Part 2 out of 13
She smiled at his eagerness. "You absorb like a sponge."
When it grew too dark to see, he confided to her that his dearest wish
was to be a conductor. He was not yet clear how it could be managed,
but he was sure that this was the branch of his art for which he had
Here she interrupted him. "Do you never write verses?"
Her question seemed to him so meaningless that he only laughed, and
went on with what he was saying. For the event of his plan proving
impracticable--at home they had no idea of it--he was training as a
concert-player; but he intended to miss no chance that offered, of
learning how to handle an orchestra.
Throughout these hours of stimulating companionship, however, he did
not lose sight of his original purpose in going to see Madeleine. It
was only that just the right moment never seemed to come; and the name
he was so anxious to hear, had not once been mentioned between them.
Often, in the dusk, his lips twitched to speak it; but he feared his
own awkwardness, and her quick tongue; then, too, the subject was
usually far aside from what they were talking of, and it would have
made a ludicrous impression to drag it in by the hair.
But one day his patience was rewarded. He had carelessly taken
up a paper-bound volume of Chopin, and was on the point of commenting
upon it, for he had lately begun to understand the difference between
a Litolff and a Mikuli. But it slipped from his hand, and he was
obliged to crawl under the piano to pick it up; on a corner of the
cover, in a big, black, scrawly writing, was the name of Marie Louise
Dufrayer. He cleared his throat, laid the volume down, took it up
again; then, realising that the moment had come, he put a bold face on
"I see this belongs to Miss Dufrayer," he said bluntly, and, as his
companion's answer was only a careless: "Yes, Louise forgot it the
last time she was here," he went on without delay: "I should like to
know Miss Dufrayer, Madeleine. Do you think you could introduce me to
Madeleine, who was in the act of taking down a book from her hanging
shelves, turned and looked at him. He was still red in the face, from
the exertion of stooping.
"Introduce you to Louise?" she queried. "Why?--why do you want to be
introduced to her?"
"Oh, I don't know. For no particular reason."
She sat down at the table, opened the book, and turned the leaves.
"Oh well, I daresay I can, if you wish it, and an opportunity
occurs--if you're with me some day when I meet her.--Now shall we go on
with the JUNGFRAU? We were beginning the third act, I think. Here it
Wir waren Herzensbruder, Waffenfreunde,
Fur eine Sache hoben wir den Arm!"
But Maurice did not take the book she handed him across the table.
"Won't you give me a more definite promise than that?"
Madeleine sat back in her chair, and, folding her arms, looked
thoughtfully at him.
Only a momentary silence followed his words, but, in this fraction of
time, a series of impressions swept through her brain with the
continuity of a bird's flight. It was clear to her at once, that what
prompted his insistence was not an ordinary curiosity, or a passing
whim; in a flash, she understood that here, below the surface,
something was at work in him, the existence of which she had not even
suspected. She was more than annoyed with herself at her own
foolish obtuseness; she had had these experiences before, and then, as
now, the object of her interest had invariably been turned aside by
the first pretty, silly face that came his way. The main difference
was that she had been more than ordinarily drawn to Maurice Guest;
and, believing it impossible, in this case, for anyone else to be
sharing the field with her, she had over-indulged the hope that he
sought her out for herself alone.
She endeavoured to learn more. But this time Maurice was on his guard,
and the questions she put, straight though they were, only elicited
the response that he had seen Miss Dufrayer shortly after arriving,
and had been much struck by her.
Madeleine's brain travelled rapidly backwards. "But if I remember
rightly, Maurice, we met Louise one day in the SCHEIBENHOLZ, the first
time we went for a walk together. Why didn't you stop then, and be
introduced to her, if you were so anxious?"
"Why do we ever do foolish things?"
Her amazement was so patent that he made uncomfortable apology for
himself. "It is ridiculous, I know," he said and coloured. "And it
must seem doubly so to you. But that I should want to know her--there's
nothing strange in that, is there? You, too, Madeleine, have surely
admired people sometimes--some one, say, who has done a fine thing--and
have felt that you must know them personally, at all costs?"
"Perhaps I have. But romantic feelings of that kind are sure to end in
smoke. As a rule they've no foundation but our own wishes.--If you take
my advice, Maurice, you will be content to admire Louise at a
distance. Think her as pretty as you like, and imagine her to be all
that's sweet and charming: but never mind about knowing her."
"But why on earth not?"
"Why, nothing will come of it."
"That depends on what you mean by nothing."
"You don't understand. I must be plainer.--Do sit down, and don't
fidget so.--How long have you been here now? Nearly two months. Well,
that's long enough to know something of what's going on. You must have
both seen and heard that Louise has no eyes for anyone but a certain
person, to put it bluntly, that she is wrapped up in Schilsky. This
has been going on for over a year now, and she seems to grow more
infatuated every day. When she first came to Leipzig, we were friends;
she lived in this neighbourhood, and I was able to be of
service to her. Now, weeks go by and I don't see her; she has broken
with every one--for Louise is not a girl to do things by
halves.--Introduce you? Of course I can. But suppose it done, with all
pomp and ceremony, what will you get from it? I know Louise. A word or
two, if her ladyship is in the mood; if not, you will be so much thin
air for her. And after that, a nod if she meets you in the street--and
"You're easily satisfied.--But tell me, honestly now, Maurice, what
possible good can that do you?"
He moved aimlessly about the room. "Good? Must one always look for
good in everything?--I can see quite well that from your point of view
the whole thing must seem absurd. I expect nothing whatever from it,
but I'm going to know her, and that's all about it."
Still in the same position, with folded arms, Madeleine observed him
with unblinking eyes.
"And you won't bear me a grudge, if things go badly?--I mean if you are
disappointed, or dissatisfied?"
He made a gesture of impatience.
"Yes, but I know Louise, and you don't."
He had picked up from the writing-table the photograph of a curate,
and he stared at it as if he had no thought but to let the mild
features stamp themselves on his mind. Madeleine's eyes continued to
bore him through. At last, out of a silence, she said slowly: "Of
course I can introduce you--it's done with a wave of the hand. But, as
your friend, I think it only right to warn you what you must expect.
For I can see you don't understand in the least, and are laying up a
big disappointment for yourself. However, you shall have your way--if
only to show you that I am right."
"Thanks, Madeleine--thanks awfully."
They settled down to read Schiller. But Maurice made one slip after
another, and she let them pass uncorrected. She was annoyed with
herself afresh, for having made too much of the matter, for having
blown it up to a fictitious importance, when the wiser way would have
been to treat it as of no consequence at all.
The next afternoon he arrived, with expectation in his face; but not
on this day, nor the next, nor the next again, did she bring the
subject up between them. On the fourth, however, as he was leaving,
she said abruptly: "You must have patience for a little, Maurice.
Louise has gone to Dresden."
"That's why the blinds are down," he exclaimed without
thinking, then coloured furiously at his own words, and, to smooth
them over, asked: "Why has she gone? For how long?"
But Madeleine caught him up. "SIEH DA, some one has been playing
sentinel!" she said in raillery; and it seemed to him that every fold
in his brain was laid bare to her, before she answered: "She has gone
for a week or ten days--to visit some friends who are staying there."
He nodded, and was about to open the door, when she added: "But set
your mind at rest--HE is here."
Maurice looked sharply up; but a minute or two passed before the true
meaning of her words broke on him. He coloured again--a mortifying
habit he had not outgrown, and one which seemed to affect him more in
the presence of Madeleine than of anyone else.
"It's hardly a thing to joke about."
"Joke!--who is joking?" she asked, and raised her eyebrows so high that
her forehead was filled with wrinkles. "Nothing was further from my
Maurice hesitated, and stood undecided, holding the doorhandle. Then,
following an impulse, he turned and sat down again. "Madeleine, tell
me--I wouldn't ask anyone but you--what sort of a fellow IS this
"What sort of a fellow?" She laughed sarcastically. "To be quite
truthful, Maurice, the best fiddler the Con. has turned out for
"Now you're joking again. As if I didn't know that. Everyone says the
"You want his moral character? Well, I'll be equally candid. Or, at
least, I'll give you my opinion of him. It's another superlative. Just
as I consider him the best violinist, I also hold him to be the
greatest scamp in the place--and I've no objection to use a stronger
word if you like. I wouldn't take his hand, no, not if he offered it
to me. The last time he was in this room, about six months ago, he--
well, let us say he borrowed, without a word to me, five or six marks
that were lying loose on the writing-table. Yes, it's a fact," she
repeated, complacently eyeing Maurice's dismay. "Otherwise?--oh,
otherwise, he was born, I think, with a silver spoon in his mouth. He
has one piece of luck after another. Zeppelin discovered him ten years
ago, on a concert-tour--his father is a smith in Warsaw--and brought him
to Leipzig. He was a prodigy, then, and a rich Jewish banker
took him up, and paid for his education; and when he washed his hands
of him in disgust, Schaefele's wife--Schaefele is head of the
HANDELVEREIN, you know--adopted him as a son--some people say as more
than a son, for, though she was nearly forty, she was perfectly crazy
over him, and behaved as foolishly as any of the dozens of silly girls
who have lost their hearts to him."
"I suppose they are engaged," said Maurice after a pause, speaking out
of his own thoughts.
"Do you?" she asked with mild humour. "I really never asked them.--But
this is just another example of his good fortune. When he has worn out
every one else's patience, through his dishonest extravagance, he
picks up a rich wife, who is not averse to supporting him before
Maurice looked at her reproachfully. "I wonder you care to repeat such
"It's not gossip, Maurice. Every one knows it. Louise makes no mystery
of her doings--doesn't care that much what people say. While as for
him--well, it's enough to know it's Schilsky. The thing is an open
secret. Listen, now, and I'll tell you how it began--just to let you
judge for yourself what kind of a girl you have to deal with in
Louise, and how Schilsky behaves when he wants a thing, and whether
such a pair think a formal engagement necessary to their happiness.
When Louise came here, a year and a half ago, Schilsky was away
somewhere with Zeppelin, and didn't get back till a couple of months
afterwards. As I said, I knew Louise pretty well at that time; she had
got herself into trouble with--but that's neither here nor there. Well,
my lord returns--he himself tells how it happened. It was a Thursday
evening, and a Radius Commemoration was going on at the Con. He went
in late, and stood at the back of the hall. Louise was there, too,
just before him, and, from the first minute he saw her, he couldn't
take his eyes off her--others who were by say, too, he seemed perfectly
fascinated. No one can stare as rudely as Schilsky, and he ended by
making her so uncomfortable that she couldn't bear it any longer, and
went out of the hall. He after her, and it didn't take him an hour to
find out all about her. The next evening, at an ABEND, they were both
there again it was just like Louise to go!--and the same thing was
repeated. She left again before it was over, he followed, and this
time found her in one of the side corridors; and there--mind you,
without a single word having passed between them!--he took her
in his arms and kissed her, kissed her soundly, half a dozen
times--though they had never once spoken to each other: he boasts of it
to this day. That same evening----"
"Don't, Madeleine--please, don't say any more! I don't care to hear
it," broke in Maurice. He had flushed to the roots of his hair, at
some points of resemblance to his own case, then grown pale again, and
now he waved his arm meaninglessly in the air. "He is a scoundrel,
a--a----" But he recognised that he could not condemn one without the
other, and stopped short.
"My dear boy, if I don't tell you, other people will. And at least you
know I mean well by you. Besides," she went on, not without a touch of
malice as she eyed him sitting there, spoiling the leaves of a book.
"Besides, I may as well show you, how you have to treat Louise, if you
want to make an impression on her. You call him a scoundrel, but what
of her? Believe me, Maurice," she said more seriously, "Louise is not
a whit too good for him; they were made for each other. And of course
he will marry her eventually, for the sake of her, money "--here she
paused and looked deliberately at him--"if not for her own."
This time there was no mistaking the meaning of her words.
He rose from his seat with such force that the table tilted.
But Madeleine did not falter. "I told you already, you know, that
Louise doesn't care what is said about her. As soon as this
unfortunate affair began, she threw up the rooms she was in at the
time, and moved nearer the TALSTRASSE--where he lives. Rumour has it
also that she provided herself with an accommodating landlady, who can
be blind and deaf when necessary."
"How CAN you repeat such atrocious scandal?"
He stared at her, in incredulous dismay. Her words were so many
arrows, the points of which remained sticking in him.
She shrugged her shoulders. "Your not believing it doesn't affect the
truth of the story, Maurice. It was the talk of the place when it
happened. And you may despise rumour as you will, my experience is, a
report never springs up that hasn't some basis of fact to go
He choked back, with an effort, the eloquent words that came to his
lips; of what use was it to make himself still more ridiculous in her
eyes? His hat had fallen to the floor; he picked it up, and brushed it
on his sleeve, without knowing what he did. "Oh, well, of
course, if you think that," he said as coolly as he was able, "nothing
I could say would make any difference. Every one is free to his
opinions, I suppose. But, all the same, I must say, Madeleine"--he
grew hot in spite of himself. "You have been her friend, you say; you
have known her intimately; and yet just because she . . . she cares for
this fellow in such a way that she sets caring for him above being
cautious--why, not one woman in a thousand would have the courage for
that sort of thing! It needs courage, not to mind what people--no, what
your friends imagine, and how falsely they interpret what you do.
Besides, one has only to look at her to see how absurd it is. That
face and--I don't know her, Madeleine; I've never spoken to her, and
never may, yet I am absolutely certain that what is said about her
isn't true. So certain that--But after all, if this is what you think
about . . . about it, then all I have to say is, we had better not
discuss the subject again. It does no good, and we should never be of
the same opinion."
Not without embarrassment, now that he had said his say, he turned to
the door. But Madeleine was not in the least angry. She gave him her
hand, and said, with a smile, yet gravely, too: "Agreed, Maurice! We
will not speak of Louise again."
He shunned Madeleine for days after this. He was morose and unhappy,
and brooded darkly over the baseness of wagging tongues. For the first
time in his life he had come into touch with slander, that invisible
Hydra, and straightway it seized upon the one person to whom he was
not indifferent. In this mood it was a relief to him that certain
three windows in the BRUDERSTRASSE remained closed and shuttered; with
the load of malicious gossip fresh on his mind, he chose rather not to
see her; he must first accustom himself to it, as to the scar left by
He did not, of course, believe what Madeleine, with her infernal
frankness, had told him; but the knowledge that such a report was
abroad, depressed him unspeakably: it took colour from the sky and
light from the sun. Sometimes in these days, as he sat at his piano,
he had a sudden fit of discouragement, which made it seem not worth
while to continue playing. It was unthinkable that she could be aware
how busy scandal was with her name, and how her careless acts were
spied on and misrepresented; and he turned over in his mind ways and
means by which she might be induced to take more thought for herself
He did not believe it; but hours of distracting uncertainty came, none
the less, when small things which his memory had stored up made him go
so far as to ask himself, what if it should be true?--what then? But
he had not courage enough to face an answer; he put the possibility
away from him, in the extreme background of his mind, refused to let
his brain piece its observations together. The mere suspicion was a
blasphemy, a blasphemy against her dignified reserve, against her
sweet pale face, her supreme disregard of those about her. Not thus
would guilt have shown itself.
Schilsky, who was the origin of all the evil, he made wide circuits to
avoid. He thought of him, at this time, with what he believed to be a
feeling of purely personal antipathy. In his most downcast moments, he
had swift and foolish visions publicly executing vengeance on him; but
if, a moment later, he saw the violinist's red hair or big hat before
him in the street, he turned aside as though the other had been
plague-struck. Once, however, when he was going up the steps of the
Conservatorium, and Schilsky, in leaping down, pushed carelessly
against him, he returned the knock so rudely and swore with such
downrightness that, in spite of his hurry, Schilsky stopped and fixed
him, and with equal vehemence damned him for a fool of an Englishman.
His despondency spread like a weed. A furious impatience overcame him,
too, at the thought of the innumerable hours he would be forced to
spend at the piano, day in, day out, for months to come, before the
result could be compared with the achievements even of many a
fellow-student. As the private lessons Schwarz gave were too expensive
for him, he decided, as a compromise, to take a course of extra
lessons with Furst, who prepared pupils for the master, and was quite
willing to come to terms, in other words, who taught for what he could
Once a week, then, for the rest of the summer, Maurice climbed the
steep, winding stair of the house in the BRANDVORWERKSTRASSE where
Furst lived with his mother. It was so dark on this stair that, in
dull weather, ill-trimmed lamps burnt all day long on the different
landings. To its convolutions, in its unaired corners, clung what
seemed to be the stale, accumulated smells of years; and these were
continually reinforced; since every day at dinnertime, the various
kitchen-windows, all of which gave on the stair, were opened to let
the piercing odours of cooking escape. The house, like the majority of
its kind in this relatively new street, was divided into countless
small lodgings; three families, with three rooms apiece, lived on each
storey, and on the fifth floor, at the top of the house, the same
number of rooms was let out singly. Part of the third storey was
occupied by a bird-fancier; and between him and the Fursts above waged
perpetual war, one of those petty, unending wars that can only arise
and be kept up when, as here, such heterogeneous elements are forced
to live side by side, under one roof. The fancier, although his
business was nominally in the town, had enough of his wares beside him
to make his house a lively, humming kind of place, and the strife
dated back to a day when, the door standing temptingly ajar, Peter,
the Fursts' lean cat, had sneaked stealthily in upon this, to him,
enchanted ground, and, according to the fancier, had caused the death,
from fright, of a delicate canary, although the culprit had done
nothing more than sit before the cage, licking his lips. This had
happened several years ago, but each party was still fertile in
planning annoyances for the other, and the females did not bow when
they met. On the fourth floor, next the Fursts, lived a pale, harassed
teacher, with a family which had long since outgrown its
accommodation; for the wife was perpetually in childbed, and cots and
cradles were the chief furniture of the house. As the critical moments
of her career drew nigh, the "Frau Lehrer" complained, with an
aggravated bitterness, of the unceasing music that went on behind the
thin partition; and this grievance, together with the racy items of
gossip left behind the midwife's annual visit, like a trail of smoke,
provided her and Furst's mother with infinite food for talk. They were
thick friends again a few minutes after a scene so lively that blows
seemed imminent, and they met every morning on the landing, where,
with broom or child in hand, they stood gossiping by the hour.
When Maurice rang, Frau Furst opened the door to him herself, having
first cautiously examined him through the kitchen window. Drying her
hands on her apron, she ushered him through the tiny entry--a place of
dangers, pitch-dark as it was, and lumbered with chests and
presses--into Franz's room, the "best room" of the house. Here were
collected a red plush suite, which was the pride of Frau Furst's
heart, and all the round, yellowing family photographs; here, too,
stood the well-used Bechstein, pile upon pile of music, a couple of
music-stands, a bust of Schubert, a faded, framed diploma. For years,
assuredly, the windows had never been thrown wide open; the odours of
stale coffee and forgotten dinners, of stove and warmed wood, of
piano, music and beeswax: all these lay as it were in streaks in the
atmosphere, and made it heavy and thought-benumbing.
A willing listener was worth more than gold to Frau Furst and here,
the first time he came, while waiting for Franz, Maurice heard in
detail the history of the family. The father had been an oboist in the
Gewandhaus orchestra, and had died a few years previously, of a chill
incurred after a performance of DIE MEISTERSINGER. At his death, it
had fallen on Franz to support the family; and, thanks to Schwarz's
aid and influence, Franz was able to get as many pupils as he had time
to teach. It was easy to see that this, her eldest son, was the apple
of Frau Furst's eye; her other children seemed to be there only to
meet his needs; his lightest wish was law. Each additional pupil that
sought him out, was a fresh tribute to his genius, each one that left
him, no matter after how long, was unthankful and a traitor.
For the nights on which his quartet met at the house, she prepared as
another woman would for a personal fete; and she watched the candles
grow shorter without a tinge of regret. When Franz played at an
ABENDUNTERHALTUNG, the family turned out in a body. Schwarz was a god,
all-powerful, on whom their welfare depended; and it was necessary to
propitiate him by a quarterly visit on a Sunday morning, when, over
wine and biscuits, she wept real and feigned tears of gratitude.
In this hard-working, careworn woman, who was seldom to be seen but in
petticoat, bed-jacket, and heelless, felt shoes; who, her whole life
long, had been little better than a domestic servant; in her there
existed a devotion to art which had never wavered. It would have
seemed to her contrary to nature that Franz should be anything but a
musician, and it was also quite in the order of things for them to be
poor. Two younger boys, who were still at school, gave up all their
leisure time to music--they had never in their lives tumbled round a
football or swung a bat--and Franz believed that the elder would prove
a skilful violinist. Of the little girls, one had a pure voice and a
good ear, and was to be a singer--for before this Juggernaut, prejudice
went down. Had anyone suggested to Frau Furst that her daughter should
be a clerk, even a teacher, she would have flung up hands of horror;
but music!--that was a different matter. It was, moreover, the single
one of the arts, in which this staunch advocate of womanliness granted
her sex a share.
"Ask Franz," she said to Maurice. "Franz knows. He will explain. All
women can do is to reproduce what some one else has thought or felt."
As an immortal example of the limits set by sex, she invariably fell
back on Clara Schumann, with whom she had more than once come into
personal contact. In her youth, Frau Furst had had a clear soprano
voice, and, to Maurice's interest, she told him how she had sometimes
been sent for to the Schumann's house in the INSELSTRASSE, to sing
Robert's songs for him.
"Clara accompanied me," she said, relating this, the great
reminiscence of her life; "and he was there, too, although I never saw
him face to face. He was too shy for that. But he was behind a screen,
and sometimes he would call: 'I must alter that; it is too high;' or
'Quicker, quicker!' Sometimes even 'Bravo!'"
Her motherly ambitions for Franz knew no bounds. One of the few
diversions she allowed herself was a visit to the theatre--when Franz
had tickets given to him; when one of her favourite operas was
performed; or on the anniversary of her husband's death--and, on such
occasions, she pointed out to the younger children, the links that
bound and would yet bind them to the great house.
"That was your father's seat," she reminded them every time. "The
second row from the end. He came in at the door to the left. And
that," pointing to the conductor's raised chair, "is where Franz will
sit some day." For she dreamed of Franz in all the glory of
KAPELLMEISTER; saw him swinging the little stick that dominated the
theatre-audience, singers and players alike.
And the children, hanging over the high gallery, shuffling their
restless feet, thus had their path as dearly traced for them, their
destiny as surely sealed, as any fate-shackled heroes of antiquity.
* * * * *
Late one afternoon about this time, Franz might have been found
together with his friends Krafft and Schilsky, at the latter's lodging
in the TALSTRASSE. He was astride a chair, over the back of which he
had folded his arms; and his chubby, rubicund face glistened with
In the middle of the room, at the corner of a bare deal table that was
piled with loose music and manuscript, Schilsky sat improving and
correcting the tails and bodies of hastily made, notes. He was still
in his nightshirt, over which he had thrown coat and trousers; and,
wide open at the neck, it exposed to the waist a skin of the dead
whiteness peculiar to red-haired people. His face, on the other hand,
was sallow and unfresh; and the reddish rims of the eyes, and the
coarsely self-indulgent mouth, contrasted strikingly with the general
youthfulness of his appearance. He had the true musician's head: round
as a cannon-ball, with a vast, bumpy forehead, on which the soft
fluffy hair began far back, and stood out like a nimbus. His eyes were
either desperately dreamy or desperately sharp, never normally
attentive or at rest; his blunted nose and chin were so short as to
make the face look top-heavy. A carefully tended young moustache stood
straight out along his cheeks. He had large, slender hands, and quick
The air of the room was like a thin grey veiling, for all three puffed
hard at cigarettes. Without removing his from between his
teeth, Schilsky related an adventure of the night before. He spoke in
jerks, with a strong lisp, intent on what he was doing than on what he
"Do you think he'd budge?" he asked in a thick, spluttery way. "Not
he. Till nearly two. And then I couldn't get him along. He thought it
wasn't eleven, and wanted to relieve himself at every corner. To
irritate an imaginary bobby. He disputed with them, too. Heavens, what
sport it was! At last I dragged him up here and got him on the sofa.
Off he rolls again. So I let him lie. He didn't disturb me."
Heinrich Krafft, the hero of the episode lay on the short,
uncomfortable sofa, with the table-cover for a blanket. In answer to
Schilsky, he said faintly, without opening his eyes: "Nothing would.
You are an ox. When I wake this morning, with a mouth like gum arabic,
he sits there as if he had not stirred all night. Then to bed, and
snores till midday, through all the hellish light and noise."
Here Furst could not resist making a little joke. He announced himself
by a chuckle-like the click of a clock about to strike.
"He's got to make the most of his liberty. He doesn't often get off
duty. We know, we know." He laughed tonelessly, and winked at Krafft.
In der Woche zwier--
"Now, you fellows, shut up!" said Schilsky. It was plain that banter
of this kind was not disagreeable to him; at the same time he was just
at the moment too engrossed, to have more than half an car for what
was said. With his short-sighted eyes close to the paper, he was
listening with all his might to some harmonies that his fingers played
on the table. When, a few minutes later he rose and stretched the
stiffness from his limbs, his face, having lost its expression of rapt
concentration, seemed suddenly to have grown younger. He set about
dressing himself by drawing off his nightshirt over his head. At a
word from him, Furst sprang to collect utensils for making coffee.
Heinrich Krafft opened his eyes and followed their movements; and the
look he had for Schilsky was as warily watchful as a cat's.
Schilsky, an undeveloped Hercules--he was narrow in proportion to his
height--and still naked to the waist, took some bottles from a long
line of washes and perfumes that stood on the washstand, and,
crossing to an elegant Venetian-glass mirror, hung beside the window,
lathered his chin. It was a peculiarity of his only to be able to
attend thoroughly to one thing at a time, and a string of witticisms
uttered by Furst passed unheeded. But Krafft's first words made him
Having watched him for some time, the latter said slowly. "I say, old
fellow, are you sure it's all square about Lulu and this Dresden
Razor in hand, Schilsky turned and looked at him. As he did so, he
coloured, and answered with an over-anxious haste: "Of course I am. I
made her go. She didn't want to"
"That's a well-known trick."
The young man scowled and thrust out his under-lip. "Do you think I'm
not up to their tricks? Do you want to teach me how to manage a woman?
I tell you I sent her away."
He tried to continue shaving, but was visibly uneasy. "Well, if you
won't believe me," he said, with sudden anger, though neither of the
others had spoken. "Now where the deuce is that letter?"
He rummaged among the music and papers on the table; in chaotic
drawers; beneath dirty, fat-scaled dinner-dishes on the washstand;
between door and stove, through a kind of rubbishheap that had formed
with time, of articles of dress, spoiled sheets of music-paper, soiled
linen, empty bottles, and boots, countless boots, single and in pairs.
When he had found what he looked for, he ran his eyes down the page,
as if he were going to read it aloud. Then, however, he changed his
mind; a boyish gratification overspread his face, and, tossing the
letter to Krafft, he bade them read it for themselves. Furst leaned
over the end of the sofa. It was written in English, in a bold,
scrawly hand, and ran, without date or heading:
MY OWN DEAREST
NOW ONLY FOUR DAYS MORE--I COUNT THEM MORNING AND NIGHT. I AM GOOD FOR
NOTHING--MY THOUGHTS ARE ALWAYS WITH YOU. YESTERDAY AT THE GALLERY I
SAT ALONE IN THE ROOM WHERE THE MADONNA IS, PRETENDING ENTHUSIASM--WHILE
THE REST WENT TO HOLBEIN--AND READ YOUR LETTER OVER AND OVER
AGAIN. BUT IT MADE ME A LITTLE UNHAPPY TOO, FOR I SOON FOUND OUT THAT
YOU HAD WRITTEN IT AT THREE DIFFERENT TIMES. IS IT REALLY SO HARD TO
WRITE TO LULU?
HAVE YOU WORKED BETTER FOR WANT OF INTERRUPTION ?--MY DAMNED
INTERRUPTIONS, AS YOU CALLED THEM LAST WEEK WHEN YOU WERE SO ANGRY
WITH ME. SHALL YOU HAVE A GREAT DEAL TO SHOW ME WHEN I COME HOME?
NO--DON'T SAY YOU WILL--OR I SHALL HATE ZARATHUSTRA MORE THAN I DO
AND NOW ONLY TILL FRIDAY. THIS TIME YOU WILL MEET ME YES?--AND NOT COME
TO THE STATION AN HOUR LATE, AS YOU SAID YOU DID LAST TIME. IF YOU ARE
NOT THERE--I WARN YOU--I SHALL THROW MYSELF UNDER THE TRAIN. I AM
WRITING, TO GRUNHUT. GET FLOWERS--THERE IS MONEY IN ONE OF THE VASES
ON THE WRITING-TABLE. OH, IF YOU ONLY WILL, WE SHALL HAVE SUCH A HAPPY
EVENING--IF ONLY YOU WILL. AND I SHALL NEVER LEAVE YOU AGAIN, NEVER
YOUR OWN LOVING, L.
Furst could not make out much of this; he was still spelling through
the first paragraph when Krafft had finished. Schilsky, who had gone
on dressing, kept a sharp eye on his friends--particularly on Krafft.
"Well?" he asked eagerly as the letter was laid down.
Krafft was silent, but Furst kissed his finger-tips to a large hanging
photograph of the girl in question, and was facetious on the subject
of dark, sallow women.
"And you, Heinz? What do you say?" demanded Schilsky with growing
Still Krafft did not reply, and Schilsky was mastered by a violent
"Why the devil can't you open your mouth? What's the matter with you?
Have YOU anything like that to show--you Joseph, you?"
Krafft let a waxen hand drop over the side of the sofa and trail on
the floor. "The letters were burned, dear boy--when you appeared." He
closed his eyes and smiled, seeming to remember something. But a
moment later, he fixed Schilsky sharply, and asked: "You want my
opinion, do you?"
"Of course I do," said Schilsky, and flung things about the room.
"Lulu," said Krafft with deliberation, "Lulu is getting you under her
The other sprang up, swore, and aimed a boot, which he had been vainly
trying to put on the wrong foot, at a bottle that protruded from the
"Me? Me under her thumb?" he spluttered--his lips became more
marked under excitement. "I should like to see her try it. You don't
know me. You don't know Lulu. I am her master, I tell you. She can't
call her soul her own."
"And yet," said Krafft, unmoved, "it's a fact all the same."
Schilsky applied a pair of curling tongs to his hair, at such a degree
of heat that a lock frizzled, and came off in his hand. His anger
redoubled. "Is it my fault that she acts like a wet-nurse? Is that
what you call being under her thumb?" he cried.
Furst tried to conciliate him and to make peace. "You're a lucky dog,
old fellow, and you know you are. We all know it--in spite of
occasional tantaras. But you would be still luckier if you took a
friend's sound advice and got you to the registrar. Ten minutes before
the registrar, and everything would be different. Then she might play
up as she liked; you would be master in earnest."
"Registrar?" echoed Krafft with deep scorn. "Listen to the ape! Not if
we can hinder it. When he's fool enough for that--I know him--it will be
with something fresher and less faded, something with the bloom still
Schilsky winced as though he had been struck. Her age--she was eight
years older than he--was one of his sorest points.
"Oh, come on, now," said Furst as he poured out the coffee. "That's
hardly fair. She's not so young as she might be, it's true, but no one
can hold a candle to her still. Lulu is Lulu."
"Ten minutes before the registrar," continued Krafft, meditatively
shaking his head. "And for the rest of life, chains. And convention.
And security, which stales. And custom, which satiates. Oh no, I am
not for matrimony!"
Schilsky's ill-humour evaporated in a peal of boisterous laughter.
"Yes, and tell us why, chaste Joseph, tell us why," he cried, throwing
a brush at his friend. "Or go to the devil--where you're at home."
Krafft warded off the brush. "Look here," he said, "confess. Have you
kissed another girl for months? Have you had a single billet-doux?"
But Schilsky only winked provokingly. Having finished laughing, he
said with emphasis: "But after Lulu, they are all tame. Lulu is Lulu,
and that's the beginning and end of the matter."
"Exactly my opinion," said Furst. "And yet, boys, if I wanted
to make your mouths water, I could." He closed one eye and smacked his
lips. "I know of something--something young and blond . . . and dimpled
. . . and round, round as a feather-pillow"--he made descriptive
movements of the hand--"with a neck, boys, a neck, I say----" Here in
sheer ecstasy, he stuck fast, and could get no further.
Schilsky roared anew. "He knows of something . . . so he does," he
cried--Furst's pronounced tastes were a standing joke among them.
"Show her to us, old man, show her to us! Where are you hiding her? If
she's under eighteen, she'll do--under eighteen, mind you, not a day
over. Come along, I'm on for a spree. Up with you, Joseph!"
He was ready, come forth from the utter confusion around him, like a
god from a cloud. He wore light grey clothes, a loosely knotted,
bright blue tie, with floating ends and conspicuous white spots, and
buttoned boots of brown kid. Hair and handkerchief were strongly
Krafft, having been prevailed on to rise, made no further toilet than
that of dipping his head in a basin of water, which stood on the tail
of the grand piano. His hair emerged a mass of dripping ringlets,
covetously eyed by his companions.
They walked along the streets, Schilsky between the others, whom he
overtopped by head and shoulders: three young rebels out against the
Philistines: three bursting charges of animal spirits.
There was to be a concert that evening at the Conservatorium, and,
through vestibule and entrance-halls, which, for this reason, were
unusually crowded, the young men made a kind of triumphal progress.
Especially Schilsky. Not a girl, young or old, but peddled for a word
or a look from him; and he was only too prodigal of insolently
expressive glances, whispered greetings, and warm pressures of the
hand. The open flattery and bold adoration of which he was the object
mounted to his head; he felt secure in his freedom, and brimful of
selfconfidence; and, as the three of them walked back to the town, his
exhilaration, a sheer excess of well-being, was no longer to be kept
within decent bounds.
"Wait!" he cried suddenly as they were passing the Gewandhaus. "Wait a
minute! See me make that woman there take a fit."
He ran across the road to the opposite pavement, where the only person
in sight, a stout, middle-aged woman, was dragging slowly
along, her arms full of parcels; and, planting himself directly in
front of her, so that she was forced to stop, he seized both her hands
and worked them up and down.
"Now upon my soul, who would have thought of seeing you here, you
baggage, you?" he cried vociferously.
The woman was speechless from amazement; her packages fell to the
ground, and she gazed open-mouthed at the wild-haired lad before her,
making, at the same time, vain attempts to free her hands.
"No, this really is luck," he went on, holding her fast. "Come, a
kiss, my duck, just one! EIN KUSSCHEN IN EHREN, you know----" and, in
very fact, he leaned forward and pecked at her cheek.
The blood dyed her face and she panted with rage.
"You young scoundrel!" she gasped. "You impertinent young dog! I'll
give you in charge. I'll--I'II report you to the police. Let me go this
instant--this very instant, do you hear?--or I'll scream for help."
The other two had come over to enjoy the fun. Schilsky turned to them
with a comical air of dismay, and waved his arm. "Well I declare, if I
haven't been and made a mistake!" he exclaimed, and slapped his
forehead. "I'm out by I don't know how much--by twenty years, at least.
No thank you, Madam, keep your kisses! You're much too old and ugly
He flourished his big hat in her face, pirouetted on his heel, and the
three of them went down the street, hallooing with laughter.
They had supper together at the BAVARIA, Schilsky standing treat; for
they had gone by way of the BRUDERSTRASSE, where he called in to
investigate the vase mentioned in the letter. Afterwards, they
commenced an informal wandering from one haunt to another, now by
themselves, now with stray acquaintances. Krafft, who was still
enfeebled by the previous night, and who, under the best of
circumstances, could not carry as much as his friends, was the first
to give in. For a time, they got him about between them. Then Furst
grew obstreperous, and wanted to pour his beer on the floor as soon as
it was set before him, so that they were put out of two places, in the
second of which they left Krafft. But the better half of the night was
over before Schilsky was comfortably drunk, and in a state to unbosom
himself to a sympathetic waitress, about the hardship it was to be
bound to some one older than yourself. He shed tears of pity at
his lot, and was extremely communicative. "'N KORPER, SCHA-AGE IHNEN,
'N KORPER!" but old, old, a "HALB'SCH JAHR' UND'RT" older than he was,
and desperately jealous.
"It's too bad; such a nice young man as you are," said the MAMSELL,
who, herself not very sober, was sitting at ease on his knee, swinging
her legs. "But you nice ones are always chicken-hearted. Treat her as
she deserves, my chuck, and make no bones about it. Just let her
rip--and you stick to me!"
One cold, windy afternoon, when dust was stirring and rain seemed
imminent, Maurice Guest walked with bent head and his hat pulled over
his eyes. He was returning from the ZEITZERSTRASSE, where, in a
photographer's show-case, he had a few days earlier discovered a large
photograph of Louise. This was a source of great pleasure to him.
Here, no laws of breeding or delicacy hindered him from gazing at her
as often as he chose.
On this particular day, whether he had looked too long, or whether the
unrest of the weather, the sense of something impending, the dusty
dryness that craved rain, had got into his blood and disquieted him:
whatever it was, he felt restless and sick for news of her, and, at
this very moment, was on his way to Madeleine, in the foolish hope of
hearing her name.
But a little adventure befell him which made him forget his intention.
He was about to turn the corner of a street, when a sudden blast of
wind swept round, bearing with it some half dozen single sheets of
music. For a moment they whirled high, then sank fluttering to the
ground, only to rise again and race one another along the road.
Maurice instinctively gave chase, but it was not easy to catch them;
no sooner had he secured one than the next was out of his reach.
Meanwhile their owner, a young and very pretty girl, looked on and
laughed, without making any effort to help him; and the more he
exerted himself, the more she laughed. In one hand she was carrying a
violin-case, in the other a velvet muff, which now and again she
raised to her lips, as if to conceal her mirth. It was a graceful
movement, but an unnecessary one, for her laughter was of that
charming kind, which never gives offence; and, besides that, although
it was continuous, it was neither hearty enough nor frank enough to be
unbecoming the face was well under control. She stood there, with her
head slightly on one side, and the parted lips showed both rows of
small, even teeth; but the smile was unvarying, and, in spite of her
merriment, her eyes did not for an instant quit the young man's face,
as he darted to and fro.
Maurice could not help laughing himself, red and out of breath
though he was.
"Now for the last one," he said in German.
At these words she seemed more amused than ever. "I don't speak
German," she answered in English, with a strong American accent.
Having captured all the sheets, Maurice tried to arrange them for her.
"It's my Kayser," she explained with a quick, upward glance, adding
the next minute with a fresh ripple of laughter. "He's all to pieces."
"You have too much to carry," said Maurice. "On such a windy day,
"That's what Joan said--Joan is my sister," she continued. "But I guess
it's so cold this afternoon I had to bring a muff along. If my fingers
are stiff I can't play, and then Herr Becker is angry." But she
laughed again as she spoke, and it was plain that the master's wrath
did not exactly incite fear. "Joan always comes along, but to-day
"Will you let me help you?" asked Maurice, and a moment later he was
walking at her side.
She handed over music and violin to him without a trace of hesitation;
and, as they went along the PROMENADE, she talked to him with as
little embarrassment as though they were old acquaintances. It was so
kind of him to help her, she thought; she couldn't imagine how she
would ever have got home without him, alone against the wind; and she
was perfectly sure he must be American--no one but an American would be
so nice. When Maurice denied this, she laughed very much indeed, and
was not sure, this being the case, whether she could like him or not;
as a rule, she didn't like English people; they were stiff and horrid,
and were always wanting either to be introduced or to shake hands.
Here she carried her muff up to her lips again, and her eyes shone
mischievously at him over the dark velvet. Maurice had never known
anyone so easily moved to laughter; whenever she spoke she laughed,
and she laughed at everything he said.
Off the PROMENADE, where the trees were of a marvellous Pale green,
they turned into a street of high spacious houses, the dark lines of
which were here and there broken by an arched gateway, or the delicate
tints of a spring garden. To a window in one of the largest houses
Maurice's little friend looked up, and smiled and nodded.
"There's my sister."
The young man looked, too, and saw a dark, thin-faced girl, who, when
she found four eyes fixed on her, abruptly drew in her head, and as
abruptly put it out again, leaning her two hands on the sill.
"She's wondering who it is," said Maurice's companion gleefully. Then,
turning her face up, she made a speaking-trumpet of her hands, and
cried: "It's all right, Joan.--Now I must run right up and tell her
about it," she said to Maurice. "Perhaps she'll scold; Joan is very
particular. Good-bye. Thank you ever so much for being so good to
me--oh, won't you tell me your name?"
The very next morning brought him a small pink note, faintly scented.
The pointed handwriting was still childish, but there was a coquettish
flourish beneath the pretty signature: Ephie Cayhill. Besides a
graceful word of thanks, she wrote: WE ARE AT HOME EVERY SUNDAY. MAMMA
WOULD BE VERY PLEASED.
Maurice did not scruple to call the following week, and on doing so,
found himself in the midst of one of those English-speaking coteries,
which spring up in all large, continental towns. Foreigners were not
excluded--Maurice discovered two or three of his German friends,
awkwardly balancing their cups on their knees. In order, however, to
gain access to the circle, it was necessary for them to have a
smattering of English; they had also to be flint against any open or
covert fun that might be made of them or their country; and above all,
to be skilled in the art of looking amiable, while these visitors from
other lands heatedly readjusted, to their own satisfaction, all that
did not please them in the life and laws of this country that was
temporarily their home.
Mrs. Cayhill was a handsome woman, who led a comfortable, vegetable
existence, and found it a task to rise from the plump sofa-cushion.
Her pleasant features were slack, and in those moments of life which
called for a sudden decision, they wore the helpless bewilderment of a
woman who has never been required to think for herself. Her grasp on
practical matters was rendered the more lax, too, by her being an
immoderate reader, who fed on novels from morning till night, and
slept with a page turned down beside her bed. She was for ever lost in
the joys or sorrows of some fictitious person, and, in consequence,
remained for the most part completely ignorant of what was going on
around her. When she did happen to become conscious of her
surroundings, she was callous, or merely indifferent, to them; for,
compared with romance, life was dull and diffuse; it lacked the wilful
simplicity, the exaggerative omissions, and forcible perspectives,
which make up art: in other words, life demanded that unceasing work
of selection and rejection, which it is the story-teller's duty to
Perform for his readers. All novels were fish to Mrs. Cayhill's net;
she lived in a world of intrigue and excitement, and, seated in her
easy-chair by the sitting-room window, was generally as remote from
her family as though she were in Timbuctoo.
There was a difference of ten years in age between her daughters, and
it was the younger of the two whose education was being completed.
Johanna, the elder, had been a disappointment to her mother. Left to
her own devices at an impressionable age, the girl had developed
bookish tastes at the cost of her appearance: influenced by a
free-thinking tutor of her brothers', she had read Huxley and Haeckel,
Goethe and Schopenhauer. Her wish had been for a university career,
but she was not of a self-assertive nature, and when Mrs. Cayhill, who
felt her world toppling about her ears at the mention of such a thing,
said: "Not while I live!" she yielded, without a further word; and the
fact that such an emphatic expression of opinion had been drawn from
the mild-tempered mother, made it a matter of course that no other
member of the family took Johanna's part. So she buried her ambitions,
and kept her mother's house in an admirable, methodical way.
It was not the sacrifice it seemed, however, because Johanna adored
her little sister, and would cheerfully have given up more than this
for her sake. Ephie, who was at that time just emerging from
childhood, was very pretty and precocious, and her mother had great
hopes of her. She also tired early of her lesson-books, and, soon
after she turned sixteen, declared her intention of leaving school. As
at least a couple of years had still to elapse before she was old
enough to be introduced in society, Mrs. Cayhill, taking the one
decisive step of her life, determined that travel in Europe should put
the final touches to Ephie's education: a little German and French;
some finishing lessons on the violin; a run through Italy and
Switzerland, and then to Paris, whence they would carry back with them
a complete and costly outfit. So, valiantly, Mrs. Cayhill had her
trunks packed, and, together with Johanna, who would as soon
have thought of denying her age as of letting these two helpless
beings go out into the world alone, they crossed the Atlantic.
For some three months now, they had been established in Leipzig. A
circulating library, rich in English novels, had been discovered; Mrs.
Cayhill was content; and it began to be plain to Johanna that the
greater part of their two years' absence would be spent in this place.
Ephie, too, had already had time to learn that, as far as music was
concerned, her business was not so much with finishing as with
beginning, and that the road to art, which she with all the rest must
follow, was a steep one. She might have found it still more arduous,
had Herr Becker, her master, not been a young man and very
impressionable. And Ephie never looked more charming than when, with
her rounded, dimpled arm raised in an exquisite curve, she leaned her
cheek against the glossy brown wood of her violin.
She was pretty with that untouched, infantine prettiness, before which
old and young go helplessly down. She was small and plump, with a
full, white throat and neck, and soft, rounded hands and wrists, that
were dimpled like a baby's. Her brown hair was drawn back from the low
forehead, but, both here and at the back of her neck, it broke into
innumerable little curls, which were much lighter in colour than the
rest. Her skin, faintly tinged, was as smooth as the skin of a cherry;
it had that exquisite freshness which is only to be found in a very
young girl, and is lovelier than the bloom on ripe fruit. Her dark
blue eyes were well opened, but the black lashes were so long and so
peculiarly straight that the eyes themselves were usually hidden, and
this made it all the more effective did she suddenly look up. Moulded
like wax, the small, upturned nose seemed to draw the top lip after
it; anyhow, the upper lip was too short to meet the lower, and
consequently, they were always slightly apart, in a kind of
questioning amaze. This mouth was the real beauty of the face: bright
red, full, yet delicate, arched like a bow, with corners that went in
and upwards, it belonged, by right of its absolute innocence, to the
face of a little child; and the thought was monstrous that nature and
the years would eventually combine to destroy so perfect a thing.
She also had a charming laugh, with a liquid note in it, that made one
think of water bubbling on a dry summer day.
It was this laugh that held the room on Sunday afternoon, and
drew the handful of young men together, time after time.
Mrs. Cayhill, who, on these occasions, was wont to lay aside her book,
was virtually a deeper echo of her little daughter, and Johanna only
counted in so far as she made and distributed cups of tea at the end
of the room. She did not look with favour on the young men who
gathered there, and her manner to them was curt and unpleasing. Each
of them in turn, as he went up to her for his cup, cudgelled his brain
for something to say; but it was no easy matter to converse with
Johanna. The ordinary small change and polite commonplace of
conversation, she met with a silent contempt. In musical chit-chat,
she took no interest whatever, and pretended to none, openly indeed
"detested music," and was unable to distinguish Mendelssohn from
Wagner, "except by the noise;" while if a bolder man than the rest
rashly ventured on the literary ground that was her special demesne,
she either smiled at what he said, in a disagreeably sarcastic way, or
flatly contradicted him. She was the thorn in the flesh of these young
men; and after having dutifully spent a few awkward moments at her
side, they stole back, one by one, to the opposite end of the room.
Here Ephie, bewitchingly dressed in blue, swung to and fro in a big
American rocking-chair--going backwards, it carried her feet right off
the ground--and talked charming nonsense, to the accompaniment of her
own light laugh, and her mother's deeper notes, which went on like an
organ-point, Mrs. Cayhill finding everything Ephic said, matchlessly
As Dove and Maurice walked there together for the first time--it now
leaked out that Dove spent every Sunday afternoon in the
LESSINGSTRASSE--he spoke to Maurice of Johanna. Not in a disparaging
way; Dove had never been heard to mention a woman's name otherwise
than with respect. And, in this case, he deliberately showed up
Johanna's good qualities, in the hope that Maurice might feel
attracted by her, and remain at her side; for Dove had fallen deeply
in love with Ephie, and had, as it was, more rivals than he cared for,
in the field.
"You should get on with her, I think, Guest," he said slily. "You
read these German writers she is so interested in. But don't be
discouraged by her manner. For though she's one of the most unselfish
women I ever met, her way of Speaking is sometimes abrupt. She reminds
me, if it doesn't sound unkind, of a faithful watch-dog, or
something of the sort, which cannot express its devotion as it would
When, after a lively greeting from Ephie, and a few pleasant words
from Mrs. Cayhill, Maurice found himself standing beside Johanna, the
truth of Dove's simile was obvious to him. This dark, unattractive
girl had apparently no thought for anything but her tea-making; she
moved the cups this way and that, filled the pot with water, blew out
and lighted again the flame of the spirit-lamp, without paying the
least heed to Maurice, making, indeed, such an ostentatious show of
being occupied, that it would have needed a brave man to break in upon
her duties with idle words. He remained standing, however, in a
constrained silence, which lasted until she could not invent anything
else to do, and was obliged to drink her own tea. Then he said
abruptly, in a tone which he meant to be easy, but which was only
jaunty: "And how do you like being in Germany, Miss Cayhill? Does it
not seem very strange after America?"
Johanna lifted her shortsighted eyes to his face, and looked coolly
and disconcertingly at him through her glasses, as if she had just
become aware of his presence.
"Strange? Why should it?" she asked in an unfriendly tone.
"Why, what I mean is, everything must be so different here from what
you are accustomed to--at least it is from what we are used to in
England," he corrected himself. "The ways and manners, and the
language, and all that sort of thing, you know."
"Excuse me, I do not know," she answered in the same tone as before.
"If a person takes the trouble to prepare himself for residence in a
foreign country, nothing need seem either strange or surprising. But
English people, as is well known, expect to find a replica of England
in every country they go to."
There was a pause, in which James, the pianist, who was a regular
visitor, approached to have his cup refilled. All the circle knew, of
course, that Johanna was "doing for a new man"; and it seemed to
Maurice that James half closed one eye at him, and gave him a small,
sympathetic nudge with his elbow.
So he held to his guns. When James had retired, he began anew, without
"My friend Dove tells me you are interested in German
literature?" he said with a slight upward inflection in his voice.
Johanna did not reply, but she shot a quick glance at him, and
colouring perceptibly, began to fidget with the tea-things.
"I've done a little in that line myself," continued Maurice, as she
made no move to answer him. "In a modest way, of course. Just lately I
finished reading the JUNGFRAU VON ORLEANS."
"Is that so?" said Johanna with an emphasis which made him colour
"It is very fine, is it not?" he asked less surely, and as she again
acted as though he had not spoken, he lost his presence of mind. "I
suppose you know it? You're sure to."
This time Johanna turned scarlet, as if he had touched her on a sore
spot, and answered at once, sharply and rudely. "And I suppose," she
said, and her hands shook a little as they fussed about the tray,
"that you have also read MARIA STUART, and TELL, and a page or two of
Jean Paul. You have perhaps heard of Lessing and Goethe, and you
consider Heine the one and only German poet."
Maurice did not understand what she meant, but she had spoken so
loudly and forbiddingly that several eyes were turned on them, making
it incumbent on him not to take offence. He emptied his cup, and put
it down, and tried to give the matter an airy turn.
"And why not?" he asked pleasantly. "Is there anything wrong in
thinking so? Schiller and Goethe WERE great poets, weren't they? And
you will grant that Heine is the only German writer who has had
anything approaching a style?"
Johanna's face grew stony. "I have no intention of granting anything,"
she said. "Like all English people--it flatters your national vanity, I
presume--you think German literature began and ended with Heine.--A
"Yes, but I say, one can hardly make him responsible for being a Jew,
can you? What has that got to do with it?" exclaimed Maurice, this
being a point of view that had never presented itself to him. And as
Johanna only murmured something that was inaudible, he added lamely:
"Then you don't think much of Heine?"
But she declined to be drawn into a discussion, even into an
expression of opinion, and the young man continued, with apology in
his tone: "It may be bad taste on my part, of course. But one
hears it said on every side. If you could tell me what I ought to
read . . . or, perhaps, advise me a little?" he ended tentatively.
"I don't lend my books," said Johanna more rudely than she had yet
spoken. And that was all Maurice could get from her. A minute or two
later, she rose and went out of the room.
It became much less restrained as soon as the door had closed behind
her. Ephie laughed more roguishly, and Mrs. Cayhill allowed herself to
find what her little daughter said, droller than before. With an
appearance of unconcern, Maurice strolled back to the group by the
window. Dove was also talking of literature.
"That reminds me, how did you like the book I lent you on Wednesday,
Mrs. Cayhill?" he asked, at the same instant springing forward to pick
up Ephie's handkerchief, which had fallen to the ground.
"Oh, very much indeed, very interesting, very good of you," answered
Mrs. Cayhill. "Ephie, darling, the sun is shining right on your face."
"What was it?" asked James, while Dove jumped up anew to lower the
blind, and Ephie raised a bare, dimpled arm to shade her eyes.
Mrs. Cayhill could not recollect the title just at once she had a
"wretched memory for names"--and went over what she had been reading.
"Let me see, it was . . . no, that was yesterday: SHADOWED BY THREE, a
most delightful Book. On Friday, RICHARD ELSMERE, and--oh, yes, I know,
it was about a farm, an Australian farm."
"THE STORY OF AN AFRICAN FARM," put in Dove mildly, returning to his
"Australian or African, it doesn't matter which," said Mrs. Cayhill.
"Yes, a nice book, but a little coarse in parts, and very foolish at
the end--the disguising, and the dying out of doors, and the
looking-glass, and all that."
"I must say I think it a very powerful book," said Dove solemnly.
"That part, you know, where the boy listens to the clock ticking in
the night, and thinks to himself that with every tick, a soul goes
home to God. A very striking idea!"
"Why, I think it must be a horrid book," cried Ephie. "All about
dying. Fancy some one dying every minute. It couldn't possibly
be true. For then the world would soon be empty."
"Always there are coming more into it," said Furst, in his blunt,
A pause ensued. Dove flicked dust off his trouser-leg; and the
American men present were suddenly fascinated by the bottoms of their
cups. Ephie was the first to regain her composure.
"Now let us talk of something pleasant, something quite different--from
dying." She turned and, over her shoulder, laughed mischievously at
Maurice, who was siting behind her. Then, leaning forward in her
chair, with every eye upon her, she told how Maurice had saved her
music from the wind, and, with an arch face, made him appear very
ridiculous. By her prettily exaggerated description of a heated,
perspiring young man, darting to and fro, and muttering to himself in
German, her hearers, Maurice included, were highly diverted--and no one
more than Mrs. Cayhill.
"You puss, you puss!" she cried, wiping her eyes and shaking a finger
at the naughty girl.
The general amusement had hardly subsided when Furst rose to his feet,
and, drawing his heels together, made a flowery little speech, the
gist of which was, that he would have esteemed himself a most
fortunate man, had he been in Maurice's place. Ephie and her mother
exchanged looks, and shook with ill-concealed mirth, so that Furst,
who had spoken serioulsy and in good faith, sat down red and
uncomfortable; and Boehmer, who was dressed in what he believed to be
American fashion, smiled in a superior manner, to show he was aware
that Furst was making himself ridiculous.
"Look here, Miss Ephie," said James; "the next time you have to go out
alone, just send for me, and I'll take care of you."
"Or me" said Dove. "You have only to let me know."
"No, no, Mr. Dove!" cried Mrs. Cayhill. "You do far too much for her
as it is. You'll spoil her altogether."
But at this, several of the young men exclaimed loudly: that would be
impossible. And Ephie coloured becomingly, raised her lashes, and
distributed winning smiles. Then quiet had been restored, she assured
them that they all very kind, but she would never let anyone go with
her but Joan--dear old Joan. They could not imagine how fond she was of
"She is worth more than all of you put together." And at the
cries of: "Oh, oh!" she was thrown into a new fit of merriment, and
went still further. "I would not give Joan's little finger for anyone
in the world."
And meanwhile, as all her hearers--all, that is to say, except Dove,
who sat moody, fingering his slight moustache, and gazing at Ephie
with fondly reproachful eyes--as all of them, with Mrs. Cayhill at
their head, made vehement protest against this sweeping assertion,
Johanna sat alone in her bedroom, at the back of the house. It was a
dull room, looking on a courtyard, but she was always glad to escape
to it from the flippant chatter in the sitting-room. Drawing a little
table to the window, she sat down and began to read. But, on this day,
her thoughts wandered; and, ultimately, propping her chin on her hand,
she fell into reverie, which began with something like "the fool and
his Schiller!" and ended with her rising, and going to the
well-stocked book-shelves that stood at the foot of the bed.
She took out a couple of volumes and looked through them, then
returned them to their places on the shelf. No, she said to herself,
why should she? What she had told the young man was true: she never
lent her books; he would soil them, or, worse still, not appreciate
them as he ought--she could not give anyone who visited there on
Sunday, credit for a nice taste.
Unknown to herself, however, something worked in her, for, the very
next time Maurice was there, she met him in the passage, as he was
leaving, and impulsively thrust a paper parcel into his hand.
"There is a book, if you care to take it."
He did not express the surprise he felt, nor did he look at the title.
But Ephie, who was accompanying him to the door, made a face of
laughing stupefaction behind her sister's back, and went out on the
landing with him, to whisper: "What HAVE you been doing to Joan?"--at
which remark, and at Maurice's blank face, she laughed so immoderately
that she was forced to go down the stairs with him, for fear Joan
should hear her; and, in the house-door, she stood, a white-clad
little figure, and waved her hand to him until he turned the corner.
Having read the first volume of HAMMER UND AMBOSS deep into two
nights, Maurice returned it and carried away the second. But it was
only after he had finished PROBLEMATISCHE NATUREN, and had
expressed himself with due enthusiasm, that Johanna began to thaw a
little. She did not discuss what he read with him; but, going on the
assumption that a person who could relish her favourite author had
some good in him, she gave the young man the following proof of her
Between Ephie and him there had sprung up spontaneously a mutual
liking, which it is hard to tell the cause of. For Ephie knew nothing
of Maurice's tastes, interests and ambitions, and he did not dream of
asking her to share them. Yet, with the safe instincts of a young
girl, she chose him for a brother from among all her other
acquaintances; called him "Morry"; scarcely ever coquetted with him;
and let him freely into her secrets. It is easier to see why Maurice
was attracted to her; for not only was Ephie pretty and charming; she
was also adorably equable--she did not know what it was to be out of
humour. And she was always glad to see him, always in the best
possible spirits. When he was dull or tired, it acted like a tonic on
him, to sit and let her merry chatter run over him. And soon, he found
plenty of makeshifts to see her; amongst other things, he arranged to
help her twice a week with harmony, which was, to her, an unexplorable
abyss; and he ransacked the rooms and shelves of his acquaintances to
find old Tauchnitz volumes to lend to Mrs. Cayhill.
The latter paid even less attention to the sudden friendship of her
daughter with this young man than the ordinary American mother would
have done; but Johanna's toleration of it was, for the most part, to
be explained by the literary interests before mentioned. For Johanna
was always in a tremble lest Ephie should become spoiled; and
thoughtless Ephie could, at times, cause her a most subtle torture, by
being prettily insincere, by assuming false coquettish airs, or by
seeming to have private thoughts which she did not confide to her
sister. This, and the knowledge that Ephie was now of an age when
every day might be expected to widen the distance between them,
sometimes made Johanna very gruff and short, even with Ephie herself.
As her sister, she alone knew how much was good and true under the
child's light exterior; she admired in Ephie all that she herself had
not--her fair prettiness, her blithe manner, her easy, graceful
words--and, had it been necessary, she would have gone down on her
knees to remove the stones from Ephie's path.
Thus although on the casual observer, Johanna only made the impression
of a dark, morose figure, which hovered round two childlike
beings, intercepting the sunshine of their lives, yet Maurice had soon
come often enough into contact with her to appreciate her
unselfishness; and, for the care she took of Ephie, he could almost
have liked her, had Johanna shown the least readiness to be liked.
Naturally, he did not understand how highly he was favoured by her; he
knew neither the depth of her affection for Ephie, nor the exact
degree of contempt in which she held the young men who dangled there
on a Sunday--poor fools who were growing fat on emotion and silly
ideas, when they should have been taking plain, hard fare at college.
To Dove, Johanna had a particular aversion; chiefly, and in a
contradictory spirit, because it was evident to all that his
intentions were serious. But she could not hinder wayward Ephie from
making a shameless use of him, and then laughing at him behind his
back--a laugh in which Mrs. Cayhill was not always able to refrain from
joining, though it must be said that she was usually loud in her
praises of Dove, at the expense of all visitors who were not American.
"From these Dutch you can't expect much, one way or the other," she
declared. "And young Guest sometimes sits there with a face as long as
my arm. But Dove is really a most sensible young fellow--why, he thinks
just as I do about Arnerica."
And as a special mark of favour, when Dove left the house on Sunday
afternoon, his pockets bulged with NEW YORK HERALDS.
Meanwhile, before the blinds in the BRUDERSTRASSE were drawn up again,
Maurice had found his way back to Madeleine. When they met, she smiled
at him in a somewhat sarcastic manner, but no reference was made to
the little falling-out they had had, and they began afresh to read and
play together. On the first afternoon, Maurice was full of his new
friends, and described them at length to her. But Madeleine damped his
"I know them, yes, of course," she said. "The usual Americans--even
the blue-stocking, from whom heaven defend us. The little one is
pretty enough as long as she keeps her mouth shut. But the moment she
speaks, every illusion is shattered.--Why I don't go there on a Sunday?
Good gracious, do you think they want me?--me, or any other petticoat?
Are honours made to be divided?--No, Maurice, I don't like Americans. I
was once offered a position in America, as 'professor of piano and
voice-production' in a place called Schenectady; but I didn't
hesitate. I said to myself, better one hundred a year in good old
England, than five in a country where the population is so inflated
with its importance that I should always be in danger of running
amuck. And besides that, I should lose my accent, and forget how to
say 'leg'; while the workings of the stomach would be discussed before
me with an unpleasant freedom."
"You're too hard on them, Madeleine," said Maurice, smiling in spite
of himself. But he was beginning to stand in awe of her sharp tongue
and decided opinions; and, in the week that followed, he took himself
resolutely together, and did not let a certain name cross his lips.
Consequently, he was more than surprised on returning to his room one
day, to find a note from Madeleine, saying that she expected Louise
that very afternoon at three.
It was not news to Maurice that Louise had come home. The evening
before, as he turned out of the BRUDERSTRASSE, a closed droschke
turned into it. After the vehicle had lumbered past him and
disappeared, the thought crossed his mind that she might be
inside it. He had not then had time to go back but early this very
morning, he had passed the house and found the windows open. So
Madeleine had engaged her immediately! As usual, Furst had kept him
waiting for his lesson; it was nearly three o'clock already, and he
was so hurried that he could only change his collar; but, on the way
there, in a sudden spurt of gratitude, he ran to a flower-shop, and
bought a large bunch of carnations.
He arrived at Madeleine's room in an elation he did not try to hide;
and over the carnations they had a mock reconciliation. Madeleine
wished to distribute the flowers in different vases about the room,
but he asked her put them all together on the centre table. She
laughed and complied.
For several weeks now, musical circles had been in a stir over the
advent of a new piano-teacher named Schrievers--a person who called
himself a pupil of Liszt, held progressive views, arid, being a free
lance, openly ridiculed the antiquated methods of the Conservatorium.
Madeleine was extremely interested in the case, and, as they sat
waiting, talked about it to Maurice with great warmth, enlarging
especially upon the number of people who had the audacity to call
themselves pupils of Liszt. To Maurice, in his present frame of mind,
the matter seemed of no possible consequence--for all he cared, the
whole population of the town might lay claim to having been at
Weimar--and he could not understand Madeleine finding it important. For
he was in one of those moods when the entire consciousness is so
intently directed towards some end that, outside this end, nothing has
colour or vitality: all that has previously impressed and interested
one, has no more solidity than papier mache. Meanwhile she spoke on,
and did not appear to notice how time was flying. He was forced at
length to take out his watch, and exclaim, in feigned surprise, at the
"A quarter to four already!"
"Is it so late?" But on seeing his disturbance, she added: "It will be
all right. Louise was never punctual in her life."
He did his best to look unconcerned, and they spoke of that evening's
ABENDUNTERHALTUNG, at which Furst was to play. But by the time the
clock struck four, Maurice had relapsed, in spite of himself, into
silence. Madeleine rallied him.
"You must make shift with my company, Maurice. Not but what I am sure
Louise will come. But you see from this what she is--the most
unreliable creature in the world."
To pass the time, she suggested that he should help her to make
tea, and they were both busy, when the electric bell in the passage
whizzed harshly, and the next moment there came a knock at the door.
But it was not Louise. Instead, two persons entered, one of whom was
Heinrich Krafft, the other a short, thickset girl, in a man's felt hat
and a closely buttoned ulster.
On recognising her visitors, Madeleine made a movement of annoyance,
and drew her brows together. "You, Heinz!" she said.
Undaunted by this greeting, Krafft advanced to her and, taking her
hands, kissed them, one after the other. He was also about to kiss her
on the lips, but she defended herself. "Stop! We are not alone."
"Just for that reason," said the girl in the ulster drily.
"What ill wind blows you here to-day?" Madeleine asked him.
As he was still wearing his hat, she took it off, and dropped it on
the floor beside him; then she recollected Maurice, and made him known
to the other two. Coming forward, Maurice recalled to Krafft's memory
where they had already met, and what had passed between them. Before
he had finished speaking, Krafft burst into an unmannerly peal of
laughter. Madeleine laughed, too, and shook her finger at him. "You
have been up to your tricks again!" Avery Hill, the girl in the
ulster, did not laugh aloud, but a smile played round her mouth, which
Maurice found even more disagreeable than the mirth of which he had
been the innocent cause. He coloured, and withdrew to the window.
Krafft was so convulsed that he was obliged to sit down on the sofa,
where Madeleine fanned him with a sheet of music. He had been seized
by a kind of paroxysm, and laughed on and on, in a mirthless way, till
Avery Hill said suddenly and angrily: "Stop laughing at once, Heinz!
You will have hysterics."
In an instant he was sobered, and now he seemed to fall, without
transition, into a mood of dejection. Taking out his penknife, he set
to paring his nails, in a precise and preoccupied manner. Madeleine
turned to Maurice.
"You'll wonder what all this is about," she said apologetically. "But
Heinz is never happier than when he has succeeded in imposing on some
one--as he evidently did on you."
"Indeed!" said Maurice. Their laughter had been offensive to him, and
he found Krafft, and Madeleine with him, exceedingly foolish.
There was a brief silence. Krafft was absorbed in what he was doing,
and Avery Hill, on sitting down, had lighted a cigarette, which she
smoked steadily, in long-drawn whiffs. She was a pretty girl, in spite
of her severe garb, in spite, too, of her expression, which was too
composed and too self-sure to be altogether pleasing. Her face was
fresh of skin, below smooth fair hair, and her lips were the red, ripe
lips of Botticelli's angels and Madonnas. But the under one, being
fuller than the other, gave the mouth a look of over-decision, and it
would be difficult to imagine anything less girlish than were the cold
"We came for the book you promised to lend Heinz," she said, blowing
off the spike of ash that had accumulated at the tip of the cigarette.
"He could not rest till he had it."
Madeleine placed a saucer on the table with the request to use it as
an ash-tray, and taking down a volume of De Quincey from the hanging
shelf, held it out to Krafft.
"There you are. It will interest me to hear what you make of it."
Krafft ceased his paring to glance at the title-page. "I shall
probably not open it," he said.
Madeleine laughed, and gave him a light blow on the hand with the
book. "How like you that is! As soon as you know that you can get a
thing, you don't want it any longer."
"Yes, that's Heinz all over," said Avery Hill. "Only what he hasn't
got, seems worth having."
Krafft shut his knife with a click, and put it back in his pocket."
And that's what you women can't understand, isn't it?--that the best of
things is the wishing for them. Once there, and they are nothing--only
another delusion. The happiest man is the man whose wishes are never
fulfilled. He always has a moon to cry for."
"Come, come now," said Madeleine. "We know your love for paradox. But
not to-day. There's no time for philosophising today. Besides, you are
in a pessimistic mood, and that's a bad sign."
"I and pessimism? Listen, heart of my heart, I have a new story for
you." He moved closer to her, and put his arm round her neck. "There
was once a man and his wife----"
But, at the first word, Madeleine put her hands to her ears.
"Mercy, have mercy, Heinz! No stories, I entreat you. And behave
yourself, too. Take your arm away." She tried to remove it. "I have
told you already, I can't have you here to-day. I'm expecting a
He laid his head on her shoulder. "Let him come. Let the whole world
come. I don't budge. I am happy here."
"You must go and be happy elsewhere," said Madeleine more decisively
than she had yet spoken. "And before she comes, too."
"She? What she?"
"For that very reason, Mada."
She whispered a word in his ear. He looked at her, incredulously at
first, then whimsically, with a sham dismay; and then, as if Maurice
had only just taken shape for him, he turned and looked at him also,
and from him to Madeleine, and back to him, finally bursting afresh
into a roar of laughter. Madeleine laid her hand over his mouth. "Take
him away, do," she said to Avery Hill--"as a favour to me."
"Yes, when I have finished my cigarette," said the girl without
Unsettled all the same, it would seem, by what he had heard, Krafft
rose and shuffled about the room, with his hands in his pockets.
Approaching Maurice, he even stood for a moment and contemplated him,
with a kind of mock gravity. Maurice acted as if he did not see
Krafft; long since, he had taken up a magazine, and, half hidden in a
chair between window and writing-table, pretended to bury himself in
its contents. But he heard very plainly all that passed, and, at the
effect produced on Krafft by the name of the expected visitor, his
hands trembled with anger. If the fellow had stood looking at him for
another second, he would have got up and knocked him down. But Krafft
turned nonchalantly to the piano, where his attention was caught by a
song that was standing on the rack. He chuckled, and set about making
merciless fun of the music--the composer was an elderly
singing-teacher, of local fame. Madeleine grew angry, and tried to
take it from him.
"Hold your tongue, Heinz! If your own songs were more like this, they
would have a better chance of success. Now be quiet! I won't hear
another word. Herr Wendling is a very good friend of mine."
"A friend! Heavens! She says friend as if it were an excuse for
him.--Mada, let your friend cease making music if he hopes for
salvation. Let him buy a broom and sweep the streets--let him----"
"You are disgusting!"
She had got the music from him, but he was already at the piano,
parodying, from memory, the conventional accompaniment and sentimental
words of the song. "And this," he said, "from the learned ass who is
not yet convinced that the FEUERZAUBER is music, and who groans like a
dredge when the last act of SIEGFRIED is mentioned. Wendling and
Wagner! Listen to this!--for once, I am a full-blooded Wagnerite."
He felt after the chords that prelude Brunnhilde's awakening by
Siegfried. Until now, Avery Hill had sat indifferent, as though what
went on had nothing to do with her; but no sooner had Krafft commenced
to play than she grew uneasy; her eyes lost their cold assurance, and,
suddenly getting up and going round to the front of the piano, she
pushed the young man's hands from the keys. Krafft yielded his place
to her, and, taking up the chords where he had left them, she went on.
She played very well--even Maurice in his disturbance could, not but
notice it--with a firm, masculine touch, and that inborn ease, that
enviable appearance of perfect fitness, of being one with the
instrument, which even the greatest players do not always attain. She
had, besides, grip and rhythm, and long, close-knit hands insinuated
themselves artfully among the complicated harmonies.
When she began to play, Madeleine made "Tch, tch, tch!" and shook her
head, in despair of now ever being rid of them. Krafft remained
standing behind the piano at the window leaning his forehead on the
glass. Maurice, who watched them both surreptitiously, saw his face
change, and grow thoughful as he stood there; but when Avery Hill
ceased abruptly on a discord, he wheeled round at once and patted her on
the back. While looking over to Maurice, he said: "No doubt you found
that very pretty and affecting?"
"I think that's none of your business," said Maurice.
But Krafft did not take umbrage. "You don't say so?" he murmured with
a show of surprise.
"Now, go, go, go!" cried Madeleine. "What have I done to be subjected
to such a visitation? No, Heinz, you don't sit down again. Here's your
hat. Away with you!--or I'll have you put out by force."
And at last they really did go, to a cool bow from Maurice, who
still sat holding his magazine. But Madeleine had hardly closed the
door behind them, when, like a whirlwind, Krafft burst into the room
"Mada, I forgot to ask you something," he said in a stage-whisper,
drawing her aside. "Tell me--you KUPPLERIN, you!--does he know her?" He
pointed over his shoulder with his thumb at Maurice.
Madeleine shook her head, in real vexation and distress, and laid a
finger on her lip. But it was of no use. Stepping over to Maurice,
Krafft bowed low, and held his hat against his breast.
"It is impossible for you to understand how deeply it has interested
me to meet you," he said. "Allow me, from the bottom of my heart, to
wish you success." Whereupon, before Maurice could say "damn!" he was
gone again, leaving his elfin laugh behind him in the air, like smoke.
Madeleine shut the door energetically and gave a sigh of relief.
"Thank goodness! I thought they would never go. And now, the chances
are, they'll run into Louise on the stairs. You'll wonder why I was so
bent on getting rid of them. It's a long story. I'll tell it to you
some other time. But if Louise had found them here when she came, she
would not have stayed. She won't have anything to do with Heinz."
"I don't wonder at it," said Maurice. He stood up and threw the
magazine on the table.
Madeleine displayed more astonishment than she felt. "Why what's the
matter? You're surely not going to take what Heinz said, seriously? He
was in a bad mood to-day, I know, and I noticed you were very short
with him. But you mustn't be foolish enough to be offended by him. No
one ever is. He is allowed to say and do just what he likes. He's our
Maurice laughed. "The fellow is either a cad, or an unutterable fool.
You, Madeleine, may find his impertinence amusing. I tell you
candidly, I don't!" and he went on to make it clear to her that the
fault would not be his, were Krafft and he ever in the same room
together again. "The kind of man one wants to kick downstairs. What
the deuce did he mean by guffawing like that when you told him who was
"You mean about Louise?" Madeleine gave a slight shrug. "Yes,
Maurice--unfortunately that was not to be avoided. But sit down
again, and let me explain things to you. When you hear----"
But he did not want explanations; he did not even want an answer to
the question he had put; his chief concern now was to get away. To
stay there, in that room, for another quarter of an hour, would be
impossible, on such tenterhooks was he. To stay--for what? Only to
listen to more slanderous hints, of the kind he had heard before. As
it was, he did not believe he could face her frankly, should she still
come. He felt as if, in some occult way, he had assisted at a
tampering with her good name.
"You will surely not be so childish?" said Madeleine, on seeing him
take up his hat.
"Childish?--you call it childish?" he exclaimed, growing angry with
her, too. "Do you know what time it is? Three o'clock, you write me,
and it's now a quarter past five. I have sat here doing nothing for
over two mortal hours. It seems to me that's enough, without being
made the butt of your friends' wit into the bargain. I'm sick of the
whole thing. Good-bye."
"We seem bound to quarrel," said Madeleine calmly. "And always about
Louise. But there's no use in being angry. I am not responsible for
what Heinz says and does. And on the mere chance of his coming in
to-day, to sit down and unroll another savoury story to you, about
your idol--would you have thanked me for it? Remember the time I did
try to open you eyes!--It's not fair either to blame me because Louise
hasn't come. I did my best for you. I can't help it if she's as stable
"I think you dislike her too much to want to help it," said Maurice
grimly. He stood staring at the carnations, and his resentment gave
way to depression, as he recalled the mood which he had bought them.
"Come back as soon as you feel better. I'm not offended, remember!"
Madeleine called after him as he went down the stairs. When she was
alone, she said "Silly boy!" and, still smiling, made excuses for him:
he had come with such pleasurable anticipations, and everything had
gone wrong. Heinz had behaved disagracefully, as only he could. While
as for Louise, one was no more able to rely on her than on a wisp straw;
and she, Madeleine, was little better than a fool not to have known
She moved about the room, putting chairs and papers in their
places, for she could not endure disorder of any kind. Then she sat
down to write a letter; and when, some half hour later, the girl for
whom they had waited, actually came, she met her with exclamations of
"Is it really you? I had given you up long ago. Pray, do you know what
time it is?"
She took out her watch and dangled it before the other's eyes. But
Louise Dufrayer hardly glanced at it. As, however, Madeleine
persisted, she said: "I'm late, I know. But it was not my fault. I
couldn't get away."
She unpinned her hat, and shook back her hair; and Madeleine helped
her to take off her jacket, talking all the time. "I have been much
annoyed with you. Does it never occur to you that you may put other
people in awkward positions, by not keeping your word? But you are
just the same as of old--incorrigible."
"Then why try to improve me?" said the other with a show of lightness.
But almost simultaneously she turned away from Madeleine's
matter-of-fact tone, passed her handkerchief over her lips, and after
making a vain attempt to control herself, burst into tears.
Madeleine eyed her shrewdly. "What's the matter with you?"
But the girl who had sunk into a corner of the sofa merely shook her
head, and sobbed; and Madeleine, to whom such emotional outbreaks were
distasteful, went to the writing-table and busied herself there, with
her back to the room. She did not ask for an explanation, nor did her
companion offer any.
Louise abandoned herself to her tears with as little restraint as
though she were alone, holding her handkerchief to her eyes with both
hands and giving deep, spasmodic sobs, which had apparently been held
for some time in cheek.
Afterwards, she sat with her elbow on the end of the sofa, her face on
her hand, and, still shaken at intervals by a convulsive breath,
watched Madeleine make fresh tea. But when she took the cup that was
handed to her, she was so far herself again as to inquire whom she was
to have met, although her voice still did not obey her properly.
"Some one who is anxious to know you," replied Madeleine an air of
mystery. "But he couldn't, or rather would not, wait so long."
Louise showed no further curiosity. But when Madeleine said
with meaning emphasis that Krafft had also been there in the course of
the afternoon, she shrank perceptibly and flushed.
"What! Does he still exist?" she asked with an effort at playfulness.
"As you very well know," answered Madeleine drily. "Tell me, Louise,
how do you manage to keep out of his way?"
Louise made no rejoinder; she raised her cup to her lips, and the dark
blood that had stained her face, in a manner distressing to see,
slowly retreated. She continued to look down, and, the light of her
big, dark eyes gone out, her face seemed wan and dead. Madeleine,
studying her, asked herself, not for the first time, but, as always,
with an unclear irritation, what the secret of the other's charm was.
Beautiful she had never thought Louise; she was not even pretty, in an
honest way--at best, a strange, foreign-looking creature, dark-skinned,
black of eyes and hair, with flashing teeth, and a wonderfully mobile
mouth--and some people, hopeless devotees of a pink and white fairness,
had been known to call her plain. At this moment, she was looking her
worst; the heavy, blue-black lines beneath her eyes were deepened by
crying; her rough hair had been hastily coiled, unbrushed; and she was
wearing a shabby red blouse that was pinned across in front, where a
button was missing. There was nothing young or fresh about her; she
looked her twenty-eight years, every day of them--and more.
And yet, Madeleine knew that those who admired Louise would find her
as desirable at this moment as at any other. Hers was a nameless
charm; it was present in each gesture of the slim hands, in each turn
of the head, in every movement of, the broad, slender body. Strangers
felt it instantly; her very walk seemed provocative of notice; there
was something in the way her skirts clung, and moved with her, that
was different from the motion of other women's. And those whose type
she embodied went crazy about her. Madeleine remembered as though it
were yesterday, the afternoon on which Heinz had burst in to rave to
her of his discovery; and how he would have dragged her out hatless to
see this miracle. She remembered, too, after--days, when she had had
him there, pacing the floor, and pouring out his feelings to her,
infatuated, mad. An he was not the only one; they bowled over like
ninepins; an it would be the same for years to come--was there any
reason to wonder at Maurice Guest?
Meanwhile, as Madeleine sat thinking these and similar things,
Maurice was tramping through the ROSENTAL. The May afternoon, of
lucent sunshine and heaped, fleecy clouds, had tempted a host of
people into the great park, but he soon left them all behind him, for
he walked as though he were pursued. These people, placid, and content
of face, and the brightness of the day, jarred on him; he was out of
patience with himself, with Madeleine, with the World at large.
Especially with Madeleine, he bore her a grudge for her hints and
innuendoes, for being behind the scenes, as it were, and also for
being so ready to enlighten him; but, most of all, for a certain
malicious gratification, which was to be felt in ever word she said
He went steadily on, against the level bars of the afternoon sun and, by
the time he had tired himself bodily, he had worked off his inward
vexation as well. As he walked back towards the town, he was almost
ready to smile at his previous heat. What did all these others matter
to him? They could not hinder him from carrying through what he had
set his mind on. To-morrow was a day, and the next was another, and
the next again; and life, considered thus in days and opportunities,
was infinitely long.
He now felt not only an aversion to dwelling on his thoughts of an
hour back, but also the need of forgetting them altogether. And, in
nearing the LESSINGSTRASSE, he followed an impulse to go to Ephie and
to let her merry laugh wipe out the last traces of his ill-humour.
Mrs. Cayhill and Johanna were both reading in the sitting room, and
though Johanna agreeably laid aside her book, conversation languished.
Ephie was sent for, but did not come, and Maurice was beginning to
wish he had thought twice before calling, when her voice was heard in
the passage, and, a moment later, she burst into the room, with her
arms full of lilac, branches of lilac, which she explained had been
bought early that morning at the flower-market, by one of their
fellow-boarders. She hardly greeted Maurice, but going over to him
held up her scented burden, and was not content till he had buried his
face in it.
"Isn't it just sweet?" she cried holding it high for all to see. "And
the very first that is to be had. Again, Maurice again, put your face
right down into the middle of it--like that."
Mrs. Cayhill laughed, as Maurice obediently bowed his head, but
Johanna reproved her sister.
"Don't be silly, Ephie. You behave as if you had never seen
"Well, neither I have--not such lilac as this, and Maurice hasn't
either," answered Ephie. "You shall smell it too, old Joan!"--and in
spite of Johanna's protests, she forced her sister also to sink her
face in the fragrant white and purple blossoms. But then she left them
lying on the table, and it was Johanna who put them in water.
Mrs. Cayhill withdrew to her bedroom to be undisturbed, and Johanna
went out on an errand. Maurice and Ephie sat side by side on the sofa,
and he helped her to distinguish chords of the seventh, and watched
her make, in her music-book, the big, tailless notes, at which she
herself was always hugely tickled, they`reminded her so of eggs. But
on this particular evening, she was not in a studious mood, and bock,
pencil and india-rubber slid to the floor. Both windows were wide
open; the air that entered was full of pleasant scents, while that of
the room was heavy with lilac. Ephie had taken a spray from one of the
vases, and was playing with it; and when Maurice chid her for
thoughtlessly destroying it, she stuck the pieces in her hair. Not
content with this, she also put bits behind Maurice's ears, and tried
to twist one in the piece of hair that fell on his forehead. Having
thus bedizened them, she leaned back, and, with her hands clasped
behind her head, began to tease the young man. A little bird, it
seemed, had whispered her any number of interesting things about
Madeleine and Maurice, and she had stored them all up. Now, she
repeated them, with a charming impertinence, and was so provoking
that, in laughing exasperation, Maurice took her fluffy, flower-bedecked
head between his hands, and stopped her lips with two sound kisses.
He acted impulsively, without reflecting, but, as soon as it was done,
he felt a curious sense of satisfaction, which had nothing to do with
Ephie, and was like a kind of unconscious revenge taken on some one
else. He was not, however, prepared for the effect of his hasty deed.
Ephie turned scarlet, and jumping up from the sofa, so that all the
blossoms fell from her hair at once, stamped her foot.
"Maurice Guest! How dare you!" she cried angrily, and, to his
surprise, the young man saw that she had tears in her eyes.
He had never known Ephie to be even annoyed, and was consequently
dumfounded; he could not believe, after the direct provocation
she had given him, that his crime had been so great
"But Ephie dear!" he protested. "I had no idea, upon my word I hadn't,
that you would take it like this. What's the matter? It was nothing.
Don't cry. I'm a brute."
"Yes, you are, a horrid brute! I shall never forgive you--never!" said
Ephie, and then she began to cry in earnest.
He put his arm round her, and coaxing her to sit down, wiped away her
tears with his own handkerchief. In vain did he beg her to tell him
why she was so vexed. To all he said, she only shook her head, and
answered: "You had no right to do it."
He vowed solemnly that it should never happen again, but at least a
quarter of an hour elapsed before he succeeded in comforting her, and
even then, she remained more subdued than usual. But when Maurice had
gone, and she had dropped the scattered sprays of lilac out of the
window on his head, she clasped her hands at the back of her neck, and
dropped a curtsy to herself in the locking-glass.
"Him, too!" she said aloud.
She nodded at her reflected self, but her face was grave; for between
these two, small, blue-robed figures was a deep and unsuspected secret.
And Maurice, as he walked away, wondered to himself for still a little
why she should have been so disproportionately angry; but not for
long; for, when he was not actually with Ephie, he was not given to
thinking much about her. Besides, from there, he went straight to the
latter half of an ABENDANTERKALTUNG, to hear Furst play Brahms'
VARIATIONS ON A THEME BY HANDEL
That night he had a vivid dream. He dreamt that he was in a garden,
where nothing but lilac grew--grew with a luxuriance he could not have
believed possible, and on fantastic bushes: there were bushes like
steeples and bushes smaller than himself, big and little, broad and
slender, but all were of lilac, and in flower--an extravagant profusion
of white and purple blossoms. He gazed round him in delight, and took
an eager step forward; but, before he could reach the nearest bush, he
saw that it had been an illusion: the bush was stripped and bare, and
the rest were bare as well. "You're too late. It has all been
gathered," he heard a voice say, and at this moment, he saw Ephie at
the end of a long alley of bushes, coming towards him, her arms full
of lilac. She smiled and nodded to him over it, and he heard her
laugh, but when she was half-way down the path, he discovered his
mistake: it was not Ephie but Louise. She came slowly forward, her
laden arms outstretched, and he would have given his life to be able
to advance and to take what she offered him; but he could not stir,
could not lift hand or foot, and his tongue clove to the roof of his
mouth. Her steps grew more hesitating, she seemed hardly to move; and
then, just as she reached the spot where he stood, he found that it
was not she after all, but Madeleine, who laughed at his
disappointment and said: "I'm not offended, remember!"--The revulsion
of feeling was too great; he turned away, without taking the flowers
she held out to him--and awoke.
This dream was present to him all the morning, like a melody that
haunts and recalls. But he worked more laboriously than usual; for he
was aggrieved with himself for having idled away the previous
afternoon, and then, too, Furst's playing had made a profound
impression on him. In vigorous imitation, he sat down to the piano
again, after a hasty dinner snatched in the neighbourhood; but as he
was only playing scales, he propped open before him a little volume of
Goethe's poems, which Johanna had lent him, and suiting his scales to