Part 11 out of 13
now, the touch of her lips had been sufficient to chase away the shadows,
the moment came, when, as he held her in his arms, Maurice was paralysed
by the abrupt remembrance: she has known all this before. How was it then?
To what degree is she mine, was she his? What fine, ultimate shade of
feeling is she keeping back from me?--His ardour was damped; and as Louise
also became aware of his sudden coolness, their hands sank apart, and had
no strength to join anew.
Thus far, he had gone about his probings with skill, questioning her in a
roundabout way, trying to learn by means of inference. But after this, he
let himself go, and put a barefaced question. The subject once broached,
there was no further need of concealment, and he flung tact and prudence
to the winds. He could not forget--he was goaded on by--the look she had
given him, as the ominous words crossed his lips: it made him conscious
once more of the unapproachable nature of that first love of hers. He grew
reckless; and while he had hitherto only sought to surprise her and entrap
her, he now began to try to worm things out of her, all the time spying on
her looks and words, ready to take advantage of the least slip on her
At first, before she understood what he was aiming at, Louise had been as
frank as usual with him--that somewhat barbarous frankness, which took
small note of the recipient's feelings. But after he had put a direct
question, and followed it up with others, of which she too clearly saw the
drift, she drew back, as though she were afraid of him. It was not
alone the error of taste he committed, in delving in matters which he had
sworn should never concern him; it was his manner of doing it that was so
distasteful to her--his hints and inuendoes. She grew very white and
still, and looked at him with eyes in which a nascent dislike was visible.
He saw it; but it was now too late. Day by day, his preoccupation with the
man who had preceded him increased. The thought that continued to harass
him was: if she had never known the other, all would now be different.
With jealousy, his state of mind had only as yet, in common, a devouring
curiosity and a morbid imagination, which allowed him to picture the two
of them in situations he would once have blushed to think of. For the one
thing that now mattered to him, what he would have given his life to know,
and would probably never know, was concerned with the ultimate
ratification of love. What had she had for the other that she could not
give him?--that she wilfully refrained from giving him? For that she did
this, and always had refused him part of herself, was now as plain to him
as if it had been branded on her flesh. And the knowledge undermined their
lives. If she was gentle and kind, he read into her words pity that she
could give him no more; if she were cold and evasive, she was remembering,
comparing; if she returned his kisses with her former warmth--well, the
thoughts which in this case seized him were the most murderous of all.
His mental activity ground him down. But it was not all unhappiness; the
beloved eyes and hands, the wilful hair, and pale, sweet mouth, could
still stir him; and there came hours of wishless well-being, when his
tired brain found rest. As the days went by, however, these grew rarer; it
also seemed to him that he paid dearly for them, by being afterwards more
miserable, by suffering in a more active way.
At times, he knew, he was anything but a pleasant companion. But he was
losing the mastery over himself, and often a trifle was sufficient to
start him off afresh on the dreary theme. Once, in a fit of hopelessness,
he made her what amounted to reproaches for her past.
"But you knew!--everythinging!--I told you all," Louise expostulated, and
there were tears in her eyes.
"I know you did. But Louise"--he hesitated, half contrite in advance, for
what he was going to say--"it might have been better if you hadn't told
me--everything, I mean. Yes, I believe it's better not to know."
She did not reply, as she might have done, that she had forewarned
him, afraid of this. She looked away, so that she should not be obliged to
Another day, when they were walking in the ROSENTAL, she made him
extremely unhappy by disagreeing with him.
"If one could just take a sponge and wipe the past out, like figures from
a slate!" he said moodily.
But, jaded by his persistency, Louise would not admit it. "We should have
nothing to remember."
"That's just it."
"But it belongs to us!" She was roused to protest by the under-meaning in
his words. "It's as much a part of ourselves as our thoughts are--or our
"One is glad to forget. You would be, Louise? You wouldn't care if your
past were gone? Say you wouldn't."
But she only threw him a dark side-glance. As, however, he would not rest
content, she flung out her hands with an impatient gesture. "How CAN you
torment yourself so! If you insist on knowing, well, then, I wouldn't part
with an hour of what's gone--not an hour! And you know it."
She caught at a few vivid leaves that had remained hanging on a bare
branch, and carried them with her.
He took one she held out to him, looked at it without seeing it, and threw
it away. "Tell me, just this once, something about your life before I knew
you. Were you very happy?--or were you unhappy? Do you know, I once heard
you say you had never known a moment's happiness?--yes, one summer night
long ago, over in the NONNE. How I hoped then it was true! But I don't
know. You've never told me anything--of all there must be to tell."
"What you may have chanced to hear, by eavesdropping, doesn't concern me
now," Louise answered coldly. And then she shut her lips, and would say no
more. She was wiser than she had been a week ago: she refused to hand her
past over to him in order that he might smirch it with his thoughts.
But she could not understand him--understand the motives that made him
want to unearth the past. If this were jealousy, it was a kind she did not
know--a bloodless, bodiless kind, of which she had had no experience.
But it was not jealousy; it was only a craving for certainty in any guise,
and the more surely Maurice felt that he would never gain it, the more
tenaciously he strove. For certainty, that feeling of utter reliance in
the loved one, which sets the heart at rest and leaves the mind
free for the affairs of life, was what Louise had never given him; he had
always been obliged to fall back on supposition with regard to her,
equally at the height of their passion, and in that first and stretch of
time, when it was forbidden him to touch her hand. The real truth, the
last-reaching truth about her, it would not be his to know. Soul would
never be absorbed in soul; not the most passionate embraces could bridge
the gulf; to their last kiss, they would remain separate beings, lonely
As this went on, he came to hate the vapidities of the concerto in G
major. Mentally to be stretched on a kind of rack, and, at the same time,
to be forced to reiterate the empty rhetoric of this music! From this time
forward, he could not hear the name of Mendelssohn without a shiver of
repugnance. How he wished now, that he had been content with the bare
sincerity of Beethoven, who at least said no note more than he had to say.
One day, towards the end of November, he was working with even greater
distaste than usual. Finally, in exasperation, he flapped the music to,
shut the piano, and went out. A stroll along the muddy little railed-in
river brought him to the PLEISSENBURG, and from there he crossed the
KONIGSPLATZ to the BRUDERSTRASSE. He had not come out with the intention
of going to Louise, but, although it was barely four o'clock, the
afternoon was drawing in; an interminable evening had to be got through.
He had been walking at haphazard, and without relish; now his pace grew
brisker. Having reached the house, he sprang nimbly up the. stairs, and
was about to insert his key in the little door in the wall, when he was
arrested by a muffled sound of voices. Louise was talking to some one,
and, at the noise he made outside, she raised her voice--purposely, no
doubt. He could not hear what was being said, but the second voice was a
man's. For a minute he stood, with his key suspended, straining his cars;
then, afraid of being caught, he went downstairs again, where he hung
about, between stair and street-door, in order that anyone who came down
would be forced to pass him. At the end of five minutes, however, his
patience was spent: he remembered, too, that the person might be as likely
to go up as down. He mounted the stairs again, rang the bell, and had
himself admitted by the landlady.
He thought she looked significantly at him as, with her usual
pantomime of winks and signs, she whispered to him that a gentleman was
with Fraulein--EIN SCHONER JUNGER MANN! Maurice pushed her aside, and
opened the sitting-room door. Two heads turned at his entrance.
On the sofa, beside Louise, sat Herries, the ruddy little student of
medicine with whom she had danced so often at the ball. He sat there,
smiling and dapper, balancing his hard round hat on his knee, and holding
gloves in his hand.
Louise looked the more untidy by contrast: as usual, her hair was half
uncoiled. Maurice saw this in a flash, saw also the look of annoyance that
crossed her face at his unceremonious entry. She raised astonished
eyebrows. Then, however, she shook hands with him.
"I think you know Mr. Herries."
Maurice bowed stiffly across the table; Herries replied in kind, without
"How d'ye do? I believe we've met," he said carelessly.
As Maurice made no rejoinder, but remained standing in an uncompromising
attitude, Herries turned to Louise again, and went on with what he had
been saying. He was talking of England.
"I went back to Oxford after that," he continued. "I've diggings there,
don't you know? An old chum of mine's a fellow of Magdalen. I was just in
time for eights' week. A magnificent walk-over for our fellows. Ever seen
the race? No? Oh, I say, that's too bad. You must come over for it, next
"Mr. Herries only returned from England a few days ago," explained Louise,
and again raised warning brows. "Do sit down. There's a chair."
"Yes. I was over for the whole summer. Didn't work here at all, in fact,"
added Herries, once more letting his bright eyes snapshot the young man,
who, on sitting down, laid his shabby felt hat in the middle of the table.
"But now you intend to stay, I think you said?" Louise threw in at random,
after they had waited for Maurice to fill up the pause.
"Yes, for the winter semester, anyhow. And I've got to tumble to, with a
vengeance. But I mean to have a good time all the same. Even though it's
only Leipzig, one can have a jolly enough time."
Again there was silence. Louise flushed. "I suppose you're hard at work
"Yes. Got started yesterday. Frogs, don't you know?--the effect of
a rare poison on frogs."
This trivial exchange of words stung Maurice. Herries's manner seemed to
him intolerably familiar, lacking in respect; and he kept telling himself,
as he listened, that, having returned frorn England, the fellow's first
thought had been of her. He had not opened his lips since entering; he sat
staring at them, forgetful of good manners; and, after a little, both
began to feel ill at ease. Their eyes met for a moment in this sensation,
and Herries cleared his throat.
"What did you do with yourself in summer?" he queried, and could not
restrain a smile, at the fashion in which the other fellow was giving
himself away. "You weren't in England at all, I think you said? We hoped
we might meet there, don't you remember? Too bad that I had to go off
without saying good-bye."
"No, I changed my mind and stayed here. But I shouldn't do it again. It
was so hot."
"Must have been simply beastly."
Maurice jerked his arm; a vase which was standing at his elbow upset, and
the water trickled to the floor. Neither offered to help him; he had to
stoop and mop it up with his handkerchief.
For a few moments longer, the conversation was eked out. Then Herries
rose. With her hand in his, he said earnestly: "Now you must be merciful
and relent. I shan't give up hope. Any time in the next fortnight is time
enough, remember. 'Pon my word, I've dreamt of those waltzes of ours ever
since. And the floor at the PRUSSE is still better, don't you know? You
won't have the heart not to come."
From under her lids, Louise shot a rapid glance at Maurice. He, too, had
risen; he was standing stiff, pale, and solemn, visibly waiting only till
Herries had gone, to make himself disagreeable. She smiled.
"Don't ask me to give an answer to-day. I'll let you know--will that do? A
fortnight is such a long time. And then you've forgotten the chief thing.
I must see if I have anything to wear."
"Oh, I say! . . . if that's all! Don't let that bother you. That black
thing you had on last time was ripping--awfully jolly, don't you know?"
Louise laughed. "Well, perhaps," she said, as she opened the door.
"Good business!" responded Herries.
He nodded in Maurice's direction, and they went out of the room together.
Maurice heard their voices in laughing rejoinder, heard them take leave of
each other at the halldoor. After that there was a pause. Louise lingered,
before returning, to open a letter that was lying on the hall-table; she
also spoke to Fraulein Grunhut. When she did come back, all trace of
animation had gone from her face. She busied herself at once with the
flowers he had disarranged, and this done, ordered her hair before the
hanging glass. Maurice followed her movements with a sarcastic smile.
Suddenly she turned and confronted him.
"Maurice! . . . for Heaven's sake, don't glare at me like that! If you've
anything to say, please say it, and be done with it."
"You know well enough what I have to say." His voice was husky.
"Indeed, I don't."
"Well you ought to."
"Ought to?--No: there's a limit to everything! Take your hat off that
table!--What did you mean by bursting into the room when you heard some
one was here? And, as if that weren't enough--to let everybody see how
much at home you are--your behaviour--your unbearable want of manners..."
She stopped, and pressed her handkerchief to her lips.
"I believed you didn't care what people thought," he threw in, morosely
"That's a poor excuse for your rudeness."
"Well, at least tell me what that fool wanted here."
"Have you no ears? Couldn't you hear that he has just come back from
England, and is calling on his friends?"
"Do you expect me to believe that?"
"Oh, he has always been after you--since that night. It's only because he
wasn't here long enough . . . and his manner shows what he thinks of
you . . . and what he means."
"What do YOU mean? Do you wish to say it's my doing that he came here
to-day?--Don't you believe me?" she demanded, as he did not answer.
"And you in that half-dressed condition!"
"Could I dress before him? How abominable you are!"
He tried to explain. "Yes. Because . . . I hate the sight of the
fellow.--You didn't know he was coming, did you, or you wouldn't have seen
"Know he was coming!" She wrenched her hands away. "Oh! . . ."
"Say you didn't!"
"Maurice!--Be jealous, if you must! But surely, surely you don't
"Oh, don't ask me what I believe. I only know I won't have that man
hanging about. It was by a mere chance to-day that I came round earlier;
he might have been here for hours, without my suspecting it. Who knows if
you would have told me either?--Would you have told me, Louise?"
"Oh, how can you be like this! What is the matter with you?"
He put his arms round her, with the old cry. "I can't bear you even to
look at another man. For he's in love with you, and has been, ever since
you made him crazy by dancing with him as you did."
With his hands on her shoulders, he rested his face on her hair. "Promise
me you won't see him again."
Wearily, Louise disengaged herself. "Oh there's always something fresh to
promise. I'm tired of it--of being hedged in, and watched, and never
"Tired of me, you mean."
She looked bitterly at him. "There you are again?"
"Just this once--to set my mind at rest. Just this once,
But she was silent.
"Then you'll let him come here again?"
"How do I know?--But if I promised what you ask, I should not be able to
go with him to the HOTEL DE PRUSSE on the fifteenth."
"You mean to go to that dance?"
"Why not? Would there be any harm in my going?"
"Maurice!" She mocked his tone, and laughed. "Oh, go at once," she broke
out the next moment, "and order Grunhut never to let another visitor
inside the door. Make me promise never to cross the threshold alone--never
to speak to another mortal but yourself! Cut off every pleasure and every
chance of pleasure I have; and then you may be, but only may be, content."
"You're trying how far you can go with me."
"Do you want me to tell you again that dancing is one of the things
I love best? Not six months ago you knew and helped me to it yourself."
"Yes, THEN," he answered. "Then I could refuse you nothing."
She laughed in an unfriendly way. He pressed her hand to his forehead.
"You won't be so cruel, I know."
"You know more than I do."
"Do you realise what it means if you go?" In fancy, he was present, and
saw her passed from one pair of arms to another.
"I realise nothing--but that I am very unhappy."
"Have I no influence over you any more--none at all?"
"Can't you come, too, then?--if you are afraid to let me out of your
"I? To see you----" He broke off with wrathful abruptness. "Thanks, I
would rather be shot." But at the mingled anger and blankness of her face,
he coloured. "Louise, put an end to all this. Marry me--now, at once!"
"Marry you? I? No, thank you. We're past that stage, I think.--Besides,
are you so simple as to believe it would make any difference?"
"Oh, stop tormenting me. Come here!"--and he pulled her to him.
From this day forward, the direction of his thoughts was changed. The
incident of Herries's visit, her refusal to promise what he asked, and,
above all, the matter of the coming ball, with regard to which he could
not get certainty from her: these things seemed to open up nightmare
depths, to which he could see no bottom. Compared with them, the vague
fears which had hitherto troubled him were only shadows, and like shadows
faded away. He no longer sought out superfine reasons for their lack of
happiness. The past was dead and gone; he could not alter jot or tittle of
what had happened; he could only make the best of it. And so he ceased to
brood over it, and gave himself up to the present. The future was a black,
unknown quantity, but the present was his own. And he would cling to
it--for who knew what the future held in store for him? In these days, he
began to suspect that it was not in the nature of things for her always to
remain satisfied with him; and, ever more daring, the horrid question
reared its head: who will come after me? Another blind attraction only
needed to seize her, and what, then, would become of constancy and
truth? If he had doubted her before, he was now suspicious from a
different cause, and in quite a different way. The face of the trim little
man who had sat beside her, and smiled at her, was persistently present to
him. He did not question her further; but the poison worked the more
surely in secret; he never for an instant forgot; and jealousy, now wide
awake, had at last a definite object to lay hold of.
In his lucid moments, he knew that he was making her life a burden to her.
What wonder if she did, ultimately, turn from him? But his evil moods were
now beyond command. He began to suspect deceit in her actions as well as
in what she said. The idea that this other, this smirking, wax-faced man,
might somehow steal her from him, hung over him like a fog, obscuring his
vision. It necessitated continued watchfulness on his part. And so he
dogged her, mentally, and in fact until his own heart all but broke under
One afternoon they walked to Connewitz. It had rained heavily during the
night, and the unpaved roads were inchdeep in mud. The sky was a level
sheet of cloud, darker and more forbidding in the east.
Their direction was Maurice's choice. Louise would have liked better to
keep to the town: for, though the streets, too, were mud-bespattered,
there would soon be lights, and the reflection of lights in damp
pavements. She yielded, however, without even troubling to express her
wish. But just because of the dirt and naked ugliness which met her, at
every turn, she was voluble and excited; and an exaggerated hilarity
seized her at trifles. Maurice, who had left the house in a more composed
frame of mind than usual, gradually relapsed, at her want of restraint,
into silence. He suffered under her looseness of tongue and laughter: her
sallow, heavy-eyed face was ill-adapted to such moods; below her feverish
animation there lurked, he was sure of it, a deadly melancholy. He had
always been rendered uneasy by her spurts of gaiety. Now in addition, he
asked himself: what has happened to make he. like this?
Feeling his hostility, Louise grew quieter, and soon she, too, was silent.
Having gained his end, Maurice wished to atone for it, and slipping his
arm through hers, he took her hand. For a few steps they walked on in this
fashion. Then, he received one of those sudden impressions which flash on
us from time to time, of having seen or done a certain thing
before. For a moment, he could not verify it; then he knew. just in this
way, arm in arm, hand in hand, had she come towards him with Schilsky,
that very first day. It was no doubt a habit of hers. Like this, too, she
would, in all probability, walk with the one who came after. And the
picture of Herries, in the place he now occupied, was photographed on his
He withdrew his arm, as if hers had burnt him: his mind was off again on
its old round. But she, too, had to suffer for it. As he stood back to let
her pass before him, on a dry strip of the path, his eye caught a yellow
rose she was wearing at her belt. Till now he had seen it without seeing
"Why are you wearing that rose?"
Louise looked down from him to the flower and back again." Why?--you know
I like to wear flowers."
"Where did you get it?"
She foresaw what he was driving at, and did not reply.
"You were wearing a rose like that the first time I saw you. Do you
"How should I remember? It's so long ago."
"Where had you got that one from, then?"
She repeated the same words. "How should I know now?"
"But I know. It was from him--he had given it to you."
She raised her shoulders. "Perhaps."
"Perhaps? No. For certain."
"Well, and if so--was there anything strange in that?"
They walked a few paces without speaking. Then he asked: "Who has given
you this one?"
"Maurice!" There was a note of warning in her voice. He heard it in vain.
"Give it to me, Louise."
"No--let it be. It will wither soon enough where it is."
"Please give it to me," he urged, rendered the more determined by her
"I wish to keep it."
"And I mean to have it."
To avoid the threatening scene, she took the rose from her belt and gave
it to him. He fingered it indecisively for a moment, then threw it over
the bridge they were crossing, into the river. It struggled, filled with
muddy water, and floated away.
In the next breath, however, he asked himself ruefully what he had gained
by his action. She had given him the rose, and he had destroyed
it; but he would never know how she had come by it, and what it had been
He was incensed with himself and with her for the whole length of the
SCHLEUSSIGER WEG. Then the inevitable regret for his hastiness followed.
He took her limply hanging hand and pressed it. But there was no
responsive pressure on her part. Louise looked away from him, beyond the
woods, as far as she could see, in the vain hope of there discovering some
means of escape.
In descending one evening the broad stair of the Gewandhaus, and forced,
by reason of the crowd, to pause on every step, Madeleine overheard the
talk of two men behind her, one of whom, it seemed, had all the gossip of
the place at his fingertips. From what she caught up greedily, as soon as
Maurice's name was mentioned, she learnt a surprising piece of news. "A
cat and dog life," was the phrase used by the speaker. As she afterwards
picked her way through snow and slush, Madeleine confessed to herself that
it was impossible to feel regret at what she had heard. Perhaps, after
all, things would come right of themselves. In order to recover from his
infatuation, to learn what Louise really was, it had only been necessary
for Maurice to be constantly at her side.--Was it not Goethe who said that
the way to cure a bad habit was to indulge it?
But a few days afterwards, her satisfaction was damped. Late one afternoon
she had entered Seyffert's Cafe, to drink a cup of chocolate. At a table
parallel with the one she chose, two fellow-students were playing
draughts. Madeleine had only been there for a few minutes, when their
talk, which went on unrestrainedly between the moves of the game, leapt,
with a witticism, to the unlucky pair in whom she was interested. To her
astonishment, she now heard Louise's name, coupled with that of another
"Well, I never!" said the second of the two behind her. "I say it's your
move.--That's rough on Guest, isn't it?"
Madeleine turned in her chair and faced the man who had spoken.
"Excuse me, who is Herries?" she asked without ceremony.
In her own room that evening, she pondered long. It was one thing for the
two to drift naturally apart; another for Maurice to see himself
superseded. If this were true, jealousy, and nothing else, would be at the
root of their disunion. Madeleine felt very unwilling to mix herself up in
the affair: it would be like plunging two clean hands into dirty water.
But then, you never could tell how a man would act in a case like
this: the odds were ten to one he did something foolish.
And so she wrote to Maurice, making her summons imperative. This failing,
she tried to waylay him going to or from his classes; but the only
satisfaction she gained, was the knowledge of his irregularity: during the
week she waited she did not once come face to face with him. Next, she
looked round her for some common friend, and found that he had not an
intimate left in all Leipzig. She wrote again, still more plainly, and
again he ignored her letter.
One Saturday afternoon, she was walking along the crowded streets of the
inner town. She had been to the MOTETTE, in the THOMASKIRCHE, and was now
on her way home, carrying music from the library. The snow had melted to
mud, and sleet was falling. Madeleine had no umbrella; the collar of her
cloak was turned up round her ears, and her small felt hat covered her
head like an extinguisher.
On entering the PETERSTRASSE, she was jostled together with Dove. It was
impossible to beat a retreat.
Dove seldom hurried. On this day, as on any other, he walked with a
somewhat pompous emphasis through slush and stinging rain, holding his
umbrella straight aloft over him, as he might have carried a banner. He
was shocked to find Madeleine without one, at once took her under his, and
loaded himself with her music--all with that air of matter-of-course-ness,
which invariably made her keen to decline his aid. Dove was radiant; he
prospered as do only the happy few; and his satisfaction with himself, and
with the world in general, was somehow expressed even through the medium
of his long neck and gently sloping shoulders. He greeted Madeleine with
an exaggerated pleasure, accompanying his words by the slow smile which
sometimes set her wondering if he were not, perhaps, being inwardly
satirical at the expense of other people, fooling them by means of his own
foolishness. But, however this might be, the cynical feelings that took
her in his presence, mounted once more; she knew his symptoms, and an
excess of content was just as distasteful to her as gluttony, or
wine-bibbing, or any other self-indulgence.
However, she checked the desire to snub him--to snub until she had
succeeded in raising that impossible ire, which, she believed, MUST lurk
somewhere in Dove--for, as she plodded along at his side, sheltered from
the brunt of the weather, it occurred to her that here was some one whom
she might tap on the subject of Maurice. She opened fire by
congratulating her companion on his recent performance in an
ABENDUNTERHALTUNG; at the time, even she had been forced to admit it a
creditable piece of work. Dove, who privately considered it epochmaking,
was outwardly very modest. He could not refrain from letting fall that the
old director had afterwards thanked him in person; but, in the next
breath, he pointed out a slip he had made in a particular passage of the
sonata. It had not, it was true, been observed, he believed, by anyone
except Schwarz and himself; still it had caused him considerable
annoyance; and he now related how, as far as he could judge, it had come
The current inquiries concerning the PRUFUNGEN then passed between them.
"Poor old Schwarz!" said Madeleine. "We shall be few enough, this year.
Tell me, what of Heinz? I haven't seen him for an age."
"I regret to say that Krafft is making an uncommon donkey of himself,"
said Dove. "He had another shocking row with Schwarz last week."
"Tch, tch, tch!" said Madeleine. "Heinz is a freak.--And Maurice Guest,
what about him?"
"I haven't seen him lately."
"Indeed? How is that?"
"I'm not in the same class with him now. His hour has been changed."
"Has it indeed?" said Madeleine thoughtfully. This accounted for her
having been unable to meet Maurice. "What's he playing, do you know?"
"The G major Mendelssohn, I understand;" and Dove looked at her out of the
corner of his eye.
"How's he getting on with it?" she queried afresh, in the same indifferent
"I really couldn't say. As I mentioned, he's in another class."
"Oh, but you must have heard!" said Madeleine. "It's no use putting me
off," she added, with determination. "I want to find out about Mauzice."
"And I fear I can't assist you. All I HAVE chanced to hear--mere rumour,
of course--is that . . . well, if Guest doesn't pull himself together, he
won't play at all.--By the way, what did you think of James the other
night, in the LISZTVEREIN?"
"Oh, that his octaves were marvellous, of course!" said Madeleine
tartly. "But I warn you," she continued, "it's of no use changing the
subject, or pretending you don't know. I intend to speak of Maurice."
"Then it must be to some one else, Miss Madeleine, not to me."--Dove could
never be induced to call her Madeleine, as her other friends did.
"And why, pray, are you to be the exception?"
"Because, as I've already mentioned, I don't see any more of Guest. He
mixes in a different set now.--And as for me, well, my thoughts are
occupied with, I trust, more profitable things."
"What? You have thoughts, too?"
"I hope you don't claim a monopoly of them?" said Dove, and smiled in his
imperturbable way. As, however, Madeleine persisted, he grew grave. "It's
not a pleasant subject. I should really rather not discuss it, Miss
"Oh, for Heaven's sake, don't let us play the prudish or sentimental!"
cried Madeleine, in a burst of impatience. "Of course, it isn't pleasant.
Do you think I should "--"bother with you," was on her tongue. She checked
herself, and subtituted--"trouble you about it, if it were? But Maurice
was once a friend of ours--you don't deny it, I hope?" she threw in
challengingly; for Dove muttered something to himself. "And I want to get
at the truth about him. I'm sorrier than I can say, to hear, on all sides,
what a fool he's making of himself."
Dove was suavely silent.
"Of course," continued Madeleine with a sarcastic inflection--"of course,
I can't expect you to see it as I do. Men look at these things
differently, I know. Possibly if I were a man, I, too, should stand by,
with my hands in my pockets, and watch a friend butt his head against a
stone wall--thinking it, indeed, rather good fun."
She had touched Dove on a tender spot. "I can assure you, Miss Madeleine,"
he said impressively, as they picked their steps across a dirty road--"I
can assure you, you are mistaken. I think just as strictly in matters of
this kind as you yourself.--But as to interfering in Guest's . . . in his
private affairs, well, frankly, I shouldn't care to try it. He was always
a curiously reserved fellow."
"Reserved--obstinate-pig-headed!--call it what you like," said Madeleine.
"But don't imagine I'm asking you to interfere. I only want you to
tell me, briefly and simply, what you know about him. And to make it
easier for you, I'll begin by telling you what I know.--It's an old story,
isn't it, that Maurice once supplanted some one else in a certain young
woman's favour? Well, now I hear that he, in turn, is to be laid on the
shelf.--Is that true, or isn't it?"
"Really, Miss Madeleine!--that's a very blunt way of putting it," said
"Oh, when a friend's at stake, I can't hum and haw," said Madeleine, who
could never keep her temper with Dove for long." I call a spade a spade,
and rejoice to do it. What I ask you to tell me is, whether I've been
correctly informed or not. Have you, too, heard Louise Dufrayer's name
coupled with that of a man called Herries?"
But Dove was stubborn. "As far as I'm concerned, Miss Madeleine, the truth
is, I've hardly exchanged a word with Guest since spring. Into his . . .
friendship with Miss Dufrayer, I have never felt it my business to
inquire. I believe--from hearsay--that he is much changed. And I feel
convinced his PRUFUNG will be poor. Indeed, I'm not sure that he should
not be warned off it altogether."
"Could that not be laid before him?"
"I should not care to undertake it."
There was nothing to be done with Dove; Madeleine felt that she was
wasting her breath; and they walked across the broad centre of the
ROSSPLATZ in silence.
"Do you never think," she said, after a time, "how it would simplify life,
if we were able to get above it for a bit, and see things without
prejudice?--Here's a case now, where a little real fellowship and sympathy
might work wonders. But no!--no interference!--that's the chief and only
It had stopped raining. Dove let down his umbrella, and carried it
stiffly, at some distance from him, by reason of its dampness. "Believe
me, Miss Madeleine," he said, as he emerged from beneath it. "Believe me,
I make all allowance for your feelings, which do you credit. A woman's way
of looking at these things is, thank God, humaner than ours. But it's a
man's duty not to let his feelings run away with him. I agree with you,
that it's a shocking affair. But Guest went into it with his eyes open.
And that he could do so--but there was always something a little . . . a
little peculiar about Guest."
"I suppose there was. One can only be thankful, I suppose, that
he's more or less of an exception--among his own countrymen, I mean, of
course. Englishmen are not, as a rule, given to that kind of thing."
"Thank God they're not!" said Dove with emotion.
"We'll, our ways part here," said Madeleine, and halted. As she took her
music from him, she asked: "By the way, when shall we be at liberty to
It was not at all "by the way" to Dove. However, he only smiled; for he
had grown wiser, and no longer wore his heart on his coat-sleeve. "You
shall be one of the first to hear, Miss Madeleine, when the news is made
"Thanks greatly. Good-bye.--Oh, no, stop a moment!" cried Madeleine. It
was more than she could bear to see him turn away thus, beaming with
self-content. "Stop a moment. You won't mind my telling you, I'm sure,
that I've been disappointed with you this afternoon. For I've always
thought of you as a saviour in the hour of need, don't you know? One does
indulge in these fancy pictures of one's friends--a strong man, helping
with tact and example. And here you go, toppling my picture over, without
the least remorse.--Well, you know your own business best, I suppose, but
it's unkind of you, all the same, to destroy an illusion. One has few
enough of them in this world.--Ta-ta!"
She laughed satirically, and turned on her heel, regardless of the effect
of her words.
But Dove was not offended; on the contrary, he felt rather flattered. He
did not, of course, care in the least about what Madeleine called her
illusions; but the mental portrait she had drawn of him corresponded
exactly to that attitude in which he was fondest of contemplating himself.
For it could honestly be said that, hitherto, no one had ever applied to
him for aid in vain: he was always ready, both with his time and with good
advice. And the idea that, in the present instance, he was being untrue to
himself, in other words, that he was letting an opportunity slip, ended by
upsetting him altogether.
Until now, he had not regarded Maurice and Maurice's doings from this
point of view. By nature, Dove was opposed to excess of any kind; his was
a clean, strong mind, which caused him instinctively to draw back from
everything, in morals as in art, that passed a certain limit. Nothing on
earth would have persuaded him to discuss his quondam friend's backsliding
with Madeleine Wade; he was impregnated with the belief that such matters
were unfit for virtuous women's ears, and he applied his
conviction indiscriminaetely. Now, however, the notion of Maurice as a
Poor erring sheep, waiting, as it were, to be saved--this idea was of
undeniable attractiveness to Dove, and the more he revolved it, the more
convinced he grew of its truth.
But he had reasons for hesitating. Having valiantly overcome his own
disappointments, first in the case of Ephie, then of pretty Susie, he now,
in his third suit, was on the brink of success. The object of his present
attachment was a Scotch lady, no longer in her first youth, and several
years older than himself but of striking appearance, vivacious manners,
and, if report spoke true, considerable fortune. Her appearance in Leipzig
was due to the sudden burst of energy which often inspires a woman of the
Scotch nation when she feels her youth escaping her. Miss MacCallum, who
was abroad nominally to acquire the language, was accompanied by her aged
father and mother; and it was with these two old people that it be hoved
Dove to ingratiate himself; for, according to the patriarchal habits of
their race, the former still guided and determined their daughter's mode
of life, as though she were thirteen instead of thirty. Dove was obliged
to be of the utmost circumspection in his behaviour; for the old couple,
uprooted violently from their native soil, lived in a mild but constant
horror at the iniquity of foreign ways. They held the pro fession of music
to be an unworthy one, and threw up their hands in dismay at the number of
young people here complacently devoting themselves to such a frivolous
object. It was necessary for Dove to prove to them that a student of music
might yet be a man of untarnished principles and blame less honour. And he
did not find the task a hard one; the whole bent of his mind was towards
sobriety. He frequented the American church with his new friends on Sunday
after noon; gave up skating on that day; went with the old gentleman to
Motets and Passions; and eschewed the opera.
But now, his ambition had been insidiously roused, and day by day it grew
stronger. If only the affair with Maurice had not been of so unsavoury a
nature! Did he, Dove, become seriously involved, it might be difficult to
prove to judges so severe as his future parents-in-law, that he had acted
out of pure goodness of heart. For, that he would be embroiled, in other
words, that he would have success in his mission, there was no manner of
doubt in his mind--a conviction he shared with the generality of mankind:
that it is only necessary for an offender's eyes to be opened to
the enormity of his wrongdoing, for him to be reasonable and to renounce
While Dove hesitated thus, torn between his reputation on the one hand,
his missionary zeal on the other; while he hesitated, an incident
occurred, which acted as a kind of moral fingerpost. In the piano-class,
one day, just as Dove was about to leave the room, Schwarz asked him if he
were not a friend of Herr Guest's. The latter had been absent now from two
lessons in succession. Was he ill? Did no one know what had happened to
him? Dove made light of the friendship, but volunteered his services, and
was bidden to make inquiries.
He went that afternoon.
Frau Krause looked a little gruffer than of old; and left him to find his
own way to Maurice's room. In accordance with the new state of things,
Dove knocked ceremoniously at the door. While his knuckles still touched
the wood, it was flung open, and he stood face to face with Maurice. For a
moment the latter did not seem to recognise his visitor; he had evidently
been expecting some one else.
Then he repaired his tardiness, ceased to hold the door, and Dove entered,
apologising for his intrusion.
"Just a moment. I won't detain you. As you were absent from the class all
last week, Schwarz asked to-day if you were ill, and I said I would step
round and see."
"Very good of you, I'm sure. Sit down," said Maurice. His face changed as
he spoke; a look of relief and, at the same time, of disappointment
flitted across it.
"Thanks. If I am not disturbing you," answered Dove. As he said these
words, he threw a glance, the significance of which might have been
grasped by a babe, at the piano. It had plainly not been opened that day.
Maurice understood. "No, I was not practising," he said. "But I have to go
out shortly," and he looked at his watch.
"Quite so. Very good. I won't detain you," repeated Dove, and sat down on
the proffered chair. "But not practising? My dear fellow, how is that? Are
you so far forward already that it isn't necessary? Or is it a fact that
you are not feeling up to the mark?"
"Oh, I'm all right. I get my work over in the morning."
Now he, too, sat down, at the opposite side of the table. Clearing his
throat, Dove gazed at the sinner before him. He began to see that his
errand was not going to be an easy one; where no hint was taken, it was
difficult to insert even the thinnest edge of the wedge. He
resolved to use finesse; and, for several of the precious moments at his
disposal, he talked, as if at random, of other things.
Maurice tapped the table. He kept his eyes fixed on Dove's face, as though
he were drinking in his companion's solemn utterances. In reality, whole
minutes passed without his knowing what was said. At Dove's knock, he had
been certain that a message had come from Louise--at last. This was the
night of the ball; and still she had given him no promise that she would
not go. They had parted, the evening before, after a bitter quarrel; and
he had left her, vowing that he would not return till she sent for him. He
had waited the whole day, in vain, for a sign. What was Dove with his
pompous twaddle to him? Every slight sound on the stairs or in the passage
meant more. He was listening, listening, without cessation.
When he came back to himself, he heard Dove droning on, like a machine
that has been wound up and cannot stop.
"Now, I hope you won't mind my saying so," were the next words that
pierced his brain. "You must not be offended at my telling you; but you
are hardly fulfilling the expectations we, your friends, you know, had
formed of you. My dear fellow, you really must pull yourself together, or
February will find you still unprepared."
Maurice went a shade paler; he was clear, now, as to the object of Dove's
visit. But he answered in an off-hand way. "Oh, there's time enough yet."
"No. That's a mistaken point of view, if I may say so," replied Dove in
his blandest manner. "Time requires to be taken by the forelock, you
"Does it?" Maurice allowed the smile that was expected of him to cross his
"Most emphatically--And we fellow-students of yours are not the only
people who have noticed a certain--what shall I say?--a certain abatement
of energy on your part. Schwarz sees it, too--or I am much mistaken."
"What?--he, too?" said Maurice, and pretended a mild surprise. For some
seconds now he had been mentally debating with himself whether he should
not, there and then, show Dove the door. He decided against it. A "Damn
your interference!" meant plain-speaking, on both sides; it meant a
bandying of words; and more expenditure of strength than he had to spare
for Dove. Once more he drew out and consulted his watch.
"Unfortunately, yes," said Dove, ignoring the hint. "I assume it,
from something he let drop this afternoon. Now, you know, your Mendelssohn
ought to have been a brilliant piece of work--yes, the expression is not
too strong. And it still must be. My dear Guest, what I came to say to you
to-day--one, at any rate, of the reasons that brought me--was, that you
must not allow your interest in what you are doing to flag at the eleventh
Maurice laughed. "Oh, certainly not! Most awfully good of you to trouble."
"No trouble at all," Dove assured him. He flicked some dust from his
trouser-knee before he spoke again. "I . . . er . . . that is, I had some
talk the other day with Miss Wade."
"Indeed!" replied Maurice, and was now able accurately to gauge the motor
origin of Dove's appearance. "How is she? How is Madeleine?"
"She was speaking of you, Guest. She would, I think, like to see you."
"Yes. I've rather neglected her lately, I'm afraid.--But when there's so
much to do, you know . . ."
"It's a pity," said Dove, passing over the last words, and nodding his
head sagaciously. "She's a staunch friend of yours, is Miss Madeleine. I
think it wouldn't be too much to say, she was feeling a little hurt at
your neglect of her."
"Really? I had no idea so many people took an interest in me."
"That is just where you are mistaken," said Dove warmly. "We all do. And
for that very reason, I said to myself, I will be spokesman for the rest:
I'll go to him and tell him he must pull through, and do himself
credit--and Schwarz, too. We are so few this year, you know."
"Yes, poor old man! He has got badly left."
"Yes. That was one reason. And then . . . but you assure me, don't you,
that you will not take what I am going to say amiss?"
"Not in the least. It's awfully decent of you. But I'm sorry to say my
time's up. And every minute is precious just now--as you know yourself."
He rose, and, for the third time, referred to his watch. After an
ineffectual attempt to continue, Dove was also forced to rise, with the
best part of his message unuttered. And Maurice hurried him, glum and
crestfallen, to the door, for fear of the still worse tactlessness of
which he might make himself guilty.
They groped in silence along the dark lobby. For the sake of
parting with a friendly and neutral word, Maurice said, as he opened the
door: "By the way, I hear we shall soon have to offer congratulations and
To his surprise, Dove, who had already crossed the threshold, looked
blank, and drew himself up.
"Indeed?" he said, and the tone was, for him, quite short. "I. . the fact
is . . . I've no idea of what you are referring to."
On re-entering his room, Maurice went back to the window, and taking up
his former attitude, began to beat anew that tattoo on the panes, which
had been his chief employment during the day. His eyes were sore with
straining at the corner of the street, tired of looking at his watch to
see how the time passed. He had steadfastly believed that Louise would
yield in this. matter, and, at the last, recall him in a burst of
impulsive regret. But, as the day crawled by without a word from her, his
confident conviction weakened; and, at the same time, his resolve not to
go back till she sent for him, failed. He repeated, in memory, some of the
bitter things they had said to each other, to see if he had not left
himself a loophole of escape; but only with one half of his brain: the
other was persistently occupied with the emptiness of the street below.
When a clock struck half-past seven, he could bear the suspense no longer:
he put on his hat and coat, and went out. He felt tired and unslept, and
dragged along as if his body were a weight to him. A fine snow was
falling, which froze into icicles on the beards of the passers-by, and on
the glistening pavements. The distance had never seemed so long to him; it
had also never seemed so short.
A faint and foolish hope still refused to be extinguished. But it went out
directly he had unlocked the door; and he learned what he had come to
learn, without the exchange of a word. The truth met him, that he should
have been here hours ago, commanding, imploring; instead of which he had
sat at home, nursing a futile and paltry pride.
The room was warm, and bright with extra candles. It was also in that
state of confusion which accompanied an elaborate toilet on the part of
Louise. Fully dressed, she stood before the console-glass, and arranged
something in her hair. She did not turn at his entrance, but she raised
her eyes and met his in the mirror, without pausing in what she was doing.
He looked over her shoulder at her reflected face. The cold steadiness,
the open hostility of her look, took his strength away. He sat
down on the foot-end of the bed, and put his head in his hands. Minutes
passed, and still he remained in this position. For what was the use of
his speaking? Her mind was made up; nothing would move her now.
Then came the noise of wheels in the street below. Uncovering his eyes,
Maurice looked at her again; and, as he did so, his feelings which, until
now, had had something of the nature of a personal wound, gave place to
others with the rush of a storm. She wore the same sparkling, low-cut
dress as on the previous occasion; arms and shoulders were as ruthlessly
bared to view. He remembered what he had heard said of her that night, and
felt that his powers of endurance were at an end. With a stifled
exclamation, he got up from the bed, and going past her, into the half of
the room beyond the screen, caught up the first object that came to hand,
and threw it to the floor. It was a Dresden-china figure, and broke to
Louise gave a cry, and came running out to see what he had done. "Are you
mad? How dare you! . . . break my things."
She held a candle above her head, and by its light, he saw, in the skin of
neck and shoulder, all the lines and folds that were formed by the raising
of her arm. He now saw, too, that her hair was dressed in a different way,
that her dark eyebrows had been made still darker, and that she was
powdered. This discovery had a peculiar effect on him: it rendered it
easier for him to say hard things to her; at the same time, it
strengthened his determination not to let her go out of the house. Moving
aimlessly about the room, he stumbled against a chair, and kicked it from
"A month ago, if some one had sworn to me that you would treat me as you
are doitng to-night, I should have laughed in his face," he said at last.
Louise had put the candle down, and was standing with her back to him.
Taking up a pair of long, black gloves, she began to draw one over her
hand. She did not look up at his words, but went on stroking the kid of
"You're only doing it to revenge yourself--I know that! But what have I
done, that you should take less thought for my feelings than if I were a
Still she did not speak.
"You won't really go, Louise?--you won't have the heart to.--I say you
shall not go! It will be the end--the end of everything!--if you leave
the house to-night."
She pulled her dress from his hand. "You're out of your senses, I
think. The end of everything! Because, for once, I choose to have some
pleasure on my own account! Any other man would be glad to see the woman
he professes to care for, enjoy herself. But you begrudge it to me. You
say my pleasures shall only come through you--who have taken to making
life a burden to me! Can't you understand that I'm glad to get away from
you, and your ill-humours and mean, abominable jealousy. You're not my
master. I'm not your slave." She tugged at a recalcitrant glove. "It is
absurd," she went on a moment later. "All because I wish to go out alone
for once.--But did I even want to? Why, if it means so much to you,
couldn't you have bought a ticket and come too? But no! you wouldn't go
yourself, and so I was not to go either. It's on a level with all your
"I go!" he cried. "To watch you the whole evening in that man's arms!--No,
thank you! It's not good enough.--You, with your indecent style of
She wheeled round, as if the insult had struck her; and for a moment faced
him, with open lips. Then she thought better of it: she laughed
derisively, with a wanton undertone, in order to hurt him.
"You would at least have had me under your own eyes."
As she spoke, she nodded to the old woman who opened the door to say that
the droschke waited below. A lace scarf was lying on the table; Louise
twisted it mechanically round her head, and began to struggle with an
evening cloak. Just as she had succeeded in getting it over her shoulders,
Maurice took her by the arms and bent her backwards, so that the cloak
fell to the floor.
"You shall not go!"
She stemmed her hands against him, and determinedly, yet. with caution,
pushed herself free.
"My dress--my hair! How dare you!"
"What do I care for your dress or your hair? You make me mad!"
"And what do I care whether you're mad or not? Take your hands away!"
"Louise! . . . for God's sake! . . . not with that man. At least, not with
him. He has said infamous things of you. I never told you--yes, I heard
him say--heard him compare you with . . . soiled goods he called
"Have you any more insults for me?"
"No, no more!" He leaned his back against the door. "Only this: if
you leave this room to-night, it's the end."
She had picked up her cloak again. "The end!" she repeated, and looked
contemptuously at him. "I should welcome it, if it were.--But you're
wrong. The end, the real end, came long ago. The beginning was the
end!--Open that door, and let me out!"
He heard her go along the hall, heard the front door shut behind her, and,
after a pause, heard the deeper tone of the house door. The droschke drove
away. After that, he stood at the window, looking out into the pitch-dark
night. Behind him, the landlady set the room in order, and extinguished
the additional candles.
When she had finished, and shut the door, Maurice faced the empty room.
His eyes ranged slowly over it; and he made a vague gesture that signified
nothing. A few steps took him to the writing-table, on which her muff was
lying. He lifted it up, and a bunch of violets fell into his hand. They
brought her before him as nothing else could have done. Beside the bed, he
went down on his knees, and drawing her pillow to him, pressed it round
The end, the end!--the beginning the end: there was truth in what she had
said. Their love had had no stamina in it, no vital power. He was losing
her, steadily and surely losing her, powerless to help it--rather it
seemed as if some malignant spirit urged him to hasten on the crisis.
Their thoughts seemed hopelessly at war.--And yet, how he loved her! He
made himself no illusions about her now; he understood just what she was,
and what she would always be; the many conflicting impulses of her nature
lay bare to him. But he loved her, loved her: all the dead weight of his
physical craving for her was on him again, confounding, overmastering.
None the less, she had left him; she had no need for him; and the hours
would come, oftener and oftener, when she could do without him, when, as
now, she voluntarily sought the company of other men. The thought
suffocated him; he rose to his feet, and hastened out of the house.
A little before one o'clock, he was stationed opposite the sideentrance to
the HOTEL DE PRUSSE. He had a long time to wait. As two o'clock
approached, small batches of people emerged, at first at intervals, then
more and more frequently. Among the last were Herries and Louise. Maurice
remained standing in the shadow of some houses, until they had parted from
their companions. He heard her voice above all the rest; it rang
out clear and resonant, just as on that former occasion when she had drunk
freely of champagne.
With many final words and false partings, she and Herries separated from
the group, and turned to walk down the street. As they did so, Maurice
sprang out from his hiding-place, and was suddenly in front of them,
blocking their progress.
At his unexpected apparition, both started; and when he roughly took hold
of her arm, Louise gave a short cry. Herries put out his hand, and smacked
"What are you doing there? Take your hands off this lady, damn you!" he
cried in broken German, not recognising Maurice, and believing that he had
to deal with an ordinary NACHTSCHWARMER.
The savageness with which he was turned on, enlightened him. "Damn you!"
retorted Maurice in English. "Take your hands off her yourself I She
belongs to me--to me, do you hear?--and I intend to keep her."
"You drunken cur!" said Herries. He had instinctively allowed Louise to
withdraw her arm; now he stood irresolute, uncertain how she would wish
him to act. She had gone very pale; he believed she was afraid. "Isn't
there a droschke anywhere?" he said, and looked angrily round. "I really
can't see you exposed to this . . . this sort of thing, you know."
Louise answered hurriedly. "No, no. And please go! I shall be all right.
I'm sorry.--I had enjoyed it so much. I will tell you another time, how
much. Good night, and thank you. No . . . PLEASE!> . . . yes, a delightful
evening." Her words were almost inaudible.
"Delightful indeed!" said Herries with warmth. Then he stood aside, raised
his hat, and let them pass.
Maurice had his hand on her wrist, and he dragged her after him, over the
frozen pavements, far more quickly than she could in comfort go, hampered
as she was by snow-boots and by her heavy cloak. But she fqllowed him,
allowed herself to be drawn, without protest. She felt strangely
will-less. Only sometimes, when the thought of the indignity he had laid
upon her came over her anew. did she whisper: "How dare you! ... oh, how
He did not look at her, or answer her, and all might have gone well, so
oddly did this treatment affect her, had he only persisted in it. But the
mere contact of her hand softened him towards her; her nearness worked on
him as it never failed to do. He was exhausted, too, mentally and
physically, and at the thought that, for this night at least, his
sufferings were over, he could have shed tears of relief. Slackening his
pace, he began to speak, began to excuse and exculpate himself before ever
she had blamed him, endeavouring to make her understand something of what
he had gone through. In advance, and before she had expressed it, he
sought to break down her spirit of animosity.
The longer he spoke, the harder she felt herself grow. He was at it again,
back at his eternal self-justification. Oh, why, for this one evening at
least, could he not have enforced his will, and have made her do what he
wished, without explanation! But the one plain, simple way was the only
way he never thought of taking. "I hate you and despise you! I shall never
forgive you for your behaviour to-night!--never!" And now it was she who
pressed forward, to get away from him.
He turned the key in the house-door. But before he could open the door,
Louise, pushing in front of him, threw it back, entered the house, and,
the next moment, the door banged in his face. He had just time to withdraw
his hand. He heard her steps on the stair, mounting, growing fainter; he
heard the door above open and shut.
For a second or two, he stood listening to these sounds. But when it
dawned on him that she had shut him out, he pressed both hands against the
wood of the heavy door, and tr to shake it open. He even beat his fist
against it, and only desisted from this when his knuckles began to smart.
Then, on looking down, he saw that the key was still in the lock. He
stared at it, stupidly, without understanding. But, yes--it was his own
key; he himself had put it in. He took it out again, and holding it in his
hand, looked at it, after the fashion of a drunken man, who does not
recognise the object he holds. And even while he did this, he burst into a
peal of laughter, which made him lean for support against the wall of the
house. The noise he made sounded idiotic, sounded mad, in the quiet
street; but he was unable to contain himself. She had left him the
key--had left the key! Oh, what a fool he was!
His laughter died away. He opened the door, noiselessly, as he had learned
by practice to do, and as noiselessly entered the vestibule and went up
Several versions of the contretemps with Herries were afloat immediately.
All agreed in one point: Maurice Guest had been in an advanced stage of
intoxication. A scuffle was said to have taken place in the deserted
street; there had been tears, and prayers, and shrill accusing voices. In
the version that reached Madeleine's cars, blows were mentioned. She stood
aghast at the disclosures the story made, and at all these implied. Until
now, Maurice had at least striven to preserve appearances. If once you
became callous enough not to care what people said of you, you wilfully
made of yourself a social outcast.
That same afternoon, as she was mounting the steps of the Conservatorium,
she came face to face with Krafft. They had not met for weeks; and
Madeleine remarked this, as they stood together. But she was not thinking
very deeply of him or his affairs; and when she asked him if he would go
across to her room, and wait for her there, she was following an impulse
that had no connection with him. As usual, Krafft had nothing particular
to do; and when she returned, half an hour later, she found him lying on
her sofa, with his arms under his head, his knees crossed above him. The
air of the room was grey with smoke; but, for once, Madeleine set no limit
to his cigarettes. Sitting down at the table, she looked meditatively at
him. For some moments neither spoke.
But as Krafft drew out his case to take another cigarette, a tattered
volume of Reclam's UNIVERSAL LIBRARY fell from his pocket, and spread
itself on the floor. Madeleine stooped and pieced it together.
"What have we here ?--ah, your Bible!" she said sarcastically: it was a
novel by a modern Danish poet, who died young. "You carry it about with
you, I see."
"To-day I needed STIMMUNG. But don't say Bible; that's an error of taste.
Say ' death-book.' One can study death in it, in all its forms."
"To give you STIMMUNG! I can't understand your love for the book, Heinz.
"Everything's morbid that the ordinary mortal doesn't wish to be
reminded of. Some day--if I don't turn stoker or acrobat beforehand, and
give up peddling in the emotions--some day I shall write music to it. That
would be a melodrama worth making."
"Morbid, Heirtz, morbid!"
"All women are not of your opinion. I remember once hearing a woman say,
had the author still lived, she would have pilgrimaged barefoot to see
"Oh, I dare say. There are women enough of that kind."
"Fools, of course?"
"Extravagant; unbalanced. The class of person that suffers from a diseased
temperament.--But men can make fools of themselves, too. There are
specimens enough here to start a museum with."
"Of which you, as NORMALMENSCH, could be showman."
Madeleine pushed her chair back towards the head of the, sofa, so that she
came to sit out of the range of Krafft's eyes.
"Talking of fools," she said slowly, "have you seen anything of Maurice
Krafft lowered a spike of ash into the tray. "I have not."
"Yes; I heard he had got into a different hour," she said disconnectedly.
As, however, Krafft remained impassive, she took the leap. "Is there--can
nothing be done for him, Heinz?"
Here Krafft did just what she had expected him to do: rose on his elbow,
and turned to look at her. But her face was inscrutable.
"Explain," he said, dropping back into his former position.
"Oh, explain!" she echoed, firing up at once. "I suppose if a
fellow-mortal were on his way to the scaffold, you men would still ask for
explanations. Listen to me. You're the only man here Maurice was at all
friendly with--I shouldn't turn to you, you scoffer, you may be sure of
it, if I knew of anyone else. He liked you; and at one time, what you said
had a good deal of influence with him. It might still have. Go to him,
Heinz, and talk straight to him. Make him think of his future, and of all
the other things he has apparently forgotten.--You needn't laugh! You
could do it well enough if you chose--if you weren't so hideously
cynical.--Oh, don't laugh like that! You're loathsome when you do. And
there's nothing natural about it."
But Krafft enjoyed himself undisturbed. "Not natural? It ought to be," he
said when he could speak again. "Oh, you English, you English!--was there
ever a people like you? Don't talk to me of men and women, Mada.
Only an Englishwoman would look at the thing as you do. How you would love
to reform and straitlace all us unregenerate youths! You've done your best
for me--in vain!--and now it's Guest. Mada, you have the Puritan's watery
fluid in your veins, and Cain's mark on your brow: the mark of the raceace
that carries its Sundays, its--language, its drinks, its dress, and its
conventions with it, whereever it goes, and is surprised, and mildly
shocked, if these things are not instantly adopted by the poor, purblind
foreigner.--You are the missionaries of the world!"
"Oh, I've heard all that before. Some day, Heinz, you really must come to
England and revise your impressions of us. However, I'm not going to let
you shirk the subject. I will tell you this. I know the MILIEU Maurice
Guest has sprung from, and I can judge, as you never can, how totally he
is unfitting himself to return. The way he's going on--I hear on all sides
that he'll never 'make his PRUFUNG,' now, and you yourself know his
certificate won't be worth a straw."
"There's something fascinating, I admit," Krafft went on, "about a people
of such a purely practical genius. And it follows, as a matter of course,
that, being the extreme individualists you are, you should question the
right of others to their particular mode of existence. For individualism
of this type implies a training, a culture, a grand style, which it has
taken centuries to attain--WE have still centuries to go, before we get
there. If we ever do! For we are the artists among nations--waxen
temperaments, formed to take on impressions, to be moulded this way and
that, by our age, our epoch. You are the moralists, we are the . . ."
"If you like. In your vocabulary, that's a synonym for KUNSTLER."
"You make me ill, Heinz!"
"KUSS' DIE HAND!" He was silent, following a smoke-ring with his eyes.
"Seriously, Mada," he said after a moment--but there was no answering
seriousness in his face, which mocked as usual. "Seriously, now, I suppose
you wouldn't admit what this DRESSUR, this HOHE SCHULE Guest is going
through, might be of service to him in the end?"
"No, indeed, I wouldn't," she answered hotly. "You talk as if he were a
circus-horse. Think of him now, and think of him as he was when he first
came here. A good fellow--wasn't he? And full to the brim of plans and
projects--ridiculous enough, some of them--but the great thing is to
be able to make plans. As long as a man can do that, he's on the upward
grade.--And he had talent, you said so yourself, and unlimited
"Good God, Madeleine" burst out Krafft. "That you should have been in this
place as long as you have, and still remain so immaculate!--Surely you
realise that something more than talent and perseverance is necessary? One
can have talent as one has a hat . . . use it or not as one likes.--I tell
you, the mill Guest is going through may be his salvation--artistically."
"And morally?" asked Madeleine, not without bitterness. "Must one give
thanks then, if one's friend doesn't turn out a genius?"
Krafft shrugged his shoulders. "As you take it. The artist has as much to
do with morality, as, let us say, your musical festivals have to do with
art.--And if his genius isn't strong enough to float him, he goes under,
UND DAMIT BASTA! The better for art. There are bunglers enough.--But I'll
tell you this," he rose on his elbow again, and spoke more warmly. "Since
I've seen what our friend is capable of; how he has allowed himself to be
absorbed; since, in short, he has behaved In such a highly un-British
way--well, since then, I have some hope of him. He seems open to
impression.--And impressions are the only things that matter to the
"Oh, don't go on, please! I'm sick to death of the very words art and
"Cheer up, Mada! You've nothing of the kind in your blood." He stretched
himself and yawned. "Nor has he, either, I believe. A face may deceive.
And a clear head, and unlimited perseverance, and intelligence, and
ambition--none of these things is enough. The Lord asks more of his
Madeleine clasped her hands behind her head, and tilted back her chair.
"So you couldn't interfere, I see? Your artistic conscience would forbid
"Why don't you do it yourself?" He scrutinised her face, with a sarcastic
"Oh, say it out! I know what you think."
"And am I not right?"
"No, you're not. How I hate the construction you put on things! In your
eyes, nothing is pure or disinterested. You can't even imagine to yourself
a friendship between a man and a woman. Such a thing isn't known
here--in your nation of artists. Your men are too inflammatory, and too
self-sufficient, to want their calves fatted for any but the one
sacrifice. Girls have their very kitchen-aprons tied on them with an
undermeaning. And poor souls, who can blame them for submitting! What a
fate is theirs, if they don't manage to catch a man! Gossip and needlework
are only slow poison."
"Now you're spiteful. But I'll tell YOU something. Such friendships as you
speak of are only possible where the woman is old--or ugly--or abnormal,
in some way: a man-woman, or a clever woman, or some other freak of
nature. Now, our women are, as a rule, sexually healthy. They know what
they're here for, too, and are not ashamed of it. Also, they still have
their share of physical attraction. While yours--good God! I wonder you
manage to keep the breed going!"
"Stop, Heinz!" said Madeleine sternly. "You are illogical, and indecent;
and you know there's a limit I don't choose to let you pass.--You're
wrong, too. You've only to look about you, here, with unbiassed eyes, to
see which race the prettiest girls belong to.--But never mind! You only
launch out in this way that you may not be obliged to discuss Maurice
Guest. I know you. I can read you like a book."
"You are not very old . . . or ugly . . . or abnormal, Mada."
She smiled in spite of herself. "And are we not friends, pray?"
"Something that way.--But in all you say about Guest, the impersonal note
is wanting. You're jealous."
"I'm nothing of the sort!--But you'll at least allow me to resent seeing a
friend of mine in the claws of this . . . this vampire?"
Krafft laughed. "Vampire is good!--A poor, distraught--"
"Spare your phrases, Heinz. She's bad through and through, and stupid into
"Lulu stupid? EI, EI, Mada! Your eyes are indeed askew. She has a touch of
the other extreme--of genius."
"NA!--Well, if this is another of your manifestations of genius, then
permit me to hate--no, to loathe it, in all its forms."
"GANZ NACH BELIEBEN! It's a privilege of your sex, you know. There never
was a woman yet who didn't prefer a good, square talent."
"A crack this way, and it's madness; that, and the world says
genius. And some people have a peculiar gift for discovering it. Those who
set themselves to it can find genius in a flea's jump."
"But has it never occurred to you, that the power of loving--that some
women have a genius for loving?--No, why do I ask! For if I am a book, you
are a poster--a placard."
"What a people you are for words! You make phrases about everything.
That's a ridiculous thing to say. If every fickle woman--"
"Fickle woman! fickle fiddle-sticks!" he interrupted. "That's only a tag.
The people whose business it is to decide these things--DIE HERREN
DICHTER--are not agreed to this day whet it's man who's fickle or woman.
In this mood it's one, in that, the other; and the silly world bleats it
after them, like sheep."
"Well, if you wish me to put it more plainly: if what you say were true,
vice would be condoned."
"Vice!!" he cried with derision, and sat up and faced her. "Vice!--my dear
Mada!--sweet, innocent child! . . . No, no. A special talent is needed for
that kind of thing; an unlimited capacity for suffering; an entire
renunciation of what is commonly called happiness! You hold the good old
Philistine opinions. You think, no doubt, of two lovers living together in
delirious pleasure, in SAUS UND BRAUS.--Nothing could be falser. A woman
only needs to have the higher want in her nature, and the suffering is
there, too. She's born gifted with the faculty. And a woman of the type
we're speaking of, is as often as not the flower of her kind.--Or becomes
it.--For see all she gains on her way: the mere passing from hand to hand;
the intense impressionable nature; the process of being moulded--why, even
the common prostitute gets a certain manly breadth of mind, such as you
other women never arrive at. Each one who comes and goes leaves her
something: an experience--a turn of thought--it may be only an
intuition--which she has not had before."
"And the contamination? The soul?" cried Madeleine; two red spots had come
out on her cheeks.
"As you understand it, such a woman has no soul, and doesn't need one. All
she needs is tact and taste."
"You are the eternal scoffer."
"I never was more serious in my life.--But let us put it another way. What
does a--what does any beautiful woman want with a soul, or brains, or
morals, or whatever you choose to call it? Let her give thanks, night and
day, that she is what she is: one of the few perfect things on
this imperfect earth. Let her care for her beauty, and treasure it, and
serve it. Time ,enough when it is gone, to cultivate the soul--if, indeed,
she doesn't bury herself alive, as it's her duty to do, instead of
decaying publicly. Mada! do you know a more disgusting, more humiliating
sight than the sagging of the skin on a neck that was once like marble?--
than a mouth visibly losing its form?--the slender shoulders we have
adored, broadening into massivity?--all the fine spiritual delicacy of
youth being touched to heaviness?--all the barbarous cruelty, in short,
with which, before our eyes, time treats the woman who is no longer
young.--No, no! As long as she has her beauty, a woman is under no
necessity to bolster up her conscience, or to be reasonable, or to think.
--Think? God forbid! There are plain women enough for that. We don't ask
our Lady of Milo to be witty for us, or to solve us problems. Believe me,
there is more thought, more eloquence, in the corners of a beautiful
mouth--the upward look of two dark eyes--than in all women have said or
done from Sappho down. Springy colour, light, music, perfume: they are all
to be found in the curves of a perfect throat or arm."
Madeleine's silence bristled with irony.
"And that," he went on, "was where the girl you are blaspheming had such
exquisite tact. She knew this. Her instinct taught her what was required
of her. She would fall into an attitude, and remain motionless in it, as
if she knew the eye must feast its full. Or if she did move, and
speak--for she, too, had hours of a desperate garrulity--then one was
content, as well. Her vitality was so intense that her whole body spoke
when her lips did; she would pass so rapidly from one position to another
that you had to shut your eyes for fear that, out of all this multitude,
you would not be able to carry one away with you.--If some of her ways of
expressing herself in motion could be caught and fixed, a sculptor's fame
would be made.--A painter's, if he could reproduce the trick she has of
smiling entirely with her eyes and eyebrows.--And then her hands! Mada,
I wonder you other women don't weep for envy of them. She has only to
raise them, to pass them over her forehead, or to finger at her hair,
and the world is hers.--Do you really think a man asks soul of a woman
with such eyes and hand as those?--Good God, no! He worships her and
adores her. Were is only one place for him, and that's on his knees
"Well, really, Heinz!" said Madeleine, and the spots on her cheeks burnt a
dull red. "In imagination, do you know, I'm carried just three
years backwards? Do you remember that spring evening, when you came
rushing in here to me? 'I've seen the most beautiful woman in the world,
and I'm drunk with her.' And how I couldn't understand? For I thought her
plain, just as I still do.--But then, if I remember aright, your
admiration was by no means the platonic, artistic affair
it . . . hm! . . . is now."
"It was not.--But now, you understand, Mada, that I think a man makes a
good exchange of career, and success, and other such accidents of his
material existence, for the right to touch these hands at will. The one
thing necessary is, that he be fit for the post. I demand of him that he
be a gourmand, a connoisseur in beauty. And it's here, mind you, that I
have doubts of our friend.--Is it clear to you?"
"As clear as day, thanks. And you may be QUITE sure: of me never applying
to you for help again. I shall respect your principles."
"And mind you, I don't say Guest may not come out of the affair all
right--enriched for the rest of his life."
"Very good. And now you may go. I regret that I ever bothered with you."
Krafft went across to where Madeleine was standing, put his hands on her
two shoulders, and laid his head on his right arm, so that she, who was
taller than he was, looked down on the roundnesses of his curly hair.
"You're a good fellow, Mada--a good fellow! JA, JA--who knows! If you had
had just a little more of the EWIGWEIBLICHE about you!"
"Too much honour . . . But you don't expect Englishwomen to join your
harem, do, you?"
"There would have been a certain repose in belonging to a woman of your
type. But it's the charm--physical charm--we poor wretches can't do
"Upon my word, it's almost a declaration!" cried Madeleine, not unnettled.
"Take my advice, Heinz. Hie you home, and marry the person you ought to.
Take pity on the poor thing's constancy. Unless," she added, a moment
later, with a sarcastic laugh, "since you're still so infatuated with
Louise, you persuade her to transfer her favours to you. That would solve
all difficulties in the most satisfactory way. She would have the variety
that seems necessary to her existence; you could lie on your knees before
her all day long; and our friend would be restored to sanity. Think it
over, Heinz. It's a good idea."
"Do you think she'd have me?" he asked, as he shook himself into
"Heaven knows and Heaven only! Where Louise is concerned, nothing's
impossible--I've always maintained it."
"Well, ta-ta!--You shall have early news, I promise you."
Madeleine heard him go down the stair, whistling the ROSE OF SHARON. But
he could not have been half-way to the bottom, when he turned and came
back. Holding her door ajar, he stuck a laughing face into the room.
"Upon my word, Mada, I congratulate you! It's a colossal idea."
But Madeleine had had enough of him. "I'm glad it pleases you. Now go, go!
You've played the fool here long enough."
When he emerged from the house, Krafft had stopped whistling. He walked
with his hands in his pockets, his felt hat pulled down over his eyes. At
the corner, he was so lost in thought as to be unable to guide his feet:
he stood and gazed at the pavement. Still on the same spot, he pushed his
hat to the back of his head, and burst into such an eerie peal of laughter
that some ladies, who were coming towards him, started back, and, picking
up their skirts, went off the pavernent, in order to avoid passing him too
The following afternoon, at an hour when Maurice was safely out of the
way, Krafft climbed the stair to the house in the BRUDERSTRASSE.
The landlady did not know him. Yes, Fraulein was at home, she said; but--
Krafft promptly entered, and himself closed the door.
Outside Louise's room, he listened, with bent head. Having satisfied
himself, he turned the handle of the door and went in.
Louise stood at the window, watching the snow fall. It had snowed
uninterruptedly since early morning; out of the leaden sky, flake after
flake fluttered down, whirled, spun, and became part of the fallen mass.
At the opening of the door, she did not stir; for it would only be Maurice
coming back to ask forgiveness; and she was too unspeakably tired to begin
all over again.
Krafft stood and eyed her, from the crown of her rough head, to the
bedraggled tail of the dressing-gown.
"GRUSS' GOTT, LULU!"
At the sound of his voice, she jumped round with a scream.
"You, Heinz! YOU!"
The blood suffused her face a purplish red; her voice was shrill
with dismay; her eyes hung on the young man as though he were a returning
With an effort, she got the better of her first fright, and took a step
towards him. "How DARE you come into this room!"
Krafft hung his wet coat over the back of a chair, and wiped his face dry
of the melted snow.
"No heroics, Lulu!"
But she could not contain herself. "Oh, how dare you, It's a mean,
dishonourable trick--only you would do it!"
"Sit down and listen to what I have to say. It won't take long. And it's
to your own advantage, I think, not to make a noise.--May I smoke?"
She obeyed, taking the nearest chair; for she had begun to tremble; her
legs shook under her. But when he held out the case of cigarettes to her,
she struck it, and the contents were spilled on the floor.
"Look here, Lulu," he said, and crossing his legs, put one hand in his
pocket, while with the other he made gestures suitable to his words. "I've
not come here to-day to rake up old sores. Time has gone over them and
healed them, and it's only your--NEBENBEI GESAGT, extremely bad-conscience
that makes you afraid of me. I'm not here for myself, but--"
"Heinz!" The cry escaped her against her will. "For him? You've come from
He removed his cigarette and smiled. "Him? Which? Which of them do you
"Which?" It was another uncontrollable exclamation. Then the expression of
almost savage joy that had lighted up her face, died out. "Oh, I know you!
. . . know you and hate you, Heinz! I've never hated anyone as much as
"And a woman of your temperament hates uncommonly well.--No, all jokes
aside,"--the word cut her; he saw this, and repeated it. "Joking apart,
I've come to you to-day, merely to ask if you don't think your present
little affair has gone far enough?"
She was as composed as he was. "What business is it of yours?"
"Oh, none. Except that the poor fool was once my friend."
She gave a daring laugh, full of suggestion.
But Krafft was not put out by it. "Don't do that again," he said. "It
sounds ugly; and you have nothing to do with ugliness, you know. No, I
repeat once more: this is not a personal matter."
"And you expect me to believe that?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
It was now she who smiled derisively. "Have you forgotten a certain
evening in this room, three years ago?"
But he did not flinch. "Upon my word, if you are bold enough to recall
that!--However, the reminder was unnecessary. Tell me now: aren't you
about done with Guest?"
For still a moment, she fought to keep up her show of dignity. Then she
broke down. "Heinz!--oh, I don't know! Oh, yes, yes, yes--a thousand
times, yes! Oh, I'm so tired--I can't tell you how tired I am--of the very
sight of him! I never wanted him, believe me, I didn't! He thrust himself
on me. It was not my doing."
"Oh, come now! Tell that to some one else."
"Yes, I know: you only think the worst of me. But though I was weak, and
yielded, anyone would have done the same. He gave me no peace.--But I've
been punished out of all proportion to the little bit of happiness it
brought me. There's no more miserable creature alive than I am."
"What interests me," continued Krafft, in a matter-of-fact tone, "is, how
you came to choose so far afield from your particular type. It's well
enough represented here."
She saw the folly of wasting herself upon him, and gave a deep sigh. Then,
however, the same wild change as before came over her face. Stooping, she
took his hand and fondled it.
"Heinz! Now that you're here, do one thing--only one--for me! Have pity on
me! I've gone through so much--been so unhappy. Tell me--there's only one
thing I want to know. Where is he? Will he NEVER come back? For you know.
You must know. You have seen him."
She had sunk to her knees; her head was bent over his hand; she laid her
cheek against it. Krafft considered her thoughtfully; his eye dwelt with
approval on the broad, slender shoulders, the lithe neck--all the sure
grace of the crouching body.
"Will you do something for me, Lulu?"
"Then let your hair down."
He himself drew out the pins and combs that held it, and the black mass
fell, and lay in wide, generous waves round face and neck.
"That's the idea! Now go on."
Louise kissed his hand. "Tell me; you must know."
"But is it possible that still interests you?"
"Oh, no! My life depends on it, that's all. You are cruel and bad;
but still I can speak to you--for months now, I haven't had a soul to
speak to. Be kind to me this once, Heinz. I CAN'T go on living without
him. I haven't lived since he left me--not an hour!--Oh, you're my last
"You'll have plenty of hopes in your life yet."
"In those old days, you hated me, too. But don't bear malice now. There's
nothing I won't do for you, if you tell me. I'll never speak to--never
even think of you again."
"I'm not so long-suffering."
"Then you won't tell me?"
"I didn't say that."
She crushed his hand between hers. "Here's the chance you asked for--to
save your friend! Oh, won't you understand?"
An inward satisfaction, of which only he himself knew the cause, warmed
Krafft through at seeing her prostrate before him. But as he continued to
look at her, a thought crossed his mind, and quickly resolved, he laid his
cigarette on the table, and put his hands, first on her head, amid the
tempting confusion of her hair, which met them like a thick stuff pleasant
to the touch, and from there to her shoulders, inclining her towards him.
She looked up, and though her eyes were full of tears, her white face was
alight in an instant with hope again, as he said: "Would you do something
else for me if I told you?"
She strained back, so that she might see his face. "Heinz!--what is it?"
And then, with a sudden gasp of comprehension:
"Oh, if that's all!--I will never see Maurice Guest again."
"That's not it."
"What is it then?"
"Will you listen quietly?"
"Yes, yes." She ceased to draw back, let herself be held. But he felt her
He whispered a few words in her ear. Almost simultaneously she jerked her
head away, and, turning a dark red, stared incredulously at him. Then she
sprang to her feet.
"Oh, what a fool I am! To believe, for one instant, there was a human spot
in you I could get at!--Take your hands away--take them off me! Because
I've had no one to speak to for so long: because I know YOU could
understand if you would--Oh, when a woman is down, anyone may hit her."
"Gently, gently!--You're too good for such phrases."
"I'm no different from other women. It's only you--with your
horrible thoughts of me. YOU! Why, you're no more to me than the floor I
"And matters are simplified by that very fact.--I can give you his
"Go away! I may hurt you. I could kill you.--Go away!"
"And this," said Krafft, as he put on his coat again, "is how a woman
listens quietly. Well, Lulu, think it over. A word at any time will bring
me, if you change your mind."
One evening, about a week later, Maurice entered Seyffert's Cafe. The
heavy snowfall had been succeeded by a period of thaw--of slush and gloom;
and, on this particular night, a keen wind had risen, making the streets
seem doubly cheerless. It was close on nine o'clock, and Seyffert's was
crowded with its usual guests--young people, who had escaped from more or
less dingy rooms to the warmth and light of the cafe, where the yellow
blinds were drawn against the inclement night. The billiard table in the
centre was never free; those players whose turn had not yet come, or was
over, stood round it, cigarette or large black cigar in hand, and watched
Maurice had difficulty in finding a seat. When he did, it was at a table
for two, in a corner. A youth who had already eaten his supper, sat alone
there, picking his teeth. Maurice took the opposite chair, and made his
evening meal with a languid appetite. At the other side of the room was a
large and boisterous party, whose leader was Krafft--Krafit in his most
outrageous mood. Every other minute, his sallies evoked roars of laughter.
Maurice refrained from glancing in that direction. When, however, his
VIS-A-VIS got up and went away, he was startled from his conning of the
afternoon paper by seeing Krafft before him. The latter, who carried his
beer-mug in his hand, took the vacated scat, nodded and smiled.
Maurice was on his guard at once; for it seemed to him that they were
being watched by the party Krafft had left. Putting down the newspaper, he
wished his friend good-evening.
"I've something to say to you," said Krafft without responding, and,
having drained his glass, he clapped the lid to attract the waiter's
With the over-anxious readiness to oblige, which was becoming one of his
most marked traits, and, in reality, cloaked a deathly indifference,
Maurice hung up his paper, and sat forward to listen. Crossing his arms on
the table, Krafft began to speak, meanwhile fixing his companion with his
eye. Maurice was at first too bewildered by what he heard to know
to whom the words referred. Then, the colour mounted to his face; the
nerves in his temples began to throb; and his hand moved along the edge of
the table, in search of something to which it could hold fast.--It was the
first time the name of Louise had been mentioned between them--and in what
"Heinz!" he said at last; his voice seemed not to be his own. "How dare
you speak of Miss Dufrayer like that!"
"PARDON!" said Krafft; his flushed, transparent cheeks were aglow, his
limpid eyes shone like stars. "Do you mean Lulu?"
Maurice grew pale. "Mind what you're saying!"
Krafft took a gulp of beer. "Are you afraid of the truth?--But just one
word, and I'm done. You no doubt knew, as every one else did, that Lulu
was Schilsky's mistress. What you didn't know, was this;" and now, without
the least attempt at palliation, without a single extenuating word, there
fell from his lips the quick and witty narration of an episode in which
Louise and he had played the chief parts. It was the keynote of their
relations to each other: the story, grossly told, of a woman's unsatisfied
Before the pitiless details, not one of which was spared him, were checked
off, Maurice understood; half rising from his chair, he struck Krafft a
resounding blow in the face. He had intended to hit the mouth, but, his
hand remaining fully open, caught on the cheek, and with such force that
the delicate skin instantly bore a white imprint of all five fingers.
Only the people in their immediate neighbourhood saw what had happened;
but these sprang up; a girl gave a nervous cry; and in a minute, the
further occupants of the room had gathered round them, the
billiard-players with their cues in their hands. Two waiters, napkin on
arm, hastened up, and the proprietor came out from an inner room, and
rubbed his hands.
"MEINE HERREN! MEINE HERREN!"
Krafft had jumped to his feet; he was also unable to refrain from putting
his hand to his tingling face. Maurice, who was very pale, stood staring,
like a person in a trance, at the mark, now deep red, which his hand had
left on his friend's cheek. There was a solemn pause; all eyes were fixed
on Krafft; and the stillness was only broken by the proprietor's
persuasive: "MEINE HERREN! MEINE HERREN!"
In half a minute Krafft had collected himself. Turning, he jauntily waved
his hand to those pressing up behind; though one side of his face still
blazed and burned.
"Don't allow yourselves to be disturbed, gentlemen. The incident
is closed--for the present, at least. My friend here was carried away by a
momentary excitement. Kindly resume your seats, and act as if nothing had
happened. I shall call him to account at my own convenience.--But just one
The last words were addressed to Maurice. Opening a notebook, Krafft tore
out one of the little pages, and, with his customary indolence of
movement, wrote something on it. Then he folded it through the middle, and
across again, and gave it to Maurice.
Maurice took it, because there seemed nothing else for him to do; he also,
for the same reason, took his coat and hat, which some one handed to him.
He saw nothing of what went on--nothing but the five outspread marks,
which had run together so slowly. He had, however, enough presence of mind
to do what was evidently expected of him; and, in the hush that still
prevailed, he left the cafe.
The wind sent a blast in his face. Round the corners of the streets, which
it was briskly scavenging, it swept in boisterous gusts, which beat the
gas-flames flat as soon as they reared themselves, and made them give a
wavering, uncertain light. Not a soul was visible. But in the moment that
he stood hesitating outside the brilliancy of the yellow blinds, the
hubbub of voices burst forth again. He moved hastily away, and began to
walk, to put distance between himself and the place. He did not shrink
before the wind-scourged meadows, but fought his way forward, till he
reached the woods. There he threw himself face downwards on the first
bench he came to.
A smell of rotting and decay met his nostrils: as if, from the thousands
of leaves, mouldering under the trees on which they had once hung, some
invisible hand had set free thousands of odours, there mounted to him, as
he lay, all that rich and humid earthiness that belongs to sunless places.
And for a time, he was conscious of little else but this morbid fragrance.
An open brawl! He had struck a man in the face before a crowd of
onlookers, and had as good as been ejected from their midst. From now on,
he was an outcast from orderly society, was branded as one who was not
wholly responsible for his actions--he, Maurice Guest, who had ever been
so chary of committing himself. What made the matter seem still blacker,
too, in his own eyes, was the fact of Krafft having once been his
intimate, personal friend. Now, he could never even think of him again,
without, at the same time, seeing the mark of his hand on Krafft's cheek.
If the blow had remained invisible, it might have been more easily
forgotten; but he had seen it, as it were, taken shape before him.--Or,
had it only been returned, it would have helped to lessen the weight of
his present abasement--oh, he would have given all he had to have felt a
return blow on his own face! Even the smallest loss of selfcontrol on the
part of Krafft would have been enough. But the latter was too proud to
give himself away gratuitously: he preferred to take his revenge in the
more unconventional fashion of leaving his friend to bear the ignominy
Maurice lay stabbing himself with these and similar thoughts. Only little
by little did the tumult that had been roused in him abate. Then, and just
the more vividly for the break in his memory, the gross words Krafft had
said, came back to him. Recalling them, he felt an intense bitterness
against Louise. She was the cause of all his sufferings; were it not for
her, he might still be leading a quiet, decent life. It was her doing that
he was compelled to part, bit by bit, with his selfrespect. Not once, in
all the months they had been together, had the smallest good come to him
through her. Nothing but misery.
Now, he had no further rest where he was. He must go to her, and tax her
with it, repeat what Krafft had said, to her very face. She should suffer,
too--and the foretasted anguish and pleasure of hot recriminations dulled
all other feelings in him.
He rose, chilled to the bone from his exposure; one hand, which had hung
down over the bench, was wet and sticky from grasping handfuls of dead
It was past eleven o'clock. Louise wakened with a start, and, at the sight
of his muddy, dishevelled dress, rose to her elbow.
"What is it? What's the matter? Where have you been?"
He stood at the foot of the bed, and looked at her. The loose masses of
her hair, which had come unplaited, arrested his attention: he had never
seemed to know before how brutally black it was. With his eyes fixed on
it, he repeated what Krafft had told him.
Louise lay with the back of one hand on her forehead, and watched him from
under it. When he had finished, she said: "So Heinz has raked up that old
story again, has he?"
Maurice had expected--yes, what had he expected?--anger, perhaps, or
denial, or, it might be, vituperation; only not the almost impartial