Part 2 out of 2
9. A BIRTHDAY.
Andreas Binzer woke slowly. He turned over on the narrow bed and stretched
himself--yawned--opening his mouth as widely as possible and bringing his
teeth together afterwards with a sharp "click." The sound of that click
fascinated him; he repeated it quickly several times, with a snapping
movement of the jaws. What teeth! he thought. Sound as a bell, every man
jack of them. Never had one out, never had one stopped. That comes of no
tomfoolery in eating, and a good regular brushing night and morning. He
raised himself on his left elbow and waved his right arm over the side of
the bed to feel for the chair where he put his watch and chain overnight.
No chair was there--of course, he'd forgotten, there wasn't a chair in this
wretched spare room. Had to put the confounded thing under his pillow.
"Half-past eight, Sunday, breakfast at nine--time for the bath"--his brain
ticked to the watch. He sprang out of bed and went over to the window.
The venetian blind was broken, hung fan-shaped over the upper pane..."That
blind must be mended. I'll get the office boy to drop in and fix it on his
way home to-morrow--he's a good hand at blinds. Give him twopence and
he'll do it as well as a carpenter...Anna could do it herself if she was
all right. So would I, for the matter of that, but I don't like to trust
myself on rickety step-ladders." He looked up at the sky: it shone,
strangely white, unflecked with cloud; he looked down at the row of garden
strips and backyards. The fence of these gardens was built along the edge
of a gully, spanned by an iron suspension bridge, and the people had a
wretched habit of throwing their empty tins over the fence into the gully.
Just like them, of course! Andreas started counting the tins, and decided,
viciously, to write a letter to the papers about it and sign it--sign it in
The servant girl came out of their back door into the yard, carrying his
boots. She threw one down on the ground, thrust her hand into the other,
and stared at it, sucking in her cheeks. Suddenly she bent forward, spat
on the toecap, and started polishing with a brush rooted out of her apron
pocket..."Slut of a girl! Heaven knows what infectious disease may be
breeding now in that boot. Anna must get rid of that girl--even if she has
to do without one for a bit--as soon as she's up and about again. The way
she chucked one boot down and then spat upon the other! She didn't care
whose boots she'd got hold of. SHE had no false notions of the respect due
to the master of the house." He turned away from the window and switched
his bath towel from the washstand rail, sick at heart. "I'm too sensitive
for a man--that's what's the matter with me. Have been from the beginning,
and will be to the end."
There was a gentle knock at the door and his mother came in. She closed
the door after her and leant against it. Andreas noticed that her cap was
crooked, and a long tail of hair hung over her shoulder. He went forward
and kissed her.
"Good morning, mother; how's Anna?"
The old woman spoke quickly, clasping and unclasping her hands.
"Andreas, please go to Doctor Erb as soon as you are dressed."
"Why," he said, "is she bad?"
Frau Binzer nodded, and Andreas, watching her, saw her face suddenly
change; a fine network of wrinkles seemed to pull over it from under the
"Sit down on the bed a moment," he said. "Been up all night?"
"Yes. No, I won't sit down, I must go back to her. Anna has been in pain
all night. She wouldn't have you disturbed before because she said you
looked so run down yesterday. You told her you had caught a cold and been
Straightway Andreas felt that he was being accused.
"Well, she made me tell her, worried it out of me; you know the way she
Again Frau Binzer nodded.
"Oh yes, I know. She says, is your cold better, and there's a warm
undervest for you in the left-hand corner of the big drawer."
Quite automatically Andreas cleared his throat twice.
"Yes," he answered. "Tell her my throat certainly feels looser. I suppose
I'd better not disturb her?"
"No, and besides, TIME, Andreas."
"I'll be ready in five minutes."
They went into the passage. As Frau Binzer opened the door of the front
bedroom, a long wail came from the room.
That shocked and terrified Andreas. He dashed into the bathroom, turned on
both taps as far as they would go, cleaned his teeth and pared his nails
while the water was running.
"Frightful business, frightful business," he heard himself whispering.
"And I can't understand it. It isn't as though it were her first--it's her
third. Old Schafer told me, yesterday, his wife simply 'dropped' her
fourth. Anna ought to have had a qualified nurse. Mother gives way to
her. Mother spoils her. I wonder what she meant by saying I'd worried
Anna yesterday. Nice remark to make to a husband at a time like this.
Unstrung, I suppose--and my sensitiveness again."
When he went into the kitchen for his boots, the servant girl was bent over
the stove, cooking breakfast. "Breathing into that, now, I suppose,"
thought Andreas, and was very short with the servant girl. She did not
notice. She was full of terrified joy and importance in the goings on
upstairs. She felt she was learning the secrets of life with every breath
she drew. Had laid the table that morning saying, "Boy," as she put down
the first dish, "Girl," as she placed the second--it had worked out with
the saltspoon to "Boy." "For two pins I'd tell the master that, to comfort
him, like," she decided. But the Master gave her no opening.
"Put an extra cup and saucer on the table," he said; "the doctor may want
"The doctor, sir?" The servant girl whipped a spoon out of a pan, and
spilt two drops of grease on the stove. "Shall I fry something extra?"
But the master had gone, slamming the door after him. He walked down the
street--there was nobody about at all--dead and alive this place on a
Sunday morning. As he crossed the suspension bridge a strong stench of
fennel and decayed refuse streamed from the gulley, and again Andreas began
concocting a letter. He turned into the main road. The shutters were
still up before the shops. Scraps of newspaper, hay, and fruit skins
strewed the pavement; the gutters were choked with the leavings of Saturday
night. Two dogs sprawled in the middle of the road, scuffling and biting.
Only the public-house at the corner was open; a young barman slopped water
over the doorstep.
Fastidiously, his lips curling, Andreas picked his way through the water.
"Extraordinary how I am noticing things this morning. It's partly the
effect of Sunday. I loathe a Sunday when Anna's tied by the leg and the
children are away. On Sunday a man has the right to expect his family.
Everything here's filthy, the whole place might be down with the plague,
and will be, too, if this street's not swept away. I'd like to have a hand
on the government ropes." He braced his shoulders. "Now for this doctor."
"Doctor Erb is at breakfast," the maid informed him. She showed him into
the waiting-room, a dark and musty place, with some ferns under a
glass-case by the window. "He says he won't be a minute, please, sir, and
there is a paper on the table."
"Unhealthy hole," thought Binzer, walking over to the window and drumming
his fingers on the glass fern-shade. "At breakfast, is he? That's the
mistake I made: turning out early on an empty stomach."
A milk cart rattled down the street, the driver standing at the back,
cracking a whip; he wore an immense geranium flower stuck in the lapel of
his coat. Firm as a rock he stood, bending back a little in the swaying
cart. Andreas craned his neck to watch him all the way down the road, even
after he had gone, listening for the sharp sound of those rattling cans.
"H'm, not much wrong with him," he reflected. "Wouldn't mind a taste of
that life myself. Up early, work all over by eleven o'clock, nothing to do
but loaf about all day until milking time." Which he knew was an
exaggeration, but he wanted to pity himself.
The maid opened the door, and stood aside for Doctor Erb. Andreas wheeled
round; the two men shook hands.
"Well, Binzer," said the doctor jovially, brushing some crumbs from a
pearl-coloured waistcoat, "son and heir becoming importunate?"
Up went Binzer's spirits with a bound. Son and heir, by Jove! He was glad
to have to deal with a man again. And a sane fellow this, who came across
this sort of thing every day of the week.
"That's about the measure of it, Doctor," he answered, smiling and picking
up his hat. "Mother dragged me out of bed this morning with imperative
orders to bring you along."
"Gig will be round in a minute. Drive back with me, won't you?
Extraordinary, sultry day; you're as red as a beetroot already."
Andreas affected to laugh. The doctor had one annoying habit--imagined he
had the right to poke fun at everybody simply because he was a doctor.
"The man's riddled with conceit, like all these professionals," Andreas
"What sort of night did Frau Binzer have?" asked the doctor. "Ah, here's
the gig. Tell me on the way up. Sit as near the middle as you can, will
you, Binzer? Your weight tilts it over a bit one side--that's the worst of
you successful business men."
"Two stone heavier than I, if he's a pound," thought Andreas. "The man may
be all right in his profession--but heaven preserve me."
"Off you go, my beauty." Doctor Erb flicked the little brown mare. "Did
your wife get any sleep last night?"
"No; I don't think she did," answered Andreas shortly. "To tell you the
truth, I'm not satisfied that she hasn't a nurse."
"Oh, your mother's worth a dozen nurses," cried the doctor, with immense
gusto. "To tell you the truth, I'm not keen on nurses--too raw--raw as
rump-steak. They wrestle for a baby as though they were wrestling with
Death for the body of Patroclus...Ever seen that picture by an English
artist. Leighton? Wonderful thing--full of sinew!"
"There he goes again," thought Andreas, "airing off his knowledge to make a
fool of me."
"Now your mother--she's firm--she's capable. Does what she's told with a
fund of sympathy. Look at these shops we're passing--they're festering
sores. How on earth this government can tolerate--"
"They're not so bad--sound enough--only want a coat of paint."
The doctor whistled a little tune and flicked the mare again.
"Well, I hope the young shaver won't give his mother too much trouble," he
said. "Here we are."
A skinny little boy, who had been sliding up and down the back seat of the
gig, sprang out and held the horse's head. Andreas went straight into the
dining-room and left the servant girl to take the doctor upstairs. He sat
down, poured out some coffee, and bit through half a roll before helping
himself to fish. Then he noticed there was no hot plate for the fish--the
whole house was at sixes and sevens. He rang the bell, but the servant
girl came in with a tray holding a bowl of soup and a hot plate.
"I've been keeping them on the stove," she simpered.
"Ah, thanks, that's very kind of you." As he swallowed the soup his heart
warmed to this fool of a girl.
"Oh, it's a good thing Doctor Erb has come," volunteered the servant girl,
who was bursting for want of sympathy.
"H'm, h'm," said Andreas.
She waited a moment, expectantly, rolling her eyes, then in full loathing
of menkind went back to the kitchen and vowed herself to sterility.
Andreas cleared the soup bowl, and cleared the fish. As he ate, the room
slowly darkened. A faint wind sprang up and beat the tree branches against
the window. The dining-room looked over the breakwater of the harbour, and
the sea swung heavily in rolling waves. Wind crept round the house,
"We're in for a storm. That means I'm boxed up here all day. Well,
there's one blessing; it'll clear the air." He heard the servant girl
rushing importantly round the house, slamming windows. Then he caught a
glimpse of her in the garden, unpegging tea towels from the line across the
lawn. She was a worker, there was no doubt about that. He took up a book,
and wheeled his arm-chair over to the window. But it was useless. Too
dark to read; he didn't believe in straining his eyes, and gas at ten
o'clock in the morning seemed absurd. So he slipped down in the chair,
leaned his elbows on the padded arms and gave himself up, for once, to idle
dreaming. "A boy? Yes, it was bound to be a boy this time..." "What's
your family, Binzer?" "Oh, I've two girls and a boy!" A very nice little
number. Of course he was the last man to have a favourite child, but a man
needed a son. "I'm working up the business for my son! Binzer & Son! It
would mean living very tight for the next ten years, cutting expenses as
fine as possible; and then--"
A tremendous gust of wind sprang upon the house, seized it, shook it,
dropped, only to grip the more tightly. The waves swelled up along the
breakwater and were whipped with broken foam. Over the white sky flew
tattered streamers of grey cloud.
Andreas felt quite relieved to hear Doctor Erb coming down the stairs; he
got up and lit the gas.
"Mind if I smoke in here?" asked Doctor Erb, lighting a cigarette before
Andreas had time to answer. "You don't smoke, do you? No time to indulge
in pernicious little habits!"
"How is she now?" asked Andreas, loathing the man.
"Oh, well as can be expected, poor little soul. She begged me to come down
and have a look at you. Said she knew you were worrying." With laughing
eyes the doctor looked at the breakfast-table. "Managed to peck a bit, I
"Hoo-wih!" shouted the wind, shaking the window-sashes.
"Pity--this weather," said Doctor Erb.
"Yes, it gets on Anna's nerves, and it's just nerve she wants."
"Eh, what's that?" retorted the doctor. "Nerve! Man alive! She's got
twice the nerve of you and me rolled into one. Nerve! she's nothing but
nerve. A woman who works as she does about the house and has three
children in four years thrown in with the dusting, so to speak!"
He pitched his half-smoked cigarette into the fireplace and frowned at the
"Now HE'S accusing me," thought Andreas. "That's the second time this
morning--first mother and now this man taking advantage of my
sensitiveness." He could not trust himself to speak, and rang the bell for
the servant girl.
"Clear away the breakfast things," he ordered. "I can't have them messing
about on the table till dinner!"
"Don't be hard on the girl," coaxed Doctor Erb. "She's got twice the work
to do to-day."
At that Binzer's anger blazed out.
"I'll trouble you, Doctor, not to interfere between me and my servants!"
And he felt a fool at the same moment for not saying "servant."
Doctor Erb was not perturbed. He shook his head, thrust his hands into his
pockets, and began balancing himself on toe and heel.
"You're jagged by the weather," he said wryly, "nothing else. A great
pity--this storm. You know climate has an immense effect upon birth. A
fine day perks a woman--gives her heart for her business. Good weather is
as necessary to a confinement as it is to a washing day. Not bad--that
last remark of mine--for a professional fossil, eh?"
Andreas made no reply.
"Well, I'll be getting back to my patient. Why don't you take a walk, and
clear your head? That's the idea for you."
"No," he answered, "I won't do that; it's too rough."
He went back to his chair by the window. While the servant girl cleared
away he pretended to read...then his dreams! It seemed years since he had
had the time to himself to dream like that--he never had a breathing space.
Saddled with work all day, and couldn't shake it off in the evening like
other men. Besides, Anna was interested--they talked of practically
nothing else together. Excellent mother she'd make for a boy; she had a
grip of things.
Church bells started ringing through the windy air, now sounding as though
from very far away, then again as though all the churches in the town had
been suddenly transplanted into their street. They stirred something in
him, those bells, something vague and tender. Just about that time Anna
would call him from the hall. "Andreas, come and have your coat brushed.
I'm ready." Then off they would go, she hanging on his arm, and looking up
at him. She certainly was a little thing. He remembered once saying when
they were engaged, "Just as high as my heart," and she had jumped on to a
stool and pulled his head down, laughing. A kid in those days, younger
than her children in nature, brighter, more "go" and "spirit" in her. The
way she'd run down the road to meet him after business! And the way she
laughed when they were looking for a house. By Jove! that laugh of hers!
At the memory he grinned, then grew suddenly grave. Marriage certainly
changed a woman far more than it did a man. Talk about sobering down. She
had lost all her go in two months! Well, once this boy business was over
she'd get stronger. He began to plan a little trip for them. He'd take
her away and they'd loaf about together somewhere. After all, dash it,
they were young still. She'd got into a groove; he'd have to force her out
of it, that's all.
He got up and went into the drawing-room, carefully shut the door and took
Anna's photograph from the top of the piano. She wore a white dress with a
big bow of some soft stuff under the chin, and stood, a little stiffly,
holding a sheaf of artificial poppies and corn in her hands. Delicate she
looked even then; her masses of hair gave her that look. She seemed to
droop under the heavy braids of it, and yet she was smiling. Andreas
caught his breath sharply. She was his wife--that girl. Posh! it had only
been taken four years ago. He held it close to him, bent forward and
kissed it. Then rubbed the glass with the back of his hand. At that
moment, fainter than he had heard in the passage, more terrifying, Andreas
heard again that wailing cry. The wind caught it up in mocking echo, blew
it over the house-tops, down the street, far away from him. He flung out
his arms, "I'm so damnably helpless," he said, and then, to the picture,
"Perhaps it's not as bad as it sounds; perhaps it is just my
sensitiveness." In the half light of the drawing-room the smile seemed to
deepen in Anna's portrait, and to become secret, even cruel. "No," he
reflected, "that smile is not at all her happiest expression--it was a
mistake to let her have it taken smiling like that. She doesn't look like
my wife--like the mother of my son." Yes, that was it, she did not look
like the mother of a son who was going to be a partner in the firm. The
picture got on his nerves; he held it in different lights, looked at it
from a distance, sideways, spent, it seemed to Andreas afterwards, a whole
lifetime trying to fit it in. The more he played with it the deeper grew
his dislike of it. Thrice he carried it over to the fireplace and decided
to chuck it behind the Japanese umbrella in the grate; then he thought it
absurd to waste an expensive frame. There was no good in beating about the
bush. Anna looked like a stranger--abnormal, a freak--it might be a
picture taken just before or after death.
Suddenly he realised that the wind had dropped, that the whole house was
still, terribly still. Cold and pale, with a disgusting feeling that
spiders were creeping up his spine and across his face, he stood in the
centre of the drawing-room, hearing Doctor Erb's footsteps descending the
He saw Doctor Erb come into the room; the room seemed to change into a
great glass bowl that spun round, and Doctor Erb seemed to swim through
this glass bowl towards him, like a goldfish in a pearl-coloured waistcoat.
"My beloved wife has passed away!" He wanted to shout it out before the
"Well, she's hooked a boy this time!" said Doctor Erb. Andreas staggered
"Look out. Keep on your pins," said Doctor Erb, catching Dinzer's arm, and
murmuring, as he felt it, "Flabby as butter."
A glow spread all over Andreas. He was exultant.
"Well, by God! Nobody can accuse ME of not knowing what suffering is," he
10. THE CHILD-WHO-WAS-TIRED.
She was just beginning to walk along a little white road with tall black
trees on either side, a little road that led to nowhere, and where nobody
walked at all, when a hand gripped her shoulder, shook her, slapped her
"Oh, oh, don't stop me," cried the Child-Who-Was-Tired. "Let me go."
"Get up, you good-for-nothing brat," said a voice; "get up and light the
oven or I'll shake every bone out of your body."
With an immense effort she opened her eyes, and saw the Frau standing by,
the baby bundled under one arm. The three other children who shared the
same bed with the Child-Who-Was-Tired, accustomed to brawls, slept on
peacefully. In a corner of the room the Man was fastening his braces.
"What do you mean by sleeping like this the whole night through--like a
sack of potatoes? You've let the baby wet his bed twice."
She did not answer, but tied her petticoat string, and buttoned on her
plaid frock with cold, shaking fingers.
"There, that's enough. Take the baby into the kitchen with you, and heat
that cold coffee on the spirit lamp for the master, and give him the loaf
of black bread out of the table drawer. Don't guzzle it yourself or I'll
The Frau staggered across the room, flung herself on to her bed, drawing
the pink bolster round her shoulders.
It was almost dark in the kitchen. She laid the baby on the wooden settle,
covering him with a shawl, then poured the coffee from the earthenware jug
into the saucepan, and set it on the spirit lamp to boil.
"I'm sleepy," nodded the Child-Who-Was-Tired, kneeling on the floor and
splitting the damp pine logs into little chips. "That's why I'm not
The oven took a long time to light. Perhaps it was cold, like herself, and
sleepy...Perhaps it had been dreaming of a little white road with black
trees on either side, a little road that led to nowhere.
Then the door was pulled violently open and the Man strode in.
"Here, what are you doing, sitting on the floor?" he shouted. "Give me my
coffee. I've got to be off. Ugh! You haven't even washed over the
She sprang to her feet, poured his coffee into an enamel cup, and gave him
bread and a knife, then, taking a wash rag from the sink, smeared over the
black linoleumed table.
"Swine of a day--swine's life," mumbled the Man, sitting by the table and
staring out of the window at the bruised sky, which seemed to bulge heavily
over the dull land. He stuffed his mouth with bread and then swilled it
down with the coffee.
The Child drew a pail of water, turned up her sleeves, frowning the while
at her arms, as if to scold them for being so thin, so much like little
stunted twigs, and began to mop over the floor.
"Stop sousing about the water while I'm here," grumbled the Man. "Stop the
baby snivelling; it's been going on like that all night."
The Child gathered the baby into her lap and sat rocking him.
"Ts--ts--ts," she said. "He's cutting his eye teeth, that's what makes him
cry so. AND dribble--I never seen a baby dribble like this one." She
wiped his mouth and nose with a corner of her skirt. "Some babies get
their teeth without you knowing it," she went on, "and some take on this
way all the time. I once heard of a baby that died, and they found all
it's teeth in its stomach."
The Man got up, unhooked his cloak from the back of the door, and flung it
"There's another coming," said he.
"What--a tooth!" exclaimed the Child, startled for the first time that
morning out of her dreadful heaviness, and thrusting her finger into the
"No," he said grimly, "another baby. Now, get on with your work; it's time
the others got up for school." She stood a moment quite silently, hearing
his heavy steps on the stone passage, then the gravel walk, and finally the
slam of the front gate.
"Another baby! Hasn't she finished having them YET?" thought the Child.
"Two babies getting eye teeth--two babies to get up for in the night--two
babies to carry about and wash their little piggy clothes!" She looked
with horror at the one in her arms, who, seeming to understand the
contemptuous loathing of her tired glance, doubled his fists, stiffened his
body, and began violently screaming.
"Ts--ts--ts." She laid him on the settle and went back to her floor-
washing. He never ceased crying for a moment, but she got quite used to it
and kept time with her broom. Oh, how tired she was! Oh, the heavy broom
handle and the burning spot just at the back of her neck that ached so, and
a funny little fluttering feeling just at the back of her waistband, as
though something were going to break.
The clock struck six. She set the pan of milk in the oven, and went into
the next room to wake and dress the three children. Anton and Hans lay
together in attitudes of mutual amity which certainly never existed out of
their sleeping hours. Lena was curled up, her knees under her chin, only a
straight, standing-up pigtail of hair showing above the bolster.
"Get up," cried the Child, speaking in a voice of immense authority,
pulling off the bedclothes and giving the boys sundry pokes and digs.
"I've been calling you this last half-hour. It's late, and I'll tell on
you if you don't get dressed this minute."
Anton awoke sufficiently to turn over and kick Hans on a tender part,
whereupon Hans pulled Lena's pigtail until she shrieked for her mother.
"Oh, do be quiet," whispered the Child. "Oh, do get up and dress. You
know what will happen. There--I'll help you."
But the warning came too late. The Frau got out of bed, walked in a
determined fashion into the kitchen, returning with a bundle of twigs in
her hand fastened together with a strong cord. One by one she laid the
children across her knee and severely beat them, expending a final burst of
energy on the Child-Who-Was-Tired, then returned to bed, with a comfortable
sense of her maternal duties in good working order for the day. Very
subdued, the three allowed themselves to be dressed and washed by the
Child, who even laced the boys' boots, having found through experience that
if left to themselves they hopped about for at least five minutes to find a
comfortable ledge for their foot, and then spat on their hands and broke
While she gave them their breakfast they became uproarious, and the baby
would not cease crying. When she filled the tin kettle with milk, tied on
the rubber teat, and, first moistening it herself, tried with little
coaxing words to make him drink, he threw the bottle on to the floor and
trembled all over.
"Eye teeth!" shouted Hans, hitting Anton over the head with his empty cup;
"he's getting the evil-eye teeth, I should say."
"Smarty!" retorted Lena, poking out her tongue at him, and then, when he
promptly did the same, crying at the top of her voice, "Mother, Hans is
making faces at me!"
"That's right," said Hans; "go on howling, and when you're in bed to-night
I'll wait till you're asleep, and then I'll creep over and take a little
tiny piece of your arm and twist and twist it until--" He leant over the
table making the most horrible faces at Lena, not noticing that Anton was
standing behind his chair until the little boy bent over and spat on his
brother's shaven head.
"Oh, weh! oh, weh!"
The Child-Who-Was-Tired pushed and pulled them apart, muffled them into
their coats, and drove them out of the house.
"Hurry, hurry! the second bell's rung," she urged, knowing perfectly well
she was telling a story, and rather exulting in the fact. She washed up
the breakfast things, then went down to the cellar to look out the potatoes
Such a funny, cold place the coal cellar! With potatoes banked on one
corner, beetroot in an old candle box, two tubs of sauerkraut, and a
twisted mass of dahlia roots--that looked as real as though they were
fighting one another, thought the Child.
She gathered the potatoes into her skirt, choosing big ones with few eyes
because they were easier to peel, and bending over the dull heap in the
silent cellar, she began to nod.
"Here, you, what are you doing down there?" cried the Frau, from the top of
the stairs. "The baby's fallen off the settle, and got a bump as big as an
egg over his eye. Come up here, and I'll teach you!"
"It wasn't me--it wasn't me!" screamed the Child, beaten from one side of
the hall to the other, so that the potatoes and beetroot rolled out of her
The Frau seemed to be as big as a giant, and there was a certain heaviness
in all her movements that was terrifying to anyone so small.
"Sit in the corner, and peel and wash the vegetables, and keep the baby
quiet while I do the washing."
Whimpering she obeyed, but as to keeping the baby quiet, that was
impossible. His face was hot, little beads of sweat stood all over his
head, and he stiffened his body and cried. She held him on her knees, with
a pan of cold water beside her for the cleaned vegetables and the "ducks'
bucket" for the peelings.
"Ts--ts--ts!" she crooned, scraping and boring; "there's going to be
another soon, and you can't both keep on crying. Why don't you go to
sleep, baby? I would, if I were you. I'll tell you a dream. Once upon a
time there was a little white road--"
She shook back her head, a great lump ached in her throat and then the
tears ran down her face on to the vegetables.
"That's no good," said the Child, shaking them away. "Just stop crying
until I've finished this, baby, and I'll walk you up and down."
But by that time she had to peg out the washing for the Frau. A wind had
sprung up. Standing on tiptoe in the yard, she almost felt she would be
blown away. There was a bad smell coming from the ducks' coop, which was
half full of manure water, but away in the meadow she saw the grass blowing
like little green hairs. And she remembered having heard of a child who
had once played for a whole day in just such a meadow with real sausages
and beer for her dinner--and not a little bit of tiredness. Who had told
her that story? She could not remember, and yet it was so plain.
The wet clothes flapped in her face as she pegged them; danced and jigged
on the line, bulged out and twisted. She walked back to the house with
lagging steps, looking longingly at the grass in the meadow.
"What must I do now, please?" she said.
"Make the beds and hang the baby's mattress out of the window, then get the
wagon and take him for a little walk along the road. In front of the
house, mind--where I can see you. Don't stand there, gaping! Then come in
when I call you and help me cut up the salad."
When she had made the beds the Child stood and looked at them. Gently she
stroked the pillow with her hand, and then, just for one moment, let her
head rest there. Again the smarting lump in her throat, the stupid tears
that fell and kept on falling as she dressed the baby and dragged the
little wagon up and down the road.
A man passed, driving a bullock wagon. He wore a long, queer feather in
his hat, and whistled as he passed. Two girls with bundles on their
shoulders came walking out of the village--one wore a red handkerchief
about her head and one a blue. They were laughing and holding each other
by the hand. Then the sun pushed by a heavy fold of grey cloud and spread
a warm yellow light over everything.
"Perhaps," thought the Child-Who-Was-Tired, "if I walked far enough up this
road I might come to a little white one, with tall black trees on either
side--a little road--"
"Salad, salad!" cried the Frau's voice from the house.
Soon the children came home from school, dinner was eaten, the Man took the
Frau's share of pudding as well as his own, and the three children seemed
to smear themselves all over with whatever they ate. Then more
dish-washing and more cleaning and baby-minding. So the afternoon dragged
Old Frau Grathwohl came in with a fresh piece of pig's flesh for the Frau,
and the Child listened to them gossiping together.
"Frau Manda went on her 'journey to Rome' last night, and brought back a
daughter. How are you feeling?"
"I was sick twice this morning," said the Frau. "My insides are all
twisted up with having children too quickly."
"I see you've got a new help," commented old Mother Grathwohl.
"Oh, dear Lord"--the Frau lowered her voice--"don't you know her? She's
the free-born one--daughter of the waitress at the railway station. They
found her mother trying to squeeze her head in the wash-hand jug, and the
child's half silly."
"Ts--ts--ts!" whispered the "free-born" one to the baby.
As the day drew in the Child-Who-Was-Tired did not know how to fight her
sleepiness any longer. She was afraid to sit down or stand still. As she
sat at supper the Man and the Frau seemed to swell to an immense size as
she watched them, and then become smaller than dolls, with little voices
that seemed to come from outside the window. Looking at the baby, it
suddenly had two heads, and then no head. Even his crying made her feel
worse. When she thought of the nearness of bedtime she shook all over with
excited joy. But as eight o'clock approached there was the sound of wheels
on the road, and presently in came a party of friends to spend the evening.
Then it was:
"Put on the coffee."
"Bring me the sugar tin."
"Carry the chairs out of the bedroom."
"Set the table."
And, finally, the Frau sent her into the next room to keep the baby quiet.
There was a little piece of candle burning in the enamel bracket. As she
walked up and down she saw her great big shadow on the wall like a grown-up
person with a grown-up baby. Whatever would it look like when she carried
two babies so!
"Ts--ts--ts!" Once upon a time she was walking along a little white road,
with oh! such great big black trees on either side."
"Here you!" called the Frau's voice, "bring me my new jacket from behind
the door." And as she took it into the warm room one of the women said,
"She looks like an owl. Such children are seldom right in their heads."
"Why don't you keep that baby quiet?" said the Man, who had just drunk
enough beer to make him feel very brave and master of his house.
"If you don't keep that baby quiet you'll know why later on."
They burst out laughing as she stumbled back into the bedroom.
"I don't believe Holy Mary could keep him quiet," she murmured. "Did Jesus
cry like this when He was little? If I was not so tired perhaps I could do
it; but the baby just knows that I want to go to sleep. And there is going
to be another one."
She flung the baby on the bed, and stood looking at him with terror.
From the next room there came the jingle of glasses and the warm sound of
And she suddenly had a beautiful marvellous idea.
She laughed for the first time that day, and clapped her hands.
"Ts--ts--ts!" she said, "lie there, silly one; you WILL go to sleep.
You'll not cry any more or wake up in the night. Funny, little, ugly
He opened his eyes, and shrieked loudly at the sight of the
Child-Who-Was-Tired. From the next room she heard the Frau call out to
"One moment--he is almost asleep," she cried.
And then gently, smiling, on tiptoe, she brought the pink bolster from the
Frau's bed and covered the baby's face with it, pressed with all her might
as he struggled, "like a duck with its head off, wriggling", she thought.
She heaved a long sigh, then fell back on to the floor, and was walking
along a little white road with tall black trees on either side, a little
road that led to nowhere, and where nobody walked at all--nobody at all.
11. THE ADVANCED LADY.
"Do you think we might ask her to come with us," said Fraulein Elsa,
retying her pink sash ribbon before my mirror. "You know, although she is
so intellectual, I cannot help feeling convinced that she has some secret
sorrow. And Lisa told me this morning, as she was turning out my room,
that she remains hours and hours by herself, writing; in fact Lisa says she
is writing a book! I suppose that is why she never cares to mingle with
us, and has so little time for her husband and the child."
"Well, YOU ask her," said I. "I have never spoken to the lady."
Elsa blushed faintly. "I have only spoken to her once," she confessed. "I
took her a bunch of wild flowers, to her room, and she came to the door in
a white gown, with her hair loose. Never shall I forget that moment. She
just took the flowers, and I heard her--because the door was not quite
properly shut--I heard her, as I walked down the passage, saying 'Purity,
fragrance, the fragrance of purity and the purity of fragrance!' It was
At that moment Frau Kellermann knocked at the door.
"Are you ready?" she said, coming into the room and nodding to us very
genially. "The gentlemen are waiting on the steps, and I have asked the
Advanced Lady to come with us."
"Na, how extraordinary!" cried Elsa. "But this moment the gnadige Frau and
I were debating whether--"
"Yes, I met her coming out of her room and she said she was charmed with
the idea. Like all of us, she has never been to Schlingen. She is
downstairs now, talking to Herr Erchardt. I think we shall have a
"Is Fritzi waiting too?" asked Elsa.
"Of course he is, dear child--as impatient as a hungry man listening for
the dinner bell. Run along!"
Elsa ran, and Frau Kellermann smiled at me significantly. In the past she
and I had seldom spoken to each other, owing to the fact that her "one
remaining joy"--her charming little Karl--had never succeeded in kindling
into flame those sparks of maternity which are supposed to glow in great
numbers upon the altar of every respectable female heart; but, in view of a
premeditated journey together, we became delightfully cordial.
"For us," she said, "there will be a double joy. We shall be able to watch
the happiness of these two dear children, Elsa and Fritz. They only
received the letters of blessing from their parents yesterday morning. It
is a very strange thing, but whenever I am in the company of newly-engaged
couples I blossom. Newly-engaged couples, mothers with first babies, and
normal deathbeds have precisely the same effect on me. Shall we join the
I was longing to ask her why normal deathbeds should cause anyone to burst
into flower, and said, "Yes, do let us."
We were greeted by the little party of "cure guests" on the pension steps,
with those cries of joy and excitement which herald so pleasantly the
mildest German excursion. Herr Erchardt and I had not met before that day,
so, in accordance with strict pension custom, we asked each other how long
we had slept during the night, had we dreamed agreeably, what time we had
got up, was the coffee fresh when we had appeared at breakfast, and how had
we passed the morning. Having toiled up these stairs of almost national
politeness we landed, triumphant and smiling, and paused to recover breath.
"And now," said Herr Erchardt, "I have a pleasure in store for you. The
Frau Professor is going to be one of us for the afternoon. Yes," nodding
graciously to the Advanced Lady. "Allow me to introduce you to each
We bowed very formally, and looked each other over with that eye which is
known as "eagle" but is far more the property of the female than that most
unoffending of birds. "I think you are English?" she said. I acknowledged
the fact. "I am reading a great many English books just now--rather, I am
"Nu," cried Herr Erchardt. "Fancy that! What a bond already! I have made
up my mind to know Shakespeare in his mother tongue before I die, but that
you, Frau Professor, should be already immersed in those wells of English
"From what I have read," she said, "I do not think they are very deep
He nodded sympathetically.
"No," he answered, "so I have heard...But do not let us embitter our
excursion for our little English friend. We will speak of this another
"Nu, are we ready?" cried Fritz, who stood, supporting Elsa's elbow in his
hand, at the foot of the steps. It was immediately discovered that Karl
"Ka--rl, Karl--chen!" we cried. No response.
"But he was here one moment ago," said Herr Langen, a tired, pale youth,
who was recovering from a nervous breakdown due to much philosophy and
little nourishment. "He was sitting here, picking out the works of his
watch with a hairpin!"
Frau Kellermann rounded on him. "Do you mean to say, my dear Herr Langen,
you did not stop the child!"
"No," said Herr Langen; "I've tried stopping him before now."
"Da, that child has such energy; never is his brain at peace. If he is not
doing one thing, he is doing another!"
"Perhaps he has started on the dining-room clock now," suggested Herr
Langen, abominably hopeful.
The Advanced Lady suggested that we should go without him. "I never take
my little daughter for walks," she said. "I have accustomed her to sitting
quietly in my bedroom from the time I go out until I return!"
"There he is--there he is," piped Elsa, and Karl was observed slithering
down a chestnut-tree, very much the worse for twigs.
"I've been listening to what you said about me, mumma," he confessed while
Frau Kellermann brushed him down. "It was not true about the watch. I was
only looking at it, and the little girl never stays in the bedroom. She
told me herself she always goes down to the kitchen, and--"
"Da, that's enough!" said Frau Kellermann.
We marched en masse along the station road. It was a very warm afternoon,
and continuous parties of "cure guests", who were giving their digestions a
quiet airing in pension gardens, called after us, asked if we were going
for a walk, and cried "Herr Gott--happy journey" with immense ill-concealed
relish when we mentioned Schlingen.
"But that is eight kilometres," shouted one old man with a white beard, who
leaned against a fence, fanning himself with a yellow handkerchief.
"Seven and a half," answered Herr Erchardt shortly.
"Eight," bellowed the sage.
"Seven and a half!"
"The man is mad," said Herr Erchardt.
"Well, please let him be mad in peace," said I, putting my hands over my
"Such ignorance must not be allowed to go uncontradicted," said he, and
turning his back on us, too exhausted to cry out any longer, he held up
seven and a half fingers.
"Eight!" thundered the greybeard, with pristine freshness.
We felt very sobered, and did not recover until we reached a white signpost
which entreated us to leave the road and walk through the field path--
without trampling down more of the grass than was necessary. Being
interpreted, it meant "single file", which was distressing for Elsa and
Fritz. Karl, like a happy child, gambolled ahead, and cut down as many
flowers as possible with the stick of his mother's parasol--followed the
three others--then myself--and the lovers in the rear. And above the
conversation of the advance party I had the privilege of hearing these
Fritz: "Do you love me?" Elsa: "Nu--yes." Fritz passionately: "But how
much?" To which Elsa never replied--except with "How much do YOU love ME?"
Fritz escaped that truly Christian trap by saying, "I asked you first."
It grew so confusing that I slipped in front of Frau Kellermann--and walked
in the peaceful knowledge that she was blossoming and I was under no
obligation to inform even my nearest and dearest as to the precise capacity
of my affections. "What right have they to ask each other such questions
the day after letters of blessing have been received?" I reflected. "What
right have they even to question each other? Love which becomes engaged
and married is a purely affirmative affair--they are usurping the
privileges of their betters and wisers!"
The edges of the field frilled over into an immense pine forest--very
pleasant and cool it looked. Another signpost begged us to keep to the
broad path for Schlingen and deposit waste paper and fruit peelings in wire
receptacles attached to the benches for the purpose. We sat down on the
first bench, and Karl with great curiosity explored the wire receptacle.
"I love woods," said the Advanced Lady, smiling pitifully into the air.
"In a wood my hair already seems to stir and remember something of its
"But speaking literally," said Frau Kellermann, after an appreciative
pause, "there is really nothing better than the air of pine-trees for the
"Oh, Frau Kellermann, please don't break the spell," said Elsa.
The Advanced Lady looked at her very sympathetically. "Have you, too,
found the magic heart of Nature?" she said.
That was Herr Langen's cue. "Nature has no heart," said he, very bitterly
and readily, as people do who are over-philosophised and underfed. "She
creates that she may destroy. She eats that she may spew up and she spews
up that she may eat. That is why we, who are forced to eke out an
existence at her trampling feet, consider the world mad, and realise the
deadly vulgarity of production."
"Young man," interrupted Herr Erchardt, "you have never lived and you have
"Oh, excuse me--how can you know?"
"I know because you have told me, and there's an end of it. Come back to
this bench in ten years' time and repeat those words to me," said Frau
Kellermann, with an eye upon Fritz, who was engaged in counting Elsa's
fingers with passionate fervour--"and bring with you your young wife, Herr
Langen, and watch, perhaps, your little child playing with--" She turned
towards Karl, who had rooted an old illustrated paper out of the receptacle
and was spelling over an advertisement for the enlargement of Beautiful
The sentence remained unfinished. We decided to move on. As we plunged
more deeply into the wood our spirits rose--reaching a point where they
burst into song--on the part of the three men--"O Welt, wie bist du
wunderbar!"--the lower part of which was piercingly sustained by Herr
Langen, who attempted quite unsuccessfully to infuse satire into it in
accordance with his--"world outlook". They strode ahead and left us to
trail after them--hot and happy.
"Now is the opportunity," said Frau Kellermann. "Dear Frau Professor, do
tell us a little about your book."
"Ach, how did you know I was writing one?" she cried playfully.
"Elsa, here, had it from Lisa. And never before have I personally known a
woman who was writing a book. How do you manage to find enough to write
"That is never the trouble," said the Advanced Lady--she took Elsa's arm
and leaned on it gently. "The trouble is to know where to stop. My brain
has been a hive for years, and about three months ago the pent-up waters
burst over my soul, and since then I am writing all day until late into the
night, still ever finding fresh inspirations and thoughts which beat
impatient wings about my heart."
"Is it a novel?" asked Elsa shyly.
"Of course it is a novel," said I.
"How can you be so positive?" said Frau Kellermann, eyeing me severely.
"Because nothing but a novel could produce an effect like that."
"Ach, don't quarrel," said the Advanced Lady sweetly. "Yes, it is a novel
--upon the Modern Woman. For this seems to me the woman's hour. It is
mysterious and almost prophetic, it is the symbol of the true advanced
woman: not one of those violent creatures who deny their sex and smother
their frail wings under...under--"
"The English tailor-made?" from Frau Kellermann.
"I was not going to put it like that. Rather, under the lying garb of
"Such a subtle distinction!" I murmured.
"Whom then," asked Fraulein Elsa, looking adoringly at the Advanced Lady--
"whom then do you consider the true woman?"
"She is the incarnation of comprehending Love!"
"But my dear Frau Professor," protested Frau Kellermann, "you must remember
that one has so few opportunities for exhibiting Love within the family
circle nowadays. One's husband is at business all day, and naturally
desires to sleep when he returns home--one's children are out of the lap
and in at the university before one can lavish anything at all upon them!"
"But Love is not a question of lavishing," said the Advanced Lady. "It is
the lamp carried in the bosom touching with serene rays all the heights and
"Darkest Africa," I murmured flippantly.
She did not hear.
"The mistake we have made in the past--as a sex," said she, "is in not
realising that our gifts of giving are for the whole world--we are the glad
sacrifice of ourselves!"
"Oh!" cried Elsa rapturously, and almost bursting into gifts as she
breathed--"how I know that! You know ever since Fritz and I have been
engaged, I share the desire to give to everybody, to share everything!"
"How extremely dangerous," said I.
"It is only the beauty of danger, or the danger of beauty" said the
Advanced Lady--"and there you have the ideal of my book--that woman is
nothing but a gift."
I smiled at her very sweetly. "Do you know," I said, "I, too, would like
to write a book, on the advisability of caring for daughters, and taking
them for airings and keeping them out of kitchens!"
I think the masculine element must have felt these angry vibrations: they
ceased from singing, and together we climbed out of the wood, to see
Schlingen below us, tucked in a circle of hills, the white houses shining
in the sunlight, "for all the world like eggs in a bird's nest", as Herr
Erchardt declared. We descended upon Schlingen and demanded sour milk with
fresh cream and bread at the Inn of the Golden Stag, a most friendly place,
with tables in a rose-garden where hens and chickens ran riot--even
flopping upon the disused tables and pecking at the red checks on the
cloths. We broke the bread into the bowls, added the cream, and stirred it
round with flat wooden spoons, the landlord and his wife standing by.
"Splendid weather!" said Herr Erchardt, waving his spoon at the landlord,
who shrugged his shoulders.
"What! you don't call it splendid!"
"As you please," said the landlord, obviously scorning us.
"Such a beautiful walk," said Fraulein Elsa, making a free gift of her most
charming smile to the landlady.
"I never walk," said the landlady; "when I go to Mindelbau my man drives
me--I've more important things to do with my legs than walk them through
"I like these people," confessed Herr Langen to me. "I like them very,
very much. I think I shall take a room here for the whole summer."
"Oh, because they live close to the earth, and therefore despise it."
He pushed away his bowl of sour milk and lit a cigarette. We ate, solidly
and seriously, until those seven and a half kilometres to Mindelbau
stretched before us like an eternity. Even Karl's activity became so full
fed that he lay on the ground and removed his leather waistbelt. Elsa
suddenly leaned over to Fritz and whispered, who on hearing her to the end
and asking her if she loved him, got up and made a little speech.
"We--we wish to celebrate our betrothal by--by--asking you all to drive
back with us in the landlord's cart--if--it will hold us!"
"Oh, what a beautiful, noble idea!" said Frau Kellermann, heaving a sigh of
relief that audibly burst two hooks.
"It is my little gift," said Elsa to the Advanced Lady, who by virtue of
three portions almost wept tears of gratitude.
Squeezed into the peasant cart and driven by the landlord, who showed his
contempt for mother earth by spitting savagely every now and again, we
jolted home again, and the nearer we came to Mindelbau the more we loved it
and one another.
"We must have many excursions like this," said Herr Erchardt to me, "for
one surely gets to know a person in the simple surroundings of the open
air--one SHARES the same joys--one feels friendship. What is it your
Shakespeare says? One moment, I have it. The friends thou hast, and their
adoption tried--grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel!"
"But," said I, feeling very friendly towards him, "the bother about my soul
is that it refuses to grapple anybody at all--and I am sure that the dead
weight of a friend whose adoption it had tried would kill it immediately.
Never yet has it shown the slightest sign of a hoop!"
He bumped against my knees and excused himself and the cart.
"My dear little lady, you must not take the quotation literally.
Naturally, one is not physically conscious of the hoops; but hoops there
are in the soul of him or her who loves his fellow-men...Take this
afternoon, for instance. How did we start out? As strangers you might
almost say, and yet--all of us--how have we come home?"
"In a cart," said the only remaining joy, who sat upon his mother's lap and
We skirted the field that we had passed through, going round by the
cemetery. Herr Langen leaned over the edge of the seat and greeted the
graves. He was sitting next to the Advanced Lady--inside the shelter of
her shoulder. I heard her murmur: "You look like a little boy with your
hair blowing about in the wind." Herr Langen, slightly less bitter--
watched the last graves disappear. And I heard her murmur: "Why are you
so sad? I too am very sad sometimes--but--you look young enough for me to
dare to say this--I--too--know of much joy!"
"What do you know?" said he.
I leaned over and touched the Advanced Lady's hand. "Hasn't it been a nice
afternoon?" I said questioningly. "But you know, that theory of yours
about women and Love--it's as old as the hills--oh, older!"
From the road a sudden shout of triumph. Yes, there he was again--white
beard, silk handkerchief and undaunted enthusiasm.
"What did I say? Eight kilometres--it is!"
"Seven and a half!" shrieked Herr Erchardt.
"Why, then, do you return in carts? Eight kilometres it must be."
Herr Erchardt made a cup of his hands and stood up in the jolting cart
while Frau Kellermann clung to his knees. "Seven and a half!"
"Ignorance must not go uncontradicted!" I said to the Advanced Lady.
12. THE SWING OF THE PENDULUM.
The landlady knocked at the door.
"Come in," said Viola.
"There is a letter for you," said the landlady, "a special letter"--she
held the green envelope in a corner of her dingy apron.
"Thanks." Viola, kneeling on the floor, poking at the little dusty stove,
stretched out her hand. "Any answer?"
"No; the messenger has gone."
"Oh, all right!" She did not look the landlady in the face; she was
ashamed of not having paid her rent, and wondered grimly, without any hope,
if the woman would begin to bluster again.
"About this money owing to me--" said the landlady.
"Oh, the Lord--off she goes!" thought Viola, turning her back on the woman
and making a grimace at the stove.
"It's settle--or it's go!" The landlady raised her voice; she began to
bawl. "I'm a landlady, I am, and a respectable woman, I'll have you know.
I'll have no lice in my house, sneaking their way into the furniture and
eating up everything. It's cash--or out you go before twelve o'clock to-
Viola felt rather than saw the woman's gesture. She shot out her arm in a
stupid helpless way, as though a dirty pigeon had suddenly flown at her
face. "Filthy old beast! Ugh! And the smell of her--like stale cheese
and damp washing."
"Very well!" she answered shortly; "it's cash down or I leave to-morrow.
All right: don't shout."
It was extraordinary--always before this woman came near her she trembled
in her shoes--even the sound of those flat feet stumping up the stairs made
her feel sick, but once they were face to face she felt immensely calm and
indifferent, and could not understand why she even worried about money, nor
why she sneaked out of the house on tiptoe, not even daring to shut the
door after her in case the landlady should hear and shout something
terrible, nor why she spent nights pacing up and down her room--drawing up
sharply before the mirror and saying to a tragic reflection: "Money,
money, money!" When she was alone her poverty was like a huge
dream-mountain on which her feet were fast rooted--aching with the ache of
the size of the thing--but if it came to definite action, with no time for
imaginings, her dream-mountain dwindled into a beastly "hold-your-nose"
affair, to be passed as quickly as possible, with anger and a strong sense
The landlady bounced out of the room, banging the door, so that it shook
and rattled as though it had listened to the conversation and fully
sympathised with the old hag.
Squatting on her heels, Viola opened the letter. It was from Casimir:
"I shall be with you at three o'clock this afternoon--and must be off again
this evening. All news when we meet. I hope you are happier than I.--
"Huh! how kind!" she sneered; "how condescending. Too good of you,
really!" She sprang to her feet, crumbling the letter in her hands. "And
how are you to know that I shall stick here awaiting your pleasure until
three o'clock this afternoon?" But she knew she would; her rage was only
half sincere. She longed to see Casimir, for she was confident that this
time she would make him understand the situation..."For, as it is, it's
intolerable--intolerable!" she muttered.
It was ten o'clock in the morning of a grey day curiously lighted by pale
flashes of sunshine. Searched by these flashes her room looked tumbled and
grimed. She pulled down the window-blinds--but they gave a persistent,
whitish glare which was just as bad. The only thing of life in the room
was a jar of hyacinths given her by the landlady's daughter: it stood on
the table exuding a sickly perfume from its plump petals; there were even
rich buds unfolding, and the leaves shone like oil.
Viola went over to the washstand, poured some water into the enamel basin,
and sponged her face and neck. She dipped her face into the water, opened
her eyes, and shook her head from side to side--it was exhilarating. She
did it three times. "I suppose I could drown myself if I stayed under long
enough," she thought. "I wonder how long it takes to become
unconscious?...Often read of women drowning in a bucket. I wonder if any
air enters by the ears--if the basin would have to be as deep as a bucket?"
She experimented--gripped the washstand with both hands and slowly sank her
head into the water, when again there was a knock on the door. Not the
landlady this time--it must be Casimir. With her face and hair dripping,
with her petticoat bodice unbuttoned, she ran and opened it.
A strange man stood against the lintel--seeing her, he opened his eyes very
wide and smiled delightfully. "Excuse me--does Fraulein Schafer live
"No; never heard of her." His smile was so infectious, she wanted to smile
too--and the water had made her feel so fresh and rosy.
The strange man appeared overwhelmed with astonishment. "She doesn't?" he
cried. "She is out, you mean!"
"No, she's not living here," answered Viola.
"But--pardon--one moment." He moved from the door lintel, standing
squarely in front of her. He unbuttoned his greatcoat and drew a slip of
paper from the breast pocket, smoothing it in his gloved fingers before
handing it to her.
"Yes, that's the address, right enough, but there must be a mistake in the
number. So many lodging-houses in this street, you know, and so big."
Drops of water fell from her hair on to the paper. She burst out laughing.
"Oh, HOW dreadful I must look--one moment!" She ran back to the washstand
and caught up a towel. The door was still open...After all, there was
nothing more to be said. Why on earth had she asked him to wait a moment?
She folded the towel round her shoulders, and returned to the door,
suddenly grave. "I'm sorry; I know no such name" in a sharp voice.
Said the strange man: "Sorry, too. Have you been living here long?"
"Er--yes--a long time." She began to close the door slowly.
"Well--good-morning, thanks so much. Hope I haven't been a bother."
She heard him walk down the passage and then pause--lighting a cigarette.
Yes--a faint scent of delicious cigarette smoke penetrated her room. She
sniffed at it, smiling again. Well, that had been a fascinating interlude!
He looked so amazingly happy: his heavy clothes and big buttoned gloves;
his beautifully brushed hair...and that smile..."Jolly" was the word--just
a well-fed boy with the world for his playground. People like that did one
good--one felt "made over" at the sight of them. SANE they were--so sane
and solid. You could depend on them never having one mad impulse from the
day they were born until the day they died. And Life was in league with
them--jumped them on her knee--quite rightly, too. At that moment she
noticed Casimir's letter, crumpled up on the floor--the smile faded.
Staring at the letter she began braiding her hair--a dull feeling of rage
crept through her--she seemed to be braiding it into her brain, and binding
it, tightly, above her head...Of course that had been the mistake all
along. What had? Oh, Casimir's frightful seriousness. If she had been
happy when they first met she never would have looked at him--but they had
been like two patients in the same hospital ward--each finding comfort in
the sickness of the other--sweet foundation for a love episode! Misfortune
had knocked their heads together: they had looked at each other, stunned
with the conflict and sympathised..."I wish I could step outside the whole
affair and just judge it--then I'd find a way out. I certainly was in love
with Casimir...Oh, be sincere for once." She flopped down on the bed and
hid her face in the pillow. "I was not in love. I wanted somebody to look
after me--and keep me until my work began to sell--and he kept bothers with
other men away. And what would have happened if he hadn't come along? I
would have spent my wretched little pittance, and then--Yes, that was what
decided me, thinking about that 'then.' He was the only solution. And I
believed in him then. I thought his work had only to be recognised once,
and he'd roll in wealth. I thought perhaps we might be poor for a month--
but he said, if only he could have me, the stimulus...Funny, if it wasn't
so damned tragic! Exactly the contrary has happened--he hasn't had a thing
published for months--neither have I--but then I didn't expect to. Yes,
the truth is, I'm hard and bitter, and I have neither faith nor love for
unsuccessful men. I always end by despising them as I despise Casimir. I
suppose it's the savage pride of the female who likes to think the man to
whom she has given herself must be a very great chief indeed. But to stew
in this disgusting house while Casimir scours the land in the hope of
finding one editorial open door--it's humiliating. It's changed my whole
nature. I wasn't born for poverty--I only flower among really jolly
people, and people who never are worried."
The figure of the strange man rose before her--would not be dismissed.
"That was the man for me, after all is said and done--a man without a care
--who'd give me everything I want and with whom I'd always feel that sense
of life and of being in touch with the world. I never wanted to fight--it
was thrust on me. Really, there's a fount of happiness in me, that is
drying up, little by little, in this hateful existence. I'll be dead if
this goes on--and"--she stirred in the bed and flung out her arms--"I want
passion, and love, and adventure--I yearn for them. Why should I stay here
and rot?--I am rotting!" she cried, comforting herself with the sound of
her breaking voice. "But if I tell Casimir all this when he comes this
afternoon, and he says, 'Go'--as he certainly will--that's another thing I
loathe about him--he's under my thumb--what should I do then--where should
I go to?" There was nowhere. "I don't want to work--or carve out my own
path. I want ease and any amount of nursing in the lap of luxury. There
is only one thing I'm fitted for, and that is to be a great courtesan."
But she did not know how to go about it. She was frightened to go into the
streets--she heard of such awful things happening to those women--men with
diseases--or men who didn't pay--besides, the idea of a strange man every
night--no, that was out of the question. "If I'd the clothes I would go to
a really good hotel and find some wealthy man...like the strange man this
morning. He would be ideal. Oh, if I only had his address--I am sure I
would fascinate him. I'd keep him laughing all day--I'd make him give me
unlimited money..." At the thought she grew warm and soft. She began to
dream of a wonderful house, and of presses full of clothes and of perfumes.
She saw herself stepping into carriages--looking at the strange man with a
mysterious, voluptuous glance--she practised the glance, lying on the bed--
and never another worry, just drugged with happiness. That was the life
for her. Well, the thing to do was to let Casimir go on his wild-goose
chase that evening, and while he was away--What! Also--please to remember
--there was the rent to be paid before twelve next morning, and she hadn't
the money for a square meal. At the thought of food she felt a sharp
twinge in her stomach, a sensation as though there were a hand in her
stomach, squeezing it dry. She was terribly hungry--all Casimir's fault--
and that man had lived on the fat of the land ever since he was born. He
looked as though he could order a magnificent dinner. Oh, why hadn't she
played her cards better?--he'd been sent by Providence--and she'd snubbed
him. "If I had that time over again, I'd be safe by now." And instead of
the ordinary man who had spoken with her at the door her mind created a
brilliant, laughing image, who would treat her like a queen..."There's only
one thing I could not stand--that he should be coarse or vulgar. Well, he
wasn't--he was obviously a man of the world, and the way he apologised...I
have enough faith in my own power and beauty to know I could make a man
treat me just as I wanted to be treated."...It floated into her dreams--
that sweet scent of cigarette smoke. And then she remembered that she had
heard nobody go down the stone stairs. Was it possible that the strange
man was still there?...The thought was too absurd--Life didn't play tricks
like that--and yet--she was quite conscious of his nearness. Very quietly
she got up, unhooked from the back of the door a long white gown, buttoned
it on--smiling slyly. She did not know what was going to happen. She only
thought: "Oh, what fun!" and that they were playing a delicious game--this
strange man and she. Very gently she turned the door-handle, screwing up
her face and biting her lip as the lock snapped back. Of course, there he
was--leaning against the banister rail. He wheeled round as she slipped
into the passage.
"Da," she muttered, folding her gown tightly around her, "I must go
downstairs and fetch some wood. Brr! the cold!"
"There isn't any wood," volunteered the strange man. She gave a little cry
of astonishment, and then tossed her head.
"You again," she said scornfully, conscious the while of his merry eye, and
the fresh, strong smell of his healthy body.
"The landlady shouted out there was no wood left. I just saw her go out to
"Story--story!" she longed to cry. He came quite close to her, stood over
her and whispered:
"Aren't you going to ask me to finish my cigarette in your room?"
She nodded. "You may if you want to!"
In that moment together in the passage a miracle had happened. Her room
was quite changed--it was full of sweet light and the scent of hyacinth
flowers. Even the furniture appeared different--exciting. Quick as a
flash she remembered childish parties when they had played charades, and
one side had left the room and come in again to act a word--just what she
was doing now. The strange man went over to the stove and sat down in her
arm-chair. She did not want him to talk or come near her--it was enough to
see him in the room, so secure and happy. How hungry she had been for the
nearness of someone like that--who knew nothing at all about her--and made
no demands--but just lived. Viola ran over to the table and put her arms
round the jar of hyacinths.
"Beautiful! Beautiful!" she cried--burying her head in the flowers--and
sniffing greedily at the scent. Over the leaves she looked at the man and
"You are a funny little thing," said he lazily.
"Why? Because I love flowers?"
"I'd far rather you loved other things," said the strange man slowly. She
broke off a little pink petal and smiled at it.
"Let me send you some flowers," said the strange man. "I'll send you a
roomful if you'd like them."
His voice frightened her slightly. "Oh no, thanks--this one is quite
enough for me."
"No, it isn't"--in a teasing voice.
"What a stupid remark!" thought Viola, and looking at him again he did not
seem quite so jolly. She noticed that his eyes were set too closely
together--and they were too small. Horrible thought, that he should prove
"What do you do all day?" she asked hastily.
"Nothing at all?"
"Why should I do anything?"
"Oh, don't imagine for one moment that I condemn such wisdom--only it
sounds too good to be true!"
"What's that?"--he craned forward. "What sounds too good to be true?"
Yes--there was no denying it--he looked silly.
"I suppose the searching after Fraulein Schafer doesn't occupy all your
"Oh no"--he smiled broadly--"that's very good! By Jove! no. I drive a
good bit--are you keen on horses?"
She nodded. "Love them."
"You must come driving with me--I've got a fine pair of greys. Will you?"
"Pretty I'd look perched behind greys in my one and only hat," thought she.
Aloud: "I'd love to." Her easy acceptance pleased him.
"How about to-morrow?" he suggested. "Suppose you have lunch with me to-
morrow and I take you driving."
After all--this was just a game. "Yes, I'm not busy to-morrow," she said.
A little pause--then the strange man patted his leg. "Why don't you come
and sit down?" he said.
She pretended not to see and swung on to the table. "Oh, I'm all right
"No, you're not"--again the teasing voice. "Come and sit on my knee."
"Oh no," said Viola very heartily, suddenly busy with her hair.
"I don't want to."
"Oh, come along"--impatiently.
She shook her head from side to side. "I wouldn't dream of such a thing."
At that he got up and came over to her. "Funny little puss cat!" He put
up one hand to touch her hair.
"Don't," she said--and slipped off the table. "I--I think it's time you
went now." She was quite frightened now--thinking only: "This man must be
got rid of as quickly as possible."
"Oh, but you don't want me to go?"
"Yes, I do--I'm very busy."
"Busy. What does the pussy cat do all day?"
"Lots and lots of things!" She wanted to push him out of the room and slam
the door on him--idiot--fool--cruel disappointment.
"What's she frowning for?" he asked. "Is she worried about anything?"
Suddenly serious: "I say--you know, are you in any financial difficulty?
Do you want money? I'll give it to you if you like!"
"Money! Steady on the brake--don't lose your head!"--so she spoke to
"I'll give you two hundred marks if you'll kiss me."
"Oh, boo! What a condition! And I don't want to kiss you--I don't like
kissing. Please go!"
"Yes--you do!--yes, you do." He caught hold of her arms above the elbows.
She struggled, and was quite amazed to realise how angry she felt.
"Let me go--immediately!" she cried--and he slipped one arm round her body,
and drew her towards him--like a bar of iron across her back--that arm.
"Leave me alone! I tell you. Don't be mean! I didn't want this to happen
when you came into my room. How dare you?"
"Well, kiss me and I'll go!"
It was too idiotic--dodging that stupid, smiling face.
"I won't kiss you!--you brute!--I won't!" Somehow she slipped out of his
arms and ran to the wall--stood back against it--breathing quickly.
"Get out!" she stammered. "Go on now, clear out!"
At that moment, when he was not touching her, she quite enjoyed herself.
She thrilled at her own angry voice. "To think I should talk to a man like
that!" An angry flush spread over his face--his lips curled back, showing
his teeth--just like a dog, thought Viola. He made a rush at her, and held
her against the wall--pressed upon her with all the weight of his body.
This time she could not get free.
"I won't kiss you. I won't. Stop doing that Ugh! you're like a dog--you
ought to find lovers round lamp-posts--you beast--you fiend!"
He did not answer. With an expression of the most absurd determination he
pressed ever more heavily upon her. He did not even look at her--but
rapped out in a sharp voice: "Keep quiet--keep quiet."
"Gar--r! Why are men so strong?" She began to cry. "Go away--I don't
want you, you dirty creature. I want to murder you. Oh, my God! if I had
"Don't be silly--come and be good!" He dragged her towards the bed.
"Do you suppose I'm a light woman?" she snarled, and swooping over she
fastened her teeth in his glove.
"Ach! don't do that--you are hurting me!"
She did not let go, but her heart said, "Thank the Lord I thought of this."
"Stop this minute--you vixen--you bitch." He threw her away from him. She
saw with joy that his eyes were full of tears. "You've really hurt me," he
said in a choking voice.
"Of course I have. I meant to. That's nothing to what I'll do if you
touch me again."
The strange man picked up his hat. "No thanks," he said grimly. "But I'll
not forget this--I'll go to your landlady."
"Pooh!" She shrugged her shoulders and laughed. "I'll tell her you forced
your way in here and tried to assault me. Who will she believe?--with your
bitten hand. You go and find your Schafers."
A sensation of glorious, intoxicating happiness flooded Viola. She rolled
her eyes at him. "If you don't go away this moment I'll bite you again,"
she said, and the absurd words started her laughing. Even when the door
was closed, hearing him descending the stairs, she laughed, and danced
about the room.
What a morning! Oh, chalk it up. That was her first fight, and she'd won
--she'd conquered that beast--all by herself. Her hands were still
trembling. She pulled up the sleeve of her gown--great red marks on her
arms. "My ribs will be blue. I'll be blue all over," she reflected. "If
only that beloved Casimir could have seen us." And the feeling of rage and
disgust against Casimir had totally disappeared. How could the poor
darling help not having any money? It was her fault as much as his, and
he, just like her, was apart from the world, fighting it, just as she had
done. If only three o'clock would come. She saw herself running towards
him and putting her arms round his neck. "My blessed one! Of course we
are bound to win. Do you love me still? Oh, I have been horrible lately."
13. A BLAZE.
"Max, you silly devil, you'll break your neck if you go careering down the
slide that way. Drop it, and come to the Club House with me and get some
"I've had enough for to-day. I'm damp all through. There, give us a
cigarette, Victor, old man. When are you going home?"
"Not for another hour. It's fine this afternoon, and I'm getting into
decent shape. Look out, get off the track; here comes Fraulein Winkel.
Damned elegant the way she manages her sleigh!"
"I'm cold all through. That's the worst of this place--the mists--it's a
damp cold. Here, Forman, look after this sleigh--and stick it somewhere so
that I can get it without looking through a hundred and fifty others to-
They sat down at a small round table near the stove and ordered coffee.
Victor sprawled in his chair, patting his little brown dog Bobo and
looking, half laughingly, at Max.
"What's the matter, my dear? Isn't the world being nice and pretty?"
"I want my coffee, and I want to put my feet into my pocket--they're like
stones...Nothing to eat, thanks--the cake is like underdone india-rubber
Fuchs and Wistuba came and sat at their table. Max half turned his back
and stretched his feet out to the oven. The three other men all began
talking at once--of the weather--of the record slide--of the fine condition
of the Wald See for skating.
Suddenly Fuchs looked at Max, raised his eyebrows and nodded across to
Victor, who shook his head.
"Baby doesn't feel well," he said, feeding the brown dog with broken lumps
of sugar, "and nobody's to disturb him--I'm nurse."
"That's the first time I've ever known him off colour," said Wistuba.
"I've always imagined he had the better part of this world that could not
be taken away from him. I think he says his prayers to the dear Lord for
having spared him being taken home in seven basketsful to-night. It's a
fool's game to risk your all that way and leave the nation desolate."
"Dry up," said Max. "You ought to be wheeled about on the snow in a
"Oh, no offence, I hope. Don't get nasty. How's your wife, Victor?"
"She's not at all well. She hurt her head coming down the slide with Max
on Sunday. I told her to stay at home all day."
"I'm sorry. Are you other fellows going back to the town or stopping on
Fuchs and Victor said they were stopping--Max did not answer, but sat
motionless while the men paid for their coffee and moved away. Victor came
back a moment and put a hand on his shoulder.
"If you're going right back, my dear, I wish you'd look Elsa up and tell
her I won't be in till late. And feed with us to-night at Limpold, will
you? And take some hot grog when you get in."
"Thanks, old fellow, I'm all right. Going back now."
He rose, stretched himself, buttoned on his heavy coat and lighted another
From the door Victor watched him plunging through the heavy snow--head
bent--hands thrust in his pockets--he almost appeared to be running through
the heavy snow towards the town.
Someone came stamping up the stairs--paused at the door of her sitting-
room, and knocked.
"Is that you, Victor?" she called.
"No, it is I... can I come in?"
"Of course. Why, what a Santa Claus! Hang your coat on the landing and
shake yourself over the banisters. Had a good time?"
The room was full of light and warmth. Elsa, in a white velvet tea-gown,
lay curled up on the sofa--a book of fashions on her lap, a box of creams
The curtains were not yet drawn before the windows and a blue light shone
through, and the white boughs of the trees sprayed across.
A woman's room--full of flowers and photographs and silk pillows--the floor
smothered in rugs--an immense tiger-skin under the piano--just the head
"It was good enough," said Max. "Victor can't be in till late. He told me
to come up and tell you."
He started walking up and down--tore off his gloves and flung them on the
"Don't do that, Max," said Elsa, "you get on my nerves. And I've got a
headache to-day; I'm feverish and quite flushed...Don't I look flushed?"
He paused by the window and glanced at her a moment over his shoulder.
"No," he said; "I didn't notice it."
"Oh, you haven't looked at me properly, and I've got a new tea-gown on,
too." She pulled her skirts together and patted a little place on the
"Come along and sit by me and tell me why you're being naughty."
But, standing by the window, he suddenly flung his arm across his eyes.
"Oh," he said, "I can't. I'm done--I'm spent--I'm smashed."
Silence in the room. The fashion-book fell to the floor with a quick
rustle of leaves. Elsa sat forward, her hands clasped in her lap; a
strange light shone in her eyes, a red colour stained her mouth.
Then she spoke very quietly.
"Come over here and explain yourself. I don't know what on earth you are
"You do know--you know far better than I. You've simply played with Victor
in my presence that I may feel worse. You've tormented me--you've led me
on--offering me everything and nothing at all. It's been a spider-and-fly
business from first to last--and I've never for one moment been ignorant of
that--and I've never for one moment been able to withstand it."
He turned round deliberately.
"Do you suppose that when you asked me to pin your flowers into your
evening gown--when you let me come into your bedroom when Victor was out
while you did your hair--when you pretended to be a baby and let me feed
you with grapes--when you have run to me and searched in all my pockets for
a cigarette--knowing perfectly well where they were kept--going through
every pocket just the same--I knowing too--I keeping up the farce--do you
suppose that now you have finally lighted your bonfire you are going to
find it a peaceful and pleasant thing--you are going to prevent the whole
house from burning?"
She suddenly turned white and drew in her breath sharply.
"Don't talk to me like that. You have no right to talk to me like that. I
am another man's wife."
"Hum," he sneered, throwing back his head, "that's rather late in the game,
and that's been your trump card all along. You only love Victor on the
cat-and-cream principle--you a poor little starved kitten that he's given
everything to, that he's carried in his breast, never dreaming that those
little pink claws could tear out a man's heart."
She stirred, looking at him with almost fear in her eyes.
"After all"--unsteadily--"this is my room; I'll have to ask you to go."
But he stumbled towards her, knelt down by the couch, burying his head in
her lap, clasping his arms round her waist.
"And I LOVE you--I love you; the humiliation of it--I adore you. Don't--
don't--just a minute let me stay here--just a moment in a whole life--Elsa!
She leant back and pressed her head into the pillows.
Then his muffled voice: "I feel like a savage. I want your whole body. I
want to carry you away to a cave and love you until I kill you--you can't
understand how a man feels. I kill myself when I see you--I'm sick of my
own strength that turns in upon itself, and dies, and rises new born like a
Phoenix out of the ashes of that horrible death. Love me just this once,
tell me a lie, SAY that you do--you are always lying."
Instead, she pushed him away--frightened.
"Get up," she said; "suppose the servant came in with the tea?"
"Oh, ye gods!" He stumbled to his feet and stood staring down at her.
"You're rotten to the core and so am I. But you're heathenishly
The woman went over to the piano--stood there--striking one note--her brows
drawn together. Then she shrugged her shoulders and smiled.
"I'll make a confession. Every word you have said is true. I can't help
it. I can't help seeking admiration any more than a cat can help going to
people to be stroked. It's my nature. I'm born out of my time. And yet,
you know, I'm not a COMMON woman. I like men to adore me--to flatter me--
even to make love to me--but I would never give myself to any man. I would
never let a man kiss me... even."
"It's immeasurably worse--you've no legitimate excuse. Why, even a
prostitute has a greater sense of generosity!"
"I know," she said, "I know perfectly well--but I can't help the way I'm
built...Are you going?"
He put on his gloves.
"Well," he said, "what's going to happen to us now?"
Again she shrugged her shoulders.
"I haven't the slightest idea. I never have--just let things occur."
"All alone?" cried Victor. "Has Max been here?"
"He only stayed a moment, and wouldn't even have tea. I sent him home to
change his clothes...He was frightfully boring."
"You poor darling, your hair's coming down. I'll fix it, stand still a
moment...so you were bored?"
"Um--m--frightfully...Oh, you've run a hairpin right into your wife's head
--you naughty boy!"
She flung her arms round his neck and looked up at him, half laughing, like
a beautiful, loving child.
"God! What a woman you are," said the man. "You make me so infernally
proud--dearest, that I...I tell you!"