Part 3 out of 9
in which she lived, and beyond it she might imagine any story she
Her thoughts reverted to the Eastern dreamer, and she realised that she
was living through the tragedy which he had written about a thousand
years ago in his rose garden. She might imagine what she pleased--that
she was going to become a great singer, that artistic success was the
harbour whither she steered, but in truth she did not know. She could
not believe such an end to be her destiny. Then what was her destiny?
All she had ever known was behind her, had floated into the darkness as
easily as those spectral ships; her religion, her father, her home, all
had vanished, and all she knew was that she was sailing through the
darkness without them. Seen for a moment in the light of the high moon,
and then in shrouded blue light, a great ship came and went, and Evelyn
clung to the arm of her lover. He folded the rough shawl he had bought
at Charing Cross about her shoulders. The lights of Calais harbour grew
larger, the foghorn snorted, the vessel veered, and there was
preparation on board; the crowd thickened, and as the night grew fainter
they saw between the dawn and the silvery moon the long low sandhills of
the French coast. The vessel veered and entered the harbour, and as she
churned alongside the windy piers, the mystery with which a moonlit sea
had filled their hearts passed, and they were taken in an access of
happiness; and they cried to each other for sheer joy as they struggled
up the gangway.
They were in France! their life of love was before them! He could hardly
take his eyes off the delicious girl; and soon two or three waiters
attended at her first meal, her first acquaintance with French food and
wine! Owen was known on the line, and the obsequiousness shown to him
flattered her, and it was thrilling to read his name on the window of
their carriage. Her foot was on the footboard, and seeing the empty
carriage the thought struck her, "We shall be alone; he'll be able to
kiss me." And, her heart beating with fear and delight, she got in and
sat speechless in a corner.
As the train moved out of the station he took her hand, and said that he
hoped they would be very happy together. She looked at him, and in her
eyes there was a little questioning, almost cynical look, which
perplexed him. The part he had to play was a difficult one, and on board
the boat, in the pauses of their conversation, he had felt that his
future influence over Evelyn depended upon his conduct during the
forthcoming week. This foresight had its origin in his temperament. It
was his temperament to suggest and to lead, and as he talked to her of
Madame Savelli, the great singing mistress, and Lady Duckle, a lady whom
he hoped to induce to come to Paris to chaperon her, he saw the hotel
sitting-room at the moment when the waiter, having brought in the
coffee, and delayed his departure as long as he possibly could, would
finally close the door. Nervousness dilated her eyes, and his thoughts
were often far from his words. He often had to catch his breath, and he
quailed before the dread interrogation which often looked out of her
eyes. They had passed Boulogne, and through the dawn, vague as an opal,
appeared a low range of hills, and as these receded, the landscape
flattened out into a bleak, morose plain.
What lives were lived yonder in that low grange, crouching under the
five melancholy poplars? An hour later father and son would go forth in
that treacherous quaking boat, lying amid the sedge, and cast their net
into one of those black pools. But these pictures of primeval
simplicities which the landscape evoked were not in accord with a
journey toward love and pleasure. Evelyn and Owen did not dare to
contrast their lives with those of the Picardy peasants, and that they
should see not roses and sunshine, but a broken and abandoned boat amid
the sedge, and mournful hills faintly outlined against the heavy,
lowering sky seemed to them significant. They watched the filmy,
diffused, opal light of the dawn, and they were filled with nervous
expectation. The man who appeared at the end of the plain in his
primitive guise of a shepherd driving his flock towards the hard thin
grass of the uplands seemed menacing and hostile. His tall felt hat
seemed like a helmet in the dusk, his crook like a lance, and Owen
understood that the dawn was the end of the truce, that the battle with
Nature was about to begin again. At that moment she was thinking that if
she had done wrong in leaving home, the sin was worth all the scruples
she might endure, and she rejoiced that she endured none. He folded her
in his rug. The train seemed to stop, and the names of the stations
sounded dim in her ears. Her perceptions rose and sank, and, as they
sank, the villa engarlanded, of which Owen had spoken, seemed there. Its
gates, though unbarred, were impassable. She thought she was shaking
them, but when she opened her eyes it was Owen telling her that they had
passed the fortifications, that they were in Paris.
He had brought with him only his dressing-bag, so they were not detained
at the Customs. His valet was following with the rest of his luggage,
and as soon as she had had a few hours' sleep, he would take her to
different shops. She clung on to his arm. Paris seemed very cold and
cheerless, and she did not like the tall, haggard houses, nor the
slattern waiter arranging chairs in front of an early cafe, nor the
humble servant clattering down the pavement in wooden shoes. She saw
these things with tired eyes, and she was dimly aware of a decrepit
carriage drawn by two decrepit horses, and then of a great hotel built
about a courtyard. She heard Owen arguing about rooms, but it seemed to
her that a room where there was a bed was all that she desired.
But the blank hotel bedroom, so formal and cheerless, frightened her,
and it seemed to her that she could not undress and climb into that high
bed, and she had no clothes--not even a nightgown. The chambermaid
brought her a cup of chocolate, and when she had drunk it she fell
asleep, seeing the wood fire burning, and thinking how tired she was.
It was the chambermaid knocking. It was time for her to get up, and Owen
had sent her a brush and comb. She could only wash her face with the
corner of a damp towel. Her stockings were full of dust; her chemise was
like a rag--all, she reflected, the discomforts of an elopement. As she
brushed out her hair with Owen's brush, she wondered what he could see
to like in her. She admired his discretion in not coming to her room.
But really, this hotel seemed as unlikely a place for love-making as the
gloomy plain of Picardy.
She was pinning on her hat when he knocked. He told her that he had been
promised some nice rooms on the second floor later in the day, and they
went to breakfast at Voisin's. The rest of the day was spent getting in
and out of cabs.
They took the shops as they came. The first was a boot and shoe maker,
and in a few moments between four and five hundred francs had been
spent. This seemed to Evelyn an unheard-of extravagance. Tea-gowns at
five hundred and six hundred francs apiece were a joy to behold and a
delicacy to touch. The discovery that every petticoat cost fifty francs
seriously alarmed her. They visited the bonnet shop later in the
afternoon. By that time she had grown hardened, and it seemed almost
natural to pay two hundred francs for a hat. Two of her dresses were
bought ready made. A saleswoman held out the skirt of a flowered silk,
which she was to wear that night at the opera; another stood by, waiting
for her and Owen to approve of the stockings she held in her hands. Some
were open-work and embroidered, and the cheapest were fifteen francs a
pair. It had to be decided whether these should be upheld by suspenders
or by garters. Owen's taste was for garters, and the choice of a pair
filled them with a pleasurable embarrassment. In the next shop--it was a
glove shop--as she was about to consult him regarding the number of
buttons, she remembered, in a sudden moment of painful realisation, the
end for which they had met. She turned pale, and the words caught in her
throat. Fortunately, his eyes were turned from her, and he perceived
nothing of the nervous agitation which consumed her; but on leaving the
shop, a little way down the street, when she had recovered herself
sufficiently to observe him, she perceived that he was suffering from
the same agitation. He seemed unable to fix his attention upon the
present moment. He seemed to have wandered far afield, and when with an
effort he returned from the ever nearing future, he seemed like a man
coming out of another atmosphere--out of a mist!
At six they were back at their hotel, surveying the sitting-rooms,
already littered with cardboard boxes. But he hurried her off to the Rue
de la Paix, saying that she must have some jewels. Trays of diamonds,
rubies, emeralds and pearls were presented to her for choice.
"You're not looking," he said, feigning surprise. "You take no interest
in jewels; aren't you well?"
"Yes, dearest; but I'm bewildered."
When they returned to the hotel, the gown she was to wear that night at
the opera had arrived.
"It must have cost twenty pounds, and I usen't to spend much more than
that in a whole year on my clothes."
Neither cared to go to the opera; but half-past ten seemed to him quite
a proper time for them to return home, and for this makeshift propriety
he was so bored with "Lohengrin" that he never saw it afterwards with
the old pleasure; and Evelyn's glances told of the wasted hours. While
Elsa sang her dream, he realised the depth of his folly. If something
were to happen? If they were to find Mr. Innes waiting at the door of
the hotel? If he were robbed of her, it would serve him right. The aria
in the second act was beautifully sung, and it helped them to forget;
but with the rather rough chorus of men in the second half of the second
act, their nervous boredom began again, and Evelyn's face was explicit.
"You're tired, Evelyn; you're too tired to listen."
"Yes, I'm tired, let's go; give me my cloak."
"I don't care much for the nuptial music," he remarked accidentally; and
then, feeling obliged to take advantage of the slip of the tongue, he
said, "Lohengrin and Elsa are in the bridal chamber in the next act."
He felt her hand tremble on his arm.
"In two years hence you'll be singing here.... But you don't answer."
"Owen, dear, I'm thinking of you now."
Her answer was a delicious flattery, and he hurried her to the carriage.
The moment his arm was about her she leaned over him, and when their
lips parted he uttered a little cry. But in the middle of the
sitting-room she stopped and faced him, barring the way. He took her
cloak from her shoulders.
"Owen, dear, if anything should happen."
But it was not till the third night that they entered into the full
possession of their delight. Every night after seemed more exquisite
than the last, like sunset skies, as beautiful and as unrememberable.
She could recall only the moment when from the threshold he looked back,
nodded a good-night, and then told her he would call her when it was
time to get up. Then in a happy weariness she closed her eyes; and when
they opened she closed them quickly, and curled herself into dreams and
thoughts of Owen.
They were going to the races, and he would come and tell her when it was
time to get up. She hoped this would not be till she had dreamed to the
end of her dream. But her eyes opened, and she saw him in his dressing
gown with blue facings standing in the middle of the room watching her.
His little smile was in his eyes; they seemed to say, So there you are;
I haven't lost you.
"You're the loveliest thing," he said, "in God's earth."
"Dearest Owen, I'm very fond of you;" and there was a plaintive and
amorous cry in her voice which found echo in the movement with which she
threw herself into her lover's arms, and laid her head upon his
"I've never seen such a hand, it is like a spray of fern; and those
eyes--look at me, Eve."
"Why do you call me Eve? No one ever called me Eve before."
"Sometimes they are as green as sea water, at other times they are grey
or nearly grey, most often they are hazel green. And your feet are like
hands, and your ankle--see, I can span it between forefinger and
thumb.... Your hair is faint, like flowers. Your throat is too thick,
you have the real singer's throat; thousands of pounds lie hidden in
that whiteness, which is mine--the whiteness, not the gold."
"How you know how to praise, Owen!"
"I love that sweet indecision of chin."
"A retreating chin means want of character."
"You have not what I call a retreating chin, the line merely deflects.
Nothing more unlovable than a firm chin. It means a hard, unimaginative
nature. Eve, you're adorable. Where should I find a sweetheart equal to
"That isn't the way I want you to love me."
"Isn't it? Are you sure of that?"
"I don't know--perhaps not. But why do you make me say these things?"
She held his face between her hands, and moved aside his moustache with
her lips.... Suddenly freeing herself from his embraces, she said, "I
don't want to kiss you any more. Let's talk."
"Dearest, do you know what time is it? You must get up and dress
yourself. It is past nine o'clock. We are going to the races. I'll send
you the chambermaid. You promise me to get up?"
It was these little authoritative airs that enchanted her remembrance of
him; and while the chambermaid poured out her bath she thought of the
gown she was going to wear. She knew that she had some pink silk
stockings to match it, but it took her a long while to find them. She
opened all the wrong boxes. "It's extraordinary," she thought, "how long
it takes one to dress sometimes; all one's things get wrong." And when
hooking the skirt she suddenly remembered she had no parasol suitable to
the gown. It was Sunday; it would be impossible to buy one. There was
nothing for it but to send for Owen. If there was anything wrong with
her gown he would give her no peace. He wished her to wear a
flower-embroidered dress, but her fancy was set on a pale yellow muslin,
and it amused her to get cross with him and to send him out of the room;
but when the door closed she was moved to run after him. The grave
question as to what she would wear dispelled other thoughts. She must be
serious; and to please him she decided she would wear the gown he liked,
and as she fixed the hat that went with it she admired the contrast of
its purple with her rich hair. Owen was always right. She had never
thought that she could look so well, and it was a happy moment when he
took her by both hands and said--
"Dearest, you are delicious--quite delicious. You'll be the prettiest
woman at Longchamps to-day."
She asked for tea, but he said they were in France, and must conform to
French taste. When Marie Antoinette was informed that the people wanted
bread, etc., Evelyn thought Marie Antoinette must have been a cruel
woman. But she liked chocolate and the brioche, and henceforth they were
brought to her bedside, and in a Sevres service, a present from Owen.
"When they had finished the little meal he rang for writing material,
"Now, my dear Evelyn, you must write to your father."
"_Must_ I? What shall I say? Oh, Owen, I cannot write. If I did, father
would come over here, and then--"
"I'll tell you what to say. I'll dictate the letter you ought to write.
You need not give him any address, but you must let him know you're
well, and why you intend to remain abroad. It is by relieving his mind
on these subjects that you'll save yourself from the vexation of his
hunting you up here.... Come, now," he said, noticing the agonised and
bewildered look on Evelyn's face, "this is the only disagreeable hour in
the day--you must put up with it. Here is the pen. Now write--
"'My DEAR FATHER,--I should be happy in Paris, very happy, if it were
not for the knowledge of the grief that my flight must have occasioned
you. Of course I have acted very wrongly, very wickedly--'"
"But," said Evelyn, "you told me I was acting rightly, that to do
otherwise would be madness."
"Yes, and I only told you the truth. But in writing to your father you
must adopt the conventional tone. There's no use in trying to persuade
your father you did right.... I don't know, though. Scratch out 'I have
acted wrongly and very wickedly,' and write--
"'I will not ask you to think that I have acted otherwise than wrongly,
for, of course, as a father you can hold no other opinion, but being
also a clever man, an artist, you will perhaps be inclined to admit that
my wrong-doing is not so irreparable a wrong-doing as it might have been
in other and easily imagined circumstances.'" Full stop.
"You've got that--'so irreparable a wrong-doing as it might have been in
other and easily imagined circumstances'?"
"'Father dear, you know that if I had remained in Dulwich my voice would
have been wasted, not through my fault or yours, but through the fault
"You have got circumstances a few lines higher up, so put 'through the
fault of fate.'"
"Father will never believe that I wrote this letter."
"That doesn't matter--the truth is the truth from whoever it comes."
"'We should have gone on deceiving ourselves, or trying to deceive
ourselves, hoping as soon as the concerts paid that I should go abroad
with a proper chaperon. You know, father dear, how we used to talk, both
knowing well that no such thing could be. The years would have slipped
by, and at five-and-thirty, when it would have been too late, I should
have found myself exactly where I was when mother died. You would have
reproached yourself, you would have suffered remorse, we should have
both been miserable; whereas now I hope that we shall both be happy. You
will bring about a revival of Palestrina, and I shall sing opera. Be
reasonable, father, and remember that it had to be. Write to me if you
can; to hear from you will make me very happy. But do not try to seek me
out and endeavour to induce me to return home. Any meeting between us
now would merely mean intolerable suffering to both of us, and it would
serve no purpose whatever. A little later, when I have succeeded, when I
am a great singer, I will come and see you, that is to say if you will
see me. Meanwhile; for a year or two we had better not meet, but I'll
write constantly, and shall look forward to your letters. Again, my dear
father, I beseech you to be reasonable; everything will come right in
the end. I will not conceal from you the fact that Sir Owen Asher
advised me to this step. He is very fond of me, and is determined to
help me in every way. When he brings me back to England a great singer,
he hopes you will try to look on his fault with as much leniency as may
be. He asks me to warn you against speaking of him in connection with
me, for any accusation brought against him will injure me. He intends to
provide me with a proper chaperon. I need not mention her name; suffice
it to say that she is a very grand lady, so appearances will be
preserved. No one need know anything for certain if you do not tell
them. If you will promise to do this, I will send the name of the lady
with whom I am going to live. You can say that I am living with her; her
name will be a sufficient cloak--everyone will be satisfied.
Interference can be productive of no good, remember that; let things
take their natural course, and they will come right in the end. If you
decide to do as I ask you, write at once to me, and address your letter
to 31 Rue Faubourg St Honore, care of Monsieur Blanco.--Always, dear
father, Your affectionate daughter,--EVELYN INNES.'"
"How clever you are," she said, looking up. "You have written just the
kind of letter that will influence father. I have lived with father all
my life, and yet I couldn't have known how to write that letter. How did
you think of it?"
"I've put the case truthfully, haven't I? Now, do you copy out that
letter and address it; meanwhile I'll go round to Voisin's and order
breakfast. Try to have it finished by the time I get back. We'll post it
on our way."
She promised that she would do so, but instead sat a long while with the
letter in her hands. It was so unlike herself that she could not bring
herself to send it. It would not satisfy her father, he would sooner
receive something from her own familiar heart, and, obeying a sudden
impulse, she wrote--
"My DARLING,--What must you think of me, I wonder! that I am an
ungrateful girl? I hope not. I don't think you would be so unjust as to
think such things of me. I have been very wicked, but I have always
loved you, father, and never more than now; and had anything in the
world been able to stop me, it would have been my love of you. But,
father dear, it was just as I told you; I was determined to resist the
temptation if I could, but when the time came I could not. I did my
best, indeed I did. I went through agony after agony after you left, and
in the end I had to go whether I desired it or not. I could not have
stopped in Dulwich any longer; if I had I should have died, and then you
would have lost me altogether. You would not have liked to see me pine
away, grow white, and lie coughing on the sofa like poor mother. No, you
would not. It would have killed you. You remember how ill I was last
Easter when he was away in the Mediterranean, darling. We've always been
pals, we've always told each other everything, we never had any secrets,
and never shall. I should have died if I hadn't gone away. Now I've told
you everything--isn't that so?--and when I come back a great success,
you'll come and hear me sing. My success would mean very little if you
were not there. I would sooner see your dear, darling face in a box than
any crowned head in Europe. If I were only sure that you would forgive
me. Everything else will turn out right. Owen will be good to me, I
shall get on; I have little fear on that score. If I could only know
that you were not too lonely, that you were not grieving too much. I
shall write to Margaret and beg her to look after you. But she is very
careless, and the grocer often puts down things in his book that we
never had. A couple of years, and then we shall see each other again. Do
you think, darling, you can live all that time without me? I must try to
live that time without you. It will be hard to do so, I shall miss you
dreadfully, so if you could manage to write to me, not too cross a
letter, it would make a great deal of difference. Of course, you are
thinking of the disgrace I have brought on you. There need be none. Owen
is going to provide me with a chaperon--a lady, he says, in the best
society. I will send you her name next week, as soon as Owen hears from
her. He may hear to-morrow, and if you say that I'm living with her, no
one will know anything. It is deceitful, I know; I told Owen so, but he
says that we are not obliged to take the whole world into our
confidence. I don't like it, but I suppose if one does the things one
must put up with the consequences. Now, I must say good-bye. I've
expressed myself badly, but you'll know what I mean--that I love you
very dearly, that I hope you'll forgive me, and be glad to see me when I
come back, that I shall always be,--Your affectionate daughter,--EVELYN."
She put the letter into an envelope, and was addressing it when Owen
came into the room.
"Have you copied the letter, dear?"
She looked at him inquiringly, and he wondered at her embarrassment.
"No," she said, "I have written quite a different letter. Yours was very
clever, of course, but it was not like me. I've written a stupid little
letter, but one which will please father better."
"I daresay you're right. If your father suspected the letter was
dictated by me he would resent it."
"That's just what I thought."
"Let me see the letter you have written."
"No; don't look at it. I'd rather you didn't."
"Why, dearest? Because there's something about me in it?"
"No, indeed. I would not write anything about you that I wouldn't show
you. No; what I don't want you to see is about myself."
"About yourself! Well, as you like, don't show me anything you don't
"But I don't like to have secrets from you, Owen; I hate secrets."
"One of these days you'll tell me what you've written. I'm quite
satisfied." He raised her face and kissed her tenderly, and she felt
that she loved him better for his well-assumed indifference. Then they
went downstairs, and she admired her dress in the long glasses on the
landings. She listened to his French as he asked for a stamp. The
courtyard was full of sunlight and carriages. The pages pushed open the
glass doors for them to pass, and, tingling with health and all the
happiness and enchantment of love, she walked by his side under the
arcade--glad when, in walking, they came against each other--swinging
her parasol pensively, wondering what happy word to say, a little
perplexed that she should have a secret from him, and all the while
healthily hungry. Suddenly she recognised the street as the one where
they had dined on Friday night. He pushed open a white-painted door, and
it seemed to her that all the white-aproned waiters advanced to meet
her; and the one who drew the table forward that she might pass seemed
to fully appreciate the honour of serving them. A number of _hors
d'oeuvres_ were placed before her, but she only ate bread and butter and
a radish, until Owen insisted on her trying the _filets d'anchois_--the
very ones she was originally most averse from. The sole was cooked very
elaborately in a rich brown sauce. The tiny chicken which followed it
was first shown to her in a tin saucepan; then the waiter took it away
and carved it at a side table. She enjoyed the melon which, for her
sake, ended instead of beginning the meal, as Owen said it should.
An Englishman, a friend of Owen's, sat at the next table, and she could
see he regretted that Owen had not introduced him. Most of his
conversation seemed designed for that end, and when they got up to go,
his eyes surely said, "Well, I wish that he had introduced us; I think
we should have got on together." And the eyes of the young man who sat
at the opposite table said, as plain as any words, "I'd have given
anything to have been introduced! Shall we ever meet again?"
So her exit was very thrilling; and no sooner were they on the pavement
than another surprise was in store for her.
A smart coachman touched his hat, and Owen stepped back for her to get
into the victoria.
"But this is not our carriage?"
"You did not think we were going to the Lonchamps in a _fiacre_, did
you? This is your carriage--I bought these horses yesterday for you."
"You bought this carriage and these horses for me, Owen?"
"Yes, dear, I did; don't let's waste time. _Aux courses!_"
"Owen, dear, I cannot accept such a present. I appreciate your kindness,
but you will not ask me to accept this carriage and horses."
Evelyn thought for some time before answering.
"It would only make people think that I was an amateur. The fine clothes
you have bought me I shall not be able to wear, except when I want you
to think me nice. I shall have to learn Italian, of which I don't know
a word, and French, of which I know very little."
Owen looked at her, at once pleased and surprised.
"You're quite right," he said; "this carriage and these horses are
unsuitable to your present circumstances. The chestnuts took my fancy
... however, I haven't paid for them. I'll send them back for the
present; they, or a pair like them, will come in all right later on."
After a slight pause she said--
"I do not want to run into your debt more than I can help. If my voice
develops, if it be all you think it is, I shall be able to go on the
stage in a year, at latest in a year and a half from now. My mother was
paid three and four hundred a week. Unless I fail altogether, I shall
have no difficulty in paying you back the money you so generously lent
"But why do you want to cost me nothing?"
"I don't know. Why shouldn't I pay you back? If I succeed I shall have
plenty of money; if I don't, I daresay you'll overlook the debt. Owen,
dear, how enchanting it is to be with you in Paris, to wear these
beautiful dresses, to drive in this carriage, to see those lovely
horses, and to wonder what the races will be like. You're not
disappointed in me? I'm as nice as you thought I'd be?"
"Yes; you're a great deal nicer. I was afraid at one time you might be a
bore; scruples of conscience aren't very interesting. But somehow in
your case they don't seem to matter."
"I do try to keep them to myself. There's no use in inflicting one's
personal worries on others. I am all one thing or all the other. When
I'm with you, I'm afraid I'm all the other."
He had always known that he could "make something of her," as he used to
put it to himself, but she exceeded his expectations; she certainly was
an admirable mistress. Her scruples did not bore him; they were, indeed,
a novelty and an excitement which he would not willingly be without.
Moreover, she was so intelligent he had not yet heard her make a stupid
remark. She had always been interested in the right things; and, excited
by her admiration of the wooden balconies--the metal lanterns hanging
from them, the vases standing on the steps leading to the porticoes, he
attempted a reading of these villas.
"How plain is this paganism," he said. "Seeing them, we cannot but think
of their deep feather beds, the savoury omelettes made of new-laid eggs
served at mid-day, and followed by juicy beefsteaks cooked in the best
butter. Those villas are not only typical of Passy, but of France; their
excellent life ascends from the peasant's cottage; they are the result
of agriculture, which is the original loveliness. All that springs from
agriculture must be beautiful, just as all that springs from commerce
must be vile. Manchester is the ugliest place on the earth, and the
money of every individual cotton spinner serves to multiply the
original ugliness--the house he builds, the pictures he buys. Isn't that
"I can't say, dear; I have never been to Manchester. But how can you
think of such things?"
"Don't you like those villas? I love them, and their comfort is secure;
its root is in the earth, the only thing we are sure of. There is more
pagan of life and sentiment in France than elsewhere. Would you not like
to have a Passy villa? Would you not like to live here?"
"One of these days I may buy one, then you shall come to breakfast, and
I'll give you an omelette and a beefsteak. For the present, I shall have
to put up with something less expensive. I must be near my music
lessons. Thanks all the same, dearest."
She sought a reason for the expression of thoughtfulness which had
suddenly come over his face.
"I don't know how it is, but I never see Paris without thinking of
Balzac. You don't know Balzac; one of these days you must read him. The
moment I begin to notice Paris, I think, feel, see and speak Balzac.
That dark woman yonder, with her scornful face, fills my mind with
Balzacian phrases--the celebrated courtesan, celebrated for her diamonds
and her vices, and so on. The little woman in the next carriage, the
Princess de Saxeville, would delight him. He would devote an entire page
to the description of her coat of arms--three azure panels, and so on.
And I should read it, for Balzac made all the world beautiful, even
snobbery. All interesting people are Balzacians. The moment I know that
a man is an admirer of Balzac, a sort of Freemasonry is established
between us, and I am interested in him, as I should be in a man who had
loved a woman whom I had loved."
"But I shouldn't like a woman because I knew that you had loved her."
"You are a woman; but men who have loved the same woman will seek each
other from the ends of the earth, and will take an intense pleasure in
their recollections. I don't know whether that aphorism is to be found
in Balzac; if not, it is an accident that prevented him from writing it,
for it is quite Balzacian--only he would give it a turn, an air of
philosophic distinction to which it would be useless for me to pretend."
"I wonder if I should like him. Tell me about him."
"You would be more likely than most women to appreciate him. Supposing
you put the matter to the test. You would not accept these horses, maybe
you will not refuse a humbler present--an edition of Balzac. There's a
very good one in fifty-two volumes."
"So many as that?"
"Yes; and not one too many--each is a masterpiece. In this enormous
work there are something like two thousand characters, and these appear
in some books in principal, in other books in subordinate, parts. Balzac
speaks of them as we should of real people. A young lady is going to the
opera and to a ball afterwards, and he says--
"'It is easy to imagine her delight and expectation, for was she not
going to meet the delicious Duchesse de la Maufregneuse, and her friend
the celebrated Madame d'Espard, Coralis, Lucien de Rubempre and
"These people are only mentioned in the _Memoires de deux jeunes
Mariees_. But they are heroes and heroines in other books, in _Les
Secrets de la Princesse de Cadignan, Le Pere Goriot_, and _Les Illusions
Perdues_." Before you even begin to know Balzac, you must have read at
least twenty volumes. There is a vulgarity about those who don't know
Balzac; we, his worshippers, recognise in each other a refinement of
sense and a peculiar comprehension of life. We are beings apart; we are
branded with the seal of that great mind. You should hear us talk among
ourselves. Everyone knows that Popinot is the sublime hero of
_L'Interdiction_, but for the moment some feeble Balzacian does not
remember the other books he appears in, and is ashamed to ask.... But
I'm boring you."
"No, no; I love to listen. It is more interesting than any play."
Owen looked at her questioningly, as if he doubted the flattery, which,
at the bottom of his heart, he knew to be quite sincere.
"You cannot understand Paris until you have read Balzac. Balzac
discovered Paris; he created Paris. You remember just now what I said of
those villas? I was thinking at the moment of Balzac. For he begins one
story by a reading of the human characteristics to be perceived in its
streets. He says that there are mean streets, and streets that are
merely honest; there are young streets about whose morality the public
has not yet formed any opinion; there are murderous streets--streets
older than the oldest hags; streets that we may esteem--clean streets,
work-a-day streets and commercial streets. Some streets, he says, begin
well and end badly. The Rue Montmartre, for instance, has a fine head,
but it ends in the tail of a fish. How good that is. You don't know the
Rue Montmartre? I'll point it out next time we're that way. But you know
the Rue de la Paix?"
"Yes; what does that mean?"
"The Rue de la Paix, he says, is a large street, and a grand street, but
it certainly doesn't awaken the gracious and noble thoughts that the Rue
Royale suggests to every sensitive mind; nor has it the dignity of the
Place Vendome. The Place de la Bourse, he says, is in the daytime babble
and prostitution, but at night it is beautiful. At two o'clock in the
morning, by moonlight, it is a dream of old Greece."
"I don't see much in that. What you said about the villas was quite as
Fearing that the conversation lacked a familiar and personal interest,
he sought a transition, an idea by which he could connect it with Evelyn
herself. With this object he called her attention to two young men who,
he pretended, reminded him of Rastignac and Morny. That woman in the
mail phaeton was an incipient Madame Marneffe; that dark woman now
looking at them with ardent, amorous eyes might be an Esther.
"We're all creatures of Balzac's imagination. You," he said, turning a
little so that he might see her better, "are intensely Balzacian."
"Do I remind you of one of his characters?" Evelyn became more keenly
interested. "Which one?"
"You are more like a character he might have painted than anyone I can
think of in the Human Comedy. He certainly would have been interested in
your temperament. But I can't think which of his women is like you. You
are more like the adorable Lucien; that is to say, up to the present."
"Who was Lucien?"
"He was the young poet whom all Paris fell in love with. He came up to
Paris with a married woman; I think they came from Angouleme. I haven't
read _Lost Illusions_ for twenty years. She and he were the stars in the
society of some provincial town, but when they arrived in Paris each
thought the other very common and countrified. He compares her with
Madame d'Espard; she compares him with Rastignac; Balzac completes the
picture with a touch of pure genius--'They forgot that six months would
transform them both into exquisite Parisians.' How good that is, what
wonderful insight into life!"
"And do they become Parisians?"
"Yes, and then they both regret that they broke off--"
"Could they not begin it again?"
"No; it is rarely that a _liaison_ can be begun again--life is too
hurried. We may not go back; the past may never become the
present--ghosts come between."
"Then if I broke it off with you, or you broke it off with me, it would
be for ever?"
"Do not let us discuss such unpleasant possibilities;" and he continued
to search the _Human Comedy_ for a woman resembling Evelyn. "You are
essentially Balzacian--all interesting things are--but I cannot remember
any woman in the _Human Comedy_ like you--Honorine, perhaps."
"What does she do?"
"She's a married woman who has left her husband for a lover who very
soon deserts her. Her husband tries in vain to love other women, but
his wife holds his affections and he makes every effort to win her back.
The story is mainly an account of these efforts."
"Does he succeed?"
"Yes. Honorine goes back to her husband, but it cost her her life. She
cannot live with a man she doesn't love. That is the point of the
"I wonder why that should remind you of me?"
"There is something delicate, rare, and mystical about you both. But I
can't say I place _Honorine_ very high among Balzac's works. There are
beautiful touches in it, but I think he failed to realise the type. You
are more virile, more real to me than Honorine. No; on the whole, Balzac
has not done you. He perceived you dimly. If he had lived it might, it
certainly would, have been otherwise. There is, of course, the Duchesse
Langeais. There is something of you in her; but she is no more than a
brilliant sketch, no better than Honorine. There is Eugene Grandet. But
no; Balzac never painted your portrait."
Like all good talkers, he knew how to delude his listeners into the
belief that they were taking an important part in the conversation. He
allowed them to speak, he solicited their opinions, and listened as if
they awakened the keenest interest in him; he developed what they had
vaguely suggested. He paused before their remarks, he tempted his
listener into personal appreciations and sudden revelations of
character. He addressed an intimate vanity and became the inspiration of
every choice, and in a mysterious reticulation of emotions, tastes and
ideas, life itself seemed to converge to his ultimate authority. And
having induced recognition of the wisdom of his wishes, he knew how to
make his yoke agreeable to bear; it never galled the back that bore it,
it lay upon it soft as a silken gown. Evelyn enjoyed the gentle
imposition of his will. Obedience became a delight, and in its
intellectual sloth life floated as in an opium dream without end,
dissolving as the sunset dissolves in various modulations. Obedience is
a divine sensualism; it is the sensualism of the saints; its lassitudes
are animated with deep pauses and thrills of love and worship. We lift
our eyes, and a great joy fills our hearts, and we sink away into
blisses of remote consciousness. The delights of obedience are the
highest felicities of love, and these Evelyn had begun to experience.
She had ascended already into this happy nowhere. She was aware of him,
and a little of the brilliant goal whither he was leading her. She was
the instrument, he was the hand that played upon it, and all that had
happened from hour to hour in their mutual existence revealed in some
new and unexpected way his mastery over life. She had seen great ladies
bowing to him, smiling upon him in a way that told their intention to
get him away from her. She had heard scraps of his conversation with the
French and English noblemen who had stopped to speak to him; and now,
as Owen was getting into the victoria, after a brief visit to some great
lady who had sent her footman to fetch him, a man, who looked to Evelyn
like a sort of superior groom, came breathless to their carriage. He had
only just heard that Owen was on the course. He was the great English
trainer from Chantilly, and had tried Armide II. to win with a stone
more on his back than he had to carry.
"That is the horse," and Owen pointed to a big chestnut. "The third
horse--orange and white sleeves, black cap ... they are going now for
the preliminary canter. We shall have just time to back him. There is a
Pari Mutuel a little way down the course; or shall we back the horse in
the ring? No, it is too late to get across the course. The Pari Mutuel
will do. Isn't the racecourse like an English lawn, like an overgrown
croquet ground? and the horses go round by these plantations."
It was not fashionable, he admitted, for a lady to leave her carriage,
but no one knew her. It did not matter, and the spectacle amused her.
But there was only time to catch a glimpse of beautiful toilettes,
actresses and princesses, and the young men standing on the steps of the
carriages. Owen whispered the names of the most celebrated, and told her
she should know them when she was on the stage. At present it would be
better for her to live quietly--unknown; her lessons would take all her
time. He talked as he hastened her towards where a crowd had collected.
She saw what looked like a small omnibus, with a man distributing
tickets. Owen took five louis out of her purse and handed them to the
man, who in return handed her a ticket. They would see the race better
from their carriage, but it was pleasanter to stroll about the warm
grass and admire the little woods which surrounded this elegant
pleasure-ground, the white painted stands with all their flags flying on
the blue summer air, the glitter of the carriages, the colour of the
parasols, the bright jackets and caps of the jockeys, the rhythmical
movement of the horses. Some sailed along with their heads low, others
bounded, their heads high in the air. While Owen watched Evelyn's
pleasure, his face expressed a cynical good humour. He was glad she was
pleased, and he was flattered that he was influencing her. No longer was
she wasting her life, the one life which she had to live. He was proud
of his disciple, and he delighted in her astonishment, when, having made
sure that Armide II. had won, he led her back to the Pari Mutuel, and,
bidding her hold out her hands, saw that forty louis were poured into
Then Evelyn could not believe that she was in her waking senses, and it
took some time to explain to her how she had won so much money; and when
she asked why all the poor people did not come and do likewise, since it
was so easy, Owen said that he had had more sport seeing her win five
and thirty louis than he had when he won the gold cup at Ascot. It
almost inclined him to go in for racing again. Evelyn could not
understand the circumstance and, still explaining the odds, he told the
coachman that they would not wait for the last race. He had tied her
forty louis into her pocket-handkerchief, and feeling the weight of the
gold in her hand she leant back in the victoria, lost in the bright,
penetrating happiness of that summer evening. Paris, graceful and
indolent--Paris returning through a whirl of wheels, through
pleasure-grounds, green swards and long, shining roads--instilled a
fever of desire into the blood, and the soul cried that life should be
made wholly of such light distraction.
The wistful light seemed to breathe all vulgarity from the procession of
pleasure-seekers returning from the races. An aspect of vision stole
over the scene. Owen pointed to the group of pines by the lake's edge,
to the gondola-like boat moving through the pink stillness; and the
cloud in the water, he said, was more beautiful than the cloud in
heaven. He spoke of the tea-house on the island, of the shade of the
trees, of the lush grass, of the chatter of the nursemaids and ducks. He
proposed, and she accepted, that they should go there to-morrow. The
secret of their lips floated into their eyes, its echoes drifted through
their souls like a faint strain played on violins; and neither spoke for
fear of losing one of the faint vibrations. Evelyn settled her
embroidered gown over her feet as the carriage swept around the Arc de
"That is our rose garden," he said, pointing to Paris, which lay below
them glittering in the evening light, "You remember that I used to read
"Yes, I remember. Not three days ago, yet it seems far away."
"But you do not regret--you would not go back?"
"I could not if I would."
"It has been a charming day, hasn't it?"
"And it isn't over yet. I have ordered dinner at the Cafe des
Ambassadeurs. I've got a table on the balcony. The balcony overlooks the
garden, and the stage is at the end of the garden, so we shall see the
performance as we dine. The comic songs, the can-can dancers and the
acrobats will be a change after Wagner. I hope you'll like the dinner."
He took a card from his pocket and read the menu.
"There is no place in Paris where you get a better _petite marmite_ than
the Ambassadeurs. I have ordered, you see, _filets de volaille, pointes
d'asperges_. The _filets de volaille_ are the backs of the chickens, the
tit-bits; the rest--the legs and the wings--go to make the stock; that
is why the _marmite_ is so good. _Timbale de homard a l'Americaine_ is
served with a brown sauce garnished with rice. You ought to find it
excellent. If we were in autumn I should have ordered a pheasant
_Sauvaroff_. A bird being impossible, I allowed myself to be advised by
the head waiter. He assured me they have some very special legs of lamb;
they have just received them from Normandy; you will not recognise it as
the stringy, tasteless thing that in England we know as leg of lamb.
_Souffle au paprike_--this _souffle_ is seasoned not with red pepper,
which would produce an intolerable thirst, nor with ordinary pepper,
which would be arid and tasteless, but with an intermediate pepper which
will just give a zest to the last glass of champagne. There is a
_parfait_--that comes before the _souffle_ of course. I don't think we
can do much better."
The appointment had been made, and he was coming back at half-past three
to take her to Madame Savelli, the great singing mistress, and at four
her fate would be decided. She would then learn beyond cavil or doubt if
she had, or was likely to acquire, sufficient voice for grand opera. So
much Madame Savelli would know for certain, though she could not predict
success. So many things were required, and to fail in one was to
fail.... Owen expected Isolde and Brunnhilde, and she was to achieve in
these parts something which had not been achieved. She was to sing them;
hitherto, according to Owen, they had been merely howled. Other triumphs
were but preparatory to this ultimate triumph, and if she fell short of
his ideal, he would take no further interest in her voice. However well
she might sing Margaret, he would not really care; as for Lucia and
Violetta, it would be his amiability that would keep him in the stalls.
To-day her fate was to be decided. If Madame Savelli were to say that
she had no voice--she couldn't very well say that, but she might say
that she had only a nice voice, which, if properly trained, could be
heard to advantage in a drawing-room--then what was she to do? She
couldn't live with Owen as his kept mistress; in that case she would be
no better than the women she had seen at the races. She grew suddenly
pale. What was she to do? The choice lay between drowning herself and
going back to her father.
Only yesterday she had received such a kind letter from him, offering to
forgive everything if she would come back. So like her dear, unpractical
dad to ask her to go back and suffer all the disgrace without having
attained the end for which she had left home. If, as Owen had said, she
went back with the finest soprano voice in Europe, and an engagement to
sing at Covent Garden at a salary of L400 a week, the world would close
its ears to scandal, the world would deny that any violation of its
rules had been committed; but to return after an escapade of a week in
Paris would be ruin. So, at Owen's persuasion, she had written a letter
to her father explaining why she could not return. But her inability to
obey her father did not detract from the fear which her disobedience
caused her. She thought of the old man whom she loved so well grieving
his heart out and thinking her, whom he loved so dearly, cruel and
ungrateful. But what could she do? Go back and bring disgrace upon
herself and upon her father? Ah, if she had known beforehand the
suffering she was enduring, she did not think she would ever have gone
away with Owen. It was all wrong, very wrong, and she had merited this
punishment by her own grievous fault.... Lady Duckle was coming that
evening--the woman whom she was going to live with--an unfortunate day
for her to arrive; if Madame Savelli thought that she, Evelyn, had no
voice to speak of, the secret could not be kept from her. Lady Duckle
would know her for a poor little fool who had been wheedled from her
home, and on the pretext that she was to become the greatest singer in
Europe. It was all horrid.
And when Owen returned he found Evelyn in tears. But with his scrupulous
tact he avoided any allusion to her grief, and while she bathed her eyes
she thanked him in her heart for this. Her father would have fretted and
fussed and maddened her with questions, but Owen cheered her with
sanguine smiles and seemed to look forward to her success as a natural
sequence, any interruption to which it would be idle to anticipate; and
he cleverly drew her thoughts from doubt in her own ability into
consideration of the music she was going to sing. She suggested the
jewel song in "Faust," or the waltz in "Romeo and Juliet." But he was of
the opinion that she had better sing the music she was in the habit of
singing; for choice, one of Purcell's songs, the "Epithalamium," or the
song from the "Indian Queen."
"Savelli doesn't know the music; it will interest her. The other things
she hears every day of her life."
"But I haven't the music--I don't know the accompaniments."
"The music is here."
"It is very thoughtful of you."
"Henceforth it must be my business to be thoughtful."
They descended the hotel staircase very slowly, seeing themselves in the
tall mirrors on the landings. The bright courtyard glittered through the
glass verandah; it was full of carriages. Owen signed to his coachman.
They got into the victoria, and a moment after were passing through the
streets, turning in and out. But not a word did they speak, for the
poison of doubt had entered into his, as it had into her, soul. He had
begun to ask himself if he was mistaken--if she had really this
wonderful voice, or if it only existed in his imagination? True it was
that everyone who had heard her sing thought the same; but the last time
he had heard her, had not her voice sounded a little thin? He had
doubts, too, about her power of passionate interpretation.... She had a
beautiful voice--there could be no doubt on that point--but a beautiful
voice might be heard to a very great disadvantage on the stage.
Moreover, could she sing florid music? Of course, the "Epithalamium"
she was going to sing was as florid as it could be. Purcell had suited
it to his own singing.... A woman did not always sing to an orchestra as
well as to a single instrument. That was only when the singer was an
insufficient musician. Evelyn was an excellent musician.... If a woman
had the loveliest voice, and was as great a musician as Wagner himself,
it would profit her nothing if she had not the strength to stand the
wear and tear of rehearsals. He looked at Evelyn, and calculated her
physical strength. She was a rather tall and strongly-built girl, but
the Wagnerian bosom was wanting. He had always considered a large bosom
to be a dreadful deformity. A bosom should be an indication, a hint; a
positive statement he viewed with abhorrence. And he paused to think if
he would be willing to forego his natural and cultured taste in female
beauty and accept those extravagant growths of flesh if they could be
proved to be musical necessities. But Evelyn was by no means
flat-chested ... and he remembered certain curves and plenitudes with
satisfaction. Then, catching sight of Evelyn's frightened face, he
forced himself to invent conversation. That was the Madeleine, a fine
building, in a way; and the boulevard they had just entered was the
Boulevard Malesherbes, which was called after a celebrated French
lawyer. The name Haussmann recalled the Second Empire, and he ransacked
his memory for anecdotes. But soon his conversation grew stilted--even
painful. He could continue it no longer, and, taking her hand, he
assured her that, if she did not sing well, she should come to Madame
Savelli again. Evelyn's face lighted up, and she said that what had
frightened her was the finality of the decision--a few minutes in which
she might not be able to sing at all. Owen reproved her. How could she
think that he would permit such a barbarism? It really did not matter a
brass button whether she sang well or ill on this particular day; if she
did not do herself justice, another appointment should be made. He had
money enough to hire Madame Savelli to listen to her for the next six
months, if it were required.
He was truly sorry for her. Poor little girl! it really was a dreadful
ordeal. Yet he had never seen her look better. What a difference
dressing her had made! Her manner, too, had improved. That was the
influence of his society. By degrees, he'd get rid of all her absurd
ideas. But he sorely wished that Madame Savelli's verdict would prove
him right--not for his sake--it didn't matter to him--such teeth, such
hands, such skin, such eyes and hair! Voice or no voice, he had
certainly got the most charming mistress in Europe! But, if she did
happen to have a great voice it would make matters so much better for
them. He had plenty of money--twenty thousand lying idle--but it was
better that she should earn money. It would save her reputation ... in
every way it would be better. If she had a voice, and were a success,
this _liaison_ would be one of the most successful things in his life.
If he were wrong, they'd have to get on as best they could, but he
didn't think that he could be altogether mistaken.
The door was opened by a footman in livery, and they ascended
half-a-dozen steps into the house. Then, off a wide passage, a door was
opened, and they found themselves in a great saloon with polished oak
floor. There was hardly any furniture--three or four chairs, some
benches against the walls and a grand piano. The mantelpiece was covered
with photographs, and there were life-sized photographs in frames on the
walls. Owen pointed to one of a somewhat stout woman in evening-dress,
and he whispered an illustrious name.
A moment after madame entered.
She was of medium height, thin and somewhat flat-chested. Her hair was
iron-grey, and the face was marked with patches of vivid colouring. The
mouth was a long, determined line, and the lines of the hips asserted
themselves beneath the black silk dress. She glanced quickly at Evelyn
as she went towards Sir Owen.
"This is the young lady of whom you spoke to me?"
"Yes, madame, it is she. Let me introduce you. Madame Savelli--Miss
"Does mademoiselle wish to sing as a professional or as an amateur?"
The question was addressed at once to Evelyn and to Owen, and, while
Evelyn hesitated with the French words, Owen answered--
"Mademoiselle will be guided by your advice."
"They all say that; however, we shall see. Will mademoiselle sing to me?
Does mademoiselle speak French?"
"Yes, a little," Evelyn replied, timidly.
"Oh, very good. Has mademoiselle studied music?"
"Yes; my father is a musician, but he only cares for the very early
music, and I have hardly ever touched a piano, but I play the
harpsichord.... My instrument is the viola da gamba."
"The harpsichord and the viola da gamba! That is very interesting,
but"--and Madame Savelli laughed good-naturedly--"unfortunately we have
no harpsichord here, nor yet a spinet only the humble piano."
"Miss Innes will be quite satisfied with your piano, Madame Savelli."
"Now, Sir Owen, I will not have you get cross with me. I must always
have my little pleasantry. Does he get cross with you like that, Miss
"I didn't get cross with you, Madame Savelli."
"You wanted to, but I would not let you--and because I regretted I had
not a harpsichord, only a humble piano! Mademoiselle knows, I suppose,
all the church songs. I only know operas.... You see, Sir Owen, you
cannot silence me; I will have my little pleasantry. I only know opera,
and have nothing but the humble piano. But, joking apart, mademoiselle
wants to study serious opera."
"Yes; mademoiselle intends to study for the stage, not for the church."
"Then I will teach her."
"You have three classes here. Mademoiselle would like to go into the
"In the opera class I How you do go on, Sir Owen! If mademoiselle can go
into the opera class next year, I shall be more than satisfied,
"Perhaps you'll be able to say better if mademoiselle will be able to go
into the opera class when you have heard her sing."
"But I know, my dear Sir Owen, that is impossible. You don't believe me.
Well, I am prepared to be surprised. It matters not to me. Mademoiselle
can go into the opera class in three months if she is sufficiently
advanced. Will mademoiselle sing to me? Are these her songs?" Madame
Savelli took the music out of Sir Owen's hands. "I can see that this
music would sound better on the harpsichord or the spinet.... Now, Sir
Owen, I see you are getting angry again."
"I'm not angry, Madame Savelli--no one could be angry with you--only
mademoiselle is rather nervous."
"Then perhaps my pleasantry was inexpedient. Let me see--this is it,
isn't it?" she said, running her fingers through the first bars.... "But
perhaps you would like to accompany mademoiselle?"
"Which would you like, Evelyn?"
"You, dear; I should be too nervous with Madame Savelli."
Owen explained, and madame gave him her place at the piano with
alacrity, and took a seat far away by the fireplace. Evelyn sang
Purcell's beautiful wedding song, full of roulades, grave pauses and
long-sustained notes, and when she had finished Owen signed to madame
not to speak. "Now, the song from the 'Indian Queen.' You sang
capitally," he whispered to Evelyn.
And, thus encouraged, she poured all her soul and all the pure melody of
her voice into this music, at once religious and voluptuous, seemingly
the rapture of a nun that remembrance has overtaken and for the moment
overpowered. When she had done, Madame Savelli jumped from her chair,
and seizing her by both hands said,--
"If you'll stop with me for a year, I'll make something wonderful of
Then without another word she ran out of the room, leaving the door
open behind her, and a few moments after they heard her calling on the
stairs to her husband.
"Come down at once; come down, I've found a star."
"Then she thinks I've a good voice?"
"I should think so indeed. She won't get over the start you've given her
for the next six months."
"Are you sure, Owen? Are you sure she's not laughing at us?"
"Laughing at us? She's calling for her husband to come down. She's
shouting to him that she's found a star."
Then the joy that rose up in Evelyn's heart blinded her eyes so that she
could not see, and she seemed to lose sense of what was happening. It
was as if she were going to swoon.
"I have told her," Madame Savelli said to her husband, who followed her
into the room, "that, if she will remain a year with me, I'll make
something wonderful of her. And you will stay with me, my dear...."
Owen thought that this was the moment to mention the fact that Evelyn
was the daughter of the famous Madame Innes.
Monsieur Savelli raised his bushy eyebrows.
"I knew your mother, mademoiselle. If you have a voice like hers--"
"In a year, if she will remain with me, she will have twice the voice
her mother had. Mademoiselle must go into the opera class at once."
"I thought you said that such a thing could not be; that no pupil of
yours had ever gone straight into the opera class?"
Madame Savelli's grey eyes laughed.
"Ah! I was mistaken.... I had forgotten that all the other classes are
full. There is no room for Miss Innes in the other classes. It is
against all precedence; it will create much jealousy, but it can't be
helped. She must go straight into the opera class. When will
mademoiselle begin? The sooner the better."
"Next Monday. Will that be soon enough?"
"On Monday I'll begin to teach her the _role_ of Marguerite. Such a
thing was never heard of; but then mademoiselle's voice is one such as
one never hears."
Turning to her husband, she said--
"You see my husband is looking at me. Yes, you are looking at me. You
think I have gone mad, but he'll not think I've gone mad when he hears
mademoiselle sing. Will mademoiselle be so kind?"
Evelyn felt she could not sing again, and, turning suddenly away, she
walked to the window and watched the cabs going by. She heard Owen ask
Madame and Monsieur Savelli to excuse her. He said that madame's praise
had proved too much for her; that her nerves had given way. Then he came
over and spoke to her gently. She looked at him through her tears; but
she could not trust herself to speak, nor yet to walk across the room
and bid Monsieur and Madame Savelli good-bye. She felt she must die of
shame or happiness, and plucked at Owen's sleeve. She was glad to get
out of that room; and the moments seemed like years. They could not
speak in the glaring of the street. But fortunately their way was
through the park, and when they passed under the shade of some
overhanging boughs, she looked at him.
"Well, little girl, what do you think? Everything is all right now. It
happened even better than I expected."
She wiped away her tears.
"How foolish I am to cry like this. But I could not bear it; my nerves
gave way. It was so sudden. I'm afraid those people will think me a
little fool. But you don't know, Owen, what I have suffered these last
few days. I don't want to worry you, but there were times when I thought
I couldn't stand it any longer. I thought that God might punish me by
taking my voice from me. Just fancy if I had not been able to sing at
all! It would have made you look a fool. You would have hated me for
that; but now, even if I should lose my voice between this and next
Monday.... Did I sing well, Owen? Did I sing as well as ever you heard
"I've heard you sing better, but you sang well enough to convince
Savelli that you'll have the finest voice in Europe by this time next
year. That's good enough for you, isn't it? You don't want any more, do
"No, no, half that would do, half that; I only want to know that it is
all true." Tears again rose to her eyes. "I mean," she said, laughing,
"that I want to know that I am sitting by you in the carriage; that
Madame Savelli has heard me sing; that she said that I should be a great
singer. Did she say that?"
"Yes, she said you would be a great singer."
"Then why does it not seem true? But nothing seems true, not even Paris.
It all seems like a dazzling, scattered dream, like spots of light, and
every moment I fear that it will pass away, and that I shall wake up and
find myself in Dulwich; that I shall see my viola da gamba standing in
the corner; that a rap at the front door will tell me that a pupil has
come for a lesson."
"Do you remember the lessons that you gave me on the viola da gamba?"
She looked at him beseechingly.
"Then it is true. I suppose it is true, but I wish I could feel this
life to be true."
She looked up and saw the clouds moving across the sky; she looked down
and saw the people passing along the streets.
"In a few days, in a few weeks, this life will seem quite real. But, if
you cannot bear the present, how will you bear the success that is to
"When I was a tiny girl, the other girls used to say, 'Evey, dear, do
make that funny noise in your throat,' and that was my trill. But since
mother's death everything went wrong; it seemed that I would never get
out of Dulwich. I never should have if it had not been for you. I had
ceased to believe that I had a voice."
"In that throat there are thousands of pounds."
Evelyn put her hand to her throat to assure herself that it was still on
"I wonder, I wonder. To think that in a year--in a year and a half--I
shall be singing on the stage! They will throw me bouquets, I suppose?"
"Oh, yes, you need have no fear about that; this park would not suffice
to grow all the flowers that will be thrown at your feet."
"It seems impossible that I--poor, miserable I--should be moving towards
such splendour. I wonder if I shall ever get there, and, if I do get
there, if I shall be able to live through it. I cannot yet see myself
the great singer you describe. Yet I suppose it is all quite certain."
"Then why can't I imagine it?"
"We cannot imagine ourselves in other than our present circumstances;
the most commonplace future is as unimaginable as the most extravagant."
"I suppose that is so."
The carriage stopped at the Continental, and he asked her what she would
like to do. It was just five.
"Come and have a cup of tea in the Rue Cambon."
She consented, and, after tea, he said, standing with one foot on the
"If you'll allow me to advise you, you will go for a drive in the Bois
by yourself. I want to see some pictures."
"May I not come?"
"Certainly, if you like, but I don't think you could give your attention
to pictures; you're thinking of yourself, and you want to be alone with
yourself--nothing else would interest you."
A pretty flush of shame came into her cheeks. He had seen to the bottom
of her heart, and discovered that of which she herself was not aware.
But, now that he had told her, she knew that she did want to be
alone--not alone in a room, but alone among a great number of people. A
drive in the Bois would be a truly delicious indulgence of her egotism.
The Champs Elysees floated about her happiness, the Avenue du Bois de
Boulogne seemed to stretch out and to lead to the theatre of her glory;
and, looking at the lake, its groups of pines, its gondola-like boats,
she recalled, and with little thrills of pleasure, the exact words that
madame had used--
"If you will stay a year with me, I'll make something wonderful of
you." "Was there ever such happiness? Can it be true? Then I am
wonderful--perhaps the most wonderful person here. Those women, however
haughty they may look, what are they to me? I am wonderful. With not one
would I change places, for I am going to be something wonderful." And
the word sang sweeter in her ears than the violins in "Lohengrin." ...
"Owen loves me. I have the nicest lover in the world. All this good
fortune has happened to me. Oh, to me! If father could only know. But
Owen thinks that will be all right. Father will forgive me when I come
back the wonderful singer that I am--that I shall be.... If anyone could
hear me, they would think I was mad. I can't help it.... She'll make
something wonderful of me, and father will forgive me everything. We
always loved each other. We've always been pals, dear dad. Oh, how I
wish he had heard Madame Savelli say, 'If you will stop with me a year,
I'll make something wonderful of you!' I will write to him ... it will
cheer him up."
Then, seeing the poplars that lined the avenue, beautiful and tall in
the evening, she thought of Owen. He had said they were the trees of the
evening. She had not understood, and he had explained that we only see
poplars in the sunset; they appear with the bats and the first stars.
"How clever he is, and he is my lover! It is dreadfully wicked, but I
wonder what Madame Savelli said to her husband about my voice. She meant
all she said; there can be no doubt about that."
Catching sight of some passing faces, Evelyn thought how, in two little
years, at this very hour, the same people would be returning from the
Bois to hear her sing--what? Elsa? Elizabeth? Margaret? She imagined
herself in these parts, and sang fragments of the music as it floated
into her mind. She was impelled to extravagance. She would have liked to
stand up in her carriage and sing aloud, nothing seemed to matter, until
she remembered that she must not make a fool of herself before Lady
Duckle. And that she might walk the fever out of her blood, she called
to the coachman to stop, and she walked down the Champs Elysees rapidly,
not pausing to take breath till she reached the Place de la Concorde;
and she almost ran the rest of the way, so that she might not be late
for dinner. When she entered the hotel, she came suddenly upon Owen on
the verandah. He was sitting there engaged in conversation with an
elderly woman--a woman of about fifty, who, catching sight of her,
whispered something to him.
"Evelyn.... This is Lady Duckle."
"Sir Owen has been telling me, Miss Innes, what Madame Savelli said
about your voice. I do not know how to congratulate you. I suppose such
a thing has not happened before." And her small, grey eyes gazed in
envious wonderment, as if seeking to understand how such extraordinary
good fortune should have befallen the tall, fair girl who stood blushing
and embarrassed in her happiness. Owen drew a chair forward.
"Sit down, Evelyn, you look tired."
"No, I'm not tired ... but I walked from the Arc de Triomphe."
"Walked! Why did you walk?"
Evelyn did not answer, and Lady Duckle said--
"Sir Owen tells me that you'll surely succeed in singing Wagner--that I
shall be converted."
"Lady Duckle is a heretic."
"No, my dear Owen, I'm not a heretic, for I recognise the greatness of
the music, and I could hear it with pleasure if it were confined to the
orchestra, but I can find no pleasure in listening to a voice trying to
accompany a hundred instruments. I heard 'Lohengrin' last season. I was
in Mrs. Ayre's box--a charming woman--her husband is an American, but he
never comes to London. I presented her at the last Drawing-Room. She had
a supper party afterwards, and when she asked me what I'd have to eat, I
said, 'Nothing with wings' ... Oh, that swan!"
Her grey hair was drawn up and elaborately arranged, and Evelyn noticed
three diamond rings and an emerald ring on her fat, white fingers. There
had been moments she said, when she had thought the people on the stage
were making fun of them--"such booing!"--they had all shouted themselves
hoarse--such wandering from key to key.
"Hoping, I suppose, that in the end they'd hit off the right ones. And
that trick of going up in fifths. And then they go up in fifths on the
half notes. I said if they do that again, I'll leave the theatre."
Evelyn could see that Owen liked Lady Duckle, and her conversation,
which at first might have seemed extravagant and a little foolish, was
illuminated with knowledge and a vague sense of humour which was
captivating. Her story of how she had met Rossini in her early youth,
and the praise he had bestowed on her voice, and his intention of
writing an opera for her, seemed fanciful enough, but every now and then
some slight detail inspired the suspicion that there was perhaps more
truth in what she was saying than appeared at first hearing.
"Why did he not write the opera, Olive?"
"It was just as he was ill, when he lived in Rue Monsieur. And he said
he was afraid he was not equal to writing down so many notes. Poor old
man! I can still see him sitting in his arm-chair."
She seemed to have been on terms of friendship with the most celebrated
men of the time. Her little book entitled _Souvenirs of Some Great
Composers_ was alluded to, and Owen mentioned that at that time she was
the great Parisian beauty.
"But instead of going on the stage, I married Lord Duckle."
And this early mistake she seemed to consider as sufficient explanation
for all subsequent misfortunes. Evelyn wondered what these might be, and
"The most celebrated singers are glad to sing at Lady Duckle's
afternoons; no reputation is considered complete till it has received
"That is going too far, Owen; but it is true that nearly all the great
singers have been heard at my house."
Owen begged Evelyn to get ready for dinner, and as she stood waiting for
the lift, she saw him resume confidential conversation with Lady Duckle.
They were, she knew, making preparations for her future life, and this
was the woman she was going to live with for the next few years! The
thought gave her pause. She dried her hands and hastened downstairs.
They were still talking in the verandah just as she had left them. Owen
signed to the coachman and told him to drive to Durand's. They were
dining in a private room, and during dinner the conversation constantly
harked back to the success that Evelyn had achieved that afternoon. Owen
told the story in well-turned sentences. His eyes were generally fixed
on Lady Duckle, and Evelyn sat listening and feeling, as Owen intended
she should feel, like the heroine of a fairy tale. She laughed nervously
when, imitating Madame Savelli's accent, he described how she had said,
"If you'll stop with me for a year, I'll make something wonderful of
you." Lady Duckle leaned across the table, glancing from time to time at
Evelyn, as if to assure herself that she was still in the presence of
this extraordinary person, and murmured something about having the
honour of assisting at what she was sure would be a great career.
Owen noticed that Evelyn seemed preoccupied, and did not respond very
eagerly to Lady Duckle's advances. He wondered if she suspected him of
having been Lady Duckle's lover.... Evelyn was thinking entirely of Lady
Duckle herself, trying to divine the real woman that was behind all this
talk of great men and social notabilities. One phrase let drop seemed to
let in some light on the mystery. Talking of her, Lady Duckle said that
it was only necessary to know what road we wanted to walk in to succeed,
and instantly Lady Duckle appeared to her as one who had never selected
a road. She seemed to have walked a little way on all roads, and her
face expressed a life of many wanderings, straying from place to place.
There was nothing as she said, worth doing that she had not done, but
she had clearly accomplished nothing. As she watched her she feared,
though she could not say what she feared. At bottom it was a suspicion
of the deteriorating influence that Lady Duckle would exercise, must
exercise, upon her--for were they not going to live together for years?
And this companionship would be necessarily based on subterfuge and
deceit. She would have to talk to her of her friendship for Owen. She
could never speak of Owen to Lady Duckle as her lover. But as Evelyn
listened to this pleasant, garrulous woman talking, and talking very
well, about music and literature, she could not but feel that she liked
her, and that her easy humour and want of principle would make life
comfortable and careless. She was not a saint; she could not expect a
saint to chaperon her; nor did she want a saint. At that moment her
spirits rose. She wanted Owen, and she loved him the more for the tact
he had shown in finding Lady Duckle for her. She accepted the good
lady's faults with reckless enthusiasm, and when they got back to the
hotel she took the first occasion to whisper that she liked Lady Duckle
and was sure they'd get on very well together.
"Owen, dear, I'm so happy, I don't know what to do with myself. I did
enjoy my drive to the Bois. I never was so happy and I don't seem to be
enjoying myself enough; I should like to sit up all night to think of
"There's no reason why you shouldn't."
"Only I should feel tired in the morning.... Are you coming to my room?"
"Unless you want me not to. Do you want me to come?"
"Do I look as if I didn't?"
"Your eyes are shining like stars. It is worth while taking trouble to
make you happy. You do enjoy it so.... We'll go upstairs now. We can't
talk here, Lady Duckle is coming back. Leave your door ajar."
"You don't think she suspects?"
"It doesn't matter what people suspect, the essential is that they
shouldn't know. I've lots to tell you. I've arranged everything with
"I was just telling Miss Innes that in three years she'll probably be
singing at the Opera House. In a year or a year and a half she'll have
learnt all that Savelli can teach her. Isn't that so?"
The question was discussed for a while, and then Lady Duckle mentioned
that it was getting late. It was an embarrassing moment when Owen
stopped the lift and they bade her good-night. She was on the third,
they were on the second floor. As Evelyn went down the passage, Owen
stood to watch her sloping shoulders; they seemed to him like those of
an old miniature. When she turned the corner a blankness came over him;
things seemed to recede and he was strangely alone with himself as he
strolled into his room. But standing before the glass, his heart was
swollen with a great pride. He remarked in his eyes the strange,
enigmatic look which he admired in Titian and Vandyke, and he thought
of himself as a principle--as a force; he wondered if he were an evil
influence, and lost himself in moody meditations concerning the mystery
of the attractions he presented to women. But suddenly he remembered
that in a few minutes she would be in his arms, and he closed his eyes
as if to delight more deeply in the joy that she presented to his
imagination. So intense was his desire that he could not believe that he
was her lover, that he was going to her room, and that nothing could
deprive him of this delight. Why should such rare delight happen to him?
He did not know. What matter, since it was happening? She was his. It
was like holding the rarest jewel in the world in the hollow of his
That she was at that moment preparing to receive him brought a little
dizziness into his eyes, and compelled him to tear off his necktie.
Then, vaguely, like one in a dream, he began to undress, very slowly,
for she had told him to wait a quarter of an hour before coming to her
room. He examined his thin waist as he tied himself in blue silk
pyjamas, and he paused to admire his long, straight feet before slipping
them into a pair of black velvet slippers. He turned to glance at his
watch, and to kill the last five minutes of the prescribed time he
thought of Evelyn's scruples. She would have to read certain
books--Darwin and Huxley he relied upon, and he reposed considerable
faith in Herbert Spencer. But there were books of a lighter kind, and
their influence he believed to be not less insidious. He took one out of
his portmanteau--the book which he said, had influenced him more than
any other. It opened at his favourite passage--
'I am a man of the Homeric time; the world in which I live is not mine,
and I know nothing of the society which surrounds me. I am as pagan as
Alcibiades or as Phidias.... I never gathered on Golgotha the flowers of
the Passion, and the deep stream which flowed from from the side of the
Crucified and made a red girdle round the world never bathed me in its
tide. I believe earth to be as beautiful as heaven, and I think that
precision of form is virtue. Spirituality is not my strong point; I love
a statue better than a phantom.' ... He could remember no further; he
glanced at the text and was about to lay the book down, when, on second
thoughts, he decided to take it with him.
Her door was ajar; he pushed it open and then stopped for moment,
surprised at his good fortune. And he never forgot that instant's
impression of her body's beauty. But before he could snatch the long
gauze wrapper from her, she had slipped her arm through the sleeves,
and, joyous as a sunlit morning hour, she came forward and threw herself
into his arms. Even then he could not believe that some evil accident
would not rob him of her. He said some words to that effect, and often
tried to recall her answer to them; he was only sure that it was
exquisitely characteristic of her, as were all her answers--as her
answer was that very evening when he told her that he would have to go
to London at the end of the week.
"But only for some days. You don't think that I shall be changed? You're
not afraid that I shall love you less?"
"No; I was not thinking of you, dear. I know that you'll not be changed;
I was thinking that I might be."
He withdrew the arm that was round her, and, raising himself upon his
elbow, he looked at her.
"You've told me more about yourself in that single phrase than if you
had been talking an hour."
"Dearest Owen, let me kiss you."
It seemed to them wonderful that they should be permitted to kiss each
other so eagerly, and it sometimes was a still more intense rapture to
lie in each other's arms and talk to each other.
The dawn surprised them still talking, and it seemed to them as if
nothing had been said. He was explaining his plans for her life. They
were, he thought, going to live abroad for five, six, or seven years.
Then Evelyn would go to London, to sing, preceded by an extraordinary
reputation. But the first thing to do was to get a house in Paris.
"We cannot stop at this hotel; we must have a house. I have heard of a
charming hotel in the Rue Balzac."
"In the Rue Balzac! Is there a street called after him? Is it on account
of the name you want me to live there?"
"No; I don't think so, but perhaps the name had something to do with
it--one never knows. But I always liked the street."
"Which of his books is it like?"
"_Les Secrets de la Princesse de Cadignan_"
They laughed and kissed each other.
"At the bottom of the street is the Avenue de Friedland; the tram passes
there, and it will take you straight to Madame Savelli's."
The sparrows had begun to shrill in the courtyard, and their eyes ached
"Five or six years--you'll be at the height of your fame. They will pass
only too quickly," he added.
He was thinking what his age would be then. "And when they have passed,
it will seem like a dream."
"Like a dream," she repeated, and she laid her face on the pillow where
his had lain.
As she lay between sleeping and waking, she strove to grasp the
haunting, fugitive idea, but shadows of sleep fell, and in her dream
there appeared two Tristans, a fair and a dark. When the shadows were
lifted and she thought with an awakening brain, she smiled at the
absurdity, and, striving to get close to her idea, to grip it about its
very loins, she asked herself how much of her own life she could express
in the part, for she always acted one side of her character. Her pious
girlhood found expression in the Elizabeth, and what she termed the
other side of her character she was going to put on the stage in the
character of Isolde. Again sleep thickened, and she found it impossible
to follow her idea. It eluded her; she could not grasp it. It turned to
a dream, a dream which she could not understand even while she dreamed
it. But as she awaked, she uttered a cry. It happened to be the note she
had to sing when the curtain goes up and Isolde lies on the couch
yearning for Tristan, for assuagement of the fever which consumes her.
All other actresses had striven to portray an Irish princess, or what
they believed an Irish princess might be. But she cared nothing for the
Irish princess, and a great deal for the physical and mental distress of
a woman sick with love.
Her power of recalling her sensations was so intense, that in her warm
bed she lived again the long, aching evenings of the long winter in
Dulwich, before she went away with Owen. She saw again the Spring
twilight in the scrap of black garden, where she used to stand watching
the stars. She remembered the dread craving to worship them, the anguish
of remorse and fear on her bed, her visions of distant countries and the
gleam of eyes which looked at her through the dead of night. How
miserable she had been in that time--in those months. She had wanted to
sing, and she could not, and she had wanted--she had not known what was
the matter with her. That feeling (how well she remembered it!) as if
she wanted to go mad! And all those lightnesses of the brain she could
introduce in the opening scene--the very opening cry was one of them.
And with these two themes she thought she could create an Isolde more
intense than the Isolde of the fat women whom she had seen walking about
the stage, lifting their arms and trying to look like sculpture.
No one whom she had seen had attempted to differentiate between Isolde
before she drinks and after she has drunk the love potion, and, to avoid
this mistake, she felt that she would only have to be true to herself.
After the love potion had been drunk, the moment of her life to put on
the stage was its moment of highest sexual exaltation. Which was that?
There were so many, she smiled in her doze. Perhaps the most wonderful
day of her life was the day Madame Savelli had said, "If you'll stay
with me for a year, I'll make something wonderful of you." She recalled
the drive in the Bois, and she saw again the greensward, the poplars,
and the stream of carriages. She had hardly been able so resist
springing up in the carriage and singing to the people; she had wanted
to tell them what Madame Savelli had said. She had wished to cry to
them, "In two years all you people will be going to the opera to hear
me." What had stopped her was the dread that it might not happen. But it
had happened! That was the evening she had met Olive. She could see the
exact spot. Although Olive had only just arrived, she had been up to her
room and put on a pair of slippers. They had dined at a cafe, and all
through dinner she had longed to be alone with Owen, and after dinner
the time had seemed so long. Before going up in the lift he had asked
her if he might come to her room. In a quarter of an hour, she had said,
but he had come sooner than she expected, and she remembered slipping
her arm into a gauze wrapper. How she had flung herself into his arms!
That was the moment of her life to put upon the stage when she and
Tristan look at each other after drinking the love potion.
In the second act Tristan lives through her. She is the will to live;
and if she ultimately consents to follow him into the shadowy land, it
is for love of him. But of his desire for death she understands nothing;
all through the duet it is she who desires to quench this desire with
kisses. That was her conception of women's mission, and that was her own
life with Owen; it was her love that compelled him to live down his
despondencies. So her Isolde would have an intense and a personal life
that no Isolde had had before. And in holding up her own soul to view,
she would hold up the universal soul, and people would be afraid to turn
their heads lest they should catch each other's eyes. But was not a
portrayal of sexual passion such as she intended very sinful? It could
not fail to suggest sinful thoughts.... She could not help what folk
thought--that was their affair. She had turned her back upon all such
scruples, and this last one she contemptuously picked up and tossed
aside like a briar.
Her eyes opened and she gazed sleepily into the twilight of mauve
curtains, and dreaded her maid's knock. "It must be nearly eight," she
thought, and she strove to pick up the thread of her lost thoughts. But
a sharp rap at her door awakened her, and a tall, spare figure crossed
the room. As the maid was about to draw the curtains, Evelyn cried to
"Oh, wait a moment, Herat.... I'm so tired. I didn't get to bed till
"Mademoiselle forgets that she told me to awaken her very early.
Mademoiselle said she wanted to go for a long drive to the other end of
London before she went to rehearsal."
Merat's logic seemed a little severe for eight o'clock in the morning,
and Evelyn believed that her conception of Isolde had suffered from the
"Then I am not to draw the curtains? Mademoiselle will sleep a little
longer. I will return when it is time for mademoiselle to go to
"Did you say it was half-past eight, Merat?"
"Yes, mademoiselle. The coachman is not quite sure of the way, and will
have to ask it. This will delay him."
"Oh, yes, I know.... But I must sleep a little longer."
"Then mademoiselle will not get up. I will take mademoiselle's chocolate
"No, I'll have my chocolate," Evelyn said, rousing herself. "Merat, you
are very insistent."
"What is one to do? Mademoiselle specially ordered me to wake her....
Mademoiselle said that--"
"I know what I said. I'll see how I feel when I have had my chocolate.
The coachman had better get a map and look out the way upon it."
She lay back on the pillow and regretted she had come to England. There
was no reason why she should not have thrown over this engagement. It
wouldn't have been the first. Owen had always told her that money ought
never to tempt her to do anything she didn't like. He had persuaded her
to accept this engagement, though he knew that she did not want to sing
in London. How often before had she not refused, and with his
approbation? But then his pleasure was involved in the refusal or the
acceptance of the engagement. He did not mind her throwing over a
valuable offer to sing if he wanted her to go yachting with him. Men
were so selfish. She smiled, for she knew she was acting a little comedy
with herself. "But, quite seriously, I am annoyed with Owen. The London
engagement--no, of course, I could not go on refusing to sing in
London." She was annoyed with him because he had dissuaded her from
doing what her instinct had told her was the right thing to do. She had
wished to go to her father the moment she set foot in England, and beg
his forgiveness. When they had arrived at Victoria, she had said that
she would like to take the train to Dulwich. There happened to be one
waiting. But they had had a rough crossing; she was very tired, and he
had suggested she should postpone her visit to the next day. But next
day her humour was different. She knew quite well that the sooner she
went the easier it would be for her to press her father to forgive her,
to entrap him into reconciliation. She had imagined that she could
entrap her father into forgiving her by throwing herself into his arms,
or with the mere phrase, "Father, I've come to ask you how I sing." But
she had not been able to overcome her aversion to going to Dulwich, and
every time the question presented itself a look of distress came into
her face. "If I only knew what he would say when he sees me. If the
first word were over--the 'entrance,'" she added, with a smile.
It was hopeless to argue with her, so Owen said that if she did not go
before the end of the week it would be better to postpone her visit
until after her first appearance.
"But supposing I fail. I never cared for my Margaret. Besides, it was
mother's great part. He'll think me as bad an artist as I have been a
bad daughter. Owen, dear, have patience with me, I know I'm very weak,
but I dread a face of stone."
Neither spoke for a long while. Then she said, "If I had only gone to
him last year. You remember he had written me a nice letter, but instead
I went away yachting; you wanted to go to Greece."
"Evelyn, don't lay the blame on me; you wanted to go too.... I hope that
when you do see your father you will say that it was not all my fault."
"That what was not your fault, dear?"
"Well--I mean that it was not all my fault that we went away together.
You know that I always liked your father. I was interested in his ideas;
I do not want him to think too badly of me. You will say something in my
favour. After all, I haven't treated you badly. If I didn't marry you,
it was because--"
"Dearest Owen, you've been very good to me."
He felt that to ask her again to go to see her father would only
distress her. He said instead--
"I hear a great deal about your father's choir. It appears to be quite
the fashion to hear high mass at St. Joseph's."
"Father always said that Palestrina would draw all London, if properly
given. Last Sunday he gave a mass by Vittoria; I longed to go. He'll
never forgive me for not going to hear his choir. It is strange that we
both should have succeeded--he with Palestrina, I with Wagner."
"Yes, it is strange.... But you promise me that you'll go and see him as
soon as you've sung Margaret--the following day."
"Yes, dear, I promise you I'll do that."
"You'll send him a box for the first night?"
"He wouldn't sit in a box. If he went at all, it would be in some
obscure place where he would not be seen."
"You had better send him a box, a stall and a dress circle, then he can
take his choice.... But perhaps you had better not send. His presence
among the audience would only make you nervous."
"No, on the contrary, his presence would make me sing."
For whatever reason she had certainly sung and acted with exceptional
force and genius, and Margaret was at once lifted out of the obscurity
into which it was slipping and took rank with her Elizabeth and her
Elsa. As they drove home together in the brougham after the performance,
Owen assured her that she had infused a life and meaning into the part,
and that henceforth her reading would have to be "adopted."
"I wonder if father was there? He was not in the box. Did you look in
"Yes, but he was not there. You'll go and see him to-morrow."
"No, not to-morrow, dear."
"Why not to-morrow?"
"Because I want him to see the papers. He may not have been in the
theatre; on Thursday night is Lady Ascott's ball; then on Friday--I'll
go and see father on Friday. I'll try to summon courage. But there is a
rehearsal of 'Tannhaeuser' on Friday."
And so that she might not be too tired on Friday morning, Owen insisted
on her leaving the ball-room at two o'clock, and their last words, as he
left her on her doorstep, were that she would go to Dulwich before she
went to rehearsal. But in the warmth of her bed, not occupied long
enough to restore to the body the strength of which a ball-room had
robbed it, her resolution waned, and her brain, weak from insufficient
sleep, shrank from the prospect of a long drive and a face of stone at
the end of it. She sat moodily sipping her chocolate and _brioche_.
"You were at the opera last night, Merat. Was Mademoiselle Helbrun a
"No, mademoiselle, I'm afraid not."
"Ah!" Evelyn put down her cup and looked at her maid. "I'm sorry, but I
thought she wouldn't succeed in London. She was coldly received, was
"I'm sorry, for she's a true artist."
"She has not the passion of mademoiselle."
A little look of pleasure lit up Evelyn's face.
"She is a charming singer. I can't think how she could have failed. Did
you hear any reason given?"
"Yes, mademoiselle, I met Mr. Ulick Dean."
"What did he say? He'd know."
"He said that Mademoiselle Helbrun's was the true reading of the part.
But 'Carmen' had lately been turned into a _femme de la balle_, and, of
course, since the public had tasted realism it wanted more. I thought
Mademoiselle Helbrun rather cold. But then I'm one of the public.
Mademoiselle has not yet told me what I am to tell the coachman."
"You do not listen to me, Merat," Evelyn answered in a sudden access of
ill humour. "Instead of accepting the answer I choose to give, you stop
there in the intention of obtaining the answer which seems to you the
most suitable. I told you to tell the coachman that he was to get a map
and acquaint himself with the way to Dulwich."
And to bring the interview to a close, she told Merat to take away the
chocolate tray, and took up one of the scores which lay on a small table
by the bedside--"Tannhaeuser" and "Tristan and Isolde." It would bore her
to look at Elizabeth again; she knew it all. She chose Tristan instead,
and began reading the second act at the place where Isolde, ignoring
Brangaene's advice, signals to Tristan with the handkerchief. She glanced
down the lines, hearing the motive on the 'cellos, then, in precipitated
rhythm, taken up by the violins. When the emotion has reached breaking
point, Tristan rushes into Isolde's arms, and the frantic happiness of
the lovers is depicted in short, hurried phrases. The score slipped from
her hands and her thoughts ran in reminiscence of a similar scene which
she had endured in Venice nearly four years ago. She had not seen Owen
for two months, and was expecting him every hour. The old walls of the
palace, the black and watchful pictures, the watery odours and echoes
from the canal had frightened and exhausted her. The persecution of
passion in her brain and the fever of passion afloat in her blood waxed,
and the minutes became each a separate torture. There was only one lamp.
She had watched it, fearing every moment lest it should go out.... She
had cast a frightened glance round the room, and it was the spectre of
life that her exalted imagination saw, and her natural eyes a strange
ascension of the moon. The moon rose out of a sullen sky, and its
reflection trailed down the lagoon. Hardly any stars were visible, and
everything was extraordinarily still. The houses leaned heavily forward
and Evelyn feared she might go mad, and it was through this phantom
world of lagoon and autumn mist that a gondola glided. This time her
heart told her with a loud cry that he had come, and she had stood in
the shadowy room waiting for him, her brain on fire. The emotion of that
night came to her at will, and lying in her warm bed she considered the
meeting of Tristan and Isolde in the garden, and the duet on the bank of
sultry flowers. Like Tristan and Isolde, she and Owen had struggled to
find expression for their emotion, but, not having music, it had lain
cramped up in their hearts, and their kisses were vain to express it.
She found it in these swift irregularities of rhythm, replying to every
change of motion, and every change of key cried back some pang of the
This scene in the second act was certainly one of the most
difficult--at least to her--and the one in which she most despaired of
excelling. It suddenly occurred to her that she might study it with
Ulick Dean. She had met him at rehearsal, and had been much interested
in him. He had sent her six melodies--strange, old-world rhythms,
recalling in a way the Gregorian she used to read in childhood in the
missals, yet modulated as unintermittently as Wagner; the same chromatic
scale and yet a haunting of the antique rhythm in the melody. Ulick knew
her father; he had said, "Mr. Innes is my greatest friend." He loved her
father, she could see that, but she had not dared to question him.
Talking to Owen was like the sunshine--the earth and only the earth was
visible--whereas talking to Ulick was like the twilight through which
the stars were shining. Dreams were to him the true realities; externals
he accepted as other people accepted dreams--with diffidence. Evelyn
laughed, much amused by herself and Ulick, and she laughed as she
thought of his fixed and averted look as he related the tales of bards
and warriors. Every now and then his dark eyes would light up with
gleams of sunny humour; he probably believed that the legends contained
certain eternal truths, and these he was shaping into operas. He was the
most interesting young man she had met this long while.
He had been about to tell her why he had recanted his Wagnerian faith
when they had been interrupted by Owen.... She could conceive nothing
more interesting than the recantation by a man of genius of the ideas
that had first inspired him. His opera had been accepted, and would be
produced if she undertook the principal part. Why should she not? They
could both help each other. Truly, he was the person with whom she could
study Isolde, and she imagined the flood of new light he would throw
upon it. Her head drowsed on the pillow, and she dreamed the wonderful
things he would tell her. But as she drowsed she thought of the article
he had written about her Margaret, and it was the desire to read it
again that awoke her. Stretching out her hand, she took it from the
table at her bedside and began reading. He liked the dull green dress
she wore in the first act; and the long braids of golden hair which he
admired were her own. He had mentioned them and the dark velvet cape,
which he could not remember whether she wore or carried. As a matter of
fact, she carried it on her arm. His forgetfulness on this point seemed
to her charming, and she smiled with pleasure. He said that she made
good use of the cape in the next act, and she was glad that he had
Like every other Margaret, her prayer-book was in her hand when she
first met Faust; but she dropped it as she saw him, and while she shyly
and sweetly sang that she was neither a lady nor a beauty, she stooped
and with some embarrassment picked up the book. She passed on, and did
not stop to utter a mechanical cry when she saw Mephistopheles, and then
run away. She hesitated a moment; Mephistopheles was not in sight, but
Faust was just behind her, and over the face of Margaret flashed the
thought, "What a charming--what a lovely young man! I think I'll stop a
little longer, and possibly he'll say something more. But no--after
all--perhaps I'd better not," and, with a little sigh of regret, she
turned and went, at first quietly and then more quickly, as though
fearful of being tempted to change her mind.
In the garden scene, she sang the first bars of the music
absent-mindedly, dusting and folding her little cape, stopping when it
was only half folded to stand forgetful a moment, her eyes far off,
gazing back into the preceding act. Awaking with a little start, she
went to her spinning-wheel, and, with her back to the audience, arranged
the spindle and the flax. Then stopping in her work and standing in
thought, she half hummed, half sang the song "Le Roi de Thule." Not till
she had nearly finished did she sit down and spin, and then only for a
moment, as though too restless and disturbed for work that afternoon.
Evelyn was glad that Ulick had remarked that the jewels were not "the
ropes of pearls we are accustomed to, but strange, mediaeval jewels,
long, heavy earrings and girdles and broad bracelets." Owen had given
her these. She remembered how she had put them on, just as Ulick said,
with the joy of a child and the musical glee of a bird. "She laughed out
the jewel song," he said, "with real laughter, returning lightly across
the stage;" and he said that they had "wondered what was this lovely
music which they had never heard before!" And when she placed the jewels
back, she did so lingeringly, regretfully, slowly, one by one, even
forgetting the earrings, perhaps purposely, till just before she entered
"In the duet with Faust," he said, "we were drawn by that lovely voice
as in a silken net, and life had for us but one meaning--the rapture of
"Has it got any other meaning?" Evelyn paused a moment to think. She was
afraid that it had long ceased to have any other meaning for her. But