Part 4 out of 9
love did not seem to play a large part in Ulick's life. Yet that last
sentence--to write like that he must feel like that. She wondered, and
then continued reading his article.
She was glad that he had noticed that when she fainted at the sight of
Mephistopheles, she slowly revived as the curtain was falling and
pointed to the place where he had been, seeing him again in her
over-wrought brain. This she did think was a good idea, and, as he said,
"seemed to accomplish something."
He thought her idea for her entrance in the following act exceedingly
well imagined, for, instead of coming on neatly dressed and smiling like
the other Margarets, she came down the steps of the church with her
dress and hair disordered, in the arms of two women, walking with
difficulty, only half recovered from her fainting fit. "It is by ideas
like this," he said, "that the singer carried forward the story, and
made it seem like a real scene that was happening before our eyes. And
after her brother had cursed Margaret, when he falls back dead, Miss
Innes retreats, getting away from the body, half mad, half afraid. She
did not rush immediately to him, as has been the operatic custom, kneel
down, and, with one arm leaning heavily on Valentine's stomach, look up
in the flies. Miss Innes, after backing far away from him, slowly
returned, as if impelled to do so against her will, and, standing over
the body, looked at it with curiosity, repulsion, terror; and then she
burst into a whispered laugh, which communicated a feeling of real
horror to the audience.
"In the last act, madness was tangled in her hair, and in her wide-open
eyes were read the workings of her insane brain, and her every movement
expressed the pathos of madness; her lovely voice told its sad tale
without losing any of its sweetness and beauty. The pathos of the little
souvenir phrases was almost unbearable, and the tragic power of the
finish was extraordinary in a voice of such rare distinction and fluid
utterance. Her singing and acting went hand in hand, twin sisters, equal
and indivisible, and when the great moment in the trio came, she stepped
forward and with an inspired intensity lifted her quivering hands above
her head in a sort of mad ecstasy, and sang out the note clear and true,
yet throbbing with emotion."
The paper slid from Evelyn's hand. She could see from Ulick's
description of her acting that she had acted very well; if she had not,
he could not have written like that. But her acting only seemed
extraordinary when she read about it. It was all so natural to her. She
simply went on the stage, and once she was on the stage she could not do
otherwise. She could not tell why she did things. Her acting was so much
a part of herself that she could not think of it as an art at all; it
was merely a medium through which she was able to re-live past phases of
her life, or to exhibit her present life in a more intense and
concentrated form. The dropping of the book was quite true; she had
dropped a piece of music when she first saw Owen, and the omission of
the scream was natural to her. She felt sure that she would not have
seen Mephistopheles just then; she would have been too busy thinking of
the young man. But she thought that she might take a little credit for
her entrance in the third act. Somehow her predecessors had not seen
that it was absurd to come smiling and tripping out of church, where she
had seen Mephistopheles. She read the lines describing her power to
depict madness. But even in the mad scenes she was not conscious of
having invented anything. She had had sensations of madness--she
supposed everyone had--and she threw herself into those sensations,
intensifying them, giving them more prominence on the stage than they
had had in her own personal life.
Many had thought her a greater actress than a singer; and she had been
advised to dispense with her voice and challenge a verdict on her
speaking voice in one of Shakespeare's plays. Owen would have liked her
to risk the adventure, but she dared not. It would seem a wanton insult
to her voice. She had imagined that it might leave her as an offended
spirit might leave its local habitation. Her Margaret had been accepted
in Italy, so she must sing it as well as she acted it. But when she had
asked the Marquis d'Albazzi if she sang it as well as her mother, he had
said, "Mademoiselle, the singers of my day were as exquisite flutes, and
the singers of your day give emotions that no flute could give me," and
when she had told him that she was going to be so bold as to attempt
Norma, he had raised his eyebrows a little and said, "Mademoiselle will
sing it according to the fashion of to-day; we cannot compare the
present with the past." Ah! _Ce vieux marquis etait tres fin_. And her
father would think the same; never would he admit that she could sing
like her mother. But Ulick had said--and no doubt he had already read
Ulick's article--that she had rescued the opera from the grave into
which it was gliding. None of them liked it for itself. Her father spoke
indulgently about it because her mother had sung it. Ulick praised it
because he was tired of hearing Wagner praised, and she liked it because
her first success had been made in it.
These morning hours, how delicious they were! to roll over in one's silk
nightgown, to feel it tighten round one's limbs and to think how easily
success had come. Madame Savelli had taught her eight operas in ten
months, and she had sung Margaret in Brussels--a very thin performance,
no doubt, but she had always been a success. Ulick would not have
thought much of her first Margaret. Almost all the points he admired she
had since added. She had learnt the art of being herself on the stage.
That was all she had learnt, and she very much doubted if there was
anything else to learn. If Nature gives one a personality worth
exhibiting, the art of acting is to get as much of one's personality
into the part as possible. That was the A B C and the X Y Z of the art
of acting. She had always found that when she was acting herself, she
was acting something that had not been acted before. She did not compare
her Margaret with her Elizabeth. With Margaret she was back in the
schoolroom. Still she thought that Ulick was right; she had got a new
thrill out of it. Her Margaret was unpublished, but her Elizabeth was
three times as real. There was no comparison; not even in Isolde could
she be more true to herself. Her Elizabeth was a side of her life that
now only existed on the stage. Brunnhilde was her best part, for into it
she poured all her joy of life, all her love of the blue sky with great
white clouds floating, all her enthusiasm for life and for the hero who
came to awaken her to life and to love. In Brunnhilde and Elizabeth all
the humanity she represented--and she thought she was a fairly human
person--was on the stage. But Elsa? That was the one part she was
dissatisfied with. There were people who liked her Elsa. Oh, her Elsa
had been greatly praised. Perhaps she was mistaken, but at the bottom of
her heart she could not but feel that her Elsa was a failure. The truth
was that she had never understood the story. It began beautifully, the
beginning was wonderful--the maiden whom everyone was persecuting, who
would be put to death if some knight did not come to her aid. She could
sing the dream--that she understood. Then the silver-clad knight who
comes from afar, down the winding river, past thorpe and town, to
release her from those who were plotting against her. But afterwards?
This knight who wanted to marry her, and who would not tell his name.
What did it mean? And the celebrated duet in the nuptial chamber--what
did it mean? It was beautiful music--but what did it mean? Could anyone
tell her? She had often asked, but no one had ever been able to tell
She knew very well the meaning of the duet, when Siegfried adventures
through the fire-surrounded mountain and wakes Brunnhilde with a kiss.
That duet meant the joy of life, the rapture of awakening to the
adventure of life, the delight of the swirling current of ephemeral
things. And the duet that she was going to sing; she knew what that
meant too. It meant the desire to possess. Desire finding a barrier to
complete possession in the flesh would break off the fleshly lease, and
enter the great darkness where alone was union and rest.
But she could not discover the idea in the "Lohengrin" duet? Senta she
understood, and she thought she understood Kundry. She had not yet begun
to study the part. But Elsa? Suddenly the thought that, if she was going
to Dulwich, she must get up, struck her like a spur, and she sprang out
of bed, and laying her finger on the electric bell she kept the button
pressed till Merat arrived breathless.
"Merat, I shall get up at once; prepare my bath, and tell the coachman I
shall be ready to start in twenty minutes."
"Twenty minutes? Mademoiselle is joking."
"No, I am not ... in twenty minutes--half-an-hour at the most."
"It would be impossible for me to dress you in less than three-quarters
of an hour."
"I shall be dressed in half-an-hour. Go and tell the coachman at once; I
shall have had my bath when you return."
Her dressing was accomplished amid curt phrases. "It doesn't matter,
that will do.... I can't afford to waste time.... Come, Merat, try to
get on with my hair."
And while Merat buttoned her boots, she buttoned her gloves. She wore a
grey, tailor-made dress and a blue veil tied round a black hat with
ostrich feathers. Escaping from her maid's hands, she ran downstairs.
But the dining-room door opened, and Lady Duckle intervened.
"My dear girl, you really cannot go out before you have had something to
"I cannot stay; I'll get something at the theatre."
"Do eat a cutlet, it will not take a moment ... a mouthful of omelette.
Think of your voice."
There were engravings after Morland on the walls, and the silver on the
breakfast-table was Queen Anne--the little round tea urn Owen and Evelyn
had picked up the other day in a suburban shop; the horses, whose
glittering red hides could be seen through the window, had been bought
last Saturday at Tattersall's. Evelyn went to the window to admire them,
and Lady Duckle's thoughts turned to the coachman.
"He sent in just now to ask for a map of London. It appears he doesn't
know the way, yet, when I took up his references, I was assured that he
knew London perfectly."
"Dulwich is very little known; it is at least five miles from here."
"Oh, Dulwich!... you're going there?"
"Yes, I ought to have gone the day after we arrived in London. ... I
wanted to; I've been thinking of it all the time, and the longer I put
it off the more difficult it will become."
"That is true."
"I thought I would drive there to-day before I went to rehearsal."
"Why choose a day on which you have a rehearsal?"
"Only because I've put it off so often. Something always happens to
prevent me. I must see my father."
"Have you written to him?"
"No, but I sent him a paper containing an account of the first night. I
thought he might have written to me about it, or he might have come to
see me. He must know that I am dying to see him."
"I think it would be better for you to go to see him in the first
Lady Duckle meant Evelyn to understand that it would not be well to risk
anything that might bring about a meeting between Sir Owen and Mr.
Innes. But she did not dare to be more explicit. Owen had forbidden any
discussion of his relations with Evelyn.
"Of course it would be nice for you to see your father. But you should,
I think, go to him; surely that is the proper course."
"We've written to each other from time to time, but not lately--not
since we went to Greece.... I've neglected my correspondence."
Tears rose to Evelyn's eyes, and Lady Duckle was sorely tempted to lead
her into confidences. But Owen's counsels prevailed; she dissembled,
saying that she knew how Evelyn loved her father, and how nice it would
be for her to see him again after such a long absence.
"I dare say he'll forgive me, but there'll be reproaches. I don't think
there's anyone who hates a scene more than I do."
"I haven't lived with you five years without having found out that. But
in avoiding a disagreeable scene we are often preparing one more
"That is true.... I think I'll go to Dulwich."
"Shall you have time?... You're not in the first act."
"Dulwich is not six miles from here. We can drive there easily in
three-quarters of an hour. And three-quarters of an hour to get back.
They won't begin to rehearse the second act before one. It is a little
after ten now."
Lady Duckle followed her to the front door and stood for a moment to
admire the beauty of the morning. The chestnut horses pawed the ground
restlessly, excited by the scent of the lilac which a wilful little
breeze carried up from Hamilton Place. Every passing hansom was full of
flowered silks, and the pale laburnum gold hung in loose tassels out of
quaint garden inlets. The verandahed balconies seemed to hang lower than
ever, and they were all hung and burdened with flowers. And of all these
eighteenth century houses, Evelyn's was the cosiest, and the elder of
the two men, who, from the opposite pavement, stood watching the prima
donna stroking the quivering nostrils of her almost thoroughbred
chestnuts with her white-gloved hand, could easily imagine her in her
pretty drawing-room standing beside a cabinet filled with Worcester and
old Battersea china, for he knew Owen's taste and was certain the Louis
XVI. marble clock would be well chosen, and he would have bet
five-and-twenty-pounds that there were some Watteau and Gainsborough
drawings on the walls.
"Owen is doing the thing well. Those horses must have cost four hundred.
I know how much the Boucher drawing cost."
"How do you know there is a Boucher drawing?"
"Because we bid against each other for it at Christie's. A woman lying
on her stomach, drawn very freely, very simply--quite a large
drawing--just the thing for such a room as hers is, amid chintz and
eighteenth century inlaid or painted tables."
"I wonder where she is going. Perhaps to see him."
"At ten o'clock in the morning! More likely that she will call at her
dressmaker's on her way to rehearsal. She is to sing Elizabeth to-morrow
night." And while discussing her singing, the elder man asked himself if
he had ever had a mistress that would compare with her. "She isn't by
any means a beautiful woman," he said, "but she's the sort of woman that
if one did catch on to it would be for a long while."
The young man pitied Evelyn's misfortune of so elderly an admirer as
Owen. It seemed to him impossible that she could like a man who must be
over forty, and the thought saddened him that he might never possess so
desirable a mistress.
"I wonder of she's faithful to him?"
"Faithful to him, after six years of _liaison!_"
"But, my dear Frank, we know you don't believe that any woman is
straight. How do you know that he is her lover? Very often--"
"My dear Cyril, because you meet her at a ball at Lady Ascott's, and
because she has lived with that Lady Duckle--an old thing who used to
present the daughters of ironmongers at Court for a consideration--above
all, because you want her yourself, you are ready to believe anything. I
never did meet anyone who could deceive himself with the same ease.
Besides, I know all about her. It's quite an extraordinary story."
"How did he pick her up?"
"I'll tell you presently. She's got into her carriage; we shall be able
to see if she rouges as she passes."
Evelyn had noticed the men as she stood trying to explain as much of the
way as she could to her somewhat obtuse coachman. Her bow was gracious
as the chestnuts swept the light carriage by them; the young man pleased
her fancy for the moment, and she tried to recall the few words they had
exchanged as she left the ball. The elder man was a friend of Owen's.
But his face was suddenly blotted from her mind. For if her father were
to refuse to see her, if he were to cast her off for good and all, what
would she do? Her life would be unendurable; she would go mad, mad as
Margaret. But the picture did not frighten her, she knew it was
fictitious; and looking into her soul for the truth, she saw the trees
in the Green Park and the chimney pots of Walsingham House, and she
realised that the nearest future is enveloped in obscurity. She had
always dreaded the journey to London; she had been warned against
London, and ever since she had consented to come she had been ill at
ease and nervous--of what she did not know--of someone behind her, of
someone lurking round her. She argued that she would not have had those
feelings if there was not a reason. When she had them, something always
happened to her, and nothing could convince her that London was not the
turning-point in her fortune. The carriage seemed to be going very fast;
they were already in Victoria Street; she cried to the coachman not to
drive so fast, he answered that he must drive at that pace if he was to
get there by eleven.... Surely her father would not refuse to see her.
He could not, he would not take her by the shoulders and turn her out
of the house--the house she had known all her life. Oh, good heavens! if
he did, what would happen afterwards? She could not go back to Owen and
sing operas at Covent Garden, and her soul wailed like a child and a
deadly terror of her father came upon her. It might be her destiny never
to speak to him again! That fate had been the fate of other women. Why
should it not be hers? He might not send for her when he was dying, and
if she were dying he might not come to her; and after death, would she
see him? Would they then be reconciled? If she did not see her father in
this world, she would never see him, for she had promised Owen to
believe in oblivion, and she thought she did believe in nothing; but she
felt now that she must say her prayers, she must pray that her father
might forgive her. It might be absurd, but she felt that a prayer would
ease her mind. It was dreadfully hypocritical to pray to a God one
didn't believe in. There was no sense in it, nor was there much sense in
much else one did.... She had promised Owen not to pray, and it was a
sort of blasphemy to say prayers and lead a life of sin. She did not
like to break her promise to Owen. She must make up her mind.... Her
father might be at St. Joseph's! and it was with a sense of refreshing
delight that she called the coachman and gave the order. The chestnuts
were prancing like greyhounds amid heavy drays and clumsy, bear-like
horses; the coachman was trying to hold them in and to understand the
policeman, who shouted the way to him from the edge of the pavement.
But she ought not to go to St. Joseph's. She had promised Owen to avoid
churches, priests--all that reminded her of religion. He had begged that
until she was firm in her agnosticism she should not expose herself to
influences which could but result in mental distress, and without any
practical issue unless to separate them. She had escaped once; next time
he might find it more difficult to win her back. How kind he was. He had
not said a word about his own suffering.
It had happened nearly three years ago in Florence, and an accident had
brought it all about. One afternoon she was walking in the streets; she
could still see the deep cornices showing distinct against the sky; she
was admiring them when suddenly a church appeared; she could not tell
how it was, but she had been propelled to enter.... A feeling which had
arisen out of her heart, a sort of yearning--that was it. The church was
almost empty; how restful it had seemed that afternoon, the rough
plastered walls and the two figures of the nuns absorbed in prayer. Her
heart had begun to ache, and her daily life with its riches and glories
had seemed to concern her no longer. It was as if the light had changed,
and she had become suddenly aware of her real self. A tall cross stood
oddly placed between the arches; she had not seen it at first, but as
her eyes rested upon it she had been drawn into wistful communion with
her dying Redeemer. And all that had seemed false suddenly became true,
and she had left the church overcome with remorse. That night her door
was closed to Owen; she had pleaded indisposition, unable for some shame
to speak the truth. On the next day and the day after the desire of
forgiveness had sent her to the church and then to the priest, but the
priest had refused her absolution till she separated from her lover. She
had felt that she must obey. She had written a note--she could not think
of it now--so cruel did it seem, yet at the time it had seemed quite
natural. It was not until the next day, and the day after was worse
still, that she began to plumb the depths of her own unhappiness; every
day it seemed to grow deeper. She could not keep him out of her mind.
She used to sit and try to do needlework in the hotel sitting-room. But
how often had she had to put it down and to walk to the window to hide
her tears? As the time drew near for her to go to the theatre, she had
to vow not to cry again till she got home. He was always in his
box--once she had nearly broken down, and, pitying her, he came no more.
But not to see him at all was worse than the pain of seeing him. That
empty box! And all through the night she thought of him in his hotel,
only a street or two distant. She could not go through it again, nor
could she think what would have happened if they had not met. Something
had prompted her to go out one afternoon; she was weak with weeping and
sick with love, and, feeling that there are burdens beyond our strength,
she had walked with her eyes steadily fixed before her ... and somehow
she was not surprised when she saw him coming towards her. He joined her
quite naturally, as if by appointment, and they had walked on,
instinctively finding their way out of the crowd. They had walked on and
on, now and then exchanging remarks, waiting for a full explanation,
wondering what form it would take. Cypresses and campanili defined
themselves in the landscape as the evening advanced. Further on the
country flattened out; there were urban gardens and dusty little
vineyards. They had sat on a bench; above them was a statue of the
Virgin; she remembered noticing it; it reminded her of her scapular, but
nothing had mattered to her then but Owen. He said--
"Well Evelyn, when is all this nonsense going to cease?"
"I don't know, Owen; I'm very unhappy."
The sense of reconciliation which overtook her was too delicious to be
resisted, and she remembered how all the way home she had longed for the
moment when she would throw herself into his arms. He had not reproved
her nor reproached her; he had merely forgiven her the pain she had
caused him. There were sounds of children's voices in the air and a glow
of light upon the roofs. Their talk had been gentle and philosophic; she
had listened eagerly, and had promised to shun influences which made her
uselessly unhappy. And he had promised her that in time to come she
would surely succeed in freeing herself from the tentacles of this
church, and that the day would come when she would watch the Mass as she
would some childish sport. "Though," he added, smiling, "it is doubtful
if anyone can see his own rocking-horse without experiencing a desire to
mount it." Nearly three years had passed since that time in Florence,
and she was now going to put the strength of her agnosticism to the
"They have not built a new entrance," she remarked to herself, as the
coachman reined up the chestnuts before the meagre steps. "But
alterations are being made," she thought, catching sight of some
scaffolding. As she stepped out of her carriage she remembered that her
dress and horses could not fail to suggest Owen's money to her father.
She paused, and then hoped he would remember that she was getting three
hundred pounds a week, and could pay for her carriage and gowns
herself. And, smiling at the idea of dressing herself in a humble frock
suitable for reconciliation, she entered the church hurriedly. She did
not care to meet him in open daylight, in the presence of her servants.
The church would be a better place. He could not say much to her in
church, and she thought she would like to meet him suddenly face to
face; then there would be no time for explanations, and he could not
refuse to speak to her. Looking round she saw that Mass was in progress
at one of the side altars. The acolyte had just changed the book from
the left to the right, and the congregation of about a dozen had risen
for the reading of the Gospel. She knew that her father was not among
them. She must have known all the while that he was not in church. If he
were at St. Joseph's, he would be in the practising room. She might go
round and ask for him ... and run the risk of meeting one of the
priests! They were men of tact, and would refrain from unpleasant
allusions. But they knew she was on the stage, that she had not been
back since she had left home; they could not but suspect; however they
might speak, she could not avoid reading meanings, which very likely
were not intended, into their words.... And she would see the practising
room full of faces, and her father, already angry at the interruption,
opening the door to her. It would be worse than meeting him in the
street. No, she would not seek him in the practising room--then
where--Dulwich? Perhaps, but not to-day. She would wait in the church
and see if the Elevation compelled her to bow her head.
And in this intention she took a seat in full view of the altar where
the priest was saying Mass. Every shape and every colour of this church,
its slightest characteristics, brought back an impression of long ago;
the very wording of her childish thoughts was suddenly remembered; and
she felt, whether she believed or disbelieved, that it was pleasant to
kneel where she knelt when she was a little girl. It was touching to see
the poor folk pray. The poor Irish and Italians--especially the
Irish--how simple they were; it was all real to them, however false it
may have become to her. Her eyes wandered among the little congregation;
only one she recognised--the strangely thin and crooked lady who, as far
back as she could remember, used to walk up the aisle, her hands crossed
in front of her like a wooden doll's. She had not altered at all; she
wore the same battered black bonnet. This lonely lady had always been a
subject of curiosity to Evelyn. She remembered how she used to invent
houses for her to live in and suitable friends and evenings at home. The
day that Owen came to St. Joseph's before he went away on his yacht to
the Mediterranean, he had put his hat on this lady's chair, and she had
had to ask him to remove it. How frightened she had looked, and he not
too well pleased at having to sit beside her. That was six years ago,
and Evelyn thought how much had happened to her in that time--a great
deal to her and very little to that poor woman in the black bonnet. She
must have some little income on which she lived in a room with wax fruit
in the window. Every morning and evening she was at St. Joseph's. The
church was her one distraction; it was her theatre, the theatre
certainly of all her thoughts.
But at that moment the new choir-loft caught Evelyn's eye, and she
imagined the melodious choirs answering each other from opposite sides.
No doubt her father had insisted on the addition, so that such
antiphonal music as the Reproaches might be given. Some rich carpets had
been laid down, some painting and cleaning had been done, and the
fashionable names on the front seats reminded her of the Grand Circle at
Covent Garden. Evidently the frequentation of St. Joseph's was much the
same as the theatres. The congregation was attracted by the choirs, and,
when these were silenced, the worship shrank into the mumbled prayers of
a few Irish and Italians. Evelyn wondered if the poor lady could
distinguish between her father's music and Father Gordon's. The only
music she heard was the ceaseless music of her devout soul.
Was it not strange that the paper she had sent her father containing an
account of her success in the part of Margaret contained also an account
of his choir? They had both succeeded. The old music had made St.
Joseph's a fashionable church. So far she knew, and despite her strange
terror of their first meeting, she longed to hear him tell her how he
had overcome the opposition of Father Gordon.
The Gospel ended, the little congregation sat down, and Evelyn reflected
how much more difficult belief was to her than to the slightly-deformed
woman in front of her. The doctrine that a merciful God has prepared a
place of eternal torment for his erring creatures is hard enough to
credit. She didn't think she could ever believe that again; or that God
had sent his Son on earth to expiate on the cross the sins which he and
his Father in conjunction with the Holy Ghost had fated them to commit;
or that bread and wine becomes, at the bidding of the priest, the
creator of all the stars we see at midnight. True that she believed
these doctrines no longer, but, unfortunately, this advancement brought
her no nearer to the solution of the question directly affecting her
life. Owen encouraged her to persevere in her agnosticism. "Old
instincts," he said, "are not conquered at once. You must be patient.
The Scotch were converted about three or four hundred years after
Christ. Christianity is therefore fourteen hundred years old, whereas
the seed of agnosticism has been sown but a few years; give it time to
catch root." She had laughed, his wit amused her, but our feelings
are--well, they are ours, and we cannot separate ourselves from them.
They are certain, though everything else is uncertain, and when she
looked into her mind (she tried to avoid doing so as much as possible,
but she could not always help herself) something told her that the
present was but a passing stage. Often it seemed to her that she was
like one out on a picnic--she was amused--she would be sorry when it
ended; but she could not feel that it was to last. Other women were at
home in their lives; she was not in hers. We all have a life that is
more natural for us to live than any other; we all have a mission of
some sort to accomplish, and the happiest are those whose lives
correspond to their convictions. Even Owen's love did not quite
compensate her for the lack of agreement between her outer and inner
All this they had argued a hundred times, but their points of view were
so different. Once, however, she thought she had made him understand.
She had said, "If you don't understand religion, you understand art.
Well, then, imagine a man who wants to paint pictures; give him a palace
to live in; place every pleasure at his call, imposing only one
condition--that he is not to paint. His appetites may detain him in the
palace for a while, but sooner or later he will cry out, 'All these
pleasures are nothing to me; what I want is to paint pictures.'" She
could see that the parable had convinced him, or nearly. He had said he
was afraid she was hopeless. But a moment after, drawing her toward him
with quiet, masterful arm, and speaking with that hard voice that could
become so soft, it had seemed as if heaven suddenly melted away, and his
kisses were worth every sacrifice.
That was the worst of it. She was neither one thing nor the other. She
desired two lives diametrically opposed to each other, consequently she
would never be happy. But she was happy. She had everything; she could
think of nothing that she wanted that she had not got: it was really too
ridiculous for her to pretend to herself that she was not happy. So long
as she had believed in religion she had not been happy, but now she
believed no longer--she was happy. It was strange, however, that a
church always brought the old feeling back again, and her thoughts
paused, and in a silent awe of soul she asked herself if, at the bottom
of her soul, she still disbelieved in God. But it was so silly to
believe the story of the Virgin--think of it.... As Owen said, in no
mythology was there anything more ridiculous. Nevertheless, she did not
convince herself that the dim, vague, unquiet sensation which rankled in
her was not a still unextirpated germ of the original faith. She tried
to think it was not a religious feeling but the result of the terrible
interview still hanging over her, the dread that her father might not
forgive her. She tried to look into her mind to discover the impulse
which had compelled her to turn from her intention and come to this
church. She remembered the uncontrollable desire to say a prayer: that
she could have resisted, but the moment after she had remembered that
perhaps it was too late to find her father at home. But had she really
hoped to find him at St. Joseph's, or had she used the pretext to
deceive herself? She could not tell. But if religion was not true, if
she did not believe, how was it that she had always thought it wrong to
live with a man to whom she was not married? There was no use
pretending, she never had quite got a haunting scruple on that point out
of her mind.
There could be but two reasons, he had insisted, for the maintenance of
the matrimonial idea--the preservation of the race, and the belief that
cohabitation without matrimony is an offence against God. But the race
is antecedent to matrimony, and if there be no resurrection, there can
be no religion.... If there be no personal God who manages our affairs
and summons to everlasting bliss or torment, the matter is not worth
thinking about--at least not to a Catholic. Pious agnosticism is a
bauble unworthy to tempt anyone who has been brought up a Catholic. A
Catholic remains a Catholic, or else becomes a frank agnostic. Only
weak-minded Protestants run to that slender shelter--morality without
God. "But why are you like this?" he had said, fixing his eyes.... "I
think I see. Your father comes of a long line of Scotch Protestants; he
became a Catholic so that he might marry your mother. Your scruples must
be a Protestant heredity. I wonder if it is so? In no other way can I
account for the fact that although you no longer believe in a
resurrection, you cling fast to the doctrine which declares it wrong for
two people, both free, to live together, unless they register their
cohabitation in the parish books. Our reason is our own. Our feelings we
inherit. You are enslaved to your Scotch ancestors; you are a slave to
the superstitions of your grandmother and your grand-aunts; you obey
"But do we not inherit our reason just as much as we inherit our
They had argued that point. She could not remember what his argument
was, but she remembered that she had held her ground, that he had
complimented her, not forgetting, however, to take the credit of the
improvement in her intellectual equipment to himself, which was indeed
no more than just. She would have been nothing without him. How he had
altered her! She had come to think and feel like him. She often caught
herself saying exactly what he would say in certain circumstances, and
having heard him say how odours affected him, she had tried to acquire a
like sensibility. Unconsciously she had assimilated a great deal. That
little trick of his, using his eyes a certain way, that knowing little
glance of his had become habitual to her. She had met men who were more
profound, never anyone whose mind was more alert, more amusing and
sufficient for every occasion. She sentimentalised a moment, and then
remembered further similarities. They now ate the same dishes, and no
longer had need to consult each other before ordering dinner. In their
first week in Paris she had learnt to look forward to chocolate in the
morning before she got up, and this taste was endeared to her, for it
reminded her of him. In the picture galleries she had always tried to
pick out the pictures he would like. If they could not decide how a
passage should be sung, or were in doubt regarding the attitude and
gesture best fitted to carry on a dramatic action, she had noticed that,
if they separated so that they might arrive at individual conclusions,
they almost always happened upon the same. To each other they now
affected not to know from whom a certain quaint notion had come--clearly
it had been inspired by him, but which had first expressed it was not
sure--that the three great type operas were "Tristan and Isolde," the
"Barber of Seville," and "La Belle Helene." Nor were they sure which had
first suggested that in the last week of her stage career she should
appear in all three parts. Evelyn Innes, as La Belle Helene, would set
musical London by the ears.
She had often wondered whether, by having absorbed so much of Owen's
character, she had proved herself deficient in character. Owen
maintained, on the contrary, that the sign of genius is the power of
recognising and assimilating that which is necessary to the development
of oneself. He mentioned Goethe's life, which he said was but the tale
of a long assimilation of ideas. The narrow, barren soul is narrow and
barren because it cannot acquire. We come into the world with nothing in
our own right except the capacity for the acquisition of ideas. We
cannot invent ideas; we can only gather some of those in circulation
since the beginning of the world. We endow them with the colour and form
of our time, and, if that colour and form be of supreme quality, the
work is preserved as representative of a period in the history of
civilisation; a name may or may not be attached to each specimen. Genius
is merely the power of assimilation; only the fool imagines he invents.
Owen would go still further. He maintained that if the circumstances of
a man's life admitted the acquisition of only one set of ideas, his work
was thin; but if, on the contrary, circumstances threw him in the way of
a new set of ideas, a set of ideas different from the first set, yet
sufficiently near for the same brain to assimilate, then the work
produced by that brain would be endowed with richer colour; or, in
severer form, the idea was, he said, to a work of art what salt is to
meat--it preserved works of art against the corrupting action of time.
How they had talked! how they had discussed things! They had talked
about everything, and she remembered all he said, as she recalled the
arguments he had used. The scene of this last conversation passed and
repassed in vanishing gleams--Bopart on the Rhine. They had stopped
there on their way to Bayreuth, where she was going to sing Elsa. The
maidens and their gold, the fire-surrounding Brunnhilde, the death of
the hero, the end of the legends: these she knew, but of "Parsifal" she
knew nothing--the story or the music. The time was propitious for him to
tell it. The flame of the candle burnt in the still midnight, and she
had listened with bated breath. She could see Owen leaning forward,
telling the story, and she could even see her own listening face as he
related how the poor fool rises through sanctification of faith and
repudiation of doubt, how he heals the sick king with the sacred spear
and becomes himself the high priest of the Grail. It had seemed to
Evelyn that she had been carried beyond the limits of earthly things.
The thrill and shiver of the dead man's genius haunted the liquid ripple
of the river; the moment was ecstatic; the deep, windless night was full
of the haunting ripple of the Rhine. And she remembered how she had
clasped her hands ... her very words came back to her....
"It is wonderful ... and we are listening to the Rhine; we shall never
forget this midnight."
At that moment the Sanctus bell rang, and she remembered why she had
stayed in church. She wished to discover what remnant, tatter or shred
of her early faith still clung about her. She wished to put her
agnosticism to the test. She wondered if at the moment of consecration
she would be compelled to bow her head. The bell rang again.... She grew
tremulous with expectation. She strove to refrain, but her head bowed a
little, and her thoughts expanded into prayer; she was not sure that she
actually prayed, for her thoughts did not divide into explicit words or
phrases. There certainly followed a beautiful softening of her whole
being, the bitterness of life extinguished; divine eyes seemed bent upon
her, and she was in the midst of mercy, peace and love; and daring no
longer to think she did not believe, she sat rapt till Mass was ended.
Still under the sweet influence of the church and the ceremony she got
into her carriage. But the mystery engendered in her soul seemed to fade
and die in the sunshine; she could almost perceive it going out like a
gentle, evanescent mist on the surface of a pool; she remembered that
she would very likely meet Ulick at rehearsal, and could find out from
him how her father would be likely to receive her visit. Ulick seemed
the solution of the difficulty--only he might tell her that her father
did not wish to see her. She did not think he would say that, and the
swing of her carriage and her thoughts went to the same rhythm until the
carriage stopped before the stage door of Covent Garden Theatre.
As she ascended the stairs the swing door was pushed open. The pilgrims'
song drifted through it, and she knew that they had begun the overture.
She crossed a stage in indescribable disorder. Scene-shifters were
calling to each other, and there was an incessant hammering in the
flies. "We might as well rehearse in a barn with the threshing-machine
going all the while," Evelyn thought. She had to pass down a long
passage to get to the stalls, and, finding herself in inky darkness, she
grew nervous, though she knew well enough whither it led. At last she
perceived a little light, and, following it for a while, she happened to
stumble into one of the boxes, and there she sat and indulged in angry
comments on the negligence of English operatic management.
Through the grey twilight of the auditorium she could see heads and
hands, and shapes of musical instruments. The conductor's grey hair was
combed back over his high forehead. He swung a lean body to the right
and left. Suddenly he sprang up in his seat, and, looking in the
direction of certain instruments, he brought down his stick
determinedly, and, having obtained the effect he desired, his beat swung
leisurely for a while.... "'Cellos, crescendo," he cried. "Ah, _mon
Dieu!_ Ta-ra-la-la-la! Now, gentlemen, number twenty-five, please."
For a few bars the stick swung automatically, striking the harmonium as
it descended. "'Cellos, a sudden piano on the accent, and then no accent
At the back of the stalls the poor Italian chorus had gathered like a
herd, not daring to sit in seats, the hire of which for a few hours
equalled their weekly wages. But the English girls, whose musical tastes
had compelled them from their suburban homes, had no such scruples.
Confident of the cleanliness of their skirts and hats, they sat in the
best stalls, their scores on their knees. One happened to look up as
Evelyn entered. She whispered to her neighbours, and immediately after
the row was discussing Bayreuth and Evelyn Innes.
Meanwhile, the pilgrims' song grew more strenuous, until at last the
trombones proclaimed, in unconquerable tones, Tannhaeuser's abjuration of
sensual life, and at that moment the tall, spare figure of Mr. Hermann
Goetze, the manager, appeared in the doorway leading to the stalls. He
was with his apparitor and satellite, Mr. Wheeler, a foppish little man,
who seemed pleased at being in confidential conversation with his great
chief. Catching sight of Evelyn in the box just above his eyes, he
smiled and bowed obsequiously. A sudden thought seemed to strike him,
and Evelyn said to herself, "He's coming to talk with me about the
Brangaene. I hope he has done what I told him, and engaged Helbrun for
At the same moment it flashed across her mind that Mademoiselle
Helbrun's unsuccessful appearance in "Carmen" might cause Mr. Harmann
Goetze to propose someone else. She hoped that this was not so, for she
could not consent to sing Isolde to anyone but Helbrun's Brangaene, and
it was in this resolute, almost aggressive, frame of mind that she
received the manager.
"How do you do, Mr. Hermann Goetze? Well, I hope you succeeded in
inducing Mademoiselle Helbrun to play Brangaene?"
"I have not had a moment, Miss Innes. I have not seen Mademoiselle
Helbrun since last night. You will be sorry to hear that her Carmen was
not considered a success.... Do you think--"
"There is no finer artist than Mademoiselle Helbrun. If you do not
Mr. Hermann Goetze took his handkerchief from his pocket, and, upon
inquiry, she learnt that he was suffering from toothache. Mr. Wheeler
advised different remedies, but Mr. Hermann Goetze did not believe in
remedies. There was nothing for it but to have it out. Evelyn suggested
her dentist, and Mr. Hermann Goetze apologised for this interruption in
the conversation. He begged of her not to think of him, and they entered
into the difficult question of salary. He told her that Mademoiselle
Helbrun would ask eighty pounds a performance, and such heavy salary
added to the four hundred pounds a performance he was paying for the
Tristan and Isolde would--But so intense was the pain from his tooth at
this moment that he could not finish the sentence. A little alarmed,
Evelyn waited until the spasm had ended, and when the manager's
composure was somewhat restored, she spoke of the change and stress of
emotion, often expressed in isolated notes and vehement declamation, and
she reminded the poor man of Brangaene's long song in which she
endeavours to appease Isolde. Mr. Hermann Goetze looked at her out of
pain-stricken eyes, and said he was listening. She assured him that the
melodious effect would be lost if Brangaene could not sing the long-drawn
phrases in a single breath. But she stopped suddenly, perceiving that an
aesthetic discussion was impossible with a man who was in violent pain.
Mr. Wheeler proposed to go to the chemist for a remedy. Mr. Hermann
Goetze shook his head; he had tried all remedies in vain; the dentist
was the only resort, and he promised to go to Evelyn's when the
rehearsal was over, and he retired from the box, holding his
handkerchief to his face. When he got on to the stage, Evelyn was glad
to see that he was a little better, and was able to give some directions
regarding the stage management. She was genuinely sorry for him, for she
had had toothache herself. Nevertheless, it was unfortunate that they
had not been able to settle about Mademoiselle Helbrun's engagement. She
pondered how this might be effected; perhaps, after rehearsal, Mr.
Hermann Goetze might be feeling better, or she might ask him to dinner.
As she considered the question, her eyes wandered over the auditorium in
quest of Ulick Dean.
She spied him sitting in the far corner, and wondered when he would look
in her direction, and then remembering what he had said about the
transmission of thought between sympathetic affinities, she sought to
reach him with hers. She closed her eyes so that she might concentrate
her will sufficiently for it to penetrate his brain. She sat tense with
her desire, her hands clenched for more than a minute, but he did not
answer to her will, and its tension relaxed in spite of herself. "He
sits there listening to the music as if he had never heard a note of it
before. Why does he not come to me?" As if in answer, Ulick got out of
his stall and walked toward the entrance, seemingly in the intention of
leaving the theatre. Evelyn felt that she must speak to him, and she was
about to call to one of the chorus and ask him to tell Mr. Dean that she
wanted to speak to him, but a vague inquietude seemed to awaken in him,
and he seemed uncertain whether to go or stay, and he looked round the
theatre as if seeking someone. He looked several times in the direction
of Evelyn's box without seeing her, and she was at last obliged to wave
her hand. Then the dream upon his face vanished, and his eyes lit up,
and his nod was the nod of one whose soul is full of interesting story.
He had one of those long Irish faces, all in a straight line, with flat,
slightly hollow cheeks, and a long chin. It was clean shaven, and a
heavy lock of black hair was always falling over his eyes. It was his
eyes that gave its sombre ecstatic character to his face. They were
large, dark, deeply set, singularly shaped, and they seemed to smoulder
like fires in caves, leaping and sinking out of the darkness. He was a
tall, thin young man, and he wore a black jacket and a large, blue
necktie, tied with the ends hanging loose over his coat. Evelyn received
him effusively, stretching both hands to him and telling him she was so
glad he had come. She said she was delighted with his melodies, and
would sing them as soon as she got an occasion. But he did not seem as
pleased as he should have done; and sitting, his eyes fixed on the
floor--now and then he muttered a word of thanks. His silence
embarrassed her, and she felt suddenly that the talk which she had been
looking forward to would be a failure, and she almost wished him out of
her box. Neither had spoken for some time, and, to break an awkward
silence, she said that she had been that morning at St. Joseph's. He
looked up; their eyes met unexpectedly, and she seemed to read an
impertinence in his eyes; they seemed to say, "I wonder how you dared go
there!" But his words contradicted the idea which she thought she had
read in his eyes. He asked her at once eagerly and sympathetically, if
she had seen her father. No, he was not there, and, growing suddenly
shy, she sought to change the conversation.
"You are not a Roman Catholic, I think.... I know you were born a
Catholic, but from something you said the other day I was led to think
that you did not believe."
"I cannot think what I could have said to give you such an idea. Most
people reproach me for believing too much."
"The other day you spoke of the ancient gods Angus and Lir, and the
great mother Dana, as of real gods."
"Of course I spoke of them as real gods; I am a Celt, and they are real
gods to me."
Now his face had lighted up, and in clear, harmonious voice he was
arguing that the gods of a nation cannot die to that nation until it be
incorporated and lost in another nation.
"I don't see how you reconcile Angus and Lir with Christianity, that is
"But I don't try to reconcile them; they do not need reconciliation; all
the gods are part of one faith."
"But what do you believe ... seriously?"
"Everything except Atheism, and unthinking contentment. I believe in
Christianity, but I am not so foolish as to limit myself to
Christianity; I look upon Christianity as part of the truth, but not the
whole truth. There is a continuous revelation: before Christ Buddha,
before Buddha Krishna, who was crucified in mid-heaven, and the Gods of
my race live too."
She longed to ask Ulick so many questions that she could not frame one,
so far had the idea of a continuous revelation carried her beyond the
limits of her habitual thoughts; and while she was trying to think out
his meaning in one direction, she lost a great deal of what he said
subsequently, and her face wore an eager, puzzled and disappointed look.
That she should have been the subject of this young man's thoughts, that
she should have suggested his opera of Grania, and that he should have
at last succeeded, by means of an old photograph, in imagining some sort
of image of her, flattered her inmost vanity, and with still brightening
eyes she hoped that he was not disappointed in her.
"When did you begin to write opera? You must come to see me. You will
tell me about your opera, and we will go through the music."
"Will you let me play my music to you?"
"Yes, I shall be delighted."
At that moment she remarked that Ulick's teeth were almost the most
beautiful she had ever seen, and that they shone like snow in his dark
"Some afternoon at the end of the week. We're friends--I feel that we
are. You are father's friend; you were his friend when I was away. Tell
me if he missed me very much. Tell me about him. I have been longing to
ask you all the time. What is he doing? I have heard about his choir. He
has got some wonderful treble voices."
"He is very busy now rehearsing the 'Missa Brevis.' It will be given
next Sunday. It will be splendidly done ... You ought to come to hear
"I should like to, of course, but I am not certain that I shall not be
able to go to St. Joseph's next Sunday. How did you and father become
"Through an article I wrote about the music of St. Joseph's. Mr. Innes
said that it was written by a musician, and he wrote to the paper."
"Asking you to come to see him?"
"Yes. Your father was the first friend I made in London."
"And that was some years ago?"
"About four years ago. I had come over from Ireland with a few pounds in
my pocket, and a portmanteau full of music, which I soon found no one
"You had written music before you had met father?"
"Yes, I was organist at St. Patrick's in Dublin for nearly three years.
There's no one like your father, Miss Innes."
"No one, is there?" she replied enthusiastically. "There's no one like
him. I'm so glad you are friends. You see him nearly every day, and you
show him all your music." Then after a pause, she said, "Tell me, did he
miss me very much?"
"Yes, he missed you, of course. But he felt that you were not wholly to
"And you took my place. I can see it all. It was father and son,
instead of father and daughter. How well you must have got on together.
What talks you must have had."
The silence was confidential, and though they both were thinking of Mr.
Innes, they seemed to become intimately aware of each other.
"But may I venture to advise you?"
"I'm sure you ought to go and see him, or at least write to him saying
you'd like to see him."
"I know--I know--I must go. He'll forgive me; he must forgive me. But I
wish it were over. I'm afraid you think me very cowardly. You will not
say you have seen me. You promise me to say nothing."
Ulick gave her the required promise, and she asked him again to come to
"I want you," she said, "to go through Isolde's music with me."
"Do you think I can tell you anything about the music you don't know
"Yes, I think you can. You tell me things about myself that I did not
know. I hardly knew that I acted as you describe in Margaret. I hope I
did, for I seemed very good in your article. I read it over again this
morning in bed. But tell me, did father come?"
"You must not press me to answer that question. My advice to you is to
go and see your father. He will tell you what he thought of your singing
if he came here.... The act is over," he said suddenly, and he seemed
glad of the interruption. "I wonder what your Elizabeth will be like?"
"What do you think?"
"You're a clever woman; you will no doubt arrive at a very logical and
clear conception of the part, but--"
"But we cannot act what is not in us. Is that what you were going to
"Something like that."
"You think I shall arrive at a logical and clear conception. Is that the
way you think I arrived at my Margaret? Did it look like that? I may
play the part of Elizabeth badly, but I sha'n't play it as you think I
shall. This frock is against me. I've a mind to send you away."
Instead of rushing wildly from side to side according to custom, she
advanced timidly, absorbed in deep memory; at every glance her face
expressed a recollection; she seemed to alternate between a vague dread
and an unconquerable delight; she seemed like a dim sky filled with an
inner radiance, but for a time it seemed uncertain which would
prevail--sunlight or shadow. But, like the sunlight, joy burst forth,
scattering uncertainty and alarm, illuminating life from end to end; and
her emotion vented itself in cries of April melody, and all the barren
stage seemed in flower about her; she stood like a bird on a branch
singing the spring time. And she sang every note with the same ease,
each was equally round and clear, but what delighted Ulick was the
perfect dramatic expression of her singing. It seemed to him that he was
really listening to a very young girl who had just heard of the return
of a man whom she had loved or might have loved. A bud last night slept
close curled in virginal strictness, with the morning light it awoke a
rose. But the core of the rose is still hidden from the light, only the
outer leaves know it, and so Elizabeth is pure in her first aspiration;
she rejoices as the lark rejoices in the sky, without desiring to
possess the sky. Ulick could not explain to himself the obsession of
this singing; he was thrall to the sensation of a staid German princess
of the tenth century, and the wearing of a large hat with ostrich
feathers, and tied with a blue veil, hindered no whit of it. And the
tailor-made dress and six years of _liaison_ with Owen Asher was no let
to the mediaeval virgin formulated in antique custom. In the duet with
Tannhaeuser she was benign and forgiving, the divine penitent who, having
no sins of her own to do penance for, does penance for the sins of
It was then that Ulick began to understand the secret of Evelyn's
acting; in Elizabeth she had gone back to the Dulwich days before she
knew Asher, and was acting what she then felt and thought. She believed
she was living again with her father, and so intense was her conviction
that it evoked the externals. Even her age vanished; she was but
eighteen, a virgin whose sole reality has been her father and her
chatelaine, and whose vision of the world was, till now, a mere
decoration--sentinels on the drawbridge, hunters assembling on the
hillside, pictures hardly more real to her than those she weaves on her
Ulick leaned out of the box and applauded; he dared even to cry encore,
and, following suit, the musicians laid aside their instruments and,
standing up in the orchestra, applauded with him. The conductor tapped
approval with his stick on the little harmonium, the chorus at the back
cried encore. It was a curious scene; these folk, whose one idea at
rehearsal is to get it over as soon as possible, conniving at their own
retention in the theatre.
The applause of her fellow artistes delighted her; she bowed to the
orchestra, and, turning to the chorus, said that she would be pleased to
sing the duet again if they did not mind the delay; and coming down the
stage and standing in front of the box, she said to Ulick--
"Well, are you satisfied?... Is that your idea of Elizabeth?"
"So far as we have gone, yes, but I shall not know if your Elizabeth is
my Elizabeth until I have heard the end of the act."
Turning to Mr. Hermann Goetze, she said--
"Mr. Dean has very distinct ideas how this part should be played."
"Mr. Dean," answered the manager, laughing, "would not go to Bayreuth
three years ago because they played 'Tannhaeuser.' But one evening he
took the score down to read the new music, and to his surprise he found
that it was the old that interested him. Mr. Dean is always making
discoveries; he discovers all my singers after he has heard them."
"And Mr. Hermann Goetze discovers his singers before _he_ has heard
them," cried Ulick.
Mr. Hermann Goetze looked for a moment as if he were going to get angry,
but remembering that Dean was critic to an important weekly, he laughed
and put his handkerchief to his jaw, and Evelyn went up the stage to
meet the Landgrave--her father--and she sang a duet with him. As soon as
it was concluded, the introduction to the march brought the first
courtiers and pages on the stage, and with the first strains of the
march the assembly, which had been invited to witness the competitions,
was seated in the circular benches ranged round the throne of the
Landgrave and his daughter.
Having consulted with his stage manager and superintended some
alterations in the stage arrangements, Mr. Hermann Goetze, whose
toothache seemed a little better again, left the stage, and coming into
the box where Ulick was sitting, he sat beside him and affected some
interest in his opinion regarding the grouping, for it had occurred to
him that if Evelyn should take a fancy to this young man nothing was
more likely than that she should ask to have his opera produced. With
the plot and some of the music he was already vaguely acquainted; and
he had gathered, in a general way, that Ulick Dean was considered to be
a man of talent. The British public might demand a new opera, and there
had been some talk of Celtic genius in the newspapers lately. Dean's
"Grania" might make an admirable diversion in the Wagnerian
repertoire--only it must not be too anti-Wagnerian. Mr. Goetze prided
himself on being in the movement. Now, if Evelyn Innes would sing the
title _role_, "Grania" was the very thing he wanted. And in such a frame
of mind, he listened to Ulick Dean. He was glad that "Grania" was based
on a legend; Wagner had shown that an opera could not be written except
on a legendary basis. The Irish legends were just the thing the public
was prepared to take an interest in. But there was one thing he
feared--that there were no motives.
"Tell me more about the music? It is not like the opera you showed me a
year or two ago in which instead of motives certain instruments
introduce the characters? There is nothing Gregorian about this new
work, is there?"
"Nothing," Ulick answered, smiling contemptuously--nothing recognisable
to uneducated ears."
"Plenty of chromatic writing?"
"Yes, I think I can assure you that there is plenty of modulation, some
unresolved dissonances. I suppose that that is what you want. Alas,
there are not many motives."
Ulick waited to be asked if he could not introduce some. But at that
moment Tannhaeuser's avowal of the joys he had experienced with Venus in
Mount Horsel had shocked the Landgrave's pious court. The dames and the
wives of the burgesses had hastened away, leaving their husbands to
avenge the affront offered to their modesty. The knights drew their
swords; it was the moment when Elizabeth runs down the steps of the
throne and demands mercy from her father for the man she loves. The idea
of this scene was very dear to Ulick, and his whole attention was fixed
He was only attracted by essential ideas, and the mysterious expectancy
of the virgin awaiting the approach of the man she loves was surely the
essential spirit of life--the ultimate meaning of things. The comedy of
existence, the habit of life worn in different ages of the world had no
interest for him; it was the essential that he sought and wished to put
upon the stage--the striving and yearning, and then the inevitable
acceptation of the burden of life; in other words, the entrance into the
life of resignation. That was what he sought in his own operas, and from
this ideal he had never wavered; all other art but this essential art
was indifferent to him. It was no longer the beautiful writing of
Wagner's later works that attracted him; he deemed this one to be,
perhaps, the finest, being the sincerest, and "Parsifal" the worst,
being the most hypocritical. Elizabeth was the essential penitent, she
who does penance not for herself, she has committed no sin, but the
sublime penitent who does penance for the sins of others. Not for a
moment could he admit the penitence of Kundry. In her there was merely
the external aspect. "Parsifal" was to Ulick a revolting hypocrisy, and
Kundry the blot on Wagner's life. In the first act she is a sort of wild
witch, not very explicit to any intelligence that probes below the
surface. In the second, she is a courtesan with black diamonds. In the
third, she wears the coarse habit of a penitent, and her waist is tied
with a cord; but her repentance goes no further than these exterior
signs. She says no word, and Ulick could not accept the descriptive
music as sufficient explanation of her repentance, even if it were
sincere, which it was not, and he spoke derisively of the amorous cries
to be heard at every moment in the orchestra, while she is dragging
herself to Parsifal's feet. Elizabeth's prayer was to him a perfect
expression of a penitent soul. Kundry, he pointed out, had no such
prayer, and he derisively sang the cries of amorous desire. The
character of Parsifal he could admit even less than the character of
Kundry. As he would say in discussion, "If I am to discuss an artistic
question, I must go to the very heart of it. Now, if we ask ourselves
what Siegfried did, the answer is, that he forged the sword, killed the
dragon and released Brunnhilde. But if, in like manner, we ask ourselves
what Parsifal did, is not the answer, that he killed a swan and refused
a kiss and with many morbid, suggestive and disagreeable remarks? These
are the facts," he would say; "confute them who may, explain them who
can!" And if it were urged, as it often was, that in Parsifal Wagner
desired the very opposite to what he had in Siegfried, the Parsifal is
opposed to Siegfried as Hamlet is opposed to Othello, Ulick eagerly
accepted the challenge, and like one sure of his adversary's life, began
Wagner had been all his life dreaming of an opera with a subjective
hero. Christ first and then Buddha had suggested themselves as likely
subjects. He had gone so far as to make sketches for both heroes, but
both subjects had been rejected as unpractical, and he had fallen back
on a pretty mediaeval myth, and had shot into a pretty mediaeval myth all
the material he had accumulated for the other dramas, whose heroes were
veritable heroes, men who had accomplished great things, men who had
preached great doctrines and whose lives were symbols of their
doctrines. The result of pouring this old wine into the new bottle was
to burst the bottle.
In neither Christ nor Buddha did the question of sex arise, and that was
the reason that Wagner eventually rejected both. He was as full of
sex--mysterious, sub-conscious sex--as Rossetti himself. In Christ's
life there is the Magdalen, but how naturally harmonious, how implicit
in the idea, are their relations, how concentric; but how excentric
(using the word in its grammatical sense) are the relations of Parsifal
to Kundry.... A redeemer is chaste, but he does not speak of his
chastity nor does he think of it; he passes the question by. The figure
of Christ is so noble, that whether God or man or both, it seems to us
in harmony that the Magdalen should bathe his feet and wipe them with
her hair, but the introduction of the same incident into "Parsifal"
revolts. As Parsifal merely killed a swan and refused to be kissed--the
other preached a doctrine in which beauty and wisdom touch the highest
point, and his life was an exemplification of his doctrine of
non-resistance--"Take ye and eat, for this is my body, and this is my
In "Parsifal" there was only the second act which he could admire
without enormous reservations. The writing in the chorus of the "Flower
Maidens" was, of course, irresistible--little cries, meaningless by
themselves, but, when brought together, they created an enchanted
garden, marvellous and seductive. But it was the duet that followed that
compelled his admiration. Music hardly ever more than a recitative,
hardly ever breaking into an air, and yet so beautiful! There the notes
merely served to lift the words, to impregnate them with more terrible
and subtle meaning; and the subdued harmonies enfolded them in an
atmosphere, a sensual mood; and in this music we sink into depths of
soul and float upon sullen and mysterious tides of life--those which
roll beneath the phase of life which we call existence. But the vulgarly
vaunted Good Friday music did not deceive him; at the second or third
time of hearing he had perceived its insincerity. It was very beautiful
music, but in such a situation sincerity was essential. The airs of this
mock redeemer were truly unbearable, and the abjection of Kundry before
this stuffed Christ revolted him. But the obtusely religious could not
fail to be moved; the appeal of the chaste kiss, with little sexual
cries all the while in the orchestra, could not but stir the vulgar
heart to infinite delight, and the art was so dexterously beautiful that
the intelligent were deceived. The artiste and the vulgarian held each
other's hands for the first time; they gasped a mutual wonder at their
own perception and their unsuspected nobility of soul. "Parsifal," he
declared, with true Celtic love of exaggeration, "to be the oiliest
flattery ever poured down the open throat of a liquorish humanity."
As he spoke such sentences his face would light up with malicious
humour, and he was so interested in the subject he discussed that his
listener was forced to follow him. It was only in such moments of
artistic discussion that his real soul floated up to the surface, and
he, as it were, achieved himself. He knew, too, how to play with his
listener, to wheedle and beguile him, for after a particularly
aggressive phrase he would drop into a minor key, and his criticism
would suddenly become serious and illuminative. To him "Parsifal" was a
fresco, a decoration painted by a man whose true genius it was to reveal
the most intimate secrets of the soul, to tell the enigmatic soul of
longing as Leonardo da Vinci had done. But he had been led from the true
path of his genius into the false one of a rivalry with Veronese. Only
where Wagner is confiding a soul's secret is he interesting, and in
"Tannhaeuser," in this first flower of his dramatic and musical genius,
he had perhaps told the story of his own soul more truly, more sincerely
than elsewhere. To do that was the highest art. Sooner or later the
sublimest imaginations pale before the simple telling of a personal
truth, for the most personal truth is likewise the most universal.
"Tannhaeuser" is the story of humanity, for what is the human story if it
isn't the pursuit of an ideal?
And this essential and primal truth Evelyn revealed to him and the very
spirit and sense of maidenhood, the centre and receptacle of life, the
mysterious secret of things, the awful moment when the whisper of the
will to live is heard in matter, the will which there is no denying, the
surrender of matter, the awaking of consciousness in things. And united
to the eternal idea of generation, he perceived the congenital idea
which in remotest time seems to have sprung from it--that life is sin
and must be atoned for by prayer. Evelyn's interpretation revealed his
deepest ideas to himself, and at last he seemed to stand at the heart of
Suddenly his rapture was broken through; the singer had stopped the
"You have cut some of the music, I see," she said, addressing the
"Only the usual cut, Miss Innes."
"About twenty pages, I should think."
The conductor counted them.
"Miss Innes, that cut has been accepted everywhere--Munich, Berlin,
Wiesbaden--everywhere except Bayreuth."
"But, Mr. Hermann Goetze, my agreement with you is that the operas I
sing in are to be performed in their entirety."
"In their entirety; that is to say, well--taken literally, I
suppose--that the phrase 'In their entirety' could be held to mean
without cuts; but surely, regarding this particular cut--I may say that
I spoke to Sir Owen about it, and he agreed with me that it was
impossible to get people into the theatre in London before half-past
"But, Mr. Hermann Goetze, your agreement is with me, not with Sir Owen
"Quite so, Miss Innes, but--"
"If people don't care sufficiently for art to dine half-an-hour
earlier, they had better stay away."
"But you see, Miss Innes, you're not in the first act; there are the
other artistes to consider. The 'Venusberg' will be sung to empty
benches if you insist."
It seemed for a moment as if Mr. Hermann Goetze was going to have his
way; and Ulick, while praying that she might remain firm, recognised how
adroitly Hermann Goetze had contrived to place her in a false position
regarding her fellow artistes.
"I am quite willing to throw up the part; I can only sing the opera as
it is written."
The conductor suggested a less decisive cut to Evelyn, and Mr. Hermann
Goetze walked up and down the stage, overtaken by toothache. His agony
was so complete that Evelyn's harshness yielded. She went to him, and,
her hand laid commiseratingly on his arm, she begged him to go at once
to the dentist.
Then some of the musicians said that they could hardly read the music,
so effectually had they scratched it out.
"If the musicians cannot play the music, we had better go home," said
"But the opera is announced for to-morrow night," Mr. Hermann Goetze
Mr. Wheeler suggested that they might go on with the rehearsal; the cut
could be discussed afterwards. Groups formed, everyone had a different
opinion. At last the conductor took up his stick and cried, "Number 105,
"They are going back," thought Ulick; "she held her ground capitally.
She has more strength of character than I thought. But Hermann Goetze
has upset her; she won't be able to sing."
And it was as he expected; she could not recapture her lost inspiration;
mood, Ulick could see, was the foundation and the keystone of her art.
"No," she said, "I sang it horribly, I am all out of sorts, I don't feel
what I am singing, and when the mood is not upon me, I am atrocious.
What annoyed me was his attributing such selfishness to me, and such
vulgar selfishness, too--"
"However, you had your way about the cut."
"Yes, they'll have to sing the whole of the finale. But I am sorry about
his tooth; I know that it is dreadful pain."
Ulick told an amusing story how he had once called on Hermann Goetze to
ask if he had read the book of his opera.
"He'd just gone into an adjoining room to fetch a clothes-brush--he had
taken off his coat to brush it--but the moment he saw me, he whipped out
his handkerchief and said that he must go to the dentist."
"And when I asked him to engage Helbrun to sing Brangaene, and give her
eighty pounds a week if she wouldn't sing it for less, he whipped out
his handkerchief as you say, and asked me if I knew a dentist."
"The idea of Wagner without cuts always brings on a violent attack," and
Ulick imitated so well the expression of agony that had come into the
manager's face that Evelyn exploded with laughter. She begged Ulick to
"I shan't be able to sing at all. But I have not told you of my make up.
I don't look at all pretty; the ugly curls I wear come from an old
German print, and the staid, modest gown. But it is very provoking; I
was singing well till that fiend began to argue. Don't make me laugh
He became very grave.
"I can only think of the joy you gave me."
His praise brightened her face, and she listened.
"I cannot tell you now what I feel; perhaps I shall never find words to
express what I feel about your Elizabeth. I shall be writing about it
next week, and shall have to try."
"Do tell me now. You liked it better than my Margaret?"
Ulick shrugged his shoulders contemptuously, and they looked in each
other's eyes, and could hardly speak, so extraordinary was their
recognition of each other; it was so intense that they could hardly help
laughing, so strange it seemed that they should never have met before,
or should have been separated for such a long time. It really seemed to
them as if they had known each other from all eternity.
"How can you act Elizabeth, she is so different from what you are?"
Her pale blue eyes seemed to open a little wider, and she looked at him
searchingly. He could not keep back the words that rose to his tongue.
"You mean that your dead life now lives in Elizabeth."
"Yes, I suppose that that is it."
They asked each other whether any part of one's nature is ever really
A few moments after the pilgrims were heard singing, and Evelyn would
have to go on the stage. She pressed her hands against her forehead,
ridding herself by an effort of will of her present individuality. The
strenuous chant of the pilgrims grew louder, the procession approached,
and as it passed across the stage Elizabeth sought for Tannhaeuser, but
he was not among them. So her last earthly hope has perished, and she
throws herself on her knees at the foot of the wayside cross. And it was
the anguish of her soul that called forth that high note, a G repeated
three times; and it seemed to Ulick that she seemed to throw herself
upon that note, that reiterated note, as if she would reach God's ears
with it and force him to listen to her. In the religious, almost
Gregorian, strain her voice was pure as a little child, but when she
spoke of her renunciation and the music grew more chromatic, her voice
filled with colour--her sex appeared in it; and when the music returned
to the peace of the religious strain, her voice grew blanched and faded
like a nun's voice. Henceforth her life will be lived beyond this world,
and as she walked up the stage, the flutes and clarionets seemed to lead
her straight to God; they seemed to depict a narrow, shining path,
shining and ascending till it disappeared amid the light of the stars.
"Well," she said, "did I sing it to your satisfaction?"
"You're an astonishing artiste."
"No, that's just what I am not. I go on the stage and act; I couldn't
tell you how I do it; I am conscious of no rule."
"And the music?"
"The music the same. I have often been told that I might act
Shakespeare, but without music I could not express myself. Words without
music would seem barren; I never try to sing, I try to express myself.
But you'll see, my father won't think much of my singing. He'll compare
me to mother, and always to my disadvantage. I cannot phrase like her."
"But you can; your phrasing is perfection. It is the very emotion--"
"Father won't think so; if he only thought well of my singing he would
"How unaffected you are; in hearing you speak one hears your very soul."
"Do you? But tell me, is he very incensed? Shall I meet a face of
"He is incensed, no doubt, but he must forgive you. But every day's
delay will make it more difficult."
"I know, I know."
"You cannot go to-morrow?"
"To-morrow you sing this opera. Go on Saturday; you'll be sure to find
him on Saturday afternoon. He has a rehearsal in the morning and will be
at home about four in the afternoon."
As they walked through the scenery she said, "You'll come to see me,"
and she reminded him of his promise to go through the Isolde music with
"Mind, you have promised," she said as she got into her carriage.
"You'll not forget Saturday afternoon," he said as he shook hands.
She nodded and put up her umbrella, for it was beginning to rain.
Evelyn found Owen waiting for her. As soon as she came into the room he
said, "Well, have you seen your father?"
She was not expecting him, and it was disagreeable to admit that she had
not been to Dulwich. So she said that she had thought to find her father
at St. Joseph's.
"But how did you know he was not at home if you did not go to Dulwich?"
"My gracious, Owen, how you do question me! Now, perhaps you would like
to know which of the priests told me."
She walked to the window and stood with her left hand in the pocket of
her jacket, and he feared that the irritation he had involuntarily
caused her would interfere with his projects for the afternoon. There
passed in his eyes that look of absorption in an object which marks the
end of a long love affair--a look charged with remembrance, and wistful
as an autumn day.
The earth has grown weary of the sun and turns herself into the shadow,
eager for rest. The sun has been too ardent a lover. But the gaze of the
sun upon the receding earth is fonder than his look when she raised
herself to his bright face. So in Owen's autumn-haunted eyes there was
dread of the chances which he knew were accumulating against
him--enemies, he divined, were gathering in the background; and how he
might guard her, keep her for himself, became a daily inquisition.
Nothing had happened to lead him to think that his possession was
endangered, his fear proceeded from an instinct, which he could not
subdue, that she was gliding from him; he wrestled with the intangible,
and, striving to subordinate instinct to reason, he often refrained from
kissing her; he imitated the indifference which in other times he could
not dissimulate when the women who had really loved him besought him
with tears. But there was no long gain-saying of the delight of telling
her that he loved her, and when his aching heart forced him to question
her regarding the truth of her feelings towards him, she merely told him
that she loved him as much as ever, and the answer, instead of being a
relief, was additional fuel upon the torturing flame of his uncertainty.
Ever since their rupture and reconciliation in Florence, their relations
had been so uncertain that Owen often wondered if he were her lover.
Whether the reason for these periods of restraint was virtue or
indifference he could never be quite sure. He believed that she always
retained her conscience, but he could not forget that her love had once
been sufficient compensation for what she suffered from it. "The stage
has not altered her," he thought, "time has but nourished her
idiosyncrasies." He had been hoping for one of her sudden and violent
returnings to her former self, but such thing would not happen to-day,
and hardly knowing what reply to make, he asked if she were free to come
to look at some furniture. She mentioned several engagements, adding
that he had made her too many presents already.
She spoke of the rehearsal at considerable length, omitting, somehow, to
speak of Ulick, and after lunch she seemed restless and proposed to go
out at once.
As they drove off to see the Sheraton sideboard, he asked her if she had
seen Ulick Dean. To her great annoyance she said she had not, and this
falsehood spoilt her afternoon for her. She could not discover why she
had told this lie. The memory rankled in her and continued to take her
unaware. She was tempted to confess the truth to Owen; the very words
she thought she should use rose up in her mind several times. "I told
you a lie. I don't know why I did, for there was absolutely no reason
why I should have said that I had not seen Ulick Dean." On Saturday the
annoyance which this lie had caused in her was as keen as ever: and it
was not until she had got into her carriage and was driving to Dulwich
that her consciousness of it died in the importance of her interview
with her father.
In comparing her present attitude of mind with that of last Thursday,
she was glad to notice that to-day she could not think that her father
would not forgive her. Her talk on the subject with Ulick had reassured
her. He would not have been so insistent if he had not been sure that
her father would forgive her in the end. But there would be
recriminations, and at the very thought of them she felt her courage
sink, and she asked herself why he should make her miserable if he was
going to forgive her in the end. Her plans were to talk to him about his
choir, and, if that did not succeed, to throw herself on her knees. She
remembered how she had thrown herself on her knees on the morning of the
afternoon she had gone away. And since then she had thrown herself at
his feet many times--every time she sang in the "Valkyrie." The scene in
which Wotan confides all his troubles and forebodings to Brunnhilde had
never been different from the long talks she and her father used to drop
into in the dim evenings in Dulwich. She had cheered him when he came
home depressed after a talk with the impossible Father Gordon, as she
had since cheered Wotan in his deep brooding over the doom of the gods
predicted by Wala, when the dusky foe of love should beget a son in
hate. Wotan had always been her father; Palestrina, Walhalla, and the
stupid Jesuits, what were they? She had often tried to work out the
allegory. It never came out quite right, but she always felt sure in
setting down Father Gordon as Alberich. The scene in the third act, when
she throws herself at Wotan's feet and begs his forgiveness (the music
and the words together surged upon her brain), was the scene that now
awaited her. She had at last come to this long-anticipated scene; and
the fictitious scene she had acted as she was now going to act the real
scene. True that Wotan forgave Brunnhilde after putting her to sleep on
the fire-surrounded rock, where she should remain till a pure hero
should come to release her. A nervous smile curled her lip for a moment;
she trembled in her very entrails, and as they passed down the long,
mean streets of Camberwell her thoughts frittered out in all sorts of
trivial observation and reflection. She wondered if the mother who
called down the narrow alley had ever been in love, if she had ever
deceived her husband, if her father had reproved her about the young man
she kept company with. The milkman presented to her strained mind some
sort of problem, and the sight of the railway embankment told her she
was nearing Dulwich. Then she saw the cedar at the top of the hill,
whither she had once walked to meet Owen. ... Now it was London nearly
all the way to Dulwich.
But when they entered the familiar village street she was surprised at
her dislike of it; even the chestnut trees, beautiful with white bloom,
were distasteful to her, and life seemed contemptible beneath them. In
Dulwich there was no surprise--life there was a sheeted phantom, it
evoked a hundred dead Evelyns, and she felt she would rather live in any
ghostly graveyard than in Dulwich. Her very knowledge of the place was
an irritation to her, and she was pleased when she saw a house which had
been built since she had been away. But every one of the fields she knew
well, and the sight of every tree recalled a dead day, a dead event.
That road to the right led to the picture gallery, and at the cross road
she had been nearly run over by a waggon while trundling a hoop. But
eyesight hardly helped her in Dulwich; she had only to think, to see it.
The slates of a certain house told her that another minute would bring
her to her father's door, and before the carriage turned the corner she
foresaw the patch of black garden. But if her father were at home he
might refuse to see her, and she was not certain if she should force her
way past the servant or return home quietly. The entire dialogue of the
scene between her and Margaret passed through her mind, and the very
intonation of their voices. But it was not Margaret who opened the door
"This way, miss, please."
"No, I'll wait in the music-room."
"Mr. Innes won't have no one wait there in his absence. Will you come
into the parlour?"
"No, I think I'll wait in the music-room. I'm Miss Innes; Mr. Innes is
"What, miss, are you the great singer?"
"I suppose I am."
"Do you know, miss, something told me that you was. The moment I saw the
carriage, I said, "Here she is; this is her for certain." Will you come
this way, miss? I'll run and get the key."
"And who was it," Evelyn said, "that told you I was a singer?"
"Lor'! miss, didn't half Dulwich go to hear you sing at the opera?"
"No, I didn't go, Miss, but I heard Mr. Dean and your father talking of
you. I've read about you in the papers; only this morning there was a
"If father talks of me he'll forgive me," thought Evelyn. The girl's
wonderment made her smile, and she said--
"But you've not told me your name."
"My name is Agnes, miss."
"Have you been long with my father? When I left, Margaret--"
"Ah! she's dead, miss. I came to your father the day after the funeral."
Evelyn walked up the room, overcome by the eternal absence of something
which had hitherto been part of her life. For Margaret took her back to
the time her mother was alive; farther back still--to the very beginning
of her life. She had always reckoned on Margaret.... So Margaret was
dead. Margaret would never know of this meeting. Margaret might have
helped her. Poor Margaret! At that moment she caught sight of her
mother's eyes. They seemed to watch her; she seemed to know all about
Owen, and afraid of the haunting, reproving look, Evelyn studied the
long oval face and the small brown eyes so unlike hers. One thing only
she had inherited from her mother--her voice. She had certainly not
inherited her conduct from her mother; her mother was one of the few
great artistes against whom nothing could be said. Her mother was a good
woman.... What did she think of her daughter? And seeing her cold,
narrow face, she feared her mother would regard her conduct even more
severely than her father.... "But if she had lived I should have had no
occasion to go away with Owen." She wondered. At the bottom of her heart
she knew that Owen was as much as anything else a necessity in her
life.... She moved about the room and wished the hands of the clock
could be advanced a couple of hours, for then the terrible scene with
her father would be over. If he could only forgive her at once, and not
make her miserable with reproaches, they could have such a pleasant
In this room her past life was blown about her like spray about a rock.
She remembered the days when she went to London with her father to give
lessons; the miserable winter when she lost her pupils.... How she had
waited in this room for her father to come back to dinner; the faintness
of those hungry hours; worse still, that yearning for love. She must
have died if she had not gone away. If it had to happen all over again
she must act as she had acted. How well she remembered the moment when
she felt that her life in Dulwich had become impossible. She was coming
from the village where she had been paying some bills, and looking up
she had suddenly seen the angle of a house and a bare tree, and she
could still hear the voice which had spoken out of her very soul. "Shall
I never get away from this place?" it had cried. "Shall I go on doing
these daily tasks for ever?" The strange, vehement agony of the voice
had frightened her.... At that moment her eyes were attracted by a sort
of harpsichord. "One of father's experiments," she said, running her
fingers over the keys. "A sort of cross between a harpsichord and a
virginal; up here the intonation is that of a virginal."
"I forgot to ask you miss"--Evelyn turned from the window, startled; it
was Agnes who had come back--"if you was going to stop for dinner, for
there's very little in the house, only a bit of cold beef. I should be
ashamed to put it on the table, miss; I'm sure you couldn't eat it.
Master don't think what he eats; he's always thinking of his music. I
hope you aren't like that, miss?"
"So he doesn't eat much. How is my father looking, Agnes?"
"Middling, miss. He varies about a good bit; he's gone rather thin
"Is he lonely, do you think ... in the evenings?"
"No, miss; I don't hear him say nothing about being lonely. For the last
couple of years he never did more than come home to sleep and his meals,
and he'd spend the evenings copying out the music."
"And off again early in the morning?"
"That's it, miss, with his music tied up in a brown paper parcel.
Sometimes Mr. Dean comes and helps him to write the music."
"Ah!... but I'm sorry he doesn't eat better."
"He eats better when Mr. Dean's here. They has a nice little dinner
together. Now he's taken up with that 'ere instrument, the harpy chord,
they's making. He's comin' home to-night to finish it; he says he can't
get it finished nohow--that they's always something more to do to it."
"I wonder if we could get a nice dinner for him this evening?"
"Well, miss, you see there's no shops to speak of about here. You know
that as well as I do."
"I wonder what your cooking is like?"
"I don't know, miss; p'r'aps it wouldn't suit you, but I've been always
praised for my cooking."
"I could send for some things; my coachman could fetch them from town."
"Then there's to-morrow to be thought about if you're stopping here. I
tell you we don't keep much in the house."
"Is my father coming home to dinner?"
"I can't say for certain, miss, only that he said 'e'd be 'ome early to
finish the harpy chord. 'E might have 'is dinner out and come 'ome
directly after, but I shouldn't think that was likely."
"You can cook a chicken, Agnes?"
"Lor'! yes, miss."
"And a sole?"
"Yes, miss; but in ordering, miss, you must think of to-morrow. You
won't like to have a nice dinner to-night and a bit of hashed mutton
"I'll order sufficient. You've got no wine, I suppose?"
"No, we've no wine, miss, only draught beer."
"I'll tell my coachman to go and fetch the things at once."
When she returned to the music-room, Agnes asked her if she was going to
stop the night.
"Because I should have to get your rooms ready, miss."
"That I can't tell, Agnes.... I don't think so.... You won't tell my
father I'm here when you let him in?... I want it to be a surprise."
"I won't say nothing, miss. I'll leave him to find it out."
Evelyn felt that the girl must have guessed her story, must have
perceived in her the repentant daughter--the erring daughter returned
home. Everything pointed to that fact. Well, it couldn't be helped if
"If my father will only forgive me; if that first dreadful scene were
only over, we could have an enchanting evening together."
She was too nervous to seek out a volume of Bach and let her fingers run
over the keys; she played anything that came into her head, sometimes
she stopped to listen. At last there came a knock, and her heart told
her it was his. In another moment he would be in the room. But seeing
her he stopped, and, without a word, he went to a table and began
untying a parcel of music.
"Father, I've come to see you.... You don't answer. Father, are you not
going to speak to me? I've been longing to see you, and now--"
"If you had wanted to see me, you'd have come a month ago."
"I was not in London a month ago."
"Well, three weeks ago."
"I ought to have done so, but I had no courage. I could only see you
looking at me as you are looking now. Forgive me, father.... I'm your
only daughter; she's full of failings, but she has never ceased to love
He sat at the table fumbling with the string that had tied the parcel he
had brought in, and she stood looking at him, unable to speak. She
seemed to have said all there was to say, and wished she could throw
herself at his feet; but she could not, something held her back. She
prayed for tears, but her eyes remained dry; her mouth was dry, and a
flame seemed to burn behind her eyes. She could only think that this
might be the last time she would see him. The silence seemed a great
while. She repeated her words, "I had not the courage to come before."
At the sound of her voice she remembered that she must speak to him at
once of his choir, and so take their thoughts from painful reminiscence.
"I went to St. Joseph's on Thursday, but you weren't there. You gave
Vittoria's mass last Sunday. I started to go, but I had to turn back."
She had not gone to hear her father's choir, because she could not
resist Lady Ascott's invitation, and no more than the invitation could
she resist the lie; she had striven against it, but in spite of herself
it had forced itself through her lips, and now her father seemed to have
some inkling of the truth, for he said--
"If you had cared to hear my choir you'd have gone. You needn't have
seen me, whereas I was obliged--"
Evelyn guessed that he had been to the opera. "How good of him to have
gone to hear me," she thought. She hated herself for having accepted
Lady Ascott's invitation, and the desire to ask him what he thought of
her voice seemed to her an intolerable selfishness.
"What were you going to say, father?"
"Nothing.... I'm glad you didn't come."
"Wasn't it well sung?" and she was seized with nervousness, and instead
of speaking to him about his basses as she had intended, she asked him
about the trebles.
"They are the worst part of the choir. That contrapuntal music can only
be sung by those who can sing at sight. The piano has destroyed the
modern ear. I daresay it has spoilt your ear."
"My ear is all right, I think."
"I hope it is better than your heart."
Evelyn's face grew quite still, as if it were frozen, and seeing the
pain he had caused her he was moved to take her in his arms and forgive
her straight away. He might have done so, but she turned, and passing
her hand across her eyes she went to the harpsichord. She played one of
the little Elizabethan songs, "John, come kiss me now." Then an old
French song tempted her voice by its very appropriateness to the
situation--"_Que vous me coutez cher, mon coeur, pour vos plaisirs_."
But there was a knot in her throat, she could not sing, she could hardly
speak. She endeavoured to lead her father into conversation, hoping he
might forget her conduct until it was too late for him to withdraw into
resentment. She could see that the instrument she was playing on he had
made himself. In some special intention it was filled with levers and
stops, the use of which was not quite apparent to her; and she could see
by the expression on his face that he was annoyed by her want of
knowledge of the technicalities of the instrument.
So she purposely exaggerated her ignorance.
He fell into the trap and going to her he said, "You are not making use
of the levers."
"Oh, am I not?" she said innocently. "What is this instrument--a
virginal or a harpsichord?"
"It is a harpsichord, but the intonation is that of a virginal. I made
it this winter. The volume of sound from the old harpsichord is not
sufficient in a large theatre, that is why the harpsichord music in 'Don
Juan' has to be played on the fiddles."
He stopped speaking and she pressed him in vain to explain the
instrument. She went on playing.
"The levers," he said at last, "are above your knees. Raise your knees."
She pretended not to understand.
"Let me show you." He seated himself at the instrument. "You see the
volume of sound I obtain, and all the while I do not alter the treble."
"Yes, yes, and the sonority of the instrument is double that of the old
harpsichord. It would be heard all over Covent Garden."
She could see that the remark pleased him. "I'll sing 'Zerline' if
you'll play it."
"You couldn't sing 'Zerline,' it isn't in your voice."
"You don't know what my voice is like."
"Evelyn, I wonder how you can expect me to forgive you; I wonder how I
can speak to you. Have you forgotten how you went away leaving me to
bear the shame, the disgrace?"
"I have come to beg forgiveness, not to excuse myself. But I wrote to
you from Paris that I was going to live with Lady Duckle, and that you
were to say that I had gone abroad to study singing."
"I'm astonished, Evelyn, that you can speak so lightly."
"I do not think lightly of my conduct, if you knew the miserable days it
has cost me. Reproach me as you will about my neglect toward you, but as
far as the world is concerned there has been no disgrace."
"You would have gone all the same; you only thought of yourself.
Brought up as you have been, a Catholic--"
"My sins, father, lie between God and myself. What I come for is to beg
forgiveness for the wrong I did you."
He did not answer, but he seemed to acquiesce, and it was a relief to
her to feel that it was not the moral question that divided them;
convention had forced him to lay some stress upon it, but clearly what
rankled in his heart, and prevented him from taking her in his arms, was
a jealous, purely human feud. This she felt she could throw herself
against and overpower.
"Father, you must forgive me, we are all in all to each other; nothing
can change that. Ever since mother's death--you remember when the nurse
told us all was over--ever since I've felt that we were in some strange
way dependent on each other. Our love for each other is the one
unalterable thing. My music you taught me; the first songs I sang were
at your concerts, and now that we have both succeeded--you with
Palestrina, and I with Wagner--we must needs be aliens. Father, can't
you see that that can never be? if you don't you do not love me as I do
you. You're still thinking that I left you. Of course, it was very
wrong, but has that changed anything? Father, tell me, tell me, unless
you want to kill me, that you do not believe that I love you less."
The wonder of the scene she was acting--she never admitted she acted;
she lived through scenes, whether fictitious or real--quickened in her;
it was the long-expected scene, the scene in the third act of the
"Valkyrie" which she had always played while divining the true scene
which she would be called upon to play one day. It seemed to her that
she stood on the verge of all her future--the mystery of the abyss
gathered behind her eyes; she threw herself at her father's feet, and
the celebrated phrase, so plaintive, so full of intercession, broke from
her lips, "Was the rebel act so full of shame that her rebellion is so
shamefully scourged? Was my offence so deep in disgrace that thou dost
plan so deep a disgrace for me? Was this my crime so dark with dishonour
that it henceforth robs me of all honour? Oh tell me, father; look in
mine eyes." She heard the swelling harmony, every chord, the note that
gave her the note she was to sing. She was carried down like a drowning
one into a dim world of sub-conscious being; and in this half life all
that was most true in her seemed to rise like a star and shine forth,
while all that was circumstantial and ephemeral seemed to fall away. She
was conscious of the purification of self; she seemed to see herself
white and bowed and penitent. She experienced a great happiness in
becoming humble and simple again.... But she did not know if the
transformation which was taking place in her was an abiding or a passing
thing. She knew she was expressing all that was most deep in her nature,
and yet she had acted all that she now believed to be reality on the
stage many times. It seemed as true then as it did now--more true; for
she was less self-conscious in the fictitious than in the real scene.
She knelt at her father's or at Wotan's feet--she could not distinguish;
all limitations had been razed. She was _the_ daughter at _the_ father's
feet. She knelt like the Magdalen. The position had always been natural
to her, and habit had made it inveterate; there she bemoaned the
difficulties of life, the passion which had cast her down and which
seemed to forbid her an ideal. She caught her father's hand and pressed
it against her cheek. She knew she was doing these things, yet she could
not do otherwise; tears fell upon his hand, and the grief she expressed
was so intense that he could not restrain his tears. But if she raised
her face and saw his tears, his position as a stern father was
compromised! She could only think of her own grief; the grief and regret
of many years absorbed her; she was so lost in it that she expected him
to answer her in Wotan's own music; she even smiled in her grief at her
expectation, and continued the music of her intercession. And it was not
until he asked her why she was singing Wagner that she raised her face.
That he should not know, jarred and spoilt the harmony of the scene as
she had conceived it, and it was not till he repeated his question that
she told him.
"Because I've never sung it without thinking of you, father. That is why
I sang it so well. I knew it all before. It tore at my heart strings. I
knew that one day it would come to this."
"So every time before was but a rehearsal."
She rose to her feet.
"Why are you so cruel? It is you who are acting, not I. I mean what I
say--you don't. Why make me miserable? You know that you must forgive
me. You can't put me out of doors, so what is the use in arguing about
my faults? I am like that ... you must take me as I am, and perhaps you
would not have cared for me half as much if I had been different."
"Evelyn, how can you speak like that? You shock me very much."
She regretted her indiscretion, and feared she had raised the moral
question; but the taunt that it was he and not she that was acting had
sunk into his heart, and the truth of it overcame him. It was he who had
been acting. He had pretended an anger which he did not feel, and it was
quite true that, whatever she did, he could not really feel anger
against her. She was shrined in his heart, the dream of his whole life.
He could feel anger against himself, but not against her. She was right.
He must forgive her, for how could he live without her? Into what
dissimulation he had been foolishly ensnared! In these convictions which
broke like rockets in his heart and brain, spreading a strange
illumination in much darkness, he saw her beauty and sex idealised, and
in the vision were the eyes and pallor of the dead wife, and all the
yearning and aspiration of his own life seemed reflected back in this
fair, oval face, lit with luminous, eager eyes, and in the tangle of
gold hair fallen about her ears, and thrown back hastily with long
fingers; and the wonder of her sex in the world seemed to shed a light
on distant horizons, and he understood the strangeness of the common
event of father and daughter standing face to face, divided, or
seemingly divided, by the mystery of the passion of which all things are
made. His own sins were remembered. They fell like soft fire breaking in
a dark sky, and his last sensation in the whirl of complex, diffused and
passing sensations was the thrill of terror at the little while
remaining to him wherein he might love her. A few years at most! His