Part 5 out of 9
eyes told her what was happening in his heart, and with that beautiful
movement of rapture so natural to her, she threw herself into his arms.
"I knew, father, dear, that you'd forgive me in the end. It was
impossible to think of two like us living and dying in alienation. I
should have killed myself, and you, dear, you would have died of grief.
But I dreaded this first meeting. I had thought of it too much, and, as
I told you, I had acted it so often."
"Have I been so severe with you, Evelyn, that you should dread me?"
"No, darling, but, of course, I've behaved--there's no use talking about
it any more. But you could never have been really in doubt that a lover
could ever change my love for you. Owen--I mustn't speak about him, only
I wish you to understand that I've never ceased to think of you. I've
never been really happy, and I'm sure you've been miserable about me
often enough; but now we may be happy. 'Winter storms wane in the
winsome May.' You know the _Lied_ in the first act of the 'Valkyrie'?
And now that we're friends, I suppose you'll come and hear me. Tell me
about your choir." She paused a moment, and then said, "My first thought
was for you on landing in England. There was a train waiting at
Victoria, but we'd had a bad crossing, and I felt so ill that I couldn't
go. Next day I was nervous. I had not the courage, and he proposed that
I should wait till I had sung Margaret. So much depended on the success
of my first appearance. He was afraid that if I had had a scene with you
I might break down."
"Wotan, you say, forgives Brunnhilde, but doesn't he put her to sleep on
a fire-surrounded rock?"
"He puts her to sleep on the rock, but it is she who asks for flames to
protect her from the unworthy. Wotan grants her request, and Brunnhilde
throws herself enraptured into his arms. 'Let the coward shun
Brunnhilde's rock--for but one shall win--the bride who is freer than I,
"Oh, that's it, is it? Then with what flames shall I surround you?"
"I don't know, I've often wondered; the flame of a promise--a promise
never to leave you again, father. I can promise no more."
"I want no other promise."
The eyes of the portrait were fixed on them, and they wondered what
would be the words of the dead woman if she could speak.
Agnes announced that the coachman had returned.
"Father, I've lots of things to see to. I'm going to stop to dinner if
you'll let me."
"I'm afraid, Evelyn--Agnes--"
"You need not trouble about the dinner--Agnes and I will see to that. We
have made all necessary arrangements."
"Is that your carriage?... You've got a fine pair of horses. Well, one
can't be Evelyn Innes for nothing. But if you're stopping to dinner,
you'd better stop the night. I'm giving the 'Missa Brevis' to-morrow.
I'm giving it in honour of Monsignor Mostyn. It was he who helped me to
overcome Father Gordon."
"You shall tell me all about Monsignor after dinner."
He walked about the room, unwittingly singing the _Lied_, "Winter storms
wane in the winsome May," and he stopped before the harpsichord,
thinking he saw her still there. And his thoughts sailed on, vagrant as
clouds in a Spring breeze. She had come back, his most wonderful
daughter had come back.
He turned from his wife's portrait, fearing the thought that her joy on
their daughter's return might be sparer than his. But unpleasant
thoughts fell from him, and happiness sang in his brain like
spring-awakened water-courses, and the scent in his nostrils was of
young leaves and flowers, and his very flesh was happy as the warm,
loosening earth in spring. "'Winter storms,'" he sang, "'wane in the
winsome May; with tender radiance sparkles the spring.' I must hear her
sing that; I must hear her intercede at Wotan's feet!" His eyes filled
with happy tears, and he put questions aside. She was coming to-morrow
to hear his choir. And what would she think of it? A shadow passed
across his face. If he had known she was coming, he'd have taken more
trouble with those altos; he'd have kept them another hour.... Then,
taken with a sudden craving to see her, he went to the door and called
"You are stopping to-night?"
"Yes, but I can't stop to speak with you now--I'm busy with Agnes."
She was deep in discussion with Agnes regarding the sole. Agnes thought
she knew how to prepare it with bread crumbs, but both were equally
uncertain how the melted butter was to be made. There was no
cookery-book in the house, and it seemed as if the fish would have to be
eaten with plain butter until it occurred to Agnes that she might borrow
a cookery-book next door. It seemed to Evelyn that she had never seen a
finer sole, so fat and firm; it really would be a pity if they did not
succeed in making the melted butter. When Agnes came back with the book,
Evelyn read out the directions, and was surprised how hard it was to
understand. In the end it was Agnes who explained it to her. The chicken
presented some difficulties. It was of an odd size, and Agnes was not
sure whether it would take half-an-hour or three-quarters to cook.
Evelyn studied the white bird, felt the cold, clammy flesh, and inclined
to forty minutes. Agnes thought that would be enough if she could get
her oven hot enough. She began by raking out the flues, and Evelyn had
to stand back to avoid the soot. She stood, her eyes fixed on the fire,
interested in the draught and the dissolution of every piece of coal in
the flame. It seemed to Evelyn that the fire was drawing beautifully,
and she appealed to Agnes, who only seemed fairly satisfied. It was
doing pretty well, but she had never liked that oven; one was never sure
of it. Margaret used to put a piece of paper over the chicken to prevent
it burning, but Agnes said there was no danger of it burning; the oven
never could get hot enough for that. But the oven, as Agnes had said,
was a tricky one, and when she took the chicken out to baste it, it
seemed a little scorched. So Evelyn insisted on a piece of paper. Agnes
said that it would delay the cooking of the chicken, and attributed the
scorching to the quantity of coal which Miss Innes would keep adding. If
she put any more on she would not be answerable that the chimney would
not catch fire. Every seven or eight minutes the chicken was taken out
to be basted. The bluey-whitey look of the flesh which Evelyn had
disliked had disappeared; the chicken was acquiring a rich brown colour
which she much admired, and if it had not been for Agnes, who told her
the dinner would be delayed till eight o'clock, she would have had the
chicken out every five minutes, so much did she enjoy pouring the rich,
bubbling juice over the plump back.
"Father! Father, dinner is ready! I've got a sole and a chicken. The
sole is a beauty; Agnes says she never saw a fresher one."
"And where did all these things come from?"
"I sent my coachman for them. Now sit down and let me help you. I cooked
the dinner myself." Feeling that Agnes's eye was upon her, she added,
"Agnes and I--I helped Agnes. We made the melted butter from the recipe
in the cookery-book next door. I do hope it is a success."
"I see you've got champagne, too."
"But I don't know how you're to get the bottle open, miss; we've no
After some conjecturing the wires were twisted off with a kitchen fork.
Evelyn kept her eyes on her father's plate, and begged to be allowed to
help him again, and she delighted in filling up his glass with wine; and
though she longed to ask him if he had been to hear her sing, she did
not allude to herself, but induced him to talk of his victories over
Father Gordon. This story of clerical jealousy and ignorance was
intensely interesting to the old man, and she humoured him to the top of
"But it would all have come to nothing if it had not been for Monsignor
She fetched him his pipe and tobacco. "And who is Monsignor Mostyn?" she
asked, dreading a long tale in which she could feel on interest at all.
She watched him filling his pipe, working the tobacco down with his
little finger nail. She thought she could see he was thinking of
something different, and to her great joy he said--
"Well, your Margaret is very good; better than I expected--I am speaking
of the singing; of course, as acting it was superb."
"Oh, father! do tell me? So you went after all? I sent you a box and a
stall, but you were in neither. In what part of the theatre were you?"
"In the upper boxes; I did not want to dress." She leaned across the
table with brightening eyes. "For a dramatic soprano you sing that light
music with extraordinary ease and fluency."
"Did I sing it as well as mother?"
"Oh, my dear, it was quite different. Your mother's art was in her
phrasing and in the ideal appearance she presented."
"And didn't I present an ideal appearance?"
"It's like this, Evelyn. The Margaret of Gounod and his librettist is
not a real person, but a sort of keepsake beauty who sings keepsake
music. I assume that you don't think much of the music; brought up as
you have been on the Old Masters, you couldn't. Well, the question is
whether parts designed in such an intention should be played in the like
intention, or if they should be made living creations of flesh and
blood, worked up by the power of the actress into something as near to
the Wagner ideal as possible. I admire your Margaret; it was a wonderful
"But what, father?"
"It made me wish to see you in Elizabeth and Brunnhilde. I was very
sorry I couldn't get to London last night."
"You'd like my Elizabeth better. Margaret is the only part of the old
lot that I now sing. I daresay you're right. I'll limit myself for the
future to the Wagner repertoire."
"I think you'd do well. Your genius is essentially in dramatic
expression. 'Carmen,' for instance, is better as Galli Marie used to
play it than as you would play it. 'Carmen' is a conventional type--all
art is convention of one kind or another, and each demands its own
interpretation. But I hope you don't sing that horrid music."
"You don't like 'Carmen'?"
Mr. Innes shrugged his shoulders contemptuously.
"'Faust' is better than that. Gounod follows--at a distance, of
course--but he follows the tradition of Haydn and Mozart. 'Carmen' is
merely Gounod and Wagner. I hope you've not forgotten my teaching; as
I've always said, music ended with Beethoven and began again with
"Did you see Ulick Dean's article?"
"Yes, he wrote to me last night about your Elizabeth. He says there
never was anything heard like it on the stage."
"Did he say that? Show me the letter. What else did he say?"
"It was only a note. I destroyed it. He just said what I told you. But
he's a bit mad about that opera. He's been talking to me about it all
the winter, saying that the character had never been acted; apparently
it has been now. Though for my part I think Brunnhilde or Isolde would
suit you better."
The mention of Isolde caused them to avoid looking at each other, and
Evelyn asked her father to tell her about Ulick--how they became
acquainted and how much they saw of each other. But to tell her when he
made Ulick's acquaintance would be to allude to the time when Evelyn
left home. So his account of their friendship was cursory and
perfunctory, and he asked Evelyn suddenly if Ulick had shown her his
"No, not 'Grania.' He has not finished 'Grania,' but 'Connla and the
Fairy Maiden.' Written," he added, "entirely on the old lines. Come into
the music-room and you shall see."
He took up the lamp; Evelyn called Agnes to get another. The lamps were
placed upon the harpsichord; she lighted some candles, and, just as in
old times, they lost themselves in dreams and visions. This time it was
in a faint Celtic haze; a vision of silver mist and distant mountain and
mere. It was on the heights of Uisnech that Connla heard the fairy
calling him to the Plain of Pleasure, Moy Mell, where Boadag is king.
And King Cond, seeing his son about to be taken from him, summoned Coran
the priest and bade him chant his spells toward the spot whence the
fairy's voice was heard. The fairy could not resist the spell of the
priest, but she threw Connla an apple and for a whole month he ate
nothing but that. But as he ate, it grew again, and always kept whole.
And all the while there grew within him a mighty yearning and longing
after the maiden he had seen. And when the last day of the month of
waiting came, Connla stood by the side of the king, his father, on the
Plain of Aromin, and again he saw the maiden come towards him, and
again she spoke to him--
"'Tis no lofty seat on which Connla sits among short-lived mortals
awaiting fearful death, but now the folk of life, the ever-living living
ones, beg and bid thee come to Moy Mell, the Plain of Pleasure, for they
have learnt to know thee."
When Cond the king observed that since the maiden came Connla his son
spake to none that spake to him, then Cond of the hundred fights said to
"Is it to thy mind what the woman says, my son?"
"'Tis hard on me; I love my folk above all things, but a great longing
seizes me for the maiden."
"The waves of the ocean are not so strong as the waves of thy longing;
come with me in my currah, the straight gliding, the crystal boat, and
we shall soon reach the Plain of Pleasure, where Boadag is king."
King Cond and all his court saw Connla spring into the boat, and he and
the fairy maiden glided over the bright sea, towards the setting sun,
away and away, and they were seen no more, nor did anyone know where
they went to.
"My dear father, manuscript, and at sight, words and music!"
"Give me the chord."
He looked at her in astonishment.
"Won't you give me the keynote?"
"In the key of E flat," he answered sternly.
She began. "Is that right?"
"Yes, that's right. You see that you can still sing at sight. I don't
suppose you find many prima donnas who can."
With her arm on his shoulder they sat together, playing and singing the
music with which Ulick had interpreted the tale of "Connla and the Fairy
"You see," he said, "he has invented a new system of orchestration; as a
matter of fact, we worked it out together, but that's neither here nor
there. In some respects it is not unlike Wagner; the vocal music is
mostly recitative, but now and then there is nearly an air, and yet it
isn't new, for it is how it would have been written about 1500. You
see," he said, turning over the pages of the full score, "each character
is allotted a different set of instruments as accompaniment; in this way
you get astonishing colour contrasts. For instance, the priest is
accompanied by a chest of six viols; _i.e._, two trebles, two tenors,
two basses. King Cond is accompanied by a set of six cromornes, like the
viols of various sizes. The Fairy Maiden has a set of six flutes or
recorders, the smallest of which is eight inches long, the biggest quite
six feet. Connla is accompanied by a group of oboes; and another
character is allotted three lutes with an arch lute, another a pair of
virginals, another a regal, another a set of six sackbuts and trumpets.
See how all the instruments are used in the overture and in the dances,
of which there are plenty, Pavans, Galliards, Allemaines. But look here,
this is most important: even in the instrumental pieces the instruments
are not to be mixed, as in modern orchestra, but used in groups, always
distinct, like patches of colour in impressionist pictures."
"I like this," and she hummed through the fairy's luring of Connla to
embark with her. "But I could not give an opinion of the orchestration
without hearing it, it is all so new."
"We haven't succeeded yet in getting together sufficient old instruments
to provide an orchestra."
"But, father, do you think such orchestration realisable in modern
music? I see very little Wagner in it; it is more like Caccini or
Monteverde. There can be very little real life in a parody."
"No, but it isn't parody, that's just what it isn't, for it is natural
to him to write in this style. What he writes in the modern style is as
common as anyone else. This is his natural language." In support of the
validity of his argument that a return to the original sources of an art
is possible without loss of originality, he instanced the Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood. The most beautiful pictures, and the most original pictures
Millais had ever painted were those that he painted while he was
attempting to revive the methods of Van Eyck, and the language of
Shakespeare was much more archaic than that of any of his
contemporaries. "But explanations are useless. I tried to explain to
Father Gordon that Palestrina was one of the greatest of musicians, but
he never understood. Monsignor Mostyn and I understood each other at
once. I said Palestrina, he said Vittoria--I don't know which suggested
the immense advantage that a revival of the true music of the Catholic
would be in making converts to Rome. You don't like Ulick's music;
there's nothing more to be said."
"But I do like it, father. How impatient you are! And because I don't
understand an entire aestheticism in five minutes, which you and Ulick
Dean have been cooking for the last three years, I am a fool, quite as
stupid as Father Gordon."
Mr. Innes laughed, and when he put his arm round her and kissed her she
was happy again. The hours went lightly by as if enchanted, and it was
midnight when he closed the harpsichord and they went upstairs. Neither
spoke; they were thinking of the old times which apparently had come
back to them. On the landing she said--
"We've had a nice evening after all. Good-night, father. I know my
"Good-night," he said. "You'll find all your things; nothing has been
Agnes had laid one of her old nightgowns on the bed, and there was her
_prie-dieu_, and on the chest of drawers the score of Tristan which Owen
had given her six years ago. She had come back to sing it. How
extraordinary it all was! She seemed to have drifted like a piece of
seaweed; she lived in the present though it sank beneath her like a
wave. The past she saw dimly, the future not at all; and sitting by her
window she was moved by vague impulses towards infinity. She grew aware
of her own littleness and the vastness overhead--that great unending
enigma represented to her understanding by a tint of blue washed over by
a milky tint. Owen had told her that there were twenty million suns in
the milky way, and that around every one numerous planets revolved. This
earth was but a small planet, and its sun a third-rate sun. On this
speck of earth a being had awakened to a consciousness of the glittering
riddle above his head, but he would die in the same ignorance of its
meaning as a rabbit. The secret of the celestial plan she would never
know. One day she would slip out of consciousness of it; life would
never beckon her again; but the vast plan which she now perceived would
continue to revolve, progressing towards an end which no man, though the
world were to continue for a hundred million years, would ever know.
Her brain seemed to melt in the moonlight, and from the enigma of the
skies her thoughts turned to the enigma of her own individuality. She
was aware that she lived. She was aware that some things were right,
that some things were wrong. She was aware of the strange fortune that
had lured her, that had chosen her out of millions. What did it mean? It
must mean something, just as those stars must mean something--but what?
Opposite to her window there was an open space; it was full of mist and
moonlight; the lights of a distant street looked across it. She too had
said, "'Tis hard upon me, I love my folk above all things, but a great
longing seizes me." That story is the story of human life. What is human
life but a longing for something beyond us, for something we shall not
attain? Again she wondered what her end must be. She must end somehow,
and was it not strange that she could no more answer that simple
question than she could the sublime question which the moon and stars
propounded.... That breathless, glittering peace, was it not wonderful?
It seemed to beckon and allure, and her soul yearned for that peace as
Connla's had for the maiden. Death only could give that peace. Did the
Fairy Maiden mean death? Did the plains of the Ever Living, which the
Fairy Maiden had promised Connla on the condition of his following her,
lie behind those specks of light?
But what end should she choose for herself if the choice were left to
her--to come back to Dulwich and live with her father? She might do
that--but when her father died? Then she hoped that she might die. But
she might outlive him for thirty years--Evelyn Innes, an old woman,
talking to the few friends who came to see her, of the days when Wagner
was triumphant, of her reading of "Isolde." Some such end as that would
be hers. Or she might end as Lady Asher. She might, but she did not
think she would. Owen seemed to think more of marriage now than he used
to. He had always said they would be married when she retired from the
stage. But why should she retire from the stage? If he had wanted to
marry her he should have asked her at first. She did not know what she
was going to do. No one knew what they were going to do. They simply
went on living. That moonlight was melting her brain away. She drew down
the blinds, and she fell asleep thinking of her father's choir and the
beautiful "Missa Brevis" which she was going to hear to-morrow.
As they went to church, he told her about Monsignor Mostyn. Evelyn
remembered that the very day she went away, he had had an appointment
with the prelate, and while trying to recall the words he had used at
the time--how Monsignor believed that a revival of Palestrina would
advance the Catholic cause in England--she heard her father say that no
one except Monsignor could have succeeded in so difficult an enterprise
as the reformation of church music in England.
The organ is a Protestant instrument, and in organ music the London
churches do very well; the Protestant congregations are, musically, more
enlightened; the flattest degradation is found among the English
Catholics, and he instanced the Oratory as an extraordinary disgrace to
a civilised country, relating how he had heard the great Mass of Pope
Marcellus given there by an operatic choir of twenty singers. In the
West-end are apathy and fashionable vulgarity, and it was at St.
Joseph's, Southwark, that the Church had had restored to her all her own
beautiful music. Monsignor had begun by coming forward with a
subscription of one thousand pounds a year, and by such _largesse_ he
had confounded the intractable Jesuits and vanquished Father Gordon. The
poor man who had predicted ruin now viewed the magnificent congregation
with a sullen face. "He has a nice voice, too, that's the strange part
of it; I could have taught him, but he is too proud to admit he was
wrong." However, _bon gre mal gre_, Father Gordon had had to submit to
Monsignor. When Monsignor makes up his mind, things have to be done. If
a thousand pounds had not been enough, he would have given two thousand
pounds; Monsignor was rich, but he was also tactful, and did not rely
entirely on his money. He had come to St. Joseph's with the Pope's
written request in his hand that St. Joseph's should attempt a revival
of the truly Catholic music, if sufficient money could be obtained for
the choir. So there was no gainsaying, the Jesuits had had to submit,
for if they had again objected to the expense, Monsignor would come
forward with a subscription of two thousand a year. He could not have
afforded to pay so much for more than a limited number of years, "but he
and I felt that it was only necessary to start the thing for it to
Mr. Innes told his daughter of Monsignor's social influence; Monsignor
had the command of any amount of money. There is always the money, the
difficulty is to obtain the will that can direct the money. Monsignor
was the will. He was all-powerful in Rome. He spent his winters and
springs in Rome, and no one thought of going to Rome without calling on
him. It was through him that the Pope kept in touch with the English
Catholics. He had a confessional at St. Joseph's, and he was _au mieux_
with the Jesuits. It was the influence of Monsignor that had given
Palestrina his present vogue. But a revival of Palestrina was in the
air; through him the inevitable reaction against Wagner was making
itself felt. Monsignor had made all the rich Catholics understand that
it was their duty to support the unique experiment which some poor
Jesuits in Southwark were making, and the fact that he had come forward
with a subscription of one thousand a year enabled him to ask his
friends for their money. He had told Mr. Innes that a dinner party which
did not produce a subscriber he looked upon as a dinner wasted.
Monsignor knew how to carry a thing through; his influence was
extraordinary; he could get people to do what he wanted.
Evelyn and her father had so much to say that it did not seem as if they
ever would find time to say it in. There was the story to tell of the
construction of the vast choir and the difficulties he had experienced
in teaching his singers to read at sight, for, as she knew, contrapuntal
music cannot be sung except by singers who can sing unaccompanied. The
trebles and the altos were of course the great difficulty; the boys
often burst into tears; they said they preferred to die rather than
endure his discipline. He was often sorry for them, for he knew that the
perfect singing of this contrapuntal music was almost impossible except
by _castrati_. But he was able to communicate his enthusiasm; he told
them stories of how the ancient choirs used to sing Palestrina's masses
without a rehearsal, how the ancient choirs used to compete one against
the other, singing music they had never seen against men in the opposite
organ loft whom they did not even know. He was full of such stories;
they served to fire the boys' enthusiasm, and to change dislike into an
inspiration. He had hypnotised them into a love of Palestrina, and when
they went home their parents had told him that the boys were always
talking about the ancient music, and that they sat up at night reading
motets. He had told them that they would abandon all foolish pastimes
for Palestrina, and they had in a measure; instead of batting and
bowling, their ambition became sight singing. Once a spirit of emulation
is inspired, great things are accomplished. There had been some
beautiful singing at St. Joseph's. Three months ago he believed that his
choir would have compared with some of the sixteenth century choirs. Mr.
Innes told an instructive story of how he had lost a most extraordinary
treble, the best he had ever had. No, he had not lost his voice; a
casual word had done the mischief. The boy had happened to tell his
mother that Mr. Innes had said that he would give up cricket for
Palestrina, and she, being a fool, had laughed at him. Her laughter had
ruined the boy; he had refused to sing any more; he had become a
dissipated young rascal, up to every mischief. Unfortunately, before he
left he had influenced other boys; many had to be sent away as useless;
and it was only now that his choir was beginning to recover from this
egregious calamity. But though the difficulty of the trebles and the
altos was always the difficulty of his choir, it no longer seemed
insuperable. With the large amount of money at his disposal, he could
afford to pay almost any amount of money for a good treble or alto, so
every boy in London who showed signs of a voice was brought to him. But
in three or four years a boy's voice breaks, and the task of finding
another to take his place has to be undertaken. Very often this is
impossible; there are times when there are no voices. The present time
was such a one, and he fumed at the foolish woman whose casual word had
broken up his choir three months ago, bemoaning that such a calamity
should have happened just before Monsignor's return from Rome. It was
for that reason he was giving the "Missa Brevis," a small work easily
done. He declared he would give fifty pounds to recall his choir of
three months ago, just for Evelyn and Monsignor to hear it. Evelyn
easily believed that he would, and as they parted inside the church she
"I wish I could take the place of the naughty boy."
A look of hope came into his eyes, but it died away in an instant, and
she watched his despondent back as he went towards the choir loft.
The influence of Monsignor had worked great changes at St. Joseph's--the
very atmosphere of the church was different, the sensation was one of
culture and refinement, instead of that acrid poverty. From the altar
rail to the middle of the aisle the church was crowded--in the free as
well as in the paying parts. From the altar rails to the middle of the
aisle there were chairs for the ease of the subscribers, and for those
who were willing to pay a fee of two shillings. In front of each chair
was a comfortable kneeling place, and slender, gloved hands held
prayer-books bound in morocco, and under fashionable hats, filled with
bright beads and shadowy feathers, veiled faces were bent in dainty
prayer. Among these Evelyn picked out a number of her friends. There
were Lady Ascott, who missed no musical entertainment of whatever kind,
even when it took place in church, and Lady Gremaldin, who thought she
was listening to Wagner when she was thinking of the tenor whom she
would take away to supper in her brougham after the performance....
Evelyn caught sight of a painter or two and a man of letters who used
to come to her father's concerts. Suddenly she saw Ulick standing close
by her; he had not seen her, and was looking for a seat. Catching sight
of her, he came and sat in the chair next to hers. Almost at the same
moment the acolytes led the procession from the sacristy. They were
followed by the sub-deacon, the deacon and the priest who was to sing
the Mass. When the Mass began the choir broke forth, singing the
The practice of singing in church proceeds from the idea that, in the
exaltation of prayer, the soul, having reached the last limit obtainable
by mere words, demands an extended expression, and finds it in song. The
earliest form of music, the plain chant or Gregorian, is sung in unison,
for it was intended to be sung by the whole congregation, but as only a
few in every congregation are musicians, the idea of a choir could not
fail to suggest itself; and, once the idea of a choir accepted, part
writing followed, and the vocal masses of the sixteenth century were the
result. Then the art of religious music had gone as far as it could, and
the next step, the introduction of an accompanying instrument, was
The "Missa Brevis" is one of the most exquisite of the master's minor
works. It is written for four voices, and with the large choir at his
command, Mr. Innes was able to put eight to ten voices on a part; and
hearing voices darting, voices soaring, voices floating, weaving an
audible embroidery, Evelyn felt the vanity of accompaniment instruments.
Upon the ancient chant the new harmonies blossomed like roses on an old
gnarled stem, and when on the ninth bar of the "Kyrie" the tenors softly
separated from the sustained chord of the other parts, the effect was as
of magic. Evelyn lifted her eyes and saw her dear father conducting with
She had heard the Mass in Rome, and remembered the beautiful phrase
which opens the "Kyrie" and which is the essence of the first part of
that movement. But the altos had not the true alto quality; they were
trebles singing in the lower register of their voices. Leaning towards
her, Ulick whispered, "The altos are not quite in tune." She had heard
nothing wrong, but, seeing that he was convinced, she resolved to submit
the matter to her father's decision. She had every confidence in the
accuracy of her ear; but last night her father had said that the modern
musical ear was not nearly so fine as the ancient, trained to the exact
intervals of the monochord, instead of the coarse approximation of the
She remembered that when she had heard the Mass in Rome there was a
moment when she had longed for the sweet concord of a pure third. Now,
when it came at the end of the first note of the basses, Ulick said, "It
is as sharp as that of an ordinary piano." It had not seemed so to her,
and she wondered if her ear had deteriorated, if the corrupting
influence of modern chromatic music had been too strong, if she had lost
her ear in the Wagner drama. The coarse intonation was more obvious in
the "Christe Eleison," sung by four solo voices, than in the "Kyrie,"
sung by the full choir; and she did catch a slight equivocation, and the
discovery tended to make her doubt Ulick's assertion that the altos were
wrong in the "Kyrie," for, if she heard right in one place, why did she
not hear right in another? The leading treble had a hard, unsympathetic
voice, which did not suit the florid passages occurring three times on
the second syllable of the word Eleison. He hammered them instead of
singing them tenderly, with just the sense of a caress in the voice.
But outside of such extreme criticism, in the audience of the ordinary
musical ear, the beautiful "Missa Brevis" was as well given as it could
be given in modern times, and Evelyn was, of course, anxious to see the
great prelate to whose energetic influence the revival of this music was
owing, the man who had helped to make her dear father's life a
satisfaction to him. It was just slipping into disappointment when the
prelate had come to save it. This was why Evelyn was so interested in
him--why she was already attracted toward him. It was for this reason
she was sitting in one of the front chairs, near to where Monsignor
would have to pass on his way to the pulpit. He was to preach that
Sunday at St. Joseph's.... He passed close to her, and she had a clear
view of his thin, hard, handsome face, dark in colour and severe as a
piece of mediaeval wood carving; a head small and narrow across the
temples, as if it had been squeezed. The eyes were bright brown, and
fixed; the nose long and straight, with clear-cut nostrils. She noticed
the thin, mobile mouth and the swift look in the keen eyes--in that look
he seemed to gather an exact notion of the congregation he was about to
Already Evelyn trembled inwardly. The silence was quick with
possibility; anything might happen--he might even publicly reprove her
from the pulpit, and to strengthen her nerves against this influence,
she compared the present tension to that which gathered her audience
together as one man when the moment approached for her to come on the
stage. All were listening, as if she were going to sing; it remained to
be seen if the effect of his preaching equalled that of her singing. She
was curious to see.
"I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner
that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need
no repentance." In introducing this text he declared it to be one of the
most beautiful and hopeful in Scripture. Was it the sweet, clear voice
that lured the different minds and led them, as it were, in leash? Or
was it that slow, deliberate, persuasive manner? Or was it the
benedictive and essentially Christian creed which he preached that
disengaged the weight from every soul, allowing each to breathe an
easier and sweeter breath? To one and all it seemed as if they were
listening to the voice of their own souls, rather than that of a living
man whom they did not know, and who did not know them. The preacher's
voice and words were as the voices they heard speaking from the bottom
of their souls in moments of strange collectedness. And as if aware of
the spiritual life he had awakened, the preacher leaned over the pulpit
and paused, as if watching the effect of his will upon the congregation.
The hush trembled into intensity when he said, "Yes, and not only in
heaven, but on earth as well, there shall be joy when a sinner repents.
This can be verified, not in public places where men seek wealth, fame
and pleasure--there, there shall be only scorn and sneers--but in the
sanctuary of every heart; there is no one, I take it, who has not at
some moment repented." Instantly Evelyn remembered Florence. Had her
repentance there been a joy or a pain? She had not persevered. At that
moment she heard the preacher ask if the most painful moments of our
lives were the result of our having followed the doctrine of Jesus or
the doctrine of the world? He instanced the gambler and the libertine,
who willingly confess themselves unhappy, but who, he asked, ever heard
of the good man saying he was unhappy? The tedium of life the good man
never knows. Men have been known to regret the money they spent on
themselves, but who has ever regretted the money he has spent in
charity? But even success cannot save the gambler and libertine from the
tedium of existence, and when the preacher said, "These men dare not be
alone," Evelyn thought of Owen, and of her constant efforts to keep him
amused, distracted; and when the preacher said it was impossible for the
sinner to abstract himself, to enter into his consciousness without
hearing it reprove him, Evelyn thought of herself. The preacher made no
distinctions; all men, he said, when they are sincere with themselves,
are aware of the difference between good and evil living. When they
listen the voice is always audible; even those who purposely close their
ears often hear it. For this voice cannot be wholly silenced; it can be
stifled for a while, but it can be no more abolished than the sound of
the sea from the shell. "As a shell, man is murmurous with morality."
Of the rest of the sermon Evelyn heard very little.... It was the phrase
that if we look into our lives we shall find that our most painful
moments are due to our having followed the doctrine of the world instead
of the doctrine of Christ that touched Evelyn. It seemed to explain
things in herself which she had never understood. It told her why she
was not happy. ... Happy she had never been, and she had never
understood why. Because she had been leading a life that was opposed to
what she deemed to be essentially right. How very simple, and yet she
had never quite apprehended it before; she had striven to close her
ears, but she had never succeeded. Why? Because that whisper can be no
more abolished than the murmur of the sea from the shell. How true! That
murmur had never died out of her ears; she had been able to stifle it
for a while--she had never been able to abolish it--and what convincing
proof this was of the existence of God!
Disprove it you couldn't, for it was part of one's senses--the very
evidence on which the materialists rely to prove that beyond this world
there is nothing. Yet what a flagrant contradiction her conduct was to
the murmur of spiritual existence. And that was why she was not happy.
That was why she would never be happy till she reformed.... But the
preacher spoke as if it were easy for all who wished it to change their
lives. How was she to change her life? Her life was settled and
determined for her ever since the day she went away with Owen. If she
sent Owen away again the same thing would happen; she would take him
back. She could not remain on the stage without a lover; she would take
another before a month was out. It was no use for her to deceive
herself! That is what she would do. To sing Isolde and live a chaste
life, she did not believe it to be possible--and she sat helpless,
hearing vaguely the Credo, her attention so distracted that she was only
half aware of its beauty. She noticed that the "Et incarnatus est" was
inadequately rendered, but that she expected. It would require the
strange, immortal voices she had heard in Rome. But the vigour with
which the basses led the "Et resurrexit" was such that the other parts
could not choose but follow. She felt thankful to them; they dissipated
her painful personal reverie. Yes, the basses were the best part of the
choir; among them she recognised two of her father's oldest pupils; she
had known them as boys singing alto--beautiful voices they had been, and
were not less beautiful now. But if she desired to reform her life, how
was she to begin? She knew what the priest would tell her. He would say,
send away your lover; but to send him away in the plenitude of her
success would be odious. He was unhappy; he was ill; he needed her
sorely. His mother's health was a great anxiety to him, and if, on the
top of all, she were to announce that she intended leaving him, he would
break down altogether. She owed everything to him. No, not even for the
sake of her immortal soul would she do anything that would give him
pain. But he had been anxious to marry her for some time. Would she make
him a good wife? She was fond of him; she would do anything for him. She
had travelled hundreds of miles to see him when he was ill, and the
other night she could not sleep because she feared he was unhappy about
his mother's health. She would marry him if he asked her. On that point
she was certain. Refuse Owen? Not for anything that could be offered
her; nothing would change her from that. Nothing! Her resolve was taken.
No, it was not taken; it was there in her heart.
And at the moment when the Elevation bell rang she decided not only to
accept Owen if he asked her, but to use all her influence to induce him
to ask her. This seemed to her equivalent to a resolution to reform her
life, and, happier in mind, she bowed her head, and as a very unworthy
Catholic, but still a Catholic, and feeling no longer as an alien and an
outcast, she assisted at the mystery of the Mass. She even ventured to
offer up a vague prayer, and when the dread interval was over, she
remembered that her father had spoken to her of the second "Agnus Dei"
as an especially beautiful number. It was for five voices; exquisitely
prayerful it seemed to her. With devout insistence the theme is
reiterated by the two soprani, then the voices are woven together, and
the simile that rose up in her mind was the pious image of fingers
interlaced in prayer.
The first thrill, the first impression of the music over, she applied
herself to the dissection of it, so that she might be able to discuss it
with Ulick and her father afterwards. This beautiful melody, apparently
so free, was so exquisitely contrived that it contained within itself
descant and harmony. She knew it well; it is a strict canon in unison,
and she had heard it sung by two grey-haired men in the Papal choir in
Rome, soprano voices of a rarer and more radiant timbre than any woman's
sexful voice, and subtle, and, in some complex way, hardly of the earth
at all--voices in which no accent of sex transpired, abstract voices
aloof from any stress of passion, undistressed by any longing, even for
God. They were not human voices, and, hearing them, Evelyn had imagined
angels bearing tall lilies in their hands, standing on wan heights of
celestial landscape, singing their clear silver music.
These men had sung this "Agnus Dei" as perhaps it never would be sung
again, but she knew the boy treble to be incapable of singing this canon
properly, so she could hardly resist the impulse to run up to the choir
loft and tell her father breathlessly that she would take his place. She
smiled at the consternation such an act would occasion. Even if she
could get to the choir loft without being noticed, she could not sing
this music, her voice was full of sex, and this music required the
strange sexless timbre of the voices she had heard in Rome. But the boy
sang better than she anticipated; his voice was wanting in strength and
firmness; she listened, anxious to help him, perplexed that she could
The last Gospel was then read, and she followed Ulick out of church.
On getting outside the church, they were surprised to find that it had
been raining. The shower had laid the dust, freshened the air, and upon
the sky there was a beautiful flowerlike bloom; the white clouds hung in
the blue air unlifting fugitive palace and tower, and when Evelyn and
Ulick looked into this mysterious cloudland, their hearts overflowed
with an intense joy.
She opened her parasol, and told him that her father was lunching with
the Jesuits. But he and she were going to dine together at Dowlands; and
after dinner they were not to forget to practise the Bach sonata which
was in the programme for the evening concert. She thought of the long
day before them, and with mixed wonderment and pleasure of how much
better they would know each other at the end of the day. She wanted to
know how he thought and felt about things; and it seemed to her that he
could tell her all that she yearned to know, though what this was she
did not know herself.
There were strange hills and valleys and fabulous prospects in the great
white cloud which hung at the end of the suburban street, and it seemed
to her that she would like to wander with him there among the white
dells, and to stand with him upon the high pinnacles. She was happy in
an infinite cloudland while he told her of her father's struggle to
obtain mastery in St. Joseph's. But she experienced a passing pang of
regret that she had not been present to witness the first struggles of
She was interested in the part that Ulick had played in it. He told her
how almost every week he had written an article developing some new
phase of the subject, and Evelyn told him how her father had told her of
the extraordinary ingenuity and energy with which he had continued the
propaganda from week to week. When her father was called away to
negotiate some financial difficulty, Ulick had taken charge of the
rehearsals. Mr. Innes had told Evelyn that Ulick had displayed an
unselfish devotion, and she added that he had been to her father what
Liszt had been to Wagner, and while paying this compliment she looked at
him in admiration, thanking him with her eyes. Had it not been for him,
her father might have died of want of appreciation, killed by Father
"But you came to him," she said, speaking unwillingly, "when I
selfishly left him."
Ulick would not concede that he was worthy of any distinction in the
victory of the old music; it would have achieved its legitimate triumph
without his aid. He had merely done his duty like any private soldier in
the ranks. But from first to last all had depended upon Monsignor. Mr.
Innes had shown more energy and practical intelligence than anyone, not
excepting Evelyn herself, would have credited him with; he had
interested many people by his enthusiasm, but nevertheless he had
remained what he was--a man of ideas rather than of practice, and
without Monsignor the reformation would have come to naught. Evelyn was
strangely interested to know what Ulick thought of Monsignor, and she
waited eager for him to speak. She would have liked to hear him
enthusiastic, but he said that Monsignor was no more than an Oxford don
with a taste for dogma and for a cardinal's hat. He was not a man of
ideas, but a man that would do well in an election or a strike. He was
what folk call "a leader of men," and Ulick held that power over the
passing moment was a sign of inferiority. Shakespeare and Shelley and
Blake had never participated in any movement; they were the movement
itself, they were the centres of things. Christ, too, had failed to lead
men, he was far too much above them; but St. Paul, the man of inferior
ideas, had succeeded where Christ had failed. Mostyn, he maintained, was
much more interested in dogma than in religion; he abhorred mysticism,
and believed in organisation. He considered his Church from the point of
view of a trades union. An unspiritual man, one much more interested in
theology than in God--an able shepherd with an instinct for lost sheep
whose fixed and commonplace ideas gave him command over weak and exalted
natures, natures which were frequently much more spiritual than his own.
Evelyn listened, amused, though she could not think of Monsignor quite
as Ulick did. Monsignor had said that if we ask ourselves to what our
unhappiness is attributable, we find that it is attributable to having
followed the way of the world instead of the way of Christ.
It seemed to her impossible that a man of inferior intelligence such as
Ulick described could think so clearly. She reminded Ulick of these very
sentences which had so greatly moved her, and it flattered her to hear
him admit it, that the idea which had so greatly struck her was
penetrating and far-reaching, but he denied that it was possible that it
could be Monsignor's own. It was something he had got out of a book, and
seeing the effect that could be made of it, he had introduced it into
his sermon. In support of this opinion, he said that all the rest of the
sermon was sententious commonplace about the soul, and obedience to the
"But you will be able to judge for yourself. He is coming to the
"Then I must have a dress to wear, I suppose he would like me to wear
sackcloth. But I am going to wear a pretty pink silk, which I hope you
will like. Call that hansom, please."
It was amusing to watch her write the note, hear her explain to the
cabman: if he brought back the right dress he was to get a sovereign. It
was amusing to stroll on through the naked Sunday streets, talking of
the music they had just heard and of Monsignor, to find suddenly that
they had lost their way and could see no one to direct them. These
little incidents served to enhance their happiness. They were nearly of
the same age, and were conscious of it; a generation is but a large
family, united by ties of impulse and idea. Evelyn had been brought up
and had lived outside of the influence of her own generation. Now it was
flashed upon her for the first time, and under the spell of its
instincts she ran down the steps to the railway and jumped into the
moving train. Owen would have forbidden her this little recklessness,
but Ulick accepted it as natural, and they sat opposite each other,
their thoughts lost in the rustle and confusion of their blood. She was
conscious of a delicious inward throbbing, and she liked the smooth
young face, the colour of old ivory, and the dark, fixed eyes into which
she could not look without trembling; they changed, lighting up and
clouding as his thought came and went. She found an attraction in his
occasional absent-mindedness, and wondered of what he was thinking.
Looking into his eyes, she was aware of a mystery half understood, and
she could not but feel that this enigma, this mystery, was essential to
her. Her life seemed to depend upon it; she seemed to have come upon the
secret at last.
It was amusing to walk home to dinner together this bright summer's day,
and to tell this young man, to whose intervention it pleased her to
think that she owed her reconciliation to her father, how it was by
pretending not to understand the new harpsichord that she had inveigled
her father into speaking to her.... But it was only one o'clock--an hour
still remained before dinner would be ready at Dowlands, and they were
glad to dream it under the delicious chestnut trees. She sat intent,
moving the tiny bloom from side to side with her parasol, thinking of
her father. Suddenly she told Ulick of the Wotan and Brunnhilde scene,
which she had always played, while thinking of the real scene that one
day awaited her at her father's feet, and this scene she had at last
acted, if you could call reality acting. She was dimly aware of the old
Dulwich street, and that she had once trundled her hoop there, and the
humble motion of life beneath the chestnut trees, the loitering of stout
housewives and husbands in Sunday clothes, the spare figures of
spinsters who lived in the damp houses which lay at the back of the
choked gardens was accepted as a suitable background for her happiness.
Her joy seemed to dilate in the morning, in the fluttering sensation of
the sunshine, of summer already begun in the distant fields. Inspired by
the scene, Ulick began to hum the old English air, "Summer is a-coming
in," and without raising her eyes from the chestnut blooms that fell
incessantly on the pavement, Evelyn said--"That monk had a beautiful
And for a while they thought of that monk at Reading composing for his
innocent recreation that beautiful piece of music; they hummed it
together, thinking of his quiet monastery, and it seemed to them that it
would be a beautiful thing if life were over, if it might pass away, as
that monk's life had passed, in peace, in aspiration whether of prayer
or of art. Thinking of the music she had heard over night, that she had
hummed through and that her father had played on the harpsichord, she
said--"And you, too, had a beautiful dream when you wrote 'Connla and
the Fairy Maiden'?"
"Ah, your father showed it to you; you hadn't told me."
Then, absorbed in his idea, never speaking for effect, stripping himself
of every adventitious pleasure in the service of his idea, he told her
of the change that had come upon his aestheticism in the last year. He
had been organist for three years at St. Patrick's, and since then had
been interested in the modes, the abandoned modes in which the plain
chant is written. These modes were the beginning of music, the original
source; in them were written, no doubt, the songs and dances of the folk
who died two, three, four, five thousand years ago, but none of this
music had been preserved, only the religious chants of this distant
period of art have come down to us, and from this accident his sprung
the belief that the early modes are only capable of expressing religious
emotion. But the gayest rhythms can be written in these modes as easily
as in the ordinary major and minor scales. It was thought, too, that the
modes did not lend themselves to modulation, but by long study of them
Ulick had discovered how they may be submitted to the science of
"I see," Evelyn replied pensively. "The first line written in one of the
ancient modes, and underneath the melody, chromatic harmonies."
"No, that would be horrible," Ulick cried, like a dog whose tail has
been trodden upon. "That is the infamous modern practice. I seek the
harmony in the sentiment of the melody I am writing, in the tonality of
the mode I am writing."
And then, little by little, they entered the perilous question of the
ancient modes. There were several, and three were as distinctive and as
rich sources of melody and harmony as the ordinary major scale, for
modern music limited itself to the major scale, the minor scale being a
dependency. The major and minor modes or scales had sufficed for two or
three centuries of music, but the time of their exhaustion was
approaching, and the musicians of the future would have to return to the
older scales. He refused to admit that they did not lend themselves to
modulation, and he answered, when Evelyn suggested that the introduction
of a sharp or a flat was likely to alter the character of the ancient
scales, that she must not judge the ancient scales by what had already
been written in them; it was nowise his intention to imitate the
character of the plain chant melodies; she must not confuse the
sentiment of these melodies with the modes in which they were written.
It might be that in adding a sharp or a flat the musician destroyed the
character of the mode which he was leaving and that of the mode he was
passing into, but that proved nothing except his want of skill. His
opera was written not only in the three ancient modes, but also in the
ordinary major and minor scales, and he believed that he had enlarged
the limits of musical expression.
He was not the first young man she had met with schemes for writing
original music. So far as she was capable of judging, his practice was
better than his theory. But his music was not the origin of her interest
for him. What really interested her were his beliefs; her personal
interest in him had really begun when he had said that he believed in a
continuous revelation. Of this revelation he had argued that Christ was
only a part. These ideas, which she heard for the first time, especially
interested her. Owen's agnosticism had given her freedom and command of
this world, but it had made a great loneliness in her life which Owen
was no longer able to fill. Life seemed a desert without some form of
belief, and notwithstanding her success, her life was often intolerably
lonely. She had often thought of the world's flowers and fruits as mere
semblance of things without true reality, and what seemed a bountiful
garden, a mere hard, dry, brilliant desert. It was only at certain
moments, of course, that she thought these things, but sometimes these
thoughts quite unexpectedly came upon her, and she could no longer
conceal from herself the fact that she was lonely in her soul, and that
she was growing lonelier. She was wearying a little of all the visible
world, beginning to hunger for the invisible, from which she had closed
her eyes so long, but which, for all that, had never become wholly
darkened to her.
Hearing Ulick speak of foreseeing and divinations by the stars was, too,
like sweet rain in a dying land; and as they returned to Dowlands, she
spoke to him of Moy Mell where Boadag is king, of the Plain of the Ever
Living, of Connla and the Fairy Maiden gliding in the crystal boat over
the Western Sea, and during dinner she longed to ask him if he believed
in a future life.
It was difficult for her, who had never spoken on such subjects before,
to disentangle his philosophy, and it was not until he said that we
must not believe as religionists do, that one day the invisible shall
become the visible, that she began to understand him. Such doctrine, he
said, is paltry and materialistic, worthy of the theologian and the
agnostic. We must rather, he said, seek to raise and purify our natures,
so that we may see more of the spiritual element which resides in
things, and which is visible to all in a greater or less degree as they
put aside their grosser nature and attain step by step to a higher point
of vision. She had always imagined there was nothing between the
materialism of Owen and the theology of Monsignor. Ulick's ideas were
quite new to her; they appealed to her imagination, and she thought she
could listen for ever, and was disappointed when he reminded her that
she must practise the Bach sonata for the evening's concert.
It did not, however, detain them long, for she found to her great
pleasure that she had not lost nearly as much of her playing as she
The evening lengthened out into long, clear hours and thoughts of the
green lanes; and to escape from hauntings of Owen--the music-room it
seemed still to hold echoes of his voice--she asked him to walk out with
her. They wandered in the cloudless evening. They sauntered past the
picture gallery, and the fact that she was walking with this strange and
somewhat ambiguous young man provoked her to think of herself and him as
a couple from that politely wanton assembly which had collected at
eventide to watch a pavane danced beneath the beauty of a Renaissance
colonnade, and to accentuate the resemblance Evelyn fluttered her
parasol and said, pointing across the yellow meadows--
"Look at those idle clouds, the afternoon is falling asleep."
She walked for some time touched with the sentiment that the evening
landscape inspired, a little uncertain whether he would like to talk
further about his spiritual nature, and whether she should rest
contented with what she knew on that subject. "It is only curiosity, but
I wonder how he would make love--how he'd begin? I wonder if he cares
for women?" It was some time before she could get Ulick to talk of
himself; he seemed to strive to change the conversation back to artistic
questions. He seemed absorbed in himself; it seemed difficult to awaken
him out of his absent-mindedness. At last he spoke suddenly, as was his
habit, and she learned that the scene of his first love-making was a
beautiful Normandy park. He was more explicit about the park than the
lady, and he seemed to lay special stress on the fact that the great
saloon in the castle was hung with a faded tapestry. The story seemed to
Evelyn a little obscure, but she gathered that Ulick had been tragically
separated from her, whether by the intervention of another woman or
through his own fault did not seem clear. The story was vague as a
legend, and Evelyn was not certain that Ulick had not invented the park
and the tapestries as characteristic decorations of a love story as it
should happen to him, if it did happen.
Love as a theme did not seem to suit him; he seemed to fade from her; he
was only real when he spoke of his ideas, and a fleeting comparison
between him and herself passed across her mind. She remembered that she
was no longer truly herself except when speaking of sexual emotion.
Everything else had begun to seem to her trivial, trite and
uninteresting. She could no longer take an interest in ordinary topics
of conversation. If a man was not going to make love to her, she soon
began to lose interest.... A long sequence of possibilities rose in her
mind, and died away in the distance like flights of birds. Suddenly she
began to sing, and they had a long and interesting talk about her
rendering of Isolde in the first act. For a moment the love potion
seemed as if it would carry the conversation back to their individual
experiences of the essential passion; but they drifted instead into a
discussion regarding the practice of sorcery in the middle ages. She was
surprised to learn that she was not only a believer, but was apparently
an adept in all the esoteric arts. But the subject being quite new to
her, she followed with difficulty his account of a very successful
evocation of the spirit of a mediaeval alchemist, a Fleming of the
fourteenth century, and wonder often interrupted her attention. She
could not reconcile herself to the belief that he was serious in all he
said, and he often spoke of the Kabbala, which apparently was the secret
ritual of a sect of which he was a member, perhaps a priest. Between
whiles she thought of the indignation with which Owen would hear such
beliefs. Then tempted as by the edge of an abyss, she admired Ulick's
strange appearance, which helped to make his story credible. She could
no longer disbelieve, so simply did he tell his tales, his white teeth
showing, and his dark eyes rapidly brightening and clouding as he
mentioned different spells and their effects. But so illusive were his
narratives that she never quite understood; he seemed always a little
ahead of her; she often had to pause to consider his meaning, and when
she had grasped it, he was speaking of something else, and she had
missed the links. To understand him better she attempted to argue with
him, and he told her of the incredible explanation that Charcot, the
eminent hypnotist, had had to fall back upon in order to account
materialistically for some of his hypnotic experiments, and she was
forced to admit that the spiritualistic explanation was the easier to
She was most interested when he spoke of the College of Adepts and the
Rosicrucians. Life as he spoke seemed to become intense and exalted, and
the invisible seemed on the point of becoming visible when he told her
how the brotherhood greeted each other with, "Man is God, and son of
God, and there is no God but man." He repeated all he could remember of
their terrible oath. The College of Adepts, she learned, was the
antithesis of the monastery. The monastery is passive spirituality, the
College of Adepts is active spirituality; the monastery abases itself
before God, the Adepts seek to become as gods. "There is a spiritual
stream," he said, "that flows behind the circumstance of history, and
they claim that all religions are but vulgarisations of their doctrine.
The Adept, by conquering passion and ignorance, attains a mastery over
change, and so prolongs his life beyond any human limit."
She begged Ulick not to forget to bring the book of magic which
contained the oath of the Rosicrucians.
It was now after eight, and they returned home, watching the white mists
creeping up the blue fields. The sky was lucent as a crystal, and the
purple would not die out of the west until nearly midnight. Evelyn would
have liked to have stayed with him in the twilight, for as the landscape
darkened, his strange figure grew symbolic, and his words, whether by
beauty of verbal expression or the manner with which they were spoken,
seemed to bring the unseen world nearer. The outside world seemed to
slip back, to become subordinate as earth becomes subordinate to the sky
when the stars come. Evelyn felt the life of the flesh in which Owen had
placed her fall from her; it became dissipated; her life rose to the
head, and looking into the mists she seemed to discover the life that
haunts in the dark. It seemed to whisper and beckon her.
Her father was in the music-room when they returned, and at sight of him
she forgot Ulick and his enchantments.
"Father, dear, I am so proud of you." Standing by him, her hand on his
shoulder, she said, "Your choir is wonderful, dear. Palestrina has been
heard in London at last!"
She told him that she had heard the Mass in Rome, but had been
disappointed in the papal choir, and she explained why she preferred his
reading to that of the Roman musician. But he would not be consoled, and
when he mentioned that the altos were out of tune, Ulick looked at
"Father, dear, Ulick and I have had an argument about the altos. He says
they were wrong in the Kyrie. Were they?"
"Of course they were, but the piano has spoilt your ear. What was I
saying last night?"
He took down a violin to test his daughter's ear, and the results of the
examination were humiliating to her.
According to Mr. Innes, Bach was the last composer who had distinguished
between A sharp and B flat. The very principle of Wagner's music is the
identification of the two notes.
She ran out of the room, saying that she must change her dress, and Mr.
Innes looked at Ulick interrogatively. He seemed a little confused, and
hoped he had not hurt her feelings, and Ulick assured him that
to-morrow she would tell the incident in the theatre, that she would be
the first to see the humour of it. The news that she was staying at
Dowlands, and the presumption that she would sing at the concert, had
brought many a priest from St. Joseph's, and all the painters, men of
letters, and designers of stained glass, and all the old pupils, the
viol players, and the madrigal singers, and when Evelyn came downstairs
in her pink frock, she was surrounded by her old friends.
"Do come, girls; can you come on Thursday night? I'll send you seats. It
would be such a pleasure to me to sing to you, but not to-night;
to-night I want to be like old times. I am going to play the viola da
"But you used to sing Elizabethan songs in old times."
"Yes, but father thinks I have lost my ear; I shall not sing to-night."
Ulick laughed outright; the others looked at Evelyn amazed and a little
perplexed, and the consumptive man who wore brown clothes and who had
asked her to marry him came forward to congratulate her. But while
talking to him, her eyes were attracted by the tall, spare ecclesiastic
who stood talking to her father. She thought vaguely of Ulick's
depreciation. In spite of herself she felt herself gravitating towards
him. Several times she nearly broke off the conversation with the
consumptive man: her feet seemed to acquire a will of their own. But
when her eyes and thought returned to the consumptive man, her heart
filled with plaintive terror, for she could not help thinking of the
little space he had to live, and how soon the earth would be over him.
She met in his eyes a clear, plaintive look, in which she seemed to
catch sight of his pathetic soul. She seemed to be aware of it, almost
in contact with it, and through the eyes she divined the thought passing
there, and it was painful to her to think that it was of her health and
success he was thinking. She could see how cruelly she reminded him of
his folly in asking her to marry him, and she was quite sure that he was
thinking now how very lucky for her it was that she had refused him.
Pictures were formulating, she could see, in his poor mind of how
different her life would have been in the home he had to offer her, and
all this seemed to her so infinitely pathetic that she forgot Ulick,
Monsignor and everything else. Her father called her.
"Evelyn," he said, "let me introduce you to Monsignor."
The sight of a priest always shocked her; the austere face and the
reserved manner, the hard yet kind eyes, that appearance of
frequentation of the other world, at least of the hither side of this,
impressed her, and she trembled before him as she had trembled six years
ago when she met Owen in the same room. And when the concert was over,
when she lay in bed, she wondered. She asked herself how it was that a
little ordinary conversation about church singing--Palestrina, plain
chant, the papal choir, and the rest of it--should have impressed her so
vividly, should have excited her so much that she could not get to
She remembered the discontent when it began to be perceived that she did
not intend to sing, and how Julia had said, when it came to her to sing,
that she did not dare. Julia had fixed her eyes on her, and then
everyone seemed to be looking at her. The consumptive man was emboldened
to demand "Elsa's Dream," but she had refused to sing for him. She was
determined that nothing would induce her to sing that night, but
suddenly Monsignor had said--
"I hope you will not refuse to sing, Miss Innes. Remember that I cannot
go to the opera to hear you."
"If you wish to hear me, Monsignor, I shall be pleased indeed."
It was impossible for her to refuse Monsignor; it was out of the
question that she should refuse to sing for him. If he had wished it,
she would have had to sing the whole evening. All that was quite true,
but there seemed to be another reason which she could not define to
herself. It had given her infinite pleasure to sing to Monsignor, a
pleasure she had never experienced before, not at least for a very long
while, and wondering what was about to happen, she fell asleep.
The music-room had seemed haunted with Owen's voice, and yesterday she
had asked Ulick to walk with her in the lanes so that she might escape
from it. But to-day half-pleased, half-perplexed by her own perversity,
she could not resist taking him to the picture gallery--she wanted to
show him "The Colonnade."
The picture was merged in shadow, and no longer the picture she
remembered; but when the sun shone, all the rows quickened with amorous
intrigue, and the little lady held out her striped skirt (she had lost
none of her bland delight), and the gentleman who advanced to meet her
bowed with the mock humility of yore, and the beautiful perspectives of
the colonnade floated into the hush of the trees, and the fountain
For a reason which eluded her, she was anxious to know how this picture
would strike Ulick, and she tried to draw from him his ideas concerning
"Their thoughts," he said, "are not in their evening parade; something
quite different is happening in their hearts...." And while waiting for
her parasol and his stick, he said--
"I can see that you always liked that picture; you've seen it often
She had been longing to speak of Owen. He seemed always about them, and
in phantasmal presence he seemed to sunder them, to stand jailor-like.
It was only by speaking of Owen that his interdiction could be removed,
and she said that she had often been to the gallery with him. Having
said so much, it was easy to tell Ulick of the story of the three days
of hesitation which had preceded her elopement.
"The Colonnade," and "The Lady playing the Virginal," had seemed to her
symbols of the different lives which that day had been pressed upon her
choice. Ulick explained that Fate and free will are not as
irreconcilable as they seem. For before birth it is given to us to
decide whether we shall accept or reject the gift of life. So we are at
once the creatures and the arbiters of destiny. These metaphysics
excited and then eluded her perceptions, and she hastened to tell him
how she had stood at the corner of Berkeley Square, seeing the season
passing under the green foliage, thinking how her life was summarised in
a single moment. She remembered even the lady who wore the bright
irises in her bonnet; but she neglected to mention her lest Ulick should
think that it was memory of this woman's horses that had decided her to
the choice of her pair of chestnuts. She told him about the journey to
France, the buying of the trousseau, and the day that Madame Savelli had
said, "If you'll stay with me a year, I'll make something wonderful of
you." She told him how Owen had sent her to the Bois by herself, and the
madness that had risen to her brain: and how near she had been to
standing up in the carriage and asking the people to listen to her. She
told the tale of all this mental excitement fluently, volubly, carried
away by the narrative. Suddenly she ceased speaking, and sat absorbed by
She sat looking into that corner of the garden where the gardener on a
high ladder worked his shears without pausing. The light branches fell,
and she thought of how she had grown up in this obscure suburb amid old
instruments and old music. She remembered her yearning for fame and
love; now she had both, love and fame. But within herself nothing was
changed; the same little soul was now as it had been long ago, she could
hear it talking, living its intense life within her unknown to everyone,
an uncommunicable thing, unchanged among much change. She remembered how
Owen, like Siegfried, had come to release her, and all the exhausting
passion of that time. She had sat with him under this very tree. She was
sitting there now with Ulick. Everything was changed, yet everything was
the same.... She was going to fall in love with another man, that was
She awoke with a start, frightened as by a dream; and before she had
time to inquire of herself if the dream might come true, she remembered
the girl with whom Ulick used to play Mozart in a drawing-room hung with
faded tapestries. She feared that he would divulge nothing, and to her
surprise he told her that it had happened two years ago at Dieppe, where
he had gone for a month's holiday. At that time when he was writing
"Connla and the Fairy Maiden." He had composed a great deal of the music
by the sea-shore and in sequestered woods; and to assist himself in the
composition of the melodies, he used to take his violin with him. One
day, while wandering along the dusty high road on the look out for a
secluded, shady place, he had come upon what seemed to be a private
park. It was guarded by a high wall, and looking through an iron gate
that had been left ajar, he was tempted by the stillness of the glades.
"A music-haunted spot if ever there was one," he said to himself; and
encouraged by the persuasion of a certain melody which he felt he could
work out there, and nowhere but there, he pushed the gate open, and
entered the park. A perfect place it seemed to him, no one but the birds
to hear him, and the sun's rays did not pierce the thick foliage of the
sycamore grove. Never did place correspond more intimately with the mood
of the moment, and he played his melody over and over again, every now
and then stopping to write. Her step was so light, and he was so deep to
his music, that he did not hear it.... She had been listening doubtless
for some time before he had seen her. He spoke very little French, and
she very little English, but he easily understood that she wished him to
go on playing. A little later her father and mother had come through the
trees; she had held up her hand, bidding them be silent. Ulick could see
by the way they listened that they were musicians. So he was invited to
the villa which stood in the centre of the park, and till the end of his
holiday he went there every day. The girl--Eliane was her beautiful
name--was an exquisite musician. They had played Mozart in the room hung
with faded tapestries, or, beguiled by the sunshine, they had walked in
the park. When Evelyn asked him what they said, he answered simply, "We
said that we loved each other." But when he returned to Dieppe three
months later, all was changed. When he spoke of their marriage she
laughed the question away, and he perceived that his visits were not
desired; on returning to England, all his letters were returned to
him.... Soon after she married a Protestant clergyman, and last year she
had had a baby.
He sat absorbed in the memory of this passion, and Evelyn and the garden
were perceived in glimpses between scenes of youthful exaltations and
romantic indiscretions. He remembered how he had threatened to throw
himself from her window for no other reason except the desire of
romantic action; and while he sat absorbed in the past, Evelyn watched
him, nervous and irritated, striving to read in his face how much of the
burden had fallen from him, and how free his heart might be to accept
another love story.
As he sat in the garden under the calm cedar tree he dreamed of a
reconciliation with Eliane. He even speculated on the effect that the
score of his opera would have upon her if he were to send it--all that
music composed in her honour. But which opera? Not "Connla and the Fairy
Maiden," for a great deal of it was crude, thin, absurd. No; he could
not send it. But he might send "Grania." Yes, he would send "Grania"
when he had finished it. To arrive suddenly from England, to cast
himself at her feet--that might move her. Then, with a sigh, "These are
things we dream of," he thought, "but never do. Only in dreams do men
set forth in quest of the ideal."
He looked up, Evelyn's eyes were fixed on him, and he felt like Bran
returning home after his voyage to the wondrous isles.
They saw the footman coming across the green sward. He had come to tell
her that Mr. Innes was waiting for her. She was taking him to St.
Joseph's. But there was not room in the victoria for three, and Ulick
would have to go back to London by train.
"But you will come and see me soon? You promised to go through the
'Isolde' music with me. Will you come to-morrow?"
Her clear, delightful eyes were fixed upon him; he felt for the first
time the thrill of her personality; their light caused him to hesitate,
and then to accept her invitation eagerly. He heard her remind her
father that he had promised to come to-night to hear her sing Elizabeth.
He would be there too. He would see her to-night as well, and he stood
watching the beautiful horses bearing father and daughter swiftly away.
The shady Dulwich street dozed under a bright sky, and the bloom of the
flowering trees was shedding its fine dust. He thought of Palestrina and
Wagner, and a delicious little breeze sent a shower of bloom about his
feet, as if to remind him of the pathos of the passing illusion of which
we are a part. He stood watching the carriage, and the happiness and the
sorrow of things choked him when he turned away.
She was happy with her father, and she felt that he loved her better
than any lover. The unique experience of taking him to St. Joseph's in
her carriage, and the event of singing to him that night at Covent
Garden, absorbed her, and she dozed in her happiness like a beautiful
rose. Never had she been so happy. She was happier than she merited. The
thought passed like a little shadow, and a moment after all was
brightness again. Her father was the real love of her life; the rest was
mere excitement, and she wondered why she sought it; it only made her
unhappy. Monsignor was right.... But she did not wish to think of him.
On the steps of St. Joseph's, she bade her father good-bye, and remained
looking back till she could see him no more. Then she settled herself
comfortably under her parasol, intent on the enjoyment of their
reconciliation. The two days she had spent with him looked back upon her
like a dream from which she had only just awakened. As in a dream, there
were blurred outlines and places where the line seemed to have so faded
that she could no longer trace it. The most distinct picture was when
she stood, her hand affectionately laid on his shoulder, singing Ulick's
music. She had forgotten the music and Ulick himself, but her father,
how near she was to him in all her sympathies and instincts! Another
moment, equally distinct, was when she had looked up and seen him in the
choir loft conducting with calm skill.
He was coming to-night to hear her sing Elizabeth; that was the great
event, for without his approval all the newspapers in the world were as
nothing, at least to her. She hummed a little to herself to see if she
were in voice. To convince him that she sang as well as mother was out
of the question, but she might be able to convince him that she could do
something that mother could not have done. It was strange that she
always thought of mother in connection with her voice; the other singers
did not seem to matter; they might sing better or worse, but the sense
of rivalry was not so intimate. The carriage crossed Westminster Bridge,
and as she looked down the swirling muddy current, her mother's face
seemed to appear to her. In some strange way her mother had always
seemed more real than her father. Her father lived on the surface of
things, in this life, whereas her mother seemed independent of time and
circumstance, a sort of principle, an eternal essence, a spirit which
she could often hear speaking to her far down in her heart. Since she
had seen her mother's portrait, this sensation had come closer; and
Evelyn drew back as if she felt the breath of the dead on her face, as
if a dead hand had been laid upon hers. The face she saw was grey,
shadowy, unreal, like a ghost; the eyes were especially distinct, her
mother seemed aware of her; but though Evelyn sought for it, she could
not detect any sign of disapproval in her face. She looked always like a
grey shadow; she moved like a shadow. Evelyn was often tempted to ask
her mother to speak. Her prayer had always been a doubting, hesitating
prayer, perhaps that was why it had not been granted. But now, sitting
in her carriage in a busy thoroughfare, she seemed to see over the brink
of life, she seemed to see her mother in a grey land lit with stars. She
recalled Ulick's tales of evocation, and wondered if it were possible to
communicate with her mother. But even if she could speak with her, she
thought that she would shrink from doing so. She thought of what Ulick
had said regarding the gain and loss of soul, how we can allow our soul
to dwindle, and how we can increase it until communion with the
invisible world is possible. She felt that it were a presumption to
limit life to what we see, and Owen's argument that ignorance was the
cause of belief in ghosts and spirits seemed to her poor indeed. Man
would not have entertained such beliefs for thousands of years if they
had been wholly false.
Ulick was coming to-morrow. But he was going to read through Isolde's
music with her, and she could hardly fail to learn something, to pick up
a hint which she might turn to account.... Her conduct had been
indiscreet; she had encouraged him to make love to her. But in this case
it did not matter; he was a man who did not care about women, and she
recalled all he had said to convince herself on this point. However this
might be, the idea of her falling in love with him was out of the
question. A second lover stripped a woman of every atom of self-esteem,
and she glanced into her soul, convinced that she was sincere with
herself, sure or almost sure that what she had said expressed her
feelings truthfully. But in spite of her efforts to be sincere, there
was a corner of her soul into which she dared not look, and her thoughts
drew back as if they feared a lurking beast.
Immediately after, she remembered that she had vowed in church that she
would ask Owen to marry her. Owen would say yes at once, he would want
to marry her at the end of the week; and once she was married, she would
have to leave the stage. She would not be able to play Isolde.... But
she knew the part! it would seem silly to give up the stage on the eve
of her appearance in the part. It would be such a disappointment to so
many people. All London was looking forward to seeing her sing Isolde.
Mr. Hermann Goetze, what would he say? He would be entitled to
compensation. A nice sum Owen would have to pay for the pleasure of
marrying her. If she were to pay the indemnity--could she? It would
absorb all her savings. More than all. She did not think she could have
saved more than six or seven thousand pounds. The manager might claim
twenty. Her thoughts merged into vague calculations regarding the value
of her jewellery.... Even Owen would not care to pay twenty thousand
pounds so that he might marry her this season instead of next. Next year
she was going to sing Kundry! Her face tightened in expression, and a
painful languor seemed to weaken and ruin all her tissues. He might ask
her why she had so suddenly determined to accept what she had often
avoided, put aside, postponed. She would have to give some reason. If
she didn't, he would suspect--what would he suspect? That she was in
love with Ulick?
She might tell Owen that she wished to be married on account of scruples
of conscience. But she had better not speak of Monsignor. Any mention of
a priest was annoying to him. In that respect he was even more
arbitrary, more violent than ever. But a sudden desire to see him arose
in her, and she told the coachman to drive to Berkeley Square.
The trees wore their first verdure, and there was a melody among the
boughs, and she took pleasure in the graceful female figure pouring
water from the long-necked ewer. She lay back in her carriage, imitating
the lady she had seen six years ago, regretting that she would not know
her if she were to meet her; she might be one of her present friends.
Owen's house had been freshly painted that spring, its balcony was full
of flowers chosen by herself, and arranged according to her taste ...
and a pleasant look of recognition lit up in the eyes of the footmen in
the hall, and the butler, whom Evelyn remembered since the first day she
came to Berkeley Square, was sorry indeed that Sir Owen was out. But he
was sure that Sir Owen would not be long. Would she wait in Sir Owen's
room, or would she like lunch to be served at once? She said she would
wait in Sir Owen's room, and she walked across the hall, smiling at the
human nature of the servants' admiration. If their master had a
mistress, they were glad that he had one they could boast about. And
picking up two songs by Schubert, and hoping she was in good voice, she
sat down at the piano and sang them. Then, half aware that she was
singing unusually well, she sang another. The third song she sang so
beautifully that Owen stood on the threshold loth to interrupt her, and
when she got up from the piano he said--
"Why on earth don't you sing like that on the stage?"
"Ah, if one only could," she said, laughing, and taking him by the hand,
she led him to the sofa and sat beside him as if for a long talk.
"Yes," she said, "I've seen him. It's all right."
"I'm so glad. I hope you said something in my favour. I don't want him
to think me a brute, a villainous seducer, the man who ruined his
"No, there was nothing of that kind."
She began at first very gravely, but her natural humour overcame her,
and she made him laugh, with her account of her wooing of her father,
and the part the new harpsichord had played in their reconciliation
delighted him. He was full of pleasant comments, gay and sympathetic; he
was interested in her account of Ulick, and said he would like to know
him. This pleased her, and looking into Owen's eyes, she wondered if she
should ask him to marry her. They talked of their friends, of the
performance that night at the opera, and Evelyn thought that perhaps
Owen ought not to go there lest he should meet her father, and she
remembered that she had only to ask him to marry her in order to make it
quite easy for him to meet her father. Every moment she thought she was
going to ask him; she determined to introduce the subject in the first
pause in the conversation, but when the pause came she didn't or
couldn't; her tongue did not seem to obey her. She talked instead things
that did not interest either her or him--the general principles of
Wagner's music, or some technicality, whether she should insist on the
shepherd's song being played on the English horn. At last she felt that
she could not continue, so fictitious and strained did the conversation
seem to her.
"Are you going already? I've not seen you for four days. We are dining
to-morrow at Lady Merrington's."
Owen hoped that she would sing there the three songs which she had just
sung so well, but she answered instantly that she did not think she
would, that she wanted to sing Ulick's songs. She knew that this second
mention of Ulick's name would rouse suspicion; she tried to keep it
back, but it escaped her lips. She was sorry, for she did not think that
she wished to annoy. She would not stop to lunch, though she could not
urge any better reason than that Lady Duckle was waiting for her, and
when he wished to kiss her, she turned her head aside; a moody look
collected in her eyes, an ugly black resentment gathered in her heart;
she was ashamed of herself, for there was nothing to warrant her being
so disagreeable, and to pass the matter off, she described herself as
being aggressively virtuous that morning.
On her singing nights she dined at half-past five, and the interval
after dinner she spent in looking through her part, humming bits of it
to herself, but to-day Lady Duckle was quick to remark the score of
"Tannhaeuser" in her hand. She sat with it on her knees, looking at it
only occasionally, for she was thinking how the music would appeal to
her father, and how her mother would have sung it. But she had to
abandon these vain speculations. She must play the part as she felt it,
to tamper with her conception would be to court failure. To please
herself was her only chance of pleasing her father; if he did not like
her reading of the part, if her singing did not please him, it was very
unfortunate, but could not be helped. And when the carriage came to take
her to the theatre, she was not sure that she would not be glad to
receive a telegram saying that he was prevented from coming. She was
very nervous while dressing, and on coming downstairs she stood watching
the stage-box where he was sitting. She could distinguish his handsome,
grave face through the shadows, and the orchestra was playing that
rather rhetorical address to the halls which neither she nor Ulick cared
much about. She waited, forgetful of her entrance, and she had to hurry
round to the back of the stage.
But the moment the curtain went up, she became the mediaeval German
princess; her other life fell behind her, and her father was but a
little shadow on her brain. Yet he was the inspiration of her acting,
and that night the whole theatre consisted for Evelyn of one stage-box.
Her eyes never wandered there, but she knew that there sat her ultimate
judge, one whom no excess or trick could deceive. He would not judge her
by the mere superficial appearance she presented on the stage, by the
superficial qualities of her voice or her acting; he would see to the
origin of the idea, whence it had sprung, and how it had been developed.
He did not know this particular opera, but he knew all music, and would
judge it and her not according to the capricious taste of the moment,
but in its relation and her relation to the immutable canons of art,
from the plain chant to Palestrina, from Palestrina to Bach and
Beethoven. Her singing of every phrase would be passed as it were
through the long tradition of the centuries; it would not be accepted as
an isolated fact, it would be judged good, indifferent or bad, by
learned technical comparison. That she was his daughter would weigh not
a hair's weight in the scale, and the knowledge of this terrible justice
raised her out of herself, detached her more completely from the
superficial and the vulgar. She sang and acted as in a dream,
hypnotised by her audience, her exaltation steeped in somnambulism and
steeped in ecstasy.
The curtain was raised several times, but that night the only applause
or censure she was minded to hear awaited her in her dressing-room. She
sent her maid out of the room, and waited for some sound of footsteps in
the corridor, and at the first sound she rushed to the door and flung it
open. It was her father, Merat was bringing him along the corridor, and
they stood looking at each other; her clear, nervous eyes were trembling
with emotion. His face seemed to tell her that he was pleased; she read
upon it the calm exaltation of art, yet she could not however summon
sufficient courage to ask him, and they sat down side by side. At last
"Why don't you speak? Aren't you satisfied? Was I so bad?"
"You are a great artist, Evelyn. I wish your mother were here to hear
"Is that really true? Say it again, father. You are satisfied with me.
Then I have succeeded."
He told her why she had sung well, and he knew so well. It was like
walking with a man with a lantern; when he raised the light, she could
see a little farther into the darkness. But she had still the prayer to
sing to him. She wanted to know what he would think of her singing of
the prayer. The voice of the call-boy interrupted them. She sang the
prayer more purely than ever, and the flutes and clarionettes led her up
a shining road, and when she walked up the stage she seemed to disappear
amid the palpitation of the stars.
Her father was waiting for her, and on their way to the station she
could see that he was absorbed in her art of singing. His remarks were
occasional and disparate, but she guessed his train of thought,
supplying easily the missing links. His praise was all inferential, and
this made it more delicate and delicious. On bidding him good-night he
asked her to come to choir practice. She would have liked to, but her
accompanist was coming at half-past ten.
There were few days when she was not singing at night that she dispensed
with her morning's work. She considered herself like a gymnast, bound to
go through her feats in private, so as to assure herself of her power of
being able to go through them in public. Even when she knew a part, she
did not like to sing it many times without studying it afresh. She
believed that once a week was as often as it was possible to give a
Wagner opera, and even then an occasional rehearsal was indispensable if
the first high level of excellence was to be maintained.
With her morning's work she allowed no one to interfere. Owen was often
sent away, or retained for such a time as his criticism might be of use.
But to-day she was expecting Ulick; he had promised to go through the
music with her; so when Merat came to tell her that the pianist had
arrived, she hesitated, uncertain whether she should send him away. But
after a moment's reflection she decided not to forego her serious study
of the part. She only wished to talk to Ulick about the music, to sing
bits of it here and there, to question him regarding certain readings,
to get at his ideas concerning it. All that was very interesting and
very valuable in a way, but it was not hard work, and she felt,
moreover, that hard work was just what she wanted before the rehearsals
of "Tristan" began; there were certain passages where she was not sure
of herself. She thought of the cry Isolde utters in the third act when
Tristan falls dead. The orchestra comes in then in a way very perplexing
for the singer, and she had not yet succeeded in satisfying herself with
those few bars.
"Tell the young man that I shall be with him in half an hour."
And when she had had her bath and her hair was dressed, she tied a few
petticoats round her waist and slipped on a morning wrapper; that was
enough, she paid no heed to her accompanist, treating him as if he were
her hairdresser. She sang sitting close to his elbow, her arm familiarly
laid upon the back of his chair, a little grey woollen shawl round her
shoulders. In the passages requiring the whole of her voice, she got up
and sang them right through, as if she were on the stage, listened to by
five thousand people. Owen, accustomed as he was to her voice, sometimes
couldn't help wondering at the power of it; the volume of sound issuing
from her throat drowned the piano, threatening to break its strings. Her
ear was so fine that it detected any slightest tampering with the text.
"You have given me a false chord," she would say; and sure enough, the
pianist's fingers had accidentally softened some harshness. Sometimes he
ventured a slight criticism. "You should hold the note a little longer."
Then she would sing the passage again.
After singing for about two hours she had lunch. That day she was
lunching with Lady Ascott, and did not get away until after three
o'clock. Owen came to fetch her, and they went away to see pictures. But
more present than the pictures were Ulick's dark eyes, and Owen noticed
the shadow passing constantly behind her eyes. Twice she asked him what
the time was, and she told him she would have to go soon.
At last she said, "Now I must say good-bye."
She could see he was troubled, and that she grieved him, and at one
moment it was uncertain whether she would not renounce her visit and
send Ulick a telegram. But she remembered that he had probably seen her
father, and would be able to tell her more of what her father thought of
her Elizabeth. It was that feeble excuse that sufficed to decide her
conduct, and she bade him good-bye.
Standing on the threshold of her drawing-room, Evelyn admired its
symmetry and beauty. The wall paper, a delicate harmony in pale brown
and pink roses, soothed the eye; the design was a lattice, through which
the flowers grew. An oval mirror hung lengthwise above the white marble
chimney piece, and the Louis XV. clock was a charming composition of two
figures. A Muse in a simple attitude leaned a little to the left in
order to strike the lyre placed above the dial; on the other side, a
Cupid listened attentive for the sound of the hour, presumably his hour.
There was a little lyrical inevitableness in the lines of this clock,
and Owen could not come into the room without admiring it. On the
chimney piece there were two bowls filled with violets, and the flowers
partly hid the beautiful Worcester blue and the golden pheasants. And on
either side of the clock were two Chelsea groups, factitious bowers made
out of dark green shell-like leaves, in which were seated a lady in a
flowered silk and a beribboned shepherd playing a flute.
They had spent long mornings seeking a real Sheraton sofa, with six or
eight chairs to match. For a long time they were unfortunate, but they
had happened upon two sofas, certainly of the period, probably made by
Sheraton himself. A hundred and twenty years had given a beautiful
lustre to the satinwood and to the painted garlands of flowers, and the
woven cane had attained a rich brown and gold; and the chairs that went
with the sofa were works of art, so happy were the proportions of their
thin legs and backs, and in the middle of the backs the circle of
harmonious cane was in exquisite proportion.
For a long while the question for immediate decision had become what
carpet should be there. Evelyn had happened upon an old Aubusson carpet,
a little threadbare, but the dealer had assured her that it could be
made as good as new, and she had telegraphed to Owen to go to see its
pale roses and purple architecture. He had written to her that its
harmony was as florid, and yet as classical as an aria by Mozart. He was
still more pleased when he saw it down, and he had spent hours thinking
of what pictures would suit it, would carry on its colour and design.
The Boucher drawing which he had bought at Christie's had seemed to him
the very thing. He had brought it home in a cab.
She was proud of her room, but she was doubtful if it would please
Ulick, and was curious to hear what he would think of it. She remembered
that Owen had said that such exquisite exteriorities were only possible
in a pagan century, when man is content to look no farther than this
strip of existence for the reason of his existence and his birthright.
And while waiting for Ulick she wondered what his rooms were like, and
if she would ever go there. She expected him about five, and she sat
waiting for him by her tea-table amid the eighteenth century furniture,
a little to the right of the Boucher.
She watched him as he came towards her, expecting and hoping to see him
cast a quick glance at the picture. He shook hands with her vaguely, and
sat down on a Sheraton chair and fixed his eyes on the Aubusson carpet.
She thought for some time that he was examining it, but at last the
truth dawned; he did not see it at all, he was maybe a thousand years
away, lost in some legendary past. Had she not seen him before pass from
such remote mood and become suddenly animated and gay, she would have
despaired of any pleasure in his visit. Above everything else she was
minded to ask him if he had seen her father, and if her father had
spoken to him about her Elizabeth. But shyness prevented her, and she
spoke to him about ordinary things, and he answered her questions
perfunctorily, and without any apparent reason he got up and walked
about the room; but not looking at any object, he walked about, with
hanging head, absorbed in thought. "If he won't look at me he might look
at my room, I'm sure that is pretty enough," and she sat watching him
with smiling eyes. When she asked him what he thought of the Boucher, he
said that no doubt it was very graceful, but that the only art he took
interest in, except Michael Angelo and Leonardo da Vinci and some German
Primitives, was Blake. Then he seemed to forget all about her, and she
had begun to think his manner more than usually unconventional, and,
having made all the ordinary remarks she could think of, she asked him
suddenly if he had seen her father, and if he had said anything to him
about her Elizabeth.
"I went to Dulwich on purpose to hear."
She blushed, and was very happy. It was delicious to hear that he was
sufficiently interested in her to go to Dulwich on purpose to inquire
her father's opinion of her Elizabeth.
"I wonder if he will like my Isolde as well."
He did not answer, and his silence filled her with inquietude.
"I have been thinking over what you said regarding your conception of
She waited for him to tell her what conclusion he had come to, but he
said nothing. At last he got up, and she followed him to the piano. When
she came to the passage where Isolde tells Brangaene that she intended to
kill Tristan, he stopped.
"But she is violent; hear these chords, how aggressive they are. The
music is against you. Listen to these chords."
"I know those chords well enough. You don't suppose I am listening to
them for the first time. I admit that there are a few places where she
is distinctly violent. The curse must be given violently, but I think it
is possible to make it felt that her violence is a sexual violence, a
sort of wish to go mad. I can't explain. Can't you understand?"
"Yes, I think I do; you want to sing the first part of the act
languidly. There is more in the music which supports your reading than I
thought. In the passage where Isolde says to Brangaene, but really to
herself, 'To die without having been loved by that man!' the love motive
appears here for the first time, but more drawn out, broader than
She declared that Wagner had emphasised his meaning in this passage as
if he had anticipated all the misreadings of this first act, and was
striving to guard himself against them. She grew excited in the
discussion. She had merely followed her instinct, but she was glad that
Ulick had challenged her reading, for as they examined the music clause
by clause, they found still further warrant for her conception.
"Ah, the old man knew what he was doing," she said; "he had marked this
passage to be sung gloomily, and by gloomily he meant infinite
lassitude." But this intention had not been grasped, and the singers had
either sung it without any particular expression, or with a stupid stage
expression which meant if possible something less than nothing. "Then,
you see, if I sing the first half of the first act as wearily as the
music allows me, I shall get a contrast--an Isolde who has not drunk the
love potion. The love potion is of course only a symbol of her surrender
to her desire."
Ulick would have liked to have gone through the whole of the music of
the act with her. It was only in this way that he could get an idea of
how her reading would work out. But in that moment each read in the
other's eyes an avowal of which they were immediately ashamed, and which
they tried to dissimulate.
"I am tired. We won't have any more music this evening."
His thoughts seemed to pass suddenly from her, and then, without her
being aware how it began, she found herself listening intently to him.
He was talking in that strange, rhythmical chant of his about the primal
melancholy of man, and his remote past always insurgent in him. Although
she did not quite understand, perhaps because she did not quite
understand, she was carried away far out of all reason, and it seemed to
her that she could listen for ever. Nor could she clearly see out of her
eyes, and she felt all power of resistance dissolve within her. He might
have taken her in his arms and kissed her then; but though sitting by
her, he seemed a thousand miles away; his remoteness chastened her, and
she asked him of what he was thinking.
"When your father used to speak of you, I used to see you; sometimes I
used to fancy I heard you. I did hear you once sing in a dream."
"What was I singing? Wagner?"
"No; something quite different. I forgot it all as I awoke except the
last notes. I seemed to have returned from the future--you seemed in the
end to lose your voice.... I cannot tell you--I forget."
"It is very sad; how sad such feelings are."
"But I never doubted that I should meet you, that our destinies were
knit together--for a time at least."
She wanted to ask him by what signs do we recognise the moment that we
are destined to meet the one that is more important to us than all the
world. But she could find no way of asking this question that would not
betray her. She could not put it so that Ulick would fail to read some
application of the question to herself, and to himself. So it seemed
strange indeed that he should, as if in answer to her unexpressed
thought, say that the instinct of man is to consult the stars. She
remembered the evenings when she used to go into the patch of black
garden and gaze at the stars till her brain reeled. She used even to
gather the daffodils and place them on the wall in homage to the star
which she felt to be hers. She could not refrain from this idolatrous
act; but in her bed at night, thinking of the flowers and the star, she
had believed herself mad or very wicked; for nothing in the world would
she have had anyone know her folly, and she remembered the agony it had
been to her to confess it. But now she heard that she had been acting
according to the sense of the wisdom of generations. As he had said,
"according to the immortal atavism of man."
With her ordinary work-a-day intelligence, she felt that the stars could
not possibly be concerned in our miserable existence. But deep down in
her being someone who was not herself, but who seemed inseparable from
her, and over whom she had no slightest control, seemed to breathe
throughout her entire being an affirmation of her celestial dependency.
She could catch no words, merely a vague, immaterial destiny like
distant music; and her ears filled with a wailing certitude of an
inseverable affinity with the stars, and she longed to put off this
shameful garb of flesh and rise to her spiritual destiny of which the
stars are our watchful guardians. It was like deep music; words could
not contain it, it was a deep and indistinct yearning for the stars--for
spiritual existence. She was conscious of the narrowness of the
prison-house into which Owen had shut her, and looking at Ulick, she
felt the thrill of liberation; it was like a ray of light dividing the
dark. Looking at Ulick, she was startled by the conviction of his
indispensability in her life, and the knowledge that she must repel him
was an acute affliction, a desolate despair. It seemed cruel and
disastrous that she might not love him, for it was only through love
that she could get to understand him, and life without knowledge of him
"I'm very fond of you, Ulick, but I mustn't let you kiss me. Can't we
He sat leaning a little forward, his head bent and his eyes on the
carpet. He represented to her an abysmal sorrow--an extraordinary
despair. She longed to share this sorrow, to throw her arms about him
and make him glad. Their love seemed so good and natural, she was
surprised that she might not.
He looked round the room, saw it was getting late, and that it was time
for him to go.
"Yes, it is getting late. I suppose you must go. But you'll come to see
me again. We shall be friends, promise me that ... that whatever happens
we shall be friends."
"I think that we shall always be friends, I feel that."
His answer seemed to her insufficient, and they stood looking at each
other. When the door closed after him, Evelyn turned away, thinking that
if he had stayed another moment she must have thrown herself into his
Dreams was the first of the five, but the music that haunted belonged to
the third song. She could not quite remember a single phrase, nor any
words except "pining flowers." She had thought of sending for it, but
such vague memory suited her mood better than an exact text. If she had
the song she would go to the piano, and she did not wish to move from
the Sheraton sofa, made comfortable with pale blue cushions. But again
the music stirred her memory like wind the tall grasses, and out of the
slowly-moving harmonies there arose an invocation of the strange pathos
of existence; no plaint for an accidental sorrow, something that
happened to you or me, or might have happened, if our circumstances had
been different; only the mood of desolate self-consciousness in which
the soul slowly contemplates the disaster of existence. The melancholy
that the music exhales is no querulous feminine plaint, but an
immemorial melancholy, an exalted resignation. The music goes out like a
fume, dying in remote chords, and Evelyn sat absorbed, viewing the world
from afar, like the Lady of Shallott, seeing in the mirror of memory the
chestnut trees of the Dulwich street, and a little girl running after
her hoop; and then her mother's singing classes, and the expectation she
had lived in of learning to sing, and being brought upon the stage by
her mother. If her mother had lived, she would have been singing "Romeo
and Juliet" and "Lucia." ... Her father would have deemed her voice
wasted; but mother always had had her way with father. Then she saw
herself pining for Owen, sick of love, longing, hungry, weak, weary,
disappointed, hopeless. Her thoughts turned from that past, and her
mother's face looked out of her reverie, grey and grave and watchful,
only half seen in the shadows. She seemed aware of her mother as she
might be of some idea, strangely personal to herself, something near and
remote, beyond this span of life, stretching into infinity. She seemed
to feel herself lifted a little above the verge of life, so that she
might inquire the truth from her mother; but something seemed to hold
her back, and she did not dare to hear the supernatural truth. She was
still too thrall to this life of lies, but she could not but see her
mother's face, and what surprised her was that this grey shadow was more
real to her than the rest of the world. The face did not stir, it
always wore the same expression. Evelyn could not even tell if the
expression of the dim eyes was one of disapproval. But it needs must
be--she could have no doubt on that point. What was certain and sure was
that she seemed in a nearer and more intimate, in a more essential
communication with her mother, than with her father who was alive.
Nothing seemed to divide her from her mother; she had only to let her
soul go, and it could mingle with her mother's spirit, and then all
misunderstandings would be at an end.
She was tempted to free herself from this fettering life, where all is
limitation and division. Its individualism appeared to her particularly
clear when she thought of Owen. They had clasped and kissed in the hope
to become part of the other's substance. They had sought to mingle, to
become one; now it was in the hope of a union of soul that Owen sought
her, his kisses were for this end. She had read his desire in his eyes.
But the barrier of the flesh, which at first could barely sunder them,
now seemed to have acquired a personal life, a separate entity; it
seemed like some invisible force thrusting them apart. The flesh which
had brought them together now seemed to have had enough of them; the
flesh, once gentle and persuasive, seemed to have become stern,
relentless as the commander in "Don Juan." She thought of it as the
forest in "Macbeth"; of something that had come out of the inanimate,
angry and determined--a terrible thing this angry, frustrated flesh.
Like the commander, it seemed to grasp and hurry her away from Owen, and
she seemed to hear it mutter, "This vain noise must cease." The idea of
the flesh was not their pleasure, but the next generation; the
frustrated flesh was now putting them apart. She hummed the music, and
the life she had lived continued to loom up and fall back into darkness
like shapes seen in a faded picture. She had loved Owen, and sung a few
operas, that was all. She remembered that everything was passing; the
notes she sang existed only while she sang them, each was a little past.
A moment approaches; it is ours, and no sooner is it ours than it has
slipped behind us, even in the space of the indrawing of a breath. No