Part 12 out of 13
composure with which she listened to him. For he had not spared her a
"Is that all you've got to say?" he cried, suffocated with doubt. "Then
you . . . you admit it?"
"Admit it! Maurice! Are you crazy?--to wake me up for this! It happened
His recoil of disgust was too marked to be ignored. Louise half sat up in
bed again, supporting herself on one hand. Her nightgown was not buttoned;
he saw to the waist a strip of the white skin beneath, saw, too, how a
long black strand of her hair fell in and lay on it.
"You won't tell me you didn't know from the first there had been . . .
something between Heinz and me?" she cried, roused to defend
herself.--"And look here, Maurice, as he told you that, it's my turn now.
I'll tell you why! "And sitting still more upright, she gave a reason
which made him grasp the knob of the bed-post so fiercely that it came
away in his hand. He threw it into a corner.
"Louise! . . . you! to take such words on your tongue! Is there no shame
left in you?" His throat was dry and narrow.
"Shame! You only mean the need for concealment. Before you had got me,
there was no talk of shame."
"Do you know what you're saying?"
"Oh, that's your eternal cry!" and, suddenly spurred to anger, she rose
again. "I know--yes, I know! Do you think I'm a fool? Why must you alone
be so innocent! Why should you alone not know that I was only jealous of a
single person, and that was Krafft?"
Maurice turned away. In the comparative darkness behind the screen, he sat
down on the sofa, put his arms on the table, and his head on his arms. He
was exhausted, and found he must have slept as he sat; for when he lifted
his head again, the hands of the clock had moved forward by several hours.
One morning towards the end of January, Krafft disappeared from Leipzig,
and some days later, the body of Avery Hill was found in a secluded reach
of the Pleisse, just below Connewitz. Some workmen, tramping townwards
soon after dawn, noticed a strip of light stuff twisted round a snag,
which projected slightly above the surface of the water. It proved to be
the skirt of her dress, which had been caught and held fast. Ambulance and
police were summoned, and the body was recovered and taken to the
The last of his friends to see Krafft was Madeleine, and the number of
those interested in his departure, and in Avery's quick suicide, was so
large that she several times had to repeat her lively account of the last
visit he paid her. He had come in, one afternoon, and settling himself on
the sofa, refused to be dislodged. As he was in one of his most ambiguous
moods, she left him to himself, and went on with her work.
On rising to go, he had stood for a moment with his hands on her
"Well, Mada, whatever happens, remember I was sorry you wouldn't have me."
"Oh, come now, Heinz, you never really asked me!"
It was snowing hard that night, a moist, soft snow that melted as it
touched the ground, and Krafft borrowed her umbrella. As usual, however,
he returned before he could have got half-way down the stairs, to say that
he had changed his mind and would not take it.
"But you'll get wet through."
"I don't want your umbrella, I tell you.--Or have you two?"
"No; but I'm not going out.--Oh, well, leave it then. And may you reap a
As he went down, for the second time, he whistled the ROSE OF SHARON: she
listened to it grow fainter in the distance: and that was the last she or
anyone had heard of Krafft. The following morning, his landlady found a
note on her kitchen-table, instructing her to keep his belongings for four
weeks. If, by that time, they had not been claimed, she might sell
them, and take the money obtained for herself. Only a few personal
articles were missing, such as would be necessary for a hurried
journey.--Of course, so Madeleine wound up the story, she had never
expected Heinz to behave like a normal mortal, and to take leave of his
friends in the ordinary way, and she was also grateful to him for not
pilfering her umbrella, which was silvertopped. All the same, there was
something indecent about his behaviour. It showed how little he had, at
heart, cared for any of them. Only a person who thoroughly despised
others, would treat them in this way, playing with them up to the last
minute, as one plays with dolls or fools.
Avery Hill was laid out in a small room adjoining the policestation. It
was evening before the business of identification was over. Various
members of the American colony had to give evidence, and the services of
the consul were called into play, for there were countless difficulties,
formalities and ceremonies attached to this death by one's own hand in a
foreign country. Before all the technical details were concluded, there
were those who thought--and openly said so--that an intending suicide
might cast a merciful thought on the survivors. Only Dove made no
complaint. He had been one of the first to learn what had happened, and,
in the days that followed, he ran to and fro, from one BUREAU to another,
receiving signatures, and witnessing them, bearing the whole brunt of
surly Saxon officialdom on his own shoulders.
Twenty-four hours later, it had been arranged that the body should be
buried on the JOHANNISFRIEDHOF, and the consul was advised by cablegram to
lay out the money for the funeral. Under the eyes of a police-officer and
a young clerk from the consul's office, Madeleine, assisted by Miss
Jensen, went through the dead girl's belongings, and packed them together.
Miss Jensen kept up, in a low voice, a running commentary on the falsity
of men and the foolishness of women. But, at times, her natural kindness
of heart asserted itself, to the confusion of her theories.
"Poor thing, poor young thing!" she murmured, gazing at a pair of
well-patched boots which she held in her hand. "If only she had come to
us!--and let us help her!"
"Help her?" echoed Madeleine in a testy way; she was one of those who
thought that the dead girl might have shown more consideration for her
friends, standing, as they did, immediately before their PRUFUNGEN. "Could
one help her ever having set eyes on that attractive
scoundrel?--And besides, it's easy enough thinking afterwards, one might
have been able to help, to do this and that. It's a mistake. People don't
want help; and they don't give you a thank-you for offering it. All they
ask is to be let alone, to muddle and bungle their lives as they like."
As they walked home together, Miss Jensen returned once more to the
subject of Krafft's failings.
"I've known many men," she said, "one more credulously vain and stupid
than another; for unless a man is engaged in satisfying his brute
instincts, he can be twisted round the finger of ANY woman. But Mr. Krafft
was the only one I've met, who didn't appear to me to have a single good
The big woman's high-pitched voice grated on Madeleine.
"You're quite wrong there," she said more snappily than before. "Heinz had
as many good impulses as anyone else. But he had reduced the concealing of
them to a fine art. He was never happier than when he had succeeded in
giving a totally false impression of himself. Take me for this, for that!
--just what I choose. Often it was as if he flung a bone to a dog: there!
that's good enough for you. No one knew Heinz: each of us knew a little
bit of him, and thought it was all there was to know.--He never showed a
good impulse: that is as much as saying that he swarmed with them. And no
doubt he would have considered that, with regard to you, he had been
entirely successful. You have the idea of him he meant you to have."
"He was never her lover," said Louise with a studied carelessness.
Maurice, to whom nothing was more offensive than the tone of bravado in
which she flaunted subjects of this nature, was stung to retaliation.
"How do YOU know?"
"Well, if you wish to hear--from his own lips."
"Do you mean to say you've spoken to Heinz about things of that
kind?--discussed his relations with other women?"
"Do you need reminding that I knew Heinz before I had ever heard of you?"
He turned away, too dispirited to cross words with her. The events of the
past week had closed over his head as two waves Close over a swimmer,
cutting off light and air. Since the night on which he had left his whilom
friend the mark of his spread fingers as a parting gift, he had
ceased to care greatly about anything.
Compared with his pessimistic absorption in himself, Avery's suicide and
Krafft's departure touched him lightly. For the girl, he had never cared.
As soon, though, as he heard that Krafft had disappeared, he turned out
his pockets for the scrap of paper Heinz had given him that evening in the
cafe. But it threw no light on what had happened. It was merely an
address, and, twist it as he would, Maurice could make no more of it than
the words: KLOSTERGASSE 12. He resolved to go through the street of that
name in the afternoon; but, when the time came, he forgot about it, and it
was not till next morning that he carried out his intention. There was,
however, nothing to be learned; number twelve was a gunsmith's shop, and
at his hesitating inquiry, if anything were known there of a music-student
called Krafft, the owner of the shop looked at him as if he were a
lunatic, and answered rudely: was the Herr under the impression that the
shop was an information BUREAU?
Louise was dressed to go out. Pressed as to her destination, she said that
she was going to see the body. Maurice sought in vain to dissuade her.
"It's a perverse thing to do," he cried. "You didn't care a fig for the
girl when she was alive. But now she can't forbid it, you go and stare at
her, out of nothing but curiosity."
"How do you know whether I cared for her or not?" Louise threw at him: she
was tying on her' veil before the glass. "Do you think I tell you
everything?--And as for your 'perverse,' it's the same with all I ever do.
You have made it your business always to find my wishes absurd." She took
up her gloves and, holding them together, hit her muff with them. "In this
case, it doesn't concern you in the least. I don't ask you to come. I want
to go alone."
The more shattered and unsure he grew, the more self-assertive was she.
There was an air of bravado in all she did, at this time--as in the matter
of her determination to go to the dead-house--and she hurt him, with
reckless cruelty, whenever a chance offered. Her pale mouth seemed only to
open to say unkind things, and her eyes weighed him with an ironic
contempt. To his jarred ears, her very laugh sounded less fine. At
moments, she began almost to look ugly to him; but it was a dangerous
ugliness, more seductive than her beauty had ever been. Then, he knew that
she was not too good for him, nor he for her, nor either of them for the
world they lived in.
They walked side by side to the mortuary. It was a very cold day,
and Louise wore heavy furs, from which her face rose enticingly. The
attention she attracted was to Maurice like gall to a wound.
There was not much difficulty in gaining admittance to the dead. A small
coin changed hands, and a man in uniform opened the door.
The post-mortem examination had been held that day, and the body was
swathed from head to foot in a white sheet. It lay on a long, projecting
shelf, and a ticket was pinned on the wall at its head. On the opposite
side of the room, on a similar shelf, was another shrouded figure--the
body of a workingman, found that morning on the outskirts of the town,
with an empty bottle which had contained carbolic acid by its side. The
LEICHENFRAU, the public layer--out of the dead, told them this; it was
she, too, who drew back the sheet from Avery's face in order that they
might see it. She was a rosy, apple-cheeked woman, and her vivid colouring
was thrown into relief by the long black cloak and the close-fitting,
black poke-bonnet that she wore. Maurice, for whom the dead as such had no
attraction, turned from his contemplation of the stark-stretched figure on
the shelf, to watch the living woman. The exuberance of her vitality had
something almost insultant in the presence of these two rigid forms, from
whose faces the colour had fled for ever. Her eyes were alert like those
of a bird; her voice and movements were loud and bustling. In thought he
compared her to a carrion-crow. It was this woman's calling to live on the
dead; she hastened from house to house to cleanse poor, inanimate bodies,
whose dignity had departed from them. He wondered idly whether she gloated
over the announcements of fresh deaths, and mentally sped the dying. Did
she talk of good seasons and of slack seasons, and look forward to the
spread of contagious disease?--Well, at least, she throve on her trade, as
a butcher thrives by continually handling meat.
Louise had eyes only for the face of the dead girl. She stood gazing at
it, with a curious absorption, but without a spark of feeling. The
LEICHENFRAU, having finished tying up a basket, crossed the room and
"EINE SCHONE LEICHE!" she said, and nodded, appreciating the fact that a
stranger should admire what was partly her own handiwork.
It was true; Avery's face looked as though it were modelled in wax. She
had not been in the water for more than half an hour, had said the
doctor, not long enough to be disfigured in any way. Only her hair
remained dank and matted, and, although it was laid straight out over the
bolster, it would probably never be quite dry again. No matter, continued
the woman; on. the morrow would come the barber, a good friend of hers, to
dress it for the tomb; he would bring tongs and irons, and other
heating-apparatus with him, and, for certain, would make a good job of it,
so skilled was he: he had all the latest fashions in hair-dressing at his
finger-ends. The face itself was as placid as it had been in life; the
lids were firmly closed--no peeping or squinting here--and the lips met
and rested on each other round and full. Seen like this, it now became
evident that his face was one of those which are, all along, intended for
death--intended, that is, to lie waxen and immobile, to show to best
advantage. In life, there had been too marked a discrepancy between the
extreme warmth of the girl's colouring and the extreme immobility of her
expression. Now that the blood had, as it were, been drained away to the
last drop, now that temples and nostrils had attained transparency, the
fine texture of the skin and the beauty of the curves of lips and chin
were visible to every eye. Only one hand, so the LEICHENFRAU babbled on,
was convulsively closed, and could not be undone; and, as she spoke, she
drew the sheet further down, and displayed the naked arm and hand: the
long, fine fingers were clenched, the thumb inside the rest. Otherwise,
Avery appeared to sleep, to sleep profoundly, with an intensity such as
living sleep never attains to--the very epitome of repose. It seemed as if
her eyelids were pressed down by some unseen force; and, in her presence,
the feeling gained ground in one, that it was worth enduring much, to
arrive at a rest of this kind at last.
"JA, JA," said the woman, and rearranged the covering. "It's a pleasure to
handle such a pretty corpse. That one there, now,"--with her chin she
pointed to the other figure, and made a face of disgust. "EIN EKLIGER
KERL! There was nothing to be done with him."
"Let me see what he's like," begged Louise.
"It's an ugly sight," said the woman. However, she pulled the sheet down,
and so far that not only the face, but also a part of the hairy black
breast was visible.
Louise shuddered, yet the very horror of the thing fascinated her, and she
plied the woman with questions about the workings of the agonising poison
that had been swallowed. After one hasty glance, Maurice had
turned away, and now stood staring out of the high, barred window into a
gloomy little courtyard, For him, the air of the room was hard to breathe,
owing to the faint, yet unmistakable odour, which even the waxen figure of
the girl had begun to exhale; and he marvelled how Louise, who was so
sensitive, could endure it.
Outside, both drew long breaths of the cold, evening air, and Louise
bought a bunch of violets, which she pressed to nose and mouth.
"Horrible, horrible!" she said, at the same time raising her shoulders in
their heavy cape. "Oh, that man!--I shall never forget his face."
"What do you go to such places for? You have only yourself to thank for
it." He, too, was aware that a needless and repellent memory had been
added to their lives.
"Oh, everything's my own fault--I know that. You are never to blame for
"Did I ask you to go there ?--did I?"
But she only laughed in reply, through and through hostile to him; and
they walked for some distance in silence.
"Why are you going this way?" he asked suspiciously, when she turned into
a street that led in the opposite direction to that which they should have
"I'm not going home. I couldn't sit alone in the dark with that . . that
thing before my eyes."
"Who asked you to sit alone?--Where are you going?"
"I don't know . . . where I like."
"That's no answer."
"And if I don't choose to answer?--I don't want you. I want to be alone.
I'm sick of your perpetual bad-temper, and your eternal
He laughed, just as she had done. The sound enraged her.
"Oh, the dead at least are at peace!" she cried.
"Yes! . . . why don't you say it? You wish you were lying there--at peace
"Why should I say what you know so well?"
"Go and do it then!--who's hindering you?"
"For you?--kill myself for you?"
One word gave another; they pressed forward, in the falling dusk, like two
distraught creatures, heedless of the notice they attracted, or of who
should hear their bitter words. And because their gestures were, to some
extent, regulated by the conventions of the street, because they could not
face each other with flaming eyes, and throw out hands and arms to
emphasise what they said, their words were all the more cruel. Louise made
straight for home now; she escaped into the house, banging the door.
Maurice strode down the street, in a tumult of resentment, vowing never to
Avery Hill was buried the following afternoon. Maurice went to the
funeral, becaug, since he had seen the dead girl's body at the mortuary,
he had been invaded by a kind of pity for her, lying alone at the mercy of
barber and LEICHENFRAU. And so, towards three o'clock, he fought his way
against a cutting wind to the JOHANNISFRIEDHOF.
A mere handful of people stood round the grave. In addition to the English
chaplain, and a couple of diggers, there were present Dove, two Americans,
and a young clerk from the consul's office, who was happy to be
associated, in any fashion, with the English residents. It was the coldest
day of that winter. Over the earth swept a harsh, dry wind, which cut like
the blade of a knife, and forced stinging tears from the eyes. This wind
had dried the frozen surface of the ground to the impenetrability of iron;
loose earth crumbled before it like powder. Grass and shrubs had
shrivelled, blighted by its breath; the bare trees were sooty-black
against the sky. So intense was the prevailing sensation of icy dryness
that it seemed as if the earth would never again know moisture. People's
faces grew as wizened as the skins of old apples; throats and lungs were
choked by the grey dust, which whirled through the streets, and made
breathing an effort.
In the outlying cemetery it was still bleaker than in the shelter of the
houses. Over this stretch of ground the wind swept as over the surface of
a sea. The grave-diggers related the extraordinary difficulty they had had
in digging the grave; the earth that had been thrown up lay cracked into
huge, frozen lumps. These two men stood in the background while the
service was going on, and stamped their feet and beat their hands, encased
in monstrous woollen gloves, to keep the blood flowing. The English
chaplain, a tall, cadaverous man, with sunken cheeks and a straw-coloured
beard, had wound a red and white comforter over his surplice; the five
young men pulled down the ear-flaps of their caps, and stood, with
high-drawn shoulders. burrowing their hands in their pockets. The chaplain
gabbled the few necessary prayers: they were inaudible to his hearers; for
the rushing wind carried them straight over his shoulder into
space. He was not more than a bare ten minutes over the service. Then the
diggers came forward to lower the coffin. Owing to the stiffness of their
hands, the ropes slid from their grasp, and the coffin fell forward into
the hard yellow grave with a bump. The young men took the obligatory
handfuls of earth, and struck the side of the coffin with them as gently
as possible. With the last word still on his lips, the chaplain shut his
book and fled; and the rest hastily dispersed. Maurice shook off the young
clerk, who was murmuring unintelligible words of sympathy, and left the
cemetery in the wake of the two Americans, for whom a droschke was in
waiting to take them back to the town.
"Waal, I'm sort o' relieved that wasn't MY funeral," he heard one of them
He walked at full speed to restore his famished circulation. When he was
in the heart of the town again, he entered a cafe; and there he remained,
with his elbows on the little marble table, letting the scene he had just
come through pass once more before his mind. There had been something
grotesquely indecent about the haste of every one concerned: the chaplain,
gabbling like a parrot, out of regard for the safety of his own lungs; the
hurry-skurry of the diggers, whose thoughts were no doubt running on the
size of their gratuities; the openly expressed satisfaction of the few
mourners, when they were free to hurry off again, as in hurry they had
arrived. Not one present but had counted the minutes, at the expiry of
which the dead girl would be consigned to her appointed hole. What an
ending! All the talent, the incipient genius, that had been in her, thrust
away with the greatest possible despatch, buried out of sight in the
hideously hard, cold earth. Snuffed out like a candle, and with as little
ceremony, was all the warm, complex life that had made up this one,
throbbing bit of humanity: for what it had been, not a soul alive now
cared. And what a night, too, for one's first night underground! Brr!--At
the thought of it, he drank another cup of coffee, and a fiery, stirring
liqueur. But the sense of depression clung to him, and, as he walked home,
he regretted the impulse that had led him to attend the funeral. For all
the melancholy of valediction was his. The dead girl was free--and he had
a sudden vision of her, as she had lain in the mortuary, with the look of
superhuman peace on her face. Over the head of this, he was sarcastic at
his own expense. For though she WERE being treated like a piece of lumber,
what did it matter to her? Beneath the screening lid, she
continued to sleep, tranquil, undisturbed. On the other hand, how absurd
it was that he, who had cared little for her in life, should in this wise
constitute himself her only mourner! And, mentally and physically, he now
jerked himself to rights, and even began to whistle, as he went, in an
attempt to seem at harmony with himself. But the tune that rose to his
lips was Krafft's song, THE ROSE OF SHARON, and he straightway broke off,
in disgust and confusion.
In his room, as soon as he had struck a match to light the lamp, he saw
that a letter was lying on the table. By the gradual spread of the light,
he made out that it bore an Austrian stamp, and directly he took it in his
hand, he recognised the writing. Heinz!--it was from Heinz! He tore open
the envelope with unsteady fingers; what could Heinz have to write to him
about? Instinctively, he connected it in some way with the events of the
afternoon. But it was a very brief note, covering hardly a page of the
paper. Standing beside the lamp, Maurice held the sheet in the circle of
light, and ran his eye over the few lines. He took them in, in a flash,
that is to say, he read them automatically; but their sense did not
penetrate his brain. He tried again, and still he could not grasp what
they meant; still again, and slowly, word by word, till he could have
repeated them by heart; but always without getting at their inner meaning.
Then, however, and all of a sudden, as if some inner consciousness had
understood them, and now gave bodily warning of it; suddenly, his knees
began to shake, and he was forced to sit down. Sitting, he continued to
stare at the page of writing before him, with contracted pupils. He
commenced to read again, and even said the first line or two of the letter
aloud, as if that might aid him. But the paper fell from his hand, and he
gazed, instead, into the flame of the lamp, right into the inmost flame,
till he was blind with it. His head fell forward, and lay on his hands,
and on the rustling sheet of paper.
"God in Heaven!"
He heard himself say it, and was even conscious of the fact that, like
every mortal in the throes of a strong emotion, he, too, called on God.
A long and profound silence ensued. It went on and on, persisted, was
about to become eternal, when it was rudely broken by the sound of a
child's cry. He raised his head. The walls swam round him: in spite of the
coldness of the night and the fact that the room was unheated, he was
clammy with perspiration. The skin of his face, too, had a
peculiar, drawn feeling, as if it were a mask that was too tight for it.
He shivered. Then his eye fell on the letter lying open on the table.
Without a moment's hesitation, without waiting even to put the lamp out,
he seized it, and went headlong from the house.
But he was strangely unequal to exertion. He felt a craving for stimulant,
and entering a wine-shop, drank a couple of cognacs. His strength came
back to him; people moved out of his way; he had energy enough to climb
the stair, and to go through the business of unlocking the door.
At his abrupt entrance, Louise concealed something in a drawer, and turned
the key on it. But Maurice was too self-absorbed to heed her action, or
consciously to hear her exclamation at his haggard appearance. He shut the
door, crossed to where she was standing, and, without speaking, pulled her
nearer to the lamp. By its light, he scanned her face with a desperate
"What is it? What's the matter?"
At the sound of her voice, the tension of the past hour relaxed. He let
his head fall on her shoulder, and shut his eyes, swaying as she swayed
beneath his weight.
"Forgive me! . . . forgive me!"
"You've been drinking, I think." But she held still under his grasp.
"Yes, I have. Louise! . . . tell me it's a horrible mistake. Help me, you
MUST help me!"
"How can I help you, if you won't tell me what the matter is?" She
believed him to be half drunk, and spoke as to a drunken person, without
"Yes, yes . . . I will. Only give me time."
But he postponed beginning. Leaning more heavily on her, he pressed his
lips to the stuff of her dress. He would have liked to sleep, just where
he was; indeed, he was invaded by the desire to sleep, never again to
unclose his eyes. But she grew restless, and tried to draw her shoulder
away. Then he looked at her, and a feverish stream of words, half
self-recriminative, half in self-defence, burst from his lips. But they
had little to do with the matter in hand, and were incomprehensible to
her. "It has been a terrible nightmare. And only you can drive it away."
As he spoke, he looked, with a sudden suspicion, right into her eyes. But
they neither faltered nor grew uneasy.
"It will turn out to be nothing, I know," she said coldly. "You're
always devising some new way of tormenting me."
Her words roused him. Fumbling in his pocket, he drew from it Krafft's
letter. "Is that nothing? Read it and tell me. I found it at home on my
Louise took it with unmoved indifference. But directly she saw whose
handwriting it was, her face grew grave and attentive. She looked back
from the envelope to him, to see what he was thinking, to learn how much
he knew. In spite of his roughness there was a hungry, imploring look in
his eyes, an appeal to her to put him out of misery, and in the way he
desired. And, as always, before such a look, her own face hardened.
"Read it! What he dares to write to me!"
Slowly, as if it were impossible for her to hurry, she drew the sheet from
the crumpled envelope and smoothed it out. As she did so, she half turned
away. But not so far that he could not see the dark, disfiguring blood
stain her neck and blotch her cheek--even her ear grew crimson. She read
deliberately, lingering over each word, but the instant she had finished,
she crushed the paper to a ball, and threw it to the other end of the
"The scoundrel!" she cried. "Oh, the scoundrel!" Clenching her two hands,
she pressed them to her face.
Maurice did not say a word; he hardly dared to draw breath, for fear some
sign of her guilt might escape him. Leaning against the table, he marked
each tell-tale quiver of lip or eyelid.
"The blackguard!" she cried again, shaken by rage. "If I had him here, I'd
strangle him with my own hands!"
He gloated over her anger. "Yes," he said in a low voice. "I, too . . .
could kill him."
There was a pause, in which each followed out a possible means of revenge.
"Now you see," he said. "When I got home--when I found that--I thought I
should go mad."
Reminded thus, of his share in the matter, Louise turned her head, and
considered him. Her face was tense.
"Forgive me!" said Maurice, and held out his hands to her.
She gave him another look of the same kind. "I forgive YOU. What for?"
"Because . . . since I got it, I've been thinking vile things."
"Oh, that!" She moved away, and gave a curt laugh, which met him
like a stab. But she had no consideration for him: she had only room in
her mind for Krafft's treachery. "I could kill him," she said again.
"Don't. . . . Leave me alone!"--this to Maurice, who was trying to take
her hand. "Don't touch me!"
"Not touch you!--why not?" In an instant his softness passed over into
suspicion: it was like a dry pile that had waited for the match. "I not
touch you?" he repeated. "Do you want to make me believe that what he says
there is true?"
"Believe what you like."
"But that's just what I won't do. Turn here! Look me in the face! Now tell
me it's a lie."
She struggled to free her hands. "You hurt me, Maurice! Let me go!"
"Be careful!--or I shall hurt you more than this. Now answer me!"
"You!--with your ridiculous heroics! Be careful yourself!"
His grip of her grew tighter.
"For your precious peace of mind then--that you may not be kept in
suspense: what Heinz says there is--true!"
He did not at once grasp what she meant. He stood staring stupidly at her,
still clutching her hands. With a determined effort, Louise wrenched them
"Don't you hear what I say? It's true--all true--every word of it!"
At the cruel repetition, he went pale, and after that, seemed to go on
growing paler, until his face was like a sheet of paper. A horrible
silence ensued; neither dared to let go of the other's eyes.
"My God!" he said at last. "My God!"
He sat down at the table, and buried his face in his arms. Louise did not
move; she stood waiting, her hands, which were red and sore, pressed
against her sides. And as minutes passed, and he did not stir, she began
in a vacant way to count the ticks of the clock. If he did not speak soon,
did not go on with what had to come, and get it over, she would be forced
to scream. A scream was mounting in her throat.
"When was it? . . . How? . . . Why?"
She made no answer.
He straightened himself, holding on to the table. "And if that letter
hadn't come, you wouldn't have told me?"
Again she did not reply. He sprang to his feet, interpreting her
inability to bring forth a sound as mere contemptuous defiance.
"WHY did you tell me? Did I need to know?" he cried, loudly, and, in the
confines of the room, ' his voice had the force of a shout. As she still
remained dumb, he leaned across the table and actually shouted at her.
"Any more?--are there any more? He won't have been the only one. Tell me,
I say! Good God! Don't you hear me?" The arteries in his temples were
beating like two separate hearts. As nothing he said would make her open
her lips, he snatched up her hands again, and dragged her a few steps
forward--this, to prove to himself that he had at least bodily power over
her. "How dare you stand there and say it's true! You brazen,
She thought he was going to strike her, and moved her head quickly to one
side. The movement did not escape him; he was amazed at it, and horrified
by it. "You're afraid of me, are you? You expect to be beaten, when you
make a confession of that sort?" And as she kept her head bent, in
suspense, he shouted: "Very well, you shall have something to be afraid of
. . . you--!" and lifting his hand, he struck her a blow on the shoulder.
It was given with force, and she sank to the floor, where she lay in a
heap, screening her face with her arm. The first taste of his greater
strength was like the flavour of blood to a beast of prey. In her mind,
she might defy him, physically he was her master; and he struck her, again
and again. But he did not wring any sound from her. She lay face
downwards, and let the blows fall.
When his first onslaught of rage had spent itself, a glimmering of reason
returned to him. He staggered to his feet, and looked down with horror at
the prostrate figure. "My God, what am I doing?--what have I done?" A
sudden fear swept through him that he had killed her.
But now, for the first time, she spoke. "It's true!" he heard her say.
At these words, the desire actually to kill her was so overwhelming that
he rnoved precipitately away, and, in order not to see her, pressed his
smarting hand to his eyes. But in the greater clearness of thought this
shutting off of externals brought with it, the ultimate meaning of what
she had done was revealed to him; he saw red through his closed lids, and,
going back to her, he struck her anew. The knowledge that, under her
dressing-gown, she had nothing on but a thin nightgown, gave him
pleasure; he felt each of the blows fall full and hard on her firm flesh.
From time to time, she turned her face to cry: "It's true . . . it is
true!" deliberately inciting him to continue.
But the moment came when his arm sank powerless to his side, when, if his
life had depended on it, he could not have struck another blow. With
difficulty, he rose to his feet; and such was the apathy that came over
him, that it was all he could do to drag himself to the sofa. Once there,
he leaned back and closed his eyes.
For half an hour or more, neither of them stirred. Then, when she
understood that he had done, that he was not coming back to her, Louise
pulled herself into a sitting position, and from there to her feet. She
could hardly stand; her head swam; not an inch of her body but ached and
stung. Her exaltation had left her now; she began to feel sick, and, going
over to the bed, she fell heavily upon it.
Maurice heard her movements; but so incapable did he feel of further
effort that lie remained sitting, with his eyes shut. A new sound roused
him: she was shivering, and with such violence that the bedstead was
shaken. After a crucial struggle with himself, he rose, and crossed the
room. She was lying outside the bedclothes. He pulled off an eider-down
quilt, and spread it over her. As he did this, his arms were round her,
all the beloved body was in his grasp. When he had finished, he did not
remove them, but, kneeling down beside the bed, pressed his face to the
quilt, and to the warm body below.
And so the night wore away.
Throughout February, and the greater part of March, the HAUPTPRUFUNGEN
were held in the Conservatorium: twice a week, from six to eight o'clock
in the evening, the concert hall was crammed with an eager crowd. To these
concerts, the outside public was admitted, the critics were invited, and
the performances received notices in the newspapers; in short, the
outgoing student was, for the first time, treated like a real debutant.
Concerted music was accompanied by the full orchestra; the large gallery
that ran round the hall was opened up; and the girls, whose eager faces
hung over its edge, were more brightly decked than usual, in ribbons and
laces. Some of those who stepped down the platform seemed thoroughly to
relish their first taste of publicity; others, on the contrary, were
awkward and abashed, and did not venture to notice the encouragement that
greeted their entrance. There were players as composed as the most
hardened virtuosi; others, again, who were overcome by stage-fright to
such an extent that they barely escaped a total fiasco.
The success of the year was Dove, in his performance of Chopin's Concerto
in E minor. Dove's unshakable self-possession was here of immense value to
him. Not a note was missed, not a turn slurred; the runs and brilliant
passage-work of the concerto left his fingers like showers of pearls; his
touch had the necessary delicacy, and, in addition to this, his reading
was quite a revelation to his friends in the matter of TEMPERAMENT. It is
true that Schwarz prohibited any undignified display of the emotional side
of Chopin; the interpretation had to be on classical lines; but even the
most determined opponents of Schwarz's method were forced to acknowledge
that Dove made no mean show of the poetic contents of the music. The
master himself, in his imperturbable way--he chose to act as if, all along,
he had had this surprise for people up his sleeve--the master was in
transports. His stern face wore an almost genial expression; he smiled,
and talked loudly, and, when the performance was over, hurried to and fro,
full of importance, shaking hands and accepting congratulations, with a
fine shade of reserve. Dove's fellow-pupils were enraptured for Schwarz's
sake; for, undeniably, the master's numbers this year were poor,
compared with those of other teachers. It behoved the remainder to make
the most of this isolated triumph; they did so, and were entertained by
Schwarz at a special dinner, where many healths were drunk.
Those who had "made their PRUFUNG," as the phrase ran, were, as a rule,
glad to leave Leipzig when the ordeal was behind them. But Dove, who, on
the day following his performance, when his name was to be read in the
newspapers accompanied by various epithets of praise, had proposed and
been accepted, and was this time returning to England a solemnly engaged
man--Dove waited a week for his fiancee and her family, who had not been
prepared for so sudden a move. He was the man of the hour. As a response
to the flattering notices, he had called on all his critics, and been
received by several; and he could hardly walk a street-length, without
running the gauntlet of some belated congratulation. Schwarz had spoken
seriously to him about prosecuting his studies for a further year, with
the not impossible prospect of a performance in the Gewandhaus at the end
of it; but Dove had laid before his master the reasons why this could not
be: he was no longer a free man; there were now other wishes to be
consulted in addition to his own. Besides, if the truth must be told, Dove
had higher aims, and these led him imperatively back to England.
Madeleine was ready to leave a couple of days after her last performance.
Her plans for the future were fixed and sure. She had long ago given up
making adventurous schemes for storming America: that had merely been her
contribution to the romance of the place. Now she was hastening away to
spend the month of March in Paris; she was not due at the school to which
she was returning till the end of April; and, in Paris, she intended to
take a brief course of finishing lessons, to rub off what she
called "German thoroughness." She, too, had made a highly successful exit,
though without creating a furore like Dove. Since all she did was well
done, it was not possible for her to be a surprise to anyone.
And finally, the rush she had lived in for weeks past, was over, the last
afternoon had come, and, in its course, she went to the railway station to
make arrangements about her luggage. On her way home, she entered Klemm's
music-shop, where she stood, for a considerable time, taking leave of one
and another. When she emerged again, the town had assumed that spectral
look, which, towards evening, made the quaint old gabled streets so
For the first time, Madeleine felt something akin to regret at
having to leave. She had enjoyed, and made the most of, her years of
study; but she was now quite ready to advance, curious to attack the
future, and to dominate that also. Still, the dusk on the familiar streets
inclined her to feel sentimental. "This time tomorrow, I'll be hundreds of
miles away," she said to herself, "and probably shall never see the old
place again." As she walked, she looked back upon her residence
there--already somewhat in the light of a remembrance--weighing what it had
been worth to her. Part of it was intimately associated with Maurice
Guest, and thus she recalled him, too. Of late he had passed out of her
life; she had been too busy to think of him. Now, however, that she was at
the end of this period, the fancy seized her to see him again; and she
took a resolution which had, perhaps, been dormant in her for some time.
"I don't see why I shouldn't," she reasoned. "No one will know. And even
if they do, I'm leaving, and it won't matter."
And so she pulled her hat further over her face, and brisked up her steps
in the direction of the BRAUSTRASSE--a street which she disliked, and never
entered if she could avoid it. If he had lived in a better neighbourhood,
things might have gone better with him, she mused; for Madeleine was a
staunch believer in the influence of surroundings, and could not, for
instance, understand a person who lived in dirt and disorder having any
but a dirty or disorderly mind. She went from door to door, scanning the
numbers, with her head poked a little forward and to one side, like a
bird's. As she ascended the stair, she raised her skirts, and her nostrils
Frau Krause held the door open by an inch, and looked at Madeleine with
"No, he's not," she replied. "And what's more, I couldn't say, if you were
to pay me, when he will be."
But Madeleine was not to be daunted by the arrogance of any landlady
alive. "Why? Is he so irregular?" she asked. She had placed her foot in
the opening of the door, and now, by a skilful movement, inserted herself
bodily into the passage.
Frau Krause, baffled, could do no more than mumble a: "Well, if you like
to wait!" and point out the room. She followed Madeleine over the
threshold, drying her hands on her apron.
"Are you a friend of his, may I ask?" she inquired.
"Why? What do you want to know for? Do you think I'd be here if I
weren't?" said Madeleine, looking her up and down.
"Why I want to know?" repeated Frau Krause, and tossed her head. "Why,
because I think if Herr Guest has any friends left, they ought to know how
he's going on--that's why, Fraulein!"
"How going on?" queried Madeleine with undisturbed coolness, and looked
round her for a chair.
Throwing a cautious glance over her shoulder, Frau Krause said behind her
hand: "It's my opinion there's a woman in the case."
"You don't need to whisper; your opinion is an open secret," answered
Madeleine drily. "There is a woman, and there she sits, as you no doubt
very well know." As she spoke, she pointed to a photograph of Louise,
which stood on the lid of the piano.
"I thought as much," exclaimed the landlady. "I thought as much. And a
bad, bold face it is, too."
"Now explain, please, what you mean by his goings on. Is he in debt to
you?" Madeleine continued her interrogatory.
"Well, I can't just say that," replied the woman, with what seemed a spice
of regret. "He's paid up pretty regular till now--though of course one
never knows how long he'll keep on doing it. But it goes against my heart
to see a young man, who might be one's own son, acting as he does. When he
first came here, there wasn't a decenter young man anywhere than Herr
Guest--if I had a complaint, it was that he was too much of a steady-goer.
I used to tell him he ought to take more heed for his health, not to
mention the ears of the people that had to live with him. He sat at that
piano there all the blessed day. And now there isn't a lazier, more
cantankerous fellow in the place. You can't please him anyhow. He never
gives you a civil word. He doesn't work, he doesn't cat, and he's getting
so thin that his clothes just hang on him."
"Is he drinking?" interrupted Madeleine in the same matter-of-fact way,
with her eye on the main points of probable offence.
"Well, I can't just say that," answered Frau Krause. "Not but what it
mightn't be better if he was. It's the ones as don't drink who are the
hard ones to get on with, in my experience. Young gentlemen who like their
liquor, are of the goodnatured, easy-going sort. Now I once had a young
"But I don't see in the least what you've got to complain of!" said
Madeleine. "He pays you for the room, and you no doubt have free use of
it.--A very good bargain!"
She sat back and stared about her, while Frau Krause, recognising that she
had met her match in this sharp-tongued young lady, curbed her temper, and
launched out into the history of a former lodger.
It was. a dingy room, long and narrow, with a single window. Against the
door that led into an adjoining room, stood a high-backed, uninviting
sofa, with a table in front of it. Between this and the window was the
writing-bureau, a flat, man-high piece of furniture, with drawers and
pigeon-holes, and a broad flap that let down for writing purposes. Against
the opposite wall stood the neglected piano, and, towards the door, on
both sides, were huddled bed, washstand, and the iron stove. Everything
was of an extreme shabbiness: the stuffing was showing through holes in
the sofa, the strips of carpet were worn threadbare. A couple of
photographs and a few books were ranged in line on the bureau--that was all
that had been done towards giving the place a homely air. It was like a
room that had never properly been lived in.
While Madeleine sat thinking this, the sound of a key was heard in the
front door, and Frau. Krause, interrupted in her story, had just time to
tap Madeleine on the arm, exclaim: "Here he is!" and dart out of the room.
Not so promptly, however, but what Maurice saw where she came from.
Madeleine heard them bandying words in the passage.
The door of the room was flung open, and Maurice, entering hotly, threw
his hat on the table. He did not perceive his visitor till it was too
"Madeleine! You here!" he exclaimed in surprise and embarrassment. "I beg
your pardon. I didn't see you," and he made haste to recover his hat.
"Yes, don't faint, it's I, Maurice.--But what's the matter? Why are you so
angry with the person? Does she pry on you?"
"Pry!" he echoed, and his colour deepened. "Pry's not the word for it. She
ransacks everything I have. I never come home but what I find she has
overhauled something, though I've forbidden her to enter the room."
"Why don't you--or rather, why didn't you move? It's not much of a place,
"Move?" he repeated, in the same tone as before, and, as he spoke,
he looked incredulously at Madeleine. He had hung his coat and hat on a
peg, and now came forward to the table." Move?" he said once again, and
prolonged the word as though the channel of thought it opened up was new
"Good gracious, yes!--If one's not satisfied with one's rooms, one moves,
that's all. There's nothing strange about it."
He murmured that the idea had never occurred to him, and was about to draw
up a chair, when his eye caught a letter that was lying on the lowered
flap of the bureau. In patent agitation, and without excusing himself, he
seized it and tore it open. Madeleine saw his face darken. He read the
letter through twice, from beginning to end, then tore it into a dozen
pieces and scattered them on the shelf.
"No bad news, I hope?"
He turned his face to her; it was still contracted. "That depends on how
you look at it, Madeleine," he said, and laughed in an unpleasant manner.
After this, he seemed to forget her again; he stood staring at the scraps
of paper with a frown. For some minutes, she waited. Then she saw herself
forced to recall him to the fact of her presence.
"Could you spare me a little attention now?" she asked. At her words, he
jumped, and, with evident confusion, brought his wandering thoughts home.
"I can't sit here for ever you know," she added.
"I beg your pardon." He came up to the table, and took the chair he had
previously had his hand on. "The fact is I--Can I do anything for you,
"For me? Oh, dear, no!--You are surprised to find me here, no doubt! But
as I'm leaving to-morrow morning, I thought I'd run up and say good-bye to
you--that's all. A case of Mohammed and the mountain, you see."
"Yes.--Goodness, there's nothing wonderful in that, is there? Most people
do leave some time or other, you know." His reply was inaudible. "It was
very good of you to look me up," he threw in as an afterthought.
Madeleine, watching him, with a thin, sarcastic smile on her lips, had
chanced to let her eyes stray to his hands, which he had laid on the
table, and she continued to fix them, fascinated in spite of herself by
the uncared-for condition of the nails. These were bitten, and
broken, and dirty. Maurice, becoming aware of her intent gaze, looked down
to see what it was at, hastily withdrew his hands ' and hid them in his
"This is the first time I've been in your den, you know," she said
abruptly. "Really, Maurice, you might have done better. I don't know how
you've managed to put up with it so long."
"My dear Madeleine, do you think I could afford to live in a palace?"
"A palace?--absurd! You probably pay sixteen or seventeen marks for this
hole. Well, I could have found you any number of better places for the
same money--if you had come to me."
"You're very kind. But it has done me well enough."
"So it appears."
Sitting back, she looked round her, in the hope of picking up some neutral
subject. "Are those your people?" she asked, and nodded at the photograph
of a family-group, which stood on the top shelf of the bureau. "Three
boys, are you not? You are like your mother," and she stared, with
unfeigned curiosity, at the provincial figures, dressed out in their best
coats and silks, and in heavy gold jewellery.
"Good God, Madeleine!" Maurice burst out at this, his loosely kept
patience escaping him. "You didn't come here, I suppose, to remark on my
"Well, I can't congratulate you on an improvement in your manners, since I
saw you last."
"I am not aware of having changed."
"As well for you, perhaps. However, I'll tell you about myself, if it
interests you." She turned her cool, judicial gaze on him again; and now
she set before him her projects for the future. But though he kept his
eyes fastened on her face, she saw that he was not listening to what she
said, or, at most, that he only half heard it; for, when she ceased to
speak, he did not notice her silence.
She waited, curious to see what would come next, and presently he echoed,
in his vague way: "Paris, did you say?--Really?"
"Yes--Paris: the capital of France.--I said that, and a good deal more,
which I don't think you heard.--And now I won't take up your precious time
any longer.--You've nothing new to tell me, I suppose? You still intend
staying on here, and fighting out the problem of existence? Well, when you
have starved satisfactorily in a garret, I hope some one will let
me know. I'll come over for the funeral."
She rose, and began to button her jacket.
"And England has absolutely no chance? English music must continue to
languish, without hope of reform?"
"How can you remember such rot! I was a terrible fool when I talked like
"I liked you better as a fool than I do now, with your acquired wisdom.
And I won't go from here without offering you congratulations, hearty
congratulations, on the muddle you've made of things."
"That's entirely my own affair."
"You may be thankful it is! Do you think anyone else would want the
responsibility of it?"
She went out without a further word. But on the landing at the bottom of
the first flight of stairs, she stood irresolute. She felt annoyed with
herself that she had allowed an unfriendly tone to dominate their brief
interview. This was probably the last time she would see him; the last
chance she would have of telling him just what she thought of him. And
viewed in that light, it seemed ridiculous to let any artificial delicacy
of feeling stand in her way. She blew her nose vigorously, and, not being
used to indecision, turned as she did so, and began to ascend the stairs
again. Brushing past Frau Krause, she reopened, without knocking, the door
of Maurice's room.
He had moved the lamp from the table to the bureau, and at her entrance
was bending over something that lay there, so engrossed that he did not at
once raise his head.
"Good gracious! What are you doing?" escaped her involuntarily.
At this, he spun round, and, leaning back against the writingtable, tried
to screen it from her eyes.
She regretted her impulsive curiosity, and did not press him. "Yes, it's
me again," she said with determination. "And I suppose you'll want to
accuse me of prying, too, like that female outside.--Look here: it's
ludicrous for us who have been friends so long to part in this fashion.
And I, for one, don't intend to do it. There's something I want to say
before I go--you may be angry and offended if you like; I don't care"--for
he frowned forbiddingly. "I'm no denser than other people; and I know just
as well as every one else the wretched mess you've got yourself into--one
would have to be blind and deaf, indeed, not to know.--Now, look here,
Maurice! You once said to me, you may remember, that if you had a sister
you'd like her to be something like me. Will you look on me as that sister
for a little, and let me give you some sound advice? I told you I was
going to Paris, and that I had a clear month there. Well, now, throw your
things together and come with me. You haven't had a decent holiday since
you've been here. You need freshening up.--Or if not Paris--Paris isn't a
necessity--we'll go down by Munich and the Brenner to Italy, and I'll be
cicerone. I'll act as banker, too, and you can regard it as a loan in the
meantime, and pay me back when you're richer.--Now what do you say?
Doesn't the plan tempt you?"
"What I say?" he echoed, and looked round him a little helplessly. "Why,
Madeleine . . . It seems you are determined to run off with me. Once it
was America, and now it's Italy or Paris."
"Come, say you'll consent, or at least consider it."
"My dear Madeleine! You're all that is good and kind. But you know you're
only talking nonsense."
She did not answer him at once. "The thing is this," she said with some
hesitation. "I wasn't quite honest in what I said to you a few minutes
ago. I have the uncomfortable feeling that I am to a certain degree
responsible, even to blame, for much of . . . what has happened here. And
it isn't a pleasant feeling, Maurice."
"My dear girl!" he said again. "If it's any consolation to you to know it,
I owe you the biggest debt of my life."
"Then you decline my proposal, do you?"
"You're the same good friend you always were. But you're making a mountain
out of a molehill. What's all this fuss about? Merely because I haven't
chosen to work my fingers to the bone, and wear my nerves to tatters over
that old farce of a PRUFUNG. As for my choosing to stay here, instead of
going home like the rest of you--well, that's a matter of taste, too. Some
people--like our friend Dove--want affluence, and a fixed position in the
provinces. Frankly, I don't. I'd rather scrape along here, as best I can.
That's the whole matter in a nutshell, and it's nothing to make a to-do
about. For though you think I'm a fool, and can't help telling me so--that,
too, is a matter of opinion."
"Well, I don't intend to apologise for myself at this date, be sure of
that! And now I'll go. For if you're resolved to hold me at arm's
length, there's nothing more to be said.--No, stop a minute, though. Here's
my address in England. If ever you should return to join us benighted
ignorants, you might let me know. Or if you find you can't get on here--I
mean if it's quite impossible--I have money, you know . . . and should be
glad--at a proper percentage, of course," she added ironically.
"That's hardly likely to happen."
She laid the card on the table. "You never can tell.--Well, good-bye, then,
and in spite of your obstinacy, I'll perhaps be able to do you a good turn
yet, Maurice Guest."
As soon as he heard the front door close, he returned to his occupation of
piecing together the bits of the letter. Ever since he had torn it
up--throughout her visit--his brain had been struggling to recall its exact
contents, and without success; for, owing to Madeleine's presence, he had
read it hastily. Otherwise, what he had done to-day did not differ from
his usual method of proceeding. This was not the first horrible unsigned
letter he had received, and he could never prevail on himself to throw
them in the fire, unopened. He read them through, two or three times,
then, angered by their contents and by his own weakness, tore them to
fragments. But the hints and aspersions they contained, remained imprinted
on his mind. In this case, Madeleine's distracting appearance had
enfeebled his memory, and he worked long and patiently until the sheet lay
fitted together again before him. When he knew its contents by heart, he
struck some matches, and watched the pieces curl and blacken.
Then he left the house.
Her room was in darkness. He stretched himself on the sofa to wait for her
The words of the letter danced like a writing of fire before him; he lay
there and re-read them; but without anger. What they stated might be true,
also it might not; he would never know. For these letters, which he was
ashamed of himself for opening, and still more for remembering, had not
been mentioned between them, but were added to that category of things
they now tacitly agreed to avoid. In his heart, he knew that he cherished
the present state of uncertainty; it was a twilight state, without
crudities or sharp outlines; and it was still possible to drift and dream
in it. Whereas if another terrible certainty, like the last, descended on
him, he would be forced to marshal his energies, and to suffer afresh. It
was better not to know. As long as definite knowledge failed him,
he could give her the benefit of the doubt. And whether what the letters
affirmed was true or not, hours came when she still belonged wholly to
him. Whatever happened on her absences from him, as soon as the four walls
of the room shut them in again, she was his; and each time she returned, a
burning gratitude for the reprieve filled him anew.
But there was also another reason why he did not breathe a word to her of
his suspicions, and that was the slow dread that was laming him--the dread
of her contempt. She made no further attempt to drape it; and he had
learned to writhe before it, to cringe and go softly. Weeks had passed
now, since the night on which he had made his last stand against herweeks
of increasing torture. Just at first, incredible as it had seemed, his
horrible treatment of her had brought about a slackening of the tension
between them. The worst that could happen had happened, and he had
survived it: he had not put an end either to himself or to her. On the
contrary, he had accepted the fact--as he now saw that he would accept
every fact concerning her, whether for good or evil. And matters having
reached this point, a kind of lull ensued: for a few days they had even
caught a glimpse again of the old happiness. But the pause was
short-lived: it was like the ripples caused by a stone thrown into water,
which continue just so long as the impetus lasts. Louise had been a little
awed by his greater strength, when she had lain cowering on the ground
before him. But not many days elapsed before her eyes were wide open with
incredulous amazement. When she understood, as she soon did, that her
shameless admission, and still more, his punishment of her for it, was not
to be followed up by any new development; that, in place of subduing her
mentally as well, he was going to be content to live on as they had been
doing; that, in fact, he had already dropped back into the old state of
things, before she was well aware of what was happening: then her passing
mood of submission swept over into her old flamboyant contempt for him.
The fact of his having beaten her became a weapon in her hands; and she
used it unsparingly. To her taunts, he had no answer to make. For, the
madness once passed, he could not conceive how he had been capable of such
a thing; in his sane moments of dejection and self-distrust, he could not
have raised his hand against her, though his life were at stake.
He had never been able to drag from her a single one of the
reasons that had led to her mad betrayal of him. On this point she was
inflexible. In the course of that long night which he had spent on his
knees by her bed, he had persecuted her to disclose her motive. But he
might as well have spoken to the wind; his questioning elicited no reply..
Again and again, he had upbraided her: "But you didn't care for Heinz! He
was nothing to you!" and she neither assented nor gainsaid him. Once,
however, she had broken in on him: "You believed bad of me long before
there was any to believe. Now you have something to go on!" And still
again, when the sluggish dawn was creeping in, she had suddenly turned her
head: "But now you can go away. You're free to leave me. Nothing binds you
to a woman like me--who can't be content with one man." Dizzy with fatigue,
he had answered: "No--if you think that--if you did it just to be rid of
From this night on, they had never reverted to the subject again--which is
not to say that his brain did not work furiously at it; the search for a
clue, for the hidden motive, was now his eternal occupation. But to her he
was silent, sheerly from the dread of again receiving the answer: take me
as I am, or leave me! In hours such as the present, or in the agony of
sleepless nights, these thoughts rent his brain. The question was such an
involved one, and he never seemed to come any nearer a solution of it.
Sometimes, he was actually tempted to believe what her words implied: that
it had been wilfully done, with a view to getting rid of him. But against
this, his reason protested; for, if the letter from Krafft had not
arrived, he would have known nothing. He did not believe she would have
told him--would there, indeed, have been any need for her to do so? Nothing
was changed between them; she lived at his side, just as before; and
Krafft was out of the way.--At other times, though, he asked himself if
he were not a fool to be surprised at what had occurred. Had not all roads
led here? Had he not, as she most truly said, for long harboured the
unworthiest suspicions of her?--suspicions which were tantamount to an
admission on his part that his love was no longer enough for her. To have
done this, and afterwards to behave as if she had been guilty of an
unpardonable crime, was illogical and unjust.--And yet again, there came
moments when, in a barbarous clearness of vision, he seemed to get nearest
to the truth. Under certain circumstances, so he now told himself, he
would gladly and straightway have forgiven her. If she had been
drawn, irresistibly, to another, by one of those sudden outbursts of
passion before which she was incapable of remaining steadfast; if she had
been attracted, like this, more than half unwilling, wholly humiliated,
penitent in advance, yet powerless--then, oh then, how willingly he would
have made allowance for her weakness! But Krafft, of all people!--Krafft,
of whom she had spoken to him with derisive contempt!--this cold and
calculated deception of him with some one who made not the least appeal to
her!--Cold and calculated, did he say? No, far from it! What COULD it have
been but the sensual caprice of a moment?--but a fleeting, manlike desire
for the piquancy of change?
These and similar thoughts ran their whirling circles behind his closed
eyes, as he lay in the waning twilight of the March evening, which still
struggled with the light of the lamp. But they were hard pressed by the
contents of the letter: on this night he foresaw that his fixed idea
threatened to divide up into two branches--and he did not know whether to
be glad or to regret it. But he admitted to himself that one of these days
he would be forced to take measures for preserving his sanity, by somehow
dragging the truth from her; better still, by following her on one of her
evening absences, to discover for himself where she went, and whether what
the anonymous writer asserted was true. If he could only have controlled
his brain! The perpetually repeated circles it drove in--if these could
once have been brought to a stop, all the rest of him infinitely preferred
not to know.
Meanwhile, the shadows deepened, and his subconsciousness never ceased to
listen, with an intentness which no whirligigs of thought could distract,
for the sound of her step in the passage. When, at length, some short time
after darkness had set in, he heard her at the door, he drew a long,
sighing breath of relief, as if--though this was unavowed even to
himself--he had been afraid he might listen in vain. And, as always, when
the suspense was over, and she was under the same roof with him again, he
was freed from so intolerable a weight that he was ready to endure
whatever she might choose to put upon him, and for his part to make no
Louise entered languidly; and so skilled had he grown at interpreting her
moods that he knew from her very walk which of them she was in. He looked
surreptitiously at her, and saw that she was wan and tired. It had been a
mild, enervating day; her hair was blown rough about her face. He
watched her before the mirror take off hat and veil, with slow, yet
impatient fingers; watched her hands in her hair, which she did not
trouble to rearrange, but only smoothed back on either side.
She had not, even in entering, cast a glance at him, and, recognising the
rasped state of her nerves, he had the intent to be cautious. But his
resolutions, however good, were not long proof against her over-emphasised
neglect of his 'presence. Her wilful preoccupation with herself, and with
inanimate objects, exasperated him. Everything was of more worth to her
than he was' and she delighted to show it.
"Haven't you a word for me? Don't you see I'm here?" he asked at length.
Even now she did not look towards him as she answered:
"Of course, I see you. But shall I speak next to the furniture of the
"So!--That's what I am, is it?--A piece of your furniture!"
"Yes.--No, worse. Furniture is silent."
She was changing her walking-dress for the dressing-gown. This done, she
dabbed powder on her face out of a small oval glass pot--a habit of hers to
which he had never grown accustomed.
"Stop putting that stuff on your face! You know I hate it."
Her only answer was to dab anew, and so thickly that the powder was strewn
over the front of her dress and the floor. The clothes she had taken off
were flung on a chair; as she brushed past them, they fell to the ground.
She did not stoop to pick them up, but pushed them out of the way with her
foot. Sitting down in the rocking-chair, she closed her eyes, and spread
her arms out along the arms of the chair.
He could not see her from where he lay, but she was within reach of him,
and, after a brief, unhappy silence, he put out his hand and drew the
chair towards him, urging it forward, inch by inch, until it was beside
the sofa. Then he pulled her head down, so that it also lay on the
cushion, and he could feel her hair against his.
"How you hate me!" he said in a low voice, and as though he were speaking
to himself. Laying her hand on his forehead, he made of it a screen for
his eyes. "Who could have foreseen this!" he said again, in the same
Louise lay still, and did not speak.
"Why do you stay with me?" he went on, looking out from under her hand. "I
often ask myself that. For you're free to come and go as you choose."
Her eyes opened at this, though he did not see it. "And I choose to stay
here! How often am I to tell you that? Why do you come back on it
to-night? I'm tired--tired."
"I know you are. I saw it as soon as you came in. It's been a tiring day,
and you probably . . . walked too far."
With a jerk, she drew her hand out of his, and sat upright in her chair.
Something, a mere tone, the slight pause, in his apparently harmless
words, incensed her. "Too far, did I?--Oh, to-night at least, be honest!
Why don't you ask me straight out where I have been?--and what I have done?
Can't you, for once, be man enough to put an open question?"
"Nothing was further from my mind than to make implications. It's you
who're so suspicious. Just as if you had a bad conscience--something
really to conceal."
"Take care!--or I shall tell you--where I've been! And you might regret
"No. For God's sake!--no more confessions!"
She laughed, and lay back. But a moment later, she cried out: "Why don't
you go away yourself? You know I loathe the sight of you; and yet you
stick on here like like a leech. Go away, oh, why can't you go away!"
"To-day, I might have taken you at your word."
At the mention of Madeleine's name, she pricked up her ears. "Oho!" she
said, when lie had finished his story. "So Madeleine pays you visits, does
she?--the sainted Madeleine! You have her there, and me here.--A pretty
state of things!"
"Hold your tongue! I'm not in the mood to-night to stand your gibes."
"But I'm in the mood to make them. And how is one to help it when one
hears that that ineffable creature is no better than she ought to be?"
"Hold your tongue!" he cried again. "How dare you speak like that of the
girl who has been such a good friend to me!"
"Friend!" she echoed. "What fools men are! She's in love with you, that's
all, and always has been. But you were never man enough to know what it
was she wanted--your friend!"
"Ah, you----!" The nervous strain of the afternoon reached its
climax. "You! Yes!--that's you all over! In your eyes nothing is good or
pure. And you make everything you touch dirty. You're not fit to take a
decent woman's name on your lips!"
She sprang up from her chair. "And that's my thanks!--for all I've
done--all I've sacrificed for you! I'm not fit to take a decent woman's
name on my lips! For shame, for shame! For who has made me what I am but
you! Oh, what a fool I was, ever to let you cross this door! You!--a man
who is content with other men's leavings!"
"It was the worst day's work you ever did in your life. Everything bad has
come from that.--Why couldn't you have held back, and refused me? We might
still have been decent, happy creatures, if you hadn't let your vile
nature get the better of you. You wouldn't marry me--no, no! You prefer to
take your pleasure in other ways.--A man at any cost, Madeleine said once,
and God knows, I believe it was true!"
She struck him in the face. "Oh, you miserable scoundrel! You!--who never
looked at me but with the one thought in your head! Oh, it's too much!
Never, never while I live I would rather die first.--shall you ever touch
She continued to weep, long after he had left her. Still crying, her
handkerchief pressed to her eyes, her body shaken by her sobs, she moved
blindly about the room, opening drawers and cupboards, and heaping up
their contents on the bed. There was a limit to everything; she could bear
her life with him no longer; and, with nerveless fingers, she strove to
collect and pack her belongings, preparatory to going away.
Easter fell early, and the Ninth Symphony had been performed in the
Gewandhaus before March was fairly out. Now, both Conservatorium and
Gewandhaus were closed, and the familiar haunts were empty.
Hitherto, Maurice had made shift to preserve appearances: at intervals,
not too conspicuously far apart, he had gone backwards and forwards to his
classes, keeping his head above water with a minimum of work. Now,
however, there was no further need for deceiving people. Most of those who
had been his fellow-students had left Leipzig; he could not put his finger
on a single person remaining with whom he had had a nearer acquaintance.
No one was left to comment on what he did and how he lived. And this
knowledge withdrew the last prop from his sense of propriety. He ceased to
face the trouble that care for his person implied, just as he gave up
raising the lid of the piano and making a needless pretence of work.
Openly now, he took up his abode in the BRUDERSTRASSE, where he spent the
long, idle days stretched on the sofa, rolling cigarettes--in far greater
numbers than he could smoke, and vacantly, yet with a kind of gusto, as if
his fingers, so long accustomed to violent exercise, had a relish for the
task. He was seldom free from headache; an iron ring, which it was
impossible to loosen, bound his forehead. His disinclination to speech
grew upon him, too; not only had he no thoughts that it was worth breaking
the silence to express; the effort demanded by the forming of words was
too great for him. His feeling of indifference-stupefying
indifference--grew so strong that sometimes he felt it beyond his strength
consciously to take in the shape of the objects about the room.
The days were eventless. He lay and watched her movements, which were
spiritless and hurried, by turns, but now seldom marked by the gracious
impulsiveness that had made up so large a part of her charm. He was
content to live from hour to hour at her side; for that this was his last
respite, he well knew. And the further the month advanced, the more
tenaciously he clung. The one thought which now had force to rouse him
was, that the day would come on which he would see her face for
the last time. The fact that she had given herself to another, while yet
belonging to him, ceased to affect him displeasurably, as did also his
fixed idea that she was, at the present moment, deceiving him anew. His
sole obsession was now a fear of the inevitable end. And it was this fear
which, at rare intervals, broke the taciturn dejection in which he was
sunk, by giving rise to appalling fits of violence. But after a scene of
this kind, he would half suffocate her with remorse. And this, perhaps,
worked destruction most surely of all: the knowledge that, despite the
ungovernable aversion she felt for him, she could still tolerate his
endearments. Not once, as long as they had been together, had she refused
to be caressed.
But the impossibility of the life they were leading broke over Louise at
times, with the shock of an ice-cold wave.
"If you have any feeling left in you--if you have ever cared for me in the
least--go away now!" she wept. "Go to the ends of the earth--only leave
He was giddy with headache that day. "To whom? Who is it you want now?"
One afternoon as he lay there, the landlady came in with a telegram for
him, which she said had been brought round by one of Frau Krause's
children--she tossed it on the table, as she spoke, to express the contempt
she felt for him. Several minutes elapsed before he put out his hand for
it, and then he did so, because it required less energy to open it than to
leave it unopened. When he had read it, he gave a short laugh, and threw
it back on the table. Louise, who was in the other part of the room, came
out, half-dressed, to see what the matter was. She, tool laughed at its
contents in her insolent way, and, on passing the writing-table, pulled
open the drawer where she kept her money.
"There's enough for two. And you're no prouder in this, I suppose, than in
The peremptory summons home, and the announcement that no further
allowance would be remitted, was not a surprise to him; he had known all
along that, sooner or later, he would be thrown on his own resources. It
had happened a little earlier than he had expected--that was all. A week
had still to run till the end of the month.--That night, however, when
Louise was out, he meditated, in a desultory fashion, over the likely and
unlikely occupations to which he could turn his hand.
A few days later, she came home one evening in a different mood:
for once, no cruel words crossed her lips. They sat side by side on the
sofa; and of such stuff was happiness now made that he was content.
Chancing to look up, he was dismayed to see that her eyes were full of
tears, which, as he watched, ran over and down her cheeks. He slid to his
knees, and laid his head in her lap.
She fell asleep early; for, no matter what happened, how uneventful or how
tragically exciting her day was, her faculty for sleep remained unchanged.
It was a brilliant night; in the sky was a great, round, yellow moon, and
the room was lit up by it. The blind of the window facing the bed had not
been lowered; and a square patch of light fell across the bed. He turned
and looked at her, lying in it. Her face was towards him; one arm was
flung up above her head; the hand lay with the palm exposed. Something in
the look of the face, blanched by the unreal light, made him recall the
first time he had seen it, and the impression it had then left on his
mind. While she played in Schwarz's room, she had turned and looked at
him, and it had seemed to him then, that some occult force had gone out
from the face, and struck home in him. And it had never lessened. Strange,
that so small a thing, hardly bigger than one's two closed fists, should
be able to exert such an influence over one! For this face it was--the pale
oval, in the dark setting, the exotic colouring, the heavy-lidded
eyes--which held him; it was this face which drew him surely back with a
vital nostalgia--a homesickness for the sight of her and the touch of
her--if he were too long absent. It had not been any coincidence of
temperament or sympathies--by rights, all the rights of their different
natures, they had not belonged together--any more than it had been a mere
blind uprush of sensual desire. And just as his feelings for her had had
nothing to do with reason, or with the practical conduct of his life so
they had outlasted tenderness, faithfulness, respect. What ever it was
that held him, it lay deeper than these conventional ideas of virtue. The
power her face had over him was undiminished, though he now found it
neither beautiful nor good; though he knew the true meaning of each deeply
graven line.--This then was love?--this morbid possession by a woman's
He laid his arm across his tired eyes, and, without waiting to consider
the question he had propounded, commenced to follow out a new train of
thought. No doubt, for each individual, there existed in one other
mortal some physical detail which he or she could find only in this
particular person. It might be the veriest trifle. Some found it, it
seemed, in the colour of an eye; some in the modulations of a voice, the
curve of a lip, the shape of a hand, the lines of a body in motion.
Whatever it chanced to be, it was, in most cases, an insignificant
characteristic, which, for others, simply did not exist, but which, to the
one affected by it, made instant appeal, and just to that corner of the
soul which had hitherto suffered aimlessly for the want of it--a suffering
which nothing but this intonation, this particular smile, could allay. He
himself had long since learnt what it was, about her face, that made a
like appeal to him. It was her eyes. Not their size, or their dark
brilliancy, but the manner of their setting: the spacious lid that fell
from the high, wavy eyebrow, first sloping deeply inwards, then curving
out again, over the eyeball; this, and the clean sweep of the broad, white
lid, which, when lowered, gave the face an infantine look--a look of
marble. He knew it was this; for, on the strength of a mere hinted
resemblance, he had been unable to take his eyes off the face of another
woman; the likeness in this detail had met his gaze with a kind of shock.
But what a meaningless thing was life, when the way a lid drooped, or an
eyebrow grew on a forehead, could make such havoc of your nerves! And more
especially when, in the brain or soul that lay behind, no spiritual trait
answered to the physical.--Well, that was for others to puzzle over, not
for him. The strong man tore himself away while there was still time, or
saved himself in an engrossing pursuit. He, having had neither strength
nor saving occupation, had bartered all he had, and knowingly, for the
beauty of this face. And as long as it existed for him, his home was
He turned restlessly. Disturbed in her dreams, Louise flung over on her
"Eugen!" she murmured. "Save me!--Here I am! Oh, don't you see me?"
He shook her by the arm. "Wake up!"
She was startled and angry. "Won't you even let me sleep?"
"Keep your dreams to yourself then!"
There was a savage hatred in her look. "Oh, if I only could! . . . if only
my hands were strong enough!--!I'd kill you!"
"You've done your best."
"Yes. And I'm glad! Remember that, afterwards. I was glad!"
It had been a radiant April morning of breeze and sunshine, but towards
midday, clouds gathered, and the sunlight was constantly intercepted.
Maurice had had occasion to fetch something from his lodgings and was on
his way back. The streets were thronged with people: business men,
shop-assistants and students, returning to work from the restaurants in
which they had dined. At a corner of the ZEITZERSTRASSE, a hand-cart had
been overturned, and a crowd had gathered; for, no matter how busy people
were, they had time to gape and stare; and they were now as eager as
children to observe this incident, in the development of which a stout
policeman was wordily authoritative. Maurice found that he had loitered
with the rest, to watch the gathering up of the spilt wares, and to hear
the ensuing altercation between hawker and policeman. On turning to walk
on again, his eye was caught and held by the tall figure of a man who was
going in the same direction as he, but at a brisk pace, and several yards
in front of him. This person must have passed the group round the cart.
Now, intervening heads and shoulders divided them, obstructing Maurice's
view; still, signs were not wanting in him that his subliminal
consciousness was beginning to recognise the man who walked ahead. There
was something oddly familiar in the gait, in the droop of the shoulders,
the nervous movement of the head, the aimless motion of the dangling hands
and arms--briefly, in all the loosely hung body. And, besides this, the
broad-brimmed felt hat . . . Good God! He stiffened, with a sudden start,
and, in an instant, his entire attention was concentrated in an effort to
see the colour of the hair under the hat. Was it red? He tried to strike
out in lengthier steps, but the legs of the man in front were longer, and
his own unruly. After a moment's indecision, however, he mastered them,
and then, so afraid was he of the other passing out of sight, that he all
but ran, and kept this pace up till he was close behind the man he
followed. There he fell into a walk again, but a weak and difficult walk,
for his heart was leaping in his chest. He had not been mistaken. The
person close before him, so close that he could almost have touched him,
was no other than Schilsky--the Schilsky of old, with the insolent,
short-sighted eyes, and the loose, easy walk.
Maurice followed him--followed warily and yet unreflectingly--right down
the long, populous street. Sometimes blindly, too, for, when the
street and all it contained swam before him, he was obliged to shut his
eyes. People looked with attention at him; he caught a glimpse of himself
in a barber's mirror, and saw that his face had turned a greenish white.
His mind was set on one point. Arrived at the corner where the street ran
out into the KONIGSPLATZ, which turning would Schilsky take? Would he go
to the right, where lay the BRUDERSTRASSE, or would he take the lower
street to the left? Until this question was answered, it was impossible to
decide what should be done next. But first, there came a lengthy pause:
Schilsky entered a musicshop, and remained inside, leaning over the
counter, for a quarter of an hour. Finally, however, the corner was
reached. He appeared to hesitate: for a moment it seemed as if he were
going straight on, which would mean fresh uncertainty. Then, with a sudden
outward fling of the hands, he went off to the left, in the direction of
Maurice did not follow him any further. He stood and watched, until he
could no longer see the swaying head. After that he had a kind of
collapse. He leaned up against the wall of a house, and wiped the
perspiration from his forehead. Passers by believed him to be drunk, and
were either amused, or horrified, or saddened. He discovered, in truth,
that his legs were shaking as if with an ague, and, stumbling into a
neighbouring wine-shop, he drank brandy--not enough to stupefy him, only
to give back to his legs their missing strength.
To postpone her knowing! To hinder her from knowing at any cost!--his
blurred thoughts got no further than this. He covered the ground at a mad
pace, clinging fast to the belief that he would find her, as he had left
her, in bed. But his first glimpse of her turned him cold. She was
standing before the glass, dressed to go out. This in itself was bad
enough. Worse, far worse, was it that she had put on, to-day, one of the
light, thin dresses she had worn the previous spring, and never since. It
was impossible to see her tricked out in this fashion, and doubt her
knowledge of the damning fact. He held it for proved that she was dressed
to leave him; and the sight of her, refreshed and rejuvenated, gave the
last thrust to his tottering sense. He demanded with such savageness the
meaning of her adornment, that the indignant amazement with which she
turned on him was real, and not feigned.
"Take off that dress! You shan't go out of the house in it!--Take it off!"
He raved, threatened, implored, always with icy fingers at his
heart. He knew that she knew; he would have taken his oath on it; and he
only had room in his brain for one thought: to prevent her knowing. His
rage spent itself on the light, flowery dress. As nothing he said moved
her, he set his foot on the skirt, and tore it down from the waist. She
struck at him for this, then took another from the wardrobe--a still
lighter and gaudier one. They had never yet gone through an hour such as
that which followed. At its expiry, clothes and furniture lay strewn about
When Louise saw that he was not to be shaken off, that, wherever she went
on this day, he would go, too, she gave up any plan she might have had,
and followed where he led. This was, as swiftly as possible, by the
outlying road to the Connewitz woods. If he could but once get her there,
they would be safe from surprise. Once out there, in solitude, among the
screening trees, something, he did not yet know what, but something
He dragged her relentlessly along. But until they got there! His eyes grew
stiff and giddy with looking before him, behind him, on all sides. And
never had she seemed to move so slowly; never had she stared so brazenly
about her, as on this afternoon. With every step they took, certainty
burned higher in him; the thin, fixed smile that disfigured her lips said:
do your worst; do all you can; nothing will save you! He did not draw a
full breath till they were far out on the SCHLEUSSIGER WEG. Then he
dropped her arm, and wiped his face.
The road was heavy with mud, from rains of the preceding day. Louise,
dragging at his side, was careless of it, and let her long skirt trail
behind her. He called her attention to it, furiously, and this was the
first time he had spoken since leaving the house. But she did not even
look down: she picked out a part of the road that was still dirtier, where
her feet sank and stuck.
They crossed the bridge, and joined the wood-path. On one of the first
seats they came to, Louise sank exhausted. Filled with the idea of getting
her into the heart of the woods, he was ahead of her, urging the pace; and
he had taken a further step or two before he saw that she had remained
behind. He was forced to return.
"What are you sitting there for?" He turned on her, with difficulty
resisting the impulse to strike her full in her contemptuous white face.
She laughed--her terrible laugh, which made the very nerves twitch
in his finger-tips. "Why does one usually sit down?"
"ONE?--You're not one! You're you!" Now he wished hundreds of listeners
were in their neighbourhood, that the fierceness of his voice might carry
"And you're a madman!"
"Yes, treat me like the dirt under your feet! But you can't deceive
me.--Do you think I don't know why you're stopping here ?"
She looked away from him, without replying.
"Do you think I don't know why you've decked yourself out like this?"
"For God's sake stop harping on my dress!"
"Why you've bedizened yourself? . . . why you were going out? . . . why
you've spied and gaped eternally from one side of the street to the
As she only continued to look away, the desire seized him to say something
so incisive that the implacability of her face would have to change, no
matter to what. "I'll tell you then!" he shouted, and struck the palm of
one hand with the back of the other, so that the bones in both bit and
stung. "I'll tell you. You're waiting here . . . waiting, I say! But
you'll wait to no purpose! For you've reckoned without me."
"Oh, very well, then, if it pleases you, I'm waiting! But you can at least
say for what? For you perhaps?--for you to regain your senses?"
"Stop your damned sneering! Will you tell me you don't know who's--don't
know he's here?"
Still she continued to overlook him. "He?--who?--what?" She flung the
little words at him like stones. Yet, in the second that elapsed before
his reply, a faint presentiment widened her eyes.
"You've got the audacity to ask that?" Flinging himself down on the seat,
he put his hands in his pockets, and stretched out his legs. "Who but your
precious Schilsky!--the man who knew how you ought to be treated . . . who
gave you what you deserved!"
His first feeling was one of relief: the truth was out; there was an end
to the torture of the past hour. But after this one flash of sensation, he
ceased to consider himself. At his words Louise turned so white that he
thought she was going to faint. She raised her hand to her throat, and
held it there. She tried to say something, and could not utter a sound.
Her voice had left her. She turned her head and looked at him, in
a strange, apprehensive way, with the eyes of a trapped animal.
"Eugen!--Eugen is here?" she said at last. "Here?--Do you know what you're
saying?" Now that her voice had come, it was a little thin whisper, like
the voice of a sick person. She pushed hat and hair, both suddenly become
an intolerable weight, back from her forehead.
Still he was not warned. "Will you swear to me you didn't know?"
"I know? I swear?" Her voice was still a mere echo of itself. But now she
rose, and standing at the end of the seat furthest from him, held on to
the back of it. "I know?" she repeated, as if to herself. Then she drew a
long breath, which quivered through her, and, with it, voice and emotion
and the power of expression returned. "I know?" she cried with a startling
loudness. "Good God, you fool, do you think I'd be here with you, if I had
known?--if I had known!"
A foreboding of what he had done came to Maurice. "Take care!--take care
what you say!"
She burst into a peal of hysterical laughter, which echoed through the
"Take care!" he said again, and trembled.
"Of what?--of you, perhaps? YOU!"
"I may kill you yet."
"Oh, such as you don't kill!"
She lowered her veil, and stooped for her gloves. He looked up at her
swift movement. There was a blueness round his lips.
"What are you going to do?"
"You're . . . you're going to him! Louise!--you are NOT going to him?"
"Oh, you poor, crazy fool, what made you tell me?"
"Stay here!" He caught her by the sleeve. But she shook his hand off as
though it were a poisonous insect. "For God's sake, think what you're
doing! Have a little mercy on me!"
"Have you ever had mercy on me?"
She took a few, quick steps away from the seat, then with an equally
impulsive resolve, came back and confronted him.
"You talk to me of mercy?--you !--when nothing I could wish you would be
bad enough for you?--Oh, I never thought it would be possible to hate
anyone as I hate you--you mean-souled, despicable dummy of a man!--Why
couldn't you have let me alone? I didn't care that much for you--not THAT
much! But you came, with your pretence of friendship, and your flattery,
and your sympathy--it was all lies, every word of it! Do you think what
has happened to us would ever have happened if you'd been a different kind
of man?--But you have never had a clean thought of me--never! Do you
suppose I haven't known what you were thinking and believing about me in
these last weeks?--those nights when I waited night after night to see a
light come back in his windows? Yes, and I let you believe it; I wanted you
to; I was glad you did--glad to see you suffer. I wish you were dead!--Do
you see that river? Go and throw yourself into it. I'll stand here and
watch you sink, and laugh when I see you drowning.--Oh, I hate you--hate
you! I shall hate you to my last hour!"
She spat on the ground at his feet. Before he could raise his head, she
He made an involuntary, but wholly uncertain, movement to follow her, did
not, however, carry it out, and sank back into his former attitude. His
cold hands were deep in his pockets, his shoulders drawn up; and his face,
drained of its blood, was like the face of an old man. He had made no
attempt to defend himself, had sat mute, letting her vindictive words go
over him, inwardly admitting their truth. Now he closed his eyes, and kept
them shut, until the thudding of his heart grew less forcible. When he
looked up again, his gaze met the muddy, sluggish water, into which she
had dared him to throw himself. But he did not even recall her taunt. He
merely sat and stared at the river, amazed at the way in which it had, as
it were, detached itself from other objects. All at once it had acquired a
life of its own, and it was difficult to believe that it had ever been an
integral part of the landscape.
He remained sitting till the mists were breast-high. But even when, after
more than one start--for his legs were stiff and numbed--he rose to go
home, he did not realise what had happened to him. He was only aware that
night had fallen, and that it would be better to get back in the direction
of the town.
The twinkling street-lamps did more than anything towards rousing him. But
they also made him long, with a sudden vehemence, for some warm, brightly
lighted interior, where it would be possible to forget the night--haunted
river. He sought out an obscure cafe, and entering, called for brandy. On
this night, he was under no necessity to limit himself; and he
sat, glowering at the table, and emptying his glass, until he had died a
temporary, and charitable, death. The delicious sensation of sipping the
brandy was his chief remembrance of these hours; but, also, like far-off,
incorporate happenings, he was conscious, as the night deepened, of
women's shrill and lively voices. and of the pressure of a woman's arms.
He wakened, the next morning, to strange surroundings. Half opening his
eyes, he saw a strip of drab wall-paper, besprinkled with crude pink
roses, and the black and gilt frame of an oblong mirror. He shut them
again immediately, preferring to believe that he was still dreaming.
Somewhere in the back of his head, a machine was working, with slow,
steady throbs, which made his body vibrate as a screw does a steamer. He
lay enduring it, and trying to sleep again, to its accompaniment. But just
as he was on the point of dozing off, a noise in the room startled him,
and made him wide awake. He was not alone. Something had fallen to the
floor, and a voice exclaimed impatiently. Peering through his lids, he
looked out beyond the will which had first chained his attention. His eyes
fell on the back of a woman, who was sitting in front of one of the
windows, doing her hair. In her hand she held a pair of curlingtongs, and,
before her, on the foot-end of the sofa, a hand-glass was propped up. Her
hair was thick and blond. She wore a black silk chemise, which had slipped
low on her plump shoulders; a shabby striped petticoat was bound round her
waist, and her naked feet were thrust into down-trodden, felt shoes.
Maurice lay still, in order that she should not suspect his being awake.
For a few minutes, there was silence; then he was forced to sneeze, and at
the sound the woman muttered something, and came to the side of the bed. A
curl was imprisoned between the blades of the tongs, which she continued
to hold aloft, in front of her forehead.
"NA, KLEINER! . . . had your sleep out?" she asked in a raucous voice. As
Maurice did not reply, but closed his eyes again, blinded by the sunshine
that poured into the room, she laughed, and made a sound like that with
which one urges on a horse. "Don't feel up to much this morning . . . eh?
HERRJE, KLEINER, but you were tight!" and, at some remembrance of the
preceding night, she chuckled to herself. "And now, I bet you, you feel as
if you'd never be able to lift your head again. Just wait a jiffy! I'll
get you something that'll revive you."
She waddled to the door and he heard her call: "JOHANN, EINEN
Feet shuffled in the passage; she handed Maurice a glass of brandy.
"There you are!--that'll pull you together. Swallow it down," she said, as
he hesitated. "You'll feel another man after it.--And now I'll do what I
wouldn't do for every one--make you a coffee to wash down the nasty
She laughed loudly at her own joke, and laid the curlingtongs aside. He
watched her move about the room in search of spirit-lamp and coffee-mill.
Beneath the drooping black chemise, her loose breasts swayed.
"Not that I've much time," she went on, as she ground the coffee. "It's
gone a quarter to twelve already, and I like fresh air. I don't miss a
minute of it.--So up you get! Here, dowse your head in this water."
Leaning against the table, Maurice drank the cup of black coffee, and
considered his companion. No longer young, she was as coarsely haggard as
are the generality of women of her class, scanned by cruel daylight. And
while she could never have been numbered among the handsome ones of her
profession, there was yet a certain kindliness in the smallish blue eyes,
and in her jocose manner of treating him.
She, too, eyed him as he drank.
"SAG''MAL KLEINER--will you come again?" she broke the silence.
"What's your name?" he asked evasively, and put the cup down on the table.
"Oh . . . just ask for Luise," she said. On her tongue, the name had three
long-drawn syllables, and there was a v before the i.
She was nettled by his laugh.
"What's wrong with it?" she asked. "GEH', KLEINER, SEI NETT!--won't you
"Well, ask for Luise, if you do. That's enough."
He turned to put on his coat. As he did so, a disagreeable thought crossed
his mind; he coloured, and ran his hand through his pockets.
"I've no money."
"What?--rooked, are you? Well, it wasn't here, then. I'm an honest girl, I
She came over to him, not exactly suspicious, still with a slight
diminution of friendliness in eyes and tone; and, as, if there were room
for a mistake on his part, herself went through the likely pockets in
"Not a heller!"
Her sharp little eyes travelled over him.
She laid her hand on his scarf-pin. He took it out and gave it to her. She
stood on tip-toe, for she was dumpy, put her arms round his neck, and gave
him a hearty kiss.
"DU GEFALLST MIR!" she said. "I like you. Kiss me, too, can't you?"
He looked down on the plump, ungainly figure, and, without feeling either
satisfaction or repugnance, stooped and kissed the befringed forehead.
"ADIEU, KLEINER! Come again."
He was eyed--he felt it--from various rooms, the doors of which stood ajar.
The front door was wide open, and he left it so. He descended the stairs
with a sagging step. Half-way down, he stopped short. He had spoken the
truth when he said that he was without money; every pfennig he possessed,
had been in his pocket the night before. Under these circumstances, he
could undertake nothing. But, even while he thought it, his hand sought
his watch, which he carried chainless in a pocket of his vest. It was
there, and as his fingers closed on it, he proceeded on his way.
The day had again set in brilliantly; the shadows on roads and pavements
had real depth, and the outlines of the houses were hard against a
cloudless sky. He kept his eyes fixed on the ground; for the crudeness of
the light made them ache.
His feet bore him along the road they knew better than any other. And
until he had been in the BRUDERSTRASSE, he could not decide what was to
come next. He dragged along, with bowed head, and the distance seemed
unending. Even when he had turned the corner and was in the street itself,
he kept his head down, and only when he was opposite the house, did he
throw a quick glance upwards. His heart gave a terrifying leap, then
ceased to beat: when it began again, it was at a mad gallop, which
prevented him drawing breath. All three windows stood wide open; the white
window-curtains hung out over the sills, and flapped languidly in the
He crossed the road with small steps, like a convalescent. He pushed back
the heavy house-door, and entered the vestibule, which was cold
and shadowy. Step by step, he climbed to the first landing. The door of
the flat was shut, but the little door in the wall stood ajar, and he
could see right into the room.
He leaned against the banisters, where the shadow was deepest. Inside the
room that had been his world, two charwomen rubbed and scoured, talking as
they worked in strident tones. The heavy furniture had been pulled into
the middle of the floor, and shrouded in white coverings; chairs were laid
on the bed, with their legs in the air. There was no trace of anything
that had belonged to Louise; all familiar objects had vanished. It was a
strange, unnatural scene: he felt as one might feel who, by means of some
mysterious agency, found it possible to be present at his own burial,
while he was still alive.
One of the women began to beat the sofa; under cover of the blows, which
reverberated through the house, he slunk away. But he did not get far:
when he was recalled to himself by a new noise in one of the upper
storeys, he found that he was standing on the bottom step of the stairs,
holding fast to the round gilt ball that surmounted the last post of the
banisters. He moved from there to the warmth of the house-door, and, for
some time before going out, stood sunning himself, a forlorn figure, with
eyes that blinked at the light. He felt very cold, and weak to the point
of faintness. This sensation reminded him that he had had no solid food
since noon the day before. His first business was obviously to eat a meal.
Fighting a growing dizziness, he trudged into the town, and, having pawned
his watch, went to a restaurant, and forced himself to swallow the meal
that was set before him--though there were moments when it seemed
incredible that it was actually he who plied knife and fork. He would have
been glad to linger for a time, after eating, but the restaurant was
crowded, and the waiter openly impatient for him to be gone. As he rose,
he saw the man flicking the crumbs off the cloth, and setting the table
anew; some one was waiting to take his place.
When he emerged again into the thronged and slightly dusty streets, his
previous strong impression of the unreality of things was upon him again.
Now, however, it seemed as though some submerged consciousness were at
work in him. For, though he was not aware of having reviewed his position,