of seeing her, breathing her, and feeding
upon her. And he had not appreciated it! He had let the time go by without
having tasted to the full every tiny moment! And now!... Now it was too
late.... Irreparable! Irreparable!

He went home. His family seemed odious to him. He could not bear their
faces, their gestures, their fatuous conversation, the same as that of the
preceding day, the same as that of all the preceding days--always the same.
They went on living their usual life, as though no such misfortune had come
to pass in their midst. And the town had no more idea of it than they.
The people were all going about their affairs, laughing, noisy, busy; the
crickets were chirping; the sky was bright. He hated them all; he felt
himself crushed by this universal egoism. But he himself was more egoistic
than the whole universe. Nothing was worth while to him. He had no
kindness. He loved nobody.

He passed several lamentable days. His work absorbed him again
automatically: but he had no heart for living.

One evening when he was at supper with his family, silent and depressed,
the postman knocked at the door and left a letter for him. His heart knew
the sender of it before he had seen the handwriting. Four pairs of eyes,
fixed on him with undisguised curiosity, waited for him to read it,
clutching at the hope that this interruption might take them out of their
usual boredom. He placed the letter by his plate, and would not open it,
pretending carelessly that he knew what it was about. But his brothers,
annoyed, would not believe it, and went on prying at it; and so he was in
tortures until the meal was ended. Then he was free to lock himself up in
his room. His heart was beating so that he almost tore the letter as he
opened it. He trembled to think what might be in it; but as soon as he had
glanced over the first words he was filled with joy.

A few very affectionate words. Minna was writing to him by stealth. She
called him "Dear _Christlein_" and told him that she had wept much, had
looked at the star every evening, that she had been to Frankfort, which was
a splendid town, where there were wonderful shops, but that she had never
bothered about anything because she was thinking of him. She reminded him
that he had sworn to be faithful to her, and not to see anybody while she
was away, so that he might think only of her. She wanted him to work all
the time while she was gone, so as to make himself famous, and her too. She
ended by asking him if he remembered the little room where they had said
good-bye on the morning when she had left him: she assured him that she
would be there still in thought, and that she would still say good-bye to
him in the same way. She signed herself, "Eternally yours! Eternally!..."
and she had added a postscript bidding him buy a straw hat instead of his
ugly felt--all the distinguished people there were wearing them--a coarse
straw hat, with a broad blue ribbon.

Jean-Christophe read the letter four times before he could quite take it
all in. He was so overwhelmed that he could not even be happy; and suddenly
he felt so tired that he lay down and read and re-read the letter and
kissed it again and again. He put it under his pillow, and his hand was
forever making sure that it was there. An ineffable sense of well-being
permeated his whole soul. He slept all through the night.

His life became more tolerable. He had ever sweet, soaring thoughts of
Minna. He set about answering her; but he could not write freely to her;
he had to hide his feelings: that was painful and difficult for him. He
continued clumsily to conceal his love beneath formulæ of ceremonious
politeness, which he always used in an absurd fashion.

When he had sent it he awaited Minna's reply, and only lived in expectation
of it. To win patience he tried to go for walks and to read. But his
thoughts were only of Minna: he went on crazily repeating her name over and
over again; he was so abject in his love and worship of her name that he
carried everywhere with him a volume of Lessing, because the name of Minna
occurred in it, and every day when he left the theater he went a long
distance out of his way so as to pass a mercery shop, on whose signboard
the five adored letters were written.

He reproached himself for wasting time when she had bid him so urgently to
work, so as to make her famous. The naïve vanity of her request touched
him, as a mark of her confidence in him. He resolved, by way of fulfilling
it, to write a work which should be not only dedicated, but consecrated,
to her. He could not have written any other at that time. Hardly had the
scheme occurred to him than musical ideas rushed in upon him. It was like
a flood of water accumulated in a reservoir for several months, until it
should suddenly rush down, breaking all its dams. He did not leave his room
for a week. Louisa left his dinner at the door; for he did not allow even
her to enter.

He wrote a quintette for clarionet and strings. The first movement was
a poem of youthful hope and desire; the last a lover's joke, in which
Jean-Christophe's wild humor peeped out. But the whole work was written for
the sake of the second movement, the _larghetto_, in which Jean-Christophe
had depicted an ardent and ingenuous little soul, which was, or was meant
to be, a portrait of Minna. No one would have recognized it, least of all
herself; but the great thing was that it was perfectly recognizable to
himself; and he had a thrill of pleasure in the illusion of feeling that he
had caught the essence of his beloved. No work had ever been so easily or
happily written; it was an outlet for the excess of love which the parting
had stored up in him; and at the same time his care for the work of art,
the effort necessary to dominate and concentrate his passion into a
beautiful and clear form, gave him a healthiness of mind, a balance in his
faculties, which gave him a sort of physical delight--a sovereign enjoyment
known to every creative artist. While he is creating he escapes altogether
from the slavery of desire and sorrow; he becomes then master in his turn;
and all that gave him joy or suffering seems then to him to be only the
fine play of his will. Such moments are too short; for when they are done
he finds about him, more heavy than ever, the chains of reality.

While Jean-Christophe was busy with his work he hardly had time to think
of his parting from Minna; he was living with her. Minna was no longer in
Minna; she was in himself. But when he had finished he found that he was
alone, more alone than before, more weary, exhausted by the effort; he
remembered that it was a fortnight since he had written to Minna and that
she had not replied.

He wrote to her again, and this time he could not bring himself altogether
to exercise the constraint which he had imposed on himself for the
first letter. He reproached Minna jocularly--for he did not believe it
himself--with having forgotten him. He scolded her for her laziness and
teased her affectionately. He spoke of his work with much mystery, so as to
rouse her curiosity, and because he wished to keep it as a surprise for her
when she returned. He described minutely the hat that he had bought; and he
told how, to carry out the little despot's orders--for he had taken all her
commands literally--he did not go out at all, and said that he was ill as
an excuse for refusing invitations. He did not add that he was even on bad
terms with the Grand Duke, because, in excess of zeal, he had refused to
go to a party at the Palace to which he had been invited. The whole letter
was full of a careless joy, and conveyed those little secrets so dear to
lovers. He imagined that Minna alone had the key to them, and thought
himself very clever, because he had carefully replaced every word of love
with words of friendship.

After he had written he felt comforted for a moment; first, because the
letter had given him the illusion of conversation with his absent fair, but
chiefly because he had no doubt but that Minna would reply to it at once.
He was very patient for the three days which he had allowed for the post
to take his letter to Minna and bring back her answer; but when the fourth
day had passed he began once more to find life difficult. He had no energy
or interest in things, except during the hour before the post's arrival.
Then he was trembling with impatience. He became superstitious, and looked
for the smallest sign--the crackling of the fire, a chance word--to give
him an assurance that the letter would come. Once that hour was passed he
would collapse again. No more work, no more walks; the only object of his
existence was to wait for the next post, and all his energy was expended in
finding strength to wait for so long. But when evening came, and all hope
was gone for the day, then he was crushed; it seemed to him that he could
never live until the morrow, and he would stay for hours, sitting at his
table, without speaking or thinking, without even the power to go to bed,
until some remnant of his will would take him off to it; and he would sleep
heavily, haunted by stupid dreams, which made him think that the night
would never end.

This continual expectation became at length a physical torture, an actual
illness. Jean-Christophe went so far as to suspect his father, his brother,
even the postman, of having taken the letter and hidden it from him. He was
racked with uneasiness. He never doubted Minna's fidelity for an instant.
If she did not write, it must be because she was ill, dying, perhaps dead.
Then he rushed to his pen and wrote a third letter, a few heartrending
lines, in which he had no more thought of guarding his feelings than of
taking care with his spelling. The time for the post to go was drawing
near; he had crossed out and smudged the sheet as he turned it over,
dirtied the envelope as he closed it. No matter! He could not wait until
the next post. He ran and hurled his letter into the box and waited in
mortal agony. On the next night but one he had a clear vision of Minna,
ill, calling to him; he got up, and was on the point of setting out on foot
to go to her. But where? Where should he find her?

On the fourth morning Minna's letter came at last--hardly a
half-sheet--cold and stiff. Minna said that she did not understand what
could have filled him with such stupid fears, that she was quite well, that
she had no time to write, and begged him not to get so excited in future,
and not to write any more.

Jean-Christophe was stunned. He never doubted Minna's sincerity. He blamed
himself; he thought that Minna was justly annoyed by the impudent and
absurd letters that he had written. He thought himself an idiot, and beat
at his head with his fist. But it was all in vain; he was forced to feel
that Minna did not love him as much as he loved her.

The days that followed were so mournful that it is impossible to describe
them. Nothingness cannot be described. Deprived of the only boon that made
living worth while for him--his letters to Minna--Jean-Christophe now only
lived mechanically, and the only thing which interested him at all was when
in the evening, as he was going to bed, he ticked off on the calendar,
like a schoolboy, one of the interminable days which lay between himself
and Minna's return. The day of the return was past. They ought to have
been at home a week. Feverish excitement had succeeded Jean-Christophe's
prostration. Minna had promised when she left to advise him of the day and
hour of their arrival. He waited from moment to moment to go and meet them;
and he tied himself up in a web of guesses as to the reasons for their
delay.

One evening one of their neighbors, a friend of his grandfather, Fischer,
the furniture dealer, came in to smoke and chat with Melchior after dinner
as he often did. Jean-Christophe, in torment, was going up to his room
after waiting for the postman to pass when a word made him tremble. Fischer
said that next day he had to go early in the morning to the Kerichs' to
hang up the curtains. Jean-Christophe stopped dead, and asked:

"Have they returned?"

"You wag! You know that as well as I do," said old Fischer roguishly. "Fine
weather! They came back the day before yesterday."

Jean-Christophe heard no more; he left the room, and got ready to go out.
His mother, who for some time had secretly been watching him without his
knowing it, followed him into the lobby, and asked him timidly where he was
going. He made no answer, and went out. He was hurt.

He ran to the Kerichs' house. It was nine o'clock in the evening. They were
both in the drawing-room and did not appear to be surprised to see him.
They said "Good-evening" quietly. Minna was busy writing, and held out her
hand over the table and went on with her letter, vaguely asking him for
his news. She asked him to forgive her discourtesy, and pretended to be
listening to what he said, but she interrupted him to ask something of her
mother. He had prepared touching words concerning all that he had suffered
during her absence; he could hardly summon a few words; no one was
interested in them, and he had not the heart to go on--it all rang so
false.

When Minna had finished her letter she took up some work, and, sitting a
little away from him, began to tell him about her travels. She talked about
the pleasant weeks she had spent--riding on horseback, country-house life,
interesting society; she got excited gradually, and made allusions to
events and people whom Jean-Christophe did not know, and the memory of
them made her mother and herself laugh. Jean-Christophe felt that he was
a stranger during the story; he did not know how to take it, and laughed
awkwardly. He never took his eyes from Minna's face, beseeching her to look
at him, imploring her to throw him a glance for alms. But when she did look
at him--which was not often, for she addressed herself more to her mother
than to him--her eyes, like her voice, were cold and indifferent. Was she
so constrained because of her mother, or was it that he did not understand?
He wished to speak to her alone, but Frau von Kerich never left them
for a moment. He tried to bring the conversation round to some subject
interesting to himself; he spoke of his work and his plans; he was dimly
conscious that Minna was evading him, and instinctively he tried to
interest her in himself. Indeed, she seemed to listen attentively enough;
she broke in upon his narrative with various interjections, which were
never very apt, but always seemed to be full of interest. But just as
he was beginning to hope once more, carried off his feet by one of her
charming smiles, he saw Minna put her little hand to her lips and yawn. He
broke off short. She saw that, and asked his pardon amiably, saying that
she was tired. He got up, thinking that they would persuade him to stay,
but they said nothing. He spun out his "Good-bye," and waited for a word to
ask him to come again next day; there was no suggestion of it. He had to
go. Minna did not take him to the door. She held out her hand to him--an
indifferent hand that drooped limply in his--and he took his leave of them
in the middle of the room.

He went home with terror in his heart. Of the Minna of two months before,
of his beloved Minna, nothing was left. What had happened? What had become
of her? For a poor boy who has never yet experienced the continual change,
the complete disappearance, and the absolute renovation of living souls,
of which the majority are not so much souls as collections of souls in
succession changing and dying away continually, the simple truth was too
cruel for him to be able to believe it. He rejected the idea of it in
terror, and tried to persuade himself that he had not been able to see
properly, and that Minna was just the same. He decided to go again to the
house next morning, and to talk to her at all costs.

He did not sleep. Through the night he counted one after another the chimes
of the clock. From one o'clock on he was rambling round the Kerichs' house;
he entered it as soon as he could. He did not see Minna, but Frau von
Kerich. Always busy and an early riser, she was watering the pots of
flowers on the veranda. She gave a mocking cry when she saw
Jean-Christophe.

"Ah!" she said. "It is you!... I am glad you have come. I have something to
talk to you about. Wait a moment...."

She went in for a moment to put down her watering can and to dry her hands,
and came back with a little smile as she saw Jean-Christophe's
discomfiture; he was conscious of the approach of disaster.

"Come into the garden," she said; "we shall be quieter."

In the garden that was full still of his love he followed Frau von Kerich.
She did not hasten to speak, and enjoyed the boy's uneasiness.

"Let us sit here," she said at last. They were sitting on the seat in the
place where Minna had held up her lips to him on the eve of her departure.

"I think you know what is the matter," said Frau von Kerich, looking
serious so as to complete his confusion. "I should never have thought it of
you, Jean-Christophe. I thought you a serious boy. I had every confidence
in you. I should never have thought that you would abuse it to try and
turn my daughter's head. She was in your keeping. You ought to have shown
respect for her, respect for me, respect for yourself."

There was a light irony in her accents. Frau von Kerich attached not the
least importance to this childish love affair; but Jean-Christophe was not
conscious of it, and her reproaches, which he took, as he took everything,
tragically, went to his heart.

"But, Madam ... but, Madam ..." he stammered, with tears in his eyes, "I
have never abused your confidence.... Please do not think that.... I am not
a bad man, that I swear!... I love Fräulein Minna. I love her with all my
Soul, and I wish to marry her."

Frau von Kerich smiled.

"No, my poor boy," she said, with that kindly smile in which was so much
disdain, as at last he was to understand, "no, it is impossible; it is just
a childish folly."

"Why? Why?" he asked.

He took her hands, not believing that she could be speaking seriously, and
almost reassured by the new softness in her voice. She smiled still, and
said:

"Because...."

He insisted. With ironical deliberation--she did not take him altogether
seriously--she told him that he had no fortune, that Minna had different
tastes. He protested that that made no difference; that he would be rich,
famous; that he would win honors, money, all that Minna could desire. Frau
von Kerich looked skeptical; she was amused by his self-confidence, and
only shook her head by way of saying no. But he stuck to it.

"No, Jean-Christophe," she said firmly, "no. It is not worth arguing. It is
impossible. It is not only a question of money. So many things! The
position...."

She had no need to finish. That was a needle that pierced to his very
marrow. His eyes were opened. He saw the irony of the friendly smile, he
saw the coldness of the kindly look, he understood suddenly what it was
that separated him from this woman whom he loved as a son, this woman who
seemed to treat him like a mother; he was conscious of all that was
patronizing and disdainful in her affection. He got up. He was pale. Frau
von Kerich went on talking to him in her caressing voice, but it was the
end; he heard no more the music of the words; he perceived under every word
the falseness of that elegant soul. He could not answer a word. He went.
Everything about him was going round and round.

When he regained his room he flung himself on his bed, and gave way to a
fit of anger and injured pride, just as he used to do when he was a little
boy. He bit his pillow; he crammed his handkerchief into his mouth, so that
no one should hear him crying. He hated Frau von Kerich. He hated Minna. He
despised them mightily. It seemed to him that he had been insulted, and he
trembled with shame and rage. He had to reply, to take immediate action. If
he could not avenge himself he would die.

He got up, and wrote an idiotically violent letter:

"MADAM,--

"I do not know if, as you say, you have been deceived in me. But I do know
that I have been cruelly deceived in you. I thought that you were my
friends. You said so. You pretended to be so, and I loved you more than my
life. I see now that it was all a lie, that your affection for me was only
a sham; you made use of me. I amused you, provided you with entertainment,
made music for you. I was your servant. Your servant: that I am not! I am
no man's servant!

"You have made me feel cruelly that I had no right to love your daughter.
Nothing in the world can prevent my heart from loving where it loves, and
if I am not your equal in rank, I am as noble as you. It is the heart that
ennobles a man. If I am not a Count, I have perhaps more honor than many
Counts. Lackey or Count, when a man insults me, I despise him. I despise as
much any one who pretends to be noble, and is not noble of soul.

"Farewell! You have mistaken me. You have deceived me. I detest you!

"He who, in spite of you, loves, and will love till death, Fräulein Minna,
_because she is his_, and nothing can take her from him."

Hardly had he thrown his letter into the box than he was filled with terror
at what he had done. He tried not to think of it, but certain phrases
cropped up in his memory; he was in a cold sweat as he thought of Frau von
Kerich reading those enormities. At first he was upheld by his very
despair, but next day he saw that his letter could only bring about a final
separation from Minna, and that seemed to him the direst of misfortunes. He
still hoped that Frau von Kerich, who knew his violent fits, would not take
it seriously, that she would only reprimand him severely, and--who
knows?--that she would be touched perhaps by the sincerity of his passion.
One word, and he would have thrown himself at her feet. He waited for five
days. Then came, a letter. She said:

"DEAR SIR,--

"Since, as you say, there has been a misunderstanding between us, it would
be wise not any further to prolong it. I should be very sorry to force upon
you a relationship which has become painful to you. You will think it
natural, therefore, that we should break it off. I hope that you will in
time to come have no lack of other friends who will be able to appreciate
you as you wish to be appreciated. I have no doubt as to your future, and
from a distance shall, with sympathy, follow your progress in your musical
career. Kind regards.

"JOSEPHA VON KERICH."

The most bitter reproaches would have been less cruel. Jean-Christophe saw
that he was lost. It is possible to reply to an unjust accusation. But what
is to be done against the negativeness of such polite indifference? He
raged against it. He thought that he would never see Minna again, and he
could not bear it. He felt how little all the pride in the world weighs
against a little love. He forgot his dignity; he became cowardly; he wrote
more letters, in which he implored forgiveness. They were no less stupid
than the letter in which he had railed against her. They evoked no
response. And everything was said.

       *       *       *       *       *

He nearly died of it. He thought of killing himself. He thought of murder.
At least, he imagined that he thought of it. He was possessed by incendiary
and murderous desires. People have little idea of the paroxysm of love or
hate which sometimes devours the hearts of children. It was the most
terrible crisis of his childhood. It ended his childhood. It stiffened his
will. But it came near to breaking it forever.

He found life impossible. He would sit for hours with his elbows on the
window-sill looking down into the courtyard, and dreaming, as he used to
when he was a little boy, of some means of escaping from the torture of
life when it became too great. The remedy was there, under his eyes.
Immediate ... immediate? How could one know?... Perhaps after
hours--centuries--horrible sufferings!... But so utter was his childish
despair that he let himself be carried away by the giddy round of such
thoughts.

Louisa saw that he was suffering. She could not gauge exactly what was
happening to him, but her instinct gave her a dim warning of danger. She
tried to approach her son, to discover his sorrow, so as to console him.
But the poor woman had lost the habit of talking intimately to
Jean-Christophe. For many years he had kept his thoughts to himself, and
she had been too much taken up by the material cares of life to find time
to discover them or divine them. Now that she would so gladly have come to
his aid she knew not what to do. She hovered about him like a soul in
torment; she would gladly have found words to bring him comfort, and she
dared not speak for fear of irritating him. And in spite of all her care
she did irritate him by her every gesture and by her very presence, for she
was not very adroit, and he was not very indulgent. And yet he loved her;
they loved each other. But so little is needed to part two creatures who
are dear to each other, and love each other with all their hearts! A too
violent expression, an awkward gesture, a harmless twitching of an eye or a
nose, a trick of eating, walking, or laughing, a physical constraint which
is beyond analysis.... You say that these things are nothing, and yet they
are all the world. Often they are enough to keep a mother and a son, a
brother and a brother, a friend and a friend, who live in proximity to each
other, forever strangers to each other.

Jean-Christophe did not find in his mother's grief a sufficient prop in the
crisis through which he was passing. Besides, what is the affection of
others to the egoism of passion preoccupied with itself?

One night when his family were sleeping, and he was sitting by his desk,
not thinking or moving, he was engulfed in his perilous ideas, when a sound
of footsteps resounded down the little silent street, and a knock on the
door brought him from his stupor. There was a murmuring of thick voices. He
remembered that his father had not come in, and he thought angrily that
they were bringing him back drunk, as they had done a week or two before,
when they had found him lying in the street. For Melchior had abandoned all
restraint, and was more and more the victim of his vice, though his
athletic health seemed not in the least to suffer from an excess and a
recklessness which would have killed any other man. He ate enough for four,
drank until he dropped, passed whole nights out of doors in icy rain, was
knocked down and stunned in brawls, and would get up again next day, with
his rowdy gaiety, wanting everybody about him to be gay too.

Louisa, hurrying up, rushed to open the door. Jean-Christophe, who had not
budged, stopped his ears so as not to hear Melchior's vicious voice and the
tittering comments of the neighbors....

... Suddenly a strange terror seized him; for no reason he began to
tremble, with his face hidden in his hands. And on the instant a piercing
cry made him raise his head. He rushed to the door....

In the midst of a group of men talking in low voices, in the dark passage,
lit only by the flickering light of a lantern, lying, just as his
grandfather had done, on a stretcher, was a body dripping with water,
motionless. Louisa was clinging to it and sobbing. They had just found
Melchior drowned in the mill-race.

Jean-Christophe gave a cry. Everything else vanished; all his other sorrows
were swept aside. He threw himself on his fathers body by Louisa's side,
and they wept together.

Seated by the bedside, watching Melchior's last sleep, on whose face was
now a severe and solemn expression, he felt the dark peace of death enter
into his soul. His childish passion was gone from him like a fit of fever;
the icy breath of the grave had taken it all away. Minna, his pride, his
love, and himself.... Alas! What misery! How small everything showed by the
side of this reality, the only reality--death! Was it worth while to suffer
so much, to desire so much, to be so much put about to come in the end to
that!...

He watched his father's sleep, and he was filled with an infinite pity. He
remembered the smallest of his acts of kindness and tenderness. For with
all his faults Melchior was not bad; there was much good in him. He loved
his family. He was honest. He had a little of the uncompromising probity of
the Kraffts, which, in all questions of morality and honor, suffered no
discussion, and never would admit the least of those small moral impurities
which so many people in society regard not altogether as faults. He was
brave, and whenever there was any danger faced it with a sort of enjoyment.
If he was extravagant himself, he was so for others too; he could not bear
anybody to be sad, and very gladly gave away all that belonged to him--and
did not belong to him--to the poor devils he met by the wayside. All his
qualities appeared to Jean-Christophe now, and he invented some of them, or
exaggerated them. It seemed to him that he had misunderstood his father. He
reproached himself with not having loved him enough. He saw him as broken
by Life; he thought he heard that unhappy soul, drifting, too weak to
struggle, crying out for the life so uselessly lost. He heard that
lamentable entreaty that had so cut him to the heart one day:

"Jean-Christophe! Do not despise me!"

And he was overwhelmed by remorse. He threw himself on the bed, and kissed
the dead face and wept. And as he had done that day, he said again:

"Dear father, I do not despise you. I love you. Forgive me!"

But that piteous entreaty was not appeased, and went on:

"De not despise me! Do not despise me!" And suddenly Jean-Christophe saw
himself lying in the place of the dead man; he heard the terrible words
coming from his own lips; he felt weighing on his heart the despair of a
useless life, irreparably lost. And he thought in terror: "Ah! everything,
all the suffering, all the misery in the world, rather than come to
that!..." How near he had been to it! Had he not all but yielded to the
temptation to snap off his life himself, cowardly to escape his sorrow? As
if all the sorrows, all betrayals, were not childish griefs beside the
torture and the crime of self-betrayal, denial of faith, of self-contempt
in death!

He saw that life was a battle without armistice, without mercy, in which he
who wishes to be a man worthy of the name of a man must forever fight
against whole armies of invisible enemies; against the murderous forces of
Nature, uneasy desires, dark thoughts, treacherously leading him to
degradation and destruction. He saw that he had been on the point of
falling into the trap. He saw that happiness and love were only the friends
of a moment to lead the heart to disarm and abdicate. And the little
puritan of fifteen heard the voice of his God:

"Go, go, and never rest."

"But whither, Lord, shall I go? Whatsoever I do, whithersoever I go, is not
the end always the same? Is not the end of all things in that?"

"Go on to Death, you who must die! Go and suffer, you who must suffer! You
do not live to be happy. You live to fulfil my Law. Suffer; die. But be
what you must be--a Man."



YOUTH


Christofori faciem die quaeunque tueris, Illa nempe die non morte mala
morieris.



I

THE HOUSE OF EULER


The house was plunged in silence. Since Melchior's death everything seemed
dead. Now that his loud voice was stilled, from morning to night nothing
was heard but the wearisome murmuring of the river.

Christophe hurled himself into his work. He took a fiercely angry pleasure
in self-castigation for having wished to be happy. To expressions of
sympathy and kind words he made no reply, but was proud and stiff. Without
a word he went about his daily task, and gave his lessons with icy
politeness. His pupils who knew of his misfortune were shocked by his
insensibility. But, those who were older and had some experience of sorrow
knew that this apparent coldness might, in a child, be used only to conceal
suffering: and they pitied him. He was not grateful for their sympathy.
Even music could bring him no comfort. He played without pleasure, and as a
duty. It was as though he found a cruel joy in no longer taking pleasure in
anything, or in persuading himself that he did not: in depriving himself of
every reason for living, and yet going on.

His two brothers, terrified by the silence of the house of death, ran away
from it as quickly as possible. Rodolphe went into the office of his uncle
Theodore, and lived with him, and Ernest, after trying two or three trades,
found work on one of the Rhine steamers plying between Mainz and Cologne,
and he used to come back only when he wanted money. Christophe was left
alone with his mother in the house, which was too large for them; and the
meagerness of their resources, and the payment of certain debts which had
been discovered after his father's death, forced them, whatever pain it
might cost, to seek another more lowly and less expensive dwelling.

They found a little flat,--two or three rooms on the second floor of a
house in the Market Street. It was a noisy district in the middle of the
town, far from the river, far from the trees, far from the country and all
the familiar places. But they had to consult reason, not sentiment, and
Christophe found in it a fine opportunity for gratifying his bitter creed
of self-mortification. Besides, the owner of the house, old registrar
Euler, was a friend of his grandfather, and knew the family: that was
enough for Louisa, who was lost in her empty house, and was irresistibly
drawn towards those who had known the creatures whom she had loved.

They got ready to leave. They took long draughts of the bitter melancholy
of the last days passed by the sad, beloved fireside that was to be left
forever. They dared hardly tell their sorrow: they were ashamed of it, or
afraid. Each thought that they ought not to show their weakness to the
other. At table, sitting alone in a dark room with half-closed shutters,
they dared not raise their voices: they ate hurriedly and did not look at
each other for fear of not being able to conceal their trouble. They parted
as soon as they had finished. Christophe went back to his work; but as soon
as he was free for a moment, he would come back, go stealthily home, and
creep on tiptoe to his room or to the attic. Then he would shut the door,
sit down in a corner on an old trunk or on the window-ledge, or stay there
without thinking, letting the indefinable buzzing and humming of the old
house, which trembled with the lightest tread, thrill through him. His
heart would tremble with it. He would listen anxiously for the faintest
breath in or out of doors, for the creaking of floors, for all the
imperceptible familiar noises: he knew them all. He would lose
consciousness, his thoughts would be filled with the images of the past,
and he would issue from his stupor only at the sound of St. Martin's clock,
reminding him that it was time to go.

In the room below him he could hear Louisa's footsteps passing softly to
and fro, then for hours she could not be heard; she made no noise.
Christophe would listen intently. He would go down, a little uneasy, as one
is for a long time after a great misfortune. He would push the door ajar;
Louisa would turn her back on him; she would be sitting in front of a
cupboard in the midst of a heap of things--rags, old belongings, odd
garments, treasures, which she had brought out intending to sort them. But
she had no strength for it; everything reminded her of something; she would
turn and turn it in her hands and begin to dream; it would drop from her
hands; she would stay for hours together with her arms hanging down, lying
back exhausted in a chair, given up to a stupor of sorrow.

Poor Louisa was now spending most of her life in the past--that sad past,
which had been very niggardly of joy for her; but she was so used to
suffering that she was still grateful for the least tenderness shown to
her, and the pale lights which had shone here and there in the drab days of
her life, were still enough to make them bright. All the evil that Melchior
had done her was forgotten; she remembered only the good. Her marriage had
been the great romance of her life. If Melchior had been drawn into it by a
caprice, of which he had quickly repented, she had given herself with her
whole heart; she thought that she was loved as much as she had loved; and
to Melchior she was ever most tenderly grateful. She did not try to
understand what he had become in the sequel. Incapable of seeing reality as
it is, she only knew how to bear it as it is, humbly and honestly, as a
woman who has no need of understanding life in order to be able to live.
What she could not explain, she left to God for explanation. In her
singular piety, she put upon God the responsibility for all the injustice
that she had suffered at the hands of Melchior and the others, and only
visited them with the good that they had given her. And so her life of
misery had left her with no bitter memory. She only felt worn out--weak as
she was--by those years of privation and fatigue. And now that Melchior was
no longer there, now that two of her sons were gone from their home, and
the third seemed to be able to do without her, she had lost all heart for
action; she was tired, sleepy; her will was stupefied. She was going
through one of those crises of neurasthenia which often come upon active
and industrious people in the decline of life, when some unforeseen event
deprives them of every reason for living. She had not the heart even to
finish the stocking she was knitting, to tidy the drawer in which she was
looking, to get up to shut the window; she would sit there, without a
thought, without strength--save for recollection. She was conscious of her
collapse, and was ashamed of it or blushed for it; she tried to hide it
from her son; and Christophe, wrapped up in the egoism of his own grief,
never noticed it. No doubt he was often secretly impatient with his
mother's slowness in speaking, and acting, and doing the smallest thing;
but different though her ways were from her usual activity, he never gave a
thought to the matter until then.

Suddenly on that day it came home to him for the first time when he
surprised her in the midst of her rags, turned out on the floor, heaped up
at her feet, in her arms, and in her lap. Her neck was drawn out, her head
was bowed, her face was stiff and rigid. When she heard him come in she
started; her white cheeks were suffused with red; with an instinctive
movement she tried to hide the things she was holding, and muttered with an
awkward smile:

"You see, I was sorting...."

The sight of the poor soul stranded among the relics of the past cut to his
heart, and he was filled with pity. But he spoke with a bitter asperity and
seemed to scold, to drag her from her apathy:

"Come, come, mother; you must not stay there, in the middle of all that
dust, with the room all shut up! It is not good for you. You must pull
yourself together, and have done with all this."

"Yes," said she meekly.

She tried to get up to put the things back in the drawer. But she sat down
again at once and listlessly let them fall from her hands.

"Oh! I can't ... I can't," she moaned. "I shall never finish!"

He was frightened. He leaned over her. He caressed her forehead with his
hands.

"Come, mother, what is it?" he said. "Shall I help you? Are you ill?"

She did not answer. She gave a sort of stifled sob. He took her hands, and
knelt down by her side, the better to see her in the dusky room.

"Mother!" he said anxiously.

Louisa laid her head on his shoulder and burst into tears.

"My boy, my boy," she cried, holding close to him. "My boy!... You will not
leave me? Promise me that you will not leave me?"

His heart was torn with pity.

"No, mother, no. I will not leave you. What made you think of such a
thing?"

"I am so unhappy! They have all left me, all...."

She pointed to the things all about her, and he did not know whether she
was speaking of them or of her sons and the dead.

"You will stay with me? You will not leave me?... What should I do, if you
went too?"

"I will not go, I tell you; we will stay together. Don't cry. I promise."

She went on weeping. She could not stop herself. He dried her eyes with his
handkerchief.

"What is it, mother dear? Are you in pain?"

"I don't know; I don't know what it is." She tried to calm herself and to
smile.

"I do try to be sensible. I do. But just nothing at all makes me cry....
You see, I'm doing it again.... Forgive me. I am so stupid. I am old. I
have no strength left. I have no taste for anything any more. I am no good
for anything. I wish I were buried with all the rest...."

He held her to him, close, like a child.

"Don't worry, mother; be calm; don't think about it...."

Gradually she grew quiet.

"It is foolish. I am ashamed.... But what is it? What is it?"

She who had always worked so hard could not understand why her strength had
suddenly snapped, and she was humiliated to the very depths of her being.
He pretended not to see it.

"A little weariness, mother," he said, trying to speak carelessly. "It is
nothing; you will see; it is nothing."

But he too was anxious. From his childhood he had been accustomed to see
her brave, resigned, in silence withstanding every test. And he was
astonished to see her suddenly broken: he was afraid.

He helped her to sort the things scattered on the floor. Every now and then
she would linger over something, but he would gently take it from her
hands, and she suffered him.

From that time on he took pains to be more with her. As soon as he had
finished his work, instead of shutting himself up in his room, as he loved
to do, he would return to her. He felt her loneliness and that she was not
strong enough to be left alone: there was danger in leaving her alone.

He would sit by her side in the evening near the open window looking on to
the road. The view would slowly disappear. The people were returning home.
Little lights appeared in the houses far off. They had seen it all a
thousand times. But soon they would see it no more. They would talk
disjointedly. They would point out to each other the smallest of the
familiar incidents and expectations of the evening, always with fresh
interest. They would have long intimate silences, or Louisa, for no
apparent reason, would tell some reminiscence, some disconnected story that
passed through her mind. Her tongue was loosed a little now that she felt
that she was with one who loved her. She tried hard to talk. It was
difficult for her, for she had grown used to living apart from her family;
she looked upon her sons and her husband as too clever to talk to her, and
she had never dared to join in their conversation. Christophe's tender care
was a new thing to her and infinitely sweet, though it made her afraid. She
deliberated over her words; she found it difficult to express herself; her
sentences were left unfinished and obscure. Sometimes she was ashamed of
what she was saying; she would look at her son, and stop in the middle of
her narrative. But he would press her hand, and she would be reassured. He
was filled with love and pity for the childish, motherly creature, to whom
he had turned when he was a child, and now she turned to him for support.
And he took a melancholy pleasure in her prattle, that had no interest for
anybody but himself, in her trivial memories of a life that had always been
joyless and mediocre, though it seemed to Louisa to be of infinite worth.
Sometimes he would try to interrupt her; he was afraid that her memories
would make her sadder than ever, and he would urge her to sleep. She would
understand what he was at, and would say with gratitude in her eyes:

"No. I assure you, it does one good; let us stay a little longer."

They would stay until the night was far gone and the neighbors were abed.
Then they would say good-night, she a little comforted by being rid of some
of her trouble, he with a heavy heart under this new burden added to that
which already he had to bear.

The day came for their departure. On the night before they stayed longer
than usual in the unlighted room. They did not speak. Every now and then
Louisa moaned: "Fear God! Fear God!" Christophe tried to keep her attention
fixed on the thousand details of the morrow's removal. She would not go to
bed until he gently compelled her. But he went up to his room and did not
go to bed for a long time. When leaning out of the window he tried to gaze
through the darkness to see for the last time the moving shadows of the
river beneath the house. He heard the wind in the tall trees in Minna's
garden. The sky was black. There was no one in the street. A cold rain was
just falling. The weathercocks creaked. In a house near by a child was
crying. The night weighed with an overwhelming heaviness upon the earth and
upon his soul. The dull chiming of the hours, the cracked note of the
halves and quarters, dropped one after another into the grim silence,
broken only by the sound of the rain on the roofs and the cobbles.

When Christophe at last made up his mind to go to bed, chilled in body and
soul, he heard the window below him shut. And, as he lay, he thought sadly
that it is cruel for the poor to dwell on the past, for they have no right
to have a past, like the rich: they have no home, no corner of the earth
wherein to house their memories: their joys, their sorrows, all their days,
are scattered in the wind.

Next day in beating rain they moved their scanty furniture to their new
dwelling. Fischer, the old furniture dealer, lent them a cart and a pony;
he came and helped them himself. But they could not take everything, for
the rooms to which they were going were much smaller than the old.
Christophe had to make his mother leave the oldest and most useless of
their belongings. It was not altogether easy; the least thing had its worth
for her: a shaky table, a broken chair, she wished to leave nothing behind.
Fischer, fortified by the authority of his old friendship with Jean Michel,
had to join Christophe in complaining, and, good-fellow that he was and
understanding her grief, had even to promise to keep some of her precious
rubbish for her against the day when she should want it again. Then she
agreed to tear herself away.

The two brothers had been told of the removal, but Ernest came on the night
before to say that he could not be there, and Rodolphe appeared for a
moment about noon; he watched them load the furniture, gave some advice,
and went away again looking mightily busy.

The procession set out through the muddy streets. Christophe led the horse,
which slipped on the greasy cobbles. Louisa walked by her son's side, and
tried to shelter him from the rain. And so they had a melancholy homecoming
in the damp rooms, that were made darker than ever by the dull light coming
from the lowering sky. They could not have fought against the depression
that was upon them had it not been for the attentions of their landlord and
his family. But, when the cart had driven away, as night fell, leaving the
furniture heaped up in the room; and Christophe and Louisa were sitting,
worn out, one on a box, the other on a sack; they heard a little dry cough
on the staircase; there was a knock at the door. Old Euler came in. He
begged pardon elaborately for disturbing his guests, and said that by way
of celebrating their first evening he hoped that they would be kind enough
to sup with himself and his family. Louisa, stunned by her sorrow, wished
to refuse. Christophe was not much more tempted than she by this friendly
gathering, but the old man insisted and Christophe, thinking that it would
be better for his mother not to spend their first evening in their new home
alone with her thoughts, made her accept.

They went down to the floor below, where they found the whole family
collected: the old man, his daughter, his son-in-law, Vogel, and his
grandchildren, a boy and a girl, both a little younger than Christophe.
They clustered around their guests, bade them welcome, asked if they were
tired, if they were pleased with their rooms, if they needed anything;
putting so many questions that Christophe in bewilderment could make
nothing of them, for everybody spoke at once. The soup was placed on the
table; they sat down. But the noise went on. Amalia, Euler's daughter, had
set herself at once to acquaint Louisa with local details: with the
topography of the district, the habits and advantages of the house, the
time when the milkman called, the time when she got up, the various
tradespeople and the prices that she paid. She did not stop until she had
explained everything. Louisa, half-asleep, tried hard to take an interest
in the information, but the remarks which she ventured showed that she had
understood not a word, and provoked Amalia to indignant exclamations and
repetition of every detail. Old Euler, a clerk, tried to explain to
Christophe the difficulties of a musical career. Christophe's other
neighbor, Rosa, Amalia's daughter, never stopped talking from the moment
when they sat down,--so volubly that she had no time to breathe; she lost
her breath in the middle of a sentence, but at once she was off again.
Vogel was gloomy and complained of the food, and there were embittered
arguments on the subject. Amalia, Euler, the girl, left off talking to take
part in the discussion; and there were endless controversies as to whether
there was too much salt in the stew or not enough; they called each other
to witness, and, naturally, no two opinions were the same. Each despised
his neighbor's taste, and thought only his own healthy and reasonable. They
might have gone on arguing until the Last Judgment.

But, in the end, they all joined in crying out upon the bad weather. They
all commiserated Louisa and Christophe upon their troubles, and in terms
which moved him greatly they praised him for his courageous conduct. They
took great pleasure in recalling not only the misfortunes of their guests,
but also their own, and those of their friends and all their acquaintance,
and they all agreed that the good are always unhappy, and that there is joy
only for the selfish and dishonest. They decided that life is sad, that it
is quite useless, and that they were all better dead, were it not the
indubitable will of God that they should go on living so as to suffer. All
these ideas came very near to Christophe's actual pessimism, he thought the
better of his landlord, and closed his eyes to their little oddities.

When he went upstairs again with his mother to the disordered rooms, they
were weary and sad, but they felt a little less lonely; and while
Christophe lay awake through the night, for he could not sleep because of
his weariness and the noise of the neighborhood, and listened to the heavy
carts shaking the walls, and the breathing of the family sleeping below, he
tried to persuade himself that he would be, if not happy, at least less
unhappy here, with these good people--a little tiresome, if the truth be
told--who suffered from like misfortunes, who seemed to understand him, and
whom, he thought, he understood.

But when at last he did fall asleep, he was roused unpleasantly at dawn by
the voices of his neighbors arguing, and the creaking of a pump worked
furiously by some one who was in a hurry to swill the yard and the stairs.

       *       *       *       *       *

Justus Euler was a little bent old man, with uneasy, gloomy eyes, a red
face, all lines and pimples, gap-toothed, with an unkempt beard, with which
he was forever fidgeting with his hands. Very honest, quite able,
profoundly moral, he had been on quite good terms with Christophe's
grandfather. He was said to be like him. And, in truth, he was of the same
generation and brought up with the same principles; but he lacked Jean
Michel's strong physique, that is, while he was of the same opinion on many
points, fundamentally he was hardly at all like him, for it is temperament
far more than ideas that makes a man, and whatever the divisions,
fictitious or real, marked between men by intellect, the great divisions
between men and men are into those who are healthy and those who are not.
Old Euler was not a healthy man. He talked morality, like Jean Michel, but
his morals were not the same as Jean Michel's; he had not his sound
stomach, his lungs, or his jovial strength. Everything in Euler and his
family was built on a more parsimonious and niggardly plan. He had been an
official for forty years, was now retired, and suffered from that
melancholy that comes from inactivity and weighs so heavily upon old men,
who have not made provision in their inner life for their last years. All
his habits, natural and acquired, all the habits of his trade had given him
a meticulous and peevish quality, which was reproduced to a certain extent
in each of his children.

His son-in-law, Vogel, a clerk at the Chancery Court, was fifty years old.
Tall, strong, almost bald, with gold spectacles, fairly good-looking, he
considered himself ill, and no doubt was so, although obviously he did not
have the diseases which he thought he had, but only a mind soured by the
stupidity of his calling and a body ruined to a certain extent by his
sedentary life. Very industrious, not without merit, even cultured up to a
point; he was a victim of our ridiculous modern life, or like so many
clerks, locked up in their offices, he had succumbed to the demon of
hypochondria. One of those unfortunates whom Goethe called "_ein trauriger,
ungriechischer Hypochondrist_"--"a gloomy and un-Greek hypochondriac,"--and
pitied, though he took good care to avoid them.

Amalia was neither the one nor the other. Strong, loud, and active, she
wasted no sympathy on her husband's jeremiads; she used to shake him
roughly. But no human strength can bear up against living together, and
when in a household one or other is neurasthenic, the chances are that in
time they will both be so. In vain did Amalia cry out upon Vogel, in vain
did she go on protesting either from habit or because it was necessary;
next moment she herself was lamenting her condition more loudly even than
he, and, passing imperceptibly from scolding to lamentation, she did him no
good; she increased his ills tenfold by loudly singing chorus to his
follies. In the end not only did she crush the unhappy Vogel, terrified by
the proportions assumed by his own outcries sent sounding back by this
echo, but she crushed everybody, even herself. In her turn she caught the
trick of unwarrantably bemoaning her health, and her father's, and her
daughter's, and her son's. It became a mania; by constant repetition she
came to believe what she said. She took the least chill tragically; she was
uneasy and worried about everybody. More than that, when they were well,
she still worried, because of the sickness that was bound to come. So life
was passed in perpetual fear. Outside that they were all in fairly good
health, and it seemed as though their state of continual moaning and
groaning did serve to keep them well. They all ate and slept and worked as
usual, and the life of this household was not relaxed for it all. Amalia's
activity was not satisfied with working from morning to night up and down
the house; they all had to toil with her, and there was forever a moving of
furniture, a washing of floors, a polishing of wood, a sound of voices,
footsteps, quivering, movement.

The two children, crushed by such loud authority, leaving nobody alone,
seemed to find it natural enough to submit to it. The boy, Leonard, was
good looking, though insignificant of feature, and stiff in manner. The
girl, Rosa, fair-haired, with pretty blue eyes, gentle and affectionate,
would have been pleasing especially with the freshness of her delicate
complexion, and her kind manner, had her nose not been quite so large or so
awkwardly placed; it made her face heavy and gave her a foolish expression.
She was like a girl of Holbein, in the gallery at Basle--the daughter of
burgomaster Meier--sitting, with eyes cast down, her hands on her knees,
her fair hair falling down to her shoulders, looking embarrassed and
ashamed of her uncomely nose. But so far Rosa had not been troubled by it,
and it never had broken in upon her inexhaustible chatter. Always her
shrill voice was heard in the house telling stories, always breathless, as
though she had no time to say everything, always excited and animated, in
spite of the protests which she drew from her mother, her father, and even
her grandfather, exasperated, not so much because she was forever talking
as because she prevented them talking themselves. For these good people,
kind, loyal, devoted--the very cream of good people--had almost all the
virtues, but they lacked one virtue which is capital, and is the charm of
life: the virtue of silence.

Christophe was in tolerant mood. His sorrow had softened his intolerant and
emphatic temper. His experience of the cruel indifference of the elegant
made him more conscious of the worth of these honest folk, graceless and
devilish tiresome, who had yet an austere conception of life, and because
they lived joylessly, seemed to him to live without weakness. Having
decided that they were excellent, and that he ought to like them, like the
German that he was, he tried to persuade himself that he did in fact like
them. But he did not succeed; he lacked that easy Germanic idealism, which
does not wish to see, and does not see, what would be displeasing to its
sight, for fear of disturbing the very proper tranquillity of its judgment
and the pleasantness of its existence. On the contrary, he never was so
conscious of the defects of these people as when he loved them, when he
wanted to love them absolutely without reservation; it was a sort of
unconscious loyalty, and an inexorable demand for truth, which, in spite of
himself, made him more clear-sighted, and more exacting, with what was
dearest to him. And it was not long before he began to be irritated by the
oddities of the family. They made no attempt to conceal them. Contrary to
the usual habit they displayed every intolerable quality they possessed,
and all the good in them was hidden. So Christophe told himself, for he
judged himself to have been unjust, and tried to surmount his first
impressions, and to discover in them the excellent qualities which they so
carefully concealed.

He tried to converse with old Justus Euler, who asked nothing better. He
had a secret sympathy with him, remembering that his grandfather had liked
to praise him. But good old Jean Michel had more of the pleasant faculty of
deceiving himself about his friends than Christophe, and Christophe soon
saw that. In vain did he try to accept Euler's memories of his grandfather.
He could only get from him a discolored caricature of Jean Michel, and
scraps of talk that were utterly uninteresting. Euler's stories used
invariably to begin with: "As I used to say to your poor grandfather..." He
could remember nothing else. He had heard only what he had said himself.

Perhaps Jean Michel used only to listen in the same way. Most friendships
are little more than arrangements for mutual satisfaction, so that each
party may talk about himself to the other. But at least Jean Michel,
however naïvely he used to give himself up to the delight of talking, had
sympathy which he was always ready to lavish on all sides. He was
interested in everything; he always regretted that he was no longer
fifteen, so as to be able to see the marvelous inventions of the new
generations, and to share their thoughts. He had the quality, perhaps the
most precious in life, a curiosity always fresh, sever changing with the
years, born anew every morning. He had not the talent to turn this gift to
account; but how many men of talent might envy him! Most men die at twenty
or thirty; thereafter they are only reflections of themselves: for the rest
of their lives they are aping themselves, repeating from day to day more
and more mechanically and affectedly what they said and did and thought and
loved when they were alive.

It was so long since old Euler had been alive, and he had been such a small
thing then, that what was left of him now was very poor and rather
ridiculous. Outside his former trade and his family life he knew nothing,
and wished to know nothing. On every subject he had ideas ready-made,
dating from his youth. He pretended to some knowledge of the arts, but he
clung to certain hallowed names of men, about whom he was forever
reiterating his emphatic formulæ: everything else was naught and had never
been. When modern interests were mentioned he would not listen, and talked
of something else. He declared that he loved music passionately, and he
would ask Christophe to play. But as soon as Christophe, who had been
caught once or twice, began to play, the old fellow would begin to talk
loudly to his daughter, as though the music only increased his interest in
everything but music. Christophe would get up exasperated in the middle of
his piece, so one would notice it. There were only a few old airs--three or
four--some very beautiful, others very ugly, but all equally sacred, which
were privileged to gain comparative silence and absolute approval. With the
very first notes the old man would go into ecstasies, tears would come to
his eyes, not so much for the pleasure he was enjoying as for the pleasure
which once he had enjoyed. In the end Christophe had a horror of these
airs, though some of them, like the _Adelaïde_ of Beethoven, were very dear
to him; the old man was always humming the first bars of them, and never
failed to declare, "There, that is music," contemptuously comparing it with
"all the blessed modern music, in which there is no melody." Truth to tell,
he knew nothing whatever about it.

His son-in-law was better educated and kept in touch with artistic
movements; but that was even worse, for in his judgment there was always a
disparaging tinge. He was lacking neither in taste nor intelligence; but he
could not bring himself to admire anything modern. He would have disparaged
Mozart and Beethoven, if they had been contemporary, just as he would have
acknowledged the merits of Wagner and Richard Strauss had they been dead
for a century. His discontented temper refused to allow that there might be
great men living during his own lifetime; the idea was distasteful to him.
He was so embittered by his wasted life that he insisted on pretending that
every life was wasted, that it could not be otherwise, and that those who
thought the opposite, or pretended to think so, were one of two things:
fools or humbugs.

And so he never spoke of any new celebrity except in a tone of bitter
irony, and as he was not stupid he never failed to discover at the first
glance the weak or ridiculous sides of them. Any new name roused him to
distrust; before he knew anything about the man he was inclined to
criticise him--because he knew nothing about him. If he was sympathetic
towards Christophe it was because he thought that the misanthropic boy
found life as evil as he did himself, and that he was not a genius. Nothing
so unites the small of soul in their suffering and discontent as the
statement of their common impotence. Nothing so much restores the desire
for health or life to those who are healthy and made for the joy of life as
contact with the stupid pessimism of the mediocre and the sick, who,
because they are not happy, deny the happiness of others. Christophe felt
this. And yet these gloomy thoughts were familiar to him; but he was
surprised to find them on Vogel's lips, where they were unrecognizable;
more than that, they were repugnant to him; they offended him.

He was even more in revolt against Amalia's ways. The good creature did no
more than practise Christophe's theories of duty. The word was upon her
lips at every turn. She worked unceasingly, and wanted everybody to work as
she did. Her work was never directed towards making herself and others
happier; on the contrary. It almost seemed as though it Was mainly intended
to incommode everybody and to make life as disagreeable as possible so as
to sanctify it. Nothing would induce her for a moment to relinquish her
holy duties in the household, that sacro-sanct institution which in so many
women takes the place of all other duties, social and moral. She would have
thought herself lost had she not on the same day, at the same time,
polished the wooden floors, washed the tiles, cleaned the door-handles,
beaten the carpets, moved the chairs, the cupboards, the tables. She was
ostentatious about it. It was as though it was a point of honor with her.
And after all, is it not in much the same spirit that many women conceive
and defend their honor? It is a sort of piece of furniture which they have
to keep polished, a well waxed floor, cold, hard--and slippery.

The accomplishment of her task did not make Frau Vogel more amicable. She
sacrificed herself to the trivialities of the household, as to a duty
imposed by God. And she despised those who did not do as she did, those who
rested, and were able to enjoy life a little in the intervals of work. She
would go and rouse Louisa in her room when from time to time she sat down
in the middle of her work to dream. Louisa would sigh, but she submitted to
it with a half-shamed smile. Fortunately, Christophe knew nothing about it;
Amalia used to wait until he had gone out before she made these irruptions
into their rooms, and so far she had not directly attacked him; he would
not have put up with it. When he was with her he was conscious of a latent
hostility within himself. What he could least forgive her was the noise she
made. He was maddened by it. When he was locked in his room--a little low
room looking out on the yard--with the window hermetically sealed, in spite
of the want of air, so as not to hear the clatter in the house, he could
not escape from it. Involuntarily he was forced to listen attentively for
the least sound coming up from below, and when the terrible voice which
penetrated all the walls broke out again after a moment of silence he was
filled with rage; he would shout, stamp with his foot, and roar insults at
her through the wall. In the general uproars no one ever noticed it; they
thought he was composing. He would consign Frau Vogel to the depths of
hell. He had no respect for her, nor esteem to check him. At such times it
seemed to him that he would have preferred the loosest and most stupid of
women, if only she did not talk, to cleverness, honesty, all the virtues,
when they make too much noise.

His hatred of noise brought him in touch with Leonard. In the midst of the
general excitement the boy was the only one to keep calm, and never to
raise his voice more at one moment than another. He always expressed
himself correctly and deliberately, choosing his words, and never hurrying.
Amalia, simmering, never had patience to wait until he had finished; the
whole family cried out upon his slowness. He did not worry about it.
Nothing could upset his calm, respectful deference. Christophe was the more
attracted to him when he learned that Leonard intended to devote his life
to the Church, and his curiosity was roused.

With regard to religion, Christophe was in a queer position; he did not
know himself how he stood towards it. He had never had time to think
seriously about it. He was not well enough educated, and he was too much
absorbed by the difficulties of existence to be able to analyze himself and
to set his ideas in order. His violence led him from one extreme to the
other, from absolute facts to complete negation, without troubling to find
out whether in either case he agreed with himself. When he was happy he
hardly thought of God at all, but he was quite ready to believe in Him.
When he was unhappy he thought of Him, but did not believe; it seemed to
him impossible that a God could authorize unhappiness and, injustice. But
these difficulties did not greatly exercise him. He was too fundamentally
religious to think much about God. He lived in God; he had no need to
believe in Him. That is well enough for the weak and worn, for those whose
lives are anæmic. They aspire to God, as a plant does to the sun. The dying
cling to life. But he who bears in his soul the sun and life, what need has
he to seek them outside himself?

Christophe would probably never have bothered about these questions had he
lived alone. But the obligations of social life forced him to bring his
thoughts to bear on these puerile and useless problems, which occupy a
place out of all proportion in the world; it is impossible not to take them
into account since at every step they are in the way. As if a healthy,
generous creature, overflowing with strength and love, had not a thousand
more worthy things to do than to worry as to whether God exists or no!...
If it were only a question of believing in God! But it is needful to
believe in _a_ God, of whatever shape or size and color and race. So far
Christophe never gave a thought to the matter. Jesus hardly occupied his
thoughts at all. It was not that he did not love him: he loved him when
he thought of him: but he never thought of him. Sometimes he reproached
himself for it, was angry with himself, could not understand why he did not
take more interest in him. And yet he professed, all his family professed;
his grandfather was forever reading the Bible; he went regularly to Mass;
he served it in a sort of way, for he was an organist; and he set about
his task conscientiously and in an exemplary manner. But when he left the
church he would have been hard put to it to say what he had been thinking
about. He set himself to read the Holy Books in order to fix his ideas,
and he found amusement and even pleasure in them, just as in any beautiful
strange books, not essentially different from other books, which no
one ever thinks of calling sacred. In truth, if Jesus appealed to him,
Beethoven did no less. And at his organ in Saint Florian's Church, where
he accompanied on Sundays, he was more taken up with his organ than with
Mass, and he was more religious when he played Bach than when he played
Mendelssohn, Some of the ritual brought him to a fervor of exaltation. But
did he then love God, or was it only the music, as an impudent priest said
to him one day in jest, without thinking of the unhappiness which his quip
might cause in him? Anybody else would not have paid any attention to it,
and would not have changed his mode of living--(so many people put up with
not knowing what they think!) But Christophe was cursed with an awkward
need for sincerity, which filled him with scruples at every turn. And when
scruples came to him they possessed him forever. He tortured himself; he
thought that he had acted with duplicity. Did he believe or did he not?...
He had no means, material or intellectual--(knowledge and leisure are
necessary)--of solving the problem by himself. And yet it had to be solved,
or he was either indifferent or a hypocrite. Now, he was incapable of being
either one or the other.

He tried timidly to sound those about him. They all seemed to be sure
of themselves. Christophe burned to know their reasons. He could not
discover them. Hardly did he receive a definite answer; they always talked
obliquely. Some thought him arrogant, and said that there is no arguing
these things, that thousands of men cleverer and better than himself had
believed without argument, and that he needed only to do as they had done.
There were some who were a little hurt, as though it were a personal
affront to ask them such a question, and yet they were of all perhaps the
least certain of their facts. Others shrugged their shoulders and said with
a smile: "Bah! it can't do any harm." And their smile said: "And it is so
useful!..." Christophe despised them with all his heart.

He had tried to lay his uncertainties before a priest, but he was
discouraged by the experiment. He could not discuss the matter seriously
with him. Though his interlocution was quite pleasant, he made Christophe
feel, quite politely, that there was no real equality between them; he
seemed to assume in advance that his superiority was beyond dispute, and
that the discussion could not exceed the limits which he laid down for
it, without a kind of impropriety; it was just a fencing bout, and was
quite inoffensive. When Christophe wished to exceed the limits and to ask
questions which the worthy man was pleased not to answer, he stepped back
with a patronizing smile, and a few Latin quotations, and a fatherly
objurgation to pray, pray that God would enlighten him. Christophe
issued from the interview humiliated and wounded by his love of polite
superiority. Wrong or right, he would never again for anything in the world
have recourse to a priest. He admitted that these men were his superiors in
intelligence or by reason of their sacred calling; but in argument there is
neither superiority, nor inferiority, nor title, nor age, nor name; nothing
is of worth but truth, before which all men are equal.

So he was glad to find a boy of his own age who believed. He asked no
more than belief, and he hoped that Leonard would give him good reason
for believing. He made advances to him. Leonard replied with his usual
gentleness, but without eagerness; he was never eager about anything. As
they could not carry on a long conversation in the house without being
interrupted every moment by Amalia or the old man, Christophe proposed that
they should go for a walk one evening after dinner. Leonard was too polite
to refuse, although he would gladly have got out of it, for his indolent
nature disliked walking, talking, and anything that cost him an effort.

Christophe had some difficulty in opening up the conversation. After two or
three awkward sentences about trivialities he plunged with a brusqueness
that was almost brutal. He asked Leonard if he were really going to be a
priest, and if he liked the idea. Leonard was nonplussed, and looked at him
uneasily, but when he saw that Christophe was not hostilely disposed he was
reassured.

"Yes," he replied. "How could it be otherwise?"

"Ah!" said Christophe. "You are very happy." Leonard was conscious of a
shade of envy in Christophe's voice and was agreeably flattered by it. He
altered his manner, became expansive, his face brightened.

"Yes," he said, "I am happy." He beamed.

"What do you do to be so?" asked Christophe.

Before replying Leonard proposed that they should sit down, on a quiet seat
in the cloisters of St. Martin's. From there they could see a corner of the
little square, planted with acacias, and beyond it the town, the country,
bathed in the evening mists. The Rhine flowed at the foot of the hill. An
old deserted cemetery, with graves lost under the rich grass, lay in
slumber beside them behind the closed gates.

Leonard began to talk. He said, with his eyes shining with contentment, how
happy he was to escape from life, to have found a refuge, where a man is,
and forever will be, in shelter. Christophe, still sore from his wounds,
felt passionately the desire for rest and forgetfulness; but it was mingled
with regret. He asked with a sigh:

"And yet, does it cost you nothing to renounce life altogether?"

"Oh!" said Leonard quietly. "What is there to regret? Isn't life sad and
ugly?"

"There are lovely things too," said Christophe, looking at the beautiful
evening.

"There are some beautiful things, but very few."

"The few that there are are yet many to me."

"Oh, well! it is simply a matter of common sense. On the one hand a little
good and much evil; on the other neither good nor evil on earth, and after,
infinite happiness--how can one hesitate?"

Christophe was not very pleased with this sort of arithmetic. So economic a
life seemed to him very poor. But he tried to persuade himself that it was
wisdom.

"So," he asked a little ironically, "there is no risk of your being seduced
by an hour's pleasure?"

"How foolish! When you know that it is only an hour, and that after it
there is all eternity!"

"You are quite certain of eternity?"

"Of course."

Christophe questioned him. He was thrilled with hope and desire. Perhaps
Leonard would at last give him impregnable reasons for believing. With what
a passion he would himself renounce all the world to follow him to God.

At first Leonard, proud of his rôle of apostle, and convinced that
Christophe's doubts were only a matter of form, and that they would of
course give way before his first arguments, relied upon the Holy Books, the
authority of the Gospel, the miracles, and traditions. But he began to grow
gloomy when, after Christophe had listened for a few minutes, he stopped
him and said that he was answering questions with questions, and that he
had not asked him to tell exactly what it was that he was doubting, but to
give some means of resolving his doubts. Leonard then had to realize that
Christophe was much more ill than he seemed, and that he would only allow
himself to be convinced by the light of reason. But he still thought that
Christophe was playing the free thinker--(it never occurred to him that
he might be so sincerely).--He was not discouraged, and, strong in his
recently acquired knowledge, he turned back to his school learning:
he unfolded higgledy, piggledy, with more authority than order, his
metaphysical proofs of the existence of God and the immortality of the
soul. Christophe, with his mind at stretch, and his brow knit in the
effort, labored in silence, and made him say it all over again; tried
hard to gather the meaning, and to take it to himself, and to follow the
reasoning. Then suddenly he burst out, vowed that Leonard was laughing at
him, that it was all tricks, jests of the fine talkers who forged words
and then amused themselves with pretending that these words were things.
Leonard was nettled, and guaranteed the good faith of his authors.
Christophe shrugged his shoulders, and said with an oath that they were
only humbugs, infernal writers; and he demanded fresh proof.

Leonard perceived to his horror that Christophe was incurably attainted,
and took no more interest in him. He remembered that he had been told not
to waste his time in arguing with skeptics,--at least when they stubbornly
refuse to believe. There was the risk of being shaken himself, without
profiting the other. It was better to leave the unfortunate fellow to the
will of God, who, if He so designs, would see to it that the skeptic was
enlightened: or if not, who would dare to go against the will of God?
Leonard did not insist then on carrying on the discussion. He only said
gently that for the time being there was nothing to be done, that no
reasoning could show the way to a man who was determined not to see it, and
that Jean-Christophe must pray and appeal to Grace: nothing is possible
without that: he must desire grace and the will to believe.

"The will," thought Christophe bitterly. "So then, God will exist because
I will Him to exist? So then, death will not exist, because it pleases me
to deny it!... Alas! How easy life is to those who have no need to see the
truth, to those who can see what they wish to see, and are forever forging
pleasant dreams in which softly to sleep!" In such a bed, Christophe knew
well that be would never sleep....

Leonard went on talking. He had fallen back on his favorite subject, the
sweets of the contemplative life, and once on this neutral ground, he was
inexhaustible. In his monotonous voice, that shook with the pleasure in
him, he told of the joys of the life in God, outside, above the world,
far from noise, of which he spoke in a sudden tone of hatred (he detested
it almost as much as Christophe), far from violence, far from frivolity,
far from the little miseries that one has to suffer every day, in the
warm, secure nest of faith, from which you can contemplate in peace the
wretchedness of a strange and distant world. And as Christophe listened,
he perceived the egoism of that faith. Leonard saw that. He hurriedly
explained: the contemplative life was not a lazy life. On the contrary,
a man is more active in prayer than in action. What would the world be
without prayer? You expiate the sins of others, you bear the burden of
their misdeeds, you offer up your talents, you intercede between the world
and God.

Christophe listened in silence with increasing hostility. He was conscious
of the hypocrisy of such renunciation in Leonard. He was not unjust enough
to assume hypocrisy in all those who believe. He knew well that with a
few, such abdication of life comes from the impossibility of living, from
a bitter despair, an appeal to death,--that with still fewer, it is an
ecstasy of passion.... (How long does it last?).... But with the majority
of men is it not too often the cold reasoning of souls more busied with
their own ease and peace than with the happiness of others, or with truth?
And if sincere men are conscious of it, how much they must suffer by such
profanation of their ideal!...

Leonard was quite happy, and now set forth the beauty and harmony of the
world, seen from the loftiness of the divine roost: below all was dark,
unjust, sorrowful; seen from on high, it all became clear, luminous,
ordered: the world was like the works of a clock, perfectly ordered....

Now Christophe only listened absently. He was asking himself: "Does he
believe, or does he believe that he believes?" And yet his own faith, his
own passionate desire for faith was not shaken. Not the mediocrity of soul,
and the poverty of argument of a fool like Leonard could touch that....

Night came down over the town. The seat on which they were sitting was in
darkness: the stars shone out, a white mist came up from the river, the
crickets chirped under the trees in the cemetery. The bells began to ring:
first the highest of them, alone, like a plaintive bird, challenging the
sky: then the second, a third lower, joined in its plaint: at last came
the, deepest, on the fifth, and seemed to answer them. The three voices
were merged in each other. At the bottom of the towers there was a buzzing,
as of a gigantic hive of bees. The air and the boy's heart quivered.
Christophe held his breath, and thought how poor was the music of musicians
compared with such an ocean of music, with all the sounds of thousands of
creatures: the former, the free world of sounds, compared with the world
tamed, catalogued, coldly labeled by human intelligence. He sank and sank
into that sonorous and immense world without continents or bounds....

And when the great murmuring had died away, when the air had ceased at last
to quiver, Christophe woke up. He looked about him startled.... He knew
nothing. Around him and in him everything was changed. There was no God....

As with faith, so the loss of faith is often equally a flood of grace, a
sudden light. Reason counts for nothing: the smallest thing is enough--a
word, silence, the sound of bells. A man walks, dreams, expects nothing.
Suddenly the world crumbles away. All about him is in ruins. He is alone.
He no longer believes.

Christophe was terrified, and could not understand how it had come about.
It was like the flooding of a river in the spring....

Leonard's voice was still sounding, more monotonous than the voice of a
cricket. Christophe did not hear it: he heard nothing. Night was fully
come. Leonard stopped. Surprised to find Christophe motionless, uneasy
because of the lateness of the hour, he suggested that they should go home.
Christophe did not reply. Leonard took his arm. Christophe trembled, and
looked at Leonard with wild eyes.

"Christophe, we must go home," said Leonard.

"Go to hell!" cried Christophe furiously.

"Oh! Christophe! What have I done?" asked Leonard tremulously. He was
dumfounded.

Christophe came to himself.

"Yes. You are right," he said more gently. "I do not know what I'm saying.
Go to God! Go to God!"

He was alone. He was in bitter distress.

"Ah! my God! my God!" he cried, wringing his hands, passionately raising
his face to the dark sky. "Why do I no longer believe? Why can I believe no
more? What has happened to me?..."

The disproportion between the wreck of his faith and the conversation that
he had just had with Leonard was too great: it was obvious that the
conversation had no more brought it about than that the boisterousness of
Amalia's gabble and the pettiness of the people with whom he lived were not
the cause of the upheaval which for some days had been taking place in his
moral resolutions. These were only pretexts. The uneasiness had not come
from without. It was within himself. He felt stirring in his heart
monstrous and unknown things, and he dared not rely on his thoughts to face
the evil. The evil? Was it evil? A languor, an intoxication, a voluptuous
agony filled all his being. He was no longer master of himself. In vain he
sought to fortify himself with his former stoicism. His whole being crashed
down. He had a sudden consciousness of the vast world, burning, wild, a
world immeasurable.... How it swallows up God!

Only for a moment. But the whole balance of his old life was in that moment
destroyed.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was only one person in the family to whom Christophe paid no
attention: this was little Rosa. She was not beautiful: and Christophe, who
was far from beautiful himself, was very exacting of beauty in others. He
had that calm, cruelty of youth, for which a woman does not exist if she be
ugly,--unless she has passed the age for inspiring tenderness, and there is
then no need to feel for her anything but grave, peaceful, and
quasi-religious sentiments. Rosa also was not distinguished by any especial
gift, although she was not without intelligence: and she was cursed with a
chattering tongue which drove Christophe from her. And he had never taken
the trouble to know her, thinking that there was in her nothing to know;
and the most he ever did was to glance at her.

But she was of better stuff than most girls: she was certainly better than
Minna, whom he had so loved. She was a good girl, no coquette, not at all
vain, and until Christophe came it had never occurred to her that she was
plain, or if it had, it had not worried her: for none of her family
bothered about it. Whenever her grandfather or her mother told her so out
of a desire to grumble, she only laughed: she did not believe it, or she
attached no importance to it; nor did they. So many others, just as plain,
and more, had found some one to love them! The Germans are very mildly
indulgent to physical imperfections: they cannot see them: they are even
able to embellish them, by virtue of an easy imagination which finds
unexpected qualities in the face of their desire to make them like the most
illustrious examples of human beauty. Old Euler would not have needed much
urging to make him declare that his granddaughter had the nose of the Juno
Ludovisi. Happily he was too grumpy to pay compliments: and Rosa,
unconcerned about the shape of her nose, had no vanity except in the
accomplishment, with all the ritual, of the famous household duties. She
had accepted as Gospel all that she had been taught. She hardly ever went
out, and she had very little standard of comparison; she admired her family
naïvely, and believed what they said. She was of an expansive and confiding
nature, easily satisfied, and tried to fall in with the mournfulness of her
home, and docilely used to repeat the pessimistic ideas which she heard.
She was a creature of devotion--always thinking of others, trying to
please, sharing anxieties, guessing at what others wanted; she had a great
need of loving without demanding anything in return. Naturally her family
took advantage of her, although they were kind and loved her: but there is
always a temptation to take advantage of the love of those who are
absolutely delivered into your hands. Her family were so sure of her
attentions that they were not at all grateful for them: whatever she did,
they expected more. And then, she was clumsy; she was awkward and hasty;
her movements were jerky and boyish; she had outbursts of tenderness which
used to end in disaster: a broken glass, a jug upset, a door slammed to:
things which let loose upon her the wrath of everybody in the house. She
was always being snubbed and would go and weep in a corner. Her tears did
not last long. She would soon smile again, and begin to chatter without a
suspicion of rancor against anybody.

Christophe's advent was an important event in her life. She had often heard
of him. Christophe had some place in the gossip of the town: he was a sort
of little local celebrity: his name used often to recur in the family
conversation, especially when old Jean Michel was alive, who, proud of his
grandson, used to sing his praises to all of his acquaintance. Rosa had
seen the young musician once or twice at concerts. When she heard that he
was coming to live with them, she clapped her hands. She was sternly
rebuked for her breach of manners and became confused. She saw no harm in
it. In a life so monotonous as hers, a new lodger was a great distraction.
She spent the last few days before his arrival in a fever of expectancy.
She was fearful lest he should not like the house, and she tried hard to
make every room as attractive as possible. On the morning of his arrival,
she even put a little bunch of flowers on the mantelpiece to bid him
welcome. As to herself, she took no care at all to look her best; and one
glance was enough to make Christophe decide that she was plain, and
slovenly dressed. She did not think the same of him, though she had good
reason to do so: for Christophe, busy, exhausted, ill-kempt, was even more
ugly than usual. But Rosa, who was incapable of thinking the least ill of
anybody, Rosa, who thought her grandfather, her father, and her mother, all
perfectly beautiful, saw Christophe exactly as she had expected to see him,
and admired him with all her heart. She was frightened at sitting next to
him at table; and unfortunately her shyness took the shape of a flood of
words, which at once alienated Christophe's sympathies. She did not see
this, and that first evening remained a shining memory in her life. When
she was alone in her room, after, they had all gone upstairs, she heard the
tread of the new lodgers as they walked over her head; and the sound of it
ran joyously through her; the house seemed to her to taken new life.

The next morning for the first time in her life she looked at herself in
the mirror carefully and: uneasily, and without exactly knowing the extent
of her misfortune she began to be conscious of it. She tried to decide
about her features, one by one; but she could not. She was filled with
sadness and apprehension. She sighed deeply, and thought of introducing
certain changes in her toilet, but she only made herself look still more
plain. She conceived the unlucky idea of overwhelming Christophe with her
kindness. In her naïve desire to be always seeing her new friends, and
doing them service, she was forever going up and down the stairs, bringing
them some utterly useless thing, insisting on helping them, and always
laughing and talking and shouting. Her zeal and her stream of talk could
only be interrupted by her mother's impatient voice calling her. Christophe
looked grim; but for his good resolutions he must have lost his temper
quite twenty times. He restrained himself for two days; on the third, he
locked his door. Rosa knocked, called, understood, went downstairs in
dismay, and did not try again. When he saw her he explained that he was
very busy and could not be disturbed. She humbly begged his pardon. She
could not deceive herself as to the failure of her innocent advances: they
had accomplished the opposite of her intention: they had alienated
Christophe. He no longer took the trouble to conceal his ill-humor; he did
not listen when she talked, and did not disguise his impatience. She felt
that her chatter irritated him, and by force of will she succeeded in
keeping silent for a part of the evening: but the thing was stronger than
herself: suddenly she would break out again and her words would tumble over
each other more tumultuously than ever. Christophe would leave her in the
middle of a sentence. She was not angry with him. She was angry with
herself. She thought herself stupid, tiresome, ridiculous: all her faults
assumed enormous proportions and she tried to wrestle with them: but she
was discouraged by the check upon her first attempts, and said to herself
that she could not do it, that she was not strong enough. But she would try
again.

But there were other faults against which she was powerless: what could she
do against her plainness? There was no doubt about it. The certainty of her
misfortune had suddenly been revealed to her one day when she was looking
at herself in the mirror; it came like a thunderclap. Of course she
exaggerated the evil, and saw her nose as ten times larger than it was; it
seemed to her to fill all her face; she dared not show herself; she wished
to die. But there is in youth such a power of hope that these fits of
discouragement never lasted long: she would end by pretending that she had
been mistaken; she would try to believe it, and for a moment or two would
actually succeed in thinking her nose quite ordinary and almost shapely.
Her instinct made her attempt, though very clumsily, certain childish
tricks, a way of doing her hair so as not so much to show her forehead and
so accentuate the disproportion of her face. And yet, there was no coquetry
in her; no thought of love had crossed her mind, or she was unconscious of
it. She asked little: nothing but a little friendship: but Christophe did
not show any inclination to give her that little. It seemed to Rosa that
she would have been perfectly happy had he only condescended to say
good-day when they met. A friendly good-evening with a little kindness. But
Christophe usually looked so hard and so cold! It chilled her. He never
said anything disagreeable to her, but she would rather have had cruel
reproaches than such cruel silence.

One evening Christophe was playing his piano. He had taken up his quarters
in a little attic at the top of the house so as not to be so much disturbed
by the noise. Downstairs Rosa was listening to him, deeply moved. She loved
music though her taste was bad and unformed. While her mother was there,
she stayed in a corner of the room and bent over her sewing, apparently
absorbed in her work; but her heart was with the sounds coming from
upstairs, and she wished to miss nothing. As soon as Amalia went out for a
walk in the neighborhood, Rosa leaped to her feet, threw down her sewing,
and went upstairs with her heart beating until she came to the attic door.
She held her breath and laid her ear against the door. She stayed like that
until Amalia returned. She went on tiptoe, taking care to make no noise,
but as she was not very sure-footed, and was always in a hurry, she was
always tripping upon the stairs; and once while she was listening, leaning
forward with her cheek glued to the keyhole, she lost her balance, and
banged her forehead against the door. She was so alarmed that she lost her
breath. The piano stopped dead: she could not escape. She was getting up
when the door opened. Christophe saw her, glared at her furiously, and then
without a word, brushed her aside, walked angrily downstairs, and went out.
He did not return until dinner time, paid no heed to the despairing looks
with which she asked his pardon, ignored her existence, and for several
weeks he never played at all. Rosa secretly shed many tears; no one noticed
it, no one paid any attention to her. Ardently she prayed to God ... for
what? She did not know. She had to confide her grief in some one. She was
sure that Christophe detested her.

And, in spite of all, she hoped. It was enough for her if Christophe seemed
to show any sign of interest in her, if he appeared to listen to what she
said, if he pressed her hand with a little more friendliness than usual....

A few imprudent words from her relations set her imagination off upon a
false road.

       *       *       *       *       *

The whole family was filled with sympathy for Christophe. The big boy of
sixteen, serious and solitary, who had such lofty ideas of his duty,
inspired a sort of respect in them all. His fits of ill-temper, his
obstinate silences, his gloomy air, his brusque manner, were not surprising
in such a house as that. Frau Vogel, herself, who regarded every artist as
a loafer, dared not reproach him aggressively, as she would have liked to
do, with the hours that he spent in star-gazing in the evening, leaning,
motionless, out of the attic window overlooking the yard, until night fell;
for she knew that during the rest of the day he was hard at work with his
lessons; and she humored him--like the rest--for an ulterior motive which
no one expressed though everybody knew it.

Rosa had seen her parents exchanging looks and mysterious whisperings when
she was talking to Christophe. At first she took no notice of it. Then she
was puzzled and roused by it; she longed to know what they were saying, but
dared not ask.

One evening when she had climbed on to a garden seat to untie the
clothes-line hung between two trees, she leaned on Christophe's shoulder to
jump down. Just at that moment her eyes met her grandfather's and her
father's; they were sitting smoking their pipes, and leaning against the
wall of the house. The two men winked at each other, and Justus Euler said
to Vogel:

"They will make a fine couple."

Vogel nudged him, seeing that the girl was listening, and he covered his
remark very cleverly--(or so he thought)--with a loud "Hm! hm!" that could
have been heard twenty yards away. Christophe, whose back was turned, saw
nothing, but Rosa was so bowled over by it that she forgot that she was
jumping down, and sprained her foot. She would have fallen had not
Christophe caught her, muttering curses on her clumsiness. She had hurt
herself badly, but she did not show it; she hardly thought of it; she
thought only of what she had just heard. She walked to her room; every step
was agony to her; she stiffened herself against it so as not to let it be
seen. A delicious, vague uneasiness surged through her. She fell into a
chair at the foot of her bed and hid her face in the coverlet. Her cheeks
were burning; there were tears in her eyes, and she laughed. She was
ashamed, she wished to sink into the depths of the earth, she could not fix
her ideas; her blood beat in her temples, there were sharp pains in her
ankle; she was in a feverish stupor. Vaguely she heard sounds outside,
children crying and playing in the street, and her grandfather's words were
ringing in her ears; she was thrilled, she laughed softly, she blushed,
with her face buried in the eiderdown: she prayed, gave thanks, desired,
feared--she loved.

Her mother called her. She tried to get up. At the first step she felt a
pain so unbearable that she almost fainted; her head swam. She thought she
was going to die, she wished to die, and at the same time she wished to
live with all the forces of her being, to live for the promised happiness.
Her mother came at last, and the whole household was soon excited. She was
scolded as usual, her ankle was dressed, she was put to bed, and sank into
the sweet bewilderment of her physical pain and her inward joy. The night
was sweet.... The smallest memory of that dear evening was hallowed for
her. She did not think of Christophe, she knew not what she thought. She
was happy.

The next day, Christophe, who thought himself in some measure responsible
for the accident, came to make inquiries, and for the first time he made
some show of affection for her. She was filled with gratitude, and blessed
her sprained ankle. She would gladly have suffered all her life, if, all
her life, she might have such joy.--She had to lie down for several days
and never move; she spent them in turning over and over her grandfather's
words, and considering them. Had he said:

"They will...."

Or:

"They would ...?"

But it was possible that he had never said anything of this kind?--Yes. He
had said it; she was certain of it.... What! Did they not see that she was
ugly, and that Christophe could not bear her?... But it was so good to
hope! She came to believe that perhaps she had been wrong, that she was not
as ugly as she thought; she would sit up on her sofa to try and see herself
in the mirror on the wall opposite, above the mantelpiece; she did not know
what to think. After all, her father and her grandfather were better judges
than herself; people cannot tell about themselves.... Oh! Heaven, if it
were possible!... If it could be ... if, she never dared think it, if ...
if she were pretty!... Perhaps, also, she had exaggerated Christophe's
antipathy. No doubt he was indifferent, and after the interest he had shown
in her the day after the accident did not bother about her any more; he
forgot to inquire; but Rosa made excuses for him, he was so busy! How
should he think of her? An artist cannot be judged like other men....

And yet, resigned though she was, she could not help expecting with beating
heart a word of sympathy from him when he came near her. A word only, a
look ... her imagination did the rest. In the beginning love needs so
little food! It is enough to see, to touch as you pass; such a power of
dreams flows from the soul in such moments, that almost of itself it can
create its love: a trifle can plunge it into ecstasy that later, when it is
more satisfied, and in proportion more exacting, it will hardly find again
when at last it does possess the object of its desire.--Rosa lived
absolutely, though no one knew it, in a romance of her own fashioning,
pieced together by herself: Christophe loved her secretly, and was too shy
to confess his love, or there was some stupid reason, fantastic or
romantic, delightful to the imagination of the sentimental little ninny.
She fashioned endless stories, and all perfectly absurd; she knew it
herself, but tried not to know it; she lied to herself voluptuously for
days and days as she bent over her sewing. It made her forget to talk: her
flood of words was turned inward, like a river which suddenly disappears
underground. But then the river took its revenge. What a debauch of
speeches, of unuttered conversations which no one heard but herself!
Sometimes her lips would move as they do with people who have to spell out
the syllables to themselves as they read so as to understand them.

When her dreams left her she was happy and sad. She knew that things were
not as she had just told herself: but she was left with a reflected
happiness, and had greater confidence for her life. She did not despair of
winning Christophe.

She did not admit it to herself, but she set about doing it. With the
sureness of instinct that great affection brings, the awkward, ignorant
girl contrived immediately to find the road by which she might reach her
beloved's heart. She did not turn directly to him. But as soon as she was
better and could once more walk about the house she approached Louisa. The
smallest excuse served. She found a thousand little services to render her.
When she went out she never failed to undertake various errands: she spared
her going to the market, arguments with tradespeople, she would fetch water
for her from the pump in the yard; she cleaned the windows and polished the
floors in spite of Louisa's protestations, who was confused when she did
not do her work alone; but she was so weary that she had not the strength
to oppose anybody who came to help her. Christophe was out all day. Louisa
felt that she was deserted, and the companionship of the affectionate,
chattering girl was pleasant to her. Rosa took up her quarters in her room.
She brought her sewing, and talked all the time. By clumsy devices she
tried to bring conversation round to Christophe. Just to hear of him, even
to hear his name, made her happy; her hands would tremble; she would sit
with downcast eyes. Louisa was delighted to talk of her beloved Christophe,
and would tell little tales of his childhood, trivial and just a little
ridiculous; but there was no fear of Rosa thinking them so: she took a
great joy, and there was a dear emotion for her in imagining Christophe as
a child, and doing all the tricks and having all the darling ways of
children: in her the motherly tenderness which lies in the hearts of all
women was mingled deliciously with that other tenderness: she would laugh
heartily and tears would come to her eyes. Louisa was touched by the
interest that Rosa took in her. She guessed dimly what was in the girl's
heart, but she never let it appear that she did so; but she was glad of it;
for of all in the house she only knew the worth of the girl's heart.
Sometimes she would stop talking to look at her. Rosa, surprised by her
silence, would raise her eyes from her work. Louisa would smile at her.
Rosa would throw herself into her arms, suddenly, passionately, and would
hide her face in Louisa's bosom. Then they would go on working and talking,
as if nothing had happened.

In the evening when Christophe came home, Louisa, grateful for Rosa's
attentions, and in pursuance of the little plan she had made, always
praised the girl to the skies. Christophe was touched by Rosa's kindness.
He saw how much good she was doing his mother, in whose face there was more
serenity: and he would thank her effusively. Rosa would murmur, and escape
to conceal her embarrassment: so she appeared a thousand times more
intelligent and sympathetic to Christophe than if she had spoken. He looked
at her less with a prejudiced eye, and did not conceal his surprise at
finding unsuspected qualities in her. Rosa saw that; she marked the
progress that she made in his sympathy and thought that his sympathy would
lead to love. She gave herself up more than ever to her dreams. She came
near to believing with the beautiful presumption of youth that what you
desire with all your being is always accomplished in the end. Besides, how
was her desire unreasonable? Should not Christophe have been more sensible
than any other of her goodness and her affectionate need of self-devotion?

But Christophe gave no thought to her. He esteemed her; but she filled no
room in his thoughts. He was busied with far other things at the moment.
Christophe was no longer Christophe. He did not know himself. He was in a
mighty travail that was like to sweep everything away, a complete upheaval.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe was conscious of extreme weariness and great uneasiness. He was
for no reason worn out; his head was heavy, his eyes, his ears, all his
senses were dumb and throbbing. He could not give his attention to
anything. His mind leaped from one subject to another, and was in a fever
that sucked him dry. The perpetual fluttering of images in his mind made
him giddy. At first he attributed it to fatigue and the enervation of the
first days of spring. But spring passed and his sickness only grew worse.

It was what the poets who only touch lightly on things call the unease of
adolescence, the trouble of the cherubim, the waking of the desire of love
in the young body and soul. As if the fearful crisis of all a man's being,
breaking up, dying, and coming to full rebirth, as if the cataclysm in
which everything, faith, thought, action, all life, seems like to be
blotted out, and then to be new-forged in the convulsions of sorrow and
joy, can be reduced to terms of a child's folly!

All his body and soul were in a ferment. He watched them, having no
strength to struggle, with a mixture of curiosity and disgust. He did not
understand what was happening in himself. His whole being was
disintegrated. He spent days together in absolute torpor. Work was torture
to him. At night he slept heavily and in snatches, dreaming monstrously,
with gusts of desire; the soul of a beast was racing madly in him. Burning,
bathed in sweat, he watched himself in horror; he tried to break free of
the crazy and unclean thoughts that possessed him, and he wondered if he
were going mad.

The day gave him no shelter from his brutish thoughts. In the depths of his
soul he felt that he was slipping down and down; there was no stay to
clutch at; no barrier to keep back chaos. All his defenses, all his
citadels, with the quadruple rampart that hemmed him in so proudly--his
God, his art, his pride, his moral faith, all was crumbling away, falling
piece by piece from him. He saw himself naked, bound, lying unable to move,
like a corpse on which vermin swarm. He had spasms of revolt: where was his
will, of which he was so proud? He called to it in vain: it was like the
efforts that one makes in sleep, knowing that one is dreaming, and trying
to awake. Then one succeeds only in falling from one dream to another like
a lump of lead, and in being more and more choked by the suffocation of the
soul in bondage. At last he found that it was less painful not to struggle.
He decided not to do so, with, fatalistic apathy and despair.

The even tenor of his life seemed to be broken up. Now he slipped down a
subterranean crevasse and was like to disappear; now he bounded up again
with a violent jerk. The chain of his days was snapped. In the midst of the
even plain of the hours great gaping holes would open to engulf his soul.
Christophe looked on at the spectacle as though it did not concern him.
Everything, everybody,--and himself--were strange to him. He went about his
business, did his work, automatically: it seemed to him that the machinery
of his life might stop at any moment: the wheels were out of gear. At
dinner with his mother and the others, in the orchestra with the musicians
and the audience, suddenly there would be a void and emptiness in his
brain; he would look stupidly at the grinning faces about him; and he could
not understand. He would ask himself:

"What is there between these creatures and ...?"

He dared not even say:

"... and me."

For he knew not whether he existed. He would speak and his voice would seem
to issue from another body. He would move, and he saw his movements from
afar, from above--from the top of a tower. He would pass his hand over his
face, and his eyes would wander. He was often near doing crazy things.

It was especially when he was most in public that he had to keep guard on
himself. For example, on the evenings when he went to the Palace or was
playing in public. Then he would suddenly be seized by a terrific desire to
make a face, or say something outrageous, to pull the Grand Duke's nose, or
to take a running kick at one of the ladies. One whole evening while he was
conducting the orchestra, he struggled against an insensate desire to
undress himself in public; and he was haunted by the idea from the moment
when he tried to check it; he had to exert all his strength not to give way
to it. When he issued from the brute struggle he was dripping with sweat
and his mind was blank. He was really mad. It was enough for him to think
that he must not do a thing for it to fasten on him with the maddening
tenacity of a fixed idea.

So his life was spent in a series of unbridled outbreaks and of endless
falls into emptiness. A furious wind in the desert. Whence came this wind?
From what abyss came these desires that wrenched his body and mind? He was
like a bow stretched to breaking point by a strong hand,--to what end
unknown?--which then springs back like a piece of dead wood. Of what force
was he the prey? He dared not probe for it. He felt that he was beaten,
humiliated, and he would not face his defeat. He was weary and broken in
spirit. He understood now the people whom formerly he had despised: those
who will not seek awkward truth. In the empty hours, when he remembered
that time was passing, his work neglected, the future lost, he was frozen
with terror. But there was no reaction: and his cowardice found excuses in
desperate affirmation of the void in which he lived: he took a bitter
delight in abandoning himself to it like a wreck on the waters. What was
the good of fighting? There was nothing beautiful, nor good; neither God,
nor life, nor being of any sort. In the street as he walked, suddenly the
earth would sink away from him: there was neither ground, nor air, nor
light, nor himself: there was nothing. He would fall, his head would drag
him down, face forwards: he could hardly hold himself up; he was on the
point of collapse. He thought he was going to die, suddenly, struck down.
He thought he was dead....

Christophe was growing a new skin. Christophe was growing a new soul. And
seeing the worn out and rotten soul of his childhood falling away he never
dreamed that he was taking on a new one, young and stronger. As through
life we change our bodies, so also do we change our souls: and the
metamorphosis does not always take place slowly over many days; there are
times of crisis when the whole is suddenly renewed. The adult changes his
soul. The old soul that is cast off dies. In those hours of anguish we
think that all is at an end. And the whole thing begins again. A life dies.
Another life has already come into being.

One night he was alone in his room, with his elbow on his desk under the
light of a candle. His back was turned to the window. He was not working.
He had not been able to work for weeks. Everything was twisting and turning
in his head. He had brought everything under scrutiny at once: religion,
morals, art, the whole of life. And in the general dissolution of his
thoughts was no method, no order: he had plunged into the reading of books
taken haphazard from his grandfather's heterogeneous library or from
Vogel's collection of books: books of theology, science, philosophy, an odd
lot, of which he understood nothing, having everything to learn: he could
not finish any of them, and in the middle of them went off on divagations,
endless whimsies, which left him weary, empty, and in mortal sorrow.

So, that evening, he was sunk in an exhausted torpor. The whole house was
asleep. His window was open. Not a breath came up from the yard. Thick
clouds filled the sky. Christophe mechanically watched the candle burn away
at the bottom of the candlestick. He could not go to bed. He had no thought
of anything. He felt the void growing, growing from moment to moment. He
tried not to see the abyss that drew him to its brink: and in spite of
himself he leaned over and his eyes gazed into the depths of the night. In
the void, chaos was stirring, and faint sounds came from the darkness.
Agony filled him: a shiver ran down his spine: his skin tingled: he
clutched the table so as not to fall. Convulsively he awaited nameless
things, a miracle, a God....

Suddenly, like an opened sluice, in the yard behind him, a deluge of water,
a heavy rain, large drops, down pouring, fell. The still air quivered. The
dry, hard soil rang out like a bell. And the vast scent of the earth,
burning, warm as that of an animal, the smell of the flowers, fruit, and
amorous flesh rose in a spasm of fury and pleasure. Christophe, under
illusion, at fullest stretch, shook. He trembled.... The veil was rent. He
was blinded. By a flash of lightning, he saw, in the depths of the night,
he saw--he was God. God was in himself; He burst the ceiling of the room,
the walls of the house; He cracked the very bounds of existence. He filled
the sky, the universe, space. The world coursed through Him, like a
cataract. In the horror and ecstasy of that cataclysm, Christophe fell too,
swept along by the whirlwind which brushed away and crushed like straws the
laws of nature. He was breathless: he was drunk with the swift hurtling
down into God ... God-abyss! God-gulf! Fire of Being! Hurricane of life!
Madness of living,--aimless, uncontrolled, beyond reason,--for the fury of
living!

       *       *       *       *       *

When the crisis was over, he fell into a deep sleep and slept as he had not
done for long enough. Next day when he awoke his head swam: he was as
broken as though he had been drunk. But in his inmost heart he had still a
beam of that somber and great light that had struck him down the night
before. He tried to relight it. In vain. The more he pursued it, the more
it eluded him. From that time on, all his energy was directed towards
recalling the vision of a moment. The endeavor was futile. Ecstasy does not
answer the bidding of the will.

But that mystic exaltation was not the only experience that he had of it:
it recurred several times, but never with the intensity of the first. It
came always at moments when Christophe was least expecting it, for a second
only, a time so short, so sudden,--no longer than a wink of an eye or a
raising of a hand--that the vision was gone before he could discover that
it was: and then he would wonder whether he had not dreamed it. After that
fiery bolt that had set the night aflame, it was a gleaming dust, shedding
fleeting sparks, which the eye could hardly see as they sped by. But they
reappeared more and more often: and in the end they surrounded Christophe
with a halo of perpetual misty dreams, in which his spirit melted.
Everything that distracted him in his state of semi-hallucination was an
irritation to him. It was impossible to work; he gave up thinking about it.
Society was odious to him; and more than any, that of his intimates, even
that of his mother, because they arrogated to themselves more rights over
his soul.

He left the house: he took to spending his days abroad, and never returned
until nightfall. He sought the solitude of the fields, and delivered
himself up to it, drank his fill of it, like a maniac who wishes not to be
disturbed by anything in the obsession of his fixed ideas.--But in the
great sweet air, in contact with the earth, his obsession relaxed, his
ideas ceased to appear like specters. His exaltation was no less: rather it
was heightened, but it was no longer a dangerous delirium of the mind but a
healthy intoxication of his whole being: body; and soul crazy in their
strength.

He rediscovered the world, as though he had never seen it. It was a new
childhood. It was as though a magic word had been uttered. An "Open
Sesame!"--Nature flamed with gladness. The sun boiled. The liquid sky ran
like a clear river. The earth steamed and cried aloud in delight. The
plants, the trees, the insects, all the innumerable creatures were like
dazzling tongues of flame in the fire of life writhing upwards. Everything
sang aloud in joy.

And that joy was his own. That strength was his own. He was no longer cut
off from the rest of the world. Till then, even in the happy days of
childhood, when he saw nature with ardent and delightful curiosity, all
creatures had seemed to him to be little worlds shut up, terrifying and
grotesque, unrelated to himself, and incomprehensible. He was not even sure
that they had feeling and life. They were strange machines. And sometimes
Christophe had even, with the unconscious cruelty of a child, dismembered
wretched insects without dreaming that they might suffer--for the pleasure
of watching their queer contortions. His uncle Gottfried, usually so calm,
had one day indignantly to snatch from his hands an unhappy fly that he was
torturing. The boy had tried to laugh at first: then he had burst into
tears, moved by his uncle's emotion: he began to understand that his victim
did really exist, as well as himself, and that he had committed a crime.
But if thereafter nothing would have induced him to do harm to the beasts,
he never felt any sympathy for them: he used to pass them by without ever
trying to feel what it was that worked their machinery: rather he was
afraid to think of it: it was something like a bad dream.--And now
everything was made plaint These humble, obscure creatures became in their
turn centers of light.

Lying on his belly in the grass where creatures swarmed, in the shade of
the trees that buzzed with insects, Christophe would watch the fevered
movements of the ants, the long-legged spiders, that seemed to dance as
they walked, the bounding grasshoppers, that leap aside, the heavy,
bustling beetles, and the naked worms, pink and glabrous, mottled with
white, or with his hands under his head and his eyes dosed he would listen
to the invisible orchestra, the roundelay of the frenzied insects circling
in a sunbeam about the scented pines, the trumpeting of the mosquitoes, the
organ, notes of the wasps, the brass of the wild bees humming like bells in
the tops of the trees, and the godlike whispering of the swaying trees, the
sweet moaning of the wind in the branches, the soft whispering of the
waving grass, like a breath of wind rippling the limpid surface of a lake,
like the rustling of a light dress and lovers footsteps coming near, and
passing, then lost upon the air.

He heard all these sounds and cries within himself. Through all these
creatures from the smallest to the greatest flowed the same river of life:
and in it he too swam. So, he was one of them, he was of their blood, and,
brotherly, he heard the echo of their sorrows and their joys: their
strength was merged is his like a river fed with thousands of streams. He
sank into them. His lungs were like to burst with the wind, too freely
blowing, too strong, that burst the windows and forced its way, into the
closed house of his suffocating heart. The change was too abrupt: after
finding everywhere a void, when he had been buried only in his own
existence, and had felt it slipping from him and dissolving like rain, now
everywhere he found infinite and unmeasured Being, now that he longed to
forget himself, to find rebirth in the universe. He seemed to have issued
from the grave. He swam voluptuously in life flowing free and full: and
borne on by its current he thought that he was free. He did not know that
he was less free than ever, that no creature is ever free, that even the
law that governs the universe is not free, that only death--perhaps--can
bring deliverance.

But the chrysalis issuing from its stifling sheath, joyously, stretched its
limbs in its new shape, and had no time as yet to mark the bounds of its
new prison.

       *       *       *       *       *

There began a new cycle of days. Days of gold and fever, mysterious,
enchanted, like those of his childhood, when by one he discovered things
for the first time. From dawn to set of sun he lived in one long mirage. He
deserted all his business. The conscientious boy, who for years had never
missed a lesson, or an orchestra rehearsal, even when he was ill, was
forever finding paltry excuses for neglecting his work. He was not afraid
to lie. He had no remorse about it. The stoic principles of life, to which
he had hitherto delighted to bend his will, morality, duty, now seemed to
him to have no truth, nor reason. Their jealous despotism was smashed
against Nature. Human nature, healthy, strong, free, that alone was virtue:
to hell with all the rest! It provoked pitying laughter to see the little
peddling rules of prudence and policy which the world adorns with the name
of morality, while it pretends to inclose all life within them. A
preposterous mole-hill, an ant-like people! Life sees to it that they are
brought to reason. Life does but pass, and all is swept away....

Bursting with energy Christophe had moments when he was consumed with a
desire to destroy, to burn, to smash, to glut with actions blind and
uncontrolled the force which choked him. These outbursts usually ended in a
sharp reaction: he would weep, and fling himself down on the ground, and
kiss the earth, and try to dig into it with his teeth and hands, to feed
himself with it, to merge into it: he trembled then with fever and desire.

One evening he was walking in the outskirts of a wood. His eyes were
swimming with the light, his head was whirling: he was in that state of
exaltation when all creatures and things were transfigured. To that was
added the magic of the soft warm light of evening. Bays of purple and gold
hovered in the trees. From the meadows seemed to come a phosphorescent
glimmer. In a field near by a girl was making hay. In her blouse and short
skirt, with her arms and neck bare, she was raking the hay and heaping it
up. She had a short nose, wide cheeks, a round face, a handkerchief thrown
over her hair. The setting sun touched with red her sunburned skin, which,
like a piece of pottery, seemed to absorb the last beams of the day.

She fascinated Christophe. Leaning against a beech-tree he watched her come
towards the verge of the woods, eagerly, passionately. Everything else had
disappeared. She took no notice of him. For a moment she looked at him
cautiously: he saw her eyes blue and hard in her brown face. She passed so
near to him that, when she leaned down to gather up the hay, through her
open blouse he saw a soft down on her shoulders and back. Suddenly the
vague desire which was in him leaped forth. He hurled himself at her from
behind, seized her neck and waist, threw back her head and fastened his
lips upon hers. He kissed her dry, cracked lips until he came against her
teeth that bit him angrily. His hands ran over her rough arms, over her
blouse wet with her sweat. She struggled. He held her tighter, he wished to
strangle her. She broke loose, cried out, spat, wiped her lips with her
hand, and hurled insults at him. He let her go and fled across the fields.
She threw stones at him and went on discharging after him a litany of
filthy epithets. He blushed, less for anything that she might say or think,
but for what he was thinking himself. The sudden unconscious act filled him
with terror. What had he done? What should he do? What he was able to
understand of it all only filled him with disgust. And he was tempted by
his disgust. He fought against himself and knew not on which side was the
real Christophe. A blind force beset him: in vain did he fly from it: it
was only to fly from himself. What would she do about him? What should he
do to-morrow ... in an hour ... the time it took to cross the plowed field
to reach the road?... Would he ever reach it? Should he not stop, and go
back, and run back to the girl? And then?... He remembered that delirious
moment when he had held her by the throat. Everything was possible. All
things were worth while. A crime even.... Yes, even a crime.... The turmoil
in his heart made him breathless. When he reached the road he stopped to
breathe. Over there the girl was talking to another girl who had been
attracted by her cries: and with arms akimbo, they were looking at each
other and shouting with laughter.



II

SABINE


He went home. He shut himself up in his room and never stirred for several
days. He only went out even into the town, when he was compelled. He was
fearful of ever going out beyond the gates and venturing forth into the
fields: he was afraid of once more falling in with the soft, maddening
breath that had blown upon him like a rushing wind during a calm in a
storm. He thought that the walls of the town might preserve him from it. He
never dreamed that for the enemy to slip within there needed be only the
smallest crack in the closed shutters, no more than is needed for a peep
out.

In a wing of the house, on the other side of the yard, there lodged on the
ground floor a young woman of twenty, some months a widow, with a little
girl. Frau Sabine Froehlich was also a tenant of old Euler's. She occupied
the shop which opened on to the street, and she had as well two rooms
looking on to the yard, together with a little patch of garden, marked off
from the Eulers' by a wire fence up which ivy climbed. They did not often
see her: the child used to play down in the garden from morning to night
making mud pies: and the garden was left to itself, to the great distress
of old Justus, who loved tidy paths and neatness in the beds. He had tried
to bring the matter to the attention of his tenant: but that was probably
why she did not appear: and the garden was not improved by it.

Frau Froehlich kept a little draper's shop which might have had customers
enough, thanks to its position in a street of shops in the center of the
town: but she did not bother about it any more than about her garden.
Instead of doing her housework herself, as, according to Frau Vogel, every
self-respecting woman ought to do--especially when she is in circumstances
which do not permit much less excuse idleness--she had hired a little
servant, a girl of fifteen, who came in for a few hours in the morning to
clean the rooms and look after the shop, while the young woman lay in bed
or dawdled over her toilet.

Christophe used to see her sometimes, through his windows, walking about
her room, with bare feet, in her long nightgown, or sitting for hours
together before her mirror: for she was so careless that she used to forget
to draw her curtains: and when she saw him, she was so lazy that she could
not take the trouble, to go and lower them. Christophe, more modest than
she, would leave the window so as not to incommode her: but the temptation
was great. He would blush a little and steal a glance at her bare arms,
which were rather thin, as she drew them languidly around her flowing hair,
and with her hands, clasped behind her head, lost herself in a dream, until
they were numbed, and then she would let them fall. Christophe would
pretend that he only saw these pleasant sights inadvertently as he happened
to pass the window, and that they did not disturb him in his musical
thoughts; but he liked it, and in the end he wasted as much time in
watching Frau Sabine, as she did over her toilet. Not that she was a
coquette: she was rather careless, generally, and did not take anything
like the meticulous care with her appearance that Amalia or Rosa did. If
she dawdled in front of her dressing table it was from pure laziness; every
time she put in a pin she had to rest from the effort of it, while she made
little piteous faces at herself in the mirrors. She was never quite
properly dressed at the end of the day.

Often her servant used to go before Sabine was ready: and a customer would
ring the shop-bell. She would let him ring and call once or twice before
she could make up her mind to get up from her chair. She would go down,
smiling, and never hurrying,--never hurrying would look for the article
required,--and if she could not find it after looking for some time, or
even (as happened sometimes) if she had to take too much trouble to reach
it, as for instance, taking the ladder from one end of the shop to the
other,--she would say calmly that she did not have it in stock: and as she
never bothered to put her stock in order, or to order more of the articles
of which she had run out, her customers used to lose patience and go
elsewhere. But she never minded. How could you be angry with such a
pleasant creature who spoke so sweetly, and was never excited about
anything! She did not mind what anybody said to her: and she made this so
plain that those who began to complain never had the courage to go on: they
used to go, answering her charming smile with a smile: but they never came
back. She never bothered about it. She went on smiling.

She was like a little Florentine figure. Her well marked eyebrows were
arched: her gray eyes were half open behind the curtain of her lashes. The
lower eyelid was a little swollen, with a little crease below it. Her
little, finely drawn nose turned up slightly at the end. Another little
curve lay between it and her upper lip, which curled up above her half-open
mouth, pouting in a weary smile. Her lower lip was a little thick: the
lower part of her face was rounded, and had the serious expression of the
little virgins of Filippo Lippi. Her complexion was a little muddy, her
hair was light brown, always untidy, and done up in a slovenly chignon. She
was slight of figure, small-boned. And her movements were lazy. Dressed
carelessly--a gaping bodice, buttons missing, ugly, worn shoes, always
looking a little slovenly--she charmed by her grace and youth, her
gentleness, her instinctively coaxing ways. When she appeared to take the
air at the door of her shop, the young men who passed used to look at her
with pleasure: and although she did not bother about them, she noticed it
none the less. Always then she wore that grateful and glad expression which
is in the eyes of all women when they know that they have been seen with
sympathetic eyes. It seemed to say:

"Thank you!... Again! Look at me again!" But though it gave her pleasure to
please, her indifference would never let her make the smallest effort to
please.

She was an object of scandal to the Euler-Vogels. Everything about her
offended them: her indolence, the untidiness of her house, the carelessness
of her dress, her polite indifference to their remarks, her perpetual
smile, the impertinent serenity with which she had accepted her husband's
death, her child's illnesses, her straitened circumstances, the great and
annoyances of her daily life, while nothing could change one jot of her
favorite habits, or her eternal longing,--everything about her offended
them: and the worst of all was that, as she was, she did give pleasure.
Frau Vogel could not forgive her that. It was almost as though Sabine did
it on purpose, on purpose, ironically, to set at naught by her conduct the
great traditions, the true principles, the savorless duty, the pleasureless
labor, the restlessness, the noise, the quarrels, the mooning ways, the
healthy pessimism which was the motive power of the Euler family, as it is
that of all respectable persons, and made their life a foretaste of
purgatory. That a woman who did nothing but dawdle about all the blessed
day should take upon herself to defy them with her calm insolence, while
they bore their suffering in silence like galley-slaves,--and that people
should approve of her into the bargain--that was beyond the limit, that was
enough to turn you against respectability!... Fortunately, thank God, there
were still a few sensible people left in the world. Frau Vogel consoled
herself with them. They exchanged remarks about the little widow, and spied
on her through her shutters. Such gossip was the joy of the family when
they met at supper. Christophe would listen absently. He was so used to
hearing the Vogels set themselves up as censors of their neighbors that he
never took any notice of it. Besides he knew nothing of Frau Sabine except
her bare neck and arms, and though they were pleasing enough, they did not
justify his coming to a definite opinion about her. However, he was
conscious; of a kindly feeling towards her: and in a contradictory spirit
he was especially grateful to her for displeasing Frau Vogel.

       *       *       *       *       *

After dinner in the evening when it was very hot it was impossible to stay
in the stifling yard, where the sun shone the whole afternoon. The only
place in the house where it was possible to breathe was the rooms looking
into the street, Euler and his son-in-law used sometimes to go and sit on
the doorstep with Louisa. Frau Vogel and Rosa would only appear for a
moment: they were kept by their housework: Frau Vogel took a pride in
showing that she had no time for dawdling: and she used to say, loudly
enough to be overheard, that all the people sitting there and yawning on
their doorsteps, without doing a stitch of work, got on her nerves. As she
could not--(to her sorrow)--compel them to work, she would pretend not to
see them, and would go in and work furiously. Rosa thought she must do
likewise. Euler and Vogel would discover draughts everywhere, and fearful
of catching cold, would go up to their rooms: they used to go to bed early,
and would have thought themselves ruined had they changed the least of
their habits. After nine o'clock only Louisa and Christophe would be left.
Louisa spent the day in her room: and, In the evening, Christophe used to
take pains to be with her, whenever he could, to make her take the air. If
she were left alone she would never go out: the noise of the street
frightened her. Children were always chasing each other with shrill cries.
All the dogs of the neighborhood took it up and barked. The sound of a
piano came up, a little farther off a clarinet, and in the next street a
cornet à piston. Voices chattered. People came and went and stood in groups
in front of their houses. Louisa would have lost her head if she had been
left alone in all the uproar. But when her son was with her it gave her
pleasure. The noise would gradually die down. The children and the dogs
would go to bed first. The groups of people would break up. The air would
become more pure. Silence would descend upon the street. Louisa would tell
in her thin voice the little scraps of news that she had heard from Amalia
or Rosa. She was not greatly interested in them. But she never knew what to
talk about to her son, and she felt the need of keeping in touch with him,
of saying something to him. And Christophe, who felt her need, would
pretend to be interested in everything she said: but he did not listen. He
was off in vague dreams, turning over in his mind the doings of the day.
One evening when they were sitting there--while his mother Was talking he
saw the door of the draper's shop open. A woman came out silently and sat
in the street. Her chair was only a few yards from Louisa. She was sitting
in the darkest shadow. Christophe could not see her face: but he recognized
her. His dreams vanished. The air seemed sweeter to him. Louisa had not
noticed Sabine's presence, and went on with her chatter in a low voice.
Christophe paid more attention to her, and, he felt impelled to throw out a
remark here and there, to talk, perhaps to be heard. The slight figure sat
there without stirring, a little limp, with her legs lightly crossed and
her hands lying crossed in her lap. She was looking straight in front of
her, and seemed to hear nothing. Louisa was overcome with drowsiness. She
went in. Christophe said he would stay a little longer.

It was nearly ten. The street was empty. The people were going indoors. The
sound of the shops being shut was heard. The lighted windows winked and
then were dark again. One or two were still lit: then they were blotted
out. Silence.... They were alone, they did not look at each other, they
held their breath, they seemed not to be aware of each other. From the
distant fields came the smell of the new-mown hay, and from a balcony in a
house near by the scent of a pot of cloves. No wind stirred. Above their
heads was the Milky Way. To their right red Jupiter. Above a chimney
Charles' Wain bent its axles: in the pale green sky its stars flowered like
daisies. From the bells of the parish church eleven o'clock rang out and
was caught up by all the other churches, with their voices clear or
muffled, and, from the houses, by the dim chiming of the clock or husky
cuckoos.

They awoke suddenly from their dreams, and got up at the same moment. And
just as they were going indoors they both bowed without speaking.
Christophe went up to his room. He lighted his candle, and sat down by his
desk with his head in his hands, and stayed so for a long time without a
thought. Then he sighed and went to bed.

Next day when he got up, mechanically he went to his window to look down
into Sabine's room. But the curtains were drawn. They were drawn the whole
morning. They were drawn ever after.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next evening Christophe proposed to his mother that they should go again to
sit by the door. He did so regularly. Louisa was glad of it: she did not
like his shutting himself up in his room immediately after dinner with the
window and shutters closed.--The little silent shadow never failed to come
and sit in its usual place. They gave each other a quick nod, which Louisa
never noticed. Christophe would talk to his mother. Sabine would smile at
her little girl, playing in the street: about nine she would go and put her
to bed and would then return noiselessly. If she stayed a little Christophe
would begin to be afraid that she would not come back. He would listen for
sounds in the house, the laughter of the little girl who would not go to
sleep: he would hear the rustling of Sabine's dress before she appeared on
the threshold of the shop. Then he would look away and talk to his mother
more eagerly. Sometimes he would feel that Sabine was looking at him. In
turn he would furtively look at her. But their eyes would never meet.

The child was a bond between them. She would run about in the street with
other children. They would find amusement in teasing a good-tempered dog
sleeping there with his nose in his paws: he would cock a red eye and at
last would emit a growl of boredom: then they would fly this way and that
screaming in terror and happiness. The little girl would give piercing
shrieks, and look behind her as though she were being pursued; she would
throw herself into Louisa's lap, and Louisa would smile fondly. She would
keep the child and question her: and so she would enter into conversation
with Sabine. Christophe never joined in. He never spoke to Sabine. Sabine
never spoke to him. By tacit agreement they pretended to ignore each other.
But he never lost a word of what they said as they talked over him. His
silence seemed unfriendly to Louisa. Sabine never thought it so: but it
would make her shy, and she would grow confused in her remarks. Then she
would find some excuse for going in.

For a whole week Louisa kept indoors for a cold. Christophe and Sabine were
left alone. The first time they were frightened by it. Sabine, to seem at
her ease, took her little girl on her knees and loaded her with caresses.
Christophe was embarrassed and did not know whether he ought to go on
ignoring what was happening at his side. It became difficult: although they
had not spoken a single word to each other, they did know each other,
thanks to Louisa. He tried to begin several times: but the words stuck in
his throat. Once more the little girl extricated them from their
difficulty. She played hide-and-seek, and went round Christophe's chair. He
caught her as she passed and kissed her. He was not very fond of children:
but it was curiously pleasant to him to kiss the little girl. She struggled
to be free, for she was busy with her game. He teased her, she bit his
hands: he let her fall. Sabine laughed. They looked at the child and
exchanged a few trivial words. Then Christophe tried--(he thought he
must)--to enter into conversation: but he had nothing very much to go upon:
and Sabine did not make his task any the easier: she only repeated what he
said:

"It is a fine evening."

"Yes. It is a very fine evening."

"Impossible to breathe in the yard."

"Yes. The yard was stifling."

Conversation became very difficult. Sabine discovered that it was time to
take the little girl in, and went in herself: and she did not appear again.

Christophe was afraid she would do the same on the evenings that followed
and that she would avoid being left alone with him, as long as Louisa was
not there. But on the contrary, the next evening Sabine tried to resume
their conversation. She did so deliberately rather than for pleasure: she
was obviously taking a great deal of trouble to find subjects of
conversation, and bored with the questions she put: questions and answers
came between heartbreaking silences. Christophe remembered his first
interviews with Otto: but with Sabine their subjects were even more limited
than then, and she had not Otto's patience. When she saw the small success
of her endeavors she did not try any more: she had to give herself too much
trouble, and she lost interest in it. She said no more, and he followed her
lead.

And then there was sweet peace again. The night was calm once more, and
they returned to their inward thoughts. Sabine rocked slowly in her chair,
dreaming. Christophe also was dreaming. They said nothing. After half an
hour Christophe began to talk to himself, and in a low voice cried out with
pleasure in the delicious scent brought by the soft wind that came from a
cart of strawberries. Sabine said a word or two in reply. Again they were
silent. They were enjoying the charm of these indefinite silences, and
trivial words. Their dreams were the same, they had but one thought: they
did not know what it was: they did not admit it to themselves. At eleven
they smiled and parted.

Next day they did not even try to talk: they resumed their sweet silence.
At long intervals a word or two let them know that they were thinking of
the same things.

Sabine began to laugh.

"How much better it is," she said, "not to try to talk! One thinks one
must, and it is so tiresome!"

"Ah!" said Christophe with conviction, "if only everybody thought the
same."

They both laughed. They were thinking of Frau Vogel.

"Poor woman!" said Sabine; "how exhausting she is!"

"She is never exhausted," replied Christophe gloomily.

She was tickled by his manner and his jest.

"You think it amusing?" he asked. "That is easy for you. You are
sheltered."

"So I am," said Sabine. "I lock myself in." She had a little soft laugh
that hardly sounded. Christophe heard it with delight in the calm of the
evening. He snuffed the fresh air luxuriously.

"Ah! It is good to be silent!" he said, stretching his limbs.

"And talking is no use!" said she.

"Yes," returned Christophe, "we understand each other so well!"

They relapsed into silence. In the darkness they could not see each other.
They were both smiling.

And yet, though they felt the same, when they were together--or imagined
that they did--in reality they knew nothing of each other. Sabine did not
bother about it. Christophe was more curious. One evening he asked her:

"Do you like music?"

"No," she said simply. "It bores me, I don't understand it."

Her frankness charmed him. He was sick of the lies of people who said that
they were mad about music, and were bored to death when they heard it: and
it seemed to him almost a virtue not to like it and to say so. He asked if
Sabine read.

"So. She had no books."

He offered to lend her his.

"Serious books?" she asked uneasily.

"Not serious books if she did not want them. Poetry."

"But those are serious books."

"Novels, then."

She pouted.

"They don't interest you?"

"Yes. She was interested in them: but they were always too long: she never
had the patience to finish them. She forgot the beginning: skipped chapters
and then lost the thread. And then she threw the book away."

"Fine interest you take!"

"Bah! Enough for a story that is not true. She kept her interest for better
things than books."

"For the theater, then?"

"No.... No."

"Didn't she go to the theater?"

"No. It was too hot. There were too many people. So much better at home.
The lights tired her eyes. And the actors were so ugly!"

He agreed with her in that. But there were other things in the theater: the
play, for instance.

"Yes," she said absently. "But I have no time."

"What do you do all day?"

She smiled.

"There is so much to do."

"True," said he. "There is your shop."

"Oh!" she said calmly. "That does not take much time."

"Your little girl takes up your time then?"

"Oh! no, poor child! She is very good and plays by herself."

"Then?"

He begged pardon for his indiscretion. But she was amused by it.

"There are so many things."

"What things?"

"She could not say. All sorts of things. Getting up, dressing, thinking of
dinner, cooking dinner, eating dinner, thinking of supper, cleaning her
room.... And then the day was over.... And besides you must have a little
time for doing nothing!"

"And you are not bored?"

"Never."

"Even when you are doing nothing?"

"Especially when I am doing nothing. It is much worse doing something: that
bores me."

They looked at each other and laughed.

"You are very happy!" said Christophe. "I can't do nothing."

"It seems to me that you know how."

"I have been learning lately."

"Ah! well, you'll learn."

When he left off talking to her he was at his ease and comfortable. It was
enough for him to see her. He was rid of his anxieties, and irritations,
and the nervous trouble that made him sick at heart. When he was talking to
her he was beyond care: and so when he thought of her. He dared not admit
it to himself: but as soon as he was in her presence, he was filled with a
delicious soft emotion that brought him almost to unconsciousness. At night
he slept as he had never done.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he came back from his work he would look into this shop. It was not
often that he did not see Sabine. They bowed and smiled. Sometimes she was
at the door and then they would exchange a few words: and he would open the
door and call the little girl and hand her a packet of sweets.

One day he decided to go in. He pretended that he wanted some waistcoat
buttons. She began to look for them: but she could not find them. All the
buttons were mixed up: it was impossible to pick them out. She was a little
put out that he should see her untidiness. He laughed at it and bent over
the better to see it.

"No," she said, trying to hide the drawers with her hands. "Don't look! It
is a dreadful muddle...."

She went on looking. But Christophe embarrassed her. She was cross, and as
she pushed the drawer back she said:

"I can't find any. Go to Lisi, in the next street. She is sure to have
them. She has everything that people want."

He laughed at her way of doing business.

"Do you send all your customers away like that?"

"Well. You are not the first," said Sabine warmly.

And yet she was a little ashamed:

"It is too much trouble to tidy up," she said. "I put off doing it from day
to day.... But I shall certainly do it to-morrow."

"Shall I help you?" asked Christophe.

She refused. She would gladly have accepted: but she dared not, for fear of
gossip. And besides it humiliated her.

They went on talking.

"And your buttons?" she said to Christophe a moment later. "Aren't you
going to Lisi?"

"Never," said Christophe. "I shall wait until you have tidied up."

"Oh!" said Sabine, who had already forgotten what she had just said, "don't
wait all that time!"

Her frankness delighted them both.

Christophe went to the drawer that she had shut.

"Let me look."

She ran to prevent his doing so.

"No, now please. I am sure I haven't any."

"I bet you have."

At once he found the button he wanted, and was triumphant. He wanted
others. He wanted to go on rummaging; but she snatched the box from his
hands, and, hurt in her vanity, she began to look herself.

The light was fading. She went to the window. Christophe sat a little away
from her: the little girl clambered on to his knees. He pretended to listen
to her chatter and answered her absently. He was looking at Sabine and she
knew that he was looking at her. She bent over the box. He could see her
neck and a little of her cheek.--And as he looked he saw that she was
blushing. And he blushed too.

The child went on talking. No one answered her. Sabine did not move.
Christophe could not see what she was doing, he was sure she was doing
nothing: she was not even looking at the box in her hands. The silence went
on and on. The little girl grew uneasy and slipped down from Christophe's
knees.

"Why don't you say anything?"

Sabine turned sharply and took her in her arms. The box was spilled on the
floor: the little girl shouted with glee and ran on hands and knees after
the buttons rolling under the furniture. Sabine went to the window again
and laid her cheek against the pane. She seemed to be absorbed in what she
saw outside.

"Good-night!" said Christophe, ill at ease. She did not turn her head, and
said in a low voice:

"Good-night."

       *       *       *       *       *

On Sundays the house was empty during the afternoon. The whole family went
to church for Vespers. Sabine did not go. Christophe jokingly reproached
her with it once when he saw her sitting at her door in the little garden,
while the lovely bells were bawling themselves hoarse summoning her. She
replied in the same tone that only Mass was compulsory: not Vespers: it was
then no use, and perhaps a little indiscreet to be too zealous: and she
liked to think that God would be rather pleased than angry with her.

"You have made God in your own image," said Christophe.

"I should be so bored if I were in His place," replied she with conviction.

"You would not bother much about the world if you were in His place."

"All that I should ask of it would be that it should not bother itself
about me."

"Perhaps it would be none the worse for that," said Christophe.

"Tssh!" cried Sabine, "we are being irreligious."

"I don't see anything irreligious in saying that God is like you. I am sure
He is flattered."

"Will you be silent!" said Sabine, half laughing, half angry. She was
beginning to be afraid that God would be scandalized. She quickly turned
the conversation.

"Besides," she said, "it is the only time in the week when one can enjoy
the garden in peace."

"Yes," said Christophe. "They are gone." They looked at each other.

"How silent it is," muttered Sabine. "We are not used to it. One hardly
knows where one is...."

"Oh!" cried Christophe suddenly and angrily.

"There are days when I would like to strangle her!" There was no need to
ask of whom he was speaking.

"And the others?" asked Sabine gaily.

"True," said Christophe, a little abashed. "There is Rosa."

"Poor child!" said Sabine.

They were silent.

"If only it were always as it is now!" sighed Christophe.

She raised her laughing eyes to his, and then dropped them. He saw that she
was working.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

(The fence of ivy that separated the two gardens was between them.)

"Look!" she said, lifting a basin that she was holding in heir lap. "I am
shelling peas."

She sighed.

"But that is not unpleasant," he raid, laughing.

"Oh!" she replied, "it is disgusting, always having to think of dinner."

"I bet that if it were possible," he said, "you would go without your
dinner rather than haw the trouble of cooking it."

"That's true," cried she.

"Wait! I'll come and help you."

He climbed over the fence and came to her.

She was sitting in a chair in the door. He sat on a step at her feet. He
dipped into her lap for handfuls of green pods; and he poured the little
round peas into the basin that Sabine held between her knees. He looked
down. He saw Sabine's black stockings clinging to her ankles and feet--one
of her feet was half out of its shoe. He dared not raise his eyes to look
at her.

The air was heavy. The sky was dull and clouds hung low: There was no wind.
No leaf stirred. The garden was inclosed within high walls: there was no
world beyond them.

The child had gone out with one of the neighbors. They were alone. They
said nothing. They could say nothing. Without looking he went on taking
handfuls of peas from Sabine's lap: his fingers trembled as he touched her:
among the fresh smooth pods they met Sabine's fingers, and they trembled
too. They could not go on. They sat still, not looking at each other: she
leaned back in her chair with her lips half-open and her arms hanging: he
sat at her feet leaning against her: along his shoulder and arm he could
feel the warmth of Sabine's leg. They were breathless. Christophe laid his
hands against the stones to cool them: one of his hands touched Sabine's
foot, that she had thrust out of her shoe, and he left it there, could not
move it. They shivered. Almost they lost control. Christophe's hand closed
on the slender toes of Sabine's little foot. Sabine turned cold, the sweat
broke out on her brow, she leaned towards Christophe....

Familiar voices broke the spell. They trembled. Christophe leaped to his
feet and crossed the fence again. Sabine picked up the shells in her lap
and went in. In the yard he turned. She was at her door. They looked at
each other. Drops of rain were beginning to patter on the leaves of the
trees.... She closed her door. Frau Vogel and Rosa came in.... He went up
to his room....

In the yellow light of the waning day drowned in the torrents of rain, he
got up from his desk in response to an irresistible impulse: he ran to his
window and held out his arms to the opposite window. At the same moment
through the opposite window in the half-darkness of the room he saw--he
thought he saw--Sabine holding out her arms to him.

He rushed from his room. He went downstairs. He ran to the garden fence. At
the risk of being seen he was about to clear it. But when he looked at the
window at which she had appeared, he saw that the shutters were closed. The
house seemed to be asleep. He stopped. Old Euler, going to his cellar, saw
him and called him. He retraced his footsteps. He thought he must have been
dreaming.

It was not long before Rosa began to see what was happening. She had no
diffidence and she did not yet know what jealousy was. She was ready to
give wholly and to ask nothing in return. But if she was sorrowfully
resigned to not being loved by Christophe, she had never considered the
possibility of Christophe loving another.

One evening, after dinner, she had just finished a piece of embroidery at
which she had been working for months. She was happy, and wanted for once
in a way to leave her work and go and talk to Christophe. She waited until
her mother's back was turned and then slipped from the room. She crept from
the house like a truant. She wanted to go and confound Christophe, who had
vowed scornfully that she would never finish her work. She thought it would
be a good joke to go and take them by surprise in the street. It was no use
the poor child knowing how Christophe felt towards her: she was always
inclined to measure the pleasure which others should have at seeing her by
that which she had herself in meeting them.

She went out. Christophe and Sabine were sitting as usual in front of the
house. There was a catch at Rosa's heart. And yet she did not stop for the
irrational idea that was in her: and she chaffed Christophe warmly. The
sound of her shrill voice in the silence of the night struck on Christophe
like a false note. He started in his chair, and frowned angrily. Rosa waved
her embroidery in his face triumphantly. Christophe snubbed her
impatiently.

"It is finished--finished!" insisted Rosa.

"Oh! well--go and begin another," said Christophe curtly.

Rosa was crestfallen. All her delight vanished. Christophe went on crossly:

"And when you have done thirty, when you are very old, you will at least be
able to say to yourself that your life has not been wasted!"

Rosa was near weeping.

"How cross you are, Christophe!" she said.

Christophe was ashamed and spoke kindly to her. She was satisfied with so
little that she regained confidence: and she began once more to chatter
noisily: she could not speak low, she shouted deafeningly, like everybody
in the house. In spite of himself Christophe could not conceal his
ill-humor. At first he answered her with a few irritated monosyllables:
then he said nothing at all, turned his back on her, fidgeted in his chair,
and ground his teeth as she rattled on. Rosa saw that he was losing his
temper and knew that she ought to stop: but she went on louder than ever.
Sabine, a few yards away, in the dark, said nothing, watched the scene with
ironic impassivity. Then she was weary and, feeling that the evening was
wasted, she got up and went in. Christophe only noticed her departure after
she had gone. He got up at once and without ceremony went away with a curt
"Good-evening."

Rosa was left alone in the street, and looked in bewilderment at the door
by which he had just gone in. Tears came to her eyes. She rushed in, went
up to her room without a sound, so as not to have to talk to her mother,
undressed hurriedly, and when she was in her bed, buried under the clothes,
sobbed and sobbed. She made no attempt to think over what had passed: she
did not ask herself whether Christophe loved Sabine, or whether Christophe
and Sabine could not bear her: she knew only that all was lost, that life
was useless, that there was nothing left to her but death.

Next morning thought came to her once more with eternal illusive hope. She
recalled the events of the evening and told herself that she was wrong to
attach so much importance to them. No doubt Christophe did not love her:
she was resigned to that, though in her heart she thought, though she did
not admit the thought, that in the end she would win his love by her love
for him. But what reason had she for thinking that there was anything
between Sabine and him? How could he, so clever as he was, love a little
creature whose insignificance and mediocrity were patent? She was
reassured,--but for that she did not watch Christophe any the less closely.
She saw nothing all day, because there was nothing to see: but Christophe
seeing her prowling about him all day long without any sort of explanation
was peculiarly irritated by it. She set the crown on her efforts in the
evening when she appeared again and sat with them in the street. The scene
of the previous evening was repeated. Rosa talked alone. But Sabine did not
wait so long before she went indoors: and Christophe followed her example.
Rosa could no longer pretend that her presence was not unwelcome: but the
unhappy girl tried to deceive herself. She did not perceive that she could
have done nothing worse than to try so to impose on herself: and with her
usual clumsiness she went on through the succeeding days.

Next day with Rosa sitting by his side Christophe waited is vain for Sabine
to appear.

The day after Rosa was alone. They had given up the struggle. But she
gained nothing by it save resentment from Christophe, who was furious at
being robbed of his beloved evenings, his only happiness. He was the less
inclined to forgive her, for being absorbed with his own feelings, he had
no suspicion of Rosa's.

Sabine had known them for some time: she knew that Rosa was jealous even
before she knew that she herself was in love: but she said nothing about
it: and, with the natural cruelty of a pretty woman, who is certain of her
victory, in quizzical silence she watched the futile efforts of her awkward
rival.

       *       *       *       *       *

Left mistress of the field of battle Rosa gazed piteously upon the results
of her tactics. The best thing she could have done would have been not to
persist, and to leave Christophe alone, at least for the time being: but
that was not what she did: and as the worst thing she could have done was
to talk to him; about Sabine, that was precisely what she did.

With a fluttering at her heart, by way of sounding him, she said timidly
that Sabine was pretty. Christophe replied curtly; that she was very
pretty. And although Rosa might have foreseen the reply she would provoke,
her heart thumped when she heard him. She knew that Sabine was pretty: but
she had never particularly remarked it: now she saw her for the first time
with the eyes of Christophe: she saw her delicate features, her short nose,
her fine mouth, her slender figure, her graceful movements.... Ah! how
sad!... What would not she have given to possess Sabine's body, and live in
it! She did not go closely into why it should be preferred to her own!...
Her own!... What had she done to possess such a body? What a burden it was
upon her. How ugly it seemed to her! It was odious to her. And to think
that nothing but death could ever free her from it!... She was at once too
proud and too humble to complain that she was not loved: she had no right
to do so: and she tried even more to humble herself. But her instinct
revolted.... No. It was not just!... Why should she have such a body, she,
and not Sabine?... And why should Sabine be loved? What had she done to be
loved?... Rosa saw her with no kindly eye, lazy, careless, egoistic,
indifferent towards everybody, not looking after her house, or her child,
or anybody, loving only herself, living only for sleeping, dawdling, and
doing nothing.... And it was such a woman who pleased ... who pleased
Christophe.... Christophe who was so severe, Christophe who was so
discerning, Christophe whom she esteemed and admired more than anybody!...
How could Christophe be blind to it?--She could not help from time to time
dropping an unkind remark about Sabine in his hearing. She did not wish to
do so: but the impulse was stronger than herself. She was always sorry for
it, for she was a kind creature and disliked speaking ill of anybody. But
she was the more sorry because she drew down on herself such cruel replies
as showed how much Christophe was in love. He did not mince matters. Hurt
in his love, he tried to hurt in return: and succeeded. Rosa would make no
reply and go out with her head bowed, and her lips tight pressed to keep
from crying. She thought that it was her own fault, that she deserved it
for having hurt Christophe by attacking the object of his love.

Her mother was less patient. Frau Vogel, who saw everything, and old Euler,
also, had not been slow to notice Christophe's interviews with their young
neighbor: it was not difficult to guess their romance. Their secret
projects of one day marrying Rosa to Christophe were set at naught by it:
and that seemed to them a personal affront of Christophe, although he was
not supposed to know that they had disposed of him without consulting his
wishes. But Amalia's despotism did not admit of ideas contrary to her own:
and it seemed scandalous to her that Christophe should have disregarded the
contemptuous opinion she had often expressed of Sabine.

She did not hesitate to repeat it for his benefit. Whenever he was present
she found some excuse for talking about her neighbor: she cast about for
the most injurious things to say of her, things which might sting
Christophe most cruelly: and with the crudity of her point of view and
language she had no difficulty in finding them. The ferocious instinct of a
woman, so superior to that of a man in the art of doing evil, as well as of
doing good, made her insist less on Sabine's laziness and moral failings
than on her uncleanliness. Her indiscreet and prying eye had watched
through the window for proofs of it in the secret processes of Sabine's
toilet: and she exposed them with coarse complacency. When from decency she
could not say everything she left the more to be understood.

Christophe would go pale with shame and anger: he would go white as a sheet
and his lips would quiver. Rosa, foreseeing what must happen, would implore
her mother to have done: she would even try to defend Sabine. But she only
succeeded in making Amalia more aggressive.

And suddenly Christophe would leap from his chair. He would thump on the
table and begin to shout that it was monstrous to speak of a woman, to spy
upon her, to expose her misfortunes; only an evil mind could so persecute a
creature who was good, charming, quiet, keeping herself to herself, and
doing no harm to anybody, and speaking no ill of anybody. But they were
making a great mistake if they thought they could do her harm; they only
made him more sympathetic and made her kindness shine forth only the more
clearly.

Amalia would feel then that she had gone too far: but she was hurt by
feeling it; and, shifting her ground, she would say that it was only too
easy to talk of kindness: that the word was called in as an excuse for
everything. Heavens! It was easy enough to be thought kind when you never
bothered about anything or anybody, and never did your duty!

To which Christophe would reply that the first duty of all was to make life
pleasant for others, but that there were people for whom duty meant only
ugliness, unpleasantness, tiresomeness, and everything that interferes with
the liberty of others and annoys and injures their neighbors, their
servants, their families, and themselves. God save us from such people, and
such a notion of duty, as from the plague!...

They would grow venomous. Amalia would be very bitter. Christophe would not
budge an inch.--And the result of it all was that henceforth Christophe
made a point of being seen continually with Sabine. He would go and knock
at her door. He would talk gaily and laugh with her. He would choose
moments when Amalia and Rosa could see him. Amalia would avenge herself
with angry words. But the innocent Rosa's heart was rent and torn by this
refinement of cruelty: she felt that he detested them and wished to avenge
himself: and she wept bitterly.

       *       *       *       *       *

So, Christophe, who had suffered so much from injustice, learned unjustly
to inflict suffering.

Some time after that Sabine's brother, a miller at Landegg, a little town a
few miles away, was to celebrate the christening of a child. Sabine was to
be godmother. She invited Christophe. He had no liking for these functions:
but for the pleasure of annoying the Vogels and of being with Sabine he
accepted eagerly.

Sabine gave herself the malicious satisfaction of inviting Amalia and Rosa
also, being quite sure that they would refuse. They did. Rosa was longing
to accept. She did not dislike Sabine: sometimes even her heart was filled
with tenderness for her because Christophe loved her: sometimes she longed
to tell her so and to throw her arms about her neck. But there was her
mother and her mother's example. She stiffened herself in her pride and
refused. Then, when they had gone, and she thought of them together, happy
together, driving in the country on the lovely July day, while she was
left shut up in her room, with a pile of linen to mend, with her mother
grumbling by her side, she thought she must choke: and she cursed her
pride. Oh! if there were still time!... Alas! if it were all to do again,
she would have done the same....

The miller had sent his wagonette to fetch Christophe and Sabine. They took
up several guests from the town and the farms on the road.. It was fresh
dry weather. The bright sun made the red berries of the brown trees by the
road and the wild cherry trees in the fields shine. Sabine was smiling. Her
pale face was rosy under the keen wind. Christophe had her little girl on
his knees. They did not try to talk to each other: they talked to their
neighbors without caring to whom or of what: they were glad to hear each
other's voices: they were glad to be driving in the same carriage. They
looked at each other in childish glee as they pointed out to each other a
house, a tree, a passerby. Sabine loved the country: but she hardly ever
went into it: her incurable laziness made excursions impossible: it was
almost a year since she had been outside the town: and so she delighted in
the smallest things she saw. They were not new to Christophe: but he loved
Sabine, and like all lovers he saw everything through her eyes, and felt
all her thrills of pleasure, and all and more than the emotion that was in
her: for, merging himself with his beloved, he endowed her with all that he
was himself.

When they came to the mill they found in the yard all the people of the
farm and the other guests, who received them with a deafening noise. The
fowls, the ducks, and the dogs joined in. The miller, Bertold, a great
fair-haired fellow, square of head and shoulders, as big and tall as Sabine
was slight, took his little sister in his arms and put her down gently as
though he were afraid of breaking her. It was not long before Christophe
saw that the little sister, as usual, did just as she liked with the giant,
and that while he made heavy fun of her whims, and her laziness, and her
thousand and one failings, he was at her feet, her slave. She was used to
it, and thought it natural. She did nothing to win love: it seemed to her
right that she should be loved: and if she were not, did not care: that is
why everybody loved her.

Christophe made another discovery not so pleasing. For a christening a
godfather is necessary as well as a godmother, and the godfather has
certain rights over the godmother, rights which he does not often renounce,
especially when she is young and pretty. He learned this suddenly when he
saw a farmer, with fair curly hair, and rings in his ears, go up to Sabine
laughing and kiss her on both cheeks. Instead of telling himself that he
was an ass to have forgotten this privilege, and more than an ass to be
huffy about it, he was cross with Sabine, as though she had deliberately
drawn him into the snare. His crossness grew worse when he found himself
separated from her during the ceremony. Sabine turned round every now and
then as the procession wound across the fields and threw him a friendly
glance. He pretended not to see it. She felt that he was annoyed, and
guessed why: but it did not trouble her: it amused her. If she had had a
real squabble with some one she loved, in spite of all the pain it might
have caused her, she would never have made the least effort to break down
any misunderstanding: it would have been too much trouble. Everything would
come right if it were only left alone.

At dinner, sitting between the miller's wife and a fat girl with red cheeks
whom he had escorted to the service without ever paying any attention to
her, it occurred to Christophe to turn and look at his neighbor: and,
finding her comely, out of revenge, he flirted desperately with her with
the idea of catching Sabine's attention. He succeeded: but Sabine was not
the sort of woman to be jealous of anybody or anything: so long as she
was loved, she did not care whether her lover did or did not pay court to
others: and instead of being angry, she was delighted to see Christophe
amusing himself. From the other end of the table she gave him her most
charming smile. Christophe was disgruntled: there was no doubt then that
Sabine was indifferent to him: and he relapsed into his sulky mood from
which nothing could draw him, neither the soft eyes of his neighbor, nor
the wine that he drank. Finally, when he was half asleep, he asked himself
angrily what on earth he was doing at such an interminable orgy, and did
not hear the miller propose a trip on the water to take certain of the
guests home. Nor did he see Sabine beckoning him to come with her so that
they should be in the same boat. When it occurred to him, there was no room
for him: and he had to go in another boat. This fresh mishap was not likely
to make him more amiable until he discovered that he was to be rid of
almost all his companions on the way. Then he relaxed and was pleasant.
Besides the pleasant afternoon on the water, the pleasure of rowing, the
merriment of these good people, rid him of his ill-humor. As Sabine was no
longer there he lost his self-consciousness, and had no scruple about being
frankly amused like the others.

They were in their boats. They followed each other closely, and tried to
pass each other. They threw laughing insults at each other. When the boats
bumped Christophe saw Sabine's smiling face: and he could not help smiling
too: they felt that peace was made. He knew that very soon they would
return together.

They began to sing part songs. Each voice took up a line in time and the
refrain was taken up in chorus. The people in the different boats, some
way from each other, now echoed each other. The notes skimmed over the
water like birds. From time to time a boat would go in to the bank: a few
peasants would climb out: they would stand there and wave to the boats as
they went further and further away. Little by little they were disbanded.
One by one voices left the chorus. At last they were alone, Christophe,
Sabine, and the miller.

They came back in the same boat, floating down the river. Christophe and
Bertold held the oars, but they did not row. Sabine sat in the stern facing
Christophe, and talked to her brother and looked at Christophe. Talking so,
they were able to look at each other undisturbedly. They could never have
done so had the words ceased to flow. The deceitful words seemed to say:
"It is not you that I see." But their eyes said to each other: "Who are
you? Who are you? You that I love!... You that I love, whoever you be!..."

The sky was clouded, mists rose from the fields, the river steamed, the sun
went down behind the clouds. Sabine shivered and wrapped her little black
shawl round her head and shoulders. She seemed to be tired. As the boat,
hugging the bank, passed under the spreading branches of the willows,
she closed her eyes: her thin face was pale: her lips were sorrowful:
she did not stir, she seemed to suffer,--to have suffered,--to be dead.
Christophe's heart ached. He leaned over to her. She opened her eyes again
and saw Christophe's uneasy eyes upon her and she smiled into them. It was
like a ray of sunlight to him. He asked in a whisper:

"Are you ill?"

She shook her head and said:

"I am cold."

The two men put their overcoats about her, wrapped up her feet, her legs,
her knees, like a child being tucked up in bed. She suffered it arid
thanked them with her eyes. A fine, cold rain was beginning to fall. They
took the oars and went quietly home. Heavy clouds hung in the sky. The
river was inky black. Lights showed in the windows of the houses here and
there in the fields. When they reached the mill the rain was pouring down
and Sabine was numbed.

They lit a large fire in the kitchen and waited until the deluge should he
over. But it only grew worse, and the wind rose. They had to drive three
miles to get back to the town. The miller declared that he would not let
Sabine go in such weather: and he proposed that they should both spend the
night in the farmhouse. Christophe was reluctant to accept: he looked at
Sabine for counsel: but her eyes were fixed on the fire on the hearth: it
was as though they were afraid of influencing Christophe's decision. But
when Christophe had said "Yes," she turned to him and she was blushing--(or
was it the reflection of the fire?)--and he saw that she was pleased.

A jolly evening.... The rain stormed outside. In the black chimney the fire
darted jets of golden sparks. They spun round and round. Their fantastic
shapes were marked against the wall. The miller showed Sabine's little
girl how to make shadows with her hands. The child laughed and was
not altogether at her ease. Sabine leaned over the fire and poked it
mechanically with a heavy pair of tongs: she was a little weary, and smiled
dreamily, while, without listening, she nodded to her sister-in-law's
chatter of her domestic affairs. Christophe sat in the shadow by the
miller's side and watched Sabine smiling. He knew that she was smiling
at him. They never had an opportunity of being alone all evening, or of
looking at each other: they sought none.

       *       *       *       *       *

They parted early. Their rooms were adjoining, and communicated by a door.
Christophe examined the door and found that the lock was on Sabine's side.
He went to bed and tried to sleep. The rain was pattering against the
windows. The wind howled in the chimney. On the floor above him a door was
banging. Outside the window a poplar bent and groaned under the tempest.
Christophe could not close his eyes. He was thinking that he was under
the same roof, near her. A wall only divided them. He heard no sound in
Sabine's room. But he thought he could see her. He sat up in his bed and
called to her in a low voice through the wall: tender, passionate words
he said: he held out his arms to her. And it seemed to him that she was
holding out her arms to him. In his heart he heard the beloved voice
answering him, repeating his words, calling low to him: and he did not know
whether it was he who asked and answered all the questions, or whether it
was really she who spoke. The voice came louder, the call to him: he could
not resist: he leaped from his bed: he groped his way to the door: he did
not wish to open it: he was reassured by the closed door. And when he laid
his hand once more on the handle he found that the door was opening....

He stopped dead. He closed it softly: he opened it once more: he closed it
again. Was it not closed just now? Yes. He was sure it was. Who had opened
it?... His heart beat so that he choked. He leaned over his bed, and sat
down to breathe again. He was overwhelmed by his passion. It robbed him of
the power to see or hear or move: his whole body shook. He was in terror of
this unknown joy for which for months he had been craving, which was with
him now, near him, so that nothing could keep it from him. Suddenly the
violent boy filled with love was afraid of these desires newly realized and
revolted from them. He was ashamed of them, ashamed of what he wished to
do. He was too much in love to dare to enjoy what he loved: he was afraid:
he would have done anything to escape his happiness. Is it only possible to
love, to love, at the cost of the profanation of the beloved?...

He went to the door again: and trembling with love and fear, with his hand
on the latch he could not bring himself to open it.

And on the other side of the door, standing barefooted on the tiled floor,
shivering with cold, was Sabine.

So they stayed ... for how long? Minutes? Hours?... They did not know that
they were there: and yet they did know. They held out their arms to each
other,--he was overwhelmed by a love so great that he had not the courage
to enter,--she called to him, waited for him, trembled lest he should
enter.... And when at last he made up his mind to enter, she had just made
up her mind to turn the lock again.

Then he cursed himself for a fool. He leaned against the door with all his
strength. With his lips to the lock he implored her:

"Open."

He called to Sabine in a whisper: she could hear his heated breathing. She
stayed motionless near the door: she was frozen: her teeth were chattering:
she had no strength either to open the door or to go to bed again....

The storm made the trees crack and the doors in the house bang.... They
turned away and went to their beds, worn out, sad and sick at heart.
The cocks crowed huskily. The first light of dawn crept through the wet
windows, a wretched, pale dawn, drowned in the persistent rain....

Christophe got up as soon as he could: he went down to the kitchen and
talked to the people there. He was in a hurry to be gone and was afraid
of being left alone with Sabine again. He was almost relieved when the
miller's wife said that Sabine was unwell, and had caught cold during the
drive and would not be going that morning.

His journey home was melancholy. He refused to drive, and walked through
the soaking fields, in the yellow mist that covered the earth, the trees,
the houses, with a shroud. Like the light, life seemed to be blotted out.
Everything loomed like a specter. He was like a specter himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

At home he found angry faces. They were all scandalized at his having
passed the night God knows where with Sabine. He shut himself up in his
room and applied himself to his work. Sabine returned the next day and shut
herself up also. They avoided meeting each other. The weather was still
wet and cold: neither of them went out. They saw each other through their
closed windows. Sabine was wrapped up by her fire, dreaming. Christophe
was buried in his papers. They bowed to each other a little coldly and
reservedly and then pretended to be absorbed again. They did not take
stock of what they were feeling: they were angry with each other, with
themselves, with things generally. The night at the farmhouse had been
thrust aside in their memories: they were ashamed of it, and did not know
whether they were more ashamed of their folly or of not having yielded to
it. It was painful to them to see each other: for that made them remember
things from which they wished to escape: and by joint agreement they
retired into the depths of their rooms so as utterly to forget each
other. But that was impossible, and they suffered keenly under the secret
hostility which they felt was between them. Christophe was haunted by the
expression of dumb rancor which he had once seen in Sabine's cold eyes.
From such thoughts her suffering was not less: in vain did she struggle
against them, and even deny them: she could not rid herself of them. They
were augmented by her shame that Christophe should have guessed what was
happening within her: and the shame of having offered herself ... the shame
of having offered herself without having given.

Christophe gladly accepted an opportunity which cropped up to go to Cologne
and Düsseldorf for some concerts. He was glad to spend two or three weeks
away from home. Preparation for the concerts and the composition of a new
work that he wished to play at them took up all his time and he succeeded
in forgetting his obstinate memories. They disappeared from Sabine's mind
too, and she fell back into the torpor of her usual life. They came to
think of each other with indifference. Had they really loved each other?
They doubted it. Christophe was on the point of leaving for Cologne without
saying good-bye to Sabine.

On the evening before his departure they were brought together again by
some imperceptible influence. It was one of the Sunday afternoons when
everybody was at church. Christophe had gone out too to make his final
preparations for the journey. Sabine was sitting in her tiny garden warming
herself in the last rays of the sun. Christophe came home: he was in a
hurry and his first inclination when he saw her was; to bow and pass on.
But something held him back as he was passing: was it Sabine's paleness, or
some indefinable feeling: remorse, fear, tenderness?... He stopped, turned
to Sabine, and, leaning over the fence, he bade her good-evening. Without
replying she held out her hand. Her smile was all kindness,--such kindness
as he had never seen in her. Her gesture seemed to say: "Peace between
us...." He took her hand over the fence, bent over it, and kissed it. She
made no attempt to withdraw it. He longed to go down on his knees and say,
"I love you."... They looked at each other in silence. But they offered no
explanation. After a moment she removed her hand and turned her head. He
turned too to hide his emotion. Then they looked at each other again with
untroubled eyes. The sun was setting. Subtle shades of color, violet,
orange, and mauve, chased across the cold clear sky. She shivered and drew
her shawl closer about her shoulders with a movement that he knew well. He
asked:

"How are you?"

She made a little grimace, as if the question were not worth answering.
They went on looking at each other and were happy. It was as though they
had lost, and had just found each other again....

At last he broke the silence and said:

"I am going away to-morrow."

There was alarm in Sabine's eyes.

"Going away?" she said.

He added quickly:

"Oh! only for two or three weeks."

"Two or three weeks," she said in dismay.

He explained that he was engaged for the concerts, but that when he came
back he would not stir all winter.

"Winter," she said. "That is a long time off...."

"Oh! no. It will soon be here."

She saddened and did not look at him.

"When shall we meet again?" she asked a moment later.

He did not understand the question: he had already answered it.

"As soon as I come back: in a fortnight, or three weeks at most."

She still looked dismayed. He tried to tease her:

"It won't be long for you," he said. "You will sleep."

"Yes," said Sabine.

She looked down, she tried to smile: but her eyes trembled.

"Christophe!..." she said suddenly, turning towards him.

There was a note of distress in her voice. She seemed to say:

"Stay! Don't go!..."

He took her hand, looked at her, did not understand the importance she
attached to his fortnight's absence: but he was only waiting for a word
from her to say:

"I will stay...."

And just as she was going to speak, the front door was opened and Rosa
appeared. Sabine withdrew her hand from Christophe's and went hurriedly
into her house. At the door she turned and looked at him once more--and
disappeared.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe thought he should see her again in the evening. But he was
watched by the Vogels, and followed everywhere by his mother: as usual, he
was behindhand with his preparations for his journey and could not find
time to leave the house for a moment.

Next day he left very early. As he passed Sabine's door he longed to go in,
to tap at the window: it hurt him to leave her without saying good-bye:
for he had been interrupted by Rosa before he had had time to do so. But
he thought she must be asleep and would be cross with him if he woke her
up. And then, what could he say to her? It was too late now to abandon his
journey: and what if she were to ask him to do so?... He did not admit to
himself that he was not averse to exercising his power over her,--if need
be, causing her a little pain.... He did not take seriously the grief that
his departure brought Sabine: and he thought that his short absence would
increase the tenderness which, perhaps, she had for him.

He ran to the station. In spite of everything he was a little remorseful.
But as soon as the train had started it was all forgotten. There was youth
in his heart. Gaily he saluted the old town with its roofs and towers rosy
under the sun: and with the carelessness of those who are departing he said
good-bye to those whom he was leaving, and thought no more of them.

The whole time that he was at Düsseldorf and Cologne Sabine never once
recurred to his mind. Taken up from morning till night with rehearsals and
concerts, dinners and talk, busied with a thousand and one new things and
the pride and satisfaction of his success he had no time for recollection.
Once only, on the fifth night after he left home, he woke suddenly after a
dream and knew that he had been thinking of _her_ in his sleep and that the
thought of _her_ had wakened him up: but he could not remember how he had
been thinking of her. He was unhappy and feverish. It was not surprising:
he had been playing at a concert that evening, and when he left the hall
he had been dragged off to a supper at which he had drunk several glasses
of champagne. He could not sleep and got up. He was obsessed by a musical
idea. He pretended that it was that which had broken in upon his sleep and
he wrote it down. As he read through it he was astonished to see how sad
it was. There was no sadness in him when he wrote: at least, so he thought.
But he remembered that on other occasions when he had been sad he had only
been able to write joyous music, so gay that it offended his mood. He gave
no more thought to it. He was used to the surprises of his mind world
without ever being able to understand them. He went to sleep at once, and
knew no more until the next morning.

He extended his stay by three or four days. It pleased him to prolong it,
knowing he could return whenever he liked: he was in no hurry to go home.
It was only when he was on the way, in the train, that the thought of
Sabine came back to him. He had not written to her. He was even careless
enough never to have taken the trouble to ask at the post-office for any
letters that might have been written to him. He took a secret delight in
his silence: he knew that at home he was expected, that he was loved....
Loved? She had never told him so: he had never told her so. No doubt they
knew it and had no need to tell it. And yet there was nothing so precious
as the certainty of such an avowal. Why had they waited so long to make
it? When they had been on the point of speaking always something--some
mischance, shyness, embarrassment,--had hindered them. Why? Why? How much
time they had lost!... He longed to hear the dear words from the lips of
the beloved. He longed to say them to her: he said them aloud in the empty
carriage. As he neared the town he was torn with impatience, a sort of
agony.... Faster! Faster! Oh! To think that in an hour he would see her
again!...

       *       *       *       *       *

It was half-past six in the morning when he reached home. Nobody was up
yet. Sabine's windows were closed. He went into the yard on tiptoe so
that she should not hear him. He chuckled at the thought of taking her by
surprise. He went up to his room. His mother was asleep. He washed and
brushed his hair without making any noise. He was hungry: but he was
afraid of waking Louisa by rummaging in the pantry. He heard footsteps in
the yard: he opened his window softly and saw Rosa, first up as usual,
beginning to sweep. He called her gently. She started in glad surprise when
she saw him: then she looked solemn. He thought she was still offended with
him: but for the moment he was in a very good temper. He went down to her.

"Rosa, Rosa," he said gaily, "give me something to eat or I shall eat you!
I am dying of hunger!"

Rosa smiled and took him to the kitchen on the ground floor. She poured him
out a bowl of milk and then could not refrain from plying him with a string
of questions about his travels and his concerts. But although he was quite
ready to answer them,--(in the happiness of his return he was almost glad
to hear Rosa's chatter once more)--Rosa stopped suddenly in the middle of
her cross-examination, her face fell, her eyes turned away, and she became
sorrowful. Then her chatter broke out again: but soon it seemed that she
thought it out of place and once more she stopped short. And he noticed it
then and said:

"What is the matter, Rosa? Are you cross with me?"

She shook her head violently in denial, and turning towards him with her
usual suddenness took his arm with both hands:

"Oh! Christophe!..." she said.

He was alarmed. He let his piece of bread fall from his hands.

"What! What is the matter?" he stammered.

She said again:

"Oh! Christophe!... Such an awful thing has happened!"

He thrust away from the table. He stuttered:

"H--here?"

She pointed to the house on the other side of the yard.

He cried:

"Sabine!"

She wept:

"She is dead."

Christophe saw nothing. He got up: he almost fell: he clung to the table,
upset the things on it: he wished to cry out. He suffered fearful agony. He
turned sick.

Rosa hastened to his side: she was frightened: she held his head and wept.

As soon as he could speak he said;

"It is not true!"

He knew that it was true. But he wanted to deny it, he wanted to pretend
that it could not be. When he saw Rosa's face wet with tears he could doubt
no more and he sobbed aloud.

Rosa raised her head:

"Christophe!" she said.

He hid his face in his hands. She leaned towards him.

"Christophe!... Mamma is coming!..."

Christophe got up.

"No, no," he said. "She must not see me."

She took his hand and led him, stumbling and blinded by his tears, to a
little woodshed which opened on to the yard. She closed the door. They were
in darkness. He sat on a block of wood used for chopping sticks. She sat on
the fagots. Sounds from without were deadened and distant. There he could
weep without fear of being heard. He let himself go and sobbed furiously.
Rosa had never seen him weep: she had even thought that he could not weep:
she knew only her own girlish tears and such despair in a man filled her
with terror and pity. She was filled with a passionate love for Christophe.
It was an absolutely unselfish love: an immense need of sacrifice, a
maternal self-denial, a hunger to suffer for him, to take his sorrow upon
herself. She put her arm round his shoulders.

"Dear Christophe," she said, "do not cry!"

Christophe turned from her.

"I wish to die!"

Rosa clasped her hands.

"Don't say that, Christophe!"

"I wish to die. I cannot ... cannot live now.... What is the good of
living?"

"Christophe, dear Christophe! You are not alone. You are loved...."

"What is that to me? I love nothing now. It is nothing to me whether
everything else live or die. I love nothing: I loved only her. I loved only
her!"

He sobbed louder than ever with his face buried in his hands. Rosa could
find nothing to say. The egoism of Christophe's passion stabbed her to
the heart. Now when she thought herself most near to him, she felt more
isolated and more miserable than ever. Grief instead of bringing them
together thrust them only the more widely apart. She wept bitterly.

After some time, Christophe stopped weeping and asked:

"How?... How?..."

Rosa understood.

"She fell ill of influenza on the evening you left. And she was taken
suddenly...."

He groaned.

"Dear God!... Why did you not write to me?"

She said:

"I did write. I did not know your address: you did not give us any. I went
and asked at the theater. Nobody knew it."

He knew how timid she was, and how much it must have cost her. He asked:

"Did she ... did she tell you to do that?"

She shook her head:

"No. But I thought ..."

He thanked her with a look. Rosa's heart melted.

"My poor ... poor Christophe!" she said.

She flung her arms round his neck and wept. Christophe felt the worth of
such pure tenderness. He had so much need of consolation! He kissed her:

"How kind you are," he said. "You loved her too?"

She broke away from him, she threw him a passionate look, did not reply,
and began to weep again.

That look was a revelation to him. It meant:

"It was not she whom I loved...."

Christophe saw at last what he had not known--what for months he had not
wished to see. He saw that she loved him.

"'Ssh," she said. "They are calling me." They heard Amalia's voice.

Rosa asked:

"Do you want to go back to your room?"

He said:

"No. I could not yet: I could not bear to talk to my mother.... Later
on...."

She said:

"Stay here. I will come back soon."

He stayed in the dark woodshed to which only a thread of light penetrated
through a small airhole filled with cobwebs. From the street there came up
the cry of a hawker, against the wall a horse in a stable next door was
snorting and kicking. The revelation that had just come to Christophe gave
him no pleasure; but it held his attention for a moment. It made plain many
things that he had not understood. A multitude of little things that he
had disregarded occurred to him and were explained. He was surprised to
find himself thinking of it; he was ashamed to be turned aside even for a
moment from his misery. But that misery was so frightful, so irrepressible
that the mistrust of self-preservation, stronger than his will, than his
courage, than his love, forced him to turn away from it, seized on this
new idea, as the suicide drowning seizes in spite of himself on the first
object which can help him, not to save himself, but to keep himself for a
moment longer above the water. And it was because he was suffering that
he was able to feel what another was suffering--suffering through him. He
understood the tears that he had brought to her eyes. He was filled with
pity for Rosa. He thought how cruel he had been to her--how cruel he must
still be. For he did not love her. What good was it for her to love him?
Poor girl!... In vain did he tell himself that she was good (she had just
proved it). What was her goodness to him? What was her life to him?...

He thought:

"Why is it not she who is dead, and the other who is alive?"

He thought:

"She is alive: she loves me: she can tell me that to-day, to-morrow, all my
life: and the other, the woman I love, she is dead and never told me that
she loved me: I never have told her that I loved her: I shall never hear
her say it: she will never know it...."

And suddenly he remembered that last evening: he remembered that they were
just going to talk when Rosa came and prevented it. And he hated Rosa....

The door of the woodshed was opened. Rosa called Christophe softly, and
groped towards him. She took his hand. He felt an aversion in her near
presence: in vain did he reproach himself for it: it was stronger than
himself.

Rosa was silent: her great pity had taught her silence. Christophe was
grateful to her for not breaking in upon his grief with useless words. And
yet he wished to know ... she was the only creature who could talk to him
of _her_. He asked in a whisper:

"When did she..."

(He dared not say: die.)

She replied:

"Last Saturday week."

Dimly he remembered. He said:

"At night?"

Rosa looked at him in astonishment and said:

"Yes. At night. Between two and three."

The sorrowful melody came back to him. He asked, trembling:

"Did she suffer much?"

"No, no. God be thanked, dear Christophe: she hardly suffered at all. She
was so weak. She did not struggle against it. Suddenly they saw that she
was lost...."

"And she ... did she know it?"

"I don't know. I think ..."

"Did she say anything?"

"No. Nothing. She was sorry for herself like a child."

"You were there?"

"Yes. For the first two days I was there alone, before her brother came."

He pressed her hand in gratitude.

"Thank you."

She felt the blood rush to her heart.

After a silence he said, he murmured the question which was choking him:

"Did she say anything ... for me?"

Rosa shook her head sadly. She would have given much to be able to let him
have the answer he expected: she was almost sorry that she could not lie
about it. She tried to console him:

"She was not conscious."

"But she did speak?"

"One could not make out what she said. It was in a very low voice."

"Where is the child?"

"Her brother took her away with him to the country."

"And _she_?"

"She is there too. She was taken away last Monday week."

They began to weep again.

Frau Vogel's voice called Rosa once more. Christophe, left alone again,
lived through those days of death. A week, already a week ago.... O God!
What had become of her? How it had rained that week!... And all that time
he was laughing, he was happy!

In his pocket he felt a little parcel wrapped up in soft paper: they were
silver buckles that he had brought her for her shoes. He remembered the
evening when he had placed his hand on the little stockinged foot. Her
little feet: where were they now? How cold they must be!... He thought the
memory of that warm contact was the only one that he had of the beloved
creature. He had never dared to touch her, to take her in his arms, to hold
her to his breast. She was gone forever, and he had never known her. He
knew nothing of her, neither soul nor body. He had no memory of her body,
of her life, of her love.... Her love?... What proof had he of that?... He
had not even a letter, a token,--nothing. Where could he seek to hold her,
in himself, or outside himself?... Oh! Nothing! There was nothing left him
but the love he had for her, nothing left him but himself.--And in spite
of all, his desperate desire to snatch her from destruction, his need of
denying death, made him cling to the last piece of wreckage, in an act of
blind faith:

"... _he son gia morto: e ben, c'albergo cangi resto in te vivo. C'or mi
vedi e piangi, se l'un nell' altro amante si trasforma_."

"... I am not dead: I have changed my dwelling. I live still in thee who
art faithful to me. The soul of the beloved is merged in the soul of the
lover."

He had never read these sublime words: but they were in him. Each one of us
in turn climbs the Calvary of the age. Each one of us finds anew the agony,
each one of us finds anew the desperate hope and folly of the ages. Each
one of us follows in the footsteps of those who were, of those before us
who struggled with death, denied death--and are dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

He shut himself up in his room. His shutters were closed all day so as not
to see the windows of the house opposite. He avoided the Vogels: they were
odious to his sight. He had nothing to reproach them with: they were too
honest, and too pious not to have thrust back their feelings in the face of
death. They knew Christophe's grief and respected it, whatever they might
think of it: they never uttered Sabine's name in his presence. But they had
been her enemies when she was alive: that was enough to make him their
enemy now that she was dead.

Besides they had not altered their noisy habits: and in spite of the
sincere though passing pity that they had felt, it was obvious that at
bottom they were untouched by the misfortune--(it was too natural)--perhaps
even they were secretly relieved by it. Christophe imagined so at least.
Now that the Vogels' intentions with regard to himself were made plain
he exaggerated them in his own mind. In reality they attached little
importance to him: he set too great store by himself. But he had no doubt
that the death of Sabine, by removing the greatest obstacle in the way of
his landlords' plans, did seem to them to leave the field clear for Rosa.
So he detested her. That they--(the Vogels, Louisa, and even Rosa)--should
have tacitly disposed of him, without consulting him, was enough in any
case to make him lose all affection for the person whom he was destined to
love. He shied whenever he thought an attempt was made upon his umbrageous
sense of liberty. But now it was not only a question of himself. The rights
which these others had assumed over him did not only infringe upon his
own rights but upon those of the dead woman to whom his heart was given.
So he defended them doggedly, although no one was for attacking them. He
suspected Rosa's goodness. She suffered in seeing him suffer and would
often come and knock at his door to console him and talk to him about the
other. He did not drive her away: he needed to talk of Sabine with some
one who had known her: he wanted to know the smallest of what had happened
during her illness. But he was not grateful to Rosa: he attributed ulterior
motives to her. Was it not plain that her family, even Amalia, permitted
these visits and long colloquies which she would never have allowed if they
had not fallen in with her wishes? Was not Rosa in league with her family?
He could not believe that her pity was absolutely sincere and free of
personal thoughts.

And, no doubt, it was not. Rosa pitied Christophe with all her heart. She
tried hard to see Sabine through Christophe's eyes, and through him to love
her: she was angry with herself for all the unkind feelings that she had
ever had towards her, and asked her pardon in her prayers at night. But
could she forget that she was alive, that she was seeing Christophe every
moment of the day, that she loved him, that she was no longer afraid of the
other, that the other was gone, that her memory would also fade away in its
turn, that she was left alone, that one day perhaps ...? In the midst of
her sorrow, and the sorrow of her friend more hers than her own, could she
repress a glad impulse, an unreasoning hope? For that too she was angry
with herself. It was only a flash. It was enough. He saw it. He threw her a
glance which froze her heart: she read in it hateful thoughts: he hated her
for being alive while the other was dead.

The miller brought his cart for Sabine's little furniture. Coming back from
a lesson Christophe saw heaped up before the door in the street the bed,
the cupboard, the mattress, the linen, all that she had possessed, all that
was left of her. It was a dreadful sight to him. He rushed past it. In the
doorway he bumped into Bertold, who stopped him.

"Ah! my dear sir," he said, shaking his hand effusively. "Ah! who would
have thought it when we were together? How happy we were! And yet it was
because of that day, because of that cursed row on the water, that she fell
ill. Oh well. It is no use complaining! She is dead. It will be our turn
next. That is life.... And how are you? I'm very well, thank God!"

He was red in the face, sweating, and smelled of wine. The idea that he was
her brother, that he had rights in her memory, hurt Christophe. It offended
him to hear this man talking of his beloved. The miller on the contrary
was glad, to find a friend with whom he could talk of Sabine: he did not
understand Christophe's coldness. He had no idea of all the sorrow that
his presence, the sudden calling to mind of the day at his farm, the happy
memories that he recalled so blunderingly, the poor relics of Sabine,
heaped upon the ground, which he kicked as he talked, set stirring in
Christophe's soul. He made some excuse for stopping Bertold's tongue. He
went up the steps: but the other clung to him, stopped him, and went on
with his harangue. At last when the miller took to telling him of Sabine's
illness, with that strange pleasure which certain people, and especially
the common people, take in talking of illness, with a plethora of painful
details, Christophe could bear it no longer--(he took a tight hold of
himself so as not to cry out in his sorrow). He cut him short:

"Pardon," he said curtly and icily. "I must leave you."

He left him without another word.

His insensibility revolted the miller. He had guessed the secret affection
of his sister and Christophe. And that Christophe should now show such
indifference seemed monstrous to him: he thought he had no heart.

Christophe had fled to his room: he was choking. Until the removal was
over he never left his room. He vowed that he would never look out of the
window, but he could not help doing so: and hiding in a corner behind the
curtain he followed the departure of the goods and chattels of the beloved
eagerly and with profound sorrow. When he saw them disappearing forever he
all but ran down to the street to cry: "No! no! Leave them to me! Do not
take them from me!" He longed to beg at least for some little thing, only
one little thing, so that she should not be altogether taken from him. But
how could he ask such a thing of the miller? It was nothing to him. She
herself had not known his love: how dared he then reveal it to another? And
besides, if he had tried to say a word he would have burst out crying....
No. No. He had to say nothing, to watch all go, without being able--without
daring to save one fragment from the wreck....

And when it was all over, when the house was empty, when the yard gate was
closed after the miller, when the wheels of his cart moved on, shaking the
windows, when they were out of hearing, he threw himself on the floor--not
a tear left in him, not a thought of suffering, of struggling, frozen, and
like one dead.

There was a knock at the door. He did not move. Another knock. He had
forgotten to lock the door. Rosa came in. She cried out on seeing him
stretched on the floor and stopped in terror. He raised his head angrily:

"What? What do you want? Leave me!"

She did not go: she stayed, hesitating, leaning against the floor, and said
again:

"Christophe...."

He got up in silence: he was ashamed of having been seen so. He dusted
himself with his hand and asked harshly:

"Well. What do you want?"

Rosa said shyly:

"Forgive me ... Christophe ... I came in ... I was bringing you...."

He saw that she had something in her hand.

"See," she said, holding it out to him. "I asked Bertold to give me a
little token of her. I thought you would like it...."

It was a little silver mirror, the pocket mirror in which she used to look
at herself for hours, not so much from coquetry as from want of occupation.
Christophe took it, took also the hand which held it.

"Oh! Rosa!..." he said.

He was filled with her kindness and the knowledge of his own injustice. On
a passionate impulse he knelt to her and kissed her hand.

"Forgive ... Forgive ..." he said.

Rosa did not understand at first: then she understood only too well: she
blushed, she trembled, she began to weep. She understood that he meant:

"Forgive me if I am unjust.... Forgive me if I do not love you.... Forgive
me if I cannot ... if I cannot love you, if I can never love you!..."

She did not withdraw her hand from him: she knew that it was not herself
that he was kissing. And with his cheek against Rosa's hand, he wept hot
tears, knowing that she was reading through him: there was sorrow and
bitterness in being unable to love her and making her suffer.

They stayed so, both weeping, in the dim light of the room.

At last she withdrew her hand. He went on murmuring;

"Forgive!..."

She laid her hand gently on his hand. He rose to his feet. They kissed in
silence: they felt on their lips the bitter savor of their tears.

"We shall always be friends," he said softly. She bowed her head and left
him, too sad to speak.

They thought that the world is ill made. The lover is unloved. The beloved
does not love. The lover who is loved is sooner or later torn from his
love.... There is suffering. There is the bringing of suffering. And the
most wretched is not always the one who suffers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once more Christophe took to avoiding the house. He could not bear it. He
could not bear to see the curtainless windows, the empty rooms.

A worse sorrow awaited him. Old Euler lost no time in reletting the ground
floor. One day Christophe saw strange faces in Sabine's room. New lives
blotted out the traces of the life that was gone.

It became impossible for him to stay in his rooms. He passed whole
days outside, not coming back until nightfall, when it was too dark to
see anything. Once more he took to making expeditions in the country.
Irresistibly he was drawn to Bertold's farm. But he never went in, dared
not go near it, wandered about it at a distance. He discovered a place on
a hill from which he could see the house, the plain, the river: it was
thither that his steps usually turned. From thence he could follow with his
eyes the meanderings of the water down to the willow clump under which he
had seen the shadow of death pass across Sabine's face. From thence he
could pick out the two windows of the rooms in which they had waited,
side by side, so near, so far, separated by a door--the door to eternity.
From thence he could survey the cemetery. He had never been able to bring
himself to enter it: from childhood he had had a horror of those fields
of decay and corruption, and refused to think of those whom he loved in
connection with them. But from a distance and seen from above, the little
graveyard never looked grim, it was calm, it slept with the sun....
Sleep!... She loved to sleep! Nothing would disturb her there. The crowing
cocks answered each other across the plains. From the homestead rose
the roaring of the mill, the clucking of the poultry yard, the cries of
children playing. He could make out Sabine's little girl, he could see her
running, he could mark her laughter. Once he lay in wait for her near the
gate of the farmyard, in a turn of the sunk road made by the walls: he
seized her as she passed and kissed her. The child was afraid and began, to
cry. She had almost forgotten him already. He asked her:

"Are you happy here?"

"Yes. It is fun...."

"You don't want to come back?"

"No!"

He let her go. The child's indifference plunged him in sorrow. Poor
Sabine!... And yet it was she, something of her.... So little! The child
was hardly at all like her mother: had lived in her, but was not she: in
that mysterious passage through her being the child had hardly retained
more than the faintest perfume of the creature who was gone: inflections of
her voice, a pursing of the lips, a trick of bending the head. The rest of
her was another being altogether: and that being mingled with the being of
Sabine was repulsive to Christophe though he never admitted it to himself.

It was only in himself that Christophe could find the image of Sabine.
It followed him everywhere, hovering above him; but he only felt himself
really to be with her when he was alone. Nowhere was she nearer to him than
in this refuge, on the hill, far from strange eyes, in the midst of the
country that was so full of the memory of her. He would go miles to it,
climbing at a run, his heart beating as though he were going to a meeting
with her: and so it was indeed. When he reached it he would lie on the
ground--the same earth in which _her_ body was laid: he would close his
eyes: and _she_ would come to him. He could not see her face: he could
not hear her voice; he had no need: she entered into him, held him, he
possessed her utterly. In this state of passionate hallucination he would
lose the power of thought, he would be unconscious of what was happening:
he was unconscious of everything save that he was with her.

That state of things did not last long.--To tell the truth he was only
once altogether sincere. From the day following, his will had its share in
the proceedings. And from that time on Christophe tried in vain to bring
it back to life. It was only then that he thought of evoking in himself
the face and form of Sabine: until then he had never thought of it. He
succeeded spasmodically and he was fired by it. But it was only at the cost
of hours of waiting and of darkness.

"Poor Sabine!" he would think. "They have all forgotten you. There is only
I who love you, who keep your memory alive forever. Oh, my treasure, my
precious! I have you, I hold you, I will never let you go!..."

He spoke these words because already she was escaping him: she was slipping
from his thoughts like water through his fingers. He would return again and
again, faithful to the tryst. He wished to think of her and he would close
his eyes. But after half an hour, or an hour, or sometimes two hours, he
would begin to see that he had been thinking of nothing. The sounds of the
valley, the roar of the wind, the little bells of the two goats browsing on
the hill, the noise of the wind in the little slender trees under which he
lay, were sucked up by his thoughts soft and porous like a sponge. He was
angry with his thoughts: they tried to obey him, and to fix the vanished
image to which he was striving to attach his life: but his thoughts fell
back weary and chastened and once more with a sigh of comfort abandoned
themselves to the listless stream of sensations.

He shook off his torpor. He strode through the country hither and thither
seeking Sabine. He sought her in the mirror that once had held her smile.
He sought her by the river bank where her hands had dipped in the water.
But the mirror and the water gave him only the reflection of himself. The
excitement of walking, the fresh air, the beating of his own healthy blood
awoke music in him once more. He wished to find change.

"Oh! Sabine!..." he sighed.

He dedicated his songs to her: he strove to call her to life in his music,
his love, and his sorrow.... In vain: love and sorrow came to life surely:
but poor Sabine had no share in them. Love and sorrow looked towards the
future, not towards the past. Christophe was powerless against his youth.
The sap of life swelled up again in him with new vigor. His grief, his
regrets, his chaste and ardent love, his baffled desires, heightened the
fever that was in him. In spite of his sorrow, his heart beat in lively,
sturdy rhythm: wild songs leaped forth in mad, intoxicated strains:
everything in him hymned life and even sadness took on a festival shape.
Christophe was too frank to persist in self-deception: and he despised
himself. But life swept him headlong: and in his sadness, with death in his
heart, and life in all his limbs, he abandoned himself to the forces
newborn in him, to the absurd, delicious joy of living, which grief, pity,
despair, the aching wound of an irreparable loss, all the torment of death,
can only sharpen and kindle into being in the strong, as they rowel their
sides with furious spur.

And Christophe knew that, in himself, in the secret hidden depths of his
soul, he had an inaccessible and inviolable sanctuary where lay the shadow
of Sabine. That the flood of life could not bear away.... Each of us bears
in his soul as it were a little graveyard of those whom he has loved. They
sleep there, through the years, untroubled. But a day cometh,--this we
know,--when the graves shall reopen. The dead issue from the tomb and smile
with their pale lips--loving, always--on the beloved, and the lover, in
whose breast their memory dwells, like the child sleeping in the mother's
womb.



III

ADA


After the wet summer the autumn was radiant. In the orchards the trees were
weighed down with fruit The red apples shone like billiard balls. Already
some of the trees were taking on their brilliant garb of the falling year:
flame color, fruit color, color of ripe melon, of oranges and lemons, of
good cooking, and fried dishes. Misty lights glowed through the woods: and
from the meadows there rose the little pink flames of the saffron.

He was going down a hill. It was a Sunday afternoon. He was striding,
almost running, gaining speed down the slope. He was singing a phrase, the
rhythm of which had been obsessing him all through his walk. He was red,
disheveled: he was walking, swinging his arms, and rolling his eyes like a
madman, when as he turned a bend in the road he came suddenly on a fair
girl perched on a wall tugging with all her might at a branch of a tree
from which she was greedily plucking and eating purple plums. Their
astonishment was mutual. She looked at him, stared, with her mouth full.
Then she burst out laughing. So did he. She was good to see, with her round
face framed in fair curly hair, which was like a sunlit cloud about her,
her full pink cheeks, her wide blue eyes, her rather large nose,
impertinently turned up, her little red mouth showing white teeth--the
canine little, strong, and projecting--her plump chin, and her full figure,
large and plump, well built, solidly put together. He called out:

"Good eating!" And was for going on his road. But she called to him:

"Sir! Sir! Will you be very nice? Help me to get down. I can't...."

He returned and asked her how she had climbed up.

"With my hands and feet.... It is easy enough to get up...."

"Especially when there are tempting plums hanging above your head...."

"Yes.... But when you have eaten your courage goes. You can't find the way
to get down."

He looked at her on her perch. He said:

"You are all right there. Stay there quietly. I'll come and see you
to-morrow. Good-night!"

But he did not budge, and stood beneath her. She pretended to be afraid,
and begged him with little glances not to leave her. They stayed looking at
each other and laughing. She showed him the branch to which she was
clinging and asked:

"Would you like some?"

Respect for property had not developed in Christophe since the days of his
expeditions with Otto: he accepted without hesitation. She amused herself
with pelting him with plums. When he had eaten she said:

"Now!..."

He took a wicked pleasure in keeping her waiting. She grew impatient on her
wall. At last he said:

"Come, then!" and held his hand up to her.

But just as she was about to jump down she thought a moment.

"Wait! We must make provision first!"

She gathered the finest plums within reach and filled the front of her
blouse with them.

"Carefully! Don't crush them!"

He felt almost inclined to do so.

She lowered herself from the wall and jumped into his arms. Although he was
sturdy he bent under her weight and all but dragged her down. They were of
the same height. Their faces came together. He kissed her lips, moist and
sweet with the juice of the plums: and she returned his kiss without more
ceremony.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"I don't know."

"Are you out alone?"

"No. I am with friends. But I have lost them.... Hi! Hi!" she called
suddenly as loudly as she could.

No answer.

She did not bother about it any more. They began to walk, at random,
following their noses.

"And you ... where are you going?" said she.

"I don't know, either."

"Good. We'll go together."

She took some plums from her gaping blouse and began to munch them.

"You'll make yourself sick," he said.

"Not I! I've been eating them all day."

Through the gap in her blouse he saw the white of her chemise.

"They are all warm now," she said.

"Let me see!"

She held him one and laughed. He ate it. She watched him out of the corner
of her eye as she sucked at the fruit like a child. He did not know how the
adventure would end. It is probable that she at least had some suspicion.
She waited.

"Hi! Hi!" Voices in the woods.

"Hi! Hi!" she answered. "Ah! There they are!" she said to Christophe. "Not
a bad thing, either!"

But on the contrary she was thinking that it was rather a pity. But speech
was not given to woman for her to say what she is thinking.... Thank God!
for there would be an end of morality on earth....

The voices came near. Her friends were near the road. She leaped the ditch,
climbed the hedge, and hid behind the trees. He watched her in amazement.
She signed to him imperiously to come to her. He followed her. She plunged
into the depths of the wood.

"Hi! Hi!" she called once more when they had gone some distance. "You see,
they must look for me!" she explained to Christophe.

Her friends had stopped on the road and were listening for her voice to
mark where it came from. They answered her and in their turn entered the
woods. But she did not wait for them. She turned about on right and on
left. They bawled loudly after her. She let them, and then went and called
in the opposite direction. At last they wearied of it, and, making sure
that the best way of making her come was to give up seeking her, they
called:

"Good-bye!" and went off singing.

She was furious that they should not have bothered about her any more than
that. She had tried to be rid of them: but she had not counted on their
going off so easily. Christophe looked rather foolish: this game of
hide-and-seek with a girl whom he did not know did not exactly enthrall
him: and he had no thought of taking advantage of their solitude. Nor did
she think of it: in her annoyance she forgot Christophe.

"Oh! It's too much," she said, thumping her hands together. "They have left
me."

"But," said Christophe, "you wanted them to."

"Not at all."

"You ran away."

"If I ran away from them that is my affair, not theirs. They ought to look
for me. What if I were lost?..."

Already she was beginning to be sorry for herself because if what might
have happened if ... if the opposite of what actually had occurred had come
about.

"Oh!" she said. "I'll shake them!" She turned back and strode off.

As she went she remembered Christophe and looked at him once more.--But it
was too late. She began to laugh. The little demon which had been in her
the moment before was gone. While she was waiting for another to come she
saw Christophe with the eyes of indifference. And then, she was hungry. Her
stomach was reminding her that it was supper-time: she was in a hurry to
rejoin her friends at the inn. She took Christophe's arm, leaned on it with
all her weight, groaned, and said that she was exhausted. That did not keep
her from dragging Christophe down a slope, running, and shouting, and
laughing like a mad thing.

They talked. She learned who he was: she did not know his name, and seemed
not to be greatly impressed by his title of musician. He learned that she
was a shop-girl from a dress-maker's in the _Kaiserstrasse_ (the most
fashionable street in the town): her name was Adelheid--to friends, Ada.
Her companions on the excursion were one of her friends, who worked at the
same place as herself, and two nice young men, a clerk at Weiller's bank,
and a clerk from a big linen-draper's. They were turning their Sunday to
account: they had decided to dine at the Brochet inn, from which there is a
fine view over the Rhine, and then to return by boat.

The others had already established themselves at the inn when they arrived.
Ada made a scene with her friends: she complained of their cowardly
desertion and presented Christophe as her savior. They did not listen to
her complaints: but they knew Christophe, the bank-clerk by reputation, the
clerk from having heard some of his compositions--(he thought it a good
idea to hum an air from one of them immediately afterwards)--and the
respect which they showed him made an impression on Ada, the more so as
Myrrha, the other young woman--(her real name was Hansi or Johanna)--a
brunette with blinking eyes, bumpy forehead, hair screwed back, Chinese
face, a little too animated, but clever and not without charm, in spite of
her goat-like head and her oily golden-yellow complexion,--at once began to
make advances to their _Hof Musicus_. They begged him to be so good as to
honor their repast with his presence.

Never had he been in such high feather: for he was overwhelmed with
attentions, and the two women, like good friends as they were, tried each
to rob the other of him. Both courted him: Myrrha with ceremonious manners,
sly looks, as she rubbed her leg against his under the table--Ada, openly
making play with her fine eyes, her pretty mouth, and all the seductive
resources at her command. Such coquetry in its almost coarseness incommoded
and distressed Christophe. These two bold young women were a change from
the unkindly faces he was accustomed to at home. Myrrha interested him, he
guessed her to be more intelligent than Ada: but her obsequious manners and
her ambiguous smile were curiously attractive and repulsive to him at the
same time. She could do nothing against Ada's radiance of life and
pleasure: and she was aware of it. When she saw that she had lost the bout,
she abandoned the effort, turned in upon herself, went on smiling, and
patiently waited for her day to come. Ada, seeing herself mistress of the
field, did not seek to push forward the advantage she had gained: what she
had done had been mainly to despite her friend: she had succeeded, she was
satisfied. But she had been caught in her own game. She felt as she looked
into Christophe's eyes the passion that she had kindled in him: and that
same passion began to awake in her. She was silent: she left her vulgar
teasing: they looked at each other in silence: on their lips they had the
savor of their kiss. From time to time by fits and starts they joined
vociferously in the jokes of the others: then they relapsed into silence,
stealing glances at each other. At last they did not even look at each
other, as though they were afraid of betraying themselves. Absorbed in
themselves they brooded over their desire.

When the meal was over they got ready to go. They had to go a mile and a
half through the woods to reach the pier. Ada got up first: Christophe
followed her. They waited on the steps until the others were ready: without
speaking, side by side, in the thick mist that was hardly at all lit up by
the single lamp hanging by the inn door.--Myrrha was dawdling by the
mirror.

Ada took Christophe's hand and led him along the house towards the garden
into the darkness. Under a balcony from which hung a curtain of vines they
hid. All about them was dense darkness. They could not even see each other.
The wind stirred the tops of the pines. He felt Ada's warm fingers entwined
in his and the sweet scent of a heliotrope flower that she had at her
breast.

Suddenly she dragged him to her: Christophe's lips found Ada's hair, wet
with the mist, and kissed her eyes, her eyebrows, her nose, her cheeks, the
corners of her mouth, seeking her lips, and finding them, staying pressed
to them.

The others had gone. They called:

"Ada!..."

They did not stir, they hardly breathed, pressed close to each other, lips
and bodies.

They heard Myrrha:

"They have gone on."

The footsteps of their companions died away in the night. They held each
other closer, in silence, stifling on their lips a passionate murmuring.

In the distance a village clock rang out. They broke apart. They had to run
to the pier. Without a word they set out, arms and hands entwined, keeping
step--a little quick, firm step, like hers. The road was deserted: no
creature was abroad: they could not see ten yards ahead of them: they went,
serene and sure, into the beloved night. They never stumbled over the
pebbles on the road. As they were late they took a short cut. The path led
for some way down through vines and then began to ascend and wind up the
side of the hill. Through the mist they could hear the roar of the river
and the heavy paddles of the steamer approaching. They left the road and
ran across the fields. At last they found themselves on the bank of the
Rhine but still far from the pier. Their serenity was not disturbed. Ada
had forgotten her fatigue of the evening. It seemed to them that they could
have walked all night like that, on the silent grass, in the hovering
mists, that grew wetter and more dense along the river that was wrapped in
a whiteness as of the moon. The steamer's siren hooted: the invisible
monster plunged heavily away and away. They said, laughing:

"We will take the next."

By the edge of the river soft lapping waves broke at their feet. At the
landing stage they were told:

"The last boat has just gone."

Christophe's heart thumped. Ada's hand grasped his arm more tightly.

"But," she said, "there will be another one to-morrow."

A few yards away in a halo of mist was the flickering light of a lamp hung
on a post on a terrace by the river. A little farther on were a few lighted
windows--a little inn.

They went into the tiny garden. The sand ground under their feet. They
groped their way to the steps. When they entered, the lights were being put
out. Ada, on Christophe's arm, asked for a room. The room to which they
were led opened on to the little garden. Christophe leaned out of the
window and saw the phosphorescent flow of the river, and the shade of the
lamp on the glass of which were crushed mosquitoes with large wings. The
door was closed. Ada was standing by the bed and smiling. He dared not look
at her. She did not look at him: but through her lashes she followed
Christophe's every movement. The floor creaked with every step. They could
hear the least noise in the house. They sat on the bed and embraced in
silence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The flickering light of the garden is dead. All is dead.... Night.... The
abyss.... Neither light nor consciousness.... Being. The obscure, devouring
forces of Being. Joy all-powerful. Joy rending. Joy which sucks down the
human creature as the void a stone. The sprout of desire sucking up
thought. The absurd delicious law of the blind intoxicated worlds which
roll at night....

... A night which is many nights, hours that are centuries, records which
are death.... Dreams shared, words spoken with eyes closed, tears and
laughter, the happiness of loving in the voice, of sharing the nothingness
of sleep, the swiftly passing images flouting in the brain, the
hallucinations of the roaring night.... The Rhine laps in a little creek by
the house; in the distance his waters over the dams and breakwaters make a
sound as of a gentle rain falling on sand. The hull of the boat cracks and
groans under the weight of water. The chain by which it is tied sags and
grows taut with a rusty clattering. The voice of the river rises: it fills
the room. The bed is like a boat. They are swept along side by side by a
giddy current--hung in mid-air like a soaring bird. The night grows ever
more dark, the void more empty. Ada weeps, Christophe loses consciousness:
both are swept down under the flowing waters of the night....

Night.... Death.... Why wake to life again?...

The light of the dawning day peeps through the dripping panes. The spark of
life glows once more in their languorous bodies. He awakes, Ada's eyes are
looking at him. A whole life passes in a few moments: days of sin,
greatness, and peace....

"Where am I? And am I two? Do I still exist? I am no longer conscious of
being. All about me is the infinite: I have the soul of a statue, with
large tranquil eyes, filled with Olympian peace...."

They fall back into the world of sleep. And the familiar sounds of the
dawn, the distant bells, a passing boat, oars dripping water, footsteps on
the road, all caress without disturbing their happy sleep, reminding them
that they are alive, and making them delight in the savor of their
happiness....

       *       *       *       *       *

The puffing of the steamer outside the window brought Christophe from his
torpor. They had agreed to leave at seven so as to return to the town in
time for their usual occupations. He whispered:

"Do you hear?"

She did not open her eyes; she smiled, she put out her lips, she tried to
kiss him and then let her head fall back on his shoulder.... Through the
window panes he saw the funnel of the steamer slip by against the sky, he
saw the empty deck, and clouds of smoke. Once more he slipped into
dreaminess....

An hour passed without his knowing it. He heard it strike and started in
astonishment.

"Ada!..." he whispered to the girl. "Ada!" he said again. "It's eight
o'clock."

Her eyes were still closed: she frowned and pouted pettishly.

"Oh! let me sleep!" she said.

She sighed wearily and turned her back on him and went to sleep once more.

He began to dream. His blood ran bravely, calmly through him. His limpid
senses received the smallest impressions simply and freshly. He rejoiced in
his strength and youth. Unwittingly he was proud of being a man. He smiled
in his happiness, and felt himself alone: alone as he had always been, more
lonely even but without sadness, in a divine solitude. No more fever. "No
more shadows. Nature could freely cast her reflection upon his soul in its
serenity. Lying on his back, facing the window, his eyes gazing deep into
the dazzling air with its luminous mists, he smiled:

"How good it is to live!..."

To live!... A boat passed.... The thought suddenly of those who were no
longer alive, of a boat gone by on which they were together: he--she....
She?... Not that one, sleeping by his side.--She, the only she, the
beloved, the poor little woman who was dead.--But is it that one? How came
she there? How did they come to this room? He looks at her, he does not
know her: she is a stranger to him: yesterday morning she did not exist for
him. What does he know of her?--He knows that she is not clever. He knows
that she is not good. He knows that she is not even beautiful with her face
spiritless and bloated with sleep, her low forehead, her mouth open in
breathing, her swollen dried lips pouting like a fish. He knows that he
does not love her. And he is filled with a bitter sorrow when he thinks
that he kissed those strange lips, in the first moment with her, that he
has taken this beautiful body for which he cares nothing on the first night
of their meeting,--and that she whom he loved, he watched her live and die
by his side and never dared touch her hair with his lips, that he will
never know the perfume of her being. Nothing more. All is crumbled away.
The earth has taken all from him. And he never defended what was his....

And while he leaned over the innocent sleeper and scanned her face, and
looked at her with eyes of unkindness, she felt his eyes upon her. Uneasy
under his scrutiny she made a great effort to raise her heavy lids and to
smile: and she said, stammering a little like a waking child:

"Don't look at me. I'm ugly...."

She fell back at once, weighed down with sleep, smiled once more, murmured.

"Oh! I'm so ... so sleepy!..." and went off again into her dreams.

He could not help laughing: he kissed her childish lips more tenderly. He
watched the girl sleeping for a moment longer, and got up quietly. She gave
a comfortable sigh when he was gone. He tried not to wake her as he
dressed, though there was no danger of that: and when he had done he sat in
the chair near the window and watched the steaming smoking river which
looked as though it were covered with ice: and he fell into a brown study
in which there hovered music, pastoral, melancholy.

From time to time she half opened her eyes and looked at him vaguely, took
a second or two, smiled at him, and passed from one sleep to another. She
asked him the time.

"A quarter to nine."

Half asleep she pondered:

"What! Can it be a quarter to nine?"

At half-past nine she stretched, sighed, and said that she was going to get
up.

It was ten o'clock before she stirred. She was petulant.

"Striking again!... The clock is fast!..." He laughed and went and sat on
the bed by her side. She put her arms round his neck and told him her
dreams. He did not listen very attentively and interrupted her with little
love words. But she made him be silent and went on very seriously, as
though she were telling something of the highest importance:

"She was at dinner: the Grand Duke was there: Myrrha was a Newfoundland
dog.... No, a frizzy sheep who waited at table.... Ada had discovered a
method of rising from the earth, of walking, dancing, and lying down in the
air. You see it was quite simple: you had only to do ... thus ... thus ...
and it was done...."

Christophe laughed at her. She laughed too, though a little ruffled at his
laughing. She shrugged her shoulders.

"Ah! you don't understand!..."

They breakfasted on the bed from the same cup, with the same spoon.

At last she got up: she threw off the bedclothes and slipped down from the
bed. Then she sat down to recover her breath and looked at her feet.
Finally she clapped her hands and told him to go out: and as he was in no
hurry about it she took him by the shoulders and thrust him out of the door
and then locked it.

After she had dawdled, looked over and stretched each of her handsome
limbs, she sang, as she washed, a sentimental _Lied_ in fourteen couplets,
threw water at Christophe's face--he was outside drumming on the
window--and as they left she plucked the last rose in the garden and then
they took the steamer. The mist was not yet gone: but the sun shone through
it: they floated through a creamy light. Ada sat at the stern with
Christophe: she was sleepy and a little sulky: she grumbled about the light
in her eyes, and said that she would have a headache all day. And as
Christophe did not take her complaints seriously enough she returned into
morose silence. Her eyes were hardly opened and in them was the funny
gravity of children who have just woke up. But at the next landing-stage an
elegant lady came and sat not far from her, and she grew lively at once:
she talked eagerly to Christophe about things sentimental and
distinguished. She had resumed with him the ceremonious _Sie_.

Christophe was thinking about what she could say to her employer by way of
excuse for her lateness. She was hardly at all concerned about it.

"Bah! It's not the first time."

"The first time that ... what?"

"That I have been late," she said, put out by the question.

He dared not ask her what had caused her lateness.

"What will you tell her?"

"That my mother is ill, dead ... how do I know?"

He was hurt by her talking so lightly.

"I don't want you to lie."

She took offense:

"First of all, I never lie.... And then, I cannot very well tell her...."

He asked her half in jest, half in earnest:

"Why not?"

She laughed, shrugged, and said that he was coarse and ill-bred, and that
she had already asked him not to use the _Du_ to her.

"Haven't I the right?"

"Certainly not."

"After what has happened?"

"Nothing has happened."

She looked at him a little defiantly and laughed: and although she was
joking, he felt most strongly that it would not have cost her much to say
it seriously and almost to believe it. But some pleasant memory tickled
her: for she burst out laughing and looked at Christophe and kissed him
loudly without any concern for the people about, who did not seem to be in
the least surprised by it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now on all his excursions he was accompanied by shop-girls and clerks: he
did not like their vulgarity, and used to try to lose them: but Ada out of
contrariness was no longer disposed for wandering in the woods. When it
rained or for some other reason they did not leave the town he would take
her to the theater, or the museum, or the _Thiergarten_: for she insisted
on being seen with him. She even wanted him to go to church with her; but
he was so absurdly sincere that he would not set foot inside a church since
he had lost his belief--(on some other excuse he had resigned his position
as organist)--and at the same time, unknown to himself, remained much too
religious not to think Ada's proposal sacrilegious.

He used to go to her rooms in the evening. Myrrha would be there, for she
lived in the same house. Myrrha was not at all resentful against him: she
would hold out her soft hand, caressingly, and talk of trivial and improper
things and then dip away discreetly. The two women had never seemed to be
such friends as since they had had small reason for being so: they were
always together. Ada had no secrets from Myrrha: she told her everything:
Myrrha listened to everything: they seemed to be equally pleased with it
all.

Christophe was ill at ease in the company of the two women. Their
friendship, their strange conversations, their freedom of manner, the crude
way in which Myrrha especially viewed and spoke of things--(not so much in
his presence, however, as when he was not there, but Ada used to repeat her
sayings to him)--their indiscreet and impertinent curiosity, which was
forever turned upon subjects that were silly or basely sensual, the whole
equivocal and rather animal atmosphere oppressed him terribly, though it
interested him: for he knew nothing like it. He was at sea in the
conversations of the two little beasts, who talked of dress, and made silly
jokes, and laughed in an inept way with their eyes shining with delight
when they were off on the track of some spicy story. He was more at ease
when Myrrha left them. When the two women were together it was like being
in a foreign country without knowing the language. It was impossible to
make himself understood: they did not even listen: they poked fun at the
foreigner.

When he was alone with Ada they went on speaking different languages: but
at least they did make some attempt to understand each other. To tell the
truth, the more he understood her, the less he understood her. She was the
first woman he had known. For if poor Sabine was a woman he had known, he
had known nothing of her: she had always remained for him a phantom of his
heart. Ada took upon herself to make him make up for lost time. In his turn
he tried to solve the riddle of woman; an enigma which perhaps is no enigma
except for those who seek some meaning in it.

Ada was without intelligence: that was the least of her faults. Christophe
would have commended her for it, if she had approved it herself. But
although she was occupied only with stupidities, she claimed to have some
knowledge of the things of the spirit: and she judged everything with
complete assurance. She would talk about music, and explain to Christophe
things which he knew perfectly, and would pronounce absolute judgment and
sentence. It was useless to try to convince her she had pretensions and
susceptibilities in everything; she gave herself airs, she was obstinate,
vain: she would not--she could not understand anything. Why would she not
accept that she could understand nothing? He loved her so much better when
she was content with being just what she was, simply, with her own
qualities and failings, instead of trying to impose on others and herself!

In fact, she was little concerned with thought. She was concerned with
eating, drinking, singing, dancing, crying, laughing, sleeping: she wanted
to be happy: and that would have been all right if she had succeeded. But
although she had every gift for it: she was greedy, lazy, sensual, and
frankly egoistic in a way that revolted and amused Christophe: although she
had almost all the vices which make life pleasant for their fortunate
possessor, if not for their friends--(and even then does not a happy face,
at least if it be pretty, shed happiness on all those who come near
it?)--in spite of so many reasons for being satisfied with life and herself
Ada was not even clever enough for that. The pretty, robust girl, fresh,
hearty, healthy-looking, endowed with abundant spirits and fierce
appetites, was anxious about her health. She bemoaned her weakness, while
she ate enough for four. She was always sorry for herself: she could not
drag herself along, she could not breathe, she had a headache, feet-ache,
her eyes ached, her stomach ached, her soul ached. She was afraid of
everything, and madly superstitious, and saw omens everywhere: at meals the
crossing of knives and forks, the number of the guests, the upsetting of a
salt-cellar: then there must be a whole ritual to turn aside misfortune.
Out walking she would count the crows, and never failed to watch which side
they flew to: she would anxiously watch the road at her feet, and when a
spider crossed her path in the morning she would cry out aloud: then she
would wish to go home and there would be no other means of not interrupting
the walk than to persuade her that it was after twelve, and so the omen was
one of hope rather than of evil. She was afraid of her dreams: she would
recount them at length to Christophe; for hours she would try to recollect
some detail that she had forgotten; she never spared him one; absurdities
piled one on the other, strange marriages, deaths, dressmakers' prices,
burlesque, and sometimes, obscene things. He had to listen to her and give
her his advice. Often she would be for a whole day under the obsession of
her inept fancies. She would find life ill-ordered, she would see things
and people rawly and overwhelm Christophe with her jeremiads; and it seemed
hardly worth while to have broken away from the gloomy middle-class people
with whom he lived to find once more the eternal enemy: the _"trauriger
ungriechischer Hypochondrist_."

But suddenly in the midst of her sulks and grumblings, she would become
gay, noisy, exaggerated: there was no more dealing with her gaiety than
with her moroseness: she would burst out laughing for no reason and seem as
though she were never going to stop: she would rush across the fields, play
mad tricks and childish pranks, take a delight in doing silly things, in
mixing with the earth, and dirty things, and the beasts, and the spiders,
and worms, in teasing them, and hurting them, and making them eat each
other: the cats eat the birds, the fowls the worms, the ants the spiders,
not from any wickedness, or perhaps from an altogether unconscious instinct
for evil, from curiosity, or from having nothing better to do. She seemed
to be driven always to say stupid things, to repeat senseless words again
and again, to irritate Christophe, to exasperate him, set his nerves on
edge, and make him almost beside himself. And her coquetry as soon as
anybody--no matter who--appeared on the road!... Then she would talk
excitedly, laugh noisily, make faces, draw attention to herself: she would
assume an affected mincing gait. Christophe would have a horrible
presentiment that she was going to plunge into serious discussion.--And,
indeed, she would do so. She would become sentimental, uncontrolledly, just
as she did everything: she would unbosom herself in a loud voice.
Christophe would suffer and long to beat her. Least of all could he forgive
her her lack of sincerity. He did not yet know that sincerity is a gift as
rare as intelligence or beauty and that it cannot justly be expected of
everybody. He could not bear a lie: and Ada gave him lies in full measure.
She was always lying, quite calmly, in spite of evidence to the contrary.
She had that astounding faculty for forgetting what is displeasing to
them--or even what has been pleasing to them--which those women possess who
live from moment to moment.

And, in spite of everything, they loved each other with all their hearts.
Ada was as sincere as Christophe in her love. Their love was none the less
true for not being based on intellectual sympathy: it had nothing in common
with base passion. It was the beautiful love of youth: it was sensual, but
not vulgar, because it was altogether youthful: it was naïve, almost
chaste, purged by the ingenuous ardor of pleasure. Although Ada was not, by
a long way, so ignorant as Christophe, yet she had still the divine
privilege of youth of soul and body, that freshness of the senses, limpid
and vivid as a running stream, which almost gives the illusion of purity
and through life is never replaced. Egoistic, commonplace, insincere in her
ordinary life,--love made her simple, true, almost good: she understood in
love the joy that is to be found in self-forgetfulness. Christophe saw this
with delight: and he would gladly have died for her. Who can tell all the
absurd and touching illusions that a loving heart brings to its love! And
the natural illusion of the lover was magnified an hundredfold in
Christophe by the power of illusion which is born in the artist. Ada's
smile held profound meanings for him: an affectionate word was the proof of
the goodness of her heart. He loved in her all that is good and beautiful
in the universe. He called her his own, his soul, his life. They wept
together over their love.

Pleasure was not the only bond between them: there was an indefinable
poetry of memories and dreams,--their own? or those of the men and women
who had loved before them, who had been before them,--in them?... Without a
word, perhaps without knowing it, they preserved the fascination of the
first moments of their meeting in the woods, the first days, the first
nights together: those hours of sleep in each other's arms, still,
unthinking, sinking down into a flood of love and silent joy. Swift
fancies, visions, dumb thoughts, titillating, and making them go pale, and
their hearts sink under their desire, bringing all about them a buzzing as
of bees. A fine light, and tender.... Their hearts sink and beat no more,
borne down in excess of sweetness. Silence, languor, and fever, the
mysterious weary smile of the earth quivering under the first sunlight of
spring.... So fresh a love in two young creatures is like an April morning.
Like April it must pass. Youth of the heart is like an early feast of
sunshine.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nothing could have brought Christophe closer to Ada in his love than the
way in which he was judged by others.

The day after their first meeting it was known all over the town. Ada made
no attempt to cover up the adventure, and rather plumed herself on her
conquest. Christophe would have liked more discretion: but he felt that the
curiosity of the people was upon him: and as he did not wish to seem to fly
from it, he threw in his lot with Ada. The little town buzzed with tattle.
Christophe's colleagues in the orchestra paid him sly compliments to which
he did not reply, because he would not allow any meddling with his affairs.
The respectable people of the town judged his conduct very severely. He
lost his music lessons with certain families. With others, the mothers
thought that they must now be present at the daughters' lessons, watching
with suspicious eyes, as though Christophe were intending to carry off the
precious darlings. The young ladies were supposed to know nothing.
Naturally they knew everything: and while they were cold towards Christophe
for his lack of taste, they were longing to have further details. It was
only among the small tradespeople, and the shop people, that Christophe was
popular: but not for long: he was just as annoyed by their approval as by
the condemnation of the rest: and being unable to do anything against that
condemnation, he took steps not to keep their approval: there was no
difficulty about that. He was furious with the general indiscretion.

The most indignant of all with him were Justus Euler and the Vogels. They
took Christophe's misconduct as a personal outrage. They had not made any
serious plans concerning him: they distrusted--especially Frau Vogel--these
artistic temperaments. But as they were naturally discontented and always
inclined to think themselves persecuted by fate, they persuaded themselves
that they had counted on the marriage of Christophe and Rosa; as soon as
they were quite certain that such a marriage would never come to pass, they
saw in it the mark of the usual ill luck. Logically, if fate were
responsible for their miscalculation, Christophe could not be: but the
Vogels' logic was that which gave them the greatest opportunity for finding
reasons for being sorry for themselves. So they decided that if Christophe
had misconducted himself it was not so much for his own pleasure as to give
offense to them. They were scandalized. Very religious, moral, and oozing
domestic virtue, they were of those to whom the sins of the flesh are the
most shameful, the most serious, almost the only sins, because they are the
only dreadful sins--(it is obvious that respectable people are never likely
to be tempted to steal or murder).--And so Christophe seemed to them
absolutely wicked, and they changed their demeanor towards him. They were
icy towards him and turned away as they passed him. Christophe, who was in
no particular need of their conversation, shrugged his shoulders at all the
fuss. He pretended not to notice Amalia's insolence: who, while she
affected contemptuously to avoid him, did all that she could to make him
fall in with her so that she might tell him all that was rankling in her.

Christophe was only touched by Rosa's attitude. The girl condemned him more
harshly even than his family. Not that this new love of Christophe's seemed
to her to destroy her last chances of being loved by him: she knew that she
had no chance left--(although perhaps she went on hoping: she always
hoped).--But she had made an idol of Christophe: and that idol had crumbled
away. It was the worst sorrow for her ... yes, a sorrow more cruel to the
innocence and honesty of her heart, than being disdained and forgotten by
him. Brought up puritanically, with a narrow code of morality, in which she
believed passionately, what she had heard about Christophe had not only
brought her to despair but had broken her heart. She had suffered already
when he was in love with Sabine: she had begun then to lose some of her
illusions about her hero. That Christophe could love so commonplace a
creature seemed to her inexplicable and inglorious. But at least that love
was pure, and Sabine was not unworthy of it. And in the end death had
passed over it and sanctified it.... But that at once Christophe should
love another woman,--and such a woman!--was base, and odious! She took upon
herself the defense of the dead woman against him. She could not forgive
him for having forgotten her.... Alas! He was thinking of her more than
she: but she never thought that in a passionate heart there might be room
for two sentiments at once: she thought it impossible to be faithful to the
past without sacrifice of the present. Pure and cold, she had no idea of
life or of Christophe: everything in her eyes was pure, narrow, submissive
to duty, like herself. Modest of soul, modest of herself, she had only one
source of pride: purity: she demanded it of herself and of others. She
could not forgive Christophe for having so lowered himself, and she would
never forgive him.

Christophe tried to talk to her, though not to explain himself--(what could
he say to her? what could he say to a little puritanical and naïve
girl?).--He would have liked to assure her that he was her friend, that he
wished for her esteem, and had still the right to it He wished to prevent
her absurdly estranging herself from him.--But Rosa avoided him in stern
silence: he felt that she despised him.

He was both sorry and angry. He felt that he did not deserve such contempt;
and yet in the end he was bowled over by it: and thought himself guilty. Of
all the reproaches cast against him the most bitter came from himself when
he thought of Sabine. He tormented himself.

"Oh! God, how is it possible? What sort of creature am I?..."

But he could not resist the stream that bore him on. He thought that life
is criminal: and he closed his eyes so as to live without seeing it. He had
so great a need to live, and be happy, and love, and believe!... No: there
was nothing despicable in his love! He knew that it was impossible to be
very wise, or intelligent, or even very happy in his love for Ada: but what
was there in it that could be called vile? Suppose--(he forced the idea on
himself)--that Ada were not a woman of any great moral worth, how was the
love that he had for her the less pure for that? Love is in the lover, not
in the beloved. Everything is worthy of the lover, everything is worthy of
love. To the pure all is pure. All is pure in the strong and the healthy of
mind. Love, which adorns certain birds with their loveliest colors, calls
forth from the souls that are true all that is most noble in them. The
desire to show to the beloved only what is worthy makes the lover take
pleasure only in those thoughts and actions which are in harmony with the
beautiful image fashioned by love. And the waters of youth in which the
soul is bathed, the blessed radiance of strength and joy, are beautiful and
health-giving, making the heart great.

That his friends misunderstood him filled him with bitterness. But the
worst trial of all was that his mother was beginning to be unhappy about
it.

The good creature was far from sharing the narrow views of the Vogels. She
had seen real sorrows too near ever to try to invent others. Humble, broken
by life, having received little joy from it, and having asked even less,
resigned to everything that happened, without even trying to understand it,
she was careful not to judge or censure others: she thought she had no
right. She thought herself too stupid to pretend that they were wrong when
they did not think as she did: it would have seemed ridiculous to try to
impose on others the inflexible rules of her morality and belief. Besides
that, her morality and her belief were purely instinctive: pious and pure
in herself she closed her eyes to the conduct of others, with the
indulgence of her class for certain faults and certain weaknesses. That had
been one of the complaints that her father-in-law, Jean Michel, had lodged
against her: she did not sufficiently distinguish between those who were
honorable and those who were not: she was not afraid of stopping in the
street or the market-place to shake hands and talk with young women,
notorious in the neighborhood, whom a respectable woman ought to pretend to
ignore. She left it to God to distinguish between good and evil, to punish
or to forgive. From others she asked only a little of that affectionate
sympathy which is so necessary to soften the ways of life. If people were
only kind she asked no more.

But since she had lived with the Vogels a change had come about in her. The
disparaging temper of the family had found her an easier prey because she
was crushed and had no strength to resist. Amalia had taken her in hand:
and from morning to night when they were working together alone, and Amalia
did all the talking, Louisa, broken and passive, unconsciously assumed the
habit of judging and criticising everything. Frau Vogel did not fail to
tell her what she thought of Christophe's conduct. Louisa's calmness
irritated her. She thought it indecent of Louisa to be so little concerned
about what put him beyond the pale: she was not satisfied until she had
upset her altogether. Christophe saw it. Louisa dared not reproach him: but
every day she made little timid remarks, uneasy, insistent: and when he
lost patience and replied sharply, she said no more: but still he could see
the trouble in her eyes: and when he came home sometimes he could see that
she had been weeping. He knew his mother too well not to be absolutely
certain that her uneasiness did not come from herself.--And he knew well
whence it came.

He determined to make an end of it. One evening when Louisa was unable to
hold back her tears and had got up from the table in the middle of supper
without Christophe being able to discover what was the matter, he rushed
downstairs four steps at a time and knocked at the Vogels' door. He was
boiling with rage. He was not only angry about Frau Vogel's treatment of
his mother: he had to avenge himself for her having turned Rosa against
him, for her bickering against Sabine, for all that he had had to put up
with at her hands for months. For months he had borne his pent-up feelings
against her and now made haste to let them loose.

He burst in on Frau Vogel and in a voice that he tried to keep calm, though
it was trembling with fury, he asked her what she had told his mother to
bring her to such a state.

Amalia took it very badly: she replied that she would say what she pleased,
and was responsible to no one for her actions--to him least of all. And
seizing the opportunity to deliver the speech which she had prepared, she
added that if Louisa was unhappy he had to go no further for the cause of
it than his own conduct, which was a shame to himself and a scandal to
everybody else.

Christophe was only waiting for her onslaught to strike out, He shouted
angrily that his conduct was his own affair, that he did not care a rap
whether it pleased Frau Vogel or not, that if she wished to complain of it
she must do so to him, and that she could say to him whatever she liked:
that rested with her, but he _forbade_ her--(did she hear?)--_forbade_ her
to say anything to his mother: it was cowardly and mean so to attack a poor
sick old woman.

Frau Vogel cried loudly. Never had any one dared to speak to her in such a
manner. She said that she was not to be lectured fey a rapscallion,--and in
her own house, too!--And she treated him with abuse.

The others came running up on the noise of the quarrel,--except Vogel, who
fled from anything that might upset, his health. Old Euler was called to
witness by the indignant Amalia and sternly bade Christophe in future to
refrain from speaking to or visiting them. He said that they did not need
him to tell them what they ought to do, that they did their duty and would
always do it.

Christophe declared that he would go and would never again set foot in
their house. However, he did not go until he had relieved his feelings by
telling them what he had still to say about their famous Duty, which had
become to him a personal enemy. He said that their Duty was the sort of
thing to make him love vice. It was people like them who discouraged good,
by insisting on making it unpleasant. It was their fault that so many find
delight by contrast among those who are dishonest, but amiable and
laughter-loving. It was a profanation of the name of duty to apply it to
everything, to the most stupid tasks, to trivial things, with a stiff and
arrogant severity which ends by darkening and poisoning life. Duty, he
said, was exceptional: it should be kept for moments of real sacrifice, and
not used to lend the lover of its name to ill-humor and the desire to be
disagreeable to others. There was no reason, because they were stupid
enough or ungracious enough to be sad, to want everybody else to be so too
and to impose on everybody their decrepit way of living.... The first of
all virtues is joy. Virtue must be happy, free, and unconstrained. He who
does good must give pleasure to himself. But this perpetual upstart Duty,
this pedagogic tyranny, this peevishness, this futile discussion, this
acrid, puerile quibbling, this ungraciousness, this charmless life, without
politeness, without silence, this mean-spirited pessimism, which lets slip
nothing that can make existence poorer than it is, this vainglorious
unintelligence, which finds it easier to despise others than to understand
them, all this middle-class morality, without greatness, without largeness,
without happiness, without beauty, all these things are odious and hurtful:
they make vice appear more human than virtue.

So thought Christophe: and in his desire to hurt those who had wounded him,
he did not see that he was being as unjust as those of whom he spoke.

No doubt these unfortunate people were, almost as he saw them. But it was
not their fault: it was the fault of their ungracious life, which had made
their faces, their doings, and their thoughts ungracious. They had suffered
the deformation of misery--not that great misery which swoops down and
slays or forges anew--but the misery of ever recurring ill-fortune, that
small misery which trickles down drop by drop from the first day to the
last.... Sad, indeed! For beneath these rough exteriors what treasures in
reserve are there, of uprightness, of kindness, of silent heroism!... The
whole strength of a people, all the sap of the future.

Christophe was not wrong in thinking duty exceptional. But love is so no
less. Everything is exceptional. Everything that is of worth has no worse
enemy--not the evil (the vices are of worth)--but the habitual. The mortal
enemy of the soul is the daily wear and tear.

Ada was beginning to weary of it. She was not clever enough to find new
food for her love in an abundant nature like that of Christophe. Her senses
and her vanity had extracted from it all the pleasure they could find in
it. There was left her only the pleasure of destroying it. She had that
secret instinct common to so many women, even good women, to so many men,
even clever men, who are not creative either of art, or of children, or of
pure action,--no matter what: of life--and yet have too much life in apathy
and resignation to bear with their uselessness. They desire others to be as
useless as themselves and do their best to make them so. Sometimes they do
so in spite of themselves: and when they become aware of their criminal
desire they hotly thrust it back. But often they hug it to themselves: and
they set themselves according to their strength--some modestly in their own
intimate circle--others largely with vast audiences--to destroy everything
that has life, everything that loves life, everything that deserves life.
The critic who takes upon himself to diminish the stature of great men and
great thoughts--and the girl who amuses herself with dragging down her
lovers, are both mischievous beasts of the same kind.--But the second is
the pleasanter of the two.

Ada then would have liked to corrupt Christophe a little, to humiliate him.
In truth, she was not strong enough. More intelligence was needed, even in
corruption. She felt that: and it was not the least of her rankling
feelings against Christophe that her love could do him no harm. She did not
admit the desire that was in her to do him harm: perhaps she would have
done him none if she had been able. But it annoyed her that she could not
do it. It is to fail in love for a woman not to leave her the illusion of
her power for good or evil over her lover: to do that must inevitably be to
impel her irresistibly to the test of it. Christophe paid no attention to
it. When Ada asked him jokingly:

"Would you leave your music for me?"

(Although she had no wish for him to do so.)

He replied frankly:

"No, my dear: neither you nor anybody else can do anything against that. I
shall always make music."

"And you say you love?" cried she, put out.

She hated his music--the more so because she did not understand it, and it
was impossible for her to find a means of coming to grips with this
invisible enemy and so to wound Christophe in his passion. If she tried to
talk of it contemptuously, or scornfully to judge Christophe's
compositions, he would shout with laughter; and in spite of her
exasperation Ada would relapse into silence: for she saw that she was being
ridiculous.

But if there was nothing to be done in that direction, she had discovered
another weak spot in Christophe, one more easy of access: his moral faith.
In spite of his squabble with the Vogels, and in spite of the intoxication
of his adolescence, Christophe had preserved an instinctive modesty, a need
of purity, of which he was entirely unconscious. At first it struck Ada,
attracted and charmed her, then made her impatient and irritable, and
finally, being the woman she was, she detested it. She did not make a
frontal attack. She would ask insidiously:

"Do you love me?"

"Of course!"

"How much do you love me?"

"As much as it is possible to love."

"That is not much ... after all!... What would you do for me?"

"Whatever you like."

"Would you do something dishonest."

"That would be a queer way of loving."

"That is not what I asked. Would you?"

"It is not necessary."

"But if I wished it?"

"You would be wrong."

"Perhaps.... Would you do it?"

He tried to kiss her. But she thrust him away.

"Would you do it? Yes or no?"

"No, my dear."

She turned her back on him and was furious.

"You do not love me. You do not know what love is."

"That is quite possible," he said good-humoredly. He knew that, like
anybody else, he was capable in a moment of passion of committing some
folly, perhaps something dishonest, and--who knows?--even more: but he
would have thought shame of himself if he had boasted of it in cold blood,
and certainly it would be dangerous to confess it to Ada. Some instinct
warmed him that the beloved foe was lying in ambush, and taking stock of
his smallest remark; he would not give her any weapon against him.

She would return to the charge again, and ask him:

"Do you love me because you love me, or because I love you?"

"Because I love you."

"Then if I did not love you, you would still love me?"

"Yes."

"And if I loved some one else you would still love me?"

"Ah! I don't know about that.... I don't think so.... In any case you would
be the last person to whom I should say so."

"How would it be changed?"

"Many things would be changed. Myself, perhaps. You, certainly."

"And if I changed, what would it matter?"

"All the difference in the world. I love you as you are. If you become
another creature I can't promise to love you."

"You do not love, you do not love! What is the use of all this quibbling?
You love or you do not love. If you love me you ought to love me just as I
am, whatever I do, always."

"That would be to love you like an animal."

"I want to be loved like that."

"Then you have made a mistake," said he jokingly. "I am not the sort of man
you want. I would like to be, but I cannot. And I will not."

"You are very proud of your intelligence! You love your intelligence more
than you do me."

"But I love you, you wretch, more than you love yourself. The more
beautiful and the more good you are, the more I love you."

"You are a schoolmaster," she said with asperity.

"What would you? I love what is beautiful. Anything ugly disgusts me."

"Even in me?"

"Especially in you."

She drummed angrily with her foot.

"I will not be judged."

"Then complain of what I judge you to be, and of what I love in you," said
he tenderly to appease her.

She let him take her in his arms, and deigned to smile, and let him kiss
her. But in a moment when he thought she had forgotten she asked uneasily:

"What do you think ugly in me?"

He would not tell her: he replied cowardly:

"I don't think anything ugly in you."

She thought for a moment, smiled, and said:

"Just a moment, Christli: you say that you do not like lying?"

"I despise it."

"You are right," she said. "I despise it too. I am of a good conscience. I
never lie."

He stared at her: she was sincere. Her unconsciousness disarmed him.

"Then," she went on, putting her arms about his neck, "why would you be
cross with me if I loved some one else and told you so?"

"Don't tease me."

"I'm not teasing: I am not saying that I do love some one else: I am saying
that I do not.... But if I did love some one later on...."

"Well, don't let us think of it."

"But I want to think of it.... You would not be angry, with me? You could
not be angry with me?"

"I should not be angry with you. I should leave you. That is all."

"Leave me? Why? If I still loved you ...?"

"While you loved some one else?"

"Of course. It happens sometimes."

"Well, it will not happen with us."

"Why?"

"Because as soon as you love some one else, I shall love you no longer, my
dear, never, never again."

"But just now you said perhaps.... Ah! you see you do not love me!"

"Well then: all the better for you."

"Because ...?"

"Because if I loved you when you loved some one else it might turn out
badly for you, me, and him."

"Then!... Now you are mad. Then I am condemned to stay with you all my
life?"

"Be calm. You are free. You shall leave me when you like. Only it will not
be _au revoir_: it will be good-bye."

"But if I still love you?"

"When people love, they sacrifice themselves to each other."

"Well, then ... sacrifice yourself!"

He could not help laughing at her egoism: and she laughed too.

"The sacrifice of one only," he said, "means the love of one only."

"Not at all. It means the love of both. I shall not love you much longer if
you do not sacrifice yourself for me. And think, Christli, how much you
will love me, when you have sacrificed yourself, and how happy you will
be."

They laughed and were glad to have a change from the seriousness of the
disagreement.

He laughed and looked at her. At heart, as she said, she had no desire to
leave Christophe at present: if he irritated her and often bored her she
knew the worth of such devotion as his: and she loved no one else. She
talked so for fun, partly because she knew he disliked it, partly because
she took pleasure in playing with equivocal and unclean thoughts like a
child which delights to mess about with dirty water. He knew this. He did
not mind. But he was tired of these unwholesome discussions, of the silent
struggle against this uncertain and uneasy creature whom he loved, who
perhaps loved him: he was tired from the effort that he had to make to
deceive himself about her, sometimes tired almost to tears. He would think:
"Why, why is she like this? Why are people like this? How second-rate life
is!"... At the same time he would smile as he saw her pretty face above
him, her blue eyes, her flower-like complexion, her laughing, chattering
lips, foolish a little, half open to reveal the brilliance of her tongue
and her white teeth. Their lips would almost touch: and he would look at
her as from a distance, a great distance, as from another world: he would
see her going farther and farther from him, vanishing in a mist.... And
then he would lose sight of her. He could hear her no more. He would fall
into a sort of smiling oblivion, in which he thought of his music, his
dreams, a thousand things foreign, to Ada.... Ah! beautiful music!... so
sad, so mortally sad! and yet kind, loving.... Ah! how good it is!... It is
that, it is that.... Nothing else is true....

She would shake his arm. A voice would cry:

"Eh, what's the matter with you? You are mad, quite mad. Why do you look at
me like that? Why don't you answer?"

Once more he would see the eyes looking at him. Who was it?... Ah! yes....
He would sigh.

She would watch him. She would try to discover what he was thinking of. She
did not understand: but she felt that it was useless: that she could not
keep hold of him, that there was always a door by which he could escape.
She would conceal her irritation.

"Why are you crying?" she asked him once as he returned from one of his
strange journeys into another life.

He drew his hands across his eyes. He felt that they were wet.

"I do not know," he said.

"Why don't you answer? Three times you have said the same thing."

"What do you want?" he asked gently.

She went back to her absurd discussions. He waved his hand wearily.

"Yes," she said. "I've done. Only a word more!" And off she started again.

Christophe shook himself angrily.

"Will you keep your dirtiness to yourself!"

"I was only joking."

"Find cleaner subjects, then!"

"Tell me why, then. Tell me why you don't like it."

"Why? You can't argue as to why a dump-heap smells. It does smell, and that
is all! I hold my nose and go away."

He went away, furious: and he strode along taking in great breaths of the
cold air.

But she would begin again, once, twice, ten times. She would bring forward
every possible subject that could shock him and offend his conscience.

He thought it was only a morbid jest of a neurasthenic girl, amusing
herself by annoying him. He would shrug his shoulders or pretend not to
hear her: he would not take her seriously. But sometimes he would long to
throw her out of the window: for neurasthenia and the neurasthenics were
very little to his taste....

But ten minutes away from her were enough to make him forget everything
that had annoyed him. He would return to Ada with a fresh store of hopes
and new illusions. He loved her. Love is a perpetual act of faith. Whether
God exist or no is a small matter: we believe, because we believe. We love
because we love; there is no need of reasons!...

       *       *       *       *       *

After Christophe's quarrel with the Vogels it became impossible for them to
stay in the house, and Louisa had to seek another lodging for herself and
her son.

One day Christophe's younger brother Ernest, of whom they had not heard for
a long time, suddenly turned up. He was out of work, having been dismissed
in turn from all the situations he had procured; his purse was empty and
his health ruined; and so he had thought it would be as well to
re-establish himself in his mother's house.

Ernest was not on bad terms with either of his brothers: they thought very
little of him and he knew it: but he did not bear any grudge against them,
for he did not care. They had no ill-feeling against him. It was not worth
the trouble. Everything they said to him slipped off his back without
leaving a mark. He just smiled with his sly eyes, tried to look contrite,
thought of something else, agreed, thanked them, and in the end always
managed to extort money from one or other of them. In spite of himself
Christophe was fond of the pleasant mortal who, like himself, and more than
himself, resembled their father Melchior in feature. Tall and strong like
Christophe, he had regular features, a frank expression, a straight nose, a
laughing mouth, fine teeth, and endearing manners. When even Christophe saw
him he was disarmed and could not deliver half the reproaches that he had
prepared: in his heart he had a sort of motherly indulgence for the
handsome boy who was of his blood, and physically at all events did him
credit. He did not believe him to be bad: and Ernest was not a fool.
Without culture, he was not without brains: he was even not incapable of
taking an interest in the things of the mind. He enjoyed listening to
music: and without understanding his brother's compositions he would listen
to them with interest. Christophe, who did not receive too much sympathy
from his family, had been glad to see him at some of his concerts.

But Ernest's chief talent was the knowledge that he possessed of the
character of his two brothers, and his skill in making use of his
knowledge. It was no use Christophe knowing Ernest's egoism and
indifference: it was no use his seeing that Ernest never thought of his
mother or himself except when he had need of them: he was always taken in
by his affectionate ways and very rarely did he refuse him anything. He
much preferred him to his other brother Rodolphe, who was orderly and
correct, assiduous in his business, strictly moral, never asked for money,
and never gave any either, visited his mother regularly every Sunday,
stayed an hour, and only talked about himself, boasting about himself, his
firm, and everything that concerned him, never asking about the others, and
taking mo interest in them, and going away when the hour was up, quite
satisfied with having done his duty. Christophe could not bear him. He
always arranged to be out when Rodolphe came. Rodolphe was jealous of him:
he despised artists, and Christophe's success really hurt him, though he
did not fail to turn his small fame to account in the commercial circles in
which he moved: but he never said a word about it either to his mother or
to Christophe: he pretended to ignore it. On the other hand, he never
ignored the least of the unpleasant things that happened to Christophe.
Christophe despised such pettiness, and pretended not to notice it: but it
would really have hurt him to know, though he never thought about it, that
much of the unpleasant information that Rodolphe had about him came from
Ernest. The young rascal fed the differences between Christophe and
Rodolphe: no doubt he recognized Christophe's superiority and perhaps even
sympathized a little ironically with his candor. But he took good care to
turn it to account: and while he despised Rodolphe's ill-feeling he
exploited it shamefully. He flattered his vanity and jealousy, accepted his
rebukes deferentially and kept him primed with the scandalous gossip of the
town, especially with everything concerning Christophe,--of which he was
always marvelously informed. So he attained his ends, and Rodolphe, in
spite of his avarice, allowed Ernest to despoil him just as Christophe did.

So Ernest made use and a mock of them both, impartially. And so both of
them loved him.

In spite of his tricks Ernest was in a pitiful condition when he turned up
at his mother's house. He had come from Munich, where he had found and, as
usual, almost immediately lost a situation. He had had to travel the best
part of the way on foot, through storms of rain, sleeping God knows where.
He was covered with mud, ragged, looking like a beggar, and coughing
miserably. Louisa was upset and Christophe ran to him in alarm when they
saw him come in. Ernest, whose tears flowed easily, did not fail to make
use of the effect he had produced: and there was a general reconciliation:
all three wept in each other's arms.

Christophe gave up his room: they warmed the bed, and laid the invalid in
it, who seemed to be on the point of death. Louisa and Christophe sat by
his bedside and took it in turns to watch by him. They called in a doctor,
procured medicines, made a good fire in the room, and gave him special
food.

Then they had to clothe him from head to foot: linen, shoes, clothes,
everything new. Ernest left himself in their hands. Louisa and Christophe
sweated to squeeze the money from their expenditure. They were very
straitened at the moment: the removal, the new lodgings, which were dearer
though just as uncomfortable, fewer lessons for Christophe and more
expenses. They could just make both ends meet. They managed somehow. No
doubt Christophe could have applied to Rodolphe, who was more in a position
to help Ernest, but he would not: he made it a point of honor to help his
brother alone. He thought himself obliged to do so as the eldest,--and
because he was Christophe. Hot with shame he had to accept, to declare his
willingness to accept an offer which he had indignantly rejected a
fortnight before,--a proposal from an agent of an unknown wealthy amateur
who wanted to buy a musical composition for publication under his own name.
Louisa took work out, mending linen. They hid their sacrifice from each
other: they lied about the money they brought home.

When Ernest was convalescent and sitting huddled up by the fire, he
confessed one day between his fits of coughing that he had a few
debts.--They were paid. No one reproached him. That would not have been
kind to an invalid and a prodigal son who had repented and returned home.
For Ernest seemed to have been changed by adversity and sickness. With
tears in his eyes he spoke of his past misdeeds: and Louisa kissed him and
told him to think no more of them. He was fond: he had always been able to
get round his mother by his demonstrations of affection: Christophe had
once been a little jealous of him. Now he thought it natural that the
youngest and the weakest son should be the most loved. In spite of the
small difference in their ages he regarded him almost as a son rather than
as a brother. Ernest showed great respect for him: sometimes he would
allude to the burdens that Christophe was taking upon himself, and to his
sacrifice of money: but Christophe would not let him go on, and Ernest
would content himself with showing his gratitude in his eyes humbly and
affectionately. He would argue with the advice that Christophe gave him:
and he would seem disposed to change his way of living and to work
seriously as soon as he was well again.

He recovered: but had a long convalescence. The doctor declared that his
health, which he had abused, needed to be fostered. So he stayed on in his
mother's house, sharing Christophe's bed, eating heartily the bread that
his brother earned, and the little dainty dishes that Louisa prepared, for
him. He never spoke of going. Louisa and Christophe never mentioned it
either. They were too happy to have found again the son and the brother
they loved.

Little by little in the long evenings that he spent with Ernest Christophe
began to talk intimately to him. He needed to confide in somebody. Ernest
was clever: he had a quick mind and understood--or seemed to understand--on
a hint only. There was pleasure in talking to him. And yet Christophe dared
not tell him about what lay nearest to his heart: his love. He was kept
back by a sort of modesty. Ernest, who knew all about it, never let it
appear that he knew.

One day when Ernest was quite well again he went in the sunny afternoon and
lounged along the Rhine. As he passed a noisy inn a little way out of the
town, where there were drinking and dancing on Sundays, he saw Christophe
sitting with Ada and Myrrha, who were making a great noise. Christophe saw
him too, and blushed. Ernest was discreet and passed on without
acknowledging him.

Christophe was much embarrassed by the encounter: it made him more keenly
conscious of the company in which he was: it hurt him that his brother
should have seen him then: not only because it made him lose the right of
judging Ernest's conduct, but because he had a very lofty, very naïve, and
rather archaic notion of his duties as an elder brother which would have
seemed absurd to many people: he thought that in failing in that duty, as
he was doing, he was lowered in his own eyes.

In the evening when they were together in their room, he waited for Ernest
to allude to what had happened. But Ernest prudently said nothing and
waited also. Then while they were undressing Christophe decided to speak
about his love. He was so ill at ease that he dared not look at Ernest: and
in his shyness he assumed a gruff way of speaking. Ernest did not help him
out: he was silent and did not look at him, though he watched him all the
same: and he missed none of the humor of Christophe's awkwardness and
clumsy words. Christophe hardly dared pronounce Ada's name: and the
portrait that he drew of her would have done just as well for any woman who
was loved. But he spoke of his love: little by little he was carried away
by the flood of tenderness that filled his heart: he said how good it was
to love, how wretched he had been before he had found that light in the
darkness, and that life was nothing without a dear, deep-seated love. His
brother listened gravely: he replied tactfully, and asked no questions: but
a warm handshake showed that he was of Christophe's way of thinking. They
exchanged ideas concerning love and life. Christophe was happy at being so
well understood. They exchanged a brotherly embrace before they went to
sleep.

Christophe grew accustomed to confiding his love to Ernest, though always
shyly and reservedly. Ernest's discretion reassured him. He let him know
his uneasiness about Ada: but he never blamed her: he blamed himself: and
with tears in his eyes he would declare that he could not live if he were
to lose her.

He did not forget to tell Ada about Ernest: he praised his wit and his good
looks.

Ernest never approached Christophe with a request to be introduced to Ada:
but he would shut himself up in his room and sadly refuse to go out, saying
that he did not know anybody. Christophe would think ill of himself on
Sundays for going on his excursions with Ada, while his brother stayed at
home. And yet he hated not to be alone with his beloved: he accused himself
of selfishness and proposed that Ernest should come with them.

The introduction took place at Ada's door, on the landing. Ernest and Ada
bowed politely. Ada came out, followed by her inseparable Myrrha, who when
she saw Ernest gave a little cry of surprise. Ernest smiled, went up to
Myrrha, and kissed her: she seemed to take it as a matter of course.

"What! You know each other?" asked Christophe in astonishment.

"Why, yes!" said Myrrha, laughing.

"Since when?"

"Oh, a long time!"

"And you knew?" asked Christophe, turning to Ada. "Why, did you not tell
me?"

"Do you think I know all Myrrha's lovers?" said Ada, shrugging her
shoulders.

Myrrha took up the word and pretended in fun to be angry. Christophe could
not find out any more about it. He was depressed. It seemed to him that
Ernest and Myrrha and Ada had been lacking in honesty, although indeed he
could not have brought any lie up against them: but it was difficult to
believe that Myrrha, who had no secrets from Ada, had made a mystery of
this, and that Ernest and Ada were not already acquainted with each other.
He watched them. But they only exchanged a few trivial words and Ernest
only paid attention to Myrrha all the rest of the day. Ada only spoke to
Christophe: and she was much more amiable to him than usual.

From that time on Ernest always joined them. Christophe could have done
without him: but he dared not say so. He had no other motive for wanting to
leave his brother out than his shame in having him for boon companion. He
had no suspicion of him. Ernest gave him no cause for it: he seemed to be
in love with Myrrha and was always reserved and polite with Ada, and even
affected to avoid her in a way that was a little out of place: it was as
though he wished to show his brother's mistress a little of the respect he
showed to himself. Ada was not surprised by it and was none the less
careful.

They went on long excursions together. The two brothers would walk on in
front. Ada and Myrrha, laughing and whispering, would follow a few yards
behind. They would stop in the middle of the road and talk. Christophe and
Ernest would stop and wait for them. Christophe would lose patience and go
on: but soon he would turn back annoyed and irritated, by hearing Ernest
talking and laughing with the two young women. He would want to know what
they were saying: but when they came up with him their conversation would
stop.

"What are you three always plotting together?" he would ask.

They would reply with some joke. They had a secret understanding like
thieves at a fair.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe had a sharp quarrel with Ada. They had been cross with each
other all day. Strange to say, Ada had not assumed her air of offended
dignity, to which she usually resorted in such cases, so as to avenge
herself, by making herself as intolerably tiresome as usual. Now she simply
pretended to ignore Christophe's existence and she was in excellent spirits
with the other two. It was as though in her heart she was not put out at
all by the quarrel.

Christophe, on the other hand, longed to make peace: he was more in love
than ever. His tenderness was now mingled with a feeling of gratitude for
all the good things love had brought him, and regret for the hours he had
wasted in stupid argument and angry thoughts--and the unreasoning fear, the
mysterious idea that their love was nearing its end. Sadly he looked at
Ada's pretty face and she pretended not to see him while she was laughing
with the others: and the sight of her woke in him so many dear memories, of
great love, of sincere intimacy.--Her face had sometimes--it had now--so
much goodness in it, a smile so pure, that Christophe asked himself why
things were not better between them, why they spoiled their happiness with
their whimsies, why she would insist on forgetting their bright hours, and
denying and combating all that was good and honest in her--what strange
satisfaction she could find in spoiling, and smudging, if only in thought,
the purity of their love. He was conscious of an immense need of believing
in the object of his love, and he tried once more to bring back his
illusions. He accused himself of injustice: he was remorseful for the
thoughts that he attributed to her, and of his lack of charity.

He went to, her and tried to talk to her; she answered him with a few curt
words: she had no desire for a reconciliation with him. He insisted: he
begged her to listen to him for a moment away from the others. She followed
him ungraciously. When they were a few yards away so that neither Myrrha
nor Ernest could see them, he took her hands and begged her pardon, and
knelt at her feet in the dead leaves of the wood. He told her that he could
not go on living so at loggerheads with her: that he found no pleasure in
the walk, or the fine day: that he could enjoy nothing, and could not even
breathe, knowing that she detested him: he needed her love. Yes: he was
often unjust, violent, disagreeable: he begged her to forgive him: it was
the fault of his love, he could not bear anything second-rate in her,
nothing that was altogether unworthy of her and their memories of their
dear past. He reminded her of it all, of their first meeting, their first
days together: he said that he loved her just as much, that he would always
love her, that she should not go away from him! She was everything to
him....

Ada listened to him, smiling, uneasy, almost softened. She looked at him
with kind eyes, eyes that said that they loved each other, and that she
was no longer angry. They kissed, and holding each other close they went
into the leafless woods. She thought Christophe good and gentle, and was
grateful to him for his tender words: but she did not relinquish the
naughty whims that were in her mind. But she hesitated, she did not cling
to them so tightly: and yet she did not abandon what she had planned to do.
Why? Who can say?... Because she had vowed what she would do?--Who knows?
Perhaps she thought it more entertaining to deceive her lover that day, to
prove to him, to prove to herself her freedom. She had no thought of losing
him: she did not wish for that. She thought herself more sure of him than
ever.

They reached a clearing in the forest. There were two paths. Christophe
took one. Ernest declared that the other led more quickly to the top of the
hill whither they were going. Ada agreed with him. Christophe, who knew the
way, having often been there, maintained that they were wrong. They did not
yield. Then they agreed to try it: and each wagered that he would arrive
first. Ada went with Ernest. Myrrha accompanied Christophe: she pretended
that she was sure that he was right: and she added, "As usual." Christophe
had taken the game seriously: and as he never liked to lose, he walked
quickly, too quickly for Myrrha's liking, for she was in much less of a
hurry than he.

"Don't be in a hurry, my friend," she said, in her quiet, ironic voice, "we
shall get there first."

He was a little sorry.

"True," he said, "I am going a little too fast: there is no need."

He slackened his pace.

"But I know them," he went on. "I am sure they will run so as to be there
before us."

Myrrha burst out laughing.

"Oh! no," she said. "Oh! no: don't you worry about that."

She hung on his arm and pressed close to him. She was a little shorter
than Christophe, and as they walked she raised her soft eyes to his. She
was really pretty and alluring. He hardly recognized her: the change was
extraordinary. Usually her face was rather pale and puffy: but the smallest
excitement, a merry thought, or the desire to please, was enough to make
her worn expression vanish, and her cheeks go pink, and the little wrinkles
in her eyelids round and below her eyes disappear, and her eyes flash, and
her whole face take on a youth, a life, a spiritual quality that never was
in Ada's. Christophe was surprised by this metamorphosis, and turned his
eyes away from hers: he was a little uneasy at being alone with her. She
embarrassed him and prevented him from dreaming as he pleased: he did not
listen to what she said, he did not answer her, or if he did it was only at
random: he was thinking--he wished to think only of Ada. He thought of the
kindness in her eyes, her smile, her kiss: and his heart was filled with
love. Myrrha wanted to make him admire the beauty of the trees with their
little branches against the clear sky.... Yes: it was all beautiful: the
clouds were gone, Ada had returned to him, he had succeeded in breaking the
ice that lay between them: they loved once more: near or far, they were
one. He sighed with relief: how light the air was! Ada had come back to him
... Everything brought her to mind.... It was a little damp: would she not
be cold?... The lovely trees were powdered with hoar-frost: what a pity she
should not see them!... But he remembered the wager, and hurried on: he was
concerned only with not losing the way. He shouted joyfully as they reached
the goal:

"We are first!"

He waved his hat gleefully. Myrrha watched him and smiled.

The place where they stood was a high, steep rock in the middle of the
woods. From this flat summit with its fringe of nut-trees and little
stunted oaks they could see, over the wooded slopes, the tops of the pines
bathed in a purple mist, and the long ribbon of the Rhine in the blue
valley. Not a bird called. Not a voice. Not a breath of air. A still, calm
winter's day, its chilliness faintly warmed by the pale beams of a misty
sun. Now and then in the distance there came the sharp whistle of a train
in the valley. Christophe stood at the edge of the rock and looked down at
the countryside. Myrrha watched Christophe.

He turned to her amiably:

"Well! The lazy things. I told them so!... Well: we must wait for them...."

He lay stretched out in the sun on the cracked earth.

"Yes. Let us wait...." said Myrrha, taking off her hat.

In her voice there was something so quizzical that he raised his head and
looked at her.

"What is it?" she asked quietly.

"What did you say?"

"I said: Let us wait. It was no use making me run so fast."

"True."

They waited lying on the rough ground. Myrrha hummed a tune. Christophe
took it up for a few phrases. But he stopped every now and then to listen.

"I think I can hear them."

Myrrha went on singing.

"Do stop for a moment."

Myrrha stopped.

"No. It is nothing."

She went on with her song.

Christophe could not stay still.

"Perhaps they have lost their way."

"Lost? They could not. Ernest knows all the paths."

A fantastic idea passed through Christophe's mind.

"Perhaps they arrived first, and went away before we came!"

Myrrha was lying on her back and looking at the sun. She was seized with
a wild burst of laughter in the middle of her song and all but choked.
Christophe insisted. He wanted to go down to the station, saying that their
friends would be there already. Myrrha at last made up her mind to move.

"You would be certain to lose them!... There was never any talk about the
station. We were to meet here."

He sat down by her side. She was amused by his eagerness. He was conscious
of the irony in her gaze as she looked at him. He began to be seriously
troubled--to be anxious about them: he did not suspect them. He got up once
more. He spoke of going down into the woods again and looking for them,
calling to them. Myrrha gave a little chuckle: she took from her pocket a
needle, scissors, and thread: and she calmly undid and sewed in again the
feathers in her hat: she seemed to have established herself for the day.

"No, no, silly," she said. "If they wanted to come do you think they would
not come of their own accord?"

There was a catch at his heart. He turned towards her: she did not look at
him: she was busy with her work. He went up to her.

"Myrrha!" he said.

"Eh?" she replied without stopping. He knelt now to look more nearly at
her.

"Myrrha!" he repeated.

"Well?" she asked, raising her eyes from her work and looking at him with a
smile. "What is it?"

She had a mocking expression as she saw his downcast face.

"Myrrha!" he asked, choking, "tell me what you think...."

She shrugged her shoulders, smiled, and went on working.

He caught her hands and took away the hat at which she was sewing.

"Leave off, leave off, and tell me...."

She looked squarely at him and waited. She saw that Christophe's lips were
trembling.

"You think," he said in a low voice, "that Ernest and Ada ...?"

She smiled.

"Oh! well!"

He started back angrily.

"No! No! It is impossible! You don't think that!... No! No!"

She put her hands on his shoulders and rocked with laughter.

"How dense you are, how dense, my dear!"

He shook her violently.

"Don't laugh! Why do you laugh? You would not laugh if it were true. You
love Ernest...."

She went on laughing and drew him to her and kissed him. In spite of
himself he returned her kiss. But when he felt her lips on his, her lips,
still warm with his brother's kisses, he flung her away from him and held
her face away from his own: he asked:

"You knew it? It was arranged between you?"

She said "Yes," and laughed.

Christophe did not cry out, he made no movement of anger. He opened his
mouth as though he could not breathe: he closed his eyes and clutched at
his breast with his hands: his heart was bursting. Then he lay down on the
ground with his face buried in his hands and he was shaken by a crisis of
disgust and despair like a child.

Myrrha, who was not very soft-hearted, was sorry for him: involuntarily
she was filled with motherly compassion, and leaned over him, and spoke
affectionately to him, and tried to make him sniff at her smelling-bottle.
But he thrust her away in horror and got up so sharply that she was afraid.
He had neither strength nor desire for revenge. He looked at her with his
face twisted with grief.

"You drab," he said in despair. "You do not know the harm you have
done...."

She tried to hold him back. He fled through the woods, spitting out his
disgust with such ignominy, with such muddy hearts, with such incestuous
sharing as that to which they had tried to bring him. He wept, he trembled:
he sobbed with disgust. He was filled with horror, of them all, of himself,
of his body and soul. A storm of contempt broke loose in him: it had long
been brewing: sooner or later there had to come the reaction against the
base thoughts, the degrading compromises, the stale and pestilential
atmosphere in which he had been living for months: but the need of loving,
of deceiving himself about the woman he loved, had postponed the crisis as
long as possible. Suddenly it burst upon him: and it was better so. There
was a great gust of wind of a biting purity, an icy breeze which swept away
the miasma. Disgust in one swoop had killed his love for Ada.

If Ada thought more firmly to establish her domination over Christophe by
such an act, that proved once more her gross inappreciation of her lover.
Jealousy which binds souls that are besmirched could only revolt a nature
like Christophe's, young, proud, and pure. But what he could not forgive,
what he never would forgive, was that the betrayal was not the outcome of
passion in Ada, hardly even of one of those absurd and degrading though
often irresistible caprices to which the reason of a woman is sometimes
hard put to it not to surrender. No--he understood now,--it was in her a
secret desire to degrade him, to humiliate him, to punish him for his moral
resistance, for his inimical faith, to lower him to the common level, to
bring him to her feet, to prove to herself her own power for evil. And he
asked himself with horror: what is this impulse towards dirtiness, which
is in the majority of human beings--this desire to besmirch the purity of
themselves and others,--these swinish souls, who take a delight in rolling
in filth, and are happy when not one inch of their skins is left clean!...

Ada waited two days for Christophe to return to her. Then she began to be
anxious, and sent him a tender note in which she made no allusion to what
had happened. Christophe did not even reply. He hated Ada so profoundly
that no words could express his hatred. He had cut her out of his life. She
no longer existed for him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe was free of Ada, but he was not free of himself. In vain did
he try to return into illusion and to take up again the calm and chaste
strength of the past. We cannot return to the past. We have to go onward:
it is useless to turn back, save only to see the places by which we have
passed, the distant smoke from the roofs under which we have slept, dying
away on the horizon in the mists of memory. But nothing so distances us
from the soul that we had as a few months of passion. The road takes
a sudden turn: the country is changed: it is as though we were saying
good-bye for the last time to all that we are leaving behind.

Christophe could not yield to it. He held out his arms to the past: he
strove desperately to bring to life again the soul that had been his,
lonely and resigned. But it was gone. Passion itself is not so dangerous as
the ruins that it heaps up and leaves behind. In vain did Christophe not
love, in vain--for a moment--did he despise love: he bore the marks of its
talons: his whole being was steeped in it: there was in his heart a void
which must be filled. With that terrible need of tenderness and pleasure
which devours men and women when they have once tasted it, some other
passion was needed, were it only the contrary passion, the passion of
contempt, of proud purity, of faith in virtue.--They were not enough, they
were not enough to stay his hunger: they were only the food of a moment.
His life consisted of a succession of violent reactions--leaps from
one extreme to the other. Sometimes he would bend his passion to rules
inhumanly ascetic: not eating, drinking water, wearing himself out with
walking, heavy tasks, and so not sleeping, denying himself every sort of
pleasure. Sometimes he would persuade himself that strength is the true
morality for people like himself: and he would plunge into the quest of
joy. In either case he was unhappy. He could no longer be alone. He could
no longer not be alone.

The only thing that could have saved him would have been to find a true
friendship,--Rosa's perhaps: he could have taken refuge in that. But the
rupture was complete between the two families. They no longer met. Only
once had Christophe seen Rosa. She was just coming out from Mass. He had
hesitated to bow to her: and when she saw him she had made a movement
towards him: but when he had tried to go to her through the stream of the
devout walking down the steps, she had turned her eyes away: and when he
approached her she bowed coldly and passed on. In the girl's heart he felt
intense, icy contempt. And he did not feel that she still loved him and
would have liked to tell him so: but she had come to think of her love as a
fault and foolishness: she thought Christophe bad and corrupt, and further
from her than ever. So they were lost to each other forever. And perhaps
it was as well for both of them. In spite of her goodness, she was not
near enough to life to be able to understand him. In spite of his need of
affection and respect he would have stifled in a commonplace and confined
existence, without joy, without sorrow, without air. They would both have
suffered. The unfortunate occurrence which cut them apart was, when all was
told, perhaps, fortunate as often happens--as always happens--to those who
are strong and endure.

But at the moment it was a great sorrow and a great misfortune for them.
Especially for Christophe. Such virtuous intolerance, such narrowness of
soul, which sometimes seems to deprive those who have the most of them of
all intelligence, and those who are most good of kindness, irritated him,
hurt him, and flung him back in protest into a freer life.

During his loafing with Ada in the beer gardens of the neighborhood he had
made acquaintance with several good fellows--Bohemians, whose carelessness
and freedom of manners had not been altogether distasteful to him. One
of them, Friedemann, a musician like himself, an organist, a man of
thirty, was not without intelligence, and was good at his work, but he was
incurably lazy and rather than make the slightest effort to be more than
mediocre, he would have died of hunger, though not, perhaps, of thirst.
He comforted himself in his indolence by speaking ill of those who lived
energetically, God knows why; and his sallies, rather heavy for the most
part, generally made people laugh. Having more liberty than his companions,
he was not afraid,--though timidly, and with winks and nods and suggestive
remarks,--to sneer at those who held positions: he was even capable of not
having ready-made opinions about music, and of having a sly fling at the
forged reputations of the great men of the day. He had no mercy upon women
either: when he was making his jokes he loved to repeat the old saying of
some misogynist monk about them, and Christophe enjoyed its bitterness just
then more than anybody:

_"Femina mors animae."_

In his state of upheaval Christophe found some distraction in talking
to Friedemann. He judged him, he could not long take pleasure in this
vulgar bantering wit: his mockery and perpetual denial became irritating
before long and he felt the impotence of it all: but it did soothe his
exasperation with the self-sufficient stupidity of the Philistines. While
he heartily despised his companion, Christophe could not do without him.
They were continually seen together sitting with the unclassed and doubtful
people of Friedemann's acquaintance, who were even more worthless than
himself. They used to play, and harangue, and drink the whole evening.
Christophe would suddenly wake up in the midst of the dreadful smell of
food and tobacco: he would look at the people about him with strange eyes:
he would not recognize them: he would think in agony:

"Where am I? Who are these people? What have I to do with them?"

Their remarks and their laughter would make him sick. But he could not
bring himself to leave them: he was afraid of going home and of being left
alone face to face with his soul, his desires, and remorse. He was going to
the dogs: he knew it: he was doing it deliberately,--with cruel clarity he
saw in Friedemann the degraded image of what he was--of what he would be
one day: and he was passing through a phase of such disheartenedness and
disgust that instead of being brought to himself by such a menace, it
actually brought him low.

He would have gone to the dogs, if he could. Fortunately, like all
creatures of his kind, he had a spring, a succor against destruction which
others do not possess: his strength, his instinct for life, his instinct
against letting himself perish, an instinct more intelligent than his
intelligence, and stronger than his will. And also, unknown to himself,
he had the strange curiosity of the artist, that passionate, impersonal
quality, which is in every creature really endowed with creative power. In
vain did he love, suffer, give himself utterly to all his passions: he saw
them. They were in him but they were not himself. A myriad of little souls
moved obscurely in him towards a fixed point unknown, yet certain, just
like the planetary worlds which are drawn through space into a mysterious
abyss. That perpetual state of unconscious action and reaction was shown
especially in those giddy moments when sleep came over his daily life, and
from the depths of sleep and the night rose the multiform face of Being
with its sphinx-like gaze. For a year Christophe had been obsessed with
dreams in which in a second of time he felt clearly with perfect illusion
that he _was_ at one and the same time several different creatures, often
far removed from each other by countries, worlds, centuries. In his waking
state Christophe was still under his hallucination and uneasiness, though
he could not remember what had caused it. It was like the weariness left by
some fixed idea that is gone, though traces of it are left and there is no
understanding it. But while his soul was so troublously struggling through
the network of the days, another soul, eager and serene, was watching
all his desperate efforts. He did not see it: but it cast over him the
reflection of its hidden light. That soul was joyously greedy to feel
everything, to suffer everything, to observe and understand men, women, the
earth, life, desires, passions, thoughts, even those that were torturing,
even those that were mediocre, even those that were vile: and it was enough
to lend them a little of its light, to save Christophe from destruction. It
made him feel--he did not know how--that he was not altogether alone. That
love of being and of knowing everything, that second soul, raised a rampart
against his destroying passions.

But if it was enough to keep his head above water, it did not allow him
to climb out of it unaided. He could not succeed in seeing clearly into
himself, and mastering himself, and regaining possession of himself. Work
was impossible for him. He was passing through an intellectual crisis: the
most fruitful of his life: all his future life was germinating in it: but
that inner wealth for the time being only showed itself in extravagance:
and the immediate effect of such superabundance was not different from that
of the flattest sterility. Christophe was submerged by his life. All his
powers had shot up and grown too fast, all at once, suddenly. Only his will
had not grown with them: and it was dismayed by such a throng of monsters.
His personality was cracking in every part. Of this earthquake, this inner
cataclysm, others saw nothing. Christophe himself could see only his
impotence to will, to create, to be. Desires, instincts, thoughts issued
one after another like clouds of sulphur from the fissures of a volcano:
and he was forever asking himself: "And now, what will come out? What will
become of me? Will it always be so? or is this the end of all? Shall I be
nothing, always?"

And now there sprang up in him his hereditary fires, the vices of those who
had gone before him.--He got drunk. He would return home smelling of wine,
laughing, in a state of collapse.

Poor Louisa would look at him, sigh, say nothing, and pray.

But one evening when he was coming out of an inn by the gates of the town
he saw, a few yards in front of him on the road, the droll shadow of his
uncle Gottfried, with his pack on his back. The little man had not been
home for months, and his periods of absence were growing longer and longer.
Christophe hailed him gleefully. Gottfried, bending under his load, turned
round: he looked at Christophe, who was making extravagant gestures, and
sat down on a milestone to wait for him. Christophe came up to him with
a beaming face, skipping along, and shook his uncle's hand with great
demonstrations of affection. Gottfried took a long look at him and then he
said:

"Good-day, Melchior."

Christophe thought his uncle had made a mistake, and burst out laughing.

"The poor man is breaking up," he thought; "he is losing his memory."

Indeed, Gottfried did look old, shriveled, shrunken, and dried: his
breathing came short and painfully. Christophe went on talking. Gottfried
took his pack on his shoulders again and went on in silence. They went home
together, Christophe gesticulating and talking at the top of his voice,
Gottfried coughing and saying nothing. And when Christophe questioned him,
Gottfried still called him Melchior. And then Christophe asked him:

"What do you mean by calling me Melchior? My name is Christophe, you know.
Have you forgotten my name?"

Gottfried did not stop. He raised his eyes toward Christophe and looked at
him, shook his head, and said coldly:

"No. You are Melchior: I know you."

Christophe stopped dumfounded. Gottfried trotted along: Christophe followed
him without a word. He was sobered. As they passed the door of a café he
went up to the dark panes of glass, in which the gas-jets of the entrance
and the empty streets were reflected, and he looked at himself: he
recognized Melchior. He went home crushed.

He spent the night--a night of anguish--in examining himself, in
soul-searching. He understood now. Yes: he recognized the instincts and
vices that had come to light in him: they horrified him. He thought of that
dark watching by the body of Melchior, of all that he had sworn to do, and,
surveying his life since then, he knew that he had failed to keep his vows.
What had he done in the year? What had he done for his God, for his art,
for his soul? What had he done for eternity? There was not a day that had
not been wasted, botched, besmirched. Not a single piece of work, not a
thought, not an effort of enduring quality. A chaos of desires destructive
of each other. Wind, dust, nothing.... What did his intentions avail him?
He had fulfilled none of them. He had done exactly the opposite of what
he had intended. He had become what he had no wish to be: that was the
balance-sheet of his life.

He did not go to bed. About six in the morning it was still dark,--he heard
Gottfried getting ready to depart.--For Gottfried had had no intentions of
staying on. As he was passing the town he had come as usual to embrace his
sister and nephew: but he had announced that he would go on next morning.

Christophe went downstairs. Gottfried saw his pale face and his eyes hollow
with a night of torment. He smiled fondly at him and asked him to go a
little of the way with him. They set out together before dawn. They had
no need to talk: they understood each other. As they passed the cemetery
Gottfried said:

"Shall we go in?"

When he came to the place he never failed to pay a visit to Jean Michel and
Melchior. Christophe had not been there for a year. Gottfried knelt by
Melchior's grave and said:

"Let us pray that they may sleep well and not come to torment us."

His thought was a mixture of strange superstitions and sound sense:
sometimes it surprised Christophe: but now it was only too dear to him.
They said no more until they left the cemetery.

When they had closed the creaking gate, and were walking along the wall
through the cold fields, waking from slumber, by the little path which led
them under the cypress trees from which the snow was dropping, Christophe
began to weep.

"Oh! uncle," he said, "how wretched I am!"

He dared not speak of his experience in love, from an odd fear of
embarrassing or hurting Gottfried: but he spoke of his shame, his
mediocrity, his cowardice, his broken vows.

"What am I to do, uncle? I have tried, I have struggled: and after a year
I am no further on than before. Worse: I have gone back. I am good for
nothing. I am good for nothing! I have ruined my life. I am perjured!..."

They were walking up the hill above the town. Gottfried said kindly:

"Not for the last time, my boy. We do not do what we will to do. We will
and we live: two things. You must be comforted. The great thing is, you
see, never to give up willing and living. The rest does not depend on us."

Christophe repeated desperately:

"I have perjured myself."

"Do you hear?" said Gottfried.

(The cocks were crowing in all the countryside.)

"They, too, are crowing for another who is perjured. They crow for every
one of us, every morning."

"A day will come," said Christophe bitterly, "when, they will no longer
crow for me ... A day to which there is no to-morrow. And what shall I have
made of my life?"

"There is always a to-morrow," said Gottfried.

"But what can one do, if willing is no use?"

"Watch and pray."

"I do not believe."

Gottfried smiled.

"You would not be alive if you did not believe. Every one believes. Pray."

"Pray to what?"

Gottfried pointed to the sun appearing on the horizon, red and frozen.

"Be reverent before the dawning day. Do not think of what will be in a
year, or in ten years. Think of to-day. Leave your theories. All theories,
you see, even those of virtue, are bad, foolish, mischievous. Do not abuse
life. Live in to-day. Be reverent towards each day. Love it, respect it,
do not sully it, do not hinder it from coming to flower. Love it even when
it is gray and sad like to-day. Do not be anxious. See. It is winter now.
Everything is asleep. The good earth will awake again. You have only to be
good and patient like the earth. Be reverent. Wait. If you are good, all
will go well. If you are not, if you are weak, if you do not succeed, well,
you must be happy in that. No doubt it is the best you can do. So, then,
why _will_? Why be angry because of what you cannot do? We all have to do
what we can.... _Als ich kann._"

"It is not enough," said Christophe, making a face.

Gottfried laughed pleasantly.

"It is more than anybody does. You are a vain fellow. You want to be a
hero. That is why you do such silly things.... A hero!... I don't quite
know what that is: but, you see, I imagine that a hero is a man who does
what he can. The others do not do it."

"Oh!" sighed Christophe. "Then what is the good of living? It is not worth
while. And yet there are people who say: 'He who wills can!'"...

Gottfried laughed again softly.

"Yes?... Oh! well, they are liars, my friend. Or they do not will anything
much...."

They had reached the top of the hill. They embraced affectionately. The
little peddler went on, treading wearily. Christophe stayed there, lost in
thought, and watched him go. He repeated his uncle's saying:

"_Als ich kann_ (The best I can)."

And he smiled, thinking:

"Yes.... All the same.... It is enough."

He returned to the town. The frozen snow crackled under his feet. The
bitter winter wind made the bare branches of the stunted trees on the hill
shiver. It reddened his cheeks, and made his skin tingle, and set his blood
racing. The red roofs of the town below were smiling under the brilliant,
cold sun. The air was strong and harsh. The frozen earth seemed to rejoice
in bitter gladness. And Christophe's heart was like that. He thought:

"I, too, shall wake again."

There were still tears in his eyes. He dried them with the back of his
hand, and laughed to see the sun dipping down behind a veil of mist. The
clouds, heavy with snow, were floating over the town, lashed by the squall.
He laughed at them. The wind blew icily....

"Blow, blow!... Do what you will with me. Bear me with you!... I know now
where I am going."



REVOLT



I

SHIFTING SANDS


Free! He felt that he was free!... Free of others and of himself! The
network of passion in which he had been enmeshed for more than a year had
suddenly been burst asunder. How? He did not know. The filaments had given
before the growth of his being. It was one of those crises of growth in
which robust natures tear away the dead casing of the year that is past,
the old soul in which they are cramped and stifled.

Christophe breathed deeply, without understanding what had happened. An icy
whirlwind was rushing through the great gate of the town as he returned
from taking Gottfried on his way. The people were walking with heads
lowered against the storm. Girls going to their work were struggling
against the wind that blew against their skirts: they stopped every now
and then to breathe, with their nose and cheeks red, and they looked
exasperated, and as though they wanted to cry. He thought of that other
torment through which he had passed. He looked at the wintry sky, the town
covered with snow, the people struggling along past him: he looked about
him, into himself: he was no longer bound. He was alone!... Alone! How
happy to be alone, to be his own! What joy to have escaped from his bonds,
from his torturing memories, from the hallucinations of faces that he loved
or detested! What joy at last to live, without being the prey of life, to
have become his own master!...

He went home white with snow. He shook himself gaily like a dog. As he
passed his mother, who was sweeping the passage, he lifted her up, giving
little inarticulate cries of affection such as one makes to a tiny child.
Poor old Louisa struggled in her son's arms: she was wet with the melting
snow: and she called him, with a jolly laugh, a great gaby.

He went up to his room three steps at a time.--He could hardly see himself
in his little mirror it was so dark. But his heart was glad. His room
was low and narrow and it was difficult to move in it, but it was like a
kingdom to him. He locked the door and laughed with pleasure. At last he
was finding himself! How long he had been gone astray! He was eager to
plunge into thought like a bather into water. It was like a great lake afar
off melting into the mists of blue and gold. After a night of fever and
oppressive heat he stood by the edge of it, with his legs bathed in the
freshness of the water, his body kissed by the wind of a summer morning. He
plunged in and swam: he knew not whither he was going, and did not care: it
was joy to swim whithersoever he listed. He was silent, then he laughed,
and listened for the thousand thousand sounds of his soul: it swarmed with
life. He could make out nothing: his head was swimming: he felt only a
bewildering happiness. He was glad to feel in himself such unknown forces:
and indolently postponing putting his powers to the test he sank back into
the intoxication of pride in the inward flowering, which, held back for
months, now burst forth like a sudden spring.

His mother called him to breakfast. He went down: he was giddy and
light-headed as though he had spent a day in the open air: but there was
such a radiance of joy in him that Louisa asked what was the matter. He
made no reply: he seized her by the waist and forced her to dance with him
round the table on which the tureen was steaming. Out of breath Louisa
cried that he was mad: then she clasped her hands.

"Dear God!" she said anxiously. "Sure, he is in love again!"

Christophe roared with laughter. He hurled his napkin into the air.

"In love?..." he cried. "Oh! Lord!... but no! I've had enough! You can be
easy on that score. That is done, done, forever!... Ouf!"

He drank a glassful of water.

Louisa looked at him, reassured, wagged her head, and smiled.

"That's a drunkard's pledge," she said. "It won't last until to-night."

"Then the day is clear gain," he replied good-humoredly.

"Oh, yes!" she said. "But what has made you so happy?"

"I am happy. That is all."

Sitting opposite her with his elbows on the table he tried to tell her all
that he was going to do. She listened with kindly skepticism and gently
pointed out that his soup was going cold. He knew that she did not hear
what he was saying: but he did not care: he was talking for his own
satisfaction.

They looked at each other smiling: he talking: she hardly listening.
Although she was proud of her son she attached no great importance to
his artistic projects: she was thinking: "He is happy: that matters
most."--While he was growing more and more excited with his discourse he
watched his mother's dear face, with her black shawl tightly tied round her
head, her white hair, her young eyes that devoured him lovingly, her sweet
and tranquil kindliness. He knew exactly what she was thinking. He said to
her jokingly:

"It is all one to you, eh? You don't care about what I'm telling you?"

She protested weakly:

"Oh, no! Oh, no!"

He kissed her.

"Oh, yes! Oh, yes! You need not defend yourself. You are right. Only love
me. There is no need to understand me--either for you or for anybody else.
I do not need anybody or anything now: I have everything in myself...."

"Oh!" said Louisa. "Another maggot in his brain!... But if he must have one
I prefer this to the other."

       *       *       *       *       *

What sweet happiness to float on the surface of the lake of his
thoughts!... Lying in the bottom of a boat with his body bathed in sun, his
face kissed by the light fresh wind that skims over the face of the waters,
he goes to sleep: he is swung by threads from the sky. Under his body lying
at full length, under the rocking boat he feels the deep, swelling water:
his hand dips into it. He rises: and with his chin on the edge of the boat
he watches the water flowing by as he did when he was a child. He sees the
reflection of strange creatures darting by like lightning.... More, and yet
more.... They are never the same. He laughs at the fantastic spectacle that
is unfolded within him: he laughs at his own thoughts: he has no need to
catch and hold them. Select? Why select among So many thousands of dreams?
There is plenty of time!... Later on!... He has only to throw out a line at
will to draw in the monsters whom he sees gleaming in the water. He lets
them pass.... Later on!...

The boat floats on at the whim of the warm wind and the insentient stream.
All is soft, sun, and silence.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last languidly he throws out his line. Leaning out over the lapping
water he follows it with his eyes until it disappears. After a few moments
of torpor he draws it in slowly: as he draws it in it becomes heavier: just
as he is about to fish it out of the water he stops to take breath. He
knows that he has his prey: he does not know what it is: he prolongs the
pleasure of expectancy.

At last he makes up his mind: fish with gleaming, many-colored scales
appear from the water: they writhe like a nest of snakes. He looks at them
curiously, he stirs them with his finger: but hardly has he drawn them from
the water than their colors fade and they slip between his fingers. He
throws them back into the water and begins to fish for others. He is more
eager to see one after another all the dreams stirring in him than to catch
at any one of them: they all seem more beautiful to him when they are
freely swimming in the transparent lake....

He caught all kinds of them, each more extravagant than the last. Ideas had
been heaped up in him for months and he had not drawn upon them, so that he
was bursting with riches. But it was all higgledy-piggledy: his mind was
a Babel, an old Jew's curiosity shop in which there were piled up in the
one room rare treasures, precious stuffs, scrap-iron, and rags. He could
not distinguish their values: everything amused him. There were thrilling
chords, colors which rang like bells, harmonies which buzzed like bees,
melodies smiling like lovers' lips. There were visions of the country,
faces, passions, souls, characters, literary ideas, metaphysical ideas.
There were great projects, vast and impossible, tetralogies, decalogies,
pretending to depict everything in music, covering whole worlds. And, most
often there were obscure, flashing sensations, called forth by a trifle,
the sound of a voice, a man or a woman passing in the street, the pattering
of rain. An inward rhythm.--Many of these projects advanced no further
than their title: most of them were never more than a note or two: it was
enough. Like all very young people, he thought he had created what he
dreamed of creating.

       *       *       *       *       *

But he was too keenly alive to be satisfied for long with such fantasies.
He wearied of an illusory possession: he wished to seize his dreams.--How
to begin? They seemed to him all equally important. He turned and turned
them: he rejected them, he took them up again.... No, he never took them up
again: they were no longer the same, they were never to be caught twice:
they were always changing: they changed in his hands, under his eyes, while
he was watching them. He must make haste: he could not: he was appalled by
the slowness with which he worked. He would have liked to do everything in
one day, and he found it horribly difficult to complete the smallest thing.
His dreams were passing and he was passing himself: while he was doing
one thing it worried him not to be doing another. It was as though it was
enough to have chosen one of his fine subjects for it to lose all interest
for him. And so all his riches availed him nothing. His thoughts had life
only on condition that he did not tamper with them: everything that he
succeeded in doing was still-born. It was the torment of Tantalus: within
reach were fruits that became stones as soon as he plucked them: near his
lips was a clear stream which sank away whenever he bent down, to drink.

To slake his thirst lie tried to sip at the springs that he had conquered,
his old compositions.... Loathsome in taste! At the first gulp, he spat it
out again, cursing. What! That tepid water, that insipid music, was that
his music?--He read through all his compositions: he was horrified: he
understood not a note of them, he could not even understand how he had come
to write them. He blushed. Once after reading through a page more foolish
than the rest he turned round to make sure that there was nobody in the
room, and then he went and hid his face in his pillow like a child ashamed.
Sometimes they seemed to him so preposterously silly that they were quite
funny, and he forgot that they were his own....

"What an idiot!" he would cry, rocking with laughter.

But nothing touched him more than those compositions in which he had set
out to express his own passionate feelings: the sorrows and joys of love.
Then he would bound in his chair as though a fly had stung him: he would
thump on the table, beat his head, and roar angrily: he would coarsely
apostrophize himself: he would vow himself to be a swine, trebly a
scoundrel, a clod, and a clown--a whole litany of denunciation. In the end
he would go and stand before his mirror, red with shouting, and then he
would take hold of his chin and say:

"Look, look, you scurvy knave, look at the ass-face that is yours! I'll
teach you to lie, you blackguard! Water, sir, water."

He would plunge his face into his basin, and hold it under water until he
was like to choke. When he drew himself up, scarlet, with his eyes starting
from his head, snorting like a seal, he would rush to his table, without
bothering to sponge away the water trickling down him: he would seize the
unhappy compositions, angrily tear them in pieces, growling:

"There, you beast!... There, there, there!..."

Then he would recover.

What exasperated him most in his compositions was their untruth. Not
a spark of feeling in them. A phraseology got by heart, a schoolboy's
rhetoric: he spoke of love like a blind man of color: he spoke of it from
hearsay, only repeating the current platitudes. And it was not only love:
it was the same with all the passions, which had been used for themes and
declamations.--And yet he had always tried to be sincere.--But it is not
enough to wish to be sincere: it is necessary to have the power to be so:
and how can a man be so when as yet he knows nothing of life? What had
revealed the falseness of his work, what had suddenly digged a pit between
himself and his past was the experience which he had had during the last
six months of life. He had left fantasy: there was now in him a real
standard to which he could bring all the thoughts for judgment as to their
truth or untruth.

The disgust which his old work, written without passion, roused in him,
made him decide with his usual exaggeration that he would write no more
until he was forced to write by some passionate need: and leaving the
pursuit of his ideas at that, he swore that he would renounce music
forever, unless creation were imposed upon him in a thunderclap.

       *       *       *       *       *

He made this resolve because he knew quite well that the storm was coming.

Thunder falls when it will, and where it will. But there are peaks which
attract it. Certain places--certain souls--breed storms: they create them,
or draw them from all points of the horizon: and certain ages of life,
like certain months of the year, are so saturated with electricity, that
thunderstorms are produced in them,--if not at will--at any rate when they
are expected.

The whole being of a man is taut for it. Often the storm lies brooding for
days and days. The pale sky is hung with burning, fleecy clouds. No wind
stirs. The still air ferments, and seems to boil. The earth lies in a
stupor: no sound comes from it. The brain hums feverishly: all nature
awaits the explosion of the gathering forces, the thud of the hammer which
is slowly rising to fall back suddenly on the anvil of the clouds. Dark,
warm shadows pass: a fiery wind rises through the body, the nerves quiver
like leaves.... Then silence falls again. The sky goes on gathering
thunder.

In such expectancy there is voluptuous anguish. In spite of the discomfort
that weighs so heavily upon you, you feel in your veins the fire which is
consuming the universe. The soul surfeited boils in the furnace, like wine
in a vat. Thousands of germs of life and death are in labor in it. What
will issue from it? The soul knows not. Like a woman with child, it is
silent: it gazes in upon itself: it listens anxiously for the stirring in
its womb, and thinks: "What will be born of me?"...

Sometimes such waiting is in vain. The storm passes without breaking: but
you wake heavy, cheated, enervated, disheartened. But it is only postponed:
the storm will break: if not to-day, then to-morrow: the longer it is
delayed, the more violent will it be....

Now it comes!... The clouds have come up from all corners of the soul.
Thick masses, blue and black, torn by the frantic darting of the lightning:
they advance heavily, drunkenly, darkening the soul's horizon, blotting out
light. An hour of madness!... The exasperated Elements, let loose from
the cage in which they are held bound by the Laws which hold the balance
between the mind and the existence of things, reign, formless and colossal,
in the night of consciousness. The soul is in agony. There is no longer the
will to live. There is only longing for the end, for the deliverance of
death....

And suddenly there is lightning!

Christophe shouted for joy.

       *       *       *       *       *

Joy, furious joy, the sun that lights up all that is and will be, the
godlike joy of creation! There is no joy but in creation. There are no
living beings but those who create. All the rest are shadows, hovering
over the earth, strangers to life. All the joys of life are the joys of
creation: love, genius, action,--quickened by flames issuing from one and
the same fire. Even those who cannot find a place by the great fireside:
the ambitious, the egoists, the sterile sensualists,--try to gain warmth in
the pale reflections of its light.

To create in the region of the body, or in the region of the mind, is to
issue from the prison of the body: it is to ride upon the storm of life: it
is to be He who Is. To create is to triumph over death.

Wretched is the sterile creature, that man or that woman who remains alone
and lost upon the earth, scanning their withered bodies, and the sight of
themselves from which no flame of life will ever leap! Wretched is the soul
that does not feel its own fruitfulness, and know itself to be big with
life and love, as a tree with blossom in the spring! The world may heap
honors and benefits upon such a soul: it does but crown a corpse.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Christophe was struck by the flash of lightning, an electric fluid
coursed through his body: he trembled under the shock. It was as though
on the high seas, in the dark night, he had suddenly sighted land. Or it
was as though in a crowd he had gazed into two eyes saluting him. Often it
would happen to him after hours of prostration when his mind was leaping
desperately through the void. But more often still it came in moments
when he was thinking of something else, talking to his mother, or walking
through the streets. If he were in the street a certain human respect kept
him from too loudly demonstrating his joy. But if he were at home nothing
could keep him back. He would stamp. He would sound a blare of triumph: his
mother knew that well, and she had come to know what it meant. She used to
tell Christophe that he was like a hen that has laid an egg.

He was permeated with his musical imagination. Sometimes it took shape in
an isolated phrase complete in itself: more often it would appear as a
nebula enveloping a whole work: the structure of the work, its general
lines, could be perceived through a veil, torn asunder here and there
by dazzling phrases which stood out from the darkness with the clarity
of sculpture. It was only a flash: sometimes others would come in quick
succession: each lit up other corners of the night. But usually, the
capricious force haying once shown itself unexpectedly, would disappear
again for several days into its mysterious retreats, leaving behind it a
luminous ray.

This delight in inspiration was so vivid that Christophe was disgusted by
everything else. The experienced artist knows that inspiration is rare and
that intelligence is left to complete the work of intuition: he puts his
ideas under the press and squeezes out of them the last drop of the divine
juices that are in them--(and if need be sometimes he does not shrink from
diluting them with clear water)--Christophe was too young and too sure of
himself not to despise such contemptible practices. He dreamed impossibly
of producing nothing that was not absolutely spontaneous. If he had not
been deliberately blind he would certainly have seen the absurdity of his
aims. Ho doubt he was at that time in a period of inward abundance in which
there was no gap, no chink, through which boredom or emptiness could creep.
Everything served as an excuse to his inexhaustible fecundity: everything
that his eyes saw or his ears heard, everything with which he came in
contact in his daily life: every look, every word, brought forth a crop of
dreams. In the boundless heaven of his thoughts he saw circling millions
of milky stars, rivers of living light.--And yet, even then, there were
moments when everything was suddenly blotted out. And although the night
could not endure, although he had hardly time to suffer from these long
silences of his soul, he did not escape a secret terror of that unknown
power which came upon him, left him, came again, and disappeared.... How
long, this time? Would it ever come again?--His pride rejected that thought
and said: "This force is myself. When it ceases to be, I shall cease to be:
I shall kill myself."--He never ceased to tremble: but it was only another
delight.

But, if, for the moment, there was no danger of the spring running dry,
Christophe was able already to perceive that it was never enough to
fertilize a complete work. Ideas almost always appeared rawly: he had
painfully to dig them out of the ore. And always they appeared without any
sort of sequence, and by fits and starts: to unite them he had to bring to
bear on them an element of reflection and deliberation and cold will, which
fashioned them into new form. Christophe was too much of an artist not to
do so: but he would not accept it: he forced himself to believe that he
did no more than transcribe what was within himself, while he was always
compelled more or less to transform it so as to make it intelligible.--More
than that: sometimes he would absolutely forge a meaning for it. However
violently the musical idea might come upon him it would often have been
impossible for him to say what it meant. It would come surging up from the
depths of life, from far beyond the limits of consciousness: and in that
absolutely pure Force, which eluded common rhythms, consciousness could
never recognize in it any of the motives which stirred in it, none of the
human feelings which it defines and classifies: joys, sorrows, they were
all merged in one single passion which was unintelligible, because it
was above the intelligence. And yet, whether it understood or no, the
intelligence needed to give a name to this form, to bind it down to
one or other of the structures of logic, which man is forever building
indefatigably in the hive of his brain.

So Christophe convinced himself--he wished to do so--that the obscure power
that moved him had an exact meaning, and that its meaning was in accordance
with his will. His free instinct, risen from the unconscious depths, was
willy-nilly forced to plod on under the yoke of reason with perfectly clear
ideas which had nothing at all in common with it. And work so produced was
no more than a lying juxtaposition of one of those great subjects that
Christophe's mind had marked out for itself, and those wild forces which
had an altogether different meaning unknown to himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

He groped his way, head down, borne on by the contradictory forces warring
in him, and hurling into his incoherent works a fiery and strong quality
of life which he could not express, though he was joyously and proudly
conscious of it.

The consciousness of his new vigor made him able for the first time to
envisage squarely everything about him, everything that he had been taught
to honor, everything that he had respected without question: and he judged
it all with insolent freedom. The veil was rent: he saw the German lie.

Every race, every art has its hypocrisy. The world is fed with a little
truth and many lies. The human mind is feeble: pure truth agrees with it
but ill: its religion, its morality, its states, its poets, its artists,
must all be presented to it swathed in lies. These lies are adapted to the
mind of each race: they vary from one to the other: it is they that make it
so difficult for nations to understand each other, and so easy for them to
despise each other. Truth is the same for all of us: but every nation has
its own lie, which it calls its idealism: every creature therein breathes
it from birth to death: it has become a condition of life: there are only
a few men of genius who can break free from it through heroic moments of
crisis, when they are alone in the free world of their thoughts.

It was a trivial thing which suddenly revealed to Christophe the lie of
German art. It was not because it had not always been visible that he had
not seen it: he was not near it, he had not recoiled from it. Now the
mountain appeared to his gaze because he had moved away from it.

He was at a concert of the _Städtische Townhalle_. The concert was given
in a large hall occupied by ten or twelve rows of little tables--about two
or three hundred of them. At the end of the room was a stage where the
orchestra was sitting. All round Christophe were officers dressed up in
their long, dark coats,--with broad, shaven faces, red, serious, and
commonplace: women talking and laughing noisily, ostentatiously at their
ease: jolly little girls smiling and showing all their teeth: and large men
hidden behind their beards and spectacles, looking like kindly spiders with
round eyes. They got up with every fresh glass to drink a toast: they did
this almost religiously: their faces, their voices changed: it was as
though they were saying Mass: they offered each other the libations, they
drank of the chalice with a mixture of solemnity and buffoonery. The music
was drowned under the conversation and the clinking of glasses. And yet
everybody was trying to talk and eat quietly. The _Herr Konzertmeister_, a
tall, bent old man, with a white beard hanging like a tail from his chin,
and a long aquiline nose, with spectacles, looked like a philologist.--All
these types were familiar to Christophe. But on that day he had an
inclination--he did not know why--to see them as caricatures. There are
days like that when, for no apparent reason, the grotesque in people and
things which in ordinary life passes unnoticed, suddenly leaps into view.

The programme of the music included the _Egmont_ overture, a valse of
Waldteufel, _Tannhäuser's Pilgrimage to Rome_, the overture to the _Merry
Wives_ of Nicolai, the religious march of _Athalie_, and a fantasy on the
_North Star_. The orchestra played the Beethoven overture correctly, and
the valse deliciously. During the _Pilgrimage of Tannhäuser_, the uncorking
of bottles was heard. A big man sitting at the table next to Christophe
beat time to the _Merry Wives_ by imitating Falstaff. A stout old lady, in
a pale blue dress, with a white belt, golden pince-nez on her flat nose,
red arms, and an enormous waist, sang in a loud voice _Lieder_ of Schumann
and Brahms. She raised her eyebrows, made eyes at the wings, smiled with
a smile that seemed to curdle on her moon-face, made exaggerated gestures
which must certainly have called to mind the _café-concert_ but for the
majestic honesty which shone in her: this mother of a family played the
part of the giddy girl, youth, passion: and Schumann's poetry had a faint
smack of the nursery. The audience was in ecstasies.--But they grew solemn
and attentive when there appeared the Choral Society of the Germans of the
South (_Süddeutschen Männer Liedertafel_), who alternately cooed and roared
part songs full of feeling. There were forty and they sang four parts: it
seemed as though they had set themselves to free their execution of every
trace of style that could properly be called choral: a hotch-potch of
little melodious effects, little timid puling shades of sound, dying
_pianissimos_, with sudden swelling, roaring _crescendos_, like some one
heating on an empty box: no breadth or balance, a mawkish style: it was
like Bottom:

"Let me play the lion. I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove. I
will roar you as it were a nightingale."

Christophe listened: foam the beginning with growing amazement. There was
nothing new in it all to him. He knew these concerts, the orchestra, the
audience. But suddenly it all seemed to him false. All of it: even to
what he most loved, the _Egmont_ overture, in which the pompous disorder
and correct agitation hurt him in that hour like a want of frankness. No
doubt it was not Beethoven or Schumann that he heard, but their absurd
interpreters, their cud-chewing audience whose crass stupidity was spread
about their works like a heavy mist.--No matter, there was in the works,
even the most beautiful of them, a disturbing quality which Christophe had
never before felt.--What was it? He dared not analyze it, deeming it a
sacrilege to question his beloved masters. But in vain did he shut his eyes
to it: he had seen it. And, in spite of himself, he went on seeing it: like
the _Vergognosa_ at Pisa he looked: between his fingers.

He saw German art stripped. All of them--the great and the idiots--laid
bare their souls with a complacent tenderness. Emotion overflowed, moral
nobility trickled down, their hearts melted in distracted effusions: the
sluice gates were opened to the fearful German tender-heartedness: it
weakened the energy of the stronger, it drowned the weaker under its
grayish waters: it was a flood: in the depths of it slept German thought.
And, what thoughts were those of a Mendelssohn, a Brahms, a Schumann, and,
following them, the whole legion of little writers of affected and tearful
_Lieder_! Built on sand. Never rock. Wet and shapeless clay.--It was all
so foolish, so childish often, that Christophe could not believe that it
never occurred to the audience. He looked about him: but he saw only gaping
faces, convinced in advance of the beauties they were hearing and the
pleasure that they ought to find in it. How could they admit their own
right to judge for themselves? They were filled with respect for these
hallowed names. What did they not respect? They were respectful before
their programmes, before their glasses, before themselves. It was clear
that mentally they dubbed everything excellent that remotely or nearly
concerned them.

Christophe passed in review the audience and the music alternately: the
music reflected the audience, the audience reflected the music. Christophe
felt laughter overcoming him and he made faces. However, he controlled
himself. But when the Germans of the South came and solemnly sang the
_Confession_ that reminded him of the blushes of a girl in love, Christophe
could not contain himself. He shouted with laughter. Indignant cries of
"Ssh!" were raised. His neighbors looked at him, scared: their honest,
scandalized faces filled him with joy: he laughed louder than ever, he
laughed, he laughed until he cried. Suddenly the audience grew angry. They
cried: "Put him out!" He got up, and went, shrugging his shoulders, shaking
with suppressed laughter. His departure caused a scandal. It was the
beginning of hostilities between Christophe and his birthplace.

       *       *       *       *       *

After that experience Christophe shut himself up and set himself to read
once more the works of the "hallowed" musicians. He was appalled to find
that certain of the masters whom he loved most had _lied_. He tried hard
to doubt it at first, to believe that he was mistaken.--But no, there was
no way out of it. He was staggered by the conglomeration of mediocrity and
untruth which constitutes the artistic treasure of a great people. How many
pages could bear examination!

From that time on he could begin to read other works, other masters, who
were dear to him, only with a fluttering heart.... Alas! There was some
spell cast upon him: always there was the same discomfiture. With some of
them his heart was rent: it was as though he had lost a dear friend, as if
he had suddenly seen that a friend in whom he had reposed entire confidence
had been deceiving him for years. He wept for it. He did not sleep at
night: he could not escape his torment. He blamed himself: perhaps he had
lost his judgment? Perhaps he had become altogether an idiot?--No, no. More
than ever he saw the radiant beauty of the day and with more freshness and
love than ever he felt the generous abundance of life: his heart was not
deceiving him....

But for a long time he dared not approach those who were the best for him,
the purest, the Holy of Holies. He trembled at the thought of bringing his
faith in them to the test. But how resist the pitiless instinct of a brave
and truthful soul, which will go on to the end, and see things as they are,
whatever suffering may be got in doing so?--So he opened the sacred works,
he called upon the last reserve, the imperial guard.... At the first glance
he saw that they were no more immaculate than the others. He had not the
courage to go on. Every now and then he stopped and closed the book: like
the son of Noah, he threw his cloak about his father's nakedness....

Then he was prostrate in the midst of all these ruins. He would rather have
lost an arm, than have tampered with his blessed illusions. In his heart he
mourned. But there was so much sap in him, so much reserve of life, that
his confidence in art was not shaken. With a young man's naïve presumption
he began life again as though no one had ever lived it before him.
Intoxicated by his new strength, he felt--not without reason, perhaps--that
with a very few exceptions there is almost no relation between living
passion and the expression which art has striven to give to it. But he was
mistaken in thinking himself more happy or more true when he expressed it.
As he was filled with passion it was easy for him to discover it at the
back of what he had written: but no one else would have recognized it
through the imperfect vocabulary with which he designated its variations.
Many artists whom he condemned were in the same case. They had had, and had
translated profound emotions: but the secret of their language had died
with them.

Christophe was no psychologist: he was not bothered with all these
arguments: what was dead for him had always been so. He revised his
judgment of the past with all the confident and fierce injustice of youth.
He stripped the noblest souls, and had no pity for their foibles. There
were the rich melancholy, the distinguished fantasy, the kindly thinking
emptiness of Mendelssohn. There were the bead-stringing and the affectation
of Weber, his dryness of heart, his cerebral emotion. There was Liszt, the
noble priest, the circus rider, neo-classical and vagabond, a mixture in
equal doses of real and false nobility, of serene idealism and disgusting
virtuosity. Schubert, swallowed up by his sentimentality, drowned at the
bottom of leagues of stale, transparent water. The men of the heroic ages,
the demi-gods, the Prophets, the Fathers of the Church, were not spared.
Even the great Sebastian, the man of ages, who bore in himself the past
and the future,--Bach,--was not free of untruth, of fashionable folly, of
school-chattering. The man who had seen God, the man who lived in God,
seemed sometimes to Christophe to have had an insipid and sugared religion,
a Jesuitical style, rococo. In his cantatas there were languorous and
devout airs--(dialogues of the Soul coquetting with Jesus)--which sickened
Christophe: then he seemed to see chubby cherubim with round limbs, and
flying draperies. And also he had a feeling that the genial _Cantor_
always wrote in a closed room: his work smacked of stuffiness: there was
not in his music that brave outdoor air that was breathed in others,
not such great musicians, perhaps, but greater men--more human--than
he. Like Beethoven or Händel. What hurt him in all of them, especially
in the classics, was their lack of freedom: almost all their works
were "constructed." Sometimes an emotion was filled out with all the
commonplaces of musical rhetoric, sometimes with a simple rhythm,
an ornamental design, repeated, turned upside down, combined in
every conceivable way in a mechanical fashion. These symmetrical and
twaddling constructions--classical, and neo-classical sonatas and
symphonies--exasperated Christophe, who, at that time, was not very
sensible of the beauty of order, and vast and well-conceived plans. That
seemed to him to be rather masons' work than musicians'.

But he was no less severe with the romantics. It was a strange thing, and
he was more surprised by it than anybody,--but no musicians irritated him
more than those who had pretended to be--and had actually been--the most
free, the most spontaneous, the least constructive,--those, who, like
Schumann, had poured drop by drop, minute by minute, into their innumerable
little works, their whole life. He was the more indignantly in revolt
against them as he recognized in them his adolescent soul and all the
follies that he had vowed to pluck out of it. In truth, the candid Schumann
could not be taxed with falsity: he hardly ever said anything that he had
not felt. But that was just it: his example made Christophe understand that
the worst falsity in German art came into it not when the artists tried to
express something which they had not felt, but rather when they tried to
express the feelings which they did in fact feel--_feelings which were
false_. Music is an implacable mirror of the soul. The more a German
musician is naïve and in good faith, the more he displays the weaknesses
of the German soul, its uncertain depths, its soft tenderness, its want of
frankness, its rather sly idealism, its incapacity for seeing itself, for
daring to come face to face with itself. That false idealism is the secret
sore even of the greatest--of Wagner. As he read his works Christophe
ground his teeth. _Lohengrin_ seemed to him a blatant lie. He loathed the
huxtering chivalry, the hypocritical mummery, the hero without fear and
without a heart, the incarnation of cold and selfish virtue admiring itself
and most patently self-satisfied. He knew it too well, he had seen it in
reality, the type of German Pharisee, foppish, impeccable, and hard, bowing
down before its own image, the divinity to which it has no scruple about
sacrificing others. The _Flying Dutchman_ overwhelmed him with its massive
sentimentality and its gloomy boredom. The loves of the barbarous decadents
of the _Tetralogy_ were of a sickening staleness. Siegmund carrying off
his sister sang a tenor drawing-room song. Siegfried and Brünnhilde, like
respectable German married people, in the _Götterdämmerung_ laid bare
before each other, especially for the benefit of the audience, their
pompous and voluble conjugal passion. Every sort of lie had arranged to
meet in that work: false idealism, false Christianity, false Gothicism,
false legend, false gods, false humans. Never did more monstrous convention
appear than in that theater which was to upset all the conventions. Neither
eyes, nor mind, nor heart could be deceived by it for a moment: if they
were, then they must wish to be so.--They did wish to be so. Germany was
delighted with that doting, childish art, an art of brutes let loose, and
mystic, namby-pamby little girls.

And Christophe could do nothing: as soon as he heard the music he was
caught up like the others, more than the others, by the flood, and the
diabolical will of the man who had let it loose. He laughed, and he
trembled, and his cheeks burned, and he felt galloping armies rushing
through him! And he thought that those who bore such storms within
themselves might have all allowances made for them. What cries of joy
he uttered when in the hallowed works which he could not read without
trembling he felt once more his old emotion, ardent still, with nothing
to tarnish the purity of what he loved! These were glorious relics that
he saved from the wreck. What happiness they gave him! It seemed to him
that he had saved a part of himself. And was it not himself? These great
Germans, against whom he revolted, were they not his blood, his flesh, his
most precious life? He was only severe with them because he was severe with
himself. Who loved them better than he? Who felt more than he the goodness
of Schubert, the innocence of Haydn, the tenderness of Mozart, the great
heroic heart of Beethoven? Who more often than he took refuge in the
murmuring of the forests of Weber, and the cool shade of the cathedrals of
John Sebastian, raising against the gray sky of the North, above the plains
of Germany, their pile of stone, and their gigantic towers with their
sun-tipped spires?--But he suffered from their lies, and he could not
forget them. He attributed them to the race, their greatness to themselves.
He was wrong. Greatness and weaknesses belong equally to the race whose
great, shifting thought flows like the greatest river of music and poetry
at which Europe comes to drink.--And in what other people would he have
found the simple purity which now made it possible for him to condemn it so
harshly?

He had no notion of that. With the ingratitude of a spoiled child he turned
against his mother the weapons which he had received from her. Later,
later, he was to feel all that he owed to her, and how dear she was to
him....

But he was in a phase of blind reaction against all the idols of his
childhood. He was angry with himself and with them because he had believed
in them absolutely and passionately--and it was well that it was so. There
is an age in life when we must dare to be unjust, when we must make a
clean sweep of all admiration and respect got at second-hand, and deny
everything--truth and untruth--everything which we have not of ourselves
known for truth. Through education, and through everything that he sees and
hears about him, a child absorbs so many lies and blind follies mixed with
the essential verities of life, that the first duty of the adolescent who
wishes to grow into a healthy man is to sacrifice everything.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe was passing through that crisis of healthy disgust. His instinct
was impelling him to eliminate from his life all the undigested elements
which encumbered it.

First of all to go was that sickening sweet tenderness which sucked away
the soul of Germany like a damp and moldy riverbed. Light! Light! A rough,
dry wind which should sweep away the miasmas of the swamp, the misty
staleness of the _Lieder, Liedchen, Liedlein_, as numerous as drops of rain
in which inexhaustibly the Germanic _Gemüt_ is poured forth: the countless
things like _Sehnsucht_ (Desire), _Heimweh_ (Homesickness), _Aufschwung_
(Soaring), _Trage_ (A question), _Warum_? (Why?), _an den Mond_ (To
the Moon), _an die Sterne_ (To the Stars), _an die Nachtigall_ (To the
Nightingale), _an den Frühling_ (To Spring), _an den Sonnenschein_ (To
Sunshine): like _Frühlingslied_ (Spring Song), _Frühlingslust_ (Delights of
Spring), _Frühlingsgruss_ (Hail to the Spring), _Frülingsfahrt_ (A Spring
Journey), _Frülingsnacht_ (A Spring Night), _Frühlingsbotschaft_ (The
Message of Spring): like _Stimme der Liebe_ (The Voice of Love), _Sprache
der Liebe_ (The Language of Love), _Trauer der Liebe_ (Love's Sorrow),
_Geist der Liebe_ (The Spirit of Love), _Fülle der Liebe_ (The Fullness
of Love): like _Blumenlied_ (The Song of the Flowers), _Blumenbrief_ (The
Letter of the Flowers), _Blumengruss_ (Flowers' Greeting): like _Herzeleid_
(Heart Pangs), _Mein Herz ist schwer_ (My Heart is Heavy), _Mein Herz ist
betrübt_ (My Heart is Troubled), _Mein Aug' ist trüb_ (My Eye is Heavy):
like the candid and silly dialogues with the _Röselein_ (The Little Rose),
with the brook, with the turtle dove, with the lark: like those idiotic
questions: _"If the briar could have no thorns?"--"Is an old husband like
a lark who has built a nest?"--"Is she newly plighted?"_: the whole deluge
of stale tenderness, stale emotion, stale melancholy, stale poetry.... How
many lovely things profaned, rare things, used in season or out! For the
worst of it was that it was all useless: a habit of undressing their hearts
in public, a fond and foolish propensity of the honest people of Germany
for plunging loudly into confidences. With nothing to say they were always
talking! Would their chatter never cease?--As well bid frogs in a pond be
silent.

It was in the expression of love that Christophe was most rawly conscious
of untruth: for he was in a position to compare it with the reality. The
conventional love songs, lacrymose and proper, contained nothing like the
desires of man or the heart of woman. And yet the people who had written
them must have loved at least once in their lives! Was it possible that
they could have loved like that? No, no, they had lied, as they always did,
they had lied to themselves: they had tried to idealize themselves....
Idealism! That meant that they were afraid of looking at life squarely,
were incapable of seeing things like a man, as they are.--Everywhere the
same timidity, the same lack of manly frankness. Everywhere the same chilly
enthusiasm, the same pompous lying solemnity, in their patriotism, in
their drinking, in their religion. The _Trinklieder_ (Drinking Songs) were
prosopopeia to wine and the bowl: _"Du, herrlich Glas ..."_ ("Thou, noble
glass ..."). Faith--the one thing in the world which should be spontaneous,
springing from the soul like an unexpected sudden stream--was a
manufactured article, a commodity of trade. Their patriotic songs were made
for docile flocks of sheep basking in unison.... Shout, then!--What! Must
you go on lying--"_idealizing_"--till you are surfeited, till it brings you
to slaughter and madness!...

Christophe ended by hating all idealism. He preferred frank brutality to
such lying. But at heart he was more of an idealist than the rest, and he
had not--he could not have--any more real enemies than the brutal realists
whom he thought he preferred.

He was blinded by passion. He was frozen by the mist, the anæmic lying,
"the sunless phantom Ideas." With his whole being he reached upwards to
the sun. In his youthful contempt for the hypocrisy with which he was
surrounded, or for what he took to be hypocrisy, he did not see the high,
practical wisdom of the race which little by little had built up for itself
its grandiose idealism in order to suppress its savage instincts, or to
turn them to account. Not arbitrary reasons, not moral and religious codes,
not legislators and statesmen, priests and philosophers, transform the
souls of peoples and often impose upon them a new nature: but centuries of
misfortune and experience, which forge the life of peoples who have the
will to live.

       *       *       *       *       *

And yet Christophe went on composing: and his compositions were not
examples of the faults which he found in others. In him creation was an
irresistible necessity which would not submit to the rules which his
intelligence laid down for it. No man creates from reason, but from
necessity.--It is not enough to have recognized the untruth and affectation
inherent in the majority of the feelings to avoid falling into them: long
and painful endeavor is necessary: nothing is more difficult than to be
absolutely true in modern society with its crushing heritage of indolent
habits handed down through generations. It is especially difficult for
those people, those nations who are possessed by an indiscreet mania for
letting their hearts speak--for making them speak--unceasingly, when most
generally it had much better have been silent.

Christophe's heart was very German in that: it had not yet learned the
virtue of silence: and that virtue did not belong to his age. He had
inherited from his father a need for talking, and talking loudly. He
knew it and struggled against it: bat the conflict paralyzed part of his
forces.--And he had another gift of heredity, no less burdensome, which
had come to him from his grandfather: an extraordinary difficulty--in
expressing himself exactly.--He was the son of a _virtuoso_. He was
conscious of the dangerous attraction of virtuosity: a physical pleasure,
the pleasure of skill, of agility, of satisfied muscular activity, the
pleasure of conquering, of dazzling, of enthralling in his own person
the many-headed audience: an excusable pleasure, in a young man almost
an innocent pleasure, though none the less destructive of art and soul:
Christophe knew it: it was in his blood: he despised it, but all the same
he yielded to it.

And so, torn between the instincts of his race and those of his genius,
weighed down by the burden of a parasitical past, which covered him with
a crust that he could not break through, he floundered along, and was
much nearer than he thought to all that he shunned and banned. All his
compositions were a mixture of truth and turgidness, of lucid strength and
faltering stupidity. It was only in rare moments that his personality could
pierce the casing of the dead personality which hampered his movements.

He was alone. He had no guide to help him out of the mire. When he thought
he was out of it he slipped back again. He went blindly on, wasting his
time and strength in futile efforts. He was spared no trial: and in the
disorder of his creative striving he never knew what was of greatest worth
in what he created. He tied himself up in absurd projects, symphonic poems,
which pretended to philosophy and were of monstrous dimensions. He was too
sincere to be able to hold to them for long together: and he would discard
them in disgust before he had stretched out a single movement. Or he would
set out to translate into overtures the most inaccessible works of poetry.
Then he would flounder about in a domain which was not his own. When
he drew up scenarios for himself--(for he stuck at nothing)--they were
idiotic: and when he attacked the great works of Goethe, Hebbel, Kleist, or
Shakespeare, he understood them all wrong. It was not want of intelligence
but want of the critical spirit: he could not yet understand others, he was
too much taken up with himself: he found himself everywhere with his naïve
and turgid soul.

But besides these monsters who were not really begotten, he wrote a
quantity of small pieces, which were the immediate expression of passing
emotions--the most eternal of all: musical thoughts, _Lieder_. In this as
in other things he was in passionate reaction against current practices.
He would take up the most famous poems, already set to music, and was
impertinent enough to try to treat them differently and with greater truth
than Schumann and Schubert. Sometimes he would try to give to the poetic
figures of Goethe--to Mignon, the Harpist in _Wilhelm Meister_, their
individual character, exact and changing. Sometimes he would tackle certain
love songs which the weakness of the artists and the dullness of the
audience in tacit agreement had clothed about with sickly sentimentality:
and he would unclothe them: he would restore to them their rough, crude
sensuality. In a word, he set out to make passions and people live for
themselves and not to serve as toys for German families seeking an easy
emotionalism on Sundays when they sat about in some _Biergarten_.

But generally he would find the poets, even the greatest of them, too
literary: and he would select the simplest texts for preference: texts of
old _Lieder_, jolly old songs, which he had read perhaps in some improving
work: he would take care not to preserve their choral character: he would
treat them with a fine, lively, and altogether lay audacity. Or he would
take words from the Gospel, or proverbs, sometimes even words heard by
chance, scraps of dialogues of the people, children's thoughts: words often
awkward and prosaic in which there was only pure feeling. With them he was
at his ease, and he would reach a depth with them which was not in his
other compositions, a depth which he himself never suspected.

Good or bad, more often bad than good, his works as a whole had abounding
vitality. They were not altogether new: far from it. Christophe was often
banal, through his very sincerity: he repeated sometimes forms already used
because they exactly rendered his thought, because he also felt in that way
and not otherwise. Nothing would have induced him to try to be original: it
seemed to him that a man must be very commonplace to burden himself with
such an idea. He tried to be himself, to say what he felt, without worrying
as to whether what he said had been said before him or not. He took a pride
in believing that it was the best way of being original and that Christophe
had only been and only would be alive once. With the magnificent impudence
of youth, nothing seemed to him to have been done before: and everything
seemed to him to be left for doing--or for doing again. And the feeling
of this inward fullness of life, of a life stretching endless before him,
brought him to a state of exuberant and rather indiscreet happiness. He
was perpetually in a state of jubilation, which had no need of joy: it
could adapt itself to sorrow: its source overflowed with life, was, in its
strength, mother of all happiness and virtue. To live, to live too much!...
A man who does not feel within himself this intoxication of strength, this
jubilation in living--even in the depths of misery,--is not an artist.
That is the touchstone. True greatness is shown in this power of rejoicing
through joy and sorrow. A Mendelssohn or a Brahms, gods of the mists of
October, and of fine rain, have never known the divine power.

Christophe was conscious of it: and he showed his joy simply, impudently.
He saw no harm in it, he only asked to share it with others. He did not
see how such joy hurts the majority of men, who never can possess it and
are always envious of it. For the rest he never bothered about pleasing
or displeasing: he was sure of himself, and nothing seemed to him simpler
than to communicate his conviction to others,--to conquer. Instinctively he
compared his riches with the general poverty of the makers of music: and he
thought that it would be very easy to make his superiority recognized. Too
easy, even. He had only to show himself.

He showed himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were waiting for him.

Christophe had made no secret of his feelings. Since he had become aware
of German Pharisaism, which refuses to see things as they are, he had
made it a law for himself that he should be absolutely, continually,
uncompromisingly sincere in everything without regard for anything or
anybody or himself. And as he could do nothing without going to extremes,
he was extravagant in his sincerity: he would say outrageous things and
scandalize people a thousand times less naïve than himself. He never
dreamed that it might annoy them. When he realized the idiocy of some
hallowed composition he would make haste to impart his discovery to
everybody he encountered: musicians of the orchestra, or amateurs of his
acquaintance. He would pronounce the most absurd judgments with a beaming
face. At first no one took him seriously: they laughed at his freaks. But
it was not long before they found that he was always reverting to them,
insisting on them in a way that was really bad taste. It became evident
that Christophe believed in his paradoxes: and they became less amusing. He
was a nuisance: at concerts he would make ironic remarks in a loud voice,
or would express his scorn for the glorious masters in no veiled fashion
wherever he might be.

Everything passed from mouth to mouth in the little town: not a word was
lost. People were already affronted by his conduct during the past year.
They had not forgotten the scandalous fashion in which he had shown himself
abroad with Ada and the troublous times of the sequel. He had forgotten,
it himself: one day wiped out another, and he was very different from what
he had been two months before. But others had not forgotten: those who, in
all small towns, take upon themselves scrupulously to note down all the
faults, all the imperfections, all the sad, ugly, and unpleasant happenings
concerning their neighbors, so that nothing is ever forgotten. Christophe's
new extravagances were naturally set, side by side with his former
indiscretions, in the scroll. The former explained the latter. The outraged
feelings of offended morality were now bolstered up by those of scandalized
good taste. The kindliest of them said:

"He is trying to be particular."

But most alleged:

_"Total verrückt!"_ (Absolutely mad.)

An opinion no less severe and even more dangerous was beginning to find
currency--an opinion assured of success by reason of its illustrious
origin: it was said that, at the Palace, whither Christophe still went upon
his official duties, he had had the bad taste in conversation with the
Grand Duke himself, with revolting lack of decency, to give vent to his
ideas concerning the illustrious masters: it was said that he had called
Mendelssohn's _Elijah_ "a clerical humbug's paternoster," and he had called
certain _Lieder_ of Schumann "_Backfisch Musik_": and that in the face of
the declared preference of the august Princess for those works! The Grand
Duke had cut short his impertinences by saying dryly:

"To hear you, sir, one would doubt your being a German." This vengeful
utterance, coming from so lofty an eminence, reached the lowest depths: and
everybody who thought he had reason to be annoyed with Christophe, either
for his success, or for some more personal if not more cogent reason, did
not fail to call to mind that he was not in fact pure German. His father's
family, it was remembered, came originally from Belgium. It was not
surprising, therefore, that this immigrant should decry the national
glories. That explained everything and German vanity found reasons therein
for greater self-esteem, and at the same time for despising its adversary.

Christophe himself most substantially fed this Platonic vengeance. It is
very imprudent to criticise others when you are yourself on the point of
challenging criticism. A cleverer or less frank artist would have shown
more modesty and more respect for his predecessors. But Christophe could
see no reason for hiding his contempt for mediocrity or his joy in his
own strength, and his joy was shown in no temperate fashion. Although
from childhood Christophe had been turned in upon himself for want of any
creature to confide in, of late he had come by a need of expansiveness. He
had too much joy for himself: his breast was too small to contain it: he
would have burst if he had not shared his delight. Failing a friend, he had
confided in his colleague in the orchestra, the second _Kapellmeister_,
Siegmund Ochs, a young Wurtemberger, a good fellow, though crafty, who
showed him an effusive deference. Christophe did not distrust him: and,
even if he had, how could it have occurred to him that it might be harmful
to confide his joy to one who did not care, or even to an enemy? Ought they
not rather to be grateful to him? Was it not for them also that he was
working? He brought happiness for all, friends and enemies alike.--He had
no idea that there is nothing more difficult than to make men accept a new
happiness: they almost prefer their old misery: they need food that has
been masticated for ages. But what is most intolerable to them is the
thought that they owe such happiness to another. They cannot forgive that
offense until there is no way of evading it: and in any case, they do
contrive to make the giver pay dearly for it.

There were, then, a thousand reasons why Christophe's confidences should
not be kindly received by anybody. But there were a thousand and one
reasons why they should not be acceptable to Siegmund Ochs. The first
_Kapellmeister_, Tobias Pfeiffer, was on the point of retiring: and, in
spite of his youth, Christophe had every chance of succeeding him. Ochs
was too good a German not to recognize that Christophe was worthy of the
position, since the Court was on his side. But he had too good an opinion
of himself not to believe that he would have been more worthy had the Court
known him better. And so he received Christophe's effusions with a strange
smile when, he arrived at the theater in the morning with a face that he
tried hard to make serious, though it beamed in spite of himself.

"Well?" he would say slyly as he came up to him, "another masterpiece?"

Christophe would take his arm.

"Ah! my friend. It is the best of all ... If you could hear it!... Devil
take me, it is too beautiful! There has never been anything like it. God
help the poor audience! They will only long for one thing when they have
heard it: to die."

His words did not fall upon deaf ears. Instead of smiling, or of chaffing
Christophe about his childish enthusiasm--he would have been the first
to laugh at it and beg pardon if he had been made to feel the absurdity
of it--Ochs went into ironic ecstasies: he drew Christophe on to further
enormities: and when he left him made haste to repeat them all, making them
even more grotesque. The little circle of musicians chuckled over them: and
every one was impatient for the opportunity of judging the unhappy
compositions.--They were all judged beforehand.

At last they appeared--Christophe had chosen from the better of his works
an overture to the _Judith_ of Hebbel, the savage energy of which had
attracted him, in his reaction against German atony, although he was
beginning to lose his taste for it, knowing intuitively the unnaturalness
of such assumption of genius, always and at all costs. He had added a
symphony which bore the bombastic title of the Basle Boecklin, "_The Dream
of Life_," and the motto: "_Vita somnium breve_." A song-cycle completed
the programme, with a few classical works, and a _Festmarsch_ by Ochs,
which Christophe had kindly offered to include in his concert, though he
knew it to be mediocre.

Nothing much happened during the rehearsals. Although the orchestra
understood absolutely nothing of the composition it was playing and
everybody was privately disconcerted by the oddities of the new music, they
had no time to form an opinion: they were not capable of doing so until
the public had pronounced on it. Besides, Christophe's confidence imposed
on the artists, who, like every good German orchestra, were docile and
disciplined. His only difficulties were with the singer. She was the
blue lady of the _Townhalle_ concert. She was famous through Germany:
the domestic creature sang Brünnhilde Kundry at Dresden and Bayreuth
with undoubted lung-power. But if in the Wagnerian school she had
learned the art of which that school is justly proud, the art of good
articulation, of projecting the consonants through space, and of
battering the gaping audience with the vowels as with a club, she had not
learned--designedly--the art of being natural. She provided for every word:
everything was accentuated: the syllables moved with leaden feet, and there
was a tragedy in every sentence. Christophe implored her to moderate her
dramatic power a little. She tried at first graciously enough: but her
natural heaviness and her need for letting her voice go carried her away.
Christophe became nervous. He told the respectable lady that he had tried
to make human beings speak with his speaking-trumpet and not the dragon
Fafner. She took his insolence in bad part--naturally. She said that,
thank Heaven! she knew what singing was, and that she had had the honor of
interpreting the _Lieder_ of Maestro Brahms, in the presence of that great
man, and that he had never tired of hearing her.

"So much the worse! So much the worse!" cried Christophe.

She asked him with a haughty smile to be kind enough to explain the meaning
of his energetic remark. He replied that never in his life had Brahms
known what it was to be natural, that his eulogies were the worst possible
censure, and that although he--Christophe--was not very polite, as she had
justly observed, never would he have gone so far as to say anything so
unpleasant.

The argument went on in this fashion: and the lady insisted on singing in
her own way, with heavy pathos and melodramatic effects--until one day when
Christophe declared coldly that he saw the truth: it was her nature and
nothing could change it: but since the _Lieder_ could not be sung properly,
they should not be sung at all: he withdrew them from the programme.--It
was on the eve of the concert and they were counting on the _Lieder_: she
had talked about them: she was musician enough to appreciate certain of
their qualities: Christophe insulted her: and as she was not sure that the
morrow's concert would not set the seal on the young man's fame, she did
not wish to quarrel with a rising star. She gave way suddenly: and during
the last rehearsal she submitted docilely to all Christophe's wishes. But
she had made up her mind--at the concert--to have her own way.

       *       *       *       *       *

The day came. Christophe had no anxiety. He was too full of his music to
be able to judge it. He realized that some of his works in certain places
bordered on the ridiculous. But what did that matter? Nothing great can be
written without touching the ridiculous. To reach the heart of things it
is necessary to dare human respect, politeness, modesty, the timidity of
social lies under which the heart is stifled. If nobody is to be affronted
and success attained, a man must be resigned all his life to remain bound
by convention and to give to second-rate people the second-rate truth,
mitigated, diluted, which they are capable of receiving: he must dwell in
prison all his life. A man is great only when he has set his foot on such
anxieties. Christophe trampled them underfoot. Let them hiss him: he was
sure of not leaving them indifferent. He conjured up the faces that certain
people of his acquaintance would make as they heard certain rather bold
passages. He expected bitter criticism: he smiled at it already. In any
case they would have to be blind--or deaf--to deny that there was force
in it--pleasant or otherwise, what did it matter?--Pleasant! Pleasant!...
Force! That is enough. Let it go its way, and bear all before it, like the
Rhine!...

He had one setback. The Grand Duke did not come. The royal box was only
occupied by Court people, a few ladies-in-waiting. Christophe was irritated
by it. He thought: "The fool is cross with me. He does not know what to
think of my work: he is afraid of compromising himself." He shrugged his
shoulders, pretending not to be put out by such idiocy. Others paid more
attention to it: it was the first lesson for him, a menace of his future.

The public had not shown much more interest than the Grand Duke: quite a
third of the hall was empty. Christophe could not help thinking bitterly of
the crowded halls at his concerts when he was a child. He would not have
been surprised by the change if he had had more experience: it would have
seemed natural to him that there were fewer people come to hear him when
he made good music than when he made bad: for it is not music but the
musician in which the greater part of the public is interested: and it is
obvious that a musician who is a man and like everybody else is much less
interesting than a musician in a child's little trowsers or short frock,
who tickles sentimentality or amuses idleness.

After waiting in vain for the hall to fill, Christophe decided to begin.
He tried to pretend that it was better so, saying, "A few friends but
good."--His optimism did not last long.

His pieces were played in silence.--There is a silence in an audience
which seems big and overflowing with love. But there was nothing in this.
Nothing. Utter sleep. Blankness. Every phrase seemed to drop into depths
of indifference. With his back turned to the audience, busy with his
orchestra, Christophe was fully aware of everything that was happening in
the hall, with those inner antennæ which every true musician is endowed, so
that he knows whether what he is playing is waking an echo in the hearts
about him. He went on conducting and growing excited while he was frozen by
the cold mist of boredom rising from the stalls and the boxes behind him.

At last the overture was ended: and the audience applauded. It applauded
coldly, politely, and was then silent. Christophe would rather have had
them hoot.... A hiss! One hiss! Anything to give a sign of life, or at
least of reaction against his work!... Nothing.--He looked at the audience.
The people were looking at each other, each trying to find out what the
other thought. They did not succeed and relapsed into indifference.

The music went on. The symphony was played.--Christophe found it hard to
go on to the end. Several times he was on the point of throwing down his
baton and running away. Their apathy overtook him: at last he could not
understand what he was conducting: he could not breathe: he felt that he
was falling into fathomless boredom. There was not even the whispered
ironic comment which he had anticipated at certain passages: the audience
were reading their programmes. Christophe heard the pages turned all
together with a dry rustling: and then, once more there was silence until
the last chord, when the same polite applause showed that they had not
understood that the symphony was finished.--And yet there were four pairs
of hands went on clapping when the others had finished: but they awoke no
echo, and stopped ashamed: that made the emptiness seem more empty, and the
little incident served to show the audience how bored it had been.

Christophe took a seat in the middle of the orchestra: he dared not look to
right or left. He wanted to cry: and at the same time he was quivering with
rage. He was fain to get up and shout at them: "You bore me! Ah! How you
bore me! I cannot bear it!... Go away! Go away, all of you!..."

The audience woke up a little: they were expecting the singer,--they were
accustomed to applauding her. In that ocean of new music in which they were
drifting without a compass, she at least was sure, a known land, and a
solid, in which there was no danger of being lost. Christophe divined their
thoughts exactly, and he laughed bitterly. The singer was no less conscious
of the expectancy of the audience: Christophe saw that in her regal airs
when he came and told her that it was her turn to appear. They looked at
each other inimically. Instead of offering her his arm, Christophe thrust
his hands into his pockets and let her go on alone. Furious and out of
countenance she passed him. He followed her with a bored expression. As
soon as she appeared the audience gave her an ovation: that made everybody
happier: every face brightened, the audience grew interested, and glasses
were brought into play. Certain of her power she tackled the _Lieder_, in
her own way, of course, and absolutely disregarded Christophe's remarks of
the evening before. Christophe, who was accompanying her, went pale. He had
foreseen her rebellion. At the first change that she made he tapped on the
piano and said angrily:

"No!"

She went on. He whispered behind her back in a low voice of fury:

"No! No! Not like that!... Not that!"

Unnerved by his fierce growls, which the audience could not hear, though
the orchestra caught every syllable, she stuck to it, dragging her notes,
making pauses like organ stops. He paid no heed to them and went ahead: in
the end they got out of time. The audience did not notice it: for some time
they had been saying that Christophe's music was not made to seem pleasant
or right to the ear: but Christophe, who was not of that opinion, was
making lunatic grimaces: and at last he exploded. He stopped short in the
middle of a bar:

"Stop," he shouted.

She was carried on by her own impetus for half a bar and then stopped:

"That's enough," he said dryly.

There was a moment of amazement in the audience. After a few seconds he
said icily:

"Begin again!"

She looked at him in stupefaction: her hands trembled: she thought for a
moment of throwing his book at his head: afterwards she did not understand
how it was that she did not do so. But she was overwhelmed by Christophe's
authority and his unanswerable tone of voice: she began again. She sang the
song-cycle, without changing one shade of meaning, or a single movement:
for she felt that he would spare her nothing: and she shuddered at the
thought of a fresh insult.

When she had finished the audience recalled her frantically. They were not
applauding the _Lieder_--(they would have applauded just the same if she
had sung any others)--but the famous singer who had grown old in harness:
they knew that they could safely admire her. Besides, they wanted to make
up to her for the insult she had just received. They were not quite sure,
but they did vaguely understand that the singer had made a mistake: and
they thought it indecent of Christophe to call their attention to it. They
encored the songs. But Christophe shut the piano firmly.

The singer did not notice his insolence: she was too much upset to think
of singing again. She left the stage hurriedly and shut herself up in her
box: and then for a quarter of an hour she relieved her heart of the flood
of wrath and rage that was pent up in it: a nervous attack, a deluge of
tears, indignant outcries and imprecations against Christophe,--she omitted
nothing. Her cries of anger could be heard through the closed door. Those
of her friends who had made their way there told everybody when they left
that Christophe had behaved like a cad. Opinion travels quickly in a
concert hall. And so when Christophe went to his desk for the last piece
of music the audience was stormy. But it was not his composition: it
was the _Festmarsch_ by Ochs, which Christophe had kindly included in
his programme. The audience--who were quite at their ease with the dull
music--found a very simple method of displaying their disapproval of
Christophe without going so far as to hiss him: they acclaimed Ochs
ostentatiously, recalled the composer two or three times, and he appeared
readily. And that was the end of the concert.

The Grand Duke and everybody at the Court--the bored, gossiping little
provincial town--lost no detail of what had happened. The papers which were
friendly towards the singer made no allusion to the incident: but they
all agreed in exalting her art while they only mentioned the titles of
the _Lieder_ which she had sung. They published only a few lines about
Christophe's other compositions, and they all said almost the same things:
"... Knowledge of counterpoint. Complicated writing. Lack of inspiration.
No melody. Written with the head, not with the heart. Want of sincerity.
Trying to be original...." Followed a paragraph on true originality, that
of the masters who are dead and buried, Mozart, Beethoven, Loewe, Schubert,
Brahms, "those who are original without thinking of it."--Then by a natural
transition they passed to the revival at the Grand Ducal Theater of the
_Nachtlager von Granada_ of Konradin Kreutzer: a long account was given of
"the delicious music, as fresh and jolly as when it was first written."

Christophe's compositions met with absolute and astonished lack of
comprehension from the most kindly disposed critics: veiled hostility from
those who did not like him, and were arming themselves for later ventures:
and from the general public, guided by neither friendly nor hostile
critics, silence. Left to its own thoughts the general public does not
think at all: that goes without saying.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe was bowled over.

And yet there was nothing surprising in his defeat. There were reasons,
three to one, why his compositions should not please. They were immature.
They were, secondly, too advanced to be understood at once. And,
lastly, people were only too glad to give a lesson to the impertinent
youngster.--But Christophe was not cool-headed enough to admit that his
reverse was legitimate. He had none of that serenity which the true artist
gains from the mournful experience of long misunderstanding at the hands of
men and their incurable stupidity. His naïve confidence in the public and
in success which he thought he could easily gain because he deserved it,
crumbled away. He would have thought it natural to have enemies. But what
staggered him was to find that he had not a single friend. Those on whom he
had counted, those who hitherto had seemed to be interested in everything
that he wrote, had not given him a single word of encouragement since the
concert. He tried to probe them: they took refuge behind vague words. He
insisted, he wanted to know what they really thought: the most sincere of
them referred back to his former works, his foolish early efforts.--More
than once in his life he was to hear his new works condemned by comparison,
with the older ones,--and that by the same people who, a few years before,
had condemned his older works when they were new: that is the usual
ordering of these things. Christophe did not like it: he exclaimed loudly.
If people did not like him, well and good: he accepted that: it even
pleased him since he could not be friends with everybody. But that people
should pretend to be fond of him and not allow him to grow up, that they
should try to force him all his life to remain a child, was beyond the
pale! What is good at twelve is not good at twenty: and he hoped not
to stay at that, but to change and to go on changing always.... These
idiots who tried to stop life!... What was interesting in his childish
compositions was not their childishness and silliness, but the force in
them hungering for the future. And they were trying to kill his future!...
No, they had never understood what he was, they had never loved him, never
then or now: they only loved the weakness and vulgarity in him, everything
that he had in common with others, and not _himself_, not what he really
was: their friendship was a misunderstanding....

He was exaggerating, perhaps. It often happens with quite nice people who
are incapable of liking new work which they sincerely love when it is
twenty years old. New life smacks too strong for their weak senses--the
scent of it must evaporate in the winds of Time. A work of art only becomes
intelligible to them when it is crusted over with the dust of years.

But Christophe could not admit of not being understood when he was
_present_ and of being understood when he was _past_. He preferred to think
that he was not understood at all, in any case, even. And he raged against
it. He was foolish enough to want to make himself understood, to explain
himself, to argue. Although no good purpose was served thereby: he would
have had to reform the taste of his time. But he was afraid of nothing. He
was determined by hook or by crook to clean up German taste. But it was
utterly impossible: he could not convince anybody by means of conversation,
in which he found it difficult to find words, and expressed himself with an
excess of violence about the great musicians and even about the men to whom
he was talking: he only succeeded in making a few more enemies. He would
have had to prepare his ideas beforehand, and then to force the public to
hear him....

And just then, at the appointed hour, his star--his evil star--gave him the
means of doing so.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was sitting in the restaurant of the theater in a group of musicians
belonging to the orchestra whom he was scandalizing by his artistic
judgments. They were not all of the same opinion: but they were all ruffled
by the freedom of his language. Old Krause, the alto, a good fellow
and a good musician, who sincerely loved Christophe, tried to turn the
conversation: he coughed, then looked out for an opportunity of making a
pun. But Christophe did not hear him: he went on: and Krause mourned and
thought:

"What makes him say such things? God bless him! You can think these things:
but you must not say them."

The odd thing was that he also thought "these things": at least, he had a
glimmering of them, and Christophe's words roused many doubts in him: but
he had not the courage to confess it, or openly to agree--half from fear of
compromising himself, half from modesty and distrust of himself.

Weigl, the cornet-player, did not want to know anything: he was ready to
admire anything, or anybody, good or bad, star or gas-jet: everything was
the same to him: there were no degrees in his admiration: he admired,
admired, admired. It was a vital necessity to him: it hurt him when anybody
tried to curb him.

Old Kuh, the violoncellist, suffered even more. He loved bad music with
all his heart. Everything that Christophe hounded down with his sarcasm
and invective was infinitely dear to him: instinctively his choice pitched
on the most conventional works: his soul was a reservoir of tearful and
high-flown emotion. Indeed, he was not dishonest in his tender regard for
all the sham great men. It was when he tried to pretend that he liked the
real great men that he was lying to himself--in perfect innocence. There
are "Brahmins" who think to find in their God the breath of old men of
genius: they love Beethoven in Brahms. Kuh went one better: he loved Brahms
in Beethoven.

But the most enraged of all with. Christophe's paradoxes was Spitz, the
bassoon. It was not so much his musical instinct that was wounded as his
natural servility. One of the Roman Emperors wished to die standing. Spitz
wished to die, as he had lived, crawling: that was his natural position:
it was delightful to him to grovel at the feet of everything that was
official, hallowed, "arrived": and he was beside himself when anybody tried
to keep him from playing the lackey, comfortably.

So, Kuh groaned, Weigl threw up his hands in despair, Krause made jokes,
and Spitz shouted in a shrill voice. But Christophe went on imperturbably
shouting louder than the rest: and saying monstrous things about Germany
and the Germans.

At the next table a young man was listening to him and rocking with
laughter. He had black curly hair, fine, intelligent eyes, a large nose,
which at its end could not make up its mind to go either to right or left,
and rather than go straight on, went to both sides at once, thick lips,
and a clever, mobile face: he was following everything that Christophe
said, hanging on his lips, reflecting every word with a sympathetic and
yet mocking attention, wrinkling up his forehead, his temples, the corners
of his eyes, round his nostrils and cheeks, grimacing with laughter,
and every now and then shaking all over convulsively. He did not join in
the conversation, but he did not miss a word of it. He showed his joy
especially when he saw Christophe, involved in some argument and heckled by
Spitz, flounder about, stammer, and stutter with anger, until he had found
the word he was seeking,--a rock with which to crush his adversary. And his
delight knew no bounds when Christophe, swept along by his passions far
beyond the capacity of his thought, enunciated monstrous paradoxes which
made his hearers snort.

At last they broke up, each of them tired out with feeling and alleging his
own superiority. As Christophe, the last to go, was leaving the room he was
accosted by the young man who had listened to his words with such pleasure.
He had not yet noticed him. The other politely removed his hat, smiled, and
asked permission to introduce himself:

"Franz Mannheim."

He begged pardon for his indiscretion in listening to the argument, and
congratulated Christophe on the _maestria_ with which he had pulverized his
opponents. He was still laughing at the thought of it. Christophe was glad
to hear it, and looked at him a little distrustfully:

"Seriously?" he asked. "You are not laughing at me?"

The other swore by the gods. Christophe's face lit up.

"Then you think I am right? You are of my opinion?"

"Well," said Mannheim, "I am not a musician. I know nothing of music. The
only music I like--(if it is not too flattering to say so)--is yours....
That may show you that my taste is not so bad...."

"Oh!" said Christophe skeptically, though he was flattered all the same,
"that proves nothing."

"You are difficult to please.... Good!... I think as you do: that proves
nothing. And I don't venture to judge what you say of German musicians.
But, anyhow, it is so true of the Germans in general, the old Germans, all
the romantic idiots with their rancid thought, their sloppy emotion, their
senile reiteration which we are asked to admire, '_the eternal Yesterday,
which has always been, and always will be, and will be law to-morrow
because it is law to-day._' ...!"

He recited a few lines of the famous passage in Schiller:

                    "... _Das ewig Gestrige,
  Das immer war imd immer wiederkehrt_...."

"Himself, first of all!" He stopped in the middle of his recitation.

"Who?" asked Christophe.

"The pump-maker who wrote that!"

Christophe did not understand. But Mannheim went on:

"I should like to have a general cleaning up of art and thought every fifty
years--nothing to be left standing."

"A little drastic," said Christophe, smiling.

"No, I assure you. Fifty years is too much: I should say thirty.... And
even less!... It is a hygienic measure. One does not keep one's ancestors
in one's house. One gets rid of them, when they are dead, and sends, them
elsewhere,--there politely to rot, and one places stones on them to be
quite sure that they will not come back. Nice people put flowers on them,
too. I don't mind if they like it. All I ask is to be left in peace. I
leave them alone! Each for his own side, say I: the dead and the living."

"There are some dead who are more alive than the living."

"No, no! It would be more true to say that there are some living who are
more dead than the dead."

"Maybe. In any case, there are old things which are still young."

"Then if they are still young we can find them for ourselves.... But I
don't believe it. What has been good once never is good again. Nothing is
good but change. Before all we have to rid ourselves of the old men and
things. There are too many of them in Germany. Death to them, say I!"

Christophe listened to these squibs attentively and labored to discuss
them: he was in part in sympathy with them, he recognized certain of his
own thoughts in them: and at the same time he felt a little embarrassed at
having them so blown out to the point of caricature. But as he assumed that
everybody else was as serious as himself, he thought that perhaps Mannheim,
who seemed to be more learned than himself and spoke more easily, was
right, and was drawing the logical conclusions from his principles. Vain
Christophe, whom so many people could not forgive for his faith in himself,
was really most naïvely modest often tricked by his modesty when he was
with those who were better educated than himself,--especially, when they
consented not to plume themselves on it to avoid an awkward discussion.
Mannheim, who was amusing himself with his own paradoxes, and from one
sally to another had reached extravagant quips and cranks, at which he
was laughing immensely, was not accustomed to being taken seriously: he
was delighted with the trouble that Christophe was taking to discuss his
nonsense, and even to understand it: and while he laughed, he was grateful
for the importance which Christophe gave him: he thought him absurd and
charming.

They parted very good friends: and Christophe was not a little surprised
three hours later at rehearsal to see Mannheim's head poked through the
little door leading to the orchestra, smiling and grimacing, and making
mysterious signs at him. When the rehearsal was over Christophe went to
him. Mannheim took his arm familiarly.

"You can spare a moment?... Listen. I have an idea. Perhaps you will think
it absurd.... Would not you like for once in a way to write what you think
of music and the musicos? Instead of wasting your breath in haranguing four
dirty knaves of your band who are good for nothing but scraping and blowing
into bits of wood, would it not be better to address the general public?"

"Not better? Would I like?... My word! And when do you want me to write? It
is good of you!..."

"I've a proposal for you.... Some friends and I: Adalbert von Waldhaus,
Raphael Goldenring, Adolf Mai, and Lucien Ehrenfeld,--have started a
Review, the only intelligent Review in the town: the _Dionysos_.--(You must
know it....)--We all admire each other and should be glad if you would join
us. Will you take over our musical criticism?"

Christophe was abashed by such an honor: he was longing to accept: he was
only afraid of not being worthy: he could not write.

"Oh! come," said Mannheim, "I am sure you can. And besides, as soon as you
are a critic you can do anything you like. You've no need to be afraid of
the public. The public is incredibly stupid. It is nothing to be an artist:
an artist is only a sort of comedian: an artist can be hissed. But a critic
has the right to say: 'Hiss me that man!' The whole audience lets him do
its thinking. Think whatever you like. Only look as if you were thinking
something. Provided you give the fools their food, it does not much matter
what, they will gulp down anything."

In the end Christophe consented, with effusive thanks. He only made it a
condition that he should be allowed to say what he liked.

"Of course, of course," said Mannheim. "Absolute freedom! We are all free."

He looked him up at the theater once more after the performance to
introduce him to Adalbert von Waldhaus and his friends. They welcomed him
warmly.

With the exception of Waldhaus, who belonged to one of the noble families
of the neighborhood, they were all Jews and all very rich: Mannheim
was the son of a banker: Mai the son of the manager of a metallurgical
establishment: and Ehrenfeld's father was a great jeweler. Their fathers
belonged to the older generation of Jews, industrious and acquisitive,
attached to the spirit of their race, building their fortunes with keen
energy, and enjoying their energy much more than their fortunes. Their sons
seemed to be made to destroy what their fathers had builded: they laughed
at family prejudice and their ant-like mania for economy and delving: they
posed as artists, affected to despise money and to fling it out of window.
But in reality they hardly ever let it slip through their fingers: and in
vain did they do all sorts of foolish things: they never could altogether
lead astray their lucidity of mind and practical sense. For the rest, their
parents kept an eye on them, and reined them in. The most prodigal of them,
Mannheim, would sincerely have given away all that he had: but he never had
anything: and although he was always loudly inveighing against his father's
niggardliness, in his heart he laughed at it and thought that he was right.
In fine, there was only Waldhaus really who was in control of his fortune,
and went into it wholeheartedly and reckless of cost, and bore that of the
Review. He was a poet. He wrote "_Polymètres_" in the manner of Arno Holz
and Walt Whitman, with lines alternately very long and very short, in which
stops, double and triple stops, dashes, silences, commas, italics and
italics, played a great part. And so did alliteration and repetition--of
a word--of a line--of a whole phrase. He interpolated words of every
language. He wanted--(no one has ever known why)--to render the _Cézanne_
into verse. In truth, he was poetic enough and had a distinguished taste
for stale things. He was sentimental and dry, naïve and foppish: his
labored verses affected a cavalier carelessness. He would have been a
good poet for men of the world. But there are too many of the kind in the
Reviews and artistic circles: and he wished to be alone. He had taken it
into his head to play the great gentleman who is above the prejudices of
his caste. He had more prejudices than anybody. He did not admit their
existence. He took a delight in surrounding himself with Jews in the Review
which he edited, to rouse the indignation of his family, who were very
anti-Semite, and to prove his own freedom of mind to himself. With his
colleagues, he assumed a tone of courteous equality. But in his heart he
had a calm and boundless contempt for them. He was not unaware that they
were very glad to make use of his name and money: and he let them do so
because it pleased him to despise them.

And they despised him for letting them do so: for they knew very well that
it served his turn. A fair exchange, Waldhaus lent them his name and
fortune: and they brought him their talents, their eye for business and
subscribers. They were much more intelligent than he. Not that they had
more personality. They had perhaps even less. But in the little town they
were, as the Jews are everywhere and always,--by the mere fact of their
difference of race which for centuries has isolated them and sharpened
their faculty for making observation--they were the most advanced in mind,
the most sensible of the absurdity of its moldy institutions and decrepit
thought. Only, as their character was less free than their intelligence,
it did not help them, while they mocked, from trying rather to turn those
institutions and ideas to account than to reform them. In spite of their
independent professions of faith, they were like the noble Adalbert, little
provincial snobs, rich, idle young men of family, who dabbled and flirted
with letters for the fun of it. They were very glad to swagger about as
giant-killers: but they were kindly enough and never slew anybody but a few
inoffensive people or those whom they thought could never harm them. They
cared nothing for setting by the ears a society to which they knew very
well they would one day return and embrace all the prejudices which they
had combated. And when they did venture to make a stir on a little scandal,
or loudly to declare war on some idol of the day,--who was beginning to
totter,--they took care never to burn their boats: in case of danger they
re-embarked. Whatever then might be the issue of the campaign,--when it
was finished it was a long time before war would break out again: the
Philistines could sleep in peace. All that these new _Davidsbündler_ wanted
to do was to make it appear that they could have been terrible if they had
so desired: but they did not desire. They preferred to be on friendly terms
with artists and to give suppers to actresses.

Christophe was not happy in such a set. They were always talking of women
and horses: and their talk was not refined. They were stiff and formal.
Adalbert spoke in a mincing, slow voice, with exaggerated, bored, and
boring politeness. Adolf Mai, the secretary of the Review, a heavy,
thick-set, bull-necked, brutal-looking young man, always pretended to be
in the right: he laid down the law, never listened to what anybody said,
seemed to despise the opinion of the person he was talking to, and also
that person. Goldenring, the art critic, who had a twitch, and eyes
perpetually winking behind his large spectacles,--no doubt in imitation
of the painters whose society he cultivated, wore long hair, smoked in
silence, mumbled scraps of sentences which he never finished, and made
vague gestures in the air with his thumb. Ehrenfeld was little, bald, and
smiling, had a fair beard and a sensitive, weary-looking face, a hooked
nose, and he wrote the fashions and the society notes in the Review. In a
silky voice he used to talk obscurely: he had a wit, though of a malignant
and often ignoble kind.--All these young millionaires were anarchists, of
course: when a man possesses everything it is the supreme luxury for him to
deny society: for in that way he can evade his responsibilities. So might a
robber, who has just fleeced a traveler, say to him: "What are you staying
for? Get along! I have no more use for you."

Of the whole bunch Christophe was only in sympathy with Mannheim: he was
certainly the most lively of the five: he was amused by everything that
he said and everything that was said to him: stuttering, stammering,
blundering, sniggering, talking nonsense, he was incapable of following an
argument, or of knowing exactly what he thought himself: but he was quite
kindly, bearing no malice, having not a spark of ambition. In truth, he was
not very frank: he was always playing a part: but quite innocently, and he
never did anybody any harm.

He espoused all sorts of strange Utopias--most often generous. He was too
subtle and too skeptical to keep his head even in his enthusiasms, and he
never compromised himself by applying his theories. But he had to have
some hobby: it was a game to him, and he was always changing from one to
another. For the time being his craze was for kindness. It was not enough
for him to be kind naturally: he wished to be thought kind: he professed
kindness, and acted it. Out of reaction against the hard, dry activity of
his kinsfolk, and against German austerity, militarism, and Philistinism,
he was a Tolstoyan, a Nirvanian, an evangelist, a Buddhist,--he was not
quite sure what,--an apostle of a new morality that was soft, boneless,
indulgent, placid, easy-living, effusively forgiving every sin, especially
the sins of the flesh, a morality which did not conceal its predilection
for those sins and much less readily forgave the virtues--a morality
which was only a compact of pleasure, a libertine association of mutual
accommodations, which amused itself by donning the halo of sanctity. There
was in it a spice of hypocrisy which was a little offensive to delicate
palates, and would have even been frankly nauseating if it had taken itself
seriously. But it made no pretensions towards that: it merely amused
itself. His blackguardly Christianity was only meant to serve until some
other hobby came along to take its place--no matter what: brute force,
imperialism, "laughing lions."--Mannheim was always playing a part, playing
with his whole heart: he was trying on all the feelings that he did not
possess before becoming a good Jew like the rest and with all the spirit
of his race. He was very sympathetic, and extremely irritating. For some
time Christophe was one of his hobbies. Mannheim swore by him. He blew his
trumpet everywhere. He dinned his praises into the ears of his family.
According to him Christophe was a genius, an extraordinary man, who made
strange music and talked about it in an astonishing fashion, a witty
man--and a handsome: fine lips, magnificent teeth. He added that Christophe
admired him.--One evening he took him home to dinner. Christophe found
himself talking to his new friend's father, Lothair Mannheim, the banker,
and Franz's sister, Judith.

It was the first time that he had been in a Jew's house. Although there
were many Jews in the little town, and although they played an important
part in its life by reason of their wealth, cohesion, and intelligence,
they lived a little apart. There were always rooted prejudices in the minds
of the people and a secret hostility that was credulous and injurious
against them. Christophe's family shared these prejudices. His grandfather
did not love Jews: but the irony of fate had decreed that his two best
pupils should be of the race--(one had become a composer, the other a
famous _virtuoso_): for there had been moments when he was fain to embrace
these two good musicians: and then he would remember sadly that they
had crucified the Lord: and he did not know how to reconcile his two
incompatible currents of feeling. But in the end he did embrace them. He
was inclined to think that the Lord would forgive them because of their
love for music.--Christophe's father, Melchior, who pretended to be
broad-minded, had had fewer scruples about taking money from the Jews: and
he even thought it good to do so: but he ridiculed them, and despised
them.--As for his mother, she was not sure that she was not committing a
sin when she went to cook for them. Those whom she had had to do with were
disdainful enough with her: but she had no grudge against them, she bore
nobody any ill-will: she was filled with pity for these unhappy people whom
God had damned: sometimes she would be filled with compassion when she saw
the daughter of one of them go by or heard the merry laughter of their
children.

"So pretty she is!... Such pretty children!... How dreadful!..." she would
think.

She dared not say anything to Christophe, when he told her that he was
going to dine with the Mannheims: but her heart sank. She thought that
it was unnecessary to believe everything bad that was said about the
Jews--(people speak ill of everybody)--and that there are honest people
everywhere, but that it was better and more proper to keep themselves to
themselves, the Jews on their side, the Christians on theirs.

Christophe shared none of these prejudices. In his perpetual reaction
against his surroundings he was rather attracted towards the different
race. But he hardly knew them. He had only come in contact with the more
vulgar of the Jews: little shopkeepers, the populace swarming in certain
streets between the Rhine and the cathedral, forming, with the gregarious
instinct of all human beings, a sort of little ghetto. He had often
strolled through the neighborhood, catching sight of and feeling a sort of
sympathy with certain types of women with hollow cheeks, and full lips,
and wide cheek-bones, a da Vinci smile, rather depraved, while the coarse
language and shrill laughter destroyed this harmony that was in their faces
when in repose. Even in the dregs of the people, in those large-headed,
beady-eyed creatures with their bestial faces, their thick-set, squat
bodies, those degenerate descendants of the most noble of all peoples, even
in that thick, fetid muddiness there were strange phosphorescent gleams,
like will-o'-the-wisps dancing over a swamp: marvelous glances, minds
subtle and brilliant, a subtle electricity emanating from the ooze which
fascinated and disturbed Christophe. He thought that hidden deep were fine
souls struggling, great hearts striving to break free from the dung: and he
would have liked to meet them, and to aid them: without knowing them, he
loved them, while he was a little fearful of them. And he had never had any
opportunity of meeting the best of the Jews.

His dinner at the Mannheims' had for him the attraction of novelty and
something of that of forbidden fruit. The Eve who gave him the fruit
sweetened its flavor. From the first moment Christophe had eyes only for
Judith Mannheim. She was utterly different from all the women he had known.
Tall and slender, rather thin, though solidly built, with her face framed
in her black hair, not long, but thick and curled low on her head, covering
her temples and her broad, golden brow; rather short-sighted, with large
pupils, and slightly prominent eyes: with a largish nose and wide nostrils,
thin cheeks, a heavy chin, strong coloring, she had a fine profile showing
much energy and alertness: full face, her expression was more changing,
uncertain, complex: her eyes and her cheeks were irregular. She seemed to
give revelation of a strong race, and in the mold of that race, roughly
thrown together, were manifold incongruous elements, of doubtful and
unequal quality, beautiful and vulgar at the same time. Her beauty lay
especially in her silent lips, and in her eyes, in which there seemed to be
greater depth by reason of their short-sightedness, and darker by reason of
the bluish markings round them.

It needed to be more used than Christophe was to those eyes, which are
more those of a race than of an individual, to be able to read through the
limpidity that unveiled them with such vivid quality, the real soul of the
woman whom he thus encountered. It was the soul of the people of Israel
that he saw in her sad and burning eyes, the soul that, unknown to them,
shone forth from them. He lost himself as he gazed into them. It was only
after some time that he was able, after losing his way again and again, to
strike the track again on that oriental sea.

She looked at him: and nothing could disturb the clearness of her gaze:
nothing in his Christian soul seemed to escape her. He felt that. Under the
seduction of the woman's eyes upon him he was conscious of a virile desire,
clear and cold, Which stirred in him brutally, indiscreetly. There was
no evil in the brutality of it. She took possession of him: not like a
coquette, whose desire is to seduce without caring whom she seduces. Had
she been a coquette she would have gone to greatest lengths: but she knew
her power, and she left it to her natural instinct to make use of it in
its own way,--especially when she had so easy a prey as Christophe.--What
interested her more was to know her adversary--(any man, any stranger, was
an adversary for her,--an adversary with whom later on, if occasion served,
she could sign a compact of alliance).--She wished to know his quality.
Life being a game, in which the cleverest wins, it was a matter of reading
her opponent's cards and of not showing her own. When she succeeded she
tasted the sweets of victory. It mattered little whether she could turn
it to any account. It was purely for her pleasure. She had a passion for
intelligence: not abstract intelligence, although she had brains enough,
if she had liked, to have succeeded in any, branch of knowledge and would
have made a much better successor to Lothair Mannheim, the banker, than
her brother. But she preferred intelligence in the quick, the sort of
intelligence which studies men. She loved to pierce through to the soul and
to weigh its value--(she gave as scrupulous an attention to it as the
Jewess of Matsys to the weighing of her gold)--with marvelous divination
she could find the weak spot in the armor, the imperfections and foibles
which are the key to the soul,--she could lay her hands on its secrets: it
was her way of feeling her sway over it. But she never dallied with her
victory: she never did anything with her prize. Once her curiosity and
her vanity were satisfied she lost her interest and passed on to another
specimen. All her power was sterile. There was something of death in her
living soul. She had the genius of curiosity and boredom.

       *       *       *       *       *

And so she looked at Christophe and he looked at her. She hardly spoke. An
imperceptible smile was enough, a little movement of the corners of her
mouth: Christophe was hypnotized by her. Every now and then her smile would
fade away, her face would become cold, her eyes indifferent: she would
attend to the meal or speak coldly to the servants: it was as though she
were no longer listening. Then her eyes would light up again: and a few
words coming pat would show that she had heard and understood everything.

She coldly examined her brother's judgment of Christophe: she knew Franz's
crazes: her irony had had fine sport when she saw Christophe appear, whose
looks and distinction had been vaunted by her brother--(it seemed to her
that Franz had a special gift for seeing facts as they are not: or perhaps
he only thought it a paradoxical joke).--But when she looked at Christophe
more closely she recognized that what Franz had said was not altogether
false: and as she went on with her scrutiny she discovered in Christophe a
vague, unbalanced, though robust and bold power: that gave her pleasure,
for she knew, better than any, the rarity of power. She was able to
make Christophe talk about whatever she liked, and reveal his thoughts,
and display the limitations and defects of his mind: she made him play
the piano: she did not love music but she understood it: and she saw
Christophe's musical originality, although his music had roused no sort of
emotion in her. Without the least change in the coldness of her manner,
with a few short, apt, and certainly not flattering, remarks she showed her
growing interest in Christophe.

Christophe saw it: and he was proud of it: for he felt the worth of such
judgment and the rarity of her approbation. He made no secret of his desire
to win it: and he set about it so naïvely as to make the three of them
smile: he talked only to Judith and for Judith: he was as unconcerned with
the others as though they did not exist.

Franz watched him as he talked: he followed his every word, with his lips
and eyes, with a mixture of admiration and amusement: and he laughed aloud
as he glanced at his father and his sister, who listened impassively and
pretended not to notice him.

Lothair Mannheim,--a tall old man, heavily built, stooping a little,
red-faced, with gray hair standing straight up on end, very black mustache
and eyebrows, a heavy though energetic and jovial face, which gave the
impression of great vitality--had also studied Christophe during the first
part of the dinner, slyly but good-naturedly: and he too had recognized
at once that there was "something" in the boy. But he was not interested
in music or musicians: it was not in his line: he knew nothing about it
and made no secret of his ignorance: he even boasted of it--(when a man
of that sort confesses his ignorance of anything he does so to feed his
vanity).--As Christophe had clearly shown at once, with a rudeness in which
there was no shade of malice, that, he could without regret dispense with
the society of the banker, and that the society of Fräulein Judith Mannheim
would serve perfectly to fill his evening, old Lothair in some amusement
had taken his seat by the fire: he read his paper, listening vaguely and
ironically to Christophe's crotchets and his queer music, which sometimes
made him laugh inwardly at the idea that there could be people who
understood it and found pleasure in it. He did not trouble to follow the
conversation: he relied on his daughter's cleverness to tell him exactly
what the newcomer was worth. She discharged her duty conscientiously.

When Christophe had gone Lothair asked Judith:

"Well, you probed him enough: what do you think of the artist?"

She laughed, thought for a moment, reckoned up, and said:

"He is a little cracked: but he is not stupid."

"Good," said Lothair. "I thought so too. He will succeed, then?"

"Yes, I think so. He has power,"

"Very good," said Lothair with the magnificent logic of the strong who are
only interested in the strong, "we must help him."

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe went away filled with admiration for Judith Mannheim. He was not
in love with her as Judith thought. They were both--she with her subtlety,
he with his instinct which took the place of mind in him,--mistaken
about each other. Christophe was fascinated by the enigma and the
intense activity of her mind: but he did not love her. His eyes and his
intelligence were ensnared: his heart escaped.--Why?--It were difficult to
tell. Because he had caught a glimpse of some doubtful, disturbing quality
in her?--In other circumstances that would have been a reason the more
for loving: love is never stronger than when it goes out to one who will
make it suffer.--If Christophe did not love Judith it was not the fault of
either of them. The real reason, humiliating enough for both, was that he
was still too near his last love. Experience had not made him wiser. But he
had loved Ada so much, he had consumed so much faith, force, and illusion
in that passion that there was not enough left for a new passion. Before
another flame could be kindled he would have to build a new pyre in his
heart: short of that there could only be a few flickerings, remnants of the
conflagration that had escaped by chance, which asked only to be allowed to
burn, cast a brief and brilliant light and then died down for want of food.
Six months later, perhaps, he might have loved Judith blindly. Now he saw
in her only a friend,--a rather disturbing friend in truth--but he tried to
drive his uneasiness back: it reminded him of Ada: there was no attraction
in that memory: he preferred not to think of it. What attracted him in
Judith was everything in her which was different from other women, not that
which she had in common with them. She was the first intelligent woman
he had met. She was intelligent from head to foot. Even her beauty--her
gestures, her movements, her features, the fold of her lips, her eyes, her
hands, her slender elegance--was the reflection of her intelligence: her
body was molded by her intelligence: without her intelligence she would
have passed unnoticed: and no doubt she would even have been thought plain
by most people. Her intelligence delighted Christophe. He thought it larger
and more free than it was: he could not yet know how deceptive it was. He
longed ardently to confide in her and to impart his ideas to her. He had
never found anybody to take an interest in his dreams: he was turned in
upon, himself: what joy then to find a woman to be his friend! That he had
not a sister had been one of the sorrows of his childhood: it seemed to
him that a sister would have understood him more than a brother could have
done. And when he met Judith he felt that childish and illusory hope of
having a brotherly love spring up in him. Not being in love, love seemed to
him a poor thing compared with friendship.

Judith felt this little shade of feeling and was hurt by it. She was not in
love with Christophe, and as she had excited other passions in other young
men of the town, rich young men of better position, she could not feel
any great satisfaction in knowing Christophe to be in love with her. But
it piqued her to know that he was not in love. No doubt she was pleased
with him for confiding his plans: she was not surprised by it: but it
was a little mortifying for her to know that she could only exercise an
intellectual influence over him--(an unreasoning influence is much more
precious to a woman).--She did not even exercise her influence: Christophe
only courted her mind. Judith's intellect was imperious. She was used to
molding to her will the soft thoughts of the young men of her acquaintance.
As she knew their mediocrity she found no pleasure in holding sway over
them. With Christophe the pursuit was more interesting because more
difficult. She was not interested in his projects: but she would have liked
to direct his originality of thought, his ill-grown power, and to make them
good,--in her own way, of course, and not in Christophe's, which she did
not take the trouble to understand. She saw at once that she could not
succeed without a struggle: she had marked down in Christophe all sorts of
notions and ideas which she thought childish and extravagant: they were
weeds to her: she tried hard to eradicate them. She did not get rid of
a single one. She did not gain the least satisfaction for her vanity.
Christophe was intractable. Not being in love he had no reason for
surrendering his ideas to her.

She grew keen on the game and instinctively tried for some time to overcome
him. Christophe was very nearly taken in again in spite of his lucidity of
mind at that time. Men are easily taken in by any flattery of their vanity
or their desires: and an artist is twice as easy to trick as any other man
because he has more imagination. Judith had only to draw Christophe into a
dangerous flirtation to bowl him over once more more thoroughly than ever.
But as usual she soon wearied of the game: she found that such a conquest
was hardly worth while: Christophe was already boring her: she did not
understand him.

She did not understand him beyond a certain point. Up to that she
understood everything. Her admirable intelligence could not take her beyond
it: she needed a heart, or in default of that the thing which could give
the illusion of one for a time: love. She understood Christophe's criticism
of people and things: it amused her and seemed to her true enough: she
had thought much the same herself. But what she did not understand was
that such ideas might have an influence on practical life when it might
be dangerous or awkward to apply them. The attitude of revolt against
everybody and everything which Christophe had taken up led to nothing: he
could not imagine that he was going to reform the world.... And then?... It
was waste of time to knock one's head against a wall. A clever man judges
men, laughs at them in secret, despises them a little: but he does as they
do--only a little better: it is the only way of mastering them. Thought is
one world: action is another. What boots it for a man to be the victim of
his thoughts? Since men are so stupid as not to be able to bear the truth,
why force it on them? To accept their weakness, to seem to bow to it, and
to feel free to despise them in his heart, is there not a secret joy in
that? The joy of a clever slave? Certainly. But all the world is a slave:
there is no getting away from that: it is useless to protest against it:
better to be a slave deliberately of one's own free will and to avoid
ridiculous and futile conflict. Besides, the worst slavery of all is to be
the slave of one's own thoughts and to sacrifice everything to them. There
is no need to deceive one's self.--She saw clearly that if Christophe
went on, as he seemed determined to do, with his aggressive refusal to
compromise with the prejudices of German art and German mind, he would turn
everybody against him, even his patrons: he was courting inevitable ruin.
She did not understand why he so obstinately held out against himself, and
so took pleasure in digging his own ruin.

To have understood him she would have had to be able to understand that
his aim was not success but his own faith. He believed in art: he believed
in _his_ art: he believed in himself, as realities not only superior to
interest, but also to his own life. When he was a little out of patience
with her remarks and told her so in his naïve arrogance, she just shrugged
her shoulders: she did not take him seriously. She thought he was using
big words such as she was accustomed to hearing from her brother when
he announced periodically his absurd and ridiculous resolutions, which
he never by any chance put into practice. And then when she saw that
Christophe really believed in what he said, she thought him mad and lost
interest in him.

After that she took no trouble to appear to advantage, and she showed
herself as she was: much more German, and average German, than she seemed
to be at first, more perhaps than she thought.--The Jews are quite
erroneously reproached with not belonging to any nation and with forming
from one end of Europe to the other a homogeneous people impervious to the
influence of the different races with which they have pitched their tents.
In reality there is no race which more easily takes on the impress of the
country through which it passes: and if there are many characteristics in
common between a French Jew and a German Jew, there are many more different
characteristics derived from their new country, of which with incredible
rapidity they assimilate the habits of mind: more the habits than the mind,
indeed. But habit, which is a second nature to all men, is in most of them
all the nature that they have, and the result is that the majority of the
autochthonous citizens of any country have very little right to reproach
the Jews with the lack of a profound and reasonable national feeling of
which they themselves possess nothing at all.

The women, always more sensible to external influences, more easily
adaptable to the conditions of life and to change with them--Jewish women
throughout Europe assume the physical and moral customs, often exaggerating
them, of the country in which they live,--without losing the shadow and the
strange fluid, solid, and haunting quality of their race.--This idea came
to Christophe. At the Mannheims' he met Judith's aunts, cousins, and
friends. Though there was little of the German in their eyes, ardent and
too close together, their noses going down to their lips, their strong
features, their red blood coursing under their coarse brown skins: though
almost all of them seemed hardly at all fashioned to be German--they
were all extraordinarily German: they had the same way of talking, of
dressing,--of overdressing.--Judith was much the best of them all: and
comparison with them made all that was exceptional in her intelligence, all
that she had made of herself, shine forth. But she had most of their faults
just as much as they. She was much more free than they morally--almost
absolutely free--but socially she was no more free: or at least her
practical sense usurped the place of her freedom of mind. She believed in
society, in class, in prejudice, because when all was told she found them
to her advantage. It was idle for her to laugh at the German spirit: she
followed it like any German. Her intelligence made her see the mediocrity
of some artist of reputation: but she respected him none the less because
of his reputation: and if she met him personally she would admire him: for
her vanity was flattered. She had no love for the works of Brahms and she
suspected him of being an artist of the second rank: but his fame impressed
her: and as she had received five or six letters from him the result was
that she thought him the greatest musician of the day. She had no doubt as
to Christophe's real worth, or as to the stupidity of Lieutenant Detlev von
Fleischer: but she was more flattered by the homage the lieutenant deigned
to pay to her millions than by Christophe's friendship: for a dull officer
is a man of another caste: it is more difficult for a German Jewess to
enter that caste than for any other woman. Although she was not deceived
by these feudal follies, and although she knew quite well that if she did
marry Lieutenant Detlev von Fleischer she would be doing him a great honor,
she set herself to the conquest: she stooped so low as to make eyes at
the fool and to flatter his vanity. The proud Jewess, who had a thousand
reasons for her pride--the clever, disdainful daughter of Mannheim the
banker lowered herself, and acted like any of the little middle-class
German women whom she despised.

       *       *       *       *       *

That experience was short. Christophe lost his illusions about Judith
as quickly as he had found them. It is only just to say that Judith did
nothing to preserve them. As soon as a woman of that stamp has judged a
man she is done with him: he ceases to exist for her: she will not see
him again. And she no more hesitates to reveal her soul to him, with calm
impudence, that to appear naked before her dog, her cat, or any other
domestic animal. Christophe saw Judith's egoism and coldness, and the
mediocrity of her character. He had not had time to be absolutely caught.
But he had been enough caught to make him suffer and to bring him to a sort
of fever. He did not so much love Judith as what she might have been--what
she ought to have been. Her fine eyes exercised a melancholy fascination
over him: he could not forget them: although he knew now the drab soul that
slumbered in their depths he went on seeing them as he wished to see them,
as he had first seen them. It was one of those loveless hallucinations
of love which take up so much of the hearts of artists when they are not
entirely absorbed by their work. A passing face is enough to create it:
they see in it all the beauty that is in it, unknown to its indifferent
possessor. And they love it the more for its indifference. They love it as
a beautiful thing that must die without any man having known its worth or
that it even had life.

Perhaps he was deceiving himself, and Judith Mannheim could not have been
anything more than she was. But for a moment Christophe had believed in
her: and her charm endured: he could not judge her impartially. All her
beauty seemed to him to be hers, to be herself. All that was vulgar in her
he cast back upon her twofold race, Jew and German, and perhaps he was more
indignant with the German than with the Jew, for it had made him suffer
more. As he did not yet know any other nation, the German spirit was for
him a sort of scapegoat: he put upon it all the sins of the world. That
Judith had deceived him was a reason the more for combating it: he could
not forgive it for having crushed the life out of such a soul.

Such was his first encounter with Israel. He had hoped much from it. He
had hoped to find in that strong race living apart from the rest an ally
for his fight. He lost that hope. With the flexibility of his passionate
intuition, which made him leap from one extreme to another, he persuaded
himself that the Jewish race was much weaker than it was said to be, and
much more open--much too open--to outside influence. It had all its own
weaknesses augmented by those of the rest of the world picked up on its
way. It was not in them that he could find assistance in working the lever
of his art. Rather he was in danger of being swallowed with them in the
sands of the desert.

Having seen the danger, and not feeling sure enough of himself to brave it,
he suddenly gave up going to the Mannheims'. He was invited several times
and begged to be excused without giving any reason. As up till then he had
shown an excessive eagerness to accept, such a sudden change was remarked:
it was attributed to his "originality": but the Mannheims had no doubt
that the fair Judith had something to do with it: Lothair and Franz joked
about it at dinner. Judith shrugged her shoulders and said it was a fine
conquest, and she asked her brother frigidly not to make such a fuss about
it. But she left no stone unturned in her effort to bring Christophe back.
She wrote to him for some musical information which no one else could
supply: and at the end of her letter she made a friendly allusion to the
rarity of his visits and the pleasure it would give them to see him.
Christophe replied, giving the desired information, said that he was
very busy, and did not go. They met sometimes at the theater. Christophe
obstinately looked away from the Mannheims' box: and he would pretend not
to see Judith, who held herself in readiness to give him her most charming
smile. She did not persist. As she did not count on him for anything she
was annoyed that the little artist should let her do all the labor of their
friendship, and pure waste at that. If he wanted to come, he would. If
not--oh, well, they could do without him....

They did without him: and his absence left no very great gap in the
Mannheims' evenings. But in spite of herself Judith was really annoyed
with Christophe. It seemed natural enough not to bother about him when
he was there: and she could allow him to show his displeasure at being
neglected: but that his displeasure should go so far as to break off their
relationship altogether seemed to her to show a stupid pride and a heart
more egoistic than in love.--Judith could not tolerate her own faults in
others.

She followed the more attentively everything that Christophe did and wrote.
Without seeming to do so, she would lead her brother to the subject of
Christophe: she would make him tell her of his intercourse with him: and
she would punctuate the narrative with clever ironic comment, which never
let any ridiculous feature escape, and gradually destroyed Franz's
enthusiasm without his knowing it.

At first all went well with the Review. Christophe had not yet perceived
the mediocrity of his colleagues: and, since he was one of them, they
hailed him as a genius. Mannheim, who had discovered him, went everywhere
repeating that Christophe was an admirable critic, though he had never
read anything he had written, that he had mistaken his vocation, and that
he, Mannheim, had revealed it to him. They advertised his articles in
mysterious terms which roused curiosity: and his first effort was in fact
like a stone falling into a duck-pond in the atony of the little town. It
was called: _Too much music_.

"Too much music, too much drinking, too much eating," wrote Christophe.
"Eating, drinking, hearing, without hunger, thirst, or need, from sheer
habitual gormandizing. Living like Strasburg geese. These people are sick
from a diseased appetite. It matters little what you give them: _Tristram_
or the _Trompeter von Säkkingen_, Beethoven or Mascagni, a fugue or a
two-step, Adam, Bach, Puccini, Mozart, or Marschner: they do not know what
they are eating: the great thing is to eat. They find no pleasure in it.
Look at them at a concert. Talk of German gaiety! These people do not know
what gaiety means: they are always gay! Their gaiety, like their sorrow,
drops like rain: their joy is dust: there is neither life nor force in it.
They would stay for hours smilingly and vaguely drinking in sounds, sounds,
sounds. They think of nothing: they feel nothing: they are sponges. True
joy, or true sorrow--strength--is not drawn out over hours like beer from
a cask. They take you by the throat and have you down: after they are gone
there is no desire left in a man to drink in anything: he is full!...

"Too much music! You are slaying each other and it. If you choose to murder
each other that is your affair: I can't help it. But where music is
concerned,--hands off! I will not suffer you to debase the loveliness of
the world by heaping up in the same basket things holy and things shameful,
by giving, as you do at present, the prelude to _Parsifal_ between a
fantasia on the _Daughter of the Regiment_ and a saxophone quartette, or an
adagio of Beethoven between a cakewalk and the rubbish of Leoncavallo. You
boast of being a musical people. You pretend to love music. What sort of
music do you love? Good or bad? You applaud both equally. Well, then,
choose! What exactly do you want? You do not know yourselves. You do
not want to know: you are too fearful of taking sides and compromising
yourselves.... To the devil with your prudence!--You are above party, do
you say?--Above? You mean below...."

And he quoted the lines of old Gottfried Keller, the rude citizen of
Zurich--one of the German writers who was most dear to him by reason of his
vigorous loyalty and his keen savor of the soil:

"_Wer über den Parlein sich wähnt mit stolzen Mienen Der steht zumeist
vielmehr beträchtlich unter ihnen._"

("He who proudly preens himself on being above parties is rather
immeasurably beneath them.")

"Have courage and be true," he went on. "Have courage and be ugly. If you
like bad music, then say so frankly. Show yourselves, see yourselves as you
are. Kid your souls of the loathsome burden of all your compromise and
equivocation. Wash it in pure water. How long is it since you have seen.
yourselves in a mirror? I will show you yourselves. Composers, _virtuosi_,
conductors, singers, and you, dear public. You shall for once know
yourselves.... Be what you like: but, for any sake, be true! Be true even
though art and artists--and I myself--have to suffer for it! If art and
truth cannot live together, then let art disappear. Truth is life. Lies are
death."

Naturally, this youthful, wild outburst, which was all of a piece, and in
very bad taste, produced an outcry. And yet, as everybody was attacked and
nobody in particular, its pertinency was not recognized. Every one is, or
believes himself to be, or says that he is the best friend of truth: there
was therefore no danger of the conclusions of the article being attacked.
Only people were shocked by its general tone: everybody agreed that it
was hardly proper, especially from an artist in a semi-official position.
A few musicians began to be uneasy and protested bitterly: they saw that
Christophe would not stop at that. Others thought themselves more clever
and congratulated Christophe on his courage: they were no less uneasy about
his next articles.

Both tactics produced the same result. Christophe had plunged: nothing
could stop him: and as he had promised, everybody was passed in survey,
composers and interpreters alike.

The first victims were the _Kapellmeisters_. Christophe did not confine
himself to general remarks on the art of conducting an orchestra. He
mentioned his colleagues of his own town and the neighboring towns by name:
or if he did not name them his allusions were so transparent that nobody
could be mistaken. Everybody recognized the apathetic conductor of the
Court, Alois von Werner, a cautious old man, laden with honors, who was
afraid of everything, dodged everything, was too timid to make a remark to
his musicians and meekly followed whatever they chose to do,--who never
risked anything on his programme that had not been consecrated by twenty
years of success, or, at least, guaranteed by the official stamp of some
academic dignity. Christophe ironically applauded his boldness: he
congratulated him on having discovered Gade, Dvorak, or Tschaikowsky: he
waxed enthusiastic over his unfailing correctness, his metronomic equality,
the always _fein-nuanciert_ (finely shaded) playing of his orchestra:
he proposed to orchestrate the _École de la Vélocité_ of Czerny for his
next concert, and implored him not to try himself so much, not to give
rein to his passions, to look after his precious health.--Or he cried
out indignantly upon the way in which he had conducted the _Eroica_ of
Beethoven:

"A cannon! A cannon! Mow me down these people!... But have you then no idea
of the conflict, the fight between human stupidity and human ferocity,--and
the strength which tramples them underfoot with a glad shout of
laughter?--How could you know it? It is you against whom it fights! You
expend all the heroism that is in you in listening or in playing the
_Eroica_ of Beethoven without a yawn--(for it bores you.... Confess that it
bores you to death!)--or in risking a draught as you stand with bare head
and bowed back to let some Serene Highness pass."

He could not be sarcastic enough about the pontiffs of the Conservatories
who interpreted the great men of the past as "classics."

"Classical! That word expresses everything. Free passion, arranged and
expurgated for the use of schools! Life, that vast plain swept by the
winds,--inclosed within the four walls of a school playground! The fierce,
proud beat of a heart in anguish, reduced to the tic-tacs of a four-tune
pendulum, which goes its jolly way, hobbling and imperturbably leaning on
the crutch of time!... To enjoy the Ocean you need to put it in a bowl with
goldfish. You only understand life when you have killed it."

If he was not kind to the "bird-stuffers" as he called them, he was even
less kind to the ringmen of the orchestra, the illustrious _Kapellmeisters_
who toured the country to show off their flourishes and their dainty hands,
those who exercised their virtuosity at the expense of the masters, tried
hard to make the most familiar works unrecognizable, and turned somersaults
through the hoop of the _Symphony in C minor_. He made them appear as old
coquettes, _prima donnas_ of the orchestra, gipsies, and rope-dancers.

The _virtuosi_ naturally provided him with splendid material. He declared
himself incompetent when he had to criticise their conjuring performances.
He said that such mechanical exercises belonged to the School of Arts and
Crafts, and that not musical criticism but charts registering the duration,
and number of the notes, and the energy expended, could decide the merit of
such labors. Sometimes he would set at naught some famous piano _virtuoso_
who during a two hours' concert had surmounted the formidable difficulties,
with a smile on his lips and his hair hanging down into his eyes--of
executing a childish _andante_ of Mozart.--He did not ignore the pleasure
of overcoming difficulties. He had tasted it himself: it was one of the
joys of life to him. But only to see the most material aspect of it,
and to reduce all the heroism of art to that, seemed to him grotesque
and degrading. He could not forgive the "lions" or "panthers" of the
piano.--But he was not very indulgent either towards the town pedants,
famous in Germany, who, while they are rightly anxious not to alter the
text of the masters, carefully suppress every flight of thought, and, like
E. d'Albert and H. von Bülow, seem to be giving a lesson in diction when
they are rendering a passionate sonata.

The singers had their turn. Christophe was full to the brim of things to
say about their barbarous heaviness and their provincial affectations. It
was not only because of his recent misadventures with the enraged lady, but
because of all the torture he had suffered during so many performances. It
was difficult to know which had suffered most, ears or eyes. And Christophe
had not enough standards of comparison to be able to have any idea of the
ugliness of the setting, the hideous costumes, the screaming colors. He was
only shocked by the vulgarity of the people, their gestures and attitudes,
their unnatural playing, the inability of the actors to take on other souls
than their own, and by the stupefying indifference with which they passed
from one rôle to another, provided they were written more or less in
the same register. Matrons of opulent flesh, hearty and buxom, appeared
alternately as Ysolde and Carmen. Amfortas played Figaro.--But what most
offended Christophe was the ugliness of the singing, especially in the
classical works in which the beauty of melody is essential. No one in
Germany could sing the perfect music of the eighteenth century: no one
would take the trouble. The clear, pure style of Gluck and Mozart which,
like that of Goethe, seems to be bathed in the light of Italy--the style
which begins to change and to become vibrant and dazzling with Weber--the
style ridiculed by the ponderous caricatures of the author of
_Crociato_--had been killed by the triumph of Wagner. The wild flight of
the Valkyries with their strident cries had passed over the Grecian sky.
The heavy clouds of Odin dimmed the light. No one now thought of singing
music: they sang poems. Ugliness and carelessness of detail, even false
notes were let pass under pretext that only the whole, only the thought
behind it mattered....

"Thought! Let us talk of that. As if you understood it!... But whether or
no you do understand it, I pray you respect the form that thought has
chosen for itself. Above all, let music be and remain music!"

And the great concern of German artists with expression and profundity of
thought was, according to Christophe, a good joke. Expression? Thought?
Yes, they introduced them into everything--everything impartially. They
would have found thought in a skein of wool just as much--neither more nor
less--as in a statue of Michael Angelo. They played anything, anybody's
music with exactly the same energy. For most of them the great thing in
music--so he declared--was the volume of sound, just a musical noise. The
pleasure of singing so potent in Germany was in some sort a pleasure of
vocal gymnastics. It was just a matter of being inflated with air and
then letting it go vigorously, powerfully, for a long time together and
rhythmically.--And by way of compliment he accorded a certain great singer
a certificate of good health. He was not content with flaying the artists.
He strode over the footlights and trounced the public for coming, gaping,
to such performances. The public was staggered and did not know whether
it ought to laugh or be angry. They had every right to cry out upon his
injustice: they had taken care not to be mixed up in any artistic conflict:
they stood aside prudently from any burning question: and to avoid making
any mistake they applauded everything! And now Christophe declared that
it was a crime to applaud!... To applaud bad works?--That would have been
enough! But Christophe went further: he stormed at them for applauding
great works:

"Humbugs!" he said. "You would have us believe that you have as much
enthusiasm as that?... Oh! Come! Spare yourselves the trouble! You only
prove exactly the opposite of what you are trying to prove. Applaud if you
like those works and passages which in some measure deserve applause.
Applaud those loud final movements which are written, as Mozart said, 'for
long ears.' Applaud as much as you like, then: your braying is anticipated:
it is part of the concert.--But after the _Missa Solemnis_ of Beethoven!...
Poor wretches!... It is the Last Judgment. You have just seen the maddening
_Gloria_ pass like a storm over the ocean. You have seen the waterspout of
an athletic and tremendous well, which stops, breaks, reaches up to the
clouds clinging by its two hands above the abyss, then plunging once more
into space in full swing. The squall shrieks and whirls along. And when
the hurricane is at its height there is a sudden modulation, a radiance of
sound which cleaves the darkness of the sky and falls upon the livid sea
like a patch of light. It is the end: the furious flight of the destroying
angel stops short, its wings transfixed by these flashes of lightning.
Around you all is buzzing and quivering. The eye gazes fixedly forward in
stupor. The heart beats, breathing stops, the limbs are paralyzed.... And
hardly has the last note sounded than already you are gay and merry. You
shout, you laugh, you criticise, you applaud.... But you have seen nothing,
heard nothing, felt nothing, understood nothing, nothing, nothing,
absolutely nothing! The sufferings of an artist are a show to you. You
think the tears of agony of a Beethoven are finely painted. You would cry
'Encore' to the Crucifixion. A great soul struggles all its life long in
sorrow to divert your idleness for an hour!..."

So, without knowing it, he confirmed Goethe's great words: but he had not
yet attained his lofty serenity:

"The people make a sport of the sublime. If they could see it as it is,
they would be unable to bear its aspect."

If he had only stopped at that!--But, whirled along by his enthusiasm, he
swept past the public and plunged like a cannon ball into the sanctuary,
the tabernacle, the inviolable refuge of mediocrity: Criticism. He
bombarded his colleagues. One of them had taken upon himself to attack
the most gifted of living composers, the most advanced representative of
the new school, Hassler, the writer of programme symphonies, extravagant
in truth, but full of genius. Christophe who--as perhaps will be
remembered--had been presented to him when he was a child, had always had a
secret tenderness for him in his gratitude for the enthusiasm and emotion
that he had had then. To see a stupid critic, whose ignorance he knew,
instructing a man of that caliber, calling him to order, and reminding him
of set principles, infuriated him:

"Order! Order!" he cried. "You do not know any order but that of the
police. Genius is not to be dragged along the beaten track. It creates
order, and makes its will a law."

After this arrogant declaration he took the unlucky critic, considered all
the idiocies he had written for some time past, and administered
correction.

All the critics felt the affront. Up to that time they had stood aside
from the conflict. They did not care to risk a rebuff: they knew
Christophe, they knew his efficiency, and they knew also that he was not
long-suffering. Certain of them had discreetly expressed their regret that
so gifted a composer should dabble in a profession not his own. Whatever
might be their opinion (when they had one), and however hurt they might be
by Christophe, they respected in him their own privilege of being able to
criticise everything without being criticised themselves. But when they saw
Christophe rudely break the tacit convention which bound them, they saw in
him an enemy of public order. With one consent it seemed revolting to them
that a very young man should take upon himself to show scant respect for
the national glories: and they began a furious campaign against him. They
did not write long articles or consecutive arguments--(they were unwilling
to venture upon such ground with an adversary better armed than themselves:
although a journalist has the special faculty of being able to discuss
without taking his adversary's arguments into consideration, and even
without having read them)--but long experience had taught them that, as the
reader of a paper always agrees with it, even to appear to argue was to
weaken its credit with him: it was necessary to affirm, or better still,
to deny--(negation is twice as powerful as affirmation: it is a direct
consequence of the law of gravity: it is much easier to drop a stone than
to throw it up).--They adopted, therefore, a system of little notes,
perfidious, ironic, injurious, which were repeated day by day, in an easily
accessible position, with unwearying assiduity. They held the insolent
Christophe up to ridicule, though they never mentioned him by name, but
always transparently alluded to him. They twisted his words to make them
look absurd: they told anecdotes about him, true for the most part, though
the rest were a tissue of lies, nicely calculated to set him at loggerheads
with the whole town, and, worse still, with the Court: even his physical
appearance, his features, his manner of dressing, were attacked and
caricatured in a way that by dint of repetition came to be like him.

       *       *       *       *       *

It would have mattered little to Christophe's friends if their Review had
not also come in for blows in the battle. In truth, it served rather as an
advertisement: there was no desire to commit the Review to the quarrel:
rather the attempt was made to cut Christophe off from it: there was
astonishment that it should so compromise its good name, and they were
given to understand that if they did not take care steps would be taken,
however unpleasant it might be, to make the whole editorial staff
responsible. There were signs of attack, gentle enough, upon Adolf Mai and
Mannheim, which stirred up the wasps' nest. Mannheim only laughed at it: he
thought that it would infuriate his father, his uncles, cousins, and his
innumerable family, who took upon themselves to watch everything he did and
to be scandalized by it. But Adolf Mai took it very seriously and blamed
Christophe for compromising the Review. Christophe sent him packing. The
others who had not been attacked found it rather amusing that Mai, who was
apt to pontificate over them, should be their scapegoat. Waldhaus was
secretly delighted: he said that there was never a fight without a few
heads being broken. Naturally he took good care that it should not be his
own: he thought he was sheltered from onslaught by the position of his
family; and his relatives: and he saw no harm in the Jews, his allies,
being mauled a little. Ehrenfeld and Goldenring, who were so far untouched,
would not have been worried by attack: they could reply. But what did touch
them on the raw was that Christophe should go on persistently putting them
in the wrong with their friends, and especially their women friends. They
had laughed loudly at the first articles and thought them good fun: they
admired Christophe's vigorous window-smashing: they thought they had only
to give the word to check his combativeness, or at least to turn his attack
from men and women whom they might mention.--But no. Christophe would
listen to nothing: he paid no heed to any remark and went on like a madman.
If they let him go on there would be no living in the place. Already their
young women friends, furious and in tears, had come and made scenes at
the offices of the Review. They brought all their diplomacy to bear on
Christophe to persuade him at least to moderate certain of his criticisms:
Christophe changed nothing. They lost their tempers: Christophe lost his,
but he changed nothing. Waldhaus was amused by the unhappiness of his
friends, which in no wise touched him, and took Christophe's part to
annoy them. Perhaps also he was more capable than they of appreciating
Christophe's extravagance, who with head down hurled himself upon
everything without keeping any line of retreat, or preparing any refuge for
the future. As for Mannheim he was royally amused by the farce: it seemed
to him a good joke to have introduced this madman among these correct
people, and he rocked with laughter both at the blows which Christophe
dealt and at those which he received. Although under his sister's influence
he was beginning to think that Christophe was decidedly a little cracked,
he only liked him the more for it--(it was necessary for him to find those
who were in sympathy with him a little absurd).--And so he joined Waldhaus
in supporting Christophe against the others.

As he was not wanting in practical sense, in spite of all his efforts to
pretend to the contrary, he thought very justly that it would be to his
friend's advantage to ally himself with the cause of the most advanced
musical party in the country.

As in most German towns, there was in the town a _Wagner-Verein_, which
represented new ideas against the conservative element.--In truth, there
was no great risk in defending Wagner when his fame was acknowledged
everywhere and his works included in the repertory of every Opera House
in Germany. And yet his victory was rather won by force than by universal
accord, and at heart the majority were obstinately conservative, especially
in the small towns such as this which have been rather left outside the
great modern movements and are rather proud of their ancient fame. More
than anywhere else there reigned the distrust, so innate in the German
people, of anything new, the sort of laziness in feeling anything true or
powerful which has not been pondered and digested by several generations.
It was apparent in the reluctance with which--if not the works of Wagner
which are beyond discussion--every new work inspired by the Wagnerian
spirit was accepted. And so the _Wagner-Vereine_ would have had a useful
task to fulfil if they had set themselves to defend all the young and
original forces in art. Sometimes they did so, and Bruckner or Hugo Wolf
found in some of them their best allies. But too often the egoism of
the master weighed upon his disciples: and just as Bayreuth serves only
monstrously to glorify one man, the _offshoots_ of Bayreuth were little
churches in which Mass was eternally sung in honor of the one God. At
the most the faithful disciples were admitted to the side chapels, the
disciples who applied the hallowed doctrines to the letter, and, prostrate
in the dust, adored the only Divinity with His many faces: music, poetry,
drama, and metaphysics.

The _Wagner-Verein_ of the town was in exactly this case.--However, they
went through the form of activity: they were always trying to enroll young
men of talent who looked as though they might be useful to it: and they had
long had their eyes on Christophe. They had discreetly made advances to
him, of which Christophe had not taken any notice, because he felt no need
of being associated with anybody: he could not understand the necessity
which drove his compatriots always to be banding themselves together in
groups, being unable to do anything alone: neither to sing, nor to walk,
nor to drink. He was averse to all _Vereinswesen_. But on the whole he was
more kindly disposed to the _Wagner-Verein_ than to any other _Verein_: at
least they did provide an excuse for fine concerts: and although he did
not share all the Wagnerian ideas on art, he was much nearer them than
to those of any other group in music. He could he thought find common
ground with a party which was as unjust as himself towards Brahms and
the "Brahmins." So he let himself be put up for it. Mannheim introduced
him: he knew everybody. Without being a musician he was a member of the
_Wagner-Verein_.--The managing committee had followed the campaign which
Christophe was conducting in the Review. His slaughter in the opposing camp
had seemed to them to give signs of a strong grip which it would be as well
to have in their service. Christophe had also let fly certain disrespectful
remarks about the sacred fetish: but they had preferred to close their eyes
to that: and perhaps his attacks, not yet very offensive, had not been
without their influence, unconsciously, in making them so eager to enroll
Christophe before he had time to deliver himself manfully. They came and
very amiably asked his permission to play some of his compositions at one
of the approaching concerts of the Association. Christophe was flattered,
and accepted: he went to the _Wagner-Verein_, and, urged by Mannheim, he
was made a member.

At that time there were at the head of the _Wagner-Verein_ two men, of whom
one enjoyed a certain notoriety as a writer, and the other as a conductor.
Both had a Mohammedan belief in Wagner. The first, Josias Kling, had
compiled a Wagner Dictionary--_Wagner Lexikon_--which made it possible in a
moment to know the master's thoughts _de omni re scibili_: it had been his
life's work. He was capable of reciting whole chapters of it at table, as
the French provincials used to troll the songs of the Maid. He used also
to publish in the _Bayreuther Blätter_ articles on Wagner and the Aryan
Spirit. Of course, Wagner was to him the type of the pure Aryan, of whom
the German race had remained the last inviolable refuge against the
corrupting influences of Latin Semitism, especially the French. He declared
that the impure French spirit was finally destroyed, though he did not
desist from attacking it bitterly day by day as though the eternal enemy
were still a menace. He would only acknowledge one great man in France:
the Count of Gobineau. Kling was a little man, very little, and he used to
blush like a girl.--The other pillar of the _Wagner-Verein_, Erich Lauber,
had been manager of a chemical works until four years before: then he had
given up everything to become a conductor. He had succeeded by force of
will, and because he was very rich. He was a Bayreuth fanatic: it was said
that he had gone there on foot, from Munich, wearing pilgrim's sandals. It
was a strange thing that a man who had read much, traveled much, practised
divers professions, and in everything displayed an energetic personality,
should have become in music a sheep of Panurge: all his originality was
expended in his being a little more stupid than the others. He was not
sure enough of himself in music to trust to his own personal feelings,
and so he slavishly followed the interpretations of Wagner given by the
_Kapellmeisters_, and the licensees of Bayreuth. He desired to reproduce
even to the smallest detail the setting and the variegated costumes which
delighted the puerile and barbarous taste of the little Court of Wahnfried.
He was like the fanatical admirer of Michael Angelo who used to reproduce
in his copies even the cracks in the wall of the moldy patches which had
themselves been hallowed by their appearance in the hallowed pictures.

Christophe was not likely to approve greatly of the two men. But they were
men of the world, pleasant, and both well-read: and Lauber's conversation
was always interesting on any other subject than music. He was a bit of a
crank: and Christophe did not dislike cranks: they were a change from the
horrible banality of reasonable people. He did not yet know that there is
nothing more devastating than an irrational man, and that originality is
even more rare among those who are called "originals" than among the rest.
For these "originals" are simply maniacs whose thoughts are reduced to
clockwork.

Josias Kling and Lauber, being desirous of winning Christophe's support,
were at first very keenly interested in him. Kling wrote a eulogistic
article about him and Lauber followed all his directions when he conducted
his compositions at one of the concerts of the Society. Christophe was
touched by it all. Unfortunately all their attentions were spoiled by the
stupidity of those who paid them. He had not the facility of pretending
about people because they admired him. He was exacting. He demanded that no
one should admire him for the opposite of what he was: and he was always
prone to regard as enemies those who were his friends, by mistake. And
so he was not at all pleased with Kling for seeing in him a disciple of
Wagner, and trying to see connections between passages of his _Lieder_
and passages of the _Tetralogy_, which had nothing in common but certain
notes of the scale. And he had no pleasure in hearing one of his
works sandwiched--together with a worthless imitation by a Wagnerian
student--between two enormous blocks of Wagnerian drama.

It was not long before he was stifled in the little chapel. It was just
another Conservatoire, as narrow as the old Conservatoires, and more
intolerant because it was the latest comer in art. Christophe began to lose
his illusions about the absolute value of a form of art or of thought.
Hitherto he had always believed that great ideas bear their own light
within themselves. Now he saw that ideas may change, but that men remain
the same: and, in fine, nothing counted but men: ideas were what they were.
If they were born mediocre and servile, even genius became mediocre in its
passage through their souls, and the shout of freedom of the hero breaking
his bonds became the act of slavery of succeeding generations.--Christophe
could mot refrain from expressing his feelings. He let no opportunity
slip of jeering at fetishism in art. He declared that there was no need
of idols, or classics of any sort, and that he only had the right to call
himself the heir of the spirit of Wagner who was capable of trampling
Wagner underfoot and so walking on and keeping himself in close communion
with life. Kling's stupidity made Christophe aggressive. He set out all
the faults and absurdities he could see in Wagner. The Wagnerians at once
credited him with a grotesque jealousy of their God. Christophe for his
part had no doubt that these same people who exalted Wagner since he was
dead would have been the first to strangle him in his life: and he did
them an injustice. The Klings and the Laubers also had had their hour of
illumination: they had been advanced twenty years ago: and then like most
people they had stopped short at that. Man has so little force that he is
out of breath after the first ascent: very few are long-winded enough to go
on.

Christophe's attitude quickly alienated him from his new friends. Their
sympathy was a bargain: he had to side with them if they were to side with
him: and it was quite evident that Christophe would not yield an inch: he
would not join them. They lost their enthusiasm for him. The eulogies which
he refused to accord to the gods and demi-gods who were approved by the
cult, were withheld from him. They showed less eagerness to welcome his
compositions: and some of the members began to protest against his name
being too often on the programmes. They laughed at him behind his back, and
criticism went on: Kling and Lauber by not protesting seemed to take part
in it. They would have avoided a breach with Christophe if possible: first
because the minds of the Germans of the Rhine like mixed solutions,
solutions which are not solutions, and have the privilege of prolonging
indefinitely an ambiguous situation: and secondly, because they hoped in
spite of everything to be able to make use of him, by wearing him down, if
not by persuasion.

Christophe gave them no time for it. Whenever he thought he felt that at
heart any man disliked him, but would not admit it and tried to cover it up
so as to remain on good terms with him, he would never rest until he had
succeeded in proving to him that he was his enemy. One evening at the
_Wagner-Verein_ when he had come up against a wall of hypocritical
hostility, he could bear it no longer and sent in his resignation to Lauber
without wasting words. Lauber could not understand it: and Mannheim
hastened to Christophe to try and pacify him. At his first words Christophe
burst out:

"No, no, no,--no! Don't talk to me about these people. I will not see them
again.... I cannot. I cannot.... I am disgusted, horribly, with men: I can
hardly bear to look at one."

Mannheim laughed heartily. He was thinking much less of smoothing
Christophe down than of having the fun of it.

"I know that they are not beautiful," he said; "but that is nothing new:
what new thing has happened?"

"Nothing. I have had enough, that is all.... Yes, laugh, laugh at me:
everybody knows I am mad. Prudent people act in accordance with the laws of
logic and reason and sanity. I am not like that: I am a man who acts only
on his own impulse. When a certain quantity of electricity is accumulated
in me it has to expend itself, at all costs: and so much the worse for the
others if it touches them! And so much the worse for them! I am not made
for living in society. Henceforth I shall belong only to myself."

"You think you can do without everybody else?" said Mannheim. "You cannot
play your music all by yourself. You need singers, an orchestra, a
conductor, an audience, a claque...."

Christophe shouted.

"No! no! no!"

But the last word made him jump.

"A claque! Are you not ashamed?"

"I am not talking of a paid claque--(although, indeed, it is the only
means yet discovered of revealing the merit of a composition to the
audience).--But you must have a claque: the author's coterie is a claque,
properly drilled by him: every author has his claque: that is what friends
are for."

"I don't want any friends!"

"Then you will be hissed."

"I want to be hissed!"

Mannheim was in the seventh heaven.

"You won't have even that pleasure for long. They won't play you."

"So be it, then! Do you think I care about being a famous man?... Yes. I
was making for that with all my might.... Nonsense! Folly! Idiocy!... As if
the satisfaction of the vulgarest sort of pride could compensate for all
the sacrifices--weariness, suffering, infamy, insults, degradation, ignoble
concessions--which are the price of fame! Devil take me if I ever bother my
head about such things again! Never again! Publicity is a vulgar infamy. I
will be a private citizen and live for myself and those whom I love...."

"Good," said Mannheim ironically. "You must choose a profession. Why
shouldn't you make shoes?"

"Ah! if I were a cobbler like the incomparable Sachs!" cried Christophe.
"How happy my life would be! A cobbler all through the week,--and a
musician on Sunday, privately, intimately, for my own pleasure and that of
my friends! What a life that would be!... Am I mad, to waste my time and
trouble for the magnificent pleasure of being a prey to the judgment of
idiots? Is it not much better and finer to be loved and understood by a
few honest men than to be heard, criticised, and toadied by thousands of
fools?... The devil of pride and thirst for fame shall never again take me:
trust me for that!"

"Certainly," said Mannheim. He thought:

"In an hour he will say just the opposite." He remarked quietly:

"Then I am to go and smooth things down with the _Wagner-Verein_?"

Christophe waved his arms.

"What is the good of my shouting myself hoarse with telling you 'No', for
the last hour?... I tell you that I will never set foot inside it again! I
loathe all these _Wagner-Vereine_, all these _Vereine_, all these flocks of
sheep who have to huddle together to be able to baa in unison. Go and tell
those sheep from me that I am a wolf, that I have teeth, and am not made
far the pasture!"

"Good, good, I will tell them," said Mannheim, as he went. He was delighted
with his morning's entertainment. He thought:

"He is mad, mad, mad as a hatter...."

His sister, to whom he reported the interview, at once shrugged her
shoulders and said:

"Mad? He would like us to think so!... He is stupid, and absurdly vain...."

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe went on with his fierce campaign in Waldhaus's Review. It was
not that it gave him pleasure: criticism disgusted him, and he was always
wishing it at the bottom of the sea. But he stuck to it because people were
trying to stop him: he did not wish to appear to have given in.

Waldhaus was beginning to be uneasy. As long as he was out of reach he had
looked on at the affray with the calmness of an Olympian god. But for some
weeks past the other papers had seemed to be beginning to disregard his
inviolability: they had begun to attack his vanity as a writer with a
rare malevolence in which, had Waldhaus been more subtle, he might have
recognized the hand of a friend. As a matter of fact, the attacks were
cunningly instigated by Ehrenfeld and Goldenring: they could see no other
way of inducing him to stop Christophe's polemics. Their perception was
justified. Waldhaus at once declared that Christophe was beginning to weary
him: and he withdrew his support. All the staff of the Review then tried
hard to silence Christophe! But it were as easy to muzzle a dog who
is about to devour his prey! Everything they said to him only excited
him more. He called them poltroons and declared that he would say
everything--everything that he ought to say. If they wished to get rid of
him, they were free to do so! The whole town would know that they were as
cowardly as the rest: but he would not go of his own accord.

They looked at each other in consternation, bitterly blaming Mannheim for
the trick he had played them in bringing such a madman among them. Mannheim
laughed and tried hard to curb Christophe himself: and he vowed that with
the next article Christophe would water his wine. They were incredulous:
but the event proved that Mannheim had not boasted vainly. Christophe's
next article, though not a model of courtesy, did not contain a single
offensive remark about anybody. Mannheim's method was very simple: they
were all amazed at not having thought of it before: Christophe never read
what he wrote in the Review, and he hardly read the proofs of his articles,
only very quickly and carelessly. Adolf Mai had more than once passed
caustic remarks on the subject: he said that a printer's error was a
disgrace to a Review: and Christophe, who did not regard criticism
altogether as an art, replied that those who were upbraided in it would
understand well enough. Mannheim turned this to account: he said that
Christophe was right and that correcting proofs was printers' work: and he
offered to take it over. Christophe was overwhelmed with gratitude: but
they told him that such an arrangement would be of service to them and a
saving of time for the Review. So Christophe left his proofs to Mannheim
and asked him to correct them carefully. Mannheim did: it was sport for
him. At first he only ventured to tone down certain phrases and to delete
here and there certain ungracious epithets. Emboldened by success, he
went further with his experiments: he began to alter sentences and their
meaning: and he was really skilful in it. The whole art of it consisted in
preserving the general appearance of the sentence and its characteristic
form while making it say exactly the opposite of what Christophe had meant.
Mannheim took far more trouble to disfigure Christophe's articles than he
would have done to write them himself: never had he worked so hard. But he
enjoyed the result: certain musicians whom Christophe had hitherto pursued
with his sarcasms were astounded to see him grow gradually gentle and at
last sing their praises. The staff of the Review were delighted. Mannheim
used to read aloud his lucubrations to them. They roared with laughter.
Ehrenfeld and Goldenring would say to Mannheim occasionally:

"Be careful! You are going too far."

"There's no danger," Mannheim would say. And he would go on with it.

Christophe never noticed anything. He used to go to the office of the
Review, leave his copy, and not bother about it any more. Sometimes he
would take Mannheim aside and say:

"This time I really have done for the swine. Just read...."

Mannheim would read.

"Well, what do you think of it?"

"Terrible, my dear fellow, there's nothing left of them!"

"What do you think they will say?"

"Oh! there will be a fine row."

But there never was a row. On the contrary, everybody beamed at Christophe:
people whom he detested would bow to him in the street. One day he came to
the office uneasy and scowling: and, throwing a visiting card on the table,
he asked:

"What does this mean?"

It was the card of a musician whom he slaughtered.

"_A thousand thanks_."

Mannheim replied with a laugh:

"It is ironical."

Christophe was set at rest.

"Oh!" he said. "I was afraid my article had pleased him."

"He is furious," said Ehrenfeld: "but he does not wish to seem so: he is
posing as the strong man, and is just laughing."

"Laughing?... Swine!" said Christophe, furious once more. "I shall write
another article about him. He laughs best who laughs last."

"No, no," said Waldhaus anxiously. "I don't think he is laughing at you. It
is humility: he is a good Christian. He is holding out the other cheek to
the smiter."

"So much the better!" said Christophe. "Ah! Coward! He has asked for it: he
shall have his flogging."

Waldhaus tried to intervene. But the others laughed.

"Let him be...." said Mannheim.

"After all ..." replied Waldhaus, suddenly reassured, "a little more or
less makes no matter!..."

Christophe went away. His colleagues rocked and roared with laughter. When
they had had their fill of it Waldhaus said to Mannheim:

"All the same, it was a narrow squeak.... Please be careful. We shall be
caught yet."

"Bah!" said Mannheim. "We have plenty of time.... And besides, I am making
friends for him."



II

ENGULFED


Christophe had got so far with his clumsy efforts towards the reform of
German art when there happened to pass through the town a troupe of French
actors. It would be more exact to say, a band; for, as usual, they were
a collection of poor devils, picked up goodness knows where, and young
unknown players too happy to learn their art, provided they were allowed to
act. They were all harnessed to the chariot of a famous and elderly actress
who was making tour of Germany, and passing through the little princely
town, gave their performances there.

Waldhaus' review made a great fuss over them. Mannheim and his friends knew
or pretended to know about the literary and social life of Paris: they used
to repeat gossip picked up in the boulevard newspapers and more or less
understood; they represented the French spirit in Germany. That robbed
Christophe of any desire to know more about it. Mannheim used to overwhelm
him with praises of Paris. He had been there several times; certain members
of his family were there. He had relations in every country in Europe, and
they had everywhere assumed the nationality and aspect of the country:
this tribe of the seed of Abraham included an English baronet, a Belgian
senator, a French minister, a deputy in the _Reichstag_, and a Papal Count;
and all of them, although they were united and filled with respect for the
stock from which they sprang, were sincerely English, Belgian, French,
German, or Papal, for their pride never allowed of doubt that the country
of their adoption was the greatest of all. Mannheim was paradoxically the
only one of them who was pleased to prefer all the countries to which he
did not belong. He used often to talk of Paris enthusiastically, but as he
was always extravagant in his talk, and, by way of praising the Parisians,
used to represent them as a species of scatterbrains, lewd and rowdy,
who spent their time in love-making and revolutions without ever taking
themselves seriously, Christophe was not greatly attracted by the
"Byzantine and decadent republic beyond the Vosges." He used rather to
imagine Paris as it was presented in a naïve engraving which he had seen
as a frontispiece to a book that had recently appeared in a German art
publication; the Devil of Notre Dame appeared huddled up above the roofs
of the town with the legend:

"_Eternal luxury like an insatiable Vampire devours its prey above the
great city._"

Like a good German he despised the debauched Volcae and their literature,
of which he only knew lively buffooneries like _L'Aiglon, Madame Sans
Gêne_, and a few café songs. The snobbishness of the little town, where
those people who were most notoriously incapable of being interested in
art flocked noisily to take places at the box office, brought him to an
affectation of scornful indifference towards the great actress. He vowed
that he would not go one yard to hear her. It was the easier for him to
keep his promise as seats had reached an exorbitant price which he could
not afford.

The repertory which the French actors had brought included a few classical
pieces; but for the most part it was composed of those idiotic pieces which
are expressly manufactured in Paris for exportation, for nothing is more
international than mediocrity. Christophe knew _La Tosca_, which was to be
the first production of the touring actors; he had seen it in translation
adorned with all those easy graces which the company of a little Rhenish
theater can give to a French play: and he laughed scornfully and declared
that he was very glad, when he saw his friends go off to the theater, not
to have to see it again. But next day he listened none the less eagerly,
without seeming to listen, to the enthusiastic tales of the delightful
evening they had had: he was angry at having lost the right to contradict
them by having refused to see what everybody was talking about.

The second production announced was a French translation of _Hamlet_.
Christophe had never missed an opportunity of seeing a play of
Shakespeare's. Shakespeare was to him of the same order as Beethoven, an
inexhaustible spring of life. _Hamlet_ had been specially dear to him
during the period of stress and tumultuous doubts through which he had just
passed. In spite of his fear of seeing himself reflected in that magic
mirror he was fascinated by it: and he prowled about the theater notices,
though he did not admit that he was longing to book a seat. But he was so
obstinate that after what he had said to his friends he would not eat his
words: and he would have stayed at home that evening if chance had not
brought him in contact with Mannheim just as he was sadly going home.

Mannheim took his arm and told him angrily, though he never ceased his
banter, that an old beast of a relation, his father's sister, had just come
down upon them with all her retinue and that they had all to stay at home
to welcome her. He had time to get out of it: but his father would brook no
trifling with questions of family etiquette and the respect due to elderly
relatives: and as he had to handle his father carefully because he wanted
presently to get money out of him, he had had to give in and not go to the
play.

"You had tickets?" asked Christophe.

"An excellent box: and I have to go and give it--(I am just going now)--to
that old pig, Grünebaum, papa's partner, so that he can swagger there with
the she Grünebaum and their turkey hen of a daughter. Jolly!... I want to
find something very disagreeable to say to them. They won't mind so long as
I give them the tickets--although they would much rather they were
banknotes."

He stopped short with his month open and looked at Christophe:

"Oh! but--but just the man I want!" He chuckled:

"Christophe, are you going to the theater?"

"No."

"Good. You shall go. I ask it as a favor. Yon cannot refuse."

Christophe did not understand.

"But I have no seat."

"Here you are!" said Mannheim triumphantly, thrusting the ticket into his
hand.

"You are mad," said Christophe. "What about your father's orders?"

Mannheim laughed:

"He will be furious!" he said.

He dried his eyes and went on:

"I shall tap him to-morrow morning as soon as he is up before he knows
anything."

"I cannot accept," said Christophe, "knowing that he would not like it."

"It does not concern you: you know nothing about it."

Christophe had unfolded the ticket:

"And what would I do with a box for four?"

"Whatever you like. You can sleep in it, dance if you like. Take some
women. You must know some? If need be we can lend you some."

Christophe held out the ticket to Mannheim:

"Certainly not. Take it back."

"Not I," said Mannheim, stepping back a pace. "I can't force you to go if
it bores you, but I shan't take it back. You can throw it in the fire or
even take it virtuously to the Grünebaums. I don't care. Good-night!"

He left Christophe in the middle of the street, ticket in hand, and went
away.

Christophe was unhappy about it. He said to himself that he ought to take
it to the Grünebaums: but he was not keen about the idea. He went home
still pondering, and when later he looked at the clock he saw that he had
only just time enough to dress for the theater. It would be too silly to
waste the ticket. He asked his mother to go with him. But Louisa declared
that she would rather go to bed. He went. At heart he was filled with
childish glee at the thought of his evening. Only one thing worried him:
the thought of having to be alone in such a pleasure. He had no remorse
about Mannheim's father or the Grünebaums, whose box he was taking: but he
was remorseful about those whom he might have taken with him. He thought of
the joy it could give to other young people like himself: and it hurt him
not to be able to give it them. He cast about but could find nobody to whom
he could offer his ticket. Besides, it was late and he must hurry.

As he entered the theater he passed by the closed window on which a poster
announced that there was not a single seat left in the office. Among the
people who were turning away from it disappointedly he noticed a girl who
could not make up her mind to leave and was enviously watching the people
going in. She was dressed very simply in black; she was not very tall; her
face was thin and she looked delicate; and at the moment he did not notice
whether she were pretty or plain. He passed her: then he stopped, turned,
and without stopping to think:

"You can't get a seat, Fräulein?" he asked point-blank.

She blushed and said with a foreign accent:

"No, sir."

"I have a box which I don't know what to do with. Will you make use of it
with me?"

She blushed again and thanked him and said she could not accept. Christophe
was embarrassed by her refusal, begged her pardon and tried to insist, but
he could not persuade her, although it was obvious that she was dying to
accept. He was very perplexed. He made up his mind suddenly.

"There is a way out of the difficulty," he said. "You take the ticket. I
don't want it. I have seen the play." (He was boasting). "It will give you
more pleasure than me. Take it, please."

The girl was so touched by his proposal and the cordial manner in which it
was made that tears all but came to her eyes. She murmured gratefully that
she could not think of depriving him of it.

"Then, come," he said, smiling.

He looked so kind and honest that she was ashamed of having refused, and
she said in some confusion:

"Thank you. I will come."

       *       *       *       *       *

They went in. The Mannheims' box was wide, big, and faced the stage: it was
impossible not to be seen in it if they had wished. It is useless to say
that their entry passed unnoticed. Christophe made the girl sit at the
front, while he stayed a little behind so as not to embarrass her. She sat
stiffly upright, not daring to turn her head: she was horribly shy: she
would have given much not to have accepted. To give her time to recover her
composure and not knowing what to talk to her about, Christophe pretended
to look the other way. Whichever way he looked it was easily seen that his
presence with an unknown companion among the brilliant people of the boxes
was exciting much curiosity and comment. He darted furious glances at
those who were looking at him: he was angry that people should go on being
interested in him when he took no interest in them. It did not occur to him
that their indiscreet curiosity was more busied with his companion than
with himself and that there was more offense in it. By way of showing his
utter indifference to anything they might say or think he leaned towards
the girl and began to talk to her. She looked so scared by his talking and
so unhappy at having to reply, and it seemed to be so difficult for her to
wrench out a "Yes" or a "No" without ever daring to look at him, that he
took pity on her shyness, and drew back to a corner. Fortunately the play
began.

Christophe had not seen the play bill and he hardly cared to know what part
the great actress was playing: he was one of those simple people who go
to the theater to see the play and not the actors. He had never wondered
whether the famous player would be Ophelia or the Queen; if he had wondered
about it he would have inclined towards the Queen, bearing in naiad the
ages of the two ladies. But it could never have occurred to him that she
would play Hamlet. When he saw Hamlet, and heard his mechanical dolly
squeak, it was some time before he could believe it; he wondered if he were
not dreaming.

"But who? Who is it?" he asked half aloud. "It can't be...."

And when he had to accept that it _was_ Hamlet, he rapped out an oath,
which fortunately his companion did not hear, because she was a foreigner,
though it was heard perfectly in the next box: for he was at once
indignantly bidden to be silent. He withdrew to the back of the box to
swear his fill. He could not recover his temper. If he had been just he
would have given homage to the elegance of the travesty and the _tour de
force_ of nature and art, which made it possible for a woman of sixty to
appear in a youth's costume and even to seem beautiful in it--at least to
kindly eyes. But he hated all _tours de force_, everything which violates
and falsifies Nature, He liked a woman to be a woman, and a man a man. (It
does not often happen nowadays.) The childish and absurd travesty of the
Leonora of Beethoven did not please him much. But this travesty of Hamlet
was beyond all dreams of the preposterous. To make of the robust Dane,
fat and pale, choleric, cunning, intellectual, subject to hallucinations,
a woman,--not even a woman: for a woman playing the man can only be
a monster,--to make of Hamlet a eunuch or an androgynous betwixt and
between,--the times must be flabby indeed, criticism must be idiotic, to
let such disgusting folly be tolerated for a single day and not hissed
off the boards! The actress's voice infuriated Christophe. She had that
singing, labored diction, that monotonous melopoeia which seems to have
been dear to the least poetic people in the world since the days of the
_Champmeslé_ and the _Hôtel de Bourgogne_. Christophe was so exasperated by
it that he wanted to go away. He turned his back on the scene, and he made
hideous faces against the wall of the box like a child put in the corner.
Fortunately his companion dared not look at him: for if she had seen him
she would have thought him mad.

Suddenly Christophe stopped making faces. He stopped still and made no
sound. A lovely musical voice, a young woman's voice, grave and sweet, was
heard. Christophe pricked his ears. As she went on with her words he turned
again, keenly interested to see what bird could warble so. He saw Ophelia.
In truth she was nothing like the Ophelia of Shakespeare. She was a
beautiful girl, tall, big and fine like a young fresh statue--Electra or
Cassandra. She was brimming with life. In spite of her efforts to keep
within her part, the force of youth and joy that was in her shone forth
from her body, her movements, her gestures, her brown eyes that laughed in
spite of herself. Such is the power of physical beauty that Christophe who
a moment before had been merciless in judging the interpretation of Hamlet
never for a moment thought of regretting that Ophelia was hardly at all
like his image of her: and he sacrificed his image to the present vision of
her remorselessly. With the unconscious faithlessness of people of passion
he even found a profound truth in the youthful ardor brimming in the depths
of the chaste and unhappy virgin heart. But the magic of the voice, pure,
warm, and velvety, worked the spell: every word sounded like a lovely
chord: about every syllable there hovered like the scent of thyme or wild
mint the laughing accent of the Midi with its full rhythm. Strange was this
vision of an Ophelia from Arles! In it was something of that golden sun and
its wild northwest wind, its _mistral_.

Christophe forgot his companion and came and sat by her side at the front
of the box: he never took his eyes off the beautiful actress whose name he
did not know. But the audience who had not come to see an unknown player
paid no attention to her, and only applauded when the female Hamlet spoke.
That made Christophe growl and call them: "Idiots!" in a low voice which
could be heard ten yards away.

It was not until the curtain was lowered upon the first act that he
remembered the existence of his companion, and seeing that she was still
shy he thought with a smile of how he must have scared her with his
extravagances. He was not far wrong: the girl whom chance had thrown in his
company for a few hours was almost morbidly shy; she must have been in an
abnormal state of excitement to have accepted Christophe's invitation. She
had hardly accepted it than she had wished at any cost to get out of it, to
make some excuse and to escape. It had been much worse for her when she had
seen that she was an object of general curiosity, and her unhappiness had
been increased almost past endurance when she heard behind her back--(she
dared not turn round)--her companion's low growls and imprecations. She
expected anything now, and when he came and sat by her she was frozen with
terror: what eccentricity would he commit next? She would gladly have sunk
into the ground fathoms down. She drew back instinctively: she was afraid
of touching him.

But all her fears vanished when the interval came and she heard him say
quite kindly:

"I am an unpleasant companion, eh? I beg your pardon."

Then she looked at him and saw his kind smile which had induced her to come
with him.

He went on:

"I cannot hide what I think.... But you know it is too much!... That woman,
that old woman!..."

He made a face of disgust.

She smiled and said in a low voice:

"It is fine in spite of everything."

He noticed her accent and asked:

"You are a foreigner?"

"Yes," said she.

He looked at her modest gown.

"A governess?" he said.

"Yes."

"What nationality?"

She said:

"I am French."

He made a gesture of surprise:

"French? I should not have thought it."

"Why?" she asked timidly.

"You are so ... serious!" said he.

(She thought it was not altogether a compliment from him.)

"There are serious people also in France," said she confusedly. He looked
at her honest little face, with its broad forehead, little straight nose,
delicate chin, and thin cheeks framed in her chestnut hair. It was not she
that he saw: he was thinking of the beautiful actress. He repeated:

"It is strange that you should be French!... Are you really of the same
nationality as Ophelia? One would never think it"

After a moment's silence he went on:

"How beautiful she is!" without noticing that he seemed to be making a
comparison between the actress and his companion that was not at all
flattering to her. But she felt it: but she did not mind: for she was of
the same opinion. He tried to find out about the actress from her: but she
knew nothing: it was plain that she did not know much about the theater.

"You must be glad to hear French?" he asked. He meant it in jest, but he
touched her.

"Ah!" she said with an accent of sincerity which struck him, "it does me so
much good! I am stifled here."

He looked at her more closely: she clasped her hands, and seemed to be
oppressed. But at once she thought of how her words might hurt him:

"Forgive me," she said. "I don't know what I am saying."

He laughed:

"Don't beg pardon! You are quite right. You don't need to be French to be
stifled here. Ouf!"

He threw back his shoulders and took a long breath.

But she was ashamed of having been so free and relapsed into silence.
Besides she had just seen that the people in the boxes next to them were
listening to what they were saying: he noticed it too and was wrathful.
They broke off: and until the end of the interval he went out into the
corridor. The girl's words were ringing in his ears, but he was lost in
dreams: the image of Ophelia filled his thoughts. During the succeeding
acts she took hold of him completely, and when the beautiful actress came
to the mad scene and the melancholy songs of love and death, her voice gave
forth notes so moving that he was bowled over: he felt that he was going
to burst into tears. Angry with himself for what he took to be a sign
of weakness--(for he would not admit that a true artist can weep)--and
not wishing to make an object of himself, he left the box abruptly. The
corridors and the foyer were empty. In his agitation he went down the
stairs of the theater and went out without knowing it. He had to breathe
the cold night air, and to go striding through the dark, half-empty
streets. He came to himself by the edge of a canal, and leaned on the
parapet of the bank and watched the silent water whereon the reflections
of the street lamps danced in the darkness. His soul was like that: it was
dark and heaving: he could see nothing in it but great joy dancing on the
surface. The clocks rang the hour. It was impossible for him to go back to
the theater and hear the end of the play. To see the triumph of Fortinbras?
No, that did not tempt him. A fine triumph that! Who thinks of envying the
conqueror? Who would be he after being gorged with all the wild and absurd
savagery of life? The whole play is a formidable indictment of life. But
there is such a power of life in it that sadness becomes joy, and
bitterness intoxicates....

Christophe went home without a thought for the unknown girl, whose name
even he had not ascertained.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning he went to see the actress at the little third-rate hotel in
which the impresario had quartered her with her comrades while the great
actress had put up at the best hotel in the town. He was conducted to a
very untidy room where the remains of breakfast were left on an open piano,
together with hairpins and torn and dirty sheets of music. In the next room
Ophelia was singing at the top of her voice, like a child, for the pleasure
of making a noise. She stopped for a moment when her visitor was announced
to ask merrily in a loud voice without ever caring whether she were heard
through the wall:

"What does he want? What is his name? Christophe? Christophe what?
Christophe Krafft? What a name!"

(She repeated it two or three times, rolling her _r_'s terribly.)

"It is like a swear--"

(She swore.)

"Is he young or old? Pleasant? Very well. I'll come."

She began to sing again:

"_Nothing is sweeter than my love_...." while she rushed about her room
cursing a tortoise-shell pin which had got lost in all the rubbish. She
lost patience, began to grumble, and roared. Although he could not see her
Christophe followed all her movements on the other side of the wall in
imagination and laughed to himself. At last he heard steps approaching, the
door was flung open, and Ophelia appeared.

She was half dressed, in a loose gown which she was holding about her
waist: her bare arms showed in her wide sleeves: her hair was carelessly
done, and locks of it fell down into her eyes and over her cheeks. Her
fine brown eyes smiled, her lips smiled, her cheeks smiled, and a charming
dimple in her chin smiled. In her beautiful grave melodious voice she asked
him to excuse her appearance. She knew that there was nothing to excuse and
that he could only be very grateful to her for it. She thought he was a
journalist come to interview her. Instead of being annoyed when he told her
that he had come to her entirely of his own accord and because he admired
her, she was delighted. She was a good girl, affectionate, delighted to
please, and making no effort to conceal her delight. Christophe's visit and
his enthusiasm made her very happy--(she was not yet spoiled by flattery).
She was so natural in all her movements and ways, even in her little
vanities and her naïve delight in giving pleasure, that he was not
embarrassed for a single moment. They became old friends at once. He could
jabber a few words of French: and she could jabber a few words of German:
after an hour they told each other all their secrets. She never thought
of sending him away. The splendid gay southern creature, intelligent and
warm-hearted, who would have been bored to tears with her stupid companions
and in a country whose language she did not know, a country without the
natural joy that was in herself, was glad to find some one to talk to. As
for Christophe it was an untold blessing for him to meet the free-hearted
girl of the Midi filled with the life of the people, in the midst of his
narrow and insincere fellow citizens. He did not yet know the workings of
such natures which, unlike the Germans, have no more in their minds and
hearts than they show, and often not even as much. But at the least she was
young, she was alive, she said frankly, rawly, what she thought: she judged
everything freely from a new and a fresh point of view: in her it was
possible to breathe a little of the northwest wind that sweeps away mists.
She was gifted. Uneducated and unthinking, she could at once feel with her
whole heart and be sincerely moved by things which were beautiful and good;
and then, a moment later, she would burst out laughing. She was a coquette
and made eyes; she did not mind showing her bare arms and neck under
her half open gown; she would have liked to turn Christophe's head, but
it was all purely instinctive. There was no thought of gaining her own
ends in her, and she much preferred to laugh, and talk blithely, to be
a good fellow, a good chum, without ceremony or awkwardness. She told
him about the underworld of the theater, her little sorrows, the silly
susceptibilities of her comrades, the bickerings of Jezebel--(so she called
the great actress)--who took good care not to let her shine. He confided
his sufferings at the hands of the Germans: she clapped her hands and
played chords to him. She was kind and would not speak ill of anybody; but
that did not keep her from doing so, and while she blamed herself for her
malice, when she laughed at anybody, she had a fund of mocking humor and
that realistic and witty gift of observation which belongs to the people of
the South; she could not resist it and drew cuttingly satirical portraits.
With her pale lips she laughed merrily to show her teeth, like those of a
puppy, and dark eyes shone in her pale face, which was a little discolored
by grease paint.

They noticed suddenly that they had been talking for more than an hour.
Christophe proposed to come for Corinne--(that was her stage name)--in the
afternoon and show her over the town. She was delighted with the idea, and
they arranged to meet immediately after dinner.

At the appointed hour, he turned up. Corinne was sitting in the little
drawing-room of the hotel, with a book in her hand, which she was reading
aloud. She greeted him with smiling eyes but did not stop reading until she
had finished her sentence. Then she signed to him to sit down on the sofa
by her side:

"Sit there," she said, "and don't talk. I am going over my part. I shall
have finished in a quarter of an hour."

She followed the script with her finger nail and read quickly and
carelessly like a little girl in a hurry. He offered to hear her her words.
She passed him the book and got up to repeat what she had learned. She
floundered and would repeat the end of one sentence four times before going
on to the next. She shook her head as she recited her part; her hair-pins
fell down and all over the room. When she could not recollect sometimes
some word she was as impatient as a naughty child; sometimes she
swore comically or she would use big words;--one word with which she
apostrophized herself was very big and very short. Christophe was
astonished by the mixture of talent and childishness in her. She would
produce moving tones of voice quite aptly, but in the middle of a speech
into which she seemed to be throwing her whole heart she would say a whole
string of words that had absolutely no meaning. She recited her lesson
like a parrot, without troubling about its meaning, and then she produced
burlesque nonsense. She did not worry about it. When she saw it she would
shout with laughter. At last she said: "Zut!", snatched the book from him,
flung it into a corner of the room, and said:

"Holidays! The hour has struck!... Now let us go out."

He was a little anxious about her part and asked:

"You think you will know it?"

She replied confidently:

"Certainly. What is the prompter for?" She went into her room to put on her
hat. Christophe sat at the piano while he was waiting for her and struck a
few chords. From the next room she called:

"Oh! What is that? Play some more! How pretty it is!"

She ran in, pinning on her hat. He went on. When he had finished she
wanted him to play more. She went into ecstasies with all the little arch
exclamations habitual to Frenchwomen which they make about _Tristan_ and a
cup of chocolate equally. It made Christophe laugh; it was a change from
the tremendous affected, clumsy exclamations of the Germans; they were
both exaggerated in different directions; one made a mountain out of a
mole-hill, the other made a mole-hill out of a mountain; the French was not
less ridiculous than the German, but for the moment it seemed more pleasant
because he loved the lips from which it came. Corinne wanted to know what
he was playing, and when she learned that he had composed it she gave a
shout. He had told her during their conversation in the morning that he was
a composer, but she had hardly listened to him. She sat by him and insisted
on his playing everything that he had composed. Their walk was forgotten.
It was not mere politeness on her part; she adored music and had an
admirable instinct for it which supplied the deficiencies of her education.
At first he did not take her seriously and played his easiest melodies. But
when he had played a passage by which he set more store and saw that she
preferred it too, although he had not said anything about it, he was
joyfully surprised. With the naïve astonishment of the Germans when they
meet a Frenchman who is a good musician he said:

"Odd. How good your taste is! I should never have thought it...."

Corinne laughed in his face.

He amused himself then by selecting compositions more and more difficult
to understand, to see how far she would go with him. But she did not seem
to be put out by his boldness, and after a particularly new melody which
Christophe himself had almost come to doubt because he had never succeeded
in having it accepted in Germany, he was greatly astonished when Corinne
begged him to play it again, and she got up and began to sing the notes
from memory almost without a mistake! He turned towards her and took her
hands warmly:

"But you are a musician!" he cried.

She began to laugh and explained that she had made her début as a singer in
provincial opera houses, but that an impresario of touring companies had
recognized her disposition towards the poetic theater and had enrolled her
in its services. He exclaimed:

"What a pity!"

"Why?" said she. "Poetry also is a sort of music."

She made him explain to her the meaning of his _Lieder_; he told her the
German words, and she repeated them with easy mimicry, copying even the
movements of his lips and eyes as he pronounced the words. When she had
these to sing from memory, then she made grotesque mistakes, and when she
forgot, she invented words, guttural and barbarously sonorous, which made
them both laugh. She did not tire of making him play, nor he of playing
for her and hearing her pretty voice; she did not know the tricks of the
trade and sang a little from the throat like little girls, and there was a
curious fragile quality in her voice that was very touching. She told him
frankly what she thought. Although she could not explain why she liked
or disliked anything there was always some grain of sense hidden in her
judgment. The odd thing was that she found least pleasure in the most
classical passages which were most appreciated in Germany; she paid him a
few compliments out of politeness; but they obviously meant nothing. As she
had no musical culture she had not the pleasure which amateurs and even
artists find in what is _already heard_, a pleasure which often makes them
unconsciously reproduce, or, in a new composition, like forms or formulæ
which they have already used in old compositions. Nor did she have the
German taste for melodious sentimentality (or, at least, her sentimentality
was different; Christophe did not yet know its failings)--she did not go
into ecstasies over the soft insipid music preferred in Germany; she did
not single out the most melodious of his _Lieder_,--a melody which he
would have liked to destroy because his friends, only too glad to be able
to compliment him on something, were always talking about it. Corinne's
dramatic instinct made her prefer the melodies which frankly reproduced
a certain passion; he also set most store by them. And yet she did not
hesitate to show her lack of sympathy with certain rude harmonies which
seemed quite natural to Christophe; they gave her a sort of shock when she
came upon them; she would stop then and ask "if it was really so." When he
said "Yes," then she would rush at the difficulty; but she would make a
little grimace which did not escape Christophe. Sometimes even she would
prefer to skip the bar. Then he would play it again on the piano.

"You don't like that?" he would ask.

She would screw up her nose.

"It is wrong," she would say.

"Not at all," he would reply with a laugh. "It is quite right. Think of its
meaning. It is rhythmic, isn't it?"

(He pointed to her heart.)

But she would shake her head:

"May be; but it is wrong here." (She pulled her ear.)

And she would be a little shocked by the sudden outbursts of German
declamation.

"Why should he talk so loud?" she would ask. "He is all alone. Aren't you
afraid of his neighbors overhearing him? It is as though--(Forgive me! You
won't be angry?)--he were hailing a boat."

He was not angry; he laughed heartily, he recognized that there was some
truth in what she said. Her remarks amused him; nobody had ever said such
things before. They agreed that declamation in singing generally deforms
the natural word like a magnifying glass. Corinne asked Christophe to write
music for a piece in which she would speak to the accompaniment of the
orchestra, singing a few sentences every now and then. He was fired by the
idea in spite of the difficulties of the stage setting which, he thought,
Corinne's musical voice would easily overcome, and they made plans for the
future. It was not far short of five o'clock when they thought of going
out. Night fell early. They could not think of going for a walk. Corinne
had a rehearsal at the theater in the evening; nobody was allowed to be
present. She made him promise to come and fetch her during the next
afternoon to take the walk they had planned.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day they did almost the same again. He found Corinne in front of her
mirror, perched on a high stool, swinging her legs; she was trying on a
wig. Her dresser was there and a hair dresser of the town to whom she was
giving instructions about a curl which she wished to have higher up. As she
looked in the glass she saw Christophe smiling behind her back; she put out
her tongue at him. The hair dresser went away with the wig and she turned
gaily to Christophe:

"Good-day, my friend!" she said.

She held up her cheek to be kissed. He had not expected such intimacy, but
he took advantage of it all the same. She did not attach so much importance
to the favor; it was to her a greeting like any other.

"Oh! I am happy!" said she. "It will do very well to-night." (She was
talking of her wig.) "I was so wretched! If you had come this morning you
would have found me absolutely miserable."

He asked why.

It was because the Parisian hair dresser had made a mistake in packing and
had sent a wig which was not suitable to the part.

"Quite flat," she said, "and falling straight down. When I saw it I wept
like a Magdalen. Didn't I, Désirée?"

"When I came in," said Désirée, "I was afraid for Madame. Madame was quite
white. Madame looked like death."

Christophe laughed. Corinne saw him in her mirror:

"Heartless wretch; it makes you laugh," she said indignantly.

She began to laugh too.

He asked her how the rehearsal had gone. Everything had gone off well. She
would have liked the other parts to be cut more and her own less. They
talked so much that they wasted part of the afternoon. She dressed slowly;
she amused herself by asking Christophe's opinion about her dresses.
Christophe praised her elegance and told her naïvely in his Franco-German
jargon, that he had never seen anybody so "luxurious." She looked at him
for a moment and then burst out laughing.

"What have I said?" he asked. "Have I said anything wrong?"

"Yes, yes," she cried, rocking with laughter. "You have indeed."

At last they went out. Her striking costume and her exuberant chatter
attracted attention. She looked at everything with her mocking eyes and
made no effort to conceal her impressions. She chuckled at the dressmakers'
shops, and at the picture post-card shops in which sentimental scenes,
comic and obscene drawings, the town prostitutes, the imperial family, the
Emperor as a sea-dog holding the wheel of the _Germania_ and defying the
heavens, were all thrown together higgledy-piggledy. She giggled at a
dinner-service decoration with Wagner's cross-grained face, or at a hair
dresser's shop-window in which there was the wax head of a man. She made no
attempt to modify her hilarity over the patriotic monument representing the
old Emperor in a traveling coat and a peaked cap, together with Prussia,
the German States, and a nude Genius of War. She made remarks about
anything in the faces of the people or their way of speaking that struck
her as funny. Her victims were left in no doubt about it as she maliciously
picked out their absurdities. Her instinctive mimicry made her sometimes
imitate with her mouth and nose their broad grimaces and frowns, without
thinking; and she would blow out her cheeks as she repeated fragments
of sentences and words that struck her as grotesque in sound as she
caught them. He laughed heartily and was not at all embarrassed by her
impertinence, for he was no longer easily embarrassed. Fortunately he had
no great reputation to lose, or his walk would have ruined it for ever.

They visited the cathedral. Corinne wanted to go to the top of the spire,
in spite of her high heels, and long dress which swept the stairs or was
caught in a corner of the staircase; she did not worry about it, but pulled
the stuff which split, and went on climbing, holding it up. She wanted very
much to ring the bells. From the top of the tower she declaimed Victor Hugo
(he did not understand it), and sang a popular French song. After that she
played the muezzin. Dusk was falling. They went down into the cathedral
where the dark shadows were creeping along the gigantic walls in which
the magic eyes of the windows were shining. Kneeling in one of the side
chapels, Christophe saw the girl who had shared his box at _Hamlet_. She
was so absorbed in her prayers that she did not see him: he saw that she
was looking sad and strained. He would have liked to speak to her, just to
say, "How do you do?" but Corinne dragged him off like a whirlwind.

They parted soon afterwards. She had to get ready for the performance,
which began early, as usual in Germany. He had hardly reached home when
there was a ring at the door and a letter from Corinne was handed in:

"Luck! Jezebel ill! No performance! No school! Come! Let us dine together!
Your friend,

"CORINETTE.

"P.S. Bring plenty of music!"

It was some time before he understood. When he did understand he was as
happy as Corinne, and went to the hotel at once. He was afraid of finding
the whole company assembled at dinner; but he saw nobody. Corinne herself
was not there. At last he heard her laughing voice at the back of the
house: he went to look for her and found her in the kitchen. She had taken
it into her head to cook a dish in her own way, one of those southern
dishes which fills the whole neighborhood with its aroma and would awaken a
stone. She was on excellent terms with the large proprietress of the hotel,
and they were jabbering in a horrible jargon that was a mixture of German,
French, and negro, though there is no word to describe it in any language.
They were laughing loudly and making each other taste their cooking.
Christophe's appearance made them noisier than ever. They tried to push him
out; but he struggled and succeeded in tasting the famous dish. He made a
face. She said he was a barbarous Teuton and that it was no use putting
herself out for him.

They went up to the little sitting-room when the table was laid; there were
only two places, for himself and Corinne. He could not help asking her
where her companions were. Corinne waved her hands carelessly:

"I don't know."

"Don't you sup together?"

"Never! We see enough of each other at the theater!... And it would be
awful if we had to meet at meals!..."

It was so different from German custom that he was surprised and charmed by
it.

"I thought," he said, "you were a sociable people!"

"Well," said she, "am I not sociable?"

"Sociable means living in society. We have to see each other! Men, women,
children, we all belong to societies from birth to death. We are always
making societies: we eat, sing, think in societies. When the societies
sneeze, we sneeze too: we don't have a drink except with our societies."

"That must be amusing," said she. "Why not out of the same glass?"

"Brotherly, isn't it?"

"That for fraternity! I like being 'brotherly' with people I like: not with
the others ... Pooh! That's not society: that is an ant heap."

"Well, you can imagine how happy I am here, for I think as you do."

"Come to us, then!"

He asked nothing better. He questioned her about Paris and the French. She
told him much that was not perfectly accurate. Her southern propensity
for boasting was mixed with an instinctive desire to shine before him.
According to her, everybody in Paris was free: and as everybody in Paris
was intelligent, everybody made good use of their liberty, and no one
abused it. Everybody did what they liked: thought, believed, loved or did
not love, as they liked; nobody had anything to say about it. There nobody
meddled with other people's beliefs, or spied on their consciences or tried
to regulate their thoughts. There politicians never dabbled in literature
or the arts, and never gave orders, jobs, and money to their friends or
clients. There little cliques never disposed of reputation or success,
journalists were never bought; there men of letters never entered into
controversies with the church, that could lead to nothing. There criticism
never stifled unknown talent, or exhausted its praises upon recognized
talent. There success, success at all costs, did not justify the means, and
command the adoration of the public. There were only gentle manners, kindly
and sweet. There was never any bitterness, never any scandal. Everybody
helped everybody else. Every worthy newcomer was certain to find hands held
out to him and the way made smooth for him. Pure love, of beauty filled the
chivalrous and disinterested souls of the French, and they were only absurd
in their idealism, which, in spite of their acknowledged wit, made them
the dupes of other nations. Christophe listened open-mouthed. It was
certainly marvelous. Corinne marveled herself as she heard her words.
She had forgotten what she had told Christophe the day before about the
difficulties of her past life. He gave no more thought to it than she.

And yet Corinne was not only concerned with making the Germans love her
country: she wanted to make herself loved, too. A whole evening without
flirtation would have seemed austere and rather absurd to her. She made
eyes at Christophe; but it was trouble wasted: he did not notice it.
Christophe did not know what it was to flirt. He loved or did not love.
When he did not love he was miles from any thought of love. He liked
Corinne enormously. He felt the attraction of her southern nature; it was
so new to him. And her sweetness and good humor, her quick and lively
intelligence: many more reasons than he needed for loving. But the spirit
blows where it listeth. It did not blow in that direction, and as for
playing at love, in love's absence, the idea had never occurred to him.

Corinne was amused by his coldness. She sat by his side at the piano while
he played the music he had brought with him, and put her arm round his
neck, and to follow the music she leaned towards the keyboard, almost
pressing her cheek against his. He felt her hair touch his face, and quite
close to him saw the corner of her mocking eye, her pretty little mouth,
and the light down on her tip-tilted nose. She waited, smiling--she waited.
Christophe did not understand the invitation. Corinne was in his way: that
was all he thought of. Mechanically he broke free from her and moved his
chair. And when, a moment later, he turned to speak to Corinne, he saw that
she was choking with laughter: her cheeks were dimpled, her lips were
pressed together, and she seemed to be holding herself in.

"What is the matter?" he said, in his astonishment.

She looked at him and laughed aloud.

He did not understand.

"Why are you laughing?" he asked. "Did I say anything funny?"

The more he insisted, the more she laughed. When she had almost finished
she had only to look at his crestfallen appearance to break out again. She
got up, ran to the sofa at the other end of the room, and buried her face
in the cushions to laugh her fill; her whole body shook with it. He began
to laugh too, came towards her, and slapped her on the back. When she had
done laughing she raised her head, dried the tears in her eyes, and held
out her hands to him.

"What a good boy you are!" she said.

"No worse than another."

She went on, shaking occasionally with laughter, still holding his hands.

"Frenchwomen are not serious?" she asked. (She pronounced it:
"_Françouése_.")

"You are making fun of me," he said good-humoredly.

She looked at him kindly, shook his hands vigorously, and said:

"Friends?"

"Friends!" said he, shaking her hand.

"You will think of Corinette when she is gone? You won't be angry with the
Frenchwoman for not being serious?"

"And Corinette won't be angry with the barbarous Teuton for being so
stupid?"

"That is why she loves him ... You will come and see her in Paris?"

"It is a promise ... And she--she will write to him?"

"I swear it ... You say: 'I swear.'"

"I swear."

"No, not like that. You must hold up your hand." She recited the oath of
the Horatii. She made him promise to write a play for her, a melodrama,
which could be translated into French and played in Paris by her. She was
going away next day with her company. He promised to go and see her again
the day after at Frankfort, where they were giving a performance.

They stayed talking for some time. She presented Christophe with a
photograph in which she was much décolletée, draped only in a garment
fastening below her shoulders. They parted gaily, and kissed like brother
and sister. And, indeed, once Corinne had seen that Christophe was fond of
her, but not at all in love, she began to be fond of him, too, without
love, as a good friend.

Their sleep was not troubled by it. He could not see her off next day,
because he was occupied by a rehearsal. But on the day following he managed
to go to Frankfort as he had promised. It was a few hours' journey by
rail. Corinne hardly believed Christophe's promise. But he had taken it
seriously, and when the performance began he was there. When he knocked at
her dressing-room door during the interval, she gave a cry of glad surprise
and threw her arms round his neck with her usual exuberance. She was
sincerely grateful to him for having come. Unfortunately for Christophe,
she was much more sought after in the city of rich, intelligent Jews, who
could appreciate her actual beauty and her future success. Almost every
minute there was a knock at the door, and it opened to reveal men with
heavy faces and quick eyes, who said the conventional things with a thick
accent. Corinne naturally made eyes, and then she would go on talking to
Christophe in the same affected, provoking voice, and that irritated him.
And he found no pleasure in the calm lack of modesty with which she went on
dressing in his presence, and the paint and grease with which she larded
her arms, throat, and face filled him with profound disgust. He was on the
point of going away without seeing her again after the performance; but
when he said good-bye and begged to be excused from going to the supper
that was to be given to her after the play, she was so hurt by it and
so affectionate, too, that he could not hold out against her. She had a
time-table brought, so as to prove that he could and must stay an hour
with her. He only needed to be convinced, and he was at the supper. He was
even able to control his annoyance with the follies that were indulged in
and his irritation at Corinne's coquetries with all and sundry. It was
impossible to be angry with her. She was an honest girl, without any moral
principles, lazy, sensual, pleasure-loving, childishly coquettish; but at
the same time so loyal, so kind, and all her faults were so spontaneous and
so healthy that it was only possible to smile at them and even to love
them. Christophe, who was sitting opposite her, watched her animation, her
radiant eyes, her sticky lips, with their Italian smile--that smile in
which there is kindness, subtlety, and a sort of heavy greediness. He saw
her more clearly than he had yet done. Some of her features reminded him
of Ada: certain gestures, certain looks, certain sensual and rather coarse
tricks--the eternal feminine. But what he loved in her was her southern
nature, that generous nature which is not niggardly with its gifts, which
never troubles to fashion drawing-room beauties and literary cleverness,
but harmonious creatures who are made body and mind to grow in the air and
the sun. When he left she got up from the table to say good-bye to him away
from the others. They kissed and renewed their promises to write and meet
again.

He took the last train home. At a station the train coming from the
opposite direction was waiting. In the carriage opposite his--a third-class
compartment--Christophe saw the young Frenchwoman who had been with him to
the performance of _Hamlet_. She saw Christophe and recognized him. They
were both astonished. They bowed and did not move, and dared not look
again. And yet he had seen at once that she was wearing a little traveling
toque and had an old valise by her side. It did not occur to him that she
was leaving the country. He thought she must be going away for a few days.
He did not know whether he ought to speak to her. He stopped, turned over
in his mind what to say, and was just about to lower the window of the
carriage to address a few words to her, when the signal was given. He gave
up the idea. A few seconds passed before the train moved. They looked
straight at each other. Each was alone, and their faces were pressed
against the windows and they looked into each other's eyes through the
night. They were separated by two windows. If they had reached out their
hands they could have touched each other. So near. So far. The carriages
shook heavily. She was still looking at him, shy no longer, now that they
were parting. They were so absorbed in looking at each other that they
never even thought of bowing for the last time. She was slowly borne away.
He saw her disappear, and the train which bore her plunged into the night.
Like two circling worlds, they had passed close to each other in infinite
space, and now they sped apart perhaps for eternity.

When she had disappeared he felt the emptiness that her strange eyes had
left in him, and he did not understand why; but the emptiness was there.
Sleepy, with eyes half-closed, lying in a corner of the carriage, he felt
her eyes looking into his, and all other thoughts ceased, to let him feel
them more keenly. The image of Corinne fluttered outside his heart like an
insect breaking its wings against a window; but he did not let it in.

He found it again when he got out of the train on his arrival, when the
keen night air and his walk through the streets of the sleeping town had
shaken off his drowsiness. He scowled at the thought of the pretty actress,
with a mixture of pleasure and irritation, according as he recalled her
affectionate ways or her vulgar coquetries.

"Oh! these French people," he growled, laughing softly, while he was
undressing quietly, so as not to waken his mother, who was asleep in the
next room.

A remark that he had heard the other evening in the box occurred to him:

"There are others also."

At his first encounter with France she laid before him the enigma of her
double nature. But, like all Germans, he did not trouble to solve it, and
as he thought of the girl in the train he said quietly:

"She does not look like a Frenchwoman."

As if a German could say what is French and what is not.

       *       *       *       *       *

French or not, she filled his thoughts; for he woke in the middle of the
night with a pang: he had just remembered the valise on the seat by the
girl's side; and suddenly the idea that she had gone forever crossed his
mind. The idea must have come to him at the time, but he had not thought of
it. It filled him with a strange sadness. He shrugged his shoulders.

"What does it matter to me?" he said. "It is not my affair."

He went to sleep.

But next day the first person he met when he went out was Mannheim, who
called him "Blücher," and asked him if he had made up his mind to conquer
all France. From the garrulous newsmonger he learned that the story of the
box had had a success exceeding all Mannheim's expectations.

"Thanks to you! Thanks to you!" cried Mannheim. "You are a great man. I am
nothing compared with you."

"What have I done?" said Christophe.

"You are wonderful!" Mannheim replied. "I am jealous of you. To shut the
box in the Grünebaums' faces, and then to ask the French governess instead
of them--no, that takes the cake! I should never have thought of that!"

"She was the Grünebaums' governess?" said Christophe in amazement.

"Yes. Pretend you don't know, pretend to be innocent. You'd better!... My
father is beside himself. The Grünebaums are in a rage!... It was not for
long: they have sacked the girl."

"What!" cried Christophe. "They have dismissed her? Dismissed her because
of me?"

"Didn't you know?" said Mannheim. "Didn't she tell you?"

Christophe was in despair.

"You mustn't be angry, old man," said Mannheim. "It does not matter.
Besides, one had only to expect that the Grünebaums would find out..."

"What?" cried Christophe. "Find out what?"

"That she was your mistress, of course!"

"But I do not even know her. I don't know who she is."

Mannheim smiled, as if to say:

"You take me for a fool."

Christophe lost his temper and bade Mannheim do him the honor of believing
what he said. Mannheim said:

"Then it is even more humorous."

Christophe worried about it, and talked of going to the Grünebaums and
telling them the facts and justifying the girl. Mannheim dissuaded him.

"My dear fellow," he said, "anything you may say will only convince them of
the contrary. Besides, it is too late. The girl has gone away."

Christophe was utterly sick at heart and tried to trace the young
Frenchwoman. He wanted to write to her to beg her pardon. But nothing was
known of her. He applied to the Grünebaums, but they snubbed him. They did
not know themselves where she had gone, and they did not care. The idea
of the harm he had done in trying to do good tortured Christophe: he was
remorseful. But added to his remorse was a mysterious attraction, which
shone upon him from the eyes of the woman who was gone. Attraction and
remorse both seemed to be blotted out, engulfed in the flood of the day's
new thoughts. But they endured in the depths of his heart. Christophe did
not forget the woman whom he called his victim. He had sworn to meet her
again. He knew how small were the chances of his ever seeing her again: and
he was sure that he would see her again.

As for Corinne, she never answered his letters. But three months later,
when he had given up expecting to hear from her, he received a telegram
of forty words of utter nonsense, in which she addressed him in little
familiar terms, and asked "if they were still fond of each other." Then,
after nearly a year's silence, there came a scrappy letter scrawled in her
enormous childish zigzag writing, in which she tried to play the lady,--a
few affectionate, droll words. And there she left it. She did not forget
him, but she had no time to think of him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Still under the spell of Corinne and full of the ideas they had exchanged
about art, Christophe dreamed of writing the music for a play in which
Corinne should act and sing a few airs--a sort of poetic melodrama. That
form of art once so much in favor in Germany, passionately admired by
Mozart, and practised by Beethoven, Weber, Mendelssohn and Schumann, and
all the great classics, had fallen into discredit since the triumph of
Wagnerism, which claimed to have realized the definite formula of the
theater and music. The Wagnerian pedants, not content with proscribing
every new melodrama, busied themselves with dressing up the old melodramas
and operas. They carefully effaced every trace of spoken dialogue and wrote
for Mozart, Beethoven, or Weber, recitations in their own manner; they were
convinced that they were doing a service to the fame of the masters and
filling out their thoughts by the pious deposit of their dung upon
masterpieces.

Christophe, who had been made more sensible of the heaviness, and often
the ugliness, of Wagnerian declamation by Corinne, had for some time been
debating whether it was not nonsense and an offense against nature to
harness and yoke together the spoken word and the word sung in the theater:
it was like harnessing a horse and a bird to a cart. Speech and singing
each had its rhythm. It was comprehensible that an artist should sacrifice
one of the two arts to the triumph of that which he preferred. But to try
to find a compromise between them was to sacrifice both: it was to want
speech no longer to be speech, and singing no longer to be singing; to want
singing to let its vast flood be confined between the banks of monotonous
canals, to want speech to cloak its lovely naked limbs with rich, heavy
stuffs which must paralyze its gestures and movements. Why not leave both
with their spontaneity and freedom of movement? Like a beautiful girl
walking tranquilly, lithely along a stream, dreaming as she goes: the gay
murmur of the water lulls her dreams, and unconsciously she brings her
steps and her thoughts in tune with the song of the stream. So being
both free, music and poesy would go side by side, dreaming, their dreams
mingling. Assuredly all music was not good for such a union, nor all
poetry. The opponents of melodrama had good ground for attack in the
coarseness of the attempts which had been made in that form, and of the
interpreters. Christophe had for long shared their dislike: the stupidity
of the actors who delivered these recitations spoken to an instrumental
accompaniment, without bothering about the accompaniment, without trying
to merge their voices in it, rather, on the contrary, trying to prevent
anything being heard but themselves, was calculated to revolt any musical
ear. But since he had tasted the beauty of Corinne's harmonious voice--that
liquid and pure voice which played upon music like a ray of light on water,
which wedded every turn of a melody, which was like the most fluid and most
free singing,--he had caught a glimpse of the beauty of a new art.

Perhaps he was right, but he was still too inexperienced to venture
without peril upon a form which--if it is meant to be beautiful and really
artistic--is the most difficult of all. That art especially demands one
essential condition, the perfect harmony of the combined efforts of the
poet, the musicians, and the actors. Christophe had no tremors about it: he
hurled himself blindly at an unknown art of which the laws were only known
to himself.

His first idea had been to clothe in music a fairy fantasy of Shakespeare
or an act of the second part of _Faust_. But the theaters showed little
disposition to make the experiment. It would be too costly and appeared
absurd. They were quite willing to admit Christophe's efficiency in music,
but that he should take upon himself to have ideas about poetry and the
theater made them smile. They did not take him seriously. The world of
music and the world of poesy were like two foreign and secretly hostile
states. Christophe had to accept the collaboration of a poet to be able to
set foot upon poetic territory, and he was not allowed to choose his own
poet. He would not have dared to choose himself. He did not trust his taste
in poetry. He had been told that he knew nothing about it; and, indeed, he
could not understand the poetry which was admired by those about him. With
his usual honesty and stubbornness, he had tried hard sometimes to feel the
beauty of some of these works, but he had always been bewildered and a
little ashamed of himself. No, decidedly he was not a poet. In truth, he
loved passionately certain old poets, and that consoled him a little. But
no doubt he did not love them as they should be loved. Had he not once
expressed, the ridiculous idea that those poets only are great who remain
great even when they are translated into prose, and even into the prose of
a foreign language, and that words have no value apart from the soul which
they express? His friends had laughed at him. Mannheim had called him a
goose. He did not try to defend himself. As every day he saw, through the
example of writers who talk of music, the absurdity of artists who attempt
to image any art other than their own, he resigned himself--though a little
incredulous at heart--to his incompetence in poetry, and he shut his eyes
and accepted the judgments of those whom he thought were better informed
than himself. So he let his friends of the Review impose one of their
number on him, a great man of a decadent coterie, Stephen von Hellmuth, who
brought him an _Iphigenia_. It was at the time when German poets (like
their colleagues in France) were recasting all the Greek tragedies. Stephen
von Hellmuth's work was one of those astounding Græco-German plays in which
Ibsen, Homer, and Oscar Wilde are compounded--and, of course, a few manuals
of archeology. Agamemnon was neurasthenic and Achilles impotent: they
lamented their condition at length, and naturally their outcries produced
no change. The energy of the drama was concentrated in the rôle of
Iphigenia--a nervous, hysterical, and pedantic Iphigenia, who lectured the
hero, declaimed furiously, laid bare for the audience her Nietzschian
pessimism and, glutted with death, cut her throat, shrieking with laughter.

Nothing could be more contrary to Christophe's mind than such pretentious,
degenerate, Ostrogothic stuff, in Greek dress. It was hailed as a
masterpiece by everybody about him. He was cowardly and was overpersuaded.
In truth, he was bursting with music and thinking much more of his music
than of the text. The text was a new bed into which to let loose the flood
of his passions. He was as far as possible from the state of abnegation and
intelligent impersonality proper to musical translation of a poetic work.
He was thinking only of himself and not at all of the work. He never
thought of adapting himself to it. He was under an illusion: he saw in the
poem something absolutely different from what was actually in it--just as
when he was a child he used to compose in his mind a play entirely
different from that which was upon the stage.

It was not until it came to rehearsal that he saw the real play. One day he
was listening to a scene, and he thought it so stupid that he fancied the
actors must be spoiling it, and went so far as to explain it to them in
the poet's presence; but also to explain it to the poet himself, who was
defending his interpretation. The author refused bluntly to hear him, and
said with some asperity that he thought he knew what he had meant to write.
Christophe would not give in, and maintained that Hellmuth knew nothing
about it. The general merriment told him that he was making himself
ridiculous. He said no more, agreeing that after all it was not he who had
written the poem. Then he saw the appalling emptiness of the play and was
overwhelmed by it: he wondered how he could ever have been persuaded to
try it. He called himself an idiot and tore his hair. He tried in vain to
reassure himself by saying: "You know nothing about it; it is not your
business. Keep to your music." He was so much ashamed of certain idiotic
things in it, of the pretentious pathos, the crying falsity of the words,
the gestures and attitudes, that sometimes, when he was conducting the
orchestra, he hardly had the strength to raise his baton. He wanted to go
and hide in the prompter's box. He was too frank and too little politic to
conceal what he thought. Every one noticed it: his friends, the actors, and
the author. Hellmuth said to him with a frigid smile:

"Is it not fortunate enough to please you?"

Christophe replied honestly:

"Truth to tell, no. I don't understand it,"

"Then you did not read it when you set it to music?"

"Yes," said Christophe naïvely, "but I made a mistake. I understood it
differently."

"It is a pity you did not write what you understood yourself."

"Oh! If only I could have done so!" said Christophe.

The poet was vexed, and in his turn criticised the music. He complained
that it was in the way and prevented his words being heard.

If the poet did not understand the musician, or the musician the poet, the
actors understood neither the one nor the other, and did not care. They
were only asking for sentences in their parts on which to bring in their
usual effects. They had no idea of adapting their declamation to the
formality of the piece and the musical rhythm. They went one way, the
music another. It was as though they were constantly singing out of tune.
Christophe ground his teeth and shouted the note at them until he was
hoarse. They let him shout and went on imperturbably, not even
understanding what he wanted them to do.

Christophe would have flung the whole thing up if the rehearsals had not
been so far advanced, and he had not been bound to go on by fear of legal
proceedings. Mannheim, to whom he confided his discouragement, laughed at
him:

"What is it?" he asked. "It is all going well. You don't understand each
other? What does that matter? Who has ever understood his work but the
author? It is a toss-up whether he understands it himself!"

Christophe was worried about the stupidity of the poem, which, he said,
would ruin the music. Mannheim made no difficulty about admitting that
there was no common sense in the poem and that Hellmuth was "a muff," but
he would not worry about him: Hellmuth gave good dinners and had a pretty
wife. What more did criticism want?

Christophe shrugged his shoulders and said that he had no time to listen to
nonsense.

"It is not nonsense!" said Mannheim, laughing. "How serious people are!
They have no idea of what matters in life."

And he advised Christophe not to bother so much about Hellmuth's business,
but to attend to his own. He wanted him to advertise a little. Christophe
refused indignantly. To a reporter who came and asked for a history of his
life, he replied furiously:

"It is not your affair!"

And when they asked for his photograph for a review, he stamped with rage
and shouted that he was not, thank God! an emperor, to have his face
passed from hand to hand. It was impossible to bring him into touch with
influential people. He never replied to invitations, and when he had been
forced by any chance to accept, he would forget to go or would go with such
a bad grace that he seemed to have set himself to be disagreeable to
everybody.

But the climax came when he quarreled with his review, two days before the
performance.

       *       *       *       *       *

The thing was bound to happen. Mannheim had gone on revising Christophe's
articles, and he no longer scrupled about deleting whole lines of criticism
and replacing them with compliments.

One day, out visiting, Christophe met a certain virtuoso--a foppish pianist
whom he had slaughtered. The man came and thanked him with a smile that
showed all his white teeth. He replied brutally that there was no reason
for it. The other insisted and poured forth expressions of gratitude.
Christophe cut him short by saying, that if he was satisfied with the
article that was his affair, but that the article had certainly not been
written with a view to pleasing him. And he turned his back on him. The
virtuoso thought him a kindly boor and went away laughing. But Christophe
remembered having received a card of thanks from another of his victims,
and a suspicion flashed upon him. He went out, bought the last number of
the Review at a news-stand, turned to his article, and read... At first he
wondered if he were going mad. Then he understood, and, mad with rage, he
ran to the office of the _Dionysos_.

Waldhaus and Mannheim were there, talking to an actress whom they knew.
They had no need to ask Christophe what brought him. Throwing a number of
the Review on the table, Christophe let fly at them without stopping to
take breath, with extraordinary violence, shouting, calling them rogues,
rascals, forgers, thumping on the floor with a chair. Mannheim began to
laugh. Christophe tried to kick him. Mannheim took refuge behind the table
and rolled with laughter. But Waldhaus took it very loftily. With dignity,
formally, he tried to make himself heard through the row, and said that he
would not allow any one to talk to him in such a tone, that Christophe
should hear from him, and he held out his card. Christophe flung it in his
face.

"Mischief-maker!--I don't need your card to know what you are.... You are a
rascal and a forger!... And you think I would fight with you ... a
thrashing is all you deserve!..."

His voice could be heard in the street. People stopped to listen. Mannheim
closed the windows. The actress tried to escape, but Christophe was
blocking the way. Waldhaus was pale and choking. Mannheim was stuttering
and stammering and trying to reply. Christophe did not let them speak. He
let loose upon them every expression he could think of, and never stopped
until he was out of breath and had come to an end of his insults. Waldhaus
and Mannheim only found their tongues after he had gone. Mannheim quickly
recovered himself: insults slipped from him like water from a duck's back.
But Waldhaus was still sore: his dignity had been outraged, and what made
the affront more mortifying was that there had been witnesses. He would
never forgive it. His colleagues joined chorus with him. Mannheim only of
the staff of the Review was not angry with Christophe. He had had his fill
of entertainment out of him: it did not seem to him a heavy price to pay
for his pound of flesh, to suffer a few violent words. It had been a good
joke. If he had been the butt of it he would have been the first to laugh.
And so he was quite ready to shake hands with Christophe as though nothing
had happened. But Christophe was more rancorous and rejected all advances.
Mannheim did not care. Christophe was a toy from which he had extracted all
the amusement possible. He was beginning to want a new puppet. From that
very day all was over between them. But that did not prevent Mannheim still
saying, whenever Christophe was mentioned in his presence, that they were
intimate friends. And perhaps he thought they were.

Two days after the quarrel the first performance of _Iphigenia_ took place.
It was an utter failure. Waldhaus' review praised the poem and made no
mention of the music. The other papers and reviews made merry over it. They
laughed and hissed. The piece was withdrawn after the third performance,
but the jokes at its expense did not disappear so quickly. People were
only too glad of the opportunity of having a fling at Christophe, and for
several weeks the _Iphigenia_ remained an unfailing subject for joking.
They knew that Christophe had no weapon of defense, and they took advantage
of it. The only thing which held them back a little was his position at the
Court. Although his relation with the Grand Duke had become quite cold, for
the Prince had several times made remarks to which he had paid no attention
whatever, he still went to the Palace at intervals, and still enjoyed, in
the eye of the public, a sort of official protection, though it was more
visionary than real. He took upon himself to destroy even that last
support.

He suffered from the criticisms. They were concerned not only with his
music, but also with his idea of a new form of art, which the writers did
not take the trouble to understand. It was very easy to travesty it and
make fun of it. Christophe was not yet wise enough to know that the best
reply to dishonest critics is to make none and to go on working. For some
months past he had fallen into the bad habit of not letting any unjust
attack go unanswered. He wrote an article in which he did not spare certain
of his adversaries. The two papers to which he took it returned it with
ironically polite excuses for being unable to publish it. Christophe stuck
to his guns. He remembered that the socialist paper in the town had made
advances to him. He knew one of the editors. They used to meet and talk
occasionally. Christophe was glad to find some one who would talk freely
about power, the army and oppression and archaic prejudices. But they could
not go far with each other, for the socialist always came back to Karl
Marx, about whom Christophe cared not a rap. Moreover, Christophe used to
find in his speeches about the free man--besides a materialism which was
not much to his taste--a pedantic severity and a despotism of thought, a
secret cult of force, an inverse militarism, all of which did not sound
very different from what he heard every day in German.

However, he thought of this man and his paper when he saw all other doors
in journalism closed to him. He knew that his doing so would cause a
scandal. The paper was violent, malignant, and always being condemned. But
as Christophe never read it, he only thought of the boldness of its ideas,
of which he was not afraid, and not of the baseness of its tone, which
would have repelled him. Besides, he was so angry at seeing the other
papers in alliance to suppress him that perhaps he would have gone on even
if he had been warned. He wanted to show people that he was not so easily
got rid of. So he took his article to the socialist paper, which received
it with open arms. The next day the article appeared, and the paper
announced in large letters that it had engaged the support of the young and
talented maestro, Jean-Christophe Krafft, whose keen sympathy with the
demands of the working classes was well known.

Christophe read neither the note nor the article, for he had gone out
before dawn for a walk in the country, it being Sunday. He was in fine
fettle. As he saw the sun rise he shouted, laughed, yodeled, leaped, and
danced. No more review, no more criticisms to do! It was spring and there
was once more the music of the heavens and the earth, the most beautiful
of all. No more dark concert rooms, stuffy and smelly, unpleasant people,
dull performers. Now the marvelous song of the murmuring forests was to be
heard, and over the fields like waves there passed the intoxicating scents
of life, breaking through the crust of the earth and issuing from the
grave.

He went home with his head buzzing with light and music, and his mother
gave him a letter which had been brought from the Palace while he was away.
The letter was in an impersonal form, and told Herr Krafft that he was to
go to the Palace that morning. The morning was past, it was nearly one
o'clock. Christophe was not put about.

"It is too late now," he said. "It will do to-morrow."

But his mother said anxiously:

"No, no. You cannot put off an appointment with His Highness like that: you
must go at once. Perhaps it is a matter of importance."

Christophe shrugged his shoulders.

"Important! As if those people could have anything important to say!...
He wants to tell me his ideas about music. That will be funny!... If only
he has not taken it into his head to rival Siegfried Meyer [Footnote: A
nickname given by German pamphleteers to H.M. (His Majesty) the Emperor.]
and wants to show me a _Hymn to Aegis_! I vow that I will not spare him.
I shall say: 'Stick to politics. You are master there. You will always
be right. But beware of art! In art you are seen without your plumes,
your helmet, your uniform, your money, your titles, your ancestors, your
policemen--and just think for a moment what will be left of you then!'"

Poor Louisa took him quite seriously and raised her hands in horror.

"You won't say that!... You are mad! Mad!"

It amused him to make her uneasy by playing upon her credulity until he
became so extravagant that Louisa began to see that he was making fun of
her.

"You are stupid, my boy!"

He laughed and kissed her. He was in a wonderfully good humor. On his walk
he had found a beautiful musical theme, and he felt it frolicking in him
like a fish in water. He refused to go to the Palace until he had had
something to eat. He was as hungry as an ape. Louisa then supervised his
dressing, for he was beginning to tease her again, pretending that he
was quite all right as he was with his old clothes and dusty boots. But
he changed them all the same, and cleaned his boots, whistling like a
blackbird and imitating all the instruments in an orchestra. When he
had finished his mother inspected him and gravely tied his tie for him
again. For once in a way he was very patient, because he was pleased with
himself--which was not very usual. He went off saying that he was going to
elope with Princess Adelaide--the Grand Duke's daughter, quite a pretty
woman, who was married to a German princeling and had come to stay with her
parents for a few weeks. She had shown sympathy for Christophe when he was
a child, and he had a soft side for her. Louisa used to declare that he was
in love with her, and he would pretend to be so in fun.

He did not hurry; he dawdled and looked into the shops, and stopped to
pat some dog that he knew as it lay on its side and yawned in the sun.
He jumped over the harmless railings which inclosed the Palace square--a
great empty square, surrounded with houses, with two little fountains, two
symmetrical bare flower-beds, divided, as by a parting, by a gravel path,
carefully raked and bordered by orange trees in tubs. In the middle was
the bronze statue of some unknown Grand Duke in the costume of Louis
Philippe, on a pediment adorned at the four corners by allegorical figures
representing the Virtues. On a seat one solitary man was dozing over his
paper. Behind the silly moat of the earthworks of the Palace two sleepy
cannon yawned upon the sleepy town. Christophe laughed at the whole thing.

He entered the Palace without troubling to take on a more official manner.
At most he stopped humming, but his thoughts went dancing on inside him. He
threw his hat on the table in the hall and familiarly greeted the old
usher, whom he had known since he was a child. (The old man had been there
on the day when Christophe had first entered the Palace, on the evening
when he had seen Hassler.) But to-day the old man, who always used to reply
good-humoredly to Christophe's disrespectful sallies, now seemed a little
haughty. Christophe paid no heed to it. A little farther on, in the
ante-chamber, he met a clerk of the chancery, who was usually full of
conversation and very friendly. He was surprised to see him hurry past him
to avoid having to talk. However, he did not attach any significance to it,
and went on and asked to be shown in.

He went in. They had just finished dinner. His Highness was in one of the
drawing-rooms. He was leaning against the mantelpiece, smoking, and talking
to his guests, among whom Christophe saw _his_ princess, who was also
smoking. She was lying back in an armchair and talking in a loud voice to
some officers who made a circle about her. The gathering was lively. They
were all very merry, and when Christophe entered he heard the Grand Duke's
thick laugh. But he stopped dead when he saw Christophe. He growled and
pounced on him.

"Ah! There you are!" he said. "You have condescended to come at last? Do
you think you can go on making fun of me any longer? You're a blackguard,
sir!"

Christophe was so staggered by this brutal attack that it was some time
before he could utter a word. He was thinking that he was only late, and
that that could not have provoked such violence. He murmured:

"What have I done, Your Highness?"

His Highness did not listen and went on angrily:

"Be silent! I will not be insulted by a blackguard!" Christophe turned
pale, and gulped so as to try to speak, for he was choking. He made an
effort, and said:

"Your Highness, you have no right--you have no right to insult me without
telling me what I have done."

The Grand Duke turned to his secretary, who produced a paper from his
pocket and held it out to him. He was in such a state of exasperation as
could not be explained only by his anger: the fumes of good wine had their
share in it, too. He came and stood in front of Christophe, and like a
toreador with his cape, furiously waved the crumpled newspaper in his face
and shouted:

"Your muck, sir!... You deserve to have your nose rubbed in it!"

Christophe recognized the socialist paper.

"I don't see what harm there is in it," he said.

"What! What!" screamed the Grand Duke. "You are impudent!... This rascally
paper, which insults me from day to day, and spews out filthy insults upon
me!..."

"Sire," said Christophe, "I have not read it."

"You lie!" shouted the Grand Duke.

"You shall not call me a liar," said Christophe. "I have not read it. I am
only concerned with reviews, and besides, I have the right to write in
whatever paper I like."

"You have no right but to hold your tongue. I have been too kind to you. I
have heaped kindness upon you, you and yours, in spite of your misconduct
and your father's, which would have justified me in cutting you off. I
forbid you to go on writing in a paper which is hostile to me. And further:
I forbid you altogether to write anything in future without my authority.
I have had enough of your musical polemics. I will not allow any one who
enjoys my patronage to spend his time in attacking everything which is dear
to people of taste and feeling, to all true Germans. You would do better to
write better music, or if that is impossible, to practise your scales and
exercises. I don't want to have anything to do with a musical Bebel who
amuses himself by decrying all our national glories and upsetting the minds
of the people. We know what is good, thank God. We do not need to wait for
you to tell us. Go to your piano, sir, or leave us in peace!"

Standing face to face with Christophe the fat man glared at him
insultingly. Christophe was livid, and tried to speak. His lips moved; he
stammered:

"I am not your slave. I shall say what I like and write what I like ..."

He choked. He was almost weeping with shame and rage. His legs were
trembling. He jerked his elbow and upset an ornament on a table by his
side. He felt that he was in a ridiculous position. He heard people
laughing. He looked down the room, and as through a mist saw the princess
watching the scene and exchanging ironically commiserating remarks with her
neighbors. He lost count of what exactly happened. The Grand Duke shouted.
Christophe shouted louder than he without knowing what he said. The
Prince's secretary and another official came towards him and tried to stop
him. He pushed them away, and while he talked he waved an ash-tray which he
had mechanically picked up from the table against which he was leaning. He
heard the secretary say:

"Put it down! Put it down!"

And he heard himself shouting inarticulately and knocking on the edge of
the table with the ash-tray.

"Go!" roared the Grand Duke, beside himself with rage. "Go! Go! I'll have
you thrown out!"

The officers had come up to the Prince and were trying to calm him. The
Grand Duke looked apoplectic. His eyes were starting from his head, he
shouted to them to throw the rascal out. Christophe saw red. He longed to
thrust his fist in the Grand Duke's face; but he was crushed under a weight
of conflicting feelings: shame, fury, a remnant of shyness, of German
loyalty, traditional respect, habits of humility in the Prince's presence.
He tried to speak; he could not. He tried to move; he could not. He could
not see or hear. He suffered them to push him along and left the room.

He passed through the impassive servants who had come up to the door, and
had missed nothing of the quarrel. He had to go thirty yards to cross the
ante-chamber, and it seemed a lifetime. The corridor grew longer and longer
as he walked up it. He would never get out!... The light of day which
he saw shining downstairs through the glass door was his haven. He went
stumbling down the stairs. He forgot that he was bareheaded. The old usher
reminded him to take his hat. He had to gather all his forces to leave the
castle, cross the court, reach his home. His teeth were chattering when he
opened the door. His mother was terrified by his face and his trembling. He
avoided her and refused to answer her questions. He went up to his room,
shut himself in, and lay down. He was shaking so that he could not undress.
His breathing came in jerks and his whole body seemed shattered.... Oh! If
only he could see no more, feel no more, no longer have to bear with his
wretched body, no longer have to struggle against ignoble life, and fall,
fall, breathless, without thought, and no longer be anywhere!... With
frightful difficulty he tore off his clothes and left them on the ground,
and then flung himself into his bed and drew the coverings over him. There
was no sound in the room save that of the little iron bed rattling on the
tiled floor.

Louisa listened at the door. She knocked in vain. She called softly. There
was no reply. She waited, anxiously listening through the silence. Then she
went away. Once or twice during the day she came and listened, and again
at night, before she went to bed. Day passed, and the night. The house was
still. Christophe was shaking with fever. Every now and then he wept, and
in the night he got up several times and shook his fist at the wall. About
two o'clock, in an access of madness, he got up from his bed, sweating and
half naked. He wanted to go and kill the Grand Duke, He was devoured by
hate and shame. His body and his heart writhed in the fire of it. Nothing
of all the storm in him could be heard outside; not a word, not a sound.
With clenched teeth he fought it down and forced it back into himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning he came down as usual. He was a wreck. He said nothing and his
mother dared not question him. She knew, from the gossip of the
neighborhood. All day he stayed sitting by the fire, silent, feverish, and
with bent head, like a little old man. And when he was alone he wept in
silence.

In the evening the editor of the socialist paper came to see him. Naturally
he had heard and wished to have details. Christophe was touched by his
coming, and interpreted it naïvely as a mark of sympathy and a desire for
forgiveness on the part of those who had compromised him. He made a point
of seeming to regret nothing and he let himself go and said everything that
was rankling in him. It was some solace for him to talk freely to a man
who shared his hatred of oppression. The other urged him on. He saw a good
chance for his journal in the event, and an opportunity for a scandalous
article, for which he expected Christophe to provide him with material if
he did not write it himself; for he thought that after such an explosion
the Court musician would put his very considerable political talents and
his no less considerable little tit-bits of secret information about the
Court at the service of "the cause." As he did not plume himself on his
subtlety he presented the thing rawly in the crudest light. Christophe
started. He declared that he would write nothing and said that any attack
on the Grand Duke that he might make would be interpreted as an act of
personal vengeance, and that he would be more reserved now that he was free
than when, not being free, he ran some risk in saying what he thought. The
journalist could not understand his scruples. He thought Christophe narrow
and clerical at heart, but he also decided that Christophe was afraid. He
said:

"Oh, well! Leave it to us. I will write it myself. You need not bother
about it."

Christophe begged him to say nothing, but he had no means of restraining
him. Besides, the journalist declared that the affair was not his concern
only: the insult touched the paper, which had the right to avenge itself.
There was nothing to be said to that. All that Christophe could do was to
ask him on his word of honor not to abuse certain of his confidences which
had been made to his friend and not to the journalist. The other made no
difficulty about that. Christophe was not reassured by it. He knew too well
how imprudent he had been. When he was left alone he turned over everything
that he had said, and shuddered. Without hesitating for a moment, he wrote
to the journalist imploring him once more not to repeat what he had
confided to him. (The poor wretch repeated it in part himself in the
letter.)

Next day, as he opened the paper with feverish haste, the first thing he
read was his story at great length on the front page. Everything that he
had said on the evening before was immeasurably enlarged, having suffered
that peculiar deformation which everything has to suffer in its passage
through the mind of a journalist. The article attacked the Grand Duke and
the Court with low invective. Certain details which it gave were too
personal to Christophe, too obviously known only to him, for the article
not to be attributed to him in its entirety.

Christophe was crushed by this fresh blow. As he read a cold sweat came out
on his face. When he had finished he was dumfounded. He wanted to rush to
the office of the paper, but his mother withheld him, not unreasonably
being fearful of his violence. He was afraid of it himself. He felt that if
he went there he would do something foolish; and he stayed--and did a very
foolish thing. He wrote an indignant letter to the journalist in which he
reproached him for his conduct in insulting terms, disclaimed the article,
and broke with the party. The disclaimer did not appear.

Christophe wrote again to the paper, demanding that his letter should be
published. They sent him a copy of his first letter, written on the night
of the interview and confirming it. They asked if they were to publish
that, too. He felt that he was in their hands. Thereupon he unfortunately
met the indiscreet interviewer in the street. He could not help telling
him of his contempt for him. Next day the paper, without a spark of shame,
published an insulting paragraph about the servants of the Court, who even
when they are dismissed remain servants and are incapable of being free. A
few allusions to recent events left no room for doubt that Christophe was
meant.

       *       *       *       *       *

When it became evident to everybody that Christophe had no single support,
there suddenly cropped up a host of enemies whose existence he had never
suspected. All those whom he had offended, directly or indirectly, either
by personal criticism or by attacking their ideas and taste, now took the
offensive and avenged themselves with interest. The general public whom
Christophe had tried to shake out of their apathy were quite pleased to see
the insolent young man, who had presumed to reform opinion and disturb the
rest of people of property, taken down a peg. Christophe was in the water.
Everybody did their best to duck him.

They did not come down upon him all at once. One tried first, to spy out
the land. Christophe made no response, and he struck more lustily. Others
followed, and then the whole gang of them. Some joined in the sport
simply for fun, like puppies who think it funny to leave their mark in
inappropriate places. They were the flying squadron of incompetent
journalists, who, knowing nothing, try to hide their ignorance by belauding
the victors and belaboring the vanquished. Others brought the weight of
their principles and they shouted like deaf people. Nothing was left of
anything when they had passed. They were the critics--with the criticism
which kills.

Fortunately for Christophe, he did not read the papers. A few devoted
friends took care to send him the most insulting. But he left them in a
heap on his desk and never thought of opening them. It was only towards
the end of it that his eyes were attracted by a great red mark round an
article. He read that his _Lieder_ were like the roaring of a wild beast;
that his symphonies seemed to have come from a madhouse; that his art was
hysterical, his harmony spasmodic, as a change from the dryness of his
heart and the emptiness of his thought. The critic, who was well known,
ended with these words:

"Herr Krafft as a journalist has lately given astounding proof of his style
and taste, which roused irresistible merriment in musical circles. He was
then given the friendly advice rather to devote himself to composition. But
the latest products of his muse have shown that this advice, though
well-meant, was bad. Herr Krafft should certainly devote himself to
journalism."

After reading the article, which prevented Christophe working the whole
morning, naturally he began to look for the other hostile papers, and
became utterly demoralized. But Louisa, who had a mania for moving
everything lying about, by way of "tidying up," had already burned them. He
was irritated at first and then comforted, and he held out the last of the
papers to her, and said that she had better do the same with that.

Other rebuffs hurt him more. A quartette which he had sent in manuscript
to a well-known society at Frankfort was rejected unanimously and returned
without explanation. An overture which an orchestra at Cologne seemed
disposed to perform was returned after a month as unplayable. But the worst
of all was inflicted on him by an orchestral society in the town. The
_Kapellmeister_, H. Euphrat, its conductor, was quite a good musician, but
like many conductors, he had no curiosity of mind. He suffered (or rather
he carried to extremes) the laziness peculiar to his class, which consists
in going on and on investigating familiar works, while it shuns any really
new work like the plague. He was never tired of organizing Beethoven,
Mozart, or Schumann festivals: in conducting these works he had only to let
himself be carried along by the purring of the familiar rhythms. On the
other hand, contemporary music was intolerable to him. He dared not admit
it and pretended to be friendly towards young talent; in fact, whenever he
was brought a work built on the old lines--a sort of hotch-potch of works
that had been new fifty years before--he would receive it very well, and
would even produce it ostentatiously and force it upon the public. It
did not disturb either his effects or the way in which the public was
accustomed to be moved. On the other hand, he was filled with a mixture
of contempt and hatred for anything which threatened to disturb that
arrangement and put him to extra trouble. Contempt would predominate if the
innovator had no chance of emerging from obscurity. But if there were any
danger of his succeeding, then hatred would predominate--of course until
the moment when he had gained an established success.

Christophe was not yet in that position: far from it. And so he was much
surprised when he was informed, by indirect overtures, that Herr H. Euphrat
would be very glad to produce one of his compositions. It was all the more
unexpected as he knew that the _Kapellmeister_ was an intimate friend of
Brahms and others whom he had maltreated in his criticisms. Being honest
himself, he credited his adversaries with the same generous feelings which
he would have had himself. He supposed that now that he was down they
wished to show him that they were above petty spite. He was touched by it.
He wrote effusively to Herr Euphrat and sent him a symphonic poem. The
conductor replied through his secretary coldly but politely, acknowledg