Part 9 out of 12
He was like the fanatical admirer of Michael Angelo who used to reproduce
in his copies even the cracks in the wall of the moldy patches which had
themselves been hallowed by their appearance in the hallowed pictures.
Christophe was not likely to approve greatly of the two men. But they were
men of the world, pleasant, and both well-read: and Lauber's conversation
was always interesting on any other subject than music. He was a bit of a
crank: and Christophe did not dislike cranks: they were a change from the
horrible banality of reasonable people. He did not yet know that there is
nothing more devastating than an irrational man, and that originality is
even more rare among those who are called "originals" than among the rest.
For these "originals" are simply maniacs whose thoughts are reduced to
Josias Kling and Lauber, being desirous of winning Christophe's support,
were at first very keenly interested in him. Kling wrote a eulogistic
article about him and Lauber followed all his directions when he conducted
his compositions at one of the concerts of the Society. Christophe was
touched by it all. Unfortunately all their attentions were spoiled by the
stupidity of those who paid them. He had not the facility of pretending
about people because they admired him. He was exacting. He demanded that no
one should admire him for the opposite of what he was: and he was always
prone to regard as enemies those who were his friends, by mistake. And
so he was not at all pleased with Kling for seeing in him a disciple of
Wagner, and trying to see connections between passages of his _Lieder_
and passages of the _Tetralogy_, which had nothing in common but certain
notes of the scale. And he had no pleasure in hearing one of his
works sandwiched--together with a worthless imitation by a Wagnerian
student--between two enormous blocks of Wagnerian drama.
It was not long before he was stifled in the little chapel. It was just
another Conservatoire, as narrow as the old Conservatoires, and more
intolerant because it was the latest comer in art. Christophe began to lose
his illusions about the absolute value of a form of art or of thought.
Hitherto he had always believed that great ideas bear their own light
within themselves. Now he saw that ideas may change, but that men remain
the same: and, in fine, nothing counted but men: ideas were what they were.
If they were born mediocre and servile, even genius became mediocre in its
passage through their souls, and the shout of freedom of the hero breaking
his bonds became the act of slavery of succeeding generations.--Christophe
could mot refrain from expressing his feelings. He let no opportunity
slip of jeering at fetishism in art. He declared that there was no need
of idols, or classics of any sort, and that he only had the right to call
himself the heir of the spirit of Wagner who was capable of trampling
Wagner underfoot and so walking on and keeping himself in close communion
with life. Kling's stupidity made Christophe aggressive. He set out all
the faults and absurdities he could see in Wagner. The Wagnerians at once
credited him with a grotesque jealousy of their God. Christophe for his
part had no doubt that these same people who exalted Wagner since he was
dead would have been the first to strangle him in his life: and he did
them an injustice. The Klings and the Laubers also had had their hour of
illumination: they had been advanced twenty years ago: and then like most
people they had stopped short at that. Man has so little force that he is
out of breath after the first ascent: very few are long-winded enough to go
Christophe's attitude quickly alienated him from his new friends. Their
sympathy was a bargain: he had to side with them if they were to side with
him: and it was quite evident that Christophe would not yield an inch: he
would not join them. They lost their enthusiasm for him. The eulogies which
he refused to accord to the gods and demi-gods who were approved by the
cult, were withheld from him. They showed less eagerness to welcome his
compositions: and some of the members began to protest against his name
being too often on the programmes. They laughed at him behind his back, and
criticism went on: Kling and Lauber by not protesting seemed to take part
in it. They would have avoided a breach with Christophe if possible: first
because the minds of the Germans of the Rhine like mixed solutions,
solutions which are not solutions, and have the privilege of prolonging
indefinitely an ambiguous situation: and secondly, because they hoped in
spite of everything to be able to make use of him, by wearing him down, if
not by persuasion.
Christophe gave them no time for it. Whenever he thought he felt that at
heart any man disliked him, but would not admit it and tried to cover it up
so as to remain on good terms with him, he would never rest until he had
succeeded in proving to him that he was his enemy. One evening at the
_Wagner-Verein_ when he had come up against a wall of hypocritical
hostility, he could bear it no longer and sent in his resignation to Lauber
without wasting words. Lauber could not understand it: and Mannheim
hastened to Christophe to try and pacify him. At his first words Christophe
"No, no, no,--no! Don't talk to me about these people. I will not see them
again.... I cannot. I cannot.... I am disgusted, horribly, with men: I can
hardly bear to look at one."
Mannheim laughed heartily. He was thinking much less of smoothing
Christophe down than of having the fun of it.
"I know that they are not beautiful," he said; "but that is nothing new:
what new thing has happened?"
"Nothing. I have had enough, that is all.... Yes, laugh, laugh at me:
everybody knows I am mad. Prudent people act in accordance with the laws of
logic and reason and sanity. I am not like that: I am a man who acts only
on his own impulse. When a certain quantity of electricity is accumulated
in me it has to expend itself, at all costs: and so much the worse for the
others if it touches them! And so much the worse for them! I am not made
for living in society. Henceforth I shall belong only to myself."
"You think you can do without everybody else?" said Mannheim. "You cannot
play your music all by yourself. You need singers, an orchestra, a
conductor, an audience, a claque...."
"No! no! no!"
But the last word made him jump.
"A claque! Are you not ashamed?"
"I am not talking of a paid claque--(although, indeed, it is the only
means yet discovered of revealing the merit of a composition to the
audience).--But you must have a claque: the author's coterie is a claque,
properly drilled by him: every author has his claque: that is what friends
"I don't want any friends!"
"Then you will be hissed."
"I want to be hissed!"
Mannheim was in the seventh heaven.
"You won't have even that pleasure for long. They won't play you."
"So be it, then! Do you think I care about being a famous man?... Yes. I
was making for that with all my might.... Nonsense! Folly! Idiocy!... As if
the satisfaction of the vulgarest sort of pride could compensate for all
the sacrifices--weariness, suffering, infamy, insults, degradation, ignoble
concessions--which are the price of fame! Devil take me if I ever bother my
head about such things again! Never again! Publicity is a vulgar infamy. I
will be a private citizen and live for myself and those whom I love...."
"Good," said Mannheim ironically. "You must choose a profession. Why
shouldn't you make shoes?"
"Ah! if I were a cobbler like the incomparable Sachs!" cried Christophe.
"How happy my life would be! A cobbler all through the week,--and a
musician on Sunday, privately, intimately, for my own pleasure and that of
my friends! What a life that would be!... Am I mad, to waste my time and
trouble for the magnificent pleasure of being a prey to the judgment of
idiots? Is it not much better and finer to be loved and understood by a
few honest men than to be heard, criticised, and toadied by thousands of
fools?... The devil of pride and thirst for fame shall never again take me:
trust me for that!"
"Certainly," said Mannheim. He thought:
"In an hour he will say just the opposite." He remarked quietly:
"Then I am to go and smooth things down with the _Wagner-Verein_?"
Christophe waved his arms.
"What is the good of my shouting myself hoarse with telling you 'No', for
the last hour?... I tell you that I will never set foot inside it again! I
loathe all these _Wagner-Vereine_, all these _Vereine_, all these flocks of
sheep who have to huddle together to be able to baa in unison. Go and tell
those sheep from me that I am a wolf, that I have teeth, and am not made
far the pasture!"
"Good, good, I will tell them," said Mannheim, as he went. He was delighted
with his morning's entertainment. He thought:
"He is mad, mad, mad as a hatter...."
His sister, to whom he reported the interview, at once shrugged her
shoulders and said:
"Mad? He would like us to think so!... He is stupid, and absurdly vain...."
* * * * *
Christophe went on with his fierce campaign in Waldhaus's Review. It was
not that it gave him pleasure: criticism disgusted him, and he was always
wishing it at the bottom of the sea. But he stuck to it because people were
trying to stop him: he did not wish to appear to have given in.
Waldhaus was beginning to be uneasy. As long as he was out of reach he had
looked on at the affray with the calmness of an Olympian god. But for some
weeks past the other papers had seemed to be beginning to disregard his
inviolability: they had begun to attack his vanity as a writer with a
rare malevolence in which, had Waldhaus been more subtle, he might have
recognized the hand of a friend. As a matter of fact, the attacks were
cunningly instigated by Ehrenfeld and Goldenring: they could see no other
way of inducing him to stop Christophe's polemics. Their perception was
justified. Waldhaus at once declared that Christophe was beginning to weary
him: and he withdrew his support. All the staff of the Review then tried
hard to silence Christophe! But it were as easy to muzzle a dog who
is about to devour his prey! Everything they said to him only excited
him more. He called them poltroons and declared that he would say
everything--everything that he ought to say. If they wished to get rid of
him, they were free to do so! The whole town would know that they were as
cowardly as the rest: but he would not go of his own accord.
They looked at each other in consternation, bitterly blaming Mannheim for
the trick he had played them in bringing such a madman among them. Mannheim
laughed and tried hard to curb Christophe himself: and he vowed that with
the next article Christophe would water his wine. They were incredulous:
but the event proved that Mannheim had not boasted vainly. Christophe's
next article, though not a model of courtesy, did not contain a single
offensive remark about anybody. Mannheim's method was very simple: they
were all amazed at not having thought of it before: Christophe never read
what he wrote in the Review, and he hardly read the proofs of his articles,
only very quickly and carelessly. Adolf Mai had more than once passed
caustic remarks on the subject: he said that a printer's error was a
disgrace to a Review: and Christophe, who did not regard criticism
altogether as an art, replied that those who were upbraided in it would
understand well enough. Mannheim turned this to account: he said that
Christophe was right and that correcting proofs was printers' work: and he
offered to take it over. Christophe was overwhelmed with gratitude: but
they told him that such an arrangement would be of service to them and a
saving of time for the Review. So Christophe left his proofs to Mannheim
and asked him to correct them carefully. Mannheim did: it was sport for
him. At first he only ventured to tone down certain phrases and to delete
here and there certain ungracious epithets. Emboldened by success, he
went further with his experiments: he began to alter sentences and their
meaning: and he was really skilful in it. The whole art of it consisted in
preserving the general appearance of the sentence and its characteristic
form while making it say exactly the opposite of what Christophe had meant.
Mannheim took far more trouble to disfigure Christophe's articles than he
would have done to write them himself: never had he worked so hard. But he
enjoyed the result: certain musicians whom Christophe had hitherto pursued
with his sarcasms were astounded to see him grow gradually gentle and at
last sing their praises. The staff of the Review were delighted. Mannheim
used to read aloud his lucubrations to them. They roared with laughter.
Ehrenfeld and Goldenring would say to Mannheim occasionally:
"Be careful! You are going too far."
"There's no danger," Mannheim would say. And he would go on with it.
Christophe never noticed anything. He used to go to the office of the
Review, leave his copy, and not bother about it any more. Sometimes he
would take Mannheim aside and say:
"This time I really have done for the swine. Just read...."
Mannheim would read.
"Well, what do you think of it?"
"Terrible, my dear fellow, there's nothing left of them!"
"What do you think they will say?"
"Oh! there will be a fine row."
But there never was a row. On the contrary, everybody beamed at Christophe:
people whom he detested would bow to him in the street. One day he came to
the office uneasy and scowling: and, throwing a visiting card on the table,
"What does this mean?"
It was the card of a musician whom he slaughtered.
"_A thousand thanks_."
Mannheim replied with a laugh:
"It is ironical."
Christophe was set at rest.
"Oh!" he said. "I was afraid my article had pleased him."
"He is furious," said Ehrenfeld: "but he does not wish to seem so: he is
posing as the strong man, and is just laughing."
"Laughing?... Swine!" said Christophe, furious once more. "I shall write
another article about him. He laughs best who laughs last."
"No, no," said Waldhaus anxiously. "I don't think he is laughing at you. It
is humility: he is a good Christian. He is holding out the other cheek to
"So much the better!" said Christophe. "Ah! Coward! He has asked for it: he
shall have his flogging."
Waldhaus tried to intervene. But the others laughed.
"Let him be...." said Mannheim.
"After all ..." replied Waldhaus, suddenly reassured, "a little more or
less makes no matter!..."
Christophe went away. His colleagues rocked and roared with laughter. When
they had had their fill of it Waldhaus said to Mannheim:
"All the same, it was a narrow squeak.... Please be careful. We shall be
"Bah!" said Mannheim. "We have plenty of time.... And besides, I am making
friends for him."
Christophe had got so far with his clumsy efforts towards the reform of
German art when there happened to pass through the town a troupe of French
actors. It would be more exact to say, a band; for, as usual, they were
a collection of poor devils, picked up goodness knows where, and young
unknown players too happy to learn their art, provided they were allowed to
act. They were all harnessed to the chariot of a famous and elderly actress
who was making tour of Germany, and passing through the little princely
town, gave their performances there.
Waldhaus' review made a great fuss over them. Mannheim and his friends knew
or pretended to know about the literary and social life of Paris: they used
to repeat gossip picked up in the boulevard newspapers and more or less
understood; they represented the French spirit in Germany. That robbed
Christophe of any desire to know more about it. Mannheim used to overwhelm
him with praises of Paris. He had been there several times; certain members
of his family were there. He had relations in every country in Europe, and
they had everywhere assumed the nationality and aspect of the country:
this tribe of the seed of Abraham included an English baronet, a Belgian
senator, a French minister, a deputy in the _Reichstag_, and a Papal Count;
and all of them, although they were united and filled with respect for the
stock from which they sprang, were sincerely English, Belgian, French,
German, or Papal, for their pride never allowed of doubt that the country
of their adoption was the greatest of all. Mannheim was paradoxically the
only one of them who was pleased to prefer all the countries to which he
did not belong. He used often to talk of Paris enthusiastically, but as he
was always extravagant in his talk, and, by way of praising the Parisians,
used to represent them as a species of scatterbrains, lewd and rowdy,
who spent their time in love-making and revolutions without ever taking
themselves seriously, Christophe was not greatly attracted by the
"Byzantine and decadent republic beyond the Vosges." He used rather to
imagine Paris as it was presented in a naive engraving which he had seen
as a frontispiece to a book that had recently appeared in a German art
publication; the Devil of Notre Dame appeared huddled up above the roofs
of the town with the legend:
"_Eternal luxury like an insatiable Vampire devours its prey above the
Like a good German he despised the debauched Volcae and their literature,
of which he only knew lively buffooneries like _L'Aiglon, Madame Sans
Gene_, and a few cafe songs. The snobbishness of the little town, where
those people who were most notoriously incapable of being interested in
art flocked noisily to take places at the box office, brought him to an
affectation of scornful indifference towards the great actress. He vowed
that he would not go one yard to hear her. It was the easier for him to
keep his promise as seats had reached an exorbitant price which he could
The repertory which the French actors had brought included a few classical
pieces; but for the most part it was composed of those idiotic pieces which
are expressly manufactured in Paris for exportation, for nothing is more
international than mediocrity. Christophe knew _La Tosca_, which was to be
the first production of the touring actors; he had seen it in translation
adorned with all those easy graces which the company of a little Rhenish
theater can give to a French play: and he laughed scornfully and declared
that he was very glad, when he saw his friends go off to the theater, not
to have to see it again. But next day he listened none the less eagerly,
without seeming to listen, to the enthusiastic tales of the delightful
evening they had had: he was angry at having lost the right to contradict
them by having refused to see what everybody was talking about.
The second production announced was a French translation of _Hamlet_.
Christophe had never missed an opportunity of seeing a play of
Shakespeare's. Shakespeare was to him of the same order as Beethoven, an
inexhaustible spring of life. _Hamlet_ had been specially dear to him
during the period of stress and tumultuous doubts through which he had just
passed. In spite of his fear of seeing himself reflected in that magic
mirror he was fascinated by it: and he prowled about the theater notices,
though he did not admit that he was longing to book a seat. But he was so
obstinate that after what he had said to his friends he would not eat his
words: and he would have stayed at home that evening if chance had not
brought him in contact with Mannheim just as he was sadly going home.
Mannheim took his arm and told him angrily, though he never ceased his
banter, that an old beast of a relation, his father's sister, had just come
down upon them with all her retinue and that they had all to stay at home
to welcome her. He had time to get out of it: but his father would brook no
trifling with questions of family etiquette and the respect due to elderly
relatives: and as he had to handle his father carefully because he wanted
presently to get money out of him, he had had to give in and not go to the
"You had tickets?" asked Christophe.
"An excellent box: and I have to go and give it--(I am just going now)--to
that old pig, Gruenebaum, papa's partner, so that he can swagger there with
the she Gruenebaum and their turkey hen of a daughter. Jolly!... I want to
find something very disagreeable to say to them. They won't mind so long as
I give them the tickets--although they would much rather they were
He stopped short with his month open and looked at Christophe:
"Oh! but--but just the man I want!" He chuckled:
"Christophe, are you going to the theater?"
"Good. You shall go. I ask it as a favor. Yon cannot refuse."
Christophe did not understand.
"But I have no seat."
"Here you are!" said Mannheim triumphantly, thrusting the ticket into his
"You are mad," said Christophe. "What about your father's orders?"
"He will be furious!" he said.
He dried his eyes and went on:
"I shall tap him to-morrow morning as soon as he is up before he knows
"I cannot accept," said Christophe, "knowing that he would not like it."
"It does not concern you: you know nothing about it."
Christophe had unfolded the ticket:
"And what would I do with a box for four?"
"Whatever you like. You can sleep in it, dance if you like. Take some
women. You must know some? If need be we can lend you some."
Christophe held out the ticket to Mannheim:
"Certainly not. Take it back."
"Not I," said Mannheim, stepping back a pace. "I can't force you to go if
it bores you, but I shan't take it back. You can throw it in the fire or
even take it virtuously to the Gruenebaums. I don't care. Good-night!"
He left Christophe in the middle of the street, ticket in hand, and went
Christophe was unhappy about it. He said to himself that he ought to take
it to the Gruenebaums: but he was not keen about the idea. He went home
still pondering, and when later he looked at the clock he saw that he had
only just time enough to dress for the theater. It would be too silly to
waste the ticket. He asked his mother to go with him. But Louisa declared
that she would rather go to bed. He went. At heart he was filled with
childish glee at the thought of his evening. Only one thing worried him:
the thought of having to be alone in such a pleasure. He had no remorse
about Mannheim's father or the Gruenebaums, whose box he was taking: but he
was remorseful about those whom he might have taken with him. He thought of
the joy it could give to other young people like himself: and it hurt him
not to be able to give it them. He cast about but could find nobody to whom
he could offer his ticket. Besides, it was late and he must hurry.
As he entered the theater he passed by the closed window on which a poster
announced that there was not a single seat left in the office. Among the
people who were turning away from it disappointedly he noticed a girl who
could not make up her mind to leave and was enviously watching the people
going in. She was dressed very simply in black; she was not very tall; her
face was thin and she looked delicate; and at the moment he did not notice
whether she were pretty or plain. He passed her: then he stopped, turned,
and without stopping to think:
"You can't get a seat, Fraeulein?" he asked point-blank.
She blushed and said with a foreign accent:
"I have a box which I don't know what to do with. Will you make use of it
She blushed again and thanked him and said she could not accept. Christophe
was embarrassed by her refusal, begged her pardon and tried to insist, but
he could not persuade her, although it was obvious that she was dying to
accept. He was very perplexed. He made up his mind suddenly.
"There is a way out of the difficulty," he said. "You take the ticket. I
don't want it. I have seen the play." (He was boasting). "It will give you
more pleasure than me. Take it, please."
The girl was so touched by his proposal and the cordial manner in which it
was made that tears all but came to her eyes. She murmured gratefully that
she could not think of depriving him of it.
"Then, come," he said, smiling.
He looked so kind and honest that she was ashamed of having refused, and
she said in some confusion:
"Thank you. I will come."
* * * * *
They went in. The Mannheims' box was wide, big, and faced the stage: it was
impossible not to be seen in it if they had wished. It is useless to say
that their entry passed unnoticed. Christophe made the girl sit at the
front, while he stayed a little behind so as not to embarrass her. She sat
stiffly upright, not daring to turn her head: she was horribly shy: she
would have given much not to have accepted. To give her time to recover her
composure and not knowing what to talk to her about, Christophe pretended
to look the other way. Whichever way he looked it was easily seen that his
presence with an unknown companion among the brilliant people of the boxes
was exciting much curiosity and comment. He darted furious glances at
those who were looking at him: he was angry that people should go on being
interested in him when he took no interest in them. It did not occur to him
that their indiscreet curiosity was more busied with his companion than
with himself and that there was more offense in it. By way of showing his
utter indifference to anything they might say or think he leaned towards
the girl and began to talk to her. She looked so scared by his talking and
so unhappy at having to reply, and it seemed to be so difficult for her to
wrench out a "Yes" or a "No" without ever daring to look at him, that he
took pity on her shyness, and drew back to a corner. Fortunately the play
Christophe had not seen the play bill and he hardly cared to know what part
the great actress was playing: he was one of those simple people who go
to the theater to see the play and not the actors. He had never wondered
whether the famous player would be Ophelia or the Queen; if he had wondered
about it he would have inclined towards the Queen, bearing in naiad the
ages of the two ladies. But it could never have occurred to him that she
would play Hamlet. When he saw Hamlet, and heard his mechanical dolly
squeak, it was some time before he could believe it; he wondered if he were
"But who? Who is it?" he asked half aloud. "It can't be...."
And when he had to accept that it _was_ Hamlet, he rapped out an oath,
which fortunately his companion did not hear, because she was a foreigner,
though it was heard perfectly in the next box: for he was at once
indignantly bidden to be silent. He withdrew to the back of the box to
swear his fill. He could not recover his temper. If he had been just he
would have given homage to the elegance of the travesty and the _tour de
force_ of nature and art, which made it possible for a woman of sixty to
appear in a youth's costume and even to seem beautiful in it--at least to
kindly eyes. But he hated all _tours de force_, everything which violates
and falsifies Nature, He liked a woman to be a woman, and a man a man. (It
does not often happen nowadays.) The childish and absurd travesty of the
Leonora of Beethoven did not please him much. But this travesty of Hamlet
was beyond all dreams of the preposterous. To make of the robust Dane,
fat and pale, choleric, cunning, intellectual, subject to hallucinations,
a woman,--not even a woman: for a woman playing the man can only be
a monster,--to make of Hamlet a eunuch or an androgynous betwixt and
between,--the times must be flabby indeed, criticism must be idiotic, to
let such disgusting folly be tolerated for a single day and not hissed
off the boards! The actress's voice infuriated Christophe. She had that
singing, labored diction, that monotonous melopoeia which seems to have
been dear to the least poetic people in the world since the days of the
_Champmesle_ and the _Hotel de Bourgogne_. Christophe was so exasperated by
it that he wanted to go away. He turned his back on the scene, and he made
hideous faces against the wall of the box like a child put in the corner.
Fortunately his companion dared not look at him: for if she had seen him
she would have thought him mad.
Suddenly Christophe stopped making faces. He stopped still and made no
sound. A lovely musical voice, a young woman's voice, grave and sweet, was
heard. Christophe pricked his ears. As she went on with her words he turned
again, keenly interested to see what bird could warble so. He saw Ophelia.
In truth she was nothing like the Ophelia of Shakespeare. She was a
beautiful girl, tall, big and fine like a young fresh statue--Electra or
Cassandra. She was brimming with life. In spite of her efforts to keep
within her part, the force of youth and joy that was in her shone forth
from her body, her movements, her gestures, her brown eyes that laughed in
spite of herself. Such is the power of physical beauty that Christophe who
a moment before had been merciless in judging the interpretation of Hamlet
never for a moment thought of regretting that Ophelia was hardly at all
like his image of her: and he sacrificed his image to the present vision of
her remorselessly. With the unconscious faithlessness of people of passion
he even found a profound truth in the youthful ardor brimming in the depths
of the chaste and unhappy virgin heart. But the magic of the voice, pure,
warm, and velvety, worked the spell: every word sounded like a lovely
chord: about every syllable there hovered like the scent of thyme or wild
mint the laughing accent of the Midi with its full rhythm. Strange was this
vision of an Ophelia from Arles! In it was something of that golden sun and
its wild northwest wind, its _mistral_.
Christophe forgot his companion and came and sat by her side at the front
of the box: he never took his eyes off the beautiful actress whose name he
did not know. But the audience who had not come to see an unknown player
paid no attention to her, and only applauded when the female Hamlet spoke.
That made Christophe growl and call them: "Idiots!" in a low voice which
could be heard ten yards away.
It was not until the curtain was lowered upon the first act that he
remembered the existence of his companion, and seeing that she was still
shy he thought with a smile of how he must have scared her with his
extravagances. He was not far wrong: the girl whom chance had thrown in his
company for a few hours was almost morbidly shy; she must have been in an
abnormal state of excitement to have accepted Christophe's invitation. She
had hardly accepted it than she had wished at any cost to get out of it, to
make some excuse and to escape. It had been much worse for her when she had
seen that she was an object of general curiosity, and her unhappiness had
been increased almost past endurance when she heard behind her back--(she
dared not turn round)--her companion's low growls and imprecations. She
expected anything now, and when he came and sat by her she was frozen with
terror: what eccentricity would he commit next? She would gladly have sunk
into the ground fathoms down. She drew back instinctively: she was afraid
of touching him.
But all her fears vanished when the interval came and she heard him say
"I am an unpleasant companion, eh? I beg your pardon."
Then she looked at him and saw his kind smile which had induced her to come
He went on:
"I cannot hide what I think.... But you know it is too much!... That woman,
that old woman!..."
He made a face of disgust.
She smiled and said in a low voice:
"It is fine in spite of everything."
He noticed her accent and asked:
"You are a foreigner?"
"Yes," said she.
He looked at her modest gown.
"A governess?" he said.
"I am French."
He made a gesture of surprise:
"French? I should not have thought it."
"Why?" she asked timidly.
"You are so ... serious!" said he.
(She thought it was not altogether a compliment from him.)
"There are serious people also in France," said she confusedly. He looked
at her honest little face, with its broad forehead, little straight nose,
delicate chin, and thin cheeks framed in her chestnut hair. It was not she
that he saw: he was thinking of the beautiful actress. He repeated:
"It is strange that you should be French!... Are you really of the same
nationality as Ophelia? One would never think it"
After a moment's silence he went on:
"How beautiful she is!" without noticing that he seemed to be making a
comparison between the actress and his companion that was not at all
flattering to her. But she felt it: but she did not mind: for she was of
the same opinion. He tried to find out about the actress from her: but she
knew nothing: it was plain that she did not know much about the theater.
"You must be glad to hear French?" he asked. He meant it in jest, but he
"Ah!" she said with an accent of sincerity which struck him, "it does me so
much good! I am stifled here."
He looked at her more closely: she clasped her hands, and seemed to be
oppressed. But at once she thought of how her words might hurt him:
"Forgive me," she said. "I don't know what I am saying."
"Don't beg pardon! You are quite right. You don't need to be French to be
stifled here. Ouf!"
He threw back his shoulders and took a long breath.
But she was ashamed of having been so free and relapsed into silence.
Besides she had just seen that the people in the boxes next to them were
listening to what they were saying: he noticed it too and was wrathful.
They broke off: and until the end of the interval he went out into the
corridor. The girl's words were ringing in his ears, but he was lost in
dreams: the image of Ophelia filled his thoughts. During the succeeding
acts she took hold of him completely, and when the beautiful actress came
to the mad scene and the melancholy songs of love and death, her voice gave
forth notes so moving that he was bowled over: he felt that he was going
to burst into tears. Angry with himself for what he took to be a sign
of weakness--(for he would not admit that a true artist can weep)--and
not wishing to make an object of himself, he left the box abruptly. The
corridors and the foyer were empty. In his agitation he went down the
stairs of the theater and went out without knowing it. He had to breathe
the cold night air, and to go striding through the dark, half-empty
streets. He came to himself by the edge of a canal, and leaned on the
parapet of the bank and watched the silent water whereon the reflections
of the street lamps danced in the darkness. His soul was like that: it was
dark and heaving: he could see nothing in it but great joy dancing on the
surface. The clocks rang the hour. It was impossible for him to go back to
the theater and hear the end of the play. To see the triumph of Fortinbras?
No, that did not tempt him. A fine triumph that! Who thinks of envying the
conqueror? Who would be he after being gorged with all the wild and absurd
savagery of life? The whole play is a formidable indictment of life. But
there is such a power of life in it that sadness becomes joy, and
Christophe went home without a thought for the unknown girl, whose name
even he had not ascertained.
* * * * *
Next morning he went to see the actress at the little third-rate hotel in
which the impresario had quartered her with her comrades while the great
actress had put up at the best hotel in the town. He was conducted to a
very untidy room where the remains of breakfast were left on an open piano,
together with hairpins and torn and dirty sheets of music. In the next room
Ophelia was singing at the top of her voice, like a child, for the pleasure
of making a noise. She stopped for a moment when her visitor was announced
to ask merrily in a loud voice without ever caring whether she were heard
through the wall:
"What does he want? What is his name? Christophe? Christophe what?
Christophe Krafft? What a name!"
(She repeated it two or three times, rolling her _r_'s terribly.)
"It is like a swear--"
"Is he young or old? Pleasant? Very well. I'll come."
She began to sing again:
"_Nothing is sweeter than my love_...." while she rushed about her room
cursing a tortoise-shell pin which had got lost in all the rubbish. She
lost patience, began to grumble, and roared. Although he could not see her
Christophe followed all her movements on the other side of the wall in
imagination and laughed to himself. At last he heard steps approaching, the
door was flung open, and Ophelia appeared.
She was half dressed, in a loose gown which she was holding about her
waist: her bare arms showed in her wide sleeves: her hair was carelessly
done, and locks of it fell down into her eyes and over her cheeks. Her
fine brown eyes smiled, her lips smiled, her cheeks smiled, and a charming
dimple in her chin smiled. In her beautiful grave melodious voice she asked
him to excuse her appearance. She knew that there was nothing to excuse and
that he could only be very grateful to her for it. She thought he was a
journalist come to interview her. Instead of being annoyed when he told her
that he had come to her entirely of his own accord and because he admired
her, she was delighted. She was a good girl, affectionate, delighted to
please, and making no effort to conceal her delight. Christophe's visit and
his enthusiasm made her very happy--(she was not yet spoiled by flattery).
She was so natural in all her movements and ways, even in her little
vanities and her naive delight in giving pleasure, that he was not
embarrassed for a single moment. They became old friends at once. He could
jabber a few words of French: and she could jabber a few words of German:
after an hour they told each other all their secrets. She never thought
of sending him away. The splendid gay southern creature, intelligent and
warm-hearted, who would have been bored to tears with her stupid companions
and in a country whose language she did not know, a country without the
natural joy that was in herself, was glad to find some one to talk to. As
for Christophe it was an untold blessing for him to meet the free-hearted
girl of the Midi filled with the life of the people, in the midst of his
narrow and insincere fellow citizens. He did not yet know the workings of
such natures which, unlike the Germans, have no more in their minds and
hearts than they show, and often not even as much. But at the least she was
young, she was alive, she said frankly, rawly, what she thought: she judged
everything freely from a new and a fresh point of view: in her it was
possible to breathe a little of the northwest wind that sweeps away mists.
She was gifted. Uneducated and unthinking, she could at once feel with her
whole heart and be sincerely moved by things which were beautiful and good;
and then, a moment later, she would burst out laughing. She was a coquette
and made eyes; she did not mind showing her bare arms and neck under
her half open gown; she would have liked to turn Christophe's head, but
it was all purely instinctive. There was no thought of gaining her own
ends in her, and she much preferred to laugh, and talk blithely, to be
a good fellow, a good chum, without ceremony or awkwardness. She told
him about the underworld of the theater, her little sorrows, the silly
susceptibilities of her comrades, the bickerings of Jezebel--(so she called
the great actress)--who took good care not to let her shine. He confided
his sufferings at the hands of the Germans: she clapped her hands and
played chords to him. She was kind and would not speak ill of anybody; but
that did not keep her from doing so, and while she blamed herself for her
malice, when she laughed at anybody, she had a fund of mocking humor and
that realistic and witty gift of observation which belongs to the people of
the South; she could not resist it and drew cuttingly satirical portraits.
With her pale lips she laughed merrily to show her teeth, like those of a
puppy, and dark eyes shone in her pale face, which was a little discolored
by grease paint.
They noticed suddenly that they had been talking for more than an hour.
Christophe proposed to come for Corinne--(that was her stage name)--in the
afternoon and show her over the town. She was delighted with the idea, and
they arranged to meet immediately after dinner.
At the appointed hour, he turned up. Corinne was sitting in the little
drawing-room of the hotel, with a book in her hand, which she was reading
aloud. She greeted him with smiling eyes but did not stop reading until she
had finished her sentence. Then she signed to him to sit down on the sofa
by her side:
"Sit there," she said, "and don't talk. I am going over my part. I shall
have finished in a quarter of an hour."
She followed the script with her finger nail and read quickly and
carelessly like a little girl in a hurry. He offered to hear her her words.
She passed him the book and got up to repeat what she had learned. She
floundered and would repeat the end of one sentence four times before going
on to the next. She shook her head as she recited her part; her hair-pins
fell down and all over the room. When she could not recollect sometimes
some word she was as impatient as a naughty child; sometimes she
swore comically or she would use big words;--one word with which she
apostrophized herself was very big and very short. Christophe was
astonished by the mixture of talent and childishness in her. She would
produce moving tones of voice quite aptly, but in the middle of a speech
into which she seemed to be throwing her whole heart she would say a whole
string of words that had absolutely no meaning. She recited her lesson
like a parrot, without troubling about its meaning, and then she produced
burlesque nonsense. She did not worry about it. When she saw it she would
shout with laughter. At last she said: "Zut!", snatched the book from him,
flung it into a corner of the room, and said:
"Holidays! The hour has struck!... Now let us go out."
He was a little anxious about her part and asked:
"You think you will know it?"
She replied confidently:
"Certainly. What is the prompter for?" She went into her room to put on her
hat. Christophe sat at the piano while he was waiting for her and struck a
few chords. From the next room she called:
"Oh! What is that? Play some more! How pretty it is!"
She ran in, pinning on her hat. He went on. When he had finished she
wanted him to play more. She went into ecstasies with all the little arch
exclamations habitual to Frenchwomen which they make about _Tristan_ and a
cup of chocolate equally. It made Christophe laugh; it was a change from
the tremendous affected, clumsy exclamations of the Germans; they were
both exaggerated in different directions; one made a mountain out of a
mole-hill, the other made a mole-hill out of a mountain; the French was not
less ridiculous than the German, but for the moment it seemed more pleasant
because he loved the lips from which it came. Corinne wanted to know what
he was playing, and when she learned that he had composed it she gave a
shout. He had told her during their conversation in the morning that he was
a composer, but she had hardly listened to him. She sat by him and insisted
on his playing everything that he had composed. Their walk was forgotten.
It was not mere politeness on her part; she adored music and had an
admirable instinct for it which supplied the deficiencies of her education.
At first he did not take her seriously and played his easiest melodies. But
when he had played a passage by which he set more store and saw that she
preferred it too, although he had not said anything about it, he was
joyfully surprised. With the naive astonishment of the Germans when they
meet a Frenchman who is a good musician he said:
"Odd. How good your taste is! I should never have thought it...."
Corinne laughed in his face.
He amused himself then by selecting compositions more and more difficult
to understand, to see how far she would go with him. But she did not seem
to be put out by his boldness, and after a particularly new melody which
Christophe himself had almost come to doubt because he had never succeeded
in having it accepted in Germany, he was greatly astonished when Corinne
begged him to play it again, and she got up and began to sing the notes
from memory almost without a mistake! He turned towards her and took her
"But you are a musician!" he cried.
She began to laugh and explained that she had made her debut as a singer in
provincial opera houses, but that an impresario of touring companies had
recognized her disposition towards the poetic theater and had enrolled her
in its services. He exclaimed:
"What a pity!"
"Why?" said she. "Poetry also is a sort of music."
She made him explain to her the meaning of his _Lieder_; he told her the
German words, and she repeated them with easy mimicry, copying even the
movements of his lips and eyes as he pronounced the words. When she had
these to sing from memory, then she made grotesque mistakes, and when she
forgot, she invented words, guttural and barbarously sonorous, which made
them both laugh. She did not tire of making him play, nor he of playing
for her and hearing her pretty voice; she did not know the tricks of the
trade and sang a little from the throat like little girls, and there was a
curious fragile quality in her voice that was very touching. She told him
frankly what she thought. Although she could not explain why she liked
or disliked anything there was always some grain of sense hidden in her
judgment. The odd thing was that she found least pleasure in the most
classical passages which were most appreciated in Germany; she paid him a
few compliments out of politeness; but they obviously meant nothing. As she
had no musical culture she had not the pleasure which amateurs and even
artists find in what is _already heard_, a pleasure which often makes them
unconsciously reproduce, or, in a new composition, like forms or formulae
which they have already used in old compositions. Nor did she have the
German taste for melodious sentimentality (or, at least, her sentimentality
was different; Christophe did not yet know its failings)--she did not go
into ecstasies over the soft insipid music preferred in Germany; she did
not single out the most melodious of his _Lieder_,--a melody which he
would have liked to destroy because his friends, only too glad to be able
to compliment him on something, were always talking about it. Corinne's
dramatic instinct made her prefer the melodies which frankly reproduced
a certain passion; he also set most store by them. And yet she did not
hesitate to show her lack of sympathy with certain rude harmonies which
seemed quite natural to Christophe; they gave her a sort of shock when she
came upon them; she would stop then and ask "if it was really so." When he
said "Yes," then she would rush at the difficulty; but she would make a
little grimace which did not escape Christophe. Sometimes even she would
prefer to skip the bar. Then he would play it again on the piano.
"You don't like that?" he would ask.
She would screw up her nose.
"It is wrong," she would say.
"Not at all," he would reply with a laugh. "It is quite right. Think of its
meaning. It is rhythmic, isn't it?"
(He pointed to her heart.)
But she would shake her head:
"May be; but it is wrong here." (She pulled her ear.)
And she would be a little shocked by the sudden outbursts of German
"Why should he talk so loud?" she would ask. "He is all alone. Aren't you
afraid of his neighbors overhearing him? It is as though--(Forgive me! You
won't be angry?)--he were hailing a boat."
He was not angry; he laughed heartily, he recognized that there was some
truth in what she said. Her remarks amused him; nobody had ever said such
things before. They agreed that declamation in singing generally deforms
the natural word like a magnifying glass. Corinne asked Christophe to write
music for a piece in which she would speak to the accompaniment of the
orchestra, singing a few sentences every now and then. He was fired by the
idea in spite of the difficulties of the stage setting which, he thought,
Corinne's musical voice would easily overcome, and they made plans for the
future. It was not far short of five o'clock when they thought of going
out. Night fell early. They could not think of going for a walk. Corinne
had a rehearsal at the theater in the evening; nobody was allowed to be
present. She made him promise to come and fetch her during the next
afternoon to take the walk they had planned.
* * * * *
Next day they did almost the same again. He found Corinne in front of her
mirror, perched on a high stool, swinging her legs; she was trying on a
wig. Her dresser was there and a hair dresser of the town to whom she was
giving instructions about a curl which she wished to have higher up. As she
looked in the glass she saw Christophe smiling behind her back; she put out
her tongue at him. The hair dresser went away with the wig and she turned
gaily to Christophe:
"Good-day, my friend!" she said.
She held up her cheek to be kissed. He had not expected such intimacy, but
he took advantage of it all the same. She did not attach so much importance
to the favor; it was to her a greeting like any other.
"Oh! I am happy!" said she. "It will do very well to-night." (She was
talking of her wig.) "I was so wretched! If you had come this morning you
would have found me absolutely miserable."
He asked why.
It was because the Parisian hair dresser had made a mistake in packing and
had sent a wig which was not suitable to the part.
"Quite flat," she said, "and falling straight down. When I saw it I wept
like a Magdalen. Didn't I, Desiree?"
"When I came in," said Desiree, "I was afraid for Madame. Madame was quite
white. Madame looked like death."
Christophe laughed. Corinne saw him in her mirror:
"Heartless wretch; it makes you laugh," she said indignantly.
She began to laugh too.
He asked her how the rehearsal had gone. Everything had gone off well. She
would have liked the other parts to be cut more and her own less. They
talked so much that they wasted part of the afternoon. She dressed slowly;
she amused herself by asking Christophe's opinion about her dresses.
Christophe praised her elegance and told her naively in his Franco-German
jargon, that he had never seen anybody so "luxurious." She looked at him
for a moment and then burst out laughing.
"What have I said?" he asked. "Have I said anything wrong?"
"Yes, yes," she cried, rocking with laughter. "You have indeed."
At last they went out. Her striking costume and her exuberant chatter
attracted attention. She looked at everything with her mocking eyes and
made no effort to conceal her impressions. She chuckled at the dressmakers'
shops, and at the picture post-card shops in which sentimental scenes,
comic and obscene drawings, the town prostitutes, the imperial family, the
Emperor as a sea-dog holding the wheel of the _Germania_ and defying the
heavens, were all thrown together higgledy-piggledy. She giggled at a
dinner-service decoration with Wagner's cross-grained face, or at a hair
dresser's shop-window in which there was the wax head of a man. She made no
attempt to modify her hilarity over the patriotic monument representing the
old Emperor in a traveling coat and a peaked cap, together with Prussia,
the German States, and a nude Genius of War. She made remarks about
anything in the faces of the people or their way of speaking that struck
her as funny. Her victims were left in no doubt about it as she maliciously
picked out their absurdities. Her instinctive mimicry made her sometimes
imitate with her mouth and nose their broad grimaces and frowns, without
thinking; and she would blow out her cheeks as she repeated fragments
of sentences and words that struck her as grotesque in sound as she
caught them. He laughed heartily and was not at all embarrassed by her
impertinence, for he was no longer easily embarrassed. Fortunately he had
no great reputation to lose, or his walk would have ruined it for ever.
They visited the cathedral. Corinne wanted to go to the top of the spire,
in spite of her high heels, and long dress which swept the stairs or was
caught in a corner of the staircase; she did not worry about it, but pulled
the stuff which split, and went on climbing, holding it up. She wanted very
much to ring the bells. From the top of the tower she declaimed Victor Hugo
(he did not understand it), and sang a popular French song. After that she
played the muezzin. Dusk was falling. They went down into the cathedral
where the dark shadows were creeping along the gigantic walls in which
the magic eyes of the windows were shining. Kneeling in one of the side
chapels, Christophe saw the girl who had shared his box at _Hamlet_. She
was so absorbed in her prayers that she did not see him: he saw that she
was looking sad and strained. He would have liked to speak to her, just to
say, "How do you do?" but Corinne dragged him off like a whirlwind.
They parted soon afterwards. She had to get ready for the performance,
which began early, as usual in Germany. He had hardly reached home when
there was a ring at the door and a letter from Corinne was handed in:
"Luck! Jezebel ill! No performance! No school! Come! Let us dine together!
"P.S. Bring plenty of music!"
It was some time before he understood. When he did understand he was as
happy as Corinne, and went to the hotel at once. He was afraid of finding
the whole company assembled at dinner; but he saw nobody. Corinne herself
was not there. At last he heard her laughing voice at the back of the
house: he went to look for her and found her in the kitchen. She had taken
it into her head to cook a dish in her own way, one of those southern
dishes which fills the whole neighborhood with its aroma and would awaken a
stone. She was on excellent terms with the large proprietress of the hotel,
and they were jabbering in a horrible jargon that was a mixture of German,
French, and negro, though there is no word to describe it in any language.
They were laughing loudly and making each other taste their cooking.
Christophe's appearance made them noisier than ever. They tried to push him
out; but he struggled and succeeded in tasting the famous dish. He made a
face. She said he was a barbarous Teuton and that it was no use putting
herself out for him.
They went up to the little sitting-room when the table was laid; there were
only two places, for himself and Corinne. He could not help asking her
where her companions were. Corinne waved her hands carelessly:
"I don't know."
"Don't you sup together?"
"Never! We see enough of each other at the theater!... And it would be
awful if we had to meet at meals!..."
It was so different from German custom that he was surprised and charmed by
"I thought," he said, "you were a sociable people!"
"Well," said she, "am I not sociable?"
"Sociable means living in society. We have to see each other! Men, women,
children, we all belong to societies from birth to death. We are always
making societies: we eat, sing, think in societies. When the societies
sneeze, we sneeze too: we don't have a drink except with our societies."
"That must be amusing," said she. "Why not out of the same glass?"
"Brotherly, isn't it?"
"That for fraternity! I like being 'brotherly' with people I like: not with
the others ... Pooh! That's not society: that is an ant heap."
"Well, you can imagine how happy I am here, for I think as you do."
"Come to us, then!"
He asked nothing better. He questioned her about Paris and the French. She
told him much that was not perfectly accurate. Her southern propensity
for boasting was mixed with an instinctive desire to shine before him.
According to her, everybody in Paris was free: and as everybody in Paris
was intelligent, everybody made good use of their liberty, and no one
abused it. Everybody did what they liked: thought, believed, loved or did
not love, as they liked; nobody had anything to say about it. There nobody
meddled with other people's beliefs, or spied on their consciences or tried
to regulate their thoughts. There politicians never dabbled in literature
or the arts, and never gave orders, jobs, and money to their friends or
clients. There little cliques never disposed of reputation or success,
journalists were never bought; there men of letters never entered into
controversies with the church, that could lead to nothing. There criticism
never stifled unknown talent, or exhausted its praises upon recognized
talent. There success, success at all costs, did not justify the means, and
command the adoration of the public. There were only gentle manners, kindly
and sweet. There was never any bitterness, never any scandal. Everybody
helped everybody else. Every worthy newcomer was certain to find hands held
out to him and the way made smooth for him. Pure love, of beauty filled the
chivalrous and disinterested souls of the French, and they were only absurd
in their idealism, which, in spite of their acknowledged wit, made them
the dupes of other nations. Christophe listened open-mouthed. It was
certainly marvelous. Corinne marveled herself as she heard her words.
She had forgotten what she had told Christophe the day before about the
difficulties of her past life. He gave no more thought to it than she.
And yet Corinne was not only concerned with making the Germans love her
country: she wanted to make herself loved, too. A whole evening without
flirtation would have seemed austere and rather absurd to her. She made
eyes at Christophe; but it was trouble wasted: he did not notice it.
Christophe did not know what it was to flirt. He loved or did not love.
When he did not love he was miles from any thought of love. He liked
Corinne enormously. He felt the attraction of her southern nature; it was
so new to him. And her sweetness and good humor, her quick and lively
intelligence: many more reasons than he needed for loving. But the spirit
blows where it listeth. It did not blow in that direction, and as for
playing at love, in love's absence, the idea had never occurred to him.
Corinne was amused by his coldness. She sat by his side at the piano while
he played the music he had brought with him, and put her arm round his
neck, and to follow the music she leaned towards the keyboard, almost
pressing her cheek against his. He felt her hair touch his face, and quite
close to him saw the corner of her mocking eye, her pretty little mouth,
and the light down on her tip-tilted nose. She waited, smiling--she waited.
Christophe did not understand the invitation. Corinne was in his way: that
was all he thought of. Mechanically he broke free from her and moved his
chair. And when, a moment later, he turned to speak to Corinne, he saw that
she was choking with laughter: her cheeks were dimpled, her lips were
pressed together, and she seemed to be holding herself in.
"What is the matter?" he said, in his astonishment.
She looked at him and laughed aloud.
He did not understand.
"Why are you laughing?" he asked. "Did I say anything funny?"
The more he insisted, the more she laughed. When she had almost finished
she had only to look at his crestfallen appearance to break out again. She
got up, ran to the sofa at the other end of the room, and buried her face
in the cushions to laugh her fill; her whole body shook with it. He began
to laugh too, came towards her, and slapped her on the back. When she had
done laughing she raised her head, dried the tears in her eyes, and held
out her hands to him.
"What a good boy you are!" she said.
"No worse than another."
She went on, shaking occasionally with laughter, still holding his hands.
"Frenchwomen are not serious?" she asked. (She pronounced it:
"You are making fun of me," he said good-humoredly.
She looked at him kindly, shook his hands vigorously, and said:
"Friends!" said he, shaking her hand.
"You will think of Corinette when she is gone? You won't be angry with the
Frenchwoman for not being serious?"
"And Corinette won't be angry with the barbarous Teuton for being so
"That is why she loves him ... You will come and see her in Paris?"
"It is a promise ... And she--she will write to him?"
"I swear it ... You say: 'I swear.'"
"No, not like that. You must hold up your hand." She recited the oath of
the Horatii. She made him promise to write a play for her, a melodrama,
which could be translated into French and played in Paris by her. She was
going away next day with her company. He promised to go and see her again
the day after at Frankfort, where they were giving a performance.
They stayed talking for some time. She presented Christophe with a
photograph in which she was much decolletee, draped only in a garment
fastening below her shoulders. They parted gaily, and kissed like brother
and sister. And, indeed, once Corinne had seen that Christophe was fond of
her, but not at all in love, she began to be fond of him, too, without
love, as a good friend.
Their sleep was not troubled by it. He could not see her off next day,
because he was occupied by a rehearsal. But on the day following he managed
to go to Frankfort as he had promised. It was a few hours' journey by
rail. Corinne hardly believed Christophe's promise. But he had taken it
seriously, and when the performance began he was there. When he knocked at
her dressing-room door during the interval, she gave a cry of glad surprise
and threw her arms round his neck with her usual exuberance. She was
sincerely grateful to him for having come. Unfortunately for Christophe,
she was much more sought after in the city of rich, intelligent Jews, who
could appreciate her actual beauty and her future success. Almost every
minute there was a knock at the door, and it opened to reveal men with
heavy faces and quick eyes, who said the conventional things with a thick
accent. Corinne naturally made eyes, and then she would go on talking to
Christophe in the same affected, provoking voice, and that irritated him.
And he found no pleasure in the calm lack of modesty with which she went on
dressing in his presence, and the paint and grease with which she larded
her arms, throat, and face filled him with profound disgust. He was on the
point of going away without seeing her again after the performance; but
when he said good-bye and begged to be excused from going to the supper
that was to be given to her after the play, she was so hurt by it and
so affectionate, too, that he could not hold out against her. She had a
time-table brought, so as to prove that he could and must stay an hour
with her. He only needed to be convinced, and he was at the supper. He was
even able to control his annoyance with the follies that were indulged in
and his irritation at Corinne's coquetries with all and sundry. It was
impossible to be angry with her. She was an honest girl, without any moral
principles, lazy, sensual, pleasure-loving, childishly coquettish; but at
the same time so loyal, so kind, and all her faults were so spontaneous and
so healthy that it was only possible to smile at them and even to love
them. Christophe, who was sitting opposite her, watched her animation, her
radiant eyes, her sticky lips, with their Italian smile--that smile in
which there is kindness, subtlety, and a sort of heavy greediness. He saw
her more clearly than he had yet done. Some of her features reminded him
of Ada: certain gestures, certain looks, certain sensual and rather coarse
tricks--the eternal feminine. But what he loved in her was her southern
nature, that generous nature which is not niggardly with its gifts, which
never troubles to fashion drawing-room beauties and literary cleverness,
but harmonious creatures who are made body and mind to grow in the air and
the sun. When he left she got up from the table to say good-bye to him away
from the others. They kissed and renewed their promises to write and meet
He took the last train home. At a station the train coming from the
opposite direction was waiting. In the carriage opposite his--a third-class
compartment--Christophe saw the young Frenchwoman who had been with him to
the performance of _Hamlet_. She saw Christophe and recognized him. They
were both astonished. They bowed and did not move, and dared not look
again. And yet he had seen at once that she was wearing a little traveling
toque and had an old valise by her side. It did not occur to him that she
was leaving the country. He thought she must be going away for a few days.
He did not know whether he ought to speak to her. He stopped, turned over
in his mind what to say, and was just about to lower the window of the
carriage to address a few words to her, when the signal was given. He gave
up the idea. A few seconds passed before the train moved. They looked
straight at each other. Each was alone, and their faces were pressed
against the windows and they looked into each other's eyes through the
night. They were separated by two windows. If they had reached out their
hands they could have touched each other. So near. So far. The carriages
shook heavily. She was still looking at him, shy no longer, now that they
were parting. They were so absorbed in looking at each other that they
never even thought of bowing for the last time. She was slowly borne away.
He saw her disappear, and the train which bore her plunged into the night.
Like two circling worlds, they had passed close to each other in infinite
space, and now they sped apart perhaps for eternity.
When she had disappeared he felt the emptiness that her strange eyes had
left in him, and he did not understand why; but the emptiness was there.
Sleepy, with eyes half-closed, lying in a corner of the carriage, he felt
her eyes looking into his, and all other thoughts ceased, to let him feel
them more keenly. The image of Corinne fluttered outside his heart like an
insect breaking its wings against a window; but he did not let it in.
He found it again when he got out of the train on his arrival, when the
keen night air and his walk through the streets of the sleeping town had
shaken off his drowsiness. He scowled at the thought of the pretty actress,
with a mixture of pleasure and irritation, according as he recalled her
affectionate ways or her vulgar coquetries.
"Oh! these French people," he growled, laughing softly, while he was
undressing quietly, so as not to waken his mother, who was asleep in the
A remark that he had heard the other evening in the box occurred to him:
"There are others also."
At his first encounter with France she laid before him the enigma of her
double nature. But, like all Germans, he did not trouble to solve it, and
as he thought of the girl in the train he said quietly:
"She does not look like a Frenchwoman."
As if a German could say what is French and what is not.
* * * * *
French or not, she filled his thoughts; for he woke in the middle of the
night with a pang: he had just remembered the valise on the seat by the
girl's side; and suddenly the idea that she had gone forever crossed his
mind. The idea must have come to him at the time, but he had not thought of
it. It filled him with a strange sadness. He shrugged his shoulders.
"What does it matter to me?" he said. "It is not my affair."
He went to sleep.
But next day the first person he met when he went out was Mannheim, who
called him "Bluecher," and asked him if he had made up his mind to conquer
all France. From the garrulous newsmonger he learned that the story of the
box had had a success exceeding all Mannheim's expectations.
"Thanks to you! Thanks to you!" cried Mannheim. "You are a great man. I am
nothing compared with you."
"What have I done?" said Christophe.
"You are wonderful!" Mannheim replied. "I am jealous of you. To shut the
box in the Gruenebaums' faces, and then to ask the French governess instead
of them--no, that takes the cake! I should never have thought of that!"
"She was the Gruenebaums' governess?" said Christophe in amazement.
"Yes. Pretend you don't know, pretend to be innocent. You'd better!... My
father is beside himself. The Gruenebaums are in a rage!... It was not for
long: they have sacked the girl."
"What!" cried Christophe. "They have dismissed her? Dismissed her because
"Didn't you know?" said Mannheim. "Didn't she tell you?"
Christophe was in despair.
"You mustn't be angry, old man," said Mannheim. "It does not matter.
Besides, one had only to expect that the Gruenebaums would find out..."
"What?" cried Christophe. "Find out what?"
"That she was your mistress, of course!"
"But I do not even know her. I don't know who she is."
Mannheim smiled, as if to say:
"You take me for a fool."
Christophe lost his temper and bade Mannheim do him the honor of believing
what he said. Mannheim said:
"Then it is even more humorous."
Christophe worried about it, and talked of going to the Gruenebaums and
telling them the facts and justifying the girl. Mannheim dissuaded him.
"My dear fellow," he said, "anything you may say will only convince them of
the contrary. Besides, it is too late. The girl has gone away."
Christophe was utterly sick at heart and tried to trace the young
Frenchwoman. He wanted to write to her to beg her pardon. But nothing was
known of her. He applied to the Gruenebaums, but they snubbed him. They did
not know themselves where she had gone, and they did not care. The idea
of the harm he had done in trying to do good tortured Christophe: he was
remorseful. But added to his remorse was a mysterious attraction, which
shone upon him from the eyes of the woman who was gone. Attraction and
remorse both seemed to be blotted out, engulfed in the flood of the day's
new thoughts. But they endured in the depths of his heart. Christophe did
not forget the woman whom he called his victim. He had sworn to meet her
again. He knew how small were the chances of his ever seeing her again: and
he was sure that he would see her again.
As for Corinne, she never answered his letters. But three months later,
when he had given up expecting to hear from her, he received a telegram
of forty words of utter nonsense, in which she addressed him in little
familiar terms, and asked "if they were still fond of each other." Then,
after nearly a year's silence, there came a scrappy letter scrawled in her
enormous childish zigzag writing, in which she tried to play the lady,--a
few affectionate, droll words. And there she left it. She did not forget
him, but she had no time to think of him.
* * * * *
Still under the spell of Corinne and full of the ideas they had exchanged
about art, Christophe dreamed of writing the music for a play in which
Corinne should act and sing a few airs--a sort of poetic melodrama. That
form of art once so much in favor in Germany, passionately admired by
Mozart, and practised by Beethoven, Weber, Mendelssohn and Schumann, and
all the great classics, had fallen into discredit since the triumph of
Wagnerism, which claimed to have realized the definite formula of the
theater and music. The Wagnerian pedants, not content with proscribing
every new melodrama, busied themselves with dressing up the old melodramas
and operas. They carefully effaced every trace of spoken dialogue and wrote
for Mozart, Beethoven, or Weber, recitations in their own manner; they were
convinced that they were doing a service to the fame of the masters and
filling out their thoughts by the pious deposit of their dung upon
Christophe, who had been made more sensible of the heaviness, and often
the ugliness, of Wagnerian declamation by Corinne, had for some time been
debating whether it was not nonsense and an offense against nature to
harness and yoke together the spoken word and the word sung in the theater:
it was like harnessing a horse and a bird to a cart. Speech and singing
each had its rhythm. It was comprehensible that an artist should sacrifice
one of the two arts to the triumph of that which he preferred. But to try
to find a compromise between them was to sacrifice both: it was to want
speech no longer to be speech, and singing no longer to be singing; to want
singing to let its vast flood be confined between the banks of monotonous
canals, to want speech to cloak its lovely naked limbs with rich, heavy
stuffs which must paralyze its gestures and movements. Why not leave both
with their spontaneity and freedom of movement? Like a beautiful girl
walking tranquilly, lithely along a stream, dreaming as she goes: the gay
murmur of the water lulls her dreams, and unconsciously she brings her
steps and her thoughts in tune with the song of the stream. So being
both free, music and poesy would go side by side, dreaming, their dreams
mingling. Assuredly all music was not good for such a union, nor all
poetry. The opponents of melodrama had good ground for attack in the
coarseness of the attempts which had been made in that form, and of the
interpreters. Christophe had for long shared their dislike: the stupidity
of the actors who delivered these recitations spoken to an instrumental
accompaniment, without bothering about the accompaniment, without trying
to merge their voices in it, rather, on the contrary, trying to prevent
anything being heard but themselves, was calculated to revolt any musical
ear. But since he had tasted the beauty of Corinne's harmonious voice--that
liquid and pure voice which played upon music like a ray of light on water,
which wedded every turn of a melody, which was like the most fluid and most
free singing,--he had caught a glimpse of the beauty of a new art.
Perhaps he was right, but he was still too inexperienced to venture
without peril upon a form which--if it is meant to be beautiful and really
artistic--is the most difficult of all. That art especially demands one
essential condition, the perfect harmony of the combined efforts of the
poet, the musicians, and the actors. Christophe had no tremors about it: he
hurled himself blindly at an unknown art of which the laws were only known
His first idea had been to clothe in music a fairy fantasy of Shakespeare
or an act of the second part of _Faust_. But the theaters showed little
disposition to make the experiment. It would be too costly and appeared
absurd. They were quite willing to admit Christophe's efficiency in music,
but that he should take upon himself to have ideas about poetry and the
theater made them smile. They did not take him seriously. The world of
music and the world of poesy were like two foreign and secretly hostile
states. Christophe had to accept the collaboration of a poet to be able to
set foot upon poetic territory, and he was not allowed to choose his own
poet. He would not have dared to choose himself. He did not trust his taste
in poetry. He had been told that he knew nothing about it; and, indeed, he
could not understand the poetry which was admired by those about him. With
his usual honesty and stubbornness, he had tried hard sometimes to feel the
beauty of some of these works, but he had always been bewildered and a
little ashamed of himself. No, decidedly he was not a poet. In truth, he
loved passionately certain old poets, and that consoled him a little. But
no doubt he did not love them as they should be loved. Had he not once
expressed, the ridiculous idea that those poets only are great who remain
great even when they are translated into prose, and even into the prose of
a foreign language, and that words have no value apart from the soul which
they express? His friends had laughed at him. Mannheim had called him a
goose. He did not try to defend himself. As every day he saw, through the
example of writers who talk of music, the absurdity of artists who attempt
to image any art other than their own, he resigned himself--though a little
incredulous at heart--to his incompetence in poetry, and he shut his eyes
and accepted the judgments of those whom he thought were better informed
than himself. So he let his friends of the Review impose one of their
number on him, a great man of a decadent coterie, Stephen von Hellmuth, who
brought him an _Iphigenia_. It was at the time when German poets (like
their colleagues in France) were recasting all the Greek tragedies. Stephen
von Hellmuth's work was one of those astounding Graeco-German plays in which
Ibsen, Homer, and Oscar Wilde are compounded--and, of course, a few manuals
of archeology. Agamemnon was neurasthenic and Achilles impotent: they
lamented their condition at length, and naturally their outcries produced
no change. The energy of the drama was concentrated in the role of
Iphigenia--a nervous, hysterical, and pedantic Iphigenia, who lectured the
hero, declaimed furiously, laid bare for the audience her Nietzschian
pessimism and, glutted with death, cut her throat, shrieking with laughter.
Nothing could be more contrary to Christophe's mind than such pretentious,
degenerate, Ostrogothic stuff, in Greek dress. It was hailed as a
masterpiece by everybody about him. He was cowardly and was overpersuaded.
In truth, he was bursting with music and thinking much more of his music
than of the text. The text was a new bed into which to let loose the flood
of his passions. He was as far as possible from the state of abnegation and
intelligent impersonality proper to musical translation of a poetic work.
He was thinking only of himself and not at all of the work. He never
thought of adapting himself to it. He was under an illusion: he saw in the
poem something absolutely different from what was actually in it--just as
when he was a child he used to compose in his mind a play entirely
different from that which was upon the stage.
It was not until it came to rehearsal that he saw the real play. One day he
was listening to a scene, and he thought it so stupid that he fancied the
actors must be spoiling it, and went so far as to explain it to them in
the poet's presence; but also to explain it to the poet himself, who was
defending his interpretation. The author refused bluntly to hear him, and
said with some asperity that he thought he knew what he had meant to write.
Christophe would not give in, and maintained that Hellmuth knew nothing
about it. The general merriment told him that he was making himself
ridiculous. He said no more, agreeing that after all it was not he who had
written the poem. Then he saw the appalling emptiness of the play and was
overwhelmed by it: he wondered how he could ever have been persuaded to
try it. He called himself an idiot and tore his hair. He tried in vain to
reassure himself by saying: "You know nothing about it; it is not your
business. Keep to your music." He was so much ashamed of certain idiotic
things in it, of the pretentious pathos, the crying falsity of the words,
the gestures and attitudes, that sometimes, when he was conducting the
orchestra, he hardly had the strength to raise his baton. He wanted to go
and hide in the prompter's box. He was too frank and too little politic to
conceal what he thought. Every one noticed it: his friends, the actors, and
the author. Hellmuth said to him with a frigid smile:
"Is it not fortunate enough to please you?"
Christophe replied honestly:
"Truth to tell, no. I don't understand it,"
"Then you did not read it when you set it to music?"
"Yes," said Christophe naively, "but I made a mistake. I understood it
"It is a pity you did not write what you understood yourself."
"Oh! If only I could have done so!" said Christophe.
The poet was vexed, and in his turn criticised the music. He complained
that it was in the way and prevented his words being heard.
If the poet did not understand the musician, or the musician the poet, the
actors understood neither the one nor the other, and did not care. They
were only asking for sentences in their parts on which to bring in their
usual effects. They had no idea of adapting their declamation to the
formality of the piece and the musical rhythm. They went one way, the
music another. It was as though they were constantly singing out of tune.
Christophe ground his teeth and shouted the note at them until he was
hoarse. They let him shout and went on imperturbably, not even
understanding what he wanted them to do.
Christophe would have flung the whole thing up if the rehearsals had not
been so far advanced, and he had not been bound to go on by fear of legal
proceedings. Mannheim, to whom he confided his discouragement, laughed at
"What is it?" he asked. "It is all going well. You don't understand each
other? What does that matter? Who has ever understood his work but the
author? It is a toss-up whether he understands it himself!"
Christophe was worried about the stupidity of the poem, which, he said,
would ruin the music. Mannheim made no difficulty about admitting that
there was no common sense in the poem and that Hellmuth was "a muff," but
he would not worry about him: Hellmuth gave good dinners and had a pretty
wife. What more did criticism want?
Christophe shrugged his shoulders and said that he had no time to listen to
"It is not nonsense!" said Mannheim, laughing. "How serious people are!
They have no idea of what matters in life."
And he advised Christophe not to bother so much about Hellmuth's business,
but to attend to his own. He wanted him to advertise a little. Christophe
refused indignantly. To a reporter who came and asked for a history of his
life, he replied furiously:
"It is not your affair!"
And when they asked for his photograph for a review, he stamped with rage
and shouted that he was not, thank God! an emperor, to have his face
passed from hand to hand. It was impossible to bring him into touch with
influential people. He never replied to invitations, and when he had been
forced by any chance to accept, he would forget to go or would go with such
a bad grace that he seemed to have set himself to be disagreeable to
But the climax came when he quarreled with his review, two days before the
* * * * *
The thing was bound to happen. Mannheim had gone on revising Christophe's
articles, and he no longer scrupled about deleting whole lines of criticism
and replacing them with compliments.
One day, out visiting, Christophe met a certain virtuoso--a foppish pianist
whom he had slaughtered. The man came and thanked him with a smile that
showed all his white teeth. He replied brutally that there was no reason
for it. The other insisted and poured forth expressions of gratitude.
Christophe cut him short by saying, that if he was satisfied with the
article that was his affair, but that the article had certainly not been
written with a view to pleasing him. And he turned his back on him. The
virtuoso thought him a kindly boor and went away laughing. But Christophe
remembered having received a card of thanks from another of his victims,
and a suspicion flashed upon him. He went out, bought the last number of
the Review at a news-stand, turned to his article, and read... At first he
wondered if he were going mad. Then he understood, and, mad with rage, he
ran to the office of the _Dionysos_.
Waldhaus and Mannheim were there, talking to an actress whom they knew.
They had no need to ask Christophe what brought him. Throwing a number of
the Review on the table, Christophe let fly at them without stopping to
take breath, with extraordinary violence, shouting, calling them rogues,
rascals, forgers, thumping on the floor with a chair. Mannheim began to
laugh. Christophe tried to kick him. Mannheim took refuge behind the table
and rolled with laughter. But Waldhaus took it very loftily. With dignity,
formally, he tried to make himself heard through the row, and said that he
would not allow any one to talk to him in such a tone, that Christophe
should hear from him, and he held out his card. Christophe flung it in his
"Mischief-maker!--I don't need your card to know what you are.... You are a
rascal and a forger!... And you think I would fight with you ... a
thrashing is all you deserve!..."
His voice could be heard in the street. People stopped to listen. Mannheim
closed the windows. The actress tried to escape, but Christophe was
blocking the way. Waldhaus was pale and choking. Mannheim was stuttering
and stammering and trying to reply. Christophe did not let them speak. He
let loose upon them every expression he could think of, and never stopped
until he was out of breath and had come to an end of his insults. Waldhaus
and Mannheim only found their tongues after he had gone. Mannheim quickly
recovered himself: insults slipped from him like water from a duck's back.
But Waldhaus was still sore: his dignity had been outraged, and what made
the affront more mortifying was that there had been witnesses. He would
never forgive it. His colleagues joined chorus with him. Mannheim only of
the staff of the Review was not angry with Christophe. He had had his fill
of entertainment out of him: it did not seem to him a heavy price to pay
for his pound of flesh, to suffer a few violent words. It had been a good
joke. If he had been the butt of it he would have been the first to laugh.
And so he was quite ready to shake hands with Christophe as though nothing
had happened. But Christophe was more rancorous and rejected all advances.
Mannheim did not care. Christophe was a toy from which he had extracted all
the amusement possible. He was beginning to want a new puppet. From that
very day all was over between them. But that did not prevent Mannheim still
saying, whenever Christophe was mentioned in his presence, that they were
intimate friends. And perhaps he thought they were.
Two days after the quarrel the first performance of _Iphigenia_ took place.
It was an utter failure. Waldhaus' review praised the poem and made no
mention of the music. The other papers and reviews made merry over it. They
laughed and hissed. The piece was withdrawn after the third performance,
but the jokes at its expense did not disappear so quickly. People were
only too glad of the opportunity of having a fling at Christophe, and for
several weeks the _Iphigenia_ remained an unfailing subject for joking.
They knew that Christophe had no weapon of defense, and they took advantage
of it. The only thing which held them back a little was his position at the
Court. Although his relation with the Grand Duke had become quite cold, for
the Prince had several times made remarks to which he had paid no attention
whatever, he still went to the Palace at intervals, and still enjoyed, in
the eye of the public, a sort of official protection, though it was more
visionary than real. He took upon himself to destroy even that last
He suffered from the criticisms. They were concerned not only with his
music, but also with his idea of a new form of art, which the writers did
not take the trouble to understand. It was very easy to travesty it and
make fun of it. Christophe was not yet wise enough to know that the best
reply to dishonest critics is to make none and to go on working. For some
months past he had fallen into the bad habit of not letting any unjust
attack go unanswered. He wrote an article in which he did not spare certain
of his adversaries. The two papers to which he took it returned it with
ironically polite excuses for being unable to publish it. Christophe stuck
to his guns. He remembered that the socialist paper in the town had made
advances to him. He knew one of the editors. They used to meet and talk
occasionally. Christophe was glad to find some one who would talk freely
about power, the army and oppression and archaic prejudices. But they could
not go far with each other, for the socialist always came back to Karl
Marx, about whom Christophe cared not a rap. Moreover, Christophe used to
find in his speeches about the free man--besides a materialism which was
not much to his taste--a pedantic severity and a despotism of thought, a
secret cult of force, an inverse militarism, all of which did not sound
very different from what he heard every day in German.
However, he thought of this man and his paper when he saw all other doors
in journalism closed to him. He knew that his doing so would cause a
scandal. The paper was violent, malignant, and always being condemned. But
as Christophe never read it, he only thought of the boldness of its ideas,
of which he was not afraid, and not of the baseness of its tone, which
would have repelled him. Besides, he was so angry at seeing the other
papers in alliance to suppress him that perhaps he would have gone on even
if he had been warned. He wanted to show people that he was not so easily
got rid of. So he took his article to the socialist paper, which received
it with open arms. The next day the article appeared, and the paper
announced in large letters that it had engaged the support of the young and
talented maestro, Jean-Christophe Krafft, whose keen sympathy with the
demands of the working classes was well known.
Christophe read neither the note nor the article, for he had gone out
before dawn for a walk in the country, it being Sunday. He was in fine
fettle. As he saw the sun rise he shouted, laughed, yodeled, leaped, and
danced. No more review, no more criticisms to do! It was spring and there
was once more the music of the heavens and the earth, the most beautiful
of all. No more dark concert rooms, stuffy and smelly, unpleasant people,
dull performers. Now the marvelous song of the murmuring forests was to be
heard, and over the fields like waves there passed the intoxicating scents
of life, breaking through the crust of the earth and issuing from the
He went home with his head buzzing with light and music, and his mother
gave him a letter which had been brought from the Palace while he was away.
The letter was in an impersonal form, and told Herr Krafft that he was to
go to the Palace that morning. The morning was past, it was nearly one
o'clock. Christophe was not put about.
"It is too late now," he said. "It will do to-morrow."
But his mother said anxiously:
"No, no. You cannot put off an appointment with His Highness like that: you
must go at once. Perhaps it is a matter of importance."
Christophe shrugged his shoulders.
"Important! As if those people could have anything important to say!...
He wants to tell me his ideas about music. That will be funny!... If only
he has not taken it into his head to rival Siegfried Meyer [Footnote: A
nickname given by German pamphleteers to H.M. (His Majesty) the Emperor.]
and wants to show me a _Hymn to Aegis_! I vow that I will not spare him.
I shall say: 'Stick to politics. You are master there. You will always
be right. But beware of art! In art you are seen without your plumes,
your helmet, your uniform, your money, your titles, your ancestors, your
policemen--and just think for a moment what will be left of you then!'"
Poor Louisa took him quite seriously and raised her hands in horror.
"You won't say that!... You are mad! Mad!"
It amused him to make her uneasy by playing upon her credulity until he
became so extravagant that Louisa began to see that he was making fun of
"You are stupid, my boy!"
He laughed and kissed her. He was in a wonderfully good humor. On his walk
he had found a beautiful musical theme, and he felt it frolicking in him
like a fish in water. He refused to go to the Palace until he had had
something to eat. He was as hungry as an ape. Louisa then supervised his
dressing, for he was beginning to tease her again, pretending that he
was quite all right as he was with his old clothes and dusty boots. But
he changed them all the same, and cleaned his boots, whistling like a
blackbird and imitating all the instruments in an orchestra. When he
had finished his mother inspected him and gravely tied his tie for him
again. For once in a way he was very patient, because he was pleased with
himself--which was not very usual. He went off saying that he was going to
elope with Princess Adelaide--the Grand Duke's daughter, quite a pretty
woman, who was married to a German princeling and had come to stay with her
parents for a few weeks. She had shown sympathy for Christophe when he was
a child, and he had a soft side for her. Louisa used to declare that he was
in love with her, and he would pretend to be so in fun.
He did not hurry; he dawdled and looked into the shops, and stopped to
pat some dog that he knew as it lay on its side and yawned in the sun.
He jumped over the harmless railings which inclosed the Palace square--a
great empty square, surrounded with houses, with two little fountains, two
symmetrical bare flower-beds, divided, as by a parting, by a gravel path,
carefully raked and bordered by orange trees in tubs. In the middle was
the bronze statue of some unknown Grand Duke in the costume of Louis
Philippe, on a pediment adorned at the four corners by allegorical figures
representing the Virtues. On a seat one solitary man was dozing over his
paper. Behind the silly moat of the earthworks of the Palace two sleepy
cannon yawned upon the sleepy town. Christophe laughed at the whole thing.
He entered the Palace without troubling to take on a more official manner.
At most he stopped humming, but his thoughts went dancing on inside him. He
threw his hat on the table in the hall and familiarly greeted the old
usher, whom he had known since he was a child. (The old man had been there
on the day when Christophe had first entered the Palace, on the evening
when he had seen Hassler.) But to-day the old man, who always used to reply
good-humoredly to Christophe's disrespectful sallies, now seemed a little
haughty. Christophe paid no heed to it. A little farther on, in the
ante-chamber, he met a clerk of the chancery, who was usually full of
conversation and very friendly. He was surprised to see him hurry past him
to avoid having to talk. However, he did not attach any significance to it,
and went on and asked to be shown in.
He went in. They had just finished dinner. His Highness was in one of the
drawing-rooms. He was leaning against the mantelpiece, smoking, and talking
to his guests, among whom Christophe saw _his_ princess, who was also
smoking. She was lying back in an armchair and talking in a loud voice to
some officers who made a circle about her. The gathering was lively. They
were all very merry, and when Christophe entered he heard the Grand Duke's
thick laugh. But he stopped dead when he saw Christophe. He growled and
pounced on him.
"Ah! There you are!" he said. "You have condescended to come at last? Do
you think you can go on making fun of me any longer? You're a blackguard,
Christophe was so staggered by this brutal attack that it was some time
before he could utter a word. He was thinking that he was only late, and
that that could not have provoked such violence. He murmured:
"What have I done, Your Highness?"
His Highness did not listen and went on angrily:
"Be silent! I will not be insulted by a blackguard!" Christophe turned
pale, and gulped so as to try to speak, for he was choking. He made an
effort, and said:
"Your Highness, you have no right--you have no right to insult me without
telling me what I have done."
The Grand Duke turned to his secretary, who produced a paper from his
pocket and held it out to him. He was in such a state of exasperation as
could not be explained only by his anger: the fumes of good wine had their
share in it, too. He came and stood in front of Christophe, and like a
toreador with his cape, furiously waved the crumpled newspaper in his face
"Your muck, sir!... You deserve to have your nose rubbed in it!"
Christophe recognized the socialist paper.
"I don't see what harm there is in it," he said.
"What! What!" screamed the Grand Duke. "You are impudent!... This rascally
paper, which insults me from day to day, and spews out filthy insults upon
"Sire," said Christophe, "I have not read it."
"You lie!" shouted the Grand Duke.
"You shall not call me a liar," said Christophe. "I have not read it. I am
only concerned with reviews, and besides, I have the right to write in
whatever paper I like."
"You have no right but to hold your tongue. I have been too kind to you. I
have heaped kindness upon you, you and yours, in spite of your misconduct
and your father's, which would have justified me in cutting you off. I
forbid you to go on writing in a paper which is hostile to me. And further:
I forbid you altogether to write anything in future without my authority.
I have had enough of your musical polemics. I will not allow any one who
enjoys my patronage to spend his time in attacking everything which is dear
to people of taste and feeling, to all true Germans. You would do better to
write better music, or if that is impossible, to practise your scales and
exercises. I don't want to have anything to do with a musical Bebel who
amuses himself by decrying all our national glories and upsetting the minds
of the people. We know what is good, thank God. We do not need to wait for
you to tell us. Go to your piano, sir, or leave us in peace!"
Standing face to face with Christophe the fat man glared at him
insultingly. Christophe was livid, and tried to speak. His lips moved; he
"I am not your slave. I shall say what I like and write what I like ..."
He choked. He was almost weeping with shame and rage. His legs were
trembling. He jerked his elbow and upset an ornament on a table by his
side. He felt that he was in a ridiculous position. He heard people
laughing. He looked down the room, and as through a mist saw the princess
watching the scene and exchanging ironically commiserating remarks with her
neighbors. He lost count of what exactly happened. The Grand Duke shouted.
Christophe shouted louder than he without knowing what he said. The
Prince's secretary and another official came towards him and tried to stop
him. He pushed them away, and while he talked he waved an ash-tray which he
had mechanically picked up from the table against which he was leaning. He
heard the secretary say:
"Put it down! Put it down!"
And he heard himself shouting inarticulately and knocking on the edge of
the table with the ash-tray.
"Go!" roared the Grand Duke, beside himself with rage. "Go! Go! I'll have
you thrown out!"
The officers had come up to the Prince and were trying to calm him. The
Grand Duke looked apoplectic. His eyes were starting from his head, he
shouted to them to throw the rascal out. Christophe saw red. He longed to
thrust his fist in the Grand Duke's face; but he was crushed under a weight
of conflicting feelings: shame, fury, a remnant of shyness, of German
loyalty, traditional respect, habits of humility in the Prince's presence.
He tried to speak; he could not. He tried to move; he could not. He could
not see or hear. He suffered them to push him along and left the room.
He passed through the impassive servants who had come up to the door, and
had missed nothing of the quarrel. He had to go thirty yards to cross the
ante-chamber, and it seemed a lifetime. The corridor grew longer and longer
as he walked up it. He would never get out!... The light of day which
he saw shining downstairs through the glass door was his haven. He went
stumbling down the stairs. He forgot that he was bareheaded. The old usher
reminded him to take his hat. He had to gather all his forces to leave the
castle, cross the court, reach his home. His teeth were chattering when he
opened the door. His mother was terrified by his face and his trembling. He
avoided her and refused to answer her questions. He went up to his room,
shut himself in, and lay down. He was shaking so that he could not undress.
His breathing came in jerks and his whole body seemed shattered.... Oh! If
only he could see no more, feel no more, no longer have to bear with his
wretched body, no longer have to struggle against ignoble life, and fall,
fall, breathless, without thought, and no longer be anywhere!... With
frightful difficulty he tore off his clothes and left them on the ground,
and then flung himself into his bed and drew the coverings over him. There
was no sound in the room save that of the little iron bed rattling on the
Louisa listened at the door. She knocked in vain. She called softly. There
was no reply. She waited, anxiously listening through the silence. Then she
went away. Once or twice during the day she came and listened, and again
at night, before she went to bed. Day passed, and the night. The house was
still. Christophe was shaking with fever. Every now and then he wept, and
in the night he got up several times and shook his fist at the wall. About
two o'clock, in an access of madness, he got up from his bed, sweating and
half naked. He wanted to go and kill the Grand Duke, He was devoured by
hate and shame. His body and his heart writhed in the fire of it. Nothing
of all the storm in him could be heard outside; not a word, not a sound.
With clenched teeth he fought it down and forced it back into himself.
* * * * *
Next morning he came down as usual. He was a wreck. He said nothing and his
mother dared not question him. She knew, from the gossip of the
neighborhood. All day he stayed sitting by the fire, silent, feverish, and
with bent head, like a little old man. And when he was alone he wept in
In the evening the editor of the socialist paper came to see him. Naturally
he had heard and wished to have details. Christophe was touched by his
coming, and interpreted it naively as a mark of sympathy and a desire for
forgiveness on the part of those who had compromised him. He made a point
of seeming to regret nothing and he let himself go and said everything that
was rankling in him. It was some solace for him to talk freely to a man
who shared his hatred of oppression. The other urged him on. He saw a good
chance for his journal in the event, and an opportunity for a scandalous
article, for which he expected Christophe to provide him with material if
he did not write it himself; for he thought that after such an explosion
the Court musician would put his very considerable political talents and
his no less considerable little tit-bits of secret information about the
Court at the service of "the cause." As he did not plume himself on his
subtlety he presented the thing rawly in the crudest light. Christophe
started. He declared that he would write nothing and said that any attack
on the Grand Duke that he might make would be interpreted as an act of
personal vengeance, and that he would be more reserved now that he was free
than when, not being free, he ran some risk in saying what he thought. The
journalist could not understand his scruples. He thought Christophe narrow
and clerical at heart, but he also decided that Christophe was afraid. He
"Oh, well! Leave it to us. I will write it myself. You need not bother
Christophe begged him to say nothing, but he had no means of restraining
him. Besides, the journalist declared that the affair was not his concern
only: the insult touched the paper, which had the right to avenge itself.
There was nothing to be said to that. All that Christophe could do was to
ask him on his word of honor not to abuse certain of his confidences which
had been made to his friend and not to the journalist. The other made no
difficulty about that. Christophe was not reassured by it. He knew too well
how imprudent he had been. When he was left alone he turned over everything
that he had said, and shuddered. Without hesitating for a moment, he wrote
to the journalist imploring him once more not to repeat what he had
confided to him. (The poor wretch repeated it in part himself in the
Next day, as he opened the paper with feverish haste, the first thing he
read was his story at great length on the front page. Everything that he
had said on the evening before was immeasurably enlarged, having suffered
that peculiar deformation which everything has to suffer in its passage
through the mind of a journalist. The article attacked the Grand Duke and
the Court with low invective. Certain details which it gave were too
personal to Christophe, too obviously known only to him, for the article
not to be attributed to him in its entirety.
Christophe was crushed by this fresh blow. As he read a cold sweat came out
on his face. When he had finished he was dumfounded. He wanted to rush to
the office of the paper, but his mother withheld him, not unreasonably
being fearful of his violence. He was afraid of it himself. He felt that if
he went there he would do something foolish; and he stayed--and did a very
foolish thing. He wrote an indignant letter to the journalist in which he
reproached him for his conduct in insulting terms, disclaimed the article,
and broke with the party. The disclaimer did not appear.
Christophe wrote again to the paper, demanding that his letter should be
published. They sent him a copy of his first letter, written on the night
of the interview and confirming it. They asked if they were to publish
that, too. He felt that he was in their hands. Thereupon he unfortunately
met the indiscreet interviewer in the street. He could not help telling
him of his contempt for him. Next day the paper, without a spark of shame,
published an insulting paragraph about the servants of the Court, who even
when they are dismissed remain servants and are incapable of being free. A
few allusions to recent events left no room for doubt that Christophe was
* * * * *
When it became evident to everybody that Christophe had no single support,
there suddenly cropped up a host of enemies whose existence he had never