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Title: Jean-Christophe in Paris: The Market-Place, Antoinette, the House
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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In Paris

The Market-Place, Antoinette, The House

by Romain Rolland

Translated by Gilbert Cannan







Disorder in order. Untidy officials offhanded in manner. Travelers
protesting against the rules and regulations, to which they submitted all
the same. Christophe was in France. After having satisfied the curiosity of
the customs, he took his seat again in the train for Paris. Night was over
the fields that were soaked with the rain. The hard lights of the stations
accentuated the sadness of the interminable plain buried in darkness.
The trains, more and more numerous, that passed, rent the air with their
shrieking whistles, which broke upon the torpor of the sleeping passengers.
The train was nearing Paris.

Christophe was ready to get out an hour before they ran in; he had jammed
his hat down on his head; he had buttoned his coat up to his neck for fear
of the robbers, with whom he had been told Paris was infested; twenty times
he had got up and sat down; twenty times he had moved his bag from the
rack to the seat, from the seat to the rack, to the exasperation of his
fellow-passengers, against whom he knocked, every time with his usual

Just as they were about to run into the station the train suddenly stopped
in the darkness. Christophe flattened his nose against the window and tried
vainly to look out. He turned towards his fellow-travelers, hoping to find
a friendly glance which would encourage him to ask where they were. But
they were all asleep or pretending to be so: they were bored and scowling:
not one of them made any attempt to discover why they had stopped.
Christophe was surprised by their indifference: these stiff, somnolent
creatures were so utterly unlike the French of his imagination! At last he
sat down, discouraged, on his bag, rocking with every jolt of the train,
and in his turn he was just dozing off when he was roused by the noise of
the doors being opened.... Paris!... His fellow-travelers were already
getting out.

Jostling and jostled, he walked towards the exit of the station, refusing
the porter who offered to carry his bag. With a peasant's suspiciousness he
thought every one was going to rob him. He lifted his precious bag on to
his shoulder and walked straight ahead, indifferent to the curses of the
people as he forced his way through them. At last he found himself in the
greasy streets of Paris.

He was too much taken up with the business in hand, the finding of
lodgings, and too weary of the whirl of carriages into which he was swept,
to think of looking at anything. The first thing was to look for a room.
There was no lack of hotels: the station was surrounded with them on all
sides: their names were flaring in gas letters. Christophe wanted to find
a less dazzling place than any of these: none of them seemed to him to
be humble enough for his purse. At last in a side street he saw a dirty
inn with a cheap eating-house on the ground floor. It was called _Hôtel
de la Civilisation_. A fat man in his shirt-sleeves was sitting smoking
at a table: he hurried forward as he saw Christophe enter. He could not
understand a word of his jargon: but at the first glance he marked and
judged the awkward childish German, who refused to let his bag out of his
hands, and struggled hard to make himself understood in an incredible
language. He took him up an evil-smelling staircase to an airless room
which opened on to a closed court. He vaunted the quietness of the room, to
which no noise from outside could penetrate: and he asked a good price for
it. Christophe only half understood him; knowing nothing of the conditions
of life in Paris, and with his shoulder aching with the weight of his
bag, he accepted everything: he was, eager to be alone. But hardly was he
left alone when he was struck by the dirtiness of it all: and to avoid
succumbing to the melancholy which was creeping over him, he went out again
very soon after having dipped his face in the dusty water, which was greasy
to the touch. He tried hard not to see and not to feel, so as to escape

He went down into the street. The October mist was thick and keenly cold:
it had that stale Parisian smell, in which are mingled the exhalations of
the factories of the outskirts and the heavy breath of the town. He could
not see ten yards in front of him. The light of the gas-jets flickered like
a candle on the point of going out. In the semi-darkness there were crowds
of people moving in all directions. Carriages moved in front of each other,
collided, obstructed the road, stemming the flood of people like a dam. The
oaths of the drivers, the horns and bells of the trams, made a deafening
noise. The roar, the clamor, the smell of it all, struck fearfully on the
mind and heart of Christophe. He stopped for a moment, but was at once
swept on by the people behind him and borne on by the current. He went down
the _Boulevard de Strasbourg_, seeing nothing, bumping awkwardly into the
passers-by. He had eaten nothing since morning. The cafés, which he found
at every turn, abashed and revolted him, for they were all so crowded. He
applied to a policeman; but he was so slow in finding words that the man
did not even take the trouble to hear him out, and turned his back on him
in the middle of a sentence and shrugged his shoulders. He went on walking
mechanically. There was a small crowd in front of a shop-window. He
stopped mechanically. It was a photograph and picture-postcard shop: there
were pictures of girls in chemises, or without them: illustrated papers
displayed obscene jests. Children and young girls were looking at them
calmly. There was a slim girl with red hair who saw Christophe lost in
contemplation and accosted him. He looked at her and did not understand.
She took his arm with a silly smile. He shook her off, and rushed away,
blushing angrily. There were rows of café concerts: outside the doors were
displayed grotesque pictures of the comedians. The crowd grew thicker and
thicker. Christophe was struck by the number of vicious faces, prowling
rascals, vile beggars, painted women sickeningly scented. He was frozen by
it all. Weariness, weakness, and the horrible feeling of nausea, which more
and more came over him, turned him sick and giddy. He set his teeth and
walked on more quickly. The fog grew denser as he approached the Seine.
The whirl of carriages became bewildering. A horse slipped and fell on its
side: the driver flogged it to make it get up: the wretched beast, held
down by its harness, struggled and fell down again, and lay still as though
it were dead. The sight of it--common enough--was the last drop that
made the wretchedness that filled the soul of Christophe flow over. The
miserable struggles of the poor beast, surrounded by indifferent and
careless faces, made him feel bitterly his own insignificance among these
thousands of men and women--the feeling of revulsion, which for the last
hour had been choking him, his disgust with all these human beasts, with
the unclean atmosphere, with the morally repugnant people, burst forth in
him with such violence that he could not breathe. He burst into tears. The
passers-by looked in amazement at the tall young man whose face was twisted
with grief. He strode along with the tears running down his cheeks, and
made no attempt to dry them. People stopped to look at him for a moment:
and if he had been able to read the soul of the mob, which seemed to him
to be so hostile, perhaps in some of them he might have seen--mingled, no
doubt, with a little of the ironic feeling of the Parisians for any sorrow
so simple and ridiculous as to show itself--pity and brotherhood. But he
saw nothing: his tears blinded him.

He found himself in a square, near a large fountain. He bathed his hands
and dipped his face in it. A little news-vendor watched him curiously and
passed comment on him, waggishly though not maliciously: and he picked up
his hat for him--Christophe had let it fall. The icy coldness of the water
revived Christophe. He plucked up courage again. He retraced his steps, but
did not look about him: he did not even think of eating: it would have been
impossible for him to speak to anybody: it needed the merest trifle to set
him off weeping again. He was worn out. He lost his way, and wandered about
aimlessly until he found himself in front of his hotel, just when he had
made up his mind that he was lost. He had forgotten even the name of the
street in which he lodged.

He went up to his horrible room. He was empty, and his eyes were burning:
he was aching body and soul as he sank down into a chair in the corner of
the room: he stayed like that for a couple of hours and could not stir. At
last he wrenched himself out of his apathy and went to bed. He fell into
a fevered slumber, from which he awoke every few minutes, feeling that he
had been asleep for hours. The room was stifling: he was burning from head
to foot: he was horribly thirsty: he suffered from ridiculous nightmares,
which clung to him even after he had opened his eyes: sharp pains thudded
in him like the blows of a hammer. In the middle of the night he awoke,
overwhelmed by despair, so profound that he all but cried out: he stuffed
the bedclothes into his mouth so as not to be heard: he felt that he was
going mad. He sat up in bed, and struck a light. He was bathed in sweat. He
got up, opened his bag to look for a handkerchief. He laid his hand on an
old Bible, which his mother had hidden in his linen. Christophe had never
read much of the Book: but it was a comfort beyond words for him to find
it at that moment. The Bible had belonged to his grandfather and to his
grandfather's father. The heads of the family had inscribed on a blank page
at the end their names and the important dates of their lives--births,
marriages, deaths. His grandfather had written in pencil, in his large
hand, the dates when he had read and re-read each chapter: the Book was
full of tags of yellowed paper, on which the old man had jotted down his
simple thoughts. The Book used to rest on a shelf above his bed, and he
used often to take it down during the long, sleepless nights and hold
converse with it rather than read it. It had been with him to the hour
of his death, as it had been with his father. A century of the joys and
sorrows of the family was breathed forth from the pages of the Book.
Holding it in his hands, Christophe felt less lonely.

He opened it at the most somber words of all:

_Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? Are not his days also
like the days of an hireling?

When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise and the night be gone? and I am
full of tossings to and fro unto the dawn of the day.

When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint,
then Thou searest me with dreams and terrifiest me through visions.... How
long wilt Thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my
spittle? I have sinned; what shall I do unto Thee, O Thou preserver of men?

Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him._

All greatness is good, and the height of sorrow tops deliverance. What
casts down and overwhelms and blasts the soul beyond all hope is mediocrity
in sorrow and joy, selfish and niggardly suffering that has not the
strength to be rid of the lost pleasure, and in secret lends itself to
every sort of degradation to steal pleasure anew. Christophe was braced up
by the bitter savor that he found in the old Book: the wind of Sinai coming
from vast and lonely spaces and the mighty sea to sweep away the steamy
vapors. The fever in Christophe subsided. He was calm again, and lay down
and slept peacefully until the morrow. When he opened his eyes again it was
day. More acutely than ever he was conscious of the horror of his room: he
felt his loneliness and wretchedness: but he faced them. He was no longer
disheartened: he was left only with a sturdy melancholy. He read over now
the words of Job:

_Even though God slay me yet would I trust in Him._

He got up. He was ready calmly to face the fight.

He made up his mind there and then to set to work. He knew only two people
in Paris: two young fellow-countrymen: his old friend Otto Diener, who was
in the office of his uncle, a cloth merchant in the _Mail_ quarter: and a
young Jew from Mainz, Sylvain Kohn, who had a post in a great publishing
house, the address of which Christophe did not know.

He had been very intimate with Diener when he was fourteen or fifteen.
He had had for him one of those childish friendships which precede love,
and are themselves a sort of love. [Footnote: See _Jean-Christophe_--I:
"The Morning."] Diener had loved him too. The shy, reserved boy had been
attracted by Christophe's gusty independence: he had tried hard to imitate
him, quite ridiculously: that had both irritated and flattered Christophe.
Then they had made plans for the overturning of the world. In the end
Diener had gone abroad for his education in business, and they did not see
each other again: but Christophe had news of him from time to time from the
people in the town with whom Diener remained on friendly terms.

As for Sylvain Kohn, his relation with Christophe had been of another kind
altogether. They had been at school together, where the young monkey had
played many pranks on Christophe, who thrashed him for it when he saw
the trap into which he had fallen. Kohn did not put up a fight: he let
Christophe knock him down and rub his face in the dust, while he howled;
but he would begin again at once with a malice that never tired--until the
day when he became really afraid, Christophe having seriously threatened to
kill him.

Christophe went out early. He stopped to breakfast at a café. In spite
of his self-consciousness, he forced himself to lose no opportunity of
speaking French. Since he had to live in Paris, perhaps for years, he had
better adapt himself as quickly as possible to the conditions of life
there, and overcome his repugnance. So he forced himself, although he
suffered horribly, to take no notice of the sly looks of the waiter as
he listened to his horrible lingo. He was not discouraged, and went on
obstinately constructing ponderous, formless sentences and repeating them
until he was understood.

He set out to look for Diener. As usual, when he had an idea in his head,
he saw nothing of what was going on about him. During that first walk his
only impression of Paris was that of an old and ill-kept town. Christophe
was accustomed to the towns of the new German Empire, that were both very
old and very young, towns in which there is expressed a new birth of pride:
and he was unpleasantly surprised by the shabby streets, the muddy roads,
the hustling people, the confused traffic--vehicles of every sort and
shape: venerable horse omnibuses, steam trams, electric trams, all sorts
of trams--booths on the pavements, merry-go-rounds of wooden horses (or
monsters and gargoyles) in the squares that were choked up with statues of
gentlemen in frock-coats: all sorts of relics of a town of the Middle Ages
endowed with the privilege of universal suffrage, but quite incapable of
breaking free from its old vagabond existence. The fog of the preceding day
had turned to a light, soaking rain. In many of the shops the gas was lit,
although it was past ten o'clock.

Christophe lost his way in the labyrinth of streets round the _Place des
Victoires_, but eventually found the shop he was looking for in the _Rue
de la Banque_. As he entered he thought he saw Diener at the back of the
long, dark shop, arranging packages of goods, together with some of the
assistants. But he was a little short-sighted, and could not trust his
eyes, although it was very rarely that they deceived him. There was a
general movement among the people at the back of the shop when Christophe
gave his name to the clerk who approached him: and after a confabulation a
young man stepped forward from the group, and said in German:

"Herr Diener is out."

"Out? For long?"

"I think so. He has just gone."

Christophe thought for a moment; then he said:

"Very well. I will wait."

The clerk was taken aback, and hastened to add:

"But he won't be back before two or three."

"Oh! That's nothing," replied Christophe calmly. "I haven't anything to do
in Paris. I can wait all day if need be."

The young man looked at him in amazement, and thought he was joking. But
Christophe had forgotten him already. He sat down quietly in a corner, with
his back turned towards the street: and it looked as though he intended to
stay there.

The clerk went back to the end of the shop and whispered to his colleagues:
they were most comically distressed, and cast about for some means of
getting rid of the insistent Christophe.

After a few uneasy moments, the door of the office was opened and Herr
Diener appeared. He had a large red face, marked with a purple scar down
his cheek and chin, a fair mustache, smooth hair, parted on one side, a
gold-rimmed eyeglass, gold studs in his shirt-front, and rings on his
fat fingers. He had his hat and an umbrella in his hands. He came up to
Christophe in a nonchalant manner. Christophe, who was dreaming as he sat,
started with surprise. He seized Diener's hands, and shouted with a noisy
heartiness that made the assistants titter and Diener blush. That majestic
personage had his reasons for not wishing to resume his former relationship
with Christophe: and he had made up his mind from the first to keep him at
a distance by a haughty manner. But he had no sooner come face to face with
Christophe than he felt like a little boy again in his presence: he was
furious and ashamed. He muttered hurriedly:

"In my office.... We shall be able to talk better there."

Christophe recognized Diener's habitual prudence.

But when they were in the office and the door was shut, Diener showed no
eagerness to offer him a chair. He remained standing, making clumsy

"Very glad.... I was just going out.... They thought I had gone.... But I
must go ... I have only a minute ... a pressing appointment...."

Christophe understood that the clerk had lied to him, and that the lie
had been arranged by Diener to get rid of him. His blood boiled: but he
controlled himself, and said dryly:

"There is no hurry."

Diener drew himself up. He was shocked by such off-handedness.

"What!" he said. "No hurry! In business..." Christophe looked him in the


Diener looked away. He hated Christophe for having so put him to shame. He
murmured irritably. Christophe cut him short:

"Come," he said. "You know..."

(He used the "_Du_," which maddened Diener, who from the first had been
vainly trying to set up between Christophe and himself the barrier of the

"You know why I am here?"

"Yes," said Diener. "I know."

(He had heard of Christophe's escapade, and the warrant out against him,
from his friends.)

"Then," Christophe went on, "you know that I am not here for fun. I have
had to fly. I have nothing. I must live."

Diener was waiting for that, for the request. He took it with a mixture of
satisfaction--(for it made it possible for him to feel his superiority over
Christophe)--and embarrassment--(for he dared not make Christophe feel his
superiority as much as he would have liked).

"Ah!" he said pompously. "It is very tiresome, very tiresome. Life here
is hard. Everything is so dear. We have enormous expenses. And all these

Christophe cut him short contemptuously:

"I am not asking you for money."

Diener was abashed. Christophe went on:

"Is your business doing well? Have you many customers?"

"Yes. Yes. Not bad, thank God!..." said Diener cautiously. (He was on his

Christophe darted a look of fury at him, and went on:

"You know many people in the German colony?"


"Very well: speak for me. They must be musical. They have children. I will
give them lessons."

Diener was embarrassed at that.

"What is it?" asked Christophe. "Do you think I'm not competent to do the

He was asking a service as though it were he who was rendering it. Diener,
who would not have done a thing for Christophe except for the sake of
putting him under an obligation, was resolved not to stir a finger for him.

"It isn't that. You're a thousand times too good for it. Only..."

"What, then?"

"Well, you see, it's very difficult--very difficult--on account of your

"My position?"

"Yes.... You see, that affair, the warrant.... If that were to be known....
It is difficult for me. It might do me harm."

He stopped as he saw Christophe's face go hot with anger: and he added

"Not on my own account.... I'm not afraid.... Ah! If I were alone!... But
my uncle ... you know, the business is his. I can do nothing without

He grew more and more alarmed at Christophe's expression, and at the
thought of the gathering explosion he said hurriedly--(he was not a bad
fellow at bottom: avarice and vanity were struggling in him: he would have
liked to help Christophe, at a price):

"Can I lend you fifty francs?"

Christophe went crimson. He went up to Diener, who stepped back hurriedly
to the door and opened it, and held himself in readiness to call for help,
if necessary. But Christophe only thrust his face near his and bawled:

"You swine!"

And he flung him aside and walked out through the little throng of
assistants. At the door he spat in disgust.

       *       *       *       *       *

He strode along down the street. He was blind with fury. The rain sobered
him. Where was he going? He did not know. He did not know a soul. He
stopped to think outside a book-shop, and he stared stupidly at the rows
of books. He was struck by the name of a publisher on the cover of one of
them. He wondered why. Then he remembered that it was the name of the house
in which Sylvain Kohn was employed. He made a note of the address.... But
what was the good? He would not go.... Why should he not go?... If that
scoundrel Diener, who had been his friend, had given him such a welcome,
what had he to expect from a rascal whom he had handled roughly, who had
good cause to hate him? Vain humiliations! His blood boiled at the thought.
But his native pessimism, derived perhaps from his Christian education,
urged him on to probe to the depths of human baseness.

"I have no right to stand on ceremony. I must try everything before I give

And an inward voice added:

"And I shall not give in."

He made sure of the address, and went to hunt up Kohn He made up his mind
to hit him in the eye at the first show of impertinence.

The publishing house was in the neighborhood of the Madeleine. Christophe
went up to a room on the second floor, and asked for Sylvain Kohn. A man in
livery told him that "Kohn was not known." Christophe was taken aback, and
thought his pronunciation must be at fault, and he repeated his question:
but the man listened attentively, and repeated that no one of that name was
known in the place. Quite out of countenance, Christophe begged pardon, and
was turning to go when a door at the end of the corridor opened, and he saw
Kohn himself showing a lady out. Still suffering from the affront put upon
him by Diener, he was inclined to think that everybody was having a joke at
his expense. His first thought was that Kohn had seen him, and had given
orders to the man to say that he was not there. His gorge rose at the
impudence of it. He was on the point of going in a huff, when he heard his
name: Kohn, with his sharp eyes, had recognized him: and he ran up to him,
with a smile on his lips, and his hands held out with every mark of
extraordinary delight.

Sylvain Kohn was short, thick-set, clean-shaven, like an American; his
complexion was too red, his hair too black; he had a heavy, massive face,
coarse-featured; little darting, wrinkled eyes, a rather crooked mouth,
a heavy, cunning smile. He was modishly dressed, trying to cover up the
defects of his figure, high shoulders, and wide hips. That was the only
thing that touched his vanity: he would gladly have put up with any insult
if only he could have been a few inches taller and of a better figure.
For the rest, he was very well pleased with himself: he thought himself
irresistible, as indeed he was. The little German Jew, clod as he was, had
made himself the chronicler and arbiter of Parisian fashion and smartness.
He wrote insipid society paragraphs and articles in a delicately involved
manner. He was the champion of French style, French smartness, French
gallantry, French wit--Regency, red heels, Lauzun. People laughed at him:
but that did not prevent his success. Those who say that in Paris ridicule
kills do not know Paris: so far from dying of it, there are people who live
on it: in Paris ridicule leads to everything, even to fame and fortune.
Sylvain Kohn was far beyond any need to reckon the good-will that every day
accumulated to him through his Frankfortian affectations.

He spoke with a thick accent through his nose.

"Ah! What a surprise!" he cried gaily, taking Christophe's hands in his
own clumsy paws, with their stubby fingers that looked as though they were
crammed into too tight a skin. He could not let go of Christophe's hands.
It was as though, he were encountering his best friend. Christophe was so
staggered that he wondered again if Kohn was not making fun of him. But
Kohn was doing nothing of the kind--or, rather, if he was joking, it was
no more than usual. There was no rancor about Kohn: he was too clever for
that. He had long ago forgotten the rough treatment he had suffered at
Christophe's hands: and if ever he did remember it, it did not worry him.
He was delighted to have the opportunity of showing his old schoolfellow
his importance and his new duties, and the elegance of his Parisian
manners. He was not lying in expressing his surprise: a visit from
Christophe was the last thing in the world that he expected: and if he was
too worldly-wise not to know that the visit was of set material purpose,
he took it as a reason the more for welcoming him, as it was, in fact, a
tribute to his power.

"And you have come from Germany? How is your mother?" he asked, with a
familiarity which at any other time would have annoyed Christophe, but now
gave him comfort in the strange city.

"But how was it," asked Christophe, who was still inclined to be
suspicious, "that they told me just now that Herr Kohn did not belong

"Herr Kohn doesn't belong here," said Sylvain Kohn, laughing. "My name
isn't Kohn now. My name is Hamilton."

He broke off.

"Excuse me," he said.

He went and shook hands with a lady who was passing and smiled grimacingly.
Then he came back. He explained that the lady was a writer famous for her
voluptuous and passionate novels. The modern Sappho had a purple ribbon
on her bosom, a full figure, bright golden hair round a painted face; she
made a few pretentious remarks in a mannish fashion with the accent of

Kohn plied Christophe with questions. He asked about all the people at
home, and what had become of so-and-so, pluming himself on the fact that he
remembered everybody. Christophe had forgotten his antipathy; he replied
cordially and gratefully, giving a mass of detail about which Kohn cared
nothing at all, and presently he broke off again.

"Excuse me," he said.

And he went to greet another lady who had come in.

"Dear me!" said Christophe. "Are there only women writers in France?"

Kohn began to laugh, and said fatuously:

"France is a woman, my dear fellow. If you want to succeed, make up to the

Christophe did not listen to the explanation, and went on with his own
story. To put a stop to it, Kohn asked:

"But how the devil do you come here?"

"Ah!" thought Christophe, "he doesn't know. That is why he was so amiable.
He'll be different when he knows."

He made it a point of honor to tell everything against himself: the brawl
with the soldiers, the warrant out against him, his flight from the

Kohn rocked with laughter.

"Bravo!" he cried. "Bravo! That's a good story!"

He shook Christophe's hand warmly. He was delighted by any smack in the eye
of authority: and the story tickled him the more as he knew the heroes of
it: he saw the funny side of it.

"I say," he said, "it is past twelve. Will you give me the pleasure ...?
Lunch with me?"

Christophe accepted gratefully. He thought:

"This is a good fellow--decidedly a good fellow. I was mistaken."

They went out together. On the way Christophe put forward his request:

"You see how I am placed. I came here to look for work--music
lessons--until I can make my name. Could you speak for me?"

"Certainly," said Kohn. "To any one you like. I know everybody here. I'm at
your service."

He was glad to be able to show how important he was.

Christophe covered him with expressions of gratitude. He felt that he was
relieved of a great weight of anxiety.

At lunch he gorged with the appetite of a man who has not broken fast for
two days. He tucked his napkin round his neck, and ate with his knife.
Kohn-Hamilton was horribly shocked by his voracity and his peasant manners.
And he was, hurt, too, by the small amount of attention that his guest gave
to his bragging. He tried to dazzle him by telling of his fine connections
and his prosperity: but it was no good: Christophe did not listen, and
bluntly interrupted him. His tongue was loosed, and he became familiar. His
heart was full, and he overwhelmed Kohn with his simple confidences of his
plans for the future. Above all, he exasperated him by insisting on taking
his hand across the table and pressing it effusively. And he brought him to
the pitch of irritation at last by wanting to clink glasses in the German
fashion, and, with sentimental speeches, to drink to those at home and
to _Vater Rhein_. Kohn saw, to his horror, that he was on the point of
singing. The people at the next table were casting ironic glances in their
direction. Kohn made some excuse on the score of pressing business, and got
up. Christophe clung to him: he wanted to know when he could have a letter
of introduction, and go and see some one, and begin giving lessons.

"I'll see about it. To-day--this evening," said Kohn. "I'll talk about you
at once. You can be easy on that score."

Christophe insisted.

"When shall I know?"

"To-morrow ... to-morrow ... or the day after."

"Very well. I'll come back to-morrow."

"No, no!" said Kohn quickly. "I'll let you know. Don't you worry."

"Oh! it's no trouble. Quite the contrary. Eh? I've nothing else to do in
Paris in the meanwhile."

"Good God!" thought Kohn.... "No," he said aloud. "But I would rather write
to you. You wouldn't find me the next few days. Give me your address."

Christophe dictated it.

"Good. I'll write you to-morrow."


"To-morrow. You can count on it"

He cut short Christophe's hand-shaking and escaped.

"Ugh!" he thought. "What a bore!"

As he went into his office he told the boy that he would not be in when
"the German" came to see him. Ten minutes later he had forgotten him.

Christophe went back to his lair. He was full of gentle thoughts.

"What a good fellow! What a good fellow!" he thought. "How unjust I was
about him. And he bears me no ill-will!"

He was remorseful, and he was on the point of writing to tell Kohn how
sorry he was to have misjudged him, and to beg his forgiveness for all the
harm he had done him. The tears came to his eyes as he thought of it. But
it was harder for him to write a letter than a score of music: and after he
had cursed and cursed the pen and ink of the hotel--which were, in fact,
horrible--after he had blotted, criss-crossed, and torn up five or six
sheets of paper, he lost patience and dropped it.

The rest of the day dragged wearily: but Christophe was so worn out by his
sleepless night and his excursions in the morning that at length he dozed
off in his chair. He only woke up in the evening, and then he went to bed:
and he slept for twelve hours on end.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day from eight o'clock on he sat waiting for the promised letter. He
had no doubt of Kohn's sincerity. He did not go out, telling himself that
perhaps Kohn would come round by the hotel on his way to his office. So as
not to be out, about midday he had his lunch sent up from the eating-house
downstairs. Then he sat waiting again. He was sure Kohn would come on his
way back from lunch. He paced up and down his room, sat down, paced up and
down again, opened his door whenever he heard footsteps on the stairs.
He had no desire to go walking about Paris to stay his anxiety. He lay
down on his bed. His thoughts went back and back to his old mother, who
was thinking of him too--she alone thought of him. He had an infinite
tenderness for her, and he was remorseful at having left her. But he did
not write to her. He was waiting until he could tell her that he had found
work. In spite of the love they had for each other, it would never have
occurred to either of them to write just to tell their love: letters were
for things more definite than that. He lay on the bed with his hands locked
behind his head, and dreamed. Although his room was away from the street,
the roar of Paris invaded the silence: the house shook. Night came again,
and brought no letter.

Came another day like unto the last.

On the third day, exasperated by his voluntary seclusion, Christophe
decided to go out. But from the impression of his first evening he was
instinctively in revolt against Paris. He had no desire to see anything:
no curiosity: he was too much taken up with the problem of his own life
to take any pleasure in watching the lives of others: and the memories of
lives past, the monuments of a city, had always left him cold. And so,
hardly had he set foot out of doors, than, although he had made up his mind
not to go near Kohn for a week, he went straight to his office.

The boy obeyed his orders, and said that M. Hamilton had left Paris on
business. It was a blow to Christophe. He gasped and asked when M. Hamilton
would return. The boy replied at random:

"In ten days."

Christophe went back utterly downcast, and buried himself in his room
during the following days. He found it impossible to work. His heart sank
as he saw that his small supply of money--the little sum that his mother
had sent him, carefully wrapped up in a handkerchief at the bottom of his
bag--was rapidly decreasing. He imposed a severe régime on himself. He
only went down in the evening to dinner in the little pot-house, where
he quickly became known to the frequenters of it as the "Prussian" or
"Sauerkraut." With frightful effort, he wrote two or three letters to
French musicians whose names he knew hazily. One of them had been dead
for ten years. He asked them to be so kind as to give him a hearing. His
spelling was wild, and his style was complicated by those long inversions
and ceremonious formulæ which are the custom in Germany. He addressed his
letters: "To the Palace of the Academy of France." The only man to read his
gave it to his friends as a joke.

After a week Christophe went once more to the publisher's office. This time
he was in luck. He met Sylvain Kohn going out, on the doorstep. Kohn made a
face as he saw that he was caught: but Christophe was so happy that he did
not see that. He took his hands in his usual uncouth way, and asked gaily:

"You've been away? Did you have a good time?"

Kohn said that he had had a very good time, but he did not unbend.
Christophe went on:

"I came, you know.... They told you, I suppose?... Well, any news? You
mentioned my name? What did they say?"

Kohn looked blank. Christophe was amazed at his frigid manner: he was not
the same man.

"I mentioned you," said Kohn: "but I haven't heard yet. I haven't had time.
I have been very busy since I saw you--up to my ears in business. I don't
know how I can get through. It is appalling. I shall be ill with it all."

"Aren't you well?" asked Christophe anxiously and solicitously.

Kohn looked at him slyly, and replied:

"Not at all well. I don't know what is the matter, the last few days. I'm
very unwell."

"I'm so sorry," said Christophe, taking his arm. "Do be careful. You must
rest. I'm so sorry to have been a bother to you. You should have told me.
What is the matter with you, really?"

He took Kohn's sham excuses so seriously that the little Jew was hard put
to it to hide his amusement, and disarmed by his funny simplicity. Irony is
so dear a pleasure to the Jews--(and a number of Christians in Paris are
Jewish in this respect)--that they are indulgent with bores, and even with
their enemies, if they give them the opportunity of tasting it at their
expense. Besides, Kohn was touched by Christophe's interest in himself. He
felt inclined to help him.

"I've got an idea," he said. "While you are waiting for lessons, would you
care to do some work for a music publisher?"

Christophe accepted eagerly.

"I've got the very thing," said Kohn. "I know one of the partners in a big
firm of music publishers--Daniel Hecht. I'll introduce you. You'll see what
there is to do. I don't know anything about it, you know. But Hecht is a
real musician. You'll get on with him all right."

They parted until the following day. Kohn was not sorry to be rid of
Christophe by doing him this service.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day Christophe fetched Kohn at his office. On his advice, he had
brought several of his compositions to show to Hecht. They found him in his
music-shop near the Opéra. Hecht did not put himself out when they went
in: he coldly held out two fingers to take Kohn's hand, did not reply to
Christophe's ceremonious bow, and at Kohn's request he took them into the
next room. He did not ask them to sit down. He stood with his back to the
empty chimney-place, and stared at the wall.

Daniel Hecht was a man of forty, tall, cold, correctly dressed, a marked
Phenician type; he looked clever and disagreeable: there was a scowl on his
face: he had black hair and a beard like that of an Assyrian King, long
and square-cut. He hardly ever looked straight forward, and he had an
icy brutal way of talking which sounded insulting even when he only said
"Good-day." His insolence was more apparent than real. No doubt it emanated
from a contemptuous strain in his character: but really it was more a part
of the automatic and formal element in him. Jews of that sort are quite
common: opinion is not kind towards them: that hard stiffness of theirs is
looked upon as arrogance, while it is often in reality the outcome of an
incurable boorishness in body and soul.

Sylvain Kohn introduced his protégé, in a bantering, pretentious voice,
with exaggerated praises. Christophe was abashed by his reception, and
stood shifting from one foot to the other, holding his manuscripts and his
hat in his hand. When Kohn had finished, Hecht, who up to then had seemed
to be unaware of Christophe's existence, turned towards him disdainfully,
and, without looking at him, said:

"Krafft ... Christophe Krafft.... Never heard the name."

To Christophe it was as though he had been struck, full in the chest. The
blood rushed to his cheeks. He replied angrily:

"You'll hear it later on."

Hecht took no notice, and went on imperturbably, as though Christophe did
not exist:

"Krafft ... no, never heard it."

He was one of those people for whom not to be known to them is a mark
against a man.

He went on in German:

"And you come from the _Rhine-land_?... It's wonderful how many people
there are there who dabble in music! But I don't think there is a man among
them who has any claim to be a musician."

He meant it as a joke, not as an insult: but Christophe did not take it so.
He would have replied in kind if Kohn had not anticipated him.

"Oh, come, come!" he said to Hecht. "You must do me the justice to admit
that I know nothing at all about it."

"That's to your credit," replied Hecht.

"If I am to be no musician in order to please you," said Christophe dryly,
"I am sorry, but I'm not that."

Hecht, still looking aside, went on, as indifferently as ever.

"You have written music? What have you written? _Lieder_, I suppose?"

"_Lieder_, two symphonies, symphonic poems, quartets, piano suites, theater
music," said Christophe, boiling.

"People write a great deal in Germany," said Hecht, with scornful

It made him all the more suspicious of the newcomer to think that he had
written so many works, and that he, Daniel Hecht, had not heard of them.

"Well," he said, "I might perhaps find work for you as you are recommended
by my friend Hamilton. At present we are making a collection, a 'Library
for Young People,' in which we are publishing some easy pianoforte pieces.
Could you 'simplify' the _Carnival_ of Schumann, and arrange it for six and
eight hands?"

Christophe was staggered.

"And you offer that to me, to me--me...?"

His naïve "Me" delighted Kohn: but Hecht was offended.

"I don't see that there is anything surprising in that," he said. "It is
not such easy work as all that! If you think it too easy, so much the
better. We'll see about that later on. You tell me you are a good musician.
I must believe you. But I've never heard of you."

He thought to himself:

"If one were to believe all these young sparks, they would knock the
stuffing out of Johannes Brahms himself."

Christophe made no reply--(for he had vowed to hold himself in
check)--clapped his hat on his head, and turned towards the door. Kohn
stopped him, laughing:

"Wait, wait!" he said. And he turned to Hecht: "He has brought some of his
work to give you an idea."

"Ah!" said Hecht warily. "Very well, then: let us see them."

Without a word Christophe held out his manuscripts. Hecht cast his eyes
over them carelessly.

"What's this? A _suite for piano_ ... (reading): _A Day_.... Ah! Always
program music!..."

In spite of his apparent indifference he was reading carefully. He was an
excellent musician, and knew his job: he knew nothing outside it: with the
first bar or two he gauged his man. He was silent as he turned over the
pages with a scornful air: he was struck by the talent revealed in them:
but his natural reserve and his vanity, piqued by Christophe's manner, kept
him from showing anything. He went on to the end in silence, not missing a

"Yes," he said, in a patronizing tone of voice, "they're well enough."

Violent criticism would have hurt Christophe less.

"I don't need to be told that," he said irritably.

"I fancy," said Hecht, "that you showed me them for me to say what I

"Not at all."

"Then," said Hecht coldly, "I fail to see what you have come for."

"I came to ask for work, and nothing else."

"I have nothing to offer you for the time being, except what I told you.
And I'm not sure of that. I said it was possible, that's all."

"And you have no other work to offer a musician like myself?"

"A musician like you?" said Hecht ironically and cuttingly. "Other
musicians at least as good as yourself have not thought the work beneath
their dignity. There are men whose names I could give you, men who are now
very well known in Paris, have been very grateful to me for it."

"Then they must have been--swine!" bellowed Christophe.--(He had already
learned certain of the most useful words in the French language)--"You are
wrong if you think you have to do with a man of that kidney. Do you think
you can take me in with looking anywhere but at me, and clipping your
words? You didn't even deign to acknowledge my bow when I came in.... But
what the hell are you to treat me like that? Are you even a musician? Have
you ever written anything?... And you pretend to teach me how to write--me,
to whom writing is life!... And you can find nothing better to offer me,
when you have read my music, than a hashing up of great musicians, a filthy
scrabbling over their works to turn them into parlor tricks for little
girls!... You go to your Parisians who are rotten enough to be taught their
work by you! I'd rather die first!"

It was impossible to stem the torrent of his words.

Hecht said icily:

"Take it or leave it."

Christophe went out and slammed the doors. Hecht shrugged, and said to
Sylvain Kohn, who was laughing:

"He will come to it like the rest."

At heart he valued Christophe. He was clever enough to feel not only the
worth of a piece of work, but also the worth of a man. Behind Christophe's
outburst he had marked a force. And he knew its rarity--in the world of
art more than anywhere else. But his vanity was ruffled by it: nothing
would ever induce him to admit himself in the wrong. He desired loyally
to be just to Christophe, but he could not do it unless Christophe came
and groveled to him. He expected Christophe to return: his melancholy
skepticism and his experience of men had told him how inevitably the will
is weakened and worn down by poverty.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe went home. Anger had given place to despair. He felt that he
was lost. The frail prop on which he had counted had failed him. He had no
doubt but that he had made a deadly enemy, not only of Hecht, but of Kohn,
who had introduced him. He was in absolute solitude in a hostile city.
Outside Diener and Kohn he knew no one. His friend Corinne, the beautiful
actress whom he had met in Germany, was not in Paris: she was still touring
abroad, in America, this time on her own account: the papers published
clamatory descriptions of her travels. As for the little French governess
whom he had unwittingly robbed of her situation,--the thought of her had
long filled him with remorse--how often had he vowed that he would find
her when he reached Paris. [Footnote: See _Jean-Christophe_--I: "Revolt."]
But now that he was in Paris he found that he had forgotten one important
thing: her name. He could not remember it. He could only recollect her
Christian name: Antoinette. And then, even if he remembered, how was he to
find a poor little governess in that ant-heap of human beings?

He had to set to work as soon as possible to find a livelihood. He had five
francs left. In spite of his dislike of him, he forced himself to ask the
innkeeper if he did not know of anybody in the neighborhood to whom he
could give music-lessons. The innkeeper, who had no great opinion of a
lodger who only ate once a day and spoke German, lost what respect he had
for him when he heard that he was only a musician. He was a Frenchman of
the old school, and music was to him an idler's job. He scoffed:

"The piano!... I don't know. You strum the piano! Congratulations!... But
'tis a queer thing to take to that trade as a matter of taste! When I hear
music, it's just for all the world like listening to the rain.... But
perhaps you might teach me. What do you say, you fellows?" he cried,
turning to some fellows who were drinking.

They laughed loudly.

"It's a fine trade," said one of them. "Not dirty work. And the ladies like

Christophe did not rightly understand the French or the jest: he floundered
for his words: he did not know whether to be angry or not. The innkeeper's
wife took pity on him:

"Come, come, Philippe, you're not serious," she said to her husband. "All
the same," she went on, turning to Christophe, "there is some one who might
do for you."

"Who?" asked her husband.

"The Grasset girl. You know, they've bought a piano."

"Ah! Those stuck-up folk! So they have."

They told Christophe that the girl in question was the daughter of a
butcher: her parents were trying to make a lady of her; they would perhaps
like her to have lessons, if only for the sake of making people talk. The
innkeeper's wife promised to see to it.

Next day she told Christophe that the butcher's wife would like to see him.
He went to her house, and found her in the shop, surrounded with great
pieces of meat. She was a pretty, rather florid woman, and she smiled
sweetly, but stood on her dignity when she heard why he had come. Quite
abruptly she came to the question of payment, and said quickly that she did
not wish to give much, because the piano is quite an agreeable thing, but
not necessary: she offered him fifty centimes an hour. In any case, she
would not pay more than four francs a week. After that she asked Christophe
a little doubtfully if he knew much about music. She was reassured, and
became more amiable when he told her that not only did he know about music,
but wrote it into the bargain: that flattered her vanity: it would be a
good thing to spread about the neighborhood that her daughter was taking
lessons with a composer.

Next day, when Christophe found himself sitting by the piano--a horrible
instrument, bought second-hand, which sounded like a guitar--with the
butcher's little daughter, whose short, stubby fingers fumbled with the
keys; who was unable to tell one note from another; who was bored to tears;
who began at once to yawn in his face; and he had to submit to the mother's
superintendence, and to her conversation, and to her ideas on music and the
teaching of music--then he felt so miserable, so wretchedly humiliated,
that he had not even the strength to be angry about it. He relapsed into a
state of despair: there were evenings when he could not eat. If in a few
weeks he had fallen so low, where would he end? What good was it to have
rebelled against Hecht's offer? The thing to which he had submitted was
even more degrading.

One evening, as he sat in his room, he could not restrain his tears: he
flung himself on his knees by his bed and prayed.... To whom did he pray?
To whom could he pray? He did not believe in God; he believed that there
was no God.... But he had to pray--he had to pray within his soul. Only
the mean of spirit never need to pray. They never know the need that comes
to the strong in spirit of taking refuge within the inner sanctuary of
themselves. As he left behind him the humiliations of the day, in the vivid
silence of his heart Christophe felt the presence of his eternal Being, of
his God. The waters of his wretched life stirred and shifted above Him and
never touched Him: what was there in common between that and Him? All the
sorrows of the world rushing on to destruction dashed against that rock.
Christophe heard the blood beating in his veins, beating like an inward
voice, crying:

"Eternal ... I am ... I am...."

Well did he know that voice: as long as he could remember he had heard
it. Sometimes he forgot it: often for months together he would lose
consciousness of its mighty monotonous rhythm: but he knew that it was
there, that it never ceased, like the ocean roaring in the night. In the
music of it he found once more the same energy that he gained from it
whenever he bathed in its waters. He rose to his feet. He was fortified.
No: the hard life that he led contained nothing of which he need be
ashamed: he could eat the bread he earned, and never blush for it: it was
for those who made him earn it at such a price to blush and be ashamed.
Patience! Patience! The time would come....

But next day he began to lose patience again: and, in spite of all his
efforts, he did at last explode angrily, one day during a lesson, at the
silly little ninny, who had been maddeningly impertinent and laughed at his
accent, and had taken a malicious delight in doing exactly the opposite
of what he told her. The girl screamed in response to Christophe's angry
shouts. She was frightened and enraged at a man whom she paid daring to
show her no respect. She declared that he had struck her--(Christophe had
shaken her arm rather roughly). Her mother bounced in on them like a Fury,
and covered her daughter with kisses and Christophe with abuse. The butcher
also appeared, and declared that he would not suffer any infernal Prussian
to take upon himself to touch his daughter. Furious, pale with rage,
itching to choke the life out of the butcher and his wife and daughter,
Christophe rushed away. His host and hostess, seeing him come in in an
abject condition, had no difficulty in worming the story out of him: and it
fed the malevolence with which they regarded their neighbors. But by the
evening the whole neighborhood was saying that the German was a brute and a

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe made fresh advances to the music-vendors: but in vain. He found
the French lacking in cordiality: and the whirl and confusion of their
perpetual agitation crushed him. They seemed to him to live in a state of
anarchy, directed by a cunning and despotic bureaucracy.

One evening, he was wandering along the boulevards, discouraged by the
futility of his efforts, when he saw Sylvain Kohn coming from the opposite
direction. He was convinced that they had quarreled irrevocably and looked
away and tried to pass unnoticed. But Kohn called to him:

"What became of you after that great day?" he asked with a laugh. "I've
been wanting to look you up, but I lost your address.... Good Lord, my dear
fellow, I didn't know you! You were epic: that's what you were, epic!"

Christophe stared at him. He was surprised and a little ashamed.

"You're not angry with me?"

"Angry? What an idea!"

So far from being angry, he had been delighted with the way in which
Christophe had trounced Hecht: it had been a treat to him. It really
mattered nothing to him whether Christophe or Hecht was right: he only
regarded people as source of entertainment: and he saw in Christophe a
spring of high comedy, which he intended to exploit to the full.

"You should have come to see me," he went on. "I was expecting you. What
are you doing this evening? Come to dinner. I won't let you off. Quite
informal: just a few artists: we meet once a fortnight. You should know
these people. Come. I'll introduce you."

In vain did Christophe beg to be excused on the score of his clothes.
Sylvain Kohn carried him off.

They entered a restaurant on one of the boulevards, and went up to the
second floor. Christophe found himself among about thirty young men, whose
ages ranged from twenty to thirty-five, and they were all engaged in
animated discussion. Kohn introduced him as a man who had just escaped
from a German prison. They paid no attention to him and did not stop their
passionate discussion, and Kohn plunged into it at once.

Christophe was shy in this select company, and said nothing: but he was
all ears. He could not grasp--he had great difficulty in following the
volubility of the French--what great artistic interests were in dispute.
He listened attentively, but he could only make out words like "trust,"
"monopoly," "fall in prices," "receipts," mixed up with phrases like "the
dignity of art," and the "rights of the author." And at last he saw that
they were talking business. A certain number of authors, it appeared,
belonged to a syndicate and were angry about certain attempts which had
been made to float a rival concern, which, according to them, would dispute
their monopoly of exploitation. The defection of certain of their members
who had found it to their advantage to go over bag and baggage to the rival
house had roused them, to the wildest fury. They talked of decapitation.
"... Burked.... Treachery.... Shame.... Sold...."

Others did not worry about the living: they were incensed against the dead,
whose sales without royalties choked up the market. It appeared that the
works of De Musset had just become public property, and were selling far
too well. And so they demanded that the State should give them rigorous
protection, and heavily tax the masterpieces of the past so as to check
their circulation at reduced prices, which, they declared, was unfair
competition with the work of living artists.

They stopped each other to hear the takings of such and such a theater on
the preceding evening. They all went into ecstasies over the fortune of
a veteran dramatist, famous in two continents--a man whom they despised,
though they envied him even more. From the incomes of authors they passed
to those of the critics. They talked of the sum--(pure calumny, no
doubt)--received by one of their colleagues for every first performance
at one of the theaters on the boulevards, the consideration being that he
should speak well of it. He was an honest man: having made his bargain he
stuck to it: but his great secret lay--(so they said)--in so eulogizing the
piece that it would be taken off as quickly as possible so that there might
be many new plays. The tale--(or the account)--caused laughter, but nobody
was surprised.

And mingled with all that talk they threw out fine phrases: they talked of
"poetry" and "art for art's sake." But through it all there rang "art for
money's sake"; and this jobbing spirit, newly come into French literature,
scandalized Christophe. As he understood nothing at all about their talk of
money he had given it up. But then they began to talk of letters, or rather
of men of letters.--Christophe pricked up his ears as he heard the name of
Victor Hugo.

They were debating whether he had been cuckolded: they argued at length
about the love of Sainte-Beuve and Madame Hugo. And then they turned to
the lovers of George Sand and their respective merits. That was the chief
occupation of criticism just then: when they had ransacked the houses of
great men, rummaged through the closets, turned out the drawers, ransacked
the cupboards, they burrowed down to their inmost lives. The attitude
of Monsieur de Lauzun lying flat under the bed of the King and Madame
de Montespan was the attitude of criticism in its cult of history and
truth--(everybody just then, of course, made a cult of truth). These young
men were subscribers to the cult: no detail was too small for them in their
search for truth. They applied it to the art of the present as well as to
that of the past: and they analyzed the private life of certain of the more
notorious of their contemporaries with the same passion for exactness.
It was a queer thing that they were possessed of the smallest details of
scenes which are usually enacted without witnesses. It was really as though
the persons concerned had been the first to give exact information to the
public out of their great devotion to the truth.

Christophe was more and more embarrassed and tried to talk to his neighbors
of something else; but nobody listened to him. At first they asked him
a few vague questions about Germany--questions which, to his amazement,
displayed the almost complete ignorance of these distinguished and
apparently cultured young men concerning the most elementary things of
their work--literature and art--outside Paris; at most they had heard of a
few great names: Hauptmann, Sudermann, Liebermann, Strauss (David, Johann,
Richard), and they picked their way gingerly among them for fear of getting
mixed. If they had questioned Christophe it was from politeness rather than
from curiosity: they had no curiosity: they hardly seemed to notice his
replies: and they hurried back at once to the Parisian topics which were
regaling the rest of the company.

Christophe timidly tried to talk of music. Not one of these men of letters
was a musician. At heart they considered music an inferior art. But the
growing success of music during the last few years had made them secretly
uneasy: and since it was the fashion they pretended to be interested in it.
They frothed especially about a new opera and declared that music dated
from its performance, or at least the new era in music. This idea made
things easy for their ignorance and snobbishness, for it relieved them
of the necessity of knowing anything else. The author of the opera, a
Parisian, whose name Christophe heard for the first time, had, said some,
made a clean sweep of all that had gone before him, cleaned up, renovated,
and recreated music. Christophe started at that. He asked nothing better
than to believe in genius. But such a genius as that, a genius who had at
one swoop wiped out the past.... Good heavens! He must be a lusty lad: how
the devil had he done it? He asked for particulars. The others, who would
have been hard put to it to give any explanation and were disconcerted by
Christophe, referred him to the musician of the company, Théophile Goujart,
the great musical critic, who began at once to talk of sevenths and ninths.
Goujart knew music much as Sganarelle knew Latin....

"_... You don't know Latin?_"


_(With enthusiasm) "Cabricias, arci thuram, catalamus, singulariter ...
bonus, bona, bonum."_

Finding himself with a man who "understood Latin" he prudently took refuge
in the chatter of esthetics. From that impregnable fortress he began to
bombard Beethoven, Wagner, and classical art, which was not before the
house (but in France it is impossible to praise an artist without making
as an offering a holocaust of all those who are unlike him). He announced
the advent of a new art which trampled under foot the conventions of the
past. He spoke of a new musical language which had been discovered by the
Christopher Columbus of Parisian music, and he said it made an end of the
language of the classics: that was a dead language.

Christophe reserved his opinion of this reforming genius to wait until
he had seen his work before he said anything: but in spite of himself he
felt an instinctive distrust of this musical Baal to whom all music was
sacrificed. He was scandalized to hear the Masters so spoken of: and he
forgot that he had said much the same sort of thing in Germany. He who at
home had thought himself a revolutionary in art, he who had scandalized
others by the boldness of his judgments and the frankness of his
expressions, felt, as soon as he heard these words spoken in France, that
he was at heart a conservative. He tried to argue, and was tactless enough
to speak, not like a man of culture, who advances arguments without
exposition, but as a professional, bringing out disconcerting facts. He did
not hesitate to plunge into technical explanations: and his voice, as he
talked, struck a note which was well calculated to offend the ears of a
company of superior persons to whom his arguments and the vigor with which
he supported them were alike ridiculous. The critic tried to demolish
him with an attempt at wit, and to end the discussion which had shown
Christophe to his stupefaction that he had to deal with a man who did
not in the least know what he was talking about. And so they came to
the opinion that the German was pedantic and superannuated: and without
knowing anything about it they decided that his music was detestable. But
Christophe's bizarre personality had made an impression on the company of
young men, and with their quickness in seizing on the ridiculous they had
marked the awkward, violent gestures of his thin arms with their enormous
hands, and the furious glances that darted from his eyes as his voice rose
to a falsetto. Sylvain Kohn saw to it that his friends were kept amused.

Conversation had deserted literature in favor of women. As a matter of
fact they were only two aspects of the same subject: for their literature
was concerned with nothing but women, and their women were concerned with
nothing but literature, they were so much taken up with the affairs and men
of letters.

They spoke of one good lady, well known in Parisian society, who had, it
was said, just married her lover to her daughter, the better to keep him.
Christophe squirmed in his chair, and tactlessly made a face of disgust.
Kohn saw it, and nudged his neighbor and pointed out that the subject
seemed to excite the German--that no doubt he was longing to know the lady.
Christophe blushed, muttered angrily, and finally said hotly that such
women ought to be whipped. His proposition was received with a shout of
Homeric laughter: and Sylvain Kohn cooingly protested that no man should
touch a woman, even with a flower, etc., etc. (In Paris he was the very
Knight of Love.) Christophe replied that a woman of that sort was neither
more nor less than a bitch, and that there was only one remedy for vicious
dogs: the whip. They roared at him. Christophe said that their gallantry
was hypocritical, and that those who talked most of their respect for women
were those who possessed the least of it: and he protested against these
scandalous tales. They replied that there was no scandal in it, and that it
was only natural: and they were all agreed that the heroine of the story
was not only a charming woman, but _the_ Woman, _par excellence_. The
German waxed indignant. Sylvain Kohn asked him slyly what he thought Woman
was like. Christophe felt that they were pulling his leg and laying a trap
for him: but he fell straight into it in the violent expression of his
convictions. He began to explain his ideas on love to these bantering
Parisians. He could not find his words, floundered about after them, and
finally fished up from the phrases he remembered such impossible words,
such enormities, that he had all his hearers rocking with laughter, while
all the time he was perfectly and admirably serious, never bothered about
them, and was touchingly impervious to their ridicule: for he could not
help seeing that they were making fun of him. At last he tied himself up
in a sentence, could not extricate himself, brought his fist down on the
table, and was silent.

They tried to bring him back into the discussion: he scowled and did not
flinch, but sat with his elbows on the table, ashamed and irritated. He
did not open his lips again, except to eat and drink, until the dinner was
over. He drank enormously, unlike the Frenchmen, who only sipped their
wine. His neighbor wickedly encouraged him, and went on filling his glass,
which he emptied absently. But, although he was not used to these excesses,
especially after the weeks of privation through which he had passed, he
took his liquor well, and did not cut so ridiculous a figure as the others
hoped. He sat there lost in thought: they paid no attention to him: they
thought he was made drowsy by the wine. He was exhausted by the effort of
following the conversation in French, and tired of hearing about nothing
but literature--actors, authors, publishers, the chatter of the _coulisses_
and literary life: everything seemed to be reduced to that. Amid all these
new faces and the buzz of words he could not fix a single face, nor a
single thought. His short-sighted eyes, dim and dreamy, wandered slowly
round the table, and they rested on one man after another without seeming
to see them. And yet he saw them better than any one, though he himself was
not conscious of it. He did not, like these Jews and Frenchmen, peck at
the things he saw and dissect them, tear them to rags, and leave them in
tiny, tiny pieces. Slowly, like a sponge, he sucked up the essence of men
and women, and bore away their image in his soul. He seemed to have seen
nothing and to remember nothing. It was only long afterwards--hours, often
days--when he was alone, gazing in upon himself, that he saw that he had
borne away a whole impression.

But for the moment he seemed to be just a German boor, stuffing himself
with food, concerned only with not missing a mouthful. And he heard nothing
clearly, except when he heard the others calling each other by name, and
then, with a silly drunken insistency, he wondered why so many Frenchmen
have foreign names: Flemish, German, Jewish, Levantine, Anglo- or

He did not notice when they got up from the table. He went on sitting
alone: and he dreamed of the Rhenish hills, the great woods, the tilled
fields, the meadows by the waterside, his old mother. Most of the others
had gone. At last he thought of going, and got up, too, without looking
at anybody, and went and took down his hat and cloak, which were hanging
by the door. When he had put them on he was turning away without saying
good-night, when through a half-open door he saw an object which fascinated
him: a piano. He had not touched a musical instrument for weeks. He went in
and lovingly touched the keys, sat down just as he was, with his hat on his
head and his cloak on his shoulders, and began to play. He had altogether
forgotten where he was. He did not notice that two men crept into the room
to listen to him. One was Sylvain Kohn, a passionate lover of music--God
knows why! for he knew nothing at all about it, and he liked bad music
just as well as good. The other was the musical critic, Théophile Goujart.
He--it simplifies matters so much--neither understood nor loved music: but
that did not keep him from talking about it. On the contrary: nobody is so
free in mind as the man who knows nothing of what he is talking about: for
to such a man it does not matter whether he says one thing more than

Théophile Goujart was tall, strong, and muscular: he had a black beard,
thick curls on his forehead, which was lined with deep inexpressive
wrinkles, short arms, short legs, a big chest: a type of woodman or porter
of the Auvergne. He had common manners and an arrogant way of speaking. He
had gone into music through politics, at that time the only road to success
in France. He had attached himself to the fortunes of a Minister to whom he
had discovered that he was distantly related--a son "of the bastard of his
apothecary." Ministers are not eternal, and when it seemed that the day of
his Minister was over Théophile Goujart deserted the ship, taking with him
all that he could lay his hands on, notably several orders: for he loved
glory. Tired of politics, in which for some time past he had received
various snubs, both on his own account and on that of his patron, he
looked out for a shelter from the storm, a restful position in which he
could annoy others without being himself annoyed. Everything pointed to
criticism. Just at that moment there fell vacant the post of musical critic
to one of the great Parisian papers. The previous holder of the post, a
young and talented composer, had been dismissed because he insisted on
saying what he thought of the authors and their work. Goujart had never
taken any interest in music, and knew nothing at all about it: he was
chosen without a moment's hesitation. They had had enough of competent
critics: with Goujart there was at least nothing to fear: he did not attach
an absurd importance to his opinions: he was always at the editor's orders,
and ready to comply with a slashing article or enthusiastic approbation.
That he was no musician was a secondary consideration. Everybody in
France knows a little about music. Goujart quickly acquired the requisite
knowledge. His method was quite simple: it consisted in sitting at every
concert next to some good musician, a composer if possible, and getting him
to say what he thought of the works performed. At the end of a few months
of this apprenticeship, he knew his job: the fledgling could fly. He did
not, it is true, soar like an eagle: and God knows what howlers Goujart
committed with the greatest show of authority in his paper! He listened and
read haphazard, stirred the mixture up well in his sluggish brains, and
arrogantly laid down the law for others; he wrote in a pretentious style,
interlarded with puns, and plastered over with an aggressive pedantry: he
had the mind of a schoolmaster. Sometimes, every now and then, he drew down
on himself cruel replies: then he shammed dead, and took good care not to
answer them. He was a mixture of cunning and thick-headedness, insolent or
groveling as circumstances demanded. He cringed to the masters who had an
official position or an established fame (he had no other means of judging
merit in music). He scorned everybody else, and exploited writers who were
starving. He was no fool.

In spite of his reputation and the authority he had acquired, he knew in
his heart of hearts that he knew nothing about music: and he recognized
that Christophe knew a great deal about it. Nothing would have induced him
to say so: but it was borne in upon him. And now he heard Christophe play:
and he made great efforts to understand him, looking absorbed, profound,
without a thought in his head: he could not see a yard ahead of him through
the fog of sound, and he wagged his head solemnly as one who knew and
adjusted the outward and visible signs of his approval to the fluttering of
the eyelids of Sylvain Kohn, who found it hard to stand still.

At last Christophe, emerging to consciousness from the fumes of wine and
music, became dimly aware of the pantomime going on behind his back: he
turned and saw the two amateurs of music. They rushed at him and violently
shook hands with him--Sylvain Kohn gurgling that he had played like a god,
Goujart declaring solemnly that he had the left hand of Rubinstein and the
right hand of Paderewski (or it might be the other way round). Both agreed
that such talent ought not to be hid under a bushel, and they pledged
themselves to reveal it. And, incidentally, they were both resolved to
extract from it as much honor and profit as possible.

From that day on Sylvain Kohn took to inviting Christophe to his rooms,
and put at his disposal his excellent piano, which he never used himself.
Christophe, who was bursting with suppressed music, did not need to be
urged, and accepted: and for a time he made good use of the invitation.

At first all went well. Christophe was only too happy to play: and
Sylvain Kohn was tactful enough to leave him to play in peace. He enjoyed
it thoroughly himself. By one of those queer phenomena which must be
in everybody's observation, the man, who was no musician, no artist,
cold-hearted and devoid of all poetic feeling and real kindness, was
enslaved sensually by Christophe's music, which he did not understand,
though he found in it a strongly voluptuous pleasure. Unfortunately, he
could not hold his tongue. He had to talk, loudly, while Christophe was
playing. He had to underline the music with affected exclamations, like a
concert snob, or else he passed ridiculous comment on it. Then Christophe
would thump the piano, and declare that he could not go on like that. Kohn
would try hard to be silent: but he could not do it: at once he would
begin again to sniffle, sigh, whistle, beat time, hum, imitate the various
instruments. And when the piece was ended he would have burst if he had not
given Christophe the benefit of his inept comment.

He was a queer mixture of German sentimentality, Parisian humbug, and
intolerable fatuousness. Sometimes he expressed second-hand precious
opinions; sometimes he made extravagant comparisons; and then he would
make dirty, obscene remarks, or propound some insane nonsense. By way of
praising Beethoven, he would point out some trickery, or read a lascivious
sensuality into his music. The _Quartet in C Minor_ seemed to him jolly
spicy. The sublime _Adagio of the Ninth Symphony_ made him think of
Cherubino. After the three crashing chords at the opening of the _Symphony
in C Minor_, he called out: "Don't come in! I've some one here." He admired
the Battle of _Heldenleben_ because he pretended that it was like the noise
of a motor-car. And always he had some image to explain each piece, a
puerile incongruous image. Really, it seemed impossible that he could have
any love for music. However, there was no doubt about it: he really did
love it: at certain passages to which he attached the most ridiculous
meanings the tears would come into his eyes. But after having been moved by
a scene from Wagner, he would strum out a gallop of Offenbach, or sing some
music-hall ditty after the _Ode to Joy_. Then Christophe would bob about
and roar with rage. But the worst of all to bear was not when Sylvain Kohn
was absurd so much as when he was trying to be profound and subtle, when he
was trying to impress Christophe, when it was Hamilton speaking, and not
Sylvain Kohn. Then Christophe would scowl blackly at him, and squash him
with cold contempt, which hurt Hamilton's vanity: very often these musical
evenings would end in a quarrel. But Kohn would forget it next day, and
Christophe, sorry for his rudeness, would make a point of going back.

That would not have mattered much if Kohn had been able to refrain from
inviting his friends to hear Christophe. But he could not help wanting to
show off his musician. The first time Christophe found in Kohn's rooms
three or four little Jews and Kohn's mistress--a large florid woman, all
paint and powder, who repeated idiotic jokes and talked about her food, and
thought herself a musician because she showed her legs every evening in the
Revue of the Variétés--Christophe looked black. Next time he told Sylvain
Kohn curtly that he would never again play in his rooms. Sylvain Kohn swore
by all his gods that he would not invite anybody again. But he did so by
stealth, and hid his guests in the next room. Naturally, Christophe found
that out, and went away in a fury, and this time did not return.

And yet he had to accommodate Kohn, who had introduced him to various
cosmopolitan families, and found him pupils.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few days after Théophile Goujart hunted Christophe up in his lair. He did
not seem to mind his being in such a horrible place. On the contrary, he
was charming. He said:

"I thought perhaps you would like to hear a little music from time to time:
and as I have tickets for everything, I came to ask if you would care to
come with me."

Christophe was delighted. He was glad of the kindly attention, and thanked
him effusively. Goujart was a different man from what he had been at their
first meeting. He had dropped his conceit, and, man to man, he was timid,
docile, anxious to learn. It was only when they were with others that he
resumed his superior manner and his blatant tone of voice. His eagerness to
learn had a practical side to it. He had no curiosity about anything that
was not actual. He wanted to know what Christophe thought of a score he had
received which he would have been hard put to it to write about, for he
could hardly read a note.

They went to a symphony concert. They had to go in by the entrance to a
music-hall. They went down a winding passage to an ill-ventilated hall:
the air was stifling: the seats were very narrow, and placed too close
together: part of the audience was standing and blocking up every way
out:--the uncomfortable French. A man who looked as though he were
hopelessly bored was racing through a Beethoven symphony as though he
were in a hurry to get to the end of it. The voluptuous strains of a
stomach-dance coming from the music-hall next door were mingled with the
funeral march of the _Eroica_. People kept coming in and taking their
seats, and turning their glasses on the audience. As soon as the last
person had arrived, they began to go out again. Christophe strained every
nerve to try and follow the thread of the symphony through the babel;
and he did manage to wrest some pleasure from it--(for the orchestra was
skilful, and Christophe had been deprived of symphony music for a long
time)--and then Goujart took his arm and, in the middle of the concert,

"Now let us go. We'll go to another concert."

Christophe frowned: but he made no reply and followed his guide. They went
half across Paris, and then reached another hall, that smelled of stables,
in which at other times fairy plays and popular pieces were given--(in
Paris music is like those poor workingmen who share a lodging: when one
of them leaves the bed, the other creeps into the warm sheets). No air,
of course: since the reign of Louis XIV the French have considered air
unhealthy: and the ventilation of the theaters, like that of old at
Versailles, makes it impossible for people to breathe. A noble old man,
waving his arms like a lion-tamer, was letting loose an act of Wagner: the
wretched beast--the act--was like the lions of a menagerie, dazzled and
cowed by the footlights, so that they have to be whipped to be reminded
that they are lions. The audience consisted of female Pharisees and foolish
women, smiling inanely. After the lion had gone through its performance,
and the tamer had bowed, and they had both been rewarded by the applause of
the audience, Goujart suggested that they should go to yet another concert.
But this time Christophe gripped the arms of his stall, and declared that
he would not budge: he had had enough of running from concert to concert,
picking up the crumbs of a symphony and scraps of a concert on the way.
In vain did Goujart try to explain to him that musical criticism in Paris
was a trade in which it was more important to see than to hear. Christophe
protested that music was not written to be heard in a cab, and needed more
concentration. Such a hotch-potch of concerts was sickening to him: one at
a time was enough for him.

He was much surprised at the extraordinary number of concerts in Paris.
Like most Germans, he thought that music held a subordinate place in
France: and he expected that it would be served up in small delicate
portions. By way of a beginning, he was given fifteen concerts in seven
days. There was one for every evening in the week, and often two or three
an evening at the same time in different quarters of the city. On Sundays
there were four, all at the same time. Christophe marveled at this appetite
for music. And he was no less amazed at the length of the programs. Till
then he had thought that his fellow-countrymen had a monopoly of these
orgies of sound which had more than once disgusted him in Germany. He
saw now that the Parisians could have given them points in the matter of
gluttony. They were given full measure: two symphonies, a concerto, one
or two overtures, an act from an opera. And they came from all sources:
German, Russian, Scandinavian, French--beer, champagne, orgeat, wine--they
gulped down everything without winking. Christophe was amazed that these
indolent Parisians should have had such capacious stomachs. They did not
suffer for it at all. It was the cask of the Danaïdes. It held nothing.

It was not long before Christophe perceived that this mass of music
amounted to very little really. He saw the same faces and heard the
same pieces at every concert. Their copious programs moved in a circle.
Practically nothing earlier than Beethoven. Practically nothing later than
Wagner. And what gaps between them! It seemed as though music were reduced
to five or six great German names, three or four French names, and, since
the Franco-Russian alliance, half a dozen Muscovites. None of the old
French Masters. None of the great Italians. None of the German giants of
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. No contemporary German music,
with the single exception of Richard Strauss, who was more acute than the
rest, and came once a year to plant his new works on the Parisian public.
No Belgian music. No Tschek music. But, most surprising of all, practically
no contemporary French music. And yet everybody was talking about it
mysteriously as a thing that would revolutionize the world. Christophe was
yearning for an opportunity of hearing it: he was very curious about it,
and absolutely without prejudice: he was longing to hear new music, and to
admire the works of genius. But he never succeeded in hearing any of it:
for he did not count a few short pieces, quite cleverly written, but cold
and brain-spun, to which he had not listened very attentively.

       *       *       *       *       *

While he was waiting to form an opinion, Christophe tried to find out
something about it from musical criticism.

That was not easy. It was like the Court of King Pétaud. Not only did
the various papers lightly contradict each other: but they contradicted
themselves in different articles--almost on different pages. To read
them all was enough to drive a man crazy. Fortunately, the critics only
read their own articles, and the public did not read any of them. But
Christophe, who wanted to gain a clear idea about French musicians, labored
hard to omit nothing: and he marveled at the agility of the critics, who
darted about in a sea of contradictions like fish in water.

But amid all these divergent opinions one thing struck him: the pedantic
manner of most of the critics. Who was it said that the French were amiable
fantastics who believed in nothing? Those whom Christophe saw were more
hag-ridden by the science of music--even when they knew nothing--than all
the critics on the other side of the Rhine.

At that time the French musical critics had set about learning what music
was. There were even a few who knew something about it: they were men of
original thought, who had taken the trouble to think about their art, and
to think for themselves. Naturally, they were not very well known: they
were shelved in their little reviews: with only one or two exceptions,
the newspapers were not for them. They were honest men--intelligent,
interesting, sometimes driven by their isolation to paradox and the habit
of thinking aloud, intolerance, and garrulity. The rest had hastily learned
the rudiments of harmony: and they stood gaping in wonder at their newly
acquired knowledge. Like Monsieur Jourdain when he learned the rules of
grammar, they marvelled at their knowledge:

"_D, a, Da; F, a, Fa; R, a, Ra.... Ah! How fine it is!... Ah! How splendid
it is to know something!..._"

They only babbled of theme and counter-theme, of harmonies and resultant
sounds, of consecutive ninths and tierce major. When they had labeled the
succeeding harmonies which made up a page of music, they proudly mopped
their brows: they thought they had explained the music, and almost believed
that they had written it. As a matter of fact, they had only repeated it
in school language, like a boy making a grammatical analysis of a page of
Cicero. But it was so difficult for the best of them to conceive music as
a natural language of the soul that, when they did not make it an adjunct
to painting, they dragged it into the outskirts of science, and reduced it
to the level of a problem in harmonic construction. Some who were learned
enough took upon themselves to show a thing or two to past musicians. They
found fault with Beethoven, and rapped Wagner over the knuckles. They
laughed openly at Berlioz and Gluck. Nothing existed for them just then but
Johann Sebastian Bach, and Claude Debussy. And Bach, who had lately been
roundly abused, was beginning to seem pedantic, a periwig, and in fine, a
hack. Quite distinguished men extolled Rameau in mysterious terms--Rameau
and Couperin, called the Great.

There were tremendous conflicts waged between these learned men. They were
all musicians: but as they all affected different styles, each of them
claimed that his was the only true style, and cried "Raca!" to that of
their colleagues. They accused each other of sham writing and sham culture,
and hurled at each other's heads the words "idealism" and "materialism,"
"symbolism" and "verism," "subjectivism" and "objectivism." Christophe
thought it was hardly worth while leaving Germany to find the squabbles
of the Germans in Paris. Instead of being grateful for having good music
presented in so many different fashions, they would only tolerate their own
particular fashion: and a new _Lutrin_, a fierce war, divided musicians
into two hostile camps, the camp of counterpoint and the camp of harmony.
Like the _Gros-boutiens_ and the _Petits-boutiens_, one side maintained
with acrimony that music should be read horizontally, and the other that
it should be read vertically. One party would only hear of full-sounding
chords, melting concatenations, succulent harmonies: they spoke of music as
though it were a confectioner's shop. The other party would not hear of the
ear, that trumpery organ, being considered: music was for them a lecture,
a Parliamentary assembly, in which all the orators spoke at once without
bothering about their neighbors, and went on talking until they had done:
if people could not hear, so much the worse for them! They could read their
speeches next day in the _Official Journal_: music was made to be read, and
not to be heard. When Christophe first heard of this quarrel between the
_Horizontalists_ and the _Verticalists_, he thought they were all mad. When
he was summoned to join in the fight between the army of _Succession_ and
the army of _Superposition_, he replied, with his usual formula, which was
very different from that of Sosia:

"Gentlemen, I am everybody's enemy."

And when they insisted, saying:

"Which matters most in music, harmony or counterpoint?"

He replied:

"Music. Show me what you have done."

They were all agreed about their own music. These intrepid warriors who,
when they were not pummeling each other, were whacking away at some dead
Master whose fame had endured too long, were reconciled by the one passion
which was common to them all: an ardent musical patriotism. France was to
them _the_ great musical nation. They were perpetually proclaiming the
decay of Germany. That did not hurt Christophe. He had declared so himself,
and therefore was not in a position to contradict them. But he was a little
surprised to hear of the supremacy of French music: there was, in fact,
very little trace of it in the past. And yet French musicians maintained
that their art had been admirable from the earliest period. By way of
glorifying French music, they set to work to throw ridicule on the famous
men of the last century, with the exception of one Master, who was very
good and very pure--and a Belgian. Having done that amount of slaughter,
they were free to admire the archaic Masters, who had been forgotten, while
a certain number of them were absolutely unknown. Unlike the lay schools
of France which date the world from the French Revolution, the musicians
regarded it as a chain of mighty mountains, to be scaled before it could
be possible to look back on the Golden Age of music, the Eldorado of art.
After a long eclipse the Golden Age was to emerge again: the hard wall
was to crumble away: a magician of sound was to call forth in full flower
a marvelous spring: the old tree of music was to put forth young green
leaves: in the bed of harmony thousands of flowers were to open their
smiling eyes upon the new dawn: and silvery trickling springs were to
bubble forth with the vernal sweet song of streams--a very idyl.

Christophe was delighted. But when he looked at the bills of the Parisian
theaters, he saw the names of Meyerbeer, Gounod, Massenet, and Mascagni and
Leoncavallo--names with which he was only too familiar: and he asked his
friends if all this brazen music, with its girlish rapture, its artificial
flowers, like nothing so much as a perfumery shop, was the garden of Armide
that they had promised him. They were hurt and protested: if they were to
be believed, these things were the last vestiges of a moribund age: no
one attached any value to them. But the fact remained that _Cavalleria
Rusticana_ flourished at the Opéra Comique, and _Pagliacci_ at the Opéra:
Massenet and Gounod were more frequently performed than anybody else, and
the musical trinity--_Mignon_, _Les Huguenots_, and _Faust_--had safely
crossed the bar of the thousandth performance. But these were only trivial
accidents: there was no need to go and see them. When some untoward fact
upsets a theory, nothing is more simple than to ignore it. The French
critics shut their eyes to these blatant works and to the public which
applauded them: and only a very little more was needed to make them ignore
the whole music-theater in France. The music-theater was to them a literary
form, and therefore impure. (Being all literary men, they set a ban on
literature.) Any music that was expressive, descriptive, suggestive--in
short, any music with any meaning--was condemned as impure. In every
Frenchman there is a Robespierre. He must be for ever chopping the head
off something or somebody to purify it. The great French critics only
recognized pure music: the rest they left to the rabble.

Christophe was rather mortified when he thought how vulgar his taste must
be. But he found some comfort in the discovery that all these musicians who
despised the theater spent their time in writing for it: there was not one
of them who did not compose operas. But no doubt that was also a trivial
accident. They were to be judged, as they desired, by their pure music.
Christophe looked about for their pure music.

       *       *       *       *       *

Théophile Goujart took him to the concerts of a Society dedicated to
the national art. There the new glories of French music were elaborated
and carefully hatched. It was a club, a little church, with several
side-chapels. Each chapel had its saint, each saint his devotees, who
blackguarded the saint in the next chapel. It was some time before
Christophe could differentiate between the various saints. Naturally
enough, being accustomed to a very different sort of art, he was at first
baffled by the new music, and the more he thought he understood it, the
farther was he from a real understanding.

It all seemed to him to be bathed in a perpetual twilight. It was a dull
gray ground on which were drawn lines, shading off and blurring into
each other, sometimes starting from the mist, and then sinking back into
it again. Among all these lines there were stiff, crabbed, and cramped
designs, as though they were drawn with a set-square--patterns with sharp
corners, like the elbow of a skinny woman. There were patterns in curves
floating and curling like the smoke of a cigar. But they were all enveloped
in the gray light. Did the sun never shine in France? Christophe had only
had rain and fog since his arrival, and was inclined to believe so; but
it is the artist's business to create sunshine when the sun fails. These
men lit up their little lanterns, it is true: but they were like the
glow-worm's lamp, giving no warmth and very little light. The titles of
their works were changed: they dealt with Spring, the South, Love, the Joy
of Living, Country Walks; but the music never changed: it was uniformly
soft, pale, enervated, anemic, wasting away. It was then the mode in
France, among the fastidious, to whisper in music. And they were quite
right: for as soon as they tried to talk aloud they shouted: there was no
mean. There was no alternative but distinguished somnolence and
melodramatic declamation.

Christophe shook off the drowsiness that was creeping over him, and looked
at his program; and he was surprised to read that the little puffs of cloud
floating across the gray sky claimed to represent certain definite things.
For, in spite of theory, all their pure music was almost always program
music, or at least music descriptive of a certain subject. It was in vain
that they denounced literature: they needed the support of a literary
crutch. Strange crutches they were, too, as a rule! Christophe observed
the odd puerility of the subjects which they labored to depict--orchards,
kitchen-gardens, farmyards, musical menageries, a whole Zoo. Some musicians
transposed for orchestra or piano the pictures in the Louvre, or the
frescoes of the Opéra: they turned into music Cuyp, Baudry, and Paul
Potter: explanatory notes helped the hearer to recognize the apple of
Paris, a Dutch inn, or the crupper of a white horse. To Christophe it was
like the production of children obsessed by images, who, not knowing how to
draw, scribble down in their exercise-books anything that comes into their
heads, and naïvely write down under it in large letters an inscription to
the effect that it is a house or a tree.

But besides these blind image-fanciers who saw with their ears, there were
the philosophers: they discussed metaphysical problems in music: their
symphonies were composed of the struggle between abstract principles and
stated symbols or religions. And in their operas they affected to study the
judicial and social questions of the day: the Declaration of the Rights of
Woman and the Citizen, elaborated by the metaphysicians of the Butte and
the Palais-Bourbon. They did not shrink from bringing the question of
divorce on to the platform together with the inquiry into the birth-rate
and the separation of the Church and State. Among them were to be found
lay symbolists and clerical symbolists. They introduced philosophic
rag-pickers, sociological grisettes, prophetic bakers, and apostolic
fishermen to the stage. Goethe spoke of the artists of his day, "who
reproduced the ideas of Kant in allegorical pictures." The artists of
Christophe's day wrote sociology in semi-quavers. Zola, Nietzsche,
Maeterlinck, Barrès, Jaurès, Mendès, the Gospel, and the Moulin Rouge, all
fed the cistern whence the writers of operas and symphonies drew their
ideas. Many of them, intoxicated by the example of Wagner, cried: "And I,
too, am a poet!" And with perfect assurance they tacked on to their music
verses in rhyme, or unrhymed, written in the style of an elementary school
or a decadent feuilleton.

All these thinkers and poets were partisans of pure music. But they
preferred talking about it to writing it. And yet they did sometimes manage
to write it. Then they wrote music that was not intended to say anything.
Unfortunately, they often succeeded: their music was meaningless--at least,
to Christophe. It is only fair to say that he had not the key to it.

In order to understand the music of a foreign nation a man must take the
trouble to learn the language, and not make up his mind beforehand that he
knows it. Christophe, like every good German, thought he knew it. That was
excusable. Many Frenchmen did not understand it any more than he. Like the
Germans of the time of Louis XIV, who tried so hard to speak French that
in the end they forgot their own language, the French musicians of the
nineteenth century had taken so much pains to unlearn their language that
their music had become a foreign lingo. It was only of recent years that a
movement had sprung up to speak French in France. They did not all succeed:
the force of habit was very strong: and with a few exceptions their French
was Belgian, or still smacked faintly of Germany. It was quite natural,
therefore, that a German should be mistaken, and declare, with his usual
assurance, that it was very bad German, and meant nothing, since he could
make nothing of it.

Christophe was in exactly that case. The symphonies of the French seemed
to him to be abstract, dialectic, and musical themes were opposed and
superposed arithmetically in them: their combinations and permutations
might just as well have been expressed in figures or the letters of the
alphabet. One man would construct a symphony on the progressive development
of a sonorous formula which did not seem to be complete until the last page
of the last movement, so that for nine-tenths of the work it never advanced
beyond the grub stage of its existence. Another would erect variations on a
theme which was not stated until the end, so that the symphony gradually
descended from the complex to the simple. They were very clever toys. But a
man would need to be both very old and very young to be able to enjoy them.
They had cost their inventors untold effort. They took years to write a
fantasy. They worried their hair white in the search for new combinations
of chords--to express ...? No matter! New expressions. As the organ creates
the need, they say, so the expression must in the end create the idea: the
chief thing is that the expression should be novel. Novelty at all costs!
They had a morbid horror of anything that "had been said." The best of them
were paralyzed by it all. They seemed always to be keeping a fearful guard
on themselves, and crossing out what they had written, wondering: "Good
Lord! Where did I read that?" ... There are some musicians--especially in
Germany--who spend their time in piecing together other people's music. The
musicians of France were always looking out at every bar to see that they
had not included in their catalogues melodies that had already been used by
others, and erasing, erasing, changing the shape of the note until it was
like no known note, and even ceased to be like a note at all.

But they did not take Christophe in: in vain did they muffle themselves
up in a complicated language, and make superhuman and prodigious efforts,
go into orchestral fits, or cultivate inorganic harmonies, an obsessing
monotony, declamations à la Sarah Bernhardt, beginning in a minor key, and
going on for hours plodding along like mules, half asleep, along the edge
of the slippery slope--always under the mask Christophe found the souls of
these men, cold, weary, horribly scented, like Gounod and Massenet, but
even less natural. And he repeated the unjust comment on the French of

"Let them be: they always go back to their giddy-go-round."

Only they did try so hard to be learned. They took popular songs as themes
for learned symphonies, like dissertations for the Sorbonne. That was the
great game at the time. All sorts and kinds of popular songs, songs of all
nations, were pressed into the service. And they worked them up into things
like the _Ninth Symphony_ and the _Quartet_ of César Franck, only much more
difficult. A musician would conceive quite a simple air. At once he would
mix it up with another, which meant nothing at all, though it jarred
hideously with the first. And all these people were obviously so calm, so
perfectly balanced!...

And there was a young conductor, properly haggard and dressed for the part,
who produced these works: he flung himself about, darted lightnings, made
Michael Angelesque gestures as though he were summoning up the armies of
Beethoven or Wagner. The audience, which was composed of society people,
was bored to tears, though nothing would have induced them to renounce the
honor of paying a high price for such glorious boredom: and there were
young tyros who were only too glad to bring their school knowledge into
play as they picked up the threads of the music, and they applauded with
an enthusiasm as frantic as the gestures of the conductor, and the fearful
noise of the music....

"What rot!" said Christopher. (For he was well up in Parisian slang by

       *       *       *       *       *

But it is easier to penetrate the mystery of Parisian slang than the
mystery of Parisian music. Christophe judged it with the passion which he
brought to bear on everything, and the native incapacity of the Germans to
understand French art. At least, he was sincere, and only asked to be put
right if he was mistaken. And he did not regard himself as bound by his
judgment, but left it open to any new impression that might alter it.

As matters stood, he readily admitted that there was much talent in the
music he heard, interesting stuff, certain odd happy rhythms and harmonies,
an assortment of fine materials, mellow and brilliant, glittering colors,
a perpetual outpouring of invention and cleverness. Christophe was
entertained by it, and learned a thing or two. All these small masters had
infinitely more freedom of thought than the musicians of Germany: they
bravely left the highroad and plunged through the woods. They did their
best to lose themselves. But they were so clever that they could not manage
it. Some of them found themselves on the road again in twenty yards. Others
tired at once, and stopped wherever they might be. There were a few who
almost discovered new paths, but instead of following them up they sat down
at the edge of the wood and fell to musing under a tree. What they most
lacked was will-power, force: they had all the gifts save one--vigor and
life. And all their multifarious efforts were confusedly directed, and were
lost on the road. It was only rarely that these artists became conscious of
the nature of their efforts, and could join forces to a common and a given
end. It was the usual result of French anarchy, which wastes the enormous
wealth of talent and good intentions through the paralyzing influence of
its uncertainty and contradictions. With hardly an exception, all the great
French musicians, like Berlioz and Saint-Saens--to mention only the most
recent--have been hopelessly muddled, self-destructive, and forsworn, for
want of energy, want of faith, and, above all, for want of an inward guide.

Christophe, with the insolence and disdain of the latter-day German,

"The French do no more than fritter away their energy in inventing things
which they are incapable of using. They need a master of another race, a
Gluck or a Napoleon, to turn their Revolutions to any account."

And he smiled at the notion of an Eighteenth of Brumaire.

       *       *       *       *       *

And yet, in the midst of all this anarchy, there was a group striving to
restore order and discipline to the minds of artists and public. By way
of a beginning, they had taken a Latin name reminiscent of a clerical
institution which had flourished thirteen or fourteen centuries ago at the
time of the great Invasion of the Goths and Vandals. Christophe was rather
surprised at their going back so far. It was a good thing, certainly, to
dominate one's generation. But it looked as though a watch-tower fourteen
centuries high might be, a little inconvenient, and more suitable perhaps
for observing the movements of the stars than those of the men of the
present day. But Christophe was soon reassured when he saw that the sons of
St. Gregory spent very little time on their tower: they only went up it to
ring the bells, and spent the rest of their time in the church below. It
was some time before Christophe, who attended some of their services, saw
that it was a Catholic cult: he had been sure at the outset that their
rites were those of some little Protestant sect. The audience groveled: the
disciples were pious, intolerant, aggressive on the smallest provocation:
at their head was a man of a cold sort of purity, rather childish and
wilful, maintaining the integrity of his doctrine, religious, moral, and
artistic, explaining in abstract terms the Gospel of music to the small
number of the Elect, and calmly damning Pride and Heresy. To these two
states of mind he attributed every defect in art and every vice of
humanity: the Renaissance, the Reformation, and present-day Judaism, which
he lumped together in one category. The Jews of music were burned in
effigy after being ignominiously dressed. The colossal Handel was soundly
trounced. Only Johann Sebastian Bach attained salvation by the grace of the
Lord, who recognized that he had been a Protestant by mistake.

The temple of the _Rue Saint-Jacques_ fulfilled an apostolic function:
souls and music found salvation there. The rules of genius were taught
there most methodically. Laborious pupils applied the formulas with
infinite pains and absolute certainty. It looked as though by their pious
labors they were trying to regain the criminal levity of their ancestors:
the Aubers, the Adams, and the trebly damned, the diabolical Berlioz, the
devil himself, _diabolus in musica_. With laudable ardor and a sincere
piety they spread the cult of the acknowledged masters. In ten years the
work they had to show was considerable: French music was transformed. Not
only the French critics, but the musicians themselves had learned something
about music. There were now composers, and even virtuosi, who were
acquainted with the works of Bach. And that was not so common even in
Germany! But, above all, a great effort had been made to combat the
stay-at-home spirit of the French, who will shut themselves up in their
homes, and cannot be induced to go out. So their music lacks air: it is
sealed-chamber music, sofa music, music with no sort of vigor. Think
of Beethoven composing as he strode across country, rushing down the
hillsides, swinging along through sun and rain, terrifying the cattle with
his wild shouts and gestures! There was no danger of the musicians of Paris
upsetting their neighbors with the noise of their inspiration, like the
bear of Bonn. When they composed they muted the strings of their thought:
and the heavy hangings of their rooms prevented any sound from outside
breaking in upon them.

The _Schola_ had tried to let in fresh air, and had opened the windows upon
the past. But only on the past. The windows were opened upon a courtyard,
not into the street. And it was not much use. Hardly had they opened the
windows than they closed the shutters, like old women afraid of catching
cold. And there came up a gust or two of the Middle Ages, Bach, Palestrina,
popular songs. But what was the good of that? The room still smelt of stale
air. But really that suited them very well: they were afraid of the great
modern draughts of air. And if they knew more than other people, they also
denied more in art. Their music took on a doctrinal character: there was no
relaxation: their concerts were history lectures, or a string of edifying
examples. Advanced ideas became academic. The great Bach, he whose music is
like a torrent, was received into the bosom of the Church and then tamed.
His music was submitted to a transformation in the minds of the _Schola_
very like the transformation to which the savagely sensual Bible has been
submitted in the minds of the English. As for modern music, the doctrine
promulgated was aristocratic and eclectic, an attempt to compound the
distinctive characteristics of the three or four great periods of music
from the sixth to the twentieth century. If it had been possible to carry
it out, the resulting music would have been like those hybrid structures
raised by a Viceroy of India on his return from his travels, with rare
materials collected in every corner of the earth. But the good sense of
the French saved them from any such barbarically erudite excesses: they
carefully avoided any application of their theories: they treated them as
Molière treated his doctors: they took their prescriptions, but did not
carry them out. The best of them went their own way. The rest of them
contented themselves in practice with very intricate and difficult
exercises in counterpoint: they called them sonatas, quartets, and
symphonies.... "Sonata, what do you desire of me?" The poor thing desired
nothing at all except to be a sonata. The idea behind it was abstract
and anonymous, heavy and joyless. So might a lawyer conceive an art.
Christophe, who had at first been by way of being pleased with the French
for not liking Brahms, now thought that there were many, many little
Brahms in France. These laborious, conscientious, honest journeymen had
many qualities and virtues. Christophe left them edified, but bored to
distraction. It was all very good, very good....

How fine it was outside!

       *       *       *       *       *

And yet there were a few independent musicians in Paris, men belonging to
no school; They alone were interesting to Christophe. It was only through
them that he could gauge the vitality of the art. Schools and coteries only
express some superficial fashion or manufactured theory. But the
independent men who stand apart have more chance of really discovering the
ideas of their race and time. It is true that that makes them all the more
difficult for a foreigner to understand.

That was, in fact, what happened when Christophe first heard the famous
work which the French had so extravagantly praised, while some of them were
announcing the coming of the greatest musical revolution of the last ten
centuries. (It was easy for them to talk about centuries: they knew hardly
anything of any except their own.)

Théophile Goujart and Sylvain Kohn took Christophe to the Opéra Comique
to hear _Pelleas and Melisande_. They were proud to display the opera
to him--as proud as though they had written it themselves. They gave
Christophe to understand that it would be the road to Damascus for him. And
they went on eulogizing it even after the piece had begun. Christophe shut
them up and listened intently. After the first act he turned to Sylvain
Kohn, who asked him, with glittering eyes:

"Well, old man, what do you think of it?"

And he said:

"Is it like that all through?"


"But it's nothing."

Kohn protested loudly, and called him a Philistine.

"Nothing at all," said Christophe. "No music. No development. No sequence.
No cohesion. Very nice harmony. Quite good orchestral effects, quite good.
But it's nothing--nothing at all...."

He listened through the second act. Little by little the lantern gathered
light and glowed: and he began to perceive something through the twilight.
Yes: he could understand the sober-minded rebellion against the Wagnerian
ideal which swamped the drama with floods of music; but he wondered a
little ironically if the ideal of sacrifice did not mean the sacrifice of
something which one does not happen to possess. He felt the easy fluency
of the opera, the production of an effect with the minimum of trouble, the
indolent renunciation of the sturdy effort shown in the vigorous Wagnerian
structures. And he was quite struck by the unity of it, the simple, modest,
rather dragging declamation, although it seemed monotonous to him, and, to
his German ears, it sounded false:--(and it even seemed to him that the
more it aimed at truth the more it showed how little the French language
was suited to music: it is too logical, too precise, too definite,--a world
perfect in itself, but hermetically sealed).--However, the attempt was
interesting, and Christophe gladly sympathized with the spirit of revolt
and reaction against the over-emphasis and violence of Wagnerian art.
The French composer seemed to have devoted his attention discreetly and
ironically to all the things that sentiment and passion only whisper. He
showed love and death inarticulate. It was only by the imperceptible
throbbing of a melody, a little thrill from the orchestra that was no more
than a quivering of the corners of the lips, that the drama passing through
the souls of the characters was brought home to the audience. It was as
though the artist were fearful of letting himself go. He had the genius of
taste--except at certain moments when the Massenet slumbering in the heart
of every Frenchman awoke and waxed lyrical. Then there showed hair that was
too golden, lips that were too red--the Lot's wife of the Third Republic
playing the lover. But such moments were the exception: they were a
relaxation of the writer's self-imposed restraint: throughout the rest of
the opera there reigned a delicate simplicity, a simplicity which was not
so very simple, a deliberate simplicity, the subtle flower of an ancient
society. That young Barbarian, Christophe, only half liked it. The whole
scheme of the play, the poem, worried him. He saw a middle-aged Parisienne
posing childishly and having fairy-tales told to her. It was not the
Wagnerian sickliness, sentimental and clumsy, like a girl from the Rhine
provinces. But the Franco-Belgian sickliness was not much better, with
its simpering parlor-tricks:--"the hair," "the little father," "the
doves,"--and the whole trick of mystery for the delectation of society
women. The soul of the Parisienne was mirrored in the little piece, which,
like a flattering picture, showed the languid fatalism, the boudoir
Nirvana, the soft, sweet melancholy. Nowhere a trace of will-power. No one
knew what he wanted. No one knew what he was doing.

"It is not my fault! It is not my fault!" these grown-up children groaned.
All through the five acts, which took place in a perpetual
half-light--forests, caves, cellars, death-chambers--little sea-birds
struggled: hardly even that. Poor little birds! Pretty birds, soft, pretty
birds.... They were so afraid of too much light, of the brutality of deeds,
words, passions--life! Life is not soft and pretty. Life is no kid-glove

Christophe could hear in the distance the rumbling of cannon, coming to
batter down that worn-out civilization, that perishing little Greece.

Was it that proud feeling of melancholy and pity that made him in spite of
all sympathize with the opera? It interested him more than he would admit.
Although he went on telling Sylvain Kohn, as they left the theater, that it
was "very fine, very fine, but lacking in _Schwung_ (impulse), and did not
contain enough music for him," he was careful not to confound _Pelleas_
with the other music of the French. He was attracted by the lamp shining
through the fog. And then he saw other lights, vivid and fantastic,
flickering round it. His attention was caught by these will-o'-the-wisps:
he would have liked to go near them to find out how it was that they
shone: but they were not easy to catch. These independent musicians, whom
Christophe did not understand, were not very approachable. They seemed to
lack that great need of sympathy which possessed Christophe. With a few
exceptions they seemed to read very little, know very little, desire very
little. They almost all lived in retirement, some outside Paris, others in
Paris, but isolated, by circumstances or purposely, shut up in a narrow
circle--from pride, shyness, disgust, or apathy. There were very few of
them, but they were split up into rival groups, and could not tolerate
each other. They were extremely susceptible, and could not bear with their
enemies, or their rivals, or even their friends, when they dared to admire
any other musician than themselves, or when they admired too coldly,
or too fervently, or in too commonplace or too eccentric a manner. It
was extremely difficult to please them. Every one of them had actually
sanctioned a critic, armed with letters patent, who kept a jealous watch
at the foot of the statue. Visitors were requested not to touch. They did
not gain any greater understanding from being understood only by their own
little groups. They were deformed by the adulation and the opinion that
their partisans and they themselves held of their work, and they lost
grip of their art and their genius. Men with a pleasing fantasy thought
themselves reformers, and Alexandrine artists posed as rivals of Wagner.
They were almost all the victims of competition. Every day they had to leap
a little higher than the day before, and, especially, higher than their
rivals, These exercises in high jumping were not always successful, and
were certainly not attractive except to professionals. They took no account
of the public, and the public never bothered about them. Their art was
out of touch with the people, music which was only fed from music. Now,
Christophe was under the impression, rightly or wrongly, that there was no
music that had a greater need of outside support than French music. That
supple climbing plant needed a prop: it could not do without literature,
but did not find in it enough of the breath of life. French music was
breathless, bloodless, will-less. It was like a woman languishing for her
lover. But, like a Byzantine Empress, slender and feeble in body, laden
with precious stones, it was surrounded with eunuchs: snobs, esthetes,
and critics. The nation was not musical: and the craze, so much talked of
during the last twenty years, for Wagner, Beethoven, Bach, or Debussy,
never reached farther than a certain class. The enormous increase in the
number of concerts, the flowing tide of music at all costs, found no real
response in the development of public taste. It was just a fashionable
craze confined to the few, and leading them astray. There was only a
handful of people who really loved music, and these were not the people
who were most occupied with it, composers and critics. There are so few
musicians in France who really love music!

So thought Christophe: but it did not occur to him that it is the same
everywhere, that even in Germany there are not many more real musicians,
and that the people who matter in art are not the thousands who understand
nothing about it, but the few who love it and serve it in proud humility.
Had he ever set eyes on them in France? Creators and critics--the best of
them were working in silence, far from the racket, as César Franck had
done, and the most gifted composers of the day were doing, and a number of
artists who would live out their lives in obscurity, so that some day in
the future some journalist might have the glory of discovering them and
posing as their friend--and the little army of industrious and obscure men
of learning who, without ambition and careless of their fame, were building
stone by stone the greatness of the past history of France, or, being vowed
to the musical education of the country, were preparing the greatness of
the France of the future. There were minds there whose wealth and liberty
and world-wide curiosity would have attracted Christophe if he had been
able to discover them! But at most he only caught a cursory glimpse of
two or three of them: he only made their acquaintance in the villainous
caricatures of their ideas. He saw only their defects copied and
exaggerated by the apish mimics of art and the bagmen of the Press.

But what most disgusted him with these vulgarians of music was their
formalism. They never seemed to consider anything but form. Feeling,
character, life--never a word of these! It never seemed to occur to them
that every real musician lives in a world of sound, as other men live in a
visible world, and that his days are lived in and borne onward by a flood
of music. Music is the air he breathes, the sky above him. Nature wakes
answering music in his soul. His soul itself is music: music is in all that
it loves, hates, suffers, fears, hopes. And when the soul of a musician
loves a beautiful body, it sees music in that, too. The beloved eyes are
not blue, or brown, or gray: they are music: their tenderness is like
caressing, notes, like a delicious chord. That inward music is a thousand
times more rich than the music that finds expression, and the instrument
is inferior to the player. Genius is measured by the power of life, by the
power of evoking life through the imperfect instrument of art. But to how
many men in France does that ever occur? To these chemists music seems to
be no more than the art of resolving sounds. They mistake the alphabet
for a book. Christophe shrugged his shoulders when he heard them say
complacently that to understand art it must be abstracted from the man.
They were extraordinarily pleased with this paradox: for by it they fancied
they were proving their own musical quality. And even Goujart subscribed
to it--Goujart, the idiot who had never been able to understand how people
managed to learn by heart a piece of music--(he had tried to get Christophe
to explain the mystery to him)--and had tried to prove to him that
Beethoven's greatness of soul and Wagner's sensuality had no more to do
with their music than a painter's model has to do with his portraits.

Christophe lost patience with him, and said:

"That only proves that a beautiful body is of no more artistic value to
you than a great passion. Poor fellow!... You have no notion of the beauty
given to a portrait by the beauty of a perfect face, or of the glow of
beauty given to music by the beauty of the great soul which is mirrored in
it?... Poor fellow!... You are interested only in the handiwork? So long
as it is well done you are not concerned with the meaning of a piece of
work.... Poor fellow!... You are like those people who do not listen to
what an orator says, but only to the sound of his voice, and watch his
gestures without understanding them, and then say he speaks devilish
well.... Poor fellow! Poor wretch!... Oh, you rotten swine!"

But it was not only a particular theory that irritated Christophe; it was
all their theories. He was appalled by their unending arguments, their
Byzantine discussions, the everlasting talk, talk, talk, of musicians
about music, and nothing else. It was enough to make the best of musicians
heartily sick of music. Like Moussorgski, Christophe thought that it would
be as well for musicians every now and then to leave their counterpoint and
harmony in favor of books or experience of life. Music is not enough for a
present-day musician; not thus will he dominate his age and raise his head
above the stream of time.... Life! All life! To see everything, to know
everything, to feel everything. To love, to seek, to grasp Truth--the
lovely Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons, whose teeth bite in answer to a

Away with your musical discussion-societies, away with your
chord-factories! Not all the twaddle of the harmonic kitchens would ever
help him to find a new harmony that was alive, alive, and not a monstrous

He turned his back on these Doctor Wagners, brooding on their alembics to
hatch out some homunculus in bottle: and, running away from French music,
he sought to enter literary circles and Parisian society. Like many
millions of people in France, Christophe made his first acquaintance
with modern French literature through the newspapers. He wanted to get
the measure of Parisian thought as quickly as possible, and at the same
time to perfect his knowledge of the language. And so he set himself
conscientiously to read the papers which he was told were most Parisian. On
the first day after a horrific chronicle of events, which filled several
pages with paragraphs and snapshots, he read a story about a father and a
daughter, a girl of fifteen: it was narrated as though it were a matter
of course, and even rather moving. Next day, in the same paper, he read a
story about a father and a son, a boy of twelve, and the girl was mixed up
in it again. On the following day he read a story about a brother and a
sister. Next day, the story was about two sisters. On the fifth day.... On
the fifth day he hurled the paper away with a shudder, and said to Sylvain

"But what's the matter with you all? Are you ill?"

Sylvain Kohn began to laugh, and said:

"That is art."

Christophe shrugged his shoulders:

"You're pulling my leg."

Kohn laughed once more:

"Not at all. Read a little more."

And he pointed to the report of a recent inquiry into Art and Morality,
which set out that "Love sanctified everything," that "Sensuality was
the leaven of Art," that "Art could not be Immoral," that "Morality was
a convention of Jesuit education," and that nothing mattered except "the
greatness of Desire." A number of letters from literary men witnessed
the artistic purity of a novel depicting the life of bawds. Some of the
signatories were among the greatest names in contemporary literature, or
the most austere of critics. A domestic poet, _bourgeois_ and a Catholic,
gave his blessing as an artist to a detailed description of the decadence
of the Greeks. There were enthusiastic praises of novels in which the
course of Lewdness was followed through the ages: Rome, Alexandria,
Byzantium, the Italian and French Renaissance, the Age of Greatness ...
Nothing was omitted. Another cycle of studies was devoted to the various
countries of the world: conscientious writers had devoted their energies,
with a monkish patience, to the study of the low quarters of the five
continents. And it was no matter for surprise to discover among these
geographers and historians of Pleasure distinguished poets and very
excellent writers. They were only marked out from the rest by their
erudition. In their most impeccable style they told archaic stories, highly

But what was most alarming was to see honest men and real artists, men who
rightly enjoyed a high place in French literature, struggling in such a
traffic, for which they were not at all suited. Some of them with great
travail wrote, like the rest, the sort of trash that the newspapers
serialize. They had to produce it by a fixed time, once or twice a week:
and it had been going on for years. They went on producing and producing,
long after they had ceased to have anything to say, racking their brains to
find something new, something more sensational, more bizarre: for the
public was surfeited and sick of everything, and soon wearied of even the
most wanton imaginary pleasures: they had always to go one better--better
than the rest, better than their own best--and they squeezed out their very
life-blood, they squeezed out their guts: it was a pitiable sight, a
grotesque spectacle.

Christophe, who did not know the ins and outs of that melancholy traffic,
and if he had known them would not have been more indulgent; for in his
eyes nothing in the world could excuse an artist for selling his art for
thirty pieces of silver....

(Not even to assure the well-being of those whom he loves?

Not even then.

That is not human.

It is not a question of being human; it is a question of being a man....
Human!... May God have mercy on your white-livered humanitarianism, it is
so bloodless!... No man loves twenty things at once, no man can serve many

... Christophe, who, in his hard-working life, had hardly yet seen beyond
the limits of his little German town, could have no idea that this artistic
degradation, which showed so rawly in Paris, was common to nearly all the
great towns: and the hereditary prejudices of chaste Germany against Latin
immorality awoke in him once more. And yet Sylvain Kohn might easily have
pointed to what was going on by the banks of the Spree, and the impurity
of Imperial Germany, where brutality made shame and degradation even more
repulsive. But Sylvain Kohn never thought of it: he was no more shocked by
that than by the life of Paris. He thought ironically: "Every nation has
its little ways," and the ways of the world in which he lived seemed so
natural to him that Christophe could be excused for thinking it was in the
nature of the people. And so, like so many of his compatriots, he saw in
the secret sore which is eating away the intellectual aristocracies of
Europe the vice proper to French art, and the bankruptcy of the Latin

Christophe was hurt by his first encounter with French literature, and it
took him some time to get over it. And yet there were plenty of books which
were not solely occupied with what one of these writers has nobly called
"the taste for fundamental entertainments." But he never laid hands on
the best and finest of them. Such books were not written, for the like of
Sylvain Kohn and his friends: they did not bother about them, and certainly
Kohn and the rest never bothered about the better class of books: they
ignored each other. Sylvain Kohn would never have thought of mentioning
them to Christophe. He was quite sincerely convinced that his friends
and himself were the incarnation of French Art, and thought there was no
talent, no art, no France outside the men who had been consecrated as great
by their opinion and the press of the boulevards. Christophe knew nothing
about the poets who were the glory of French literature, the very crown of
France. Very few of the novelists reached him, or emerged from the ocean of
mediocre writers: a few books of Barrès and Anatole France. But he was not
sufficiently familiar with the language to be able to enjoy the universal
dilettantism, and erudition, and irony of the one, or the unequal but
superior art of the other. He spent some time in watching the little
orange-trees in tubs growing in the hothouse of Anatole France, and the
delicate, perfect flowers clambering over the gravelike soul of Barrès. He
stayed for a moment or two before the genius, part sublime, part silly, of
Maeterlinck: from that there issued a polite mysticism, monotonous, numbing
like some vague sorrow. He shook himself, and plunged into the heavy,
sluggish stream, the muddy romanticism of Zola, with whom he was already
acquainted, and when he emerged from that it was to sink back and drown in
a deluge of literature.

The submerged lands exhaled an _odor di femina_. The literature of the day
teemed with effeminate men and women. It is well that women should write if
they are sincere enough to describe what no man has yet seen: the depths
of the soul of a woman. But only very few dared do that: most of them only
wrote to attract the men: they were as untruthful in their books as in
their drawing-rooms: they jockeyed their facts and flirted with the reader.
Since they were no longer religious, and had no confessor to whom to tell
their little lapses, they told them to the public. There was a perfect
shower of novels, almost all scabrous, all affected, written in a sort of
lisping style, a style scented with flowers and fine perfumes--sometimes
too fine--sometimes not fine at all--and the eternal stale, warm, sweetish
smell. Their books reeked of it. Christophe thought, like Goethe: "Let
women do what they like with poetry and writing: but men must not write
like women! That I cannot stand." He could not help being disgusted by
their tricks, their sly coquetry, their sentimentality, which seemed to
expend itself by preference upon creatures hardly worthy of interest,
their style crammed with metaphor, their love-making and sensuality, their
hotch-potch of subtlety and brutality.

But Christophe was ready to admit that he was not in a position to judge.
He was deafened by the row of this babel of words. It was impossible to
hear the little fluting sounds that were drowned in it all. For even among
such books as these there were some, from the pages of which, behind all
the nonsense, there shone the limpid sky and the harmonious outline of the
hills of Attica--so much talent, so much grace, a sweet breath of life, and
charm of style, a thought like the voluptuous women or the languid boys of
Perugino and the young Raphael, smiling, with half-closed eyes, at their
dream of love. But Christophe was blind to that. Nothing could reveal
to him the dominant tendencies, the currents of public opinion. Even a
Frenchman would have been hard put to it to see them. And the only definite
impression that he had at this time was that of a flood of writing which
looked like a national disaster. It seemed as though everybody wrote: men,
women, children, officers, actors, society people, blackguards. It was an

For the time being Christophe gave it up. He felt that such a guide as
Sylvain Kohn must lead him hopelessly astray. His experience of a literary
coterie in Germany gave him very properly a profound distrust of the people
whom he met: it was impossible to know whether or no they only represented
the opinion of a few hundred idle people, or even, in certain cases,
whether or no the author was his own public. The theater gave a more exact
idea of the society of Paris. It played an enormous part in the daily life
of the city. It was an enormous kitchen, a Pantagruelesque restaurant,
which could not cope with the appetite of the two million inhabitants.
There were thirty leading theaters, without counting the local houses, café
concerts, all sorts of shows--a hundred halls, all giving performances
every evening, and, every evening, almost all full. A whole nation of
actors and officials. Vast sums were swallowed up in the gulf. The four
State-aided theaters gave work to three thousand people, and cost the
country ten million francs. The whole of Paris re-echoed with the glory
of the play-actors. It was impossible to go anywhere without seeing
innumerable photographs, drawings, caricatures, reproducing their features
and mannerisms, gramophones reproducing their voices, and the newspapers
their opinions on art and politics. They had special newspapers devoted
to them. They published their heroic and domestic Memoirs. These big
self-conscious children, who spent their time in aping each other, these
wonderful apes reigned and held sway over the Parisians: and the dramatic
authors were their chief ministers. Christophe asked Sylvain Kohn to
conduct him into the kingdom of shadows and reflections.

       *       *       *       *       *

But Sylvain Kohn was no safer as a guide in that world than in the world
of books, and, thanks to him, Christophe's first impression was almost as
repulsive as that of his first essay in literature. It seemed that there
was everywhere the same spirit of mental prostitution.

The pleasure-mongers were divided into two schools. On the one hand there
was the good old way, the national way, of providing a coarse and unclean
pleasure, quite frankly; a delight in ugliness, strong meat, physical
deformities, a show of drawers, barrack-room jests, risky stories, red
pepper, high game, private rooms--"a manly frankness," as those people
say who try to reconcile looseness and morality by pointing out that,
after four acts of dubious fun, order is restored and the Code triumphs
by the fact that the wife is really with the husband whom she thinks
she is deceiving--(so long as the law is observed, then virtue is all
right):--that vicious sort of virtue which defends marriage by endowing it
with all the charm of lewdness:--the Gallic way.

The other school was in the modern style. It was much more subtle and much
more disgusting. The Parisianized Jews and the Judaicized Christians who
frequented the theater had introduced into it the usual hash of sentiment
which is the distinctive feature of a degenerate cosmopolitanism. Those
sons who blushed for their fathers set themselves to abnegate their racial
conscience: and they succeeded only too well. Having plucked out the soul
that was their birthright, all that was left them was a mixture of the
moral and intellectual values of other races: they made a _macédoine_ of
them, an _olla podrida_: it was their way of taking possession of them.
The men who who were at that time in control of the theaters in Paris were
extraordinarily skilful at beating up filth and sentiment, and giving
virtue a flavoring of vice, vice a flavoring of virtue, and turning upside
down every human relation of age, sex, the family, and the affections.
Their art, therefore, had an odor _sui generis_, which smelt both good and
bad at once--that is to say, it smelled very bad indeed: they called it

One of their favorite heroes at that time was the amorous old man. Their
theaters presented a rich gallery of portraits of the type: and in painting
it they introduced a thousand pretty touches. Sometimes the sexagenarian
hero would take his daughter into his confidence, and talk to her about
his mistress: and she would talk about her lovers: and they would give
each other friendly advice: the kindly father would aid his daughter in
her indiscretions: and the precious daughter would intervene with the
unfaithful mistress, beg her to return, and bring her back to the fold.
Sometimes the good old man would listen to the confidences of his
mistress: he would talk to her about her lovers, or, if nothing better
was forthcoming, he would listen to the tale of her gallantries, and even
take a delight in them. And there were portraits of lovers, distinguished
gentlemen, who presided in the houses of their former mistresses, and
helped them in their nefarious business. Society women were thieves. The
men were bawds, the girls were Lesbian. And all these things happened in
the highest society: the society of rich people--the only society that
mattered. For that made it possible to offer the patrons of the theater
damaged goods under cover of the delights of luxury. So tricked out, it was
displayed in the market, to the joy of old gentlemen and young women. And
it all reeked of death and the seraglio.

Their style was not less mixed than their sentiments. They had invented a
composite jargon of expressions from all classes of society and every
country under the sun--pedantic, slangy, classical, lyrical, precious,
prurient, and low--a mixture of bawdy jests, affectations, coarseness, and
wit, all of which seemed to have a foreign accent. Ironical, and gifted
with a certain clownish humor, they had not much natural wit: but they were
clever enough, and they manufactured their goods in imitation of Paris. If
the stone was not always of the first water, and if the setting was always
strange and overdone, at least it shone in artificial light, and that was
all it was meant to do. They were intelligent, keen, though short-sighted
observers--their eyes had been dulled by centuries of the life of the
counting-house--turning the magnifying-glass on human sentiments, enlarging
small things, not seeing big things. With a marked predilection for finery,
they were incapable of depicting anything but what seemed to their upstart
snobbishness the ideal of polite society: a little group of worn-out rakes
and adventurers, who quarreled among themselves for the possession of
certain stolen moneys and a few virtueless females.

And yet upon occasion the real nature of these Jewish writers would
suddenly awake, come to the surface from the depths of their being, in
response to some mysterious echo called forth by some vivid word or
sensation. Then there appeared a strange hotch-potch of ages and races, a
breath of wind from the Desert, bringing over the seas to their Parisian
rooms the musty smell of a Turkish bazaar, the dazzling shimmer of the
sands, the mirage, blind sensuality, savage invective, nervous disorder
only a hair's-breadth away from epilepsy, a destructive frenzy--Samson,
suddenly rising like a lion--after ages of squatting in the shade--and
savagely tearing down the columns of the Temple, which comes crashing down
on himself and on his enemies.

Christophe blew his nose and said to Sylvain Kohn:

"There's power in it: but it stinks. That's enough! Let's go and see
something else."

"What?" asked Sylvain Kohn.


"That's it!" said Kohn.

"Can't be," replied Christophe. "France isn't like that."

"It's France, and Germany, too."

"I don't believe it. A nation that was anything like that wouldn't last for
twenty years: why, it's decomposing already. There must be something else."

"There's nothing better."

"There must be something else," insisted Christophe.

"Oh, yes," said Sylvain Kohn. "We have fine people, of course, and theaters
for them, too. Is that what you want? We can give you that."

He took Christophe to the Théâtre Français.

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening they happened to be playing a modern comedy, in prose, dealing
with some legal problem.

From the very beginning Christophe was baffled to make out in what sort of
world the action was taking place. The voices of the actors were out of all
reason, full, solemn, slow, formal: they rounded every syllable as though
they were giving a lesson in elocution, and they seemed always to be
scanning Alexandrines with tragic pauses. Their gestures were solemn and
almost hieratic. The heroine, who wore her gown as though it were a Greek
peplus, with arm uplifted, and head lowered, was nothing else but Antigone,
and she smiled with a smile of eternal sacrifice, carefully modulating
the lower notes of her beautiful contralto voice. The heavy father
walked about like a fencing-master, with automatic gestures, a funereal
dignity,--romanticism in a frock-coat. The juvenile lead gulped and gasped
and squeezed out a sob or two. The piece was written in the style of a
tragic serial story: abstract phrases, bureaucratic epithets, academic
periphrases. No movement, not a sound unrehearsed. From beginning to end it
was clockwork, a set problem, a scenario, the skeleton of a play, with not
a scrap of flesh, only literary phrases. Timid ideas lay behind discussions
that were meant to be bold: the whole spirit of the thing was hopelessly
middle-class and respectable.

The heroine had divorced an unworthy husband, by whom she had had a child,
and she had married a good man whom she loved. The point was, that even in
such a case as this divorce was condemned by Nature, as it is by prejudice.
Nothing could be easier than to prove it: the author contrived that the
woman should be surprised, for one occasion only, into yielding to the
first husband. After that, instead of a perfectly natural remorse, perhaps
a profound sense of shame, together with a greater desire to love and
honor the second and good husband, the author trotted out an heroic case
of conscience, altogether beyond Nature. French writers never seem to be
on good terms with virtue: they always force the note when they talk of
it: they make it quite incredible. They always seem to be dealing with
the heroes of Corneille, and tragedy Kings. And are they not Kings and
Queens, these millionaire heroes, and these heroines who would not be
interesting unless they had at least a mansion in Paris and two or three
country-houses? For such writers and such a public wealth itself is a
beauty, and almost a virtue.

The audience was even more amazing than the play. They were never bored
by all the tiresomely repeated improbabilities. They laughed at the good
points, when the actors said things that were _meant_ to be laughed at: it
was made obvious that they were coming, so that the audience could be ready
to laugh. They mopped their eyes and coughed, and were deeply moved when
the puppets gasped, and gulped, and roared, and fainted away in accordance
with the hallowed tragic ritual.

"And people say the French are gay!" exclaimed Christophe as they left the

"There's a time for everything," said Sylvain Kohn chaffingly. "You wanted
virtue. You see, there's still virtue in France."

"But that's not virtue!" cried Christophe. "That's rhetoric!"

"In France," said Sylvain Kohn. "Virtue in the theater is always

"A pretorium virtue," said Christophe, "and the prize goes to the best
talker. I hate lawyers. Have you no poets in France?"

Sylvain Kohn took him to the poetic drama.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were poets in France. There were even great poets. But the theater
was not for them. It was for the versifiers. The theater is to poetry what
the opera is to music. As Berlioz said: _Sicut amori lupanar._

Christophe saw Princesses who were virtuously promiscuous, who prostituted
themselves for their honor, who were compared with Christ ascending
Calvary:--friends who deceived their friends out of devotion to
them:--glorified triangular relations:--heroic cuckoldry: (the cuckold,
like the blessed prostitute, had become a European commodity: the example
of King Mark had turned the heads of the poets: like the stag of Saint
Hubert, the cuckold never appeared without a halo.) And Christophe saw
also lovely damsels torn between passion and duty: their passion bade them
follow a new lover: duty bade them stay with the old one, an old man who
gave them money and was deceived by them. And in the end they plumped
heroically for Duty. Christophe could not see how Duty differed from sordid
interest: but the public was satisfied. The word Duty was enough for them:
they did not insist on having the thing itself; they took the author's word
for it.

The summit of art was reached and the greatest pleasure was given when,
most paradoxically, sexual immorality and Corneillian heroics could be
combined. In that way every need of the Parisian public was satisfied:
mind, senses, rhetoric. But it is only just to say that the public was
fonder even of words than of lewdness. Eloquence could send it into
ecstasies. It would have suffered anything for a fine tirade. Virtue or
vice, heroics hobnobbing with the basest prurience, there was no pill that
it would not swallow if it were gilded with sonorous rhymes and redundant
words. Anything that came to hand was ground into couplets, antitheses,
arguments: love, suffering, death. And when that was done, they thought
they had felt love, suffering, and death. Nothing but phrases. It was all
a game. When Hugo brought thunder on to the stage, at once (as one of
his disciples said) he muted it so as not to frighten even a child. (The
disciple fancied he was paying him a compliment.) It was never possible to
feel any of the forces of Nature in their art. They made everything polite.
Just as in music--and even more than in music, which was a younger art
in France, and therefore relatively more simple--they were terrified of
anything that had been "already said." The most gifted of them coldly
devoted themselves to working contrariwise. The process was childishly
simple: they pitched on some beautiful legend or fairy-story, and turned
it upside down. Thus, Bluebeard was beaten by his wives, or Polyphemus
was kind enough to pluck out his eye by way of sacrificing himself to the
happiness of Acis and Galatea. And they thought of nothing but form. And
once more it seemed to Christophe (though he was not a good judge) that
these masters of form were rather coxcombs and imitators than great writers
creating their own style and giving breadth and depth to their work.

They played at being artists. They played at being poets. Nowhere was the
poetic lie more insolently reared than in the heroic drama. They put up a
burlesque conception of a hero:

  "_The great thing is to have a soul magnificent.
  An eagel's eye; broad brow like portico; present
  An air of strength, grave mien, most touchingly to show
  A heart that throbs, eyes full of dreams of worlds they know._"

Verses like that were taken seriously. Behind the hocus-pocus of such
fine-sounding words, the bombast, the theatrical clash and clang of the
swords and pasteboard helmets, there was always the incurable futility of a
Sardou, the intrepid vaudevillist, playing Punch and Judy with history.
When in the world was the like of the heroism of Cyrano ever to be found?
These writers moved heaven and earth; they summoned from their tombs the
Emperor and his legions, the bandits of the Ligue, the _condottieri_ of
the Renaissance, called up the human cyclones that once devastated the
universe:--just to display a puppet, standing unmoved through frightful
massacres, surrounded by armies, soldiers, and whole hosts of captive
women, dying of a silly calfish love for a woman whom he had seen ten or
fifteen years before--or King Henri IV submitting to assassination because
his mistress no longer loved him.

So, and no otherwise, did these good people present their parlor Kings,
and _condottieri_, and heroic passion. They were worthy scions of the
illustrious nincompoops of the days of _Grand Cyrus_, those Gascons of the
ideal--Scudéry, La Calprenède--an everlasting brood, the songsters of sham
heroism, impossible heroism, which is the enemy of truth. Christophe
observed to his amazement that the French, who are said to be so clever,
had no sense of the ridiculous.

He was lucky when religion was not dragged in to fit the fashion! Then,
during Lent, certain actors read the sermons of Bossuet at the Gaîté
to the accompaniment of an organ. Jewish authors wrote tragedies about
Saint Theresa for Jewish actresses. The _Way of the Cross_ was acted at
the Bodinière, the _Child Jesus_ at the Ambigu, the _Passion_ at the
Porte-Saint-Martin, _Jesus_ at the Odéon, orchestral suites on the subject
of _Christ_ at the Botanical Gardens. And a certain brilliant talker--a
poet who wrote passionate love-songs--gave a lecture on the _Redemption_
at the Châtelet. And, of course, the passages of the Gospel that were most
carefully preserved by these people were those relating to Pilate and
Mary Magdalene:--"_What is truth_?" and the story of the blessed foolish
virgin.--And their boulevard Christs were horribly loquacious and well up
in all the latest tricks of worldly casuistry.

Christophe said:

"That is the worst yet. It is untruth incarnate. I'm stifling. Let's get

And yet there was a great classic art that held its ground among all these
modern industries, like the ruins of the splendid ancient temples among all
the pretentious buildings of modern Rome. But, outside Molière, Christophe
was not yet able to appreciate it. He was not yet familiar enough with the
language, and, therefore, could not grasp the genius of the race. Nothing
baffled him so much as the tragedy of the seventeenth century--one of the
least accessible provinces of French art to foreigners, precisely because
it lies at the very heart of France. It bored him horribly; he found it
cold, dry, and revolting in its tricks and pedantry. The action was thin or
forced, the characters were rhetorical abstractions or as insipid as the
conversation of society women. They were caricatures of the ancient legends
and heroes: a display of reason, arguments, quibbling, and antiquated
psychology and archeology. Speeches, speeches, speeches; the eternal
loquacity of the French. Christophe ironically refused to say whether it
was beautiful or not: there was nothing to interest him in it: whatever the
arguments put forward in turn by the orators of _Cinna_, he did not care a
rap which of the talking-machines won in the end.

However, he had to admit that the French audience was not of his way of
thinking, and that they did applaud these plays that bored him. But that
did not help to dissipate his confusion: he saw the plays through the
audience: and he recognized in the modern French certain of the features,
distorted, of the classics. So might a critical eye see in the faded charms
of an old coquette the clear, pure features of her daughter:--(such a
discovery is not calculated to foster the illusion of love). Like the
members of a family who are used to seeing each other, the French could not
see the resemblance. But Christophe was struck by it, and exaggerated it:
he could see nothing else. Every work of art he saw seemed to him to be
full of old-fashioned caricatures of the great ancestors of the French;
and he saw these same great ancestors also in caricature. He could not see
any difference between Corneille and the long line of his followers, those
rhetorical poets whose mania it was to present nothing but sublime and
ridiculous cases of conscience. And Racine he confounded with his offspring
of pretentiously introspective Parisian psychologists.

None of these people had really broken free from the classics. The critics
were for ever discussing _Tartuffe_ and _Phèdre_. They never wearied of
hearing the same plays over and over again. They delighted in the same old
words, and when they were old men they laughed at the same jokes which had
been their joy when they were children. And so it would be while the French
nation endured. No country in the world has so firmly rooted a cult of its
great-great-grandfathers. The rest of the universe did not interest them.
There were many, many men and women, even intelligent men and women, who
had never read anything, and never wanted to read anything outside the
works that had been written in France under the Great King! Their theaters
presented neither Goethe, nor Schiller, nor Kleist, nor Grillparzer,
nor Hebbel, nor any of the great dramatists of other nations, with the
exception of the ancient Greeks, whose heirs they declared themselves to
be--(like every other nation in Europe). Every now and then they felt they
ought to include Shakespeare. That was the touchstone. There were two
schools of Shakespearean interpreters: the one played _King Lear_, with
a commonplace realism, like a comedy of Emile Augier: the other turned
_Hamlet_ into an opera, with bravura airs and vocal exercises à la Victor
Hugo. It never occurred to them that reality could be poetic or that poetry
was the spontaneous language of hearts bursting with life. Shakespeare
seemed false. They very quickly went back to Rostand.

And yet, during the last twenty years, there had been sturdy efforts made
to vitalize the theater: the narrow circle of subjects drawn from Parisian
literature had been widened: the theater laid hands on everything with a
show of audacity. Two or three times even the outer world, public life, had
torn down the curtain of convention. But the theatrists made haste to piece
it together again. They lived in blinkers, and were afraid of seeing things
as they are. A sort of clannishness, a classical tradition, a routine
of form and spirit, and a lack of real seriousness, held them back from
pushing their audacity to its logical extremity. They turned the acutest
problems into ingenious games: and they always came back to the problem of
women--women of a certain class. And what a sorry figure did the phantoms
of great men cut on their boards: the heroic Anarchy of Ibsen, the Gospel
of Tolstoy, the Superman of Nietzsche!...

The literary men of Paris took a great deal of trouble to seem to be
advanced thinkers. But at heart they were all conservative. There was no
literature in Europe in which the past, the old, the "eternal yesterday,"
held a completer and more unconscious sway: in the great reviews, in the
great newspapers, in the State-aided theaters, in the Academy, Paris
was in literature what London was in Politics: the check on the mind of
Europe. The French Academy was a House of Lords. A certain number of the
institutions of the _Ancien Régime_ forced the spirit of the old days on
the new society. Every revolutionary element was rejected or promptly
assimilated. They asked nothing better. In vain did the Government pretend
to a socialistic polity. In art it truckled under to the Academies and the
Academic Schools. Against the Academies there was no opposition save from
a few coteries, and they put up a very poor fight. For as soon as a member
of a coterie could, he fell into line with an Academy, and became more
academic than the rest. And even if a writer were in the advance guard or
in the van of the army, he was almost always trammeled by his group and the
ideas of his group. Some of them were hidebound by their academic _Credo_,
others by their revolutionary _Credo_: and, when all was done, they both
amounted to the same thing.

       *       *       *       *       *

By way of rousing Christophe, on whom academic art had acted as a
soporific, Sylvain Kohn proposed to take him to certain eclectic
theaters,--the very latest thing. There they saw murder, rape, madness,
torture, eyes plucked out, bellies gutted--anything to thrill the nerves,
and satisfy the barbarism lurking beneath a too civilized section of
the people. It had a great attraction for pretty women and men of the
world--the people who would go and spend whole afternoons in the stuffy
courts of the Palais de Justice, listening to scandalous cases, laughing,
talking, and eating chocolates. But Christophe indignantly refused. The
more closely he examined that sort of art, the more acutely he became
aware of the odor that from the very first he had detected, faintly in the
beginning, then more strongly, and finally it was suffocating: the odor of

Death: it was everywhere beneath all the luxury and uproar. Christophe
discovered the explanation of the feeling of repugnance with which certain
French plays had filled him. It was not their immorality that shocked him.
Morality, immorality, amorality,--all these words mean nothing. Christophe
had never invented any moral theory: he loved the great poets and great
musicians of the past, and they were no saints: when he came across a great
artist he did not inquire into his morality: he asked him rather:

"Are you healthy?"

To be healthy was the great thing. "If the poet is ill, let him first of
all cure himself," as Goethe says. "When he is cured, he will write."

The writers of Paris were unhealthy: or if one of them happened to be
healthy, the chances were that he was ashamed of it: he disguised it, and
did his best to catch some disease. Their sickness was not shown in any
particular feature of their art:--the love of pleasure, the extreme license
of mind, or the universal trick of criticism which examined and dissected
every idea that was expressed. All these things could be--and were, as the
case might be--healthy or unhealthy. If death was there, it did not come
from the material, but from the use that these people made of it; it was
in the people themselves. And Christophe himself loved pleasure. He, too,
loved liberty. He had drawn down upon himself the displeasure of his little
German town by his frankness in defending many things, which he found here,
promulgated by these Parisians, in such a way as to disgust him. And yet
they were the same things. But nothing sounded the same to the Parisians
and to himself. When Christophe impatiently shook off the yoke of the
great Masters of the past, when he waged war against the esthetics and the
morality of the Pharisees, it was not a game to him as it was to these men
of intellect: and his revolt was directed only towards life, the life of
fruitfulness, big with the centuries to come. With these people all tended
to sterile enjoyment. Sterile, Sterile, Sterile. That was the key to the
enigma. Mind and senses were fruitlessly debauched. A brilliant art, full
of wit and cleverness--a lovely form, in truth, a tradition of beauty,
impregnably seated, in spite of foreign alluvial deposits--a theater which
was a theater, a style which was a style, authors who knew their business,
writers who could write, the fine skeleton of an art, and a thought that
had been great. But a skeleton. Sonorous words, ringing phrases, the
metallic clang of ideas hurtling down the void, witticisms, minds haunted
by sensuality, and senses numbed with thought. It was all useless, save
for the sport of egoism. It led to death. It was a phenomenon analogous
to the frightful decline in the birth-rate of France, which Europe was
observing--and reckoning--in silence. So much wit, so much cleverness, so
many acute senses, all wasted and wasting in a sort of shameful onanism!
They had no notion of it, and wished to have none. They laughed. That was
the only thing that comforted Christophe a little: these people could still
laugh: all was not lost. He liked them even less when they tried to take
themselves seriously: and nothing hurt him more than to see writers, who
regarded art as no more than an instrument of pleasure, giving themselves
airs as priests of a disinterested religion:

"We are artists," said Sylvain Kohn once more complacently. "We follow art
for art's sake. Art is always pure: everything in art is chaste. We explore
life as tourists, who find everything amusing. We are amateurs of rare
sensations, lovers of beauty."

"You are hypocrites," replied Christophe bluntly. "Excuse my saying so. I
used to think my own country had a monopoly. In Germany our hypocrisy
consists in always talking about idealism while we think of nothing but
our interests, and we even believe that we are idealists while we think
of nothing but ourselves. But you are much worse: you cover your national
lewdness with the names of Art and Beauty (with capitals)--when you do not
shield your Moral Pilatism behind the names of Truth, Science, Intellectual
Duty, and you wash your hands of the possible consequences of your haughty
inquiry. Art for art's sake!... That's a fine faith! But it is the faith
of the strong. Art! To grasp life, as the eagle claws its prey, to bear it
up into the air, to rise with it into the serenity of space!... For that
you need talons, great wings, and a strong heart. But you are nothing but
sparrows who, when they find a piece of carrion, rend it here and there,
squabbling for it, and twittering ... Art for art's sake!... Oh! wretched
men! Art is no common ground for the feet of all who pass it by. Why, it is
a pleasure, it is the most intoxicating of all. But it is a pleasure which
is only won at the cost of a strenuous fight: it is the laurel-wreath that
crowns the victory of the strong. Art is life tamed. Art is the Emperor
of life. To be Cæsar a man must have the soul of Cæsar. But you are
only limelight Kings: you are playing a part, and do not even deceive
yourselves. And, like those actors, who turn to profit their deformities,
you manufacture literature out of your own deformities and those of your
public. Lovingly do you cultivate the diseases of your people, their fear
of effort, their love of pleasure, their sensual minds, their chimerical
humanitarianism, everything in them that drugs the will, everything in them
that saps their power for action. You deaden their minds with the fumes
of opium. Behind it all is death: you know it: but you will not admit it.
Well, I tell you: Where death is, there art is not. Art is the spring of
life. But even the most honest of your writers are so cowardly that even
when the bandage is removed from their eyes they pretend not to see: they
have the effrontery to say:

"'It is dangerous, I admit: it is poisonous: but it is full of talent.'

"It is as if a judge, sentencing a hooligan, were to say:

"'He's a blackguard, certainly: but he has so much talent!...'"

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe wondered what was the use of French criticism. There was no lack
of critics: they swarmed all over and about French art. It was impossible
to see the work of the artists: they were swamped by the critics.

Christophe was not indulgent towards criticism in general. He found it
difficult to admit the utility of these thousands of artists who formed a
Fourth or Fifth Estate in the modern community: he read in it the signs of
a worn-out generation which relegates to others the business of regarding
life--feeling vicariously. And, to go farther, it seemed to him not a
little shameful that they could not even see with their own eyes the
reflection of life, but must have yet more intermediaries, reflections
of the reflection--the critics. At least, they ought to have seen to it
that the reflections were true. But the critics reflected nothing but the
uncertainty of the mob that moved round them. They were like those trick
mirrors which reflect again and again the faces of the sightseers who gaze
into them against a painted background.

There had been a time when the critics had enjoyed a tremendous authority
in France. The public bowed down to their decrees: and they were not
far from regarding them as superior to the artists, as artists with
intelligence:--(apparently the two words do not go together naturally).
Then they had multiplied too rapidly: there were too many oracles: that
spoiled the trade. When there are so many people, each of whom declares
that he is the sole repository of truth, it is impossible to believe them:
and in the end they cease to believe it themselves. They were discouraged:
in the passage from night to day, according to the French custom, they
passed from one extreme to the other. Where they had before professed
to know everything, they now professed to know nothing. It was a point
of honor with them, quite fatuously. Renan had taught those milksop
generations that it is not correct to affirm anything without denying it at
once, or at least casting a doubt on it. He was one of those men of whom
St. Paul speaks: "For whom there is always Yes, Yes, and then No, No." All
the superior persons in France had wildly embraced this amphibious _Credo_.
It exactly suited their indolence of mind and weakness of character. They
no longer said of a work of art that it was good or bad, true or false,
intelligent or idiotic. They said:

"It may be so.... Nothing is impossible.... I don't know.... I wash my
hands of it."

If some objectionable piece were put up, they did not say:

"That is nasty rubbish!"

They said:

"Sir Sganarelle, please do not talk like that. Our philosophy bids us talk
of everything open-mindedly: and therefore you ought not to say: 'That is
nasty rubbish!' but: 'It seems to me that that is nasty rubbish.... But it
is not certain that it is so. It may be a masterpiece. Who can say that it
is not?'"

There was no danger of their being accused of tyranny over the arts.
Schiller once taught them a lesson when he reminded the petty tyrants of
the Press of his time of what he called bluntly:

"_The Duty of Servants.

"First, the house must be clean that the Queen is to enter. Bustle about,
then! Sweep the rooms. That is what you are there for, gentlemen!

"But as soon as She appears, out you go! Let not the serving-wench sit in
her lady's chair!_"

But, to be just to the critics of that time, it must be said that they
never did sit in their lady's chair. It was ordered that they should be
servants: and servants they were. But bad servants: they never took a broom
in their hands: the room was thick with dust. Instead of cleaning and
tidying, they folded their arms, and left the work to be done by the
master, the divinity of the day:--Universal Suffrage.

In fact, there had been for some time a wave of reaction passing through
the popular conscience. A few people had set out--feebly enough--on a
campaign of public health: but Christophe could see no sign of it among the
people with whom he lived. They gained no hearing, and were laughed at.
When every now and then some honest man did raise a protest against unclean
art, the authors replied haughtily that they were in the right, since the
public was satisfied. That was enough to silence every objection. The
public had spoken: that was the supreme law of art! It never occurred to
anybody to impeach the evidence of a debauched public in favor of those
who had debauched them, or that it was the artist's business to lead the
public, not the public the artist. A numerical religion--the number of the
audience, and the sum total of the receipts--dominated the artistic thought
of that commercialized democracy. Following the authors, the critics
docilely declared that the essential function of a work of art was to
please. Success is law: and when success endures, there is nothing to be
done but to bow to it. And so they devoted their energies to anticipating
the fluctuations of the Exchange of pleasure, in trying to find out what
the public thought of the various plays. The joke of it was that the public
was always trying frantically to find out what the critics thought. And so
there they were, looking at each, other: and in each other's eyes they saw
nothing but their own indecision.

And yet never had there been such crying need of a fearless critic. In an
anarchical Republic, fashion, which is all-powerful in art, very rarely
looks backward, as it does in a conservative State: it goes onwards always:
and there is a perpetual competition of libertinism which hardly anybody
dare resist. The mob is incapable of forming an opinion: at heart it is
shocked: but nobody dares to say what everybody secretly feels. If the
critics were strong, if they dared to be strong, what a power they would
have! A vigorous critic would in a few years become the Napoleon of public
taste, and sweep away all the diseases of art. But there is no Napoleon in
France, All the critics live in that vitiated atmosphere, and do not notice
it. And they dare not speak. They all know each other. They are a more or
less close company, and they have to consider each other: not one of them
is independent. To be so, they would have to renounce their social life,
and even their friendships. Who is there that would have the courage, in
such a knock-kneed time, when even the best critics doubt whether a just
notice is worth the annoyance it may cause to the writer and the object of
it? Who is there so devoted to duty that he would condemn himself to such a
hell on earth: dare to stand out against opinion, fight the imbecility of
the public, expose the mediocrity of the successes of the day, defend the
unknown artist who is alone and at the mercy of the beasts of prey, and
subject the minds of those who were born to obey to the dominion of the
master-mind? Christophe actually heard the critics at a first night in the
vestibule of the theater say: "H'm! Pretty bad, isn't it? Utter rot!" And
next day in their notices they talked of masterpieces, Shakespeare, the
wings of genius beating above their heads.

"It is not so much talent that your art lacks as character," said
Christophe to Sylvain Kohn. "You need a great critic, a Lessing, a ..."

"A Boileau?" said Sylvain quizzically.

"A Boileau, perhaps, more than these artists of genius."

"If we had a Boileau," said Sylvain Kohn, "no one would listen to him."

"If they did not listen to him," replied Christophe, "he would not be
a Boileau. I bet you that if I set out and told you the truth about
yourselves, quite bluntly, however clumsy I might be, you would have to
gulp it down."

"My dear good fellow!" laughed Sylvain Kohn.

That was all the reply he made.

He was so cocksure and so satisfied with the general flabbiness of the
French that suddenly it occurred to Christophe that Kohn was a thousand
times more of a foreigner in France than himself: and there was a catch at
his heart.

"It is impossible," he said once more, as he had said that evening when he
had left the theater on the boulevards in disgust. "There must be something

"What more do you want?" asked Sylvain Kohn.


"We are France," said Sylvain Kohn, gurgling with laughter.

Christophe stared hard at him for a moment, then shook his head, and said
once more:

"There must be something else."

"Well, old man, you'd better look for it," said Sylvain Kohn, laughing
louder than ever.

Christophe had to look for it. It was well hidden.


The more clearly Christophe saw into the vat of ideas in which Parisian art
was fermenting, the more strongly he was impressed by the supremacy of
women in that cosmopolitan community. They had an absurdly disproportionate
importance. It was not enough for woman to be the helpmeet of man. It was
not even enough for her to be his equal. Her pleasure must be law both
for herself and for man. And man truckled to it. When a nation is growing
old, it renounces its will, its faith, the whole essence of its being,
in favor of the giver of pleasure. Men make works of art: but women make
men,--(except when they tamper with the work of the men, as happened in
France at that time):--and it would be more just to say that they unmake
what they make. No doubt the Eternal Feminine has been an uplifting
influence on the best of men: but for the ordinary men, in ages of
weariness and fatigue, there is, as some one has said, another Feminine,
just as eternal, who drags them down. This other Feminine was the mistress
of Parisian thought, the Queen of the Republic.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe closely observed the Parisian women at the houses at which
Sylvain Kohn's introduction or his own skill at the piano had made him
welcome. Like most foreigners, he generalized freely and unsparingly about
French women from the two or three types he had met: young women, not very
tall, and not at all fresh, with neat figures, dyed hair, large hats on
their pretty heads that were a little too large for their bodies: they had
trim features, but their faces were just a little too fleshy: good noses,
vulgar sometimes, characterless always: quick eyes without any great depth,
which they tried to make as brilliant and large as possible: well-cut lips
that were perfectly under control: plump little chins; and the lower part
of their faces revealed their utter materialism; they were elegant little
creatures who, amid all their preoccupations with love and intrigue, never
lost sight of public opinion and their domestic affairs. They were pretty,
but they belonged to no race. In all these polite ladies there was the
savor of the respectable woman perverted, or wanting to be so, together
with all the traditions of her class; prudence, economy, coldness,
practical common sense, egoism. A poor sort of life. A desire for pleasure
emanating rather from a cerebral curiosity than from a need of the senses.
Their will was mediocre in quality, but firm. They were very well dressed,
and had little automatic gestures. They were always patting their hair
or their gowns with the backs or the palms of their hands, with little
delicate movements. And they always managed to sit so that they could
admire themselves--and watch other women--in a mirror, near or far, not to
mention, at tea or dinner, the spoons, knives, silver coffee-pots, polished
and shining, in which they always peeped at the reflections of their faces,
which were more interesting to them than anything or anybody else. At meals
they dieted sternly: drinking water and depriving themselves altogether of
any food that might stand in the way of their ideal of a complexion of a
floury whiteness.

There was a fairly large proportion of Jewesses among Christophe's
acquaintance: and he was always attracted by them, although, since his
encounter with Judith Mannheim, he had hardly any illusions about them.
Sylvain Kohn had introduced him to several Jewish houses where he was
received with the usual intelligence of the race, which loves intelligence.
Christophe met financiers there, engineers, newspaper proprietors,
international brokers, slave-dealers of a sort from Algiers--the men of
affairs of the Republic. They were clear-headed and energetic, indifferent
to other people, smiling, affable, and secretive. Christophe felt sometimes
that behind their hard faces was the knowledge of crime in the past, and
the future, of these men gathered round the sumptuous table laden with
food, flowers, and wine. They were almost all ugly. But the women, taken
as a whole, were quite brilliant, though it did not do to look at them too
closely: in most of them there was a want of subtlety in their coloring.
But brilliance there was, and a fair show of material life, beautiful
shoulders generously exposed to view, and a genius for making their beauty
and even their ugliness a lure for the men. An artist would have recognized
in some of them the old Roman type, the women of the time of Nero, down
to the time of Hadrian. And there were Palmaesque faces, with a sensual
expression, heavy chins solidly modeled with the neck, and not without a
certain bestial beauty. Some of them had thick curly hair, and bold, fiery
eyes: they seemed to be subtle, incisive, ready for everything, more virile
than other women. And also more feminine. Here and there a more spiritual
profile would stand out. Those pure features came from beyond Rome, from
the East, the country of Laban: there was expressed in them the poetry of
silence, of the Desert. But when Christophe went nearer, and listened to
the conversations between Rebecca and Faustina the Roman, or Saint Barbe
the Venetian, he found her to be just a Parisian Jewess, just like the
others, even more Parisian than the Parisian women, more artificial and
sophisticated, talking quietly, and maliciously stripping the assembled
company, body and soul, with her Madonna's eyes.

Christophe wandered from group to group, but could identify himself with
none of them. The men talked savagely of hunting, brutally of love, and
only of money with any sort of real appreciation. And that was cold and
cunning. They talked business in the smoking-room. Christophe heard some
one say of a certain fop who was sauntering from one lady to another, with
a buttonhole in his coat, oozing heavy compliments:

"So! He is free again?"

In a corner of the room two ladies were talking of the love-affairs of a
young actress and a society woman. There was occasional music. Christophe
was asked to play. Large women, breathless and heavily perspiring,
declaimed in an apocalyptic tone verses of Sully-Prudhomme or Auguste
Dorchain. A famous actor solemnly recited a _Mystic Ballad_ to the
accompaniment of an American organ. Words and music were so stupid that
they turned Christophe sick. But the Roman women were delighted, and
laughed heartily to show their magnificent teeth. Scenes from Ibsen were
performed. It was a fine epilogue to the struggle of a great man against
the Pillars of Society that it should be used for their diversion!

And then they all began, of course, to prattle about art. That was
horrible. The women especially began to talk of Ibsen, Wagner, Tolstoy,
flirtatiously, politely, boredly, or idiotically. Once the conversation had
started, there was no stopping it. The disease was contagious. Christophe
had to listen to the ideas of bankers, brokers, and slave-dealers on art.
In vain did he refuse to speak or try to turn the conversation: they
insisted on talking about music and poetry. As Berlioz said: "Such people
use the words quite coolly: just as though they were talking of wine,
women, or some such trash." An alienist physician recognized one of his
patients in an Ibsen heroine, though to his way of thinking she was
infinitely more silly. An engineer quite sincerely declared that the
husband was the sympathetic character in the _Doll's House_. The famous
actor--a well-known Comedian--brayed his profound ideas on Nietzsche
and Carlyle: he assured Christophe that he could not see a picture of
Velasquez--(the idol of the hour)--"without the tears coursing down his
cheeks." And he confided--still to Christophe's private ear--that, though
he esteemed art very highly, yet he esteemed still more highly the art of
living, acting, and that if he were asked to choose what part he would
play, it would be that of Bismarck.... Sometimes there would be of the
company a professed wit, but the level of the conversation was not
appreciably higher for that. Generally they said nothing; they confined
themselves to a jerky remark or an enigmatic smile: they lived on their
reputations, and were saved further trouble. But there were a few
professional talkers, generally from the South. They talked about anything
and everything. They had no sense of proportion: everything came alike
to them. One was a Shakespeare. Another a Molière. Another a Pascal, if
not a Jesus Christ. They compared Ibsen with Dumas _fils_, Tolstoy with
George Sand: and the gist of it all was that everything came from France.
Generally they were ignorant of foreign languages. But that did not disturb
them. It mattered so little to their audience whether they told the truth
or not! What did matter was that they should say amusing things, things as
flattering as possible to national vanity. Foreigners had to put up with
a good deal--with the exception of the idol of the hour: for there was
always a fashionable idol: Grieg, or Wagner, or Nietzsche, or Gorki, or
D'Annunzio. It never lasted long, and the idol was certain one fine morning
to be thrown on to the rubbish-heap.

For the moment the idol was Beethoven. Beethoven--save the mark!--was in
the fashion: at least, among literary and polite persons: for musicians had
dropped him at once, in accordance with the see-saw system which is one of
the laws of artistic taste in France. A Frenchman needs to know what his
neighbor thinks before he knows what he thinks himself, so that he can
think the same thing or the opposite. Thus, when they saw Beethoven in
popular favor, the most distinguished musicians began to discover that he
was not distinguished enough for them: they claimed to lead opinion, not to
follow it: and rather than be in agreement with it they turned their backs
on it. They began to regard Beethoven as a man afflicted with deafness,
crying in a voice of bitterness: and some of them declared that he might be
an excellent moralist, but that he was certainly overpraised as a musician.
That sort of joke was not at all to Christophe's taste. Still less did he
like the enthusiasm of polite society. If Beethoven had come to Paris just
then, he would have been the lion of the hour: it was such a pity that he
had been dead for more than a century. His vogue grew not so much out of
his music as out of the more or less romantic circumstances of his life
which had been popularized by sentimental and virtuous biographies. His
rugged face and lion's mane had become a romantic figure. Ladies wept
for him: they hinted that if they had known him he should not have been
so unhappy: and in their greatness of heart they were the more ready to
sacrifice all for him, in that there was no danger of Beethoven taking them
at their word: the old fellow was beyond all need of anything. That was why
the virtuosi, the conductors, and the _impresarii_ bowed down in pious
worship before him: and, as the representatives of Beethoven, they gathered
the homage destined for him. There were sumptuous festivals at exorbitant
prices, which afforded society people an opportunity of showing their
generosity--and incidentally also of discovering Beethoven's symphonies.
There were committees of actors, men of the world, Bohemians, and
politicians, appointed by the Republic to preside over the destinies of
art, and they informed the world of their intention to erect a monument to
Beethoven: and on these committees, together with a few honest men whose
names guaranteed the rest, were all the riffraff who would have stoned
Beethoven if he had been alive, if Beethoven had not crushed the life out
of them. Christophe watched and listened. He ground his teeth to keep
himself from saying anything outrageous. He was on tenterhooks the whole
evening. He could not talk, nor could he keep silent. It seemed to him
humiliating and shameful to talk neither for pleasure nor from necessity,
but out of politeness, because he had to talk. He was not allowed to say
what he thought, and it was impossible for him to make conversation. And
he did not even know how to be polite without talking. If he looked at
anybody, he glared too fixedly and intently: in spite of himself he studied
that person, and that person was offended. If he spoke at all, he believed
too much in what he was saying; and that was disturbing for everybody, and
even for himself. He quite admitted that he was out of his element: and, as
he was clever enough to sound the general note of the company, in which his
presence was a discord, he was as upset by his manners as his hosts. He was
angry with himself and with them.

When, at last he stood in the street once more, very late at night, he was
so worn out with the boredom of it all that he could hardly drag himself
home: he wanted to lie down just where he was, in the street, as he had
done many times when he was returning as a boy from his performances at the
Palace of the Grand Duke. Although he had only five or six francs to take
him to the end of the week, he spent two of them on a cab. He flung himself
into it the more quickly to escape: and as he drove along he groaned aloud
from sheer exhaustion. When he reached home and got to bed, he groaned in
his sleep.... And then, suddenly, he roared with laughter as he remembered
some ridiculous saying. He woke up repeating it, and imitating the features
of the speaker. Next day, and for several days after, as he walked about,
he would suddenly bellow like a bull.... Why did he visit these people?
Why did he go on visiting them? Why force himself to gesticulate and make
faces, like the rest, and pretend to be interested in things that did not
appeal to him in the very least? Was it true that he was not in the least
interested? A year ago he would not have been able to put up with them for
a moment. Now, at heart, he was amused by it all, while at the same time it
exasperated him. Was a little of the indifference of the Parisians creeping
over him? He would sometimes wonder fearfully whether he had lost strength.
But, in truth, he had gained in strength. He was more free in mind in
strange surroundings. In spite of himself, his eyes were opened to the
great Comedy of the world.

Besides, whether he liked it or not, he had to go on with it if he wanted
his art to be recognized by Parisian society, which is only interested in
art in so far as it knows the artist. And he had to make himself known if
he were to find among these Philistines the pupils necessary to keep him

And, then, Christophe had a heart: his heart must have affection: wherever
he might be, there he would find food for his affections: without it he
could not live.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the few girls of that class of society--few enough--whom Christophe
taught, was the daughter of a rich motor-car manufacturer, Colette
Stevens. Her father was a Belgian, a naturalized Frenchman, the son
of an Anglo-American settled at Antwerp, and a Dutchwoman. Her mother
was an Italian. A regular Parisian family. To Christophe--and to many
others--Colette Stevens was the type of French girl.

She was eighteen, and had velvety, soft black eyes, which she used
skilfully upon young men--regular Spanish eyes, with enormous pupils; a
rather long and fantastic nose, which wrinkled up and moved at the tip as
she talked, with little fractious pouts and shrugs; rebellious hair; a
pretty little face, rather sallow complexion, dabbed with powder; heavy,
rather thick features: altogether she was like a plump kitten.

She was slight, very well dressed, attractive, provoking: she had sly,
affected, rather silly manners: her pose was that of a little girl, and she
would sit rocking her chair for hours at a time, and giving little
exclamations like: "No? Impossible...."

At meals she would clap her hands when there was a dish she loved: in the
drawing-room she would smoke cigarette after cigarette, and, when there
were men present, display an exuberant affection for her girl-friends,
flinging her arms round their necks, kissing their hands, whispering
in their ears, making ingenuous and naughty remarks, doing it most
brilliantly, in a soft, twittering voice; and in the lightest possible way
she would say improper things, without seeming to do more than hint at
them, and was even more skilful in provoking them from others; she had the
ingenuous air of a little girl, who knows perfectly well what she is about,
with her large brilliant eyes, slyly and voluptuously looking sidelong,
maliciously taking in all the gossip, and catching at all the dubious
remarks of the conversation, and all the time angling for hearts.

All these tricks and shows, and her sophisticated ingenuity, were not at
all to Christophe's liking. He had better things to do than to lend himself
to the practices of an artful little girl, and did not even care to look
on at them for his amusement. He had to earn his living, to keep his life
and ideas from death. He had no interest in these drawing-room parakeets
beyond the gaining of a livelihood. In return for their money, he gave them
lessons, conscientiously concentrating all his energies on the task, to
keep the boredom of it from mastering him, and his attention from being
distracted by the tricks of his pupils when they were coquettes, like
Colette Stevens. He paid no more attention to her than to Colette's little
cousin, a child of twelve, shy and silent, whom the Stevens had adopted, to
whom also Christophe gave lessons on the piano.

But Colette was too clever not to feel that all her charms were lost on
Christophe, and too adroit not to adapt herself at once to his character.
She did not even need to do so deliberately. It was a natural instinct with
her. She was a woman. She was like water, formless. The soul of every man
she met was a vessel, whose form she took immediately out of curiosity. It
was a law of her existence that she should always be some one else. Her
whole personality was for ever shifting. She was for ever changing her

Christophe attracted her for many reasons, the chief of which was that he
was not attracted by her. He attracted her also because he was different
from all the young men of her acquaintance: she had never tried to pour
herself into a vessel of such a rugged form. And, finally, he attracted
her, because, being naturally and by inheritance expert in the valuation at
the first glance of men and vessels, she knew perfectly well that what he
lacked in polish Christophe made up in a solidity of character which none
of her smart young Parisians could offer her.

She played as well and as badly as most idle young women. She played a
great deal and very little--that is to say, that she was always working at
it, but knew nothing at all about it. She strummed on her piano all day
long, for want of anything else to do, or from affectation, or because it
gave her pleasure. Sometimes she rattled along mechanically. Sometimes she
would play well, very well, with taste and soul--(it was almost as though
she had a soul: but, as a matter of fact, she only borrowed one). Before
she knew Christophe, she was capable of liking Massenet, Grieg, Thomé. But
after she met Christophe she ceased to like them. Then she played Bach and
Beethoven very correctly--(which is not very high praise): but the great
thing was that she loved them. At bottom it was not Beethoven, nor Thomé,
nor Bach, nor Grieg that she loved, but the notes, the sounds, the fingers
running over the keys, the thrills she got from the chords which tickled
her nerves and made her wriggle with pleasure.

In the drawing-room of the great house, decorated with faded tapestry, and
on an easel in the middle room, a portrait of the stout Madame Stevens by
a fashionable painter who had represented her in a languishing attitude,
like a flower dying for want of water, with a die-away expression in her
eyes, and her body draped in impossible curves, by way of expressing the
rare quality of her millionaire soul--in the great drawing-room, with
its bow-windows looking on to a clump of old trees powdered with snow,
Christophe would find Colette sitting at her piano, repeating the
same passage over and over again, delighting her ear with mellifluous

"Ah!" Christophe would say as he entered, "the cat is still purring!"

"How wicked of you!" she would laugh.... (And she would hold out her soft
little hand.)

"... Listen. Isn't it pretty?"

"Very pretty," he would say indifferently.

"You aren't listening!... Will you please listen?"

"I am listening.... It's the same thing over and over again."

"Ah! you are no musician," she would say pettishly.

"As if that were music or anything like it!"

"What! Not music!... What is it, then, if you please?"

"You know quite well: I won't tell you, because it would not be polite."

"All the more reason why you should say it."

"You want me to?... So much the worse for you!... Well, do you know what
you are doing with your piano?... You are flirting with it."


"Certainly. You say to it: 'Dear piano, dear piano, say pretty things to
me; kiss me; give me just one little kiss!'"

"You need not say any more," said Colette, half vexed, half laughing. "You
haven't the least idea of respect."

"Not the least."

"You are impertinent.... And then, even if it were so, isn't that the right
way to love music?"

"Oh, come, don't mix music up with that."

"But that is music! A beautiful chord is a kiss."

"I never told you that."

"But isn't it true?... Why do you shrug your shoulders and make faces?"

"Because it annoys me."

"So much the better."

"It annoys me to hear music spoken of as though it were a sort of
indulgence.... Oh, it isn't your fault. It's the fault of the world you
live in. The stale society in which you live regards music as a sort of
legitimate vice.... Come, sit down! Play me your sonata."

"No. Let us talk a little longer."

"I'm not here to talk. I'm here to teach you the piano.... Come, play

"You're so rude!" said Colette, rather vexed--but at heart delighted to be
handled so roughly.

She played her piece carefully: and, as she was clever, she succeeded
fairly well, and sometimes even very well. Christophe, who was not
deceived, laughed inwardly at the skill "of the little beast, who played
as though she felt what she was playing, while really she felt nothing
at all." And yet he had a sort of amused sympathy for her. Colette, on
her part, seized every excuse for going on with the conversation, which
interested her much more than her lesson. It was no good Christophe drawing
back on the excuse that he could not say what he thought without hurting
her feelings: she always wheedled it out of him: and the more insulting it
was, the less she was hurt by it: it was an amusement for her. But, as she
was quick enough to see that Christophe liked nothing so much as sincerity,
she would contradict him flatly, and argue tenaciously They would part very
good friends.

However, Christophe would never have had the least illusion about their
friendship, and there would never have been the smallest intimacy between
them, had not Colette one day taken it into her head, out of sheer
instinctive coquetry, to confide in him.

The evening before her parents had given an At Home. She had laughed,
chattered, flirted outrageously: but next morning, when Christophe came for
her lesson, she was worn out, drawn-looking, gray-faced, and haggard. She
hardly spoke: she seemed utterly depressed. She sat at the piano, played
softly, made mistakes, tried to correct them, made them again, stopped
short, and said:

"I can't.... Please forgive me.... Please wait a little...."

He asked if she were unwell. She said: "No.... She was out of sorts.... She
had bouts of it.... It was absurd, but he must not mind."

He proposed to go away and come again another day: but she insisted on his

"Just a moment.... I shall be all right presently.... It's silly of me,
isn't it?"

He felt that she was not her usual self: but he did not question her: and,
to turn the conversation, he said:

"That's what comes of having been so brilliant last night. You took too
much out of yourself."

She smiled a little ironically.

"One can't say the same of you," she replied.

He laughed.

"I don't believe you said a word," she went on.

"Not a word."

"But there were interesting people there."

"Oh yes. All sorts of lights and famous people, all talking at once. But
I'm lost among all your boneless Frenchmen who understand everything, and
explain everything, and excuse everything--and feel nothing at all. People
who talk for hours together about art and love! Isn't it revolting?"

"But you ought to be interested in art if not in love."

"One doesn't talk about these things: one does them."

"But when one cannot do them?" said Colette, pouting.

Christophe replied with a laugh:

"Well, leave it to others. Everybody is not fit for art."

"Nor for love?"

"Nor for love."

"How awful! What is left for us?"


"Thanks," said Colette, rather annoyed. She turned to the piano and began
again, made mistakes, thumped the keyboard, and moaned:

"I can't!... I'm no good at all. I believe you are right. Women aren't any

"It's something to be able to say so," said Christophe genially.

She looked at him rather sheepishly, like a little girl who has been
scolded, and said:

"Don't be so hard."

"I'm not saying anything hard about good women," replied Christophe gaily.
"A good woman is Paradise on earth. Only, Paradise on earth...."

"I know. No one has ever seen it."

"I'm not so pessimistic. I say only that I have never seen it: but that's
no reason why it should not exist. I'm determined to find it, if it does
exist. But it is not easy. A good woman and a man of genius are equally

"And all the other men and women don't count?"

"On the contrary, it is only they who count--for the world."

"But for you?"

"For me, they don't exist."

"You _are_ hard," repeated Colette.

"A little. Somebody has to be hard, if only in the interest of the
others!... If there weren't a few pebbles here and there in the world, the
whole thing would go to pulp."

"Yes. You are right. It is a good thing for you that you are strong," said
Colette sadly. "But you must not be too hard on men,--and especially on
women who aren't strong.... You don't know how terrible our weakness is to
us. Because you see us flirting, and laughing, and doing silly things, you
think we never dream of anything else, and you despise us. Ah! if you could
see all that goes on in the minds of the girls of from fifteen to eighteen
as they go out into society, and have the sort of success that comes
to their youth and freshness--when they have danced, and talked smart
nonsense, and said bitter things at which people laugh because they laugh,
when they have given themselves to imbeciles, and sought in vain in their
eyes the light that is nowhere to be found,--if you could see them in their
rooms at night, in silence, alone, kneeling in agony to pray!..."

"Is it possible?" said Christophe, altogether amazed. "What! you, too, have

Colette did not reply: but tears came to her eyes. She tried to smile and
held out her hand to Christophe: he grasped it warmly.

"What would you have us do? There is nothing to do. You men can free
yourselves and do what you like. But we are bound for ever and ever within
the narrow circle of the duties and pleasures of society: we cannot break

"There is nothing to prevent your freeing yourselves, finding some work you
like, and winning your independence just as we do."

"As you do? Poor Monsieur Krafft! Your work is not so very certain!... But
at least you like your work. But what sort of work can we do? There isn't
any that we could find interesting--for, I know, we dabble in all sorts
of things, and pretend to be interested in a heap of things that do not
concern us: we do so want to be interested in something! I do what the
others do. I do charitable work and sit on social work committees. I go
to lectures at the Sorbonne by Bergson and Jules Lemaître, historical
concerts, classical matinées, and I take notes and notes.... I never know
what I am writing!... and I try to persuade myself that I am absorbed by
it, or at least that it is useful. Ah! but I know that it is not true.
I know that I don't care a bit, and that I am bored by it all!... Don't
despise me because I tell you frankly what everybody thinks in secret I'm
no sillier than the rest. But what use are philosophy, history, and science
to me? As for art,--you see,--I strum and daub and make messy little
water-color sketches;--but is that enough to fill a woman's life? There is
only one end to our life: marriage. But do you think there is much fun in
marrying this or that young man whom I know as well as you do? I see them
as they are. I am not fortunate enough to be like your German Gretchens,
who can always create an illusion for themselves.... That is terrible,
isn't it? To look around and see girls who have married and their husbands,
and to think that one will have to do as they have done, be cramped in body
and mind, and become dull like them!... One needs to be stoical, I tell
you, to accept such a life with such obligations. All women are not capable
of it.... And time passes, the years go by, youth fades: and yet there were
lovely things and good things in us--all useless, for day by day they die,
and one has to surrender them to the fools and people whom one despises,
people who will despise oneself!... And nobody understands! One would
think that we were sphinxes. One can forgive the men who find us dull and
strange! But the women ought to understand us! They have been like us: they
have only to look back and remember.... But no. There is no help from them.
Even our mothers ignore us, and actually try not to know what we are. They
only try to get us married. For the rest, they say, live, die, do as you
like! Society absolutely abandons us."

"Don't lose heart," said Christophe. "Every one has to face the experience
of life all over again. If you are brave, it will be all right. Look
outside your own circle. There must be a few honest men in France."

"There are. I know. But they are so tedious!... And then, I tell you, I
detest the circle in which I live: but I don't think I could live outside
it, now. It has become a habit. I need a certain degree of comfort, certain
refinements of luxury and comfort, which, no doubt, money alone cannot
provide, though it is an indispensable factor. That sounds pretty poor, I
know. But I know myself: I am weak.... Please, please, don't draw away from
me because I tell you of my cowardice. Be kind and listen to me. It helps
me so to talk to you! I feel that you are strong and sound: I have such
confidence in you. Will you be my friend?"

"Gladly," said Christophe. "But what can I do?"

"Listen to me, advise me, give me courage. I am often so depressed! And
then I don't know what to do. I say to myself: 'What is the good of
fighting? What's the good of tormenting myself? One way or the other, what
does it matter? Nothing and nobody matters!' That is a dreadful condition
to be in. I don't want to get like that. Help me. Help me."

She looked utterly downcast; she looked older by ten years: she looked at
Christophe with abject, imploring eyes. He promised what she asked. Then
she revived, smiled, and was gay once more.

And in the evening she was laughing and flirting as usual.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thereafter they had many intimate conversations. They were alone together:
she confided in him: he tried hard to understand and advise her: she
listened to his advice, or, if necessary, to his remonstrances, gravely,
attentively, like a good little girl: it was a distraction, an interest,
even a support for her: she thanked him coquettishly with a depth of
feeling in her eyes.--But her life was changed in nothing: it was only a
distraction the more.

Her day was passed in a succession of metamorphoses. She got up very late,
about midday, after a sleepless night: for she rarely went to sleep before
dawn. All day long she did nothing. She would vaguely call to mind a poem,
an idea, a scrap of an idea, or a face that had pleased her. She was never
quite awake until about four or five in the afternoon. Till then her
eyelids were heavy, her face was puffy, and she was sulky and sleepy. She
would revive on the arrival of a few girl-friends as talkative as herself,
and all sharing the same interest in the gossip of Paris. They chattered
endlessly about love. The psychology of love: that was the unfailing topic,
mixed up with dress, the indiscretions of others, and scandal. She had also
a circle of idle young men to whom it was necessary to spend three hours a
day among skirts: they ought to have worn them really, for they had the
souls and the conversation of girls. Christophe had his hour as her
confessor. At once Colette would become serious and intense. She was like
the young Frenchwoman, of whom Bodley speaks, who, at the confessional,
"developed a calmly prepared essay, a model of clarity and order, in
which everything that was to be said was properly arranged in distinct
categories."--And after that she flung herself once more into the business
of amusement. As the day went on she grew younger. In the evening she went
to the theater: and there was the eternal pleasure of recognizing the same
eternal faces in the audience:--her pleasure lay not in the play that was
performed, but in the actors whom she knew, whose familiar mannerisms she
remarked once more. And she exchanged spiteful remarks with the people who
came to see her in her box about the people in the other boxes and about
the actresses. The _ingénue_ was said to have a thin voice "like sour
mayonnaise," or the great comédienne was dressed "like a lampshade."--Or
else she went out to a party: and there the pleasure, for a pretty girl
like Colette, lay in being seen:--(but there were bad days: nothing is
more capricious than good looks in Paris):--and she renewed her store of
criticisms of people, and their dresses, and their physical defects. There
was no conversation.--She would go home late, and take her time about going
to bed (that was the time when she was most awake). She would dawdle about
her dressing-table: skim through a book: laugh to herself at the memory of
something said or done. She was bored and very unhappy. She could not go to
sleep, and in the night there would come frightful moments of despair.

Christophe, who only saw Colette for a few hours at intervals, and could
only be present at a few of these transformations, found it difficult to
understand her at all. He wondered when she was sincere,--or if she were
always sincere--or if she were never sincere. Colette herself could not
have told him. Like most girls who are idle and circumscribed in their
desires, she was in darkness. She did not know what she was, because she
did not know what she wanted, because she could not know what she wanted
without having tried it. She would try it, after her fashion, with the
maximum of liberty and the minimum of risk, trying to copy the people about
her and to take their moral measure. She was in no hurry to choose. She
would have liked to try everything, and turn everything to account.

But that did not work with a friend like Christophe. He was perfectly
willing to allow her to prefer people whom he did not admire, even people
whom he despised: but he would not suffer her to put him on the same level
with them. Everybody to his own taste: but at least let everybody have his
own taste.

He was the less inclined to be patient with Colette, as she seemed to take
a delight in gathering round herself all the young men who were most likely
to exasperate Christophe: disgusting little snobs, most of them wealthy,
all of them idle, or jobbed into a sinecure in some government
office--which amounts to the same thing. They all wrote--or pretended to
write. That was an itch of the Third Republic. It was a sort of indolent
vanity,--intellectual work being the hardest of all to control, and most
easily lending itself to the game of bluff. They never gave more than a
discreet, though respectful hint, of their great labors. They seemed to be
convinced of the importance of their work, staggering under the weight of
it. At first Christophe was a little embarrassed by the fact that he had
never heard of them or their works. He tried bashfully to ask about them:
he was especially anxious to know what one of them had written, a young
man who was declared by the others to be a master of the theater. He was
surprised to hear that this great dramatist had written a one-act play
taken from a novel, which had been pieced together from a number of short
stories, or, rather, sketches, which he had published in one of the
Reviews during the past ten years. The baggage of the others was not more
considerable: a few one-act plays, a few short stories, a few verses. Some
of them had won fame with an article, others with a book "which they were
going to write." They professed scorn for long-winded books. They seemed
to attach extreme importance to the handling of words. And yet the word
"thought" frequently occurred in their conversation: but it did not seem
to have the same meaning as is usually given to it: they applied it to the
details of style. However, there were among them great thinkers, and great
ironists, who, when they wrote, printed their subtle and profound remarks
in _italics_, so that there might be no mistake.

They all had the cult of the letter _I_: it was the only cult they had.
They tried to proselytize. But, unfortunately, other people were
subscribers to the cult. They were always conscious of their audience in
their way of speaking, walking, smoking, reading a paper, carrying their
heads, looking, bowing to each other.--Such players' tricks are natural to
young people, and the more insignificant--that is to say, unoccupied--they
are, the stronger hold do they have on them. They are more especially
paraded before women: for they covet women, and long--even more--to be
coveted by them. But even on a chance meeting they will trot out their bag
of tricks: even for a passer-by from whom they can expect only a glance of
amazement. Christophe often came across these young strutting peacocks:
budding painters, and musicians, art-students who modeled their appearance
on some famous portrait: Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Beethoven; or
fitted it to the parts they wish to play: painter, musician, workman, the
profound thinker, the jolly fellow, the Danubian peasant, the natural
man.... They were always on the lookout to see if they were attracting
attention. When Christophe met them in the street he took a malicious
pleasure in looking the other way and ignoring them. But their discomfiture
never lasted long: a yard or so farther on they would start strutting for
the next comer.--But the young men of Colette's little circle were rather
more subtle: their coxcombry was mental: they had two or three models, who
were not themselves original. Or else they would mimic an idea: Force, Joy,
Pity, Solidarity, Socialism, Anarchism, Faith, Liberty: all these were
parts for their playing. They were horribly clever in making the dearest
and rarest thoughts mere literary stuff, and in degrading the most heroic
impulses of the human soul to the level of drawing-room commodities,
fashionable neckties.

But in love they were altogether in their element: that was their special
province. The casuistry of pleasure had no secrets for them: they were
so clever that they could invent new problems so as to have the honor
of solving them. That has always been the occupation of people who have
nothing else to do: in default of love, they "make love": above all, they
explain it. Their notes took up far more room than their text, which, as
a matter of fact, was very short. Sociology gave a relish to the most
scabrous thoughts: everything was sheltered beneath the flag of sociology:
though they might have had pleasure in indulging their vices, there would
have been something lacking if they had not persuaded themselves that they
were laboring in the cause of the new world. That was an eminently Parisian
sort of socialism: erotic socialism.

Among the problems that were then exercising the little Court of Love was
the equality of men and women in marriage, and their respective rights
in love. There had been young men, honest, protestant, and rather
ridiculous,--Scandinavians and Swiss--who had based equality on virtue:
saying that men should come to marriage as chaste as women. The Parisian
casuists looked for another sort of equality, an equality based on loss
of virtue, saying that women should come to marriage as besmirched as
men,--the right to take lovers. The Parisians had carried adultery, in
imagination and practice, to such a pitch that they were beginning to find
it rather insipid: and in the world of letters attempts were being made to
support it by a new invention: the prostitution of young girls,--I mean
regularized, universal, virtuous, decent, domestic, and, above all, social
prostitution.--There had just appeared a book on the question, full of
talent, which apparently said all there was to be said: through four
hundred pages of playful pedantry, "strictly in accordance with the rules
of the Baconian method," it dealt with the "best method of controlling
the relations of the sexes." It was a lecture on free love, full of talk
about manners, propriety, good taste, nobility, beauty, truth, modesty,
morality,--a regular Berquin for young girls who wanted to go wrong.--It
was, for the moment, the Gospel in which Colette's little court rejoiced,
while they paraphrased it. It goes without saying, that, like all
disciples, they discarded all the justice, observation, and even humanity
that lay behind the paradox, and only retained the evil in it. They
plucked all the most poisonous flowers from the little bed of sweetened
blossoms,--aphorisms of this sort: "The taste for pleasure can only sharpen
the taste for work":--"It is monstrous that a girl should become a mother
before she has tasted the sweets of life."--"To have had the love of a
worthy and pure-souled man as a girl is the natural preparation of a woman
for a wise and considered motherhood":--"Mothers," said this author,
"should organize the lives of their daughters with the same delicacy and
decency with which they control the liberty of their sons."--"The time
would come when girls would return as naturally from their lovers as now
they return from a walk or from taking tea with a friend."

Colette laughingly declared that such teaching was very reasonable.

Christophe had a horror of it. He exaggerated its importance and the evil
that it might do. The French are too clever to bring their literature into
practice. These Diderots in miniature are, in ordinary life, like the
genial Panurge of the encyclopedia, honest citizens, not really a whit less
timorous than the rest. It is precisely because they are so timid in action
that they amuse themselves with carrying action (in thought) to the limit
of possibility. It is a game without any risk.

But Christophe was not a French dilettante.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the young men of Colette's circle, there was one whom she seemed to
prefer, and, of course, he was the most objectionable of all to Christophe.

He was one of those young parvenus of the second generation who form an
aristocracy of letters, and are the patricians of the Third Republic. His
name was Lucien Lévy-Coeur. He had quick eyes, set wide apart, an aquiline
nose, a fair Van Dyck beard clipped to a point: he was prematurely bald,
which did not become him: and he had a silky voice, elegant manners, and
fine soft hands, which he was always rubbing together. He always affected
an excessive politeness, an exaggerated courtesy, even with people he did
not like, and even when he was bent on snubbing them.

Christophe had met him before at the literary dinner, to which he was taken
by Sylvain Kohn: and though they had not spoken to each other, the sound of
Lévy-Coeur's voice had been enough to rouse a dislike which he could not
explain, and he was not to discover the reason for it until much later.
There are sudden outbursts of love; and so there are of hate,--or--(to
avoid hurting those tender souls who are afraid of the word as of every
passion)--let us call it the instinct of health scenting the enemy, and
mounting guard against him.

Lévy-Coeur was exactly the opposite of Christophe, and represented the
spirit of irony and decay which fastened gently, politely, inexorably,
on all the great things that were left of the dying society: the family,
marriage, religion, patriotism: in art, on everything that was manly, pure,
healthy, of the people: faith in ideas, feelings, great men, in Man. Behind
that mode of thought there was only the mechanical pleasure of analysis,
analysis pushed to extremes, a sort of animal desire to nibble at thought,
the instinct of a worm. And side by side with that ideal of intellectual
nibbling was a girlish sensuality, the sensuality of a blue-stocking: for
to Lévy-Coeur everything became literature. Everything was literary copy
to him: his own adventures, his vices and the vices of his friends. He had
written novels and plays in which, with much talent, he described the
private life of his relations, and their most intimate adventures, and
those of his friends, his own, his _liaisons_, among others one with the
wife of his best friend: the portraits were well-drawn: everybody praised
them, the public, the wife, and his friend. It was impossible for him to
gain the confidence or the favors of a woman without putting them into a
book.--One would have thought that his indiscretions would have produced
strained relations with his "friends." But there Was nothing of the kind;
they were hardly more than a little embarrassed: they protested as a matter
of form: but at heart they were delighted at being held up to the public
gaze, _en déshabille_: so long as their faces were masked, their modesty
was undisturbed. But there was never any spirit of vengeance, or even of
scandal, in his tale-telling. He was no worse a man or lover than the
majority. In the very chapters in which he exposed his father and mother
and his mistress, he would write of them with a poetic tenderness and
charm. He was really extremely affectionate: but he was one of those men
who have no need to respect when they love: quite the contrary: they rather
love those whom they can despise a little: that makes the object of their
affection seem nearer to them and more human. Such men are of all the
least capable of understanding heroism and purity. They are not far from
considering them lies or weakness of mind. It goes without saying that such
men are convinced that they understand better than anybody else the heroes
of art whom they judge with a patronizing familiarity.

He got on excellently well with the young women of the rich, idle
middle-class. He was a companion for them, a sort of depraved servant, only
more free and confidential, who gave them instruction and roused their
envy. They had hardly any constraint with him: and, with the lamp of Psyche
in their hands, they made a careful study of the hermaphrodite, and he
suffered them.

Christophe could not understand how a girl like Colette, who seemed to have
so refined a nature and a touching eagerness to escape from the degrading
round of her life, could find pleasure in such company. Christophe was
no psychologist. Lucien Lévy-Coeur could easily beat him on that score.
Christophe was Colette's confidant: but Colette was the confidante of
Lucien Lévy-Coeur. That gave him a great advantage. It is very pleasant to
a woman to feel that she has to deal with a man weaker than herself. She
finds food in it at once for her lower and higher instincts: her maternal
instinct is touched by it. Lucien Lévy-Coeur knew that perfectly: one of
the surest means of touching a woman's heart is to sound that mysterious
chord. But in addition, Colette felt that she was weak, and cowardly, and
possessed of instincts of which she was not proud, though she was not
inclined to deny them. It pleased her to allow herself to be persuaded by
the audacious and nicely calculated confessions of her friend that others
were just the same, and that human nature must be taken for what it is. And
so she gave herself the satisfaction of not resisting inclinations that
she found very agreeable, and the luxury of saying that it must be so,
and that it was wise not to rebel and to be indulgent with what one could
not--"alas!"--prevent. There was a wisdom in that, the practice of which
contained no element of pain.

For any one who can envisage life with serenity, there is a peculiar relish
in remarking the perpetual contrast which exists in the very bosom of
society between the extreme refinement of apparent civilization and its
fundamental animalism. In every gathering that does not consist only of
fossils and petrified souls, there are, as it were, two conversational
strata, one above the other: one--which everybody can hear--between mind
and mind: the other--of which very few are conscious, though it is the
greater of the two--between instinct and instinct, the beast in man and
woman. Often these two strata of conversation are contradictory. While mind
and mind are passing the small change of convention, body and body say:
Desire, Aversion, or, more often: Curiosity, Boredom, Disgust. The beast in
man and woman, though tamed by centuries of civilization, and as cowed as
the wretched lions in the tamer's cage, is always thinking of its food.

But Christophe had not yet reached that disinterestedness which comes only
with age and the death of the passions. He had taken himself very seriously
as adviser to Colette. She had asked for his help: and he saw her in the
lightness of her heart exposed to danger. So he made no effort to conceal
his dislike of Lucien Lévy-Coeur, At first that gentleman maintained
towards Christophe an irreproachable and ironical politeness. He, too,
scented the enemy: but he thought he had nothing to fear from him: he made
fun of him without seeming to do so. If only he could have had Christophe's
admiration he would have been on quite good terms with him, but that he
never could obtain: he saw that clearly, for Christophe had not the art of
disguising his feelings. And so Lucien Lévy-Coeur passed insensibly from
an abstract intellectual antagonism to a little, carefully veiled, war, of
which Colette was to be the prize.

She held the balance evenly between her two friends. She appreciated
Christophe's talent and moral superiority: but she also appreciated Lucien
Lévy-Coeur's amusing immorality and wit: and, at bottom, she found more
pleasure in it. Christophe did not mince his protestations: she listened
to him with a touching humility which disarmed him. She was quite a good
creature, but she lacked frankness, partly from weakness, partly from
her very kindness. She was half play-acting: she pretended to think with
Christophe. As a matter of fact, she knew the worth of such a friend; but
she was not ready to make any sacrifice for a friendship: she was not
ready to sacrifice anything for anybody: she just wanted everything to go
smoothly and pleasantly, And so she concealed from Christophe the fact that
she went on receiving Lucien Lévy-Coeur: she lied with the easy charm of
the young women of her class who, from their childhood, are expert in the
practice which is so necessary for those who wish to keep their friends
and please everybody. She excused herself by pretending that she wished to
avoid hurting Christophe: but in reality it was because she knew that he
was right and wanted to go on doing as she liked without quarreling with
him. Sometimes Christophe suspected her tricks: then he would scold her,
and wax indignant. She would go on playing the contrite little girl, and be
affectionate and sorry: and she would look tenderly at him--_feminæ ultima
ratio_.--And really it did distress her to think of losing Christophe's
friendship: she would be charmingly serious and in that way succeed in
disarming Christophe for a little while longer. But sooner or later there
had to be an explosion. Christophe's irritation was fed unconsciously by a
little jealousy. And into Colette's coaxing tricks there crept a little, a
very little, love, all of which made the rupture only the more violent.

One day when Christophe had caught Colette out in a flagrant lie he gave
her a definite alternative: she must choose between Lucien Lévy-Coeur and
himself. She tried to dodge the question: and, finally, she vindicated her
right to have whatever friends she liked. She was perfectly right: and
Christophe admitted that he had been absurd: but he knew also that he had
not been exacting from egoism: he had a sincere affection for Colette: he
wanted to save her even against her will. He insisted awkwardly. She
refused to answer. He said:

"Colette, do you want us not to be friends any more?"

She replied:

"No, no. I should be sorry if you ceased to be my friend."

"But you will not sacrifice the smallest thing for our friendship."

"Sacrifice! What a silly word!" she said. "Why should one always be
sacrificing one thing for another? It's just a stupid Christian idea.
You're nothing but an old parson at heart."

"Maybe," he said. "I want one thing or another. I allow nothing between
good and evil, not so much as the breadth of a hair."

"Yes, I know," she said. "That is why I love you. For I do love you:

"But you love the other fellow too?"

She laughed, and said, with a soft look in her eyes and a tender note in
her voice:


He was just about to give in once more when Lucien Lévy-Coeur came in: and
he was welcomed with the same soft look in her eyes and the same tender
note in her voice. Christophe sat for some time in silence watching Colette
at her tricks: then he went away, having made up his mind to break with
her. He was sick and sorry at heart. It was so stupid to grow so fond,
always to be falling into the trap!

When he reached home he toyed with his books, and idly opened his Bible and

"... _The Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk
with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go,
and making a tinkling with their feet,

"Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the
daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts_ ..."

He burst out laughing as he thought of Colette's little tricks: and he went
to bed well pleased with himself. Then he thought that he too must have
become tainted with the corruption of Paris for the Bible to have become a
humorous work to him. But he did not stop saying over and over again the
judgment of the great judiciary humorist: and he tried to imagine its
effect on the head of his young friend. He went to sleep laughing like a
child. He had lost all thought of his new sorrow. One more or less.... He
was getting used to it.

       *       *       *       *       *

He did not give up Colette's music-lessons: but he refused to take the
opportunities she gave him of continuing their intimate conversations. It
was no use her being sorry about it or offended, and trying all sorts of
tricks: he stuck to his guns: they were rude to each other: of her own
accord she took to finding excuses for missing the lessons: and he also
made excuses for declining the Stevens' invitations.

He had had enough of Parisian society: he could not bear the emptiness
of it, the idleness, the moral impotence, the neurasthenia, its aimless,
pointless, self-devouring hypercriticism. He wondered how people could
live in such a stagnant atmosphere of art for art's sake and pleasure for
pleasure's sake. And yet the French did live in it: they had beep, a great
nation, and they still cut something of a figure in the world: at least,
they seemed to do so to the outside spectator. But where were the springs
of their life? They believed in nothing, nothing but pleasure....

Just as Christophe reached this point in his reflections, he ran into a
crowd of young men and women, all shouting at the tops of their voices,
dragging a carriage in which was sitting an old priest casting blessings
right and left. A little farther on he found some French soldiers battering
down the doors of a church with axes, and there were men attacking them
with chairs. He saw that the French did still believe in something--though
he could not understand in what. He was told that the State and the Church
were separated after a century of living together, and that as the Church
had refused to go with a good grace, standing on its rights and its power,
it was being evicted. To Christophe the proceeding seemed ungallant; but
he was so sick of the anarchical dilettantism of the Parisian artists that
he was delighted to find men ready to have their heads broken for a cause,
however foolish it might be.

It was not long before he discovered that there were many such people in
France. The political journals plunged into the fight like the Homeric
heroes: they published daily calls to civil war. It is true that it got
no farther than words, and that they very rarely came to blows. But there
was no lack of simple souls to put into action what the others declared in
words. Strange things happened: departments threatened to break away from
France, regiments deserted, prefectures were burned, tax-collectors were on
horseback at the head of a company of gendarmes, peasants were armed with
scythes, and put their kettles on to boil to defend the churches, which the
Free Thinkers were demolishing in the name of liberty: there were popular
redeemers who climbed trees to address the provinces of Wine, that had
risen against the provinces of Alcohol. Everywhere there were millions of
men shaking hands, all red in the face from shouting, and in the end all
going for each other. The Republic flattered the people: and then turned
arms against them. The people on their side broke the heads of a few of
their own young men--officers and soldiers.--And so every one proved to
everybody else the excellence of his cause and his fists. Looked at from
a distance, through the newspapers, it was as though the country had
gone back a few centuries, Christophe discovered that France--skeptical
France--was a nation of fanatics. But it was impossible for him to find out
the meaning of their fanaticism. For or against religion? For or against
Reason? For or against the country?--They were for and against everything.
They were fanatics for the pleasure of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

He spoke about it one evening to a Socialist deputy whom he met sometimes
at the Stevens'. Although he had spoken to him before, he had no idea what
sort of man he was: till then they had only talked about music. Christophe
was very surprised to learn that this man of the world was the leader of a
violent party.

Achille Roussin was a handsome man, with a fair beard, a burring way of
talking, a florid complexion, affable manners, a certain polish on his
fundamental vulgarity, certain peasant tricks which from time to time he
used in spite of himself:--a way of paring his nails in public, a vulgar
habit of catching hold of the coat of the man he was talking to, or
gripping him by the arm:--he was a great eater, a heavy drinker, a high
liver with a gift of laughter, and the appetite of a man of the people
pushing his way into power: he was adaptable, quick to alter his manners to
sort with his surroundings and the person he was talking to, full of ideas,
and reasonable in expounding them, able to listen, and to assimilate at
once everything he heard: for the rest he was sympathetic, intelligent,
interested in everything, naturally, or as a matter of acquired habit, or
merely out of vanity: he was honest so far as was compatible with his
interests, or when it was dangerous not to be so.

He had quite a pretty wife, tall, well made, and well set tip, with a
charming figure which was a little too much shown off by her tight dresses,
which accentuated and exaggerated the rounded curves of her anatomy: her
face was framed in curly black hair: she had big black eyes, a long,
pointed chin: her face was big, but quite charming in its general effect,
though it was spoiled by the twitch of her short-sighted eyes, and her
silly little pursed-up mouth. She had an affected precise manner, like
a bird, and a simpering way of talking: but she was kindly and amiable.
She came of a rich shopkeeping family, broad-minded and virtuous, and she
was devoted to the countless duties of society, as to a religion, not to
mention the duties, social and artistic, which she imposed on herself:
she had her _salon_, dabbled in University Extension movements, and was
busy with philanthropic undertakings and researches into the psychology
of childhood,--all without any enthusiasm or profound interest,--from a
mixture of natural kindness, snobbishness, and the harmless pedantry of a
young woman of education, who always seems to be repeating a lesson, and
taking a pride in showing that she has learned it well. She needed to be
busy, but she did not need to be interested in what she was doing. It
was like the feverish industry of those women who always have a piece of
knitting in their hands, and never stop clicking their needles, as though
the salvation of the world depended on their work, which they themselves
do not know what to do with. And then there was in her--as in women who
knit--the vanity of the good woman who sets an example to other women.

The Deputy had an affectionate contempt for her. He had chosen well both as
regards his pleasure and his peace of mind. He enjoyed her beauty and asked
no more of her: and she asked no more of him. He loved her and deceived
her. She put up with that, provided she had her share of his attention.
Perhaps also it gave her a sort of pleasure. She was placid and sensual.
She had the attitude of mind of a woman of the harem.

They had two fine children of four and five years old, whom she looked
after, like a good mother, with the same amiable, cold attentiveness with
which she followed her husband's political career, and the latest fashions
in dress and art. And it produced in her the most odd mixture of advanced
ideas, ultra-decadent art, polite restlessness, and bourgeois sentiment.

They invited Christophe to go and see them. Madame Roussin was a good
musician, and played the piano charmingly: she had a delicate, firm touch:
with her little head bowed over the keyboard, and her hands poised above
it and darting down, she was like a pecking hen. She was talented and knew
more about music than most Frenchwomen, but she was as insensible as a fish
to the deeper meaning of music: to her it was only a succession of notes,
rhythms, and degrees of sound, to which she listened or reproduced
carefully: she never looked for the soul in it, having no use for it
herself. This amiable, intelligent, simple woman, who was always ready
to do any one a kindness, gave Christophe the graceful welcome which she
extended to everybody. Christophe was not particularly grateful to her
for it: he was not much in sympathy with her: she hardly existed for him.
Perhaps it was that unconsciously he could not forgive her acquiescence in
her husband's infidelities, of which she was by no means ignorant. Passive
acceptance was of all the vices that which he could least excuse.

He was more intimate with Achille Roussin. Roussin loved music, as he loved
the other arts, crudely but sincerely. When he liked a symphony, it became
a thing that he could take into his arms. He had a superficial culture and
turned it to good account: his wife had been useful to him there. He was
interested in Christophe because he saw in him a vigorous vulgarian such
as he was himself. And he found it absorbing to study an original of his
stamp--(he was unwearying in his observation of humanity)--and to discover
his impressions of Paris. The frankness and rudeness of Christophe's
remarks amused him. He was skeptic enough to admit their truth. He was
not put out by the fact that Christophe was a German. On the contrary: he
prided himself on being above national prejudice. And, when all was said
and done, he was sincerely "human"--(that was his chief quality);--he
sympathized with everything human. But that did not prevent his being quite
convinced of the superiority of the French--an old race, and an old
civilization--over the Germans, and making fun of the Germans.

       *       *       *       *       *

At Achille Roussin's Christophe met other politicians, the Ministers of
yesterday, and the Ministers of to-morrow. He would have been only too glad
to talk to each of them individually, if these illustrious persons had
thought him worthy. In spite of the generally accepted opinion he found
them much more interesting than the other Frenchmen of his acquaintance.
They were more alive mentally, more open to the passions and the great
interests of humanity. They were brilliant talkers, mostly men from the
South, and they were amazingly dilettante: individually they were almost
as much so as the men of letters. Of course, they were very ignorant about
art, and especially about foreign art: but they all pretended more or
less to some knowledge of it: and often they really loved it. There were
Councils which were very like the coterie of some little Review. One of
them would be a playwright: another would scrape on the violin; another
would be a besotted Wagnerian. And they all collected Impressionist
pictures, read decadent books, and prided themselves on a taste for some
ultra-aristocratic art, which was almost always in direct opposition
to their ideas. It puzzled Christophe to find these Socialist or
Radical-Socialist Ministers, these apostles of the poor and down-trodden,
posing as connoisseurs of eclectic art. No doubt they had a perfect right
to do so: but it seemed to him rather disloyal.

But the odd thing was when these men who in private conversation were
skeptics, sensualists, Nihilists, and anarchists, came to action: at once
they became fanatics. Even the most dilettante of them when they came into
power became like Oriental despots: they had a mania for ordering
everything, and let nothing alone: they were skeptical in mind and
tyrannical in temper. The temptation to use the machinery of administrative
centralization created by the greatest of despots was too great, and it was
difficult not to abuse it. The result was a sort of republican imperialism
on to which there had latterly been grafted an atheistic catholicism.

For some time past the politicians had made no claim to do anything but
control the body--that is to say, money:--they hardly troubled the soul
at all, since the soul could not be converted into money. Their own souls
were not concerned with politics: they passed above or below politics,
which in France are thought of as a branch--a lucrative, though not very
exalted branch--of commerce and industry: the intellectuals despised the
politicians, the politicians despised the intellectuals.--But lately there
had been a closer understanding, then an alliance, between the politicians
and the lowest class of intellectuals. A new power had appeared upon the
scene, which had arrogated to itself the absolute government of ideas: the
Free Thinkers. They had thrown in their lot with the other power, which had
seen in them the perfect machinery of political despotism. They were trying
not so much to destroy the Church as to supplant it: and, in fact, they
created a Church of Free Thought which had its catechisms, and ceremonies,
its baptisms, its confirmations, its marriages, its regional councils,
if not its ecumenicals at Rome. It was most pitifully comic to see these
thousands of poor wretches having to band themselves together in order to
be able to "think freely." True, their freedom of thought consisted in
setting a ban on the thought of others in the name of Reason: for they
believed in Reason as the Catholics believed in the Blessed Virgin without
ever dreaming for a moment that Reason, like the Virgin, was in itself
nothing, or that the real thing lay behind it. And, just as the Catholic
Church had its armies of monks and its congregations stealthily creeping
through the veins of the nation, propagating its views and destroying every
other sort of vitality, so the Anti-Catholic Church had its Free Masons,
whose chief Lodge, the Grand-Orient, kept a faithful record of all the
secret reports with which their pious informers in all quarters of France
supplied them. The Republican State secretly encouraged the sacred
espionage of these mendicant friars and Jesuits of Reason, who terrorized
the army, the University, and every branch of the State: and it was never
noticed that while they pretended to serve the State, they were all the
time aiming at supplanting it, and that the country was slowly moving
towards an atheistic theocracy; very little, if anything, different from
that of the Jesuits of Paraguay.

Christophe met some of these gentry at Roussin's. They were all blind
fetish-worshippers. At that time they were rejoicing at having removed
Christ from the Courts of Law. They thought they had destroyed religion
because they had destroyed a few pieces of wood and ivory. Others were
concentrating on Joan of Arc and her banner of the Virgin, which they had
just wrested from the Catholics. One of the Fathers of the new Church,
a general who was waging war on the French of the old Church, had just
given utterance to an anti-clerical speech in honor of Vercingetorix: he
proclaimed the ancient Gaul, to whom Free Thought had erected a statue,
to be a son of the people, and the first champion against (the Church
of) Rome. The Ministers of the Marine, by way of purifying the fleet and
showing their horror of war, called their cruisers _Descartes_ and _Ernest
Renan_. Other Free Thinkers had set themselves to purify art. They
expurgated the classics of the seventeenth century, and did not allow the
name of God to sully the _Fables_ of La Fontaine. They did not allow it
in music either: and Christophe heard one of them, an old radical,--("_To
be a radical in old age_," says Goethe, "_is the height of folly_")--wax
indignant at the religious _Lieder_ of Beethoven having been given at a
popular concert. He demanded that other words should be used instead of

"What?" asked Christophe in exasperation. "The Republic?"

Others who were even more radical would accept no compromise and wanted
purely and simply to suppress all religious music and all schools in which
it was taught. In vain did a director of the University of Fine Arts, who
was considered an Athenian in that Boeotia, try to explain that musicians
must be taught music: for, as he said, with great loftiness of thought,
"when you send a soldier to the barracks, you teach him how to use a gun
and then how to shoot. And so it is with a young composer: his head is
buzzing with ideas: but he has not yet learned to put them in order." And,
being a little scared by his own courage, he protested with every sentence:
"I am an old Free Thinker.... I am an old Republican..." and he declared
audaciously that "he did not care much whether the compositions of
Pergolese were operas or Masses: all that he wanted to know was, were they
human works of art?"--But his adversary with implacable logic answered "the
old Free Thinker and Republican" that "there were two sorts of music: that
which was sung in churches and that which was sung in other places." The
first sort was the enemy of Reason and the State: and the Reason of the
State ought to suppress it.

All these silly people would have been more ridiculous than dangerous if
behind them there had not been men of real worth, supporting them, who
were, like them--and perhaps even, more--fanatics of Reason. Tolstoy
speaks somewhere of those "epidemic influences" which prevail in religion,
philosophy, politics, art, and science, "insensate influences, the folly of
which only becomes apparent to men when they are clear of them, while as
long as they are under their dominion they seem so true to them that they
think them beyond all argument." Instances are the craze for tulips, belief
in sorcery, and the aberrations of literary fashions.--The religion of
Reason was such a craze. It was common to the most ignorant and the most
cultured, to the "sub-veterinaries" of the Chamber, and certain of the
keenest intellects of the University. It was even more dangerous in the
latter than in the former: for with the latter it was mixed up with a
credulous and stupid optimism, which sapped its energy: while with the
others it was fortified and given a keener edge by a fanatical pessimism
which was under no illusion as to the fundamental antagonism of Nature and
Reason, and they were only the more desperately resolved to wage the war of
abstract Liberty, abstract Justice, abstract Truth, against the malevolence
of Nature. There was behind it all the idealism of the Calvinists, the
Jansenists, and the Jacobins, the old belief in the fundamental perversity
of mankind, which can and must be broken by the implacable pride of the
Elect inspired by the breath of Reason,--the Spirit of God. It was a very
French type, the type of intelligent Frenchman, who is not at all "human."
A pebble as hard as iron: nothing can penetrate it: it breaks everything
that it touches.

Christophe was appalled by the conversations that he had at Achille
Roussin's with some of these fanatics. It upset all his ideas about France.
He had thought, like so many people, that the French were a well-balanced,
sociable, tolerant, liberty-loving people. And he found them lunatics with
their abstract ideas, their diseased logic, ready to sacrifice themselves
and everybody else for one of their syllogisms. They were always talking of
liberty, but there never were men less able to understand it or to stand
it. Nowhere in the world were there characters more coldly and atrociously
despotic in their passion for intellect or their passion for always being
in the right.

And it was not only true of one party. Every party was the same. They
could not--they would not--see anything above or beyond their political or
religious formula, or their country, their province, their group, or their
own narrow minds. There were anti-Semites who expended all the forces of
their being in a blind, impotent hatred of all the privileges of wealth:
for they hated all Jews, and called those whom they hated "Jews." There
were nationalists who hated--(when they were kinder they stopped short
at despising)--every other nation, and even among their own people, they
called everybody who did not agree with them foreigners, or renegades, or
traitors. There were anti-protestants who persuaded themselves that all
Protestants were English or Germans, and would have them all expelled from
France. There were men of the West who denied the existence of anything
east of the Rhine: men of the North who denied the existence of everything
south of the Loire: men of the South who called all those who lived north
of the Loire Barbarians: and there were men who boasted of being of Gallic
descent: and, craziest of all, there were "Romans" who prided themselves on
the defeat of their ancestors: and Bretons, and Lorrainians, and Félibres,
and Albigeois; and men from Carpentras, and Pontoise, and Quimper-Corentin:
they all thought only of themselves, the fact of being themselves was
sufficient patent of nobility, and they wild not put up with the idea of
people being anything else. There is nothing to be done with such people:
they will not listen to argument from any other point of view: they must
burn everybody else at the stake, or be burned themselves.

Christophe thought that it was lucky that such people should live under a
Republic: for all these little despots did at least annihilate each other.
But if any one of them had become Emperor or King, it would have been the
end of him.

He did not know that there is one virtue left to work the salvation of
people of that temper of mind:--inconsequence.

The French politicians were no exception. Their despotism was tempered
with anarchy: they were for ever swinging between two poles. On one hand
they relied on the fanatics of thought, on the other they relied on the
anarchists of thought. Mixed up with them was a whole rabble of dilettante
Socialists, mere opportunists, who held back from taking any part in the
fight until it was won, though they followed in the wake of the army of
Free Thought, and, after every battle won, they swooped down on the spoils.
These champions of Reason did not labor in the cause of Reason.... _Sic
vos non vobis_ ... but in the cause of the Citizens of the World, who with
glad shouts trampled under foot the traditions of the country, and had no
intention of destroying one Faith in order to set up another, but in order
to set themselves up and break away from all restraint.

There Christophe marked the likeness of Lucien Lévy-Coeur. He was not
surprised to learn that Lucien Lévy-Coeur was a Socialist. He only thought
that Socialists must be fairly on the road to success to have enrolled
Lucien Lévy-Coeur. But he did not know that Lucien Lévy-Coeur had also
contrived to figure in the opposite camp, where he had succeeded in allying
himself with men of the most anti-Liberal opinions, if not anti-Semite, in
politics and art, He asked Achille Roussin:

"How can you put up with such men?"

Roussin replied:

"He is so clever! And he is working for us; he is destroying the old

"He is doing that all right," said Christophe. "He is destroying it so
thoroughly that I don't see what is going to be left for you to build up
again. Do you think there'll be timber enough left for your new house? And
are you even sure that the worms have not crept into your building-yard?"

Lucien Lévy-Coeur was not the only nibbler at Socialism. The Socialist
papers were staffed by these petty men of letters, with their art for art's
sake, these licentious anarchists who had fastened on all the roads that
might lead to success. They barred the way to others, and filled the
papers, which styled themselves the organs of the people, with their
dilettante decadence and their _struggle for life_. They were not content
with being jobbed into positions: they wanted fame. Never had there been a
time when there were so many premature Statues, or so many speeches
delivered at the unveiling of them. But queerest of all were the banquets
that were periodically offered to one or other of the great men of the
fraternity by the sycophants of fame, not in celebration of any of their
deeds, but in celebration of some honor given to them: for those were the
things that most appealed to them. Esthetes, supermen, Socialist Ministers,
they were all agreed when it was a question of feasting to celebrate some
promotion in the Legion of Honor founded by the Corsican officer.

Roussin laughed at Christophe's amazement. He did not think the German far
out in his estimation of the supporters of his party. When they were alone
together he would handle them severely himself. He knew their stupidity
and their knavery better than any one: but that did not keep him from
supporting them in order to retain their support. And if in private he
never hesitated to speak of the people in terms of contempt, on the
platform he was a different man. Then he would assume a high-pitched voice,
shrill, nasal, labored, solemn tones, a tremolo, a bleat, wide, sweeping,
fluttering gestures like the beating of wings: exactly like Mounet-Sully.

Christophe tried hard to discover exactly how far Roussin believed in his
Socialism. It was obvious that at heart he did not believe in it at all:
he was too skeptical. And yet he did believe in it, to a certain extent;
and though he knew perfectly well that it was only a part of his mind that
believed in it--(perhaps the most important part)--he had arranged his
life and conduct in accordance with it, because it suited him best. It
was not only his practical interest that was served by it, but also his
vital interests, the foundations of his being and all his actions. His
Socialistic Faith was to him a sort of State religion.--Most people live
like that. Their lives are based on religious, moral, social, or purely
practical beliefs,--(belief in their profession, in their work, in the
utility of the part they play in life)--in which they do not, at heart,
believe. But they do not wish to know it: for they must have this apparent
faith, this "State religion," of which every man is priest, to live.

       *       *       *       *       *

Roussin was not one of the worst. There were many, many others who called
themselves Socialists and Radicals, from--it can hardly be called ambition,
for their ambition was so short-sighted, and did not go beyond immediate
plunder and their re-election! They pretended to believe in a new order of
society. Perhaps there was a time when they believed in it: and they went
on pretending to do so: but, in fact, they had no idea beyond living on the
spoils of the dying order of society. This predatory Nihilism was saved
by a short-sighted opportunism. The great interests of the future were
sacrificed to the egoism of the present. They cut down the army; they would
have dislocated the country to please the electors. They were not lacking
in cleverness: they knew perfectly well what they ought to have done: but
they did not do it, because it would have cost them too much effort, and
they were incapable of effort. They wanted to arrange their own lives
and the life of the nation with the least possible amount of trouble and
sacrifice. All down the scale the point was to get the maximum of pleasure
with the minimum of effort. That was their morality, immoral enough, but it
was the only guide in the political muddle, in which the leaders set the
example of anarchy, and the disordered pack of politicians were chasing
ten hares at once, and letting them all escape one after the other, and
an aggressive Foreign Office was yoked with a pacific War Office, and
Ministers of War were cutting down the army in order to purify it, Naval
Ministers were inciting the workmen in the arsenals, military instructors
were preaching the horrors of war, and all the officials, judges,
revolutionaries, and patriots were dilettante. The political demoralization
was universal. Every man was expecting the State to provide him with
office, honors, pensions, indemnities: and the Government did, as a matter
of fact, feed the appetite of its supporters: honors and pensions were made
the quarry of the sons, nephews, grand-nephews, and valets of those in
power: the deputies were always voting an increase in their own salaries:
revenues, posts, titles, all the possessions of the State, were being
blindly squandered.--And, like a sinister echo of the example of the upper
classes, the lower classes were always on the verge of a strike: they had
men teaching contempt of authority and revolt against the established
order; post-office employés burned letters and despatches, workers in
factories threw sand or emery-powder into the gears of the machines, men
working in the arsenals sacked them, ships were burned, and artisans
deliberately made a horrible mess of their work,--the destruction not of
riches, but of the wealth of the world.

And to crown it all the intellectuals amused themselves by discovering that
this national suicide was based on reason and right, in the sacred right
of every human being to be happy. There was a morbid humanitarianism
which broke down the distinction between Good and Evil, and developed a
sentimental pity for the "sacred and irresponsible human" in the criminal,
the doting sentimentality of an old man:--it was a capitulation to crime,
the surrender of society to its mercies.

Christophe thought:

"France is drunk with liberty. When she has raved and screamed, she will
fall down dead-drunk. And when she wakes up she will find herself in

       *       *       *       *       *

What hurt Christophe most in this demagogy was to see the most violent
political measures coldly carried through by these men whose fundamental
instability he knew perfectly well. The disproportion between the
shiftiness of these men and the rigorous Acts that they passed or
authorized was too scandalous. It was as though there were in them two
contradictory things: an inconsistent character, believing in nothing,
and discursive Reason, intent on truncating, mowing down, and crushing
life, without regard for anything. Christophe wondered why the peaceful
middle-class, the Catholics, the officials who were harassed in every
conceivable way, did not throw them all out by the window. He dared not
tell Roussin what he thought: but, as he was incapable of concealing
anything, Roussin had no difficulty in guessing it. He laughed and said:

"No doubt that is what you or I would do. But there is no danger of them
doing it. They are just a set of poor devils who haven't the energy:
they can't do much more than grumble. They're just the fag end of
an aristocracy, idiotic, stultified by their clubs and their sport,
prostituted by the Americans and the Jews, and, by way of showing how up to
date they are, they play the degraded parts allotted to them in fashionable
plays, and support those who have degraded them. They're an apathetic and
surly middle-class: they read nothing, understand nothing, don't want
to understand anything; they only know how to vilify, vilify, vaguely,
bitterly, futilely--and they have only one passion: sleep, to lie huddled
in sleep on their moneybags, hating anybody who disturbs them, and even
anybody whose tastes differ from theirs, for it does upset them to think of
other people working while they are snoozing! If you knew them you would
sympathize with us."

But Christophe could find nothing but disgust with both: for he did not
hold that the baseness of the oppressed was any excuse for that of the
oppressor. Only too frequently had he met at the Stevens' types of the rich
dull middle-class that Roussin described,

  "... _L'anime triste di coloro,
  Che visser senza infamia esenza lodo_,..."

He saw only too clearly the reason why Roussin and his friends were sure
not only of their power over these people, but of their right to abuse it.
They had to hand all the instruments of tyranny. Thousands of officials,
who had renounced their will and every vestige of personality, and obeyed
blindly. A loose, vulgar way of living, a Republic without Republicans:
Socialist papers and Socialist leaders groveling before Royalties when they
visited Paris: the souls of servants gaping at titles, and gold lace, and
orders: they could be kept quiet by just having a bone to gnaw, or the
Legion of Honor flung at them. If the Kings had ennobled all the citizens
of France, all the citizens of France would have been Royalist.

The politicians were having a fine time. Of the Three Estates of '89 the
first was extinct: the second was proscribed, suspect, or had emigrated:
the third was gorged by its victory and slept. And, as for the Fourth
Estate, which had come into existence at a later date, and had become a
public menace in its jealousy, there was no difficulty about squaring that.
The decadent Republic treated it as decadent Rome treated the barbarian
hordes, that she no longer had the power to drive from her frontiers;
she assimilated them, and they quickly became her best watch-dogs. The
Ministers of the middle-class called themselves Socialists, lured away
and annexed to their own party the most intelligent and vigorous of the
working-class: they robbed the proletariat of their leaders, infused
their new blood into their own system, and, in return, gorged them with
indigestible science and middle-class culture.

       *       *       *       *       *

One of the most curious features of these attempts at distraint by the
middle-class on the people were the Popular Universities. They were little
jumble-sales of scraps of knowledge of every period and every country. As
one syllabus declared, they set out to teach "every branch of physical,
biological, and sociological science: astronomy, cosmology, anthropology,
ethnology, physiology, psychology, psychiatry, geography, languages,
esthetics, logic, etc." Enough to split the skull of Pico della Mirandola.

In truth there had been originally, and still was in some of them, a
certain grand idealism, a keen desire to bring truth, beauty, and morality
within the reach of all, which was a very fine thing. It was wonderful and
touching to see workmen, after a hard day's toil, crowding into narrow,
stuffy lecture-rooms, impelled by a thirst for knowledge that was stronger
than fatigue and hunger. But how the poor fellows had been tricked!
There were a few real apostles, intelligent human beings, a few upright
warm-hearted men, with more good intentions than skill to accomplish them;
but, as against them, there were hundreds of fools, idiots, schemers,
unsuccessful authors, orators, professors, parsons, speakers, pianists,
critics, anarchists, who deluged the people with their productions. Every
man jack of them was trying to unload his stock-in-trade. The most thriving
of them were naturally the nostrum-mongers, the philosophical lecturers
who ladled out general ideas, leavened with a few facts, a scientific
smattering, and cosmological conclusions.

The Popular Universities were also an outlet for the ultra-aristocratic
works of art: decadent etchings, poetry, and music. The aim was the
elevation of the people for the rejuvenation of thought and the
regeneration of the race. They began by inoculating them with all the fads
and cranks of the middle-class. They gulped them down greedily, not because
they liked them, but because they were middle-class. Christophe, who was
taken to one of these Popular Universities by Madame Roussin, heard her
play Debussy to the people between _la Bonne Chanson_ of Gabriel Fauré and
one of the later quartets of Beethoven. He who had only begun to grasp the
meaning of the later works of Beethoven after many years, and long weary
labor, asked some one who sat near him pityingly:

"Do you understand it?"

The man drew himself up like an angry cock, and said:

"Certainly. Why shouldn't I understand it as well as you?"

And by way of showing that he understood it he encored a fugue, glaring
defiantly at Christophe.

Christophe went away. He was amazed. He said to himself that the swine had
succeeded in poisoning even the living wells of the nation: the People had
ceased to be--"People yourselves!" as a working-man said to one of the
would-be founders of the Theaters of the People. "I am as much of the
middle-class as you."

       *       *       *       *       *

One fine evening when above the darkening town the soft sky was like an
Oriental carpet, rich in warm faded colors, Christophe walked along by the
river from Notre Dame to the Invalides. In the dim fading light the tower
of the cathedral rose like the arms of Moses held up during the battle.
The carved golden spire of the Sainte-Chapelle, the flowering Holy Thorn,
flashed out of the labyrinth of houses. On the other side of the water
stretched the royal front of the Louvre, and its windows were like weary
eyes lit up with the last living rays of the setting sun. At the back of
the great square of the Invalides behind its trenches and proud walls,
majestic, solitary, floated the dull gold dome, like a symphony of bygone
victories. And at the top of the hill there stood the Arc de Triomphe,
bestriding the hill with the giant stride of the Imperial legions.

And suddenly Christophe thought of it all as of a dead giant lying prone
upon the plain. The terror of it clutched at his heart; he stopped to gaze
at the gigantic fossils of a fabulous race, long since extinct, that in its
life had made the whole earth ring with the tramp of its armies,--the race
whose helmet was the dome of the Invalides, whose girdle was the Louvre,
the thousand arms of whose cathedrals had clutched at the heavens, who
traversed the whole world with the triumphant stride of the Arch of
Napoleon, under whose heel there now swarmed Lilliput.


Without any deliberate effort on his part, Christophe had gained a certain
celebrity in the Parisian circles to which he had been introduced by
Sylvain Kohn and Goujart. He was seen everywhere with one or other of his
friends at first nights, and at concerts, and his extraordinary face, his
ugliness, the absurdity of his figure and costume, his brusque, awkward
manners, the paradoxical opinions to which he gave vent from time to
time, his undeveloped, but large and healthy intellect, and the romantic
stories spread by Sylvain Kohn about his escapades in Germany, and his
complications with the police and flight to France, had marked him out for
the idle, restless curiosity of the great cosmopolitan hotel drawing-room
that Paris has become. As long as he held himself in check, observing,
listening, and trying to understand before expressing any opinion, as
long as nothing was known of his work or what he really thought, he was
tolerated. The French were pleased with him for having been unable to
stay in Germany. And the French musicians especially were delighted with
Christophe's unjust pronouncements on German music, and took them all
as homage to themselves:--(as a matter of fact, they heard only his old
youthful opinions, to many of which he would no longer have subscribed:
a few articles published in a German Review which had been amplified and
circulated by Sylvain Kohn).--Christophe was interesting and did not
interfere with anybody: there was no danger of his supplanting anybody.
He needed only to become the great man of a coterie. He needed only not
to write anything, or as little as possible, and not to have anything
performed, and to supply Goujart and his like with ideas, Goujart and the
whole set of men whose motto is the famous quip--adapted a little:

_"My glass is small: but I drink ... the wine of others."_

A strong personality sheds its rays especially on young people who are more
concerned with feeling than with action. There were plenty of young people
about Christophe. They were for the most part idle, will-less, aimless,
purposeless. Young men, living in dread of work, fearful of being left
alone with themselves, who sought an armchair immortality, wandering from
café to theater, from theater to café, finding all sorts of excuses for not
going home, to avoid coming face to face with themselves. They came and
stayed for hours, dawdling, talking, making aimless conversation, and going
away empty, aching, disgusted, satiated, and yet famishing, forced to go
on with it in spite of loathing. They surrounded Christophe, like Goethe's
water-spaniel, the "lurking specters," that lie in wait and seize upon a
soul and fasten upon its vitality. A vain fool would have found pleasure
in such a circle of parasites. But Christophe had no taste for pedestals.
He was revolted by the idiotic subtlety of his admirers, who read into
anything he did all sorts of absurd meanings, Renanian, Nietzschean,
hermaphroditic. He kicked them out. He was not made for passivity.
Everything in him cried aloud for action. He observed so as to understand:
he wished to understand so as to act. He was free of the constraint of
any school, and of any prejudice, and he inquired into everything, read
everything, and studied all the forms of thought and the resources of the
expression of other countries and other ages in his art. He seized on all
those which seemed to him effective and true. Unlike the French artists
whom he studied, who were ingenious inventors of new forms, and wore
themselves out in the unceasing effort of invention, and gave up the
struggle half-way, he endeavored not so much to invent a new musical
language as to speak the authentic language of music with more energy: his
aim was not to be particular, but to be strong. His, passion for strength
was the very opposite of the French genius of subtlety and moderation. He
scorned style for the sake of style and art for art's sake. The best French
artists seemed to him to be no more than pleasure-mongers. One of the
most perfect poets in Paris had amused himself with drawing up a "list
of the workers in contemporary French poetry, with their talents, their
productions, and their earnings": and he enumerated "the crystals, the
Oriental fabrics, the gold and bronze medals, the lace for dowagers, the
polychromatic sculpture, the painted porcelain," which had been produced in
the workshops of his various colleagues. He pictured himself "in the corner
of a vast factory of letters, mending old tapestry, or polishing up rusty
halberds."--Such a conception of the artist as a good workman, thinking
only of the perfection of his craft, was not without an element of
greatness. But it did not satisfy Christophe: and while he admitted in it
a certain professional dignity, he had a contempt for the poor quality of
life which most often it disguised. He could not understand writing for the
sake of writing, or talking for the sake of talking. He never said words;
he said--or wanted to say--the things themselves.

_"Ei dice cose, e voi dite parole...."_

After a long period of rest, during which he had been entirely occupied
with taking in a new world, Christophe suddenly became conscious of an
imperious need for creation. The antagonism which he felt between himself
and Paris called up all his reserve of force by its challenge of his
personality. All his passions were brimming in him, and imperiously
demanding expression. They were of every kind: and they were all equally
insistent. He tried to create, to fashion music, into which to turn the
love and hatred that were swelling in his heart, and the will and the
renunciation, and all the daimons struggling within him, all of whom
had an equal right to live. Hardly had he assuaged one passion in
music,--(sometimes he hardly had the patience to finish it)--than he hurled
himself at the opposite passion. But the contradiction was only apparent:
if they were always changing, they were in truth always the same. He
beat out roads in music, roads that led to the same goal: his soul was a
mountain: he tried every pathway up it; on some he wound easily, dallying
in the shade: on others he mounted toilsomely with the hot sun beating up
from the dry, sandy track: they all led to God enthroned on the summit.
Love, hatred, evil, renunciation, all the forces of humanity at their
highest pitch, touched eternity, and were a part of it. For every man the
gateway to eternity is in himself: for the believer as for the atheist, for
him who sees life everywhere as for him who everywhere denies it, and for
him who doubts both life and the denial of it,--and for Christophe in whose
soul there met all these opposing views of life. All the opposites become
one in eternal Force. For Christophe the chief thing was to wake that Force
within himself and in others, to fling armfuls of wood upon the fire, to
feed the flames of Eternity, and make them roar and flicker. Through the
voluptuous night of Paris a great flame darted in his heart. He thought
himself free of Faith, and he was a living torch of Faith.

Nothing was more calculated to outrage the French spirit of irony. Faith is
one of the feelings which a too civilized society can least forgive: for
it has lost it and hates others to possess it. In the blind or mocking
hostility of the majority of men towards the dreams of youth there is for
many the bitter thought that they themselves were once even as they, and
had ambitions and never realized them. All those who have denied their
souls, all those who had the seed of work within them, and have not brought
it forth rather to accept the security of an easy, honorable life, think:

"Since I could not do the thing I dreamed, why should they do the things
they dream? I will not have them do it."

How many Hedda Gablers are there among men! What a relentless struggle
is there to crush out strength in its new freedom, with what skill is it
killed by silence, irony, wear and tear, discouragement,--and, at the
crucial moment, betrayed by some treacherous seductive art!...

The type is of all nations. Christophe knew it, for he had met it in
Germany. Against such people he was armed. His method of defense was
simple: he was the first to attack; pounced on the first move, and declared
war on them: he forced these dangerous friends to become his enemies.
But if such a policy of frankness was an excellent safeguard for his
personality, it was not calculated to advance his career as an artist. Once
more Christophe began his German tactics. It was too strong for him. Only
one thing was altered: his temper: he was in fine fettle.

Lightheartedly, for the benefit of anybody who cared to listen, he
expressed his unmeasured criticism of French artists: and so he made many
enemies. He did not take the precaution, as a wise man would have done,
of surrounding himself with a little coterie. He would have found no
difficulty in gathering about him a number of artists who would gladly
have admired him if he had admired them. There were some who admired him
in advance, investing admiration as it were. They considered any man
they praised as a debtor, of whom, at a given moment, they could demand
repayment. But it was a good investment.--But Christophe was a very bad
investment. He never paid back. Worse than that, he was barefaced enough to
consider poor the works of men who thought his good. Unavowedly they were
rancorous, and engaged themselves on the next opportunity to pay him back
in kind.

Among his other indiscretions Christophe was foolish enough to declare war
on Lucien Lévy-Coeur. He found him in the way, everywhere, and he could not
conceal an extraordinary antipathy for the gentle, polite creature who was
doing no apparent harm, and even seemed to be kinder than himself, and was,
at any rate, far more moderate. He provoked him into argument: and, however
insignificant the subject of it might be, Christophe always brought into
it a sudden heat and bitterness which surprised their hearers. It was as
though Christophe were seizing every opportunity of battering at Lucien
Lévy-Coeur, head down: but he could never reach him. His enemy had an
extraordinary skill, even when he was most obviously in the wrong, in
carrying it off well: he would defend himself with a courtesy which showed
up Christophe's bad manners. Christophe still spoke French very badly,
interlarding it with slang, and often with very coarse expressions which
he had picked up, and, like many foreigners, used wrongly, and he was
incapable of outwitting the tactics of Lucien Lévy-Coeur and he raged
furiously against his gentle irony. Everybody thought him in the wrong,
for they could not see what Christophe vaguely felt: the hypocrisy of that
gentleness, which when it was brought up against a force which it could not
hold in check, tried quietly to stifle it by silence. He was in no hurry,
for, like Christophe, he counted on time, not, as Christophe did, to build,
but to destroy. He had no difficulty in detaching Sylvain Kohn and Goujart
from Christophe, just as he had gradually forced him out of the Stevens'
circle. He was isolating Christophe.

Christophe himself helped him. He pleased nobody, for he would not join any
party, but was rather against all parties. He did not like the Jews: but he
liked the anti-Semites even less. He was revolted by the cowardice of the
masses stirred up against a powerful minority, not because it was bad,
but because it was powerful, and by the appeal to the basest instincts of
jealousy and hatred. The Jews came to regard him as an anti-Semite, and
the anti-Semites looked on him as a Jew. As for the artists, they felt his
hostility. Instinctively Christophe made himself more German than he was,
in art. Revolting against the voluptuous ataraxia of a certain class of
Parisian music, he set up, with violence, a manly, healthy pessimism. When
joy appeared in his music, it was with a want of taste, a vulgar ardor,
which were well calculated to disgust even the aristocratic patrons of
popular art. An erudite, crude form. In his reaction he was not far from
affecting an apparent carelessness in style and a disregard of external
originality, which were bound to be offensive to the French musicians. And
so those of them, to whom he sent some of his work, without any careful
consideration, visited on it the contempt they had for the belated
Wagnerism of the contemporary German school. Christophe did not care: he
laughed inwardly, and repeated the lines of a charming musician of the
French Renaissance--adapted to his own case:

       *       *       *       *       *
  _"Come, come, don't worry about those who will say:
  'Christophe has not the counterpoint of A,
  And he has not such harmony as Monsieur B.'
  I have something else which they never will see."_

But when he tried to have some of his music performed, he found the doors
shut against him. They had quite enough to do to play--or not to play--the
works of young French musicians, and could not bother about those of an
unknown German.

Christophe did not go on trying. He shut himself up in his room and went on
writing. He did not much care whether the people of Paris heard him or not.
He wrote for his own pleasure and not for success. The true artist is not
concerned with the future of his work. He is like those painters of the
Renaissance who joyously painted mural decorations, knowing full well that
in ten years nothing would be left of them. So Christophe worked on in
peace, quite good-humoredly resigned to waiting for better times, when help
would come to him from some unexpected source.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe was then attracted by the dramatic form. He dared not yet
surrender freely to the flood of his own lyrical impulse. He had to run it
into definite channels. And, no doubt, it is a good thing for a young man
of genius, who is not yet master of himself, and does not even know exactly
what he is, to set voluntary bounds upon himself, and to confine therein
the soul of which he has so little hold. They are the dikes and sluices
which allow the course of thought to be directed. Unfortunately Christophe
had not a poet: he had himself to fashion his subjects out of legend and

Among the visions which had been floating before his mind for some months
past were certain figures from the Bible.--That Bible, which his mother had
given him as a companion in his exile, had been a source of dreams to him.
Although he did not read it in any religious spirit, the moral, or, rather,
vital energy of that Hebraic Iliad had been to him a spring in which, in
the evenings, he washed his naked soul of the smoke and mud of Paris. He
was concerned with the sacred meaning of the book: but it was not the
less a sacred book to him, for the breath of savage nature and primitive
individualities that he found in its pages. He drew in its hymns of the
earth, consumed with faith, quivering mountains, exultant skies, and human

One of the characters in the book for whom he had an especial tenderness
was the young David. He did not give him the ironic smile of the Florentine
boy, or the tragic intensity of the sublime works of Michael Angelo and
Verrochio: he knew them not. His David was a young shepherd-poet, with
a virgin soul, in which heroism slumbered, a Siegfried of the South, of
a finer race, and more beautiful, and of greater harmony in mind and
body.--For his revolt against the Latin spirit was in vain: unconsciously
he had been permeated by that spirit. Not only art influences art, not
only mind and thought, but everything about the artist:--people, things,
gestures, movements, lines, the light of each town. The atmosphere of Paris
is very powerful: it molds even the most rebellious souls. And the soul of
a German is less capable than any other of resisting it: in vain does he
gird himself in his national pride: of all Europeans the German is the most
easily denationalized. Unwittingly the soul of Christophe had already begun
to assimilate from Latin art a clarity, a sobriety, an understanding of the
emotions, and even, up to a point, a plastic beauty, which otherwise it
never would have had. His _David_ was the proof of it.

He had endeavored to recreate certain episodes of the youth of David: the
meeting with Saul, the fight with Goliath: and he had written the first
scene. He had conceived it as a symphonic picture with two characters.

On a deserted plateau, on a moor covered with heather in bloom, the young
shepherd lay dreaming in the sun. The serene light, the hum and buzz of
tiny creatures, the sweet whispering of the waving grass, the silvery
tinkling of the grazing sheep, the mighty beat and rhythm of the earth sang
through the dreaming boy unconscious of his divine destiny. Drowsing, his
voice and the notes of his flute joined the harmonious silence: and his
song was so calmly, so limpidly joyous, that, hearing it, there could be no
thought of joy or sorrow, only the feeling that it must be so and could not
be otherwise.--Suddenly over the moor reached great shadows: the air was
still: life seemed to withdraw into the veins of the earth. Only the music
of the flute went on calmly. Saul, with his crazy thoughts, passed. The mad
King, racked by his fancy, burned like a flame, devouring itself, flung
this way and that by the wind. He breathed prayers and violent abuse,
hurling defiance at the void about him, the void within himself. And when
he could speak no more and fell breathless to the ground, there rang
through the silence the smiling peace of the song of the young shepherd,
who had never ceased. Then, with a furious beating in his heart, came Saul
in silence up to where the boy lay in the heather: in silence he gazed at
him: he sat down by his side and placed his fevered hand on the cool brows
of the shepherd. Untroubled, David turned, and smiled, and looked at the
King. He laid his hand on Saul's knees, and went on singing and playing his
flute. Evening came: David went to sleep in the middle of his song, and
Saul wept. And through the starry night there rose once more the serene
joyous hymn of nature refreshed, the song of thanksgiving of the soul
relieved of its burden.

When he wrote the scene, Christophe had thought of nothing but his own joy:
he had never given a thought to the manner of its performance: and it had
certainly never occurred to him that it might be produced on the stage. He
meant it to be sung at a concert at such time as the concert-halls should
be open to him.

One evening he spoke of it to Achille Roussin, and when, by request, he had
tried to give him an idea of it on the piano, he was amazed to see Roussin
burst into enthusiasm, and declare that it must at all costs be produced at
one of the theaters, and that he would see to it. He was even more amazed
when, a few days later, he saw that Roussin was perfectly serious: and his
amazement grew to stupefaction when he heard that Sylvain Kohn, Goujart,
and Lucien Lévy-Coeur were taking it up. He had to admit that their
personal animosity had yielded to their love of art: and he was much
surprised. The only man who was not eager to see his work produced was
himself. It was not suited to the theater: it was nonsense, and almost
hurtful to stage it. But Roussin was so insistent, Sylvain Kohn so
persuasive, and Goujart so positive, that Christophe yielded to the
temptation. He was weak. He was so longing to hear his music!

It was quite easy for Roussin. Manager and artist rushed to please him.
It happened that a newspaper was organizing a benefit matinee for some
charity. It was arranged that the _David_ should be produced. A good
orchestra was got together. As for the singers, Roussin claimed that he had
found the ideal representative of David.

The rehearsals were begun. The orchestra came through the first reading
fairly well, although, as usual in France, there was not much discipline
about it. Saul had a good, though rather tired, voice: and he knew his
business. The David was a handsome, tall, plump, solid lady with a
sentimental vulgar voice which she used heavily, with a melodramatic
tremolo and all the café-concert tricks. Christophe scowled. As soon as
she began to sing it was obvious that she could not be allowed to play the
part. After the first pause in the rehearsal he went to the impresario, who
had charge of the business side of the undertaking, and was present, with
Sylvain Kohn, at the rehearsal. The impresario beamed and said:

"Well, are you satisfied?"

"Yes," said Christophe. "I think it can be made all right There's only one
thing that won't do: the singer. She must be changed. Tell her as gently
as you can: you're used to it.... It will be quite easy for you to find me

The impresario looked disgruntled: he looked at Christophe as though he
could not believe that he was serious; and he said:

"But that's impossible!"

"Why is it impossible?" asked Christophe.

The impresario looked cunningly at Sylvain Kohn, and replied:

"But she has so much talent!"

"Not a spark," said Christophe.

"What!... She has a fine voice!"

"Not a bit of it."

"And she is beautiful."

"I don't care a damn."

"That won't hurt the part," said Sylvain Kohn, laughing.

"I want a David, a David who can sing: I don't want Helen of Troy," said

The impresario rubbed his nose uneasily.

"It's a pity, a great pity ..." he said. "She is an excellent artist.... I
give you my word for it! Perhaps she is not at her best to-day. You must
give her another trial."

"All right," said Christophe. "But it is a waste of time."

He went on with the rehearsal. It was worse than ever. He found it hard to
go on to the end: it got on his nerves: his remarks to the singer, from
cold and polite, became dry and cutting, in spite of the obvious pains she
was taking to satisfy him, and the way she ogled him by way of winning his
favor. The impresario prudently stopped the rehearsal just when it seemed
to be hopeless. By way of softening the bad effect of Christophe's remarks,
he bustled up to the singer and paid her heavy compliments. Christophe,
who was standing by, made no attempt to conceal his impatience, called the
impresario, and said:

"There's no room for argument. I won't have the woman. It's unpleasant, I
know: but I did not choose her. Do what you can to arrange the matter."

The impresario bowed frigidly, and said coldly:

"I can't do anything. You must see M. Roussin."

"What has it got to do with M. Roussin? I don't want to bother him with
this business," said Christophe.

"That won't bother him," said Sylvain Kohn ironically.

And he pointed to Roussin, who had just come in.

Christophe went up to him. Roussin was in high good humor, and cried:

"What! Finished already? I was hoping to hear a bit of it. Well, maestro,
what do you say? Are you satisfied?"

"It's going quite well," said Christophe. "I don't know how to thank

"Not at all! Not at all!"

"There is only one thing wrong."

"What is it? We'll put it right. I am determined to satisfy you."

"Well ... the singer. Between ourselves she is detestable."

The beaming smile on Roussin's face froze suddenly. He said, with some

"You surprise me, my dear fellow."

"She is useless, absolutely useless," Christophe went on. "She has no
voice, no taste, no knowledge of her work, no talent. You're lucky not to
have heard her!..."

Roussin grew more and more acid. He cut Christophe short, and said

"I know Mlle. de Sainte-Ygraine. She is a very talented artiste. I have
the greatest admiration for her. Every man of taste in Paris shares my

And he turned his back on Christophe, who saw him offer his arm to the
actress and go out with her. He was dumfounded, and Sylvain Kohn, who had
watched the scene delightedly, took his arm and laughed, and said as they
went down the stairs of the theater:--

"Didn't you know that she was his mistress?"

Christophe understood. So it was for her sake and not for his own that his
piece was to be produced! That explained Roussin's enthusiasm, the money
he had laid out, and the eagerness of his sycophants. He listened while
Sylvain Kohn told him the story of the Sainte-Ygraine: a music-hall singer,
who, after various successes in the little vaudeville theaters, had, like
so many of her kind, been fired with the ambition to be heard on a stage
more worthy of her talent. She counted on Roussin to procure her an
engagement at the Opéra or the Opéra-Comique: and Roussin, who asked
nothing better, had seen in the performance of _David_ an opportunity of
revealing to the Parisian public at no very great risk the lyrical gifts
of the new tragedienne, in a part which called for no particular dramatic
acting, and gave her an excellent opportunity of displaying the elegance of
her figure.

Christophe heard the story through to the end: then he shook off Sylvain
Kohn and burst out laughing. He laughed and laughed. When he had done, he

"You disgust me. You all disgust me. Art is nothing to you. It's always
women, nothing but women. An opera is put on for a dancer, or a singer, for
the mistress of M. So-and-So, or Madame Thingummy. You think of nothing but
your dirty little intrigues. Bless you, I'm not angry with you: you are
like that: very well then, be so and wallow in your mire. But we must part
company: we weren't made to live together. Good-night."

He left him, and when he reached home, wrote to Roussin, saying that he
withdrew the piece, and did not disguise his reasons for doing so.

It meant a breach with Roussin and all his gang. The consequences were
felt at once. The newspapers had made a certain amount of talk about the
forthcoming piece, and the story of the quarrel between the composer and
the singer appeared in due course. A certain conductor was adventurous
enough to play the piece at a Sunday afternoon concert. His good fortune
was disastrous for Christophe. The _David_ was played--and hissed. All
the singer's friends had passed the word to teach the insolent musician a
lesson: and the outside public, who had been bored by the symphonic poem,
added their voices to the verdict of the critics. To crown his misfortunes,
Christophe was ill-advised enough to accept the invitation to display his
talents as a pianist at the same concert by giving a _Fantasia_ for piano
and orchestra. The unkindly disposition of the audience, which had been to
a certain extent restrained during the performance of the _David_, out of
consideration for the interpreters, broke loose, when they found themselves
face to face with the composer,--whose playing was not all that it might
have been. Christophe was unnerved by the noise in the hall, and stopped
suddenly half-way through a movement: and he looked jeeringly at the
audience, who were startled into silence, and played _Malbrouck s'en
va-t-en guerre_!--and said insolently:

"That is all you are fit for."

Then he got up and went away.

There was a terrific row. The audience shouted that he had insulted them,
and that he must come and apologize. Next day the papers unanimously
slaughtered the grotesque German to whom justice had been meted out by the
good taste of Paris.

And then once more he was left in absolute isolation. Once more Christophe
found himself alone, more solitary than ever, in that great, hostile,
stranger city. He did not worry about it. He began to think that he was
fated to be so, and would be so all his life.

He did not know that a great soul is never alone, that, however Fortune may
cheat him of friendship, in the end a great soul creates friends by the
radiance of the love with which it is filled, and that even in that hour,
when he thought himself for ever isolated, he was more rich in love than
the happiest men and women in the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

Living with the Stevens was a little girl of thirteen or fourteen, to whom
Christophe had given lessons at the same time as Colette. She was a distant
cousin of Colette's, and her name was Grazia Buontempi. She was a little
girl with a golden-brown complexion, with cheeks delicately tinged with
red: healthy-looking: she had a little aquiline nose, a large well-shaped
mouth, always half-open, a round chin, very white, calm clear eyes, softly
smiling, a round forehead framed in masses of long, silky hair, which fell
in long, waving locks loosely down to her shoulders. She was like a little
Virgin of Andrea del Sarto, with her wide face and serenely gazing eyes.

She was Italian. Her parents lived almost all the year round in the country
on an estate in the North of Italy: plains, fields, little canals. From the
loggia on the housetop they looked down on golden vines, from which here
and there the black spikes of the cypress-trees emerged. Beyond them were
fields, and again fields. Silence. The lowing of the oxen returning from
the fields, and the shrill cries of the peasants at the plow were to be

_"Ihi!... Fat innanz'!..."_

Grasshoppers chirruped in the trees, frogs croaked by the waterside. And at
night there was infinite silence under the silver beams of the moon. In the
distance, from time to time, the watchers by the crops, sleeping in huts of
branches, fired their guns by way of warning thieves that they were awake.
To those who heard them drowsily, these noises meant no more than the
chiming of a dull clock in the distance, marking the hours of the night.
And silence closed again, like a soft cloak, about the soul.

Round little Grazia life seemed asleep. Her people did not give her much
attention. In the calmness and beauty that was all about her she grew up
peacefully without haste, without fever. She was lazy, and loved to dawdle
and to sleep. For hours together she would lie in the garden. She would let
herself be borne onward by the silence like a fly on a summer stream. And
sometimes, suddenly, for no reason, she would begin to run. She would run
like a little animal, head and shoulders a little leaning to the right,
moving easily and supply. She was like a kid climbing and slithering among
the stones for the sheer joy of leaping about. She would talk to the dogs,
the frogs, the grass, the trees, the peasants, and the beasts in the
farmyard. She adored all the creatures about her, great and small: but she
was less at her ease with the great. She saw very few people. The estate
was isolated and far from any town. Very rarely there came along the dusty
road some trudging, solemn peasant, or lovely country woman, with bright
eyes and sunburnt face, walking with a slow rhythm, head high and chest
well out. For days together Grazia lived alone in the silence of the
garden: she saw no one: she was never bored: she was afraid of nothing.

One day a tramp came, stealing fowls. He stopped dead when he saw the
little girl lying on the grass, eating a piece of bread and butter and
humming to herself. She looked up at him calmly, and asked him what he
waited. He said:

"Give me something, or I'll hurt you."

She held out her piece of bread and butter and smiled, and said:

"You must not do harm."

Then he went away.

Her mother died. Her father, a kind, weak man, was an old Italian of a good
family, robust, jovial, affectionate, but rather childish, and he was quite
incapable of bringing up his child. Old Buontempi's sister, Madame Stevens,
came to the funeral, and was struck by the loneliness of the child, and
decided to take her back to Paris for a while, to distract her from her
grief. Grazia and her father wept: but when Madame Stevens had made up her
mind to anything, there was nothing for it but to give in: nobody could
stand out against her. She had the brains of the family: and, in her house
in Paris, she directed everything, dominated everybody: her husband,
her daughter, her lovers:--for she had not denied herself in the matter
of love: she went straight at her duties, and her pleasures: she was a
practical woman and a passionate--very worldly and very restless.

Transplanted to Paris, Grazia adored her pretty cousin Colette, whom she
amused. The pretty little savage was taken out into society and to the
theater. They treated her as a child, and she regarded herself as a child,
although she was a child no longer. She had feelings which she hid away,
for she was fearful of them: accesses of tenderness for some person or
thing. She was secretly in love with Colette, and would steal a ribbon
or a handkerchief that belonged to her: often in her presence, she could
not speak a word: and when she expected her, when she knew that she was
going to see her, she would tremble with impatience and happiness. At the
theater when she saw her pretty cousin, in evening dress, come into the
box and attract general attention, she would smile humbly, affectionately,
lovingly: and her heart would leap when Colette spoke to her. Dressed in
white, with her beautiful black hair loose and hanging over her shoulders,
biting the fingers of her long white cotton gloves, and idly poking her
fingers through the holes,--every other minute during the play she would
turn towards Colette in the hope of meeting a friendly look, to share the
pleasure she was feeling, and to say with her clear brown eyes:

"I love you."

When they were out together in the Bois, outside Paris, she would walk in
Colette's shadow, sit at her feet; run in front of her, break off branches
that might be in her way, place stones in the mud for her to walk on. And
one evening in the garden, when Colette shivered and asked for her shawl,
she gave a little cry of delight--she was at once ashamed of it--to think
that her beloved would be wrapped in something of hers, and would give it
back to her presently filled with the scent of her body.

There were books, certain passages in the poets, which she read in
secret--(for she was still given children's books)--which gave her
delicious thrills. And there were more even in certain passages in music,
although she was told that she could not understand them: and she persuaded
herself that she did not understand them:--but she would turn pale and cold
with emotion. No one knew what was happening within her at such moments.

Outside that she was just a docile little girl, dreamy, lazy, greedy,
blushing on the slightest provocation, now silent for hours together, now
talking volubly, easily touched to tears and laughter, breaking suddenly
into fits of sobbing or childish laughter. She loved to laugh, and silly
little things would amuse her. She never tried to be grown up. She remained
a child. She was, above all, kind and could not bear to hurt anybody, and
she was hurt by the least angry word addressed to herself. She was very
modest and retiring, ready to love and admire anything that seemed good and
beautiful to her, and so she attributed to others qualities which they did
not possess.

She was being educated, for she was very backward. And that was how she
came to be taught music by Christophe.

She saw him for the first time at a crowded party in her aunt's house.
Christophe, who was incapable of adapting himself to his audience, played
an interminable _adagio_ which made everybody yawn: when it seemed to be
over he began again: and everybody wondered if it was ever going to end.
Madame Stevens was boiling with impatience: Colette was highly amused: she
was enjoying the absurdity of it, and rather pleased with Christophe for
being so insensible of it: she felt that he was a force, and she liked
that: but it was comic too: and she would have been the last person to
defend him. Grazia alone was moved to tears by the music. She hid herself
away in a corner of the room. When it was over she went away, so that no
one should see her emotion, and also because she could not bear to see
people making fun of Christophe.

A few days later, at dinner, Madame Stevens in her presence spoke of her
having music-lessons from Christophe. Grazia was so upset that she let her
spoon drop into her soup-plate, and splashed herself and her neighbor.
Colette said she ought first to have lessons in table-manners. Madame
Stevens added that Christophe was not the person to go to for that. Grazia
was glad to be scolded in Christophe's company.

Christophe began to teach her. She was stiff and frozen, and held her arms
close to her sides, and could not stir: and when Christophe placed his
hand on hers, to correct the position of her fingers, and stretched them
over the keys, she nearly fainted. She was fearful of playing badly for
him; but in vain did she practise until she nearly made herself ill, and
evoked impatient protests from her cousin: she always played vilely when
Christophe was present: she was breathless, and her fingers were as stiff
as pieces of wood, or as flabby as cotton: she struck the wrong notes and
gave the emphasis all wrong: Christophe would lose his temper, scold her,
and go away: then she would long to die.

He paid no attention to her, and thought only of Colette. Grazia was
envious of her cousin's intimacy with Christophe: but, although it hurt
her, in her heart she was glad both for Colette and for Christophe. She
thought Colette so superior to herself that it seemed natural to her that
she should monopolize attention.--It was only when she had to choose
between her cousin and Christophe that she felt her heart turn against
Colette. With her girlish intuition she saw that Christophe was made to
suffer by Colette's coquetry, and the persistent courtship of her by Lucien
Lévy-Coeur. Instinctively she disliked Lévy-Coeur, and she detested him as
soon as she knew that Christophe detested him. She could not understand
how Colette could admit him as a rival to Christophe. She began secretly
to judge him harshly. She discovered certain of his small hypocrisies, and
suddenly changed her manner towards him. Colette saw it, but did not guess
the cause: she pretended to ascribe it to a little girl's caprice. But it
was very certain that she had lost her power over Grazia: as was shown by
a trifling incident. One evening, when they were walking together in the
garden, a gentle rain came on, and Colette, tenderly, though coquettishly,
offered Grazia the shelter of her cloak: Grazia, for whom, a few weeks
before, it would have been happiness ineffable to be held close to her
beloved cousin, moved away coldly, and walked on in silence at a distance
of some yards. And when Colette said that she thought a piece of music that
Grazia was playing was ugly, Grazia was not kept from playing and loving

She was only concerned with Christophe. She had the insight of her
tenderness, and saw that he was suffering, without his saying a word. She
exaggerated it in her childish, uneasy regard for him. She thought that
Christophe was in love with Colette, when he had really no more than an
exacting friendship. She thought he was unhappy, and she was unhappy for
him, and she had little reward for her anxiety. She paid for it when
Colette had infuriated Christophe: then he was surly and avenged himself on
his pupil, waxing wrathful with her mistakes. One morning when Colette had
exasperated him more than usual, he sat down by the piano so savagely that
Grazia lost the little nerve she had: she floundered: he angrily scolded
her for her mistakes: then she lost her head altogether: he fumed, wrung
his hands, declared that she would never do anything properly, and that she
had better occupy herself with cooking, sewing, anything she liked, only,
in Heaven's name, she must not go on with her music! It was not worth the
trouble of torturing people with her mistakes. With that he left her in the
middle of her lesson. He was furious. And poor Grazia wept, not so much for
the humiliation of anything he had said to her, as for despair at not being
able to please Christophe, when she longed to do so, and could only succeed
in adding to his sufferings. The greatest grief was when Christophe ceased
to go to the Stevens' house. Then she longed to go home. The poor child, so
healthy, even in her dreams, in whom there was much of the sweet peace of
the country, felt ill at ease in the town, among the neurasthenic, restless
women of Paris. She never dared say anything, but she had come to a fairly
accurate estimation of the people about her. But she was shy, and, like her
father, weak, from kindness, modesty, distrust of herself. She submitted
to the authority of her domineering aunt and her cousin, who was used to
tyrannizing over everybody. She dared not write to her father, to whom she
wrote regularly long, affectionate letters:

"Please, please, take me home!"

And her father dared not take her home, in spite of his own longing: for
Madame Stevens had answered his timid advances by saying that Grazia was
very well off where she was, much better off than she would be with him,
and that she must stay for the sake of her education.

But there came a time when her exile was too hard for the little southern
creature, a time when she had to fly back towards the light.--That was
after Christophe's concert. She went to it with the Stevens: and she
was tortured by the hideous sight of the rabble amusing themselves with
insulting an artist.... An artist? The man who, in Grazia's eyes, was the
very type of art, the personification of all that was divine in life! She
was on the point of tears; she longed to get away. She had to listen to
all the caterwauling, the hisses, the howls, and, when they reached home,
to the laughter of Colette as she exchanged pitying remarks with Lucien
Lévy-Coeur. She escaped to her room, and through part of the night she
sobbed: she spoke to Christophe, and consoled him: she would gladly have
given her life for him, and she despaired of ever being able to do anything
to make him happy. It was impossible for her to stay in Paris any longer.
She begged her father to take her away, saying:

"I cannot live here any longer; I cannot: I shall die if you leave me here
any longer."

Her father came at once, and though it was very painful to them both to
stand up to her terrible aunt, they screwed up their courage for it by a
desperate effort of will.

Grazia returned to the sleepy old estate. She was glad to get back to
Nature and the creatures that she loved. Every day she gathered comfort
for her sorrow, but in her heart there remained a little of the melancholy
of the North, like a veil of mist, that very slowly melted away before
the sun. Sometimes she thought of Christophe's wretchedness. Lying on the
grass, listening to the familiar frogs and grasshoppers, or sitting at her
piano, which now she played more often than before, she would dream of the
friend her heart had chosen: she would talk to him, in whispers, for hours
together, and it seemed not impossible to her that one day he would open
the door and come in to her. She wrote to him, and, after long hesitation,
she sent the letter, unsigned, which, one day, with beating heart, she went
secretly and dropped into the box in the village two miles away, beyond the
long plowed fields,--a kind, good, touching letter, in which she told him
that he was not alone, that he must not be discouraged, that there was
one who thought of him, and loved him, and prayed to God for him,--a poor
little letter, which was lost in the post, so that he never received it.

Then the serene, monotonous days succeeded each other in the life of his
distant friend. And the Italian peace, the genius of tranquillity, calm
happiness, silent contemplation, once more took possession of that chaste
and silent heart, in whose depths there still burned, like a little
constant flame, the memory of Christophe.

       *       *       *       *       *

But Christophe never knew of the simple love that watched over him from
afar, and was later to fill so great a room in his life. Nor did he know
that at that same concert, where he had been insulted, there sat the woman
who was to be the beloved, the dear companion, destined to walk by his
side, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand.

He was alone. He thought himself alone. But he did not suffer overmuch. He
did not feel that bitter anguish that had given him such great agony in
Germany. He was stronger, riper: he knew that it must be so. His illusions
about Paris were destroyed: men were everywhere the same: he must be a law
unto himself, and not waste strength in a childish struggle with the world:
he must be himself, calmly, tranquilly. As Beethoven had said, "If we
surrender the forces of our lives to life, what, then, will be left for the
noblest and highest?" He had firmly grasped a knowledge of his nature and
the temper of his race, which formerly he had so harshly judged. The more
he was oppressed by the atmosphere of Paris, the more keenly did he feel
the need of taking refuge in his own country, in the arms of the poets and
musicians, in whom the best of Germany is garnered and preserved. As soon
as he opened their books his room was filled with the sound of the sunlit
Rhine and lit by the loving smiles of old friends new found.

How ungrateful he had been to them! How was it he had failed to feel the
treasure of their goodness and honesty? He remembered with shame all the
unjust, outrageous things he had said of them when he was in Germany. Then
he saw only their defects, their awkward ceremonious manners, their tearful
idealism, their little mental hypocrisies, their cowardice. Ah! How small
were all these things compared with their great virtues! How could he have
been so hard upon their weaknesses, which now made them even more moving in
his eyes: for they were more human for them! In his reaction he was the
more attracted to those of them to whom he had been most unjust. What
things he had said about Schubert and Bach! And now he felt so near to
them. Now it was as though these noble souls, whose foibles he had so
scorned, leaned over him, now that he was in exile and far from his own
people, and smiled kindly and said:

"Brother, we are here! Courage! We too have had more than our share of
misery ... Bah! one wins through it...."

He heard the soul of Johann Sebastian Bach roaring like the sea:
hurricanes, winds howling, the clouds of life scudding,--men and women
drunk with joy, sorrow, fury, and the Christ, all meekness, the Prince of
Peace, hovering above them,--towns awakened by the cries of the watchmen,
running with glad shouts, to meet the divine Bridegroom, whose footsteps
shake the earth,--the vast store of thoughts, passions, musical forms,
heroic life, Shakespearean hallucinations, Savonarolaesque prophecies,
pastoral, epic, apocalyptic visions, all contained in the stunted body of
the little Thuringian _cantor_, with his double chin, and little shining
eyes under the wrinkled lids and the raised eyebrows ...--he could see him
so clearly! somber, jovial, a little absurd, with his head stuffed full of
allegories and symbols, Gothic and rococo, choleric, obstinate, serene,
with a passion for life, and a great longing for death ...--he saw him
in his school, a genial pedant, surrounded by his pupils, dirty, coarse,
vagabond, ragged, with hoarse voices, the ragamuffins with whom he
squabbled, and sometimes fought like a navvy, one of whom once gave him
a mighty thrashing ...--he saw him with his family, surrounded by his
twenty-one children, of whom thirteen died before him, and one was an
idiot, and the rest were good musicians who gave little concerts....
Sickness, burial, bitter disputes, want, his genius misunderstood:--and
through and above it all, his music, his faith, deliverance and light, joy
half seen, felt, desired, grasped,--God, the breath of God kindling his
bones, thrilling through his flesh, thundering from his lips.... O Force!
Force! Thrice joyful thunder of Force!...

Christophe took great draughts of that force. He felt the blessing of that
power of music which issues from the depths of the German soul. Often
mediocre, and even coarse, what does it matter? The great thing is that
it is so, and that it flows plenteously. In France music is gathered
carefully, drop by drop, and passed through Pasteur filters into bottles,
and then corked. And the drinkers of stale water are disgusted by the
rivers of German music! They examine minutely the defects of the German men
of genius!

"Poor little things!"--thought Christophe, forgetting that he himself had
once been just as absurd--"they find fault with Wagner and Beethoven! They
must have faultless men of genius!... As though, when the tempest rages, it
would take care not to upset the existing order of things!..."

He strode about Paris rejoicing in his strength. If he were misunderstood,
so much the better! He would be all the freer. To create, as genius must, a
whole world, organically constituted according to his own inward laws, the
artist must live in it altogether. An artist can never be too much alone.
What is terrible is to see his ideas reflected in a mirror which deforms
and stunts them. He must say nothing to others of what he is doing until he
has done it: otherwise he would never have the courage to go on to the end:
for it would no longer be his idea, but the miserable idea of others that
would live in him.

Now that there was nothing to disturb his dreams, they bubbled forth like
springs from all the corners of his soul, and from every stone of the roads
by which he walked. He was living in a visionary state. Everything he saw
and heard called forth in him creatures and things different from those he
saw and heard. He had only to live to find everywhere about him the life
of his heroes. Their sensations came to him of their own accord. The eyes
of the passers-by, the sound of a voice borne by the wind, the light on
a lawn, the birds singing in the trees of the Luxembourg, a convent-bell
ringing so far away, the pale sky, the little patch of sky seen from his
room, the sounds and shades of sound of the different hours of the day, all
these were not in himself, but in the creatures of his dreams.--Christophe
was happy.

But his material position was worse than ever. He had lost his few pupils,
his only resource. It was September, and rich people were out of town, and
it was difficult to find new pupils. The only one he had was an engineer, a
crazy, clever fellow, who had taken it into his head, at forty, to become a
great violinist. Christophe did not play the violin very well: but he knew
more about it than his pupil: and for some time he gave him three hours a
week at two francs an hour. But at the end of six weeks the engineer got
tired of it, and suddenly discovered that painting was his vocation.--When
he imparted his discovery to Christophe, Christophe laughed heartily: but,
when he had done laughing, he reckoned up his finances, and found that he
had in hand the twelve francs which his pupil had just paid him for his
last lessons. That did not worry him: he only said to himself that he must
certainly set about finding some other means of living, and start once more
going from publisher to publisher. That was not very pleasant.... Pff!...
It was useless to torment himself in advance. It was a jolly day. He went
to Meudon.

He had a sudden longing for a walk. As he walked there rose in him scraps
of music. He was as full of it as a hive of honey: and he laughed aloud at
the golden buzzing of his bees. For the most part it was changing music.
And lively leaping rhythms, insistent, haunting.... Much good it is to
create and fashion music buried within four walls! There you can only make
combinations of subtle, hard, unyielding harmonies, like the Parisians!

When he was weary he lay down in the woods. The trees were half in leaf,
the sky was periwinkle blue. Christophe dozed off dreamily, and in his
dreams there was the color of the sweet light falling from October clouds.
His blood throbbed. He listened to the rushing flood of his ideas. They
came from all corners of the earth: worlds, young and old, at war, rags and
tatters of dead souls, guests and parasites that once had dwelled within
him, as in a city. The words that Gottfried had spoken by the grave of
Melchior returned to him: he was a living tomb, filled with the dead,
striving in him,--all his unknown forefathers. He listened to those
countless lives, it delighted him to set the organ roaring, the roaring of
that age-old forest, full of monsters, like the forest of Dante. He was
no longer fearful of them as he had been in his youth. For the master was
there: his will. It was a great joy to him to crack his whip and make the
beasts howl, and feel the wealth of living creatures in himself. He was
not alone. There was no danger of his ever being alone. He was a host in
himself. Ages of Kraffts, healthy and rejoicing in their health. Against
hostile Paris, against a hostile people, he could set a whole people: the
fight was equal.

       *       *       *       *       *

He had left the modest room--it was too expensive--which he occupied and
taken an attic in the Montrouge district. It was well aired, though it
had no other advantage. There was a continual draught. But he wanted to
breathe. From his window he had a wide view over the chimneys of Paris to
Montmartre in the background. It had not taken him long to move: a handcart
was enough: Christophe pushed it himself. Of all his possessions the most
precious to him, after his old bag, was one of those casts, which have
lately become so popular, of the death-mask of Beethoven. He packed it with
as much care as though it were a priceless work of art. He never let it out
of his sight. It was an oasis in the midst of the desert of Paris. And also
it served him as a moral thermometer. The death-mask indicated more clearly
than his own conscience the temperature of his soul, the character of his
most secret thoughts: now a cloudy sky, now the gusty wind of the passions,
now fine calm weather.

He had to be sparing with his food. He only ate once a day, at one in the
afternoon. He bought a large sausage, and hung it up in his window: a thick
slice of it, a hunk of bread, and a cup of coffee that he made himself were
a feast for the gods. He would have preferred two such feasts. He was angry
with himself for having such a good appetite. He called himself to task,
and thought himself a glutton, thinking only of his stomach. He lost flesh:
he was leaner than a famished dog. But he was solidly built, he had an iron
constitution, and his head was clear.

He did not worry about the morrow, though he had good reason for doing so.
As long as he had in hand money enough for the day he never bothered about
it. When he came to the end of his money he made up his mind to go the
round of the publishers once more. He found no work. He was on his way
home, empty, when, happening to pass the music-shop where he had been
introduced to Daniel Hecht by Sylvain Kohn, he went in without remembering
that he had already been there under not very pleasant circumstances. The
first person he saw was Hecht. He was on the point of turning tail: but he
was too late: Hecht had seen him. Christophe did not wish to seem to be
avoiding him: he went up to Hecht, not knowing what to say to him, and
fully prepared to stand up to him as arrogantly as need be: for he was
convinced that Hecht would be unsparingly insolent. But he was nothing
of the kind. Hecht coldly held out his hand, muttered some conventional
inquiry after his health, and, without waiting for any request from
Christophe, he pointed to the door of his office, and stepped aside to let
him pass. He was secretly glad of the visit, which he had foreseen, though
he had given up expecting it. Without seeming to do so, he had carefully
followed Christophe's doings: he had missed no opportunity of hearing his
music: he had been at the famous performance of the _David_: and, despising
the public, he had not been greatly surprised at its hostile reception,
since he himself had felt the beauty of the work. There were probably not
two people in Paris more capable than Hecht of appreciating Christophe's
artistic originality. But he took care not to say anything about it, not
only because his vanity was hurt by Christophe's attitude towards himself,
but because it was impossible for him to be amiable: it was the peculiarly
ungracious quality of his nature. He was sincerely desirous of helping
Christophe: but he would not have stirred a finger to do so: he was waiting
for Christophe to come and ask it of him. And now that Christophe had
come,--instead of generously seizing the opportunity of wiping out the
memory of their previous misunderstanding by sparing his visitor any
humiliation, he gave himself the satisfaction of hearing him make his
request at length: and he even went so far as to offer Christophe, at least
for the time being, the work which he had formerly refused. He gave him
fifty pages of music to transpose for mandoline and guitar by the next
day. After which, being satisfied that he had made him truckle down, he
found him less distasteful work, but always so ungraciously that it was
impossible to be grateful to him for it: Christophe had to be ground
down by necessity before he would ever go to Hecht again. In any case he
preferred to earn his money by such work, however irritating it might
be, than accept it as a gift from Hecht, as it was once more offered to
him:--and, indeed, Hecht meant it kindly: but Christophe had been conscious
of Hecht's original intention to humiliate him: he was forced to accept
his conditions, but nothing would induce him to accept any favor from
him: he was willing to work for him:--by giving and giving he squared the
account:--but he would not be under any obligation to him. Unlike Wagner,
that impudent mendicant where his art was concerned, he did not place his
art above himself: the bread that he had not earned himself would have
choked him.--One day, when he brought some work that he had sat up all
night to finish, he found Hecht at table. Hecht, remarking his pallor and
the hungry glances that involuntarily he cast at the dishes, felt sure that
he had not eaten that day, and invited him to lunch. He meant kindly, but
he made it so apparent that he had noticed Christophe's straits that his
invitation looked like charity: Christophe would have died of hunger rather
than accept. He could not refuse to sit down at the table--(Hecht said he
wanted to talk to him):--but he did not touch a morsel: he pretended that
he had just had lunch. His stomach was aching with hunger.

Christophe would gladly have done without Hecht: but the other publishers
were even worse.--There were also wealthy amateurs who had conceived some
scrap of a musical idea, and could not even write it down. They would send
for Christophe, hum over their lucubrations, and say:

"Isn't it fine?"

Then they would give them to him for elaboration,--(to be written):--and
then they would appear under their own names through some great publishing
house. They were quite convinced that they had composed them themselves.
Christophe knew such a one, a distinguished nobleman, a strange, restless
creature, who would suddenly call him "Dear friend," grasp him by the
arm, and burst into a torrent of enthusiastic demonstrations, talking and
giggling, babbling and telling funny stories, interlarded with cries of
ecstatic laughter: Beethoven, Verlaine, Fauré, Yvette Guilbert.... He made
him work, and failed to pay. He worked it out in invitations to lunch and
handshakes. Finally he sent Christophe twenty francs, which Christophe gave
himself the foolish luxury of returning. That day he had not twenty sous
in the world: and he had to buy a twenty-five centimes stamp for a letter
to his mother. It was Louisa's birthday, and Christophe would not for the
world have failed her: the poor old creature counted on her son's letter,
and could not have endured disappointment. For some weeks past she had been
writing to him more frequently, in spite of the pain it caused her. She
was suffering from her loneliness. But she could not bring herself to
join Christophe in Paris: she was too timid, too much attached to her own
little town, to her church, her house, and she was afraid of traveling. And
besides, if she had wanted to come, Christophe had not enough money: he had
not always enough for himself.

He had been given a great deal of pleasure once by receiving a letter from
Lorchen, the peasant girl for whose sake he had plunged into the brawl with
the Prussian soldiers:[Footnote: See _Jean-Christophe_--I, "Revolt."] she
wrote to tell him that she was going to be married: she gave him news of
his mother, and sent him a basket of apples and a piece of cake to eat in
her honor. They came in the nick of time. That evening with Christophe was
a fast, Ember Days, Lent: only the butt end of the sausage hanging by the
window was left. Christophe compared himself to the anchorite saints fed by
a crow among the rocks. But no doubt the crow was hard put to it to feed
all the anchorites, for he never came again.

In spite of all his difficulties Christophe kept his end up. He washed his
linen in his basin, and cleaned his boots, whistling like a blackbird. He
consoled himself with the saying of Berlioz: "Let us raise our heads above
the miseries of life, and let us blithely sing the familiar gay refrain,
_Dies iræ_...."--He used to sing it sometimes, to the dismay of his
neighbors, who were amazed and shocked to hear him break off in the middle
and shout with laughter.

He led a life of stern chastity. As Berlioz remarked: "The lover's life is
a life for the idle and the rich." Christophe's poverty, his daily hunt
for bread, his excessive sobriety, and his creative fever left him neither
the time nor the taste for any thought of pleasure. He was more than
indifferent about it: in his reaction against Paris he had plunged into a
sort of moral asceticism. He had a passionate need of purity, a horror of
any sort of dirtiness. It was not that he was rid of his passions. At other
times he had been swept headlong by them. But his passions remained chaste
even when he yielded to them: for he never sought pleasure through them but
the absolute giving of himself and fulness of being. And when he saw that
he had been deceived he flung them furiously from him. Lust was not to
him a sin like any other. It was the great Sin, that which poisons the
very springs of life. All those in whom the old Christian belief has not
been crusted over with strange conceptions, all those who still feel in
themselves the vigor and life of the races, which through the strengthening
of an heroic discipline have built up Western civilization, will have
no difficulty in understanding him. Christophe despised cosmopolitan
society, whose only aim and creed was pleasure.--In truth it is good to
seek pleasure, to desire pleasure for all men, to combat the cramping
pessimistic beliefs, that have come to weigh upon humanity through twenty
centuries of Gothic Christianity. But that can only be upon condition
that it is a generous faith, earnestly desirous of the good of others.
But instead of that, what happens? The most pitiful egoism. A handful of
loose-living men and women trying to give their senses the maximum of
pleasure with the minimum of risk, while they take good care that the rest
shall drudge for it.--Yes, no doubt, they have their parlor Socialism!...
But they know perfectly well that their doctrine of pleasure is only
practicable for "well-fed" people, for a select pampered few, that it is
poison to the poor....

"The life of pleasure is a rich man's life."

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe was neither rich nor likely to become so. When he made a little
money he spent it at once on music: he went without food to go to concerts.
He would take cheap seats in the gallery of the _Théâtre du Châtelet_: and
he would steep himself in music: he found both food and love in it. He had
such a hunger for happiness and so great a power of enjoying it that the
imperfections of the orchestra never worried him: he would stay for two or
three hours, drowsy and beatific, and wrong notes or defective taste never
provoked in him more than an indulgent smile: he left his critical faculty
outside: he was there to love, not to judge. Around him the audience sat
motionless, with eyes half closed, letting itself be borne on by the great
torrent of dreams. Christophe fancied them as a mass of people curled up
in the shade, like an enormous cat, weaving fantastic dreams of lust and
carnage. In the deep golden shadows certain faces stood out, and their
strange charm and silent ecstasy drew Christophe's eyes and heart: he loved
them: he listened through them: he became them, body and soul. One woman in
the audience became aware of it, and between her and Christophe during the
concert there was woven one of those obscure sympathies, which touch the
very depths, though never by one word are they translated into the region
of consciousness, while, when the concert is over and the thread that binds
soul to soul is snapped, nothing is left of it. It is a state familiar
to lovers of music, especially when they are young and do most wholly
surrender: the essence of music is so completely love, that the full savor
of it is not won unless it be enjoyed through another, and so it is that,
at a concert, we instinctively seek among the throng for friendly eyes, for
a friend with whom to share a joy too great for ourselves alone.

Among such friends, the friends of one brief hour, whom Christophe marked
out for choice of love, the better to taste the sweetness of the music, he
was attracted by one face which he saw again and again, at every concert.
It was the face of a little grisette who seemed to adore music without
understanding it at all. She had an odd little profile, a short, straight
nose, almost in line with her slightly pouting lips and delicately molded
chin, fine arched eyebrows, and clear eyes: one of those pretty little
faces behind the veil of which one feels joy and laughter concealed by calm
indifference. It is perhaps in such light-hearted girls, little creatures
working for their living, that one finds most the old serenity that is no
more, the serenity of the antique statues and the faces of Raphael. There
is but one moment in their lives, the first awakening of pleasure: all too
soon their lives are sullied. But at least they have lived for one lovely

It gave Christophe an exquisite pleasure to look at her: a pretty face
would always warm his heart: he could enjoy without desire: he found joy in
it, force, comfort,--almost virtue. It goes without saying that she quickly
became aware that he was watching her: and, unconsciously, there was set up
between them a magnetic current. And as they met at almost every concert,
almost always in the same places, they quickly learned each other's likes
and dislikes. At certain passages they would exchange meaning glances: when
she particularly liked some melody she would just put out her tongue as
though to lick her lips: or, to show that she did not think much of it, she
would disdainfully wrinkle up her pretty nose. In these little tricks of
hers there was a little of that innocent posing of which hardly any one
can be free when he knows that he is being watched. During serious music
she would sometimes try to look grave and serious: and she would turn her
profile towards him, and look absorbed, and smile to herself, and look
out of the corner of her eye to see if he were watching. They had become
very good friends, without exchanging a word, and even without having
attempted--at least Christophe did not--to meet outside.

At last by chance at an evening concert they found themselves sitting
next each other. After a moment of smiling hesitation they began to talk
amicably. She had a charming voice and said many stupid things about music:
for she knew nothing about it and wanted to seem as if she knew: but she
loved it passionately. She loved the worst and the best, Massenet and
Wagner: only the mediocre bored her. Music was a physical pleasure to her:
she drank it in through all the pores of her skin as Danaë did the golden
rain. The prelude of _Tristan_ made her blood run cold: and she loved
feeling herself being carried away, like some warrior's prey, by the
_Symphonia Eroica_. She told Christophe that Beethoven was deaf and dumb,
and that, in spite of it all, if she had known him, she would have loved
him, although he was precious ugly. Christophe protested that Beethoven
was not so very ugly: then they argued about beauty and ugliness: and she
agreed that it was a matter of taste: what was beautiful for one person was
not so for another: "We're not golden louis and can't please every one." He
preferred her when she did not talk: he understood her better. During the
death of Isolde she held out her hand to him: her hand was warm and moist:
he held it in his until the end of the piece: they could feel life coursing
through the veins of their clasped hands.

They went out together: it was near midnight. They walked back to the Latin
Quarter talking eagerly: she had taken his arm and he took her home: but
when they reached the door, and she seemed to suggest that he should go
up and see her room, he disregarded her smile and the friendliness in her
eyes and left her. At first she was amazed, then furious: then she laughed
aloud at the thought of his stupidity: and then, when she had reached her
room and began to undress, she felt hurt and angry, and finally wept in
silence. When next she met him at a concert she tried to be dignified and
indifferent and crushing. But he was so kind to her that she could not hold
to her resolution. They began to talk once more: only now she was a little
reserved with him. He talked to her warmly but very politely and always
about serious things, and the music to which they were listening and what
it meant to him. She listened attentively and tried to think as he did. The
meaning of his words often escaped her: but she believed him all the same.
She was grateful to Christophe and had a respect for him which she hardly
showed. By tacit agreement they only spoke to each other at concerts.
He met her once surrounded with students. They bowed gravely. She never
talked about him to any one. In the depths of her soul there was a little
sanctuary, a quality of beauty, purity, consolation.

And so Christophe, by his presence, by the mere fact of his existence,
exercised an influence that brought strength and solace. Wherever he passed
he unconsciously left behind the traces of his inward light. He was the
last to have any notion of it. Near him, in the house where he lived, there
were people whom he had never seen, people who, without themselves
suspecting it, gradually came under the spell of his beneficent radiance.

For several weeks Christophe had no money for concerts even by fasting: and
in his attic under the roof, now that winter was coming in, he was numbed
with the cold: he could not sit still at his table. Then he would get
up and walk about Paris, trying to warm himself. He had the faculty of
forgetting the seething town about him, and slipping away into space and
the infinite. It was enough for him to see above the noisy street the
dead, frozen moon, hung there in the abysm of the sky, or the sun, like a
disc, rolling through the white mist; then Paris would sink down into the
boundless void and all the life of it would seem to be no more than the
phantom of a life that had been once, long, long ago ... ages ago ... The
smallest tiny sign, imperceptible to the common lot of men, of the great
wild life of Nature, so sparsely covered with the livery of civilization,
was enough to make it all come rushing mightily up before his gaze. The
grass growing between the stones of the streets, the budding of a tree
strangled by its cast-iron cage, airless, earthless, on some bleak
boulevard: a dog, a passing bird, the last relics of the beasts and
birds that thronged the primeval world, which man has since destroyed: a
whirling cloud of flies: the mysterious epidemic that raged through a whole
district:--these were enough in the thick air of that human hothouse to
bring the breath of the Spirit of the Earth up to slap his cheeks and whip
his energy to action.

During those long walks, when he was often starving, and often had
not spoken to a soul for days together, his wealth of dreams seemed
inexhaustible. Privation and silence had aggravated his morbid heated
condition. At night he slept feverishly, and had exhausting dreams: he saw
once more and never ceased to see the old house and the room in which he
had lived as a child: he was haunted by musical obsessions. By day he
talked and never ceased to talk to the creatures within himself and the
beings whom he loved, the absent and the dead.

One cold afternoon in December, when the grass was covered with frost, and
the roofs of the houses and the great domes were glistening through the
fog, and the trees, with their cold, twisted, naked branches, groping
through the mist that hung about them, looked like great weeds at the
bottom of the sea,--Christophe, who had been shivering all day and could
not get warm again, went into the Louvre, which he hardly knew at all.

Till then painting had never moved him much. He was too much absorbed by
the world within himself to grasp the world of color and form. They only
acted on him through their music and rhythm, which only brought him an
indistinguishable echo of their truth. No doubt his instinct did obscurely
divine the selfsame laws that rule the harmony of visible form, as of the
form of sounds, and the deep waters of the soul, from which spring the two
rivers of color and sound, to flow down the two sides of the mountain of
life. But he only knew one side of the mountain, and he was lost in the
kingdom of the eye, which was not his. And so he missed the secret of the
most exquisite, and perhaps the most natural charm of clear-eyed France,
the queen of the world of light.

Even had he been interested in painting, Christophe was too German to
adapt himself to so widely different a vision of things. He was not one of
those up-to-date Germans who decry the German way of feeling, and persuade
themselves that they admire and love French Impressionism or the artists of
the eighteenth century,--except when they go farther and are convinced that
they understand them better than the French. Christophe was a barbarian,
perhaps: but he was frank about it. The pink flesh of Boucher, the fat
chins of Watteau, the bored shepherds and plump, tight-laced shepherdesses,
the whipped-cream souls, the virtuous oglings of Greuze, the tucked shirts
of Fragonard, all that bare-legged poesy interested him no more than a
fashionable, rather spicy newspaper. He did not see its rich and brilliant
harmony; the voluptuous and sometimes melancholy dreams of that old
civilization, the highest in Europe, were foreign to him. As for the French
school of the seventeenth century, he liked neither its devout ceremony nor
its pompous portraits: the cold reserve of the gravest of the masters, a
certain grayness of soul that clouded the proud works of Nicolas Poussin
and the pale faces of Philippe de Champaigne, repelled Christophe from
old French art. And, once more, he knew nothing about it. If he had known
anything about it he would have misunderstood it. The only modern painter
whose fascination he had felt at all in Germany, Boecklin of Basle, had not
prepared him much for Latin art. Christophe remembered the shock of his
impact with that brutal genius, which smacked of earth and the musty smell
of the heroic beasts that it had summoned forth. His eyes, seared by the
raw light, used to the frantic motley of that drunken savage, could hardly
adapt themselves to the half-tints, the dainty and mellifluous harmonies of
French art.

But no man with impunity can live in a foreign land. Unknown to him it sets
its seal upon him. In vain does he withdraw into himself: upon a day he
must wake up to find that something has changed.

There was a change in Christophe on that evening when he wandered through
the rooms of the Louvre. He was tired, cold, hungry; he was alone. Around
him darkness was descending upon the empty galleries, and sleeping forms
awoke. Christophe was very cold as he walked in silence among Egyptian
sphinxes, Assyrian monsters, bulls of Persepolis, gleaming snakes from
Palissy. He seemed to have passed into a magic world: and in his heart
there was a strange, mysterious emotion. The dream of humanity wrapped him
about,--the strange flowers of the soul....

In the misty gilded light of the picture-galleries, and the gardens of
rich brilliant hues, and painted airless fields, Christophe, in a state
of fever, on the very brink of illness, was visited by a miracle.--He
was walking, numbed by hunger, by the coldness of the galleries, by the
bewildering mass of pictures: his head was whirling. When he reached the
end of the gallery that looks on to the river, he stood before the _Good
Samaritan_ of Rembrandt, and leaned on the rail in front of the pictures to
keep himself from falling: he closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened
them on the picture in front of him--he was quite close to it--and he was
held spellbound....

Day was spent. Day was already far gone; it was already dead. The invisible
sun was sinking down into the night. It was the magic hour when dreams and
visions come mounting from the soul, saddened by the labors of the day,
still, musing drowsily. All is silent, only the beating of the heart is
heard. In the body there is hardly the strength to move, hardly to breathe;
sadness; resignation; only an immense longing to fall into the arms of
a friend, a hunger for some miracle, a feeling that some miracle must
come.... It comes! A flood of golden light flames through the twilight, is
cast upon the walls of the hovel, on the shoulder of the stranger bearing
the dying man, touches with its warmth those humble objects, and those poor
creatures, and the whole takes on a new gentleness, a divine glory. It is
the very God, clasping in his terrible, tender arms the poor wretches,
weak, ugly, poor, unclean, the poor down-at-heel rascal, the miserable
creatures, with twisted haggard faces, thronging outside the window, the
apathetic, silent creatures standing in mortal terror,--all the pitiful
human beings of Rembrandt, the herd of obscure broken creatures who know
nothing, can do nothing, only wait, tremble, weep, and pray.--But the
Master is there. He will come: it is known that He will come. Not He
Himself is seen: only the light that goes before, and the shadow of the
light which He casts upon all men....

Christophe left the Louvre, staggering and tottering. His head ached. He
could not see. In the street it was raining, but he hardly noticed the
puddles between the flags and the water trickling down from his shoes.
Over the Seine the yellowish sky was lit up, as the day waned, by an
inward flame--like the light of a lamp. Still Christophe was spellbound,
hypnotized. It seemed as though nothing existed: not the carriages rattling
over the stones with a pitiless noise: the passers-by were not banging into
him with their wet umbrellas: he was not walking in the street: perhaps he
was sitting at home and dreaming: perhaps he had ceased to exist.... And
suddenly,--(he was so weak!)--he turned giddy and felt himself falling
heavily forward.... It was only for the flash of a second: he clenched his
fists, hurled himself backward, and recovered his balance.

At that very moment when he emerged into consciousness his eyes met the
eyes of a woman standing on the other side of the street, who seemed to
be looking for recognition. He stopped dead, trying to remember when he
had seen her before. It was only after a moment or two that he could place
those sad, soft eyes: it was the little French governess whom, unwittingly,
he had had dismissed in Germany, for whom he had been looking for so long
to beg her to forgive him. She had stopped, too, in the busy throng, and
was looking at him. Suddenly he saw her try to cross through the crowd of
people and step down into the road to come to him. He rushed to meet her:
but they were separated by a block in the traffic: he saw her again for a
moment struggling on the other side of that living wall: he tried to force
his way through, was knocked over by a horse, slipped and fell on the
slippery asphalt, and was all but run over. When he got up, covered with
mud, and succeeded in reaching the other side of the street, she had

He tried to follow her, but he had another attack of giddiness, and he had
to give it up. Illness was close upon him: he felt that, but he would not
submit to it. He set his teeth, and would not go straight home, but went
far out of his way. It was just a useless torment to him: he had to admit
that he was beaten: his legs ached, he dragged along, and only reached home
with frightful difficulty. Half-way up the stairs he choked, and had to sit
down. When he got to his icy room he refused to go to bed: he sat in his
chair, wet through; his head was heavy and he could hardly breathe, and he
drugged himself with music as broken as himself. He heard a few fugitive
bars of the _Unfinished Symphony_ of Schubert. Poor Schubert! He, too, was
alone when he wrote that, feverish, somnolent, in that semitorpid condition
which precedes the last great sleep: he sat dreaming by the fireside: all
round him were heavy drowsy melodies, like stagnant water: he dwelt on
them, like a child half-asleep delighting in some self-told story, and
repeating some passage in it twenty times: so sleep comes, then death....
And Christophe heard fleetingly that other music, with burning hands,
closed eyes, a little weary smile, heart big with sighs, dreaming of the
deliverance of death:--the first chorus in the Cantata of J. S. Bach:
"_Dear God, when shall I die?_"... It was sweet to sink back into the soft
melodies slowly floating by, to hear the distant, muffled clangor of the
bells.... To die, to pass into the peace of earth!... _Und dann selber Erde
werden_.... "And then himself to become earth...."

Christophe shook off these morbid thoughts, the murderous smile of the
siren who lies in wait for the hours of weakness of the soul. He got up,
and tried to walk about his room: but he could not stand. He was shaking
and shivering with fever. He had to go to bed. He felt that it was serious
this time: but he did not lay down his arms: he never was of those who,
when they are ill, yield utterly to their illness: he struggled, he refused
to be ill, and, above all, he was absolutely determined not to die. He had
his poor mother waiting for him in Germany. And he had his work to do: he
would not yield to death. He clenched his chattering teeth, and firmly
grasped his will that was oozing away: he was like a sturdy swimmer
battling with the waves dashing over him. At every moment, down he plunged:
his mind wandered, endless fancies haunted him, memories of Germany and of
Parisian society: he was obsessed by rhythms and scraps of melody which
went round, and round, and round, like horses in a circus: the sudden shock
of the golden light of the _Good Samaritan_: the tense, stricken faces in
the shadow: and then, dark nothingness and night. Then up he would come
once more, wrenching away the grimacing mists, clenching his fists, and
setting his jaw. He clung to all those whom he loved in the present and the
past, to the face of the friend he had just seen in the street, his dear
mother, and to the indestructible life within himself, that he felt was
like a rock, impervious to death. But once more the rock was covered by the
tide: the waves dashed over it, and tore his soul away from its hold upon
it: it was borne headlong and dashed by the foam. And Christophe struggled
in delirium, babbling strangely, conducting and playing an imaginary
orchestra: trombones, horns, cymbals, timbals, bassoons, double-bass,...
he scraped, blew, beat the drum, frantically. The poor wretch was bubbling
over with suppressed music. For weeks he had been unable to hear or play
any music, and he was like a boiler at high pressure, near bursting-point.
Certain insistent phrases bored into his brain like gimlets, pierced his
skull, and made him scream with agony. After these attacks he would fall
back on his pillow, dead tired, wet through, utterly weak, breathless,
choking. He had placed his water-jug by his bedside, and he took great
draughts of it. The various noises of the adjoining rooms, the banging of
the attic doors, made him start. He was filled with a delirious disgust for
the creatures swarming round him. But his will fought on, sounded a warlike
clarion-note, declaring battle on all devils.... "_Und wenn die Welt voll
Teufel wär, und wollten uns verschlingen, so fürchten wir uns nicht so
sehr_...." ("And even though the world were full of devils, all seeking to
devour us, we should not be afraid....").

And over the sea of scalding shadows that dashed over him, there came a
sudden calm, glimpses of light, a gentle murmuring of violins and viols,
the clear triumphant notes of trumpets and horns, while, almost motionless,
like a great wall, there rose from the sick man's soul an indomitable song,
like a choral of J.S. Bach.

       *       *       *       *       *

While he was fighting against the phantoms of fever and the choking in
his lungs, he was dimly aware that some one had opened the door, and that
a woman entered with a candle in her hand. He thought it was another
hallucination. He tried to speak, but could not, and fell back on his
pillow. When, every now and then, he was brought for a moment back to
consciousness, he felt that his pillow had been raised, that his feet had
been wrapped up, that there was something burning his back, or he would see
the woman, whose face was not altogether unfamiliar, sitting at the foot of
his bed. Then he saw another face, that of a doctor using a stethoscope.
Christophe could not hear what they were saying, but he gathered that they
were talking of sending him to the hospital. He tried to protest, to cry
out that he would not go, that he would die where he was, alone: but he
could only frame incomprehensible sounds. But the woman understood him: for
she took his part, and reassured him. He tried hard to find out who she
was. As soon as he could, with frightful effort, frame a sentence, he asked
her. She replied that she lived in the next attic and had heard him moaning
through the wall, and had taken the liberty of coming in, thinking that
he wanted help. She begged him respectfully not to wear himself out with
talking. He obeyed her. He was worn out with the effort he had made: he lay
still and said nothing: but his brain went on working, painfully gathering
together its scattered memories. Where had he seen her?... At last he
remembered: yes, he had met her on the attic landing: she was a servant,
and her name was Sidonie.

He watched her with half-closed eyes, so that she could not see him. She
was little, and had a grave face, a wide forehead, hair drawn back, so that
her temples were exposed; her cheeks were pale and high-boned; she had a
short nose, pale blue eyes, with a soft, steady look in them, thick lips
tightly pressed together, an anemic complexion, a humble, deliberate, and
rather stiff manner. She looked after Christophe with busy silent devotion,
without a spark of familiarity, and without ever breaking down the reserve
of a servant who never forgets class differences.

However, little by little, when he was better and could talk to her,
Christophe's affectionate cordiality made Sidonie talk to him a little
more freely: but she was always on her guard: there were obviously certain
things which she would not tell. She was a mixture of humility and pride.
Christophe learned that she came from Brittany, where she had left her
father, of whom she spoke very discreetly: but Christophe gathered that he
did nothing but drink, have a good time, and live on his daughter: she put
up with it, without saying anything, from pride: and she never failed to
send him part of her month's wages: but she was not taken in. She had also
a younger sister who was preparing for a teacher's examination, and she was
very proud of her. She was paying almost all the expenses of her education.
She worked frightfully hard, with grim determination.

"Have you a good situation?" asked Christophe.

"Yes. But I am thinking of leaving."

"Why? Aren't they good to you?"

"Oh! no. They're very good to me."

"Don't they pay you enough?"


He did not quite understand: he tried to understand, and encouraged her to
talk. She had nothing to tell him but the monotony of her life, and the
difficulty of earning a living: she did not lay any stress on it: she was
not afraid of work: it was a necessity to her, almost a pleasure. She never
spoke of the thing that tried her most: boredom. He guessed it. Little by
little, with the intuition of perfect sympathy, he saw that her suffering
was increasing, and it was made more acute for him by the memory of the
trials supported by his own mother in a similar existence. He saw, as
though he had lived it, the drab, unhealthy, unnatural existence--the
ordinary existence imposed on servants by the middle-classes:--employers
who were not so much unkind as indifferent sometimes leaving her for days
together without speaking a word outside her work. The hours and hours
spent in the stuffy kitchen, the one small window, blocked up by a meat
safe, looking out on to a white wall. And her only pleasure was when she
was told carelessly that her sauce was good or the meat well cooked. A
cramped airless life with no prospect, with no ray of desire or hope,
without interest of any kind.--The worst time of all for her was when her
employers went away to the country. They economized by not taking her with
them: they paid her wages for the month, but not enough to take her home:
they gave her permission to go at her own expense. She would not, she could
not do that. And so she was left alone in the deserted house. She had no
desire to go out, and did not even talk to other servants, whose coarseness
and immorality she despised. She never went out in search of amusement: she
was naturally serious, economical, and afraid of misadventure. She sat in
her kitchen, or in her room, from whence across the chimneys she could see
the top of a tree in the garden of a hospital. She did not read, but tried
to work listlessly: she would sit there dreaming, bored, bored to tears:
she had a singular and infinite capacity for weeping: it was her only
pleasure. But when her boredom weighed too heavily on her she could not
even weep: she was frozen, sick at heart, and dead. Then she would pull
herself together: or life would return of its own accord. She would think
of her sister, listen to a barrel-organ in the distance, and dream, and
slowly count the days until she had gained such and such a sum of money:
she would be out in her reckoning, and begin to count all over again: she
would fall asleep. So the days passed....

The fits of depression alternated with outbursts of childish chatter and
laughter. She would make fun of herself and other people. She watched and
judged her employers, and their anxieties fed by their want of occupation,
and her mistress's moods and melancholy, and the so-called interests of
these so-called people of culture, how they patronized a picture, or a
piece of music, or a book of verse. With her rude common sense, as far
removed from the snobbishness of the very Parisian servants as from the
crass stupidity of the very provincial girls, who only admire what they do
not understand, she had a respectful contempt for their dabbling in music,
their pointless chatter, and all those perfectly useless and tiresome
intellectual smatterings which play so large a part in such hypocritical
existences. She could not help silently comparing the real life, with which
she grappled, with the imaginary pains and pleasures of that cushioned
life, in which everything seems to be the product of boredom. She was
not in revolt against it. Things were so: things were so. She accepted
everything, knaves and fools alike. She said:

"It takes all sorts to make a world."

Christophe imagined that she was borne up by her religion: but one day she
said, speaking of others who were richer and more happy:

"But in the end we shall all be equal."

"When?" asked Christophe. "After the social revolution?"

"The revolution?" said she. "Oh, there'll be much water flowing under
bridges before that. I don't believe that stuff. Things will always be the

"When shall we all be equal, then?"

"When we're dead, of course! That's the end of everybody."

He was surprised by her calm materialism. He dared not say to her:

"Isn't it a frightful thing, in that case, if there is only one life, that
it should be the like of yours, while there are so many others who are

But she seemed to have guessed his thought: she went on phlegmatically,
resignedly, and a little ironically:

"One has to put up with it. Everybody cannot draw a prize. I've drawn a
blank: so much the worse!"

She never even thought of looking for a more profitable place outside
France. (She had once been offered a situation in America.) The idea of
leaving the country never entered her head. She said:

"Stones are hard everywhere."

There was in her a profound, skeptical, and mocking fatalism. She was
of the stock that has little or no faith, few considered reasons for
living, and yet a tremendous vitality--the stock of the French peasantry,
industrious and apathetic, riotous and submissive, who have no great love
of life, but cling to it, and have no need of artificial stimulants to keep
up their courage.

Christophe, who had not yet come across them, was astonished to find in the
girl an absence of all faith: he marveled at her tenacious hold on life,
without pleasure or purpose, and most of all he admired her sturdy moral
sense that had no need of prop or support. Till then he had only seen
the French people through naturalistic novels, and the theories of the
mannikins of contemporary literature, who, reacting from the art of the
century of pastoral scenes and the Revolution, loved to present natural man
as a vicious brute, in order to sanctify their own vices.... He was amazed
when he discovered Sidonie's uncompromising honesty. It was not a matter of
morality but of instinct and pride. She had her aristocratic pride. For it
is foolish to imagine that everybody belonging to the people is "popular."
The people have their aristocrats just as the upper classes have their
vulgarians. The aristocrats are those creatures whose instincts, and
perhaps whose blood, are purer than those of the others: those who know and
are conscious of what they are, and must be true to themselves. They are in
the minority: but, even when they are forced to live apart, the others know
that they are the salt of the earth: and the fact of their existence is a
check upon the others, who are forced to model themselves upon them, or
to pretend to do so. Every province, every village, every congregation of
men, is, to a certain degree, what its aristocrats are: and public opinion
varies accordingly, and is, in one place, severe, in another, lax. The
present anarchy and upheaval of the majority will not change the unvoiced
power of the minority. It is more dangerous for them to be uprooted from
their native soil and scattered far and wide in the great cities. But
even so, lost amid strange surroundings, living in isolation, yet the
individualities of the good stock persist and never mix with those about
them.--Sidonie knew nothing, wished to know nothing, of all that Christophe
had seen in Paris. She was no more interested in the sentimental and
unclean literature of the newspapers than in the political news. She did
not even know that there were Popular Universities: and, if she had known,
it is probable that she would have put herself out as little to go to them
as she did to hear a sermon. She did her work, and thought for herself: she
was not concerned with what other people thought. Christophe congratulated

"Why is that surprising?" she asked. "I am like everybody else. You haven't
met any French people."

"I've been living among them for a year," said Christophe, "and I haven't
met a single one who thought of anything but amusing himself or of aping
those who amuse him."

"That's true," said Sidonie. "You have only seen rich people. The rich are
the same everywhere. You've seen nothing at all."

"That's true," said Christophe. "I'm beginning."

For the first time he caught a glimpse of the people of France, men and
women who seem to be built for eternity, who are one with the earth, who,
like the earth, have seen so many conquering races, so many masters of a
day, pass away, while they themselves endure and do not pass.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he was getting better and was allowed to get up for a little, the
first thing he thought of was to pay Sidonie back for the expenses she
had incurred during his illness. It was impossible for him to go about
Paris looking for work, and he had to bring himself to write to Hecht:
he asked him for an advance on account of future work. With his amazing
combination of indifference and kindliness Hecht made him wait a fortnight
for a reply--a fortnight during which Christophe tormented himself and
practically refused to touch any of the food Sidonie brought him, and would
only accept a little bread and milk, which she forced him to take, and then
he grumbled and was angry with himself because he had not earned it: then,
without a word, Hecht sent him the sum he asked: and not once during the
months of Christophe's illness did Hecht make any inquiry after him. He had
a genius for making himself disliked even when he was doing a kindness.
Even in his kindness Hecht could not be generous.

Sidonie came every day in the afternoon and again in the evening. She
cooked Christophe's dinner for him. She made no noise, but went quietly
about her business: and when she saw the dilapidated condition of his
clothes she took them away to mend them. Insensibly there had crept an
element of affection into their relation. Christophe talked at length about
his mother: and that touched Sidonie: she would put herself in Louisa's
place, alone in Germany: and she had a maternal feeling for Christophe, and
when he talked to her he tried to trick his need of mothering and love,
from which a man suffers most when he is weak and ill. He felt nearer
Louisa with Sidonie than with anybody else. Sometimes he would confide his
artistic troubles to her. She would pity him gently, though she seemed to
regard such sorrows of the intellect ironically. That, too, reminded him of
his mother and comforted him.

He tried to get her to confide in him: but she was much less open than he.
He asked her jokingly why she did not get married. And she would reply in
her usual tone of mocking resignation that "it was not allowed for servants
to marry: it complicates things too much. Besides, she was sure to make a
bad choice, and that is not pleasant. Men are sordid creatures. They come
courting when a woman has money, squeeze it out of her, and then leave her
in the lurch. She had seen too many cases of that and was not inclined to
do the same."--She did not tell him of her own unfortunate experience:
her future husband had left her when he found that she was giving all
her earnings to her family.--Christophe used to see her in the courtyard
mothering the children of a family living in the house. When she met
them alone on the stairs she would sometimes embrace them passionately.
Christophe would fancy her occupying the place of a lady of his
acquaintance: she was not a fool, and she was no plainer than many another
woman: he declared that in the lady's place she would have been the better
woman of the two. There are so many splendid lives hidden in the world,
unknown and unsuspected! And, on the other hand, the hosts of the living
dead, who encumber the earth, and take up the room and the happiness of
others in the light of the sun!...

Christophe had no ulterior thought. He was fond, too fond of her: he let
her coddle him like a child.

Some days Sidonie would be queer and depressed: but he attributed that to
her work. Once when they were talking she got up suddenly and left him,
making some excuse about her work. Finally, after a day when Christophe had
been more confidential than usual, she broke off her visits for a time: and
when she came back she would only talk to him constrainedly. He wondered
what he could have done to offend her. He asked her. She replied quickly
that he had not offended her: but she stayed away again. A few days later
she told him that she was going away: she had given up her situation and
was leaving the house. Coldly and reservedly she thanked him for all
his kindness, told him she hoped he would soon recover, and that his
mother would remain in good health, and then she said good-by. He was so
astonished at her abrupt departure that he did not know what to say: he
tried to discover her reasons: she replied evasively. He asked her where
she was going: she did not reply, and, to cut short his questions, she got
up to go. As she reached the door he held out his hand: she grasped it
warmly: but her face did not betray her, and to the end she maintained her
stiff, cold manner. She went away.

He never understood why.

       *       *       *       *       *

He dragged through the winter--a wet, misty, muddy winter. Weeks on end
without sun. Although Christophe was better he was by no means recovered.
He still had a little pain in his lungs, a lesion which healed slowly, and
fits of coughing which kept him from sleeping at night. The doctor had
forbidden him to go out. He might just as well have ordered him to go to
the Riviera or the Canary Islands. He had to go out! If he did not go out
to look for his dinner, his dinner would certainly not come to look for
him.--And he was ordered medicines which he could not afford. And so he
gave up consulting doctors: it was a waste of money: and besides he was
always ill at ease with them: they could not understand each other: they
lived in separate worlds. They had an ironical and rather contemptuous pity
for the poor devil of an artist who claimed to be a world to himself, and
was swept along like a straw by the river of life. He was humiliated by
being examined, and prodded, and handled by these men. He was ashamed of
his sick body, and thought:

"How glad I shall be when _it_ is dead!"

In spite of loneliness, illness, poverty, and so many other causes of
suffering, Christophe bore his lot patiently. He had never been so patient.
He was surprised at himself. Illness is often a blessing. By ravaging the
body it frees the soul and purifies it: during the nights and days of
forced inaction thoughts arise which are fearful of the raw light of day,
and are scorched by the sun of health. No man who has never been ill can
have a thorough knowledge of himself.

His illness had, in a queer way, soothed Christophe. It had purged him of
the coarser elements of his nature. Through his most subtle nerves he felt
the world of mysterious forces which dwell in each of us, though the tumult
of life prevents our hearing them. Since his visit to the Louvre, in his
hours of fever, the smallest memories of which were graven upon his mind,
he had lived in an atmosphere like that of the Rembrandt picture, warm,
soft, profound. He too felt in his heart the magic beams of an invisible
sun. And although he did not believe, he knew that he was not alone: a God
was holding him by the hand, and leading him to the predestined goal of his
endeavors. He trusted in Him like a little child.

For the first time for years he felt that he must rest. The lassitude of
his convalescence was in itself a rest for him after the extraordinary
tension of mind that had gone before his illness and had left him still
exhausted. Christophe, who for many months had been continually on the
alert and strained upon his guard, felt the fixity of his gaze slowly
relax. He was not less strong for it: he was more human. The great though
rather monstrous quality of life of the man of genius had passed into the
background: he found himself a man like the rest, purged of the fanaticism
of his mind, and all the hardness and mercilessness of his actions. He
hated nothing: he gave no thought to things that exasperated him, or, if
he did, he shrugged them off: he thought less of his own troubles and more
of the troubles of others. Since Sidonie had reminded him of the silent
suffering of the lowly, fighting on without complaint, all over the world,
he forgot himself in them. He who was not usually sentimental now had
periods of that mystic tenderness which is the flower of weakness and
sickness. In the evening, as he sat with his elbows on the window-sill,
gazing down into the courtyard and listening to all the mysterious noises
of the night,... a voice singing in a house near by, made moving by the
distance, or a little girl artlessly strumming Mozart,... he thought:

"All you whom I love though I know you not! You whom life has not sullied;
you, who dream of great things, that you know to be impossible, while you
fight for them against the envious world,--may you be happy--it is so good
to be happy!... Oh, my friends, I know that you are there, and I hold
my arms out to you.... There is a wall between us. Stone by stone I am
breaking it down, but I am myself broken in the labor of it. Shall we ever
be together? Shall I reach you before another wall is raised up between us:
the wall of death?... No matter! Though all my life I am alone, so only I
may work for you, do you good, and you may love me a little, later on, when
I am dead!..."

       *       *       *       *       *

So the convalescent Christophe was nursed by those two good foster-mothers
"_Liebe und Noth_" (Love and Poverty).

       *       *       *       *       *

While his will was thus in abeyance Christophe felt a longing to be with
people. And, although he was still very weak, and it was a very foolish
thing to do, he used to go out early in the morning when the stream of
people poured out of the residential streets on their way to their work,
or in the evening, when they were returning. His desire was to plunge into
the refreshing bath of human sympathy. Not that he spoke to a soul. He did
not even try to do so. It was enough for him to watch the people pass, and
guess what they were, and love them. With fond pity he used to watch the
workers hurrying along, all, as it were, already worn out by the business
of the day,--young men and girls, with pale faces, worn expressions, and
strange smiles,--thin, eager faces beneath which there passed desires and
anxieties, all with a changing irony,--all so intelligent, too intelligent,
a little morbid, the dwellers in a great city. They all hurried along, the
men reading the papers, the women nibbling and munching. Christophe would
have given a month of his life to let one poor girl, whose eyes were
swollen with sleep, who passed near him with a little nervous, mincing
walk, sleep on for a few hours more. Oh! how she would have jumped at it,
if she had been offered the chance! He would have loved to pluck all the
idle rich people out of their rooms, hermetically sealed at that hour,
where they were so ungratefully lying at their ease, and replace them in
their beds, in their comfortable existence, with all these eager, weary
bodies, these fresh souls, not abounding with life, but alive and greedy
of life. In that hour he was full of kindness towards them: and he smiled
at their alert, thin little faces, in which there were cunning and
ingenuousness, a bold and simple desire for pleasure, and, behind all,
honest little souls, true and industrious. And he was not hurt when some
of the girls laughed in his face, or nudged each other to point out the
strange young man staring at them so hard.

And he would lounge about the riverside, lost in dreams. That was his
favorite walk. It did a little satisfy his longing for the great river that
had sung the lullaby of his childhood. Ah! it was not _Vater Rhein_! It had
none of his all-puissant might: none of the wide horizons, vast plains over
which the mind soars and is lost. A river with gray eyes, gowned in pale
green, with finely drawn, correct features, a graceful river, with supple
movements, wearing with sparkling nonchalance the sumptuous and sober garb
of her city, the bracelets of its bridges, the necklets of its monuments,
and smiling at her own prettiness, like a lovely woman strolling through
the town.... The delicious light of Paris! That was the first thing that
Christophe had loved in the city: it filled his being sweetly, sweetly: and
imperceptibly, slowly, it changed his heart. It was to him the most lovely
music, the only music in Paris. He would spend hours in the evening walking
by the river, or in the gardens of old France, tasting the harmonies
of the light of day touching the tall trees bathed in purple mist, the
gray statues and ruins, the worn stones of the royal monuments which had
absorbed the light of centuries,--that smooth atmosphere, made of pale
sunshine and milky vapor, in which, on a cloud of silvery dust, there
floats the laughing spirit of the race.

One evening he was leaning over the parapet near the Saint-Michel Bridge,
and looking at the water and absently turning over the books in one of the
little boxes. He chanced upon a battered old volume of Michelet and opened
it at random. He had already read a certain amount of that historian, and
had been put off by his Gallic boasting, his trick of making himself drunk
with words, and his halting style. But that evening he was held from the
very first words: he had lighted on the trial of Joan of Arc. He knew the
Maid of Orleans through Schiller: but hitherto she had only been a romantic
heroine who had been endowed with an imaginary life by a great poet.
Suddenly the reality was presented to him and gripped his attention. He
read on and on, his heart aching for the tragic horror of the glorious
story: and when he came to the moment when Joan learns that she is to die
that evening and faints from fear, his hands began to tremble, tears came
into his eyes, and he had to stop. He was weak from his illness: he had
become absurdly sensitive, and was himself exasperated by it.--When he
turned once more to the book it was late and the bookseller was shutting up
his boxes. He decided to buy the book and hunted through his pockets: he
had exactly six sous. Such scantiness was not rare and did not bother him:
he had paid for his dinner, and counted on getting some money out of Hecht
next day for some copying he had done. But it was hard to have to wait a
day! Why had he spent all he had on his dinner? Ah! if only he could offer
the bookseller the bread and sausages that were in his pockets, in payment!

Next morning, very early, he went to Hecht's to get his money: but as
he was passing the bridge which bears the name of the archangel of
battle--"the brother in Paradise" of Joan of Arc--he could not help
stopping. He found the precious book once more in the bookseller's box, and
read it right through: he stayed reading it for nearly two hours and missed
his appointment with Hecht: and he wasted the whole day waiting to see him.
At last he managed to get his new commission and the money for the old. At
once he rushed back to buy the book, although he had read it. He was afraid
it might have been sold to another purchaser. No doubt that would not have
mattered much: it was quite easy to get another copy: but Christophe did
not know whether the book was rare or not: and besides, he wanted that
particular book and no other. Those who love books easily become fetish
worshipers. The pages from which the well of dreams springs forth are
sacred to them, even when they are dirty and spotted.

In the silence of the night, in his room, Christophe read once more the
Gospel of the Passion of Joan of Arc: and now there was nothing to make
him restrain his emotion. He was filled with tenderness, pity, infinite
sorrow for the poor little shepherdess in her coarse peasant clothes,
tall, shy, soft-voiced, dreaming to the sound of bells--(she loved them as
he did)--with her lovely smile, full of understanding and kindness, and
her tears, that flowed so readily--tears of love, tears of pity, tears of
weakness: for she was at once so manlike and so much a woman, the pure and
valiant girl, who tamed the savage lusts of an army of bandits, and calmly,
with her intrepid sound good sense, her woman's subtlety, and her gentle
persistency, alone, betrayed on all hands, for months together foiled the
threats and hypocritical tricks of a gang of churchmen and lawyers,--wolves
and foxes with bloody eyes and fangs--who closed a ring about her.

What touched Christophe most nearly was her kindness, her tenderness of
heart,--weeping after her victories, weeping over her dead enemies, over
those who had insulted her, giving them consolation when they were wounded,
aiding them in death, knowing no bitterness against those who sold her,
and even at the stake, when the flames roared about her, thinking not of
herself, thinking only of the monk who exorcised her, and compelling him
to depart. She was "gentle in the most bitter fight, good even amongst
the most evil, peaceful even in war. Into war, the triumph of Satan, she
brought the very Spirit of God."

And Christophe, thinking of himself, said:

"And into my fight I have not brought enough of the Spirit of God."

He read the fine words of the evangelist of Joan of Arc:

"Be kind, and seek always to be kinder, amid all the injustice of men and
the hardships of Fate.... Be gentle and of a good countenance even in
bitter quarrels, win through experience, and never let it harm that inward

And he said within himself:

"I have sinned. I have not been kind. I have not shown good-will towards
men. I have been too hard.--Forgive me. Do not think me your enemy, you
against whom I wage war! For you too I seek to do good.... But you must be
kept from doing evil...."

And, as he was no saint, the thought of them was enough to kindle his anger
again. What he could least forgive them was that when he saw them, and saw
France, through them, he found it impossible to conceive such a flower of
purity and poetic heroism ever springing from such a soil. And yet it was
so. Who could say that such a flower would not spring from it a second
time? The France of to-day could not be worse than that of Charles VII, the
debauched and prostituted nation from which the Maid sprang. The temple was
empty, fouled, half in ruins. No matter! God had spoken in it.

Christophe was seeking a Frenchman whom he could love for the love of

It was about the end of March. For months Christophe had not spoken to a
soul nor had a single letter, except every now and then a few lines from
his mother, who did not know that he was ill and did not tell him that she
herself was ill. His relation with the outside world was confined to his
journeys to the music shop to take or bring away his work. He arranged to
go there at times when he knew that Hecht would be out--to avoid having
to talk to him. The precaution was superfluous, for the only time he met
Hecht, he hardly did more than ask him a few indifferent questions about
his health.

He was immured in a prison of silence when, one morning, he received an
invitation from Madame Roussin to a musical _soirée_: a famous quartet was
to play. The letter was very friendly in tone, and Roussin had added a few
cordial lines. He was not very proud of his quarrel with Christophe: the
less so as he had since quarreled with the singer and now condemned her in
no sparing terms. He was a good fellow: he never bore those whom he had
wronged any grudge. And he would have thought it preposterous for any of
his victims to be more thin-skinned than himself. And so, when he had the
pleasure of seeing them again, he never hesitated about holding out his

Christophe's first impulse was to shrug his shoulders and vow that he
would not go. But he wavered as the day of the concert came nearer. He was
stifling from never hearing a human voice or a note of music. But he vowed
again that he would never set foot inside the Roussins' house. But when the
day came he went, raging against his own cowardice.

He was ill rewarded. Hardly did he find himself once more in the gathering
of politicians and snobs than he was filled with an aversion for them more
violent than ever: for during his months of solitude he had lost the trick
of such people. It was impossible to hear the music: it was a profanation;
Christophe made up his mind to go as soon as the first piece was over.

He glanced round among the faces of those people who were even physically
so antipathetic to him. At the other end of the room he saw a face, the
face of a young man, looking at him, and then he turned away at once.
There was in the face a strange quality of candor which among such bored,
indifferent people was most striking. The eyes were timid, but dear and
direct. French eyes, which, once they marked a man, went on looking at
him with absolute truth, hiding nothing of the soul behind them, missing
nothing of the soul of the man at whom they gazed. They were familiar to
Christophe. And yet he did not know the face. It was that of a young man
between twenty and twenty-five, short, slightly stooping, delicate-looking,
beardless, and melancholy, with chestnut hair, irregular features, though
fine, a certain crookedness which gave it an expression not so much of
uneasiness as of bashfulness, which was not without charm, and seemed to
contradict the tranquillity of the eyes. He was standing in an open door:
and nobody was paying any attention to him. Once more Christophe looked
at him: and once more he met his eyes, which turned away timidly with a
delightful awkwardness: once more he "recognized" them: it seemed to him
that he had seen them in another face.

Christophe, as usual, was incapable of concealing what he felt, and moved
towards the young man: but as he made his way he wondered what he should
say to him: and he hesitated and stood still looking to right and left, as
though he were moving without any fixed object. But the young man was not
taken in, and saw that Christophe was moving towards himself: he was so
nervous at the thought of speaking to him that he tried to slip into the
next room: but he was glued to his place by his very bashfulness. So they
came face to face. It was some moments before they could find anything to
say. And as they went on standing like that each thought the other must
think him absurd. At last Christophe looked straight at the young man, and
said with a smile, in a gruff voice:

"You're not a Parisian?"

In spite of his embarrassment the young man smiled at this unexpected
question, and replied in the negative. His light voice, with its hint of a
musical quality, was like some delicate instrument.

"I thought not," said Christophe. And, as he saw that he was a little
confused by the singular remark, he added:

"It is no reproach."

But the young man's embarrassment was only increased.

There was another silence. The young man made an effort to speak: his lips
trembled: it seemed that he had a sentence on the tip of his tongue, but he
could not bring himself to speak it. Christophe eagerly studied his mobile
face, the muscles of which he could see twitching under the clear skin:
he did not seem to be of the same clay as the people all about him in the
room, with their heavy, coarse faces, which were only a continuation of
their necks, part and parcel of their bodies. In the young man's face the
soul shone forth: in every part of it there was a spiritual life.

He could not bring himself to speak. Christophe went on genially:

"What are you doing among all these people?"

He spoke out loud with that strange freedom of manner which made him hated.
His friend blushed and could not help looking round to see if he had been
heard: and Christophe disliked the movement. Then, instead of answering, he
asked with a shy, sweet smile:

"And you?"

Christophe began to laugh as usual, rather loudly.

"Yes. And I," he said delightedly.

The young man at last summoned up his courage.

"I love your music so much!" he said, in a choking voice.

Then he stopped and tried once more, vainly, to get the better of his
shyness. He was blushing, and knew it: and he blushed the more, up to his
temples and round to his ears. Christophe looked at him with a smile, and
longed to take him in his arms. The young man looked at him timidly.

"No," he said. "Of course, I can't ... I can't talk about that ... not

Christophe took his hand with a grin. He felt the stranger's thin fingers
tremble in his great paw and press it with an involuntary tenderness: and
the young man felt Christophe's paw affectionately crush his hand. They
ceased to hear the chatter of the people round them. They were alone
together and they knew that they were friends.

It was only for a second, for then Madame Roussin touched Christophe on the
arm with her fan and said:

"I see that you have introduced yourselves and don't need me to do so. The
boy came on purpose to meet you this evening."

Then, rather awkwardly, they parted.

Christophe asked Madame Roussin:

"Who is he?"

"What?" said she. "You don't know him? He is a young poet and writes very
prettily. One of your admirers. He is a good musician and plays the piano
quite nicely. It is no good discussing you in his presence: he is mad
about you. The other day he all but came to blows about you with Lucien

"Oh! Bless him for that!" said Christophe.

"Yes, I know you are unjust to poor Lucien. And yet he too loves your

"Ah! don't tell me that! I should hate myself."

"It is so, I assure you."

"Never! never! I will not have it. I forbid him to do so."

"Just what your admirer said. You are both mad. Lucien was just explaining
one of your compositions to us. The shy boy you met just now got up,
trembling with anger, and forbade him to mention your name. Think of it!...
Fortunately I was there. I laughed it off: Lucien did the same: and the
boy was utterly confused and relapsed into silence: and in the end he

"Poor boy!" said Christophe.

He was touched by it.

"Where did he go?" he asked, without listening to Madame Roussin, who had
already begun to talk about something else.

He went to look for him. But his unknown friend had disappeared. Christophe
returned to Madame Roussin:

"Tell me, what is his name?"

"Who?" she asked.

"The boy you were talking about just now."

"Your young poet?" she said. "His name is Olivier Jeannin."

The name rang in Christophe's ears like some familiar melody. The shadowy
figure of a girl floated for a moment before his eyes. But the new image,
the image of his friend blotted it out at once.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe went home. He strode through the streets of Paris mingling with
the throng. He saw nothing, heard nothing; he was insensible to everything
about him. He was like a lake cut off from the rest of the world by a ring
of mountains. Not a breath stirred, not a sound was heard, all was still.
Peace. He said to himself over and over again:

"I have a friend."



The Jeannins were one of those old French families who have remained
stationary for centuries in the same little corner of a province, and have
kept themselves pure from any infusion of foreign blood. There are more
of them than one would think in France, in spite of all the changes in
the social order: it would need a great upheaval to uproot them from
the soil to which they are held by so many ties, the profound nature of
which is unknown to them. Reason counts for nothing in their devotion to
the soil, and interest for very little: and as for sentimental historic
memories, they only hold good for a few literary men. What does bind them
irresistibly is the obscure though very strong feeling, common to the dull
and the intelligent alike, of having been for centuries past a parcel of
the land, of living in its life, breathing the same air, hearing the heart
of it beating against their own, like the heart of the beloved, feeling its
slightest tremor, the changing hours and seasons and days, bright or dull,
and hearing the voices and the silence of all things in Nature. It is not
always the most beautiful country, nor that which has the greatest charm of
life, that most strongly grips the affections, but rather it is the region
where the earth seems simplest and most humble, nearest man, speaking to
him in a familiar friendly tongue.

Such was the country in the center of France where the Jeannins lived.
A flat, damp country, an old sleepy little town, wearily gazing at its
reflection in the dull waters of a still canal: round about it were
monotonous fields, plowed fields, meadows, little rivers, woods, and again
monotonous fields.... No scenery, no monuments, no memories. Nothing
attractive. It is all dull and oppressive. In its drowsy torpor is a hidden
force. The soul tasting it for the first time suffers and revolts against
it. But those who have lived with it for generations cannot break free:
it eats into their very bones: and the stillness of it, the harmonious
dullness, the monotony, have a charm for them and a sweet savor which they
cannot analyze, which they malign, love, and can never forget.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Jeannins had always lived there. The family could be traced back to
the sixteenth century, living in the town or its neighborhood: for of
course they had a great-uncle who had devoted his life to drawing up the
genealogical tree of their obscure line of humble, industrious people:
peasants, farmers, artisans, then clerks, country notaries, working in
the subprefecture of the district, where Augustus Jeannin, the father of
the present head of the house, had successfully established himself as a
banker: he was a clever man, with a peasant's cunning and obstinacy, but
honest as men go, not over-scrupulous, a great worker, and a good liver:
he had made himself respected and feared everywhere by his genial malice,
his bluntness of speech, and his wealth. Short, thick-set, vigorous, with
little sharp eyes set in a big red face, pitted with smallpox, he had been
known as a petticoat-hunter: and he had not altogether lost his taste for
it. He loved a spicy yarn and good eating. It was a sight to see him at
meals, with his son Antoine sitting opposite him, with a few old friends
of their kidney: the district judge, the notary, the Archdeacon of the
Cathedral:--(old Jeannin loved stuffing the priest: but also he could stuff
with the priest, if the priest were good at it):--hearty old fellows built
on the same Rabelaisian lines. There was a running fire of terrific stories
to the accompaniment of thumps on the table and roars of laughter, and
the row they made could be heard by the servants in the kitchen and the
neighbors in the street.

Then old Augustus caught a chill, which turned to pneumonia, through going
down into his cellars one hot summer's day in his shirt-sleeves to bottle
his wine. In less than twenty-four hours he had departed this life for the
next world, in which he hardly believed, properly equipped with all the
Sacraments of the Church, having, like a good Voltairian provincial,
submitted to it at the last moment in order to pacify his women, and also
because it did not matter one way or the other.... And then, one never

His son Antoine succeeded him in business. He was a fat little man,
rubicund and expansive, clean-shaven, except for his mutton-chop whiskers,
and he spoke quickly and with a slight stutter, in a loud voice,
accompanying his remarks with little quick, curt gestures. He had not his
father's grasp of finance: but he was quite a good manager. He had only
to look after the established undertakings, which went on developing day
by day, by the mere fact of their existence. He had the advantage of a
business reputation in the district, although he had very little to do
with the success of the firm's ventures. He only contributed method and
industry. For the rest he was absolutely honorable, and was everywhere
deservedly esteemed. His pleasant unctuous manners, though perhaps a little
too familiar for some people, a little too expansive, and just a little
common, had won him a very genuine popularity in the little town and
the surrounding country. He was more lavish with his sympathy than with
his money: tears came readily to his eyes: and the sight of poverty so
sincerely moved him that the victim of it could not fail to be touched
by it.

Like most men living in small towns, his thoughts were much occupied with
politics. He was an ardent moderate Republican, an intolerant Liberal, a
patriot, and, like his father, extremely anti-clerical. He was a member of
the Municipal Council: and, like the rest of his colleagues, he delighted
in playing tricks on the _curé_ of the parish, or on the Lent preacher,
who roused so much enthusiasm in the ladies of the town. It must not be
forgotten that the anti-clericalism of the little towns in France is
always, more or less, an episode in domestic warfare, and is a subtle form
of that silent, bitter struggle between husbands and wives, which goes on
in almost every house.

Antoine Jeannin had also some literary pretensions. Like all provincials of
his generation, he had been brought up on the Latin Classics, many pages of
which he knew by heart, and also a mass of proverbs, and on La Fontaine and
Boileau,--the Boileau of _L'Art Poétique_, and, above all, of _Lutrin_,--on
the author of _La Pucelle_, and the _poetæ minores_ of the eighteenth
century, in whose manner he squeezed out a certain number of poems. He was
not the only man of his acquaintance possessed by that particular mania,
and his reputation gained by it. His rhyming jests, his quatrains,
couplets, acrostics, epigrams, and songs, which were sometimes rather
risky, though they had a certain coarsely witty quality, were often quoted.
He was wont to sing the mysteries of digestion: the Muse of the Loire
districts is fain to blow her trumpet like the famous devil of Dante:

"... _Ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta._"

This sturdy, jovial, active little man had taken to wife a woman of a
very different character,--the daughter of a country magistrate, Lucie de
Villiers. The De Villiers--or rather Devilliers, for their name had split
in its passage through time, like a stone which cracks in two as it goes
hurtling down a hillside--were magistrates from father to son; they were of
that old parliamentary race of Frenchmen who had a lofty idea of the law,
and duty, the social conventions, their personal, and especially their
professional, dignity, which was fortified by perfect honesty, tempered
with a certain conscious uprightness. During the preceding century they had
been infected by nonconformist Jansenism, which had given them a grumbling
pessimistic quality, as well as a contempt for the Jesuit attitude of mind.
They did not see life as beautiful: and, rather than smooth away life's
difficulties, they preferred to exaggerate them so as to have good reason
to complain. Lucie de Villiers had certain of these characteristics, which
were so directly opposed to the not very refined optimism of her husband.
She was tall--taller than he by a head--slender, well made; she dressed
well and elegantly, though in a rather sober fashion, which made her
seem--perhaps designedly--older than she was: she was of a high moral
quality: but she was hard on other people; she would countenance no fault,
and hardly even a caprice: she was thought cold and disdainful. She was
very pious, and that gave rise to perpetual disputes with her husband.
For the rest, they were very fond of each other: and, in spite of their
frequent disagreements, they could not have lived without each other. They
were both rather unpractical: he from want of perception--(he was always
in danger of being taken in by good looks and fine words),--she from her
absolute inexperience of business--(she knew nothing about it: and having
always been kept outside it, she took no interest in it).

       *       *       *       *       *

They had two children: a girl, Antoinette, the elder by five years; and a
boy, Olivier.

Antoinette was a pretty dark-haired child, with a charming, honest face of
the French type, round, with sharp eyes, a round forehead, a fine chin,
a little straight nose--"one of those very pretty, fine, noble noses" (as
an old French portrait-painter says so charmingly) "in which there was
a certain imperceptible play of expression, which animated the face,
and revealed the subtlety of the workings of her mind as she talked or
listened." She had her father's gaiety and carelessness.

Olivier was a delicate fair boy, short, like his father, but very different
in character. His health had been undermined by one illness after another
when he was a child: and although, as a result, he was petted by his
family, his physical weakness had made him a melancholy, dreamy little boy,
who was afraid of death and very poorly equipped for life. He was shy, and
preferred to be alone: he avoided the society of other children: he was
ill at ease with them: he hated their games and quarrels: their brutality
filled him with horror. He let them strike him, not from want of courage,
but from timidity, because he was afraid to defend himself, afraid of
hurting them: they would have bullied the life out of him, but for the
safeguard of his father's position. He was tender-hearted and morbidly
sensitive: a word, a sign of sympathy, a reproach, were enough to make him
burst into tears. His sister was much sturdier, and laughed at him, and
called him a "little fountain."

The two children were devoted to each other: but they were too different
to live together. They went their own ways and lived in their own dreams.
As Antoinette grew up, she became prettier: people told her so, and she
was well aware of it: it made her happy, and she wove romances about the
future. Olivier, in his sickly melancholy, was always rubbed up the wrong
way by contact with the outer world: and he withdrew into the circle of his
own absurd little brain: and he told himself stories. He had a burning,
almost feminine, longing to love and be loved: and, living alone, away from
boys of his own age, he had invented two or three imaginary friends: one
was called Jean, another Étienne, another François: he was always with
them. He never slept well, and he was always dreaming. In the morning, when
he was lifted out of bed, he would forget himself, and sit with his bare
legs dangling down, or sometimes with two stockings on one leg. He would go
off into a dream with his hands in the basin. He would forget himself at
his desk in the middle of writing or learning a lesson: he would dream for
hours on end: and then he would suddenly wake up, horrified to find that he
had learned nothing. At dinner he was abashed if any one spoke to him: he
would reply two minutes after he had been spoken to: he would forget what
he was going to say in the middle of a sentence. He would doze off to the
murmuring of his thoughts and the familiar sensations of the monotonous
provincial days that marched so slowly by: the great half-empty house, only
part of which they occupied: the vast and dreadful barns and cellars: the
mysterious closed rooms, the fastened shutters, the covered furniture,
veiled mirrors, and the chandeliers wrapped up: the old family portraits
with their haunting smiles: the Empire engravings, with their virtuous,
suave heroism: _Alcibiades and Socrates in the House of the Courtezan_,
_Antiochus and Stratonice_, _The Story of Epaminondas_, _Belisarius
Begging_.... Outside, the sound of the smith shoeing horses in the smithy
opposite, the uneven clink of the hammers on the anvil, the snorting of
the broken-winded horses, the smell of the scorched hoofs, the slapping of
the pats of the washerwomen kneeling by the water, the heavy thuds of the
butcher's chopper next door, the clatter of a horse's hoofs on the stones
of the street, the creaking of a pump, or the drawbridge over the canal,
the heavy barges laden with blocks of wood, slowly passing at the end
of the garden, drawn along by a rope: the little tiled courtyard, with
a square patch of earth, in which two lilac-trees grew, in the middle
of a clump of geraniums and petunias: the tubs of laurel and flowering
pomegranate on the terrace above the canal: sometimes the noise of a fair
in the square hard by, with peasants in bright blue smocks, and grunting
pigs.... And on Sunday, at church, the precentor, who sang out of tune, and
the old priest, who went to sleep as he was saying Mass: the family walk
along the station road, where all the time he had to take off his hat
politely to other wretched beings, who were under the same impression of
the necessity of going for a walk all together,--until at last they reached
the sunny fields, above which larks soared invisible,--or along by the
still mirror of the canal, on both sides of which were poplars rustling in
line.... And then there was the great provincial Sunday dinner, when they
went on and on eating and talking about food learnedly and with gusto: for
everybody was a connoisseur: and, in the provinces, eating is the chief
occupation, the first of all the arts. And they would talk business,
and tell spicy yarns, and every now and then discuss their neighbors'
illnesses, going into endless detail.... And the little boy, sitting in his
corner, would make no more noise than a little mouse, pick at his food, eat
hardly anything, and listen with all his ears. Nothing escaped him: and
when he did not understand, his imagination supplied the deficiency. He had
that singular gift, which is often to be remarked in the children of old
families and an old stock, on which the imprint of the ages is too strongly
marked, of divining thoughts, which have never passed through their minds
before, and are hardly comprehensible to them.--Then there was the kitchen,
where bloody and succulent mysteries were concocted: and the old servant
who used to tell him frightful and droll stories.... At last came evening,
the silent flitting of the bats, the terror of the monstrous creatures
that were known to swarm in the dark depths of the old house: huge rats,
enormous hairy spiders: and he would say his prayers, kneeling at the, foot
of his bed, and hardly know what he was saying: the little cracked bell of
the convent hard by would sound the bed-time of the nuns;--and so to bed,
the Island of Dreams....

The best times of the year were those that they spent in spring and autumn
at their country house some miles away from the town. There he could dream
at his ease: he saw nobody. Like most of the children of their class, the
little Jeannins were kept apart from the common children: the children
of servants and farmers, who inspired them with fear and disgust. They
inherited from their mother an aristocratic--or, rather, essentially
middle-class--disdain for all who worked with their hands. Olivier would
spend the day perched up in the branches of an ash reading marvelous
stories: delightful folklore, the _Tales_ of Musæus, or Madame d'Aulnoy,
or the _Arabian Nights_, or stories of travel. For he had that strange
longing for distant lands, "those oceanic dreams," which sometimes possess
the minds of boys in the little provincial towns of France. A thicket lay
between the house and himself, and he could fancy himself very far away.
But he knew that he was really near home, and was quite happy: for he did
not like straying too far alone: he felt lost with Nature. Round him the
wind whispered through the trees. Through the leaves that hid his nest
he could see the yellowing vines in the distance, and the meadows where
the straked cows were at pasture, filling the silence of the sleeping
country-side with their plaintive long-drawn lowing. The strident cocks
crowed to each other from farm to farm. There came up the irregular beat of
the flails in the barns. The fevered life of myriads of creatures swelled
and flowed through the peace of inanimate Nature. Uneasily Olivier would
watch the ever hurrying columns of the ants, and the bees big with their
booty, buzzing like organ-pipes, and the superb and stupid wasps who know
not what they want--the whole world of busy little creatures, all seemingly
devoured by the desire to reach their destination.... Where is it? They
do not know. No matter where! Somewhere.... Olivier was fearful amid that
blind and hostile world. He would start, like a young hare, at the sound of
a pine-cone falling, or the breaking of a rotten branch.... He would find
his courage again when he heard the rattling of the chains of the swing at
the other end of the garden, where Antoinette would be madly swinging to
and fro.

She, too, would dream: but in her own fashion. She would spend the day
prowling round the garden, eating, watching, laughing, picking at the
grapes on the vines like a thrush, secretly plucking a peach from the
trellis, climbing a plum-tree, or giving it a little surreptitious shake as
she passed to bring down a rain of the golden mirabelles which melt in the
mouth like scented honey. Or she would pick the flowers, although that was
forbidden: quickly she would pluck a rose that she had been coveting all
day, and run away with it to the arbor at the end of the garden. Then she
would bury her little nose in the delicious scented flower, and kiss it,
and bite it, and suck it: and then she would conceal her booty, and hide it
in her bosom between her little breasts, at the wonder of whose coming she
would gaze in eager fondness.... And there was an exquisite forbidden joy
in taking off her shoes and stockings, and walking bare-foot on the cool
sand of the paths, and on the dewy turf, and on the stones, cold in the
shadow, burning in the sun, and in the little stream that ran along the
outskirts of the wood, and kissing with her feet, and legs, and knees,
water, earth, and light. Lying in the shadow of the pines, she would hold
her hands up to the sun, and watch the light play through them, and she
would press her lips upon the soft satin skin of her pretty rounded arms.
She would make herself crowns and necklets and gowns of ivy-leaves and
oak-leaves: and she would deck them with the blue thistles, and barberry
and little pine-branches, with their green fruit: and then she looked like
a little savage Princess. And she would dance for her own delight round and
round the fountain; and, with arms outstretched, she would turn and turn
until her head whirled, and she would slip down on the lawn and bury her
face in the grass, and shout with laughter for minutes on end, unable to
stop herself, without knowing why.

So the days slipped by for the two children, within hail of each other,
though neither ever gave a thought to the other,--except when it would
suddenly occur to Antoinette to play a prank on her brother, and throw
a handful of pine-needles in his face, or shake the tree in which he
was sitting, threatening to make him fall, or frighten him by springing
suddenly out upon him and yelling:

"Ooh! Ooh!..."

Sometimes she would be seized by a desire to tease him. She would make him
come down from his tree by pretending that her mother was calling him.
Then, when he had climbed down, she would take his place and refuse to
budge. Then Olivier would whine and threaten to tell. But there was no
danger of Antoinette staying in the tree for long: she could not keep still
for two minutes. When she had done with taunting Olivier from the top of
his tree, when she had thoroughly infuriated him and brought him almost to
tears, then she would slip down, fling her arms round him, shake him, and
laugh, and call him a "little muff," and roll him on the ground, and rub
his face with handfuls of grass. He would try to struggle: but he was
not strong enough. Then he would lie still, flat on his black, like a
cockchafer, with his thin arms pinned to the ground by Antoinette's strong
little hands: and he would look piteous and resigned. Antoinette could
not resist that: she would look at her vanquished prisoner, and burst out
laughing and kiss him suddenly, and let him go--not without the parting
attention of a little gag of fresh grass in his mouth: and that he detested
most of all, because it made him sick. And he would spit and wipe his
mouth, and storm at her, while she ran away as hard as she could, pealing
with laughter. She was always laughing. Even when she was asleep she
laughed. Olivier, lying awake in the next room, would suddenly start up in
the middle of the stories he was telling himself, at the sound of the wild
laughter and the muttered words which she would speak in the silence of the
night. Outside, the trees would creak with the wind, an owl would hoot, in
the distant villages and the farms in the heart of the woods dogs would
bark. In the dim phosphorescence of the night Olivier would see the dark,
heavy branches of the pines moving like ghosts outside his window: and
Antoinette's laughter would comfort him.

       *       *       *       *       *

The two children were very religious, especially Olivier. Their father used
to scandalize them with his anti-clerical professions of faith, but he did
not interfere with them: and, at heart, like so many men of his class who
are unbelievers, he was not sorry that his family should believe for him:
for it is always good to have allies in the opposing camp, and one is never
sure which way Fortune will turn. He was a Deist, and he reserved the right
to summon a priest when the time came, as his father had done: even if it
did no good, it could do no harm: one insures against fire, even if one has
no reason to believe that the house will be burned down.

Olivier was morbidly inclined towards mysticism. There were times when he
doubted whether he existed. He was credulous and soft-hearted, and needed
a prop: he took a sorrowful delight in confession, in the comfort of
confiding in the invisible Friend, whose arms are always open to you, to
whom you can tell everything, who understands and forgives everything: he
tasted the sweetness of the waters of humility and love, from which the
soul issues pure, cleansed, and comforted. It was so natural to him to
believe, that he could not understand how any one could doubt: he thought
people did so from wickedness, and that God would punish them. He used to
pray secretly that his father might find grace: and he was delighted when,
one day, as they went into a little country church, he saw his father
mechanically make the sign of the cross. The stories of the Gospel were
mixed up in his mind with the marvelous tales of Rübezahl, and Gracieuse
and Percinet, and the Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid. When he was a little boy he
no more doubted the truth of the one than the other. And just as he was not
sure that he did not know Shacabac of the cleft lips, and the loquacious
barber, and the little hunchback of Casgar, just as when he was out walking
he used to look about for the black woodpecker which bears in its beak the
magic root of the treasure-seeker, so Canaan and the Promised Land became
in his childish imagination certain regions in Burgundy or Berrichon. A
round hill in the country, with a little tree, like a shabby old feather,
at the summit, seemed to him to be like the mountain where Abraham had
built his pyre. A large dead bush by the edge of a field was the Burning
Bush, which the ages had put out. Even when he was older, and his critical
faculty had been awakened, he loved to feed on the popular legends which
enshrined his faith: and they gave him so much pleasure, though he no
longer accepted them implicitly, that he would amuse himself by pretending
to do so. So for a long time on Easter Saturday he would look out for the
return of the Easter bells, which went away to Rome on the Thursday before,
and would come floating through the air with little streamers. He did
finally admit that it was not true: but he did not give up looking skywards
when he heard them ringing: and once--though he knew perfectly well that it
could not be--he fancied he saw one of them disappearing over the house
with blue ribbons.

It was vitally necessary for him to steep himself in the world of legend
and faith. He avoided life. He avoided himself. Thin, pale, puny, he
suffered from being so, and could not bear its being talked about. He was
naturally pessimistic, no doubt inheriting it from his mother, and his
pessimism was fed by his morbidity. He did not know it: thought everybody
must be like himself: and the queer little boy of ten, instead of romping
in the gardens during his play-time, used to shut himself up in his room,
and, carefully picking his words, wrote his will.

He used to write a great deal. Every evening he used laboriously and
secretly to write his diary--he did not know why, for he had nothing to
say, and he said nothing worth saying. Writing was an inherited mania with
him, the age-old itch of the French provincial--the old indestructible
stock--who every day, until the day of his death, with an idiotic patience
which is almost heroic, writes down in detail what he has seen, said, done,
heard, eaten, and drunk. For his own pleasure, entirely. It is not for
other eyes. No one will ever read it: he knows that: he never reads it
again himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

Music, like religion, was for Olivier a shelter from the too vivid light of
day. Both brother and sister were born musicians,--especially Olivier, who
had inherited the gift from his mother. Their taste, as it needed to be,
was excellent. There was no one capable of forming it in the province,
where no music was ever heard but that of the local band, which played
nothing but marches, or--on its good days--selections from Adolphe Adam,
and the church organist who played romanzas, and the exercises of the young
ladies of the town who strummed a few valses and polkas, the overture
to the _Caliph of Bagdad_, _la Chasse du Jeune Henri_, and two or three
sonatas of Mozart, always the same, and always with the same mistakes, on
instruments that were sadly out of tune. These things were invariably
included in the evening's program at parties. After dinner, those who had
talent were asked to display it: at first they would blush and refuse, but
then they would yield to the entreaties of the assembled company: and they
would play their stock pieces without their music. Every one would then
admire the artist's memory and her beautiful touch.

The ceremony was repeated at almost every party, and the thought of it
would altogether spoil the children's dinner. When they had to play the
_Voyage en Chine_ of Bazin, or their pieces of Weber as a duet, they gave
each other confidence, and were not very much afraid. But it was torture
to them to have to play alone. Antoinette, as usual, was the braver of the
two. Although it bored her dreadfully,--as she knew that there was no way
out of it, she would go through with it, sit at the piano with a determined
air, and gallop through her _rondo_ at breakneck speed, stumbling over
certain passages, make a hash of others, break off, turn her head, and say,
with a smile:

"Oh! I can't remember...."

Then she would start off again a few bars farther on, and go on to the end.
And she would make no attempt to conceal her pleasure at having finished:
and when she returned to her chair, amid the general chorus of praise, she
would laugh and say:

"I made such a lot of mistakes."

But Olivier was not so easy to handle. He could not bear making a show of
himself in public, and being "the observed of all observers." It was bad
enough for him to have to speak in company. But to have to play, especially
for people who did not like music--(that was obvious to him)--for people
whom music actually bored, people who only asked him to play as a matter of
habit, seemed to him to be neither more nor less than tyranny, and he tried
vainly to revolt against it. He would refuse obstinately. Sometimes he
would escape and go and hide in a dark room, in a passage, or even in the
barn, in spite of his horror of spiders. His refusal would make the guests
only insist the more, and they would quiz him: and his parents would
sternly order him to play, and even slap him when he was too impudently
rebellious. And in the end he always had to play,--of course unwillingly
and sulkily. And then he would suffer agonies all night because he had
played so badly, partly from vanity, and partly from his very genuine love
for music.

The taste of the little town had not always been so banal. There had been a
time when there were quite good chamber concerts at several houses. Madame
Jeannin used often to speak of her grandfather, who adored the violoncello,
and used to sing airs of Gluck, and Dalayrac, and Berton. There was a large
volume of them in the house, and a pile of Italian songs. For the old
gentleman was like M. Andrieux, of whom Berlioz said: "He _loved_ Gluck."
And he added bitterly: "He also _loved_ Piccinni."--Perhaps of the two
he preferred Piccinni. At all events, the Italian songs were in a large
majority in her grandfather's collection. They had been Olivier's first
musical nourishment. Not a very substantial diet, rather like those
sweetmeats with which provincial children are stuffed: they corrupt the
palate, destroy the tissues of the stomach, and there is always a danger of
their killing the appetite for more solid nutriment. But Olivier could not
be accused of greediness. He was never offered any more solid food. Having
no bread, he was forced to eat cake. And so, by force of circumstance, it
came about that Cimarosa, Paesiello, and Rossini fed the mystic, melancholy
little boy, who was more than a little intoxicated by his draughts of the
_Asti spumante_ poured out for him, instead of milk, by these bacchanalian
Satyrs, and the two lively, ingenuously, lasciviously smiling Bacchante of
Naples and Catania--Pergolesi and Bellini.

He played a great deal to himself, for his own pleasure. He was saturated
with music. He did not try to understand what he was playing, but gave
himself up to it. Nobody ever thought of teaching him harmony, and it never
occurred to him to learn it. Science and the scientific mind were foreign
to the nature of his family, especially on his mother's side. All the
lawyers, wits, and humanists of the De Villiers were baffled by any sort
of problem. It was told of a member of the family--a distant cousin--as a
remarkable thing that he had found a post in the _Bureau des Longitudes_.
And it was further told how he had gone mad. The old provincial
middle-classes, robust and positive in temper, but dull and sleepy as a
result of their gigantic meals and the monotony of their lives, are very
proud of their common sense: they have so much faith in it that they boast
that there is no difficulty which cannot be resolved by it: and they are
never very far from considering men of science as artists of a sort, more
useful than the others, but less exalted, because at least artists serve
no useful purpose, and there is a sort of distinction about their lounging
existence.--(Besides, every business man flatters himself that he might
have been an artist if he had cared about it.)--While scientists are not
far from being manual laborers,--(which is degrading),--just master-workmen
with more education, though they are a little cracked: they are mighty fine
on paper: but outside their arithmetic factories they're nobody. They would
not be much use without the guidance of common-sense people who have some
experience of life and business.

Unfortunately, it is not proven that their experience of life and business
goes so far as these people like to think. It is only a routine, ringing
the changes on a few easy cases. If any unforeseen position arises,
in which they have to decide quickly and vigorously, they are always

Antoine Jeannin was that sort of man. Everything was so nicely adjusted,
and his business jogged along so comfortably in its place in the life of
the province, that he had never encountered any serious difficulty. He had
succeeded to his father's position without having any special aptitude for
the business: and, as everything had gone well, he attributed it to his
own brilliant talents. He loved to say that it was enough to be honest,
methodical, and to have common sense: and he intended handing down his
business to his son, without any more regard for the boy's tastes than
his father had had for his own. He did not do anything to prepare him for
it. He let his children grow up as they liked, so long as they were good,
and, above all, happy: for he adored them. And so the two children were
as little prepared for the struggle of life as possible: they were like
hothouse flowers. But, surely, they would always live like that? In the
soft provincial atmosphere, in the bosom of their wealthy, influential
family, with a kindly, gay, jovial father, surrounded by friends, one of
the leading men of the district, life was so easy, so bright and smiling.

       *       *       *       *       *

Antoinette was sixteen. Olivier was about to be confirmed. His mind was
filled with all kinds of mystic dreams. In her heart Antoinette heard
the sweet song of new-born hope soaring, like the lark in April, in the
springtime of her life. It was a joy to her to feel the flowering of her
body and soul, to know that she was pretty, and to be told so. Her father's
immoderate praises were enough to turn her head.

He was in ecstasies over her: he delighted in her little coquetries, to see
her eying herself in her mirror, to watch her little innocent tricks. He
would take her on his knees, and tease her about her childish love-affairs,
and the conquests she had made, and the suitors that he pretended had come
to him a-wooing: he would tell her their names: respectable citizens, each
more old and ugly than the last. And she would cry out in horror, and break
into rippling laughter, and put her arms about her father's neck, and press
her cheek close to his. And he would ask which was the happy man of her
choice: was it the District Attorney, who, the Jeannins' old maid used to
say, was as ugly as the seven deadly sins? Or was it the fat notary? And
she would slap him playfully to make him cease, or hold her hand over his
mouth. He would kiss her little hands, and jump her up and down on his
knees, and sing the old song

  "What would you, pretty maid?
  An ugly husband, eh?"

And she would giggle and tie his whiskers under his chin, and reply with
the refrain:

  "A handsome husband I,
  No ugly man, madame."

She would declare her intention of choosing for herself. She knew that she
was, or would be, very rich,--(her father used to tell her so at every
turn)--she was a "fine catch." The sons of the distinguished families of
the country were already courting her, setting a wide white net of flattery
and cunning snares to catch the little silver fish. But it looked as though
the fish would elude them all: for Antoinette saw all their tricks, and
laughed at them: she was quite ready to be caught, but not against her
will. She had already made up her mind to marry.

The noble family of the district--(there is generally one noble family to
every district, claiming descent from the ancient lords of the province,
though generally its origin goes no farther back than some purchaser of
the national estates, some commissary of the eighteenth century, or some
Napoleonic army-contractor)--the Bonnivets, who lived some few miles
away from the town, in a castle with tall towers with gleaming slates,
surrounded by vast woods, in which were innumerable fish-ponds, themselves
proposed for the hand of Mademoiselle Jeannin. Young Bonnivet was very
assiduous in his courtship of Antoinette. He was a handsome boy, rather
stout and heavy for his age, who did nothing but hunt and eat, and drink
and sleep: he could ride, dance, had charming manners, and was not more
stupid than other young men. He would ride into the town, or drive in his
buggy and call on the banker, on some business pretext: and sometimes he
would bring some game or a bouquet of flowers for the ladies. He would
seize the opportunity to pay court to Antoinette. They would walk in the
garden together. He would pay her lumbering compliments, and pull his
mustache, and make jokes, and make his spurs clatter on the tiles of the
terrace. Antoinette thought him charming. Her pride and her affections were
both tickled. She would swim in those first sweet hours of young love.
Olivier detested the young squire, because he was strong, heavy, brutal,
had a loud laugh, and hands that gripped like a vise, and a disdainful
trick of always calling him: "Boy ..." and pinching his cheeks. He detested
him above all,--without knowing it,--because he dared to love his sister:
... his sister, his very own, his, and she could not belong to any one

       *       *       *       *       *

Disaster came. Sooner or later there must come a crisis in the lives of the
old middle-class families which for centuries have vegetated in the same
little corner of the earth, and have sucked it dry. They sleep in peace,
and think themselves as eternal as the earth that bears them. But the soil
beneath them is dry and dead, their roots are sapped: just the blow of
an ax, and down they come. Then they talk of accidents and unforeseen
misfortunes. There would have been no accident if there had been more
strength in the tree: or, at least, would have been no more than a sudden
storm, wrenching away a few branches, but never shaking the tree.

Antoine Jeannin was weak, trustful, and a little vain. He loved to throw
dust in people's eyes, and easily confounded "seeming" and "being." He
spent recklessly, though his extravagance, moderated by fits of remorse as
the result of the age-old habit of economy--(he would fling away pounds,
and haggle over a farthing)--never seriously impaired his capital. He was
not very cautious in business either. He never refused to lend money to his
friends: and it was not difficult to be a friend of his. He did not always
trouble to ask for a receipt: he kept a rough account of what was owing to
him, and never asked for payment before it was offered him. He believed
in the good faith of other men, and supposed that they would believe in
his own. He was much more timid than his jocular, easy-going manners led
people to suppose. He would never have dared to refuse certain importunate
borrowers, or to let his doubts of their solvency appear. That arose from a
mixture of kindness and pusillanimity. He did not wish to offend anybody,
and he was afraid of being insulted. So he was always giving way. And, by
way of carrying it off, he would lend with alacrity, as though his debtors
were doing him a service by borrowing his money. And he was not far from
believing it; his vanity and optimism had no difficulty in persuading him
that every business he touched was good business.

Such ways of dealing were not calculated to alienate the sympathies of his
debtors: he was adored by the peasants, who knew that they could always
count on his good nature, and never hesitated to resort to him. But the
gratitude of men--even of honest men--is a fruit that must be gathered in
good season. If it is left too long upon the tree, it quickly rots. After
a few months M. Jeannin's debtors would begin to think that his assistance
was their right: and they were even inclined to think that, as M. Jeannin
had been so glad to help them, it must have been to his interest to do so.
The best of them considered themselves discharged--if not of the debt, at
least of the obligation of gratitude--by the present of a hare they had
killed, or a basket of eggs from their fowlyard, which they would come and
offer to the banker on the day of the great fair of the year.

As hitherto only small sums had been lent, and M. Jeannin had only had to
do with fairly honest people, there were no very awkward consequences: the
loss of money--of which the banker never breathed a word to a soul--was
very small. But it was a very different matter when M. Jeannin knocked up
against a certain company promoter who was launching a great industrial
concern, and had got wind of the banker's easy-going ways and financial
resources. This gentleman, who wore the ribbon of the Legion of Honor,
and pretended to be intimate with two or three Ministers, an Archbishop,
an assortment of senators, and various celebrities of the literary and
financial world, and to be in touch with an omnipotent newspaper, had a
very imposing manner, and most adroitly assumed the authoritative and
familiar tone most calculated to impress his man. By way of introduction
and recommendation, with a clumsiness which would have aroused the
suspicions of a quicker man than M. Jeannin, he produced certain ordinary
complimentary letters which he had received from the illustrious persons of
his acquaintance, asking him to dinner, or thanking him for some invitation
they had received: for it is well known that the French are never niggardly
with such epistolary small change, nor particularly chary of shaking hands
with, and accepting invitations from, an individual whom they have only
known for an hour--provided only that he amuses them and does not ask them
for money: and even as regards that, there are many who would not refuse to
lend their new friend money so long as others did the same. And it would
be a poor lookout for a clever man bent on relieving his neighbor of his
superfluous money if he could not find a sheep who could be induced to jump
the fence so that all the rest would follow.--If other sheep had not taken
the fence before him, M. Jeannin would have been the first. He was of the
woolly tribe which is made to be fleeced. He was seduced by his visitor's
exalted connections, his fluency and his trick of flattery, and also by the
first fine results of his advice. He only risked a little at first, and
won: then he risked much: finally he risked all: not only his own money,
but that of his clients as well. He did not tell them about it: he was sure
he would win: he wanted to overwhelm them with the great thing he had done
for them.

The venture collapsed. He heard of it indirectly through one of his
Parisian correspondents who happened to mention the new crash, without ever
dreaming that Jeannin was one of the victims: for the banker had not said
a word to anybody: with incredible irresponsibility, he had not taken the
trouble--even avoided--asking the advice of men who were in a position
to give him information: he had done the whole thing secretly, in the
infatuated belief in his infallible common sense, and he had been satisfied
with the vaguest knowledge of what he was doing. There are such moments
of aberration in life: moments, it would seem, when a man is marked out
for ruin, when he is fearful lest any one should come to his aid, when he
avoids all advice that might save him, hides away, and rushes headlong,
madly, shaking himself free for the fatal plunge.

M. Jeannin rushed to the station, utterly sick at heart, and took train for
Paris. He went to look for his man. He flattered himself with the hope that
the news might be false, or, at least, exaggerated. Naturally he did not
find the fellow, and received further news of the collapse, which was as
complete as possible. He returned distracted, and said nothing. No one
had any idea of it yet. He tried to gain a few weeks, a few days. In his
incurable optimism, he tried hard to believe that he would find a way to
make good, if not his own losses, at least those of his clients. He tried
various expedients, with a clumsy haste which would have removed any
chance of succeeding that he might have had. He tried to borrow, but was
everywhere refused. In his despair, he staked the little he had left on
wildly speculative ventures, and lost it all. From that moment there was
a complete change in his character. He relapsed into an alarming state of
terror: still he said nothing: but he was bitter, violent, harsh, horribly
sad. But still, when he was with strangers, he affected his old gaiety;
but no one could fail to see the change in him: it was attributed to his
health. With his family he was less guarded: and they saw at once that
he was concealing some serious trouble. They hardly knew him. Sometimes
he would burst into a room and ransack a desk, flinging all the papers
higgledy-piggledy on to the floor, and flying into a frenzy because he
could not find what he was looking for, or because some one offered to help
him. Then he would stand stock still in the middle of it all, and when they
asked him what he was looking for, he did not know himself. He seemed to
have lost all interest in his family: or he would kiss them with tears in
his eyes. He could not sleep. He could not eat.

Madame Jeannin saw that they were on the eve of a catastrophe: but she had
never taken any part in her husband's affairs, and did not understand them.
She questioned him: he repulsed her brutally: and, hurt in her pride, she
did not persist. But she trembled, without knowing why.

The children could have no suspicion of the impending disaster. Antoinette,
no doubt, was too intelligent not, like her mother, to have a presentiment
of some misfortune: but she was absorbed in the delight of her budding
love: she refused to think of unpleasant things: she persuaded herself that
the clouds would pass--or that it would be time enough to see them when it
was impossible to disregard them.

Of the three, the boy Olivier was perhaps the nearest to understanding
what was going on in his unhappy father's soul. He felt that his father
was suffering, and he suffered with him in secret. But he dared not say
anything: naturally he could do nothing, and he was helpless. And then he,
too, thrust back the thought of sad things, the nature of which he could
not grasp: like his mother and sister, he was superstitiously inclined to
believe that perhaps misfortune, the approach of which he did not wish to
see, would not come. Those poor wretches who feel the imminence of danger
do readily play the ostrich: they hide their heads behind a stone, and
pretend that Misfortune will not see them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Disturbing rumors began to fly. It was said that the bank's credit was
impaired. In vain did the banker assure his clients that it was perfectly
all right, on one pretext or another the more suspicious of them demanded
their money. M. Jeannin felt that he was lost: he defended himself
desperately, assuming a tone of indignation, and complaining loftily and
bitterly of their suspicions of himself: he even went so far as to be
violent and angry with some of his old clients, but that only let him down
finally. Demands for payment came in a rush. On his beam-ends, at bay, he
completely lost his head. He went away for a few days to gamble with his
last few banknotes at a neighboring watering-place, was cleaned out in a
quarter of an hour, and returned home. His sudden departure set the little
town by the ears, and it was said that he had cleared out: and Madame
Jeannin had had great difficulty in coping with the wild, anxious inquiries
of the people: she begged them to be patient, and swore that her husband
would return. They did not believe her, although they would have been only
too glad to do so. And so, when it was known that he had returned, there
was a general sigh of relief: there were many who almost believed that
their fears had been baseless, and that the Jeannins were much too shrewd
not to get out of a hole by admitting that they had fallen into it. The
banker's attitude confirmed that impression. Now that he no longer had any
doubt as to what he must do, he seemed to be weary, but quite calm. He
chatted quietly to a few friends whom he met in the station road on his way
home, talking about the drought and the country not having had any water
for weeks, and the superb condition of the vines, and the fall of the
Ministry, announced in the evening papers.

When he reached home he pretended not to notice his wife's excitement, who
had run to meet him when she heard him come in, and told him volubly and
confusedly what had happened during his absence. She scanned his features
to try and see whether he had succeeded in averting the unknown danger:
but, from pride, she did not ask him anything: she was waiting for him to
speak first. But he did not say a word about the thing that was tormenting
them both. He silently disregarded her desire to confide in him, and to get
him to confide in her. He spoke of the heat, and of how tired he was, and
complained of a racking headache: and they sat down to dinner as usual.

He talked little, and was dull, lost in thought, and his brows were knit:
he drummed with his fingers on the table: he forced himself to eat, knowing
that they were watching him, and looked with vague, unseeing eyes at his
children, who were intimidated by the silence, and at his wife, who sat
stiffly nursing her injured vanity, and, without looking at him, marking
his every movement. Towards the end of dinner he seemed to wake up: he
tried to talk to Antoinette and Olivier, and asked them what they had been
doing during his absence: but he did not listen to their replies, and
heard only the sound of their voices: and although he was staring at them,
his gaze was elsewhere. Olivier felt it: he stopped in the middle of his
prattle, and had no desire to go on. But, after a moment's embarrassment,
Antoinette recovered her gaiety: she chattered merrily, like a magpie, laid
her head on her father's shoulder, or tugged his sleeve to make him listen
to what she was saying. M. Jeannin said nothing: his eyes wandered from
Antoinette to Olivier, and the crease in his forehead grew deeper and
deeper. In the middle of one of his daughter's stories he could bear it no
longer, and got up and went and looked out of the window to conceal his
emotion. The children folded their napkins, and got up too. Madame Jeannin
told them to go and play in the garden: in a moment or two they could be
heard chasing each other down the paths and screaming. Madame Jeannin
looked at her husband, whose back was turned towards her, and she walked
round the table as though to arrange something. Suddenly she went up to
him, and, in a voice hushed by her fear of being overheard by the servants
and by the agony that was in her, she said:

"Tell me, Antoine, what is the matter? There is something the matter ...
You are hiding something ... Has something dreadful happened? Are you ill?"

But once more M. Jeannin put her off, and shrugged his shoulders, and said

"No! No, I tell you! Let me be!"

She was angry, and went away: in her fury, she declared that, no matter
what happened to her husband, she would not bother about it any more.

M. Jeannin went down into the garden. Antoinette was still larking about,
and tugging at her brother to make him run. But the boy declared suddenly
that he was not going to play any more: and he leaned against the wall of
the terrace a few yards away from his father. Antoinette tried to go on
teasing him: but he drove her away and sulked: then she called him names:
and when she found she could get no more fun out of him, she went in and
began to play the piano.

M. Jeannin and Olivier were left alone.

"What's the matter with you, boy? Why won't you play?" asked the father

"I'm tired, father."

"Well, let us sit here on this seat for a little."

They sat down. It was a lovely September night. A dark, clear sky.
The sweet scent of the petunias was mingled with the stale and rather
unwholesome smell of the canal sleeping darkly below the terrace wall.
Great moths, pale and sphinx-like, fluttered about the flowers, with a
little whirring sound. The even voices of the neighbors sitting at their
doors on the other side of the canal rang through the silent air. In the
house Antoinette was playing a florid Italian cavatina. M. Jeannin held
Olivier's hand in his. He was smoking. Through the darkness behind which
his father's face was slowly disappearing the boy could see the red glow of
the pipe, which gleamed, died away, gleamed again, and finally went out.
Neither spoke. Then Olivier asked the names of the stars. M. Jeannin, like
almost all men of his class, knew nothing of the things of Nature, and
could not tell him the names of any save the great constellations, which
are known to everyone: but he pretended that the boy was asking their
names, and told him. Olivier made no objection: it always pleased him to
hear their beautiful mysterious names, and to repeat them in a whisper.
Besides, he was not so much wanting to know their names as instinctively to
come closer to his father. They said nothing more. Olivier looked at the
stars, with his head thrown back and his mouth open: he was lost in drowsy
thoughts: he could feel through all his veins the warmth of his father's
hand. Suddenly the hand began to tremble. That seemed funny to Olivier, and
he laughed and said sleepily:

"Oh, how your hand is trembling, father!"

M. Jeannin removed his hand.

After a moment Olivier, still busy with his own thoughts, said:

"Are you tired, too, father?"

"Yes, my boy."

The boy replied affectionately:

"You must not tire yourself out so much, father."

M. Jeannin drew Olivier towards him, and held him to his breast and

"My poor boy!..."

But already Olivier's thoughts had flown off on another tack. The church
clock chimed eight o'clock. He broke away, and said:

"I'm going to read."

On Thursdays he was allowed to read for an hour after dinner, until
bedtime: it was his greatest joy: and nothing in the world could induce him
to sacrifice a minute of it.

M. Jeannin let him go. He walked up and down the terrace for a little in
the dark. Then he, too, went in.

In the room his wife and the two children were sitting round the lamp.
Antoinette was sewing a ribbon on to a blouse, talking and humming the
while, to Olivier's obvious discomfort, for he was stopping his ears with
his fists so as not to hear, while he pored over his book with knitted
brows, and his elbows on the table. Madame Jeannin was mending stockings
and talking to the old nurse, who was standing by her side and giving an
account of her day's expenditure, and seizing the opportunity for a little
gossip: she always had some amusing tale to tell in her extraordinary
lingo, which used to make them roar with laughter, while Antoinette would
try to imitate her. M. Jeannin watched them silently. No one noticed him.
He wavered for a moment, sat down, took up a book, opened it at random,
shut it again, got up: he could not sit still. He lit a candle and said
good-night. He went up to the children and kissed them fondly: they
returned his kiss absently without looking up at him,--Antoinette being
absorbed in her work, and Olivier in his book. Olivier did not even
take his hands from his ears, and grunted "Good-night," and went on
reading:--(when he was reading even if one of his family had fallen into
the fire, he would not have looked up).--M. Jeannin left the room. He
lingered in the next room, for a moment. His wife came out soon, the old
nurse having gone to arrange the linen-cupboard. She pretended not to see
him. He hesitated, then came up to her, and said:

"I beg your pardon. I was rather rude just now."

She longed to say to him:

"My dear, my dear, that is nothing: but, tell me, what is the matter with
you? Tell me, what is hurting you so?"

But she jumped at the opportunity of taking her revenge, and said:

"Let me be! You have been behaving odiously. You treat me worse than you
would a servant."

And she went on in that strain, setting forth all her grievances volubly,
shrilly, rancorously.

He raised his hands wearily, smiled bitterly, and left her.

       *       *       *       *       *

No one heard the report of the revolver. Only, next day, when it was known
what had happened, a few of the neighbors remembered that, in the middle of
the night, when the streets were quiet, they had noticed a sharp noise like
the cracking of a whip. They did not pay any attention to it. The silence
of the night fell once more upon the town, wrapping both living and dead
about with its mystery.

Madame Jeannin was asleep, but woke up an hour or two later. Not seeing her
husband by her side she got up and went anxiously through all the rooms,
and downstairs to the offices of the bank, which were in an annex of the
house: and there, sitting in his chair in his office, she found M. Jeannin
huddled forward on his desk in a pool of blood, which was still dripping
down on to the floor. She gave a scream, dropped her candle, and fainted.
She was heard in the house. The servants came running, picked her up, took
care of her, and laid the body of M. Jeannin on a bed. The door of the
children's room was locked. Antoinette was sleeping happily. Olivier heard
the sound of voices and footsteps: he wanted to go and see what it was all
about: but he was afraid of waking his sister, and presently he went to
sleep again.

Next morning the news was all over the town before they knew anything.
Their old nurse came sobbing and told them. Their mother was incapable of
thinking of anything: her condition was critical. The two children were
left alone in the presence of death. At first they were more fearful than
sorrowful. And they were not allowed to weep in peace. The cruel legal
formalities were begun the first thing in the morning. Antoinette hid
away in her room, and with all the force of her youthful egoism clung
to the only idea which could help her to thrust back the horror of the
overwhelming reality: the thought of her lover: all day long she waited for
him to come. Never had he been more ardent than the last time she had seen
him, and she had no doubt that, as soon as he heard of the catastrophe, he
would hasten to share her grief.--But nobody came, or wrote, or gave one
sign of sympathy. As soon as the news of the suicide was out, people who
had intrusted their money to the banker rushed to the Jeannins' house,
forced their way in, and, with merciless cruelty, stormed and screamed at
the widow and the two children.

In a few days they were faced with their utter ruin: the loss of a dear
one, the loss of their fortune, their position, their public esteem, and
the desertion of their friends. A total wreck. Nothing was left to provide
for them. They had all three an uncompromising feeling for moral purity,
which made their suffering all the greater from the dishonor of which they
were innocent. Of the three Antoinette was the most distraught by their
sorrow, because she had never really known suffering. Madame Jeannin
and Olivier, though they were racked by it, were more inured to it.
Instinctively pessimistic, they were overwhelmed but not surprised. The
idea of death had always been a refuge to them, as it was now, more than
ever: they longed for death. It is pitiful to be so resigned, but not so
terrible as the revolt of a young creature, confident and happy, loving
every moment of her life, who suddenly finds herself face to face with such
unfathomable, irremediable sorrow, and death which is horrible to her....

Antoinette discovered the ugliness of the world in a flash. Her eyes were
opened: she saw life and human beings as they are: she judged her father,
her mother, and her brother. While Olivier and Madame Jeannin wept
together, in her grief she drew into herself. Desperately she pondered the
past, the present, and the future: and she saw that there was nothing left
for her, no hope, nothing to support her: she could count on no one.

The funeral took place, grimly, shamefully. The Church refused to receive
the body of the suicide. The widow and orphans were deserted by the
cowardice of their former friends. One or two of them came for a moment:
and their embarrassment was even harder to bear than the absence of the
rest. They seemed to make a favor of it, and their silence was big with
reproach and pitying contempt. It was even worse with their relations:
not only did they receive no single word of sympathy, but they were
visited with bitter reproaches. The banker's suicide, far from removing
ill-feeling, seemed to be hardly less criminal than his failure.
Respectable people cannot forgive those who kill themselves. It seems to
them monstrous that a man should prefer death to life with dishonor: and
they would fain call down all the rigor of the law on him who seems to say:

"There is no misery so great as that of living with you."

The greatest cowards are not the least ready to accuse him of cowardice.
And when, in addition, the suicide, by ending his life, touches their
interests and their revenge, they lose all control.--Not for one moment did
they think of all that the wretched Jeannin must have suffered to come to
it. They would have had him suffer a thousand times more. And as he had
escaped them, they transferred their fury to his family. They did not admit
it to themselves: for they knew they were unjust. But they did it all the
same, for they needed a victim.

Madame Jeannin, who seemed to be able to do nothing but weep and moan,
recovered her energy when her husband was attacked. She discovered then how
much she had loved him: and she and her two children, who had no idea what
would become of them in the future, all agreed to renounce their claim to
her dowry, and to their own personal estate, in order, as far as possible,
to meet M. Jeannin's debts. And, since it had become impossible for them to
stay in the little town, they decided to go to Paris.

       *       *       *       *       *

Their departure was something in the nature of a flight.

On the evening of the day before,--(a melancholy evening towards the end
of September: the fields were disappearing behind the white veil of mist,
out of which, as they walked along the road, on either side the fantastic
shapes of the dripping, shivering bushes started forth, looking like the
plants in an aquarium),--they went together to say farewell to the grave
where he lay. They all three knelt on the narrow curbstone which surrounded
the freshly turned patch of earth. They wept in silence; Olivier sobbed.
Madame Jeannin mopped her eyes mournfully. She augmented her grief and
tortured herself by saying to herself over and over again the words she had
spoken to her husband the last time she had seen him alive. Olivier thought
of that last conversation on the seat on the terrace. Antoinette wondered
dreamily what would become of them. None of them ever dreamed of
reproaching the wretched man who had dragged them down in his own ruin. But
Antoinette thought:

"Ah! dear father, how we shall suffer!"

The mist grew more dense, the cold damp pierced through to their bones. But
Madame Jeannin could not bring herself to go. Antoinette saw that Olivier
was shivering and she said to her mother:

"I am cold."

They got up. Just as they were going, Madame Jeannin turned once more
towards the grave, gazed at it for the last time, and said:

"My dear, my dear!"

They left the cemetery as night was falling. Antoinette held Olivier's icy
hand in hers.

They went back to the old house. It was their last night under the
roof-tree where they had always slept, where their lives and the lives of
their parents had been lived--the walls, the hearth, the little patch of
earth were so indissolubly linked with the family's joys and sorrows, as
almost themselves to be part of the family, part of their life, which they
could only leave to die.

Their boxes were packed. They were to take the first train next day before
the shops were opened: they wanted to escape their neighbors' curiosity and
malicious remarks.--They longed to cling to each other and stay together:
but they went instinctively to their rooms and stayed there: there they
remained standing, never moving, not even taking off their hats and cloaks,
touching the walls, the furniture, all the things they were going to leave,
pressing their faces against the window-panes, trying to take away with
them in memory the contact of the things they loved. At last they made an
effort to shake free from the absorption of their sorrowful thoughts and
met in Madame Jeannin's room,--the family room, with a great recess at the
back, where, in old days, they always used to foregather in the evening,
after dinner, when there were no visitors. In old days!... How far off they
seemed now!--They sat silently round the meager fire: then they all knelt
by the bed and said their prayers: and they went to bed very early, for
they had to be up before dawn. But it was long before they slept.

About four o'clock in the morning Madame Jeannin, who had looked at her
watch every hour or so to see whether it was not time to get ready, lit her
candle and got up. Antoinette, who had hardly slept at all, heard her and
got up too. Olivier was fast asleep. Madame Jeannin gazed at him tenderly
and could not bring herself to wake him. She stole away on tiptoe and said
to Antoinette:

"Don't make any noise: let the poor boy enjoy his last moments here!"

The two women dressed and finished their packing. About the house hovered
the profound silence of the cold night, such a night as makes all living
things, men and beasts, cower away for warmth into the depths of sleep.
Antoinette's teeth were chattering: she was frozen body and soul.

The front door creaked upon the frozen air. The old nurse, who had the key
of the house, came for the last time to serve her employers. She was short
and fat, short-winded, and slow-moving from her portliness, but she was
remarkably active for her age: she appeared with her jolly face muffled
up, and her nose was red, and her eyes were wet with tears. She was
heart-broken when she saw that Madame Jeannin had got up without waiting
for her, and had herself lit the kitchen fire.--Olivier woke up as she came
in. His first impulse was to close his eyes, turn over, and go to sleep
again. Antoinette came and laid her hand gently on her brother's shoulder,
and she said in a low voice:

"Olivier, dear, it is time to get up."

He sighed, opened his eyes, saw his sister's face leaning over him: she
smiled sadly and caressed his face with her hand. She said:


He got up.

They crept out of the house, noiselessly, like thieves. They all had
parcels in their hands. The old nurse went in front of them trundling their
boxes in a wheelbarrow. They left behind almost all their possessions, and
took away, so to speak, only what they had on their backs and a change
of clothes. A few things for remembrance were to be sent after them by
goods-train: a few books, portraits, the old grandfather's clock, whose
tick-tock seemed to them to be the beating of their hearts.--The air was
keen. No one was stirring in the town: the shutters were closed and the
streets empty. They said nothing: only the old servant spoke. Madame
Jeannin was striving to fix in her memory all the images which told her of
all her past life.

At the station, out of vanity, Madame Jeannin took second-class tickets,
although she had vowed to travel third: but she had not the courage to face
the humiliation in the presence of the railway clerks who knew her. She
hurried into an empty compartment with her two children and shut the door.
Hiding behind the curtains they trembled lest they should see any one they
knew. But no one appeared: the town was hardly awake by the time they
left: the train was empty: there were only a few peasants traveling by
it, and some oxen, who hung their heads out of their trucks and bellowed
mournfully. After a long wait the engine gave a slow whistle, and the train
moved on through the mist. The fugitives drew the curtains and pressed
their faces against the windows to take a last long look at the little
town, with its Gothic tower just appearing through the mist, and the hill
covered with stubby fields, and the meadows white and steaming with the
frost; already it was a distant dream-landscape, fading out of existence.
And when the train turned a bend and passed into a cutting, and they could
no longer see it, and were sure there was no one to see them, they gave way
to their emotion. With her handkerchief pressed to her lips Madame Jeannin
sobbed. Olivier flung himself into her arms and with his head on her knees
he covered her hands with tears and kisses. Antoinette sat at the other end
of the compartment and looked out of the window and wept in silence. They
did not all weep for the same reason. Madame Jeannin and Olivier were
thinking only of what they had left behind them. Antoinette was thinking
rather of what they were going to meet: she was angry with herself: she,
too, would gladly have been absorbed in her memories....--She was right to
think of the future: she had a truer vision of the world than her mother
and brother. They were weaving dreams about Paris. Antoinette herself had
little notion of what awaited them there. They had never been there. Madame
Jeannin imagined that, though their position would be sad enough, there
would be no reason for anxiety. She had a sister in Paris, the wife of a
wealthy magistrate: and she counted on her assistance. She was convinced
also that with the education her children had received and their natural
gifts, which, like all mothers, she overestimated, they would have no
difficulty in earning an honest living.

       *       *       *       *       *

Their first impressions were gloomy enough. As they left the station they
were bewildered by the jostling crowd of people in the luggage-room and the
confused uproar of the carriages outside. It was raining. They could not
find a cab, and had to walk a long way with their arms aching with their
heavy parcels, so that they had to stop every now and then in the middle
of the street at the risk of being run over or splashed by the carriages.
They could not make a single driver pay any attention to them. At last
they managed to stop a man who was driving an old and disgustingly dirty
barouche. As they were handing in the parcels they let a bundle of rugs
fall into the mud. The porter who carried the trunk and the cabman
traded on their ignorance, and made them pay double. Madame Jeannin gave
the address of one of those second-rate expensive hotels patronized by
provincials who go on going to them, in spite of their discomfort, because
their grandfathers went to them thirty years ago. They were fleeced there.
They were told that the hotel was full, and they were accommodated with one
small room for which they were charged the price of three. For dinner they
tried to economize by avoiding the table d'hôte: they ordered a modest
meal, which cost them just as much and left them famishing. Their illusions
concerning Paris had come toppling down as soon as they arrived. And,
during that first night in the hotel, when they were squeezed into one
little, ill-ventilated room, they could not sleep: they were hot and cold
by turns, and could not breathe, and started at every footstep in the
corridor, and the banging of the doors, and the furious ringing of the
electric bells: and their heads throbbed with the incessant roar of the
carriages and heavy drays: and altogether they felt terrified of the
monstrous city into which they had plunged to their utter bewilderment.

Next day Madame Jeannin went to see her sister, who lived in a luxurious
flat in the _Boulevard Hausmann_. She hoped, though she did not say so,
that they would be invited to stay there until they had found their feet.
The welcome she received was enough to undeceive her. The Poyet-Delormes
were furious at their relative's failure: especially Madame Delorme, who
was afraid that it would be set against her, and might injure her husband's
career, and she thought it shameless of the ruined family to come and
cling to them, and compromise them even more. The magistrate was of the
same opinion: but he was a kindly man: he would have been more inclined
to help, but for his wife's intervention--to which he knuckled under.
Madame Poyet-Delorme received her sister with icy coldness. It cut Madame
Jeannin to the heart: but she swallowed down her pride: she hinted at the
difficulty of her position and the assistance she hoped to receive from the
Poyets. Her sister pretended not to understand, and did not even ask her to
stay to dinner: they were ceremoniously invited to dine at the end of the
week. The invitation did not come from Madame Poyet either, but from the
magistrate, who was a little put out at his wife's treatment of her sister,
and tried to make amends for her curtness: he posed as the good-natured
man: but it was obvious that it did not come easily to him and that he was
really very selfish. The unhappy Jeannins returned to their hotel without
daring to say what they thought of their first visit.

They spent the following days in wandering about Paris, looking for a fiat:
they were worn out with going up stairs, and disheartened by the sight of
the great barracks crammed full of people, and the dirty stairs, and the
dark rooms, that seemed so depressing to them after their own big house in
the country. They grew more and more depressed. And they were always shy
and timid in the streets, and shops, and restaurants, so that they were
cheated at every turn. Everything they asked for cost an exorbitant sum: it
was as though they had the faculty of turning everything they touched into
gold: only, it was they who had to pay out the gold. They were incredibly
simple and absolutely incapable of looking after themselves.

Though there was little left to hope for from Madame Jeannin's sister, the
poor lady wove illusions about the dinner to which they were invited. They
dressed for it with fluttering hearts. They were received as guests, and
not as relations--though nothing more was expended on the dinner than the
ceremonious manner. The children met their cousins, who were almost the
same age as themselves, but they were not much more cordial than their
father and mother. The girl was very smart and coquettish, and spoke to
them with a lisp and a politely superior air, with affectedly honeyed
manners which disconcerted them. The boy was bored by this duty-dinner with
their poor relations: and he was as surly as could be. Madame Poyet-Delorme
sat up stiffly in her chair, and, even when she handed her a dish, seemed
to be reading her sister a lesson. Madame Poyet-Delorme talked trivialities
to keep the conversation from becoming serious. They never got beyond
talking of what they were eating for fear of touching upon any intimate
and dangerous topic. Madame Jeannin made an effort to bring them round to
the subject next her heart: Madame Poyet-Delorme cut her short with some
pointless remark, and she had not the courage to try again.

After dinner she made her daughter play the piano by way of showing off her
talents. The poor girl was embarrassed and unhappy and played execrably.
The Poyets were bored and anxious for her to finish. Madame Poyet exchanged
glances with her daughter, with an ironic curl of her lips: and as the
music went on too long she began to talk to Madame Jeannin about nothing in
particular. At last Antoinette, who had quite lost her place, and saw to
her horror that, instead of going on, she had begun again at the beginning,
and that there was no reason why she should ever stop, broke off suddenly,
and ended with two inaccurate chords and a third which was absolutely
dissonant. Monsieur Poyet said:


And he asked for coffee.

Madame Poyet said that her daughter was taking lessons with Pugno: and the
young lady "who was taking lessons with Pugno" said:

"Charming, my dear...."

And asked where Antoinette had studied.

The conversation dropped. They had exhausted the knick-knacks in the
drawing-room and the dresses of Madame and Mademoiselle Poyet. Madame
Jeannin said to herself:

"I must speak now. I must...."

And she fidgeted. Just as she had pulled herself together to begin, Madame
Poyet mentioned casually, without any attempt at an apology, that they were
very sorry but they had to go out at half-past nine: they had an invitation
which they had been unable to decline. The Jeannins were at a loss, and
got up at once to go. The Poyets made some show of detaining them. But
a quarter of an hour later there was a ring at the door: the footman
announced some friends of the Poyets, neighbors of theirs, who lived in the
flat below. Poyet and his wife exchanged glances, and there were hurried
whisperings with the servants. Poyet stammered some excuse, and hurried
the Jeannins into the next room. (He was trying to hide from his friends
the existence, and the presence in his house, of the compromising family.)
The Jeannins were left alone in a room without a fire. The children were
furious at the affront. Antoinette had tears in her eyes and insisted on
their going. Her mother resisted for a little: but then, after they had
waited for some time, she agreed. They went out. In the hall they were
caught by Poyet, who had been told by a servant, and he muttered excuses:
he pretended that he wanted them to stay: but it was obvious that he was
only eager for them to go. He helped them on with their cloaks, and hurried
them to the door with smiles and handshakes and whispered pleasantries, and
closed the door on them. When they reached their hotel the children burst
into angry tears. Antoinette stamped her foot, and swore that she would
never enter their house again.

Madame Jeannin took a flat on the fourth floor near the _Jardin des
Plantes_. The bedrooms looked on to the filthy walls of a gloomy courtyard:
the dining-room and the drawing-room--(for Madame Jeannin insisted on
having a drawing-room)--on to a busy street. All day long steam-trams went
by and hearses crawling along to the Ivry Cemetery. Filthy Italians, with a
horde of children, loafed about on the seats, or spent their time in shrill
argument. The noise made it impossible to have the windows open: and in the
evening, on their way home, they had to force their way through crowds of
bustling, evil-smelling people, cross the thronged and muddy streets, pass
a horrible pothouse, that was on the ground floor of the next house, in
the door of which there were always fat, frowsy women with yellow hair and
painted faces, eying the passers-by.

Their small supply of money soon gave out. Every evening with sinking
hearts they took stock of the widening hole in their purse. They tried
to stint themselves: but they did not know how to set about it: that is
a science which can only be learned by years of experimenting, unless it
has been practised from childhood. Those who are not naturally economical
merely waste their time in trying to be so: as soon as a fresh opportunity
of spending money crops up, they succumb to the temptation: they are always
going to economize next time: and when they do happen to make a little
money, or to think they have made it, they rush out and spend ten times the
amount on the strength of it.

At the end of a few weeks the Jeannins' resources were exhausted. Madame
Jeannin had to gulp down what was left of her pride, and, unknown to her
children, she went and asked Poyet for money. She contrived to see him
alone at his office, and begged him to advance her a small sum until they
had found work to keep them alive. Poyet, who was weak and human enough,
tried at first to postpone the matter, but finally acceded to her request.
He gave her two hundred francs in a moment of emotion, which mastered him,
and he repented of it immediately afterwards,--when he had to make his
peace with Madame Poyet, who was furious with her husband's weakness, and
her sister's slyness.

       *       *       *       *       *

All day and every day the Jeannins were out and about in Paris, looking
for work. Madame Jeannin, true to the prejudices of her class, would not
hear of their engaging in any other profession than those which are called
"liberal"--no doubt because they leave their devotees free to starve. She
would even have gone so far as to forbid her daughter to take a post as
a family governess. Only the official professions, in the service of the
State, were not degrading in her eyes. They had to discover a means of
letting Olivier finish his education so that he might become a teacher. As
for Antoinette, Madame Jeannin's idea was that she should go to a school
to teach, or to the Conservatoire to win the prize for piano playing. But
the schools at which she applied already had teachers enough, who were
much better qualified than her daughter with her poor little elementary
certificate: and, as for music, she had to recognize that Antoinette's
talent was quite ordinary compared with that of so many others who did not
get on at all. They came face to face with the terrible struggle for life,
and the blind waste of talent, great and small, for which Paris can find no

The two children lost heart and exaggerated their uselessness: they
believed that they were mediocre, and did their best to convince themselves
and their mother that it was so. Olivier, who had had no difficulty in
shining at his provincial school, was crushed by his various rebuffs: he
seemed to have lost possession of all his gifts. At the school for which he
won a scholarship, the results of his first examinations were so disastrous
that his scholarship was taken away from him. He thought himself utterly
stupid. At the same time he had a horror of Paris, and its swarming
inhabitants, and the disgusting immorality of his schoolfellows, and their
shameful conversation, and the bestiality of a few of them who did not
spare him from their abominable proposals. He was not even strong enough to
show his contempt for them. He felt degraded by the mere thought of their
degradation. With his mother and sister, he took refuge in the heartfelt
prayers which they used to say every evening after the day of deceptions
and private humiliations, which to their innocence seemed to be a taint,
of which they dared not tell each other. But, in contact with the latent
spirit of atheism which is in the air of Paris, Olivier's faith was
beginning to crumble away, without his knowledge, like whitewash trickling
down a wall under the beating of the rain. He went on believing: but all
about him God was dying.

His mother and sister pursued their futile quest. Madame Jeannin turned
once more to the Poyets, who were anxious to be quit of them, and offered
them work. Madame Jeannin was to go as reader to an old lady who was
spending the winter in the South of France. A post was found for Antoinette
as governess in a family in the West, who lived all the year round in the
country. The terms were not bad, but Madame Jeannin refused. It was not
so much for herself that she objected to a menial position, but she was
determined that Antoinette should not be reduced to it, and unwilling
to part with her. However unhappy they might be, just because they were
unhappy, they wished to be together.--Madame Poyet took it very badly. She
said that people who had no means of living had no business to be proud.
Madame Jeannin could not refrain from crying out upon her heartlessness.
Madame Poyet spoke bitterly of the bankruptcy and of the money that Madame
Jeannin owed her. They parted, and the breach between them was final. All
relationship between them was broken off. Madame Jeannin had only one
desire left: to pay back the money she had borrowed. But she was unable to
do that.

They resumed their vain search for work. Madame Jeannin went to see the
deputy and the senator of her department, men whom Monsieur Jeannin had
often helped. Everywhere she was brought face to face with ingratitude
and selfishness. The deputy did not even answer her letters, and when she
called on him he sent down word that he was out. The senator commiserated
her ponderously on her unhappy position, which he attributed to "the
wretched Jeannin," whose suicide he stigmatized harshly. Madame Jeannin
defended her husband. The senator said that of course he knew that the
banker had acted, not from dishonesty, but from stupidity, and that he was
a fool, a poor gull, who knew nothing, and would go his own way without
asking anybody's advice or taking a warning from any one. If he had only
ruined himself, there would have been nothing to say: that would have
been his own affair. But--not to mention the ruin that he had brought on
others,--that he should have reduced his wife and children to poverty and
deserted them and left them to get out of it as best they could ... it was
Madame Jeannin's own business if she chose to forgive him, if she were a
saint, but for his part, he, the senator, not being a saint--(s, a, i, n,
t),--but, he flattered himself, just a plain man--(s, a, i, n),--a plain,
sensible, reasonable human being,--he could find no reason for forgiveness:
a man who, in such circumstances, could kill himself, was a wretch. The
only extenuating circumstance he could find in Jeannin's case was that he
was not responsible for his actions. With that he begged Madame Jeannin's
pardon for having expressed himself a little emphatically about her
husband: he pleaded the sympathy that he felt for her: and he opened his
drawer and offered her a fifty-franc note,--charity--which she refused.

She applied for a post in the offices of a great Government department. She
set about it clumsily and inconsequently, and all her courage oozed out at
the first attempt. She returned home so demoralized that for several days
she could not stir. And, when she resumed her efforts, it was too late. She
did not find help either with the church-people, either because they saw
there was nothing to gain by it, or because they took no interest in a
ruined family, the head of which had been notoriously anti-clerical. After
days and days of hunting for work Madame Jeannin could find nothing better
than a post as music-teacher in a convent--an ungrateful task, ridiculously
ill-paid. To eke out her earnings she copied music in the evenings for an
agency. They were very hard on her. She was severely called to task for
omitting words and whole lines, as she did in spite of her application,
for she was always thinking of so many other things and her wits were
wool-gathering. And so, after she had stayed up through the night till
her eyes and her back ached, her copy was rejected. She would return home
utterly downcast. She would spend days together moaning, unable to stir
a finger. For a long time she had been suffering from heart trouble,
which had been aggravated by her hard struggles, and filled her with dark
forebodings. Sometimes she would have pains, and difficulty in breathing
as though she were on the point of death. She never went out without her
name and address written on a piece of paper in her pocket in case she
should collapse in the street. What would happen if she were to disappear?
Antoinette comforted her as best she could by affecting a confidence which
she did not possess: she begged her to be careful and to let her go and
work in her stead. But the little that was left of Madame Jeannin's pride
stirred in her, and she vowed that at least her daughter should not know
the humiliation she had to undergo.

In vain did she wear herself out and cut down their expenses: what she
earned was not enough to keep them alive. They had to sell the few jewels
which they had kept. And the worst blow of all came when the money, of
which they were in such sore need, was stolen from Madame Jeannin the very
day it came into her hands. The poor flustered creature took it into her
head while she was out to go into the _Bon Marché_, which was on her way:
it was Antoinette's birthday next day, and she wanted to give her a little
present. She was carrying her purse in her hand so as not to lose it. She
put it down mechanically on the counter for a moment while she looked at
something. When she put out her hand for it the purse was gone. It was the
last blow for her.

A few days later, on a stifling evening at the end of August,--a hot
steaming mist hung over the town,--Madame Jeannin came in from her copying
agency, whither she had been to deliver a piece of work that was wanted in
a hurry. She was late for dinner, and had saved her three sous' bus fare
by hurrying home on foot to prevent her children being anxious. When she
reached the fourth floor she could neither speak nor breathe. It was not
the first time she had returned home in that condition: the children took
no notice of it. She forced herself to sit down at table with them. They
were both suffering from the heat and did not eat anything: they had to
make an effort to gulp down a few morsels of food, and a sip or two of
stale water. To give their mother time to recover they did not talk--(they
had no desire to talk)--and looked out of the window.

Suddenly Madame Jeannin waved her hands in the air, clutched at the table,
looked at her children, moaned, and collapsed. Antoinette and Olivier
sprang to their feet just in time to catch her in their arms. They were
beside themselves, and screamed and cried to her:

"Mother! Mother! Dear, dear mother!"

But she made no sound. They were at their wit's end. Antoinette clung
wildly to her mother's body, kissed her, called to her. Olivier ran to the
door of the flat and yelled:

"Help! Help!"

The housekeeper came running upstairs, and when she saw what had happened
she ran for a doctor. But when the doctor arrived, he could only say that
the end had come. Death had been instantaneous--happily for Madame
Jeannin--although it was impossible to know what thoughts might have been
hers during the last moments when she knew that she was dying and leaving
her children alone in such misery.

They were alone to bear the horror of the catastrophe, alone to weep, alone
to perform the dreadful duties that follow upon death. The porter's wife, a
kindly soul, helped them a little: and people came from the convent where
Madame Jeannin had taught: but they were given no real sympathy.

The first moments brought inexpressible despair. The only thing that saved
them was the very excess of that despair, which made Olivier really ill.
Antoinette's thoughts were distracted from her own suffering, and her one
idea was to save her brother: and her great, deep love filled Olivier and
plucked him back from the violent torment of his grief. Locked in her arms,
near the bed where their mother was lying in the glimmer of a candle,
Olivier said over and over again that they must die, that they must both
die, at once: and he pointed to the window. In Antoinette, too, there was
the dark desire: but she fought it down: she wished to live....

"Why? Why?"

"For her sake," said Antoinette--(she pointed to her mother).--"She is
still with us. Think ... after all that she has suffered for our sake, we
must spare her the crowning sorrow, that of seeing us die in misery....
Ah!" (she went on emphatically).... "And then, we must not give way. I will
not! I refuse to give in. You must, you shall be happy, some day!"


"Yes. You shall be happy. We have had too much unhappiness. A change will
come: it must. You shall live your life. You shall have children, you shall
be happy, you shall, you shall!"

"How are we to live? We cannot do it...."

"We can. What is it, after all? We have to live somehow until you can earn
your living. I will see to that. You will see: I'll do it. Ah! If only
mother had let me do it, as I could have done...."

"What will you do? I will not have you degrading yourself. You could not do

"I can.... And there is nothing humiliating in working for one's
living--provided it be honest work. Don't you worry about it, please. You
will see, everything will come right. You shall be happy, we shall be
happy: dear Olivier, _she_ will be happy through us...."

The two children were the only mourners at their mother's grave. By common
consent they agreed not to tell the Poyets: the Poyets had ceased to exist
for them: they had been too cruel to their mother: they had helped her
to her death. And, when the housekeeper asked them if they had no other
relations, they replied:

"No. Nobody."

By the bare grave they prayed hand in hand. They set their teeth in
desperate resolve and pride and preferred their solitude to the presence of
their callous and hypocritical relations.--They returned on foot through
the throng of people who were strangers to their grief, strangers to their
thoughts, strangers to their lives, and shared nothing with them but their
common language. Antoinette had to support Olivier.

They took a tiny flat in the same house on the top floor--two little
attics, a narrow hall, which had to serve as a dining-room, and a kitchen
that was more like a cupboard. They could have found better rooms in
another neighborhood: but it seemed to them that they were still with their
mother in that house. The housekeeper took an interest in them for a time:
but she was soon absorbed in her own affairs and nobody bothered about
them. They did not know a single one of the other tenants: and they did not
even know who lived next door.

Antoinette obtained her mother's post as music-teacher at the convent. She
procured other pupils. She had only one idea: to educate her brother until
he was ready for the _École Normale_. It was her own idea, and she had
decided upon it after mature reflection: she had studied the syllabus and
asked about it, and had also tried to find out what Olivier thought:--but
he had no ideas, and she chose for him. Once at the _École Normale_ he
would be sure of a living for the rest of his life, and his future would
be assured. He must get in, somehow; whatever it cost, they would have to
keep alive till then. It meant five or six terrible years: they would win
through. The idea possessed Antoinette, absorbed her whole life. The poor
solitary existence which she must lead, which she saw clearly mapped out
in front of her, was only made bearable through the passionate exaltation
which filled her, her determination, by all means in her power, to save her
brother and make him happy. The light-hearted, gentle girl of seventeen or
eighteen was transfigured by her heroic resolution: there was in her an
ardent quality of devotion, a pride of battle, which no one had suspected,
herself least of all. In that critical period of a woman's life, during
the first fevered days of spring, when love fills all her being, and like
a hidden stream murmuring beneath the earth, laves her soul, envelops
it, floods it with tenderness, and fills it with sweet obsessions, love
appears in divers shapes: demanding that she should give herself, and
yield herself up to be its prey: for love the least excuse is enough, and
for its profound yet innocent sensuality any sacrifice is easy. Love made
Antoinette the prey of sisterly devotion.

Her brother was less passionate and had no such stay. Besides, the
sacrifice was made for him, it was not he who was sacrificed--which is so
much easier and sweeter when one loves. He was weighed down with remorse at
seeing his sister wearing herself out for him. He would tell her so, and
she would reply:

"Ah! My dear!... But don't you see that that is what keeps me going?
Without you to trouble me, what should I have to live for?"

He understood. He, too, in Antoinette's position, would have been jealous
of the trouble he caused her: but to be the cause of it!... That hurt his
pride and his affection. And what a burden it was for so weak a creature to
bear such a responsibility, to be bound to succeed, since on his success
his sister had staked her whole life! The thought of it was intolerable to
him, and, instead of spurring him on, there were times when it robbed him
of all energy. And yet she forced him to struggle on, to work, to live, as
he never would have done without her aid and insistence. He had a natural
predisposition towards depression,--perhaps even towards suicide:--perhaps
he would have succumbed to it had not his sister wished him to be ambitious
and happy. He suffered from the contradiction of his nature: and yet it
worked his salvation. He, too, was passing through a critical age, that
fearful period when thousands of young men succumb, and give themselves up
to the aberrations of their minds and senses, and for two or three years'
folly spoil their lives beyond repair. If he had had time to yield to his
thoughts he would have fallen into discouragement or perhaps taken to
dissipation: always when he turned in upon himself he became a prey to his
morbid dreams, and disgust with life, and Paris, and the impure
fermentation of all those millions of human beings mingling and rotting
together. But the sight of his sister's face was enough to dispel the
nightmare: and since she was living only that he might live, he would live,
yes, he would be happy, in spite of himself.

So their lives were built on an ardent faith fashioned of stoicism,
religion, and noble ambition. All their endeavor was directed towards the
one end: Olivier's success. Antoinette accepted every kind of work, every
humiliation that was offered her: she went as a governess to houses where
she was treated almost as a servant: she had to take her pupils out for
walks, like a nurse, wandering about the streets with them for hours
together under pretext of teaching them German. In her love for her brother
and her pride she found pleasure even in such moral suffering and

She would return home worn out to look after Olivier, who was a day-boarder
at his school and only came home in the evening. She would cook their
dinner--a wretched dinner--on the gas-stove or over a spirit-lamp. Olivier
had never any appetite and everything disgusted him, and his gorge would
rise at the food: and she would have to force him to eat, or cudgel her
brains to invent some dish that would catch his fancy, and poor Antoinette
was by no means a good cook. And when she had taken a great deal of
trouble she would have the mortification of hearing him declare that
her cooking was uneatable. It was only after moments of despair at her
cooking-stove,--those moments of silent despair which come to inexperienced
young housekeepers and poison their lives and sometimes their sleep,
unknown to everybody--that she began to understand it a little.

After dinner, when she had washed up the dishes--(he would offer to help
her, but she would never let him),--she would take a motherly interest in
her brother's work. She would hear him his lessons, read his exercises, and
even look up certain words in the dictionary for him, always taking care
not to ruffle up his sensitive little soul. They would spend the evening at
their one table at which they had both to eat and write. He would do his
homework, she would sew or do some copying. When he had gone to bed she
would sit mending his clothes or doing some work of her own.

Although they had difficulty in making both ends meet, they were both
agreed that every penny they could put by should be used in the first place
to settle the debt which their mother owed to the Poyets. It was not that
the Poyets were importunate creditors: they had given no sign of life: they
never gave a thought to the money, which they counted as lost: they thought
themselves very lucky to have got rid of their undesirable relatives so
cheaply. But it hurt the pride and filial piety of the young Jeannins to
think that their mother should have owed anything to these people whom they
despised. They pinched and scraped: they economized on their amusements, on
their clothes, on their food, in order to amass the two hundred francs--an
enormous sum for them. Antoinette would have liked to have done the saving
by herself. But when her brother found out what she was up to, nothing
could keep him from doing likewise. They wore themselves out in the effort,
and were delighted when they could set aside a few sous a day.

In three years, by screwing and scraping, sou by sou, they had succeeded in
getting the sum together. It was a great joy to them. Antoinette went to
the Poyets one evening. She was coldly received, for they thought she had
come to ask for help. They thought it advisable to take the initiative: and
reproached her for not letting them have any news of them: and not having
even told them of the death of her mother, and not coming to them when
she wanted help. She cut them short calmly by telling them that she had
no intention of incommoding them: she had come merely to return the money
which had been borrowed from them: and she laid two banknotes on the table
and asked for a receipt. They changed their tone at once, and pretended to
be unwilling to accept it: they were feeling for her that sudden affection
which comes to the creditor for the debtor, who, after many years, returns
the loan which he had ceased to reckon upon. They inquired where she was
living with her brother, and how they lived. She did not reply, asked once
more for the receipt, said that she was in a hurry, bowed coldly, and went
away. The Poyets were horrified at the girl's ingratitude.

Then, when she was rid of that obsession, Antoinette went on with the same
sparing existence, but now it was entirely for her brother's sake. Only she
concealed it more to prevent his knowing it: she economized on her clothes
and sometimes on her food, to keep her brother well-dressed and amused,
and to make his life pleasanter and gayer, and to let him go every now and
then to a concert, or to the opera, which was Olivier's greatest joy. He
was unwilling to go without her, but she would always make excuses for not
going so that he should feel no remorse: she would pretend that she was too
tired and did not want to go out: she would even go so far as to say that
music bored her. Her fond quibbles would not deceive him: but his boyish
selfishness would be too strong for him. He would go to the theater: once
inside, he would be filled with remorse, and it would haunt him all through
the piece, and spoil his pleasure. One Sunday, when she had packed him
off to the _Châtelet_ concert, he returned half an hour later, and told
Antoinette that when he reached the Saint Michel Bridge he had not the
heart to go any farther: the concert did not interest him: it hurt him too
much to have any pleasure without her. Nothing was sweeter to Antoinette,
although she was sorry that her brother should be deprived of his Sunday
entertainment because of her. But Olivier never regretted it: when he saw
the joy that lit up his sister's face as he came in, a joy that she tried
in vain to conceal, he felt happier than the most lovely music in the world
could ever have made him. They spent the afternoon sitting together by the
window, he with a book in his hand, she with her work, hardly reading at
all, hardly sewing at all, talking idly of things that interested neither
of them. Never had they had so delightful a Sunday. They agreed that they
would never go alone to a concert again: they could never enjoy anything

She managed secretly to save enough money to surprise and delight Olivier
with a hired piano, which, on the hire-purchase system became their
property at the end of a certain number of months. The payments for it were
a heavy burden for her to shoulder! It often haunted her dreams, and she
ruined her health in screwing together the necessary money. But, folly as
it was, it did assure them both so much happiness. Music was their Paradise
in their hard life. It filled an enormous place in their existence. They
steeped themselves in music so as to forget the rest of the world. There
was danger in it too. Music is one of the great modern dissolvents. Its
languorous warmth, like the heat of a stove, or the enervating air of
autumn, excites the senses and destroys the will. But it was a relaxation
for a creature forced into excessive, joyless activity as was Antoinette.
The Sunday concert was the only ray of light that shone through the week of
unceasing toil. They lived in the memory of the last concert and the eager
anticipation of the next, in those few hours spent outside Paris and out of
the vile weather. After a long wait outside in the rain, or the snow, or
the wind and the cold, clinging together, and trembling lest all the places
should be taken, they would pass into the theater, where they were lost in
the throng, and sit on dark uncomfortable benches. They were crushed and
stifling, and often on the point of fainting from the heat and discomfort
of it all:--but they were happy, happy in their own and in each other's
pleasure, happy to feel coursing through their veins the flood of kindness,
light, and strength, that surged forth from the great souls of Beethoven
and Wagner, happy, each of them, to see the dear, dear face light up--the
poor, pale face worn by suffering and premature anxieties. Antoinette would
feel so tired and as though loving arms were about her, holding her to a
motherly breast! She would nestle in its softness and warmth: and she would
weep quietly. Olivier would press her hand. No one noticed them in the
dimness of the vast hall, where they were not the only suffering souls
taking refuge under the motherly wing of Music.

Antoinette had her religion to support her. She was very pious, and every
day never missed saying her prayers fervently and at length, and every
Sunday she never missed going to Mass. Even in the injustice of her
wretched life she could not help believing in the love of the divine
Friend, who suffers with you, and, some day, will console you. Even more
than with God, she was in close communion with the beloved dead, and she
used secretly to share all her trials with them. But she was of an
independent spirit and a clear intelligence: she stood apart from other
Catholics, who did not regard her altogether favorably: they thought her
possessed of an evil spirit: they were not far from regarding her as a Free
Thinker, or on the way to it, because, like the honest little Frenchwoman
she was, she had no intention of renouncing her own independent judgment:
she believed not from obedience, like the base rabble, but from love.

Olivier no longer believed. The slow disintegration of his faith, which
had set in during his first months in Paris, had ended in its complete
destruction. He had suffered cruelly: for he was not of those who are
strong enough or commonplace enough to dispense with faith: and so he had
passed through crises of mental agony. But he was at heart a mystic: and,
though he had lost his belief, yet no ideas could be closer to his own than
those of his sister. They both lived in a religious atmosphere. When they
came home in the evening after the day's parting their little flat was to
them a haven, an inviolable refuge, poor, bitterly cold, but pure. How far
removed they felt there from the noise and the corrupt thoughts of

They never talked much of their doings: for when one comes home tired one
has hardly the heart to revive the memory of a painful day by the tale of
its happenings. Instinctively they set themselves to forget it. Especially
during the first hour when they met again for dinner they avoided questions
of all kinds. They would greet each other with their eyes: and sometimes
they would not speak a word all through the meal. Antoinette would look at
her brother as he sat dreaming, just as he used to do when he was a little
boy. She would gently touch his hand:

"Come!" she would say, with a smile. "Courage!"

He would smile too and go on eating. So dinner would pass without their
trying to talk. They were hungry for silence. Only when they had done would
their tongues be loosed a little, when they felt rested, and when each of
them in the comfort of the understanding love of the other had wiped out
the impure traces of the day.

Olivier would sit down at the piano. Antoinette was out of practice from
letting him play always: for it was the only relaxation that he had: and he
would give himself up to it wholeheartedly. He had a fine temperament for
music: his feminine nature, more suited to love than to action, with loving
sympathy could catch the thoughts of the musicians whose works he played,
and merge itself in them and with passionate fidelity render the finest
shades,--at least, within the limitations of his physical strength, which
gave out before the Titanic effort of _Tristan_, or the later sonatas of
Beethoven. He loved best to take refuge in Mozart or Gluck, and theirs was
the music that Antoinette preferred.

Sometimes she would sing too, but only very simple songs, old melodies. She
had a light mezzo voice, plaintive and delicate. She was so shy that she
could never sing in company, and hardly even before Olivier: her throat
used to contract. There was an air of Beethoven set to some Scotch words,
of which she was particularly fond: _Faithful Johnnie_: it was calm, so
calm ... and with what a depth of tenderness!... It was like herself.
Olivier could never hear her sing it without the tears coming to his eyes.

But she preferred listening to her brother. She would hurry through her
housework and leave the door of the kitchen open the better to hear
Olivier: but in spite of all her care he would complain impatiently of the
noise she made with her pots and pans. Then she would close the door; and,
when she had finished, she would come and sit in a low chair, not near the
piano--(for he could not bear any one near him when he was playing),--but
near the fireplace: and there she would sit curled up like a cat, with her
back to the piano, and her eyes fixed on the golden eyes of the fire, in
which a lump of coal was smoldering, and muse over her memories of the
past. When nine o'clock rang she would have to pull herself together to
remind Olivier that it was time to stop. It would be hard to drag him, and
to drag herself, away from dreams: but Olivier would still have some work
to do. And he must not go to bed too late. He would not obey her at once:
he always needed a certain time in which to shake free of the music before
he could apply himself seriously to his work. His thoughts would be off
wandering. Often it would be half-past nine before he could shake free of
his misty dreams. Antoinette, bending over her work at the other side of
the table, would know that he was doing nothing: but she dared not look
in his direction too often for fear of irritating him by seeming to be
watching him.

He was at the ungrateful age--the happy age--when a boy saunters dreamily
through his days. He had a clear forehead, girlish eyes, deep and trustful,
often with dark circles round them, a wide mouth with rather thick pouting
lips, a rather crooked smile, vague, absent, taking: he wore his hair long
so that it hung down almost to his eyes, and made a great bunch at the back
of his neck, while one rebellious lock stuck up at the back: a neckerchief
loosely tied round his neck--(his sister used to tie it carefully in a bow
every morning):--a waistcoat which was always buttonless, although she was
for ever sewing them on: no cuffs: large hands with bony wrists. He had a
heavy, sleepy, bantering expression, and he was always wool-gathering. His
eyes would blink and wander round Antoinette's room:--(his work-table was
in her room):--they would light on the little iron bed, above which hung an
ivory crucifix, with a sprig of box,--on the portraits of his father and
mother,--on an old photograph of the little provincial town with its tower
mirrored in its waters. And when they reached his sister's pallid face,
bending in silence over her work, he would be filled with an immense pity
for her and his own indolence: and he would work furiously to make up for
lost time.

He spent his holidays in reading. They would read together each with a
separate book. In spite of their love for each other they could not read
aloud. That hurt them as an offense against modesty. A fine book was to
them as a secret which should only be murmured in the silence of the heart.
When a passage delighted them, instead of reading it aloud, they would hand
the book over, with a finger marking the place: and they would say:

"Read that."

Then, while the other was reading, the one who had already read would with
shining eyes gaze into the dear face to see what emotions were roused and
to share the enjoyment of it.

But often with their books open in front of them they would not read: they
would talk. Especially towards the end of the evening they would feel
the need of opening their hearts, and they would have less difficulty
in talking. Olivier had sad thoughts: and in his weakness he had to rid
himself of all that tortured him by pouring out his troubles to some one
else. He was a prey to doubt. Antoinette had to give him courage, to defend
him against himself: it was an unceasing struggle, which began anew each
day. Olivier would say bitter, gloomy things: and when he had said them he
would be relieved: but he never troubled to think how they might hurt his
sister. Only very late in the day did he see how he was exhausting her: he
was sapping her strength and infecting her with his own doubts. Antoinette
never let it appear how she suffered. She was by nature valiant and gay,
and she forced herself to maintain a show of gaiety, even when that
gracious quality was long since dead in her. She had moments of utter
weariness, and revolt against the life of perpetual sacrifice to which she
had pledged herself. But she condemned such thoughts and would not analyze
them: they came to her in spite of herself, and she would not accept
them. She found help in prayer, except when her heart could not pray--(as
sometimes happens)--when it was, as it were, withered and dry. Then she
could only wait in silence, feverish and ashamed, for the return of grace.
Olivier never had the least suspicion of the agony she suffered. At such
times Antoinette would make some excuse and go away and lock herself in her
room: and she would not appear again until the crisis was over: then she
would be smiling, sorrowful, more tender than ever, and, as it were,
remorseful for having suffered.

Their rooms were adjoining. Their beds were placed on either side of the
same wall: they could talk to each other through it in whispers: and when
they could not sleep they would tap gently on the wall to say:

"Are you asleep? I can't sleep."

The partition was so thin that it was almost as though they shared the same
room. But the door between their rooms was always locked at night, in
obedience to an instinctive and profound modesty,--a sacred feeling:--it
was only left open when Olivier was ill, as too often happened.

He did not gain in health. Rather he seemed to grow weaker. He was always
ailing: throat, chest, head or heart: if he caught the slightest cold there
was always the danger of its turning to bronchitis: he caught scarlatina
and almost died of it: but even when he was not ill he would betray strange
symptoms of serious illnesses, which fortunately did not come to anything:
he would have pains in his lungs or his heart. One day the doctor who
examined him diagnosed pericarditis, or peripneumonia, and the great
specialist who was then consulted confirmed his fears. But it came to
nothing. It was his nerves that were wrong, and it is common knowledge that
disorders of the nerves take the most unaccountable shapes: they are got
rid of at the cost of days of anxiety. But such days were terrible for
Antoinette, and they gave her sleepless nights. She would lie in a state of
terror in her bed, getting up every now and then to listen to her brother's
breathing. She would think that perhaps he was dying, she would feel sure,
convinced of it: she would get up, trembling, and clasp her hands, and hold
them fast against her lips to keep herself from crying out.

"Oh! God! Oh! God!" she would moan. "Take him not from me! Not that ... not
that. You have no right!... Not that, oh! God, I beg!... Oh, mother,
mother! Come to my aid! Save him: let him live!..."

She would lie at full stretch.

"Ah! To die by the way, when so much has been done, when we were nearly
there, when he was going to be happy ... no: that could not be: it would be
too cruel!..."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not long before Olivier gave her other reasons for anxiety.

He was profoundly honest, like herself, but he was weak of will and too
open-minded and too complex not to be uneasy, skeptical, indulgent towards
what he knew to be evil, and attracted by pleasure. Antoinette was so pure
that it was some time before she understood what was going on in her
brother's mind. She discovered it suddenly, one day.

Olivier thought she was out. She usually had a lesson at that hour: but at
the last moment she had received word from her pupil, telling her that she
could not have her that day. She was secretly pleased, although it meant
a few francs less in that week's earnings: but she was very tired and she
lay down on her bed: she was very glad to be able to rest for once without
reproaching herself. Olivier came in from school bringing another boy with
him. They sat down in the next room and began to talk. She could hear
everything they said: they thought they were alone and did not restrain
themselves. Antoinette smiled as she heard her brother's merry voice. But
soon she ceased to smile, and her blood ran cold. They were talking of
dirty things with an abominable crudity of expression: they seemed to revel
in it. She heard Olivier, her boy Olivier, laughing: and from his lips,
which she had thought so innocent, there came words so obscene that the
horror of it chilled her. Keen anguish stabbed her to the heart. It went on
and on: they could not stop talking, and she could not help listening. At
last they went out, and Antoinette was left alone. Then she wept: something
had died in her: the ideal image that she had fashioned of her brother--of
her boy--was plastered with mud: it was a mortal agony to her. She did not
say anything to him when they met again in the evening. He saw that she had
been weeping and he could not think why. He could not understand why she
had changed her manner towards him. It was some time before she was able to
recover herself.

But the worst blow of all for her was one evening when he did not come
home. She did not go to bed, but sat up waiting for him. It was not only
her moral purity that was hurt: her suffering went down to the most
mysterious inner depths of her heart--those same depths where there lurked
the most awful feelings of the human heart, feelings over which she cast a
veil, to hide them from her sight.

Olivier's first aim had been the declaration of his independence. He
returned in the morning, casting about for the proper attitude and quite
prepared to fling some insolent remark at his sister if she had said
anything to him. He stole into the flat on tiptoe so as not to waken her.
But when he saw her standing there, waiting for him, pale, red-eyed from
weeping, when he saw that, instead of making any effort to reproach him,
she only set about silently cooking his breakfast, before he left for
school, and that she had nothing to say to him, but was overwhelmed, so
that she was, in herself, a living reproach, he could hold out no longer:
he flung himself down before her, buried his face in her lap, and they both
wept. He was ashamed of himself, sick at the thought of what he had done:
he felt degraded. He tried to speak, but she would not let him and laid
her hand on his lips: and he kissed her hand. They said no more: they
understood each other. Olivier vowed that he would never again do anything
to hurt Antoinette, and that he would be in all things what she wanted him
to be. But though she tried bravely she could not so easily forget so sharp
a wound: she recovered from it slowly. There was a certain awkwardness
between them. Her love for him was just the same: but in her brother's soul
she had seen something that was foreign to herself, and she was fearful of

       *       *       *       *       *

She was the more overwhelmed by the glimpse she had had into Olivier's
inmost heart, in that, about the same time, she had to put up with the
unwelcome attentions of certain men. When she came home in the evening at
nightfall, and especially when she had to go out after dinner to take or
fetch her copying, she suffered agonies from her fear of being accosted,
and followed (as sometimes happened) and forced to listen to insulting
advances. She took her brother with her whenever she could under pretext of
making him take a walk: but he only consented grudgingly and she dared not
insist: she did not like to interrupt his work. She was so provincial and
so pure that she could not get used to such ways. Paris at night was to
her like a dark forest in which she felt that she was being tracked by
dreadful, savage beasts: and she was afraid to leave the house. But she had
to go out. She would put off going out as long as possible: she was always
fearful. And when she thought that her Olivier would be--was perhaps--like
one of those men who pursued her, she could hardly hold out her hand to him
when she came in. He could not think what he had done to change her so, and
she was angry with herself.

She was not very pretty, but she had charm, and attracted attention though
she did nothing to do so. She was always very simply dressed, almost always
in black: she was not very tall, graceful, frail-looking; she rarely spoke:
she tripped quietly through the crowded streets, avoiding attention,
which, however, she attracted in spite of herself by the sweetness of the
expression of her tired eyes and her pure young lips. Sometimes she saw
that she had attracted notice: and though it put her to confusion she was
pleased all the same. Who can say what gentle and chaste pleasure in itself
there may be in so innocent a creature at feeling herself in sympathy
with others? All that she felt was shown in a slight awkwardness in her
movements, a timid, sidelong glance: and it was sweet to see and very
touching. And her uneasiness added to her attraction. She excited interest,
and, as she was a poor girl, with none to protect her, men did not hesitate
to tell her so.

Sometimes she used to go to the house of some rich Jews, the Nathans, who
took an interest in her because they had met her at the house of some
friends of theirs where she gave lessons: and, in spite of her shyness,
she had not been able to avoid accepting invitations to their parties.
M. Alfred Nathan was a well-known professor in Paris, a distinguished
scientist, and at the same time he was very fond of society, with that
strange mixture of learning and frivolity which is so common among the
Jews. Madame Nathan was a mixture in equal proportions of real kindliness
and excessive worldliness. They were both generous, with loud-voiced,
sincere, but intermittent sympathy for Antoinette.--Generally speaking
Antoinette had found more kindness among the Jews than among the
members of her own sect. They have many faults: but they have one great
quality--perhaps the greatest of all: they are alive, and human: nothing
human is foreign to them and they are interested in every living being.
Even when they lack real, warm sympathy they feel a perpetual curiosity
which makes them seek out men and ideas that are of worth, however
different from themselves they may be. Not that, generally speaking, they
do anything much to help them, for they are interested in too many things
at once and much more a prey to the vanities of the world than other
people, while they pretend to be immune from them. But at least they
do something: and that is saying a great deal in the present apathetic
condition of society. They are an active balm in society, the very leaven
of life.--Antoinette who, among the Catholics, had been brought sharp up
against a wall of icy indifference, was keenly alive to the worth of the
interest, however superficial it might be, which the Nathans took in her.
Madame Nathan had marked Antoinette's life of devoted sacrifice: she was
sensible of her physical and moral charm: and she made a show of taking her
under her protection. She had no children: but she loved young people and
often had gatherings of them in her house: and she insisted on Antoinette's
coming also, and breaking away from her solitude, and having some amusement
in her life. And as she had no difficulty in guessing that Antoinette's
shyness was in part the result of her poverty, she even went so far as to
offer to give her a pretty frock or two, which Antoinette refused proudly:
but her kindly patroness found a way of forcing her to accept a few of
those little presents which are so dear to a woman's innocent vanity.
Antoinette was both grateful and embarrassed. She forced herself to go to
Madame Nathan's parties from time to time: and being young she managed to
enjoy herself in spite of everything.

But in that rather mixed society of all sorts of young people Madame
Nathan's protégée, being poor and pretty, became at once the mark of two or
three young gentlemen, who with perfect confidence in themselves picked her
out for their attentions. They calculated how far her timidity would go:
they even made bets about her.

One day she received certain anonymous letters--or rather letters signed
with a noble pseudonym--which conveyed a declaration of love: at first
they were love-letters, flattering, ardent, appointing a rendezvous: then
they quickly became bolder, threatening, and soon insulting and basely
slanderous: they stripped her, exposed her, besmirched her with their
coarse expressions of desire: they tried to play upon Antoinette's
simplicity by making her fearful of a public insult if she did not go to
the appointed rendezvous. She wept bitterly at the thought of having called
down on herself such base proposals: and these insults scorched her pride.
She did not know what to do. She did not like to speak to her brother about
it: she knew that he would feel it too keenly and that he would make the
affair even more serious than it was. She had no friends. The police? She
would not do that for fear of scandal. But somehow she had to make an end
of it. She felt that her silence would not sufficiently defend her, that
the blackguard who was pursuing her would hold to the chase and that he
would go on until to go farther would be dangerous.

He had just sent her a sort of ultimatum commanding her to meet him next
day at the Luxembourg. She went.--By racking her brains she had come to the
conclusion that her persecutor must have met her at Madame Nathan's. In one
of his letters he had alluded to something which could only have happened
there. She begged Madame Nathan to do her a great favor and to drive her to
the door of the gallery and to wait for her outside. She went in. In front
of the appointed picture her tormentor accosted her triumphantly and began
to talk to her with affected politeness. She stared straight at him without
a word. When he had finished his remark he asked her jokingly why she was
staring at him. She replied:

"You are a coward."

He was not put out by such a trifle as that, and became familiar in his
manner. She said:

"You have tried to threaten me with a scandal. Very well, I have come to
give you your scandal. You have asked for it!"

She was trembling all over, and she spoke in a loud voice to show him that
she was quite equal to attracting attention to themselves. People had
already begun to watch them. He felt that she would stick at nothing. He
lowered his voice. She said once more, for the last time:

"You are a coward," and turned her back on him.

Not wishing to seem to have given in he followed her. She left the gallery
with the fellow following hard on her heels. She walked straight to the
carriage waiting there, wrenched the door open, and her pursuer found
himself face to face with Madame Nathan, who recognized him and greeted him
by name. His face fell and he bolted.

Antoinette had to tell the whole story to her companion. She was unwilling
to do so, and only hinted roughly at the facts. It was painful to her to
reveal to a stranger the intimate secrets of her life, and the sufferings
of her injured modesty. Madame Nathan scolded her for not having told her
before. Antoinette begged her not to tell anybody. That was the end of it:
and Madame Nathan did not even need to strike the fellow off her visiting
list: for he was careful not to appear again.

About the same time another sorrow of a very different kind came to

At the Nathans' she met a man of forty, a very good fellow, who was in
the Consular service in the Far East, and had come home on a few months'
leave. He fell in love with her. The meeting had been planned unknown to
Antoinette, by Madame Nathan, who had taken it into her head that she must
find a husband for her little friend. He was a Jew. He was not good-looking
and he was no longer young. He was rather bald, and round-shouldered: but
he had kind eyes, an affectionate way with him, and he could feel for and
understand suffering, for he had suffered himself. Antoinette was no longer
the romantic girl, the spoiled child, dreaming of life as a lovely day's
walk on her lover's arm: now she saw the hard struggle of life, which began
again, every day, allowing no time for rest, or, if rest were taken, it
might be to lose in one moment all the ground that had been gained, inch
by inch, through years of striving: and she thought it would be very sweet
to be able to lean on the arm of a friend, and share his sorrows with him,
and be able to close her eyes for a little, while he watched over her. She
knew that it was a dream: but she had not had the courage to renounce her
dream altogether. In her heart she knew quite well that a dowerless girl
had nothing to hope for in the world in which she lived. The old French
middle-classes are known throughout the world for the spirit of sordid
interest in which they conduct their marriages. The Jews are far less
grasping with money. Among the Jews it is no uncommon thing for a rich
young man to choose a poor girl, or a young woman of fortune to set herself
passionately to win a man of intellect. But in the French middle-classes,
Catholic and provincial in their outlook, almost always money woos money.
And to what end? Poor wretches, they have none but dull commonplace
desires: they can do nothing but eat, yawn, sleep--save. Antoinette knew
them. She had observed their ways from her childhood on. She had seen them
with the eyes of wealth and the eyes of poverty. She had no illusions left
about them, nor about the treatment she had to expect from them. And so the
attentions of this man who had asked her to marry him came as an unhoped
for treasure in her life. At first she did not think of him as a lover, but
gradually she was filled with gratitude and tenderness towards him. She
would have accepted his proposal if it had not meant following him to the
colonies and consequently leaving her brother. She refused: and though her
lover understood the magnanimity of her reason for doing so, he could not
forgive her: love is so selfish, that the lover will not hear of being
sacrificed even to those virtues which are dearest to him in the beloved.
He gave up seeing her: when he went away he never wrote: she had no news
of him at all until, five or six months later, she received a printed
intimation, addressed in his hand, that he had married another woman.

Antoinette felt it deeply. She was broken-hearted, and she offered up her
suffering to God: she tried to persuade herself that she was justly
punished for having for one moment lost sight of her one duty, to devote
herself to her brother: and she grew more and more wrapped up in it.

She withdrew from the world altogether. She even dropped going to the
Nathans', for they were a little cold towards her after she refused
the marriage which they had arranged for her: they too refused to see
any justification for her. Madame Nathan had decided that the marriage
should take place, and her vanity was hurt at its missing fire through
Antoinette's fault. She thought her scruples certainly quite praiseworthy,
but exaggerated and sentimental: and thereafter she lost interest in the
silly little goose. It was necessary for her always to be helping people,
with or without their consent, and she quickly found another protégée to
absorb, for the time being, all the interest and devotion which she had to

Olivier knew nothing of his sister's sad little romance. He was a
sentimental, irresponsible boy, living in his dreams and fancies. It was
impossible to depend on him in spite of his intelligence and charm and
his very real tenderheartedness. Often he would fling away the results of
months of work by his irresponsibility, or in a fit of discouragement, or
by some boyish freak, or some fancied love affair, in which he would waste
all his time and energy. He would fall in love with a pretty face, that
he had seen once, with coquettish little girls, whom perhaps he once met
out somewhere, though they never paid any attention to him. He would be
infatuated with something he had read, a poet, or a musician: he would
steep himself in their works for months together, to the exclusion of
everything else and the detriment of his studies. He had to be watched
always, though great care had to be taken that he did not know it, for he
was easily wounded. There was always a danger of a seizure. He had the
feverish excitement, the want of balance, the uneasy trepidation, that are
often found in those who have a consumptive tendency. The doctor had not
concealed the danger from Antoinette. The sickly plant, transplanted from
the provinces to Paris, needed fresh air and light. Antoinette could not
provide them. They had not enough money to be able to go away from Paris
during the holidays. All the rest of their year every day in the week was
full, and on Sundays they were so tired that they never wanted to go out,
except to a concert.

There were Sundays in the summer when Antoinette would make an effort and
drag Olivier off to the woods outside Paris, near Chaville or Saint-Cloud.
But the woods were full of noisy couples, singing music-hall songs, and
littering the place with greasy bits of paper: they did not find the divine
solitude which purifies and gives rest. And in the evening when they turned
homewards they had to suffer the roar and clatter of the trains, the dirty,
crowded, low, narrow, dark carriages of the suburban lines, the coarseness
of certain things they saw, the noisy, singing, shouting, smelly
people, and the reek of tobacco smoke. Neither Antoinette nor Olivier
could understand the people, and they would return home disgusted and
demoralized. Olivier would beg Antoinette not to go for Sunday walks again;
and for some time Antoinette would not have the heart to go again. And
then she would insist, though it was even more disagreeable to her than to
Olivier: but she thought it necessary for her brother's health. She would
force him to go out once more. But their new experience would be no better
than the last, and Olivier would protest bitterly. So they stayed shut up
in the stifling town, and, in their prison-yard, they sighed for the open

       *       *       *       *       *

Olivier had reached the end of his schooldays. The examinations for the
_École Normale_ were over. It was quite time. Antoinette was very tired.
She was counting on his success: her brother had everything in his favor.
At school he was regarded as one of the best pupils: and all his masters
were agreed in praising his industry and intelligence, except for a certain
want of mental discipline which made it difficult for him to bend to any
sort of plan. But the responsibility of it weighed on Olivier so heavily
that he lost his head as the examination came near. He was worn out, and
paralyzed by the fear of failure, and a morbid shyness that crept over him.
He trembled at the thought of appearing before the examiners in public. He
had always suffered from shyness: in class he would blush and choke when he
had to speak: at first he could hardly do more than answer his name. And it
was much more easy for him to reply impromptu than when he knew that he was
going to be questioned: the thought of it made him ill: his mind rushed
ahead picturing every detail of the ordeal as it would happen: and the
longer he had to wait, the more he was obsessed by it. It might be said
that he passed every examination at least twice: for he passed it in his
dreams on the night before and expended all his energy, so that he had none
left for the real examination.

But he did not even reach the _viva voce_, the very thought of which had
sent him into a cold sweat the night before. In the written examination on
a philosophical subject, which at any ordinary time would have sent him
flying off, he could not even manage to squeeze out a couple of pages in
six hours. For the first few hours his brain was empty; he could think of
nothing, nothing. It was like a blank wall against which he hurled himself
in vain. Then, an hour before the end, the wall was rent and a few rays of
light shone through the crevices. He wrote an excellent short essay, but it
was not enough to place him. When Antoinette saw the despair on his face as
he came out, she foresaw the inevitable blow, and she was as despairing as
he: but she did not show it. Even in the most desperate situations she had
always an inexhaustible capacity for hope.

Olivier was rejected.

He was crushed by it. Antoinette pretended to smile as though it were
nothing of any importance: but her lips trembled. She consoled her brother,
and told him that it was an easily remedied misfortune, and that he would
be certain to pass next year, and win a better place. She did not tell
him how vital it was to her that he should have passed, that year, or how
utterly worn out she felt in soul and body, or how uneasy she felt about
fighting through another year like that. But she had to go on. If she were
to go away before Olivier had passed he would never have the courage to go
on fighting alone: he would succumb.

She concealed her weariness from him, and even redoubled her efforts.
She wore herself to skin and bone to let him have amusement and change
during the holidays so that he might resume work with greater energy and
confidence. But at the very outset her small savings had to be broken into,
and, to make matters worse, she lost some of her most profitable pupils.

Another year!... Within sight of the final ordeal they were almost at
breaking-point. Above all, they had to live, and discover some other means
of scraping along. Antoinette accepted a situation as a governess in
Germany which had been offered her through the Nathans. It was the very
last thing she would have thought of, but nothing else offered at the time,
and she could not wait. She had never left her brother for a single day
during the last six years: and she could not imagine what life would be
like without seeing and hearing him from day to day. Olivier was terrified
when he thought of it: but he dared not say anything: it was he who had
brought it about: if he had passed Antoinette would not have been reduced
to such an extremity: he had no right to say anything, or to take into
account his own grief at the parting: it was for her to decide.

They spent the last days together in dumb anguish, as though one of them
were about to die: they hid away from each other when their sorrow was too
much for them. Antoinette gazed into Olivier's eyes for counsel. If he had
said to her: "Don't go!" she would have stayed, although she had to go. Up
to the very last moment, in the cab in which they drove to the station,
she was prepared to break her resolution: she felt that she could never go
through with it. At a word from him one word!... But he said nothing. Like
her, he set his teeth and would not budge.--She made him promise to write
to her every day, and to conceal nothing from her, and to send for her if
he were ever in the least danger.

       *       *       *       *       *

They parted. While Olivier returned with a heavy heart to his school, where
it had been agreed that he should board, the train carried Antoinette,
crushed and sorrowful, towards Germany. Lying awake and staring through the
night they felt the minutes dragging them farther and farther apart, and
they called to each other in whispering voices.

Antoinette was fearful of the new world to which she was going. She had
changed much in six years. She who had once been so bold and afraid of
nothing had grown so used to silence and isolation that it hurt her to
go out into the world again. The laughing, gay, chattering Antoinette of
the old happy times had passed away with them. Unhappiness had made her
sensitive and shy. No doubt living with Olivier had infected her with his
timidity. She had had hardly anybody to talk to except her brother. She was
scared by the least little thing, and was really in a panic when she had to
pay a call. And so it was a nervous torture to her to think that she was
now going to live among strangers, to have to talk to them, to be always
with them. The poor girl had no more real vocation for teaching than her
brother: she did her work conscientiously, but her heart was not in it, and
she had not the support of feeling that there was any use in it. She was
made to love and not to teach. And no one cared for her love.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nowhere was her capacity for love less in demand than in her new situation
in Germany. The Grünebaums, whose children she was engaged to teach French,
took not the slightest interest in her. They were haughty and familiar,
indifferent and indiscreet: they paid fairly well: and, as a result, they
regarded everybody in their payment as being under an obligation to them,
and thought they could do just as they liked. They treated Antoinette as a
superior sort of servant and allowed her hardly any liberty. She did not
even have a room to herself: she slept in a room adjoining that of the
children and had to leave the door open all night. She was never alone.
They had no respect for her need of taking refuge every now and then
within herself--the sacred right of every human being to preserve an inner
sanctuary of solitude. The only happiness she had lay in correspondence and
communion with her brother: she made use of every moment of liberty she
could snatch. But even that was encroached upon. As soon as she began to
write they would prowl about in her room and ask her what she was writing.
When she was reading a letter they would ask her what was in it: by their
persistent impertinent curiosity they found out about her "little brother."
She had to hide from them. Too shameful sometimes were the expedients to
which she had to resort, and the holes and crannies in which she had to
hide, in order to be able to read Olivier's letters unobserved. If she left
a letter lying in her room she was sure it would be read: and as she had
nothing she could lock except her box, she had to carry any papers she did
not want to have read about with her: they were always prying into her
business and her intimate affairs, and they were always fishing for her
secret thoughts. It was not that the Grünebaums were really interested in
her, only they thought that, as they paid her, she was their property. They
were not malicious about it: indiscretion was with them an incurable habit:
they were never offended with each other.

Nothing could have been more intolerable to Antoinette than such espionage,
such a lack of moral modesty, which made it impossible for her to escape
even for an hour a day from their curiosity. The Grünebaums were hurt by
the haughty reserve with which she treated them. Naturally they found
highly moral reasons to justify their vulgar curiosity, and to condemn
Antoinette's desire to be immune from it.

"It was their duty," they thought, "to know the private life of a girl
living under their roof, as a member of their household, to whom they
had intrusted the education of their children: they were responsible for
her."--(That is the sort of thing that so many mistresses say of their
servants, mistresses whose "responsibility" does not go so far as to
spare the unhappy girls any fatigue or work that must revolt them, but
is entirely limited to denying them every sort of pleasure.)--"And that
Antoinette should refuse to acknowledge that duty, imposed on them by
conscience, could only show," they concluded, "that she was conscious
of being not altogether beyond reproach: an honest girl has nothing to

So Antoinette lived under a perpetual persecution, against which she was
always on her guard, so that it made her seem even more cold and reserved
than she was.

Every day her brother wrote her a twelve-page letter: and she contrived to
write to him every day even if it were only a few lines. Olivier tried hard
to be brave and not to show his grief too clearly. But he was bored and
dull. His life had always been so bound up with his sister's that, now that
she was torn from him, he seemed to have lost part of himself: he could
not use his arms, or his legs, or his brains, he could not walk, or play
the piano, or work, or do anything, not even dream--except through her. He
slaved away at his books from morning to night: but it was no good: his
thoughts were elsewhere: he would be suffering, or thinking of her, or of
the morrow's letter: he would sit staring at the clock, waiting for the
day's letter: and when it arrived his fingers would tremble with joy--with
fear, too--as he tore open the envelope. Never did lover tremble with more
tenderness and anxiety at a letter from his mistress. He would hide away,
like Antoinette, to read his letters: he would carry them about with him:
and at night he always had the last letter under his pillow, and he would
touch it from time to time to make sure that it was still there, during
the long, sleepless nights when he lay awake dreaming of his dear sister.
How far removed from her he felt! He felt that most dreadfully when
Antoinette's letters were delayed by the post and came a day late. Two
days, two nights, between them!... He exaggerated the time and the distance
because he had never traveled. His imagination would take fire:

"Heavens! If she were to fall ill! There would be time for her to die
before he could see her ... Why had she not written to him, just a line or
two, the day before?... Was she ill?... Yes. She was surely ill ..." He
would choke.--More often still he would be terrified of dying away from
her, dying alone, among people who did not care, in the horrible school,
in grim, gray Paris. He would make himself ill with the thought of it....
"Should he write and tell her to come back?"--But then he would be ashamed
of his cowardice. Besides, as soon as he began to write to her it gave him
such joy to be in communion with her that for a moment he would forget
his suffering. It seemed to him that he could see her, hear her voice: he
would tell her everything: never had he spoken to her so intimately, so
passionately, when they had been together: he would call her "my true,
brave, dear, kind, beloved, little sister," and say, "I love you so."
Indeed they were real love-letters.

Their tenderness was sweet and comforting to Antoinette: they were all the
air she had to breathe. If they did not come in the morning at the usual
time she would be miserable. Once or twice it happened that the Grünebaums,
from carelessness, or--who knows?--from a wicked desire to tease, forgot to
give them to her until the evening, and once even until the next morning:
and she worked herself into a fever.--On New Year's Day they had the same
idea, without telling each other: they planned a surprise, and each sent a
long telegram--(at vast expense)--and their messages arrived at the same
time.--Olivier always consulted Antoinette about his work and his troubles:
Antoinette gave him advice, and encouragement, and fortified him with her
strength, though indeed she had not really enough for herself.

She was stifled in the foreign country, where she knew nobody, and nobody
was interested in her, except the wife of a professor, lately come to
the town, who also felt out of her element. The good creature was kind
and motherly, and sympathetic with the brother and sister who loved each
other so and had to live apart--(for she had dragged part of her story
out of Antoinette):--but she was so noisy, so commonplace, she was so
lacking--though quite innocently--in tact and discretion that aristocratic
little Antoinette was irritated and drew back. She had no one in whom she
could confide and so all her troubles were pent up, and weighed heavily
upon her: sometimes she thought she must give way under them: but she set
her teeth and struggled on. Her health suffered: she grew very thin. Her
brother's letters became more and more downhearted. In a fit of depression
he wrote:

"Come back, come back, come back!..."

But he had hardly sent the letter off than he was ashamed of it and wrote
another begging Antoinette to tear up the first and give no further thought
to it. He even pretended to be in good spirits and not to be wanting his
sister. It hurt his umbrageous vanity to think that he might seem incapable
of doing without her.

Antoinette was not deceived: she read his every thought: but she did not
know what to do. One day she almost went to him: she went to the station to
find out what time the train left for Paris. And then she said to herself
that it was madness: the money she was earning was enough to pay for
Olivier's board: they must hold on as long as they could. She was not
strong enough to make up her mind: in the morning her courage would spring
forth again: but as the day dragged towards evening her strength would fail
her and she would think of flying to him. She was homesick,--longing for
the country that had treated her so hardly, the country that enshrined all
the relics of her past life,--and she was aching to hear the language that
her brother spoke, the language in which she told her love for him.

Then it was that a company of French actors passed through the little
German town. Antoinette, who rarely visited the theater--(she had neither
time nor taste for it)--was seized with an irresistible longing to hear her
own language spoken, to take refuge in France.

The rest is known.[Footnote: See _Jean-Christophe_--I, "Revolt."]

There were no seats left in the theater: she met the young musician,
Jean-Christophe, whom she did not know, and he, seeing her disappointment,
offered to share with her a box which he had to give away: in her confusion
she accepted. Her presence with Christophe set tongues wagging in the
little town: and the malicious rumors came at once to the ears of the
Grünebaums, who, being already inclined to believe anything ill of the
young Frenchwoman, and furious with Christophe as a result of certain
events which have been narrated elsewhere, dismissed Antoinette without
more ado.

She, who was so chaste and modest, she, whose whole life had been absorbed
by her love for her brother and never yet had been besmirched with one
thought of evil, nearly died of shame, when she understood the nature
of the charge against her. Not for one moment was she resentful against
Christophe. She knew that he was as innocent as she, and that, if he had
injured her, he had meant only to be kind: she was grateful to him. She
knew nothing of him, save that he was a musician, and that he was much
maligned: but, in her ignorance of life and men, she had a natural
intuition about people, which unhappiness had sharpened, and in her queer,
boorish companion she had recognized a quality of candor equal to her own,
and a sturdy kindness, the mere memory of which was comforting and good
to think on. The evil she had heard of him did not at all affect the
confidence which Christophe had inspired in her. Being herself a victim she
had no doubt that he was in the same plight, suffering, as she did, though
for a longer time, from the malevolence of the townspeople who insulted
him. And as she always forgot herself in the thought of others the idea of
what Christophe must have suffered distracted her mind a little from her
own torment. Nothing in the world could have induced her to try to see him
again, or to write to him: her modesty and pride forbade it. She told
herself that he did not know the harm he had done, and, in her gentleness,
she hoped that he would never know it.

She left Germany. An hour away from the town it chanced that the train in
which she was traveling passed the train by which Christophe was returning
from a neighboring town where he had been spending the day.

For a few minutes their carriages stopped opposite each other, and in the
silence of the night they saw each other, but did not speak. What could
they have said save a few trivial words? That would have been a profanation
of the indefinable feeling of common pity and mysterious sympathy which
had sprung up in them, and was based on nothing save the sureness of their
inward vision. During those last moments, when, still strangers, they
gazed into each other's eyes, they saw in each other things which never
had appeared to any other soul among the people with whom they lived.
Everything must pass: the memory of words, kisses, passionate embraces: but
the contact of souls, which have once met and hailed each other and the
throng of passing shapes, that never can be blotted out. Antoinette bore
it with her in the innermost recesses of her heart--that poor heart, so
swathed about with sorrow and sad thoughts, from out the midst of which
there smiled a misty light, which seemed to steal sweetly from the earth, a
pale and tender light like that which floods the Elysian Shades of Gluck.

       *       *       *       *       *

She returned to Olivier. It was high time she returned to him. He had just
fallen ill: and the poor, nervous, unhappy little creature who trembled, at
the thought of illness before it came--now that he was really ill, refused
to write to his sister for fear of upsetting her. But he called to her,
prayed for her coming as for a miracle.

When the miracle happened he was lying in the school infirmary, feverish
and wandering. When he saw her he made no sound. How often had he seen her
enter in his fevered fancy!... He sat up in bed, gaping, and trembling lest
it should be once more only an illusion. And when she sat down on the bed
by his side, when she took him in her arms and he had taken her in his,
when he felt her soft cheek against his lips, and her hands still cold from
traveling by night in his, when he was quite, quite sure that it was his
dear sister he began to weep. He could do nothing else: he was still the
"little cry-baby" that he had been when he was a child. He clung to her and
held her close for fear she should go away from him again. How changed they
were! How sad they looked!... No matter! They were together once more:
everything was lit up, the infirmary, the school, the gloomy day: they
clung to each other, they would never let each other go. Before she had
said a word he made her swear that she would not go away again. He had no
need to make her swear: no, she would never go away again: they had been
too unhappy away from each other: their mother was right: anything was
better than being parted. Even poverty, even death, so only they were

They took rooms. They wanted to take their old little flat, horrible though
it was: but it was occupied. Their new rooms also looked out on to a yard:
but above a wall they could see the top of a little acacia and grew fond of
it at once, as a friend from the country, a prisoner like themselves, in
the paved wilderness of the city. Olivier quickly recovered his health, or
rather, what he was pleased to call his health:--(for what was health to
him would have been illness to a stronger boy).--Antoinette's unhappy stay
in Germany had helped her to save a little money: and she made some more by
the translation of a German book which a publisher accepted. For a time,
then, they were free of financial anxiety: and all would be well if Olivier
passed his examination at the end of the year.--But if he did not pass?

No sooner had they settled down to the happiness of being together again
than they were once more obsessed by the prospect of the examination. They
tried hard not to think about it, but in vain, they were always coming back
to it. The fixed idea haunted them, even when they were seeking distraction
from their thoughts: at concerts it would suddenly leap out at them in the
middle of the performance: at night when they woke up it would lie there
like a yawning gulf before them. In addition to his eagerness to please his
sister and repay her for the sacrifice of her youth that she had made for
his sake, Olivier lived in terror of his military service which he could
not escape if he were rejected:--(at that time admission to the great
schools was still admitted as an exemption from service).--He had an
invincible disgust for the physical and moral promiscuity, the kind
of intellectual degradation, which, rightly or wrongly, he saw in
barrack-life. Every pure and aristocratic quality in him revolted from such
compulsion, and it seemed to him that death would be preferable. In these
days it is permitted to make light of such feelings, and even to decry
them in the name of a social morality which, for the moment, has become
a religion: but they are blind who deny it: there is no more profound
suffering than that of the violation of moral solitude by the coarse
liberal Communism of the present day.

The examinations began. Olivier was almost incapable of going in: he was
unwell, and he was so fearful of the torment he would have to undergo,
whether he passed or not, that he almost longed to be taken seriously ill.
He did quite well in the written examination. But he had a cruel time
waiting to hear the results. Following the immemorial custom of the country
of Revolutions, which is the worst country in the world for red-tape and
routine, the examinations were held in July during the hottest days of the
year, as though it were deliberately intended to finish off the luckless
candidates, who were already staggering under the weight of cramming a
monstrous list of subjects, of which even the examiners did not know a
tenth part. The written examinations were held on the day after the holiday
of the 14th July, when the whole city was upside down, and making merry, to
the undoing of the young men who were by no means inclined to be merry, and
asked for nothing but silence. In the square outside the house booths were
set up, rifles cracked at the miniature ranges, merry-go-rounds creaked
and grunted, and hideous steam organs roared from morning till night. The
idiotic noise went on for a week. Then a President of the Republic, by way
of maintaining his popularity, granted the rowdy merry-makers another three
days' holiday. It cost him nothing: he did not hear the row. But Olivier
and Antoinette were distracted and appalled by the noise, and had to keep
their windows shut, so that their rooms were stifling, and stop their ears,
trying vainly to escape the shrill, insistent, idiotic tunes which were
ground out from morning till night and stabbed through their brains like
daggers, so that they were reduced to a pitiful condition.

The _viva voce_ examination began immediately after the publication of
the first results. Olivier begged Antoinette not to go. She waited at the
door,--much more anxious than he. Of course he never told her what he
thought of his performance. He tormented her by telling her what he had
said and what he had not said.

At last the final results were published. The names of the candidates were
posted in the courtyard of the Sorbonne. Antoinette would not let Olivier
go alone. As they left the house, they thought, though they did not say it,
that when they came back they would _know_, and perhaps they would regret
their present fears, when at least there was still hope. When they came
in sight of the Sorbonne they felt their legs give way under them. Brave
little Antoinette said to her brother:

"Please not so fast...."

Olivier looked at his sister, and she forced a smile. He said:

"Shall we sit down for a moment on the seat here?"

He would gladly have gone no further. But, after a moment, she pressed his
hand and said:

"It's nothing, dear. Let us go on."

They could not find the list at first. They read several others in which
the name of Jeannin did not appear. When at last they saw it, they did not
take it in at first: they read it several times and could not believe it.
Then when they were quite sure that it was true that Jeannin was Olivier,
that Jeannin had passed, they could say nothing: they hurried home: she
took his arm, and held his wrist, and leaned her weight on him: they almost
ran, and saw nothing of what was going on about them: as they crossed the
boulevard they were almost run over. They said over and over again:

"Dear ... Darling ... Dear ... Dear...."

They tore upstairs to their rooms and then they flung their arms round each
other. Antoinette took her brother's hand and led him to the photographs of
their father and mother, which hung on the wall near her bed, in a corner
of her room, which was a sort of sanctuary to her: they knelt down before
them: and with tears in their eyes they prayed.

Antoinette ordered a jolly little dinner: but they could not eat a morsel:
they were not hungry. They spent the evening, Olivier kneeling by his
sister's side while she petted him like a child. They hardly spoke at all.
They could not even be happy, for they were too worn out. They went to bed
before nine o'clock and slept the sleep of the just.

Next day Antoinette had a frightful headache, but there was such a load
taken from her heart! Olivier felt, for the first time in his life, that
he could breathe freely. He was saved, she was saved, she had accomplished
her task: and he had shown himself to be not unworthy of his sister's
expectations!... For the first time for years and years they allowed
themselves a little laziness. They stayed in bed till twelve talking
through the wall, with the door between their rooms open: when they looked
in the mirror they saw their faces happy and tired-looking: they smiled,
and threw kisses to each other, and dozed off again, and watched each
other's sleep, and lay weary and worn with hardly the strength to do more
than mutter tender little scraps of words.

       *       *       *       *       *

Antoinette had always put by a little money, sou by sou, so as to have some
small reserve in case of illness. She did not tell her brother the surprise
she had in store for him. The day after his success she told him that they
were going to spend a month in Switzerland to make up for all their years
of trouble and hardship. Now that Olivier was assured of three years at the
_École Normale_ at the expense of the State, and then, when he left the
_École_, of finding a post, they could be extravagant and spend all their
savings. Olivier shouted for joy when she told him. Antoinette was even
more happy than he,--happy in her brother's happiness,--happy to think that
she was going to see the country once more: she had so longed for it.

It took them some time to get ready for the journey, but the work of
preparation was an unending joy. It was well on in August when they set
out. They were not used to traveling. Olivier did not sleep the night
before. And he did not sleep in the train. The whole day they had been
fearful of missing the train. They were in a feverish hurry, they had been
jostled about at the station, and finally huddled into a second-class
carriage, where they could not even lean back to go to sleep:--(that is
one of the privileges of which the eminently democratic French companies
deprive poor travelers, so that rich travelers may have the pleasure of
thinking that they have a monopoly of it).--Olivier did not sleep a wink:
he was not sure that they were in the right train, and he looked out for
the name of every station. Antoinette slept lightly and woke up very
frequently: the jolting of the train made her head bob. Olivier watched her
by the light of the funereal lamp, which shone at the top of the moving
sarcophagus: and he was suddenly struck by the change in her face. Her eyes
were hollow: her childish lips were half-open from sheer weariness: her
skin was sallow, and there were little wrinkles on her cheeks, the marks
of the sad years of sorrow and disillusion. She looked old and ill.--And,
indeed, she was so tired! If she had dared she would have postponed their
journey. But she did not like to spoil her brother's pleasure: she tried to
persuade herself that she was only tired, and that the country would make
her well again. She was fearful lest she should fall ill on the way.--She
felt that he was looking at her: and she suddenly flung off the drowsiness
that was creeping over her, and opened her eyes,--eyes still young,
still clear and limpid, across which, from time to time, there passed an
involuntary look of pain, like shadows on a little lake. He asked her in
a whisper, anxiously and tenderly, how she was: she pressed his hand and
assured him that she was well. A word of love revived her.

Then, when the rosy dawn tinged the pale country between Dôle and
Pontarlier, the sight of the waking fields, and the gay sun rising from the
earth,--the sun, who, like themselves, had escaped from the prison of the
streets, and the grimy houses, and the thick smoke of Paris:--the waving
fields wrapped in the light mist of their milk-white breath: the little
things they passed: a little village belfry, a glimpse of a winding stream,
a blue line of hills hovering on the far horizon: the tinkling, moving
sound of the angelus borne from afar on the wind, when the train stopped
in the midst of the sleeping country: the solemn shapes of a herd of cows
browsing on a slope above the railway,--all absorbed Antoinette and her
brother, to whom it all seemed new. They were like parched trees, drinking
in ecstasy the rain from heaven.

Then, in the early morning, they reached the Swiss Customs, where they had
to get out. A little station in a bare country-side. They were almost worn
out by their sleepless night, and the cold, dewy freshness of the dawn made
them shiver: but it was calm, and the sky was clear, and the fragrant air
of the fields was about them, upon their lips, on their tongues, down their
throats, flowing down into their lungs like a cooling stream: and they
stood by a table, out in the open air, and drank comforting hot coffee with
creamy milk, heavenly sweet, and tasting of the grass and the flowers of
the fields.

They climbed up into the Swiss carriage, the novel arrangement of which
gave them a childish pleasure. But Antoinette was so tired! She could not
understand why she should feel so ill. Why was everything about her so
beautiful, so absorbing, when she could take so little pleasure in it?
Was it not all just what she had been dreaming for years: a journey with
her brother, with all anxiety for the future left behind, dear mother
Nature?... What was the matter with her? She was annoyed with herself, and
forced herself to admire and share her brother's naïve delight.

They stopped at Thun. They were to go up into the mountains next day. But
that night in the hotel, Antoinette was stricken with a fever, and violent
illness, and pains in her head. Olivier was at his wits' ends, and spent a
night of frightful anxiety. He had to send for a doctor in the morning--(an
unforeseen expense which was no light tax on their slender purse).--The
doctor could find nothing immediately serious, but said that she was run
down, and that her constitution was undermined. There could be no question
of their going on. The doctor forbade Antoinette to get up all day; and
he thought they would perhaps have to stay at Thun for some time. They
were very downcast--though very glad to have got off so cheaply after all
their fears. But it was hard to have come so far to be shut up in a nasty
hotel-room into which the sunlight poured so that it was like a hothouse.
Antoinette insisted on her brother going out. He went a few yards from the
hotel, saw the beautiful green Aar, and, hovering in the distance against
the sky, a white peak: he bubbled over with joy: but he could not keep it
to himself. He rushed back to his sister's room, and told her excitedly
what he had just seen: and when she expressed her surprise at his coming
back so soon and made him promise to go out again, he said, as once before
he had said when he came back from the _Châtelet_ concert:

"No, no. It is too beautiful: it hurts me to see it without you."

That feeling was not new to them: they knew that they had to be together to
enjoy anything wholly. But they always loved to hear it said. His tender
words did Antoinette more good than any medicine. She smiled now,
languidly, happily.--And after a good night, although it was not very wise
to go on so soon, she decided that they would get away very early, without
telling the doctor, who would only want to keep them back. The pure air and
the joy of seeing so much beauty made her stronger, so that she did not
have to pay for her rashness, and without any further misadventure they
reached the end of their journey--a mountain village, high above the lake,
some distance away from Spiez.

There they spent three or four weeks in a little hotel. Antoinette did not
have any further attack of fever, but she never got really well. She still
felt a heaviness, an intolerable weight, in her head, and she was always
unwell. Olivier often asked her about her health: he longed to see her
grow less pale: but he was intoxicated by the beauty of the country, and
instinctively avoided all melancholy thoughts: when she assured him that
she was really quite well, he tried to believe that it was true,--although
he knew perfectly well that it was not so. And she enjoyed to the full her
brother's exuberance and the fine air, and the all-pervading peace. How
good it was to rest at last after those terrible years!

Olivier tried to induce her to go for walks with him: she would have been
happy to join him: but on several occasions when she had bravely set out,
she had been forced to stop after twenty minutes, to regain her breath, and
rest her heart. So he went out alone,--climbing the safe peaks, though they
filled her with terror until he came home again. Or they would go for
little walks together: she would lean on his arm, and walk slowly, and they
would talk, and he would suddenly begin to chatter, and laugh, and discuss
his plans, and make quips and jests. From the road on the hillside above
the valley they would watch the white clouds reflected in the still lake,
and the boats moving like insects on the surface of a pond: they would
drink in the warm air and the music of the goat-bells, borne on the gusty
wind, and the smell of the new-mown hay and the warm resin. And they would
dream together of the past and the future, and the present which seemed to
them to be the most unreal and intoxicating of dreams. Sometimes Antoinette
would be infected with her brother's jolly childlike humor: they would
chase each other and roll about on the grass. And one day he saw her
laughing as she used to do when they were children, madly, carelessly,
laughter clear and bubbling as a spring, such as he had not heard for many

But, most often, Olivier could not resist the pleasure of going for long
walks. He would be sorry for it at once, and later he had bitterly to
regret that he had not made enough of those dear days with his sister. Even
in the hotel he would often leave her alone. There was a party of young
men and girls in the hotel, from whom they had at first kept apart. Then
Olivier was attracted by them, and shyly joined their circle. He had been
starved of friendship: outside his sister he had hardly known any one but
his rough schoolfellows and their girls, who repelled him. It was very
sweet to him to be among well-mannered, charming, merry boys and girls of
his own age. Although he was very shy, he was naïvely curious, sentimental,
and affectionate, and easily bewitched by the little burning, flickering
fires that shine in a woman's eyes. And in spite of his shyness, women
liked him. His frank longing to love and be loved gave him, unknown to
himself, a youthful charm, and made him find words and gestures and
affectionate little attentions, the very awkwardness of which made them all
the more attractive. He had the gift of sympathy. Although in his isolation
his intelligence had taken on an ironical tinge which made him see the
vulgarity of people and their defects which he often loathed,--yet in
their presence he saw nothing but their eyes, in which he would see the
expression of a living being, who one day would die, a being who had only
one life, even as he, and, even as he, would lose it all too soon, then of
that creature he would involuntarily be fond: in that moment nothing in the
world could make him do anything to hurt: whether he liked it or not, he
had to be kind and amiable. He was weak: and, in being so, he was sure to
please the "world" which pardons every vice, and even every virtue,--except
one: force, on which all the rest depend.

Antoinette did not join them. Her health, her tiredness, her apparently
causeless moral collapse, paralyzed her. Through the long years of anxiety
and ceaseless toil, exhausting body and soul, the positions of the brother
and sister had been inverted: now it was she who felt far removed from the
world, far from everything and everybody, so far!... She could not break
down the wall between them: all their chatter, their noise, their laughter,
their little interests, bored her, wearied her, almost hurt her. It hurt
her to be so: she would have loved to go with the other girls, to share
their interests and laugh with them ... But she could not!... Her heart
ached; she seemed to be as one dead. In the evening she would shut herself
up in her room; and often she would not even turn on the light: she would
sit there in the dark, while downstairs Olivier would be amusing himself,
surrendering to the current of one of those romantic little love affairs to
which he so easily succumbed. She would only shake off her torpor when she
heard him coming upstairs, laughing and talking to the girls, hanging about
saying good-night outside their rooms, being unable to tear himself away.
Then in the darkness Antoinette would smile, and get up to turn on the
light. The sound of her brother's laughter revived her.

Autumn was setting in. The sun was dying down. Nature was a-weary. Under
the thick mists and clouds of October the colors were fading fast; snow
fell on the mountains: mists descended upon the plains. The visitors went
away one by one, and then several at a time. And it was sad to see even the
friends of a little while going away, but sadder still to see the passing
of the summer, the time of peace and happiness which had been an oasis in
their lives. They went for a last walk together, on a cloudy autumn day,
through the forest on the mountain-side. They did not speak: they mused
sadly, as they walked along with the collars of their cloaks turned up,
clinging close together: their hands were locked. There was silence in the
wet woods, and in silence the trees wept. From the depths there came the
sweet plaintive cry of a solitary bird who felt the coming of winter.
Through the mist came the clear tinkling of the goat-bells, far away, so
faint they could hardly hear it, so faint it was as though it came up from
their inmost hearts....

They returned to Paris. They were both sad. Antoinette was no better.

       *       *       *       *       *

They had to set to work to prepare Olivier's wardrobe for the _École_.
Antoinette spent the last of her little store of money, and even sold some
of her jewels. What did it matter? He would repay her later on. And then,
she would need so little when he was gone from her!... She tried not to
think of what it would be like when he was gone: she worked away at his
clothes, and put into the work all the tenderness she had for her brother,
and she had a presentiment that it would be the last thing she would do for

During the last days together they were never apart: they were fearful of
wasting the tiniest moment. On their last evening they sat up very late by
the fireside, Antoinette occupying the only armchair, and Olivier a stool
at her feet, and she made a fuss of him like the spoiled child he was. He
was dreading--though he was curious about it, too--the new life upon which
he was to enter. Antoinette thought only that it was the end of their dear
life together, and wondered fearfully what would become of her. As though
he were trying to make the thought even more bitter for her, he was more
tender than ever he had been, with the innocent instinctive coquetry of
those who always wait until they are just going to show themselves at their
best and most charming. He went to the piano and played her their favorite
passages from Mozart and Gluck--those visions of tender happiness and
serene sorrow with which so much of their past life was bound up.

When the time came for them to part, Antoinette accompanied Olivier as far
as the gates of the _École_. Then she returned. Once more she was alone.
But now it was not, as when she had gone away to Germany, a separation
which she could bring to an end at will when she could bear it no longer
How it was she who remained behind, he who went away: it was he who had
gone away, for a long, long time--perhaps for life. And yet her love for
him was so maternal that at first she thought less of herself than of him:
she thought only of how different the first few days would be for him, of
the strict rules of the _École_, and was preoccupied with those harmless
little worries which so easily assume alarming proportions in the minds of
people who live alone and are always tormenting themselves about those whom
they love. Her anxiety did at least have this advantage, that it distracted
her thoughts from her own loneliness. She had already begun to think of the
half-hour when she would be able to see him next day in the visitors' room.
She arrived a quarter of an hour too soon. He was very nice to her, but he
was altogether taken up with all the new things he had seen. And during the
following days, when she went to see him, full of the most tender anxiety,
the contrast between what those meetings meant for her and what they meant
for him was more and more marked. For her they were her whole life. For
Olivier--no doubt he loved Antoinette dearly: but it was too much to expect
him to think only of her, as she thought of him. Once or twice he came down
late to the visitors' room. One day, when she asked him if he were at all
unhappy, he said that he was nothing of the kind. Such little things as
that stabbed Antoinette to the heart.--She was angry with herself for being
so sensitive, and accused herself of selfishness: she knew quite well that
it would be absurd, even wrong and unnatural, for him to be unable to do
without her, and for her to be unable to do without him, and to have no
other object in life. Yes: she knew all that. But what was the good of her
knowing it? She could not help it if for the past ten years her whole life
had been bound up in that one idea: her brother. Now that the one interest
of her life had been torn from her, she had nothing left.

She tried bravely to keep herself occupied and to take up her music and
read her beloved books ... But alas! how empty were Shakespeare and
Beethoven without Olivier!

...--Yes: no doubt they were beautiful.... But Olivier was not there. What
is the good of beautiful things if the eyes of the beloved are not there to
see them? What is the use of beauty, what is the use even of joy, if they
cannot be won through the heart of the beloved?

If she had been stronger she would have tried to build up her life anew,
and give it another object. But she was at the end of her tether. Now that
there was nothing to force her to hold on, at all costs, the effort of will
to which she had subjected herself snapped: she collapsed. The illness,
which had been gaining grip on her for over a year, during which she had
fought it down by force of will, was now left to take its course.

She spent her evenings alone in her room, by the spent fire, a prey to her
thoughts: she had neither the courage to light the fire again, nor the
strength to go to bed: she would sit there far into the night, dozing,
dreaming, shivering. She would live through her life again, and summon up
the beloved dead and her lost illusions: and she would be terribly sad at
the thought of her lost youth, without love or hope of love. A dumb, aching
sorrow, obscure, unconfessed ... A child laughed in the street: its little
feet pattered up to the floor below ... Its little feet trampled on her
heart ... She would be beset with doubts and evil thoughts; her soul in
its weakness would be contaminated by the soul of that city of selfish
pleasure.--She would fight down her regrets, and burn with shame at certain
longings which she thought, evil and wicked: she could not understand what
it was that hurt her so, and attributed it to her evil instincts. Poor
little Ophelia, devoured by a mysterious evil, she felt with horror dark
and uneasy desires mounting from the depths of her being, from the very pit
of life. She could not work, and she had given up most of her pupils: she,
who was so plucky, and had always risen so early, now lay in bed sometimes
until the afternoon: she had no more reason for getting up than for going
to bed: she ate little or nothing. Only on her brother's holidays--Thursday
afternoons and Sundays--she would make an effort to be her old self with

He saw nothing. He was too much taken up with his new life to notice his
sister much. He was at that period of boyhood when it was difficult for
him to be communicative, and he always seemed to be indifferent to things
outside himself which would only be his concern in later days.--People of
riper years sometimes seem to be more open to impressions, and to take a
simpler delight in life and Nature, than young people between twenty and
thirty. And so it is often said that young people are not so young in
heart as they were, and have lost all sense of enjoyment. That is often a
mistaken idea. It is not because they have no sense of enjoyment that they
seem less sensitive. It is because their whole being is often absorbed by
passion, ambition, desire, some fixed idea. When the body is worn and has
no more to expect from life, then the emotions become disinterested and
fall into their place; and then once more the source of childish tears is
reopened.--Olivier was preoccupied with a thousand little things, the most
outstanding of which was an absurd little passion,--(he was always a victim
to them),--which so obsessed him as to make him blind and indifferent
to everything else.--Antoinette did not know what was happening to her
brother: she only saw that he was drawing away from her. That was not
altogether Olivier's fault. Sometimes when he came he would be glad to see
her and start talking. He would come in. Then all of a sudden he would dry
up. Her affectionate anxiety, the eagerness with which she clung to him,
and drank in his words, and overwhelmed him with little attentions,--all
her excess of tenderness and querulous devotion would deprive him utterly
of any desire to be warm and open with her. He might have seen that
Antoinette was not in a normal condition. Nothing could be farther from her
usual tact and discretion. But he never gave a thought to it. He would
reply to her questions with a curt "Yes" or "No." He would grow more stiff
and surly, the more she tried to win him over: sometimes even he would hurt
her by some brusque reply. Then she would be crushed and silent. Their day
together would slip by, wasted. But hardly had he set foot outside the
house on his way back to the _École_ than he would be heartily ashamed of
his treatment of her. He would torture himself all night as he lay awake
thinking of the pain he had caused her. Sometimes even, as soon as he
reached the _École_, he would write an effusive letter to his sister.--But
next morning, when he read it through, he would tear it up. And Antoinette
would know nothing at all about it. She would go on thinking that he had
ceased to love her.

       *       *       *       *       *

She had--if not one last joy--one last flutter of tenderness and youth,
when her heart beat strongly once more; one last awakening of love in her,
and hope of happiness, hope of life. It was quite ridiculous, so utterly
unlike her tranquil nature! It could never have been but for her abnormal
condition, the state of fear and over-excitement which was the precursor of

She went to a concert at the _Châtelet_ with her brother. As he had just
been appointed musical critic to a little Review, they were in better
places than those they occupied in old days, but the people among whom they
sat were much more apathetic. They had stalls near the stage. Christophe
Krafft was to play. Neither of them had ever heard of the German musician.
When she saw him come on, the blood rushed to her heart. Although her tired
eyes could only see him through a mist, she had no doubt when he appeared:
he was the unknown young man of her unhappy days in Germany. She had
never mentioned him to her brother: and she had hardly even admitted his
existence to her thoughts: she had been entirely absorbed by the anxieties
of her life since then. Besides, she was a reasonable little Frenchwoman,
and refused to admit the existence of an obscure feeling which she could
not trace to its source, while it seemed to lead nowhere. There was in her
a whole region of the soul, of unsuspected depths, wherein there slept many
other feelings which she would have been ashamed to behold: she knew that
they were there: but she looked away from them in a sort of religious
terror of that Being within herself which lies beyond the mind's control.

When she had recovered a little, she borrowed her brothers glasses to look
at Christophe: she saw him in profile at the conductor's stand, and she
recognized his expression of forceful concentration. He was wearing a
shabby old coat which fitted him very badly.--Antoinette sat in silent
agony through the vagaries of that lamentable concert when Christophe
joined issue with the unconcealed hostility of his audience, who were
at the time ill-disposed towards German artists, and actively bored
by his music. And when he appeared, after a symphony which had seemed
unconscionably long, to play some piano music, he was received with
cat-calls which left no room for doubt as to their displeasure at having to
put up with him again. However, he began to play in the face of the bored
resignation of his audience: but the uncomplimentary remarks exchanged in a
loud voice by two men in the gallery went on, to the great delight of the
rest of the audience. Then he broke off: and in a childish fit of temper
he played _Malbrouck s'en va t'en guerre_ with one finger, got up from the
piano, faced the audience, and said:

"That is all you are fit for."

The audience were for a moment so taken aback that they did not quite take
in what the musician meant. Then there was an outburst of angry protests.
Followed a terrible uproar. They hissed and shouted:

"Apologize! Make him apologize!"

They were all red in the face with anger, and they blew out their
fury--tried to persuade themselves that they were really enraged: as
perhaps they were, but the chief thing was that they were delighted to
have a chance of making a row, and letting themselves go: they were like
schoolboys after a few hours in school.

Antoinette could not move: she was petrified: she sat still tugging at
one of her gloves. Ever since the last bars of the symphony she had had a
growing presentiment of what would happen: she felt the blind hostility
of the audience, felt it growing: she read Christophe's thoughts, and she
was sure he would not go through to the end without an explosion: she sat
waiting for the explosion while agony grew in her: she stretched every
nerve to try to prevent it; and when at last it came, it was so exactly
what she had foreseen that she was overwhelmed by it, as by some fatal
catastrophe against which there was nothing to be done. And as she gazed
at Christophe, who was staring insolently at the howling audience, their
eyes met. Christophe's eyes recognized her, greeted her, for the space of
perhaps a second: but he was in such a state of excitement that his mind
did not recognize her (he had not thought of her for long enough). He
disappeared while the audience yelled and hissed.

She longed to cry out: to say or do something: but she was bound hand and
foot, and could not stir; it was like a nightmare. It was some comfort to
her to hear her brother at her side, and to know that, without having any
idea of what was happening to her, he had shared her agony and indignation.
Olivier was a thorough musician, and he had an independence of taste
which nothing could encroach upon: when he liked a thing, he would have
maintained his liking in the face of the whole world. With the very first
bars of the symphony, he had felt that he was in the presence of something
big, something the like of which he had never in his life come across. He
went on muttering to himself with heartfelt enthusiasm:

"That's fine! That's beautiful! Beautiful!" while his sister instinctively
pressed close to him, gratefully. After the symphony he applauded loudly by
way of protest against the ironic indifference of the rest of the audience.
When it came to the great fiasco, he was beside himself: he stood up,
shouted that Christophe was right, abused the booers, and offered to fight
them: it was impossible to recognize the timid Olivier. His voice was
drowned in the uproar: he was told to shut up: he was called a "snotty
little kid," and told to go to bed. Antoinette saw the futility of standing
up to them, and took his arm and said:

"Stop! Stop! I implore you! Stop!"

He sat down in despair, and went on muttering:

"It's shameful! Shameful! The swine!..."

She said nothing and bore her suffering in silence: he thought she was
insensible to the music, and said:

"Antoinette, don't _you_ think it beautiful?"

She nodded. She was frozen, and could not recover herself. But when the
orchestra began another piece, she suddenly got up, and whispered to her
brother in a tone of savage hatred:

"Come, come! I can't bear the sight of these people!"

They hurried out. They walked along arm-in-arm, and Olivier went on talking
excitedly. Antoinette said nothing.

       *       *       *       *       *

All that day and the days following she sat alone in her room, and a
feeling crept over her which at first she refused to face: but then it went
on and took possession of her thoughts, like the furious throbbing of the
blood in her aching temples.

Some time afterwards Olivier brought her Christophe's collection of songs,
which he had just found at a publisher's. She opened it at random. On
the first page on which her eyes fell she read in front of a song this
dedication in German:

"_To my poor dear little victim_," together with a date.

She knew the date well.--She was so upset that she could read no farther.
She put the book down and asked her brother to play, and went and shut
herself up in her room. Olivier, full of his delight in the new music,
began to play without remarking his sister's emotion. Antoinette sat in the
adjoining room, striving to repress the beating of her heart. Suddenly she
got up and looked through a cupboard for a little account-book in which was
written the date of her departure from Germany, and the mysterious date.
She knew it already: yes, it was the evening of the performance at the
theater to which she had been with Christophe. She lay down on her bed and
closed her eyes, blushing, with her hands folded on her breast, while she
listened to the dear music. Her heart was overflowing with gratitude ...
Ah! Why did her head hurt her so?

When Olivier saw that his sister had not come back, he went into her room
after he had done playing, and found her lying there. He asked her if she
were ill. She said she was rather tired, and got up to keep him company.
They talked: but she did not answer his questions at once: her thoughts
seemed to be far away: she smiled, and blushed, and said, by way of excuse,
that her headache was making her stupid. At last Olivier went away. She had
asked him to leave the book of songs. She sat up late reading them at the
piano, without playing, just lightly touching a note here and there, for
fear of annoying her neighbors. But for the most part she did not even
read: she sat dreaming: she was carried away by a feeling of tenderness and
gratitude towards the man who had pitied her, and had read her mind and
soul with the mysterious intuition of true kindness. She could not fix her
thoughts. She was happy and sad--sad!... Ah! How her head ached!

She spent the night in sweet and painful dreams, a crushing melancholy.
During the day she tried to go out for a little to shake off her
drowsiness. Although her head was still aching, to give herself something
to do, she went and made a few purchases at a great shop. She hardly gave
a thought to what she was doing. Her thoughts were always with Christophe,
though she did not admit it to herself. As she came out, worried and
mortally sad, through the crowd of people she saw Christophe go by on
the other side of the street. He saw her, too, at the same moment. At
once,--(suddenly and without thinking), she held out her hands towards
him. Christophe stopped: this time he recognized her. He sprang forward
to cross the road to Antoinette: and Antoinette tried to go to meet him.
But the insensate current of the passing throng carried her along like
a windlestraw, while the horse of an omnibus, falling on the slippery
asphalt, made a sort of dyke in front of Christophe, by which the opposing
streams of carriages were dammed, so that for a few moments there was an
impassable barrier. Christophe tried to force his way through in spite of
everything: but he was trapped in the middle of the traffic, and could not
move either way. When at last he did extricate himself and managed to reach
the place where he had seen Antoinette, she was gone: she had struggled
vainly against the human torrent that carried her along: then she yielded
to it--gave up the struggle. She felt that she was dogged by some fatality
which forbade the possibility of her ever meeting Christophe: against Fate
there was nothing to be done. And when she did succeed in escaping from the
crowd, she made no attempt to go back: she was suddenly ashamed: what could
she dare to say to him? What had she done? What must he have thought of
her? She fled away home.

She did not regain assurance until she reached her room. Then she sat by
the table in the dark, and had not even the strength to take off her hat or
her gloves. She was miserable at having been unable to speak to him: and at
the same time there glowed a new light in her heart: she was unconscious of
the darkness, and unconscious of the illness that was upon her. She went on
and on turning over and over every detail of the scene in the street: and
she changed it about and imagined what would have happened if certain
things had turned out differently. She saw herself holding out her arms to
Christophe, and Christophe's expression of joy as he recognized her, and
she laughed and blushed. She blushed: and then in the darkness of her room,
where there was no one to see her, and she could hardly see herself, once
more she held out her arms to him. Her need was too strong for her: she
felt that she was losing ground, and instinctively she sought to clutch at
the strong vivid life that passed so near her, and gazed so kindly at her.
Her heart was full of tenderness and anguish, and through the night she

"Help me! Save me!"

All in a fever she got up and lit the lamp, and took pen and paper. She
wrote to Christophe. Her illness was full upon her, or she would never even
have thought of writing to him, so proud she was and timid. She did not
know what she wrote. She was no longer mistress of herself. She called to
him, and told him that she loved him ... In the middle of her letter she
stopped, appalled. She tried to write it all over again: but her impulse
was gone: her mind was a blank, and her head was aching: she had a horrible
difficulty in finding words: she was utterly worn out. She was ashamed ...
What was the good of it all? She knew perfectly well that she was trying to
trick herself, and that she would never send the letter ... Even if she had
wished to do so, how could she? She did not know Christophe's address ...
Poor Christophe! And what could he do for her? Even if he knew all and were
kind to her, what could he do?... It was too late! No, no: it was all in
vain, the last dying struggle of a bird, blindly, desperately beating its
wings. She must be resigned to it....

So for a long time she sat there by the table, lost in thought, unable
to move hand or foot. It was past midnight when she struggled to her
feet--bravely. Mechanically she placed the loose sheets of her letter in
one of her few books, for she had the strength neither to put them in order
nor to tear them up. Then she went to bed, shivering and shaking with
fever. The key to the riddle lay near at hand: she felt that the will of
God was to be fulfilled.--And a great peace came upon her.

On Sunday morning when Olivier came he found Antoinette in bed, delirious.
A doctor was called in. He said it was acute consumption.

Antoinette had known how serious her condition was: she had discovered the
cause of the moral turmoil in herself which had so alarmed her. She had
been dreadfully ashamed, and it was some consolation to her to think that
not she herself but her illness was the cause of it. She had managed to
take a few precautions and to burn her papers and to write a letter to
Madame Nathan: she appealed to her kindness to look after her brother
during the first few weeks after her "death"--(she dared not write the

The doctor could do nothing: the disease was too far gone, and Antoinette's
constitution had been wrecked by the years of hardship and unceasing toil.

Antoinette was quite calm. Since she had known that there was no hope her
agony and torment had left her. She lay turning over in her mind all the
trials and tribulations through which she had passed: she saw that her work
was done and her dear Olivier saved: and she was filled with unutterable
joy. She said to herself:

"I have achieved that."

And then she turned in shame from her pride and said:

"I could have done nothing alone. God has given me His aid."

And she thanked God that He had granted her life until she had accomplished
her task. There was a catch at her heart as she thought that now she had to
lay down her life: but she dared not complain: that would have been to feel
ingratitude towards God, who might have called her away sooner. And what
would have happened if she had passed away a year sooner?--She sighed, and
humbled herself in gratitude.

In spite of her weakness and oppression she did not complain,--except when
she was sleeping heavily, when every now and then she moaned like a little
child. She watched things and people with a calm smile of resignation. It
was always a joy to her to see Olivier. She would move her lips to call
him, though she made no sound: she would want to hold his hand in hers: she
would bid him lay his head on the pillow near hers, and then, gazing into
his eyes, she would go on looking at him in silence. At last she would
raise herself up and hold his face in her hands and say:

"Ah! Olivier!... Olivier!..."

She took the medal that she wore round her neck, and hung it on her
brother's. She commended her beloved Olivier to the care of her confessor,
her doctor, everybody. It seemed as though she was to live henceforth in
him, that, on the point of death, she was taking refuge in his life, as
upon some island in uncharted seas. Sometimes she seemed to be uplifted by
a mystic exaltation of tenderness and faith, and she forgot her illness,
and sadness changed to joy in her,--a joy divine indeed that shone upon her
lips and in her eyes. Over and over again she said:

"I am happy...."

Her senses grew dim. In her last moments of consciousness her lips moved
and it seemed that she was repeating something to herself. Olivier went to
her bedside and bent down over her. She recognized him once more and smiled
feebly up at him: her lips went on moving and her eyes were filled with
tears. They could not make out what she was trying to say.... But faintly
Olivier heard her breathe the words of the dear old song they used to love
so much, the song she was always singing:

"_I will come again, my sweet and bonny, I will come again._"

Then she relapsed into unconsciousness. So she passed away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Unconsciously she had aroused a profound sympathy in many people whom she
did not even know: in the house in which she lived she did not even know
the names of the other tenants. Olivier received expressions of sympathy
from people who were strangers to him. Antoinette was not taken to her
grave unattended as her mother had been. Her body was followed to the
cemetery by friends and schoolfellows of her brother, and members of the
families whose children she had taught, and people whom she had met without
saying a word of her own life or hearing a word from them, though they
admired her secretly, knowing her devotion, and many of the poor, and the
housekeeper who had helped her, and even many of the small tradesmen of the
neighborhood. Madame Nathan had taken Olivier under her wing on the day of
his sister's death, and she had carried him off in spite of himself, and
done her best to turn his thoughts away from his grief.

If it had come later in his life he could never have borne up against such
a catastrophe,--but now it was impossible for him to succumb absolutely to
his despair. He had just begun a new life; he was living in a community,
and had to live the common life whatever he might be feeling. The full busy
life of the _École_, the intellectual pressure, the examinations, the
struggle for life, all kept him from withdrawing into himself: he could not
be alone. He suffered, but it proved his salvation. A year earlier, or a
few years earlier, he must have succumbed.

And yet he did as far as possible retire into isolation in the memory of
his sister. It was a great sorrow to him that he could not keep the rooms
where they had lived together: but he had no money. He hoped that the
people who seemed to be interested in him would understand his distress at
not being able to keep the things that had been hers. But nobody seemed
to understand. He borrowed some money and made a little more by private
tuition and took an attic in which he stored all that he could preserve
of his sister's furniture: her bed, her table, and her armchair. He made
it the sanctuary of her memory. He took refuge there whenever he was
depressed. His friends thought he was carrying on an intrigue. He would
stay there for hours dreaming of her with his face buried in his hands:
unhappily he had no portrait of her except a little photograph, taken when
she was a child, of the two of them together. He would talk to her and
weep ... Where was she? Ah! if she had been at the other end of the world,
wherever she might be and however inaccessible the spot,--with what great
joy and invincible ardor he would have rushed forth in search of her,
though a thousand sufferings lay in wait for him, though he had to go
barefoot, though he had to wander for hundreds of years, if only it might
be that every step would bring him nearer to her!... Yes, even though there
were only one chance in a thousand of his ever finding her ... But there
was nothing ... Nowhere to go ... No way of ever finding her again ... How
utterly lonely he was now! Now that she was no longer there to love and
counsel and console him, inexperienced and childish as he was, he was
flung into the waters of life, to sink or swim!... He who has once had the
happiness of perfect intimacy and boundless friendship with another human
being has known the divinest of all joys,--a joy that will make him
miserable for the remainder of his life....

_Nessun maggior dolore che ricordarsi del tempo felice nella miseria_....

For a weak and tender soul it is the greatest of misfortunes ever to have
known the greatest happiness.

But though it is sad indeed to lose the beloved at the beginning of life,
it is even more terrible later on when the springs of life are running dry.
Olivier was young: and, in spite of his inborn pessimism, in spite of his
misfortune, he had to live his life. As often seems to happen after the
loss of those dear to us, it was as though when Antoinette passed away she
had breathed part of her soul into her brother's life. And he believed it
was so. Though he had not such faith as hers, yet he did arrive at a vague
conviction that his sister was not dead, but lived on in him, as she had
promised. There is a Breton superstition that those who die young are not
dead, but stay and hover over the places where they lived until they have
fulfilled the normal span of their existence.--So Antoinette lived out her
life in Olivier.

He read through the papers he had found in her room. Unhappily she had
burned most of them. Besides, she was not the sort of woman to keep notes
and tallies of her inner life. She was too modest to uncloak her inmost
thoughts in morbid babbling indiscretion. She only kept a little notebook
which was almost unintelligible to anybody else--a bare record in which she
had written down without remark certain dates, and certain small events in
her daily life, which had given her joys and emotions, which she had no
need to write down in detail to keep alive. Almost all these dates were
connected with some event in Olivier's life. She had kept every letter
he had ever written to her, without exception.--Alas! He had not been so
careful: he had lost almost all the letters she had written to him. What
need had he of letters? He thought he would have his sister always with
him: that dear fount of tenderness seemed inexhaustible: he thought that he
would always be able to quench his thirst of lips and heart at it: he had
most prodigally squandered the love he had received, and now he was eager
to gather up the smallest drops.... What was his emotion when, as he
skimmed through one of Antoinette's books, he found these words written in
pencil on a scrap of paper:

"Olivier, my dear Olivier!..."

He almost swooned. He sobbed and kissed the invisible lips that so spoke
to him from the grave.--Thereafter he took down all her books and hunted
through them page by page to see if she had not left some other words of
him. He found the fragment of the letter to Christophe, and discovered the
unspoken romance which had sprung to life in her: so for the first time he
happed upon her emotional life, that he had never known in her and never
tried to know: he lived through the last passionate days, when, deserted
by himself, she had held out her arms to the unknown friend. She had
never told him that she had seen Christophe before. Certain words in her
letter revealed the fact that they had met in Germany. He understood that
Christophe had been kind to Antoinette, in circumstances the details of
which were unknown to him, and that Antoinette's feeling for the musician
dated from that day, though she had kept her secret to the end.

Christophe, whom he loved already for the beauty of his art, now became
unutterably dear to him. She had loved him: it seemed to Olivier that it
was she whom he loved in Christophe. He moved heaven and earth to meet him.
It was not an easy matter to trace him. After his rebuff Christophe had
been lost in the wilderness of Paris: he had shunned all society and no
one gave a thought to him.--After many months it chanced that Olivier met
Christophe in the street: he was pale and sunken from the illness from
which he had only just recovered. But Olivier had not the courage to stop
him. He followed him home at a distance. He wanted to write to him, but
could not screw himself up to it. What was there to say? Olivier was not
alone: Antoinette was with him: her love, her modesty had become a part of
him: the thought that his sister had loved Christophe made him as bashful
in Christophe's presence as though he had been Antoinette. And yet how he
longed to talk to him of her!--But he could not. Her secret was a seal upon
his lips.

He tried to meet Christophe again. He went everywhere where he thought
Christophe might be. He was longing to shake hands with him. And when he
saw him he tried to hide so that Christophe should not see him.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last Christophe saw him at the house of some mutual friends where they
both happened to be one evening. Olivier stood far away from him and said
nothing: but he watched him. And no doubt the spirit of Antoinette was
hovering near Olivier that night: for Christophe saw her in Olivier's eyes:
and it was her image, so suddenly evoked, that made him cross the room and
go towards the unknown messenger, who, like a young Hermes, brought him the
melancholy greeting of the blessed dead.



I have a friend!... Oh! The delight of having found a kindred soul to which
to cling in the midst of torment, a tender and sure refuge in which to
breathe again while the fluttering heart beats slower! No longer to be
alone, no longer never to unarm, no longer to stay on guard with straining,
burning eyes, until from sheer fatigue he should fall into the hands of his
enemies! To have a dear companion into whose hands all his life should be
delivered--the friend whose life was delivered into his! At last to taste
the sweetness of repose, to sleep while the friend watches, watch while the
friend sleeps. To know the joy of protecting a beloved creature who should
trust in him like a little child. To know the greater joy of absolute
surrender to that friend, to feel that he is in possession of all secrets,
and has power over life and death. Aging, worn out, weary of the burden of
life through so many years, to find new birth and fresh youth in the body
of the friend, through his eyes to see the world renewed, through his
senses to catch the fleeting loveliness of all things by the way, through
his heart to enjoy the splendor of living.... Even to suffer in his
suffering.... Ah! Even suffering is joy if it be shared!

I have a friend!... Away from me, near me, in me always. I have my friend,
and I am his. My friend loves me. I am my friend's, the friend of my
friend. Of our two souls love has fashioned one.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe's first thought, when he awoke the day after the Roussins'
party, was for Olivier Jeannin. At once he felt an irresistible longing to
see him again. He got up and went out. It was not yet eight o'clock. It was
a heavy and rather oppressive morning. An April day before its time: stormy
clouds were hovering over Paris.

Olivier lived below the hill of Sainte-Geneviève, in a little street
near the _Jardin des Plantes_. The house stood in the narrowest part of
the street. The staircase led out of a dark yard, and was full of divers
unpleasant smells. The stairs wound steeply up and sloped down towards the
wall, which was disfigured with scribblings in pencil. On the third floor a
woman, with gray hair hanging down, and in petticoat-bodice, gaping at the
neck, opened the door when she heard footsteps on the stairs, and slammed
it to when she saw Christophe. There were several flats on each landing,
and through the ill-fitting doors Christophe could hear children romping
and squalling. The place was a swarming heap of dull base creatures, living
as it were on shelves, one above the other, in that low-storied house,
built round a narrow, evil-smelling yard. Christophe was disgusted, and
wondered what lusts and covetous desires could have drawn so many creatures
to this place, far from the fields, where at least there is air enough for
all, and what it could profit them in the end to be in the city of Paris,
where all their lives they were condemned to live in such a sepulcher.

He reached Olivier's landing. A knotted piece of string was his bell-pull.
Christophe tugged at it so mightily that at the noise several doors on the
staircase were half opened. Olivier came to the door. Christophe was struck
by the careful simplicity of his dress: and the neatness of it, which at
any other time would have been little to his liking, was in that place an
agreeable surprise: in such an atmosphere of foulness there was something
charming and healthy about it. And at once he felt just as he had done the
night before when he gazed into Olivier's clear, honest eyes. He held out
his hand: but Olivier was overcome with shyness, and murmured:

"You.... You here!"

Christophe was engrossed in catching at the lovable quality of the man as
it was revealed to him in that fleeting moment of embarrassment, and he
only smiled in answer. He moved forward and forced Olivier backward, and
entered the one room in which he both slept and worked. An iron bedstead
stood against the wall near the window; Christophe noticed the pillows
heaped up on the bolster. There were three chairs, a black-painted table, a
small piano, bookshelves and books, and that was all. The room was cramped,
low, ill-lighted: and yet there was in it a ray of the pure light that
shone in the eyes of its owner. Everything was clean and tidy, as though
a woman's hands had dealt with it: and a few roses in a vase brought
spring-time into the room, the walls of which were decorated with
photographs of old Florentine pictures.

"So.... You.... You have come to see me?" said Olivier warmly.

"Good Lord, I had to!" said Christophe. "You would never have come to me?"

"You think not?" replied Olivier.

Then, quickly:

"Yes, you are right. But it would not be for want of thinking of it."

"What would have stopped you?"

"Wanting to too much."

"That's a fine reason!"

"Yes. Don't laugh. I was afraid you would not want it as much as I."

"A lot that's worried me! I wanted to see you, and here I am. If it bores
you, I shall know at once."

"You will have to have good eyes."

They smiled at each other.

Olivier went on:

"I was an ass last night. I was afraid I might have offended you. My
shyness is absolutely a disease: I can't get a word out."

"I shouldn't worry about that. There are plenty of talkers in your country:
one is only too glad to meet a man who is silent occasionally, even though
it be only from shyness and in spite of himself."

Christophe laughed and chuckled over his own gibe.

"Then you have come to see me because I can be silent?"

"Yes. For your silence, the sort of silence that is yours. There are all
sorts: and I like yours, and that's all there is to say."

"But how could you sympathize with me? You hardly saw me."

"That's my affair. It doesn't take me long to make up my mind. When I see a
face that I like in the crowd, I know what to do: I go after it; I simply
have to know the owner of it."

"And don't you ever make mistakes when you go after them?"


"Perhaps you have made a mistake this time."

"We shall see."

"Ah! In that case I'm done! You terrify me. If I think you are watching me,
I shall lose what little wits I have."

With fond and eager curiosity Christophe watched the sensitive, mobile
face, which blushed and went pale by turns. Emotion showed fleeting across
it like the shadows of clouds on a lake.

"What a nervous youngster it is!" he thought. "He is like a woman."

He touched his knee.

"Come, come!" he said. "Do you think I should come to you with weapons
concealed about me? I have a horror of people who practise their psychology
on their friends. I only ask that we should both be open and sincere, and
frankly and without shame, and without being afraid of committing ourselves
finally to anything or of any sort of contradiction, be true to what we
feel. I ask only the right to love now, and next minute, if needs must, to
be out of love. There's loyalty and manliness in that, isn't there?"

Olivier gazed at him with serious eyes, and replied:

"No doubt. It is the more manly part, and you are strong enough. But I
don't think I am."

"I'm sure you are," said Christophe; "but in a different way. And then,
I've come just to help you to be strong, if you want to be so. For what I
have just said gives me leave to go on and say, with more frankness than I
should otherwise have had, that--without prejudice for to-morrow--I love

Olivier blushed hotly. He was struck dumb with embarrassment, and could not

Christophe glanced round the room.

"It's a poor place you live in. Haven't you another room?"

"Only a lumber-room."

"Ugh! I can't breathe. How do you manage to live here?"

"One does it somehow."

"I couldn't--never."

Christophe unbuttoned his waistcoat and took a long breath.

Olivier went and opened the window wide.

"You must be very unhappy in a town, M. Krafft. But there's no danger of
my suffering from too much vitality. I breathe so little that I can live
anywhere. And yet there are nights in summer when even I am hard put to it
to get through. I'm terrified when I see them coming. Then I stay sitting
up in bed, and I'm almost stifled."

Christophe looked at the heap of pillows on the bed, and from them to
Olivier's worn face: and he could see him struggling there in the darkness.

"Leave it," he said. "Why do you stay?"

Olivier shrugged his shoulders and replied carelessly:

"It doesn't matter where I live."

Heavy footsteps padded across the floor above them. In the room below a
shrill argument was toward. And always, without ceasing, the walls were
shaken by the rumbling of the buses in the street.

"And the house!" Christophe went on. "The house reeking of filth, the hot
dirtiness of it all, the shameful poverty--how can you bring yourself to
come back to it night after night? Don't you lose heart with it all? I
couldn't live in it for a moment. I'd rather sleep under an arch."

"Yes. I felt all that at first, and suffered. I was just as disgusted as
you are. When I went for walks as a boy, the mere sight of some of the
crowded dirty streets made me ill. They gave me all sorts of fantastic
horrors, which I dared not speak of. I used to think: 'If there were an
earthquake now, I should be dead, and stay here for ever and ever'; and
that seemed to me the most appalling thing that could happen. I never
thought that one day I should live in one of them of my own free-will, and
that in all probability I shall die there. And then it became easier to put
up with: it had to. It still revolts me: but I try not to think of it. When
I climb the stairs I close my eyes, and stop my ears, and hold my nose, and
shut off all my senses and withdraw utterly into myself. And then, over the
roof there, I can see the tops of the branches of an acacia. I sit here in
this corner so that I don't see anything else: and in the evening when the
wind rustles through them I fancy that I am far away from Paris: and the
mighty roar of a forest has never seemed so sweet to me as the gentle
murmuring of those few frail leaves at certain moments."

"Yes," said Christophe. "I've no doubt that you are always dreaming; but
it's all wrong to waste your fancy in such a struggle against the sordid
things of life, when you might be using it in the creation of other lives."

"Isn't it the common lot? Don't you yourself waste energy in anger and
bitter struggles?"

"That's not the same thing. It's natural to me: what I was born for. Look
at my arms and hands! Fighting is the breath of life to me. But you haven't
any too much strength: that's obvious."

Olivier looked sadly down at his thin wrists, and said:

"Yes. I am weak: I always have been. But what can I do? One must live?"

"How do you make your living?"

"I teach."

"Teach what?"

"Everything--Latin, Greek, history. I coach for degrees. And I lecture on
Moral Philosophy at the Municipal School."

"Lecture on what?"

"Moral Philosophy."

"What in thunder is that? Do they teach morality in French schools?"

Olivier smiled:

"Of course."

"Is there enough in it to keep you talking for ten minutes?"

"I have to lecture for twelve hours a week."

"Do you teach them to do evil, then?"

"What do you mean?"

"There's no need for so much talk to find out what good is."

"Or to leave it undiscovered either."

"Good gracious, yes! Leave it undiscovered. There are worse ways of doing
good than knowing nothing about it. Good isn't a matter of knowledge: it's
a matter of action. It's only your neurasthenics who go haggling about
morality: and the first of all moral laws is not to be neurasthenic. Rotten
pedants! They are like cripples teaching people how to walk."

"But they don't do their talking for such as you. You _know_: but there are
so many who do not know!"

"Well, let them crawl like children until they learn how to walk by
themselves. But whether they go on two legs or on all fours, the first
thing, the only thing you can ask is that they should walk somehow."

He was prowling round and round and up and down the room, though less than
four strides took him across it. He stopped in front of the piano, opened
it, turned over the pages of some music, touched the keys, and said:

"Play me something."

Olivier started.

"I!" he said. "What an idea!"

"Madame Roussin told me you were a good musician. Come: play me something."

"With you listening? Oh!" he said, "I should die."

The sincerity and simplicity with which he spoke made Christophe laugh:
Olivier, too, though rather bashfully.

"Well," said Christophe, "is that a reason for a Frenchman?"

Olivier still drew back.

"But why? Why do you want me to?"

"I'll tell you presently. Play!"


"Anything you like."

Olivier sat down at the piano with a sigh, and, obedient to the imperious
will of the friend who had sought him out, he began to play the beautiful
_Adagio in B Minor_ of Mozart. At first his fingers trembled so that he
could hardly make them press down the keys: but he regained courage little
by little: and, while he thought he was but repeating Mozart's utterance,
he unwittingly revealed his inmost heart. Music is an indiscreet confidant:
it betrays the most secret thoughts of its lovers to those who love it.
Through the godlike scheme of the _Adagio_ of Mozart Christophe could
perceive the invisible lines of the character, not of Mozart, but of his
new friend sitting there by the piano: the serene melancholy, the timid,
tender smile of the boy, so nervous, so pure, so full of love, so ready
to blush. But he had hardly reached the end of the air, the topmost point
where the melody of sorrowful love ascends and snaps, when a sudden
irrepressible feeling of shame and modesty overcame Olivier, so that he
could not go on: his fingers would not move, and his voice failed him. His
hands fell by his side, and he said:

"I can't play any more...."

Christophe was standing behind him, and he stooped and reached over him and
finished the broken melody: then he said:

"Now I know the music of your soul."

He held his hands, and stayed for a long time gazing into his face. At last
he said:

"How queer it is!... I have seen you before.... I know you so well, and I
have known you so long!..."

Olivier's lips trembled: he was on the point of speaking. But he said

Christophe went on gazing at him for a moment or two longer. Then he smiled
and said no more, and went away.

       *       *       *       *       *

He went down the stairs with his heart filled with joy. He passed two ugly
children going up, one with bread, the other with a bottle of oil. He
pinched their cheeks jovially. He smiled at the scowling porter. When he
reached the street he walked along humming to himself until he came to the
Luxembourg. He lay down on a seat in the shade, and closed his eyes. The
air was still and heavy: there were only a few passers-by. Very faintly he
could hear the irregular trickling of the fountain, and every now and then
the scrunching of the gravel as footsteps passed him by. Christophe was
overcome with drowsiness, and he lay basking like a lizard in the sun: his
face had been out of the shadow of the trees for some time: but he could
not bring himself to stir. His thoughts wound about and about: he made
no attempt to hold and fix them: they were all steeped in the light of
happiness. The Luxembourg clock struck: he did not listen to it: but, a
moment later, he thought it must have been striking twelve. He jumped up
to realize that he had been lounging for a couple of hours, had missed an
appointment with Hecht, and wasted the whole morning. He laughed, and went
home whistling. He composed a _Rondo_ in canon on the cry of a peddler.
Even sad melodies now took on the charm of the gladness that was in him. As
he passed the laundry in his street, as usual, he glanced into the shop,
and saw the little red-haired girl, with her dull complexion flushed with
the heat, and she was ironing with her thin arms bare to the shoulder and
her bodice open at the neck: and, as usual, she ogled him brazenly: for the
first time he was not irritated by her eyes meeting his. He laughed once
more. When he reached his room he was free of all the obsessions from which
he had suffered. He flung his hat, coat, and vest in different directions,
and sat down to work with an all-conquering zest. He gathered together all
his scattered scraps of music, which were lying all over the room, but his
mind was not in his work: he only read the script with his eyes: and a few
minutes later he fell back into the happy somnolence that had been upon him
in the Luxembourg Gardens; his head buzzed, and he could not think. Twice
or thrice he became aware of his condition, and tried to shake it off: but
in vain. He swore light-heartedly, got up, and dipped his head in a basin
of cold water. That sobered him a little. He sat down at the table again,
sat in silence, and smiled dreamily. He was wondering:

"What is the difference between that and love?"

Instinctively he had begun to think in whispers, as though he were ashamed.
He shrugged his shoulders.

"There are not two ways of loving.... Or, rather, yes, there are two ways:
there is the way of those who love with every fiber of their being, and the
way of those who only give to love a part of their superfluous energy. God
keep me from such cowardice of heart!"

He stopped in his thought, from a sort of shame and dread of following it
any farther. He sat for a long time smiling at his inward dreams. His heart
sang through the silence:

_Du bist mein, und nun ist das Meine Meiner als jemals..._ ("Thou art mine,
and now I am mine, more mine than I have ever been....")

He took a sheet of paper, and with tranquil ease wrote down the song that
was in his heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

They decided to take rooms together. Christophe wanted to take possession
at once without worrying about the waste of half a quarter. Olivier was
more prudent, though not less ardent in their friendship, and thought it
better to wait until their respective tenancies had expired. Christophe
could not understand such parsimony. Like many people who have no money, he
never worried about losing it. He imagined that Olivier was even worse off
than himself. One day when his friend's poverty had been brought home to
him he left him suddenly and returned a few hours later in triumph with a
few francs which he had squeezed in advance out of Hecht. Olivier blushed
and refused. Christophe was put out and made to throw them to an Italian
who was playing in the yard. Olivier withheld him. Christophe went away,
apparently offended, but really furious with his own clumsiness to which he
attributed Olivier's refusal. A letter from his friend brought balm to his
wounds. Olivier could write what he could not express by word of mouth:
he could tell of his happiness in knowing him and how touched he was by
Christophe's offer of assistance. Christophe replied with a crazy, wild
letter, rather like those which he wrote when he was fifteen to his friend
Otto: it was full of _Gemüth_ and blundering jokes: he made puns in French
and German, and even translated them into music.

At last they went into their rooms. In the Montparnasse quarter, near the
_Place Denfert_, on the fifth floor of an old house they had found a flat
of three rooms and a kitchen, all very small, and looking on to a tiny
garden inclosed by four high walls. From their windows they looked out over
the opposite wall, which was lower than the rest, on to one of those large
convent gardens which are still to be found in Paris, hidden and unknown.
Not a soul was to be seen in the deserted avenues. The old trees, taller
and more leafy than those in the Luxembourg Gardens, trembled in the
sunlight: troops of birds sang: in the early dawn the blackbirds fluted,
and then there came the riotously rhythmic chorus of the sparrows: and
in summer in the evening the rapturous cries of the swifts cleaving the
luminous air and skimming through the heavens. And at night, under the
moon, like bubbles of air mounting to the surface of a pond, there came
up the pearly notes of the toads. Almost they might have forgotten the
surrounding presence of Paris but that the old house was perpetually
shaken by the heavy vehicles rumbling by, as though the earth beneath were
shivering in a fever.

One of the rooms was larger and finer than the rest, and there was a
struggle between the friends as to who should not have it. They had to toss
for it: and Christophe, who had made the suggestion, contrived not to win
with a dexterity of which he found it hard to believe himself capable.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then for the two of them there began a period of absolute happiness. Their
happiness lay not in any one thing, but in all things at once: their every
thought, their every act, were steeped in it, and it never left them for a

During this honeymoon of their friendship, the first days of deep and
silent rejoicing, known only to him "who in all the universe can call
one soul his own" ... _Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele sein nennt auf dem
Erdenrund_... they hardly spoke to each other, they dared hardly breathe a
word; it was enough for them to feel each other's nearness, to exchange a
look, a word in token that their thoughts, after long periods of silence,
still ran in the same channel. Without probing or inquiring, without
even looking at each other, yet unceasingly they watched each other.
Unconsciously the lover takes for model the soul of the beloved: so
great is his desire to give no hurt, to be in all things as the beloved,
that with mysterious and sudden intuition he marks the imp...erceptible
movements in the depths of his soul. One friend to another is
crystal-clear: they exchange entities. Their features are assimilated. Soul
imitates soul,--until that day comes when deep-moving force, the spirit of
the race, bursts his bonds and rends asunder the web of love in which he is
held captive.

Christophe spoke in low tones, walked softly, tried hard to make no
noise in his room, which was next to that of the silent Olivier: he
was transfigured by his friendship: he had an expression of happiness,
confidence, youth, such as he had never worn before. He adored Olivier.
It would have been easy for the boy to abuse his power if he had not been
so timorous in feeling that it was a happiness undeserved: for he thought
himself much inferior to Christophe, who in his turn was no less humble.
This mutual humility, the product of their great love for each other,
was an added joy. It was a pure delight--even with the consciousness of
unworthiness--for each to feel that he filled so great a room in the heart
of his friend. Each to other they were tender and filled with gratitude.

Olivier had mixed his books with Christophe's: they made no distinction.
When he spoke of them he did not say "_my_ book," but "_our_ book." He kept
back only a few things from the common stock: those which had belonged to
his sister or were bound up with her memory. With the quick perception of
love Christophe was not slow to notice this: but he did not know the reason
of it. He had never dared to ask Olivier about his family: he only knew
that Olivier had lost his parents: and to the somewhat proud reserve of his
affection, which forbade his prying into his friend's secrets, there was
added a fear of calling to life in him the sorrows of the past. Though he
might long to do so, yet he was strangely timid and never dared to look
closely at the photographs on Olivier's desk, portraits of a lady and a
gentleman stiffly posed, and a little girl of twelve with a great spaniel
at her feet.

A few months after they had taken up their quarters Olivier caught cold and
had to stay in bed. Christophe, who had become quite motherly, nursed him
with fond anxiety: and the doctor, who, on examining Olivier, had found
a little inflammation at the top of the lungs, told Christophe to smear
the invalid's chest with tincture of iodine. As Christophe was gravely
acquitting himself of the task he saw a confirmation medal hanging from
Olivier's neck. He was familiar enough with Olivier to know that he was
even more emancipated in matters of religion than himself. He could not
refrain from showing his surprise. Olivier colored and said:

"It is a souvenir. My poor sister Antoinette was wearing it when she died."

Christophe trembled. The name of Antoinette struck him like a flash of

"Antoinette?" he said.

"My sister," said Olivier.

Christophe repeated:

"Antoinette ... Antoinette Jeannin.... She was your sister?... But," he
said, as he looked at the photograph on the desk, "she was quite a child
when you lost her?"

Olivier smiled sadly.

"It is a photograph of her as a child," he said. "Alas! I have no other....
She was twenty-five when she left me."

"Ah!" said Christophe, who was greatly moved. "And she was in Germany, was
she not?"

Olivier nodded.

Christophe took Olivier's hands in his.

"I knew her," he said.

"Yes, I know," replied Olivier.

And he flung his arms round Christophe's neck.

"Poor girl! Poor girl!" said Christophe over and over again.

They were both in tears.

Christophe remembered then that Olivier was ill. He tried to calm him, and
made him keep his arms inside the bed, and tucked the clothes up round his
shoulders, and dried his eyes for him, and then sat down by the bedside and
looked long at him.

"You see," he said, "that is how I knew you. I recognized you at once, that
first evening."

(It were hard to tell whether he was speaking of the present or the absent

"But," he went on a moment later, "you knew?... Why didn't you tell me?"

And through Olivier's eyes Antoinette replied:

"I could not tell you. You had to see it for yourself."

They said nothing for some time: then, in the silence of the night,
Olivier, lying still in bed, in a low voice told Christophe, who held
his hand, poor Antoinette's story:--but he did not tell him what he had
no right to tell; the secret that she had kept locked,--the secret that
perhaps Christophe knew already without needing to be told.

From, that time on the soul of Antoinette was ever near them. When they
were together she was with them. They had no need to think of her: every
thought they shared was shared with her too. Her love was the meeting-place
wherein their two hearts were united.

Often Olivier would conjure up the image of her: scraps of memory and brief
anecdotes. In their fleeting light they gave a glimpse of her shy, gracious
gestures, her grave, young smile, the pensive, wistful grace that was so
natural to her. Christophe would listen without a word and let the light of
the unseen friend pierce to his very soul. In obedience to the law of his
own nature, which everywhere and always drank in life more greedily than
any other, he would sometimes hear in Olivier's words depths of sound which
Olivier himself could not hear: and more than Olivier he would assimilate
the essence of the girl who was dead.

Instinctively he supplied her place in Olivier's life: and it was a
touching sight to see the awkward German hap unwittingly on certain of the
delicate attentions and little mothering ways of Antoinette. Sometimes
he could not tell whether it was Olivier that he loved in Antoinette or
Antoinette in Olivier. Sometimes on a tender impulse, without saying
anything, he would go and visit Antoinette's grave and lay flowers on it.
It was some time before Olivier had any idea of it. He did not discover it
until one day when he found fresh flowers on the grave: but he had some
difficulty in proving that it was Christophe who had laid them there. When
he tried bashfully to speak about it Christophe cut him short roughly and
abruptly. He did not want Olivier to know: and he stuck to it until one day
when they met in the cemetery at Ivry.

Olivier, on his part, used to write to Christophe's mother without letting
him know. He gave Louisa news of her son, and told her how fond he was
of him and how he admired him. Louisa would send Olivier awkward, humble
letters in which she thanked him profusely: she used always to write of her
son as though he were a little boy.

After a period of fond semi-silence--"a delicious time of peace and
enjoyment without knowing why,"--their tongues were loosed. They spent
hours in voyages of discovery, each in the other's soul.

They were very different, but they were both pure metal. They loved each
other because they were so different though so much the same.

Olivier was weak, delicate, incapable of fighting against difficulties.
When he came up against an obstacle he drew back, not from fear, but
something from timidity, and more from disgust with the brutal and coarse
means he would have to employ to overcome it. He earned his living by
giving classes, and writing art-books, shamefully underpaid, as usual, and
occasionally articles for reviews, in which he never had a free hand and
had to deal with subjects in which he was not greatly interested:--there
was no demand for the things that did interest him: he was never asked
for the sort of thing he could do best: he was a poet and was asked
for criticism: he knew something about music and he had to write about
painting: he knew quite well that he could only say mediocre things, which
was just what people liked, for there he could speak to mediocre minds in a
language which they could understand. He grew disgusted with it all and
refused to write. He had no pleasure except in writing for certain obscure
periodicals, which never paid anything, and, like so many other young men,
he devoted his talents to them because they left him a free hand. Only in
their pages could he publish what was worthy of publicity.

He was gentle, well-mannered, seemingly patient, though he was excessively
sensitive. A harsh word drew blood: injustice overwhelmed him: he suffered
both on his own account and for others. Certain crimes, committed ages ago,
still had the power to rend him as though he himself had been their victim.
He would go pale, and shudder, and be utterly miserable as he thought how
wretched he must have been who suffered them, and how many ages cut him off
from his sympathy. When any unjust deed was done before his eyes he would
be wild with indignation and tremble all over, and sometimes become quite
ill and lose his sleep. It was because he knew his weakness that he drew on
his mask of calmness: for when he was angry he knew that he went beyond all
limits and was apt to say unpardonable things. People were more resentful
with him than with Christophe, who was always violent, because it seemed
that in moments of anger Olivier, much more than Christophe, expressed
exactly what he thought: and that was true. He judged men and women without
Christophe's blind exaggeration, but lucidly and without his illusions. And
that is precisely what people do pardon the least readily. In such cases
he would say nothing and avoid discussion, knowing its futility. He had
suffered from this restraint. He had suffered more from his timidity, which
sometimes led him to betray his thoughts, or deprived him of the courage to
defend his thoughts conclusively, and even to apologize for them, as had
happened in the argument with Lucien Lévy-Coeur about Christophe. He had
passed through many crises of despair before he had been able to strike
a compromise between himself and the rest of the world. In his youth and
budding manhood, when his nerves were not hopelessly out of order, he
lived in a perpetual alternation of periods of exaltation and periods of
depression which came and went with horrible suddenness. Just when he was
feeling most at his ease and even happy he was very certain that sorrow was
lying in wait for him. And suddenly it would lay him low without giving
any warning of its coming. And it was not enough for him to be unhappy: he
had to blame himself for his unhappiness, and hold an inquisition into his
every word and deed, and his honesty, and take the side of other people
against himself. His heart would throb in his bosom, he would struggle
miserably, and he would scarcely be able to breathe.--Since the death of
Antoinette, and perhaps thanks to her, thanks to the peace-giving light
that issues from the beloved dead, as the light of dawn brings refreshment
to the eyes and soul of those who are sick, Olivier had contrived, if
not to break away from these difficulties, at least to be resigned to
them and to master them. Very few had any idea of his inward struggles.
The humiliating secret was locked up in his breast, all the immoderate
excitement of a weak, tormented body, surveyed serenely by a free and keen
intelligence which could not master it, though it was never touched by
it,--"_the central peace which endures amid the endless agitation of the

Christophe marked it. This it was that he saw in Olivier's eyes. Olivier
had an intuitive perception of the souls of men, and a mind of a wide,
subtle curiosity that was open to everything, denied nothing, hated
nothing, and contemplated the world and things with generous sympathy: that
freshness of outlook, which is a priceless gift, granting the power to
taste with a heart that is always new the eternal renewal and re-birth. In
that inward universe, wherein he knew himself to be free, vast, sovereign,
he could forget his physical weakness and agony. There was even a certain
pleasure in watching from a great height, with ironic pity, that poor
suffering body which seemed always so near the point of death. So there was
no danger of his clinging to _his_ life, and only the more passionately did
he hug life itself. Olivier translated into the region of love and mind all
the forces which in action he had abdicated. He had not enough vital sap to
live by his own substance. He was as ivy: it was needful for him to cling.
He was never so rich as when he gave himself. His was a womanish soul with
its eternal need of loving and being loved. He was born for Christophe, and
Christophe for him. Such are the aristocratic and charming friends who are
the escorts of the great artists and seem to have come to flower in the
lives of their mighty souls: Beltraffio, the friend of Leonardo: Cavalliere
of Michael Angelo: the gentle Umbrians, the comrades of young Raphael: Aërt
van Gelder, who remained faithful to Rembrandt in his poor old age. They
have not the greatness of the masters: but it is as though all the purity
and nobility of the masters in their friends were raised to a yet higher
spiritual power. They are the ideal companions for men of genius.

Their friendship was profitable to both of them. Love lends wings to the
soul. The presence of the beloved friend gives all its worth to life: a man
lives for his friend and for his sake defends his soul's integrity against
the wearing force of time.

Each enriched the other's nature. Olivier had serenity of mind and a sickly
body. Christophe had mighty strength and a stormy soul. They were in some
sort like a blind man and a cripple. Now that they were together they felt
sound and strong. Living in the shadow of Christophe Olivier recovered his
joy in the light: Christophe transmitted to him something of his abounding
vitality, his physical and moral robustness, which, even in sorrow, even in
injustice, even in hate, inclined to optimism. He took much more than he
gave, in obedience to the law of genius, which gives in vain, but in love
always takes more than it gives, _quia nominor leo_, because it is genius,
and genius half consists in the instinctive absorption of all that is great
in its surroundings and making it greater still. The vulgar saying has it
that riches go to the rich. Strength goes to the strong. Christophe fed on
Olivier's ideas: he impregnated himself with his intellectual calmness and
mental detachment, his lofty outlook, his silent understanding and mastery
of things. But when they were transplanted into him, the richer soil, the
virtues of his friend grew with a new and other energy.

They both marveled at the things they discovered in each other. There were
so many things to share! Each brought vast treasures of which till then he
had never been conscious: the moral treasure of his nation: Olivier the
wide culture and the psychological genius of France: Christophe the innate
music of Germany and his intuitive knowledge of nature.

Christophe could not understand how Olivier could be a Frenchman. His
friend was so little like all the Frenchmen he had met! Before he found
Olivier he had not been far from taking Lucien Lévy-Coeur as the type of
the modern French mind, Lévy-Coeur who was no more than the caricature of
it. And now through Olivier he saw that there might be in Paris minds just
as free, more free indeed than that of Lucien Lévy-Coeur, men who remained
as pure and stoical as any in Europe. Christophe tried to prove to Olivier
that he and his sister could not be altogether French.

"My poor dear fellow," said Olivier, "what do you know of France?"

Christophe avowed the trouble he had taken to gain some knowledge of the
country: he drew up a list of all the Frenchmen he had met in the circle
of the Stevens and the Roussins: Jews, Belgians, Luxemburgers, Americans,
Russians, Levantines, and here and there a few authentic Frenchmen.

"Just what I was saying," replied Olivier. "You haven't seen a single
Frenchman. A group of debauchees, a few beasts of pleasure, who are not
even French, men-about-town, politicians, useless creatures, all the fuss
and flummery which passes over and above the life of the nation without
even touching it. You have only seen the swarms of wasps attracted by a
fine autumn and the rich meadows. You haven't noticed the busy hives, the
industrious city, the thirst for knowledge."

"I beg pardon," said Christophe, "I've come across your intellectual élite
as well."

"What? A few dozen men of letters? They're a fine lot! Nowadays when
science and action play so great a part literature has become superficial,
no more than the bed where the thought of the people sleeps. And in
literature you have only come across the theater, the theater of luxury,
an international kitchen where dishes are turned out for the wealthy
customers of the cosmopolitan hotels. The theaters of Paris? Do you think
a working-man even knows what is being done in them? Pasteur did not go
to them ten times in all his life! Like all foreigners you attach an
exaggerated importance to our novels, and our boulevard plays, and the
intrigues of our politicians.... If you like I will show you women who
never read novels, girls in Paris who have never been to the theater,
men who have never bothered their heads about politics,--yes, even among
our intellectuals. You have not come across either our men of science or
our poets. You have not discovered the solitary artists who languish in
silence, nor the burning flame of our revolutionaries. You have not seen
a single great believer, or a single great skeptic. As for the people, we
won't talk of them. Outside the poor woman who looked after you, what do
you know of them? Where have you had a chance of seeing them? How many
Parisians have you met who have lived higher than the second or third
floor? If you do not know these people, you do not know France. You
know nothing of the brave true hearts, the men and women living in poor
lodgings, in the garrets of Paris, in the dumb provinces, men' and women
who, through a dull, drab life, think grave thoughts, and live in daily
sacrifice,--the little Church, which has always existed in France--small in
numbers, great in spirit, almost unknown, having no outward or apparent
force of action, though it is the very force of France, that might which
endures in silence, while the so-called élite rots away and springs to life
again unceasingly.... You are amazed when you find a Frenchman who lives
not for the sake of happiness, happiness at all costs, but to accomplish or
to serve his faith? There are thousands of men like myself, men more worthy
than myself, more pious, more humble, men who to their dying day live
unfailingly to serve an ideal, a God, who vouchsafes them no reply. You
know nothing of the thrifty, methodical, industrious, tranquil middle-class
living with a quenchless dormant flame in their hearts--the people betrayed
and sacrificed who in old days defended 'my country' against the selfish
arrogance of the great, the blue-eyed ancient race of Vauban. You do not
know the people, you do not know the élite. Have you read a single one of
the books which are our faithful friends, the companions who support us in
our lives? Do you even know of the existence of our young reviews in which
such great faith and devotion are expressed? Have you any idea of the men
of moral might and worth who are as the sun to us, the sun whose voiceless
light strikes terror to the army of the hypocrites? They dare not make
a frontal attack: they bow before them, the better to betray them. The
hypocrite is a slave, and there is no slave but he has a master. You know
only the slaves: you know nothing of the masters.... You have watched our
struggles and they have seemed to you brutish and unmeaning because you
have not understood their aim. You see the shadow, the reflected light of
day: you have never seen the inward day, our age-old immemorial spirit.
Have you ever tried to perceive it? Have you ever heard of our heroic deeds
from the Crusades to the Commune? Have you ever seen and felt the tragedy
of the French spirit? Have you ever stood at the brink of the abyss of
Pascal? How dare you slander a people who for more than a thousand years
have been living in action and creation, a people that has graven the world
in its own image through Gothic art, and the seventeenth century, and the
Revolution,--a people that has twenty times passed through the ordeal of
fire, and plunged into it again, and twenty times has come to life again
and never yet has perished!...--You are all the same. All your countrymen
who come among us see only the parasites who suck our blood, literary,
political, and financial adventurers, with their minions and their
hangers-on and their harlots: and they judge France by these wretched
creatures who prey on her. Not one of you has any idea of the real France
living under oppression, or of the reserve of vitality in the French
provinces, or of the great mass of the people who go on working heedless of
the uproar and pother made by their masters of a day.... Yes: it is only
natural that you should know nothing of all this: I do not blame you: how
could you? Why, France is hardly at all known to the French. The best of
us are bound down and held captive to our native soil.... No one will ever
know all that we have suffered, we who have guarded as a sacred charge the
light in our hearts which we have received from the genius of our race, to
which we cling with all our might, desperately defending it against the
hostile winds that strive blusteringly to snuff it out;--we are alone and
in our nostrils stinks the pestilential atmosphere of these harpies who
have swarmed about our genius like a thick cloud of flies, whose hideous
grubs gnaw at our minds and defile our hearts:--we are betrayed by those
whose duty it is to defend us, our leaders, our idiotic and cowardly
critics, who fawn upon the enemy, to win pardon for being of our race:--we
are deserted by the people who give no thought to us and do not even know
of our existence.... By what means can we make ourselves known to them? We
cannot reach them.... Ah! that is the hardest thing of all! We know that
there are thousands of men in France who all think as we do, we know that
we speak in their name, and we cannot gain a hearing! Everything is in the
hands of the enemy: newspapers, reviews, theaters.... The Press scurries
away from ideas or admits them only as an instrument of pleasure or a party
weapon. The cliques and coteries will only suffer us to break through on
condition that we degrade ourselves. We are crushed by poverty and
overwork. The politicians, pursuing nothing but wealth, are only interested
in that section of the public which they can buy. The middle-class is
selfish and indifferent, and unmoved sees us perish. The people know
nothing of our existence: even those who are fighting the same fight like
us are cut off by silence and do not know that we exist, and we do not know
that they exist.... Ill-omened Paris! No doubt good also has come of it--by
gathering together all the forces of the French mind and genius. But the
evil it has done is at least equal to the good: and in a time like the
present the good quickly turns to evil. A pseudo-élite fastens on Paris
and blows the loud trumpet of publicity and the voices of all the rest of
France are drowned. More than that: France herself is deceived by it: she
is scared and silent and fearfully locks away her own ideas.... There was a
time when it hurt me dreadfully. But now, Christophe, I can bear it calmly.
I know and understand my own strength and the might of my people. We must
wait until the flood dies down. It cannot touch or change the bed-rock of
France. I will make you feel that bed-rock under the mud that is borne
onward by the flood. And even now, here and there, there are lofty peaks
appearing above the waters...."

Christophe discovered the mighty power of idealism which animated the
French poets, musicians, and men of science of his time. While the
temporary masters of the country with their coarse sensuality drowned the
voice of the French genius, it showed itself too aristocratic to vie with
the presumptuous shouts of the rabble and sang on with burning ardor in
its own praise and the praise of its God. It was as though in its desire
to escape the revolting uproar of the outer world it had withdrawn to the
farthest refuge in the innermost depths of its castle-keep.

The poets--that is, those only who were worthy of that splendid name, so
bandied by the Press and the Academies and doled out to divers windbags
greedy of money and flattery--the poets, despising impudent rhetoric
and that slavish realism which nibbles at the surface of things without
penetrating to reality, had intrenched themselves in the very center of
the soul, in a mystic vision into which was drawn the universe of form
and idea, like a torrent falling into a lake, there to take on the color
of the inward life. The very intensity of this idealism, which withdrew
into itself to recreate the universe, made it inaccessible to the mob.
Christophe himself did not understand it at first. The transition was
too abrupt after the market-place. It was as though he had passed from a
furious rush and scramble in the hot sunlight into silence and the night.
His ears buzzed. He could see nothing. At first, with his ardent love of
life, he was shocked by the contrast. Outside was the roaring of the
rushing streams of passion overturning France and stirring all humanity.
And at the first glance there was not a trace of it in this art of theirs.
Christophe asked Olivier:

"You have been lifted to the stars and hurled down to the depths of hell by
your Dreyfus affair. Where is the poet in whose soul the height and depth
of it were felt? Now, at this very moment, in the souls of your religious
men and women there is the mightiest struggle there has been for centuries
between the authority of the Church and the rights of conscience. Where is
the poet in whose soul this sacred agony is reflected? The working classes
are preparing for war, nations are dying, nations are springing to new
life, the Armenians are massacred, Asia, awaking from its sleep of a
thousand years, hurls down the Muscovite colossus, the keeper of the keys
of Europe: Turkey, like Adam, opens its eyes on the light of day: the air
is conquered by man: the old earth cracks under our feet and opens: it
devours a whole people.... All these prodigies, accomplished in twenty
years, enough to supply material for twenty _Iliads_: but where are they,
where shall their fiery traces be found in the books of your poets? Are
they of all men unable to see the poetry of the world?"

"Patience, my friend, patience!" replied Olivier. "Be silent, say nothing,

Slowly the creaking of the axle-tree of the world died away and the
rumbling over the stones of the heavy car of action was lost in the
distance. And there arose the divine song of silence....

  _The hum of bees, and the perfume of the limes....
  The wind,
  With his golden lips kissing the earth of the plains...
  The soft sound of the rain and the scent of the roses._

There rang out the hammer and chisel of the poets carving the sides of a
vase with

  _The fine majesty of simple things,_

solemn, joyous life,

  _With its flutes of gold and flutes of ebony,_

religious joy, faith welling up like a fountain of souls

  _For whom the very darkness is clear,..._

and great sweet sorrow, giving comfort and smiling,

  _With her austere face from which there shines
  A clearness beyond nature,..._


  _Death serene with her great, soft eyes._

A symphony of harmonious and pure voices. Not one of them had the full
sonorousness of such national trumpets as were Corneille and Hugo: but how
much deeper and more subtle in expression was their music! The richest
music in Europe of to-day.

Olivier said to Christophe, who was silent:

"Do you understand now?"

Christophe in his turn bade him be silent. In spite of himself, and
although he preferred more manly music, yet he drank in the murmuring of
the woods and fountains of the soul which came whispering to his ears. Amid
the passing struggles of the nations they sang the eternal youth of the
world, the

  _Sweet goodness of Beauty._

While humanity,

  _Screaming with terror and yelping its complaint
  Marched round and round a barren gloomy field,_

while millions of men and women wore themselves out in wrangling for the
bloody rags of liberty, the fountains and the woods sang on:

  "Free!... Free!... _Sanctus, Sanctus...._"

And yet they slept not in any dream selfishly serene. In the choir of the
poets there were not wanting tragic voices: voices of pride, voices of
love, voices of agony.

A blind hurricane, mad, intoxicated

  _With its own rough force or gentleness profound,_

tumultuous forces, the epic of the illusions of those who sing the wild
fever of the crowd, the conflicts of human gods, the breathless toilers,

  _Faces inky black and golden peering through darkness and mist,
  Muscular backs stretching, or suddenly crouching
  Round mighty furnaces and gigantic anvils..._

forging the City of the Future.

In the flickering light and shadow falling on the glaciers of the mind
there was the heroic bitterness of those solitary souls which devour
themselves with desperate joy.

       *       *       *       *       *

Many of the characteristics of these idealists seemed to the German more
German than French. But all of them had the love for the "fine speech of
France" and the sap of the myths of Greece ran through their poetry. Scenes
of France and daily life were by some hidden magic transformed in their
eyes into visions of Attica. It was as though antique souls had come to
life again in these twentieth-century Frenchmen, and longed to fling off
their modern garments to appear again in their lovely nakedness.

Their poetry as a whole gave out the perfume of a rich civilization that
has ripened through the ages, a perfume such as could not be found anywhere
else in Europe. It were impossible to forget it once it had been breathed.
It attracted foreign artists from every country in the world. They became
French poets, almost bigotedly French: and French classical art had no more
fervent disciples than these Anglo-Saxons and Flemings and Greeks.

Christophe, under Olivier's guidance, was impregnated with the pensive
beauty of the Muse of France, while in his heart he found the aristocratic
lady a little too intellectual for his liking, and preferred a pretty girl
of the people, simple, healthy, robust, who thinks and argues less, but is
more concerned with love.

       *       *       *       *       *

The same _odor di bellezza_ arose from all French art, as the scent of ripe
strawberries and raspberries ascends from autumn woods warmed by the sun.
French music was like one of those little strawberry plants, hidden in
the grass, the scent of which sweetens all the air of the woods. At first
Christophe had passed it by without seeing it, for in his own country
he had been used to whole thickets of music, much fuller and bearing
more brilliant fruits. But now the delicate perfume made him turn: with
Olivier's help among the stones and brambles and dead leaves which usurped
the name of music, he discovered the subtle and ingenuous art of a handful
of musicians. Amid the marshy fields and the factory chimneys of democracy,
in the heart of the Plaine-Saint-Denis, in a little magic wood fauns were
dancing blithely. Christophe was amazed to hear the ironic and serene notes
of their flutes which were like nothing he had ever heard:

  "_A little reed sufficed for me
  To make the tall grass quiver,
  And all the meadow,
  The willows sweet.
  And the singing stream also:
  A little reed sufficed, for me
  To make the forest sing._"

Beneath the careless grace and the seeming dilettantism of their little
piano pieces, and songs, and French chamber-music, which German art
never deigned to notice, while Christophe himself had hitherto failed to
see the poetic accomplishment of it all, he now began to see the fever
of renovation, and the uneasiness,--unknown on the other side of the
Rhine,--with which French musicians were seeking in the unfilled fields
of their art the germs from which the future might grow. While German
musicians sat stolidly in the encampments of their forebears, and
arrogantly claimed to stay the evolution of the world at the barrier of
their past victories, the world was moving onwards: and in the van the
French plunged onward to discovery: they explored the distant realms of
art, dead suns and suns lit up once more, and vanished Greece, and the Far
East, after its age-long slumber, once more opening its slanting eyes, full
of vasty dreams, upon the light of day. In the music of the West, run off
into channels by the genius of order and classic reason, they opened up the
sluices of the ancient fashions: into their Versailles pools they turned
all the waters of the universe: popular melodies and rhythms, exotic and
antique scales, new or old beats and intervals. Just as, before them, the
impressionist painters had opened up a new world to the eyes,--Christopher
Columbuses of light,--so the musicians were rushing on to the conquest of
the world of Sound; they pressed on into mysterious recesses of the world
of Hearing: they discovered new lands in that inward ocean. It was more
than probable that they would do nothing with their conquests. As usual the
French were the harbingers of the world.

Christophe admired the initiative of their music born of yesterday and
already marching in the van of art. What valiance there was in the elegant
tiny little creature! He found indulgence for the follies that he had
lately seen in her. Only those who attempt nothing never make mistakes.
But error struggling on towards the living truth is more fruitful and more
blessed than dead truth.

Whatever the results, the effort was amazing. Olivier showed Christophe the
work done in the last thirty-five years, and the amount of energy expended
in raising French music from the void in which it had slumbered before
1870: no symphonic school, no profound culture, no traditions, no masters,
no public: the whole reduced to poor Berlioz, who died of suffocation and
weariness. And now Christophe felt a great respect for those who had been
the laborers in the national revival: he had no desire now to jeer at their
esthetic narrowness or their lack of genius. They had created something
much greater than music: a musical people. Among all the great toilers who
had forged the new French music one man was especially dear to him: César
Franck, who died without seeing the victory for which he had paved the way,
and yet, like old Schütz, through the darkest years of French art, had
preserved intact the treasure of his faith and the genius of his race. It
was a moving thing to see: amid pleasure-seeking Paris, the angelic master,
the saint of music, in a life of poverty and work despised, preserving the
unimpeachable serenity of his patient soul, whose smile of resignation lit
up his music in which is such great goodness.

       *       *       *       *       *

To Christophe, knowing nothing of the depths of the life of France, this
great artist, adhering to his faith in the midst of a country of atheists,
was a phenomenon, almost a miracle.

But Olivier would gently shrug his shoulders and ask if any other country
in Europe could show a painter so wholly steeped in the spirit of the Bible
as François Millet;--a man of science more filled with burning faith and
humility than the clear-sighted Pasteur, bowing down before the idea of the
infinite, and, when that idea possessed his mind, "in bitter agony"--as he
himself has said--"praying that his reason might be spared, so near it was
to toppling over into the sublime madness of Pascal." Their deep-rooted
Catholicism was no more a bar in the way of the heroic realism of the first
of these two men, than of the passionate reason of the other, who, sure of
foot and not deviating by one step, went his way through "the circles of
elementary nature, the great night of the infinitely little, the ultimate
abysses of creation, in which life is born." It was among the people of the
provinces, from which they sprang, that they had found this faith, which is
for ever brooding on the soil of France, while in vain do windy demagogues
struggle to deny it. Olivier knew well that faith: it had lived in his own
heart and mind.

He revealed to Christophe the magnificent movement towards a Catholic
revival, which had been going on for the last twenty-five years, the mighty
effort of the Christian idea in France to wed reason, liberty, and life:
the splendid priests who had the courage, as one of their number said, "to
have themselves baptized as men," and were claiming for Catholicism the
right to understand everything and to join in every honest idea: for "every
honest idea, even when it is mistaken, is sacred and divine": the thousands
of young Catholics banded by the generous vow to build a Christian
Republic, free, pure, in brotherhood, open to all men of good-will: and, in
spite of the odious attacks, the accusations of heresy, the treachery on
all sides, right and left,--(especially on the right),--which these great
Christians had to suffer, the intrepid little legion advancing towards the
rugged defile which leads to the future, serene of front, resigned to all
trials and tribulations, knowing that no enduring edifice can be built,
except it be welded together with tears and blood.

The same breath of living idealism and passionate liberalism brought new
life to the other religions in France. The vast slumbering bodies of
Protestantism and Judaism were thrilling with new life. All in generous
emulation had set themselves to create the religion of a free humanity
which should sacrifice neither its power for reason, nor its power for

This religious exaltation was not the privilege of the religious: it
was the very soul of the revolutionary movement. There it assumed a
tragic character. Till now Christophe had only seen the lowest form of
socialism,--that of the politicians who dangled in front of the eyes of
their famished constituents the coarse and childish dreams of Happiness,
or, to be frank, of universal Pleasure, which Science in the hands of
Power could, according to them, procure. Against such revolting optimism
Christophe saw the furious mystic reaction of the élite arise to lead the
Syndicates of the working-classes on to battle. It was a summons to "war,
which engenders the sublime," to heroic war "which alone can give the dying
worlds a goal, an aim, an ideal." These great Revolutionaries, spitting
out such "bourgeois, peddling, peace-mongering, English" socialism, set up
against it a tragic conception of the universe, "whose law is antagonism,"
since it lives by sacrifice, perpetual sacrifice, eternally renewed.--If
there was reason to doubt that the army, which these leaders urged on to
the assault upon the old world, could understand such warlike mysticism,
which applied both Kant and Nietzsche to violent action, nevertheless it
was a stirring sight to see the revolutionary aristocracy, whose blind
pessimism, and furious desire for heroic life, and exalted faith in war and
sacrifice, were like the militant religious ideal of some Teutonic Order or
the Japanese Samurai.

And yet they were all Frenchmen: they were of a French stock whose
characteristics have endured unchanged for centuries. Seeing with
Olivier's eyes Christophe marked them in the tribunes and proconsuls of
the Convention, in certain of the thinkers and men of action and French
reformers of the _Ancien Régime_. Calvinists, Jansenists, Jacobins,
Syndicalists, in all there was the same spirit of pessimistic idealism,
struggling against nature, without illusions and without loss of
courage:--the iron bands which uphold the nation.

Christophe drank in the breath of these mystic struggles, and he began to
understand the greatness of that fanaticism, into which France brought
uncompromising faith and honesty, such as were absolutely unknown to
other nations more familiar with _combinazioni_. Like all foreigners
it had pleased him at first to be flippant about the only too obvious
contradiction between the despotic temper of the French and the magic
formula which their Republic wrote up on the walls of their buildings. Now
for the first time he began to grasp the meaning of the bellicose Liberty
which they adored as the terrible sword of Reason. No: it was not for
them, as he had thought, mere sounding rhetoric and vague ideology. Among
a people for whom the demands of reason transcend all others the fight for
reason dominated every other. What did it matter whether the fight appeared
absurd to nations who called themselves practical? To eyes that see deeply
it is no less vain to fight for empire, or money, or the conquest of the
world: in a million years there will be nothing left of any of these
things. But if it is the fierceness of the fight that gives its worth to
life, and uplifts all the living forces to the point of sacrifice to a
superior Being, then there are few struggles that do more honor life than
the eternal battle waged in France for or against reason. And for those who
have tasted the bitter savor of it the much-vaunted apathetic tolerance
of the Anglo-Saxons is dull and unmanly. The Anglo-Saxons paid for it by
finding elsewhere an outlet for their energy. Their energy is not in their
tolerance, which is only great when, between factions, it becomes heroism.
In Europe of to-day it is most often indifference, want of faith, want of
vitality. The English, adapting a saying of Voltaire, are fain to boast
that "diversity of belief has produced more tolerance in England" than the
Revolution has done in France.--The reason is that there is more faith in
the France of the Revolution than in all the creeds of England.

       *       *       *       *       *

From the circle of brass of militant idealism and the battles of
Reason,--like Virgil leading Dante, Olivier led Christophe by the hand to
the summit of the mountain where, silent and serene, dwelt the small band
of the elect of France who were really free.

Nowhere in the world are there men more free. They have the serenity of a
bird soaring in the still air. On such a height the air was so pure and
rarefied that Christophe could hardly breathe. There he met artists who
claimed the absolute and limitless liberty of dreams,--men of unbridled
subjectivity, like Flaubert, despising "the poor beasts who believe in
the reality of things":--thinkers, who, with supple and many-sided minds,
emulating the endless flow of moving things, went on "ceaselessly trickling
and flowing," staying nowhere, nowhere coming in contact with stubborn
earth or rock, and "depicted not the essence of life, but the _passage_,"
as Montaigne said, "the eternal passage, from day to day, from minute to
minute";--men of science who knew the emptiness and void of the universe,
wherein man has builded his idea, his God, his art, his science, and went
on creating the world and its laws, that vivid day's dream. They did not
demand of science either rest, or happiness, or even truth:--for they
doubted whether it were attainable: they loved it for itself, because it
was beautiful, because it alone was beautiful, and it alone was real.
On the topmost pinnacles of thought these men of science, passionately
Pyrrhonistic, indifferent to all suffering, all deceit, almost indifferent
to reality, listened, with closed eyes, to the silent music of souls,
the delicate and grand harmony of numbers and forms. These great
mathematicians, these free philosophers,--the most rigorous and positive
minds in the world,--had reached the uttermost limit of mystic ecstasy:
they created a void about themselves, they hung over the abyss, they were
drunk with its dizzy depths: into the boundless night with joy sublime they
flashed the lightnings of thought.

Christophe leaned forward and tried to look over as they did: and his head
swam. He who thought himself free because he had broken away from all laws
save those of his own conscience, now became fearfully conscious of how
little he was free compared with these Frenchmen who were emancipated from
every absolute law of mind, from every categorical imperative, from every
reason for living. Why, then, did they live?

"For the joy of being free," replied Olivier.

But Christophe, who was unsteadied by such liberty, thought regretfully of
the mighty spirit of discipline and German authoritarianism: and he said:

"Your joy is a snare, the dream of an opium-smoker. You make yourselves
drunk with liberty, and forget life. Absolute liberty means madness to the
mind, anarchy to the State ... Liberty! What man is free in this world?
What man in your Republic is free?--Only the knaves. You, the best of the
nation, are stilled. You can do nothing but dream. Soon you will not be
able even to dream."

"No matter!" said Olivier. "My poor dear Christophe, you cannot know the
delight of being free. It is worth while paying for it with so much danger,
and suffering, and even death. To be free, to feel that every mind about
you--yes, even the knave's--is free, is a delicious pleasure which it is
impossible to express: it is as though your soul were soaring through
the infinite air. It could not live otherwise. What should I do with the
security you offer me, and your order and your impeccable discipline,
locked up in the four walls of your Imperial barracks? I should die of
suffocation. Air! give me air, more and more of it! Liberty, more and more
of that!"

"There must be law in the world," replied Christophe. "Sooner or later the
master cometh."

But Olivier laughed and reminded Christophe of the saying of old Pierre de

  _It is as little in the power of all the
  dominions of the earth to curb the French
  liberty of speech, as
  to bury the sun in the earth
  or to shut it up
  inside a

       *       *       *       *       *

Gradually Christophe grew accustomed to the air of boundless liberty. From
the lofty heights of French thought, where those minds dream that are all
light, he looked down upon the slopes of the mountain at his feet, where
the heroic elect, fighting for a living faith, whatever faith it be,
struggle eternally to reach the summit:--those who wage the holy war
against ignorance, disease, and poverty: the fever of invention, the mental
delirium of the modern Prometheus and Icarus conquering the light and
marking out roads in the air: the Titanic struggle between Science and
Nature, being tamed;--lower down, the little silent band, the men and women
of good faith, those brave and humble hearts, who, after a thousand
efforts, have climbed half-way, and can climb no farther, being held bound
in a dull and difficult existence, while in secret they burn away in
obscure devotion:--lower still, at the foot of the mountain, in a narrow
gorge between rocky crags, the endless battle, the fanatics of abstract
ideas and blind instincts, fiercely wrestling, with never a suspicion that
there may be something beyond, above the wall of rocks which hems them
in:--still lower, swamps and brutish beasts wallowing in the mire.--And
everywhere, scattered about the sides of the mountain, the fresh flowers of
art, the scented strawberry-plants of music, the song of the streams and
the poet birds.

And Christophe asked Olivier:

"Where are your people? I see only the elect, all sorts, good and bad."

Olivier replied:

"The people? They are tending their gardens. They never bother about us.
Every group and faction among the elect strives to engage their attention.
They pay no heed to any one. There was a time when it amused them to listen
to the humbug of the political mountebanks. But now they never worry about
it. There are several millions who do not even make use of their rights as
electors. The parties may break each other's heads as much as they like,
and the people don't care one way or another so long as they don't trample
the crops in their wrangling: if that happens then they lose their tempers,
and smash the parties indiscriminately. They do not act: they react in one
way or another against all the exaggerations which disturb their work and
their rest. Kings, Emperors, republics, priests, Freemasons, Socialists,
whatever their leaders may be, all that they ask of them is to be protected
against the great common dangers: war, riots, epidemics,--and, for the
rest, to be allowed to go on tending their gardens. When all is said and
done they think:

"'Why won't these people leave us in peace?'

"But the politicians are so stupid that they worry the people, and won't
leave off until they are pitched out with a fork,--as will happen some day
to our members of Parliament. There was a time when the people were
embarked upon great enterprises. Perhaps that will happen again, although
they sowed their wild oats long ago: in any case their embarkations are
never for long: very soon they return to their age-old companion: the
earth. It is the soil which binds the French to France, much more than the
French. There are so many different races who for centuries have been
tilling that brave soil side by side, that it is the soil which unites
them, the soil which is their love. Through good times and bad they
cultivate it unceasingly: and it is all good to them, even the smallest
scrap of ground."

Christophe looked down. As far as he could see, along the road, around the
swamps, on the slopes of rocky hills, over the battlefields and ruins of
action, over the mountains and plains of France, all was cultivated and
richly bearing: it was the great garden of European civilization. Its
incomparable charm lay no less in the good fruitful soil than in the blind
labors of an indefatigable people, who for centuries have never ceased to
till and sow and make the land ever more beautiful.

A strange people! They are always called inconstant: but nothing in them
changes. Olivier, looking backward, saw in Gothic statuary all the types of
the provinces of to-day: and so in the drawings of a Clouet and a
Dumoustier, the weary ironical faces of worldly men and intellectuals: or
in the work of a Lenain the clear eyes of the laborers and peasants of
Île-de-France or Picardy. And the thoughts of the men of old days lived in
the minds of the present day. The mind of Pascal was alive, not only in the
elect of reason and religion, but in the brains of obscure citizens or
revolutionary Syndicalists. The art of Corneille and Racine was living for
the people even more than for the elect, for they were less attainted by
foreign influences: a humble clerk in Paris would feel more sympathy with a
tragedy of the time of Louis XIV than with a novel of Tolstoi or a drama of
Ibsen. The chants of the Middle Ages, the old French _Tristan_, would be
more akin to the modern French than the _Tristan_ of Wagner. The flowers of
thought, which since the twelfth century have never ceased to blossom in
French soil, however different they may be, were yet kin one to another,
though utterly different from all the flowers about them.

Christophe knew too little of France to be able to grasp how these
characteristics had endured. What struck him most of all in all the wide
expanse of country was the extremely small divisions of the earth. As
Olivier said, every man had his garden: and each garden, each plot of land,
was separated from the rest by walls, and quickset hedges, and inclosures
of all sorts. At most there were only a few woods and fields in common, and
sometimes the dwellers on one side of a river were forced to live nearer to
each other than to the dwellers on the other. Every man shut himself up in
his own house: and it seemed that this jealous individualism, instead of
growing weaker after centuries of neighborhood, was stronger than ever.
Christophe thought:

"How lonely they all are!"

       *       *       *       *       *

In that sense nothing could have been more characteristic than the house in
which Christophe and Olivier lodged. It was a world in miniature, a little
France, honest and industrious, without any bond which could unite its
divers elements. A five-storied house, a shaky house, leaning over to one
side, with creaking floors and crumbling ceilings. The rain came through
into the rooms under the roof in which Christophe and Olivier lived: they
had had to have the workmen in to botch up the roof as best they could:
Christophe could hear them working and talking overhead. There was one man
in particular who amused and exasperated him: he never stopped talking to
himself, and laughing, and singing, and babbling nonsense, and whistling
inane tunes, and holding long conversations with himself all the time he
was working: he was incapable of doing anything without proclaiming exactly
what it was:

"I'm going to put in another nail. Where's my hammer? I'm putting in a
nail, two nails. One more blow with the hammer! There, old lady, that's

When Christophe was playing he would stop for a moment and listen, and then
go on whistling louder than ever: during a stirring passage he would beat
time with his hammer on the roof. At last Christophe was so exasperated
that he climbed on a chair, and poked his head through the skylight of the
attic to rate the man. But when he saw him sitting astride the roof, with
his jolly face and his cheek stuffed out with nails, he burst out laughing,
and the man joined in. And not until they had done laughing did he remember
why he had come to the window:

"By the way," he said, "I wanted to ask you: my playing doesn't interfere
with your work?"

The man said it did not: but he asked Christophe to play something faster,
because, as he worked in time to the music, slow tunes kept him back. They
parted very good friends. In a quarter of an hour they had exchanged more
words than in six months Christophe had spoken to the other inhabitants of
the house.

There were two flats on each floor, one of three rooms, the other of only
two. There were no servants' rooms: each household did its own housework,
except for the tenants of the ground floor and the first floor, who
occupied the two flats thrown into one.

On the fifth floor Christophe and Olivier's next-door neighbor was the Abbé
Corneille, a priest of some forty years old, a learned man, an independent
thinker, broad-minded, formerly a professor of exegesis in a great
seminary, who had recently been censured by Rome for his modernist
tendency. He had accepted the censure without submitting to it, in silence:
he made no attempt to dispute it and refused every opportunity offered to
him of publishing his doctrine: he shrank from a noisy publicity and would
rather put up with the ruin of his ideas than figure in a scandal.
Christophe could not understand that sort of revolt in resignation. He had
tried to talk to the priest, who, however, was coldly polite and would not
speak of the things which most interested him, and seemed to prefer as a
matter of dignity to remain buried alive.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the floor below in the flat corresponding to that of the two friends
there lived a family of the name of Elie Elsberger: an engineer, his wife,
and their two little girls, seven and ten years old: superior and
sympathetic people who kept themselves very much to themselves, chiefly
from a sort of false shame of their straitened means. The young woman who
kept her house most pluckily was humiliated by it: she would have put up
with twice the amount of worry and exhaustion if she could have prevented
anybody knowing their condition: and that too was a feeling which
Christophe could not understand. They belonged to a Protestant family and
came from the East of France. Both man and wife, a few years before, had
been bowled over by the storm of the Dreyfus affair: both of them had taken
the affair passionately to heart, and, like thousands of French people,
they had suffered from the frenzy brought on by the turbulent wind of that
exalted fit of hysteria which lasted for seven years. They had sacrificed
everything to it, rest, position, relations: they had broken off many dear
friendships through it: they had almost ruined their health. For months at
a time they did not sleep nor act, but went on bringing forward the same
arguments over and over again with the monotonous insistence of the insane:
they screwed each other up to a pitch of excitement: in spite of their
timidity and their dread of ridicule, they had taken part in demonstrations
and spoken at meetings, from which they returned with minds bewildered and
aching hearts, and they would weep together through the night. In the
struggle they had expended so much enthusiasm and passion that when at last
victory was theirs they had not enough of either to rejoice: it left them
dry of energy and broken for life. Their hopes had been so high, their
eagerness for sacrifice had been so pure, that triumph when it came had
seemed a mockery compared with what they had dreamed. To such single-minded
creatures for whom there could exist but one truth, the bargaining of
politics, the compromises of their heroes had been a bitter disappointment.
They had seen their comrades in arms, men whom they had thought inspired
with the same single passion for justice,--once the enemy was overcome,
swarming about the loot, catching at power, carrying off honors and
positions, and, in their turn, trampling justice underfoot. Only a mere
handful of men held steadfast to their faith, and, in poverty and
isolation, rejected by every party, rejecting every party, they remained in
obscurity, cut off one from the other, a prey to sorrow and neurasthenia,
left hopeless and disgusted with men and utterly weary of life. The
engineer and his wife were among these wretched victims.

They made no noise in the house: they were morbidly afraid of disturbing
their neighbors, the more so as they suffered from their neighbors' noises,
and they were too proud to complain. Christophe was sorry for the two
little girls, whose outbursts of merriment, and natural need of shouting,
jumping about and laughing, were continually being suppressed. He adored
children, and he made friendly advances to his little neighbors when he met
them on the stairs. The little girls were shy at first, but were soon on
good terms with Christophe, who always had some funny story to tell them or
sweetmeats in his pockets: they told their parents about him: and, though
at first they had been inclined to look askance at his advances, they were
won over by the frank open manners of their noisy neighbor, whose
piano-playing and terrific disturbance overhead had often made them
curse:--(for Christophe used to feel stifled in his room and take to pacing
up and down like a caged bear).--They did not find it easy to talk to him.
Christophe's rather boorish and abrupt manners sometimes made Elie
Elsberger shudder. But it was all in vain for the engineer to try to keep
up the wall of reserve, behind which he had taken shelter, between himself
and the German: it was impossible to resist the impetuous good humor of the
man whose eyes were so honest and affectionate and so free from any
ulterior motive. Every now and then Christophe managed to squeeze a little
confidence out of his neighbor. Elsberger was a queer man, full of courage,
yet apathetic, sorrowful, and yet resigned. He had energy enough to bear a
life of difficulty with dignity, but not enough to change it. It was as
though he took a delight in justifying his own pessimism. Just at that time
he had been offered a post in Brazil as manager of an undertaking: but he
had refused as he was afraid of the climate and fearful of the health of
his wife and children.

"Well, leave them," said Christophe. "Go alone and make their fortune."

"Leave them!" cried the engineer. "It's easy to see that you have no

"I assure you that, if I had, I should be of the same opinion."

"Never! Never!... Leave the country!... No. I would rather suffer here."

To Christophe it seemed an odd way of loving one's country and one's wife
and children to sit down and vegetate with them. Olivier understood.

"Just think," he said, "of the risk of dying out there, in a strange
unknown country, far away from those you love! Anything is better than the
horror of that. Besides, it isn't worth while taking so much trouble for
the few remaining years of life!..."

"As though one had always to be thinking of death!" said Christophe with a
shrug. "And even if that does happen, isn't it better to die fighting for
the happiness of those one loves than to flicker out in apathy?"

       *       *       *       *       *

On the same landing in the smaller flat on the fourth floor lived a
journeyman electrician named Aubert.--If he lived entirely apart from the
other inhabitants of the house it was not altogether his fault. He had
risen from the lower class and had a passionate desire not to sink back
into it. He was small and weakly-looking; he had a harsh face, and his
forehead bulged over his eyes, which were keen and sharp and bored into you
like a gimlet: he had a fair mustache, a satirical mouth, a sibilant way of
speaking, a husky voice, a scarf round his neck, and he had always
something the matter with his throat, in which irritation was set up by his
perpetual habit of smoking: he was always feverishly active and had the
consumptive temperament. He was a mixture of conceit, irony, and
bitterness, cloaking a mind that was enthusiastic, bombastic, and naïve,
while it was always being taken in by life. He was the bastard of some
burgess whom he had never known, and was brought up by a mother whom it was
impossible to respect, so that in his childhood he had seen much that was
sad and degrading. He had plied all sorts of trades and had traveled much
in France. He had an admirable desire for education, and had taught himself
with frightful toil and labor: he read everything: history, philosophy,
decadent poets: he was up-to-date in everything: theaters, exhibitions,
concerts: he had a touching veneration for art, literature, and
middle-class ideas: they fascinated him. He had imbibed the vague and
ardent ideology which intoxicated the middle-classes in the first days of
the Revolution. He had a definite belief in the infallibility of reason, in
boundless progress,--_quo non ascendam?_--in the near advent of happiness
on earth, in the omnipotence of science, in Divine Humanity, and in France,
the eldest daughter of Humanity. He had an enthusiastic and credulous sort
of anti-clericalism which made him lump together religion--especially
Catholicism--and obscurantism, and see in priests the natural foe of light.
Socialism, individualism, Chauvinism jostled each other in his brain. He
was a humanitarian in mind, despotic in temperament, and an anarchist in
fact. He was proud and knew the gaps in his education, and, in
conversation, he was very cautious: he turned to account everything that
was said in his presence, but he would never ask advice: that humiliated
him; now, though he had intelligence and cleverness, these things could not
altogether supply the defects of his education. He had taken it into his
head to write. Like so many men in France who have not been taught, he had
the gift of style, and a clear vision: but he was a confused thinker. He
had shown a few pages of his productions to a successful journalist in whom
he believed, and the man made fun of him. He was profoundly humiliated, and
from that time on never told a soul what he was doing. But he went on
writing: it fed his need of expansion and gave him pride and delight. In
his heart he was immensely pleased with his eloquent passages and
philosophic ideas, which were not worth a brass farthing. And he set no
store by his observation of real life, which was excellent. It was his
crank to fancy himself as a philosopher, and he wished to write
sociological plays and novels of ideas. He had no difficulty in solving all
sorts of insoluble questions, and at every turn he discovered America. When
in due course he found that America was already discovered, he was
disappointed, humiliated, and rather bitter: he was never far from scenting
injustice and intrigue. He was consumed by a thirst for fame and a burning
capacity for devotion which suffered from finding no means or direction of
employment: he would have loved to be a great man of letters, a member of
that literary élite, who in his eyes were adorned with a supernatural
prestige. In spite of his longing to deceive himself he had too much good
sense and was too ironical not to know that there was no chance of its
coming to pass. But he would at least have hiked to live in that atmosphere
of art and middle-class ideas which at a distance seemed to him so
brilliant and pure and chastened of mediocrity. This innocent longing had
the unfortunate result of making the society of the people with whom his
condition in life forced him to live intolerable to him. And as the
middle-class society which he wished to enter closed its doors to him, the
result was that he never saw anybody. And so Christophe had no difficulty
in making his acquaintance. On the contrary he had very soon to bolt and
bar against him: otherwise Aubert would more often have been in
Christophe's rooms, than Christophe in his. He was only too happy to find
an artist to whom he could talk about music, plays, etc. But, as one would
imagine, Christophe did not find them so interesting: he would rather have
discussed the people with a man who was of the people. But that was just
what Aubert would not and could not discuss.

In proportion as he went lower in the house relations between Christophe
and the other tenants became naturally more distant. Besides, some secret
magic, some _Open Sesame_, would have been necessary for him to reach the
inhabitants of the third floor.--In the one flat there lived two ladies who
were under the self-hypnotism of grief for a loss that was already some
years old: Madame Germain, a woman of thirty-five who had lost her husband
and daughter, and lived in seclusion with her aged and devout
mother-in-law.--On the other side of the landing there dwelt a mysterious
character of uncertain age, anything between fifty and sixty, with a little
girl of ten. He was bald, with a handsome, well-trimmed beard, a soft way
of speaking, distinguished manners, and aristocratic hands. He was called
M. Watelet. He was said to be an anarchist, a revolutionary, a foreigner,
from what country was not known, Russia or Belgium. As a matter of fact he
was a Northern Frenchman and was hardly at all revolutionary: but he was
living on his past reputation. He had been mixed up with the Commune of '71
and condemned to death: he had escaped, how he did not know: and for ten
years he had lived for a short time in every country in Europe. He had seen
so many ill-deeds during the upheaval in Paris, and afterwards, and also in
exile, and also since his return, ill-deeds done by his former comrades now
that they were in power, and also by men in every rank of the revolutionary
parties, that he had broken with them, peacefully keeping his convictions
to himself useless and untarnished. He read much, wrote a few mildly
incendiary books, pulled--(so it was said)--the wires of anarchist
movements in distant places, in India or the Far East, busied himself with
the universal revolution, and, at the same time, with researches no less
universal but of a more genial aspect, namely with a universal language, a
new method of popular instruction in music. He never came in contact with
anybody in the house: when he met any of its inmates he did no more than
bow to them with exaggerated politeness. However, he condescended to tell
Christophe a little about his musical method. Christophe was not the least
interested in it: the symbols of his ideas mattered very little to him: in
any language he would have managed somehow to express them. But Watelet was
not to be put off, and went on explaining his system gently but firmly:
Christophe could not find out anything about the rest of his life. And so
he gave up stopping when he met him on the stairs and only looked at the
little girl who was always with him: she was fair, pale, anemic: she had
blue eyes, rather a sharp profile, a thin little figure--she was always
very neatly dressed--and she looked sickly and her face was not very
expressive. Like everybody else he thought she was Watelet's daughter. She
was an orphan, the daughter of poor parents, whom Watelet had adopted when
she was four or five, after the death of her father and mother in an
epidemic. He had an almost boundless love for the poor, especially for poor
children. It was a sort of mystic tenderness with him as with Vincent de
Paul. He distrusted official charity, and knew exactly what philanthropic
institutions were worth, and therefore he set about doing charity alone: he
did it by stealth, and took a secret joy in it. He had learned medicine so
as to be of some use in the world. One day when he went to the house of a
working-man in the district and found sickness there, he turned to and
nursed the invalids: he had some medical knowledge and turned it to
account. He could not bear to see a child suffer: it broke his heart. But,
on the other hand, what a joy it was when he had succeeded in tearing one
of these poor little creatures from the clutches of sickness, and the first
pale smile appeared on the little pinched face! Then Watelet's heart would
melt. Those were his moments of Paradise. They made him forget the trouble
he often had with his protégés: for they very rarely showed him much
gratitude. And the housekeeper was furious at seeing so many people with
dirty boots going up her stairs, and she would complain bitterly. And the
proprietor would watch uneasily these meetings of anarchists, and make
remarks. Watelet would contemplate leaving his flat: but that hurt him: he
had his little whimsies: he was gentle and obstinate, and he put up with
the proprietor's observations.

Christophe won his confidence up to a certain point by the love he showed
for children. That was their common bond. Christophe never met the little
girl without a catch at his heart: for, though he did not know why, by one
of those mysterious similarities in outline, which the instinct perceives
immediately and subconsciously, the child reminded him of Sabine's little
girl. Sabine, his first love, now so far away, the silent grace of whose
fleeting shadow had never faded from his heart. And so he took an interest
in the pale-faced little girl whom he never saw romping, or running, whose
voice he hardly ever heard, who had no little friend of her own age, who
was always alone, mum, quietly amusing herself with lifeless toys, a doll
or a block of wood, while her lips moved as she whispered some story to
herself. She was affectionate and a little offhanded in manner: there was a
foreign and uneasy quality in her, but her adopted father never saw it: he
loved her too much. Alas! Does not that foreign and uneasy quality exist
even in the children of our own flesh and blood?... Christophe tried to
make the solitary little girl friends with the engineer's children. But
with both Elsberger and Watelet he met with a polite but categorical
refusal. These people seemed to make it a point of honor to bury themselves
alive, each in his own mausoleum. If it came to a point each would have
been ready to help the other: but each was afraid of it being thought that
he himself was in need of help: and as they were both equally proud and
vain,--and the means of both were equally precarious,--there was no hope of
either of them being the first to hold out his hand to the other.

The larger flat on the second floor was almost always empty. The proprietor
of the house reserved it for his own use: and he was never there. He was a
retired merchant who had closed down his business as soon as he had made a
certain fortune, the figure of which he had fixed for himself. He spent the
greater part of the year in some hotel on the Riviera, and the summer at
some watering-place in Normandy, living as a gentleman with private means
who enjoys the illusion of luxury cheaply by watching the luxury of others,
and, like them, leading a useless existence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The smaller flat was let to a childless couple: M. and Madame Arnaud. The
husband, a man of between forty and forty-five, was a master at a school.
He was so overworked with lectures, and correcting exercises, and giving
classes, that he had never been able to find time to write his thesis: and
at last he had given it up altogether. The wife was ten years younger,
pretty, and very shy. They were both intelligent, well read, in love with
each other: they knew nobody, and never went out. The husband had no time
for it. The wife had too much time: but she was a brave little creature,
who fought down her fits of depression when they came over her, and hid
them, by occupying herself as best she could, trying to learn, taking notes
for her husband, copying out her husband's notes, mending her husband's
clothes, making frocks and hats for herself. She would have liked to go to
the theater from time to time: but Arnaud did not care about it: he was too
tired in the evening. And she resigned herself to it.

Their great Joy was music. They both adored it. He could not play, and she
dared not although she could: when she played before anybody, even before
her husband, it was like a child strumming. However, that was good enough
for them: and Gluck, Mozart, Beethoven, whom they stammered out, were as
friends to them: they knew their lives in detail, and their sufferings
filled them with love and pity. Books, too, beautiful, fine books, which
they read together, gave them happiness. But there are few such books in
the literature of to-day: authors do not worry about those people who can
bring them neither reputation, nor pleasure, nor money, such humble readers
who are never seen in society, and do not write in any journal, and can
only love and say nothing. The silent light of art, which in their upright
and religious hearts assumed almost a supernatural character, and their
mutual affection, were enough to make them live in peace, happy enough,
though a little sad--(there is no gainsaying that),--very lonely, a little
bruised in spirit. They were both much superior to their position in life.
M. Arnaud was full of ideas: but he had neither the time nor enough courage
left to write them down. It meant such a lot of trouble to get articles and
books published: it was not worth it: futile vanity! Anything he could do
was so small in comparison with the thinkers he loved! He had too true a
love for the great works of art to want to produce art himself: it would
have seemed to him pretentious, impertinent, and ridiculous. It seemed to
be his lot to spread their influence. He gave his pupils the benefit of his
ideas: they would turn them into books later on,--without mentioning his
name of course.--Nobody spent more money than he in subscribing to various
publications. The poor are always the most generous: they do buy their
books: the rich would take it as a slur upon themselves if they did not
somehow manage to get them for nothing. Arnaud ruined himself in buying
books: it was his weakness--his vice. He was ashamed of it, and concealed
it from his wife. But she did not blame him for it: she would have spent
just as much.--And with it all they were always making fine plans for
saving, with a view to going to Italy some day--though, as they knew quite
well, they never would go: and they were the first to laugh at their
incapacity for keeping money. Arnaud would console himself. His dear wife
was enough for him, and his life of work and inward joys. Was it not also
enough for her?--She said it was. She dared not say how dear it would have
been to her if her husband could have some reputation, which would in some
sort be reflected upon herself, and brighten her life, and give her ease
and comfort: inward joys are beautiful: but a little ray of light from
without shining in from time to time is sweet, and does so much good!...
But she never said anything, because she was timid: and besides, she knew
that even if he wished to make a reputation it was by no means certain that
he would succeed: it was too late!... Their greatest sorrow was that they
had no children. Each hid that sorrow from the other: and they were only
the more tender with each other: it was as though the poor creatures were
striving to win one another's forgiveness. Madame Arnaud was kind and
affectionate: she would gladly have been friends with Madame Elsberger. But
she dared not: she was never approached. As for Christophe, husband and
wife would have asked nothing better than to know him: they were fascinated
by the music that they could hear faintly when he was playing. But nothing
in the world could have induced them to make the first move: they would
have thought it indiscreet.

       *       *       *       *       *

The whole of the first floor was occupied by M. and Madame Félix Weil. They
were rich Jews, and had no children, and they spent six months of the year
in the country near Paris. Although they had lived in the house for twenty
years--(they stayed there as a matter of habit, although they could easily
have found a flat more in keeping with their fortune)--they were always
like passing strangers. They had never spoken a word to any of their
neighbors, and no one knew any more about them than on the day of their
arrival. But that was no reason why the other tenants should not pass
judgment on them: on the contrary. They were not liked. And no doubt they
did nothing to win popularity. And yet they were worthy of more
acquaintance: they were both excellent people and remarkably intelligent.
The husband, a man of sixty, was an Assyriologist, well known through his
famous excavations in Central Asia: like most of his race he was
open-minded and curious, and did not confine himself to his special
studies: he was interested in an infinite number of things: the arts,
social questions, every manifestation of contemporary thought. But these
were not enough to occupy his mind: for they all amused him, and none of
them roused passionate interest. He was very intelligent, too intelligent,
too much emancipated from all ties, always ready to destroy with one hand
what he had constructed with the other: for he was constructive, always
producing books and theories: he was a great worker: as a matter of habit
and spiritual health he was always patiently plowing his deep furrow in the
field of knowledge, without having any belief in the utility of what he was
doing. He had always had the misfortune to be rich, so that he had never
had the interest of the struggle for life, and, since his explorations in
the East, of which he had grown tired after a few years, he had not
accepted any official position. Outside his own personal work, however, he
busied himself with clairvoyance, contemporary problems, social reforms of
a practical and pressing nature, the reorganization of public education in
France: he flung out ideas and created lines of thought: he would set great
intellectual machines working, and would immediately grow disgusted with
them. More than once he had scandalized people, who had been converted to a
cause by his arguments, by producing the most incisive and discouraging
criticisms of the cause itself. He did not do it deliberately: it was a
natural necessity for him: he was very nervous and ironical in temper, and
found it hard to bear with the foibles of things and people which he saw
with the most disconcerting clarity. And, as there is no good cause, nor
any good man, who, seen at a certain angle or with a certain distortion,
does not present a ridiculous aspect, there was nothing that, with his
ironic disposition, he could go on respecting for long. All this was not
calculated to make him friends. And yet he was always well-disposed towards
people, and inclined to do good: he did much good: but no one was ever
grateful to him: even those whom he had helped could not in their hearts
forgive him, because they had seen that they were ridiculous in his eyes.
It was necessary for him not to see too much of men if he were to love
them. Not that he was a misanthrope. He was not sure enough of himself to
be that. Face to face with the world at which he mocked, he was timid and
bashful: at heart he was not at all sure that the world was not right and
himself wrong: he endeavored not to appear too different from other people,
and strove to base his manners and apparent opinions on theirs. But he
strove in vain: he could not help judging them: he was keenly sensible of
any sort of exaggeration and anything that was not simple: and he could
never conceal his irritation. He was especially sensible of the foibles of
the Jews, because he knew them best: and as, in spite of his intellectual
freedom, which did not admit of barriers between races, he was often
brought up sharp against those barriers which men of other races raised
against him,--as, in spite of himself, he was out of his element among
Christian ideas, he retired with dignity into his ironic labors and the
profound affection he had for his wife.

Worst of all, his wife was not secure against his irony. She was a kindly,
busy woman, anxious to be useful, and always taken up with various
charitable works. Her nature was much less complex than that of her
husband, and she was cramped by her moral benevolence and the rather
rigidly intellectual, though lofty, idea of duty that she had begotten. Her
whole life, which was sad enough, without children, with no great joy nor
great love, was based on this moral belief of hers, which was more than
anything else the will to believe. Her husband's irony had, of course,
seized on the element of voluntary self-deception in her faith, and--(it
was too strong for him)--he had made much fun at her expense. He was a mass
of contradictions. He had a feeling for duty no less lofty than his wife's,
and, at the same time, a merciless desire to analyze, to criticize, and to
avoid deception, which made him dismember and take to pieces his moral
imperative. He could not see that he was digging away the ground from under
his wife's feet: he used cruelly to discourage her. When he realized that
he had done so, he suffered even more than she: but the harm was done. It
did not keep them from loving each other faithfully, and working and doing
good. But the cold dignity of the wife was not more kindly judged than the
irony of the husband: and as they were too proud to publish abroad the good
they did, or their desire to do good, their reserve was regarded as
indifference, and their isolation as selfishness. And the more conscious
they became of the opinion that was held of them, the more careful were
they to do nothing to dispute it. Reacting against the coarse indiscretion
of so many of their race they were the victims of an excessive reserve
which covered a vast deal of pride.

       *       *       *       *       *

As for the ground floor, which was a few steps higher than the little
garden, it was occupied by Commandant Chabran, a retired officer of the
Colonial Artillery: he was still young, a man of great vigor, who had
fought brilliantly in the Soudan and Madagascar: then suddenly, he had
thrown the whole thing up, and buried himself there: he did not even want
to hear the army mentioned, and spent his time in digging his flower-beds,
and practising the flute without making any progress, and growling about
politics, and scolding his daughter, whom he adored: she was a young woman
of thirty, not very pretty, but quite charming, who devoted herself to him,
and had not married so as not to leave him. Christophe used often to see
them leaning out of the window: and, naturally, he paid more attention to
the daughter than the father. She used to spend part of the afternoon in
the garden, sewing, dreaming, digging, always in high good humor with her
grumbling old father. Christophe could hear her soft clear voice laughingly
replying to the growling tones of the Commandant, whose footsteps ground
and scrunched on the gravel-paths: then he would go in, and she would stay
sitting on a seat in the garden, and sew for hours together, never
stirring, never speaking, smiling vaguely, while inside the house the bored
old soldier played flourishes on his shrill flute, or, by way of a change,
made a broken-winded old harmonium squeal and groan, much to Christophe's
amusement--or exasperation--(which, depended on the day and his mood).

       *       *       *       *       *

All these people went on living side by side in that house with its
walled-in garden sheltered from all the buffets of the world, hermetically
sealed even against each other. Only Christophe, with his need of expansion
and his great fullness of life, unknown to them, wrapped them about with
his vast sympathy, blind, yet all-seeing. He could not understand them. He
had no means of understanding them. He lacked Olivier's psychological
insight and quickness. But he loved them. Instinctively he put himself in
their place. Slowly, mysteriously, there crept through him a dim
consciousness of these lives so near him and yet so far removed, the
stupefying sorrow of the mourning woman, the stoic silence of all their
proud thoughts, the priest, the Jew, the engineer, the revolutionary: the
pale and gentle flame of tenderness and faith which burned in silence in
the hearts of the two Arnauds: the naïve aspirations towards the light of
the man of the people: the suppressed revolt and fertile activity which
were stifled in the bosom of the old soldier: and the calm resignation of
the girl dreaming in the shade of the lilac. But only Christophe could
perceive and hear the silent music of their souls: they heard it not: they
were all absorbed in their sorrow and their dreams.

They all worked hard, the skeptical old scientist, the pessimistic
engineer, the priest, the anarchist, and all these proud or dispirited
creatures. And on the roof the mason sang.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the district round the house among the best of the people Christophe
found the same moral solitude--even when the people were banded together.

Olivier had brought him in touch with a little review for which he wrote.
It was called _Ésope_, and had taken for its motto this quotation from

"_Æsop was put up for sale with two other staves. The purchaser inquired of
the first what he could do; and he, to put a price upon himself, described
all sorts of marvels; the second said as much for himself, or more. When it
came to Æsop's turn, and he was asked what he could do:--Nothing, he said,
for these two have taken everything: they can do everything._"

Their attitude was that of pure reaction against "the impudence," as
Montaigne says, "of those who profess knowledge and their overweening
presumption!" The self-styled skeptics of the _Ésope_ review were at heart
men of the firmest faith. But their mask of irony and haughty ignorance,
naturally enough, had small attraction for the public: rather it repelled.
The people are only with a writer when he brings them words of simple,
clear, vigorous, and assured life. They prefer a sturdy lie to an anemic
truth. Skepticism is only to their liking when it is the covering of lusty
naturalism or Christian idolatry. The scornful Pyrrhonism in which the
_Ésope_ clothed itself could only be acceptable to a few minds--"_aeme
sdegnose_,"--who knew the solid worth beneath it. It was force absolutely
lost upon action and life.

There was no help for it. The more democratic France became, the more
aristocratic did her ideas, her art, her science seem to grow. Science
securely lodged behind its special languages, in the depths of its
sanctuary, wrapped about with a triple veil, which only the initiate had
the power to draw, was less accessible than at the time of Buffon and the
Encyclopedists. Art,--that art at least which had some respect for itself
and the worship of beauty,--was no less hermetically sealed: it despised
the people. Even among writers who cared less for beauty than for action,
among those who gave moral ideas precedence over esthetic ideas, there was
often a strange dominance of the aristocratic spirit. They seemed to be
more intent upon preserving the purity of their inward flame than to
communicate its warmth to others. It was as though they desired not to make
their ideas prevail but only to affirm them.

And yet among these writers there were some who applied themselves to
popular art. Among the most sincere some hurled into their writings
destructive anarchical ideas, truths of the distant future, which might be
beneficent in a century or so, but, for the time being, corroded and
scorched the soul: others wrote bitter or ironical plays, robbed of all
illusion, sad to the last degree. Christophe was left in a state of
collapse, ham-strung, for a day or two after he read them.

"And you give that sort of thing to the people?" he would ask, feeling
sorry for the poor audiences who had come to forget their troubles for a
few hours, only to be presented with these lugubrious entertainments. "It's
enough to make them all go and drown themselves!"

"You may be quite easy on that score," said Olivier, laughing. "The people
don't go."

"And a jolly good thing too! You're mad. Are you trying to rob them of
every scrap of courage to live?"

"Why? Isn't it right to teach them to see the sadness of things, as we do,
and yet to go on and do their duty without flinching?"

"Without flinching? I doubt that. But it's very certain that they'll do it
without pleasure. And you don't go very far when you've destroyed a man's
pleasure in living."

"What else can one do? One has no right to falsify the truth."

"Nor have you any right to tell the whole truth to everybody."

"_You_ say that? You who are always shouting the truth aloud, you who
pretend to love truth more than anything in the world!"

"Yes: truth for myself and those whose backs are strong enough to bear it
But it is cruel and stupid to tell it to the rest. Yes. I see that now. At
home that would never have occurred to me: in Germany people are not so
morbid about the truth as they are here: they're too much taken up with
living: very wisely they see only what they wish to see. I love you for not
being like that: you are honest and go straight ahead. But you are inhuman.
When you think you have unearthed a truth, you let it loose upon the world,
without stopping to think whether, like the foxes in the Bible with their
burning tails, it will not set fire to the world. I think it is fine of you
to prefer truth to your happiness. But when it comes to the happiness of
other people.... Then I say, 'Stop!' You are taking too much upon
yourselves. Thou shalt love truth, more than thyself, but thy neighbor more
than truth."

"Is one to lie to one's neighbor?"

Christophe replied with the words of Goethe:

"We should only express those of the highest truths which will be to the
good of the world. The rest we must keep to ourselves: like the soft rays
of a hidden sun, they will shed their light upon all our actions."

But they were not moved by these scruples. They never stopped to think
whether the bow in their hands shot "_ideas or death_," or both together.
They were too intellectual. They lacked love. When a Frenchman has ideas he
tries to impose them on others. He tries to do the same thing when he has
none. And when he sees that he cannot do it he loses interest in other
people, he loses interest in action. That was the chief reason why this
particular group took so little interest in politics, save to moan and
groan. Each of them was shut up in his faith, or want of faith.

Many attempts had been made to break down their individualism and to form
groups of these men: but the majority of these groups had immediately
resolved themselves into literary clubs, or split up into absurd factions.
The best of them were mutually destructive. There were among them some
first-rate men of force and faith, men well fitted to rally and guide those
of weaker will. But each man had his following, and would not consent to
merging it with that of other men. So they were split up into a number of
reviews, unions, associations, which had all the moral virtues, save one:
self-denial; for not one of them would give way to the others: and, while
they wrangled over the crumbs that fell from an honest and well-meaning
public, small in numbers and poor in purse, they vegetated for a short
time, starved and languished, and at last collapsed never to rise again,
not under the assault of the enemy, but--(most pitiful!)--under the weight
of their own quarrels.--The various professions,--men of letters, dramatic
authors, poets, prose writers, professors, members of the Institute,
journalists--were divided up into a number of little castes, which they
themselves split up again into smaller castes, each one of which closed its
doors against the rest. There was no sort of mutual interchange. There was
no unanimity on any subject in France, except at those very rare moments
when unanimity assumed an epidemic character, and, as a rule, was in the
wrong: for it was morbid. A crazy individualism predominated in every kind
of French activity: in scientific research as well as in commerce, in which
it prevented business men from combining and organizing working agreements.
This individualism was not that of a rich and bustling vitality, but that
of obstinacy and self-repression. To be alone, to owe nothing to others,
not to mix with others for fear of feeling their inferiority in their
company, not to disturb the tranquillity of their haughty isolation: these
were the secret thoughts of almost all these men who founded "outside"
reviews, "outside" theaters, "outside" groups: reviews, theaters, groups,
all most often had no other reason for existing than the desire not to be
with the general herd, and an incapacity for joining with other people in a
common idea or course of action, distrust of other people, or, at the very
worst, party hostility, setting one against the other the very men who were
most fitted to understand each other.

Even when men who thought highly of each other were united in some common
task, like Olivier and his colleagues on the _Ésope_ review, they always
seemed to be on their guard with each other: they had nothing of that
open-handed geniality so common in Germany, where it is apt to become a
nuisance. Among these young men there was one especially who attracted
Christophe because he divined him to be a man of exceptional force: he was
a writer of inflexible logic and will, with a passion for moral ideas, in
the service of which he was absolutely uncompromising and ready in their
cause to sacrifice the whole world and himself: he had founded and
conducted almost unaided a review in which to uphold them: he had sworn to
impose on Europe and on France the idea of a pure, heroic, and free France:
he firmly believed that the world would one day recognize that he was
responsible for one of the boldest pages in the history of French
thought:--and he was not mistaken. Christophe would have been only too glad
to know him better and to be his friend. But there was no way of bringing
it about. Although Olivier had a good deal to do with him they saw very
little of each other except on business: they never discussed any intimate
matter, and never got any farther than the exchange of a few abstract
ideas: or rather--(for, to be exact, there was no exchange, and each
adhered to his own ideas)--they soliloquized in each other's company in
turn. However, they were comrades in arms and knew their worth.

There were innumerable reasons for this reservedness, reasons difficult to
discern, even for their own eyes. The first reason was a too great critical
faculty, which saw too clearly the unalterable differences between one mind
and another, backed by an excessive intellectualism which attached too much
importance to those differences: they lacked that puissant and naïve
sympathy whose vital need is of love, the need of giving out its
overflowing love. Then, too, perhaps overwork, the struggle for existence,
the fever of thought, which so taxes strength that by the evening there is
none left for friendly intercourse, had a great deal to do with it. And
there was that terrible feeling, which every Frenchman is afraid to admit,
though too often it is stirring in his heart, the feeling of _not being of
one race_, the feeling that the nation consists of different races
established at different epochs on the soil of France, who, though all
bound together, have few ideas in common, and therefore ought not, in the
common interest, to ponder them too much. But above all the reason was to
seek in the intoxicating and dangerous passion for liberty, to which, when
a man has once tasted it, there is nothing that he will not sacrifice. Such
solitary freedom is all the more precious for having been bought by years
of tribulation. The select few have taken refuge in it to escape the
slavishness of the mediocre. It is a reaction against the tyranny of the
political and religious masses, the terrific crushing weight which
overbears the individual in France: the family, public opinion, the State,
secret societies, parties, coteries, schools. Imagine a prisoner who, to
escape, has to scale twenty great walls hemming him in. If he manages to
clear them all without breaking his neck, and, above all, without losing
heart, he must be strong indeed. A rough schooling for free-will! But those
who have gone through it bear the marks of it all their life in the mania
for independence, and the impossibility of their ever living in the lives
of others.

Side by side with this loneliness of pride, there was the loneliness of
renunciation. There were many, many good men in France whose goodness and
pride and affection came to nothing in withdrawal from life! A thousand
reasons, good and bad, stood in the way of action for them. With some it
was obedience, timidity, force of habit. With others human respect, fear of
ridicule, fear of being conspicuous, of being a mark for the comments of
the gallery, of meddling with things that did not concern them, of having
their disinterested actions attributed to motives of interest. There were
men who would not take part in any political or social struggle, women who
declined to undertake any philanthropic work, because there were too many
people engaged in these things who lacked conscience and even common sense,
and because they were afraid of the taint of these charlatans and fools. In
almost all such people there are disgust, weariness, dread of action,
suffering, ugliness, stupidity, risks, responsibilities: the terrible
"What's the use?" which destroys the good-will of so many of the French of
to-day. They are too intelligent,--(their intelligence has no wide sweep of
the wings),--they are too intent upon reasons for and against. They lack
force. They lack vitality. When a man's life beats strongly he never
wonders why he goes on living: he lives for the sake of living,--because it
is a splendid thing to be alive!

In fine, the best of them were a mixture of sympathetic and average
qualities: a modicum of philosophy, moderate desires, fond attachment to
the family, the earth, moral custom; discretion, dread of intruding, of
being a nuisance to other people: modesty of feeling, unbending reserve.
All these amiable and charming qualities could, in certain cases, be
brought into line with serenity, courage, and inward joy; but at bottom
there was a certain connection between them and poverty in the blood, the
progressive ebb of French vitality.

The pretty garden, beneath the house in which Christophe and Olivier lived,
tucked away between the four walls, was symbolical of that part of the life
of France. It was a little patch of green earth shut off from the outer
world. Only now and then did the mighty wind of the outer air, whirling
down, bring to the girl dreaming there the breath of the distant fields and
the vast earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now that Christophe was beginning to perceive the hidden resources of
France he was furious that she should suffer the oppression of the rabble.
The half-light, in which the select and silent few were huddled away,
stifled him. Stoicism is a fine thing for those whose teeth are gone. But
he needed the open air, the great public, the sunshine of glory, the love
of thousands of men and women: he needed to hold close to him those whom he
loved, to pulverize his enemies, to fight and to conquer.

"You can," said Olivier. "You are strong. You were born to conquer through
your faults--(forgive me!)--as well as through your qualities. You are
lucky enough not to belong to a race and a nation which are too
aristocratic. Action does not repel you. If need be you could even become a
politician.--Besides, you have the inestimable good fortune to write music.
Nobody understands you, and so you can say anything and everything. If
people had any idea of the contempt for themselves which you put into your
music, and your faith in what they deny, and your perpetual hymn in praise
of what they are always trying to kill, they would never forgive you, and
you would be so fettered, and persecuted, and harassed, that you would
waste most of your strength in fighting them: when you had beaten them back
you would have no breath left for going on with your work: your life would
be finished. The great men who triumph have the good luck to be
misunderstood. They are admired for the very opposite of what they are."

"Pooh!" said Christophe. "You don't understand how cowardly your masters
are. At first I thought you were alone, and I used to find excuses for your
inaction. But, as a matter of fact, there's a whole army of you all of the
same mind. You are a hundred times stronger than your oppressors, you are a
thousand times more worthy, and you let them impose on you with their
effrontery! I don't understand you. You live in a most beautiful country,
you are gifted with the finest intelligence and the most human quality of
mind, and with it all you do nothing: you allow yourselves to be overborne
and outraged and trampled underfoot by a parcel of fools. Good Lord! Be
yourselves! Don't wait for Heaven or a Napoleon to come to your aid! Arise,
band yourselves together! Get to work, all of you! Sweep out your house!"

But Olivier shrugged his shoulders, and said, wearily and ironically:

"Grapple with them? No. That is not our game: we have better things to do.
Violence disgusts me. I know only too well what would happen. All the old
embittered failures, the young Royalist idiots, the odious apostles of
brutality and hatred, would seize on anything I did and bring it to
dishonor. Do you want me to adopt the old device of hate: _Fuori Barbari_,
or: _France for the French_?"

"Why not?" asked Christophe.

"No. Such a device is not for the French. Any attempt to propagate it among
our people under cover of patriotism must fail. It is good enough for
barbarian countries! But our country has no use for hatred. Our genius
never yet asserted itself by denying or destroying the genius of other
countries, but by absorbing them. Let the troublous North and the
loquacious South come to us...."

"And the poisonous East?"

"And the poisonous East: we will absorb it with the rest: we have absorbed
many others! I just laugh at the air of triumph they assume, and the
pusillanimity of some of my fellow-countrymen. They think they have
conquered us, they strut about our boulevards, and in our newspapers and
reviews, and in our theaters and in the political arena. Idiots! It is they
who are conquered! They will be assimilated after having fed us. Gaul has a
strong stomach: in these twenty centuries she has digested more than one
civilization. We are proof against poison.... It is meet that you Germans
should be afraid! You must be pure or impure. But with us it is not a
matter of purity but of universality. You have an Emperor: Great Britain
calls herself an Empire: but, in fact, it is our Latin Genius that is
Imperial. We are the citizens of the City of the Universe. _Urbis, Orbis_."

"That is all very well," said Christophe, "as long as the nation is healthy
and in the flower of its manhood. But there will come a day when its energy
declines: and then there is a danger of its being submerged by the influx
of foreigners. Between ourselves, does it not seem as though that day had

"People have been saying that for ages. Again and again our history has
given the lie to such fears. We have passed through many different trials
since the days of the Maid of Orleans, when Paris was deserted, and bands
of wolves prowled through the streets. Neither in the prevalent immorality,
nor the pursuit of pleasure, nor the laxness, nor the anarchy of the
present day, do I see any cause for fear. Patience! Those who wish to live
must endure in patience. I am sure that presently there will be a moral
reaction,--which will not be much better, and will probably lead to an
equal degree of folly; those who are now living on the corruptness of
public life will not be the least clamorous in the reaction!... But what
does that matter to us? All these movements do not touch the real people of
France. Rotten fruit does not corrupt the tree. It falls. Besides, all
these people are such a small part of the nation! What does it matter to us
whether they live or die? Why should I bother to organize leagues and
revolutions against them? The existing evil is not the work of any form of
government. It is the leprosy of luxury, a contagion spread by the
parasites of intellectual and material wealth. Such parasites will perish."

"After they have sapped your vitality."

"It is impossible to despair of such a race. There is in it such hidden
virtue, such a power of light and practical idealism, that they creep into
the veins even of those who are exploiting and ruining the nation. Even the
grasping, self-seeking politicians succumb to its fascination. Even the
most mediocre of men when they are in power are gripped by the greatness of
its Destiny: it lifts them out of themselves: the torch is passed on from
hand to hand among them: one after another they resume the holy war against
darkness. They are drawn onward by the genius of the people: willy-nilly
they fulfil the law of the God whom they deny, _Gesta Dei per Francos_....
O my beloved country, I will never lose my faith in thee! And though in thy
trials thou didst perish, yet would I find in that only a reason the more
for my proud belief, even to the bitter end, in our mission in the world. I
will not have my beloved France fearfully shutting herself up in a
sickroom, and closing every inlet to the outer air. I have no mind to
prolong a sickly existence. When a nation has been so great as we have
been, then it were far better to die rather than to sink from greatness.
Therefore let the ideas of the world rush into the channels of our minds! I
am not afraid. The floor will go down of its own accord after it has
enriched the soil of France with its ooze."

"My poor dear fellow," said Christophe, "but it's a grim prospect in the
meanwhile. Where will you be when your France emerges from the Nile? Don't
you think it would be better to fight against it? You wouldn't risk
anything except defeat, and you seem inclined to impose that on yourself as
long as you like."

"I should be risking much more than defeat," said Olivier. "I should be
running the risk of losing my peace of mind, which I prize far more than
victory. I will not be a party to hatred. I will be just to all my enemies.
In the midst of passion I wish to preserve the clarity of my vision, to
understand and love everything."

       *       *       *       *       *

But Christophe, to whom this love of life, detached from life, seemed to be
very little different from resignation and acceptance of death, felt in his
heart, as in Empedocles of old, the stirring of a hymn to Hatred and to
Love, the brother of Hate, fruitful Love, tilling and sowing good seed in
the earth. He did not share Olivier's calm fatalism: he had no such
confidence in the continuance of a race which did not defend itself, and
his desire was to appeal to all the healthy forces of the nation, to call
forth and band together all the honest men in the whole of France.

       *       *       *       *       *

Just as it is possible to learn more of a human being in one minute of love
than in months of observation, so Christophe had learned more about France
in a week of intimacy with Olivier, hardly ever leaving the house, than
during a whole year of blind wandering through Paris, and standing at
attention at various intellectual and political gatherings. Amid the
universal anarchy in which he had been floundering, a soul like that of his
friend seemed to him veritably to be the "_Île de France_"--the island of
reason and serenity in the midst of the ocean. The inward peace which was
in Olivier was all the more striking, inasmuch as it had no intellectual
support,--as it existed amid unhappy circumstances,--(in poverty and
solitude, while the country of its birth was decadent),--and as its body
was weak, sickly, and nerve-ridden. That serenity was apparently not the
fruit of any effort of will striving to realize it,--(Olivier had little
will);--it came from the depths of his being and his race. In many of the
men of Olivier's acquaintance Christophe perceived the distant light of
that [Greek: sophrosynae],--"the silent calm of the motionless sea";--and
he, who knew, none better, the stormy, troublous depths of his own soul,
and how he had to stretch his will-power to the utmost to maintain the
balance in his lusty nature, marveled at its veiled harmony.

What he had seen of the inner France had upset all his preconceived ideas
about the character of the French. Instead of a gay, sociable, careless,
brilliant people, he saw men of a headstrong and close temper, living in
isolation, wrapped about with a seeming optimism, like a gleaming mist,
while they were in fact steeped in a deep-rooted and serene pessimism,
possessed by fixed ideas, intellectual passions, indomitable souls, which
it would have been easier to destroy than to alter. No doubt these men were
only the select few among the French: but Christophe wondered where they
could have come by their stoicism and their faith. Olivier told him:

"In defeat. It is you, my dear Christophe, who have forged us anew. Ah! But
we suffered for it, too. You can have no idea of the darkness in which we
grew up in a France humiliated and sore, which had come face to face with
death, and still felt the heavy weight of the murderous menace of force.
Our life, our genius, our French civilization, the greatness of a thousand
years,--we were conscious that France was in the hands of a brutal
conqueror who did not understand her, and hated her in his heart, and at
any moment might crush the life out of her for ever. And we had to live for
that and no other destiny! Have you ever thought of the French children
born in houses of death in the shadow of defeat, fed with ideas of
discouragement, trained to strike for a bloody, fatal, and perhaps futile
revenge: for even as babies, the first thing they learned was that there
was no justice, there was no justice in the world: might prevailed against
right! For a child to open its eyes upon such things is for its soul to be
degraded or uplifted for ever. Many succumbed: they said: 'Since it is so,
why struggle against it? Why do anything? Everything is nothing. We'll not
think of it. Let us enjoy ourselves.'--But those who stood out against it
are proof against fire: no disillusion can touch their faith: for from
their earliest childhood they have known that their road could never lead
them near the road to happiness, and that they had no choice but to follow
it, else they would suffocate. Such assurance is not come by all at once.
It is not to be expected of boys of fifteen. There is bitter agony before
it is attained, and many tears are shed. But it is well that it should be
so. It must be so....

"_O Faith, virgin of steel...._

"Dig deep with thy lance into the downtrodden hearts of the peoples!

In silence Christophe pressed Olivier's hand.

"Dear Christophe," said Olivier, "your Germany has made us suffer indeed."

And Christophe begged for forgiveness almost as though he had been
responsible for it.

"There's nothing for you to worry about," said Olivier, smiling. "The good
it has unintentionally done us far outweighs the ill. You have rekindled
our idealism, you have revived in us the keen desire for knowledge and
faith, you have filled our France with schools, you have raised to the
highest pitch the creative powers of a Pasteur, whose discoveries are alone
worth more than your indemnity of two hundred million; you have given new
life to our poetry, our painting, our music: to you we owe the new
awakening of the consciousness of our race. We have reward enough for the
effort needed to learn to set our faith before our happiness: for, in doing
so, we have come by a feeling of such moral force, that, amid the apathy of
the world, we have no doubt, even of victory in the end. Though we are few
in number, my dear Christophe, though we seem so weak,--a drop of water in
the ocean of German power--we believe that the drop of water will in the
end color the whole ocean. The Macedonian phalanx will destroy the mighty
armies of the plebs of Europe."

Christophe looked down at the puny Olivier, in whose eyes there shone the
light of faith, and he said:

"Poor weakly little Frenchmen! You are stronger than we are."

"O beneficent defeat," Olivier went on. "Blessed be that disaster! We will
no more deny it! We are its children."


Defeat new-forges the chosen among men: it sorts out the people: it winnows
out those who are purest and strongest, and makes them purer and stronger.
But it hastens the downfall of the rest, or cuts short their flight. In
that way it separates the mass of the people, who slumber or fall by the
way, from the chosen few who go marching on. The chosen few know it and
suffer: even in the most valiant there is a secret melancholy, a feeling of
their own impotence and isolation. Worst of all,--cut off from the great
mass of their people, they are also cut off from each other. Each must
fight for his own hand. The strong among them think only of
self-preservation. _O man, help thyself!_... They never dream that the
sturdy saying means: _O men, help yourselves!_ In all there is a want of
confidence, they lack free-flowing sympathy, and do not feel the need of
common action which makes a race victorious, the feeling of overflowing
strength, of reaching upward to the zenith.

Christophe and Olivier knew something of all this. In Paris, full of men
and women who could have understood them, in the house peopled with unknown
friends, they were as solitary as in a desert of Asia.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were very poor. Their resources were almost nil. Christophe had only
the copying and transcriptions of music given him by Hecht. Olivier had
very unwisely thrown up his post at the University during the period of
depression following on his sister's death, which had been accentuated by
an unhappy love affair with a young lady he had met at Madame
Nathan's:--(he had never mentioned it to Christophe, for he was modest
about his troubles: part of his charm lay in the little air of mystery
which he always preserved about his private affairs, even with his friend,
from whom, however, he made no attempt to conceal anything).--In his
depressed condition when he had longed for silence his work as a lecturer
became intolerable to him. He had never cared for the profession, which
necessitates a certain amount of showing off, and thinking aloud, while it
gives a man no time to himself. If teaching in a school is to be at all a
noble thing it must be a matter of a sort of apostolic vocation, and that
Olivier did not possess in the slightest degree: and lecturing for any of
the Faculties means being perpetually in contact with the public, which is
a grim fate for a man, like Olivier, with a desire for solitude. On several
occasions he had had to speak in public: it gave him a singular feeling of
humiliation. At first he loathed being exhibited on a platform. He _saw_
the audience, felt it, as with antennæ, and knew that for the most part it
was composed of idle people who were there only for the sake of having
something to do: and the role of official entertainer was not at all to his
liking. Worst of all, speaking from a platform is almost bound to distort
ideas: if the speaker does not take care there is a danger of his passing
gradually from a certain theatricality in gesture, diction, attitude, and
the form in which he presents his ideas--to mental trickery. A lecture is a
thing hovering in the balance between tiresome comedy and polite pedantry.
For an artist who is rather bashful and proud, a lecture, which is a
monologue shouted in the presence of a few hundred unknown, silent people,
a ready-made garment warranted to fit all sizes, though it actually fits no
one, is a thing intolerably false. Olivier, being more and more under the
necessity of withdrawing into himself and saying nothing which was not
wholly the expression of his thought, gave up the profession of teaching,
which he had had so much difficulty in entering: and, as he no longer had
his sister to check him in his tendency to dream, he began to write. He was
naïve enough to believe that his undoubted worth as an artist could not
fail to be recognized without his doing anything to procure recognition.

He was quickly undeceived. He found it impossible to get anything
published. He had a jealous love of liberty, which gave him a horror of
everything that might impinge on it, and made him live apart, like a poor
starved plant, among the solid masses of the political churches whose
baleful associations divided the country and the Press between them. He was
just as much cut off from all the literary coteries and rejected by them.
He had not, nor could he have, a single friend among them. He was repelled
by the hardness, the dryness, the egoism of the intellectuals--(except for
the very few who were following a real vocation, or were absorbed by a
passionate enthusiasm for scientific research). That man is a sorry
creature who has let his heart atrophy for the sake of his mind--when his
mind is small. In such a man there is no kindness, only a brain like a
dagger in a sheath: there is no knowing but it will one day cut your
throat. Against such a man it is necessary to be always armed. Friendship
is only possible with honest men, who love fine things for their own sake,
and not for what they can make out of them,--those who live outside their
art. The majority of men cannot breathe the atmosphere of art. Only the
very great can live in it without loss of love, which is the source of

Olivier could only count on himself. And that was a very precarious
support. Any fresh step was a matter of extreme difficulty to him. He was
not disposed to accept humiliation for the sake of his work. He went hot
with shame at the base and obsequious homage which young authors forced
themselves to pay to a well-known theater manager, who took advantage of
their cowardice, and treated them as he would never dare to treat his
servants. Olivier could never have done that to save his life. He just sent
his manuscripts by post, or left them at the offices of the theaters or the
reviews, where they lay for months unread. However, one day by chance he
met one of his old schoolfellows, an amiable loafer, who had still a sort
of grateful admiration for him for the ease and readiness with which
Olivier had done his exercises: he knew nothing at all about literature:
but he knew several literary men, which was much better: he was rich and in
society, something of a snob, and so he let them, discreetly, exploit him.
He put in a word for Olivier with the editor of an important review in
which he was a shareholder: and at once one of his forgotten manuscripts
was disinterred and read: and, after much temporization,--(for, if the
article seemed to be worth something, the author's name, being unknown, was
valueless),--they decided to accept it. When he heard the good news Olivier
thought his troubles were over. They were only just beginning.

It is comparatively easy to have an article accepted in Paris: but getting
it published is quite a different matter. The unhappy writer has to wait
and wait, for months, if need be for life, if he has not acquired the trick
of flattering people, or bullying them, and showing himself from time to
time at the receptions of these petty monarchs, and reminding them of his
existence, and making it clear that he means to go on being a nuisance to
them as long as they make it necessary. Olivier just stayed at home, and
wore himself out with waiting. At best he would write a letter or two which
were never answered. He would lose heart, and be unable to work. It was
quite absurd, but there was nothing to be done. He would wait for post
after post, sitting at his desk, with his mind blanketed by all sorts of
vague injuries: then he would get up and go downstairs to the porter's
room, and look hopefully in his letter-box, only to meet with
disappointment: he would walk blindly about with no thought in his head but
to go back and look again: and when the last post had gone, when the
silence of his room was broken only by the heavy footsteps of the people in
the room above, he would feel strangled by the cruel indifference of it
all. Only a word of reply, only a word! Could that be refused him if only
in charity? And yet those who refused him that had no idea of the hurt they
were dealing him. Every man sees the world in his own image. Those who have
no life in their hearts see the universe as withered and dry: and they
never dream of the anguish of expectation, hope, and suffering which rends
the hearts of the young: or if they give it a thought, they judge them
coldly, with the weary, ponderous irony of those who are surfeited and
beyond the freshness of life.

At last the article appeared. Olivier had waited so long that it gave him
no pleasure: the thing was dead for him. And yet he hoped desperately that
it would be a living thing for others. There were flashes of poetry and
intelligence in it which could not pass unnoticed. It fell upon absolute
silence.--He made two or three more attempts. Being attached to no clique
he met with silence or hostility everywhere. He could not understand it. He
had thought simply that everybody must be naturally well-disposed towards
the work of a new man, even if it was not very good. It always represents
such an amount of work, and surely people would be grateful to a man who
has tried to give others a little beauty, a little force, a little joy. But
he only met with indifference or disparagement. And yet he knew that he
could not be alone in feeling what he had written, and that it must be in
the minds of other good men. He did not know that such good men did not
read him, and had nothing to do with literary opinion, or with anything, or
with anything. If here and there there were a few men whom his words had
reached, men who sympathized with him, they would never tell him so: they
remained immured in their unnatural silence. Just as they refrained from
voting, so they took no share in art: they did not read books, which
shocked them: they did not go to the theater, which disgusted them: but
they let their enemies vote, elect their enemies, engineer a scandalous
success and a vulgar celebrity for books and plays and ideas which only
represented an impudent minority of the people of France.

Since Olivier could not count on those who were mentally akin to himself,
as they did not read, he was delivered up to the hosts of the enemy, to the
mercy of men of letters, who were for the most part hostile to his ideas,
and the critics who were at their beck and call.

His first bouts with them left him bleeding. He was as sensitive to
criticism as old Bruchner, who could not bear to have his work performed,
because he had suffered so much from the malevolence of the Press. He did
not even win the support of his former colleagues at the University, who,
thanks to their profession, did preserve a certain sense of the
intellectual traditions of France, and might have understood him. But for
the most part these excellent young men, cramped by discipline, absorbed in
their work, often rather embittered by their thankless duties, could not
forgive Olivier for trying to break away and do something else Like good
little officials, many of them were inclined only to admit the superiority
of talent when it was consonant with hierarchic superiority.

In such a position three courses were open to him: to break down resistance
by force: to submit to humiliating compromises: or to make up his mind to
write only for himself. Olivier was incapable of the two first: he
surrendered to the third. To make a living he went through the drudgery of
teaching and went on writing, and as there was no possibility of his work
attaining full growth in publicity, it became more and more involved,
chimerical, and unreal.

Christophe dropped like a thunderbolt into the midst of his dim crepuscular
life. He was furious at the wickedness of people and Olivier's patience.

"Have you no blood in your veins?" he would say. "How can you stand such a
life? You know your own superiority to these swine, and yet you let them
squeeze the life out of you without a murmur!"

"What can I do?" Olivier would say. "I can't defend myself. It revolts me
to fight with people I despise: I know that they can use every weapon
against me: and I can't. Not only should I loathe to stoop to use the means
they employ, but I should be afraid of hurting them. When I was a boy I
used to let my schoolfellows beat me as much as they liked. They used to
think me a coward, and that I was afraid of being hit. I was more afraid of
hitting than of being hit. I remember some one saying to me one day, when
one of my tormentors was bullying me: 'Why don't you stop it once and for
all, and give him a kick in the stomach?' That filled me with horror. I
would much rather be thrashed."

"There's no blood in your veins," said Christophe. "And on top of that, all
sorts of Christian ideas!... Your religious education in France is reduced
to the Catechism: the emasculate Gospel, the tame, boneless New
Testament.... Humanitarian clap-trap, always tearful.... And the
Revolution, Jean-Jacques, Robespierre, '48, and, on top of that, the
Jews!... Take a dose of the full-blooded Old Testament every morning."

Olivier protested. He had a natural antipathy for the Old Testament, a
feeling which dated back to his childhood, when he used secretly to pore
over an illustrated Bible, which had been in the library at home, where it
was never read, and the children were even forbidden to open it. The
prohibition was useless! Olivier could never keep the book open for long.
He used quickly to grow irritated and saddened by it, and then he would
close it: and he would find consolation in plunging into the _Iliad_, or
the _Odyssey_, or the _Arabian Nights_.

"The gods of the _Iliad_ are men, beautiful, mighty, vicious: I can
understand them," said Olivier. "I like them or dislike them: even when I
dislike them I still love them: I am in love with them. More than once,
with Patroclus, I have kissed the lovely feet of Achilles as he lay
bleeding. But the God of the Bible is an old Jew, a maniac, a monomaniac, a
raging madman, who spends his time in growling and hurling threats, and
howling like an angry wolf, raving to himself in the confinement of that
cloud of his. I don't understand him. I don't love him; his perpetual
curses make my head ache, and his savagery fills me with horror:

  "_The burden of Moab...._

  "_The burden of Damascus...._

  "_The burden of Babylon...._

  "_The burden of Egypt...._

  "_The burden of the desert of the sea...._

  "_The burden of the valley of vision...._

"He is a lunatic who thinks himself judge, public prosecutor, and
executioner rolled into one, and, even in the courtyard of his prison, he
pronounces sentence of death on the flowers and the pebbles. One is
stupefied by the tenacity of his hatred, which fills the book with bloody
cries ...--'a cry of destruction,... the cry is gone round about the
borders of Moab: the howling thereof unto Eglaim, and the howling thereof
unto Beerelim....'

"Every now and then he takes a rest, and looks round on his massacres, and
the little children done to death, and the women outraged and butchered:
and he laughs like one of the captains of Joshua, feasting after the sack
of a town:

"'_And the Lord of hosts shall make unto all people a feast of fat things;
a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the
lees well refined.... The sword of the Lord is filled with blood, it is
made fat with fatness, with the fat of the kidneys of rams...._'

"But worst of all is the perfidy with which this God sends his prophet to
make men blind, so that in due course he may have a reason for making them

"'_Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy and shut
their eyes: lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and
understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.--Lord, how
long?--Until the cities be wasted without inhabitants, and the houses
without men, and the land be utterly desolate...._' Oh! I have never found
a man so evil as that!...

"I'm not so foolish as to deny the force of the language. But I cannot
separate thought and form: and if I do occasionally admire this Hebrew God,
it is with the same sort of admiration that I feel for a viper, or a
...--(I'm trying in vain to find a Shakespearean monster as an example: I
can't find one: even Shakespeare never begat such a hero of Hatred--saintly
and virtuous Hatred). Such a book is a terrible thing. Madness is always
contagious. And that particular madness is all the more dangerous inasmuch
as it sets up its own murderous pride as an instrument of purification.
England makes me shudder when I think that her people have for centuries
been nourished on no other fare.... I'm glad to think that there is the
dike of the Channel between them and me. I shall never believe that a
nation is altogether civilized as long as the Bible is its staple food."

"In that case," said Christophe, "you will have to be just as much afraid
of me, for I get drunk on it. It is the very marrow of a race of lions.
Stout hearts are those which feed on it. Without the antidote of the Old
Testament the Gospel is tasteless and unwholesome fare. The Bible is the
bone and sinew of nations with the will to live. A man must fight, and he
must hate."

"I hate hatred," said Olivier.

"I only wish you did!" retorted Christophe.

"You're right. I'm too weak even for that. What would you? I can't help
seeing the arguments in favor of my enemies. And I say to myself over and
over again, like Chardin: 'Gentleness! Gentleness!'...."

"What a silly sheep you are!" said Christophe. "But whether you like it or
not, I'm going to make you leap the ditch you're shying at, and I'm going
to drag you on and beat the big drum for you."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the upshot he took Olivier's affairs in hand and set out to do battle
for him. His first efforts were not very successful. He lost his temper at
the very outset, and did his friend much harm by pleading his cause: he
recognized what he had done very quickly, and was in despair at his own

Olivier did not stand idly by. He went and fought for Christophe. In spite
of his fear and dislike of fighting, in spite of his lucid and ironical
mind, which scorned any sort of exaggeration in word and deed, when it came
to defending Christophe he was far more violent than anybody else, and even
than Christophe himself. He lost his head. Love makes a man irrational, and
Olivier was no exception to the rule.--However, he was cleverer than
Christophe. Though he was uncompromising and clumsy in handling his own
affairs, when it came to promoting Christophe's success he was politic and
even tricky: he displayed an energy and ingenuity well calculated to win
support: he succeeded in interesting various musical critics and Mæcenases
in Christophe, though he would have been utterly ashamed to approach them
with his own work.

In spite of everything they found it very difficult to better their lot.
Their love for each other made them do many stupid things. Christophe got
into debt over getting a volume of Olivier's poems published secretly, and
not a single copy was sold. Olivier induced Christophe to give a concert,
and hardly anybody came to it. Faced with the empty hall, Christophe
consoled himself bravely with Handel's quip: "Splendid! My music will sound
all the better...." But these bold attempts did not repay the money they
cost: and they would go back to their rooms full of indignation at the
indifference of the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

In their difficulties the only man who came to their aid was a Jew, a man
of forty, named Taddée Mooch. He kept an art-photograph shop: but although
he was interested in his trade and brought much taste and skill to bear on
it, he was interested in so many things outside it that he was apt to
neglect his business for them. When he did attend to his business he was
chiefly engaged in perfecting technical devices, and he would lose his head
over new reproduction processes, which, in spite of their ingenuity, hardly
ever succeeded, and always cost him a great deal of money. He was a
voracious reader, and was always hard on the heels of every new idea in
philosophy, art, science, and politics: he had an amazing knack of finding
out men of originality and independence of character: it was as though he
answered to their magnetism. He was a sort of connecting-link between
Olivier's friends, who were all as isolated as himself, and all working in
their several directions. He used to go from one to the other, and through
him there was established between them a complete circuit of ideas, though
neither he nor they had any notion of it.

When Olivier first proposed to introduce him to Christophe, Christophe
refused: he was sick of his experiences with the tribe of Israel. Olivier
laughed and insisted on it, saying that he knew no more of the Jews than he
did of France. At last Christophe consented, but when he saw Taddée Mooch
he made a face. In appearance Mooch was extraordinarily Jewish: he was the
Jew as he is drawn by those who dislike the race: short, bald, badly built,
with a greasy nose and heavy eyes goggling behind large spectacles: his
face was hidden by a rough, black, scrubby beard: he had hairy hands, long
arms, and short bandy legs: a little Syrian Baal. But he had such a kindly
expression that Christophe was touched by it. Above all, he was very
simple, and never talked too much. He never paid exaggerated compliments,
but just dropped the right word, pat. He was very eager to be of service,
and before any kindness was asked of him it would be done. He came often,
too often; and he almost always brought good news: work for one or other of
them, a commission for an article or a lecture for Olivier, or
music-lessons for Christophe. He never stayed long. It was a sort of
affectation with him never to intrude. Perhaps he saw Christophe's
irritation, for his first impulse was always towards an ejaculation of
impatience when he saw the bearded face of the Carthaginian idol,--(he used
to call him "Moloch")--appear round the door: but the next moment it would
be gone, and he would feel nothing but gratitude for his perfect kindness.

Kindness is not a rare quality with the Jews: of all the virtues it is the
most readily admitted among them, even when they do not practise it.
Indeed, in most of them it remains negative or neutral: indulgence,
indifference, dislike for hurting anybody, ironic tolerance. With Mooch it
was an active passion. He was always ready to devote himself to some cause
or person: to his poor co-religionists, to the Russian refugees, to the
oppressed of every nation, to unfortunate artists, to the alleviation of
every kind of misfortune, to every generous cause. His purse was always
open: and however thinly lined it might be, he could always manage to
squeeze a mite out of it: when it was empty he would squeeze the mite out
of some one else's purse: if he could do any one a service no pains were
too great for him to take, no distance was too far for him to go. He did it
simply--with exaggerated simplicity. He was a little apt to talk too much
about his simplicity and sincerity: but the great thing was that he was
both simple and sincere.

Christophe was torn between irritation and sympathy with Mooch, and one day
he said an innocently cruel thing, though he said it with the air of a
spoiled child. Mooch's kindness had touched him, and he took his hands
affectionately and said:

"What a pity!... What a pity it is that you are a Jew!"

Olivier started and blushed, as though the shaft had been leveled at
himself. He was most unhappy, and tried to heal the wound his friend had

Mooch smiled, with sad irony, and replied calmly:

"It is an even greater misfortune to be a man."

To Christophe the remark was nothing but the whim of a moment. But its
pessimism cut deeper than he imagined: and Olivier, with his subtle
perception, felt it intuitively. Beneath the Mooch of their acquaintance
there was another different Mooch, who was in many ways exactly the
opposite. His apparent nature was the result of a long struggle with his
real nature. Though he was apparently so simple he had a distorted mind:
when he gave way to it he was forced to complicate simple things and to
endow his most genuine feelings with a deliberately ironical character.
Though he was apparently modest and, if anything, too humble, at heart he
was proud, and knew it, and strove desperately to whip it out of himself.
His smiling optimism, his incessant activity, his perpetual business in
helping others, were the mask of a profound nihilism, a deadly despondency
which dared not see itself face to face. Mooch made a show of immense faith
in all sorts of things: in the progress of humanity, in the future of the
pure Jewish spirit, in the destiny of France, the soldier of the new
spirit--(he was apt to identify the three causes). Olivier was not taken in
by it, and used to say to Christophe:

"At heart he believes in nothing."

With all his ironical common sense and calmness Mooch was a neurasthenic
who dared not look upon the void within himself. He had terrible moments
when he felt his nothingness: sometimes he would wake suddenly in the
middle of the night screaming with terror. And he would cast about for
things to do, like a drowning man clinging to a life-buoy.

It is a costly privilege to be a member of a race which is exceeding old.
It means the bearing of a frightful burden of the past, trials and
tribulations, weary experience, disillusion of mind and heart,--all the
ferment of immemorial life, at the bottom of which is a bitter deposit of
irony and boredom.... Boredom, the immense boredom of the Semites, which
has nothing in common with our Aryan boredom, though that, too, makes us
suffer; while it is at least traceable to definite causes, and vanishes
when those causes cease to exist: for in most cases it is only the result
of regret that we cannot have what we want. But in some of the Jews the
very source of joy and life is tainted with a deadly poison. They have no
desire, no interest in anything: no ambition, no love, no pleasure. Only
one thing continues to exist, not intact, but morbid and fine-drawn, in
these men uprooted from the East, worn out by the amount of energy they
have had to give out for centuries, longing for quietude, without having
the power to attain it: thought, endless analysis, which forbids the
possibility of enjoyment, and leaves them no courage for action. The most
energetic among them set themselves parts to play, and play them, rather
than act on their own account. It is a strange thing that in many of
them--and not in the least intelligent or the least seriously minded--this
lack of interest in life prompts the impulse, or the unavowed desire, to
act a part, to play at life,--the only means they know of living!

Mooch was an actor after his fashion. He rushed about to try to deaden his
senses. But whereas most people only bestir themselves for selfish reasons,
he was restlessly active in procuring the happiness of others. His devotion
to Christophe was both touching and a bore. Christophe would snub him and
then immediately be sorry for it. But Mooch never bore him any ill-will.
Nothing abashed him. Not that he had any ardent affection for Christophe.
It was devotion that he loved rather than the men to whom he devoted
himself. They were only an excuse for doing good, for living.

He labored to such effect that he managed to induce Hecht to publish
Christophe's _David_ and some other compositions. Hecht appreciated
Christophe's talent, but he was in no hurry to reveal it to the world. It
was not until he saw that Mooch was on the point of arranging the
publication at his own expense with another firm that he took the
initiative out of vanity.

And on another occasion, when things were very serious and Olivier was ill
and they had no money, Mooch thought of going to Félix Weil, the rich
archeologist, who lived in the same house. Mooch and Weil were acquainted,
but had little sympathy with one another. They were too different: Mooch's
restlessness and mysticism and revolutionary ideas and "vulgar" manners,
which, perhaps, he exaggerated, were an incentive to the irony of Félix
Weil, with his calm, mocking temper, his distinguished manners and
conservative mind. They had only one thing in common: they were both
equally lacking in any profound interest in action: and if they did indulge
in action, it was not from faith, but from their tenacious and mechanical
vitality. But neither was prepared to admit it: they preferred to give
their minds to the parts they were playing, and their different parts had
very little in common. And so Mooch was quite coldly received by Weil: when
he tried to interest him in the artistic projects of Olivier and
Christophe, he was brought up sharp against a mocking skepticism. Mooch's
perpetual embarkations for one Utopia or another were a standing joke in
Jewish society, where he was regarded as a dangerous visionary. But on this
occasion, as on so many others, he was not put out: and he went on speaking
about the friendship of Christophe and Olivier until he roused Weil's
interest. He saw that and went on.

He had touched a responsive chord. The friendless solitary old man
worshiped friendship: the one great love of his life had been a friendship
which he had left behind him: it was his inward treasure: when he thought
of it he felt a better man. He had founded institutions in his friend's
name, and had dedicated his books to his memory. He was touched by what
Mooch told him of the mutual tenderness of Christophe and Olivier. His own
story had been something like it. His lost friend had been a sort of elder
brother to him, a comrade of youth, a guide whom he had idolized. That
friend had been one of those young Jews, burning with intelligence and
generous ardor, who suffer from the hardness of their surroundings, and set
themselves to uplift their race, and, through their race, the world, and
burn hotly into flame, and, like a torch of resin, flare for a few hours
and then die. The flame of his life had kindled the apathy of young Weil.
He had raised him from the earth. While his friend was alive Weil had
marched by his side in the shining light of his stoical faith,--faith in
science, in the power of the spirit, in a future happiness,--the rays of
which were shed upon everything with which that messianic soul came in
contact. When he was left alone, in his weakness and irony, Weil fell from
the heights of that idealism into the sands of that Book of Ecclesiastes,
which exists in the mind of every Jew and saps his spiritual vitality. But
he had never forgotten the hours spent in the light with his friend:
jealously he guarded its clarity, now almost entirely faded. He had never
spoken of him to a soul, not even to his wife, whom he loved: it was a
sacred thing. And the old man, who was considered prosaic and dry of heart,
and nearing the end of his life, used to say to himself the bitter and
tender words of a Brahmin of ancient India:

"_The poisoned tree of the world puts forth two fruits sweeter than the
waters of the fountain of life: one is poetry, the other, friendship._"

From that time on he took an interest in Christophe and Olivier. He knew
how proud they were, and got Mooch, without saying anything, to send him
Olivier's volume of poems, which had just been published: and, without the
two friends having anything to do with it, without their having even the
smallest idea of what he was up to, he managed to get the Academy to award
the book a prize, which came in the nick of time to help them in their

When Christophe discovered that such unlooked-for assistance came from a
man of whom he was inclined to think ill, he regretted all the unkind
things he had said or thought of him: he gulped down his dislike of
calling, and went and thanked him. His good intentions met with no reward.
Old Weil's irony was excited by Christophe's young enthusiasm, although he
tried hard to conceal it from him, and they did not get on at all well.

That very day, when Christophe returned, irritated, though still grateful,
to his attic, after his interview with Weil, he found Mooch there, doing
Olivier some fresh act of service, and also a review containing a
disparaging article on his music by Lucien Lévy-Coeur;--it was not written
in a vein of frank criticism, but took the insultingly kindly line of
chaffing him and banteringly considering him alongside certain third-rate
and fourth-rate musicians whom he loathed.

"You see," said Christophe to Olivier, after Mooch had gone, "we always
have to deal with Jews, nothing but Jews! Perhaps we're Jews ourselves? Do
tell me that we're not. We seem to attract them. We're always knocking up
against them, both friends and foes."

"The reason is," said Olivier, "that they are more intelligent than the
rest. The Jews are almost the only people in France to whom a free man can
talk of new and vital things. The rest are stuck fast in the past among
dead things. Unfortunately the past does not exist for the Jews, or at
least it is not the same for them as for us. With them we can only talk
about the things of to-day: with our fellow-countrymen we can only discuss
the things of yesterday. Look at the activity of the Jews in every kind of
way: commerce, industry, education, science, philanthropy, art...."

"Don't let's talk about art," said Christophe.

"I don't say that I am always in sympathy with what they do: very often I
detest it. But at least they are alive, and can understand men who are
alive. It is all very well for us to criticise and make fun of the Jews,
and speak ill of them. We can't do without them."

"Don't exaggerate," said Christophe jokingly. "I could do without them

"You might go on living perhaps. But what good would that be to you if your
life and your work remained unknown, as they probably would without the
Jews? Would the members of your own religion come to your assistance? The
Catholic Church lets the best of its members perish without raising a hand
to help them. Men who are religious from the very bottom of their hearts,
men who give their lives in the defense of God,--if they have dared to
break away from Catholic dominion and shake off the authority of Rome,--at
once find the unworthy mob who call themselves Catholic not only
indifferent, but hostile: they condemn them to silence, and abandon them to
the mercy of the common enemy. If a man of independent spirit, be he never
so great and Christian at heart, is not a Christian as a matter of
obedience, it is nothing to the Catholics that in him is incarnate all that
is most pure and most truly divine in their faith. He is not of the pack,
the blind and deaf sect which refuses to think for itself. He is cast out,
and the rest rejoice to see him suffering alone, torn to pieces by the
enemy, and crying for help to those who are his brothers, for whose faith
he is done to death. In the Catholicism of to-day there is a horrible,
death-dealing power of inertia. It would find it far easier to forgive its
enemies than those who wish to awake it and restore it to life.... My dear
Christophe, where should we be, and what should we do--we, who are
Catholics by birth, we, who have shaken free, without the little band of
free Protestants and Jews? The Jews in Europe of to-day are the most active
and living agents of good and evil. They carry hither and thither the
pollen of thought. Have not your worst enemies and your friends from the
very beginning been Jews?"

"That's true," said Christophe. "They have given me encouragement and help,
and said things to me which have given me new life for the struggle, by
showing me that I was understood. No doubt very few of my friends have
remained faithful to me: their friendship was but a fire of straw. No
matter! That fleeting light is a great thing in darkness. You are right: we
mustn't be ungrateful."

"We must not be stupid, either," replied Olivier. "We must not mutilate our
already diseased civilization by lopping off some of its most living
branches. If we were so unfortunate as to have the Jews driven from Europe,
we should be left so poor in intelligence and power for action that we
should be in danger of utter bankruptcy. In France especially, in the
present condition of French vitality, their expulsion would mean a more
deadly drain on the blood of the nation than the expulsion of the
Protestants in the seventeenth century.--No doubt, for the time being, they
do occupy a position out of all proportion to their true merit. They do
take advantage of the present moral and political anarchy, which in no
small degree they help to aggravate, because it suits them, and because it
is natural to them to do so. The best of them, like our friend Mooch, make
the mistake, in all sincerity, of identifying the destiny of France with
their Jewish dreams, which are often more dangerous than useful. But you
can't blame them for wanting to build France in their own image: it means
that they love the country. If their love becomes a public danger, all we
have to do is to defend ourselves and keep them in their place, which, in
France, is the second. Not that I think their race inferior to ours:--(all
these questions of the supremacy of races are idiotic and disgusting).--But
we cannot admit that a foreign race which has not yet been fused into our
own, can possibly know better than we do what suits us. The Jews are well
off in France: I am glad of it: but they must not think of turning France
into Judea! An intelligent and strong Government which was able to keep the
Jews in their place would make them one of the most useful instruments for
the building of the greatness of France: and it would be doing both them
and us a great service. These hypernervous, restless, and unsettled
creatures need the restraint of law and the firm hand of a just master, in
whom there is no weakness, to curb them. The Jews are like women: admirable
when they are reined in; but, with the Jews as with women, their use of
mastery is an abomination, and those who submit to it present a pitiful and
absurd spectacle."

       *       *       *       *       *

In spite of their love for each other, and the intuitive knowledge that
came with it, there were many things which Christophe and Olivier could not
understand in each other, things, too, which shocked them. In the beginning
of their friendship, when each tried instinctively only to suffer the
existence of those qualities in himself which were most like the qualities
of his friend, they never remarked them. It was only gradually that the
different aspects of their two nationalities appeared on the surface again,
more sharply defined than before: for being in contrast, each showed the
other up. There were moments of difficulty, moments when they clashed,
which, with all their fond indulgence, they could not altogether avoid.

Sometimes they misunderstood each other. Olivier's mind was a mixture of
faith, liberty, passion, irony, and universal doubt, for which Christophe
could not find any working formula.

Olivier, on his part, was distressed by Christophe's lack of psychology:
being of an old intellectual stock, and therefore aristocratic, he was
moved to smile at the awkwardness of such, a vigorous, though lumbering and
single mind, which had no power of self-analysis, and was always being
taken in by others and by itself. Christophe's sentimentality, his noisy
outbursts, his facile emotions, used sometimes to exasperate Olivier, to
whom they seemed absurd. Not to speak of a certain worship of force, the
German conviction of the excellence of fist-morality, _Faustrecht_, to
which Olivier and his countrymen had good reason for not subscribing.

And Christophe could not bear Olivier's irony, which used sometimes to make
him furious with exasperation: he could not bear his mania for arguing, his
perpetual analysis, and the curious intellectual immorality, which was
surprising in a man who set so much store by moral purity as Olivier, and
arose from the very breadth of his mind, to which every kind of negation
was detestable,--so that he took a delight in the contemplation of ideas
the opposite of his own. Olivier's outlook on things was in some sort
historical and panoramic: it was so necessary for him to understand
everything that he always saw reasons both for and against, and supported
each in turn, according as the opposite thesis was put forward: and so amid
such contradictions he lost his way. He would leave Christophe hopelessly
perplexed. It was not that he had any desire to contradict or any taste for
paradox: it was an imperious need in him for justice and common sense: he
was exasperated by the stupidity of any assumption, and he had to react
against it. The crudeness with which Christophe judged immoral men and
actions, by seeing everything as much coarser and more brutal than it
really was, distressed Olivier, who was just as moral, but was not of the
same unbending steel; he allowed himself to be tempted, colored, and molded
by outside influences. He would protest against Christophe's exaggerations
and fly off into exaggeration in the opposite direction. Almost every day
this perverseness of mind would make him take up the cudgels for his
adversaries against his friends. Christophe would lose his temper. He would
cry out upon Olivier's sophistry and his indulgence of hateful things and
people. Olivier would smile: he knew the utter absence of illusion that lay
behind his indulgence: he knew that Christophe believed in many more things
than he did, and had a greater power of acceptance! But Christophe would
look neither to the right hand nor the left, but went straight ahead. He
was especially angry with Parisian "kindness."

"Their great argument, of which they are so proud, in favor of 'pardoning'
rascals, is," he would say, "that all rascals are sufficiently unhappy in
their wickedness, or that they are irresponsible or diseased.... In the
first place, it is not true that those who do evil are unhappy. That's a
moral idea in action, a silly melodramatic idea, stupid, empty optimism,
such as you find in Scribe and Capus,--(Scribe and Capus, your Parisian
great men, artists of whom your pleasure-seeking, vulgar society is worthy,
childish hypocrites, too cowardly to face their own ugliness).--It is quite
possible for a rascal to be a happy man. He has every chance of being so.
And as for his irresponsibility, that is an idiotic idea. Do have the
courage to face the fact that Nature does not care a rap about good and
evil, and is so far malevolent that a man may easily be a criminal and yet
perfectly sound in mind and body. Virtue is not a natural thing. It is the
work of man. It is his duty to defend it. Human society has been built up
by a few men who were stronger and greater than the rest. It is their duty
to see that the work of so many ages of frightful struggles is not spoiled
by the cowardly rabble."

At bottom there was no great difference between these ideas and Olivier's:
but, by a secret instinct for balance and proportion, he was never so
dilettante as when he heard provocative words thrown out.

"Don't get so excited, my friend," he would say to Christophe. "Let the
world hug its vices. Like the friends in the 'Decameron,' let us breathe in
peace the balmy air of the gardens of thought, while under the cypress-hill
and the tall, shady pines, twined about with roses, Florence is devastated
by the black plague."

He would amuse himself for days together by pulling to pieces art, science,
philosophy, to find their hidden wheels: so he came by a sort of
Pyrrhonism, in which everything that was became only a figment of the mind,
a castle in the air, which had not even the excuse of the geometric
symbols, of being necessary to the mind. Christophe would rage against his
pulling the machine to pieces:

"It was going quite well: you'll probably break it. Then how will you be
better off? What are you trying to prove? That nothing is nothing? Good
Lord! I know that. It is because nothingness creeps in upon us from every
side that we fight. Nothing exists? I exist. There's no reason for doing
anything? I'm doing what I can. If people like death, let them die! For my
part, I'm alive, and I'm going to live. My life is in one scale of the
balance, my mind and thought in the other.... To hell with thought!"

He would fly off with his usual violence, and in their argument he would
say things that hurt. Hardly had he said them than he was sorry. He would
long to withdraw them: but the harm was done. Olivier was very sensitive:
his skin was easily barked: a harsh word, especially if it came from some
one he loved, hurt him terribly. He was too proud to say anything, and
would retire into himself. And he would see in his friend those sudden
flashes of unconscious egoism which appear in every great artist. Sometimes
he would feel that his life was no great thing to Christophe compared with
a beautiful piece of music:--(Christophe hardly troubled to disguise the
fact).--He would understand and see that Christophe was right: but it made
him sad.

And then there were in Christophe's nature all sorts of disordered elements
which eluded Olivier and made him uneasy. He used to have sudden fits of a
freakish and terrible humor. For days together he would not speak: or he
would break out in diabolically malicious moods and try deliberately to
hurt. Sometimes he would disappear altogether and be seen no more for the
rest of the day and part of the night. Once he stayed away for two whole
days. God knows what he was up to! He was not very clear about it
himself.... The truth was that his powerful nature, shut up in that narrow
life, and those small rooms, as in a hen-coop, every now and then reached
bursting-point. His friend's calmness maddened him: then he would long to
hurt him, to hurt some one. He would have to rush away, and wear himself
out. He would go striding through the streets of Paris and the outskirts in
the vague quest of adventure, which sometimes he found: and he would not
have been sorry to meet with some rough encounter which would have given
him the opportunity of expending some of his superfluous energy in a
brawl.... It was hard for Olivier, with his poor health and weakness of
body, to understand. Christophe was not much nearer understanding it. He
would wake up from his aberrations as from an exhausting dream,--a little
uneasy and ashamed of what he had been doing and might yet do. But when the
fit of madness was over he would feel like a great sky washed by the storm,
purged of every taint, serene, and sovereign of his soul. He would be more
tender than ever with Olivier, and bitterly sorry for having hurt him. He
would give up trying to account for their little quarrels. The wrong was
not always on his side: but he would take all the blame upon himself, and
put it down to his unjust passion for being right; and he would think it
better to be wrong with his friend than to be right, if right were not on
his side.

Their misunderstandings were especially grievous when they occurred in the
evening, so that the two friends had to spend the night in disunion, which
meant that both of them were morally upset. Christophe would get up and
scribble a note and slip it under Olivier's door: and next day as soon as
he woke up he would beg his pardon. Sometimes, even, he would knock at his
door in the middle of the night: he could not bear to wait for the day to
come before he humbled himself. As a rule, Olivier would be just as unable
to sleep. He knew that Christophe loved him, and had not wished to hurt
him: but he wanted to hear him say so. Christophe would say so, and then
the whole thing would be forgotten. Then they would be pacified. Delightful
state! How well they would sleep for the rest of the night!

"Ah!" Olivier would sigh. "How difficult it is to understand each other!"

"But is it necessary always to understand each other?" Christophe would
ask. "I give it up. We only need love each other."

All these petty quarrels which, with anxious tenderness, they would at once
find ways of mending, made them almost dearer to each other than before.
When they were hotly arguing Antoinette would appear in Olivier's eyes. The
two friends would pay each other womanish attentions. Christophe never let
Olivier's birthday go by without celebrating it by dedicating a composition
to him, or by the gift of flowers, or a cake, or a little present, bought
Heaven knows how!--(for they often had no money in the house)--Olivier
would tire his eyes out with copying out Christophe's scores at night and
by stealth.

Misunderstandings between friends are never very serious so long as a third
party does not come between them.--But that was bound to happen: there are
too many people in this world ready to meddle in the affairs of others and
make mischief between them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Olivier knew the Stevens, whom Christophe rarely visited, and he too had
been attracted by Colette. The reason why Christophe had not met him in the
girl's little court was that just at that time Olivier was suffering from
his sister's death, and had shut himself up with his grief and saw no one.
Colette, on her part, did not go out of her way to see him: she liked
Olivier, but she did not like unhappy people: she used to declare that she
was so sensitive that she could not bear the sight of sorrow: she waited
until Olivier's sorrow was over before she remembered his existence. When
she heard that he seemed to be himself again, and that there was no danger
of infection, she made bold to beckon him to her. Olivier did not need much
inducement to go. He was shy but he liked society, and he was easily led:
and he had a weakness for Colette. When he told Christophe of his intention
of going back to her, Christophe, who had too much respect for his friend's
liberty to express any adverse opinion, just shrugged his shoulders and
said jokingly:

"Go, dear boy, if it amuses you."

But nothing would have induced him to follow his example. He had made up
his mind to have nothing more to do with a coquette like Colette or the
world she lived in. Not that he was a misogynist: far from it. He had a
very tender feeling for all the young women who worked for their living,
the factory-hands, and typists, and Government clerks, who are to be seen
every morning, half awake, always a little late, hurrying to their
workshops and offices. It seemed to him that a woman was only in possession
of all her senses when she was working and struggling for her own
individual existence, by earning her daily bread and her independence. And
it seemed to him that only then did she possess all her charm, her alert
suppleness of movement, the awakening of all her senses, her integrity of
life and will. He detested the idle, pleasure-seeking woman, who seemed to
him to be only an overfed animal, perpetually in the act of digestion,
bored, browsing over unwholesome dreams. Olivier, on the contrary, adored
the _far niente_ of women, their charm, like the charm of flowers, living
only to be beautiful and to perfume the air about them. He was more of an
artist: Christophe was more human. Unlike Colette, Christophe loved other
people in proportion as they shared in the suffering of the world. So,
between him and them there was a bond of brotherly compassion.

Colette was particularly anxious to see Olivier again, after she heard of
his friendship with Christophe: for she was curious to hear the details.
She was rather angry with Christophe for the disdainful manner in which he
seemed to have forgotten her: and, though she had no desire for
revenge,--(it was not worth the trouble: and revenge does mean a certain
amount of trouble),--she would have been very glad to pay him out. She was
like a cat that bites the hand that strokes it. She had an ingratiating way
with her, and she had no difficulty in getting Olivier to talk. Nobody
could be more clear-sighted than he, or less easily taken in by people,
when he was away from them: but nobody could be more naïvely confiding than
he when he was with a woman whose eyes smiled kindly at him. Colette
displayed so genuine an interest in his friendship with Christophe that he
went so far as to tell her the whole story, and even about certain of their
amicable misunderstandings, which, at a distance, seemed amusing, and he
took the whole blame for them on himself. He also confided to Colette
Christophe's artistic projects, and also some of his opinions--which were
not altogether flattering--concerning France and the French. Nothing that
he told her was of any great importance in itself, but Colette repeated it
all at once, and adapted it partly to make the story more spicy, and partly
to satisfy her secret feeling of malice against Christophe. And as the
first person to receive her confidence was naturally her inseparable Lucien
Lévy-Coeur, who had no reason for keeping it secret, the story went the
rounds, and was embellished by the way: a note of ironic pity for Olivier,
who was represented as a victim, was introduced, and he cut rather a sorry
figure. It seemed unlikely that the story could be very interesting to
anybody, since the heroes of it were very little known: but a Parisian
takes an interest in everything that does not concern him. So much so, that
one day Christophe heard the story from the lips of Madame Roussin. She met
him one day at a concert, and asked him if it were true that he had
quarreled with that poor Olivier Jeannin: and she asked about his work, and
alluded to things which he believed were known only to himself and Olivier.
And when he asked her how she had come by her information, she said she had
had it from Lucien Lévy-Coeur, who had had it direct from Olivier.

The blow overwhelmed Christophe. Violent and uncritical as he was, it never
occurred to him to think how utterly fantastic the story was: he only saw
one thing: his secrets which he had confided to Olivier had been
betrayed--betrayed to Lucien Lévy-Coeur. He could not stay to the end of
the concert: he left the hall at once. Around him all was blank and dark.
In the street he narrowly escaped being run over. He said to himself over
and over again: "My friend has betrayed me!..."

Olivier was with Colette. Christophe locked the door of his room, so that
when Olivier came in he could not have his usual talk with him. He heard
him come in a few moments later and try to open the door, and whisper
"Good-night" through the keyhole: he did not stir. He was sitting on his
bed in the dark, holding his head in his hands, and saying over and over
again: "My friend has betrayed me!...": and he stayed like that half
through the night. Then he felt how dearly he loved Olivier: for he was not
angry with him for having betrayed him: he only suffered. Those whom we
love have absolute rights over us, even the right to cease loving us. We
cannot bear them any ill-will; we can only be angry with ourselves for
being so unworthy of love that it must desert us. There is mortal anguish
in such a state of mind--anguish which destroys the will to live.

Next morning, when he saw Olivier, he did not tell him anything: he so
detested the idea of reproaching him,--reproaching him for having abused
his confidence and flung his secrets into the enemy's maw,--that he could
not find a single word to say to him. But his face said what he could not
speak: his expression was icy and hostile. Olivier was struck dumb: he
could not understand it. He tried timidly to discover what Christophe had
against him. Christophe turned away from him brutally, and made no reply.
Olivier was hurt in his turn, and said no more, and gulped down his
distress in silence. They did not see each other again that day.

Even if Olivier had made him suffer a thousand times more, Christophe would
never have done anything to avenge himself, and he would have done hardly
anything to defend himself: Olivier was sacred to him. But it was necessary
that the indignation he felt should be expended upon some one: and since
that some one could not be Olivier, it was Lucien Lévy-Coeur. With his
usual passionate injustice he put upon him the responsibility for the
ill-doing which he attributed to Olivier: and he suffered intolerable pangs
of jealousy in the thought that such a man as that could have robbed him of
his friend's affection, just as he had previously ousted him from his
friendship with Colette Stevens. To bring his exasperation to a head, that
very day he happened to see an article by Lucien Lévy-Coeur on a
performance of _Fidelio_. In it he spoke of Beethoven in a bantering way,
and poked fun at his heroine. Christophe was as alive as anybody to the
absurdities of the opera, and even to certain mistakes in the music. He had
not always displayed an exaggerated respect for the acknowledged master
himself. But he set no store by always agreeing with his own opinions, nor
had he any desire to be Frenchily logical. He was one of those men who are
quite ready to admit the faults of their friends, but cannot bear anybody
else to do so. And, besides, it was one thing to criticise a great artist,
however bitterly, from a passionate faith in art, and even--(one may
say)--from an uncompromising love for his fame and intolerance of anything
mediocre in his work,--and another thing, as Lucien Lévy-Coeur did, only to
use such criticism to flatter the baseness of the public, and to make the
gallery laugh, by an exhibition of wit at the expense of a great man.
Again, free though Christophe was in his judgments, there had always been a
certain sort of music which he had tacitly left alone and shielded: music
which was not to be tampered with: that music, which was higher and better
than music, the music of an absolutely pure soul, a great health-giving
soul, to which a man could turn for consolation, strength, and hope.
Beethoven's music was in the category. To see a puppy like Lévy-Coeur
insulting Beethoven made him blind with anger. It was no longer a question
of art, but a question of honor; everything that makes life rare, love,
heroism, passionate virtue, the good human longing for self-sacrifice, was
at stake. The Godhead itself was imperiled! There was no room for argument
It is as impossible to suffer that to be besmirched as to hear the woman
you respect and love insulted: there is but one thing to do, to hate and
kill.... What is there to say when the insulting blackguard was, of all
men, the one whom Christophe most despised?

And, as luck would have it, that very evening the two men came face to

       *       *       *       *       *

To avoid being left alone with Olivier, contrary to his habit, Christophe
went to an At Home at the Roussins'. He was asked to play. He consented
unwillingly. However, after a moment or two he became absorbed in the music
he was playing, until, glancing up, he saw Lucien Lévy-Coeur standing in a
little group, watching him with an ironical stare. He stopped short, in the
middle of a bar: he got up and turned away from the piano. There was an
awkward silence. Madame Roussin came up to Christophe in her surprise and
smiled forcedly; and, very cautiously,--for she was not sure whether the
piece was finished or not,--she asked him:

"Won't you go on, Monsieur Krafft?"

"I've finished," he replied curtly.

He had hardly said it than he became conscious of his rudeness; but,
instead of making him more restrained, it only excited him the more. He
paid no heed to the amused attention of his auditors, but went and sat
in a corner of the room from which he could follow Lucien Lévy-Coeur's
movements. His neighbor, an old general, with a pinkish, sleepy face,
light-blue eyes, and a childish expression, thought it incumbent on him to
compliment him on the originality of his music. Christophe bowed irritably,
and growled out a few inarticulate sounds. The general went on talking
with effusive politeness and a gentle, meaningless smile: and he wanted
Christophe to explain how he could play such a long piece of music from
memory. Christophe fidgeted impatiently, and thought wildly of knocking the
old gentleman off the sofa. He wanted to hear what Lucien Lévy-Coeur was
saying: he was waiting for an excuse for attacking him. For some moments
past he had been conscious that he was going to make a fool of himself: but
no power on earth could have kept him from it.--Lucien Lévy-Coeur, in his
high falsetto voice, was explaining the aims and secret thoughts of great
artists to a circle of ladies. During a moment of silence Christophe heard
him talking about the friendship of Wagner and King Ludwig, with all sorts
of nasty innuendoes.

"Stop!" he shouted, bringing his fist down on the table by his side.

Everybody turned in amazement. Lucien Lévy-Coeur met Christophe's eyes and
paled a little, and said:

"Were you speaking to me?"

"You hound!... Yes," said Christophe.

He sprang to his feet.

"You soil and sully everything that is great in the world," he went on
furiously. "There's the door! Get out, you cur, or I'll fling you through
the window!"

He moved towards him. The ladies moved aside screaming. There was a moment
of general confusion. Christophe was surrounded at once. Lucien Lévy-Coeur
had half risen to his feet: then he resumed his careless attitude in his
chair. He called a servant who was passing and gave him a card: and he went
on with his remarks as though nothing had happened: but his eyelids were
twitching nervously, and his eyes blinked as he looked this way and that
to see how people had taken it. Roussin had taken his stand in front of
Christophe, and he took him by the lapel of his coat and urged him in the
direction of the door. Christophe hung his head in his anger and shame,
and his eyes saw nothing but the wide expanse of shirt-front, and kept on
counting the diamond studs: and he could feel the big man's breath on his

"Come, come, my dear fellow!" said Roussin. "What's the matter with you?
Where are your manners? Control yourself! Do you know where you are? Come,
come, are you mad?"

"I'm damned if I ever set foot in your house again!" said Christophe,
breaking free: and he reached the door.

The people prudently made way for him. In the cloak-room a servant held
out a salver. It contained Lucien Lévy-Coeur's card. He took it without
understanding what it meant, and read it aloud: then, suddenly, snorting
with rage, he fumbled in his pockets: mixed up with a varied assortment of
things, he pulled out three or four crumpled dirty cards:

"There! There!" he said, flinging them on the salver so violently that one
of them fell to the ground.

He left the house.

       *       *       *       *       *

Olivier knew nothing about it. Christophe chose as his witnesses the first
men of his acquaintance who turned up, the musical critic, Théophile
Goujart, and a German, Doctor Barth, an honorary lecturer in a Swiss
University, whom he had met one night in a café; he had made friends with
him, though they had little in common: but they could talk to each other
about Germany. After conferring with Lucien Lévy-Coeur's witnesses, pistols
were chosen. Christophe was absolutely ignorant about the use of arms, and
Goujart told him it would not be a bad thing for him to go and have a few
lessons: but Christophe refused, and while he was waiting for the day to
come went on with his work.

But his mind was distracted. He had a fixed idea, of which he was dimly
conscious, while it kept buzzing in his head like a bad dream.... "It was
unpleasant, yes, very unpleasant.... What was unpleasant?--Oh! the duel
to-morrow.... Just a joke! Nobody is ever hurt.... But it was possible....
Well, then, afterwards?... Afterwards, that was it, afterwards.... A cock
of the finger by that swine who hates me may wipe out my life.... So be
it!...--Yes, to-morrow, in a day or two, I may be lying in the loathsome
soil of Paris....--Bah! Here or anywhere, what does it matter!... Oh! Lord:
I'm not going to play the coward!--No, but it would be monstrous to waste
the mighty world of ideas that I feel springing to life in me for a
moment's folly.... What rot it is, these modern duels in which they try to
equalize the chances of the two opponents! That's a fine sort of equality
that sets the same value on the life of a mountebank as on mine! Why don't
they let us go for each other with fists and cudgels? There'd be some
pleasure in that. But this cold-blooded shooting!... And, of course, he
knows how to shoot, and I have never had a pistol in my hand.... They are
right: I must learn.... He'll try to kill me. I'll kill him."

He went out. There was a range a few yards away from the house. Christophe
asked for a pistol, and had it explained how he ought to hold it. With his
first shot he almost killed his instructor: he went on with a second and a
third, and fared no better: he lost patience, and went from bad to worse. A
few young men were standing by watching and laughing. He paid no heed to
them. With his German persistency he went on trying, and was so indifferent
to their laughter and so determined to succeed that, as always happens,
his blundering patience roused interest, and one of the spectators gave
him advice. In spite of his usual violence he listened to everything with
childlike docility; he managed to control his nerves, which were making
his hand tremble: he stiffened himself and knit his brows: the sweat was
pouring down his cheeks: he said not a word: but every now and then he
would give way to a gust of anger, and then go on shooting. He stayed there
for a couple of hours. At the end of that time he hit the bull's-eye. Few
things could have been more absorbing than the sight of such a power of
will mastering an awkward and rebellious body. It inspired respect. Some of
those who had scoffed at the outset had gone, and the others were silenced
one by one, and had not been able to tear themselves away. They took off
their hats to Christophe when he went away.

When he reached home Christophe found his friend Mooch waiting anxiously.
Mooch had heard of the quarrel, and had come at once: he wanted to know
how it had originated. In spite of Christophe's reticence and desire
not to attach any blame to Olivier, he guessed the reason. He was very
cool-headed, and knew both the friends, and had no doubt of Olivier's
innocence of the treachery ascribed to him. He looked into the matter, and
had no difficulty in finding out that the whole trouble arose from the
scandal-mongering of Colette and Lucien Lévy-Coeur. He rushed back with
his evidence to Christophe, thinking that he could in that way prevent
the duel. But the result was exactly the opposite of what he expected:
Christophe was only the more rancorous against Lévy-Coeur when he learned
that it was through him that he had come to doubt his friend. To get rid of
Mooch, who kept on imploring him not to fight, he promised him everything
he asked. But he had made up his mind. He was quite happy now: he was going
to fight for Olivier, not for himself!

A remark made by one of the seconds as the carriage was going along a road
through the woods suddenly caught Christophe's attention. He tried to find
out what they were thinking, and saw how little they really cared about
him. Professor Barth was wondering when the affair would be over, and
whether he would be back in time to finish a piece of work he had begun
on the manuscripts in the _Bibliothèque Nationale_. Of Christophe's three
companions, he was the most interested in the result of the encounter as
a matter of German national pride. Goujart paid no attention either to
Christophe or the other German, but discussed certain scabrous subjects
in connection with the coarser branches of physiology with Dr. Jullien, a
young physician from Toulouse, who had recently come to live next door to
Christophe, and occasionally borrowed his spirit-lamp, or his umbrella, or
his coffee-cups, which he invariably returned broken. In return he gave him
free consultations, tried medicines on him, and laughed at his simplicity.
Under his impassive manner, that would have well become a Castilian
hidalgo, there was a perpetual love of teasing. He was highly delighted
with the adventure of the duel, which struck him as sheer burlesque: and
he was amusing himself with fancying the mess that Christophe would make
of it. He thought it a great joke to be driving through the woods at the
expense of good old Krafft.--That, clearly, was what was in the minds of
the trio: they regarded it as a jolly excursion which cost them nothing.
Not one of them attached the least importance to the duel. But, on the
other hand, they were just as calmly prepared for anything that might come
of it.

They reached the appointed spot before the others. It was a little inn in
the heart of the forest. It was a pleasure-resort, more or less unclean, to
which Parisians used to resort to cleanse their honor when the dirt on it
became too apparent. The hedges were bright with the pure flowers of the
eglantine. In the shade of the bronze-leaved oak-trees there were rows
of little tables. At one of these tables were seated three bicyclists:
a painted woman, in knickerbockers, with black socks: and two men in
flannels, who were stupefied by the heat, and every now and then gave out
growls and grunts as though they had forgotten how to speak.

The arrival of the carriage produced a little buzz of excitement in the
inn. Goujart, who knew the house and the people of old, declared that he
would look after everything. Barth dragged Christophe into an arbor and
ordered beer. The air was deliciously warm and soft, and resounding with
the buzzing of bees. Christophe forgot why he had come. Barth emptied the
bottle, and said, after a short silence:

"I know what I'll do."

He drank and went on:

"I shall have plenty of time: I'll go on to Versailles when it's all over."

Goujart was heard haggling with the landlady over the price of the
dueling-ground. Jullien had not been wasting his time: as he passed near
the bicyclists he broke into noisy and ecstatic comment on the woman's bare
legs: and there was exchanged a perfect deluge of filthy epithets in which
Jullien did not come off worst. Barth said in a whisper:

"The French are a low-minded lot. Brother, I drink to your victory."

He clinked his glass against Christophe's. Christophe was dreaming: scraps
of music were floating in his mind, mingled with the harmonious humming of
insects. He was very sleepy.

The wheels of another carriage crunched over the gravel of the drive.
Christophe saw Lucien Lévy-Coeur's pale face, with its inevitable smile:
and his anger leaped up in him. He got up, and Barth followed him.

Lévy-Coeur, with his neck swathed in a high stock, was dressed with a
scrupulous care which was strikingly in contrast with his adversary's
untidiness. He was followed by Count Bloch, a sportsman well known for
his mistresses, his collection of old pyxes, and his ultra-Royalist
opinions,--Léon Mouey, another man of fashion, who had reached his position
as Deputy through literature, and was a writer from political ambition: he
was young, bald, clean-shaven, with a lean bilious face: he had a long
nose, round eyes, and a head like a bird's,--and Dr. Emmanuel, a fine type
of Semite, well-meaning and cold, a member of the Academy of Medicine, a
chief-surgeon in a hospital, famous for a number of scientific books, and
the medical skepticism which made him listen with ironic pity to the
plaints of his patients without making the least attempt to cure them.

The newcomers saluted the other three courteously. Christophe barely
responded, but was annoyed by the eagerness and the exaggerated politeness
with which they treated Lévy-Coeur's seconds. Jullien knew Emmanuel, and
Goujart knew Mouey, and they approached them obsequiously smiling. Mouey
greeted them with cold politeness and Emmanuel jocularly and without
ceremony. As for Count Bloch, he stayed by Lévy-Coeur, and with a rapid
glance he took in the condition of the clothes and linen of the three men
of the opposing camp, and, hardly opening his lips, passed abrupt humorous
comment on them with, his friend,--and both of them stood calm and correct.

Lucien Lévy-Coeur stood at his ease waiting for Count Bloch, who had the
ordering of the duel, to give the signal. He regarded the affair as a mere
formality. He was an excellent shot, and was fully aware of his adversary's
want of skill. He would not be foolish enough to make use of his advantage
and hit him, always supposing, as was not very probable, that the seconds
did not take good care that no harm came of the encounter: for he knew that
nothing is so stupid as to let an enemy appear to be a victim, when a much
surer and better method is to wipe him out of existence without any fuss
being made. But Christophe stood waiting, stripped to his shirt, which was
open to reveal his thick neck, while his sleeves were rolled up to show his
strong wrists, head down, with his eyes glaring at Lévy-Coeur: he stood
taut, with murder written implacably on every feature: and Count Bloch, who
watched him carefully, thought what a good thing it was that civilization
had as far as possible suppressed the risks of fighting.

After both men had fired, of course without result, the seconds hurried
forward and congratulated the adversaries. Honor was satisfied.--Not so
Christophe. He stayed there, pistol in hand, unable to believe that it was
all over. He was quite ready to repeat his performance at the range the
evening before, and go on shooting until one or other of them had hit the
target. When he heard Goujart proposing that he should shake hands with his
adversary, who advanced chivalrously towards him with his perpetual smile,
he was exasperated by the pretense of the whole thing. Angrily he hurled
his pistol away, pushed Goujart aside, and flung himself upon Lucien
Lévy-Coeur. They were hard put to it to keep him from going on with the
fight with his fists.

The seconds intervened while Lévy-Coeur escaped. Christophe broke away from
them, and, without listening to their laughing expostulation, he strode
along in the direction of the forest, talking loudly and gesticulating
wildly. He did not even notice that he had left his hat and coat on the
dueling-ground. He plunged into the woods. He heard his seconds laughing
and calling him: then they tired of it, and did not worry about him any
more. Very soon he heard the wheels of the carriages rumbling away and
away, and knew that they had gone. He was left alone among the silent
trees. His fury had subsided. He flung himself down on the ground and
sprawled on the grass.

Shortly afterwards Mooch arrived at the inn. He had been pursuing
Christophe since the early morning. He was told that his friend was in the
woods, and went to look for him. He beat all the thickets, and awoke all
the echoes, and was going away in despair when he heard him singing: he
found his way by the voice, and at last came upon him in a little clearing
with his arms and legs in the air, rolling about like a young calf. When
Christophe saw him he shouted merrily, called him "dear old Moloch," and
told him how he had shot his adversary full of holes until he was like a
sieve: he made him tuck in his tuppenny, and then join him in a game of
leap-frog: and when he jumped over him he gave him a terrific thump.
Mooch was not very good at it, but he enjoyed the game almost as much as
Christophe.--They returned to the inn arm-in-arm, and caught the train
back to Paris at the nearest station.

Olivier knew nothing of what had happened. He was surprised at Christophe's
tenderness: he could not understand his sudden change. It was not until
the next day, when he saw the newspapers, that he knew that Christophe
had fought a duel. It made him almost ill to think of the danger that
Christophe had run. He wanted to know why the duel had been fought.
Christophe refused to tell him anything. When he was pressed he said with
a laugh:

"It was for you."

Olivier could not get a word more out of him. Mooch told him all about it.
Olivier was horrified, quarreled with Colette, and begged Christophe to
forgive his imprudence. Christophe was incorrigible, and quoted for his
benefit an old French saying, which he adapted so as to infuriate poor
Mooch, who was present to share in the happiness of the friends:

"My dear boy, let this teach you to be careful....

  "_From an idle chattering girl,
  From a wheedling, hypocritical Jew,
  From a painted friend,
  From a familiar foe,
  And from flat wine,
  Libera Nos, Domine!_"

Their friendship was re-established. The danger of losing it, which had
come so near, made it only the more dear. Their small misunderstandings
had vanished: the very differences between them made them more attractive
to each other. In his own soul Christophe embraced the souls of the two
countries, harmoniously united. He felt that his heart was rich and full:
and, as usual with him, his abundant happiness expressed itself in a flow
of music.

Olivier marveled at it. Being too critical in mind, he was never far from
believing that music, which he adored, had said its last word. He was
haunted by the morbid idea that decadence must inevitably succeed a certain
degree of progress: and he trembled lest the lovely art, which made him
love life, should stop short, and dry up, and disappear into the ground.
Christophe would scoff at such pusillanimous ideas. In a spirit of
contradiction he would pretend that nothing had been done before he
appeared on the scene, and that everything remained to be done. Olivier
would instance French music, which seemed to have reached a point of
perfection and ultimate civilization beyond which there could not possibly
be anything. Christophe would shrug his shoulders:

"French music?... There has never been any.... And yet you have such fine
things to do in the world! You can't really be musicians, or you would have
discovered that. Ah! if only I were a Frenchman!..."

And he would set out all the things that a Frenchman might turn into music:

"You involve yourselves in forms which do not suit you, and you do nothing
at all with those which are admirably fitted for your use. You are a
people of elegance, polite poetry, beautiful gestures, beautiful walking
movements, beautiful attitudes, fashion, clothes, and you never write
ballets nowadays, though you ought to be able to create an inimitable art
of poetic dancing....--You are a people of laughter and comedy, and you
never write comic operas, or else you leave it to minor musicians, the
confectioners of music. Ah! if I were a Frenchman I would set Rabelais to
music, I would write comic epics....--You are a people of story-tellers,
and you never write novels in music: (for I don't count the feuilletons
of Ghistave Charpentier). You make no use of your gift of psychological
analysis, your insight into character. Ah! if I were a Frenchman I would
give you portraits in music.... (Would you like me to sketch the girl
sitting in the garden under the lilac?).... I would write you Stendhal for
a string quartet....--You are the greatest democracy in Europe, and you
have no theater for the people, no music for the people. Ah! if I were a
Frenchman, I would set your Revolution to music: the 14th July, the 10th
August, Valmy, the Federation, I would express the people in music! Not
in the false form of Wagnerian declamation. I want symphonies, choruses,
dances. Not speeches! I'm sick of them. There's no reason why people
should always be talking in a music drama! Bother the words! Paint in bold
strokes, in vast symphonies with choruses, immense landscapes in music,
Homeric and Biblical epics, fire, earth, water, and sky, all bright and
shining, the fever which makes hearts burn, the stirring of the instincts
and destinies of a race, the triumph of Rhythm, the emperor of the world,
who enslaves thousands of men, and hurls armies down to death.... Music
everywhere, music in everything! If you were musicians you would have
music for every one of your public holidays, for your official ceremonies,
for the trades unions, for the student associations, for your family
festivals.... But, above all, above all, if you were musicians, you would
make pure music, music which has no definite meaning, music which has no
definite use, save only to give warmth, and air, and life. Make sunlight
for yourselves! _Sat prata_.... (What is that in Latin?).... There has been
rain enough. Your music gives me a cold. One can't see in it: light your
lanterns.... You complain of the Italian _porcherie_, who invade your
theaters and conquer the public, and turn you out of your own house?
It is your own fault! The public are sick of your crepuscular art, your
harmonized neurasthenia, your contrapuntal pedantry. The public goes where
it can find life, however coarse and gross. Why do you run away from life?
Your Debussy is a bad man, however great he may be as an artist. He aids
and abets you in your torpor. You want roughly waking up."

"What about Strauss?"

"No better. Strauss would finish you off. You need the digestion of my
fellow-countrymen to be able to bear such immoderate drinking. And even
they cannot bear it.... Strauss's _Salome_!... A masterpiece.... I should
not like to have written it.... I think of my old grandfather and uncle
Gottfried, and with what respect and loving tenderness they used to talk
to me about the lovely art of sound!... But to have the handling of such
divine powers, and to turn them to such uses!... A flaming, consuming
meteor! An Isolde, who is a Jewish prostitute. Bestial and mournful lust.
The frenzy of murder, pillage, incest, and untrammeled instincts which is
stirring in the depths of German decadence.... And, on the other hand,
the spasm of a voluptuous and melancholy suicide, the death-rattle which
sounds through your French decadence.... On the one hand, the beast: on the
other, the prey. Where is man?... Your Debussy is the genius of good taste:
Strauss is the genius of bad taste. Debussy is rather insipid. But Strauss
is very unpleasant. One is a silvery thread of stagnant water, losing
itself in the reeds, and giving off an unhealthy aroma. The other is a
mighty muddy flood.... Ah! the musty base Italianism and neo-Meyerbeerism,
the filthy masses of sentiment which are borne on by the torrent!... An
odious masterpiece!... Salome, the daughter of Ysolde.... And whose mother
will Salome be in her turn?"

"Yes," said Olivier, "I wish we could jump fifty years. This headlong
gallop towards the precipice must end one way or another: either the horse
must stop or fall. Then we shall breathe again. Thank Heaven, the earth
will not cease to flower, nor the sky to give light, with or without music!
What have we to do with an art so inhuman!... The West is burning away....
Soon.... Very soon.... I see other stars arising in the furthest depths of
the East."

"Bother the East!" said Christophe. "The West has not said its last word
yet. Do you think I am going to abdicate? I have enough to say to keep
you going for centuries. Hurrah for life! Hurrah for joy! Hurrah for the
courage which drives us on to struggle with our destiny! Hurrah for love
which maketh the heart big! Hurrah for friendship which rekindles our
faith,--friendship, a sweeter thing than love! Hurrah for the day! Hurrah
for the night! Glory be to the sun! _Laus Deo_, the God of joy, the God of
dreams and actions, the God who created music! Hosannah!..."

With that he sat down at his desk and wrote down everything that was in his
head, without another thought for what he had been saying.

       *       *       *       *       *

At that time Christophe was in a condition in which all the elements of his
life were perfectly balanced. He did not bother his head with esthetic
discussions as to the value of this or that musical form, nor with reasoned
attempts to create a new form: he did not even have to cast about for
subjects for translation into music. One thing was as good as another. The
flood of music welled forth without Christophe knowing exactly what feeling
he was expressing. He was happy: that was all: happy in expanding, happy in
having expanded, happy in feeling within himself the pulse of universal

His fullness of joy was communicated to those about him.

The house with its closed garden was too small for him. He had the view out
over the garden of the neighboring convent with the solitude of its great
avenues and century-old trees: but it was too good to last. In front of
Christophe's windows they were building a six-story house, which shut out
the view and completely hemmed him in. In addition, he had the pleasure of
hearing the creaking of pulleys, the chipping of stones, the hammering of
nails, all day long from morning to night. Among the workmen he found his
old friend the slater, whose acquaintance he had made on the roof. They
made signs to each other, and once, when he met him in the street, he took
the man to a wineshop, and they drank together, much to the surprise of
Olivier, who was a little scandalized. He found the man's drollery and
unfailing good-humor very entertaining, but did not curse him any the less,
with his troop of workmen and stupid idiots who were raising a barricade
in front of the house and robbing him of air and light. Olivier did not
complain much: he could quite easily adapt himself to a limited horizon:
he was like the stove of Descartes, from which the suppressed ideas darted
upward to the free sky. But Christophe needed more air. Shut up in that
confined space, he avenged himself by expanding into the lives of those
about him. He drank in their inmost life, and turned it into music. Olivier
used to tell him that he looked like a lover.

"If I were in love," Christophe would reply, "I should see nothing, love
nothing, be interested in nothing outside my love."

"What is the matter with you, then?"

"I'm very well. I'm hungry."

"Lucky Christophe!" Olivier would sigh. "I wish you could hand a little of
your appetite over to us."

Health, like sickness, is contagious. The first to feel the benefit of
Christophe's vitality was naturally Olivier. Vitality was what he most
lacked. He retired from the world because its vulgarity revolted him.
Brilliantly clever though he was, and in spite of his exceptional artistic
gifts, he was too delicate to be a great artist. Great artists do not feel
disgust: the first law for every healthy being is to live: and that law
is even more imperative for a man of genius: for such a man lives more.
Olivier fled from life: he drifted along in a world of poetic fictions that
had no body, no flesh and blood, no relation to reality. He was one of
those literary men who, in quest of beauty, have to go outside time, into
the days that are no more, or the days that have never been. As though the
wine of life were not as intoxicating, and its vintages as rich nowadays as
ever they were! But men who are weary in soul recoil from direct contact
with life: they can only bear to see it through the veil of visions spun
by the backward movement of time, and hear it in the echo which sends back
and distorts the dead words of those who were once alive.--Christophe's
friendship gradually dragged Olivier out of this Limbo of art. The sun's
rays pierced through to the innermost recesses of his soul in which he was

       *       *       *       *       *

Elsberger, the engineer, also succumbed to Christophe's contagious
optimism. It was not shown in any change in his habits: they were too
inveterate: and it was too much to expect him to become enterprising enough
to leave France and go and seek his fortune elsewhere. But he was shaken
out of his apathy: he recovered his taste for research, and reading, and
the scientific work which he had long neglected. He would have been much
astonished had he been told that Christophe had something to do with
his new interest in his work: and certainly no one would have been more
surprised than Christophe.

       *       *       *       *       *

But of all the inhabitants of the house, Christophe was the soonest
intimate with the little couple on the second floor. More than once as he
passed their door he had stopped to listen to the sound of the piano which
Madame Arnaud used to play quite well when she was alone. Then he gave them
tickets for his concert, for which they thanked him effusively. And after
that he used to go and sit with them occasionally in the evening. He
had never heard Madame Arnaud playing again: she was too shy to play in
company: and even when she was alone, now that she knew she could be heard
on the stairs, she kept the soft pedal down. But Christophe used to play to
them, and they would talk about it for hours together. The Arnauds used to
speak of music with such eagerness and freshness of feeling that he was
enchanted with them. He had not thought it possible for French people to
care so much for music.

"That," Olivier would say, "is because you have only come across

"I'm perfectly aware," Christophe would reply, "that professed musicians
are the very people who care least for music: but you can't make me believe
that there are many people like you in France."

"A few thousands at any rate."

"I suppose it's an epidemic, the latest fashion."

"It is not a matter of fashion," said Arnaud. "_He who does not rejoice to
hear a sweet accord of instruments, or the sweetness of the natural voice,
and is not moved by it, and does not tremble from head to foot with its
sweet ravishment, and is not taken completely out of himself, does thereby
show himself to have a twisted, vicious, and depraved soul, and of such an
one we should beware as of a man ill-born...._"

"I know that," said Christophe. "It is my friend Shakespeare."

"No," said Arnaud gently. "It is a Frenchman who lived before him, Ronsard.
That will show you that, if it is the fashion in France to care for music,
it is no new thing."

But what astonished Christophe was not so much that people in France should
care for music, as that almost without exception they cared for the same
music as the people in Germany. In the world of Parisian snobs and artists,
in which he had moved at first, it had been the mode to treat the German
masters as distinguished foreigners, by all means to be admired, but to be
kept at a distance: they were always ready to poke fun at the dullness of a
Gluck, and the barbarity of a Wagner: against them they set up the subtlety
of the French composers. And in the end Christophe had begun to wonder
whether a Frenchman could have the least understanding of German music, to
judge by the way it was rendered in France. Only a short time before he had
come away perfectly scandalized from a performance of an opera of Gluck's:
the ingenious Parisians had taken it into their heads to deck the old
fellow up, and cover him with ribbons, and pad out his rhythms, and bedizen
his music with, impressionistic settings, and charming little dancing
girls, forward and wanton.... Poor Gluck! There was nothing left of his
eloquent and sublime feeling, his moral purity, his naked sorrow. Was it
that the French could not understand these things?--And now Christophe
could see how deeply and tenderly his new friends loved the very inmost
quality of the Germanic spirit, and the old German _lieder_, and the German
classics. And he asked them if it was not the fact that the great Germans
were as foreigners to them, and that a Frenchman could only really love the
artists of his own nationality.

"Not at all!" they protested. "It is only the critics who take upon
themselves to speak for us. They always follow the fashion, and they want
us to follow it too. But we don't worry about them any more than they worry
about us. They're funny little people, trying to teach us what is and is
not French--us, who are French of the old stock of France!... They come and
tell us that our France is in Rameau,--or Racine,--and nowhere else. As
though we did not know,--(and thousands like us in the provinces, and in
Paris). How often Beethoven, Mozart, and Gluck, have sat with us by the
fireside, and watched with us by the bedside of those we love, and shared
our troubles, and revived our hopes, and been one of ourselves! If we
dared say exactly what we thought, it is much more likely that the French
artists, who are set up on a pedestal by our Parisian critics, are
strangers among us."

"The truth is," said Olivier, "that if there are frontiers in art, they are
not so much barriers between races as barriers between classes. I'm not so
sure that there is a French art or a German art: but there is certainly
one art for the rich and another for the poor. Gluck was a great man of
the middle-classes: he belongs to our class. A certain French artist,
whose name I won't mention, is not of our class: though he was of the
middle-class by birth, he is ashamed of us, and denies us: and we deny

What Olivier said was true. The better Christophe got to know the French,
the more he was struck by the resemblance between the honest men of France
and the honest men of Germany. The Arnauds reminded him of dear old Schulz
with his pure, disinterested love of art, his forgetfulness of self, his
devotion to beauty. And he loved them in memory of Schulz.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the same time as he realized the absurdity of moral frontiers between
the honest men of different nationalities, Christophe began to see the
absurdity of the frontiers that lay between the different ideas of honest
men of the same nationality. Thanks to him, though without any deliberate
effort on his part, the Abbé Corneille and M. Watelet, two men who seemed
very far indeed from understanding each other, made friends.

Christophe used to borrow books from both of them and, with a want of
ceremony which shocked Olivier, he used to lend their books in turn to the
other. The Abbé Corneille was not at all scandalized: he had an intuitive
perception of the quality of a man: and, without seeming to do so, he had
marked the generous and even unconsciously religious nature of his young
neighbor. A book by Kropotkin, which had been borrowed from M. Watelet, and
for different reasons had given great pleasure to all three of them, began
the process of bringing them together. It chanced one evening that they met
in Christophe's room. At first Christophe was afraid that they might be
rude to each other: but, on the contrary, they were perfectly polite, They
discussed various sage subjects: their travels, and their experience of
men. And they discovered in each other a fund of gentleness and the spirit
of the Gospels, and chimerical hopes, in spite of the many reasons that
each had for despair, They discovered a mutual sympathy, mingled with a
little irony. Their sympathy was of a very discreet nature. They never
revealed their fundamental beliefs. They rarely met and did not try to
meet: but when they did so they were glad to see each other.

Of the two men the Abbé Corneille was not the least independent of mind,
though Christophe would never have thought it. He gradually came to
perceive the greatness of the religious and yet free ideas, the immense,
serene, and unfevered mysticism which permeated the priest's whole mind,
the every action of his daily life, and his whole outlook on the
world,--leading him to live in Christ, as he believed that Christ had lived
in God.

He denied nothing, no single element of life. To him the whole of
Scripture, ancient and modern, lay and religious, from Moses to Berthelot,
was certain, divine, the very expression of God. Holy Writ was to him only
its richest example, just as the Church was the highest company of men
united in the brotherhood of God: but in neither of them was the spirit
confined in any fixed, unchanging truth. Christianity was the living
Christ. The history of the world was only the history of the perpetual
advance of the idea of God. The fall of the Jewish Temple, the ruin of the
pagan world, the repulse of the Crusades, the humiliation of Boniface VIII,
Galileo flinging the world back into giddy space, the infinitely little
becoming more mighty than the great, the downfall of kingdoms, and the end
of the Concordats, all these for a time threw the minds of men out of their
reckoning. Some clung desperately to the passing order: some caught at a
plank and drifted. The Abbé Corneille only asked: "Where do we stand as
men? Where is that which makes us live?" For he believed: "Where life is,
there is God."--And that was why he was in sympathy with Christophe.

For his part, Christophe was glad once more to hear the splendid music of a
great religious soul. It awoke in him echoes distant and profound. Through
the feeling of perpetual reaction, which is in vigorous natures a vital
instinct, the instinct of self-preservation, the stroke which preserves
the quivering balance of the boat, and gives it a new drive onward,--his
surfeit of doubts and his disgust with Parisian sensuality had for the last
two years been slowly restoring God to his place in Christophe's heart. Not
that he believed in God. He denied God. But he was filled with the spirit
of God. The Abbé Corneille used to tell him with a smile, that like his
namesake, the sainted giant, he bore God on his shoulders without knowing

"How is it that I don't see it then?" Christophe would ask.

"You are like thousands of others: you see God every day, and never know
that it is He. God reveals Himself to all, in every shape,--to some He
appears in their daily life, as He did to Saint Peter in Galilee,--to
others (like your friend M. Watelet), as He did to Saint Thomas, in wounds
and suffering that call for healing,--to you in the dignity of your ideal:
_Noli me tangere_.... Some day you will know it."

"I will never surrender," said Christophe. "I am free. Free I shall

"Only the more will you live in God," replied the priest calmly.

But Christophe would not submit to being made out a Christian against his
will. He defended himself ardently and simply, as though it mattered in the
least whether one label more than another was plastered on to his ideas.
The Abbé Corneille would listen with a faint ecclesiastical irony, that was
hardly perceptible, while it was altogether kindly. He had an inexhaustible
fund of patience, based on his habit of faith. It had been tempered by the
trials to which the existing Church had exposed him: while it had made him
profoundly melancholy, and had even dragged him through terrible moral
crises, he had not really been touched by it all. It was cruel to suffer
the oppression of his superiors, to have his every action spied upon by
the Bishops, and watched by the free-thinkers, who were endeavoring to
exploit his ideas, to use him as a weapon against his own faith, and to
be misunderstood and attacked both by his co-religionists and the enemies
of his religion. It was impossible for him to offer any resistance: for
submission was enforced upon him. It was impossible for him to submit in
his heart: for he knew that the authorities were wrong. It was agony for
him to hold his peace. It was agony for him to speak and to be wrongly
interpreted. Not to mention the soul for which he was responsible, he had
to think of those, who looked to him for counsel and help, while he had to
stand by and see them suffer.... The Abbé Corneille suffered both for them
and for himself, but he was resigned. He knew how small a thing were the
days of trial in the long history of the Church.--Only, by dint of being
turned in upon himself in his silent resignation, slowly he lost heart, and
became timid and afraid to speak, so that it became more and more difficult
for him to do anything, and little by little the torpor of silence crept
over him. Meeting Christophe had given him new courage. His neighbor's
youthful ardor and the affectionate and simple interest which he took in
his doings, his sometimes indiscreet questions, did him a great deal of
good. Christophe forced him to mix once more with living men and women.

Aubert, the journeyman electrician, once met him in Christophe's room. He
started back when he saw the priest, and found it hard to conceal his
feeling of dislike. Even when he had overcome his first inclination, he was
uncomfortable and oddly embarrassed at finding himself in the company of a
man in a cassock, a creature to whom he could attach no exact definition.
However, his sociable instincts and the pleasure he always found in talking
to educated men were stronger than his anti-clericalism. He was surprised
by the pleasant relations existing between M. Watelet and the Abbé
Corneille: he was no less surprised to find a priest who was a democrat,
and a revolutionary who was an aristocrat: it upset all his preconceived
ideas. He tried vainly to classify them in any social category: for he
always had to classify people before he could begin to understand them. It
was not easy to find a pigeon-hole for the peaceful freedom of mind of a
priest who had read Anatole France and Renan, and was prepared to discuss
them calmly, justly, and with some knowledge. In matters of science the
Abbé Corneille's way was to accept the guidance of those who knew, rather
than of those who laid down the law. He respected authority, but in his
eyes it stood lower than knowledge. The flesh, the spirit, and charity:
the three orders, the three rungs of the divine ladder, the ladder of
Jacob.--Of course, honest Aubert was far, indeed, from understanding, or
even from dreaming, of the possibility of such a state of mind. The Abbé
Corneille used to tell Christophe that Aubert reminded him of certain
French peasants whom he had seen one day. A young Englishwoman had asked
them the way, in English. They listened solemnly, but did not understand.
Then they spoke in French. She did not understand. Then they looked at each
other pityingly, and wagged their heads, and went on with their work, and

"What a pity! What a pity! Such a pretty girl, too!..."

As though they had thought her deaf, or dumb, or soft in the head....

At first Aubert was abashed by the knowledge and distinguished manners of
the priest and M. Watelet, and sat mum, listening intently to what they
said. Then, little by little, he joined in the conversation, giving way to
the naïve pleasure that he found in hearing himself speak. He paraded his
generous store of rather vague ideas. The other two would listen politely,
and smile inwardly. Aubert was delighted, and could not hold himself in:
he took advantage of, and presently abused, the inexhaustible patience of
the Abbé Corneille. He read his literary productions to him. The priest
listened resignedly; and it did not bore him overmuch, for he listened not
so much to the words as to the man. And then he would reply to Christophe's

"Bah! I hear so many of them!"

Aubert was grateful to M. Watelet and the Abbé Corneille: and, without
taking much trouble to understand each other's ideas, or even to find out
what they were, the three of them became very good friends without exactly
knowing why. They were very surprised to find themselves so intimate. They
would never have thought it.--Christophe was the bond between them.

He had other innocent allies in the three children, the two little
Elsbergers and M. Watelet's adopted daughter. He was great friends with
them: they adored him. He told each of them about the other, and gave them
an irresistible longing to know each other. They used to make signs to each
other from the windows, and spoke to each other furtively on the stairs.
Aided and abetted by Christophe, they even managed to get permission
sometimes to meet in the Luxembourg Gardens. Christophe was delighted with
the success of his guile, and went to see them there the first time they
were together: they were shy and embarrassed, and hardly knew what to make
of their new happiness. He broke down their reserve in a moment, and
invented games for them, and races, and played hide-and-seek: he joined in
as keenly as though he were a child of ten: the passers-by cast amused and
quizzical glances at the great big fellow, running and shouting and dodging
round trees, with three little girls after him. And as their parents were
still suspicious of each other, and showed no great readiness to let these
excursions to the Luxembourg Gardens occur very often--(because it kept
them too far out of sight)--Christophe managed to get Commandant Chabran,
who lived on the ground floor, to invite the children to play in the garden
belonging to the house.

Chance had thrown Christophe and the old soldier together:--(chance always
singles out those who can turn it to account).--Christophe's writing-table
was near his window. One day the wind blew a few sheets of music down into
the garden. Christophe rushed down, bareheaded and disheveled, just as he
was, without even taking the trouble to brush his hair. He thought he would
only have to see a servant. However, the daughter opened the door to him.
He was rather taken aback, but told her what he had come for. She smiled
and let him in: they went into the garden. When he had picked up his papers
he was for hurrying away, and she was taking him to the door, when they met
the old soldier. The Commandant gazed at his odd visitor in some surprise.
His daughter laughed, and introduced him.

"Ah! So you are the musician?" said the old soldier. "We are comrades."

They shook hands. They talked in a friendly, bantering tone of the concerts
they gave together, Christophe with his piano, the Commandant with his
flute. Christophe tried to go, but the old man would not let him: and he
plunged blindly into a disquisition on music. Suddenly he stopped short,
and said:

"Come and see my canons."

Christophe followed him, wondering how anybody could be interested in
anything he might think about French artillery. The old man showed him in
triumph a number of musical canons, amazing productions, compositions that
might just as well be read upside down, or played as duets, one person
playing the right-hand page, and the other the left. The Commandant was an
old pupil of the Polytechnic, and had always had a taste for music: but
what he loved most of all in it was the mathematical problem: it seemed
to him--(as up to a point it is)--a magnificent mental gymnastic: and
he racked his brains in the invention and solution of puzzles in the
construction of music, each more useless and extravagant than the last. Of
course, his military career had not left him much time for the development
of his mania: but since his retirement he had thrown himself into it with
enthusiasm: he expended on it all the energy and ingenuity which he had
previously employed in pursuing the hordes of negro kings through the
deserts of Africa, or avoiding their traps. Christophe found his puzzles
quite amusing, and set him a more complicated one to solve. The old soldier
was delighted: they vied with one another: they produced a perfect shower
of musical riddles. After they had been playing the game for some time,
Christophe went upstairs to his own room. But the very next morning his
neighbor sent him a new problem, a regular teaser, at which the Commandant
had been working half the night: he replied with another: and the duel went
on until Christophe, who was getting tired of it, declared himself beaten:
at which the old soldier was perfectly delighted. He regarded his success
as a retaliation on Germany. He invited Christophe to lunch. Christophe's
frankness in telling the old soldier that he detested his musical
compositions, and shouting in protest when Chabran began to murder an
_andante_ of Haydn on his harmonium, completed the conquest. From that time
on they often met to talk. But not about music. Christophe could not summon
up any great interest in his neighbor's crotchety notions about it, and
much preferred getting him to talk about military subjects. The Commandant
asked nothing better: music was only a forced amusement for the unhappy
man: in reality, he was fretting his life out.

He was easily led on to yarn about his African campaigns. Gigantic
adventures worthy of the tales of a Pizarro and a Cortez! Christophe was
delighted with the vivid narrative of that marvelous and barbaric epic, of
which he knew nothing, and almost every Frenchman is ignorant: the tale of
the twenty years during which the heroism, and courage, and inventiveness,
and superhuman energy of a conquering handful of Frenchmen were spent far
away in the depths of the Black Continent, where they were surrounded
by armies of negroes, where they were deprived of the most rudimentary
arms of war, and yet, in the face of public opinion and a panic-stricken
Government, in spite of France, conquered for France an empire greater than
France itself. There was the flavor of a mighty joy, a flavor of blood in
the tale, from which, in Christophe's mind's eye, there sprang the figures
of modern _condottieri_, heroic adventurers, unlooked for in the France of
to-day, whom the France of to-day is ashamed to own, so that she modestly
draws a veil over them. The Commandant's voice would ring out bravely
as he recalled it all: and he would jovially recount, with learned
descriptions--(oddly interpolated in his epic narrative)--of the geological
structure of the country, in cold, precise terms, the story of the
tremendous marches, and the charges at full gallop, and the man-hunts, in
which he had been hunter and quarry, turn and turn about, in a struggle to
the death.--Christophe would listen and watch his face, and feel a great
pity for such a splendid human animal, condemned to inaction, and forced to
spend his time in playing ridiculous games. He wondered how he could ever
have become resigned to such a lot. He asked the old man how he had done
it. The Commandant was at first not at all inclined to let a stranger
into his confidence as to his grievances. But the French are naturally
loquacious, especially when they have a chance of pitching into each other:

"What on earth should I do," he said, "in the army as it is to-day? The
marines write books. The infantry study sociology. They do everything but
make war. They don't even prepare for it: they prepare never to go to war
again: they study the philosophy of war.... The philosophy of war! That's
a game for beasts of burden wondering how much thrashing they are going to
get!... Discussing, philosophizing, no, that's not my work. Much better
stay at home and go on with my canons!"

He was too much ashamed to air the most serious of his grievances: the
suspicion created among the officers by the appeal to informers, the
humiliation of having to submit to the insolent orders of certain crass and
mischievous politicians, the army's disgust at being put to base police
duty, taking inventories of the churches, putting down industrial strikes,
at the bidding of capital and the spite of the party in power--the petty
burgess radicals and anti-clericals--against the rest of the country. Not
to speak of the old African's disgust with the new Colonial Army, which was
for the most part recruited from the lowest elements of the nation, by way
of pandering to the egoism and cowardice of the rest, who refuse to share
in the honor and the risks of securing the defense of "greater
France"--France beyond the seas.

Christophe was not concerned with these French quarrels: they were no
affair of his: but he sympathized with the old soldier. Whatever he might
think of war, it seemed to him that an army was meant to produce soldiers,
as an apple-tree to produce apples, and that it was a strange perversion to
graft on to it politicians, esthetes, and sociologists. And yet he could
not understand how a man of such vigor could give way to his adversaries.
It is to be his own worst enemy for a man not to fight his enemies. In
all French people of any worth at all there was a spirit of surrender, a
strange temper of renunciation.--To Christophe it was even more profound,
and even more touching as it existed in the old soldier's daughter.

Her name was Céline. She had beautiful hair, plaited and braided so as
to set off her high, round forehead and her rather pointed ears, her
thin cheeks, and her pretty chin: she was like a country girl, with fine
intelligent dark eyes, very trustful, very soft, rather short-sighted: her
nose was a little too large, and she had a tiny mole on her upper lip by
the corner of her mouth, and she had a quiet smile which made her pout
prettily and thrust out her lower lip, which was a little protruding. She
was kind, active, clever, but she had no curiosity of mind. She read very
little, and never any of the newest books, never went to the theater, never
traveled,--(for traveling bored her father, who had had too much of it
in the old days),--never had anything to do with any polite charitable
work,--(her father used to condemn all such things),--made no attempt to
study,--(he used to make fun of blue stockings),--hardly ever left her
little patch of garden inclosed by its four high walls, so that it was like
being at the bottom of a deep well. And yet she was not really bored. She
occupied her time as best she could, and was good-tempered and resigned.
About her and about the setting which every woman unconsciously creates
for herself wherever she may be, there was a Chardinesque atmosphere: the
same soft silence, the same tranquil expression, the same attitude of
absorption--(a little drowsy and languid)--in the common task: the poetry
of the daily round, of the accustomed way of life, with its fixed thoughts
and actions, falling into exactly the same place at exactly the same
time--thoughts and actions which are cherished none the less with an
all-pervading tranquil gentleness: the serene mediocrity of the fine-souled
women of the middle-class: honest, conscientious, truthful, calm--calm in
their pleasures, unruffled in their labors, and yet poetic in all their
qualities. They are healthy and neat and tidy, clean in body and mind: all
their lives are sweetened with the scent of good bread, and lavender, and
integrity, and kindness. There is peace in all that they are and do, the
peace of old houses and smiling souls....

Christophe, whose affectionate trustfulness invited trust, had become very
friendly with her: they used to talk quite frankly: and he even went so far
as to ask her certain questions, which she was surprised to find herself
answering: she would tell him things which she had not told anybody, even
her most intimate friends.

"You see," Christophe would say, "you're not afraid of me. There's no
danger of our falling in love with each other: we're too good friends for

"You're very polite!" she would answer with a laugh.

Her healthy nature recoiled as much as Christophe's from philandering
friendship, that form of sentimentality dear to equivocal men and women,
who are always juggling with their emotions. They were just comrades one to

He asked her one day what she was doing in the afternoons, when he saw her
sitting in the garden with her work on her knees, never touching it, and
not stirring for hours together. She blushed, and protested that it was not
a matter of hours, but only a matter of a few minutes, perhaps a quarter of
an hour, during which she "went on with her story."

"What story?"

"The story I am always telling myself."

"You tell yourself stories? Oh, tell them to me!"

She told him that he was too curious. She would only go so far as to
intimate that they were stories of which she was not the heroine.

He was surprised at that:

"If you are going to tell yourself stories, it seems to me that it would be
more natural if you told your own story with embellishments, and lived in a
happier dream-life."

"I couldn't," she said. "If I did that, I should become desperate."

She blushed again at having revealed even so much of her inmost thoughts:
and she went on:

"Besides, when I am in the garden and a gust of wind reaches me, I am
happy. Then the garden becomes alive for me. And when the wind blusters and
comes from a great distance, he tells me so many things!"

In spite of her reserve, Christophe could see the hidden depths of
melancholy that lay behind her good-humor, and the restless activity which,
as she knew perfectly well, led nowhere. Why did she not try to break away
from her condition and emancipate herself? She would have been so well
fitted for a useful and active life!--But she alleged her affection for her
father, who would not hear of her leaving him. In vain did Christophe tell
her that the old soldier was perfectly vigorous and energetic, and had no
need of her, and that a man of his stamp could quite well be left alone,
and had no right to make a sacrifice of her. She would begin to defend her
father: by a pious fiction she would pretend that it was not her father
who was forcing her to stay, but she herself who could not bear to leave
him.--And, up to a point, what she said was true. It seemed to have been
accepted from time immemorial by herself, and her fatter, and all their
friends that their life had to be thus and thus, and not otherwise. She
had a married brother, who thought it quite natural that she should devote
her life to their father in his stead. He was entirely wrapped up in his
children. He loved them jealously, and left them no will of their own. His
love for his children was to him, and especially to his wife, a voluntary
bondage which weighed heavily on their life, and cramped all their
movements: his idea seemed to be that as soon as a man has children, his
own life comes to an end, and he has to stop short in his own development:
he was still young, active, and intelligent, and there he was reckoning up
the years he would have still to work before he could retire.--Christophe
saw how these good people were weighed down by the atmosphere of family
affection, which is so deep-rooted in France--deep-rooted, but stifling and
destructive of vitality. And it has become all the more oppressive since
families in France have been reduced to the minimum: father, mother, one
or two children, and here and there, perhaps, an uncle or an aunt. It is
a cowardly, fearful love, turned in upon itself, like a miser clinging
tightly to his hoard of gold.

A fortuitous circumstance gave Christophe a yet greater interest in the
girl, and showed him the full extent of the suppression of the emotions
of the French, their fear of life, of letting themselves go, and claiming
their birthright.

Elsberger, the engineer, had a brother ten years younger than himself,
likewise an engineer. He was a very good fellow, like thousands of others,
of the middle-class, and he had artistic aspirations: he was one of those
people who would like to practise an art, but are afraid of compromising
their reputation and position. As a matter of fact, it is not a very
difficult problem, and most of the artists of to-day have solved it
without any great danger to themselves. But it needs a certain amount of
will-power: and not everybody is capable of even that much expenditure of
energy: such people are not sure enough of wanting what they really want:
and as their position in life grows more assured, they submit and drift
along, without any show of revolt or protest. They cannot be blamed if they
become good citizens instead of bad artists. But their disappointment too
often leaves behind it a secret discontent, a _qualis artifex pereo_, which
as best it can assumes a crust of what is usually called philosophy, and
spoils their lives, until the wear and tear of daily life and new anxieties
have erased all trace of the old bitterness. Such was the case of André
Elsberger. He would have liked to be a writer: but his brother, who was
very self-willed, had made him follow in his footsteps and enter upon a
scientific career. André was clever, and quite well equipped for scientific
work--or for literature, for that matter: he was not sure enough of
being an artist, and he was too sure that he was middle-class: and so,
provisionally at first,--(one knows what that means)--he had bowed to his
brother's wishes: he entered the _Centrale_, high up in the list, and
passed out equally high, and since then he had practised his profession as
an engineer conscientiously, but without being interested in it. Of course,
he had lost the little artistic quality that he had possessed, and he never
spoke of it except ironically.

"And then," he used to say--(Christophe recognized Olivier's pessimistic
tendency in his arguments)--"life is not good enough to make one worry
about a spoiled career. What does a bad poet more or less matter!..."

The brothers were fond of one another: they were of the same stamp morally:
but they did not get on well together. They had both been Dreyfus-mad. But
André was attracted by syndicalism, and was an anti-militarist: and Elie
was a patriot.

From time to time André would visit Christophe without going to see his
brother: and that astonished Christophe: for there was no great sympathy
between himself and André, who used hardly ever to open his mouth except
to gird at something or somebody,--which was very tiresome: and when
Christophe said anything, André would not listen. Christophe made no effort
to conceal the fact that he found his visits a nuisance: but André did not
mind, and seemed not to notice it. At last Christophe found the key to the
riddle one day when he found his visitor leaning out of the window, and
paying much more attention to what was happening in the garden below than
to what he was saying. He remarked upon it, and André was not reluctant to
admit that he knew Mademoiselle Chabran, and that she had something to do
with his visits to Christophe. And, his tongue being, loosed, he confessed
that he had long been attached to the girl, and perhaps something more than
that: the Elsbergers had long ago been in close touch with the Chabrans:
but, though they had been very intimate, politics and recent events
had separated them: and thereafter they saw very little of each other.
Christophe did not disguise his opinion that it was an idiotic state of
things. Was it impossible for people to think differently, and yet to
retain their mutual esteem? André said he thought it was, and protested
that he was very broad-minded: but he would not admit the possibility of
tolerance in certain questions, concerning which, he said, he could not
admit any opinion different from his own: and he instanced the famous
Affair. On that, as usual, he became wild. Christophe knew the sort of
thing that happened in that connection, and made no attempt to argue: but
he; asked whether the Affair was never going to come to an end, or whether
its curse was to go on and on to the end of time, descending even unto the
third and fourth generation. André began to laugh: and without answering
Christophe, he fell to tender praise of Céline Chabran, and protested
against her father's selfishness, who thought it quite natural that she
should be sacrificed to him.

"Why don't you marry her," asked Christophe, "if you love her and she loves

André said mournfully that Céline was clerical. Christophe asked what he
meant by that. André replied that he meant that she was religious, and had
vowed a sort of feudal service to God and His bonzes.

"But how does that affect you?"

"I don't want to share my wife with any one."

"What! You are jealous even of your wife's ideas? Why, you're more selfish
even than the Commandant!"

"It's all very well for you to talk: would you take a woman who did not
love music?"

"I have done so."

"How can a man and a woman live together if they don't think the same?"

"Don't you worry about what you think! Ah! my dear fellow, ideas count for
so little when one loves. What does it matter to me whether the woman I
love cares for music as much as I do? She herself is music to me! When a
man has the luck, as you have, to find a dear girl whom he loves, and she
loves him, she must believe what she likes, and he must believe what he
likes! When all is said and done, what do your ideas amount to? There is
only one truth in the world, there is only one God: love."

"You speak like a poet. You don't see life as it is. I know only too many
marriages which have suffered from such a want of union in thought."

"Those husbands and wives did not love each other enough. You have to know
what you want."

"Wanting does not do everything in life. Even if I wanted to marry
Mademoiselle Chabran, I couldn't."

"I'd like to know why."

André spoke of his scruples: his position was not assured: he had no
fortune and no great health. He was wondering whether he had the right to
marry in such circumstances. It was a great responsibility. Was there not a
great risk of bringing unhappiness on the woman he loved, and himself,--not
to mention any children there might be?... It was better to wait--or give
up the idea.

Christophe shrugged his shoulders.

"That's a fine sort of love! If she loves you, she will be happy in her
devotion to you. And as for the children, you French people are absurd. You
would like only to bring them into the world when you are sure of turning
them out with comfortable private means, so that they will have nothing to
suffer and nothing to fear.... Good Lord! That's nothing to do with you:
your business is only to give them life, love of life, and courage to
defend it. The rest ... whether they live or die ... is the common lot. Is
it better to give up living than to take the risks of life?"

The sturdy confidence which emanated from Christophe affected André, but
did not change his mind. He said:

"Yes, perhaps, that is true...."

But he stopped at that. Like all the rest, his will and power of action
seemed to be paralyzed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe had set himself to fight the inertia which he found In most
of his French friends, oddly coupled with laborious and often feverish
activity. Almost all the people he met in the various middle-class houses
which he visited were discontented. They had almost all the same disgust
with the demagogues and their corrupt ideas. In almost all there was the
same sorrowful and proud consciousness of the betrayal of the genius of
their race. And it was by no means the result of any personal rancor nor
the bitterness of men and classes beaten and thrust out of power and active
life, or discharged officials, or unemployed energy, nor that of an old
aristocracy which has returned to its estates, there to die in hiding like
a wounded lion. It was a feeling of moral revolt, mute, profound, general:
it was to be found everywhere, in a greater or less degree, in the army, in
the magistracy, in the University, in the officers, and in every vital
branch of the machinery of government. But they took no active measures.
They were discouraged in advance: they kept on saying:

"There is nothing to be done:"


"Let us try not to think of it."

Fearfully they dodged anything sad in their thoughts and conversation: and
they took refuge in their home life.

If they had been content to refrain only from political action! But even
in their daily lives these good people had no interest in doing anything
definite. They put up with the degrading, haphazard contact with horrible
people whom they despised, because they could not take the trouble to fight
against them, thinking that any such revolt must of necessity be useless.
Why, for instance, should artists, and, in particular, the musicians
with whom Christophe was most in touch, unprotestingly put up with the
effrontery of the scaramouches of the Press, who laid down the law for
them? There were absolute idiots among them, whose ignorance _in omni re
scibili_ was proverbial, though they were none the less invested with
a sovereign authority _in omni re scibili_. They did not even take the
trouble to write their articles and books: they had secretaries, poor
starving creatures, who would have sold their souls, if they had had such
things, for bread or women. There was no secret about it in Paris. And
yet they went on riding their high horse and patronizing the artists.
Christophe used to roar with anger sometimes when he read their articles.

"They have no heart!" he would say. "Oh! the cowards!"

"Who are you screaming at?" Olivier would ask. "The idiots of the

"No. The honest men. These rascals are plying their trade: they lie, they
steal, they rob and murder. But it is the others--those who despise them
and yet let them go on--that I despise a thousand times more. If their
colleagues on the Press, if honest, cultured critics, and the artists on
whose backs these harlequins strut and poise themselves, did not put up
with it, in silence, from shyness or fear of compromising themselves, or
from some shameful anticipation of mutual service, a sort of secret pact
made with the enemy so that they may be immune from their attacks,--if they
did not let them preen themselves in their patronage and friendship, their
upstart power would soon be killed by ridicule. There's the same weakness
in everything, everywhere. I've met twenty honest men who have said to me
of so-and-so: 'He is a scoundrel.' But there is not one of them who would
not refer to him as his 'dear colleague,' and, if he met him, shake hands
with him.--'There are too many of them!' they say.--Too many cowards. Too
many flabby honest men."

"Eh! What do you want them to do?"

"Be every man his own policeman! What are you waiting for? For Heaven to
take your affairs in hand? Look you, at this very moment. It is three days
now since the snow fell. Your streets are thick with it, and your Paris is
like a sewer of mud. What do you do? You protest against your Municipal
Council for leaving you in such a state of filth. But do you yourselves do
anything to clear it away? Not a bit of it! You sit with your arms folded.
Not one of you has energy enough even to clean the pavement in front of
his house. Nobody does his duty, neither the State nor the members of the
State: each man thinks he has done as much as is expected of him by laying
the blame on some one else. You have become so used, through centuries of
monarchical training, to doing nothing for yourselves that you all seem to
spend your time in star-gazing and waiting for a miracle to happen. The
only miracle that could happen would be if you all suddenly made up your
minds to do something. My dear Olivier, you French people have plenty of
brains and plenty of good qualities: but you lack blood. You most of all.
There's nothing the matter with your mind or your heart. It's your life
that's all wrong. You're sputtering out."

"What can we do? We can only wait for life to return to us."

"You must want life to return to you. You must want to be cured. You must
_want_, use your will! And if you are to do that you must first let in some
pure air into your houses. If you won't go out of doors, then at least
you must keep your houses healthy. You have let the air be poisoned by
the unwholesome vapors of the market-place. Your art and your ideas are
two-thirds adulterated. And you are so dispirited that it hardly occasions
you any surprise, and rouses you to no sort of indignation. Some of these
good people--(it is pitiful to see)--are so cowed that they actually
persuade themselves that they are wrong and the charlatans are right.
Why--even on your _Ésope_ review, in which you profess not to be taken in
by anything,--I have found unhappy young men persuading themselves that
they love an art and ideas for which they have not a vestige of love. They
get drunk on it, without any sort of pleasure, simply because they are told
to do so: and they are dying of boredom--boredom with the monstrous lie of
the whole thing!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Christophe passed through these wavering and dispirited creatures like a
wind shaking the slumbering trees. He made no attempt to force them to his
way of thinking: he breathed into them energy enough to make them think for
themselves. He used to say:

"You are too humble. The grand enemy is neurasthenia, doubt. A man can and
must be tolerant and human. But no man may doubt what he believes to be
good and true. A man must believe in what he thinks. And he should maintain
what he believes. Whatever our powers may be, we have no right to forswear
them. The smallest creature in the world, like the greatest, has his duty.
And--(though he is not sufficiently conscious of it)--he has also a power.
Why should you think that your revolt will carry so little weight? A sturdy
upright conscience which dares assert itself is a mighty thing. More than
once during the last few years you have seen the State and public opinion
forced to reckon with the views of an honest man, who had no other weapons
but his own moral force, which, with constant courage and tenacity, he had
dared publicly to assert....

"And if you must go on asking what's the good of taking so much trouble,
what's the good of fighting, _what's the good of it all?_... Then, I will
tell you:--Because France is dying, because Europe is perishing--because,
if we did not fight, our civilization, the edifice so splendidly
constructed, at the cost of centuries of labor, by our humanity, would
crumble away. These are not idle words. The country is in danger, our
European mother-country,--and more than any, yours, your own native
country, France. Your apathy is killing her. Your silence is killing her.
Each of your energies as it dies, each of your ideas as it accepts and
surrenders, each of your good intentions as it ends in sterility, every
drop of your blood as it dries up, unused, in your veins, means death to
her.... Up! up! You must live! Or, if you must die, then you must die
fighting like men!"

       *       *       *       *       *

But the chief difficulty lay not in getting them to do something, but in
getting them to act together. There they were quite unmanageable. The best
of them were the most obstinate, as Christophe found in dealing with the
tenants in his own house: M. Félix Weil, Elsberger, the engineer, and
Commandant Chabran, lived on terms of polite and silent hostility. And yet,
though Christophe knew very little of them, he could see that, underneath
their party and racial labels, they all wanted the same thing.

There were many reasons particularly why M. Weil and the Commandant should
have understood each other. By one of those contrasts common to thoughtful
men, M. Weil, who never left his books and lived only in the life of the
mind, had a passion for all things military. "_We are all cranks_," said
the half-Jew Montaigne, applying to mankind in general what is perfectly
true of certain types of minds, like the type of which M. Weil was an
example. The old intellectual had the craze for Napoleon. He collected
books and relics which brought to life in him the terrible dream of the
Imperial epic. Like many Frenchmen of that crepuscular epoch, he was
dazzled by the distant rays of that glorious sun. He used to go through the
campaigns, fight the battles all over again, and discuss operations: he
was one of those chamber-strategists who swarm in the Academies and the
Universities, who explain Austerlitz and declare how Waterloo should have
been fought. He was the first to make fun of the "Napoleonite" in himself:
it tickled his irony: but none the less he went on reading the splendid
stories with the wild enthusiasm of a child playing a game: he would weep
over certain episodes: and when he realized that he had been weak enough to
shed tears, he would roar with laughter, and call himself an old fool. As a
matter of fact, he was a Napoleonite not so much from patriotism as from
a romantic interest and a platonic love of action. However, he was a good
patriot, and much more attached to France than many an actual Frenchman.
The French anti-Semites are stupid and actively mischievous in casting
their insulting suspicions on the feeling for France of the Jews who have
settled in the country. Outside the reasons by which any family does of
necessity, after a generation or two, become attached to the land of its
adoption, where the blood of the soil has become its own, the Jews have
especial reason to love the nation which in the West stands for the most
advanced ideas of intellectual and moral liberty. They love it because
for a hundred years they have helped to make it so, and its liberty is in
part their work. How, then, should they not defend it against every menace
of feudal reaction? To try--as a handful of unscrupulous politicians and
a herd of wrong-headed people would like--to break the bonds which bind
these Frenchmen by adoption to France, is to play into the hands of that

Commandant Chabran was one of those wrong-headed old Frenchmen who are
roused to fury by the newspapers, which make out that every immigrant
into France is a secret enemy, and, in a human, hospitable spirit, force
themselves to suspect and hate and revile them, and deny the brave destiny
of the race, which is the conflux of all the races. Therefore, he thought
it incumbent on him not to know the tenant of the first floor, although he
would have been glad to have his acquaintance. As for M. Weil, he would
have been very glad to talk to the old soldier: but he knew him for a
nationalist, and regarded him with mild contempt.

Christophe had much less reason than the Commandant for being interested in
M. Weil. But he could not bear to hear ill spoken of anybody unjustly. And
he broke many a lance in defence of M. Weil when he was attacked in his

One day, when the Commandant, as usual, was railing against the prevailing
state of things, Christophe said to him:

"It is your own fault. You all shut yourselves up inside yourselves. When
things in France are not going well, to your way of thinking, you submit to
it and send in your resignation. One would think it was a point of honor
with you to admit yourselves beaten. I've never seen anybody lose a cause
with such absolute delight. Come, Commandant, you have made war; is that
fighting, or anything like it?"

"It is not a question of fighting," replied the Commandant. "We don't fight
against France. In such struggles as these we have to argue, and vote, and
mix with all sorts of knaves and low blackguards: and I don't like it."

"You seem to be profoundly disgusted! I suppose you had to do with knaves
and low blackguards in Africa!"

"On my honor, that did not disgust me nearly so much. Out there one could
always knock them down! Besides, if it's a question of fighting, you need
soldiers. I had my sharpshooters out there. Here I am all alone."

"It isn't that there is any lack of good men."

"Where are they?"

"Everywhere. All round us."

"Well: what are they doing?"

"Just what you're doing. Nothing. They say there's nothing to be done."

"Give me an instance."

"Three, if you like, in this very house."

Christophe mentioned M. Weil,--(the Commandant gave an exclamation),--and
the Elsbergers,--(he jumped in his seat):

"That Jew? Those Dreyfusards?"

"Dreyfusards?" said Christophe. "Well: what does that matter?"

"It is they who have ruined France."

"They love France as much as you do."

"They're mad, mischievous lunatics."

"Can't you be just to your adversaries?"

"I can get on quite well with loyal adversaries who use the same weapons.
The proof of that is that I am here talking to you, Monsieur German. I can
think well of the Germans, although some day I hope to give them back with
interest the thrashing we got from them. But it is not the same thing with
our enemies at home: they use underhand weapons, sophistry, and unsound
ideas, and a poisonous humanitarianism...."

"Yes. You are in the same state of mind as that of the knights of the
Middle Ages, when, for the first time, they found themselves faced with
gunpowder. What do you want? There is evolution in war too."

"So be it. But then, let us be frank, and say that war is war."

"Suppose a common enemy were to threaten Europe, wouldn't you throw in your
lot with the Germans?"

"We did so, in China."

"Very well, then: look about you. Don't you see that the heroic idealism
of your country and every other country in Europe is actually threatened?
Don't you see that they are all, more or less, a prey to the adventurers of
every class of society? To fight that common enemy, don't you think you
should join with those of your adversaries who are of some worth and moral
vigor? How can a man like you set so little store by the realities of life?
Here are people who uphold an ideal which is different from your own! An
ideal is a force, you cannot deny it: in the struggle in which you were
recently engaged, it was your adversaries' ideal which defeated you.
Instead of wasting your strength in fighting against it, why not make use
of it, side by side with your own, against the enemies of all ideals, the
men who are exploiting your country and your wealth of ideas, the men who
are bringing European civilization to rottenness?"

"For whose sake? One must know where one is. To make our adversaries

"When you were in Africa, you never stopped to think whether you were
fighting for the King or the Republic. I fancy that not many of you ever
gave a thought to the Republic."

"They didn't care a rap."

"Good! And that was well for France. You conquered for her, as well as for
yourselves, and for the honor and the joy of it. Why not do the same here?
Why not widen the scope of the fight? Don't go haggling over differences in
politics and religion. These things are utterly futile. What does it matter
whether your nation is the eldest daughter of the Church or the eldest
daughter of Reason? The only thing that does matter is that it should
live! Everything that exalts life is good. There is only one enemy,
pleasure-seeking egoism, which fouls the sources of life and dries them up.
Exalt force, exalt the light, exalt fruitful love, the joy of sacrifice,
action, and give up expecting other people to act for you. Do, act,
combine! Come!..."

And he laughed and began to bang out the first bars of the march in _B
minor_ from the _Choral Symphony_.

"Do you know," he said, breaking off, "that if I were one of your
musicians, say Charpentier or Bruneau (devil take the two of them!),
I would combine in a choral symphony _Aux armes, citoyens!_,
_l'Internationale_, _Vive Henri IV_, and _Dieu Protège la France!_,--(You
see, something like this.)--I would make you a soup so hot that it would
burn your mouth! It would be unpleasant,--(no worse in any case than what
you are doing now):--but I vow it would warm your vitals, and that you
would have to set out on the march!"

And he roared with laughter.

The Commandant laughed too:

"You're a fine fellow, Monsieur Krafft. What a pity you're not one of us!"

"But I am one of you! The fight is the same everywhere. Let us close up the

The Commandant quite agreed: but there he stayed. Then Christophe pressed
his point and brought the conversation back to M. Weil and the Elsbergers.
And the old soldier no less obstinately went back to his eternal arguments
against Jews and Dreyfusards, and nothing that Christophe had said seemed
to have had the slightest effect on him.

Christophe grew despondent. Olivier said to him:

"Don't you worry about it. One man cannot all of a sudden change the whole
state of mind of a nation. That's too much to expect! But you have done a
good deal without knowing it."

"What have I done?" said Christophe.

"You are Christophe."

"What good is that to other people?"

"A great deal. Just go on being what you are, my dear Christophe. Don't you
worry about us."

But Christophe could not surrender. He went on arguing with Commandant
Chabran, sometimes with great vehemence. It amused Céline. She was
generally present at their discussions, sitting and working in silence. She
took no part in the argument: but it seemed to make her more lively: and
quite a different expression would come into her eyes: it was as though it
gave her more breathing-space. She began to read, and went out a little
more, and found more things to interest her. And one day, when Christophe
was battling with her father about the Elsbergers, the Commandant saw her
smile: he asked her what she was thinking, and she replied calmly:

"I think M. Krafft is right."

The Commandant was taken aback, and said:

"You ... you surprise me!... However, right or wrong, we are what we are.
And there's no reason why we should know these people. Isn't it so, my

"No, father," she replied. "I would like to know them."

The Commandant said nothing, and pretended that he had not heard. He
himself was much less insensible of Christophe's influence than he cared to
appear. His vehemence and narrow-mindedness did not prevent his having a
proper sense of justice and very generous feelings. He loved Christophe, he
loved his frankness and his moral soundness, and he used often bitterly to
regret that Christophe was a German. Although he always lost his temper in
these discussions, he was always eager for more, and Christophe's arguments
did produce an effect on him though he would never have been willing to
admit it. But one day Christophe found him absorbed in reading a book which
he would not let him see. And when Céline took Christophe to the door and
found herself alone with him, she said:

"Do you know what he was reading? One of M. Weil's books."

Christophe was delighted.

"What does he say about it?"

"He says: 'Beast!'... But he can't put it down."

Christophe made no allusion to the fact with the Commandant. It was he who

"Why have you stopped hurling that blessed Jew at my head?"

"Because I don't think there's any need to," said Christophe. "Why?" asked
the Commandant aggressively.

Christophe made no reply, and went away laughing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Olivier was right. It is not through words that a man can influence other
men: but through his life. There are people who irradiate an atmosphere
of peace from their eyes, and in their gestures, and through the silent
contact with the serenity of their souls. Christophe irradiated life.
Softly, softly, like the moist air of spring, it penetrated the walls and
the closed windows of the somnolent old house: it gave new life to the
hearts of men and women, whom sorrow, weakness, and isolation had for years
been consuming, so that they were withered and like dead creatures. What
a power there is in one soul over another! Those who wield that power and
those who feel it are alike ignorant of its working. And yet the life of
the world is in the ebb and flow controlled by that mysterious power of

On the second floor, below Christophe and Olivier's room, there lived,
as we have seen, a young woman of thirty-five, a Madame Germain, a widow
of two years' standing, who, the year before, had lost her little girl,
a child of seven. She lived with her mother-in-law, and they never saw
anybody. Of all the tenants of the house, they had the least to do with
Christophe. They had hardly met, and they had never spoken to each other.

She was a tall woman, thin, but with a good figure; she had fine brown
eyes, dull and rather inexpressive, though every now and then there glowed
in them a hard, mournful light. Her face was sallow and her complexion
waxy: her cheeks were hollow and her lips were tightly compressed. The
elder Madame Germain was a devout lady, and spent all her time at church.
The younger woman lived in jealous isolation in her grief. She took no
interest in anything or anybody. She surrounded herself with portraits and
pictures of her little girl, and by dint of staring at them she had ceased
to see her as she was: the photographs and dead presentments had killed the
living image of the child. She had ceased to see her as she was, but she
clung to it: she was determined to think of nothing but the child: and so,
in the end, she reached a point at which she could not even think of her:
she had completed the work of death. There she stopped, frozen, with her
heart turned to stone, with no tears to shed, with her life withered.
Religion was no aid to her. She went through the formalities, but her heart
was not in them, and therefore she had no living faith: she gave money for
Masses, but she took no active part in any of the work of the Church: her
whole religion was centered in the one thought of seeing her child again.
What did the rest matter? God? What had she to do with God? To see her
child again, only to see her again.... And she was by no means sure that
she would do so. She wished to believe it, willed it hardly, desperately:
but she was in doubt.... She could not bear to see other children, and used
to think:

"Why are they not dead too?"

In the neighborhood there was a little girl who in figure and manner was
like her own. When she saw her from behind, with her little pigtails down
her back, she used to tremble. She would follow her, and, when the child
turned round and she saw that it was not _she_, she would long to strangle
her. She used to complain that the Elsberger children made a noise
below her, though they were very quiet, and even very subdued by their
up-bringing: and when the unhappy children began to play about their
room, she would send her maid to ask her neighbors to make them be quiet.
Christophe met her once as he was coming in with the little girls, and was
hurt and horrified by the hard way in which she looked at them.

One summer evening when the poor woman was sitting in the dark in the
self-hypnotized condition of the utter emptiness of her living death, she
heard Christophe playing. It was his habit to sit at the piano in the
half-light, musing and improvising. His music irritated her, for it
disturbed the empty torpor into which she had sunk. She shut the window
angrily. The music penetrated through to her room. Madame Germain was
filled with a sort of hatred for it. She would have been glad to stop
Christophe, but she had no right to do so. Thereafter, every day at the
same time she sat waiting impatiently and irritably for the music to begin:
and when it was later than usual her irritation was only the more acute. In
spite of herself, she had to follow the music through to the end, and when
it was over she found it hard to sink back into her usual apathy.--And one
evening, when she was curled up in a corner of her dark room, and, through
the walls and the closed window, the distant music reached her, that
light-giving music ... she felt a thrill run through her, and once more
tears came to her eyes. She went and opened the window, and stood there
listening and weeping. The music was like rain drop by drop falling upon
her poor withered heart, and giving it new life. Once more she could see
the sky, the stars, the summer night: within herself she felt the dawning
of a new interest in life, as yet only a poor, pale light, vague and
sorrowful sympathy for others. And that night, for the first time for many
months, the image of her little girl came to her in her dreams.--For the
surest road to bring us near the beloved dead, the best means of seeing
them again, is not to go with them into death, but to live. They live in
our lives, and die with us.

She made no attempt to meet Christophe. Bather she avoided him. But she
used to hear him go by on the stairs with the children: and she would stand
in hiding behind her door to listen to their babyish prattle, which so
moved her heart.

One day, as she was going out, she heard their little padding footsteps
coming down the stairs, rather more noisily than usual, and the voice of
one of the children saying to her sister:

"Don't make so much noise, Lucette. Christophe says you mustn't because of
the sorrowful lady."

And the other child began to walk more quietly and to talk in a whisper.
Then Madame Germain could not restrain herself: she opened the door, and
took the children in her arms, and hugged them fiercely. They were afraid:
one of the children began to cry. She let them go, and went back into her
own room.

After that, whenever she met them, she used to try to smile at them, a poor
withered smile,--(for she had grown unused to smiling);--she would speak to
them awkwardly and affectionately, and the children would reply shyly in
timid, bashful whispers. They were still afraid of the sorrowful lady, more
afraid than ever: and now, whenever they passed the door, they used to run
lest she should come out and catch them. She used to hide to catch sight
of them as they passed. She would have been ashamed to be seen talking to
the children. She was ashamed in her own eyes. It seemed to her that she
was robbing her own dead child of some of the love to which she only was
entitled. She would kneel down and pray for her forgiveness. But now that
the instinct for life and love was newly awakened in her, she could not
resist it: it was stronger than herself.

One evening, as Christophe came in, he saw that there was an unusual
commotion in the house. He met a tradesman, who told him that the tenant
of the third floor, M. Watelet, had just died suddenly of angina pectoris.
Christophe was filled with pity, not so much for his unhappy neighbor as
for the child who was left alone in the world. M. Watelet was not known to
have any relations, and there was every reason to believe that he had left
the girl almost entirely unprovided for. Christophe raced upstairs, and
went into the flat on the third floor, the door of which was open. He
found the Abbé Corneille with the body, and the child in tears, crying
to her father: the housekeeper was making clumsy efforts to console her.
Christophe took the child in his arms and spoke to her tenderly. She clung
to him desperately: he could not think of leaving her: he wanted to take
her away, but she would not let him. He stayed with her. He sat near the
window in the dying light of day, and went on rocking her in his arms and
speaking to her softly. The child gradually grew calmer, and went to sleep,
still sobbing. Christophe laid her on her bed, and tried awkwardly to
undress her and undo the laces of her little shoes. It was nightfall. The
door of the flat had been left open. A shadow entered with a rustling of
skirts. In the fading light Christophe recognized the fevered eyes of the
sorrowful lady. He was amazed. She stood by the door, and said thickly:

"I came.... Will you ... will you let me take her?"

Christophe took her hand and pressed it. Madame Germain was in tears. Then
she sat by the bedside. And, a moment later, she said:

"Let me stay with her...."

Christophe went up to his own room with the Abbé Corneille. The priest was
a little embarrassed, and begged Ms pardon for coming up. He hoped, he
said, humbly, that the dead man would have nothing to reproach him with: he
had gone, not as a priest, but as a friend. Christophe was too much moved
to speak, and left him with an affectionate shake of the hand.

Next morning, when Christophe went down, he found the child with her arms
round Madame Germain's neck, with the naïve confidence which makes children
surrender absolutely to those who have won their affection. She was glad to
go with her new friend.... Alas! she had soon forgotten her adopted father.
She showed just the same affection for her new mother. That was not very
comforting. Did Madame Germain, in the egoism of her love, see it?...
Perhaps. But what did it matter? The thing is to love. That way lies

A few weeks after the funeral Madame Germain took the child into the
country, far away from Paris. Christophe and Olivier saw them off. The
woman had an expression of contentment and secret joy which they had never
known in her before. She paid no attention to them. However, just as they
were going, she noticed Christophe, and held out her hand, and said:

"It was you who saved me."

"What's the matter with the woman?" asked Christophe in amazement, as they
were going upstairs after her departure.

A few days later the post brought him a photograph of a little girl whom he
did not know, sitting on a stool, with her little hands sagely folded in
her lap, while she looked up at him with clear, sad eyes. Beneath it were
written these words:

"With thanks from my dear, dead child."

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus it was that the breath of life passed into all these people. In the
attic on the fifth floor was a great and mighty flame of humanity, the
warmth and light of which were slowly filtered through the house.

But Christophe saw it not. To him the process was very slow.

"Ah!" he would sigh, "if one could only bring these good people together,
all these people of all classes and every kind of belief, who refuse to
know each other! Can't it be done?"

"What do you want?" said Olivier. "You would need to have mutual tolerance
and a power of sympathy which can only come from inward joy,--the joy of a
healthy, normal, harmonious existence,--the joy of having a useful outlet
for one's activity, of feeling that one's efforts are not wasted, and that
one is serving some great purpose. You would need to have a prosperous
country, a nation at the height of greatness, or--(better still)--on the
road to greatness. And you must also have--(the two things go together)--a
power which could employ all the nation's energies, an intelligent and
strong power, which would be above party. Now, there is no power above
party save that which finds its strength in itself--not in the multitude,
that power which seeks not the support of anarchical majorities,--as it
does nowadays when it is no more than a well-trained dog in the hands
of second-rate men, and bends all to its will by service rendered: the
victorious general, the dictatorship of Public Safety, the supremacy of the
intelligence... what you will. It does not depend on us. You must have the
opportunity and the men capable of seizing it: you must have happiness and
genius. Let us wait and hope! The forces are there: the forces of faith,
knowledge, work, old France and new France, and the greater France.... What
an upheaval it would be, if the word were spoken, the magic word which
should let loose these forces all together! Of course, neither you nor I
can say the word. Who will say it? Victory? Glory?... Patience! The chief
thing is for the strength of the nation to be gathered together, and not
to rust away, and not to lose heart before the time comes. Happiness and
genius only come to those peoples who have earned them by ages of stoic
patience, and labor, and faith."

"Who knows?" said Christophe. "They often come sooner than we think--just
when we expect them least. You are counting too much on the work of ages.
Make ready. Gird your loins. Always be prepared with your shoes on your
feet and your staff in your hand.... For you do not know that the Lord will
not pass your doors this very night."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Lord came very near that night. His shadow fell upon the threshold of
the house.

       *       *       *       *       *

Following on a sequence of apparently insignificant events, relations
between France and Germany suddenly became strained: and, in a few days,
the usual neighborly attitude of banal courtesy passed into the provocative
mood which precedes war. There was nothing surprising in this, except to
those who were living under the illusion that the world is governed by
reason. But there were many such in France: and numbers of people were
amazed from day to day to see the vehement Gallophobia of the German
Press becoming rampant with the usual quasi-unanimity. Certain of those
newspapers which, in the two countries, arrogate to themselves a monopoly
of patriotism, and speak in the nation's name, and dictate to the State,
sometimes with the secret complicity of the State, the policy it should
follow, launched forth insulting ultimatums to France. There was a dispute
between Germany and England; and Germany did not admit the right of France
not to interfere: the insolent newspapers called upon her to declare for
Germany, or else threatened to make her pay the chief expenses of the war:
they presumed that they could wrest alliance from her fears, and already
regarded her as a conquered and contented vassal,--to be frank, like
Austria. It only showed the insane vanity of German Imperialism, drunk with
victory, and the absolute incapacity of German statesmen to understand
other races, so that they were always applying the simple common measure
which was law for themselves: Force, the supreme reason. Naturally, such a
brutal demand, made of an ancient nation, rich in its past ages of a glory
and a supremacy in Europe, such as Germany had never known, had had exactly
the opposite effect to that which Germany expected. It had provoked their
slumbering pride; France was shaken from top to base; and even the most
diffident of the French roared with anger.

The great mass of the German people had nothing at all to do with the
provocation: they were shocked by it: the honest men of every country
ask only to be allowed to live in peace: and the people of Germany are
particularly peaceful, affectionate, anxious to be on good terms with
everybody, and much more inclined to admire and emulate other nations than
to go to war with them. But the honest men of a nation are not asked for
their opinion: and they are not bold enough to give it. Those who are not
virile enough to take public action are inevitably condemned to be its
pawns. They are the magnificent and unthinking echo which casts back the
snarling cries of the Press and the defiance of their leaders, and swells
them into the _Marseillaise_, or the _Wacht am Rhein_.

It was a terrible blow to Christophe and Olivier. They were so used to
living in mutual love that they could not understand why their countries
did not do the same. Neither of them could grasp the reasons for the
persistent hostility, which was now so suddenly brought to the surface,
especially Christophe, who, being a German, had no sort of ground for
ill-feeling against the people whom his own people had conquered.
Although he himself was shocked by the intolerable vanity of some of his
fellow-countrymen, and, up to a certain point, was entirely with the French
against such a high-handed Brunswicker demand, he could not understand
why France should, after all, be unwilling to enter into an alliance with
Germany. The two countries seemed to him to have so many deep-seated
reasons for being united, so many ideas in common, and such great tasks to
accomplish together, that it annoyed him to see them persisting in their
wasteful, sterile ill-feeling. Like all Germans, he regarded France as the
most to blame for the misunderstanding: for, though he was quite ready to
admit that it was painful for her to sit still under the memory of her
defeat, yet that was, after all, only a matter of vanity, which should be
set aside in the higher interests of civilization and of France herself.
He had never taken the trouble to think out the problem of Alsace and
Lorraine. At school he had been taught to regard the annexation of those
countries as an act of justice, by which, after centuries of foreign
subjection, a German province had been restored to the German flag. And so,
he was brought down with a run, and he discovered that his friend regarded
the annexation as a crime. He had never even spoken to him about these
things, so convinced was he that they were of the same opinion: and now he
found Olivier, of whose good faith and broad-mindedness he was certain,
telling him, dispassionately, without anger and with profound sadness, that
it was possible for a great people to renounce the thought of vengeance for
such a crime, but quite impossible for them to subscribe to it without

They had great difficulty in understanding each other. Olivier's historical
argument, alleging the right of France to claim Alsace as a Latin country,
made no impression on Christophe: there were just as good arguments to the
contrary: history can provide politics with every sort of argument in every
sort of cause. Christophe was much more accessible to the human, and not
only French, aspect of the problem. Whether the Alsatians were or were not
Germans was not the question. They did not wish to be Germans: and that
was all that mattered. What nation has the right to say: "These people are
mine: for they are my brothers"? If the brothers in question renounce that
nation, though they be a thousand times in the wrong, the consequences of
the breach must always be borne by the party who has failed to win the
love of the other, and therefore has lost the right to presume to bind the
other's fortunes up with his own. After forty years of strained relations,
vexations, patent or disguised, and even of real advantage gained from the
exact and intelligent administration of Germany, the Alsatians persist in
their refusal to become Germans: and, though they might give in from sheer
exhaustion, nothing could ever wipe out the memory of the sufferings of the
generations, forced to live in exile from their native land, or, what is
even more pitiful, unable to leave it, and compelled to bend under a yoke
which was hateful to them, and to submit to the seizure of their country
and the slavery of their people.

Christophe naïvely confessed that he had never seen the matter in that
light: and he was considerably perturbed by it. And honest Germans always
bring to a discussion an integrity which does not always go with the
passionate self-esteem of a Latin, however sincere he may be. It never
occurred to Christophe to support his argument by the citation of similar
crimes perpetrated by all nations all through the history of the world. He
was too proud to fall back upon any such humiliating excuse: he knew that,
as humanity advances, its crimes become more odious, for they stand in a
clearer light. But he knew also that if France were victorious in her turn
she would be no more moderate in the hour of victory than Germany had been,
and that yet another link would be added to the chain of the crimes of the
nations. So the tragic conflict would drag on for ever, in which the best
elements of European civilization were in danger of being lost.

Though the subject was terribly painful for Christophe, it was even more so
for Olivier. It meant for him, not only the sorrow of a great fratricidal
struggle between the two nations best fitted for alliance together. In
France the nation was divided, and one faction was preparing to fight the
other. For years pacific and anti-militarist doctrines had been spread and
propagated both by the noblest and the vilest elements of the nation. The
Government had for a long time held aloof, with the weak-kneed dilettantism
with which it handled everything which did not concern the immediate
interests of the politicians: and it never occurred to it that it might
be less dangerous frankly to maintain the most dangerous doctrines than
to leave them free to creep into the veins of the people and ruin their
capacity for war, while armaments were being prepared. These doctrines
appealed to the Free Thinkers who were dreaming of founding a European
brotherhood, working all together to make the world more just and human.
They appealed also to the selfish cowardice of the rabble, who were
unwilling to endanger their skins for anything or anybody.--These ideas had
been taken up by Olivier and many of his friends. Once or twice, in his
rooms, Christophe had been present at discussions which had amazed him. His
friend Mooch, who was stuffed full of humanitarian illusions, used to say,
with eyes blazing, quite calmly, that war must be abolished, and that the
best way of setting about it was to incite the soldiers to mutiny, and, if
necessary, to shoot down their leaders: and he would insist that it was
bound to succeed. Elie Elsberger would reply, coldly and vehemently, that,
if war were to break out, he and his friends would not set out for the
frontier before they had settled their account with the enemy at home.
André Elsberger would take Mooch's part.... One day Christophe came in for
a terrible scene between the two brothers. They threatened to shoot each
other. Although their bloodthirsty words were spoken in a bantering tone,
he had a feeling that neither of them had uttered a single threat which he
was not prepared to put into action. Christophe was amazed when he thought
of a race of men so absurd as to be always ready to commit suicide for the
sake of ideas.... Madmen. Crazy logicians. And yet they are good men. Each
man sees only his own ideas, and wishes to follow them through to the end,
without turning aside by a hair's breadth. And it is all quite useless: for
they crush each other out of existence. The humanitarians wage war on the
patriots. The patriots wage war on the humanitarians. And meanwhile the
enemy comes and destroys both country and humanity in one swoop.

"But tell me," Christophe would ask André Elsberger, "are you in touch with
the proletarians of the rest of the nations?"

"Some one has to begin. And we are the people to do it. We have always been
the first. It is for us to give the signal!"

"And suppose the others won't follow!"

"They will."

"Have you made treaties, and drawn up a plan?"

"What's the good of treaties? Our force is superior to diplomacy."

"It is not a question of ideas: it's a question of strategy. If you are
going to destroy war, you must borrow the methods of war. Draw up your plan
of campaign in the two countries. Arrange that on such and such a date in
France and Germany your allied troops shall take such and such a step. But,
if you go to work without a plan, how can you expect any good to come of
it? With chance on the one hand, and tremendous organized forces on the
other--the result would never be in doubt: you would be crushed out of

André Elsberger did not listen. He shrugged his shoulders and took refuge
in vague threats: a handful of sand, he said, was enough to smash the whole
machine, if it were dropped into the right place in the gears.

But it is one thing to discuss at leisure, theoretically, and quite another
to have to put one's ideas into practice, especially when one has to make
up one's mind quickly.... Those are frightful moments when the great tide
surges through the depths of the hearts of men! They thought they were free
and masters of their thoughts! But now, in spite of themselves, they are
conscious of being dragged onwards, onwards.... An obscure power of will is
set against their will. Then they discover that it is not they who exist
in reality, not they, but that unknown Force, whose laws govern the whole
ocean of humanity....

Men of the firmest intelligence, men the most secure in their faith, now
saw it dissolve at the first puff of reality, and stood turning this way
and that, not daring to make up their minds, and often, to their immense
surprise, deciding upon a course of action entirely different from any
that they had foreseen. Some of the most eager to abolish war suddenly
felt a vigorous passionate pride in their country leap into being in their
hearts. Christophe found Socialists, and even revolutionary syndicalists,
absolutely bowled over by their passionate pride in a duty utterly foreign
to their temper. At the very beginning of the upheaval, when as yet
he hardly believed that the affair could be serious, he said to André
Elsberger, with his usual German want of tact, that now was the moment to
apply his theories, unless he wanted Germany to take France. André fumed,
and replied angrily:

"Just you try!... Swine, you haven't even guts enough to muzzle your
Emperor and shake off the yoke, in spite of your thrice-blessed Socialist
Party, with its four hundred thousand members and its three million
electors. We'll do it for you! Take us? We'll take you...."

And as they were held on and on in suspense, they grew restless and
feverish. André was in torment. He knew that his faith was true, and yet
he could not defend it! He felt that he was infected by the moral epidemic
which spreads among the people of a nation the collective insanity of their
ideas, the terrible spirit of war! It attacked everybody about Christophe,
and even Christophe himself. They were no longer on speaking terms, and
kept themselves to themselves.

But it was impossible to endure such suspense for long. The wind of action
willy-nilly sifted the waverers into one group or another. And one day,
when it seemed that they must be on the eve of the ultimatum,--when, in
both countries, the springs of action were taut, ready for slaughter,
Christophe saw that everybody, including the people in his own house, had
made up their minds. Every kind of party was instinctively rallied round
the detested or despised Government which represented France. Not only
the honest men of the various parties: but the esthetes, the masters of
depraved art, took to interpolating professions of patriotic faith in their
work. The Jews were talking of defending the soil of their ancestors. At
the mere mention of the flag tears came to Hamilton's eyes. And they were
all sincere: they were all victims of the contagion. André Elsberger and
his syndicalist friends, just as much as the rest, and even more: for,
being crushed by necessity and pledged to a party that they detested, they
submitted with a grim fury and a stormy pessimism which made them crazy for
action. Aubert, the artisan, torn between his cultivated humanitarianism
and his instinctive chauvinism, was almost beside himself. After many
sleepless nights he had at last found a formula which could accommodate
everything: that France was synonymous with Humanity. Thereafter he never
spoke to Christophe. Almost all the people in the house had closed their
doors to him. Even the good Arnauds never invited him. They went on playing
music and surrounding themselves with art; they tried to forget the general
obsession. But they could not help thinking of it. When either of them
alone happened to meet Christophe alone, he or she would shake hands
warmly, but hurriedly and furtively. And if, the very same day, Christophe
met them together, they would pass him by with a frigid bow. On the
other hand, people who had not spoken to each other for years now rushed
together. One evening Olivier beckoned to Christophe to go near the window,
and, without a word, he pointed to the Elsbergers talking to Commandant
Chabran in the garden below.

Christophe had no time to be surprised at such a revolution in the minds of
his friends. He was too much occupied with his own mind, in which there had
been an upheaval, the consequences of which he could not master. Olivier
was much calmer than he, though he had much more reason to be upset. Of
all Christophe's acquaintance, he seemed to be the only one to escape the
contagion. Though he was oppressed by the anxious waiting for the outbreak
of war, and the dread of schism at home, which he saw must happen in spite
of everything, he knew the greatness of the two hostile faiths which sooner
or later would come to grips: he knew also that it is the part of France to
be the experimental ground in human progress, and that all new ideas need
to be watered with her blood before they can come to flower. For his own
part, he refused to take part in the skirmish. While the civilized nations
were cutting each other's throats he was fain to repeat the device of
Antigone: "_I am made for love, and not for hate_."--For love and for
understanding, which is another form of love. His fondness for Christophe
was enough to make his duty plain to him. At a time when millions of human
beings were on the brink of hatred, he felt that the duty and happiness of
friends like himself and Christophe was to love each other, and to keep
their reason uncontaminated by the general upheaval. He remembered how
Goethe had refused to associate himself with the liberation movement of
1813, when hatred sent Germany to march out against France.

Christophe felt the same: and yet he was not easy in his mind. He who in a
way had deserted Germany, and could not return thither, he who had been fed
with the European ideas of the great Germans of the eighteenth century, so
dear to his old friend Schulz, and detested the militarist and commercial
spirit of New Germany, now found himself the prey of gusty passions: and he
did not know whither they would lead him. He did not tell Olivier, but he
spent his days in agony, longing for news. Secretly he put his affairs in
order and packed his trunk. He did not reason the thing out. It was too
strong for him. Olivier watched him anxiously, and guessed the struggle
which was going on in his friend's mind: and he dared not question him.
They felt that they were impelled to draw closer to each other than ever,
and they loved each other more: but they were afraid to speak: they
trembled lest they should discover some difference of thought which might
come between them and divide them, as their old misunderstanding had done.
Often their eyes would meet with an expression of tender anxiety, as
though they were on the eve of parting for ever. And they were silent and

       *       *       *       *       *

But still on the roof of the house that was being built on the other side
of the yard, all through those days of gloom, with the rain beating down on
them, the workmen were putting the finishing touches: and Christophe's
friend, the loquacious slater, laughed and shouted across:

"There! The house is finished!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Happily, the storm passed as quickly as it had come. The chancelleries
published bulletins announcing the return of fair weather, barometrically
as it were. The howling dogs of the Press were despatched to their kennels.
In a few hours the tension was relieved. It was a summer evening, and
Christophe had rushed in breathless to convey the good news to Olivier. He
was happy, and could breathe again. Olivier looked at him with a little sad
smile. And he dared not ask him the question that lay next his heart. He

"Well: you have seen them all united, all these people who could not
understand each other."

"Yes," said Christophe good-humoredly, "I have seen them united. You're
such humbugs! You all cry out upon each other, but at bottom you're all of
the same mind."

"You seem to be glad of it," remarked Olivier.

"Why not? Because they were united at my expense?... Bah! I'm strong enough
for that ... Besides, it's a fine thing to feel the mighty torrent rushing
you along, and the demons that were let loose in your hearts...."

"They terrify me," said Olivier. "I would rather have eternal solitude than
have my people united at such a cost."

They relapsed into silence: and neither of them dared approach the subject
which was troubling them. At last Olivier pulled himself together, and, in
a choking voice, said:

"Tell me frankly, Christophe: you were going away?"

Christophe replied:


Olivier was sure that he would say it. And yet his heart ached for it. He

"Tell me, Christophe: could you ... could you ...?"

Christophe drew his hand over his forehead and said:

"Don't let's talk of it. I don't like to think of it."

Olivier went on sorrowfully:

"You would have fought against us?"

"I don't know. I never thought about it."

"But, in your heart, you had decided?"

Christophe said:


"Against me?"

"Never against you. You are mine. Where I am, you are too."

"But against my country?"

"For my country."

"It is a terrible thing," said Olivier. "I love my country, as you do. I
love France: but could I slay my soul for her? Could I betray my conscience
for her? That would be to betray her. How could I hate, having no hatred,
or, without being guilty of a lie, assume a hatred that I did not feel? The
modern State was guilty of a monstrous crime--a crime which will prove its
undoing--when it presumed to impose its brazen laws on the free Church of
those spirits the very essence of whose being is to love and understand.
Let Cæsar be Cæsar, but let him not assume the Godhead! Let him take our
money and our lives: over our souls he has no rights: he shall not stain
them with blood. We are in this world to give it light, not to darken it:
let each man fulfil his duty! If Cæsar desires war, then let Cæsar have
armies for that purpose, armies as they were in olden times, armies of
men whose trade is war! I am not so foolish as to waste my time in vainly
moaning and groaning in protest against force. But I am not a soldier in
the army of force. I am a soldier in the army of the spirit: with thousands
of other men who are my brothers-in-arms I represent France in that army.
Let Cæsar conquer the world if he will! We march to the conquest of truth."

"To conquer," said Christophe, "you must vanquish, you must live. Truth is
no hard dogma, secreted by the brain, like a stalactite by the walls of
a cave. Truth is life. It is not to be found in your own head, but to be
sought for in the hearts of others. Attach yourself to them, be one with
them. Think as much as you like, but do you every day take a bath of
humanity. You must live in the life of others and love and bow to destiny."

"It is our fate to be what we are. It does not depend on us whether we
shall or shall not think certain things, even though they be dangerous. We
have reached such a pitch of civilization that we cannot turn back."

"Yes, you have reached the farthest limit of the plateau of civilization,
that dizzy height to which no nation can climb without feeling an
irresistible desire to fling itself down. Religion and instinct are
weakened in you. You have nothing left but intelligence. You are machines
grinding out philosophy. Death comes rushing in upon you."

"Death comes to every nation: it is a matter of centuries."

"Have done with your centuries! The whole of life is a matter of days and
hours. If you weren't such an infernally metaphysical lot, you'd never
go shuffling over into the absolute, instead of seizing and holding the
passing moment."

"What do you want? The flame burns the torch away. You can't both live and
have lived, my dear Christophe."

"You must live."

"It is a great thing to have been great."

"It is only a great thing when there are still men who are alive enough and
great enough to appreciate it."

"Wouldn't you much rather have been the Greeks, who are dead, than any of
the people who are vegetating nowadays?"

"I'd much rather be myself, Christophe, and very much alive."

Olivier gave up the argument. It was not that he was without an answer.
But it did not interest him. All through the discussion he had only been
thinking of Christophe. He said, with a sigh:

"You love me less than I love you."

Christophe took his hand and pressed it tenderly:

"Dear Olivier," he said, "I love you more than my life. But you must
forgive me if I do not love you more than Life, the sun of our two races. I
have a horror of the night into which your false progress drags me. All
your sentiments of renunciation are only the covering of the same Buddhist
Nirvana. Only action is living, even when it brings death. In this world
we can only choose between the devouring flame and night. In spite of the
sad sweetness of dreams in the hour of twilight, I have no desire for that
peace which is the forerunner of death. The silence of infinite space
terrifies me. Heap more fagots upon the fire! More! And yet more! Myself
too, if needs must. I will not let the fire dwindle. If it dies down, there
is an end of us, an end of everything."

"What you say is old," said Olivier; "it comes from the depths of the
barbarous past."

He took down from his shelves a book of Hindoo poetry, and read the sublime
apostrophe of the God Krishna:

"_Arise, and fight with a resolute heart. Setting no store by pleasure or
pain, or gain or loss, or victory or defeat, fight with all thy might...._"

Christophe snatched the book from his hands and read:

"_... I have nothing in the world to bid me toil: there is nothing that is
not mine: and yet I cease not from my labor. If I did not act, without a
truce and without relief, setting an example for men to follow, all men
would perish. If for a moment I were to cease from my labors, I should
plunge the world in chaos, and I should he the destroyer of life._"

"Life," repeated Olivier,--"what is life?"

"A tragedy," said Christophe. "Hurrah!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The panic died down. Every one hastened to forget, with a hidden fear in
their hearts. No one seemed to remember what had happened. And yet it was
plain that it was still in their thoughts, from the joy with which they
resumed their lives, the pleasant life from day to day, which is never
truly valued until it is endangered. As usual when danger is past, they
gulped it down with renewed avidity.

Christophe flung himself into creative work with tenfold vigor. He dragged
Olivier after him. In reaction against their recent gloomy thoughts they
had begun to collaborate in a Rabelaisian epic. It was colored by that
broad materialism which follows on periods of moral stress. To the
legendary heroes--Gargantua, Friar John, Panurge--Olivier had added, on
Christophe's inspiration, a new character, a peasant, Jacques Patience,
simple, cunning, sly, resigned, who was the butt of the others, putting up
with it when he was thrashed and robbed,--putting up with it when they made
love to his wife, and laid waste his fields,--tirelessly putting his house
in order and cultivating his land,--forced to follow the others to war,
bearing the burden of the baggage, coming in for all the kicks, and still
putting up with it,--waiting, laughing at the exploits of his masters and
the thrashings they gave him, and saying, "They can't go on for ever,"
foreseeing their ultimate downfall, looking out for it out of the corner of
his eye, and silently laughing at the thought of it, with his great mouth
agape. One fine day it turned out that Gargantua and Friar John were
drowned while they were away on a crusade. Patience honestly regretted
their loss, merrily took heart of grace, saved Panurge, who was drowning
also, and said:

"I know that you will go on playing your tricks on me: you don't take me
in: but I can't do without you: you drive away the spleen, and make me

Christophe set the poem to music with great symphonic pictures, with soli
and chorus, mock-heroic battles, riotous country fairs, vocal buffooneries,
madrigals à la Jannequin, with tremendous childlike glee, a storm at sea,
the Island of Bells, and, finally, a pastoral symphony, full of the air
of the fields, and the blithe serenity of the flutes and oboes, and the
clean-souled folk-songs of Old France.--The friends worked away with
boundless delight. The weakly Olivier, with his pale cheeks, found new
health in Christophe's health. Gusts of wind blew through their garret. The
very intoxication of Joy! To be working together, heart to heart with one's
friend! The embrace of two lovers is not sweeter or more ardent than such
a yoking together of two kindred souls. They were so near in sympathy
that often the same ideas would flash upon them at the same moment. Or
Christophe would write the music for a scene for which Olivier would
immediately find words. Christophe impetuously dragged Olivier along in his
wake. His mind swamped that of his friend, and made it fruitful.

The joy of creation was enhanced by that of success. Hecht had just made up
his mind to publish the _David_: and the score, well launched, had had an
instantaneous success abroad. A great Wagnerian _Kapellmeister_, a friend
of Hecht's, who had settled in England, was enthusiastic about it: he had
given it at several of his concerts with considerable success, which,
with the _Kapellmeister's_ enthusiasm, had carried it over to Germany,
where also the _David_ had been played. The _Kapellmeister_ had entered
into correspondence with Christophe, and had asked him for more of his
compositions, offered to do anything he could to help him, and was engaged
in ardent propaganda in his cause. In Germany, the _Iphigenia_, which
had originally been hissed, was unearthed, and it was hailed as a work
of genius. Certain facts in Christophe's life, being of a romantic
nature, contributed not a little to the spurring of public interest. The
_Frankfurter Zeitung_ was the first to publish an enthusiastic article.
Others followed. Then, in France, a few people began to be aware that they
had a great musician in their midst. One of the Parisian conductors asked
Christophe for his Rabelaisian epic before it was finished: and Goujart,
perceiving his approaching fame, began to speak mysteriously of a friend
of his who was a genius, and had been discovered by himself. He wrote a
laudatory article about the admirable _David_,--entirely forgetting that
only the year before he had decried it in a short notice of a few lines.
Nobody else remembered it either or seemed to be in the least astonished
at his sudden change. There are so many people in Paris who are now loud
in their praises of Wagner and César Franck, where formerly they roundly
abused them, and actually use the fame of these men to crush those new
artists whom to-morrow they will be lauding to the skies!

Christophe did not set any great store on his success. He knew that he
would one day win through: but he had not thought that the day could be so
near at hand: and he was distrustful of so rapid a triumph. He shrugged
his shoulders, and said that he wanted to be left alone. He could have
understood people applauding the _David_ the year before, when he wrote it:
but now he was so far beyond it; he had climbed higher. He was inclined to
say to the people who came and talked about his old work:

"Don't worry me with that stuff. It disgusts me. So do you." And he plunged
into his new work again, rather annoyed at having been disturbed. However,
he did feel a certain secret satisfaction. The first rays of the light of
fame are very sweet. It is good, it is healthy, to conquer. It is like
the open window and the first sweet scents of the spring coming into a
house.--Christophe's contempt for his old work was of no avail, especially
with regard to the _Iphigenia_: there was a certain amount of atonement for
him in seeing that unhappy production, which had originally brought him
only humiliation, belauded by the German critics, and in great request
with the theaters, as he learned from a letter from Dresden, in which the
directors stated that they would be glad to produce the piece during their
next season.

       *       *       *       *       *

The very day when Christophe received the news, which, after years of
struggling, at last opened up a calmer horizon, with victory in the
distance, he had another letter from Germany.

It was in the afternoon. He was washing his face and talking gaily to
Olivier in the next room, when the housekeeper slipped an envelope under
the door. His mother's writing.... He had been just on the point of writing
to her, and was happy at the thought of being able to tell her of his
success, which would give her so much pleasure. He opened the letter. There
were only a few lines. How shaky the writing was!

  _"My dear boy, I am not very well. If it were possible, I
  should like to see you again. Love.

Christophe gave a groan. Olivier, who was working in the next room, ran to
him in alarm. Christophe could not speak, and pointed to the letter on the
table. He went on groaning, and did not listen to what Olivier said, who
took in the letter at a glance, and tried to comfort him. He rushed to his
bed, where he had laid his coat, dressed hurriedly, and without waiting to
fasten his collar,--(his hands were trembling too much)--went out. Olivier
caught him up on the stairs: what was he going to do? Go by the first
train? There wasn't one until the evening. It was much better to wait there
than at the station. Had he enough money?--They rummaged through their
pockets, and when they counted all that they possessed between them, it
only amounted to thirty francs. It was September. Hecht, the Arnauds, all
their friends, were out of Paris. They had no one to turn to. Christophe
was beside himself, and talked of going part of the way on foot. Olivier
begged him to wait for an hour, and promised to procure the money somehow.
Christophe submitted: he was incapable of a single idea himself. Olivier
ran to the pawnshop: it was the first time he had been there: for his own
sake, he would much rather have been left with nothing than pledge any of
his possessions, which were all associated with some precious memory: but
it was for Christophe, and there was no time to lose. He pawned his watch,
for which he was advanced a sum much smaller than he had expected. He
had to go home again and fetch some of his books, and take them to a
bookseller. It was a great grief to him, but at the time he hardly thought
of it: his mind could grasp nothing but Christophe's trouble. He returned,
and found Christophe just where he had left him, sitting by his desk, in
a state of collapse. With their thirty francs the sum that Olivier had
collected was more than enough. Christophe was too upset to think of asking
his friend how he had come by it, or whether he had kept enough to live
on during his absence. Olivier did not think of it either: he had given
Christophe all he possessed. He had to look after Christophe, just like a
child, until it was time for him to go. He took him to the station, and
never left him until the train began to move.

In the darkness into which he was rushing Christophe sat wide-eyed, staring
straight in front of him and thinking:

"Shall I be in time?"

He knew that his mother must have been unable to wait for her to write to
him. And in his fevered anxiety he was impatient of the jolting speed of
the express. He reproached himself bitterly for having left Louisa. And
at the same time he felt how vain were his reproaches: he had no power to
change the course of events.

However, the monotonous rocking of the wheels and springs of the carriage
soothed him gradually, and took possession of his mind, like tossing waves
of music dammed back by a mighty rhythm. He lived through all his past
life again from the far-distant days of his childhood: loves, hopes,
disillusion, sorrows,--and that exultant force, that intoxication of
suffering, enjoying, and creating, that delight in blotting out the light
of life and its sublime shadows, which was the soul of his soul, the living
breath of the God within him. Now as he looked back on it all was clear.
His tumultuous desires, his uneasy thoughts, his faults, mistakes, and
headlong struggles, now seemed to him to be the eddy and swirl borne on
by the great current of life towards its eternal goal. He discovered the
profound meaning of those years of trial: each test was a barrier which was
burst by the gathering waters of the river, a passage from a narrow to a
wider valley, which the river would soon fill: always he came to a wider
view and a freer air. Between the rising ground of France and the German
plain the river had carved its way, not without many a struggle, flooding
the meadows, eating away the base of the hills, gathering and absorbing
all the waters of the two countries. So it flowed between them, not to
divide, but to unite them: in it they were wedded. And for the first time
Christophe became conscious of his destiny, which was to carry through the
hostile peoples, like an artery, all the forces of life of the two sides of
the river.--A strange serenity, a sudden calm and clarity, came over him,
as sometimes happens in the darkest hours.... Then the vision faded, and he
saw nothing but the tender, sorrowful face of his old mother.

It was hardly dawn when he reached the little German town. He had to take
care not to be recognized, for there was still a warrant of arrest out
against him. But nobody at the station took any notice of him: the town was
asleep: the houses were shut up and the streets deserted: it was the gray
hour when the lights of the night are put out and the light of day is not
yet come,--the hour when sleep is sweetest and dreams are lit with the pale
light of the east. A little servant-girl was taking down the shutters of
a shop and singing an old German folk-song. Christophe almost choked with
emotion. O Fatherland! Beloved!... He was fain to kiss the earth as he
heard the humble song that set his heart aching in his breast; he felt how
unhappy he had been away from his country, and how much he loved it.... He
walked on, holding his breath. When he saw his old house he was obliged
to stop and put his hand to his lips to keep himself from crying out. How
would he find his mother, his mother whom he had deserted?... He took a
long breath and almost ran to the door. It was ajar. He pushed it open. No
one there ... The old wooden staircase creaked under his footsteps. He went
up to the top floor. The house seemed to be empty. The door of his mother's
room was shut.

Christophe's heart thumped as he laid his hand on the doorknob. And he had
not the strength to open it....

       *       *       *       *       *

Louisa was alone, in bed, feeling that the end was near. Of her two other
sons, Rodolphe, the business man, had settled in Hamburg, the other,
Ernest, had emigrated to America, and no one knew what had become of him.
There was no one to attend to her except a woman in the house, who came
twice a day to see if Louisa wanted anything, stayed for a few minutes, and
then went about her business: she was not very punctual, and was often late
in coming. To Louisa it seemed quite natural that she should be forgotten,
as it seemed to her quite natural to be ill. She was used to suffering, and
was as patient as an angel. She had heart disease and palpitations, during
which she would think she was going to die: she would lie with her eyes
wide open, and her hands clutching the bedclothes, and the sweat dripping
down her face. She never complained. She knew that it must be so. She was
ready: she had already received the sacrament. She had only one anxiety:
lest God should find her unworthy to enter into Paradise. She endured
everything else in patience.

In a dark corner of her little room, near her pillow, on the wall of the
recess, she had made a little shrine for her relics and trophies: she had
collected the portraits of those who were dear to her: her three children,
her husband, for whose memory she had always preserved her love in its
first freshness, the old grandfather, and her brother, Gottfried: she was
touchingly devoted to all those who had been kind to her, though it were
never so little. On her coverlet, close to her eyes, she had pinned the
last photograph of himself that Christophe had sent her: and his last
letters were under her pillow. She had a love of neatness and scrupulous
tidiness, and it hurt her to know that everything was not perfectly in
order in her room. She listened for the little noises outside which marked
the different moments of the day for her. It was so long since she had
first heard them! All her life had been spent in that narrow space.... She
thought of her dear Christophe. How she longed for him to be there, near
her, just then! And yet she was resigned even to his absence. She was sure
that she would see him again on high. She had only to close her eyes to see
him. She spent days and days, half-unconscious, living in the past....

She would see once more the old house on the banks of the Rhine.... A
holiday.... A superb summer day. The window was open: the white road lay
gleaming under the sun. They could hear the birds singing. Melchior and the
old grandfather were sitting by the front-door smoking, and chatting and
laughing uproariously. Louisa could not see them: but she was glad that
her husband was at home that day, and that grandfather was in such a good
temper. She was in the basement, cooking the dinner: an excellent dinner:
she watched over it as the apple of her eye: there was a surprise: a
chestnut cake: already she could hear the boy's shout of delight.... The
boy, where was he? Upstairs: she could hear him practising at the piano.
She could not make out what he was playing, but she was glad to hear the
familiar tinkling sounds, and to know that he was sitting there with his
grave face.... What a lovely day! The merry jingling bells of a carriage
went by on the road.... Oh! good heavens! The joint! Perhaps it had
been burned while she was looking out of the window! She trembled lest
grandfather, of whom she was so fond, though she was afraid of him,
should be dissatisfied, and scold her.... Thank Heaven! there was no harm
done. There, everything was ready, and the table was laid. She called
Melchior and grandfather. They replied eagerly. And the boy?... He had
stopped playing. His music had ceased a moment ago without her noticing
it....--"Christophe!"... What was he doing? There was not a sound to be
heard. He was always forgetting to come down to dinner: father was going
to scold him. She ran upstairs....--"Christophe!"... He made no sound.
She opened the door of the room where he was practising. No one there.
The room was empty, and the piano was closed.... Louisa was seized with
a sudden panic. What had become of him? The window was open. Oh, Heaven!
Perhaps he had fallen out! Louisa's heart stops. She leans out and looks
down....--"Christophe!"... He is nowhere to be found. She rushes all over
the house. Downstairs grandfather shouts to her: "Come along; don't worry;
he'll come back." She will not go down: she knows that he is there: that
he is hiding for fun, to tease her. Oh, naughty, naughty boy!... Yes, she
is sure of it now: she heard the floor creak: he is behind the door. She
tries to open the door. But the key is gone. The key! She rummages through
a drawer, looking for it in a heap of keys. This one, that.... No, not
that....Ah, that's it!... She cannot fit it into the lock, her hand is
trembling so. She is in such haste: she must be quick. Why? She does not
know, but she knows that she must be quick, and that if she doesn't hurry
she will be too late. She hears Christophe breathing on the other side of
the door.... Oh, bother the key!... At last! The door is opened. A cry of
joy. It is he. He flings his arms round her neck.... Oh, naughty, naughty,
good, darling boy!...

She has opened her eyes. He is there, standing by her.

For some time he had been standing looking at her; so changed she was, with
her face both drawn and swollen, and her mute suffering made her smile of
recognition so infinitely touching: and the silence, and her utter
loneliness.... It rent his heart....

She saw him. She was not surprised. She smiled all that she could not say,
a smile of boundless tenderness. She could not hold out her arms to him,
nor utter a single word. He flung his arms round her neck and kissed her,
and she kissed him: great tears were trickling down her cheeks. She said in
a whisper:


He saw that she could not breathe.

Neither stirred. She stroked his head with her hands, and her tears went on
trickling down her cheeks. He kissed her hands and sobbed, with his face
hidden in the coverlet.

When her attack had passed she tried to speak. But she could not find
words: she floundered, and he could hardly understand her. But what did
it matter? They loved each other, and were together, and could touch each
other: that was the main thing.--He asked indignantly why she was left
alone. She made excuses for her nurse:

"She cannot always be here: she has her work to do...."

In a faint, broken voice,--she could hardly pronounce her words,--she made
a little hurried request about her burial. She told Christophe to give her
love to her two other sons who had forgotten her. And she seat a message
to Olivier, knowing his love for Christophe. She begged Christophe to tell
him that she sent him her blessing--(and then, timidly, she recollected
herself, and made use of a more humble expression),--"her affectionate

Once more she choked. He helped her to sit up in her bed. The sweat dripped
down her face. She forced herself to smile. She told herself that she had
nothing more to wish for in the world, now that she had her son's hand
clasped in hers.

And suddenly Christophe felt her hand stiffen in his. Louisa opened her
lips. She looked at her son with infinite tenderness:--so the end came.


In the evening of the same day Olivier arrived. He had been unable to bear
the thought of leaving Christophe alone in those tragic hours of which he
had had only too much experience. He was fearful also of the risks his
friend was running in returning to Germany. He wanted to be with him, to
look after him. But he had no money for the journey. When he returned from
seeing Christophe off he made up his mind to sell the few family jewels
that he had left: and as the pawnshop was closed at that hour, and he
wanted to go by the next train, he was just going out to look for a
broker's shop in the neighborhood when he met Mooch on the stairs. When the
little Jew heard what he was about he was genuinely sorry that Olivier had
not come to him: he would not let Olivier go to the broker's, and made him
accept the necessary money from himself. He was really hurt to think that
Olivier had pawned his watch and sold his books to pay Christophe's fare,
when he would have been only too glad to help them. In his zeal for doing
them a service he even proposed to accompany Olivier to Christophe's home,
and Olivier had great difficulty in dissuading him.

Olivier's arrival was a great boon to Christophe. He had spent the day,
prostrated with grief, alone by his mother's body. The nurse had come,
performed certain offices, and then had gone away and had never come back.
The hours had passed in the stillness of death. Christophe sat there,
as still as the body: he never took his eyes from his mother's face: he
did not weep, he did not think, he was himself as one dead.--Olivier's
wonderful act of friendship brought him back to tears and life.

  "_Getrost! Es ist der Schmerzen werth dies haben,
  So lang ... mit uns ein treues Auge weint._"

("Courage! Life; is worth all its suffering as long as there are faithful
friends to weep with us.")

       *       *       *       *       *

They clasped each other in a long embrace, and then sat by the dead woman's
side and talked in whispers. Night had fallen. Christophe, with his arms on
the foot of the bed, told random tales of his childhood's memories, in
which his mother's image ever recurred. He would pause every now and then
for a few minutes, and then go on again, until there came a pause when he
stopped altogether, and his face dropped into his hands: he was utterly
worn out: and when Olivier went up to him, he saw that he was asleep. Then
he kept watch alone. And presently he, too, was overcome by sleep, with his
head leaning against the back of the bed. There was a soft smile on
Louisa's face, and she seemed happy to be watching over her two children.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the early hours of the morning they were awakened by a knocking at the
door. Christophe opened it. It was a neighbor, a joiner, who had come to
warn Christophe that his presence in the town had been denounced, and
that he must go, if he did not wish to be arrested. Christophe refused to
fly: he would not leave his mother before he had taken her to her last
resting-place. But Olivier begged him to go, and promised that he would
faithfully watch over her in his stead: he induced him to leave the house:
and, to make sure of his not going back on his decision, went with him to
the station. Christophe refused point-blank to go without having a sight
of the great river, by which he had spent his childhood, the mighty echo
of which was preserved for ever within his soul as in a sea-shell. Though
it was dangerous for him to be seen in the town, yet for his whim he
disregarded it. They walked along the steep bank of the Rhine, which
was rushing along in its mighty peace, between its low banks, on to its
mysterious death in the sands of the North. A great iron bridge, looming
in the mist, plunged its two arches, like the halves of the wheels of a
colossal chariot, into the gray waters. In the distance, fading into the
mist, were ships sailing through the meadows along the river's windings. It
was like a dream, and Christophe was lost in it. Olivier brought him back
to his senses, and, taking his arm, led him back to the station. Christophe
submitted: he was like a man walking in his sleep. Olivier put him into the
train as it was just starting, and they arranged to meet next day at the
first French station, so that Christophe should not have to go back to
Paris alone.

The train went, and Olivier returned to the house, where he found two
policemen stationed at the door, waiting for Christophe to come back. They
took Olivier for him, and Olivier did not hurry to explain a mistake so
favorable to Christophe's chances of escape. On the other hand, the police
were not in the least discomfited by their blunder, and showed no great
zest in pursuing the fugitive, and Olivier had an inkling that at bottom
they were not at all sorry that Christophe had gone.

Olivier stayed until the next morning, when Louisa was buried. Christophe's
brother, Rodolphe, the business man, came by one train and left by the
next. That important personage followed the funeral very correctly, and
went immediately it was over, without addressing a single word to Olivier,
either to ask him for news of his brother or to thank him for what he had
done for their mother. Olivier spent a few hours more in the town, where he
did not know a soul, though it was peopled for him with so many familiar
shadows: the boy Christophe, those whom he had loved, and those who had
made him suffer;--and dear Antoinette.... What was there left of all those
human beings, who had lived in the town, the family of the Kraffts, that
now had ceased to be? Only the love for them that lived in the heart of a

       *       *       *       *       *

In the afternoon Olivier met Christophe at the frontier station as they had
arranged. It was a village nestling among wooded hills. Instead of waiting
for the next train to Paris, they decided to go part of the way on foot, as
far as the nearest town. They wanted to be alone. They set out through the
silent woods, through which from a distance there resounded the dull thud
of an ax. They reached a clearing at the top of a hill. Below them, in a
narrow valley, in German territory, there lay the red roof of a forester's
house, and a little meadow like a green lake amid the trees. All around
there stretched the dark-blue sea of the forest wrapped in cloud. Mists
hovered and drifted among the branches of the pines. A transparent veil
softened the lines and blurred the colors of the trees. All was still.
Neither footsteps nor voices were to be heard. A few drops of rain rang
out on the golden copper leaves of the beeches, which had turned to autumn
tints. A little stream ran tinkling over the stones. Christophe and Olivier
stood still and did not stir. Each was dreaming of those whom he had lost.
Olivier was thinking:

"Antoinette, where are you?"

And Christophe:

"What is success to me, now that she is dead?"

But each heard the comforting words of the dead:

"Beloved, weep not for us. Think, not of us. Think of Him...."

They looked at each other, and each ceased to feel his own sorrow, and was
conscious only of that of his friend. They clasped their hands. In both
there was sad serenity. Gently, while no wind stirred, the misty veil was
raised: the blue sky shone forth again. The melting sweetness of the earth
after rain.... So near to us, so tender!... The earth takes us in her arms,
clasps us to her bosom with a lovely loving smile, and says to us:

"Rest. All is well...."

The ache in Christophe's heart was gone. He was like a little child.
For two days he had been living wholly in the memory of his mother, the
atmosphere of her soul: he had lived over again her humble life, with its
days one like unto another, solitary, all spent in the silence of the
childless house, in the thought of the children who had left her: the poor
old woman, infirm but valiant in her tranquil faith, her sweetness of
temper, her smiling resignation, her complete lack of selfishness.... And
Christophe thought also of all the humble creatures he had known. How near
to them he felt in that moment! After all the years of exhausting struggle
in the burning heat of Paris, where ideas and men jostle in the whirl
of confusion, after those tragic days when there had passed over them
the wind of the madness which hurls the nations, cozened by their own
hallucinations, murderously against each other, Christophe felt utterly
weary of the fevered, sterile world, the conflict between egoisms and
ideas, the little groups of human beings deeming themselves above humanity,
the ambitious, the thinkers, the artists who think themselves the brain of
the world, and are no more than a haunting evil dream. And all his love
went out to those thousands of simple souls, of every nation, whose lives
burn away in silence, pure flames of kindness, faith, and sacrifice,--the
heart of the world.

"Yes," he thought, "I know you; once more I have come to you; you are blood
of my blood; you are mine. Like the prodigal son, I left you to pursue the
shadows that passed by the wayside. But I have come back to you; give me
welcome. We are one; one life is ours, both the living and the dead; where
I am there are you also. Now I bear you in my soul, O mother, who bore me.
You, too, Gottfried, and you Schulz, and Sabine, and Antoinette, you are
all in me, part of me, mine. You are my riches, my joy. We will take the
road together. I will never more leave you. I will be your voice. We will
join forces: so we shall attain the goal."

A ray of sunlight shot through the dripping branches of the trees. From the
little field down below there came up the voices of children singing an Old
German folk-song, frank and moving: the singers were three little girls
dancing round the house: and from afar the west wind brought the chiming of
the bells of France, like a perfume of roses....

"O peace, Divine harmony, serene music of the soul set free, wherein are
mingled joy and sorrow, death and life, the nations at war, and the nations
in brotherhood. I love you, I long for you, I shall win you...."

       *       *       *       *       *

"The night drew down her veil. Starting from his dream, Christophe saw the
faithful face of his friend by his side. He smiled at him and embraced him.
Then they walked on through the forest in silence: and Christophe showed
Olivier the way.

  "_Taciti, soli e senza compagnia,
  N'andavan I' un dinnanzi, e I' altro dopo,
  Come i frati minor vanno per via...._"

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